The basic idea behind the Trump campaign's new attack ad is that Joe Biden is somehow soft on China. And before even considering the contents of the commercial itself, it's worth appreciating the degree to which Donald Trump is picking the wrong fight: the Republican president has repeatedly backed down in confrontations with Beijing, on everything from currency manipulation to ZTE to the "One China" policy.
It reached the point that China's state-run media, mocking the American president as a paper tiger, ran a headline a few years ago that read, "Trump slaps self in face, again."
And yet, the Republican's 2020 campaign believes Biden is vulnerable on the issue and can be attacked as insufficiently tough on the U.S. rival. As the New York Times noted, that effort is off to a rough start.
A new attack ad by President Trump's re-election campaign portraying former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. as soft on China includes an image of an Asian-American former governor of Washington State that appears to falsely suggest he is Chinese. The image, which appears briefly, was pulled from a 2013 event in Beijing, where Mr. Biden, now the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, shared a stage with Gary Locke, the former governor of Washington, who also served as President Barack Obama's commerce secretary and ambassador to China.
Gary Locke, for the record, is an American who was born in Seattle, the suggestion of Trump's ad notwithstanding.
Alas, that's one of many problems with the online ad. A Washington Post analysis, which described the Republican commercial as "a complete and utter mess," went on to note that the Trump campaign was also wrong about Biden's position on coronavirus travel restrictions, while featuring a series of Biden quotes about China that were quite similar to Trump's own rhetoric.
This is one of the first ads of the general-election phase, serving as a reminder that this campaign season will be unpleasant for all sorts of reason.
Election Day 2020 is 207 days away.