Critic's Notebook: Donald Trump's Speech Closes GOP Convention on Apocalyptic Note

Donald Trump RNC Speech 5 - H 2016
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The real-estate developer finalized his hostile takeover of the Republican Party in a rambling speech that made history for all the wrong reasons.

On Thursday night at the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump accepted the nomination as the Republican candidate for President of the United States.

(In a related story, the death of nuance has been officially confirmed…details to come.)

Yes, Trump "humbly" accepted the nomination, which is the first time "Trump" and "humbly" have ever been used in the same sentence. If the audience is still inside Cleveland's Quicken Loans arena Friday morning, it's because they were too afraid to leave after he painted such a dire portrait of our lawless society that even the filmmakers of The Purge would have found it too much. Either that or because the seemingly endless speech is still going on.

Trump doubled down on his Nixonian appeal to the silent majority and his commitment to being the "law and order" candidate. Practically foaming at the mouth, he used the inflammatory phrase so often it should have been accompanied by a "chung chung." Dick Wolf might have grounds for a lawsuit. He undoubtedly set the record for reciting the most names of murder victims in a presidential nomination acceptance speech.

"I am your voice," he told the crowd, and it was a very, very loud one. He mostly hewed to his prepared script (he, gasp, used a teleprompter) but he couldn't stop himself from resorting to his familiar rhetorical flourishes, frequently exhorting the audience, "Believe me, believe me!"

Anyone who wasn't already on the Trump train is unlikely to board after hearing this rabid address by the first presidential candidate to use air quotes (when describing President Obama's "leadership"). Frequently stopping to grin in self-satisfied fashion between proclamations, he presented such a dystopian portrait of a nation once described by the party's beloved figurehead as "a shining city on a hill" that from now on we'll probably have to worry less about immigration than emigration.

Speaking of immigration, Trump delivered his unique interpretation of "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Referring to immigrants from countries with terrorists ties, he declared, "We don't want them in our country." The Statue of Liberty is now rusting from her tears.

He promised that "America will finally wake up" on the day that he is inaugurated, and truer words were never spoken.

He blamed Hillary for everything that's gone wrong around the world, leaving out only natural disasters. He described her legacy as one of "death, destruction, terrorism and weakness," which sounds like a great name for a heavy metal band.

The crowd ate it all up, including his boasts that he would build a great wall, get great deals in trade negotiations, put China in its place, destroy ISIS, lower taxes, improve the infrastructure, get rid of Obamacare, take better care of our veterans, and most especially, appoint the literally right kind of Supreme Court justices.

"We're going to win!" he exulted. "We're going to win big!"

For all his policy proposals, if you could call them that, this was less a political speech than the ramblings of a schoolyard bully. Reveling in his success and the candidates he vanquished, he cried out, "We love defeating these people! Love it, love it, love it!" It made you wonder just how much love he was deprived of as a child.

Trump was introduced by his daughter Ivanka, who strolled onto the stage to the not-so-subtle musical accompaniment of "Here Comes the Sun." She was beautiful, elegant and poised (her father once declared that if she wasn't his daughter he would date her).

Other than displaying the nervous tic of softly purring during her pauses, she delivered a strong tribute to her father. She heavily emphasized his positive treatment of women, in an attempt to improve his lackluster appeal to the female population.

(On a side note, the media has been lavish in its praise of the Trump children, sometimes to a fault. But doesn't anyone wonder why none of them chose to go his or her own way in the world rather than work for Daddy? This isn't a family, it's a cult. Even Michael Corleone had to be reluctantly coaxed into the family business). 

The opening acts were the usual mixed bag. Rev. Mark Burns earned cheers by telling the crowd that "all lives matter," the irony escaping him that throughout the entire convention there were more African-Americans on the podium than in the audience. Tennessee's Rep. Marsha Blackburn told the crowd that Trump "has lived the American dream," which is true since he was born rich and married a model. (She said more, but I stopped listening after she quoted Larry the Cable Guy.) Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin lamented that "our spirits are nearly broken," which was certainly the case with anyone who'd watched the convention four nights straight.

Reince Priebus began his address by saying, "I stand before this convention tonight…" and you assumed he was going to say "a broken man." But no, the Republican National Committee Chairman continued to earn his substantial paycheck at the cost of his soul. He criticized Democrats for depending on superdelegates and bureaucrats, but considering that their party hasn't suffered a hostile takeover it seems like a pretty good system right now.

Billionaire PayPal founder Peter Thiel made history by proclaiming, "I'm proud to be gay, and I'm proud to be a Republican," despite the party's platform explicitly stating that children should be raised only by a man and a woman. He called for an "end to the era of stupid wars," not mentioning that he was willing to make an exception when it comes to Gawker. He also lamented the sorry state of government software, perhaps subtly angling for his company to take over Social Security payments. 

Psychiatrists will have a field day analyzing the bizarre speech by Colony Capital CEO Tom Barrack, whose opening statement, "I feel like the anchovies on Ivanka's Caesar Salad," elicited a collective "WTF?" from the crowd. Apparently put on the bill to prove that Trump actually has friends that he hasn't sired, Barrack admitted that in one of their past negotiations Trump "played me like a Steinway piano," practically giggling with delight at the thought. It was all kind of creepy, especially when you consider that the anecdotes he delivered, including one about taking a helicopter trip with Trump to Atlantic City for a Mike Tyson fight (you know, just like regular guys), were more personal than any of those delivered by the candidate's children.

There was also the obligatory video biography, this one narrated by Jon Voight (a brave move considering that Emmy voting has just begun). The hagiographic portrait, which felt like it was directed by Frank Capra and scored by Aaron Copland, made Abe Lincoln in Illinois look like an Oliver Stone production. In this revisionist retelling featuring effusive testimonials by many of his paid employees, Trump, like Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever, bravely made the journey from an outer borough to Manhattan to make his fortune. His first major business deal, involving the renovation of a midtown hotel, wasn't about making money, but rather about helping "the city rediscover its soul." There are many who would say that he's been helping the city lose it ever since.