- Former Vice President Joe Biden laid out his “blueprint” for repairing what he characterized as “the damage wrought by” President Donald Trump’s administration in foreign affairs.
- In his speech Thursday in Manhattan, Biden ripped into Trump’s foreign policy, assailing Trump on everything from kowtowing to Russian President Vladimir Putin to saying he’s “in love” with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
- The former vice president said Trump’s “America First” philosophy has too often led to America alone.
- Biden vowed to hold a global summit on democracy in his first year as president.
- Biden’s biggest moments of applause came when he called for an end to US support for the Saudi-led coaltion in Yemen and when he vowed to rejoin the Paris climate accord.
NEW YORK CITY – Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday excoriated President Donald Trump in a foreign policy speech in Manhattan, accusing the president of diminishing America’s leadership and credibility with other countries.
“The world sees Trump for what he is, insincere, ill-informed and impulsive, and sometimes corrupt. Dangerously incompetent and incapable in my view of world leadership and leadership at home,” Biden said to an audience at The Graduate Center at City University of New York.
The current frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination ahead of his speech said the US has been suffering under what he referred to as the “Trump Doctrine,” which he said has been defined by the president embracing dictators, threatening war, ripping up international agreements, launching trade wars, and embarrassing the US.
The former vice president echoed these sentiments in his address and said Trump’s “America First” philosophy has too often led to America alone.
Biden presented himself as the antidote, vowing to bring normalcy and American leadership back to international relations.
Embracing dictators. Threatening war. Embarrassing the United States.
That’s the #TrumpDoctrine.
Reclaiming American leadership starts now. pic.twitter.com/8BQv50aseA
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) July 11, 2019
‘One of the most shameful performances by a US President in modern history’
Biden said it’s time for an end to foreign policy based on “chest-thumping” and driven by “Twitter tantrums.”
He once again lambasted Trump’s response to the deadly neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, as well as the president’s behavior in Helsinki, Finland, in July 2018 in which he appeared to side with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the US intelligence community.
Biden said Trump’s comments in Helsinki were “one of the most shameful performances by a US President in modern history” and “part of a pattern of embracing autocrats at the expense of our institutions.”
Joe Biden says that as president, he would "remind the world that we are the United States of America and we do not coddle dictators"
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 11, 2019
The Obama administration emphasized working more with allies and partners than Trump’s, and it had its share of controversies and failures.
Former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been criticized for drone strikes that led to civilian casualties and his widely-criticized decision not to act on his “red line” in Syria.
Correspondingly, the first big round of applause Biden got in his speech – roughly 30 minutes in – was when he called for an end to US support for the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war. The US began backing the Saudis in Yemen under Obama.
Polling has repeatedly shown that the wider world had more confidence in US leadership under Obama than Trump. Biden is seemingly trying to tap into that as he pledged to reclaim American leadership, citing a recent report that showed the world now has more trust in China than the US.
‘No army on earth can match the electric idea of liberty’
Biden’s speech was heavily focused on returning to diplomacy.
The former vice president said that he would organize a summit of the world’s democracies in his first year as president to thwart the growing influence of authoritarians and the “dangerous resurgence of extreme nationalism.”
“No army on earth can match the electric idea of liberty,” Biden said. “We must once more harness that power and rally the free world to meet the challenges we face today.”
Since entering the White House, Trump has pushed the US away from key allies via decisions such as unilaterally withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a move that many experts say catalyzed the recent standoff between the US and Iran that brought the countries to the brink of war..
He’s made of habit of complimenting autocrats like Chinese President Xi Jinping, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, as he’s criticized the leadership of historic US allies – recently evident in his attacks on British Prime Minister Theresa May, the leader of the US’s closest ally.
Trump has also gone after NATO, making misleading statements about how it’s funded and at times sparking fears the US might step away from the alliance. Biden said Trump just “doesn’t get” NATO and has taken a “battering ram” to it.
“Diplomacy requires credibility, and Donald Trump has absolutely corroded our credibility,” Biden went on to say as he emphasized the importance of global cooperation over unilateralism. “This president has bankrupted America’s word in the world… He’s alienated us from the very democratic allies we need most.”
The president has also put his administration at odds with much of the international community on major issues like climate change and his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, for example, as he’s railed against the United Nations as an ineffectual, outdated institution.
In short, Trump has often worked against the post-World War II international order that the US helped establish. Biden presented himself as a way to reverse course and repair the damage. During his speech, Biden got big applause for vowing to rejoin the Paris climate deal.
‘In 2019 foreign policy is domestic policy’
Biden might struggle to convince certain cohorts of voters he’s capable of drastically altering America’s role in the world based on aspects of his long record in Washington. Polling has suggested that Biden’s vote in favor of the Iraq War as a senator, for example, could negatively impact him with younger voters. Perhaps cognizant of this, Biden made no explicit mention of Iraq in his Thursday speech even as he called for an end to “forever wars.”
But foreign policy also doesn’t typically register at the top of the list of concerns for voters, and it’s received tangential attention from 2020 Democrats along the campaign trail so far. Between a trade war with China, a potential military confrontation with Iran, and ongoing denuclearization discussions with North Korea, however, there’s plenty to discuss.
Biden alluded to this early on in his speech, stating that foreign and domestic policy are intrinsically linked in 2019, emphasizing the importance of global affairs for this election.
“Political wisdom holds that… the American public doesn’t vote on foreign policy,” Biden said. “I think that’s an old way of thinking. In 2019 foreign policy is domestic policy in my view. And domestic policy is foreign policy.”