Biden swipes at Trump, with little praise for Clinton

Biden swipes at Trump, with little praise for Clinton
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Vice President Biden laid into Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFlorida GOP lawmaker says he's 'thinking' about impeachment Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS MORE’s foreign policy stance on Monday, describing the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s agenda as dangerous and shortsighted.

Biden never mentioned Trump or presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonState cites 38 people for violations in Clinton email review Trump campaign to hold rallies in Mississippi, Kentucky Biden struggles to reverse fall MORE by name during the 40-minute address at the Center for a New American Security.

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But he repeatedly attacked the “empty bluster” and “insecurity of a bully,” in clear attacks on Trump. And he gave subtle boosts of support for Clinton, advocating for a continuation of the Obama administration’s agenda and through indirect callouts.

“I believe this is one of five times in American history we find ourselves at an inflection point,” Biden said in a relatively somber tone. “The choices we make today will steer the future of the world for the next three decades.”

“In this moment of uncertainty, the world desperately needs steady American leadership more than ever before, because when America leads the way that only we can, guided by principle, grounded in our conviction that America does best when we make sure everyone does better, no nation can match us.”

Monday’s speech represented a clear step into the campaign battle for Biden, who, along with the rest of the White House, remained relatively hands-off throughout the course of the Democratic presidential primary. Yet he declined to offer an explicit, ringing celebration of Clinton’s candidacy, instead referring to her only obliquely.

Instead, his remarks served as more of an offensive attack against Trump, in a sign that the vice president may reprise his role as attack dog, which he played in the 2008 and 2012 elections.

The vice president singled out some of the real estate mogul’s more extreme proposals, including his call to temporarily ban foreign Muslims, attack the family members of suspected terrorists and use new forms of torture during interrogations.

“Adopting the tactics of our enemies,” he warned, would be “deeply, deeply damaging to our security.”

“There are 1.4 billion Muslims in the world,” he added. “Some of the rhetoric I’m hearing sounds designed to radicalize all 1.4 billion.”

“The politics of fear and intolerance,” he added, “calls into question America’s status as the greatest democracy in the history of the world.”

The vice president also railed on isolationist tendencies that Trump has appeared to demonstrate in his “America first” foreign policy.

“Even in simpler times, isolation never offered more than a false sense of security,” he warned.

He also criticized “embracing” Russian President Vladimir Putin, as Trump has been accused of doing, which “would call into question America’s longstanding commitment" to a free and peaceful Europe.

The praise for Clinton, who previously served alongside Biden as secretary of State, was more restrained but nonetheless evident in his calls to “build on” the successes of the Obama administration.

Quoting the title of Clinton’s memoir, Biden said that decisions made over the course of the president’s tenure “have been, to quote the title of a book, very hard choices.”

And he notably professed to be offering his advice to “the next president, whoever she may be.”

The relationship between Biden and Clinton has been marked by tension since last summer, when Biden publicly flirted with the idea of launching a presidential run. Biden acolytes have expressed that Clinton tried to box him out of a run, while Clinton supporters have groaned that the vice president's prolonged decision-making distracted from her role in the race.

Earlier this month, he offered awkward praise for the former secretary of State, hours after President Obama endorsed her, saying that, “God willing,” she will be the next president.

Despite its reluctance to engage with Clinton’s candidacy head-on, Biden’s Monday speech was among the most visible efforts yet to boost her campaign by diminishing Trump. The White House had hinted that it would adopt a more aggressive political posture following Clinton’s clinching of the nomination earlier this month, and Obama had originally planned to campaign with Clinton in Wisconsin last week. But the event was canceled following the deadly shooting in Orlando, just more than a week ago.  

At one point, however, Biden exposed an awkward break between Clinton and the White House by vigorously advocating in support of a major trade pact with Pacific Rim nations that she has opposed after leaving office.

“We cannot afford to ignore the opportunities that exist in Asia. That’s why securing the Trans-Pacific Partnership has been our top priority this administration,” Biden said.

“It is as much a foreign policy initiative as it is an economic initiative,” he added. “If we’re not there, China will fill the vacuum because of its sheer weight and size, and it will not be in our interest.”

Biden’s onetime consideration to run for president loomed over parts of his Monday afternoon speech. At one point it made a comical appearance when think tank head and former Defense official Michèle Flournoy, in an apparent slip-up, referred to him as the “ideal candidate” instead of “keynote.”

“Well Madame Secretary — I mean, uh,” Biden joked in response. Flournoy has been repeatedly mentioned as a possible future secretary of Defense. 

“I’m writing a recommendation for you, though,” Biden said.