Republican National Convention — Day One

The Republican National Convention begins in Cleveland today. Tensions are high after a week of police shootings and terrorists attacks. Security in the vicinity of the convention is extremely tight, with police on foot (in packs), on bikes, on horseback, and in cars. Law enforcement vehicles can be spotted every mile or two along major highways, flanked by snow plows (a strange sight in Ohio in July!) ready to pull out onto the highway to block traffic. No doubt the attack in Nice is fresh on the minds of those in charge of security.

Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee, comes into the convention presenting himself as the law and order candidate. In fact, the first day of the convention is themed, "Make America Safe Again." He'll be joined this week by his freshly-minted VP pick, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who brings with him bona fide conservative cred. It's yet to be determined if this will bring any Never Trumpers onto Trump's shaky Republican ship.

PJ Media has a team of correspondents on the ground in Cleveland this week. Check back here regularly for original reporting including interviews, live video from the street, incisive commentary, and some of the lighter side of the convention as well. You'll hear from Roger L. Simon, Roger Kimball, Nicholas Ballasy, Tyler O'Neil, and myself. In addition to our individual articles, we'll all be contributing short entries to this group liveblog throughout the day. And wish us luck!

Tonight was the first night of the convention and a very big opportunity for Republicans to try to gather the flock together and rally the troops. Watching the speeches from the hall is completely different from viewing them at home on TV. When you watch a spectacle like this on television, there’s a significant amount of stagecraft that keeps you focused on the speakers and their messages. When you’re in the venue where the actual event is taking place, there are a lot of distractions —people constantly milling about and cameras everywhere. And you notice things like all the empty seats and the disproportionate number of media types and technical people who are there “for work.”

I caught part of Scott Baio's speech while I was at the Market Garden Brewery in Ohio City (highly recommended!!) and also watched Marcus Luttrell on TV. Both speakers seemed very well received, and so I expected to find a packed house and a raucous crowd at the Quicken Loans Arena. Instead, the place was half empty by the time we arrived just before Rudy Giuliani's speech as the crowd waited for Donald Trump to introduce his wife, Melania. The floor in front of the stage was full of delegates, but the so called nosebleed sections were empty, as was the middle level. The lower section of the arena also had plenty of empty seats. Whether that indicates a lack of enthusiasm for the Republican nominee, I can't say, but it seemed surprisingly empty for an event that was billed as the hottest ticket in the country. (I've been told they did not show the empty seats on the TV broadcasts. As I said, stagecraft.) That's not to say there was no enthusiasm or excitement in the arena. In fact, Rudy Giuliani in particular riled up the crowd with his rousing "kill the terrorists" speech. The theme of the night was "Make America Safe Again," and Giuliani delivered the red meat.

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There will be plenty of time tomorrow to discuss Melania's speech and the extent to which she allegedly plagiarized Michelle Obama's speech at the 2008 DNC. One thing that I noticed (because I'm an editor, and editors always have their mental red pens handy) was that there were grammatical errors in the speech. At first I chalked it up to English not being Mrs. Trump's first language. Not a huge deal to me. My grandparents were immigrants and it doesn't bother me a bit if she flubs a verb tense here or there. However, I glanced at the teleprompter and noticed that the grammatical errors were also written there, which made me wonder if anyone on Team Trump even looked at that speech. Isn't Trump supposed to hire "all the best people"? How did this one get by them?

Also, on a lighter note:

Out on the streets things were oddly quiet. As we headed out to grab an Uber, two young men stopped us to ask where all the parties were. (Yeah, go ahead and laugh at the fact that two young men asked someone old enough to be their mother where the parties were. I did.) They were veterans of CPAC and had come expecting to hit some "networking events" and have a little fun. Instead, they were treated to a lineup of speakers reading the teleprompter, after which everyone headed for the exits and back to their hotels. The Uber drivers we talked to all sounded surprised at how few fares they had had all day. They expected to be extremely busy, but instead only received sporadic calls throughout the day. I didn't see lines outside of any restaurants or bars, either. Maybe everyone was just exhausted from traveling and dealing with the endless phalanx of security queues everywhere, or maybe a lot of people stayed home, unenthused about the candidate. Or perhaps they didn't come to Cleveland due to security concerns. Whatever the reason, Day One was, to say the least, anticlimactic after all of the hype leading up to this convention.

