Biden Attacks Trump as He Tries to Pivot From Busing Debate

(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden said he wasn’t prepared for the friendly fire he’s taken from Democrats over busing, and instead tried to refocus his message on differences with President Donald Trump.

In an interview with CNN, the former vice president said his decades-old comments on school desegregation were taken out of context and that his position isn’t that different from his challengers, including California Senator Kamala Harris.

“I wasn’t prepared for someone coming at me the way she came at me,“ Biden said in the interview, broadcast Friday.

Polls have tightened since the two clashed on the issue over the past week, with Harris eating into Biden’s lead in recent surveys.

Biden has stepped up his visibility on the campaign trail in Iowa as he’s tried to focus more Trump than his fellow Democrats.

“This guy is a divider-in-chief,” he said. “This guy is acting with racist policies. He’s the bully I knew my whole life. He’s the bully I’ve always stood up to.”

Biden specifically drew a contrast with Trump on foreign policy, saying the president is “embracing thugs” from North Korea’s Kim Jong Un to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Biden said Trump has only given Kim more legitimacy and would insist the North Korean leader “show me something ahead of time” before more talks.

“The idea that this trade battle is benefiting anybody in the United States is absolutely ludicrous,” he said.

“We’re not dealing with China’s problem for us. The problem is that China is stealing our trade secrets, and cybersecurity,” Biden said. “While he’s tweeting, China’s going to own the 5G market.”

Embracing his place as a moderate in the 24-candidate Democratic field, Biden said he’s open to a woman on the ticket but that it would have to be someone he’s “sympatico” with.

“The vast majority of Democrats are where I am on the issues,” he said. “It’s center-left. That’s where I am. Where it’s not is way left. That’s what this debate is about.”

Still, Biden defended federal health care spending for undocumented immigrants. “How do you say, ‘You’re undocumented. I’m going to let you die,’ man?”

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