By Reed Galen
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Quote by a Smart Person: “I spend a lot of time balancing between faith and disbelief.” Taylor Swift
Calling Donald Trump’s campaign a dumpster fire is an insult to dumpster fires.
Day One of the Republican National Convention should have been the opportunity for Trump, really for the first time, to lay out his leadership vision for the United States in front on a national and international audience. Instead, the floor was awash in disagreement and dissent as the last gasps of the #NeverTrump movement mixed with the Ted Cruz 2020 folks and a smattering of others boiled over into a televised screaming match. In the process, it healthily fed the narrative that the GOP is tearing itself apart from the inside despite the fact that during the Rules Committee hearings the Never Trumpers had been thoroughly routed.
That Trump’s leadership team was unable to predict yesterday’s floor is yet another analog of the campaign’s large inability to run a campaign even the local dogcatcher could be proud of. I’ve worked on three national conventions (1992, 1996, and 2000) and nothing, NOTHING was left to chance during the planning of those conclaves. A cohort of advance people (myself included) spent three months in Philadelphia ahead of George W. Bush’s 2000 nominating convention just planning activities on the floor.
Nearly a dozen of us spent 90 days working on confetti, balloons and hand-painted signs. That didn’t include the dozens of other Bushies who were there working on the program, speeches, videos, platform, the whip team, etc… Day one of Trump’s convention felt like a collection of drunken monkeys got to town a couple of days ahead of time and started pushing all the big red buttons they could find.
I thought Melania Trump’s speech was fine and I thought she delivered it well given the size and scope of the endeavor. It wasn’t going to raise the roof like a Bill Clinton or Sarah Palin but she absolutely passed the test. When the news began rippling through social media that there was some strikingly similar language to that of First Lady Michelle Obama’s convention speech in 2008, I wasn’t surprised. The Trump campaign has been irresponsible, lazy and unwilling to accept that they have moved beyond the run and gun pace and excitement of the primary season.
What’s worse than a cribbed speech, though, was how Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, handled the situation. In an interview he appeared to throw Mrs. Trump under the bus. While I can only surmise what kind of operation they’re running on 5th Avenue, this is beyond the pale, even for Dr. Dictator. When you sign onto a campaign, you implicitly and often explicitly agree that if necessary, you will fall on your sword for the greater good.
Mrs. Trump is well within her rights to be demanding the heads of anyone and everyone responsible for assisting her in drafting her speech. If she was left to her own devices to come up with it and no one proofed it for her, same deal. She is a principal on the campaign, and that campaign, if we should even call it that, failed her miserably.
Speaking of Manafort, because implicitly blaming your boss’ wife wasn’t enough for him, yesterday he also called Governor John Kasich an “embarrassment” for not speaking at the convention…that is in Ohio. This was no accident. He went out of his way to repeat the line on multiple media outlets. This guy is something else. It’s like he straps a Claymore mine to the campaign and turns the “Front Toward Enemy” inward.
He may have been a political hotshot in 1976 (the year I was born, BTW) but either time or talent has passed him by. If you can’t manage Trump, that’s one thing; he’s uncontrollable. Manafort decided to insult the home state and target state governor (one with a nearly 60% approval rating) out of spite.
Day 2 of Trumpallooza is already damaged goods. The media has latched onto the speech and the floor dissension and will not let it go. All campaigns, but Republican campaigns more so and perhaps the Trump camp most of all must understand the dynamics of the national media. Conflict sells and unity doesn’t. Excellent staff work goes unnoticed, botched speech writing becomes the analog for larger issues with the candidate and the campaign. Someone presumably knows all this within Trump’s orbit but if they don’t get it turned around, and right now, they’re going to lose 40 states in November.
Copyright 2016. Jedburghs, LLC
Post-Script: From a friend and long-time Convention and political veteran — Three other things that happened on Day 1:
1) Unauthorized use of the song “We are the Champions”;
2) Trump stepped on convention coverage by going on O”Reilly factor for no good reason, preempting Benghazi survivors and families;
3) Release of news that Melania Trump misrepresented her education credentials.