Donald Trump's first speech before Congress had an air of decorum rarely seen from the fledgling president, and his unusually polished performance received a lot of praise throughout the political sphere. However, there are several reasons why it wasn't quite as great as it seemed, and dozens of reasons why it wouldn't matter if it had been the best speech ever given. The country can't afford to get distracted by teleprompter Trump, because the real Trump is still underneath that and applauding his public persona only makes him more dangerous.
Although he received plenty of commendations for being more presidential than in the past, Trump still wasn't even that polished during the speech, particularly in regards to his body language. He relied on his iconic hand movements way too much, and leaned on the podium even at crucial moments in the speech. He added superfluous adjectives and had some pacing issues at certain points. While there is obviously room for personal style and intonation in the art of speech-giving, there was a lot that was objectively mediocre about the way Trump gave the speech.
The delivery can be distracting, but the content is what counts. In this case, the content was flimsy, thin on details. If Trump had stuttered and struggled through a speech that had substantive policy details, it would have been better than his subpar and insufficient speech. Admittedly, this is easier said than done, because presidents have to consider the television audience when drafting these speeches. Yet it's still clear that the content of the speech could have been more pointed and/or poignant.
Yesterday's speech proved Trump can read effectively off a teleprompter, and that Ivanka and Jared still have some sway in the White House.— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) March 1, 2017
Trump chose to superficially list off his agenda rather than focus on any policy areas in detail, and his brief mentions of anti-Semitic attacks and the shooting of two Indian men in Kansas didn't actually meaningfully address the wave of hate crimes that have occurred over the last several months. That made it less impactful overall, even if it was an improvement over where he's been.
But most importantly, this speech shouldn't change any public perceptions because that's not the real Trump, and everyone knows it. The real Trump is the one who operates without a script, who hangs up on foreign leaders in the middle of a conversation and mocks a disabled reporter. The real Trump, the one that his supporters claim to love because he "tells it like it is," has proven over and over again that he's petty, shallow, mean-spirited, and thoroughly unpresidential. Don't let one decent performance convince you otherwise.
How Trump managed to convince a large portion of the American public that he's a decent human being is still a mystery, but it will get easier for him to convince more people now that he has the trappings of the presidency on his side. As Americans, people are conditioned to respect the man in the office, even if they don't agree with him on much. But Trump has broken all the rules, and still hasn't shown the country why he deserves everyone's respect and support. Until he's done that, if he ever does, don't get distracted by the man behind the teleprompter.