Oct 15, 2020
Joe Biden ABC Town Hall Transcript October 15
Joe Biden participated in a town hall hosted by George Stephanopoulos of ABC on October 15 in Pennsylvania. Read the transcript of the full event here.
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George Stephanopoulos: (00:41)
Hey, and welcome to our town hall with Joe Biden. Mr. Vice President, welcome to you.
Joe Biden: (00:46)
Good to be with you.
George Stephanopoulos: (00:47)
We’re here with a group of Pennsylvania voters. You can see they’re all appropriately socially distanced tonight. And there are a group of, some are voting for you, some have said they’re voting for president Trump, some are still undecided, and we’re going to try to take questions from as many of them as we can tonight.
Joe Biden: (01:02)
George Stephanopoulos: (01:02)
And we’re going to start with Nicholas Fed, and he’s from Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. That’s close to here, in Philadelphia.
Joe Biden: (01:08)
I know it well.
George Stephanopoulos: (01:09)
You’re a Democrat.
Nicholas Fed: (01:11)
I’m a Democrat. Thank you, George. Mr. Vice President, every day, my wife and I are in disbelief at the lack of coordinated federal action on COVID-19. We know that your administration would follow the science. My question for you, it’s two parts. First, looking backwards to when this country first became aware of COVID-19, what would following the science have meant in terms of actual policy? And then, looking forward, what would your administration do in terms of following the science with real concrete policies that haven’t been done by the current administration?
Joe Biden: (01:55)
Well, first of all, going back, the fact is that the president was informed how dangerous this virus was. And all the way back in the beginning of February, I argued that we should be keeping people in China. And we had set up, in our administration, a pandemic office within the White House. There were 44 people on the ground.
Joe Biden: (02:16)
I suggested that we should be seeking, and I didn’t hold public office, I was a former Vice President, we in fact asked to have access to the source of the problem. And the best of our knowledge, Trump never pushed that. All those 44 people came home, never got replaced. In addition to that, I pointed out that I thought in February, I did a piece for USA Today saying, “This is a serious problem. Trump denied it. He said it wasn’t.”
Joe Biden: (02:42)
We later learned that he knew full well how serious it was when he did an interview with George Woodward. I mean, excuse me, Bob Woodward. And at the time, he said he didn’t tell anybody because he was afraid Americans would panic. Americans don’t panic, he panicked. He didn’t say a word to anybody.
Joe Biden: (02:58)
Then I wrote a piece in March about what I thought we should be doing to take hold of this, using the… There’s an act that passed a long time ago that allows the president to go into a business and say, “Stop making this, and start making that.” And it took a long time for him to even institute that, to get ventilators and so on. And so, the point was he missed enormous opportunities and kept saying things that weren’t true. It’s going to go away by Easter, don’t worry about it. When the summer comes, it’s all going to go away like a miracle. He’s still saying those things.
George Stephanopoulos: (03:31)
Before you go to the future, can I follow up on the, “I’m looking backwards.” just a little bit? You did have an op-ed in January where you warned of the seriousness of the pandemic, but there’s no record of you calling for social distancing, limited social gatherings, mandatory mask-
Joe Biden: (03:47)
Not back then.
George Stephanopoulos: (03:47)
In January, February.
Joe Biden: (03:49)
Not in January, February. No, that’s correct, there wasn’t. That came at the end of March. And then I laid out a detailed plan relative to school openings in June and July. By that time, the science was becoming clearer and clearer of how this was spreading so rapidly. But the president kept denying that. If you notice, from March on, I stopped doing big meetings, I started wearing masks.
Joe Biden: (04:13)
So, it was at a time when the science was saying, and his key people, Dr. Fauci were saying, “You should be taking these precautions.” So, what we should be doing now, there should be a national standard. Instead of leaving this up to, remember what the president said to the governors, “Well, they’re on their own, it’s not my responsibility. The governors can do what they need to do, not my responsibility.” It is a presidential responsibility to lead, and he didn’t do that.
Joe Biden: (04:37)
He didn’t talk about what needed to be done because he kept worrying, in my view, about the stock market. He worried if he talked about how bad this could be, unless we took these precautionary actions, then in fact, the market would go down. And his barometer of success to the economy is the market.
Joe Biden: (04:56)
Thirdly, what we didn’t do is, the president had an opportunity to open and allow schools and businesses to stay open if they got the kind of help they needed. So, the Congress passed a couple of trillion dollars worth of help. And what happened was most of that money, a significant portion of that money went to the very wealthiest corporations in the country, didn’t get to the mom and pop stores.
Joe Biden: (05:20)
So, you had one in five, one in six minority businesses closing. Many of them permanently. People being laid off. And then what happened was, when the first round of money for unemployment, enhanced unemployment went by, he didn’t do anything. He didn’t do anything. And to the best of my knowledge, and I mean this sincerely, I can’t think of, I’ve been around for a lot of presidents, and you know a lot of presidents in a crisis, I don’t ever remember one never calling the House and Senate Republicans, Democrats together.
George Stephanopoulos: (05:52)
Let’s look forward a little bit. You said that you would lock down the economy, only if the scientists said it was necessary.
Joe Biden: (05:56)
By the way, in the context, would I lock down the economy if science said so? I said I’d follow science. But I don’t think there’s a need to lock down.
George Stephanopoulos: (06:05)
Yeah, but I want to press you on that point. You’ve been in the Oval Office for eight years with President Obama, he would always say that only the hard to solve problems-
Joe Biden: (06:15)
[crosstalk 00:06:15] Get there.
George Stephanopoulos: (06:15)
What is most likely to happen is, the scientists will disagree. The scientists will disagree with the economist. So the question is, how are you going to decide this? Who are you going to listen to? And how can you can contain the pandemic without crushing the economy?
Joe Biden: (06:28)
Well, you can contain the pandemic by being rational and not crush economy. For example, I laid out a plan, how you can open businesses. You can open businesses and schools, if in fact you provide them the guidance that they need, as well as the money to be able to do it. What’s happening now is, we know, for example, if you can open a business and you could have a sign on the door saying, “Safe to come in.” And that’s why people aren’t going anyway, when they’re open.
Joe Biden: (06:52)
And say, because you have social distancing, you have plastic barriers, when you go to the cashier, you have separators between the booths. You don’t have large crowds, you reduce the size, the number of people you can have in the restaurant. You make sure there’s testing, that’s a really critical piece that he didn’t do testing and tracing. And you make sure that people are equipped, going to schools.
Joe Biden: (07:15)
You know, we initially said, the government initially said, they’re going to provide masks for every student and every teacher. Then they said, “No, no, no, no.” FEMA said, the president or whomever said, ‘No, no, no. That’s not a national emergency, not a national emergency.”
Joe Biden: (07:33)
We need more teachers in our schools to be able to open smaller pods. We need ventilation systems change. There’s a lot of things we know now, and I laid them out in some detail. Now again, when I say I laid them out, I’m not an office holder. I’m running for office. It’s not like I’m still Vice President, or I wasn’t a United States Senator pushing this.
Joe Biden: (07:52)
So, I don’t want to say, “I, I, I.” But we did lay out exactly what needed to be done. And take a look, we make up 4% of the world’s population. We have 20% of the world’s deaths. We’re in a situation where we have 210 plus thousand people dead. And what’s he doing? Nothing. He’s still not wearing masks, and so on.
