Tonight, the Calbuzz National Affairs Desk will sink into the couch cushions to witness the Trump National Convention just like real Amuricans, gaping at our electric televisions while fortified with Bugles, Cheez-Its and donut holes.
Also: alcoholic beverages.
Our Global Political Reporting and False Equivalence Team previously demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt why Donald Trump won’t beat Hillary Clinton; however, we are nothing if not objective and open-minded and so, on behalf of Democratic bed-wetters and Republican fantasists everywhere, will suspend our disbelief and pretend to admit the possibility that The Donald could win.
As the convention offers the ferret-headed buffoon from Queens his best chance to show that he should be taken seriously as a presidential candidate, there is only one overarching question that matters about this week’s conclave in Cleveland: Will Trump and his podium posse aim their speeches and rhetoric at the 2,470 wing-nut delegates and 2,302 alternates inside the Quicken Loans Arena — or will they speak to the millions of independent-minded, if skeptical, voters outside the hall?
“Trump needs to ride the fine line between continuing to inflame those outraged by Washington and reining in his nutty rhetoric to attract independents and new people,” a waiting-to-be-convinced, veteran national Republican strategist told us. “When the lights are on and the mics are on, the bottom line is you don’t know what Donald’s going to say.”
Asked what Trump’s basic message should be, our GOP message man summed it up this way: “Washington sucks, and I’m not completely loony.”
Mainstreaming Monica: If Trump’s jingoistic rallies and neofascist speeches form the template for the convention, he and his chosen speakers will seek to whip up and inspire his rabid delegates against a backdrop of presentations focused on Benghazi, Bill Clinton’s infidelities and the imaginary Mexican invasion of the U.S. of A.
In that case, the convention will become a festival of bloodthirsty, bone-chilling right-wing rhetoric, aimed at those already primed to vote for Trump. To wit, an inside strategy, much along the lines of Pat Buchanan’s infamous culture wars speech to the RNC in Houston in 1992. “There is a religious war going on in this country,” Buchanan thundered. “It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as was the Cold War itself, for this war is for the soul of America.”
Outsiders looking in were horrified. Buchanan did no favors for President George H.W. Bush, who went on to lose to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton — the avatar of evil and degeneracy, in Buchanan’s view.
The alternative to the inside strategy: leave the heavy-lift right-wing pandering, media battering and vicious Clinton-bashing to others (hello NRA apparatchik Chris Cox, racist ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, knuckle-dragging Senator Ted Cruz and Dana White, homophobic president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship) while using his kids and Slovenian supermodel qua third spouse Melania to soften his persona as a narcissistic knucklehead — and offering in his own speech (speeches?) at least a vague hint that he once spent five minutes thinking about public policy, by way of letting persuadable voters believe he thinks the election actually is about them, not just him.
Exhibit A: A classic example, and the best application ever witnessed by these veteran convention watchers of a candidate using the spotlight of intense media focus to reach beyond the hall to a broad mass of obtainable voters, was Dianne Feinstein’s 1990 speech to the California Democratic Party convention, during her successful bid for the party’s nomination for governor.
While the liberal delegates at the convention favored Attorney Gen. John Van de Kamp according to a survey by the Los Angeles Times, Feinstein used her speech to the delegates as a stage for performance art, which yielded a terrific television ad highlighting her independence from party orthodoxy, as recounted in the seminal, if solitary, DiFi biography, plenty of free parking.
“Sadly, today in California only a few feel safe or believe they are protected by a halting and decrepit system of justice, she said, quickly adding: “Yes I support the death penalty – it is an issue that cannot be fudged or hedged.”
As soon as she uttered the words “death penalty,” delegates began a chorus of boos and jeers that cascaded throughout the convention center in Los Angeles. TV news coverage of the convention played up the spectacle of Feinstein being booed by her own party – which played right into her hands.
“Bless you, bless you,” media adviser Hank Morris said, standing at the press table as the Democrats railed at his candidate. “They booed, exactly as they were supposed to.” Soon Morris and [Bill] Carrick had produced a new thirty-second spot out of the episode, which had been duly recorded by a video crew hired for the occasion, and aired to demonstrate Feinstein’s toughness and independence.
As Carrick later explained, “In terms of the audience outside the convention, it was basically a defining moment because Dianne amplified the independence that is the strength of her candidacy.”
Full disclosure: We’ll be stunned to the point of rolling off the sofa to see Trump or anyone else speaking in Cleveland booed by delegates to the Republican Neanderthal Convention for an independent thought, beyond every mention of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren or any other Democrat of note.
Rather, we expect a frenzied, nearly obscene chorus of fact-free attacks on the policies, character and accomplishments of Clinton et al, in hopes that, with constant repetition of untruths and slanders Trump and Co. will lower public assessments of the Democrats, while motivating fervent voters to lift the Donald onto a sedan chair and march him directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
As the late conservative icon William F. Buckley wrote of Trump in 2000: “When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America.”
P.S. Speaking of Miss America, one of the more fascinating convention themes to watch will be how Trump and his alleged handlers attempt to undo the severe political damage his male pig world view and comments (not to mention his selection as a running mate the evangelical theist and ultrasound fanatic Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana) have inflicted upon women voters, three in four of whom view him unfavorably.
The key will be the rhetorical stylings of the aforementioned and previously silent Melania, along with the spawn of prior Trump marriages — Donald Jr., Ivanka, Eric and (of course) Tiffany.
“In parading his family out there to actually speak, the goal is to leave people thinking, ‘he’s pretty nutty but if he’s raised those kids he must be okay,’” our Republican wise person told us.
“The women thing has to come from Melania — if she comes across as a gracious, delightful, insular, quiet, loving wife who just happens to be hotter than hell — and Ivanka – who has to be very well spoken, down to earth and delightful, despite being a little bit elitist.
“Then they might have women out there suddenly thinking, ‘That cool lady is married to that guy and that woman is his daughter, I’ll give him a second chance.’”