The party convention was dogged before it even started by the planned absences of high-profile elder statesmen. It was then marred by accusations of plagiarism, dragged down mid-week by Ted Cruz’s mainstage snub and distinguished, throughout its duration, by particularly virulent and ugly rhetoric.
On Thursday afternoon, the event hit another snag: Trump’s big acceptance speech was leaked to Democratic operatives hours before he was set to deliver it. It was disseminated online, picked apart, annotated, fact-checked, with talking points crafted and emailed to thousands of reporters before the first speakers of the night took the stage.
But like so many other impediments he’s encountered this campaign, Trump brushed it off. He strode onstage triumphant Thursday night to raucous cheers from the delegates gathered inside the Quicken Loans Arena.
“Who would have believed,” a year ago, Trump asked, “we would have gotten more votes than any Republican nominee in history?” Who indeed.
His speech was a survey of our troubling and dangerous times; things were bad already, he said, and on their way to getting worse. “Our plan will put America First. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo. As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect.”
(As right-wing watchdog Media Matters pointed out in an email blast before Trump took the stage, those words were a dog whistle for fans of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones; “globalists” are a favorite boogeyman of Jones, and his rally earlier this week was called “America First.”)
Before he could finish laying out his plan, though, Trump was interrupted mid-speech by a Code Pink protester. In an uncharacteristic show of restraint, he waited, plainly excrutiated, for security to remove her. He tossed off a casual, “How great are our police?” before continuing apace.
The world is in a sorry state, Trump said. “Poverty and violence at home, war and destruction abroad.” He listed off a litany of problems, many of which, he said, Clinton was directly responsible for: ISIS, the decimation of Libya, Benghazi (naturally). He said Egypt, Iraq and Syria had descended into chaos, while Iran is about to have its hands on nuclear weapons.
“This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction and weakness,” Trump said.
His speech also, somewhat surprisingly, included a shout-out to LGBT Americans, a group that the party platform was particularly unfriendly to this year. “As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens” [light clapping] “from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology” [cue thunderous applause].
Trump paused, then went off-script: “And I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice to hear you cheering for what I just said.”
“Remember,” Trump said toward the end of his 77-minute speech,” all of the people telling you you can’t have the country you want are the same people who said, ‘Trump doesn’t have a chance of being here tonight. Not a chance.'”
“We love defeating those people, don’t we? Love it. Love it, love it.”
Speakers at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night gave a Nazi-esque salute and likened Donald Trump to a circus man. Watch here.