Like the veteran entertainer that he is, Donald Trump knew better than to try out new material in his first address to Congress. Instead, he offered a greatest-hits performance that repeated all his favourite themes of recent months.
That said, the tone of the speech was strikingly new and offered important clues about the often murky thought processes at the White House.
Here are five key takeaways for Canadians.
Foreigners are nasty, but Canadians are okay, sort of
Mr. Trump took every opportunity to blame U.S. problems on lazy, job-stealing, drug-dealing foreigners but conspicuously exempted Canada from his broadsides.
Early in his hour-long address, he congratulated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for helping to launch a cross-border council to support women entrepreneurs. Later on, he cited Canada's "merit-based" immigration system as one model for the U.S. to follow in revamping its own rules.
The President's shout-outs to Canada weren't exactly a ringing endorsement of the United States' northern neighbour, but they were far better than the alternative.
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That's President Trump to you
The material was old hat but the delivery was new. For the first time, Mr. Trump was clearly making an effort to sound presidential. He remained relatively calm, spoke in complete sentences, urged co-operation across party lines and made endless appeals to patriotism and U.S. history.
To be sure, some of his grander rhetorical fireworks fizzled. Consider, for instance, the mock-heroic end to his speech when he urged an end to trivial fighting among the political parties. Really? This from the man who spats with the media over the size of his inauguration crowd? And takes to Twitter to criticize judges who rule against him?
Details are still missing! Sad!
Economists, lawyers and accountants had braced themselves for the first outline of a new tax system. Some had speculated the system would involve cross-border adjustments that would reward U.S. exporters and punish U.S. importers, with potentially dire effects on supply chains that reach into Canada.
Such a system may yet come into being, but the speech provided no details.
"When we ship products out of America, many other countries make us pay very high tariffs and taxes," Mr. Trump claimed. In contrast, "when foreign countries ship their products into America, we charge them nothing or almost nothing."
He insisted he wanted "change" but offered no specifics.
Mr. Trump was similarly vague about how he plans to reform Obamacare. In essence, he promised to keep all the good stuff and dump all the bad stuff, but offered no clue about how he might achieve that happy state without depriving millions of Americans of health care.
His lack of precision on such key issues adds to the impression that the new administration is still fumbling for ways to turn campaign slogans into workable policies.
He's a high-energy guy
Pipelines remain favourites of the new President, and that's good news for Canadian oil producers. Mr. Trump boasted in his speech that his administration had "cleared the way for the construction of the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines." Those new conduits should make it easier for Alberta oil to eventually reach U.S. markets.
For their part, Canadian miners can take heart from Mr. Trump's vow to pour $1-trillion (U.S.) of public and private capital into rebuilding U.S. infrastructure. If he follows through on that pledge, it will presumably create demand for raw materials ranging from aluminum to zinc.
But Mr. Trump's infrastructure binge will probably provide little lift to Canadian builders or engineers. He said that the key principle behind any new program would be "buy American, hire American," which sounds as if it would rule Canadian contractors out of bidding on any new work.
Nationalism is still huge
The strongest single theme in Mr. Trump's speech was his repeated insistence that the U.S. has been too generous, too soft, too lenient in dealing with the rest of the world. "We've defended the borders of other nations while leaving our own borders wide open for anyone to cross," he said.
All of that is going to change, he vowed. Borders will be tightened to keep out the illegal immigrants who are stealing jobs from Americans. Meanwhile, it will become "much, much harder for companies to leave our country." As far as his own job is concerned, forget that leader of the free world nonsense. "America must put its own citizens first," he said, as if that would be a new development.
The message is clear: The United States intends to drive a hard bargain. Canadians should brace themselves for what comes next, even if Mr. Trump's speech doesn't specify exactly what that next thing will be.