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I expected the Republican virtual convention to be better than the Democrats for several reasons: President Trump is a better showman; the mission is to emphasize patriotism and optimism, not sow gloom and division; etc. I just didn’t expect that the GOP convention would be so much better right out of the gate that it was almost like comparing “Citizen Kane” to “Plan Nine from Outer Space.”

Day one of the Democrat infomercial mostly featured politicians talking directly into the camera like a national version of a bedroom vlogger’s YouTube stream, telling us over their iPhones how awful everything is because of the bad Orange Man. The most memorable things about it were Michelle Obama repeating the debunked “children in cages” lie (that actually started under her husband) and the giant wall of firewood behind Bernie Sanders. I’ll bet whoever cut that wood wasn’t the only one who was sawing logs last week.

By contrast, the Republicans offered an inspiring and well-produced (the opening film narrated by Jon Voight was superb) showcase of both political figures and private citizens from a wide range of backgrounds. They talked about positive things Trump has done for them and America, promises kept, and their optimism for the future, as long as Democrats are kept out of power. (BTW, you can add “Internet live productions” to cities, states and the Congress on the ever-lengthening list of “Things Democrats Cannot Be Trusted to Run.”) When Republicans did talk about negatives, like the riots, looting and assaults on police officers in blue cities that are the #1 news story in America right now, that was also a glaring contrast because the Democrats went for three days without ever mentioning that giant donkey in the room.

Maybe it’s not fair to compare the two. The GOP Convention could focus on Trump’s accomplishments because he actually has so many. The Democrats concentrated on Trump hate, division and name-calling because, hey, you go with what you’ve got.

There were so many powerful moments just on night one that I don’t have time or space to list them all. If you missed it, I suggest, believe it or not, that you actually watch the entire stream. It’s on YouTube here.

And here are the liveblogs from PJ Media

And Townhall.com…

As well as a separate article I wrote for Fox News

Here are just a few of the highlights, but incredibly, there were no lowlights (maybe the Democrats had so many lowlights because they were experiencing rolling brownouts):

Black Georgia Democratic Rep. Vernon Jones, who was viciously attacked for praising Trump, talked of how Trump has created opportunity zones and good jobs for blacks, and criminal justice reform of the law Biden co-wrote. He reminded us that Democrats are defunding cops who protect black children while providing security for themselves, and blasted Pelosi and Schumer for “pandering” to blacks by wearing African kente cloths. He said, “The Democratic Party has become infected with the pandemic of intolerance, bigotry, socialism, anti-law enforcement bias, and a dangerous tolerance for people who attack others, destroy their property and terrorize their own communities.” He warned that black people are becoming louder and more “woke” (I love the new, more accurate spin he put on that term) and in a line that is sure to be quoted and remembered for a long time: "The Democratic Party does not want black people to leave their mental plantation.” As one commenter put it, he left a smoking crater where the DNA used to be.

Cuban immigrant Maximo Alvarez choked back tears as he recalled his family’s escape from communism in Cuba, and how he’s hearing ominous echoes of their same tactics and rhetoric from blue cities like Seattle, Chicago and Portland. He said, “If I gave away everything that I have today, it would not equal 1 percent of what I was given when I came to this great country of ours: the gift of freedom. Right now, it is up to us to decide our fate and to choose freedom over oppression.”

NFL great Herschel Walker spoke movingly of his 38-year friendship with Trump and testified that the claim Trump is a racist is a slanderous lie (and will anyone ever forget the image of Trump joining Walker’s family at Disney World to ride “It’s A Small World” in a business suit?) By the way, I’ve also seen Trump enter one of his hotels and greet the desk clerks and other workers by name and ask about their families. Can you even imagine Hillary Clinton doing something like that?

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was murdered in the Parkland school shooting, credited President Trump with reversing the Obama “restorative justice” policy that he blames for the killer not being stopped sooner, and warned that Joe Biden wants to bring it back…

Mark and Patricia McCloskey probably never imagined they’d be speaking at a GOP Convention (Mark is a lawyer who’s defended a BLM activist.) But after they were charged with a felony by St. Louis’ far-left DA for brandishing guns to protect their home from a threatening mob – but none of the mob members were charged – their blinders fell off pretty quickly.

