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Convention takeaways, Day 4: It’s déjà vu 1968 – sending a message of fear

1. It’s 1968 again. Be afraid. Be very afraid. That was the message of this convention and the message of Donald Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday night. Trump painted a picture of a country out of control, riven with crime and threatened with chaos seeping in from abroad, getting poorer by the day thanks to bad trade deals and runaway immigration. Is it an accurate picture? Well, no, and the fact-checkers started having a field day with the speech even before it ended. (The best source for this sort of thing: But will fact-checking matter? Trump is betting that he can do exactly what Richard Nixon did in 1968: win the presidency by promising to fix the chaos that people see all around.

2. Trump can give a speech. This was, by far, the most effective speech that Trump has given since the start of his campaign. Gone was the rambling, the bragging, the misdirected insults and the incoherence. In their place was a cogent, well-delivered if way too long argument for dramatic change. In the meantime, Trump attacked the ethics of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton without playing the role of judge, jury and executioner himself. Again, please, read as it fact-checks the speech to separate the truth from the fiction. But speaking strictly politically, this was a speech that had to make the Clinton camp very nervous. Finally, it seems, they are facing a real, coherent candidate.

3. A fine family. Trump’s children did him proud during this convention, offering one strong speech after another in support of their father’s candidacy. His daughter Ivanka came to the podium Thursday and, like Tiffany Trump and Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump before her, offered a compelling, human portrait of a candidate whose bluster can make him seem one-dimensional. Ivanka Trump’s speech, like those of her siblings and the Trump campaign itself, fell short on specifics. But there’s no doubt the Trump kids revere their father.

4. Disunity, that’s the ticket. Pairing a free-form, impulsive populist candidate with a rock-solid, steady-as-she-goes conservative running mate was sure to create some dissonance, and a clear sign of it came Thursday. First, Trump told the New York Times that if he were president, the United States would live up to its treaties and defend NATO members only if they had met their “obligations.” Then running mate Mike Pence told the PBS NewsHour that the United States would “absolutely” meet its NATO obligations. So which is it? If Trump is elected, we’ll know.

5. A traitor within? The most shocking moment of the day came late in the afternoon, when reporters found a draft of Trump’s speech in their in-boxes – courtesy of Correct the Record, a Democratic super PAC. Reporters were shocked – and pro-Trump Republicans surely felt a chill down their spines – because there is a traitor in their midst. Just listen to David Brock, who heads Correct the Record and who told Politico: “In the course of the work we do, we develop relationships with Republicans, and this one paid off.” Yikes. Republicans, think about that: How can you possibly say your party is united?


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