RNC 2020: Melania Trump makes plea for racial harmony

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BBC.COM-US First Lady Melania Trump has made a heartfelt plea for racial unity in a live speech from the White House to the Republican party’s convention.

“Stop the violence and looting,” she said as protests continue over a police shooting in Wisconsin.

Mrs Trump urged Americans to stop making assumptions based on race and to think critically about US history.

President Donald Trump currently trails Democratic challenger Joe Biden in opinion polls for November’s election.

Mr Trump, a Republican, will address the convention’s final night on Thursday.

What did Melania Trump say?

The normally limelight-shunning Mrs Trump took centre stage at the Republican convention as she made the case for her husband’s underdog re-election bid.

The US first lady delivered Tuesday evening’s keynote address before a small audience, including her husband, in the Rose Garden of the White House.

“Like all of you, I have reflected on the racial unrest in our country,” she said.

“It is a harsh reality that we are not proud of parts of our history. I encourage you to focus on the future while still learning from the past.”

She added: “I urge people to come together in a civil manner so we can work and live up to our standard American ideals.

“I also ask people to stop the violence and looting being done in the name of justice, and never make assumptions based on the colour of a person’s skin.”

Tuesday’s convention schedule began with a prayer for Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old black man who was shot multiple times in the back by police in Wisconsin on Sunday.

Mr Trump tweeted a call for the Midwestern state’s governor to call in the National Guard as unrest continues following the shooting.

Mrs Trump also expressed compassion for Americans worried about the coronavirus outbreak.

“I know many people are anxious,” she said. “Some feel helpless. I want you to know you’re not alone.”

What did she say about the president?

In her speech, Mrs Trump praised her husband as a someone who “makes no secrets about how he feels about things”.

“Total honesty is what we as citizens deserve from our president. Whether you like it or not you always know what he’s thinking.”

She said she and her husband were inspired by American working families, whom she praised as “the backbone of this country”.

“No matter the amount of negative or false media headlines or attacks from the other side, Donald Trump has not and will not lose focus on you,” she added.

Her decision to speak from the seat of presidential power has angered Democrats, who say the chosen venue is an inappropriate use of government resources.

Red meat for the base

If the first night of the Republican National Convention was about addressing the president’s perceived weaknesses among American voters – on the coronavirus pandemic, racial issues and overall empathy – Tuesday focused on motivating his base, from anti-abortion activists to Christian conservatives.

Meanwhile, the president flexed his executive powers from the White House in two extraordinary norm-stretching bits of political theatre – issuing a pardon and taking part in a naturalisation ceremony.

First Lady Melania Trump wrapped up the evening from the newly renovated Rose Garden. She was one of the few to directly express sympathy to those who have suffered from Covid-19.

Unless something changes in the coming months, the coronavirus will be at the top of voters’ minds when they cast their ballots.

And while red meat for the base is useful, public perception of the president’s handling of the virus – and its economic fallout – will factor heavily in deciding his political fate.

Who else spoke on Tuesday?

The second night – which was designed around the theme of “Land of Opportunity” – also heard from the president’s children, Eric and Tiffany Trump.

Eric railed against “radical Democrats” – a theme of the convention so far.

“They want to disrespect our National Anthem by taking a knee,” he said, “while our armed forces lay down their lives every day to protect our freedom.”

He accused Mr Biden of planning to defund law enforcement, though the Democratic nominee has unveiled no such proposal.

Tiffany, Mr Trump’s daughter with his second wife Marla Maples, accused the media and tech companies of keeping Americans “mentally enslaved”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a pre-recorded speech from Israel, praising the president’s “America First vision”.

Normally, the nation’s top diplomat does not attend political conventions, and critics called his participation unethical.

Where was President Trump?

Though he is not scheduled to deliver his keynote address to the convention until its final night, Mr Trump played a major role in Tuesday’s schedule, just as he did on the opening day.

The conference featured footage of the president earlier on Tuesday pardoning a bank robber, Jon Ponder, a black man who founded a charity that helps convicts reintegrate into society.

In another surprise moment of the night, Mr Trump appeared live from the White House to preside over a naturalisation ceremony for new US immigrants.

Critics said the segment was hypocritical, as Mr Trump has taken steps during his presidency to restrict legal immigration, as well as crack down on illegal immigration.

How did Democrats react?

Democrats on Tuesday criticised Republican attempts during Monday night’s convention to argue that the president has done a good job handling the coronavirus outbreak.

The Democrats said Mr Trump was to blame for Covid-19 killing more than 177,000 Americans – more than any other country in the world.

Former US Vice-President Al Gore, a Democrat, said Mr Trump was trying to “put his knee on the neck of democracy” by criticising mail-in ballots and questioning the election’s integrity.

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