William Rivers Pitt | Chachi, Benghazi and Plagiarism, Oh My! RNC Night One

When all was said and done, the weirdest part about last night’s Republican Convention opening act was the fact that Scott Baio was the most competent speaker to darken the stage. The content of his message was a hot mess, but he delivered it eloquently and with class. The same could not be said for the rest of the rogue’s gallery of shouters, stompers and weepers who reeled their way through a truly unique night. Also, Chachi didn’t crib any lines from the First Lady, so extra points for him.

I had a couple of nifty flashbacks while watching the convention yesterday evening. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped the 734th “Hello Cleveland!” joke of the night – I thought the 733rd version was a hoot, but Ricky nailed it – and suddenly I was back in the hot summer of 2004 trying to cross Broadway in New York City – site of the RNC convention — to get a sandwich, but I couldn’t because a wall of iron had been erected up and down both sides of the street. The Bush motorcade was about to pass, see, and you can’t have the Great Unwashed trundling off the sidewalk when Himself comes barreling by in his armor-plated bowling ball.

It was high noon, and hundreds of workers on their lunch break were trying to get from here to there in the hot asphalt-augmented city sun, but they couldn’t because of that stupid fence. They stacked up against it and waited, and waited, ties flapping in the fetid breeze and skirt hems fluttering. After nine high-summer eternities the motorcade finally boiled down the street, and every single person at that fence gave George W. Bush the finger as he passed by. In that moment, there were more birds flying on Broadway than in the aviary at the Bronx zoo.

That’s standard-issue convention stuff, especially coming from city dwellers put off their daily routine by important people in big cars. Last night, however, was a throwback to wilder times. The night opened with a bit of verbal pabulum before erupting into an electric shouting match between Stop Trump activists and It Is What It Is advocates. The Stop Trumpers wanted to bag the rules in order to free the delegates, but the Party put paid to that in short order with an impromptu voice vote that sounded like a car accident in a blender. A swath of anti-Trump delegates stormed out of the building when the deal went down, and former GOP Senator Gordon Humphrey said, on live TV, “This is a meeting of brownshirts.”

Party unity, baby. Feel it, live it, love it, and turn out the lights when you leave.

After that, the evening settled down to a quieter but genuinely surreal exploration of the modern conservative mind. It was the Benghazi Show, featuring the weeping mother of a victim of the attack who was exploited by the GOP so she could say, “I blame Hillary Clinton” and, “She deserves to be in stripes.” Her name was Pat Smith, and her woe was fresh because the Republicans keep kneading the dough of her sorrow, even though there is no yeast to make the bread rise. The pathos she carried bent the light.

The Benghazi Show continued with a triplet of soldiers who really seemed to enjoy bragging about how awesome they are. A tampon joke was thrown in for good measure because tampons are wicked funny, you guys. Rudy Giuliani popped up like the memory of a bad hangover and shrieked about how we’re all going to die. He spoke for only a few minutes, but managed to deploy the words “fear,” “safe” and “terror” a total of 25 times. Again and again, war was offered as the salve to soothe our souls, and the crowd lapped it up. What the Republicans presented last night was an apocalyptic vision of a world without war. “The Hunger Games” was more subtle.

The capstone, of course, is what everyone in the “news” media seems to be talking about this morning: Melania Trump’s well-delivered speech getting overtaken by the seemingly undeniable fact that the text of her presentation plagiarized a number of lines from Michelle Obama’s 2008 DNC speech. One wonders how The Him will react to his wife getting slagged in the public prints. One thing is certain: Not long from now, tiny pieces of an overtaxed former Trump speechwriter are going to start washing up on shore at Coney Island. He needed a bigger boat.

Day One is in the books. Day Two looks to be about as interesting as a Model UN convention in Manchester. Yesterday was Scott Baio, some Duck Dynasty guy, and Trump himself emerging from a lit-up door like Carol Ann escaping The Beast in “Poltergeist” to introduce his plagiarizing wife. Tonight? Trump Jr. and six days of rain; there is no there, there. I assume the band will be available to fill the empty spaces. Last night they did a cover of “Limelight” by Rush. The first verse ends with:

In touch with some reality beyond the gilded cage …

Yeah, not so much in Cleveland this week.