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tv   CNN Special Report  CNN  December 19, 2020 7:00pm-9:00pm PST

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at walmart. the following is a cnn special report. ♪ he's gone from a young politician with swagger -- >> they said, we think you should run for the senate. i said, i'm not old enough. >> to a young father suffering great loss. >> my brother looked at me and
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said, "she's dead, isn't she?" >> he is an irishman with a life story that reads like a greek tragedy. >> how can you experience the worst thing imaginable twice in one lifetime? >> his career has been long and often controversial. >> do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god? >> i do. >> that now has a new twist. >> i am more than willing to work with him. >> a senator, a vice president and finally president-elect on his third try. >> i pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify. >> tonight -- >> do you see yourself as the polar opposite of donald trump? >> i hope so. >> a cnn special report, "fight for the white house: joe biden's long journey." ♪ >> it's a good night.
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it's a good night and it seems to be getting even better. >> more than 30 years after his first run for the presidency -- >> joe biden with the lead tonight and a lead overall in the delegate race. >> -- on his third try for the white house -- >> i'm here to report, we are very much alive! >> it was the sweet super tuesday that joe biden had always dreamed of, setting a clear path to the nomination finally at age 77. >> it was like, okay, let's buckle up, we're going to go. >> it was a really good feeling. it was glorious. >> glorious and unusual to say the least. >> fact. no one has ever come in fourth in iowa and fifth in new hampshire and gone on to become the democratic presidential nominee. >> to do as poorly as he did in the first two contests -- >> where i come from that's the opening bell.
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>> -- to have the day he had on super tuesday was highly, highly unusual, defied the laws of politics. >> thank you, thank you, thank you. >> it's a day joseph robinette biden jr. has been waiting for, for decades. >> how long has joe biden wanted to be president of the united states? >> i first met him in 1972, and clearly he was not ruling out the possibility. he was 29 years old. >> there's also a story about the non-holding up of paper that little joey wrote when he was 12 years old saying that he wanted to be president. >> well, if a nun said it, it has to be true. >> and still is. but the brass ring has big strings attached. >> a country facing the worst infectious disease crisis we've seen since 1919. the worst economic crisis we've seen since the great depression. the worst racism crisis we've seen since 1968. it's a triple threat of crises
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all at once, all combined. >> biden has described himself as a transitional candidate. >> we're going to speak to that now. >> but a triple threat could require drastic urgent action. >> the economy cannot survive if we don't get control of covid. that's going to be the thing that's going to affect every single thing that gets done. >> from the beginning when he was just joey from scranton, pa, biden wanted to be the one to get things done. >> joe biden was always the lead dog. he had to be number one. he was in the number one position. >> a natural leader, his friends say. >> we always followed joe. >> and a natural talker. >> an old joke about joe, that if joe biden were standing next to an electric light pole, he'd strike up a conversation. >> his family was large, tight knit and irish catholic. >> a big, boisterous family, constantly playing pranks on
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each other. >> with at least nine of them in this modest home. joey was the eldest of four. then came valerie, jimmy and frankie. the children's maternal grandparents lived there, too, along with an aunt, sometimes an uncle, and their parents, joseph r. biden sr. and katherine eugenia finnegan biden. >> my mom was fierce in her commitment to family. she told us growing up that there's family and there's family and there's family. >> i remember going up my mother once, i guess i was in fifth grade, saying, mom, i love you more than anything. and she said, joey, i know how much you love me, but remember you're closer to your brothers and sisters than you are to me. i said, how is that, mom? she said, you're the same blood. you're closer to them. they're with you all the time. never forget that. >> mom said that we were a gift to one another and, you know, we believed her.
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>> let me ask you about your sister, who has been incredibly supportive to you. what role has val played in your life? >> she's been my best friend my whole life. she's been on the handlebars of my bicycle, i guess, since -- excuse me. since she was 3 years old. i never went a place i didn't take her. i taught her how to play ball, i did everything with her. >> to this day? >> to this day and all the way through. >> there's all these sayings joe and i have for our mom and dad. dad said to us, it's not how many times you get knocked down, it's how quickly you get up. and dad was all about resilience. >> especially after losing his job when biden was young. >> they were forced to move away from their childhood home to find opportunity in wilmington. they had to reinvent themselves there. it made him very close to his family, as families often become much closer during adversity. >> faith helped, too.
