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'More interested in power than principle' - Biden blasts Trump's 'narcissism'

Democrat hits out at president's reaction to protests that rocked US

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Hard hitting: Joe Biden speaks about the unrest across the US from Philadelphia City Hall. Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Hard hitting: Joe Biden speaks about the unrest across the US from Philadelphia City Hall. Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

Hard hitting: Joe Biden speaks about the unrest across the US from Philadelphia City Hall. Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden mounted one of his most aggressive attacks against US President Donald Trump yesterday, deriding the commander in chief's disregard of core constitutional values and blistering him for being "more interested in power, than in principle".

"He thinks division helps him," the presumptive Democratic nominee said in a speech at Philadelphia's City Hall.

"This narcissism has become more important than the nation's wellbeing."

Mr Biden seized on police driving back peaceful protesters near the White House on Monday so Mr Trump could briefly pose with a Bible before nearby St John's Church.

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Thousands of people demonstrated outside the US embassy in Dublin on Monday (Niall Carson/PA)

Thousands of people demonstrated outside the US embassy in Dublin on Monday (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

Thousands of people demonstrated outside the US embassy in Dublin on Monday (Niall Carson/PA)

"If he opened it instead of brandishing it, he could have learned something," Mr Biden said as he chided authorities for using "tear gas and flash grenades in order to stage a photo op".

"We can be forgiven for believing the president is more interested in power than in principle," Mr Biden continued. "More interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care."

Mr Biden's address marked a new phase of a presidential campaign that had been effectively frozen for two-plus months by the spread of the coronavirus. The former vice-president is now emerging from his Delaware home to confront Mr Trump every day - and using in-person appearances to offer direct competition with the president, rather than relying on virtual events that often failed to garner a lot of attention.

It was the third consecutive day that Mr Biden made a public appearance and the first time he's been out of the state since March. His remarks were carried live on the three major cable news networks.

Mr Biden delivered the remarks as upheaval in the wake of George Floyd's death has spread around the country. While Mr Biden spoke, the National Guard maintained a visible presence to defend public buildings as Philadelphia continues to face sustained violent protests.

Several buildings adjacent to City Hall, including banks, convenience stores and hotels, were boarded up.

He spoke of the "tug of war between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart".

"The honest truth is both elements are part of the American character," he said.

Since the early days of his candidacy, Mr Biden has framed the election as a "battle for the soul of the nation". He went into greater detail yesterday about what that meant and the questions voters should ask themselves.

"I ask every American to look at where we are now, and think anew: Is this who we are?" he said. "Is this who we want to be? Is this what we pass on to our kids' and grandkids' lives? Fear and finger-pointing rather than hope and the pursuit of happiness? Incompetence and anxiety? Self-absorption and selfishness?"

The tone was part of Mr Biden's effort to cast himself as a "consoler in chief" in stark contrast to Mr Trump's blunt, confrontational style. While he said his anguish over the death of his son Beau Biden five years ago from cancer isn't the same as the sadness felt by those protesting police brutality, he said he understood the hopelessness that can come with grief.

"Like many of you, I know what it's like to grieve," Mr Biden said. "I know what it feels like when you're thinking you can't go on."

He said "bad cops should be dealt with severely and swiftly" and offered examples of how he might ease racial tensions and govern.

He called on Congress to act now on legislation that would place a federal ban on police using choke holds. Mr Biden also promised to increase access to healthcare and improve the pay of first-responders and other workers who have stayed on jobs deemed essential during the pandemic, should he win the presidency.

But Mr Biden's speech was perhaps most notable for its ferocity. He accused the president of being more worried about himself than the nation at a time when it "is crying out for leadership".

Irish Independent