GOP Crazy Talk Comes to Cleveland

The Republican National Convention has been an orgy of crazy talk – mixed in with some plagiarism by Donald Trump’s wife and a vast kangaroo court convicting Hillary Clinton – a truly remarkable spectacle, as Michael Winship describes.

By Michael Winship

Oh dear. Watching C-SPAN and waiting for Tuesday’s roll call confirming Donald Trump’s nomination to begin, the house band there in the hall, led by GE Smith, formerly of Saturday Night Live, played covers of The Temptations’ “I Can’t Get Next To You” and other golden oldies.

Many rhythm-impaired white people were dancing in the aisles and stands, a lot of them badly. And they kept doing it every time there was a lull in the action and the music started up again, like a high school 50th reunion run amok.2016_Republican_National_Convention_Logo

That this whole GOP event feels somehow out-of-step seems appropriate. If there is a word for this convention so far it might be “soulless,” as if the zombies of The Walking Dead suddenly were in a position to vote, make speeches, influence policy decisions — and dance.

To this crowd, behind every silver lining there’s a dark cloud, the meeting possessed of an innate crankiness reminiscent of the next-door neighbor who wants you off his lawn and won’t give you back your ball when it strays onto his property.

Their hero is Trump and their No. 1 nemesis is Hillary Clinton, rapidly followed by the suspiciously calm and thoughtful Barack Obama. Among their other archenemies, according to brain surgeon and former presidential candidate Ben Carson, is the devil himself.

Carson started off on a tear at the convention Tuesday night against the late community organizer and activist Saul Alinsky, a tired ploy Newt Gingrich tried too, when he unsuccessfully ran for president in 2012. Although neither Clinton nor Obama personally knew Alinsky, both have pointed to him as a hero.

Carson then segued to the Evil One, the demon dedicated to Making Hell Great Again. Apparently not understanding Alinsky’s sardonic sense of humor — or the notion of irony — Dr. Carson pointed to the dedication in Alinsky’s book Rules for Radicals: “Lest we forget, at least an over the shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins — or which is which), the very first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.”

Ben Carson, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination who opposed a Muslim being elected president.

Ben Carson, a former candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Sounding a bit like Dana Carvey’s Church Lady, Carson declared, “This is a nation where every coin in our pockets and every bill in our wallet says ‘In God We Trust.’ So are we willing to elect someone as president who has as their role model somebody who acknowledges Lucifer?”

Oh Ben, the zombies got you, too.

Tuesday’s theme was supposed to be Make America Work Again, not that you would have known from the prevailing anti-Clinton vitriol. For the consistency of its mud-throwing, hateful tone, it was, The Atlantic’s James Fallows tweeted, the ugliest convention rhetoric he could remember.

There was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie turning his speech into a prosecutorial harangue before a kangaroo court of thousands who chanted “Lock her up!” as the former U.S. Attorney listed Clinton’s alleged, all-too-familiar crimes: email, Syria, ISIS and Libya, with Boko Haram, China and Cuba thrown in for good measure. “Guilty or not guilty?!” he yelled after each charge. And every time, the crowd hollered back, “GUILTY!”

“We didn’t disqualify Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States, the facts of her life and career disqualifies her. We in this hall agree with all of this,” Christie said, although as Nick Confessore of The New York Times noted during the paper’s live streaming of the festivities, “Kind of necessary to point out that between Christie and Clinton, only one of them still faces federal investigation. And it’s not Clinton.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan seemed to be the only one on Tuesday whose speech at least tried to deal with the evening’s purported theme and the American crisis of income inequality and unemployment. But even this was simply a rehash of tired and worn ideas without real solutions:

“We offer a better way for dealing with persistent poverty in this country,” he said, “a way that shows poor Americans the world beyond liberal warehousing and check-writing, into the life everyone can find with opportunity and independence, the happiness of using your gifts and the dignity of having a job. And you know what? None of this will happen under Hillary Clinton. Only with Donald Trump and Mike Pence do we have a chance at a better way.”

That “better way” notion is a phrase you’re hearing a lot from the Republicans, and appropriately, it comes at a time when plagiarism seems to have become one of the true running themes of this convention. Because “a better way” was the campaign slogan of Robert Redford’s character Bill McKay, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate from California in the 1972 movie The Candidate.

At one point in Jeremy Larner’s excellent screenplay, after one too many stump speeches, McKay loses it and blathers a scrambled version from the back of his limo: “The time has passed… got to be a better way. I say to you… can’t any longer, no, can’t any longer play off black against old, young against poor. This country cannot house its houseless, feed its foodless.” Ryan was channeling him Tuesday night.