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family and faith were the bookends, and we were an irish catholic middle class household. our family values of taking care of one another, treating people with respect, being resilient, those values coincided with the catholic social doctrine that we learned every single day at school. there but for the grace of god go i. you are your brother's keeper. so it was a seamless way of life. >> a seamless way of life for a determined young joe biden. >> richard ben cramer writes about your brother as a child, and he said, "joey was always quick with a grace born of cocky self-possession. he didn't like some kids his age double-think himself. once joey set his mind it was like he didn't think at all, he just did." >> the more serious version of what he set his mind to do is he stuttered terribly, and he really couldn't string more than three our four words together at
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a time, and he determined that he was not going to be defined by a stutter. >> teenage boys can be pretty harsh, even cruel, and he used get teased a lot. they would -- hey, j-j-j-joe b-b-b-biden. they called him stutterhead for sure. they called him stut. hey, stut. >> so the summer before joe biden's junior year, poetry helped him lose his stutter. >> i would do poetry to try to say meek young men grow up in libraries. >> that's emerson. >> yes, that was emerson. and the reason i did it was to try to get a cadence to how you speak. when you are able to change the cadence of what you do and say, it seems how you will be able to overcome it somehow. >> i think all of us were surprised in late august and september when we went back to school that he wasn't stuttering anymore. >> the high school was archmere academy, an elite catholic
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school he worked hard to attend because he viewed it as a gateway to success. he was on the football team. >> he was a halfback. he made some key plays in some of those games. >> off the field, friends remember a time he stood up for a buddy. it happened when he went to a diner with some classmates including the only black kid in the class. >> the restaurant's policy that we don't serve, they didn't use the word black at the time. he must have said negroes. frank says, "listen, i'll leave." joe says, "no. sit down. if they're not going to serve you they're not going to serve any of us." this was 1961, this was before the civil rights act and before the voting rights act, and before there was much sensitivity, i would say, at least for teenage boys, white boys, about civil rights issues. >> biden says he learned about the reality of race relations here while lifeguarding in a black neighborhood in the early 1960s when delaware was very
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divided racially and culturally. >> the polish neighborhood, the irish neighborhood, the black neighborhood. >> he stood out but worked hard to fit in. >> once you come in the neighborhood and somebody like you, you become like brothers, you become deep friends and stuff. that's how joe and i came. >> i was about probably 9 when i first met him. i was one of the ornery kids in this pool. they called me dennis the menace. >> he would grow up to become dennis the mayor of wilmington. >> joe saw an opportunity. the door was open, and he was going to get in. he was going to make friends and he was going to talk to people and he was going to know this community and have this community trust him, because i know joe had aspirations of going places. >> long before biden went into politics he was already politicking and planning his surprising next moves. up next, success. >> i will never, ever think
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anything is impossible again in my entire life. >> followed by tragedy. >> i remember looking up and saying, "god!" i was so angry. so angry. ♪ come on! ♪ over here! ♪
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♪ by early 1964, joe biden was a student at the university of delaware, still full of confidence but low on cash. when he and two buddies decided to head to fort lauderdale for spring break. >> the first day we went on the beach, it was like 10,000 guys and 20 girls. the odds just did not look good for us. lo and behold, a plane goes by with a sign saying, round trips to nassau, 28 bucks. joe, what do you think? got to go. let's go. >> they arrived to discover college women on private hotel beaches which they couldn't afford. >> we found some hotel towels on the fence. we grabbed them and put them around our shoulders, our waist and walked in like we had been staying there all along. >> they were there just a few minutes when they spotted a young woman they all wanted to meet.
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neilia hunter, a 21-year-old senior at syracuse university. >> i'm saying, well, let's flip a coin or one potato, two potato. while i'm trying to figure it out and talking to him, i'm looking at my hands and everything, he takes off. he has a 50-yard dash on both of us. by the time we get over there, he's already sitting there chatting her up. >> when i met neilia, god's truth, i knew i was going to marry her. i really did. the second night as i left, i said, i think i'm going to marry you. she looked at me and said, i think so. >> we get on the plane coming home and he said fred, i've decided. i'm in love and i'm going to syracuse law school. >> just as planned, biden made it to syracuse law school and he married neilia hunter a year later in the summer of 1966. after graduation he returned home with his wife to work at a law firm. national guardsmen were still patrolling the streets of wilmington in the wake of rioting that followed martin luther king's murder. >> it wasn't good at all.
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we looked like a city under siege by the military. >> he saw a country torn apart over race, a city that was literally, literally on fire. the national guard occupied wilmington, delaware, longer than any city in america after the riots following king's assassination. it was in that moment that a young joe biden said, i can help. >> biden was a believer in his own ability to convince anyone of anything, but no amount of self-confidence or ambition was big enough to deliver a senate seat at age 27. so he ran for the county council. as usual, he enlisted his sister. >> so how did you get involved in all of the politics of it? >> he always picked me first. it was just a natural thing to do. he was going to be -- go into politics, i was going with him. we asked everyone we knew to help us, and we asked them to ask ten people to help us. this is where we delivered -- we knocked on every door. >> he won, and then a year later biden found his real opening while attending a political
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convention in delaware. >> i went back to the motel to shave for the evening, and i got a knock on my door, and in walks four people. and they said, we've got to talk to you, joe. i had a towel around me, i was just shaving. they said, we think you should run for the senate. i said, oh, i'm not old enough. >> a judge in the group set him straight. >> he said, joe, you obviously didn't do very well on constitutional law. it says you have to be 30 to be sworn in, not 30 to be elected. >> it was audacious if not arrogant for biden to run as a 29-year-old underdog candidate of change against a well-liked republican senator named kale boggs. >> what is your last name? >> miller. >> miller. i know the miller family. >> he'd been governor of the state for two terms. he had been a member of congress for three terms and was running for his third term in the u.s. senate. kale boggs was loved. i mean, he was loved. >> once again, biden asked valerie to run the show.
