President Donald Trump voiced customary patriotic sentiments in the presence of those who would most revere the annual State of the Union ritual.
His words thus landed in the meaty part of the traditional curve, which is no small occasion in the tales of Trump.
Big applause in the GOP-run Congress resounded at just the right times for those still open-minded enough about the president to tilt their thoughts in his favor.
As with anyone in his business, Trump’s passing grades were largely the product of having handlers, aides and an entire White House staff stage and script the performance, replete with a prompter, guests with moving stories and a partisan booster section.
The bar was low, if that meant not maligning anyone from what he deems to be dirty, shabby or otherwise unpleasant places. Or, for that matter, broadly insulting voters from the other major party.
Here is an example of a nice and clear Trump recitation:
“This, in fact, is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American dream.”
“Together we can achieve absolutely anything.”
“America is a nation of builders.”
“I want to see our country united ... to bring our country back from a tremendous divisiveness.”
“Let’s come together.”
These samples offer a comparison.
Only days earlier, left alone on camera, Trump put the following mess of words together when asked by TV broadcaster Piers Morgan if he believed in climate change:
“There is a cooling and there is a heating and I mean, look — it used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming. Right? ... That wasn’t working too well, because it was getting too cold all over the place.
“The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records, so OK, they’re at a record level.”
They are not.
Politicians fudge, dissemble, bob and weave all the time. Among them, Trump has a distinctive history of saying things that can be instantly proved false by the most basic photographic evidence — such as satellite images posted by NASA showing shrinkage of the ice caps in recent decades.
Other instances: His repeated claims that news cameras were being shut off when the viewer at home could see they were not, and his post-inaugural “record crowd” boast, disproved by numerous photos.
Ad-libbing for him would not have worked Tuesday to create an aura of unity in a stately chamber. The latest show was a sharp difference from when he mugs before a campaign crowd disposed to bathe him in adoration and jeer the perceived enemy.
Worry not, fans and foes. Bellowing, free-verse Trump is unlikely to vanish. He kept it nicely under wraps for the occasion Tuesday. In show-biz terms, it was as if The Who’s Pete Townshend appeared for a special concert without smashing a guitar, his signature move.