|Joe Biden's do-no-harm campaign is taking a sharper edge as his race with President Donald Trump enters the home stretch and the incumbent, now a week removed from the Republican convention's sugar high, is again lashing out in response to a new series of self-made controversies.
On the eve of Labor Day weekend, Biden, in his second press conference of the week, reacted furiously to a report that Trump, in private conversations, described American soldiers killed in combat as "suckers." Biden called the remarks "absolutely damnable" and called on the President, if the story's details are true, to apologize to the families of US military veterans and war dead.
The alleged comments, as first recounted in The Atlantic on Thursday, have been met with a frenzied onslaught of denials from the White House and Trump personally, who has called the report a "hoax." But their rush to undermine the story, which has not been independently verified by CNN, underscores the political peril Trump sees ahead -- and, if nothing else, its potential to detract from their efforts to turn this election into a partisan choice and not simply a referendum on his first four years.
Biden made the issue -- which could dampen Trump's support with military families and veterans -- personal during a back-and-forth with reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, on Friday, recalling the record of his late son, Beau.
"My son was an assistant US attorney and he volunteered to go to Kosovo, when the war was going on, as a civilian, he wasn't a 'sucker,'" Biden said, his face stern as he hammered on the offending term. "When my son volunteered and joined the United States military as the Attorney General (of Delaware), he went to Iraq for a year, won the Bronze Star and other commendations, he wasn't a 'sucker.'"
Biden has in the months since winning the Democratic nomination sought to steer clear of Trump-lit brush fires, instead focusing his criticism of the President on the administration's mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. The country's death toll is now creeping up on 200,000 and, according to a model from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, could more than double that figure by January if the US continues on its current path.
"(Trump) doesn't feel it, he doesn't understand, he just doesn't care. He thinks if the stock market is up, then everything is fine," said Biden, who struck a populist chord in this latest denunciation. "If his wealthy donors and friends are doing well, then everything is doing well. If corporations see their valuations rising, then they must be hiring."
In his own news conference later in the day, Trump came out and offered a rote commentary on what he touted as positive economic news in a jobs report released Friday, before returning to misleading messages about the pandemic and a full frontal assault on The Atlantic story.
But if it was Trump's goal to cast doubt on the details in the magazine, to suggest he couldn't have denigrated the war dead because of his purported reverence for the military, he chose a strange way of ...