President Trump’s State of the Union speech was perhaps the best speech of his presidency and one of the best State of the Union speeches of any president of the modern era.
The final 10 minutes brought tears to the eyes of everyone, Republican and sometimes Democrat, black and white, who love America for the virtues and sacrifices of the ordinary Americans who built “the shining city on the hill” and are rightly proud of their work.
The naysayers, mostly of the Democrats and some nitpickers on the right, were surely rattled by the public-opinion polls that demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of Americans liked what they heard — 78 percent in a CBS News poll, and 59 percent even in a poll for CNN, which almost never has an encouraging word.
For the president, the wide and appreciative acceptance of his speech demonstrates how the softer, gentler tone, without diluting his message, usually works best. We hope to hear it again. He might be surprised by how it enhances his powers of persuasion.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader, sat through the speech with a permanent smirk on his face. The public’s appreciation of the speech, as revealed in the morning-after public-opinion polls, wiped some of that smirk away.
Nancy Pelosi, who has settled comfortably in her self-appointed role of the shrill wicked witch of the West, for once was almost gracious, and offered neither smirk nor sneer, and actually smiled prettily for the president. She leaped to her feet with the rank of the ladies of the left, clad in the virginal white suggestive of their weddings in days of yore, to applaud with the Republicans and other conservatives when Mr. Trump offered tribute to the female ascendancy to congressional leadership.
Several of Mr. Trump’s conservative critics were disappointed that he didn’t repeat his invective against the liberals, the left and “the progressives,” but that was not necessary on a night of presidential outreach. Everyone knows that Republicans and Democrats, like dogs and cats, don’t particularly like each other. It was nice to recognize that we can all be polite and even friendly on occasion.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, trying to get up for another big run for the White House that he is likely to see only as a visitor, rebuked the president for not repeating the ritual warning of a coming change in the weather (the capital already knew about that, having basked during the afternoon in a 73-degree aberration for February). Some conservatives were unhappy as well for what the president didn’t say about his failure, as The Wall Street Journal put it, to “reframe” the immigration debate:
“He faces another government shutdown deadline at the end of next week over funding for [a restraining wall] on the border. Yet he merely repeated his familiar parade of horribles about the border, the caravans moving north, and illegal immigrants who commit crimes. He is preaching to the converted and persuading no one else.”
Well, perhaps. But an attempt to persuade must go on if we are to restore and preserve an orderly reception of new immigrants. Respecting borders is not an act of bigotry. Certain business interests would make common cause with the open-borders left so as to import cheap and easily abused labor, the business interests for quick profit and the left for imported votes in a Congress they think is moving inexorably leftward.
Mr. Trump held out a hand to the Democrats, offering a bipartisan priority for some of their most cherished goals, such as controlling drug prices, rebuilding roads and infrastructure and social goals, such as family leave. But the gap between the two parties has become a canyon. Another government shutdown would suit Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer because they think it can be exploited with the help of the big newspapers and cable-TV networks ever on the scout for something to yak about.
The “progressives” heard the words in the president’s State of the Union, but dead ears cannot hear the music. The president gave it out on Tuesday night, loud, soft and clear. America heard it and cheered, even if the capital did not.