Presidential politics and accusations of plagiarism during a prime-time speech. The Globe's Matt Viser (@mviser) joined Jim from Cleveland to talk about the uproar over Melania Trump's remarks on Monday night.
Jim Braude: Good to see you, Matt.
Matt Viser: Hey Jim, thanks for having me.
JB: So, it’s about a day after the speech that was. Are we any closer to identifying who’s responsible for the channeling of Michelle Obama?
MV: Not exactly. The Trump Campaign is saying they won’t fire anyone because of this. They are not fessing up over who was involved in this. They do have the problematic part of where Melania was saying beforehand that she wrote the speech herself. So it’s a bit unclear sort of how their staffing was around the crafting of this speech.
JB: You know you’ve got a pretty good pipeline to both Trump himself and to his campaign. The word on the street today, at least on cable, was Trump and his wife were furious. Is that for public consumption, or do we really believe they’re as upset as most of us think they should be?
MV: I mean I think they’re upset that this is dominating the day, the second day of the convention. Nobody’s talking about anything else except for this, and I think they’re frustrated about that. It’s still unclear though whether they’re frustrated internally – at somebody inside the campaign who’s responsible for this – or if they’re just frustrated with the coverage of it and the atmosphere around, sort of the fervor – but it’s not just the media, I mean delegates are filling this too. There was some shock last night when delegates heard that the portion of her speech was not only plagiarized but from Michelle Obama.
JB: You know just to put this in a little context, you covered the Romney campaign in 2012. Other than some unscripted remarks, which obviously helped sink him, at an organized event, could anything like this ever happen in Romney 2012?
MV: Absolutely not, I mean the big moment from the 2012 convention that was unscripted was the empty chair, you know with Clint Eastwood, but that was the only thing just about. I mean any word that was uttered – Mitt Romney had a team of people who would evaluate his tweets before they went out, much less a speech on the biggest stage, for Melania certainly, of her life. Everything was checked and checked again with the Romney campaign, so in this case it’s sort of malpractice on the campaign’s part to not have everything locked in. She’s reading from a teleprompter, this is a big moment, they had plenty of time to prepare for this, so it sort of raises a whole host of questions about preparedness and discipline that’s sort of bogged down Trump’s campaign over the past couple of weeks.
JB: Speaking of discipline and disorganization, I thought last night before this thing blew up was pretty powerful. It was dark, but this “Make America Safe Again” – pretty powerful. We have the mother of someone killed at Benghazi say “I blame Hillary Clinton for my son’s death.” Joni Ernst, the rising star Senator from Iowa. Unfortunately virtually nobody heard Sean Smith’s mother, particularly on FoxNews, because Bill O’Reilly was called into by the candidate himself. Joni Ernst was after we were all in bed. Isn’t this further evidence of the fact that, you know, who’s running this railroad?
MV: Yeah, I mean it is sort of a host of missteps. Trump’s campaign yesterday morning was very critical of John Kasich, the Ohio governor, the host governor really, who’s really been critical of Trump. There’s not been a huge atmosphere of unity, you know they’re really trying to achieve that but there’s all these things that keep happening that get in the way of it. Last night, the crowd was sort of electric. Rudy Giuliani was at sort of at a barnburner of a speech. People were very excited about it. Melania, the reviews initially of Melania’s speech were very positive among the people there – at least who I was speaking with – until later when you realize that certain excerpts were plagiarized.
JB: So last night was Make America Safe Again, tonight is Make America Work Again. Again, I’m never sure what we in the media are consumed with that real people don’t care about. There’s an amazing piece in the New Yorker by Jane Mayer, who wrote this book ‘Dark Money,’ where she interviews the ghost writer of the book that really made Trump who he is in a lot of ways, ‘The Art of the Deal.’ He says – this is the ghostwriter – it shouldn’t be called ‘The Art of the Deal,’ it should be called ‘The Sociopath.’ He says the guy doesn’t know the truth from a lie, he eviscerates Trump, says it’s all a fiction. Is this something we care about, or is it something that puts a damper on the economic night, night two, at the convention?
MV: It’s a little bit of both. I mean, it’s hard to overstate the importance of this book, ‘The Art of the Deal.’ Sort of bringing Trump to a new level of stardom, as well as psychologically, it’s something Trump refers to all the time. So to have the ghostwriter of that being so critical of Trump himself is striking. How much that resonates in a broad public is a little harder thing to gauge. I think tonight, shifting back, it’s really the party wants to get going again on this convention after big hiccups in the first day. Paul Ryan, the House Speaker is speaking tonight, will be highly anticipated. Although he and Trump don’t see eye to eye on many issues, so that’s something that everybody’s watching tonight.
JB: Matt, thanks so much. I really appreciate it.