Turbulent reality is clashing with the smooth, steady image Republicans are hoping to paint of U.S. President Donald Trump and his leadership on the third night of the party’s convention.
A potentially catastrophic hurricane is bearing down on the Gulf Coast, wildfires are ravaging huge areas of California, protests are growing in Wisconsin after the shooting of a Black man by police — and the still-raging coronavirus pandemic is killing more than 1,000 Americans a day.
Adding still another controversial element, late Wednesday pro basketball postponed three games after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court for an NBA playoff game because of Jacob Blake’s shooting. That was a few hours before Vice-President Mike Pence was to speak from Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, where an 1814 battle inspired the U.S. national anthem. Trump has strongly criticized athletes who kneel rather than stand during the anthem in protest of racial injustice.
The historic convergence of health, economic, environmental and social emergencies is only increasing the pressure on Trump, as he looks to reshape the contours of his lagging campaign against former vice-president Joe Biden with election day just 10 weeks off and early voting beginning much sooner.
The Republicans’ convention response to those growing challenges has been uneven. The opening nights featured virtually no reference to the hurricane or wildfires. The lineup has included speakers who have been at odds with the Black Lives Matter movement, including a St. Louis couple who brandished guns and the Kentucky attorney general who has not yet filed charges in the death of a woman killed by police.
An early speaker Wednesday night reflected on political relevance in the cultural divisions surrounding the national reckoning over racial injustice.
“From Seattle and Portland to Washington and New York, Democrat-run cities across this country are being overrun by violent mobs,” said South Dakota Gov Kristi Noem. “People that can afford to flee have fled. But the people that can’t — good, hard-working Americans —are left to fend for themselves.”
Trump turned to Twitter on Wednesday to say his administration was engaged with state and local officials in areas in Hurricane Laura’s path. The storm was forecast to make landfall along the Louisiana-Texas border shortly after Pence’s keynote address Wednesday night.
Adding to the sense of convention uncertainty, another speaker was abruptly pulled from the lineup. The Trump campaign confirmed that Robert Unanue, the president and CEO of Goya Foods, would not be speaking Wednesday night, citing a “logistical problem.” Unanue’s appearance at the White House earlier this month and his praise of Trump sparked a boycott of his company’s products.
Also unclear was the status of a speech by former professional football player Jack Brewer. NPR reported late Tuesday that Brewer had been charged with insider trading by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission this month. The campaign would not say definitively whether he would speak.
Organizers on Tuesday had pulled another featured speaker, Mary Ann Mendoza, after she directed her Twitter followers to a series of anti-Semitic, conspiratorial messages hours before her pre-recorded segment was to air.
The night’s lineup is expected to include Clarence Henderson — who participated in the 1960 Greensboro, N.C., Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins — for what Trump’s team said would be a discussion of “peaceful protest.”
Coronavirus barely mentioned
Convention speakers so far have largely stuck to Trump’s law-and-order message, warning that electing Biden would lead to violence in American cities spilling into the suburbs, a message with racist undertones. Trump on Wednesday tweeted about sending federal agents to Kenosha to help quell unrest, and the Justice Department said it was sending in the FBI and federal marshals.
Michael McHale, the president of the National Association of Police Organizations, is expected to tell the convention: “The violence we are seeing in these and other cities isn’t happening by chance; it’s the direct result of elected leaders refusing to allow law enforcement to protect our communities.”
While the coronavirus wrought havoc on Trump’s convention plans — he had to shelve plans for arena events in either North Carolina or Florida — it has thus far taken a back seat in the programming. However, Pence, the chair of the White House virus task force, was ready to defend the administration’s response in his remarks.
Before that, Melania Trump, the president’s wife, was the most direct of any of the convention speakers in addressing the suffering wrought by the pandemic.
“My deepest sympathy goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one, and my prayers are with those who are ill or suffering,” she said Tuesday night. “I know many people are anxious and some feel helpless. I want you to know you are not alone.”
Pence is expected to spend much of his speech detailing the administration’s record on the economy and foreign policy, capping a lineup that would “showcase American heroes” and their stories, organizers said.
The night is also to include remarks from the president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, as well as several administration officials including departing counselor Kellyanne Conway, the manager of Trump’s 2016 general election campaign, and press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
Also scheduled are former football coach Lou Holtz and Richard Grenell, the former acting director of national intelligence and ambassador to Germany.
The program also features prominent female lawmakers, including Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Joni Ernst. Reps. Dan Crenshaw of Texas and Lee Zeldin of New York, both Iraq War veterans, were appearing alongside more members of Trump’s family.
There were also less familiar faces. Sam Vigil, whose wife Jacqueline Vigil was shot and killed in her driveway in Albuquerque, N.M., and who supports the president’s efforts deploying federal agents to cities with high crime rates, will speak, as will Scott Dane, the executive director of the Associated Contract Loggers and Truckers of Minnesota; Tara Myers, a school choice advocate; and Sister Dede Byrne, a missionary who performs medical work overseas.
Published at Wed, 26 Aug 2020 22:38:20 +0000