The Sanity Election

Donald Trump did it again. At Politico, Katie Glueck covers the basics:

The nominee of the Republican Party – the party that takes credit for winning the Cold War – on Wednesday appeared to align himself with Russia over his Democratic opponent, in remarks that suggested, to many, he was urging Moscow to interfere in a U.S. election.

That break with longstanding bipartisan policy toward dealing with Russia, or any foreign nation, for that matter, succeeded in getting him the lion’s share of the media spotlight as Wednesday evening programming kicked off for rival Hillary Clinton’s Democratic National Convention. But it was a leap few fellow Republicans were ready to make – with some in the party suggesting it smacked of “treason.”

Hillary Clinton’s Democratic National Convention was not the lead story. Donald Trump’s possible treason was:

The backlash began immediately after Trump’s extended riff on Russia at a Wednesday morning press conference, in which he called for Russia to “find” and release 30,000 emails deleted from Clinton’s private email server. Trump went on to promise a better relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin if elected president, saying he’d “look at” easing sanctions and recognizing Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula – something at odds with current U.S. policy – but most of the focus came back to the emails.

“I will tell you this, Russia, if you’re listening I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Donald Trump said earlier Wednesday, referencing the thousands of emails that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sent over her private email server that her lawyers had not turned over to the State Department, deeming them to be personal in nature. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

He went on to add, on Twitter, “If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!”

Trump seemed to be urging Russia to hack Clinton’s email, specifically emails at the time she was secretary of state, and that didn’t sit well in some quarters:

Those remarks, which came a day after Clinton became the first woman nominated as a major party’s presidential candidate, were “tantamount to treason,” said William Inboden, a member of the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, in an earlier interview with POLITICO.

“I thought it was a wildly irresponsible thing for any American to say, much less a candidate for the presidency of the United States,” said Tom Nichols, a former GOP Senate aide and a current professor at the Naval War College, when asked about Trump’s remarks. “It’s not just out of the mainstream – in terms of presidential candidates, it’s so far out of the mainstream, it’s a totally different solar system.”

Indeed, other Republicans who refrained from directly criticizing Trump also made clear that they view Russia as a major threat – and saw no role for Putin in the presidential race.

“Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug,” said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has endorsed Trump. “Putin should stay out of this election.”

The Republicans were divided. Putin should butt out of our election. Their nominee said he should butt in. Something had to be done:

Trump is no stranger to going it alone, or to bucking the party line, but following the press conference, his campaign went into damage control mode, seeking to reset the widely drawn conclusion that Trump was urging Russia to hack Clinton’s emails. Adviser Jason Miller went on a tweetstorm insisting Trump only meant that Russia should turn over the emails to the FBI if they already had them, and not work pro-actively to acquire them.

“To be clear, Mr. Trump did not call on, or invite, Russia or anyone else to hack Hillary Clinton’s e-mails today,” tweeted Jason Miller, a senior communications aide to the real estate mogul. “Trump was clearly saying that if Russia or others have Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, they should share them with the FBI immediately.” (A different Trump aide did not answer repeated inquiries on how Russia would acquire those emails without hacking.)

That would not do, so the man himself had to say something:

In an excerpt of a Fox News interview set to air Thursday morning, Trump appears to further distance himself from the interview.

“Of course I’m being sarcastic. And they don’t even know frankly if it’s Russia. They have no idea if it’s Russia, if it’s China, if it’s somebody else. Who knows who it is?” he says, according to an excerpt tweeted out by the network. “And what they said on those emails is a disgrace, and they’re just trying to deflect from that.”

But on Wednesday, Trump declined to say that he would urge Putin to stay out of American politics. “I’m not going to tell Putin what to do,” he said. “Why should I tell Putin what to do?”

That clarifies nothing, and the Clinton campaign had said this: 

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” said Jake Sullivan, one of Clinton’s senior policy advisers, in a statement. “That’s not hyperbole, those are just the facts. This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

And then there were the national security experts: 

“The invitation to Russia to hack a presidential candidate’s email messages is stunning and reckless,” said Matt Olsen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. “To the extent our adversaries take this seriously, it presents a threat to the integrity of our electoral process and our national security.”

Added George Little, a former Pentagon and CIA spokesman, “This is absolutely a national security issue, and it is yet another vivid example of Trump’s complete lack of foreign policy experience. His campaign’s disturbing coziness with Russia was already a worrying head-scratcher, and this latest episode of recklessness profoundly underscores that very real concern.”

And there’s the guy from the Naval War College:

Nichols, a frequent Trump critic, noted that “we’re in a lot of hacking wars already. But that doesn’t make encouraging more – which, in his view, is what Trump did – any more acceptable.”

“It’s bad enough he doesn’t understand the gravity of what he said, but that he’s giving encouragement to a hostile foreign power is unconscionable,” Nichols said. “I don’t think he’s joking. He doubled down on it. Once off the cuff, it’s a joke. Twice, it’s policy.”

That is a bit scary, but to be fair, there are two personal biases here that color that assessment. First, the Army colonel in the family, who now runs operations at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is a graduate of the Naval War College – so Nichols’ opinion may be given too much weight here. Secondly, those of us who are still a bit Czech after all these generations in America, get a bit queasy when this man who wants to be president says Russia can keep Crimea. Crimea was part of Ukraine, an independent country that had once been part of the Soviet Union, and Putin rolled in the tanks and took Crimea back. Trump says he can keep it, and also has said that even if the three Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania – are part of NATO now, when they were once part of the old Soviet Union, Trump says Putin can have those back too. Trump thinks NATO is stupid, and these guys never paid their fair share to NATO anyway, so they pay us big bucks for years of us covering their sorry asses, right now, or Putin’s tanks roll in and we shrug. They didn’t pay up. It’s a simple business deal. Some of us, however, remember the Soviet tanks rolling into Prague in 1968 to crush that Velvet Revolution. Others might remember Budapest in 1956 – same thing – the tanks rolled in – Ike did nothing. An hour after Trump is elected, expect the same thing. The tanks roll in again all across Eastern Europe. Putin takes it all back. Trump shrugs. But perhaps that doesn’t bother others. They like Trump’s style. Not everyone has Czech grandparents.

Franklin Foer, however, says everyone should understand what’s really going on here:

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are both lying. Only one of them, however, is cunning; the other is gaffing his way toward treason. Trump has emphatically denied ties to Russia – a claim refuted by his Twitter feed and a cursory Google search. Putin says his government had nothing to do with the hack of the DNC computers, even though it carelessly left a trail of crumbs tracing back to his intelligence services. The cunning liar is exploiting the blundering one.

It seems that only one of them is competent:

Trump isn’t a Manchurian candidate. He’s not taking orders from the Kremlin. As I wrote on Friday, Trump is a useful device for Putin – a way to hurt the United States and perhaps a way to exact revenge on Hillary Clinton. Putin has made a habit of supporting far-right candidates who undermine his foes in Europe; perhaps he never could have imagined such a character taking root on American soil. Trump’s reasons for aligning with Putin have been more innocent, if no less dangerous. Trump is a real estate guy who sucks up to power to get buildings built. And he desperately wanted to build in Russia – the dream of Trump Tower Moscow has been a constantly recurring one. “We will be in Moscow at some point,” he once proclaimed.

When he took his many trips to Moscow, Trump praised authorities so that he could get the necessary approvals. His kind words to Russian leaders and his personal style endeared him to the country’s new elite. Trump is baldly denying these efforts – “I have nothing to do with Russia,” he said on Wednesday. It’s true that his Moscow building never broke ground, but Russian investment flowed to his properties. “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., once bragged. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Or as Trump himself once put it: “The Russian market is attracted to me.”

This investment wasn’t incidental to Trump: It was essential. After his 2004 bankruptcy, the big banks wouldn’t touch him. Who would? He had a record of litigiousness and going belly up. But Russian investors helped prop up Trump’s mega-building projects, which were crucial to his image as a man who makes things, not just a reality television star. There would be no Trump SoHo, for instance, without capital from Russia. As one lawsuit alleges, the money arrived at Trump projects through an Icelandic investment fund “in favor” with Putin’s elite and through mysterious infusions of cash from Russia and Kazakhstan into the accounts of his partners.

It’s not hard to see why this dependence, and his fawning words about Putin, would endear him to the Kremlin. Putin would be foolish not to lend Trump a quiet hand. And, indeed, his inner circle has made little secret of its rooting interest in the Trump campaign. Russia Today, Putin’s primary propaganda vehicle, routinely trashes Hillary Clinton and praises Trump’s courageous stances.

In short, Trump is being used, and Putin is being used too:

Perhaps our intelligence community has a better sense of the ultimate goal of Russia’s hack. But it doesn’t take much imagination to describe the relationship between the Kremlin and Trump campaign as symbiotic. Let’s review the events of the past few weeks. First, Trump softened the Republican Party’s stance on Ukraine; then Trump announced that he wouldn’t come rushing to the aid of NATO allies invaded by Russia. That was followed by the leak of the Democratic National Committee emails, on the eve of the convention – an event that Julian Assange implied was intended to injure Hillary Clinton. It’s hard to imagine that this chain of events was coordinated. Yet Trump and Putin profited from one another in measurable ways.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Trump made clear that he wasn’t standing in Putin’s way.

And that was that, and that’s pretty awful:

It was grossly negligent for Hillary Clinton to leave her emails so exposed, and she should be shamed and hounded for her indifference to cybersecurity. But that’s a sin of omission. By any moral calculus, Trump just committed a far worse offense. He advocated that a foreign country commit espionage in order to weaken his political opponent.

Pause to consider: The Republican presidential nominee wants another country to steal secrets from the United States and not in the interests of exposing military misadventures or for some high-minded reason. He wants to expose American secrets in order to hurt his foe. Nixonian doesn’t even begin to capture it.

Do you like his style now? Some still do, but Ezra Klein wonders if we have stopped to appreciate how crazy Donald Trump has gotten recently:

Last Thursday, Donald Trump gave a pretty normal convention speech. It was darker, grimmer, and more pessimistic than most, but it was free of Trump’s odder tics – he stayed on teleprompter, he bit back his riffs, he didn’t try to settle old scores or freelance on major policies. Perhaps this was the pivot. Perhaps Trump would settle down now that the nomination was his.


The very next day, Trump walked out and gave one of the craziest, most self-destructive press conferences in political history. He was off script. He was unhinged. He was settling scores.

“I don’t want [Ted Cruz’s] endorsement,” he said, for absolutely no reason. “If he gives it, I will not accept it. Just so you understand. I will not accept it. It won’t matter. Honestly, he should have done it, because nobody cares and he would have been in better shape for four years from now if he’s gonna – I don’t see him winning anyway, frankly.”

No one cares. Why does he care? Cruz is gone, but Trump rambled on about Ted Cruz’s father and Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast, which never happened, and that’s a problem:

Don’t lose sight of the wild forest amid all of Trump’s screaming trees: There was no reason for Trump to say any of this. Trump had just accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president. Cruz had been vanquished, booed off the stage. Trump’s opponent, now, was Hillary Clinton. But he couldn’t help himself. He couldn’t stay on message. He couldn’t suppress the crazy, for 24 hours.

At the conservative Weekly Standard, Stephen Hayes was just agog. This is “not about tactics or messaging,” he wrote. “It’s about something simpler and something much more important: Donald Trump is not of sound mind.”

Trump’s press conference today was similarly bananas. He walked out onstage and blasted the job Tim Kaine had done in… New Jersey? Of course, Tim Kaine was the governor of Virginia. Trump seems to have literally confused the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee with Tom Kean, the former Republican governor of New Jersey.

Unwilling to stop there, Trump went on to comment on the hack of the Democratic National Committee’s emails… So, yes, Donald Trump went out and asked a foreign government to conduct cyber espionage in order to help his campaign. This came only hours after his running mate, Mike Pence, had warned of “serious consequences” if Russia truly was behind the DNC hack. Apparently those serious consequences would be… future assignments from Donald Trump?

Klein is worried:

This isn’t normal behavior from a major American politician. It’s not even particularly normal behavior from Donald Trump. After he picked Mike Pence, empowered campaign chair Paul Manafort, and gave a structured convention speech, there looked to be a chance that Trump was unveiling a new, more sober persona for the general election. But he can’t do it. He can’t suppress his own mania for even a week.

It’s weird to keep saying this, but this is not okay. This is not a man with the temperament, the steadiness, the discipline to be president. The issue here isn’t left versus right, or liberal versus conservative, or Democrat versus Republican. It’s crazy versus not crazy. Donald Trump, of late, has been acting pretty crazy. That’s not acceptable in the job he’s running to fill.

