daniel dale trump fact check
Daniel Dale: President Trump is a serial liar
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CNN  — 

President Donald Trump and Republicans manufactured a mirage.

Over their four-day convention this week, Trump and his allies treated the coronavirus pandemic as nearing its end. Peaceful protesters’ causes were ignored as they were lumped in with destructive rioters. Trump was cast as the architect of the greatest economy in history, but blameless in its collapse. And his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, was portrayed as having embraced liberal policies that the former vice president has explicitly rejected.

Now, those who tuned in will return to the real world – one in which the pandemic’s death toll tops 180,000 in the United States; where professional athletes have gone on strike over inaction in the face of racial injustice and police brutality; and where millions of people remain out of work.

Whether voters – particularly older Americans and suburban White women – come to the same conclusions as Trump and the GOP over where to assign credit and blame could determine the outcome of the 2020 election.

Here are seven takeaways from the 2020 Republican National Convention:

Pretending the pandemic is over

People listen to the US president deliver his acceptance speech for the Republican Party nomination for reelection during the final day of the Republican National Convention from the South Lawn of the White House on August 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
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The convention was designed to project a post-pandemic world. All week, Trump was credited for jobs added to the economy under his watch – though speakers did not mention that those gains and more had evaporated since March. They held events without masks, without mentioning that anyone who comes in close proximity to Trump – including more than 1,000 guests on the South Lawn during his Thursday night speech – is tested for the virus.

Perhaps most significant, though, is Trump’s promise that the country “will produce a vaccine before the end of the year, or maybe even sooner.”

The comment underscored Trump’s dire need to convince voters the pandemic is nearing its end – and that voting to hand him a second term on November 3 would come without the risk of him squandering the sacrifices Americans have made to try to limit its spread.

GOP-fabricated Biden agenda

Most of Republicans’ characterizations of the agenda and positions of Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, were false.

Repeatedly, Trump and others accused Biden of seeking to defund the police – a notion Biden has directly, repeatedly rejected, saying he wants to increase police funding to pay for additional training and community policing efforts.

They accused Biden of having ignored the violence and property damage that has taken place in some cities amid what have been largely peaceful protests. Biden has condemned that violence and damage. His campaign, in fact, did so repeatedly during the RNC.

Another glaring from Thursday night: Trump said that “instead of following science, Joe Biden wants to inflict a painful shutdown on the entire country.” It was the opposite of what Biden actually said. The former vice president said recently that if scientists said such a shutdown was necessary, he would follow their guidance.

Personal stories packed an emotional punch

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The most effective messengers for Trump came from outside the political world.

Alice Johnson, a first-time, non-violent offender whose lifetime prison sentence Trump commuted in 2018 after being lobbied to do so by Kim Kardashian, praised Trump’s “compassion” and touted criminal justice reform legislation he signed into law.

Ann Dorn, the widow of retired St. Louis police officer David Dorn, who was killed while responding to a break-in at a friend’s pawn shop, put a deeply personal face on the violence Trump condemned – even though David Dorn’s children had told reporters their father did not support Trump and that they did not approve of her appearance.

Perhaps the most gripping moment came when the parents of Kayla Mueller, an aid worker who was kidnapped in Syria and killed in 2015, described 18 agonizing months in which their daughter was held captive, tortured and raped. They blamed former President Barack Obama for failing to rescue her, and praised Trump for the October 2019 raid named after their daughter in which the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed.

“The Obama administration said it was doing everything it could. The Trump administration actually is,” Carl Mueller said.

Their personal stories – much like those told at the Democratic convention a week earlier by people like 13-year-old Brayden Harrington, who spoke with Biden about his stutter – were poignant. And, just like the Democratic stories about Biden did, they could reach a larger audience on social media than anything else that happened during the RNC.

But those testimonials at times painted inaccurate pictures

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 26: White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany pre-records her address to the Republican National Convention from inside an empty Mellon Auditorium on August 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. The novel coronavirus pandemic has forced the Republican Party to move away from an in-person convention to a televised format, similar to the Democratic Party's convention a week earlier. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s press secretary, recalled Trump’s support after she underwent a double mastectomy before working in his White House, including a personal phone call shortly after her surgery. She said that Trump “stands by Americans with pre-existing conditions.”

That simply isn’t true.

Trump’s administration has long sought to repeal Obamacare, which requires insurers to cover those with pre-existing conditions. His administration has joined a lawsuit aimed at striking down the law. And though Trump has long insisted he would guarantee coverage for those with pre-existing conditions – and promised that details on how he would do so are forthcoming – he has never presented a plan.

Diverse lineup glosses over reality of representation

Black political leaders such as Republicans South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and former athletes such as football great Herschel Walker diversified the four-night RNC lineup.

Polls show Black voters overwhelmingly support Biden. And despite the lineup, other speakers repeatedly attacked those protesting racial injustice and police violence, while insisting that systemic racism does not exist.

Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani demonized the Black Lives Matter movement, casting it as part of “vicious, brutal riots.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Washington, DC, a largely Black city, does not deserve representation in the Senate.

Trump, Pence and others warned that Biden would destroy the suburbs – referring to an Obama-era housing policy that would seek to curb the ghettoizing of public housing by locating new buildings in more affluent areas.

Instead, Trump’s aim appears to be convincing White suburban voters – the people who abandoned the GOP in droves in the 2018 midterms – that voting for Trump doesn’t amount to supporting racism.

The Hatch Act is not a thing, apparently

The phrase “norms-busting” was used by pundits throughout the week, but it obscures the reality of what was really happening: By using government grounds and having Cabinet officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speak, Trump and Republicans were flagrantly flouting the Hatch Act, a Depression-era law meant to limit the commingling of campaigning and official government business.

The law is why, for example, the White House had never before been used in political convention – and why top diplomats had not participated. Trump’s leveraged other powers of the presidency for political purposes, too. He held a naturalization ceremony for new US citizens and issued a pardon, broadcasting both during the RNC.

“What’s the name of that building?” Trump said during his Thursday night speech, gesturing at the White House behind him. “We’re here. And they’re not.”

How will it play?

Across the country, people have postponed weddings because of the pandemic. They’ve delayed funerals. They’ve grieved from afar as loved ones died alone. Many are working from home, while their children are home from schools that can’t safely open.

The densely packed, largely maskless crowds outside the White House on Thursday night and at Fort McHenry on Wednesday night for Pence’s speech seemed to ignore the social distancing guidelines.

Those visuals – even more than speeches that addressed coronavirus in the past tense – underscored that the Trump administration views the pandemic as a thing of the past.

That disconnect from reality could infuriate many Americans’ whose lives have been uprooted by the virus. And it could reinforce others’ beliefs that it’s time to return to normal life, even as thousands are diagnosed and hundreds die daily.