Vice President Biden Discusses support from Obama during son’s illness
On AC360, CNN’s chief political analyst Gloria Borger sits down with Vice President Joe Biden, in an exclusive interview on the eve of the State of the Union address. Please see below for a full rush transcript.
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Biden on President Obama’s offer to financially help amid son Beau’s illness: “I was having lunch with the president, and he’s the only guy other than my family, I confided in all along in everything that was going on with Beau, because I felt responsibility to do that, so that he knew where I was, my thinking. And I said, “you know, my concern is,” I said, “if Beau resigns, he has no — there’s no — nothing to fall back on. His salary.” And I said, “but I worked it out.” I said, “but — Jill and I will sell the house and be in good shape.” And he got up and he said, “don’t sell that house. Promise me you won’t sell the house.” He’s going to be mad that I’m saying this. He said, “I’ll give you the money. Whatever you need, I’ll give you the money. Don’t, Joe — promise me. Promise me.” I said, “I don’t think we’re going to have to anyway.” He said, “promise me.”
Why Biden is not surprised Sanders and Clinton are neck-and-neck in the polls: “[BIDEN]: I think that — that Bernie is speaking to a yearning that is deep and real, and he has credibility on it. And that is the absolute enormous concentration of wealth in a small group of people with the new class now being able to be shown being left out. There used to be a basic bargain. If you contributed to the profitability of an enterprise, you got to share in the profit. That’s been broken. Productivity is up wages are stagnant.”[BORGER]: But Hillary’s talking about that, and…[BIDEN]: Well, it’s — but it’s — it’s relatively new for Hillary to talk about that. Hillary’s focus has been other things up to now, and that’s been Bernie’s — no one questions Bernie’s authenticity on those issues.”
Biden discusses the impact he and President Obama want to have on the nominees when it relates to gun control: [BIDEN] “One of the purposes the president has and I have — we want to affect the attitude of the nominees. We’ve worked too hard the last seven years to take the party to a place and the country to a place we think it should be.
What Bernie Sanders has to do is say that the Second Amendment says — which he has, of late — the Second Amendment says you can limit who can own a gun, that people who are criminals shouldn’t have guns. People who are schizophrenic and have mental illnesses shouldn’t own guns. And — and he has said that. [BORGER]: “So he’s OK with you?” [BIDEN]: Yes, he’s OK. Look, Bernie’s doing a — is doing a heck of a job. I think we have three great candidates out there. I really mean this. They’re actually debating issues.”
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN: Last week, the president was talking about gun control and wrote a piece in which he introduced a litmus test for his political support of Democratic candidates. And he said, wither you’re with us all the way on the government forum or I’m not gonna…
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don’t think he said that. Well, what he said was, unless you have a reasonable position on guns…
BORGER: Well, doesn’t that mean either you’re with us…
BIDEN: No. No it doesn’t.
BORGER: So let me ask you this then, Bernie Sanders — Senator Sanders has a history on this. He is — he has in the past voted to protect gun manufacturers from liability. Is this a shot across the bow at Bernie Sanders?
BIDEN: Well, Bernie Sanders has said that he thought the president’s approach is the correct approach. Bernie Sanders said that he thinks there should be liability now.
BORGER: Well, he…
BIDEN: And so…
BORGER: … but he said he’s — he might reconsider his position.
BIDEN: … yeah, well, but he — look. One of the purposes the president has and I have — we want to affect the attitude of the nominees. We’ve worked too hard the last seven years to take the party to a place and the country to a place we think it should be.
And so what — what little influence I may have and he may have on who the nominee is and what the nominee says — we’re not going to be (inaudible).
BORGER: So does Bernie Sanders have to change his position on gun manufacturers in order to have your support and you out there campaigning for him, should he be the nominee for president?
BIDEN: No. No. What Bernie Sanders has to do is say that the Second Amendment says — which he has, of late — the Second Amendment says you can limit who can own a gun, that people who are criminals shouldn’t have guns. People who are schizophrenic and have mental illnesses shouldn’t own guns. And — and he has said that.