And meanwhile, at that convention:

Former CIA director Leon Panetta attempted to warn the Democratic National Convention of the threat to the world posed by a President Donald Trump on Wednesday, but a small but vocal minority of conventioneers were having nothing of it.

A group of apparently pro–Bernie Sanders delegates heckled Panetta and interrupted his speech at key moments with chants of “No more wars!” and “Lies! Lies! Lies!”

Everyone is crazy these days:

When the lights were killed in a section with some of the most vocal hecklers, many of them held up their phone lights in apparent protest.

Again, Panetta was attempting to warn of the foreign policy dangers posed by a Trump presidency. “Donald Trump says he gets his foreign policy experience from watching TV and running the Miss Universe pageant,” he said. “If only it were funny. But it is deadly serious. Donald Trump asks our troops to commit war crimes, endorses torture, spurns our allies from Europe to Asia, suggests that countries have nuclear weapons, and he praises dictators from Saddam Hussein to Vladimir Putin.” It was around this time that the protest got underway, and it certainly distracted from Panetta’s attempted message.

It pretty much ruined it, and one of Andrew Sullivan’s readers says this:

You know what, I’ve had it up to my goddamned eyeballs with these petulant, perpetual college freshmen booing and chanting. Tape all your damned mouths until you’re ready to use them for something useful.

I’m a lifelong solid Democrat. A stereotypical one even. Skeptical of patriotism and the greatness of America. I went into this convention very lukewarm on Hillary. I was voting for her, but primarily because when the choice is a neo-fascist or not-a-fascist, you choose not-a-fascist. That’s your damned duty as an American.

But after the last few days, watching these bozos push their whiny lips out and shout down and boo decent people who have worked for decades to make this country better, I’m 100% with her. I’m fully on board. And it was that petulant attitude of the Bernie diehards that did it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this patriotic. It’s my duty – all of our duties – to keep this fascist buffoon out of the Oval Office. And that the Bernie-or-busters and the craven GOP enablers of Trump can’t see that, or feel that, or understand that, makes me incensed. I will not let them pout or pander us into armbands. No fucking way.

Some resist “the crazy” that’s everywhere these days – no Nazi armbands for them – and Sullivan notes this about Michael Bloomberg’s convention speech:

I have a feeling that Bloomberg managed to move more actual undecided votes to Clinton than any other speaker so far. A brilliant move by the DNC… This is a crisp, smart and devastating analysis of the damage Trump would do to the economy. This election has to be about this choice: between a madman and a politician. “This is not reality television. This is reality.”

“Trump says he wants to run this country the way he runs his business? God help us. I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one.”

Bloomberg is speaking to people like me. He wants “a problem-solver not a bomb-thrower.” He knows business. Trump knows very little about business. This is effective beyond this hall.

And Bloomberg deviated from his prepared speech at the end – “Together, let’s elect a sane, competent person.”

That would be Hillary Clinton. It seems she has her own billionaire on her side, the former Republican mayor of New York, now an independent, perhaps ten to a hundred times richer than The Donald, who says that party doesn’t matter. This is sane versus insane, which Sullivan puts this way:

One candidate in this election is unhinged, treasonous, contemptuous of American liberties, and at war with the core interests of the Western democracies. And an entire political party is refusing to call this out. They are cowards and quislings and pathetic appeasers. Their party deserves to be eviscerated in this election. If it isn’t, if their nominee wins, it will be America that will be eviscerated.

Sullivan notes that Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, tweeted this about the whole evening – “American exceptionalism and greatness, shining city on hill, founding documents, etc. – they’re trying to take all our stuff!”

Sullivan – “Well, you gave it all away to a thug.”

And by the way, he’s not sane, and it’s getting worse.

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Not the Cartoon

It wasn’t exciting, because everyone knew what was going to happen, and it did. It also wasn’t fascinating, because all the conflicts had been resolved before the evening began – but Bernie Sanders is now an afterthought and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee:

Hillary Clinton on Tuesday became the first woman to be nominated for president by a major political party on a historic night during which her campaign also sought to reintroduce her to skeptical voters and calm continuing tensions here.

Part of that task fell to former president Bill Clinton, who delivered a keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention that began by recounting his courtship of his wife and detailed her lengthy career in public service, including helping children, immigrants and people with disabilities.

“She’s the best darn change-maker I ever met in my entire life,” the former president said. “This woman has never been satisfied with the status quo on anything. She always wants to move the ball forward. That’s just who she is.”

Bill Clinton also argued that Republicans had tried to turn his wife into a “cartoon” during their national convention last week in Cleveland.

“What’s the difference in what I told you and what they said?” he asked. “One is real and the other is made up. … You just have to decide which is which, my fellow Americans.”

The party had moved on from Bernie, although it wasn’t pretty:

Clinton formally secured the nomination earlier in the night during the roll call of states, which ended with a symbolic gesture: Her primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, asking that Clinton be declared the nominee by acclamation, a move that prompted resounding cheers.

Soon after, Clinton sent out a video on Twitter showing Sanders’s remarks and declaring “Stronger together,” her campaign motto.

Sanders’s action, however, wasn’t sufficient to bring on board all of his delegates, some of whom walked out of the hall in protest, adding to the party’s difficulties this week in displaying unity as Clinton fights a pitched battle against Republican nominee Donald Trump.

That was a bit ugly, but insignificant:

During the roll call of states, Clinton, the former secretary of state, secured the 2,383 delegates needed to win the party’s nomination when the South Dakota delegation cast its votes.

Sanders, the runner-up for the nomination, appeared on the convention floor at the end of the process and made a motion to suspend the rules.

“I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States,” Sanders said.

With the motion seconded, a loud roar of ayes arose, making her the nominee at 6:56 p.m. Eastern time.

A select few didn’t participate in that load roar:

Sanders’s move to nominate Clinton, confirmed by reporters this afternoon, nonetheless took many Sanders delegates by shock. Some members of the Sanders-heavy Oregon delegation, who had been holding home-made cloth signs with slogans like “We Are the 99.9%” and “No Justice No Peace,” dropped the signs, their mouths gaping.

Following the roll call, some exited the hall, chanting, “Walkout! Walkout! Walkout!” As the program continued, most of the seats in delegations from Maine, Kansas, Alaska and Oklahoma – all states Sanders won against Clinton – were empty.

“This is what idiocy looks like,” said Cheryl Everman, a Clinton delegate from Maryland. “Democracy is whoever gets the most votes, wins. It’s so silly.”

Some of the protesters doubted that Clinton won.

Some of the protesters are bad at math, but at least they missed the entirely predictable show that followed:

After the nomination was complete, speakers offered testimonials about Clinton’s public service across a range of areas, and her campaign aired an accompanying series of videos with archival footage showing her efforts.

The program, billed as “Fights of Her Life,” appeared aimed at rehabilitating the image of a candidate with unusually high unfavorable ratings – though not quite as high as her Republican opponent – and deep-seated trust issues.

Speakers talked about Clinton’s work for women and families, social justice, health care and global security, among other issues, her campaign said.

They included former Vermont governor Howard Dean (D), who recounted Clinton’s efforts to help create the Children’s Health Insurance Program while first lady.

“She never forgot who she was fighting for,” Dean said.

The presentations also paid tribute to Clinton’s tenure of secretary of state, highlighting efforts to fight human trafficking, as well as various diplomatic endeavors.

“She sees a world where girls are not captured and sold, but are fearless and bold,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

Yes, everyone has heard that, and all of it may be true, but it was still a bit dreary, even if it had to be done:

Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook said that Tuesday night’s programming is designed to remind Americans about the former secretary of state’s long public service career.

“A lot of people aren’t familiar with her accomplishments,” Mook told ABC’s “Good Morning America,” noting that former president Bill Clinton will give the night’s big speech.

That should have made the difference – Bill Clinton is seldom dreary and often goofy and sometimes amazing – and that may have made the difference. At the Atlantic, Ron Fournier says Bill Clinton got it right:

Just before Bill Clinton strode onstage to be his wife’s character witness, his wife’s convention planners played a video tribute to him. “When he said stuff, you believed it,” a man dressed in union gear said of Bill Clinton, “because you lived it.”

This was no accident: An overwhelming number of voters don’t trust Hillary Clinton. That credibility and character gap is the one thing that might stop Americans from electing a second President Clinton. And so the master of persuasion bragged on and on about his wife: career highlights, familiar anecdotes, and enough warm and cheesy sentiments to launch a thousand wedding toasts.

Well, it was warm and cheesy:

“If you were sitting where I am sitting and you heard what I heard at every dinner conversation and … on every long walk, you would say this woman has never been satisfied with the status quo about anything,” Bill Clinton said. Having been the candidate of change in 1992, Bill Clinton knows his wife faces headwinds against Donald Trump’s promise of radical, unruly change. “She always wants to move the ball forward,” Bill Clinton said. “That’s just who she is.”

He started at the top, with the oft-told story about how he first met Hillary Rodham in law school, following her around campus until she finally said, “If you’re going to keep staring at me … at least we ought to know each other’s name. I’m Hillary Rodham.”

Clinton paused to let the delegates laugh, then said, “Whether you believe it or not, momentarily, I was speechless.” More laughter, then: “We’ve been walking and talking and laughing together ever since.”

Laughing and talking, he said, through her decision in college to change her registration from Republican to Democrat; her legal services project in college on behalf of poor children; her summer internship in a workers’ camp; her work at a hospital with victims of child abuse; and her extra year in law school to work at a children’s studies center.

“She was already determined how to make things better,” Bill Clinton said. “Hillary opened my eyes to a whole new world of public service.”

He continued: She helped desegregate schools in the South and find justice for black children unjustly imprisoned.

Meanwhile, he said. “I was trying to convince her marry me.” He finally did (“I married my best friend”) and they moved to Arkansas, where Hillary Clinton opened the first legal aid clinic and fought to improve public schools.

But then he stopped rambling:

He methodically and glowingly walked through her political resume. First lady of Arkansas. First lady of the United States. US Senator. Secretary of State.

And victim – Clinton drew loud applause when he explained why Republicans have worked so hard to smear her reputation—and, yes, damage her credibility.

“A real change maker is a real threat,” he said. “So your only option is to create a cartoon.”

That was the whole point of this, that she wasn’t a cartoon:

A CBS News/New York Times poll conducted this month found that 67 percent of respondents considered Clinton “not honest or trustworthy,” a number largely due to her decision to stash her government email on a private server and lie about it. Trump’s credibility ratings are hardly better—and, as far as such a thing can be measured, he exaggerates, misleads, and lies far more than any candidate in the modern era, including Clinton.

And yet the race is essentially tied.

Bill Clinton asked Americans to trust him: Trust her, he said, and she will trump Trump’s capacity to change. “She is the best darn change maker I have ever known.”

In short, look at the real person, not at the Republican carton version of her. That may not be possible after all these years, but it was worth a try, which David Maraniss says made for an odd speech:

There has never been a speech quite like the one Clinton delivered here in Philadelphia. A husband speaking on behalf of his wife – that has been done before. A former president speaking in support of a prospective president also is nothing new. But the combination of the two is unprecedented. A former president who wants to be first man extolling the virtues of a former first lady who wants to be president. Only the Clintons.

“Only the Clintons” applies in so many ways. Only the Clintons have been hanging around together at the top of American politics for a full quarter century. Only the Clintons can excite and then exasperate their fellow Democrats with such dizzying predictability. Only the Clintons (or maybe now Obama) can send the Republicans into paroxysms of rage and the deepest, darkest pools of conspiracy theorizing. Only the Clintons can keep going and going no matter what obstacles others or they themselves throw in their way along their long and winding path.

Her work for the Children’s Defense Fund, their time in Texas for the 1972 McGovern campaign, the first time he met the Rodham family in suburban Chicago, Bears fans all, his efforts to get her to marry him, once, then twice – he went through the story of their lives together as though he was talking to friends in a bar, easy and relaxed, a Cliff’s notes sanitized version of a more complicated story, but a love story nonetheless. Thick and thin, joy and sorrow, yes, but no mention of the events that led to his impeachment or any of the other personal misdeeds that tore at their private relationship and endangered their political lives together.

Perhaps he should have mentioned that, but it didn’t matter:

It was an unusual speech from beginning to end, as the husband tried to make the case for his wife through a quiet, rambling, at times touching, at times prosaic love letter the likes of which no modern convention has ever quite seen or heard.

Well, it will never happen again, and Andrew Sullivan passes along this tweet – “Compared to this Bill Clinton speech, I’m not sure any of the Trump family had ever actually met Donald Trump before last week.”

