By Arab News
By Jamal Doumani
Donald Trump, despite his glaring deficits on key character issues — xenophobia, bigotry, mendacity and bluster — was officially chosen last Tuesday as his party’s nominee for president at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, and on Thursday night gave there what had been expected to be the biggest speech of his political life.
Predictably, everyone was wondering whether the impetuous New York tycoon would stick to a prepared text or, as has been his wont throughout the campaign, arouse his base by going off script and resorting to the tactics of a carnival barker. And not only Republicans wondered. Well over 45 million Americans, glued to their television screens that night, also wondered. What was this man, who had vanquished 16 opponents in the primaries, became his party’s standard-bearer in next November’s general election, and effectively redefined Republican ideology, going to say about his vision for guiding the nation?
The speech was the climax of a four-day convention where speaker after speaker furnished the 2,472 delegates, along with roughly 50,000 other attendees, not with facts about the nominee’s qualifications, his personal values, policy ideas and how as president he plans to handle a stream of crises that has gripped the nation and the world in recent weeks, but with an indictment of Hillary Clinton — for submitting to “sexual abuse by her husband,” for harboring “sympathies for Lucifer,” and for her e-mail indiscretions.
Conventioneers were brought to their feet, shouting “lock her up, lock her up,” when Chris Christie — the governor of New Jersey, who appears to have continued to ignore his doctors’ orders to lay off the lasagna, as his impressive girth attested — turned to the audience and asked, “Guilty or not guilty?” When a jury of 2,472 votes, unanimously and on the spot, to convict you, you know its members had no “reasonable doubt” about your guilt.
When Ted Cruz, the crotchety Texan who had lost his bid for the nomination in the primary, stood by his refusal to endorse Trump, he was booed mercilessly. (Conspiracy theorists believe that Trump, who had seen an advance copy of the speech, had actually set up the man.) And poor Melania Trump tried in her speech, delivered by the Slovanian immigrant with a heavy accent, tried her hand at leaving a good first impression on Americans as a worthy candidate for first lady.
She did — except it turned out that Melania had plagiarized generous portions of what she had to say from Michelle Obama’s own speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2008. After the aspiring first lady’s transgression was exposed the following day, she sheepishly laughed it off. No go. Not only do you not get a pass on plagiarism, you do not get a second chance to make a first impression.
What a loony-tunes world, what a land of the lunatic fringe, Republicans inhabit!
Then it is 11:30 on Thursday night local time, and Donald Trump, Republican nominee for president of the United States of America, took center stage at the podium, with the extravagant stage effects as a backdrop, to deliver his biggest speech and face his biggest test as a candidate capable of projecting the dignified posture of a world leader whom voters could envision in the White House.
Moreover, after the embarrassment caused by Melania’s exposure as a plagiarist, his keynote speech “cannot merely be his best, it also had to be bullet-proof,” said the New York Times in its edition on Thursday, “ … and word spread throughout the campaign that any language in Mr. Trump’s address even loosely inspired by speeches, essays, books or Twitter posts had to be either re-written or attributed.”
Truth be told, Trump’s much-trumpeted speech, which lasted roughly 70 minutes, was mere reiteration of the ideas, if ideas they were, that he had shared with his supporters during the campaign — absent the impulsive bluster, improvisations and off the cuff asides: Americans, he said, “can’t afford to be politically correct.” America should come first, and yes to “Americanism,” no to “globalism.” All the mayhem in the Middle East, including that brought by Daesh, is the legacy of Hillary Clinton, who has “put our country at risk.”
Daesh? “We are going to defeat them, and we are going to defeat them bad,” he said. Then not differentiating being “Islamic” and “Islamist,” he added: “We are going to defeat Islamic terrorism. I will protect Americans from Islamic terrorism.” How? “We will work with our greatest ally in the region, the state of Israel.”
Muslim migrants? “We will not admit people from countries compromised by terrorism.” Then after the thunderous applause, and the bellows of “USA, USA, USA” died down, Trump hollered, “We don’t want them in our country.”
Nor were Latinos spared. “I am the law and order candidate” who will see to it that “illegal” immigrants (a politically correct word like “undocumented” predictably is not in his lexicon) would be deported instantly. “Americans want relief from mass immigration,” he thundered.
Trump is the new sheriff in town, the only man who can fix America’s problems, who will rid the country of crime.
And so it went, on and on — and yawn, yawn. Look, there is a limit to how many notes a columnist will jot down in his steno book, recording this puerile nonsense. Then, after a female protester was evicted, in cuffs, from the hall, and the speech came to an end at 11:32 p.m., the confetti and balloons came down inside, and the fireworks went up outside — and everybody went home, still dressed in their wacky convention outfits.
Not that the conventioneers at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, July 25-28, will be less fashion-conscious and less impassioned than their Republican counterparts. Only in America, folks.