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Quest Means Business
Biden Delivers Speech On Threats To US Democracy; NATO Chief Says Ukrainian Counteroffensive Is "Gaining Ground"; Dash To The Bell. Aired 3- 4p ET
Aired September 28, 2023 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: Now there you see the podium, we are awaiting President Biden, who is going to give a major speech, where he is
warning the US on the threats to democracy and the threat to US democracy at the moment.
We will have the full coverage of the speech, which we are expecting. It's running about 15 minutes late now, but we are expecting it very soon. It is
Thursday, it's September, the 28th. I'm Richard Quest, and I mean business.
President Biden is set to deliver a warning that there is something dangerous happening in America, it's part of a series of speeches that he's
been giving on democracy. But this speech expected any moment now is likely to include pointed remarks about former President Donald Trump, of course
now the leading Republican candidate for the White House.
The President is actually in Arizona -- Tempe, Arizona, to be precise, where he's honoring the state's late Senator John McCain. The two men were
friends for decades, despite sharp political differences and Mr. Biden is also going to be announcing the construction -- that is Cindy McCain, of
course, who is just addressing the crowd.
The significance of today is that the president, President Biden, not only has decided to make this important speech, just after of course, the second
Republican debate, which took place last night, the debate where Trump didn't show up and where Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey
called him Donald Duck, and No Show Trump from Ron DeSantis.
But he didn't show up, and by all accounts, and from what we saw, the rest of the debate was a pretty messy affair. So the fact that President Biden
decides to give this speech today, and not only does he do it in a Republican, if you like, stronghold from John McCain, but it shows the
bipartisaness or the bipartisan nature of the way in which he has lived his political life at a time when, arguably Donald Trump is now of course,
going so much in the opposite direction.
That's the scenario that we are looking at, as we cover this today. Jim Sciutto will be with me from Washington.
Jim, I believe is with me now.
Jim, the significance of today's speech? I mean, I'm guessing we've heard a lot of what the president is going to say. We've heard it before. But it's
all about timing, and moment and placement of where he's saying it.
JIM SCIUTTO CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. He said it before. I mean, the phrase and this is an early
excerpt from his speech, the battle for the soul of America is what we heard in his 2020 election campaign.
He goes on to describe an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs of our democracy. That's what he's describing here. And I suppose,
though, we have heard similar phrases before, similar warnings before, the difference now is this and that is that Biden very much expects to face
Donald Trump again in 2024 and he is attempting to communicate here, that this is a serious choice, a serious choice for the US, for US voters, the
choice in effect between maintaining the US democratic system as we know it, and losing it.
And I know, Richard Quest that that sounds bombastic, but that is the current president's belief. He said it before and his intent here is to
make that clear to voters is there well, we approach about 14 months from making another decision on the White House.
QUEST: The extraordinary part about it is this rerun match, which is looking more and more likely, at a time. That's putting it crudely, but
neither party's rank and file accepted, or the majority is absolutely thrilled at the prospect of these two men running again.
Now, Trump has his own individualistic aspects with his heart and base that could get him to it, but the Democrats aren't exactly rushing for Joe Biden
SCIUTTO: They are not. To be to be fair, Richard Quest, it is a great point because President Biden's campaign is very aware of that, that the general
election polling that test out a matchup between Trump and Biden in 2024 are quite tight. There was even a poll in the last week that showed Trump
although it was something of an outlier with a large lead.
But they know that this election is certainly far from over and they need to make a case and they need to make it now.
Joining me now, Tim Naftali. He's a CNN presidential historian and senior research scholar at Columbia School of International Public Affairs. We
also have CNN political commentator, Maria Cardona. As we await President Biden's speech here, his advisers describing this as a defining speech for
his campaign, his message going forward.
Maria, why now? And how seriously, does President Biden take this message and this warning?
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think this is as serious as President Biden has taken anything and we know he takes this seriously,
because to your point, this is what he launched his 2020 campaign with, right?
Maria, standby, because we're going to hear exactly how seriously he conveys this.
Let's listen to in. I'll get your reaction on the other side.
CARDONA: Sounds good.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, thank you. Please -- please, sit down. Thank you.
I'm going to put a little bit more meat on that bone -- that last one.
John and I used to travel together. When John got back from all the time in Vietnam in prison -- when he was released, he decided he wanted to go back
to stay in the military. And he was assigned to the United States Senate and to the military office there that travels with senators when they
And John and I put in a couple hundred thousand miles together. And on our way to -- I think I was going to either China -- I forget what the
destination was -- China, I think. And we stopped in -- we stopped in Hawaii. And the -- the Chief Naval -- of Operations was there showing me
around. They did an event for me.
And John kept looking at your mom. Oh, I'm serious.
And he said, "My God, she's beautiful."
