I Explain the State of the Union Address For You

President Trump delivering last year's State of the Union address. It was so pleasant and bipartisan that it put Paul Ryan to sleep.CNN

You have probably heard that President Trump plans to stress “unity” and “bipartisanship” in his State of the Union address tonight. I have no doubt that he will. He does this every year, after all.

Here’s how things work. When Trump is, say, speaking via Twitter, he’s speaking solely to his base and feels free to be as nasty and partisan (and untruthful) as he wants. Conversely, when he’s delivering the SOTU on national TV with a big audience, he likes to appear calm and statesmanlike. That way, the folks who only see him once a year get the impression of a serious man with serious proposals. They leave wondering why he gets so much bad press.

Trump has an instinctive ear for the media, and one of the most important lessons of dealing with the media is knowing your audience. Trump is very good at this. When he’s speaking at a rally in Biloxi, he gives them red meat. But when he’s speaking from the well of the House to an audience that expects presidential behavior, that’s what he gives them. I don’t expect he’ll get through his whole speech on nothing but sweetness and light, but he’ll get through most of it.

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