After hearing Sen. Tim Scott’s closing speech, I have to second what some conservative bloggers said: I want to vote for him for President in 2024. It was personal and moving, but also substantive. And I loved this line about his early struggles in school: "Trust me, after spending seven years in the Senate, I know I’m not the only one in Congress who failed civics."

I was thrilled that for the Pledge of Allegiance, the speaker made a point of reminding people that the words include “under God,” which was left out of two recitations of it at the Democratic Convention. (I also appreciated that they told attendees to stand for the National Anthem, not stand or kneel, whatever your preference.) The embrace of God may have already turned at least one vote

Natalie Harp, who would have been relegated to death by cancer by government regulations if it weren’t for Trump’s “right to try” reform that let her try an experimental drug, reminded viewers of all the people who have been saved by Trump’s ending of VA hospital waiting lists, reduction of drug prices and other health initiatives. She also reminded us of Charlie Gard, the British infant who was sentenced to die by British government health care bureaucrats.

There was also a powerful film and speech by a Louisiana doctor who both treated and contracted COVID-19, on the false narrative that President Trump did nothing about or botched the disease response. It reminded viewers of how the pandemic took the world unawares and unprepared, and Trump quickly built an unprecedented public-private effort that prevented equipment shortages, removed FDA red tape and fast-tracked new treatments. Bonus: footage of Democratic Governors such as Andrew Cuomo praising Trump’s efforts (this was before word came down that they were supposed to trash and blame him)

Charlie Kirk appealed to young people by defending “the American way of life,” including freedom of speech and religion, against the cancel culture, self-righteous Silicon Valley censors, and a mob of “bitter, deceitful, vengeful activists who have never built anything in their lives.” He called Trump “the bodyguard of Western Civilization”…

Rebecca Friedrichs, the California kindergarten teacher who took on the teachers’ unions in court and won (she noted that the Obama/Biden Administration and Kamala Harris fiercely opposed her in that lawsuit), spoke about school choice (a recurring theme of the evening) and how teachers’ unions are trapping poor and minority children in failing schools. It’s a subject that’s become red hot now that stuck-at-home parents are discovering what their kids were being “taught” all these years…

All this, and I still haven’t touched on Nikki Haley’s excellent speech, Trump’s moving visits with coronavirus essential workers and Americans who’d been held hostage abroad whom he brought home (he rescues people from the other side of the world while Democrats fight having to give medical care to a newborn baby in the same room), Maryland House candidate Kim Klacik’s powerfull message, and so much more.

It was also a stunning contrast just to see Trump popping up everywhere, seemingly working around the clock with limitless energy. At the Democratic Convention, we waited three days for Joe Biden to emerge from his basement like we were waiting for Punxsutawney Phil to rouse himself from his burrow on Groundhog Day. It definitely bolsters Trump’s “Sleepy Joe” moniker and puts pressure on the Dems to let Biden debate to prove he’s up to the job.

You really should watch it all if you can. It will lift your spirits and renew your hope. As I said in my article for Fox News, the Dems gave a funeral for America, and the Republicans threw a celebration. Never has an electoral choice been so stark – or so obvious.

But I can’t end without quoting the funniest line of the night, from Donald Trump Jr: Joe Biden is the “Loch Ness Monster of the swamp.” He sticks his head up every 20 years or so to run for President, then disappears into the swamp again.

It’s actually good that U.S. Attorney John Durham is still putting the finishing touches on his report on FISA abuse, as we’re going to need some focused post-convention time to take a look at it. There’s a story to be told, a very important story, and we should soon know a lot more about how the "Russia" hoax came together. In fact, one can get a “sneak peek” right now by looking at Kevin Clinesmith’s plea agreement and seeing how it relates to parts of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s internal report.

Thanks to Margot Cleveland at THE FEDERALIST for connecting more dots. She's done the tedious part; now we get to talk about it.

