Sep 1, 2020
Joe Biden & Kamala Harris ‘A Socially Distanced Conversation’ Transcript September 1
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris participated in a “socially distanced conversation” on September 1 to discuss the economy and voting in the upcoming election. Read the transcript of their discussion here.
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Kamala Harris: (00:30)
My career has been about making decisions that impact people’s lives. I’ve known throughout my career that when I make a decision, it will directly impact a human being’s life.
Joe Biden: (00:49)
By the way, thanks for agreeing to do this. I know we got a lot going on. You’ve made a lot of tough decisions in your life. I hope agreeing to be the vice presidential candidate wasn’t one of the toughest ones.
Kamala Harris: (01:01)
It wasn’t tough at all, not at all. I’m just so looking forward to what we’re going to be able to do.
Joe Biden: (01:08)
Well, you and I are going to have a lot to do, but I think we can do it. I talked to you about how Barack and I worked it, and he asked me, “Is there anything that I wanted once I agreed to do it?” And I said, “Yeah, I do. I’d like to be able to be the last person in the room when every important decision you make.” And that’s what I’d like you to do. I like you to be the last, because I’m confident you will tell me the truth about what you think even if you disagree. And I’m confident that your judgment is really good.
Joe Biden: (01:41)
What are some of the toughest decisions you had to make?
Kamala Harris: (01:45)
Probably one of the toughest decisions is the decision that I made to pull California out of the negotiations with the five biggest banks of the United States around the foreclosure crisis.
Joe Biden: (01:57)
Well, I just walked out of the Oval. I was heading down to the office and I got a call from Beau. He said, Dad, we’re going to go after the banks. And he mentioned you as you guys are partners. Much, much bigger decision for you, but how tough was that decision?
Kamala Harris: (02:13)
So your son who took such pride in everything about you and the relationship that the two of you had, he’s the Attorney General of Delaware, I’m the Attorney General of California, during the foreclosure crisis, California often had seven of the top 10 cities in the nation hardest hit.
Joe Biden: (02:30)
Kamala Harris: (02:32)
I felt compelled to take that decision and make that decision. And Beau said, “Kamala, I’m standing with you because it’s the right thing.” And Delaware, thank God, wasn’t as impacted as some other states with the foreclosure crisis. But Beau said on principle, even though he would take political heat, even though he had have to spend significant political capital, he said, “I’m standing with you.” And I’ll never forget that. We talked practically every day.
Joe Biden: (03:03)
That’s how I got to know you.
Kamala Harris: (03:03)
Yeah, I know.
Joe Biden: (03:04)
You didn’t know I got to know you that way. I’ve heard you talk about the way you were raised and your sister and how you guys were together.
Kamala Harris: (03:15)
My mother would come home, and she’d make dinner, and she’d spend some time with us, and then we’d go to bed, and she’d sit at that kitchen table figuring out how to make it all work. And so when I talk about that thing that wakes us up in the middle of the night and wakes up so many people in the middle of the night, those are the issues that we need to focus on, which is the things that cause people to lose sleep, because they’re worried about how they’re going to get through the end of the month, and feed their kids, and pay their rent. And that’s what motivates me.
Kamala Harris: (03:48)
On the issue of homeownership, I was in high school when my mother was able to afford to buy our first home. I’ll never forget it. We were so excited because she was so excited. We were renters. We rented up until that point. The issue of homeownership in America is so much bigger than a financial investment. It really represents your hard work and the pride that you put into your work and the fact that you worked hard to do this. It’s your peace.
Joe Biden: (04:21)
My dad came back to Scranton after the war. At one point, I remember he made what I call, and a lot of parents have done it, the longest walk a parent can make up a short flight of stairs, and say, “Honey, we’re not going to be able to go to that school next year. You can’t play on that Little League team. Dad doesn’t have a job now.” And I remembered that happening, and we were going home and live with my grandpop and my uncle in the home that my mom was raised in. I thought about how much pride it must’ve cost my dad to walk into my grandpop Finnegan’s pantry and say, “Ambrose, can you take the kids and Jean,” my mom, “For a year live here. And I promise I’ll make it up.” And we moved to a place called Claymont, Delaware, but it took my dad, we moved when I was in third grade, and it wasn’t until seventh grade we were able to buy a home and a new “development.”
