Tim Tebow makes Donald Trump's list of Republican convention speakers

Donald Trump has announced an eclectic list of speakers that won’t include John McCain and the Bush family, as more than 40 party leaders have opted out

Donald Trump announced an eclectic list of speakers for the Republican national convention on Thursday, which includes cable TV stars, an evangelical ex-football player, his daughter’s rabbi, the president of a hand-to-hand combat league – and only a few Republican leaders.

The list promises a political event unlike any seen in modern American history, with at least 40 major party leaders absent and a rogues’ gallery drawn from the worlds of sports, business, the military and cable TV in their place. The most prominent Republicans to speak will be the House speaker, Paul Ryan, who has called some of Trump’s comment’s “textbook racism”, and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who has similarly expressed discomfort with his party’s presumptive nominee.

The names suggest that each day of the convention will revolve around themes such as Republican unity, national security and, inevitably, Trump and the power of celebrity.

Several of Trump’s defeated rivals in the primary election will appear, sending a message to voters disaffected by Trump that the party must unite. Governors Scott Walker and Chris Christie, the latter a possible vice-presidential contender, are billed to speak close to Trump’s own address. Senator Ted Cruz, whose father Trump falsely accused of associating with John F Kennedy’s assassin, will also speak, as will retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, whom Trump once compared to a child molester.

The list has some familiar faces in conservative politics. The chief lobbyist of the National Rifle Association, Chris Cox, and evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr will speak, and a handful of senators have agreed to appear. They include Joni Ernst, who achieved national fame with an ad about pig castration, and Tom Cotton, who gained notoriety with a threatening letter to the leaders of Iran.

Trump’s personal life looms large over the convention: a reflection of the businessman’s preoccupation with fame. His daughters Ivanka and sons Donald and Eric Jr, each of whom has taken on a large role in the campaign, will take turns at the podium, and Trump’s wife Melania and youngest daughter Tiffany are also listed to speak. Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, who converted Ivanka Trump to Judaism, and Kerry Woolard, general manager of Trump Winery, will also speak.

Scattered throughout the convention will also be figures more familiar from cable news and daytime TV than politics. Pro golfer Natalie Gulbis, who appeared on the second season of the Celebrity Apprentice with Trump, will appear, as will soap opera veterans Kimberlin Brown and Antonio Sabato Jr.

The Guardian confirmed that quarterback Tim Tebow, who shot to fame in the NFL for his religiosity more than for talent, will appear although his name was not on the list. Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship who once tweeted “lol Hitler wasn’t a hater”, is also named as a speaker.

Trump has also brought his friends, including Phil Ruffin, a Las Vegas casino mogul who had Trump as best man at his wedding to a Ukrainian beauty pageant star 46 years his junior. Other friends named are Oklahoma fracking pioneer Harold Hamm, who has lost billions with the fall of oil prices in the last year, and private equity investor Tom Barrack, who has said he’s seen “competency, tenderness, kindness” in Trump. Tech billionaire Peter Thiel, who has aggressively pursued at least one lawsuit against an online news site, is also listed.

In a reflection of Trump’s declaration that he is “the law and order candidate”, a long list of speakers who come out of the military and law enforcement will also appear. Retired general Michael Flynn, former Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell – portrayed in the 2013 film Lone Survivor – and several survivors of the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, will appear.

The veterans’ presence reflects Republicans’ continued criticism of Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time in 2012 and has been investigated at length for how she handled the attack. Kathryn Gates-Skipper, the first female marine in combat, will speak even though Republican delegates have drafted a platform that bars women in combat.

Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani will speak after a week of criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement: the latter called it “anti-American” and the former a “hate group”. Two state attorney generals, Leslie Rutledge and Pam Bondi, are also slated to speak, as are George W Bush’s attorney general Michael Mukasey. The prosecutors’ places at the convention suggest several speeches devoted to supporting the police – and to drawing contrasts with Clinton, whom Trump calls “crooked” for her use of a private email server.

But the list also shows the limits of Trump’s persuasive powers. Many Republican leaders are skipping the convention entirely, including recent nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney and former presidents George W and George HW Bush. Some have spoken vociferously against Trump, and at least one has run ads attacking the presumptive nominee. Celebrity Republicans such as Clint Eastwood, who spoke to an empty chair at the 2012 convention, are also notably absent.

And though the businessman has boasted that he would have various “champions” speak, several people he had described – NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, boxing promoter Don King, golfer Jack Nicklaus – are not scheduled to speak.

Hall of Fame Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, a widely rumored speaker, said he would not be in Cleveland, though he will vote for Trump. “I’m an American first and a conservative secondly not much else to say,” Ditka said in an email.

Ben Jacobs contributed reporting from Cleveland.


Alan Yuhas

The GuardianTramp

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