The Republican National Convention began today and immediately devolved as some state delegations tried to force a state-by-state roll call vote on convention rules. A floor fight ensued as Donald Trump’s people moved to quash the insurgency, which had no hope of overturning his nomination but did serve to vent a high level of frustration with his candidacy. Partly due to the crowded primary field, but also because there are significant factions of the conservative movement still resisting him, Trump begins the general election campaign with a lower percentage of the primary vote than any other GOP presidential nominee in recent history. Via CNN:
The furor erupted when Arkansas Rep. Steve Womack, who was serving as convention chair, put the rules for the convention to a voice vote, and amid a chorus of boos and cheers from anti-Trump supporters declared those in favor of the motion had prevailed, while apparently ignoring objections from several state delegations on the cacophonous floor of the convention.
Womack then walked off the stage, amid chants of “roll call, roll call” by protesters, a chorus that was quickly met by loud counter chants of “Trump,” “Trump” from the presumptive nominee’s supporters.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) made it clear that this really is Trump’s party, however. During an MSNBC panel, King reacted to Esquire‘s Charlie Pierce saying that the convention hall was filled with “loud, unhappy, dissatisfied white people” with this gem borrowed straight from Alt-Right white nationalist Twitter.
This whole ‘white people’ business, though, does get a little tired, Charlie. I mean, I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about? Where did any other sub-group of people contribute to civilization?
It is typical of authoritarian right wingers to dismiss nonwhite civilizations as less ‘real’ or meaningful than white European ones. King, who famously tried to block Harriet Tubman from appearing on the $20 bill this year, is a Confederate apologist with a long track-record of efforts to ‘whitewash’ people of color out of American history. That makes him a perfect spokesman for the new, angrier Republican Party — people who desperately WANT to believe that the black president is intentionally trying to hurt America.
In fact, the theme for tonight’s speakers is DOOM, DOOM, DOOM: ‘Make America Safe Again’ is another way of saying ‘keep white males in charge.’ The national anthem has played, the prayers have been said, and now the speakers have begun. To the updates!
7:07 PM – Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty, who grew his beard and adopted the whole ‘redneck’ shtick as a marketing device for his ‘reality show,’ says that “regular folks like us” have to save America. By which he means wealthy TV celebrities, such as his friend Donald Trump.
7:15 PM – Scott Baio: “Donald Trump wants to be president for all of us.” Who the hell does he think he’s kidding? “Let’s make America America again.” See, we stopped being America as soon as a black man was president.
7:20 PM – Rick Perry now introducing Marcus Luttrel, the former Navy SEAL portrayed in the film Lone Survivor. But when he walks out onstage, Luttrell’s hair is sticking out like he just drove up in a Bradley armored fighting vehicle and took off his CVC helmet — are there literally no hair and makeup people backstage at this event?! — and as he speaks, it’s clear that he has nothing to say. “We need an elite military…best weapons…leaders need to lead by example…step up, take the fight to the enemy…outside of our borders is s scary place, America is the light…” Frankly, with his beard and crossed eyes, he looks like the sort of raving lunatic you might find in the streets of Cleveland.
7:25 PM – The mother of Sean Smith, a State Department foreign service officer killed in the Benghazi attacks, takes the stage to repeat her demands for “accountability.” She doesn’t understand what her son was doing in Libya, or what was going on there, but she’s absolutely sure that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are personally at fault. Except she can’t keep her story straight even while she’s telling it. “She looked me in the eye and told me a video was responsible,” Smith says, accusing the Secretary of lying to her even though that’s actually what they actually thought at the time. Trump will be better, Smith insists, because he is “strong” and speaks with certainty. “Hillary for prison,” she says. “She deserves to be in stripes!” But for what? Be specific, Ms. Smith, exactly what criminal charges would you use to prosecute her? Or are you just angry and using her as your convenient scapegoat?
