Andrew Sullivan Liveblogs the RNC, Night 3

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/Getty Images

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 (if you’re a recovering dishhead, you can also always use the old email address). Please refresh to update.

11:14 p.m. I’m off now to grab a Jäger or two. I really need them. See you tomorrow night for the final Gotterdämmerung.

11:14 p.m. What interested me about Pence’s speech is what he did not say: no mention of the mass deportation of 11 million people; no mention of the ban on Muslim immigration; no mention of Trump’s belief in the obsolescence of NATO or his support for Vladimir Putin; no mention of a new protectionism. No mention of any of the core policy proposals, in other words, that won Trump the nomination.

A serviceable speech; but not a great one. And everything overshadowed by the Cruz moment.

11:10 p.m. Faces of the day:

11:07 p.m. And now we are back to “Lock Her Up!” And this is the lie: Clinton never said “What difference does it make?” about the American deaths in Benghazi. She said that about the specific reasons for the attack.

11:02 p.m. So we are now finding out that if Trump is elected, NATO will be effectively disbanded. The Baltic states will be offered up to Putin:

[A]sked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are the most recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

The party of Reagan is now in rigor mortis.

11:01 p.m. Now this is coming over the wires:

10:56 p.m. This is a pedestrian conventional, bland veep nominating speech. I can’t say I think he’s setting the house on fire – or that anything he says will be remembered tomorrow. Again, there’s no policy, no specifics. But it’s competent. Which is a relief.

10:49 p.m. A reader writes:

Since Pat Buchanan’s speech at the RNC in 1992, I have awaited this election, prophesied its coming, and feel vindicated because this is the one where I think that the centripetal forces that have been putting strain on the GOP will finally tear it apart. Earlier in the year, I was gleefully saying my political Christmas present was coming and I was so looking forward to this convention.

That was then, this is now. Seeing this has long since stopped being entertaining even in the “see, you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas” sense because the GOP did this to itself. Now it’s just uncomfortable, like watching someone who really thinks they can sing butcher the National Anthem and they have only gotten as far as ‘By the dawn’s early light…’ and you know there’s more to come because they can’t stop and everyone in the audience is antsy. It feels like that kind of awkward now.

10:46 p.m. Feel the love, Ted:

10:45 p.m. Pence feels solid, midwestern, reassuring. He’s pacing this beautifully. He’s still below the fold, of course:

10:41 p.m. So we now know that the Trump peeps knew well in advance the details of Cruz’s speech but still let him cut the knees off the nominee in prime time. How stupid was that? Or how, simply, incompetent? Ayway, Bob Forehead is now on the stage 

10:38 p.m. Feel the anger:

10:36 p.m. There’s this, of course:

10:34 p.m. Gingrich is going on too long. Cruz stole the night. It feels post-coital.

10:30 p.m. We’re actually back to the mushroom cloud in an American city. But what does Gingrich propose we do? I’m still waiting. Still crickets.

10:26 p.m. Gingrich now scaring the shit out of a lot of old people. He’s right, of course, about the evil of ISIS. But I’m still waiting for the answer to what “the change of course in the war” would mean. Without that specific strategy, this is largely meaningless fear-mongering.

10:23 p.m. Gingrich is now trying to walk back Cruz. The idea that Donald Trump will protect the Constitution is preposterous.

10:20 p.m. A reader writes:

Trump walking in to distract people from Cruz’s speech isn’t just like something from Maury. It’s a trope from pro wrestling.

Another comments:

You know, everyone hates Ted Cruz. Everyone who comes into contact with him talks about what a miserable SOB he is. But that speech was BRILLIANT. I’m a Democrat but I can admit that he played that beautifully. We will all be talking about that third degree burn he laid on the Trump campaign in the news cycle tomorrow. Cruz knew that. Trump knows that. Checkmate, motherfucker.

10:18 p.m. Another no-show: Melania.

10:15 p.m. This really speaks to me right now:

10:14 p.m. Things got really tense on the floor after Cruz’s speech:

10:13 p.m. Photo of the night:

10:05 p.m. Eric Trump is now making the case for a common sense businessman in the White House. That’s the pitch at 10 p.m., as most people are tuning in.

