Biden Defends His Record, His Heated Town Hall Exchange, And His Presidential Prospects | NPR
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: How you doing?
How are you? It’s great to see you. Rachel Martin: Great to see you.
So this is the bus. No malarkey. BIDEN: No malarkey. MARTIN: Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for
having us. BIDEN: Thanks for being
on the bus. I appreciate it. MARTIN: On the bus, very exciting. So we’re in Iowa.
BIDEN: Yup. MARTIN: You have been here before.
BIDEN: Been here a lot. MARTIN: We’ve been here a lot. This is the third time
you have campaigned in this state for President BIDEN: Yeah for president. But I started off way
back campaigning for Senator John Culver, when was running in 1974. I’ve campaigned
for a lot of Iowans. MARTIN: You’ve been here. You’ve put in a lot of miles.
You’ve got the most name recognition in Iowa right now in this race, or in the race writ
large. You have the resume. You’ve got the relevant experience, more so than any other
candidate. Why aren’t you running away with this thing? You’re fourth in the polls in Iowa. BIDEN: Well, you know, you sound like you know a
lot about Iowa. You know, they don’t make up their minds until after Thanksgiving, they
really don’t even do it till after Christmas. And you still have in the Iowa polling or
favorability is still very high, it’s in the 70s. People think the most important issue, based on the polling data I’ve seen, I think from
The Des Moines Register, don’t hold me to it, but I think it was they said the most
important thing, they want someone who can beat Trump.
And now we’re starting to happen is because I had the most name recognition of my move
right to the top in all the polling data, I got all the incoming and they say, [unintelligible]
from y’all. And and now other people are as they move, beginning to look at them as
well. And so things are beginning to, you know move differently.
But nationally, it’s not changed. Nationally we’ve been had double digits and we’re way
ahead in South Carolina as well as in Nevada, so it’s you know, it’s early.
MARTIN: Well, let me ask you, you recently got an endorsement from your friend, Senator John
Kerry, the former secretary of state, John Kerry. There are some within your party, in
particular younger voters, who look to the former Secretary of State, and it’s a warning
for them for 2020 because they think about 2004. Because while John Kerry came from behind,
while John Kerry came from behind to win Iowa, he still lost the presidential race.
And he was, he was the stabilizing force. He was the guy with the name recognition.
He was going to right the ship after George W. Bush, who was at the time fairly unpopular.
That’s the liberal rap on you right now that a moderate can’t beat Donald J. Trump.
BIDEN: Look at all the polling data. Show me where the Democratic Party doesn’t want somebody like me. MARTIN: I know you don’t even like polls.
BIDEN: No, I say MARTIN: You can’t trust the polls.
BIDEN: No, you can’t. But you just. Just travel with me. Travel with me. Look what’s happening.
You know, you interview a lot of people in NPR. It’s a great facility. No I really mean
it. It’s one of the only ones where there’s really genuine news, you constantly promote.
But look, it’s like, you know, a moderate. What’s moderate about my wanting to make sure
everybody has health care? I just have a different view than other people do. And if you notice,
the vast majority of people agree with my position on health care. I agree with my position
on education. They agree with, so the idea that there’s something that, quote, I am moderate.
One of the things that I wish I had that label when I was running that all the times from
the Senate, I was a moderate because I was always rated as one most liberal senators
in the United States Senate for all the years I was there.
MARTIN: But you’re not nearly as progressive on health care as other candidates in the race
BIDEN: Because I’m realistic. Guess what? You’re going to find thirty-three
trillion dollars in 10 years. And not raise tax — Look, you all are beginning to be little
more honest than you have been. You’re looking at now and saying, okay, those of you for
Medicare for All, you’re going to have to raise taxes on middle class. You let everybody
not answer that question for the longest time. I’ll ask you rhetorical question, you can’t
answer. Do you think it’s remotely possible to raise three point five trillion dollars
a year, more than every single penny we spend on every single thing in the federal government
on a yearly basis, without raising taxes on the middle class? If you answer that question,
then I’m ending the interview because you know, it’s not true. You gotta raise taxes.
Now you’re starting to ask these people the same questions you’ve asked me from the
beginning. Tell me how you do it. Tell me how you pay off 1.7 trillion dollars in student
debt. Tell me how you provide community college for everyone, no matter what their income for free. MARTIN: But how do you get people excited to show
up on Election Day… BIDEN: Watch
MARTIN: for a return to the status quo before Donald Trump? BIDEN: It’s not the status quo before Donald Trump. It’s a totally different world. Look, I promise
you. Let’s put it this way. Take me out of the equation.
