As Phil Collins put it, one more night! The only thing left to do was properly anoint Trump and set moderation aflame.
All the anticipation for this evening solely rests at the feet of Donald Trump.
While many pundits have claimed this needs to be the speech of Trump’s campaign, my feeling is that the oratory-bar has been set so low he needs to do little to impress. Regardless, I expect Ivanka will steal the night.
CNN: “Can Donald Trump stick to the script?” Why would he? It’s his freewheeling style that has proved so appealing. If he reads off the teleprompter he pleases the small minority of political operatives; if he engages and emotes with the crowd, he wins votes. A stayed, retrained and “presidential” speech would be a mistake tonight. If he can mute the bigotry, but connect personally, he’ll have achieved his objective.
CNN’s Jake Tapper: “Is he going to rise to this moment?” Depends on your definition of “rise”. Chances are Donald’s is different from Tapper’s.
Jerry Falwell Jr: “He is one of the greatest visionaries of our time.” What a shame that for many Americans, a Trumpian vision rises as a hellish, nebulous nightmare. “Donald is a blue-collar billionaire.” That statement instantly enters the pantheon of great American tautologies. Falwell recounts his evangelist-father’s prophetic deathbed dream: in true Shakespearean style, Chelsea Clinton appeared; Falwell Sr admonished her with the claim that the three greatest threats to America were, “Osama, Obama, and your Momma”.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: “We are the only nation that’s (sic) immigration system puts the needs of other nations ahead of our own…a nation without borders is no nation at all.” This is called the “Brexit-strategy”. Tap into the electorate’s xenophobia. “Let’s elect a leader who will stand up for America.” Tap into the latent nativism.
Tapper introduces Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to his panel: “Congratulations on making it to this night.” That’s a strange motif. Does he mean “Congratulations on not getting fired yet”? Seemed like it. Manafort does his best to resist Wolf Blitzer’s characterisation of a Republican Party cleaved in two. “We’re not looking at national polls at the moment, we’re looking state by state.” Manafort highlights a strategic point that it would behoove Democrats to register. The election is won through the Electoral College. Although national polling will consistently show Clinton leading by one to three points, what deserves more attention are polls in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. My gut says Trump will lose the popular vote (like Bush Jr) but win the Electoral College – not by much, maybe only two points, but enough.
Jeffery Lord: “I want to hear compassion.” This Republican strategist doesn’t have a very good read of his nominee. People always say Trump is sensitive, patient and attentive in private. He’s just never demonstrated those attributes in public. The Trump-in-private myth will be preserved – he’s not doing an Oprah Winfrey tonight. Not for this crowd.
Motivational speaker Brock Mealer: “An analytics company working for CNN predicted last year that Donald Trump had a 1% chance of getting the nomination.” Mealer relates Trump’s “underdog” primary win with his own recovery from a devastating car accident. The doctors gave the same odds to Mealer. While Brock came out of a car crash to become a hero, Trump started a multi-vehicle pileup to secure his triumph.
The Trump methodology is utterly depressing. “There’s nothing good about America anymore, the streets run with blood, the world’s on fire and barbarians are at the gates…make Trump your saviour before it’s too late.” He doesn’t sound like a leader. He sounds like the Stockholm to my syndrome.
It’s classic rock-show technique. Terrible opening acts that set the stage for the marquee headliner. Smart, Don. Either that, or Trump literally ran out of worthy people to speak on his behalf.
As Gov Mary Fallin takes the stage, it’s clear Trump is correcting the anti-woman narrative. “We had a great woman role model…the mayor…my mum. She taught me if I worked hard I could be anything.” Yep, that’s exactly what’s going on. “There were no shortage of African-American heroes.” Correcting the anti-black narrative too.
Blitzer informs his audience that Peter Thiel, a gay man, will “admonish the GOP for their lack of acceptance of the LGBT community.” Yeah right, Wolf…he’ll talk about how accepting Trump is of the LGBT community, but you’re dreaming if you think an admonition is on the cards.
Tonight is Unity and Diversity Night.
