Ten Reasons Why Melania Trump’s Speech Will Have a Lasting Impact – By David Frum

Ten Reasons Why Melania Trump’s Speech Will Have a Lasting Impact

The blunder by the Republican nominee’s wife underscores a campaign rife with problems.

Donald TRump introduces wife, Melissa

Donald TRump introduces wife, Melissa

David Frum – The Atlantic Senior Editor and a former Speechwriter for George W. Bush

On Tuesday night, Melania Trump delivered a speech that included passages lifted from Michelle Obama’s 2008 address to the Democratic National Convention. Here are ten reasons why Melania Trump’s speech matters and will continue to matter.

1) Melania Trump’s speech was the first and best opportunity to humanize Donald Trump. That opportunity was not only wasted, but the whole project of humanizing Trump has become a farce that will haunt the later attempts by Trump’s children to undo Monday night’s debacle.  

no copying

No copying

2) The speech has unleashed a cycle of internal finger-pointing and blame-shifting that will consume Trump’s already dysfunctional campaign. Even more fatally, the cycle of recrimination now threatens to extend into Trump’s most intimate advice group: his family. Suppose now that Donald Trump’s children by his previous marriages succeed where Melania so humiliatingly failed. What does that unleash in Trump’s delicately blended family?

3) Since Sunday, every journalist at this convention has been collecting examples of the Trump campaign’s failures and incompetence: the quarrel with Ohio Governor John Kasich, the absent senators and governors, the no-show donors, the convention’s financial embarrassments, the floor fight over rules, the lack of a proper schedule, and the defective apps and other technology. Suddenly, there is one easy-to-understand incident that encapsulates in one grim joke all this convention’s cavalcade of derp.

4) To this point, the Hillary Clinton campaign has been unsure how to attack Donald Trump. There has been noticeable hesitation, uncertainty, and even mutually refuting contradictions in its early attacks. How can Trump both be a cynical con man and a dangerous extremist hate-monger? Now at last the script writes itself: Trump as doofus, the guy who went broke running a casino—and can’t even find someone to write an ordinarily competent speech for his wife’s big self-introduction to the American public.

5) Trump has just vividly demonstrated that his campaign—never mind the campaign, he himself—have zero skill at crisis management. Confronted with this comically absurd failure, their instinct is not only to lie, shift blame, and refuse responsibility, but to do so in laughably unbelievable ways. It’s all a big joke when the crisis in question is a plagiarized speech by a would-be first lady, Michelle Obama. It won’t be so funny when a President Trump tries to manage a truly life-and-death crisis in the same blundering, dopey, and cowardly way.

6) The incident throws a harpoon into the heart of the Trump campaign’s racial politics. Trump’s message: Non-white people are ripping off hard-working white Americans who play by the rules. “They” cheat – “we” lose. Could there be a sharper reversal of that racialized complaint than Melania Trump in her designer dress stealing Michelle Obama’s heartfelt words?

7) Everybody will now want to know more about Melania Trump. As the outstanding profile by Julia Ioffe in GQ makes clear: It’s a story full of uncomfortable secrets. After this, they won’t stay secret much longer.

8) One role of a presidential candidate’s spouse is to function as the most sought-after surrogate, especially at fundraising events. A capable spouse effectively doubles the candidate’s own campaigning hours—more than doubles them, because she or he can relieve the candidate of speaking to party loyalists, whose votes are not in question, to free time for reaching swing voters and persuadables. Melania Trump has just been removed from that board, probably for good. Ivanka can substitute, perhaps, but that image then keeps alive the memory of the most disturbing of all Trump’s disturbing moments.

9) Plagiarism draws attention to content of the passage plagiarized. In 2008, Michelle Obama summed up the values that she had learned from her parents and that she and Barack Obama now tried to instill in their children: work hard; tell the truth; keep your promises; treat others with dignity and respect. Donald Trump epically does not tell the truth, does not keep his promises, and does not treat others with dignity and respect. A plagiarized speech (and the failure to detect the plagiarism) pretty strongly confirms that the Trumps do not much care about hard work, either. “Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I: yea, thine own lips testify against thee.”

