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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Exclusive: Former VP Joe Biden Sits Down With CNN; Biden: Vast Majority Of Dems Are Where I Am On The Issues. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 05, 2019 - 16:30   ET



[16:30:38] DANA BASH, CNN HOST: We're back with the special edition of THE LEAD and more of CNN's exclusive interview with the former Vice President Joe Biden.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: You versus the rest of the field on the economy. They're all going big: 70 percent tax rates; free college; re-architecture of the economic; forgiving debt for college, which happens to be the biggest asset on the American government's balance sheet. You do not believe in those things.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe in the way they're doing that. For example, I think there should be health care for everyone. I have a plan how to do that that's rational and will cost a hell of a lot less and will work.

In terms of --

CUOMO: Too incremental?

BIDEN: No, it's not incremental. It's bold.

CUOMO: Would bring back the individual mandate?

BIDEN: Yes, yes, I'd bring back the individual mandate.

CUOMO: You think that will be popular?

BIDEN: Well, it's not -- yes, now it would be, compared to what's being offered.

And here's the deal, Chris. We're in a situation where, if you provide an option for anybody who, in fact, wants to buy into Medicare for all, they can buy in. They buy in. And they can do it.

But if they like their employer-based insurance, which a lot of unions broke their neck to get, a lot of people like, they shouldn't have to give it up.

The flip of that is, if you don't go my way and you go their way, you have to give up all that. And what's going to happen when you have 300 million people landing on a health care plan? How long is that going to take? What's it going to do? And in the meantime, a lot of people are going to be in trouble.

In terms of the economy, Chris, I've been proposing for a long time, and I've -- look, I know I'm Middle-Class Joe, I get that past. It's not meant I'm sophisticated.

It meant I'm, you know -- middle class built there country. You didn't have Wall Street build this country. How did they do it? You gave people a chance. You allowed them to maintain their dignity.

And how'd they do it? How can you have dignity without having health care? How can you have dignity without having access to an education? How can you have dignity unless you live in a neighborhood that's not fouled by the environment and what's going on?

CUOMO: How do you convince the party that these more advanced ideas, all in on Medicare for all, that matter to them --

BIDEN: I wouldn't call them advanced. I would call them --

CUOMO: But they're popular in the party.

BIDEN: Well, by the way, watch. That's what this election is about. I really -- I'm happy to debate that issue and all those issues with my friends.

Because guess what? Again, look who won the races. Look who won last time out. We had -- and by the way, I think -- I think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a brilliant, bright woman. But she won a primary.

In the general election fights, who won? Mainstream Democrats who are very progressive on social issues and very strong on education, health care.

Look, my North Star is the middle class. When the middle class does well, everybody does well.

CUOMO: How do you do better for them economically? If not with these 70 percent tax rates?

BIDEN: Well, three things. One, I do raise the tax rate to 39.5 percent. I do, in fact, eliminate the ability for them to write off capital gains the way they do now. I would raise the -- and raise billions of dollars, raise the corporate tax rate from 20 to 28 percent -- it was 36 -- to 28 percent. I'd raise billions of dollars.

CUOMO: Trump will say, but that's what brought the economy up to the were it is, is those tax cuts.

BIDEN: Ask these people who work in this restaurant how the economy came up for them. Ask how good they feel about it, how the stock market is working. Ask how driving the $2 trillion greater in debt has done anything for them.

CUOMO: On health care, do you believe that undocumented people should have health care in this country? BIDEN: I think undocumented people need to have a means by which they

can be covered when they're sick. And so the idea is that's what I think we should be doing by building more clinics around the country. Not just for undocumented, for other people when they're ill, when they're sick. People need -- this is just common decency. You're not -- this is common decency.

You're not going to let somebody --

CUOMO: It's unpopular.

BIDEN: Well, I know it --

CUOMO: Well over 50 percent of people polled say undocumented people here should not have health care on our dime.

BIDEN: Well, I mean, I'll tell you something. In an emergency, they should have health care. Everybody should, anybody here in the country.

How do you say, you're undocumented. I'm going to let you die, man? What are you going to do?

You know, I mean, the idea that, you know, I hear the stuff about how, you know, they're killing Social Security, et cetera. Those who have jobs, guess what? They've increased the life span of Social Security by close to a dozen years. I mean, we got this -- this is part of what Trump is playing on.

[16:35:00] He's playing --

CUOMO: It works for him, this issue, the issue of law and order versus a left that seems like it's open borders, because it means it's lawless. You have people who are running close to you now who are saying decriminalize coming into the country illegally.

Do you believe that should be decriminalized?

CUOMO: No. No, I don't. No, I don't. I think people should have to get in line.

But if people are coming, because they're actually seeking asylum, they should have a chance to make their case. I would be surging as we did and Barack and I did, surging folks to the border to make those concrete decisions.

Look, the other thing, Chris, is why are they coming? The reason the vast majority of these people coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is because they're in trouble. Crime rates are high. Education is terrible. In Guatemala, you can't turn on a light switch and have them out.

