National Consumers League

Day two from the RNC


SG_HEADSHOT.jpgThe buzz at the breakfast event on St. Clair today was all about the plagiarized sections of Melania Trump’s speech and how in the world that could have happened. At my morning event sponsored by The Atlantic Magazine, I sat next to a theater professor from a Maryland college who is spending her sabbatical studying the theatricality of the campaign. She regularly vets student papers for plagiarism through commonly used websites. Oops-guess the Trump campaign forgot to undertake that simple task.

What most of America doesn’t know is that conventions are a big party for a week. It was beautiful to be outdoors; in the low 80s, perfect for walking around and people watching. Though you need credentials to get into the actual convention site-in Cleveland it’s where LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers just a few weeks ago won the national championship-the Quicken Arena–but a lot of what goes on is outside the official venue.

Cities hosting conventions have their venues booked out for months and hotels are all full, Airbnb’s are charging $700 for closet-sized rooms, and a city like Cleveland, on the upswing, provides endless entertainment at bars, restaurants, media outlets this week. All the big events are within a mile of each other and this is proving to be a very walkable city. I palled around with two friends from event to event.

One scary site: The Ohio Minutemen, draped by automatic weapons, a phalanx of six white men with patches on their jackets identifying who they are. I asked one member what they stand for. He mumbled, “Just defending the Constitution, Ma’am.” 

Then there’s the ubiquitous misogynist slogans on buttons, T-shirts and signs directed at Hillary Clinton; they are too crude to pass along but you can imagine the fear the first woman endorsed by a major party running for President instills.

I attended The Atlantic event with Ron Brownstein, moderating a discussion about how Donald Trump can turn the electoral map in his favor.  It’s a challenge–how does he get the Rust Belt white male votes and also appeal to the Millennials in purple swing states like Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada. I learned later from commentators that Republicans don’t think they have much of a chance with Millennials, who are looking for a more positive message that is far more inclusive.

T-shirts and bobbleheads for sale, music and entertainment on the streets. We walked down West Fourth today where MSNBC is based and Chuck Todd doing a live interview as we walked by. The Washington Post has staked out its temporary headquarters and the women of CodePink were there in their pink braziers and skirts with signs reading “Bust Up Militarism” and “Women Say Disarm Disarm.”

I attended a luncheon sponsored by Pfizer on the global benefits of fighting polio with a panel of experts. Two members of Congress, Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Phil Roe (R-TN), a doctor, both spoke in support of international funding for eradicating polio and a goal of vaccinating every child on the planet. I was disappointed that Rep. Emmer gave credence to the vaccine naysayers; he did implore us to listen to the families with autistic children who are convinced there’s a link to vaccinations but thankfully Dr. Roe emphasized that the “science just isn’t there” to support the link. 

Corporations and nonprofits–Atlantic Monthly and Center for American Progress for example–both held excellent and substantive panel discussions throughout the day. Receptions and cocktail parties abound, many in the most picturesque Cleveland sites: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where I was last night is on what has become gorgeous Lake Erie, tonight Proctor & Gamble and Roll Call newspaper booked the old Powerhouse in the Flats area right off downtown–a charming site on the Cuyahoga River where boat rowing crews glided by. The P&G panel featured elected Republican women discussing how to get more of their colleagues elected to political office. I enjoyed talking to nuns on the Bus, a progressive group of sisters who lobby for social change and came at the invitation of Roll Call.

I had the chance to spend time with two Republican officials NCL works closely with, Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen of the FTC, who is a thoughtful and insightful pro-consumer member of the Commission, and former FTC Chairwoman Debbie Majoras who hosted the P&G event tonight and who is a strong advocate for electing women of whatever stripe to political office. She also grasps the importance of her company being consumer-focused. 

Tonight as I watch speakers like Trump’s daughter Tiffany, Governor Chris Christie, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan addressing the delegates, I’m glad to say I’m here soaking up the flavor of the Republican convention at the most unpredictable and unfathomable Presidential election in modern history. 


[1] Apparently, though I‘ve never tried it, you can put in a section of a speech and Google will tell you whether it’s from some other famous passage or talk. “Grammarly” is a website that is an automated proofreader and plagiarism checks. The problem was, Melania said she wrote the speech herself. But when it turned out much of it was lifted was Michelle Obama’s convention speech from 2008, she said someone else wrote it.

[1] CNN has the passages side by side and highlighted in yellow. Sections of Michelle’s and Melania’s speech appear word for word: