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Opinion Trump keeps walking into Joe Biden’s trap

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during a campaign speech in Pittsburgh on Monday. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

In a powerful speech in Pittsburgh on Monday, Joe Biden nestled into his comfort zone. The Democratic presidential nominee is never more clear, direct or impassioned than when the disaster that is President Trump and the moral authority of the office are the focus of his attention. What’s stunning is that the president happily feeds Biden’s fire.

With a mantra of “Do you really feel safer under Trump?” Biden laced into Trump over the president’s record and the damage he has done to our country. And Biden zeroed in on the president trying to fear-monger his way to a second term. “Mr. Trump, you want to talk about fear? Do you know what people are afraid of in America? Afraid they’re going to get covid,” Biden said. “They’re afraid they’re going to get sick and die. And that is in no small part because of you.” He also pointed out that “the murder rate right now is up 26 percent across the nation this year under Donald Trump.”

And then Biden hammered Trump for his moral offenses against the American people. “We’ve arrived at a moment in this campaign, we all . . . knew we’d get to. The moment when Donald Trump would be so desperate, he’d do anything to hold on to power,” said Biden. “Donald Trump has been a toxic presence in our nation for four years. Poisoning how we talk to one another, poisoning how we treat one another, poisoning the values this nation has always held dear, poisoning our very democracy.”

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Most importantly, rather than run away from a fight with Trump over the violence in some American cities, Biden took it and the president head-on. “Donald Trump looks at this violence and he sees a political lifeline,” Biden said. He unequivocally denounced those committing violence and accused Trump of inciting it.

“It’s getting worse. And you know why? Because Donald Trump adds fuel to every fire because he refuses to even acknowledge that there’s a racial justice problem in America because he won’t stand up to any form of violence,” Biden said. “He’s got no problem with the right-wing militias, white supremacists and vigilantes with assault weapons often better armed than the police.”

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Within hours, Trump proved Biden right. During a White House news conference filled with unhinged whinging about “antifa,” “left-wing rioters” and “dangerous rhetoric from far-left politicians,” Trump refused to denounce the actions of vigilantes such as Kyle Rittenhouse.

“You saw the same tape as I saw. And he was trying to get away from them, I guess,” Trump said about the 17-year-old who allegedly shot three people, killing two, in Kenosha, Wis., with an AR-15-type assault rifle he carried openly the night of Aug. 25. The tape showed Rittenhouse trying to get away all right — after the shootings and then captured him allegedly shooting someone else.

That Trump is void of empathy is nothing new. So it came as no surprise that he likened the horror of a Kenosha police officer’s pumping seven bullets into the back of Jacob Blake to a golfing mishap. “Shooting a guy in the back many times . . . I mean, couldn’t you have done something different, couldn’t you have wrestled him? In the meantime he might have been going for a weapon,” Trump said during a Fox News interview. “But they choke. . . . Just like in a golf tournament they miss a three-foot putt.”

Immediately recognizing the callousness of that remark, interviewer Laura Ingraham jumped in like a spotter trying to grab heavy weights before they crushed an athlete. But the president insisted, “I’m saying people choke.”

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Such callousness perfectly reflects why I believe Biden has an upper hand against Trump. Forget about the president’s lame attempts to question Biden’s mental acuity or his ability to do the job. Those are projections meant to distract and to stoke fear among easily panicked Democrats. No, pay attention to what Biden has done. He’s laid a trap that everyone can see and Trump fails to avoid. Every time he opens his mouth, Trump forays into racism and white grievance that give Biden another chance to stand in stark contrast to him. Another chance to show humanity and leadership to a nation in desperate need of it.

But I am also mindful of this: A cornered animal will fight its way out of it. And Trump is using fear to fight his way out, even if it means exacerbating racial tensions. That’s why he went to Kenosha to visit law enforcement. That’s why he can’t see fit to denounce right-wing militias who support him. That’s why he absolutely must be defeated in November.

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