Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas, one of the nearly two dozen Democrats seeking the presidency in 2020, has directed his attention to the frontrunner in his party's primary race — former Vice President Joe Biden.
"You cannot go back to the end of the Obama administration and think that that's good enough. As much as a horror show as Trump has been . . . We had real problems before Donald Trump became president," O’Rourke told MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" on Thursday.
After saying that Americans "cannot return to the past" and criticizing former President Barack Obama for failing to bring about "meaningful" gun control legislation, O'Rourke added that "we cannot simply be about defeating Donald Trump."
O'Rourke elaborated on why he referred to Biden as a "return to the past" by highlighting the former vice president's more conservative positions on issues, such as America's involvement in the Iraq War and his longstanding support for the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding for abortion services except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother's life. (Biden reversed his stance on the Hyde Amendment last week).
"That cannot be who we are going forward — we've got to be bigger. You've got to ask yourself where Joe Biden is on the issues that are most important to you," O'Rourke said of Biden. "Did he support the war in Iraq that forever destabilized the Middle East? Did he really believe that women of lower incomes should be able to make their own decisions about their own body — to be able to afford health care in order to do that? He supported the Hyde Amendment; he now opposes the Hyde Amendment."
"I'm not exactly sure what he believes or what he should apologize for," O'Rourke added. "I only know that this country should be able to do far better."
O'Rourke's comments contradict his earlier praise for Biden. At the prospect of Biden entering the nominating contest, O'Rourke said, "I think we would be very lucky to have Vice President Biden in this race. I think he has a lot of perspective and experience to bring to bear on these problems."
The former Texas congressman also came to Biden's defense when he criticized former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for planning a trip to Ukraine to call for an investigation of Biden and his son.
Speaking to journalists, O'Rourke described the trip as "so very troubling, very disappointing — and yet not a total surprise given this president's behavior and the pattern that he'd already set."
Although O'Rourke has attacked Biden for being insufficiently progressive, many criticisms have been lobbed at his campaign for a comparatively conservative record. This included longstanding support for the fossil fuel industry, voting with Republicans to weaken the Affordable Care Act and support for President Donald Trump on certain issues involving deregulating Wall Street and curbing undocumented immigration.