“There is a difference between reminders and remembrances of history,” Biden said. “The idea of comparing whether or not George Washington owned slaves or Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, and somebody who was in rebellion committing treason . . . trying to take down the union and keep slavery. I think there’s a distinction.”
He said that statues to Confederate leaders “belong in museums, they don’t belong in public places” while “there’s an obligation for the government to protect” other monuments, naming ones to Thomas Jefferson.
Biden’s comments come as some on the left who have led a massive rethinking of the country’s historical figures. Demonstrators across the country have vandalized and torn down a slew of monuments, including ones to Robert E. Lee, the leader of the Confederate army, but also to President Ulysses S. Grant, who fought against slavery by leading the U.S. Army but whose wife owned slaves.
President Trump has said recently that protesters are going too far in toppling statues, calling some of them “vandals” and “hoodlums” and saying the country needs to learn from the mistakes of its history.
During his session with reporters, Biden also said his self-imposed deadline to name a vice-presidential running mate will likely slip a few days to “early August” from his initial hope to name a woman to the role by Aug. 1. Biden confirmed that the campaign is in what he called the “hard vet” phase of evaluating various candidates, which he said can take weeks.
He also said for the first time that he is compiling and vetting a list of black women who he would potentially name to the Supreme Court if elected. He hinted that he might make the list public at some point once it is complete, as some liberal groups have urged him to do.
“I’m not going to release that until we go further down the line,” Biden said.
Trump provided voters with a list of people he was considering for the Supreme Court during the 2016 campaign, a move that energized conservative voters who were skeptical of him.
Biden noted that he is wary of repeating Trump’s move. “One thing I hesitate to do is follow anything the president does, because he usually does it all wrong,” Biden said.
Biden discussed the news in recent days that intelligence agencies believe Russia offered bounties for the killing of U.S. troops in Afghanistan — and the lack of clarity over whether Trump was aware of it. The president and his aides have said he was not, but two people familiar with the president’s daily briefing have told The Washington Post that the program was included in those papers.
“It is a dereliction of duty,” Biden said of Trump’s apparent lack of attention to the issue.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said this week that intelligence officials had not briefed the president on the report because there was no consensus on its accuracy.
“When our adversaries have directly targeted U.S. or coalition partners, the president has not hesitated to act,” McEnany said. “But this was not briefed up to the president because it was not, in fact, verified.”
Biden used the issue to open a new line of attack against Trump’s mental abilities, turning one of the Trump campaign’s favorite jabs that Biden is out of step against Trump.
“This president talks about cognitive ability, and he doesn’t seem cognitively aware of what’s going on,” Biden said. “He either reads and gets briefed on important issues and forgets it, or he doesn’t think it’s necessary that he needs to know it.”
Biden said he may soon request that he also be given classified daily briefings, a courtesy traditionally offered to the presidential nominee for the opposing party.
Biden also commented on how odd it is to hold a presidential campaign largely conducted via virtual events.
“This is the most unusual campaign, I think, in modern history,” Biden said. He added that he misses seeing crowds and talking to voters, but in another contrast with Trump, he said he has no plans to change the way he’s campaigning.
“I am not going to be holding rallies,” Biden said.