If, in fact, someone is able to get past, in the United States Congress, a, a, Obamacare
with a public option that provides for a limitation of $1,000 deductible. On on on any bills someone
gets makes everybody available to everybody who’s on Medicaid, to be able to get involved
free, reduces drug prices significantly, turns around and provides for early education, which
I’m the only one that’s laid it out clearly for everyone, 3, 4 and 5 year olds, which
fundamentally change their prospects of succeeding gets climate change moving. What do you think
they’ll be talked about in five years? MARTIN: What does get climate change moving? Because there are a lot of people who want revolution on that front. It’s not good enough to say
it’s a priority. There was a recent U.N. report that came out. I’m sure you saw it was devastating.
BIDEN: Sure is devastating. But what are they saying? I have the most progressive plan out there.
Anybody who tells you they can eliminate carbon in the air by the year 2030 has no notion
of the science. Find me one scientist in the world.
You guys, you guys know better than this. MARTIN: So what do you do besides rejoin Paris and
restore of emissions standards? BIDEN: Fundamentally change the way in which we approach things. For example, we’re gonna make sure that we have doubling immediately the wind
and solar power. We’re gonna make sure, by the way, I’m the only guy who’s done anything.
I would, in the Recovery Act we fund one hundred million dollars, reducing the cost of making
sun, and excuse me, making wind and solar competitive with the price of coal. No one’s
going to build another coal plant in America because of the work we did in our administration.
Number one. Number two, we’re gonna make sure that we
continue to subsidize. When I was out here talking about wind 10 years ago, all of you
were looking at me like, “What are you kidding?” What do you mean you’re going to have wind
out here creating hundreds of thousands of millions and billions of dollars in revenue
and thousands of jobs and that are good paying jobs. MARTIN: So those are things that young people would want. Why do you think there’s an enthusiasm
gap? There isn‘t an enthusiasm gap! What the
hell are you talking about? MARTIN: I’m talking about a lot of young people who
say ‘Joe Biden’s got a lot of experience. He’s been around a long time. And that’s
not what we want right now. BIDEN: Come with me on college campuses. You don’t
see that. You guys keep saying, that. MARTIN: Well, because I talked to people who say I
want someone from the outside. I met someone tonight at the town hall we were at and…
BIDEN: I’m sure you have. MARTIN: She said, I want someone who can bring some
outside energy because I don’t think an insider can beat Donald Trump, because he is so outside
the norm that the moment demands someone who is not of the establishment. What do you say
to someone like that? BIDEN: I say the fact of the matter is that’s not
the case. The case is look, the next person we elect to be president has to be able to
pass something. Name me one thing all the rest of the candidates combined have passed.
That’s got major things done. The Violence Against Women Act. The chemical weapons ban.
MARTIN: It was such a different time. Do you think… BIDEN: No it’s not a different time!
MARTIN: It’s not a different time? You don’t think Donald Trump has fundamentally changed how
the parties talk to each other and whether or you can cooperate?
BIDEN: No no, I got that. But you still can’t cooperate. Look, after he was elected, I was able to
get eight, almost nine billion dollars passed two weeks before he got sworn in in January.
You all told me it’s impossible. Come on, give me a break here.
Donald Trump is the reason why you need someone who knows what they’re doing. Donald Trump.
Name me somebody who’s going to be able to stand on the world stage and immediately command
the respect of everyone in the world. Our enemies as well as our adversaries, er
as well as our allies. I know all these people. This is the only reason why I’m running this
time is because of my experience. MARTIN: Well Barack Obama was able to do it and he
didn’t have very much experience at all. BIDEN: No, that’s not true. Think about it. That’s
not true. What happened was one of the reasons Barack Obama picked me as Vice President is
because he lacked the background in foreign policy, he’s a brilliant guy.
He knew what he wanted to do. He knew how to get it done. But notice, every time we
had a problem, on Capitol Hill who went up and got it fixed? Answer the question who
went up and got a fixed? See you’re not, you know the truth.
MARTIN: It’s not my job to answer the question BIDEN: And I know it’s not your job to answer …
MARTIN: I appreciate the sentiment. You brought up the ticket.
BIDEN: The sentiment [laughter] MARTIN: So I want to ask you about the ticket and
a running mate. BIDEN: Yup
And so I want to ask you about that, BIDEN: Yeah. Are you available?
