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Former Vice President Joe Biden Sits Down With CNN. Aired 10- 10:30a ET
Aired July 5, 2019 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: We're watching to see if he speaks with reporters, as he often does.
But, first, we begin with a CNN exclusive, former Vice President Joe Biden sitting down with my colleague, Chris Cuomo, for, really, just a wide-ranging, revealing interview, Biden making a bold prediction and taking on criticism from his 2020 democratic rivals.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: I was talking with you and Jill. You said you were expecting to have a target on your back, but the intensity of some it. Did you see the questions about your past positions from the perspective of race being as relevant as they are?
JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: No, I don't think they're relevant because they're taken out of context. What I didn't see is people who know me. I mean, they know me well. It's not like that somebody just came out of the blue and didn't know anything. But it's so easy to go back and go back 30, 40, 50 years and taking a context and take it completely out of context.
And, I mean, you know, I get all this information about other people's pasts and what they've done and not done. And, you know, I'm just not going to go there. If we keep doing that's -- I mean, what we should be debating what we do from here. For example, this whole thing about race and busing. Well, you know, I think if you take a look, our positions aren't any different as we're finding out.
CUOMO: But Senator Harris said she sees it as a tool, not a must in all circumstances.
BIDEN: Yes. Well, look at my record.
CUOMO: And I don't think busing is about policy, Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: No, it's not.
CUOMO: I think it was about principle. When you look back at your record on it, you were not in favor of busing. It was a different time. There were different applications. Why not just own it and say I was against it but now I've changed?
BIDEN: I was in favor of busing that was de jure (ph) busing. That is if a court ruled that there was a law passed or a circumstance that a county, a city, a state did that prevented black folks being somewhere, then that was wrong. You should bus.
I even went so far in the middle that busing controversy, I was saying I'd use helicopters if that was necessary to make the point. And we really got in a town meeting that was -- got very hot.
But what the issue is now is, for example -- and it was then -- voluntary bussing, we supported it then. We supported it then. And by the way, Barack and I, as president and vice president, we provided money for voluntary bussing if cities want to do it.
CUOMO: I'm not questioning any of that.
BIDEN: No, no.
CUOMO: I'm saying when you look back in the 70s, you said, I think bussing doesn't work. It's an asinine concept.
BIDEN: Well, by the way --
CUOMO: You tried to pass bills that weren't for it.
BIDEN: Busing did not work. You had overwhelming response from the African-American community in my state. My state is the eighth largest black population in the country as a percent of population. They weren't -- they did not support it. They did not support it.
Look, the question is how do you equalize education in every area? And I put forward the most -- the most aggressive plan to do that, and I've been pushing it for a long time.
For example, in, you know, Title One schools, schools that are disadvantaged, I proposed we go from $15 billion a year to $45 billion a year. We should bring people in, have preschool from three, four, five years old before kindergarten.
We should have -- look, every child out there -- every child out there is capable, but they live in circumstances that make it difficult from the time they get to school, they've heard three, four million fewer words spoken. They're at a disadvantage.
CUOMO: I totally accept all of that.
BIDEN: That's number one. But number two, the idea right now, 65 out of a 100 jobs in a study I did for the president to point out you need something beyond a high school degree. So what are we doing? We're sitting here as if it's an insoluble problem.
CUOMO: I get it on policy. I never have viewed the busing back and forth in that debate as about policy or application of how to affect civil rights. It's about consistency, improving if you'll be better than what we're doing with now in the White House, which is people won't tell the truth about things.
If busing didn't work, then it made sense that you weren't for it back then. But why say you were for it? Why not just be straight about it and move on? BIDEN: Because there's three different pieces. I was for voluntary bussing, number one. I was for busing where the court showed that, in fact, a legislative body took an action preventing black folks from going to a school. That is de jure -- I know you know -- de jure segregation. The difficult piece is, this is 50 years ago. People don't understand the context.
The third one is, do you have an administration, through their non- elected officials, Department of Housing, decide every school should be equally balanced across the board? That's a different issue. And the way to deal with that problem is what I did from the time I was a kid. I got out -- I got out of law school, came back, had a great job, became a public defender. I fought for putting housing in and low-income housing in suburbia. I talked about eliminating red lining. I talked about school districts should be consolidated in ways that made sense.
