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Civic Duty and the Republican Convention

I am making a good faith effort to take in the Republican convention. For all the cynicism the political process merits, I nonetheless feel an obligation to inform myself as best I can on the issues, ideas, and positions of the various factions, and factions within factions, that make up the nation and affect the lives of us all. I take up the topic with hesitation. It is difficult to contemplate this dismal affair without falling prey to rage when a clear head and lucidity are called for. Civic duty is not for the faint of heart.

Whatever reservations I may have about Hillary Clinton, they diminish, fade, and drift away into the aether in light of the spectacle playing out in Cleveland. I tell you, man, this is weird. Monday evening I tuned into PBS coverage of the convention until I could take no more of Rudolph Giuliani's harangue. Is it possible I was witnessing a character in an over-the-top satire from the pen of Mel Brooks? Au contraire, 'twas all too real. If this were a theatrical production, critics would pan it and conservatives would howl that it was a liberal, elitist smear. References to fascism, Mussolini, and Hitler are bandied about far too loosely, but I could not blink away images of Il Duce and the fuhrer on a balcony whipping some motley throng into frenzy and bloodlust. And this was before we learned that a Trump delegate and adviser on VA issues called for Clinton to be put before a firing squad and shot, to which Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks responded with a wink and a nod, "We’re incredibly grateful for his support, but we don’t agree with his comments."

Giuliani was one face in a parade of blockheads and clowns who pandered to their constituency's worst instincts with an exhibition of bombast and vituperation, excess, jingoism, smears, half-truths, untruths, and moments of good grief, did he just say what I think I heard him say. Tuesday night brought the Congressional triumvirate of Addison Mitchell "Mitch" McConnell, Paul Rand, I mean, Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy – here I resist, with trembling fingers, the temptation to make tacky reference to Senator Joe – along with Chris Christie's "prosecution" of Hillary Clinton, punctuated by chants from the mob, "lock her up, lock her up," which I suppose is a step up from "shoot her."

In the interest of brevity, I will go light on details. Nothing new was presented by way of policy or analysis. Laissez-faire capitalism is the cure for whatever ails us economically and socially. Free the market's invisible hand to work its voodoo by lowering taxes on the wealthy and easing or outright eliminating government regulations that among other things protect workers, consumers, children, and the environment. We have heard this gibberish before.

On the foreign-policy front, not one of these nimrods has a clue that Daesh (ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State) and Iran are not exactly kindly disposed toward one another, or that a good deal of what is going down in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East amounts to a proxy battle between Saudi Arabia and its allies, Netanyahu's Israel among them, and Iran for regional hegemony. The solution to threats and enemies that are all too real is for America to take the lead by compelling mothers and fathers in other lands to send their sons and daughters to fight and die to protect American interests. Perhaps Trump will negotiate them into it.

As for the foofaraw about paragraphs from Melania Trump's speech that seem to have been lifted from Michelle Obama's convention address in 2008, this is much ado about little except insofar as it reflects on the Trump team's organizational capacity, or shortcomings thereof. It was sloppy. Is this how they will govern? Well, yes, that is pretty much a foregone conclusion. That said, I do not see how the Democrats do themselves a service by dwelling on it.

Tiffany Trump and her half-brother Donald Jr were lauded by PBS pundits for portrayals of their father, builder and owner of hotels, casinos, and golf courses, as just a regular guy and dad. I suppose this is fair enough in context. They may have come across as well-spoken in comparison with their company. Eric Trump touted his father as the symbol of the American dream. To the extent this is arguably in some sense and in some quarters accurate, it is an example of where the nation has gone off the rails. What we witnessed the past three days washed away any lingering reservation about voting for Hillary Clinton. Ted Cruz exhorted listeners, "please, don't stay home in November." Oh, Mr. Cruz, you can be assured, I will not be staying home in November.

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