President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden face off this week as they give dueling speeches over the unrest that has rocked cities from coast to coast this summer over police brutality against minorities and racial injustice.
Biden goes first, heading to Pittsburgh on Monday, where he’ll ask the question “does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is reelected?”
“This president long ago forfeited any moral leadership in this country. He can’t stop the violence – because for years he has fomented it,” Biden will claim, according to excerpts of his speech released by his campaign.
On Tuesday, the president gets his turn as he travels to Kenosha, Wis., despite pleas from the state’s Democratic governor not to come, to spotlight his law and order theme in a city wracked with violence since the police shooting a week ago of a Black man that reignited unrest across the country.
The former vice president’s speech comes a day after he condemned the continued violence in Portland, Ore., which has witnessed nightly clashes all summer. On Saturday night, a person was shot and killed after violent confrontations between Trump supporters and demonstrators who’ve been protesting for three straight months since the death in late May of Black man George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota.
“The deadly violence we saw overnight in Portland is unacceptable. Shooting in the streets of a great American city is unacceptable. I condemn this violence unequivocally. I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right,” Biden emphasized.
“And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same. It does not matter if you find the political views of your opponents abhorrent, any loss of life is a tragedy,” Biden added. “We must not become a country at war with ourselves. A country that accepts the killing of fellow Americans who do not agree with you. A country that vows vengeance toward one another. But that is the America that President Trump wants us to be, the America he believes we are.”
The pro-Trump group Patriot Prayer identified the victim in the Portland clash as Aaron “Jay” Danielson.
The president – in a tweet Sunday morning – described the caravan of his supporters as “GREAT PATRIOTS!” and in another tweet said “Rest In Peace Jay!.”
Two top Democratic leaders in Oregon – Gov. Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler – charged that the president “has encouraged division and stoked violence.”
Pushing back, Trump took at aim at the mayor, tweeting that “Ted Wheeler, the wacky Radical Left Do Nothing Democrat Mayor of Portland, who has watched great death and destruction of his City during his tenure, thinks this lawless situation should go on forever. Wrong! Portland will never recover with a fool for a Mayor….”
And he’s repeatedly in recent days tweeted and re-tweeted “LAW & ORDER!!!”
Biden, in his speech Monday, will fire back, saying the president “may believe mouthing the words law and order makes him strong, but his failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows you how weak he is.”
And he’ll highlight that “we are facing multiple crises – crises that, under Donald Trump, keep multiplying. COVID. Economic devastation. Unwarranted police violence. Emboldened white nationalists. A reckoning on race. Declining faith in a bright American future. The common thread? An incumbent president who makes things worse, not better.”
Following Saturday’s announcement that the president would go to Kenosha, Biden has been under increasing pressure to visit the key general election battleground state as well. But Biden’s decision to speak from Pennsylvania – another crucial swing state – appears to be a move to put some space between himself and the violence that’s flared since 29-year-old Jacob Blake was shot seven times on Aug. 23, allegedly by Kenosha police Officer Rusten Sheskey.
Video seen on social media shows Sheskey shooting at Blake as he reached into his vehicle, where Wisconsin officials later said a knife was found. The shooting, witnessed by his children who were in the vehicle, left Blake paralyzed from the waist down.
During the protests sparked by the shooting, a self-described militia member is accused of fatally shooting two people and wounding a third. Teenager Kyle Rittenhouse faces murder charges in the shootings; his lawyer has claimed self-defense.
The president’s trip to Kenosha appears to be a type of victory lap – as he’s taking credit for the calming of tensions in the city after the National Guard restored a semblance of order.
“Success: Since the National Guard moved into Kenosha, Wisconsin, two days ago, there has been NO FURTHER VIOLENCE, not even a small problem,” Trump tweeted Friday. “When legally asked to help by local authorities, the Federal Government will act and quickly succeed. Are you listening Portland?”
But Democratic Gov. Tony Evers had already sent some National Guard troops to the city even before the president’s move.
The president has been emphasizing law and order since the outbreak of protests in the late spring, and it was a major theme at last week’s Republican National Convention. The emphasis comes as Trump tries to win back suburban voters who supported him in 2016 but fled the GOP in the 2018 midterm elections.
According to a Fox News national poll conducted earlier this month, Biden leads the president among registered voters in the suburbs by 16 percentage points. And the survey indicates registered voters nationwide by a 48%-42% margin trust Biden over Trump to do a better job handling policing and criminal justice.