How Trump left the White House

January 20, 2021

On 20 September, President Trump left the White House and travelled via Joint Andrews Base to his Florida home. His departure was synchronised with the arrival of President Elect Joe Biden for his inauguration as POTUS No 50. For many people it will become a historic day marked in memory

I pick up the story with the CNN coverage (times are GMT)

Waiting for DT’s departure from the White House. A dribble of red carpet. The helicopter, Marine One, is standing by. A near-deserted scene despite his extensive invitation list. Vice-President Pence is absent.
A brief sighting of Trump and the First Lady crossing the red carpet, and moving quickly into
the ‘copter which leaves, and makes a brief circle around Washington, a city locked down, and guarded with armed troops. The departure has been timed for his final leg of the journey during which he will still departing President, entitled to leave on Air Force One at Andrews Military Base.
The arrival at Andrews is being orchestrated like one of his rallies. Trump makes a speech lauding his efforts. Says that the incoming administration is poised to take off, thanks to his efforts. Noticable that he makes no reference to Joe Biden during his remarks, Nor in his brief video prepared for the day.
2.00pm Split screen shots one of the Biden entourage arriving at Mass, and the other of Air Force One shown climbing on its way to Florida.

3.30pm President and Vice President elect and dignitaries arrive at the Capitol. Outside on the Mall, no crowds of thousands to share the occasion, but a vast field of flags representing the number of jubilant spectators who would have been granted admission tickets. Former Presidents and First ladies arrive. Special warmth shown for the Obamas, even with the relatively small assembly. Vice President Pence continues to depute for the ceremonies abandoned by Trump.

4.30pm. Ceremonials start. I note the regular wiping down of the podium after each speaker. A short prayer. A flag bearing. Lady Gaga for the national anthem. The girl can sing. With a minimum of flourishes ‘by Lady Gaga standards’ adds a commentator. Pledge of Alliance by a firefighter. Induction of Kamala Harris by Sonia Sonnermair. Groundbreaking in so many ways. Then Jennifer Lopez for America the Beautiful. Permission granted for a grand performance. John Roberts to administer the oath. A child cries softly in the background. Biden solemnly swears. It is ten minutes before power changes at midday.

Biden speaks. Success requires unity. My whole soul is with this cause. To fight enemies, extremism, anger, poverty, we can overcome the deadly virus. We can make America great again (!) . At moments of crisis we have come together. Can treat each other with dignity. We must meet this moment as the United (emphasis) States of America. Hear me out. Disagreement must not lead to disunity. I will be President for all Americans. We have a duty to defeat the lies. We must end this uncivil war. We can do this. We will need each other. To face this epidemic as one nation. We will get through this together. America has been tested. We will lead not just by the example of our power but the power of our example. [Calls for a silent prayer]. Repeats his sacred oath ‘to write an American story’.

An impressive speech. A man who made a mockery of those who mocked his speech frailties.

Timid format blunts Biden versus Palin debate

October 3, 2008

A timid format blunts a potentially significant debate between the vice-presidential hopefuls Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. Each candidate provided a well-rehearsed performance. Governor Palin, with more to lose, was in that sense the winner. The American electorate was the biggest loser

The vice-presidential debate promised to be more interesting than the Obama McCain exchanges. The combatants had not honed their arguments for months on the campaign trail. Sarah Palin appeared more on trial while remaining interesting, and for many Americans ‘more like us …‘not like a politician’.

After a dream start, Ms Palin had lost ground in the polls

Prior to the debate concerns had begun to emerge about her being a possible liability. A story about her personal finances was an added unwelcome distraction

Backdrop to the debate

The back drop to the run-in of the presidential campaign has been the financial crisis, started in America, but the toxicity from which has spread contagiously around the world far beyond financial institutions.

The world watched anxiously as President Bush’s rescue plan was defeated in the House of Representatives. The two presidential candidates were sucked into the political maelstrom, to no great advantage for either. As the one and only vice-Presidential debate started, renewed attempts to rescue the bail-out plan were going on [October 2nd 2008].

An echo of British Politics

The debate anticipated a theme heard these last two weeks in British Politics. During the annual party conferencs, The vastly experienced Gordon Brown landed one of his few telling blows on his rival David Cameron. This is no time for electing a novice, he said. Cameron responded well, but was forced to spend more time than he would have liked defending the charge.

Palin on trial

In this respect the folksy but inexperienced Palin was seen as far more under trial than the experinced Biden. Her recent performances combined with McCain’s age made the debate all the more significant.

What did the debate reveal?

Disappointing little. The format was depressingly structured to avoid putting the candidates to the test. There were no unexpected supplementary questions that might had taken a candidate out of rehearsal mode. So Biden’s reputation for over-egging a case was concealed. Palin’s vulnerability under close questioning was also concealed.

Video clips of the debate reveal that Biden avoided patronising Palin. Palin avoided sounding vacuous.

At a time when the electorate needed more information about the leadership potential of the democratic and republican Presidential teams they learned precious little. It was an opportunity missed.

The only consolation is that at least one famous Presidential election in the USA was believed to have been won and lost because of the physical apperance of the candidates on television.

The uncharismatic (and apparently unshaven and sweaty) Richard Nixon lost out irretrievably to the glamor of John Kennedy. Maybe the stakes today are too high for either party to risk the Presidency being decided on a brief televised beauty contest.