Trump hits at Biden and 'radical left' as he accepts nomination

The president's speech was thin on policy, but heavy on falsehoods and attacks against Joe Biden

US President Donald Trump arrives to deliver his acceptance speech for the Republican Party nomination for reelection during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on August 27, 2020.  / AFP / Brendan Smialowski

US President Donald Trump on Thursday accepted the Republican Party nomination for a second term, presenting himself as the "law and order" candidate guarding against chaos and violence in American cities.

Mr Trump's live speech from the White House, less than 70 days away from the November 3 vote, closes a Republican convention better described as the "Trump Show".

The convention takes place amid health and economic crises, social unrest and renewed protests for racial justice.

For several days, protests and violence have rocked the Wisconsin city of Kenosha, after a 29-year-old African-American man, Jacob Blake, was shot seven times in the back by a white police officer, leaving him paralysed.

The tensions in Kenosha erupted on Tuesday night when a 17-year-old police admirer shot dead two protesters and injured a third. The teen has been charged with homicide.

Mr Trump seized on the Kenosha unrest to shift the tone of the convention, which opened with attempts to portray a softer image of Mr Trump, but ended with harsh warnings of continued violence and lawlessness, with Republicans making the case that Mr Trump is the only one who can end the unrest.

Demonstrations took place outside Mr Trump's closing address, with new fencing set up along the White House perimeter to keep the protesters at bay.

The chants of protesters, air horns and sirens could be heard during his speech, delivered from the White House lawn to a crowd of more than 1,000 people that did not wear masks.

"We will defeat the virus, end the pandemic," Mr Trump told a crowd that disregarded the safety measures recommended by medical experts. The president promised a vaccine by the year's end while lauding his response to the virus. But in reality, the virus spread untamed as the US was slow to react, leading to the world's highest number of Covid-19 infections and deaths.

In an attempt to garner minority votes during a time of widespread racial unrest, the president made the unsupported claim that he has done more for the African American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln.

He later boasted about threatening Black Lives Matter protesters with 10 years in prison for toppling statues of controversial figures in America's history with slavery.

Mr Trump's speech was thin on policy, but heavy on falsehoods and attacks against Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden, calling him "the destroyer of American greatness."

"No one will be safe in Biden's America," he said.

Striking back, Mr Biden issued a statement asking, "how safe do you feel in Donald Trump's America?"

The president's personal attorney and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani also took aim at Mr Biden, telling the convention that he will "bring this lawlessness to your city."

Though some of the speakers, unlike on previous nights, offered notes of sympathy to the families of African-American men killed by police, Mr Giuliani took aim at the Black Lives Matter movement, suggesting that it, along with Antifa, was part of the extremist voices pushing Mr Biden to “execute their pro-criminal, anti-police policies” and had “hijacked the protests into vicious, brutal riots.”

Mr Biden is being pulled in different directions on his policing platform. The left wing of his party is calling to "defund" the police, while the moderates are worried about losing voters who fear social unrest. The former vice president has promised to invest in a programme that will provide grants to hire more officers of colour and train law enforcement to better engage with their communities.

 

Ivanka Trump took to the podium on the final night to defend her father, saying "my dad’s communication style is not to everyone’s taste and I know that his tweets can feel a bit unfiltered."

"But the results speak for themselves," she said, touting the president's jobs record despite millions of Americans being plunged into unemployment in the past months.

She received a small standing ovation when she referred to the UAE and Israel's Abraham Accords as the "biggest breakthrough in a quarter-century."

Mr Trump also thanked the UAE and Israel in his address.

The latest protests for racial justice and against police brutality raise challenges for Mr Trump and Mr Biden.

The president has played to his base by expressing his strong support for law enforcement and has yet to mention Blake by name.

Mr Biden said the video of Blake's shooting made him "sick" and "systemic racism" in American society must be eliminated.

In Mr Biden's closing address at the Democratic convention last week, he asked “Will we be the generation that finally wipes out the stain of racism from our national character?”

Mr Biden's running mate Kamala Harris offered counter-programming to the final night of the convention. She delivered a speech a half mile from the White House, declaring, “Donald Trump doesn’t understand the presidency.”

“He thinks it’s all about him,” she said, adding that “It’s about all of us. … Donald Trump has failed at the most basic and important job of a president of the United States: He failed to protect the American people, plain and simple.”

Mr Biden also accused the president of stoking the fire.

"He's rooting for more violence, not less," he told MSNBC. "And he's clear about that. And what's he doing? He's pouring more gasoline on the fire."

The national polls and those in several battleground states give Mr Biden the edge but Mr Trump claims they do not reflect the true nature of the race.

He says he will produce another surprise like he did in 2016.

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