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Trump’s RNC: Insolvent Casino Royale

A Trump Roll of the Dice

I never thought Trump ran for president in 2016 because he wanted to lower the cost of prescription drugs for “our seniors,” or because he wanted to start an itinerant ministry dedicated to criminal justice for ex-convicts, or institute school choice.

Trump ran for the presidency to keep an array of creditors (from the Russians and Saudis to Deutsche Bank down to all those plumbers he refused to pay in Atlantic City) from foreclosing on Trump’s towers of debts.

Perhaps by getting into the presidential race he figured he could buy himself some time, find some new sources of cash, kite some checks or accounts receivable, or otherwise deflect the attention of those hard on his heels?

Winning the presidency was almost beside the point. It has conferred on him a form of limited immunity (the presidency is the greatest offshore trust in the world?) and has given him a place to hide that is beyond the reach of those angry investors who stumped up good money after bad to fund golf courses or (now empty) office space.

Trump’s business model was never real estate development or hotel management. (If you ever want to lose a fortune, invest in a golf course.) Those were just the cover stories. Trump’s profession has always been that of a grifter, and his pyramid scheme was to convince rich individuals, banks, private equity investors, sovereign funds, and countries to bankroll projects from which he could later walk, leaving behind a mountain of unpaid debts. (Which explains how it comes so easily to Trump to speak of the coronavirus in the past tense.)

Confidence is Trump’s only game, so it really shouldn’t be any surprise that he’s now playing it on the national stage, only this time, instead of beating the Russians or the Saudis out of their billions blown on Trump Steaks, leaky condos, or failed golf clubs, Trump has managed to convince a national political party and about half of the electorate that he stands for something more than the art of dealing from the bottom of the deck.

***

On what evidence do I base my suppositions that the Trump empire has long been tilting toward liquidation? Let’s start with Vladimir Putin, around whom Trump acts like a squirrelly numbers runner who has failed to pay off his boss. Without so much as a peep, Trump gave Syria to Russia (at the same time, all he got from the Turks for betraying the Kurds were a few imprisoned missionaries), and during the nine hours of the RNC convention, Russia was never mentioned.

Secondly, I can’t imagine why, in the first act of his presidency, he flew over to Saudi Arabia and groveled in front of its ancient king, unless it was to say: “Don’t worry about that money I owe you. Where I’m working now, I’m good for billions.”

Finally, I have just now sat through the nine hours of the Republican national convention, Trump’s gift of himself to a grateful party and the nation. And the only language I heard, over the four days, was that of a sting.

Nearly every testament to Trump’s love of America and each and every American (in on the con, Ivanka called herself “the proud daughter of the people’s president…”) echoed the excuses of a bad debtor trying to convince a creditors’ committee that he can work his way out of bankruptcy (“he’s done it before, and he’ll do it again…”).

Think of the refrain from the Republican convention, “Four More Years,” which is chanted any time Trump gets near a lectern, as the eternal hymn of bad debtors everywhere. The last time we heard it, Richard Nixon was running for re-election in 1972. How did that work out?

As best I can figure, Trump has done to the American capital account what he did to that of Trump Inc.—bankrupted it about six times.

In four years of Trump governance, the national debt has increased from about $20 trillion to $24 trillion, while in order to pay for the pandemic the government budget deficit has been increased by almost $3 trillion.

Maybe that explains why the Republican National Convention had the feel of a cable TV ad for an extravagant Las Vegas resort hotel development that one Donald J. Trump is bringing to the market.

Keep in mind: when you work in casinos, you’re betting on one thing—that the people lose.

Day One: God’s a Republican

Beginning with a spiritual invocation from New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Day One of the Republican convention established most of the themes that would get droned into viewers over the next four days: the Democratic party is in the clutches of the Squad, if not the Shining Path, and its nominee, Joe Biden, is the talking dummy for such ventriloquists as Bernie Sanders, AOC, and Nancy Pelosi, if not Fidel Castro, Mao Tse-tung, and the Taliban.

As for its policies, as the Republicans sum them up, the Democrats come down on the side of looting, rioting, cop killing, and cheerleading for ISIS and the Chinese Communist Party. And during the pandemic shutdown (emphasis on the past tense), while the Democrats were keeping you out of your churches, they were voting to make abortion clinics essential business.

Jesus Was My Roommate and an Awesome Dude

First up to lectern was the creepy campus pol Charlie Kirk, who has funding in the millions to make sure that “conservative voices” are heard on university campuses.

Charlie was given face time to gather in “the youth vote,” although the only college students that I know who look like Kirk are those going door-to-door with brochures and ringing doorbells to ask if you have a few minutes to accept Jesus Christ (or maybe Donald Trump?) into your life.

Almost in raptures, he ended by saying:

We will be a country that makes it easier to have many children, live quiet and peaceable lives, and worship your God without a tyrant getting in the way…. We will build a future where America remains the greatest country ever to exist in the history of the world. All of that is within our grasp if we secure four more years for the defender of Western civilization, our champion, my friend, the 45th President of the United States, President Donald J. Trump.

Clearly not a toga party.

Knowledge is Good: But is School Choice?

Rebecca Friedrichs delivered the next picnic at Hanging Rock. She is “a veteran California public school educator,” although her mission at the convention was to string up school unions. (“They’ve intentionally rewritten American history to perpetuate division, pervert the memories of our American founders and disparage our Judeo-Christian virtues. Their lenient discipline policies morphed our schools into war zones and they back defunding police and abolishing ICE.”)

Her larger point was to introduce the cause of school choice “to return control to parents, protect religious liberties and empower kids to escape dangerous, low-performing schools.”

School choice might well be called the Bankrupt Public Education Act, as it allows parents, under the false flag of “educational freedom”, to draw vouchers, take their children out of the local school system, and invest the money in private education, including, and perhaps most importantly, in religious academies.

The Invasion of the Democrat Body Snatchers

Another theme hammered home early on the first day was the equation of the Democratic Party with home invasion and the specter that Joe Biden will bus large angry Black men (think of Willie Horton, George Herbert Walker Bush’s running mate in 1988) into your neighborhood, where your mothers, sisters, and daughters will never be safe. (“At least with Republican Home Security, you’ll never be alone…Call 1-800-DON-TRMP…”)

Matt Gaetz II represents Pensacola and the Florida panhandle in Congress, although he sounded more closely aligned to the Bund deutscher Arbeiterjugend, shouting:

We must fight to save America now or we may lose her forever. Joe Biden might not even notice. Settle for Biden, that’s the hashtag promoted by AOC and the socialists. The woketopians will settle for Biden because they will make him an extra in a movie written, produced, and directed by others. It’s a horror film really. They’ll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home and invite MS-13 to live next door. And the police aren’t coming when you call in Democrat run cities, they’re already being defunded, disbanded.

Covid-19: Not Exactly Dental Surgery

After Gaetz’s jackbooted speech came a Black woman running for Congress in Baltimore (“We want a chance to get ahead, not just get by…”) and then a coal-miner’s daughter who served as a nurse in the virus front lines (“I can tell you without hesitation Donald Trump’s quick action and leadership saved thousands of lives during COVID-19”).

