Trump's shortcomings make weak opponent Biden look strong

Joe Biden in White House in 2014 Image copyright Getty Images

My early take on Joe Biden was that the weaknesses that made it harder for him to secure the Democratic presidential nomination would ultimately make it easier for him to win the presidency.

At a time when the Democratic Party was lurching leftwards, his pragmatic centrism would be advantageous because hard-hat voters in the Rust Belt and Starbucks moms in the swing state suburbs would find it unthreatening. Nor was his inability to rouse a crowd necessarily a drawback.

Many Americans, after all, were yearning for a presidency they could have on in the background: soothing soft jazz after the round-the-clock heavy metal of the Trump years.

Biden's geniality was the key, his smile almost his philosophy. In a politics often driven by negative partisanship - odium for your opponent more so than fervour for your own party's nominee - Biden would be hard to turn into a hate figure. Certainly, he was nowhere near as polarising as Hillary Clinton, whose negatives helped Trump pull off his unexpected victory in 2016.

Then I went to Iowa and New Hampshire and was shocked to see how the 77-year-old could barely hold a tune. Speeches became rambling soliloquies, a reminiscence from his Senate career here, a name drop from his vice-presidential tenure there. Looping and meandering, his train of thought regularly careered off the rails.

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A letter to our newborn American daughter

An American flag flies in front of The Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center as the sun sets in New York City on December 15, 2019 as seen from Bayonne, New Jersey Image copyright Getty Images

You were born on the third night of curfew and in the third month of the Covid lockdown, entering the world as around us an epic history swirled.

When your mother went into labour, police helicopters circled above our apartment building. Our midwife's assistant was questioned by officers outside the door. And when we looked out of our window shortly after your birth, a convoy of New York squad cars darted over the Brooklyn Bridge towards the towers of Lower Manhattan, lights flashing scarlet and blue.

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Coronavirus: New York becomes Ground Zero again

Sunset over Manhattan Image copyright Getty Images

The headlines seemed to be crowding in on us. The coronavirus had reached American shores.

It had come to the outer suburbs of New York. There were cases in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

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Coronavirus: What this crisis reveals about US - and its president

Man in Times Square Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The usually packed Times Square is empty

There are no fresh flowers at the 9/11 Memorial any more. An American altar usually decorated with roses, carnations and postcard-sized Stars and Stripes is sequestered behind a makeshift plastic railing. Broadway, the "Great White Way", is dark. The subway system is a ghost train. Staten Island ferries keep cutting through the choppy waters of New York harbour, passing Lady Liberty on the way in and out of Lower Manhattan, but hardly any passengers are on board. Times Square, normally such a roiling mass, is almost devoid of people.

In the midst of this planetary pandemic, nobody wants to meet any more at the "Crossroads of the World". A city known for its infectious energy, a city that likes to boast it never even has to sleep, has been forced into hibernation. With more cases than any other American conurbation, this city is once again Ground Zero, a term no New Yorker ever wanted applied here again. With manic suddenness, our world has been turned upside down, just as it was on September 11th.

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Trump impeachment trial: Is US politics beyond the point of repair?

Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell

The new decade in American politics has started with a hangover that keeps on getting worse - a quickening of the downward democratic spiral we have witnessed over the past 30 years.

So much of what has gone awry has been resident in the trial of Donald Trump.

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Joe Biden: A frontrunner stumbles in the age of #MeToo

Joe Biden Image copyright Alamy

The most damaging political scandals are usually those that draw attention to an existing vulnerability in a candidate's public persona.

The Hillary Clinton email controversy reinforced a reputation for evasion and also the sense the Clintons did not feel bound by rules that applied to lesser mortals.

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Bill Clinton acquittal: Echoes of a sex scandal 20 years on

A collage of Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump Image copyright Getty Images

The paradox of the Bill Clinton impeachment saga was that it made it easier for Donald Trump to become president and harder for his wife, Hillary. Twenty years after his acquittal, it's clearer to see how that seismic event shaped American politics and culture today.

In a quarter century of covering US politics, I only have ever got round to framing two newspaper front pages. The first was when President Bill Clinton was impeached in December 1998. The second was when he was acquitted at the conclusion of his Senate trial the following February.

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George HW Bush funeral: A legacy repackaged for Trump era

George HW Bush in 2011 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption George HW Bush in 2011

Americans have not just been mourning the passing of a president, but also the vanishing of a bygone politics.

For George Herbert Walker Bush was the last president of America's greatest generation: a war hero who bemoaned the end of the patriotic bipartisanship that was such a feature of the early post-war years; a moderate who was genuine when he vowed in 1988 to make his country kinder and gentler; a pragmatist who viewed with suspicion the rise of ideological purists in the Republican Party who fetishised tax cuts and demonised government.

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At Thanksgiving, discordant Trump heads squabbling American family

Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.
Image caption Mocked up picture of Pelosi, Trump and McConnell

The Thanksgiving holidays will provide little respite from rhetoric in a highly polarised US.

In this week of Thanksgiving, a holiday observed by most Americans regardless of creed, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation or politics, it seems untimely to talk of national discord and divisiveness.

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Is this the most successful month of the Trump presidency?

US President Donald Trump raises his fist as he walks on the South Lawn before boarding Marine One at the White House, 13 October 2018 Image copyright Getty Images

These days there seems to be even more of a swagger as Donald Trump strides across the South Lawn to board his green-liveried helicopter, Marine One.

Those campaign-style rallies, which have become such a marked feature of his presidency, have even more of a celebratory charge.

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