MARTIN: Because Senator Senator Kamala Harris is no longer in the race. And that leaves the debate
stage for the next debate in the Democratic primary looking very white, all the, all the
people on stage will be white candidates. And that is just not as you know, that’s not
representative of the party. If you are the nominee, can you commit to selecting
BIDEN: I’m not going to commit… MARTIN: a person of color to be on the ticket?
BIDEN: I have not a little tiny bit of a problem picking a person of color or a woman.
MARTIN: Can you commit to that? BIDEN: No, I can’t commit to that,
MARTIN: How come? BIDEN: Because here’s what I know about vice presidents,
you have to have someone who works with you who believes exactly like you do on the strategic
notions that you support. The reason why the historians are writing
about Barack Obama and I having the closest relations of everybody is because we trusted
each other completely. He was able to give me entire chunks of responsibility where I
didn’t have to report back because he knew, I knew what he was thinking.
MARTIN: And you can’t know that right now that person would be a person of color,
BIDEN: You can’t know that. But there’s plenty of people of color. There’s plenty of women
who, are not, who haven’t run. You got senators. I can think of four women senators off the
bat that would be great vice presidents. I can think of some, I can think of several
women who are, in fact, lost races recently who are completely capable of being vice president
of the United States. MARTIN: Stacey Abrams?
BIDEN: And look, I’m in a situation where –look at my staff. I have the most diverse staff
of anybody running. I’ve always done that. This is who I, the country has to look like,
the administration should look like the American public.
MARTIN: I want to switch gears and ask you – BIDEN: Sure you do. [Laughter]
MARTIN: about what happened the other day at your town hall. Because you’ve got a lot of…
you got a lot of attention for it. A man stood up and started throwing false allegations
your way about your son Hunter Biden and his work in Ukraine and your work as vice president
then in Ukraine. And you responded by calling him a “damn liar” –
BIDEN: Because he lied. MARTIN: – and then you challenged him to push ups.
BIDEN: I was joking with him because he – MARTIN: And then you asked him for an IQ test.
BIDEN: He came along. What was he saying? He said he’s entitled to do this. He said, “You’re
too old. He said, “You’re too old. I can’t vote for somebody as old as you.” I said
“Okay!” And he was challenging me what kind of shape, and so I kidded. I said, “Want
to do a pushup contest?” I was joking. Look, I’m in pretty good shape
MARTIN: Which is what Donald Trump says a lot. “Hey, you can’t take a joke. I was joking.”
BIDEN: No, no, no, no, no – MARTIN: But the point –
BIDEN: Don’t compare me to Donald Trump. MARTIN: But people did. At the town hall I was just at. BIDEN: No, they didn’t.
MARTIN: Yes, they did. Well, they said to me, the woman you met at the end, 94 year old Mary,
said to me, “I was so disappointed in him.” This is a direct quote. “That is not the
Joe I know. He sounded like Donald Trump in that clip.” BIDEN: Well, look. What Donald Trump says… He makes fun of people. He belittles people. He lies.
I don’t do any of those things. Period. The fact of the matter is this guy stood up, and
he was, in fact, lying. And I just pointed out, “You’re a liar.” It’s a fact: he
lied. Period. And so, you know, maybe I shouldn’t have kidded with him about that: “No, let’s
do push-ups” just like I was out here in a parade, a Fourth of July parade.
MARTIN: But I think people’s point was, in this time, when you talk about needing to restore civility,
it’s so important to so many people. BIDEN: That’s not civil? To call someone who lied a liar? MARTIN: To call someone a “damn liar?” A voter?
This isn’t Trump, president Trump, BIDEN: But he’s lying! He’s lying. You acknowledge
what he said wasn’t even true. None of the mainstream media believes any of that was true MARTIN: I think it was the tone. I think it was the
tone that was off putting to people. BIDEN: As my mother would say, “God love you dear.”
MARTIN: I have to ask you about what’s happening right now. President Trump is in the process of
being impeached. The Senate trial is pending. Republicans have suggested that they might
call you or your son, Hunter Biden. If you are subpoenaed, would you comply?
BIDEN: No. I’m not going to let you take the eye off the ball here. Everybody knows what this
is about. This is a Trump gambit he plays. Whenever he’s in trouble he tries to find
someone else to divert attention to. MARTIN: But this is a real thing that’s happening.
Republicans are suggesting that they would subpoena you and President Trump. These issues
will be passed out in the Senate trial. BIDEN: That’s right.
MARTIN: But the question is, would you comply with the subpoena?
