Ted Cruz, Melania Trump and Shaggy's 'It wasn't me' defense

On Monday night at the Republican National Convention, Melania Trump gave a speech with a little bit of Michelle Obama seasoning. Also a surprising amount of Rick Astley’s Never gonna give you up

It seemed like there were two separate reactions. In the media it was an absolute firestorm, which makes sense because in the world of journalism, plagiarism is a cardinal sin. You can lose your career over it. I remember in my college English classes being deathly afraid of not just plagiarism, but it seemed like jail time was not out of the question if you cited Wikipedia.

The other reaction was from the general public who said, “Wait, who cares if she did?” Can you imagine at a construction site, the guys sitting around at lunch, “Hey, you see that Melania speech? That’s messed up.”

I found myself in this camp. I thought her writing team may not have done it intentionally. These convention speeches aren’t exactly works of Shakespeare, it’s more of a Mad Libs of “America” “Freedom” “Work hard.” There are bound to be some matching combinations.

Plus, Melania could have opened her speech with, “Four score and seven years ago,” closed with, “Ask not what your country can do for you,” and I still would not have cared. The proper punishment is for the media to play the clips side-by-side, just like they do if a comedian is being charged with joke stealing. That’s the public embarrassment for plagiarizing. What more do they want to happen to Melania? She can no longer give speeches? She can no longer be married to Donald Trump?

I don’t see why the media was so worked up for multiple days. And here I am worked up enough to write a blog post about not being worked up. It’s like on the 4th of July when I see people taking videos of the fireworks on their phones, then pulling out my own phone to text, “Can you believe people are on their phones on the 4th of July!?”

The Trump team eventually sent out the writer to take the fall via press release. She basically said, “I did this on accident, but I told the merciful Donald Trump and he said, ‘Hey, accidents happen, don’t worry about it.”

Before the press release, they were sticking to the most genius piece of public relations advice of the 21st century. PR advice from a very unlikely source.

Allow me to introduce the singer Shaggy and his hit song from the year 2000, It Wasn’t Me. 

For anyone unfamiliar, the song is about a guy who gets caught cheating on his girlfriend. He’s explaining to Shaggy that she caught him red-handed, sleeping with the girl next door. Shaggy’s advice? Say, “It wasn’t me.” The guy responds, “Right, but like she saw me doing it.” Shaggy: It wasn’t me. The guy, “Alright. I hear you. But she got it on camera.” It wasn’t me. The guy, “How much am I paying you for this advice?”

The advice seemed ridiculous at the time, but it’s actually now the perfect strategy for any public scandal. Insert the Melania Trump situation. “We heard you say it.” It wasn’t me. “We’ve got it on video, side-by-side.” It wasn’t me. 

The trick is to ride out “It wasn’t me” until the next “breaking news” story hits. It’s like a basketball team at the end of a game playing keep-away, the media trying to catch them for the foul, trying to get the referee to blow the whistle. In college basketball, the shot clock is 30 seconds. In 2016 media, the news cycle might be 31 seconds. Richard Nixon could have totally run out the shot clock on Watergate if it happened in 2016.

By waiting until Thursday, I worried I might already be too late to sink my teeth into this juicy piece of click bait. On Wednesday morning, when I looked up “Melania Trump plagiarism,” there was a new scandal out about potential plagiarism in Donald Trump Jr’s speech. And then came Wednesday night when Ted Cruz officially took all the air out of the Melania story.

Watching Donald Trump’s convention strategy seems chaotic, it seems unorganized, but I also get the feeling we are watching something akin to Walter White. How did he get out of this, how did he get out of that, he may just always be a couple steps ahead.

Take the Ted Cruz situation. On the surface it seems like Ted Cruz pulled the ultimate bait-and-switch, implied he was going to endorse then did a filibuster followed by a, “Vote your conscience” guilt-trip on America. All of this right before Mike Pence’s speech! How did Donald Trump let it happen?

I think Trump was in on it. Stick with me here. Trump is an avid sports fan. I picture him watching the ESPYs last week and having a lightbulb go off when John Cena was comparing the NBA to the WWE. Here’s what Cena said:

“Okay, LeBron, you used to be a good guy [Cleveland], and then you turned into a bad guy [Miami], and now you’re a good guy again? You left the NBA hanging – what are they going to do when they don’t have a bad guy? Exactly what we [the WWE] do, they’re going to make a new one [picture of Kevin Durant in a Golden State Warriors jersey].”

Fear of plagiarism – This is pulled from transcript of Cena’s speech found here: http://lybio.net/tag/john-cena-opening-monologue-at-the-2016-espy-awards-transcript/ 

When Ted Cruz was wrapping up his speech, the crowd chanting, “En-dorse Trump, En-dorse Trump!” it felt very WWE. The whole crowd had been united in hating Ted Cruz, which meant they were also fully united in supporting Donald Trump. They say this overshadowed Pence’s speech, I think that was all part of the plan. What could Pence have possibly said to get the same sort of party unity?

And speaking of WWE, Donald Trump once fought Vince McMahon in a battle of the billionaires. No joke, it’s on Youtube under “Donald Trump bodyslams, beats and shaves Vince McMahon.” Is it crazy to think he might have given Vince a call? And one more nugget of conspiracy theory, look at how Ted Cruz’s speech started, he made a subtle hint to this NBA inspired plan. “Heidi and I are so honored to join you here in Cleveland where LeBron James just lead an incredible comeback victory, and I am convinced America is going to come back too.”

Comeback story indeed. Just wish we would have gotten one more use of “basketball ring.”

It was a win-win deal for both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Donald got the villain shift, the act plays right into his branded “Lyin’ Ted.” He also gets the narrative of, “This convention has been a mess, one scandal after the next, I mean on Thursday night Trump has to give the speech of his life to try and bring this thing home.” What better way to draw in millions of viewers?

For Ted Cruz, he gets to keep his hands clean of Donald Trump. If he is looking to run again in 2020, he can use the, “I voted against Donald Trump” the same way Bernie Sanders reminded America he voted against the Iraq War.

Think about the other potential 2020 nominees, Pence, Ryan, Walker, Rubio, Christie, how are they going to answer the question, “In 2016, you supported Donald Trump, explain that decision to the American people.” Kasich can say he didn’t attend the convention, Cruz can say he went on stage and mooned the crowd.

But then again, those other guys are going to be just fine. If they are ever asked why they supported Donald Trump, they can always tap into those three sage words of wisdom.

It wasn’t me. 

This is one of the first political posts for Medium Rare. The only other one I did compared John Kasich’s primary dilemma to the dilemma faced by chicken nuggets on modern day fast food menus. So, as you can tell, this is THE spot for hard hitting political news. Let me know what you think about this one and feel free to subscribe to more posts about politics, sports, fast food, Sly Stallone all with a Medium Rare spin. See you back here August 1st! 

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