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Hello and welcome to stand with Raymond Dunphy. The stand is proudly supported by Tesco, Tesco, our exclusive house for over Sixty Five's family carers and extremely medically vulnerable customers are every weekday, Monday to Friday, up to nine a.m.. Health care and emergency services have priority access at all other times now, more than ever, every little helps. Now we're just over a fortnight away, 18 days away from the US presidential election, which most people believe is the most important presidential election of all time.
It certainly has caused a worry across the world and indeed in the United States, the pandemic continues to rage and Trump continues to really say some very extraordinary things. And last night there was a town hall event, Trump having refused to debate Biden over by Zun, and he held a town hall. Biden held one simultaneously. They were on different channels. And we're joined now by nine Stanage, associate editor of The Hill, a very respected Washington newspaper and White House columnist for a newspaper ad to tell us about another very fraught week.
There was also, Niall, the hearings to confirm Trump's appointment of Judge Amy Komy Baratz to make her a justice of the Supreme Court. She is a very controversial judge, and the manner in which her nomination has been rushed through has been a matter of serious controversy as well. So there's an awful lot happening. And can I ask you about the town halls? Last night I caught some of the Donald Trump encounter, shall we say, and he was saying extraordinary things, including about Q and on which is this far out group who are conspiracy theorists.
And he he didn't disassociate himself or disown them. No, he didn't.
And that was probably the biggest single piece of news out of either town hall. Q And on I mean, it is really a difficult thing to go into without without giving oxygen to something that really shouldn't be given oxygen. It's a sort of bonkers conspiracy theory, really.
And I mean, really out there stuff about satanic cults in high places that are involved in pedophilia that Trump is going to bring dying in some heroic fashion. And it's all unfounded nonsense, but also quite dangerous nonsense because of the way that its adherents behave sometimes. The point, I guess, is that Trump was asked about it.
He rather mildly said, well, that the only thing he knew about them was that they were against paedophilia, which I guess is technically true, but is like an obviously disingenuous answer. How sinister and high not a this theory is. And he was pressed on this point by Savannah Guthrie, who was his interviewer last night, NBC News journalist. And he just didn't he just sort of tried to skate around that, saying that he didn't know much about Q and on repeated that a couple of times would not disavow them.
And one of the ironic things about this, in a way, is that these comments came right after he had actually, to be fair, been very clear cut in finally disavowing white supremacists. That question was one that had the first presidential debate caused enormous friction because of Trump's rather equivocal stance. He was unequivocal about that last night and then immediately launched into this peculiar ambivalence about, you know.
Yes. And there is another conspiracy theory out there that he embraced as well this week. It concerns the Obama administration's assassination of Osama bin Laden. And it emerges that there's a conspiracy theory now that, in fact, bin Laden escaped and the person who was assassinated was a body double that has gained great currency. And he appears to have given it a bit of oxygen.
Yes, he retweeted. Tweet to that effect, earning a rebuke from one of the people who was a member of the team that killed bin Laden and asserted that it really did happen. But I mean, the president of the United States retweeted it and therefore publicized publicizing series that that bin Laden was somehow a hoax or a fake is quite bizarre. He was again asked about that in the NBC News town hall and he sort of said, well, I just I've tweet lots of things.
And Savannah Guthrie, to her credit, said, well, you're the president of the United States. You're not just someone's crazy uncle, as she put on Twitter and just retweeted.
I saw that exchange and fair play to her. It was true. And she really put her finger on something that about Trump and that the way he behaves is so unlike what you'd expect from the leader of a country, never mind the most powerful politician in the Western world, to go back to the Amy Komy Barrett confirmation hearings. I she is undoubtedly, it seems, destined to be confirmed as a justice on the Supreme Court. The Republicans, as Mitch McConnell said yesterday, we have the votes and that's it.
But it is controversial. You might remind us why.
And and Abraham Lincoln, for example, refused to rush a Supreme Court nominee through on the basis that the American people should speak this in an election year. And Barack Obama wanted to make an appointment 10 months before the election and the Republicans wouldn't let him. They blocked it. And now we have a woman who appeared from nowhere in the last few weeks and was what might be called very severe conservative views being rushed through in time to vote on the Affordable Care Act, which is a vote due on the 10th of November, one week after election that could reverse Obamacare, which would be a very dramatic development.
