Yesterday, having read an advance copy of Trump’s convention speech, I pronounced it “really good,” and said that it made me think for the first time that he might win in November.
That was the speech on paper. The one he actually delivered was not the same speech. It had big parts of the published version, but it seemed that he broke it up with constant riffing that dissipated its force.
He got the same message out, but unlike the written version, it had little coherence. It sounded like an angry man ranting (“And another thing…”). I gave up on the speech at one point. We were something like 40 minutes into the thing, and I knew how much more he had to go to complete the script. Couldn’t take any more of that guy shouting at me.
Trump might yet win, because he has powerful themes to work with. But after last night, watching him screw up the most important speech of his life with his inability to stay focused, I am much less confident in his ability to make the sale to the American people. Last night was his golden opportunity to re-introduce himself for the fall campaign. Had he simply stuck to the script that had been written for him, he would have made a strong impression.
But it would have been a false impression. What we got last night was the real Trump: a man so in love with the sound of his own voice that he can’t control himself when it counts. His personal lack of discipline is going to sink him in the general.
What did you think?
UPDATE: Reading the comments, I think some of you are missing my point. I don’t expect Trump to be Cicero. But the delivery is the message here. The fact that Trump could not do something as simple as stick to the speech he was supposed to give, and instead went off on a long, meandering rant, tells us something important about the man and the kind of leader he would be. Reading the advance copy of the speech was one thing; listening to how he riffed incessantly off of it in the actual delivery was very much another. It was like listening to a shouted recitation of a tweetstorm. It did not cohere, and that tells us something about Trump’s scattered, impulsive mind. Sure, no politician at his level writes his own speeches. But the fact that Trump could not remain disciplined long enough to give the most important speech of his life, and instead drifted off into ranting, gives an important clue into the kind of leader he would be.
The ability to communicate clearly and persuasively is a critical component of leadership in an age of mass media. Trump knows how to communicate in the sense of pushing buttons inside people who tend to agree with him already, and activating their passions. But that’s where it stops.