On the third night of the Republican National Convention, a clearer picture emerged of how President Trump plans to surmount his polling deficit and wage a comeback over the next two months in order to claim a second White House term. Speakers delivered their own versions of talking points about Trump that were similar to those heard on the previous two nights: that he is on the side of blue-collar workers and African-Americans; that he is the only credible candidate for pro-life voters; that he has saved the nation from what could have been a much worse coronavirus pandemic; and that he is the last bulwark standing in the United States between order and anarchy. Meanwhile, a pattern solidified in which the president’s perceived weaknesses were portrayed as strengths and the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, was portrayed as a radical, intent on letting the far left burn the country to the ground. On a night whose theme was “Land of Heroes,” the program made the case that Trump was one of them.
Here are the key takeaways from day three of the RNC:
Mike Pence defends Trump’s response to the coronavirus
As Vice President Mike Pence delivered his speech at Wednesday’s RNC, nearly 180,000 Americans had been killed by COVID-19 and more than 5.8 million had been infected with it in the United States, far more than in any other country. For that reason, Pence, who is also the head of the president’s coronavirus task force, was obliged to comment on the pandemic. As he has at task force briefings, Pence took pains to defend the administration’s response to the virus.
“President Trump marshaled the full resources of our federal government from the outset. He directed us to forge a seamless partnership with governors across America in both political parties,” Pence said in a speech delivered at Baltimore’s Fort McHenry. He chose not to mention Trump’s frequent angry outbursts at Democratic governors during the pandemic, as well as the bumpy rollout of COVID-19 tests across the country and the initial shortages of medical supplies.
“We partnered with private industry to reinvent testing and produce supplies that were distributed to hospitals around the land,” Pence said. “Today, we’re conducting more than 800,000 tests a day, and we have coordinated the delivery of billions of pieces of personal protective equipment for our amazing doctors, nurses and health care workers. We saw to the manufacture of 100,000 ventilators in 100 days. And no one who required a ventilator was ever denied a ventilator in the United States. We built hospitals, surged military medical personnel and enacted an economic rescue package that saved 50 million American jobs.”
To date, the U.S. economy has regained 42 percent of the 22 million jobs that were lost when the pandemic thrust the U.S. economy into recession. The spread of the virus in the U.S. has slowed, but the economic hardship is likely to persist, because tens of thousands of people each day continue to be infected.
“As we speak, we’re developing a growing number of treatments, known as therapeutics, including convalescent plasma, that are saving lives all across the country,” Pence continued. “Now, last week, Joe Biden said, ‘No miracle is coming.’ What Joe doesn’t seem to understand is that America is a nation of miracles, and I’m proud to report that we’re on track to have the world’s first safe, effective coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year.”
In his speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination last week, Biden said, “The president keeps telling us the virus is going to disappear. He keeps waiting for a miracle. I have news for him: No miracle is coming.”
While initial trials of a vaccine could conceivably be completed, most health experts believe that it is unlikely that one will be ready for distribution before the end of the year. The production of enough doses to cover the American population would likely take months more to achieve.
On Tuesday, Melania Trump became the first speaker at the RNC to express her sorrow for those who have died of the virus, and Pence added a paragraph to his speech along the same lines.
“Our hearts are with all the families who have lost loved ones,” Pence said, “and have family members still struggling with serious illness. In this country, we mourn with those who mourn, we grieve with those who grieve.”
In anticipation of Wednesday night’s speakers, the Biden campaign sought to keep the focus squarely on the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“President Trump’s [Republican National Convention] is an alternate reality. In this delusion, thousands of Americans didn’t die in the last week from COVID-19, nor have millions of Americans been infected or put out of work. Our economy hasn’t ground to a halt, and our kids aren’t being kept home from school,” Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager for the Biden campaign, said in a statement.
Pence followed the script of the past two evenings that had painted Trump as hopeful and Biden as pessimistic.
“Democrats spent four days attacking America. Joe Biden said we were living through a ‘season of American darkness.’ But as President Trump said, ‘where Joe Biden sees American darkness, we see American greatness,’” Pence said, adding, “In these challenging times, our country needs a president who believes in America. Who believes in the boundless capacity of the American people to meet any challenge, defeat any foe and defend the freedoms we all hold dear.”
America is great and so are its police
After the Black Lives Matter protests and riots in cities and towns responding to the killings of African-Americans by police, a staple at this week’s RNC has been to embrace law enforcement officers while attacking Democrats, whom Republicans accuse of wanting to “defund” the police.
On Wednesday, that trend continued, after videos surfaced from Kenosha, Wis., scene of the latest unrest, showing police thanking armed counter-protesters and giving them bottles of water. The counter-protesters are reported to have included 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who was charged Wednesday with the murder of two protesters he is accused of shooting.
