Melania Steals The Show

[ Posted Wednesday, August 26th, 2020 – 16:41 UTC ]

When reading other reviews of the Republican National Convention today, many seemed to me to be making the mistake of proclaiming: "Trump is preaching to the choir, he's only interested in firing up his base." There is indeed a lot of this sort of thing, but there is also a sustained effort at pandering to distinct voter demographics where Trump is either performing weakly or worse. The two efforts -- fire up the base and reach out to possible "persuadable" voters -- set up another disjointed disconnect of epic proportions, to be sure, but as Trump says, it is what it is.

Monday night, the clear focus was on Black voters who somehow might have emerged from a four-year coma and whose sole issue when voting is the unemployment rate among Black workers up until January of this year (but not after). In other words, a voter who is unaware of anything Trump has ever said or done over his entire term. Such as refusing to personally note (either by attending the funeral of or visiting his body lying in state at the Capitol) the passing of Civil Rights giant John Lewis. Or his and his party's continuing and escalating attempts to suppress Black votes by any means necessary. Or pretty much anything positive or non-committal he's said about right-wing extremist groups, up to and including the white supremacists in Charlottesville (those "very fine people," as Trump called them).

Last night, however, the focus was on women. Christian evangelical women in particular, but really any woman voter who happens to live in suburbia. Once again, these voters are expected to ignore all the misogyny from the president and cheerfully cast their vote for him because he will keep them safe from all those Black and brown people who want to move in next door to them and destroy their property values.

To this end, many arguments were made, most of them downright laughable on their face. Such as what a champion Donald Trump is for immigration. [Pause for laughter.] No, really -- this was indeed a theme last night!

The convention did also continue the two themes from Monday, which could be summed up as the apocalypse which will happen if Joe Biden is elected and pandering to Black voters. The latter appeared first, as Trump pardoned a bank robber who had turned his life around in prison and was now friends with the F.B.I. agent who arrested him. This signalled an openness to violating the Hatch Act, which would continue all evening. Remember when Republicans openly bragged about being the party of "law and order"? Yeah, those were the days... long before a top presidential advisor being arrested for grifting the president's gullible followers days before the GOP convention wasn't a minor news story -- because it has now happened so often it's barely notable. Remember when the Moral Majority was a big part of the Republican tent? That was before the son of the founder had to ignominiously step down from his cushy nepotistic job running his dad's university because of a sex scandal which includes some reportedly very graphic photos of his wife and another man. Lo, how the mighty have fallen -- but stories like these barely survive a single news cycle in the time of Trump.

But back to the main storyline. Trump signed the pardon (complete with full audio of the pen scratching against the paper, which must have been added post-production, since anyone who has ever used a Sharpie knows they write pretty noiselessly, but whatever...), and then the rest of the night was off and running.

Now I have to admit that this week I am watching the convention by flipping around the television channels rather than streaming it from the official GOP website. While Democrats made it easy to do so last week, so far I haven't found a feed that doesn't require me to "subscribe" to the Republican Party, which I refuse to do as a matter of principle. So I missed certain speakers, because every single channel seems to show maybe 10 minutes of the convention feed and then spend a further 10 minutes discussing it in a roundtable. This seems excessive to me, kind of like watching a football game where you had to see only the guys in the booth for minutes on end while the game was still being played, but it was actually more watchable than the main feed, since these pauses allowed a return to some semblance of sanity among the multiple lies and propaganda of the convention itself. For instance, I missed Rand Paul speaking, but found that I didn't miss him at all. Not one tiny little bit, in fact.

Anyway, the next speaker featured was Larry Kudlow, who invited us all to enter the Fantasyland that he inhabits, where the COVID-19 pandemic is already a thing of the past. He's done this all along, in fact -- he's issued multiple statements from February onward which can be summed up as: "Nothing to see here, move along." The virus is completely under control (in February). There will be no second wave. There will be absolutely no economic impact whatsoever from the pandemic. The economy is going to roar right back, because the virus is under total control and will likely just magically disappear sometime soon (if, indeed, it hasn't done so already). This has been the insane and divorced-from-reality drum that Kudlow's been beating all along, so his performance last night should have come as no surprise. To his credit, Kudlow did blatantly acknowledge that the issue that is most important to voters right now actually does exist. This was notable because pretty much everyone else who spoke both Monday and Tuesday nights hadn't mentioned the pandemic (to say nothing of the six million infected or the 180,000 dead) at all. Nothing to see here, folks. But while Kudlow did actually (gasp!) admit that COVID-19 exists, he did so using the past tense exclusively to refer to it. The virus, you see, is a thing of the past. It was tough, and it had had an economic impact, but we've now turned the corner and bright days are here once again! This completely ignores the 40,000-plus people testing positive and the 1,000-plus deaths which are both still happening on a daily basis.

