Eight days ago, on the morning of July 6, Donald Trump announced that the speaker schedule for the Republican convention would be “released tomorrow.” And so, on July 7, we waited. And then again on July 8. And July 9.
Perhaps, some of us thought, the GOP candidate and his team were finalizing arrangements with some high-profile national celebrities, which takes some time. But now that party officials have finally released the list, a whole new set of questions come to the fore.
The lineup of speakers at next week’s Republican National Convention will include Donald Trump loyalists, Washington outsiders, entrepreneurs and even a former “General Hospital” actor. […]A senior Trump official said the “impressive lineup” represents a “cross-section of real people facing the same challenges as every American household.”
I suppose “impressive” is a subjective term.
There’s plenty to chew on here. The full list of speakers, for example, includes Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie, which sure does make it seem as if Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) will be Trump’s running mate.
We can also note that six people with the last name Trump – the candidate, his wife, and four of his kids – will deliver remarks at the convention, which means the number of Trumps will match the number of sitting senators who’ll address the GOP delegates.
It’s also genuinely extraordinary that Republicans have decided the first night of their convention should have a “Benghazi focus,” even after all of the party’s – and Trump’s – ridiculous conspiracy theories about the deadly 2012 attack have been discredited.
We could also note that there are five living former GOP presidential nominees – including two former presidents – and four of them have said they will neither speak to nor attend the party’s gathering. (Bob Dole is the exception, announcing in May he plans to go.)
But even if we put all of that aside for a moment, we’re left with a different kind of problem: Trump promised us a powerful all-star lineup, and he clearly isn’t delivering one.
In early June, the presumptive GOP nominee said this year’s Republican convention is going to be “a little different,” because he intended to spotlight cultural figures, most notably sports “champions,” not just politicians.
And yet, here we are. The AP report noted this morning, “Noticeably absent from a speaker list obtained by The Associated Press early Thursday are many athletes or A-List celebrities that Trump’s team long suggested would help make his presidential nominating convention unlike any other.”
Tim Tebow, who was a backup on several NFL teams before quietly exiting the league a few years ago, will apparently be on hand, along with former underwear model Antonio Sabato Jr. and professional golfer Natalie Gulbis.
And while I intend no disrespect to these three, it’s probably fair to say their cultural footprint is limited.
So what happened? Part of the problem is that Trump enjoys presenting himself as a bold trailblazer, but delivering on this rhetoric is harder than he realizes. Several months ago, for example, the New York Republican told supporters that his campaign would unveil television ads that were so amazing, they’d be unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
When the ads eventually hit airwaves, they were actually pretty mundane. The boasts about the Greatest Commercials Ever looked a little silly in retrospect, and the same is true this morning. Trump imagined a star-studded affair in Cleveland, and he found a quarterback no pro team wanted.
The other part of the problem is similar to Trump’s challenge in finding a running mate: the best options want nothing to do with him. If the presumptive Republican nominee had his way, he probably wouldn’t be limited to woefully underwhelming choices like Mike Pence and Newt Gingrich, but stronger candidates went out of their way to keep Trump at arm’s length.
It’s likely the same dynamic has shaped the convention lineup. Trump probably would have loved to have actual sports icons and A-list movie stars adding a dash of glamour to the Republican convention but – and this is key – actual sports icons and A-list movie stars don’t like Donald J. Trump.