Posted by Arab American Institute on July 19, 2016 in Blog


Beyond the dramatic headlines, Day 1 of Trump's Convention in Cleveland got off to a raucous start. Your friendly AAI staff was on the ground to bring you the latest on what this means for the policies we care about, the Party many in our community are a part of, and the sideshows which warrant their own coverage. Here's your Day 1 Dispatch.

Arab Americans at the RNC Convention

In the Convention Hall

On the Convention Hall floor, chaos broke out almost immediately after the opening gavel when Trump's allies moved to pass the Convention Rules and Platform despite an attempted insurrection. Usually the procedural parts of Conventions are merely ceremonial blessings of agreements that the Party's appointed delegates have already hammered out. But there was significant and organized push back on the rules and platform that the Party brokered between campaigns, which is also possible next week at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. But the gavel rules, and Trump's allies were able to stave off the first attempt by delegates to challenge his nomination. This morning, a delegate made clear that there would be another challenge from the floor.

After the delegates were reconvened for the primetime speeches, the controversy continued. The night was dubbed "Make America Safe Again” and the speakers touched on many of the issues we've been tracking on the Trump campaign trail for well over a year. All relating to national security, there were many issues that warrant greater scrutiny even amidst bigger, more dramatic headlines surrounding Melania Trump's speech. Here are some highlights (or lowlights, depending) from a policy perspective:

  • There was the hyper-focus throughout the night on what Hillary Clinton and President Obama have done (i.e. put American lives in harm’s way in Benghazi and on the southern border) and not done (i.e. say that the enemy is "radical Islamic extremism," and side with police officers against anti-police brutality protestors).
  • Former New York Governor Rudy Giuliani continued to offer provocative policy recommendations for how a Trump presidency would handle immigration from the Middle East and the Black Lives Matter movement. His speech is being covered as one of the most important moments of the night: it was energetic, well received, and characteristically extreme. He weaved together the tragic attacks on police and attacks inspired by ISIL to paint a picture of America in crisis. Having fully embraced Trump's unconstitutional call for a ban on Muslims traveling to the United States, Giuliani unfortunately repeated misinformation about the vetting of Syrian refugees and even proclaimed that the U.S. needs to go to the war with the enemies inside of the country. That line caused controversy, because it capped his speech that covered defeating ISIL as well as condemning violence from protestors against police. Giuliani's vision of keeping America safe at home seemed to play up divisions amongst Americans along the lines of religion, race, and professions.
  • Retired Army Lt. General Michael Flynn surprised many by laying out an expanded vision for U.S. military engagement overseas under a Trump presidency. Flynn dismissed President Obama and Hillary Clinton's foreign policy framework that, according to him, abandons our allies and tolerates our enemies, who he describes as "radical Islamists and failed tyrants." We are left speculating how his pronouncement about "failed tyrants" will impact the thorniest issues in the Middle East including Syria, Egypt, and more. Flynn also implied more than once that President Obama isn't giving U.S. troops the tools necessary to fight these enemies, but didn’t further specify what tools are lacking.
  • In her speech, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst (who was a skeptical latecomer to the Trump camp) was the first to mention the U.S.-Israel alliance from the Convention stage, which received a warm applause from the delegates still on the floor at 11:00pm. Ernst hit Obama and Clinton for lack of leadership abroad, and the impact that has on U.S. allies, like Israel. Her time on the stage was devoted to highlighting veterans and her criticism of President Obama and Hillary Clinton's failure to support veterans when they return home. 
  • It's also worth taking a listen to Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton'speech again. Cotton is a well-respected foreign policy firebrand in the Republican Party, and many see him as a rising star. His positioning on foreign engagements is not only notable for what it could mean for how a Trump presidency might be shaped by Party leaders, but also for what might come after Trump if he doesn't win in November.

Outside the Convention

There were several dozen "counter-convention" events staged by outside groups on Day 1. We noted a Palestinian rights contingent amongst the End Poverty Now! march that ended up at the Convention entrance during the prime time speeches. The Purple Tent held all day programming that underscored the need for civility on all sides of this week's convention (and at all times). 

In addition to the protestors exercising their free speech rights, we are grateful for the police, security, and medical personnel from Ohio and many other states that are here to keep everyone safe and cool amidst the heated political rhetoric and summer weather. Day 1 was successful on that front, thankfully. The $50 million government grant the city received to plan for security was visible at every turn, from the police body armor, to the barricades and perimeter walls - downtown Cleveland is in all out Convention precaution mode. 

Make sure to follow us on Twitter @aaiusa and stay tuned for our Day 2 Dispatch tomorrow to stay up to speed on our programming. 


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