I'm the Ohioan in our PJM delegation, having grown up about 15 miles outside of Cleveland and still residing in the area. Having seen the city though some of the worst of times, my heart swells with pride tonight as I see it rolling out the welcome mat for visitors from all over the world. Everyone here — from servers in restaurants to Uber drivers to police officers — exudes the Midwest values that keep me here, despite our miserable winters. The city looks beautiful, but more importantly, the people here are simply delightful and I'm proud to call this place my home.

Terminal Tower Lit for RNC Terminal Tower Lit for RNC

 

For those of you not old enough to remember the (dated) cultural reference, here you go:

Make America Great...Love Will Keep Us Together...Build the Wall...Ebony and Ivory, Live Together in Perfect Harmony...I think we could keep going with this and come up with a YUGELY inspired foreign and domestic policy! Governance by buzzwords. It's perfect for the BuzzFeed generation.

Best line of the first night so far came from African American senatorial candidate from Colorado, Darryl Glenn:  "Someone with a tan's gotta say this - All Lives Matter!"

Maybe more than anyone so far, Glenn has helped himself and revved up the crowd. A new star?

Former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani killed it on the floor of the Republican National Convention. The crowd greeted him with deafening cheers and applause.

He emphasized that no matter your race, your religion, your sexual orientation, the police will save your life.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has proven otherwise.

Giuliani hit on Monday's theme, Making America Safe Again, saying that Americans do not feel safe. Playing off of his strong record of bringing peace to New York City, Giuliani declared that what he did to the Big Apple Trump will do to America.

Needless to say, that was a very popular message, and the crowd ate it up.

Marcus Luttrell is a hero. That's all.

During the first day, the presiding chairman shut down a roll call vote, and many conservative delegates are livid. Particularly notorious are former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Utah Senator Mike Lee.

In an utterly desperate act of defiance, Cuccinelli threw his convention credentials onto the floor.

He explained that "this was an opportunity for the grassroots to finally spread power out in the party," but the leadership shut it down, "just like in 2012."

His act of defiance reminded some of the classic Saturday Night Live video, "Throw It On the Ground."

Lee declared that the incident was particularly poorly run -- the chairman actually walked off the stage at one point.

Some have criticized Lee and Cuccinelli as "sour grapes," annoyed that their alleged efforts to embarrass Trump had failed. Both responded by saying this wasn't about Donald Trump or Ted Cruz, his most effective challenger.

This event is unlikely to really affect the GOP, but it will leave a sour taste in the mouths of grassroots conservatives. The same anger against the establishment that propelled Donald Trump was ironically thrown at the Trump-focused convention here, and it fizzled against this new leadership.

A lot of Day One of the RNC was spent in line and trying to get our credentials straightened out, which unfortunately meant a lot of back and forth across town and waiting in lines. Roger Kimball quipped that the Euro-style bureaucracy we experienced today might be a sign of things to come on this side of the pond.

From our perch in the Carl B. Stokes Federal Courthouse building, where we were sent to pick up our Secret Service credentials, we had a bird's eye view of the security staging area.

There was also a National Guard presence, albeit a small one:

Heavily armed U.S. Marshals were also guarding the federal building, donning flak jackets. Cleveland is also ready for protesters. I've been told that courts are prepared to stay open 20 hours a day in case protesters need to be adjudicated on the fly.

But all in all, it has been a very peaceful day so far. Our Uber drivers reported sporadic protests here and there, but nothing serious. It seems like perhaps everyone is a little shell-shocked from recent police shootings and terrorist attacks, as well they should be. Hopefully that means the week will go smoothly and the worst elements will say away.

Anti-Trump forces hooted and hollered at the GOP convention opening day that they didn't get their chance to vote on the rules to express their NeverTrumpism and possibly upend the candidate. But is this really a subversion of democracy?  The vast majority, an unprecedented number in fact, voted for Trump. So who are these delegates to undermine the wishes of their constituencies?  Elites?  Moral narcissists, to coin a phrase?