Trump uses bin Laden raid to attack Biden

President Trump has increasingly raised a new line of attack against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, invoking his skepticism over the raid that killed Osama bin Laden to question the former vice president’s leadership and instincts.

The president has started to mention Biden’s stance on the raid during his scripted rally remarks, including at an event last week in Wisconsin. Trump has seized on Biden’s role in the bin Laden raid and his more recent criticism of the January strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani to highlight the former vice president’s track record on foreign policy.

“No one has been more wrong, more often than Biden,” Trump tweeted late Thursday. “He voted FOR the Iraq War, he supported the defense sequester that gutted our military, he opposed the mission to take out Osama bin Laden, he opposed killing Soleimani, he oversaw the rise of ISIS, and he cheered the rise of China as a ‘positive development’ for America and the world.

“If it were up to Joe, bin Laden and Soleimani would still be alive, ISIS would be still on the rampage, and China would now be the dominant power in the world not America.”

Trump campaign officials declined to divulge whether Biden’s involvement in the Bin Laden raid would be a specific point of attack in the upcoming presidential debates, but they signaled it would be a recurring talking point as part of a broader effort to paint Biden as unequipped to keep America safe.

The president has resumed holding large scale rallies in the last few weeks after a hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. His prepared remarks have typically included a section on foreign policy, with jabs at Biden’s initial views on the bin Laden mission and the killing of Soleimani, which Biden said in January was equivalent to tossing “a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox.”

“Joe Biden has been on the wrong side of history for 47 years,” Trump told supporters in Nevada last week. “He never called it right.”

Biden aides and allies say they knew the attacks were coming because they’ve seen them before.

In 2015, as Biden was considering whether to run in the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and her allies highlighted the fact that Clinton had backed President Obama in ordering the strike against bin Laden. Biden, they underscored, was on the other side. 

But Biden allies say the Democratic nominee will be well prepared to take Trump on over the issue when the first presidential debate is held on Sept. 29.

“I think it’s safe to say that we know it’s a line of attack he’s going to use and I’m sure the VP will be ready to answer it when it does come up,” said one ally close to the campaign. “They’re trying to make this an issue because they have nothing else to go on.”

“I’m confident he’ll be preparing for that,” another longtime aide offered. 

One informal adviser to the president questioned how impactful it would be to devote significant attention to Biden’s stance on the bin Laden raid given the economic and public health crises facing the country.

Outside groups supporting the Trump campaign indicated their messaging would remain focused on the economy and law and order over the final weeks of the race.

Doug Heye, a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said the raising Biden’s skepticism of the bin Laden raid could resonate with military voters who may be wavering.

“Otherwise, the election is dominated by COVID and the economy, and potential flare ups in cities,” Heye said.

Trump allies have harped on comments that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates made about Biden in the book “Duty.” Gates served as the chief of the Pentagon under both Obama and former President George W. Bush.

Gates called Biden “a man of integrity” but said the former vice president “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the last four decades.” 

When the issue was a dividing line between Clinton and Biden as the vice president was considering a run in 2016, a number of Obama administration officials came out to side with Clinton. 

“It made HRC seem like she was decisive and knew what to do in the moment,” said one Clinton ally, recalling the storyline at the time. “It put Biden on the defensive.” 

Trump campaign officials believe they can use the bin Laden raid as part of a broader narrative to question Biden’s decision making on the international stage.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) used his speech at the Republican National Convention to contrast Trump’s foreign policy with Biden’s record, including the bin Laden episode, saying the former vice president “would return us to a weak and dangerous past.”

At the same time, Trump and his allies are looking to play up the president’s foreign policy bona fides, announcing the normalization of relations for Israel with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as progress toward Middle East peace.

“Biden was against the raid that took out Osama bin Laden, just like he opposed President Trump’s decision to eliminate Qasem Soleimani, the world’s worst terrorist who was responsible for killing and maiming thousands of American servicemembers,” said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign.

“Joe Biden has proven he will not lead with backbone, unlike President Trump who always puts America and our troops first,” Murtaugh added. “This is a theme we will definitely be talking about.”

Tags Afghanistan Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Iran Joe Biden Osama bin Laden Pakisan Tom Cotton

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