Then, Republicans marched onto the stage an oral surgeon from Louisiana to make the point that Trump is a medical genius who any day will find a cure for Covid. (“President Trump truly moved mountains to save lives and he deserves credit. Thank you President Trump for providing timely access to critical diagnostics and therapeutics during this pandemic.”) Perhaps now we have the name of the feel-good doctor who wrote Trump’s prescription for hydroxychloroquine.

Dr. Donald J. Oz

Most Americans think that Trump is a Covid denier whose unwillingness to listen to briefings from his science and medical advisors, coupled with obsession with his re-election, will result in some 500,000 Americans dead from the virus before the pandemic is over. During the four days of the Republican convention more Americans died of the virus than were killed on 9/11, at Pearl Harbor, or on the Normandy beaches.

Nevertheless, on all four nights of the RNC’s utopian Trump World mini-series, the president was described in terms normally reserved for the likes of Florence Nightingale or Dr. Albert Schweizer.

Then there was this little reality show, in which Trump himself hosted a program in the White House, where he moderated a discussion with some everyday folks who are trying to survive the pandemic ordeal.

Most of the time that Trump speaks on television he looks and sounds like Herman Göring hectoring the nation about Volksgemeinschaft. Here, however, Trump was civil in his exchanges with this small group of ordinary Americans (there were some nurses, a postal worker, a police officer, etc.), asking them gentle questions about their experiences in the war against Covid.

Representative Jim Jordan Comes to Grief

You will remember Congressman Jim Jordan from the House impeachment hearings. He was the jacket-less attack dog for the Trump cause of innocence, and clearly earned enough street cred to speak at the virtual RNC convention and sink his teeth into Biden and the Dems. Slipping his leash, Jordan said:

Look at what’s happening in American cities, cities all run by Democrats, crime violence and mob rule. Democrats refuse to denounce the mob, and their response to the chaos, defund the police, defund border patrol and defund our military. While they’re doing all this, they’re also trying to take away your guns.

Then the Republican impresarios turned Jim into a Hallmark sympathy card. They had him tell a long story about how Trump called in person to console one of Jordan’s grieving relatives. (“For the next five minutes, family and friends sat in complete silence as the president of the United States took time to talk to a dad who was hurting. That’s the president I’ve gotten to know the last four years…”)

It had the feel of a last-minute addition, out of Republican fear that Joe Biden had cornered the grief consolation market during the Democratic convention.

Hershel Walker Runs to Darkness

Hershel Walker was a celebrated professional football player in the 1980s and 90s, when he rushed for more than 10,000 yards in the USFL and NFL. The Cowboys once traded him to the Vikings for about eleven players and draft picks, after which he didn’t do much in Minnesota.

I had not thought about Hershel since 1992, when he raced the bobsled at the winter Olympics in Albertville, France, but here he was on screen, vouching for Trump’s qualities as a friend and family man, talking up the president’s fight for racial equality. (“He shows how much he cares about social justice in the black community through his actions…”)

He even tried to humanize Trump by describing a trip both families made together to Disney World, but then let slip that Don had walked around the Magic Kingdom in a suit.

Trump Straps on his Bullet-Proof Suit Vest

Spliced in between athletes talking about Trump and God, the RNC served up a line of cancer survivors, party officials, and Republican black politicians, some of whom spoke about their Democratic pasts as if the broadcast were a confessional. (State representative Vernon Jones said: “The Democratic party does not want black people to leave their mental plantation. We’ve been forced to be there for decades and generations, but I have news for Joe Biden. We are free…”)

Then the convention got down to the business at hand—that of making the Republican party bullet-proof on the issue of guns and the Second Amendment, a principal dog whistle during the four days.

First up was Andrew Pollock, the father of a victim of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, who made it sound as though Biden had driven the shooter to the high school. Pollock’s message was this: If you elect a Democrat, you can expect more school shootings. If you elect Trump, your kids will be safe and can play in the street.

Pollock explained the decisive steps Trump had taken on the matter of guns in schools. He said: “Then the president did what he said he would do. He took action. He formed a school safety commission that issued dozens of recommendations to make school safer…” Case closed.

The McCloskeys Pack Serious Heat

Mark and Patty McCloskey are the St. Louis couple who faced down a Black Lives Matter rally by brandishing assault weapons. They took to the Republican stage to explain to the rest of the America that unless you lay in a few automatic freedom dispensers, angry mobs of Black people will show up on your own front lawn. (“What you saw happened to us could just as easily happen to any of you who are watching from quiet neighborhoods around our country.”)

Patty caught the spirit of the convention when she said: “America is such a great country that not only do you have the right to own a gun and use it to defend yourself, but thousands of Americans will offer you free advice on how to use it, at least that’s what we experienced.”

The Primetime of Miss Kimberley Guilfoyle

Even though Trump ran for office in 2016 on a promise to drain the Swamp, he produced the entire Republican convention within several blocks of the White House and nearly all the speakers (including a number of alligators) appeared on stage at the nearby Mellon Auditorium, which was illuminated with columns of light and American flags.

After the McCloskeys had pistol whipped America (“They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single family home zoning…”), a woman in a tightly fitted red dress and flowing Kardashian hair approached the lectern. I assumed I was looking at Melania Trump, although something was just a touch off. Was it the heavy eye make-up or the extreme lip rouge?

Finally, the woman said, “Good evening, America. I’m Kimberly Guilfoyle…” and I figured out that Donald Trump Jr. has somehow persuaded his girlfriend to transmogrify herself into a clone of his father’s wife. (Dr. Freud, check your Twitter feed.)

Guilfoyle used to work for the Fox network and presumably knows something about speaking on television, but her manner (in an empty hall) was that of Evita Peron rallying the descamisados from a balcony in Buenos Aires.

In the name of Trump, Guilfoyle wept, she pleaded, she prayed, and she exalted, so that America would let her boyfriend’s father (and then maybe her big game-hunting boyfriend?) hold the country’s highest office.

Nearly hysterical toward the end, Guilfoyle said:

Rioters must not be allowed to destroy our cities. Human sex drug traffickers should not be allowed to cross our border. The same socialist policies, which destroyed places like Cuba and Venezuela, must not take root in our cities and our schools. If you want to see the socialized Biden-Harris future for our country, just take a look at California. It is a place of immense wealth, immeasurable innovation and immaculate environment and the Democrats turned it into a land of discarded heroin needles in parks, riots in streets and blackouts in homes….

Guilfoyle ended with a Howard Dean Scream, “Ladies and gentlemen, leaders and fighters for our freedom and liberty and the American dream, the best is yet to come.” Had this been a Spinal Tap concert (maybe it was?), at this point Guilfoyle would have fainted. (“Here lies David St.Hubbins … and why not?”)

