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NEW YORK: On the first day of the Republican convention on Monday, all eyes were on Nikki Haley, former US ambassador to the UN and one of the rising stars of the party, who delivered a keynote speech in which she praised President Donald Trump on his foreign policy.

Recalling her experience at the world organization, Haley said: “The UN isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a place where dictators, murderers and thieves denounce America, and then put their hands out and demand that we pay their bills.

“Well, President Trump put an end to all that. With his leadership, we did what (former President) Barack Obama and (former Vice President) Joe Biden refused to do. We stood up for America and we stood against our enemies.”

Haley claimed that Biden would be a gift for America’s adversaries. “Joe Biden is good for Iran and ISIS (Daesh), great for Communist China, and he’s a godsend to everyone who wants America to apologize, abstain and abandon our values,” she said.

“Donald Trump takes a different approach. He’s tough on China, and he took on ISIS and won. And he tells the world what it needs to hear.”

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Haley said the Obama administration’s abstention in December 2016 over UN Security Council resolution 2334, which condemned Israeli settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territory, “led the United Nations to denounce our friend and ally Israel.”

On the other hand, when Trump moved the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Haley said the president directed her to veto a resolution condemning the move. “This president has a record of strength and success,” she added.

The theme for the first night of this rather pared down version of an in-person gathering was “Land of Promise.” Trump had promised it would be an “uplifting and positive” convention.

One of the guest speakers was a coronavirus patient who said he benefited from the president’s “expedited therapies.” A small-business owner credited Trump with saving her coffee shop through a loan she received.

And a cancer survivor who introduced herself as a “formerly forgotten American citizen” said she could not imagine what would have happened to her had Trump and “our favorite first lady not given up the beautiful life that you had so that we get a chance at one.”

Speakers attempted to adopt a bright tone that would draw contrast with last week’s Democratic convention, which Trump called “the gloomiest ever.”

But it did not take long for the cheerful exterior to betray a dark undercurrent, with Democrats accused of trying to steal the upcoming election, unleash “anarchy” on the streets, encourage illegal immigration and even repress religious freedom. Biden was portrayed as a puppet in the hands of socialists and “the radical far left.”

In his speech, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son and a top surrogate for his re-election campaign, called Biden “the Loch Ness monster of the swamp (who) for the past half century (has) been lurking around in there. He sticks his head up every now and then to run for president, then he disappears and doesn’t do much in between.”

Trump Jr. railed against the Democratic-run cities that have been struggling in the past months to maintain order amid massive protests for racial equality.

“Anarchists have been flooding our streets, and Democrat mayors are ordering the police to stand down,” he said.

“Small businesses across America, many of them minority owned, are being torched by mobs. The Democrat mayors pretend it’s not happening. They actually called it ‘a summer of love’.”

Two marquee speakers at this prime-time event were the married couple who pointed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters in St. Louis, Missouri. The couple took to the airwaves to offer viewers a dark vision of a future under Biden.

“Whether it’s defunding the police, ending cash bail so criminals can be released back out on the streets the same day to riot again, or encouraging anarchy on our streets, it seems as if Democrats no longer view the government’s job as protecting honest citizens from criminals, but rather protecting criminals from honest citizens,” husband Mark McCloskey said.

As the couple were speaking, protests erupted for the second night in a row in the critical electoral state of Wisconsin after a new video of a black man being shot in the back by police went viral and sparked outrage in what could become a new flashpoint.

Addressing the crowd of delegates in Charlotte right after he was formally re-nominated, Trump said Democrats “want no guns. They want no oil and gas. They want no God.”

And while Biden tapped into voters’ unhappiness over Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the president accused Democrats of “using COVID-19 to steal the election.”

Trump made a surprise appearance at the White House in a video with essential workers who praised his response to the pandemic.

He also appeared with and interviewed six Americans who were held hostage in various countries and were freed under his administration.

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