Politics

Biden, Speaking to National Guard Group, Takes Aim at Republican Criticism on Crime

After a Republican National Convention week in which President Trump and his allies sought to brand Joseph R. Biden Jr. as radically anti-law enforcement, the Democratic nominee took implicit aim at that characterization in his own remarks on Saturday as he swiped at Mr. Trump’s calls for “law and order” and ripped the president’s record as commander in chief.

Mr. Biden’s comments came at a virtual gathering of the National Guard Association of the United States, a group he addressed while speaking against a backdrop of American flags, with a flag pin affixed to his suit lapel.

Civil and military relations have been “tested lately,” Mr. Biden argued, alluding to Mr. Trump’s efforts earlier this summer to use federal law enforcement to “dominate” demonstrators protesting police brutality amid a national outcry over racial injustice. Republicans in recent days have seized on renewed unrest in American cities to argue falsely that Mr. Biden wants to defund the police, an approach he opposes.

“I promise you, as president, I’ll never put you in the middle of politics, or personal vendettas,” Mr. Biden said. “I’ll never use the military as a prop or as a private militia to violate rights of fellow citizens. That’s not law and order. You don’t deserve that.”

A spokesman for the president said that on Tuesday, Mr. Trump will visit Kenosha, Wis., where a police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, led to an outpouring of anger and protests that in some cases turned destructive. The president would meet with local law enforcement, the spokesman, Judd Deere, said in a tweet. National Guard troops were deployed to Kenosha last week.

Mr. Biden, who has been a firm supporter of peaceful protests, is expected to travel on Monday to condemn violence, and to note that chaos has unfolded on Mr. Trump’s watch, according to someone familiar with his plans. He is also expected to charge more broadly that the president is seeking to change the subject from the coronavirus and economic challenges the country faces. Details of his Monday plans weren’t immediately clear.

On Saturday, he also got some cover on the left from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who at once praised Mr. Biden’s candidacy and policy positions and stressed the ways he and Mr. Biden “disagree on a number of issues.” The comments reflect the Democrats’ delicate balancing act as they try to keep their moderate and progressive wings united at the same time that Republicans are trying to portray Mr. Biden and his party as too progressive.

In Mr. Sanders’s speech, which was broadcast over livestream, he denounced Mr. Trump’s handling of the economy during the pandemic. Mr. Sanders, the standard-bearer for the party’s left wing, then commended several of Mr. Biden’s proposals that he said would “go a long, long way in improving life for working families.”

Among the policies that he called attention to were Mr. Biden’s support for a $15 federal minimum wage, equal pay for women, investment in infrastructure and universal prekindergarten. And while Mr. Sanders prefers a single-payer “Medicare for all” health care system — which Mr. Biden does not support — he also offered some praise for Mr. Biden’s health care proposal.

“While Joe Biden and I disagree on the best path to get to universal coverage, his proposal will greatly expand access to health care, and make it more affordable for tens of millions across this country,” Mr. Sanders said, specifically highlighting Mr. Biden’s proposal to lower the eligibility age for Medicare to 60 and expand Medicare to include coverage of dental care, eyeglasses and hearing aides.

But if Mr. Sanders’s remarks were intended to unify his supporters behind Mr. Biden nine weeks before the general election, he also went out of his way to present Mr. Biden as a moderate. All of the Biden policies that Mr. Sanders noted were widely acceptable liberal proposals. Mr. Sanders made plain that he and Mr. Biden were not ideologically aligned, in a clear effort to defend Mr. Biden from Republican attempts to cast him as a “Trojan horse for socialism.”

“Joe Biden and I have differences of opinion, and that is no great secret. It is no great secret that Joe and I disagree on a number of issues,” Mr. Sanders said, before lauding Mr. Biden’s economic plan.

Mr. Trump and Republicans have repeatedly sought to misleadingly paint Mr. Biden, a relative moderate, as captured by Mr. Sanders and the far left, and never more so than during their convention last week. “If Joe Biden doesn’t have the strength to stand up to wild-eyed Marxists like Bernie Sanders and his fellow radicals, and there are many, there are many many, we see them all the time,” Mr. Trump said in his convention speech. “It is incredible, actually. Then how is he ever going to stand up for you? He’s not.”

Mr. Trump also referred to a “Biden-Bernie manifesto,” an apparent reference to the recommendations that the Biden-Sanders joint policy task forces had put forth in July. But while those proposals — on health care, the economy, criminal justice, education, immigration and climate change — indicated deep cooperation among the moderate and progressive wings of the party, they largely hewed to policies Mr. Biden and his allies already supported, frustrating some in the party’s activist wing who believed they did not go far enough.

As he has done countless times since he dropped out of the presidential race in early April, Mr. Sanders closed his remarks with an urgent plea to elect Mr. Biden.

“This is a moment in history that all of us must stand together — Black and white, Latino, Asian-American and Native American,” he said. “We must stand together, we must defeat Donald Trump. We must elect Joe Biden as our next president, and we must create an economy that lifts our people up.”

In his own remarks Saturday, Mr. Biden, whose late son, Beau Biden, served in the Delaware National Guard, spoke passionately about the sacrifices made by those deployed both abroad and at home, acknowledging that among many other responsibilities, “you’ve been called out to help keep the peace as the country continues to struggle and overcome our racial justice crisis.”

Mr. Biden also tore into the president’s handling of the intelligence regarding Russian bounty offers to kill American troops and pledged to be a staunch supporter of the National Guard as president.

“I can’t imagine the sense of betrayal of parents of our women and men deployed in Afghanistan felt when that news broke, to know that the president still hasn’t even raised the issue with Vladimir Putin,” he said. “I know Putin. He knows I’ll do more than raise it. If I have the honor of serving as commander in chief of the finest military in the history of the world, our troops and their families will never, never have to wonder what side I’m on.”

Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.

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