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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Town Hall with Democratic Presidential Candidate, Former Vice President Joe Biden. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired February 26, 2020 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:00]

CUOMO: All right, welcome back; we're live tonight from Charleston, South Carolina, for a CNN Town Hall event. I'm Chris Cuomo here at the Memminger auditorium. We just heard from President Trump tonight, addressing the administration's response to the coronavirus as well as discussing the latest on the shooting .Molson Coors Complex in Milwaukee. Of course, information still coming in, but we know one more tragedy to deal with. As of now, authorities say there are multiple fatalities. The alleged shooter also dead. We'll continue to bring you any updates throughout the evening, as we learn more, and of course, we'll be discussing the coronavirus as well as what is an obvious problem with gun violence in our society tonight with Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Now we have former Vice President Joe Biden. After him, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Senator Elizabeth Warren. Just three days until the primary. The Democrats making their final pitch to undecided voters right here in South Carolina.

So, please help welcome to the stage the candidate who has said he will win South Carolina on Saturday, former V.P. Joe Biden.

(APPLAUSE)

JOE BIDEN (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Can I mention my mother?

CUOMO: Please. It's your opportunity.

BIDEN: Hi, buddy, how are you?

By the way, you know when you come out here, the makeup artist puts stuff on you, you know? I said, don't fool with the ashes. My mother will come down from heaven and smite me.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: And I know your mom and I know what she would do to you, too. So this was not a planned deal, but, you know, it's kind of a Catholic thing. Anyway, long story.

CUOMO: In the break, we'll bump heads, nobody will know, then we'll come out.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: That's right.

CUOMO: All right. Let's get right to the questions.

BIDEN: Sure.

CUOMO: Let's begin with the news of the day. The president just spoke about the administration's response to coronavirus. We have a question about this, obviously dangerous disease. Let's bring in Tiernan Shea. She's from Kiawah Island, currently supporting Senator Warren.

Welcome.

QUESTION: Thank you. Good evening.

BIDEN: Good evening.

QUESTION: My question is, COVID-19 is a serious threat to our health and the economy. If you were president, what would you be doing?

BIDEN: We've been through this once. We've been through this with the virus that occurred in Ebola in Africa. I was deeply involved on that. My administrative assistant was the guy who put together our answer. And what we did was, we were able to keep the disease overseas. The few that came to the United States, we were able to put together the following.

We set up an office within the president's office to deal with infectious diseases, number one. Number two, we significantly increased the funding for NIH, National Institute of Health, as well as the CDC, to immediately begin to work on vaccines, and which worked. We moved.

Thirdly, what we did was we made sure that we were able to be honest with the American people, so that we had complete -- a complete unity between the scientists and the president, in this case, Ron Klain, who was putting together for the president.

And so the only problem I have here is that it doesn't seem as though, and I didn't catch the whole -- I didn't catch the whole news conference, but what I saw was there was a slight difference between Dr. Fauci, who is a really first-rate guy, and the president's assertion, don't worry, it's all done.

As a matter of fact, while this was going on, there was a virus that occurred in the United States that was spread in the United States, not from someone coming from outside the United States. And so it is a concern and I think it's important that we understand that you have to have a president in charge.

The last point I'd make, and I know I'm going to get a lot of questions, is that what we did -- what I would do were I president now, I would not be taking China's word for it. I would insist that China allow our scientists in to make a hard determination of how it started, where it's from, how far along it is. Because that is not happening now.

And that should be -- we should be allowed to do that and they should want us to do that, because we have genuine experts who know how to confront these things.

But we need to invest immediately. We should have done it from the beginning, the moment the virus appeared. But we're getting late, but we've got good scientists. And I just hope the president gets on the same page as the scientists.

(APPLAUSE)

CUOMO: Former Vice President, do me a favor, comment on the political implication from what the president said tonight. He blamed the Democrats of playing to advantage. He blamed by name Speaker Nancy Pelosi of trying to create a panic. That was his quote. And that the Democrats, you're trying to get political advantage. Your response.

BIDEN: Ash Wednesday.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: I mean, look, this -- folks, I don't care who you're for, this is bizarre. Absolutely bizarre. The president from the beginning is basically saying, don't worry, no problem. No problem here. And he goes in and he takes away the office we set up that's designed to deal with pandemic disease. He eliminated it in the White House, number one.

[20:05:00]

Number two, he tried to defund the CDC. He tried to defund the NIH. He did not have a plan to deal with how you equip hospitals that are going to be able to take care of people to have the right docs, the right capacity, and the right ability to contain. None of that happened.

And now all Nancy is saying -- I guess, I didn't hear what she said, but my guess is that we ought to be doing something. We should be funding this effort. I -- anyway.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: All right. Let's get another question from the office.

(APPLAUSE)

CUOMO: Kristen Soucy is with us. She's a law student at the University of South Carolina, undecided voter.

