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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Joe Biden Holds Presidential Rally. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired April 29, 2019 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:02]

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In Western Pennsylvania.

(CROSSTALK)

BIDEN: With your help...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want Joe!

BIDEN: With your help, we're going to be able to do that.

AUDIENCE: We want Joe! We want Joe! We want Joe!

BIDEN: Thank you.

AUDIENCE: We want Joe!

BIDEN: Well, with your help, with your help, I think we're going to be able to do that.

We're going to be able to do it in Pennsylvania, in Western Pennsylvania, Northeast Pennsylvania, places where a little lately we have had a little bit of a struggle. But the truth of the matter is, I think -- I think we're coming back.

So, please, please go to JoeBiden.com and sign up and join our campaign. We need your help. We need your help.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: And, folks...

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: ... there are three basic reasons why I'm running for president of the United States.

The first is to restore the soul of the nation. And the second is to rebuild the backbone of this nation.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) BIDEN: And the third is to unify this nation. We always do better when we act as one America.

Today -- today, I want to speak about the second of these three, and that's rebuilding the backbone of America.

And that is that we have time -- all my time in public life since I have gotten involved, I have been referred to as middle-class Joe. It's not always meant as a compliment. It's usually that I'm not sophisticated. That's why I'm middle-class Joe.

But the fact of the matter is, I'm awfully sophisticated about why, how and who built this country.

Let me say this simply and clearly. And I mean this. The country wasn't built by Wall Street bankers, CEOs and -- and hedge fund managers. It was built by you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: It was built by the great American middle class.

And America, the American middle class, was built by unions, by you. Look, folks, you know, that's the story of America, when ordinary people from neighborhoods like yours and mine where we grew go out and do extraordinary things. That's how it's happened.

When I look out at this crowd, I see the folks in my neighborhood in Claymont and Wilmington and Scranton. And I'm not being solicitous. I mean it.

I see people with physical courage and brains. I see people who have busted their backs their whole lives to care for their families. I see people like the millions of people across this nation who get up every single day, go out, work like the devil to raise their families, pay their taxes, volunteer in their communities to make this country work.

I see people understand that being middle class is not a number. It's a value set. It's being able to send your kid to a park where you where they're to come home safely. It's being able to own your own home and not just have to rent it.

It's being able to send your kid to a good school, and if they do well they can go beyond high school, to trade school or college or beyond. It's about being able to take care of your geriatric mom when your dad passes and hope your children never have to take care of you because you have earned a solid and decent retirement.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: That's middle class. That's not asking a lot.

AUDIENCE: We want Joe! We want Joe! We want Joe! We want Joe! We want Joe! BIDEN: Look, everybody knows it. The middle class is hurting. It's

hurting now; 53 percent of the folks in America don't think their children are going to have the same standard of living they had.

To the best of my knowledge, that's the first time that's happened in a long, long, long time. The stock market is roaring, but you don't feel it. There was a $2 trillion tax cut last year. Did you feel it? Did you get anything from it?

AUDIENCE: No!

BIDEN: Of course not. Of course not.

All of it went to the folks at the top and corporations that pay no taxes. The number of corporations that pay no taxes now has doubled since that tax.

Look, guys, this is not good. What's happened here has happened for a lot of different reasons. But for me, one of them stands out. The basic bargain that used to exist that Republicans and Democrats used to agree to has been broken.

And that is, if you contribute to the welfare of the enterprise you work for, you got to share in the benefits and the profits. If the enterprise sees hard times, everybody took a hit, up and down the line, from the secretary to the CEO.

But that bargain has been broken. Now the only people benefiting when a company does well are the CEOs and the shareholders, the people at the top. And the only people that get hurt when the company gets hit by hard times are workers. It's a one-way street these days.

Just look around. GM, I worked like the devil to see to it that GM stayed alive in the White House. Union workers, the UAW, took considerable cuts in their future and their pensions and the like to get GM working, to keep it alive.

[16:35:05]

The taxpayers bailed them out. They paid it back and paid back with interest. But what happened, where the CEOs and the executives were the one that did quite well.

And the second -- the second they hit hard times, what did they do? They closed plants. They announced they're going to lay off or transfer 14,000 workers. They also got that last year over $192 million in tax breaks.

They could have given everyone they laid off severance pay if they had to, could have given everyone. They did nothing. They bought back their stock, raised their benefits, raised their salaries, announced they were going to build their new truck in Mexico.

