September 19th, 2020


It's His Nomination And His Convention: Imagine Trump Doing Cleveland His Way

Bill Whalen

By Bill Whalen

Published July 5, 2016


Someday, someone will incorporate a sarcasm filter into your computer, so you can figure if reporters are typing with a straight face.

For example, the following passage from this Politico story:

"As organizers scramble to find Republicans willing to speak at the party's convention later this month in Cleveland, Donald Trump said in an interview . . . that even he rejected a request to speak on each night of the festivities.

"What they've asked me to do is to speak all three nights. I turned it down," Trump told the New York Times, explaining his worry that it would make him seem egocentric."

Egocentric? Trump? Nahhhhh . . .

The piece is an interesting read into ways that Trump could make Cleveland show more engaging. Apparently, the big speech won't be moved to a larger stadium setting. Not does it seem likely he'll helicopter his way to the convention.

With three weeks until the GOP convention's first gavel, we already know two things that will be different about this year's affair.

First, it's a throwback in that it's the first Republican National Convention to be held in July since 1980, when Ronald Reagan was the star attraction in Detroit. The 1964 GOP convention also was in mid-July. Prior to 1948 and dating all the way back to 1956, all Republican gatherings were held in June or earlier.

Speaking of throwbacks, there's this second oddity: Trump as the first non-politician to receive the GOP nomination since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.

As such, that gives Trump plenty of latitude as to what kind of party he wants to throw.

For beginners, let's assume it's something more creative than 2012's festivities in Tampa. The theme that year: "A Better Future". And these nightly sub-themes: "We Can Do Better"; "We Built It"; "We Can Change It"; "We Believe In America".

Something else we believe . . . the Republican National Committee overused the first-person plural.

Other previous conventions didn't wade into thematic controversy. The slogan for the 2008 GOP convention in Minneapolis-St Paul was "Country First". In 2004, the immodest and non-terse "Fulfilling America's Promise By Building A Safer World And A More Hopeful America".

So what should Trump do in Cleveland?

Break out the sarcasm meter: here's a plan for four nights of compelling television.

Monday, July 18: "Winners". Traditionally, this is the night reserved for a former president to rally the troops. That won't happen in Cleveland, given the Bush family's disdain for Trump.

The alternative? Trot out a lineup of "winners" that Trump knows from the worlds of sports and entertainment.

According to various reports, Trump's approached a pair of coaches: Bobby Knight and Mike Ditka (Ditka's already said no).

Other media speculation has floated such names as Serena Williams, Don King, Dana White (he runs the Ultimate Fighting Championship, NASCAR CEO Brian France and NFL icons Tom Brady and Beth

Roethlisberger (having done a cameo in Ted 2, someone will have to explain to Brady that this isn't comic farce).

But Trump shouldn't stop there. Why not add a few past Celebrity Apprentice winners? Bret Michaels, Arsenio Hall and Leeza Gibbons presumably aren't booked. And don't forget a moment of silence for Joan Rivers, Season 8's winner.

Tuesday, July 19: "Meet The Family". At some point in most every convention, the nominee's spouse comes out and gives a canned feel-good speech about reading to kids, fighting disease, remembering to wear sunscreen, and so forth.

Melania Trump may or may not speak (reportedly, she's in). However, this is Trump's chance to merge two things he likes: showing off his three adult kids from his earlier marriage to Ivana; and showcasing the family fortune.

That begins with First Son Donald. As executive veep of the Trump Organization, he's been running the family business since the old man hit the campaign trail. Time for a company update (with a little talk about hunting to play to the 2nd Amendment crowd).

Second Son Eric Trump is on the hotel side of the business (just make sure he doesn't once again liken Trump University to Harvard). Try not to insult Cleveland's lodging.

But the night will likely belong to First Daughter Ivanka. Name the last time we had a presidential offspring who was a genuine fashionista.

Wednesday, July 20, "Loser Night". In ancient Roman times, this would be the long parade of vanquished rivals, opponents and critics who dare tried to deny Trump the nomination.

"Loser", in the Trump vernacular, is the political class. So trot out a few Republican politicians to remind us of the losers who fill the halls of Washington.

Oh, and if time allows, let Trump's running mate say a few words. Not that he or she will really matter in November.

Thursday, July 21: "My Way". The music Trump's employed in this election is an extension of his campaign: thematic, comedic, and intentionally annoying.

For the final scene in Cleveland, Trump shouldn't do the traditional and emerge from backstage. Instead he should consider a four-minute stroll through the convention floor, to the tune of "My Way" (the Sinatra version, not the Syd Vicious adaption).

Come to think of it, maybe Paul Anka's words are The Donald's acceptance speech:

"For what is a man, what has he got?

If not himself, then he has naught

To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels

The record shows I took the blows and did it my way."


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Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he studies and writes on current events and political trends. In citing Whalen as one of its "top-ten" political reporters, The 1992 Media Guide said of his work: "The New York Times could trade six of its political writers for Whalen and still get a bargain." During those years, Whalen also appeared frequently on C-SPAN, National Public Radio, and CNBC.