In general, President Joe Biden says very little about his predecessor. He recently acknowledged Donald Trump's support for Covid-19 vaccines, but the vast majority of the time, the Democrat clearly prefers to leave criticisms of the former president to others.
Today, however, Biden made a striking exception to his usual practice. In Capitol Hill remarks honoring the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack, the incumbent president didn't refer to Trump by name, but he nevertheless presented the most detailed condemnation of his predecessor since before Election Day 2020. NBC News reported:
In one of the most forceful speeches of his political career, President Joe Biden took sharp aim at former President Donald Trump on Thursday, accusing him of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol last year with a "web of lies" about the 2020 election because he could not accept his legitimate defeat.
This wasn't an instance in which Biden made a couple of oblique references; this was an unreserved indictment for a national audience.
"We must be absolutely clear about what is true and what is a lie, and here is the truth: The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election," Biden said. "He's done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country's interests and America's interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.
"He can't accept he lost.... He has done what no president the history of this country has ever, ever done: He refused to accept the results of an election and the will of the American people."
Biden similarly took aim at Trump's passivity in the midst of the insurrectionist riot. "We saw it with our own eyes: Rioters menaced these halls, threatening the life of the Speaker of the House, literally erecting gallows to hang the Vice President of the United States of America," the incumbent president said. "But what did we not see? We didn't see a former president, who had just rallied the mob to attack — sitting in the private dining room off the Oval Office in the White House, watching it all on television and doing nothing for hours as police were assaulted, lives at risk, and the nation's capital under siege."
As for Trump's repeated insistence that the "insurrection" was on Election Day 2020, and not on Jan. 6, Biden added, "The former president and his supporters are trying to rewrite history. They want you to see Election Day as the day of insurrection and the riot that took place here on January 6th as the true expression of the will of the people. Can you think of a more twisted way to look at this country — to look at America? I cannot."
That wasn't the end of the indictment. "Even before the first ballot was cast, the former president was preemptively sowing doubt about the election results," the Democrat added. "He built his lie over months. It wasn't based on any facts. He was just looking for an excuse — a pretext — to cover for the truth.
"He's not just a former president. He's a defeated former president — defeated by a margin of over 7 million of your votes in a full and free and fair election.
"There is simply zero proof the election results were inaccurate. In fact, in every venue where evidence had to be produced and an oath to tell the truth had to be taken, the former president failed to make his case.
"Just think about this: The former president and his supporters have never been able to explain how they accept as accurate the other election results that took place on November 3rd — the elections for governor, United States Senate, the House of Representatives — elections in which they closed the gap in the House. They challenge none of that. The President's name was first, then we went down the line — governors, senators, House of Representatives. Somehow, those results were accurate on the same ballot, but the presidential race was flawed? And on the same ballot, the same day, cast by the same voters. The only difference: The former President didn't lose those races; he just lost the one that was his own."
That said, it'd be a mistake to say Biden's sole focus was on his predecessor. As The New Yorker's Jane Mayer put it, "Biden's speech was bigger than anti-Trump, it was anti-lie." This part of the speech stood out as especially notable:
"[A]t this moment, we must decide: What kind of nation are we going to be? Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people? Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?"
These need not be rhetorical questions.
The president went on to declare, "You can't love your country only when you win. You can't obey the law only when it's convenient. You can't be patriotic when you embrace and enable lies."
It's tragic that his predecessor disagrees.