Former President Bill Clinton used his speaking slot at the virtual Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night to criticize President Trump and his halting response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has left more than 170,000 Americans dead.
“How did Donald Trump respond? At first he said the virus was under control and would soon disappear,” Clinton said in an address that he prerecorded from his Chappaqua, N.Y., home. “When it didn’t, he was on TV bragging what a great job he was doing, while our scientists waited to give us vital information. When he didn’t like the expert advice he was given, he ignored it.
“Only when COVID exploded in more states did he encourage people to wear a mask,” Clinton continued. “But by then, many more would die. When asked about the surge in deaths, he shrugged and said, ‘It is what it is.’ But did it have to be this way? No.”
Clinton spoke after an audio message from former President Jimmy Carter.
“At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command center,” Clinton said. “Instead it’s a storm center. There’s only chaos. That’s one thing that never changes: His determination to deny responsibility and shift the blame. The buck never stops there.”
The 42nd president, who served two terms in office, presented viewers with a choice.
“You have to decide whether to renew his contract or hire someone else,” Clinton said. “If you want a president who defines the job as spending hours a day watching TV and zapping people on social media, he’s your man. Denying, distracting and demeaning works great if you’re trying to entertain or inflame. But in a real crisis, it collapses like a house of cards.”
The coronavirus “just doesn’t respond to any of that,” Clinton said. “To beat it, you’ve actually got to go to work and deal with the facts.”
By contrast, Clinton said, the Democratic Party is “united in offering you a very different choice: a go-to-work president. A down-to-earth, get-the-job-done guy. A man with a mission to take responsibility, not shift the blame. Concentrate, not distract. Unite, not divide. Our choice is Joe Biden.
“In this job interview, the difference is stark,” Clinton added. “You know what Donald Trump will do with four more years: Blame, bully, and belittle.”
Clinton, 73, has spoken at every Democratic convention since 1980. (His epically verbose speech at the 1988 convention nearly derailed his political career.)
But Clinton’s appearance at this year’s convention wasn’t entirely without controversy. His refusal to personally apologize to Monica Lewinsky amid the country’s #MeToo reckoning in 2018 drew fierce criticism among women, particularly younger Democrats. And the party’s progressive wing has ostracized him because of his friendship with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
On Tuesday, the Daily Mail published photos of Clinton receiving a neck massage from one of Epstein’s accusers during a layover on a trip to Africa in September 2002. The woman, Chauntae Davies, then 22, was Epstein’s personal masseuse, and later accused of Epstein of rape.
But she told the Daily Mail that Clinton did nothing wrong and was a “gentleman.”
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