Commentary: How Donald Trumped his own convention

Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump's first scene-stealing of Sen. Ted Cruz might have been arranged by divine, tongue-in-cheek intervention. It went this way: Cruz was holding a rally at Cleveland airport with several hundred enthusiastic supporters. Just as Cruz said, "Our party now has a nominee," Donald Trump's jet flew overhead, coming in loud and low for a landing.

Of course, the spectacle of the huge plane, dominated by "TRUMP" on its fuselage, plus the jet noise, all but drowned out Cruz. His supporters erupted in a chorus of boos. What would have been an ignored event was suddenly primetime news.

Trump's second scene-snatching was no coincidence. He was aware of Cruz's supporters booing the arrival of his jet that day. Trump also had seen an advance copy of Cruz's convention speech, and knew it was silent on endorsing Trump. To paraphrase Oliver Cromwell, Trump knew that silence would billow up and down the country.

So Cruz delivered a red-meat speech, and the convention crowd happily ate it up. He mentioned Trump once. Perhaps the audience was on tiptoe to see if he'd endorse Trump. But Cruz reached his ending, and instead of an endorsement, he urged Republicans everywhere to "vote your conscience."

The fix was in. Trump was in the convention hall, poised to pounce. At the moment Cruz urged conscience-searching, loud boos erupted from the New York delegation seated at the front of the podium. And it went on and on until -- Cruz tried to continue his speech.

"I appreciate the enthusiasm from the New York delegation," the wily Cruz said, acknowledging where the boos were coming from, without pointing them out. On cue, cries of "Endorse! Endorse!" erupted. As other delegations -- some likely coached ahead of time -- picked up the booing and chanting, Cruz turned to leave the stage.

At that precise moment, Trump entered the convention hall from stage left -- so to speak. Once again, Trump stole the scene from Cruz. This time, providence had nothing to do with it. Hardball politics had everything to do with it. It was riveting.

"You might say, they let him walk into an ambush," said CBS veteran political analyst Charlie Rose of Cruz on "CBS This Morning".

NBC's political director, Chuck Todd, told Lester Holt on "Nightly News" that "You could argue Ted Cruz has more fans here than Trump has delegates."

If Trump had kept Cruz from speaking, it would have caused a stink. So Trump and his strategists apparently decided to let Cruz speak, but also to upstage him -- booing him off the podium -- to dilute the impact of Cruz's non-endorsement.

Instead, this raw drama revealed a clear fracture in the party, and this disarray is what's dominating the news.

For poor Gov. Mike Pence, the convention's vice presidential nominee, this same night was supposed to be his moment to shine. But Trump upstaged Pence too. It was a shame. Pence made the best speech of the convention that wasn't stolen. A call for party unity.

Once again, the convention news wasn't about the rules or some unforced error. This time it was all about the New York delegation's booing the second-best vote-getting Republican primary candidate for asking citizens to "vote your conscience."

Trump tweeted: "Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn't honor the pledge! I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!"

But it is a big deal. (Ignoring that Trump, himself, balked at that the same pledge, early on, to back the party's nominee). Trump is supposedly a super-smart corporate manager. But he revealed at this convention that his management style is sorely lacking.

The other notable revelation of Trump's poor management was the incredibly botched handling of the cribbing by Mrs. Melania Trump of First Lady Michelle Obama's 2008 DNC speech.

Prior to Melania's speech, the night had been a hate-fest of speakers doing verbal hatchet jobs on Hillary Clinton. Melania was supposed to contrast that negativity with a sweet, wifely, homey endorsement of her husband. She did that. Unfortunately, a solid paragraph of her speech was lifted almost word-for-word from Michelle Obama's endorsement of her husband, Barack.

The whole thing could have been smoothed over by a simple admission of error, which Trump offered, "a day late and a dollar short," to George Stephanopoulos of ABC. It was a mistake, Trump told him; we all make mistakes.

We watched two days of newspapers, columns, editorials and TV analysis about the inept job performance by Trump's professionals in failing to double-check for accidental plagiarism. And two days of blunt lying by Trump's key campaign officials.

It also is revelatory of Trump's management style, which should have been at his professional best, but instead revealed ineptness.

It's almost over. It's now his party. Instead of spending this week celebrating his remarkable victory and unconventional campaign, it's been a week full of embarrassments and unforced errors.


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