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Biden cites experience at Charles City campaign stop

  • Former vice-president Joe Biden stressed his ample foreign and domestic policy experience to 220 people gathered at a campaign stop at the Knights of Columbus hall in Charles City Wednesday evening. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Former Floyd County Democratic Chairman Jim Davis gave former vice-president Joe Biden a brief introduction at a Biden campaign stop at the Knights of Columbus hall in Charles City Wednesday evening. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Former vice-president Joe Biden talked with potential voters after his speech at a campaign stop at the Knights of Columbus hall in Charles City Wednesday evening. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack spoke on Biden’s behalf at a campaign stop at the Knights of Columbus hall in Charles City Wednesday evening. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Iowa Rep. Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, gave former vice-president Joe Biden a brief introduction at a Biden campaign stop at the Knights of Columbus hall in Charles City Wednesday evening. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Former vice-president Joe Biden stressed his ample foreign and domestic policy experience to 220 people gathered at a campaign stop at the Knights of Columbus hall in Charles City Wednesday evening. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Former vice-president Joe Biden stressed his ample foreign and domestic policy experience to 220 people gathered at a campaign stop at the Knights of Columbus hall in Charles City Wednesday evening. (Press photo James Grob.)

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

Former vice-president Joe Biden believes the next U.S. president is going to inherit a “divided nation” and “a world in disarray.”

He also believes that he is one of the few people who’s qualified to fix that.

“I’m running for president because of my experience,” Biden said. “I believe my experience has given me a little bit of wisdom. I’m ready more than anybody — on day one — to deal with international relations, foreign policy and national security, because that’s what I’ve done my whole career.”

Biden, who was vice president to President Barack Obama for two terms and a U.S. senator representing Delaware for 36 years, stressed his ample foreign and domestic policy experience to 220 people gathered at a campaign stop at the Knights of Columbus hall in Charles City Wednesday evening.

“No one’s ever doubted I mean what I say,” Biden said. “The problem is, sometimes I say what I mean.”

The campaign stop was part of Biden’s eight-day, “No Malarkey” tour across 18 Iowa counties to meet with potential caucus-goers.

Former Floyd County Democratic Chairman Jim Davis and Iowa Rep. Todd Prichard, D-Charles City, each gave a short introduction of Biden, who was more than an hour late.

“People are doubling down on what it means to be an American, and what it means to value democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law in America,” Prichard said. “I’m so pleased to introduce Joe Biden, who is ready to defend those American values on day one.”

Biden had made stops Wednesday in Ames, Iowa Falls and Waverly before his final event of the day in Charles City. On Thursday he made appearances in New Hampton and Waterloo, and today (Friday) he’s scheduled for stops in Elkader, Decorah and Cedar Rapids.

“We’ve had great crowds, and I want to thank you all for being here,” Biden said. “Thank you for being patient, and thank you for giving me a look.”

Biden is the third of the top four polling candidates for the Democratic nomination for president to visit Charles City. Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders have also been here recently.

The three of them, along with Elizabeth Warren, have consistently been among the top four positions in both Iowa and national polls. None of the other dozen-plus candidates still in the running have risen above single digits in polling. The Iowa Caucuses, the first major contest in the presidential primaries, will be Monday, Feb. 3.

“If you think the polls are right and I’m the best one, then vote for me,” Biden said. “If you think it’s someone else, then vote for them, because we’ve got to win.”

Nathan Shultz, a senior at Charles City High School, said he was glad to have the opportunity to listen to Biden in person.

“Regardless of who is in town, it’s important to pop out and listen to the candidate,” Shultz said. “It’s better to be an informed voter, not to be uninformed and vote for just the heck of it.”

Shultz credited his high school social studies teacher, Sarah Downing, with helping the students inform themselves and get involved. He said he intends to caucus in February, and Biden impressed him Wednesday.

“A lot of people seem to go after him when he speaks and stumbles over words, but I liked what he talked about and thought he was really down to earth,” Shultz said. “More than likely I’ll caucus for Joe.”

