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[00:00:00]

Today with Claire Byrne on Radio One, we're going to cross the Atlantic now because the US president, Donald Trump last night formally accepted the Republican Party's presidential nomination in a speech on the White House South Lawn in front of a 1000 person crowd. Trump's hour long speech was largely focused on the flaws and failings of the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden.

[00:00:22]

If we had listened to Joe, hundreds of thousands more Americans would have died. Instead of following the science, Joe Biden wants to inflict a painful shutdown on the entire country. His shutdown would inflict unthinkable and lasting harm on our nation's children's families and citizens of all backgrounds. The cost of the Biden shutdown would be measured and increased drug overdoses, depression, alcohol addiction, suicides, heart attacks, economic devastation, job loss and much more.

[00:01:01]

Well, President Trump mentioned Joe Biden's name 40 times in that speech. And the Democratic presidential nominee released a two minute campaign ad to coincide with the final night of the Republican convention. Let's hear some of that.

[00:01:15]

Some people are always in a hurry. They run when they could walk, race up steps when others take it slow. When Joe Biden's president, America is just going to have to keep up, we won't have to wait to deal with covid-19 he's already got a plan. We'll have to wait for a president on the side of working families. He's from Scranton. No one has to tell him Wall Street didn't build this country. He knows who did. We're a nation that's been hit hard by this virus.

[00:01:45]

But Joe Biden knows when you get knocked down, you get up off the mat. Sounds like a trailer from a Hollywood blockbuster. Well, back to the Republicans, one of the most dramatic speeches from that four day event came from the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr. This is Kimberly Guilfoyle. She's a former prosecutor and Fox News personality with Irish roots America.

[00:02:07]

It's all on the line. President Trump believes in you. He emancipated and you opt to live your American dream. You are capable, you are qualified, you are powerful, and you have the ability to choose your life and determine your destiny. Ladies and gentlemen, leaders and fighters for freedom and liberty and the American Dream. The best is yet to come.

[00:02:40]

And we thought we had a dramatic political week. Suzanne Lynch is Washington correspondent with the Irish Times and she joins me now on the line. So, Suzanne, Donald Trump accepted the presidential nomination in the White House last night. He was in front of a huge crowd, but it was a really unusual move to do it in this way for the presidential candidates.

[00:02:57]

Yes, Claire. I mean, all week there has been controversy around the fact that the Trump campaign has used the trappings of the White House, the trappings of presidential power to stage what is a partisan political convention. Usually, conventions take place well away from Washington. Now, their argument, of course, is that coronaviruses change things and the convention has to go mostly virtual. But we saw this with Melania, his wife's speech during the week. It was from the White House Rose Garden.

[00:03:26]

We also saw Donald Trump during the week at hosting a naturalization ceremony for citizens in the White House. Again, very unusual, but really a last night really topped all that. And so there was a really lavish, very slickly produced two hour event in the South Lawn. That's kind of the back of the White House and around up to fifteen hundred people we think were there that were invited guests who attended at this event. Nobody really was wearing masks and there was no real social distancing to speak of.

[00:03:58]

So I think a lot of people found this extremely jarring that he was using the White House in this way and kind of whitewashing the fact that America is in the middle of a pandemic, that one hundred and eighty thousand people have died. And really there was no mention of coronavirus. It was almost like a pre pandemic world. And I think that's the message Donald Trump was trying to portray, kind of everything's fine. The economy is booming as if the pandemic hasn't happened.

[00:04:24]

But whether you know that that narrative is going to last, it's going to be able to sustain that after the fireworks and and the beautifully presented Rose Garden faded from people's memory, that's going to be his challenge now for the next 10 weeks or so.

[00:04:38]

And what he didn't mention the virus. He did mention Joe Biden, as I said, 40 times. Extraordinary, because when Joe Biden gave his acceptance a nomination speech last week, he didn't mention Donald Trump once. Is that right? It is right.

[00:04:51]

And it was very effective. Joe Biden kind of stood above partisan politics, if you like. And I did refer to this president. This president never referred to Trump directly. Yes. With a complete contrast last night. So Donald Trump went on the attack. It was a very, very long speech. Too long, in fact, well over an hour. So it kind of lost momentum. And we heard there from Kimberly Guilfoyle, for example, and that kind of energy she brought to it.

[00:05:16]

But that was very much not the case with Donald Trump's speech last night, as I said, went on for about 70 minutes. But, yes, Joe Biden was the main focus of that speech. He called him weak. He said he takes his marching orders from liberals and he said he has been on the wrong side of history throughout his political career. And he also said that, you know, his agenda is made in China. My agenda is made in the USA.

[00:05:37]

So he he set up this binary choice, if you like, between what he is going to offer and what Joe Biden is going to offer. And I think it was about stoking fear. It was about saying to Americans, if you choose Joe Biden, you will not be safe. And I think this team of law and order is going to be a huge theme in the next few weeks. Donald Trump has been trying to highlight that since the beginning of the protests earlier this summer over George Floyds death.

[00:06:03]

And now we have renewed seen the violence in some cities over the shooting of another black man, Jacob Blake, at the weekend. So I think he's trying to use that to exploit that. If you'd like to play on people's fears and say that was to say America's streets will not be safe if you vote for Biden.

[00:06:20]

Did he address the shooting of Jacob Blake specifically? No, he didn't really. He didn't by name. And but what he did say was he did try and say, obviously, that a racially charged incident that happened as it was with George Floyd. So we at one point he said that he has done more things that I've done more than any president since Abraham Lincoln for African-Americans. Of course, he didn't mention Barack Obama, who was the first black president of the United States.

