I’ve seen Trump up close, on several occasions. He’s like Elvis in a suit, positively leeches attention. Just try not to stare at his lid.
So, yes, I watched a lot of the Republican National Convention over the past week. Here are some observations:
That it was held at the Quicken Loans Arena tells you all you need to know about the devalued state of American politics. I grew up a political nerd, too young to really understand but fascinated by the churn and drama taking place in Chicago in 1968. I remember Dan Rather getting jostled and pushed to the floor and Walter Cronkite getting shirty in the booth.
Pierre Trudeau’s ascension that spring the the Liberal leadership was great TV, with angry, fearless Judy LaMarsh trying to rally an Anybody-But-Trudeau posse to stop “that bastard.”
That fist salute by Ted Kennedy in ’80 — that was a moment.
Those events were pure politics, democracy in action. History was being made. Watching the RNC squirm through four days in Cleveland was like watching a reality show go bad. It never seemed more red, white and black and blue.
I watched mainly the CNN feed. So many people in the booth. David Guergen — sad he had to see that, let alone comment on it, but he wasn’t used enough. John King was so crowded out they might as well have gone for it and had Don King. This whole idea to turn the booth into The View — oy.
The show itself either seemed like it was produced by Mark Burnett or it needed to be. It should have been hosted by Jeff Probst. There should have been a tribal council every night. Ted Cruz could have sprung a last minute shocker and tried to vote Trump off the island.
The whole “Lock her up” mentality on the floor was biblical in the sense that it reminded me of that crowd chanting, “Crucify him!” It was ugly, even embarrassing to Trump.
Rudy Giuliani — calm the F down. I spoke with him last winter in New York as we were both walking in to a preview of “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” He told me a great story about being at a Knicks game the day of the O.J. verdict. He didn’t yell at me once.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka should be the candidate. Professional, well-spoken, carries herself with grace and dignity. Dares to suggest folks could share Republican and Democrat vales. What’s with Americans electing people in their seventies? Didn’t Obama open a door to younger candidates?
Trump, it seemed, had an opportunity to reach beyond the room Thursday night but instead screamed out a message aimed squarely at the base. It’s one thing to have such contempt for a party that you boast about how easily it can be manipulated. The Republicans are, as Trump assessed years ago, an easy mark, primed for the picking.He drove a big ol’ truck full of red meat straight up the backs of the Republican leadership.
Trump’s dramatic entrance in silhouette a night or two before his final speech was very Burnett, although the Master would have blared The O’Jays under it. (Except The O’Jays issued a statement saying they did not want any association with Trump at the convention.)
The speech Thursday, however, was a big F U to anyone of voting age in America with a reading level higher than Grade Four. “Only I can fix it”? Not one single idea or suggested solution? Crime stats that have no basis in fact? An hour of fear mongering? As Republican strategist Mike Murphy said after the speech, “I had no idea we live in Gotham City.”
Two TV critics who are friends blasted out two very separate responses mid-speech:
- This so far is the missing-in-action, focused, disciplined but forceful Trump. 1 night stand? If not, Dems have work cut out.#gopconvention — Ed Bark (@unclebarkycom)
- He isn’t an orator. Sounds like he is talking to third graders — Alan Pergament (@StillTalkinTV)
To me, they were both right. Trump’s speech went crazy long (“Making America Late Again,” one wiseguy tweeted), but he pounded home his message to the converted. And, yes, it sounded like he was yelling at children.
When it was over, balloon’s came down late, like they were held in check by hot air. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” followed while the Trumps were still on-stage waving. Who’s DJ-ing this thing, Cruz?
Some of the lines of the night came from social media, with whoever monitors George Harrison’s Twitter account spanking the RNC for playing Ivanka on with “Here Comes the Sun” (and, if they had to use it without permission, shouldn’t Eric or Donald Jr. have enjoyed that intro?)
Tweeted the account of George Harrison later: If it had been Beware of Darkness, then we MAY have approved it! #TrumpYourself — George Harrison (@GeorgeHarrison)
All-in-all, a forgettable four days. The reduced stature of it all — the speakers, the candidates, the commentators — sucked every ounce of genuine drama or interest out of it. It was a dull, one-ring circus. Even Wolf Blitzer looked bored. I was pissed I had to miss Match Game for this.