The misappropriation of Fort McHenry by the Republican National Convention was the warm-up act for the desecration of the White House and Washington Monument. In the first few paragraphs of his speech, VP Nominee Mike Pence rolled out the central strategy of the re-election campaign: portray Democrats as unpatriotic and dangerous.
The symbolism was scarcely clothed. Pence reminded us that 206 years ago “our young republic withstood a ferocious naval bombardment,” an attack by foreign forces intent “to crush our revolution, to divide our nation, and to end the American experiment.” In the next breath, Pence sounded the alarm: Democrats, at their convention, “spent four days attacking America.”
After this stirring overture, Pence said he would “humbly accept” the nomination.
The speech was chock full of adulation for what the president has done over the last four years. Many of the claims of greatness were repeated the next night by the president himself. The falsehoods and distortions of the truth have been fact-checked, but most voters will never hear those details.
Everything was going great, according to Pence, until “the coronavirus struck from China” (in fact, the dominant strain of the virus in the United States is a mutated, more infectious strain that spread from Europe). Pence described “unprecedented” action by a president who directed “the greatest national mobilization since World War II” and a “seamless partnership with governors across America” (the president who griped that the federal government was “not a shipping clerk” and left governors to compete for medical equipment while calling for the “liberation” of Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia).
There were 1,239 deaths from covid-19 in our country on the day of the speech, but Pence said nothing of the need for every American to wear a mask, to practice social distancing and to avoid gathering in large groups to reduce the contagion. Instead, he said “we are saving lives” and credited the “courage and compassion of the American people,” as if that were enough.
The crescendo began with new alarm about “violence and chaos engulfing cities across America.” Joe Biden, he said, “would double down on the very policies that are leading to violence in American cities,” but he failed to identify those “policies” or to explain why Joe Biden was to blame for anarchists creating havoc in the streets under President Trump’s watch.
Pence climaxed: “Joe Biden would be nothing more than a Trojan horse for the radical left” who would “set America on a path of socialism and decline.” But that would not happen because “President Donald Trump believes in America and in the goodness of the American people,” and “if you look through the fog of these challenging times, you will see our flag is still there today.”
The next night, Trump gave his acceptance speech on the South Lawn of the White House in front of a not-socially-distanced audience of 1,500 or so. It was the same speech Pence gave—only twice as long and delivered in a cloying cadence of faux wistfulness.
Trump “profoundly” accepted the nomination (the prepared text said “proudly”).
Following the game plan, Trump warned “despite all of our greatness as a nation, everything we have achieved is now in danger.” The choice in this election is “whether we save the American dream or whether we allow a socialist agenda to demolish our cherished destiny.” Joe Biden was, he said, “the destroyer of American greatness.”
Most of the speech was a self-glorifying recitation of breathless promises and claimed accomplishments, coming from a president whose credibility must fairly be doubted due to 20,000 documented false or misleading pronouncements he has made since taking office.
He touted his “policy of pro-American immigration,” but as far as I can tell, his “pro-American” policy is as little immigration as possible coupled with inhumane treatment of asylum-seekers to stop “asylum fraud.”
At several times during his speech, he had trouble reading the teleprompter, as when he confusingly promised to “end our resilience for bad things,” straying from the prepared text, which promised to “end our reliance on China once and for all.”
He promised to “very strongly protect patients with pre-existing conditions,” but he did not mention that he is asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, which provides that protection, or that his administration has not proposed a replacement, despite his recent (July 19) promise of a “full and complete health-care plan” within two weeks.
His big closer was: “If you give power to Joe Biden, the radical left will defund police departments all across America” and “No one will be safe in Biden’s America.” Calling the Republican Party “the voice of the patriotic heroes who keep America safe,” he said that Democrats “stand with anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters, and flag-burners.”
Democrats, he said, defend rioters and looters. “They call them peaceful protestors.” Warning of what would happen if Biden were elected, “Just imagine,” he said “if the so-called peaceful demonstrators in the streets were in charge of every lever of power in the U.S. government.”
He gestured toward the White House, saying “The fact is we’re here and they’re not.” He then ad-libbed: “it’s a home, as far as I’m concerned.”
Wrapping up his speech at last, Trump praised America’s (White) legends—Wyatt Earp, Annie Oakley, Davy Crocket and Buffalo Bill—and waxed nostalgic for that little house on the prairie or, rather, “beautiful homesteads on the open range.” His point was that Americans “don’t tear down the past,” a veiled reference to the removal of statues celebrating the Confederacy. The crowd of potential virus-spreaders cheered. “Over the next four years,” he said, “we will prove worthy of this magnificent legacy.”
Nathan Bedford Forrest and William J. Simmons would be so proud.
Some other stuff for later,
- 39On August 2, Trump endorsed the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, an immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate by Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and David Perdue (Georgia). The bill would sharply reduce the number of immigrants granted permanent residency status (green cards) each year. It would redefine…
- 39On September 5, Trump announced that he was ending the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program. The program was created by President Obama by executive order in 2012 and made it possible for immigrants who had been brought to the US as children to stay legally in the country…
- 33I have been reading Ron Chernow’s biography of General Ulysses S. Grant. It is a slow read—I am just over half-way through with some 400 pages to go. It is 1865 and Lee has surrendered at Appomattox Court House. In Washington that April, Grant is greeted as a hero, and…