7:33 PM – Steve Schmidt says that the Benghazi stuff is how Trump hits back at criticism of his unreadiness to assume control of the nuclear button. Chris Matthews and then Rachel Maddow take turns criticizing the choice to push long-debunked conspiracy theories about the Benghazi attacks. But what else is Trump going to run on, if not lies and innuendo? It’s not like he can spend this week talking up his hugely successful business ventures, right?
7:44 PM – Maddow brings on Richard Engel to talk about how confused the situation was in Benghazi, with Ambassador Chris Stevens relying too much on a single local militia when he chose to return to a city that had become much more dangerous in his absence. Engel gently dispels Patricia Smith’s version of reality: “It doesn’t correspond with the facts as I know them. It does seem to be a manipulation of grief.”
7:53 PM – Lawrence O’Donnell says that “We will be doing a lot more fact-checking than usual at this convention” before launching into a catalog of falsehoods being presented as truth, such as the nonexistent ‘stand-down’ order. Steve Schmidt calls it “the weaponization of grief:” an emotional argument that loses sight of genuine policy disagreements and doesn’t win independent voters.
8:05 PM – Matthews points out that Trump’s new conspiracy theory about Obama and police shootings — “There’s something going on” in his body language, “There’s just a bad feeling” — is a continuation of the theme developed in the Benghazi propaganda.
8:11 PM – Jamiel Shaw, African America immigration ‘reform advocate,’ now saying that only Trump feels his pain. Shaw’s son was killed by an undocumented gang member, so he wants a wall built to keep all the illegals out, which will definitely end all violence since no American citizen has ever killed a fellow American before.
8:19 PM – And now Uncle Ruckus AKA Sheriff David Clarke tells the (white) audience that “Blue lives matter!” (NBC’s camera finds the one nonwhite person in the room for this, of course.) The only way to make America great and safe again (he says) is to stop caring when black people die in police custody or from inexcusable police gunfire, because otherwise cops will be too scared to protect us. Clarke leads the crowd in cheers because a police lieutenant was acquitted in Baltimore today, further ensuring that no one will be held responsible for the death of Freddie Gray. So when four white Americans die in Benghazi, it’s cause for a revolution, but all the dead and brutalized minorities in the streets are just a necessary condition for “the social contract” — see how that works?
8:37 PM – Sheriff Clarke called Black Lives Matter and Occupy “anarchy.” That’s a strange thing to say, given that (A) BLM has never once advocated doing away with police departments in general, just racist cops, and (B) Occupy hasn’t been a real thing since 2012. In fact, Clarke can probably find genuine anarchists on the convention floor just by asking the audience: “Show of hands, who’s a libertarian?”
8:45 PM – Arkansas farm boy and professional nutjob Sen. Tom Cotton wants us to know that Obama has been “leading from behind” for eight years. And then he makes sure to tell us that his dad fought in Vietnam, just like Luttrel’s did. Why is everyone so keen to mention America’s disaster in Southeast Asia?
8:47 PM – Speaking as a veteran who also served the United States: fuck you, Tom Cotton. Fuck you for wanting more wars and pandering to conspiracy theories about the president. When you say “help is on the way,” what you really mean is that black people and women can’t be trusted with national defense because only white Republicans know how to kill foreigners with wild abandon.
8:53 PM – What is this crap about “rules of engagement” holding back the US military? What “absurd rules” is Karen Vaughan even talking about? When she accuses the president of being “unwilling to call our enemy by name,” does she imagine that the words ‘radical Islam’ would magically bring her son back?
8:56 PM – And now Sen. Jeff Sessions is speaking. Who better to tell “Hispanic and African American communities” they should vote for Donald Trump than his bigoted immigration policy adviser, a man with a long track record of trying to put civil rights workers in jail?
9:04 PM – Rudy Giuliani will now (noun + verb + 9/11) for us. No, seriously, he wants to tell us how Trump is going to end fear and make America safe again. First step: making sure you are as scared as possible. Second Step: listen to Giuliani take credit for crime reductions in New York that had very little to do with him or his militarized policing. Third step: hear Giuliani do a big ‘reveal’ that Trump has always supported police. “This is a good man!” “He has a big heart!” Wait, isn’t this pretty much exactly what you said about W? You know, the guy who was actually president during the worst terrorist attack America ever experienced? The guy you defended when Trump called him a liar?