I said -- and I said, "Yes, she is, John." And I said, "Well, you to go up and say hi to her." He said, "No, no, no, no, no, no."
"I'm not going to do that."
Well, as your mom come -- I won't go into more detail, but I'll tell you: I insisted that they meet.
And I take credit. I take credit for you guys.
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE.)
And I just told your mom --
John and I had something in common, we both married way above our station - -
Way above our station.
Cindy -- or I should call you Madam Ambassador -- thank you for all you've done, all you do, you continue to do. Jack and Bridget, the entire McCain
family, and to all those who love the McCain family.
Oh, I didn't see all up there.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE.)
Whoa. Don't jump. Don't jump.
Well, I tell you what, it's an honor to be with you. It's a genuine honor.
Governor Hobbs, you've done an incredible job. You've been a leader and defender of democracy. And you've always been available when I've called,
and I hope I've been available when you called as well.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests --
In the end, John McCain thought about the beginning. Five years ago, as John was dying from brain cancer, John wrote a farewell letter to the
nation that he said -- that he served so well in both war and in peace.
His words tracked back centuries to America's founding and then toward a triumphant future. Here's what John wrote, and I quote: "We are citizens of
the world -- the world's greatest republic. A nation of ideals, not blood and soil. Americans never quit. They never hide from history. America makes
And John was right. Every other per -- every other nation in the world has been founded on either a grouping by ethnicity, religion, background. We're
the most unique nation in the world. We're founded on an idea -- the only major nation in the world founded on an idea. An idea that we are all
created equal, endowed by our Cr -- in the image of God, endowed by our Creator to be -- to be able to be treated equally throughout our lives.
We've never fully lived up to that idea, but we've never walked away from it. But there's danger we're walking too far away from it now, the way we
talk in this deba- -- in this country. Because a long line of patriots from -- like John McCain kept it from ever becoming something other than what it
I often think about our friendship of 40 years. The hammer-and-tong debates we'd have in the Senate. We'd argue -- we were like two brothers. We'd
argue like hell.
I mean really go at one another. Then we'd go lunch together.
No, not a joke. Or John would ride home with me. I mean, we -- we traveled the world together.
And, by the way, when he found this magnificent woman and got married, I'm the guy that convinced him to run in Arizona as a Republican.
Bless me, Father, for -- (makes the sign of the cross).
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE.)
No, but it's -- you've got to admit, Cindy, I did. I talked to him, and I said, "John, you can do this job. My only worry is you'll do it too well."
But, look, running on opposite sides of the nation's highest office when -- when he was running for president and I was on the vice presidential ticket
-- we still remained friends.
The conversations we had -- he had with my son, Beau -- the attorney general of the state of Delaware, a decorated major in the US Army, was a
guy who spent a year in Iraq -- about serving in a war overseas, about the courage in battle against the same cancer that took John and my son.
Two weeks ago, I thought about John as I was standing in another part of the world -- in Vietnam. I don't want to be -- I -- excuse me if I -- it
was an emotional trip.
I was there to usher in a 50-year arc of progress for the two countries, pushed by John and, I might add, another John -- this is the former
Secretary of State, John from Massachusetts, won the Silver Star as well.
Once at war, we are now choosing the highest possible partnership, made possible through John's leadership. I mean that sincerely. Think about it.
While in Hanoi, I visited a marker depicting where John -- what John -- where John had endured all the pain. Imprisoned five-and-a-half years.
Solitary confinement for two years. Given an opportunity -- an opportunity to come home if he just said a couple things. He was beaten, bloodied,
bones broken, isolated, tortured, left unable to raise his arms above his shoulders again.
As I stood there paying my respects, I thought about how much I missed my friend. And it's not hyperbole. I -- from the bottom of my heart, I mean
I thought about something else as well. I thought about how much America missed John right now, how much America needed John's courage and foresight
and vision. I thought about what John stood for, what he fought for, what he was willing to die for. I thought about what we owed John, what I owed
him, and what we owe each other -- we owe each other -- we owed each other as well -- and Americans as well.
You see, John is one of those patriots who, when they die, their voices are never silent. They still speak to us. They tug at both our hearts and our
And they pose the most profound questions: Who are we? What do we stand for? What do we believe? What will we be?
For John, it was country first. Sounds like a -- like a movie, but it's real with John: Honor, duty, decency, freedom, liberty, democracy.
And now, history has brought us to a new time of testing. Very few of us will ever be asked to endure what John McCain endured. But all of us are
being asked right now: What will we do to maintain our democracy? Will we, as John wrote, never quit? Will we not hide from history, but make history?
Will we put partisanship aside and put country first?
I say we must and we will. We will.
But it's not easy. It's not easy.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: When will you stand against corruption, Mr. President?
