My Mama wasn’t the only one who said, and said it, and said it. And all of you who heard it from your own sainted mothers know what I’m talking about: “Now if you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”
After three days of Republican conventionizing, let New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Paul Ryan and the various second-tier entertainment stars who’ve taken a turn at the podium in Cleveland beware. If our Mamas were right and had behind their admonitions the endorsement of, say, The Saints, get ready fellows. You’ll be making a stop at a way station on your way inside the Pearly Gates. The Mamas will be lined up with hickory switches.
Oh, you may make it to the Streets of Gold, but you won’t be sitting down for awhile.
The convention thus far – and there’s no reason to think the last day and the Donald Trump extravaganza of acceptance will be any different – has been one endless, vicious hissy fit and attack on presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. What it hasn’t been is a showcase of what Republicans believe in, how they’ll make America better and greater and more understanding and more tolerant. What it hasn’t been is a joyous occasion to show middle-class families how their lives will be improved, how Republicans will lead with optimism and hope and energy, how they’ll bring those of widely different backgrounds together to pull us all up to that “shining city on the hill” that President Ronald Reagan talked about.
No, the city of those running and speaking at this convention isn’t shining at all. They’re speaking of an economy in collapse (it’s not), a failed president (he’s not), a country torn in a million pieces and surely set for annihilation (it’s not). Their city isn’t hopeful, as Reagan’s was. It’s hopeless; it’s falling apart and on the precipice.
That the Republicans can do no better in their one chance to spotlight their vision than attack Hillary Clinton in personal, deceptive and dishonest ways is disheartening. The presumptive nominee of the Democrats doesn’t deserve a pass, of course. She’s got explaining still to do on her speechifying for big money, her connections to Wall Street, her performance as secretary of state, the emails and all that. But the over-the-top behavior in Cleveland is an insult to the intelligence of Republicans and Democrats alike.
Christie sought to present his attack on Clinton as proof of the need to indict her, with the crowd yelling “Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, yelled his contempt for Clinton from the stage. Others made outrageous accusations implying Clinton was some kind of traitor. And these charges are made against someone who has been a public figure for more than a quarter century, whose life has been “vetted” far more than any other candidate. If there’s an open book in the presidential race — like the plot or not — she’s it.
Back in Texas, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush must have been relieved they didn’t go to Cleveland, along with former nominees Mitt Romney and John McCain. In this crowd, they probably wouldn’t have been welcome, anyway.
And here’s what makes it all the worse that Republicans are cheating the American public of what ought to be a positive history lesson about their party. Does the name Lincoln ring a bell? Teddy Roosevelt? What about Eisenhower’s efforts for interstate highways and other ideas progressive for the times? Richard Nixon opened China and had, for a time, a sound domestic agenda. Bush the Senior managed the Cold War and history is now judging him the most decent of men. George W. Bush faced a monumental challenge in steering the country after Sept. 11.
But there’s no time to talk about Republican heroes, and to reassure the public that the party of Lincoln is in there somewhere still, and it’s not just obsessed with all-consuming rage at its opponents. Have the Republicans cheated us of the convention we deserved?
Jenkins: 919-829-4513 or firstname.lastname@example.org