Politics

Republicans Go to the Mat to Take Down Clinton

Old wrestling arena serves as home for GOP's counterprogramming

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks to the media at the Republican's counterprogramming event in Philadelphia on Thursday. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

PHILADELPHIA — Any doubts that Republicans would swing hard at Hillary Clinton could be dispelled by the Republican National Committee’s choice of venue for its counterprogramming here during the Democratic National Convention: 2300 Arena, an old bingo hall formerly the home of professional wrestling’s ECW, a violent, upstart rival to the more mainstream WWE.  

Taking the stage to the sounds of “Disco Inferno” by The Trammps, GOP surrogates on Thursday went through their talking points savaging the Democratic presidential standard-bearer on a stage draped with American flags and underneath banners for wrestlers in the “Hardcore Hall of Fame” like 2 Cold Scorpio, Tommy Dreamer and Blue Meanie.  

“So here we are on Day Four of the fantasy convention,” said former New York City Mayor and current Greenberg Traurig/Giuliani Partners superconsultant Rudy Giuliani.  

“It was all happy talk,” he said of the sunny outlook espoused the previous night by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and others. “They never talked about Benghazi, about Libya,” the pugnacious former presidential candidate fulminated. “I can go on and on.”  

Perhaps oddly for someone vouching for Trump, who speaks warmly of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Giuliani criticized Clinton’s “re-set” of relations with Russian when she was secretary of state. “Since then, Putin has been pushing us around all over the world.”  

[ The Latest From Day 4 at the DNC ]  

He also quoted Pope Francis’ recent comments about the dangers of terrorism, again weird for someone vouching for Trump, who has famously feuded with the head of the Catholic Church.  

Giuliani coupled his criticism of Clinton by smacking down most of the attendees at the former wrestling site.  

“The reason you don’t get answers is Hillary Clinton doesn’t have press conferences,” he said, referring to the fact that it has been several months since the Democrat held one. Trump challenged her to hold one on Wednesday as well, during a press conference in Florida where he also encouraged Russian hackers to dig up any missing emails from Clinton’s time as secretary of state.  

“You, the press, should be ashamed of yourselves,” the former Gotham mayor scolded.  

Giuliani was followed by other familiar Trump backers: Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, former Secret Service agent Gary Byrne, who guarded the Clintons and is the author of a book denouncing them, and Rick Grenell, a former spokesman for U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations.  

Grenell finished up with an earthy dig at the “Bring Back Our Girls” social media campaign to pressure the terrorist group Boko Haram to release kidnapped schoolchildren.  

“It’s time we bring back our balls,” Grenell said.  

The venue was a stark contrast to the digs the Democrats camped out in for their own counterprogramming last week at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.  

[ Democrats Deride Trump's Foreign Policy Credentials ]  

While Democrats were direct in their criticism of Trump — House Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Joseph Crowley referred to the GOP nominee as “Con Man Don,” for instance — the fourth floor office space just a short walk from the convention venue in Cleveland was a drab and confined space.  

Not so 2300 Arena, which provided the Republicans with a knock-around platform based in violent entertainment, complete with a boxing ring, and one which was used to film scenes from the Darren Aronofsky movie “The Wrestler.” That’s a dark story about a broken-down performer played by Mickey Rourke who tries to recapture old glory and falls far short in a variety of shabby environs.  

As the event wrapped, RNC spokesman Sean Spicer made one last plug — for T-shirts.  

“I know we’ve got a lot of attention for our ‘Enough’ T-shirts,” he said, holding one up, and turning it over to show off a GOP litany of Clinton-era sins.  

“They’re available on GOP.com,” he said.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.