At the Democratic National Convention last week, former President Barack Obama accused his predecessor of treating his presidency like “one more reality show.”
Maybe President Trump wasn’t listening. Or maybe he was taking inspiration.
On both nights of the Republican convention so far, he has had warm, symbolic meetings with everyday Americans in taped segments from the White House. As our TV critic, James Poniewozik, points out, they’ve all mirrored a key component of Mr. Trump’s former reality show, “The Apprentice”: the prize-giveaway scene.
On Monday, the president had a get-to-know-you session with a group of coronavirus survivors, each of them giving brief testimonials and seemingly star-struck in his presence. Last night, he performed some official business with a humanitarian lilt: Mr. Trump pardoned Jon Ponder, an ex-convict who started a nonprofit organization after getting out of prison, and then the president conducted a naturalization ceremony for five immigrants.
But as with so much TV, what came through onscreen didn’t reflect reality.
Mr. Trump is on track to have cut legal immigration by almost 50 percent by the end of this year, according to a National Foundation for American Policy analysis. The cutback on naturalizations heavily affects refugees. And, of course, Mr. Trump continues to detain huge numbers of people at the southwestern border, turning away asylum seekers by the tens of thousands.
On criminal justice reform, Mr. Trump can rightfully brag about the modest bill he signed last year, but he and Republicans in the Senate have resisted calls to continue debate over police-reform legislation proposed after George Floyd’s killing.
With his softened tone, Mr. Trump is clearly aiming to win over voters at the center, leaning away from his red-blooded conservative instinct and striking a conciliatory tone that is in many ways directly contradictory to his policies.
There’s reason for him to be concerned about moderates in the suburbs: He won suburban voters by four points in 2016, according to exit polls, and he’ll need help from this group — which accounts for about half of all the country’s voters — in November if he wants to counteract Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s strength in the cities.
But Mr. Trump’s disapproval ratings are even higher in the suburbs than they are in cities. A Fox News poll this month found him trailing Mr. Biden 54 percent to 38 percent in the suburbs.
The reality-TV segments and other portions of the convention filmed on the White House grounds have raised ethics concerns: The Hatch Act is widely thought to prohibit presidents from using the trappings of their office in their re-election bids. But the Office of Special Counsel, an independent government office that has authority to enforce the Hatch Act, released a statement today saying that it considered parts of the White House, such as the Rose Garden and South Lawn, viable for political acts, and wouldn’t be “grandstanding” about “potential violations that may or may not occur.”
Who is speaking tonight
Tonight, Vice President Mike Pence will address the convention. He, too, is more unpopular in the suburbs than anywhere else, according to the Fox News poll, with 58 percent of suburban voters expressing a negative view of him.
Mr. Pence’s wife, Karen, will also give a speech, as will Lara Trump, an adviser to the president’s campaign and the wife of his son Eric Trump.
Madison Cawthorn, 25, the Republican nominee for the North Carolina congressional seat vacated by Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, will also address the convention in his first appearance under national lights. In June, the young nominee, who had turned to politics after surviving a near-fatal car crash that left him partly paralyzed, won the Republican primary by besting a Trump-endorsed foe. But in the months since, he’s been accused of aggressive sexual behavior and was found to have used an acronym associated with white supremacist groups in the name of his real-estate company. The president has praised Mr. Cawthorn saying, “You’re going to be a star of the party.”
As usual, you can watch the full two-hour broadcast beginning at 9 p.m., at nytimes.com. Our reporters will be online dishing out their analysis — and fact checks — in real time. CNN, MSNBC and PBS will show the full two-hour event, but Fox News and the major broadcast TV networks will air only the second half.
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A New York Times Event: A recap and analysis of the R.N.C.
This Friday, politics reporters from The Times will take a look back at this week’s Republican convention, breaking down all the key moments and unexpected developments of the event.
Join us in a 30-minute round-table discussion on Aug. 28 at 11 a.m., hosted by The Times’s deputy politics editor, Rachel Dry, and featuring Annie Karni, a White House correspondent; Jonathan Martin, a national political correspondent; and John Eligon, a national correspondent covering race. R.S.V.P. here.
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