Yes, that's right.
The key point that Democrats harp on is the difference between the nomination process for Amy Barrett and the nomination process for a man called Merrick Garland. And to describe this briefly, in February of twenty sixteen, the beginning of the final year of President Obama's presidency, Antonin Scalia, a conservative Supreme Court justice, died. Obama then nominated Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy. And Mitch McConnell, who was the Republican leader of the Senate, blocked Garland from even getting a hearing, never mind a final vote.
And McConnell's argument at that point was that it was an election year and that no nomination should be pushed through until the American people had rendered their verdict. The American people rendered a verdict by voting for Donald Trump, and Merrick Garland never was nominated.
So that was controversial in and of itself.
Now we have this situation with Amy CONI Barrett, who has obviously following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has been nominated very late in the presidency of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, still, the Republican leader in the Senate, has taken a diametrically different view from the one he took four years before.
Now, the overriding principle here is interesting to me, because actually, I mean, presidents do have the right to nominate who they wish to the Supreme Court, and then it's up to the Senate to confirm it or not.
That the key point, I think, is the difference, the different standard that is applied by people like McConnell when a Democratic president, Barack Obama, nominate someone to a Republican president Donald Trump nomination, and famously the chair of the Judiciary Committee is Lindsey Graham and a senator who is in a very tight race to hold this seat.
But at the time now Obama wants to make his nomination. He said it shouldn't happen. And he went into all the reasons why. And he said, if I ever get involved in a venture like that, you can quote this back at me. And shamelessly, it has been quoted back to something far worse. And he has tried to brazen it out. But he's in a very tight race now for his Senate seat, isn't he?
He is, which is fascinating in itself because Lindsey Graham represents South Carolina. If. Just typically, a very solid Republican state, he's been challenged by a Democrat called Jamie Harrison. That race is basically a dead heat at this point. Lindsey Graham has been on Fox News, among other places, essentially pleading for money from conservative viewers to try to fight off this challenge. But it is a fascinating race, that one, and it's partly, I think, so close, at least according to a Democrat down there I was speaking to.
It's partly so close because, frankly, so many people have a right or have a reason, rather, to dislike Lindsey Graham. I mean, on the one hand, Democrats dislike him because of his closeness to Trump.
But Trump supporters remember that he was, in fact, vociferously opposed to President Trump during the 2016 primary process. Graham Graham ran with great effect in that process, but was very, very damning in his assessment of Donald Trump. Then candidate Trump has completely changed his tune since now.
The town hall last night doesn't appear to have gone particularly well for Trump. The Joe Biden town hall with the conducted with a former staffer for President Clinton, who would be very well disposed towards Biden, seems to have been an entirely different affair and much more to do with Biden laying out policies.
Yes, that's my understanding. No, here I have to give full disclosure that up the Hill we covered these two events by me watching Trump and a colleague of mine watching Biden. But from the highlights, the highlights of what I've said, they were simultaneous events. I should point out the from what I have seen of the highlights of Biden's event, it seems to have been a rather more staid affair, rather more predictable or orthodox, a bit like the way the first debate was such a debacle.
And the vice presidential debate was like, oh, yes, that's what normal politics is like. I thought that's what Biden's event was like. No, there are still points or subject on which Biden can be as vulnerable or can be put under pressure, one of which being his disinclination to to be straightforward about whether he will, as they say, pack the court. If Amy Barrett is confirmed, there has been some suggestion that Democrats would increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court and fill those empty seats with liberals if Biden wins.
Biden has been, I would say, vague and frankly evasive as to whether he will do that or not. He was asked about it again last night. He has no suggestion that people will know what he will do before Election Day.
But it's it hasn't been one of his great or greater moments or greater topics, in my personal opinion.