George Stephanopoulos: (08:12)
We’re getting some other questions on COVID.
Joe Biden: (08:14)
George Stephanopoulos: (08:14)
The next one comes from Kelly Lee. She’s from Philadelphia.
Joe Biden: (08:16)
George Stephanopoulos: (08:17)
Republican. Voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
Kelly Lee: (08:21)
George Stephanopoulos: (08:21)
Joe Biden: (08:22)
Hey, Kelly. How are you?
Kelly Lee: (08:23)
Hi, Mr. Biden. My question is about the coronavirus vaccine, or potential.
Joe Biden: (08:29)
Kelly Lee: (08:29)
Senator Harris stated that she absolutely would not take a vaccine from President Trump. And of course, we all know it’s not President Trump that would create this vaccine. It would be doctors and scientists that presumably we all trust. So, my question for you is if a vaccine were approved between now and the end of the year, would you take it? And if you were to become president, would you mandate that everyone has to take it?
Joe Biden: (08:58)
Two things. Number one, President Trump talks about things that just aren’t accurate, about everything from vaccines, we’re going to have one right away, is it going to happen, and so on. The point is that, if the scientists, if the body of scientists say that this is what is ready to be done, and it’s been tested, they’ve gone through the three phases. Yes, I would take it. I’d encourage people to take it.
Joe Biden: (09:23)
But President Trump says things like, everything from this crazy stuff he’s walking away from now, inject bleach in your arm, and that’s going to work. I’m not being facetious, he’s actually said these things. And now, Regeneron is the answer. That’s going to cure everything. There’s 500,000 doses, we have more than a few million people, you know? And so, if you noticed, most of the companies who are developing these vaccines are working, they’re making real progress.
Joe Biden: (09:53)
I meet with four leading scientists, at least twice a week. In the beginning, four times a week, giving us the detail on what kind of progress is being made. And right now, they do the right thing. When they run into a serious problem, they halt the test. They don’t continue until they figure out what the problem was. They’re not there yet.
Joe Biden: (10:11)
And the most scientists say, that it’s not likely to have a vaccine that would be available until the beginning of next year, into the spring of next year. And in the meantime, what I worry about is the same thing with Regeneron, which is a useful antidote. Not antidote, a useful tool. But what’s happening is there was no plan to figure out how to distribute it. We have 500,000 vials of it.
Joe Biden: (10:41)
Well, we don’t have all the testing equipment. We don’t have all the ability to get it to the people who need it. And what we should be doing now, and allegedly it’s happening, but I’ve not seen it yet nor the docs that I’ve talked to seen it. There should be a plan when we have the vaccine, how do we distribute it?
George Stephanopoulos: (10:57)
And once we get it, if it’s safe, if it’s effective, will you mandate its use?
Joe Biden: (11:02)
The answer is, depending on how clear… Vaccines, they say, have a very positive impact and that you’re going to affect positively 85% of the American public. Or there’s others say, “This vaccine is really the key. This is the golden key.” It depends on the state of the nature of the vaccine when it comes out, and how it’s being distributed. But I would think that we should be talking about, depending on the continuation of the spread of the virus, we should be thinking about making it mandatory.
George Stephanopoulos: (11:38)
How would you enforce that?
Joe Biden: (11:40)
Well, you couldn’t, that’s the problem. Just like you can’t enforce measles, you can’t come to school unless you have a measles shot. You know, you can’t. But you can’t say, everyone has to do this, just like you can’t mandate a mask. But you can say, you can go to every governor and get them all in a room, all 50 of them as president and say, ” Ask people to wear the mask. Everybody knows.”
George Stephanopoulos: (12:03)
And if they don’t? Fines?
Joe Biden: (12:03)
And if they don’t, no. Not fine. Then I go to every governor, I go to every mayor, I go to every councilmen, and I go to every local official, say, “Mandate the mask.” Say, “This is what you have to do when you’re out. Make sure you encourage it being done.” Look, George, you and I know, and I think you do too as well, the words of a president matter.
Kelly Lee: (12:25)
Joe Biden: (12:25)
No matter whether they’re good, bad, or indifferent, they matter. And when a president doesn’t wear a mask or makes fun of folks like me, when I was wearing a mask for a long time, then people say, “Well, it mustn’t be that important.” But when a president says, “I think this is very important.” For example, I walked in here with this mask, but I have one of the N95 masks underneath it. I left it in my dressing room. Not the dresser, the room I was in before I got here.
Joe Biden: (12:53)
And so, I think it matters what we say. And we’re now learning that children are getting the virus, not with as serious consequences, but there’s been no studies done yet on vaccines for children. So, there’s a long way to go, but we can make progress in the meantime and save lives.
Joe Biden: (13:13)
And the last point I’ll make, if you listen to the head of the CDC, he stood up and he said, “You know, while we’re waiting for a vaccine.” He held up a mask. “You wear this mask, you’ll save more lives between now and the end of the year than if we had a vaccine.” It’s estimated by every major study done from the University of Washington to Columbia, that if in fact we wore masks, we could save, between now and the end of the year, a hundred thousand lives.
George Stephanopoulos: (13:44)
And avoid lock downs?
Joe Biden: (13:45)
And avoid lockdown, yes. You don’t have to lock down if you’re wearing the mask.
George Stephanopoulos: (13:49)
Let’s get a question on the economy. Anthony Archer-
Joe Biden: (13:51)
Thank you, I hope I answered your question.
George Stephanopoulos: (13:53)
… from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, it’s a suburb of Pittsburgh. Republican.
Joe Biden: (13:56)
I know it.
George Stephanopoulos: (13:56)
Voted for President Trump.
Anthony Archer: (13:58)
Thank you, George. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. You stated that anyone making less than $400,000 will not see one single penny of their taxes raised.
Joe Biden: (14:07)
Anthony Archer: (14:07)
But also, state that you are going to eliminate the Trump tax cuts. The Trump tax cuts reduces taxes for the majority of workers. I would argue, not enough. What is your plan for either extending the tax cuts for the middle-class, or creating a new plan that further reduces those taxes?
Joe Biden: (14:22)
I carry this card with me. When I said the Trump tax cuts, about 1.3 trillion of the $2 trillion in his tax cuts went to the top one 10th of 1%. That’s what I’m talking about eliminating, not all the tax cuts that are out there. And by the way, if you take a look, we reduced the corporate tax rate from 35%. and Democrats, Republicans who were in office thought it should come down to 28%. He reduced it to 21%.
Joe Biden: (14:54)
You have 91 out of the Fortune 500 companies not paying a single solitary penny. If you raise the corporate tax back to 28%, which is a fair tax, you’d raise one trillion, three hundred billion dollars by that one act. If you made sure that people making over 400 grand paid what they did in the Bush administration, 39.6%, you would raise another, it goes up to let me get you the exact number here, about another 200, excuse me. $92 billion.
Joe Biden: (15:29)
So, you could raise a lot of money to be able to invest in things that can make your life easier. Make you change your standard of living by making sure you have affordable health care, by making sure you’re in a situation where you’re able to send your kid to school. If you have student debt, you can deal with it. Making sure that your home, you can pay your mortgage. You got 20 million people, right now.