As you know, Kevin Clinesmith, who worked in the FBI’s Office of General Counsel, pleaded guilty to one count of falsifying evidence; the plea agreement was released last Wednesday. He admitted that he had added four critical words --- “was not a source” --- to an email from an “unidentified government agency” (let’s just say the CIA because we know it was) concerning Carter Page’s “operation contact” with that agency. One of the agents involved in Crossfire Hurricane had told him they wanted “something in writing” about it, so he altered the email and forwarded it to that agent. (While pleading guilty, he still claims it was not his “intent” to mislead. Trying to have it both ways.) This revised email cleared the way for the fourth FISA.

But wait --- there had already been an original FISA application and two renewals, and they hadn’t mentioned this. What’s the story there? Well, according to Clinesmith’s plea agreement, the CIA had provided “certain members of the Crossfire Hurricane team” with a memo indicating that Page had been approved as an “operation contact” for them from 2008 to 2013 and detailing information that Page had provided them about “his prior contacts with certain Russian officers.” But we know this information was not included in the first three FISAs. (The Horowitz report says so, and Clinesmith makes a point of it in his plea agreement.)

If I understand correctly, THIS is the “suspicious” contact with Russians that gave the Crossfire Hurricane team their reason (excuse) to accuse Page of being a Russian agent. But in truth, there was no reason to spy on him over this; he had already been debriefed by the CIA about it, and the CIA had informed "certain members" of the team of his relationship with them before the initial FISA application was made. The FBI just left it out of the applications.

To accomplish this, the Crossfire Hurricane team even left it out of the information given to the division that HELPS with FISA applications, and one member of the team, Stephen Somma –- more on him coming up –- gave them incorrect information when explicitly ASKED about Page’s relationship with the CIA. This key information about Page is one of the “17 substantial errors or omissions” in the FISAs that Horowitz attributed to the FBI.

So, now we need to know the identities of the “certain members of the Crossfire Hurricane team” who received the memo about Page from the CIA, because they are the ones who kept the information out of the application and first two renewals. In the IG report, one is identified as “Case Agent 1,” and that person was identified by THE NEW YORK TIMES as the aforementioned Stephen Somma, who happens to have been Stefan Halper’s FBI “handler” as well! So we’re likely to be hearing more about Mr. Somma.

Cleveland’s article has more detail on how Somma mischaracterized Page’s work in Russia, moving the dates of it years earlier so it became “beyond the scope” of the FISA application. Clever, these FBI agents.

The Horowitz report says Somma claimed “not to recall his state of knowledge” about Page’s history with the CIA. One has to wonder if his memory might improve while under questioning in Durham’s criminal investigation, under threat of perjury.

Cleveland –- who has a FANTASTIC memory –- remembers that Somma, as Case Agent #1, had expressed great interest early on in surveilling Carter Page. But according to the IG report, the Crossfire Hurricane team didn’t become aware of the “dossier” till September. Before then, only Steele’s “handler” and a few agents in the New York Field Office knew about it, starting in early July.

But guess where Somma was working in early July, before joining the Crossfire Hurricane team in August? The New York Field Office, where he was a special agent for counterintelligence with a focus on...Russia.

Cleveland goes into more detail on who else among the team might have known about Page’s CIA involvement and kept it out of the application. Joe Pientka is certainly a possibility.

But the big stinky cheese at the FBI at that time was Director Comey, and this is one slick dude when it comes to protecting himself. As you might recall, Comey slithered his way out of having to talk about classified material with IG Horowitz by refusing to have his security clearance reinstated. Smooth, huh? The memo sent to the FBI about Page’s CIA activities would have been classified, for sure, and without a security clearance, Comey couldn’t have been shown the memo or asked anything about it.

A criminal investigation is different, though. Maybe Durham can put the squeeze on the big cheese. And maybe we’ll finally learn the whole sordid story.

