WASHINGTON — Former US vice president Joe Biden lashed out at US President Donald Trump on Wednesday, telling House Democrats that while he had tried to refrain from commenting on the current administration, he couldn’t stay silent after the president’s response to the Charlottesville violence last summer.
“I was a good boy,” he said. “I kept quiet for the longest time until Charlottesville. I couldn’t remain quiet anymore, because, guys, here’s the deal: Our democratic institutions are not guaranteed, man. Read your history, as all of you have.”
Biden was addressing the House Democratic Issues Conference on Capitol Hill. In his 30-minute speech, he characterized Trump’s presidency as a “tragedy” for the American republic. “This president is doing great damage,” he said.
Referring to his reaction to a white supremacist rally that turned deadly last summer, Biden suggested that Trump — who had failed to unequivocally denounce neo-Nazis and white nationalists and said “good people” were marching with them — was encouraging more of that kind of behavior.
“This is not who we are,” Biden said. “This country is much better than this.
“We’re not a nation that gives comfort and safe harbor to neo-Nazis crawling out of fields carrying torches, walking through a historic city in the United States of America, chanting the same anti-Semitic bile, the same anti-Semitic bile, carrying Nazi flags, that occurred in Germany in the 1930s.”
Biden described the counter-protesters as “groups that said, ‘Not here.’
“And a president making a moral equivalency, saying there are good people in both groups,” he went on.
In other parts of his speech, Biden expressed optimism that Democrats could succeed at winning back a majority in the House of Representatives.
Despite calls from the crowd for the former Delaware Senator to reenter the political fray and challenge Trump in 2020, Biden was noncommittal about his political future.
“Run, Joe, run,” one member shouted as he walked out onto the platform.
“No, no, no,” he responded.