Jul 21, 2021
Joe Biden CNN Town Hall Transcript July 21
President Joe Biden participated in a CNN town hall event with Don Lemon on July 21, 2021. Read the full transcript of the interview here.
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Don Lemon: (00:00)
Good evening, everyone. We are live in Cincinnati, Ohio, tonight on the campus of Mount Saint Joseph University overlooking the Ohio River. This is a CNN town hall with the president of the United States, Joe Biden. I’m Don Lemon. President Biden is six months into his presidency and facing a critical moment for his agenda. Nearly half of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but the pace of the vaccination is at its lowest point since January, and the highly infectious Delta variant is driving a new COVID surge in all 50 states. Virtually all COVID hospitalizations and deaths are now among the unvaccinated. So tonight, we are here in Ohio taking questions from a live audience as the president works to keep the pandemic in check and his goal of an infrastructure deal on track. It is really a critical moment for his agenda. We will take questions from some who voted for the president and some who did not vote for President Biden. And the president and myself and everyone here in our audience, we are all fully vaccinated.
Don Lemon: (01:03)
So without further ado, everyone, let’s welcome the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden.
Joe Biden: (01:08)
How you doing, pal?
Don Lemon: (01:28)
Good to see you.
Joe Biden: (01:28)
Good to see you.
Don Lemon: (01:28)
How have you been?
Joe Biden: (01:28)
Well. Well. Thank you.
Don Lemon: (01:28)
It’s good to see you.
Joe Biden: (01:29)
It’s good to be back here.
Don Lemon: (01:30)
You, as well. So, listen, I want to get to the audience, and I know you don’t want to sit down, right? You’d rather stand here and talk to these guys?
Joe Biden: (01:37)
No, I’m going to go out into the audience.
Don Lemon: (01:38)
We’re going to get to the audience questions in just a moment, but I have a couple of questions I want to ask you, because you know the pandemic is a big concern for everyone, really around the world, but especially around America. New cases are up three times since last month, right? The pandemic is a big concern. Hospitalizations, death rising. So you said last month that the virus is in retreat. Do you still feel that way? Is that still the case?
Joe Biden: (02:04)
Well, the virus … Look, it’s real simple. We have a pandemic for those who haven’t gotten a vaccination. It’s that basic, that simple. Ten thousand people have recently died; 9,950 of them, thereabouts, are people who hadn’t been vaccinated. This is a simple, basic proposition. If you’re vaccinated, you’re not going to be hospitalized, you’re not going to be in an ICU unit, and you are not going to die, so it’s gigantically important that you act like, we all act like Americans who care about our fellow Americans. There’s legitimate questions people can ask that they worry about getting vaccinated, but the question should be asked, answered, and people should get vaccinated. But this is not a pandemic. We’ve made sure that since I got in office, we’ve inoculated over 160 million people, 85% of people over the age of 50. Anyway, it’s frustrating.
Don Lemon: (03:03)
What do you say to people who are worried about a new round of restrictions and mask mandates and so forth?
Joe Biden: (03:12)
Well, I’m saying, look, it’s a little bit like when I got elected. This pandemic was out of control. We’ve lost more people in the United States, over six hundred and thirty some thousand people, than in every major war we’ve ever fought in the United States of America, and that’s come to a screeching halt for those who’ve been vaccinated. It really has. Not a joke. This is overwhelming evidence to sustain that. And so what I say to people who are worried about a new pandemic is get vaccinated. If you’re vaccinated, even if you do “catch the virus,” like people talk about it in normal terms, you’re … Not many people do. If you do, you’re not likely to get sick. You’re probably going to be symptomless. You’re not going to be in a position where your life is in danger, so it’s really kind of basic.
Don Lemon: (04:04)
Let’s get to the questions, Mr. President.
Joe Biden: (04:06)
Don Lemon: (04:07)
I want to introduce you to Andrea Gianieri. She’s a community resource director for a charter school. She’s a Democrat currently running for her local school board. Andrea, welcome.
Joe Biden: (04:15)
God love you. The most important, thankless job in the world, being on a school board.
Andrea Gianieri: (04:19)
Thank you. So here in Hamilton County, the vaccination rate remains at about 50%, and you talked about the virus that’s spreading. Masks are seen less and less, and as you know, children under age 12 still are not eligible to be vaccinated. Schools are working with all of this information as they think about reopening next month. As a school employee, and as a parent to children under age 12, I am really concerned. What is your message to those parents, educators, and school districts?
Joe Biden: (04:52)
I understand your concern, I really do. My children are grown now, but my grandchildren, and I have one that’s only one and a half years old, so I understand. Number one, my message is that one of the reasons why, you remember the criticism I got initially saying teachers should get vaccinations, get in line first. The vast majority of teachers are vaccinated, number one. Number two, the CDC is going to say that what we should do is everyone under the age of 12 should probably be wearing a mask in school. That’s probably what’s going to happen. Secondly, those over the age of 12 who are able to get vaccinated, if you’re vaccinated, you shouldn’t wear a mask. If you aren’t vaccinated, you should be wearing a mask. So it’s going to get a little bit tight in terms of, well, are Mom or Dad being honest that Johnny did or did not get vaccinated? That’s going to raise questions.
Joe Biden: (05:45)
But I think what’s going to happen is you’re going to see this work out in ways that people are going to know in the community. Everybody knows in a community whether or not Johnny really did get the vaccination when he’s 15 or 17 years old. And so it’s going to … I think it’s a matter of community responsibility, and I think you’re going to see it work through.
Don Lemon: (06:05)
Well, let me follow up on that question and ask you, when will children under 12 be able to get vaccinated?
Joe Biden: (06:10)
Soon, I believe. Now, look, one of the things that I committed to do when I got elected, I said I’ll-
Don Lemon: (06:15)
How soon is soon, Mr. President?
Joe Biden: (06:18)
Well, let me finish the answer. Soon in the sense that I do not tell any scientist what they should do. I do not interfere, and so they are doing the examinations now, the testing now, and making the decision now. When they are ready, when they’ve done all the scientific that needs to be done to determine, children at ages three, four, five, six, seven, and eight, they, in fact all have different makeups. They’re developing. They’re trying to figure out whether or not there’s a vaccination that would affect one child at such and such an age and not another child. That’s underway. Just like the other question that’s logical, and I’ve heard you speak about it, because you … I’m not being solicitous, but you’re always straight up about what you’re doing, and the question is whether or not we should be in a position where you … Why can’t the experts say, “We know that this virus is, in fact is going to be … Or, excuse me. We know why all the drugs approved are not temporarily approved, but permanently approved. That’s underway, too. I expect that to occur quickly.
Don Lemon: (07:36)
You mean for the FDA?
Joe Biden: (07:37)
For the FDA, the Federal Drug Administration.
Don Lemon: (07:40)
You said that you’re talking to scientists. But what are they telling you, Mr. President?
Joe Biden: (07:44)
What they’re telling me is, “Let us decide based on scientific data and how we proceed. Do it the way we would ordinarily do it.” Look, for example, everybody talks about how this virus came, the drugs that are designed to kill the virus came along so quickly. They’ve been working on it for two decades. There’s nothing quick about this. It’s been over two decades. So people say, “I’m not taking a drug that was approved so quickly.” It’s been two decades. The truth is, we haven’t said it enough to people to allay their fears. This is nothing that just happened yesterday and we said, “Well, let’s take a shot on this,” and there’s a process.