So, in fact --
CUOMO: Why didn't you fight it like this in the debate?
BIDEN: In 30 seconds?
CUOMO: Hey, come on, what happens most in a debate, Mr. Vice President? People blow their time cue. You're the only person I've ever seen on a debate stage say, I'm out of time.
BIDEN: Well, we never had a place where you have 30 seconds, man. What I didn't want to do was get in that scrum. Do you think the American public looked at that debate, take me out of it, and thought, boy, I really like the way that's being conducted. They're really showing themselves to do really well. Come on, man.
CUOMO: But they're going to come after you.
BIDEN: Sure, they want to come after me.
CUOMO: Were you prepared for them to come after you?
BIDEN: I was prepared for them to come after me. But I wasn't prepared for the person coming at me the way she came at me. She knew Beau. She knows me. I don't -- anyway, but here's the deal. What I do know, and it's the good and the bad news, the American people think they know me, and they know me. Since that occurred, I had the most sought-after endorsement for the Mayor of Atlanta, a black woman who's a great leader, Mayor Bottoms, endorse me. I've had numerous numbers of the black caucus endorsement.
CUOMO: Are you worried about the polls slipping with African- Americans after the debate?
BIDEN: No, no. These folks just came. I'm making the point to you, I don't see it. People know who I am. I don't believe there's anybody out there believes that I have anything other than a keen and consistent interest in making sure every child -- these are all our children.
CUOMO: Here's a tough -- here's the question. Did you re-watch the debate?
BIDEN: No, I didn't.
CUOMO: Why not?
BIDEN: Well, I didn't have an opportunity to re-watch it. And besides, you know, my measure is how people react outside, getting on a train, getting on plane, walking through an airport, walking in a parade, just going to the grocery store. I got no sense. I really mean it, no sense.
CUOMO: Here's the tough question for democrats. They need a warrior, okay, because, not to aggrandize, not to lionize, but this president knows how to fight in the ring, one on one. Kamala Harris is friendly fire. Cory Booker is friendly fire. How can democrats have confidence that you can take on the biggest and the baddest when you're having trouble sparring in party?
BIDEN: I don't think I'm having trouble sparring. It's how you want to spar.
Look, I'm the guy at the time everybody talks about things do change. I took on same-sex marriage. I took on a whole range of issues. I took on arms control. I took on dealing with Russia with the arms control agreement. I took on Putin in terms of Iraq -- I mean, excuse me, in terms of what was going on in Ukraine. I've taken on these leaders around the world. I'm the guy that's gone in and met them.
I've taken on all these things. I mean, I -- this is ironic. I've never been accused of being -- not being able to spar. I've been accused of being too aggressive.
CUOMO: But the game has changed.
BIDEN: Well --
CUOMO: And you think that what's happening with Harris is anything compared to what would happen with you in this --
BIDEN: No, but everybody knows who this guy is. Come on, man. Come on.
CUOMO: How do you beat him?
BIDEN: I'd beat him by just pointing out who I am and who he is and what we're for and what he's against. This guy's a divider-in-chief. This guy is acting with racist policies. This guy is moving to -- foment hate, to split. That's the only way he can sustain himself.
CUOMO: Nothing about him worries you?
BIDEN: Sure it worries me in the sense that I'm looking forward to this, man. You walk behind me in a debate, come here, man. Don't you think I -- you know me too well.
I mean, the idea that I'd be intimidated by Donald Trump. He's the bully that I knew my whole life. He's the bully that I've always stood up to. He's the bully who used to make fun of as a kid and I'd stutter, and I smacked him in the mouth.
Look, this is not -- but that -- I think the American people want a president who has some dignity, who has a values set, who is actually trying to restore the soul of this country. So when they turn on the television, they look up and their kids say, I want to be like that guy or that woman.
CUOMO: There are domestic agenda items I want to tick through.
You have made a big point of saying the threat here with the current administration is abroad. What exactly bothers you abroad?
BIDEN: What bothered me abroad is, look, the idea that we can go it alone with no alliances for the next 20 or 30 years is a disaster. How are we going to deal with stateless terrorism without doing what I've been able to do with the President: put together a coalition of 50, 60 nations to take it on?
