Donald Trump’s family took the stage at Tuesday night’s Republican National Convention, including Eric Trump, who attacked Democrats and falsely claimed his father ended America’s long-lasting wars.
“My father rebuilt the mighty American military – added new jets, aircraft carriers. He increased wages for our incredible men and women in uniform, and expanded the military defense budget to $721 billion per year,” he said, adding: “America was no longer weak in the eye of the enemy.”
“Peace in the Middle East. Never-ending wars were finally ended,” the first son continued, “Promises made, and promises, for the first time, were kept.”
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Despite those claims, the US still has troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, where attacks carried out by the Islamic State have once again surged.
Still, the younger Trump used his speech to attack the left and undermine his father’s opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee.
“Most politicians spend their entire careers in Washington DC and get absolutely nothing accomplished,” he said. “For example: Joe Biden. Joe Biden is a politician who has been in government for 47 years.”
Melania Trump and two of the president’s children were among the stars for the night, although they initially focused more on his policies than any humanizing effort.
“A vote for my father, Donald J Trump, is a vote to uphold our American ideals,” declared Tiffany Trump, the president’s younger daughter, 26, years old..
The first-term president is laboring to improve his standing in a 2020 presidential race he is currently losing. Most polls report that Mr Biden has a significant advantage in terms of raw support; the former vice president also leads on character issues such as trustworthiness and likability.
In one of the few emotional moments of the night, Mr Trump showed a video of himself signing a pardon for Jon Ponder, a man from Nevada who has founded an organization that helps prisoners reintegrate into society.
“We live in a nation of second chances,” Ponder said, standing alongside Mr Trump.
“John’s life is a beautiful testament to the power of redemption,” Mr Trump said before he signed the pardon.
Tuesday’s two-and-a-half-hour lineup also featured a Maine lobsterman, a Wisconsin farmer and a Native American leader. Social conservatives were represented by an anti-abortion activist and Billy Graham’s granddaughter. The convention also featured a Kentucky high school student whose interaction last year with Native Americans became a flashpoint in the nation’s culture wars.
With Election Day just 10 weeks off and early voting beginning much sooner, the president is under increasing pressure to reshape the contours of the campaign. But as he struggles to contain the pandemic and the related economic devastation, Republicans have yet to identify a consistent political message arguing for his re-election.
There was little mention of the pandemic through the first hour of the program, although it remains a dominant issue for voters this fall.
The Covid-19 death toll surged past 178,000 on Tuesday, by far the highest in the world, and there is no sign of slowing. The nation’s unemployment rate still exceeds 10 percent, which is higher than it ever was during the Great Recession. And more than 100,000 businesses are feared closed forever.
At the same time, the White House seems to have abandoned efforts to negotiate another federal rescue package with Congress.
Convention organizers had promised an uplifting and hopeful message the night before as the convention began, but that was undermined by dark and ominous warnings from the president and his allies about the country’s future if he should lose in November.
Tuesday night, there were fierce attacks on Biden throughout, although the lineup generally maintained a more positive tone – in part due to some last-minute changes.
Mary Ann Mendoza, an Arizona woman whose son, a police officer, was killed in 2014 in a car accident involving an immigrant in the country illegally, was pulled from the program minutes before the event began. She had directed her Twitter followers to a series of anti-Semitic, conspiratorial messages.
There were also barrier breakers featured like Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, the first African American to hold statewide office in Kentucky, and Florida Lt Gov. Jeanette Nunez, first Latina to hold that office in her state.
And the convention lineup featured a Democrat for the second night: Robert Vlaisavljevich, the mayor of Eveleth, Minnesota, praised Mr Trump’s support for his state’s mining industry in particular.
“President Trump is fighting for all of us. He delivered the best economy in our history and he will do it again,” Mr Vlaisavljevich said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was addressing the convention and nation during an official overseas trip in Israel.
Mr Pompeo’s taped appearance breaks with decades of tradition of secretaries of state avoiding the appearance of involving themselves in domestic politics. That his video was filmed in Jerusalem, where he was on an official foreign trip, has raised additional questions of propriety.
Overall, there were more than a dozen speakers planned for the evening’s prime-time program, most of them appearing in prerecorded video or inside a largely empty Washington auditorium. But there was one intended star.
The Associated Press contributed to this report