Joe Biden: (08:26)
Usually the process takes the better part of a year or more to get some of these things decided, but the expectation … They’re not promising me any specific date, but my expectation talking to the group of scientists we’ve put together, over 20 of them, plus others in the field, is that sometime maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning of September, October, they’ll get a final approval, saying the FDA said, “No, this is it. It’s good.” But, again, one last thing. We don’t talk enough to you about this, I don’t think. One last thing that’s really important is, we’re not in the position where we think that any virus, including the Delta virus, which is much more transmissible and more deadly in terms of unvaccinated people, the various shots that people are getting now cover that. You’re okay. You’re not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.
Don Lemon: (09:29)
Yeah. I want to stay on this subject. I want to get to Dr. Nicole Baldwin. She’s a pediatrician and a Republican. Dr. Baldwin, go ahead.
Joe Biden: (09:36)
Doc, how are you?
Dr. Nicole Baldwin: (09:38)
Thank you for taking my question, Mr. President. I am a pediatrician who utilizes social media to educate about health, and I’m very concerned about the rise in misinformation from the anti-vaccine community that is eroding trust in lifesaving vaccines. Spread of this misinformation and declining vaccination rates could leave Americans vulnerable to vaccine- preventable diseases in the future. So what I want to know is what is the White House doing to combat medical misinformation and to restore America’s faith in science?
Joe Biden: (10:11)
What we’re doing is, number one, to restore America’s faith in science is listen to the scientists. No, I’m not joking. I mean, literally listen to the scientists and not interfere, not rush anything, just let the scientists proceed, because they desperately want to get this right, number one. Number two, you may have heard … I never get myself in trouble as you know politically, but you may have heard that I was critical of some of the things that are on Facebook and I was attacking Facebook. I wasn’t attacking Facebook. There was a report out saying for something like 45% of overwhelming disinformation on Facebook comes from 12 individuals. I said they’re killing people, those 12 individuals, that misinformation is going to kill people. Not a joke. Not a joke. It’s like telling your kid, “I tell you what, four years old, when you see a red light, cross the street.” I mean, come on.
Joe Biden: (11:07)
And so what we’re trying to do is use every avenue we can, public, private, government, non-government, to try to get the facts out, what they really are. And one of the things, Doc, that’s happening that I’m feeling better about … I’m not being a wise guy now. One of those other networks is not a big fan of mine, one you talk about a lot, but if you notice, as they say in the southern part of my state, they’ve had an altar call, some of those guys. All of a sudden they’re out there saying, “Let’s get vaccinated. Let’s get vaccinated.” The very people before this were saying … I shouldn’t make fun of it. That’s good. It’s good. It’s good. We just have to keep telling the truth.
Joe Biden: (11:53)
That’s why, for example, my wife just flew to Alaska today to do an event in Alaska about making sure people understand and get vaccinated, talking about COVID, et cetera. So it’s … And by the way, there’s pockets. If you notice, there’s about, what? Four or five states that have close to 45%. Don’t hold me to exact numbers.
Don Lemon: (12:15)
Lower than that, even. In my home state of Louisiana, it’s 36% and I think there are other southern states.
Joe Biden: (12:20)
No, but I mean of all the cases, all the cases, a very overwhelming majority of those cases are in four or five states. And it’s just not … There’s nothing political about this. There’s no blue or red.
Don Lemon: (12:35)
Well, let’s bring in Christian Oliver. He’s a Democrat. He works for the insurance industry. Christian, what’s your question?
Christian Oliver: (12:42)
Well, so my wife Stephanie and I are newlyweds as of this past Saturday.
Joe Biden: (12:47)
I’d brag if I were you, too. As they say when they look at me and my wife, you married up, kid.
Christian Oliver: (12:58)
Thank you. We required all of our guests and vendors to be vaccinated to ensure safety. We are African-American, and in many of our communities people are against the vaccine. A reason that stood out the most in regards to our guests is that they don’t see the vaccine as being as safe as the CDC puts it out to be. How are you working towards convincing those in these communities that the vaccine is safe?
Joe Biden: (13:22)
It’s really an important question, because in the African-American community, there’s less of an uptake of the vaccination. Number one, there’s a reason for that. You go back just even World War II, African-Americans were used as experimental … They were almost like guinea pigs in terms of … Anyway, and your mom and dad remember that and your grandparents remember that, and so there’s a reason for people to think that, “I don’t know, I’m not sure I trust. I’m not sure I trust this,” plus a lot of disinformation on top of it.
Joe Biden: (13:55)
One of the things though we’re doing is, what I’ve done … We’ve done. Excuse me, my team has done is we provided the ability to put in African-American communities the vaccine and those who are, in fact, able to administer the vaccine and people who are respected in the community in those areas, particularly in areas where you have public health centers, where you, in fact, have people who are the folks who are really at the low end of the economic scale, don’t have much access to anything. So we’ve taken literally mobile vans and people to the communities, to the hardest hit communities, and it’s beginning to have some impact, but we have to talk about it more.
Joe Biden: (14:44)
For example, I was just with … I get in trouble because my wife is a Philly girl and a Philly fan and an Eagles fan. I just hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and there’s a guy, there’s a quarterback there. What’s his name? Anyway, all kidding aside, what we’re doing is getting people of consequence who are respected in the community, whether they’re athletes, whether or not they are entertainers, whether they’re just well respected. And, by the way, one of the things I’ve gotten able to get done, I have overwhelming support from the African-American clergy that I sort of come in my support. They are opening up their churches for vaccination centers.
Don Lemon: (15:32)
Can I ask you something, Mr. President? Because, by the way, I don’t know if you heard that, you got applause when you corrected the “I” for “we,” and we’re talking about we, and I think that’s a commendable attribute to have.
Joe Biden: (15:45)
Well, it is we.
Don Lemon: (15:46)
But even with my own family, I was just able to get with them. I haven’t seen my mom in a year and a half, except for two weeks ago. I hadn’t seen my family for two years since the last time they visited me two summers ago. But even within my own family, here I am on television every night, there is ambivalence, there’s misinformation, and there’s also mistrust in the system. How do you fix that?
Joe Biden: (16:05)
Well, I think it’s going to seem like a non-answer to start with. One of the things I said when I ran for office, this not Democrat/Republican again, is we’ve got to restore faith in government. You’ve got to get people to the point where they trust government, and I made a commitment that, when I made a mistake, I’d tell you, and I’ve made mistakes. And when I think I got it right, I’ll say it. But I’ll take responsibility for what I do and say. Part of it is just generally raising confidence in elected officials. Raising confidence. And I know this is going to sound like a non-answer to you, but part of this is that, you know because you’re one of the most informed journalists in the country. You know the criticism I got when I said I want to unite the country. They said, “You can’t unite the country.” Well, if we can’t unite the country, we can never get some of these problems solved, and that goes to trust.
Joe Biden: (17:08)
Why can’t you unite the country? Why isn’t there a willingness to trust? Government trust really was at an incredibly low ebb. It’s coming up some. So with regard to your family in particular, part of it is not just that they see you on television and trust you. The people who seem to have the most impact are, for that 17-year-old kid, the kid he or she plays ball with. You got the vaccination? Are you okay? I mean, you seem … No, it works. Or the mom and dad or the neighbor or when you go to church or when you’re … I really mean it. There are trusted interlocutors. Think of the people, if your kid wanted to find out whether or not there’s a man on the moon or whatever, something, or whether those aliens are here or not, who are the people they talk to beyond the kids who love talking about it? They go to people they respect. They say, “What do you think?” And so they should be asking other people, the people, everything from their teachers, to their ministers, to their priests, to people that they trust.