Foreign Relations: Hostages-R-Us

Before and after some filler speakers (angry Miami Cubans, congressional candidates, etc.), the Republicans aired a short action film on foreign affairs, making the point that if the Democrats get back in power, you can expect that America will be held hostage; it will be a rerun of the Carter years.

On screen there were images of angry street scenes and captives bound and gagged. The voiceover says dramatically: “American hostages, forgotten and wasting away in far off prisons, wrongfully detained by foreign governments. Americans were beaten, abused, starved, and left for dead until President Donald Trump stepped in.” It felt like a remake of Midnight Express.

Cut to a White House hall, in which Trump joins a small circle of former hostages so that they can reminisce about their captivity and describe how President Donald J. Rambo rescued them from their tiger cages.

I am sure the producers were hoping to feature Trump in something as gripping as Argo (the Ben Affleck film about American hostages in Iran), but Trump used the moment to talk up all the dictators with whom he negotiated to free the prisoners. (Trump: “I have to say that to me, President Erdogan was very good…”)

Nikki Haley Addresses Affairs of State

Nikki Haley, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, endorsed President Trump’s re-election, although the point of her lugubrious speech was to stake her claim to the nomination in 2024.

Haley is an Asian-American woman, former governor of South Carolina, and Republican, which checks a lot of boxes, but here she was just mailing it in (“We will build on the progress of our past and unlock the promise of our future. That future starts when the American people reelect president Donald Trump….”). She got more traction back in 2018 when she called the allegations of an affair with Donald Trump “disgusting.” (I take her point.)

Don Jr. Blows Off the Left

The cameras went straight to Don Trump Jr., who is a staple on the undercard at Trump rallies, feeding red meat and hats to the crowds. Here he was as amped as his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, with a sweaty brow and dilated pupils, which the next day set the Twittersphere ablaze with suggestions that he’d fallen in line with more than just Daddy-worshipping. He denied it.

I have no doubt that Don Jr. imagines himself as his father’s political heir (as does his ambitious girlfriend). Despite growing up in gilded palaces, Don Jr. (sort of like George W. Bush) has taken on the persona of a gun-toting, God-fearing, pickup truck-driving, flag-waving, Chinese-hating, make-America-great-again good old boy.

While Ivanka has ministered to her father in the Oval Office, Don Jr. (in no official government capacity) has been building his own base by making the rounds of state fairs, gun shows, and wrestling arenas—successfully, I might add.

Having heard Don Jr. at Trump rallies (he speaks like he’s selling time shares on late-night cable TV), I have no sympathy for any of his hateful views, but listening to him drone on about casinos in the air (“Imagine a world where the evils of communism and radical Islamic terrorism are not given a chance to spread, where heroes are celebrated and the good guys win, you can have it. That is the life, that is the country, that is the world that Donald Trump and the Republican party are after…”), I confess I did have some fleeting compassion for anyone who feels the psychological pressure to have his girlfriend look like his step-mother.

Day Two: Holy Log Rolling

Day Two dawned with a religious invocation from a Las Vegas preacher, who seemed to be reciting a gambler’s prayer when she said, “Lord, give us strategies from heaven.” At least she didn’t say, “Good girls go to Heaven, bad girls go to Vegas.”

An Ex-con Bromance

The theme of the evening at the Republican convention (in theory meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, although that venue was never seen on camera) was to celebrate America as “the land of opportunity,” but very quickly it skewed into a daytime serial in which a rich man randomly bestows his grace on an astonished and grateful stranger.

This episode featured the improbable connection between President Donald Trump, an ex-con named John Ponder, and the FBI special agent Richard Beasley, who arrested Ponder and sent him to jail.

The story reminded me of television staples from my childhood, when honest cops were always finding goodness in bad men, who then went straight, either to ride with the Lone Ranger or walk with the Lord. In Ponder’s case, he knocked off a series of banks and did a stretch in the big house, but by the time he got out God was driving his get-away car.

The first person to whom he spread the good word of his conversion was his arresting FBI officer, Richard Beasley, and subsequently they became close friends. Ponder also founded an outreach organization called Hope for Prisoners. (There was no mention of whether the likes of Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, or Roger Stone have enrolled in the program.)

Trump met Ponder and Beasley when the president presided over an awards ceremony and gave degrees to some ex-prisoners in Hope’s program.

It was a feel-good moment, with hugs and tears, especially when Trump gave Ponder a full pardon for his crimes, and it positioned Trump as the star of criminal justice reform, unless he’s hearing the footsteps of New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and wondering how they do lunch at Club Fed.

Rand Paul Cuts Trump’s Lawn

The last time we heard from Senator Rand Paul (KY), his neighbor was beating him up in his front yard, in a dispute about brush near their joint property line.

In Republican politics, Paul is a wild card, and for a while Democrats thought he might vote to convict Trump on impeachment charges or vote against Brett Kavanaugh. Since then Democrats have learned not to expect too much from anyone named after Ayn Rand.

At the RNC convention, former doctor Paul got misty-eyed as he recalled business man Trump aiding one of Paul’s charitable missions to Central America (“I was planning a medical mission trip to Guatemala to perform charity eye surgeries, and we needed money to fund the trip. Donald Trump offered to help and immediately came through for us…”).

Deficit Hawk Paul decided not to say anything about Drunken Sailor Trump’s give-away economics or the $24 trillion national debt.

The President Serves Up Lobster

A raft of small business operators, conveniently from swing states, all spoke in Mellon Auditorium about how Obama, Biden, federal regulations, and the Chinese threatened to put their companies into bankruptcy, which only the coming of Donald Trumped averted. (“I felt like Trump is definitely pushing more for the steel mills, the fishermen, just us making our own products and bringing everything in…”)

One witness to this miracle was a Maine lobsterman whose livelihood has been saved, so he says, by Trump opening up Europe to tariff-free lobster rolls. (“As long as Trump is president, fishing families like mine will have a voice, but if Biden wins, he’ll be controlled by the environmental extremists…”)

The Trump handlers had him add: “He [Trump] keeps his word, like eliminating the European tariffs and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem”—no doubt a development of vital concern to Maine fishermen even though old testament has lobster on its no-fly list.

The Economic Miracle of Marked Cards and Tilted Wheels

If every speech at the convention had been as concise as Larry Kudlow’s (he was a Fox anchorman and now broadcasts directly to Trump as his economic advisor), it might have been over in a few hours.

Kudlow spoke for less than three minutes, and he presented a concise case for allowing the Republicans to manage the economy. He said:

A great bipartisan rescue also saved the economy. Right now, our economic health is coming back. With emergency spending and tax cuts, Americans are going back to work. There’s a housing boom, there’s an auto boom, a manufacturing boom, a consumer spending boom. Stocks are in record territory. A ‘V’ shaped recovery is pointing to better than 20% growth in the second half of this year. Now looking ahead, more tax cuts and regulatory rollback will be in store, payroll tax cuts for higher wages, income tax cuts for the middle class, capital gains tax cuts for investment, productivity, and jobs.