AUDIENCE: Booo -
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Sit down.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible) ask why you have yet to declare a climate emergency? Why have you yet to declare a climate emergency? Hundreds of
Arizonians have died.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Sit down.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hundreds of Arizonians have died because you won't --
BIDEN: Why don't you wait at --
Well, hang on one second. Hang on a second. I'll be happy to meet with you after I speak, okay?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You promised no new drilling on fossil fuels. Why have you yet to declare a climate emergency? Not (INAUDIBLE) --
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Sit down.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We need your leadership, Mr. President.
BIDEN: Well, I tell you what, if you shush up, I'll meet with you immediately after this. Okay?
But democracy never is easy, as we just demonstrated.
The cause -- the cause is worth giving our all, for democracy makes all things possible.
Let me begin with the core principles. Democracy means rule of the people, not rule of monarchs, not rule of the monied, not rule of the mighty.
Regardless of party, that means respecting free and fair elections; accepting the outcome, win or lose.
It means you can't love your country only when you win.
Democracy means rejecting and repudiating political violence. Regardless of party, such violence is never, never, never acceptable in America.
It's undemocratic, and it must never be normalized to advance political power.
And democracy means respecting the institutions that govern a free society. That means adhering to the timeless words of the Declaration of
Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident." A mission statement embodied in our Constitution, our system of separation of powers
and checks and balances.
Our Constitution -- the bulwark to prevent the abuse of power to ensure "We the People" move forward together under the law, rather than believing the
only way is one way or no way at all.
But our institutions and our democracy are not just of government. The institutions of democracy depend on the Constitution and our character --
our character and the habits of our hearts and minds.
Institutions like the McCain Institute and the new McCain Library that will be built at Arizona State University with the funding from the American
Rescue Plan, which I signed into law when I came to office.
A library that's going to house John's archives, host dialogue and debate, inspire future leaders around the world, to serve tens of thousands
underserved Arizonans as a reminder of our obligation to one another.
These principles of democracy are essential in a free society, but they have always been embattled.
Today, let's be clear. While we've made progress, democracy is still at risk. This is not hyperbole; it's a simple truth -- a simple truth.
I've made the defense and protection and preservation of American democracy the central issue of my presidency. From the speech I made at Gettysburg,
an Inaugural Address, to the anniversary of the June 6th insurrection -- or January 6th insurrection, to Independence Hall in Philadelphia -- to the
speech I made at Union Station in Washington, I've spoken about the danger of election denialism, political violence, and the battle for the soul of
Today, in America, to honor an institution devoted to the defense of democracy, named in honor of a true patriot, I'm here to speak about
another threat to our democracy that we all too often ignore: The threat to our political institutions, to our Constitution itself, and the very
character of our nation.
Democracy is maintained by adhering to the Constitution and the march to perfecting our union --
(A TODDLER IN THE AUDIENCE BABBLES.)
-- by protecting and expanding rights with each successive generation, including that little guy. He's going to talk about it.
That's okay. In my house, kids prevail. Okay?
This adherence isn't op- -- this isn't optional. We can't be situational. We can't be only going there when it's good for yourself. It's constant and
unyielding, even when it's easy and, most important, when it's hard.
For centuries, the American Constitution has been a model for the world, with other countries adopting "We the People" as their North Star as well.
But as we know, we know how damaged our institutions of democracy -- the judiciary, the legislature, the executive -- have become -- become in the
eyes of the American people, even the world, from attacks from within the past few years.
I know virtually every major world leader. That's what I did when I was a senator, as vice president, and now. Everywhere I go in the world -- I've
met now with over a hundred heads of state of the nations of the world -- everywhere I go, they look and they ask the question, "Is it going to be
Think about this: The first meeting I attended of the G7 -- the seven wealthiest nations in the world -- in Europe, the NATO meeting, I sat down
-- it was in Feb -- Feb -- January, after being elected -- so, late Janu- - - early February --
And it was in England. And I sat down, and I said, "America is back." And Macron looked at me, and he said, "Mr. President, for how long -- for how
And then, the Chancellor of Germany said, "Mr. President, what would you think if you picked up the paper tomorrow -- tomorrow, "The London Times" -
and it said a thousand people broke down the doors of Parliament, marched, and killed two bobbies in order to overthrow an election of the new prime
minister? What would you think then? What would America think?"
What would we think, the leading nation in the world, having gone through what we went through?
And many of you travel internationally. Many of you know people from around the world. I'd be surprised if you heard anything different than the
concern about: Are we okay? Is the democracy going to be sustained?
And from that institutional damage, we see distrust and division among our own people.
I'm here to tell you: We lose these institutions of our government at our own peril. And I've always been clear: Democracy is not a partisan issue.
It's an American issue.
