Biden Versus Trump – a heavyweight battle for democracy and leadership

Expect ‘O’Biden’s Bistro and Pub’ and ‘Folksy Joe’s Café’ to open soon in Mayo and Louth, with both Irish counties vying for the ultimate prize as the US President-Elect’s favourite ancestral home.

But don’t expect an end to the disputed US elections any time soon – at least, that’s what my favorite American TV news channel, CNN, is telling me.

I’ve never been one for daytime television, but I have to admit, I’ve been pretty much glued to the box over the last week. One of the reasons has been a heightened sense of professional responsibility. My local radio station, Highland, here in northwestern Ireland, asked me to offer my insights into what is happening across the Pond so I needed to stock up on info for my 15-minute stints with friendly host Greg Hughes.

Here’s my latest thoughts on Monday morning’s show –

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. If my sense of professional responsibility is so keen, why didn’t I watch Fox News? Suffice it to say, while I may not be the most upright of citizens, hardly the salt of the earth type (though my dearest wife might disagree, I hope), I do have some shreds of dignity left, even when no-one’s looking. And CNN is so colourful, dynamic and ‘with it.’ In culinary terms, it makes our paltry Irish national TV channel, RTE, seem as flouncy as a flat soufflé, with presenters this side of the Atlantic, like Miriam O’Callaghan, paid twice as much as their more talented counterparts across the Atlantic.

Anyway, simply put, Donald Trump doesn’t like losing, indeed is a pretty sore loser, and he won’t stop until he’s scoured every avenue to turn last week’s election result on its head, including a slew of lawsuits. Don’t be surprised if it becomes a re-run of the controversial saga of ‘Bush V Gore’ twenty years ago.

Reminds me of one of the many election jokes I’ve been sent. No, not the one – what does the end of World War Two and end of the US elections have in common? Both ended with Fascists in a bunker.

The one I mean is the one below.

While Trump won’t win back the White House, (he needs to roll back tens of thousands of votes in several different states to do so), his misguided efforts are rousing the ire of Republican voters – no doubt part of his political strategy ahead of the two all-important Senate run-off elections in Georgia on January 5.

Whichever party wins those key seats will shape the future of the US and to a certain extent the EU and Ireland. If Democrats win, the party will control all three power centres – White House, House of Representatives and Senate – and can pass legislation easily, including strengthening environmental protection measures and Obamacare, as well as re-joining organisations such as the World Health Organisation. Not to mention dealing with the frightening spectre of racism in the US.

If Republicans win, they’ll embark on a strategic policy of obstructionism that will frustrate President-Elect Joe Biden, just as it did Barack Obama for the last six years of his two-term presidency.

While Biden has called for “unity and an end to partisanship and demonization,” his calls have gone unheeded. Backed by Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate majority leader, Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State and Bill Barr, Attorney General, who told the Justice Department to investigate alleged voting fraud, partisanship has reared its ugly head even higher.

Biden nor his staff can even access their new home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue nor highly-classified intelligence documents that normally losing presidents hand over as part of a smooth transition. The General Administration Agency just won’t hand over the keys.

This leaves the US in a state of semi-paralysis.

With no peaceful transition of power for the foreseeable future, the consequences are enormous. Failure to recognise the result of the Presidential election stops, or at the very least, slows down all legislative action. This bodes badly for the US as the country grapples with over 100,000 new coronavirus cases every day, 10 million cases already with a quarter of a million dead, and a struggling economy.

But there’s worse to come. A Trump lame duck firing spree has begun with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper the first to see the back door. Rumor has it the CIA and FBI directors are next. Trump has 60 days or so to install ‘yes’ people, to help him in his ludicrous mission to overturn the election. This will destabilize the country.

I’m sure Vladimir Putin is saying a decade of the Rosary in gratitude, rubbing his hands with glee. Or, more likely, checking the progress of his Internet hackers.

But there is some good news for Ireland. One of the reasons, I’m hoisting my favorite cocktail here.

