Andrew Sullivan Liveblogs the RNC, Night 2

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Delegates take the floor before the start of the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.Photo: Alex Wong

Welcome, I guess, to my New York live-blog of the two conventions of 2016. Settle in, calm your nerves (mine will be frayed enough for all of us), have a drink (or a joint), and enjoy!

If you want to send me your thoughts as the events proceed, email me at sully@nymag.com (if you’re a recovering dishhead, you can also always use the old email address). Please refresh to update.

11:00 p.m. Ross is throwing up his hands:

I agree. This is a grotesque and ever-descending low in a seemingly bottomless pit.

10:58 p.m. Okay, so I’m just absorbing a benediction invoking Mohammed by a Muslim cleric. Just when you thought it couldn’t quite get any weirder.

10:56 p.m. A reader writes:

It seems like we’re officially hanging out at the bottom of the pool when we can look at the speeches and “be impressed.” I work in communications, and what I find shocking is the complete chutzpah and lack of logic. Last night, even before we got into the plagiarized parts of Melania’s speech, I was pretty struck that they picked his 3rd wife to espouse that one of Trump’s greatest attributes is that “he never quits” and “once he starts something, he always finishes it.”

And then tonight, we had Donald Jr. talking about how Trump doesn’t need to listen to “Wharton MBAs,” even though Trump himself has a Wharton MBA. And then the whopper of all whoppers – that “my dad promotes on skill, not based on cronies.” This coming from his SON who is the EVP of Trump Companies?! Yes, I’m sure he was only promoted based on his skill and great hair!

I get this is basically just political theater, but to extend the metaphor, this wouldn’t even be Broadway, or off-Broadway. This would be more like Hyde Park Community Theater’s reproduction of Cats.

10:53 p.m. Oh, this is why this woman is up there: she’s deputed to attack Clinton as an enabler of sexual harassment and abuse.

10:51 p.m. Yep:

Sickening. Surreal.

10:47 p.m. Whoever scheduled this event would be fired from a regional sales conference. And that surely is one important take-away: the inability of Trump to organize anything successfully. I recall the Obama campaign: a model of efficiency, focus and detail. This is a shit-show in comparison.

10:44 p.m. Okay, this is now farce. A soap opera star extolling Californian avocados. In prime time – when former presidents usually speak.

10:38 p.m. Carson is now doing the Saul Alinsky routine. And linking Hillary Clinton to Lucifer! Yep, that’s where we are now. She’s allied with Satan.

10:35 p.m. Ben Carson is now making the case for “reason.”

10.31 p.m. CNN is gushing over the Trump kids. I think they’re desperate to say something positive at this point. Meanwhile I can’t get this image out of my mind:

10:20 p.m. This seems to be the best delivered speech so far. Some on the right are liking it:

10:17 p.m. This dude is against “protected elites” and “new aristocrats.” He looks like a character from Mad Men. But he seems to be winning over this crowd with this pabulum.

10:13 p.m. This Brylcreemed bro hunts and mutilates exotic animals, by the way. And he wants to let Wall Street do what it wants again. How does this compute? How does this work? And now he is lying again about Benghazi.

10.07 p.m. A reader writes:

Every time I hear “lock her up” at the convention, I just cringe.

When I think about Paul Manafort’s effort to help elect the pro-Putin Viktor Yanukovych in 2010, and they yelled “lock her up” in Ukraine, that’s exactly what they did. On trumped up political charges (ironically because she accepted, under duress, an unfair natural gas deal), Yanukovych threw former prime minister and his 2010 opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, in prison.

Politicians and presidents make serious ethical mistakes. Reagan/Bush 41 on Iran-Contra, Bush 43 on WMD intelligence/torture, Bill Clinton on perjury.

But this? “Lock her up” might be the slogan of the 2016 GOP convention. It’s anything but conservative, anything but respect for the Constitution, anything but liberty. Wild. I almost wish Clinton would invite Tymoshenko to the DNC next week to show just what a threat Trumpismo presents. Maybe I’d expect this in Kiev, but America? It’s so tragic.