Kamala Harris: (05:15)
My mother passed away from cancer, and my mother was the most influential person, human being, in my life. When you’re going through an illness with someone you love so dearly, and you’re going through taking them to chemo, and you’re going through that process not knowing what the next day or the next moment is going to hold. And on top of it, that anybody in our country would also have to worry about whether they might lose their house to pay the medical bills, to take care of the person they love, is immoral and inhumane.
Joe Biden: (05:58)
You think of all the people today who, because of the negative way in which this President has walked away with dealing with the COVID crisis. COVID he didn’t cause, but my God, the way it’s been responded to, and I don’t think he gets it, what that means to a parent, how can they maintain their sense of dignity when they look at a child who may have a need physically or otherwise, and know they can’t figure out how to deal with it? And he’s in court trying to take away the one piece of insurance that 20 million people got, and a hundred million people with pre-existing conditions have, we could be doing so much more to make sure that you had the testing equipment, protective equipment that the first responders and the nurses and the docs need to be able to take care of these people, the ability to test and trace. I mean, I just don’t get how there’s not this more significant understanding of the incredible pain that is occurring in America and the economic chaos that’s caused from that.
Kamala Harris: (07:10)
There’s so much about this pandemic that has accelerated what was a problem before. People who were doing badly before are doing worse now. And people who before the pandemic were hardworking, had a job, again, had dignity, are now because of this pandemic driving up or standing in food lines for hours. And when you have a President of the United States who is just dismissing it like it’s some thing he can just flick away or magically wave a wand instead of stepping up to say, my people are in crisis and I need to step up to take care of them. He doesn’t have it in him.
Joe Biden: (07:55)
We were already, I think, in trouble before COVID. How many single parents out there, even before the crisis, the COVID crisis and economic crisis, were trying to figure out how can I keep my job and take care of my child? There should be automatic leave for people to be able to provide for the needs of their family. There should be childcare available and no one should have to pay more than a small percentage of their income to be able to get that childcare. The idea that you can’t get paid leave in America, it’s just wrong.
Kamala Harris: (08:37)
And it’s been highlighted during this crisis is a mother or father going to self-quarantine when they’re not getting paid sick leave or paid family leave versus paying the rent or putting food on the table?
Joe Biden: (08:52)
This administration made sure the Mar-a-Lago crowd went to the head of the line. You got 40% of the money not going to small businesses. They’ve run out of that unemployment. You’re fighting for it. The House has passed legislation to make sure it goes forward. What are they thinking?
Kamala Harris: (09:08)
I believe they don’t believe in the intelligence and the ethics of the American people. People like to work. They want to work. They want to earn their living. And for them to suggest that the American people instead want to gain the system is an insult to the intelligence and the integrity of the American people.
Joe Biden: (09:33)
You want to make this economy grow, you want to get a back, you got to give people a chance.
Kamala Harris: (09:38)
What we have seen again is that this pandemic has highlighted the racial disparities that existed before. African Americans, before the pandemic, 20% more likely to have asthma, 40% more likely to have high blood pressure. Black women, three times more likely to have Lupus, which is an autoimmune disease. And we know that this virus, it preys on people with preexisting conditions. And so we’ve seen blacks and Latinos twice as likely to die from this virus. One of the great things I love about our plan is that it takes into account racial disparities. It acknowledges it so that we make sure that we’re putting resources in the communities that need them and do it in a way that everyone comes out equal.
Joe Biden: (10:26)
You’re on judiciary committee. When I got there as a young man, I was put on judiciary and ended up being chairman of that committee for a long time. And one of the things I was really proud of was the first time I was able to get the Voting Rights Act extended 25 years. We thought, boy, we’ve made it. Then along came that famous case that occurred-
Kamala Harris: (10:46)
Shelby v. Holder.
Joe Biden: (10:46)
Shelby v. Holder. One of the things that I’m worried about is there is a whole new effort of Jim Crow out there. You have over, I think it’s over, I think it’s 33 states roughly that have passed laws, something like 80-some laws that make it harder to vote.
