Joe Biden tried to reclaim the momentum in Wednesday’s US presidential election, telling Donald Trump to “get off Twitter” and concentrate on reopening schools safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Democratic candidate tried to bring the virus back at the forefront of the campaign after two weeks of seeing the president focus on intermittent unrest in American cities, which has increasingly blighted nonviolent demonstrations over police brutality and structural racism, promoting a message of “law and order” and pressuring Biden to back down.
With opinion polls shrinking two months before election day, Trump and Biden gave dueling remarks, as they reached the final sprint on November 3, both in cities named Wilmington but in separate states.
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Declaring reopening schools as he spoke in his home town, Wilmington, Delaware, “a national emergency,” Biden demanded: “Mr. President, where are you? Where are you from? Why don’t you look at this? We need our schools to obtain emergency assistance funding and we need it now. It is your job, Mr. President, that is your job.
“That’s what you should be focused on now, getting our kids back to school safely, keeping schools safely able to remain open once they open. Not whipping up fear and division, not inciting violence in our streets.
“Get off Twitter and start talking to the congressional leaders in both parties. Invite them to the Oval Office. You always talk about your ability to negotiate. Negotiate a deal. A deal for somebody other than yourself.”
Trump was in Wilmington, N.C. for ceremonies marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Showcasing a president’s symbolic strength, Trump marked his visit to a frontline state with a speech in front of the battleship.
His remarks concerned mainly the development of the first “American World War II Heritage Area” but he included a reference to his main theme of the campaign.
“American warriors did not defeat fascism and oppression overseas only to watch our freedoms be trampled by violent mobs here at home,” Trump said.
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The overwhelming majority of the demonstrations were pacifist. Those who turned violent had forced on either side of the political divide involved.
“These people only know one thing,” Trump said, “and that’s strength. That’s all they know, strength.”
About six months into the pandemic around the US this week, millions of kids have been unable to attend school in person, forcing them to experience virtual learning and leaving parents unable to get out of work. Democrats believe the issue hits home with every parent and could prove more important than constant distractions from Trump.
The president has encouraged schools to reopen entirely, even threatening to cut federal funding to those who refuse, while he and his secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, have said children are practically immune to the virus.
Scott Atlas, Trump’s new coronavirus advisor, has identified schools as “a low-risk area” and asserted that children are at “nearly zero risks of death.” But this week the New York Times reported: “As some schools begin in-person classes, summer data compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics show that cases, hospitalizations and coronavirus deaths have increased at a faster rate in children and adolescents than in the general public.” Teachers have threatened to strike about the risk to their health.
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Biden and his partner, former teacher Jill, got a briefing from public health and education experts on Wednesday.
“Let me be clear,” he said. “If President Trump and his administration had done their jobs America’s schools would be open. Instead, America’s families are paying the price for his failures.”
The former vice president blamed the Federal Emergency Management Agency ( Fema) for saying it won’t help pay for basic sanitation supplies, fabric masks, and other protective equipment.