Please note: This is a rush transcript that may not be in its final form, and may be updated.
ABC NEWS CHIEF ANCHOR GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Good evening. From the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, our town hall with Joe Biden starts right now.
And welcome to our town hall with Joe Biden.
Mr. Vice President, welcome to you.
JOE BIDEN: Good to be with you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we’re here with a group of Pennsylvania voters. You can see, they are all appropriately socially distanced tonight.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And they’re 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 as we can tonight.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we’re going to start with Nicholas Feden. He’s from Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. It’s close to you here in Philadelphia.
STEPHANOPOULOS: — you’re a Democrat?
NICK FEDEN: I am 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 is 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?
BIDEN: Well, first of all, going back, the fact is that we — 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. I suggested we should be seeking, and I didn’t hold public office, I was a former vice president, I suggested we, in fact, ask — to have access to the source of the problem.
And to 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.
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.
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 was passed a long time ago that allows the president to go into a business and say, stop making this and start making that, and 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. It’s all going to — when the heat — when summer comes, it’s all going to go away like a miracle. He’s still saying those things.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Vice President, before you go to the future, can I follow back on looking back for 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 —
BIDEN: Not back then.
STEPHANOPOULOS: In January or February? Right.
BIDEN: No, in January and 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 and talked about — but you got — 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, you know? 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, 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 the presidential responsibility to lead. And he didn’t do that. 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 be done.
And his barometer of success of the economy is the market. Thirdly, what we didn’t do is the president had an opportunity to open and allow schools and businesses to stay open if he — they got the kind of help they needed.
So the Congress passed a couple trillion dollars worth of help and what happened was most of that money — significant portion of that money went to the very wealthiest corporations in the country, didn’t get to the mom and pop stores.
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 tranche of — the first round of money for unemployment — enhanced unemployment passed — went — 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 and Democrats together.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s look forward a little bit. You said that you would lock down the economy only if the scientist said it was necessary.
BIDEN: But that wasn’t the context. They said would I lock down the — the economy is science said so. I said I’d follow science. What I — but I don’t think there’s a need to lock down.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But — yes, but I want to press you on that point there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You — you’ve been in the Oval Office for eight years with President Obama. He would always say that only the — only the hard to solve problems …
… said what is most likely to happen is the scientist will disagree. The scientist 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 contain the pandemic without crushing the economy?
BIDEN: Well, you can contain the pandemic by being rational and not trust the 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, that’s why people aren’t going anyway when they’re open.
And say because you have social distancing and 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 of 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. You know we initially said — the government initially said they’re going to provide masks for every student and every teacher.
And then they said no, no, no, no; FEMA said that — the president or whomever said no, no that’s not a national emergency. Not a national emergency. We need fewer — 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’ve let — 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 was a United States senator pushing this.
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 percent of the world’s population, we have 20 percent 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 a mask and so on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’re getting some other questions on COVID.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The next one comes from Kelly Leigh.
BIDEN: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: She’s from Philadelphia, Republican. Voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Undecided now.
KELLY LEIGH: I did.
BIDEN: Hey, Kelly, how are you?
LEIGH: Hi, Mr. Biden. My question is about the coronavirus vaccine or potential. 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 scientist that presumably we all trust.
So my question for you is if a vaccine were approved by — 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.
BIDEN: 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, it’s going to happen and so on. The point is that if the scientist — if the body of science is saying that this is what is ready to be done and they’re — it’s been tested and they’ve gone through the three phases; yes, I would take it and I’d encourage people to take it.
But President Trump says things like, you know, everything from this crazy stuff he’s walking away from now, inject bleach in your arm and that’s going to work. No, I’m not being a bit — I’m not being facetious though. I mean he actually said these things. And now Regeneron is the answer. That’s going to cure everything.
There’s 500,000 doses. We got a couple — you know, we have a — more than a few million people.
You know, and so — and most of the — if you notice, most of the companies who are developing these vaccines are working. They’re making real progress.
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. And 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 — which is a useful antidote — not antidote — a useful tool.
