Live-Blogging the 2016 Republican National Convention: Night 1

Absurdism of the Night Winner: Former New York Mayor and Time Magazine Person of the Year Rudolph Giuliani:

“I am sick and tired of the defamation of Donald Trump by the media and by the Hillary Clinton campaign! He is a good man!”

11:41 pm: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Preibus calls on the assembled delegates who haven’t gone to bed to adjourn the RNC for the night on a voice vote; some maniacs who do not sleep actually shout “No!”

I remember watching the 2000 RNC that formally nominated George W. Bush, himself an illiberal theologian of a President.  I remember my incredulousness at the thought that so many people could believe that Republicans in Washington were “going to leave no child behind” just because that was the span they were repeating, or that a Republican Party that was lily-White in the aisles actually championed diversity because it had so many Black, Hispanic, and Asian prime time speakers to showcase.  Just a dash of skepticism towards the RNC’s intent made their cynicism plain to see.

But at least then, Republicans were actually trying to have a bigger tent.  At least then, their ideals were not cruel–as they are now.  At least in 2000, as theocratic and anti-intellectual and partisan and as clueless about the rest of the World as so much opinion within the Republican party was straying, at least then they still had a sense of shame.

Today the Republican Party has realigned itself entirely on religious fanaticism, ignorance, fear, and resentment.  Today the Liberal Ironist, believing that meaning is a human creation meant to serve our purposes and not the other way around, and who believes that the purpose of politics is to make society less-dangerous and less-cruel for all of us–just hopes that the Republican Party collapses.

11:26 pm: “Lock her up!  Yeah!  That’s right.”  I’ve just heard the 2nd veteran in an hour say that Secretary Clinton should go to prison over the Benghazi terrorist attack.  As Lieutenant General Flynn, the first of those speakers, said, “Unbelievable!”  As the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, General Flynn should know that well over a dozen terrorist attacks as deadly as Benghazi occurred at our embassies and consulates while George W. Bush was President; does he think that anyone from the Bush Administration should go to prison?

11:22 pm: “With Hillary Clinton, it’s always about her.  This should be all about you!  Donald Trump cares about you!”  Senator Ernst makes an utterly bizarre claim, telling the assembled delegates of the Republican National Convention that Secretary Clinton, who once popularized the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” is the true egomaniac of the 2016 Presidential Election, while Donald Trump, whose Trump University class-action fraud lawsuit charges that he took its enrollees for tens of thousands of dollars each to give them a trite real estate sales seminar, is the Presidential candidate who thinks about us little people.

11:11 pm: Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) recalls her experience as an American exchange student in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, where Ukrainian farmers asked her what it was like to live in a free country.  This inspired her to serve in the military; she was part of a convoy that traveled between Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Last fall, Senator Ernst retired from the Iowa National Guard as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Yes, all of this is a preamble to a speech without any facts or specifics that asserts in so many words that President Obama–and prospectively a President Hillary Clinton–literally allows terrorists entry into the United States, while Donald Trump will defeat the terrorists (with a combination of political incorrectness and torture, I guess).

11:06 pm: If I understand General Flynn correctly, if our head-of-state uses coarser language and conducts a less-articulate foreign policy, this will return America from its current metaphysical state of “unsafe” to the state, lost 8 years ago, of “safe.”  Well, I can see why Donald Trump would want the endorsement of a general willing to make such a strained argument on his behalf.

10:59 pm: General Flynn tells us that President Obama “concealed the actions of Osama bin Laden”–actually, he had that terrorist rabble-rouser unceremoniously killed and his body dumped in the ocean–and “concealed the role of Iran in the rise of radical Islam.”  Is General Flynn claiming that Iran was instrumental in the rise of the fanatically anti-Shi’a Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State?  If that is what he means, he really should share this bombshell revelation.  Maybe this insight is part of Donald Trump’s secret plan to fight the terrorists, and we presumably have to elect him to find out what the plan is because right now it’s a secret.

How does a U.S. Lieutenant General who thinks that Donald Trump is more-fit to be Commander-in-Chief than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even exist?

10:54 pm: “I am infuriated when our President bans criticism of our enemies!”  The Liberal Ironist is infuriated when partisan critics of President Obama make-up vague nonsense like that.  I know many people,  as you probably do, who don’t just criticize but deride the foolishness of America’s enemies and adversaries with relish.  The crowd in the RNC convention hall seems to eat this concept up, though.

