Former Vice President Joe Biden hit back at President Donald Trump in Iowa Tuesday after the president said he was mentally unfit for office.
Biden retaliated at an event in Ottumwa and said Trump is ‘literally an existential threat to this country.’
It was part of the former vice president’s strategy to let it rip on Trump, including a speech tonight when he will slam the president by name 76 times, according to the text released by his campaign.
But the early release of his remarks prompted a rebuke from Trump.
‘When a man has to mention my name 76 times in a speech, he’s in trouble,’ the president told reporters at the White House before he left for his own trip for Iowa.
‘I’d rather run against, I think, Biden than anybody. I think he’s the weakest mentally and I think Joe is weak mentally,’ Trump said.
Biden was on next at an event in Iowa with only a few hundred supporters in attendance but all three cable news networks airing live.
He hit Trump on the economy, an area the president prides himself on, often touting the nation’s low unemployment numbers as evidence his presidency is doing well.
‘I hope his presence here will be a clarifying event because Iowa farmers have been crushed by his tariffs toward China,’ Biden said. ‘It’s really easy to be tough when someone else absorbs the pain, farmers and manufacturers.’
But it’s his speech scheduled for later Tuesday in Davenport that got most of the attention.
It is filled with fighting words – he’ll accuse Trump of backing off tariff threats to Mexico because he’s ‘scared’ and putting on a ‘stunning display of childishness’ while on his visit to the UK and Normandy.
The two men have exchanged verbal thrusts and volleys since Biden entered the race to be the 2020 Democratic president nominee.
Trump has called Biden ‘low IQ’ while the former vice president has called the president a ‘threat’ to the nation.
But Tuesday will put both men in Iowa – a state crucial in both the Democratic presidential primary and the 2020 general election.
While they are unlikely to cross paths, they are likely to unleash upon one another.
Biden will let loose during a speech in Davenport – on the eastern side of the state – Tuesday evening while Trump is at a fundraiser down the road in West Des Moines.
The tone of Biden’s speech is remarkable shift from his previous remarks on the president. While the former vice president has criticized Trump’s actions in the past, Tuesday’s speech outlines a laundry list of areas Biden claims the president has failed in for America.
The former vice president will argue Trump failed the ‘basic standard’ to serve in the Oval Office, according to the text of his remarks, which was released by his campaign.
‘There’s a lot of ways Trump fails the basic standard to be president – but one of them is this,’ Biden will say, ‘Donald – it’s not about you.’
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she was unsure if President Trump would respond directly to Biden’s charges.
‘I’m not sure about that. We’ll see what happens on that front,’ she told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
‘But I think Joe Biden has a lot of questions he needs to answer himself,’ she continued. ‘The idea that he would say that the president poses any type of threat is truly laughable, considering he was part of the administration that allowed Russia to interfere in our election. He was part of the administration that allowed Iran to continue to flourish. They gave $1.8 billion to help fund Iran and their continued bad behavior. They allowed China to continue to grow, North Korea. If anything, I think he’s got a lot of explaining to do, and I think that you guys should be asking him those questions.’
Biden, meanwhile, will also criticize the president for making decisions that hurt farmers – a core Trump support group that helped put the president in the White House.
And it’s an important voting bloc in Iowa Biden is trying to win to his side.
He’ll slam Trump for a tariff war with China that has hit farmers hard.
‘How many farmers across this state and across this nation have had to face the prospect of losing their business, of losing their farm because of Trump’s tariffs?,’ Biden will say according to his prepared remarks.
‘How many sleepless nights do you think Trump has had over what he’s doing to America’s farmers?’ he’ll ask. ‘Zero.’
Soybean farmers have been among the hardest hit in Washington’s escalation of tariffs with Beijing.
Iowa farmers count for 14.5 per cent of the nation’s soybean crop, according to the Iowa Soybean Association, which also points out one out of every three rows of soybeans is exported to China.
Biden will also accuse Trump of backing off his tariff threat with Mexico because he was ‘scared’ the economic effects would cost him votes in the Midwest – a region that helped him win in 2016.
‘The truth is he’s scared – his economic folks told him his tough talk was about to cost to him Michigan and Ohio and Iowa,’ Biden will say.
Critics of Trump’s tariff plan worry it will have the same effect of taxing American businesses and consumers. The president backed off his threat Sunday night when he said the two countries came to a deal about how Mexico would help keep illegal immigrants from crossing over in the United States.
Biden will also slam the president for his trade war with China, claiming Beijing is moving ahead in infrastructure, technology and energy while Trump is tweeting.
‘We are in a competition with China. We need to get tough with China. They are a serious challenge to us, and in some areas a real threat. And every single step that Donald Trump is taking is only exacerbating the challenge,’ he’ll note.
Biden will also criticize Trump for pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement and slam him for trying to dismantle Obamacare, pointing out the president barely mentions healthcare anymore.
‘Now he’s got his tail between his legs and barely mentions it – doesn’t even tweet about it – because he knows the American people will give him a thrashing in 2020 just like they gave the Republicans in 2018 for trying to get rid of it.’
He’ll also chastise the president for complaining about the Mayor of London and Speaker Nancy Pelosi while he was traveling in the United Kingdom and Normandy last week.
‘It was a stunning display of childishness for the whole world to see,’ Biden will say.
During his three-day visit to Britain last week, Trump unleashed his fury at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, calling him a ‘stone cold loser’ in a Twitter tirade. Khan has also been critical of the president.
And, while in Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day commemoration, Trump blasted Pelosi in an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham.
‘She’s incapable of doing deals, she’s a nasty, vindictive, horrible person,’ he said.
Biden will also compare Trump to former President Barack Obama, with whom he served eight years as his vice president.
‘Obama was a President of extraordinary character and decency. He was a president our kids could look up to,’ Biden will note.
And he’ll add: ‘This president is setting a standard for crude language and embarrassing behavior that is burrowing deep into this culture – and it’s going to take a long time to get rid of it.’
Before he lets loose on the president, Biden will make two other campaign stops in the state – in Ottumwa and Mt. Pleasant – after he missed Sunday’s cattle call for Democratic candidates at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame Dinner.
Biden was at his granddaughter’s high school graduation and his daughter’s birthday celebration instead of at the event.
‘One of my competitors criticized me for not going to Iowa to talk for 5 minutes,’ he told the crowd at a fundraiser in Washington D.C. on Monday evening.
‘My granddaughter was graduating. It was my daughter’s birthday. I would skip inauguration for that,’ he said.
Trump, meanwhile, will also make a speech in the afternoon at a renewable energy facility in Council Bluffs, Iowa.