Delegates gather Monday for the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (John Locher / AP)

10:32 p.m. PDT: Just when we thought we were done with Day 1 of the 2016 Republican convention, Melania Trump pulls us back in with another version of “you can’t make this stuff up.” Her speech, in a small part, plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic convention. Melania said she wrote the speech. Twice. Maybe Donald Trump is saving money on speechwriters. Maybe it was his way of complimenting the first lady and President Obama. Maybe they thought no one would notice. Maybe it was planned. Whatever the reason, the similarity between the speeches is striking. And all anyone can talk about is Trump.

8:23 p.m. PDT: That’s all, folks. See you Tuesday for Day 2 of the RNC, when it will be time to “Make America Work Again.”

8:18 p.m. PDT: This is Donald Trump’s show, and the show must go on. Even though the climax of the night was having Trump’s wife, Melania, speak, the GOP convention programmers wanted to end the night showing the military-industrial complex and Washington, D.C., trumpeting Trump. And they did.

8:14 p.m. PDT: Don’t ever say a progressive news site can’t say anything nice about a GOP convention. Truthdig’s Bill Boyarsky writes:

Melania Trump was the only nice person on the first night of the Republican National Convention. I had read that she had spent weeks, helped by writers, preparing her speech. Actually, if I had been in her shoes and had not spoken to a national television audience before, I would have been grateful for all the help I could get. She spoke lovingly of her husband. “His kindness is not often noted, but it is there for all to see,” she said. “His children are an amazing testament to who he is as a man and a father.” She continued, “Donald wants prosperity for all Americans. … We need new programs to help the poor. Christians, Jews and Muslims, African-Americans, Hispanics, the poor and the middle class.”

The positive message was in contrast to the bleak and hopeless picture of the United States painted by the other speakers. Some were somewhat sympathetic. I won’t write anything bad about a mother who lost a kid. And there were at least three of them, blaming their loss on Hillary Clinton. I felt bad for them, even though I wasn’t quite sure how Clinton was to blame for a reckless immigrant driver involved in her son’s fatal crash. Native-born Americans drive badly, too.

More to the theme of the convention was the speech by the retired head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who demanded, “Crooked Hillary Clinton, leave this race now.” That, not Melania Trump’s words, is the theme of the Trump campaign and of the convention. That and the racist attacks on anyone who questions the police. This is the Republican theme, judging from the first night of the Republican National Convention: traitorous, crooked, cop-hating Hillary, aided and abetted by America’s first black president, and the country miraculously saved by Trump. It’s disgusting and, worse yet, it might work.

8:12 p.m. PDT: In case you were wondering, the Donald has left the building. Like many others in the crowd.

8:09 p.m. PDT: More speakers. You thought it was over. You were wrong. Sen. Joni Ernst from Iowa has been tapped to keep the GOP party going. The crowd is so sparse you can hear each individual clapping.

8:02 p.m. PDT: Lt. Gen. Flynn is still going. He’s a competitive man. He wants to end the night with the longest speech. I don’t know if that is factually accurate, but it sure feels like it.

The band starts playing. Lt. Gen. Flynn is done for the evening.

7:53 p.m. PDT: This is not your father or grandfather’s National Republican Convention.

The Flynn speech is going long. The PBS/NPR folks are not amused. “When will it end?” many of them must be thinking. I think those silent voices in their heads speak for everyone.

7:46 p.m. PDT: USA! USA! USA! The crowd starts chanting the patriotic refrain. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn loves it. He also quotes the Republican Godfather, Ronald Reagan, but on the red-meat scale on this night, Flynn is no Rudy Giuliani, “the Old 96er.”

“If we lose freedom here, there is nowhere else to go. This is our last stand.”

7:43 p.m. PDT: Day 1 convention win or loss for Trump? The consensus among the PBS/NPR commentators is that the Trump campaign missed an opportunity to humanize their candidate.

7:37 p.m. PDT: “Donald J. Trump is ready to serve and lead this country as the next president of the United States. Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.” Melania Trump, the Donald’s third wife, sticks to the script and saves a personal Trump story for another time.

The Donald is pleased. He comes on stage clapping and beaming, and gives his wife a kiss.

7:29 p.m. PDT: Melania Trump delivers a speech. She supports Donald Trump. Who knew? Turns out he’s “kind, fair and caring.” A real sweetheart.

7:25 pm. PDT: Bill Boyarsky has a Rudy Giuliani anecdote to share:

I shouldn’t be posting this. I’m too prejudiced. I watched Rudy Giuliani run for president in New Hampshire in 2008. He was one of the most inept candidates I had ever seen. Voters agreed, and he went back to his security business. But I’m watching him now. A wealthy man, he must have hired a good speech coach.

