Aug 25, 2020

Republicans make their 2020 pitch.

Republicans make their 2020 pitch.

It was an eventful first night.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum. You can read Tangle for free, and you can reach me anytime by replying to this email. If someone sent you this email, they’re asking you to subscribe. You can do that by clicking here.

Today’s read: 10 minutes.

We’re covering the Republican convention and skipping the reader question so we can give that some extra attention. Plus, a (small) new section, reader feedback and some important quick hits.

Photo: Flickr / Gage Skidmore

Reader feedback.

Jess from Jersey City, New Jersey wrote in yesterday to say she thinks there should be an age limit on who can serve as president. "It is my feeling that if one of the main arguments for keeping the age minimum restriction is lack of experience, then I’d argue that someone over the age of say 70 or 75 or older has too much experience or is disconnected from that experience. They no longer belong to the generation of Americans that are the most connected to the realities of the day — which in my opinion are working Americans age 30ish-65ish."

Joe from Kirkland, Washington, wrote in to push back on my framing of Biden's mental decline. "Joe Biden is running against a man who doesn't read, who doesn't value expert opinions, and who has made a lengthy list of utterly inane public statements, and your main point is that Biden isn't as sharp as he used to be?  It is fair to say that Biden, like anyone, has probably had some decline due to his age.  But considering the man he is running against, is that really the main thing voters should be concerned with?"

New section.

Today, I’m featuring a new prominent section called “Agreed” where I explicitly call out places where the right and left (and sometimes me, too!) have found common ground on the main story. Several readers have asked for this over the last year and I think it’s a great idea. I won’t do it every day, and will avoid making the newsletter longer than it already is, but mostly I just want to be more explicit about when the left and right seem to have common ground on something. Write in and let me know whether you hate it or love it or something in between.

Quick hits.

  1. Protests spread overnight in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake, who was shot on camera seven times in the back by police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Blake’s family says he is paralyzed from the waist down. In Kenosha, protesters defied curfew and peaceful marches descended into burning buildings and violent exchanges with police as the night went on. In New York City, hundreds hit the streets to show solidarity with the Wisconsin protesters. Activists from Minneapolis, Minnesota, also drove six hours to Kenosha to offer advice and supplies, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
  2. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called Republican lawmakers “enemies of the state” yesterday, saying they are trying to interfere in the election. The remarks drew strong rebukes from her Republican colleagues. The comments, which she made during an MSNBC interview, were made while she was addressing allegations that Trump and Republicans in Congress are trying to hinder Americans’ ability to vote in the 2020 election.
  3. Jerry Falwell Jr., the embattled president of Liberty University and one of President Donald Trump’s most prominent evangelical supporters, agreed to resign yesterday before backtracking after news of his decision became public. Falwell Jr. was placed on a leave of absence after he posted and then deleted an Instagram photo of himself with his pants unzipped and his arm around his wife’s assistant. Then, Sunday, Reuters reported that Falwell Jr. and his wife engaged in an ongoing relationship with a 20-year-old pool attendant they met at Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach. The story led alumni to call for Falwell Jr.’s resignation, despite the fact the school has been led by a member of the Falwell family since 1971.
  4. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is urging Arab states to follow in the footsteps of the United Arab Emirates and strike a deal with Israel. Pompeo and the Trump White House are hoping to land at least one more agreement between a major gulf state and Israel to formalize ties, to add to President Trump’s foreign policy record before the November election. “I am very hopeful we will see other Arab nations join in this,” Pompeo said. “To recognize the state of Israel and to work alongside them will not only increase Middle East stability but improve the lives for the people of their own countries as well.”
  5. The second night of the Republican National Convention is tonight, and the most highly anticipated event is Melania Trump’s speech. It will be the biggest public moment for the First Lady since the 2016 convention, and President Trump’s campaign team is hoping she can usher in support from suburban women, where Trump is struggling the most heading into November. Trump, the only First Lady in American history to not speak English as her first language, was accused of plagiarizing Michelle Obama in 2016. This time, she’s looking for redemption — and trying to play a critical role in bringing in swing voters.

What D.C. is talking about.

The Republican National Convention. Last night, the convention kicked off with the official nomination of Donald Trump for the Republican ticket in 2020. The convention took place in Charlotte and Washington D.C. simultaneously, with a mix of pre-recorded messages and live speeches in which members of the party praised Donald Trump’s handling of coronavirus, lauded him for a successful pre-COVID-19 economy and issued dark, stark warnings about what the world would look like under Democratic leadership.

