In Pa. speech, Biden casts Trump as checked out of pandemic

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks Wednesday, June 17, 2020, in Darby, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks Wednesday, June 17, 2020, in Darby, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

In a speech just outside Philadelphia Wednesday, Joe Biden sought to cast President Donald Trump’s coronavirus response as bungled, ineffective and now hampered by losing interest in the pandemic entirely.

The former Democratic Vice President gave his address in Darby Township, in Delaware County, at the same time Trump himself was announcing a plan to stem suicides among veterans.

Over the last few weeks, Trump’s GOP White House has scaled back meetings of its coronavirus task force and Trump has asserted that if the country reduced COVID-19 testing, it would have “very few cases” left to report. The president is also planning a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma Saturday, which would be the biggest event in the country since pandemic-induced restrictions on crowd size took effect in March.

Big cities like New York and Philadelphia, which saw virus spikes earlier in the pandemic, are now reporting lower numbers. But spikes have begun to pop up in places that were initially spared the worst effects — like, for instance, Tulsa.

Biden emphasized those points, saying they’re evidence of a president who isn’t leading effectively.

“Just like he couldn’t wish COVID-19 away in March, just like he couldn’t tweet it away in April, he can’t ignore it away in June,” Biden said.

Trump didn’t immediately respond to the speech on Twitter, but in recent days he has been doubling down on his assertion that U.S. COVID-19 testing is strong, and that the strength is a “double-edged sword.”

The U.S. is indeed conducting more tests than many countries — however, experts have noted that it was slow to start testing en masse, and that likely led to greater spread of the virus. And in a number of states, case spikes have outpaced testing increases, which indicates that more testing isn’t the sole explanation for rising numbers.

Biden also criticized the president on his economic recovery efforts.

In particular, he said it is “bad management on top of bad planning on top of neglect” that the federal Payroll Protection Program for small businesses wasn’t applied more broadly to businesses that really need it, and that the administration hasn’t identified businesses that did take advantage of the money.

“Why don’t you disclose the names, Mr. President, of the businesses that have received a total of $500 billion in taxpayer funding?” he asked. “Why are they being hidden? How many cronies got bailouts? How many donors?”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has defended keeping that information private, saying businesses are concerned disclosing that information could reveal confidential payroll information. (WHYY received funds from the first round of the Payroll Protection Program.)

Biden also implied that it is suspicious that Trump ousted acting Defense Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, who was supposed to oversee COVID-19 relief spending.

Biden has been leading Trump comfortably in national polls, and recent polling has also shown him ahead of the president in key swing states. According to a recent analysis of polling aggregates, Pennsylvania’s numbers have lately been on the sparse side, and have shown an inconclusive range of results.

Trump won the commonwealth by less than a percentage point in 2016.

Which way will Pa. vote?

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