NEW YORK — Joe Biden denounced President Trump’s leadership on U.S. foreign policy in a wide-ranging speech Thursday, saying four more years of Trump’s policies could be “catastrophic” for national security.
The presidential candidate outlined his vision for foreign policy to a mostly subdued crowd of some 100 people in Manhattan, touching on subjects from the U.S. occupation in Afghanistan to climate change. Biden sought to distinguish himself as an experienced leader who would focus on rebuilding relationships with allies in Europe that Trump has spurned, while painting the president as a threat “to our national security” who has “lowered our reputation” in the world.
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“Make no mistake about it: the world sees Trump for what he is: insincere, ill informed and impulsive — and sometimes corrupt,” Biden said during his roughly 40-minute speech. “Dangerously incompetent and incapable, in my view, of world leadership.”
Biden said he would restore many of the policies he helped institute under the Obama administration, including re-entering the Iran nuclear deal, rejoining the Paris climate accord and redirecting funding to Central America.
The focus on foreign policy — long considered an area of strength for the former vice president — comes at a moment when Biden is working to regain momentum as a front-runner. Biden’s polling numbers have slid in some national polls in wake of his first debate performance, in which his record on race was challenged in a tense exchange with Sen. Kamala Harris.
As reported ahead of the speech by POLITICO, the former vice president also rolled out new policy proposals, including convening a summit for world leaders that would focus on fighting corruption and defending against authoritarianism.
He sought to distinguish himself from Trump as someone who would work with other Democratic countries to fight against threats of nuclear proliferation and transnational warfare, rather than take an isolationist approach.
“Donald Trump’s brand of ‘America First’ has too often led to America alone, making it much harder to mobilize others to address the threats to our common well being,” Biden said.
The former vice president lambasted Trump’s behavior on the world stage, calling his seeming deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last year “one of the most shameful performances by a U.S. president in modern history.”
He implored attendees to ponder the message Trump is sending when “when he falls in love with a murderous dictator in North Korea,” a jab at the president’s relationship with Kim Jong-un.
He also referred to Trump’s imposed tariffs on China as “short sighted,” and said the best way to get “tough on China” is to work with other Democratic countries.
“By cutting us off from the economic cob of our partners he kneecaps our capacity to take on real economic risks,” he said. “The most effective way that we need to change is to wield a united front of friends and partners to challenge China’s abusive behavior.”
Biden mentioned several areas where he would reverse Trump policies, including ending the “horrific practice” of separating families at the border.
He pledged to reverse Trump’s “detrimental” asylum policies and raise the target for refugee admissions, and said he would lift Trump’s travel ban against people from Muslim-majority countries — a policy measure that was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote last year but is still facing challenges in lower courts.
The crowd, mostly quiet and attentive, erupted into applause on two separate occasions: Biden’s pledge to end the support of the Saudi-led war in Yemen and to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.
Last week, in Sumter, South Carolina, Biden delivered a lengthy address laying out his work on civil rights and apologized for making remarks about the “civility” of working with segregationist senators.
The return to his area of expertise on Thursday allows Biden to shift the focus of his campaign to a comfortable place and enables him to frame the contest as one between himself and Trump.