Monday, July 25, 2016

The Republican convention, Day 4:
A man with serious Stones

IT WAS ALL leading up to this, whether we believed it or not. The final steps in the nomination slash investiture slash anointing of Donald John Trump were underway. Daughter Ivanka introduced him, the man who needed no introduction from anyone. When he walked out, in from the stage-left wing with no visual stunts to precede him (having stepped on the dick of his own theatrical introduction back on Monday), he stood on a stage before a rapturous crowd in front of a sign whose letters you could read from the International Space Station. TRUMP.

After 400-plus days, he’d made his bones. He took the stage on Thursday evening, a made guy at long last. All that was left to be endured by the throngs sweating at the Quicken Loans Arena was Trump’s acceptance speech. Everything else — everything else — was anticlimax.

Surrounded by American flags that stood like silent witnesses to what was coming, The Donald made his grand summation, his final case for Republicans to accept him as their standard-bearer. For an hour and 12 minutes — you can get a quality root canal in less time — he did just that, with an animated, broad-brush, overarching vision of America Under Trump, a pugnaciously benevolent vision that purported to include just about everyone he’d vilified for the previous 13 months.

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But this time he did more. For the first time since he got into this thing in June 2015, Trump put something like meat on the bones of a skeleton of a plan for governance. What had been bullet-point, back-of-the-napkin policy prescriptions took on at least the contours of a plan — logistically achievable if not politically palatable.

Pro forma, Trump laid out the status quo: rise in homicides in America’s 50 largest cities, including Chicago, hometown of President Obama; a rise in undocumented immigrants; persistent unemployment for people of color; a decline in household income; a decline in prestige and respect from abroad — the obligatory “Before” parade of civic horribles.

Trump’s plan, of course, was presented as the solution, the “After”: mostly a series of mostly reasonable-sounding ideas combining toughness and outreach, with a rhetorical muscularity suggesting that all of this is his heavy lift and his alone. “I will restore law and order in our country,” he said. Oh really? What’s Congress and the Justice Department supposed to be doing?

“I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves,” he said. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” All by his lonesome?

All hail Donald Trump, the Messiah Repairman.

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AND THEN there’s when he’s vague and impractical at the same time. “Lastly,” he said on Thursday, “we must immediately suspend immigration from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism until such time as proven vetting mechanisms have been put in place.”

Sounds all tough and geopolitically prudent, except ... what the hell does “compromised by terrorism” mean? Affected by it? A direct recipient of it? An actual victim of its impact?

Because if so, that would mean suspending immigration of people from France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, Egypt, Thailand, Uruguay, Somalia, India, Pakistan, Yemen, Nigeria, Cameroon, Jordan, Lebanon ... and the State of Israel. As well as the other countries victimized by acts of terrorism this year alone.

That’s the problem when you talk in generalities; you generally don’t make that much sense.

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That said, Trump clearly brought his A game to the arena on Thursday. PolitiFact and Rachel Maddow and others will hold his feet to the fire in the days to come, checking his statements and cross-referencing them with the truth. But one aspect of the Trump persona isn’t up for debate or challenge.

It’s the singular force of an ego unchecked, a man who believes to his soul there’s his way of doing things and a wrong way of doing things, and nothing else. And if his way doesn’t work for you ... well, you can’t consistently be the recipient of everything you desire. That was the force, the passion, the dynamism behind what may be the best speech Trump's ever delivered. Style? Ego? He’d throw those in our faces in a jaw-dropping way right after the speech.

When he was done and his wife Melania and newly-minted running mate Mike Pence and his wife Karen joined him on stage, they watched while 125,000 balloons rained down on the crowd to the tune of “All Right Now,” by Free. And then you heard the unbelievable.

THE TEAM Trump choices of convention music were to that point predictable and generically inspiring. Not this last song. It wasn’t “God Bless America” or “Happy Days Are Here Again” or even a reliable go-to like Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”

What poured from the speakers overhead was the Rolling Stones classic ... “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” In his final act of the convention, Donald Trump twisted the knife of his own campaign arrogance one more time, borrowing a song — and especially a song title — that sent a message to Republican friend and foe alike:

It’s me, it’s me. You got me at the head of this party, like it or not.

It was a stunning thumb in the eye of his Republican brethren, especially those who’d already endured more than their “fair share of abuse” during the long hot primary season.

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And make no mistake about it, the move to borrow the Stones song has got Trump’s thin-skinned fingerprints all over it. It was his idea, all right; Reince Priebus hasn’t got that much imagination. In one cynically deft move, Donald Trump genially hijacked the Republican Party and made it his own, and made its loyalists and friends accept it, if not like it.

Some did not. Ed Willing, writing in RedState, observed of the musical choice: “Donald openly flirted with running for President twice before, but the third time was the charm, and he wanted to celebrate. With the most ballsy, in-your-face taunt of all time, the newly-minted Democrat GOP nominee mocked throngs of Republican delegates, as they danced in the aisles, singing of their Carthaginian defeat.”

As you might expect, the Rolling Stones weren’t exactly thrilled at the theft of that classic, one of the best songs of the ‘60’s. But they know there’s no way to unhear that rock evergreen pressed into service on behalf of the most wantonly divisive presidential candidate of the modern era — now the official nominee of the Republicans.

They can’t always get what they want, either.

Image credits: Trump and Pence: Convention pool. Stones: PNP/WENN.

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