"Presidents have always used the presidency for political ends," says Philip Bump. "Every time Barack Obama showed up at a 2012 campaign rally in Air Force One, he was doing precisely that. Every time George W. Bush held an event at a factory to talk up a jobs proposal, some part of him was aimed at his own employment. What Trump did Tuesday night, though, was something different. It was more explicit, more obvious. It was the sort of show that seems inevitable in retrospect, the product of a man who transitioned to the presidency without jettisoning his abiding interest in television attention and ratings evaluations. Had you asked someone in June 2015 what a Trump presidency would look like, they might well have predicted that he’d combine a State of the Union address with viral YouTube tropes. And they’d have been correct. The speech was anchored by spectacle."
Trump's speech was more a "visibly degenerate" variety show than reality show: "The speech is being described as a Trumpian reality show for its assortment of stunt-pegged character call-outs in the gallery," says Jim Newell. "It was more of a variety show, though, divided into alternating segments of election-season appeals to the middle, gags, and abrupt fascism. It was a joke he played on the House majority."
The speech was a reminder of Trump's Apprentice past: "It is banal to note Trump’s roots in TV, but the whole production owed as much to The Apprentice or to WWE wrestling (in whose Hall of Fame he resides) as it did to Reagan or any other previous president," says David A. Graham. "Like so much in the Trump presidency, the event was extremely vulgar, weirdly emotional, and entirely transfixing."