Read former Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks as prepared for delivery in Iowa:
It’s great to be in Iowa.
I’m sorry I couldn’t attend the Hall of Fame events over the weekend – but it was my daughter’s birthday and my granddaughter’s graduation from High School.
I guess some folks were surprised I made that choice – but I don’t know why. There are some things more important than running for president – and my daughter and granddaughter are two of them. So I’ll make the same decision every time.
You know, Donald Trump and I are both in Iowa today. It wasn’t planned that way, but I hope Trump’s presence here will be a clarifying event.
America’s farmers have been crushed by his tariff war with China.
No one knows that better than Iowa.
He thinks he’s being tough.
Well, it’s easy to be tough when someone else is feeling the pain.
How many farmers across this state and across this nation have had to face the prospect of losing their business, of losing their farm because of Trump’s tariffs?
How many have had to stare at the ceiling at night wondering how they’re going to make it?
How many sleepless nights do you think Trump has had over what he’s doing to America’s farmers?
Here’s the answer: Just as many as he had when he stiffed the construction workers and electricians and plumbers who built his hotels and casinos. Zero.
And how about manufacturing? Trump’s tariffs and trade wars are hitting a lot of American manufacturing – especially the American automobile industry – Choking it to within an inch of its life.
One of my proudest moments in the White House was when President Obama and I led the rescue of the American auto industry.
We knew what it meant to the millions of jobs in the auto companies and the supply chain.
We also knew what it meant to the pride of the nation.
Now I’m watching Trump destroy the industry President Obama and I helped save.
Do you think he just backed off his tariff threat with Mexico because he got some tough new deal? Maybe there’s some secret development yet to be revealed — But based on what we know, it seems more like old wine in new bottles.
And the truth is he’s scared – his economic folks told him his tough talk was about to cost to him Michigan and Ohio and Iowa.
But don’t kid yourself – another bad news story – and he’ll be back with tariffs to change the subject. And the people who will get hurt are just pawns in his game.
Trump doesn’t get the basics.
He thinks his tariffs are being paid by China. Any beginning econ student at Iowa or Iowa State
could tell you that the American people are paying his tariffs. The cashiers at Target see what’s going on – they know more about economics than Trump.
And let me take one additional moment to talk about this — because it’s important, and I don’t want anyone to misunderstand what I mean.
We are in a competition with China.
We need to get tough with China.
They are a serious challenge to us, and in some areas a real threat.
And every single step that Donald Trump is taking is only exacerbating the challenge.
While Trump is tweeting, China is making massive investments in technologies of the future.
While Trump is name-calling, China is building roads, bridges, and high-speed rail.
While Trump is pursuing a damaging and erratic trade war, without any real strategy, China is positioning itself to lead the world in renewable energy.
While Trump is attacking our friends, China is pressing its advantage all over the world.
So you bet I’m worried about China — if we keep following Trump’s path.
But the reason I’m optimistic, and the point I’ve been making for years is—
IF we do what we need to do here at home,
IF we stand up for American interests,
IF we invest in our people, live our values, and work with our partners — We can out-compete anyone.
I have absolute confidence in the productivity of our workers, the ingenuity of our researchers and innovators, and the capacity of the American people to continue to lead the world in the 21st century.
When the United States of America sets out to achieve something, we have never failed to do it — as long as we do it together.
So when it comes to taking on China, First, let’s invest in ourselves — that’s why I’ve proposed a historic initiative in scientific research, cutting-edge infrastructure, and a modern workforce that will help American workers and entrepreneurs compete and win.
Second, let’s build a united front of allies to challenge China’s abusive behavior. Trump is attacking the very partners we need with us to deal with China. We need to rally more than half the world’s economy to hold China to account for their cheating. And get a chorus of voices speaking out on China’s repression.
Third, let’s tighten up our defenses so that American companies don’t have to keep giving away technology to China, or having it stolen. In the Obama-Biden administration, we got China to curb its cyber-theft – it’s gotten worse under Trump.
Finally, let’s find areas to cooperate where it’s in our interest. We got the Chinese to agree for the first time to limit their carbon pollution. There’s a lot more we can do on climate change, and nuclear weapons, and other issues where our interests converge.
But time and time again, on issue after issue, Trump makes the wrong choices. He is motivated by the wrong thing.
