Joe Biden debuted his counter to President Donald Trump’s daily coronavirus briefings on Monday in a 15-minute speech that had a few kinks and awkward moments, but was implicit in its message that Trump has failed to deliver real leadership during the crisis.
Biden, standing against a backdrop of bookshelves in a makeshift TV studio in his home, criticized Trump for using the high-profile briefings to air grievances against his opponents and the media.
“Later today, you will hear from the president in his daily briefing,” Biden said. “These briefings are an important opportunity to inform and reassure the American people. They’re not a place for political attacks. Or to lash out at the press. They’re about the American people.”
He added that he hoped Trump “lets medical experts and FEMA leaders and others carrying out the work take center stage so we can hear directly from them.”
Biden has said that he plans to give the remarks on a regular basis, as the coronavirus has sidelined in-person campaign activity.
Midway through the White House’s “15 Days To Slow The Spread” guidelines that the American public greatly scale back their public interactions, Trump has sent out tweets suggesting that the restrictions are making him any as the economy plummets. That likely will set up a showdown between him and medical professionals, who already have suggested that measures to self-quarantine will take much longer than two weeks if there is hope of curbing the pandemic.
In contrast to Trump’s daily press briefings, in which he answers questions from reporters for upwards of an hour, Biden did not take questions. But he did offer praise for the idea of a briefing in general — only it was for New York governor Andrew Cuomo. He called Cuomo’s daily appearances “a lesson in leadership.” He also praised other governors — but not Trump.
“Trump keeps saying he is a wartime president. Well, start to act like one,” Biden said. “To paraphrase a frustrated President Lincoln, writing to an inactive General McLellan during the Civil War: ‘If you don’t want to use the Army, may I borrow it?’
Biden was referring to Trump’s refusal so far to invite the Defense Production Act to mandate that private industry ramp up production of critically needed medical equipment and supplies.
Biden ended his speech with a note of reassurance.
“Let me close with this thought: Deep in the heart of every American, there burns a flame. It’s an inheritance from every generation of Americans that has come before us,” he said. “It’s why we have overcome every crisis we have ever faced before. It’s what makes this nation special and why we stand apart.”
There were some awkward moments, as when Biden started and ended the speech by looking off camera. Trump’s campaign seized on one gaffe and blasted it out online, when Biden apparently was signaling for a staff member for a copy of the speech.