When Donald Trump appeared on stage Monday night, silhouetted like the gangly space alien at the end of Close Encounters, poised to introduce his wife, Melania, the first thing I noticed were the teleprompters that magically ascended from the stage to flank the podium.
In fact, I said out loud to no one, "She reads off a teleprompter, you notice. She's reading off a teleprompter; she always does. She really doesn't have her own words."
This, of course, was Trump's reaction following a speech by Hillary Clinton in which she, like nearly all politicians since the 1970s, read her remarks from a teleprompter. Ultimately, it shouldn't matter whether a speaker uses notecards or a teleprompter. Most speeches aren't entirely memorized and references to notes are standard for anyone, much less presidents of the United States. Come to think of it, reading from a teleprompter isn't the easiest task in the world and requires considerable practice. It's not necessarily a free pass to a flawless presentation.
Nevertheless, by ridiculing Hillary, and especially President Obama's use of a teleprompter for the last eight years, Trump and the Republicans ought to avoid the apparatuses like the plague for fear of appearing hypocritical. They clearly won't, though. Better yet, anyone who hasn't been fully indoctrinated into the Fox News cult should at least wonder why their guy gets to use one, but the current president and current Democratic nominee are forbidden -- the latter having most recently been accused of not having "her own words."
Yet there they were: hundreds of white people, complete with shit-eating grins, staring longingly at their clown-haired nominee and his teleprompter anyway -- this joke of a candidate who, by the way, insists that he "has the best words." Did they not see the irony of Trump using a teleprompter in order to remind himself to say, "We're gonna win so big," over and over? And, by Tuesday morning, Day Two of the convention, do they not see the irony in the fact that Melania Trump not only used a teleprompter, but that two key sections of her speech were lifted directly from Michelle Obama's 2008 convention address?
Why? Because it's not a scandal if a Republican does it. But if the African-American liberal does it, he's a cheater who's worthy of impeachment for his high crimes against... memorizing? The same thing goes for wearing tan suits, or remaining on vacation during a major new event, or propping his feet on the Resolute Desk -- three high crimes of which other presidents, including Ronald Reagan, have also been guilty. Though Reagan was a white conservative, so it's okay.
Melania Trump, along with the Trump writing staff, won't be held accountable for literally not having their own words, while Hillary Clinton, who didn't plagiarize anyone, as far as we know, will be perpetually vilified for using teleprompters by the same throng of cult-followers who are, at this very moment, defending Melania and the Trump campaign for possibly the biggest convention gaffe of the modern era.
This, however, isn't the scary part.
What's become abundantly clear in the last several months is that Trump, if elected, will be granted the latitude by his loyalists to do just about anything he chooses. Not unimportantly, many of the aforementioned loyalists will be conservative entertainment complex A-listers with very big microphones. At the end of the day, no matter what Trump attempts to get away with, the conservative media will backstop him by tenaciously running interference: dutifully injecting more than a little reasonable doubt and projection into the news cycle. Tuesday morning, for example, Chris Christie told CNN that Melania's speech wasn't stolen because 93 percent of it was original. I'm not making that up. I wonder if Christie, while serving as U.S. attorney, was as forgiving to the criminals he prosecuted. I'm guessing no.
Regardless, Trump will be allowed to get away with just about anything. What's to keep Trump from ignoring the will of the Supreme Court? Or Congress? Or international treaties? "It's not illegal if the president does it," Richard Nixon once said. But Nixon didn't enjoy the benefits of a complicit news media and a derangement-suffering population of disgruntled baby-boomers to run interference for him. Trump has both.
The Melania plagiarism scandal isn't a tempest in a teacup. It's a massive red flag, illustrating both Trump's incompetence and the incompetence of his hand-picked staff who deliberately sabotaged his own wife; as well as illustrating the means by which he'll be allowed to get away with murder, or worse. Voters and participants alike would do well to take this one seriously. Ignoring the plagiarism story as an isolated incident is, at best, perilous.