In Donald Trump’s world, his “swift action” confronting the coronavirus was enough to save millions of lives.
He’s a compassionate leader, a “family man,” known for his empathy and diplomacy.
And the country’s biggest national crisis isn’t a deadly pandemic but an epidemic of “cancel culture” sweeping the nation.
On the first night of the Republican National Convention, Americans got a glimpse of Mr. Trump’s augmented reality. And it seemed pretty detached from, well, actual reality.
Back in the real world, nearly 1,000 Americans die of the coronavirus daily. Unemployment claims are back up to 1.1 million in a week. The country’s reckoning with police brutality continues: On Sunday, Jacob Blake, a Black man in Wisconsin, was shot in the back multiple times by the police in front of his children. And the New York attorney general is investigating Mr. Trump’s private business for fraud.
None of that mattered Monday night in the convention hall, where the marquee speakers wanted voters to essentially forget the last six months and re-elect a president who was once overseeing a booming economy.
Over the course of the evening, speaker after speaker tried to recast Mr. Trump as a compassionate character, Joe Biden’s establishment brand as radically left-wing and the administration’s handling of the coronavirus crisis as successful.
That’s a lot of revisionist history to pack into one empty auditorium.
“It’s almost like this election is shaping up to be church, work and school versus rioting, looting and vandalism,” Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, said in his prime-time remarks.
Those who did address the pandemic largely extolled Mr. Trump’s work combating the coronavirus, ignoring the president’s promise that the country would be open by Easter, his frequent predictions that the virus would “just disappear” and the fact that there’s still no cohesive federal strategy for combating the pandemic.
Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador, praised Mr. Trump’s foreign policy, singling out his “toughest” sanctions on North Korea, even as U.S. intelligence assesses the North Koreans as having a far larger nuclear stockpile than when he took office in 2017. The younger Mr. Trump accused Democratic mayors of ordering the police to “stand down” as “anarchists” flood city streets, even as images of officers clashing with protesters fill television screens.
And the “socialist left” Democrats were accused of everything from defunding the police to promoting open borders to destroying the suburbs to encouraging all-out anarchy in American cities. Republicans have struggled to make that attack stick to Mr. Biden, who defeated a series of more liberal candidates, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, during the primary campaign.
“People don’t always see those failures, because they think we’re having a policy debate on two sides of an issue,” said Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina. “Our side is working on policy, while Joe Biden’s radical Democrats are trying to permanently transform what it means to be an American.”
Mr. Trump has always been skilled at projecting his reality onto America. His star turn in “The Apprentice” created the mythology of a Midas-touch businessman. His 2016 convention decree of “I alone can fix it” has been appropriated onto every success in the country under his watch, regardless of the origins.
“Trump is the bodyguard of Western civilization,” said Charlie Kirk, the 26-year-old provocateur who has built a huge online following by echoing many far-right narratives in support of the president.
The convention is providing the biggest stage for the Trump show in years, if not ever. But the Republicans’ decidedly lo-fi program Monday night struck a sharp contrast with the slickly produced Democratic spectacle.
Where Democrats had Michelle Obama, former first lady and author of a blockbuster memoir, giving an intimate address in her living room, the Republicans featured Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr., who now leads the president’s finance committee, shouting in an empty auditorium.
The reality is that Mr. Trump doesn’t have those kinds of testimonials available to him. The most recent Republican president, first lady and party nominee aren’t willing to speak on his behalf. Other Republicans with an eye on the future — figures like Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland — want to see which way the wind will blow in the post-Trump era, which many believe could begin this November.
For many Republicans, the risk of speaking at Mr. Trump’s party outweighs the reward of a prime-time slot.
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More convention coverage
Here’s our recap article from the front page of the newspaper: “President Trump and his political allies mounted a fierce and misleading defense of his political record on the first night of the Republican convention on Monday. …”
Our news analysis: “President Trump was trying to rewrite history and enlist frontline Covid workers to the cause. The strain showed.”
A team of New York Times reporters fact-checked the Night 1 speakers, providing context and explanation.
Never in recent times has a president used the majesty of the White House to stage a nominating convention, nor has a sitting secretary of state participated in such a partisan event.
Of all the president’s children, Donald Trump Jr. has the strongest connection to the politics, voters and online disinformation ecosystem that put his father in the White House. What will he do with it?
Speakers at the Republican National Convention turned California into a dystopian punchline on Monday, portraying America’s most populous state as a dangerous wasteland ruled by liberal politicians who are oblivious to public safety.
The Los Angeles Times raises an eyebrow.
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