In the morning events, the president continued to issue dire warnings about the election, telling viewers that Democrats were trying to rig the election via mail-in voting and would only win the election if it was stolen (obligatory note: There is no evidence for these claims, you can read more from Tangle on mail-in voting here). In prime time the event was dominated by some of the president’s strongest supporters: college conservative activist Charlie Kirk, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., campaign advisor Kim Guilfoyle, former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley and the keynote speaker Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the lone Black Republican in the Senate.

Throughout the night, the messaging seemed to oscillate between praise of the president, his economy, his foreign policy successes, his handling of coronavirus -- and apocalyptic warnings about the future.

Rep. Gaetz said Democrats want to “disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door. And the defunded police aren’t on their way.” Kirk called Trump the “bodyguard of Western Civilization” and said “I am here tonight to tell you — to warn you — that this election is a decision between preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything that we love.” Guilfoyle said of Democrats, “They want to destroy this country and everything we have fought for and hold dear.”

The broadcast was filled with images and video montages of rioters burning cars, looting stores and clashing with police, as well video clips of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

But there was also a more positive focus on the “Land of Promise,” which was the theme of the event. Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland High School shooting, gave a speech about school safety and the president’s efforts to listen to his suggestions. “I got to see who [President Trump] really is… He’s a good man and a great listener. And he cuts through the BS.” Sen. Scott, who finished the night, gave the most-talked-about speech, telling the story of his life and how he rose to Congress. “Our family went from cotton to Congress in one lifetime. And that’s why I believe the next American century can be better than the last,” he said.

What the right is saying.

It was mostly positive. Republicans got high marks for the convention’s production value, for how entertaining it was and for the presence of some lesser-known speakers who shared empowering stories only possible because of Trump. But Tim Scott and Nikki Haley certainly stole the show with the most positive reviews.

The New York Post’s John Podhoretz called it a “sensationally effective” opening night, saying Republicans made the case “that Trump has done many things to help individual people in extremis — working to release hostages, deregulating certain types of medical treatments, fighting entrenched interests, and leading a strong economy until COVID-19 came along to kill it.”

“America’s opinion leaders loathe Donald Trump so much that it remains a great puzzlement to them how he can retain the support of even 42 percent of the population, rather than, you know, zero,” Podhoretz wrote. “If they had ears to listen, they might be able to understand it better after Monday night.” He wrote that Scott and Haley’s patriotism and optimism will resonate with a lot of Americans who are tired of hearing Democrats talk about how bad and evil America is, while the framing of Democrats as complicit in supporting urban chaos will also resonate with them.

In National Review, Jim Geraghty wrote a sarcastically stunned column headlined, “Against All Odds, the First Night of the Republican National Convention Is… Good?” Geraghty knocked Republicans for featuring the politicians and big names in the primetime slots, noting the non-politicians were the best performers of the night (with Haley and Scott the exceptions). “The standouts included nurse Amy Johnson Ford, Natalie Harp discussing right-to-try, a heartfelt and connecting address from college and pro-football great Hershel Walker, Democratic state representative Vernon Jones of Georgia, Andrew Pollack, the father of a Parkland school-shooting victim, talking about the ‘scumbag gunman’ who killed his daughter Meadow, Maximo Alvarez, speaking bluntly about the reality of life under a socialist regime,” he wrote.

In The Wall Street Journal, Kyle Peterson was a bit more critical, saying he thought it was a mistake to make the convention all about Trump. “Democrats would love for the 2020 election to be a referendum on the person of Donald Trump,” Peterson wrote. “So, apparently, would Mr. Trump…Mr. Trump reportedly will be playing some kind of role in every nightly TV broadcast this week. It’s a curious strategy, given the polling.”

Peterson noted that Monday’s best speeches, sans Trump, would be wildly popular amongst waffling voters. Scott “talked about opportunity zones, school choice and ‘the evolution of the Southern heart.’” Maximo Alvarez, who survived socialism, told a heartbreaking story of escaping Cuba. Trump “‘may not always be politically correct,’ but Mr. Alvarez said he believes in a president who will protect the country’s freedoms, since ‘there is no other place to go.’” And Haley effectively “cast Mr. Biden as weak on foreign policy.”

“Undecided voters who are weary of Mr. Trump could be moved by these varied attestations to his administration’s record,” Peterson wrote. “Maybe Mr. Trump should sit back and let them be persuaded.”

What the left is saying.

