Former Vice President Joe Biden is undecided about running for president in 2020, but during a visit to Chicago Wednesday he spoke like a candidate — aiming jab after rhetorical jab at President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Biden rounded off his remarks by referencing Trump’s nearly two days of silence before condemning the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis who engaged in violence during a march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August.
“Folks, did any of you ever think you’d ever see Nazis coming out from under the rocks and out of the fields in the dark, carrying torches, reciting the same anti-Semitic bile . . . that brought down Europe? Did you ever think that would occur? And those who came to oppose them would be judged in relative terms as them both causing the problem?
“Ladies and gentlemen, silence is complicity. Silence is complicity.”
The address, made in a ballroom at the Palmer House Hilton off Michigan Avenue, was hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
Biden focused a large chunk of his speaking time on Putin without ever touching directly on alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
“Putin and his cronies want only to preserve their wealth and their power,” he said.
At every turn Putin has sought undermine democratic institutions and weaken the bonds of western allies, Biden said.
“Appeasement will not work. So far, our sitting president has been unwilling to call out Putin for Russia’s meddling in our democracy or criticize his actions. Astonishing,” he said.
“Putin and his cronies seek to return to a world where the strong impose their will through arms corruption and criminality on their weaker neighbors.”
Biden did not comment on Trump campaign members who were indicted this week or the terrorist attack that occurred Tuesday in Manhattan.
Regarding Trump’s bluster on Twitter towards North Korea, Biden said his bluffs are ultimately diminishing the power of the United States.
“Big nation’s can’t bluff … and so we’ve got to stop this Tweeting,” he said. “I’ve tried to stay out of the mosh pit, [President Barack Obama] and I have, but it’s childish. It’s time to grow up,” Biden said.
More than 14 heads of state had been in touch with him.
“All wanted me to visit them. Or to come visit me,” he said of the foreign leaders.
“It’s a difficult place to be, because I would never say anything negative about any American president overseas. And it’s not my place to explain their policies.”