Six weeks of snarling demagoguery and bumbling incompetence established a low bar for Donald Trump’s address to Congress on Tuesday night, and he cleared it.
He read the text on his prompter smoothly and didn’t mention millions of illegal voters going for Hillary Clinton or harp on his margin of victory in the Electoral College (he did call his election an “earthquake”). His only criticism of the media was a glancing one – a rather silly lie about their supposed refusal to cover crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. He even kicked off the evening by condemning a recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks on graveyards and bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers across the country. That part felt more forced than forceful – which makes sense given that earlier in the day he’d implied that they might be false flag operations perpetrated by Jews to make Trump Supporters look bad – but he held it all together enough to make the pundits happy. CNN commentator Van Jones said Trump “became President of the United States” last night.
Trump’s strategy was transparent: He started out with a few minutes playing a statesman on TV, and then went into his usual campaign mode, with perhaps just a bit more polish than he displayed in his freewheeling stump speeches. But first and foremost, he avoided offering any details for his grand pronouncements and shied away from anything that even approached a concrete policy proposal.
The vague policy outlines he served up were, as The Washington Post described them, “a different tone but the same message.” But Trump can always surprise, and there were a few moments that stood out for the sheer chutzpah required to deliver them. Here are five.
The Evening’s Big Moment