Speaking from the White House South Lawn despite criticism he was using the executive residence as a political prop, Trump portrayed Biden, a career politician with a long record as a moderate, as a far-left extremist who would usher in a lawless, dangerous America.
“This election will decide whether we protect law-abiding Americans, or whether we give free rein to violent anarchic agitators and criminals who threaten our citizens,” Trump said on the fourth and final night of the Republican National Convention in a speech that lasted more than an hour.
“No one will be safe in Biden’s America.”
Despite the pandemic that has killed more than 180,000 Americans, Trump delivered his remarks before a crowd of more than 1,000 people, standing in front of dozens of American flags and basking in chants of “Four more years!” and “U.S.A.!”
His language was evocative of his 2016 convention acceptance speech, which also came at a time of racial tension after eight police officers were killed in Texas and Louisiana amid protests following shootings of Black men.
“Americans watching this address tonight have seen the recent images of violence in our streets and the chaos in our communities,” he said then, vowing to end the turmoil.
But Trump, who ran successfully as an insurgent four years ago, is now in control at the White House, complicating his assertion once again that only he can solve the problem.
As the night unfolded, Biden struck back on Twitter, writing, “When Donald Trump says tonight you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America, look around and ask yourself: How safe do you feel in Donald Trump’s America?”
In trying to paint Biden as a tool of the “radical left”, Trump also distorted the Democrat’s policy positions on a host of other issues, including immigration, guns, law enforcement, abortion and energy production.
“If given the chance, he will be the destroyer of American greatness,” Trump warned.
Following the speech, fireworks exploded over the nearby Washington Monument as the president and his family looked on, giving Trump and the convention a powerful closing image.
The crowd, seated in white chairs inches apart, showed little evidence of social distancing or face masks despite health experts’ recommendations. But the Trump campaign said it had taken appropriate health precautions in arranging the South Lawn event.
In a reminder of the country’s divisions, attendees could hear anti-Trump protesters sounding horns near the White House as he spoke, a noise that occasionally was audible on the live broadcast.
In his speech on Thursday, Trump again blamed China for the pandemic and promised in his second term to levy tariffs on any company that left America to create jobs overseas, one of the rare concrete policy proposals of the night.
He also promised to rebuild what Republicans have called the “greatest economy” in history and attacked Biden for saying he would shut down the country if necessary to slow the spread of the disease. Many health experts blame a resurgence of coronavirus cases on states that reopened businesses too soon.
“Joe Biden’s plan is not a solution to the virus, but rather a surrender,” Trump said.