But what’s happening is, there is no plan to figure out how to distribute it, how many — we have 500,000 vials of it. 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 have not seen it yet, nor the docs that I talk to have seen it — there should be a plan, when we have the vaccine, how do we distribute it?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And once we get it, if it is safe, if it is effective, will you mandate its use?
BIDEN: The answer is, depending on how clear there’s — vaccines, they say, have a very positive impact, and they are going to affect positively 85 percent of the American public.
There’s others that say, this vaccine is really the key. This is — 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. That would depend on.
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.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How could you enforce that?
BIDEN: Well, you couldn’t. That’s the problem, just like can’t enforce — you can’t enforce measles. You can’t come to school until you have a measles shot. You can’t.
But you can’t say, everyone has to do this. But you would — 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.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And if they don’t, fine?
BIDEN: If they don’t, no, not fine.
Then I go to every governor — I go to every mayor, I go to every councilman, I go to every local official, say, mandate the mask, man — 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.
BIDEN: 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. And I left it in the — in my dressing room — the dressing room — the room I was in before I got here.
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 we haven’t — 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.
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 — and he held up a mask — you wear this mask, you will save more lives between now and the end of the year than if we had a vaccine, than if we had a vaccine.
It is 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 100,000 lives.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And avoid lockdowns?
BIDEN: And avoid lockdown, yes.
You don’t have to lock down if you are wearing the mask.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s get a question on the economy.
BIDEN: Thank you.
I hope I answered your question.
STEPHANOPOULOS: … from Canonsburg, Pennsylvania — it’s a suburb of Pittsburgh — Republican.
BIDEN: I know it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Voted for President Trump.
ANTHONY J. ARGIRAKIS: 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…
BIDEN: That’s right.
ARGIRAKIS: … 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?
BIDEN: I carry this card with me.
When I said the tax — the Trump tax cuts, about $ 1.3 trillion of the $ 2 trillion in his tax cuts went to the top one-tenth of 1 percent. That’s what I’m talking about eliminating, not all the tax cuts that are out there.
And, by the way, if you just take a look, we reduced the corporate tax rate from 35 percent and Democrats and Republicans who were in office thought it should come down to 28 percent. He reduced it to 21 percent.
You have 91 out of every — of the Fortune 500 companies not paying a single solitary penny. If you raise the corporate taxes back to 28 percent, which is a fair tax, you’d raise $ 1 trillion 300 billion by that one act.
If you made sure that people making over $ 400 grand pay what they did in the Bush Administration, 39.6 percent, you would raise another — this goes up to, let me get to the exact number here. About another $ 200– excuse me. $ 92 billion.
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 healthcare, by making sure you’re in a situation where you’re able to send your kind to school, and if you have a student debt, you can deal with it. Making sure that your home, that you can pay your mortgage.
We have 29 million people right now . . .
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Vice President, let me press you on that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: 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? Another . . .
STEPHANOPOULOS: . . . 900,000 people . . .
BIDEN: That’s a great question.
Moody’s did an 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, and I’ll — the GDP will grow by a trillion dollars more than it would under Trump, and seven million more jobs than under Trump’
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’ve got the opposite.
You had, last year, during this pandemic, you had the wealthiest billionaires in the world, and the nation, they made another $ 700 billion. Seven hundred billion dollars.
He talks about a V-shaped recovery. It’s a K-shaped recovery. If you’re on the top, you’re going to do very well. And the other things I’m — and if you’re on the bottom or if you’re in the middle or the bottom, your income is coming down. You’re not getting a raise. I should — I don’t know what you’re doing. You may get a raise.
Hope you’re a billionaire, I — but, 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 into green infrastructure. We’re going to put 500,000 charging stations on new highways we’re building, and old 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 has — spends about $ 600 billion a year on government contracts, everything from making sure they have aircraft carriers to automobile fleets for the — in the United States.
If you make — make — and we can — 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, we — it’s estimated we’re going to create somewhere between another 4 million and 6 million jobs just by doing that.
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 percent tax increase on your– on the product.
If you make it in America and you bring it back, you get a 10 percent growth. If you bring back a company and you’re going to open up an old facility, you get a 10 percent tax credit for all you invested. That actually works, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, there’s not going to be any delay on the tax increases.