10.02 p.m.

Is it really a good idea to bring up all the pampered, privileged children of a mogul in a convention designed to listen to the anxieties of the working classes?

10:01 p.m. Yes, we got an anecdote:

9:57 p.m. In prime time, we now have a speech by someone who worked for Trump’s winery. This is prime time in a political convention.

9:54 p.m. Still no anecdotes or stories that could actually humanize the guy. And the class aspects of this, to a Brit, are amazing. The beleaguered white working classes are expressing their rage by listening to this young plummy aristocrat brag about her lineage.

9:53 p.m. Tiffany is so Tiffany! That accent seems like it was bought at Harrod’s.

9:51 p.m. This rather sums up my feelings right now:

9:48 p.m. You’d think Iran had not agreed to forgo a nuclear weapons program in verifiable ways. You’d think that Trump was calling for a new Cold War, rather than cozy up with Putin. You’d think lots of things if you didn’t know anything apart from these half-truths.

9:46 p.m. The jobs theme seems to have gotten a little lost.

9: 44 p.m. The angry chants of “Lock her up!” are really getting to me. Again, this is not normal.

9:40 p.m. Christie nails Clinton on her Libya debacle. It’s a completely legitimate issue. Her judgment was wrong – in exactly the same way it was in Iraq and for the very same reasons. But the notion that Clinton is responsible for Boko Haram and for Bashir al-Assad is silly.

9:38 p.m. “Lock her up!” “Lock her up!” The crowd roars for Christie. He’s gonna stick the boot in.

9:35 p.m. The neocons despair:

And a while back:

9:31 p.m. In the last few seconds, Paul Ryan got his mojo back in a call for unity. But the speech was painfully devoid of any praise for the nominee, and framed around supporting a “conservative governing majority,” rather than a president. Again, it’s pretty amazing for the speaker of the House not to mention in more than a cursory way the actual nominee of his own party. Beyond Awkward. I bet you Trump is pissed.

9:27 p.m. Ryan is dying up there. A reader writes:

Paul Ryan’s speech would be very good in 1988 or thereabouts. Today, it’s just pathetic and utterly detached from the Trumpers who don’t know whether to clap or not.

He’s now all but apologizing for speaking: “Last. Last point …” Jesus this is depressing.

9:26 p.m. A speaker actually mentioned “liberties”. Ryan is just offering some somewhat lame anti-progressive clichés. The crowd is talking among themselves.

9:20 p.m. Ryan is trying to make a change election argument. So far, awkward. No mention of any policies proposed by Trump.

9:19 p.m. Ryan invokes Lincoln. Graves spin.

9:18 p.m. Any ideas on how to create better paying jobs, anyone? Anyone?

9:16 p.m. Drudge, by the way, is running with the Fox News implosion. Tectonic plates are moving on the right.

9:10 p.m. Trump isn’t even in Cleveland on the night he wins the nomination.

Words are beginning to fail.

9:08 p.m. Well that was super-weird. It does seem to me that Trump is coming off the rails. And now we have that riveting figure, Mitch McConnell. Oh, for Jon Stewart right now.

9:07 p.m. What is the point of this speech?

9:06 p.m. Now Trump is now beaming in on a big screen, like Big Brother. Creepy.

9:02 p.m. Now we have a professional golfer – a “Christian woman” no less – talking about the Donald’s support for her Boys and Girls Club. This is in the prime time hour.

9:00 p.m. Now we have this fetus-faced guy from the NRA mentioning a Hillary Clinton bathroom break. I haven’t seen a single speaker yet who might actually appeal to centrists or independents or the vast numbers of people who are not card-carrying members of the fever swamps right.

8:53 p.m. A reader writes:

I think you misunderstand the reason why this plagiarism issue is important.

Everyone agrees that running a competent national campaign is a tricky organizational job. Running the country is magnitudes harder. Donald Trump’s campaign team has proven time and time again to not only commit unforced errors, but to escalate every unforced error into a weeks-long scandal. Donald Trump is ultimately responsible for the performance of his team. If they can’t manage a small issue like plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s speech, how do you think they’ll handle something bigger, like when one of our ships sailed into Iranian waters and was detained for a day?