Sullivan was impressed:

I really like the choice between the “real” and the “fake”, the doer rather than the shower, the listener rather than the tweeter, the experienced pol rather than the untested strongman. It’s time to expose Trump as fake, as all bluster, and Bill Clinton did it. It dragged a little in the middle there, and I desperately want someone to take on Trump politically with the skills Bill has. But as a reintroduction to this figure we know so well it was superb. …

He tried to humanize her – and tried to shift the “change” mantle from Trump to Clinton. Again, he understands that this dynamic is essential in an election year when most think we’re on the wrong track.

Sullivan also cites Erick Erickson on that other matter – “GOP shouldn’t be questioning the motives of keeping a marriage together. They kept a vow that Trump broke twice.” Ouch! And Sullivan adds this:

He’s using her boringness into an asset. It’s achievement versus flash; granular work versus grandstanding. A nice counterpoint to Trump.

As George W. Bush once put on that banner, Mission Accomplished, but Bill wasn’t alone:

Madeleine Albright, who served as secretary of state under Bill Clinton, also delivered a scathing attack on Trump’s foreign-policy approach.

“Many have argued that Donald Trump would harm our national security if he were elected president,” Albright said. “The fact is: He has already done damage, just by running for president. He has undermined our fight against ISIS by alienating our Muslim partners. He has weakened our standing in the world by threatening to walk away from our friends and our allies – and by encouraging more countries to get nuclear weapons.”

She’s a bit sensitive about these things:

Born in the former Czechoslovakia, Albright said she recognizes the dangers of Trump’s views on foreign policy and his dalliances with Russian leader Vladimir Putin all too well. From what she’s seen of Clinton – and Albright’s seen a lot of her, both as a first lady and a secretary of state – she understands this too, she said.

“Take it from someone who fled the Iron Curtain,” she said. “I know what happens when you give the Russians a green light. Trump’s dark vision of America, one that’s isolated in the world and alienated from our allies, would be a disaster.”

Sullivan adds this:

Finally, some kind of statement with regard to Putin’s open support of Trump (and vice-versa) – but it’s still very weak. They are fighting a candidate who has trash-talked the U.S., who wants to start a trade war, who wants to disband NATO, who wants to allow Russia to pick off Eastern Europe and the Baltics.

And they’re letting him get away with all this, with only occasional demurrals so far. They have not so far spelled out the grave danger Trump poses to our national security and world peace. I hope at some point someone has the sense to go for the jugular.

This is serious:

It is not so much that Vladimir Putin wants Trump to win, so they can divvy up Europe between them. It is that Trump intends to do to American democracy what Putin did to Russia’s fledgling democracy – turn it into an illiberal Potemkin democracy in which the strongman always gets the final say. Trump is not even trying to disguise this agenda. He has told us quite plainly that he will use the powers of his office to persecute his opponents and put them in jail; that he will purge the government of any neutral civil servants; that he will pursue anti-trust action against media challengers; that he will demonize and quarantine a free press; and that he will order criminal acts in the military.

Against this threat, his ludicrous “policy” proposals are almost irrelevant. It’s our democracy he threatens. And our way of life.

There is that, and then there’s this:

In one of the more jaw-dropping moments of the night, Representative Joseph Crowley, a New York Democrat, just flat-out accused Trump of war-profiteering:

“Where was Donald Trump in the days, and months, and years after 9/11? He didn’t stand at the pile. He didn’t lobby Congress for help. He didn’t fight for the first responders. Nope. He cashed in, collecting $150,000 in federal funds intended to help small businesses recover, even though, days after the attack, Trump said his properties were not affected. Hillary sought those funds to help local mom-and-pop shops get back on their feet. Donald Trump saw it as a payday for his empire. It was one of our nation’s darkest days, but for Trump, it was just another chance to make a quick buck.”

Some people love that about him, but Trump is not Clinton:

She took office as New York’s junior senator just eight months before the Twin Towers fell, and the terrorist attack profoundly shaped her views regarding America’s intelligence apparatus and military strategy.

First up was Joe Sweeney, a former NYPD detective who spent many days at Ground Zero after the attack. He was one of the thousands of workers who were exposed to the poisonous dust swirling around the remains of the World Trade Center towers. “At the time, the EPA assured us that the air at Ground Zero was safe to breathe,” he said. “That information was dead wrong. Thousands of my friends and brothers and sisters in blue were exposed to terrible toxins that have caused lifelong health problems.” But Clinton was there, Sweeney said, demanding medical care for first responders and sticking with the cause for more than a decade.

Russell Berman adds this:

Those who watched closely the introductory video that aired before Joe Sweeney’s speech on Hillary Clinton’s work after 9/11 will note the voice of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who rose to national stardom in the days and weeks after the terrorist attacks. But unlike most retrospectives of that terrible day, these clips did not feature Giuliani in a glowing light. Instead, they showed him assuring the public, and by extension first responders, that the air in and around Ground Zero was safe. We now know it was not. The choice to feature Giuliani in a critical light was an interesting one. He and Clinton have long been rivals and nearly faced off in the 2000 Senate race. And just a week ago, the former mayor excoriated Clinton in a passionate prime-time speech at the Republican National Convention. With this small dig at Giuliani’s vaunted post-9/11 legacy, Clinton exacts some measure of payback.

That works, and Priscilla Alvarez notes that this worked too:

When the lights beamed on Mothers of the Movement, the crowd chanted, “Say-Their-Names, Say-Their-Names.”

“Give me a moment to say thank you,” said Geneva Reed-Veal, mother of Sandra Bland, while holding back tears. She also thanked God: “We are not standing here because He’s not good; we’re standing here because He’s great.”

Tony Goldwyn, who plays Fitzgerald Grant in ABC’s Scandal and is the co-chair of the Innocence Project’s Artists Committee, introduced the Mothers of the Movement, a group that includes the mothers of slain black men and women, including Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Jordan Davis. “They understand that we must reach out to each other because of our diversity, because we are stronger together,” Goldwyn said. “Hillary says we can’t hide from these hard truths about race and justice in America. We have to name them and own them and then change them.” A video featuring the mothers was aired in the convention hall, before they took the stage.

One by one the women told their stories in a raw and emotional moment.

“She knows that when a young, black life is cut short, it’s not just a loss. It’s a personal loss, a national loss – it’s a loss that diminishes all of us,” Reed-Veal said to a standing ovation. In an emotional plea, she urged voters to head to the polls. So did Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis, and Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin.

“We are going to keep telling our children’s stories, and we are urging you to say their names,” McBath said. “We are going to keep building a future where police officers and communities of color work together in mutual respect to keep children like Jordan safe.”

Conor Friedersdorf sees the damage here:

“His life ended on the day that he was shot and killed for playing loud music. But my job as a parent didn’t,” said Jordan Davis’s mother. It was one quote in a series of moving and terribly sad speeches from black mothers whose sons were killed violently.

The modesty of “the ask” from these black mothers – “say their names” – should be a wake-up call to the Republican Party, which hasn’t managed even that much. Surely the GOP can do better on this issue.

Sullivan agrees:

This is an inspired way to convey the necessity of racial justice in policing, while in no way attacking the police. Again, motherhood is being used as political weapon. But this time, no one is accusing a politician of being a murderer; no one is blaming anyone specifically for these lives cut short; no one is fomenting hatred or bitterness. The rhetoric is from the great African-American Christian tradition – and it’s more authentically Christian than anything we heard in Cleveland.

Of course Republicans insist that the Black Lives Matter movement is a hate group, and that they’re the real Christians – so these women are whiners inciting violence. That’s a little harder to maintain now, even if they will maintain that. They may not have the moral high ground much longer.

That’s heavy stuff, but Nora Kelly notes a light moment:

Actress Elizabeth Banks mimicked Donald Trump as she walked onto the stage, backlit with white light and strutting to Queen’s “We Are the Champions,” as the Republican nominee did last Monday at the Cleveland convention.

She tried to liven up the crowd: “Some of you know me from The Hunger Games, in which I play Effie Trinket, a cruel, out-of-touch reality-TV star who wears insane wigs while delivering long-winded speeches to a violent dystopia,” said Banks, a University of Pennsylvania grad. “So when I tuned into Cleveland last week, I was like, ‘Uh, hey, that’s my act.'”

Queen criticized the Trump campaign for playing their 1977 hit without permission. My guess is the Clinton campaign asked for their blessing before tonight.

That was pretty cool, but the evening was about reliable boring Hillary, which Ezra Klein says is just fine:

Another way to look at the primary is that Clinton employed a less masculine strategy to win. She won the Democratic primary by spending years slowly, assiduously, building relationships with the entire Democratic Party. She relied on a more traditionally female approach to leadership: creating coalitions, finding common ground, and winning over allies. Today, 208 members of Congress have endorsed Clinton; only eight have endorsed Sanders.

This work is a grind – it’s not big speeches, it doesn’t come with wide applause, and it requires an emotional toughness most human beings can’t summon.

But Clinton is arguably better at that than anyone in American politics today.

And she’s not a cartoon. Trump is. Maybe that was the point of the whole evening. And in November we’ll find out if America loves cartoons.

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Opening Night Jitters

Everyone knew the opening night of the Democratic National Convention – in Philadelphia this time – think the Liberty Bell and cheesesteaks – wasn’t really going to go well. The Republicans gave us chaos in Cleveland, but Donald Trump thrives on chaos. Democrats don’t but that’s what they got:

Democratic Party leaders scrambled on Monday night to rescue their convention from political bedlam as supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders erupted in boos, jeers and protests against Hillary Clinton after an email leak showed that party officials had sought to undermine Mr. Sanders in their race for the nomination.

Convention organizers shifted Mr. Sanders to a more prominent speaking slot in hopes that he would soothe his most ardent backers. Those supporters have become increasingly frustrated with the party’s embrace of Mrs. Clinton, whom they see as too accommodating to big business and Republicans.

Mr. Sanders himself sent a text message imploring his delegates, “as a personal courtesy to me, to not engage in any kind of protest on the floor.” The Clinton and Sanders operations also combined their teams on the convention floor to coordinate appeals to delegates who might be disruptive.

That wasn’t going to work:

Throughout the day, more than 1,000 supporters of Mr. Sanders took to the scalding streets of Philadelphia to vent their frustration. Some targeted Mrs. Clinton with a taunting chant from last week’s Republican convention: “Lock her up!” Other protesters gathered outside the downtown Ritz-Carlton, where many major donors to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign were staying, and attacked her use of a “super PAC” and her reliance on six-figure fund-raising events.

Even Mr. Sanders, who has vowed to do whatever it takes to stop Mr. Trump from winning in November, had little luck making the case to his followers that they should vote for Mrs. Clinton. In a rare display of rebellion at a lunchtime gathering of his delegates, he was drowned out by boos when he mentioned Mrs. Clinton, and seemed jarred by the response.

“We have got to defeat Donald Trump, and we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine,” Mr. Sanders said to a round of jeers.

Even their hero was dead to them now, and Andrew Sullivan laid out the problem:

Those of us who were relieved by the not-so-great delivery of Trump’s deftly framed acceptance speech last Thursday night are not so relieved today. Trump has a pretty normal post-convention bounce, putting him essentially neck and neck with Clinton. The Russian hack of DNC emails – timed to advance Trump’s pro-Kremlin candidacy – has exposed how deeply the Clintons have controlled this whole process from the start through their puppet, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (and how profoundly Putin wants Trump to win). The die-hard Bernie fans are now actually copying the deeply ugly “Lock Her Up!” chants of Cleveland. They’re even booing Sanders when he makes the case for uniting against Trump.

So the theme of this Monday is “Crooked Hillary.” Could Trump have crafted this day any better? At the same time, a candidate who openly called for mass deportation, war crimes, disbanding NATO and a trade war is now ahead in Nate Silver’s “now-cast” of polling results. The great unknowable about America is what would happen if fascism were actually on the ballot. It’s never happened before. But if you thought fascism would be taboo, the American people are proving you wrong.

So the Clintons have a real task ahead this week. They have to keep the focus on the unique and unprecedented threat that Donald Trump poses to liberal democracy and constitutional order. They also have to give us enough Hillary Clinton to reassure us she’s a viable president, but not so much that the vast numbers of people who distrust her start wishing for anyone else.

That put her in a bind:

She needs Obama. She needs Sanders. And she needs Kaine. She needs the political skills of her husband (because she has almost none) and she needs a message as clear as “I’m With You,” or “Make America Great Again.” She needs to explain simply what her presidency would achieve, what its goals are, what its core message is. So far, she hasn’t. She has four days to make a start.

And this wasn’t a good start, although Kevin Drum clearly blames Bernie Sanders:

It’s one thing to fight on policy grounds, as he originally said he would, but when you start promising the moon and explicitly accusing Hillary Clinton of being a corrupt shill for Wall Street – well, there are some bells that can be un-rung. He convinced his followers that Hillary was a corporate warmonger more concerned with lining her own pockets than with progressive principles, and they still believe it. And why wouldn’t they? Their hero told them it was true.