BIDEN: No, well, I’ve got to get the votes. I got to get the votes. That’s why — you know, the one thing that I — 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 a democracy. We need consensus.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ve got to take a quick break. We’ll be right back.
BIDEN: I hope I answered your question.
ANNOUNCER: From the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, here again, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: 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.
BIDEN: Don’t jump, Cedric. You look like you’re way up there.
CEDRIC HUMPHREY: I’ll be OK. Thank you, George. And good evening, Former Vice President Biden.
BIDEN: Good evening.
HUMPHREY: 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 not protect them?
BIDEN: Well, I’d said, 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.
And 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, that I’ve demonstrated I care about my whole career. One is in addition to dealing with a criminal justice system to make it fair 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 and it entails everything from early education; that’s why I’m supporting making sure that when you have Title One Schools as you know schools with the least tax base to be able to support their schools, I increased the funding for 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.
Number two, every three and four and five-year-old will go to school; school not daycare, school. And 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’ve not heard as many words spoken, etc., etc.
What happens is that the studies show that 58 percent will increase by 58 percent their chance of going all through 12 years of school and going through successfully. We’ll also provide for the ability to bring in social workers and school psychologists. We have one school psychologist in America now for every 1507 kids; it should be one to 500, not just in schools that are poor but in all schools because we learn that for example drug abuse doesn’t cause mental illness; mental illness cause drug abuse. But failure to get hold of people and deal with their anxieties.
In addition to that I’d provide for $ 70 billion for HBCUs 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 a cybersecurity laboratory. The federal government spends billions of dollars a year on universities because they are the best kept secret or 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’s going to help a great deal.
In addition to that if you’re a young man about to graduate and you’ve graduated from school and you want to own your first home and you’re, well it’s awful hard to get the money and depending on the background, excuse me, your economic background is to get a downpayment so we’re going to guarantee first-time home buyers a $ 15,000 downpayment for first-time home buyers.
In addition to that, what 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, we took $ 1,500,000,000 and we invested it in all the SBAs around the country, in the state SBAs, Small Business Associations and that generated, $ 30 billion came off the sideline because if you have a guarantee of $ 200,000 for your new startup enterprise, you’re an entrepreneur, you’re going to be able to attract if it’s government money, there’s a guarantee you’ll be to attract another $ 100,000. It generated $ 30 billion.
Now I’m changing that program and I’ll get this done without much trouble I believe in the Congress from $ 1.5 billion to 30 billion. That’ll take $ 300 billion off the sideline and grow because you know and for example if you in fact and I were the same age and we split our differences and 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 percent 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 “redlining.” We can change so much and we can do so much to change the circumstances to give people a real opportunity —
I said did you hear what you needed to hear?
HUMPHREY: I think so.
BIDEN: Well there’s a lot more if you want to, if you’re going to hang out afterwards I’ll tell you more.
BIDEN: But I really mean it. It is the key. Look, this is the way every other, how do most, like my dad, he lost his job up in Scranton and it took him three years to be able — he moved down to Delaware to Claymont (inaudible), a little steel town. And sent us home to our grandpop to live with him.
We finally got back, we lived in apartments. Became Section 8 housing much later, it wasn’t — 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 get us to get to school, those kinds of things.
It’s about accumulating wealth. And it’s very — you’re behind an eight ball. The vast majority of people of color are behind an eight ball.
And it’s the same way what’s going on now with all this money that’s been voted.
What’s happened? You got the bank, if you’re a Black business man, and I — and the president fired the only inspector general to oversee all this help coming from the congress. And what happens?
You go in and they say oh, 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.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Want to get another question in here from Angelica Politarhos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m sorry.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No, not at all. Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania.
ANGELICA POLITARHOS: Hi.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Republican who voted for President Trump last time.
POLITARHOS: 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 in 1994 which showed prejudice against minorities? Where do you stand today on that?
BIDEN: 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 it didn’t — 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 it. 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 is in a state prison not in a federal prison because they built more prisons.
