Joe Biden on Saturday referred to President Donald Trump as a “clown” after a supporter asked the former vice president whether he would return Trump’s insults.
Biden, who is on the first swing of his 2020 campaign, told about two dozen supporters at a private fundraiser that he didn’t want to get down in the mud with Trump.
“There’s so many nicknames I’m inclined to give this guy,” Biden said to laughter in the room. “You can just start with clown.”
Since launching his bid in late April, Trump has given Biden special attention, including referring to him as “Sleepy Joe.”
Biden said that while he planned to respond to Trump if directly attacked, he believed it was part of the president’s strategy to keep dialogue away from the issues.
“On every single issue and on every demeaning thing he says about other people, I have no problem responding directly,” Biden said. “What I’m not going to do is get into what he wants me to do. He wants this to be a mud wrestling match.”
Saturday marked the first of Biden’s two-day swing through South Carolina as part of a larger cross-country tour that will eventually bring him back to a rally in Philadelphia. Biden spoke at a fundraiser in the private home of state Sen. Dick Harpootlian, an attorney and former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman. Earlier in the day, Biden spoke at a rally in Columbia before heading to the private fundraiser where he delivered remarks and took questions from supporters for about 20 minutes. Biden’s campaign is allowing limited media access to all of the candidate’s fundraisers.
Biden highlighted his foreign policy background as he made the case for running.
“I think, whether I’m right or not, I know as much about American foreign policy as anyone around, including even maybe Kissinger. I say that because I’ve been doing it my entire adult life.”
Just then, Biden flubbed on his foreign leaders.
“One I can say is Margaret Thatcher, um, excuse me, Margaret Thatcher – Freudian slip,” Biden said to laughter in the room. “But I knew her too.” He then corrected himself: “The prime minister of Great Britain, Theresa May.”
Biden also told the group he regretted once saying if he were in high school he would have taken Trump around back and “beat the hell out of him.”
“Well guess what? I probably shouldn’t have done that,” Biden said Saturday, “I don’t want to get it down to that level. The presidency is an office that requires some dignity.”
Biden alluded to having private conversations with Trump, adding: “I let him understand what I think about him.”
The former vice president warned that the contest would get nasty quickly, and that he expected his family would be the subject of attacks.
“This guy is going to go after me and my family,” Biden said.
Biden then told a story about his grandchildren playing a role in urging him to run for president. He said one of his grandchildren called a family meeting eight weeks ago and contended that his grandchildren urged him to run after seeing degrading images on him online.
“‘Pop, you have to run Pop,” Biden said one of his grandsons, “Little Hunter” told him, then said his grandson showed him a photo online from Beau Biden’s funeral. “‘Pop, it says: ‘Look at Biden molesting a kid,’” Biden said his grandson told him. “Pop, I know it’s going to be mean, they’re going to say bad things about Daddy.”
“Mommy and Daddy had a divorce and they’re going to really go after that,” Biden continued, in retelling what he said his grandchildren said to him.
“My generic point is they know how tough it’s going to be.”