But that was bullshit:

Hillary is no saint. But her reputation as dishonest and untrustworthy is about 90 percent invention. Republicans have been throwing mud against the wall forever in an attempt to smear her, and the press has played along eagerly the entire time. When Bernie went down that road, he was taking advantage of decades of Republican lies in the hopes of winning an unwinnable battle. He was also playing directly into Donald Trump’s hands.

I don’t know. Maybe he never realized how seriously his young followers took him. It’s possible. But he really needs to do something about this.

That seemed to be impossible:

The tension reverberated from the floor of the hall to the stage. By 9:30 p.m., the outbursts had turned so loud and persistent that the comedian Sarah Silverman scolded the Sanders supporters who were shouting over her remarks.

“Can I just say to the Bernie-or-bust people,” she said, adopting their own nickname, “you are being ridiculous.”

She told them to just grow up, and they hated that, but there was a plan:

Clinton campaign officials, in another bid to placate the party’s left wing, picked Senator Elizabeth Warren to deliver the keynote address on Monday night, hoping that her searing denunciations of Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee, would unify the delegates in the hall. Mrs. Clinton had privately chosen Ms. Warren days ago, campaign officials said, but announced her on Monday morning to try to set a positive tone for the first day of the convention and start closing ranks for the fight against Mr. Trump.

Forget that:

Several veterans of Democratic conventions said they had not seen anything at recent gatherings like Monday’s disruptions. From the moment the gavel fell to open the convention at the Wells Fargo Center on Monday afternoon, Mr. Sanders’s supporters let out boos and jeers at almost any mention of Mrs. Clinton’s name.

This really didn’t go well:

Mr. Sanders, who took the stage here at about 10:50 p.m. to a thundering three-minute ovation and chants of “Bernie, Bernie,” acknowledged the disappointment of his supporters and said, “It is no secret that Hillary Clinton and I disagree on a number of issues.”

But he said the choice between his onetime rival and Mr. Trump was “not even close.” “Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president, and I am proud to stand with her here tonight,” Mr. Sanders said as his supporters waved his blue campaign signs.

Ms. Warren opened her remarks with a warm nod to Mr. Sanders, saying his campaign had advanced liberal causes and helped show that the political and economic systems were “rigged” in favor of the powerful.

“Bernie reminds us what Democrats fight for every day,” Ms. Warren said. “Thank you, Bernie.”

Yet even after Ms. Warren was well into her remarks, a handful of determined supporters of Mr. Sanders tried to interrupt her. “We trusted you!” they yelled, suggesting that she had betrayed them by supporting Mrs. Clinton.

These catcalls, as well as the images of delegates in Sanders T-shirts waving placards that read “Hill No,” were not the sort of messages that the Clinton campaign wanted. Mrs. Clinton, who had a hand in choosing the speakers, had hoped that the convention would be the picture of unity, in contrast to the Republican convention last week. Instead, she was reminded that many Americans, including some die-hard Democrats, do not like her or believe that she will bring significant change to the government.

On the other hand, Priscilla Alvarez notes the speaker no one could boo:

Michelle Obama looked toward the next generation in an emotional speech on the convention stage Monday night.

“It’s hard to believe that it has been eight years since I first came to this convention to talk with you about why I thought my husband should be president,” Obama began. She recalled those first days in the White House and her daughters’ first day at their new school. But none of it came easy.

In a veiled jab to Donald Trump, Obama highlighted the challenges of bringing up a family at the White House, “how we urge [our daughters] to ignore those who question their father’s citizenship or faith.”

What was this, an appeal to decency and propriety and good manners? That’s what is was, although she did twist the knife:

Without naming Trump, Obama later delivered a point-by-point attack of the Republican nominee. “I want someone with the proven strength to persevere. Someone who knows this job and takes it seriously. Someone who understands that the issues a president faces are not black and white and cannot be boiled down to 140 characters,” she said, adding: “Because when you have the nuclear codes at your fingertips and the military in your command, you can’t make snap decisions.”

But for much of the speech, Obama kept the focus on today’s children, including her own.

The first lady’s remarks aimed to validate Clinton’s campaign. “I trust Hillary to lead this country because I’ve seen her lifelong devotion to our nation’s children,” she said. Obama went through a laundry list of the former secretary of state’s accomplishments, evidence of her qualifications to serve as president. And in what appeared to be a subtle message to Bernie Sanders’s supporters, she said, “When she didn’t win the nomination eight years ago, she didn’t get angry or disillusioned.”

Yes, she also told the Bernie-or-Bust folks to grow up, but this time they didn’t boo. They didn’t dare:

Obama also lauded Clinton’s running mate, Tim Kaine, praising leaders like him “who show our kids what decency and devotion look like.”

The message of diversity and perseverance was not lost, either. “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves,” she said. “I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”

All the nonsense ended right there:

Obama, a hugely popular figure in the Democratic Party, has largely stayed behind the scenes this primary season. The Washington Post reports: “Her opening-night slot reflects more than just her steady popularity: Organizers also appreciate her unerring knack for making headlines – and capturing the attention of people who don’t otherwise follow the news cycle closely.”

And so it was: The speech was raw, it was full of emotion. Obama became weepy when she spoke about Clinton “putting cracks in that hardest of glass ceilings.” So did many delegates. And at the end of it, the arena simply went wild.

That may have been the turning point of the evening, although Sophia Tesfaye suggests that might have come earlier:

What began as rowdy and chaotic opening afternoon for the Democratic National Convention gave way to an electric and rousing primetime lineup of emotional speeches by the nation’s top Democrats, anchored by the only black Democratic senator reciting Maya Angelou’s most iconic poem.

“Let me tell you right now, when Trump spews insulting and demeaning words about our fellow Americans, I think that poem by Maya Angelou,” New Jersey Senator Corey Booker said during a speech that was occasionally interrupted by chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “War Hawk.”

“‘You may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies; you may trod me in the very dirt. But still, like dust, I’ll rise,'” he said, reciting the famous Angelou poem with help from the crowded hall.

“Let us declare a day that we will be a free people, free from fear and intimidation,” he later said. “We are the United States of America. Our best days are ahead of us. Together with Hillary Clinton as our president, America, we will rise.”

That brought down the house, and he was on a roll:

“I respect and value the ideals of rugged individualism and self-reliance. But rugged individualism didn’t defeat the British; it didn’t get us to the moon, build our nation’s highways or map the human genome. We did that together,” Booker said in his convention speech. “This is the high call of patriotism. Patriotism is love of country. But you can’t love your country without loving your countrymen and countrywomen. We don’t always have to agree, but we must empower each other, we must find the common ground, we must build bridges across our differences to pursue the common good.”

“We’ve watched Donald Trump, our children, our daughters, our nieces, and grandkids have watched him calling women degrading names: ‘dog,’ ‘fat pig,’ ‘disgusting,’ animal,'” Booker continued, turning his attention to the GOP nominee. “It is a twisted hypocrisy when he treats other women in a manner he would never, ever accept from another man speaking about his daughters or his wife.”

“Trump said he would run our country like he would run his businesses,” Booker said. “Well, I am from Jersey, and we see how he leads in Atlantic City. He got rich while his companies declared multiple bankruptcies.”

The audience was stunned, but they weren’t alone:

Booker’s speech was apparently so good it warranted a quick response from the notoriously thin-skinned GOP nominee – “If Cory Booker is the future of the Democratic Party, they have no future! I know more about Cory than he knows about himself.”

Yeah, right. Trump has also said “I know more about ISIS than the generals, believe me.” He’s becoming a parody of himself.

Something had shifted, and one of Andrew Sullivan’s readers puts it this way:

I too am an ex-conservative looking for a home and was very concerned by the start of this night with a fear it was playing to the hands of Trump.

Maybe I’m being a Pollyanna, but I am struck by the difference between this Monday and last Monday. Between Booker’s call for a bright future and the need to be together, and Michelle Obama’s vision, to Giuliani’s “they are coming to kill us” I’m struck and wondering when the roles reversed. It used to be the Republicans (Reagan and even Bush 1) who painted a picture of Americans at their best, and the Democrats who put forth cynicism and fear. I realize these are just words tonight and there is much work – but the visions painted between this week and last paint the picture of what is at stake.

Sullivan adds this:

Watching some of these Bernie supporters throw various hissy fits, I wonder if I would have found myself backing Clinton. I understand the passion but they sure come off as assholes. Sanders himself was far better – poised, happy to have swung the debate his way, and endorsing Clinton without any serious caveats at all.

It all worked out:

A rough and unappealing start but a stellar speech from Michelle Obama and a revival of Obama’s core message from Cory Booker. The first lady’s speech was one that will actually win over undecided or queasy voters. It reaches every parent in their gut. It’s a message that could win the election. The stakes have never been higher in my lifetime.

Perhaps so, and another conservative looking for a home, George Will, who just quit the Republican Party over Trump, offers a curious historical parallel:

En route to fight one of his many duels, French politician Georges Clemenceau bought a one-way train ticket. Was he pessimistic? “Not at all. I always use my opponent’s return ticket for the trip back.” Some Hillary Clinton advisers, although not that serene, think her victory is probable and can be assured.

Her challenge is analogous to Ronald Reagan’s in 1980, when voters were even more intensely dissatisfied than they now are. There were hostages in Iran, and stagflation’s “misery index” (the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates) was 21.98. By August 1979, 84 percent of Americans said the country was on the wrong track. A substantial majority did not want to reelect Jimmy Carter, but a majority might have done so unless convinced that Reagan would be a safe choice. Reagan’s campaign responded by buying time for several half-hour televised speeches and other ads stressing his humdrum competence.

Humdrum competence can work wonders:

Now, voters reluctant to support the unpleasant and unprepared Republican also flinch from Clinton, partly because of the intimacy the modern presidency forces upon them: As one Clinton adviser uneasily notes, a president spends more time in the typical family’s living room than anyone who is not a family member. Clinton is not a congenial guest.

Her opponent radiates anger, and the United States has not elected an angry president since Andrew Jackson, long before television brought presidents into everyone’s living room, where anger is discomfiting. Clinton’s campaign must find ways to present her as more likable than she seems and more likable than her adversary, both of which are low thresholds.

And he likes her particular humdrum competence:

Clinton’s selection of Virginia’s former governor and current senator, Tim Kaine, represents the rare intersection of good politics and good governance. He increases her chance of winning the 13 electoral votes of his state, which has voted with the presidential winner in four consecutive elections and seven of the past nine. He, like she, has been an executive, so perhaps experience has inoculated him against the senatorial confusion between gestures and governing.

There probably is no Democratic governor or senator more palatable than Kaine to constitutional conservatives. Such conservatives are eager to bring presidential power back within constitutional constraints, and Kaine is among the distressingly small minority of national legislators interested in increased congressional involvement in authorizing the use of military force. And as a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, Kaine can, if their paths ever cross on the campaign trail, patiently try to help Trump decipher the acronym NATO.

In the end, everyone was happy – except for the die-hard Bernie-or-Bust folks, who will now work hard to defeat Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump, and anyone who isn’t Bernie Sanders. They’ll be very lonely. Bernie is with Hillary, as is Elizabeth, as is Michelle, as is Corey. The opening night jitters were gone.

Looking at it another way, Kevin Drum suggests the whole thing turned out to be a bit boring:

This is annoying. I feel like I ought to have something to say about tonight’s festivities, but I don’t, really. The A-listers (Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders) all gave good speeches. Bernie held nothing back, giving a full-throated endorsement of Hillary Clinton that showed him in his best light. Earlier in the day there had been some booing when Hillary’s name was mentioned, but it seemed to die out as the night wore on, and in the primetime hour that was all most people saw, it was pretty much all sweetness and light. If the object was to show off a united Democratic Party to the nation, I’d say that Team Hillary did it.

On the other side of the aisle, Donald Trump was doing his usual: doubling down on whatever he’s been criticized about recently. In this case it was NATO: “We have to walk,” Trump said. “Within two days they’re calling back! They will pay us if the right person asks. That’s the way it works, folks.” Republicans were almost universally appalled.

And so it goes:

During the Democratic speeches, Trump spent his time tweeting out his usual juvenile zingers. There’s no point in highlighting them, though. It was just the workaday Trumpiness that I suspect even his fans are starting to get bored of by now.

And that’s about it. Party unity proceeds apace among Democrats, while puerile insults continue apace in Trumpland.

That’s the next four months. You’ve been warned. Everyone is over their opening night jitters. It’s repeat performances from here on out.

