Let’s face it. State of the Union speeches are neither generally noteworthy nor much remembered. Nothing of value would be lost if presidents reverted to the pre-Woodrow Wilson practice of submitting SOTU messages in writing only. But that isn’t going to happen. Thanks to television and presidential vanity, the SOTU message has become an over-hyped political version of a dull variety show with too many commercials that goes on far too long. Presidents present themselves as a cross between Santa Claus and an occasionally naggy Mary Poppins, but ere long pretty much everyone forgets all about the event.
All that being said, President Trump knocked it out of the park last night. He looked and sounded presidential, which for him was something of a novelty. Let’s hope he likes and sticks with this new persona. He made the case for restoring American greatness more eloquently than he has ever done before. That should help him in political battles on important policy issues, as for example his struggle to make our Southern border more secure. He made the case on that issue last night forcefully, with arguments that can attract support beyond his base. He needs to take a mini-version of what he said last night on the road, while avoiding his penchant for ad hominem pejoratives. The question is whether he has the focused discipline to do so.