I come out of a generation where we were trying to be the policemen of the world. We can't go in every place. We need allies. He is absolutely dissing them. He's embracing thugs. He's embracing Kim Jong-un, who is a thug. He's embracing Putin, who is a -- who is a flat dictator. He's embracing people who, in fact -- and he's stiff- arming our friends. He's threatening NATO, to pull out of NATO. I mean, come on.
CUOMO: He says he's gotten NATO to give in more money for their defense because of his tactics.
BIDEN: Oh, come on, man.
And by the way, the idea that NATO, I think -- let me put it this way. If he wins re-election, I promise you there will be no NATO in four years or five years.
CUOMO: You think there will be no more NATO if he's re- elected?
BIDEN: No more NATO. Look, I went to the conference in -- that we have. It's called the Verkunde Conference, used to be. The first speech stood up, the Chancellor, the former Chancellor of Germany stands up. She says, we have to go it alone. We can't count on the United States. Why did we set up NATO, Chris? So no one nation could abuse the power in the region in Europe that would suck us in the way they did in World War I and World War II. It's being crushed.
Look at what's happening with Putin. While he -- while Putin is trying to undo our elections, he is undoing elections in Europe. Look what's happened in Hungary. Look what's happened in Poland. Look what's happened in the -- look what's happening. Do you think that would have happened on my watch or Barack's watch? You can't answer that, but I promise you it wouldn't have, and it didn't.
CUOMO: So with North Korea, the idea of reaching out. President Obama, Vice President Biden wanted to do more than that. The Republicans used to whack you on the head. You can't be nice to people who are our enemies. Hasn't this president done what you wanted to do by reaching out to Kim?
BIDEN: He did the exact opposite. He gave Kim everything that he wanted, legitimacy. He gave Kim -- he ended our relationship, as a practical matter, with South Korea and Japan as a united front and let China off the hook. He put us in a position where we say, by the way, I love the man. I know what he's doing. He hadn't done a thing. He hadn't done a thing, Kim Jong-un. And what have we done? We've suspended exercises.
Look, I come out of the arms control era. Guess what? There's two ways you do this. You work or you defend. You say, hey, man, don't screw with us. You move, this is what's going to happen. It's going to happen. But in the meantime, what you do is you deal with your allies and also those who don't arm with you. Do you think China wants any part of North Korea becoming a nuclear power?
CUOMO: So what do you do differently with North Korea and China?
BIDEN: With regard to North Korea, with China, I make it clear that we're going to move our defenses up, as we did before, and we're going to make sure we have the capacity to deal with it near term. I'm going to let South Korea and Japan know we're there for them. We are their nuclear umbrella. We're there for them. And China understands, if you don't want us in your throat here, if you don't want us in your face, do something.
CUOMO: Do you stop the trade battle with China? Do you go back to TPP?
BIDEN: By the way, the idea that this trade battle makes any sense is benefiting anybody is absolutely ludicrous. And just ask the farmers here or around the world -- I mean, around the United States, and the manufacturers. It's killing us.
What we should do is we deal with China. I had a conversation with Xi before I -- Xi Jinping before we left. And he said, well, you know, remember, they set up their no-fly zone. And I said, we're not going to pay attention to it. He said, what do you want me to do, just withdraw it? And I said, no. But just understand, we're just going to fly through. We'll fly a B-52 through it. We are a Pacific power. We're not going anywhere. Understand, and that's the reason why you have security is because we've allowed stability in the region.
They get it. But what they're doing now is we're not dealing with China's problem and for us. China's problem is they're stealing intellectual secrets.
BIDEN: There's cyber security. Deal the same way. You say you've got to invest here in the United States. You want to be able to invest here, and you say, we want to invest in China, but you've got to have a 51 percent owner? No deal, man. Deal for deal.
CUOMO: This administration is fighting that same fight, isn't it?
BIDEN: But they're not. No. They're fighting in trade. Trump thinks it's about trade deficits and trade surpluses. It's not about that.
Look, while he's like tweeting, China's going to own the 5G market. While, in fact, he -- they're spending billions in Artificial Intelligence. What are we doing? They're doing a whole lot of things that make no sense for us to stand still.
CUOMO: What would you do differently with North Korea? Would you slam the door on them again?