George Stephanopoulos: (15:50)
Mr. Vice President, let me press you on that though.
Joe Biden: (15:52)
George Stephanopoulos: (15:52)
You’re going to raise the corporate tax, you’re going to raise taxes on the wealthy. Is it wise to do even that when the economy is as weak as it is right now?
Joe Biden: (15:59)
George Stephanopoulos: (16:00)
Another 900, 000 people have filed for unemployment.
Joe Biden: (16:02)
That’s a great question. Moody’s did analysis of my detailed analysis of my tax plan and my economic plan. They said, I will, in four years, Moody’s Wall Street, said I will create 18.6 million new jobs, good paying jobs, number one. Number two, the GDP will grow by a trillion dollars more than would under Trump, and 7 million more jobs than under Trump.
Joe Biden: (16:31)
And the reason is, when you allow people to get back in the game and have a job, everything moves. Everything moves. Right now, you got the opposite. You had, last year during this pandemic, you had the wealthiest billionaires in the world, in the nation, they made another $700 billion. $700 billion. He talks about a V-shape recovery. It’s a K shape recovery. If you’re on the top, you’re going to do very well. And if you’re in the bottom, or you’re in the middle or the bottom, your income is coming down. You’re not getting a raise.
Joe Biden: (17:09)
I shouldn’t, I don’t know what you do. You may get a raise. Hope you’re a billionaire. But all kidding aside, it’s about growing the economy. And George, the way out, the reason why I’m so optimistic about economic recovery, more than I’ve ever been, is we have these four crises happening all at once. And one helps the other. For example, we’re going to invest a great deal of that money into infrastructure, and to a green infrastructure.
Joe Biden: (17:38)
We’re going to put 500,000 charging stations on new highways we’re building, and all highways we’re building. We’re going to own the electric market. You know as well as I do from your days, you know, in the old days, where the president spends about $600 billion a year on government contracts. Everything from making sure they have aircraft carriers, to automobile fleets in the United States.
Joe Biden: (18:04)
If you make, and it’s not in violation of any international trade agreement, made in America. If you actually insist that whatever that product is, made in America, including the material that goes into the product. It is estimated we’re going to create somewhere between another four and six million jobs just by doing that.
Joe Biden: (18:24)
But what’s happening now under his trade policy, a lot of this is going overseas. You get a benefit from going overseas, if you have much of it being made overseas. So, if you send it overseas, you get a 10% tax increase on a product. If you make it in America and you bring it back, you get a 10% growth. If you bring back a company, and you’re going to open up an old facility, you get a 10% tax credit for all you invested. That actually works, George.
George Stephanopoulos: (18:53)
So, there’s not going to be any delay on the tax increases?
Joe Biden: (18:56)
No, well. I got to get the votes. I got to get the votes. That’s why, the one thing, I have this strange notion. We are a democracy. Some of my Republican friends and some of my Democratic friends, even occasionally say, “Well, if you can’t get the votes by executive order, you’re going to do something. Things you can’t do by executive order, unless you’re a dictator.” We’re democracy, we need consensus.
George Stephanopoulos: (19:20)
Got to take a quick break. We’ll be right back.
Joe Biden: (19:22)
I hope I answered your question.
Voice Over: (19:24)
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. This special edition of 2020 will return in a moment.
Voice Over: (23:25)
(silence) The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. From the Constitution Center in Philadelphia here again, George Stephanopoulos.
George Stephanopoulos: (23:46)
And welcome back to our town hall with Joe Biden. We’re going to get a question now from Cedric Humphrey. He’s a student from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Progressive Democrat.
Joe Biden: (23:53)
Don’t jump, Cedric. You’re look like you’re way up there.
Cedric Humphrey: (23:56)
I’ll be okay. Thank you, George. And good evening, former Vice President Biden.
Joe Biden: (23:59)
Cedric Humphrey: (24:00)
Many people believe that the true swing demographic in this election will be-
Cedric Humphrey: (24:03)
Many people believe that the true swing demographic in this election will be Black voters under the age of 30, not because they’ll be voting for Trump, but because they won’t vote at all. I myself have had this exact same conflict. So my question for you then is, besides “You ain’t Black,” what do you have to say to young Black voters who see voting for you as further participation in a system that continually fails to protect them?
Joe Biden: (24:24)
Well, I’d say first of all, as my buddy John Lewis said, “It’s a sacred opportunity, the right to vote. You can make a difference.” If young Black women and men vote, you can determine the outcome of this election. Not a joke. You can do that. Then the next question is, am I worthy of your vote? Can I earn your vote? And the answer is, there’s two things I think that I care and I’ve demonstrated I care about my whole career. One is, in addition to dealing with a criminal justice system to make it fairer and make it more decent, we have to be able to put Black Americans in a position to be able to gain wealth, generate wealth. And so you look at what that entails.
Joe Biden: (25:02)
It entails everything from early education, that’s why I’m supporting making sure that Title One schools, as you know, schools with the least tax base to be able to support their schools, I increased the funding from them from $15 to $45 billion. That allows every teacher in that school to make up to 60,000 bucks, and the problem now is they’re leaving the schools. They’re not there. We’re short about a million and a half teachers, a million and a quarter teachers.
Joe Biden: (25:29)
Number two, every three and four and five-year-old will go to school, school, not daycare, school, and with all the great universities, including the one you’ve gone to, go to, or went to, in fact, talks about in the last eight years, what’s happened. What happens when you let them go to school? They make up rapidly whatever shortcoming they had in terms of their education prior to that. They have not heard as many words spoken, et cetera, et cetera. What happens is that, the studies show, that 58% will increase by 58% their chance of going all through 12 years of school, and going through successfully. It will also provide for the ability to bring in social workers and school psychologists. We have one school psychologist in America now for every 1,507 kids. It should be one to 500, not just in schools that are poor, but in all schools, because we learned that, for example, drug abuse doesn’t cause mental illness, mental illness causes drug abuse, the failure to get hold of people and deal with their anxieties.
Joe Biden: (26:34)
In addition to that, I provide for a $70 billion for HBC use for them to be able to have the wherewithal to do what other universities can do, because they don’t have the kind of foundational support they need. And so that would allow them, for example, like we did in our administration, the President allowed me to go down and we awarded a cybersecurity laboratory, ability to compete for cybersecurity laboratory. The federal government spends billions of dollars a year on universities, because there are the best kept secret and where most of the major inventions come out of. And so that school now will be able to produce young Black women and men who are going to go into a field of the future that’s burgeoning, cybersecurity. And that’s what is going to help a great deal.
Joe Biden: (27:18)
In addition to that, if you’re a young man about to graduate and you graduated from school and you want to own your first home, well, it’s awful hard to get the money, depending on the background, where your economic background is, to get a down payments. So we’re going to guarantee first term home buyers a $15,000 down payment for first term home buyers. In addition to that, all the studies now show, and I’ve been arguing this for a long time, is young Black entrepreneurs are just as successful as White entrepreneurs or anyone else given a shot. But you can’t get the money. Where do you go to get the startup money? So what President Obama and I did, we had a program where we took $1.5 billion and we invested it in all the SBAs around the country, and the state SBAs, small business associations, and that generated $30 billion came off the sideline.
