Mary Kelly: Debate did little to ease nervousness about US presidential election

Michelle Obama famously said, 'When they go low, we go high' but I don't think that tactic works with Trump, whose grasp of reality and familiarity with truth are shaky, to put it mildly

US President Donald Trump, left, and former vice president Joe Biden during this week's first presidential campaign debate. Picture by Patrick Semansky/AP
Mary Kelly

YOU wouldn’t really expect Athenian debate when you’re looking at the current state of American politics but few expected the first TV spat between Donald Trump and rival Joe Biden would be quite so bad.

“The worst in US history , said one commentator. And more succinctly, a “sh**show” according to CNN’s political correspondent, Dana Bash.

Michelle Obama famously said, “When they go low, we go high.” But I don’t think that tactic works with a streetfighter like Trump whose grasp of reality and familiarity with truth are shaky, to put it mildly.

Biden was provoked into telling the president to “shut up, man” at one point when he was continually interrupted, and also referred to Trump as a clown. But his supporters will have been reasonably happy with his performance.

The bar had been set pretty low, in fairness, as there’d been fears over Biden’s mental acuity. But he spoke directly to the camera to address the viewers directly while Trump continually pouted and scowled at either at Biden or the hapless moderator, Chris Wallace.

There’s been scandal after scandal directed at Trump, from boasting about sexually assaulting women, to the latest about his non-payment of taxes. But his reputation as a successful businessman has also been revealed as the ultimate fake news as he’s in debt to the tune of millions of dollars. He’s even said he won’t accept the result of the election if he loses.

But I fear he was right four years ago when he quipped that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and still not lose the support of his base. The rest of the world is looking at November 3 with a degree of nervousness.

* * *

IT’S now exactly a year since I quit the day job as a radio producer. I didn’t get a redundancy pay-off, though I tried. Now they’re on offer again as the Beeb cuts its cloth in the face of reduced income. Spilt milk. I try not to cry.

I can’t say I miss the 4.30am alarm going off for the early shifts but I do miss the company of colleagues, the banter and gossip in the staff kitchen and general workplace intrigue. So I do understand how many people find working from home is just not the same as office life. Though some like it because you can stay in your PJ bottoms.

Personally I’ve always got dressed and made up before starting work. Standards, dear, standards.

Despite working in various offices, newspaper and broadcasting, for nearly 40 years, I was surprised at how soon I adapted to life at home. And how quickly you adopt a different rhythm.

I only realised how rigid that had become when I felt a surge of outrage when Homes under the Hammer was moved to an earlier morning slot. That ruined my 11 o'clock coffee break. And yes, I know you can record it, but it’s not the same.

* * *

I WAS aghast at the suggestion that the BBC could be faced with two of the biggest haters of the corporation getting key jobs – Charles Moore, oily biographer of Margaret Thatcher and former Daily Torygraph editor, is being touted as its new chairman, while former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, who believes it’s a nest of Marxists, could be the next Ofcom boss.

Moore famously said allowing gay marriage could lead to people being able to marry their dogs and opined that Olivia Colman shouldn’t be allowed to play the queen because she had a “left wing face”.

There’s an insidious culture war being waged by this Conservative government where schools in Britain have now been banned from using teaching material that calls for the end of capitalism because it’s “an extreme political stance”.

The new guidance puts those wanting to replace the economic system on a par with those endorsing racism, antisemitism and violence, or the overthrow of democracy.

Also outlawed is the “encouragement or endorsement of illegal activitiy, a failure to condemn illegal activities done in their name or in support of their cause".

That section prompted the leading QC Jessica Simor to ask, witheringly, if that meant schools should refuse government money, following the Brexit bill that breaches international law.

* * *

YOUR starter for 10. What happens during a pandemic when you let thousands of teenagers head off to university and they all arrive at the same time to crowded halls of residence and HMOs? Yes, a lot of them will get Covid. Who could have predicted that, eh?

Since their classes are being conducted online you would wonder why students – many of whom now have to stay in their halls – were invited to move on to campuses at all.

Could it be so that the universities can continue to extract their £9k in fees? Just wondering.

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