Before I get to the final day of life in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention, first a retrospective note: Remember that time Ted Cruz stole the show by not endorsing Donald Trump during his big RNC speech? When was that again? Oh, right -- Wednesday night. (Seems so long ago now.) Well, on Thursday afternoon I attended a Politico Live panel moderated by Politico's Susan Glasser and Glenn Thrush -- this week Politico took over the 21st floor of Cleveland's historic Huntington Building to create a rather impressive temporary hangout and event space -- and Ted Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe was one of the panelists.
"We were grateful that Donald reached out and offered a slot," Roe said of Cruz's primetime platform, but, he added, "It was never part of the consideration to endorse." So there you have it: Cruz's people knew what he was doing, and the Trump camp knew what Cruz was doing, and the Cruz-related chaos was welcomed onto the RNC stage by Donald Trump himself.
Speaking of Politico, one of the top stories on its site this morning is headlined "The one word media outlets are using to describe Trump's speech."
Spoiler: The word is "dark."
And what made it even darker was that the speakers leading up to Trump's convention-closing speech were generally not as apocalyptic as many of the speakers from the three previous days. Silicon Valley billionaire and Gawker-destroyer Peter Thiel, for instance, took the stage and said "I am proud to be gay. I am proud to be a Republican. But most of all I am proud to be an American" -- and the crowd at the Quicken Loans Arena, aka the Q, erupted into cheers and applause and a brief chant of "USA! USA! USA!"
Billionaire real estate investor and longtime FOD (Friend of Donald) Tom Barrack offered a rambling set of stories about what a swell guy Donald Trump is. The exceedingly poised Ivanka Trump, in her speech, made her dad sound both statesmanly and heroic, telling us, "No one has more faith in the American people than my father. He will be your greatest, your truest and your most loyal champion."
And then, Donald Trump came out and... damn.
At the Quicken Loans Arena, unless you were a delegate on the convention floor, you were generally pretty far away from the speakers on stage. They were the alpha ants addressing a swarm of ants decked out in red, white and blue, and cowboy hats, and goofy, floppy elephant caps. And so from your arena seat, you mostly took in the speeches by glancing up at one of the giant monitors offering a close-up view.
But Donald Trump was different. His trademark Trumpian gesticulation -- with his right hand, mostly -- was metronomic and mesmerizing, and it kept on drawing my eye to Trump the man, on stage, rather than the Trump on one of the big screens. And occasionally Trump would take a little victory lap after landing an applause line -- he'd walk away from the podium and even briefly turn his back to the crowd. From my aerial view, from my arena seat, it looked like a tiger pacing his cage.
Now and again he called forth a lynch-mob vibe in describing his rival -- e.g., "This is the legacy of Hillary Clinton: death, destruction, terrorism and weakness" -- which prompted the "Lock her up!" chant that was a recurring theme of the week. But mostly he asserted himself as the necessarily authoritarian leader who will right all of the wrongs of a nation that's gone badly off the rails. "Crime and violence will come to an end... Safety will be restored!," he yelled, and the crowd in the Q erupted in worshipful applause and cheers.
Back in March, the pro-Trump New York Post (a Murdoch newspaper) ran a story headlined "Donald Trump speaks like a fourth-grader," citing a linguistic study of Trump's utterances on the campaign trail conducted by Wired magazine. The Post admiringly summarized Wired's findings thusly: "Donald Trump connects with voters by using simple, commanding language that even a fourth-grader could understand, a report finds. ... A commonly used formula for assessing reading skills shows the GOP front-runner consistently speaking at a fourth-grade level."
At the RNC, with dead-simple lines like "I'm going to turn our bad trade agreements into great trade agreements," Donald Trump owned the room. He owned the convention. He owned the Republican party (for the night, at least).
And then... that inexplicable, but perhaps telling, exit music. The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" pumped into the arena at a volume so loud I could feel it in my molars as nets holding thousands of red, white and blue balloons released their bounty onto the exuberant RNC delegates.
No, you can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometime, well you might find
You get what you need.
The Rolling Stones have previously demanded that Trump never again use their music after his campaign made unauthorized use of this exact song on the campaign trail.
But no matter. Donald Trump always gets what he wants.
Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.