10:45 pm: “Our new American Century does not risk its future on political correctness”–Yeah, that’s the Republican Party at its core–“or on senseless hyperbole.”  What?  You are a Republican, right?

Half a minute later, Lieutenant General Flynn tells us that under the Obama Administration, America is now in jeopardy!  Alright, clearly we are not putting senseless hyperbole out-of-bounds.

The General also quotes President Reagan: “If America losses is freedom, there is nowhere to escape to.”  He tells us that this is the theater of freedom’s last stand.  There are so many species of this belief on the Right, from the fundamentalist Christian to the emphatically Libertarian.  It’s a minimal binding element for the Republican coalition, like the Right’s glossy obsession with political correctness.

Political correctness is the next subject General Flynn talks about.  The General has a lot to say about rhetoric in general.  Does he really think that blunter language will help us cultivate a more-effective national security strategy?

10:41 pm: Melania Trump has been the best Convention speaker in prime time tonight, Mayor Giuliani included.

10:39 pm: Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, speaks next.

Did he just call Melania “hot”?

10:37 pm: Melania’s speech is a propspective First Lady’s speech.  Its conventionalism for that purpose is the most-noteworthy quality about it.

10:31 pm: Her husband Donald’s avant-garde right-wing populist campaign aside, Melania Trump still has to meet conventional expectations for the public bearing of a First Lady; having said that, her speech really characterizes her as being too good (or at least too well-intentioned) to occupy this Convention stage in tonight’s lineup of speakers.

10:20 pm: Donald Trump swaggers onto the stage, that he may better introduce his wife Melania to all of us so that she can introduce him to us.  “We Are the Champions” sears over the loudspeakers in the Convention hall.  Queen–an ecumenical band led by a gay man who lived between worlds and wrote many songs about the marginal finding themselves or celebrating the free pleasures in life–has no place at any Donald Trump function.  They should instead use the latter half of the Wall–the part where the eponymous isolated rocker Pink Floyd experiences a mental breakdown and incites a White race riot.

10:05 pm: Mayor Giuliani, who distinguished himself in his brave response to the September 11th terrorist attacks but who engendered controversy in his unqualified defense of police officers who shot unarmed Black men–New York City is, after all, ahead of the curve when it comes to social controversy–speaks very loudly in defense of both law enforcement and the idea of One America.

The audience almost seems in stunned silence as Mayor Giuliani accepts that police officers who shoot people in an altercation without justification should be prosecuted for it.  He accepts the need to hold police officers who commit unjustified homicide to account through the justice system in theory, just not in practice.

Mayor Giuliani rouses the Convention crowd by insisting on the importance to our national security strategy of using the term “Islamic terrorism”.  He mocks President Obama for supposedly minimizing the San Bernardino shooting as “workplace violence,” and musters the anger of the crowd against Secretary Clinton by noting that she downplayed the terrorist plot against our Foreign Service personnel in Benghazi in 2012.

Our intelligence services requested that both President Obama and Secretary Clinton downplay our knowledge of the terrorist organization responsible due to an ongoing investigation into the group, but hey, the Republicans need something to run on this year.

9:59 pm: “The United States admits 1.1 million immigrants a year–more than any other nation on Earth.  Most of these are wonderful additions to our country.”  Applause is very muted as Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) avers that much of our annual immigration is a plus to our country–but in fairness, Senator Sessions doesn’t really believe that.  He closes his speech by reminding the crowd that the President has the power to restrict even legal immigration, which I know is a dream of Senator Sessions’.

The Shade of Calvin Coolidge walks the Convention floor.

9:50 pm: As Senator Cotton utters his Neoconservative nonsense–If it were at all within Senator Cotton’s power, Iran would now be close to a nuclear weapon simply because he opposed an oversight agreement with Iran on general principle–the Liberal Ironist is reminded that Senator Cotton learned nothing at all from the humiliating reversals of the W. Bush years, but that President Obama learned lessons that he gave to much weight in his thinking.  The violence and disorder of the Syrian Civil War and the terror of the Islamic State are an effect of am excessive risk-aversion that doesn’t see an intelligible choice–and moral responsibility–in the effects of doing nothing as a country collapses.

This doesn’t mean that Senator Cotton’s Neoconservatism is anything other than an ill-timed political curio.  Republicans today have a weird fight-and-flight reactive temperament towards international politics.  It isn’t an approach to international political issues so much as a reaction to President Obama.

