Sam Smith – For most of the media the major development of the first night of the GOP convention was the plagiarism of Melania Trump. For me, who covered a convention for his college radio station sixty years ago, it was of the most appalling national events I had ever observed. For all her faults, Mrs. Trump at least mentioned a few conventional political matters like children and education. For the rest of the evening America was redefined as a country under attack with the resolution only to be found in more oppressive military and police action.
I had already been startled that both the Democratic and Republican nominees in waiting were vetting little known high ranking military officials as potential vice presidents, as though the art of invasion, bombing and killing masses of people were the primary skills needed for the White House. Nothing like this had happened before – a bipartisan assumption that war was one of our primary role model.
But now a whole evening was filled with former and present military and police figures spreading paranoia. And all the media could worry about was some plagiarism.
I was reminded of what a German professor had said about the coming of fascism:
To live in the process is absolutely not to notice it — please try to believe me — unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted.’ … Believe me this is true. Each act, each occasion is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow. … Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we did nothing) . . . You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.
Among the media, Politico was a rare exception that caught the tone:
Donald Trump’s supporters painted a dark and dystopian portrait of an America in decline on Monday, as a parade of people spoke about a country slipping from their grasp, cops getting gunned down in the streets, and their family members slain by illegal immigrants…
On stage, there was a red-meat buffet of raw emotion for an angry Republican electorate, with little talk of ideology or policy. Indeed, there were more mentions of fallen American soldiers than of conservatism.
But there were even fewer signs of outreach across the aisle or to independents. For most of the night, the convention lineup felt and sounded more like a tea party rally on the statehouse steps — with little-known speakers delivering hard-line speeches — than a traditional national convention.
The Trump campaign’s stated theme for the evening was to “make America safe again,” and they sold Trump as a rescuer of the nation by focusing almost exclusively on the current, imperiled state of affairs.
It began with a pastor who declared God a conservative supporting Trump:
Father God, in the name of Jesus, Lord we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him, the you are giving him the words to unite this party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united. Because we are the United States of America, and we are the conservative party under God.
To defeat every attack that comes against us, to protect the life of Donald Trump, give him the words, give him the space, give him the power and the authority to be the next President of the United States of America, in Jesus’ name.
The assumption of some speakers was that America was dealing with an invasion, albeit uncertain whether the attackers were Muslims or Democrats. Giuliani, for example, said “our enemies see us as weak and vulnerable” and plan to “come here and kill us.” Most stunningly, he added, “There’s no next election. This is it.”
The same Giuliani in an earlier Manhattan talk had also said, “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America… He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”
The convention’s theme that the military and the police represented the best of American values happily ignored a few facts offered by ABC News in 2011:
According to his Selective Service records, first obtained by the website The Smoking Gun through a Freedom of Information Act request, Trump received four student deferments between 1964 and 1968 while in college and an additional medical deferment after graduating.
Trump received his first two student deferments while enrolled at Fordham University in New York City in June 1964 and December 1965. He transferred to Wharton as a sophomore that year and received another two 2-S deferments in December 1966 and January 1968 during his last year of college.
He was classified “available for service” (class 1-A) in November 1966, but just three weeks later in December 1966 he was given a new student deferment.
Upon graduation Trump, the son of a wealthy New York City real estate developer, was no longer eligible for student deferments.
In October 1968, he was declared medically unfit to serve except “in time of national emergency,” even though he had been declared fit to serve in 1966.
In 1972, Trump was ultimately declared ineligible for service and given a final 4-F deferment.
The documents do not specify the reasons Trump was given a medical deferment.
The discovery of the records come in the same week President Obama released his long form birth certificate proving that he was born in Hawaii in 1964. Trump, 64, a billionaire businessman turned reality star, has tested the waters for a possible presidential run in recent weeks, demanding that Obama release his own records.
Trump has made it clear that those views outside his own – from the public’s to provisions of the Constitution – are subject to his own opinion which, as he has repeatedly indicated, is better than anyone else’s. And as he has demonstrated in hundreds of legal conflicts,, the rule of law is for him just another thing a smart businessman learns how to manipulate.
Because of his megalomania there is no need to discuss ideology. His ideology is whatever Trump thinks on a particular day. Thus, should his coup be successful, the model will not be European fascism but Latin America dictatorships, in which personality triumphed over philosophy. As I was viewing Mrs. Trump speak I even wondered whether I was watching the next Eva Peron.
Bu however it works out, nothing like this has happened in American politics before.
It is entirely possible that a Trump win will crash the American republic or even engaged it in a disastrous nuclear war. Or perhaps it will just make a nasty mess of most of our lives. But in any case, to deny the danger is, as the Geman professor put it, is to compromised beyond repair.