It all sounded good, to the point that I almost wished it had been true. Unfortunately, casino economics depend on using other people’s money, crooked wheels, marked cards, and unpaid loans. As Trump said in 2016: “I’ve made a fortune by using debt, and if things don’t work out I renegotiate the debt…. You go back and you say, hey guess what, the economy crashed. I’m going to give you back half,” which is about all that the American people should expect this time.

Far Right Poster Child Nick Sandmann

Nick Sandmann is the Covington, Kentucky, Catholic high school kid who on a field trip (well, a March for Life) to Washington, DC, had an encounter with Black and Native-American demonstrators near the Lincoln Memorial.

In early press reports, CNN and the Washington Post, among other outlets, reported that a smug Sandmann in a Trump MAGA hat baited participants in an Indigenous People’s March. Sandmann sued various media outlets for defamation and libel, and eventually the case settled before going to trial.

Sandmann was vindicated when video surfaced showing that he and his Covington classmates were themselves victims of racially abusive taunts (from what were called Black Hebrew Israelites)—not the other way around, as the media had first reported.

For standing tall on the right-to-life ramparts while wearing a MAGA hat, and for having sued and beaten the mainstream media, Sandmann has become a favorite son of the Trump set, who were eager to turn him into a convention mannequin. Speaking to the RNC, Sandmann said, in part:

The full war machine of the mainstream media revved up into attack mode. They did so without researching the full video of the incident… without ever asking me for my side of the story. And do you know why? Because the truth was not important. Advancing their anti-Christian, anti-conservative, anti-Donald Trump narrative was all that mattered. And if advancing their narrative ruined the reputation and future of a teenager from Covington, Kentucky, well, so be it. That would teach him not to wear a MAGA hat.

Something tells me that it could well be Sandmann’s fate to spend his life as a mouthpiece for larger, more powerful interests. (Forgive the Churchillian expression, but he looks more like a dummy than an organ grinder.) I wonder what’s worse: getting slimed by the Washington Post and CNN or having to find work as a Trump dancing bear?

In-House P.I. Lawyer Pam Bondi: “Help is just a phone call away…”

The Hunter Biden Ukraine mud file was given to a former Florida attorney general and Trump shill named Pam Bondi, who has a pedigree in Biden oppo and came to the convention floor with the street cred of having chanted “Lock her up” at Hillary during the last election.

Better yet, in 2018, while still the Florida attorney general, Bondi had dealings with Lev Parnas, one of the lowlifes (now under indictment) that Rudy Giuliani and Trump (“I don’t know who this man is…”) sent to Ukraine for some dirt-digging on Hunter and to smear the U.S. ambassador. One of the indictments against Parnas is for illegally bundling and funneling money to certain (unnamed) Florida politicians.

In her 2020 convention speech, however, Bondi was little more than perfunctory about the Ukraine bounty Hunter (“Yet he was paid millions to do nothing. He only had one qualification that mattered. He was the son of the man in charge of distributing US aid to Ukraine…”).

Then Bondi changed gears to another Trump campaign obsession—that of smearing China, which gave us Covid-19 and which owns both Bidens. (She said: “…those Chinese communist bankers approved millions to go to Hunter’s firm, and those bankers work for the Chinese Communist Party, which oppresses their people, cheated American workers for decades, and covered up a deadly virus.”)

Bondi is a Trump enabler, and has been since he donated $25,000 to one of her reelection PACs and (quite separately, I assure you) since she declined as Florida’s attorney general to investigate that august body of higher learning, Trump University (school motto: Vincere decipiat).

Miracle Cure-alls

We heard from Kellyanne Conway and others how Trump has hired all sorts of women to senior key jobs. Then we had to sit through a heart-rending story, told by Mike Pence, who was standing in front of Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home, of a critically ill child whose life might be saved by the federal Right to Try bill, which allows doctors to administer long-shot medications that don’t have federal approval, in cases of a terminal prognosis.

Promoting the act also appeals to Trump’s love of quackery and sticks it to the FDA for not letting him self-medicate the country with internet Covid cures. (“I’m taking it…. What do you have to lose?”)

What Wall?

We took a time-out from the convention so that Trump could preside over the naturalization ceremony of a group of five new citizens, including one from Sudan, which otherwise is on Trump’s travel ban list.

From his amiable chatting with the new citizens (“As citizens, you’re now stewards of this magnificent nation, a family comprised of every race, color, religion, and creed…”), you might have come away with the impression that Trump spends much of his time encouraging immigrants to find paths to citizenship.

Tiffany Trump’s Debutante Ball

I am not sure who dressed Tiffany Trump for her party speech, but she looked fresh from an Abba concert, in an egg-shell blue suit with flaming, flared bellbottoms.

She has just graduated from law school and is presumably job hunting on Zoom, and she talked a little about those uncertainties before delivering what sounded like a high school commencement speech (“Because in America, your life is yours to chart…”).

There was little intimacy in what Tiffany said. I suppose it’s possible that she wrote the speech herself. Or maybe an aide handed her a draft. She left me with the impression that in her life Trump is a distant abstraction.

Eric Trump’s Air Kisses

It tells you what Trump thinks about his business that he left Eric in charge (along with Don Jr. who never seems to be in the office). In the same week that Eric spoke at the convention his aunt Mary (Trump’s older sister ) referred to him, on a secretly recorded tape, as a “moron”.

Eric Trump doesn’t speak so much as snarl. I sensed a chip on his shoulder the size of, well, Mt. Rushmore. Here’s how he described the “radical Democrats”:

They want to destroy the monuments of our forefathers. They want to disrespect our flag, burn the stars and stripes that represent patriotism and the American dream. They want to disrespect our National Anthem by taking a knee while our armed forces laid down their lives every day to protect our freedom. They do not want the Pledge of Allegiance in our schools. Many of them don’t want one nation under God. The Democrats want to defund and disrespect our law enforcement.

He went on in that flag-burning vein for about ten minutes. I only started listening carefully when toward the end of his speech he direct-messaged his father, with expressions of love. (“I miss working alongside you every single day… I’m proud of what you’re doing for this country…. Continue to be unapologetic. Keep fighting for what is right. You are making America strong again…. Let’s go get another four years. I love you very much.”)

Secretary Mike Pompeo Zooms in from Jerusalem

From a hotel balcony overlooking the old city came Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was once described by an anonymous former U.S. ambassador as “a heat-seeking missile [headed straight] for Trump’s ass.”

Pompeo’s zoom call from Jerusalem (“this very city of God… the rightful capital of the Jewish homeland”) was hardly the result of his pressing diplomatic schedule, but a photo-op from Heaven (or as close as you can get) so that Mike could report how Trump had wiped out ISIS, brokered the new deal with the United Arab Emirates, and, kumbaya, brought peace to the Middle East.

Pompeo violated diplomatic protocol, if not the 1939 Hatch Act, by involving the State Department in a partisan political event, but in the Trump administration breaking the law is part of the job description.