9:47 pm: Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR)’s dull, Neoconservative face.

9:39 pm: “Where are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton?  They don’t speak for Black America, and they don’t speak for me!” Darryl Glenn, a Republican local official who is running for Senate, refrains.  Yes, another Black speaker onstage to tell the assembled White crowd in Cleveland that their self-assurance that there is nothing to see in racial politics is correct.  “And I think someone with more than just a little tan should be the one to say it: Blue lives matter!”  A Black American making the argument that Black Americans don’t need a movement, the police do: It’s RNC season in Cleveland.

Mr. Glenn ends with a request of support for his Senate campaign against Michael Bennett out in Colorado; he speaks well, but I think Donald Trump got the better end of the deal in his primetime Convention appearance.  I wonder if Mr. Glenn believes the things he is saying tonight.

9:26 pm: David Clarke, the Milwaukee County Sheriff, loudly proclaims that “Blue lives matter!”  Sheriff Clarke is Black.  The Liberal Ironist has no problem with the “Blue lives matter” refrain, or the idea that police in America deserve our respect and support during a time of heightened scrutiny–though that concurrence will not extend to the removal of that scrutiny–but I note a certain cynicism in using one Black speaker to say that Barack Obama doesn’t care and that the Black Lives Matter movement is bankrupt on President Obama’s account, and using the next to say that America’s police are more-vulnerable than Black Americans who have a shorter life expectancy in part because of violent crime.  Sheriff Clarke even links the Occupy and Black Lives Matter movements to violence and lawbreaking, suggesting that protesting our country’s yawning wealth inequality and the exposure of the vast rate at which Black men die at the hands of police officers is what’s fraying the American social contact, rather than the undeniable existence of those conditions themselves.

9:14 pm-9:24 pm: Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX), who amusingly is at best a mediocre speaker on a night where people who stumble over their words figure prominently in prime time, argues that Hillary Clinton is responsible for President Obama’s withdrawal of our Armed Forces from Iraq, and President Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s feigned ignorance that the September 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack emboldened terrorists.  It’s always been odd to me that a party that readily accepts the evil and nihilism inherent in terrorism actually think that what they idiosyncratically define as gestures of weakness actually influence their aims or intent.

Anyway, this Convention sure has its essential elements on full display: The theme of this Republican National Convention is fear.

9:11 pm: The previous speaker, the second mother whose son was a victim of vehicular manslaughter at the hands of “an illegal”–an “illegal alien,” no less, was evidently foreign-born; the next speaker is a Black man.  He has a vivid and admittedly disturbing account–alright, they’re all undeniably disturbing anecdotes–of his son’s racially-motivated murder by an illegal immigrant.  In a weird, strained attempt at irony, the speaker argues that Obama doesn’t care and that Black lives don’t matter because President Obama won’t keep the illegals out.  References to the “Wall” being built make appearances throughout.

I’d really like for one of these speakers to be able to speak about one of the millions of immigrants who happen to be in the country illegally without an immediate reference to manslaughter or homicide.  It would show a modicum of diversity of views.

9:08 pm: Another woman speaks about the loss of her son due to “an illegal immigrant–I call them illegal aliens” driving under the influence of alcohol.  She recounts the misdemeanors the illegal immigrant in question received both before and consequent to her son’s manslaughter death–this latter mention is meet by incredulous cries from the crowd.

Referring to illegal immigrants as “aliens” has been aright-wingcalling card at least since Lou Dobbs was on CNN, but now the use of a term that seems contrived to imply that millions of people resident in the country are not human is greeted as a badge of courage by the speaker.  It’s strange times in Cleveland.

9:00 pm: Tuning-in shortly before 9:00 pm, I see a Convention video decrying the plague of crime supposedly brought to the United States by illegal immigrants.  News video clips playing during the video contain TV journalists’ references to violent crime along with the somewhat dehumanizing term “illegals.”  This is my first exposure to this year’s Republican National Convention.  After the introductory video, a pair of siblings speak to the assembled Convention by a recorded video in which they tell the story of their brother, a Border Patrol officer who was killed by an “illegal.”

Shortly after this, a woman speaks in person at the Convention to recount the death of her son, a police officer, in a car accident involving “an illegal.”  The crowd seems to be lapping this up; do these people realize that most of the 11 million immigrants currently in the United States illegally haven’t killed anyone and aren’t going to?


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