WASHINGTON — In what The New York Times described as a "forceful rebuttal," Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden delivered a speech Monday in which he said, "Ask yourself: Do I look like a radical socialist with a soft spot for rioters? Really?"
The former vice president also offered, "Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is reelected?"
Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Joe Biden is elected?
It took Biden and company months to figure out that voters are terrified of the violence they've seen in American cities in the name of racial justice. Hence Monday's remarks.
For the record, Biden declared: "I want to be clear about this: Rioting is not protesting." Still, in remarks that were supposed to show Biden has zero tolerance for mob violence, he stumbled.
Taking press questions, Biden brought up the murder of Portland resident Aaron J. Danielson, 39, apparently the handiwork of a Portland anarchist. Biden did not refer to Danielson by name.
But he did say: "I think what happened in — in Portland, where a — one of the Trump guys riding along in vans inciting response — shooting rubber bullets, I guess, or paint balls — apparently, there was someone shot by someone in the crowd with a bullet, killed. I think that person should meet the legal requirements of whatever that calls for; they should be investigated; and they should follow through on what needs to be done. Let the judicial system work."
Since the May murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police, progressive activists engaged in nightly rampages during which they tried to destroy Portland's federal courthouse, set fires near precinct doors and obliterated small businesses vital to a city's livability.
Forgetting that he was supposed to denounce mob violence, Biden described a pro-Trump caravan — not the antifa thugs — as "inciting" a response. If the former veep didn't walk over the line of blaming the victim, he certainly caressed it.
Biden's dry language about meeting legal requirements gave no hint of outrage at Danielson's having been murdered after he participated in a Patriot Prayer caravan. Be it noted, to most big media, Patriot Prayer is extremist, but groups like antifa and Black Lives Matter, ringleaders of America's riots, are not.
And Biden's account of what happened is factually challenged. Video of the shooting shows a dark city street with few people. Two shots pierce the night as a man on a skateboard appears to approach Danielson, who collapses.
I don't want to suggest that Biden wasn't outraged. He was, but he seemed more outraged at Trump's rhetoric than at a man being murdered for dissenting political beliefs.
In blaming Trump for violence committed by the left, Biden has proven that he will blame anyone but the rioters, as he sees Trump, not the mob, as the extreme element in this horrific story.
Critics have hit Trump for calling out anarchists and looters without addressing what they see as systemic racism in the criminal justice system. That's because Trump doesn't see police as systemically racist, so much as undermined by cops who, as he recently told Fox News' Laura Ingraham, "choke."
Whichever view you take, it's hard to believe that any good will come from months of urban riots that degrade a city's livability and hurt an economy reeling from the coronavirus.
In a video that went viral, a man standing behind the smashed windows of a pizzeria in Madison, Wisconsin, hectored protesters. "Are they trying to get Trump reelected?" he said. "Seriously. I've got a family to support."
"These people don't represent our movement," a young woman replied. The pizza guy looked at her in disbelief and said, "Well, I'm sorry ... they're with you."
Contact Debra J. Saunders at [email protected] or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.