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Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) attacked Joe Biden's foreign policy record in his speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, arguing that the former senator and vice president has "aided and abetted China’s rise for fifty years with terrible trade deals."

Why it matters: Cotton, a hardline conservative and China hawk, is widely seen as a potential 2024 Republican candidate for president. The Trump campaign and Biden campaign have gone back and forth in accusing each candidate of being soft on China.

Catch up quick: Cotton rattled off a list of what he argued are President Trump's biggest foreign policy wins: killing Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in 2017, and standing up to China through sanctions and tariffs.

What he's saying: "Joe Biden would return us to a weak and dangerous past. Barack Obama’s own secretary of defense said Joe Biden has been wrong on nearly every major national-security decision over the past four decades," Cotton said.

  • Cotton accused Biden of letting "ISIS terrorists rampage across the Middle East" and of treating Israel "like a nuisance," claimed that the Democratic nominee had "coddled socialist dictators in Cuba and Venezuela," and said that he had "allowed Chinese fentanyl to flood across our southern border."
  • "We need a president who stands up for America—not one who takes a knee," he said, appearing to reference a form of protest used by Black Lives Matter protesters.

Context: "I think I stand by that statement," Robert Gates, Obama's former defense secretary, told CBS "Face the Nation" last year when asked if he still believed Biden had been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy issue from the last forty years.

  • The Obama administration did not act on an urgent plea from public health experts in May 2016 to take action against thousands of Americans overdosing from fentanyl, per the Washington Post. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reportedly did not have the resources to curb fentanyl shipments from Mexico and China.
  • Deaths from drug overdoses, including fentanyl, have continued to climb since then, per the New York Times.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Nov 25, 2020 - World

China's Xi Jinping congratulates Biden on election win

Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to President-elect Biden on Wednesday to congratulate him on his election victory, according to the Xinhua state news agency.

Why it matters: China's foreign ministry offered Biden a belated, and tentative, congratulations on Nov. 13, but Xi had not personally acknowledged Biden's win. The leaders of Brazil, Mexico and Russia are among the very few leaders still declining to congratulate Biden.

AOC and Ilhan Omar want to block Biden’s former chief of staff

Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar are boosting a petition against Joe Biden nominating his former chief of staff to a new role in his administration, calling Bruce Reed a "deficit hawk” and criticizing his past support for Social Security and Medicare cuts.

Why it matters: Progressives are mounting their pressure campaign after the president-elect did not include any of their favored candidates in his first slate of Cabinet nominees, and they are serious about installing some of their allies, blocking anyone who doesn't pass their smell test — and making noise if they are not heard.

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Systemic racism

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor (PA Images)/Getty Images

Advocates are pushing President-elect Biden to tackle systemic racism with a Day 1 agenda that includes ending the detention of migrant children and expanding DACA, announcing a Justice Department investigation of rogue police departments and returning some public lands to Indigenous tribes.

Why it matters: Biden has said the fight against systemic racism will be one of the top goals of his presidency — but the expectations may be so high that he won't be able to meet them.