It was dark, dark, oh so dark. That’s what numerous media commentators said about Donald Trump’s speech at the end of the Cleveland convention, but is that necessarily awful? If there are major worries in the world, shouldn’t we worry? Is it better to look the other way?
The reply would no doubt be that he was making too much out of too little, and in some instances that may have been so. But in other instances, the speech was no darker than the reality, and much of the speech was positive. Optimistically, Trump said that, in unity with the American people, he would fix everything as president. And there is this to say: He got through an hour and 15 minutes without sounding crude or immature.
Unfortunately, one hour of sobriety does not erase a year’s worth of buffoonery, and we got more promises than policies, unless you count good intentions as policies. He overreached some in his criticisms of Clinton, but was often on target, too. When the crowd started chanting, “Lock her up,” he hushed it up.
Frequently called a “blue collar billionaire” during the convention, Trump showed what seemed genuine empathy with the middle class enduring stagnant wages. He was still misleading when he talked about the loss of manufacturing jobs as mostly related to trade deals. That’s a part of it, but manufacturing in this country, in terms of output, has actually gone up at a major pace. What has cost jobs is technology that makes us more productive and ultimately leads to more jobs.
The GOP candidate walked in peculiar directions in discussing the budget. He was right that Obama has almost doubled the debt during his administration, but that won’t be fixed by Trump’s plan of cutting taxes on top of various spending adventures, such as building a wall Mexico will not pay for. As a budget solution he turned to the old charade of eliminating waste. It is something just about every president promises with no notable results.
One place where commentators thought he got “dark” was his saying homicides were increasing after a long period of decline. CNN commentator Anderson Cooper said with some hesitation that homicides were on the decline, and later some other people on his panel practically rejoiced after learning a fact-grinder concluded homicides have not lately been on the rise. They have been, and for a top-name journalist not to know as much is sad.
Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute, one of the best analysts on this topic, has written: “Homicides increased 9 percent in the largest 63 cities in the first quarter of 2016; nonfatal shootings were up 21 percent, according to a Major Cities Chiefs Association survey. Those increases come on top of last year’s 17 percent rise in homicides in the 56 biggest U.S. cities, with 10 heavily black cities showing murder spikes above 60 percent.”
A lot of this has to do with engendering disrespect for police even at the highest level of government, making their tough jobs that much more difficult. Trump wants to reverse this and also reverse the statistics, although it is not clear how. Presidents don’t run local police departments.
Something Trump wants is national unity; he surprised some by reaching out to gays and minorities as well as to evangelicals. Another desire: more help for veterans. Things he plans to fight: radical Islamic terrorism, political correctness and, as if he were a left-winger, what he sees as threatening corporations. He did not get into it, but Trump also happens to have an economic plan that really, truly could engender growth.
I am not a Trump fan and I do not believe this was a great speech. I still think it did show a capacity to reach beyond what we have mostly gotten from him to date. More improvements would be welcome, but here is a mode he should stick to.
Jay Ambrose is a columnist for Tribune News Service.
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