As I said, Fantasyland. In fact, I don't believe I've ever seen a political candidate and a political party so vastly out of touch with what is going on in voters' lives, ever. Everyone is still scared of the virus, everyone is worried about the economy and what a possible second (or third) wave will do to it, and all parents are concerned with schools reopening too hastily -- and yet, to the Republicans, it's a subject that isn't even worth mentioning at all, unless it is to praise the Dear Leader for magically making it go away at some time in the past. This is, obviously, beyond delusional.

The program then shifted towards the appeal to women voters. The granddaughter of Billy Graham spoke about how Democrats were anti-religion (after they just nominated perhaps the most religious Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter, mind you). An anti-abortion former Planned Parenthood worker then got downright graphic in her speech, something that hasn't been seen at a Republican Convention (at least not in such graphic terms) since the 1980s, if ever. This woman also believes, it was later revealed, that each household should really only get one vote, and that it was (of course) up to the husband to cast that ballot, not the wife. In other words, a week after the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment being ratified, the GOP allowed a woman to speak who can only be described as "anti-suffragist." One other woman was hastily removed from the schedule after retweeting an anti-Semitic post which referenced the century-old lies of The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion. But the woman who wants all married women not to have the right to vote anymore was featured. Boy, that will help Trump with all those "suburban housewives."

Also proving that irony is not just deader than a doornail but actually rolling around in its grave in consternation, we had Pam Bondi making the case that Hunter Biden's nepotism was somehow disqualifying for Joe. This, from a woman who entered politics on the coattails of her own father's political career, mind you. Bondi was followed later on by two more of Trump's adult children, all of whom -- with their wives and girlfriends -- have been given prominent speaking slots, and some of whom have been given jobs in the Trump administration. Irony? What's that? Never heard of it....

The convention then pivoted back to grievance, victimhood, and White resentment. Again, remember when Republicans sneered at the Democrats' "culture of victimhood" or their "playing the victim card"? Yeah, those were the days -- long before we got the snowflake-in-chief who turned his entire party into a competition to out-snowflake each other with their stories of (shudder) "cancel culture" on the left. "Cancel culture," in case you've never heard of it, is their name for the left holding any right-winger responsible -- in any way, shape, or form -- for anything odious they've ever said or done. This includes boycotts of companies the left feels are in error, and also includes public shaming via social media and other means, whenever anyone's racist or otherwise-bigoted past (or present) is revealed in stunning detail.

In completely unrelated news, President Trump just called for a boycott of Goodyear tires because one store dared to ban their employees from wearing MAGA hats. As for public shaming, President Trump does this (or attempts to with every tweet) to anyone at all who is deemed insufficiently worshipful towards him. It's almost impossible to count how many people Trump has picked online fights with, at this point. He is the canceller-in-chief. Irony? Is that when women iron your shirts or something? Trump -- and by extension the entire Republican Party -- now perfectly fits the classic definition of a bully: someone who loves dishing it out but cannot take it in return.

Tiffany Trump followed the anti-nepotism speaker. She gave a speech that (except for the "my father" refrain) could have been written about just about any politician anywhere at any time. But her hair was perfect, I will give her that.

Around this point, PBS informed me that the ratings had just been released and the first night of the Democratic National Convention beat the first night the GOP put on by three million viewers. Trump won't be happy to hear that, one assumes, given the importance of television ratings to him personally.

We then got a video of Mike Pence, at which point I fell into a deep sleep. Pence has that effect on a lot of people, I hear. I awoke from this bout of narcolepsy just in time for the top of the second hour. A Cuban-American spoke to fire up the Florida base, and then Donald Trump appeared to preside ("loom" might be more accurate) over a naturalization ceremony. Three specific things about this bothered me mightily. [Full disclosure: my wife is an immigrant so I've attended a naturalization ceremony myself, when she became a U.S. citizen.]