I have come to honor the McCain Institute and Library because they are a home of a proud Republican who put his country first. Our commitment should
be no less because democracy should unite all Americans, regardless of political affiliation.
And there is something dangerous happening in America now. There is an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs in our democracy:
the MAGA Movement.
Not every Republican, not even a majority of Republicans, adhere to the MAGA extremist ideology. I know because I've been able to work with
Republicans my whole career. But there is no question that today's Republican Party is driven and intimidated by MAGA Republican extremists.
Their extreme agenda, if carried out, would fundamentally alter the institutions of American democracy as we know it.
My friends, they're not hiding their attacks. They're openly promoting them -- attacking the free press as the enemy of the people, attacking the rule
of law as an impediment, fomenting voter suppression and election subversion.
Did you ever think we'd be having debates in the year -- stage of your careers where banning books -- banning books and burying history?
Extremists in Congress -- more determined to shut down the government, to burn the place down than to let the people's business be done.
Our US military -- and this in not hyperbole; I've said it for the last two years -- is the strongest military in the history of the world. Not just
the strongest in the world -- but in the history of the world. It's the most diverse, the most powerful in the history of the world. And it's being
accused of being weak and "woke" by the opposition.
One guy in Alabama is holding up the promotion of every -- hundreds of these officers.
Frankly, these extremists have no idea what the hell they're talking about.
No, I'm serious.
They're pushing a notion the defeated former President expressed when he was in office and believes applies only to him. And this is a dangerous
notion: This president is above the law, with no limits on power.
Trump says the Constitution gave him, "The right to do whatever he wants as President." I've never even heard a president say that in jest. Not guided
by the Constitution or by common service and decency toward our fellow Americans, but by vengeance and vindictiveness.
We see the headlines: "Sweeping expansion of presidential power." Their goal to: "Alter the balance of power by increasing the president's
authority over every part of the federal government."
What do they intend to do once they erode the constitutional order of checks and balances and separation of powers? Limit the independence of
federal agencies and put them under the thumb of a president? Give the president the power to refuse to spend money that Congress has appropriated
if he doesn't like what it's being spent for? Not veto -- he doesn't like what it's being spent for -- it's there. Get rid of longstanding
protections for civil servants?
Remember what he did as he was leaving office: He imposed a new thing, the Civil Service -- but then he imposed a new schedule. "Schedule F," it was
These civil servants had to pledge loyalty to the president, not the Constitution. It did not require that they had any protections, and the
president would be able to wholesale fire them if he wanted, because they had no so- -- no -- no Civil Service protection. One of the first things I
got rid of when I became president.
Just consider these as actual quotes from MAGA -- the MAGA movement. "I am your retribution." "Slitting throats" of civil servants, replacing them
with extreme political cronies. MAGA extremists proclaim support for law enforcement only to say, "We must destroy the FBI."
It's not one person. It's the controlling element of the House Republican Party.
Whitewash attacks of January 6th by calling the spearing and stomping of police a "legitimate political discourse."
Did you ever think you'd hear leaders of political parties in the United States of America speak like that? Seizing power, concentrating power,
attempting to abuse power, purging and packing key institutions, spewing conspiracy theories, spreading lies for profit and power to divide America
in every way, inciting violence against those who risk their lives to keep America safe, weaponizing against the very soul of who we are as Americans.
This MAGA threat is the threat to the brick and mortar of our democratic institutions. But it's also a threat to the character of our nation and
gives our -- that gives our Constitution life, that binds us together as Americans in common cause.
None of this is surprising, though. They've tried to govern that way before. And thank God, they failed.
But they haven't given up. Just look at recent days: Their accusations against -- of treason -- treason against the major news network because
they don't like its coverage. I don't know what the hell I'd say about Fox if that becomes the rule.
But think about it. I'm joking, but think about it.
Tomorrow, I have the honor of overseeing the change of responsibilities of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States military
from one genuine hero and patriot, General Mark Milley, to another, General CQ Brown -- both -- both defining leaders of our time.
And yet, here is what you hear from MAGA extremists about the retiring patriot general honoring his oath to the Constitution: "He is traitor." "In
times gone by, the punishment would've been death."
This is the United States of America. This is the United States of America.
And although I don't believe even a majority of Republicans think that, the silence is deafening. The silence is deafening.
Hardly any Republican called out such heinous statements, just as they watch one MAGA senator outrageously -- instead, blocking the promotions of
hundreds of top military leaders and affecting not only those leaders but their families, their children.
MAGA extremists claim support of our troops, but they are harming military readiness, leadership, troop morale, freezing pay, freezing military
families in limbo.
Just as they looked the other way when the defeated former president refused to pay respects at an American cemetery near Paris, referring to
the American servicemen buried there -- and I've been to this cemetery -- as "suckers" and "losers."
