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One of the Truly Awful and Self-Indulgent Performances of Our Time’: The Best and Worst Moments From Night 4 of the Convention

Opinion | ‘It Was Trump Untethered’: Best and Worst Moments From His Acceptance Speech - The New York Times

“One of the Truly Awful and Self-Indulgent Performances of Our Time’: The Best and Worst Moments From Night 4 of the Convention

A photo illustration of Donald Trump in black and white, with colored circles around him.
Illustration by The New York Times

By New York Times Opinion

← Hurt

Did the night help Trump?

Helped →

Welcome to Opinion’s commentary for Night 4 of the Republican National Convention. In this special feature, Times Opinion writers rate the evening on a scale of 0 to 10: 0 means the night was a disaster for Donald Trump; 10 means it could lead to a big polling bump. Here’s what our columnists and contributors thought of the event, which culminated in Trump’s acceptance speech.

Best Moment

Kristen Soltis Anderson, contributing Opinion writer Donald Trump gave a compelling and moving description of what it was like to be under fire and pledged to represent all of America, not just half of America. That may be easier said than done.

David Brooks, Times columnist The first 20 minutes of the Trump speech. If he’d done the story about the assassination attempt and then added 15 minutes of policy, he would be cruising toward victory. He could have plausibly argued that he is a changed man.

Jane Coaston, contributing Opinion writer Hulk Hogan’s speech was his best performance since he beat Macho Man Randy Savage at WrestleMania V.

Matthew Continetti, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute Trump’s account of the attempt on his life was gripping. He displayed a vulnerability and humility that most people had never seen before. And when he kissed the fireman’s helmet of Corey Comperatore, the husband and father who was killed during last weekend’s shooting, Trump created yet another indelible image. It won’t be soon forgotten.

David French, Times columnist Trump’s tribute to Comperatore was touching and appropriate. Placing his uniform on the stage was a powerful visual reminder of the loss.

Kenny Holston/The New York Times

Matt Labash, author of the newsletter Slack Tide Trump was somewhat muted, nice and gracious. At least while on script. Very un-Trumpy. He almost seemed humbled by being shot. Can it endure? This is Trump. Of course it can’t. It didn’t even last one-fifth of his speech. Humility is for losers in the Trumpverse. So enjoy it while it lasts. Or lasted, since it’s already over.

Katherine Mangu-Ward, editor of Reason Trump’s decision to tear up his first speech and instead open on a note of unity was the right one: “It would be very bad if I got up and started going wild about how horrible everybody is and how corrupt and crooked, even if it’s true,” he said the day after the shooting. As the speech dragged on, he drifted from that resolution.

Dan McCarthy, editor of the periodical Modern Age Eric Trump stepped into the role normally played by his father and delivered galvanizing remarks, hitting all the campaign’s key themes. With the former president resolved to show his comparatively genial and gentler side, his son had the opportunity to lead the rhetorical charge, and he excelled.

Pamela Paul, Times columnist Trump defended the Secret Service men and women who protected him after the assassination attempt, refusing to give fodder to those far-right extremists who have attacked the people risking their lives in service of public figures. This was a rare moment when Trump did the right thing.

Zeynep Tufekci, Times columnist Great evening for golf and professional wrestling! Speakers included John Nieporte, a golf professional who caddied for Trump; Carrie Ruiz, the general manager of a Trump-owned golf course; Hogan (who ripped his shirt off); and Dana White, president of the U.F.C., a mixed martial arts promotion company.

Peter Wehner, contributing Opinion writer The beginning of Trump’s speech, when he recounted the assassination attempt. Parts of it were compelling. There seemed to be genuine gratitude in him, which heretofore had been an alien emotion to Trump.

Worst Moment

Anderson Not long into Trump’s speech, the momentum slowed, and he started playing the hits, only it was the acoustic version. His whole performance felt unusually low energy and unfocused.

Charles M. Blow, Times columnist I was nearly suffocated under all the lies and gaslighting during this convention, culminating Thursday in Trump’s attempt at a tear-jerker. They all tried to convince us he was a teddy bear and not a grizzly. They tried to make us empathize with a person who lacks that impulse, who trades in deceit, cruelty and vengeance. But Trump couldn’t resist returning to his familiar darkness, thus wiping out the entire effort to rehabilitate — and hide — the real him.

Brooks The rest of the Trump speech. There is no cure for narcissism. The part after the assassination-attempt story was one of the truly awful and self-indulgent political performances of our time. My brain has been bludgeoned into soporific exhaustion.

Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Coaston Every political convention feels uncannily like a sporting event for people who tell others how much they hate sports. This one was no different.

Continetti Trump’s acceptance speech was incredibly compelling — for the first 30 minutes or so. Then he began to ramble. The address lost much of its focus and power, but the audience didn’t seem to mind.

French After the first few minutes, the rest of the speech was just as long, rambling and disjointed as a typical Trump rally. It was a greatest-hits collection of Trump talking points, but the delivery was subdued. At times, the speech was actually boring. Trump has many flaws, but he’s rarely boring. On the last night of the convention, he was.

Labash Too many to choose from. All political conventions are cringe-worthy idolatry fests. But even by those low standards, there was so much abject Trump flattery going on among his cultish speakers that if this had been Kim Jong-un’s convention, he’d have told his propagandists, “Hey, fellas, dial it back a little.”

Mangu-Ward Trump made many false claims about immigration throughout his remarks, but the most absurd was: “You know who’s taking the jobs, the jobs that are created? One hundred and seven percent of those jobs are taken by illegal aliens.”

McCarthy Mike Pompeo was not a rousing speaker. And while he faithfully recited Trump’s foreign policy accomplishments, his presence was a reminder that the last administration included many hawkish old-guard Republicans who would have been equally comfortable serving under a president named Bush.

Paul Trump’s effort to convey vulnerability rang entirely opportunist and wholly insincere. It’s hard to imagine a near-death experience could be told in a way that evoked so little emotion. Something tells me this will not, in fact, be the last time he tells the story.

Tufekci Tucker Carlson, who abruptly left Fox News amid its lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems for airing false claims about election stealing, showed up with a joke about stolen elections.

Wehner Once Trump really got going, his speech was rambling and narcissistic, filled with lies and nearly endless. It was a fusion of his stump speech and a text speech, making it incoherent and exceedingly boring. I experienced a feeling I was previously unfamiliar with: the desire to bring back Hulk Hogan.

What Else Caught Your Eye?

Anderson Trump was subdued in demeanor in the V.I.P. box. Hogan’s time onstage elicited the biggest smile all week.

Brooks Both parties are clearly working hard to lose this election. Trump’s speech has got to increase the chances that President Biden stays in the race.

Coaston Carlson described Trump as the “funniest person I’ve ever met in my life,” after saying in a text message, in 2021, “I hate him passionately,” because comedy is tragedy plus time.

Continetti The double bill of Hogan and Kid Rock made this Xennial smile.

Kenny Holston/The New York Times
Allison Dinner/EPA, via Shutterstock

French The Trump campaign is going hard for the male vote. After hearing from Hogan, Kid Rock and White, I half expected a Call of Duty streamer to come out and bring down the house.

Labash The fall-down funniest line of the night belonged to the Trump lawyer Alina Habba — resplendent in a white pantsuit — who said, “The only crime President Trump has committed is loving America.” She apparently hadn’t seen the Trump Village People “Y.M.C.A.” dance-video montage. Which made for at least two crimes.

Mangu-Ward Carlson’s dark vision of the political psyche. He riffed that Trump “turned down the most obvious opportunity in politics — to inflame the nation after being shot,” which he then called “an opportunity that almost every other politician I’ve ever met, and certainly his opponents, would have taken instantly.” Trying to keep the nation calm after an assassination attempt is the bare minimum.

McCarthy This was the convention that made pop culture great again. Hogan and Kid Rock, both in top form, brought back the cockiness that characterized the mass entertainment of a nation far less neurotic than America has lately become. Trump recognizes the power in that.

Paul The word “fight” was uttered frequently in the run-up to Trump’s speech, evoking his call to “Fight! Fight! Fight!” after a bullet grazed his ear and echoing a frequent theme in Trump’s rhetoric, as my colleague Carlos Lozada just noted. Trump rarely talks about working for America or serving it; he talks about fighting.

Tufekci The band had to play four songs to fill the dead time before Hogan’s appearance. Maybe Trump needed to invite more golf buddies. There were almost no Republican Party heavy hitters. If he wins again, few of the traditional Republicans who populated his first administration will be left to act as a brake.

Wehner Compared with Trump’s acceptance speeches in 2016 and 2020, which were unusual enough, this one was unrestrained, self-indulgent and undisciplined, radiating a sense of grievance. It was Trump untethered, which is the right way to understand what his second term would be. We can’t say we haven’t been warned.

