I keep waiting for the Donald Trump who shows me that he is more than a highly successful reality TV showman, that he is a man who can bring America together, and yes, make this country feel great again. I saw a glimpse of that man when he said in his acceptance speech at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, “America is a nation of believers, dreamers and strivers that is being led by a group of censors, critics and cynics.” And to “people who work hard but no longer have a voice, I am your voice.”
I saw a glimpse of that candidate when delegates responded to mention of Hillary Clinton with the chant, “Lock her up.” Trump nimbly responded, “Let’s defeat her in November, “ choosing to save “Crooked Hillary” for another day.
I saw a glimpse of that Trump in daughter Ivanka’s introduction of her father. With a poised delivery, she spoke of the businessman whose leadership style is “color blind and gender neutral” and whose spirit “will be unafraid to set lofty goals and relentless in his determination to achieve them.” She appealed outside the GOP base when she said, “I do not consider myself categorically Republican or Democrat.” (Too true. Ivanka and her brother Eric could not vote for their father in the New York primary because they failed to register as Republicans by the state deadline.)
Political conventions purport to give the public a glimpse into the soul of the nominee. At the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, nominee Mitt Romney invited members of his Mormon church to attest to the former Massachusetts governor’s goodness and accessibility. Not Trump; he invited fellow rich guys. He didn’t bother trying to hide the big money. On the biggest night of Trump’s political life, Los Angeles real estate investor Tom Barrack lauded Trump’s business acumen.
Another of Trump’s billionaire buddies, Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel, revealed a glimpse of a new Republicanism, shorn of GOP “family values.” Thiel won applause when he said he was proud to be gay, Republican and American. Thiel rejected “fake culture wars” — a smart gesture for a thrice-married casino-operating nominee.
I never saw a fiscal conservative who was willing to tell Republicans what they’d have to give up. To the contrary, Trump talked about huge tax cuts and more government spending on infrastructure.
The convention started with a stumble. Wife Melania’s Monday night speech borrowed liberally — as in, word for word — from a couple of paragraphs in Michelle Obama’s speech to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Then followed hours and hours of speculation as to how the rookie mistake could have happened, followed by an admission of fault by a long-time Trump staffer, whose offer to resign Trump rejected. Political pros shook their heads at the lack of speech vetting while others — I’m guilty — wondered if Team Trump deliberately inserted Michelle Obama’s words about her parents in order to stoke another stupid media excursion down a rabbit hole.
Trump’s America is no shining city on a hill. It’s a land overrun with undocumented immigrants who “are being released by the tens of thousands into our communities with no regard for the impact on public safety or resources.” Trump has a point about the high number of unauthorized immigrants crossing the border. If only he had the heart to temper that assertion with the recognition that the majority of undocumented immigrants contribute to the United States in positive ways, some by enlisting in the U.S. military.
The Republican National Convention ends leaving observers with more questions — one with no good answers. Did the Trump campaign bait the media with the “plagiarism” speech, or does staff think it doesn’t matter what a would-be first lady says? Is Team Trump sloppy by design or does it err because of bad judgment at the very top? Is Trump as anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican as he seems, or is he pandering? Is Donald Trump serious?
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