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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Day 1 in Cleveland

Today is the first day of the 2016 Republican National Convention. It is being held in Cleveland, Ohio.

It's the party's third visit to the city. The first came in June 1924. President Calvin Coolidge sought a full term in his own right after succeeding to the office on the death of President Harding the previous August.

Though Coolidge prevailed,it was not without a fight. He had to best two old Teddy Roosevelt Bull Moosers, Senators Hiram Johnson of California and Bob LaFollette of Wisconsin. Coolidge won a majority of the nascent state primaries, and the nomination; LaFollette bolted to run as a third party candidate on the Progressive line.

The fun came when the party delegates picked a vice presidential nominee. The hot ticket was Illinois Governor Frank Lowden, who said he didn't want the nomination. The delegates picked him anyway,and he rejected it. That had never happened before, and hasn't happened since. For Lowden, it was the top slot or nothing, and, despite several more tries in coming years, nothing was what he got.

Coolidge's pick was Idaho Senator William E. Borah over Lowden; when that failed (Borah said no, too), he plumped for Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover. Twenty-four names were placed in nomination, including General John J. Pershing chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, and the American Ambassador to Japan. On the third ballot, the nod went to the first director of the Bureau of the Budget, Charles G. Dawes.

Son of a Civil War General, Dawes was an Illinois utilities executive who had moved in and out of government service since the McKinley presidency. He was a desk general in World War II, overseeing supply purchases for the American forces in Europe. At a 1921 congressional hearing on war expenditures, Dawes, frustrated by niggling questions over costs, exploded, "Hell and Maria, we weren't trying to keep a set of books over there, we were trying to win a war!" He became known as "Hell and Maria" Dawes the rest of his life.

Elected vice president, Dawes torpedoed his relationship with the President by announcing he would not attend cabinet meetings; then gave a swearing-in speech to the Senate denouncing its rules and seniority system and overshadowing the Coolidge Inaugural Address.

As presiding officer of the Senate, Dawes left the chamber for his usual post-lunch nap, having been told there's be no afternoon votes. In the way of legislative bodies, however, the President's nominee for attorney general was unexpectedly brought up. Facing a close vote, Republicans frantically recalled Dawes from his hotel, but he arrived too late, and the nomination became the first to be rejected in over sixty years.

Nor did it help that Dawes won the 1925 Nobel Peace Prize for his post-war European reparations plan. By the time his term ended in 1929, Dawes was happy to be sent overseas as ambassador to Britain, where he irked the King by refusing to wear knee breeches to present American debs in Court. He lived until 1951. One of his musical compositions became the No. 1 pop hit of 1958, "It's all in the Game."

Coolidge declined a second nomination in 1928 and died in 1933.The New York wit Dorothy Parker, hearing he had died, asked, "How could they tell?"

Senator Tom Cotton- the Republicans' Baldrick- told South Carolina convention delegates his dad has everything in hand:

"So, last year, my dad, 70 years old, retired, applied for the first time for a self-carry permit. Why did he do that, I asked. He said somebody has to protect us if ISIS comes over here to cut our heads off."

Poor South Carolina. They're gonna have this dweeb camped out there through early 2020.

Don King wuz robbed. What's a manslaughter conviction in today's GOP?

And how to explain Team Trump's reverso act in South Carolina? They reached out to the coquettish Governor Haley to speak, even though she supported most of the other GOP candidates for a few minutes and The Donald himself Twitterbombed her.

But Lt. Governor Henry McMaster, Haley's halfwit deputy, was told he'd be a Trump primetimer, and then he was told he wasn't.

They may have heard of the time McMaster ran for the US Senate and challenged Senator Fritz Hollings, then 66, to take a drug test.

Hollings replied, "Henry, I'll take a drug test if you'll take an IQ test."

McMaster lost bigly, as Trump would say, and now presides over the SC Senate in a blue choir robe.

Even the GOP house band- fronted by former SNL leader G.E. Smith- is all white males in dark suits. Nobody can tell me this convention is in disarray!

A former journalist made up Donald Trump's book The Art of the Deal.

He got half the $500,000 advance. For 29 years he has been pocketing half the royalties.

Now- NOW- he says he is sorry. He's going to donate some of this year's royalties to charity.

A lovely little fuss is breaking out on the convention floor after the chair gaveled through the rules report despite an apparently valid request for a roll-call vote by the majorities of eleven state delegations.

The Never Trump rump is angry, and their mics have been turned off. The convention chair has just walked off stage. No one is presiding.