(BOOING)

BIDEN: Folks, folks, no, I -- look, I just did a rally for the United Food and Commercial Workers in Boston; 31,000 workers went on strike to protect their wages, health care benefits and retirement benefits.

Was Stop & Shop in trouble? No. Their parent company had made $2 billion the year before, $2 billion. So, what did they do? They were going to decide that , notwithstanding that, they are going to buy back their stock and try to cut wages or freeze wages for their people.

It's not right. Now here, UPMC, UPMC, one of the largest employers in the state....

(BOOING)

BIDEN: No, but -- but I think people have to understand this. You understand it.

The SEIU is engaged in one of the most important organizing fights in this country. Folks, what was 200 years ago in steel mills and coal mines is true today in our big hospital systems. Right today, the same is happening in big hospital systems.

And it's going to take a strong union to get justice for health care workers.

So, UPMC, stop the union-busting. Stop.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: Stop trying to keep your workers from organizing.

And I want you to know, UPMC workers, I am with you. I have your back. And if I am president, I will fight like the devil to make sure you are not blocked, unions are not blocked unfairly by this.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: It's economically wrong, and it's morally wrong.

So what do we do? Folks, I think we have to -- I think we have to rethink how we define what constitutes a successful economy. It's not enough for the stock market to rise. That's not a bad thing, but it's just not enough.

Workers feel powerless and too often humiliated. I call it an abuse of power. And I can't stand it. Never have been able to. And when I think about work, I think about dignity. I think about -- a lot about my dad, a proud, gentle man.

My dad had an expression. He said, Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about your dignity. It's about respect. It's about your place in the community. It's about being able to look at your kid and say, honey, it's going to be OK, and mean it.

But, folks, too many people, they can't look at their kids today and say it's going to be OK and mean it. And that's what we have got to change. I think about so many people across this country today who are just not getting respect, not treated with respect. How do you get to a place -- how did we ever get to here? We're a

people who teach our kids, take care of our sick, transport our goods, build our bridges and repair our roof, keep our water system safe, people who race into burning buildings, people who race into danger to protect us, people who pick up our garbage off our streets, ironworkers, steel workers, boilermakers, plumbers, electrical workers, salespeople.

How did we get to this place where they don't think we see them or hear them or know them and, maybe most importantly, respect them? Respect.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: And, folks, so I think the question of the day is, how did we get here, how'd it happen, what are we going to do about it?

All across America, communities are hurting, with too many people left out or left behind. Our political system is broken. We're tearing America apart, instead of lifting it up.

And the major -- in my view, the major moral obligation of our time is to restore, rebuild, and respect the backbone of America, the middle class. As we rebuild it, we need this rebuilding to be all-inclusive, opening the doors to opportunity for all Americans, no matter their race, their gender, who they love, no matter who or where they're from, no matter whether or not they have a disability.

[16:40:11]

All America has to be included as we rebuild, all America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: And I guarantee you, this is, remains, and will be my measure of what constitutes economic success.

The dignity of work is my measure, which is about being able to provide security and share the joys with your families. How can a person's dignity be maintained if they can't afford to care for their sick child or a family member because of a preexisting condition, or because they have reached a point where their health care has run out, and the insurance company says no more?

Jill and I, my family, like many of you, went through a year knowing our son was terminally ill. I could not image what it would be like if we were told that he'd run out of the amount of money in his insurance policy and they're going to cut him off of the palliative care he was getting.

My lord, think about it. How can a parent maintain the dignity, their dignity, if their talented, qualified child wants to go beyond high school, and trade school, community college, or college and they can't afford it?

How do you get them there? Folks, it's not just that that child is not going to have an opportunity to grow and be better, but think about it. Think about it.

I will never forget the day my senior year in high school going down to my dad's office to borrow a car for the prom, driving down an old car to pick up a car for the senior prom. And I asked the secretary where he was. She said, he's out there in the alley there, honey, behind the office.

And I walked out. And my dad, who was a gentle, decent man, was pacing back and forth. This is absolutely, I guarantee you, a true story.

I walked in. He said: "Joey, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

And I thought, my God, what happened? Didn't something happen to my mom or my brothers or sisters? Before cell phones.

I said -- I said: "What's the matter, dad?"

He said: "I went to the bank, honey, today to try to borrow the money to help you get to school, but they won't lend it to me. I'm so ashamed."

How many people in America today are in that situation, hardworking, decent people, because the cost of education has skyrocketed so badly and access is so difficult?

