Vice President Joe Biden heaped praise on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other freshman congresswomen targeted in racist tweets in recent days by President Donald Trump, calling them “brilliant” and “really smart” in an interview with MSNBC.
But Biden, the frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, also cautioned that the progressive firebrands represent “the exception rather than the rule” among elected Democrats and lauded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s handling of her caucus.
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The former vice president told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in an interview that aired Tuesday that he “wouldn’t presume” to offer advice to Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) or Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). But he stressed that the House majority Democrats captured in the 2018 midterm elections remains more moderate than media coverage of the high-profile quartet of lawmakers might suggest.
“Look, I campaigned in 24 states for 69 people. I campaigned for virtually every member who beat a Republican to win back the House. They’ve come to me, over 20 of them, and saying, ‘Please, please, keep us moving forward. I didn’t run saying I’d never talk to the Republican,’” Biden said.
“AOC is brilliant, and the other three women we’re talking about are really smart, but they are the exception rather than the rule,” Biden continued. “If you listen to the guys and women in your business, they say, ‘That’s the majority of people who got elected.’ We need that kind of energy, but that’s not the majority of Democrats who got elected last time.”
Biden’s warm words for the so-called progressive “squad” followed an attack on the four congresswomen leveled by the president over social media on Sunday, when he wrote on Twitter that they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York City, Pressley in Cincinnati and Tlaib in Detroit, while Omar is a Somali refugee who immigrated to the U.S. with her family in the early 1990s. She became a U.S. citizen when she was 17.
Trump’s assault, which he intensified Monday in subsequent tweets and incendiary remarks on the south lawn of the White House, have united Democrats in opposition to the president’s rhetoric following a week of intra-party squabbles between the four congresswomen and Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Biden cheered the speaker’s “masterful job” navigating the politics of the House Democratic caucus and said he has “great respect” for Pelosi, but noted “that doesn’t mean I don’t respect” the work of the progressive freshmen.
“I think the freshmen, particularly AOC, is smart as hell, really bright, and really a value added to the party in terms of her pushing the edges and pushing and pushing,” Biden said. “But Nancy knows what she’s doing. Nancy understands that it is, you know, there’s a … sum total in the Congress of 535 folks. You’ve got to get them all moving in the right direction. You’ve got to get them moving.”
Pelosi announced Monday the House would bring forward a resolution “condemning the President’s xenophobic tweets” aimed at Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib, and lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the measure Tuesday evening.