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The GOP Convention In Cleveland: Opportunity Or Hazard?

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The GOP Convention In Cleveland: Opportunity Or Hazard?


WASHINGTON — The Republican National Convention in Cleveland two weeks away looms as an opportunity for Donald Trump to reverse his slipping fortunes. Either that or it may be a formidable new hazard on his path to the presidency.

It all depends on which Donald Trump shows up. If he turns out to be the new Donald of smoother edges promised earlier by his new top strategist, Paul Manafort, following a script off a teleprompter, that would be one thing.

But if the Donald in the spotlight proves to be the same free-wheeling barn-burner continuing his take-no-prisoners assault, that would distinctly be another matter. The evidence so far has not suggested much transformation, as Trump insists that the style of the old Donald has worked just fine so far

His previously demonstrated contempt for the buttoned-down Republican Party leadership and apparatus, as represented by conciliatory GOP National Chairman Reince Priebus, so far signals Trump’s determination to march to his own drummer.

His recent declaration that he could win the White House with or without the Republican National Committee, and that he didn’t much care which it would be, wasn’t encouraging. It didn’t do much to ameliorate his relations with the party establishment he so distinctly disposed of in the primaries.

The so-called Bush family dynasty was left by the roadside with the broken-down Jeb Bush tin lizzie, along with Mitt Romney, John McCain and other recipients of his contempt and abuse.

All Trump has, as Huey Long might put it, is the people, who will flock to Cleveland as delegates pledged to him. In their anger at the status quo, they’re not likely to be talked off the meat wagon of Trump’s undefined vision of an America made great again.

So the big question is whether the Trump who shows up in Cleveland will be the same egomaniacal Donald who continues to serve up the raw meat that got him there, or the supposedly refashioned candidate of substance, reason and good will, turning the page to a more conventional bid for broader public acceptability.

Even to entertain that possibility is to invite a major horse laugh. The temptation to a man like Donald Trump, to seize the stage of an American national political campaign and pull out all the stops, will be irresistible.

Trump has already told the Republican National Committee he wants to turn the Cleveland convention into a “showbiz” extravaganza of sports stars, addressing the multitudes in the arena where LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers only last month dramatically captured the pro basketball championship.

Trump, according to the Washington Post, said, “It’s very important to put some showbiz into a convention, otherwise people are going to fall asleep.” Disparaging the RNC staff, he added: “We don’t have the people who know how to put showbiz into a convention.”

For most presidential nominees of both major parties in the past, the national convention has been regarded a special opportunity to put the party’s best foot forward, in terms of its standard-bearer, its political principles, agenda and most of all solid party unity.

But having a flashy sports veneer isn’t likely to paper over the severe split in today’s Republican ranks led by the combustible force known as Donald Trump. The potential for the convention turning into a factious pep rally for him, devoid of much of the old GOP inspiration themes of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan, seems a better bet.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, as the convention chairman, will have his hands full generating a true sense of celebration out of the witch’s brew he’s being left with after this year’s bizarre and divisive sorting out of presidential prospects. Ryan knows he’s now fronting for a glorified snake-oil salesman, which no doubt makes him wonder anew what he’s gotten himself into, in taking the speakership he never wanted in the first place.

Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at juleswitcover@comcast.net.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada June 18, 2016.   REUTERS/David Becker/Files



  1. PrecipitousDrop July 6, 2016

    Trump is the political Kardashian.
    The Republican convention in Cleveland will have all the substance and gravitas of a beauty pageant, minus any talent competition.
    The general electorate sees this.
    The general electorate will entrust the the serious business of our domestic governance and international influence to experienced, capable adults.
    They’ll enjoy the show, but the general electorate will not be distracted by it.

    1. Karen July 6, 2016

      I vacillate between agreeing with you and fearing the opposite. This election cycle feels like it’s lasting a lifetime.

  2. I wonder, increasingly, whether Trump ran with any intention of winning in the first place.
    I suspect that he was simply trying to boost his personal “brand” strength, & was as surprised as anyone when he won.
    Now, he’s riding the tiger, & likely scared to death.

  3. FireBaron July 6, 2016

    I am waiting to hear when the Wasilla Wahoo has her turn in front of the Microphone. If that doesn’t turn off most of the delegates, I don’t know what will.

  4. jmprint July 6, 2016

    I am so sick if Trump and his no brain supporters.

  5. Budjob July 6, 2016

    I don’t think it matters which”FRAUD”shows up! The damage has already occurred.The only event left is the convention,and the mayhem that will accompany it!

  6. Virginia Lady July 6, 2016

    Full disclosure: I despise that conniving liar and huckster Donald Trump, and everything that his adherents stand for, in part because I don’t think Trump actually stands for anything, except the advancement of Donald Trump

    1. Counting African Americans and Hispanics, the city proper is 60 percent non white.
    2. The Cleveland PD has been under more or less constant US DOJ supervision for excessive use of force, and worse. You can read the latest consent agreement here:
    3. Cleveland PD officers (who presumably have a lot to fear) have called out the Cleveland PD for racial discrimination. You can read the complaint here:
    4. Donald Trump has among his supporters a significant group of white supremacists who have already threatened to arrive in the city packing open-carry firearms. I suspect that some of them will actually be able to outgun the Cleveland PD
    5. The convention offers unlimited booze and intellectual stimulation, of the racist and hateful persuasion.

    What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

  7. Aaron_of_Portsmouth July 6, 2016

    Which Donald will show up? Given that his schizoid character alternates between “Deranged” and “More Deranged”, we can be certain that an unstable Trump will be there, with a phalanx of equally-compromised mentalities on hand to ensure a tense situation.

    Given the recent news out of Baton Rouge, the GOP will once again be in the spotlight for engendering a general state of tension throughout the nation.

    (Hello Governor Jindahl, y’all OK down there?)


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