And so what do we do? I put together a $740 million program with Republicans, I might add. At the very end, saying, we'll make a deal with you. You do the following things to make your country better so people don't leave, and we will help you do that. Just like we did in Colombia. What did we do in Colombia? We went down and said, "OK," and I was one of the architects of plan Colombia in Colombia.

I said, here's the deal. If you have all these crooked cops, all these federal police, we're sending our FBI down. You let us give them -- put them through lie detector tests. Let us tell you who you should fire and tell you the kind of people you should hire.

They did and began to change. We can do so much if we're committed.

CUOMO: What do you say to the people party right now when polled who say, yes, I like Joe Biden, but I think that his ideas are the old ideas? The new ideas I see a Warren, I see a Sanders, I see a Harris.

BIDEN: I've not seen that.

CUOMO: You poll lower than them. You poll lower than them on ideas for the future. What do you say to them?

BIDEN: I say to them, take a look at my ideas. Take a look at my ideas.

I haven't seen those polls. I haven't seen where people say -- what I've seen around the country is the vast majority of Democrats are where I am on the issues.

We've got to be aggressive. And they're big ideas. The big idea on education, on health care, on dealing with the environment. I mean, it's just -- I love how, you know, all of a sudden -- I wish I had been -- I wish I had been labeled as moderate when I was running in Delaware back in the days when it was --

CUOMO: Eighty percent of your party says it's center left.

BIDEN: I am center left.

CUOMO: The farther left is getting more attention. It's getting amplified by --

BIDEN: It is. Look --

CUOMO: There's a disconnect.

BIDEN: Look, it's center left. That's where I am. Where it's not is way left.

Now, look, but that's what we can find out. That's what this -- that's what this debate is about.

CUOMO: Do you think you need, if you win the nomination, to have a female V.P.?

BIDEN: I think it would be great to have a female V.P. And if I don't win, it would be great to have a female president.

But the question is, whose issues are best prepared in their wheelhouse? They've demonstrated they know how to deal with them.

CUOMO: Would you consider not having a woman as a V.P.?

BIDEN: I would -- look, here's the first thing about being a V.P. I've learned. And that is that today's environment, there's so much a president has on his or her plate. They need someone they completely trust, that they're simpatico with, have the same -- the same approach, political approach, and you can delegate significant authority to.

The president when he delegated authority to me from the moonshot to Ukraine, he gave me the authority to make decisions, because he knew I knew where he was. He knew that I knew something about it. And he knew we were simpatico. And so that's what I'm looking for.

CUOMO: Do you think a Democrat ticket can win without a woman in one of the two slots?

BIDEN: Yes, well, the answer is yes. But I think that -- I think it helps having a woman on the ticket. And there's a lot of really qualified women out there.

CUOMO: Is Kamala Harris, assuming she doesn't win outright, is she still somebody you would consider as a running mate?

BIDEN: Look, one of the things I'm not going to get into, because it got news before, is when I was asked -- I don't even have the nomination, and I'm presuming who I might pick as a vice president. That's easily flipped on me and saying, well, Biden's being arrogant. Biden thinks I'll have him as my vice president.

So I'm not going to comment on -- on any individual.

A woman came up to me -- I guess it was, I don't know, a month ago. I guess I was in New Hampshire. Said --

CUOMO: All right. I'm almost done.

BIDEN: Why shouldn't I vote for a woman?

And I said, you should. If you think that person's most qualified at the moment right now to deal with our problems, vote. I'm not suggesting you shouldn't vote for women.

Look, I have spent my career, from writing the Violence Against Women Act before that, to say my daughters and granddaughters could do anything, and I mean anything, anything that a man can do. Anything. And so, I don't have a doubt in my mind.

And if I started naming some of the people around the country, women who are not running for president, as well, who are fully qualified to be vice president. Again, it would be awful presumptuous, man. Presumptuous. So there's a lot of really qualified women out there.

CUOMO: In terms of -- last question -- in terms of what we haven't seen from Joe Biden yet. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you please (INAUDIBLE) please?

CUOMO: I remember your -- hey, Jill, last question. Last question, I promise.


BIDEN: OK, I'll be there in a second.

CUOMO: Last question, I promise.

The last thing I remember talking to him about politically with you, Beau, was, you know, what is the quality? You know, because he was asking me about, you know, what do you take from your father in this? What do you -- Beau Biden said to me, nobody fights like my father.

What does that mean to you to fight harder than anybody else?

BIDEN: I think it means two things. One, to fight without being personal. To fight and convince. The role of a president is to persuade. Persuade, not just go out and fight.

If they want someone, the clenched fist, a bare-knuckle fight, closed hand, closed heart, they've got one of those guys right now. That's not me.

I have been pretty darn good at bringing people together. The whole idea of America is that when we're together there's not a damn thing we can't do.

And it's -- look, the most incredible response I always get for the last three years is when I talk about how optimistic am I about the future. People know it. They feel it. They know it. They understand it. And we can't stay in this state.

