• Tue. Nov 24th, 2020

RNC Night 1: Watch the Moments That Mattered

Adam: So, first things first. I know Republicans had talked about this being an optimistic, uplifting convention. Maybe that happens on Night 2? We heard a pretty withering case against Joseph R. Biden Jr. that President Trump is obviously going to use this week and in the months ahead. We always knew this would be a negative campaign, but I think this is going to the most brutal campaign we’ve seen since George Bush defeated Michael Dukakis in 1988.

Shane: Hey, shouldn’t I be the one linking to your smart stories? Yeah, the message tonight was pretty clear: Joe Biden is a radical. Donald Trump cares (and is not a racist). Oh, and please remember the pre-pandemic economy.

Adam: It was a night that included dark (and often misleading) warnings that a Biden presidency would lead to more crime and civil unrest, higher taxes, defunded police departments and a shutdown of the country to deal with the coronavirus. (No attacks on mask-wearing mandates, though, right? Well, the week is young.) And have you ever seen a candidate for president use the White House as a stage for a convention, Shane?

Shane: There needs to be a sharper description than norm-busting. The president is taking the seat of government and turning it into the backdrop for his campaign marketing — even bringing in hostages whose release the government helped negotiate for a talk-show-like segment (by the way, I stopped cold when Mr. Trump said, “To me, President Erdogan was very good” to a former hostage). The East Room event was also surprising because Mr. Trump’s first prime-time convention appearance was talking about a virus he has more often preferred to ignore.

Adam: The segment on Covid-19 was striking. The president clearly sees this as a major obstacle to his re-election (you don’t need to commission a poll to know that). You again saw the claim that Mr. Trump was in fact ahead of everyone else in grasping the severity of the pandemic — even though he repeatedly downplayed the virus. From watching this, it sounds like a cure and a vaccine is around the corner. I’m no epidemiologist, but I’m not sure any of that’s correct. And they pulled (accurate) video clips of Democratic leaders — Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio — minimizing the danger of the pandemic. Those were from early March, and those two New Yorkers later changed their tunes — but they did say it.

Shane: Hey, Mr. de Blasio finally got his convention airtime!

Adam: And kind of deliciously, they used quotes from Mr. Cuomo and Gov. Gavin Newsom of California praising Mr. Trump for his response.

Shane: Speaking of which, I couldn’t help but notice that Mr. Newsom’s ex-wife, Kimberly Guilfoyle (who is now Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend), specifically called out California as an example of rotten Democratic rule.

Adam: That was rich. Do you think Mr. Newsom watched her speech?

Shane: I don’t know — you’re the one based in California, Adam. I was also struck by whom the Republicans anointed to open their convention: the pugilistic Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA, who was soon followed by Matt Gaetz, a Florida congressman who once wore a gas mask to the House floor as a stunt. When Mr. Gaetz dropped the word “woketopians,” it felt like I was back covering an annual Conservative Political Action Conference gathering. I guess that was the point: Rally. The. Base.

Adam: Confession: “Woketopians” was a high point of my night.

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Tim Scott Makes Personal Plea to Voters at R.N.C.

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina offered a bright vision of his party’s future in his closing remarks on the first night of the Republican National Convention.

The truth is, our nation’s arc always bends back towards fairness. We are not fully where we want to be, but I thank God Almighty we are not where we used to be. We are always striving to be better. When we stumble, and we will, we pick ourselves back up and try again. We don’t give in to cancel culture or the radical and factually baseless belief that things are worse today than in the 1860s or the 1960s. Make no mistake: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want a cultural revolution, a fundamentally different America. If we let them, they will turn our country into a socialist utopia. And history has taught us that path only leads to pain and misery, especially for hard-working people hoping to rise. Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime. And that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last. There are millions of families just like mine all across this nation, full of potential, seeking to live the American dream. And I’m here tonight to tell you that supporting the Republican ticket gives you the best chance of making that dream a reality.

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Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina offered a bright vision of his party’s future in his closing remarks on the first night of the Republican National Convention.CreditCredit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Adam: I’m going to argue that Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina gave the most important speech of the night, with Nikki Haley coming in a close second. (We’ll get to her — with video! — in a bit.) The Republicans thought so as well; his speech closed out the night. He made a methodical case against Mr. Biden, attacking his record in public service. And he ran through some of Mr. Biden’s more inartful statements on race, including when he said “you ain’t Black” if you vote for Mr. Trump, and his sponsorship of a tough 1994 criminal justice bill.