Don Lemon: (18:25)
Well, part of it is … Don’t you think that part of it is that young people, especially those who are 30, maybe 30, 40 and under, they feel like they’re invincible. They haven’t faced mortality.
Joe Biden: (18:34)
Isn’t it amazing we’re saying 40 is younger? It’s hard to say, isn’t it?
Don Lemon: (18:38)
It is, but for them, at first, the virus wasn’t affecting them as much.
Joe Biden: (18:44)
Don Lemon: (18:44)
And so they may feel that they’re invincible and now that this Delta variant is affecting them, maybe they’ll have a “come to Jesus” of some sort.
Joe Biden: (18:52)
Well, by the way, I think that’s happening. Look, think about this. This is the worst health crisis in a hundred years.
Joe Biden: (19:02)
… first health crisis in a hundred years. As I said, more people have died than all our major wars combined. Think about that. If I had told you that, or you had told me that two years ago, I’d say, come on, that’s not going to happen in America. But it happened. It happened. And people are unfortunately, some more slowly than others, now, by the way, remember when I first got elected, the issue was, well, I said I was going to do a million shots a week. And people said, oh, Biden can’t do that. Or the Biden team can’t do that. Then it was two million. We had trouble getting enough people, people who wanted to get vaccinated. We’re opening up stadiums. We’re getting 100,000 people coming through. So the vast majority of the American people said, I understand, I want to get this vaccination.
Joe Biden: (19:49)
But now, when it’s phased off, either I’m invincible, I’m young, I’m not going to get sick, it won’t happen to me, or whatever the reason, now they’re looking around. They’re saying, whoa, in the community that I live in there’s very few people who’ve gotten the vaccination. This COVID is much more transmissible. It’s really rising. I better get some. So I think it’s gradually changing. And you’ve got a great dog there, kid.
Don Lemon: (20:21)
By the way, that is Danielle Lippi. She’s a student here at the university, and she’s a Republican. She’s got a question for you. Go ahead, Danielle.
Joe Biden: (20:27)
But your dog’s a Democrat, I can tell. I’m teasing, I’m teasing. I’m a big dog person. I’m sorry.
Danielle Lippi: (20:36)
Her name’s Wonder. So my question is, the economy is picking up significantly as it reopens from the pandemic. Are you concerned about the higher inflation prices, especially as we see gasoline, automotive, and food prices increase rapidly? What is your administration doing to help prevent the economy from overheating, such as the poor and middle class are not hurt by the higher prices of goods in the long run?
Joe Biden: (21:02)
First of all, the good news is the economy is picking up significantly. It’s rational, when you think about it. The cost of an automobile is kind of back to what it was before the pandemic. We compare what the prices were for the last year in the pandemic, and they are up. They’re up because, in fact, there was not much call for, for example, automobiles. You had the rental car companies selling off their entire stock. You found yourself in the same way with automobile dealers, and all of a sudden, now it’s coming back. We’re going to grow at seven percent, it’s expected. We created more jobs in the first six months of our administration than any time in American history. No president’s ever, no administration has ever created as many jobs.
Joe Biden: (21:48)
And all of a sudden people are saying, you know, I don’t say, but it goes to the legitimate question being asked about the concern about inflation. The vast majority of the experts, including Wall Street, are suggesting that it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to be long term inflation that’s going to get out of hand. There will be near term inflation because everything is now trying to be picked back up. And by the way, that’s one of the reasons why I also signed an executive order dealing with the whole idea of competition. You know, the idea that we’re in a situation where there are so many companies who are keeping people out of the competition.
Joe Biden: (22:31)
For example, you have over 600,000 people out there, six million people signing … I better check the number, signing non-compete agreements. Not because they have any secret, but because they worked for one fast food restaurant and they’re told they can’t get 10 cents more going across town, going to the other fast food restaurant. Why? To keep wages down. And so what’s happening now is all of a sudden people are having choices. I always thought the free market system was not only that there’s competition among companies, but guess what? Companies should have to compete for workers. Guess what? Maybe they’ll pay more money.
Don Lemon: (23:13)
So you seem pretty confident that inflation is temporary, but pumping all of this money into the economy, couldn’t that add to-
Joe Biden: (23:21)
No, look, here’s the deal. Moody’s today went out, Wall Street firm, not some liberal think tank, said if we pass the other two things I’m trying to get done, we will in fact reduce inflation, reduce inflation, reduce inflation, because we’re going to be providing good opportunities and jobs for people, who in fact are going to be reinvesting that money back in all the things we’re talking about, driving down prices, not raising prices. And so it is, I sincerely mean this, prices are up now. And they’re up. For example, you’re in a position where you’re trying to build a house. Try to find two by fours and lumber. Well, guess what? People stopped working, cutting lumber. They stopped doing it, because the unemployment was so [inaudible 00:24:10].
Joe Biden: (24:10)
Now all of a sudden there’s this need because people are coming back, and guess what? Instead of paying 10 cents, you’re paying 20. You understand what I’m saying?
Don Lemon: (24:18)
Joe Biden: (24:19)
It relates to what in fact is now needed because we’re growing. I don’t know anybody, including Larry Summers, who’s a friend of mine, who’s worried about inflation, is suggesting that there’s any long term march here if we do the things we’re going to do. For example, if we get this bill done that I put together a long time ago. And by the way, I want to say, I’m in his territory, you know, Portman is a good man. Portman is a Congressman from this area. I talked to him before I got, and I really mean it. He’s a decent, honorable man. And he and I are working on trying to get this infrastructure bill passed.
Don Lemon: (25:01)
You’re talking about Senator Ron Portman of Ohio.
Joe Biden: (25:03)
Yeah, I’m sorry. I thought you knew that. I apologize.
Don Lemon: (25:05)
But since you mentioned that, infrastructure, the bipartisan infrastructure deal failed the procedural vote today, right?
Joe Biden: (25:11)
But no, but yeah, it did.
Don Lemon: (25:12)
In the Senate today.
Joe Biden: (25:13)
But that’s irrelevant.
Don Lemon: (25:14)
Go on. Okay. And they negotiated to say that they need more time.
Joe Biden: (25:17)
Don Lemon: (25:17)
Okay. So then, but they’re expected to vote again on Monday, but how much time do you think that they need to get this done?
Joe Biden: (25:22)
Till Monday. Look, no, I’m not being facetious. I’m not being facetious. You had up to 20 Republicans sign a letter saying, we think we need this deal. We think we need this deal. So I think there’ll be, by the way, the reason we’re talking this way, we need 60 votes to get something moving. And what’s going to happen is I believe, because I take my Republican colleagues at their word, when you shake, I come from a tradition in the Senate, you shake your hand, that’s it. You keep your word. And I found Rob Portman does that. I found that your governor is a good man. You shake his hand. It’s done. No, I really mean it. I’m not being falsely confident.
Don Lemon: (26:05)
You think it’s going to move forward in the Senate on Monday?
Joe Biden: (26:06)
I do. Here’s what I think. What happens is the vote on Monday is a motion to be able to proceed to this issue. Then they’re going to debate the issue of the elements, the individual elements of this plan, to say, sure, we’re going to fix that damn bridge of yours going into Kentucky. No, I’m serious.