Melania Never Promised You A Rose Garden

Day Two ended with Melania Trump’s catwalk through the replanted Rose Garden. She was dressed in the drab olive green and tunic of the Woman’s Army Corps, either to make the point that this was a moment of national crisis and that she was doing her part by modeling an appropriately sensitive uniform, or, as First Hostage, to signal to the outside world that her husband is getting ready to declare martial law.

No doubt White House carpenters (another violation of the Hatch Act?) had to work overtime to create a catwalk from the residence to the Rose Garden long enough to give Melania sufficient time to strut her goods in primetime.

The poor Rose Garden (thanks, Melania) was hacked, cut back and replanted in weird geometric shapes. It almost looks like a Nebraska field where someone has stamped out “Help Me!” from the corn rows.

Without plagiarizing from Michelle Obama, Melania managed to read through her speech in a morose monotone, which, as I heard it, reflected the tensions in the First Marriage.

Clearly she wanted to talk about Covid sufferers, her trip to Africa and slavery, addiction and bullying, while Trump’s handlers insisted that her spiked heels toe party lines.

Toward the end Melania said: “Total honesty is what we as citizens deserve from our president. Whether you like it or not, you always know what he’s thinking, and that is because he’s an authentic person who loves this country and its people and wants to continue to make it better.”

If you ever want a frying pan launched in your general direction, try calling your partner or spouse “authentic.”

It sounded like a statement that Trump’s divorce lawyer prepared for a settlement press release, and that she reluctantly agreed to sign.

Day Three: Scaring Americans to Life

What were the themes emphasized? A lot of time was spent (especially by Trump intimates and family members) trying to convince voters (or perhaps themselves?) that Don isn’t the raving maniac that you know from Twitter but a loving caring president, father, grandfather, father-in-law, boss, and colleague who loves God and country.

The testimony sounded like those forced character letters sent to a judge about to sentence someone for having abused and fondled twenty-two women.

But there was also air time to put the boot into China and to remind suburban voters that Black and Latino people in swing states like Wisconsin and New Mexico are coming for their wives, sisters, and SUVs. What more do you want from the party in the White House?

Go Ahead, Abe, Make My Day

The South Dakota governor, Kristi Noem, was dressed in neither Fox red nor suffragette white, but tasteful blue, and initially I thought she spoke well, but then she lapsed into the brainwashed cadences of a Trump True Believer.

She talked up James Madison as the father of the Bill of Rights (only partly true) and Abraham Lincoln as a vigilante (Make-My-Day Abe gave a law-and-order speech in 1838), and tried to connect Lincoln’s Republican Party (which got rid of slavery) with Trump’s liberation theology in 2020. (“In just four years, President Trump has lifted people of all races and backgrounds out of poverty. He shrunk government…. He has advanced religious liberty. He protected the Second Amendment…”)

Noem took office in South Dakota in 2019, but only drew national attention in 2020, when she was at the forefront of Covid deniers. She refused to shut down her state and curried Trump favor by talking up hydroxychloroquine. Think of her convention speech as an adverse reaction.

The Party’s Over: No-Show Republicans

A logger from Minnesota talked up Trump as a great friend to lumberjacks, not quite along the lines of the Monty Python song, He’s a lumberjack and he’s OK/He sleeps all night and he works all day, but in that general direction.

Senator Martha Blackburn from Tennessee (an odd choice as she’s not running for re-election in 2020) delivered what sounded like an animated cartoon to the convention. (“If the Democrats had their way, they would keep you locked in your house until you become dependent on the government for everything. That sounds a lot like Communist China, to me. Maybe that’s why Joe Biden is so soft on them. Why Nancy Pelosi says that China would prefer Joe Biden. Yeah. I bet they would.…”)

Listening to the non-essential Blackburn, I decided to make a list of prominent Republicans who either refused to attend the convention or were not offered a speaking slot, and here are the names I came up with: Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Colin Powell (he spoke to the Dems), Condeleezza Rice, Jeb Bush, Laura Bush, Megan McCain, Liz Cheney, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Pat Toomey, Paul Ryan, and Jeff Flake. I am sure I have omitted many others. But we did get to hear from Tiffany and Eric.

War is Hell and Good Politics

Without the heavy hitters from the Republican national security set, the convention featured the junior varsity, which included among others Texas congressman and Navy Seal wounded war hero Dan Crenshaw (he made his pitch from the deck of the battleship Texas) and retired Lt. General Keith Kellogg (he’s the national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence).

Crenshaw talked about his deployment and heroes who never came home, made references to sacrifice, and blessed America, but the closest that he came to mentioning Trump by name was when he said: “The defeat of ISIS was the result of America believing in our heroes, our President having their backs and rebuilding our military, so we’d have what we needed to finish the mission.” I doubt someone as petty as Jared Kushner would have missed that sin of omission.

General Kellogg made the same case, reciting the litany about eliminating “the terrorist ISIS caliphate” and its leader, al-Baghdadi, “one of the world’s most brutal terrorists.” But Kellogg made the larger case that “President Trump is no Hawk.” He went on: “He wisely wields the sword when required, but believes in seeking peace instead of perpetual conflict…. Ask yourself, has this President kept his promises to keep us out of needless conflicts and to pursue ending wars without end?”

Actually, in the Middle East, Trump is running on a standing-tall narrative that he moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, ripped up the Obama agreement with Iran (it was never a treaty), “took out” terrorists such as Qasem Soleimani (technically he was an Iranian government official), defeated ISIS, delivered peace to the region, and brought our boys home.

Another way to write that paragraph would be as follows:

In the Middle East President Trump has betrayed our long-standing allies the Kurds, backstabbed the Palestinians, and abandoned Syria to a lawless partitioned fate between Israel, Turkey, and Russia. He did not “eliminate” ISIS (credit the Obama administrations for most of that), merely reduced its footprint. He’s nowhere with Iran and has funded, via the Saudis (his private client), a brutal conflict in Yemen, which does nothing for the United States. He has no cards to play in any negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan, little influence in Iraq, and is oblivious to the crisis in Lebanon.

To quote the missing President George W. Bush: “Heck of a job, Brownie.”

Kayleigh McEnany Loves Her Voicemale

The White House press secretary told an emotional story of her genetic disposition toward breast cancer and her preventive double mastectomy, but only because President Trump called her after her surgery, which is proof of his empathy and enduring faith in humanity and that, by the way, “this president stands by Americans with pre-existing conditions.”

McEnany also made it clear that, in the Medici rivalries of the White House West Wing, her knives and vials of poison are wielded in support of Ivanka (“As I came out of anesthesia, one of the first calls I received was from Ivanka Trump…”). Day Two was devoted to Ivanka product placement ads.

Mother Pence Rehearses Shakespeare

I warmed to Mother Pence, not because she delivered a compassionate speech about glassblowing war veterans, but because for whatever reasons I sized her up as one of the few on convention display who understands the sociopathic politics of the dysfunctional Trump family.

Come 2024, Karen Pence, I am sure, believes her husband will deserve the Republican presidential nomination for his loyal service to the crazy king. At the same time, I sense (there was something in her body language) that she has an inkling that the Trumps will throw over Mike as if he were a gardener at Mar-a-Lago with a work permit problem.

