Trying to offer unique analysis of a speech like last night’s presidential State of the Union-like address to a joint session of Congress, I think of Kurt Vonnegut, an early hire at the fledgling Sports Illustrated magazine. Young Vonnegut spent his first morning there, agonizing over a caption for a picture of a race horse that had shied at the opening gun and escaped the confines of Aqueduct race track. He left for lunch and never came back. His supervisor found a page in his typewriter with the caption, “The horse jumped over the fucking fence.”
The fucking speech was fine.
Somebody said that listening to it was like the moments after a car alarm finally goes off.
We all wondered, during Trump, whether we could go back to boring speeches again.
We can. We know that now.
And speeches like this should be boring. Good leadership is usually boring, because it is predictable, sensible, not calling attention to itself. Sounding like the soul of reason. Well-ordered thoughts, spoken in a tone so soothing, it could almost put you to sleep.
Speechwriters naturally focus on words, but it’s the stage and the symbolism and the ritual around a speech that often counts the most, as Robin Givhan detailed in The Washington Post, concluding: “Those few hours at the Capitol also provided quiet reassurance that our past is not lost. The pillars that propped up democracy continue to stand. The doors of democracy were damaged but they remain open. And there’s glory in the mundane.”
Unless you want to engage with me in a long policy debate about fiscal responsibility and the proper size of the federal government—and you don’t, because though I have ideas on such things, my springer spaniel Charlie could do just as good a job of arguing them—there’s little left to say.
Let’s get on with our day.