[00:06:46]

He did say that. And it was quite clever because during the week we. So we heard from quite a few African-American and minority groups, for example, last night, we heard from a woman who is very compelling story, who had been jailed for life for a drug offense, and Donald Trump granted her clemency and she was released from prison after 22 years. Kim Kardashian West, the celebrity had worked with Trump on that. So she was a very compelling figure with other members of the African-American community who basically were saying it's OK to vote for Donald Trump.

[00:07:15]

So that was quite effective. But no, last night in terms of this latest police killing, he didn't mention it. Instead, what he focused on was what he's talking about, which is mob rule, as he puts it, an anarchy on city streets. So the protests he's talking about, he called them. Right, rioters, looters, flag burners. And he's saying, you know, if I'm your president, I would not be part of that.

[00:07:37]

And the Republican Party would remain the voice of the patriotic heroes who keep America safe. So he's very much setting Republicans up on the side of police. And look what we did actually. Here again, another Irish American, the head of the biggest police union in New York. And he came out last night and spoke and delivered a very strong endorsement of Donald Trump, again, emphasizing this theme of policing and protecting those institutions of law and order.

[00:08:05]

Do you have any sense, Suzanne, how the speech was received? I mean, a speech that's over an hour long, it's difficult to know, you know, how many people watched it, how many people were paying attention. But he is trying to win over specific groups, isn't he, like in particular the suburban housewives there in his target group?

[00:08:20]

Yeah, that's what was interesting about this week. In a way, Donald Trump's speech, which was the grand finale of this four four day event, was quite predictable. It was your typical kind of almost stump speech meets State of the Union, meets a campaign rally. And we heard the usual Donald Trump ticking off what he says was his accomplishments. But during the week and I say it was actually more subtle and more effective. So you're absolutely right in that I think Trump now realizes he has already got his base on his 40 to 42 percent of voters love Donald Trump and they will continue to vote for him.

[00:08:54]

But his task, I think, this week was to try and win over some more. So, as I mentioned, the the minority vote, African-American vote is one, but also the woman vote. And this week, we heard from a lot of women in the Trump administration from people like Kimberly Guilfoyle. As we heard people like Kellyanne Conway and Katie McEneaney, his press secretary, she gave a very deeply personal speech about her decision to have a preemptive affect me and how Donald Trump had called her and how he was somebody who really cared about people.

[00:09:25]

Yeah, Ivanka tried to suggest or she did suggest that, but he's very caring as well. And she used the example of of of the coronavirus and people who have lost loved ones. And she was talking about the empathy that he showed and also.

[00:09:40]

Exactly. And she also, like others, kind of made the point, look, we know he can be frustrating. She said at one point. Look, I know some Americans that his tweets can seem a bit unfiltered. She says you may not always agree with them, but you always know where he stands. So this is kind of a message to a lot of these women. They kind of reached out and accepted his flaws. And we're kind of saying to voters around the country, but it's OK to vote for him.

[00:10:07]

And I think over the week we saw these ordinary Americans from like they had one very effective segment last night where it was dead people who were said they've always been Democrats, but they voted for Donald Trump. And these voices, I think, were very effective, along with ones like people like Ivanka trying to personalize Trump, trying to accept his flaws, as I say, but say, look, his results speak for themselves. He's going to do the job and he cares about America.

[00:10:28]

I think the biggest story of the week, well, the one everyone's talking about, it's Camberley. I mean, where did she she just landed from outer space with a speech in the empty auditorium.

[00:10:38]

She did. And it was prerecorded. So they would have had a chance to take that again. But obviously she decided to go with it. I mean, she's a fascinating figure, quite well known here. And I think what's so interesting about her is actually her path. She she was married to the Democratic governor of California, Gavin Newsom, for years. So she was always known as a Democrat. And her father, who came from County Clare, emigrated from Ennis when he was about 20.

[00:11:03]

He was actually a big figure in Democratic politics in California. And then over the last decade or more, she became she gravitated towards Republican politics. The marriage broke up. She became a Fox News personality. And then in the last couple of years, only since about 2000, 18, it emerged that she was having a relationship with Donald Trump Jr., much, much younger than her. And she is now been at Donald Trump junior side, Donald Trump, side of the other many events as seen her here at the Y at different events in Washington.

[00:11:33]

So they're very much the power couple. And last night, actually, at the end of the convention, when there were huge fireworks display, it was an opera singer. Kimberly was up at the very, very top and on the stage with the Trump family, with all the siblings right in the middle of it. And so she's obviously going to. A huge we're going to see more of reclear, I think, over the next few weeks. And how are the polls looking finally, Suzanne?

[00:11:55]

Yeah, well, Joe Biden is still ahead quite substantially and his margins are tighter in these key swing states that are so important in the American election system. But that lead is tightening. And Donald Trump has been closing the gap on Joe Biden, according to some polls, particularly in swing states. So this race is by no means over. I think it's been a very strong month for the Democrats and a very bad few months for Donald Trump during the coronavirus, etc.

[00:12:23]

And but we may have passed the worst for Donald Trump, if you like. So we still a long way, just over two months to go for the election. Historically, things can change at the very, very end. And there's a lot of examples through American history where things have changed its famous October surprise. But there are also debates that are still have to happen and these can change people's perceptions. So as we saw this week, it's all about getting out the swing voter people who may have been reluctant to vote for Donald Trump.

[00:12:48]

I think the message now is going to be a fear, a fear message. Don't vote for Democrats because of this issue about law enforcement and violence in the streets. So I think this could get quite negative and quite nasty in terms of campaigning in the next few weeks.

[00:13:03]

Anything can happen 10 weeks to go. So I'm sure we'll chat again. Suzanne, thanks very much for joining us today. Suzanne Lynch there. Coming up on the program, we're going to be speaking to groundbreaking Irish climber Claire Sheridan about her new book, Text five one double five one today with Claire Byrne on RTG, Radio one.