Photo via Erik Drost/Flickr (CC-BY)
It’s been a long week in Cleveland, but the end is finally near. Donald Trump will accept the Republican Party’s nomination in Cleveland tonight and then launch a three-month general election campaign alongside the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Then, in four short days, the Democratic Party will begin its nominating convention in the city of brotherly love. Celebrities and prominent party members will convene in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center, where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to accept her party’s nomination for president. The convention will kick off with speeches from First Lady Michelle Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
The question on everyone’s mind of course is who Clinton will name as her running mate. The D.C. rumor mill places Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez at the top of the list (sorry, Elizabeth Warren fans).
Before Trump’s big night, let’s recap the week’s events:
Setting the tone for what media critics quickly dubbed “Disastrous Day One,” a contingent of “Never Trump” Republicans tried and failed to free delegates from voting in accordance with the results the primary elections and caucuses held this spring. It appeared, at least initially, that the anti-Trump insurgents had collected enough signatures—they needed a majority of delegates from seven states—to demand a roll-call vote over the language decided by the RNC’s Rules Committee. But at the last minute, two delegations withdrew their petition, closing the curtain on the Never Trump movement once and for all.
“She deserves to be in stripes!”
The RNC broke precedent on Monday at the convention’s benediction. Pastor Mark Burns, a televangelist from South Carolina, delivered a prayer in which he labeled Hillary Clinton and all Democrats the “enemy.” Burns asked God to give Donald Trump the strength to unite the Republican Party, so he could “defeat the liberal Democratic Party.” It is atypical, to say the least, for a pastor to offer a partisan prayer at a national convention.
Patricia Smith, the mother of one of the four Americans who died during the 2012 Benghazi attack, took the stage Monday afternoon and delivered an emotional plea to imprison the presumptive Democratic nominee. “I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son,” she said. “Personally.” Smith’s son, Mark Smith, was a diplomat and IT consultant for the U.S. State Department, for which Clinton was secretary at the time. Smith concluded her speech with the words, “She deserves to be in stripes!”
For an unknown reason, the candidate phoned Fox News while Patricia Smith was still speaking. He used the opportunity to attack Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who refused to appear at the convention.
Stealing the news cycle, however, was an accusation of plagiarism against Donald Trump’s wife, Melania. The Slovenian-born former model, whose looks Trump used as a weapon against Sen. Ted Cruz’s wife in March, apparently cribbed several lines from a 2008 speech by Michelle Obama. Mrs. Trump initially told reporters that she had authored the speech herself, which would have been unusual.
The theme of day two at the RNC was “Make America Work Again.” Unfortunately, Melania Trump’s speech continued to dominate much of the news cycle. A Trump campaign spokesperson initially denied the lines were lifted from Obama’s speech, and then Paul Manafort, a top Trump aide, attempted to pin the blame on Hillary Clinton, claiming the former secretary of state and U.S. Senator from New York is intimidated by strong women. Mrs. Trump was strongly criticized online for her speech.
“We need someone who is proud of this country, who will fight for this country.”
Sharon Day, co-chair of the Republican National Committee, delivered her remarks on Tuesday. Day claimed Hillary Clinton had “viciously attacked the character of women who were sexually abused at the hands of [her] husband.”
Dana White, president of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), literally shouted his support for Trump while refraining from attacks on Clinton and the Democrats specifically. “We need someone who is proud of this country, who will fight for this country,” White said. “Let me tell you something: I have been in the fight business my whole life. I know fighters.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a fierce opponent of Trump during the primaries, promised the RNC crowd Hillary Clinton would deliver “more of the same,” in reference to the current White House administration. Hutchinson, who championed Medicaid expansion in his state, proceed to attack Clinton over her healthcare policies, surprising many viewers who’d watched conservatives rebuke him in the past for his Obama-like policies.
The most bizarre moment of the night came as Ben Carson, who once compared Trump to a child molester, attempted to paint Clinton as a Satanist. Carson conjured up the subject of Clinton’s undergraduate thesis, Saul Alinsky, who offered “measured praise” for the biblical Lucifer in the dedication page of a book titled Rules for Radicals. “Are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model someone who acknowledges Lucifer?” Carson asked, apparently going completely off script.
Carson defended his speech on CNN the following day, telling host Chris Cuomo: “She believed that at that time. And now you look at her actions. You look at what she advocates… those are pretty consistent, quite frankly.”
As the saga of Melania Trump’s plagiarized speech continued, the Trump campaign pivoted on Wednesday, admitting lines were, in fact, taken from Obama’s speech but blaming the oversight on a speechwriter named Meredith McIver. McIver apologized for not removing Obama’s words, which she said Mrs. Trump had read to her over the phone. McIver also said the campaign had denied her resignation. Trump, while admitting it would have been better to reveal that information a little sooner, shrugged off the whole affair.
In yet another strange twist, a New Hampshire state representative, who has in the past advised the Trump campaign on veterans affairs, called for the execution of Hillary Clinton during a right-wing radio interview—and again later during an interview with the Daily Beast. The Secret Service told the Daily Dot on Wednesday it would “conduct the appropriate investigation.”
“If you're going to a convention, you either support or don't go at all.”
The award for the most shocking RNC moment so far undoubtedly goes to Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who was booed off stage after declining to endorse his party’s chosen nominee. Perhaps unable to shake the memories of Trump attacking his wife on Twitter in March, Cruz told the crowd to “stand and speak and vote your conscience.” The raucous crowd turned on Cruz and began chanting Trump’s name in unison. Trump appeared in a hallway at the perimeter of the convention floor, drawing comparisons to his days as a WWE wrestling spectacle, before wading into the crowd and joining his family, who had allegedly joined the crowd in booing the U.S. senator from Texas.
Trump later tweeted that he had vetted Cruz’s speech and allowed him to take the stage anyway, adding on Thursday: “Other than a small group of people who have suffered massive and embarrassing losses, the party is VERY united. Great love in the arena!”
On Thursday morning, Trump’s eldest son, Eric Trump, said Cruz was “classless” for snubbing his father. “If you’re going to a convention, you either support or don’t go at all,” he said. The Trumps, as well as many prominent Republicans, chided Cruz for ignoring a pledge to support the nominee. Amid the Texas GOP delegation, Cruz defended his actions, saying he was “not in the habit of supporting people who have attacked my wife and attacked my father.” He also discouraged the delegates, many of whom cheered him at the breakfast, from supporting Hillary Clinton or writing in his name come November.
Thursday night, Trump is expected to deliver the final remarks of the convention. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, will take the stage before him. Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell, Jr. and billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel are also expected to speak. Finally, the closing benediction will be delivered by Roger W. Gries, an auxiliary bishop of the Catholic Church in Cleveland.