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The End of It

Cleveland is over, but not really. Their basketball team, the Cavaliers, finally won it all, and their baseball team, the Indians, leads its division this year. They’re pretty good. The football team, the Browns, is once again hopeless – but two out of three ain’t bad. The city itself is fine too – the river no longer catches fire and they have that Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame thing going for them. Cleveland isn’t over, the Republican National Convention is finally over – everyone has gone home – and maybe the Republican Party is over too. It may have died in Cleveland. There was a bit of a firestorm there. The party couldn’t keep on message. The first day it was the plagiarism scandal, not keeping America safe. The second day it was Hillary-bashing that got a bit out of hand, not getting America back to work with good jobs for everyone. The third day – the Meet Mike Pence Day – had little to do with Trump’s somewhat obscure running mate. Ted Cruz told everyone to vote their conscience, and not for Donald Trump. He was booed off stage and escorted from the room, but the damage was done. The final night, Donald Trump had to save the day, and the week. He shouted out one of the longest acceptance speeches ever, about how the world was awful, and how America was falling apart, and how every nation on earth was laughing at us, and how our laws and traditions were useless, and only he could save us. Just give him the power to bypass everything and he’d fix everything. That would take no more than a day.

The crowd roared. Others were a bit worried – this was pretty high up there on the Nuremburg Scale. We’d seen the movies of the rallies there, long ago. Others wondered what happened to their Republican Party, but at least they could turn to Fox News. Bill or Sean or Megyn would explain it all, but suddenly things were different there too. In the middle of the convention, Roger Ailes, the man who created and built Fox News, and who made all the editorial decisions, for all of its twenty years, suddenly resigned. The sexual harassment claims had piled up. He quit before they had to ask him to leave.

This was a bad week on the conservative side of things. In fact, Richard Wolffe – the Brit who was a senior executive at MSNBC for ten years (Ailes started that when it was first called “America’s Talking”) – writes in the Guardian that Roger Ailes built Fox News and the Republican Party and now both are crumbling in plain sight:

This is a radical time in American politics: a time the pundits and elected politicians thought would never come. After two decades of populist anger, the elderly rebels of Pat Buchanan’s pitchfork army finally stormed the barricades of the establishment and hoisted an orange leader atop the smoking rubble.

So there was clearly no better way to capture the sense of occasion than to hand the stage – and the primetime TV cameras – to a true statesman and model citizen, who could testify to Trump’s business acumen and personal ethics: Dana White, president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship – because nothing truly captures the state of Trump’s Republican Party than a multimillion-dollar TV spectacle that revolves around a blood-soaked cage fight.

This has been an ugly week for American conservatives…

This is as ugly as it gets:

We are witnessing the Great Unravelling of the Republican Party. Its ideological intellectuals openly disdain and plot against the party’s nominee. Its elected officials are too busy to show up to their own party’s convention.

And now the conservative echo chamber itself is collapsing across the mainstream media it surely dominates.

The rapid demise of Roger Ailes at Fox News Channel is as seismic an event as Trump’s nomination. For Ailes ruled over a conservative media and political empire that stretched far beyond cable television.

Nixon’s former image-maker could make or break presidential campaigns, elected officials, TV anchors, talk radio and the pundit class. When Candidate Obama tried personally to woo Murdoch and Ailes in 2008, he found Murdoch far more reasonable than Ailes, who was convinced the young senator represented a mortal threat to the republic.

Ailes could single-handedly turn the Washington conversation from one concocted conspiracy to another: from the New Black Panther Party and death panels to Benghazi, destroying careers, the possibility of political compromise, and the mainstream Republican Party along the way. He left other news organizations in his wake, struggling to copy his commercial success with artificial news and freak show formats.

And now he’s gone:

Ailes has lost control of the empire he built at the same moment he lost control of the party he in effect controlled. Ailes was known to be close to John Kasich, the Ohio governor who lost badly to Trump and snubbed his home state convention this week. Somehow Ailes found himself outplayed by Trump: he clashed with Trump over Megyn Kelly, but ultimately needed him to drive Fox’s ratings ever higher.

That left no anchor, which was fitting:

If you watched Fox News on Tuesday morning, you would have no idea how the party Ailes built was tearing itself apart at the same time as his own network.

There was no extended discussion of the plagiarism scandal that had engulfed Melania Trump and her husband’s campaign. There was no explanation of how the Trumps lifted lines from the 2008 convention speech of the woman they had all spent eight years trashing on TV: Michelle Obama.

Plagiarism is, at its heart, about honesty. And the Trump campaign, constructed on trash talk passed off as straight talk, found it impossibly hard to tell the truth on Tuesday.

And the rest of the week was like that. Something was lost in the next three days, ending with Trump’s Only-One-Man Speech. The New York Times’ pleasant and thoughtful conservative, David Brooks, senses that is where the Republican Party actually ended:

Welcome to a world without rules. (I want you to read this paragraph in your super-scary movie trailer voice.) Welcome to a world in which families are mowed down by illegal immigrants, in which cops die in the streets, in which Muslims rampage the innocents and threaten our very way of life, in which the fear of violent death lurks in every human heart.

Sometimes in that blood-drenched world a dark knight arises. You don’t have to admire or like this knight. But you need this knight. He is your muscle and your voice in a dark, corrupt and malevolent world.

Such has been the argument of nearly every demagogue since the dawn of time. Aaron Burr claimed Spain threatened the US in 1806. A. Mitchell Palmer exaggerated the Red Scare in 1919 and Joe McCarthy did it in 1950.

And such was Donald Trump’s law-and-order argument in Cleveland on Thursday night. This was a compelling text that turned into more than an hour of humorless shouting. It was a dystopian message that found an audience and then pummeled them to exhaustion.

But it wasn’t an outlier:

This fear builds on the sense of loss that was the prevailing theme of this convention. We heard from a number of mothers who lost sons and siblings who lost brothers.

The argument takes the pervasive collection of anxieties that plague America and it concentrates them on the most visceral one: fear of violence and crime. Historically, this sort of elemental fear has proved to be contagious and it does move populations.

Finally, a law-and-order campaign calls upon the authoritarian personality traits that Donald Trump undoubtedly possesses.

Brooks knows he has lost his party:

The GOP used to be a party that aspired to a biblical ethic of private charity, graciousness, humility and faithfulness. Mitt Romney’s convention was lifted by stories of his kindness and personal mentorship.

Trump has replaced biblical commitments with a gladiator ethos. Everything is oriented around conquest, success, supremacy and domination. This was the Lock Her Up convention. A law-and-order campaign doesn’t ask voters to like Trump and the Republicans any more than they liked Richard Nixon in 1968.

On the other hand, Trump may have the wrong strategy:

In the first place, it’s based on a falsehood. Crime rates have been falling almost without fail for 25 years. Murder rates have been rising just recently among gangs in certain cities, but America is much safer than it was a decade ago. In the first half of 2015, for example, the number of shootings in New York and Washington hit historic lows.

Trump dwells on illegal aliens killing our children. Between 2010 and 2014, only 121 people released from immigration custody later committed murder; that’s about 25 a year. Every death is a horror, but the number of police officers killed each year as a result of a crime is about 55, in a nation of over 320 million people. The number of police deaths decreased by 24 percent between 2005 and 2015.

The main anxieties in this country are economic and social, not about crime. Trump surged to the nomination on the back of his supposed business acumen, not because he’s a sheriff. By focusing so much on law and order, he leaves a hole a mile wide for Hillary Clinton. She’ll undoubtedly fixate at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia on economic pain. Trump could end up seeming strangely detached.

But he’s also detached from his own party, which Brooks finds odd:

A normal party has an apparatus of professionals, who have been around for a while and who can get things done. But those people might as well not exist. This was the most shambolically mis-run convention in memory.

A normal party is united by a consistent belief system. For decades, the Republican Party has stood for a forward-looking American-led international order abroad and small-government democratic capitalism at home.

Trump is decimating that, too, along with the things Republicans stood for: NATO, entitlement reform, compassionate conservatism and the relatively open movement of ideas, people and trade.

There’s no actual agenda being put in its place, just nostalgic spasms that, as David Frum has put it, are part George Wallace and part Henry Wallace. Trump’s policy agenda, such as it is, is mostly a series of vague and defensive recoils: build a wall, ban Muslims, withdraw from the world.

This is less a party than a personality cult.

David Brooks is sad, but Matthew Yglesias thinks Republicans like Brooks have it backwards:

A national convention isn’t just about a single candidate. It’s about an entire political party coming together.

And the truly striking thing about the Republican Mistake by the Lake in Cleveland this summer isn’t the nonsense coming from Trump, his kids, his favorite soap opera actors, and that one avocado farmer – it’s the nonsense coming from the Republican Party’s “establishment.”

A broad range of perfectly mainstream Republican Party politicians – Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Attorney General Pam Bondi of Florida, and so forth – revealed a political party that, completely apart from Trump, is utterly debauched.

Republicans like Brooks need to wake up to that:

Not everything in American conservatism is toxic, but the convention has revealed a profound and genuinely unusual intellectual and moral rot in the Republican Party: a weakness for outlandish conspiracies and a preference for talk-radio antics over the necessarily-somewhat-dull work of practical politics. Trump is not so much the cause of this rot as the man who simply has the daring to punch the tree and send it tumbling down. The run-of-the-mill elected officials and the rank-and-file delegates who cheered them on did the damage.

Lost in the debate over the propriety of the convention’s loud and lusty “lock her up” chants, for example, has been insufficient focus on the basic ridiculousness of the argument.

Hillary Clinton’s email server, after all, has already been extensively investigated by a team of FBI agents and federal prosecutors. She’s not going to be locked up because she’s not going to be put on trial because James Comey, a Republican and George W. Bush administration veteran, determined that, given the facts, “no reasonable prosecutor would file charges.”

Under the circumstances, why on earth should she be locked up? Are Comey and the whole FBI in on the cover-up? Why?

They don’t know and they don’t care to ask. Or they do know and they just don’t care that they’re wrong. Or something.

That, however, is a minor matter:

Nothing circulating in mainstream Republican Party foreign policy is as outright dangerous as their nominee’s views on NATO and the Baltic states. But the common denominator across Trumpkins and establishmentarians is phenomenally stupid.

Speaker after speaker after speaker has proclaimed – to uproarious applause – that we need a leader who isn’t “afraid” to “call the enemy by its name: radical Islamic terrorism.”

This is fine for the peanut gallery. But knowledgeable experts broadly agree that using this phrase would be counterproductive in terms of America’s relationship with governments in majority-Muslim countries and in terms of the propaganda war in the Islamic world. It’s very understandable that Joe Republican back home doesn’t know this. It’s not really all that understandable that Donald Trump doesn’t get it, but the GOP chose to nominate an uncommonly lazy and ignorant person, so it is what it is.

But what’s Chris Christie’s excuse? What’s Pence’s excuse? Walker’s?

Did any of them ever actually ask anyone, “Hey, what is the reason Obama doesn’t say that?”

They don’t know and they don’t care to ask. Or they do know and they just don’t care that they’re wrong. Or something.

The problem is, then, more than Trump:

There is a palpable discomfort with Trump among many of the establishment politicians who are supporting his presidential campaign.

Ryan’s speech introducing Pence lavished praise on his character and commitment to conservative ideas that were entirely absent from his main address to the convention. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a rote statement that said electing Trump would be good because it would let senate Republicans govern. Even loopier speeches from elected officials like Christie or Florida Gov. Rick Scott didn’t dwell on making Mexico pay for a wall, banning Muslim immigration, opening up libel laws, abrogating NATO and NAFTA, or other signature Trump themes.

But these establishment speeches were, on their own terms, fairly bonkers.

Their slams on Clinton veered, repeatedly, into tinfoil hat territory. They were completely out of touch with the state of the economic recovery. They relied heavily on the idea that President Obama could defeat ISIS through rote incantation of magic words. And while they avoided most of Trump’s big crazy policy ideas, they did so mostly by avoiding speaking about any policy ideas at all.

And then there are the delegates themselves:

Rank and file activists reared on a generation’s worth of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News sat through a pathetic conclave in which governors and senators stooped to talk-radio antics in a desperate quest for applause, only to be trounced by Laura Ingraham – a real-deal talk radio host who, even more than Trump himself, perfectly captured the mood of a party that’s become completely indifferent to the work of governance.

Too much Roger Ailes will do that to you. Laura Ingraham subs for Bill O’Reilly when O’Reilly’s on vacation. The work of governance was never an issue there, and Heather Parton adds this:

It’s clear that the Trump phenomenon is not simply a matter of a charismatic con man dazzling a large number of Republicans into believing that he’s going to magically turn back the clock to a time that only existed in the imaginations of Hollywood screenwriters. It’s about the collapse of an ideological movement and a political party. The bottom has fallen out of an entire belief system. That’s where the darkness is coming from.