I'm not making this up. I know we all tried not to remember it, but that's what he said. He called servicemen "suckers" and "losers."
Was John a sucker? Was my son, Beau, who lived next to a burn pit for a year, came home, and died -- was he a sucker for volunteering to serve his
The same guy who denigrates the heroism of John McCain. It's not only wrong, it's un-American. But it never changes.
The MAGA extremists across the country have made it clear where they stand. So, the challenge for the rest of America -- for the majority of Americans
is to make clear where we stand.
Do we still believe in the Constitution? Do we believe in the basic decency and respect? The whole country should honestly ask itself -- and I mean
this sincerely -- what it wants and understand the threats to our democracy.
I believe very strongly that the defining feature of our democracy is our Constitution.
I believe in the separation of powers and checks and balances, that debate and disagreement do not lead to disunion.
I believe in free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power.
I believe there is no place in America -- none, none, none -- for political violence. We have to denounce hate, not embolden it.
Across the aisle, across the country, I see fellow Americans, not mortal enemies. We're a great nation because we're a good people who believe in
honor, decency, and respect.
I was able to get the infrastructure bill passed. It's over a trillion dollars. The majority of it so far has gone to red states who didn't vote
for me. Because I represent all -- no, I'm serious. I represent all Americans.
Wherever the need is. And I believe every president should be a president for all Americans. To use the Office of the President to unite the nation,
uphold the duty to care for all Americans.
I've tried my very best, and I'm sure I haven't met the test of every -- all of you want me to meet. But I tried to do my very best to meet the
highest standards, whether you voted for me or not. Because that's the job: to deliver light, not heat; to make sure democracy delivers for everyone;
to know we're a nation of unlimited possibilities, of wisdom and decency -- a nation focused on the future.
I've spent more time with Xi Jinpin [sic] than any world -- ping -- than any world leader has. Sixty-eight hours alone with just he and I and an
interpreter. Traveled 17,000 miles with him here and in China. On the Tibetan Plateau, he turned to me and he asked me -- he said, "Can you
define America for me?" And I was deadly earnest. I said, "Yes. In one word: possibilities."
We, in America, believe anything is possible if we try it. Anything we do together, we can get done.
We've faced some tough times in recent years, and I am proud of the progress we made as a country. But the real credit doesn't go to me and my
administration for the progress -- for this progress. The real heroes of the story are you, the American people. And that's not hyperbole again.
Which is why I'm asking you that regardless of whether you're a Democrat, Republican, or independent, put the preservation of our democracy before
everything else. Put our country first.
Over the past few years, we can and should be proud of American democracy, proud of what we've been able to hold on to. We can't take democracy for
Remember when you were in high school and college, if you took political science, they said every generation has to protect democracy. I used to
think that that was just a saying. But here I am, as President of the United States of America, making this speech about my fear of the
diminishment of democracy.
Folks, every generation has to be vigilant.
You know, toward the end of my Senate campaign, I convinced Strom Thurmond to vote for the Civil Rights legislation -- not a joke -- and I thought,
"Well, you can -- you can defeat hate."
You can't defeat it. You just bury it. But when someone comes along and lifts up the rock and breathes a little oxygen in there, it comes roaring
back. It comes roaring back.
We should all remember: Democracies don't have to die at the end of a rifle. They can die when people are silent, when they fail to stand up or
condemn the threats to democracy, when people are willing to give away that which is most precious to them because they feel frustrated, disillusioned,
tired, alienated. I get it. I really do. I get it.
For all its faults, though, American democracy remains the best path forward to prosperity, possibilities, progress, fair play, equality.
And democracy requires all of us in all of the major parties. You matter. And, again, I'm not just trying to be nice here. You matter -- all of you
in this auditorium -- because history and common sense tell us that we can change things by adhering to our Constitution and our institutions of
Our task -- our sacred task of our time is to make sure that they change not for the worse, but for the better. That democracy survives and thrives,
not be spa- -- smashed by a movement more interested in power than in principle. It's up to us, the American people.
In my view, the more people vote, the more engaged the whole nation becomes, the stronger our democracy will be.
So, the answer to the threats we face is engagement. It's not to sit in the sidelines; it's to build coalitions and community, to remind ourselves
there is a clear majority of us who believe in our democracy and are ready to protect it.
To the students here today and the young people across country, you're the reason I'm so optimistic.
I know I don't look it, but I've been doing this for a long time.
But all kidding aside, I've never been more optimistic about America's chances in domestic and foreign policy as I am today. I really mean it. To
see young people -- a hundred thousand students at this university and all across America -- they are the most gifted, the most tolerant, the most
talented, and the best-educated generation in American history.
