Trump blasts Biden, defies pandemic on stage

WASHINGTON (AP) – United States (US) President Donald Trump blasted Joe Biden as a hapless career politician who will endanger Americans’ safety as he accepted his party’s re-nomination on the South Lawn of the White House.

While the coronavirus kills 1,000 Americans each day, Trump defied his own administration’s pandemic guidelines to speak for more than an hour to a tightly packed, largely mask-less crowd.

Facing a moment fraught with racial turmoil, economic collapse and a national health emergency, Trump delivered a triumphant, optimistic vision of America’s future on Thursday.

But he said that brighter horizon could only be secured if he defeated his Democratic foe, who currently has an advantage in most national and battleground state polls.

“We have spent the last four years reversing the damage Joe Biden inflicted over the last 47 years,” Trump said, referring to the former senator and vice president’s career in Washington.

Protestors rally in Washington. PHOTO: AP

When Trump finished, a massive fireworks display went off by the Washington Monument, complete with explosions that spelled out “Trump 2020”.

His acceptance speech kicked off the final stretch of the campaign, a race now fully joined and, despite the pandemic, soon to begin crisscrossing the country. Trump’s pace of travel will pick up to a near daily pace while Biden, who has largely weathered the pandemic from this Delaware home, announced on Thursday that he will soon resume campaign travel.

Teasing once more that a vaccine could arrive soon, the president promised victory over the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 180,000 people in the US, left millions unemployed and rewritten the rules of society. And, in the setting for his speech, Trump sought to project a sense of normalcy by throwing caution about the coronavirus aside.

All week long, Republicans at the non-convention convention tried to create the illusion that the pandemic is largely a thing of the past.

The rows of chairs on the South Lawn were inches apart. Protective masks were not required, and COVID-19 tests were not administered to everyone.

As his speech brought the scaled-back Republican National Convention to a close, Trump’s incendiary rhetoric risked inflaming a divided nation reeling from a series of calamities, including the pandemic, a major hurricane that slammed into the Gulf Coast and nights of protest after Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot by a white Wisconsin police officer. Prosecutors charged a white, 17-year-old police admirer with the fatal shooting of two protesters and wounding of a third.

The American president spoke from a setting that was both familiar and controversial.

Despite tradition and regulation to not use the White House for political events, a huge stage was set up outside the executive mansion, dwarfing the trappings for some of the most important moments of past presidencies.