WASHINGTON -- Joe Biden, in a major speech on civil unrest and protests across the country, delivered a blunt attack Tuesday on President Donald Trump for being "more interested in serving the passions of his base than the needs of the people in his care."
Biden likened Trump to Southern segregationists of the 1960s, accusing him of exploiting national divisions for political gain, and he criticized him for staging a "photo op" in front of a church across the street from the White House on Monday evening after police and National Guard units cleared the way by using force against peaceful protesters.
When police disperse "peaceful protesters ... 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 one of the most historic churches in the country, or at least in Washington D.C., we can be forgiven for believing that the president is more interested in power than in principle," Biden said.
Noting that Trump carried a Bible before cameras, Biden said, "I just wish he opened it once in a while instead of brandishing it."
The speech, carried live by cable networks, is the latest in a series of statements made by Biden in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the resulting protests against police brutality that have broken out across the country.
Biden has been trying to present himself, through carefully orchestrated events, as more presidential than Trump, taking the kinds of unifying, calming steps a president should in a crisis.
On Monday, for example, he held a roundtable discussion with four mayors to talk about how they are handling the tensions and violence in their cities.
In the 22-minute speech in Philadelphia, Biden compared Trump's Twitter attacks on protesters, including one threatening the use of "vicious dogs," to language used by segregationists to oppose the civil rights revolution a half-century ago.
"They weren't the words of a president," he said. "They were the kind of words Bull Connor would have used unleashing his dogs on innocent women and children," he said, referring to the late police commissioner of Birmingham, Ala.
More than in previous comments on the Floyd killing, Biden explicitly made a pitch for his presidential campaign and what he would do if elected.