Here’s another golden oldie from the ’70s that the GOP could, ahem, borrow: “nattering nabobs of negativism.” That’s a phrase White House speechwriter William Safire drafted for then-Vice President Spiro Agnew in a 1970 speech that attacked the media. “They have formed their own 4-H Club,” Agnew continued, “the ‘hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.’”

Feel free to use it, Republicans, but only to describe yourselves and while remembering that the cause of plagiarism is a lack of original thought. Or just shut up and dance.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and, and a former senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship. [This article originally appeared at]

28 comments for “GOP Crazy Talk Comes to Cleveland

  1. Cal
    July 21, 2016 at 14:49

    Can I say what I am tired to death of? Well this article is an example.

    I am not a member of any party, not even a third or fourth party. I am totally unaffiliated….part of the 38% of registered voters who are registered as unaffiliated. ….which btw, makes the two major parties ‘ minority’ parties. And makes the unaffiliated the actual ‘swing’ voters.

    I am sick of partisan ‘cutesy’ writing, as for example the slur about white men dancing which is as repugnant as slurs about black people abilities. And it is just as racist.
    I am sick of the spin and inaccuracies in these ‘writers’ articles—–as in defending Hillary from the kangaroo court when the FACT is that numerous government employees have been prosecuted for lesser security offences.

    I don’t support Trump or Hillary or the Dems or the Repubs—–and I think you can blame the partisan ‘scribes’ and ‘shills’ (in all of the media and net) of both candidates and parties for the lack of intelligent adult conversation about the sorry state of US politics and government.

    I had just about decided to not vote or to write in a name for the election since I don’t like either candidate.
    But now I am thinking I will vote for the candidate whose shills a least talk about issues and don’t do the ‘cutesy high school type humping for their candidate..
    Guess I am going to be busy following the sheepdogs trying to herd the sheep to their candidate.

    • J'hon Doe II
      July 21, 2016 at 16:16

      Cal –“Can I say what I am tired to death of? Well this article is an example.

      I am not a member of any party, not even a third or fourth party. I am totally unaffiliated….part of the 38% of registered voters who are registered as unaffiliated. ….which btw, makes the two major parties ‘ minority’ parties. And makes the unaffiliated the actual ‘swing’ voters.
      {frivolous/rhetoric responce}

  2. J'hon Doe II
    July 21, 2016 at 14:27

    Brad Benson– “Trump will win this election in a landslide.”

    The stars seem to be gathering in alignment for King Trump and Paul Ryan is a type of point-man leading the charge against the Devil of “Big Government” and FDR’s “socialism.”

    The forces of White is right politics and social darwinism have been reinstated as the cultural prerogative in America. The old confederacy, not “liberty and justice for all” rules.

    Lee Atwater’s 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy (1m. 40sec.)

  3. Brad Benson
    July 21, 2016 at 09:52

    The author fails to mention that the only other viable alternative to a President Trump is a WAR CRIMINAL. A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to aid and abet further WAR CRIMES. Think about it Mr. Winship.

    Trump will win this election in a landslide.

    • Silly Me
      July 22, 2016 at 06:27

      Finally, someone to the point.

      Well, the results will come from the ones who program the vote counting machines.

      I am afraid that all the show with Bernie and Trump is about luring the populace into violence, which would make it easy to introduce martial law. They might even throw in an alleged attack by Russia in the news. After all, they are always lying and most people believe them.

  4. Abe
    July 20, 2016 at 21:16

    Trump obviously was hoping for a coronation like Freddie Mercury got at Wembley in 1986

    During the introduction to “Who Wants to Live Forever”, Mercury addressed the rumours at the time of a Queen breakup by pointing to his posterior and saying, “They’re talking from here!”. He went on to say “So forget those rumours, we’re gonna stay together until we fu**ing well die, I’m sure of it.”

  5. Chris Chuba
    July 20, 2016 at 18:36

    No comments on Joni Ernst tome of partisan foreign policy accusations against Hillary Clinton or is that just expected from Republicans. Actually, she could have been charged with plagiarism since she stuck with dearly held talking points.

    1. She harangued HRC on Iraq, Libya, and Syria. Apparently too Hawkish on the second but not Hawkish enough on the first and third (pulled out too early). The only consistency is that it is bad if a Democrat attacks a small country but it’s okay if a Republican does it.

