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Republican National Convention focuses on ‘Land of Promise’

Updated August 24, 2020 - 9:32 pm

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump broke with precedent and appeared inside the White House on the first night of the Republican National Convention as he presided over a short televised event in which he chatted with postal workers, a police officer, a sheriff’s deputy and a nurse, billed as front-line workers in the war against the coronavirus.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted of Trump’s brief remarks, “The federal employees involved with filming those campaign infomercials at the White House are violating the Hatch Act.” The president is not covered by the Hatch Act, but the Office of Special Counsel has warned that White House staff cannot engage in political activity in a federal building.

Largely staged from Washington D.C.’s Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, the GOP convention offered up everyday Americans and GOP heavyweights at night after the president flew to North Carolina and South Carolina by day.

Trump even popped in at the Charlotte Convention Center minutes after Nevada GOP Chairman Michael J. McDonald announced Trump had won all 25 of the state’s delegates — an announcement that gave Trump the votes needed to secure the nomination.

It was a robust presentation of Trump and the Republican Party he had remolded under the theme “Honoring the Great American Story.” Monday’s focus was billed as the “Land of Promise.”

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., closed the evening with remarks that framed the election as not simply a choice between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden as much as it is “about the promise of America.”

A week after Democrats made a full-throated play for the Black vote, Scott, the sole African American Republican in the Senate, recalled his grandfather who picked cotton and never learned to read.

“Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime,” he said.

The DNC War Room responded with an email that charged Scott “skipped over many of Trump’s failures with communities of color. Trump has failed to look out for the economic well-being of Black communities. His chaotic pandemic response failed to address the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on Black communities, and his policies have worsened racial disparities.”

Vernon Jones, an African American Democratic state lawmaker from Georgia, proclaimed, “The Democratic Party does not want Black people to leave their mental plantation.”

Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley spoke about what it was like to grow up as the daughter of Indian immigrants in South Carolina who faced hardship and discrimination, as she endorsed Trump.

Then followed a parade of everyday Americans who felt the establishment had abandoned them and the news media portrayed their stories falsely.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, called Trump “a good man and a great listener” who “cuts through the BS.”

Patricia and Mark McCloskey, a couple of lawyers captured on video brandishing guns as activists surrounded their St. Louis home, praised Trump. Mark McCloskey warned, “These radicals are not contented with marching in the streets. They want to walk the halls of Congress. They want to take over.”

Cuban immigrant Maximo Alvarez told Americans not to buy into “empty promises” of the left.

Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and his girlfriend and campaign fundraiser Kimberly Guilfoyle separately talked of a country that had taken a dystopian turn — with needles in the streets, riots and rampant crime.

“This convention is a bubbling cauldron of delusion, insanity and grievance,” tweeted Steve Schmidt, former campaign adviser to the late Sen. John McCain and a well-known Never Trumper.

‘Obligation to be here’

The busy day portrayed an incumbent ready to go anywhere to serve the country in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a contrast to former Vice President Joe Biden’s Delaware-only participation in the Democratic National Convention last week.

“I felt an obligation to be here,” Trump told the Charlotte delegates during a speech that lasted nearly an hour, as he revisited recent grievances, including universal voting by mail, his belief that Democrats are using COVID-19 to steal an election and Fox News’ coverage decisions.

Vice President Mike Pence, who visited Wisconsin as Biden and running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., stayed away from the Milwaukee convention site, also showed up in Charlotte, where he tried out a new slogan, “Make America Great Again — Again.”

Far from idle, the Biden campaign released the names of 27 former GOP members of Congress, including former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, who endorsed the Democratic ticket.

“I was a Republican long before the president ever called himself one, and I will be a Republican long after identifying as such is no longer useful to him. Principle does not go in and out of fashion, does not chase ratings, or play to the base, or care too much about polls,” Flake said in a statement that framed him as a steward of the rock-rib conservatism of the late Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater.

The Biden campaign also released a 60-second spot that portrayed the country as beset by four crises involving public health, a reeling economy, climate change and “a national reckoning on racial injustice,” and argued Biden and Harris represented the “team that’s up to the task” of tackling these threats.

Biden holds a 7.6 percent lead over Trump in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls.

During a call with reporters Monday morning, campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh promised “a very promising and uplifting four days” which would reflect Trump’s optimism.

Before the convention began, Trump blamed North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper for forcing Republicans to scale back a convention meant to deliver a welcome boost in the local economy as the Democratic governor insisted on limiting crowd size to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “It was because of your governor that we had to move things around,” Trump said of his push to move the convention to Jacksonville, Florida, which also dissolved because of social-distancing rules.

In the end, Trump decided to make his acceptance speech at the White House on Thursday night, while the Republic National Committee put on a pared-down confab with 336 delegates, six from each state and territory.

McDonald, the Nevada GOP chairman, talked up the Silver State as the home to Rep. Mark Amodei, the only Republican in the Nevada delegation, the Vegas Golden Knights and the Las Vegas Raiders.

“From the energy of Las Vegas across the Great Basin to the majestic Sierra, crowned by the jewel of Lake Tahoe, Nevada’s truly a land blessed by God and we are privileged to call it home,” McDonald said.

Later McDonald talked to the Review-Journal about his experience as a law enforcement officer with working-class roots who has befriended Trump and will be heading up to Washington to watch the president’s acceptance speech.

“Where else could that happen than in Nevada?” he said.

Thursday night, UFC President Dana White is expected to speak at the convention ahead of Trump’s acceptance speech.

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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