And it's your generation, more than anyone else's, who will answer the questions -- the legitimate questions the young man asked me a moment ago -
- who I'm going to meet with -- questions for America: Who are we? What do we stand for? What do we believe? Who will we be?
It's not your burden alone, but your generation will not be ignored, will not be shunned, will not be silenced.
I've said it before: We're at an inflection point in our history. One of those moments that not only happens once every several generations, it
happens once every eight or nine generations, where the decisions made in the short period of time we're in now are going to determine the course of
this country and the world for the next six or seven decades.
So, you, me, every American who is committed to preserving our democracy and our constitutional protections, we carry a special responsibility. We
have to stand up for American values embedded in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, because we know the MAGA extremists have
already proven they won't.
You know, Madeleine Albright wrote a book -- the former Secretary of State -- saying we're the "essential nation." We are. And I think you've fe --
sensed it abroad, Cindy, haven't you? Any room I walk in and no matter what heads of state I'm with, everything stops. Not because of Joe Biden, but
because I'm President of the United States of America.
We are the essential nation. We are the essential nation. The rest of the world is looking, so we have to stand up for our Constitution, our
institutions of democracy, because MAGA extremists have made it clear they're not going to.
History is watching. The world is watching. And most important, our children and grandchildren will hold us responsible.
So, let me close with this. In three years, we'll commemorate the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence -- a moment
not only about our past, celebrating all we've done, but a moment about the future, about all we can be -- still be.
Imagine that moment and ask: What do we want to be? Now is our time to continue to choose and secure a sacred cause of the American democracy.
I know we can meet this moment. John knew we could meet this moment. He believed, as so many patriots before him did, that character [is] destiny
in our own lives and the life of this nation. He believed in us.
That's what we see in the McCain Institute and Library and everyday places across America doing extraordinary things. And remember that the soul of
America depends on the souls of all Americans -- how we choose to see our nation, how we choose to see ourselves, how we choose to lead not only by
the example of our power but by the power of our example.
So, let's never quit. Let's never hide from history. Let's make history.
If we do that, we'll be -- have done our duty to our country and to each other. Future generations will say we kept the faith.
We'll have proved, through all its imperfections, America is still a place of possibilities, a beacon for the world, a promise realized -- where the
power forever resides with "We the People."
That's our soul. That's who we truly are. That's who we must always be.
And that's why I've never been more optimistic about America's future. We just need to remember who we are. We are the United States of America.
There is nothing -- nothing beyond our capacity when we act together.
Well, God bless you all. May God bless John McCain and his family. And may God protect our troops. Thank you.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: (voice- over) President Biden speaking at the McCain Institute in Arizona, a speech that he says is a time of testing for America.
He says, "History has brought us to a new time of testing," and goes on to say that, "All of us are being asked now, what will we do to maintain our
He didn't mention Donald Trump but he did say this.
He said, "You can't love your country only when you win."
And he went onto describe the MAGA movement, as he called it, "an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs of our democracy."
He also brought it back to John McCain, of course, the institute named for him there, saying that, "America needs his courage now."
Taking note, of course; he was a Republican who opposed the moves that Donald Trump was making at the time before he lost his life. Also an
emotional moment there. He cited the well-known report that Donald Trump once dismissed wounded veterans and those who lost their lives as "suckers
He asked, "Was John McCain a loser?
"Was my son, Beau, a sucker?"
An emotional moment there.
We're joined again by Tim Naftali, a presidential historian for CNN, senior research scholar at Columbia School of International and Public Affairs.
We also have political commentator Maria cardona.
Tim, place that message into historical context. It's not the first time that Biden said this is a time of testing for the soul of America. He used
very strong language there. He didn't say this is your typical political decision in an election.
He said, "between the future of this democracy and something far different."
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: This was a powerful speech and I would argue it's perhaps one of the best, if not the best of Joe Biden's
career. He framed this moment in time.
He also, I think, framed the reason why he's running for reelection. I believe deeply that if Donald Trump were not the likely Republican nominee,
Joe Biden would retire at the end of this term.
Joe Biden is Kryptonite or perhaps the only Democratic Kryptonite to Donald Trump. And so it's almost as if he feels an obligation and a duty to
restore respect in institutions and to restore the civility of our democracy, something I think -- and he alluded to this today, that he
thought he had done by winning the 2020 election.
NAFTALI: So what -- what he has done, I think -- and it's powerful -- is he is reminding us that it's up to us.
You know, unlike, some leaders, he didn't say, "I will fix the problem."
He said, "Only we can fix the problem."
And that message is powerful and we don't know; no one has a crystal ball, at least not one that isn't hazy. We don't know if he's going to be the
president on January 4th, 2026, but if he is, the American people will have responded to his challenge positively.
NAFTALI: We don't know what will happen (ph).
