WASHINGTON — The final night of the 2020 Republican National Convention ended with a bang – and that was before the fireworks display that lit up the National Mall after the president’s speech.
It was a far cry from the convention that President Donald Trump hoped for due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he still stood before a cheering crowd and made his case for another four years in the building he delivered his acceptance speech in front of – The White House.
Trump’s fiery rhetoric was, as always, at center stage with him.
“We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years,” he said.
Here are four takeaways from the final night of the RNC:
A CROWD AT THE WHITE HOUSE — IN THE AGE OF CORONAVIRUS
Before President Trump took the stage on the South Lawn of the White House, his daughter, White House adviser Ivanka Trump, spoke to a crowd of about 1,500 people, who gathered to watch the president accept the Republican nomination for president.
Masks were not required, and chairs were placed inches apart from one another, with no room for social distancing, in violation of numerous public health recommendations. Guests were not told they needed to be tested before the speech.
As the president spoke, people stood, applauded, and chanted “four more years” throughout the president’s speech. While many red “MAGA” hats were visible, face masks were not.
The lack of social distancing comes amid a report from CNN that since the RNC began on Monday, 3,688 in the U.S. died from COVID-19 – more than the number of Americans killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The White House was draped in Trump-Pence campaign regalia, and the president’s decision to deliver his acceptance speech from the White House drew widespread criticism.
The White House chief of staff Mark Meadows dismissed ethics concerns in an interview with Politico Wednesday, calling it “a lot of hoopla” and claiming that “nobody outside of the Beltway really cares” about potential violations of the Hatch Act.
CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS BRING SHARP RHETORIC
In a pair of previously recorded videos, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader echoed the rhetoric of previous nights, painting a bleak picture of a Joe Biden presidency.
Speaking over protest footage, McCarthy accused “socialist Democrats” of wanting to “dismantle our institutions, defund our police, and destroy our economy.”
“So as you cast your vote this November,” he added, “remember this: Four years ago President Trump promised to be your voice. He kept that promise, but there’s still so much more to do. The choice before you could not be clearer: forward in freedom or backward in socialism. Forward in prosperity or backward in poverty.”
Later, Sen. McConnell said that he considers it his “responsibility to look out for Middle America” and that he was “proud” that the Republican Senate has been “the firewall against [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi’s agenda.”
He also slammed Democrats on a number of policies and suggested that they want to “codify” those policies “by making the swamp itself, Washington, D.C., America’s 51st state. With two more liberal Senators, we cannot undo the damage they’ve done.”
Another member of GOP congressional leadership, House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, took a hard-line on law and order in his speech on the first night of the RNC, making the claim that “Joe Biden has embraced the left’s insane mission to defund them.”
A Politifact fact check said that Scalise’s claim was false; Biden has stated that he does not support defunding the police.
LAW AND ORDER ON FULL DISPLAY, AGAIN
Speakers on the final night of the RNC claimed that President Trump is the only leader who can keep America safe, and suggested a vote for Biden risks a continuation of a “wave of lawlessness,” to quote former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani’s speech.
Giuliani warned viewers not to let “Democrats do to America what they have done to New York.”
“These continuous riots in Democratic cities give you a good view of the future under Biden,” Giuliani claimed. “It is clear that a vote for Biden and the Democrats creates the risk that you will bring this lawlessness to your city.”
His comments were followed by Pat Lynch, president of the New York City Police Benevolent Association, who criticized Democrats for a perceived lack of support for police.
“Unlike the Democrats, who froze in the face of rioting and looting,” Lynch argued, “President Trump gives law enforcement the support and tools to put a stop to it — period, end of story.”
Lynch accused Democrats of cutting police budgets and passing laws that hamstring officers from doing their jobs effectively.
The night also featured Ann Dorn, whose husband David, a retired police officer, was killed attempting to stop people from breaking into a pawn shop in St. Louis earlier this summer.
