Have you heard the one about Trump? Biden tries humor on the campaign trail

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is out to win votes by creating some laughs at Donald Trump’s expense, unleashing ridicule aimed at getting under the former president’s thin skin and exposing the country to his blunders to remind.

Like a comedian honing his routine, the Democratic president has tested and expanded his jokes in recent weeks. It started with jokes about his Republican opponent’s financial problems, and now Biden regularly jokes about Trump’s haircut, his spoiled upbringing and his attempt to make some extra money by selling a special edition of the Bible.

The jokes are the latest attempt to crack the code on how to clap back at Trump, whose own insult comedy has pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable in modern politics. Few have had much luck, whether they try to take the high road or run into trouble with Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

“This is an ongoing challenge,” said Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama. Trump is “not one to play by the rules. So it’s up to Biden to figure out how to adapt and play by the new rules of the game.”

So far, Biden has tried to thread a delicate needle to boost his chances of a second term. He uses humor to portray Trump as a buffoon unworthy of the Oval Office, but the president fails to make the election a laughing matter.

Sometimes he finds that a few jokes can energize an audience even more than a major policy victory, diverting precious attention from an opponent otherwise in the spotlight, even as he’s locked up in a New York courtroom for his first criminal trial.

The latest example came Saturday evening at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. After years of constantly labeling Biden as “sleepy” and mocking his age (Biden is 81, Trump is 77), Biden threw back the insult after Trump appeared to doze off in court.

Biden called his rival “Sleepy Don,” adding, “I like that.” I might use it again.”

“Of course the 2024 elections are in full swing and yes, age is an issue,” he said. “I’m a grown man taking on a six-year-old.”

But jokes about the annual black-tie affair, which also features a professional comedian (this year it was Colin Jost of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”), are nothing new. The real meat of Biden’s routine comes during campaign speeches in which he spends several moments taking jabs at Trump amid recitations of policy proposals and legislative achievements.

“Remember when he was trying to deal with COVID? He suggested, ‘Inject a little bleach into your vein,'” Biden told a union on Wednesday, describing Trump’s guidance from the White House during the pandemic. “He missed. It all went to his hair.

In Tampa, Florida, the day before, he attacked Trump over the Supreme Court ruling that struck down abortion protections — with three Trump-nominated justices voting in the majority in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — and then pivoted to the former president’s comments about a $60 “God Bless the USA” Bible.

“He described the Dobbs decision as a ‘miracle,’” Biden said of Trump. “Maybe it’s from the Bible he’s trying to sell. Wow. I almost wanted to buy one just to see what’s inside.”

Biden rarely refers to Trump’s lawsuits, but jokes about financial troubles that began shortly after the former president was ordered to pay $454 million in a civil case in New York.

“The other day,” Biden said at a fundraiser in Dallas last month, “a defeated-looking man came up to me and said, ‘Mr. Mr President, I need your help. I am crushed by debt. I’m completely wiped out.’ I had to say, ‘Donald, I can’t help you.’

Even when Biden does his best with humor, he rarely strays from talking policy. He likes to note that he signed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law — after his opponent failed to do so, despite repeatedly hosting events at the White House to drum up support for an idea that never materialized.

“He promised ‘Infrastructure Week’ every week for four years and never built anything,” Biden told a group of laughing union members this month.

The dilemma is that Trump, who tells voters that the entire American political system is hopelessly corrupt, can get away with name-calling that would backfire on other candidates. At his rallies, Trump imitates Biden as a weak old man who can’t find the stairs after a short speech, calling the president “crooked” and “an insane tyrant.”

The Republican campaign said the insults will only increase as Biden tries to give them a taste of their own medicine.

Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesman, said Biden is “shuffling his feet like a short-circuited Roomba,” referring to the robot vacuum cleaner, while failing to address the “out-of-control border” and “runaway inflation.” to deal with.

Rick Tyler, who worked on the 2016 presidential campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said voters are facing a double standard because expectations are different for Trump, who first rose to fame as a real estate developer and reality star TV program ‘The Student’.

“Celebrities don’t really have standards, and Trump is in that direction,” Tyler said. For a politician running against Trump, “it’s like trying to play a sport with the wrong equipment.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., found that out the hard way during the 2016 Republican primaries. After Rubio joked about Trump having “small hands” — suggesting another part of him was small, too — Trump back by saying, “I guarantee you there is no problem.”

“No one has ever beaten Trump by getting in the ring with him,” said Alex Conant, communications director for Rubio’s campaign.

Karen Finney, who advised Democrat Hillary Clinton during her 2016 campaign for the White House, said Trump could push opponents to communicate “on his terms, not yours.”

“It’s something where you have to maintain balance,” she said. “You could spend all day just reacting.”

But if Trump’s humor is blunt, Biden sometimes tries to get the most out of himself by remaining subtle. During a stop in Pittsburgh earlier this month, Biden spoke elliptically about the Trump trial, betting that his audience was already in on the joke.

Trump, he said, is “a little busy right now.”