BIDEN: Yes. I'd make it real clear. Look, you want to talk, you want to deal with us, you want sanctions lifted, show me something ahead of time. Show me.
CUOMO: They haven't tested a big, bad missile.
BIDEN: And the reason why they haven't tested it is they have it all done. They're sitting there with missiles that are -- have capacity and nuclear capacity right now. So they're not giving up anything.
SCIUTTO: Lots of headlines in that interview. You can see the entire interview tonight starting at 8:00 Eastern Time, of course, only on CNN.
Still to come, our experts will weigh in on this exclusive interview, this as we wait for President Trump to leave the White House. Will he speak to reporters on his way out? He often does. If he does, we'll bring that to you.
Plus, it's being called the most powerful earthquake to hit Southern California in 20 years, dozens of aftershocks and growing fears of the big one coming. We'll speak to the Mayor from one of the hardest hit areas.
SCIUTTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden not holding back in a CNN exclusive interview. He defends his record on busing. He lays out how to challenge Trump and beat him and outlines what he'll do with North Korea, China, NATO, a whole host of other issues.
Let's bring in Jackie Kucinich, the Washington Bureau Chief for the Daily Beast, and Wesley Lowery, he's National Correspondent for The Washington Post.
Just on the busing issue, why are we talking about this? I mean, not a single democratic candidate, Jackie, is proposing busing as a policy for today. And I get the undertones of this issue more broadly, but are you surprised that it's had so much life in this debate?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's had so much life in part because of how Kamala Harris took it to Joe Biden during that debate. I mean, it really breath new oxygen.
But this -- we were talking about this earlier. This is all Joe Biden's fault. He's the one who was talking about working with segregationists. He was talking about -- he is the one who brought this into the debate, and he can't seem to get himself out of it, saying this is -- and he doesn't want to admit that he was at fault. He doesn't want to admit he did anything wrong. He just -- he wants to keep on explaining his -- what he did then and not back down, which is very --
SCIUTTO: And, essentially, people know him, he keeps repeating it. Like people know me. They know that I am --
KUCINICH: That should actually be his campaign slogan, people know me, you know me, because you hear him say that over and over and over again.
SCIUTTO: But to be fair, Wesley Lowery, first of all, on the busing issue, Kamala Harris's actual position and Biden's actual position are not that far apart. And Kamala has had her -- Senator Harris has had her own issues on, well, for instances, her position on employee- funded healthcare plans, right? Is she for them or against them?
WESLEY LOWERY, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Of course, certainly. So this is one of those cases where we've got the policy, you know, we've got politics, right? On the policy, we've got a bunch of candidates who are still very early in the race figuring out where their position is in at a time when the party is in the midst of a massive upheaval about should it be heading over far to the left or should we try to hedge to the middle, right?
And you have candidates who, on one day, take one strategy and the next day, take the next one. But then you also have the politics of this, right? And, mike check (ph), he said, to some extent, the reason we're having this conversation is Joe Biden's fault politically, right, that he kind of stumbled into this. He knew he was going to get either a hard question or at least an attack in the debate and he didn't have a strategy to win the exchange, right?
Kamala Harris came in with what was clearly a scripted line, she took a question about the police shooting and pivoted over to the Vice President. She had merchandise with the photo of herself as the little girl being bused, right? And, look, I can't blame her for that. That's good politics that clearly worked for her.
What Joe Biden needed was to know, look, I'm going to take some fire on this. How do I win this exchange, right? They're going to be not just in the primary debates but certainly in the general election debates.
Do you think Donald Trump is going to play by the rules? Do you think he's going to say, well, technically, my position was also this thing. And so it's unfair to attack Joe Biden. If you're going to be the democratic nominee for president, you've got to be prepared to take these attacks, no matter what they are, whether they're fair or whether they're consistent.
But beyond that, you've got to be prepared to win these exchanges and convince the American people not that you can explain your way out of it or to give you the benefit of the doubt, because you're Uncle Joe and we know you, but explain to me why compellingly I should trust you on this.
And this isn't something. You know, Joe Biden needed to take that answer and pivot it to something that --
KUCINICH: And if we just boil it down even further, what this is about is the black vote, which is one of the most -- particularly, the older black vote, which is one of the more loyal, strong parts of the democratic primary. He is.
