- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 27, 2020

President Trump accepted the Republican nomination for a second term Thursday night in an unprecedented convention speech from the White House, vowing to complete a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and blistering Democrat Joseph R. Biden as a blundering, failed career politician.

Speaking to a live audience on the South Lawn after the Republican National Convention site was moved twice because of the coronavirus outbreak, the president attacked Mr. Biden’s record as weak on trade, crime and other policies. Mr. Trump said voters face a historic decision in November between his ambition for American greatness and the Democrat’s “extreme” socialist proposals that would weaken the U.S.

“At no time before have voters faced a clearer choice between two parties, two visions, two philosophies or two agendas,” Mr. Trump said. “This election will decide whether we will defend the American way of life, or whether we allow a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.”

He said of his Democratic rival, “Joe Biden is not the savior of America’s soul – he is the destroyer of America’s jobs, and if given the chance, he will be the destroyer of American greatness.”

Reflecting a growing sense of momentum in his reelection campaign, the president urged disaffected Democrats to join his cause.

“The Republican Party goes forward united, determined and ready to welcome millions of Democrats, independents and anyone who believes in the greatness of America and the righteous heart of the American people,” Mr. Trump said.

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Mr. Trump was introduced by his daughter and adviser Ivanka, who called herself “the proud daughter of the people’s president.”

“Washington has not changed Donald Trump,” she said. “Donald Trump has changed Washington.”

The president gave his climactic address on the final night of the convention amid a natural disaster and social upheaval that have marked his turbulent fourth year in office.

Hurricane Laura made landfall in Louisiana early Thursday as a Category 4 storm, one of the most powerful ever to hit the U.S. The storm killed at least three people and caused widespread flooding, damage and power outages.

Mr. Trump said he considered postponing his acceptance speech because of the storm’s devastation. He received a hurricane briefing at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Washington earlier Thursday, and he plans to visit the stricken region this weekend.

The president also vowed to “put out the fire” of social unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in the wake of rioting and protests over the police shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake. He has ordered National Guard troops and federal law enforcement agents to the city.

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“We will stop the violence very quickly,” he told reporters.

Outside the White House Thursday night, on newly renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, protesters chanted “no justice, no peace,” and “if we don’t get it [justice], burn it down.” The din of music and horns from demonstrators could be heard at the convention site on the South Lawn.

Mr. Biden rejected the Trump team’s claim that street violence and protests would worsen if the Democrat is elected president. He said the violence is erupting on Mr. Trump’s watch.

“These are images from Donald Trump’s America today,” Mr. Biden said. “The violence we’re witnessing is happening under Donald Trump. Not me. It’s getting worse, and we know why. Donald Trump refuses to even acknowledge there is a racial justice problem in America.”

The president outlined a second term that essentially would expand the agenda of his first four years — making the U.S. a “manufacturing superpower,” expanding low-tax opportunity zones, bringing home medical supply chains from overseas, and continuing to reduce taxes and regulations. He pledged to create 10 million jobs over the next 10 months.

In his speech, the president reiterated that he plans to get tough with violent protesters who have roiled cities across the country since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody.

“Your vote will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free reign to violent anarchists, agitators, and criminals who threaten our citizens,” Mr. Trump said. “The most dangerous aspect of the Biden platform is the attack on public safety. The Biden-Bernie [Sanders] Manifesto calls for abolishing cash bail, immediately releasing 400,000 criminals onto your streets and into your neighborhoods.”

He said, “If the left gains power, they will demolish the suburbs, confiscate your guns, and appoint justices who will wipe away your Second Amendment and other Constitutional freedoms.”

“Biden is a Trojan horse for socialism. If Joe Biden doesn’t have the strength to stand up to wild-eyed Marxists like Bernie Sanders and his fellow radicals, then how is he ever going to stand up for you?” the president said. “If the Democrat Party wants to stand with anarchists, agitators, rioters, looters, and flag-burners, that is up to them, but I, as your president, will not be a part of it. The Republican Party will remain the voice of the patriotic heroes who keep America safe.”

Mr. Trump has blamed Democratic mayors and governors for failing to crack down on looting and arson, and for refusing to request federal government help in suppressing the unrest. He said Democrats are only addressing rioting in cities in recent days “because their poll numbers are going down like a rock in water.”

“Too late, Joe,” he said.

He also said liberals are the ones responsible for undermining U.S. institutions.
“Liberal politicians claim to be concerned about the strength of American institutions,” Mr. Trump said. “But who, exactly, is attacking them? Who is hiring the radical professors, judges, and prosecutors? Who is trying to abolish immigration enforcement, and establish speech codes designed to muzzle dissent? In every case, the attacks on American institutions are being waged by the radical left.”

On the economy, Mr. Trump drew sharp contrasts between his agenda of low taxes and deregulation and Mr. Biden’s plans. He said the Democrat would raise taxes by more than $4 trillion and impose heavy red tape to further liberal goals of imposing the Green New Deal and enacting a “Medicare for All” health care system.

“Biden’s record is a shameful roll call of the most catastrophic betrayals and blunders in our lifetime,” Mr. Trump said. “He has spent his entire career on the wrong side of history. Biden voted for the NAFTA disaster, the single worst trade deal ever enacted; he supported China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, one of the greatest economic disasters of all time. After those Biden calamities, the United States lost 1 in 4 manufacturing jobs.”

He added, “The laid-off workers in Michigan, Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and many other states didn’t want Joe Biden’s hollow words of empathy, they wanted their jobs back!”

