Former Vice President Joe Biden kicked off what he promised to be frequent addresses to the nation on Monday by outlining his vision for what a successful emergency response looks like, using President Donald Trump as an example of what not to do.
“Donald Trump is not to blame for the coronavirus,” Biden said in one of several critical remarks about the president. “But he does bear responsibility for our response.”
Framed by 16 visible shelves of books and assorted Americana memorabilia, including an arrangement of antique-looking photographs, a football, and a hanging picture of a United States flag, the former vice president stood, dressed in a full suit and tie, in the basement of his richly-lit home in Wilmington, Delaware.
The set up at his house—equipped with a campaign poster affixed to a lectern reminding viewers to “Text UNITED to 30330”—didn’t exist before this weekend. But it was all part of setting the tone for what his campaign promised would be regular updates to the nation as a counter to Trump’s erratic daily press briefings.
Reading from a scripted speech hours ahead of Trump’s presser planned for 5:30 p.m., Biden outlined several actions he’d like to see the president move towards in the immediate future, including using the Defense Protection Act to address the current shortage of medical supplies, extending cash relief to workers over corporations, and other progressive initiatives.
“Unfortunately, as of last night, President Trump and Mitch McConnell were offering a plan that let big corporations off the hook. They proposed a $500 billion slush fund for corporations, with almost no conditions,” Biden said, in his first address to the public in six days. “Social Security checks need to be boosted. Student debt should be forgiven.”
He also called for ending the “infighting” within the current administration.
“Trump keeps saying he’s a wartime president,” Biden said. “Start to act like one.”
“To paraphrase a frustrated Pres. Lincoln, writing to an inactive Gen. McClellan during the Civil War: 'If you don't want to use the army, may I borrow it?’” Biden said. The flu pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression, and two World Wars also made it into his speech.
Biden made a point to acknowledge Republican and Democratic governors across several states working to minimize the public health crisis, including Mike DeWine (R-OH), Larry Hogan (R-MD), and Charlie Baker (R-MA), who he mistakenly referred to as Charlie Parker, as well as Gavin Newsom (D-CA), Gretchen Witmer (D-MI), Jay Inslee (D-WA), and Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). As Biden addressed the public via livestream, cable news outlets carried Cuomo’s speech live.
As Democratic frontrunner, Biden’s campaign has been attempting to work out the intricacies of adapting to a digital-only format for several weeks. While his prepared address was a drastic technological improvement from his first “virtual town hall,” which took place just 10 days ago with several malfunctions, the livestream experience was still a bit wonky. At one brief moment, the former vice president put up his hands in an apparent attempt to move on from a stalled teleprompter.
“Deep in the heart of every American, there burns a flame,” Biden said in a closing thought to the country, an apparent effort to offer some comfort.
“It’s an inheritance from every generation of Americans that has come before us. It’s why we have overcome every crisis we have ever faced before. That flame is not going to be extinguished in this moment,” he said before exiting without taking any questions.