Gentle Peggy Noonan, the medium through which Ronald Reagan’s ghost whispers its sweet nothings into the living world, is fond of the speech of this leader, this “Donald.” At least, the parts she heard.
Peggy has written quite a few presidential speeches “in her day” (February 6, 1887), so despite the fact that she has a remarkably poor track record of political punditry and an extremely rich track record of mistakenly believing that darker-skinned people are her friends, she quite naturally decided to weigh in on this week’s speech by this loud man, our leader, Mr. Trump. She liked it!
Much has been said in the press about the sin of normalizing Donald Trump, but with this speech—by being there at the podium in the august House chamber, and operating capably and within established traditions and boundaries—he normalized himself. He doesn’t need the favor anymore.
He’s fine now!
Second, it was a good speech. It was clear and plain and at points had a surprising sweetness. He stuck to his usual policy sternness and yet added rhetorical warmth.
He’s sweet now!
Mr. Trump recast his second, forthcoming executive order on immigration as motivated by prudence and a desire to protect: “It is not compassionate but reckless to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur.” He spoke of “our friends and allies in the Muslim world.” If he’d spoken this way early on, the first order would not have caused the uproar it did.
He’s prudent now!
It was good that the president began the speech damning bigotry of all kinds: “We are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.” This is not a hard thing to do rhetorically, yet is always important and necessary, because it reminds everyone in this fractious, bubbling, stressed and many-cultured country that we owe each other respect and regard, not only tolerance but affection. We won’t continue as a people unless we get this right.
He’s not racist now!
Not mentioned in Peggy’s glowing review: the part where Donald Trump announced he is creating an explicitly racist office catering to “Victims of Immigrant Crime.”
Never retire to your drawing room to soothe your nerves with a dram of laudanum until after the speech is over. Lesson learned.