Md. Repub­li­cans, po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts split over RNC mes­sage

The Enquire-Gazette - - News - By JOSH MAGNESS Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

CLEVE­LAND — The Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion met in Cleve­land in July with the goal of pro­ject­ing a plat­form of fis­cal con­ser­vatism, strength­en­ing na­tional security and pre­sent­ing an over­all com­mit­ment to “Make Amer­ica Great Again.”

But a hand­ful of con­tro­ver­sial speeches, prime­time dis­agree­ments over rules and other dis­trac­tions dom­i­nated much of the news cy­cle, po­ten­tially hin­der­ing the GOP’s abil­ity to present a pol­icy-based mes­sage.

In the most highly pub­li­cized prob­lem, Me­la­nia Trump, wife of Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump, de­liv­ered a key­note speech last Mon­day night that was well-re­ceived by those at­tend­ing the con­ven­tion. But its suc­cess was shortly over­shad­owed by con­tro­versy when strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween her speech and Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion were re­vealed.

The al­le­ga­tions dom­i­nated the news cy­cle Tues­day, with staffers of the Trump cam­paign deny­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of pla­gia­rism. They said the Hil­lary Clin­ton cam­paign dredged up the claims for con­tro­versy and that Me­la­nia Trump, in­stead of copy­ing Obama’s speech, only used “com­mon words.”

Fi­nally on Wed­nes­day, Mered­ith McIver, an em­ployee of the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion, took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the in­ci­dent in a press re­lease and said that she of­fered to re­sign from the cam­paign, a ges­ture she said was re­jected by the Trumps.

Dwight Pa­tel, an at­large del­e­gate for Trump from Mary­land, said the around-the-clock cov­er­age of the in­ci­dent by na­tional news or­ga­ni­za­tions is just “typ­i­cal left-wing me­dia at­tack­ing Repub­li­cans.”

In Pa­tel’s view, the me­dia would have found a neg­a­tive as­pect of Me­la­nia Trump’s speech to harp on no mat­ter how it went.

“I think this is the me­dia’s war on Repub­li­cans in gen­eral,” said Pa­tel, the sec­ond vice-chair of the Mont­gomery Coun- ty, Mary­land, Repub­li­can Cen­tral Com­mit­tee. “If it wasn’t [Me­la­nia’s] dress, it would be that her hair wasn’t right.”

Diana Water­man, the Mary­land GOP state chair­man, agreed, say­ing the ac­cu­sa­tions of pla­gia­rism are a “non-is­sue,” and that Me­la­nia Trump was sim­ply ex­press­ing feel­ings that are uni­ver­sal among po­ten­tial first ladies.

“I don’t be­lieve that the goal was to pla­gia­rize; the goal was to say the things that are im­por­tant to her,” Water­man said. “I think the fo­cus [from the me­dia] needs to be more on her hus­band and Gover­nor Pence and their plans.”

Shawn J. Parry-Giles, in­terim di­rec­tor of Grad­u­ate Stud­ies in In­ter­pret­ing & Trans­la­tion at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, said the drama sur­round­ing the can­di­date’s wife’s speech — as well as a failed call for a roll call vote from op­po­nents to Trump that sought to de­lay the con­ven­tion — raise ques­tions about the nom­i­nee’s cam­paign in­fras­truc­ture.

“I think that the larger con­cern is whether or not they are pre­pared for this con­ven­tion,” she said. “The first night, they had a lot of is­sues; they weren’t pre­pared to han­dle the dis­unity and this is­sue of pla­gia­rism that no one caught be­fore the speech went live.”

But U.S. Rep. Andy Har­ris (R-Md., 1st) said the con­ven­tion “couldn’t have gone bet­ter.”

Har­ris added that the ma­jor­ity of vot­ers aren’t con­cerned about the drama around Me­la­nia Trump’s speech, call­ing it a “pure in­ven­tion of the me­dia.”

“Amer­i­cans have a choice be­tween Don­ald Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton, who lied to Congress and lied to the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Har­ris said. “I don’t think they care about go­ing word-for-word in Me­la­nia Trump’s speech to see if some­thing she said was ever ut­tered by some­one else in his­tory.”

Another speech, given in this case by Trump’s for­mer ri­val, Dr. Ben Car­son, also drew crit­i­cism, and neg­a­tive me­dia at­ten­tion.

In his speech Tues­day night, Car­son re­ferred to Saul Alin­sky, a writer widely con­sid­ered to be the founder of mod­ern com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ing, when he said Hil­lary Clin­ton “has as [her] role model some­body who ac­knowl­edges Lu­cifer.”

And the crit­i­cism con­tin­ued when New Hamp­shire State Rep. Al Bal­dasaro, an ad­viser to the Trump cam­paign on veter­ans’ is­sues, took Clin­ton-bash­ing one step fur­ther.

Dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on WRKO ra­dio from the con­ven­tion Tues­day, Bal­dasaro said that Clin­ton should be “put in the fir­ing line and shot for trea­son” for what many Repub­li­cans con­sider her slow re­sponse to and mis­lead­ing com­ments about the cause of the 2012 at­tacks on the U.S. con­sulate in Beng­hazi that left four Amer­i­cans dead.

The com­ments came af­ter Michael Folk, a mem­ber of the West Vir­ginia House of Del­e­gates, tweeted Fri­day that Clin­ton should be “hung on the mall in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.”

He later apol­o­gized for his re­marks.

Dan Nataf, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for the Study of Lo­cal Is­sues at Anne Arun­del Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Arnold, said us­ing such vit­ri­olic lan­guage, while po­ten­tially ap­peal­ing to vot­ers who al­ready de­spise the Clin­tons, is un­likely to draw in in­de­pen­dent and un­de­cided vot­ers.

“Us­ing words like ‘ fir­ing squads’ or ‘hung and killed,’ those are off-putting,” Nataf said. “I don’t know if in­de­pen­dents will be drawn to peo­ple us­ing those hos­tile words. It’s too much.”

For Nataf, the at­ten­tion placed on those com­ments, as well as the con­tro­versy around Me­la­nia Trump’s speech, high­light the me­dia’s ex­pec­ta­tion that the busi­ness mogul and those he sur­rounds him­self with in his cam­paign are un­re­li­able.

Un­til Trump and his cam­paign can prove oth­er­wise, Nataf said, it is likely that sim­i­lar sto­ries that sug­gest dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion will con­tinue to pop up.

“The me­dia is go­ing to fo­cus on the un­forced er­rors be­cause that’s what they are ex­pect­ing,” Nataf said. “It’s the nar­ra­tive; it’s Trump and his cir­cus.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF CAP­I­TAL NEWS SER­VICE/AMANDA EN­GEL

Mary­land’s del­e­gates to the 2016 Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion watch the ac­tion on the podium on Tues­day, July 19.

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