The State of the Union address was a herky-jerky testament to that. I say herky-jerky because it was six or eight or maybe 10 speeches in one, caroming without warning from a plea for unity to a tirade about the border; from some boast about American glory under Trump to some reverie about American glory before Trump (yes, it existed!); from a hurried legislative wish list to a final stretch of ersatz poetry that read like lines from a batch of defective or remaindered Hallmark cards. As much as Trump needed modesty, his paragraphs needed transitions.

But there was a leitmotif running through the disparate patches, and it was Trump’s readiness to reassemble recent history and reinvent himself.

If you didn’t know that he was a champion of women, then you probably also didn’t know that he saved us from war with North Korea. He alone can fix it! And according to him, he did fix it, or isfixing it, never mind what his intelligence chiefs told the Senate Intelligence Committee just last week. They had doubts about his supposed success on that front. He doesn’t. So he’ll cling to his version. It’s the one that flatters him.

On Tuesday night Trump suddenly cared about diversity and minorities, and abandoned much of the divisive lexicon that he had used over the first two years of his presidency, most memorably when he attached a fecal epithet to countries with largely black populations.

On Tuesday night he ached for Americans with H.I.V. or AIDS. I can’t recall them being on his radar much before, but I do recall that he or other members of his administration worked to expel transgender people from the military, appoint homophobic judges and argue against civil rights protections for L.G.B.T. Americans.

On Tuesday night he excoriated wealthy Americans who benefit from undocumented immigrants even as those immigrants (supposedly) diminish less wealthy Americans. He made no acknowledgment of his own use of undocumented immigrants at the Trump golf resort in Bedminster, N.J. Two of them, in fact, were invited by Democrats to the speech.

On Tuesday night he said that we Americans “must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism or those who spread its venomous creed.” And he himself has not ignored those who spread it; rather, he has defended and encouraged them — by accepting their support during his campaign, by re-tweeting them, by insisting that some of the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., and railed against Jews were good people.