Joe Biden: (28:11)
Because if you have a guarantee of $200,000 for your new startup enterprise, a young entrepreneur, you’re going to be able to attract, if it’s government money and it’s a guarantee, you could be able to attract another $100,000. It generated $30 billion. Well, I’m changing that program and I’ll get this done without much trouble I believe in the Congress from $1.5 million to $30 billion. That’ll take $300 billion off the sideline and grow. And, for example, if you, in fact, and I were the same age and we split our differences, if we were the same age, and we went to the same builder to buy us each the same home, but my home was in a White neighborhood on one side of a highway, and yours is in a Black neighborhood, same exact home, your home will start off being valued 29% less than my home. Yet your insurance for that home will be higher. You’ll be taxed more for it. We’ve got to end this. That’s what got me involved in politics in the first place, a thing called red lining.
Joe Biden: (29:15)
We can change so much that we can do so much to change the circumstances to give people a real opportunity.
George Stephanopoulus: (29:22)
Cedric. Is that right? Did you hear what you needed here?
Cedric Humphrey: (29:27)
I think so.
Joe Biden: (29:29)
Well, there’s a lot more if you’re going to hang around afterwards. I’ll tell you more.
Cedric Humphrey: (29:32)
Joe Biden: (29:33)
No, but I really mean it. It’s the key. Look, this is the way every other … Like my dad, he lost his job up in Scranton and it took him three years to be able to move down to Delaware, to Claymont, Delaware, a little steel town, and send us home to our grandpop to live with him. We finally got back. We lived in an apartment, which became six and eight housing much later. It was just normal apartments. But it took him five years to be able to buy a home. Well, we bought a three bedroom home with four kids and a grandpop living with us, but it accumulated wealth. You built up wealth. That’s how middle-class folks make it. They build up wealth. Then he was able to borrow a little against that to be able to help us get the school, those kinds of things. It’s about accumulating wealth and you’re behind an eight ball. The vast majority of people of color are behind an eight ball.
Joe Biden: (30:24)
And it’s the same way what’s going on now with all this money that’s been voted. What’s happened? You go to the bank, if you’re a Black businessman, and the President fired the only Inspector General to see oversee all this help coming from the Congress. And what happens? You go in and they say, “Ah, do you have an account here?” “No.” “Do you have a credit card?” “No.” “Have you borrowed from us before ?” “No.” We bailed these suckers out. They’re not liable for any of the money, but they still won’t lend it to you. We’ve got to change that. It’s about accumulating wealth.
George Stephanopoulus: (30:57)
I want to get another question in here from Angelica Politarhos.
Joe Biden: (30:59)
George Stephanopoulus: (31:00)
No, not at all. Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
Angelia Politarhos: (31:02)
George Stephanopoulus: (31:02)
Republican who voted for President Trump last time.
Angelia Politarhos: (31:05)
Thank you. Thank you, George. Thank you, Vice President Biden. Nice to meet you. What’s your view on the Crime Bill that you wrote 1994, which showed prejudice against minorities? Where do you stand today on that?
Joe Biden: (31:17)
Well, first of all, things have changed drastically. That Crime Bill, when it voted, the Black Caucus voted for it. Every Black mayor supported it across the board and the Crime Bill itself did not have mandatory sentences except for two things. It had three strikes and you’re out, which I voted against, in the Crime Bill, but it had a lot of other things in it that turned out to be both bad and good. I wrote the Violence Against Women Act. That was part of the assault weapons ban and other things that were good. What I was against was giving states more money for prison systems that they could build, state prison systems. And you have 93 out of every 100 people in jail now is in a state prison, not in a federal prison, because they built more prisons.
Joe Biden: (31:58)
I also wrote into that bill a thing called drug courts. I don’t believe anybody should be going to jail for drug use. They should be going into mandatory rehabilitation. We should be building rehab centers to have these people housed. We should decriminalize marijuana, wipe out the record so you can actually say honesty, “You ever been arrested for murder for anything?” You can say no, because we’re going to pass a law saying there is no background that you have to reveal relative to the use of marijuana. And so there’s a lot of things. But in addition to that, we’ve got to change the system. I joined with a group of people in the House to provide for changing the system from punishment to rehabilitation. Along with a guy named Marlon Specter, who you may remember, I wrote the Second Chance Act.
George Stephanopoulus: (32:49)
In the meantime, an awful lot of people were jailed for minor drug crimes after the Crime Bill.
Joe Biden: (32:53)
George Stephanopoulus: (32:54)
Was it a mistake to support it?
Joe Biden: (32:55)
Yes, it was. But here’s where the mistake. The mistake came in terms of what the states did locally. What we did federally, we said, you remember, George, it was all about the same time for the same crime. What I had done as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I took the 10 Circuit Courts of Appeals, took some really brilliant lawyers working for me in Judiciary, we did a study and we determined what happens if, for the first, second, third offense for any crime in the criminal justice system at the federal level, if you’re a Black man and it’s the first time you’ve committed robbery, how long would you go to jail? On average? If you’re White man, how long? The Black man would go to jail on average 13 years. White man, two years. I’d go down the list of every single crime.
Joe Biden: (33:42)
So we set up a sentencing commission. We didn’t set the time. Every single solitary maximum was reduced in there. But what happened was it became the same time for the same crime. So it said, “You have to serve between one and three years.” And it ended up becoming much lower, Black folks went to jail a lot less than they would have before. But it was a mistake.
George Stephanopoulus: (34:05)
Let me ask another follow-up on the Crime bill. It also funded 100,000 police back in 1994. You’ve often said that more cops clearly mean less crime. Do you still believe that?
Joe Biden: (34:15)
Yes, if in fact they’re involved in community policing, not jump squads. For example, when we had community policing, from the mid-’90s on until till Bush got elected, what happened? Violent crime actually went down precipitous. Remember the significant rise in violent crime that was occurring in the late ’80s into the ’90s. It went down and fewer African Americans were arrested because you had the requirement. The cops didn’t like it. They didn’t like the community policing, because you had to have two people in the vehicle, they had to get out of their cars, they had to introduce themselves to who own the local liquor store, who owned the local grocery store, who was the woman on the corner. And what they would do, George, they’d actually go and give people their phone numbers. A cop would give the phone number.
Joe Biden: (35:02)
So if Nelly Smith was on the second floor where drug deals took place and things happened below her apartment, she could call and say, “It’s Millie, and there’s something going on here.” And they’d never revealed it was her, because they’d know, if she knew that, in fact, they report, they’d never report the crime, she’d never report. So it actually started to come down. And what happened? They eliminated the funding for community policing. Community policing doesn’t mean more people coming in, in armored Humvees and swarming. It turned out that by the time we got to the late ’90s and crime had come down so much, the mayors and everybody asked the question, “Where do you want me to spend the money?” They say, “Well, only 1% thought violent crime was a problem.” It was as high as 22%.
George Stephanopoulus: (35:48)
Right now we have a systemic problem. How do you get the kind of policing, prevent the kind of policing [crosstalk 00:35:55].
