A tale of two conventions

I watched (almost) all of the GOP convention the last few days and can honestly say: I am unimpressed with the Trump organization’s ability to manage a convention, its message or its speaker lineup. The convention was an opportunity lost for Trump.

I didn’t comment during the convention because every convention (and I’ve attended four and worked a few so I’ve seen the sausage being made) has a bad night here and there.

The convention had two story lines to me: The reality of who Donald Trump presents himself to be and the fantasy of the Trump other speakers described.

Speakers, including his children, describe a tolerant man, a man who has always supported and promoted women in his organization, an unprejudiced man, a man of fairness and reason. Trump presents himself as a bigoted fascist who could start World War III and be proud of it.

Trump had four straight bad nights. It will be interesting to see polls post-convention to see if the convention won anyone over. I doubt it. And conventions are where candidates have their biggest stage, maybe even more so than the presidential debates because it is their coming-out party when all voters, not just your base, begin to pay attention.

The speakers weren’t on any message in particular. The themes for each night did not match the speeches each night. The “stars” were Class C stars, celebrities and athletes and many seemed to have a financial connection to Trump, either as employees or past employees or businessmen he does business with or participants in “The Apprentice.”

The “business” speakers he promised talked like businessmen. That Tom Barrack guy who didn’t apparently use notes and walked the stage like Phil Donahue, obviously is used to being what he is — a billionaire who, when he speaks to his employees, need not worry much about what he says, because they hang on every word. I didn’t. I found him quite full of himself. (I’ve met a billionaire or two in my life and can say that not all billionaires are so narcissistic as Barrack or Trump.)

The speaking lineup (prime time and non-) was dominated by his employees and children and a friend or three. Not exactly objective folks — not that I’d expect truly objective people speaking at a convention but really — employees? The video on Trump was pretty much only employees, and children. Megalomania anyone?

It felt like more elected officials stayed away than attended. And two of his former opponents who spoke, well, Marco Rubio wouldn’t deign to be in the hall and Ted Cruz did everything but tell folks not to vote for the nominee (I’m not a Cruz fan but I do give him credit for it, as driven as I think it was as much by political positioning as true anger.) Trump though trumped Cruz by walking into the convention hall as Cruz was ending his speech. Classy (not). And, personally, I thought Marco got even littler in his comments.

Gov. John Kasich wouldn’t make an appearance at the convention despite it being held in his state, something I’m sure he lobbied for when the site was chosen (way pre-Trump). Good for him. And classy of the Bushes, in my opinion, to stay away and not comment much at all. That, Mr. Trump, is class — not walking in as a guy you invited to speak was ending his remarks. You knew Cruz would be criticized for saying what he did — you don’t have to be leading that criticism. You don’t always have to be the center of attention. Oh, wait….yes you do.

The controversy over Mrs. Trump’s opening night speech, partly plagiarized from Mrs. Obama’s remarks a couple elections ago, faded over the convention’s life but only because bigger issues arose over the convention’s management.

In a way, it’s hard to mismanage a Republican convention because there are men and women who appear basically every four years to manage the logistics. It’s almost like they manage a convention and then go into hibernation until the next one. They manage the media, they vet speeches, they set up the hall and other rooms, they keep the program on schedule — these are the convention pros, both parties have them. These are solid Republicans who are excellent and experienced at what they do. I know several who worked this convention again, and they don’t allow the kinds of mistakes that were made which leads me to the conclusion that Trump micromanaged the convention leading to the muck ups.

I’m guessing a “strong” endorsement in this year’s convention was defined by whoever yelled the loudest. By that measure, Scott Walker and Rudy Giuliani were the strongest endorsers. Why you want to shout when you know you’re on television and shouting on TV looks makes you look and sound bad, I have no idea. But that’s what they did.

Trump’s children clearly come across more polished than their dad. Still they were stronger on adjectives than anecdotes just as their dad is stronger on slogans than policies.

Ivanka Trump is clearly a very sophisticated, savvy woman and likely a good candidate for something someday, if she ever wanted to pursue such an adventure, though I’m not sure why she’d want to. Still, her remarks were excellent — but I can’t see where they described the Donald Trump we’ve all seen.

She did tell anecdotes about her dad. But, if it’s true that he brought in folks who he read about in the paper were having a rough time and got them jobs, where were they this week? I have to believe Trump would have called upon them to come and give witness to his altruistic side. But I didn’t see any of those folks appear during the convention or during his primary campaign.

So, Ivanka did a good sales job, but her description of her dad not only doesn’t match the man we’ve seen the past 13 months, it didn’t match the person who gave his acceptance speech right after she introduced him. About that: I lasted a half hour. I fell asleep during his speech though I have read a transcript. No surprises in it, nor did I expect any.

So summary of the convention: I didn’t run a timer but I’m guessing if you add up all the time for his children and his wife giving speeches, his appearances at the convention each night, including his WWE styled entrance (Vince McMahon of WWE fame is one of Trump’s best friends), and Trump’s way-too-long acceptance speech, the family clearly dominated the 10 o’clock hour when the networks were covering the convention live.

Mike Pence gave a workmanlike speech but no one is paying attention to it and, again, the Trump he described — a man he’s has spent maybe eight hours with in his life, and I may be adding four hours to the real time — is not the Trump any of us have seen.

I have to admit, watching the roll call vote to officially nominate Trump, I shed a tear or two thinking that past roll calls nominated people like Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole. It was very sad to watch a reality con man win the party’s nomination.

I hope and assume Mrs. Clinton can manage a better, classier convention that doesn’t call for hanging her opponent, locking him up and accusing him of treason. If she runs a classy convention, I have to believe she wins the Battle of the Conventions.

Next big buildup will be for the presidential debates, and I’m guessing that at some point Trump will threaten not to attend at least one — and maybe won’t attend one at all. That is the disdain with which I believe he holds the American public. Same as not releasing his tax returns which would go a long way to telling us if he’s being truthful about his income, net worth and charitable giving.

And the carnival continues.

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Former deputy White House press secretary (Reagan and Bush 41) and former head of communications at Republican Natl Committee. My blog: bjaycooper.com.

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