As Joe Biden’s ancestors are from here, he will favor us not just with a visit or two but he’ll help protect the Good Friday Peace Agreement and use Ireland as a conduit to Brussels, with obvious political benefits, not to mention strong prestige.

An added bonus for Donegal, a pristine place from where I write this, is that Philadelphia Congressman Brendan Boyle, whose father, Frank, emigrated from Glencolmcille, less than an hour from my house, could be promoted as advisor to Biden’s White House.

And, of course, there’s always the new O’Biden pubs, clubs and cafes in Mayo and Louth to look forward to – when that pesky coronavirus goes away and allows us, that is.

Good writing gives me goose-bumps

Having arrived in picturesque west Donegal – Bun na Leaca to be precise – over six years ago and recognizing it for the artists’ haven that it is, my wife, Columbia, and I thought about establishing a creative writers’ retreat.
After all, surely such a pristine and bucolic landscape could inspire great prose. 

Ireland Writing Retreat participants enjoy a special Celtic legend coastal walk with guide, Seamus Doohan.

Not that such an idea hadn’t been done before.  Poet partners, Janice Fitzpatrick Simmons and her late departed husband, James, had done so many years previous, setting up a ‘Poet’s House’ in a refurbished cottage at Clonbarra, outside Falcarragh.

Then funding was more generous and tens of thousands of euro annually wasn’t much of a problem for Udaras na Gaeltachta, the Arts Council, Donegal County Council, LEADER, and other sources.
Times have changed, however, and the public funding pump is dripping slowly, a mere trickle at best. Seanie FitzPatrick and Co. and Fianna Fail made sure of that.

Rose Sweeney teaches future members of the ‘Riverdance’ cast the basic ‘sevens’ of Irish ceilidhe dancing.

County Librarian and Divisional Manager of Cultural Services, Eileen Burgess, a keen supporter of our idea, issued warnings: “It’s a wonderful project but there’s simply no money in the kitty. You’d pretty much be on your own.”

But you know how it is – an intriguing idea comes along, sticks to you like furze in a meadow and simply won’t fall away no matter how hard you try.
So, even though there are more than one hundred creative writing conferences and book festivals throughout Ireland – many in the much-publicized, tourist-centric counties of Dublin, Cork, Galway and Kerry – we took the plunge.
After all, isn’t Donegal the prettiest of them all?

Washington-based triple book author and former CNN editor, John DeDakis, enjoys a leisurely trip on ‘The Cricket’ to Gola Island with other writing retreat participants.

Of course, wisdom told us to delay until better economic times were upon us. But passion drove us forward, screaming, ‘tempus fugit.’ We swayed for a while between the two.

We’re going into our third year now and have managed to attract participants from far off fields, many of whom had never been to Ireland before never mind the back-roads of the Donegal Gaeltacht – Wyoming, Sydney, Utah, Perth, Stoke-on-Trent, New Jersey to name but a few.
Not bad for a project without public funding of any kind.

Guest speakers at the Ireland Writing Retreat held at Teac Jack, Gaoth Dobhair. (l to r) Singer-songwriter-guitarist, Ian Smith; Mark Gregory, forensic editor; actor/director Murray Learmont.

Imagine where it could go with a bit of financial support – but perhaps only if it’s located in one of the aforementioned counties.

As for this year, international stars of the week-long retreat included John DeDakis, triple book author and former senior editor at CNN for 25 years who flew directly from Washington to be at Teac Jack’s, the retreat location; Anthony Quinn, experienced author of crime fiction with a crafty literary twist; and Mark Gregory, a much-heralded forensic editor (the person who reads book manuscripts minutely word by word, syllable by syllable).

Plot, character, suspense – (l to r) Authors John DeDakis and Anthony Quinn discuss the challenging task of writing novels.