In Trump World, American politics are just another a family business, and in 2024 Ivanka and Don Jr. will, as they have for their whole lives, compete for their father’s favors, to be his worthy heir.

It’s a theme worthy of Shakespeare (in this case Lady McBeth vs. Hamlet, with Lear in the background with his cellphone), and something tells me that Karen senses the coming blood bath, in which her husband will be run through with a sword.

Kellyanne Plays Family Politics

To hear Kellyanne Conway talk about life in the White House bubble, Trump isn’t the delusional midnight rambler on Twitter, but is in office to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable, a cross between Mother Teresa and the Scarlet Pimpernel. (“I have seen firsthand many times the president comforting and encouraging a child who has lost a parent, a parent who has lost a child, a worker who lost his job, an adolescent who lost her way to drugs….”)

All I could imagine when she spoke was that about half the members of the Conway house would be jumping up to change the channel. For Kellyanne, what’s worse: enabling Trump or having your fifteen year-old daughter ask to be adopted by AOC?

Real Housewives of the White House: Lara Trump

Married to Eric, Lara Trump is one of the stars of Real Housewives of the White House (it helps to have long blonde hair and a few red dresses—Trump men have this thing about Fox anchors), and she used her air time at the convention to talk up accomplished women (“from Amelia Earhart to Rosa Parks and Sally Ride…”) and to express a gushing thank you to her famous father-in-law “for believing in me.” Otherwise her bedtime story was a fairytale (“Never in a million years did I think that I would be on this stage tonight, and I certainly never thought that I’d end up with the last name, Trump….”).

Coach Lou Holtz Spins One for the Gipper

Former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz, slightly slurring his words through perhaps ill-fitting dentures, made a halftime speech for team Trump. (“I used to ask our athletes at Notre Dame, “If you did not show up, who would miss you and why?” Can you imagine what would happen to us if President Trump had not shown up in 2016 to run for president? I’m so glad he showed up. Thank you for showing up, Mr. President…”) Left out of this let’s-go-get-’em-boys pep talk to the nation were Lou’s words in 2008: “Ya know, Hitler was a great leader too.”

Representative Elise Stefanik Gushes for Mr. Big

Trump impeachment truther, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (upstate New York) was rewarded for her stout House defense of the president with some primetime love, although not before some Hollywood makeup artists brushed up her angry auditor image to make her look like an extra on Sex and the City.

Stefanik said: “It’s why more Republican women than ever are running for office this year. We understand that this election is a choice between the far left Democratic socialist agenda versus protecting and preserving the American dream. President Trump is working to safely reopen our main street economy…” She should have quoted Carrie Bradshaw: “I like my money where I can see it—hanging in my closet.”

Jack Brewer Takes It to Trump’s House

You can see why Republican booking agents jumped for Jack Brewer, African-American grandson of a Texas sharecropper, when they got his CV (“I’m… a former three time NFL team captain, college professor, coach, husband, son, and father. I’m also a lifelong Democrat, but I support Donald Trump…). Too bad he was charged with insider trading just before speaking.

Still the show must go on, although what went on stage could have done with a little rehearsing. At one point Brewer said: “My early high school experience included fighting with skinheads and being a witness in an attempted murder trial, after my friend shot a skinhead in self defense.” I guess it was a call to arms, although perhaps not to those heading toward Kenosha with their guns?

Donald Trump’s Chauffeured Freedom Ride

For a bit I enjoyed getting to know Clarence Henderson, who was one of the African-Americans who asked to be served at a Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth’s lunch counter in 1960, helping to turn the tide against segregation (“My friends had been denied service the day before because of the color of their skin. We knew it wasn’t right…”).

He was one of the few speakers at the Republican convention whose voice was not dyspeptic. But when it came time to be served at the nation’s counter, Henderson ordered Kool-Aid (“Donald Trump is offering real and lasting change, an unprecedented opportunity to rise a country that embraces the spirit of the Civil Rights movement of the 60s…”).

Mike Pence Climbs the Stairway to Heaven

The backdrop to Mike Pence’s acceptance speech was majestic Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, where the bombs burst in air and the banner was yet waving at the dawn’s early light. Another advantage of the location is that no War of 1812 national monument has ever been indicted for violating the Hatch Act.

In the preview biographical trailer that introduced the speech, Mike is shown coming of age in Indiana where he met his future wife “at a church service” and where his “foundation of faith in Jesus Christ was laid.” (Sounds like quite a service.)

His career breakthrough was as a conservative radio shock jock (he was a minor league Rush Limbaugh), and that led to Congress and the Indiana governorship so that he could lead “in the fight to protect our time honored values of family, faith, life, liberty, and limited government”—perfect training for someone to help preside over a $3 trillion budget deficit and the $1 trillion annually that goes to a standing army and spy agencies.

The word is that Melania liked the cut of his jib in 2016, which explains why Trump chose him to run as his Apprentice. Trump also need Pence on the ticket to assuage Conservatives and evangelicals who might not have been charmed by Trump’s three marriages, abuse of women, or dalliances with Playmates and porn stars.

After three days of the RNC convention, and some eight hours of air time, Pence’s acceptance speech, a defense of conservative values and Trump, felt like the long version of Stairway to Heaven. Where was Led Zeppelin when we needed them?

Succession Planning in 2024: Reading Trump’s Will

On the American political spectrum, Pence falls somewhere between Richard Nixon (“I don’t give a shit about the lira…”) and Barry Goldwater (“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice…”), but the bigger question is whether in 2024 the voters will buy into Pence’s homespun prairie story and give him the Republican presidential nomination.

For the moment—judging by the speaker list at the RNC—those angling to succeed Trump would seem to be: Ivanka, Don Jr., Senators Tim Scott and Tom Cotton, Ambassador Nikki Haley, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, and Pence.

If Trump and Pence lose in 2020, Pence is toast. If they win, his chances improve, although I have a hard time imaging Trump picking Pence over one of his children or even Nikki Haley.

Trump looks at the White House as “one of his properties,” and at democracy as one of those suggestion boxes near the men’s grill. To Trump, Pence is one of his casino managers, someone who keeps an eye on the dealers and hostesses, brings drinks to the high rollers, and is good about dropping off the winnings in the cage.

I can’t imagine that Karen Pence has any time for Trump any more than I can imagine that Ivanka wants to turn over the White House to a holy roller from Indiana.

The Trumps Drop By

Nevertheless, Trump and Melania made a surprise visit to the Pence acceptance speech at the end, coming in (while holding hands!) on yet another campaign cat walk, as if they were forcing themselves to drop in on a neighbor’s (boring) cocktail party.

Something tells me the Trump campaign has engaged a hand-holding consultant, to coach the first couple on such intimacy, given Melania’s earlier slaps at Trump’s wayward grip.