Of course I get that. Trump is being revealed as an incompetent buffoon. But so many people do not seem to care. This election is not, for many of his supporters, a deliberative decision about the future. It’s a form of self-expression, of revolt. It’s about theater, not politics. And it’s certainly nothing about government.

8:52 p.m.A helpful reminder:

8:44 p.m. The man whose soul is still somewhere on eBay, Michael Mukasey, is now making the case against Hillary Clinton’s email handling. And, yes, he’s right about her lies. She cannot help herself. But her lies are trivial and pathetic, rather than massive, shameless and endless. She is a mediocre politician in our liberal democratic system. Trump is a direct, grave and imminent threat to the very system itself.

That’s the essential choice this year. It is the easiest choice in my lifetime.

8:40 p.m. I’m now trying to keep focusing on the attorney general of Arkansas. It’s not easy:

8:38 p.m. If you’re not watching CSPAN, here’s the hottie with the credentials:

8:37 p.m. And now Asa Hutchinson sends us all to sleep.

8:32 p.m. I love these generic platitudes from the dude with no neck. Trump shows up! He calls me on the phone! He sent me a newspaper clipping with a nice note! Seriously, that’s a speech at a national convention.

None of these friends of Trump have a single anecdote that tells us anything about him. They sound as plausible as a North Korean general toasting Kim Jong Un’s birthday.

8:31 p.m. Now we have this dude that looks like me before I lost some weight. He runs the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He’s totally stoked that Trump showed up to watch a cage-match. Fuck yeah.

8:30 p.m.

8:29 p.m. Now a woman is screaming her hatred of Hillary Clinton. Oy.

8:20 p.m. Today was a rather remarkable one in the degeneration of the conservative movement. The Trump convention has gotten off to a scary, shambolic, near-comic start. And Roger Ailes – whose foul propaganda helped create the toxic atmosphere in which this vulgar thug of a nominee could thrive – is about to be defenestrated, because of sexual abuse.

Imagine if Fox News changes from being a poisonous propaganda entity into a more conventional right-of-center news organization. Imagine if this neo-fascist experiment we’re now witnessing in Cleveland goes down in flames this November. Over eight long, brutal years, Obama played it on the ropes, waiting, waiting. And the over-reach now seems tangible and potentially transformative.

I can’t believe this quite yet. But I can hope. Obama has been like a poultice, bringing so much pus to the surface of American life. Trump is like some giant whitehead waiting to pop. It will be ugly but it might ensure that America can begin to move forward again.

8:19 p.m. And this:

As I said, this is really happening.

8:18 p.m. Yes, it’s come to this:

8:05 p.m. Hard to know what to add re: Melania’s plagiarized blather. If this were Veep, it would be a stretch. But it’s hard to get a better refutation of the entire racial text (subtexts are so pre-Trump) of this convention than the fact that Trump’s wife actually plagiarized Michelle Obama. Yep. She relied on the words of the unmentionable other! So delicious.

But it’s depressing to note that the big story is an incompetent embarrassment of a speech – rather than what we actually saw last night. We witnessed a national convention in which raw emotions of grieving mothers were deployed to demonize a secretary of state, in which illegal immigrants were described entirely as murderers, in which the president was described as a secret ally of this country’s enemies, deliberately destroying the American way of life. We witnessed a senior military officer lead a chant of “Lock Her Up!” when discussing Hillary Clinton’s extreme and arrogant carelessness which no prosecutor would nonetheless treat as a crime.

We heard not a single policy proposal, and not a smidgen of substance.

We saw a neo-fascist movement take over a major political party. This is slightly more pertinent than plagiarism.

8:01 p.m.

Taking a walk this evening, it occurred to me, given the chaotic, careening shitshow we watched last night, that maybe there was still time to run someone else. And then I got back and saw the news of the nomination finally, formally secure.

So this is it. This is really happening. There is no waking up now.