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Biden faces protestors, questions on veterans, health care

Protesters chanted “2050 is too late, climate chaos is our fate,” at Biden’s event on campus Monday night. Photo by Andrew Tucker.
Protesters chanted “2050 is too late, climate chaos is our fate,” at Biden’s event on campus Monday night. Photo by Andrew Tucker.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was briefly interrupted by students protesting climate change during a CNN town hall hosted by the College on Monday night.

“2050 is too late, climate chaos is our fate,” chanted several students scattered across the audience as Biden answered a question on how to address climate change from Amelia Zoernig ’21.

The interruption lasted only a few seconds, with host Erin Burnett telling the protestors, “We appreciate your passion, but please respect the Vice President and our town hall.” Biden stood silently as the protestors were led out of Roberts Theatre.

After the event, more students confronted Biden about his plans to address climate change, leading to a testy exchange.

In the course of the CNN town hall, the former Vice President addressed veteran’s issues, impeachment and health care. He also doubled down on criticism of Senator Elizabeth Warren.

It was Veterans Day on Monday, and the town hall began with several questions pertaining to veterans and the military.

“We owe [veterans] big. … We only have one sacred obligation—and that’s not hyperbole—one sacred obligation in government: to protect those that we send to war, to equip them when they come home and to make sure they have everything they’re entitled to,” said Biden in response to a question about how to best care for veterans once they have returned.

Biden also told the audience that he did not support “large numbers of combat troops conducting wars.” However, he maintained that it was still necessary for troops to be stationed across the world as a tactic to deter hostile forces from hurting US allies. “[Troops] act as a sign saying, ‘Not here. The United States is here,’” Biden said.

Another hot topic was the looming impeachment inquiry. Biden argued that the White House’s unfounded allegations that Biden and his son Hunter were improperly involved with a Ukrainian oil company were simply a distraction from the central issue: “We have a president who is one of the most corrupt people to serve in that office,” he said.

Biden also said in no uncertain terms that Donald Trump should be removed from office, and he said that he believes Republicans will eventually support Trump’s removal. “If the case is made as strongly as it’s being made in my view … you’re going to find those areas that are independent and Republican areas saying, ‘Woah. We gotta do something here,’” Biden said. He told the audience that Republican Senators would do what their constituencies wanted when it was time to vote on the removal of President Trump.

The town hall came as Biden has fallen to fourth in Iowa behind Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg, according to a recent poll from Quinnipiac University, and competition between Biden and Warren—who visited Grinnell last week—has escalated, with Biden assailing Warren’s approach as “elitist” and “condescending.”

He has specifically linked this alleged condescension to Warren’s staunch stance on Medicare For All, which Biden opposes. He instead proposes that Democrats build on the Affordable Care Act, arguing his is a more expedient and efficient policy.

In regards to a question from Associate Professor Joshua Marshack, anthropology, on health care, Biden said, “First and foremost … we have to be honest with the public. Bernie’s been honest,” said Biden, implicitly attacking Warren as he has done before for not being honest about her plan for Medicare For All. Warren recently released a detailed plan, but only after sustained criticism that she has been evasive in answering questions about whether or not she will raise taxes on the middle class to pay for Medicare For All (according to her plan, she will not).

Throughout the town hall, Biden tried to walk the line between not personally attacking Warren and still criticizing her approach. He said multiple times, “It’s not about her. It’s about the attitude that exists right now” and characterized that attitude as “If you disagree with me, you must be bad.” and “I know more than you, let me tell you what to do.’”

In a recent Medium Post that Biden wrote after Warren suggested Biden may be “running in the wrong primary,” Biden wrote that “Some call it the “my way or the highway” approach to politics. But it’s worse than that. It’s condescending to the millions of Democrats who have a different view.” He did not mention Warren by name, but his meaning was clear.

Biden ended the town hall by questioning the idea that his policies are too moderate for the country, an accusation leveled at him by more liberal candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

“My proposals on education, climate change, health care, are as radical and change-driven as anybody else’s plan,” said Biden. “I love this thing about, ‘Well, Biden’s the moderate.’ Tell me, if tomorrow I was able to change the system like I’m calling [for], what do you think history will write? Was it a moderate change? I don’t think so.”

Reporting contributed by Abraham Teuber. Find Abraham’s real-time coverage of the CNN Town Hall on Twitter here.

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    Elena VoisinNov 15, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    Cringeworthy? The protesters were brave. Everyone who sat silent were cringeworthy. How can you claim to care about climate change and not see that 2050 is too late and Joe Biden is funded by oil rich billionaires. Sitting silent is what is killing this planet.

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    Sel SierithixNov 12, 2019 at 11:42 am

    The problem with protestors is that they make everyone else who legitimately cares look bad. I’m a huge advocate for fixing increasing climate change but protesting and interrupting the Vice President just looked… cringeworthy.

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    Elena VoisinNov 12, 2019 at 8:24 am

    My family is fairly well off, averaging close to $100,000 a year if you must know. But I wasn’t protesting for myself. I was standing up for all who’s voices go unheard everyday. For indigenous people that must deal with oil polluting their waters, for rural farmers whose crops were flooded out, for those in Flint Michigan who still do not have clean drinking water. Climate change affects indigenous people, people of color, and those of lower socioeconomic status first. Climate change is a crisis and we must stand in solidarity with those affected by it.

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    Gregory LeeNov 12, 2019 at 1:07 am

    I wonder what the average household income is for the families that most of these students come from. Yes, climate change is areal crisis, but too radical a response would force mist of these young adults into a lifestyle that they have never come close to experiencing. I remember all the political activists was there. As the end of senior year approached, they were wearing sports coats and ties to go to on campus job interviews! Suddenly THE MAN was calling!