Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Republican Convention Day Two: The Biggest Loser

Hi, everyone. We are back with our Republican Convention Day Two coverage, which was not about "The Apprentice," but rather an entirely different reality show.

My compliments to those of you who opted to spend last night at the Duran Duran show up at the Apollo; you were wise to travel back in time through music rather than politics. Perhaps we’d all be more comfortable if the Republican Party aimed their time machine back at those cute British Boy Bands of the 1980s rather than Richard Nixon’s 1960s.

The Republicans arrived at Quicken Loans arena on Tuesday in disarray. Melania Trump’s plagiarism catastrophe had soaked the day’s news coverage, drenching social media and giving birth to countless side-by-side videos of Michelle Obama and Melania Trump saying the exact same words.  Monday had been an organizational mess; it had run late all evening, putting Rudy Giuliani’s filter-less twenty-minute screaming tirade front and center when the broadcast networks joined the coverage at 10:00. Reliable Republican rabble-rouser Senator Joni Ernst was pushed back until after Trophy Wife III, leaving her to address a large assemblage of empty seats. Taken in full, Monday had been angry, mean, and cheapened by cheating. By virtually any account, it was a very bad start.

With only that very low bar to clear, Tuesday was a substantial improvement, largely due to the strong performances by Trump’s children, Donald Jr. and Tiffany.  However, these two speeches were offset by Chris Christie’s seriously disturbing re-enactment of the Salem Witch trials, and the sad surrender of Dr. Ben Carson to the forces of surreal fantasy that appear to permeate his permanently semi-conscious state.  A parade of mainstream Republicans threw in their quick two cents throughout an evening that was perhaps most notable for the tepid-to-bored mood in the room.  House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke eloquently but was treated by the Trumpublicans as a pariah; and you can’t blame the delegates for taking a universal beer and pee break when decidedly not-world famous pro golfer Natalie Gulbis weighed in on global affairs. It was perhaps a good thing that Donald Trump was not actually in the arena; no doubt he would have castigated it as a low-energy crowd. Very low energy.

In truth, as of 9:50 last night, if Quicken Loans were a 747, you’d have heard that autopilot alert robotically chanting “Stall! Stall! Insufficient  airspeed!!” Day two appeared on track to be a replica of Day One, although somehow managing to be more boring.  Then Donald Trump saved the day.

No, not that Donald Trump.  The kid. Junior. 38 years old.  Confident, charismatic, and compelling, the younger Trump spoke powerfully and persuasively, and provided insight into life inside Trump Tower. 

Junior contended that The Donald succeeds because he runs a fierce meritocracy; a company in which blue collar workers who demonstrate street smarts and a strong work ethic have as clear a shot at top management positions as those smarmy preppies with MBAs and degrees from fancy private colleges (Yo, Jeb! I think that was your shout-out for the week, pal).  Young Trump spoke of how his father demanded that he learn the business from the ground up; from the machine operators and truck drivers who actually build the buildings. Donald Trump Jr. was credible and thoughtful, and his “blue collar opportunity” riff gave his “silent majority” audience a clear and new reason to believe that Trump Senior was “one of them.”

More good news for the Red Team: they timed Trump Junior’s speech perfectly. He went on at 10:03… exactly when the traditional broadcast began their coverage; exponentially expanding the audience.

Tiffany Trump was different in approach but also impressive; the Millennial did what the Melania did not. Tiffany provided real life instances of how her father had a direct and positive impact on her childhood and upbringing. At one point she told of keeping every single one of her report cards so that she could preserve the encouraging comments her father had written on each. No speechwriter can conjure that kind of riveting image of a truly caring Dad.  Even in an endearing admission of nerves, she was poised, smiling, and appeared to genuinely enjoy the opportunity to tell the world about her father.

People do actually make important inferences about children, all the more so regarding the rarified world of billionaire offspring, who seem far more often found on scandal websites than in corporate headquarters. Give Donald Trump his due. His kids shone brightly on Tuesday night, and, yes, it reflected well on him, inside and outside the arena.

So brightly did they shine, indeed, that they made the pundits all but forget about one of the more hideous convention spectacles in memory.

Chris Christie had ridden the fickle roller coaster of political popularity to more highs and lows in the last ten years than just about anyone. It was, after all, just four years ago that New York’s moneyed Republican establishment summoned him to an exclusive New York club and fell to their knees before him, literally begging him to throw his hat in the Presidential ring. The patricians of Wall Street knew that Mitt Romney simply couldn’t connect with Main Street; that Mitt’s sense of the common man was largely informed by the caddies, chauffeurs, and waiters whom he no doubt tipped generously. Those New York Republican noblesse oblige would have gift-wrapped the 2012 nomination for Chris Christie, but Christie sensed – perhaps rightly – that 2012 was not the time to head the Republican ticket.

