Commentary: The Trumpist Convention was an alternate-reality show of questionable legality.
There were moments of grace: Senator Tim Scott spoke well, but he IS the entire Congressional Republican Black Caucus. Karen Pence spoke movingly of art therapy helping a PTSD-plagued veteran, but didn’t explain the connection to Trump.
Mostly people said, straight-faced, how much Trump cares about the average person, and how hard he works. Trump even mentioned the “unnecessary deaths” from COVID-19, as if our absurd global lead in per capita deaths had nothing to do with him. (In Trumpworld, when China “let” this virus spread, Trump started the biggest national mobilization since WWII. And he “follows the science.”)
The Hatch Act forbids federal employees to engage in partisan activities while on public business or federal property. Doesn’t apply to Trump. Applies to the official who naturalized five new citizens in the White House for the Republican convention video – suggesting Trump (who’s sharply cut legal immigration) welcomes immigrants. Applies to the minions shooting and editing the videotape.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a convention speech while on federal business in Israel. Other Trump Administration figures spoke at the White House – violating the Hatch Act.
Florida Attorney-General Pam Bondi spoke about fighting corruption. In 2013 she was preparing to have Florida join in a fraud lawsuit against Trump’s charity. Trump’s charity donated $25K to her re-election campaign, and Florida didn’t join the suit. Charities can’t legally contribute to candidates; Trump was fined, but bribing Bondi worked.
Eric Trump, VP of The Trump Organization, spoke the same day New York issued another subpoena to him to testify about allegations The Trump Organization inflated assets to facilitate loans.
While pro athletes were canceling games over police shootings of unarmed black men, the Trumpists used Kenosha, Wisconsin and exaggerated tales of violence to illustrate the refrain, “You won’t be safe in Biden’s America.” ( “What part of 180,000 deaths don’t they understand,” a commentator asked.)
On the Centennial of U.S. women’s suffrage, Trump had a speaker who believes in “household voting” (each household gets one vote), and says, “In a Godly household, the husband would get the final say.”
Melania Trump came out against slavery. Talking about a former slave fort in Ghana was her most emotional moment. Otherwise, she was wooden – and victimized by whoever placed the teleprompters so far apart she had to look too far right then left, exaggerating her discomfort.
Trump spoke for a record hour and ten weird minutes. He seemed at his best attacking Biden. Mostly he looked bored, particularly when reading about U.S. history.
It was wholly inappropriate to hold this event at the White House, which has always been a kind of national shrine, above politics, belonging to all of us. While presidential speeches and family photo-ops have had political implications, no one previously made the place a prop for a political extravaganza designed to project power and patriotism. Trumpists installed scores of flags, illustrating Samuel Johnson’s 18th Century remark that “pretended patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.” (Trump has repeatedly ignored national interests to serve his own.) The grand finale was a fireworks display at the Washington Monument.
Trump used the White House as a dictator would. Like a dog urinating, he showed us this was HIS territory, even boasting, “What’s the name of this house? We’re here. They’re not!”
I hope that changes soon. But appeals to fear can be effective.