Democratic nominee for President Joe Biden, after promising union members in a virtual speech to champion their issues and make a "transformational investment" in infrastructure, departed from Labor Day themes to excoriate President Trump for allegedly referring to dead American war veterans as "losers" and "suckers."
Mr. Trump has heatedly denied making those characterizations, which were first reported by Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor of The Atlantic. Some of his harsher remarks along similar lines have since been confirmed by news organizations as diverse as the New York Times and Fox News.
'An Animal Would Say That'
"Only an animal would say a thing like that," he said Sept. 7 of the remarks attributed to him, hours after Mr. Biden issued his scathing denunciation.
The former Vice President, in a web stream from Harrisburg, Pa. with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka after an earlier appearance in Lancaster with other AFL-CIO officials, began by praising union members as "America's essential workers. You're the folks breaking your necks, risking your lives, keeping the country going, in our hospitals, on our streets, in our schools."
He noted that a recent Gallup Poll showed roughly two-thirds of Americans had a favorable opinion of unions, "the highest approval rating Gallup has shown in over 50 years."
Mr. Biden charged that Mr. Trump's mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic was why the death toll was climbing toward 200,000 Americans, "and nearly 30,000 on unemployment. That doesn't count the seven million who are working part-time, who aren't counted as unemployed, but still can't buy the new tires for the car when they're bald, still can't take care of the basic things of getting the hot-water heater fixed...the things we talk about at our kitchen tables."
He said that if elected, his first priority would be getting the virus under control. "Then we'll have a transformational investment in roads, bridges, broadband, ports, airports, big projects...We'll make sure we pay people what they're worth. It's not enough to praise our essential workers. It's about time we start paying you. We're going to empower workers and empower unions...I'm going to hold company executives personally liable for interfering with workers who are attempting to unionize."
Criticizing his opponent's economic arguments for being given a second term, Mr. Biden said, "President Trump keeps talking about how great this economy is, how great the stock market is. I know the reason he didn't have the guts to take on COVID and threw up the white flag. He was worried if he started talking about saving people's lives, the stock market may fall."
Referring to the President's call to curtail the payroll tax to bolster the economy, he continued, "Trump has a plan to gut Social Security. If his Social Security plan he actually puts forward, [if] it actually became law, the Social Security actuary has said the entire Social Security system will be bankrupt by mid-2023."
He then turned to the remarks attributed to Mr. Trump about veterans, including expressing his unwillingness two years ago to visit a cemetery in France devoted to American Marines who died during World War I, purportedly because it was raining and he questioned whether their sacrifice warranted his paying the visit during the centennial of the end of that war.
'They're Heroes, Not Suckers'
Mr. Biden said, "But as out of touch as Trump's language on economy is, when it comes to veterans, he's downright un-American. I've never said that about a President ever—ever—but calling those [who] have served, risked their lives, even gave their lives to our nation, losers and suckers...these are heroes."
He pointed out that his late son, Beau, at a time when he was Delaware's State Attorney General, spent six months in war-torn Kosovo helping to set up a criminal-justice system there, then went with his military unit to Iraq for a year and was awarded the Bronze Star, among other medals.
"He didn't serve with losers and suckers," the former Vice President said. "He served with American patriots."
Referring to the disparaging remarks Mr. Trump allegedly made about the war dead, he continued that "the simple truth is, if that's how you talk about our veterans, you have no business being President of the United States... [Mr. Trump] asked, quote, 'What's in it for them?' Does that surprise you, coming from a man who only thinks about what's in it for him?"
Different Kind of Code
Mr. Biden said that the President would never understand soldiers of cops or firefighters. "because he's not made of the same stuff that the people who serve this nation are made of. Like so many of you—you live by a code, an American code...Honor. Duty. Country. Something bigger than yourself. He lives by a code of lies, greed and selfishness."
Mr. Trump later that day again lambasted Atlantic editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, the author of the story alleging his denigrating remarks about veterans who gave their lives. saying, "The story is a hoax, written by a guy who's got a tremendous bad history."
Three days before that, however, the national security correspondent for Fox News, Jennifer Griffin, said parts of the Atlantic report had been confirmed to her by two former Trump Administration employees—even as her network claimed the story was fabricated.
Ms. Griffin had tweeted, "According to one former senior Trump administration official: 'When the President spoke about the Vietnam War, he said, 'It was a stupid war. Anyone who went was a sucker.'"
She also tweeted that sources had told her that Mr. Trump thought it was "not a good look" to include the "wounded guys" in a July 4 military parade."
Can't Confirm 'Losers' Claim
During an interview conducted by Fox News anchor Bret Baier, Ms. Griffin said she had been unable to confirm what she called the "most-salacious" reporting in the Atlantic story: that Mr. Trump had called the Marines buried in the cemetery in France "losers and suckers."
But she said her sources confirmed that Mr. Trump, who avoided the draft by getting a doctor's note that he suffered from bone spurs that made him unable to serve in the military during the Vietnam era, had described those who fought in that conflict "losers." He was quoted by her sources as having said, "What's in it for them? They don't make any money."
Mr. Trump responded to her tweets and the interview Sept. 4 by calling for Ms. Griffin's firing. But Mr. Baier defended her as "a great reporter and a total class act."
Three days later, the President asserted that the claims about his remarks were coming from top officials at the Pentagon who "want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs, that make the planes, that make everything else, stay happy."
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