CLEVELAND – If modern conventions are all about “image,” then the kickoff of this affair is already packaging Donald Trump as the president to “make America safe again” – a message assigned top priority Monday even on the state delegation level.
And as part of their effort, the GOP message also contends a Hillary Clinton administration will make the situation even worse.
On Monday, New York Republicans trotted out some of their biggest names – former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker and conservative economist Larry Kudlow – to make a case expected to also dominate Monday’s opening session of the Republican National Convention in Quicken Loans Arena.
“It’s as if our leaders are sheep and watching the wolves come in, and the leader of the sheep says ‘I wonder what their psychological problem is?’” Gingrich told the delegation. “Our sheep leadership can not recognize they can never be guard dogs. They would rather lose than be guard dogs.”
That same theme reigned supreme throughout Cleveland Monday just as rebuilding the economy is slated for the Tuesday session. The aim of delegation breakfast planners appears to be to once again exploit Trump’s ability to earn significant media attention and spread the idea that their candidate will reconstitute an American leadership role they say has withered under President Obama.
Gingrich, who was considered a Trump finalist for second spot on the ticket, led the charge. He pointed to what he called leadership failures in Iran, Iraq and Syria as examples of U.S. reticence on the world stage. It’s the kind of “attack dog” talk traditionally reserved for the vice presidential nominee, even if Gingrich was ultimately passed over for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, especially as he outlined the dangers of nuclear weapons falling into terrorist hands through rogue nations like North Korea or Pakistan.
“I do believe we could lose our country. This is the most serious time I can remember since Jimmy Carter,” he said. “In some ways, if Clinton wins it could become dramatically worse.”
Corker, adopted a similar approach backed by his status as the Senate’s top foreign relations member. He too criticized an administration he said was dominated by caution, pointing to the president’s reluctance to enforce his “red line” warning against the Syrian government in 2013 as the “low point” of recent U.S. foreign policy.
The president, he said, should have reacted.
“Instead of doing it that we dumped it into Russia’s lap,” Corker said. “We created an opportunity for Russia to regain their status.”
Corker made the case that Trump will provide the leadership to keep rising powers like China in check, making it possible through his overall plans for a strengthened military. State Republican Chairman Edward F. Cox embraced the same theme in his own remarks.
“The world needs American leadership, America needs American leadership in the world,” he said.
Kudlow -- who hosts a show on CNBC, often comments on New York politics and advises Trump on fiscal issues – said the nation’s economic health matters as much to its world position as its military strength.
“It’s what Ronald Reagan argued over three decades ago,” he said. “You must have a strong economy at home in order to have a strong military and influence overseas, If you’re strong at home, you’re strong abroad.”
Kudlow dismissed criticism of Trump’s inconsistencies over the years by emphasizing the core of his economic platform.
“I don’t care what he said 20 years ago to some TV commentator,” he said. “I know he will have the biggest tax cut since World War II; maybe since the 1920s. His instincts are superb and that’s very important for a president.”
Kudlow argued that Trump’s tax cutting policies will return $3 trillion now “sloshing around the world” to the U.S. economy that can be used to bolster U.S. military standing.