How Melania Trump Saved her Husband (and the GOP Convention)

(Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)
(Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)

by Nancy Kaffer

Here’s what I’d be hoping for if I were a Republican strategist who understands that the party can’t win with a base limited to angry, aging white people: Another plagiarism scandal. An escaped stunt animal. Possibly a wardrobe malfunction.

Because the flap over things such as Melania Trump’s apparent, let’s be nice, homage to Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech has effectively put a stop to broader discussion of an unparalleled storm of divisive, white-supremacist, isolationist, anti-American rhetoric pouring off the stage in Cleveland.

Iowa Rep. Steve King stunned MSNBC viewers when he asked, during a panel, what non-whites had ever contributed to Western civilization.

“I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?” King asked incredulous anchor Chris Hayes.

“Than white people?” Hayes asked. Western civilization, King explained. Another panelist tried to interject: “What about Asia? What about Africa?”

The conversation turned, but the moment is indelible.

And it is just one of many moments, on the first night of the Republican National Convention, that should shock the conscience.

This year’s Republican National Convention — the quadrennial gathering of one of our nation’s two major parties  — was a host of xenophobic, pig-ignorant twaddle trotted out as a profound statement on what America needs.

A washed-up soap opera actor (et tu, Jagger?) addressed the convention, and then told ABC News that he believes President Obama is a Muslim.

A divisive Wisconsin sheriff roused the crowd to cheers at the news that one of the police officers complicit in the death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray had been acquitted.

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst told attendees that the Islamic State terrorist group has a presence in every state. Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani told the crowd that ISIL has vowed to embed operatives in waves of Syrian refugees.

Speaker after speaker told the audience that they live in great danger, despite abundant evidence that shows violent crime has dropped sharply over the past decade. They told the crowd that Obama has encouraged violence against police officers. That our military is barred by federal policy from entering conflict in a manner that would lead to success. That there are no inequities in the criminal justice system, that race and income don’t matter.

It was a convincing bombardment of ugliness. And if any of it were true, I, too, would be deeply disappointed in the system that had allowed these things to occur. That this is the platform promoted by a major American party is breathtaking. It’s a nearly apocalyptic vision of America, and the road ahead.

It’s hard to conceive of any explanation for Melania’s speech resemblance to Michelle’s that doesn’t involve imitation, either by accident or on purpose. Sources, a chyron on CNN blared Tuesday afternoon, say Donald Trump is furious about the flap.

He should be grateful. If it weren’t for Melania, we might be talking about all of the other things people said.

Nancy Kaffer is an editorial board member at the Detroit Free Press, where this first appeared. Follow her on Twitter.