On Monday, Democratic nominee Joe Biden accused President Donald Trump of “rooting for chaos and violence” because the violent antifa riots are a boon to the president’s reelection campaign. While Biden’s remark was a powerful rhetorical tactic, it got the situation exactly wrong. As an issue, the violent riots do help Trump’s campaign — but that whole situation is actually Joe Biden’s fault.
Biden’s speech focused on the notion that all the struggles America faces right now are somehow Trump’s fault. He mentioned the coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation from it, suggesting the president was to blame for both. “The simple truth is, Donald Trump failed to protect America, so now he’s trying to scare America.”
“Trump posts an all-caps tweet, screaming, ‘LAW AND ORDER,’ to save his campaign,” Biden said. “One of his closest political advisors in the White House doesn’t even bother to speak in code. She just comes out and says it, ‘the more chaos, violence, the better it is for Trump’s reelection.’ Just think about that. This is a sitting president of the United States of America. He’s supposed to be protecting his country. But instead, he’s rooting for chaos and violence.”
This powerful accusation falls apart on close examination. First, the Democrat misquoted Kellyanne Conway’s remarks last Thursday. Conway did not actually say, “The more chaos, violence, the better it is for Trump’s reelection.” Instead, she said, “The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order.”
Conway did indeed suggest that an increase in the violence would be good for Trump’s reelection. This does not mean the president wants more violence, however. In fact, the riots are a good issue for Trump because he has the best record in opposing the violence.
To his credit, Biden condemned the violence in the days after the death of George Floyd in police custody. While he supported the protests, he added, “there is no place for violence, no place for looting or destroying property or burning churches, or destroying businesses — many of them built by people of color who for the first time were beginning to realize their dreams and build wealth for their families.”
Yet while the Democrat distinguished between “legitimate peaceful protest” and “opportunistic violent destruction,” he immediately went on to condemn “the violence that’s being done by the incumbent president to our democracy and to the pursuit of justice.”
Biden excoriated Trump for his walk to the historic St. John’s Church near the White House. “When peaceful protestors are dispersed by the order of the president from the doorstep of the people’s house, the White House — using tear gas and flash grenades — in order to stage a photo op at a nearby church, we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle,” the Democrat insisted.
Biden did not mention the reason Trump went to the church — violent rioters had set that very church on fire the night before. While the president should have delivered remarks about the situation, his decision to stand at the church and hold up a Bible was clearly a statement of solidarity with the victims of the violent riots across America at the time.
Biden’s refusal to even mention the arson against the church would set the tone for the next few months. As rioters ravaged Portland and Seattle for months, the Democrat remained silent. He did not condemn the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). When antifa rioters tried to set fire to the federal courthouse in Portland, Biden did not condemn the rioters. Instead, he attacked President Trump because Trump sent extra federal law enforcement to defend the courthouse. Biden accused federal officers of cracking down on “peaceful protesters” amid the violent riots.
Even when the Democrat decided to vocally condemn the shootings in Kenosha, Wisc., and Portland this past week, he singled out “right-wing militias” without a single mention of the far-left agitators in antifa and Black Lives Matter who lead the protests.
Trump, by contrast, has designated antifa a domestic terrorist organization. The president dispatched federal officers to combat crime in America’s major cities in Operation LeGend. He has repeatedly offered to send the National Guard to counter the riots, but Democratic mayors and governors refused. After the shootings in Kenosha, Gov. Tony Evers (D-Wisc.) finally agreed to accept National Guard assistance, and the rioting ceased. President Trump also revealed that he effectively forced Mayor Jenny Durkan’s (D-Seattle) hand in finally shutting down CHAZ.
Trump has the far better record on law and order, and he excoriated Biden’s record on Tuesday.
“For months, Joe Biden has given moral aid and comfort to the vandals repeating the monstrous lie that these were peaceful protests,” the president declared. “They’re not peaceful protests. That’s anarchy. That’s — you look at the agitators, you look at the looters, you look at the rioters — that’s not a peaceful protest.”
“They keep using the term — it’s so nice — ‘peaceful protest,’ and behind the reporter, the cities are burning,” Trump added.
The riots are a good issue for Trump, not because he’s “rooting for chaos” but because he’s doing the exact opposite. Biden isn’t “rooting for violence,” either. Yet the Democrat has sidled up to radical socialists Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). He has positioned himself on the side of the rioters and some of the rioters may be mollified by a Biden victory.
It is quite plausible that far-left agitators are holding America hostage and will only stop their violence if Trump loses.
Perhaps this is the real reason why Biden won’t condemn antifa by name or condemn the looting and rioting to the degree he should. This is also the reason the riots help Trump politically. The president isn’t rooting for the violence, he’s doing his darndest to stop the agitators behind it.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.