Welcome. QUESTION: Hi. Good evening, President (sic) Biden. In the South,

the Second Amendment...

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: ... is a right that is held dear. How do each of -- how do you propose to sell your gun reform ideas to those who either own a gun or feel strongly about protecting Second Amendment rights?

BIDEN: Two reasons, number one, let's -- you're a law student, I taught constitutional law for a long time, I taught the Second Amendment. And here's the deal, constitutional amendment, from the beginning, no amendment is absolute. None of you can stand up in the First Amendment on free speech and yell "fire" here, you'd be arrested, because you're going to cause damage and danger.

From the very beginning, the founders said, not everyone is able to have a gun and you can't have any weapon you want. That has simply never been the case. There are limitations. I have happen to have a 12-gauge shotgun and a 20-gauge shotgun, because -- I haven't done it in a long time, but I skeet shoot. And I'm not very good at it, I might add.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: But I have -- but my sons, they bird hunt. And they haven't in a while, my -- I lost -- anyway. But they used to bird hunt. The point of the matter is that from the very beginning you're not allowed to have any weapon you want. And those who say the tree of liberty is watered with the blood of patriots, you need an F-15 with Hellfire missiles in order to take on the government.

This idea that you're going to need an AR-15 or any other assault weapon or you need any clip, any clip that has a hundred rounds in it, is absolutely bizarre. You're a danger to yourself if that's the case.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: Secondly, so, it is -- it is no violation of the Second Amendment, period. And we didn't say anyone could own a weapon. From the very beginning, not anyone can own a weapon. So the idea that a terrorist can own a weapon, the idea someone who is, in fact, deranged could own a weapon, the idea someone who has a criminal background could own a weapon, that's why we worked very hard to pass the Brady Bill.

I was the guy in the United States Senate at the time that moved the Brady Bill through and set up waiting periods. Set up waiting periods. And part of the problem here is that the idea that you need a weapon and you need it within 24 hours should set off alarm bells for people.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: The fact is, it should be a five-day waiting period. So it's no infringement of the Second Amendment at all, at all. And by the way, I'm the only guy that has ever passed an assault weapons ban nationally. I'm the only guy that ever limited the amount of bullets can be in a clip. And I'm the only person who has taken on the NRA and beat them across the board.

And here's the deal. The deal is that 58 percent of gun owners -- of members of the NRA think that people should not be able to own an AR- 15, not own an assault weapon, not have a 100 -- a magazine, the thing you stick in the gun, that shoots as many bullets as you can, of a hundred rounds.

So already, the NRA people -- it's the gun manufacturers. And that's another story. I know you want to go on.

CUOMO: Well, I'll ask you a question about that. Is it fair to continue to criticize Senator Sanders for his Brady Bill votes and the gun manufacturer liability cap vote when he says they were bad votes, he made a mistake?

BIDEN: Well, look, if you notice, they never have any trouble going back on my record and picking out every single vote I ever cast.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: You don't like it either.

BIDEN: Which is OK. Yes. But in my case, and in his case, look, here's the deal. He, in fact, said he voted against -- he voted for the assault weapons ban when he, in fact, was running for mayor. He got defeated. The next time he ran, he didn't talk about the assault weapons ban, he won.

The idea here is that what is the thing that motivates you to make your judgments? And the idea that he's the only one up there who, in fact, in 2003, in fact, voted to give the gun manufacturers absolute license not to be sued at all. If I stood before you all tonight and said, I've got a great -- as your presidential candidate, I promise you, I'm going to make sure you can never sue the drug companies. They put out 9 billion opioids. Well, you can't sue them. You're never going to be able to sue the tobacco companies.

And in the meantime, we talk about what you do to make up for those things. I haven't seen him. He has gone after every corporation in the world, which is -- I don't disagree on all of it with him, but he goes after every corporation in the world, but I've not seen him go after the gun manufacturers. And so here's the deal. What are you going to do about it now?

Last point. The reason he voted against the Brady Bill five times that I was passing was the fact that it related to the waiting period.

[21:10:00]

He thought you should be able to -- if you can't get cleared within one day, you should get the weapon anyway. I think that is bizarre. I argued against that. I haven't heard him change his (INAUDIBLE) on that.

(APPLAUSE)

CUOMO: So in terms of what motivates votes and what posture you have, we have a very important question from the audience about exactly that. Let's bring in Reverend Anthony Thompson, the pastor of the Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston. His wife, Myra, was one of the nine killed in a shooting during a Bible study at Charleston's Emanuel AME Church in June of 2015.

Reverend, we're sorry for your loss. Thank you for being with us tonight.

REV. ANTHONY THOMPSON, PASTOR OF HOLY TRINITY REFORMED EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Yes, good evening, Vice President Biden. You, along with President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, came to Charleston when this tragedy occurred. And you directly and personally came to encourage us, so thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

THOMPSON: The Emanuel Nine tragedy showed that Charleston is separated and divided by racism. Mayor Tecklenburg formed an advisory council pastors with different denominations and faiths to focus on reconciliation and cross-cultural awareness. He demonstrated his faith in the decision-making of our city.