Joe Biden: (35:53)
You have to change the way in which they [inaudible 00:35:55]. One of the things I’m going to do, George, is what is set up a national study group made up of cops, social workers, as well as made up of the Black community and the Brown community to sit down in the White House and over the next year come up with significant reforms that need to take place within communities. You have to bring them together. One of the things I’ve observed is, the neighborhood I grew up, I grew up in Claymont, you either became a cop, a firefighter, or a priest. I wasn’t qualified much to do any one of them, but here’s the deal, all kidding aside. Most cops don’t like bad cops.
Angelia Politarhos: (36:34)
Joe Biden: (36:34)
They don’t like it.
Angelia Politarhos: (36:35)
Joe Biden: (36:36)
And so what happens is they get intimidated into not reporting. So one of the things we do is there has to be transparency available. We have to be able to go in at the federal level, be able to go in and check out whether or not there’s systematic problems within police departments. If, in fact, a cop needs to be tried, it’s not the prosecutor in the community, in the district there. You’ve got to go outside the community to get another prosecutor to come in to handle the crime. There’s a lot of things we’ve learned, and it takes time but we can do this. You can ban choke holds, but beyond that, you have to teach people how to de-escalate circumstances. De-escalate. So instead of anybody coming at you and the first thing you do is shoot to kill, you shoot them in the leg. There’s ways you have to do more background checks in terms of whether or not the person coming in, passes a certain psychological test.
Joe Biden: (37:29)
And the last thing I’ll say, and I’m sorry, but it’s really, I think, really, really important, is you have to be in a position where you are able to identify, identify the things that have to change. And one of the things that has to change is so many cops get called into circumstances where somebody is mentally off. Like what happened not long ago, that guy with the knife. That’s why we have to provide within police departments psychologists and social workers to go out with the cops on those calls, some of those 911 calls to de-escalate the circumstance, to deal with talking them down. But cops are kind of like school teachers now. A school teacher has to know everything from how to handle hunger in a household as well as how to teach how to read. Well, cops or don’t have that breadth, and there’s a lot of things we can do. We shouldn’t be defunding cops. We should be mandating the things that we should be doing within police departments and make sure there’s total transparency.
George Stephanopoulus: (38:34)
Got to take another quick break. We’ll be right back.
Joe Biden: (38:36)
I don’t know the answer to your question.
Speaker 1: (43:09)
He shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States. From the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, here again, George Stephanopoulos.
George Stephanopoulus: (43:28)
And the Supreme Court is our next topic. The questioner, Nathan Osburn of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Democrat.
Nathan Osburn: (43:35)
Hi, I’m George and Mr. Vice President.
Joe Biden: (43:36)
Nathan Osburn: (43:38)
Our country’s first Supreme Court gave its first ruling is just two blocks from here from 1791 to 1800, and it’s become more polarized since then. Merrick Garland didn’t get a hearing for all of 2016 and Amy Coney Barrett is being pushed through at the last minute, even though millions have already voted. So what do you think about ideas from people like Pete Buttigieg and others to put in place safeguards that will help ensure more long-term balance and stability? And what do you say to LGBTQ Americans and others who are very worried right now about erosions of their rights and our democracy as a whole?
Joe Biden: (44:13)
Well, let me start at the last point and work my way back. I think there’s great reason to be concerned. I was on the road most of the time during these hearings so I didn’t hear many of them. I just got the recaps when I’d get in late at night. I’m been going around the country, Florida, anyway, but my reading online what the judge said was she didn’t answer very many questions at all. And I don’t even think she is laid out much of a judicial philosophy in terms of the basis upon which she thinks [inaudible 00:44:48] in the Constitution, nonetheless. So, number one. So I think there’s great reason to be concerned for the LGBT community, something I fought very hard for, for a long time to make sure there’s equality across the board.
Joe Biden: (45:01)
Number two, I think that also healthcare overall is very much in jeopardy as a consequence of the President’s going to go directly after this election directly to the Supreme Court within a month to try to get Obamacare wiped out after 10 million people have already lost her insurance from their employer and wants to take 20 million people out of the system as well, plus 100 million people with pre-existing conditions. So there’s a lot at stake. I don’t think it’s appropriate. I think the Constitution implies, there’s no provision in the Constitution, my problem is I made a mistake of teaching constitutional law for 21 years, and the separation of powers, the Constitution implies that their way the people have a right to determine who’s going to be on the court is how they vote for their Senators and their President. We seek the advice and consent of the Senate. And the President-
George Stephanopoulus: (45:52)
The President is President for all four years, isn’t he?
Joe Biden: (45:54)
He is. But once an election begins, by implication, it is inconsistent with the constitutional principles, in my view. You get disagreement among scholars on this, but I believe it’s inconsistent when millions of people have already voted to put someone on the Court. I think it should have been held until this election is over, see what the makeup of the Senate is going to be. If the President wins this election, he should be able to go for it.
George Stephanopoulus: (46:22)
But how about that question of expanding the court? Here’s what you said exactly one year ago tonight at a Democratic debate. You said, “I would not get into court packing. I would not pack the court.” That’s not what you’re saying now. Is the nomination of Judge Barrett reason enough to rethink your position?
Joe Biden: (46:36)
What I wanted to do, George, you know if I had answered the question directly then all the focus would be on, what’s Biden going to do if he wins? Instead of on, is it appropriate what is going on now? And it should stay. This is the thing that the President loves to do, always take our eye off the ball what’s at stake. One of the things Pete has suggested is, and there’s a number of constitutional scholars have suggested as well, that there are at least four or five options that are available to determine whether or not you can change the way in which the court lifetime appointment takes place consistent arguably with the Constitution. I have not been a fan of court packing because then it just generates what will happen. Whoever wins, it just keeps moving in a way that is inconsistent with what is going to be manageable.
George Stephanopoulus: (47:25)
So you’re still not a fan?
Joe Biden: (47:26)
Well, I’m not a fan. It depends on how this turns out. Not how he wins, but how it’s handled, how it’s handled. But there’s a number of things that are going to be coming up and there’s going to be a lot of discussion about other alternative as well.
George Stephanopoulus: (47:40)
What does that mean, how it’s handled? How will that determine [crosstalk 00:23:42].
Joe Biden: (47:43)
For example, there’s actually real live debate on the floor, if people are really going to be able to have a time to go through this. I don’t know anybody who’s gone on the floor that’s been a controversial justice in terms of making fundamentally or altering the makeup of the court that’s gone through in a day kind of thing. I mean, it depends on …
Joe Biden: (48:03)
… and the makeup of the court has gone through in a day kind of thing. I mean, it depends on how much they rushed this. And you think about it, George, here you got a lot of people not to be able to pay their mortgage, not being able to put food on the table, not being able to keep their business open, not being able to do anything to deal with what’s going on in terms of the economy as a consequence of COVID and they have no time to deal with that, but they have time to rush this through.
George Stephanopoulos: (48:22)
Well, right now it looks like they’re going to have a vote around Halloween. So if they vote on it, [crosstalk 00:48:26] for the election. If they vote on it before the election, you are open to expanding the court?
Joe Biden: (48:31)
I’m open to considering what happens from that point on.
George Stephanopoulos: (48:36)
You know, you said so many times during the campaign, all through the course of your career, it’s important to level with [crosstalk 00:48:41]
Joe Biden: (48:40)
It is. Good choice. No matter what answer I gave you, if I say it, that’s the headline tomorrow. It won’t be about what’s going on now, the improper way they’re proceeding.