No, it's a very it's a it's a it's a reflection, really, of the polarization in American politics at the moment, surely that they really can't agree on anything and that the Supreme Court, with her confirmation, with baratz confirmation, there'll be a six three conservative majority which will give and she's forty eight. So she could be there for 30, 40 years. Your appointment lasts until you die. But what is really fascinating to us here is the power the Supreme Court has in the United States of America on things like abortion, the Roe v.
Wade being the cause celeb from nineteen seventy three, I believe. And now Mubarak has written about that. She said she would revoke it, it seems, and on the Affordable Care Act, which was a very big policy, Obamacare, as it was known, and that has to be voted on or at least heard on November 10th. And she will be on the present trajectory on the court by then. And she has expressed the view that Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act is wrong.
So in that circumstance, when the political system appears to be broken, really now in America, that idea of packing the Supreme Court has to be on the agenda. And that's what I think Biden was conceding last night was.
I think that's true. I think it is to the point that you originally raised about polarization. And I think that's really important because firstly, the. Supreme Court, as you correctly point out, it has a profound influence on American life in all sorts of areas. I mean, Roe v. Wade and abortion is probably the most famous one, but same sex marriage was well, in effect, legalized by the Supreme Court quite recently. Its influence stretches throughout American history.
In the 1950s, for example, since the Supreme Court that declared racially segregated education to be unconstitutional and made a number of other rulings that were at least not in the country. And what we would all acknowledge was the right direction on racial, civil rights, the civil rights, things of that sort, things of that nature. No black in the Supreme Court would be an enormously controversial move. I'm not making any judgment of whether it be right or wrong thing to do, but it would be colossally controversial.
And, of course, you would then open the door or set the precedent for a subsequent Republican president and Republican Congress to do the same thing. There are, as you noted, nine members of the Supreme Court are nine nine judges on the bench of the Supreme Court. So you could quite easily, it seems to me, if you started court back and get into this absurd situation where you have, I don't know, 11 or 13 in four years time and 17 in 12 years time.
And it would just get ridiculous about how do you stop that sort of gravitational pull toward the poles of American politics.
I really don't know, because it's not just about Donald Trump. It's about the media. It's about social media. I mean, there are polls that show, for example, that the number of people who would like to live in close proximity to supporters of the other party or would like to see a son or daughter marry a supporter of the other party has declined over the past generation. So when you have things that are that deeply embedded as forces in American society, it's quite difficult to see how they would be easily reversed.
Yes, and I'm in the exercise of raw power and such as we've seen with Mitch McConnell and this nomination of Amy Call me Barack is a. Whilst legitimate, it's also frightening and it takes away the possibility of consensus in the national interest. Isn't this what the Trump phenomenon has really done? Here is a man who has taken over the Republican Party. So it's about him. The party has been subservient to him and it is in the interests of the United States of America that matters most.
It's what's in the interests of the Republican Party. And more than that, it really is what's in the interests of Donald Trump. This is a complete reversal of even the Bush the two Bush presidents, the Clinton Obama going all the way back to Jimmy Carter, for example, but also Eisenhower, Jack Kennedy, the the nation interests was almost always paramount, or at least the pretense was there. They don't even bother with the pretense, it seems, this generation of Republicans.
I think that's right, frankly. And I think, you know, one little microcosm of that to the point of the Republican Party becoming synonymous with Trump was that at this year's Republican Party convention, there was no party platform. There was no party platform offered by the Republican Party. And the assumption was that the reason for not having a party platform was because it is a party that is at the behest of Donald Trump's whims. And those whims, as we have seen on all sorts of issues from North Korea to economic stimulus, can change at a moment's notice.
For example, John McCain, a Republican and a war hero, abused publicly and repeatedly by Donald Trump and the Republican Party, stood idly by and watched it and celebrated this man and are now. And that's something, I suppose, history will judge Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham and people of that caliber and harshly for that.
Yeah, I mean, there is video footage of Lindsey Graham not just excoriating Trump, but describing Joe Biden as one of the finest people he has ever met or one of the finest people you could meet in politics, for example. Yes. And he has made a complete 180 on that. It's not as and I think you're alluding to this in the way you ask the question mean it's not really about conservative beliefs or policies. I mean, American politics at this point.