We’re seeing devastating floods all across America — right here in Davenport. You’ve gone through it. Farmers all across Iowa can’t plant their fields. Record flood levels, millions of dollars in damage and cleanup. And still Trump denies climate change.
What did he tell Piers Morgan in that interview? “Well the weather goes both ways”.
It reminds me of when he tweeted in the winter that since it was cold outside there was no climate warming. Or how about when he said the way to deal with California’s fires was to rake the leaves? It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.
If he was just another rich guy sitting in his gold-plated apartment in Manhattan tweeting about how those pointy-headed scientists don’t know anything, it wouldn’t matter. But he’s President.
We need to be doing everything in our power to confront the climate threat:
• investing in clean energy innovation;
• partnering with farmers and ranchers to develop the next generation of biofuels;
• building clean energy infrastructure, from a nationwide network of charging stations for electric vehicles to a 21st century railroad system;
• putting America on course to becoming a net-zero emissions, clean energy economy by 2050.
Instead, Trump pulled America out of the Paris Agreement. He just tried to put a muzzle on a State Department analyst to prevent him from discussing climate science in testimony to Congress. He thinks windmills cause cancer.
And how about health care? Remember when Trump’s Justice Department decided to argue that the Affordable Care Act in its entirety is unconstitutional just a few months ago?
Now he’s got his tail between his legs and barely mentions it – doesn’t even tweet about it – because he knows the American people will give him a thrashing in 2020 just like they gave the Republicans in 2018 for trying to get rid of it.
Well – guess what? If I become the nominee of this party, I’m going to give Trump a thrashing every day on health care.
I’m not going to let the American people forget Trump is trying to take away your protections for pre-existing conditions.
I’m not going to let the American people forget it’s because of the Affordable Care Act that their kid gets to stay on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 26.
I’m not going to let the American people forget that it’s because of the Affordable Care Act that millions of people gained health coverage.
And one more thing. Trump may think Wall Street and the Super Rich built this country. I don’t.
I think this country was built by you – by the working people of this nation – by America’s great middle class.
And the tax cut he passed for the multi-millionaires and billionaires? When I’m President – Gone.
When I’m president we’re going to have a fairer tax code. We’re going to get rid of hundreds of billions of dollars in tax loopholes that have no economic or societal rationale.
We’re going to build an economy that doesn’t just reward wealth; we’re going to build an economy that rewards work. We’re going to build an economy that works for everyone.
As Democrats, we often say Trump poses a threat to this nation. But what do we mean?
Sometimes I think it’s said so often we don’t realize just how serious a threat he is – and why. I believe Trump is an existential threat to America.
I’ve said many times that we can overcome four years of Trump – but if we give him eight years in the White House he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation.
So – what is the threat?
Beyond the issues, I believe Trump poses three fundamental threats to America.
First, to our core values. What we stand for. What we believe. We saw it in Charlottesville.
White supremacists and Neo-Nazis and the KKK came out of the fields, their faces lit by torchlight, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile heard in Europe in the 1930s.
They clashed with a group of brave Americans who had the courage to stand up to hate.
Trump’s response: There were “very fine people on both sides.”
Once he said that, I knew the threat this nation was facing was unlike any in my lifetime – and I knew I was going to have to run for president.
We see it at the border where Trump has ripped children from the arms of their parents and put them in cages. This isn’t who we are.
“We hold these truths self-evident – that all men – and all women – are created equal.”
It’s the American creed. But Trump sneers at it. He thinks it makes us weak. He has no idea it’s what makes us strong.
Honesty. Decency. Treating everyone with dignity.
Demonizing no one – not the poor, the powerless, the immigrant, the other. Giving hate no safe harbor. Understanding that as Americans we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
Does anyone in this room think Donald Trump understands that?
There’s a lot of ways Trump fails the basic standard to be president – but one of them is this: Donald – it’s not about you. It’s about America.
Everywhere we turn, it’s clear that Trump is shredding what we believe in most. I believe we have to restore those basic values. I gather some people think that’s a return to the past.
I don’t see it that way. I see it as embracing the enduring values that have made America – America. I don’t think that’s taking us into the past. For me, it’s the only way America is going to have a future.
Second, to our standing in the world.
Trump just attended the 75th Anniversary of D-Day – one of the most important symbols in the world for the importance of America’s alliances.