According to the polls, that didn't really erode his support. But that's why this is an issue and that's why he's getting attacked on it.
SCIUTTO: Yes, okay. So this is clearly a better format for Joe Biden in the debate, this kind of long sit-down conversation, and he tries to turn the conversation to the bigger issue of how I'm going to beat Trump, right? I mean, he talks about he's a bully, I've known this bully for years and I would stand up to the bully. And that's a large part of his case, is it not, that I'm the best man, the best candidate to beat Trump?
KUCINICH: Yes. And that's what, by and large voters, think that he is. You also hear Elizabeth Warren using that Trump is a bully. So that's a line that has worked for her. But this -- you know, I'm going to punch him in -- I'm going to smack him in the mouth, I think, was another thing Joe Biden said about bullies. I think the risk with that is the hostility.
And people don't want another Trump, and I'm not saying that Joe Biden is. But the -- you know, that feisty cuffs (ph), him trying to knock out Trump and just talking about Trump, that's the risk. And people just say I'm so sick of this.
SCIUTTO: On a debate, aren't you going to have to -- because you know Trump is not going to be pulling punches. Don't you have to be able to swipe back?
LOWERY: Certainly, and we're seeing that. I think there's an interesting contrast here though, like Trump is a bully, I'm going to punch him in the face, versus Trump is a criminal and I'm going to prosecute him, which is the line that like Kamala Harris says, for example, right? How do all these candidates on the stage deal with Trump, right? Who is he? How do they categorize him? How do they interact with him, right? And I think there's still a big question about what's going to be the most effective way to do that.
SCIUTTO: And Kamala Harris used the word predator to describe Trump, which is -- it seems like she was testing out that line of attack.
LOWERY: And Bernie Sanders straight up called him a racist. He said, I'm not going to talk about a racist person, basically, right? And so, again, it's a big question of how they all handle it.
SCIUTTO: Okay. On the national security questions here, I mean, Biden makes quite an alarming prediction here that there will be no NATO in four to five years if Trump is re-elected, you know, that there's genuine concern that Trump is pulling away from these important alliances.
And then, listen, I spent a lot of time talking to folks out in Europe, and they not necessarily have the fear that NATO will disappear, but that the U.S. is no longer this committed to it. I mean, this is a real concern.
KUCINICH: I mean, Trump has -- I mean, look at what happened just recently in Japan. His more high-profile meetings weren't with U.S. allies. They were with more hostile country's leaders, like Kim Jong- un, of course.
So this is an area of strength for Joe Biden. This is something that he knows a lot about, foreign policy between his Senate career and Vice President. I'm actually a little surprised this hasn't been more in the forefront of what Joe Biden is talking about.
SCIUTTO: But I heard, for instance, the opposite view or just a devil's advocate view on that point from Joe Lockhart this morning, Wesley, saying that, you know, for voters, they're not really thinking -- yes, it's important to America's national security but they're not thinking about NATO, Russia, right now. That's not what's foremost in their minds.
LOWERY: Sure, and not necessarily. If you think about how relatively little Russia was even discussed in these two democratic debates, all things considered, when there's a legitimate argument that, look, the current president took his position, with at least the help of Russia, and we have an election coming up and what the deal will be there.
And so I think Joe Lockhart has got a point there, that said, if you're Joe Biden, you don't want to be in the weeds on domestic policy. You don't want to be having long riffs about AOC or about -- I don't think that's a space where he -- he has a lot of potential to screw up there. Where he is at strongest is ensuring people that, look, my hands have been on the wheel before and they should be on the wheel again.
KUCINICH: I can do it, yes.
SCIUTTO: And it is an interesting point that the disconnect between congressional democrats very much focused on investigating this president, but the folks running for president, they're not really talking about the, you know, the Russia investigation, Mueller, et cetera.
Jackie, Wesley, I hope you get some time off for the July 4th holiday.
LOWERY: You too.
SCIUTTO: I might actually as well. Happy 4th to all of you.
Another story following, aftershocks still shaking Southern California this morning after yesterday's powerful earthquake.
Next, we're going to speak to the Mayor of a town that had to declare a state of emergency.