‘Get off Twitter’: Biden berates Trump over coronavirus, school reopenings
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Wednesday berated President Trump over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and said schools could have safely reopened in the coming months if the White House had effectively blunted the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country earlier this year.
“This year, we’re facing the most difficult circumstances and we’re seeing an awful lot of heart and a lot of grit from our educators and our students to try to rise to the occasion here. But our government hasn’t come up to that bar and shown much grit at all or determination,” he said in a speech from his home state of Delaware.
“Let me be clear, if President Trump and his administration had done their jobs early on with this crisis, American schools would be open, and they’d be open safely. Instead, American families all across this country are paying the price for his failures, his administration’s failures.”
The former vice president cast Trump as leading a White House that has yet to formulate a cohesive, national plan to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus and that the federal government should double down on crafting legislation to direct funds to schools.
Biden said Trump’s response has been a “failure to take steps we needed back in March and April to get this pandemic under control, to institute widespread testing and tracing to control the spread. Failure to provide clear national science-based guidelines to state and local authorities. And failure to model even basic responsibility like social distancing and wearing a mask.”
“Get off Twitter and start talking to the congressional leaders of both parties. Invite them to the Oval Office,” he said to Trump. “You always talk about your ability to negotiate. Negotiate a deal, a deal for somebody other than yourself.”
The blistering remarks come as the country’s death toll from the pandemic surges near 185,000 and the national case count tops 6 million, raising alarm at how far behind the U.S. lags in comparison to other developed nations’ pandemic responses.
Biden tore into the administration over the Tuesday announcement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that it will end federal funding for cloth face masks in schools around the country, saying the White House was “starving schools of the needed funding, funding they need now.”
“If I were president of the day, I’d direct FEMA to make sure that our kids K-12 get full access to disaster relief and emergency assistance under the Stafford Act,” he said. “I’d make sure that PPE [personal protective equipment] and sanitation supplies for schools qualify as emergency protective measures … to fully be eligible for federal assistance.”
The former vice president has highlighted the issue of school reopenings for months, leveraging on his ties to teachers’ unions and his wife’s career as an educator, and bashing Trump’s rhetoric on the issue and threat to withhold funds to schools that do not reopen.
Trump has for months pushed schools to reopen for in-person instruction this fall.
The president’s reelection campaign accused the former vice president of levying false accusations against Trump in an attempt to boost is poll numbers.
“Joe Biden’s handlers are clearly rattled as they’re realizing their strategy of hiding their candidate in a basement while President Trump leads the country with strength isn’t garnering any support from the American people. Now, Biden is left lobbing false accusations and chasing President Trump’s shadow in a sad attempt to climb out of the hole he’s dug himself,” said Trump campaign spokesperson Samantha Zager.
Biden Wednesday also discussed his upcoming trip to Kenosha, Wis., Thursday as the city grapples with protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake last week that left him partially paralyzed. The trip comes after days of violent clashes, including when a white teenager from Illinois allegedly shot three people with a military-style rifle, killing two.
“What we want to do, what we got to do is heal, we got to put things together, bring people together. So my purpose in going will be to do just that, to be a positive influence on what’s going on, talk about what needs to be done and try to see if there’s going to be a mechanism to bring the folks together,” he said.
The former vice president also said the police officers who shot Blake and Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed by police in her Kentucky home earlier this year, should be charged with crimes.
“I think we should let the judicial system work its way,” Biden said. “I do think at a minimum they need to be charged.”