George Stephanopoulos: (48:51)
But don’t voters have a right to know where you stand?
Joe Biden: (48:52)
They do have a right to know what I stand and they’ll have a right to know where I stand before they vote.
George Stephanopoulos: (48:57)
So you’ll come out with a clear position before election day?
Joe Biden: (48:59)
Yes. Depending on how they handle this. But look, what you should do is you got to make sure you vote and vote for a senator who in fact reflects your general view on constitutional interpretation, and vote for a president who thinks is more in line with you. And if you oppose the position that I would not have appointed her, but if you oppose my position, vote for Trump, vote for Republican who shares that view, but that’s your opportunity to get involved in lifetime appointments that have presidents come and go, justices stay and stay and stay.
George Stephanopoulos: (49:36)
You have a question from a Republican, Andrew Lewis. I would guess a disaffected Republican. You cast a write-in vote for John Kasich in 2016. You’re going to vote against President Trump this year.
Joe Biden: (49:46)
John’s writing in for me, by the way.
George Stephanopoulos: (49:48)
I know that.
Joe Biden: (49:51)
Andrew Lewis: (49:52)
Mr. Vice President, my father Drew Lewis served as secretary of transportation under President Ronald Reagan in his first time.
Joe Biden: (49:58)
Oh yeah, I’ll be darned.
Andrew Lewis: (49:59)
And some of his closest allies and friends were Democrats, including House Speaker Tip O’Neill and Senator Ted Kennedy. Sadly, today we have highly partisan and dysfunctional governance. And I believe President Trump is primarily responsible for creating this toxic environment. As president, how will you avoid the temptation to exact revenge and instead take the high road and attempt to restore bipartisanship, civility, and honor to our democracy?
Joe Biden: (50:29)
It was written by a fellow who won the Pulitzer prize for a book he wrote about the presidency. He said I doubt whether Biden is really Irish. He doesn’t hold a grudge. In politics, grudges don’t work. They make no sense. I really mean it. I have never, and the second point I’d make is everybody talks about, “Yeah, Joe, when you were a senator and a chairman of foreign relations or chairman of judiciary, you got a lot of things done. You’re able to cross the aisle but the days are changed. When you’re vice president, you got a lot done, but it can’t happen anymore.” It can. We got to change the nature of the way we deal with one another. And it starts off by the way your father was and Tip was and others. You don’t question another man or woman’s motive. You can question their judgment, but not their motive. We badly needed an infrastructure bill.
Joe Biden: (51:19)
Well, what happens? I stand up and I say, “We need an infrastructure bill, Senator, but I tell you what, you’re in the pocket of the cement industry, but let’s see what we can do.” He can’t get anywhere. Nothing happens. Nothing happens. I learned that lesson a long time ago. I’ve never, even when it’s obvious on its face what the motive is, stick to the subject and listen to the other guy. Listen, what I will be doing as, if I’m elected president and the first thing and not a joke. And you can ask if they’d tell you, your dad’s old friends in the Republican side, I’m going to pick up the phone and call them and say, “Let’s get together. We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to move forward here.”
Joe Biden: (51:55)
Because there’s so many things we really do agree on. And with Trump out of the way, the vindictiveness of a president going after Republicans who don’t do exactly what he says gets taken away. There’s going to be, I promise you, between four and eight Republican senators who are going to be willing to move on things where there’s bipartisan consensus. Last example I’ll give you. After Trump had been elected, named the next president, wasn’t sworn in yet, I’ve been working on a thing called a bill relating to cancer cures. Okay? And it was called the Cancer Moonshot. And I work with a number of Democrats and Republicans. And we had a bill that was about $9 billion that made significant increases in research and development on cancer alternatives, NIH and particularly specific cancer initiatives. And we only had at the time I think it was 111 or 114, whatever it was, votes in the house. I don’t hold any exact number.
Joe Biden: (52:58)
And we had fewer than 40 in the Senate, but after he was elected, I got those people together as vice president and we sat down and we worked it out and we ended up getting a pass 396 votes in the house and 94 votes in the Senate. And at the end of the day, because it had to do with the Biden Cancer Moonshot I’ve been working on, Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell stood up and I was presiding officer and moved to name the bill after my deceased son, Beau, who had just died. So, there are ways to bring this together.
George Stephanopoulos: (53:33)
But how about the question of political accountability? Is there some tension between that and bringing people together? Robert Mueller laid out a lot of evidence of possible obstruction of justice by President Trump. What would a Biden Justice Department do with that evidence?
Joe Biden: (53:47)
What the Biden Justice Department will do is let the Department of Justice be the Department of Justice. Let them make the judgments of who should be prosecuted. They’re not my lawyers. They’re not my personal lawyer.
George Stephanopoulos: (54:01)
So, you’re not going to rule it in or rule it out?
Joe Biden: (54:03)
I’m not going to rule in or out. Well, I’m going to hire really first rate prosecutors and people who understand the law like Democrat and Republican administrations have had, and let them make the judgements, but turning this into a vehicle for your, as if it’s your own law firm, you don’t own that justice department. You pick the best people you can and you hope that what they’re going to do is they’re going to enforce the law as they see it. But can you remember any Republican president going out there or former Democratic president go find that guy and prosecute him? Remember, where you hear that? Or by the way, I’m being sued because a woman has accused me of rape. Represent me. Represent me. Personally represent me in the state of New York on my not allowing my tax returns. What’s that all about? What is that about?
George Stephanopoulos: (54:52)
Got to take another break. We’ll be right back.
Speaker 2: (54:58)
The executive power shall be vested in a president of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years and together with the vice president chosen for the- From the constitution center in Philadelphia, here again, George Stephanopoulos.
George Stephanopoulos: (59:51)
And welcome back to our town hall with Former Vice President Joe Biden. We’re going to look at the environment right now. We’re going to get a question from Michele Ellison and from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, businesswoman, a social worker. You’re a Republican who’s voted for Democrats, but you’re not sure what you’re going to do this time around. Correct?
Michele Ellison: (01:00:06)
Correct. Greetings Former Vice President Biden.
Joe Biden: (01:00:11)
Michele Ellison: (01:00:12)
Thank you, Mr. Stephanopoulos. In a 2012 report of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics fracking was discussed and it is possible implications for the waterways from the Commonwealth to the gulf. Fracking has made the population sick and killed wildlife in Southwest Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and small business development centers have already begun to transition people away from fossil fuels. What industries that are not harmful to human health and the environment are you planning for Southwest Pennsylvania and the nation?
Joe Biden: (01:00:50)
Well, first of all, I make it clear. I do not propose banning fracking. I think you have to make sure that fracking is in fact not emitting methane or polluting the well or dealing with what can be small earthquakes in how they’re drilling. So, it has to be managed very, very well, number one. Number two, what we have to do is the future rests in renewable energy. The single fastest growing energy source in the world right now, because I’m going to say something that’s going to sound self-serving, but I manage the RecoveryAact and I was able to invest billions of dollars into bringing down the cost per BTU of wind and solar. So now it’s cheaper than coal, is cheaper than oil right now, and it has great, great promise. And it’s also the fastest growing employer in the energy industry.
