It had to happen.
Donald Trump said something entirely true.
Not true in the way he meant it, of course, and nestled in his usual thicket of lies.
But there it was, in his speech Thursday closing the 2020 Republican National Convention, with the White House gang-pressed into service as a scenic backdrop, in violation of both law and American tradition:
“This is the most important election in the history of our country,” he said. “At no time before have voters faced a clearer choice between two parties, two visions, two philosophies or two agendas.”
No kidding. Those two philosophies are the fact-free, law-flouting, malevolent cult of personality that is Trumpism, taking a pickaxe to the foundations of American democracy.
And the other, offering at least hope of return to an America of decency, intelligence and integrity.
The choice between ignoring a pandemic and doing everything possible to stop it.
Trump’s speech capped what has been a four-day master-class in cynicism, beginning to end.
Starting with Monday’s lead-off speaker, Charlie Kirk declaring “Trump is the bodyguard of Western civilization.”
Ending with the supposed bodyguard himself mentioning the “damage Joe Biden inflicted,” when it is the president’s own incompetence that has directly contributed to the deaths of 180,000 Americans since Valentine’s Day, and his continued failure that will help kill 150,000 more by Christmas.
In between Kirk and Trump, dozens spoke on dozens of issues, all circling back to the same conclusion: veneration of one man. An act of exaggerated adulation with few precedents in American history, if not all history. The children of Israel dancing around the golden calf, perhaps, buffing its gilded hide with their hair.
There was a secondary theme: Be afraid. Be very afraid. Trump’s go-to tactic is to play upon fear, and a Greatest Hits of favorite Republican terror totems were ceremoniously carried to center stage and displayed like holy relics, like icons. Maybe that’s the Russian influence.
“You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday, , citing unrest that is happening right now in Donald Trump’s America.
The low point? That’s a toughie. There’s so much to choose from. I’d have to go with Tuesday’s naturalization ceremony, which saw Trump, reaching the peak of hypocrisy and planting a flag. The man who marched into office demonizing immigrants under the fig leaf of legality swearing in five new citizens. Who was that supposed to fool?
If you didn’t watch — and who could blame you? — the convention was a much slicker show than four years ago. A parade of mostly obscure Black pols enlisted to scrub away Trump’s years of barely-concealed racism. The GOP tapped two producers of “The Apprentice” to give it extra polish.
Trump promised us that COVID-19 would magically vanish, and for four days, it did. Only a few presidential words of hollow sympathy, a greatest hits of his efforts, then off-loading his own inaction onto the Chinese, not to forget some murmured condolences by Melania Trump, dressed in khaki, as if auditioning for her role in a remake of “Isla, She-Wolf of the SS.”
The truth, the cruel irony, is that Trump ignored the coronavirus and downplayed its threat because he wanted a strong economy when election time rolled around. If only he had set aside that selfish concern and applied federal resources and leadership to fighting the pandemic, the crisis would be easing here as it is in other countries. He’d have defeated the virus and preserved the economy.
Instead he did neither. We have this double disaster. Because he took — and takes — the typical GOP denialism applied to climate change, health care, any problem whose solution imposes some kind of financial burden, Trump ended up with both an unchecked plague and a cratered economy.
The trappings of the presidency were enlisted as a stage set for Trump’s self-glorifying pageant. Sure, it’s a crime, a violation of the Hatch Act. But isn’t that Donald Trump in a nutshell? The guy who presents himself as embodying law and order while busy breaking the law.
Which only applies to the little people anyway. What was Trump’s line? “It isn’t a crime if the president does it.”
“We will ... protect America against all dangers,” promised the president who closed his eyes and let a deadly virus overwhelm our nation.
The question is: Will we protect America from the danger of this president?