Melania Trump Goes for Softer Line After GOP Beats Up on Biden
(Bloomberg) -- First lady Melania Trump and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo capped the Republican National Convention’s second night with speeches that sought to humanize Donald Trump and highlight the president’s leadership through the pandemic that’s jeopardizing his chances for another term.
“Donald will not rest until he has done all he can to take care of everyone impacted by this terrible pandemic,” the first lady said in an address Tuesday from the White House Rose Garden, where she oversaw a recent renovation.
The Slovenia-born first lady spoke about healing “racial unrest in our country” and her pride in becoming a U.S. citizen. She spoke of her “Be Best” initiative to discourage online bullying for youths, a contrast from her husband’s barrage of Twitter attacks on rivals.
Before the first lady’s remarks, Pompeo told the convention, in a speech taped during an official visit to Jerusalem, that Trump has “pulled back the curtain on the predatory aggression of the Chinese Communist Party” and made historic progress toward Middle East peace.
Pompeo’s speech appears to violate State Department guidance that prohibits political activity while on official travel. It’s also a departure from past secretaries who steered clear of political conventions.
Anticipating an uproar when he taped his remarks on Monday, Pompeo, who’s considered a presidential contender for 2024, introduced himself simply as someone with “a big job -- as Susan’s husband and Nick’s Dad.”
Representative Joaquin Castro, the Texas Democrat who is vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote Pompeo’s deputy on Tuesday demanding documents and a briefing detailing the legal justification for what he called part of “a pattern of politicization of U.S. foreign policy.”
Pompeo saw success even in Trump’s unfulfilled efforts, including his bid to reach a nuclear deal with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. “The president lowered the temperature and, against all odds, got the North Korean leadership to the table,” he said. He made no mention of some contentious moves by the president, including his withdrawal from the Paris accord on climate change.
The secretary of state wasn’t the only convention speaker who took advantage of official powers and perks on Tuesday. Trump issued a pardon on video and presided over a naturalization ceremony at the White House.
The pardon went to Jon Ponder, the ex-convict who founded Hope for Prisoners Inc., a nonprofit designed to help former inmates re-enter society. Ponder appeared in a prerecorded video along with Richard Beasley, the former FBI agent who arrested him and has become a close friend. Trump has touted his own success in enacting criminal-justice reform and blamed Democratic opponent Joe Biden for legislation that increased federal sentencing guidelines.
One scheduled speaker, Mary Ann Mendoza, was removed from the lineup after she tweeted a conversation that included references to a Jewish plot to enslave the world. She was to speak about her son, a police officer, who was killed by a drunken driver who was an undocumented immigrant with a criminal record, the campaign said.
Two of the president’s children, Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump, were on the evening’s roster of speakers saluting the president’s handling of issues including trade and immigration.
With “land of opportunity” as the theme, the convention spotlighted an array of Trump supporters -- an anti-abortion activist, the granddaughter of evangelist Billy Graham and the Democratic mayor of Eveleth, Minnesota.
The speakers -- including Jason Joyce, a lobster fisherman who said he didn’t support Trump in 2016 out of skepticism he was a true conservative --- said the president kept his campaign promises, strengthened the Supreme Court with his two appointments and put in place policies that have benefited blue-collar workers and farmers.
Until Melania Trump spoke, the second night of the convention mostly ignored the coronavirus that has killed more than 177,000 Americans.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that more tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks will be in store under Trump in a second term, with payroll tax cuts for higher wages, income tax cuts for the middle class, capital gains tax cuts for investment, productivity and jobs. He said it’s no time for about $4 trillion in higher taxes that Biden proposes, although the Democrat has promised to apply them only to the wealthy.
“Coming out of the deep pandemic, who in their right mind would pick the pockets of taxpayers and drain money from their wallets and purses?” Kudlow said. “Look, our economic choice is very clear: Do you want economic health, prosperity, opportunity and optimism, or do you want to turn back to the dark days of stagnation, recession and pessimism?”
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Also speaking on Tuesday was Nicholas Sandmann. He won settlements from several media outlets for portraying him as provoking a confrontation with a Native American protester while wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap during a high school trip to Washington last year.
Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was on Trump’s impeachment defense team in the Senate, recounted that Biden’s son Hunter was paid to serve on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was vice president.
“If they want to make this election a choice between who’s been saving America and who’s been swindling America, bring it on,” Bondi said.
Although Republicans say Biden worked to oust a prosecutor investigating the company, the vice president represented the U.S. and allies seeking to remove the prosecutor for failing to act against corruption.
The convention heard from Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, whose libertarian background may appeal to a section of the Republican Party base that’s especially concerned about limiting government intervention. Although he’s a Trump supporter -- and sometimes a golf partner -- he’s differed with the president on issues including federal spending and the debt, federal agents rounding up protesters in Portland, Oregon, and military action abroad.
Paul said their policy differences are outweighed by their agreements, and he’s concerned about Biden’s vote to support the Iraq war.
“I fear Biden will choose war again,” Paul said. “He supported the war in Serbia, Syria, Libya. Joe Biden will continue to spill our blood and treasure. President Trump will bring our heroes home.”
Other speakers backing Trump’s trade policies included Cris Peterson, who helps run a dairy farm in Wisconsin, and John Peterson, chief executive officer of Wisconsin-based metal fabricator Schuette Metals.
As with Monday night’s program, Republicans spotlighted diversity with appearances by Blacks and Latinos who support Trump, including Jeanette Nunez, Florida’s first Latina lieutenant governor, and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the first Black man elected to a statewide office there, according to the Trump campaign.
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