Just last week, Donald Trump's campaign made a staffing announcement: going forward, Team Trump's director of African-American Outreach would be Theresa "Omarosa" Manigault. It was an odd move: Manigault isn't a political professional, but rather, she's a television personality known for having been a contestant on some reality shows (including Trump's).
This week, the story got a little stranger. TPM reported yesterday:
For their counter-programming for the Democratic convention, Republicans brought in Omarosa Manigault, a former contestant on the first season of Donald Trump's television show "The Apprentice," to take on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's foreign policy views on Tuesday.
This may seem hard to believe, but Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee's communications director and chief strategist, published this message on Twitter yesterday, highlighting the reality-show personality discussing Clinton's "foriegn [sic] policy failures" at an RNC event.
Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson asked soon after, "How are Republicans not mortally embarrassed by what's become of their party?" MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin, marveling at Sean Spicer's message, called it "another tweet for the 2016 time capsule."
My point, of course, is not to suggest that reality-show contestants can't have worthwhile views on matters of international affairs. Rather, what's striking here is the Republican Party -- which once considered credibility on foreign matter a matter of GOP birthright -- is taking on a former Secretary of State in this presidential election, and the party lacks the kind of credible, experienced, high-profile professionals who can assess Clinton's record on foreign policy in a serious way.
A couple of months ago, there was a flurry of reports about Donald Trump running on economic populism, none of which was quite right. Some reporters, no doubt confused by the Republican's clumsy rhetoric, policy incoherence, and propensity for dishonesty, seemed to misunderstand Trump's far-right economic message.
And at the center of this confusion was Trump's indiscernible position on the minimum wage. Last night, the Republican presidential nominee talked to Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, who asked about the issue, and the exchange that followed left everyone more confused than before.
The GOP candidate began by stressing, "I'm the one Republican that said in some cases we have to go more than minimum wage -- but what I like is states." That's roughly in line with what Trump has said before: he opposes an increase to the federal minimum, but he's on board with states raising their minimums if they want to. He added last night:
"Let me give you a concept because I think it's a good concept. You go with the states - let the states make the determination because if you take New York it's very expensive to live in New York, they need more than you know seven, eight, nine dollars. So you go with the states and let the states make the determination."
Again, note the emphasis on states. While Democrats push for an increase to the federal minimum, Trump is talking solely about states doing their own thing on wages.
When O'Reilly noted "there has to be a federal minimum wage," Trump replied, "There doesn't have to be." Again, this too is consistent with the Republican candidate's previous arguments that the federal minimum wage may not need to exist at all.
Trump then added, "I would leave it and raise it somewhat." I haven't the foggiest idea what this means. Vowing to change and not change the same policy in the same sentence is the kind of incoherence that reasonable people should find alarming.
In theory, it's a daunting challenge: introduce millions of people to someone they've already known for years. Bill Clinton took on the challenge anyway at the Democratic National Convention last night, at least in part because he believes many of us don't really know Hillary Clinton, so much as we know a caricature painted by her critics.
In Philadelphia, towards the end of the former president's remarks in which he walked his audience through a lifetime of Hillary Clinton's hard work and achievements, Bill Clinton asked how anyone can reconcile her record with what Republicans have said about her. "You can't," he said. "One is real, the other is made up."
"The real one had done more positive change-making before she was 30 than many public officials do in a lifetime in office. The real one, if you saw her friend Betsy Ebeling vote for Illinois today has friends from childhood through Arkansas, where she has not lived in more than 20 years, who have gone all across America at their own expense to fight for the person they know.
"The real one has earned the loyalty, the respect and the fervent support of people who have worked with her in every stage of her life, including leaders around the world who know her to be able, straightforward and completely trustworthy.
"The real one calls you when you're sick, when your kid's in trouble or when there's a death in the family. The real one repeatedly drew praise from prominent Republicans when she was a senator and secretary of state.
"So what's up with it? Well, if you win elections on the theory that government is always bad and will mess up a two-car parade, a real change-maker represents a real threat. So your only option is to create a cartoon, a cartoon alternative, then run against the cartoon. Cartoons are two- dimensional, they're easy to absorb. Life in the real world is complicated and real change is hard."
The point of rhetoric like this is to serve several functions at once. First, obviously, is to paint Clinton in a favorable light and push back against GOP criticism. Second, it creates a contrast: Clinton has devoted her adult life to helping others, which is practically the opposite of Donald Trump's rhetoric. Third, Bill Clinton is no doubt aware of the public's appetite for change, so he positioned Hillary Clinton as someone who's never satisfied with the status quo.
At one point, he added, "She's insatiably curious, she's a natural leader, she's a good organizer, and she's the best darn change-maker I ever met in my entire life."
And finally, the speech was a straightforward case that, despite perceptions, Hillary Clinton is someone who's spent a lifetime earning the respect of those around her. She's a person of warmth and compassion, not a two-dimensional villain.
MSNBC's Joy Reid gives her take on Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday evening, and discusses the demographics the Clinton campaign is continuing to try and win over. watch
Chuck Todd, NBC News political director, offers his assessment of former President Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention, pointing out that painting a more human picture of Hillary Clinton is not how she has campaigned in the past. watch
Michael Beschloss, NBC News presidential historian, discusses the historic parallels (and lack thereof) of the Clintons as an American political family and the relationship between Bill and Hillary Clinton. watch
Lawrence O'Donnell and Republican strategist Steve Schmidt react to the attack on Donald Trump by Congressman Joseph Crowley, who accused Trump of trying to profit off 9/11 by taking advantage recovery fund championed by Hillary Clinton. watch
Rachel Maddow points out that Senator Bernie Sanders did not use the traditional "acclamation" line in his nomination of Hillary Clinton for president. Steve Kornacki explains how history will record that detail. watch