Republican convention: Red meat turns rancid, mean, and poisonous by Marjorie Arons Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.


Melania Trump at conventionTwo down, two to go. Days, that is, of the Republican National Convention.

I’m not watching gavel to gavel. I have a life. But, as a political junkie, I’m drawn to watch the evening activities, as deplorable as they are.

From an organizational perspective, especially for an alleged master of the spectacle, Day One was a disaster.  The Speakers’ schedule was neither timed well nor arranged to achieve maximum impact. Rudy Giuliani screamed hysterically to drive home the law-and-order message of Donald Trump, eager to play to the worst fears of the American people.  Gone was the firm but modulated Giuliani after 9/11.  Today’s version was like the head of a lynch mob.

Then there was Melania, whose speech should have been the climax of the opening day.   Donald’s gorgeous wife, who clearly didn’t write her speech herself (but foolishly claimed she did), was tarred by portions of it being lifted verbatim from Michelle Obama’s  speech at the 2008 Democratic convention. How bizarre is that, the wife of the devil being a role model!  Donald Trump kept the plagiarism story going by  failing to admit any transgression. Delaying until Wednesday for someone to own up kept the story dominating the evening’s and next day’s news. The man known for peremptorily snapping “You’re fired” meekly said the errant speechwriter and others involved in the debacle would not be punished.

Melania deserves points for her poised delivery of a simplistic paint-by-numbers paean to her husband, but she failed to provide a single anecdote to counter his image as a pathological narcissist. Could it be she didn’t have any?

I won’t even comment on the ludicrous stagecraft (blue smoke, no mirrors) heralding Donald Trump’s entrance to introduce his wife. Everything is always all about him, which helps to explain why he called Fox News in the midst of the gripping speech by Pat Smith, mother of Sean Smith, who blames Hillary Clinton “personally” for her son’s death in Benghazi.

Day two was better organized and finished on time, but it gave viewers little sense of how a Trump administration would bring back jobs, allegedly the evening’s theme.

Even though the convention voted and removed the word “presumptive” from Trump’s status, the program was more about Hillary than the nominee.  Intermittent chants of “lock her up” were the leitmotif.

Former Attorney General (now New Jersey Governor) Chris Christie was in full prosecutorial mode citing “facts” about Clinton. Even on simple policy differences, he used the audience as jury, repeatedly inviting members to declare her guilty or not guilty. You know what the answer was, and the repetition intensified, reaching fevered pitch, resembling nothing so much as the Salem Witch Trials. Christie played his attack dog well, perhaps adding to Trump’s buyer’s remorse he didn’t pick Christie for Vice President.

In that same spirit, former candidate Ben Carson not only made it clear the GOP sees this as a Christian nation, but also views Hillary as Lucifer. Has a national convention in either party ever been so venomous?

House Speaker Paul Ryan tried to appeal to the saner members of the RNC, talking about conservative principles and trying, unsuccessfully, to support the party nominee while dancing away from him.  As today’s NY Times editorial suggests, Ryan has diminished himself significantly in trying to have it both ways.  He has become what Trump disdains most, a “loser.”

The Trump kids shone last night. Recent college grad Tiffany, 22, was sweet and loving and reflected well on her father and his second wife, Marla Maples. Donald Trump, Jr., 38, gave a more traditional conservative speech, more substantive, better presented than anything his father has ever done. While some critics have said he cribbed the portion on education from The American Conservative,  the language seems more drawn from the marketplace of conservative ideas and, in any event, the column’s writer gave permission for its use (just as Deval Patrick had voluntarily shared verbiage with Barack Obama). Donald Jr. spoke to blue collar frustrations, pledged not to destroy Medicare, and even promised an end to loopholes that favor the wealthy. His singular interpretation of facts and his hyperbolic reflections on his father were standard convention fare. My bottom line is that he seems a much more sane version of his old man.

For the most part, this convention has been really ugly and often hateful, an accurate reflection of the GOP nominee. Donald Trump is fully in control. He is neck-and-neck with Hillary in the national polls, which probably don’t mean much at this time.

If he loses, he will have taken down the party with him, and a lot of decent conservatives will have to start over again from scratch.  If he wins, a lot of decent conservatives will have to start over again.

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