BORGER: So he’s OK with you?
BIDEN: Yes, he’s OK. Look, Bernie’s doing a — is doing a heck of a job. I think we have three great candidates out there. I really mean this. They’re actually debating issues.
BORGER: Donald Trump, right now, is the Republican front runner. No doubt about it. Let me ask you — is he qualified to be president of the United States and a leader on the world stage?
BIDEN: Anyone in the American public says they want to be president is qualified to be president. I know that sounds like I’m avoiding the question, and that’s not my style.
BORGER: You are. You are.
BIDEN: No, no. I want to make that clear at the front end. I think, though, he’s an incredibly divisive figure. The country has never done well when the leader of the country appeals to people’s fears as opposed to their hopes.
That’s what worries me about Donald Trump. If Donald Trump gets the nomination and wins the election, if he’s as smart as I think, he’s going to regret having said the things he’s said and done.
The whole idea is — we were talking before about how to pull the country together, for God’s sake, pull the politics together down here. How does Donald Trump do that?
How does Donald Trump on the — on the — on the tangent he’s on now, trying to separate people based on their ethnicity, based on their — their — their origin, based on — I mean, it’s just — it’s just — it’s divisive. It’s not healthy.
BORGER: Well, you know, he — Putin has called Trump an outstanding and talented personality, and Trump has said about Putin, “at least he’s a leader.” You deal an awful lot with foreign leaders. How would you see Trump on the — on the world stage?
BIDEN: I would — I would hope he’d have an extremely qualified staff with him. I would hope he’d have people from the last administration and other Republican administrations who were substantively grounded in —
BORGER: Are you saying he’s not substantive?
BIDEN: No, he’s not, so far. Now, that doesn’t mean he can’t be, but he has no background in foreign policy. It’s one thing to have an assessment of Putin’s personality, and Putin of him. That’s OK.
But tell me what he knows about strategic doctrine. Tell me what he knows about the — the nuclear equation with the United States, and tell me what he knows about China-Soviet – China-Russian relations.
I mean, I don’t know. Maybe he’s keeping it all secret. But he hasn’t spoken to any of the substance so far. None of the substance. So I think he would be — most world leaders would hope that he had a — a couple crash graduate courses before he started to try to exercise the role of president.
BORGER: As we all know, you were thinking long and hard yourself about running for the presidency and you decided it was a no-go. And you’ve said you regret it everyday.
BORGER: Tell me why.
BIDEN: Well, in response to the question I — I did say — look, I made the absolute right decision for my family —
BORGER: But do you regret it?
BIDEN: What I — what I regret is — and I’m still gonna be able to do it is, I care deeply about these issues. I’ve spent my whole adult life — since I was 29 years old, working on foreign policy and domestic policy. And I’ve cared deeply about it. And so I regret — to an extant I regret not having a louder voice on it, but we’re — I’m the Vice President of the United States for another year in office and we have an opportunity to get a lot more done.
We’ve done a great deal not withstanding the fiction on the other side. We’ve done a great deal. We’ve taken this country from chaos to recovery. We’re on the verge of resurgence. We genuinely are in a better at position than any nation in the world economically and politically. And so there’s so much we can do and the opportunities we had in life sciences, and the opportunities we have, and the breakthroughs that are going to occur in the next four to six years are astounding.
BORGER: Let me ask you about the race.
BORGER: That you’re not in. And now we see that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are actually running neck-and-neck in Iowa and in New Hampshire.
Why do you think Hillary Clinton is struggling?
BIDEN: Well, first of all, I — I’ve been of the view — and I don’t know that you and I talked about it. I don’t want to say that for certain, but we may have.
I thought for the last six months they were neck-and-neck in both places. I never bought the idea that there was somehow — that — remember he was up by 15 points in New Hampshire, and he was down by 15 — that’s not the — that’s not the way this process works, as you and I both know.
I’m much older than you, but you’ve covered a lot of this and — and so I’m not surprised that it is viewed as neck-and-neck.