My question is, what is your faith and how would you use your faith in making decisions for our nation?

BIDEN: Well, Reverend, I kind of know what it's like to lose family. And my heart goes out to you. As you may remember, after Barack and Michelle and I were there, and my family, I came back on that Sunday to regular service because I had just lost my son. And I wanted some hope, because what you all did was astounding.

I don't know whether you all know this. All of those who died, were killed by this white supremacist, they forgave him. They forgave him. The ultimate act of Christian charity. They forgave him. And you know, Reverend, I'm not proselytizing, I happen to be a practicing Catholic, but I went back back to the church because I found particularly the black church, in this case with an AME, it was not an Episcopal church, I found that there's that famous phrase from Kierkegaard, "faith sees best in the dark."

I find the one thing it gives me, and I'm not trying to proselytize, I'm not trying to convince you to be -- to share my religious views, but for me it's important because it gives me some reason to have hope and purpose. I've learned the only way -- I don't know how you've dealt with it, Reverend, but the way I've been able to deal with when my wife was killed and my daughter were killed and then my son died, I've only been able to deal with it by realizing they're part of my being.

My son, Beau, was my soul. And what I found was, I had to find purpose, purpose. And what was the purpose? Every day I get up -- and I'm sorry to go on. I apologize. But every day I get up, I literally -- and not a joke, Reverend, and I think you know this about my boy, that I ask myself, I hope he's proud of me today, because he asked me when he was dying, promise me, dad, promise me, dad, promise me.

He said, I know no one loves me more than you do, dad, but promise me you'll stay engaged. He knew I would take care of the family, but he worried what I would do is I would pull back and go into a shell and not do all the things I've done before. It took me a long time to get to the point to realize that that purpose is the thing that would save me. And it has.

And every morning I get up and I say to myself, I give you my word as a Biden, I hope he's proud of me. I hope he's proud of me. Because that's what makes me move on. And the impact that loss had was astounding, and it had to be for you. Remember, afterwards, when I went down the next day when I came in that Sunday, and Mayor Riley asked me would I go down with him into Reverend Pinckney's office.

And one of the things that absolutely blew my mind was he had a picture of he and I on his desk because we had become friends, we had become good acquaintances. And it moved in a way that I couldn't quite explain, but what it did, it made me realize that, you know, to forgive is divine here.

[20:15:05]

What you did, you changed, you changed, you brought down that confederate flag. You're the ones who changed the attitude in this state in a way that was profound. And I think that's how it gets done.

(APPLAUSE)

CUOMO: Mr. Vice President, a good place to take a break.

BIDEN: All right.

CUOMO: We have a lot of questions from the audience. We'll be right back after a quick break. More questions for former Vice President Biden. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: All right. Welcome back to a live CNN Democratic presidential town hall. We have former Vice President Joe Biden. Let's get another question from the audience.

Timothy Simmons, student at the University of South Carolina, leaning towards Senators Warren and Sanders. What's your question?

QUESTION: I'm not going to answer his question.

(LAUGHTER)

No, I'm only teasing. I'm only teasing. That was a bad joke. QUESTION: Yeah. Good evening. You have criticized Michael Bloomberg

for his stop-and-frisk policies in New York, but you have not really commented on your 1994 crime bill.

[20:20:00]

Are you aware of the impact that it had on the black community? Would you pass such legislation if it were to be introduced today?

BIDEN: Let me tell you, I've commented on it a hundred times. I'd been thoroughly -- and it was endorsed by -- let's get the context here. The crime rate was incredibly high. It did not put more people in jail, like it's argued. It was supported by the Black Caucus and the black mayors across the country.

There was no stop-and-frisk. It set up everything from drug courts to ban assault weapons to the Violence Against Women Act. It had things in it I didn't like. It had money for state prisons, which I opposed. But on balance, everything that was in that, I supported it.

And I -- and it provided for community policing, not community policing -- go out and arresting people and throwing them up against walls. Community policing where you put two policemen in a car, the cops didn't want to do it, and they had to get out of the cars and go and understand the neighborhoods. They had to leave their cell phone numbers with the local grocer, with the local church, with the local -- if you have a problem, call me. They had to leave the numbers with women who, in fact, were single and, in fact, would see something going on outside their window and say, you can call me and we'll never reveal who your name is, so you will not have to be -- you will not have to be the subject of retribution by some drug gang or something.

And so crime went down. Violent crime was cut in half. There was no stop-and-frisk under our proposal, number one.

Number two, it was endorsed by, as I said, the vast majority of African-American mayors. The African-American community overwhelmingly supported it at the time.

