Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden said he feels "frustration” with the U.S. coronavirus response and that it’s his role to say what he believes President Donald Trump needs to do.
"If I see something that’s not happening, I think it’s my obligation to step up and say ‘this is what we should be doing,’” Biden said Sunday on NBC’s "Meet the Press.”
The former vice president said that if he were in office he would be using the Defense Production Act far more broadly than Trump has. He said he would not only compel General Motors Co. to build ventilators, as Trump has, but increase the production of personal protective equipment for health-care workers. He said he would also be thinking about the next round of economic stimulus.
"The coronavirus is not the president’s fault, but the slow response, the failure to get going right away, the inability to do the things that needed to be done quickly, they are things that they can’t continue,” Biden said. "We’re going to go through another phase of this, and we have to be ahead of the curve, not behind the curve like we were the last time.”
As a presidential candidate without a current role in government, Biden has mostly been careful in his language about Trump’s actions and the administration’s shortcomings. He said Sunday that he’s determined to "tell the truth.”
Asked by NBC correspondent Chuck Todd if there’s "blood on the president’s hands” for the administration’s slow initial reaction time and the more than 2,000 U.S. deaths so far, Biden declined to attack Trump. "I think that’s a little too harsh,” he said.
With some experts suggesting many Americans could face another 60 days of home confinement Biden said he wouldn’t sugarcoat how difficult the next phase could be.
"The worst thing you can do is raise false expectations and then watch them get dashed,” he said. "Then they begin to lose confidence in their leadership. So we should just tell the truth as best we know it, as best the scientists know it.”
Biden said it was too early to know whether the general election in November will need to be done by mail, though he urged consideration of a Senate bill that would expand that option. As in other recent interviews, he declined to say whether his remaining opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, should drop out.
Biden was asked if he felt powerless or frustrated because he doesn’t have government role during the Covid-19 crisis. He initially replied that he didn’t. But after describing his current state of campaigning from home via livestream, and speaking about what he would do if he were president, he added with a laugh, "there’s some frustration.”
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