Biden Offers Dire Warnings About Trump 09/29 06:31
President Joe Biden issued one of his most dire warnings yet that Donald
Trump and his allies are a menace to American democracy, declaring Thursday
that the former president is more interested in personal power than upholding
the nation's core values and suggesting even mainstream Republicans are
TEMPE, Arizona (AP) -- President Joe Biden issued one of his most dire
warnings yet that Donald Trump and his allies are a menace to American
democracy, declaring Thursday that the former president is more interested in
personal power than upholding the nation's core values and suggesting even
mainstream Republicans are complicit.
"The silence is deafening," he said.
During a speech in Arizona celebrating a library to be built honoring his
friend and fierce Trump critic, the late Republican Sen. John McCain, Biden
repeated one of his key campaign themes, branding the "Make America Great
Again" movement as an existential threat to the U.S. political system. He's
reviving that idea ahead of next year's presidential race after it buoyed
Democrats during last fall's midterm election, laying out the threat in
especially stark terms: "There's something dangerous happening in America right
"We should all remember, democracies don't have to die at the end of a
rifle," Biden said. "They can die when people are silent, when they fail to
stand up or condemn threats to democracy, when people are willing to give away
that which is most precious to them because they feel frustrated,
disillusioned, tired, alienated."
The 2024 election is still more than a year away, yet Biden's focus reflects
Trump's status as the undisputed frontrunner for his party's nomination despite
facing four indictments, two of them related to his attempts to overturn
Biden's 2020 victory.
The president's speech was his fourth in a series of addresses on what he
sees as challenges to democracy, a topic that is a touchstone for him as he
tries to remain in office in the face of low approval ratings and widespread
concern from voters about his age, 80.
He used this line of political attack frequently ahead of last year's
midterms, when Democrats gained a Senate seat and only narrowly lost the House
to the GOP. But shifting the narrative in Washington could be especially tricky
given that Biden is facing mounting pressure on Capitol Hill, where House
Republicans held the first hearing in their impeachment inquiry and where the
prospect of a government shutdown looms -- a prospect Trump has actively egged
On the first anniversary of Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters
staged an insurrection, Biden visited the Capitol and accused Trump of
continuing to hold a "dagger" at democracy's throat. He closed out the summer
that year in the shadow of Philadelphia's Independence Hall, decrying Trumpism
as a menace to democratic institutions.
And in November, as voters were casting midterm ballots, Biden again sounded
a clarion call to protect democratic institutions.
Advisers see the president's continued focus on democracy as both good
policy and good politics. Campaign officials have pored over the election
results from last November, when candidates who denied the 2020 election
results did not fare well in competitive races, and point to polling that
showed democracy was a highly motivating issue for voters in 2022.
"Our task, our sacred task of our time, is to make sure that they change not
for the worst but for the better, that democracy survives and thrives, not be
smashed by a movement more interested in power than a principle," Biden said
Thursday. "It's up to us, the American people."
Like previous speeches the latest location was chosen for effect. It was
near Arizona State University, which houses the McCain Institute, named after
the late senator, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who spent his public
life denouncing autocrats around the globe.
Biden said that "there is no question that today's Republican Party is
driven and intimidated by MAGA extremists." He pointed to Trump's recent
suggestion that Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who
is stepping down from his post on Friday, should be executed for allegedly
treasonous betrayal of him.
"Although I don't believe even a majority of Republicans think that, the
silence is deafening," Biden added. He also noted that Trump has previously
questioned those who serve in the U.S. military calling "service members
suckers and losers. Was John a sucker?" Biden asked, referring to McCain, who
survived long imprisonment in Vietnam.
Then he got even more personal adding, "Was my son, Beau -- who lived next
to a burn pit for a year and came home and died -- was he a sucker for
volunteering to serve his country?"
The late senator's wife, Cindy McCain, said the library, which is still to
be built, grew out of bipartisan support from Biden, Democratic Gov. Katie
Hobbs and her predecessor, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. She called it "a fitting
legacy for my husband" and recalled how the Bidens introduced her to her future
husband decades ago.
"I am so grateful for that," Cindy McCain said, her voice cracking.
Later Thursday, the Treasury Department announced $83 million in federal
funds to help construct the 83,000-square-foot library near Papago Park.
Republicans competing with Trump for their party's 2024 presidential
nomination have largely avoided challenging his election falsehoods, and Biden
said Thursday that voters can't let them get away with it.
"Democracy is not a partisan issue," he said. "It's An American issue."
After the speech, Biden spoke at an Arizona fundraiser for his reelection
campaign. The attendees included Brittney Griner, the basketball star who was
arrested last year at the airport in Moscow on drug-related charges and
detained for nearly 10 months.
A number of candidates who backed Trump's election lies and were running for
statewide offices with some influence over elections -- governor, secretary of
state, attorney general -- lost their midterm races in every presidential
Still, in few states does Biden's message of democracy resonate more than in
Arizona, which became politically competitive during Trump's presidency after
seven decades of Republican dominance. Biden's victory made the state a hotbed
of efforts to overturn or cast doubt on the results, and some GOP candidates
continue to deny basic facts on elections.
That's help reinforce other claims from Democrats about GOP extremism on
other, separate issues, said Republican officials who spoke on condition of
anonymity to candidly describe the party's election shortcomings last year.
Though Trump-animated forces in the party dominate public attention, many
Republican voters were concerned about other issues such as the economy and the
border and did not want to focus on an election result that was two years old.
Republican state lawmakers used their subpoena power to obtain all the 2020
ballots and vote-counting machines from Maricopa County, then hired Trump
supporters to conduct an unprecedented partisan review of the election. The
widely mocked spectacleconfirmed Biden's victory but fueled unfounded
conspiracy theories about the election and spurred an exodus of election
In the midterms, voters up and down the ballot rejected Republican
candidates who repeatedly denied the results of the 2020 election. But Kari
Lake, the GOP gubernatorial candidate, has never conceded her loss to Hobbs and
plans to launch a bid for the U.S. Senate. Last year, Republican Senate
candidate Blake Masters and Mark Finchem, who ran for secretary of state, also
repeated fraudulent election claims in their campaigns.
Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., who defeated Masters, said the importance of
defending democracy resonates not only with members of his own party but
independents and moderate GOP voters.
"I met so many Republicans that were sick and tired of the lies about an
election that was two years old," Kelly said.
Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in next
year's Senate race, said a democracy-focused message is particularly important
to two critical blocs of voters in the state: Latinos and veterans, both of
whom Gallego said are uniquely affected by election denialism and the Jan. 6
"You know, we come from countries and experiences where democracy is very
corrupt, and many of us are only one generation removed from that, but we're
close enough to see how bad it can be," Gallego said. "And so Jan. 6 actually
was particularly jarring, I think, to Latinos."