Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden told NBC News’ “Meet The Press” on Sunday that it was “too harsh” to blame President Donald Trump for Americans who have died from COVID-19.
“Your campaign put out – in a critique of President Trump, and says, ‘If he doesn’t do these things he could cost lives,'” NBC News host Chuck Todd said. “Do you think there’s already – do you think there is blood on the president’s hands considering the slow response? Or is that too harsh of a criticism?”
“I think that’s a little too harsh,” Biden responded. “I think what’s happening is that failure to, as I watched a prelim to your show where someone said, made the phrase, used the phrase that the president just thinks out loud. He should stop thinking out loud and start thinking deeply.”
“He should start listening to the scientists before he speaks,” Biden continued. “He should listen to the health experts. He should listen to his economists.”
Chuck Todd: “Do you think there is blood on the president’s hands considering the slow response?”
Biden: “I think that’s a little too harsh” pic.twitter.com/T0olK7Ctcu
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) March 29, 2020
CHUCK TODD: Welcome back. Just consider all that’s happened since the last time we had former Vice President Joe Biden on Meet the Press, back way back on March 1st. Biden dominated the Super Tuesday primaries and beyond. He won 17 states and basically wrapped up the Democratic nomination. More than 2,000 Americans though have died from the Coronavirus. 3.3 million people filed for first-time unemployment claims. And the government just had to pass a $2 trillion plus rescue package. But throughout the Coronavirus pandemic Biden has struggled to make his voice heard. And he joins me now from his home studio in Wilmington, Delaware. Mr. Vice President from home studio to home studio. Welcome to one of the more odder appearances I think these days of Meet the Press.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Agree.
CHUCK TODD: Thanks for coming on.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Thanks for having me.
CHUCK TODD: Let me start with a simple question here. Let’s set aside President Trump’s rhetoric. Is there an action he has not taken that you would be taking right now if you were president?
JOE BIDEN: Yeah, I’d be doing two things at least. One, I would make sure that he uses the Defense Production Act, not only to deal with the issue of whether or not there are ventilators but I would do the same thing for mask and gowns and masks and all — and shields. All the things that our first responders and our doctors and nurses need. Why are we waiting? We know they’re needed. They’re going to be increasingly needed. You just heard the president spokesperson talk about the increasing need. And so I would be moving rapidly. I’d also be talking about what the next stage of the funding we’re going to need. We’ve gone through three stages. That’s not going to be enough to get us all the way through this. There’s a number of things I’d be doing, Chuck, that are not being done right now.
CHUCK TODD: It’s interesting, one of the things that you have said, the scientists you’ve spoken to have indicated that realistically we’re looking at June at the earliest to even think about opening back up. That’s a stark difference than the warnings we’re getting. You’re certainly hearing — scientists will say that, an occasional governor will say that. Dr. Fauci might say that. But you don’t hear a consistent message nationally. How would you convey that to the American people, basically telling them another 60 days of home confinement? That’s a lot to ask of the American public.
JOE BIDEN: Well, look, the American public is really strong and tough. The first thing we should do is listen to the scientists. Secondly, we should tell them the truth, the unvarnished truth. The American people have never shied away from being able to deal with the truth. The worst thing you can do is raise false expectations and then watch them get dashed. Then they begin to lose confidence in their leadership. So we should just tell the truth as best we know it. As best the scientists know it. We should let them speak. And we should be doing all in our power right now to deal with being able to confine the spread of this disease. For example, we need significantly more testing kits across America. They should be — we should be rushing the supply of those all over the country. It’s gotten better. It’s gotten better. But look at what’s happening here. You have nurses showing up wearing garbage bags as — over their bodies as protection. I mean, we need to get them the help they need right away. And we know there’s going to be more need for not just ventilators but ICU units. There’s going to be more need for beds, et cetera. We should be telling the American people the truth. They’re strong. They’ll get through it. They’ve never let their country down, never, ever, ever.
CHUCK TODD: This is a tough time for you. You’ve been around government a long time. And you know there’s a fine line between constructive criticism and backseat driving that can be disruptive. What do you believe that line is for you when it comes to critiquing President Trump right now?
JOE BIDEN: I think the line for me is, again, to tell the truth. For example, I didn’t believe it to be criticism, just a straightforward response. I argued several weeks ago we should be using the Defense Production Act. It was there. I’ve been arguing for it for some time. If I see something that’s not happening I think it’s my obligation to step up and say, “This is what we should be doing.” Rather than — look, the Coronavirus is not the president’s fault. But the slow response, the failure to get going right away, the inability to do the things that needed to be done quickly, they are things that are — they can’t continue. We’re going to go through another phase of this. And we have to be ahead of the curve, not behind the curve like we were last time.