Joe Biden: (01:01:47)
And so there are a number of things that I would do immediately. Number one, there are well over 100,000 wells that are left uncapped in the region. We could hire 128,000 of these people who are working in the industry to cap these wells and get a good salary doing it now, number one. Number two, we should be moving toward finding the new technologies that are going to be able to deal with carbon capture. So, ultimately, it’s a transition we moved from, to a net zero emission of carbon that we’re still going to be able to use if we find the right technology, some gases, some gas to be able to, if we can carbon capture.
Joe Biden: (01:02:28)
And I think we’re going to be able to move in a direction where by the year 2035, we’ll be able to have net zero emissions of carbon from the creation of energy, energy creation so we can move it by dealing with those. And every time we talk about global warming or the environment, the president thinks it’s a joke and I think as jobs, because what we’re going to have happened is you’ll be able to see now, as I started to say before. I as president is going to invest that $600 billion that we spend in government contracts, only on those things that in fact also are not only made in America, but building an infrastructure that’s clean and new.
Joe Biden: (01:03:14)
And what we have to do is focus on the transmission of energy across the country from areas relating to solar and wind. The reason is that they have not, that has not been mastered yet. I met a lot of people in Silicon Valley. The battery technology is increasing significantly so you’re going to be able to have, for example, solar on your home and a battery the, this by this by this, as I’m showing you here in your basement. So when the sun doesn’t shine for five days, you still have enough energy. So, we’re making significant progress.
Joe Biden: (01:03:48)
The other thing we’re going to do is provide an awful lot of work. It’s estimated to put close to a million people to work by weatherizing four million buildings and two million homes, because we’ll save tons and tons of energy or billions of barrels of energy over time. And at the same time provide significant employment and a good union wages, prevailing wages.
George Stephanopoulos: (01:04:11)
Let me stick on fracking for a second day. You said you don’t want to ban fracking. As you know, it’s an important issue here in Pennsylvania. Not everyone buys your denial. A member of the Boilermakers Local 154 Shawn Steffee was quoted in the New York Times today saying “You can’t have it both ways.” It says, “You can’t meet your goal to end fossil fuels without ending fracking.” What do you say to people like Shawn who doubt your denial because they think you want to keep that promise [crosstalk 01:04:34]?
Joe Biden: (01:04:34)
[crosstalk 01:04:34] Boilermaker’s overwhelming endorsement. Okay? So, the Boilermakers Union has endorsed me because I sat down with them and went in a great detail with leadership exactly what I would do, number one. Number two, what I would do is I would giving tax breaks and subsidizing oil. We don’t need to subsidize oil any longer, number one. We should stop that and save billions of dollars over time. What I would also do with regard to there’s no, the difference between me and the new green deal, they say automatically by 2030 we’re going to be carbon free. Not possible.
George Stephanopoulos: (01:05:09)
So, are you for or against it? You say you’re not for it, but in your website, it says you call it a crucial framework, the green deal.
Joe Biden: (01:05:16)
My deal is a crucial framework, but not the new green deal. The new green deal calls for elimination of all non renewable energy by 2030. You can’t get there. You’re going to need to be able to transition, George, to be able to transition to get to the place where we invest in new technologies that allow us to do things that get us to a place where we get to net zero emission, including in agriculture. I’ve laid out a detailed plan. We should be taking the plan where we allow significant more land to be put in conservation, plant deep rooted plants which absorb carbon from the air and in fact, pay farmers to do it. We can do things like pelletize all the chicken manure and all the horse manure and cow manure, and take out the methane and use it as fertilizer and make a lot of money doing it.
Joe Biden: (01:06:06)
For example, right now, down in … And people when I say that, they wonder what I’m talking about. The biggest carbon sink in the world is the Amazon. More carbon absorbed from the air diminishing global warming in the Amazon than all the carbon emitted on a yearly basis from the United States of America from all vehicles on all means. So we have to use our imaginations. We have to move in the direction as well providing for electric vehicles. Electric vehicles will save billions of gallons of oil, [inaudible 01:06:38] estimated, not me, Wall street, one million automobile jobs, but we’re lagging me. I mean, we’re not investing. We’re not doing any of the research.
George Stephanopoulos: (01:06:48)
Got to take another quick break. We’ll be right back. Welcome back to our town hall with Former Vice President Joe Biden. The next question comes from Mark Hoffman, Center Valley, Pennsylvania, conservative, who voted for Trump in 2016.
Mark Hoffman: (01:11:30)
Welcome to Pennsylvania, Mr. Vice President.
Joe Biden: (01:11:33)
Good to be back home. I’m from Pennsylvania.
Mark Hoffman: (01:11:34)
Yes, I know. Scranton, right?
Joe Biden: (01:11:36)
Mark Hoffman: (01:11:37)
So, pieces breaking out all over the world. Our troops are coming home. Serbia is talking to Kosovo and the Arabs and Israelis are talking peace which I believe is a modern day miracle what’s going on. Does President Trump’s foreign policy deserves some credit?
Joe Biden: (01:11:57)
A little more, but not a whole lot. We find ourselves in a position where we’re more isolated in the world than we’ve ever been. Our allies-
Joe Biden: (01:12:03)
Were more isolated in the world than we ever have been. Our allies… Our go it alone, our America first has made America alone. You have Iran closer to having enough nuclear material to build a bomb. North Korea has more bombs and missiles available to it. We find ourselves where our NATO allies are publicly saying they can’t count on us. We’re in a situation as well, where in the far East, we find ourselves, in the Western Pacific, where we’re isolated as well. You have Japan and South Korea at odds with one another. China is making moves. So I would say, we’re find ourselves less secure than we’ve been. I do compliment the president on the deal with Israel recently. But if you take a look, we’re not very well trusted around the world. When 17 major nations in the world were asked who they trust more, who’s a better leader, and the president came in behind both, the international survey, both behind Putin, as well as Xi. And look what Putin is doing. You have bounties on American militaries heads in Afghanistan. They have more people there now, by the way, than when we left in Afghanistan. And we find ourselves in a situation where he’s talked to Putin six times, hadn’t said a word to him. And NATO is on the risk of beginning crack because they doubt whether we’re there. You see what’s happened in everything from Belarus to Poland, to Hungary, and the rise of totalitarian regimes in the world. And as well as, this president embraces all the thugs in the world. He’s best friends with the leader of North Korea, sending love letters.
Joe Biden: (01:13:57)
He doesn’t take on Putin in any way. He’s learned the art of the steal from the art of the deal by Xi and China. So I would respectfully suggest, no, there is no plan, no coherent plan for foreign policy. We’ve been most effective as a world leader, in my humble opinion, not just by the exercise of our power. We’re the most powerful nation in the world, but the power of our example. That’s what’s led the rest of the world to follow us on almost everything. He’s pulled out of almost every international organization. He gets laughed at, literally, not figuratively, when he goes to the United Nations. It’s not about the president, per se. It’s about the nation and the lack of respect that’s shown to us.
George Stephanopoulos: (01:14:55)
Want to get one more question in this segment, and it comes from Mieke Haeck. She’s from State College, Pennsylvania. This is your first presidential election that you’re vote in.
Mieke Haeck: (01:15:03)
Joe Biden: (01:15:04)
Hi, Mieke. How are you?
