On Tuesday, former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN that Paul Manafort should be fired. Obviously he had reasons to want the man who helped engineer his own demise to be dumped. But there are many good reasons to show Manafort the door.
Even before the Republican National Convention had opened earlier this week in Cleveland, Manafort insulted Ohio Gov. John Kasich, saying he was being “petulant” for refusing to endorse Trump and attend the convention. Ignoring the crucial importance of Ohio, Manafort called the governor’s absence “a dumb, dumb, dumb thing.” Ohio has 18 electoral votes, only four states have more.
One of Kasich’s advisers repaid Manafort, saying the lobbyist who has represented repressive regimes and shady interests spent “years on the lam with thugs and autocrats.” Manafort lobbied for twice-ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, long accused of extensive corruption. He also lobbied for Ferdinand Marcos, the former dictator of the Philippines. In Cleveland, Manafort may have had a hand in watering down the anti-Vladimir Putin language in the party platform, something that could haunt Trump in debates.
Lewandowski’s demand that Manafort leave came after Melania Trump’s much-maligned RNC speech, which contained plagiarized passages from First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic convention speech. For days, Manafort (and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie) defied the facts and denied there was plagiarism, then blamed Hillary Clinton and the media. Then a party hack claimed the words could be found in the children’s story “My Little Pony.” Then the campaign ponied up two staffers hired by a Trump family member. Finally, two days later, the campaign admitted the truth. We now are told that the duplication was the handiwork of a 65-year-old former ballerina and occasional Trump writer.
Manafort has managed to stage a four-day infomercial for the so-called Master of Marketing that barely mentioned the Master’s name. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s speech said Hillary Clinton’s name 24 times and Donald Trump’s five. Who’s looking at what’s on the teleprompters? Obviously not Paul Manafort.
Manafort claimed he didn’t know what Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was going to do when he gave a long, tortured speech in which he pointedly didn’t endorse Trump.
“I saw his speech two hours early,” Trump tweeted, “but let him speak anyway. No big deal!”
Delegates from Trump’s home state of New York remembered how Cruz had snidely told Iowans that they had different (read: better) values than New Yorkers. They gave Cruz a Big Apple raspberry and the booing spread and dominated the news the day after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence gave his first address as Trump’s vice presidential candidate.
Besides the “Lock her up!” refrain, which made the delegates sound like a lynch mob, Manafort had to know -- or should have known -- that grief-stricken Patricia Smith would make a distressing claim. Her son was killed when when the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi was attacked in 2012. “I blame Hillary Clinton for my son’s death!” she cried. Secretary of State Clinton was in Washington at the time of the attack, and CBS News found the military decided not to intervene when the diplomatic post was under attack.
Rules and delegate relations are the manager’s job. On the very first day of the convention, Manafort managed to create a near riot when delegates were enraged that convention rules were passed by a dubious voice vote. When Never Trump delegates tried to protest, the chairman at the podium suddenly left the stage. In a made-for-TV moment, the former attorney general of Virginia then tore off his credentials badge, threw it on the floor, stomped on it and stormed off.
Another aspect to this amateurish convention was the choice of music, nearly all of it used without permission. The drummer for the band Queen demanded that Trump and the convention stop using “We Are the Champions.” Ditto for Adele, Aerosmith, Neil Young and REM, among others. Before the convention, the announcement of Gov. Mike Pence for VP, after Trump was turned down by Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Bob Corker of Tennessee, was greeted by an oddly apt song by the Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” The Stones likewise disapproved of this theft.
Manafort’s convention operation was unable to keep The Donald’s speech under wraps. A Democratic super PAC, Correct the Record, obtained and publicized drafts of the text hours before it was to be delivered. An unnamed Republican operative at the convention declared that Manafort and his team “just aren’t ready for prime time.”
Describing the gathering that nominated Mitt Romney “the single most boring convention I’ve ever seen,” Trump tweeted that his would be an “amazing convention.”
That it was.