Biden wants to talk to Trump about lessons from past crises

In this image from video provided by the Biden for President campaign, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual press briefing Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (Biden for President via AP)
In this image from video provided by the Biden for President campaign, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a virtual press briefing Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (Biden for President via AP)

WASHINGTON – Joe Biden said Thursday that he wants to speak with President Donald Trump in the hope that the president can “learn some lessons” from the Obama administration on how to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’ve been through this in a slightly different way in the past, and I hope they can learn some lessons from what we did right and maybe what we did wrong,” the former vice president said during a virtual press briefing.

Biden’s aides have said they’re working to arrange a phone call with Trump to discuss his coronavirus response. The president said Wednesday he would “love” to speak with Biden.

The prospective Democratic presidential nominee has touted his work in addressing the Ebola crisis that unfolded in 2014 as a possible model for how the federal government should deal with the current pandemic. The current coronavirus outbreak has sickened and killed exponentially more individuals nationwide, with the infection rate topping 1 million on Thursday.

In recent weeks, Biden has offered his own proposals, which include expanding health care access, bolstering banks' lending ability and pushing out supplies to hospitals faster. Biden said on Thursday that he hoped Trump would expand use of the Defense Production Act, shifting U.S. manufacturing capabilities toward urgently needed medical supplies. But he said if he spoke with Trump, he wouldn't try to claim credit for the president's moves.

“I think there’s things that the president can use early on from the experience we had before ... and if he did, I wasn’t going to be out there saying he took my idea," Biden said. "It’s a matter of the president doing what can most effectively get things done now.” Biden repeated his willingness to talk to Trump during a virtual fundraiser later Thursday with 115 plaintiffs' attorneys. “I’m happy to hear he’ll take my call,” Biden said. Earlier Thursday with reporters, Biden casually mentioned previous conversations with Trump, calling them “respectful” and “straightforward.” Trump and Biden would have encountered each other between Trump's 2016 election victory and Inauguration Day. A Biden aide confirmed after Thursday's briefing that the two have not spoken since the former vice president launched his presidential bid last April.

Separately, Biden dismissed efforts from his last-remaining primary rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, to turn the pandemic into a new justification for his “Medicare for All” government insurance plan. Biden praised Sanders as “passionate” but said Medicare for All wouldn’t “make a difference” in the nation’s ability to combat COVID-19.

Biden maintains that his proposal to add a government plan –- a “public option –- to existing private health insurance markets would allow the U.S. to reach universal coverage without disrupting the health care delivery system as much as a single-payer overhaul. And he said Thursday that a government-run system also would face challenges in responding to the pandemic.