On scattered occasions in bygone years, I daydreamed about how refreshing it would be if a plainspoken outsider took control of the American presidency from the long parade of career politicians with canned speeches of platitudinous proposals.
“One of the great achievements of free society in a stable democracy is that many people, for much of the time, need not think about politics at all,” Andrew Sullivan wrote last month, adding that Donald Trump’s America felt “less like living in a democracy than being a child trapped in a house where there is an abusive and unpredictable father, who will brook no reason, respect no counter-argument, admit no error, and always, always up the ante until catastrophe inevitably strikes.”
On Tuesday night, addressing a joint session of Congress, Donald J. Trump was uncharacteristically staid. He did not question the birthplace of any Democrats; sneer that any foreign countries are sending us their rapists; call Ted Cruz’s wife ugly; insult a Gold Star mother with an ethnic stereotype; urge the public to check out a sex tape; digress in order to brag about his electoral college victory; lie about inauguration crowds; praise a brutal dictator; needlessly insult the prime minister of a close military ally; or declare any of his fellow American citizens to be deplorable enemies of the people. Clearing that low bar was enough to make the speech the finest moment of his presidency. Watching a man read from a teleprompter and mostly sound like a typical Washington politician has never felt so calming.