Charles M. Blow, David Brooks, David French, Pamela Paul and Zeynep Tufekci are Times columnists.

Kristen Soltis Anderson is a contributing Opinion writer, a Republican pollster and the author of “The Selfie Vote.”

Jane Coaston is a contributing Opinion writer.

Matthew Continetti is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of “The Right: The Hundred Year War for American Conservatism.”

Matt Labash, formerly a national correspondent at The Weekly Standard, is the author of “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader” and writes the newsletter Slack Tide.

Katherine Mangu-Ward (@kmanguward) is the editor in chief of Reason magazine.

Dan McCarthy is the editor of Modern Age: A Conservative Review.

Peter Wehner is a contributing Opinion writer and the author, most recently, of “The Death of Politics.”

Source photograph by Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times.

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Additional production by Aileen Clarke“

Rachel Maddow exposes the real reason JD Vance was chosen to be Trump's ...

Opinion | What Does Trump’s Record Say About a Second Term? Nothing Good. - The New York Times

Opinion | What Does Trump’s Record Say About a Second Term? Nothing Good. - The New York Times

“01.21.2017: “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration — period.” On Mr. Trump’s first day in office, his press secretary, Sean Spicer, accuses the media of deliberately understating the size of the crowd on the National Mall, claiming — falsely — that Mr. Trump’s was the most-attended inauguration in history.

01.25.2017: Tries to defund sanctuary cities in an effort to ramp up deportations.On his fifth day in office, Mr. Trump signs a sweeping executive order focused on immigration that includes measures to withhold funds from cities whose law enforcement agencies don’t comply with federal immigration authorities. The order is later blocked in court.

01.27.2017: The Muslim ban. In an executive order, Mr. Trump closes the U.S. border to refugees fleeing war in Syria, as well as from several mostly Muslim countries. The ban is put in place with no warning, sending airports across the country into chaos and confusion.

01.28.2017: Appoints Steve Bannon, a committed dismantler of the administrative state, to the National Security Council. Mr. Bannon, a far-right agitator, is named to a council usually reserved for generals and intelligence officials, whose decisions are meant to be separate from political considerations.

02.15.2017: Abandons a decades-long commitment to a two-state solution in a news conference. Standing next to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Mr. Trump reverses a long-held position by the United States that any peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians must include a Palestinian state alongside Israel — startling the diplomatic community. “There is no Plan B to a two-state solution,” the U.N. secretary general says afterward. “Everything must be done to preserve that possibility.”

03.04.2017: Claims to have been wiretapped by the U.S. government. In a series of early morning tweets, Mr. Trump makes unsubstantiated claims about being surveilled by the Obama administration during the campaign.

05.09.2017: Fires the F.B.I. director, James Comey, who was leading an investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. In a letter, Mr. Trump claims he is acting at the behest of members of his administration who thought Mr. Comey treated Hillary Clinton unfairly. Mr. Comey finds out about his dismissal through news reports.

05.10.2017: Reveals highly classified intelligence to Russian officials. In an Oval Office meeting, Mr. Trump reportedly reveals sufficient information to endanger cooperation with the source of the intelligence, which was about a planned Islamic State operation. “I get great intel,” he boasts to the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. “I have people brief me on great intel every day.”

June 2017: Rages against immigrants, saying those from Haiti all have AIDS. In a meeting with cabinet officials, Mr. Trump ignites over the number of foreigners entering the country under his tenure. 

June 2017: Tries to fire the special counsel Robert Mueller over the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump claims, among other reasons, that Mr. Mueller has a conflict of interest, because of a 2011 dispute over fees at the Trump National Golf Club. Mr. Trump backs down after the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, threatens to resign.

06.21.2017: Sends his son-in-law to negotiate Middle East peace. Jared Kushner, who has already been granted a sizable policy portfolio in the White House, goes to Israel to take on one of the world’s most intractable conflicts. He has no prior experience in diplomacy or foreign policy.

07.26.2017: Announces a ban on transgender people in the military. Active-duty service members get the news on Twitter, leaving many unsure of their status. The ban is challenged in court.

08.15.2017: “You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.” Mr. Trump makes his infamous comments after white nationalist groups hold a march in Charlottesville, Va., that involves waving Confederate flags and swastikas and chants of “Jews will not replace us.” One person died, and dozens were injured at the rally.

08.21.2017: Everyone knows that you should never stare directly at the sun during an eclipse, right? Nope.

