Joe Biden Helpfully Reminds Donald Trump Who's President, What Day It Is, Which One Is 'Camel'
Donald Trump and the GOP have dared Joe Biden to denounce the rioting, looting, and violence in occurring in cities across the country. This is a remarkably simple thing to do, so maybe they really believed Biden was in Antifa's pocket. It's as if they learned nothing from the 2008 campaign, when Barack Obama was called on to denounce controversial statements from his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Obama did not in fact admit on live television that he was a radical, not-so-secret Muslim terrorist who hated whitey, America, and puppies. No, instead he delivered one his best speeches up to that point, “A More Perfect Union."
Biden stepped up today and denounced violence of all kinds and from all corners during an address in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He even asked the question, the one that Trump's reelection campaign hoped no one would ask.
"Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?"
Obama in 2008 and, regrettably, even Hillary Clinton in 2016 couldn't have done this. Too many (white) people might've said, “Well, yeah." But Biden knows that all the fearmongering that was on sickening display at the Republican National Convention is simply aspirational. Joe Biden took the Trump campaign's entire argument against him and turned it into a punchline. He even transformed his greatest weakness from the primaries — he's a little too safe, he's been in politics forever, he's not promising a revolution — into his greatest strength in the general election.
BIDEN: I want to be very clear about all of this: Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting. It's lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted. Violence will not bring change, it will only bring destruction. It's wrong in every way. It divides instead of unites, destroys businesses, only hurts the working families that serve the community. It makes things worse across the board, not better. It's not what Dr. King or John Lewis taught and it must end. Fires are burning and we have a president who fans the flames rather than fighting the flames. But we must not burn, we have to build. This president, long ago, forfeited any moral leadership in this country.
Trump and Republicans want to cling to social unrest as a political life raft. They want to point to the riots and looting and say, “Well, Biden hasn't fixed it." That gives Biden the opportunity to remind voters that Donald Trump is the president right now and he sucks.
The closest Trump comes to “presidential" is when, as David Frum noted, he reads a “boring speech badly." (It doesn't help that his head speech writer is a white supremacist.) You couldn't give Don Rickles the script to Notorious and make him Cary Grant, and Trump will never successfully cosplay Ronald Reagan. He can't do this job. He's in over his head.
BIDEN: The violence we're seeing in Donald Trump's America. These are not images of some imagined Joe Biden America in the future. These are images of Donald Trump's America today. He keeps telling you if only he was president, it wouldn't happen. If he was president. He keeps telling us that he was president you'd feel safe. Well he is president. Whether he knows it or not, and it is happening, it's getting worse.
This is just a wonderful spin on Michael Douglas's epic declaration at the end of The American President: “I'm Andrew Shepherd. And I am the president." The inconvenient truth is that Trump's the commander-in-chief, not just of red states but of the entire United States. Trump can't lead a nation in crisis because the only rusty tool in his arsenal is division. He can't heal the country because he defines “unity" and “peace" strictly as submission to his will.
Biden asked another question in his speech, one equally fatal to Trump's reelection prospects (Fox News will probably claim it's a threat).
BIDEN: Does anyone think they'll be less violence in America if Donald Trump is reelected?
Trump ran his 2016 campaign like so many men I've worked with who believed everything at the office sucked but they could turn it around so easily if they were in charge. Those who got the chance almost always failed. Trump is about to face his four-year performance review and his self-assessment is "US cities are on fire but don't worry, they are all Democrat."
BIDEN: We are facing multiple crises — crises that, under Donald Trump, keep multiplying. COVID, economic devastation, unwarranted police violence, emboldened white nationalists, a reckoning on race, declining faith in a bright American future. The common thread? An incumbent president who makes things worse, not better. An incumbent president who sows chaos rather than providing order.
Biden said that Trump "can't stop the violence because for years he has fomented it." The very smart people on the Biden campaign or the Lincoln Project can bolster this point with ads featuring his former Republican rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, among others, saying just this during the 2016 GOP primary.
BIDEN: Donald Trump may believe mouthing the words law and order makes him strong, but his failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows you how weak he is.
Trump isn't just failing to maintain law and order. He lacks the credibility to even claim he's a “law and order" president. He can't even throw a reunion party for his 2016 campaign staff without people violating the terms of their parole. Equating Trump with the rule of law is as laughable as linking Biden with Antifa.
BIDEN: I want a safe America, safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting. Safer from racial violence, safe from bad cops. Let me be crystal clear. Safe from four more years of Donald Trump.
So say we all.
BIDEN: Trump has sought to remake this nation in his image. Selfish, angry, dark, and divisive. This is not who we are. At her best, America's always been, and if I have anything to do it, it will be again, generous, confident, an optimistic nation full of hope and resolve. Donald Trump is determined to instill fear in America. That's what his entire campaign for the president has come down to, fear. But I believe Americans are stronger than that. I believe we'll be guided by the words of Pope John Paul II, words drawn from the scriptures. Be not afraid, be not afraid. Fear never builds the future, but hope does.
Yes, bring it home with a little nod to Obama. There was just so much good in this speech that we're gonna stop now and just let you watch it in full. Sixty-four days to go. Are you ready?
WATCH: Biden delivers remarks in Pittsburgh www.youtube.com
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."