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Trump’s norm-busting acceptance speech seemed desperate

His hourlong+ address on the White House lawn was filled with bizarre claims and exaggerations.

President Donald Trump delivering his acceptance speech during the final event of the Republican National Convention on Thursday.
President Donald Trump delivering his acceptance speech during the final event of the Republican National Convention on Thursday.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Big surprise.

I was horrified by Donald Trump’s hourlong+ Republican-convention-capping lie-a-thon bordering-on-fascist speech Thursday night. 

It kept me up late, and I’m old, so I’ll just give a few excerpts from my notes of some of the weirdest things he said.

  • Overview reactions: Trump seems desperate, more ready — even than usual — to lie like crazy, take risks, and try to do several weird things and say some crazy — er — poop. Including:
  • brag like crazy about what a great president he has already been, based on very questionable assertions (examples: He claimed to have “built the greatest economy in the history of the world” and “secured for the first time, American energy independence”);
  • lie like crazy (the border wall, he claimed, will soon be completed and is exceeding all expectations);
  • pander to the base (as usual); 
  • violate important longstanding norms of proper conduct (including holding a campaign rally on the White House lawn, where he stood against a backdrop of at least 30 American flags (I couldn’t get an accurate count);
  • find some excuse to mention Wyatt Earp, Annie Oakley, Davy Crockett, and Buffalo Bill;
  • scare the country that Biden is a socialist, or perhaps more likely, a socialist tool;
  • assert that Democrats “believe that America is a depraved nation,” while Republicans consider it “the greatest and most exceptional nation in the history of the world”;
  • exaggerate the awfulness of his opponent’s record (“we have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years“);
  • exaggerate the potential awfulness of a Biden victory (“China will own our country if Joe Biden gets elected”);
  • blame China for COVID (I believe he also blamed Biden, but it wasn’t clear for what) while claiming credit for several brilliant accomplishments to beat the virus at home (convalescent plasma), without acknowledging that we have the most cases in the world; 
  • claim bizarrely that, contrary to his own great success on COVID, Biden’s approach would be “surrender”;
  • assert, without details, that the United States is on track to have an effective COVID vaccine “this year”; 
  • promise that as long as he is president the words “under God” will remain in the Pledge of Allegiance;
  • promise in his second term to land the first woman on the moon, and the first man on Mars;
  • frame the election as a question of “whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchists, agitators, and criminals who threaten our citizens;”
  • display his ignorance on many topics, while claiming brilliance.

I’ll follow up on that last one (ignorance married to self-importance) with this one detail I noted. Immediately after referring to Abraham Lincoln, whom Trump likes to talk about ever since he discovered the obscure (incredibly well-known) fact that Lincoln was a Republican, Trump called the upcoming election “the biggest election U.S. history,” which was just one of many assertions that he has been an unimaginably historically awesome president already, and that Biden, either because he’s a socialist or a socialist tool, would be a unimaginable disaster.

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I could, of course, list more items. It was a long speech. 

Trump read off the teleprompter for most of the hour, although he’s very bad at it and is much more entertaining when he ad libs more. He’s good at feeling the crowd and figuring out what will rile them up. Teleprompter Trump is wooden, although his speechwriters gave him good apocalyptic material. In the second half, he gained confidence and seemed to riff more.