With no mention of the events in Kenosha, Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee praised ordinary Americans, whom she called “a nation of heroes,” and went after Democrats who, she said, want to “cancel” police.
“But tonight, I want to talk to you about another kind of hero. The kind Democrats don’t recognize, because they don’t fit into their narrative. I’m talking about the heroes of our law enforcement and armed services,” Blackburn said. “Leftists try to turn them into villains. They try to ‘cancel’ them. But I’m here to tell you that these heroes can’t be canceled.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, a former Navy Seal who lost an eye while serving in Afghanistan, also spoke out on the heroism of the average American.
“But America’s heroism is not relegated to the battlefield. Every single day, we see them, if you just know where to look,” Crenshaw said. “It’s the nurse who volunteers for back-to-back shifts caring for COVID patients because she feels that’s her duty. It’s the parent who will relearn algebra, because there’s no way they’re letting their kid fall behind while schools are closed. It’s the cop that gets spit on one day and will save a child’s life the next.”
Retired Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz offered his full-throated support of Trump’s reelection and a finger-wag at those who oppose him.
“I’ve lived by those principles of hard work and responsibility my whole life — living out the American story. And it works,” Holtz said. “But there are people today, like politicians, professors and protesters, and of course, President Trump’s naysayers in the media, who like to blame others for problems. They don’t have pride in our country.”
Pence did bring up the unrest in Kenosha and other cities, but did not express any sympathy for those who had taken to the streets to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake by police, nor for the killings that transpired Tuesday.
“Let me be clear: The violence must stop — whether in Minneapolis, Portland or Kenosha,” Pence said, before offering a dire warning to the nation. “The hard truth is: You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America. Under President Trump, we will stand with those who stand on the thin blue line, and we’re not going to defund the police — not now, not ever.”
Trump’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, offered an equally pointed attack on Democrats.
“In recent months, we have seen weak, spineless politicians cede control of our great American cities to violent mobs,” she said. “‘Defund the police’ is the rallying cry for the new, radical Democrat Party. Joe Biden will not do what it takes to maintain order. To keep our children safe in our neighborhoods and in their schools. To restore our American way of life.”
Biden has repeatedly said he does not favor defunding police departments.
Women for Trump (some of whom work for him)
Following a video on the suffragette Susan B. Anthony, whom Trump pardoned posthumously last week, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told the story of her decision to undergo a mastectomy after learning that she had tested positive for the BRCA2 genetic mutation, which often leads to breast cancer. The latest member of the president’s administration to speak in his defense, McEnany was notable in that her day job consists of trying to make the president look good.
“Now, my daughter is 9 months old. She’s a beautiful, sweet little girl, and I choose to work for this president for her,” McEnany said, adding, “I want my daughter to grow up in President Donald Trump’s America.”
Second lady Karen Pence spoke next, again praising Anthony.
“The women’s suffrage movement was the gateway that led to women having the opportunities to achieve monumental milestones and accomplish significant achievements in both civic and governmental roles,” Pence said, adding, “One hundred years ago today, women secured the right to vote. So let’s vote, America! Let’s honor our heroes! Let’s reelect President Trump and Vice President Pence for four more years!”
A CBS poll released last week shows Biden in the lead among women voters polled, with 56 percent, to 39 percent who favor Trump. The Trump campaign has also not made it a secret that it is targeting suburban women, especially white women, a demographic that supported him in the 2016 election.
Lara Trump, who also works for the president’s reelection campaign, also testified on behalf of her father-in-law’s support for women.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, women’s unemployment hit the lowest level since World War II,” she said, adding: “4.3 million new jobs have been created for women — in 2019 alone, women took over 70 percent of those new jobs. Female small-business ownership remains at an all-time high. And 600,000 women have been lifted out of poverty, all since President Trump took office.
“One hundred years ago today,” she added, “the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting the right to vote to every American woman. And since that day, incredible strides have been made by women in America.”
Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president, who plans to step down next month, also invoked Anthony and the suffragettes.
“One hundred years ago, courageous warriors helped women secure the right to vote. This has been a century worth celebrating, but also a reminder that our democracy is young and fragile. A woman in a leadership role still can seem novel,” Conway said. “Not so for President Trump. For decades, he has elevated women to senior positions — in business, and in government. He confides in and consults us, respects our opinions, and insists that we are on equal footing with the men.”
That unified message was, however, somewhat undercut by the appearance on Tuesday night of Abby Johnson, a self-described “anti-feminist” and anti-abortion activist who supports policies that would strip women of the right to vote.
Cover thumbnail photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
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