The Corner

Politics & Policy

Another Mistake by the Lake

I thought that Melania Trump did a great job last night – and said so on Twitter.  Though it’s always a bit smirk-inducing to hear a third-trophy wife explain how devoted to family her husband is. Still she glided past that with grace (and obvious beauty) and delivered a very affecting speech.

I thought it was a foolish and somewhat incompetent decision to have more speeches follow after her.  When Trump came back out to retrieve Melania, it implicitly sent the cue that everyone could go now.

And then they brought out Michael Flynn, one of the worst primetime convention speakers I’ve seen in years. I don’t think I’ve ever heard monotone shouted like that. Amazingly, after an evening brimming with what could fairly be described as jingoism, Flynn couldn’t even get the crowd to chant “U-S-A!” effectively, even after explicitly asking them to.

Flynn’s stemwinder didn’t matter much – all the networks but Fox didn’t carry it. And even Fox dumped out after a while. But it did push Joni Ernst, a legitimate rising star out of primetime. Forced to give a (somewhat lackluster) speech to an emptying audience, Ernst was a disappointment as well.

Still, it didn’t matter much. People would only remember Melania’s speech (and probably Rudy Giuliani’s operatic performance).

 And then I wake up this morning to the news that Melania’s speech plagiarized Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. I do not credit the Trump campaign’s denials at all. The similarities could not be random.

This is simply grotesque political malpractice, bordering on sabotage. While I obviously think plagiarism is bad, the way the journalistic clerisy treats it as a capital offense always bothered me.

But, this isn’t some journalistic brouhaha, it’s political malpractice. Obviously, Melania Trump fibbed when she told Matt Lauer she wrote the speech herself — a fib a great many politicians and political spouses have told over the years (I know a disproportionate number of speechwriters and ghostwriters, starting with my wife). I have no doubt she worked on it to make it her own. But it doesn’t matter whether she cribbed those lines herself or whether some idiot on the Trump campaign did it.  This was Melania’s introduction to the country, and she knocked it out of the park. But the homerun was called back on account of cheating. Last night the conversation was all about how great she did. That conversation is over. If ever Trump had an excuse to bust out a “You’re fired!” this is it. 

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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