Former Vice President Joe Biden talked up his support for LGBTQ rights on Pride Weekend as he began a fundraising swing through Seattle on Saturday evening, stopping first at the home of a public relations executive before heading to a Medina gathering hosted by former Microsoft President Jon Shirley.
The Democratic presidential candidate hit on major themes as he moved past his sometimes stumbling debate performance Thursday.
Biden spent time upstairs at Roger Nyhus’ house snapping photos with donors before heading downstairs, where about 150 guests had paid at least $1,000 for the evening. They sipped wine and ate crab cakes while waiting for the man who has held the top spot in early polling for the Democratic nomination.
He sported an American flag pin and a large rainbow-colored heart sticker in honor of Pride as he was briefly introduced by Nyhus, who said, “What he doesn’t know is, this is known as the White House” — referring to the nickname of his Capitol Hill home, which has played host to many political fundraisers.
Besides his PR work, Nyhus is known as a leader in the gay-rights community and was a spokesman for former Gov. Gary Locke, who attended the event.
“I think this election is about restoring the soul of our country. I really can’t imagine a better candidate to do that,” Nyhus said.
Biden recounted his support for same-sex marriage when he got out in front of President Barack Obama during a 2012 television appearance.
He recalled telling alarmed White House advisers that “the American people are so far ahead of their leaders on this issue.” Polling soon confirmed that, showing 56% support for same-sex marriage.
He said public sentiment has come far on LGBTQ issues. Still, Biden said it was wrong that in 22 states a gay couple could get married one day and then fired the next.
Biden drew polite pushback from the crowd when he tried to make a point about how far public opinion has evolved. He suggested that even five years ago someone at a business lunch could make fun of a gay waiter, and others at the table would sit silently by. “Not in Seattle,” some in the crowd said.
Regardless of whether his time frame was off, Biden said today a person making such homophobic comments would not be welcome back at a restaurant.
Amid shouts of “Go, Joe!” the former Delaware senator used much of his remarks to attack President Donald Trump, accusing him of cozying up to authoritarian foreign leaders, including Vladimir Putin.
He said Trump is responsible for dividing America as no president has, pointing to Trump’s reaction after white nationalists marched on Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and his comment that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
“With that one statement of moral equivalence,” Biden said, Trump “ripped the moral fabric of this country.”
He directly linked Trump’s comments to a rise in anti-Semitism and hate crimes.
Vowing to remain optimistic about curing the divisiveness in America, Biden told the crowd, “Folks, we can unite this country … If we can’t do it, we’re gone.”
Later, at the home of Shirley and his wife, Kim, Biden spoke to perhaps 100 donors, who’d paid $2,800 for entry. The Shirleys are major art collectors whose large lakefront property is adorned with metal sculptures and other artworks. Biden led off with a joke that it was “great to be back in this great museum.”
Shirley introduced Biden as “the best candidate to beat Donald Trump,” saying he would restore “honor, dignity, compassion and honesty to the White House.”
Among the co-hosts were Amazon and Microsoft executives, and former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal. At one point, Biden stopped to praise Costco as a model of a company that treats workers with dignity.
He raised the specter of job losses due to automation and online retailing, mentioning 189,000 retail jobs lost as customers move to online shopping.
“No offense to Amazon,” Biden said, adding the U.S. needs to do more to reeducate and train workers.
In response to a question about Middle East policy, Biden launched into a passionate critique of Trump’s scuttling of the Iran nuclear deal and the ongoing brinkmanship with that nation.
Trump has harmed relationships with U.S. allies, he said, and if the crisis gets worse: “Who’s there? Us alone.”
“Folks, this is a foreign policy that is designed to be a failure,” Biden said.
A man in the audience called back, “It’s not designed at all.”