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MANHATTAN: Former US President Donald Trump attends his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs in New York City, on May 7, 2024. — AFP
MANHATTAN: Former US President Donald Trump attends his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs in New York City, on May 7, 2024. — AFP

Less is more: Trump lies low as Biden flounders post-debate

WASHINGTON: Since announcing his White House bid, Donald Trump has taken every opportunity to paint President Joe Biden as so weak and compromised that he would struggle to make it to November’s election, let alone serve another four years. Yet with the Democratic president suffering perhaps the worst week of his political career, his Republican rival appears to have resisted what must have been a potent urge to get out in public and gloat. Trump’s rally in Doral, Florida is set to be his first public event in 11 days, and only the second since Biden’s prime-time televised meltdown at their June 27 debate in Atlanta that upended the election campaign.

Americans have become accustomed to the drumbeat of Trump’s brash campaign rhetoric from the podiums of sports arenas, the precincts of court houses and conservative cable news studios - and when it stops, they notice. “Trump’s not talking much about Biden’s bad debate. Trump’s campaign is not blitzing ads about it,” Democratic former White House aide David Axelrod noted on X Monday.

“And Lara Trump said last week it would be an affront to democracy if Biden were not the nominee. Question: Why do you think they are uncharacteristically holding fire?” The answer may simply be that the twice-impeached felon with civil court adjudications for sexual assault and widespread fraud has understood that sometimes, less is more. “When your opponent is self-immolating, the wise thing to do is stay out of his way,” said author, PR consultant and former White House correspondent Ron Fournier.

Trump offered a limited critique of Biden’s debate performance in an interview Monday night with Fox News, eschewing any mention of a serious condition or any attacks on his mental fitness. Trump also said he thinks Biden will stay in the race. “It was a strange debate, because within a couple of minutes, the answers given by him were - they didn’t make a lot of sense,” Trump said.

The Republican said he didn’t look at Biden during the debate “except when he went a little bit haywire.” When asked if he thinks Biden should step aside, Trump said: “Well, we prepared for him, but I don’t think it will matter,” before launching into a list of what he considers his own achievements while in office.

Decisive week

Since his widely-panned debate, Biden has failed to assuage fears that, at 81, he is simply no longer able to make the case against another Trump term - let alone lead the free world into the year 2029. The president has said only the “Lord almighty” could persuade him to quit the race but clamor has been intensifying for a less heavenly intervention as a small but growing group of Democratic lawmakers has called on him to step aside.

All the while, Trump has passed up opportunities for his share of the limelight, preferring to go golfing in New Jersey than to generate headlines that could detract from Biden’s tailspin. He has even refrained from naming a running mate - a big political set-piece that could have garnered days of headlines ahead of next week’s Republican nominating convention in Milwaukee.

“When Donald Trump makes a lot of noise and aggravates a lot of people, that’s one thing,” Democratic former New York governor David Paterson told local radio station WABC 770 on Sunday. “But I think in this particular case, his silence indicates that, ‘Why say something, when everything’s going my way and the Democrats are all over themselves?’”

American dream

None of this is to say that Trump been completely silent. Besides the Fox News interview Monday night, in the days after the debate he has been his usual prolific self on his social media platform, Truth Social - relentlessly posting and reposting videos, newspaper articles and allies’ remarks on Biden’s job performance and competency.

And even the new, restrained Trump has still been indulging in the occasional baseless smear - posting about his “crooked” opponent and the “fascist” Biden administration while reintroducing the nickname “Sleepy Joe.” Most Democrats see Biden’s vice president, Kamala Harris, as the obvious replacement should he decide to quit the race, although several of the party’s 23 state governors would also be in contention. A poll released by CNN a few days after the debate found that Trump had an edge of 47 percent support to 45 percent in a matchup against Harris. His lead against Biden was a wider 49 percent to 43 percent. — AFP

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