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Biden on Dismantling Obamacare; Biden's Address Mental Health Struggles; Honeybees Hit by Budget Cuts. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 9, 2019 - 08:30   ET


[08:30:00] JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Guy is the most generous, honorable man that I know. And I am confident, confident he's going to make it. And, look, it's a -- it's -- the idea that we treat mental health and, quote, physical health as somehow they're distinct.


JOE BIDEN: It's health.

JILL BIDEN: We have to put more money into mental health, whether it's for our education system, whether it's for our veterans, whoever it's for, we have to -- we have to start to look at it, talk about it and put more money into it.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Talking about it is huge.

JILL BIDEN: Yes. Sure.

CUOMO: That's why I bring up Hunter. You've been hearing about your son. You got in this race. You knew everything they could find about Hunter was going to come back and be revisited on you.



CUOMO: Business. We'll see what they do with him having a mental health struggle, but discussing it as something that you can beat, something you can treat, already that's a different dialogue than we're used to hearing. Curing cancer, that would mean so much across so many level. Getting people to accept that mental illness and mental health awareness is the same as any other abnormality, that could be huge as well.


JOE BIDEN: It's gigantic. And, by the way, it's do-able. It's do-able. The idea somehow -- I mean think of all the people out there, Chris, who have done -- I mean one of the things we should be debating in this campaign is health care. Whether or not we have the adequate -- and what's the best way to get health care? When Barack and I -- when Barack did, I helped, with the Affordable Care Act, we made parody between mental health and physical health. It was a fundamental breakthrough in how we thought about how things should work.

So, look, I just think the --

CUOMO: The party now wants to get rid of the ACA. Medicare for all cannot exist with the ACA.

JOE BIDEN: It cannot and that's why I'm opposed -- any Republican who wants to dismantle it or any Democrat who wants to dismantle it. The idea you're going to come along and take the most significant thing that happened, that any president has tried to do and they got done and dismantle it makes no sense to me.

CUOMO: Four out of the top five people in your polls right now are on the complete opposite said from you.

JOE BIDEN: Well, I understand that. Now, that's worth debating about. That's about the future. What are we going to do? I believe they're totally sincere. I think they think they have the right answer. But, look, starting over would be, I think, a sin.

CUOMO: They say you're either all-in or it's half measures that don't work, and get removed.

JOE BIDEN: Well let me tell you something. I - I noticed the measures in the Affordable Care Act worked pretty well, put 20 million people back in getting healthcare.


JOE BIDEN: 100 million people who had pre-existing conditions, you notice none of them are saying they want to do away with any of that, right?

And you notice none of them are saying that they - but they are saying they want to - if you're satisfied with your employer-based healthcare, you got to give it up, you're - look, we provide a Medicare option. That's exactly what Barack - Barack and I talked about in the beginning.

CUOMO: Couldn't get it through though.

JOE BIDEN: No. We couldn't get.

But now, now things have changed because guess what's happened? You know, the thing Barack and I would talk about, and God love him, he never took credit that he should have because it was like everything was dropping on his desk.

And I said we got to make the case that people know what you did. It wasn't until they started to take it away they even realized it was a consequence of what Barack had done.

And so now, if you noticed in '18, we went out in all those campaigns, you find the Republicans in, I want to get - I want to get rid of pre- existing conditions coverage. I want to get rid of, and so, it's a different place. And that the - the - the public's been educated in a way that I believe they've embraced it, and I'm ready to take that on.

CUOMO: One more question for you if you don't mind.


CUOMO: You're much more interesting. No, I'm just kidding.

JOE BIDEN: That I agree with.

CUOMO: Now, one - one more question.

JOE BIDEN: Everybody knows that.

CUOMO: You mentioned Senator Harris, the debate. I'll talk to the VP about that as well.

But when you were listing the things, well here are the things we're going to have to fight against in this, all right, here we are. This is they may not think you have this, this, this, you did not imagine, I would think, or I'll ask you differently.


