Biden not only conducted himself with restrained dignity, but proved to be better debater and better prepared.

 

I witnessed the first debate between presidential candidates John F. Kennedy, Democrat and Richard Nixon, Republican in October 1960 at the American Embassy, then located at Bahawalpur House. At the time, colour television had not arrived, not even in the United States.

The contrast between Kennedy and Nixon was all too visible. Kennedy, 6 feet tall, handsome and sartorially elegant; Vice President Richard Nixon by contrast was lacking all these. As for the debate’s outcome, Kennedy won, but only just. He was the first Catholic to occupy the White House.

It is not the Kennedy-Nixon debate that is etched in public memory. What is remembered after sixty years is Kennedy’s speech delivered at his swearing ceremony. “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” resonates to this day.

President Franklin D-Roosevelt (1932-1945), the longest serving President in US history, also made memorable inaugural speeches. 1932: “The only thing we have to fear is fear.” 1936: “The American people have a rendezvous with history.”

Jawaharlal Nehru, in his great speech on midnight 15 August 1947, had no doubt in mind Roosevelt’s “rendezvous” speech, when he used the word “tryst”.

I watched the Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and Mike Pence and Kamala Harris debates. The former was not a debate, but a verbal slanging match, with Mr Trump being rude and at times gave the impression of being disinterested. Mr Biden was neither rude nor irrelevant. When Mr Trump kept interrupting him, Joe Biden said to Trump “Shut up, man!” What was the outcome? Joe Biden not only conducted himself with restrained dignity, but proved to be a better debater and was better prepared.

Yet, there was a short coming—Joe Biden is not a charismatic or inspirational individual.

The Vice-Presidential debate between Vice-President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris seemed to me a one-sided contest. Several times she put the Vice-President on the defensive. Once when Pence attempted to interrupt her, she said “Mr Vice-President, I am speaking.” It was a spectacular put down. The Senator was the clear winner. President Donald Trump, throwing good manners to the winds called the Senator a “monster”. She is an accomplished, confident, assertive politician. Not a monster.

Before he contracted the Covid infection and was hospitalised, it looked that he might, just might make it to the White House again, but his own infection and constant playing down the seriousness of the coronavirus will in all probability cost him the election.

As of today it is more than evident that campaigning for Mr Trump will be an ordeal. It will be risky if he does not wear a mask, for which he has disdain. His other problem is that a dozen senior members of his White House staff have also been infected and are in a two-week quarantine.

Polls are seldom reliable but at this point in time Mr Biden is in the lead.

In India, it appears, that Mr Trump is favoured, especially on account of his taking China on. Mr Biden is relatively unknown in India. With twenty-three days left for 3 November, the world awaits with bated breath, guessing which way the dice will fall.

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Shri Ram Vilas Paswan’s passing away at the age of 74 is a huge national loss. He was the tallest and most well known Dalit leader who was elected to the Lok Sabha in the 1970s with a record margin.

Inevitably, his death will have extensive ramification in the forthcoming Assembly elections in the state.

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The coronavirus pandemic has turned the world into a huge medical ward. Hundreds of thousands of men and women have died. The miracle vaccine remains elusive, Life styles of hundreds of millions of people have drastically changed and as long as the virus lasts this will be the case. What will the world look like post pandemic?

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