She takes the long view:

The last two decades have been disastrous for the conservative movement and not just because it “ran its course” or “matured.” The three pillars of conservatism, traditional values, free market economics and a strong national defense all failed and failed in rather spectacular fashion.

Social conservatism has been reduced from what was once a dominant political and cultural force to a rear guard action fighting to roll back abortion rights in the states and tilting at windmills to ban birth control. The gay rights movement has successfully left them reeling, so much so that even Donald Trump gave an awkward shout out to the LGBTQ community in his speech last night promising to protect them from Muslim terrorists. The culture warriors are still toiling away, particularly on their new “religious liberty” legal line of attack but the fact that the large evangelical base is ardent in their support for a New York libertine with children from three different wives has exposed their heretofore unseen flexible virtue. They will no longer be able to credibly attack the Democrats for their allegedly loose morals.

The failure of the conservative national security philosophy was laid bare by the Bush administration’s Iraq war debacle. The vast majority of the people in that hall in Cleveland undoubtedly cheered George Bush’s disastrous policies at the time assuming that all wars would be glorious antiseptic (for America) successes like the first Gulf War. Their Vietnam propaganda had led them to misunderstand the practical restraints that exist around US military power and they believed that the war machine in the hands of a Republican could only bring victory. They learned otherwise and today they are supporting a man whose national security policy is completely incoherent but who promises to make the world “respect” us again.

Finally the financial crisis exposed the risk inherent in free-market economics and the idea that all you have to do is keep interest rates low, cut taxes and let the brilliant masters of the universe do their magic. It turned out that without some restraints these financial geniuses could not help but turn into degenerate gamblers and the low tax dogma resulted in dangerous income inequality. The instability of the middle class and the stalling out of traditional social and economic mobility created the environment for a flim flam artist like Trump to exploit the resultant insecurity.

And that leaves only racism, nativism and xenophobia:

That’s what Trump is running on. And it’s also failing. As you can see by the words of Ana Navarro or Ted Cruz, John Kasich or Jeb Bush or the whole staff of National Review, the party is splitting over that issue as well. The conservative movement as we’ve known it is disintegrating.

It’s possible that Trump will win the election in November in which case we will all have bigger problems and the GOP will have already morphed into something very new and very scary. But assuming that he doesn’t pull it off, it’s going to be interesting to see how the remains of Reagan’s Republican Party deals with the smoldering remains of their party. At this point there are no leaders who are untainted by hypocrisy and past mistakes, no new ideas, no “young guns.” The dark, dystopian vision we saw this week in Cleveland is all they have left. For the conservative movement it’s midnight in America.

That’s what died in Cleveland. The Indians may win the World Series again one day. The Browns may win the Super Bowl one day. But the Republican Party went to Cleveland to die, and did.

In fact, they held a wake back in Washington:

A smaller, somber affair took place just blocks from the halls of power at Dubliner’s, an Irish pub and Capitol Hill mainstay.

Past politicos, many dressed in black, gathered for an “Irish wake.” They were there to mourn the death of the Republican Party.

A memorial wreath with “RIP GOP” written on it and a guestbook welcomed attendees.

A black-draped coffin at the back of the bar serves at the display for photographs of past presidents: Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Reagan. The Guinness on tap flows for those drowning their sorrows.

Andrew Weinstein, wake co-host and former spokesman for ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the 1996 Dole/Kemp presidential campaign, said the idea grew out of conversations with friends commiserating over the direction the GOP is taking with Donald Trump at the helm.

“There’s a consensus that this election cycle has brought an end for the Republican Party that we knew and worked for,” Weinstein said. “A lot of people who signed up for the party in the era of Reagan and Gingrich believe they can no longer move ahead.”

And so they have gathered tonight to mourn the “unnatural and premature passing of the Grand Old Party,” as described in the Facebook invite. Cause of death: the nomination of Donald J. Trump.

Cleveland is over, and so are they – and Roger Ailes is no longer around to spin that any other way.

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The One Man

It was a dark and stormy night, but Donald Trump had to do something to save the Republican National Convention. The first night there was Melania Trump giving a speech about how wonderful her husband was, much of which was lifted word-for-word from the 2008 convention speech Michelle Obama gave, about how wonderful her husband was. Oops. That’s all anyone talked about for two days, not about keeping America safe and how Trump was the man to do that, the stated theme of the evening. The second night, which was supposed to be about jobs and trade, about getting America back to work, somehow turned into an evening of Hillary bashing, an evening of the crowd chanting Lock Her Up! Some suggested she should just be taken out back and shot. The FBI is now chatting with those people, and again, the message was lost. The third evening was Mike Pence’s evening – Trump’s calm and sensible running mate would introduce himself to America, and he did, but no one noticed. Ted Cruz spoke and told the crowd to vote their conscience in November, if they still had one, and vote for anyone (except Hillary Clinton) other than the totally unknowing and incompetent Trump. Cruz was booed offstage, but the damage was done. Mike Pence was ignored. This wasn’t going well.

There was one night left to save the convention and Trump, all by himself, had to save it. He did, perhaps in the only way possible. As Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin report, he did that by going very dark:

Donald John Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday night with an unusually vehement appeal to Americans who feel that their country is spiraling out of control and yearn for a leader who will take aggressive, even extreme, actions to protect them.

Mr. Trump, 70, a New York real estate developer and reality television star who leveraged his fame and forceful persona to become the rare political outsider to lead the ticket of a major party, drew exuberant cheers from Republican convention delegates as he strode onto the stage of the Quicken Loans Arena and delivered a speech as fiery as his candidacy.

With dark imagery and an almost angry tone, Mr. Trump portrayed the United States as a diminished and even humiliated nation, and offered himself as an all-powerful savior who could resurrect the country’s standing in the eyes of both enemies and law-abiding Americans.

The world is falling apart, as everyone knows, and only one man, Donald Trump, can save us now, as everyone knows. That was it. That was all. The rest was supporting detail and theatrics:

“Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation,” an ominous-sounding Mr. Trump said, standing against a backdrop of American flags. “The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country.”

Mr. Trump nearly shouted the names of states where police officers had been killed recently, as the crowd erupted in applause, and returned repeatedly to the major theme of the speech: “Law and order,” he said four times, each time drawing out the syllables.

Only he can provide that, and all the other Republican stuff is bullshit:

Mr. Trump challenged Republican orthodoxy as he promised to end multilateral trade deals and limit American intervention in global crises. He denounced “15 years of wars in the Middle East” – a rebuke of his party’s last president, George W. Bush – and pledged to help union members, coal miners and other low-wage Americans who have historically supported Democrats.

“These are the forgotten men and women of our country,” said Mr. Trump, a billionaire with a mixed record of job creation and layoffs. “People who work hard but no longer have a voice – I am your voice.”

He even vowed “to do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.” As the audience applauded, Mr. Trump made a deviation from his prepared text, observing: “I have to say, that as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said.”

It was a bit of that Huey Long “every man a king” thing from long ago, and gay-friendly too! But still it was very dark:

Mr. Trump dwelled at length on illegal immigrants and lawless Americans, saying they are as dangerous for the nation’s security as the Islamic State and Syrian refugees. In doing so, Trump advisers said, he sought to win over undecided voters who are sickened by the recent violence against police officers and worried about safety yet are unsure if Mr. Trump has the temperament and abilities to be commander in chief.

“I have a message to every last person threatening the peace on our streets and the safety of our police: When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country.”

There will be no crime and violence in America starting the day he takes office – all gone – but it was more than that:

“It is time to show the whole world that America is back – bigger, and better and stronger than ever before,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump said Americans had “lived through one international humiliation after another” under President Obama: the Navy sailors “being forced to their knees” by Iranian captors in January; the destruction of the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya; and Mr. Obama’s decision not to defend his “red line” on Syria.

There’ll no more of that. We’ll be the ones doing the humiliation, sneering and rubbing it in. And don’t you, as an individual, feel humiliated all the time? We’ll fix that too. You won’t have to serve gay people at you restaurant, making Jesus hate you, or something. The details were unclear.

The party is still trying to deal with all that:

Many of the elected officials who spoke extolled a traditional conservative platform that bears little relation to the nationalist agenda on which Mr. Trump is basing his campaign.

For example, just hours before Mr. Pence, a committed internationalist, assured delegates and millions of voters that America would defend its allies, Mr. Trump gave an interview in which he balked at defending NATO countries, a policy that has been the cornerstone of the alliance for 70 years.

Even as Republicans prepared to leave Cleveland, they were still straining to come to terms with the views and personality of their newly minted nominee.

“I’m going to vote for Mike Pence,” said Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah, pausing for effect: “And Donald Trump comes along with the package.”

That hardly matters. The ticket will win. It’s a plan. E. J. Dionne calls it seeking victory by scaring the country to death:

Perhaps you thought, or hoped, that Donald Trump would use his acceptance speech to offer a softer tone, to sketch a more compassionate vision of the nation, or to reach out to skeptics and former opponents.

Trump chose a different path – or, more precisely, the same path he has taken from the outset of the campaign. Trump will be running as Trump, the candidate of the angriest wing of the Republican Party and the most disaffected members of the American electorate.

He will run as a hard man, a tough, nationalist authoritarian for whom order is paramount. And he will advance his case by offering a dismal and profoundly gloomy account of what he called “a moment of crisis for our nation.”

And he’ll do it his way:

He cherry-picked statistics to suggest that the nation is in the midst of a wave of criminality at a moment of historically low crime numbers. He manipulated the facts on immigration, suggesting huge flows of illegal entrants after a long period of low or even negative immigration. If reality does not conform to what Trump needs reality to be to support his case, he will invent a new reality.

As they say, whatever works, and this works:

His core strategy is rooted not only in exploiting the fears of Americans but in heightening them. He will repeat his calls for “law and order” again and again. A man who has spent his life among the country’s wealthiest and most influential people will make the “elites” his whipping boy. He will paint a dark picture of his foes as serving interests other than those of their fellow citizens: “Americanism not globalism will be our credo.”

And he will play racial politics by accusing President Obama, as he did Thursday, of using “the pulpit of the presidency to divide us by race and color” and making “America a more dangerous environment for everyone.”

We are thus about to have the ugliest and most divisive presidential campaign in our history. Trump is an effective demagogue. Republicans have allowed him to take over their party. It falls to the rest of the country to resist being seduced by anger, resentment and fear.

Andrew Sullivan, reading the advance-copy of the speech, says it’s a bit more than that:

It’s a remarkable piece of oratory, cannily crafted, framed by massive lies and distortions, crammed with incoherence, and yet, I’m afraid to say, scarily potent. It invents a reality that the U.S. is in a state of chaos, lawlessness and soaring crime, that the world is careening toward catastrophe – and then makes a classic argument for a strongman to set things straight.

This is a very new departure for politics in a liberal democracy. We’ve never heard an appeal from a major party platform to junk traditional democratic norms, and cede power to a new tyrant, whose magical powers will somehow cause almost every problem in the country to disappear. In this election, the very basis of liberal democracy is on the ballot. The fears I expressed last May about the popularity of tyranny in a late-democracy have, I’m afraid, only been fanned by events since.

The speech is entirely about fear, fear to be somehow vanquished by a single man’s will to power. Its core message is what America was founded to resist. Its success would be an abolition of the core promise of this country for two centuries that self-government is incompatible with the rule by the whims and prejudices and impulses of a man on a white horse.

It can happen here. It is happening here.

This may be hard to resist:

No one should under-estimate the power of fear. But surely this fear-mongering leaves an opening for Clinton. She can surely respond to Trump with FDR. We are, in fact, in a kind of 1930s moment. It is fear vs hope. Fear is winning. I wish I had more confidence in the Clintons to pull off the ethos of FDR. We simply have to hope they can.

But there are the basics:

We have to answer this core question: how is it that liberal democracy in America is now flirting with strongman, ethno-nationalist authoritarianism? What happened to the democratic center?

It seems to me that the right bears the hefty majority of responsibility, moving from principled opposition to outright nullification of a presidency, trashing every important neutral institution, and now bad-mouthing the country they hope to “govern.” But the left’s abandonment of empiricism and liberalism – its rapid descent into neo-Marxist dogma, its portrayal of American history as a long unending story of white supremacy, its coarse impugning of political compromise and incrementalism, its facile equation of disagreement with bigotry, has also played a part. Liberal democracy needs liberal norms and manners to survive, which is why it is now on life-support.

In between, moderate Christianity, once a unifying cultural fabric creating a fragile civil discourse, has evaporated into disparate spirituality on one side and fundamentalist dogma on the other, leaving us with little in the center to hold us morally together.

