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Joe Biden: ‘Some of the rhetoric I’m hearing’ sounds like it aims to radicalize all Muslims

Joe Biden
Joe Biden this month at the White House. In a speech Monday, the vice president cast Donald Trump’s approach to the world as antithetical to American values.
(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Vice President Joe Biden called anti-Muslim rhetoric “deeply, deeply damaging to our national security” on Monday and warned that proposals like those supported by Donald Trump only threaten to further inflame Arab-world sentiment against the U.S.

Biden never named Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, during an address to a national-security think tank in Washington. But the vice president clearly stepped into the campaign fray in casting Trump’s approach to the world as antithetical to American values.

“There are 1.4 billion Muslims in the world,” Biden said. “Some of the rhetoric I’m hearing sounds designed to radicalize all 1.4 billion.

“Wielding the politics of fear and intolerance – like the proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, profiling Muslim Americans, slandering entire religious communities as complicit in terrorism, calls into question America’s status as the greatest democracy in the history of the world,” he said. “It doesn’t make the situation better. It makes it worse. And it plays into the narrative of extremists.”

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Biden’s address to the Center for a New American Security was in his capacity as vice president, not a surrogate for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In it, he defended the Obama administration’s foreign policy record, one that has “positioned the United States at the forefront of tremendous opportunity.”

But the subtext was clear, as he discussed what he said were the administration’s “hard choices, to quote the title of a book” – namely, Clinton’s 2014 memoir.

He said the next president must avoid the temptation to turn inward or seek “sound-bite solutions in a world defined by complexity,” lest the U.S. “squander all of our hard-earned progress.”

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“I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s capacity to lead our world to a more peaceful and prosperous future. But our leadership does not spring from some inherent American magic — it never has,” he said.

“Our ability to lead by example and draw partners to our side – that’s what has always been America’s greatest capability,” he said.

The vice president, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has played a significant role in helping shape the Obama administration’s foreign policy, along with Clinton during her tenure as secretary of State. 

Biden and Clinton did differ on some key issues, most notably during Obama’s first review of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. But Biden’s speech highlighted their shared policy views and the party’s main argument against a President Trump: that he would put America’s standing in the world at risk.

“The United States cannot afford to draw back from our responsibilities now.  There is simply too much at stake,” he said.

Biden targeted Trump’s praise for Vladimir Putin, arguing that embracing the president “at a time of renewed Russian aggression, I believe, could call into question America’s long-standing commitment to a Europe whole, free and at peace.”

He also emphasized the need to carefully manage the relationship with China, a nation of particular focus to the vice president for the last eight years, and one in which the U.S. has sought both “enhanced cooperation and responsible competition.”

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And in the wake of the Orlando nightclub massacre and with renewed concern about so-called lone-wolf attacks inspired by extremist propaganda, Biden defended the administration’s approach to defeating Islamic State in part by encouraging the cooperation of allies, particularly those in the Muslim world.

“ISIL wants to manufacture a clash of civilizations,” Biden said, using administration shorthand for the extremist group. “They want Americans to view things in terms of ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ Why in God’s name are we giving them what they want? And besides, we are so much better than that.”

Biden endorsed Clinton this month after she clinched a majority of pledged delegates. Aides say he will join her on the campaign trail, likely after Biden returns from a weeklong trip to Ireland that begins Tuesday.

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michael.memoli@latimes.com

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For more 2016 campaign coverage, follow @mikememoli on Twitter


UPDATES:

1:05 p.m.: This story was updated with comments from Biden’s speech.

This story was originally published at 3 a.m.


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