WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden tore into President Trump as a narcissistic, divisive, and hatred-filled failure of a president on Tuesday morning, lambasting his violent response to ongoing social unrest and blaming him for worsening divisions.
On Monday evening, military police aggressively cleared peaceful protesters from near the White House so Trump could get a photo op in front of a historic nearby church. Biden slammed the president for engineering the scene.
"When peaceful protesters are dispersed by the order of the president from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House, using tear gas and flash grenades in order to stage a photo op at a noble church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle,” Biden said.
And the former vice president slammed Trump for using the Bible and the Constitution as props while ignoring their messages.
"The president held up the Bible. I just wish he'd open it once in a while,” Biden said. “In addition to the Bible, the president might also want to open the U.S. Constitution once in a while. If he did, he'd find a thing called the First Amendment."
Biden’s speech is his first major public appearance since the coronavirus locked down his 2020 presidential campaign, and it comes after days of increasing unrest and violence across the country as protests triggered by the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, have at times turned violent. A number of cities have suffered extensive looting and vandalism, while numerous new acts of police brutality have cropped up across the map.
Biden began his speech with Floyd’s last words — ”I can’t breathe” — a rallying cry for ongoing civil rights protests. And he called for Congress to immediately pass legislation banning chokeholds, end the transfer of military-grade weapons to police departments, and codify what police are and aren’t allowed to do.
Trump responded Monday night to the ongoing unrest by calling for a military crackdown on the protests, as an intentionally orchestrated scene of police violence played out in front of the White House.
"Donald Trump has turned this country into a battlefield riven by old resentments and fresh fears. He thinks division helps him. His narcissism has become more important than the nation’s well-being,” Biden said Tuesday. “Is this where we want to be?"
Biden said Trump is “part of the problem” of growing, violent division in the U.S., comparing his recent rhetoric to those of prominent segregationist and racist leaders in America’s past. He compared Trump to Bull Connor, the notorious Birmingham police chief who turned dogs on civil rights protesters in the 1960s, and pointed out that Trump’s recent inflammatory tweet “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” came from a racist Miami police chief from the same era.
“We are a nation in pain, but we can’t let our pain destroy us. We are a nation enraged, but we cannot let our rage consume us,” Biden warned.
Biden has taken criticism for keeping a low profile over the last few months. Tuesday’s speech, carried across the cable networks, was his most high-profile event since he locked up the Democratic nomination in early March — and the most harshly critical remarks he’s made of Trump.
Cover: Democratic presidential candidate, and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the unrest across the country from Philadelphia City Hall on June 2, 2020 in Philadelphia. (Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)