Don Lemon: (26:29)
We’re going to talk about that bridge in just a moment. We [inaudible 00:26:31].
Joe Biden: (26:31)
Anyway, but I think it’s going to get done. You may find in the amendments that take place on the detail, the detail of whether or not, and I’m the guy that wrote this bill to begin with, and so I’ve had to compromise, to make changes in the bill. When I say I, I campaigned on this. I mean, everybody thought I was a little nuts when I talked about there are three reasons why I was running. One, to restore the soul of this country, bring back some decency. Two, to build back the middle class because they’ve been getting really mucked around a long time. They’re the backbone. And unite country.
Joe Biden: (27:05)
And one of the big issues was dealing with infrastructure. Remember, the last four years, we had infrastructure week every week. We didn’t do a thing, but it’s necessary. No, I really mean it. It’s going to not only increase job opportunities, it’s going to increase commerce. It’s a good thing, and I think we’re going to get it done.
Don Lemon: (27:23)
A lot of this stuff you’re going to need bipartisan support. So let’s talk about that. Our next question comes from Cindy Peebles. She’s a financial executive and a Democrat. Go ahead, Cindy.
Cindy Peebles: (27:32)
Hello, Mr. President. I am dismayed at how often Democratic plans for stabilizing the economy or shoring up new strains of the virus are held hostage by the utopian need to gain bipartisan support. It appears at every turn, the Democratic plan is weakened and still secures zero Republican votes. Sometimes the opposition is just wrong, and working to get them to agree with you is fruitless. Why is the strategy to abandon the need for bipartisanship not the right answer?
Joe Biden: (28:03)
Well, look, I may be the wrong guy to talk to, because I spent a lot of time as a Senator and vice president, and I’m going to say something outrageous. I don’t know you’ll find any Republican I’ve ever worked with who says I ever broke my word, didn’t do exactly what I said I would do and keep my word. And I was able to get an awful lot of compromises put together to do really good things, to change things. And I still believe that’s possible, but the well has been so poisoned over the last four years, and even now, there’s still this lingering effort.
Joe Biden: (28:44)
A lot of my Republican friends, and I’m not talking about Portman, I’m not talking about your governor, a lot of my Republican friends say, Joe, I know you’re right, but if I do this, I’ll get primaried and I’ll lose my primary. I’ll be in trouble. But I think that’s all beginning to move. I don’t mean overnight. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not playing out some panacea here. But I think people are figuring out that if we want to … I’ve always found you get rewarded for doing what you think at the time is the right thing, that people really believe you believe it’s the right thing to do. And so I think you’re seeing it coming together.
Joe Biden: (29:27)
And by the way, the compromises are real, compromises within my own party between the far left, and the center, and some of the folks who are more conservative. That’s coming together. They said that would never happen. But if you notice, it has happened.
Don Lemon: (29:43)
Well, let’s talk a little bit more about bipartisanship. You know, the Republicans removed all their picks today for the January sixth committee, the select committee. Nancy Pelosi rejected two of them. The first thing I want to ask you is what’s your reaction to that? But number two, if Republicans and Democrats can’t come together to investigate the biggest attack on our Capitol in 200 years, what makes you think that they can come together on anything?
Joe Biden: (30:05)
These people. No, I mean it. I’m not being facetious. Democrats and Republicans. I don’t care if you think I’m Satan reincarnated. The fact is, you can’t look at that television and say nothing happened on the sixth. You can’t listen to people who say this was a peaceful march. No, I’m serious. Think about it. Think of the things being said. I’ve been through the other end of this, when the Democrats 35 years ago were way off to the other side. Think about it.
Don Lemon: (30:45)
But what you can do, though, what they can do is try to change the narrative and say, well, why wasn’t Nancy Pelosi prepared? Why weren’t the Democrats prepared for that to happen?
Joe Biden: (30:54)
No, they can say that, and you can make honest judgments about it. I have, look, I sometimes get myself in trouble for what I’m about to say, not that I ever get in trouble. As you’ve heard me say before, no one ever doubts I mean what I say. The problem is, I sometimes say all that I mean. But all kidding aside, I have faith in the American people, I really do, to ultimately get to the right place. And by the way, many times Republicans are in the right place. I don’t mean it’s always a Democratic point of view.
Joe Biden: (31:26)
But some of the stuff, I mean, QAnon, the idea that the Democrats or that Biden is hiding people and sucking the blood of children, no I’m serious. Now, you may not like me and that’s your right. Look, it’s a simple thing. You can walk out and say, I just don’t like the way that guy wears his tie. I’m voting against him. You have a right to do that. You have a right to do that. But the kinds of things that are being said of late, I think you’re beginning to see some of the, and by Democrats, as well, the venom sort of leak out of a lot of it. We’ve got to get beyond this. What do you say to your grandchildren or your children about what’s happening? Do you ever remember a time like this before in the entire history, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican? This is not who we are.
Joe Biden: (32:26)
And I’ll say one last thing. I’ve had a lot of experience internationally, and I mean, not good or bad, just I have. I have chaired the foreign relations committee. I’ve been deeply involved. I did national security for the administration with Barack, but folks, the rest of the world’s wondering about us. Those of you who travel abroad, not a joke, not a joke. When I went to this G7, all the major democracies, I walked in, and I know a lot of them because of my role in the past. And I walk in and I said, America’s back. And they go, I’m serious, heads of state. I give you my word, as a Biden. Said, are you really back? I mean, we believe you, Joe, but will the country ever get it together?
Joe Biden: (33:21)
I talked to Xi, Xi Jinping in China, who I know well. We don’t agree on a lot of things. He’s a bright and really tough guy. He truly believes that the 21st century will be determined by oligarchs. Not a joke. Democracies cannot function in the 21st century, the argument is, because things are moving so rapidly, so, so rapidly, that you can’t pull together a nation that is divided to get a consensus on acting quickly. So autocrats, autocracies. I had a long meeting with Putin, and I continued. I know him well. These guys actually are betting, betting, I’m not joking, on autocracies. Democracy has to stand up and demonstrate it can get something done. It’s not just important that we are … No, I really mean it.
Don Lemon: (34:12)
Mr. President, we’re just getting started. We’ve got a lot to talk about.
Joe Biden: (34:18)
Don Lemon: (34:18)
No, no, no. You’re good. We’re going to take a quick break and we’re going to come back. More questions for the president of the United States, right after this.
Don Lemon: (34:30)
Welcome back, everyone. We are live at a CNN town hall in Cincinnati, Ohio, with the president of the United States. Straight to the audience for questions. This is John Lanni. He is the owner and co-founder of a restaurant group with 39 restaurants across the country, Mr. President. He is a Republican.
Joe Biden: (34:43)
John Lanni: (34:44)
Hi there, Mr. President. Thank you for taking my question tonight. We employ hundreds of hardworking team members throughout the state of Ohio and across the country, and we’re looking to hire more every day as we try to restart our restaurant business. The entire industry, amongst other industries, continue to struggle to find employees. How do you and the Biden administration plan to incentivize those that haven’t returned to work yet? Hiring is our top priority right now.
Joe Biden: (35:17)
Well, two things. One, if you notice, we kept you open. We spent billions of dollars to make sure restaurants could stay open. And a lot of people who now, who work as waiters and waitresses, decided that they don’t want to do that anymore because there’s other opportunities and higher wages, because there’s a lot of openings now in jobs, and people are beginning to move, beginning to move.