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 wipe out — we should decriminalize marijuana, wipe out the record so you can actually say in honesty have you ever arrested 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 Arlen Specter, who you may remember —
BIDEN: — I wrote the Second Chance Act.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But in the meantime, an awful lot of people were jailed for minor drug crimes after the (inaudible).
BIDEN: Exactly right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Was it a mistake to support it?
BIDEN: Yes, it was. But here’s where the mistake came. 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 chairman of the judiciary committee, I took the ten 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, it’s the first time you commit a robbery, how long would you go to jail on average, if you’re a white man, how long?
Black man would go to jail on average 13 years, white man, two years. I go down the list of every single crime.
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 had to serve between one and three years. It ended up becoming much lower. Black folks went to jail a lot less than they would have before. But it was a mistake.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask another follow up on the crime bill. It also funded 100,000 police —
STEPHANOPOULOS: Back in 1994. You’ve often said that more cops clearly mean less crime. Do you still believe that?
BIDEN: 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 till Bush got elected, what happened? Violent crime actually went down precipitous.
Remember the significant rise in violent crime that was occurring 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 a vehicle, they had to get out of their cars, they had to introduce themselves to — who owned the local liquor store, who owned the local grocery store, who was the woman on the corner.
And what they would do, George, that they’d actually go and give people their phone numbers. The cop would give the phone number.
So, if Nelly Smith was on the second floor where drug deals took place and things happened below her, she — I mean, her apartment, she could call and say, it’s Nelly and there’s something going on here and they’d never reveal it was her, because they know if she knew that, in fact, they reported, they would never report. She — they never report.
So, it actually started to come down. What happened? They eliminated the funding for community policing.
Community policing doesn’t mean more people coming in in up-armored Humvees and swarming like that.
When they did, it turned out by the time we got to the late ’90s, the crime had come down so much, and the mayors and everybody asked the question, where do you want me to spend the money? They say, well, only 1 percent thought violent crime was a problem. It was as high as 22 percent.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Right now, we have a systemic problem. How do you get the kind of policing, prevent the kind of policing —
BIDEN: You have to change the way in which they put — 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, you know, 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.
BIDEN: They don’t like it.
POLITARHOS: That’s correct.
BIDEN: 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 do — 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 is — needs to be tried, it’s not the prosecutor in the community, in the district or there, you’ve got to go outside the community to get another prosecutor to come in and handle the crime.
There’s a lot of things we’ve learned and it takes time, but we can do this. You can ban chokeholds, you can — but — 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 certain psychological tests.
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, those — some of those 911 calls, to de-escalate the circumstance, to deal with talking them down.
But we can’t — cops are kind of like schoolteachers now. You know, schoolteacher has to know everything from what — how — how to handle hunger in a household, as well as how to teach you how to read. Well, cops 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.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We got to take another quick break. We’ll be right back.
BIDEN: I don’t know if I answered your question but —
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the Supreme Court is our next topic. The questioner, Nathan Osburn, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Democrat.
NATHAN OSBURN: Hi, George and Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: Hi, Nathan.
OSBURN: Our country’s first Supreme Court gave its first ruling 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’s 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 insure more long term balance and stability? And what do you say to LBGTQ Americans and others who are very worried right now about erosions of their rights and our democracy as a whole?
BIDEN: Well, let me start on 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 — I — you know be in — I get in late at night from — I’ve been going around the country, Florida and anyway.
And — but my reading online what the — what the judge said was she didn’t answer very many questions at all. And I don’t even think she’s laid out much of a judicial philosophy, in terms of the basis upon which she thinks, are their unenumerated rights in the Constitution and — 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.
Number two, I think that, also, health care 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 we have already — 10 million people have already lost their insurance from their employer and wants to take 20 million people out of the system as well, plus 100 million people with preexisting 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 at teaching constitutional law for 21 years and the separation of powers.
The Constitution implies that the way the people have a right to determine who is going to be on the court is how they vote for their senators and their president, which — seek the advice and consent of the Senate and…
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the president is president for all four years, isn’t he?
BIDEN: No, he is.