BIDEN: No. I will not yield to what everybody is looking for here. And that is to take the
eye off the ball. Everybody knows the issue here is not what I did, because no one has
a proved one scintilla of evidence that I did anything other than do my job for America
as well as anybody could have done it. Making sure that we, in fact, got rid of a corrupt
prosecutor who everybody, including our allies and including our allies as well as as as
the IMF and everyone else said has to go. I did my job incredibly well.
And even the people in his administration have testified to my character, testify to
my honesty. So why would I
MARTIN: You know it didn’t look good for Hunter Biden to be on that board, even if he did nothing
wrong. The optics weren’t good. And you talk a lot about what it means to be a Biden and
the integrity that is imbued in that family name. But there were former White House aides
of yours who tried to warn you about the potential conflicts of interest.
BIDEN: Nobody warned me about a potential conflicts of interest. Nobody warned me about that.
MARTIN: And at the same time George Kent, the State Department official,
testified that he raised it to you, and your staff — BIDEN: No he didn’t say me. He did not say me. MARTIN: To your staff. To your staff, I stand corrected.
BIDEN: I never never heard that once at all. MARTIN: To your staff. And your staff told him he
has no bandwidth for family matters. BIDEN: Well my son was dying so I guess that’s why
he said it, because my son was on his deathbed. But that that’s not the reason why, they should
have told me. And the fact of the matter is, my son testified
and did an interview saying if he, looking back on it, made a mistake, he made a mistake
although he did nothing wrong. The appearance looked bad and it gave folks
like Rudy Giuliani an excuse to come up with a Trumpian kind of defense, why they were
violating the constitution. His his words speak for themselves,
MARTIN: I know that you sat down with your family before you decided to run for president this
time because I talked with your wife about it and you had a big conversation about the
emotional toll that this takes every single time, but especially this time, this is your
third time running for president. Why do you want this so bad?
BIDEN: Look, number one, I’m not sure I’d be running for it if Trump wasn’t the president. I think
the country is in such danger. I think our democracy is in danger. And it wasn’t about
how tough it’s going to be, it was about how dirty would be. Why? We have a tradition in
our family. You can call for a family meeting, not a joke. Anyone can and is taken seriously.
I got a call from my oldest granddaughter, named after my deceased daughter. She’s in
law school in New York. And she said ‘Pop we want a family meeting.’ And I said who
does? The kids. And with you and nana. And they came in then we and we had a family meeting
and they said, Pop, you know, daddy wants you to run and dad wants to run two fathers.
And my little one, Hunter Biden named after his uncle, but my Beau my deceased son’s
child took out his cell phone and showed me a picture of me walking out of the church
my hand on a flag draped coffin with my son, reaching down and pulling my little grandson
under his chin and whispering to him, and the caption said “Biden molests another
child.” He said, “I know this is going to be ugly, Pop. I know it. But you gotta
run pop. You’ve got to run.” Each of my each of my grandchildren gave examples
of what they knew was going to happen. But they said, pop, you gotta run. You gotta run.
Daddy wants you to run. And the reason I’m running is because this
man, the future of my grandchildren, if he’s re-elected, are gonna be marginalized in ways
that I don’t think anybody fully understands. He’s different than any other president. We
are we’re in a battle for the soul of this country, for real, for real. And everything
he’s done has done to demean people, to make fun of people, making fun of a reporter who
has a physical ailment, making fun of people, talking about people in terms of the day he
announced coming down and delivery saying, I’m doing this because we’re going to get
rid of rapists, Mexicans, and we’re not being invaded by. Have you heard him speak out once
against white supremacy? This is absolutely a guy who is damaging us
around the world. And the issues that need to be dealt with now are issues that have
been in my wheelhouse my whole life. How can I walk away? I’m not joking. I’m not saying
I’m a savior. But they’re the issues that were my wheelhouse my whole life.
Look. Every morning I get up, I ask myself, “Is Beau be proud of me? I am doing,”
I wrote a whole book about my son, because he was so remarkable and the title of the
book was Promised me Dad. And it comes from an exchange we had when he knew he was dying
and he knew he had months left to go. We sat at his kitchen table. We’d go home every weekend
to be with him. And he said, Dad. He asked his wife to put the kids to bed, the little
kids my two grandchildren. He said, “Dad, I know no one loves me in
the whole world more than you do. But, Dad, I’m going to be OK no matter what happens.
But promise me dad, promise me dad that you’re gonna be OK.”
I said “I’m gonna be fine, honey.” He said, “No, dad. Promise me. Give me your
word as a Biden. You’re gonna be okay.” I knew what he meant.
He meant he was worried that I would do what my inclination was which was to walk away.
