- Glenn Sonnenberg
Musings from the Bunker 8/28/20
Okay, so I’ve shelved the musing I was going to send today, in order to deliver a few thoughts on this evening’s festivities and President Trump’s speech.
LET’S BE CLEAR
What I’m about to say may offend some and it certainly worries me. But I thought the first 40 minutes of this 70 minute speech were among the strongest political speeches I’ve heard in a long time. Sure it was filled with lies, but it was a strong presentation. The campaign begins tonight and it is much closer than I thought it would be at this time. While it is clear that these words were written by someone else, he delivered them pretty well. He stayed on script. The message, simply, was “Don’t let them tell you this isn’t a great country. Be afraid, the rioters are coming to get you, police are being denied the ability to keep you safe, and we need to protect jobs and borders…” The Democrats cannot be smug—the polls will all tighten and this will be a tough, dirty, bloody fight for the next 66 days.
HE DOESN’T CARE ABOUT DECORUM, PROTOCOLS, LAWS OR NORMS
The President spoke from the White House—the first time a nomination was accepted from the White House. He utilized all the trappings of the office in ways that were unseemly and beyond all norms. Many of his folks likely violated the Hatch Act (the President can’t violate the Hatch Act). This was WAY over the top. As an aside, I don’t really get Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and Ave Maria finishing it off… It is a travesty that this political event is being staged at the White House. It is terrible that the Secretary of State, heretofore a position above campaigning, was electioneering.
HE IS WRAPPING HIMSELF IN THE FLAG
People want to believe they’re winners. Trump told them that they are winners, that American history has brought us to this day. I fear there is a refreshing feeling about this to some. It is powerful for the President to wrap himself in the flag and the achievements of others. He invoked a myriad of historic Americans and their achievements—including invocation of most of the great Republican Presidents, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and his favorite Democrat, Andrew Jackson.
The picture he presented of America was one that was positive. He’s trying to characterize the Democrats’ as negative and heading us to doom. It was brilliant to paint himself as the latest in a line of American greats. He gave a bunch of nods to other historic figures, from Lewis & Clark to Annie Oakley to Buffalo Bill to Davy Crockett. Buffalo Bill, to be clear, was a showman and probably not an unfit comparison. People want to believe in their country and stop having non-stop negativism. Biden needs to be far more positive and offer a hopeful, calm, confident demeanor to win this thing—and he needs to condemn violence in clear terms.
THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN
I wrote this down during the speech. The major points for the Trump campaign are:
• Public safety. He is going to push this agenda all the way. The more violence in the streets, the better. He’s trying to present himself as the friend of the police and public safety. Fear sells. We’ll be hearing this a lot. FEAR is the name of the game. They have to scare the suburban housewives.
• Jobs. He has of course ignored the phenomenal loss of jobs this year, largely as the result of the bungled pandemic response and failed opening of the economy. But he is taking credit for the new jobs in the past few weeks. He claims he is the only person to go after China (give him his due…he’s been pretty tough on China, but his tactics are wrong). He argued against the TPP, yet it exists without us participating. He maintains NAFTA was bad, but it was replaced with a very similar pact. But this tact is important because this may resonate with the unemployed and underemployed voters in the Midwest.
• Borders. He kept calling illegal border crossers criminals and took credit for deportations, closing the borders and building the wall. Again, fear of the unwashed hordes pouring across our border and endangering us—fear of violence and public disorder.
The secondary points are:
• The judiciary
• Gun rights
• Right to life
• Lower taxes (how much more tax cutting can he do?)
THE PANDEMIC ISN’T HAPPENING
If you came in from outer space and saw this, you would believe the pandemic never happened but if it did, the President did everything right. Of the 2,000+ people in the audience, I’m guessing less than 5% of the audience was wearing masks. They weren’t practicing social distancing.
His description of the pandemic was a rewriting of history and science. He claims credit for invoking the defense production act, yet he had to be pushed to do so, initially resisting it.
He pretends our pandemic response was better than the rest of the world—it was not. He did not note the loss of over 180,000 lives to date from the pandemic. He completely misrepresented our pandemic response. With 4% of the world’s population, we have 25% of the deaths.
He takes credit for the China travel ban, yet he fails to note the 40,000 people who came from China after his half-hearted ban. And he fails to note that the majority of the spread in the U.S. came from Europe—not China.
The President said that there will be a vaccine before the end of the year. How can he say this? Phase 3 trials are not concluded. I hope he’s right and I’ll never root against the home team. But this is overly optimistic and saying it’s so doesn’t make it so.
He has stopped describing Biden as “sleepy Joe” and instead portrays him as a stalking horse controlled by the left. There is little basis for this and, in fact, Biden ran as the moderate in the race. He painted a dismal—completely unrealistic—picture of Biden and the America he would create. The President has defined Biden as weak, a socialist, an ideolog set on devastating policing—all not true but I’m not sure the truth matters. We shall see how he carries this on when on the stump and in the debates.
This speech was effective. There is now a real campaign. There is work to be done.