Night Three of the Republican National Convention continued the trend of not putting the party’s most promising Trump-friendly political figures in the coveted 10 p.m. national network prime time window. Thus we had South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem kicking off the evening instead, speaking at 8:30. She proceeded to give a stout performance that would have fit perfectly as a lead-up to Vice President Mike Pence’s keynote nomination acceptance address that closed the evening.
Noem had a simple thesis to present, and she did so ably, using her small-state standing to slap coastal urbanite progressives in their ivory towers. “America is unique in the world. Government’s power at all levels is limited to the confines of our Constitution, which protects our God-given liberties and civil rights,” the governor proclaimed. “We are not — and will not — be the subjects of an elite class of so-called experts. We the people are the government.” It was a high point of the evening. Alas, it was to be followed by 100-odd minutes of a more confusing message.
This is not to disparage all of the speakers who followed Noem, several of whom made valuable points. But it is most certainly meant to question the competence of convention organizers for throwing such a poorly designed program together. There was little focus and the various voices all managed to drown each other out.
Too many speakers and no clear overriding theme have been the negative hallmarks of the first three acts of the Republican convention, and Night Three proved the worst stumble. A pat and formulaic approach may not seriously damage a campaign that is reaping untold benefit from being opposed by a party openly embracing leftist radicalism as riots rage in American cities. But once again ardent Trump supporters should be asking themselves with mounting concern: Where is the anti-establishment scrapper who ignited a political wildfire in 2016?
Youthful Republican House candidate Madison Cawthorn appeared in a wheelchair to discuss his ongoing struggle to overcome the challenges of his situation. A blind Chinese dissident spoke out against the cruelties of the ruling communist government in his homeland. A veteran of the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s railed against the Ku Klux Klan. Trump daughter-in-law Lara Trump popped up somewhere in there.
It was all too scattershot. It appeared Republicans were throwing anything and everything at the wall and hoping some of it would stick.
Fighting ’16 Spirit Finally Appears
This high-school assembly-like theme extended well past 10 p.m. until former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell took the stage and injected a sense of urgency into the proceedings. Grenell’s address was vital in that for the first time, amazingly three nights in, a convention speaker tabbed with a plum time slot eloquently extolled Trump’s restrained America First foreign policy vision. Former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had spoken on Nights One and Two, weaving a false narrative that muscular intervention abroad was a defining mark of the Trump administration. Grenell served as a sorely needed corrective.
“During the presidential primary debates four years ago, one outsider stood alone,” Grenell began. “And said in public what most Americans thought in private.”
“He called America’s endless wars what they were: A disaster,” Grenell added. “The media was shocked, because Donald Trump was running as a Republican. And yet he said out loud what we all knew. That American foreign policy was failing to make Americans safer.”
“After the end of the Cold War, Democrats and Republicans in Washington bought into the illusion that the whole world would start to resemble America. And so they started to pursue unlimited globalization,” Grenell asserted. Then he drove it all home:
“But they didn’t ground any of it in the interests of the average American. So for decades, while Washington politicians built a global system, American wages stagnated. Our great cities and industries were hollowed out. Entire communities were devastated, and our manufacturing plants were shipped off to China. That’s what happened when Washington stopped being the capital of the United States, and started being the capital of the world.”
It was an outstanding oration that touched at the very heart of the populist nationalist sentiments that propelled Trump to the White House in 2016. Why did it take so long for it to be emphasized?
Dependable Number Two
Pence’s keynote address was delivered at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. The War of 1812 memorial served well as a patriotic backdrop as the vice president gave a decidedly live address before a small but enthusiastic audience. One couldn’t help noticing the crowd was not practicing the social distancing mandates required of Americans who are not looting in the name of social justice by our “elite class of so-called experts,” as Noem so capably described them.
Pence struck a note of red, white and blue optimism meant to serve as a stark contrast to Democrat doom and gloom about the state of the nation. “The heroes who held this fort took their stand for life, liberty, freedom and the American flag,” he stated. “And those ideals have defined our nation, but they were hardly ever mentioned at last week’s Democratic National Convention.”
“Instead, Democrats spent four days attacking America,” he continued. “Joe Biden said that we were living through a season of darkness, but as President Trump said, where Joe Biden sees American darkness, we see American greatness.”
Pence again displayed all the virtues that make him an ideal running mate for the volatile Trump. He was composed and professional, exuding an aura of reliability that serves the mercurial president well. “When it came to the economy, President Trump kept his word and then some,” Pence stated. “We passed the largest tax cut and reform in American history. We rolled back more federal red tape than any administration ever had. We unleashed American energy and fought for free and fair trade. And in our first three years, businesses, large and small, created more than 7 million good-paying jobs, including 500,000 manufacturing jobs all across America.”
It was good meat-and-potatoes stuff. Unfortunately, the rock-ribbed address was marred by the dullness of the evening overall. Mike Pence’s presence is intentionally designed not to overshadow the president he serves. He is not meant to be exhilarating, and this is a good thing. But by featuring a blurry, plodding, and erratic parade before him, Pence was caught up in the overriding flatness of the moment.
We are now three nights into the 2020 Republican National Convention, and it seems fair to reach a conclusion. Donald Trump is far more captivating as a challenger than he is as an incumbent. It remains to be seen how much of a difference, if any, that will make in November against his chaotic and stumbling Democrat rivals.
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.