10.03.2017: Throws paper towels to Puerto Ricans after a deadly hurricane. Mr. Trump visits Puerto Rico two weeks after Hurricane Maria, when more than 90 percent of the island is still without electricity and some remote areas lack food, water and medical aid. The death toll in Puerto Rico from Maria eventually reaches around 3,000.

12.06.2017: Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, upending decades of U.S. policy. The status of Jerusalem was viewed an issue to be decided during peace talks. Mr. Trump says he is fulfilling a campaign promise made to, among others, evangelical voters and pro-Israel American Jews, like Sheldon Adelson, a major donor.

12.22.2017: Cuts taxes for corporations and the wealthy, sending the budget deficit skyrocketing. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act costs $1.5 trillion. From 2017 to 2018, the budget deficit grows 17 percent, largely driven by falling revenues. 

01.06.2018: “A very stable genius.” Mr. Trump sends a set of Saturday morning tweets in response to the erratic and dimwitted portrait of him painted by Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury.” “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart,” Mr. Trump writes.

01.11.2018: Wants more immigrants from Norway instead of “shithole” countries.Mr. Trump balks at a deal that would protect migrants from Haiti and Africa.

Winter 2018: Reaps financial benefits from a diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf.The governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar spend lavishly at Trump’s D.C. hotel while lobbying for the United States’ help resolving a standoff in the region. The Qataris and connected companies spend more than $300,000.

03.14.2018: Brags about making up facts in meetings with foreign leaders. At a private meeting with donors, he recounts telling Canada’s prime minister that the U.S. runs a trade deficit with its northern neighbor, even though Mr. Trump had “no idea” if this was true. (It wasn’t.)

04.15.2018: Flip-flops on sanctions for Russia over its role in Syria’s chemical weapons program. A proposal announced by Nikki Haley is immediately undercut through a phone call to the Russian Embassy. The whiplash is another marker of administration chaos.

Spring 2018: Tries to get the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and Mr. Comey. Mr. McGahn, the White House counsel, refused. Mr. Trump has said that if re-elected, he will appoint a special prosecutor to “go after” his enemies, including Joe Biden and Mrs. Clinton.

Spring 2018: Initiates family separations by executive order. Thousands of migrant children, some of them as young as just a few months old, are taken from their parents, who are detained for crossing the border illegally. The process is disorganized; efforts to reunite families are ongoing. 

May 2018: Orders top-secret clearance for Mr. Kushner, over the objections of intelligence officials. Mr. Trump overrules concerns, then claims he had no role in the decision. 

May 2018: Closes pandemic preparedness unit. The Trump White House abolishes the position of director for global health security and biodefense in the National Security Council less than two years before the Covid pandemic. Mr. Biden has created a pandemic preparedness unit, but Mr. Trump says he would abolish it again if re-elected.

05.08.2018: Unilaterally pulls out of the Iran nuclear deal. In 2019, after efforts to salvage the deal, Iran resumes high-level uranium enrichment; officials warn it now has enough material to make several nuclear bombs with further enrichment.

06.04.2018: “I have the absolute right to PARDON myself ....” Mr. Trump publicly floats the idea of pardoning himself, something he has reportedly been pondering since 2017. (Constitutional scholars do not agree on whether presidents may pardon themselves.)

Summer 2018: Escalates the trade war with China, which requires billions of dollars to fix the domestic damage. Mr. Trump’s tariffs on Chinese goods immediately hurt American farmers, so he has to spend $12 billion to help them. “You have a terrible policy that sends farmers to the poorhouse, and then you put them on welfare, and we borrow the money from other countries,” says Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee.

07.11.2018: Insults NATO allies. At a meeting of an alliance Mr. Trump has long disparaged, he accuses Germany of being “captive” to Russia and calls U.S. allies “delinquent.” Days later, he calls the European Union a “foe.”

07.16.2018: Sides with Vladimir Putin over American intelligence agencies on Russian election interference. Standing next to Russia’s president at a news conference in Helsinki, Finland, Mr. Trump says he got an “extremely strong and powerful” denial from Mr. Putin that his country had tried to influence the U.S. election. A reporter asks, “Who do you believe?” “I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia,” Mr. Trump responds, adding, “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

09.13.2018: Lies about hurricane deaths. Angry about criticism of his response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017, Mr. Trump denies that nearly 3,000 people died. “This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible,” he tweets. “I love Puerto Rico!”

