Former Vice President Joe Biden compared President Donald Trump to a “charlatan” who preys on the fears of middle-class Americans and said the nation’s leader should “grow up” and stop using social media to incite North Korea.
During a Wednesday appearance before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Biden also conceded that Democrats have not reacted to the anxiety of Americans facing a growing threat to their jobs and prosperity from globalization, digitalization and automation.
Speaking to several hundred people in a Loop hotel ballroom, the two-term Democratic vice president under President Barack Obama launched a spirited defense of American leadership in the world. Biden decried a foreign policy of global retrenchment under Trump that he said “groups the world into ‘us’ versus ‘them,’ rather than building on the shared narrative of freedom and democracy.”
“Today, I worry we’re walking down a very dark path that isolates the United States on the world stage, endangers the American people,” he said. “And, with other international events taking place that are tearing at the fabric of a liberal world order, it’s even more dangerous.”
Trump, he said, has a foreign policy that goes “beyond ideological incoherence” and treats global affairs like a “dog-eat-dog competition, a Hobbesian world in which for Americans to succeed, others must lose or fail.”
Biden said those types of divisions have also manifested themselves in the U.S. and were exploited successfully by Trump’s campaign. “In full disclosure, my party has not fully responded,” Biden added.
“There’s a lot of people out there scared to death with good reason. They come from my old neighborhood. They’re not stupid. They have real fears,” Biden said.
“These people aren’t prejudiced. They’re realistic,” he said. “And then (they) become the targets for charlatans. Look what happens. Like most charlatans throughout time, you see them aggrandize themselves and consolidate their power by blaming the ‘other.’ ”
Biden said it was “obscene” to see a Trump administration ideology that blamed concerns about employment on issues of immigration and race, and responds by saying, “Hunker down, shut the gates, build walls.”
The former Delaware senator was not asked by organizers if he were mulling a possible 2020 White House bid, and Biden did not address the topic. Even as Biden had strong words for Trump, he claimed that he and Obama had “tried to stay out of the mosh pit” of criticizing the Republican president.
On international issues, Biden talked about strained relations with North Korea, saying, “Big nations can’t bluff.”
“What the president doesn’t realize, drawing all of these red lines with regard to North Korea and then not following up diminishes our power around the world. He sends out signals that are dangerous,” he said of Trump.
“And so we’ve got to stop this tweeting,” Biden said. “This is childish. It’s time to grow up.”
Biden also said he found it “astonishing” that Trump hasn’t rebuked Russia for attempting to interfere in the U.S. political process. At the same time, the former vice president said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s power on the international scene is more show than substance.
“He doesn’t have a very strong hand,” Biden said of Putin. “He’s tried very hard to reconnect with China and he’s basically getting the stiff-arm. He is really a second-rate power, economically and militarily — but for the nuclear weapons he possesses.”
(c)2017 the Chicago Tribune
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