Joe Biden: (35:44)
There’s some evidence that maintaining the ability to continue to not have to pay your rent, so you don’t get thrown out, and being able to provide for unemployment insurance has kept people from going back to work. There’s not much distinction between not going back to work in a restaurant and not going back to work at a factory. So people are looking to change opportunities, change what they’re doing. My deceased wife’s father-in-law was a restaurateur up in Syracuse, New York. And by the way, he tried to commit … He had a restaurant that was in a town called Auburn, about 20,000 people, which was a flagship 24 hour a day restaurant, and he offered it to me, which I would have been making five times that I would in law school, to try to keep me in Syracuse.
Joe Biden: (36:35)
But I spent too many times at home, in his home, hearing a phone call, the cook didn’t come in, he’s in a fight with his wife, what’s going on?
John Lanni: (36:43)
Joe Biden: (36:44)
So God love you, doing what you do. But all kidding aside, I think it really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things. And there is a shortage of employees. People are looking to make more money and to bargain. And so I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while. And one of the things, we’re ending all those things that are things keeping people back from going back to work, et cetera. It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
Joe Biden: (37:22)
But my gut tells me, my gut tells me, that part of it relates to, you know, you can make a good salary as a waiter or a waitress. One of my sister-in-laws, of five sisters, makes a very good salary. She works in Atlantic City. That’s where she’s from. But there’s a lot of people who are looking to change their occupation, I think. But I could be wrong.
Don Lemon: (37:49)
Well, let me ask you, because John is looking to hire people. He’s got 39 restaurants across the country. Is there anything you can do to help him out? I mean, he’s got to get people in.
Joe Biden: (37:57)
Well, John, first of all, the thing we did to help John and the Johns out…
Joe Biden: (38:03)
The thing we did to help John and John’s out is provide billions of dollars to make sure they could stay open, number one. So you all contributed to making sure John can stay in business. And we should have done that as we did for other industries. But secondly, John my guess is that people being seven, eight dollars an hour plus tips, I think John, you’re going to be finding $15 an hour or more now, but you may pay that already. You may pay that already.
Don Lemon: (38:35)
Well let me ask you because everywhere I go, there’s pretty much a shop in my town, a restaurant or whatever, where there is a “For hire” sign. We’re trying to check into the hotel, they couldn’t get the rooms cleaned fast enough because they can’t find staff. You mentioned something, you said we’re going to end the things that may be keeping people back. Do you think that’s the unemployment benefits expanded?
Joe Biden: (38:55)
Well, [crosstalk 00:38:56] it was. I don’t think it did much, but the point is it’s argued that because the extended unemployment benefits kept people they’d rather stay home and not work than go to work.
Don Lemon: (39:07)
You don’t think it did that?
Joe Biden: (39:09)
I see no evidence that it had any serious impact on it. But you can argue, let’s assume it did. It’s coming to an end, so it’s not like we’re in a situation where if that was it and it ends, then we’re going to see John’s going to have no problem. But what I think has happened folks is look, if you make less than, and I’m not saying John your folks make less than $15, you have good restaurants. That means the tips are good, people make a lot more than just what the wage is being paid if you put tips on top of it. But folks look, here’s the deal. Think about it. For example, one of my programs is to make sure that we have four more years of school that’s free. Two years for three-year-olds and four-year-olds because it’s demonstrated that that increases significantly success and community college. Well, those folks are not likely to want to go and be waiters. Nothing wrong with being a waiter or waitress, my family’s been engaged in that business. But the folks is, and lastly, if you make less than $15 an hour, working 40 hours a week, you’re living below the poverty level. You’re living below the poverty level.
Don Lemon: (40:20)
Well I want to continue on and talk about what this has to do with infrastructure, because you got applause when you mentioned the bridge earlier. And Todd-
Joe Biden: (40:30)
By the way, your Congressman wants that bridge too.
Don Lemon: (40:33)
Todd Michael is here. He’s a union electrician and a Democrat. He has a question about something that a lot of people in Cincinnati are concerned about. Todd, take it away.
Todd Michael: (40:42)
As Mr. Lemon said, you have already touched on the subject of my question. The two most recent past presidents have both campaign using this region’s Interstate 75 bridge, the Spence Bridge that crosses the Ohio River as backdrops with a promise of an infrastructure bill that would help with the replacement. President Biden, is it possible to bring Congress together to pass an infrastructure bill that builds a bridge that does not just benefit this region, but the entire I-75 corridor from Michigan all the way to Florida?
Joe Biden: (41:14)
The answer is absolutely positively yes. I’m not just saying, if you take a look at Ohio and Kentucky combined, there’s thousands of bridges that need repair. Thousands. Thousands of bridges. And we should be looking at it this way. It increases commerce number one, but guess what? They’re good paying union jobs, union. Union jobs. And by the way, did you ever think of a time, those of you who are economists, who teach here? Economic. Can you think of any time when the middle class did better and the wealthy didn’t do really well? I’m not being facetious now, I’m being deadly earnest. Can you think of any time that’s occurred? When the middle class does better? I’m tired of trickle down. I come from the corporate state of America.
Joe Biden: (42:16)
And by the way, I think you should be able to go out and make a billion dollars or a hundred million dollars if you have the capacity to do it, but ask one thing, pay your fair share. Just pay your fair share. I really mean it. And if you know anything about me, check me out, we have more corporations registered in Delaware than all the rest of America combined. Combined. Combined. I represented it for 36 years. I’ve never seen a time when we have the middle-class growing that the wealthy didn’t do very, very, very well. So that’s what we have to do, build it out and up. Not just down.
Don Lemon: (43:03)
So that people like our next guest, who’s just graduated from law school by the way, his name is Corey Markham he’s a graduate from the University of Cincinnati Law School and [inaudible 00:43:11].
Joe Biden: (43:11)
Don Lemon: (43:11)
Excuse me, he’s heading to law school, I’m wrong, in the fall. So Corey, good luck in law school and what’s your question?
Joe Biden: (43:18)
Your freshman year wish you had already graduated. I know, me too.
Corey Markham: (43:22)
Yeah. So my question is last week regarding the GOP’s efforts to restrict voting rights, you said those efforts were “the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history.” While you have condemned these attacks, you and congressional members of your party have done little to actually stop these assaults. If these efforts are really the most dangerous in our history, isn’t it logical to get rid of the filibuster so we can protect our democracy and secure the right to vote?
Joe Biden: (43:55)
(silence) I stand by what I said. Never before has there been an attempt by state legislatures to take over the ability to determine who won. Not count the votes, determine who won. We have election officials across the board that they’re deciding to push out of the way. And if in fact tomorrow, let’s say we’re running last time and these laws have been in effect, these changes. In Georgia, the Georgia legislature abide one by multiple thousand votes, they can say, “We don’t think it was legit.” And the state legislator votes we’re going to send electors up to Congress to vote for Trump, not Biden. That’s never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever been tried before. This is Jim Crow on steroids, what we’re talking about.
Joe Biden: (44:58)
And so it takes, to go to your second point. I’ve been saying for a long, long time, the abuse of the filibuster is pretty overwhelming. When I got to the United States Senate at a time when we had guys like Jim Eastland and Strom Thurmond, and Robert F. Byrd, and a whole range of people who were very, very, very, very, very, very conservative on race to say the least, even then, if you were to filibuster, you had to stand on the floor and hold the floor. And that’s why Strom, I think set the record at 24 straight hours or something. Don’t hold me the number. So there were significantly fewer filibusters in those days in the middle of the civil rights movement.