SCIUTTO: He made a point about how he's received internationally, saying it's not just a concern that he's heard here in the U.S.
But he says that, when he meets foreign leaders, they raise the question, where goes U.S. democracy?
He says, "Every time I go, they look and ask the question, will it be OK?"
But Maria Cardona, you're well aware of how close this race looking, at least at this point, 14 months out, at least based on national polling.
What was your reaction to that speech and did you hear a speech there that could move voters here in the U.S.?
MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. Jim, I couldn't agree more with Tim. I think this was one of the best if not the best
speech that Joe Biden has given.
And it's not only the subject matter that was so incredibly important but it was also very, I think, moving. And some of the other issues that we
know Joe Biden has had a problem with.
CARDONA: He was very self-deprecating about his age.
He was funny the way that he handled the heckler, he was on his toes. Those are all things that are suddenly very important for, as you know, a lot of
the concerns surrounding Joe Biden.
But more than that, I think it was incredibly important, because, while the message was very similar to what we heard in 2020 -- and we know the reason
why he got into this race in the first place.
But the big difference is, Jim, we now know the dangers that lie with a Donald Trump presidency. And, Joe Biden is saying look, you don't have to
take my word for it; look what he did -- and along with the support of the extremist MAGA Republicans on January 6th.
He didn't have to mention names. He didn't even have to mention that day in particular. But we all knew what he was talking about. So none of this has
to be left to our imagination. We've already seen it.
And in fact, he's saying, do you want it to be worse?
We can't afford for this to be any worse than it was. I will fight for our democracy and this is all up to you, to ensure that our future continues to
have that democracy, based on the values that this great country was founded on. It was amazing.
SCIUTTO: Yes, to January 6th, he said that violence cannot be used to political ends. And he took aim at some in the GOP, who have come to
normalize January 6th, make arguments that that was reasonable, political expression.
Of course, we all saw it; some of us in person that day. But we saw the many videos recounting just how violent that day was.
Tim Naftali, when you and I spoke just before this speech, I asked you if you had seen a moment in time in this country where you had such a choice
here, like, going forward.
After listening to that speech from the president, did he meet that moment?
NAFTALI: Oh, he definitely met that moment. And, by the way, let's also keep in mind when this speech is happening. This speech is happening before
the Republicans have chosen their nominee. This is a speech that is not partisan.
Republicans have a choice. They do not have to nominate a man who has already promised to attack our Constitution. They don't have to. There's
nothing forcing Republicans to nominate Donald Trump.
Joe Biden didn't make a speech about Tim Scott or Nikki Haley or even DeSantis. He was talking about one man. He was quoting one man. And he was
quoting one movement.
If the Republican Party rejects the MAGA movement, I'm not sure it can but if it does then Joe Biden's reelection campaign's about something else.
NAFTALI: So this was a very specific moment in time. If Republicans choose someone other than Donald Trump, we will not be in the crisis that we're
facing right now.
SCIUTTO: The fact is, as you well know, Tim Naftali, the polls show Donald Trump is the runaway winner of the Republican nomination, at least as they
stand today -- and granted we have a number of weeks before the first time voters actually vote in those primaries. But right now he's very far ahead.
I should note that, when President Biden took aim at the MAGA movement, calling it an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs of
our democracy, he did go on to say he does not believe that is all of the GOP.
And he said -- and he's noted and this is true -- that during his career, he has often worked with Republicans.
And to that point, Maria Cardona, some of the legislative achievements of his presidency so far were bipartisan votes; for instance, on
infrastructure; for instance, on the CHIPS Act.
As you watch this, there have been some questions in the background about whether a Democrat might challenge Joe Biden. They might take advantage of
how tight those polls are for 2024.
Do you see a speech like this framing it in national terms, in historic terms, helps box out any potential Democratic challenger?
CARDONA: I think it definitely should. I don't think anybody in the Democratic Party should be talking about challenging President Biden. I
think that the polls are -- they showed that it's going to be a close race -- and we know it will be a close race.
But I think that they are actually skewed to reflect a lot of the mobilization that is happening in the Republican Party right now because of
the chaotic primary that is going on.
I really believe that our coalition will come home and, importantly, to the importance of this speech today, Jim, I also believe that all of those
voters -- Republican voters, independent voters, Republican-leaning voters that voted for Joe Biden in 2020 --
CARDONA: -- are not now going to look up and say, if Donald Trump is the nominee -- which, I believe that he will be; at least everything shows that
right now -- they're not going to look up and say, oh, hey, you know, Donald Trump, now with four indictments and 91 charges and, you know, a
case of fraud and, you know, impeached twice, now I think I can vote for him.