Shane: And it was not just what he said, but who he is in saying it: the Republican Party’s top Black lawmaker. Adam, there were a number of Black speakers on Monday who tried to knock down the accusations that Mr. Trump is racist. Who do you think their target audience was, Black voters or white voters?

Adam: That is one of the big questions of the night. I do not believe, and I don’t think anyone in the Trump or Biden campaigns believes, that Mr. Trump — considering what he’s said and done about race — has any realistic hope of pulling a significant number of Black voters away from Mr. Biden. But I do think having Mr. Scott make that case out there — he was one of a few African-American speakers on Night 1 — gives a license to moderate white voters who are thinking about voting for the president but are put off by his racist statements. It is a permission structure; if Mr. Scott says that Mr. Trump is OK, well.…

Shane: Herschel Walker, the former football player, was explicit about this point earlier in the night: “I have seen racism up close. I know what it is. And it isn’t Donald Trump.”

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‘He Has Earned 4 More Years as President,’ Nikki Haley Says

Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador, praised President Trump and spoke of her own experience in politics during the Obama administration, when she was the governor of South Carolina.

Joe Biden and the Democrats are still blaming America first. Donald Trump has always put America first, and he has earned four more years as president. At home, the president is the clear choice on jobs and the economy. He’s moved America forward, while Joe Biden has held America back. When Joe was V.P., I was governor of the great state of South Carolina. We had a pretty good run. Manufacturers of all kinds flocked to our state from overseas, creating tens of thousands of American jobs. People were referring to South Carolina as the ‘Beast of the Southeast,’ which I loved. Our state came face to face with evil: A white supremacist walked into Mother Emanuel Church during Bible study. Twelve African-Americans pulled up a chair and prayed with him for an hour. Then he began to shoot. After that horrific tragedy, we didn’t turn against each other. We came together — Black and white, Democrat and Republican. Together, we made the hard choices needed to heal and removed a divisive symbol peacefully and respectfully. What happened then should give us hope now. America isn’t perfect, but the principles we hold dear are perfect.

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Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador, praised President Trump and spoke of her own experience in politics during the Obama administration, when she was the governor of South Carolina.CreditCredit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Shane: Listening to Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and United Nations ambassador, feels like a complete repackaging of the Trump agenda. It’s all refracted through the prism of traditional Republicanism. It was taxes and spending at home, projecting American values abroad. Simple contrasts, calm delivery and digestible framing. “He’s moved America forward,” she said of Mr. Trump, “while Joe Biden held America back.”

Adam: There was speculation early in the year that Ms. Haley had stepped down from her post at the United Nations to distance herself from Mr. Trump in preparation for her own presidential run. I even heard some speculation she might challenge him in the 2020 primary, which seemed nuts. It’s hard to imagine anything else she might have done on Night 1 to put her into the very best of graces with Mr. Trump — and, importantly, Mr. Trump’s supporters. I think she did herself some good here if she wants to run for president in 2024.

Shane: Look, there were definitely some shades of 2024 on Monday and hints about the future fissures inside a post-Trump G.O.P. — especially with Ms. Haley’s stylistic opposite, Donald Trump Jr., speaking immediately after her. Ms. Haley talked about removing the Confederate flag as governor — though she didn’t say the word Confederate! — calling it a “divisive symbol.” A few minutes later Don Jr. spoke about not tearing down monuments. “We must learn from our past, not erase it,” he said.

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Donald Trump Jr. Attacks Biden for ‘Radical Left-Wing Policies’

The president’s son used his remarks at the Republican National Convention to suggest that Joe Biden would damage the economy and that Mr. Biden was part of the “swamp” his father aimed to drain.

Biden’s radical, left-wing policies would stop our economic recovery cold. He’s already talking about shutting the country down, again. It’s madness. Democrats claim to be for workers, but they’ve spent the entire pandemic trying to sneak a tax break for millionaires in Democrat states into the Covid relief bill. Biden has promised to take that money back out of your pocket and keep it in the swamp. That makes sense, though, considering Joe Biden is basically the Loch Ness Monster of the swamp. For the past half-century, he’s been lurking around in there. He sticks his head up every now and then to run for president. Then he disappears and doesn’t do much in between. So if you’re looking for hope, look to the man who did what the failed Obama-Biden administration never could do and built the greatest economy our country has ever seen.

