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Trump’s new ad attacking Biden on China is a complete and utter mess

President Trump's reelection campaign released this ad about 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on April 9. (Video: Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.)

The big headline from a new Trump campaign ad is that it features an image suggesting that Gary Locke, former Washington governor and U.S. ambassador to China, is a member of the Chinese Communist Party. The image flashes for only a moment, but the suggestion is clear: Joe Biden is bowing deferentially to a person of Asian descent standing in front of Chinese flags. Except that the person of Asian descent is actually an American.

But that’s hardly the only way in which the ad obscures and misleads. It is a veritable smorgasbord of deception and disinformation. It attacks Biden for saying things about China that are extremely similar to what Trump himself has said. It also alters Biden’s comments about travel bans and other things to make it sound like he was saying something he did not say.

Let’s walk through it.

“Biden Opposed China Coronavirus Travel Restrictions,” reads a highlighted headline early in the ad, as it plays a clip of Biden citing Trump’s “hysterical xenophobia."

Except that headline didn’t come from a news source; it came from a video the Trump campaign itself posted to Twitter.

And there’s a reason for that: Reputable news outlets haven’t reported that Biden opposed the travel restrictions. As fact-checkers have said, Biden’s comments about “hysterical xenophobia” actually made no reference to the China travel restrictions. At no point has Biden said he opposed the restrictions.

The ad returns to this point later, playing a clip of Biden saying, “Banning all travel will not stop it” — referring to the virus. Except it misleadingly edits out the middle of Biden’s quote, without providing any indication it had done so.

The full quote from Biden’s March 12 coronavirus speech is, “Banning all travel from Europe, or any other part of the world, may slow it, but as we have seen, it will not stop it.” In other words, Biden was actually acknowledging travel restrictions can be effective, and he again was not opposing the ones specific to China.

In fact, Biden seemed to be referencing Trump’s controversial decision to ban travel from certain parts of Europe but not others. Biden went on to say, “And travel restrictions based on favoritism and politics — rather than risk — will be counterproductive.”

And lastly is the attempt to paint Biden as some kind of China apologist.

“Biden protected China’s feelings,” reads the screen early.

“Biden stands up for China,” it says at another point.

“They’re not bad folks, folks,” Biden says in one clip.

“It is in our self-interest that China continue to prosper,” he says in another.

“What a beautiful history we wrote together,” he says in yet another, followed by a clip of him clinking glasses with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Except just about everything Biden says about China in the ad echoes what Trump himself has said — and many times over.

Biden is quoted in the ad saying, “They’re not bad folks, folks.” Here’s what Trump has said:

  • September 2017: “They’re very smart, and they’re good people.”
  • May 9, 2019: “They’re good people. And I like the president a lot; he’s a friend of mine.”
  • Nov. 22, 2019: “I’m also standing with President Xi. He’s a friend of mine. He’s an incredible guy.”
  • Jan. 15, 2020: “I want to thank President Xi — a very, very good friend of mine.”
  • On Tuesday, just this week: “I like China. The Chinese people are phenomenal people.”

Biden is quoted in the ad saying, “It is in our self-interest that China continue to prosper." Here’s what Trump has said:

  • October 2018: “And, by the way, I want China to do well.”
  • June 10, 2019: “I want China to do well; I don’t want them to do as well as us.”
  • Sept. 9, 2019: “I want China to do well, and I hope they do well.”
  • Jan. 15, 2020: “So let today be the beginning of a brighter future, more prosperous for the American people, the Chinese people, and the world.”

Biden is quoted in the ad saying, “What a beautiful history we wrote together.” Here’s what Trump has said:

  • Jan. 15, 2020: “Keeping these two giant and powerful nations together in harmony is so important for the world — not only for us, for the whole word.”
  • Jan. 15, 2020: “As we move on to phase two [of a trade deal], I look forward to continuing to forge a future of greater harmony, prosperity, and, really, commerce and far beyond commerce, between the United States and China.”
  • Jan. 22, 2020: “One of the many great things about our just signed giant Trade Deal with China is that it will bring both the USA & China closer together in so many other ways.”

It’s true that Trump has been tough on China in a very significant way, by launching a trade war. But Biden’s crime here appears to have been saying diplomatic things as a vice president — things similar to what Trump himself has said repeatedly. Combine that with the misleading and secretly edited use of his quotes and mistaking an American for a Chinese official, and it’s a mess.

It’s also undoubtedly a sign of things to come.

Update: CNN spotted another butchered quote from the ad. At the end, it features Biden saying, “I complimented [Trump] on -- on dealing with China.” What Biden actually said was: “He indicated that I complimented him on -- on dealing with China.”

Biden went on to say in the quote, “Well, you know, 45 nations had already moved to keep -- block China’s personnel from being able to come to the United States, before the President moved. So, it’s about pace, it’s about the urgency, and I don’t think there’s been enough of it.”

In other words, the suggesting is Biden had admitted his criticisms of Trump were wrong. But that’s not at all what he said.