We knew it was coming, but it still comes as a shock. As one conservative tweeted last night, the Republican Party has lost its mind. Or another, more bluntly, “voted to die.” Some said the GOP has even endorsed Putin or at least invited him to speak. And those were the ones who were seeing more or less clearly. Compare that to, say, Chris Christie, who’s still lusting after some crumbs from the table. Is it purely pathetic or worse, tragic? Time will tell.
This is nothing like the party I grew up in, where reason and civility were honored and respected. At least on the surface, in our small part of the world, when Dwight D. Eisenhower was in command. But now?
Donald Trump has had pretty much of a free ride up to this point, but now he’ll finally have to start facing the facts, which aren’t adding up to his boasts. Just how much is he really worth? How bad has his business leadership been? Why is he afraid to release his income-tax statements — or, for that matter, how soon before the public demands to see his emails, too? As for his claims to the Art of the Deal? His co-author’s outing him as a phony.
As I’ve previously explained, the experience of living in New Hampshire, with its test-market role in the presidential campaign season, instills an alertness for the unexpected trip-up that fatally rips through a candidate’s mask. Trump evaded that possibility by largely refusing to engage in the face-to-face encounters with everyday voters here. His not-too-frequent events were largely stage-managed shows, rather than the two-way conversations of Granite State tradition. He never exposed himself to anyone to any significant degree.
His big trip-up — the one that somehow unpredictably takes hold or, as we say in the news business, “has legs” — may be emerging from his staff’s attempt to paint him as a compassionate and caring person. The notion of currying sympathy by having his (third) wife come out from her wall of privacy to say something that would soften his image might have worked. Who knows, maybe the thick accent would have been seen as charming and counter his stream of blasts at immigrants and their American-born children. Or maybe it would harden the perception of hypocrisy. That part was a risk, and it’s hard to tell how it functioned. Instead, the discovery of the lines brazenly stolen from Michelle Obama’s 2008 address in what Melania insisted was a speech she wrote herself now casts questions on all of the positive attributes she tried in invoke. After the cruelty of Trump’s attacks on Ted Cruz’ wife and family, few are likely to show mercy on Trump’s, no matter how much privacy she expects. Remember, this Republican crowd hates President Obama and the First Lady, yet Mrs. Trump turned to them as models to emulate. You can’t have it both ways. Let’s be honest, Michelle Obama is a paragon of intelligence, decency, and tasteful style, hardly what’s come out after Melania’s speech on the opening night in Cleveland as it points to organizational dysfunction in her husband’s campaign staff — his blaming Hillary Clinton’s camp for uncovering the plagiarism rather than his own failures is all too telling in its own way. You’re letting Melania go prime-time without the standard safeguards? From there it’s a short leap to falsehoods about her own accomplishments, from the failure to complete college, as she’s claimed, to the success of her modeling career before Donald came along. Oh, how long before the flood of questions of whether she’s fit to be First Lady, especially in comparison with Hillary’s success there.
It will be fascinating, maybe even painful, to watch Melania’s role in the coming months. Her absence from his side will be noted, as will her silence when she’s in public in his presence. And then if she opens her mouth?
This will not be pretty. But then neither is the nomination.