I remember so talking about this with someone many months ago now, they this is not about, you know, whether you believe that taxation rates should be a certain way or certain policies encourage economic growth or discourage economic growth. This is about whether this man is fit to be president of the United States. Yes. And there are people who I think can't honestly believe that to be the case, who you are claiming otherwise.
And, you know, there are people like Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell, who up until very recently would have considered themselves sort of institutionalists for the Senate and for American politics generally, who just can't believe that Donald Trump's manner of governance is worthy of the United States and are publicly proclaiming otherwise are nuts. Well, that's for history to judge, I suppose.
Now, one Republican senator in the last 24 hours has spoken out, Ben Sasse. He's a senator from Nebraska. He's up for re-election and he has been highly critical of Donald Trump. I don't know of any other Republican running for re-election who has been. But Sasse has pointed to Trump's behavior, his liking for conspiracy theories and his general. And he's clearly seen the light or seen it in. Some figures suggest getting offside with Trump is not a bad thing if you want to be re-elected.
That's right. I mean, Shasta's comments are very interesting.
There were comments to constituents that were picked up by conservative leaning newspaper here, The Washington Examiner, and I'm not quite sure how they got the audio, but nonetheless, they were very harsh comments about Donald Trump and importantly, sort of. Warnings about the potential electoral damage caused to the Republican Party by virtue of sticking by him so closely, Sasse talked, for example, about the possibility of an electoral bloodbath for the Republican Party, he says, referring to the identification of Republican red and Democratic blue.
He said, We are staring down the barrel of a blue tsunami and was talking also about the fact that the in debates that Senate candidates will face. And this is an exact quote from Sarsae. It's going to be quote, What the heck were any of us thinking the selling a TV obsessed, narcissistic individual to the American people was a good idea. And so Ben Sasse needles his colors to the mast there.
And that is highly unusual for a Republican senator or any Republican member of Congress. Sasse has been critical before, but these comments take that to a new level of intensity. If it's bye bye, then it's bye bye.
The rest of us just have just a final question.
And the the. Possibility of Russian interference, the possibility of voter suppression. The most obvious case I've seen is Governor Albert in Texas and only allowing one at Dropbox per thousand thousand. Yeah, these these endeavors to suppress the African-American vote at these endeavors, perhaps by the Russians in particular, to rig things, maybe even hack election stuff. This is terrifying many people around the world. And I'm sure in the United States we know about the polls. What are the polls telling us is one question, and particularly in the six or seven swing states?
And secondly, how sure can America be that this will be a fair election?
Well, those are great questions to take the first one first. I mean, Joe Biden is ahead by a significant amount nationally when it comes to the swing states. The one that I would say would be characterized differently than others is Florida, which is, of course, the biggest of most important. Florida is really pretty tight. No, Biden is in a much stronger position along those sort of upper Midwest, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin states, but less so in Florida.
And we've spoken about reasons for that before. As far as the safety of the election process is concerned, that is a concern for very many people, not least because people think that Donald Trump is prone to opening the door to chicanery of various kinds.
The there are two separate issues, of course, one being the voter suppression tactics that you referred to and the other being outside interference. The outside interference has gained more steam this week when there's been a rather controversial and contentious story about Hunter Biden and his dealings in Ukraine that has emerged and shady circumstances. The overall point is that I think there is quite widespread concern about the integrity of this election process. If the election results are way, way tighter than polls.
And I predicting we could be in a very ominous situation. And of course, that ominous situation will almost certainly be exacerbated in that scenario by President Trump, who has been prone to suggesting that he can only lose by fraudulent means, and also the possibility that the outcome would go to a Supreme Court packed with Trump supporters. Indeed. OK, well, think about that over the weekend.
Thank you very much indeed for joining us. On the stand now, Stanage is the associate editor of The Hill and the White House columnist for The Hill. And we're grateful to Nile as we move into this extraordinary period in history. We'll see what happens. And I will be there to guide us. Thanks to Nile. Thanks to all of you for listening. And a big thanks, of course, to our sponsors, Tesco. That's all we have time for now.
We'll talk to you soon.