Former Vice President Joe Biden talked about restoring the integrity of America, rebuilding the middle class and unifying a divided country in his first campaign stop in Nevada since announcing his candidacy for president last month.
He also answered questions in a one-on-one interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“This is about a lot more than politics,” he told a crowd at the local International Union of Painters and Allied Trades union hall in Henderson. His visit also attracted a group of protesters outside.
This time around, the core values of the country are at stake, Biden said. If re-elected, President Donald Trump could alter the character of the country and its standing in the world, he said.
Biden criticized Trump’s response to a violent clash between white nationalist demonstrators and protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in one woman’s death in 2017.
He also pointed to issues with the deportation of “Dreamers” — young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children — and the separation of kids from their parents at the southern border.
“It isn’t who we are,” he said. “We’re better than that.”
Biden appealed to the union crowd by saying he wanted to rebuild the middle class and support labor.
“And by the way, let’s get something straight,” he said. “Wall Street, bankers, hedge fund managers, they did not build this country. You built the country.”
The former vice president voiced support for higher taxes on the wealthy, a $15 minimum wage and giving people a choice to buy into a public health care plan like Medicare.
He also said he wanted to invest in education and would lay out a plan to address student loan debt.
“Mr. Biden, what about veterans? I’m here to ask about veterans,” one man shouted in the middle of Biden’s speech. The man later shouted that some veterans are facing deportation.
“Anybody who’s fought for the United States of America should not be in a position to be deported,” Biden shouted back.
Biden told the crowd that he would be a president for all people, not just a core base.
“For all the problems we have, I am more optimistic about the chances for the United States of America than I have ever been,” he said.
Biden told the Review-Journal he strongly opposes developing Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository. He said nuclear waste should be taken care of in the places where it already exists.
“Why is it all of a sudden everything has to come to Nevada, or any one place?” he said.
Biden said he will be a frequent visitor to Nevada to secure delegates in the state’s February caucus on the way to Super Tuesday, when several states will hold votes.
“It’s really important because Nevada represents a cross section almost more than any other state in the first four states (to vote),” he said, noting the state’s Hispanic population, labor groups and business growth.
He also addressed former Nevada Assemblywoman Lucy Flores’ allegations that he made her uncomfortable by grabbing her shoulders and kissing the back of her head.
“Notwithstanding the fact I thought I was reassuring her, she has a right to say it wasn’t reassuring at all,” Biden said. “That’s her right.”
He said personal space matters and he has a duty to be more cognizant of it.
When asked if he had any doubt of Flores’ account, Biden responded: “I think you should ask the other people who were there. But look, it doesn’t matter. It’s how she, how she, how it came across to her.”