July 28, 2016


How President Obama Stole the Republican Party's Greatest Hits and Retook the American Center : During Wednesday's DNC, the Democrats systematically appropriated traditional GOP strengths, from religion to national security, that Donald Trump had jettisoned (Yair Rosenberg, 7/28/16, Tablet)

By the time Obama was done with his address, conservative intellectuals and officials were marveling at how he'd co-opted their narrative.

"American exceptionalism and greatness, shining city on hill, founding documents, etc--they're trying to take all our stuff," tweeted National Review editor Rich Lowry. "Take about five paragraphs out of that Obama speech and it could have been a Reagan speech," said John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary. "Trust me. I know." (Podhoretz is a former Reagan speechwriter.) "Watching Democrats talk about America the way Republican candidates used to talk about America," lamented Tony Fratto, former deputy press secretary to George W. Bush.

These reactions were not hyperbolic. Consider three traditionally Republican talking points that were woven into the night's speeches:

National security. For decades, the GOP has owned this issue, whether it comes to supporting the American military, fighting terrorism, or dealing with despots. Back in 2004, Democrats were so worried about George W. Bush's advantages on this score that they nominated decorated war veteran John Kerry in an attempt to negate it. He famously opened his convention acceptance speech with "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty," throwing in an actual salute for good measure.

But in this election, Donald Trump has completely vacated the battlefield on national security. He has threatened to compel American servicemen to commit war crimes, derided war hero John McCain for being captured and imprisoned, and praised dictators from Saddam Hussein to Kim Jong-un to Vladimir Putin. This week, Trump even encouraged the latter's regime to hack his political opponent Hillary Clinton. He's also threatened to break up NATO, said he might not protect its members from Russian aggression, and attacked the European Union, thus imperiling two American-backed projects to keep the peace abroad.

Trump's stances on foreign policy have been so alarming that nearly all of the Republican party's national security apparatus has condemned them, with many signing an open letter declaring Trump "utterly unfitted to the office" of president. Remarkably, some former Bush and Reagan officials are actively backing Hillary Clinton.

Last night, Democrats took this opening and pounced. "No major-party nominee in the history of this nation has ever known less and been less prepared to handle our national security," thundered Vice President Joe Biden. "We cannot elect a man who belittles our closest allies while embracing dictators like Vladimir Putin."

Hours later, Obama drove the point home. "Donald Trump calls our military a disaster," he noted. "Apparently, he doesn't know the men and women who make up the strongest fighting force the world has ever known. He suggests America is weak. He must not hear the billions of men and women and children, from the Baltics to Burma, who still look to America to be the light of freedom and dignity and human rights." It was a patriotic peroration worthy of Reagan, and the sort of broadside that Republicans have been leveling at Democrats for years. "Ronald Reagan called America 'a shining city on a hill,' Donald Trump calls it 'a divided crime scene' that only he can fix," Obama went on, turning his subtext into text.

Religion. Faith and family have long been another area of Republican dominance--at least until they nominated a twice-divorced serial philanderer for president in 2016. Trump, now the standard-bearer of the party of most of America's evangelical Christians, infamously bungled his biblical citations when he spoke at the evangelical Liberty University. He has appeared on the cover of Playboy, bragged about his infidelities, and said he doesn't believe in heaven or hell.

Amazingly, the original text of Trump's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention did not even end with the traditional "God bless America" or contain any mention of God at all. In the end, Trump ad-libbed a "God bless you," but still made no reference to America. By contrast, last night, Obama did not forget the traditional closing.

Posted by at July 28, 2016 8:23 PM