10.24.2018: Continues to use his personal iPhones after warnings that they are not secure. Aides repeatedly tell Mr. Trump that Russian and Chinese spies are often listening to his phone calls. He keeps using the phones anyway.

11.10.2018: Calls American soldiers “losers” and “suckers.” Mr. Trump balks at visiting a cemetery dedicated to U.S. war dead near Paris, reportedly out of concern that the rain would leave his hair disheveled and asking, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.”

12.22.2018: Instigates the longest government shutdown ever. Mr. Trump demands $5.7 billion to pay for his border wall but can’t reach a deal with Congress for the money. More than 420,000 essential government workers, including Border Patrol officers, work without pay for 35 days, including the December holidays. The shutdown ends with him receving no border wall money.

12.28.2018: The E.P.A. proposes weakening regulations on power plants that restrict the release of mercury, which can cause brain damage. The chief executive of Murray Energy Corporation requested the rollback of the mercury rule soon after Mr. Trump took office.

02.14.2019: Moves to appoint a climate change denier to lead a climate security panel. William Happer, the appointee, has said, “More CO2 will benefit the world,” and once compared the “demonization” of CO2 to the treatment of Jews under Hitler. 

02.15.2019: Declares national emergency to get money for border wall. After his shutdown fails to secure border wall funding from Congress, Mr. Trump pursues an emergency declaration that allows him to move money from other accounts, raising questions about the constitutional separation of powers.

March 2019: Suggests shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down. Aides tell him this is illegal. 

03.20.2019: Continues to attack John McCain after his death. “I’ve never liked him much,” Mr. Trump tells an Ohio crowd, seven months after the senator’s death.

03.22.2019: Reverses North Korea sanctions by tweet … maybe. “It was announced today by the U.S. Treasury that additional large scale Sanctions would be added to those already existing Sanctions on North Korea,” Mr. Trump tweets. “I have today ordered the withdrawal of those additional Sanctions!” In addition to the policy muddle he generates by overruling his own Treasury Department, there is confusion over what sanctions he is referring to: No new North Korea sanctions were announced the day of his tweets.

05.24.2019: Proposes ending federal health rights protections for transgender people. A new federal rule attempts to eliminate protections for trans patients against discrimination in the health care system. It is blocked by a federal judge a day before it is set to take effect.

06.12.2019: Says he would accept opposition research from Russia. Asked what he would do if a foreign government offered incriminating information about an opponent, Mr. Trump says, “I think I’d take it.” Would he tell the F.B.I.? He says he might not. 

06.29.2019: Takes his daughter to a G20 summit. A video clip of Ivanka Trump awkwardly trying to jump into a conversation with four world leaders goes viral, spawning a hashtag: #UnwantedIvanka.

06.30.2019: Steps into North Korea. Mr. Trump’s almost complete embrace of Kim Jong-un after initially promising fire and fury results in no progress in reducing North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. In the months after the visit, North Korea continues to test-launch missiles. 

07.25.2019: Pressures Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, for “a favor”: to investigate Mr. Biden’s activities in the country. Days before he talks with Mr. Zelensky, Mr. Trump orders his acting chief of staff to put a hold on almost $400 million of military aid intended for the country to combat Russian aggression. “The United States has been very, very good to Ukraine,” Mr. Trump reminds Mr. Zelensky during the conversation.

08.20.2019: Cancels a state visit to Denmark after the country says it won’t sell him Greenland. He takes offense at the Danish prime minister’s comments that the suggestion is “absurd.” “You don’t talk to the United States that way,” Mr. Trump says.

08.21.2019: Proposes regulation that would allow indefinite detention of migrant families. A federal judge rejects the defense of the regulations as “Kafkaesque.”

09.04.2019: Insists, over meteorologists’ objections, that Alabama will be hit by Hurricane Dorian. Possibly alters a map from NOAA to prove he’s right. After Mr. Trump’s statements, the National Weather Service clarifies that its forecasts do not put Alabama in Dorian’s path; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rebukes the Weather Service, then comes under fire from the scientific community for seemingly massaging its meteorology for political purposes. The map incident comes to be known as Sharpiegate; Dorian does not reach Alabama.

11.18.2019: Reverses four decades of U.S. policy by declaring that Israeli settlements in the West Bank do not violate international law. Over 9,000 new Israeli homes are built in the West Bank during the Trump administration, according to The Associated Press. In February 2024 the Biden administration reverses the U.S. stance again, declaring the settlements “inconsistent with international law.”

