RNC 2016, Night 1: Fear and Loathing

The first night of the Republican National Convention was devoted to xenophobia. Or, you know, making America safe again, or something.

Featured speakers included sorta-actor Scott Baio, one of the Duck Dynasty dudes and, on a more somber note, survivors of the Benghazi attack, as well as parents who say they lost their children to the negligence or malice of an undocumented immigrant.

As for the big names, Trump himself actually spoke for a minute, but only to introduce his wife, Melania. Iowa and Alabama Sens. Joni Ernst and Jeff Sessions spoke, as did former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who bashed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as well as President Obama on a range of domestic and foreign policy issues — Benghazi, etc.

"The vast majority of Americans today do not feel safe," he said. "They fear for their children, they fear for themselves, they fear for their police officers who have been targeted with a target on their backs."

Antonio Sabato Jr., a former Calvin Klein model who was on General Hospital or something, and maybe a Janet Jackson video, praised Trump's policy proposals on immigration (wall, mass deportations, etc.). He said he emigrated to the States in the 1980s, and was naturalized a decade later.

“I'm concerned about my children's future, and I believe we need Donald Trump, who shares...my beliefs, and my faith, to get our country back on track," he said. "In the past eight years, failed policies have caused our country to deteriorate...we are weaker by almost every measure. We are on the wrong path.”

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, praised Trump for wanting to build a border wall along Mexico to combat an immigration crisis that totally exists and not allowing heavily-vetted Syrian refugees to come in, ending "sanctuary cities" and reversing "executive amnesty," which is likely code for President Obama's executive orders, which are part of a “dangerous liberal agenda and it's time to change.”

He said the U.S. has been “devastated by Obama's reckless immigration policies."

“Are you safer than you were eight years ago?” he asked the crowd.

“Nooo!” the enthused audience shouted back.

Another speaker, Sabine Durden, said her son was killed by a drunk driver who was also an undocumented immigrant with an extensive record, then given just 35 days in jail.

“I call them illegal aliens,” she said.

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, meanwhile, said Trump, as president, would be apt at "winning wars instead of ending wars," "calls the enemy by its name," and "could be trusted to handle classified information."

Those on the left, of course, were quick to criticize. In fact, a pair of CODEPINK protesters did so inside the arena, first during Sessions's speech.

A Code Pink protester inside the arena struggles to unfurl her banner. - Joeff Davis
Joeff Davis
A Code Pink protester inside the arena struggles to unfurl her banner.

"I spoke out during the RNC because the GOP's Islamophobia and racism have no place in our country, and especially not in the White House,” said Alli McCracken in a written statement CODEPINK issued after the fact. “We cannot stand silent as Trump and his supporters continue to spread hateful rhetoric that leads to violence and war. I want to live in a country that is based on diversity and compassion, not racism and hate."

Giuliani was also interrupted by a protester affiliated with the group.

“After a round of thunderous applause in response to an Islamophobic remark by Giuliani, I stood and held up my banner, which read ‘Refugees Welcome!’” said Chelsea Byers. “I began to yell that our country welcomes refugees with open arms as the RNC attendees around me started chanting ‘USA! USA!’ and tried to rip my banner from my hands. They were unsuccessful, but RNC security quickly arrived and escorted me from the arena.”

The former New York mayor of course played it cool.

"It means we're getting to them," he said.

Clinton's campaign was quick to fire back at the many people who trashed her over the course of the evening.

The Florida leg of her campaign sent out a media release featuring complimentary written statements from her allies to serve as a counterbalance to the hate and accusations lobbed her way Monday night.

"There is no one more qualified for the role of Commander in Chief than Hillary Clinton. As Secretary of State, she has sat in the Situation Room and advised the president on some of the toughest choices he faced," read a statement from U.S. Senator from Florida Bill Nelson.

Florida Congressman Ted Deutsch also drew a contrast between Clinton and her detractors.

“Hillary Clinton knows we are stronger when we work with our allies around the world to keep us safe. Donald Trump's ideas on foreign policy aren’t just different – they are dangerously incoherent. He has said that more countries should have nuclear weapons and has threatened to abandon our allies in NATO. He’s even received the praise of infamous names like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un," he said. "The choice in this election is clear, and we deserve better leadership for our nation – and the world – than Donald Trump. That’s why I stand with Hillary Clinton.”

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