But, once an election begins, by implication, it is inconsistent with the constitutional principles, in my view. You will get disagreement among scholars on this, but I believe it’s inconsistent, when over well — millions of people have already voted, to put someone on the court.
I think it should be — should have been held until the next — this election is over, see what the makeup of the Senate is going to be. If the president won this — wins this election, he should be able to…
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about that question of expanding the court?
Here is 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?
BIDEN: What is — the nomination of — 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 who 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 pack — court packing, because I think it just generates what will happen every — whoever wins, it just keeps moving in a way that is inconsistent with what is going to be manageable…
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you are still not a fan?
BIDEN: Well, I’m not a fan.
I would then say, 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 alternatives as well.
STEPHANOPOULOS: What does that mean, how it’s handled? How will that determine…
BIDEN: Well, for example, if 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 — you know, I don’t know anybody who has gone on the floor and just — and that’s been a controversial justice, in terms of making — fundamentally altering the makeup of the court, that’s gone through in a day, kind of thing.
It depends on how much they rush this.
And you think about it, George, here you have got a lot of people not being 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.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, right now, it looks like they’re going to have a vote around Halloween.
So, if they vote on it before the election…
BIDEN: That’s an appropriate day.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If they vote on it before the election, you are open to expanding the court?
BIDEN: I’m open to considering what happens from that point on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you have said so many times during the campaign, all through the course of your career, it’s important to level with the American people.
BIDEN: It is, but, George, if I — if I say — 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.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But don’t voters have a right to know where you stand?
BIDEN: They do have a right to know where I stand. And they will have a right to know where I stand before they vote.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you will come out with a clear position before Election Day?
BIDEN: 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, thinks — reflects your general view on constitutional interpretation.
And vote for a president who you think is more in line with you. And if you oppose the position that I — I would not have appointed her. But if you oppose my position, vote for Trump. Vote for a Republican who shares that view.
But that’s your opportunity to get involved in lifetime appointments that a — presidents come and go. Justices stay and stay and stay.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We have a question from a Republican, Andrew Lewis, I would — I 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.
BIDEN: And John’s writing in for me, by the way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know that.
ANDREW LEWIS: Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: I’m sorry.
LEWIS: Mr. Vice President, my father, Drew Lewis, served as Secretary of Transportation under President Ronald Reagan in his first term.
BIDEN: Oh, yes. I’ll be darned.
LEWIS: 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?
BIDEN: And as written by a fellow who won the Pulitzer Prize for a book he wrote about the presidency, he said, “You know, I doubt whether Biden is really Irish. He doesn’t hold a grudge.”
In politics, grudges don’t work. They’re not — 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 the Judiciary, you got a lot of things done. You were able to cross the aisle. Well, the days have changed, and when you were vice president you got a lot done. But it can’t happen any ore.”
It can. We’ve 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 other men and women’s motives. You can question their judgment, but not their motive.
Well, we badly need an infrastructure bill. Well, what happens? I stand up and I say, “You know, we need an infrastructure bill, Senator. But I’ll tell you what, you’re in the pocket of the cement industry. But let’s see what we can do.” We can’t get anywhere, and 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, the first thing — and not a joke, and you can ask, if they’d tell you, your dad’s old friends on 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.” Because there are 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 — gets taken away. There’s going to be — I promise you– between four and eight Republican senators who are willing — they’re going to be willing to move on things where they’re bipartisan consensus.
Last example I’ll give. You know, after we — the — after Trump had been elected, named the next president, wasn’t sworn in yet, I’d been working on a thing called the Cure — a bill relating to cancer cures. OK. And it was called the Cancer Moon Shot. And I worked 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 in NIH, and particularly cancer — 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 know an exact number. 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 it passed, 396 votes in the House and our 94 votes in the Senate. And at the end of the day, because it was — had to do with the Biden Cancer Moon Shot I’d been working on, Mitch McConnell — Mitch McConnell stood up, and I was the presiding officer, and moved to name the bill after my deceased son Beau who had just died.
So, there is — there is — there are ways to bring this together.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the question of political accountability? Is there some tension between that and bringing people together?
You know, 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?
BIDEN: 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 are not my lawyers. They are not my personal lawyers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you’re not going to rule it in or rule it out?
