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New focus for US presidential campaign: Will Biden or Trump keep you safer?

While the president blamed Biden, his Democratic foe, for siding with "anarchists," Biden, in his most direct attacks yet, accused Trump of causing the divisions

Joe Biden | Donald Trump | US Presidential elections 2020

AP  |  Pittsburgh 

Donald Trump, Joe Biden
Trump blames radical troublemakers whom he says are stirred up and backed by Biden.

The battle over who can keep Americans safe after recent deadly protests has emerged as the sharpest dividing line for the presidential campaign's final weeks, with on Monday condemning the violence and President defending a supporter accused of fatally shooting two men.

While the president blamed Biden, his Democratic foe, for siding with anarchists, Biden, in his most direct attacks yet, accused Trump of causing the divisions that have ignited the violence.

He delivered an uncharacteristically blistering speech and distanced himself from radical forces involved in altercations.

Biden said of Trump: "He doesn't want to shed light, he wants to generate heat, and he's stoking violence in our cities. He can't stop the violence because for years he's fomented it.

Trump blames radical troublemakers whom he says are stirred up and backed by Biden. But when he was asked about one of his own supporters who was charged with killing two men during the mayhem in Kenosha, Wisconsin, he declined to denounce the killings and suggested that 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was acting in self-defense.

After a confrontation in which he fatally shot one man, police say, Rittenhouse fell while being chased by people trying to disarm him.

That was an interesting situation," said Trump. He was trying to get away from them, I guess, it looks like, and he fell. And then they very violently attacked him. ... He was in very big trouble. He would have been you probably would've been killed.

Trump's refusal to condemn the shootings could add to tensions in Kenosha when he visits Tuesday. He's going despite pleas from Wisconsin's Democratic governor to stay away for fears of sparking further tumult.

In Kenosha, the National Guard has been deployed to quell demonstrations in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man.

Trump said his appearance could increase enthusiasm in Wisconsin, which is a hotly contested battleground state in the presidential race.

Biden saw Trump's impact far differently, accusing the president of poisoning the nation's values.

In a statement after Trump's news conference comments, he said: "Today, I traveled to Pittsburgh to explain how the president was making America less safe on COVID, on the economy, on crime, on racism, on violence and reiterated my clear message that violence is not the answer to any of these problems. ...

Tonight, the president declined to rebuke violence. He wouldn't even repudiate one of his supporters who is charged with murder because of his attacks on others. He is too weak, too scared of the hatred he has stirred to put an end to it.

In Pittsburgh, the former vice president also tried to refocus the race on what has been its defining theme Trump's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic that has left more than 180,000 Americans dead after a multi-day onslaught by the president's team to make the campaign about the violence rattling American cities.

Biden himself has largely remained near his home in Delaware to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but he stepped out in a new phase of his campaign on Monday, making a speech in Pittsburgh and a brief stop at a local firehouse.

Trump and his campaign team believe that the more the national discourse is about anything other than the virus, the better it is for the president.

They have seized upon the recent unrest in Portland, Oregon where a Trump supporter was shot and killed and Kenosha, leaning hard into a defense of law and order while suggesting that Biden is powerless to stop extremists.

Biden rejected the charge, firmly decrying the clashes.

Set aside Monday were his lofty appeals about the soul of the nation, a staple of his usual stump speech, replaced by an urgent call for action and and his fierce accusation that Trump was a toxic presence in this nation for four years who was poisoning the values this nation has always held dear, poisoning our very democracy.

The president and his team continued to hammer away on what they believe is a powerful electoral argument, contending that Biden is in thrall to leftist forces and emphasising chaotic protest images they believe could send worried suburban and senior voters back to Trump's column.

Just watched what Biden had to say, Trump tweeted soon after the former vice president concluded his remarks in Pittsburgh.

To me, he's blaming the Police far more than he's blaming the Rioters, Anarchists, Agitators, and Looters, which he could never blame or he would lose the Radical Left Bernie supports!

Biden has been pushed by worried Democrats including some voices inside his own campaign to deal with the violence head-on and at greater length, though he had previously condemned it.

With Trump pounding the issue in his convention speech, which was then followed by more bloodshed over the weekend, many in Biden's party, still shell-shocked by 2016, urged the former vice president to get ahead of the rare issue that has broken through the national focus on the pandemic.

But Biden didn't just play defense, he went on the attack.

Following up his Democratic convention address, in which he didn't mention Trump's name, Biden on Monday invoked Trump's name 32 times, directly assailing the president in remarks that seemed intended to silence worries in his party and the Beltway's chattering class. He pulled no punches about the violence.

It's lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted, Biden said. And he leaned on his own 47-year career in to defend himself against Republican attacks.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, September 01 2020. 10:14 IST