That's not going to happen. Now what we need to do as Democrats is we have to make sure that we do everything possible to not just get our voters out
to vote but to get every single person who is concerned about the future of our democracy, all of the people who were moved by President Biden's speech
today, to get out and vote.
And I will say to my Democratic brothers and sisters, who bring up Joe Biden's age as a concern or who bring up the lack of enthusiasm as a
concern, they need to shut up right now because every time they bring that up, they are helping to have Donald Trump rise in the polls and giving him
a better chance to be elected.
And if they want that, then they are not the ones that are concerned about our democracy. This is that kind of important moment in time.
SCIUTTO: Well, there are those, even among Democrats, who consider those legitimate questions. But the president's framing today is that this
choice, coming up in just over 13 months, is not one of politics or party.
He says it's one about the nation's future and democracy's future in this country. As he said, "All of us being asked," in his words, "what will we
do to maintain our democracy?"
Thanks so much, Maria Cardona, Tim Naftali for joining me.
Coming up on CNN Max and CNN, Richard Quest will be back with "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS." Thanks so much for joining us. That's right after the break.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN HOST: The NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg says Ukrainian forces are making gradual gains in their efforts to retake ground
in Russia. He and other Western allies are paying visits to Kyiv on Thursday.
In the country's south, Ukrainian officials say they shot down more than 30 drones overnight. It's what they called a massive drone attack from Russia.
CNN's Fred Pleitgen is in the eastern part of Ukraine.
Fred, I guess the issue is how much more. I mean, all of these people keep turning up in Kyiv and they keep promising support and more military and
more armaments arrive.
But how much longer can they withstand this barrage of drones from the Russians?
The drones are cheap.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The drones are cheap and the air defenses in many cases are expensive. I do think the
Ukrainians feel they can withstand what's happening, with the drones especially, a lot longer than they have so far, especially if they use some
of the antiaircraft guns that they have been using.
But on the whole the question is how much longer can the Ukrainians be able to go. I think the visit by Jens Stoltenberg especially today to Kyiv today
was an important one because one of the things that he also said, that the Ukrainians are gaining ground, he believes.
He says it's difficult but they're making ground but he also announced that NATO would provide Ukraine with further ammunition, talking about artillery
and tank ammunition.
A couple of days ago, we were on the battlefield during a big nighttime battle around the town of Bakhmut. And when you see something that close,
you understand how much ammunition that the Ukrainians are firing.
They're going to stay in the fight. They're going to need a steady stream of ammunition. The secretary-general talked today, the French defense
minister was in Kyiv. The British defense minister. So they're going to need a lot of ammo and need it probably for a pretty long time, Richard.
QUEST: Right. But that commitment to supply, I mean, Abrams tanks, right. They've arrived but there are not that many of them and they're very
difficult to operate and arguably too little, too late.
The planes that are going, the problems with Poland, I'm not trying to paint a dreadful picture but I'm trying to paint, as we go to the winter, a
very difficult scenario.
PLEITGEN: I think a difficult scenario for the Ukrainians and for the Russians as well. I think one of the things that the Ukrainians keep
talking about, Richard, is they say, look, a year ago everybody was talking about this war being over quickly. Russia having the second strongest army
in the world.
And right now, everybody's talking about Ukrainian offensives on pretty much all battlefronts. In some areas, the Russians are trying to make gains
but by and large, when on the ground here, it certainly seems to be the Ukrainians who have the momentum and initiative on their side.
That doesn't mean things are going quickly. And a lot of points are valid. They do need a lot of armored vehicles and tanks, they have lost armored
vehicles and they will have to replenish that. And the spare parts are a whole other matter as well.
And that's something I think that the Ukrainians are making clear that their partners need to be in it for the long run. And you do see some
countries like, for instance, Germany and like, for instance, the United Kingdom. Already at least as far as ammunition is concerned, pledging that
that is something where there'll be a pipeline that will go on for a considerable amount of time.
Armored vehicles are indeed expensive. The spare parts are expensive and servicing them is expensive as well. And that becomes exponentially more
expensive when these things are used in combat and damaged pretty much constantly as they try to move forward.
So certainly, the Ukrainians are saying it's going to be difficult but they also say the momentum right now is on their side and they believe they can
keep it on their side.
QUEST: Fred Pleitgen, I'm grateful to you, sir. Thank you.
Allow me to update you briefly on what's happening on Wall Street. Even with the U.S. government shutdown only two days away, not the best of the
day but we're up about 113. And the Dow 30 also shows Intel and Caterpillar interestingly near the top. Odd combination.
Boeing is at the bottom of the pile today. Ryanair says it will have to cut flights this winter due to Boeing's delivery delays. But essentially
there's no major megatheme across the markets. When you see that sort of wide spread, it tells you all you need to know, as the markets wait and
And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for tonight. I'm Richard Quest. Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's profitable.