BIDEN: I’m not going to rule it in or out. 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 judgment.
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 (inaudible) Democratic president, go find that guy and prosecute him. You ever hear that? Or, by the way, I’m being sued because a woman’s 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?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Time to take another break. We’ll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: From the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, here again George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: 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, a 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: Correct. Greetings Former Vice President Biden.
ELLISON: Thank you. (Inaudible) In a 2012 report of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute of Politics fracking was discussed and its possible implications for the waterways for 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?
BIDEN: Well first of all I make it clear, I do not propose banning fracking. I think you have to make sure the fracking is in fact not admitting methane or polluting the well or dealing with what can be small earthquakes and 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 managed the Recovery Act and I was able to invest billions of dollars into bringing down the cost of the cost per BTU of wind and solar so now it’s cheaper than coal and it’s cheaper than oil right now and it has great, great promise.
And it’s also the fastest-growing employer in the energy industry 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 all the millions of 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 it. And I think we’re going to be able to move in a direction by the year 2035 we’ll be able to have net zero emissions of carbon from the creation of energy, energy creation. That’s so we can move it by dealing with those and every time we talk about global warming or the environment, the president thinks of you know it’s a joke and I think it’s jobs.
Because what we’re going to have happen is you’ll be able to see now as I started to say before, I as president am going to invest that $ 600 billion 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 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 that has not been mastered yet. I met a lot of people in Silicon Valley; the battery technology’s increasing significantly so you’re going to be able to have for example solar on your home and a battery the size, 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. 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 at good union wages, prevailing wages.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me stick on fracking for a second.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Now 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 Sean Stephanie was quoted in the New York Times today saying, “You can’t have it both ways,” he says, “You can’t meet your goal to end fossil fuels without ending fracking,” what do you say to people like Sean who doubt your denial because they think you want to keep that promise —
BIDEN: I’m telling the Boilermakers overwhelmingly endorseme me, OK, so the Boilermakers Union has endorsed me because I sat down with them and went into great detail earlier to show their leadership exactly what I would do, number one. Number two, what I would do is I would stop making — I would stop giving tax breaks and subsidizing oil.
We don’t need to subsidize oil any longer, number one. We should stop that. It’d save billions of dollars overtime. 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.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So are you for it or against it? You say you’re not for it but in your website it says you call it a crucial framework, the Green New Deal.
BIDEN: My deals 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 a deep root of 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 they can be — and take out the methane and use it as fertilizer and make a lot of money doing it. 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 and all the carbon emitted on a yearly basis from the United States America all vehicles and all names. 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, create estimated (inaudible) made Wall Street one million automobile jobs. But we’re lagging because we’re not investing. We’re not doing any of the research.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Got to take another quick break. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Welcome back to our town hall with former Vice President Joe Biden.
The next question comes from Mark Hoffman, Center Valley, Pennsylvania, a conservative who voted for Trump in 2016.
MARK HOFFMAN: Welcome to Pennsylvania, Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: Good to be back home. I’m from Pennsylvania.
HOFFMAN: Yes, I know. Scranton, right?
HOFFMAN: So, peace is 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 deserve some credit?
BIDEN: A little, 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 are — our go it alone, our — you know, 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 — 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 — you know, I would say we find ourselves less secure than we’ve been.
I do compliment the president on the deal with Israel recently, but, you know, if you take a look, we’re not very well trusted around the world. When 17 major nations of the world were asked who they trust more, who is a better leader, and the president came in behind both — a national survey, international survey — both behind Putin as well as Xi.
And look what Putin is doing. You know, you have Americans — bounties on American military’s heads in Afghanistan. They have more people there now, by the way, than when I left — when we left, in Afghanistan.
And we find ourselves in a situation where he spoke to Putin six times, hasn’t said a word to him. And NATO is in the risk of beginning to crack because they don’t doubt — they doubt our — 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, this president embraces all the thugs in the world.
I mean, he’s best friends with the leader of North Korea, sending love letters. He doesn’t take on Putin in any way, and he — he’s just — he’s learned the art of the steal from the art of the deal by Xi and China.