But I’m also — will be surprised if the pundits turn out to be right. They hardly ever are in Iowa and New Hampshire. So I’m — I’m not…
BORGER: But why is she struggling? I mean — you say, I mean, we considered — she was an overwhelming favorite and…
BIDEN: Well, I — I think that’s part of the reason…
BORGER: He’s a Democratic Socialist.
BIDEN: Yeah, but if you’re — you know, if Bernie Sanders never said he was a Democratic Socialist, based on what he’s saying, people wouldn’t be calling him a Democratic Socialist. That’s how he characterizes himself in sort of European terms — the Democratic Socialist parties in Europe but —
BORGER: But why is she having trouble?
BIDEN: Well, I — I think that — that Bernie is speaking to a yearning that is deep and real, and he has credibility on it. And that is the absolute enormous concentration of wealth in a small group of people with the new class now being able to be shown being left out.
There used to be a basic bargain. If you contributed to the profitability of an enterprise, you got to share in the profit. That’s been broken. Productivity is up wages are stagnant.
BORGER: But Hillary’s talking about that, and…
BIDEN: Well, it’s — but it’s — it’s relatively new for Hillary to talk about that. Hillary’s focus has been other things up to now, and that’s been Bernie’s — no one questions Bernie’s authenticity on those issues.
BORGER: And they question hers, you think?
BIDEN: Well, I — I think they question everybody’s who hasn’t been talking about it all along. But I think she’s come forward with some really — really thoughtful approaches to deal with the issue.
But I — I just think — and look, you know, everybody — you know, it’s the old thing. No one — everybody wants to be the favorite. Nobody wants to be the prohibitive favorite.
And so it’s an awful high bar for her to meet, that she was the absolute prohibitive favorite. I never thought she was a prohibitive favorite. I don’t think she ever thought she was a prohibitive favorite. So I think it’s — I think it’s — you know, everything’s sort of coming down to Earth, just settling in. But it’s not over.
BORGER: So if Hillary Clinton should lose Iowa and New Hampshire, is there any way that you would possibly take another look at this race?
BIDEN: No. I — look. I — I…
BORGER: The door is shut.
BIDEN: … first of all, even if Hillary loses votes — I’ve thought this through — it’s a long way to go in the nomination. And — you know, so it’s one thing, theoretically, to win both of those.
She go to South Carolina, it’s going to be pretty rough sledding down there for Bernie and for — and another guy who’s in it, O’Malley — he’s a qualified guy. This guy’s a serious governor. But —
BORGER: So you’re — you’re — you’re closing the door?
BIDEN: No. I don’t think — I don’t think there’s any door to open.
BORGER: I just want to ask how you’re doing.
BIDEN: We’re doing well. Look, anybody who’s been through this kind of thing — and millions of people have — know the — and I know from losing my wife and daughter years ago — that you’ve got to get through the season.
Thanksgiving was hard. For the same — for 40 years, and we all together went the same place in Nantucket, we did the same thing. We’re — we’re kind of a traditional family, you know, we’re hide-bound.
Christmas, where everybody moves into my house, for the last 20 years, four days ahead of Christmas. Oh, my — they literally move in. Leave their homes and move in. And — you know, the idea of an empty chair, you know, and — was something no one looked forward to.
But everybody — you know, they’re tough. And you know, we’re focusing on — on the inspiration of Beau, rather than loss of Beau. But — it — all — it’s — we’re — we’re a family, we’re sticking together, we’re getting through it. And — you know, you…
BORGER: How are you?
BIDEN: I’m — I’m — I’m good. Look, I miss him every day, for God’s sake. This was — he was my soul. Hunter’s my heart, he was my soul, and my daughter’s my comfort. I mean, it’s interesting, you know. You have more than one child, they all — you love them all equally, but they all have a slightly different relationship.
And Beau was — Beau was — was my soul. Beau was my conscience. Beau was my — Beau was like a — he was the little boy who, when he was six years old, he was 30 years old, you know? I mean — and — and Hunter’s my heart, with his passion.
