SPARKS, Nev. (AP) — Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday blamed President Donald Trump's withdrawal from a nuclear agreement with Iran for the current instability in the Middle East and touted his own foreign policy experience as a key reason he's the Democrat with the best chance to unseat him in November.
Biden said at a rally in the early caucus state of Nevada that everything that has happened in Iran and Iraq in recent weeks was brought on by Trump “walking away” from a nuclear deal in 2018 that enjoyed strong international support.
Mocking one of Trump's favorite political slogans, he said the president's obsession with isolationism has pushed America's allies away.
“ `America first' has made America last,” he told a crowd of more than 600 in a gymnasium in a blue-collar neighborhood of Sparks. “This is a president who doesn't listen to his military, who doesn't listen to his intelligence community."
Biden, who was vice president when President Barack Obama signed the nuclear deal and earlier served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said he warned more than a month ago that Trump would “get us in a war .... and get us in a war in Iran.”
“This president has embraced thugs across the world. He has poked his finger in the eye of our friends and allies,” Biden said. “The next president better be able to figure out how to bring back these alliances and pull us back together."
Trump ordered new retaliatory economic sanctions Friday on Iran, even as his administration faced persistent questions over its drone strike on an Iranian general that helped ignite the latest crisis with the Islamic Republic. The new sanctions were in immediate response to Iran firing of a barrage of missiles at American bases in neighboring Iraq this week after the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
The larger U.S. goal is to force Iran to negotiate a new agreement on limiting its nuclear program to replace the one signed under Obama that traded curbs on the program for the easing of sanctions.
Biden offered similar criticism of Trump earlier Friday during a fundraiser in Los Angeles, saying the U.S. “is in a much more dangerous position than we were even a month ago,.”
“When we walked away from that agreement, the rest of the world walked away from us. We became a pariah," he said.
Biden's speech Friday night was in the same Sparks High School gymnasium where then-Vice President Dick Cheney made an appearance on the November eve before George W. Bush's re-election victory over Democrat John Kerry in 2004.
It was the last time Republicans carried the state or Washoe County, which had been staunchly GOP for four decades.
Four years later, Obama became the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to win in Washoe County, part of the state's most rural congressional district where no Democrat has ever been elected to the U.S. House in its history dating to 1982.
Nevada was one of the only swing states President Donald Trump failed to win in 2016, and Democrats are increasingly confident the Silver State is turning blue. They now hold both U.S. Senate seats and three of four House seats.
Bill Clinton won Nevada in 1992 and 1996, as did the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008 and 2012 after Bush's victories in 2000 and 2004.
Nevada's Feb. 22 caucuses follow only the New Hampshire primary and Iowa caucuses in the presidential pecking order.
Biden said Friday night the crisis in the Middle East “just reinforces the stakes in this election.”
“The single biggest requirement in my view will be whether or not we have someone who can be the commander in chief,” he said. “There's not going to be a lot of time for on-the-job-training.”
“I”ve spent a lot of my life dealing with foreign policy. I've met every major world leader in the last 35 years," he said.
Biden's campaign was headed to a community even in north Las Vegas on Saturday with the Latino and immigrant advocacy group Mi Familia Vota.
On Saturday morning in Las Vegas, candidates Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg were scheduled to hold town halls with the powerful casino workers’ Culinary Union. Buttigieg also planned a rally later in the day.