The commentariat, helplessly observing the end of a failed eight year experiment in leftism, appeasement, and racialism, has but one basic approach to the RNC speeches this week: take on family members as either plagiarists or as better than the nominee. More on the plagiarism in a moment, but the main of today’s commentary about Donald Trump, Jr’s spectacular speech last night are versions of “If only his dad could speak like that,” or “That’s a speech his dad could never give.” Other versions of this are rampant online and on television today.
Well, first: it was a great speech, mulling an aspect of American greatness that has been implicit throughout this campaign but was put in sharp relief by DTJ last night: America is not falling or failing because of her falling or failing abilities, but because of will. DTJ ran through the gamut of things that are possible and doable, from education reform to immigration reform to regulatory reform. And it was all pure, refreshing, confidence-instilling commonsense–just what has been missing….and for a long time. What DTJ did so masterfully was tie all those themes to his dad’s ability to simply. get. things. done. All of this was summed up in the great line about the 3 a.m. call: “[A]sk yourselves, if you were in Mark’s shoes that night, who would you rather call?” The point: You want something done in a tough situation, who ya gonna call, Trump or Clinton?
Achieving greatness in America, we were reminded, is about will not ability. We aren’t failures, our leaders are. What Americans are waking up to is that our failures of late have not been about inability but lack of will. Americans know we can do things, big things, and that, at bottom, is what frustrates. How did an arsenal of democracy go from that, and moon landings, to, well, all the problems we have now, including joke-worthy airport security that inconveniences everyone to a new abnormal? That is what is so maddening and why so many are flocking to a man known for “can do.” The American Greatness cause is, at bottom, a tiredness of being told things can’t be great, that ability is out of reach, that we must settle for mediocrity. It is a defining of America down. How can a great country live like or settle with that?
So, to the point of DTJ giving a better speech than his dad. Maybe. But who trained DTJ? And who does DTJ credit for his success? And do we think DTJ could slice through 16 other candidates as his father did, or was that, at the end of the day, not about will and ability also? Finally, is it not of the ancient wisdom, as Homer puts it in the Iliad, that the most profound wish of a father is that his son surpasses him in excellence? In the end, the speech was great and if I can engage a little plagiarism: “it expressed a courage of rhetoric little seen in this day and age.”
As for Melania and the plagiarism contretemps, a pet peeve of mine: For years I’ve had the saying that plumbers don’t do heart surgery and heart surgeons don’t lobby. It was a bit of an inside joke of ours in DC when those of us hired to do what we do best, by those wanting the results of others we worked for would then simply change everything we did and wonder why they didn’t get the desired result. Think Dustin Hoffman in Wag the Dog. No better illustration of this than Melania’s speech. As the New York Times reports today, Melania’s original speech was written by the two best speechwriters in the business, John McConnell and Matthew Scully. And when delivered, it was unrecognizable from what they wrote. Meddling-cum-Contretemps. A friend once summed up my saying as, “No thanks Mrs. Fields, I’ll make my own cookies.” And this is what you get. And as I’m also reminded, the same thing happened with Mitt Romney’s 2012 convention speech: McConnell and Scully deployed. One paragraph was kept. Speech flopped. Just saying.
Now, today, we celebrate Apollo 11–a good reminder about all of the above, including ability, will, and American Greatness.