The Trumps’ arrival prompted another round of the national anthem—country star Trace Adkins made it sound like a dirge—and then Trump, always gloomy when others are the center of attention, made the most of the photo-op, pointing and thumbing it up at the barricades, without either a mask or at much distance from the cheek-by-jowl crowd. Trump is someone who would boast about being a superspreader. (“I think I’m the best…”)

Day Four: All the President’s Caddies

Day Four was all about waiting for Ivanka and Trump at the end of the evening, which may explain why the first hour of the program featured a dentist-congressman from southern New Jersey, Democrats who’ve turned Republican, a Billy Graham descendant offering up some prayers, veterans whom America has forgotten, someone who used to caddie for Trump at one of his golf clubs, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (who caddies for him today).

Dan Scavino Humps Trump’s Bag

Nominally, Scavino has the title White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications and Director of Social Media. In other words he’s responsible (in some form) for Trump’s tweets, which perhaps requires him to be on the job at 5:30 a.m. to stand at the foot of Trump’s bed to send out messages about Sleepy Joe or all those “fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville.

His speech to the convention sounded like a letter to Penthouse:

When I was 16 years old, I got a part-time job at a golf course just outside of New York City. One day, I was cleaning golf clubs when a man pulled into the parking lot. There wasn’t a single person who didn’t know who it was. Everyone’s jaws were on the ground. It was Donald Trump. All I could think was nobody will ever believe this at school tomorrow. I never would have imagined it at this moment, but I’ve now been at President Trump’s side for almost 30 years…

Scavino’s job this evening was to humanize his delusional boss—President Trump is a kind and decent man. I wish you could be at his side with me to see his endless kindness to everyone he meets—and to make the point that if everyone in the nation could carry his clubs, the country would recognize his greatness. (“He saw my potential even when I couldn’t. He sees greatness in our country too and in each of you, he believes the world you dream about at night can be yours. He truly is a man of the people…”) Had Scavino served the French king Louis XIV, his title would have been “Gentleman of the Bedchamber.”

Swamp Cat Mitch McConnell

It tells you something about Trump World that Scavino got more air time than did the Senate majority leader, who in less than two minutes had to put the boot into Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats and make the pitch to keep the Senate in Republican hands. (“They want to pack the Supreme Court with liberals intent on eroding our constitutional rights and they want to codify all this by making the swamp itself, Washington D.C., America’s 51st state with two more liberal senators, we cannot undo the damage they’ve done.”)

Actually the Swamp has been very very good to Mitch. In a lifetime of civil service and government jobs—a senator is paid $174,000—he’s amassed a fortune reported to be worth between $30 and $50 million dollars. Marrying a rich second wife and inheritance helped, but don’t discount the hard work of influence peddling.

Donald Trump’s Nut Hugger

To introduce the next speaker, Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (which is mixed martial arts, a bit like professional wrestling), the convention aired a trailer on “The American Athlete”.

The purpose was to show Trump as another Miracle on Ice (which gave us the now Trumpian chant of “U.S.A…U.S.A…”). And there was a picture of Trump and a dark-suited Tiger Woods walking somberly around the White House, as if in deep conversation about a Cuban missile crisis (or perhaps Vegas chorus girls).

The montage (Voiceover: “Would you please rise for the playing of our national anthem?”) was also to link the Democrats to unpatriotic players who kneel “disrespectfully” during the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” That said, at Trump rallies the only thing that gets the crowd to its feet is the playing of “Macho Man”.

Some of My Best Friends Are Rich

There was a long convention slog between the pro athletes and Ivanka Trump’s Daddy dearest tribute.

The African-American cabinet officer Ben Carson denied, in so many words, that Trump is a racist. His evidence: “In Palm Beach, Florida, Donald Trump led the crusade to allow Blacks and Jews into private clubs and resorts.” Why can’t the people of Portland and Kenosha be more grateful?

Benevolent New York Police

To lead into Rudy Giuliani’s call for law and order, the convention summoned to the lectern Pat Lynch, who is president of the Police Benevolent Association in New York City, where “we are staring down the barrel of a public safety disaster.”

Lynch evoked babies shot dead in their strollers and stray bullets killing innocent bystanders, and made the larger point that crime is rampant wherever Democrats are in power: “Democratic politicians have surrendered our streets…. they’ve slashed police budgets. They have hijacked and dismantled the criminal justice system….What they want is no policing….You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”

Rudy Giuliani and the Ghost of Roy Cohn’s Past

 

You do wonder what spell Personal Lawyer Rudy Giuliani has cast over his client Trump, such that, while under criminal investigation in the Southern District of New York and after his Biden huntering in the Ukraine caused Trump to be impeached, the former mayor was still asked to speak in primetime at the Republican convention.

In general, Trump has always been under the thumb of tough-talking lawyers (the odious McCarthyite Roy Cohn was another), who draft his prenuptial agreements, pay off demanding women, and give Trump the confidence that he’s above the law.

Convention Rudy wasn’t the paymaster running Parnas and Igor Fruman in Ukraine or sliming the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv, but was back in the familiar role of the 9/11 New York mayor who was tough on crime, arresting all those turnstile jumpers. Here is Rudy’s message:

New Yorkers wonder, “How did we get overwhelmed by crime so quickly, and to climb so fast?” Don’t let Democrats do to America, what they have done to New York. Again, the Democrats are urging you to vote for an obviously defective candidate. Biden has changed his principle so often, he no longer has any principles. He’s a Trojan horse with Bernie, AOC, Pelosi, Black Lives Matter, and his party’s entire left wing, just waiting to execute their pro-criminal, anti-police, socialist policies.

I was surprised he didn’t quote Senator Joseph McCarthy: “Today we are engaged in a final, all-out battle between communistic atheism and Christianity…” or announce that 205 members of the Obama-Biden administration had been card-carrying Communists.

Senator Tom Cotton Spreads The China Virus

After Rudy’s rant, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas picked up the theme of Biden as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Chinese. He said:

Joe Biden aided and abetted China’s rise for fifty years with terrible trade deals that closed our factories and laid off our workers…. Joe Biden allowed Chinese fentanyl to flood across our Southern border…. Joe said Chinese communists aren’t even our competitor, aren’t bad folks, just months before they unleashed this plague on the world. President Trump is clear eyed about the Chinese threat and he is making China pay.

I guess Cotton wasn’t present at the meeting, described in John Bolton’s book, when Trump begged the president of China, Xi Jinping, to buy American soybeans and wheat in the run up to the American 2020 election, so as to assure Trump’s re-election.

Ex-Con Alice Marie Johnson: Orange is the New Trump

Before the convention switched to the White House, the parents of an ISIS murder victim spoke, to imply that Biden’s election would cheer the faithful in Raqqa. (“The Trump team gave us empathy. We never received any from the Obama administration.”)

Then the Trump campaign fawned over ex-con Alice Marie Johnson to trumpet Criminal Justice Reform. (She said: “But by the grace of God and the compassion of President Donald John Trump, I stand before you tonight, and I assure you I’m not a ghost. I am alive. I am well. And most importantly, I am free. In 1996, I began serving time in prison. Life plus 25 years. I had never been in trouble. I was a first time non-violent offender.”)

