Trump's missed opportunity

Story highlights

  • The Republican Party's convention is taking place this week in Cleveland
  • Raul Reyes: This was an evening aimed squarely at a narrow audience, namely the GOP base

Raul A. Reyes, an attorney and member of the USA Today board of contributors, writes frequently for CNN Opinion. Follow him on Twitter @RaulAReyes. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)Take two. The second night of the Republican National Convention was a chance to get past the messiness of Day 1, which began with a floor fight over rules and ended with allegations of plagiarism by Melania Trump. Tuesday's theme was "Make America Work Again," and the Republican National Committee and Trump's campaign were tasked with showing how Trump will get America working again, and to present a unified party showcase.

So, how did they do? Well, let's just say the results were decidedly mixed.
    There was little discussion about how, exactly, to get America working again. And at times there seemed to be an absence of mentions of the name of the nominee himself. Instead we heard long screeds against Hillary Clinton. So much so that the theme of the evening might better be described as "Hate Hillary Clinton Again."
    Raul Reyes
    Tiffany Trump made her solo debut on the national scene and seemed like a level-headed, perfectly pleasant young woman. Just mentioning that her father checked her report cards as a child (although she was raised in Los Angeles by Trump's second wife, Marla Maples) reminded viewers that the bombastic Trump is a real person. Tiffany Trump spoke from the heart, and it worked.
    Donald Trump's own appearance in a brief, bellicose video address, was wholly unnecessary. He is a candidate who cannot bear to cede the spotlight to others. If he appears again on Wednesday, it could potentially diminish the impact of his acceptance of the nomination on Thursday.
    The low point of the evening was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's speech. After mentioning his 14-year friendship with Trump and declaring him a "caring, genuine and decent person," Christie launched into a mock trial, of sorts, of Clinton. "Let's do something fun tonight," he said, "Let's hold Hillary Clinton accountable for her performance and character."
    CNN Opinion commentators on the RNC

    Yet except for the most diehard members of the Republican base, the ensuing spectacle was certainly not fun. As Christie went through a number of alleged Clinton policy failures, the roar of the crowd chanting, "Lock her up!" was ugly. It was unseemly for Christie, a former federal prosecutor, to be engaging in a literal form of mob justice; several commentators on social media compared the scene to the Salem Witch Trials.
    It was also ironic considering that the (very real) investigation into "Bridgegate" is ongoing; one of Christie's formerly closest associates just pleaded guilty to felony charges of abuse of power at a state agency.
    The most effective speech of the evening came from Donald Trump Jr. He was strong, confident, passionate -- and he actually talked about his father. He spoke about a man who was kind and caring and compassionate, one who bears little resemblance to candidate Trump. He spoke about his father's business successes and the bond with his workers. (There was, of course, no mention of Trump's documented history of alleged failure to pay vendors, bankruptcies and hiring foreign workers. Details, details.)
    The weirdest moment of the night was when Dr. Ben Carson linked Hillary Clinton and -- Lucifer. Yes, he went there. He drew the comparisons based on Clinton's college thesis, which was about Saul Alinsky, who once wrote a book with a preface that -- Oh, never mind. The less said about this embarrassing incident the better. Carson and many of the other speakers failed to grasp that attacking Hillary Clinton is not the same as making a strong case for Donald Trump.
    Scheduling-wise, it was beyond strange that the final address of the night went to Kimberlin Brown of "The Young & The Restless" and "The Bold & The Beautiful." Since she mentioned owning an avocado farm and "assorted other enterprises" with her husband, can it be presumed that she was chosen to represent small-business owners? Maybe she was chosen to help Trump with his dismal numbers with women? Still, the sight of a woman most people know -- if at all -- as the villainous Sheila Carter from daytime TV discoursing on trade policy was bizarre.
    Overall, this was an evening aimed squarely at a narrow audience, namely the GOP base. There was next to nothing presented in terms of ideas that might appeal to independents and moderates, whom Trump will need to win. In this sense the evening was a failure. Most importantly, what was missing Tuesday night was any discussion of policy ideas or proposed solutions that a President Trump would offer -- a squandered opportunity for the candidate and his party. It was a night long on anger and short on answers.