Republicans pursue the underwear vote

The Republic convention is off and running in Cleveland and the biggest disappointment for me so far is the paucity of A-list celebrity speakers. Just about the only names on the schedule that might tempt me to change my plans for binge-watching past seasons of “Downton Abbey” this week both are named Trump.

Because the A-list is pretty much a C or D list.

  • A star of “Duck Dynasty.”
  • Actors from a couple of soap operas.
  • And a former underwear model. Seriously. Antonio Sabato Jr.’s career includes various soap operas and an appearance on “Dancing With the Stars.” But his biggest moment, literally, was when he appeared on a 90-foot billboard overlooking Times Square dressed only in his Calvin Klein underwear.


According to a New York Times report, Sabato was added to the roster because the committee thought it needed another Hispanic speaker to go along with Senator Ted Cruz. But Sabato’s credentials as an Hispanic are even more questionable than his credentials as a political spokesman. His father, Antonio Sr., is Italian. His mother, Yvonne, was born in Czechoslovakia. Exactly how Antonio Jr. qualifies as Hispanic is a puzzle that may have to be investigated by Birthers.

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To be fair, it’s not that the Republican National Committee hasn’t tried to inject some show biz into the proceedings. Quarterback Tom Brady and former basketball coach Bob Knight were mentioned, but not booked, as speakers. Donald Trump wanted to have boxing promoter Don King speak, but party officials demurred; apparently they thought King’s manslaughter conviction for having once stomped a man to death might not work well with the party’s law and order stance. A woman who said she was fondled by Bill Clinton in the Oval Office was rejected, although if her name had been Monica Lewinsky the committee might have had to think about it.

And just how much influence the speakers at political conventions have on voters is debatable, of course. In 2004, Illinois state senator Barack Obama burst onto the national political scene and inspired America with an eloquent address to the Democratic convention: an inspired America immediately rushed out and re-elected George W. Bush. In 2012, actor Clint Eastwood spent 12 minutes of the Republican convention having a conversation with an empty chair; some observers credited that performance with clinching the election for Barack Obama.

Still, I’ll be very disappointed if the list of speakers at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia doesn’t include at least one Victoria’s Secret model.

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