The Trump card
In the first restrained — dare we say conventional — speech of his lifetime, Donald Trump delighted Republicans, disarmed critics (at least for a night) and left anyone who doesn't waste their day on Twitter with the impression of quick accomplishments and big, easily doable things ahead.
Bloomberg View calls it "Trump's teleprompter triumph."
- The strategy: It was a savvy, unexpectedly deft clean-up of everything from the botched travel ban to his delays in confronting race- or religious-based violence. Most of the speech could have been delivered by Paul Ryan (who tweeted that it was "a home run"). It buys Trump a lot of wiggle room in the months ahead — and that was the strategic aim of the speech.
- Why it matters: Wobbly Republicans, many of whom were and remain deeply suspicious of the president, now have something normal, possibly popular to grab hold of. Success - or the appearance of success - in politics washes away many sins.
With Trump officials basking in the reviews, the White House told reporters that the new executive order on migrant travel — scheduled for release today — was being delayed.
- The reasoning: "We want the EO to have its own 'moment,'" a senior administration official told CNN's Jeremy Diamond. The official didn't say positive reviews were the only reason for delay — but didn't deny it was part of the calculus.
The pundits rolled over for a big ole belly scratch: Flipping around the networks' postgame coverage, the praise was almost completely unleavened by reality checks about Trump's track record or the minefields awaiting his agenda. I suddenly realized the incredible honeymoon Trump could have had if had played his cards even slightly differently.
- CNN's Van Jones, former green jobs adviser to President Obama: "He did something tonight that you cannot take away from him: He became president of the United States."
- Savannah Guthrie: "loose and conversational."
- Nicolle Wallace on NBC: "the best speech of his political career -- his short political career. ... It felt like an intervention had taken place."
- ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "The president has broken the mold in so many ways [but this was] quite a traditional structure."
- CBS's John Dickerson: "using all the rhetorical and symbolic tools at his disposal."
The big question: Will the tone and the aura last? Even a full day? Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. What will Trump give up?
But don't forget: Trump has proven to be a recidivist in the past. One close Trump-watcher warned us that last night's Reaganesque statesman is the same man: "He is a performer and his director(s) told him he is playing a different character tonight. It worked."