“It’s time to make America safe again,” he said, shouting. Gesturing. “What I did for New York, Donald Trump will do for America.” Actually, he dumped the police chief who helped improve things, Bill Bratton, because the media liked him too much. He was on the Trump message. “Our enemy is Islamic radical terrorism. Islamic extremist terrorists, you know who you are and we’re going to get you.” Our next attorney general? As he attacks Hillary, cries of USA ring through the hall. It was his audition, and in Trump terms, he did pretty well. “There’s an election, this is it, there is no time to repeat our mistakes.” Frightening.

7:22 p.m. PDT: Now we know where Trump is watching the first night of the convention. The Donald graces the stage, entering to Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” Did you think Mr. Wonderful Narcissist himself could go a whole prime-time broadcast without making an appearance? “We are going to win so big,” he says a few times. Then he introduces Melania Trump, his wife, “the next First Lady of the United States.”

7:21 p.m. PDT: Guess who.

7:15 p.m. PDT: Like steak and Ronald Reagan? Giuliani has brought plenty of red meat and Reagan references to the podium. The law-and-order mayor made sure to eat his vitamins. He is in rare form.

7:07 p.m. PDT: Welcome, Rudy Giuliani. The former mayor of New York is fired up about what Donald Trump can do for America. Make America safe again. Make America one again. Giuliani has known Trump for over 30 years, and he says Trump has a big heart and loves all people. “From the top to the bottom, to the middle to the side.” Giuliani is “sick and tired of the defamation from the media and the Clinton campaign. This is a good man. America should be sick and tired of this vicious campaign. … He will be a great president.” Gotta give it to Mr. Giuliani. He knows how to stay on message.

7:03 p.m. PDT: A protester is being escorted out of Quicken Loans Arena. Wherever Donald Trump is watching the first night of the convention, he is applauding and saying either, “Get her out of here” or “You’re fired.” Take your pick.

7:02 p.m. PDT: Does the president have the power to suspend immigration? Not sure about that statement from Sen. Sessions. A quick Google search reveals that the president kind of does have that power.

7:01 p.m. PDT: We are witnessing a master class in how to walk the line between support and “I’m not with him.” Bill Boyarsky explains:

I love this. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas is speaking, veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, making his debut as a prospective Republican presidential nominee in 2020, if Trump loses. These, of course, are words that cannot be spoken at this convention. “Help is on the way,” he tells the troops. “Make America safe again,” he says, repeating the night’s theme. This is a guy who is standing by to pick up the pieces if Trump fails—or to be Trump’s Senate guy if Trump wins. It’s fascinating to watch these Republicans, watching them traveling the tricky path between a Trump victory and a defeat, where they will move on to in their careers.

6:58 p.m. PDT: Jeff Sessions is up. The senator from Alabama was one of the first congressional leaders to endorse Trump. Sessions comes out swinging at Hillary Clinton.

6:43 p.m. PDT: PBS/NPR commentators raise a couple of interesting points.

1. Trump always points out Hillary Clinton’s vote for the Iraq war. His vice presidential pick, Mike Pence, also voted for the Iraq war but gets a pass. Why?

2. Where are the jokes? The convention so far has been a stark, solemn gathering, lacking even a morsel of humor. No one is asking for a Bob Hope special, but a little levity goes a long way in serious settings.

Maybe Stephen Colbert has some tips for the GOP for the rest of the week? We heard he’s in Cleveland.

6:37 p.m. PDT: Truthdig political correspondent Bill Boyarsky notices a dangerous trend developing:

The direction of the Republican Party is clear: Play upon the racial tensions engulfing the country, made even hotter by cable news and social media. “Make America Safe Again is the theme of Monday’s convention session. The targets are clear—African-Americans protesting police misconduct and President Obama, our first African-American president. Every speech is along those lines, a poisonous mix.

6:15 p.m. PDT: Make Donald Trump more sympathetic. Make him appear more empathetic. That is the goal of the night for Republican convention organizers.

6:12 p.m. PDT: “You’d think Obama cared, and black lives mattered. Hillary is Obama’s third term.” Those are the words of Jamiel Shaw, whose son, Jamiel Andre’ Shaw II (Jas), was murdered while coming home from the Beverly Center Mall in Los Angeles in 2008. It is a difficult story. The shooter was a gang member, Pedro Espinoza, who was in the United States illegally and had been released from jail less than 24 hours before he killed Jas.

Jamiel senior has made it his mission to fix American’s immigration system.

He said Trump called him to offer condolences for the death of his son, but Obama never did. He stood with Trump when he made his infamous “Mexican immigrants are rapists” comment. Jas was a standout football player at Los Angeles High School and had a bright future. His life ended much too soon. There is no doubt America needs a better immigration system, but building walls and making blanket generalizations about ethnic groups aren’t the way to reform and progress.

Jamiel closes with this statement: “Trump is sent from God.”