Don Lemon: (45:47)
But let me talk to you about that.
Joe Biden: (45:50)
Well let me finish my answer because I’ll tell you what I’d do. I would go back to that where you have to maintain the floor. You have to stand there and talk and hold the floor. You can’t just say that now.
Don Lemon: (46:01)
I understand that, but what difference is that if you hold the floor for a day or a year, what difference does it make? Here’s the thing for me. You talked about people and this is important for people who look like me. My grandmother would sit around when I was a kid, fifth grade had a fifth grade education. I learned that she couldn’t read when I was doing my homework. And she would tell me stories about people asking her to count the number of jelly beans in the jar or the soap. So why is protecting the filibuster, is that more important than protecting voting rights, especially for people who fought and died for that?
Joe Biden: (46:36)
No. It’s not. I want to see United States Congress, the United States Senate pass S one and S four, the John Lewis Act, get him to my desk so I can sign it. But here’s the deal. What I also want to do, I want to make sure we bring along, not just all the Democrats. We bring along Republicans who I know know better. They know better than this. And what I don’t want to do is get wrapped up right now in the argument whether or not this is all about the filibuster or look, the American public, you can’t stop them from voting. You tried last time, more people voted last time than any time in American history, in the middle of the worst pandemic in American history, more people did. And they showed up. They’re going to show up again. They’re going to do it again, but what I want to do, as I’m trying to bring the country together, and I don’t want the debate to only be about whether or not we have a filibuster or exceptions of the filibuster or the going back to the way the filibuster had to be used before.
Don Lemon: (47:45)
But isn’t that the only way you’re going to get it done right now?
Joe Biden: (47:48)
No, I don’t believe that. I think we can get it done.
Don Lemon: (47:50)
If you agree with the former president, he is called, as you call him, “Your old boss”, that it is a relic of Jim Crow.
Joe Biden: (47:57)
Don Lemon: (47:57)
If it’s a Relic of Jim Crow, it’s been used to fight against civil rights legislation historically, why protect it?
Joe Biden: (48:05)
There’s no reason to protect it other than you’re going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done. Nothing at all will get done. And there’s a lot at stake. The most important one is the right to vote. That’s the single most important one and your vote counted and counted by someone who honestly counts it. But it goes beyond that. For example, when my friends on the other side love to have a debate about the filibuster instead of passing the Recovery Act or wouldn’t they love doing it instead of being in a position where we provide for … how many of you have children under the age of 17? Raise your hand. Guess what? You’re getting a lot of money in a monthly check now, aren’t you? No, you deserve. No, no, no, I really mean it. Republicans used to fight for it as well, it’s called the Child Tax Credit. If you have a child under the age of seven, you get $350 bucks a month. If you have a child between seven and 17, you get a total of a $200 a month. And guess what? It’s cutting child poverty in half. In half.
Don Lemon: (49:14)
Mr. President was talking about something else that affects people a lot, the children as well. The next question and it’s about gun violence. This is from a paralegal. She’s an advocate. Her name is Andrea Solis Canto, she’s a Democrat. Andrea go ahead.
Joe Biden: (49:29)
Has to be a public defender kiddo, thanks for what you’re doing.
Andrea Solis Canto: (49:32)
Thank you. So gun violence has been on the rise across the country and as a recent student and young professional living in over the [Rhine 00:49:39], I’ve seen this firsthand. Gun violence has taken the lives of so many young students and young people. I’m tired and I want to see change that’s going to make our cities like Cincinnati safer. So how will you address violence from a federal point of view to actually bring about change and make our local cities safer?
Joe Biden: (49:59)
Now I’m not being a wise guy, there’s no reason you should. Have you seen my gun violence legislation I’ve introduced? As you know, because you’re so involved, actually crime is down. Gun violence and murder rates are up. Guns. I’m the only guy that ever got passed legislation when I was a Senator to make sure we eliminated assault weapons. The idea you need a weapon that can have the ability to fire 20, 30, 40, 50, 120 shots from that weapon, whether it’s a nine millimeter pistol or whether it’s a rifle, is ridiculous. I’m continuing to push to eliminate the sale of those things, but I’m not likely to get that done on their terms. Here’s what I’ve done. The people who in fact are using those weapons are acquiring them illegally. Illegally. And so what happens is I’ve gotten ATF, alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. I have them increase their budget and increase their capacity along with the Justice Department to go after the gun shops that are not abiding by the law of doing background checks. For real that’s number one.
Joe Biden: (51:18)
Number two. We’re in a position where most of the cities and I don’t know enough. I think you’ve had a lot of gun violence here in Cincinnati or is up there. How many dead? 500 over a period, don’t hold me to the number, whatever it was. But my point is all across the country. And it’s not because the gun shops in the cities are selling these guns, they are either shadow gun dealers and/or gun shops that are not abiding by the law. So we’re going to do major investigations and shut those guys down and put some of them in jail for what they’re doing, selling these weapons. There’s also a thing called ghost guns that are being sold now and being used.
Joe Biden: (52:04)
But in addition to that, what we have to do is we have to deal with a larger problem of the whole issue of law enforcement generally. We’re in a situation where, as much as we need to pass the Floyd Act and all that, but here’s the deal. Cops are having real trouble. They’re not all bad guys, they’re a lot of good guys. We need more policemen, not fewer policemen. But we need them involved in community policing, community policing. And when we did that, violent crime went down. All the criticism about the original crime Bill, guess what? Crime went down until we stopped doing community policing. So it’s about getting, we have availability of lots of money for cops to be able to hire a psychologist, psychiatrist, as well as social workers to be engaged in the process.
Don Lemon: (53:04)
Mr. President, we’re going to put a period, maybe a comma right here because we have more to come. We’ve got to take a quick break. We’ll be right back more from President Joe Biden, right after this.
Don Lemon: (53:10)
Welcome back to our CNN Town Hall with the President of United States, Joe Biden. I said, we’re going to put a comma on it because I want to continue this conversation. You said that you need more police, right? In your words. So then how do you respond to Republicans who try to paint you and your party as anti-police?
Joe Biden: (53:29)
They’re lying. No, look. Never once. We have to change police conduct. We have to have rules where things are open. We have to have rules where you can be able to determine what the background, how many times a cop has violated the rules and be able to have access to what’s going on in a police department so the justice department can get involved in whether or not they have to change their pattern and practices. I’ve always said that.
Don Lemon: (54:00)
What about defunding the police though? Because there was-
Joe Biden: (54:03)
No, I’ve never, never, never said the funding of the police. Look, I don’t know any community, particularly the communities that are in the most need and the poorest and the most at risk, that don’t want police. They want police though, to look at them as equals. They want police to treat them in a way. They don’t want police abusing. And what happened was we got into the position where we, we used to have community policing where the cop, my deceased son was the attorney general of the state of Delaware. And what we did when that original bill got passed was he would go down in the tough neighborhoods in my state, in my city of Wilmington, which is an overwhelming minority city. And he’d go where, everybody can tell me where the best basketball is played in a playground here in this city. You know where it is, you know who the best ball players are, you know where they are. He’d go down and sit there on the bench with his son, my grandson, who’s now 16 when he was five and six years old and let them know he was there.
