President Joe Biden harshly criticized Donald Trump, calling him “determined to destroy democracy” at a campaign fundraiser Monday, issuing some of his fiercest condemnations yet of his predecessor in a preview of next year’s electoral revenge.
Biden also sought to refute chronic questions about his age, saying his long experience in Washington had given him the wisdom to move the nation forward.
The off-camera speech provided insight into Biden’s campaign message as his re-election efforts intensify. Instead of his usual recounting of his economic record, Biden took direct aim at what he called Republican attempts to subvert democracy.
“In 2024, democracy is on the ballot again,” Biden said. “And let there be no doubt: Donald Trump and his MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy, and I will always defend, protect and fight for our democracy. That’s why I’m running.
Biden has spent much of the last year touting his economic record in office, but his approval ratings remain anemic and even many Democrats say they don’t want him to run for a second term.
In his remarks at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in Times Square, where he was speaking at a fundraising concert featuring several prominent artists, Biden appeared to test new material on a receptive crowd, using new lines of attack and tackling the issue of age head on.
The new lines are a radical attempt to contrast the prohibitive Republican frontrunner and a major departure from Biden’s previous attempts to distance himself from his predecessor’s legal troubles.
Just a few weeks ago, as Trump was heading to the Fulton County Jail on charges related to his attempts to cling to power, Biden made light of his mug shot.
On Monday, he accused Trump and his fellow Republicans of siding with dictators and dividing the country.
“I will not side with dictators like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin. Maybe Trump and his MAGA friends can bow down and congratulate him, but I won’t,” Biden said.
“I do not believe that America is a dark and negative nation, a nation of carnage driven by anger, fear and revenge. Donald Trump does it,” he later added.
Citing Trump’s vow if re-elected to act as “retribution” for his supporters, Biden asked: “Did you ever think you would hear a president of the United States speak like that?” Well, I believe we are a hopeful and optimistic nation, driven by the proposition that everyone deserves a chance.
Biden, speaking from a two-tiered cast-iron stage for a Sweeney Todd revival currently playing on Broadway, also sought to confront the issue of his advancing age, which polls show remains a top concern for American voters . At 80, Biden would be 86 at the end of a possible second term.
“A lot of people seem focused on my age. Believe me, I know this better than anyone,” the president said, using his experience to justify his re-election.
“When this nation was flat on its face, I knew what to do,” he said.
Regarding Ukraine, he said: “I knew what to do, to rebuild alliances.”
“When democracy was at stake, I knew what to do,” he concluded.
A CNN poll conducted by SSRS in late August found that about three-quarters of Americans say they are seriously concerned that Biden’s age could negatively affect his current level of physical and mental competence (73%) and his ability to serve another full term if re-elected (76%), with a smaller majority of 68% seriously concerned about their ability to understand the concerns of the next generation (which rises to 72% among those under 65, but only 57% of those aged 65 or over feel the same way).