12.18.2019: Becomes the third president in the history of the United States to be impeached, on charges related to Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky. Testimony during the impeachment process makes clear that the Trump administration made the release of military aid contingent on Mr. Zelensky making a public statement about an investigation into Mr. Biden, possibly on CNN. Mr. Trump is acquitted in the Republican-controlled Senate.

01.17.2020: Rolls back school nutrition rules promoted by Michelle Obama — fewer vegetables, more pizza. Some experts argue the changes, which seem likely to increase the number of french fries consumed by students, were driven by the potato lobby.

01.28.2020: Announces a Middle East peace plan that heavily favors Israel. The plan would give Israel most of what it has sought, including West Bank settlements and Jerusalem as its capital, in exchange for a Palestinian state with no standing army and no right of return. The plan is celebrated by Israeli hard-liners and immediately denounced by the leadership of the Palestinian Authority.

02.28.2020: Downplays Covid-19. Mr. Trump blames the media for “doing everything they can to instill fear in people” and says Democrats are pushing the danger of the virus as “their new hoax.” Later a book by the journalist Bob Woodward makes clear that in a private interview in February, Mr. Trump called the virus “deadly.”

March 2020: Botches the early Covid-19 response — sometimes deliberately.The White House Covid response coordinator, Deborah Birx, later tells a House subcommittee investigating Mr. Trump’s response that the White House purposely tried to discourage testing to obscure the virus’s rapid spread and that the White House did not contact companies to supply Covid tests more than a month into the pandemic, among other failings.

04.04.2020: Pushes hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, as a Covid treatment.“What do you have to lose?” he asks. Prescriptions surge.

04.23.2020: Pushes bleach, which is toxic to humans, as a Covid treatment.Reports to poison control of accidental disinfectant poisoning spike in the following days.

05.07.2020: Pressures the Justice Department into dropping a Russia-related case against his former national security adviser. The adviser, Michael Flynn, already pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his contact with a Russian diplomat during the transition. Mr. Trump later pardons him.

06.01.2020: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” In the midst of protests over George Floyd’s murder, Mr. Trump tweets a slogan seemingly advocating violence against Black Lives Matter protesters.

July 2020: Defends Confederate flag. “When people proudly have their Confederate flags, they’re not talking about racism. They love their flag. It represents the South,” he says in an interview. 

08.19.2020: Praises QAnon at a news conference. “I heard that these are people that love our country,” he says. Asked about the QAnon theory that he is saving the nation from a satanic cult of child sex traffickers, he asks, “Is that supposed to be a bad thing?”

09.23.2020: Refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. “We’re going to have to see what happens,” Mr. Trump says at a news conference. The next day he says he can’t be sure the election will be “honest.”

09.26.2020: Hosts a Covid-19 superspreader event at the White House. Mr. Trump hosts a nomination ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett in the Rose Garden, followed by a reception in the White House. At least 11 people who attend the event, including the president and first lady, later get Covid.

09.29.2020: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” Asked during a presidential debate to disavow the white supremacist group, Mr. Trump instead addresses its members directly. Proud Boys celebrate.

10.07.2020: Receives an experimental Covid treatment not yet widely available, calls it a “cure.” Mr. Trump is granted access to a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies before it is available to the general public and calls it a “cure” that will be distributed free by the hundreds of thousands of doses. The biotech company Regeneron does not yet have F.D.A. approval for the treatment and says it anticipates initially having only 50,000 doses available.

10.07.2020: Pressures Attorney General Bill Barr to start a pre-election investigation into his political enemies. In a torrent of tweets, Mr. Trump demands that Mr. Barr indict Joe Biden, Mrs. Clinton and Barack Obama. “Where are all of the arrests?” Mr. Trump asks.

11.04.2020: Lies about winning the election. “Frankly, we did win this election,” Mr. Trump says at the White House around 2 a.m., a few hours after polls close. With millions of ballots left to count in several closely contested states, he adds, “We want all voting to stop.”

11.09.2020: Fires the defense secretary in the wake of his election loss.Secretary Mark Esper, among other disagreements, opposed Mr. Trump’s demand that troops be deployed to American cities in the summer of 2020. Mr. Esper’s firing raises alarms about what plans Mr. Trump has in mind for the military in the final weeks of his administration.

11.09.2020: Withholds briefings from Mr. Biden’s team. Mr. Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the outcome of the election means the incoming administration cannot get access to intelligence briefings to prepare for transition.

