Graves Registry: The big convention that wasn't


I suppose when you have nothing good to say about someone, you tend to fill in all that empty time saying something bad about someone else. It became very apparent that the few members of the Republican Party's high echelon, who weren't busy doing something more important like potting petunias in Peoria, were going to spend their time at the podium at the Republican National Convention casting Hillary Clinton as Lady Macbeth in a drama that was conspicuously short of a hero.

Decked out in all their super-patriot finery, they celebrated a person who calls his opponent "crooked" while his name is emblazoned on a phony university that scammed people out of money they paid for an education; who publicly sneered at a soldier who spent five and a half years as a prisoner-of-war in Hanoi while Mr. Trump collected deferments for "a foot thing." They cheer the prospective leader of the free world and his starry-eyed admiration for an imperialistic thug in Russia.

Trump claims to be a soul mate with people who struggle to make ends meet, while he divides his time between a gilded Manhattan skyscraper and one of those monuments to bad taste and gluttony that pass for estates in Florida. The true state of Mr. Trump's finances, as well as his real acumen as an businessman, will remain a mystery to the American public because he refuses to release his tax statements. (Do you really believe that, if the tax records said anything good about Mr. Trump, he wouldn't have them posted on a billboard in Times Square?) In this case, the mystery speaks volumes.

For all the lynch-mob ugliness that was on display in Cleveland, there was something almost touchingly naïve about Trump's devotees. They seemed like people who have set up a picnic on a railroad crossing, oblivious to the rumbling in the distance, the flashing lights, and the shriek from the oncoming train's horn. They have made a commitment to this spot and here they will remain. When the horn gets louder, they will shout louder.

Surely, getting hit by a train can't be all that bad.

Perhaps no one has regarded Trump's ascension with more alarm than one of the few men who really got to know him. The Trump name, which is really all Donald Trump has been pedaling for much of his professional life, first inserted itself into the public consciousness through the success of a book. "The Art of the Deal" was hyped as an autobiography. (Trump complained that his name wasn't big enough on a mock-up of the cover.)

It was actually written by a journalist named Tony Schwartz. Mr. Schwartz is now experiencing the same type of internal angst that First Officer William Murdoch must have felt for being on duty when the Titanic had its unfortunate encounter with the iceberg. In an extensive article in the New Yorker magazine, Mr. Schwartz expresses his regret for being such an integral part of conflating Trump's name with the notion of fabulous success. In much the same way that Karl Rove carefully crafted the image of George W. Bush, Tony Schwartz cast the mold that has become the bizarre apparition that the world knows as Donald Trump.

Trump now takes sole credit for writing the book, just as surely as Mr. Schwartz would have been dismissed as its "loser" author had it been a big flop. Random House, the publisher of "The Art of the Deal," disputed Trump's claim ("He never wrote a postcard for us.").

Mr. Schwartz, who was concerned during the writing of the book with making Trump's incessant, remorseless lying palatable to readers, now seems resigned to the fact that the lying is pathological. At one point, he even speculates that Trump's egotism has progressed to the point where he now believes that merely giving voice to one of his compulsively self-serving notions bestows the mantle of truth upon it.

Mr. Schwartz has inevitably been threatened with of one of Trump's lawsuits. "I don't take it personally," he said. "People are dispensable and disposable in Trump's world. If Trump is elected president, the millions of people who voted for him and believe that he represents their interests will learn what anyone who deals closely with him already knows -- that he couldn't care less about them."

Meanwhile, the adults are meeting this week in Philadelphia.

Alden Graves is a regular Banner columnist.


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