After a remarkably productive month in Congress, Democrats have major legislative accomplishments to announce this fall. But President Biden traveled to Pennsylvania on Tuesday to address a persistent guilt for his party: crime.
His argument, however, was hardly a defensive one.
Two years after Republicans blamed Democratic candidates for activist calls to “defund the police,” Biden is working to reverse the script and convince voters he is the law and order party.
To get his point across, Biden noted that many Republicans condoned the criminal behavior of the Jan. 6 insurgents and defended former President Trump’s withholding of classified documents. Some Republicans have even called for the FBI to defund after its raid of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Florida home, he said.
“A safer America requires all of us to uphold the rule of law,” Biden said. “To this day, MAGA Congressional Republicans defend the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6,” noting that officers died as a result of the riot.
“Don’t tell me you support law enforcement if you don’t condemn what happened on the 6th,” he continued. “For heaven’s sake, whose side are you on? They cannot be pro-law enforcement and pro-riot. You cannot be a law and order party and call the people who attacked the police on January 6 ‘patriots’.”
Biden also claimed some Republicans have hinted that political violence “may be necessary” if the Justice Department charges Trump with crimes — a possible reference to Senator Lindsey Graham’s recent warning of “rioting on the streets” of South Carolina if Trump will be prosecuted.
“Nobody should be encouraged to use political violence,” Biden said, calling the increase in threats against FBI agents following the Mar-a-Lago search “disgusting.”
Biden says he has no inside knowledge of the Justice Department’s investigation into his predecessor and possible 2024 adversary, but his skewed references to Tuesday’s investigation suggest he thinks voters should weigh this as a campaign issue.
Biden also attempted to draw a broader contrast between Democrats and Republicans on crime issues, incorporate his own accomplishments, and outline new plans to strengthen the police force.
He pointed to the $350 billion in America’s 2021 bailout plan to allow local communities to keep more officials on their toes — and the fact that every Republican in Congress voted against it. And he outlined a new “Safer America Plan” that would put an additional 100,000 police officers on the streets and invest in crime prevention programs.
“When it comes to fighting crime, we know what works: officers on the street who know the neighborhood,” Biden said, noting that he has also taken executive action to end the use of chokeholds and warrants by federal police officers. “And as we hire more cops, there should be more training, more help, and more accountability.”
Biden also campaigned for a bipartisan gun safety law, enacted this summer in response to the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The law, which expanded background checks for gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21 and created incentives for states to enact warning signs, is only a gradual step, he said, but also marks the country’s first tightening of gun laws in 30 years.
“It took 30 years. And we’re beating the NRA!” Biden roared, noting that “the vast majority” of Republicans voted against, suggesting they were “intimidated” by the NRA. “But we took on the NRA and won. And we don’t stop there. I am determined to ban assault weapons in this country.”
Biden claimed that the 2nd Amendment was “not absolute,” and described how parents of children killed in Uvalde had to provide DNA samples to identify victims because the shooter’s AR-15 weapon smashed their bodies had inflicted. “What the hell is wrong with us?” he called into a silent auditorium. “It is time to ban these weapons. We’ve done it before, we can do it again.”
Even as Democrats recovered politically over the summer, Republicans, who have been pounding local Democrats over the rise in violent crime, have an 11 percentage point lead on crime, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll this month.
Biden has been working to get Democrats out of this political hole long before the Justice Department’s investigation into Trump’s unlawful possession of classified material became public.
In his State of the Union address in March, Biden’s statement that he wanted to “fund the police” made headlines, even as it drew the ire of many black voters and activists frustrated by the lack of progress on criminal justice reform . Biden followed this up during an appearance in New York alongside Mayor Eric Adams, and linked Adam’s successful crime-fighting messages to his own.
He repeated that rhetoric again on Tuesday in Pennsylvania, describing his plan as one that will help law enforcement and allow Americans to feel safe in their communities. “When it comes to public safety in this country, the answer is not to disappoint the police. It funds the police,” he said.
The event at a high school on the Wilkes University campus, Biden’s first of three trips to Pennsylvania next week, was something of a homecoming for the Scranton, Pennsylvania native — and an opportunity for Democrats, who are on the Senate floor this fall Ballots stand to show campaign readiness alongside the President.
Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, addressed the crowd just before Biden’s appearance and spoke about how he worked with the president to fill a gap to stop the proliferation of “ghost weapons,” often unregistered weapons, used to curb violent crime.
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) reminded the crowd of the three landmark laws Biden enacted in his first two years: the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the just-passed Inflation Reduction Act.
“The list of things we can thank him for is too long,” Casey said.
https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-08-30/biden-midterms-crime-fbi-republicans As Trump and GOP blast FBI, Biden claims law and order mantle for Democrats