The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Joe Biden tries to turn attention to ‘wholly unfit’ President Trump

Over the past week, former vice president Joe Biden has pushed back against President Trump's calls that he and his son be investigated for actions in Ukraine. (Video: Mahlia Posey/The Washington Post, Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Joe Biden on Saturday sought to take a more aggressive tone in combating President Trump, a shift in strategy amid signs of worry among campaign donors and supporters that his message is getting lost in an onslaught from the White House.

Biden wrote an op-ed that was published Saturday night in The Washington Post, attempting to refocus attention on Trump’s impropriety in asking Ukrainian leaders to investigate Biden’s family.

“Enough is enough. Every day — every few hours, seemingly — more evidence is uncovered revealing that President Trump is abusing the power of the presidency and is wholly unfit to be president,” Biden wrote. “He is using the highest office in the land to advance his personal political interests instead of the national interest.”

“He does not understand the immense responsibility demanded of all those who hold the office of the president of the United States,” Biden continued. “He sees only the power — and how it can benefit just one person: Donald Trump.”

Biden’s move came amid growing anxiety among Biden’s supporters that he is unprepared to handle the dual challenges of running a general-election campaign against Trump while simultaneously facing an intensifying Democratic primary contest.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) has started to eclipse him in several polls, and Biden last week reported raising only $15.2 million during the last quarter — nearly $10 million less than Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Biden’s supporters also have bridled that Democrats have been slow to rush to Biden’s defense.

Biden’s campaign on Saturday night distributed a memo to reporters from deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield. The subject of the memo highlighted the twin challenges that one of the leading candidates has faced: “Biden Campaign Will Hammer Donald Trump While Focusing On The Issues.”

“This campaign will continue to focus on the issues that impact people’s lives while simultaneously hammering Donald Trump for his unprecedented abuse of power and correcting the record on the mountain of lies Trump and his allies continue to spread about Joe Biden,” Bedingfield wrote.

She outlined three strategies that the campaign is attempting to employ: calling out inaccuracies in Trump’s charges, fighting back against Trump, and talking about issues they believe voters care most about.

Biden and his campaign have struggled over the past two weeks amid a flurry of developments that have launched a House impeachment inquiry in which Biden is a central player. Biden has alternated between pushing back on Trump and seeming unsure of how to handle a situation that has placed the focus on his son Hunter.

For several days at a time, he had few public events, the only responses coming from his remarks at fundraisers at which a handful of reporters are allowed inside. But even then, he has openly ruminated about Trump in various directions.

Biden on Thursday night in San Francisco talked about the allegations, then quickly shifted to say, “This isn’t about me, it’s about you.” His focus then turned back toward himself, as he noted how he was the one who defeated Trump in most polls.

He then went on to talk about his son, making light of a false allegation by Trump that Hunter Biden had made $1.5 billion in China.

“I wonder where the hell that money is, man, because I’ve got to pay tuitions,” Biden said. “God bless me!”

Then he said aloud that he couldn’t get into the “mosh pit” with Trump because the focus should be on issues like climate change and guns. After devoting several minutes to that, he said, “I don’t want to get sucked into this, what he likes to do.”

Biden’s Post op-ed attempted to focus both on Trump’s latest attacks, as well as a broader indictment of his presidency. He criticized the president on climate change and for not doing more to stand up for the rights of protesters in Hong Kong.

“Our first president, George Washington, famously could not tell a lie,” Biden wrote. “President Trump seemingly cannot tell the truth — about anything. He slanders anyone he sees as a threat. That is why is he is frantically pushing flat-out lies, debunked conspiracy theories and smears against me and my family, no doubt hoping to undermine my candidacy for the presidency.”

Biden has bet that voters are familiar with his long tenure in public life, which he hopes will make him more resilient to Trump’s attacks than earlier presidential targets.

“Please know that I’m not going anywhere,” he wrote, addressing Trump. “You won’t destroy me, and you won’t destroy my family. And come November 2020, I intend to beat you like a drum.”