November 2020: Tries to overturn Michigan’s results. Mr. Trump’s pressure tactics to stop a crucial swing state from going to Mr. Biden include inviting Republican state lawmakers to the White House and calling two Republican county election officials to urge them not to vote for certification of Mr. Biden’s victory.

12.19.2020: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” In multiple tweets over weeks, Mr. Trump urges his supporters to meet at the Capitol on the day the vote is certified.

12.22.2020: Threatens to veto coronavirus aid. Mr. Trump suddenly denounces a bill to provide $900 billion in coronavirus relief — the result of months of bipartisan negotiations — as a “disgrace,” claiming to want bigger stimulus payments. He signs it less than a week later, having won almost no changes to the legislation.

12.23.2020: Vetoes annual military spending bill. Mr. Trump’s objects to parts of the bill, which provides the annual funding for the military, including a measure to rename military bases honoring Confederate generals. The Senate overrides his veto.

01.02.2021: Tries to overturn Georgia’s election result. “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state,” Mr. Trump says. Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state and a Republican, refuses.

01.06.2021: Jan. 6. Mr. Trump’s lies about a stolen election culminate in a mob storming the Capitol, targeting his vice president, in order to stop the certification of the 2020 election. Mr. Trump takes no action for hours. At least seven people die in connection with the attack, and dozens of others are injured.

01.13.2021: Becomes the first president in the history of the United States to be impeached twice. The Senate falls 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority necessary to convict him of incitement of insurrection for his role in Jan. 6.“

Trump Struggles to Turn the Page on ‘American Carnage’

Trump Struggles to Turn the Page on ‘American Carnage’

“On the last night of the G.O.P. convention on Thursday, Donald J. Trump promised to bridge political divides, and then returned to delighting in deepening them.

Donald Trump walks onto a stage as a large sign behind him is lit up reading “Trump.”
Former President Donald J. Trump walks onto the stage on the final night of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.Kenny Holston/The New York Times

Donald J. Trump has long been a man undone by himself.

He imperiled his presidency and political campaigns with personal grudges, impulsiveness and an appetite for authoritarianism. His casual approach to the rule of law — and unwillingness to accept electoral defeat — resulted in $83 million in penalties, nearly three dozen felony convictions and additional legal trouble ahead.

But on Thursday night, with his right ear still bandaged five days after he was wounded by a would-be assassin’s bullet, Mr. Trump attempted a politically cunning transformation.

He opened his address by casting himself as a unifying figure, promising to bridge political divides he had long delighted in deepening. He mentioned President Biden by name only once. At brief moments, he struck tones more similar to President Barack Obama’s message of hope and healing than to the dark version of America that Mr. Trump described in accepting his first two Republican presidential nominations.

“The discord and division in our society must be healed — we must heal it quickly,” Mr. Trump said on the Republican convention’s final night. “As Americans, we are bound together by a single fate and a shared destiny. We rise together — or we fall apart.”

With the Democrats divided and polls tipping in Mr. Trump’s favor, Republicans used their national gathering in Milwaukee to bask in the moment. In their view, Mr. Trump — twice impeached, repeatedly indicted, convicted, fined and soon to be sentenced — appears on the verge of regaining control of the world’s most powerful office.

Delegates at the convention bow their heads as some of them hold hands with their arms raised.
On the last night of the Republican National Convention, former President Trump’s speech had been intended to deliver a new message.Jamie Kelter Davis for The New York Times

Yet even this speech, designed to debut the new message, underscored Mr. Trump’s challenge with discipline. He stuck to the script at the start. But as the clock ticked well beyond the one-hour mark, he couldn’t resist falling back into the kind of rambling, unscripted diatribe that has long been his signature style. At more than 90 minutes, it was the longest Republican nomination address since at least 1956, when the American Presidency Project at the University of California-Santa Barbara started tracking the statistic on the G.O.P. side.

Mr. Trump’s ultimate success will depend on whether, for the final 15 weeks of the campaign, he can contain his self-destructive tendencies and temper his preference for vengeance and unpopular, hard-right policies. Since voters rejected him at the ballot box in 2020, Mr. Trump has embraced an increasingly unrestrained and radical version of conservatism that has often bordered on authoritarian.

Last March, he framed his campaign as the “final battle” against his political opponents and told supporters, “I am your retribution.” In October, he declared that immigrants were “poisoning the blood” of the country. A month later, on Veterans Day, he degraded adversaries as “vermin” who needed to be “rooted out.” In December, he said he’d be a dictator — but only on his first day back in office. Last month, Mr. Trump promised to appoint a special prosecutor to target President Biden and his family.

