Danielle McLaughlin: Clinton looks to trump Trump with message of stability, experience
OPINION: Hillary must acknowledge public's anger while stripping Trump of his credibility.
Amidst a barrage of reporting on the Munich shopping mall attack, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker tweeted "Kaine is Able!!!"
He was referring to his rival in the Democratic Vice Presidential stakes, Tim Kaine, who just minutes before had been named by Clinton as her running mate.
Kaine is a former Mayor, Governor, and current Virginia Senator. He is Clinton's signal to voters that her answer to the anti-establishment crusade of the ultimate outsider, her rival Donald Trump, is to double down on credentials, experience, and public service.
Until that moment, it had been Trump's week. Just one night before, Donald Trump addressed a live and television audience of 32 million as he formally accepted the Republican Party's nomination for President. It was the pièce de résistance of the 4-day Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. A fiery but relatively restrained Trump spent over an hour ruminating on the threats to Americans – immigration, terrorism, violent crime. He promised hardline solutions to vanquish them. And he declared himself the only person who can free Americans from a rigged system that is kept in place by media and political elites.
The Trump campaign had indicated that he would be modelling his convention speech on Richard Nixon's 1968 address to the RNC. Set against great unrest of the civil rights era, the Vietnam War and the Cold War, Nixon unabashedly appealed to those Americans who were not struggling for racial equality. Those who were tired of liberals, protests, tired of violence in the streets and on university campuses, and who craved "law and order". And on Thursday night, Trump delivered. Accustomed to his bellicose style, the assembled crowd of thousands, live in Cleveland, cheered and chanted. Trump spoke directly to American fear. Past the corporate boxes and right up into the nosebleed section. He is counting on that boogeyman come election day.
A party's political convention is a macrocosm of its presidential nominee's campaign. It is its most public expression of its innermost workings. The convention is also a candidate's opportunity to demonstrate the style and promises of his campaign in action, and for the party to coalesce around their election platforms and around their leader. From Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, a 20,000 seat stadium more often filled with sporting spectacle than political performance, Republicans, Americans, and the world this week witnessed Trumpism in action. It was good. It was bad. It was ugly.
The good: We witnessed heartfelt speeches bearing witness to the human side of Trump from his adult children, Donald Jr., Eric, and Tiffany. Daughter Ivanka stole the show on Thursday night, poised and relatable despite her privileged upbringing. Her direct appeal to the women voters Trump has so needlessly marginalised provided a warm and bright moment in Trump's RNC. Another positive for Trump was the fact that he managed to stifle the Never Trump uprising and unite Republican delegates over his candidacy. Those forces are still in play, but they now work to be recognised in the days and months ahead for their stand against Trumpism rather than to deny him the top of the ticket.
The bad: In a word, speechgate. During Melania Trump's beautifully delivered speech on Monday night, an unemployed journalist watching from a Starbucks in L.A. realised, then tweeted, that entire paragraphs of Mrs. Trump's speech had been lifted from – of all of the speeches in the world – Michelle Obama's 2008 Democratic National Convention speech. It happened because the Trump campaign is run by a skeleton staff, directed by the whims of the nominee. It blew up for the same reason. Rather than acknowledge the error and put the controversy to rest, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort twisted himself into a pretzel for days, denying that the paragraphs were lifted. He called the paragraphs "common words and values." He alleged, incredibly, that the furor was started by Hillary Clinton, who sought to "demean" Mrs. Trump, and "take her down." All questions were put to rest on Wednesday, when Mrs. Trump's friend and the actual speechwriter Meredith McIver took public responsibility for the gaffe.
The ugly: There were falsehoods, big and small. The small falsehoods swirled around non-primetime speakers like the NRA's Chris Cox, who delivered an oft-repeated line that Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The biggest falsehoods were reserved for Trump's acceptance speech, which promised that his campaign "will honour the American people with the truth, and nothing else". His speech was leaked five hours early (see skeleton staff, above), and thoroughly fact checked by the time he delivered it. His claims about Obama's rollback of criminal enforcement, incoming waves of immigrant families, Hillary Clinton's private server "crimes," rising police fatalities, inadequate screening of refugees, Hispanic poverty, and Clinton's responsibility for unrest in the Middle East, among many others, were widely discredited as soon as he made them.
Azi Paybarah, a journalist for Politico, covered the New York delegation in Cleveland. Mid-week, after the vote to nominate Trump but before he took the stage to claim it, we talked. "Republicans are shocked and giddy that Trump is at their convention" he said, comparing Trump's appearance to a popular college senior showing up at a nerdy freshman's party. Paybarah drew clear distinctions with the 2008 Republican and Democratic national conventions, which he attended. "This is the moment in a campaign cycle when a party defines itself" he said. "When John McCain accepted the Republican nomination in 2008, there was an overwhelming sense that he deserved it; that he was the good guy, the military hero, and it was his turn." With Obama's nomination in 2008, "there was some initial unease in imagining the Democratic Party without a Clinton at the top of it", he said, but "Obama had a rock star quality to him". Indeed he did. I witnessed it first-hand at a standing-room-only campaign stop in New Hampshire in early 2008. Hillary Clinton is widely credited with bringing the party together that year. Wounded after losing in a brutal primary election fight to Obama, she told Democrats in her own prime-time convention speech, "Barack Obama is my candidate. And he must be our President."
The same cannot be said of Ted Cruz. The first runner up was given a Wednesday night speaking slot this week. Cruz would not confirm or deny whether he'd officially endorse his rival from the convention stage. And he did not. In what appeared to be the opening speech of Cruz's 2020 presidential campaign, the Texas Senator urged delegates to "stand and speak and vote your conscience." In a telling reaction, the Trump campaign took that as a Never Trump knife to the heart. The feud spilled out into the media through Friday, sabotaging what should have been Trump's post-convention high.
For all the RNC's inconsistency and drama, Trump was effective this week in conveying exactly the kind of America he wants to "make" again. On Thursday night, just like Nixon in 1968, he spoke directly to disaffected, primarily white voters, who in 2016 are angry with Washington, with the economy, with globalism, and their diminished prospects in a changing country.
And now we turn towards Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Convention, kicking off in Philadelphia on Tuesday (NZT). With the opportunity to positively dominate the news cycle for a week, Clinton's task in Philadelphia will be to acknowledge the anger in the electorate, and to articulate her vision for America. She will have to peel back the veneer of political credibility that Trump has garnered this past year to expose business failures, economic bullying, outright lies, and the danger he poses to global stability and the U.S. Constitution, particularly his overt threats against free speech, equal protection under law, and the prohibition against torture. Republicans have done an outstanding job over the years of reducing Clinton to a caricature. She has an opportunity next week to show America who she really is. She wastes that opportunity to her great political peril.
- Sunday Star Times