10.02 p.m. The reality television dimension doesn’t get any more prominent than Trump physically attempting to distract attention from the runner-up – like some guest on Maury.

10:01 p.m. Quite:

9:58 p.m. You know: I’m proud of Ted Cruz tonight. He took a stand. He took the heat. He stared the bully down.

9:55 p.m. Now, open war is breaking out, as the crowd is beginning to shout Cruz down. Watching Cruz get booed at this event is quite something. He’s being heckled and jeered – as Trump appears at the side of the stage as if to distract attention. Cruz leaves to a massive wall of hostile noise.

9:52 p.m. Cruz actually showing some love for the other side – African Americans, gays – if only rhetorically. Then he puts the knife in: “Vote your conscience” in November. Boos; jeers; cheers. And then the crowd shouts back: “We Want Trump! We Want Trump!” This is now coming apart, as the boos and jeers begin to interrupt the last phrases of the speech.

9:51 p.m.

Well it beats the one staring right back at him.

9:46 p.m. I have to say that, despite Cruz’s shrillness, I find his disquisition on freedom to be reassuring. It feels like the old GOP, not the authoritarian creeps who have now taken over. Yes, Trump can make you miss Cruz.

9:43 p.m. Obama “imports terrorists.” And wants “open borders.” Two lies.

9:41 p.m. The first speech dedicated to an idea called freedom. So far, it’s all been about authority, power and violence. And Cruz is delivering this very well – not shouting, not yelling, capturing the crowd. It’s a good launching pad for 2020, but so far he’s mentioned Trump’s name once – in a pro forma congratulation.

9:39 p.m. “Did we live up to the values we believe in?” Not at this convention, Senator Cruz. Not at this one.

9:38 p.m. Cruz is talking movingly about one of the murdered cops without politicizing it … yet.

9:37 p.m. A reader writes:

I have a lot of Southern, white, rural, Christian, conservative friends who are into various “health” multi-level marketing businesses like Ms. Van Etten. They are driven to these charismatic CEOs of their companies and aspire to the wealth and independence enjoyed by someone like Trump.

In a lot of ways, it was smart (or maybe it was an accident) to include someone from this “industry” in the convention line up. She may be a circus performer, but she’s a home-grown one for these folks. The Right can play identity politics too.

9:34 p.m. What does Rubio get out of this beamed-in endorsement of Trump? He further besmirches himself with the stain of this grotesquerie, but doesn’t really give Trump his full support. It’s as lose-lose as his entire primary campaign.

9:30 p.m. The family assistant keeps referring to the LGBTQ community. Weird. Then speaks of the young Trumps as the siblings she never had. The kicker: she supports Donald Trump “because of the color of my skin.” I guess she needed to avoid plagiarism, but could she have mangled MLK more brutally?

9:27 p.m. Now we have a “senior family assistant.” It’s 9:30 pm.

9:22 p.m. A small reminder:

9:21 p.m. I get the feeling these speakers aren’t holding the hall – hence the yelling from the stage:

9:12 p.m. Scott Walker is making a relatively positive speech, on the change theme, which is, I’d say, the best message for this campaign. This, kids, is what a convention is usually like: a party star enunciating core principles with some lame chant every other sentence. Meanwhile, a reader writes:

I think it’s worth mentioning that the lady who gave the incoherent speech about circuses and the Common Core is also associated with a multi-level marketing firm that sells naturopathic “cures” to people. They make all the standard BS claims that fake medicines usually make: stop inflammation, prevent cancer, feel better. All just vague enough to not get sued, of course.

9:10 p.m. Nate Silver says Cruz – in his prepared remarks – will mention Trump’s name only once:

Just one mention of Trump would definitely be below the over-under line. Cruz is a pretty calculating guy, and taking the side of the bet that (i) Trump will lose and (ii) Republicans will declare Trumpism a failure might be a good percentage play.

9:09 p.m. A reader channels my core questions:

Who are these people speaking? Did some cereal brand hold a promotion giving away speaking roles for buying enough boxes?

9:07 p.m. An old oil executive with dyed hair says that president Obama “gave Iran the nuclear bomb.” This is another massive lie. Followed by another: Clinton and Obama are taking us away from energy independence.