For some time she’s been a poster child for Trump’s compassion for rehabilitated ex-cons. It didn’t hurt her cause for clemency in 2018 that Kim Kardashian and Jared Kushner were pushing her case. Johnson was at one of Trump’s state-of-the-union speeches, and a day after she spoke at this convention he issued her a full pardon.

I heard her described so many times as a “first time non-violent offender,” that it puzzled me what she had done to get a sentence of “life plus 25 years.” Did she, like Fletch, remove those tags from her mattresses? Then I discovered that her “first-time non-violent offense” was to operate an American distribution network of a Colombian drug cartel.

Ivanka’s Coming Out Party

Until the speeches of the president and his daughter Ivanka were delivered, the convention mostly took place at the rostrum of the Mellon Auditorium in downtown Washington, DC (near the corner of Constitution and Swamp).

With Ivanka, the stage scene shifted to the south portico and lawn of the White House, which were done over to resemble a Nuremberg parade ground, only this one flying American flags.

Looking at all the family and friends in the select White House audience that was seated on white wedding chairs, I felt that this was her speech at her coming-out party at a glitzy Trump hotel.

The first daughter wore black (not white), and ostensibly her mission was humanize her father. Otherwise she might not have mentioned the Lego replica of the White House that her young son made for his grandfather and which is still on display.

Mostly, however, Ivanka was here to declare her own presidential candidacy, in four or eight years (or whenever she loses those exclusive trademarks to sell housewares in China).

Our First Influencer President

Ivanka spoke with none of Don Jr.’s Red-Bull-in-a-shop animation. In fact, she’s inherited her father’s inability to read the prepared text of a speech. She spoke with slight traces of a Valley Girl-Kardashian accent (“like, you know, our hearts are with ya”), although mostly in an entitled monotone.

Ivanka also inherited her father’s runaway ego, and here and there throughout the speech she thought it important to emphasize that some acts of state in the last four years actually came from something that she had done on the job (other than model clothes each morning on her way to her limousine and earn $36 million in “outside income” while moonlighting with her husband Jared).

Here’s one such humble brag sentence: “Four years ago, I promised that President Trump would support mothers in the workforce. In his first year in office, he signed into law the first ever national paid leave tax credit. Today, eight million more Americans have access to this benefit.”

Otherwise Ivanka gave a speech that sounded like an interview with Oprah. (“I’ve been with my father, and I’ve seen the pain in his eyes when he receives updates on the lives that have been stolen by this plague. I’ve witnessed him make some of the most difficult decisions of his life. I sat with him in the oval office, as he stopped travel to Europe.”)

Although she spoke for twenty minutes, I would be hard pressed to ascribe to Ivanka’s text any coherent idea of government other than a rerun of Leave It To Daddy. (“Four years ago, I told you I would fight alongside my father, and four years later here I am.”)

I suspect that Ivanka conceives of government as a franchise that the Trump family is happy to lease to you for the next four years. As long as you give the Trumps the management contract and 30 percent of the action, they are happy to let you keep your guns, pray in school, lower the cost of prescription drugs, move the embassy to Jerusalem, and maybe throw in some pool privileges.

The Rocky Trump Picture Show

By the time Donald Trump entered, the White House stage had the look of a Vegas casino in Ocean’s 11.

Flags were everywhere, as were garden spotlights, and near the front of the (socially un-distanced) audience there was a large jumbotron screen, as if maybe the A-list guests could stay on and watch a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

These days Trump seems to walk like a determined bear or perhaps Frankenstein. While stomping out from the residence, he was holding hands with Melania, who in a bright forest green dress looked as though she had come to the party either with Robin Hood or Peter Pan.

Trump is a radio shock jock, not an orator, and reading his speech he sounded like a fourth grader trying to recite the Gettysburg Address. He paused for punctuation marks as if they were German umlauts.

Had this been an honest-to-God Trump rally, his people would have shot t-shirts and MAGA hats into the crowd and the sound system would have pumped in “YMCA”. Instead it was like a tycoon’s birthday party at which all the guests had to hear him drone on about his life successes. (“On this journey I was fortunate to have…”)

Trump Calls His Own Number, Collect

Does Trump have a vision of America? He might, but more likely he has a vision of Trump as the hero of every issue that is under discussion. Not that you need to be reminded of his achievements, but here is a summary:

Trump, and Trump alone, withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, approved the Keystone pipeline, abrogated the Paris Climate Accord, secured energy independence, cut taxes and regulations, stood up to China, eliminated human trafficking, built the Wall, ended illegal immigration, took on Big Pharma, provided for veterans, appointed conservative justices, reformed criminal justice, funded opportunity zones, wiped out ISIS, moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, defended the Second Amendment, brokered peace in the Middle East, killed off terrorists, launched the Space Force, and, best of all, defeated “the China virus.”

Trump achieved all this (mostly on his own—I guess maybe Ivanka helped some) while the Democrats were kneeling for the national anthem, removing the word “God” from the pledge of allegiance, shipping jobs off to China, having abortions, catching-and-releasing illegal aliens, funding looters, coming for your guns, promising green new deals, destroying the fossil fuel industry, signing unfair trade deals, gutting the military, coddling Iran, ignoring the Black community, failing women, killing off coal, cutting Social Security, burning down Portland, letting cops be killed, tearing down monuments of Jefferson and Lincoln, defunding the police, sneering at Israel, appeasing terrorists, and denying American exceptionalism.

In a nutshell, that’s the world according to Trump.

Washington’s Monumental Ego

The evening, and the four-day Republican convention, ended with fireworks that exploded over the Washington Mall, eventually spelling out “TRUMP 2020” beside the Washington Monument.

I am assuming that Trump’s fireworks, like his virus, came from China. I am also assuming that no one will indict the Washington Monument for violating the Hatch Act, although if it happened, it would be convicted and might need the outreach programs of John Ponder and Alice Marie Johnson.

When the fireworks were done, everyone’s attention shifted to tenor Christopher Macchio who sang opera from the rear portico of the White House. His repertoire included Pavarotti’s “Nessum Dorma” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” although when I heard the latter I started humming the lyrics to Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel” (I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel/You were talking so brave and so sweet…), as it seems to speak more to Trump’s other preoccupations.

Cohen’s estate later protested the use of his hit song for political purposes, but at least “Hallelujah” is about a failing relationship (“And even though it all went wrong/I’ll stand before the Lord of Song…”).

As the party was winding down, Macchio switched beats and encouraged everyone to join him in singing “God Bless America,” the words that had ended every speech during the four days of the Republican convention. Macchio started off briskly, but when the television cameras focused in on the president, to catch him belting out,

From the mountains to the prairies
To the oceans white with foam
God bless America, my home sweet home…

what was clear was that Trump had no clue as to the words.

Matthew Stevenson is the author of many books, including Reading the Rails and Appalachia Spring. His most recent book, published this summer, is The Revolution as a Dinner Party, about China throughout its turbulent twentieth century.  

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