Whoever is writing these speeches deserves a raise because the suspension of disbelief needed to write such words is a monumental feat. Even Samuel Taylor Coleridge could not have suspended that type of disbelief, and he was the poet/philosopher who coined the phrase “suspension of disbelief” to mean “believe the unbelievable.”

6:05 p.m. PDT: Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole is in the house. He likes Trump because he’s a strong leader and believes Trump can get things done in Congress.

5:58 p.m. PDT: From Benghazi to immigration. The convention switches its focus. Antonio Sabato Jr. now has the floor. Sabato is best known as a soap-opera actor and underwear model. He is sharing his story. He came to the United States from Rome, Italy, in 1985. He became a naturalized citizen in 1996. He says he followed the rules, and he wants others to follow the rules. “Donald Trump is for unity,” says Sabato. “He believes in one America with liberty and justice for all.” Is Sabato talking about the same Donald J. Trump that is running for president? The same Donald Trump who has offended just about every group that exists on planet earth? The xenophobic, misogynistic, racist Donald Trump?

Trump for unity. That’s a good one.

5:55 p.m. PDT: United States of America or Divided States of America? The message out of Cleveland is not one of unity. Expect the same in Philadelphia.

5:51 p.m. PDT: Not everyone in Quicken Loans Arena is for Trump. Two delegates say they cannot support him because he is not a “real Republican.” One is calling for a recount of the delegate votes and saying that the GOP establishment is doing what the establishment does: suppress dissent.

The other delegate brings up the reported conversation between Bill Clinton and Trump in the summer of 2015 before Trump announced he was running for president. “What’s up with that?” she wondered.

5:47 p.m. PDT: Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee would like to see Trump focus more on policy. Corker does not regret pulling out of the running to be on the Trump ticket. Corker believes he could help a potential Trump administration and the U.S. in more effective ways than being vice president.

5:45 p.m. PDT: So far, the overall tenor of the GOP can be summed in one sentence: Donald Trump is everything that Hillary Clinton is not.

5:38 p.m. PDT: We are following the convention on TV with special live coverage from PBS and NPR. David Brooks of The New York Times says Scott Baio has the line of the night so far. “Moving here and being an immigrant doesn’t mean you get things for free,” said the former star of “Happy Days.”

5:30 p.m. PDT: What really happened at Benghazi? That is the topic. A video produced for the GOP convention about the Benghazi tragedy features interviews with various members of the military, interspersed with images of war.

Prior to the showing of the video, Patricia (Pat) Smith spoke. Smith is the mother of Sean Smith, who was killed during the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012. The attack led to the death of four Americans, including her only child. Ever since that night, she has sought to learn the truth. She gave a serious, raw, emotional speech. At the end, she veered off script and echoed the chants from the crowd, “Hillary for prison.”

“She deserves to be in stripes,” Smith said.

4:18 p.m. PDT: Will the Republican convention — and the Democratic convention in Philadelphia next week — include any talk about the important issues America and the world faces today?

What is Donald Trump’s position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

What’s next with Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Russia and Yemen?

What is the U.S. stance on the attempted coup in Turkey or the state of Venezuela?

Where does the GOP stand on genetically modified organisms? Student loan debt? Homelessness?

The list of serious issues to cover is long, but don’t hold your breath that anything of substance will be addressed at the circuses the Republican and Democratic parties call conventions.

12:43 p.m. PDT: Hello, Cleveland. The Republican National Convention began Monday and will run through Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena as the Grand Old Party is expected to make Donald Trump its official nominee for president.

Organizers have put together a full slate of programming for the big event.

According to the website Townhall, each day of the convention has a theme. Monday’s is “Make America Safe Again.” Prime-time speakers include Melania Trump (Trump’s wife), Jeff Sessions (senator from Alabama), Rudy Giuliani (former New York City mayor), Rick Perry (former governor of Texas), Scott Baio (actor and television producer), Antonio Sabato (actor on “General Hospital” and “The Bold and the Beautiful”), Willie Robertson (CEO of Duck Commander and Buck Commander and the star of “Duck Dynasty”), a retired U.S. Navy SEAL, U.S. Marine Corps veterans who fought in the Battle of Benghazi, a mother of a Benghazi victim, immigration reform advocates and more.

You can see the complete list of speakers here. The themes for the rest of the convention are:

Tuesday: Make America Work Again

Wednesday: Make America First Again

Thursday: Make America One Again

Trump will be playing the role of P.T. Barnum all week and is scheduled to speak on the final night.

Truthdig will be live blogging each day of the convention. Tune in for news, analysis and commentary.

We also will have photojournalist Michael Nigro on the ground in Cleveland to provide photos and video of what’s happening outside the convention hall. Truthdig contributor Alan Minsky, a producer for Pacifica radio, will summarize what happens inside the convention hall. Truthdig political correspondent Bill Boyarsky will provide analysis during the live blog.

As long as everyone can find the stage at the convention, the show should be entertaining.

Let’s rock and roll.


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