Joe Biden: (55:05)
He’d go over and knock on the window of the local cop who was sitting there by himself in his squad car and said, “Get out of the car, meet people.” Because what used to happen was cops used to when at first community policing came about, they go in and they knew who the minister was in the church, they knew who owned the local liquor store, the local drug store, the local grocery store. And they’d walk in and say, “Look, I’m Joe Biden. I’m going to be in this speed. Here’s my cell number. You have a problem, call me. Here’s my cell number.”
Don Lemon: (55:34)
You said it’s tough right now. You said police are up against, well they’re up against the narrative that the country’s anti-police, Democrats are anti-police, Joe Biden is anti-police and then you have-
Joe Biden: (55:44)
They aren’t saying Joe Biden is anti-police. Cops are not saying that about Joe Biden. They know me period.
Don Lemon: (55:52)
Joe Biden: (55:54)
They’re not saying it. Republicans are saying it on the far, I’m not kidding.
Don Lemon: (56:01)
No, I want you to talk about this because I mean it’s an important narrative. There is no more important issue, I think right now than safety. You can rebuild a home. You can get a lot of things back, but Mr. President, you cannot get back a life and-
Joe Biden: (56:14)
That’s exactly right.
Don Lemon: (56:15)
Yeah. And if police aren’t doing their jobs that increases-
Joe Biden: (56:19)
Okay. No, if police aren’t doing their job, they should be held accountable. They should be fired for not doing their job. They should, I make no excuses for that. That we should have For example, the George Floyd Act where Joe Cole’s are against the law where a whole lot of things that are laid out in that legislation. And by the way, I grew up in a neighborhood where you became a cop, a firefighter or a priest. I wasn’t qualified for any one of them. So here I am. But all kidding aside, I’m not joking. The guys who grew up in Scranton and Claymont, Delaware, a steel town, that’s what we did. That’s what they did, it’s what my friends did. And here’s the point. The point is that it doesn’t justify maltreating the public. You have no right to do that. None. But …
Joe Biden: (57:03)
… maltreating the public. You have no right to do that, none. But, now what’s happening is because it’s become so tough across the spectrum, we’ve actually cut down on a number of police unrelated to anybody asking for it. The towns and cities aren’t spending as much money on it. There’s not as much federal money to hire police. And now what’s happening is, police are not wanting to be a cop. Raise your hand if you want to be a cop now, what do you think? Huh?
Joe Biden: (57:29)
So what we got to do is we’ve got to give them the help they need to be better at their job. The idea that you have someone sitting on a ledge saying they’re going to jump off a ledge and you call the cop and sending a guy or a woman who’s a law enforcement officer, has a criminal justice degree… When you could send with him or her, you could send with them a psychologist or a social worker, somebody can talk to them. Now I mean, I’m serious.
Don Lemon: (57:56)
Mr. President, I want to get some more questions. I want to bring in Lynne Miller. She’s an attorney and a Democrat. Lynne, what’s your question?
Lynne Miller: (58:04)
Mr. President, the opioid crisis continues and in this part of the country it remains a huge problem. While the over-prescription of opiates is part of that problem, the drugs available in the black market are a growing issue as many of these contain fentanyl. That took the life of our son. How can your administration combat the issue of illegal opiates? Many of which our young people by online. Someone should bear responsibility for delivering death through the mail.
Joe Biden: (58:34)
They should bear responsibility. You may or may not be aware, even in the period when I was out of office, I was railing against the fact that drug companies were selling on the open market. There was one case which really got me was you had two drug stores in a small town in West Virginia having something like a prescription for 4,000 pills and it was obviously drug trafficking. That’s what was going on.
Joe Biden: (59:01)
So what they did was, they went after, just settled with Johnson and some of the drug companies who make opioids for 26 billion or 27 today? If I’m not mistaken, the settlement took place.
Joe Biden: (59:15)
But here’s the deal. In addition to that, you have the Chinese sending fentanyl to Mexico in large part, that’s being mixed with opioids and/or heroin and other drugs, which is a dead set killer of people. And so what we have to do, I’ve had this encounter with China and we’re going to continue it, but we’ve also increased the number of DEA agents, what we’re doing at the border and how we’re going to deal with intercepting that drug trade.
Joe Biden: (59:45)
In addition to that, the Justice Department is moving on dealing with the whole opioid issue by increasing significantly the number of people in Justice Department working on this issue. And so there’s much more to say about it, but it is incredibly, incredibly dangerous.
Don Lemon: (01:00:04)
Mr. President, I believe there’s no better way than to speak about this then from experience. I don’t think there’s probably a family in this room who hasn’t been affected by addiction. You’ve been very open about your son Hunter’s problems with addiction. This is personal for you. Listen, I’ve dealt with it in my own family. Every family deals with it, but this is personal for you.
Joe Biden: (01:00:24)
Yes, and I’m so damn proud of my son. My son just wrote a book about how he overcame being addicted and he did it and he’s doing it and he is in good shape, thank God. Here’s the thing, we don’t have nearly enough people involved in mental health and drug addiction services. Number one.
Joe Biden: (01:00:47)
Number two, we shouldn’t be sending people to jail for use. We should be sending the mandatory rehabilitation. Number three, when people are in fact in jail, if that’s not the main crime but they’re also… They should be getting treatment while they are in jail. Fourth, when people get out of jail, whether it’s for drug addiction or any other crime, if they’ve served their time they should have full access to everything from Pell Grants to public housing to the like.
Joe Biden: (01:01:24)
And by the way folks, it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing for us to do. Because what happens, years ago there was a guy named Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania. He and I introduced legislation, that was the Second Chance Act. It meant that, right now when you get out of jail and most prisons in the states around the country, what happens? You get a bus ticket and 25 bucks, you end up under the bridge, just like you did before. You’re almost guaranteed to get back in whatever your problem was before.
Joe Biden: (01:01:58)
So they should have access to drug treatment. They should have access to housing. They should have access to whatever they qualify based on their income. And we should, in prisons as well, be training people differently. But the big thing here is, we have to deal with the idea of addiction by providing for what we all know, it’s a disease of the brain. It’s a disease of the brain and has to be treated as such.
Don Lemon: (01:02:23)
I think addiction and mental health issues have to be dealt with just as if you break your arm and go to the doctor, we should be able to talk to…
Joe Biden: (01:02:30)
Don Lemon: (01:02:31)
There shouldn’t be a stigma about it. I want to bring in now Madeena Nolan. Madeena Nolan is a writer and editor, she’s a Democrat. Madeena, what’s your question?
Joe Biden: (01:02:36)
Madeena Nolan: (01:02:38)
Good evening, Mr. President. Vice President Harris said to Guatemalans, “Don’t come.” Recently you have indicated you are in favor of refugees coming to this country. Could you please explain your administration’s basic stance on immigration?
Joe Biden: (01:02:55)
Yes. They should not come. What we’re trying to set up is in the countries, in particular, in the Northern triangle, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, etc., we are setting up in those countries, if you seek asylum in the United States you can seek it from the country, from your in place. You can seek it from an American embassy. You can go in and seek and see whether or not you qualify.
Joe Biden: (01:03:23)
We’ve significantly increased the number of officers who can hear cases as to whether or not you qualify under the law for being here as a refugee. That’s what we’ve done. Thirdly, we have been able to move significantly to change the number. There were thousands of people in custody with the border patrol. It’s now cut by 90% where it’s considerably down.
