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It was four nights and Mr Trump was on stage in one form or another. Each night, members of his family spoke. His wife, Melania, also spoke, and he brought proceedings to a close. Last night he spoke on the South Lawn before a crowd, most of whom were neither wearing masks or social distancing. He spoke for 70 minutes in the Financial Times yesterday. Edward Luce, a very respected conservative commentator, talked about the week as Trump's Orwellian jamboree.
And they're the exact words loose he used. And he went on to write a very interesting piece about the absence from the Republican convention of the Republican Party. No policy, no manifesto published and dominated totally by one man. We're joined from Washington now. By now, Stanage Dyle is, of course, the associate editor of The Hill newspaper and White House columnist for The Hill and a remarkable piece in the Financial Times, which is not a lefty rag or even a liberal, but this piece by Edward Luce.
Noted the absence of the Republican Party at the absence of any policies, and he used the line to say, the man that's Trump is the plan. Where was the Republican Party this week now?
Well, to the extent that it was visible, I think it was in lock step with Donald Trump. The point, I think, is a useful one to make, and it's perhaps highlighted by contrasting this year's convention from the one that took place four years ago when Donald Trump was first made the nominee of the Republican Party four years ago. I and many others were in Cleveland when Senator Ted Cruz, for example, declined to endorse Trump. During his speech, Cruz told Republicans that they should vote their conscience in the forthcoming election.
That was also in tandem with an effort to sort of last gasp effort to deny the Republican nomination to Donald Trump, an effort that was obviously unsuccessful. But the point is that that sort of dissent from the Trump line, it was and is wholly lacking now, including from Ted Cruz, we might add, who has become a staunch Trump supporter.
So the takeover of the Republican Party by Donald Trump is complete, probably has been complete for some time. But the decision not to adopt a party platform, for example, does, I think, demonstrate the kind of identification of the Republican Party with whatever Donald Trump should happen to want at that particular time. One final point on that. I mean, it's astonishing the way the Republican Party rewrites its own history, according to Trump's own views. And it was noted by several speakers at the convention that the Iraq war was a mistake of some kind.
Know, many of your listeners may agree this was a mistake, but that had not been the Republican policy, to say the very least, four years until Trump became the de facto leader of that party. And the very people who defended the Iraq war staunchly are now critical of it because Trump is critical of it.
Yes. And the point I wish to make is that without political parties, without a Republican Party, our policy is irrelevant, really. And this is now populism in its most naked form. The other feature of this is the early days of this week's convention was the appearance of Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend and Fox News contributor Kimberly Guilfoyle, whose contribution and speech was really remarkable. It was hysterical and she looked absolutely deranged. I think AD and she ended by saying things can only get better and things can only get better was hardly the theme of the week in America at large.
And that one in particular. On Sunday night, less than 48 hours after Kimberly Guilfoyle spoke, yet another black man, a twenty nine year old Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back at close range by a policeman. And everyone has seen it much as they saw the George Floyd video. It's been widely shown in this part of the world now, and he was getting into his car, not offering any resistance that one could see. He is not dead.
He is incapacitated. He won't walk again. His vital organs are damaged and his spine, of course, badly damaged. This is a shocking event. And it led to this is before Kimberly Guilfoyle told us things could only get better. This is the response, of course, to this incident.
Really, that was surprising. The National Basketball Association, the NBA team, the Milwaukee Bucks, who are the nearest team to Jacob Blake, was shot in the city called Kenosha in Wisconsin. Their local team or the box, they didn't they refused to leave the dressing room. But Major Baseball League also refused to play basketball, canceled, baseball canceled. This is something quite unprecedented in America, regardless of any incident. And what has been made of that incident, because Donald Trump has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that it happened at all this week.
Yeah, it is a huge story here for quite obvious and very sad reasons. As you say, the video has been very widely viewed. Mr. Blake shot seven times in the back there. Sorry, I should have said his three children were in the car witnessing that. That's that's correct. And the officer who police officer who fired the all seven shots were apparently fired by one police officer who has been placed on administrative leave while the investigation is ongoing.
The I don't know if shock is the right word, Eaman, because unfortunately, these incidents have become more commonly witnessed. I would put it that way, partly to be quite honest, with the rise of of cell phone video where people citizens have access to a video camera on their person. A lot of the time. And that's the reason why a lot of these things have become prominent. One one sort of is shivers to think of the incidents that have taken place before that technology was available that never became visible to the public at large.