    2. The Red line in Syria was ignored. Apparently, ISIS and Al Qaeda would have been too scared to take over Syria had we destroyed Assad’s military.

    3. and the Coup de grace, the DISASTROUS IRANIAN NUCLEAR DEAL. We have a terrorism problem and we gave billions of $ to the number 1 state sponsor of terrorism. The problem is that every single terrorist attack in the past two years are all of Sunni Islamist groups supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey and being fought by Iran. My fellow Republicans fail to put 2+2 together here.

    Again, she said everything that every single Republican says on foreign policy; plagiarism.

  6. Zachary Smith
    July 20, 2016 at 17:34

    …as the former U.S. Attorney listed Clinton’s alleged, all-too-familiar crimes…

    I’ll admit I bristled at that “alleged” business until I looked up Christie’s speech – it was awful. This guy was once a Federal Prosecutor?

    The mass incompetence of the whole affair would lead a Man From Mars to conclude none of these boys and girls could organize a 2-float parade. Is it real, or are they Playing To Lose?

  7. Abe
    July 20, 2016 at 17:14

    Brazilian journalist and political analyst Pepe Escobar observes “How Donald Trump will follow the money”

    “It’s no accident that Lil’ Mikey later this month will be a prominent guest at a monster donor semiannual policy and fundraising retreat in Colorado hosted by, who else, the Koch brothers.

    “He’s done it before. In 2014, in Palm Springs, Pence effusively explained how states such as his own, Indiana, can be the perfect labs for the GOP (and Koch) dream of small-to-non-existent government, ultra-low taxes and total deregulation. Arguably, this is what Trumplandia would also be about.

    “Adding to the multi-billionaire front, another close pal of Lil’ Mikey happens to be casino schemer Sheldon Adelson, who was backing New Gingrich as Trump’s running mate. Yet as soon as Lil’ Mikey was confirmed, the Republican Jewish Coalition – financed by Adelson – totally endorsed him, describing him as a ‘critical leader and important voice regarding Israel.’ Adelson has been on the record saying he will shell out as much as $100 million to get Trump into the White House. And he happens to be one of those Koch monster donors as well.

    “So here’s how the playing field is shaping up: the neocon/neoliberal/Wall Street candidate, Hillary Clinton, featuring The Three Harpies itching for a war, against the wall-to-wall multibillionaire Four Amigos – Trump, Charles and David Koch, and Adelson. This, in the US, is what passes for ‘democracy’. Those who are about to die of despair – we salute you. Meanwhile, Cleveland rocks.”

  8. Light
    July 20, 2016 at 17:10

    No Michael – The American people deserve to know exactly what they are dealing with in Hillary Clinton. Ben Carson was right to point out that Saul Alinksky praised Lucifer in his book. And the American people need to know why Hillary Clinton’s thesis on Alinsky was sealed by the Clinton administration –

    Does that thesis contain something that Hillary does not wish for people to know?

    The truth of the matter is that many Americans have reason to believe that many people in high levels of the US government are involved in a Luciferian cult – known as the Illuminati or Inititated. There have been too many reports in the underground media by ex-Satanic priests and others that speak to this fact, the rituals and orgies at Bohemian grove, etc.

    High levels of the Japanese government have already been outed in the MSM as being involved in a cult called Nippon Kaigi –

    So, the idea that members of our govenrment are involved in their own twisted cult is not preposterious, and actually it would explain alot – especially since the Bilderberg group – that is also viewed as part of this Luciferian cult – has its tenticles in just about every company or think-tank on the planet –

    The existence of such a cult would also explain why our govenrment is so hell-bent on destroying the decency of this country and using the rule of law to justify atrocities – like bringing criminal charges against members of our military for not going along with pedophilia and child rape in Afghanistan –

    People involved in this type of vile behavior and the sanctioning of this vile behavior may hide from the law but they will not be able to hide from the God of this universe. They will also NEVER be able to overthrow God as I have heard is their plan – God knows everything and God knows the future and they WILL BE DEFEATED.

    EVIL will come to an end – even if God has to destroy this planet – you can take that to the bank or whatever Church, Synagogue, or Mosque you wish to attend.

    • Zachary Smith
      July 20, 2016 at 18:09

      “Ben Carson was right to point out that Saul Alinksky praised Lucifer in his book.


      Ben Carson is a functional idiot. Here is what Alinsky actually wrote:

      Lest we forget at least an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical: from all our legends, mythology, and history (and who is to know where mythology leaves off and history begins—or which is which), the first radical known to man who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer.