10) The mood of Republicans at this convention was already embattled, defensive, and pessimistic. Conventions are, among other things, important fundraising opportunities—and as Ken Vogel reports in Politico today, the state of Trump’s fundraising remains calamitous.  Even Trump’s own named finance directors are not giving money. That mood of pessimism must be even grayer the day after Melania’s speech than the day before.

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  • Deen  On 07/21/2016 at 9:10 am

    The speech that stole 1000 words.
    It’s true that truth will always triumph…….Donald Trump does not have the characters credentials, conduct, charisma and, more importantly, he does not have the ability or capability to be President of the United States. I think on the score card of GOP presidential candidates he was the worst. In addition, he lacks ethics and good temperament. He is an egotist and cynical of all others but himself. He’s not to be TRUSTED! He’s too dangerous and hateful of foreigners and immigrants. Certainly, if the American voters vote with conscience and without partisanship, I predict Donald Trump will be defeated disastrously, and Hillary Clinton will win in a landslide and become the first female President of the United States.
    Even many prominent Republican Party officials , governors and members strongly opposed to Donald Trump being their choice for president….and that speaks volumes about the concerns of him being President.
    Too all diehard republicans, I will not enter a debate. What I stated are the facts and my opinion. DONALD TRUMP IS UNFIT TO BE PRESIDENT!

  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/21/2016 at 11:48 am

    Three Problems with the Melania Trump Admission
    – by Ryan Lizza – The New Yorker

    For the second day in a row, the biggest news at the Republican National Convention, in Cleveland, is not about Donald Trump’s ideas for the country or even his case against Hillary Clinton.

    Instead, the campaign story of the day — as Trump arrives on the shore of Lake Erie in his helicopter, and his running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, gets ready for his début tonight — is how several sentences from Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 made their way into the speech that Melania Trump gave on Monday night.

    This afternoon, the Trump campaign released a letter from Meredith McIver, a speechwriter for the Trump Organization, which explains what happened.

    McIver wrote:
    “In working with Melania on her recent First Lady speech, we discussed many people who inspired her and messages she wanted to share with the American people. A person she always liked is Michelle Obama. Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches. This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant.”

    Fair enough. We accept this is not Watergate, but episodes like this can tell us something about the character of a campaign. It is notable that, until McIver’s letter appeared, the Trump campaign and an army of surrogates repeatedly denied accusations of plagiarism.

    “There’s no cribbing of Michelle Obama’s speech,” Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, said on CNN Tuesday morning. “These were common words and values, that she cares about her family. To think that she would be cribbing Michelle Obama’s words is crazy.”

    Somewhat more colourfully, Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s communications director, pointed out that the language in question was so common that Twilight Sparkle, from “My Little Pony,” and Kid Rock had said similar things.

    Problem number one: It is unclear whether Manafort and Spicer knew the real story before they went on TV with their claims. If they did, then they knowingly did not tell the truth. If they didn’t, then the Trump campaign sent them out to tell lies and has now thrown them under the bus.

    Problem number two: McIver’s letter raised concerns of the continued mixing of Trump’s business and political organizations. McIver works for the Trump Organization, and her letter was on Trump Organization letterhead. If she did in fact contribute to Melania Trump’s speech, then her time working for the campaign could be considered an in-kind donation. The Federal Election Commission has clear rules about combining one’s business and campaign assets, but all signs point to the fact that there is no clear line separating these two Trump entities.

    Problem number three: McIver’s explanation for what happened serves Melania poorly, putting her at the center of the plagiarism scandal rather than making her an innocent victim of her staff. It was Melania who sought out Michelle Obama’s speech for inspiration. It was Melania who plucked passages that she admired from the 2008 speech. It was Melania who gave those passages to her speechwriter. How could Melania not recognize those exact lines when she received the final draft?

    Of course, Melania is not an author or academic. She might be unaware of how seriously people in the press and at universities take plagiarism. And perhaps she simply didn’t remember that the lines came from a speech she had admired. But, whatever the case, McIver’s letter makes clear that it was Melania herself who first lifted Michelle Obama’s language.