You're quite right to point out the a reaction in the sports world, which has been very pronounced and not not as of where an organized or premeditated strike. The Milwaukee Bucks, as you say, declined to take the floor for their game on Wednesday following Mr. Blake shooting Sunday. That then spread primarily, firstly through the basketball league and then the Women's Basketball League and to Major League Baseball as well, which had seven games postponed. I think that well, as you yourself know from your own playing career, I mean, sports has been a a focal point at times for dissenting views.
And we can go all the way back to Muhammad Ali or the raising of the black power fist at the Olympic ceremonies, things like that. So I think in relation to where we are right now in the United States, I think it is indicative of the way sadness and rage at these incidents has spread throughout popular culture and to a large extent through the population at large.
Now, when Donald Trump was seeking reelection in 2016, he promised to heal the divisions in the country. He talked about violence on the streets. He talked about delinquency. And he said that he would fix it. He made exactly the same speech at. On last night, it seemed to me much of it much of it was the same stuff. Yeah, I think there was quite a lot of it that was trying to link Joe Biden to sort of radicalism and division and all of that and portraying danger if Biden would be elected or predicting danger if Biden were to be elected.
I do think that last night Trump made one of his rare attempts toward more conventional stretches of out of a convention type speech, talking about the American spirit, trying to strike at some points, a more optimistic tone. But of course, the danger of that or the incongruity of that from Donald Trump is quite extreme, given that his inauguration he used the phrase American carnage. That was a pretty dark phrase. We've had all the thousand Twitter controversies, many of which we've spoken about on this podcast.
And the overall tone and and pitchin of the Republican convention was a lot about saying basically, if Democrats are elected, the cities are going to burn and fall into disorder, completely ignoring the fact that much of this disorder is happening after almost four years of Donald Trump being president and that he is judged by many people. If you look at opinion polls to have exacerbated and amplified the tensions that he is now claiming that he can calm. Yes. And one claim he made this week and he's made it before was that he had done more for African-Americans than anyone, any president in history, except maybe and that's him.
Abraham Lincoln at that ranks one of the most extraordinary statements ever made by any politician. Yeah, it's entirely bizarre claim. I mean, it ignores just to take one example, Lyndon Baines Johnson in the 1960s who under whose presidency, the Civil Rights Act and various other anti-discrimination laws were passed. I mean I mean, it is a statement by Trump that is so absurd that it's really difficult to grapple with it in any meaningful way. I mean, I think he is referring there to the fact that prior to the coronavirus hitting unemployment rates for black people and Latino people had fallen to historic lows.
But the extent to which he can claim personal credit for that for a start is debatable. And secondly, to suggest that that overshadows or outranks something like the Civil Rights Act is just a bizarre reading of history.
Yes, and the absence of a manifesto is truly extraordinary and for the Republican Party and reflects very badly, surely on the on the on the party. I mean, and this is a party that has produced great presidents and represents conservative values in the United States, perfectly respectable values, many of them. And it just appears to have evaporated. I mean, I know that the leader of the Senate, the majority leader, spoke at this four day jamboree, but not too many Republican elected Republicans.
Yeah, I mean, there were Republican elected officials who who did speak. But I think the broader point that you make about conservatism and Trump is an important one. I have spoken on a regular basis to many Republicans who are many former Republicans, maybe I should say, who have become distanced from their party during Donald Trump's presidency or since his rise to power. And many of them talk in similar terms to the ones that you used in your question. I mean, there is obviously a perfectly respectable conservative ideological position.
It holds that free markets are best for prosperity, that the actions of the state can often backfire or lead to unintended bad consequences. That change should be approached incrementally, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, various sort of tenets of conservatism. It's highly debatable whether Donald Trump believes any of that. It's highly debatable whether Donald Trump really has a political ideology. As such, I mean, if you look back at statements he made before he was in politics, he supported universal health care.
At times he was pro-choice on the abortion issue. At times, which he has now completely shifted from, the issue is not really the rights or wrongs of conservative positions versus liberal positions.
