Hi, everyone! Steve here. Tom is off the grid this week, so, exercising questionable judgment, he gave me full access to post stuff on the site. This week, I am reporting live and on the scene from my living room, where I am watching the Republican Convention on CNN. Here is my report on Day One.
There is a convention in our Conventions; an uncomfortable tradition that it falls to the wife of the candidate to “humanize” her husband. The adoring wife must share warm, personal anecdotes and insights about her spouse that will make the even the most strident, self-involved, Alpha-male candidate seem a bit more like an ordinary, lovable sorta guy, a decent fella, even if he is worth zillions and has his own 727.
Ann Romney performed superbly in this role; warmly rounding out her husband’s wooden Brooks Brothers manner with tales of his faith, his personal acts of charity, and his role as a father. Michelle Obama famously rocked the house on behalf of Barack in 2008 and 2012… but, as they say, more on that later.
And so it came to pass that Melania Trump, the third Mrs. The Donald, would be thrust into the spotlight for the all-important 10:00 slot when the major networks reluctantly abandon their lucrative broadcast of NSIC Season 13 and switch for a mere one hour to broadcast live from the Convention.
Those who tuned in at 10:00 pm sharp to hear the mysterious, elusive Melania were no doubt startled to see Rudy Guiliani screaming and gesticulating wildly; his eyes fairly popping out of their sockets as he screamed about cops and fear and threats and making America safe. Rudy, never one to lay down a microphone without a fight, plowed on until 10:20. The Trump people must have fed “goddammit, Rudy, wrap it up!!” into the teleprompter because his conclusion came crashing down with suddenness of a power failure.
Cue Donald Trump, who has been given perhaps a tad too much credit as a showman. His entrance – a shadowy silhouette emerging onto the stage through the shrouding of a smoke machine – was cheesier than the dairy section in a 50,000 square-foot foot Whole Foods. And for what? Not wanting to repeat his trampling upon air time intended for his new poodle, Mike Pence, Trump allowed himself the single sentence needed to introduce his wife, and then disappeared, one presumed, back into the smoke machine.
The CNN anchors who watched her speech fell all over themselves in order to appear “objective;” they were quick to praise the third Mrs. Trump for her smooth, poised delivery.
I personally grade her speech as nothing better than the labored struggle of an earnest groomsman who googled “great best man toasts” and then hit "print." Her remarks were a casually arranged smorgasbord of mindless platitudes that she figured probably ought to be said about a man of such awesome greatness. He is a random sampling of the 20-watt insights about her life partner:
- “If you want someone to fight for you and your country, I assure you, he’s the guy.”
- “He will never give up and he will never let you down.”
- “Donald has always been an amazing leader. His achievements speak for themselves.”
- “He is tough when he has to be, but he is also kind and caring.”
- “He will do this better than anyone else can and it won’t even be close.”
It did not help that these generic observations were delivered in her rather chilly and aloof accent, making her sound vague and disconnected from her context, not at all unlike Eva Gabor on Green Acres (“My hahz-bund... he ees a graht mahn”). The final layer of dispassionate distance was created by the fact that Melania Trump delivered the entire speech while continuously toggling like a GM assembly robot from the teleprompter on her left to the teleprompter on her right.
Ok, so the big learning after Melania’s seventeen minutes of fame was that she is a skilled reader. Apparently not much else: No touching personal stories about the Donald, no warm, intimate glimpses into what life is really like with that huggable teddy bear of a real estate shark that she loves. Melania’s content and delivery had all of soul of Powerpoint presentation written by HR for a “Welcome to Charter Communications” employee orientation day.
Then I woke up this morning and heard the stunning revelation that Melania Trump had actually lifted a passage – lock, stock, and grammar – from Michelle Obama’s introduction of her husband at the 2008 Democratic Convention. Melania committed The Art of the Steal from the wife of the guy that Donald Trump hates more than anybody on earth! What I would have given for a nanny-cam into Trump Towers when Mr. Anger Management popped open his twitter feed this morning!
For those of you who need to see it for yourselves to believe it, here are the exact quotes, courtesy of CNN.com:
Melania Trump, Monday, July 18, 2016
"From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son," Trump said.
And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."
Michelle Obama, August 25, 2008:
"And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them.
