In late February of last year, Trump also delivered a speech in front of a joint session that, like tonight, was by all accounts sane sounding. Pundits and editorial boards of all political stripes fell over themselves to applaud him. The country breathed a sigh of relief: maybe this guy can govern. Maybe it will be OK.
But his joint session speech had no relationship with the way he approached governing in the year since. As the old saying goes -- "fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me." So let's not be fooled.
Speeches don't happen in vacuums, even State of the Union speeches. They amplify and magnify any president's agenda and his message. And it only becomes more difficult to reset a widely held narrative -- that you are racist, sexist, a defender of the wealthy over those who need help the most -- when your audience has a year of data to evaluate.
Dreamers and immigrant families are not going to suddenly view Trump as their fighter in chief because he threw some pablum language into the beginning of the speech
about how, "struggling communities, especially immigrant communities, will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American workers and American families"-- especially since just moments later in his remarks he doubled down on the mean-spirited proposal that harks back to the cruel immigration quota laws of the 1920's.
The African-American community is not going to simply forget this is the same guy who has embraced and validated white supremacists just because he decided to take credit for the African-American unemployment rate continuing to go down, a pattern that has been underway for many years.
Women are not going to suddenly believe Trump is a feminist just because tonight he refrained from fat shaming and threw in a mention of paid family leave.
The American people are smarter than that. A speech, even a State of the Union, can't take away that "nagging, sinking feeling, no matter your political beliefs: this is not right. This is not who we are" that Congressman Joe Kennedy spoke about during the Democratic response.
So where does that leave us? First, questioning whether the State of the Union even matters anymore under Trump -- and also waiting for the next tweet that will leave no doubt the moment of optimism and cooperation is officially over.