An unhinged night of lies and fear. In The Washington Post, Dana Milibank mocked the president’s promise that it would be a “very uplifting” and positive convention. “The Republican National Convention on its opening day was as uplifting as the apocalypse, as positive as perdition,” Milibank wrote.

“It was a veritable festival of fear — made all the more intriguing because it was delivered by the incumbent president’s party,” he wrote. “Four years ago, Trump pledged to end ‘American carnage.’ Now he’s asking for another four years to put an end to all the additional American carnage he created in his first four years. The difference is his leadership has turned the dystopian America Trump pictured into more of a reality.”

Jamelle Bouie asked “Four more years of what?” in The New York Times, noting the Republican party opted not to offer a party platform this year, simply saying it would support Trump’s “America-first” agenda. “As one veteran congressional aide told Politico, the only thing Republicans believe now is ‘Owning the libs and pissing off the media,’” Bouie wrote, saying Republicans are all-in on their pact with Trump.

“Republican indifference to the president’s corruption, criminality (yet another former campaign adviser was arrested last week) and prejudice — which freed him to profit from the office and turn the bureaucracy into an instrument of his will — has been rewarded with deregulation, cuts to the social safety net and the installation in the federal judiciary of a large new cohort of reliably conservative judges.”

Jessica Tarlov, the Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor, wrote that Republicans failed to seize an opportunity that could have been used to bring in more voters.

“There was nothing groundbreaking or innovative from the big names on Monday night but a compilation of greatest hits,” Tarlov said. “There was red meat for the base, delivered by familiar faces who have failed to expand the tent previously and didn’t demonstrate much potential to do so from the platform of the convention.”


Both sides seemed to agree on two things: it was surprisingly focused on race and Kim Guilfoyle’s speech was… bizarre. “For a president credibly accused of stoking racial fears and divisions throughout his term, Trump, with his choice of speakers, leaned hard into the topic during the first night of his convention on Monday,” Politico said. In The New York Post, Michael Goodwin said “for the first time in modern memory, both of America’s major political parties are making an all-out push for the votes of African Americans. Good for them, and good for our country.”

As for Guilfoyle, Geraghty joked that “Someone should have told Kimberly Guilfoyle that she had a microphone and that she didn’t need to shout her entire speech so that the viewers at home could hear it.” As just about every liberal on Twitter mocked her bizarre, overly-dramatic speech (including me), plenty of conservatives laughed with them.

My take.

I’ll start with the good: Tim Scott delivered a tremendous speech to end the night. He framed Biden the way Republicans should be framing him, which is as someone who has said demonstrably offensive things about Black Americans and as someone who has been supportive of policies that have done serious damage to the Black community. His personal story is extremely moving for anyone willing to listen to it, and his speech made me feel good; it made me believe in the promise of America, the value of work and faith in your own potential, and gave me an optimistic vision of the future. Forgiving him for his major lie about Biden’s alleged plan to raise taxes for wealthy New Yorkers, Scott was far and away the most impactful speaker of the night.

There were other “high” moments, too. Andrew Pollack, the Parkland father whose daughter was murdered, gave a gut-punch of a speech about his daughter's death and how President Trump helped him. Haley’s speech got lots of high marks, and I don’t have much to add to them. She is the “old school” conservative who has a fresh face and tone on classic Republican priorities: lower taxes, strength abroad, personal freedom. It was riddled with misleading claims but it was delivered convincingly. I also thought GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel formed an effective juxtaposition of “nice Joe” vs. “tough Trump” that might win some hearts who want a strongman in office.

But the lows… were low. Really, really low. For one, the night as a whole was like being blasted with a firehose of lies and misleading claims. As the Canadian fact-checker Daniel Dale noted on Twitter, “I think it’s important for objective journalists to note how wildly imbalanced the dishonesty is between the current parties. This one half-night of Republican programming so far has been exponentially more dishonest than the entire four nights of the Democratic convention.”

And Dale is right. The basic premise of the night — that Biden wants to defund police and let chaos run wild in the streets — is so obviously untrue it boggles the mind. Not a single Democratic leader in the Senate or running for president supports defunding the police, and very few elected Democrats (at the federal level) have embraced the idea at all. Even Bernie freaking Sanders openly opposed calls to defund the police.