      Alinsky was merely tossing off a tongue-in-cheek line to introduce a book about ‘radicals’.

      If you want some slightly more ‘radical’ stuff, consider what ‘Mark Twain’ wrote:

      “The two testaments are interesting, each in its own way. The Old one gives us a picture of these people´s Deity before he got religion. The other one gives us a picture of him as he appeared afterwards. The Old Testatment is interested mainly in blood and sensuality. The new one is Salvation. Salvation by fire.”

      Mythological creatures like Lucifer (light bringer) and Prometheus (the fellow who stole fire from Mt. Olympus and gave it to mankind) are useful in story-telling. They’re not exactly good representations of reality.

      BTW, a fun story – one of the few Robert Heinlein novels I’ve not discarded – is “Job: A Comedy of Justice”. Unlike Alinsky, RAH’s hero in the novel actually is Lucifer.

      • Light
        July 20, 2016 at 23:23

        The Alinsky quote is praiseworthy of Lucifer – that is why he says “acknowledgement”. As for the Mark Twain quote, it has no relevance because the Bible is a book that has been chopped and destroyed by men over decades so they could use religion as a means to control people – the same as today in every major religion.

        The religions of this world do not represent the God of good of this universe and cannot represent God because religions around the world are ran and were designed by humans, and humans as a species cannot relinquish their desire for power and control over others above doing what is good and just on behalf of God. Religions believe in codes and Hail Mary’s and other rituals that God does not care about at all. And many at the head of religions do not have the intelligence or the line to God to do what is required on God’s behalf.

        Lucifer and Prometheus are real in ways that are not obvious – everything that humans know is known by God and therefore, everything that humans believe, is believed according to God’s plan.

        As Einstein would say – “God does not play dice”. Humans play dice because they think life is a game where they get to make all of the rules and, like Lucifer, that choices do not have consequences. But life is not a game. People’s lives matter and the choices that we make matter and the way we treat others matters – which is why those that practice and condone evil, such as that perpetrated in Afghanistan against children on behalf of our government, will be atoned for by this government through an “equal and opposite reaction”, to quote Issac Newton.

        All Luciferians (and believe me Zachary they exist) – should be aware – black magik has a price and the price is coming due.

        What the American people do not know about the sorcery of the controllers is hurting this country. Americans need to do their own research so they will be aware that some of those in places of power do not care about them or their families and consider them to be trash that can disposed of at their whim – because it is difficult to care about other people when you think the end-all is power that allows a person to disavow the difference between good and evil.

        But evil and good do exist – in religion, in war, in economics, in capitalism, in communism – in everything known to mankind.

        There is a God of good in this universe and there is a test – and that test is your life. If you fail and hurt others in this life, you get to experience your next life as a pile of maggots, a colony of dung beetles, a dog, a cow, etc. If you pass the test you get to move to a higher level of existence – unless God is done with the test and decides to wipe everyone out simultaneosuly and start again.

        All I know is this – when I breathe my last I am not coming back to Earth. I am 100% sure of that fact.

        • Brad Owen
          July 21, 2016 at 09:36

          Finally, someone shows up here who has an inkling of the fact that the Creator is a LIVING Entity NOT contained within human constructs such as Synagogue-ism, Churchianity, nor Mosque-ism (the three great Imperial Religions on Earth), nor within the priestly hierarchies found therein. Thank you for the words you have said here.

        • Zachary Smith
          July 21, 2016 at 12:24

          My, my. That means unicorns and satyrs are real too.

          Behemoths and Leviathans. Daniel’s monsters. Noah and his ark.

          And Ben Carson is a straight-talking genius. (an unusually tough one)

          Finally, I hadn’t known that reincarnation had gotten a hold in (American?) religion.

          • Silly Me
            July 22, 2016 at 06:16

            In fact, we have hardly any idea what is going on in the Universe and in this world. Our brains are constantly working on models for reality at various levels of complexity. However, even if you ignore the basic levels of cognitive truth judgment, humans can think consistently only in closed systems and in problem-solving. We are using models for thinking, because they work, but that doesn’t mean our premises are true.

            You can’t refute or prove beliefs, because they are fundamental tenets for living a decent life. For some, it’s a frightening idea that God doesn’t exist the way they want It to. For others, it seems to be even more frightening that It might. Don’t worry, they are both wrong, because the human intellect is incapable of conceptualize something greater than what it is itself; that is why we don’t even know what we are. Yet no matter how frightening it is, the Universe is not a sustainable system, because, in fact, it shouldn’t exist by principle, unless something external is fueling it even at this very moment. Indeed, we simply cannot know what that is, unless it is revealed (Pascal) by this external power. The problem is that even at that point, we would have little idea of what It is talking about.