Sullivan sees little hope:

Why will the speech work? Because it manages to frame the narrative – using false or misleading data – by making this a change election. He somehow spins every disconcerting piece of news at home and abroad into a compelling social imaginary of chaos, decline and frustration. He blames Obama for everything bad and gives no credit for anything good. If you know nothing but feel insecure, the picture he paints will be electrifyingly persuasive.

On the other hand, if you have that nagging sense that you know nothing, and always feel insecure, you’re human. That’s life for most people, and that’s also a perfect set-up for someone like Trump:

The thing about strongmen is that they are prepared to tell lies democratic politicians shrink from; they show no respect for the constitutional order or for enduring institutions; they lie purely to advance the most hyperbolic version of the truth and then cast themselves as magical solution-artists. The speech is a master-class in channeling resentment and anxiety.

If you wonder what it was like in the 1930s for ordinary people to flock to demagogues…

America has thrown up an extremely talented one. I fear that Hillary Clinton has no idea what is about to hit her.

And this makes no sense:

After seven straight years of job growth, record stock prices, extraordinary technological innovation, and 4.9 percent unemployment, this is how Trump will describe the economy tonight: “our roads and bridges are falling apart, our airports are in Third World condition, and 43 million Americans are on food stamps.” This is summed up as “domestic disaster.”

I do not want to imply that I believe the economy is doing fine in terms of distribution. Globalization has hurt the working classes, while rewarding so many others, not least around the world. This real question needs a serious answer. But what Trump is offering is straight out of the worst part of the 1930s: protectionism, ethno-nationalism, scapegoating, and big (if chronically insolvent) government. What feasibly can be done to help? Whoever answers that question most persuasively will own the future of politics in this country. But if Clinton doesn’t have an honest answer, Trump will offer a fantasy one.

The Germans went for the fantasy answer in the thirties, didn’t they? Sullivan will mention no names, but one of his readers does try to calm him down:

Please, be patient and have a little more respect for American voters. We love entertainment. But please remember that, when we last confronted the choices in front of us, we voted (again) for a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama.

Another writes this:

I think you are a tad overestimating the power of, “Oh my God, everything’s a disaster! And I, alone, will fix everything!” There is a portion of the American electorate ripe for that but I think it’s smaller than your fear. President Obama’s approval rating today was 53%.


Yes, the disconnect between this president’s approval rating and the allegedly disastrous state of the US right now is striking, isn’t it? Each of these narratives speaks to a constituency – but Obama’s is surely larger.

Then again, Obama is not up for re-election, is he?

So Sullivan worries:

Have you noticed how Trump thinks all these deep problems can be solved quickly? Always fast. Always obvious. As if everyone else in government in both parties is either stupid or malevolent. …

Shorter Trump: “Everything is terrible. I alone can solve. Just don’t ask me how.”

But then he watched the speech:

I have to say I’m relieved. This was a terrible presentation of what read like a powerful speech. It seems screechy, unmodulated, and yet also plodding. Mussolini never had a Teleprompter.

Ezra Klein has a different take, saying that Donald Trump’s nomination is the first time American politics has left me truly afraid:

Donald Trump is not a man who should be president. This is not an ideological judgment. This is not something I would say about Mitt Romney or Marco Rubio. This is not a disagreement over Donald Trump’s tax plan or his climate policies. This is about Trump’s character, his temperament, his impulsiveness, his basic decency.

Back in February, I wrote that Trump is the most dangerous major candidate for president in memory. He pairs terrible ideas with an alarming temperament; he’s a racist, a sexist, and a demagogue, but he’s also a narcissist, a bully, and a dilettante. He lies so constantly and so fluently that it’s hard to know if he even realizes he’s lying. He delights in schoolyard taunts and luxuriates in backlash.

He has had plenty of time to prove me, and everyone else, wrong. But he hasn’t. He has not become more responsible or more sober, more decent or more generous, more considered or more informed, more careful or more kind. He has continued to retweet white supremacists, make racist comments, pick unnecessary fights, contradict himself on the stump, and show an almost gleeful disinterest in building a real campaign or learning about policy.

Then there are the specifics:

Trump is vindictive. So far, the unifying theme of Trump’s convention is that the leader of the opposition party should be thrown in jail. Trump didn’t like the Washington Post’s coverage of his campaign, so he barred its reporters from his rallies and threatened to use the power of the presidency to bring an antitrust suit against the Post’s owner, Jeff Bezos.

He was upset that Ohio didn’t vote for him, so he sat its delegation in the cheap seats, even though the state is hosting the convention. He was angry about an interview his ex-ghostwriter gave to the New Yorker, so he sent his lawyers after him. He hates the protesters who interrupt his campaigns, so he said he would look into paying the legal fees of a supporter who sucker-punched one of them.

Imagine Donald Trump with the powers of the presidency. Imagine what he could do – what he would do – to those who crossed him.

Now add this:

Trump is a bigot. Donald Trump kicked off his campaign calling Mexican immigrants murderers and rapists. He responded to Ted Cruz’s surge in Iowa by calling for a ban on Muslim travel. He sought to discredit a US-born judge by saying his rulings were suspect because of his “Mexican heritage.” Trump’s campaign is certainly the first time in my memory that a sitting speaker of the House has had to describe something his party’s nominee said as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

This is not a man who should be put in charge of an increasingly diverse country that needs to find allies in an increasingly diverse world.

Then add this:

Trump is a sexist. Stories of Trump’s casual sexism abound, but during the campaign, it was women who questioned him who felt the full force of his misogyny. The first Republican debate, for instance, was hosted by Fox News and moderated by Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace. Kelly wasn’t obviously tougher on Trump than her colleagues, but she was the antagonist he focused on, retweeting a follower who said she was “a bimbo” and saying she had “blood coming out of her … wherever.”

After Carly Fiorina challenged him in a debate, Trump said to Rolling Stone, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?” After Hillary Clinton needed to take a bathroom break during a debate, Trump told the crowd, “It’s too disgusting. Don’t say it, it’s disgusting.”

It’s not just during political campaigns that this side of Trump emerges. Trump once told his friend Philip Johnson that the secret to women was “you have to treat ’em like shit.”

The list goes on. Trump is a liar. Trump is a narcissist. But now this is immediately relevant:

Trump admires authoritarian dictators for their authoritarianism. When MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough asked Trump about his affection for Vladimir Putin, who “kills journalists, political opponents and invades countries,” Trump replied, “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.”

But it’s not just Putin. Trump has praised Saddam Hussein because “he killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights.” He said “you’ve got to give [Kim Jong Un] credit. He goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss. It’s incredible.” It’s not just that Trump admires these authoritarians; it’s that the thing he admires about them is their authoritarianism – their ability to dispense with niceties like a free press, due process, and political opposition.

That’s what this speech was about. But there’s more:

Trump has proven too lazy to learn about policy. Trump didn’t know much about policy when the campaign started, and as far as anyone can tell, he hasn’t made any obvious effort to rectify that.

The latest and most damaging example is his interview with the New York Times, in which he said he would not automatically defend NATO countries against attack from Russia. It’s not obvious Trump meant to say that, or even knew what saying that meant, as [Campaign Director Paul] Manafort immediately began denying Trump had ever said it. (The Times subsequently released a transcript showing that, yes, Trump had said it.)

But this is a pattern for Trump, who doesn’t bother to come up with convincing answers even to obvious questions, and definitely has not put in the time to develop a deep understanding of the issues he might face as president. As Matt Yglesias wrote, this is very much a choice Trump has made. “Trump is now the GOP nominee, and there are hundreds of professional Republican Party politicians and operatives around the country who would gladly help him become a sharper, better-informed candidate. It doesn’t happen because he can’t be bothered.”

And then there’s this:

Trump is a bully. Trump won the Republican nomination by proving that even adults can be bullied with schoolyard taunts. There was “low-energy Jeb,” and “Little Marco,” and “Lyin’ Ted,” and now we’ve got “Crooked Hillary.” Trump made fun of Rand Paul’s looks and Chris Christie’s weight and Carly Fiorina’s face and a New York Times reporter’s physical disability.

It seems like this shouldn’t have to be said, but it’s better to be kind than cruel, and there’s a deep, instinctual cruelty in Trump – he finds people’s weak spots, their insecurities, and he exposes them in front of crowds.

And this:

Trump has regularly incited or justified violence among his supporters. At a rally in St. Louis, Donald Trump lamented that “nobody wants to hurt each other anymore.”

Yes, lamented.

The topic was protesters, and Trump’s frustration was clear. “They’re being politically correct the way they take them out,” he sighed. “Protesters, they realize there are no consequences to protesting anymore. There used to be consequences. There are none anymore.”

It is the thirties again, and Klein doesn’t want it to be:

The simple fact of it is that Donald Trump should not be president of the United States. That is not because he is too conservative, as some Democrats would have it, or because he is not conservative enough, as many Republicans would have it. It’s because the presidency is a powerful job where mistakes can kill millions, and whoever holds it needs to take that power seriously and wield it responsibly. Trump has had ample opportunity to demonstrate his sense of seriousness and responsibility. He has failed.

It is said that the benefit of America’s long presidential campaigns is they offer the candidates time to show us who they really are. Trump has shown us who he really is. He is a person who should not be president. That he is being brought this close to the presidency – that he is one major mistake by Hillary Clinton away from winning it – should scare us all. It certainly scares me.

Well, Donald Trump did want to scare the crap out of America, so America would take a chance and vote for him as the one man, the only man, who could make all their fears disappear in a day or two, next January. And now he has scared the crap out of America, but perhaps not in the way he intended. He is that one man on a dark and stormy night. Don’t let him in.

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The Cruz Missile

Well, that was interesting. How many times can you say that? The announced theme of the first night of the Republican (Trump) National Convention was Make America Safe Again, but that will be no more than a bit of political trivia one day. No one will remember anything from that first night other than Melania Trump giving a speech about how wonderful her husband was, much of which was lifted word-for-word from the 2008 convention speech Michelle Obama gave, about how wonderful her husband was. That was interesting, and that led to two days of the Trump people saying this wasn’t plagiarism at all – just Hillary Clinton out to destroy a rival strong woman, as she always does, even if Hillary Clinton wisely said no word about Melania Trump’s speech. She didn’t have to. Everyone saw the side-by-side texts and heard the side-by-side clips. Everyone was laughing. Then, after two days – Monday evening to Wednesday afternoon – a Trump staffer finally admitted it was her fault. She rewrote the speech. She did the plagiarizing, and she was really sorry, and she had offered to resign, but Donald Trump would’t hear of it. He then gleefully tweeted out that all publicity is good publicity (“all press is good press”) and that was that. That also ate up two days of news cycles. Make America Safe Again? What?

The announced theme for the second night was Make America Work Again – but there was no talk of the jobs and the economy. After Rudy Giuliani foamed at the mouth for a bit – it seems we’re all going to die if America elects Hillary – Chris Christie launched into his call-and-response indictment of everything Hilary Clinton had ever done wrong. With each item he’d asked if she was guilty. They’d shout out GUILTY! The crowd would then chant LOCK HER UP! This went on for what seemed like an hour, getting more intense with each call and response. Christie really had them whipped up.

Nicholas Kristof has a bit of a problem with that:

There has been lots of venom here at the Republican National Convention, and today it came down to this: A Trump delegate and adviser publicly urged that Hillary Clinton should be put in front of a firing squad and executed for treason.

Al Baldasaro, a Republican state representative from New Hampshire who spoke up as a veteran for Trump earlier in the campaign, suggested that Clinton should be shot for telling lies about Benghazi and mishandling emails.

That was interesting, but Kristof has spent decades as a foreign correspondent and knows that one thing does lead to another:

In democracies, it’s natural to denounce opponents. But it’s in tin-pot dictatorships that opponents are locked up. When you’ve covered autocracies in countries where politicians are actually locked up after losing power struggles, you really don’t aspire for that in your own country.

This trend toward demonizing the opposition reached its apotheosis with Carson tying Clinton to the devil and Baldasaro saying that she should be executed.

“I’m a veteran that went to Desert Shield, Desert Storm,” he said on The Kuhner Report, a talk radio show based in Boston. “I’m also a father who sent a son to war, to Iraq, as a Marine Corps helicopter avionics technician. Hillary Clinton to me is the Jane Fonda of the Vietnam. She is a disgrace for the lies that she told those mothers about their children that got killed over there in Benghazi. She dropped the ball on over 400 emails requesting back up security. Something’s wrong there.”

“This whole thing disgusts me,” he said. “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”

Baldasaro later stood by his remarks when journalists reached out to him. On Twitter, he wrote, “As an American, I believe in the Constitution, freedom of speech and the rule of law: No one is above the law, not even Clinton.”