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The president’s son used his remarks at the Republican National Convention to suggest that Joe Biden would damage the economy and that Mr. Biden was part of the “swamp” his father aimed to drain.CreditCredit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Adam: So, Donald Trump Jr. is no Donald Trump.

Shane: Hey, you used that line last week about the Cuomos!

Adam: Yeah, well, I’m learning that a lot of these political apples are falling far away from their political trees. Or something like that. Most viewers were really meeting the president’s son for the first time as a person who might carry on his father’s legacy, and some may know him only as the ambling, good-natured brother of Eric as portrayed by Mikey Day on “Saturday Night Live.” But in his speech, he was coiled, intense and partisan.

Shane: Of the Trump children, it is Donald Trump Jr. who has his finger closest to the pulse of the Trump base. There was not a lot of subtext to this speech. He called the former vice president “Beijing Biden.” He said Mr. Biden wants to “bring in more illegal immigrants to take jobs from American citizens.” He recently wrote a book called “Triggered” about getting under the skin of the left, but the younger Mr. Trump surely knows where the political pressure points are for the right, too. Who knows if an actual Trump might be the inheritor of the mantle of Trumpism?

Adam: OK, that’s a really good point and he might do well in a future primary. But positions aside, he does not seem to have the campaign skills that his father has displayed. President Trump knows how to entertain his supporters; you are as likely to hear laughter at a Trump rally as cheers. His son doesn’t seem to have the kind of side to him that would make an audience laugh. Listen, if he does want to pick up his father’s legacy, he has time: It’s not easy being a candidate. But I’m not sure it was a terrific outing for him.

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Trump Makes Baseless Claims on Mail-In Voter Fraud

President Trump was nominated for a second term on Monday at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., and used his speech at the convention to cast doubt on the November election.

Chant: “Four more years!” “Now if you want to really drive them crazy, you say, ‘12 more years’ — [cheering] “Twelve more years! Twelve more years!” because we caught them doing some really bad things in 2016. Let’s see what happens. We caught them doing some really bad things. We have to be very careful, because they’re trying it again with this whole 80 million mail-in ballots that they’re working on. They’re going to mail out 80 million ballots. It’s impossible — they have no idea. Who’s mailing them? Mostly Democrat — Democrat states and Democrat governors. Well, supposing they don’t mail them to Republican neighborhoods? That means they’re not going to get them. So they’re going to complain and the election’s going to be over, and then they’re going to complain, and then they’ll say, oh, well, we didn’t get it, big deal. In the meantime, you might lose the election. This is the greatest scam in the history of politics, I think. And I’m not — I’m talking about beyond our nation. What they are doing is using Covid to steal an election. They’re using Covid to defraud the American people, all of our people, of a fair and free election.

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President Trump was nominated for a second term on Monday at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., and used his speech at the convention to cast doubt on the November election.CreditCredit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Shane: The cable countdown timers Monday afternoon said there were still hours to go before the convention was supposed to begin, and yet there was Mr. Trump talking to the party delegates in North Carolina — and he sure does look like a politician who has missed live and adoring audiences.

Adam: Talking. And talking. And talking. Is it over yet? Anyway, he didn’t waste any time answering one question I had coming into this week: Will this be an all-Trump-all-the-time convention?

Shane: Was it ever not going to be? On Sunday, when the Republican National Committee’s delegates basically abandoned a formal party platform in 2020, it really drove home how Republicanism is now Trumpism. “The Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the president’s America-first agenda,” said the formal resolution.

Adam: Do you think he will change his tone in his big speech later this week? Will he broaden his appeal when speaking to what I assume will be a huge national audience?

Shane: Don’t use the T-word, Adam! There is just one Donald J. Trump, and he is a perpetually aggrieved president who views the world through the prisms of strength and weakness, friends and haters. And as he told the delegates, he thinks he has the “greatest base” ever. That’s whom he’ll (mostly) be speaking to.

Adam: I know, I know. But he really squeaked to victory in 2016. I’m not sure a base-only speech is going to get him back to the White House. He hit so many different issues and themes on Monday. He made unfounded warnings about ballot fraud, raising questions about the integrity of the election. He said Democrats were trying to use the coronavirus to steal the election. He called it the “China virus.” All that stuff sent the fact-checking police into overdrive.

Shane: All the hits.