And while his words of support for NATO were welcome – they are completely at odds with everything he has said for years – including in an interview with Fox News just before his speech.
He remains the only American president who has ever threatened to leave NATO.
Does anyone really believe our allies left Normandy reassured? I don’t.
Did he do anything to signal that he’s prepared to walk away from the thugs he’s embraced on the world stage – from Putin to Kin Jung Un? No.
He did none of that. Instead, he gets up in the middle of the night to attack Bette Midler. He attacks the mayor of London. He attacks the American Speaker of the House. It was a stunning display of childishness for the whole world to see. But it wasn’t just world leaders that are watching.
It’s our children.
The behavior, the character of a President matters.
You know, I want to say something that we don’t say enough as a party – or a nation: Barack Obama was a President of extraordinary character and decency. He was a president our kids could look up to.
I was proud of the work we did together – from the Recovery Act to the Auto Rescue to Health Care – but I was most proud of the man he was.
And if you don’t think we miss him, Trump just reminded us that we do.
Donald Trump, the President of the United States, just spent Saturday night attacking a private American citizen with language like “Little Donny Deutsch”, a “total loser”.
Barack Obama wouldn’t do that. No president would. Most teenagers wouldn’t.
And for those folks who say – Trump’s character doesn’t matter – “I like his judges,” “I like my tax cut,” “I like the way he sticks a finger in the eye of the system” – what are you going to do when your kids start tweeting like Trump and say “Well, the President did it.”
Or they start behaving like Trump – and they say “The President did it”. What are our teachers going to do when their students say, “The President did it.”?
This president is setting a standard for crude language and embarrassing behavior that is burrowing deep into this culture – and it’s going to take a long time to get rid of it.
And third, our democracy. Our democracy is at risk. I never thought I would say those words. But it’s true.
Everywhere you turn, Trump is tearing down the guardrails of democracy. It’s the abuse of power. And if there is one thing I can’t stand – it’s the abuse of power.
Whether it’s a man raising his hand to strike a woman or a child, or an employer treating his workers like dirt, or an American president who has no respect for the rule of law – I can’t stand for it.
“Enemy of the people.”
These aren’t words to be laughed at or dismissed.
Just look at what’s happening around the world. Dictators and tyrants are using Trump’s words to justify their own abuses of power in their countries. Trump’s goal is simple – discredit the news, discredit the free press – and he gets to run roughshod over America.
His attacks on the independence of the Courts. Whether it was saying a judge with Mexican ancestry couldn’t give him a fair hearing to his attacks now on “Obama” judges – he’s looking to tear down the constraints the courts have put on him. And it’s gone beyond that to attack the full range of our law enforcement agencies. And Congress.
What he’s doing isn’t your typical battle between two co-equal branches of government.
He is deliberately and completely ignoring the legitimate authority of the Congress – and he’s doing it with the full complicity of the Republicans in Congress who know better.
In 2020, we not only have to repudiate Donald Trump’s policies and values – we have to clearly and firmly reject his view of the Presidency.
“I have the complete power.”
“I have the absolute power.”
“Only I can fix it.”
We’re at a moment when we need to re-set Constitutional norms in this country. The Presidency is not without limits. The Congress is a co-equal branch of government.
There are some in our party who say the response to what we’re living through is to ram through what we can when we get power.
We will regret that.
I know government is sometimes a knife-fight – and you have to go it alone to get something big done like health care. But it can’t be a permanent frame of mind. So – yes – I will look to work with the Congress. I will work across the aisle. I will seek to find consensus.
That’s not naïve. That’s not some old-fashioned way of doing things that no longer works. That’s the way our system is supposed to work. And we are going to rue the day we decide to walk away from the fundamentals of American Democracy.
For all our problems, I’m more optimistic today than when I got elected to the United States Senate as a 29-year-old kid.
And here’s why: We’re better positioned than any nation in the world to lead the 21st Century.
● We have the strongest military in the world.
● We have led not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.
● North America is energy independent.
● The U.S. has the best research universities in the world.
No other nation in the world can match us. The only thing that can tear America apart is America itself. Everybody knows who Donald Trump is.
We have to let them know who we are. We choose hope over fear. Unity over division. Truth over lies. And science over fiction.
It’s time for us to pick our heads up and remember who we are. This is United States of America. There’s not a single thing we can’t do – together.
God bless all of you. May God protect our troops.
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