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Biden, Trump make their priorities plain after Portland clash

After a deadly clash in Portland, Joe Biden and Donald Trump had plenty to say. The differences between their reactions were important.
Image: Nightly Anti-Police Protests Against Continue In Portland
Portland police disperse a crowd after protesters set fire to the Portland Police Association building in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 29, 2020.Nathan Howard / Getty Images

Saturday night in Portland wasn't the first clash between Donald Trump followers and critics, but when a confrontation turns deadly, it becomes far more significant.

A man was shot dead in downtown Portland, Oregon, on Saturday night as supporters of President Donald Trump and Black Lives Matter protesters clashed, police said. The Portland Police Bureau said in a statement the shooting took place about 8:46 p.m. and that officers nearby heard the gunfire.

There's a great deal about the incident, which is still under investigation, that we do not yet know, but the latest reporting fills in several gaps. We know, for example, that a sizable group of Trump backers gathered just outside of Portland, formed a caravan, and headed downtown. Once they arrived, there were confrontations -- including fist-fights in the streets -- between the activists.

One person was reportedly shot and killed, and though the victim has not yet been publicly identified, NBC News' report noted that he was wearing a hat with a far-right logo. The police have not yet arrested the suspected shooter.

As for the political implications of the developments, Joe Biden issued a lengthy statement yesterday that read in part, "The deadly violence we saw overnight in Portland is unacceptable. Shooting in the streets of a great American city is unacceptable. I condemn this violence unequivocally. I condemn violence of every kind by anyone, whether on the left or the right. And I challenge Donald Trump to do the same."

The Democratic presidential nominee went on to accuse Trump of "recklessly encouraging violence," adding, "We must not become a country at war with ourselves. A country that accepts the killing of fellow Americans who do not agree with you. A country that vows vengeance toward one another. But that is the America that President Trump wants us to be, the America he believes we are."

Donald Trump's response was ... different.

In effect, there were three parts to the president's reaction to Portland's violence. Part I focused on blaming Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D), whom Trump labeled "a FOOL." Part II included a call for a National Guard deployment.

And Part III featured a Sunday-morning tweet from the president, in which he celebrated his Oregon caravan of followers as "GREAT PATRIOTS!"

Trump could've condemned the violence, but he didn't. He could've tried to lower the temperature, but he didn't.

Instead, the Republican does what he always does: point fingers, side with allies, stoke fires, and fail leadership tests.