Senator Tim Kaine filled the attack-dog role we expect of Vice-Presidential nominees, crushingly and lengthily mocking the Republican nominee. To a degree greater than I expected, Vice-President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama followed Kaine down that path, pounding the Republican nominee by name.
Senator Kaine made great rhetorical hay of Trump’s frequent speech-making hiccup of punctuating remarks with “Believe me”:
You know who I don’t trust? Donald Trump. The guy promises a lot. But you might have noticed, he has a habit of saying the same two words right after he makes his biggest promises. You guys know the words I mean? “Believe me.”
It’s gonna be great – believe me! We’re gonna build a wall and make Mexico pay for it – believe me! We’re gonna destroy ISIS so fast – believe me! There’s nothing suspicious in my tax returns –believe me!
…He never tells you how he’s going to do any of the things he says he’s going to do. He just says, “believe me.” So here’s the question. Do you really believe him? Donald Trump’s whole career says you better not [Senator Time Kaine, speech as prepared, Democratic National Convention, Philadelphia, PA, 2016.07.27].
Vice-President Biden hit Trump personally even harder:
This is a complicated and uncertain world we live in. The threats are too great. The times are too uncertain, to elect Donald Trump as President of the United States, now let me finish. No major party, no major party nominee in the history of this nation has ever known less has been less prepared to deal with our national security.
We cannot elect a man who exploits are fears of ISIS and other terrorists. Who has no plan whatsoever to make us safer. A man who embraces the tactics of our enemies, torture, religious intolerance, you all know. All the Republicans know, that’s not who we are. It betrays our values. It alienates those who we need in the fight against ISIS. Donald Trump, with all his rhetoric, would literally make us less safe. We cannot elect a man, who belittles are closest allies, why embracing dictators like Vladimir Putin. No, I mean that. A man who seeks to sow division in America for his own gain, and disorder around the world. A man who confuses bluster with strength. We simply cannot let that happen as Americans, period [Vice-President Joe Biden, speech as delivered, Democratic National Convention, Philadelphia, PA, 2016.07.27].
The three most important words of President Obama’s speech came immediately after the crowd booed his first mention of Donald Trump’s name:
Don’t boo—vote [President Barack Obama, speech as delivered, Democratic National Convention, Philadelphia, PA, 2016.07.27].
And then the President of the United States started dropping bombs with a killer smile:
You know, the Donald is not really a plans guy. He’s not really a facts guy, either. He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who’ve achieved remarkable success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated.
Does anyone really believe that a guy who’s spent his 70 years on this Earth showing no regard for working people is suddenly going to be your champion? Your voice? [Obama, 2016.07.27]
The President knocked down pin after pin that Trump has tossed onto the field. To Trump’s claim that he alone can fix our problems, the President said, “America is already great. America is already strong. And I promise you, our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump. In fact, it doesn’t depend on any one person.” To Trump’s immigration plan, the President said with a knowing laugh, “[T]he American Dream is something no wall will ever contain.” To Trump’s exclusivism, fascism, and latent white supremacy, the President painted this brilliant picture of American values:
And what my grandparents understood was that these values weren’t limited to Kansas. They weren’t limited to small towns. These values could travel to Hawaii. They could travel even to the other side of the world, where my mother would end up working to help poor women get a better life; trying to apply those values. My grandparents knew these values weren’t reserved for one race. They could be passed down to a half-Kenyan grandson, or a half-Asian granddaughter. In fact, they were the same values Michelle’s parents, the descendants of slaves, taught their own kids, living in a bungalow on the South Side of Chicago. They knew these values were exactly what drew immigrants here, and they believed that the children of those immigrants were just as American as their own, whether they wore a cowboy hat or a yarmulke, a baseball cap or a hijab.
America has changed over the years. But these values that my grandparents taught me—they haven’t gone anywhere. They’re as strong as ever, still cherished by people of every party, every race, every faith. They live on in each of us. What makes us American, what makes us patriots is what’s in here. That’s what matters.
And that’s why we can take the food and music and holidays and styles of other countries, and blend it into something uniquely our own. That’s why we can attract strivers and entrepreneurs from around the globe to build new factories and create new industries here. That’s why our military can look the way it does—every shade of humanity, forged into common service. That’s why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end [Obama, 2016.07.27].
The President, the Vice-President, and our next Vice-President each attacked the Republican nominee personally, by name, but they each signaled that they were not attacking the Republican Party. They each signaled that Trump is a monster of his own that voters and patriots of all partisan stripes can and should in good conscience repudiate. Recall Vice-President Biden’s statement, “All the Republicans know, that’s not who we are.” Add Senator Kaine’s list of Republicans who recognize Trump isn’t one of them:
…Take it from former First Lady Barbara Bush. She said she didn’t know how any woman could vote for him after his offensive comments. Or John McCain’s former economic advisor – who estimates Trump’s promises would cost America 3.5 million jobs…. Or John Kasich, the Republican Governor who had the honor of hosting the Republican Convention in Cleveland but wouldn’t even attend it because he thinks Trump is such a moral disaster [Kaine, 2016.07.27].
President Obama said, “[W]hat we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t particularly Republican—and it sure wasn’t conservative. What we heard was a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world.” Then, to make sure Republicans got the message, he snapped the Reagan flag at them:
Ronald Reagan called America “a shining city on a hill.” Donald Trump calls it “a divided crime scene” that only he can fix [Obama, 2016.07.27].
Obama, Biden, and Kaine were remarkably rough on the Republican nominee, but they went easy on Republicans. Unlike the Republican National Convention, they did not amen calls to demonize the entire opposing party (“Democracy doesn’t work if we constantly demonize each other,” said the President). They made a case against Donald Trump personally, a case against “show-offs… braggarts… bullies” who don’t share America’s common values, a case that Lincoln/Eisenhower/Reagan Republicans can with total philosophical consistency accept as reason not to vote for the charlatan who has hijacked their party’s Presidential nomination.
Indy p.s.: Businessman and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg offered a much simpler skewering of Trump. As Independent Bloomberg concluded his DNC speech in favor of Hillary Clinton, he ad-libbed, “Let’s elect a sane, competent person.”