CUOMO: Did you imagine that one of the things you'd have to deal with early on is whether or not your husband's past is basically bigoted. They can say I don't think you're a racist but--

JILL BIDEN: They could say anything but --

CUOMO: But as -- but as soon as that comes out --


CUOMO: The Crime bill --


CUOMO: Working with people who were seen to be obviously extreme thinkers and bigots themselves, busing, did you anticipate those, and does it make you feel differently about where this could be headed?

JILL BIDEN: You know, I think that they were looking at the past. I mean the one thing you cannot say about Joe is that he's a racist. I mean he stood - he got into politics because of his commitment to civil rights.

And then to be elected with Barack Obama, and then someone is saying, you know, you're a racist, as soon as I heard those words --

CUOMO: No, they say you're not a racist but --

JILL BIDEN: I know. But as soon as I heard those words --

CUOMO: This all stinks.

JILL BIDEN: I thought, oh, oh, what's coming next? And I think the American people know Joe Biden. They know his values. They know what he stands for. And they didn't buy it.

CUOMO: You don't think that well because you - you took a hit in the polls, and some with African-Americans.

JILL BIDEN: But the polls are coming back up. The polls are coming back up. So, we just saw that today. And - and I think the more people get to know Joe, then the higher the polls will get.

[08:35:01] JOE BIDEN: Chris, all --

CUOMO: You, I want to thank for your time.

JILL BIDEN: Awe, thanks.

JOE BIDEN: But he's not sure.

CUOMO: Thank you. No, no --


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, a lot of news in there on the defense of Obamacare and how the vice president intends to position himself on the Medicare for all debate. A lot of news about Hunter Biden and news about the fact that they sat down like this for that interview with Chris Cuomo. We have the best analyst in the business to analyze it, next.


BERMAN: All right, we just watched new parts of the Chris Cuomo interview with Joe and Jill Biden, and there was a lot in there that we hadn't heard.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: A lot. Really interesting stuff.

BERMAN: They talk about Hunter Biden and his battle with mental illness in a way that we hadn't heard before. They also talk about politics and issues and the vice president's opponents in ways that we haven't heard before.

Let's discuss with Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House press secretary, Sarah Isgur, a CNN political analyst, and Astead Herndon, national political reporter for "The New York Times."

Astead, you're new to the panel this morning, so I want to go to you first.

And as we were watching it and listening to the former vice president talk about the debate over Medicare for all, he drew lines, solid lines, that I haven't heard him draw quite that firmly before on the issue of health care.

[08:40:13] What did you see?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, a couple of weeks ago I talked to Joe Biden in South Carolina and he said, on the question of health care, he said, oh, we all agree on most of the -- on most of the issues and was kind of -- kind of project unity. That's a different tone than what he took in that interview. He was saying, if you are trying to scrap the ACA for a Medicare for all -- for a Medicare for all option, a single payer option, so folks like Bernie Sanders, like Elizabeth Warren, like we've seen Senator Harris sometimes say and sometimes seem to not say, he's saying that that is a red line that he does not want Democrats to cross. He said, I will oppose any Republican or Democrat who is trying to scrap the ACA. That is firm line that he is trying to draw.

And I think the bigger takeaway for me is that Vice President Biden has spent a lot of the early time of his campaign trying to be above the fray, project that electability that it's him versus President Trump, and that is the inevitable general election clash. What we have seen change since this debate is that he is going to have to engage more with his Democratic opponents, partly because they have brought him back down to earth.

CAMEROTA: Sarah, what jumped out at you from this part of the Biden interview?

SARAH ISGUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, definitely exactly the same as y'all. I mean that health care conversation was new and a much firmer line than we've seen. I think it was a smart one.

