Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Former Vice President Joe Biden is Interviewed about His Presidential Campaign. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 05, 2019 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is a special edition of NEW DAY. It is Friday, July 5, 6 a.m. here in New York. John Berman is off. John Avlon joins me for what's going to be a very special show.


[06:59:33] CAMEROTA: We begin with a CNN exclusive for you. Former Vice President Joe Biden sitting down with our friend Chris Cuomo for a wide-ranging interview.

Biden's commanding lead over the Democratic field has tightened significantly after the first debates. So in this interview, Joe Biden talks domestic and foreign policy. He defends his record on school desegregation and he addresses his feud with Kamala Harris over race.

AVLON: And that's not all. Biden takes aim at President Trump, trying to position himself as the best candidate to beat Trump. The former V.P. slamming the president's handling of foreign policy and eviscerates Mr. Trump's embrace of strongmen.

Here is part one of CNN's exclusive interview with Joe Biden.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: I was talking with you and Jill. You said you were expecting to have a target on your back, but the intensity of some of it -- did you see the questions about your past positions from the perspective of race being as relevant as they are?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. And I don't think they're relevant, because they were taken out of context.

What I didn't see is people who know me. I mean, they know me well. It's not like it's somebody who 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 take a context, and take it completely out of context. And I mean, you know, I -- I get all this information about other people's past and what they've done and not done. And, you know, I'm just not going to go there. If we keep doing that, that's -- I mean, what we should be debating, what we do from here.

For example, this whole about race and bussing. Well, you know, I think if you take a look, our positions aren't any different, as we're finding out.

CUOMO: Senator Harris --


CUOMO: -- who said she sees it as a tool, not a must in all circumstances.

BIDEN: Yes. Well, look at my record. And --

CUOMO: I don't think bussing's 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 bussing. It was a different time. There were different applications. Why not just own it and say, "I was against it, but I've changed"?

BIDEN: By the way, here's -- I was -- I was in favor of bussing that was de jure (ph) bussing. That was if the court ruled that there was a law passed or circumstance that a county, a city, a state did that prevented black folks from being somewhere, then that's wrong. You should bus.

I even went so far in the middle that bussing controversy, 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 as 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: Bussing 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 3, 4, 5 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 No. 1, but No. 2, the idea right now, 65 out of a hundred 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 bussing back and forth in that debate as about policy or application of how to effect 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 bussing 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, No. 1. I was for bussing where the court showed that, in fact, a legislative body took an action preventing black folks from going to a school. That is the 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 Education, 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 -- 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: 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." [06:05:03] 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: They're going to come after you.

BIDEN: Sure they were going 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 support me.

CUOMO: Are you worried about the polls slipping with African -- 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, OK, because, not to aggrandize or 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 they're changing. 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 --

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. But 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 who 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: Come on, man. Give me a break. And by the way, the idea that NATO -- 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.

[06:10:03] 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 Verecunda (ph) Conference, used to be. The first speech [SIC] 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, would suck us in the way they did in World War I and World War II. It's being crushed.

Look at what's happened with Putin. While he -- while Putin is trying to undo our elections, he is undoing elections in -- in Europe. Look what's happened in Hungary. Look what's happened in Poland. Look what's happened in -- look what's happening. 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, 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.

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 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, for us. China's problem is they're stealing intellectual secrets.


BIDEN: There's cybersecurity. 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 tweeting, China's going to own the 5-G 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: The reason why they haven't tested 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.


CAMEROTA: All right. He has given us a lot of food for thought this Friday morning. So we have so much to talk about and dive into here. We'll have much more of our exclusive interview with Joe Biden throughout the morning. And in our next hour, the former vice president is going to lay out his health care plan. He's going to discuss the crisis at the border, what he thinks should be done about it, and talk of a potential running mate.

AVLON: All right. But our political reporters and analysts are going to weigh on this exclusive interview. Up next, what they heard and what's next for the Biden campaign, after the break.


CAMEROTA: All right. We just heard former Vice President Biden's exclusive interview with Chris Cuomo. In it, he talked about the controversy over school bussing and race relations that led to that much-discussed moment on the debate stage. Listen to this.


