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Biden campaign says stance on Middle East isn't led by politics


We are now inside six months and counting until Election Day. And as both the Trump and Biden campaigns prepare to hit the summer running, there's plenty to keep them busy in the meantime. Donald Trump spent much of this week in court for his New York hush money trial. Joe Biden has been dealing, among other things, with the war in Gaza and how much influence the U.S. has over how Israel conducts that war. Well, NPR is tracking both campaigns closely. We're taking a moment now to check in with Michael Tyler, communications director for the Biden-Harris campaign. We have reached him at campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Del. Michael Tyler, welcome.

MICHAEL TYLER: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

KELLY: On the Middle East, as you know, President Biden announced this week he will halt further shipments of American bombs to Israel if Israel launches a major ground invasion in Rafah. I want to ask about the impact on the campaign because some of your campaign's biggest donors are furious about that. How are you thinking about the politics here?

TYLER: Well, listen. I think the most important thing to point out is that Joe Biden is not thinking about the politics here. He does not approach this situation through the lens of politics. He approaches it through the lens of our commander in chief. And the things that are most important to him is that Israel has a right to defend itself in the aftermath of the attack on October 11. But we must also do everything that we can to protect innocent Palestinian life. And that's what he has made clear, and that's what he's acting on. I think he's...

KELLY: Understood. But when you have people like Democratic megadonor or Haim Saban emailing White House officials saying, bad, bad, bad decision on all levels, please reconsider - does that have an impact?

TYLER: No, because the president is not focused on this through the lens of politics. I think what the American people are going to see is a president who is serving as commander in chief who has the temperament, the judgment to manage complex global conflicts like the one that is playing out right now. And we are going to present that against our opponent, who had a chance to serve in power and demonstrated neither the temperament nor the competence to manage conflicts like that. And so that's the choice that we are going to present to the American people between a president who is focused on the substance and solving problems and our opponent, who would be approaching this through the North Star of what's in his own personal self interest. And we're confident that the American people are going to side with Joe Biden on that.

KELLY: Let me turn you to younger voters, student activists. There are the same politically engaged, involved students who I'm sure you wish were out there knocking on doors for you. Instead, many are protesting the president's policies on college campuses across the country. How are you working to pull these younger voters in?

TYLER: Well, yeah, I think first, No. 1, I think you heard from the president directly, who spoke about the fact that there's always a place for peaceful protests, that people have a fundamental right to voice their concerns and voice their opinions. He believes firmly in the right of free speech and for all Americans to peacefully demonstrate and have their voices heard. And so I do think that stands in stark contrast to our opponent. But as it relates to young voters overall, we're going to make that clear on this issue. And we're also going to make sure that we communicate the totality of the stakes of this election for young voters.

Young voters are telling us that they care about protecting abortion rights, about curbing gun violence in this country, about combating climate changes, as the president has done, and relieving the loan burden of student debts. These are all things that the president has fought on. These are all things that stand, again, in stark contrast to Donald Trump when he had power, who - in the pocket of the gun lobby, who did nothing to combat climate change. We're seeing him talking about doing whatever the hell the big oil lobby wants to do if they contribute his campaign.

KELLY: Just...

TYLER: So again, with young folks, we are going to make sure that they have a president who is listening to them and is fighting on their behalf right now, and we continue to do so for another four years.

KELLY: When you say he's listening to them, are these protesters having an impact in how the president thinks about the war?

TYLER: Again, as I said before, the president is not thinking about this conflict through the lens of politics. He's approaching it as the commander in chief of this country. And I think that's something that the American people appreciate. That's why they elected him in the first place, and it's why they will vote for Joe Biden again in November and eject a candidate like Donald Trump, who would only think through issues like this and every issue that crosses his desk insofar as what's in his own personal self-interest.

KELLY: And just quickly, big picture, Americans are tired. A lot of people have already made up their minds. What issues do you believe are actually in play that will motivate people to get out and vote?

TYLER: Yeah. I think this election is going to be a fundamental choice between who is fighting to protect, defend and advance our fundamental freedoms in our very democracy and an economy, whether we want to have one that continues to grow from the middle out and the bottom up...


TYLER: ...Or return to the failed top-down approach that Donald Trump had. And that's going to be the fundamental choice that we present to the American people. And we're confident that when we present that choice, they're going to side with Joe Biden and once again reject Donald Trump.

KELLY: Michael Tyler of the Biden campaign. We'll leave it there. Thank you.

TYLER: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.