You know, you've seen some of the polling since the debate, certainly before the debate, but even more so since on obviously health care still being a number one issue, pocketbook issue for Democratic voters. But, two, when you ask them about the Medicare for all option, they do not understand it. And so you can move those polls 20 points or more depending on how you ask it, what you tell them about it. So I think it's very smart for Biden to stake out his position, make it crystal clear what his position is, because you see Senator Harris and some of the others with, you know, I want to have a conversation around this, sort of dip their toe in the water and then pull it back once they realize it's unpopular. Much smarter for Biden to say, here I stand.

BERMAN: Drawing a firm line here trying to suggest maybe, Joe Lockhart, I am the mainstream.

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, listen, I think the idea of abolishing private insurance that 180 million Americans currently have, it's an imperfect system but it is not, I think, in the general election, sustainable to be -- for abolishing that.

And, in fact, I don't think it's sustainable in the Democratic primary voters. There's a lot of energy around Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. And sometimes Kamala Harris. She's been on both sides of this a little bit. But I think if you look at 2018 and you look at the candidates who argued for shoring up and strengthening the ACA, they're the ones who did well. The people who argued within the Democratic Party nomination process for Medicare for all did not do well.

So I think it is a very, both smart line to draw here and now in the primaries, but I do think the Democratic nominee, whoever it is, and most of the candidates in the race on the Democratic side are not for where Sanders and Warren are, you know, to be sustainable they have to be, you know, building on the ACA.

CAMEROTA: Astead, I was interested in the talk about Hunter Biden, so Joe Biden's son. You know, when Joe Biden was deliberating getting in for low those many months that we kept hearing, is he in, is he out. What we kept hearing was that he's thinking about his family. He's in consultation with his family. And, you know, the Trump campaign has already tried to use Hunter and his business dealings as fodder against Joe Biden.

And so what do you think about them sort of, I don't know, I guess turning it into an asset about a public, national conversation about mental health?

HERNDON: I thought it was a really interesting conversation, just both for the morals, like where the mental health conversation needs to go, but also the politics. Joe Biden is someone whose identity has come in terms of that personal tragedy, of course the tragic car accident that happened as he ascended to the Senate, and he is someone who has made his political brand about family.

I was just in Wilmington, Delaware, talking with a lot of the community who knows him and they don't just talk about him. They talk about his wife and his family and how integral they are. And so I think that as Republicans have amounted up using Hunter Biden's international lobbying, it is interesting to see the Bidens come out proactively and admit some of the struggles that he has had and say actually that's something that causes us to relate more closely to the American people.

We know that kind of mental health problems and addiction issues are a top of mind for voters and we -- and so clearly the Bidens are making a choice to come out that is going -- I think folks can commend. But also gets them to answer some of the political questions that Republicans have already shown a willingness to enter into that kind of murkier, more personal terrain.

[08:45:18] BERMAN: You know, Sarah, it is interesting because for the Bidens, personal struggle and perseverance, it's more than just a brand. It is what has defined so much of the life of Joe Biden over the last, you know, nearly 50 years.

ISGUR: Yes. And, you know, not to put this all into political terms, but that's my job here this morning. So what I saw was actually a very shrewd politician as well. Not in a bad way, but getting out ahead of something, inoculating it. Joe Biden didn't stumble into this race off a turnip truck. And so I thought it was very shrewd. And there's a reason why his numbers are still 10 points up from everyone else and 10 points above President Trump's on electability. In that head-to- head with President Trump, he's got 10 points, everyone else is about tied. And I think it's moments like this, they're relatable, yes, but they're also very, very smart.

CAMEROTA: And in terms of the shrewdness of it, Sarah, just to press on that a little bit, do you think that they will be able to kind of turn everything about Hunter through the addiction or mental health lens? I mean do you -- is that what you hear happening here, whatever comes up for the next year on the campaign trail?

ISGUR: To some extent I think, yes, I think a lot of Americans are able to see that happening in their own families, directly, indirectly. You have an opioid crisis sweeping the country. And so a lot of people do see their families dealing with addiction issues, mental health issues, and they see the fallout of that, which can be bad decision making. I think that Hunter Biden was far more of a liability before that interview than he was after.