CUOMO: Did you see the questions about your past positions from the perspective of race being as relevant as they are?

BIDEN: No, and 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 it's somebody just came out of the blue and didn't know anything.

It's easy to go back and go back 30, 40, 50 years, and take the context and take it completely out of context.

Well, this whole thing about race and bussing. Well, you know, I think if you take a look, our positions aren't any different, as we're finding out.


[06:20:15] CAMEROTA: All right. We want to bring in Errol Louis, CNN political commentator; Arlette Saenz, CNN political reporter who has followed Joe Biden on the campaign trail; and Joe Lockhart, former White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton.

Great to see you, all of you. Thank you for being here early on this Friday morning.

So Joe, that was Joe Biden explaining himself about how -- it sounds like he was surprised by the attack coming from Kamala Harris. Mostly, he sort of took it personally, that he didn't think that she should be going after him.

And he did, later in the interview, get into the nuance of bussing and clarified his position that he was against the federal mandate but not against the voluntary-style bussing that she ended up going to school as a result of in Berkeley. What did you think of that?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think it was a pretty interesting answer. I think -- and it demonstrates, I think, Biden's strategy. He's not going to roll over, but he's not going to, as he said in the interview, get into the scrum. He's going to stay above the scrum.

I think he -- what he was really saying there was what Kamala Harris did was a cheap shot. She attacked him for a position that she herself has and did it in a very personal and emotional way. And he said he was surprised by that, because people know him.

I think you're going to find that he's going to deflect a lot of these attacks by saying, "People are just playing politics. Voters, you know me. You know what I can do. You know what kind of man I am." And that's how he's going to try to thread this needle of playing defense where he needs to but trying to stay above the fray.

AVLON: Errol, you know, perspective's the thing we have least of in our politics. Joe Biden tried to impose some on the issue of bussing saying, look, he was in favor of it when it was a court order. He was in favor of it in school districts, not a federal mandate. It wasn't popular, and it wasn't working. Were you convinced? Were you convinced by his answer?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Personally, not particularly, in part because the whole thing about desegregating this country, which is one of the glories of the Democratic Party, one of the things they should be most proud of, one of the parts of the legacy he should not be trying to backpedal or walk away from, one singular part of it is that he did it whether or not it was popular.

You know, so for Joe Biden to say, "Well, black families, you know, in Wilmington or wherever weren't all that thrilled about it." OK, well, that's great. But we were talking about a constitutional principle, about a broad transformation of society. And about doing something that was, in fact, tough and not all that popular.

So I -- I really didn't want to hear too much more about it. And I think Joe Biden should try and pivot off it.

But you know, look, he is trying to stay above the fray. He's trying to get to the general election without the messiness of the primary. And I think that's a mistake on his part. That is not necessarily going to work. And Kamala Harris showed that it's not going to work.

There's a very restive Democratic coalition out there. It includes college-educated women and millennials and environmentalists and LGBTQ families and union households. And you've got to speak to all of them. You can't just kind of skate past and say, "Oh, everybody knows me. Let's get to the general election." I don't think that's going to work.

CAMEROTA: So Arlette, describe if there has been a strategy shift from the former vice president since the debates. I mean, first of all, sitting down with CNN. He doesn't do many of these one-on-one interviews. Describe what's happening in the campaign and if something has changed.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, on this issue of bussing, it was clear that the campaign did want to engage in it, since they brought up Harris' recent explanations.

And you're seeing Biden trying to show that he wants to move past it, trying to turn the corner, talking about how the Democratic candidates need to start talking about issues of the current environment and of the future.

But I've been following Joe Biden for these past two days as he's been here in Iowa, this early caucus state. And yesterday in the parade, he marched in a parade, really ran through a parade, Independence, Iowa, zigzagged across the parade route, was holding babies at one point, glad-handing people. He was literally running.

There is one point where I asked him, "Are you training for this parade?"

And he said, "Oh, I just love parades," and kind of dashed off from me.

But he has been having a few more interactions with media. On Wednesday night, he stopped for questions. When I asked him yesterday along the parade route, he was answering reporters' questions, as well as holding a gaggle.

