Last night the Republican convention ended with a flourish, as Donald Trump delivered a 75-minute stemwinder to an enthusiastic crowd and a surprisingly complimentary commentariat.
You’ve probably ingested all the analysis of it by now that you’d like, so we’ll try to keep this fairly brief. Five points we would like to make about the speech follow.
1. CONSERVATISM MIGHT HAVE A PLACE IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, BUT FOR NOW IT’S A GUEST BEDROOM
Truth be told, on the national level the GOP hasn’t been conservative in a long time – as Daniel Horowitz wrote earlier this week, when Ronald Reagan turned the party over to the Rockefeller Republican George H. W. Bush in 1988 it was with an admonition to continue the conservative revolution he had begun and Bush proceeded to trash it on the way to losing re-election. No GOP nominee since has truly qualified as conservative. Not Bob Dole (are you kidding?), not George W. Bush, who ran on “compassionate conservatism,” as though free markets and individual liberty are not compassionate, certainly not John McCain and not Mitt Romney, who had some conservative leanings but, as the creator of the progenitor of Obamacare in Massachusetts, hardly qualified.
But in Donald Trump, the party has a nominee who doesn’t even pretend to be a conservative. Attempts to cast him as one fall far short. And last night’s speech made it clear that if you’re enthusiastically supporting this man you can’t call yourself a conservative.
There was no mention of the Constitution in that 75-minute speech. There was only one reference to individual freedom, a throwaway line at the end. The speech was vigorously applauded throughout, in contrast to Ted Cruz’ speech the night before when he was booed for imploring people to vote for candidates defending freedom and the Constitution.
And there was certainly no mention of limited government, or getting power out of Washington and into states and local governments.
What there was in this speech was a whole lot of “I alone can fix.” And the crowd responded often with chants of “Yes, you will.”
That’s not conservative. That Trump would present himself this way isn’t a surprise; limited government and freedom and federalism have never been themes in his campaign. What proves that the GOP no longer has any real interest in being a conservative party is the reaction of the crowd.
They don’t care what principles the party offers or governs with. They just want to win. They’ll cheer anything. They cheered when Peter Thiel told them that fighting on trannies in the bathroom was a waste of time, they cheered when Ivanka Trump touted free child care, gender neutrality, Equal Pay, a redux of FDR’s Brain Trust and student loan relief, and they cheered when Trump talked about “Americanism,” a sketchy throwback to the Woodrow Wilson era.
2. IRONY, THY NAME IS TRUMP
First, this line…
Remember: all of the people telling you that you can’t have the country you want, are the same people telling you that I wouldn’t be standing here tonight. No longer can we rely on those elites in media, and politics, who will say anything to keep a rigged system in place.
Then, after the speech and as the balloons dropped, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones.
You’re going to hear over and over examples of inconsistencies contained in this speech with other words and actions of Trump’s – his castigation of Hillary Clinton on Libya, for example, when he had said several times Qaddafi needed to go, or the bone he threw to churches in which he offered to repeal the restriction on political speech from the pulpit as a condition of tax-exempt status when he’s come down on the gay side of the gay rights/religious freedom debate. It’s perhaps inevitable that in a 75-minute political speech you would have ironies and inconsistencies, but this one was Billionaire Rich with them.
3. FROM GLOBALISM TO GLOBAL PARIAH
Make no mistake about it, Trump is a disaster for foreign policy. He’s letting everybody know it now.
We always knew that his position on trade was over-the-top protectionist, but this speech took that to a new level. Stating in an acceptance speech at the convention that you’ll pull out of NAFTA if it’s not renegotiated is a breathtaking claim, and it’s likely to scare the bejesus out of American exporters who do a half-trillion dollars a year in Canada and Mexico. Couple that with the border wall and Trump’s immigration policy, which aren’t bad as presented (although he’s still promoting a wasteful touchback amnesty, though not in this speech), and it’s clear that Trump is going to struggle to get along with Mexico.
Then there is his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, his attack on the South Korean trade deal, his attacks on NATO, which he left out of the speech.
It’s not unreasonable to re-examine American participation in some of the global institutions and processes built up over the last several decades. What was interesting was, amid his bromides on trade, immigration and foreign policy, that Trump said nothing about the United Nations. But that speech and the posture surrounding it are sure to make Trump appear dangerous and frightening to American allies in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Perhaps he and his speechwriters concluded that’s what Joe Six Pack wants.
4. NIXON RETURNS
Trump cast himself as the Law And Order candidate, something you’d more expect to see out of someone running for mayor or sheriff. He spent a lot of time talking about illegals and the crimes they commit, and terrorists foreign and domestic. He emphasized the fear Americans feel at the high-profile violence in our cities, which certainly deserves to be addressed.