So, I — I would respectfully suggest — no, there is no plan. No coherent plan for foreign policy.
BIDEN: You know, we’ve always ruled — 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 when he goes to the — literally, not figuratively when he goes to the United Nations.
I mean it’s not — it’s not about the president per se, it’s about the nation and the lack of respect that’s showing to us.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get one more question this segment and it comes from Mieke Haeck. She’s from state college Pennsylvania. This is your first presidential election that you’re voting.
MIEKE HAECK: It is.
BIDEN: Hi, Mieke, how are you?
HAECK: 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 insure that the lives and rights of LGBTQ people are protected under U.S. law?
BIDEN: I will flat out just change the law. Every — 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 — 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. And these two men, 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.
And these two men, well dressed, leaned up and hugged one another and kissed one another. And I’m getting out of the car at the light and I turn to my dad. My dad looked at me and said Joey, it’s simple. They love each other.
The idea that an 8-year-old child or a 10-year-old child decides, you know I decided I want to be transgender. That’s what I think I’d like to be. It would 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. And I think it’s up now to 17, don’t hold me to that number. But it’s — it’s higher now?
BIDEN: 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 …
BIDEN: … one, your daughter — that your other daughter has a right to be and do. None, zero. And by the way, my son Bo, passed away; he was the attorney general in the state of Delaware. He was the guy who got the first transgender passed in the state of Delaware and because of a young man who became a woman who worked for him in the attorney general offices.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ve got one more segment coming up. Thank you.
BIDEN: And I’m proud of that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ll be right back
ANNOUNCER: “The Vice President and the People,” a special edition of “20/20.”
Here again, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: 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: 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?
BIDEN: Well, to be very honest with you, I think that’s very hard.
He is not — things have not lent 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.
So — but what I will do, I will — hopefully, I will go back to being a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and making the case that I have been — made and at the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware, focusing on — on these same issues relating to what constitutes decency and honor in this country.
It’s just the thing that got me involved in public life to begin with. As a kid, I had moved from Scranton, where there were no African-Americans, and moved down to Claymont, Delaware. And, in Delaware, we have the eighth 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 don’t mean I — 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 is 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. And it’s what makes us — this is — 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. Unless we are able to treat people equally, we’re — 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 that happen. And I’ll tell you one thing. If I’m elected president, you will not hear my race-baiting and you’ll not hear me dividing you. I’m (inaudible) trying to unify. And unify with — bring people together.
When I said I was running because I wanted to unify the country, people said, “Well, there are the old days.” Well, we’d better be able to do it again.
BIDEN: We’d better be able to do it again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Vice President, if you lose, what will that say to you about where America is today?
BIDEN: Well, it could say that I’m a lousy candidate, and I didn’t do a good job. But I think — I hope . . .
BIDEN: . . . 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, you know, the President, in my view, with all due respect, it’s been divide and conquer, the way he does better if he splits us and where there’s division.
And I think people need hope. I think — look, George, I’ve never been more optimistic of the prospects 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, you know, I’m going to be — I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I’m going to be an American president. I’m going to take care of those that voted against me as well as those who voted for me, for real. That’s what presidents do. We’ve got to heal this nation, because we have the greatest opportunity of any country in the world to own the 21st century. And we can’t do it divided.
STEPHANOPOULOS: One more break. We’ll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: 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?
BIDEN: Yes. By the way, before I came up here, I took another test, I’ve been taking it every day, the deep test, you know, the one, they go in both. And — because I wanted to be able to — if I had not passed that test, I didn’t want to come here and not — expose anybody. And I just think it’s — it’s just decency to be able to determine whether or not you are — you’re clear.
And it’s not — I’m less concerned about me, but then the people — the guys with the cameras, the people working on the — 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. You know a virtual debate. Our town hall, he didn’t want to do that. That — I didn’t set those rules. The commission set the rules.
So, whatever rules they set, I and — 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.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you expect to be there?
BIDEN: I expect to be there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Vice president, thank you for your time tonight. Thank you to all the questioners here. It was really terrific questions. I think you did a service to our democracy tonight. Thank you very much.