And thus she should die, or maybe not:

The Secret Service said it was investigating the comments, and the Trump campaign disavowed them, if not the man who made them. Hope Hicks, the Trump campaign’s spokeswoman, told NH1 News in New Hampshire that Baldasaro “doesn’t speak for the campaign,” and then added, “We’re incredibly grateful for his support, but we don’t agree with his comments.”

When a presidential campaign has to clarify that it does not favor executing its opponent, maybe that reflects a larger problem.

Perhaps it does. As for good jobs for everyone and a red-hot economy… well, it seems that discussion of that will have to wait.

That was two lost nights, where the announced theme magically disappeared. Perhaps Trump isn’t a masterful manager of everything – but that couldn’t happen three nights in a row. The third night was Mike Pence’s night. Trump’s running mate would introduce himself to America – a calm and pleasant and level-headed person to balance out the ticket. What could go wrong?

That’s where things got interesting again. Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin report on the unexpected Cruz missile:

Republican leaders tried to pivot to the general election on Wednesday night but instead watched their convention erupt into a bitter replay of the presidential nomination fight as Senator Ted Cruz pointedly refused to endorse his former rival, Donald J. Trump, and was shouted down by furious delegates.

In the most electric moment of the convention, a growing chorus of delegates chanted “Vote for Trump!” and “Keep Your Pledge” as Mr. Cruz neared the end of his 20-minute speech and it became clear that he was going to snub Mr. Trump.

“I appreciate the enthusiasm of the New York delegation,” Mr. Cruz said dryly about Mr. Trump’s home-state supporters – only to have Mr. Trump himself, stone-faced and clearly angry, appear suddenly in the convention hall and flash a thumbs-up at the delegates.

As they say, oh shit, and then it got really interesting:

Mr. Cruz was all but drowned out as he asked for God’s blessing on the country and left the stage, while security personnel escorted his wife, Heidi, out of the hall. One delegate yelled “Goldman Sachs!” at her – a reference to the company that has employed her, a job that Mr. Trump attacked during the primaries.

And it started out so well:

Mr. Cruz, who initially received an extended standing ovation from the delegates, took shots at Mrs. Clinton and highlighted conservative policy goals…

“Hillary Clinton believes government should make virtually every choice in your life,” Mr. Cruz said. “Education, health care, marriage, speech – all dictated out of Washington.”

That’s red meat to these folks, and may get Cruz the nomination the next time around, and others had the same idea:

Another onetime rival of Mr. Trump, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, also sounded like a future candidate as he highlighted his record in his home state and went after Mrs. Clinton with more gusto, focusing minimally on Mr. Trump.

“Hillary Clinton is the ultimate liberal Washington insider,” Mr. Walker said. “If she were any more on the inside, she’d be in prison” – a line met with resounding cheers and a chant popular with the delegates this week, “Lock her up!”

Yeah, but there was the other guy – Mike Pence was forgotten even if that wasn’t the plan:

Mr. Trump, in an effort to seize command of the convention, tried to create a presidential tableau as he arrived in Cleveland on Wednesday.

After his Trump-branded jet landed midafternoon, Mr. Trump flew in a Trump helicopter to a grassy patch near the convention arena – a theatrical projection of high status captured by cable news cameras. Then, to the theme music from “Air Force One” – a film about a gutsy president who kills a terrorist with his bare hands – Mr. Trump alighted from the chopper to give Mr. Pence a handshake and kissed his daughters.

And then Ted Cruz ruined everything. Frank Bruni explains that this way:

Cruz used a prime-time speech on Wednesday night not to endorse Trump or to say anything positive about him but to play a mischievous, misanthropic game of subverted expectations.

And it was clearly a game to Cruz, who constructed his remarks in a manner designed to leave the audience guessing for as long as possible about whether he’d ever work his way around to even the tiniest, most tentative pitch for the party’s nominee.

There was a flickering promise of it at the start. “I congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination last night,” Cruz said. “And like each of you, I want to see the principles that our party believes prevail in November.”

But while he detailed those principles, he never did connect them to Trump. “Congratulate” was the sum of his good will – and the end of it. It didn’t foretell anything more specific. It didn’t build to anything grander.

When Trump supporters finally realized that it wouldn’t and that Cruz was just running out the clock, they booed him, loudly enough to drown out some of his final sentences. It was stunning to behold.

And it wasn’t the last surprise. Just then, Trump decided to make his entrance into the arena, pulling the attention – and the cameras – away from Cruz. The boos turned into applause. The cameras didn’t even bother with Cruz’s exit from the stage.

But Cruz had made his point and done his damage, providing the latest (and most vivid) illustration of how little control Trump has been able to exert over his own coronation, how much rancor he has failed to exorcise, how few bridges he has succeeded in repairing, how far short he has fallen in making these four days in Cleveland as dazzling and exciting as he’d long promised they would be.

In this case, Trump ran into an ego almost as big as his:

Cruz had been invited to speak because, well, he had to be, given how much support and how many delegates he’d amassed during the Republican primaries. He’d earned the right, and there were people in the arena eager to hear from him.

But he had no obligation to accept that invitation, not to a convention that was being skipped by so many of Trump’s other vanquished rivals, including John Kasich, the Ohio governor, whose own state was playing host to the event.

By saying yes, Cruz was suggesting that he’d play nice and play along, or at least that’s what he should have been telegraphing. If his convictions precluded such obedience, he could have stayed home. He could have stayed mum. That would have spoken plenty loudly.

But Cruz isn’t much for mum. It violates his very nature to resist an audience of millions of television viewers and the chance to make an elaborate show of principle, even if it’s a much greater exhibit of self-regard.

And thus we got what we got:

Bygones were not bygones. He didn’t update his onetime description of Trump as “utterly amoral” with anything newer and gentler. He talked of himself, of America and of Election Day, saying: “We deserve leaders who stand for principle, unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love.”

He clearly wasn’t evoking Trump, and he seemed not to realize that he was listing virtues that he was ignoring at the very moment, with those very words.

“Please,” he said, “don’t stay home in November. Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience.” It was then that his smile was naughtiest, because he’d put “your conscience” where he could so easily have tucked “for Trump.”

“Vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution,” he continued. Candidates plural. Not the singular candidate whom the evening was supposed to exalt.

Pence didn’t stand a chance:

Later, Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, made his big convention speech, but it was doomed before it started, because there was no way it could garner the attention that Cruz’s did. Cruz had to know that. It didn’t throw him off his revenge, and it threw this mess of a convention ever further off the rails.

Trump does have trouble putting on a show, but Josh Marshall argues it’s more than that:

As you know, I believe in my heart that Ted Cruz is an odious weasel. I base this on observing him for years now and on the accounts and traumas of many close friends who’ve known him for far longer. But that was a singular moment. Convention managers don’t let unexpected things happen. If Ted Cruz had simply not mentioned Trump, it would have been a mild deal but not a huge thing. He did much more than that. He affirmatively not only refused to endorse Trump but exhorted fellow Republicans not to vote for Trump. Yes, he used the coded phrasing “vote your conscience.” But in context that meant with crystal clarity: Your Republican identity in no way obligates you to vote for Donald Trump. Rather ‘vote your conscience’ and do not vote for Donald Trump. Because a conservative true to his conscience cannot do so.

The first thing to say about this is that there is simply no way Trump’s and Priebus’s convention managers okayed that speech. No way. The fact that they allowed him on stage to give that speech will go down as one of the greatest organizational pratfalls in convention history. Whether Cruz got them to agree not to review the speech or whether he substituted another speech, I don’t know. But something very wrong went down there.

The second goes to the heart of Trump’s campaign. As I’ve noted on so many fronts over recent months, Trump’s brand is dominance. Trump acts; others comply. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t matter. That’s the story he’s sold his supporters. It’s the essence of his political message. Trump dominates; his enemies are humiliated. Even ‘friends’ like Christie and Pence are relegated to a golden cage of perpetual dignity loss.

That’s what makes this interesting:

In this interaction, Cruz came into Trump’s house, Trump’s party and humiliated him. There’s no other way to put it. The crowd booed; Trump literally came out into the hall to pull the cameras off Cruz and according to reporters on the scene security escorted Cruz’s wife out of the hall for her own safety.

Cruz just made himself dead to the institutional Republican Party for the next four months. But he imbued himself with an image of courage, valor and general badassery for basically every Republican opposing Trump from the ideological right.

Cruz somehow managed to get on that stage without giving a promise or simply broke his promise. But the upshot is that he came into Trump’s house and stomped him hard. That is not how it’s supposed to work on Trump’s turf. But Cruz just turned the tables on him.

The rest was just awkward:

After a non-endorsement from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) drew persistent boos Wednesday night from an irritable Republican National Committee crowd, Newt Gingrich made an off-the-cuff effort to get the evening back on track.

Cruz inflamed attendees by not explicitly endorsing his former 2016 rival. Even though Gingrich took the stage amid residual boos, the former House speaker praised all the ex-2016 contenders for their role in the convention.

“With no requirement for endorsement, [Trump] encouraged his competitors to speak once again,” he said. “Gov. Rick Perry, Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Scott Walker, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz have all responded to Donald comes generosity.”

Gingrich continued: “So, to paraphrase Ted Cruz, if you want to protect the Constitution of the United States, the only possible candidate this fall is the Trump-Pence Republican ticket.”

That was an ad-lib:

None of those statements were included in Gingrich’s prepared remarks supplied to reporters by the convention committee, giving the appearance that they were added last-minute as a response to Cruz.

The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza captured a shot of Gingrich’s TelePrompTer which suggested the former lawmaker was expecting Cruz to more forcefully back Trump.

“Senator Ted Cruz in particular made the key point that we need to elect the Trump-Pence Republican ticket,” the monitor read.

Well, he couldn’t read that line now, and there was this:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) slammed Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as “self-absorbed” after Cruz did not explicitly endorse Donald Trump in his speech to the Republican convention Wednesday.

“The question was whether Cruz would make his speech about HIS future or the future of the country,” Huckabee said in a Facebook post. “That question was answered when Ted Cruz chose to not keep his word that he (along with me and every other GOP candidate) gave one year ago in that very arena where tonight he put his own ambitions above country.”

Huckabee did his best:

“Trump trusted Ted and was rewarded with a betrayal, but the delegates in that arena booed Cruz off the stage and out of Cleveland,” Huckabee said. “When a person is treated with generosity to give a speech, he should either respond with respect or graciously decline. And when a person loses, he should accept the will of the voters and then offer support to the victor of the primary to defeat the anti-gun, pro-abortion, incompetent, dishonest, and dishonorable nominee of the Democrat party.”

“I didn’t see a statesman step forth for the country’s future,” he concluded. “I saw a self-absorbed politician grab the microphone and try to line up his own future. Ted walked in tall and walked out small.”

That’s a matter of opinion, and Andrew Sullivan dryly adds this:

What interested me about Pence’s speech is what he did not say: no mention of the mass deportation of 11 million people; no mention of the ban on Muslim immigration; no mention of Trump’s belief in the obsolescence of NATO or his support for Vladimir Putin; no mention of a new protectionism. No mention of any of the core policy proposals, in other words, that won Trump the nomination.

A serviceable speech; but not a great one – and everything overshadowed by the Cruz moment.

One of Sullivan’s readers gets to the heart of the matter

You know, everyone hates Ted Cruz. Everyone who comes into contact with him talks about what a miserable SOB he is. But that speech was BRILLIANT. I’m a Democrat but I can admit that he played that beautifully. We will all be talking about that third degree burn he laid on the Trump campaign in the news cycle tomorrow. Cruz knew that. Trump knows that. Checkmate, motherfucker.

Sullivan adds this:

I have to say that, despite Cruz’s shrillness, I find his disquisition on freedom to be reassuring. It feels like the old GOP, not the authoritarian creeps who have now taken over. Yes, Trump can make you miss Cruz.

Yeah, but a tweet from The Onion references the original plan for these three evenings – “Trump Threatens To Keep Trotting Out Children Until Country Agrees To Unite Behind Him” – as two more of his kids spoke, as if anyone will remember that now.

The queen of conservative talk radio, Laura Ingraham, also spoke, and Sullivan summarizes – “Ingraham calls Cruz and Rubio ‘boys’ with ‘wounded feelings.’ She demands their endorsement of Trump. Will they be paraded in front of the mob and forced to bow the knee? This is rhetorical intimidation.”

There is that, but if everyone somehow forgets Cruz, there’s now an iconic photo of her giving the Nazi salute to Trump’s face on a giant video screen – which is also interesting. That’s going to make the rounds.

Something is going on here. Make America Safe Again? Make America Work Again? Meet Mike Pence? Can we stay on message here, folks? It seems that Donald Trump and his family and small inner circle cannot, and they really should have seen that Cruz missile coming. By the way, a president should see the missiles coming. Case closed.

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