But other than a guarantee of sorts to find Top Men to appoint as prosecutors and investigators, Trump didn’t offer much in the way of solutions. The fact is that law enforcement is mostly a state and local issue, and it’s better if it stays that way. Trump said the country becomes safe as soon as he’s inaugurated, which was nonsense. But it did give off a strong odor of Richard Nixon’s law-and-order campaign in 1968 and his emphasis on the “silent majority” seething at the demonstrations of that time.
There is an opportunity to play that card as a Republican candidate this year, no doubt. But why didn’t Trump fully exploit it? Why didn’t he bring up Loretta Lynch, the corrupt and lawless Attorney General, and her predecessor at the Department of Justice? He could have talked about the Obama administration’s incessant demands for gun control while federal gun law prosecutions are down 40 percent. He could have talked about the war on cops in this country while Obama meets with Black Lives Matter honchos. And he could have tied this support for lawlessness into Clinton’s e-mail scandal to show just how far it goes, particularly given Hillary’s suggestion that Lynch might remain in her job were the Democrat to win.
Running as Nixon isn’t the worst thing in the world, but you need to paint the opposition as Lyndon Johnson or George McGovern to do it. Trump didn’t, and he’s going to get called a fascist as a result. Which he has less of a defense for since there was very little he offered that looked like limited government.
According to Trump, that is, because Trump says he wouldn’t even accept it if it was offered.
“If he gives it, I will not accept it,” Trump, the GOP presidential nominee, said at a Friday morning press conference in Cleveland.
“He’ll come and endorse in the next little while because he has no choice,” Trump added. “I don’t want his endorsement. Ted, stay home, relax, enjoy yourself.
“Honestly, he should have done it, because nobody cares, and he would have been in better shape four years from now — I don’t see him winning anyway frankly, but if he did it’s fine. Although maybe I’ll set up a Super PAC if he decides to run,” he added.
One of two things is true here – either Trump is attempting to personally destroy Cruz in an effort to move him out of a position to challenge The Donald in a 2020 primary race (should Trump win in November), or Trump is attempting to marginalize conservatives altogether. The fact that he had delegates cheering unquestionably anti-conservative positions during the week might make him think he’s destroyed the movement.
But of course there are other conservative figures out there not named Ted Cruz who will be around even if Trump somehow were to silence or marginalize Cruz. Mike Lee isn’t going anywhere, and neither is Rand Paul, and neither is Ben Sasse. How Trump treats them going forward will be interesting.
– I’m doing a column on this over the weekend at the American Spectator, but if you thought the Republican convention had a collection of goofballs on its speaker list, wait until you see the Star Wars cantina scene that unfolds next week in Philadelphia.
Among the clowns speaking are representatives of Mothers Of The Movement, a collection of women affiliated with Black Lives Matter whose sons were killed by police.
Chief among them is Lezley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown.
Matt Walsh gave a pretty good accounting of just how bad it is that she’s speaking at a national political party’s convention…
But we all know that these same people will conveniently forget their opposition to emotionally manipulative convention addresses when the mother of a brutal hoodlum who tried to assassinate a police officer speaks in front of an adoring crowd in a few days. I feel empathy for any mother who loses a child, but McSpadden is not a voice for peace or unity. Perhaps her message could have some positive impact if she admitted that her son got himself killed by his own actions and then urged other parents to teach their children discipline and respect so as to avoid her son’s awful fate, but that’s most emphatically not her message. She still claims that her son’s civil rights were violated and that the cop was a racist killer. In McSpadden’s view, her son apparently had the civil right to beat and throttle a police officer without fear of consequence.
It’s perhaps understandable that a mother would struggle to come to terms with the fact that her son’s death was his own fault — although it’s somewhat less understandable that McSpadden got into physical fights only days after the incident over who gets to sell Michael Brown merchandise, and that her husband stood up in front of protesters and urged them to “Burn this bitch down.” Still, the reluctance to confront the full reality of the situation can be forgiven. Lord knows what I would say if, God forbid, my son got himself shot and his last two acts on Earth were to violently rob a convenience store then set upon a police officer and savagely beat him for no reason. My only hope is that consistent, attentive, and competent parenting will prevent him from turning into the kind of young man capable of such wickedness.
– How about a Today’s Last Thing? We’re told that the new Star Trek: Beyond movie is terrific, and that’s believable since the first two flicks in the franchise’s reboot have been fairly solid.
A movie review, from Mr. Sunday…