    By releasing the letter, the Trump campaign might have thought that it was putting the plagiarism story behind it, but it has just created a bigger mess.

  • Albert  On 07/21/2016 at 11:58 am

    You left out the most important factor. Who determines whether or not he would be President…..THE VOTERS. With all you wrote and the amount Hillary has spent on ads polls are consistently showing she is either tie or barely ahead of Trump. …My view is that a large percent of the voters are either uninformed or badly informed…….or don’t give a damn about Trump character but would rather cling to the false hope he gives them. He may win because of a large number of backward voters.

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On 07/21/2016 at 12:48 pm

    Albert, Michael Moore shares your view of a Trump victory. He was on the panel last night on “Bill Maher Live RNC Special Edition: July 20.” Hear what he had to say at 9:51.

  • Albert  On 07/21/2016 at 2:15 pm

    Like the writer of Trump book (The art of the deal) said, Trump has a short attention span, and he lies without thinking. How could people not see that or his thin skin. Let us eat drink and be merry, as the bible say, because we don’t know what tomorrow and Trump will bring.

  • demerwater  On 07/22/2016 at 2:15 am

    My opinion is that the speaker and the speech were two components of a whole (not wholesome!) plan to obtain the office of POTUS for Donald J. Trump. I am certain that Donald J. Trump will use the Office only for the acquisition of absolute power; and we know, from observation and experience, what absolute power does to the power broker! Donald J. Trump is showing his tendency to paranoia by relying on close family to execute his plan. Just in case I have not posted this; or you may have missed it; here, once more is Trevor Noah.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/22/2016 at 5:02 pm

    Perhaps you need to check out this New York Times article:
    How Donald Trump Picked His Running Mate – by Robert Draper

    One day this past May, Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., reached out to a senior adviser to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who left the presidential race just a few weeks before.

    As a candidate, Kasich declared in March that Trump was “really not prepared to be president of the United States,” and the following month he took the highly unusual step of coordinating with his rival Senator Ted Cruz in an effort to deny Trump the nomination.

    But according to the Kasich adviser (who spoke only under the condition that he not be named), Donald Jr. wanted to make him an offer nonetheless: Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history?

    When Kasich’s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father’s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

    The adviser asked: So then what would Trump be in charge of?

    “Making America great again” was the casual reply.

    Ultimately, Trump chose Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, not Kasich, to be his running mate. (Neither Donald Jr. nor Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, replied to multiple requests on Tuesday for comment for this article. After the article was posted, Donald Jr. disputed the Kasich adviser’s account.)

    On one hand, voters do not seem to care all that much about who the No. 2 is when they go to the polls. On the other, how a presidential candidate goes about picking that person offers an early look at the nominee’s executive style.

    In Trump’s case — based on the recollection of over half a dozen operatives and elected officials working with both the Trump campaign and potential running mates Trump considered — the winnowing of his initial wish list reveals a distinct blend of practicality, impetuousness and disengagement.

    In the middle of May, Trump’s two top advisers at the time, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, generated the initial list. It consisted of 16 names. They showed the list to Trump in his office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower. Trump perused it and, without suggesting any additions or deletions, nodded that it looked fine.

    The two advisers then brought the full list to the Washington lawyer A.B. Culvahouse, who famously vetted John McCain’s running-mate list in 2008 and concluded that the eventual pick, Sarah Palin, would be “high-risk, high-reward.” The Trump list did not feature any wild cards like Palin.

    Two were former primary opponents: Marco Rubio, whom Trump never formally asked (though both he and Manafort called Rubio frequently to discuss Florida politics); and Kasich, who was viewed with wistfulness by the Trump team as the perfect choice, but for the likelihood that he would be a prickly subordinate (as well as the nettlesome detail that Kasich seemed to have no interest whatsoever in the job).

    Five on the list were women — among them, former Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina.

    Before the list was drawn up, Trump also expressed interest in Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, but after Martinez did not return repeated phone calls from Lewandowski, Trump said that he was done with her — and then bashed the governor on a campaign stop in Albuquerque in late May.

    Governor Haley’s overt lack of interest in the job made her an early scratch as well. The last name on the list was Condoleezza Rice – she was not interested in the job.

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