What are we going to do? What are we going do if we can't get along better? And part of it is persuasion and people looking at you and say, I know what he means. He'll stay with what he says, and he'll do what he says he's going to do.

And I think that's part of leading. We'll soon find out.

CUOMO: Thank you for the time.


BASH: So will Joe Biden's push against progressives like AOC hurt him or help? Our experts weigh in next.


[16:45:00] BASH: And we're back with our coverage of former Vice President Joe Biden's exclusive sit-down with CNN. So many things to dissect in that lengthy interview. First it's just the way that the former vice president just went for it in staking out what he was very clear about what he -- where he thinks the Democratic Party really is which is center-left on a number of issues and talk specifically about Congresswoman AOC who maybe gets the most play even though she's not running for president and the man who is running for president Bernie Sanders took the bait, he jumped on it because he wanted to be associated with this.

He did it you sent out a tweet today saying the following. I'm proud to be working with AOC and so many other Democrats to pass Medicare for all, debt-free college, and a green new deal. This is the agenda America needs and that will energize voters to defeat Donald Trump. So the split was already there but it's becoming more clear.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I don't think he needed to do that to make the split so clear. He could have said something nice about her and he could have moved on. I don't think there's any point in trying to separate yourself, right.

I think that she is representative of the future of the party. There's no question. And she really lights up so many people in the party, even people who aren't super, super liberals still can recognize that she's incredibly brilliant and really has a vision for the party.

So I think it would be better for him to just to have skipped that -- you know, just said she's brilliant and she's you know a brilliant young leader and you know here's my vision.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I don't know about that. I think he's going to get -- suffered death of a thousand cuts if on every issue he allows them to come after him on something he's -- the position he took 20 years ago or something he said 40 years ago.

I think he might as well try to make it a referendum on do you want a central left Democratic Party or a really left Democratic Party. And if you guys want to go up against Donald Trump for the Green New Deal, and bussing, and taking away private health insurance, good luck. But I think he will win that bet actually.

POWERS: Right. That's not what he did. That's my point. If he had just done that, that would be fine, but he doesn't need to say anything critical about her. That's my point. It's like you just make your -- make your point that you think that the future Democratic Party is moving in this direction but I think you know, he has to -- I also think there's a debate about whether he's correct.

BASH: That was -- that was the next question. Do you think he is?

POWERS: Yes. I think --

BASH: It's a gamble.

POWERS: Yes, I think -- I think it's a huge gamble and I'm more in the camp of saying that I think it's more likely that you need to really get the basic side of them the people who are the most passionate about the party rather than trying to win back people who voted for Donald Trump. I think that's a much bigger gamble. So you know, he's putting it out there that he thinks this is a future

of the party and he can continue to make that case. But he does have to get out of the primary and the primary is actually quite--

KRISTOL: He's not going to win the primary if you're right that that's where the party wants to go so you might as well put all these chips on the table on this. And I think it doesn't hurt to mention AOC. Fine, she's sort of popular of the party --

POWERS: Sort of popular.

KRISTOL: She is only sort of. I'd like to actually see a poll of all Democratic voters not of Democrats on Twitter about AOC versus other Democrats.

BASH: But are there Democrats who are not on Twitter or any humans?

KRISTOL: No, there are none. But those nice people are -- more than half of Democratic primary voters are not college -- do not have college degrees, a lot of them are 55 and over, a lot of African- American and white voters are working-class voters. I do think they are Joe Biden voters much more than AOC voters.

BASH: And I don't think that -- Chris alluded to because he said -- I think he was referencing a recent Quinnipiac poll that said like 20 percent of people who say they're going to vote in Democratic primaries and caucuses consider themselves very Liberal.

[16:50:03] POWERS: Right.

BASH: The rest are potentially Joe Biden voters. You're not so --

POWERS: Right. But I don't think that you have to be very Liberal to support Medicare for all for example. I think that people are coming around to recognize that something is really broken in this country when it comes to our health care system and a lot of people are looking for solutions.

And so as long as you don't want to abolish private insurance and you're willing to do some sort of expanding Medicare without abolishing private insurance, I don't consider that a super liberal position. Now, I know it's super liberal to you but I don't think it's

KRISTOL: No, but I think it's real Medicare for all does get rid of private health insurance otherwise you're just talking about the public option basically which Biden to be fair, I think would have preferred in 2010 that he couldn't get all the Democratic senators to go with him, so I agree. I mean, look, he can make some of these distinctions and I think he's going to have.

I guess what I would say is he's going to have to make -- he can't help -- he can't help but be a referendum on center versus left.

BASH: OK guys, standby because we have more to talk about including a new number for Senator Kamala Harris when that's not as high as she likely would have hoped. That's next.


[16:55:00] BASH: Senator Kamala Harris polling in less than $12 million in the second quarter according to her campaign just shy of her first-quarter haul and well short of sums raised by Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders all over the past three months. And another presidential candidate sits down with CNN live next.