Biden went first. In a major speech in Pittsburgh, he offered a general indictment against Trump’s America, highlighting failures in his handling of the coronavirus and portraying the president as so desperate to hang on to power that he resorts to the fear and hate as a campaign strategy.
“He keeps telling us that if he was president you would feel safe. Well, he’s president whether he knows it or not, ”Biden said. “Does anyone think there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected? “
After days of Trump claiming Biden to be a tool of a radical movement sowing discord in American cities, Biden tried to put the president on his heels. Biden called on Trump to speak out against all forms of violence and accused him of fanning the unrest with streams of tweets, some of which appeared to support clashes on the streets.
“The road back begins now, in this campaign. Do you know me. You know my heart, and you know my story, the story of my family, “Biden said in the speech, which was broadcast live on several cable networks. “Ask yourself: do I look at you as a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really? “
He added, “I want a safe America – safe from Covid, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops. And let’s be clear: safe from Donald Trump for four more years. ”
Biden spoke on the eve of Trump’s trip Tuesday to Kenosha, Wisconsin, the site of deadly clashes and destruction following the shooting of Jacob Blake last week. The president plans to meet with law enforcement officials, ignoring Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ request to stay on the sidelines lest Trump escalate tensions further.
Trump claimed credit for bringing calm to Kenosha, even though it was Evers who initially deployed the National Guard. Some local Democrats, however, complained that Biden had taken too long to speak out against the violence. They fear that Trump’s public order message will influence voters who want to end the chaos.
But Trump appeared to cede the ground he could have won when he took to social media and not only refused to condemn the violence of some of his own supporters, but retweeted a video of his supporters attacking demonstrators. His spokesperson later said he had not looked at him.
Biden, in his speech, dared the president to reject violence perpetrated by his own supporters. Yet hours later, during a White House briefing, Trump refused to do so, even when asked if his supporters were firing pepper spray and paintballs at protesters..
Biden’s Monday speech attacked Trump directly in a way the Democrat did not have during his speech at the convention two weeks ago, when he did not speak the president’s name. The Democrat called Trump by name, insisting the president owns the violence in Kenosha, Portland and other U.S. cities, after four years of fueling racial tensions. In doing so, he also defended the Obama administration’s record on crime.
After months of trying to brand Biden, Trump and his allies decided to portray him as an unwitting instrument of socialists and leftist radicals. They say Biden is too oblivious to understand that he is being exploited and too weak to counter their orthodoxy in the rare moments he does.
But every time Trump tried to tag Biden, the Democrat emerged with the upper hand and his lead in the polls increased.
Run-ins follow a familiar pattern. Trump bet Biden couldn’t challenge growing calls from the left to dispel the police. In response, Biden said he was not only against the police defounding, but wanted to spend more on law enforcement. Trump has said Biden supports the fracking ban. Biden has said unequivocally that he does not.
And Trump has repeatedly reverted to the idea that Biden would refuse to condemn the riots so as not to offend liberal voters. But Biden has repeatedly denounced riots, looting and property fires.
“None of this is a protest – it’s anarchy, outright,” Biden said Monday.
When Trump stepped onto the podium in the White House later, he tried to blame Biden and his party for the violence that is ravaging cities. But Trump refused to condemn all actors contributing to the chaos, including right-wing supporters of his campaign. He said men wielding paintball guns used the substance as “a defensive mechanism.”
“Paint is not bullets,” he said.
But when asked about Kyle Rittenhouse – the 17-year-old charged with five felonies after shooting three people last week in Kenosha, two of them fatally – Trump said Rittenhouse was attacked so badly he could have been killed.
“You saw the same tape that I saw and he was trying to run away,” Trump said. “It’s under investigation, but I guess he had really big problems. He would probably have been killed.
Rittenhouse was charged as an adult with two counts of first degree homicide and one count of attempted homicide.
Trump also said he refused to meet with Blake’s family because he was uncomfortable with their request for lawyers to be present.
Trump has been very critical of Biden for not having visited Wisconsin yet. Amid the pandemic, Biden moved his acceptance speech from Milwaukee to Wilmington, Delaware, citing safety concerns.
“Joe Biden has refused to travel to Wisconsin for over 670 days, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he refuses to travel to Badger State and deal with the riots and ongoing violence.” Trump campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zager said. he would in fact start campaigning for the president, it is clear that Biden prefers to hide from his failure and Democratic failures to protect our cities. ”
Biden is preparing for a more robust travel schedule after Labor Day, but could visit Wisconsin later this week, according to the campaign.