Biden delivers scathing address on Trump, and the president fires back

Source: By John Wagner, Washington Post • Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2019

President Trump and former vice president Joe Biden ridiculed one another in their harshest terms yet, engaging in an aggressive feud that loomed over not only their dueling visits to Iowa on Tuesday but over the 2020 presidential contest more broadly.

Biden questioned the president’s intelligence and challenged his morals. By turns chiding and goading, Biden, who can sometimes ramble and meander with long anecdotes, offered one of his most coherent rationales for seeking the presidency.

“The president is literally an existential threat to America,” Biden said in Ottumwa, Iowa. He planned to deliver more extensive remarks later in the day in Davenport, where his prepared remarks mention Trump’s name 44 times.

Trump, who has repeatedly brushed aside the advice of aides who warn against elevating Biden by attacking him, responded in personal terms. He pointed to Biden’s dismal finish in the 2008 presidential campaign, saying that Barack Obama “took him off the trash heap” by making Biden his running mate, and claiming that the former vice president has lost a step.

“He’s a different guy,” Trump said as he left the White House for Iowa. “He looks different than he used to. He acts different than he used to. He’s even slower than he used to be.”

Then, more bluntly, he added, “Joe Biden is a dummy.”

Biden’s focus on Trump comes after a difficult few days for his presidential run. His campaign admitted to plagiarizing a policy document, and Biden initially held to his decades-long support for a rule that prevents federal money from being used for abortions, only to abruptly change amid an outcry led by Democratic women.

At the same time, a poll in the Des Moines Register showed that he was leading the field in Iowa but that other candidates — including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Peter Buttigieg — were becoming stronger.

Biden released his prepared remarks — all 2,887 words of them — at 6 a.m. Tuesday, getting a jump on the day and guiding cable news coverage in a way that Trump often does in 280-character increments on Twitter.

According to the prepared remarks, Biden will assert that the escalation of tariffs between the United States and China has “crushed” farmers in Iowa, the first presidential nominating state and a general election battleground.

“He thinks he’s being tough,” Biden says in remarks planned for Davenport, his final stop of the day. “Well, it’s easy to be tough when someone else is feeling the pain.”

Biden goes on to say that “Trump doesn’t get the basics” about the impact of Chinese tariffs on U.S. agricultural products.

“He thinks his tariffs are being paid by China,” Biden says. “Any beginning econ student at Iowa or Iowa State could tell you that the American people are paying his tariffs. The cashiers at Target see what’s going on. They know more about economics than Trump.”

In other parts of his remarks, Biden mocks Trump for recent comments about climate change. He also says that if he becomes the Democratic nominee, he will give Trump “a thrashing every day” for trying to undermine Obama’s signature health-care law.

Trump fired back Tuesday afternoon, calling Biden a “loser,” “dumb” and “mentally weak.”

“I’d rather run against, I think, Biden than anybody,” Trump said. I think he’s the weakest mentally. The others have much more energy.”

Trump also disputed that he was hurting farmers, citing bailouts his administration has made to farmers hurt by his trade war.

“Nobody has treated the farmers better than Donald Trump,” the president said, adding that he expects to win Iowa “very easily” next year.

Trump and Biden were staging events Tuesday on opposite sides of Iowa, which will hold its presidential caucuses on Feb. 3. The unplanned convergence came three days after much of the rest of the Democratic field appeared in Iowa for a state party event.

Trump was scheduled to appear in western Iowa at an ethanol plant in Council Bluffs before heading to a Republican Party dinner in West Des Moines. Biden’s events were in the eastern half of the Hawkeye State, making their overlap more symbolic than actual.

The day showcased a potential general election matchup between the incumbent Republican president and a Democrat who was a top official in the most recent Democratic administration.

Biden also sought to address a comment he made recently about China that drew criticism from Trump. Last month, he said China is “not competition for us” geopolitically, prompting Trump to call him “very naive.”

Biden said Tuesday he does consider the country a significant threat, and plans to add in Davenport that he is “worried about China — if we keep following Trump’s path.”

“We are in a competition with China,” Biden says in the prepared remarks. “We need to get tough with China. They are a serious challenge to us, and in some areas a real threat. And every single step that Donald Trump is taking is only exacerbating the challenge.”

He then plans to tout proposed spending on infrastructure and workforce development.

Biden also plans to take aim at Trump for his skepticism about climate change, including a remark in a recent interview in which the president said the weather “changes both ways.”

“If he was just another rich guy sitting in his gold-plated apartment in Manhattan tweeting about how those pointy-headed scientists don’t know anything, it wouldn’t matter,” Biden plans to say. “But he’s president.”

David Weigel contributed to this report.