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As Biden and Trump battle in the trenches, Buttigieg attacks from higher ground

Analysis: The military veteran mayor suggested U.S. foreign policy and national security would be stuck in the past with either the president or the former vice president at the helm.

As President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden prepared for the equivalent of high-profile trench warfare on the political battlefield of Iowa on Tuesday, a third 2020 candidate found the high-ground vantage point he needed to strike both of them at the same time.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who hopes to defeat Biden and almost two dozen other Democrats for his party’s nomination and then oust Trump from the Oval Office, delivered a wide-ranging foreign policy and national security speech with a simple point: the United States would be hopelessly stuck in the past with either the president or the former vice president at the helm.

He didn’t have to name his targets, neither of whom served in the military, to hit them.

“Faced with this moment of great challenge and possibility, it’s not enough just to say we won’t conduct foreign policy by tweet,” Buttigieg said at Indiana University in Bloomington. “Nor would it be honest to promise that we can restore an old order that cannot, in any case, meet the realities of a new moment. Democrats can no more turn the clock back to the 1990s than Republicans can return us to the 1950s.”

Biden, who began his service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1975, was the top Democrat on the panel for the latter part of the 1990s, later serving as its chairman.

What it amounted to Tuesday was a little bit more of a triptych than the split-screen imagery hoped for by Biden and Trump, another data point in a trend of Democratic candidates starting to paint the two front-runners in the similar — fading — hues of yesterday’s news.

Trump and Biden, who spent parts of the day exchanging insults, are treating each other as the main combatants in the fight for the presidency.

Trump has no real competition for re-nomination, and Biden, despite a couple of missteps and slippage in recent polls, remains the leader of the pack for the Democratic nod. He has steadfastly avoided criticizing his Democratic rivals, preferring to run a campaign focused on the idea that Trump is the only obstacle in his path to the presidency.

Early excerpts of remarks Biden planned to deliver Tuesday night in Davenport, Iowa, were a full-on assault on Trump’s presidency, his character and his competence.

“America’s farmers have been crushed by his tariff war with China,” Biden was expected to say. “No one knows that better than Iowa. He thinks he’s being tough. Well, it’s easy to be tough when someone else is feeling the pain. … How many sleepless nights do you think Trump has had over what he’s doing to America’s farmers?” Read more

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