“Violence and destruction are not legitimate forms of protest,” she claimed. “They do not safeguard Black lives. They only destroy them. President Trump understands this.”
Trump himself decried what he called “mob rule” and “violence and danger in the streets of many Democrat-run cities throughout America” – and took the opportunity to praise police in his keynote address.
“We must remember that the overwhelming majority of police officers in this country are noble, courageous, and honorable, Trump said. “We have to give law enforcement, our police, back their power. They are afraid to act. They are afraid to lose their pension. They are afraid to lose their jobs, and by being afraid they are not able to do their jobs. And those who suffer most are the great people who they want so desperately to protect.”
“If the Radical Left takes power, he claimed, “they will apply their disastrous policies to every city, town, and suburb in America.”
A recent Pew Survey found that 59% of Americans say violent crime will be “very important” to their vote, nearly equal to the number of people who say the coronavirus outbreak will impact their vote.
TRUMP MAKES HIS CASE FOR RE-ELECTION — AND BASHES BIDEN
After three nights of making cameo appearances at his own convention, President Trump finally took center stage in front of a crowd at the White House to make a case for a second term in the Oval Office.
He spent a large portion of his over 70-minute speech, the second-longest convention acceptance speech in American history – second only to his first speech in 2016 – lobbing blistering attacks at his opponent.
Trump said former Vice President Joe Biden “is not the savior of America’s soul. He is the destroyer of America’s Jobs, and if given the chance, he will be the destroyer of American greatness.”
“Joe Biden is weak,” Trump said to applause and laughter. “Joe Biden is weak,” he repeated.
Trump attacked his opponent on a litany of issues, making several false claims in the process, including:
- On jobs, Trump said that Biden “spent his entire career outsourcing the dreams of American workers, offshoring their jobs, opening their borders, and sending their sons and daughters to fight in endless foreign wars.”
- On the economy, he claimed that Biden “has promised to abolish the production of American oil, coal, shale, and natural gas.” (A New York Times fact check said this was false.)
- Trump said that “China would own our country” if Biden got elected.
- On taxes, he alleged that Biden wants to raise taxes on “almost all American families.” (An NPR fact check challenged this claim; Biden has said he will not raise taxes on income under $400,000.)
- And on the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump attacked Biden for saying that he would shut down the country: “His shutdown would inflict unthinkable and lasting harm on our nation’s children, families, and citizens of all backgrounds,” Trump said.
(Biden told ABC News that he would shut down the country to stop the spread of coronavirus if scientists advised him to do so.)
He also promised a coronavirus vaccine, “before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner” before vowing his administration will “defeat the virus.”
Trump called Biden the enemy of industry, slamming him for supporting the North American Free Trade Agreement, which he called “one of the greatest economic disasters of all time” and said that the U.S. lost one in four manufacturing jobs.
“The laid-off workers in Michigan, Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and many other states didn’t want Joe Biden’s hollow words of empathy, they wanted their jobs back,” he said.
Trump also declared that he “secured for the first time American energy independence,” which the Associated Press flagged as a misleading claim.
(In a preliminary count, CNN reported at least 20 false or misleading claims from the President in his speech.)
Trump also praised his administration’s work in withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and renegotiating the USMCA trade agreement between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico – major promises from his 2016 campaign.
Trump even used the backdrop of the White House to paint himself in a different light than Biden.
“We must turn the page forever on this failed political class. The fact is, I’m here,” he said, turning and gesturing at the White House. “The fact is, we’re here, and they’re not.”
Trump ended his speech by saying, “Whenever our way of life was threatened, our heroes answered the call,” invoking iconic battles in American history, such as Yorktown and Normandy.
“For America, nothing is impossible,” he concluded. “Over the next four years, we will prove worthy of this magnificent legacy. We will reach stunning new heights. And we will show the world that, for America, no dream is beyond our reach.”
His speech was followed by a fireworks display near the Washington Monument – including fireworks that spelled out “TRUMP.”