The battle over who can keep Americans safe after recent deadly protests has emerged as the sharpest dividing line for the US presidential campaign’s final weeks, with former US vice president Joe Biden on Monday condemning the violence and US President Donald Trump defending a supporter accused of fatally shooting two men.
While the US president blamed Biden, his Democratic foe, for siding with “anarchists,” Biden, in his most direct attacks yet, accused Trump of causing the divisions that have ignited the violence.
He delivered an uncharacteristically blistering speech and distanced himself from radical forces involved in altercations.
Photo: AP / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Biden said of Trump: “He doesn’t want to shed light, he wants to generate heat, and he’s stoking violence in our cities. He can’t stop the violence because for years he’s fomented it.”
Trump blames radical troublemakers whom he says are stirred up and backed by Biden. However, when he was asked about one of his own supporters who was charged with killing two men during the mayhem in Kenosha, Wisconsin, he declined to denounce the killings and suggested that 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense.
After a confrontation in which he fatally shot one man, Rittenhouse fell while being chased by people trying to disarm him, police said.
“That was an interesting situation,” Trump said. “He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like, and he fell. And then they very violently attacked him... He was in very big trouble. He would have been — you probably would’ve been killed.”
Trump’s refusal to condemn the shootings could add to tensions in Kenosha which he was scheduled to visit yesterday, despite pleases from Wiscon’s Democratic governor to stay away for fears of sparking further tumult.
In Kenosha, the US National Guard has been deployed to quell demonstrations in response to the police shooting of black American Jacob Blake.
Trump said his appearance could “increase enthusiasm” in Wisconsin, which is a hotly contested battleground state in the presidential race.
Biden saw Trump’s impact far differently, accusing the president of “poisoning” the nation’s values.
In a statement after Trump’s news conference comments, he said: “Today, I traveled to Pittsburgh to explain how the president was making America less safe — on COVID, on the economy, on crime, on racism, on violence — and reiterated my clear message that violence is not the answer to any of these problems.”
“Tonight, the president declined to rebuke violence. He wouldn’t even repudiate one of his supporters who is charged with murder because of his attacks on others. He is too weak, too scared of the hatred he has stirred to put an end to it,” he added.
In Pittsburgh, Biden also tried to refocus the race on what has been its defining theme — Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that has left more than 180,000 Americans dead — after a multiday onslaught by the president’s team to make the campaign about the violence rattling American cities.
Biden has largely remained near his home in Delaware to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but he stepped out in a new phase of his campaign on Monday, making a speech in Pittsburgh and a brief stop at a local firehouse.
Trump and his campaign team believe that the more the national discourse is about anything other than the virus, the better it is for the president. They have seized upon the recent unrest in Portland, Oregon — where a Trump supporter was shot and killed — and Kenosha, leaning hard into a defense of law and order while suggesting that Biden is powerless to stop extremists.
Biden rejected the charge, firmly decrying the clashes.
Set aside on Monday were his lofty appeals about the “soul of the nation,” a staple of his usual stump speech, replaced by an urgent call for action and his fierce accusation that Trump was a “toxic presence in this nation for four years” who was “poisoning the values this nation has always held dear, poisoning our very democracy.”
The president and his team continued to hammer away on what they believe is a powerful electoral argument, contending that Biden is in thrall to leftist forces and emphasizing chaotic protest images they believe could send worried suburban and senior voters back to Trump’s column.
This time, Biden pulled no punches about the violence.
“It’s lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted,” he said.
Leaning on his own 47-year career in politics to defend himself against Republican attacks, he said: “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?”
Even as Trump is “trying to scare America,” what is really causing the nation’s fear is Trump’s own failures, he said.
“You want to talk about fear? They’re afraid they’re going to get COVID, they’re afraid they’re going to get sick and die,” he said.
French authorities yesterday said that they would close a Paris mosque as part of a clampdown on radical Islam that has yielded over a dozen arrests following the beheading of a teacher who had shown his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed. The mosque in a densely populated suburb northeast of Paris had disseminated a video on its Facebook page days before Friday’s gruesome murder, railing against teacher Samuel Paty’s choice of material for a class discussion on freedom of expression, a source close to the investigation said. The French Ministry of the Interior said the mosque in Pantin, which has
LONGSTANDING NEUTRALITY: The US request came as it vied for influence in Southeast Asia with China, but Indonesia has never let foreign militaries operate there Indonesia this year rejected a proposal by the US to allow its P-8 Poseidon maritime surveillance planes to land and refuel there, four senior Indonesian officials familiar with the matter have said. US officials made multiple “high-level” approaches in July and August to Indonesia’s defense and foreign ministers before Indonesian President Joko Widodo rebuffed the request, the officials said. Representatives for Indonesia’s president and defense minister, the US Department of State’s Office of Press Relations and the US embassy in Jakarta did not respond to requests for comment. Representatives for the US Department of Defense and Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night said that he has no problem with being held responsible for the many killings under his crackdown on drugs, and that he is ready to face charges that could land him in jail, but not charges of crimes against humanity. Duterte’s televised remarks were among his clearest acknowledgement of the prospects that he could face a deluge of criminal charges for the bloody campaign he launched after taking office in the middle of 2016. Police have reported that at least 5,856 drug suspects have been killed in raids and more than 256,000 others arrested since
WEIGHING THE RISKS: One biogeochemist said that the known risks of disease from not sterilizing baby bottles outweighed that of microplastics Bottle-fed babies might ingest more than 1 million pieces of microplastics each day, new research showed on Monday, highlighting the abundance of plastics in our food products. There is growing evidence that humans consume huge numbers of the tiny particles, formed when larger pieces of plastic break down, but very little is known about the knock-on health consequences. Researchers in Ireland looked at the rate of microplastic release in 10 types of baby bottles or accessories made from polypropylene, the most commonly used plastic for food containers. They followed official guidelines from the WHO on sterilization and formula preparation conditions. Over a 21-day