Donald Trump, the celebrity candidate dismissed before he ever stepped foot on that escalator last year, is going to be the Republican presidential nominee.
On Monday, his party — it’s definitely his now — kicked off the party that marks that milestone and launches him into a general election against Hillary Clinton (just typing the name conjures boos from Cleveland).
One speaker after the next described an America in trouble, Clinton and President Barack Obama as the chief peril, and the celebrity real estate tycoon as its salvation. (Although not its messiah. More on that later.)
Here’s a skim of the night’s speakers and some reaction. It is for entertainment purposes only. Beware that snark is more easily harvested from the Internet than earnestness.
The headliner was a multi-lingual immigrant super model, the candidate’s wife, Melania Trump.
She appeared after Donald Trump took the stage in dramatic silhouette to Queen’s “We are the Champions.” This post is not the first place where someone has wondered what Freddie Mercury might think.
Melania was short on anecdotes, but heavy on praise. Like her husband is prone to, she cited Trump’s surprise primary run to victory as proof of his qualifications for the presidency. Born and raised in Slovenia, she gave voice to an immigrant’s love of adopted country. And she promised her husband would deliver great things for the U.S.
“He does not give up. ... He’s the guy. He will never give up. And most importantly, he will never let you down. ... Now he will go to work for you.
“Donald gets things done.”
She followed former New York mayor and one-time presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, who gave the most rousing, red-meat speech of the night.
“The vast majority of Americans do not feel safe. They fear for their children. They fear for themselves. They fear for our police officers, who have a target on their backs. … When they come to save your life, they don’t ask if you are black or white, they just come to save your life. …
“What happened to there’s no white America, there’s no black America, there’s just one America? … Where did it go? …”
Then he turned to terrorism.
“It is Islamic extremist terrorism. I, for the purposes of the media, I did not say all of Islam. I did not say most of Islam. I said Islamic extremist terrorism. You know who you are and we are coming to get you!”
Much of the night was filled by less prominent names. Many big-name Republicans stayed home. And the celebrities were more of the reality TV stable that the candidate hails from.
Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame, started with a prayer and then shifted into attack mode.
“It’s been a rough year for the media experts. It must be humiliating to be wrong about so much for so long. … America is in a bad spot and we need a president who will have our back. I promise you this, no matter who you are, Donald Trump will have your back. … They don’t hang out with regular folks like us, who like to hunt, and fish and pray, and actually work for a living.”
CNN’s chryon noted that Robertson’s father was kicked off “Duck Dynasty” for what he said about race and sexuality. And Willie Robertson backed Ted Cruz over Trump at one point.
Scott Baio, a television producer and one-time sit-com heartthrob talked about “America, the greatest country God ever created.
“(But now) nothing seems right. All the things we hold dear are being attacked every day. … We need Donald Trump to fix this. … Is Donald Trump a messiah? No. He’s just a man, a man who wants to give back to this country.”
Sen. Tom Cotton, a veteran and Arkansas Republican said “we’d like a commander-in-chief who speaks of winning wars and not just ending wars. We’d like a commander-in-chief who call the enemy by its name. … And it would be nice to have a commander-in-chief who can be trusted to handle classified information. … This isn’t much to ask for.”
Antonio Sabato Jr., is a model, soap opera star and race car driver. Like Melania Trump, he’s an American immigrant.
“I followed all the rules and finally became a naturalized citizen. … We are a nation of laws for a reason. There should be no shortcuts.”
And while there was little talk of Trump’s call for a wall on the Mexican border, speakers did pick up on his railing against illegal immigration.
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul criticized Clinton and the Obama administration for what he saw as a lax attitude on border security.
“And now Hillary Clinton is promising more of the same: open borders … and a surge of Syrian refugees. This is a dangerous liberal agenda. … We need to end sanctuary cities, keep dangerous people out of our country and secure our borders once and for all. Our country’s national security is at risk. … The enemy is radical Islam.”