Folks, dignity. Immanuel Kant, the philosopher, said dignity -- the definition of dignity is that people should never be treated as a means to an end, but an end in themselves.

That's how today's corporate culture works. CEOs in this administration see it a different way. They see workers as just a means to an end, not the end in themselves -- in themselves.

Look at -- look at the record. They treat their employees in a way that it's only about, how can they maximize their profit, not how can they maximize the circumstance for the employees who helped them build the operation.

They're squeezing the life out of workers. You know, when you look under the hood of the labor market, you see how tough it is for workers to negotiate. I don't have to tell you union folks that. You see how companies have become so adept at squeezing every last penny out of their payroll, how good they have become at tilting the scales in their favor.

But it's not only making it harder for -- harder and harder to meet our basic needs. They're doing it across the board, not only stripping away unions' rights to negotiate, but your personal dignity.

Just take a look. They're not only going after labor and unions to try to take away and diminish the right to bargain. They're going after individuals, all to suppress their wages.

Do you realize that -- why on earth would a sandwich worker, an hourly worker making sandwiches, have to sign a non-compete clause, promise, I will not compete with this, because -- and I know we laugh about it, but here's the deal, guys. They can't go across town to another sandwich place and get a 15 cent raise, if they could.

They can't even advertise themselves. They can't move, because why? All to suppress wages, all to suppress wages.

They have seen these agreements at least once during their career, 40 million -- or excuse me -- 40 percent of them. It's wrong. It's immoral. And it should be made illegal in the states where they try to do it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: But they are doing the same thing with occupational licenses.

[16:45:00] Why should someone who braids hair have to get 600 hours of training? It makes no sense. It's designed to keep the competition down. Look, folks, you can't just transfer your licenses across one state to another. They're making it harder and harder in a whole range of professions all to keep competition down.

Why should we get rid of these unnecessary hoops out there? Because we have to restore America's ability to individual Americans to be able to fight for their own dignity. You know we should stop companies from classifying low-wage workers as managers. You see it all the time. We tried it in our administration. Why they do that, so they don't have to pay overtime. It costs more than four million workers last year $1.2 billion in lost overtime pay, reclassification.

And by the way, speaking of overtime it's well past time that the minimum wage nationally be a minimum of $15. It's time to start rewarding work over wealth. Just the first step is reversed President Trump's tax cut for the very wealthy and corporations. We need to eliminate these special tax rates in the tax code that reward special interest.

Let's get rid of capital gains loophole for multimillionaires. Warren Buffett said it best. He should not pay a lower tax rate than the secretary has pay as well. That's because of capital gains. It's wrong. I'm going to change that so millionaires and billionaires don't pay lower taxes than firefighters, teachers, and I go on and on.

We need to reward work in this country, not just wealth. But look, there's much more we need -- there's much more we need to do to build another class. In the coming weeks, I'm coming on a great deal more detail about this, but you've been standing too long. Look, it starts with access to affordable education so that everyone can get the skills they need.

Twelve years of education in the 21st century is not enough. Simple, but it's got to be affordable. 65 under the 100 jobs today require training beyond high school, 65 out of every 100. But what, we have to make it post-secondary education, add trim, make training affordable, make sure an employee's -- the economy works not just for the wealthy forks, not just for people who get to four-year college degrees, but those who compete for job training and trades and programs.

Look, guys, we can do all this. It means being able to have a quality healthcare, care for all Americans. Affordable health care was a huge step forward, the ACA in our country. We made historic progress by extending health care to 22 million people. Americans they don't -- didn't have it before, now have it 22 million. We have to stop this administration's effort to gut it first and then we have to move on and finish the job and make health care -- make health care right. Health care is a right not a privilege.

We have to give everybody peace of mind they deserve. Whether you're covering it through your employer on your own or not, you all should have a choice to be able to buy into a public option plan for Medicare, your choice. And if the insurance company isn't doing the right thing by, you should have another choice.

It means rebuilding America's clean renewable energy, cleaners, safer, faster transportation which will not only make us safer and make our community our children but to provide millions of good-paying middle- class jobs. It means investing much more in medical research to comfort -- to conquer devastating diseases like cancer, and addiction, and Alzheimer's. We have the ability to do that. Invest in it.