9:02 p.m. An obscure pastor is now ranting phrases from the Constitution. In previous conventions, we would now be listening to a senator, or former president, or up-and-coming political star. This is amateur hour. But I wonder if this is deliberate. The goal is to destroy politics as we have known it and turn it into an entertainment spectacle that appeals to those who feel left out, ignored or condescended to. You can relate to these C-listers in a way you couldn’t to the pols or Hollywood A-listers of the past. And so the general vibe is that the elite Bastille has been seized.

8:53 p.m. An eloquent attempt by a Latino Republican to make a case for immigration to the U.S. Quite how this complements one of the most nativist campaigns in American history is beyond me. Then this: he criticizes Obama for failing to live up to his promise of immigration reform! The head spins.

8:48 p.m. The circus performer says that “the American dream is being denigrated right now because of what is going on.” That’s the most coherent thing she’s said so far. It’s truly skin-crawlingly awful.

8:46 p.m. Chait:

8:44 p.m. This is next: a woman is talking about a circus for a birthday party or something. It appears that this section is just women for Trump saying anything that comes to mind.

8:43 p.m. “America is asking: ‘What next?’” Indeed, we are.

8:41 p.m. A pioneering female astronaut is now talking about robot expeditions to Pluto. Oookaaayyy. Finally a specific proposal: More space flights! If Trump wins, can I get on one?

8:38 p.m. Now a completely unexpected infomercial for NASA. Hey, I’m just reporting what I’m seeing on CSPAN. I have no idea what message this is supposed to be about. An astronaut parade?

8:35 p.m. “America needs to behave like America again.” What on earth does that mean? Of course no specifics. Just a feeling.

8:32 p.m. Some more info on that creepy casino developer:

8:30 p.m. Fascinating formulation: “November 8 is when America will feel safe again.” Notice “feel.” That’s what this is about: finding a way to make truly terrified people feel safe because a strongman is around. And so we become Russia.

8:29 p.m. That was truly weird. The man just vouching for Trump’s integrity was an over-tanned casino developer in sunglasses. I guess it beats an ex-president.

8:28 p.m. Heh:

8:26 p.m. Seriously, we have a casino developer detailing real estate numbers. Then this massive lie: “he always pays his bills promptly.” Hey, maybe someone may believe it. Why not throw that out there?

8:23 p.m. Ingraham has tapped the usual convention energy for the first time. But now, in a massive swoon of energy, some business friend with a bar dye hair-job is telling us that Trump is the most ethical businessman imaginable whose word is his bond. Everything we know shows this to be untrue. Now he’s just rambling. Way to kill the momentum.

8:20 p.m. Now Ingraham turns on her colleagues in the press. “America is onto you!” This despising of the press is always a part of neo-fascist rhetoric. This is populist red meat from a talk radio host, channeling talk radio anger. But then this is a talk radio party.

8:18 p.m. This equation of the situation in 1980 with today is surreal. The misery index in 1979? 19.7 percent. Now? 5.3.

8:16 p.m. Ingraham calls Cruz and Rubio “boys” with “wounded feelings.” She demands their endorsement of Trump. Will they be paraded in front of the mob and forced to bow the knee? This is rhetorical intimidation.

8:13 p.m. She’s now channeling 1980 again. That’s where they go for the erogenous zone. It’s always Morning in America, even though Reagan was for liberal immigration and freer trade.

8:09 p.m. It’s a strange word to use to frame what the Trump campaign is about: “respect”. But she did manage to mention that her family flew the flag every day – and not just on the Fourth of July. Now she’s rambling a bit.

8:07 p.m. Ingraham is mentioning her mother’s threadbare coat. They really are channeling Nixon, aren’t they?

8:04 p.m. Laura Ingraham is now saying hi to her kids at home.

8:03 p.m. Scott’s formulation that Trump will tell the governing class: “You’re fired!” is a really potent one. The change card in a populist election season is a powerful tool. Trump can play it. Clinton can’t.

8:01 p.m. Rick Scott is up first. He’s informing us that the U.S. economy isn’t growing. That’s not true.

Andrew Sullivan Liveblogs the RNC, Night 3