Now, the talk about how it put so many people in jail, it had two provisions in it that, in fact, I opposed. One was, three strikes and you're out. That was proposed by President Clinton. And the other one was -- that was carjacking. That, in fact, I opposed both of those on the floor of the Senate, said I didn't want them in the bill. But at the end of the day, we had a bill that, in fact, had much more that was positive than negative.

Then when I became the president's vice president, we cut the prison rate by 38,000 people in the federal system. And I know you know this, and I assume that the two people you're considering supporting know it, that 92 percent of every single prisoner is behind a bar in a state, a local, or a county prison, not in a federal prison. And the abuses that have taken place have been in the state prison system.

And so thank you for the question. I hope that clarifies it.

CUOMO: One aspect of the question.

(APPLAUSE)

In terms of what we were talking about, Sanders and some of his votes, times change, context is different. If a bill like it was brought to your desk as president of the United States today, would you feel the same way you did in 1994?

BIDEN: No, because the circumstances -- it was the right bill then, unlike voting to give exemptions to the gun manufacturers was never a right vote under any circumstances. Being against the Brady bill was never right under any circumstances. It was right at the time.

It cut the violent crime rate in half. In fact, it did not add to the federal prison population. It was -- and, as a matter of fact, the people who are arguing in the House, where, among others, Bernie saying we needed more money for state prisons. We didn't need any more money for -- now here's what I would do.

I have laid out clearly what we should be doing. We should change the whole -- the whole of the prison system from one of punishment to rehabilitation. Nobody, nobody -- no, I really mean it.

(APPLAUSE)

Nobody should go to jail for drug use. They should do what I set up in the law, drug courts. They should be put in rehabilitation. Mandatory rehabilitation. We should be building rehab centers.

(APPLAUSE)

Thirty days -- thirty days does not work. Thirty days does not work of rehab. It doesn't work.

Secondly, anybody in prison, anybody in prison should be learning a trade, should be being taught something. If you can't read, write, add and subtract, you should be able to learn that in prison.

And when you get out of prison -- and this is what I proposed when I -- and way back with Arlen Specter -- and that is, what you get out of prison, instead of getting $25 and a bus ticket, and you end up under a bridge, you should be able to qualify for every federal program, from Pell Grants to housing, across the board. It makes no sense, no sense to keep people in a circumstance where they can't.

(APPLAUSE)

So that's...

CUOMO: Let's get another question. Claire Wofford, associate professor of political science at the College of Charleston, currently undecided. Professor?

QUESTION: Hi. How are you?

BIDEN: I'm well, Professor. Thank you. QUESTION: Sorry, I have a little bit of laryngitis. So...

BIDEN: That's all right. I married a professor.

QUESTION: I wasn't going to lose this opportunity. So the votes of married suburban women are said to be critical to a Democratic victory this fall.

[20:25:00]

Many of us, however, still remember the Anita Hill hearings all too well.

Other candidates are being asked to account for past programs or policy choices they now regret. What do you say to those female voters who were and perhaps are still unhappy with how you handled the confirmation of Clarence Thomas? Times have changed, so how have you?

BIDEN: Well, by the way...

(APPLAUSE)

I opposed Clarence Thomas from the beginning. I believed Anita Hill from the beginning. And I tried to control the questions under the laws that exist for the Senate. And I was unable to do it. Just like the last hearing, the last hearing they had, they were unable to control, keep people from being able to ask questions.

What I did was, I made a commitment. I made a commitment. Never again would the Judiciary Committee only have men on that committee. So I went out and I campaigned for two people: Carol Moseley Braun, an African-American senator from the state of Illinois, and Dianne Feinstein from California, on the condition that if they won, they would join the committee, they would become part of the committee. I kept that commitment.

And, secondly, I made another commitment that I was going to get the Violence Against Women Act passed, which I worked on and I wrote myself, the Violence Against Women Act.

(APPLAUSE)

Number three. Number three. I've spoken with Anita Hill. And I apologized for not being able to protect her more. I'm trying to think -- and I've raised the question, for example. I raised the question, should we, in fact, have those hearings in camera? And should that be the way to do it? When -- because you're going to always be subject to being vilified, no matter who comes and says he said/she said this happened.

And so here's the deal. She said -- and I think she's right -- she said, no, it's better not to do that. We should have it in the open. So we got to find a way to change the rules as to what can be asked.

But in a hearing, in a hearing, it's impossible to say, you can't ask the question. For example -- anyway, I won't go into more detail. But, look, I wish I could have protected her more. I publicly apologized, apologized then. And I was able to -- what she -- we owe her. We owe Anita Hill a lot, because what she did by coming forward, she gave me the ability to pass the -- right and pass the Violence Against Women Act. We owe her a great deal of credit.

(APPLAUSE)

CUOMO: Steven Smyder is with us now. He's a student at the College of Charleston, currently undecided. Steven?

QUESTION: Hello. Welcome to Charleston, Mr. Biden.