Kamala Harris: (11:04)
In North Carolina, the Court of Appeals said that law was designed with surgical precision, those were the words of the court, to prevent black voters from voting.
Joe Biden: (11:16)
There’s still a significant effort in this administration to make it more difficult for Americans to vote. When you and I get elected, God willing, we’re going to push hard to make voting, Election Day, a national holiday, so people don’t have to take off work. There should be same day registration. We’re the greatest democracy in the world and voter turnout is being pushed by the other team to be lowered. What are they afraid of? I think they’re afraid of people showing up and voting.
Kamala Harris: (11:47)
I think they’re afraid of the people, because when the people vote, they vote in favor of things like affordable childcare and paid sick leave. They vote in favor of working people. They vote in favor of the dignity of work.
Joe Biden: (12:06)
With all that’s going on, you have a pandemic, you have economic circumstances bad as it was during the depression, you got a situation where a systemic racism has been stripped bare and everyone has seen it. And you’ve got a climate crisis that is real and this President pretends it doesn’t exist. You look out there at this generation from millennials down to Generation Z, they’ve been through hell. They had 9/11. Then they had The Great Recession that we inherited in our administration. Now they have this and a lot of their plans got put on hold. They’re graduating from school without graduations. They’re not having their, I know it sounds silly, but it matters, their proms, their graduation ceremonies, but more importantly, the jobs they thought they were going to go to that they’ve spent all this time and money to get through. I mean, think of the people, all the debt that exists that people borrowed to get to and through school. I don’t think any family that has an income less than $125,000 should have to pay for a four year public state college education and or for community college.
Kamala Harris: (13:19)
You have that also in our plan for HBCUs.
Joe Biden: (13:24)
Yes. Well, we’re going to give $70 billion to HBCUs. You went to one of the greatest-
Kamala Harris: (13:30)
I am a very proud graduate of an HBCU, Howard University. But we have so many incredible HBCUs. One of the things about the plan, also, is it really is about supporting education after high school, and then the individual can decide what that education will be. And for some it will be a four year college. For some it will be a community college. For some it will be [crosstalk 00:13:55] –
Joe Biden: (13:54)
An apprentice program.
Kamala Harris: (13:56)
Right. And that’s the great thing. It’s about education after high school, and then all of those tracks being available based on what a student wants to do, but supporting that.
Joe Biden: (14:07)
Right now, six out of 10 jobs in America require more than a high school degree. Jill has a great expression. Any country that out-educates us it’s going to out-compete us.
Kamala Harris: (14:22)
Joe Biden: (14:23)
This is about the future. This is the United States of America. Anytime we’ve ever set our mind to something, we’ve never failed, as long as we’ve done it together.
Kamala Harris: (14:33)
Joe Biden: (14:33)
And this constant effort to split us just seems to me to be so counterproductive for us.
Kamala Harris: (14:39)
Joe Biden: (14:40)
Everybody thinks that we’ve led the world because we’re the most powerful nation in the world. And it’s true. We are. But we’ve not led by the example of our power. It’s been the power of our example.
Kamala Harris: (14:55)
Joe Biden: (14:56)
I really believe that the vast majority of American people are truly decent.
Kamala Harris: (15:03)
Joe Biden: (15:03)
I think they’re angry right now. I think they’re fed up. I think they’re looking for some authenticity and some honesty.
Kamala Harris: (15:12)
We’re better than this.
Joe Biden: (15:14)
We are. I’m really excited you’re willing to do this with me.
Kamala Harris: (15:17)
I am very excited about it. We’re going to get this done, Joe.
Joe Biden: (15:20)
No, I think we are. I think the country is… It’s going to be hard, but I think they’re going to be with us.
Kamala Harris: (15:25)
I do too.
Joe Biden: (15:26)
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris: A Socially Distanced Conversation
Our nation is at an inflection point. Kamala Harris and I sat down to discuss what brought us to this moment — and how we move forward and build back better than before.Posted by Joe Biden on Tuesday, September 1, 2020