Joe Biden: (01:03:53)
What I do say is, the one place you may heard that I’m talking about more immigrants coming in are those folks from Afghanistan who helped the American soldiers who will be, they and their family, will be victimized very badly as a consequence of what happens if they’re left behind. So we’re providing for them to be able to see whether they qualify to meet this special requirement to be able to come to the United States as a refugee and as ultimately earning citizenship here.
Joe Biden: (01:04:27)
It seems to me it’s the only decent thing that we can do. In the meantime, we’re going to send people to American bases where they’re not going to be able to leave the base while their cases are being determined, whether they qualify. And also other bases.
Don Lemon: (01:04:43)
I want to talk to you about DACA. I got two questions on immigration, quick questions that I want to ask you about. Because, just last week there was a federal judge, he ruled the program unlawful, blocked it from accepting new applications. What do you say to Dreamers who are really worried about their futures here in the United States?
Joe Biden: (01:04:55)
I’m not letting this go. Look, guys. Let’s just put this- [inaudible 01:04:59] You know, we talk about Dreamers sort of generically. Let’s think about it now what it really means. You’re five years old, you’re nine years old, your mommy or dad says, “I’m going to take you across the Rio Grande and we’re going to illegally going to go into the United States.”
Joe Biden: (01:05:20)
What are you supposed to say? “Not me, that’s against the law!” No, I’m being deadly earnest. What could a kid say? What could they do? They come here with really no choice and they’re here and they’re good, good people. They’ve done well, ten thousand of them are first line workers. These are kids who have done well.
Joe Biden: (01:05:48)
So what we’re going to do is, first of all, appeal the case. Number one. But number two, we’re going to make sure that… A number of my Republican colleagues say they support the right of Dreamers to come. Let’s call the question. They should be able to stay in the United States of America and their child [inaudible 01:06:10]
Don Lemon: (01:06:11)
Mr. President, you’ve been the big guy for six months now in the White House. Can you take us behind the scenes? Something that was extraordinary or unusual that happened that stands out to you?
Joe Biden: (01:06:24)
Yeah. “Mr. President, you didn’t close the door. Mr. President, what the hell are you going out at this time for?” It’s a wonderful honor. As you can tell, I hope I have very good manners, but I’m not very hung up on protocol. And the Secret Service is wonderful, and because things are so crazy out there, it is very hard to get comfortable like I would ordinarily be.
Joe Biden: (01:07:11)
For example, I think all of the help that’s there, providing meals and all the rest, I think they love us. You can say, “Don’t come in for breakfast. We can get our own breakfast,” because I like to walk out in my robe and go in. No, you think I’m joking. I’m not, you know what I mean?
Joe Biden: (01:07:38)
You know, the only place I have felt like what the office connotes is when I went to Europe and watched the rest of the heads of state react to me, not me, because I’m the President of the United States of America, the United States of America.
Joe Biden: (01:08:01)
And here’s what happened. It’s the first time I ever felt like, you always hear say, “Leader of the free world.” Well, I realized when I’m sitting across from Putin, who I know, he knows who I am. I know who he is. He knows I’m mean what I say and can do what I say. He understands. Doesn’t mean he will do it or not do it.
Joe Biden: (01:08:22)
But the point is, it’s the first time I’ve ever felt the notion that I am in the office that is the leader of the free world. And we must be the leader of the free world. If we don’t do it, nobody good is likely to do it or has the capacity to do it. I really mean it. I genuinely mean it.
Joe Biden: (01:08:41)
So it’s the thing, Don, that is the only time… And by the way, the first time I walked downstairs and they played Hail to the Chief I wondered, “Where is he?” No, you think I’m kidding? I’m not kidding. I
Don Lemon: (01:08:56)
It’s a great tune, isn’t it?
Joe Biden: (01:08:57)
It’s a great tune. But you feel a little self- conscious. You think I’m kidding, I’m not. But I am not at all self-conscious about the power that goes with the office as it relates to resolving issues. These are issues I’ve dealt with my whole life. Whether I’m good or bad, I have more experience coming to the office than anyone who’s ever held that office.
Joe Biden: (01:09:22)
I’ve I’ve been deeply steeped in foreign policy, the justice system, the economic… Not that I’m right. I don’t mean that. But nothing’s come before me where I’ve gone, “Oh my God, I never thought…”
Joe Biden: (01:09:34)
What the difference is… I used to kid Barack, he’s a good friend, President Obama. And at one point, I was always the last guy in the room, for real. On every important decision I got to give my advice… I gave it along the way… But I’d be the last guy before I walked out.
Joe Biden: (01:09:56)
And one day he thanked me and I said, “Mr. President, here’s the deal. I should be paying you, not you me, because I get to give the advice and then I get to leave.”
Joe Biden: (01:10:11)
I’m serious. Think about it. The one thing that is real, that is different and I feel comfortable with it, but it is you’re the last guy in the room.
Don Lemon: (01:10:21)
Joe Biden: (01:10:21)
You decide, “Is the decision I’m about to make will that cause war? Will that cause conflict? The decision I’m about to make, is that going to hurt people, is it going to help people.” That’s the part that is different.
Joe Biden: (01:10:32)
But the living conditions, I mean, it’s such a great, great honor to live in the White House. But quite frankly, I kid the Vice-President… One day Barack came over to “nav-ops”, called naval operations, the Vice President’s residence. Which is on about I guess 80, 90 acres and it’s a beautiful, beautiful spot. And there’s a fence around the whole property…
Don Lemon: (01:10:55)
I bet you miss that, don’t you?
Joe Biden: (01:10:56)
I do. And Barack came over and he said, “This is great.” And I said, “I’ll tell you, I’ll trade you only if the power goes with it.” But the point is that, there it was totally different. You can walk out in your shorts with a short sleeve shirt on and you can walk around and there wasn’t anybody there. You can’t walk out anywhere now, but I’m not complaining. I’m trying to answer your question as honestly as I can.
Don Lemon: (01:11:23)
Joe Biden: (01:11:26)
It’s the greatest honor I think could ever be bestowed on an American that a majority of the American citizens said, “I want you to lead the country.” And it’s a great honor, a great honor when you have presidents and prime ministers and the rest of the world saying, “What does United States think? You’re the leader of the free world.”
Joe Biden: (01:11:50)
I was able to go to the G7 and change their mind about a whole range of things. They never once had included China in any criticism of what was going on. They were very reluctant to be able to be in a position, you and I have talked about this, about whether or not they’re going to do business with China in a way that pushes the America aside.
Joe Biden: (01:12:12)
All of a sudden, if you notice we’re getting a great deal… Not because of me, but because of the administration I put together. And America is back, traditional America is more back, and they’re willing to follow us. I think.
Don Lemon: (01:12:24)
Well, Mr. President. Here’s the deal. I’m the last guy that gets to ask you questions tonight.
Joe Biden: (01:12:34)
Don Lemon: (01:12:35)
Yeah, and then I get to leave. Thank you.
Joe Biden: (01:12:39)
Don Lemon: (01:12:39)
I appreciate it.
Joe Biden: (01:12:40)
Don Lemon: (01:12:40)
We’re so glad that you guys are here, that you got to ask questions of the President of the United States. Thank you so much. Thank you to our audience for everyone for being here, taking questions. Of course, thank you to the President of United States and we want to thank Mount St. Joseph University right here in Cincinnati, Ohio. Right?