Friday, November 6, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Trump in denial
It’s a perilous moment for America’s democracy

President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference. Image via ABC News

Vote counting in the US continues to favour Joe Biden to take the White House, and a result could come within 24 hours if the Democratic candidate wins Pennsylvania, whose 20 electoral college votes would clinch the election. Several US television networks cut away from a deranged press conference by President Donald Trump earlier today, in which he falsely claimed to have won the election if just the “legal” votes were counted. Trump also renewed accusations of electoral fraud, which even Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post called “baseless”. MSNBC anchor Brian Williams explained that Trump’s press conference “was not rooted in reality – and at this point, where our country is, it’s dangerous”. CNBC host Shep Smith demolished Trump point by point, summing up by saying: “What the president of the United States is saying, in large part, is absolutely untrue.” On social media, Trump’s former campaign manager Steve Bannon was suspended from Twitter and had a YouTube post removed after he called for the beheading of coronavirus adviser Anthony Fauci and FBI director Christopher Wray, saying Trump would win re-election and should fire them both. “I’d put the heads on pikes, right,” Bannon said. “I’d put them at the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats. You either get with the program or you’re gone.”

The Trump campaign is flailing in the face of defeat, and Trump’s sons Donald Jr and Eric are berating Republicans for abandoning the president. “Where’s the GOP?!” tweeted Eric. Roughly 150 Trump supporters, some armed, surrounded the Maricopa County election office in Phoenix, Arizona (where Biden’s lead is narrowing) and chanted, “Count the vote!”, while in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania (where Biden has won or is catching up) they shouted, “Stop the count!”

In a frightening rant on Fox News, Trump favourite Tucker Carlson said the Democrats had been thinking about the possibility of civil unrest for a long time, and he harked back to a mid-year election simulation with John Podesta, a former adviser to Clinton and Obama, who canvassed what the US military would do if Trump refused to accept the election result. Carlson replayed a taped interview with Lawrence Wilkerson, retired US colonel and former chief of staff to Colin Powell, who said: “If Trump calls his base into the streets with their guns – his base owns something like 60–70 per cent of the 300–400 million guns in America – if they answer that call and come into the streets with guns, then we probably are going to have a need for the military, and then all bets are off as to how much blood might flow.” Carlson followed: “How much blood might flow. So here you have one of the people who brought you the war in Iraq, fantasising about killing even more civilians – in this case, American citizens, Trump voters – in the streets of our cities.” 

Carlson pulled back, damning Wilkerson’s comments and marvelling that it was no wonder ordinary Americans were becoming paranoid. “Let’s stop this right now,” he said. “Slow down. No hasty calls. Our system works. It has worked before. If people air concerns, resolve the concerns. Don’t call them names, don’t sweep those concerns under the rug, don’t shut it down artificially with unelected news anchors – let the system work. Only by doing that will we have a country we’re going to want to live in 20 years from now.”

Back in Australia, it was a similar message from Sky News commentator Andrew Bolt, who said last night that he could see no evidence of fraud: “I hope Donald Trump will leave the White House with dignity. I hope he will leave office without trashing faith in democracy. I hope he will stop recklessly claiming he’s been cheated out of a win.” 

Labor leader Anthony Albanese urged Scott Morrison to make use of his close relationship with the president, reminding everyone that our PM attended a de facto campaign rally in Ohio with President Trump. “He should be contacting President Trump and conveying Australia’s strong view that democratic processes must be respected,” Albanese said. 

The contrast between Trump’s wild claims and a much more presidential statement by Joe Biden today – urging patience – was striking. With narrowing counts still underway in the four key battleground states of Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia, and a dangerous president with his back to the wall, it is a perilous moment for America’s democracy.

“If any country, including China, unreasonably blocks our exports we must call them out … Morrison has failed to deliver leadership on the China relationship and has failed to admonish inflammatory behaviour by his backbenchers that has made a bad situation worse.”

Shadow foreign minister Penny Wong, in a joint statement with frontbench colleagues Joel Fitzgibbon and Madeleine King, reacts to news that China will halt imports of Australian wine, lobster, sugar, coal, copper, barley and timber, worth a combined $6 billion.

“Find another market.”
“Things are not going to get better.”

Two off-the-record take-outs from a crisis phone hook-up between senior Morrison government officials and China-exposed businesses, as Trade Minister Simon Birmingham sought an explanation from our largest trading partner on its threatened ban on exports.

Trump’s last stand
Protests have broken out across the US in response to Donald Trump’s attempts to cling to power. Today, Oscar Schwartz on what a potential Biden presidency could look like, and whether Trump will succeed in hijacking the result.

The value of the 51 per cent stake in the nation’s biggest toll-road project, Sydney’s WestConnex, which was sold to Transurban in 2018. Treasurer Dominic Perrottet announced today that the NSW government would sell the remaining 49 per cent.

“The Victorian government ensures that at the ministerial and departmental level, clear control and accountability structures are in place for the operation of the Quarantine Program (including the facility-based program together with any home-based program), to be operated by one Cabinet-approved department, with support from other departments as necessary, but in accordance with a clear line of command vesting ultimate responsibility in the approved department and minister.”

In the interim report of the COVID-19 Hotel Quarantine Inquiry, Jennifer Coate recommends that a single agency and minister be responsible for Victoria’s program in future.

The list

“On September 14, a team led by Jane Greaves of Cardiff University announced it had discovered traces of phosphine in the cloud decks of Venus. This toxic gas, PH3, is lethal in large doses, and in smaller amounts has the odour of garlic or rotting fish, but to scientists it has the whiff of glory and discovery … Phosphine was entirely unexpected from any geological chemistry on Venus – and if the hotly contested result stands up to scrutiny, this could be the first hint of alien life.”

“[Rémi] Bezançon’s fifth and best feature, Gallic whodunnit The Mystery of Henri Pick, is … exactly the kind of well-tailored charmer that could entice the grey pound back to the box office. Set in Paris as well as Brittany, it’s both a slyly amusing commentary on the contemporary publishing scene as well as an old-fashioned mystery – only this particular mystery rests upon a question of authorship rather than murder.”

“Thinking on its feet has seen Attica deliver countless birthday cakes during the lockdown, and stage a virtual party with The Avalanches. Shewry rises at 5am each Wednesday to make 180 litres of soup to feed out-of-work hospitality workers – many denied JobKeeper and other benefits because they are visa holders or simply weren’t employed for long enough before the pandemic struck to qualify. None of these schemes made Shewry money, but they kept Attica’s 42 staff employed as Melbourne’s second lockdown stretched to more than 100 days.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Body Count: How Climate Change Is Killing Us, Inside the Greens and Born To Rule: The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull.


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