But committed locals also loaned their weight enthusiastically to the endeavor – actor and drama group director, Murray Learmont, guided participants on improving their public reading skills; singer-songwriter-guitarist, Ian Smith granted insights into the challenging task of lyric writing; Rose Sweeney taught participants their ‘sevens’ in preparation for a ceilidhe in the backroom of the popular Glassagh venue; Pól Ó Muireasáin gave an enlightening tour of Gola Island; and Seamus Doohan led participants on a Celtic legend coastal walk – all of which was grist to the mill for writers’ creativity.

Eddie, the uncrowned King of Gola Island (in blue) with walking guide, Pol O’Muiresean, (r) talk about life on the west Donegal island many years ago.

The ‘Donegal News’ considered this year’s ‘Ireland Writing Retreat,’ which ended last week, worthy of an article in today’s edition.
article
Onward to 2016.
 

Unique chance to meet Washington-based author and former CNN editor in west Donegal

Wandering through a dappled glade in Glenveigh National Park a short while back, Lugh and Siog, our two loving, lively, not-so-shy Irish collies – as is their habit – found some new friends. A bearded man, his wife and his daughter.
That man turned out to be Washington-based former CNN senior editor and triple-book author, John DeDakis, a friendly fellow over on this side of the Pond on a short holiday – his first foray into Donegal.
He must have liked what he saw, for that same man I am delighted to say, will now speak at a special public event hosted by ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ at Teac Jack in Gaoth Dobhair this Monday evening, June 29, at 8pm, sharing his decades-long experiences in American TV and radio broadcasting – including interviewing Alfred Hitchcock – as well as writing three crime suspense novels.
Interestingly, the protagonist in John’s three crime novels is a young woman, so – having honed his writing skills from a female perspective – he will talk about what he learned about the mistakes men make in trying to forge meaningful relationships with women.
In his fourth novel, which he is working on now, John deals with the death of his 22-year-old son. During his talk, he will explain why he wanted to tackle such a personal and painful topic.
John will also offer advice to those who feel they have an interesting story to tell, but are confused about how to get started writing it.
 
Staffed 24 hours, seven days a week at CNN‘s world headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, and in bureaus worldwide, the television and online news network has a global team of almost 4,000 news professionals. Its news and information services are available in five different languages across all major TV, internet and mobile platforms reaching more than 380 million households worldwide.
“It is a delight to be a part of the Ireland Writing Retreat in Donegal,” said John earlier this week, several days before he departed from the US capital. “It is wonderful that such an international event as this takes place amid such a beautiful landscape, a perfect backdrop for artists of all kinds, including creative writers.” 
His exciting and informative multi-media presentation is entitled ‘From Journalist to Novelist Or How I Learned to Start Making it Up.’ If you’re interested in news, journalism, current events or creative writing – don’t miss it.
Among the many roles, John played at CNN was as senior script editor of the popular Emmy and Peabody-Award winning programme, ‘The Situation Room,’ hosted by Wolf Blitzer, which offered expert analysis of the world’s top news and current affairs stories, both national and international.
John is travelling direct to west Donegal from Washington this weekend to join a line-up of top-notch published authors in diverse genres, including crime, magic realism and science fiction, for the week-long ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ where they will help retreat participants improve their creative writing skills.
His interest in the crime suspense genre began long before he finished the first of his three published novels, ‘Fast Track,’ ‘Bluff’ and ‘Troubled Water.’ He enjoyed the rare privilege of conducting a 40-minute, one-on-one interview with the man who has been nicknamed the ‘Master of Suspense,’ Alfred Hitchcock. The career of this British director, who pioneered many techniques in psychological thriller movie genres, spanned half a century and included such film successes as ‘The Birds,’ ‘Dial M for Murder’ and ‘Psycho.’
John was also White House correspondent for CBN News during the last three years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. He is an adjunct journalism faculty member at the University of Maryland-College Park and has been a lecturer at the American University, Washington, D.C. and Writer-in-Residence at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center in Atlanta, teaching fiction writing classes and holding one-on-one writing tutorials.
For details on how to book your place see Ireland Writing Retreat