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Joe Biden: ‘America was an idea … we've never lived up to it’

The Democratic presidential candidate says U.S. has had "400 years of racism."

Updated: October 22, 2020 - 6:18pm

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During the 2008 presidential campaign, Michelle Obama famously said, "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country."

"I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment," the eventual first lady continued.

Now Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has said much the same.

"America was an idea," Biden tweeted Wednesday. "We've never lived up to it but we've never walked away from it before."

In a video linked in the tweet, Biden says: "America was an idea, an idea. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident.' We've never lived up to it, but we've never walked away from it before, and I just think we have to be more honest. Let our kids know, as we raise them, what actually did happen. Acknowledge our mistakes, so we don't repeat them."

Biden went on, saying it is important to teach young Americans "the facts."

"So I think it's important we teach history, not in a prescriptive way, from my perspective, but what actually the facts were without also acknowledging that there's 400 years of racism in the United States of America," he said. "That's what it is. And it's able to be fixed."

The Trump campaign fired back.

"Joe Biden's closing argument is that America has always been a disappointment," Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said, according to Fox News.

"@JoeBiden Where have you been for 47 years?" senior adviser to the campaign Mercedes Schlapp said. "America is the greatest nation in the world. We stand for freedom and opportunity for all. Our nation is filled with strong, innovative and hard-working individuals who love this nation & don't want to fundamentally transform it."

It's not the first time a Democratic presidential candidate has expressed disappointment in America. When former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg was running for the nomination in 2019, he said America "was never as great as advertised."

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo that the U.S. "was never that great," as he criticized President Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan in 2018.

"We have not reached greatness," he said. "We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged. We will reach greatness when discrimination and stereotyping against women, 51% of our population, is gone … and every woman is making her full contribution."

And Eric Holder, former President Barack Obama's attorney general, rejected the notion that America was ever great.

"When I hear these things about 'Let’s make America great again,' I think to myself: 'Exactly when did you think America was great?'" Holder said in 2019.