Biden embraces Trump-style taunts, calling Trump a ‘loser’

Biden has also been making comments that draw unwelcome attention to his own tendency to misspeak, exaggerate his past or make public gaffes.
Last Updated : 27 April 2024, 04:43 IST
Last Updated : 27 April 2024, 04:43 IST

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Washington: This week, one presidential candidate has called the other a loser, made fun of him for selling Bibles, and even poked fun at his hair.

That kind of taunting is generally more within the purview of former President Donald Trump, whose insults are so voluminous and so often absurd that they have been cataloged by the hundreds. But lately, the barbs have been coming from President Joe Biden, who once would only refer to Trump as “the former guy.”

Gone are the days of calling Trump “my predecessor.”

“We’ll never forget lying about Covid and telling the American people to inject bleach in their arms,” Biden said at a fundraiser on Thursday evening, referring to Trump’s suggestion as president that Americans should try using disinfectant internally to combat the coronavirus.

“He injected it in his hair,” Biden said.

He is coming up with those lines himself: “This isn’t ‘SNL,’” said James Singer, a spokesperson and rapid response adviser for the Biden campaign, referring to Saturday Night Live. “We’re not writing jokes for him.”

The needling from Biden is designed to hit his opponent where it hurts, touching on everything from Trump’s hairstyle to his energy levels in court. Biden has also used policy arguments to get under Trump’s skin, mocking the former president’s track record on abortion, the coronavirus pandemic and the economy.

The president’s advisers say Trump’s legal problems have created an opening. As Trump faces felony charges that he falsified business records to pay off a porn actor before the 2016 election, Biden and his aides have refrained from talking directly about the legal proceedings. Biden has made it a point to say he is too busy.

“I haven’t had a chance to watch the court proceedings because I’ve been campaigning,” Biden told a group of donors assembled at actor Michael Douglas’ home in New York on Thursday.

But everyone in the Biden camp — from the president to officials running his social media accounts — sees the moment as ripe for holding up a split screen between Trump’s current schedule and the president’s.

As Biden traveled aboard Air Force One to Florida this week, Andrew Bates, a White House spokesperson, told reporters to keep their eyes peeled for updates.

“Nobody fall asleep while we talk, please,” Bates said, an unsubtle reference to reports that Trump had dozed off in court.

Jennifer Mercieca, an associate professor at Texas A&M University who studies political rhetoric, said Trump has often won supporters with his ability to present himself as a strong, authoritative leader, and that he “always tries to define Biden as sleepy, as old, as senile, the opposite of the strong man.”

She said Biden was trying to flip the narrative. At a campaign reception in Dallas last month, Biden told a group of donors a story about a “defeated-looking” man who had complained to the president about a “crushing debt.”

“And I had to look at him and say, ‘Donald, I’m sorry. I can’t help you,’” Biden said. “I thought about it, but I just couldn’t do it.”

Still, it remains to be seen if this new approach can change the minds that have been made up.

The former president may be stuck in a courtroom, but according to recent polls, he is still leading in battleground states. (The Biden campaign equates the polls to meaningless noise during a turbulent election season.)

Biden has also been making comments that draw unwelcome attention to his own tendency to misspeak, exaggerate his past or make public gaffes.

This week he repeated a debunked claim that he used to drive an 18-wheeler truck. On Wednesday, he seemed to read instructions from a teleprompter out loud to his audience, asking them to imagine what the Biden administration and its supporters could do with the next “four more years ... pause.”

Biden also told two campaign audiences that after being shot down during World War II, his uncle might have been eaten by cannibals in Papua New Guinea, angering the island nation’s leaders at a time when the president has been courting them as part of his Indo-Pacific strategy.

But, because it is April of an election year, the president’s advisers waste no time on explaining the boss’s mistakes, instead throwing them back on his opponent.

“The president had an emotional and, I think, a symbolic moment,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, by way of explaining the cannibals comment. She went on to castigate Trump for calling military veterans “suckers” and “losers.”

Biden’s advisers say that they are not just making fun of Trump for their own amusement — they want to highlight policy differences and draw a contrast between the two candidates.

During a campaign speech in Tampa, Florida, on Tuesday, Biden stayed focused on tying Trump to laws that have restricted access to abortion and reproductive health care, issues that are galvanizing for Democrats even as the party remains divided over a range of other matters, from the Israel-Hamas war to border policy.

During his speech, Biden said Trump’s name more than a dozen times as he argued for restoring the protections of Roe v. Wade. Biden also found a way to make a joke about Trump’s latest business opportunity.

“He described the Dobbs decision as a ‘miracle,’” Biden said, referring to the case that sealed Roe’s fate. Then he mocked Trump’s effort to sell copies of the Bible. “Maybe it’s coming from that Bible he’s trying to sell. Whoa. I almost wanted to buy one just to see what the hell is in it.”

Not every attack landed as cleanly.

“How many times does he have to prove we can’t be trusted?” Biden said at that rally, presumably meaning to assign the blame to Trump. The misstep was highlighted throughout the day by conservative media.

On Friday, the Biden campaign capped off the week with an email calling Trump “the smallest man in the world,” lacing a message with references to songs by pop star Taylor Swift, whose political endorsement the campaign is courting.

Published 27 April 2024, 04:43 IST

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