WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden laid out his most comprehensive, detailed case to date against President Donald Trump on Tuesday, saying the president “has waved the white flag and left the field of battle” against the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking in Wilmington, Delaware, over about an hour, Biden also staked out positions on a range of hot-button issues, including the alleged Russian bounties paid for dead American troops in Afghanistan, the removal of Confederate monuments and his own cognitive ability.
But with coronavirus cases surging across the country and several states rolling back their reopening plans, Biden’s most effective lines against Trump were his critiques of the president’s response to a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 125,000 Americans since February.
Biden’s remarks also came as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration’s leading voice on the virus, warned Tuesday that the U.S. could top 100,000 cases a day.
“All of the steps you’ve taken so far haven’t gotten the job done, Mr. President,” Biden said of Trump, who still insists that the recent surge in cases is due to broader testing and not a resurgence of the virus itself.
“Remember back in March when he called himself a wartime president?” Biden said in his remarks. “Remember when he exhorted the nation to ‘sacrifice together’ to face an ‘invisible enemy’? What happened? Now it’s almost July, and it seems the wartime president has surrendered — has waved the white flag and left the field of battle.”
“Today we’re facing a serious threat, and we must meet it — as one country. But this president gives us no direction. He pits us against one another,” said Biden.
Biden used the speech to lay out his own five-point plan to address the pandemic, one of several contrasts he drew between Trump and himself.
The former vice president said he would provide free nationwide coronavirus testing, deploy 100,000 contact tracers, establish national standards for reopening, use the Defense Production Act to further increase protective equipment manufacturing, and provide additional federal support to the elderly and people of color, who have been especially hard-hit by the virus.
Months of lockdowns that have crippled the U.S. economy, Biden said, “were intended to buy us the time to get our act together. But instead of using that time to prepare ourselves — Donald Trump squandered it.”
“The American people didn’t make enormous sacrifices over the past four months so you could waste your time with late night ranting and tweets,” said the former vice president, addressing Trump. “They didn’t make these sacrifices so you could ignore the science and turn responsible steps like wearing a mask into a political statement.”
“You’ve called yourself a ‘cheerleader’ for the nation. We don’t need a cheerleader. We need a president,” said Biden.
Biden also took questions from the press for the first time in more than two months. In doing so, he deprived the rival Trump campaign of a consistent point of attack they have used against him, namely that he has avoided scrutiny so far in the race by evading the press.
For Biden, the address effectively crystallized his campaign’s most potent argument against Trump heading into the backstretch of a presidential race that has so far been defined by Trump’s failure to stem the tide of coronavirus.
It is a major factor in Biden’s significant lead over Trump in national polls right now of almost 10 points, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.
Biden dismissed his lead, saying, “I know the polling data is very good, but I think it’s really early. It’s much too early to make any judgment. I think we’ve got a whole lot more work to do.”
Biden also confirmed that he will not be holding campaign rallies, saying, “I’m going to follow the doc’s orders, not just for me, but for the country. And that means that I am not going to be holding rallies … as soon as I finish this, I’ll put my mask back on.”
The comments drew another contrast between Biden’s plans over the coming months and the president’s reelection campaign, which earlier Tuesday said on a call with reporters that Trump is very much looking forward to future campaign rallies.
Asked about future rally plans, however, Trump’s campaign declined to announce the dates or locations of any upcoming rallies.