Up vaults Reince Priebus: Mr Unity, himself. “We are the party of the open door.” This is obviously a position they’ve settled on quite recently. “We don’t apologise for America, we celebrate America.” They keep saying things like this. Sometimes an apology can go a long way. God knows the Iraqis, Afghanis, Libyans, Chileans, Venezuelans, Vietnamese and Japanese deserve one. “We stand for peace and prosperity…at Gettysburg, in Normandy, in Fallujah.” Oh wow, that trinity sounds like an IQ-test question: Which of these three doesn’t belong?
“And she lied over, and over, and over, and over, and over.” The point doesn’t require the emphasis. Hillary’s “honest and trustworthys” are so far underwater, Jacques Cousteau couldn’t find them. “Her foundation took millions of dollars from countries that sponsor terrorism and human rights abuses.” This worthy point has received little attention from the liberal media. Why does the Clinton Foundation take money from abhorrent regimes? It seems not the least bit hypocritical for Hillary to claim solidarity with women, LGBT and minorities, while entertaining, speaking for, and being paid by states that promote their discrimination. I follow the foundation on Twitter. While it laudably promotes literacy and clean drinking water in sub-Saharan Africa, the money for these initiatives appears to come from anti-Western dictators. It’s probably a Lion King thing: the circle of life or something…Hakuna Murdata?
CNN’s Anderson Cooper: “We’re told he’s going to be reading off a teleprompter tonight.” Oh for God’s sake. Will he be wearing a tie too? What about his cologne? This Oscars night pontificating on what couture Angelina will be wearing is weak sauce. “What do you make of the fact that Peter Thiel is being ‘allowed’ to speak?” What a cynically loaded question.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Drowning in the warm malaise: Day 3 of GOP convention
- Hang lights on Trump tree: Day 2 of GOP convention
- The white elephant: Day 1 of GOP convention, a cynical recap
Thiel’s on stage now…the PayPal founder does look a little nervous. Maybe he is expecting a lynching? No mention of homosexuals so far. Democrats must be disappointed. He gets some cheer. Peter allows a small smile to breach his nervousness. A shout-out to Cleveland. Now the crowd’s warming up. “Her incompetence is in plain sight.” He knows how to work this room. “She pushed for a war in Libya. Now it’s a terrorist training camp.” Peter’s so far from a GOP admonishment it’s not funny. “Now we are told that the great debate is about who gets to use which bathroom…this is a distraction from our real problems…who cares!?”
You call that a chastisement of the GOP over their poor track record with the LGBTQ community?! He just threw the case back in your face while giving the middle finger! Oh man, Thiel is going to be the pariah of the gay community (as if he wasn’t already). Thiel: one – Identity politics: zero. I guess “gay” isn’t a monolithic single-issue designation after all. “I am proud to be gay!” Crowd goes wild. “I am proud to be a Republican!” Wilder still. “But most of all, I am proud to be an American!” Standing ovation and the room swells in support. I’m actually a bit teary. That was great! It’s like in those movies where the stern, emotionless, military father comes to his gay son’s dance recital and stands in the back: Republicans sincerely embarrassing a gay man. I love it. “Fake culture wars only distract us from our economic decline. And no one is being honest about it except Donald Trump.” Wow. I’m done. That is a defining moment of this entire campaign. Trump might just have expended his “gay” support from nothing, to a tincey-wincey bit.
CNN: “Donald Trump has opened up this party.” That’s some kind of pivot from: “Thiel will ‘admonish’ the GOP…” If you took journalists seriously, you’d get whiplash.
Van Jones: “What we just saw was beautiful. What we just saw was history”. Ha! Van caught the same misty eyes I did. He’s right. That was history. You can achieve social justice with the speech of one individual, and the platform provided by another. Identity politics: R.I.P.
“I feel like the anchovy on Ivanka’s Caesar salad”. Tom Barrack makes what sounds like history’s most disturbing double-entendre. I think he means she’s speaking next and he’s surplus to requirements. But…lots of people like anchovies. Forget it. It’s not worth riddling through. Barrack relays a heartwarming anecdote about Donald’s father.
The Midnight Cowboy introduces and narrates a This is Your Life: Donald Trump. It’s uplifting, bold and triumphant – like the trailer to a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. This short might end up in the PBS Presidents Collection.
