18.05.2022

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris gave their first joint interview as the Democratic ticket

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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, have indicated how they would govern together as “partners” if they win the election this November against Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

In their first joint interview together as a ticket, Mr Biden and Ms Harris expressed their dismay at Mr Trump’s record on coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter movement, dodged questions about Ms Harris’ criticism of Mr Biden during the Democratic primaries last year, and laughed off Mr Trump’s personal insults of both of them.

Here are three takeaways from the Democratic ticket’s interview with ABC News on Sunday:

1. Biden and Harris won’t be dragged down into Trump’s war of insults

Mr Biden and Ms Harris did not appear fazed when confronted with questions about the president’s war of words and insults against them.

In fact, they laughed.

It’s a strategy several high-profile Democrats have adopted at times during the Trump presidency: Don’t cave to Mr Trump’s personal attacks. Instead, make him the butt of the joke by painting him as a fundamentally unserious person.

Mr Trump has suggested Mr Biden is senile, lacking the mental faculties to take on one of the most demanding jobs in the world.

“Biden can’t put two sentences together. … They wheel him out. He goes up – he repeats – they ask him questions. He reads a teleprompter and then he goes back into his basement. You tell me the American people want to have that in an age where we’re in trouble with other nations that are looking to do numbers on us?” Mr Trump said in an interview last month with Fox News’ Chris Wallace.

Mr Biden laughed deeply when ABC’s David Muir asked him about Mr Trump’s comments questioning his mental fitness.

“Watch me. Mr President, watch me. Look at us both. Look at us both, what we say, what we do, what we control, what we know, what kind of shape we’re in. Come on,” Mr Biden said.

“Look, I think it’s a legitimate question to ask anybody over 70 years old whether or not they’re fit and whether they’re ready. But I just – only thing I can say to the American people, it’s a legitimate question to ask anybody. Watch me,” he said.

With a chortle, Mr Biden addressed Mr Trump’s comments disparaging the former vice president for running his campaign from his basement.

“Guess what – I have left my basement,” Mr Biden said, smiling wryly.

“In the meantime, 500 million people have watched what I’ve done out of my basement. And, guess what, people are listening. People are listening. It’s about being responsible,” he said.

Mr Trump has also been unsparing of Ms Harris, calling her a “nasty” woman and complaining she was “mean” to his Supreme Court nominees, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch.

The Trump campaign has openly questioned whether Ms Harris – who was born in California to a Jamaican immigrant father and an Indian immigrant mother – is eligible to be vice president.

When ABC’s Robin Roberts asked Ms Harris what she made of the Trump campaign’s comment that she “completes the radical leftist takeover of Joe Biden,” she also laughed.

Ms Harris and Mr Biden are “completely aligned” on policy goals despite their past differences on “tactics,” they said.

2. Biden wants Harris to be the same type of vice president he was

It has become abundantly clear over the last two weeks that Mr Biden did not choose Ms Harris as window dressing for his presidential campaign, but rather as a true governing partner.

In their joint ABC News interview on Sunday, Mr Biden said he wants Ms Harris to be the “last person in the room” on every big decision during his presidency.

Mr Biden played a similar role for his former boss, Barack Obama, who commonly referred to their work relationship from 2009 through 2017 as a “partnership.”

Mr Biden envisions Ms Harris playing a similar key advisory role.

“I know she’ll have a perspective – different in many cases than mine just by nature of who we are and our backgrounds, and that’s why I thought it was so important as well to have a woman as vice president,” Mr Biden said.

Whereas Mr Biden’s predecessor, Dick Cheney, operated in a semi-autonomous workspace separate from the Oval Office and had unprecedented control over a certain portfolio of issues such as Middle Eastern Affairs, Mr Biden was an essential adviser on virtually every one of Mr Obama’s key decisions.

As chair of Mr Obama’s presidential transition team, Mr Biden mined his vast network of DC connections to help Mr Obama – a relative newcomer to the capital – staff his administration, a long and daunting task whenever control of the White House flips from one party to the other.

He was an essential voice opposing the administration’s surge of US troops to Afghanistan in 2009, a policy battle he ultimately lost to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who convinced Mr Obama of the plan’s prudence.

He served as the president’s liaison to the Senate on several key bills, including the sweeping 2010 health care overhaul known as “Obamacare.”

Ms Harris said she intends to follow the Obama-Biden “partnership” model for her vice presidency, not the semi-autonomous Bush-Cheney model, she has indicated.

“Joe Biden is really probably, for me, a model of what makes for a great vice president, and the model for me, if we win, God willing we win this election,” Ms Harris said.

“What he did in terms of leading on very significant issues in support of Barack Obama is really inspirational for me as a model of how I intend to do the job,” she said.

3. Biden will follow the scientists on coronavirus

Mr Biden mentioned “the scientists” six times during the interview, all in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, which he said he would be clear-eyed on and tell “the truth” about.

If top scientists and disease experts say the US ought to shut down its economy this fall and winter, when Covid-19 could spike again along with the seasonal flu, Mr Biden said he would acquiesce.

“I would shut it down. I would listen to the scientists,” he said.

Mr Biden said he has seldom left his home in Delaware because he does not want to expose people to Covid-19 like Mr Trump has done at his rallies in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona and elsewhere, where his supporters have at times been seen not wearing masks or social distancing.

“We’re going to follow the science, what the scientists tell us. We’ve been able to travel places when we’ve been able to do it in a way that we don’t cause the congregation of large numbers of people,” Mr Biden said.

“Look what happened with his events. People die. People get together, they don’t wear masks, they end up getting Covid, they end up dying. One of his strongest supporters-” Mr Biden said, before stopping his train of thought, which was presumably about the late Tea Party activist and former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain.

Mr Cain died of Covid-19 after attending Mr Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Okla.

“Anyway, the point is that this is about the science,” Mr Biden said.

“The whole issue of getting the economy under control and having it grow again cannot occur until we in fact get Covid under control,” he said.

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