First, the presence of Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf didn't bug me at first, since he was merely reading the oath for the new citizens to repeat. But then he turned to the president and gave him some of the fawning praise that all cabinet officials are regularly required to offer up to their Dear Leader on a regular basis. This is where he crossed the line, and quite likely violated the Hatch Act.

Second, there were two Marine Corps soldiers in full dress uniform being used as backdrops during this whole ceremony. They opened doors for Trump (which was entirely unnecessary), and later they aided in the paperwork for the new citizens (which was also entirely superfluous). Now, last week, the Democratic delegation from American Samoa presented their video during the convention's roll call while a few Army soldiers stood at attention in the background. These soldiers, it was announced the next day, will face military discipline for appearing in a political video while in uniform (which is a big no-no for anyone serving). But today, so far there is no news that the Marine Corps will also be opening an investigation into the presence of two of their own at the Republican National Convention. No matter what you feel about the military rule of not politicking in any way while in uniform, there's the matter of consistency. Either the Army guys shouldn't have to face discipline, or the Marines should have to face exactly the same discipline. You simply can't have it both ways.

Thirdly, with this video violating not only federal law and the military code of conduct, it is notable indeed that Donald Trump managed to make a video of immigrants becoming citizens -- being legalized, in other words -- which was itself completely illegal. [Pauses to put a bouquet of flowers on the grave marked "Irony"....]

Beyond my personal reactions, there was also the glaring disconnect between Donald Trump welcoming immigrants to the country and pretty much everything he's ever said and done towards immigrants for four long years. Seriously? This is supposed to convince suburban housewives that he's got a heart, somehow? I guess those children in cages just never happened or something. To say nothing of the fact that Trump has conveniently used the coronavirus pandemic to halt virtually all immigration from even happening, as well as to try to radically change the entire nature of the immigration system (something that he's been trying to do for a while, now). Trump would change things so that: (1) the people he just welcomed to the country probably wouldn't qualify under his new system, and: (2) the parents of his own immigrant wife definitely wouldn't qualify for a green card, much less citizenship (no more "chain migration," as Trump calls it).

Or, to put it another way, Larry Kudlow isn't the only one living in Fantasyland. We then got Eric Trump, who returned to the White rage and apocalyptic warnings his brother had laid out the previous night. Thankfully, Eric wasn't as coked up -- oh, pardon me, I meant to say "enthusiastic" -- as D.J.T.J. and his girlfriend were the night before, and (thankfully) not nearly as loud and unhinged. Eric did direct an appeal to his father at the end of the speech which several pundits are saying humanized him, but to me it just reinforced the comedic caricature of Eric as starved for his father's affection to the point where Daddy won't even return his phone calls. Maybe I'm being too snarky, but that's how it struck me at any rate -- as a cry for attention. Or, to put it another way: when does the new Saturday Night Live season begin? It can't come soon enough for me.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo -- oh, excuse me, I meant to say "private citizen Mike Pompeo who just coincidentally is on a diplomatic U.S. mission abroad" -- then spoke, displaying his own disregard for the rule of law (as codified in the Hatch Act). Pompeo is rumored to be considering his own presidential bid in 2024, so he certainly wasn't going to let a little thing like federal law stand in the way of his 2024 campaign kickoff speech. Pompeo proved one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt, though -- he's almost as boring a public speaker as Mike Pence.

Then we got First Lady Melania Trump, who wore a faux military tunic, for some odd reason. All she really needed were gold-bedecked epaulettes to complete the ensemble.

Melania Trump's last convention speech had been "borrowed" in large part from a Michelle Obama speech, it's worth pointing out. This time around she reportedly had an unbelievable amount of control over her remarks. She reportedly wrote the whole thing herself without any speechwriters helping (a somewhat-dubious claim, but whatever...) and even more extraordinarily did not have to have her speech vetted by anyone. Neither the West Wing nor the Republican Party gatekeepers got to know what she was going to say in advance. If that is indeed true, that is remarkable -- but it also goes a long way toward explaining some key segments of her speech.

Melania spoke about all the things that no other Republican has dared to speak about for the entire first half of the Republican National Convention. She spoke for around 25 minutes -- running over her time at the end -- which was a much longer speech that I (for one) expected from her.

