Squads of uniformed police and state troopers patrolled on foot through the downtown streets here Monday, deployed to protect the Republican National Convention. A double-ring perimeter of eight-foot tall steel-mesh fencing surrounds the convention site at Quicken Arena on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. Only those with credentials can enter the access gate at the intersection of East 4th Street and Prospect Avenue, then walk past armed officers with police dogs in a high-security gauntlet that leads to the white tents where Secret Service agents put them through metal detectors.
“Make America Safe Again” was the theme of the convention Monday and, in an increasingly dangerous world, keeping the convention itself safe was a massive undertaking. Thousands of law enforcement officers are on the scene in Cleveland, including police from as far away as Florida and California. In the wake of terrorist attacks in France and Turkey, and assassinations of police in Texas and Louisiana, perhaps never in history was America so attuned to the kind of law-and-order message delivered from the RNC stage last night.
“What I did for New York, Donald Trump will do for America,” said former New York City Mayor Giuliani in his prime-time speech Monday. Like the man the GOP is expected to nominate Thursday as the next president of the United States, Giuliani is a tough-talking New Yorker. And the former mayor seemed genuinely angry at the way his fellow New Yorker has been maligned.
“I am sick and tired of the defamation of Donald Trump by the Clinton campaign,” Giuliani said in his convention speech. “I am sick and tired of it. This is a good man, and America should be sick and tired of this vicious, nasty campaign.”
No one can question Giuliani’s bona fides as a crime-fighter. His willingness to vouch for Trump was surely valuable to the GOP’s presumptive nominee, especially among voters who remember how Giuliani helped rally the nation in the wake of the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks. After weeks of violence, including the June 12 massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Americans may be ready for the kind of tough-guy stance for which Giuliani was known in New York, and which Trump proposes to bring to the White House.
After more than seven years of President Obama’s policies, the recent wave of violence has put the basic question of public safety front and center in the presidential campaign. Many here in Cleveland are genuinely concerned about the possibility of a terrorist attack during the Republican convention. The perception of Trump as anti-Muslim — in December, he called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration into the United States — has been exploited by liberals accusing the Republican candidate of “hate.” Yet after Muslim terrorists struck in San Bernardino and Orlando, and after Islamic terrorist attacks in Belgium, Turkey, Bangladesh, and France, the question facing voters is which “hate” is more dangerous, the hatred attributed to Trump, or the deadly hatred that motivates Islamic suicide attackers? Is it wrong to hate fanatics who want to kill us all?
There were no terrorist attacks Monday in Cleveland. Instead, the biggest drama at the Republican convention was a chaotic outburst on the floor of the Quicken Arena when an anti-Trump faction tried to force a roll-call vote on a motion that would have had the effect of unbinding delegates from their pledges. When the motion was defeated, the anti-Trump cohort claimed they were victims of “bully tactics,” and the entire Colorado delegation walked off the convention floor. Well, if that was a preview of what Trump-style “law and order” might mean, is it a good thing or a bad thing? Does anyone expect a presidential candidate who proposes to get tough with the deadly killers of ISIS to show weakness toward a few dozen disgruntled convention delegates?
Even while Republicans were wrangling over procedural motions, however, events far from Cleveland continued to highlight the seriousness of the terrorism threat. In Germany, a teenage immigrant from Afghanistan shouting “Allahu akbar” stormed onto a train and attacked passengers with an ax. Whether or not Americans are “sick and tired of this vicious, nasty campaign,” as Giuliani described the “defamation” of Trump, certainly Americans are weary of living in fear of terrorism and criminal violence. What remains to be seen is whether Trump can convince voters that electing him is the best way to put an end to that fear.