That’s important, because Giuliani is repeating accusations that Clinton and Obama lied to the Benghazi victims’ families out of “arrogant disregard.” She wants “open borders” and “Syrian refugees,” and you can’t trust her because she isn’t as angry about the motivations of terrorists as he is.
9:19 PM – We haven’t even gotten to the headliners and I already feel like I need a whole bottle of scotch.
9:22 PM – I am 100% certain that Freddie Mercury would already be on the phone telling his lawyers to sue the hell out of Donald Trump for using his music to walk out on stage.
“We’re gonna win so big,” he says.
9:24 PM – For those of you still wondering why Melania Trump gets no criticism from the conservative movement, the answer is that as long as she remains at her husband’s side, her nude modeling is ‘hot’ in the same way that Sarah Palin appealed to the red-blooded bias of conservative men. It only becomes a threat to decency if she expresses liberal opinions or an identity separate from the man they love.
9:27 PM – I get that all political conventions are just big stage shows, but watching Melania get applause for become a new (white) American citizen, I am struck by the sense that I am being forced to endure an MTV awards show.
9:29 PM – Melania thinks her husband would make a “great and lasting difference” in America. And she’s right, because fascist government does involve serious alterations of the social and political fabric. Just not any good ones.
9:32 PM – Melania sounds like she’s at a Tony Robbins seminar where all of America stands to get their feet burned.
9:36 PM – I can tell that the crowd applause and cheering for Slavic Barbie isn’t entirely organic. I wonder what it’s like being his fashion accessory?
9:47 PM – Matthews is pinning Hugh Hewitt to a dartboard right now over Trump’s insinuations about Obama. In trying to wriggle out of the situation, Hewitt basically admitted that he objects to the president not being 100% supportive of police in every instance, even when they are completely, totally wrong.
9:49 PM – I just realized this is actually the most authoritarian face the GOP has ever worn. They’re basically running on a platform of unrestrained violence at home and abroad. Even George W. Bush was less enthusiastic and never pandered to the Islamophobes.
9:55 PM – Michael T. Flynn is now speaking about how “American leadership” is suffering because of Obama “leading from behind” and not “naming the enemy.” Flynn is a former director of the Defense Intelligence agency who retired to become a right wing kook and conspiracy tool. His name floated as a possible Trump VP choice, which had me salivating for a few days at the possibility that the reality show star might be stupid enough to follow through.
Half the crowd clears out during Flynn's speech. Trump campaign screwed him by putting him on after Melania. Sad!
— David Corn (@DavidCornDC) July 19, 2016
Congratulations Melania Trump. You are the most disciplined person in the entire Trump organization.
— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) July 19, 2016
I know trophy wives don’t get raises for taking on extra duties, but really, Melania deserves something for this humiliation. #RNCSalon
— Amanda Marcotte (@AmandaMarcotte) July 19, 2016
Melania Trump's presentation of a loving, inclusive President Trump is quite starkly at odds with the rest of the presentations tonight.
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) July 19, 2016
Donald loves all people — Melania
How has he managed to hide this?
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) July 19, 2016
Melania says we need "new programs to help the poor."
Has Donald proposed any of those?
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) July 19, 2016
10:08 PM – Sen. Joni Ernst is taking the stage. She’s talking about a visit to Soviet Ukraine that convinced her to join the military, because freedom. (Just not the freedoms to love whomever you love, or control your own reproductive organs, or earn at least a minimum wage with your labor, etc.) Ernst is a conspiracy nut from the John Bircher school who touts all sorts of garbage as policy. Her main complaint against Obama and Clinton is that they haven’t boosted the image of the Islamic State as much as possible by fearmongering properly, and she’s putting on a fearmongery clinic right now. “Donald Trump will not hesitate to call radical Islamic terrorism by its name!” “ISIS is in all fifty states!” “She set up a private email server!” (Remember, kids, it’s okay when Colin Powell and Condi Rice do that last thing, just not when Hillary does.)
