CLEVELAND – Donald Trump arrived here Wednesday with a few words to the fans assembled at the helicopter pad. Really, just a few. Win Ohio … make America great … Mike Pence … unbelievable vice president.
“Welcome to Cleveland,” Pence said.
It was a little peculiar that the governor of Indiana was doing the greeting, but there was, you know, that problem with John Kasich’s being on strike from the convention.
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It was Pence’s big night, although Trump made it pretty clear that he was more excited about his son Eric’s turn on stage. (“Eric’s going to be great … amazing job. Kids, congratulations. Fantastic job.”)
Which Trump child has been your favorite so far? I think you have to give a little credit to Tiffany, who labors under the burden of having been named for a jewelry store and got stuck with the job of telling the long-awaited touching personal anecdotes about her father. Eric, however, seemed to be the schedulers’ favorite, given the fact that speaking roles also went to an official from the winery he runs and the vice president of the Eric Trump Foundation.
The kids have been a relatively heartwarming feature, considering that virtually everybody else, including the conventioneers, has spent a large chunk of time demanding that Hillary Clinton be sent directly to the pokey. (“Lock her up!”) This is a whole new world when it comes to picking a president. The candidate pops up all over the place, like Pokémon. When he’s not around, the delegates listen to his relatives, or speakers calling for the imprisonment of his opponent.
Look back nostalgically on the days when you’d hear a description like that and think, maybe, Gambia.
For all the hate-Hillary hysteria, the convention has been a bit of a snooze. On Wednesday the delegates who didn’t slink out of town early got to hear some former Trump opponents remind the world why they had lost.
Scott Walker shared the thrilling story of how he beat that Wisconsin recall movement in 2012. Ted Cruz began with a shout-out to LeBron James, then generously congratulated Trump “on winning the nomination last night,” before lurching into a speech about the meaning of freedom. The biggest emotional drama of the night came when the enraged delegates realized Cruz was never going to mention the nominee again.
Nobody matched Chris Christie’s pseudo-trial on Tuesday finding Clinton “guilty” of crimes ranging from the war in Syria to the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by terrorists.
It was hard to imagine anybody topping that performance, but a New Hampshire delegate – who is also a well-known Trump adviser on veterans affairs – upped the ante, telling a radio interviewer that Clinton should be “shot for treason.” State Rep. Al Baldasaro doubled down the next day and added a hope for the electric chair. He is what is known as a colorful politician. There is one in every legislature, where “colorful” is a synonym for “stark raving nuts but still repeatedly elected.”
The leader of New Hampshire’s Republican Party called on Baldasaro to take it back, but being a Trumpite means never having to say you’re sorry. We went through this with the Melania’s Cribbed Quotes crisis. The whole dust-up would have ended in a second if the campaign had just expressed a quick regret. Instead, it took a day and a half for a hitherto unknown Trump employee named Meredith McIver to take responsibility and become what The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman called “one of the few people to apologize for an error at any point during the Trump campaign.”
Although personally, I’m very glad they stonewalled, since it gave us the opportunity to hear the Republican National Committee spokesman dismiss the whole affair with a quote from Twilight Sparkle in “My Little Pony.”
In a preconvention interview, CBS’ Lesley Stahl asked Pence if he thought that as vice president, he’d ever be able to go to his boss and say that he’d “crossed the line” and needed to apologize. Pence stammered desperately until Trump broke in and said: “Absolutely. I might not apologize. … I might not do that. But I would absolutely want him to come in.”
Pence is never going to be a central point of interest in this campaign. But some people do believe the vice presidential selection is more important than usual because Trump could get bored quickly with the actual day-to-day responsibilities of the presidency and toss everything short of declaring nuclear war over to his veep. Which is certainly possible. But on the other hand, Trump could just as easily put Donald Jr. in charge.
And we now know that if Trump did something terrible, Pence would have no chance whatsoever to get him to say he’s sorry. But the vice presidential nominee has total rights to go into his office and be ignored.