America set the bar so low for Joe Biden’s speech Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention, he ended up getting raves simply for standing on his mark and reading off a prompter for a mere 20 minutes. For Democrats, he also got raves for not being Trump, which is the greatest accomplishment of all.

As author James Lileks put it, Biden benefited from “the soft bigotry of Joe expectations.”

Since there was only one noteworthy flub –- he skipped over the word “not,” but everybody knew what he meant –- the conversation inevitably turned to whether or not Biden was actually speaking live. On Friday, even Rush Limbaugh discussed this, including whether or not the speech could have been edited, given that Biden was essentially motionless throughout, and Rush said he knew of a number of people “looking at it.”

Before getting into that discussion, let me say that just the fact we’re even speculating about it should tell us what’s “off” about this crazy year and the Biden ticket in particular. When Trump hits it out of the park (as he will, guaranteed) this week at the Republican Convention --- in the middle of a no-doubt grueling schedule --- no one is going to wonder if HE spoke live and in the moment, not for one second. Because that’s just him; what you see is what you get. His party is not going to be deceiving you about that. That is so refreshing in the world of politics. Anyway...

Though my background is not in computers –- far from it! –- I know technology exists to “fix” much of what might have needed to be fixed, but probably not in such a way that it wouldn’t be detected by experts who know what to look for. (Aside: we’re not far away from the horrifying day when this CAN be done undetectably.) So it’s very unlikely that this was done. No, if Biden’s campaign didn’t have total confidence in his ability to do the speech live, the best way around that would have been much simpler.

I do have a background in writing speeches for corporate executives and even coaching them on delivery and how to appear on camera. What they would have done: get Biden rested and ready, and then run through the whole speech a comfortable number of times with Biden in rehearsal, hitting “Record” on all the run-throughs. (Don’t tire him; at some point, the law of diminishing returns will apply.) Typically in a rehearsal, you'd record the run-throughs anyway, to be able to review the performance and give the “talent” (I use the term loosely) some notes before doing another take. Once you have a full take you like --- especially if you sense he’s getting tired --- just stop. Don’t wait for perfection; a minor flub or two makes this more believable, and in this case, that’s the most important thing. Use the take that best conveys the personal qualities you want to get across, as Democrats think the election turns on this.

After that, as long as you’re down to a TINY group of people who can be implicitly trusted not to leak, it’s only a matter of hitting the right button at the right time to send out the recording instead of going live. Then, while the video played, Biden and Jill would just be “bidin’” their time in that room until it was time to walk out with Kamala and her husband to wave at the cheering crowd. Or, Biden could even do it "for real," unaware that the speech going out was really a take from earlier in the day.

That’s what Lt. Columbo would suspect. Do NOT call me a conspiracy theorist; I am not saying they did this. I’m saying this is how it could have been done if they had serious concerns about Biden "going live." It’s tempting to think of this as their “insurance policy”; we know Democrats are fond of those.

Biden probably just read it live, as it wouldn’t take much for that, given that he had the words right in front of him. But, again, the fact that we’re even speculating tells us all we need to know about what is wrong with the 2020 Democratic ticket. Given the high stakes, we have no doubt that if they were sure they could get away with this without anyone being the wiser, they'd do it.

So the bigger issue is whether the speech itself met expectations. To preface that discussion, I’d say that even without the questions concerning his mind, much of Biden’s past political life would do much to set the bar for content just as low (unless, of course, it were to be plagiarized from other sources). This opinion piece from JUST THE NEWS offers a quick background.

https://justthenews.com/politics-policy/elections/biden-has-history-controversies-involving-plagiarism-fabricated-stories

Gov. Huckabee has a commentary of his own today on the glaring lack of any specificity in Biden’s speech. He’s right --- this was vapid campaign talk, nothing but typical election-year platitudes. I have little to add, except that it occurs to me his speechwriter might have taken inspiration from a commercial currently being run in America by Italian coffee company Lavazza (which calls their ad a “global communication campaign”), featuring the voice of Charlie Chaplin from 1940.