BERMAN: All right.

CAMEROTA: Really interesting -- really interesting perspectives. Sarah, Astead, thank you very much.

Are budget cuts are hitting honey bees hard? How that actually will impact the foods you eat. That's next.


[08:51:18] CAMEROTA: Honey bees are dying off at a faster rate than seen in a decade, yet the Trump administration is cutting funds aimed at trying to save them.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is live in Washington to explain.

Why is this so important, Suzanne.


Well, the administration is painting these cost-cutting measures as necessary to get the government working as a lean, efficient entity. But farmers, scientists, environmentalists, and now even bee keepers, they are ringing the alarms saying that scaling back on this critical research they depend on, it's going to have a significant impact on all of us, starting with the bees.


MALVEAUX (voice over): Bee populations already on the decline, now facing an added blow as the U.S. Department of Agriculture suspends collecting data for its annual honey colony's report, a critical tool for understanding the plummeting honeybee population.

BILL BUNDY, VIRGINIA BEE KEEPER: With the eventual loss of the bee population, what you would see is more desert than you would see healthy, vibrant landscapes. Their critical impact is on the food source.

MALVEAUX: It's estimated that one-third of the U.S.'s food supply depends on the bee because they helps pollinate many crops we eat, including apples, avocados, almonds and grapes.

Bee populations have been steadily declining since 2006. Colonies facing threats from parasites, pesticides, habitat loss and climate change.

In 2014, the Obama administration launched a program to address the plummeting honeybee population, directing federal agencies to track the problem and work on preserving bee colonies, as well as other critical pollinators, including butterflies. The Trump administration, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, now undoing those efforts. Last year reversing an Obama era rule, barring the use of a chemical that is known to contribute to the decline of bee colonies. The EPA has also granted emergency permission to 18 states, under certain circumstances, to spray an insecticide considered highly toxic to bees.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will defend the environment, but we will also defend American sovereignty, American prosperity, and we will defend American jobs.

MALVEAUX: A survey, which tracked how farmers pay for honeybees to pollinate their crops, was suspended in 2018, and another survey on honey production was scaled back. Now a third bee related database, aimed at tracking how many bees are being lost, is being suspended.

BUNDY: Keeping this statistical study going is very important so that we understand what's going on and you can make the resources available to try to solve the problem. You need to have the data, you need to have a database that says in fact our bees are thriving or in fact our bees are not thriving.

MALVEAUX: Just part of the Trump administration's rollout of its own environmental plan.

TRUMP: My administration is now revising the past administration's misguided regulations to better protect the environment and to protect our American workers.

MALVEAUX: The USDA said the critical data collection suspension was temporary, stating the decision to suspend data collection was not made lightly, but was necessary given available fiscal and program resources.

MICHELLE OBAMA, FORMER FIRST LADY: We created the first ever White House beehive. And hopefully our bees are asleep right now.

MALVEAUX: Saving the bees has typically been a bipartisan effort. Former First Lady Michelle Obama and current Second Lady Karen Pence, both taking up the cause.

[08:55:04] KAREN PENCE, SECOND LADY: One of the reasons that we wanted to bring a beehive to the vice president's residence was because we wanted to help our bee population. It was important to us to do what we could. A lot of our crops are highly dependent on bees to pollinate.


MALVEAUX: Scientists say the Trump administration's turn away from the bee crisis is just part of the administration's larger goal to cut or undermine federal research on food safety, farm productivity and climate change.

Alisyn. John.

CAMEROTA: Suzanne, very interesting also to hear from the second lady, who wants to help the bee population, at the same time the administration is working at counter purposes to that. But thank you very much for showing us the value of all this.

BERMAN: All right, the president's been making a lot of comments this morning on a wide range of issues, but so far hasn't stood up to say he stands behind Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, mired in this scandal having to do with a sex trafficking case that goes back more than a decade.

Much more right after this.