The president recited his promises kept, including a broad crackdown on illegal immigration and construction of a border wall, record-setting appointment of conservative federal judges, cutting taxes and regulations, promoting domestic energy production and rebuilding the military.

He said of Mr. Biden’s tenure in Washington as vice president and senator, “We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years.”

“At the Democrat convention, you barely heard a word about their agenda,” Mr. Trump said. “But that’s not because they don’t have one. It’s because their agenda is the most extreme set of proposals ever put forward by a major party nominee.”

The president said on Nov. 3, voters should send Democrats “a thundering message they will never forget.”

“Joe Biden is weak. He takes his marching orders from liberal hypocrites who drive their cities into the ground while fleeing far from the scene of the wreckage,” Mr. Trump said. “These same liberals want to eliminate school choice, while they enroll their children in the finest private schools in the land. They want to open our borders while living in walled-off compounds and communities. They want to defund the police, while they have armed guards for themselves.”

With their party conventions now behind them, Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden will square off in the first of three presidential debates on Sept. 29 in Cleveland. The Democrat reiterated Thursday that he will take part after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, suggested that Mr. Biden ditch the debates. She said the president lies too much.

Mr. Trump will follow up his acceptance speech with a campaign rally Friday night in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Democrats bristled at the rare partisan use of the White House for a political party convention, with about 1,500 supporters on chairs on the lawn and Trump/Pence signs prominently displayed. The conclusion of the president’s speech was punctuated by a fireworks display on the National Mall.

“The line between Democracy and Autocracy got a little thinner tonight,” tweeted David Plouffe, former adviser to President Barack Obama. “The barrier between the two is the smallest in our republic’s history.”

Mr. Biden has led by double digits in most national polls this summer during the pandemic, economic shutdowns and school closings. But the president has narrowed the gap in several recent surveys as more people return to work and he emphasizes a law-and-order agenda.

Trump campaign officials have been eager to run against what they call a “defined” Mr. Biden. They think voters will turn away from the liberal policies the former vice president has embraced, such as free health care benefits for illegal immigrants.

They have expressed frustration that the Democrat has largely avoided being pinned down on issues by granting relatively few media interviews and using a “basement strategy” of sheltering at home in Delaware during the COVID-19 outbreaks.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said the president needed to use his high-profile acceptance speech to define Mr. Biden in tough terms.

“Americans have tough choices in front of them,” Mr. Murtaugh told reporters. “And we really feel that, unless the president does it, the media will be tempted not to cover it.”

He called the president’s description of the Democratic nominee “the unvarnished Joe Biden record and the unvarnished Joe Biden agenda, not the cleansed and scrubbed version that we saw during the Democratic National Convention last week.”

Until March, Mr. Trump planned to campaign on his economic success, with the unemployment rate hitting a low of 3.5%. But coronavirus shutdowns threw more than 30 million people out of work, and COVID-19 claimed the lives of more than 178,000 Americans.

Another one million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, with the number of initial claims exceeding one million every week since March.

And the Commerce Department reported that the economy shrank at a 31.7% annual rate during the second quarter, the biggest quarterly drop on record, though slightly better than the initial estimate of 32.9%.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala D. Harris on Thursday said Mr. Trump’s “incompetence” became deadly at the outset of the pandemic and that Mr. Trump froze at the most consequential time.

“It’s his obligation to protect us, and yet he has failed miserably,” Ms. Harris said in a speech in Washington.

Voters’ concerns about the coronavirus have diminished, and Mr. Trump’s approval ratings have risen slightly in six battleground states over the past two weeks, according to a CNBC/Change Research poll released this week. Mr. Trump’s job approval rating rose from 46% to 48%.

The president defended his record of responding to the pandemic by saying he stopped most travel from China in late January, marshaled U.S. industry to produce record amounts of medical supplies, and organized speedy research on vaccines and therapies.

“The United States has among the lowest case fatality rates of any major country in the world,” the president said. “Unfortunately, from the beginning, our opponents have shown themselves capable of nothing but a partisan ability to criticize. Instead of following the science, Joe Biden wants to inflict a painful shutdown on the entire country. His shutdown would inflict unthinkable and lasting harm on our nation’s children, families, and citizens of all backgrounds.”

The Trump administration said Jan. 31 that it would prevent foreign nationals who had been in China recently from entering the U.S. It announced the change shortly after American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines suspended service between the nations.

Mr. Trump boasts that critics of his decision were forced to recant once the scale of global outbreaks came into focus. He said the move might have saved millions of lives, though New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other critics say the Northeast was seeded by the virus from the other direction, from outbreaks in Europe in mid-February.

Passengers from hard-hit Italy started to have their temperatures checked before flying to the U.S. at the start of March, though Mr. Trump didn’t ban travel from much of the European Union until March 11.

White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway conceded that the U.S. is “not out of the woods.”

“This is a global pandemic, once-in-a-century global pandemic,” she said.
She also mentioned “a once-in-a-century hurricane hitting land in Louisiana and Texas” and said Mr. Trump is “a leader who is mitigating the damage of both.”

Offering her summary of the Republican National Convention, Mrs. Conway said, “This is the real-people-impact convention. You’ve heard person after person — dairy farmers from Wisconsin, lobstermen from Maine — person after person, people who have been pardoned, people who have come out of jail, people who have adopted a little girl whose mother was addicted to drugs. It’s just beautiful stories of the impact that Donald Trump and Mike Pence have had on their lives.”

Tom Howell Jr. and David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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