Donald Trump rally
Credit: Evan Guest/Flickr

I don’t have anything against Melania Trump and I dislike it when spouses become political piñatas. To a certain unavoidable extent, however, potential First Ladies have to undergo some scrutiny. Mainly, this is because First Ladies are used as political assets to help the candidate win votes. Of course, Bill Clinton is in a different category for several reasons, including being the first man to audition for the role, being highly political, and having a two-term record as president to scrutinize.

Yesterday was supposed to be Melania’s big night at the convention when she would be introduced to the American public and, hopefully, the American public would fall in love with her and relish the idea of her being the First Lady for the next four years. It was really a disservice to her to give her a speech that was significantly plagiarized from Michelle Obama’s convention speech from eight years ago. The country’s first impression is now spoiled, and we all know how important first impressions are for how we feel about people.

It might be somewhat overlooked, but the actual content of the plagiarized component was a highly personal explanation of how Melania’s parents instilled values into her that she still carries to this day. So, that’s a second level of fraud on top of the first. And it’s more difficult to disown the mistake because prior to delivering the speech she claimed to journalist Matt Lauer that “I read once over it, that’s all, because I wrote it … with (as) little help as possible.”

So, she’s stuck in one kind of a lie or another.

I’m not sure how much it helps that no one believes that she’s responsible for cribbing Michelle’s speech when she claimed to have written her speech with as little help as possible. When your defense is that you lied, you are already in a big hole.

The sad thing is that she delivered the only non-appalling speech of the night. I’ll give you a brief rundown of how the night went.

Things got started when Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson took the stage. As a reminder, Daniel Luzer discovered that the whole Duck Dynasty franchise is a fraud. He wrote about it in a January 2014 Washington Monthly piece: Duck Decoy: How the entertainment industry made the Duck Dynasty family into rednecks. Here’s a picture of Phil Robertson’s four sons, before they were transformed into the characters they play on television.


After we were treated to Willie Robertson’s act, we got Scott Baio of Happy Days fame. His speech was overshadowed by his refusal afterwards to apologize for Tweeting out a picture Hillary Clinton standing in front of the letters C-U-N-T.

After that came the Benghazi! segment, when Patricia Smith (a mother of a victim of the attacks) and Sean Smith
and Mark Geist (survivors of the attacks) blamed Hillary Clinton for the tragedy while repeating lies that have been debunked or unproven after 17 separate Republican investigations. The latter two gentlemen spent so much time on the stage cracking jokes (about tampons, for example) that they moved the last speech of the night out of primetime and off of network television.

Reality-show actor Antonio Sabato, Jr. took the stage next for some reason that no one understands. But, like Scott Baio, all anyone is talking about is what he said afterwards when he revealed that in his heart he believes that President Obama is a Muslim.

I doubt that Don King, Mike Tyson, Bobby Knight and Mike Ditka could have done any worse, but none of them are actually on the schedule despite the promises made by Donald Trump. In Don King’s case, he didn’t appear because the RNC put its foot down and pointed out that Don King had once stomped someone to death.

The program moved on to “the illegal alien” segment with appearances by Mary Ann Mendoza, Sabine Durden and Jamiel Shaw who all recalled being victims of crimes committed by undocumented Mexicans. Yet, however much sympathy they might have aroused, they seemed unaware of the unprecedented number of people that have been deported by the Obama administration. The overall impression they left was one of hostility, fear-mongering and factually challenged intolerance.

A series of forgettable speeches followed, with the best delivered by Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke who, despite being a black man, managed to smear the Black Lives Matter movement and cheer the lack of any accountability for the killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore.

Then came Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III. I think it’s a problem to have such a high-profile racist speaking at the convention at all, but it was especially hopeless because Sessions delivered a flat and halting speech to scattered and unenthusiastic applause. He is not an orator.

The actual oration came from Rudy Giuliani who was inexplicably scheduled immediately before Melania. I likened this to having Nine Inch Nails open for Tiny Tim, and there was no way that Melania could match the manic excitement produced by Rudy. And, while it’s true that Giuliani delivered a high energy impassioned speech, so did Pat Buchanan at the 1992 Republican convention in Houston. The effect of the two speeches was about the same if the goal was to reach moderate or undecided voters.

The Melania speech went well enough in real time. To introduce her, Trump came out pro-wrestling style to Queen’s “We are the Champions.” And she looked nice and had a good and confident presence. Considering that English is not her first language and that she was using a teleprompter, she did a competent job of delivering her speech.

Of course, Queen doesn’t want Trump playing their music and all anyone is talking about today is the plagiarism.

To finish out the night, Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn gave a terrible speech as people filed out. It was so poorly received that Flynn repeatedly tried to get the remaining audience to engage in U-S-A and Trump chants, to no avail.

By the time that Joni Ernst took the stage there was hardly anyone in the hall to listen and the networks had moved on. It was a mercy that she didn’t mention hog-castration, but who would have known if she had?

The end of the night had ended little better than the day had begun when Never Trumpers were steamrolled in a procedural fight over the convention rules and their stink dominated the pre-primetime news coverage with a visual demonstration of the party’s disunity.

Trump promised the country a fabulous spectacle and the best convention ever, but the first day was a gigantic failure from beginning to end. It did very, very little to unite the party or reassure doubters that he knows what he is doing. It did a lot to turn off the unconverted.

And then Rep. Steve King explained the rationale for his white supremacy just to put a little cherry on top of a bad day for the Republicans.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at