Not about running for president, but just walk away from things I’ve devoted my whole
life to since I’ve been 24 years old. Walk away. And. And I said anyway. And so this
is about. This is about, you know my dad used to have
an expression, he’d say it’s a lucky a person gets up in the morning, puts both feet on
the floor, knows what they’re about to do, and thinks it still matters. It really matters.
It really matters. I get up in the morning and I know what I’m
doing matters, and it gives me a purpose. It gives me purpose. And I tell ya, there’s
such enormous opportunity that exist for the country. But you have to have some authenticity.
Those same young people looking for authenticity. You’re going to stand up and say I’m gonna
spend $34 billion and say no ones taxes are going to go up? You’re going to stand up and
say, you have to be honest with people. You have to be authentic. I may be wrong about
a lot of things. That’s worthy debate, to have a debate about. But I really think it’s important. And look, I’ve gotten more. I know all of
these world leaders, even the ones that we don’t like very much like Putin. I know him.
He knows I know who he is and he knows who I am. There’s no misunderstanding about who
we are. And it’s really important. Think about this. If we don’t figure out how
to bring the world together again. Reassure our allies, making sure that, that those who
are opponents know we understand what they’re about and we’re gonna do something about
it. Where do we go? What happens in five years? If this if the president’s re-elected, you
think there’ll be a NATO? Do you think there will be national security arrangements we
have with European countries? What do you think? I don’t think it’s possible. I think
they’ll be gone. You saw me, have you ever seen a time when
you have a president of the United States and a group of world leaders, who are our
allies, making fun of the president, it’s not just a national shame, it goes to a right
to our security. Alright look. I could die happy, man, never
having lived in the White House, never having heard Hail to the Chief. But as Barack would
say to me, a basis on which you’re gonna make up your mind, I got to know when after I walked
away looking in the mirror that I walked away not because it was going to be hard, not because
I didn’t think I could do it, but I walked away because I didn’t think it was necessary
I thought someone else would be able to do it. We have great candidates running. They really are. MARTIN: But you don’t think they can do it. BIDEN: I don’t know what the experience is to let
you know to let people know that we can get this done. There’s going to be no time for on the job training. I mean, really and truly, no time
from the day we take office because this president’s put us in such a deep, deep, deep hole.
So, I mean, they’re they’re bright. They’re honorable people. But again, all the things
we’re talking about, none of it matters, even if you defeat Trump, unless you can pass it.
Hear with them, anybody, you or anybody else talking about until recently, unifying the
country? Every time I’d be onstage talk about unifying the country, they’d make fun of me.
“That was the old days. That’s the way it was then. I’m going to by executive order,”
executive orders and abuse of power when you don’t have the constitutional authority to exercise it. The fact of the matter is we better figure
out how to get this done. And I’m confident. Look, one of the things I learned a long time
ago. If you don’t question a woman or a man’s motive, but just question their judgment,
you can still find room to reach compromise. You could still find room. And one of the
things that that I’ve always been taught is that you have to let people know you understand
what their limitations are, what you can’t ask them to do that are beyond their capacity
to do and work out things from that vantage point. That’s why you know I think I was able to get the republicans for the first time in God
knows how long to raise taxes by six hundred billion dollars when we’re going to shut down
the government in a deal we made. The generic point I’m trying to make is that
I think that I don’t. Have you found many Republican senators or Republican congressmen
who say that I’ve not been honest and level with them and that they can’t work with me?
And yet, look at my record. I’ve gotten a lot of really progressive things done now.
That doesn’t mean no one else can do it. But the reason I’m running is I think so much
is at stake that these are the things that have been in my wheelhouse. What I’ve done
my whole life. Every election requires a different set of, I think, assets for a president.
What people were looking for when Barack came along and he’s brilliant, brilliant, looking
about reestablishing a sense of hope and optimism. And he inherited a God awful circumstance
where everything had collapsed. MARTIN: But so what is it now?
[off mic – we have to go. Sorry we’re here, thank you so much.]
BIDEN:What it is now is they’re looking for somebody who can actually bring the world back together
and get us off this precipice. They’re looking for someone who can actually get things passed.
What good does it do if we cannot reach a consensus on issues relating to health care,
education, climate change, dealing with guns and assault weapons. I’ve done those things.
Why do you think the present United States is spending $12 million running negative ads against
somebody 60 days before, 90 days the start of before the first caucus of the Democratic Party?
He knows. And he knows I’m coming. MARTIN: Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for your time. BIDEN: Thank you. Appreciate it.