2020 rnc
Opinion
August 26, 2020

The college football season might be canceled as far as two of the Power Five conferences are concerned, but you wouldn't know that from watching this year's Republican National Convention.

Halfway through the third night of the proceedings, the three best speeches so far had all been given by former coaches or players. The first came on Monday from the Heisman Trophy-winning running back Herschel Walker, who gave an impassioned and occasionally amusing address about his improbable decades-long friendship with President Trump. Walker also spoke with intelligence and conviction about race relations. I'm not saying this was the equivalent of a certain Illinois state senator's breakout speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. But I'm not not saying that either. Go Dawgs.

Then on Wednesday night came Lou Holtz, the reactionary Notre Dame legend who is one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport. Holtz's address was largely devoted to his opposition to abortion, but he also gave perhaps the best one-sentence case against Joe Biden I have ever heard. “I used to ask our athletes at Notre Dame, ‘If you didn't show up, who would miss you and why?'” Millions of Americans are asking the same question about the former vice president.

A few minutes after Holtz finished, the former journeyman NFL safety Jack Brewer gave a bizarre, rambling, and instantly memorable speech about his childhood that touched on everything from street fighting and the Ku Klux Klan to his mother's views on the Evil one: "My momma, when the Lord starts blessin', the Devil starts messin'." Indeed.

If nothing else, the total rhetorical domination of the RNC by football players is a good reminder of my dictum that politicians and pundits are mostly unnecessary because other famous people usually say the things the former wish to express far better. Matthew Walther

Opinion
August 25, 2020

It was not remotely surprising to find that the word "abortion" does not appear a single time on the official 50-point agenda released by President Trump’s re-election campaign. It seemed of a piece somehow with the new irreligious social conservatism of the flag, QAnon, and pornography.

This omission was rectified on Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention when Abby Johnson, the anti-abortion activist and former director of a Planned Parenthood clinic, spoke at some length about the issue. Johnson (whose views on criminal justice are not uncontroversial) described, in horrifying detail, the reality of abortion: the sight of a helpless child in utero attempting to repel the device that will end its life, the smell of baby body parts, the callous humor of clinic employees.

But it is hard to escape the feeling that Johnson’s speech was out of place on Tuesday night. The theme of this convention over the last two evenings has been the basic decency and wholesomeness of American life. If only we could re-elect the president and get these pesky coronavirus restrictions out of the way, the participants have told us, the economy will "soar to new heights, heights never seen before," as Eric Trump put it. Under such conditions we will be truly free, free to decide for ourselves the meaning of right and wrong, as another one of the president's children said in an address worthy of an Anthony Kennedy opinion.

I, for one, cannot understand how these views are compatible. If you really believe that every abortion performed in this country is the state-sanctioned murder of a human being, it is hard to imagine why the mindless accumulation of wealth on computer screens would be of much comfort. This, I think, is why even though his emphasis was different, Trump's earlier "American carnage" rhetoric was more attuned to the feelings of old-fashioned social conservatives. The gloom and pessimism were welcome. Matthew Walther

August 25, 2020

The first night of Republicans' 2020 convention failed to draw as large of a television audience as Democrats' — and both events lost millions of viewers compared to four years ago.

Nielsen on Tuesday said that the first night of the Republican National Convention on Monday drew an average television audience of about 15.8 million people between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m, The New York Times reports. This is compared to the average of 18.7 million people who watched the first night of the Democratic convention, per Reuters.

Viewership for the Democratic convention's first night had been down 28 percent compared to the party's 2016 convention, and for the Republican convention, viewership was down about 30 percent, per The Hollywood Reporter. These numbers take into account those who watched the conventions on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.

One network had a great night, though, as the Times notes that nearly half of the 15.8 million RNC viewers were watching via Fox News, giving the network its highest-rated opening night of a convention.

The viewership figures from Nielsen don't include those who watched the conventions on streaming, which has become an increasingly popular viewing option. Still, The Washington Post's Matt Viser notes that given President Trump's obsession with TV ratings, these numbers may not "sit well" with him. Brendan Morrow

Opinion
August 24, 2020

One of the most baffling things about last week's virtual Democratic National Convention was the bizarre insistence upon what a nice man Joe Biden is. If you didn’t know better, you would have thought that the most important issue in the 2020 presidential election was whether the eventual president was the kind of person who will remember your birthday.

At the time I suggested that this line of argument was, if not mistaken, at least irrelevant. Surely no one who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 did so because he was under the impression that the former Celebrity Apprentice star was going to send you flowers after you have a bad day.

On Monday night's opening of the Republican National Convention we were told over and over again that the president is kinder, sweeter, more empathetic and compassionate than his opponent. We heard it from Rep. Jim Jordan, the gleefully mean-spirited GOP point man during the extended Russia-Mueller mania, from his colleague Rep. Steve Scalise, and from Kimberly Guilfoyle. Even Herschel Walker got in on the action.

