Biden Pushes Back At Trump's Law And Order Campaign

Aug 31, 2020
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Joe Biden says he is the candidate of safety and security while President Trump sows chaos and division.

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JOE BIDEN: He can't stop the violence because for years, he's fomented it.

KELLY: Biden spoke today amid ongoing protests and some instances of deadly violence in Kenosha, Wis., and Portland, Ore. Biden was in Pittsburgh today, which means so was NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid.

Hey, Asma.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Hi there.

KELLY: Lay out what the main message was today from Joe Biden.

KHALID: Well, Mary Louise, really, Joe Biden tried to flip the GOP campaign script on its head. A key thrust of the Republican convention last week was that voters will not be safe in Donald Trump's America, and Joe Biden today was rejecting some of the Trump campaign's caricatures of him.

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BIDEN: 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?

KHALID: You know, Biden delivered a fairly forceful argument that was clearly directed at moderate swing voters that really, in his view, voters are not safe currently in Donald Trump's America. He emphasized multiple times that the violence that's happening right now in places like Kenosha, Wis., is happening on Donald Trump's watch.

KELLY: You know, it's interesting, Asma, because the Trump campaign has criticized Biden for not speaking up, not speaking out about looting, about rioting. It sounds like he did exactly that today.

KHALID: He did, exactly, right? And I know the Trump campaign, even after this speech, had the same criticism, but it's just factually not true. Here Biden is clearly addressing looting in some of his remarks today.

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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.

KHALID: And I should point out that President Trump - he tweeted about this speech also again saying that Joe Biden is blaming the police far more than he's blaming the rioters and the looters, et cetera. But again, as we just heard, that just doesn't, you know, factually hold up with the remarks that we heard from Joe Biden. It seems to be though that, Mary Louise, the Trump campaign thinks that this is good, safe terrain for them. This law and order message that the president's been trying to highlight, they feel, will work particularly well with white suburban voters. And the president plans on going to Kenosha, Wis., himself tomorrow. I should add that Joe Biden says he hopes he'll be able to go to Wisconsin now as well, though we don't have a clear sense of when and if that might happen.

KELLY: To follow on your point that the Trump campaign thinks this is good terrain, safe terrain for them politically, do we know how the Democrats feel about this? Is it good terrain, safe terrain for them that the presidential race, at the moment at least, is so centered on these issues?

KHALID: You know, there has been some hand-wringing among Democrats that this is a message - the president's message and the president's spin on law and order could cost them in places like Wisconsin. You know, Kenosha was an extremely tight county in the 2016 election that did go for the president, and so they are worried about, you know, a battleground state. But I will say there's really no solid polling on this. What I think was interesting to me today was that Joe Biden seemed to have flipped the switch and focused more broadly about safety and security, not just about law and order but focusing on COVID, focusing on Social Security, the economy and make this a broader message of how safe Americans feel, how secure they feel currently in Donald Trump's America.

KELLY: All right. That is NPR's Asma Khalid reporting today from Pittsburgh.

Thank you, Asma.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.