*Plaudits to Cleveland for keeping a lid on protest excess and for not turning its downtown into Checkpoint Charlie. But in itemizing what Tampa, the GOP Convention host in 2012, could learn from Cleveland, let’s keep context in mind.
Four years ago, Tampa’s biggest challenge was not so much the political left or self-styled anarchists, it was terrorism. It just wasn’t underscored. The GOP was the party of the president who had invaded Iraq and created jihadist pep rallies across the Middle East. Tampa was home to MacDill AFB, where the war in the Middle East was being fought from. How’s that for symbolism?
Plus downtown Tampa was uniquely vulnerable. It’s proximate to a bay and channels, which were prime, dirty-bomb targets. A nearby commuter airport further complicated logistics.
And Gov. Rick Scott wouldn’t help with a gun-free zone-exemption request around the arena.
Tampa may be “one and done” for political conventions in hurricane season. But that one, had something gone horribly wrong, would have forever defined Tampa. If memory serves, the sigh of relief from City Hall in July 2012 was palpable, understandable and earned after Tampa’s lock-down convention.
* Timing, we are often reminded, is everything. If this were John Kasich, Jon Huntsman, hell, Mitt Romney, this could be an underdog Hillary Clinton looking up from behind all that baggage.
* Debbie Wasserman Schultz is now, of course, the former DNC chair.
Sans hacked emails, her legacy would have been outspoken, if abrasive, Democratic congresswoman from South Florida, Clinton loyalist and pandering harlot to the Cuban pro-embargo crowd. Here’s hoping that pushing her on her sword and gavel as DNC chair helps enough with Bernie Sanders followers, who have seen their accusations of party favoritism toward Clinton validated.
* Speaking of the Sanders supporters, the media found more than its share of disaffected followers who were not acknowledging the bigger-picture implications of not supporting Clinton. You just knew Rachel Maddow wanted to shout down: “Excuse me, but could you still do the common-sense, adult, pro-American right thing and back your party’s nominee and help ensure that the farcical Donald Trump doesn’t become an existential threat to us all? Is that too much to ask?”
* Speculation remains rife that the DNC hacking was done by Russians. The putative motive: help their preferred presidential candidate, Donald Trump, by sowing more discord among Sanders’ supporters and tamping down the Clinton vote in November.
A suggested Democratic-campaign retort to slighted Sanders backers: “Hillary Clinton is our candidate, not Debbie Wasserman Schultz. And Donald Trump remains the beneficiary of any more email overreaction. Moreover, Vladimir Putin wants Trump to be president. Anybody have a problem with that endorsement? Hillary Clinton is running for president–not American Czar.”
* The Democratic Party rolled out its A-listers and they delivered to balance out Day One’s DNC chaos. Impassioned and energetic, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker made what amounted to a Democratic superstar-to-be debut. No surprise that observers were referencing the national debut of a certain Illinois senator at the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston for comparison.
Michelle Obama reminded everyone that she is a gifted speaker: Eloquent, classy and optimistic in her “I’m with her,” speech-for-the-ages presentation. It was a clinic on how to connect with an audience–the First Lady as Hillary Clinton closer. You know she could be a political candidate herself. Heads up once both daughters are on their own.
Elizabeth Warren was Elizabeth Warren. Snarky on Donald Trump and aggressive as an advocate for the non-wealthy and the progressive agenda. An effective “I’m with Hillary” mantra line from a Bernie believer was well received.
Bernie Sanders, preceded by a paean video, did what he could to fence mend. He had won 43 percent of the vote and had 45 percent of the pledged delegates, and his anti-establishment activists wanted red meat from the podium. He reminded them of their roll call roles, the “most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party” and their ongoing “revolution.” He also politely lectured that disagreements are part of the Democratic process–not a cause for pouting and polarization. In short: We lost the nomination, but we won the issues.
“Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president,” underscored Sanders, “and I’m proud to stand with her tonight.”
* Best cut-to-the-chase line: Comedian Sarah Silverman, an early Sanders backer. “To the ‘Bernie or Bust’ people: You’re being ridiculous.”
* Yeah, the email leaks created some Democratic chaos, but the GOP convention–with the heavy-handed, personal touch of the master negotiator himself–was still an embarrassing amateur production.
* Conventional, as it were, wisdom has it that Ted Cruz likely committed political suicide with his prime-time, boo-inducing non-endorsement of Donald Trump. Maybe. But it’s hardly the longest of long shots for Cruz, the duplicitously slick, evangelical-appealing orator, to double down on his presidential chances in 2020.
All it would take would be a particularly poor showing by Trump–in a winnable election for any other GOP nominee–that wreaks havoc on down-ballot Republican candidates. The sort of electoral disaster that costs the GOP congressional control and results in an establishment call to return to a party that doesn’t rally brownshirts.
Cruz can make the post-Trump point that this is about principle. That should be safe and sacrosanct–not unlike freedom, patriotism and all things Godly. He accurately called Trump a “pathological liar.” You don’t take that back unless you are pathologically unprincipled. Trump insulted his wife. You don’t let that one ride if you’re a real man. You sure in hell don’t endorse.
And Cruz, of course, is still counting on a gullible Republican Party, especially the primary chorus, to misread his evangelical hypocrisy.
* Maybe Pam Bondi’s Republican Convention speech wasn’t the big deal many Florida Republicans made it out to be. Were that really the case, she probably would have had her roots done for the occasion.
* The more you see Ben Carson, the more you think: He was a brain surgeon? Seriously?