All of this was at odds with the terrifying, at times chiliastic stakes for the next election referred to by other speakers, including some of those who seemed otherwise committed to the Trump-as-nice-guy line. If you really believe this is a war against evil incarnate, that "the Democrats will destroy anyone they deem a heretic," why would you want a nice guy on your side? Surely the reasoning should go in the other direction, that in your battle against the forces of darkness you would want to elect a tough guy, someone who occasionally says mean things about his opponents and doesn't really care about your feelings. Matthew Walther

Opinion
August 24, 2020

During the first night of the Republican National Convention, the party leaned heavily into apocalyptic scaremongering about a future Biden presidency. "They'll disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door," said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). The Democrats have run Baltimore "into the ground," said Kim Klacik, a GOP nominee for Congress in Maryland. "Abandoned buildings, liquor stores on the corner, drug addicts, guns on the street, that's the normal in many neighborhoods," she added.

Now, it is true there has been a moderate uptick in murders in some big American cities. The New York Times found that as of July they were up 16 percent relative to 2019 in a selection of 25 cities — though violent crime overall was down 2 percent, and overall crime was down 5.3 percent. This probably has something to do with the coronavirus pandemic, and the fact that, in many cities, police departments appear to be conducting a de facto work slowdown as collective punishment for being criticized by protesters.

But the logic of the Trump campaign argument here makes no sense at all. It is true that Democrats run local governments in many big cities, but the president is the most powerful elected official in the country. It is his ostensible job to preserve law and order, and he has sweeping powers to do so. Instead, he has deliberately chosen to inflame the violence in cities like Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon with racist rhetoric and by siccing federal law enforcement on unarmed protesters.

Effectively, the Trump campaign is simultaneously hysterically exaggerating the scale of the violence problem in American cities that is happening on his watch, and arguing that he should be re-elected to fight it. It's almost as though the argument is not made in good faith. Ryan Cooper

August 2, 2020

For the first time in modern American history, it looks like reporters will not be able to recover the Republican National Convention in person.

The scaled-back convention, set to take place between August 21-24 in Charlotte, North Carolina, will reportedly be closed to the press this year, although an official said the decision is not final and press coverage options are still being considered for the event. A convention spokesperson on Saturday said the decision as it stands right now was the result of "health restrictions and limitations in place within" North Carolina amid the coronavirus pandemic. The news was first reported by The Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Journalists weren't pleased with the possibility. The Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, called the decision "ill-advised" since the nomination of President Trump "is very much the business of the American people," while The New York Times' Maggie Haberman noted it appears to be a contradictory move on Trump's part.

If the rules are not changed, the entire convention still won't be completely private: A Republican official told CNN that the proceedings on the Monday of the convention, including the vote to formally nominate Trump, will be live-streamed. Read more at CNN and The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

June 11, 2020

While the Republican National Convention will still hold official business meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina, this August, President Trump will accept the GOP nomination in Jacksonville, Florida.

All of the RNC's keynote events will take place in Jacksonville, over the course of several nights, a person familiar with the planning told Politico. The mayor of Jacksonville, Lenny Curry, is a former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, and had been pushing hard for the events to move to his city.

Earlier this month, Trump said he would move the convention out of North Carolina, after Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said because of the coronavirus pandemic, he could not guarantee that the convention would be at full capacity. Cooper told CNN this had nothing to do with politics, but was "based on health experts, data, and science, and that's it for everybody to see."

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement Thursday night that the RNC is "thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion in the great city of Jacksonville. Not only does Florida hold a special place in President Trump's heart as his home state, but it is crucial in the path to victory in 2020." Trump, a lifelong New Yorker, declared himself a resident of Florida last October. Catherine Garcia

May 26, 2020

President Trump said in a series of tweets Monday morning that unless North Carolina can immediately "guarantee" that the Republican Party can hold its convention in Charlotte in late August with "full attendance" in a "fully occupied" Spectrum Center arena, the GOP "will be reluctantly forced to find" another Republican National Convention site. Where would the party find another large venue willing to host thousands of people during a pandemic, as well housing for the delegates, catering, sound, and other ancillary services?

If you guessed the Trump property where the president already pushed to host this summer's G-7 summit, Trump denied it. "I have zero interest in moving the Republican National Convention to Doral in Miami," he tweeted. "Ballroom is not nearly big enough." Incidentally, The New York Times does not appear to have reported any such rumor about Trump and Doral.

Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni did report last week that as Republicans look "at possible contingency plans, including limiting the number of people who descend on Charlotte to only delegates," Trump has "shown a new openness to participating in a scaled-down event" and "has mused aloud to several aides about why the convention can't simply be held in a hotel ballroom in Florida, given all of the health concerns and the fact that Florida is further along in reopening portions of the state."

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D)'s three Memorial Day tweets included two remembering U.S. service members who gave their life for their country and a brief statement responding to Trump.

GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and other Republicans involved in planning the convention "have said that they have hired a medical expert and that they are consulting with the governor of North Carolina and the mayor of Charlotte," the Times reported last week. "Local politicians in North Carolina, including Republicans, have expressed skepticism that the convention will be able to go forward as planned." Peter Weber

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