10:21 PM – Speaking as a veteran who uses VA health care on a regular basis, fuck you Joni Ernst. Also, what does failing to protect our security” even mean? Isn’t ‘security’ itself ‘protection?’
10:24 PM – The MSNBC panel is amazed that Trump’s order of speakers has left the room almost empty for Ernst and Flynn. Who’s in charge of scheduling, they wonder, as if Trump’s skeleton staff and personal touch on everything didn’t explain it all perfectly.
10:40 PM – G.E. Smith is playing as the room empties out. I’ll be collecting reactions and posting them here.
10:47 PM – Video of Giuliani fearmongering the Iranian nuclear deal with a debunked talking point about Obama supposedly “giving them the money” to become a nuclear power; in fact, sanctions relief simply means that Iran gets their money back. “Are we crazy?” He asks. Yes, Rudy, you really are insane.
10:57 PM – Soap opera heartthrob Antonio Sabato, Jr. apparently declared his certainty that Obama is a Muslim on ABC tonight after being a featured speaker:
I don’t believe the guy follows the God that I love and the Jesus that I love. If you follow his story, if you understand about Obama, I mean, that’s not a Christian name, is it?
I think we’ve found a perfect spokesman for the Party of Trump.
11:13 PM – Rep. Marsha Blackburn getting an unusually astute interrogation by Matthews. She’s sure that Obama and Clinton have failed, but can’t articulate what she would do differently. She insists that there were nuclear weapons in Iraq, despite zero evidence; that is just the tip of her crazy iceberg.
11:19 PM – Apparently, Malania’s speech was ripped off from Michelle Obama’s. MSNBC is running clips to compare them.
11:23 PM – Schmidt declares the plagiarism a “disaster.”
11:28 PM – As the panel wonders how Malania’s plagiarism happened, USA Today is calling Trump’s intro a “WWE-style” presentation. There is nothing original about Trump — he’s all borrowed bits without ideological or rational coherence.
11:30 PM – Maddow notes that Malania said she “wrote” the speech “herself,” but she and everyone else on the panel says that’s impossible, that this must be a failure by the campaign staff, if not an outright case of ratfuckery. But I say we should take Mrs. Trump at her word: she plagiarized Michelle Obama and didn’t tell anyone about it. More importantly, it demonstrates that Republicans’ reactions are entirely determined by who gives a speech, not what it says.
11:35 PM – Matthews is demanding that Trump fire the plagiarist. But what if he’s married to her, Chris?
11:38 PM – Schmidt is saying that Trump’s campaign is more family-directed than any he remembers. Which, again, suggests that Trump can’t simply “fire” the person responsible for this travesty.
Day 1: Melania Trump owes Michelle Obama an apology for stealing her words.
Day 2: ???#RNCinCLE
— Kaili Joy Gray (@KailiJoy) July 19, 2016
Bringing in Obama team to write major part of Melania's speech actually a significant moment of outreach https://t.co/Ui8OjEEGIm
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) July 19, 2016
Ask yourself if anyone would be giving a pass to Michelle Obama if she'd nicked a chunk of a Laura Bush speech.
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) July 19, 2016
Melania’s speech may turn out to be the only Trump speech not written in the Kremlin.
— Mig Greengard (@chessninja) July 19, 2016
11:55 PM – Earlier today, HuffPost Hill Editor Eliot Nelson talked to RNC delegates who were very excited by Melania because they see her as the “antidote” to Michelle Obama. Irony!
12:19 AM – And a hashtag is born:
— (((Allan TFH/VLR))) (@UnrealAllan) July 19, 2016
12:45 AM – I’m suspending this liveblog for a few hours to let the MSM get their morning editions out.
"Look, Simba. Everything the light touches is our kingdom"#FamousMelaniaTrumpQuotes
— Julian DeGuzman (@julianOfGuzman) July 19, 2016
— Ikenna (@Egbengijima) July 19, 2016
"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" #FamousMelaniaTrumpQuotes
— Evan Lachnit (@Evan_lachnit96) July 19, 2016