Melania actually spoke of the COVID-19 pandemic -- even using the correct name for it -- at length. She admitted, in other words, that there was indeed a subject out there of high importance to the voters that all the other Republicans were absolutely ignoring. She then (gasp!) spoke with sympathy for the over 175,000 dead. Well, I'd have to check -- I'm not sure she actually quoted a figure or not, but even so it was remarkable because of her husband's absolute inability (or refusal) to show the tiniest shred of empathy (or basic humanity) towards any of the victims' families whatsoever, over the course of the entire pandemic. I found myself thinking that if Melania had been put in charge of official White House statements on the pandemic in roughly February, and if her husband had simply deferred to his wife to exhibit official condolences and compassion, then Donald Trump might be in a lot better political shape right now.

Melania didn't stop there, though. She also expressed empathy for the victims of the opioid addiction epidemic. This was a theme others had brought up during last night's performance, to be fair, but Melania brought some real feeling to the issue. She then even spoke about race relations, and admitted a few truths that nobody else in the Republican Party is brave enough to admit right now: that there is indeed still a problem, that America's past isn't perfect on the subject, and that slavery was not something to be celebrated in any way (although she didn't go so far as to mention Confederate statues or the Confederate battle flag). These are pretty simple concepts, but in GOP Fantasyland, they have not been mentioned at all over the entire past summer of protests in the streets.

Melania also told her own story of immigrating to America, although she left significant bits of it out, of course. She also plugged her own initiatives, including the grammatically-challenged "Be Best" which is supposed to fight online bullying (ignoring the towering irony of her own husband's online behavior, of course). Those bits were pretty par-for-the-course. The speech wasn't perfect, though, as she at one point favorably linked the concept of "honesty" to her husband, which was another pause-for-laughter moment for most of us watching.

What was notable, however, is that while on the first night of the convention a handful of speakers made the Sisyphean attempt to "humanize" Donald Trump (which didn't even hold a candle to the many authentic and endearing stories of Joe Biden's caring heart we heard last week, but at least made some sort of stab at doing so), Trump's own wife didn't tell a single tug-at-the-heartstrings story about him at all. Not one. The person who is supposed to know his character the best -- his spouse -- didn't have a single word to say about what a swell guy he is (other than that risible "honesty" moment, I suppose). The phrase "conspicuous in its absence" immediately sprung to mind.

Overall, the second night of the convention was a lot more toned-down than the first. Perhaps this was because of the "let's appeal to suburban women" theme? For whatever reason, we got less of the fire-breathing appeals to the angry White base and more reaching out to possible persuadable voters out there. This was obviously by design, although the "toss some red meat" aspect still did exist -- just in a more subdued fashion than the first night. The GOP convention has so far been a disjointed and jarring ping-ponging between these two opposing goals, but last night was less so than the first.

Melania's speech was the high point of the night, even though expectations for it were pretty low going in. She did her best to overcome that "I REALLY DON'T CARE. DO U?" jacket she infamously wore on a trip to visit the migrant children at the border that her husband was locking up in cages. Melania has always had a rather pronounced Marie Antoinette problem, throughout her tenure as America's First Lady. Last night's speech did more to dispel this image than anything else she's ever done, but what was most notable about it was the fact that she even dared to bring up such verboten subjects like coronavirus deaths or institutional racism at all. In other words, even the best moment of the night also ultimately represented the biggest disconnect of the entire evening.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


27 Comments on “Melania Steals The Show”

  1. [1] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    The speech wasn't perfect

    Melania's speech was the high point of the night

    Now that Kellyanne is abandoning ship, somebody's gotta do the gaslighting. Can something really be a high point if it's subterranean?

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Tiffany Trump followed the anti-nepotism speaker. She gave a speech that (except for the "my father" refrain) could have been written about just about any politician anywhere at any time. But her hair was perfect, I will give her that.

    Really!? I heard her speech was pretty delusional and focused on the media.

  3. [3] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Dollars to donuts the Marines behind Trump don't face any discipline.

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Melania's speech was the high point of the night ...


    Well, I watched the whole speech and I think she lives on another planet with another husband named Donald.

    While she stared out fine with all of the sympathy that actually came across as genuine, she completely blew all that with the rest of her asinine speech.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Actually, stared works just fine without the extra 't'.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Now that Kellyanne is abandoning ship, somebody's gotta do the gaslighting.

    And, the winner is .... Melania! Hands down - Kellyanne doesn't hold a candle, in fact. Ahem.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    High point, indeed. ;)

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I can't help but think out loud, that poor kid of theirs ...