Go on, have a watch. You know you want to:
This is exactly how the world fell in love with America.
To the bright strains of Here Comes the Sun, Ivanka glides on stage. She gives a gracious “Queen-wave.” I’m in love…this is going to be amazing. “For more than a year, Donald Trump has been the people’s champion.” Pastel pink and flawless. Believe it or not, simply by looking at photos of candidates, five year-olds have a 70% success-rate picking election winners. It’s all about the optics for the “rational” mammalian. “My father is a fighter…and now I’m seeing him fight for his country.”
These Trump kids are incredible. She talks about playing with Legos underneath Donald’s desk in Trump Tower. I’m sure this speech is an original. FDR didn’t have Legos did he? “He’s colour-blind and gender-neutral. He hires the best person for the job. Period.” Yeah – she nailed it. So long as Trump doesn’t pass-out on stage, or puke on his shirt, he’s won. It’s fascinating that the Trump kids fill the policy vacuum inherent to the father’s speeches. Eric, Don Jr and Ivanka have each outlined a great deal of substance over the past three nights. Ivanka promises labour laws reforms supporting motherhood and childcare.
“Our next president. Donald J Trump.”
Trump walks on stage to “moon-landing” music. Kisses his daughter and claps the crowd. Double thumbs-up. Here we go…
The crowd won’t stop cheering. He’s in no rush. He looks very calm. “U, S, A…U, S, A…” Yeah, see…he’s not going to change.
“We are a team!”
He’s the archetypal populist.
Mealer relates Trump’s “underdog” primary win with his own recovery from a devastating car accident. While Brock came out of a car crash to become a hero, Trump started a multi-vehicle pileup to secure his triumph.
Trump mentions the historic voter turnout he received in the primaries – and offers the low Democratic numbers as a counterpoint.
“We will be a country of generosity and warmth. But we will also be a country of law and order.” Trump plays the times with aplomb. With streets restless and strife-riven, this message will assuage minds. The crowd roars. Donald lifts his chin, squints his eyes and purses his lips. “The crime and violence which afflicts our nation will soon – and I mean very soon – come to an end.” Trump has a funny habit of repeating and emphasising certain words and phrases. First he reads, then reformulates the cadence for the audience. It’s his way of “naturalising” what is otherwise a teleprompter address.
“Any government that cannot safeguard the lives of its citizens does not deserve to lead.” Trump again redefines the election narrative. First he took it to immigration, then to trade, then to radical Islam and now to domestic security. Hillary Clinton will be playing narrative catch-up until November 8. Those who mould the message control the message. It’s a powerful Sun Tzu-like tactic. This election, make no mistake, is war.
“We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore”. The crowd goes berserk. “U, S, A…U, S, A…U, S, A…U, S, A…U, S, A…U, S, A…” Trump navigates through a litany of Obama administration indictments: food stamps up, poverty up, big city murder rate up, unemployment up, international humiliation up. Lots of boos. Redline embarrassment, Benghazi disaster, and an unsafe world…Hillary’s to blame. “Lock, her, up…Lock, her, up…Lock, her, up…” It’s a jubilant and triumphant mob. “Let’s review the record.” Trump is doing a mini-Christie. Trump plonks ISIS into Clinton’s lap. That’s a bit of a stretch. If Hillary is meant to catch ISIS, then let’s be honest, it was Bush W who threw them to her.
Trump’s speech was muscular, bombastic, inflammatory, dark and promissory. He has successfully trashed, degraded and rhetorically obliterated the United States merely to convince Americans he is the only one that can make it whole again. This should be easy enough: the signal failures are phantoms. As soon as Donald stops inflating their existence they’ll evaporate.
“I am your voice!” Because he’s made Americans feel weak, scared and humiliated, of course they need someone to speak for them. If you really consider the Trump methodology it is utterly depressing. “There’s nothing good about America anymore, the streets run with blood, the world’s on fire and barbarians are at the gates…make Trump your saviour before it’s too late.” He doesn’t sound like a leader. He sounds like the Stockholm to my syndrome.
Trump spoke for an hour and twenty minutes. I’m exhausted.