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Joe Henderson: Making America afraid again

in 2017/Top Headlines by

It was a dark and stormy night …

That oft-mocked opening to novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s 1830 work “Paul Clifford” – hey, no plagiarizing here; I give credit – seems to have inspired Donald Trump’s downbeat vision of America today.

Shining city on a hill?

More like Dracula’s castle at the bottom of a deep ravine.

What Trump was really trying to do was Make America Afraid Again in his acceptance speech Thursday night to close the Republican convention. After planting that bleak imagery in the nation’s psyche, Trump then, of course, paints himself as the only one capable of saving us all.

It is Hillary Clinton’s turn now to convince America that Trump is wrong. He is getting an expected convention bump in the polls.

I was still awaiting more definitive data after Trump’s speech, but the reported the Reuters-Ipsos poll showed the candidate had pulled within four points of Clinton after the first three days of the convention.

That’s not bad considering how utterly nuts things seemed at times in the GOP gathering on the shore of Lake Erie. But barring something we can’t yet imagine, Clinton likely will get her bounce during next week’s Democratic convention in Philly, so then it will be on to November.

Here are some final takeaways from the Trump coronation:

KID POWER: The best speech of the convention was a tie between Trump’s children: Donald Jr. and daughter Ivanka.

Junior showed his oratory chops with a fiery defense of his father on Tuesday, even if there was a little kerfuffle over a line that was taken from a May speech by conservative Frank Buckley. That fire got quickly doused when Buckley noted that since he helped with Junior’s speech, he couldn’t plagiarize himself. Fair point, plus recycling in any form probably went over well with environmentalists.

Ivanka was sensational. She undersold expectations in advance, admitting she was terrified of speaking on such a large stage, but she looked right at home in the spotlight.

SCOTT, BONDI TAKE THEIR TURN: Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi were granted time at the mic during the convention.

Scott, in particular, was not treated kindly by Twitter Nation. Maybe we’re numb to his wooden cadence and an expression that suggests fire could shoot from his eyes at any moment, but for much of the nation, this was their first chance to meet him.

Here is a sampling of Twitter smackdowns, with a hat-tip to for compiling:

“Rick Scott’s #gopconvention speech lacked the kind of sinister gravitas you’d expect from Lex Luthor’s younger brother” – @PoliticalRiff.

“Seeing (P)Rick Scott tonight on GOP stage was absolutely degrading to all Floridians, and a general embarrassment to the GOP. #WorstGovEver” – @DigitalXtreme.

“Rick Scott’s speech at the RNC is making me gag” @erin_bakes.

Bondi made eyebrows raise all over when she encouraged the mob/crowd in a “Lock her up!” chant about Clinton.

Bondi should be more circumspect, seeing how it looks to have received a $25,000 campaign donation from Trump right around the time she decided not to investigate allegations of fraud against Trump University.

UNITED WE CRUZ: Sen. Ted Cruz did something few would have thought possible giving the rocky way this convention started. He appeared to unite Republicans when he refused to endorse Trump. They were united against him. He was booed off the stage at the end of his speech.

It’s a coin flip right now whether Republicans hate Cruz or Clinton the most, but I wouldn’t write him off yet. If Trump gets walloped in November, Cruz is well-positioned to remind the party that he told them so. Whether they flock to him then is questionable, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

WINNERS:  The Family Trump. The city of Cleveland (hey, no eruptions!). Chris Christie, for both knowing his place and that fireball speech he gave about prosecuting Hillary Clinton. Mike Pence, who handled the aftermath of the Cruz controversy well by delivering a speech that soothed the masses.

LOSERS: Whatever TV genius decided to place the MSNBC set out where protestors could distract viewers with various signs like “Capitalism Sucks” while the host was trying to interview someone. Ted Cruz, for the moment anyway. But the game is still afoot. Paul Manafort, Trump’s more-or-less campaign manager, who let the plagiarism controversy over Melania Trump’s speech turn into a story that lasted into the third day of the convention. He should have had that fire put out by lunch time on the day it broke.

Now it’s on to Philly.

Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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