Trump hits Biden for 'offshoring jobs,' hints at Detroit's crime problem

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

President Donald Trump attacked Democratic opponent Joe Biden as a weak candidate beholden to the radical left and used his Republican National Convention speech Thursday to court blue collar voters by warning they face job losses to foreign interests if they elect the former vice president.  

Trump touted his advocacy for automakers, his tough America-first stance on China and his signing of the United State-Mexico-Canada Agreement as strategic moves that have and will bring more jobs back to manufacturers. He also tried to woo minority and urban voters in Detroit and elsewhere by noting the cities with the highest violent crime rates are run by Democratic mayors. 

Biden spent his career, the Republican president said during a speech on the south lawn of the White House, "outsourcing the dreams of American workers, offshoring their jobs."

"For 47 years, Joe Biden took the donations of blue collar workers, gave them hugs and even kisses, and told them he felt their pain — and then he flew back to Washington and voted to ship their jobs to China and many other distant lands," he said on the final night of the Republican National Convention.

The president's choice of the White House with a crowd of more than 1,000 raised eyebrows because of the risk of spreading the coronavirus and the potential violation of the Hatch Act, a federal law restricting political activity by executive branch employees.

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During his first term, Trump said, the administration worked to secure borders, clamp down on undocumented immigrants and disentangle the U.S. from international organizations and agreements tying the hands of American industry. 

"Now auto companies and others are building their plants and factories in America, not firing their employees and deserting us," said Trump, who ran in 2016 attacking Ford Motor Co. for making vehicles in Mexico.  

Trump called Biden's policy history a "shameful roll call" of "catastrophic betrayals and blunders," noting his support of the North American Free Trade Agreement, China's participation in the World Trade Organization and support for the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership.

"After those Biden calamities, the United States lost 1 in 4 manufacturing jobs," Trump said. "The laid-off workers in Michigan, Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and many other states didn't want Joe Biden's hollow words of empathy, they wanted their jobs back."

Biden's agenda, he said, is "made in China; Mine is made in the USA."

Economists have noted that the U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico grew under NAFTA, but trade for Canada and Mexico grew faster. Farmers and manufacturers also have worried about lost sales and jobs as the United States has placed tariffs on Chinese products, and the communist Chinese government has countered by slapping tariffs on pork products and certain agricultural products in Michigan and elsewhere. 

The themes are ones familiar to residents of Michigan, where Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have reminded voters of the actions taken to strengthen manufacturing. Pence is visiting Traverse City late Friday afternoon during a campaign stop.

Two days after he signed the USMCA in January, Trump traveled to Dana Incorporated in Warren, where he said the agreement would create between 80,000 and 120,000 jobs and increase purchases of U.S. auto parts $23 billion a year, and automotive investment by "at least" $34 billion.

About 12,100 of the 127,000 jobs gained between when Trump took office in January 2017 and January 2020 were manufacturing jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

But motor vehicle jobs in Michigan have declined since the first months of Trump's term. In February 2016, the total of motor vehicle manufacturing jobs was 42,400, according to the bureau, and it hadn't grown past that as of early 2020.

The Biden campaign has tried to downplay Trump's achievements by touting the former vice president's dedication to unions and his role in the $55 billion 2009 bailouts of General Motors, Chrysler and their lending arms as President Barack Obama took the automakers through bankruptcies. 

Trump's campaign has combated Biden's blue collar credential by pointing at Biden's March visit to Michigan, when he told a construction worker at a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles plant that he was "full of s---" after the worker confronted him about gun control. 

On Thursday, the president courted law enforcement by promising to defend officers from the "defund the police" movement. The majority of law enforcement, he said, "are noble, courageous and honorable."

"When there is police misconduct, the justice system must hold wrongdoers fully and completely accountable, and it will. But what we can never have in America – and must never allow – is mob rule," Trump said. 

In a plea to Black voters, Trump bemoaned the victims of violent crimes in America's most dangerous cities, noting that they are run by Democrats. As of September, Detroit had the nation's highest crime rate, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data, even as violent crime dropped in the city. 

Detroit U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said in late July that homicides in Detroit are up 31% and shootings 53% in recent months. The increase in crime prompted the federal Operation Legend to add agents to focus on Detroit gun violence. 

The rift on violence in Democratic run cities appeared to touch on an effort throughout the convention to convince Black voters that Democrats had long taken their vote for granted with little to show in return.

Trump claimed to have done more for the Black community in his first term than Biden had done in 47. 

"At the Democrat National Convention, Joe Biden and his party repeatedly assailed America as a land of racial, economic, and social injustice," Trump said, and asked, "How can the Democrat Party ask to lead our country when it spends so much time tearing down our country?"