The first night of the 2016 Republican Convention just wrapped up as I write this late Monday night. It was much the spectacle we thought it would be. While the Pressure Life street team will be trolling the scene on the streets of Downtown, I’ll be manning the Pressure Life Political Desk to helm a special Weekly Politic Aftermath detailing the events from the convention floor every night this week.
It was a rocky start as the Convention began Monday afternoon. Despite having the requisite number of signatures on a ballot to take a vote that would unbind the delegates and allow them to vote their conscience, the Rules Committee refused to acknowledge the passionate “Never Trump” movement, despite their very vocal protests. The steamrolling of parliamentary procedure, and refusal to play by their own established rules led to the entire Colorado delegation to walk out of the Convention proceedings in protest. The calls for unity among the GOP is little more than lip service when actions like this are taken. Matters were not helped when Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, insisted that home Governor, John Kasich, was an embarrassment to the state for not appearing at the convention to support Trump. The cavalcade of awkwardness only continued when Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, took the stage to wave a Steelers towel. That’s right, a Steelers towel waved within the Q.
As for the actual speakers, well, it’s was certainly a mixed bag. We had quite the red carpet, including Scott “Chachi” Baio, who informed us all that Donald Trump “is not a messiah”. Good to know. Also taking the stage was Antonio Sabato Jr, and one of the Duck Dynasty guys who wore his formal bandana for the proceedings. Toss in Tara Reid and we can shoot another Sharknado film at this rate. It should be noted that Senator Tom Cotton’s waxing on the merits of serving in the armed forces loses its luster when you consider that it is in aid of a nominee whose family never served in any branch, in addition to Trump’s own draft deferment to avoid serving in Vietnam. It helps even less when the GOP makes it a point to highlight that an aspect of their new platform is to deny women combat service. Trump’s VP, Mike Pence, doubles down on this, insisting that woman shouldn’t be in the armed forces in any capacity. No kidding, in the past, he’s gone as far as citing Mulan as a “credible” example why women have no place in the military. Don’t show this guy a copy of Aladdin.
Former Mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, took the stage and screamed like a crazy person, as per the usual. He certainly won over the crowd, but like much of the night’s entertainment, his rhetoric is unlikely to play outside of the room. This has been Trump’s Achilles heel since exiting the Primaries. To put it in words a Vaudeville performer like Trump would understand, what works in the Catskills rarely plays on Broadway. He plays to his crowd but never his audience. The night focused on emotional resonance, which drums up a passionate response but does little to make an argument that will factually pan out. For example, the mother of one of the people slain in Benghazi personally blamed Hillary Clinton for her child’s death. The moment was emotionally damning, but there was no logical connection to be drawn to Clinton vis-à-vis the mother’s statement. A more effective argument would have been to question Clinton’s involvement with the overthrow of Kaddafi’s Libya regime in the first place. That argument, (which was never made), would be policy-driven and focused and would offer a fairly damning case against Clinton. This is a neutralized attack, however, due to the fact that Trump’s new running mate was a vocal supporter of that very coup.
The night’s keynote speaker was Trump’s current wife, Melania. Deviating from any measure of theme or restraint or decorum seen throughout the night, Donald Trump broke the unwritten rule of appearing on stage before his official nomination to intro for Melania. Cue the fog machine. Cue the special lighting. Cue Queen’s “We are the Champions” on the house speaker. Cue the podium and teleprompter to rise from the dais. Trump cannot sit for one single night when the focus of attention is not squarely upon himself to the point of near-sabotage of his own convention to make a spectacle of himself on stage. Trump is so undisciplined, his attention span so limited, at one point, Fox News had to cut away from the convention to take an impromptu phone interview with him when he called during the middle of the Benghazi mother’s emotional speech, apparently after growing bored during his own coronation.
Considering how low the bar was set, Melania performed admirably, which is to say she didn’t throw up on her runway shoes. She explained how traveling the world as a rich and famous model in Milan and Rome and New York has shown her the hardships of the world. I’m hesitant to open critical analysis on a candidate’s spouse, but suffice to say, Eleanor Roosevelt, she is not, let alone Michelle. Well, actually, maybe she is a bit like Michelle. It turns out portions of Melania Trump’s speech were lifted verbatim from Michelle Obama’s speech, including entire paragraphs. A persistent theme with the Trump campaign, more so than winning, is inept bungling and inscrutable unforced errors. As I said, the bar was so low with Melania, there was absolutely no need to crib notes from Michelle. It was just as confounding when Herman Cain’s 2012 concession speech liberally quoted the Pokemon movie (not kidding). Do these people not understand how recorded footage and the internet work in tandem?
After her plagiarism, Trump walked his wife off stage and waved goodnight to the crowd. Many in attendance took that as a cue to find the exits despite have two more speakers. General Michael Flynn spoke over the rustling of people heading out the doors and Joni Ernst spoke to a near empty arena to close out the night. Considering she said things like, “ISIS is currently operating out of all fifty states”, it’s probably for the best.
The theme of the night was “Make America safe again” and purported to focus on immigration and foreign policy. While buzz words like “Benghazi”, “Illegal Immigrant”, and “build a wall” were bandied about, scant was offered in the way of policy or even philosophy. I’m sure there will be more criticism of Hillary Clinton as the nights go on, but the speakers at day one of the RNC missed a valuable opportunity to explain why Clinton’s foreign policy is wrong and how they would remedy her mistakes. I can all but assume the Democrats will not hesitate to clearly lay out how and why Trump is misguided in a precise and surgical manner; an effect that seemed to be lost last night amid the fog machines and strobe lights.