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    That's how horrible Melania was last night.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I kept watching her with my jaw dropped.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    High point? Those are two words for it.

  12. [12] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    Thanks for putting up with this ... thing ... so others don't have to.

    When talking about Melania, I can't help but think of The Onion's recent story about her having "the talk" with young son Barron:

    "WASHINGTON—Reflecting that the moment had finally come for the difficult conversation, Melania Trump reportedly took some time Thursday to sit Barron down and tell him he was bred for his organs. ..." (The Onion, 7/16/20)

  13. [13] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i actually got to see the anti-abortion lady, and the kid from covington catholic. weird stuff, to say the least.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Melania doesn't care about America, do you?

    Sorry, I couldn't resist. I'm just not that strong.

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I'm very concerned about everyone who is in the path of Hurricane Laura. We need to learn about how to prepare for the worst because the worst keeps comin' on ...

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Did anyone mention Hurricane Laura tonight at the RNC?

    Have Biden or the Democrats spoken to the people in harms way?

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    It can make all the difference if you know people care about you and what you are facing down.

  18. [18] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller

    High point? Those are two words for it.

    Well, I got two words for you, missy: Be Best. ;) *grin*

  19. [19] 
    Kick wrote:

    Chris Weigant

    It's almost impossible to count how many people Trump has picked online fights with, at this point. He is the canceller-in-chief.

    Trump has without doubt transformed the GOP into the
    Grieving Old Piteous.

    Irony? Is that when women iron your shirts or something?

    "Irony" is the rust-colored hue that is transferred from the Trumpian tiny hand to the "suburban housewife" when grabbed by the arm or something.

    Trump -- and by extension the entire Republican Party -- now perfectly fits the classic definition of a bully: someone who loves dishing it out but cannot take it in return.

    Yes, sir... dead on balls accurate, including the entire lot of gullible Trumpian sycophants who worship the criminal con and have bought "all in" to the utter asinine and nonsensical notion that Donald Trump gives two shits about their lives. The real "hoax" is that Trump has spent his entire life screwing over the little guy; so what's a few million more at this point? He's a criminal who judges the worth of a man by his bank account and his fame, and there is never enough to fill that empty space.

  20. [20] 
    Kick wrote:

    Chris Weigant

    The person who is supposed to know his character the best -- his spouse -- didn't have a single word to say about what a swell guy he is (other than that risible "honesty" moment, I suppose).

    Not to worry, and here's why. The person who actually knows his character the best -- his fixer -- has plenty to say about what a "swell guy" he is:

    For more than a decade, I was President Trump's right-hand man, fixer, and confidant. I was complicit in helping conceal the real Donald Trump. I was part of creating an illusion.

    Later this week, he's going to stand up and blatantly lie to you. I'm here to tell you, he can't be trusted, and you shouldn't believe a word he utters. So when you watch the president this week, remember this: If he says something is huge, it's probably small. If he says something will work, it probably won't, and if he says he cares about you and your family, he certainly does not. He's going to tell you that if you reelect him, the economy will bounce back, that only he can get us out of this economic crisis. Maybe for those like him, but if you think he cares about working-class Americans, you're dead wrong.

    The president is going to talk to you about law and order; that's laughable. Virtually everyone who worked for his campaign has been convicted of a crime or is under indictment, myself included. So when the president gets in front of the cameras this week, remember that he thinks we're all gullible, a bunch of fools. I was a part of it, and I fell for it. You don't have to like me, but please listen to me.

    ~ Michael Cohen

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    There ya go.

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "Melania steals the show"

    You meant that in a bad way, right?

    Because, she sure as heck stole something.

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The biggest disconnect of the evening?

    Melania's asinine assertion that Donald loves the American people and that he works for them night and day to make life better for them. President Trump eats, breathes and sleeps the American people - making their lives better is the first thing he thinks of in the morning and the last thing before he sleeps, in other words.

    Who knew?

  24. [24] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Okay, sports fans, here are the two latest vids from The Lincoln Project, Daughters and Protect.

  25. [25] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Aaaand, here's Eviction.

  26. [26] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Aw, whothehell whothehell... Mattis.

    Again, CW, once we're beyond this Repug shit show Convention I'd like your take on why The Lincoln Project people seem so much better at excoriating Trump than the Democrats are. You know, if we ever get a slow news week -- ha!

  27. [27] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Day Three review (sort of a meta-review) is now up:


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