There was other ugly, repugnant B.S. as well. The totally overdone fear-mongering is well-documented in the “What the left is saying” section above, but featuring the McCloskey couple was the lowest blow of all. The couple was made famous for brandishing firearms against Black Lives Matter protesters outside their St. Louis mansion, so they got a five-minute speaking slot to stoke fears about the “quiet neighborhoods” and suburbs being destroyed — presumably overrun by people of color like the ones they pointed their guns at for merely marching past their home.

“They’re not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether,” the McCloskeys said. “Make no mistake, no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”

Except nothing happened to them. They were not harmed, nobody tried to get onto their property, nobody attacked them, and even the St. Louis police report contests their framing of the events. They were the aggressors, and are the ones being charged with felonies, for pulling out weapons and pointing them at protesters who were not threatening them, not the other way around.

Guilfoyle’s bizarre speech peaked in weirdness when she referred to her Puerto Rican mother as an immigrant (Puerto Rico is a part of the United States), Gaetz’s promise that Democrats were sending MS-13 to live next door was beyond parody, and Trump Jr.’s speech had more sentences that were outright lies, or very misleading, than ones that were true.

The cringiest moment wasn’t actually Guilfoyle’s speech, though. It came from Donald Trump himself, in a pre-recorded video where six hostages he helped release sat around him praising and thanking him. Trump has made important accomplishments in that regard: 50 Americans freed from 22 countries across the world, which should rightly be celebrated. But the “cringe” moment came when Trump addressed Andrew Brunson, a pastor, who was held in Turkey for four years for totally trumped up political crimes against Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“To me, President Erdoğan was very good,” Trump told Brunson. Yes, that’s right: the president took a moment to praise Erdoğan, the man solely responsible for Brunson losing four years of his life as a political prisoner, because Erdoğan was nice to him. And not only did Brunson have to sit there and take it, but the RNC actually opted to air this exchange — which they very easily could have edited out, since it was pre-recorded.

But most bizarre of all was just how odd it was to see the speakers promise that the country would not turn into what it actually is right now, with four more years of Trump. The streets would be full of riots if Democrats are elected, they warn, while images of riots happening right now, under a Trump presidency, play on in the background. They say that the economy would be destroyed if Democrats are elected, while 30 million Americans receive unemployment and small businesses are going under at an unprecedented rate right now, under a Trump presidency. The country will be more divided than ever before, they warn, as we are being swallowed whole right now by alternative realities, conspiracy theories and partisan hackery, as we’ve never seen before.

A story that matters.

Step aside murder hornets, the dreaded lanternfly is here. With the country consumed by COVID-19 quarantine, very few Americans have heard about a different kind of quarantine in New Jersey earlier this month: one meant to stop the Spotted Lanternfly from spreading throughout the state in part by having travelers be vigilant in seeing if the pest might be hitching a ride out of the county. The lanternfly has been a known menace in the northeast, but now it’s spreading quickly in the Mid-Atlantic, especially Pennsylvania and New Jersey — where it poses a major threat to crops. “The insects sip on sap from ornamental fruit trees and grape vines, a refined palate that could cost the state at least $324 million per year and eliminate 2,800 jobs, according to a study published by Penn State economists in 2019, which also included a worst-case scenario of $554 million lost per year,” The New York Times reports.


  • 1.3 million. The number of ballot requests that have been submitted for the general election by Pennsylvania voters.
  • 194,266. The number of those ballot requests that are from voters who didn’t vote in 2016.
  • 39%. The percentage of those new voters who are under the age of 35.
  • 44,292. The number of votes Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by in 2016.
  • 22%. The percentage of registered voters who watched a lot of the Democratic convention.
  • 46%. The percentage of Americans who trust a great deal or a fair amount of what Joe Biden says about coronavirus.
  • 31%. The percentage of Americans who trust a great deal or a fair amount of what Donald Trump says about coronavirus.
  • 69%. The percentage of Black men at U.S. colleges who said they plan to vote for Joe Biden in the 2020 election, according to a Knight Foundation survey.
  • 70%. The percentage of white women at U.S. colleges who said they plan to vote for Joe Biden in the 2020 election, according to a Knight Foundation survey.

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Have a nice day.

Africa has been declared polio-free. Less than a decade ago, Nigeria accounted for half of all polio infections globally. Now it’s polio-free, helping Africa as a whole hit a major milestone. The polio virus, which especially impacts children, can cause lifelong paralysis and sometimes death. A few years ago, I went to India and reported on the country’s push to eradicate polio — seeing up close and in-person just how difficult it is. But the polio vaccine has been wildly successful, and now polio exists in just two countries: Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are on the precipice of eliminating it as a species.

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