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Biden and Obama get together, take aim at Trump's coronavirus response

In a preview of a sit-down conversation between the two, Trump's handling of pandemic is top of mind.
Vice President Joe Biden speaks alongside President Barack Obama during the signing ceremony for the 21st Century Cures Act in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 13, 2016.Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama praises Joe Biden’s empathy in a newly-released campaign video while the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee expresses frustration with President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, saying he “can’t relate in any way” to Americans’ struggles.

In their first in-person joint appearance of what has become a largely virtual campaign, the former president and vice president sat down earlier this month for what the Biden team calls a “wide-ranging” and “socially distant” conversation about the biggest challenges facing America, including the pandemic, the economic crisis, and how to address systemic racism.

A fuller video will be released Thursday. But in a preview posted Wednesday morning, Biden asks his former running mate if he could imagine standing before the country as president to say: “I take no responsibility.”

"Those words didn’t come out of our mouths while we were in office,” Obama says.

"I don't understand his inability to get a sense of what people are going through,” Biden says. "He just can’t — he can't relate in any way.”

Obama says it was precisely Biden’s ability to relate with Americans’ struggles today that drew him to choose him as his running mate 12 years ago.

“It's the reason I wanted you to be my vice president, and the reason why you were so effective,” Obama says. “It all starts with being able to relate. If you can sit down with a family and see your own family in them, and the struggles that you’ve gone through or your parents went through or your kids are going through, if you can connect those struggles to somebody else’s struggles, then you’re going to work hard for them. And that’s always what’s motivated you to get into public service.”

The Biden campaign is using the video preview to try and build its digital get-out-the-vote efforts, encouraging supporters to text the campaign to receive notifications when the full video is posted to both the Obama and Biden social media channels. Biden’s team is similarly encouraging supporters to sign up for email and mobile alerts about his choice of a potential running mate, expected in early August.

The video also serves as a preview of the kind convention Democrats are planning next month — one where most of the action is not in a single venue in Milwaukee but largely online, with events and speakers being broadcast from all over the country.

"Milwaukee is still the anchor of our convention,” Biden told a Milwaukee television station Tuesday night. But he said it would be a combination of “live and viral” events.

“We're already moving in the direction of doing biographical pieces and the like, and laying out what we're going to be running on so that a lot of [it] will be virtual on television … coming from different parts of the country in all probability,” he said.