4.22. The chair came out and out the question to another voice vote. He called it for the rules report.

4.25. The chair now says three states withdrew their petitions and now there are not enough to have a vote.

4.28. Iowa's and Colorado's delegations walked out, and the convention has now moved on to the platform.

"The platform is a call to us to be We The People...We the People will be We the People."

NC Congresscritter Virginia Foxx, addressing the GOP convention without a translator.

The Republicans just adopted their platform on a voice vote with no dissents. As the platform committee chairs repeatedly said, the 62-page document is about the core values of the party. It is who they are, right down to their demand that the sage grouse and American LGBT citizens be denied the protection of law.

The Donald's carnival barker preacher from Easley, SC just prayed out the afternoon session, calling on God to continue protecting the life and giant brain of Donald Trump, yet- inexplicably- continuing to "provide him the words" to continue "uniting the nation."

In particular, he called on God to "defeat the enemy- the liberal Democrat party" because the GOP is "the conservative party under God."

I never thought I'd see someone make Franklin Graham seem dignified.

Whenever he gets off his core competencies- gays in space, and men marrying their lawnmowers- Steve King always gets into trouble.

[Congressman King told an MSNBC interviewer white people  have contributed more to civilization than any other “subgroup.”]

44 years ago, Richard Nixon accepted his third nomination for president as the peacemaker, the man who had opened up the Soviet Union *and* China.

Less appreciated, even now, is how, hundreds of years later, his audacious diplomacy would give rise to the Vulcan proverb for the expected, "Only Nixon could go to China."

Even less expected was that Nixon would become the subject of grand opera.

[Omitted: Except from John Adams’ Nixon in China, 1987]

Scott Baio will run for office in 2020. He has the perfect combination of sunny optimism, class division, and condescension to be, say, the next Fred Grandy.

There are times when I am grateful that convention coverage has become so truncated. The networks are ignoring the GOP entirely. PBS is stuck with a lot of NPR reporters in the booth and on the floor and is using the speakers are backdrops. No one outside the hall will hear what the speakers- angry people who think of those who are not Republicans as enemies- are banging their gongs about.

This demonization of disagreement is something new. The only time I can recall its like is Pat Buchanan's culture war speech in 1992. But this year, it has become evident, hate for the opposition has become the glue that holds the GOP together. Republican after Republican denounces Donald Trump and all he stands for, and mutters darkly about taking back the party before or after they take back America from whoever they imagine had it, and wherever it was being kept. And then they say, but we support him because as apocalyptic and beneath our contempt as he is, Hillary Clinton would be worse.

Antonio Sabato, Jr.'s faith in Jesus compels him to speak out now. That's right. Donald Trump shares his values, where Sabato could make a career out of being a pretty underwear model. That's right. Sabato is worried about his children- all three of whom he fathered out of wedlock, that's right- growing up under bad, liberal values. That's right. God bless America, that's right.

Now we are in the "illegal aliens murder people" phase of the program. The self-seeking survivors have stories more suited to local news programs in their hometowns. Sad though they are, they will offer nothing to the rather larger universe of Americans whose loved ones were killed by other Americans. To them, "stand your ground", and "I felt my life was in danger", and "open carry for good guys with guns", and the endless parrotlike caw of "Second Amendment! Awww! Second Amendment!" will offer little if any comfort.

Congressman Michael McCaul says we need to keep dangerous people out of America. We have more than enough, home-grown, and the foreign ones do bad things so much cheaper.

The sheriff of Milwaukee is on now. He is the face of Republican diversity: a black man who is even more racially divisive and reactionary than most of the delegates.

His Ruritanian general's outfit reminds us of the increasingly militarization of domestic police forces. It was nice of a Trump hotel doorman to loan it to him.

Congressman Sean Duffy and his wife Rachel are the best speakers of the evening. They used short sentences and enunciated all the words in them very slowly and loudly.

They were both contestants on The Real World in the 1990s. Mrs Duffy was on the series that included Pedro Zamora, the AIDS activist who died shortly after the last episode aired. In a 2014 Buzzfeed interview, she took credit for showing how tolerant Republican Catholic conservatives could be, putting up with a guy who had AIDS as a housemate, even inviting him home for dinner.

She didn't explain how those views line up with her take America back from the Others speech tonight, and her endorsement of the most anti-LGBT platform in American history.

Alabama Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is a speaker tonight. He is the rarest of rara avises: the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected President Reagan's nomination of Sessions to be a federal judge. Even by the standards of the party, he had too long a string of documented racist comments.

So he ran for the Senate, where he blocks other people's nominations to the federal bench for not being like him. Donald Trump considered him for the vice presidency. His speech indicates that, while he is certainly short enough to be a Trump running mate, his ability to read from a teleprompter is at best remedial.

