Trump rips rival Biden as destroyer of American 'greatness'
President Donald Trump tore into his election challenger Joe Biden as a threat to the "American Dream" in a bruising speech Thursday accepting the Republican nomination for a second term against a backdrop of racial tensions and the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
The former celebrity real estate developer spoke at a grandiose event staged at the White House -- the first time a president has ever held a party convention at the executive mansion -- and followed up with a vast fireworks display on the National Mall.
In his 70-minute address, Trump went after Biden as hard as he could, attacking him by name dozens of times in an attempt to define the veteran centrist former vice president, who leads in polls ahead of the November 3 election, as a radical leftist.
"No one will be safe in Biden's America," he said.
"He's the destroyer of America's jobs and given the chance, he'll be the destroyer of American greatness."
The relentless verbal assault contrasted with Biden's own acceptance speech at the Democratic nomination last week, which lasted only 25 minutes and, while delivering caustic critiques of the Trump presidency, avoided mentioning his name.
Despite Trump's warnings of chaos, his bid for reelection is already taking place amid levels of turmoil the country hasn't seen for decades.
Covid-19 has killed more than 180,000 Americans so far, while the nation's painful reckoning over racial justice was playing out outside the White House where a Black Lives Matter protest, complete with shouting and vuvuzela trumpets, was audible inside the fences.
- Trampling over etiquette -
Trump spoke from the White House's South Lawn, which he had transformed into a flashy event center for the final night of the Republican convention.
Trampling over long-running presidential custom to separate the so-called "people's house" from political campaigning, Trump had some 1,500 white chairs laid out in front of the stage bedecked with rows of US flags and two giant video screens.
The immense fireworks displayed featured Trump's name written in fiery letters in the sky.
Before Trump appeared from the White House in a made-for-Hollywood moment alongside his wife Melania, warm-up speakers including his powerful daughter Ivanka prepped the message of Democratic mayhem.
And when Trump finally came to deliver the main speech, he did not hold back.
"If the left gains power, they will demolish the suburbs, confiscate your guns," he said, branding Biden as a man with a history of "betrayals" and "blunders."
Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak said the party had hit the right buttons at its four-day convention. "Trump significantly broadened his coalition this week. He will get a considerable polling bump," he tweeted.
- Law and order? -
The hardline message comes as the country reels in shock at the videotaped shooting by a police officer of an African American man during an attempted arrest in front of his children -- and at the sometimes violent protests erupting afterward.
Days of demonstrations and rioting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, have transformed the small town into a national arena for America's tensions over racial justice, police violence, and gun rights. When a teenaged vigilante -- reportedly a Trump fan -- allegedly killed two people and seriously wounded a third at a protest Tuesday night, the perfect storm was complete.
Struggling in opinion polls after what almost two-thirds of Americans say is his unsatisfactory handling of the Covid-19 crisis, Trump is latching on to what he calls the "law and order" strategy.
Democrats assert that police forces across the country are plagued by institutional racism. Trump is leading Republican pushback, banking on the idea that Americans will be angrier at scenes of rioting than at police abuses.
"If Biden is elected, along with the Democrats who are unwilling to speak out against this anarchy, then the crime wave will intensify and spread from cities and towns to suburbs and beyond," Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and current personal lawyer to Trump, said in his warm-up speech.
"When President Trump is re-elected the damage will stop," he said.
- Milking the violence? -
In addition to soaring racial tensions, the United States is still struggling to master the coronavirus outbreak or get schools and businesses back fully open.
But Trump emphasized what he said had been his administration's constant success, predicting a vaccine would be available "this year."
"Together we will crush the virus," he said.
At the Republicans' South Lawn party, there was no effort to enforce social distancing and many people did not wear masks.
"He views this as a political benefit to him," Biden told MSNBC on Thursday. "He is rooting for more violence, not less. He is pouring gasoline on the fire."
Ivanka makes case for four more years
Ivanka Trump, the omnipresent first daughter who may harbor White House ambitions of her own, has remained her president father's loyal senior advisor, seeking to humanize him Thursday as she introduced the "warrior" standing for reelection in November.
Of Donald Trump's five children, Ivanka was the only one invited to address the final night of the Republican National Convention -- interpreted as a sign of the president's closeness to her.
But if Ivanka Trump is presenting herself as the heir apparent carrying the family political banner into 2024 and beyond, she has competition from her older brother Donald Jr, who is a political force unto himself.
The telegenic 38-year-old Ivanka relished her repeat role at the Republican National Convention, recalling how she took the stage as a relative newcomer to national politics in 2016 when she introduced her father as the party's nominee.
"Four years ago I told you I would fight alongside my father, and four years later here I am," she said.
With a recording of Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" blaring, she strode out to cheers from more than 1,000 non-social-distancing guests packed into seats on the South Lawn of the White House.
She appeared comfortable and confident as she proclaimed "the people's president" as a man of conviction who would once again be a champion of the American worker, "our voice for the forgotten men and women" of the United States.
"Now more than ever, America needs four more years of a warrior in the White House," she said to a roar, before addressing her father directly.
"Dad, people attack you for being unconventional. But I love you for being real and I respect you for being effective."
"I recognize that my dad's communication style is not to everyone's taste. And I know that his tweets can feel a bit unfiltered," she said. "But the results, the results speak for themselves."
She also painted the president as a family man who keeps her son's Lego replica of the White House in the Oval Office "to show world leaders just so they know he has the greatest grandchildren on earth."
When Trump took the stage afterwards he thanked his "amazing daughter" and asked her to stand up, as her siblings remained seated.
- 'Doing something really right' -
Accused of benefitting from a nepotistic connection to the commander in chief, Ivanka Trump holds a broad White House portfolio focusing on education, women's empowerment, job creation, workforce development and entrepreneurship.
While her husband Jared Kushner has been given his own outsized role seeking Middle East peace, Ivanka often aligns herself with key domestic initiatives of the president, as she adroitly did Thursday with Trump's bid to lower prescription drugs.
"Now, when we see attack ads from Big Pharma, my dad smiles and says to me 'You know, we're doing something really right if they're hitting us so hard,'" she said.
While she is cool elegance and soft-spoken effectiveness, an insider who hosts women's roundtables at the White House, brother Don Jr inherited their father's bombastic, rabble-rousing style.
Speaking to the convention on Monday, the son served as dutiful attack dog against his father's election rival Joe Biden, branding him the "Loch Ness monster" of the Washington swamp who "sticks his head up every now and then to run for president, then he disappears and doesn't do much in between."
He also connects on a basic, intuitive level with Trump voters, often taking to conservative radio and other media to blast Democrats and convince working-class Americans that his father deserves their vote.