And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and to pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children -- and all children in this nation -- to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."
The Trump campaign was all over the place in reacting to the scandal; Paul Manafort insisted that this stunning crib-job was a total coincidence, and yet Reince Priebus and Corey Lewandowski both said they would “fire” the person responsible. The campaign released a statement that sounded oddly like the conclusion that George Harrison had “subconsciously” lifted “My Sweet Lord” from “He’s So Fine;” seeming to acknowledge the resemblance but stonewalling on guilt.
Ah, irony, you are a stern god with a wicked sense of humor. All of this unfolded just as the all-new Donald Trump Republican Party rolled out its new “law and order” platform. We are left to infer that plagiarism is not as heinous a crime as, say, being LGBT or failing to teach the Bible in schools.
Were it, though, that Melania Trump's brazen theft was the main source of concern from Day One. Unfortunately, it was not.
Melania Trump’s fiasco followed a parade of “B” list celebrities (and even a few “wanna-B” list quasi-celebrities) who took to the stage in the not-ready-for-network-prime-time 8:00 t0 10:00 slot.
I am unsure how Scott Baio scored the spot as the second speaker of the convention, as he was never higher than the number five star on Happy Days. But then Baio riffed Donald Trump’s slogan in saying, “Let’s make America America again.” This was a not-so-subtle step-change on the rhetoric Richter scale… it’s not that we have to make America great again – it’s that American isn’t even America anymore. Baio’s role seemed to be get the party rolling with a celebration of Donald Trump’s new policy of open-carry bigotry. Heck, even the Cleveland Indians had left town in anticipation of this Party’s anti-minority report.
This appeared to be the Happy Days Convention in this sense of yearning for a time when America was more orderly, more Christian, and more white. But nobody at this Fonzie-fest appeared to be the least bit happy. The tone of each speaker was angrier than the one before, be it directed at Black Lives Matter, Muslims, Hillary Clinton, or our first African-American President. Even the guy who opened the convention by leading the delegates in the “Pledge of Allegiance” seemed angry; he bit off each word as if they were tainted anchovies. Speaker after speaker was just plain pissed off.
Patricia Smith, mother of one of the Benghazi victims, ripped into Hillary Clinton, noting that she “personally blamed” Clinton for her son’s death. The Republican audience climaxed with her private guilty verdict on Clinton; indeed, Smith’s personal recollection appears to be the only instance of Hillary Clinton wrongdoing on Benghazi that has not been refuted in the countless government probes and investigations on the matter.
Telegenic Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke came out on stage and immediately barked “Blue Lives Matter.” Clarke has gained fame by insisting that the rhetoric of the “Black Lives Matter” organization contributed directly to the murders of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. This is clearly a new Republican mantra: that being in any way open to the positions of the “Black Lives Matter” movement means that you must therefore be “anti-cop."
The two hours leading up to Melania were, in fact, far more significant than the First Lady Wannabe herself, though you'd never know it from the obsession with the plagiarism story that was the rage on social media this morning. In those two hours, we saw the overture of the Trump campaign's new "Law and Order" message. It was two hours about the indisputable horror of cops as victims, but there would be no equal time devoted to questions about the victims of cops. It was two hours of rah-rah about the need to "support our troops," while delegates appeared to eagerly anticipate sending those troops another headlong into yet another ground war in the Middle East. It was two hours about solving our societal problems and global challenges with guns and bombs.
On Friday, we posted an opinion piece in which BTRTN predicted that Donald Trump was going to adopt Richard Nixon’s “law and order” message from the 1968 Presidential campaign. Even we are a bit startled at how rapidly this has become a reality. Today, that exact same story was on page one in The New York Times.
Last night we saw a bit of everything. There was something old – Nixon’s 1968 “law and order” message – and something new... Donald Trump's angrier, more aggressive 2016 version. There was something Blue, as Sheriff Clarke made perfectly clear in his opening declaration.
And Melania Trump set the Party and the Convention reeling by bringing "something borrowed." The buzz kill from that story will hang over Cleveland until the final gavel, and then come roaring back in jokes out of Philadelphia next week.
It was a crazy, angry, and -- above all -- scary Day One.
Scary -- because in 1968, "Law and Order" candidate Richard Nixon won.
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