CLEVELAND — Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE might have been the star attraction Thursday night, but the wild spectacle in and around Quicken Loans Arena was just as captivating.
There was conservative pundit Ann Coulter trotting past delegates in high heels and a white dress along the arena concourse. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog played an iPhone game called “transsexual shake” as GOP delegates huddled around. And attendees posed for selfies with boxing promoter Don King and “Goonies” actor Robert Davi.
On the convention floor, the enormous 155-member Texas delegation sported identical Texas flag shirts and white 10-gallon cowboy hats, while a horde of cameras trailed Michigan delegate Wes Nakagiri in a Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE mask, orange prison jumpsuit and handcuffs.
“It’s been raucous,” observed Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoInterior reverses Trump, moves BLM headquarters back to DC Lobbying world A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate MORE (Wyo.), the Republican National Convention’s platform committee chairman, who was standing in the back row of the floor taking in the sights and speeches.
In many ways, the four-day nominating convention in downtown Cleveland was a bizarre, unscripted reality TV show befitting of the Manhattan billionaire businessman and “The Apprentice” star.
Trump’s wife, Melania, found herself the focus of a media firestorm Monday night after it was discovered her speechwriter had lifted a paragraph from a 2008 Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaWe must mount an all-country response to help our Afghan allies Obamas, Bushes and Clintons joining new effort to help Afghan refugees Bidens, former presidents mark 9/11 anniversary MORE speech. Two days later, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzPoll: Trump dominates 2024 Republican primary field Republican politicians: Let OSHA do its job O'Rourke prepping run for governor in Texas: report MORE (R-Texas) was booed off the stage after he refused to endorse Trump, his chief rival during the GOP presidential primary.
Thursday, the final day of the event, had its share of strange moments as well.
“I feel like the anchovy on Ivanka's Caesar salad,” family friend Tom Barrack said in a rambling, off-the-cuff speech introducing Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
Just a half hour before Thursday’s program began, a cussing match broke out on the convention’s media row between “The Young Turks" liberal host Cenk Uygur and Trump allies Roger Stone and Alex Jones. A scuffle ensued as a dozen journalists looked on, some filming the melee with their iPhones. Five police officers intervened, and Jones was later seen with spit on his face, witnesses said.
“Alex Jones was having fun, and they didn’t appreciate him crashing their set,” said Sal DiCiccio, a Phoenix city councilman and Trump supporter who witnessed the dust-up. “It looked like someone spit on his face.”
But the brawl between the Turks and the Trump backers was perhaps the most action officers saw all day. Violent protests, hyped by the media for weeks before the convention, never materialized, even as scores of police officers formed a human wall at the end of East Fourth Street to shield convention-goers from peaceful protesters.
There was, however, a report of an officer developing a skin irritation after accepting a sticker from an individual earlier in the day.
“Public advised if they have received a sticker from someone they do not know to remove it, wash area with soap and water,” the Cleveland Police Department tweeted Thursday. “Also, as a precaution the public is advised to not accept stickers from anyone they do not know.”
Inside Quicken Loans Arena, home of the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, there was still business being done moments before Trump took the stage. His campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was spotted walking briskly in the bowels of the arena, cell phone pressed against his ear. Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, a Trump adviser, gave a foreign policy interview to a TV crew from The Guardian.
But delegates, dignitaries and other convention-goers were ready to party.
The house rock band warmed things up with The Clash’s “Rock the Casbah” and the Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.” The band also tried out a new Trump theme song: “Let's make America great, make America great again!" the lead singer belted out.
Comedian Justin Young, dressed in a full-length yellow Charmander Pokémon costume, drew chuckles as he interviewed delegates on the floor. Minnesota delegate Mary Susan showed off her homemade “Trump” cape adorned with battery-powered lights.
“This is my fourth convention and this has been probably been the most unusual,” said Rep. Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court rules that pipeline can seize land from New Jersey | Study: EPA underestimated methane emissions from oil and gas development | Kevin McCarthy sets up task forces on climate, other issues Texas Republicans condemn state Democrats for response to official calling Scott an 'Oreo' Americans have decided to give professionals a chance MORE (R-Texas), who was hanging out before the speeches in Facebook’s RNC hub outside the arena. “Last time in Tampa, every night was kind of a rubber stamp, rubber stamp, rubber stamp. Maybe it’s because of the controversies, so many people are watching.”
Trump brought out the big media stars: Katie Couric was interviewing folks on media row, Gayle King was strolling around the arena, Joe Scarborough was snapping selfies with fans, and Scott Pelley was taping from the floor.
Actor Jon Voight appeared in a video during the program, but few Hollywood celebrities bothered to show up for Trump’s big night. One familiar face in the crowd: “The Bachelor” contestant Chris Soules, who was surrounded by female delegates angling to get a photo with him.
Trump’s hour-plus-long speech accepting the GOP nomination for president went off without a hitch, save for a brief interruption by a Code Pink protester.
As different a convention as this was for many, one thing remained the same: The final night of the convention ended with confetti and thousands of red, white and blue balloons falling to the convention floor.
“I think tonight we saw what America could be,” J.R. Romano, the Connecticut GOP chairman, said in an interview on the convention floor. “Right now, as Americans, we needed to be inspired. We don’t feel safe. We don’t feel like we have a government that actually has its own citizens in its interest.
“And tonight, we heard those things.”
Ben Kamisar contributed.