The issue is really Donald Trump's identity identification of anything that happens to help him at that moment in any kind of consistent political philosophy, in my view now, and going back to the piece in the Financial Times, I would lose, he says and argues very interestingly and very persuasively that the Republican Party was already on a journey and and it was the Tea Party that it was the Tea Party movement, Sarah Palin as John McCain's vice presidential pick. So Trump has he didn't initiate this this iteration, shall we say, of a conservative Republican Party that was well on its way, was it not, through the Tea Party, through the militias, through Sarah Palin and that kind of wild and truly radical approach to Democratic politics?
Yes, I think that is wrightman. And I think I would maybe even trace its genesis even further back than that. I mean, I think that myself, some of the genesis of that begins actually in the media and talk radio where secular, where you and I have spoken before about Rush Limbaugh being the most famous personification of that tendency without getting into very Minuti elements of the past.
Way back in the late 1980s, a thing called the Fairness Doctrine was done away with the Fairness Doctrine, required broadcasters to give equal time to different points of view. And it led to the rise of people like Limbaugh and demagogues. Really, radio demagogues who were different from Republicans in the past were much more fiery, were much more aggressive, and I suppose much more populist. And there was a market for that. It was then a market that I think was utilized by Fox News when it came along in the mid 1990s, made stars of people like Sean Hannity, for example, which was initially a radio presenter.
How much he still has a radio show. But then you had that element of populism. Then you had social media with a propensity to reinforce what people already believe for people to choose their own news, so to speak. And then, as you say, citing Edward Lucias article, The Rise of the Tea Party being a very obvious example of how those various forces came together long before Donald Trump had ever taken any serious steps towards seeking the Republican nomination for president.
Right. So as we I mean, as we're observing now the Republican Party, the change in the Republican Party has, as it were, mutated and would no longer be considered to be the party of Eisenhower or even George H. Bush or even George W. Bush, who has refused, as I understand it, to endorse Trump in this coming election. And can I ask you about the Democrats and the Biden Harris ticket now? And before I do that, one thing is troubling me.
I saw Trump claimed twice this week that he was ahead in the polls and that his approval rating was 52 percent. And he told the audience he was talking to you, that you want to read that because they don't publish polls when I'm ahead. Can you add all pretense of bias, by the way, or lack of bias has gone since he's become of more overtly racist and vicious? And what is the situation with the public, with the polls now?
Well, I don't I honestly don't know what he's talking about and making those claims. I mean, it's not evident what. He is basing that on there's a site here. Real Clear Politics that averages the polls and the hope of making a more reliable indicator than any single poll at the moment. His approval job approval rating in the Real Clear Politics average is forty four percent approval. Fifty four percent disapproval when he is tested against Joe Biden in hypothetical match ups in those polls, Biden is leading by an average of seven points and is leading by nine points in the two most recent polls, including one from The Economist.
So, look, there is some indication in some polls that Biden's margin is a little bit narrower than it was a couple of weeks ago. That could continue. I mean, I don't honestly think many people expect Joe Biden in November to win by nine points. I mean, that would be a very big surprise in a country as polarized as this. Yes. The suggestion that Donald Trump is leading in the polls is simply factually inaccurate. Yes.
One other development this week, and it followed the shooting of Jacob Blake. There was unrest in Kenosha, the city in Wisconsin, where this happened, and people took to the streets to protest at this killing. But others took to the streets to loot and burn and businesses, properties and so on. And one young man, 17 year old Kyle Rittenhouse, took to the streets with an automatic rifle and he killed two protesters and murdered him. He was subsequently known to have been a Donald Trump supporter.
And there's a photograph of him in the front row of a rally Trump gave in Iowa. And there was just a glimmer there of the effect, first of all, that Trump can have on someone who clearly disturbed. Secondly, the whole issue of these militias, they were on the streets again and what they might do if there was, for example, a close election with a disputed outcome.
Yes, I have been making a similar point for a long time in the sense that not to overdo the parallels here, but as is obvious from my accent, I grew up in the north of Ireland and rhetoric from demagogic politicians there, particularly in seemed to me to lead directly to acts of violence night, the northern conflict or other complicated routes which aren't our business to get into here.
But whenever and Donald Trump says these things and exacerbate tensions to the extent to which he does allude to the media or Democrats as sort of enemies of the people, that has an impact. And in the United States, much different from Ireland, you have, of course, a huge number of people who legally hold firearms. The situation with Mr. Rittenhouse, the 17 year old who you mentioned, as I understand it, is somebody under 18 isn't allowed a gun in Wisconsin, but you are permitted to openly carry guns if you if you're over 18.
