The Republicans have held their convention. It raised more questions than answers and more doubts than certainty about the candidate. The biggest question it left unanswered was "Can Trump manage the nation when he can't even manage his own convention?"
Melania's speech was articulate, but with significant passages copied word-for-word from Michelle Obama's 2008 speech. I am less bothered by her speech than by how Trump's campaign handled the incident. First, the speech was not vetted properly, displaying a serious lack of attention from the "best people" Trump swore to surround himself with. Then when the truth came out, they denied there was any plagiarism. And when they could no longer deny it, they blamed Hillary Clinton for pointing it out and trying to embarrass them, when in fact, the story broke on Twitter. So the campaign went from denial to false accusation over a relatively unimportant footnote to the campaign before finally owning up to its blunder.
The convention was supposed to bring Republicans together and build party unity. One can only wonder about Trump's competence and self-proclaimed deal-making skills when he could not persuade important members of his very own adopted party to sign on with him. No Republican president or candidate who had run in this century attended Trump's coronation event. Ohio Gov. John Kasich chose the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce over his party's convention in his home state. Kasich's high visibility snub provoked Trump's campaign manager to call Kasich "petulant" and "embarrassing his party," words that better describe the candidate. Ted Cruz, given a highly visible prime-time TV slot, urged Republicans to "vote your conscience." If Trump has this much trouble with his fellow Republicans, how could he be artful enough to deal with America's opponents and competitors?
Trump's acceptance rant was, for him, relatively focused, but he focused on creating anxiety and escalating tensions. His delusional image of open warfare throughout the country, "Islamic terrorists" lurking in every shadow, traditional (read "white Christian") values threatened by illegal immigrants, and foreign opportunists waiting to pry jobs away from American job seekers rendered impotent by evil trade agreements, exactly like the 13 such pacts the Bush administration entered into.
His message was simple, easy to grasp and a reminder of his lifelong love affair with the reflection in his mirror.
"I am the law and order candidate."
"Nobody knows the system better than me."
"I alone can fix it."
His so-called facts have been checked and rechecked: Trump far outpaced Clinton in the number and size of the untruths he fed to the nation. The Washington Post's "Fact Checker" column said his acceptance address "is a compendium of doomsday stats that fall apart upon close scrutiny. Numbers are taken out of context, data is manipulated, and sometimes the facts are wrong. Visit independent, nonpartisan fact-checking sites yourself — I haven't the space to list them all in one column.
It's standard fare in political conventions to attack the other party's candidate. It is outside the limits of acceptability to say, as Ben Carson did, that your political opponent is in league with Lucifer. It's beyond the boundaries of political attacks to say your political opponent should be put before a firing squad, as New Hampshire Republican Al Baldasaro did. This is not just political incorrectness; It's incorrect by any standard you want to use.
Many responsible Republicans like Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake and South Carolina delegate Bill Pickle declared the attack on Clinton went way too far. Pickle said the name-callers "sound and act like demons. … What happened to professionalism, manners and humanity in our politicians and citizens?" There's a reason for this nonstop mindless hatred coming from Trump and his surrogates. His attacks on Clinton are not from a position of strength. They emphatically expose his campaign's weaknesses. He has not offered one constructive idea for solving the problems he exaggerates, because he has none. His only hope for election is to blame Clinton for everything wrong in the world and hope no one notices that wannabe Emperor Trump has no clothes — not even one of his suits, made by cheap Chinese labor.
Yes, there are difficult problems begging for solutions. There is violence in the world and on our streets. But their solutions won't come from Trump. This week, a troubled Democratic Party will put forward proposals for addressing them. Let us pray they have more substance than last week's convention. If they don't, then I will be genuinely frightened.
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Mitch Edelman writes from Finksburg. Email him at email@example.com