BIDEN: Good to be back.

QUESTION: Throughout your career, you have been an advocate for the moderate side of the Democratic Party. At a recent debate, you did not raise your hand when asked if you or any of the candidates had a concern with a democratic socialist at the head of the ticket. After consideration, do you still feel you would support a socialist at the top of the ticket?

BIDEN: Look, first of all, you know, it's amazing how things change. My entire career, I was viewed as a liberal-liberal. No, I'm serious. Check all of these ratings about, you know, who's liberal, who's conservative.

What's happened is, we have moved in a direction that, in fact, the progressive -- now progressive means Bernie. It means democratic socialism, or whatever the phrase is. I think Bernie is a decent, honorable man who means what he says. And I think -- but I think it's going to be -- it's not enough just to win, beat the president. The next president has to be able to win back a Democratic Senate.

(APPLAUSE)

And let's just be -- no, for real. And let's just be realistic here. It's not a criticism of him as a man. It's a criticism of whether or not you think you're going to be able to help elect a Democratic senator here against Lindsey Graham, which I'm going to help do.

(APPLAUSE)

No, but I'm serious. So, as they say, ask yourself the question. You're running for the United States Senate in Georgia, where we can win, in North Carolina, here in this state, in Pennsylvania, in Arizona. Do you think it helps you or hurts you to have a self- proclaimed socialist at the top of the ticket? I'm not being a wise guy. That's not going at his character. It's going at his position. It's the different role. And so we have to win back the Senate.

And I might add, when we had in 2018 election, I went into 24 states, campaigned for a total of 68 candidates, the majority of whom were women. I said the impolitic thing, which I always say, Biden -- no one ever doubts I mean what I say. I sometimes say all that I mean. I indicated we were going to win 41 votes, we're going to take 41 Republican seats. We did. But let me ask you. I was asked to come in and campaign from Alabama

to Montana and in between in those deep purple states that we won. Did anybody ask Bernie to come in?

[20:30:00]

It doesn't mean he's a bad guy. It means it's going to be hard holding on to the United States Congress and the United States Senate.

And the last point I'll make, it's not about a revolution. It's about results. It's about results.

Bernie's a great guy.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: But Bernie -- and he's pricked the conscience of the country. It's really important.

But Bernie, in all the time he's been in United States Senate, I think he's made -- he's passed seven or eight bills, four of them really good. They relate to veterans and caring for veterans. A couple were post offices.

I have the longest record of success in the United States Senate and as vice president passing major pieces of legislation, from the Violence Against Women Act, to the chemical weapons treaty, to dealing with the -- when we got to the United States Congress, when we -- became vice president, first thing we had to do was keep the country from going into bankruptcy and going down the drain in terms of -- it was already in bankruptcy -- keep it from going into a depression.

It was a $900 billion bill, the Recovery Act. We didn't have the votes. So, the president said, find me the votes. I went out and got three Republican votes. And then I managed that bill.

So I'm used to doing things that are of consequence. I don't mean he's a bad guy. I don't mean that at all. But the next president is going to have no time for on-the-job training internationally and is going to be able to have to put the country together quickly.

(APPLAUSE)

CUOMO: Next question goes right to not having time to have on-the-job training for the next president.

The questioner is Deveaux Stockton. He's a trial lawyer from Charleston, currently supporting Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Sir?

BIDEN: Yes?

QUESTION: Well, Mr. Vice President, actually, I think you have my vote on Saturday after tonight. But I would like to ask you a question. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

STOCKTON: Sir, what is your plan if Trump loses, but refuses to concede, based on allegations...

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: ... by his supporters of irregularities, and he refuses to step down as president, based on those allegations?

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: You ask a rhetorical question. It's a serious question, serious concern.

Did you ever think in your lifetime, no matter how young or old you are, any person would be able to ask that question and be taken seriously?

No, I'm not joking. Our democracy is at risk. Four years of this guy.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: So, the answer is, the way he has treated the military, the way he has dismissed the intelligence community, the way he has absolutely undercut the FBI, the way he has gone after all these -- I have no worry about him being escorted out of the White House.

(LAUGHTER)

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CUOMO: Interesting -- interesting way to follow on this.

It is not unusual for the president of the United States to watch our town halls. Hearing something like that, communicating it to the audience obviously important.

If the president is watching right now, and he heard that question, what do you think he should know?

BIDEN: Mr. President...

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: No, I'm serious. And he's probably watching.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: Mr. President, we have a democratic process. When the voters speak, they are heard, and they have to be responded to.

Now, if you're worried about somehow someone interfering in our election, why don't you do something about Russia now?

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) CUOMO: Next question, Christian Conaty. He's a law student at the Charleston Law -- School of Law, currently undecided.

Christian.

QUESTION: Good evening, former Vice President.

BIDEN: What year are you?

QUESTION: I'm in 2L. I'm in 2L.

BIDEN: All right, man, it's all downhill from here.

