Biden slams Trump, says president ‘does not understand governance’

NEWARK — President Trump’s attacks on the courts and media are undermining American democracy, former Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday.

Speaking at a moderated talk on bipartisanship sponsored by the University of Delaware, Mr. Biden, a Democrat, told the assembled audience of hundreds the Reepublican president’s repeated criticisms of the judicial system and the news media are part of a deliberate strategy.

“I think it’s been a concerted effort on the part of (conservative news outlet) Breitbart and others to try to so discredit the press that then when you do things that are the abuse of power they are characterized not as you doing anything but as fake news,” he said.

Alongside Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Mr. Biden discussed the state of American politics for about 90 minutes during an event put on by the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication and the Biden Institute.

While Gov. Kasich is a Republican, Mr. Biden said he counts him as a close friend, and the two lamented the lack of bipartisan cooperation in politics today.

During the discussion, the topic several times turned to the White House.

With the economy changing rapidly due to the advances in technology and the globalization of society, many people are out of work or underemployed and feel “a sense of hopelessness — and that always generates demagogues,” the former vice president said.

While he didn’t directly call the president a demogogue, he was highly critical of him.

“There’s certain basic norms and he doesn’t understand them, and the ones he understands he tries to break down,” Mr. Biden said.

Simple things like politeness and diplomacy, staples of American politics for centuries, are being ignored now as Republicans and Democrats view one another as enemies, he said.

An August rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, of white supremacists, including swastika flags, is comparable to “Kristallnacht,” Mr. Biden told the audience. Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, was a 1938 pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany.

In the wake of the Charlottesville rally, which saw the death of one woman after a man drove his car into a crowd, President Trump was criticized for not denouncing white supremacists strongly right away.

“You had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest,” he said initially.

Mr. Biden was among those excoriating the president, charging in The Atlantic that President Trump “emboldened white supremacists with messages of comfort and support.”

He echoed that thought on Tuesday, saying it is the duty of the president as “America’s voice” to condemn hateful rhetoric.

He also defended the First Amendment, urging college students to be open to speakers with whom they personally disagree.

In recent years, universities have rescinded invitations to speakers that campus communities judged to be offensive. Some schools that have allowed conservative speakers have seen protests.

Mr. Biden said the shoe was on the other foot when he was in college and many people being silenced were liberals upset over the war in Vietnam.

“Don’t give the Trumps of the world the abililty to compare you to the Nazis or you to the racists because you’re doing the same thing, you’re silencing,” he said.

It was the only time either of the two politicians mentioned the president’s name.

Mr. Biden said he had been reluctant to criticize President Trump, noting former presidential administrations generally try to avoid saying negative things about the current occupants of the White House. However, nine months after the inauguration, it is plain the president “does not understand governance,” Mr. Biden insisted.

The president’s war of words with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, including calling him “Little Rocket Man” over Twitter, disrupts the established societal standards and, more importantly, threatens world safety, Mr. Biden said.

The former vice president and U.S. senator from Delaware has been mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for president in 2020 even though he turns 78 the month of the next presidential election.

He opted not to run in 2016 but has expressed some regret, and some of his public comments since leaving office have caused some to speculate if he plans to pursue another campaign.

Both Mr. Biden and Gov. Kasich, who campaigned unsuccessfully for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination and did not endorse President Trump, said many politicians care only about keeping themselves in office through satisfying their base.

“The system itself has been breaking down because of base politics,” Gov. Kasich said.

He encouraged listeners to be receptive to other ideas and points of view, saying such cooperation is key to making progress and accomplishing peace.

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