And — but, so it’s — you know, I think about him all the time, but I try to focus on — on what we have, and — and by the way, his — my two grandchildren — his two children — are beautiful and smart, and you’d expect a grandpa to say that. But you, know, I see them all time, and so everybody’s – and his wife is incredible. Hallie (ph) is like my daughter.
So, you know, we’re — we’re just focusing on, you know, on what both — anyway. I’m talking too much about that, I apologize.
BORGER: No. No, that’s all right.
BIDEN: Anyway, but it’s — but — I think, you know, and you know, you — you said you all mourned with me. The truth of the matter is a lot of you did. I knew it was sincere, and it mattered. It really mattered.
BORGER: Let me ask you about your next big thing, which is the moon shot for cancer as you call it. What did you learn as the parent of a cancer patient about how realistic and achievable this moon shot really is?
BIDEN: I learned two things. First of all, when you have a son or daughter, husband, wife, someone you adore, you become as educated as you can as quickly as you can. Particularly, when you know that it’s a very serious form, et cetera. So I learned a lot about — for a lack of a better phrase, the mechanics of cancer. And the delivery systems. And there’s so many — so many changes that are just on the cusp, but then as I got into it more deeply after Beau passed I realized a lot of this is siloed. I have now met with over 200 oncologists and — and cancer research centers and philanthropists involved. And what everyone acknowledges privately — what I hope I can do, they think I may be the convener. I may be able to bring them all together…
BORGER: What do you want to do?
BIDEN: What I want to do is I want to break down the silos. Have immediate access to information all the researchers have, one another’s research as well. Being able to have a conduit to get out to places — not just the — the great cancer hospitals, you know, the centers of study. To get to oncologists out in the field the information we already that they don’t have access to.
BORGER: Let — let me ask you as you head into the State of the Union.
Is there a moment you’re going to remember with the president?
BIDEN: Well, yeah. There is one. He may be embarrassed — my — we — we were having lunch, and it was pretty clear Beau was having trouble with his speech. And he still had three months to go, four months to go as attorney general.
And my son — Beau Biden was the most fastidious, honorable, straight guy. And I knew if my son thought he was losing his cognitive capability, he wouldn’t stay on as attorney general — he’d resign. Thank God, he took all these tests, there was no cognitive impact. But his speech made it – it was affecting his speech center.
And so I was having lunch with the president, and he’s the only guy other than my family, I confided in all along in everything that was going on with Beau, because I felt responsibility to do that, so that he knew where I was, my thinking.
And I said, “you know, my concern is,” I said, “if Beau resigns, he has no — there’s no — nothing to fall back on. His salary.” And I said, “but I worked it out.” I said, “but — Jill and I will sell the house and be in good shape.”
And he got up and he said, “don’t sell that house. Promise me you won’t sell the house.” He’s going to be mad that I’m saying this. He said, “I’ll give you the money. Whatever you need, I’ll give you the money. Don’t, Joe — promise me. Promise me.” I said, “I don’t think we’re going to have to anyway.” He said, “promise me.”
And then I’ll never forget the eulogy he delivered for Beau, and — when Beau had his stroke, when he had a stroke, and they thought it — turned out it was the beginning of a glioblastoma — and he came running down the hallway in his shirtsleeves. Said, “Joe, Joe, is he OK?”
His love of family, and my family, and my love of his family — you know, his two granddaughters — his two children and my granddaughters are best friends. His number two daughter, my number three granddaughter — they vacation together. They play on teams together. They sleep at each other’s homes all the time. It’s really — it’s — it’s personal. It’s — it’s family.
BORGER: Do you have any idea what you’re going to be doing your first day out of public office? Let’s say January 21st, 2017.
BIDEN: I know I will be — I — I’m in the process of trying to work that out right now.
BORGER: Look, here’s the thing. You’ve known me a long time. I mean, since I’ve been 27 years old, every morning I get up, I’ve focused on an issue. I was focused on a public policy. This’d be the first time — and then I decided, “wait, I don’t have to stop focusing on that.
The question is what forum I will use to continue that focus. My dad used to have an expression. He said, “no man or woman should retire unless they know exactly what they’re going to do the next morning they get up.” I’m working on that right now.