The GOP Convention, Night Two — Three big hits and a bad miss

Night Two of the GOP convention featured strong speeches throughout much of the evening, but ended off-key. Two of the best speeches came in the 9:00 hour, before the three major networks were covering the event, but while, I assume, many viewers were tuned in on cable channels.

Paul Ryan, of whom I am no big fan, delivered an excellent condemnation of the Democratic Party on the domestic front followed by a powerful call for Republican unity. Ryan branded the Dems as a hidebound outfit devoid of innovative ideas (actually they have some but these ideas are too radical to advertise). His best line: Progressives deliver everything but progress.

Chris Christie, of whom I am no big fan, then brilliantly put Hillary Clinton on “trial” before the Convention. He presented “the facts” regarding Hiilary’s policies and conduct on Libya, Nigeria, Syria, Iran, China, Russia, Cuba, and her secret email server. After each recitation, he asked for a verdict — guilty or not guilty. The response was predictable, and difficult to disagree with on the evidence.

It was an inspired concept masterfully executed. His best line: Hillary Clinton will bring all the failures of the Obama years with less charm and more lies.

I wish Christie had been close to this good at the 2012 Convention when he gave the keynote address.

During Christie’s speech, the crowd frequently chanted “lock her up” — “her” being Hillary Clinton, of course. It was jarring to hear such a rallying cry, however justified, at a major party convention.

How did this play to the audience outside the convention hall? Did the delegates sound bloodthirsty? Maybe. But remember that a clear majority of Americans believe Hillary should have been indicted.

After hearing these two speeches I thought, and still do, that the Republicans should have used at least one and preferably both of them in the 10:00 hour. However, the speech that kicked off that hour, by Donald Trump Jr., was almost as good as Ryan’s and Christie’s.

Trump Jr. did a fine job of extolling his father (as Tiffany Trump had earlier). He effectively portrayed Trump as a man of the people by describing his interaction with the blue collar employees who work for him and the way Trump made his children learn from them.

It may be counter-intuitive to think of the billionaire as a man of the people, but his success at the ballot box proves he has the common touch. His son’s speech suggests where, in part, it comes from.

Trump then moved on to an issue-oriented attacks on Democrats. What impressed me was its conventionally conservative nature. (Note: liberals are criticizing the speech because one of its turns of phrase comes from a conservative publication. Unlike the attack on Melania Trump’s speech, which cribbed a long paragraph from Michelle Obama, this attack strikes me as silly).

Is Donald Trump, Jr. actually a conservative? I don’t know. He sounded convincing, though, and he is said to have been instrumental in persuading his father to put Mike Pence on the ticket.

Let’s hope Trump, Jr. is a conservative. Not only does he have his father’s ear, he may also have a bright political future.

After Trump Jr’s. speech, the rest of the 10:00 hour was devoted to minorities and female speakers. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia did a pretty good job of denouncing President Obama and Hillary Clinton for the war on coal. She effectively tied that war to their disdain for ordinary American workers, a theme that played well off of Trump, Jr.’s speech.

Two speakers later, Kimberlin Brown, who apparently is a soap opera star, gave a well delivered but fairly generic speech that should have been given a much earlier time slot, it seemed to me.

In between, it was Ben Carson’s turn, and what a disappointment the doctor was.

This was a speech best given to a society of hard core conservatives steeped in the themes and the vocabulary of Obama’s most strident detractors. I very much doubt it played well to the audience watching on television (the convention audience, to the extent it was paying attention, apparently had the benefit of a video about Alinsky’s connection to Clinton that was shown on Monday).

At best, it would have left most folks scratching their heads. At worst, it would have sounded unhinged.

Say the name of old-time leftist Saul Alinsky to a hard core conservative (me included) and it is evocative and full of explanatory power. Say it to the man on the street and it means nothing. Alinsky is not a buzz name except to a fairly small segment of the conservative population. To bring this obscure radical who died in 1972 to life, the stage must be set.

But Carson didn’t set it, except to say that Hillary wrote her senior thesis about Alinsky. He then tied Alinsky (and by association Hillary) to Lucifer, whom Alinsky once acknowledged as the first “radical.” I kid you not.

Once Lucifer was invoked, I think it became fair to say that Carson’s speech was best given to a secret society of right wingers, or perhaps posted on a crank blog. From Trump’s perspective, one hopes that mainstream America had tuned out by this time and/or that the major networks had already cut away.

The ingredients have present in Cleveland for the GOP to have a boffo first two nights. Yet it my view, Team Trump hasn’t quite pulled it off. It has been too sloppy.

Is this a sign of things to come? I think it might be.

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