Look, folks, we can do all of this without punishing anybody. You know, when Reagan was president, there were $800 billion in tax expenditures, meaning tax loopholes. Notice today, it's over $1,600,000,000,000. We could send everyone in America to a community college for free six million folks, six million folks new, by doing one thing eliminating one loophole of the $1,600,000,000,000 and only it robs the country's $17 billion dollars a year. It's called stepped-up basis.

It's a fancy way if you get a capital gain, you're about to go cash it in, god forbid you get hit by a truck, you leave it to your child, they pay no tax. It's not an inheritance tax, it's $16 billion -- $17 billion owned five minutes earlier. If you eliminate that one, you can put every -- cut college cost in half and you could in fact -- in fact have $11 billion left to reduce the deficit.

[16:50:08] So, folks, quite frankly, the only thing that stands in our way is our broken political system that's deliberately being undermined by our President to continue to abuse the power of the office. Donald Trump is only president -- is the only president who's decided not to represent the whole country. The president has his base.

We need a president who works for all Americans then we can afford this. We can do this. And I'm optimistic for two reasons. One, I know the history, the journey of this country. When ordinary Americans like my family are given an even chance, just an even chance, they do extraordinary things. They have never ever, ever let the country down.

And the second reason I'm optimistic is that I know we are better positioned than any nation in the world to own the 21st century. We not only have the strongest military in the world, we have the most productive workers in the world, three times as productive workers in Asia. North American energy makes us independent.

The U.S. has been -- the U.S. has more great research university where all these major breakthroughs come from than all the rest of the world combined. No other nation in the world can match us. We can -- we can bring and be a positive force for everyone. Folks, nothing is beyond our capacity. The only thing that can tear America apart is America itself.

But folks, everybody knows who Donald Trump is. And I believe, I believe in hope they know who we are. We have to let them know who we are. We Democrats and we Independents who had the same view have to choose hope over fear, unity over division, maybe most importantly truth over lies, truth over lies.

Folks, it's time -- it's time -- it's time to pick up our heads. Remember who we are. This is the United States of America. There's not a single thing beyond our capacity, not a single thing. So God bless you all and may God protect our troops. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Former Vice President Joe Biden, a relatively concise 26-27 minutes speech. His first campaign speech. He was speaking in the Teamsters Union banquet hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Let's chew over this. Jen Psaki, he was a little rusty at times but overall what do you think of his message?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's definitely a throwback. I mean, he could have given that speech or a Democratic candidate could have given that speech probably 15 years ago and I think that reflects his message or his strategy which he is trying to appeal to this nostalgia, to -- you heard him talk about decency and respect. You heard him to kind of use a lot of language about labor unions and defending labor unions and standing up for workers.

He's clearly trying to tap into the faction of the Democratic Party that Democrats lost in the -- in the 2016 election. They've kind of made that strategy clear and I think that was reflected in his speech. I think he's got some things to work out. He got to some of the best parts in the speech toward the end where he talked about millionaires and billionaires, where he touched on health care.

I think as you see his speech coming together or his stump speech coming together, those pieces will probably be front-loaded or they should be. But you know, he's -- I think he seems happy to be out there. They -- he seem to be well-received and we'll see if his strategy pays off.

TAPPER: David Urban, you helped run the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania or did run the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania. You have said for a year now on this show that you thought Joe Biden was the biggest threat to President Trump. He didn't go after Trump as much as I thought he might have. He -- it was an economic address.

But even on that, he didn't really go into the message that I've heard from like Bernie Sanders who says to voters like this union white working class individuals mainly saying things like President Trump made a promise to you and he's a fraud. He didn't -- he didn't keep his promise. You didn't really hear that.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And you know, you heard the vice president say why am I in Pittsburgh, because I need you guys here in this city, in this state to win. I can't win without you so I need you. I think that the vice presidents is looking at it and saying, what do I do not to alienate these folks. I got to -- I got to run through the raindrops or if there may be some Trump voters in his mind that he can win over. He's got to win all the folks, Democrat who voted for Trump. He's got to win those folks back. So he's got a play it moderate.

That's kind of the -- that's the tough part for the vice president here I think. That again, the purity versus pragmatism. Are Democrats, they going to want to hear a message on you know, green new jobs and very progressive message. They're going to hear pragmatic message like he tried to deliver here. And you got unions and kind of old school.

We talked about how -- that's kind of what you had heard growing up as a kid right, blue collar, Blue Dog Democrat. That was a message delivered by a Blue Dog Democrat, not by a Progressive Democrat.

