How Donald Trump's speech sets a trap for Hillary Clinton

Story highlights

  • Tim Stanley: Some will say Trump's speech was pessimistic, but it showcased themes people want from him, delivered like shouted tweets
  • He says with his strong law and order theme, he has set a trap for Hillary Clinton. How will she respond?

Timothy Stanley, a conservative, is a historian and columnist for Britain's Daily Telegraph. He is the author of "Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between L.A. and D.C. Revolutionized American Politics." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

Cleveland (CNN)Donald Trump said, "I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States"... and Alice woke up to discover that her adventures in Wonderland were but a dream.

Or rather not. This is real. This has happened. Donald J. Trump has been nominated by the GOP. And he probably can win in November, too.
    He delivered a speech unlike any I've ever seen. The cadence was uniform -- a series of tweets shouted at the top of his voice as if trying to be heard over the whirring blades of his helicopter. Trump even delivers the word "peace" like it's a threat.
    Critics will call it doom laden and pessimistic, lacking in humor or charm.
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    But that is Trump's charm. He says what millions think without wasting time on folksy platitudes. He was well controlled - rather than join in with the "lock her up" chant, he urged the crowd to beat Clinton at the ballot box. And his improvised line about how nice it was to hear the GOP cheer gay rights showed a party turning a page. Love him or loathe him, Trump is winding down the religious right rhetoric in the Republican Party.
    But if the rest of the speech sounded furious it's because that's the way he's going to win. This was a laundry list of everything anyone has ever told me was wrong with the USA in the past decade: crime, terrorism, jobs, disrespect overseas. Trump cuts through. He gets instinctively what's grinding people's gears. And where Reagan offered the hope of personal ambition, Trump promises law and order. At this moment in time, with the American Dream so broken, "security" will do.
    It was the crescendo to a day four of the Republican National Convention that had started terribly, with Ted Cruz justifying his non-endorsement to the Texas delegation live on TV. Why did he hold back the night before? To be precise, his disagreements with Trump are philosophical. But his reason for breaking the pledge of loyalty to the GOP ticket turns out to be personal. Cruz said: "I wasn't going to come like a servile puppy dog and say thank you very much for maligning my wife and father."
    For this I believe Cruz deserves tremendous respect and admiration. Trump, meanwhile, is paying the price for the ugly campaign he ran in the primaries. There was no reason to imply that Cruz's wife was ugly or mad, or that Cruz's father was involved in the assassination of JFK.
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    That said, I interviewed dozens of delegates in various delegations here -- including Texas -- and found that the overwhelming majority were either sanguine about the whole Cruz affair or sympathetic to Trump. Having committed themselves to the nominee, they now want to see him win. Yet again Trump is being shielded by the very establishment mentality that he once ran against.
    And the last night went rather well. Real estate investor Thomas Barrack's speech was compared to a drunk bore at a wedding reception -- I think they started playing the music before he'd actually finished.
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    Ivanka Trump, however, was splendid. There was an intake of breath when she walked on to the stage, deference to her unreal beauty, while the words and delivery revealed a razor sharp mind. Trump has deployed his family well at this convention. They haven't softened him, but they have impressed the reviewers and, as Mike Pence said, "you can't fake good kids."
    With Trump's fiery speech tonight, one can now see the genius of his strategy: it's so bold that Hillary has to respond to it. And how? She has chosen to side with Black Lives Matter. Does she repudiate them? Or does she, in turn, double-down ideologically and defend liberalism? Trump has set her a trap. And on law and order and national security, I suspect she can't win.
    Trump can, though.