GOP Convention Opens With 'Make America Safe Again' Theme

Jul 18, 2016
Originally published on July 19, 2016 12:36 pm
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm back now with Mara Liasson here at the Quicken Loans Arena, looking ahead to tonight and what we're likely to see. What should we expect, Mara?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: The theme tonight is make America safe again, and of course the backdrop to tonight is the recent killings of police officers. Donald Trump has said that he is the law-and-order candidate. And this morning, Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman, said that Trump has been looking at past convention speeches, and Richard Nixon's 1968 law-and-order speech at the '68 convention was the most instructive. And of course, Trump has said that he speaks for the silent majority, another Nixon phrase.

So tonight you're going to hear from Rudy Giuliani, the law-and-order former mayor of New York City, from David Clark, the African-American sheriff of Milwaukee County - he's a very strong anti-Black-Lives-Matter voice - and also from family members of people who were killed by illegal immigrants, some in traffic accidents. And Trump has made the point all along that he considers immigration to be a national security issue and a security issue.

SIEGEL: I was curious by the way. We've heard - 1968 has been invoked on a few occasions in recent months, but this time it's by Trump's campaign chairman...

LIASSON: That's right.

SIEGEL: ...Paul Manafort. Trump has also promised some showbiz at the convention. How does the convention lineup reflect that?

LIASSON: You know, he said he wants this convention to be better than the typical boring convention, so he set the bar very high for himself. A lot of people are going to be expecting a really exciting show. But when you look at the lineup, looks like a typical GOP convention. So far the celebrities tonight are Scott Baio from the old TV show "Joanie Loves Chachi," Willie Robertson from "Duck Dynasty."

SIEGEL: You said that with great conviction.

LIASSON: Yes. Willie Robertson from "Duck Dynasty" - he's a right-wing folk hero. But the big speech tonight is Melania Trump. She is the keynoter.

SIEGEL: Well, what do you expect to hear from Mrs. Trump?

LIASSON: Well, this is a big, big role for a press-averse spouse. She hasn't been seen on the campaign trail for a couple of months. She didn't go to the rollout of Mike Pence as the vice president. But wives are very, very powerful validators. They can humanize the candidate. We've seen Michelle Obama do that. We saw Ann Romney do that four years ago.

And the question tonight for Mrs. Trump is, can she help Trump with women? Of course he has a big deficit there. Something like three quarters of American women have a negative view of him. And Trump has said that tonight she's going to talk about women's issues.

SIEGEL: Right, right. Interestingly, for the first time since John Kerry was nominated and his wife spoke at a national convention, we'll have a potential first lady who is foreign-born...

LIASSON: Yes.

SIEGEL: ...Who speaks English with an accent.

LIASSON: That's right. And she - if they win and she goes to the White House, she would be the first foreign-born first lady since Louisa Adams.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) That's Mara Liasson.

LIASSON: A very long time.

SIEGEL: That's a long time ago. That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson here with me at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

LIASSON: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.