OPED: Hide your eyes from convention of shame

Tribune News Service

Republican delegates, alternates and assorted party activists are gathering in Cleveland to nominate Donald Trump for president and write their names in history's book of shame. It will be a good week to experiment with the 21st-century phenomenon of cutting the cord by avoiding television and fleeing cyberspace.

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures during a speech in Virginia Beach, Va., Monday, July 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

It's part of my job to watch these horrors, but other sensible people need not torture themselves. How are the Republicans going to fill four nights of programming?

Prime-time speaking spots are usually in demand among party luminaries and aspiring stars. Four years ago in Tampa, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio delighted audiences with their optimistic messages and upbeat delivery. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the powerful case for the United States as the world's greatest force for the defense and enlargement of the blessings of freedom.

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The schedule of speakers released Wednesday night features many Trumps. If the speakers are handed speeches that reflect the candidate's personality, each day will feature alternating blasts of reverence for Trump and ugly attacks on his perceived detractors.

So many topics are no-go zones for all those angry delegates. Many would probably be satisfied spending four days shaking their fists and howling into the ether. They cannot talk about education. Any mention of that will bring comparisons with their candidate's ugly, eponymous Trump University. We won't hear that mentioned, nor is any speaker likely to do the decent thing and offer an apology to Gonzalo Curiel, the Indiana-born judge presiding over the action against Trump for that school scam.

At the end of May, in one of his many low moments, Trump reached into that deep well of venom that is his constant companion and commenced a hideous attack on Judge Curiel. Trump, it seems, was not pleased with some of the judge's rulings in the class-action lawsuit for fraud against the shuttered Trump University. Trump, who veteran conservative columnist Byron York finds "strangely needy," used a campaign rally to call the judge a "hater" and disparage his Mexican heritage.

What brave speaker will try to put some distance between millions of Republicans and Trump's poison? Will someone step forward and dare to condemn genocidal Saddam Hussein? Trump recently uttered some nutty admiring words for Saddam's brutal treatment of dissidents or anyone suspected of being a threat to his totalitarian regime. Is there no one left who will condemn Trump's eye for the dance with dictators?

Will anyone pay a moment of honor to John McCain? Will there be a Republican in Cleveland with the character to mention that McCain's seven years in a North Vietnamese prison make him an American hero? Is there just one?

Will it fall only to outsiders to point out that the anti-immigration Trump's mother and two of his three wives immigrated to the United States? Are the striving downtrodden to be replaced only by immigrants who marry wealthy Americans?

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The garnish to the main course of feeding Trump's narcissism for four days will be attacks on Democrat Hillary Clinton. In a normal year, the Republicans would be able to launch unfettered attacks on the devious Democrat. What a dark gift she gave opponents by using her home server for sensitive business and giving many variations on her explanations of it for more than a year. Against a responsible Republican nominee who displayed a modicum of optimism and compassion for humanity, Hillary Clinton would be miles behind, struggling to mitigate her pervasive image with the American public.

Convention speakers and besotted Republican delegates will have to be careful about quoting Trump on Clinton. That's dangerous ground. Clinton and her husband, who Trump now criticizes for his unsavory private life, were honored guests at Trump's most recent wedding. A 2008 audio recording of Trump emerged the other day and finds the bloviator testifying to Hillary Clinton's qualifications to serve as president or vice president. That must be why he was such a big supporter of hers for so many years — and was a relentless critic of Ronald Reagan.

Those lemmings known as Republican delegates may not know enough to be embarrassed during their four days in Cleveland, but voters will remind them in November.

—Kevin Rennie is a lawyer, a former Republican state legislator in Connecticut and a columnist for the Hartford Courant.