The President will show up on each night of the convention, not on the last night as is traditional. And when he isn’t grabbing the limelight, one of his relatives will be on stage or waiting in the wings. That ubiquity will feed his craving for attention and delight his supporters. But hours of Trump TV seem unlikely to win back disillusioned moderate Republicans and independents, and will play directly into Democratic claims that Trump’s self-obsession and refusal to listen makes crises worse.
A Trump campaign adviser told CNN’s Jim Acosta that aides are questioning the President’s decision to appear every night of the convention. The adviser said the effect of Trump being in the limelight each night will take away from the drama that should build to the final night of the convention.
“People are tired of pushing back on the President. That’s why he is speaking every night,” the adviser said. “He just can’t handle attention going anywhere but him.”
And since he can’t win the character contest, Trump needs to find a way to drive the Democrat’s moderates numbers down somehow. Brace for tales of radical “socialists,” liberals who want to shut the economy, abolish (White) suburbs, grab Americans’ guns, open the borders to marauding immigrants and surrender to foreigners.
Even so, his team is promising a festival of optimism and good feeling, after complaining that Biden’s big week, which promised to lead America into “light” from the darkness of crisis, was bleak and negative.
Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller promised a “great, uplifting message” from the President on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, after the commander-in-chief pledged a “positive” approach on Fox News on Saturday. Americans will be introduced to fellow citizens who have benefited from Trump’s policies, according to the President’s campaign.
It’s unclear however how such mood music however squares with Trump’s searing message of a land beset by burning cities, suburbs under siege and about to be overrun by left-wing “fascists” in an election he claims will be the most corrupt in history without providing any evidence to back it up.
The opening of the convention on Monday will compete for attention with a big Washington story — testimony by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy before a House of Representatives committee. Democrats charge that postal service reforms and staffing moves follow political pressure from Trump on one of America’s most beloved institutions designed to slow voting by mail at a time when voters are keen to avoid polling places during the pandemic.
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It would not be a surprise if Trump’s convention offers Americans a highly optimistic and inaccurate picture of the worst public health crisis in a century.
Trump has also predicted a vaccine — which aides believe could improve his hopes of a second term — will be available by or soon after Election Day, a far more optimistic projection than the timeline of most scientists and pharmaceutical experts.
One way to do that would be to concentrate heavily on the working-class Americans whose anger over seeing their jobs disappear to globalization and a technological revolution turned into fury against elites and establishment politicians that was skillfully channeled by the President four years ago.
Trump will also likely claim to have built the greatest US economy ever, before it fell pretty to Covid-19 lockdowns, to have drained the Washington swamp to standing up to an increasingly belligerent China and restoring respect for the US in the world. All of these achievements involve significant misinformation — a constant companion to a presidency consumed by scandal that included an impeachment drama.
In another sign of the pride his team takes in disrupting decorum and its willingness to politicize the machinery of the state, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will address the convention from Israel, ignoring a tradition that the nation’s top diplomat eschews political activity during conventions.
Is more Trump the answer?
The lineup of convention speakers heavily features Trump family members including his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric, daughters Tiffany and Ivanka, and first lady Melania Trump. Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to speak on Wednesday. But there are questions whether a cast-list of the stars of conservative opinion shows is the best way to win over moderate Republicans and independents who have soured on Trump’s leadership.
And he hasn’t exactly been shy during his presidency. If the antidote to his current political worries was more ubiquity from the President it hasn’t started working yet.
The President’s former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci warned on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the strategy of blanketing the airwaves with incessant Trump could backfire.
“He thinks it’s all about him, him all the time. The classic narcissism is to annihilate everybody around you and then show everybody that you can do it all alone, you can do it by yourself,” Scaramucci said.
That he would be so focused on planning a show that glorifies himself at a time when an average of 1,000 Americans were dying every day from the pandemic that he once said would just “disappear” is a telling insight into the President’s real priorities.
It could drive home the central message sent by Democrats last week that Trump is concerned only with his own political ambitions rather than the health and emotional wellbeing of a nation mired in crisis.
‘Donald’s out for Donald’
That such comments, in a secretly recorded interview with his estranged niece Mary Trump, will surprise no one point to another of the President’s challenges in the coming week. If the election becomes a question of character, Trump will struggle to match for Biden’s empathy and humanity acquired in a life overcoming personal tragedy that he is now promising to deploy to heal America.
Trump’s failure to offer emotional counsel has been exposed during the pandemic in which he has declared premature victories over the worst public health crisis in more than a century.
Aides have told CNN that early drafts of the President’s acceptance speech on Thursday mirror the scorched earth rhetoric from his first 2016 convention and his July 3 address at Mount Rushmore around the Independence Day holiday. The plan is to brand Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, as the gateway to an era of extremism that will destroy American values.
This culture war approach drove Trump’s response to Black Lives Matter protests after the death of George Floyd in which the President branded multi-racial marches amid a nationwide awakening as a threat to US (White) heritage and seized on real outbursts of violence and exaggerated them into a public order threat he says is swamping the country.
“If you want a vision of your life under Biden presidency, think of the smoldering ruins of Minneapolis, the violent anarchy of Portland, the bloodstained sidewalks of Chicago, and imagine the mayhem coming to your town, and every single town in America. You’re not going to have law and order,” Trump said last week in a campaign swing in Pennsylvania.
Such arguments are likely to appeal strongly to the President’s base. But the convention could establish whether voters who are not strongly committed to Trump share those sentiments and want to prolong his era of disruption and divisiveness.