QUESTION: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: I am born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, and I'm a graduate of your high school alma mater, Archmere academy. Go, Auks.

In Delaware and in South Carolina, education, specifically public, has drastically suffered over the years at the hands of poor funding and a lack of qualified teachers.

What are some incentives that could help bring enthusiastic teachers back to the profession to help kids want to stay in school and further their education?

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: Well, first of all, by the way, he's talking about, we went to a private Catholic boys school. And now it's co-ed he. When he went, it was co-ed, when my son and daughter went as well.

QUESTION: Yes, sir.

BIDEN: The point is this, that the public school system in the country is in trouble.

And in Delaware, it's been in trouble, except Delaware did one thing that other states should be doing. Delaware said that every school is required to have a minimum amount of money, no matter what their tax base is.

That began to change the question of where the teachers are and where good teachers are. We are short right now 115,000 teachers in our public school system, because my generation of baby boomers is retiring, and other people aren't coming in.

[20:35:10]

If you had gone to undergraduate school and you graduated magna cum laude with a degree in education, you start off at 23 percent lower salary than anybody else graduated any other discipline, except the one my daughter chose, graduating with honors from University of Pennsylvania as a graduate student in dealing with a thing called idea that we have public service that relates to whether or not you're a social worker.

They get paid less, OK?

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: So what we have to do is two things.

One of the things we have to do is, we have to provide opportunities. It shouldn't matter what zip code you're in whether or not you have access to a good education.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: No, but, by the way, it's -- by the way, it's more than that.

We have learned a lot in the last 10 years based on basic research. The basic research we know is a child's brain is developing very rapidly. Beginning -- by age 4, a significant portion is already developed.

And so no matter what the background of the child, if they come from a poor background, no matter black, white, Asian, it doesn't matter. They, in fact, know now that, if they are able to go to school, not day care, at 3 years of age, 4 years of age, and 5 years of age, they exponentially increase the prospects of them catching up and being able to go through all 12 years without getting into trouble.

So I think it's 57 percent greater chance.

So what I do, I go in Title I schools, those with very low tax bases. They don't have enough money. They don't have enough money that they need to attract teachers and school psychologists and nurses, et cetera.

And I triple that amount of money from 15 -- which is $15 billion for Title I schools now to make up for deficiencies, to $45 billion.

That's allow -- the first thing you would have to do if you qualify for that aid, you have to raise your teachers salaries to close to $60,000 if they've been working more than five years, number one.

Number two, you in fact are going to have to see to it that you provide for total education, school, all-day school, for 3, 4, and 5 years old, because you put them in a position where they can compete, no matter what their background has been.

Thirdly -- and this is the controversial piece of what -- and now -- by the way, if you notice, on the stage, everybody's talking about tripling Title I. I'm glad everybody's come along.

But here's the deal. You should also provide for advanced placement courses in those Title I schools, because we underestimate the capacity of students.

(APPLAUSE) BIDEN: Lastly -- lastly, we have learned that if, in fact, you -- look, how many of you in this -- folks are on school boards or involved with the school system, how many of you in South Carolina find yourself in the position where you have to make a choice between a school nurse and an additional teacher, or between a school psychologist?

I'm not joking, am I? It's literal.

And so the third thing to do is, we should reward teachers who in fact are willing to teach in these schools. And we should deal with it in -- and I don't time. I'm supposed to do these real short. I'm going too long.

But we should be able to forgive student debt for them if they engage in the process.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: And so there's a lot of things.

But we can significantly -- and we should provide free community college for anybody who's qualified, those both coming back to learn something, because a lot of people are losing their jobs because of technical changes that are taken in this fourth industrial revolution, as well as those who are qualified to go up.

And we can do that now. And it cuts in half the cost of college. And it provides also opportunities for people to be able to choose other avenues that are able to work with their hands to learn trades and the like. That all should be free.

(APPLAUSE)

CUOMO: Another question for you actually comes from a teacher, but it's not about the teaching experience.

Lindsay Porcelli -- where we're come, she would get the full Porcelli would be her name.

QUESTION: Got it. Very good.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: But Lindsay Porcelli, elementary school teacher here in Charleston. She's currently undecided, leaning toward you.

Lindsay.

BIDEN: Lindsay, by the way, I may be Irish, but I'm not stupid.

I married Dominic Giacoppo's (ph) daughter, OK?

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Well, that's very -- that's very funny. (LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: And I also have to say I am -- no.

I am actually a Title I teacher. So you won my vote on that. So thank you very much.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

QUESTION: Mr. Vice President, I lost my father-in-law to a glioblastoma, just like your son Beau and your good friend John McCain. All of these men are veterans.

What kind of VA support do you plan to give veterans who are now suffering from this incurable brain cancer?

BIDEN: Well, as you know, Lindsay, that more people are coming home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with brain tumors and brain diseases than -- as a percentage than any other war in American history, number one.

