Many of my fellow GOP presidential contenders told an outright lie when they promised to support their party’s eventual nominee. Why should Trump give them a spot on his stage?
Breaking News! If Ted Cruz, John Kasich and others don’t endorse Donald Trump, they won’t be invited to speak at the Republican National Convention!” So the anchors all urgently reported earlier this week.
That’s not breaking news—that’s breaking wind. Of course politicians who refuse to endorse Trump shouldn’t be speaking. As someone who has not only attended but spoken at every GOP convention in some capacity since 1992, I can assure you that not only has the GOP presidential nominee (George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney) controlled every detail of the convention down to who sings the national anthem and who closes in prayer, but every word of every speech is approved in advance by the nominee’s team.
To pretend that Trump is being heavy-handed by saying that those who don’t endorse him won’t speak is not only unfair, it also misses the bigger story: Why aren’t we talking about the outright lie told by a number of my fellow GOP presidential contenders on national television during the very first debate in August of 2015? We were asked point blank if we would support the eventual nominee who survived the primary process and won the nomination. And we all said “yes” except for Trump, who declared that he wanted to make sure he was treated “fairly.” Not long after, Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, went to Trump’s New York office and extracted from him a pledge that he would also support the nominee of the party.
It’s not at all unusual for the nominee to make sure that the convention is a carefully produced “show” that essentially serves as a mini-series for television to sell the candidate. It’s exactly what the Democrats do as well. There hasn’t been any drama or unscripted moments since George H. W. Bush picked Dan Quayle to be his running mate in 1988, or the brief unscripted moment during the 2012 Republican Convention when Clint Eastwood gave us the “empty chair speech,” which I thought was the best moment of the entire convention precisely because it wasn’t scripted!
Donald Trump was not my first choice for president—I was my first choice. But for reasons that I don’t and will never fully understand, that’s not how the voters saw it. Trump won the nomination the old fashioned way—he got the most votes. He received far more votes than any Republican in the history of the primaries. More than Ronald Reagan, the Bushes, McCain and the utterly discredited Mitt Romney, who has shamefully and sadly shown his petulance as he leaves the political stage in disgrace, having gladly accepted Trump’s money and endorsement in 2012, only to become a “Never Trumper” and de-facto Hillary Clinton champion in 2016.
I wasn’t all that happy to walk away from a good income and a good life and give a year of my life spending 25 days or more a month living in hotels and running to catch flights between Iowa, South Carolina and states where I was trying to raise funds. It has been frustrating to know that the message I championed about trade, the decline of the middle class, the need to manufacture in the United States, support for veterans and a more innovative approach to health care that focused on prevention rather than expensive intervention was mirrored by Donald Trump. The only difference was that the networks covered his every speech, his every tweet, and focused on him in the debates, while guys like me and others who had very accomplished tenures in office were relegated to the sidelines because of our unwillingness to engage in the blood sport of trashing the other Republicans on the stage, including Trump. I was saving my artillery for the opponent I know best—Clinton, and not my fellow Republicans.
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