#COVID19Chronicles-288: January 20, 2021-Handing over political power in the USA

President Trump is due to depart from the White House at 8am this morning, amid reports that he’s having a hard time filling the guest list. Notably, top Republican politicians will not attend:

He’s then off to on Air Force One to Palm Beach, Florida. He will not attend the Inauguration of president-elect Biden. Oddly, that means there will be two nuclear ‘footballs’ to cover the gap in transition, instead of being handed over during the Inauguration. What else is new but another piece of political theatre and the breaking of norms?

Last night, he issued another flurry of pardons (73) and commutations (70), including for Steve Bannon (‘a key adviser in Trump’s 2016 presidential run. He was charged last year with swindling Trump supporters over an effort to raise private funds to build the president’s wall on the US-Mexico border’-The Guardian), who some would see as an insurrectionist who wasn’t at the Capitol. White House officials had advised Trump against pardoning Bannon, who left the Trump administration in late 2017. Elliot Broidy, was also pardoned: he’s a major Republican party fundraiser, pleaded guilty in October to acting as an unregistered foreign agent, admitting to accepting money to secretly lobby the Trump administration for Chinese and Malaysian interests.

Washington DC is empty and silent, apart from a huge military and police presence. The bridges that connect DC to Maryland and Virginia have been closed!

The general public will not be participating. Having been to Inaugurations, this must be the most eerie of days.

The major event will be virtual, with swearing-in set for the west steps of the US Capitol.

Last night, we got a taste with a memorial ceremony for those who have died from COVID-19. It was the president-elect who paid tribute to them and the many caregivers who have tolled tirelessly for months!

This long-overdue attempt at national recognition of the suffering during the pandemic was on the day when the USA hit another sombre milestone of 400,000 deaths from COVID.

The president gave a farewell address that was taped; it listed his achievements; even then, he had no words for those who had suffered from COVID. Again, what’s new?

As the Inauguration nears, politics continued. The Senate was called back yesterday to start the confirmation process for the Biden Cabinet nominees:

Finally, Inauguration will be bookended by impeachment proceedings. It looks likely that the Senate will start the trial, but not until at least January 21, to not draw attention from the Inauguration. Senate leader, Mitch McConnell gave more strong signals that he may be leaning towards conviction as he clearly laid blame for the insurrection at the feet of the outgoing president: “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”

Biden had planned to travel to DC by train from Delaware, but security concerns forced a change to a flight. Before that, he opened a National Guard facility in Delaware named for his dead son, ‘Beau’. He showed his raw emotions, again, as he cried that his son wasn’t there to be hailed as president. His empathy is something refreshing and much needed.

So, let the events roll on. There’ll be end-to-end TV coverage to hunker down to. The entertainment is scheduled to be full of great performers:

Let’s wish president-elect Biden and vice-president Harris luck as they try to mend a country left broken by four years under a leader who had no interest in his States being united.

His day will start with a visit to church, accompanied by politicians from both sides.

#COVID19Chronicles-195: October 23, 2020-The Third Presidential Debate

The 3rd presidential debate was not rivetting television, for me, in part because I was still scarred from the first, and I’m not a great fan of the love affair with untruths that seem to be the president’s forte. I gave it 30 minutes and decided that sleep was better. My wife tried to stay with it longer, but I had to wake her up to turn off the TV before the debate had finished. Neither of us can vote in the elections, anyway, so it’s really background material for a life ahead.

The moderator, Kristen Welker (NBC), gets props for her handling, though with the benefit this time of a microphone cut-off during the opening two minutes of each candidate’s remarks.

The microphone rule would have made for a much better first debate, which was an absolute ‘train wreck’ that helped the president, who thought he succeeded in his ploy to constantly interrupt and not let his opponent get in a word.

It was a pity many had to suffer that, but it should be a constant, going forward. Poor Chris Wallace (Fox News) was left “jealous” that he’d not had the same advantage:

The LA Times called the debate a ‘study in exasperation’:

He also went after the president about when he knew and who he told about what he knew about the virus, citing how keep contacts had been able to short the stock markets based on the dire reports, which had not been shared with the public—stories that had circulated back in March:

As the LA Times put it, the debate was a ‘tale of two Trumps’:

‘At the start, the president largely reined in his combative impulses. He interrupted less, spoke softly and even sprinkled in a few niceties toward Kristen Welker, the debate moderator, whom he had been attacking in recent days. But the president’s more familiar instincts ultimately resurfaced.

He ran through the greatest hits of his Twitter feed — falsely claiming he was subject to a years-long “phony witch hunt” involving Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, groundlessly accusing the Obama administration of spying on his campaign.

Having recovered from COVID-19, he seemed none the worse for wear, growing more animated as the evening went on.

One constant throughout: the president’s tenuous relationship with the truth. Fact-checkers were kept busy with his claims of an imminent coronavirus vaccine, his exaggerated toughness toward Russia and other whoppers.’

President Trump is an incorrigible liar and one of the ‘tells’ is his hands and how they come into play as his stories spin around a possible grain of truth. It’s like a fisherman telling about his catch: ‘It was this big; no, this big’.

So, I always look at the hands, which are also part of the illusionists’ arsenal of distraction tools.

That’s all, folks. 🙂

#COVID19Chronicles-189: October 17, 2020-At last! A good moderator-duelling town halls

Last Thursday saw the ‘clash’ of the televised town hall sessions, with President Trump doing his thing on NBC (and associated cable channels, CNBC and MSNBC and YouTube), facing Suzanne Guthrie, while VP Biden was on ABC (and YouTube), facing George Stephanopoulos. NBC annoyed many by deciding to set up a directly competing town hall after Biden’s had been set. The President, ever bizarre, then insulted NBC for “setting him up”:

By most accounts, President Trump got a bushwhacking from a moderator who fact checked him in real time and dissed some of his stream of false claims. Savannah Guthrie repeatedly grilled Trump on everything from QAnon to the coronavirus pandemic.

During public and campaign events Friday, Trump repeatedly went after Guthrie as “totally crazy.”

VP Biden got an easier ride and laid out well his policy platform, free of constant interruptions.

The president had hoped to upstage the contender with better ratings but lost that battle, too. Biden got 14+ million viewers to Trump’s 13.5 million. (The first presidential debate drew an audience of about 73.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen, while the vice presidential debate drew about 57.9 million.)

Trump came across as his usual nasty self:

#COVID19Chronicles-174: October 2, 2020-President Trump and First Lady test positive

Befitting the age and the politician who lives and loves to tweet, some tweets about this major political news.

In their own words:

The proximite contact was Hope Hicks:

The White House issued a statement:

Some media reactions include concerns about the president’s health and weight that may affect his dealing with the infection:

This is the first major health concern of an incumbent president in decades:

Clear and present danger existed weeks before and many occasions occurred when the president exposed himself and others to viral spread, eg when the Secret Service was affected:

Cynics have been quick to take their jabs:

But, even harsh critics are showing compassion:

Though many will not show even an ounce of sympathy, as he has often not.

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