[20:40:00]

There's reason to believe -- you have read the book "Burn Pits"? You already get a hold of it. It talks about whether or not, just like the -- just like the firemen in 9/11, how they have come back with chronic diseases, immune system diseases, brain diseases, because of exposure to the toxic fumes, well, there's some reason to believe, some folks have written -- I am not -- I cannot swear to it now, but I'm going to make sure we research it as president -- that part of the reason for this is because of the toxic burn dumps that are -- they build as big as this auditorium.

They dig a big rectangle. It's about eight-to-10-feet-deep. And they put everything in it they want to dispose of and can't leave behind, from flammable fuel, to plastics, to all range of things.

And there's a lot of toxic smoke that goes up. And so that's number one. I would look at that.

But, number two, we have to deal with increasing the availability for -- immediate availability for people who, in fact, are in the VA system to be able to get the best care possible. And right now, we have...

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: Right now, we have too many -- we have too few psychiatric nurses, for example.

There are too many -- there's more people committing suicide, 21 a week, that are veterans and/or active-duty service people, because of post-traumatic stress and other issues.

But going to the cancer piece, what I'm going to do, I'm going to do what is done in the Defense Department for the Defense -- for the Department of Health and for NIH. And I mean this sincerely.

I did the -- the president asked me to do the Cancer Moonshot. I visited every major cancer hospital in the world -- not a joke -- in the world, because this is a passion of mine, because I had access to being able to go anywhere in the world I wanted, when the president asked me to go research the cancer side of this.

We found out that docs don't play well in the sandbox together. I met an awful lot of serious, serious researchers. And I have met over 1,900 -- 1,900 of them, who are the ones who are doing the basic research.

There's now 204 distinct cancers that have been identified, distinctly different cancers, requiring different therapies. But we haven't been able to get things going, until -- I'm going to be very blunt about it -- until the Biden Cancer Initiative came along and the president allowed me to do this.

And that is that we now find out that if, in fact, all this data is able to be shared, and not hoarded, then, in fact, things change.

Any of you in here are oncologists? Are any of you researchers? Well, if you will find, the oncologists know, what happens when someone has a terminal illness? They don't come to you and say, Doctor, cure me. They say, Doctor, can you give me -- can you give me another month? I want to see the baby born.

Doctor, can you give me another -- another six months? I just got to get my things together for my family, Doc, whereas researchers bust their neck, they're in the lab, they're doing enormous work, but they don't have the same sense of urgency.

They're working as hard as they possibly can. So we have to combine two things.

One, when the president gave me the authority to have access to the whole Cabinet, everybody wondered, why did Biden put together this group that had NASA as part of it?

Well, guess what? NASA knows more about radiation than any doc in the world knows about radiation, and whether or not the damage done, as you know, from maybe your father and my son, when -- what's the -- what's the present protocol?

You go in, you find the tumor, you excise it. Then you poison the system. You use radiation to try to kill the bad stuff, but you kill a lot of good stuff on the way in. And, at the same time, you then have them on a cocktail that is basically a chemical to kill diseases.

A lot of good stuff gets killed. As Dr. Agus here in Southern California would say, we're going to go down in history as having been barbaric, the way we have done it.

And so we have to do it a totally different way. And that's what's beginning to happen now. And here's the piece. We should allow veterans, who, in fact, have

coverage, to be able to access the leading experts in the world, no matter where they are, no matter where they are.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: And they really are different places.

And so -- and not all presidents are created equal, and not all teachers, not all docs. And there are some really, really fine, fine people who specialize in ways that they have had results that go beyond anyone else.

And any of you -- and I mean this from the bottom of my heart -- not a joke -- anybody in this audience is dealing with that problem, if you don't think you're -- you need a second opinion, you want to know where to go for -- I promise you, just -- I will stand here later, and I will give you a phone number.

[20:45:00]

And call, because I have about 17 Nobel laureates that are working on the -- I -- I can't do the Biden Cancer Initiative anymore, because you've got to raise money for it, and I'm not allowed to do that. But I can get you to the people who are the best people in the world for specific diseases.

And we can now do a million, billion calculations per second, so if you're able to take a cancer genome, you get that and you sequence it, you can identify the precise kind of cancer and, in a matter of minutes -- it would take Nobel laureates a week or a month or a year to deal with -- you're able to determine why the particular therapy for -- we have the same exact cancer, God forbid, it works on you, the therapy, and not on me. We can do a million, billion calculations per second.

So that's the reason why we have to take all of these disciplines and working in a way that's different to prioritize also what we're going to work on. A lot more to talk about. If you want to talk about it afterwards, I'll stick around and tell you what I want to.

CUOMO: We can do it right now. We'll take a break.

