One of the most highly regarded and best informed commentators on US politics says that “America feels like Pakistan” and now faces “70 days of Trump smashing the crockery”. Edward Luce, the US national editor of the Financial Times, says that speculation in the US about what could happen feels like a “house of cards”. In this situation he says there’s a real possibility of the president himself as well as the Trump administration misusing the enormous powers the president possesses for another 70 days.
In a 40-minute interview to The Wire, Edward Luce says that “Trump is trying to scorch the earth for Biden”. He describes the situation as “absurd theatre”. Although theoretically the American constitution does envisage a situation where the electoral college is unable to decide on a candidate for president and the responsibility of choosing the president devolves on the House of Representatives, where each state has one vote, and because the Republicans control more states than the Democrats the process could lead to Trump being declared president, Luce says this is very unlikely to happen. He says this could be feasible in a situation where only one state is in dispute. In the present circumstances three states need to be flipped and that would require “breath-taking chutzpah”.
Luce, a former South Asia chief of bureau for the Financial Times and author of one of the best books on India by a foreign correspondent called In Spite Of The Gods, says Joe Biden is “an Indophile”. He says “he’s warmly disposed towards India.”
The journalist says that the incoming Biden administration will put greater pressure on India in terms of issues like the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens, Jammu and Kashmir, press freedom, treatment of muslims and NGOs. However, he adds, this will be “in the background”. He says it will not make Narendra Modi uncomfortable.
Luce pointed out that the incoming Biden administration is committed to hosting a world summit of democracies where the terms and definition of democracy will be at the core of the summit. Biden, he says, is committed to a values-based democracy. As he put it, “Biden is very pro-values”. Luce said India will of course be invited to the summit but there could be some awkward moments because of the stress on values.
Speaking to The Wire about Pakistan, Luce said the country “will remain a headache that cannot be solved”. Regarding Afghanistan, he said even during the years of the Obama presidency Biden was committed to an early and complete withdrawal of American troops from the country. He, therefore, believes that that Biden administration will by and large stick to Trump’s withdrawal plans from Afghanistan.
Speaking about the impact a Biden presidency will have internationally, Luce told The Wire that he expects that on the first day after the inauguration Biden, by executive order, will reverse Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Accord and the World Health Organisation. Restoring the Iran nuclear deal could take more time and would require some concessions from Tehran.
Speaking about the US’s relationship with China, Luce said there will be “very little strategic difference but the world of tactical difference” between Trump’s handling and Biden’s handling of this key relationship.
Luce told The Wire, “Trump’s defeat is bad news for populists in the Western world, none more so than Boris Johnson.” Securing a post-Brexit free trade agreement with the US has become significantly more difficult for the British government.