The visuals are impossibly artistic and edgy, showing humanity at its most open, loving and --- importantly for leftists --- stylish. The words laud a borderless planet in which everyone gets along (as in the insipid John Lennon song “Imagine”). There's no word on how we’re going to create this beautiful world, except to “Unite!” Leftists just love flowery, uplifting speeches about mankind with no specifics.

The words Lavazza used are from Charlie Chaplin's 1940 film THE GREAT DICTATOR, a movie that rightfully savages Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

To his credit, Biden at least didn't plagiarize this.

It would be fun to create new visuals for the Lavazza ad that included shot after shot of leftist violence in Seattle, Portland and other American cities (which Biden never mentioned, incidentally). You know the images I mean: buildings burning and people being kicked in the head by radical leftist thugs demanding "justice." Oh, the humanity.

Now, I am a huge fan of Chaplin’s movies, but it should be noted that he was a far-leftist --- he grew up in dire, horrific poverty in England --- who became fabulously wealthy in capitalist America and eventually exited the U.S. to live in Switzerland. He claimed not to be a Communist, but here's an interesting piece on his Stalinist leanings.

We mustn’t forget that Russian Communist ruler Stalin was quite the dictator and mass-murderer himself. Clearly, one would have to be a dictator to have anywhere near the level of control it takes to remake society. Prospective Democrat voters might want to consider that.

In breaking news Sunday, South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told Maria Bartiromo on FOX News’ SUNDAY MORNING FUTURES that a newly declassified document proves the FBI used different standards in investigating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Pardon me while I recover from the shock. Does anybody have some smelling salts?

The way Graham explained it, in March of 2015, one month before Hillary officially announced she was running for President, the FBI discovered a plot by “a foreign government” (not specified) to lobby her campaign and funnel millions of dollars illegally into her campaign. (Shock; need more smelling salts!) So they opened an investigation and applied for a FISA warrant against “a Clinton operative who was connected to the foreign government.”

The 7th floor at the FBI (the same 7th floor that later wanted the Flynn investigation kept open even though there was no evidence he’d broken the law) told investigators they couldn’t get a warrant unless they first defensively briefed the Clinton campaign. So the FBI actually did that –- they TOLD the Clinton campaign about what they had found. And they never did get the FISA warrant to do surveillance on the Clinton campaign. This is exactly how they should have handled any information they’d received about Russia trying to “meddle” and infiltrate the Trump campaign. It's simple: you go to the Trump campaign!

But note how differently Trump’s campaign was handled. The FBI opened multiple counterintelligence investigations against associates of the Trump campaign –- including George Papadopoulos, Carter Page and Michael Flynn –- and chose not to tell Trump about their suspicions, even though that would normally be the thing to do and they could have done it during his intelligence briefing.

No, the briefing they gave candidate Trump was just about general threats, the same kind of intelligence they would have provided to anyone running for President. In fact, they even used that briefing as pretense to send an additional agent in, specifically to monitor the behavior of (translation: SPY ON) Flynn and Trump.

Graham said the comparison between these two situations showed “the ultimate double standard.”

According to this newly-released document, a special agent on the Clinton case wondered why they “had not received a clear answer as to why we are not being allowed to use one of the only tools available against a target (REDACTED) FISA collection –- in spite of clear justification.” Of course, we know the answer; they weren’t allowed to use “FISA collection” because, Hillary. And maybe in Hillary's case they really HAD clear justification. I don't think I'd need my smelling salts if I heard that.

Anyway, a year later, the FBI should have treated the Trump campaign with equal care, but we now know in great detail how they did handle it. Then, in January of 2017, after he was elected, the FBI field office investigating Flynn wanted to close that investigation, but Peter Strzok told them the “7th floor” wanted to keep it open. (That was the day before the big January 5 Oval Office meeting.) This couldn’t have been more different from the way the FBI had treated Hillary a year earlier.

We’re not even talking about the kid-glove treatment Hillary got during the “Mid-year Exam,” the FBI’s investigation of her use of a private email server for official State Department business. It shows that the FBI can do things by the book –- but that they threw the rules out the window when Trump entered the race.