Although Trump’s speech was received positively by 78 percent of those who watched it, according to a CNN/ORC poll, his critics were predictably quick to dismiss the speech as a one-off occurrence that didn’t mean much. Even so, they knew something significant had happened. You could almost feel the dread in their words. In a canned line obviously prepared before the speech, recently elected Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez declared,“This was Steve Bannon on steroids with a smile.” Others found fault in an individual pronouncement or in the turn of a phrase, but that just shows how the president can shape a national debate. Arguing over policy and priorities is different from dueling tweets and airing grievances. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) proclaimed, “The speech and reality have never been more detached.”
House and Senate Democrats just can’t accept that this administration really does mean what it says. The House Freedom Caucus hit the nail on the head, stating that “President Trump has worked tirelessly to keep his campaign promises: from undoing President Obama’s jobs-killing regulatory regime, to taking action to secure our nation. The president reaffirmed his commitment to fully repeal ObamaCare and replace it with patient-centered, market-driven policy.” Similarly, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) hailed the president’s speech as a “home run.”
I think Trump gave the most consequential speech for Republicans since George H.W. Bush’s 1988 acceptance speech at the GOP convention in New Orleans. At that time, the political world did a double take and started seeing Bush as something other than the stereotype that had metastasized and nearly taken on a life of its own. If Trump’s speech teaches us anything, it’s that his presidency may very well hold more in store than some realized. He was articulate, passionate and above all else, credible. Ronald Reagan once asked, “How can a president not be an actor?” Well, Trump’s forte was in the reality television world, not as a true thespian. Still, he managed to put on a world-class performance.