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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden along with wife Jill takes the Oath of Office from Supreme Court… ABACA/PA Images

Larry Donnelly Biden declares and Tucker Carlson leaves Fox News - it's all happening in the US

Our columnist looks at Biden announcing his bid for a second term and Tucker Carlson leaving Fox News.

LAST UPDATE | 27 Apr 2023

IT HAS BEEN an eventful week in the United States.

First came the shocking revelation that one of the nation’s simultaneously most popular and most loathed cable talk show hosts, Tucker Carlson of Fox News, would no longer broadcast his nightly programme to millions of loyal viewers. More on that shortly.

Second was a generally anticipated, well-produced video confirming what was apparent on his successful visit “home” to Ireland earlier this month: President Joe Biden is pursuing a second term in the White House. The video was notable insofar as it featured many of the words that the proud son of Louth and Mayo employed frequently here. Central among them are values, family, freedom, dignity, respect and equality.

These surely have been tested on focus groups and, while some will assert they are bland, they are intended both to define him as a person and to distinguish him from the man who it increasingly seems will be his opponent, the 45th POTUS, Donald Trump.

While positivity and hope will be the hallmarks of Biden’s messaging, the Republican response to his announcement foreshadows that – no matter who their nominee for the top job is – they will endeavour to appeal to an electorate that opinion surveys consistently indicate is pessimistic and downbeat about the direction of the US through fear.

And their undeniably chilling video, utilising AI-created images, depicts a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, a collapse of financial markets, a massive surge of illegal immigrants on the country’s southern border and the descent of urban America into anarchy in the aftermath of a Biden victory. Moreover, with a letter from a former doctor to GOP presidents alleging “mental decline” and demanding that the 80-year-old incumbent undergo a cognitive test currently in circulation, expect questions to continually be raised about Biden’s capacity to serve four more years as commander-in-chief.

The Scranton, Pennsylvania native put in a stalwart performance and held up very well over the course of four long days in Ireland. Yet many Americans, including lots of leading Democrats when asked off the record, either harbour serious doubts as to whether he is up to the task or, at the very least, think he should have stepped aside for a new generation. In a recent Associated Press/NORC Center poll, just 26% of Americans want him to run again.

On the other side, it is interesting that, in a March interview, Donald Trump refused to discuss President Biden’s age. Rather, he sang the praises of business people in their 80s and 90s whose minds, he contends, are as sharp as ever.

Even the bombastic New Yorker, who is supremely lacking in self-awareness, has to recognise that, at 76, criticisms from him that are strictly predicated on age ring hollow. Instead, it is likely that he will repeat his previous statements that Biden “can’t speak clearly” and “can’t think clearly” without reference to how old either man is.

Trump has a large audience when he dwells upon Joe Biden’s weaknesses. Indeed, in an NBC News poll conducted from 14-18 April, only 38% of Americans see the Democrat favourably. But in the same questionnaire, merely 34% regard Trump in a good light. And one figure, above all, from the aforementioned Associated Press/NORC Center research, has to worry Team Trump: 65% of the electorate certainly or probably would not vote for him in 2024.

If the latter number is worrying for those attempting to engineer what would be an extraordinary political comeback, it must be infuriating to top Republicans. One can imagine the heated conversations transpiring daily behind closed doors on Capitol Hill and elsewhere as Trump maintains a sizable advantage against declared or putative primary challengers.

My suspicion is that they go a little bit like this. “How f**king dumb are our people?Trump is the one candidate we have who, barring a miracle, cannot beat this awful president. The grassroots are still happy to follow him off the cliff and take loads of Republicans on the ballot down, too!” Their exasperation is understandable.

Trump’s resilience is striking. Notwithstanding his rejection in the 2018, 2020 and 2022 elections, as well as the multiple dark clouds of major legal trouble swirling around him, he retains a double-digit lead over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis et al. Of course, that could change; I continue to believe that it might. But it may require a momentous, now unforeseeable occurrence or sequence of happenings because Trump has an extremely loyal base and because he plays the game by different rules to any other politician in living memory.

America’s civic religion teaches us citizens that ours is the world’s greatest democracy. If it is, one could be forgiven for asking, among other things, why we are staring down the barrel of a rematch between two elderly white men with manifest shortcomings and vulnerabilities? The obvious riposte is that this tenet of the civic religion is past its sell by date in 2023.

In this milieu, in addition to the themes he emphasised on his trip to Ireland and in his slick campaign video, President Biden, a decent guy, would be wise to again deploy – subtly and not so subtly – a maxim he heard as a boy from his father and as a young US Senator from former Boston Mayor Kevin White. “Don’t compare me to the almighty; compare me to the alternative.”

One of those who has played his own part in the pollution of the American democracy with his nightly rants to masses of fawning admirers is Tucker Carlson. He’s been all over the shop on Donald Trump – a lover, a hater, a 2020 election denier, a 2020 election accepter – and a proponent of toxic theories and ideas. Money has been his big motivator. We don’t know the totality of the reasons why Fox News let him go. I wonder whether it will prove a commercially astute decision, given his remarkably dedicated, copious fans.

That said, I am delighted he is off the air, for the moment anyway. Good riddance. I only wish that his fellow travellers on the left and the right in journalism in the US – who prefer to pose as provocative political protagonists than to fulfil their sacred responsibility to hold actual elected officials to account and who typically view politics as simply another form of entertainment – would similarly be shown the exit door.

Larry Donnelly is a Boston lawyer, a Law Lecturer at the University of Galway and a political columnist with The Journal. 


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