GOP convention day 1 recap: The copycat and the clowns

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Behold the new Republican Party in all its hot messiness. The first night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland was instructive in telling us everything we need to know about the so-called party of Lincoln. Simply put, it is a circus. And the clowns were on display.

Monday night was a showcase of the new leaders of the GOP, which apparently include models and reality show stars, providing their insights into the values of hard work. On deck were Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” and Scott Baio from “Happy Days” and some actor, underwear model and reality show star named Antonio Sabato, Jr., who is certain President Obama is a Muslim.

Billed as the highlight of the evening was a speech given by Melania Trump, model and wife of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, whose claim to fame is being married to Donald Trump. And apparently, she is also a plagiarist, or at least her speechwriter is one, given that she lifted whole sections of a 2008 Democratic National Convention speech from the real First Lady, Michelle Obama. Just straight jacked it. If you don’t believe it, please take a look:

Melania Trump: “From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise; that you treat people with respect.”

Michelle Obama: “You work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.”

Mrs. Trump: “We want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

The First Lady: “We want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

Call it Speechgate. And the way to end this scandal is a resounding Republican defeat in November.

Aside from the blatant stealing of the First Lady’s speech, it is notable that Melania Trump — herself an immigrant and therefore not born in the U.S. —was the keynote at a convention built on the scapegoating of so-called “illegal aliens” (Latinos) and “Islamic extremist terrorists” (Muslims). And although the GOP is blatantly homophobic, the Donald used Queen’s “We Are the Champions” as his entrance theme song, despite the fact that the group asked him to stop playing it, and their late lead singer Freddie Mercury was gay.

Melania provided light fare, appearing almost out of place in a convention night that was designed for the angry and aggrieved poor white folks, the victims of crimes mostly imagined. It was an outlet for the pent up anger of people who are sick and tired of the Black Lives Matter crowd. The theme of the first night was “Make America Safe Again,” with a not-so-subtle hat tip to the tough-on-crime, law-and-order stance of Richard Nixon. The dog whistle of Southern Strategy race card politics has now morphed into a bullhorn of white nationalism. And who is better positioned to shout out against black lives than Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.

Clarke became the hero of white America last night when he shouted that “Blue Lives Matter!” and congratulated the white police officer for his acquittal in the Freddie Gray murder trial. He also slammed the #BlackLivesMatter movement and called it anarchy. And Clarke managed to do all of this while invoking Martin Luther King. How he did it is anyone’s guess, but it is certain that Sheriff Clarke is like a white Jesus in blackface for this GOP’s whiteness coming out party. For others, he is a buffoon.

Meanwhile, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani — who, as you may remember, presided over rampant police brutality and the killing of blacks and Latinos by law enforcement — delivered an angry diatribe that was fitting for a rally in Nazi Germany. “We’re coming to get you!” he shouted.

Another speaker at the GOP convention was Sen. Joni Ernst (R, Iowa), whose speech was not particularly noteworthy, except that the crowd began to leave for the night as she spoke. Moreover, Ernst served in Iraq in the Iowa National Guard, while the Republican Party platform is against women serving in combat. Mike Pence, Trump’s VP pick, is against women serving in the military altogether, citing “Mulan” as proof that women don’t belong there.

What a circus. Copycats and clowns. It would be even more entertaining if the clowns on the stage weren’t so serious about it all.

Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove