No soaring platitudes in this acceptance speech.

Posted on July 22, 2016 By Paul Gleiser

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Photo: Paul L. Gleiser ©2016

Photo: Paul L. Gleiser ©2016

Warm and fuzzy it was not.

Donald Trump spent most of the 5,143 words in his Republican nomination acceptance speech telling us how much trouble we’re in and who got us here.

“Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life. Any politician who does not grasp this danger is not fit to lead our country,” said Trump in the opening moments of a speech that would run for 76 minutes. “It is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the state of our nation. I will present the facts plainly and honestly. We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore,” he went on to say.

Go on to say he did.

  • Homicides in the 50 largest cities: up 17 percent in a year.
  • Police officers killed in the line of duty: up 50 percent compared to last year.
  • More than 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records who have been ordered deported: still on the streets in America.
  • Household incomes since the year 2000: down by an average of $4,000.
  • American standing in the world: dangerously diminished.
  • ISIS: created by Obama and Clinton and growing.
  • Terrorism: growing in frequency, intensity and brutality.

(As I write this, the nearby TV monitor is covering what appears to be yet another terrorist attack – this time in Munich, Germany.)

The list went on for paragraph after paragraph at the end of which, he laid the entire mess at the feet of President Barack Obama and his would-be successor, Hillary Clinton.

The speech stands in stark contrast to the sunny, optimistic, “bright shining city on the hill – thousand points of light” rhetoric of previous well-remembered GOP convention speeches.

The pundits took due note. “I thought it was an extraordinarily dark speech,” said NBC’s Chuck Todd. “Little appeal to the better angels,” said CBS’s Charlie Rose.

I, like Chuck and Charlie, was in the room for the speech (albeit seated much less comfortably). Sitting on the floor (literally) at the Quicken Loans Center, I was struck by two things.

First, not a single sentence, to my ear, was put there by a some consultant as a result of focus group testing. I believe that Donald Trump believes every single word of what he said and that he, himself, is the source of those words. Trump spoke from conviction Thursday night. Whether you share those convictions is up to you. He, again to my ear, spent no time on words and phrases that were included because a consultant thought we needed to hear them. Donald Trump chose his words because he thought we needed to hear them.

Second, I came to the conclusion that Donald Trump is more savvy than even his supporters say. He knew exactly what he was doing.

Most Americans – 70 percent according to some polls – believe that the country is in serious trouble. Things are a mess.

The economy was certainly hurting when Reagan spoke in 1980. American embassy personnel in Iran were, in fact, being held hostage. But as bad as those things were,  police officers weren’t being gunned down in ambush on American streets. French holiday celebrants weren’t being mowed down by angry young Muslim men driving bobtail trucks. Gay bars in American cities weren’t being turned into shooting galleries.

Today’s difficulties are much darker than the difficulties of recent elections past. Now is not the time for platitudinous talk and Donald Trump knows it. Now is the time, in Trump’s estimation, for the cold, hard truth. If such truth makes members of the old-guard media elite uncomfortable, too bad for them.

On a hot, muggy day here in Cleveland the morning-after, I’m convinced that there was something to like in Trump’s speech for nearly every person in that 70 percent who thinks the country is in trouble.

True, if I were advising Trump, I would have recommended 45 minutes instead of 76. But I nevertheless believe that Trump accomplished Thursday night exactly what he set out to accomplish.

For once, it is possible that a Democratic nominee’s acceptance speech will ring hollow compared to the opposition.

Check in next week to find out.

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