C-SPAN is reporting Donald Trump will introduce his wife. Bless his heart, he just can't bear all those cameras showing other people.

Vice President Biden earned an honored place in history when he said Rudy Giuliani had 9/11 Tourette's: "Everything he says is a noun, a verb, and '9/11.'"

Rudy is on now. He praised the Cleveland Police Department for "protecting us tonight." He speaks in a squeaky, high-pitched scream I have not heard before. He sounds a bit like Old Man Potter in It's A Wonderful Life. Like so many Republican leaders, Mayor Giuliani has had three wives. Tactfully, in saying all the ways Trump is a good man who loves people, he said Trump is a great father.

In a nice display of outreach, he said police will protect people of all sexual orientations. For a man who often appeared in drag as mayor, and who lived with a gay couple while one of his divorces was pending, it's the least he could do. At the risk of false prophecy, I do not expect he will tell us what he will tell that couple about why they should support the Republican platform.

After a long series of anti-immigrant speeches, having the band play "Brown-Eyed Girl" is a bit of a clanger.

I am confused. Antonio Sabato, Jr told the convention his mother grew up in Czechoslovakia, from which he learned the evils of life under socialism.

Now Mrs Trump tells us she grew up in Slovenia, where her parents taught her all the values we treasure as Americans.

She says "He will never give up, and he will never let you down." He will fight for Americans as hard as he does for zoning variances. He is very kind, which is not often noted, but somehow it is there, plain to see.

From what I have seen of her career, Mrs Trump seems curiously overdressed this evening.

General Michael Flynn is a remarkably stiff, wooden speaker with a gift for bloviation not seen since the late President Harding. Exactly. USA. That's right. You got it right. But he tends to warm to his theme. I'm gonna say that again. He tends to warm to his theme.

He seemed so much more flexible when he was being considered for vice president. USA, USA, exactly. I love it.

In a week, General Flynn was for both abortion and marriage equality, and against it. That's right. Exactly. Thank you.

He says we went to war to defeat the Nazis and make the world safe for American exceptionalism. USA, USA. You are right. Get fired up. Francis Fukuyama was right: the end of history came when Ronald Reagan left office. Now, sixteen years in, General Flynn say the new century has just begun. And that is how one explains away George W. Bush.

Unlike a Trump beauty pageant, there are no runners-up, and no consolation prizes. USA, USA, USA. You got it right baby, get fired up.

Extra points to Flynn for being the first speaker to bring up bathroom panic laws.

Now he says ISIS has nuclear toaster oven bombs. It keeps him up at night. That's right. It keeps him up at night. That's exactly right. Here you go. You got it.

"Lock her up." Yeah, that's right. I use ‪#‎NeverHillary‬. That's what I use. USA, USA. Lock her up, lock her up. You guys are good. Damn right. You're exactly right. There's nothing wrong with that.

American exceptionalism is very real. Let us not fear what we know to be true. Let us not fear what we know to be true. America is the greatest country in the history of the world. Trump, Trump, Trump. C'mon, get it going. So once again. Once again. USA, USA, USA, keep it going.

Senator Ernst is recycling her response to the State of the Union Address. After three and a half hours of listening to sad and angry people yell, I'm shutting down. Tomorrow, after all, is another dumpster fire.

Two lines that almost got lost in the Niagara spew of tonight's speeches:

The Republican candidate for the US Senate from Colorado, who is black, told the delegates, "Somebody with a nice tan needs to say, ALL LIVES MATTER!" All the delegates cheered wildly because they knew if they said something that dumb ass it would rightly be called racist. But he said it, which shows what a diverse party they have become.

In a nice bit of parsing, Scott Baio (his name sets The Banana Boat Song off in my head as an earworm every time I hear it), was busy praising military vets when he singled out one who, this very day, got the Medal of Honor. Apparently, Baio thinks it fell out of the sky. He just couldn't say who presented the award at the White House.

Stephen Colbert says the Colorado delegation didn't walk out over the rules change defeat.

They walked out because someone noticed it was 4:20.

Lordy, Mama, Stephen Colbert was funny tonight. He got loose on the floor of the GOP convention arena for a Hunger Games parody that displayed a sharp eye for convention organizers' blind ones: like the big bathroom sign hanging right next to the North Carolina delegation's seating ("so they can check everyone's genitalia"), and the infamous "white elevators."

He returned as Comedy Central Stephen Colbert for a new Word of the Day ("Trumpiness") and roused John Stewart from a Ted Kaczynski cabin with more spit-takes that one would have thought there was spit for.

All week the show will be live. I'll need a pick-me-up after three more nights of wall-to-wall downers, grievers, haters and Trump offspring. GREATNESSSSSSS!

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