His breach appears to be his age rather than the ownership of a of an automatic rifle under as you say, he's not alleged or the sole suspect in the killing of two people in the injuring of a third. So you put that stuff together and it seems very ominous to me. You and I have spoken before about the fact that Donald Trump has been ramping up his rhetoric about the election itself for some time, suggesting that if he loses, it would be illegitimate, it would be fixed in some way.
It will be fraud to do that. While you have supporters who are by any reasonable stretch, very extreme and some of whom are armed is a recipe for very bad things, it seems to me. Yes. And just to underline something about that, two of the guests, official guests of the Republican Party and Donald Trump at his convention this week were a couple who came out onto the lawn of their suburban house after George Floyd had been murdered in Minneapolis.
And there was. Testers outside and they threatened the protesters, the man with an automatic rifle and the woman with a pistol, that they were honored guests and they spoke at the other night, didn't they? They did.
And they suggested that what had happened to them could happen to you talking to the audience and not to them. As far as I know, it was a preemptive preemptive strike. You know what I mean? I mean, nothing had happened to them in the sense that they were not being attacked or under attack. They came out of their house, as I understand it, as protesters were walking by the office, that there was some suggestion of criminal behavior on their part.
And they may have been complaining about that process. But the point is that they were elevated at this convention and they are what they're famous for is brandishing guns in the direction of protesters. So that's just another example of the phenomenon that you're talking about.
Now back to Biden and Harris at the Democratic nominees. In the absence of a policy and they are a policy lite as well, as far as we can say, I know there's been hundreds of documents issued, but what is their basic strategy, Biden's basic strategy and their camp? Is it to leave Trump alone and let him continue to unravel?
Or is it at to go heavy on policy and on what it seems to me to be an effort to portray themselves, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as fundamentally competent and decent, rather than to get into the granular detail of politics and policies? No, it is certainly also the case that they feel.
I think Democrats broadly feel that Donald Trump is defeating himself to some extent or has been defeating himself to some extent, particularly in relation to his response to the pandemic. His approval ratings have declined, notably since that pandemic really struck the United States. Obviously, it has played havoc with the economy, which has also had a detrimental effect on Trump's popularity. The I mean, Biden and Harris can talk about policy if asked to do so. But the overall platform or the overall appeal on the part of the Democrats is to essentially say we need decency and competence back.
You're not going to get that with Donald Trump because he is who he is. Therefore, vote for us.
That's really the Democratic pill, I suppose, finally nailed it goes without saying that the debates will be critical. There's one debate between the vice president, the incumbent and Kamala Harris and three between Biden and Trump. And when are those debates? I know the first one is in, I think, 20 something of September. Is that right?
That is right. I don't have the debates right to happen, but I think it is one in September, one at the very end of September. I think it's yes. The 9th and then I presume two and two in October. Those will be pivotal, particularly given Trump's consistent insinuation that Biden is lacking mental acuity. And so those will those are really the the remaining sort of big set piece moments that are left in this campaign, because, of course, the election itself is only at this point a little more than two months away.
So it's not that far away. OK.
And I don't ask you to call it the feeling always is, isn't it, in American politics that the polls do tighten towards and the the closer the election date comes to be, so the closer we get to November three, we can maybe expect them to tighten a bit?
Yes, I think we can. I mean, as I say, I do not expect Joe Biden to win by the kind of margin that the polls are currently predicting. I would expect some so-called soft Republicans to return to the fold as it comes closer to the crunch. The I think the other point there, Eamon, is 20, 20 has been a very, very unusual year as I. Don't need to tell you any of your listeners, there is an unpredictability about this election, not only because of the move toward Maylin balloting, but also just in general.
It is a very febrile atmosphere. There are some people who believe that there are supporters of Donald Trump who will not identify themselves as such. Yes, pollsters.
So, I mean, I think they want to be clear that Joe Biden is clearly the favorite at this point. But people who think this is a done deal are wrong. It is plausible that Donald Trump could win.
OK, now, thank you very much indeed for joining us from Washington. Now, Stanage, associate editor of the newspaper and the White House columnist for The Hill. We're very grateful to Nile, as always, grateful to you for listening and especially to Tasco, our sponsors.
That's all we have time for. We'll talk to you soon.