(APPLAUSE)

When we come back, we'll have more questions from the audience with former Vice President Biden. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:50:02]

CUOMO: All right, welcome back. We are live in Charleston, South Carolina. We have Democratic presidential candidate, former VP Joe Biden. We have a question from the audience. David Caughran, he's a lawyer from Charleston, he's leaning towards supporting you. Sir. QUESTION: Thank you for your time, Mr. Vice President.

BIDEN: Thank you.

QUESTION: We've repeatedly heard about South Carolina being your firewall state, and commentators discuss at length just how important it is to your viability moving forward. My question for you is, how would you characterize the importance of South Carolina's vote in this primary to your campaign and to your viability moving forward?

BIDEN: It's important to everybody's viability. Here's the deal. You pick presidents. The Democratic primary here in this state picks presidents. You're the reason why Bill Clinton was elected president. You're the reason why Barack Obama was elected president, because you represent a diversity of the population.

Going into Super Tuesday -- look, no Democrat has ever won the presidency without overwhelming support from, number one, the African- American community, the most loyal support that exists in the Democratic Party. And I do not take it for granted. I've worked my whole life in the region, in this area, but I'm here to earn that vote.

Secondly, you have to be able to also attract high school-educated people who have not gone beyond high school, who are in trouble in terms of their jobs and they want to know what the base of the party is, as well as women, generically. And, folks, that's been the base of the Democratic Party, and that's what determines this state.

You launch candidates for the presidency out of this state. You catapult us forward. And one of the greatest things for me is that I've had the great opportunity of coming here for a long, long time, working with all of the communities. Fritz Hollings, the guy, and PT Hollings (ph) are the persons who got me through a tough period of my life, when I -- right after I got elected, my wife and daughter were killed, and my two boys were badly injured, and I didn't want to come.

And I remember Fritz saying, Joe, only 702 people have ever been to the United States Senate. You owe it to your wife. Just come and stay six months. I thought he meant it. No, he did.

But my generic point is that everything we've done down here -- I've been deeply involved. For example, the reason why the Port of Charleston is working, I was able to put together almost a half of a billion dollars to provide rail connections from all your manufacturers in the north, from furniture (ph) all the way to Ohio, connect those rails to get them down to the port, dredge the port, improve the port, and now one in eleven jobs are out of there. So this is a place I know well.

(APPLAUSE)

CUOMO: All right. Marc Cohen, vice president of a local technology firm here in Charleston. He's currently undecided, leaning toward you. Marc? QUESTION: Thanks, Chris. Vice President Biden, what is your message

for younger voters, a high school student in college, just graduated, who on the whole are so attracted to Bernie Sanders? What about your platform and policies will have a positive impact on them? And what's going to drive them to vote?

BIDEN: Three things. Number one, the polling data that just has come out is that I get 30 percent of the vote, Bernie gets more, of the 18- to 28-year-olds. But of the -- those are the early millennials, the ones who came at age when Barack and I were in the White House. I get over 45 percent of those folks. So the idea that I don't get millennials and I don't get the young vote is not accurate.

But, number two, one of the things that -- look, this is the best educated generation, the 18- to 25-year-old vote, in American history. It is the most -- it is the least prejudiced, it is the most involved, and it is the most capable generation based on their -- their historical and their academic records.

But here's the deal. Up until recently, they have not gotten engaged in voting. Had, in fact, that same generation voted at the same percentage the rest of the population did in 2016, there would have been 5,200,000 additional votes. So here's the point I say to all the young people.

(APPLAUSE)

The young people today, you can own this election. I really mean it. You can own the election. And the great thing that's happening now -- and Bernie deserves some credit for this -- is we've been generated this kind of enthusiasm.

But let's get it straight. The person who really generated the enthusiasm among young voters was Barack Obama in 2018.

(APPLAUSE)

And so it's not a criticism of Bernie. It really isn't a criticism of Bernie. I think -- and here's what I do, number one, make it clear to them, number one, that, in fact, education is going to be the bellwether in the 21st century.

[20:55:00]

The idea you can make it in the middle class and sustain yourself there with just 12 years of education is not accurate, whether you need a trade and/or you have to go beyond that, number one. You know that in terms of technology.

Number two, we should change the way we educate our people. For example, why is it in every school, why isn't programming part of the science curricula that satisfies your science requirement? Why don't we do that? Why don't we, in fact, continue -- why don't I stop?

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: No, no, listen. This is the last answer of the night, so go ahead.

BIDEN: OK, so here -- in addition to that, it's about being able to know that you are going to be able to be physically secure, the idea -- we have to restore the soul of this country.

(APPLAUSE)

No, for real.

CUOMO: Applause is a good time to end.

BIDEN: All right. Enjoyed it.

CUOMO: Mr. Vice President, thank you very much. I have done a lot of these. I've never seen anybody stand as close to the edge as you do on a regular basis.

(APPLAUSE)

I thank the former Vice President Biden. Coming up next, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Amy Klobuchar joins my colleague, Dana Bash. Amy Klobuchar, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)