BY JOEL MOSKOWITZ
Takeaway From RNC Part II – Tuesday
Rule number one in show business as well as politics; don’t screw up. The simple meaning is that if the show can’t be great, make sure it doesn’t suck. Day two of the RNC was an obvious attempt to make sure no one watching would cringe. With the exception of Donald Jr. who lived up to the stereotype of “we nominated the wrong________” used every four years when a candidate’s more charismatic or likable family member addresses the forum, the speakers were all mediocre.
Trump may not get any former presidents or party nominees to speak, but lord knows he won’t let the show be dreadful. Instead, he and the RNC were perfectly content sending out New Jersey bully Chris Christie who proved again why he is not the nominee and why he’s not even on the ticket, he’s boring. In 2012, while an upcoming superstar Republican, it took him a half hour in his RNC keynote address to mention the nominee Mitt Romney. This time he got sent out to be a hatchet man taking his sword to Hillary Clinton. Let’s just say he didn’t have any Ann Richards moments.
This convention will likely be remembered for having little substance and for reaching new lows in opponent bashing. The good news is that after the blood sport primary this is genteel in comparison. Don’t worry, the Dems will fire back and they will have plenty of ammo. Hopefully for their sake they can penetrate Trump’s Kevlar. He seems to be able to brush off arrows that sink careers of mere politicians.
What goes unnoticed in this dull convention is how far right Trump is willing to nod just to keep the base happy. If you paid close attention you might have noticed that Trump is seemingly running as Jesus Christ’s personal representative. And the NRA’s. And Americans for Tax Reform. Pretty keen politics for Trump because the only ones who care about substance is your base and your opponents’ base, everyone else who is watching is waiting to see if someone slips on a banana peel or if the next Mario Cuomo will emerge, not what your tax policy is. Worry not, this RNC will do its upmost to get you to turn to Dancing with the Stars or something until Thursday when the coronation of the king will take place to great fanfare. I’m pretty sure everyone will tune in just to hear what Donald will get away with saying in the most important public appearance of his life.
To be fair, I don’t expect much substance at the DNC either, but they at least will have two of the greatest orators of the last hundred years addressing their forum plus that lovable curmudgeon senator from Vermont with the thick Larry David accent. At least they won’t have to parade out any corpses the way the RNC did with Ben Carson. Can someone please explain his appeal?
Party conventions not too long ago could be relied upon for some good theatre, think Pat Buchanan in 1992, Ronald Reagan in 1976 and Jesse Jackson in 1984 as examples. Now all you really get is people doing their best not to screw stuff up. While they preach to the choir, the rest of us are trying to cull just which way the presidency will go if the nominee wins the election. Trump’s convention and running mate choice indicate a rightward lurch; his unpredictability and egomania might have us going in a complete different direction. That is not comforting, if anything it’s disconcerting.
Takeaway From RNC Part III – Wednesday
Ted Cruz did his best to add drama to the RNC by getting a prime time slot and not endorsing the nominee. Poor Ted, getting his ass kicked by the Donald in the primaries taught him nothing. The only one bruised by the non-endorsement was Ted himself. This party has overwhelmingly backed an unconventional outsider – they very purposefully did not back TedCruz. He came off looking like a sore loser and was outmaneuvered by Trump who walked in to the arena before Cruz was done. All the cameras and attention went straight to the nominee and Cruz was booed off the stage. Trump is a showman and a television star well-schooled in art of promotion, Cruz was out of his league and he got slapped silly.
Foes of Trump quickly took to the airwaves to decry the disaster unfolding in the arena. In their pundit eyes it likely was, but the undecided and the Trump fans saw what I did, a baby trying to get in the last word and being outclassed. This did not hurt the candidate it likely helped. Traditionally, the most bruising primary races are followed by a hug fest at the convention and historically, the spoilsports (see Pat Buchanan and Nelson Rockefeller) never recovered. Bye Ted, we hardly knew ya and we still don’t like you.
Trump’s kids continue to impress the masses; they are better spoken than their father and they give the celebrity nominee some humanity. Vice Presidential nominee Mike Pence said it best in his speech last night – “you can’t make up well brought-up kids.” Pence to his credit made his brand of conservatism seem benign. He is the anti-Cruz. Telling his story like it comes straight out of American Home Prairie, Pence told how he started out as a Democrat who idolized JFK and MLK, relative centrists in his worldview. He was awakened to Conservatism by that other Republican show biz star, Ronald Reagan.
I couldn’t help but think that Trump chose Pence for not only being the anti-Cruz, but for being the anti-Trump. Pence is soft spoken and a product of the Republican establishment, but he walks the walk and talks the talk. I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump chose him in part because Mrs. Pence looks every bit the school teacher she is, better not to vie for the spotlight with Melania.
This convention only proves to me that this is a year to throw out your old playbooks. The good money says that Hillary will make a safe choice as her running mate and I kind of think that is exactly what her opponent is hoping she does. Trump’s playbook is to not play by any rules of political conventional wisdom. It has gotten him this far and it hard to believe that anything will change in the general election. Mike Pence might satisfy those that wanted Trump to have an experienced hack in his inner circle but Pence won’t be able to shut Trump down. That’s the scary part – because Trump’s antics just make him more popular.
Joel Moskowitz is a businessman and writer who lives in New York. His blog, The Ranting Heeb is available on blogger.com. He is also a regular blogger for the Times of Israel.