Rather, Christie kept his powder dry, believing in political cycles: only once since Roosevelt has one party kept the White House longer than eight years consecutively. The New Jersey governor looked ahead and saw his rendezvous with destiny in 2016.

Fate usually makes but one and only one offer of the brass ring. No sooner had Christie passed on 2012 did his woes begin. When Hurricane Sandy devastated his state in late October, his hands-on crisis management was widely applauded… up to the moment when he stepped up to embrace Barack Obama, who had intervened to ensure that Federal emergency management resources were urgently directed to New Jersey. The image of the popular Christie effusively thanking Obama for his effective action --  less than a week before the election -- was widely viewed to have been the death-blow for Mitt Romney. Elephants never forget.

Christie would soon create his own mess when his vindictive staffers punished a New Jersey major for failing to endorse Christie’s re-election. Bridge-Gate, as the scandal came to be known, revealed Christie to be just another sharp-elbowed political thug stuck in the swamps of Jersey. By the time Christie limped to the starting line of the 2016 Presidential campaign, he was radioactive waste, slightly more popular in the Garden State than Mahwah sludge landfill.

Sensing a short half-life in Trenton, Christie jumped into the Presidential race, counting on differentiating himself from the penny-loafer frontrunner Jeb Bush by virtue of his big personality, blunt candor, and reputation for telling it like it is. In short, he was going to be the Donald Trump of this campaign… that is, until the real Donald Trump showed up.  Note to Chris: when you play Bridge, Trump wins.

After dismal performance in primaries, Christie bowed out without a delegate, but rocked the political establishment by endorsing Trump. Many smelled a deal. Perhaps a cabinet position if Trump were to win, or a role at Trump’s company if Trump lost. Either way, Trump gave Christie an urgently needed exit ramp off the Jersey Turnpike.

By this point the stench coming off Christie was worse the Newark refineries, and Chris cozied up to the Donald, no doubt purring about wanting to be Trump’s attack dog and arguing that only a former Federal prosecutor has the training to persecute – sorry, that's prosecute – Hillary Clinton.

Which brings us to last night.

Dreams of being Veep dashed by Trump’s family, Christie chose last night to audition for the role as Donald Trump’s Attorney General.

And what a terrifying audition it was.

Bizarrely, Chris Christie claimed he was going to publicly prosecute Hillary Clinton for her crimes. He would bring up his charges, and then invite the audience to answer with “guilty,” or “not guilty.”

He proceeded, with a casual, thoroughly unsubstantiated sentence or two  --  to charge Hillary Clinton as criminally responsible for let’s just say every single thing that has gone wrong in the world since George W. Bush left things in such dandy shape in 2008. I infer that Christie stopped short of blaming Clinton for the Nets move to Brooklyn simply out of concern for time.

What was truly ugly, however, was that Christie was feverishly stroking the Party’s Clinton hatred to the point of climax; the delegates in the arena literally began chanting “Lock her up!” in unison at each of Christie’s charges.  A trial with no proof, no defense; only a voice vote about hastily flung and utterly unsubstantiated charges. Chris Christie hadn’t been seen in this big a banana republic since he visited the Meadowlands Xanadu Mall.

Interestingly, it has just an hour earlier that these delegates had yawned impassively, glancing at their watches, as Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey actually tried to summarize the dry and finely parsed legal arguments that could have been raised had FBI Director Comey been so inclined. But that was soooooo, like, boring, dude. Let’s have a witch hunt instead!

And the Salem Witch trials they were. Perhaps Chris Christie should be careful about getting involved in a kind of justice in which guilt or innocence is determined by whether or not you float.

America, you were treated last night to an interesting window into the kind of White House Donald Trump would run.  Many of the people speaking up for Trump cite how intensely loyal a man he is. I think he’d be just the kind of guy to reward Chris Christie’s loyalty with that big job he wants so badly. 

And as a reward for that personal loyalty, the rest of us would get an angry, vindictive, politically-motivated pit bull of an Attorney General eager to be set loose on those he perceives to be enemies of the state.  

Chris Christie has spent the last four months thinking that he was competing, Donald Trump style, in a reality show like The Apprentice.

All along, the reality show he’s been competing in is The Biggest Loser.

Last night, he claimed the prize.

1 comment:

  1. You saw 'Salem' in Christie for good reasons. But he also evoked another image for me. Was he a man in the grips of a mass hysteria or was his performance a calculated effort to manipulate the crowd into a savage frenzy (think Nuremberg)?


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