And a huge sigh of relief went up in the land. The mad king could stay on script long enough to fake normality.
The truculent sovereign could be yanked away, for a blessed hour, from Twitter to a teleprompter.
He could emerge from his dystopian, carnivorous man cave, guarded by the fanged two-headed Stephenbeast of Bannon and Miller, and condemn the hate he spent so long stirring up.
Liberal pundits were nonplused by the shock of the president using his “indoor voice,” as he traded the cudgel of “American carnage” for “the torch of truth, liberty and justice” in his maiden speech to Congress. For a moment, at least, the shrieking chorus dimmed, the demands that Donald Trump be put in a straitjacket and that the 25th Amendment be invoked quieted down.
Trump was at long last conforming, and that always pleases Washington.
The emperor of chaos was able to muster 60 minutes and 14 seconds of non-embarrassing behavior before we were all ensnared once more in the bizarre and venal Russian subplot and another Twitter onslaught against Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi for having met with Russians.
What is the moral of this?
That if you talk more like a Washington insider than a barbarian at the gate, you’re more likely to persuade people to raise the gate and let you do whatever you want, no matter how alarming or perfidious.
When he behaves more normally, the guard comes down.
It’s an optical delusion. People get terrified by Crazy Trump. But really, that makes it easier to fight back, because we see the crazy right out there on Twitter.
When I asked Silicon Valley mogul and Trump adviser Peter Thiel recently if he was worried about Trump appointing heads of agencies who wanted to blow up those agencies, the contrarian replied that I had it backward.
“If you actually want to change things in D.C., who should you appoint?” he said. “Maybe if you appoint someone who says, ‘I want to shut down this whole agency,’ then that person will just have to deal with a staff revolt. And everybody will ignore their orders for three or four years.
“So I think, in theory, to probably change things the most, it’s better if you appoint someone who sounds like they’re not that controversial but then will just really work at changing things.”
As W. ambled back on to the public stage, promoting his book, “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors,” we had a vivid illustration of how far likability can get you.
When Jimmy Fallon ruffled Trump’s hair during the campaign, it was treated as a hideous breach.
But when Jimmy Kimmel joked with W. on Thursday night, the audience reacted warmly. Compared to Trump, it was like W. was on his way to Mount Rushmore.
So does it really matter that his policies helped contribute to the greatest collapse since the Great Depression and the worst foreign policy blunder in U.S. history?
Asked by Willie Geist on “Sunday Today” about his decision to send soldiers into Iraq and Afghanistan, W. replied lamely: “I don’t regret sending soldiers into battle. I regret they got hurt.”
Chatting about the Oscar flub, Kimmel noted that W. had also been “involved in many notable faux pas,” as W. laughed.
“Mission accomplished,” W. replied, smirking.
It’s still too soon to laugh about “Mission Accomplished,” especially when peddling anguished portraits of wounded veterans. In fact, it will always be too soon to laugh about “Mission Accomplished.”