Joe Biden raked in campaign cash at two private Seattle fundraisers on Friday, including one at the home of a top Amazon executive, where the former vice president ever-so-gently raised the role the company has played in the loss of some middle-class jobs.
Speaking at the Queen Anne neighborhood home of David Zapolsky, Amazon’s general counsel, who introduced him as someone “who can bring stability,” Biden lamented the Democratic Party’s failure to speak to working-class constituencies who have grown pessimistic about their economic futures.
That’s due in part, Biden said, to the technological revolution Amazon has helped lead.
“I’m in the House of Amazon here,” Biden said, drawing quiet chuckles from the crowd of a few dozen donors at the $2,800-per-person event.
“Seriously, think of the change that is taking place and why people are frightened. Nothing bad — you’ve done good things. But 200,000 salespeople are out of work because people are shopping online now.”
Biden’s tone was more pleading than scolding, especially compared with the strong anti-corporate stances taken by some of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Biden criticized short-term thinking by corporations, including a focus on quarterly earnings, as well as hundreds of billions of dollars in stock buybacks. Such transactions have been criticized for enriching executives at the expense of job-growing investments.
“A lot of it has to do with the notion that we have no obligation to anyone other than our stockholders,” Biden said.
At the Zapolsky home, and at an earlier fundraiser at the Madison Park home of local philanthropist Janet Ketcham that drew 105 donors paying $500 or more, Biden said he’d seek to close some tax loopholes as part of his plans to offer free community college and free universal preschool.
Without naming names, Biden criticized more sweeping spending plans promoted by his Democratic primary opponents as unrealistic.
“A lot of it has to do with leveling with the American people,” he said, referring to proposals for Medicare for All, swift elimination of student debt, and providing free four-year college education. “Very appealing,” he said, “but not possible in the near term.”
Instead, Biden touted his plans to build on Obamacare and offer a public health insurance option.
Biden spent much of his speeches talking up his experience, saying he needed no on-the-job training. He also restated his assertion — mocked by some other Democrats — that if President Donald Trump could only be defeated, the Republican Party would change and become willing to compromise on an array of issues, including climate change.
He boasted of being targeted by Russian President Vladimir Putin and by North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, whose government this week called Biden “a rabid dog” who deserved to be “beaten to death with a stick.” Biden said he took it as a compliment, calling the North Korean dictator a thug.
At the earlier event, Biden brought up the latest school shooting, this week in Santa Clarita, California, in which a teenager killed two classmates and wounded three others, calling the succession of such tragedies “a moral failure.”
While saying he supports the Second Amendment, Biden called the absolutist arguments of some gun-rights supporters “bizarre.” Noting people can’t own machine guns or bazookas, Biden said, “Why should we allow people to have military-style weapons including pistols with 9-mm bullets and can hold 10 or more rounds?”
He called the anxiety among young people over being shot in school these days “overwhelming” and “not just in tough neighborhoods but in great neighborhoods like this.”
Mentioning his own shotgun ownership, Biden talked about Delaware goose-hunting restrictions that limit hunters to three shotgun shells. “We protect geese from Canada more than we do people,” he said.
Biden last campaigned in Washington state in June, speaking at private fundraisers in Seattle and Medina. Then, as on Friday, he made no public appearances, unlike some of his 2020 rivals. Warren drew a crowd of 15,000 to a campaign rally at Seattle Center in August, and New York entrepreneur Andrew Yang spoke to a crowd of about 1,000 at Gas Works Park in May.
Asked about Biden’s itinerary not including any public events, state Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski said in a statement: “We understand all of the Democratic challengers need resources to compete against the President. However, we’ve encouraged all the 2020 candidates to do public events and get to know the great people of our state, and not just here in Seattle.”
Washington’s presidential primary has been moved ahead from previous years. It is scheduled for March 10, 2020, just a month after New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.