I didn’t watch the convention yesterday. Mega-busy—and also there’s a limit to the number of political speeches I can stomach, and that limit has always been set very very low.
Even though I didn’t watch the speeches, having read the commentary I have to say that a convention should be a showcase for a party, but it should also have a trajectory that builds to the best of all: the candidate. It should not cause people to sigh and moan, “Oh, I wish he (or she) was the nominee instead,” nearly every time someone other than the nominee gives a speech. This convention always threatened to present viewers with the latter situation, and that’s the way it seems to be shaping up so far.
As for Melania Trump’s speech—when I glanced at Memeorandum earlier today, it still was the lead story with multiple articles on how awful her plagiarism was. I already have written what I think of the whole ridiculous brouhaha, and in that post one of the many things that I mentioned sometimes happened with actual plagiarism (in connection with academics) is that it is a result of careless error. Today we learn that this was the case with Melania’s speechwriter:
[Meredith] McIver helped Melania Trump write the speech, and said in the statement that she included lines from Michelle Obama’s speech by mistake after Melania Trump read them to her over the phone.
“Over the phone, she read me some passages from Mrs. Obama’s speech as examples. I wrote them down and later included some of the phrasing in the draft that ultimately became the final speech. I did not check Mrs. Obama’s speeches,” McIver said in the statement. “This was my mistake, and I feel terrible for the chaos I have caused Melania and the Trumps, as well as to Mrs. Obama. No harm was meant.”
She said that she offered her resignation from the Trump Organization, but that the Trump family rejected it.
“Mr. Trump told me that people make innocent mistakes and that we learn and grow from these experiences,” she said.
Sounds very plausible to me.
The article also mentioned that McIver is a former ballet dancer turned writer. Oh my! I apologize to the world on behalf of all former ballet dancers turned writers. We are indeed a sorry bunch.
Ah, but there’s no way the foaming-at-the-mouth Trump-haters (I can’t stand Trump, but I don’t hate either him or his wife) will let it pass. Not even the fact that the story revealed that Melania admires Michelle Obama was enough. The comments at that article I just linked are now focusing on the fact that Melania said she wrote the speech (actually she said she wrote it “with as little help as possible”), that McIver was really just the fall guy, as well as the fact that the Trump camp initially denied the words had been copied. Of all their sins, that is probably so small as to be non-existent—after all, I would imagine it took even McIver a while to figure out it was copied, since it was inadvertant, so how could they immediately know?
Anyway, I’ve spent way too much time on this topic as it is. But before I leave, I have to add something I had written late last night, when the origins of Melania’s “plagiarism” were still a mystery, and it was thought that perhaps a mole in the Trump speechwriting camp was the culprit. I was going to write that perhaps this mole had “Mrs. Danversed” Melania.
For those of you who don’t get the reference, Mrs. Danvers was a character in Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation of the Daphne DuMaurier novel Rebecca. The movie was one of my favorites when I was in my early teens; it used to play all the time on television. The plot features a very rich man (played by Laurence Olivier) who has been widowed. On holiday in Monte Carlo, he falls in love with a very shy and naive young woman (Joan Fontaine) who is working as a companion to a rich and obnoxious American lady. He sweeps her off her feet and then sweeps her away to his huge British estate, where an enormous staff is present to wait on them hand and foot. This makes her very uncomfortable because she feels incredibly awkward in this unaccustomed milieu, and she is especially upset by the constant comparisons with her beautiful, sophisticated, and much-admired deceased predecessor, Rebecca, to whom she feels indescribably inferior.
To make matters worse, Rebecca’s extremely devoted (to say the least) former ladies’ maid Mrs. Danvers (played by Judith Anderson) is ensconced as the head housekeeper who hates the newcomer and resents her very presence. The new lady of the house wants to revive the fancy dress balls that once were the talk of the county, and as the following scene opens she has convinced her husband Max (Olivier, grayed up a bit to look older) to say yes to giving the lavish costume party. That means she has to come up with a costume.
I’ve cued up the scene; it lasts about 8 minutes:
That scene used to fill me with horror when I would watch it as a child: her innocent excitement and joy, followed by the terrible and completely puzzling reaction from her husband, and then the dawning realization of how she was set up. And actress Judith Anderson—well, just perfect.
[ADDENDUM: It strikes me—and not for the first time, either—that Trump, who became very famous on TV for a show that featured him saying “You’re fired!” to someone at the end of every segment, in real life seems less likely to fire people (particularly those who have worked for him a while) than most politicians are, not more. Whether this is a good or a bad thing I’m not sure; depends on the people, I suppose.]