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Biden Speaks From Home, Critizing Trump's Response, And Plans On Greater Visibility


Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke out today on the coronavirus epidemic and attacked the man he hopes to replace in the White House.


JOE BIDEN: Donald Trump is not to blame for the coronavirus, but he does bear responsibility for our response. And I, along with every American, hope he steps up and starts to get this right.

SHAPIRO: The speech is part of Biden's new effort to get his message before voters and remain visible since campaign rallies are on hold for the foreseeable future.

NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid is covering the campaign and joins us now.

Hi, Asma.


SHAPIRO: So Joe Biden here was not at a rally but broadcasting from his home in Delaware. What else did he have to say?

KHALID: Yeah. And Ari, I should just point out that he was, in fact, in his home in front of bookshelves behind this podium in a suit and tie. And it was...

SHAPIRO: I have a podium in my - and I wear a suit and tie at home all the time. What's weird about that?

KHALID: (Laughter) There was certainly an attempt to appear presidential and to offer this alternative message to Donald Trump. You know, he called out the president, saying that Trump keeps referring to himself as a wartime president, and so if he is, he ought to start acting like one. And he specifically criticized the president's daily briefings.


BIDEN: So I hope today and in the days ahead, the president will give us the unvarnished truth. That's what the American people need and what they deserve. I hope he lets the medical experts and FEMA leaders and others carrying out the work to take center stage, to hear from them directly. And I hope we hear less talk and see more evidence of fast action.

KHALID: And I should point out - you know, he was also particularly frustrated today because it's the 10th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. And he feels like the Trump administration has been trying to repeal it at this moment that we're in, which is a public health crisis.

SHAPIRO: Apart from criticizing President Trump, is Biden trying to show how he would handle this crisis if he were president?

KHALID: He is. And you know, some of his messages - I would say lately when he talks about the coronavirus - are about delivering specific policy ideas. But it's not just about content. To me, a lot of this is about style. He's trying to present this calm, compassionate voice compared to the more combative tone we've seen from President Trump. You know, he's clearly trying to present this very reasoned sense of leadership.

Today he spoke specifically praising a number of governors, including some Republican governors of Ohio, Maryland and Massachusetts. But he also pointed out that, you know, Republicans and Democrats alike, they want more guidance from the federal government and they're not getting it, which was also, again, a rebuke of President Trump.

SHAPIRO: You know, he's speaking like a general election candidate, but the primaries are not over. Many have been delayed. And Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is still running for the Democratic nomination against Biden. How does Sanders factor into this?

KHALID: Well, Sanders has been doing his own live broadcasts for some time. His message during the pandemic has largely focused on the economic anxiety in the country. He's been calling for households to receive $2,000 a month throughout this pandemic. He says that it's not just a one-time cash payment that's going to be sufficient.

You know, Sanders has been questioned by reporters on Capitol Hill just about the general future of his campaign given the fact that he has not won any recent states. And he seemed annoyed - you know, saying at the time that he was dealing with a crisis; he didn't have time to deal with questions about the campaign, yet last night, he essentially held a campaign event. He did a video livestream with members of the so-called Squad in Congress. And that meant he actually missed a pretty key Senate vote to do this campaign event.

I think a big distinction to me is that Biden has been largely emphasizing the public health concerns. Today he seemed to also be elevating the financial concerns, including issues that have been core to Sanders supporters - you know, calling for stronger unemployment benefits, focusing on student debt forgiveness and basically just saying you need to focus on workers over corporations.

SHAPIRO: Just in the few seconds we have left - many Americans are not thinking about the presidential campaign right now. They're focused on this disease. So what else might we expect from Biden as he tries to engage voters from afar?

KHALID: Well, his campaign has turned his rec room of his house into a TV studio. And that's not just for speeches; he's going to be on ABC's "The View" tomorrow.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR's Asma Khalid covering the Biden campaign.

Thank you very much.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid
Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.