The great Hunter S. Thompson observed, “the genetically vicious nature of presidential campaigns in America is too obvious to argue with, but some people call it fun, and I am one of them.”
Pity he’s dead. He’d love the 2016 Republican Convention.
There are grown people wearing the lavishly decorated hats usually seen only on mules plodding down Main Street in the town parade. There are buttons proclaiming “Life’s a Bitch, Don’t Vote for One,” and T-shirts with “Trump 2016″ decorated with large, somewhat hirsute, American flag, er, testicles. They don’t just announce their delegate votes, they deliver surreal state commercials:
“Madam Chairman, the commonwealth of Virginia, home of the CIA, a law school named for Justice Antonin Scalia, and Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s stuffed horse, casts 17 votes for Donald J. Trump, 16 votes for the midget senator from Florida, and four votes for Chloe the pot-bellied pig at the Richmond Zoo!”
There are speeches. Or things called speeches. Antonio Sabato, Jr. (you know, from Celebrity Wife-Swap?) assured the nation Barack Obama really, truly, definitely is a TOTAL SECRET MUSLIM. Patriotic do-ragged Willie Robertson, of the mansion-dwelling, multi-millionaire Louisiana Duck Dynasts, said the problem with the lamestream media is that they don’t hang with “regular folks like us.”
Rocking a chin-curtain and the kind of milk-curdling scowl a Klingon would envy, Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke called Black Lives Matter “Marxists.” A gaggle of ex-military gents with very broad necks expressed pervy fantasies about seeing Hillary Clinton in prison stripes or maybe an orange jumpsuit.
Melania, Frau Drumpf, dressed in bright, white, and quite tight Roksanda Ilincic, delivered herself of charmingly accented address, only partially plagiarized from a speech Michelle Obama gave in 2008.
That was just the first night.
On the second night, Mark Burns, an African American preacher from South Carolina, delivered the invocation: “Lord, we’re so thankful for the life of Donald Trump. We’re thankful that you are guiding him — that we, together, can defeat the liberal Democratic Party, to keep us divided and not united, in Jesus’ name — if you believe it, shout amen!”
The very, very white people in the Quicken Loans Arena hollered “Amen!” and looked pleased. See? Republicans aren’t racist: they just interacted with a Genuine Negro!
The he-Trumps, Eric and Donald Jr., applauded lustily. The she-Trumps applauded demurely. Ivanka, Vanessa, Lara and Tiffany — en masse they look like the audition-pool for a Gossip Girl spin-off, all center-parted blondes with tall shoes and lips like hotel pillows.
Tiffany spoke, calling her father “friendly.” Donald Jr. spoke, telling how his father “hung out with the guys on construction sites, pouring sheet rock and hanging — pouring concrete and hanging sheet rock,” He marveled at how a “boy from Queens” with only $35 million in his pocket, could “change the skyline of New York.”
Gov. Chris Christie, the Most Disappointed Man in America, got up and prosecuted Hillary Clinton, Stalinist show trial-style, for murdering the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi with her bare hands, inviting Russia to hack her email account, kicking Bo the White House dog, and wearing white shoes after Labor Day.
Christie had the mob hollering “Guilty!” which was a nice change. Before, they’d all been screaming “Lock her up!”
Cleveland is heaven for journalists right now. Very heaven.
Yet even with all this richness, these manifestations of the messed-up American soul, the story that keeps going like that Ray Banned rabbit drummer isn’t Christie’s kangaroo court, isn’t Donald Jr.’s Horatio Alger fantasy, it isn’t even the New Hampshire legislator and campaign advisor, an ex-Marine Trump refers to as his “favorite veteran,” who said – over and over – that Hillary Clinton ought to be “shot for treason.”
No, it’s poor Melania’s cribbed speech. Even though some Trump minion has come forth to take the blame, explaining that Melania just really “admires Michelle Obama,” be-suited pundits have suggested, not entirely jokingly, that Herr Drumpf fire his wife.
Hey, he’s done it twice before. But Trump partisans say that’s a terrible idea: it would be really hard to replace her.
True: there are some jobs Americans just won’t do.
Or, as Hunter S. Thompson said in The Curse of Lono: “Yesterday’s weirdness is tomorrow’s reason why.”
Diane Roberts’s book “Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America” will be out in paperback this fall. She teaches at Florida State University.