At nearly the end of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ first joint interview since the election, the vice president elect told CNN’s Jake Tapper that “there couldn’t be a more extreme exercise in stark contrast between the current occupant of the White House, and the next occupant of the White House.”
That almost goes without saying, but it is perhaps more true this week than any other.
Just a day ago, the current occupant, President Donald Trump, released a 46-minute video, chalk full of unfounded election fraud claims and conspiracy theories, that Bob Woodward said was “one of the most bizarre permeances I have ever seen.” After the interview with Biden and Harris, which ran for almost an hour in primetime, Tapper and CNN’s Don Lemon talked of how “normal” the conversation with the two was, i.e. no theatrics or cringeworthy moments.
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Trump still has not conceded the election, nor have many Republican senators even acknowledged that Biden won, fearful of angering the current president and having him turn on them.
Once again, Biden seemed to take it all in stride. He said that “there have been more than several sitting Republican senators who have privately called me congratulated me. I understand the situation they find themselves in.” He suggested that their inability to publicly acknowledge his victory would change after the Dec. 14 electoral college vote.
Trump, though, may not ever concede, and instead remain fixed in grievance than the election was stolen from him, even though his campaign has lost dozens of court cases and his own attorney general, William Barr, has said that they have found no evidence of election crimes that could change the results. It would not be all that surprising if Trump does not attend the inauguration.
Biden told Tapper that his concern was for the image that Trump’s snub would send to the rest of the world.
“The rest of the world looked at us — you have heard me say this a number of times and I apologize for repeating it — the follow us not just for the example of our power, but the power of our example, and look where we are not in the world,” Biden said. “Look how we are viewed. They are wondering, ‘My lord, these things happen in tinhorn dictatorships. It’s not the United States. In that sense, the protocol of the transfer of power I think is important. But it is totally his decision. It is of no personal consequence to me, but I do think it is for the country.”
Tapper taped the interview earlier on Thursday at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, and he sat socially distanced from Biden and Harris. The exploding coronavirus pandemic was topic #1, and Biden did break some news. He said that he had asked Anthony Fauci to be a chief medical adviser during his administration, in addition to continuing his role as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He also said that on the day he is inaugurated, he planned to ask Americans to wear a mask in public for at least 100 days.
If hopes are realized, by the time Biden is inaugurated, vaccines in the initial stages of distribution. He indicated to Tapper that it remains a complicated challenge how to then arrange for administering the vaccine to hundreds of millions of Americans. He said that he would he “happy” to receive the vaccine publicly, as three previous presidents plan to do, as a way of instilling confidence.
“People have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work,” he said. “Already the numbers are really staggeringly low, and it matters what the president and vice president do.”
Biden said that he was “confident” that he could find common ground with congressional Republicans in areas like national security and the economy, and he once again refrained from any harsh criticism of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who also hasn’t publicly acknowledged his victory.
Harris said nothing during the interview that would indicate any kind of fissure with Biden, but he said that her role would be similar to his with Barack Obama. There were areas of disagreement, but the differences were expressed in private.
Harris did reveal that her husband, Doug Emhoff, would be known as the “second gentleman.”