In a piercing appraisal of the growing strife unraveling under President Donald Trump’s first term, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden accused him of stoking, and even starting, civil unrest that is proliferating across the country.
Trump has been a “toxic presence in our nation for four years” who is “poisoning our very democracy,” Biden said forcefully in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The speech offered a moment of methodical, even urgent, messaging for Biden, who sought to cast the president as an unjust and dangerous leader who spews falsehoods in an effort to gain a political advantage.
“This president long ago forfeited any moral leadership in this country. He can’t stop the violence because for years he’s fomented it,” Biden said. “You know, he 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 how weak he is.”
“Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is re-elected?” he asked.
Biden devoted the first portion of his just-over 20-minute speech to outline what he deems to be a red-line for protest conduct—a metric that is unclear under Trump.
“The senseless violence of looting and burning and destruction of property. I want to make it absolutely clear so I’ll 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,” Biden said.
“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.”
After mentioning some more typical campaign references about the groups of voters he is seeking to embrace, Biden again moved to correct fabrications Trump and his allies have unleashed throughout the general election. Biden paid particular attention to the GOP-driven idea that he is part of a bigger “socialist” network of Democrats who will cause disorder in the nation.
“The road back begins now in this campaign. You know me. You know my heart. You know my story, my family’s story. Ask yourself, do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really? I want a safe America. Safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops,” he said. “Let me be crystal clear. Safe from four more years of Donald Trump.”
Biden’s remarks, which were broadcast across major cable news networks, were part of his first major outing since indicating that he plans to step up his schedule after Sept. 7, making use of the roughly two months until Election Day. He also used his televised airtime to turn the attention back on COVID-19, which has been one of the most dramatic points of difference between Biden's campaign and Trump’s.
“Donald Trump looks at this violence and he sees a political lifeline. Having failed to protect this nation from the virus that has killed more than 180,000 Americans so far, Trump posts an all caps tweet screaming law and order to save his campaign,” he said.
Trump’s re-election campaign announced that he will appear in Latrobe, about 40 miles away from Pittsburgh, on Thursday. Before that, he is expected to travel to Kenosha, Wisconsin, despite calls from top Democraic elected officials, including the governor, who have urged him not to come amid ongoing discord and grief from the police shooting of a Black man named Jacob Blake, 29, by a white officer.
Trump, picking up on the central topic during the Republican National Convention, has been calling for “LAW & ORDER!,” with the most recent occurrence being hours before Biden took the stage.
“The violence we’re seeing in Donald Trump’s America. These are not images of some imagined Joe Biden America in the future,” Biden said. “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 if he was president you’d feel safe. Well, he is president, whether he knows it or not.”