“IS THAT ALL THERE IS?”

It was curiously anti-climactic after all the buildup – the network hand-wringing over whether to grant prime air time, then the demand for equal time from Democratic leaders, then the hand-wringing over that.

The speculation about what would be said and how it would be said.

And by 9:20 Eastern Tuesday night, many of us turned to each other to ask “Is that all there is?”

When he is tied to a teleprompter, Mr. Trump is incredibly wooden. And his address contained nothing that would persuade anybody to change their mind.

As he spoke, depending on what news outfit you were watching, there was fairly aggressive real-time fact-checking.

The makeup on Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi looked like it had been applied by someone from Madame Tussaud’s.

The really interesting stuff came before and after Mr. Trump’s wooden address and the Democratic leaders’ curiously subdued response.

The New York Times reports that during his “off-the-record” luncheon with network anchors earlier in the day, Mr. Trump told the journalists he wasn’t inclined to deliver the prime time address, but had been persuaded to do so by advisers.

He pointed to former Fox boss Bill Shine and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying “But, these people behind you say it’s worth it.”

According to another source, he also conceded the speech was “not going to change a damn thing.”

But what the hell…in for a penny, in for a pound.

The other interesting development came after both sides had their say and the network talking heads took over.

Critics immediately panned the speech, supporters swooned.

Over on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow led a panel picking apart the Oval Office address while on Fox News, Sean Hannity played host to a gushing Senator Lindsay Graham.

Over on the Fox Broadcast Network, FNC maverick Shepard Smith committed heresy by the standards set by Suzanne Scott, boss of the sister cable outlet’s entertainment wing and doyenne of prime time.

Smith challenged many of Trump’s claims by using the government’s own numbers.

After Trump said that “innocent people” are being “horribly victimized” by immigrants who commit crimes, Smith quickly added perspective.

“The government’s statistics show that there is less violent crime by the undocumented immigrant population than by the general population,” he said.

Trump claimed that immigrants carry illegal drugs across the border.

“Government statistics show much of the heroin actually comes not over the unguarded border but through ports of call,” he said.

Smith wasn’t done.

“He talks about undocumented crossings over the past months. In fact, the number of undocumented crossings over the southern border has been steadily down over the last 10 years and the government reports that there is more outward traffic than inward traffic.”

Before the speech, Reuters released a poll showing Trump’s border wall idea to be really unpopular, his shutting down the government over wall funding less popular still, and a growing number of Americans blaming Trump for the shutdown.

Also Tuesday, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Ala.) joined GOP colleagues Susan Collins (Maine), Shelly Moore Capito (W.Va.), and Cory Gardner (Colo.) in backing Democratic-led bipartisan legislation that would reopen the parts of the government that don’t deal with the border wall.

The whole charade, driven by Trump’s addiction to the Sean Hannity wing of Fox “News” and gasbag radio appears to be developing cracks.

Somewhere, Hannity  and Lou Dobbs are likely frantic chewing their fingernails.

And the networks just might think twice the next time a request for prime-time space comes from ANY Administration.

More News from Wednesday, January 9, 2019