Friday, July 22, 2016

EDITORIAL >> Convention in disarray

Even after Donald Trump’s strong acceptance speech Thursday night, television viewers could not miss the deep divisions inside the Republican Party during this week’s often chaotic convention.

There was our own state Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Bigelow) on the convention floor harassing ing a female delegate from Colorado for her support of Sen. Ted Cruz, who gave an impassioned speech the night before urging delegates to vote their conscience — in other words, he refused to endorse Trump, which got Cruz booed off the stage.

“I don’t want his endorsement,” an angry Trump said on Friday. “If he gives it, I won’t accept it.”

Trump promised to make America great and safe again on the day of his inauguration, offering few details. Would he ask Congress to build his great wall along the Mexican border and abrogate military treaties and trade agreements? Here was a strongman offering a program of national salvation, shouting most of the time as if to make sure viewers in the upper balconies would hear him. But his biggest audience was at home and there was no need to shout for more than an hour — the longest acceptance speech in almost 50 years.

When did politicians become loud and shrill? Call us old-fashioned, but we remember hearing Ronald Reagan at two political rallies in Little Rock, one in 1984, when he was running for re-election and saying he would raise taxes “over my dead body,” managing to sound avuncular, and the other in 1988, when he campaigned for George H.W. Bush.

Reagan never raised his voice, but the crowd was mesmerized. Trump’s speech was loud as if to compensate for its lack of lyricism — no morning in America or shining city on a hill — just gloom and doom that wouldn’t inspire young people or women or independents to vote for him.

The Bushes boycotted the convention, as did most of his former rivals, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Trump hopes to make up for their lack of support by courting Bernie Sanders voters.

Delegates booed Sen. Cruz on Wednesday night after he refused to endorse Trump. Cruz left in a hurry and needed security to get away from the angry crowds with his wife, who was insulted with cries of “Goldman Sachs,” where she works as an investment banker.

Cruz wouldn’t back down. “I’m not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” Cruz said after his keynote address, referring to Trump’s tweeting unflattering photos of Heidi Cruz and linking his dad, Rafael, to Lee Harvey Oswald, John Kennedy’s assassin.

Old-timers were reminded of the 1964 Republican convention, when Republicans heckled New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller after he criticized Sen. Barry Goldwater, the GOP’s nominee that year, who lost in a landslide to President Johnson.

The night Cruz snubbed Trump, the nominee gave an interview to The New York Times that showed once again that he knows very little about U.S. foreign policy. He alarmed our NATO allies by suggesting we have no moral or legal obligation to defend them against a Russian invasion and blamed America for much of the world’s problems.

For decades, Republicans have accused Democrats of blaming America first for the world’s problems, but now have a Republican candidate doing the same thing, only Trump might be worse. In the interview, Trump signaled to his pal Vladimir Putin that a Trump administration might not honor our NATO commitments in Europe, giving a green light to a Russian invasion of Latvia and other Baltic states. Putin’s critics say Trump, dubbed the Siberian candidate, wants to make the Baltics Russian again.

Trump spoke to The Times just as Gov. Mike Pence, his vice presidential running mate, was about to give his keynote address, insisting that we must stand with our allies and lambasted the Obama administration for “leading from behind.”

If this contradiction wasn’t bad enough, the Republican presidential candidate in the interview pointed to what he said were our own moral failings, insisting that the U.S. must not lecture foreign dictators like Putin and Recep Erdogan in Turkey. “I think Putin and I will get along pretty well,” said Trump.

The two have formed a mutual-admiration society and have accused the United States of engaging in hypocrisy when we accuse Russia and others of becoming dictatorships.

“When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger,” Trump told reporters at The New York Times.

A split GOP faces huge challenges form a formidable Hillary Clinton, who will be nominated at the Democratic convention next week. Her base will be fired up. If she loses, they fear a Trump Justice Department would jail her the day he’s inaugurated — motivation enough for the Democrats to get out the vote in November.