For a night at least, such open threats and nakedly vicious imagery were largely absent from his address. Still, in a speech designed to place a friendlier face on Trumpism, the former president couldn’t resist a handful of exaggerations and personal attacks on Democrats.

With polls in their favor, Republicans have used their convention to bask in their political fortune.Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

He derided former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as “Crazy Nancy.” Less than four years removed from office, he said America was already a “nation in decline.” He waxed hyperbolic about the immigration crisis, calling it “the greatest invasion in history” and compared undocumented migrants to Hannibal Lecter, the fictional serial killer and cannibal from “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“In fact, I am the one saving democracy for the people of our country,” Mr. Trump said, ignoring his role in setting off the Jan. 6, 2021, riot by his supporters on the Capitol.

Unlike his speeches at so many of his political rallies, Mr. Trump largely downplayed the causes that have dominated his political life since leaving office — his false charges that the 2020 election was stolen and that Democrats were weaponizing the justice system against him.

“I am running to be president for all of America, not half of America, because there is no victory in winning for half of America,” Mr. Trump said.

According to close allies of Mr. Trump, much of the former president’s newfound temperance was a result of a near-death experience at his campaign rally on Saturday.

“I stand before you in this arena only by the grace of all-mighty God,” Mr. Trump said as he spoke about the assassination attempt on his life.Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times

Privately, Mr. Trump has long been terrified by the prospect of being assassinated — as president, he told at least two allies that he feared his killer would come from within his own administration’s intelligence or law enforcement agencies. After narrowly escaping with his life on Saturday, Mr. Trump revealed a rarely seen level of reflection behind closed doors, as he talked to advisers about his legacy and how he may be remembered by his grandchildren.

On the stage on Thursday, Mr. Trump recounted the story of his shooting, telling the crowd that “you’ll never hear it from me a second time, because it’s actually too painful to tell.” He seemed touched by the devotion of his supporters, describing the shooting as almost a spiritual experience — even “providential.”

“Bullets were flying over us, yet I felt serene,” he said. “I stand before you in this arena only by the grace of almighty God.”

If it endures beyond the convention, Mr. Trump’s new approach poses fresh challenges for Democrats. For eight years, Mr. Trump has been their most potent political weapon, a way to rally their base against a leader they reviled even more than they loved the leaders of their own party.

They have tried to transform this race into yet another referendum on Mr. Trump, rather than the question of whether Mr. Biden remains fit for a second term. Already, Biden aides say they’ve struggled to combat what some call “Trump amnesia,” a sense that many Americans have forgotten how much they disliked the chaos and division of the Trump years.

Since the shooting at his rally, Mr. Trump has appeared more concerned about his legacy and how he may be remembered by his grandchildren.Doug Mills/The New York Times

The speech was a capstone to what has been a strikingly effective convention for Republicans.

Rather than focus on Mr. Biden, whose hold on the Democratic ticket seems to grow more precarious by the day, Republicans rallied around the type of unity that has evaded them for much of the Trump era. They devoted the week to recasting the former president as a devoted grandfather, caring friend and compassionate leader. Republicans portrayed their party as a kind of big tent of ideas with speeches from a top union leader and pro-business Republicans, conservative insurgents and establishment politicians.

It was a sharp departure for a party that has spent a decade revolving around the whims and views of one man. But its singular litmus test of loyalty remains in place: Republicans who have crossed the former president have retired, been defeated or been forced to embrace his agenda. The result is a purified party that has fully embraced an unadulterated strain of Trumpism that prioritizes winning over traditional conservative ideals.

On the convention’s opening night on Monday, Mr. Trump appeared to be almost overcome by emotion when he entered the hall for the first time, seeming to fight back tears amid the roar that greeted him from his supporters. It was a notable moment for a man who built a political brand on populist rage and who views vulnerability as a weakness.

As the event came to a close on Thursday, the former president tried to draw on some of his new feelings to describe America’s “true potential” and pivot away from “American carnage” — the bleak theme of his inaugural address.

“As long as our energies are spent fighting each other, our destiny will remain out of reach, and that’s not acceptable,” he said. “We must instead take that energy and use it to realize our country’s true potential — and write our own thrilling chapter of the American story.”

But after eight years in the spotlight, it will most likely take more than a meandering hour and a half on the stage to determine which story, and which version of Mr. Trump, America would remember.“