Biden was serious and subdued throughout his speech, and was often critical of Donald Trump’s actions since Trump was elected president.

“This is a man who has enormous disregard, and has done enormous damage to our country, both domestically and internationally,” he said.

Biden said that Trump tore the country apart when he called white nationalists “good people” in the aftermath of Charlottesville, and that Trump had also embarrassed America with his dealings abroad.

“Look what happened at NATO this week,” Biden said. “Did you ever think you’d see an American president show up at a NATO meeting … and other world leaders would be caught off camera making fun of the president of the United States of America? Think about what that says about where we’re at internationally.”

Biden said Trump was treating NATO as a “protection racket,” and he was also critical of Trump’s decision to order U.S. troops to exit Syria the way he did, which left the Kurdish people undefended.

“He walked away from the Kurds after 12,000 of them died defeating ISIS with us,” Biden said. “Our soldiers left ashamed, with their heads down, with the Kurds holding their children saying ‘don’t leave us.’ Our international circumstances are in tough shape.”

He said that because of Trump’s reckless behavior overseas, “our alliances are shattering.” He implied that Trump has been a pushover for many of America’s adversaries, such as Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Vladimir Putin doesn’t want me to be president, because he knows I know him,” Biden said. “I’ve looked him in the eye. I’ve met every major world leader in the last 40 years. I know them and they know me.”

He said America doesn’t lead by “the example of our power, but by the power of our example.”

“The next president has to be able to bring the country together and get things passed,” Biden said. “We need someone who can get things done and get things fixed, or it’s not going to matter.”

He said rural America is the key to the country’s future, that Midwestern values are American values, and that the rest of the country depends on the Midwest to set the tone.

“Democracy starts in Iowa,” Biden said. “You are the ones who make the judgment, you have the key to the gates.”

He said as president, he would continue to invest in ethanol, solar and wind energy.

“The future can be bright, incredibly bright, but we gotta invest in the rural economy,” he said, adding, “By the way, wind energy doesn’t cause cancer. Oh lordy, I can’t believe Trump thinks it does.”

Biden promised to reverse some of the Trump tax cuts, which he said only benefited the wealthiest Americans.

“We need a tax policy that rewards work, not just wealth,” Biden said. “Why in God’s name should a teacher, a firefighter, a nurse or a farmer pay a higher tax rate than a multi-millionaire? I’m going to raise $800 billion by making sure the wealthy pay their capital gains at the same rate as they owe on their taxes.”

Biden cited several examples of times he’d reached across political divides to get things done, and insisted that once Trump is out of power, the Republican Party would be able to be convinced to do a lot of things they should already be doing.

“They’re too afraid of Trump, but I think when Trump is gone, they’ll find a lot of newfound courage,” Biden said. “The things we can’t convince them on, we’ll go out and we’ll beat them, like we did in 2018.”

Biden said he campaigned for more than 60 candidates during the 2018 midterm elections, many in states that are Republican strongholds, and received his biggest applause of the night when he said he helped elect “the most incredible group of women we’ve ever elected.”

Biden spoke for about an hour, then former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack spoke on Biden’s behalf before the event wrapped up. Biden then shook hands and took selfies with members of the crowd. Other people accompanying Biden on the tour have included former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden.

“We first met Joe and Jill Biden 33 years ago when they first came to Iowa,” Christie Vilsack said. “I trusted Joe Biden then, and I trust Joe Biden as much today as I did then. He is absolutely rock-solid in his values, and for that reason I’m supporting him in the Iowa Caucus.”

Diane Melrose of Charles City said that she was “pretty sure” she was going to caucus for Biden.

“I’ve always liked Joe Biden,” she said, and mentioned that she had attended a Biden campaign event in 2007 in Charles City. “His speech tonight was different, but I liked it.”

Melrose said she believed Biden stood for issues that were important to her, such as combating climate change and addressing gun control. More importantly, she said, she thought Biden could win in the general election.

“We just have to beat Trump,” Melrose said.

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