We're going to see if this accessibility continues going forward. He's going to be in Houston later today. In South Carolina over the weekend which is really critical to Biden's argument, particularly among black voters as he's courting them in that state.

AVLON: So the Rose Garden strategy seems to be a thing of the past. More of an on-the-road strategy from Joe Biden.

But he definitely did try to keep his fire focused primarily on President Trump and the argument of what some folks would call simply electability, going toe to toe, mano a mano.

Let's take a look at that sound.


CUOMO: How do you beat him?

BIDEN: I beat him by just pointing out who I am, and who he is, and what we're for and what he's again. This guy is a divider-in-chief. This guy is acting with racist

policies. I'm looking forward to this, man. You walk behind me in a debate, come here, man. What do you think -- 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.


AVLON: Joe Lockhart, you're the coms guy. Come on, man. Is that strategy going to work for Joe Biden?

LOCKHART: I think it's part of the strategy. I think he certainly is the candidate that a lot of Democrats think that, while he may not be perfect, he's the -- he provides some certainty. And the fact that he has been tested.

But he's got to do a whole lot more. You know, I agree with Errol on the idea that he's got to go out and appeal to multiple constituencies in the Democratic Party. And that's what he'll talk about. You know, I assume he's talked about it, and you'll hear it in the next couple of hours on -- here on NEW DAY. And you know -- and voters will make a judgment.

You know, the one thing I would say, going back to bussing just for a second -- is there isn't a candidate in this race on either party now who has a plan to mandate federal bussing. So in many ways, this is a -- it's a symbolic issue, but it is not a practical issue for voters going forward. And I think everyone agrees that moving past it is in the interest of all of the Democratic field, but particularly Joe Biden.

CAMEROTA: Errol, one thing that I was struck by was how well Joe Biden does in this format. That sit-down with Chris. You know, not every format is for every person.

And so Kamala Harris really seemed to thrive in the, you know, stage of ten. She was able to kind of upstage people. And she was able to -- I would say manipulate that format in a certain way that made her shine.

This is his format, I would say. Because that's where he shows his institutional knowledge. And he can speak on North Korea and how he remembers what happened with China and Russia and how we got here. What did you think about just how he presented himself?

LOUIS: Yes, and I think that is certainly true, Alisyn. But I'd put a big caveat there, which is that we know from polls, from past elections, from what people are telling pollsters now, this is -- you know, whether or not Russia's been meddling in Hungary is not going to move voters. Certainly not at the primary stage of this election.

So one wonders if -- what is the essence of Joe Biden, which is that he's got all of this experience. It can become a distraction, and it can become a burden. And I would urge him, if I were on his team, I would certainly urge him to say less about that, frankly, or if there's going to be a foreign policy question, pivot immediately to the chaos that's happening at the border. To the fact that what he talks about, being able to rally the nations, lead the free world, and develop policies that will support a safer and more secure world, are not being applied in Latin America.

You know, I would always tell him you've got to bring it closer to home for the Democratic coalition. That's what really people want to hear about.

AVLON: Arlette, final word to you. What are you hearing from folks in Iowa? Because clearly, that executive experience -- we talked about going toe to toe with thugs and really prescribes a different path with North Korea, that kind of specifics. Does that resonate with voters at least to the extent that they can imagine him being commander in chief?

SAENZ: Well, that's something that I have heard from voters here in Iowa and also in other states like New Hampshire and South Carolina. They point, as well as Biden's allies, that he does have that experience. He has been as close as you can to the presidency.

And one thing that I heard over and over again at these Biden events in the past two days is that people who are attending those events, even if they're undecided, they are focused on finding someone that can defeat President Trump.

And I think right now, what Biden is trying to do after that debate is quell some of those concerns that he may not be able to take on Trump if he can't even face that friendly fire from his fellow Democrats.

CAMEROTA: All right.

AVLON: All right.

CAMEROTA: Jill, Arlette, Errol, thank you all very much.

So also breaking last night, this powerful earthquake shaking up Southern California, more than 100 aftershocks. And now there are growing fears of when the big one will hit. So we have a live report on that, next.