CHUCK TODD: Your campaign put out — in a critique of President Trump and says, “If he doesn’t do these things he could cost lives.” Do you think there’s already — do you think there is blood on the president’s hands considering the slow response? Or is that too harsh of a criticism?
JOE BIDEN: I think that’s a little too harsh. I think what’s happening is that failure to, as I watched a prelim to your show where someone said, made the phrase, used the phrase that the president just thinks out loud. He should stop thinking out loud and start thinking deeply. He should start listening to the scientists before he speaks. He should listen to the health experts. He should listen to his economists. He should, for example, the United States Congress passed a significant piece of legislation to help deal with the incredible financial crunch that’s going to affect working families and all families, the whole economy. So we should be right now thinking about how do we get those small business loans out the door? Because right now you’re not — that’s not the strong point of banks, focusing on getting small business loans out. That’s for most of the employees. You should be focusing on making sure we’re in a situation where we’re able to see to it that unemployment benefits can get to people. What’s the IRS doing to get those $1,200 checks to people, et cetera? That’s where the focus should be. And it should be laser-focus.
CHUCK TODD: Would you lift sanctions on Iran temporarily during this pandemic?
JOE BIDEN: I don’t have enough information about the situation in Iran right now. And I”m not sure there’s any evidence that — there’s a lot of speculation from my foreign policy team that they’re in real trouble and they’re lying. But I would need more information to make that judgment. I don’t have the national security —
CHUCK TODD: A couple of things —
JOE BIDEN: — information available.
CHUCK TODD: — a couple things about the campaign itself. Number one, do you think we have to conduct an all-mail ballot election come the fall given the likelihood this comes back in the fall?
JOE BIDEN: We may get there, Chuck. I don’t want to go that far ahead. But that is possible. I think we should be looking to all-mail ballots across the board to begin with because it’s an easier way for people to vote. But whether or not that’s required across the board in all 50 states and territories, I’m not sure yet. I think we can make that. But we should be beginning to plan that in each of our states. I think you have — anyway, there’s some legislation in the Senate that suggests that. I think it’s worth looking at quickly.
CHUCK TODD: Is there a point where Bernie Sanders is no longer playing a productive role in this Democratic primary?
JOE BIDEN: Well, look, Bernie Sanders has poured his heart and soul into this campaign. He has moved the ball along on a number of issues that relate to what government’s responsibilities are. And I think it’s up to Bernie to make the judgment whether or not he should stay in the race or not stay in the race. That’s not my judgment to make for him. But I think he’s had a real impact. He’s brought a lot of people into the process that weren’t in it before. And so I think it’s a tough decision for Bernie to make.
CHUCK TODD: You had said you hope to improve your job rating — your rating of the president. What do you make of the fact that the president’s job rating has bumped up during this crisis?
JOE BIDEN: Well, I think, you know, I think that’s a typical American response. In every single crisis we’ve had that I’ve been around going back to Jimmy Carter and the hostages, all the way through to this moment, president’s ratings have always gone up in a crisis. But you know that old expression, the proof of the, you know, is going to be in pudding. What’s it going to look like? I hope we’re in a situation going into the fall where this is under control, where we’ve done all the right things and things are beginning to move. And the president is listening to the scientists, as I said, and stopping the personal attacks on, on people who disagree with him. Let’s get away from the childishness of this and focus on the problem.
CHUCK TODD: Do you feel a little bit frustrated and powerless right now?
JOE BIDEN: No, you know, it’s interesting. I, you know, we have a makeshift studio here in my basement. I guess like you’re doing it now as well. But the point is that I was surprised to find out just the events we did this past week, I mean beginning last Monday, over 20 million people have viewed them and listened.
CHUCK TODD: Ok.
JOE BIDEN So I guess it’s just a different way of learning how to try to communicate with people, what you’re concerned about and what you would do if you were in the situation, the present situation.
CHUCK TODD: All right.
JOE BIDEN: There’s some frustrations.
CHUCK TODD: Mr. Vice President, from your home studio I can imagine, especially somebody who loves to hug his grandkids, I’m sure that’s very frustrating as well. Mr. Vice President —
JOE BIDEN: Well, grandkids still come over —
CHUCK TODD: — stay healthy, stay safe.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: — and stand outside the house and wave.
CHUCK TODD: Thank you. Yeah.
FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Thank you.
CHUCK TODD: Nice. Excellent to hear. Thank you. When we come back, a week of mixed messages from President Trump. Panel is next.