Watching the Party of Lincoln become the party of Trump this week, I have been struck by the stark differences between the two men.
Abraham Lincoln, a humble Kentuckian, had an empathetic, generous spirit that helped the nation survive the Civil War.
Donald Trump is a narcissistic New Yorker whose main talent, aside from self-promotion, is insulting people, sowing discord and creating division each time he opens his mouth.
Trump has succeeded in both winning the Republican nomination for president and turning the Grand Old Party into a fractured mess. Despite party leaders’ desperate efforts to project unity, many Republicans continue to question Trump’s fitness for office.
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The list of GOP luminaries skipping this year’s convention is unprecedented: the last two presidential nominees; the party’s only two living former presidents; at least nine U.S. senators; and even the convention host state’s governor.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who is expected to seek the GOP presidential nomination again despite winning only two delegate votes this year, decided this would be a good week to do pro-bono eye surgeries in Paducah.
Other Kentuckians were there and on stage. Marlana VanHoose, a blind singer from Johnson County, wowed the crowd Monday with her rendition of the national anthem. State Sen. Ralph Alvarado of Winchester is to speak Wednesday in a bid to attract Hispanics, many of whom have been turned off by Trump’s “build the wall” rhetoric and his characterization of undocumented Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke Tuesday night. Like most Republican leaders, he was more focused on bashing Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton than talking about why Trump would be a good president.
House Speaker Paul Ryan talked about Republican values and party unity, mentioning the nominee only once in passing. Like McConnell, he must be terrified that Trump will cost Republicans their Senate and House majorities.
With so many distinguished Republicans missing in action, most of the praise for Trump had to come from third-tier celebrities.
Monday’s convention highlight was supposed to be the debut speech of Trump’s wife, Melania, a former model. And she made a good impression. Then journalists noticed that parts of her talk were cribbed from Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech.
That would have been bad enough, but Trump’s amateurish campaign staff totally flubbed its response to the controversy. First, it ignored the plagiarism issue. Then it blamed speechwriters, undermining Melania Trump’s statement in an interview that she wrote most of the speech herself.
Another distraction was caused by Trump and his out-of-control ego. While Pat Smith was giving an emotional speech blaming Clinton for her son’s death in Benghazi, Trump stole the spotlight by calling Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s show to castigate Ohio Gov. John Kasich for not showing up at the convention.
When Trump takes the stage for his acceptance speech, don’t expect to hear anything resembling Lincoln. And don’t expect him to offer any realistic solutions or plausible strategies. Why start now?
The big hit Monday was former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s fiery speech that warned terrorists, “You know who you are, and we are coming to get you!” It was reminiscent of the Bush years, when neo-conservative cowboys launched the Iraq War, a debacle that sowed the seeds for ISIS and inspires many of today’s terrorists.
Reacting to the shootings of police officers, Trump has promised to be the “law and order” president — recalling Richard Nixon’s language in 1968 with all of its authoritarian and racist overtones.
America still struggles with bloated prisons and the social carnage caused by decades of “get tough on crime” legislation and the failed War on Drugs. Trump sounds as if he is gearing up for another round, if only he can frighten enough voters into electing him. Trump is a master salesman, and demagoguery sells.
Solving the problem of Islamic terrorism will require cooperation among world leaders and the winning of young Arab hearts and minds around the world. Many world leaders seem to view Trump’s election as a global threat.
Healing the divisions between American police forces and minority communities will require reconciliation, dialogue and smart strategies, not tough “law and order” talk.
After Sunday’s murders of three Louisiana police officers and the wounding of three others by a young ex-Marine who was then killed, Sid Gautreaux, the sheriff of East Baton Rouge, had this to say: “If we don’t come together and end this madness, surely we will perish as a people.”
Who seriously thinks Donald Trump can bring us together? To paraphrase former President George W. Bush, who is conspicuous by his absence in Cleveland, Trump is a “divider,” not a “uniter.”