On the second day of the 2012 Republican national convention, the theme was “We Built It.” This represented both celebration of small businesses and a response to Obama’s offensive “you didn’t built that” remark chiding entrepreneurs.
The program that night was effective up to a point. But to what extent do Americans still associate with the entrepreneurial spirit? Yes, a great many Americans remain sympathetic to small businessmen and businesswomen. But the attempt to parlay that vague sympathy into a central campaign theme may have been overly ambitious.
Tonight, the campaign of Donald Trump, builder extraordinaire, pitched a much more visceral central campaign theme — the need to make America safe again. Safe from terrorism, safe from violence in the street, safe from violence against police officers.
The difference between “We Built It” and “Make America Safe Again” is the difference between Mitt Romney’s campaign persona and Donald Trump’s. Though Romney is a far better man than Trump, and would almost certainly make a better president, Trump has by far the better political ear.
How well did Team Trump present its them tonight? Quite well, I thought.
It relied on a clever mixture of regular citizens and public officials. The first category included victims of failed Obama-Clinton policies, such as the mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith, two of the CIA contractors who fought at Benghazi, the brother and sister of the border patrol agent killed with guns from operation Fast and Furious, and three parents of folks killed by illegal immigrants.
Their presentations were powerful, in my opinion.
On the political side, the bag was mixed. I thought that Sen. Jeff Sessions did well; Sheriff David Clarke and Sen. Tom Cotton stood out; and Rudy Giuliani stole the show.
Cotton got off perhaps the best riff of the evening when he said:
Our warriors and their families don’t ask for much. But there are a few things we’d like.
A commander-in-chief who speaks of winning wars and not merely ending wars, calls the enemy by its name, and draws red lines carefully, but enforces them ruthlessly.
Politicians who treat our common defense as the chief responsibility of our federal government, not just another government program.
And it would be nice to have a commander-in-chief who can be trusted with classified information.
This isn’t much to ask for, but eight years without it is more than enough. So I say again: In a Trump-Pence administration and with a Republican Congress, help is on the way.
Giuliani swung for the fences and if he didn’t reach them, came close. This was an old-school convention oration in which he bellowed without mercy or nuance his contempt for the opposition.
It was a less supple speech than the one I heard Giuliani deliver eight years in Minneapolis. But this is Donald Trump’s convention, and Giuliani’s speech was Trumpian, minus the rambling and self-references.
The featured event of the evening — the address by Trump’s third wife — came next. It was preceded by Donald Trump emerging from the shadows in a weird, WWE-like entrance to introduce her.
Mrs. Trump’s speech was okay — better than Teresa Heinz Kerry’s, but nowhere near as good as the wifely addresses of Michelle Obama and Anne Romney. She is, however, a beautiful woman with star quality. Trump knows how to pick ’em.
Naturally, Mrs. Trump was full of praise for her husband. But she failed to provide a single family anecdote that demonstrated a compassionate, or even particularly human side to the man.
Was this an oversight or is there no material with which to work?
How well did this evening play? The answer may depend on how many people saw the non-prime time, non-broadcast network-covered portion of convention. It was during this period that the “Make American Safe Again” theme unfolded.
I doubt that a large portion of the electorate was watching the convention on C-SPAN. And Trump went on Fox News at some point, causing that network to cut away from the convention.
It may only have been hard core Republicans middle age and above who watched the convention unfold tonight on television. But Trump probably has not yet made the sale to a fair portion of these voters, including me. Tonight’s indictment of Obama-Clinton national and domestic security policy may help him make it.
UPDATE: A full paragraph of Melania Trump’s speech tracks a paragraph of Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech. That’s rather embarrassing, I should think.