            Moreover, those who don’t believe in something greater than their own lives are afraid for their lives; a biological level on which there is little more to humans than to rats, which I sadly agree with occasionally, when I observe human behavior, including mine. You don’t have to be a believer or an atheist to understand that.

            If that is too much for your working memory, here it is, simplified:

            All human thinking is based on concepts, which are symbols for specific segments of the human experience. Unicorns exist in your mind as one of your thoughts and not all concepts represent sensory experience.

        • philopaganus
          July 23, 2016 at 09:10

          If Twain’s comment is inadequate, here’s an earlier one that is more to the point. In 1792, our own patriot hero Thomas Paine summed up the Old Testament in his great work, “The Age of Reason,” this way, “Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel.”

          The great poet Shelley wrote this in his 1816 epic poem “Queen Mab”, about the lead character in the “New Testament” fiction:

          He led
          The crowd; he taught them justice, truth and peace,
          In semblance; but he lit within their souls
          The quenchless flames of zeal, and blessed the sword
          He brought on earth to satiate with the blood
          Of truth and freedom his malignant soul.

    • Brad Benson
      July 21, 2016 at 09:45

      You lose all credibility for your other arguments when you introduce a fantasy god into your thesis.

      • Brad Owen
        July 21, 2016 at 15:56

        Pick up your penalty flag off the Field of conversation, Mr. Benson. You’re not the referee here. No loss of down or loss of yardage is suffered here for civil expression of opinion. I understand it is YOUR opinion that Light’s ideas of the existence of a Deity are sheer fantasy. Duly noted, but I doubt that folks like Light even care about the opinions of those who are bent towards atheism/materialism…been there, done that, moved on.

        • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
          July 21, 2016 at 17:03

          He wasn’t just talking about that. He was talking about the nonsense of a Illuminati-Satanist conspiracy, which only a far-right-wing idiot would believe.

          • Silly Me
            July 22, 2016 at 06:19

            Humans work in interest groups and their is always one on the top.

            The rest is folklore.

    • The 700 Billion Club
      July 21, 2016 at 13:07

      “…the decency of this country…” ? Preposterious.

  9. Joe Tedesky
    July 20, 2016 at 16:55

    Mr Winship, as much as I always enjoy hearing what you have to say, did you have to say this: “Clinton’s alleged, all-too-familiar crimes”. There is nothing alleged about Hillary’s email debacle, or Libya, and the rest of what you mentioned. I get it, we are suppose to now rally around the liberal Democrat, but trying to downplay Hillary’s indiscretions is like trying to block out the sun on a sunny day. May I borrow your sun glasses?

    What I see while watching the Republican Convention, is a divided political party in chaos. Gone are the old guards such as the Bushs, Romney, and McCain. I can’t say I miss these people, but possibly the Republican Party does. Add to that, who cares.

    Our whole country is in a state of unrest, and confusion. Leadership is not to be found. I don’t blame this solely on President Obama. Obama even on a good day, doesn’t have the support it would take in order for him to do anything for the citizens of this nation. On another level by Obama catering to the corporate crowd, he has lost all respect among the progressives who would have been there for him, if he had been there for them. It’s politics that’s how it works.

    Also as bad as Trump is, he is running pretty even up against Hillary in most places, which doesn’t say much about our wonderful Queen of Chaos.

    • Zachary Smith
      July 20, 2016 at 18:18

      Also as bad as Trump is, he is running pretty even up against Hillary in most places, which doesn’t say much about our wonderful Queen of Chaos.

      Well-done polls are very accurate. People who report on the results of those polls may or may not be telling the truth about them. It’s necessary to keep people believing there is a real contest going on – whether there is or not – to keep alive the pretense that we live in a thriving Democracy where elections are actually in doubt.

      I’ve no idea what’s really going on with the 2016 election, but I’ll have on my hip boots when reading anybody’s poll reports.

      • Joe Tedesky
        July 20, 2016 at 20:04

        You make a good point. Why believe anything our media reports? I currently am tossing around the idea that this election is all scripted. I won’t go on, but you are correct this is a strange election all around.

      • Silly Me
        July 22, 2016 at 05:49

        I never participate in polls. Unpredictability is our only defense against those in power.

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