Mieke Haeck: (01:15:06)
I’m good. Thank you. I’m the proud mom of two girls, 8 and 10. My youngest daughter is transgender. The Trump administration has attacked the rights of transgender people, banning them from military service, weakening non-discrimination protections, and even removing the word transgender from some government websites. How will you, as president, reverse this dangerous and discriminatory agenda and ensure that the lives and rights of LGBTQ people are protected under US law?
Joe Biden: (01:15:51)
I will flat out just change the law. Eliminate those executive orders, number one. You may recall, I’m the guy who said… I was raised by a man who, I remember, I was being dropped off. My dad was a high school educated, well-read man who was a really decent guy. And I was being dropped off to get an application in the center of our city, Wilmington, Delaware, the corporate capital of the world at the time. I’m getting out to get an application to be a lifeguard in the African-American community, because there was a big swimming pool complex.
Joe Biden: (01:16:26)
And these two men, well-dressed, leaned up and hugged one another and kissed one another. I’m getting out of the car at the light, and I turned to my dad. My dad looked me. He said, “Joey, it’s simple. They love each other.” The idea that an 8 year old child or a 10 year old child decides, “I decided I want to be transgender. That’s what I think I’d like to be. It’d make my life a lot easier.” There should be zero discrimination. And what’s happening is too many transgender women of color are being murdered. They’re being murdered. I think it’s up to, now, 17. Don’t hold me to that number, but it’s… It’s higher now?
Mieke Haeck: (01:17:04)
Joe Biden: (01:17:04)
And that’s just this year. And so I promise you, there is no reason to suggest that there should be any right denied your daughter, or daughters, whichever, one or two.
Mieke Haeck: (01:17:17)
Joe Biden: (01:17:18)
One. Your daughter, that your other daughter has a right to be and do. None. Zero. And by the way, my son Beau, who passed away, was the attorney general of the state of Delaware. He was the guy who got the first transgender law passed in the state of Delaware. And because of a young man who became a woman, who worked for him in the attorney general’s office.
George Stephanopoulos: (01:17:40)
We’ve got one more segment coming up. Thank you.
Joe Biden: (01:17:43)
And I’m proud of her.
George Stephanopoulos: (01:17:44)
We’ll be right back.
Speaker 3: (01:21:58)
The vice president and the people, a special edition of 2020. Here again, George Stephanopoulos.
George Stephanopoulos: (01:22:07)
And welcome back to our town hall with former Vice President Joe Biden. The next question comes from Keenan Wilson, Narberth, Pennsylvania, Democrat.
Keenan Wilson: (01:22:15)
Good evening. You say that you committed to entering this race after the events of Charlottesville in 2017. I assume that that feeling that prompted you to run will not go away once the results are determined. So hypothetically, if you lose, how will you use your platform to urge President Donald Trump, and those rallying behind him, towards the ideals of a more perfect union?
Joe Biden: (01:22:44)
Well, to be very honest with you, I think that’s very hard. Things have not let themselves to him learning from what’s happened, what’s gone before. Instead of being chastened by being one of the few presidents, the only president to be impeached and then have a member of his own party vote to expel him, it emboldened him. But what I will do… Hopefully, I’ll go back to being a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. And making the case that I’ve been made, and at the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware, focusing on these same issues, relating to what constitutes decency and honor in this country. It’s the thing that got me involved in public life to begin with. As a kid, I’d moved from Scranton, where there were no African-Americans and moved down to Claymont, Delaware.
Joe Biden: (01:23:44)
And in Delaware we have the eight largest Black population, as a percent of population. It was an epiphany for me seeing what was going on, and I got deeply involved. I’m no great shakes. I wasn’t John Lewis. I don’t mean to imply that. But it’s the thing that’s motivated… My dad used to have an expression for real. He said, “Everyone’s entitled to be treated with dignity. Everybody.” And it was real. Everybody is. And so whether I’m a defeated candidate for president back teaching or I’m elected president, it is a major element of everything that I’m about, because it reflects who we are as a nation.
Joe Biden: (01:24:26)
Every single solitary generation, the dial has moved closer and closer and more and more to inclusion. And we are a country that is a country of slaves who came here 400 years ago, Indigenous people, and everyone else is an immigrant. And we’re a diverse country. And unless we are able to treat people equally, we’re just never going to meet our potential. But I think the American people want to see that happen. I think they’re ready to see it happen. And I’d tell you one thing, if I’m elected president, you will not hear me race baiting. You’ll not hear me dividing. You’ll hear me trying to unify, and bring people together. When I said I was running because I wanted to unify the country, people said, “Well, there are the old days.” We better be able to do it again.
Keenan Wilson: (01:25:10)
Joe Biden: (01:25:10)
We’d better be able to do it again.
George Stephanopoulos: (01:25:11)
Mr. Vice President, if you lose, what will that say to you about where America is today?
Joe Biden: (01:25:16)
Well, it could say I’m a lousy candidate, and I didn’t do a good job. But I hope that it doesn’t say that we are as racially, ethnically, and religiously at odds with one another as it appears the president wants us to be. Usually, the president’s in my view, with all due respect, has been divide and conquer. The way he does better if he splits us. There’s division. And I think people need hope. Look, George, I’ve never been more optimistic about the prospect for this country than I am today. And I really mean that. I think the people are ready. They understand what’s at stake, and it’s not about Democrat or Republican. If I get elected, I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I’m going to be an American president. I’m going to take care of those who voted against me, as well as those who voted for me, for real. That’s a presence too. We got to heal this nation, because we have the greatest opportunity to any country in the world to own the 21st century. And we can’t do it divided.
George Stephanopoulos: (01:26:28)
One more break. We’ll be right back. And we are wrapping up our town hall with former Vice President Joe Biden. Mr. Vice President, as you know, President Trump had a town hall meeting tonight, as well. During that town hall meeting, he was asked several times whether he took a COVID test the day of your last debate. You’re supposed to have another debate a week from tonight. Just two quick questions. Do you expect that debate to happen? Will you demand that President Trump take a test that day and that it be negative before you debate?
Joe Biden: (01:30:49)
Yeah. And by the way, before I came up here, I took another test. I’ve been taking them every day, the deep test, the ones that go in most. Because if I had not passed that test, I didn’t want to come here and expose anybody. And I just think it’s just decency, to be able to determine whether or not you’re clear. I’m less concerned about me, but then the guys with the cameras, the people working in the Secret Service guys you drive up with, all those people. And so, yes, I believe he will do that. Look, I’m going to abide by what the commission rules call for. I was prepared to debate him remotely, which was supposed to happen. And he said he wouldn’t do that, a virtual debate, or a town hall. He didn’t want to do that. I didn’t set those rules. The commission set the rules. So whatever rules they set, I’m confident that the Cleveland Clinic is the one overseeing it. I think they’re going to not let happen what happened last time. They’re going to demand that it’s safe.
George Stephanopoulos: (01:32:00)
But you expect to be there?
Joe Biden: (01:32:01)
I expect to be there.
George Stephanopoulos: (01:32:02)
Mr. Vice President, thank you for your time tonight. Thanks to all the questioners here. It was really terrific questions. I think you did a service to our democracy tonight. Thank you very much. I want to go back to my colleague, David Muir, in New York.