[16:55:17] TAPPER: Yes. And that this is what I heard -- I mean, I'm from Philadelphia and this is the message that I would hear from Democrats growing up. It's different from what a lot of people in the Democratic base talk about and want to hear about when they talked about the Green New Deal, Medicare for all, things that Vice President Biden did not talk about today.

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, NPR: Yes. And there's this question of what is electability and will he and by going back to this kind of old-school style, is that what people want. Do they want to hear their politicians kind of just talking about those bread-and- butter issues and not all of the kind of more out there or more bolder ideals, I guess?

URBAN: Right. No felons voting on this one.

TAPPER: Right. Well, I don't know that that was an on message points the Democrats were talking about a couple weeks ago. Is President Trump the most threatened by Joe Biden?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: You know, privately that's what we're told that the president has asked his advisers about Biden's strengths. He has Biden on his mind all the time. And we saw just this morning when he took to Twitter to hit Biden. Clearly, he was --

TAPPER: Four times, four tweets.

DIAMOND: -- clearly he is unnerved by Joe Biden's candidacy and it's for the reasons that Davis talked about many times which is Joe Biden's appeal in the Midwest and the industrial Midwest, and with those voters who flipped indeed many of them from Obama to Trump in the 2016 election.

And so we're hearing Joe Biden make that appeal but I do think as far as him being a Blue Dog Democrat, I mean he is making a progressive case. So we heard him talk about health care being a right. So Joe Biden I think is going to try and play -- you know, play both sides of that.

And we saw this week when he talked about both Charlottesville and he also got the support of unions and was talking about manufacturing. Those are two messages that are going to be very important to his chances not only of winning the Democratic primary but also the general election 2020 if he becomes the nominee.

TAPPER: Let's go to Pittsburgh right now where Arlette Saenz, the reporter who has been assigned to cover the Biden campaign is standing by. And Arlette, the vice president -- the former vice president really just touched on policy in terms of what he wants to bring to the table. He didn't go into any deep proposals. Of course, this being his first kickoff speech.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: No, Jake. He really didn't get too deep into policy, but he did offer a bit of a preview of what some of the main tenants of his platform could look like. Talking about a $15 minimum wage, saying that they need to build on the Affordable Care Act, and saying that people should be able to buy into a public option.

He said that in the coming weeks, he's going to be speaking about all of those platform ideas in more depth. We're going to see him in Iowa tomorrow and Wednesday, and in South Carolina later this week. But here in Pennsylvania, Biden was making it very clear that this was about an electability argument.

And Pennsylvania is later in the primary process, but he, as people have pointed out, was just making it clear this is about beating Donald Trump and this is a state where he thinks he can do it if he makes it to the general election. Jake?

TAPPER: Arlette, he -- for Joe Biden, this was a relatively short speech, just about 26, 27 minutes. I've heard him talk for at least twice that, just for a speech in which he's talking about some sort of subcommittee measure. Were you surprised?

SAENZ: I was a little surprised. I've been out with Joe Biden basically at every single stop that he's been at since September, and this was one of the more short speeches. He can sometimes go on for an hour. But it's very clear that they've been working on the messaging for this campaign. They've had a few months to get all their ducks in a row, as he's considered whether or not he's going to run.

But today it was a much shorter, tighter Joe Biden. We'll see if that sticks going forward. We do know he often does like to talk a little bit longer, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Arlette Saenz, keep up the great work. Thank you so much. And Jen Psaki, something you were talking about earlier, as you heard that the Firefighters Union is behind Joe Biden. They've been with him for a long time. They're very supportive. The head of the Firefighters Union was on CNN earlier and was very critical of Hillary Clinton.

PSAKI: Yes, it was pretty harsh, actually. I mean, they didn't endorse in 2016. It was -- they didn't -- it was the first time they haven't endorsed in quite some time. They clearly had a history with Hillary Clinton, but there are still many Hillary Clinton supporters and advocates, and enthusiasts in the Democratic Party. I thought that was kind of an interesting shot out of the gate.

They are clearly very behind Joe Biden. Part of the case he's making and why he was in Pennsylvania is that he is the one candidate who can appeal to blue collar workers. We'll see if that's the case, but that's what the firefighters were making and certainly, it's aligned with what Joe Biden's case is.

TAPPER: And it's one of the arguments being made right now within the Democratic Party is the focus should it be on winning back these blue collar white working class voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, or should the party be focused on generating bigger turnout among minority voters and young voters. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks so much for watching.