Lou Cannon, nationally acclaimed author, political reporter and Ronald Reagan biographer, thought the first night of the Republican National Convention sent a decidedly mixed message.
"It was kind of a mixture of trying to humanize Donald Trump and the Empire Strikes Back," Cannon told Newsmakers, when he checked in this morning to discuss the first act of Trump's coronation for a second term.
With Democratic rival Joe Biden holding a solid lead in national polls but smaller edges in key battleground states, the Trump campaign simultaneously sought to soften his image on racial issues -- deploying a personal testimonial from former football star Herschel Walker, an encomium from a Black Georgia legislator and a hopeful and praiseworthy piece of oratory from Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina -- while scaring suburban white voters with the spectre of mobs of people of color -- "They want to abolish the suburbs altogether," proclaimed Mark and Patty McCloskey, a wealthy St. Louis couple who gained national notoriety (and criminal charges) for waving guns at Black Lives Matter protesters, "your family will not be safe."
With nearly 180,000 dead of Covid, unemployment at its highest level since the Depression and racial unrest roiling the nation, Trump's hope of overcoming Biden rests on transforming the campaign from a referendum on him into a choice election that defines the Democrat as an insupportable alternative.
To do that, a number of speakers at the star-spangled affair painted Biden as a clear and present danger to the health and safety of the commonweal:
"They want to destroy America," said one speaker. "We face the terrifying prospect of Joe Biden coming after everything we own," said another. “They will disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your homes, and invite MS-13 to live next door,” thundered Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, wielding rhetoric that veered into parody,
Trump meanwhile, enjoyed the kind of unadulterated praise Kim Jong Il might envy -- the "bodyguard of Western Civilization" right-wing activist Charlie Kirk dubbed him -- while being credited with fast and effective action in the face of the pandemic -- "millions would have died," without Trump, said another speaker -- in a massive rewriting, if not whitewashing, of the federal government's response to the coronavirus.
As for what the late President Reagan, the subject of five books written by Cannon, might have thought, Lou laughed: "I think Ronald Reagan would have been as bewildered as I am."
Watch our complete conversation with Lou Cannon by clicking below...and the podcast version is here.