After months of insisting that the worst days of the pandemic have passed, Trump recently acknowledged that the pandemic may “get worse before it gets better” as many states including several critical to his path to 270 Electoral College votes have seen a surge in the virus.
Trump is again holding regular briefings to directly get his message out on the virus and other matters. Trump believes that a key to economic recovery from the virus is fully reopening schools though Americans are wary. Only about 1 in 10 Americans think daycare centers, preschools, or K-12 schools should open this fall without restrictions, according to a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs.
Trump also says he’s “pretty damn certain” that vaccines and therapeutics for the virus are coming in the not-so-distant future a game-changer as Americans and the world seek a glide path to normalcy. Congress approved about $3 trillion in coronavirus relief in March and April, and Democrats, Republicans, and the White House are negotiating another significant round of funding. The package, however, won’t include a payroll tax cut — something that Trump badly wanted but that Senate Democrats and even some Senate Republicans balked at including.
Biden draws some of his sharpest contrasts with Trump on the pandemic, arguing that the presidency and federal government exist for such crises. Trump, by contrast, has largely shifted responsibility to governors. Biden endorses generous federal spending to help businesses and individuals, along with state and local governments, deal with the financial cliffs of the pandemic slowdown. He’s promised aggressive use of the Defense Production Act, the wartime law a president can use to direct certain private-sector activity. Additionally, Biden promises to elevate the government’s scientists and physicians to communicate a consistent message to the public, and he would have the U.S. rejoin the World Health Organization. He’s also willing to use executive power for a national mask mandate, even if its enforcement is questionable.
Trump views the signing of two major trade deals an updated pact with Mexico and Canada and Phase 1 of a China agreement as signature achievements of his presidency. U.S. and China signed Phase 1 in January, less than two months before the coronavirus pandemic put an enormous strain on U.S.-Sino relations. Trump says Phase 1 led to China buying roughly $200 billion over two years in U.S. agricultural products, energy, and other American products. In return, the U.S. canceled planned U.S. tariffs on Chinese-made smartphones, toys, and laptop computers. The U.S. also cut in half, to 7.5%, the tariff rate levied on $120 billion in other China imports.
Phase 2 of the deal is expected to focus on some tougher issues between the countries, including Trump’s wish to get China to stop subsidizing its state-owned enterprises. But for Trump, who has come to frequently refer to the coronavirus as the “China virus,” it remains to be seen whether he will be able to effectively reengage Beijing on trade. Trump recently said he’s “not interested” in presently talking to China.
Biden has joined a growing bipartisan embrace of “fair trade” abroad a twist on decades of “free trade” talk as Republican and Democratic administrations alike expanded international trade. Biden wants to juice U.S. manufacturing by directing $400 billion of federal government purchases to domestic firms (part of that for buying pandemic supplies) over a four-year term. He wants $300 billion in new support for U.S. technology firms’ research and development. Biden says the new domestic spending must come before he enters into any new international trade deals. He pledges tough negotiations with China, the world’s other economic superpower, on trade and intellectual property matters. China, like the U.S., is not yet a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multilateral trade agreement that Biden advocated for when he was vice president.
During his first term, Trump built his foreign policy around the mantra of “America First.” Besides the trade deals, he counts as major achievements building more than 200 miles (320 kilometers) of his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, cajoling more NATO members to fulfill their pledge to spend 2% of GDP on defense spending and reducing the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan and other hot spots. He also announced his intended withdrawal from the Paris climate accord.
Trump can officially withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement it sets the goal of holding global warming below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit as an example of an agreement that “disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries.” The deal, which was signed by Obama, stipulates that no nation can leave until four years after they signed on. For the U.S., that’s Nov. 4 one day after the U.S. election.
The president has also made clear his desire to leave Afghanistan sooner than the timeline laid out in Feb. 29 peace agreement with the Taliban, which set the path for U.S. troops to leave the country in 12 to 14 months if the insurgent group met certain conditions. There are currently about 8,600 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Trump also counts his engagement with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as a monumental achievement. The president has not been able to prod Kim to give up the nation’s nuclear program, but he has met the autocrat twice for face-to-face talks.
Biden says he’d begin “the day after the election” rebuilding relationships with allies ruffled by Trump’s approach. Biden’s top priority is reestablishing the foundations of NATO, the post-World War II alliance of Western powers that Biden said is necessary to counter Russia’s aggressive, expansionist aims in eastern Europe and Asia. Biden said he’d immediately confront Russian President Vladimir Putin about his country’s interference in U.S. elections. Biden pledges to “end forever wars” but clarifies that U.S. special forces as opposed to large-scale ground missions remain a vital part of world stability. Biden frames immigration and combating the climate crisis as national security matters. He calls for rebuilding a decimated U.S. diplomatic corps, rejoining the Paris climate accord, and pushing China and other large economies to reduce carbon pollution. On immigration, Biden calls for expanding legal immigration opportunities while reversing Trump’s cuts to foreign aid programs intended to promote world stability and reduce migration.