The Republican National Convention is underway in Cleveland, Ohio, where presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump is expected to accept the party nomination Thursday. McCracken County Commissioner and retired Paducah Sun journalist Bill Bartleman is a delegate attending the convention. He speaks with Matt Markgraf about the discord on the floor over a roll-call vote, speeches from "Making America Safe Again," the Kentucky delegation and an effort underway to bring someone from Trump's campaign to Fancy Farm.
Bill Bartleman says the evening speeches set a tone for unifying the Republican Party behind Donald Trump. He said the unification appears to be coming from the anti-Hillary Clinton rhetoric. Most of the night was centered on theme, with a focus on military, security and Benghazi.
He says the the stage was set for Trump Thursday night and it was a particularly "electrifying moment" when Trump took the stage to introduce his wife, Melania.
Though unification appeared to be theme, there was somewhat of a revolt on the convention floor Monday over an effort to adopt the rules as recommended. Bartleman says there were two factions that protested: one that was anti-Trump who wanted to keep him from getting the nomination and to change the rules to allow delegates to change their votes. The other was to change technical rules for the primary process in four years or eight years. He says the Texas group was interested in this change to make some way for Ted Cruz in the future.
Bartleman says there was a lot of shouting, members of the Colorado delegation threw their credentials on the floor and walked out. He says, however, there were no other efforts to change routine business.
Some of the stand-out speakers in the evening, Bartleman says, included former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He says Giuliani's speech was rousing and one of his best, addressing security issues and work by the New York police force to reduce crime in the city.
He says the best speech of the evening was given by former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who made a case for a changing military and how he wanted it to be strong again.
Other moments that stood out included a short film about Benghazi, two soldiers to discussed difficulty in getting support from the Obama administration and an impassioned speech by one of the mothers of a victim from the Bengahzi attack. Bartleman says it's one thing to hear Trump and others accuse Hillary Clinton of lying, but found it different to hear from someone who claims she was lied to.
Regarding Melania Trump's speech, Bartleman says while sitting on the floor listening to it, he didn't know about the controversy (over allegedly taking portions of Michelle Obama's 2008 speech). He says he doesn't know if she did or didn't, but says, "it may be hard for me to believe that somebody would go in there and take word for word because of the easiness it is to check it nowadays with the internet and all."
Bartleman is attending a rally of southern states today at FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns. He says security is very tight, reminding of him of the time he covered Baghdad as a reporter with the Paducah Sun. He says only buses are allowed into blockaded security zones. He hasn't seen any protesters, but remarked that he's seen police officers from Ohio and surrounding states.
The theme tonight is "Make America Work Again."
Kentucky Delegation & Fancy Farm
At the discord during the roll-call vote, Bartleman says he didn’t see anyone from the commonwealth calling for a roll-call vote or a change to the rules. "They all realize now that we only have two choices for president. And most of them are getting behind Trump and do what they can to help Trump and support him. And I think Kentucky has turned pretty conservative in the presidential elections, so I think it's pretty clear that Trump will win Kentucky," he says.
While Ted Cruz came in a close second and won most of the Jackson Purchase in the Kentucky GOP Caucus last March, Bartleman says the mood among delegates is that Trump came through as the winner in the democratic process and to change that now would be “a revolt that doesn’t need to happen.”
He says he and a few others from western Kentucky are making a longshot case for a high profile to visit the Fancy Farm picnic in Graves County. "I don't want to make an announcement that it will happen because it's pretty remote, but there's two or three of us working on that right now and making contacts with people. And I talked to somebody yesterday with a close tie into the Trump administration and I'm going to send them an email and background on Fancy Farm today to try to get them to be there."
Bartleman says they aren't asking for Donald Trump to visit rural western Kentucky, but perhaps one of his children. He says one of the challenges in getting someone on the national political stage to Kentucky is that it has largely turned Republican and isn’t considered a battleground state. One of the cases he’s trying to make for Fancy Farm is that it tends to get media coverage from the surrounding states. Fancy Farm is an annual political picnic that often features old-time stump speeches accompanied by heated political rhetoric.
We'll speak with Bill Bartleman throughout the week for more on his experience at the RNC. Next week, we'll speak with a delegate from our region going to the Democratic National Convention.