After four nights of scalding and often shouted slash-and-burn attacks directed at Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, it was quite a shock on Thursday night when Donald Trump nearly lulled America to sleep with his Republican National Convention speech on the south lawn of the White House.
It’s not that Trump delivered a soothing address filled with warmth and good feeling. During long passages he savaged Biden as a Trojan Horse who would deliver America-hating socialists and anarchists to power. Those were the more lively sections of the speech. The trouble is that the charges against Biden had been made at the convention by many others before Trump, sometimes in identical language.
But even when the precise words weren’t recycled, they still felt like retreads because the speech was mind-numbingly repetitive. How many times did Trump say that if Biden is elected the Democrats would come for America’s guns? That it was time to bring jobs back from China? That the stakes in the election couldn’t be higher? It’s as if the authors of the address thought everything in it was so important it needed to be reiterated two or three times.
And then there were the lists. Lists of personages and events from American history at the beginning of the speech, and then again at the end of the speech. Lists, sprinkled throughout, of all the ways America is gloriously exceptional. Lists of Trump’s wonderful, stupendous accomplishments. Lists of the wonderful, stupendous things he will accomplish if he’s re-elected. The last of these lists made the latter half of the speech sound more like an interminable State of the Union address than a nomination acceptance.
And all of it was delivered in the slurring, monotonous drone that Trump adopts whenever he’s reined in by written remarks on a teleprompter. Throughout the second half of the address, you feel him breaking away from the script for a word here, a phrase there, like he was dying to turn the occasion into one of his vulgarity- and mockery-infused campaign rallies where he riffs for 90 minutes about his enemies.
Or maybe he was just trying to keep himself awake. I know the feeling.
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