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>> i remember saying to him, joey, i can't run a statewide campaign, i don't know how to do that. remember, he's 28, 27, i'm 25, 26. he said, don't worry about it, valerie, we'll figure it out. >> she reached out to a local democratic party activist, ted kaufman. >> so i went down and talked to him and said, so you're running on civil rights, you're running on environment, you're running on tax reform, and those are really good issues. and then silence. i said, but i don't think you have a chance of winning. >> you said what? >> i don't think you have a chance of winning. you don't have a chance. kale boggs is like -- kale boggs is incredible. you've been in this for two years. you look like you're 25 years old. this is a race to run in order to make these issues that you care about, i say you can do that, but there's no chance you can win. >> and his reaction to that was? >> well, just come and help me. just come and help me.
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we'll see. we'll see. >> biden was confident he could talk his way into voters' hearts, but what kaufman saw was bleak. >> on labor day we did a big-time poll. you know what the number was? 47% for boggs, 19% for biden. >> but it was also the first year 18 year olds could vote, and young voters saw a candidate that was promising that he understands what's happening today. 50 years later, this time as a political elder trying to connect with young voters, it's still his mantra. >> let's go, joe! let's go, joe! >> they had this funny feeling that kale boggs, just his heart wasn't in it. he'd been talked into running one more time by richard nixon. >> joe wants to talk to you for a few minutes and then be merry and vote that democratic ticket in november. >> and then -- >> we snuck up on him. boggs, this was the nixon landslide year. everybody expected no democrat to win. and that was the truth. >> we won by a rousing 3,100
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votes. >> on election night, i remember it as if it was yesterday. i stood on the floor and i said, i will never, ever think anything is impossible again in my entire life. ♪ happy birthday >> he turned 30, the eligible age to serve, three weeks later. he and neilia already had a picture-perfect young family, a baby named naomi and two toddler boys, joseph biden iii, or beau, and hunter. the quintessential young family was moving to the nation's capital. >> for six weeks we were were on top of the world. he was the dragon slayer. we were the bright young hope of the democratic party, and it was completely joyful. >> on december 18th, neilia was supposed to go with her husband to washington, but decided to stay behind to buy a tree and christmas gifts. >> i went with joe to washington to interview staff. senator byrd told my brother -- offered joe to use his office,
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which we did. >> and then came the phone call. >> it was jimmy biden, and i picked up the phone and jimmy biden said, "come home now, there's a terrible accident with neilia and the boys and the babies, all three." >> and you flew back and didn't -- >> we didn't say a word. i just -- we just -- it was a bumpy ride, i remember that. it was a tiny plane, and i remember he was on my right and i just had my hand on his leg, and we just, i mean -- you know. you know.
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one week before christmas 1972, joe biden and his sister traveled to d.c. to hire staff. his wife neilia stayed in delaware with their three children to buy a tree. >> the memory that i have that
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is most vivid is walking in the russell building with the echo of just our shoes. >> i remember looking up and just -- and saying, god, i was so angry. i got a call from a first responder. and i said, what happened? they said, well, there was a tractor-trailer and your wife and daughter are dead. >> neilia and the bidens' baby naomi were killed when a truck hit their station wagon. >> the boys were very badly injured. they were hospitalized. hunter with a fractured skull and beau with literally every -- he was in a body cast, both arms, both legs. you had to pick him up, you know, carry him this way. >> biden thought their bedside, not the senate, was where he ought to be.
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>> your brother is clearly considering not being sworn in. >> yes. >> he doesn't want to be a senator. >> he spoke to the governor and to have the governor replace him. >> but the senate majority leader, mike mansfield, changed biden's mind. >> he said, your wife worked really hard for you to get elected, cared a great deal about it. get sworn in and just stay six months. >> if in six months or so there's a conflict between my being a good father and being a good senator, i promise you that i will contact governor-elect tribbett as i had earlier and tell him that we can always get another senator but they can't get another father. >> and they sent the secretary of the senate to the hospital room to swear me in, so i couldn't change my mind. >> so help you god? >> i do. >> congratulations, senator. >> thank you. >> the family and a few close friends were there, hunter holding on to beau's hand. it was heartbreaking.
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>> the biden family was devastated, but they had to move on. so valerie moved in. >> they were such a gift to me. the whole family was brokenhearted, and we just -- you know, the big thing, take care of one another, not because it's a responsibility but because it was a gift. >> and while valerie subbed in for mom, her brother also changed his plans. >> the reason that joe started to commute, he said, they've lost their mom and they lost their baby sister, i cannot take them away and lose mom mom and dada and uncle jimmy and frankie and aunt val, so he will commute. >> after the accident, i mean the bond was like steel rods among the three of them. >> steel bonds with his boys and
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molten anger over the loss of his wife and baby. >> you said you went around kind of looking for fights. >> i did. >> and you wrote you even understand why people consider committing suicide. >> i thought about what would it be like just to go to the delaware memorial bridge and just jump off and end it all. but i didn't ever get in a car and do it. would never get close. what saved me was really my boys. >> on capitol hill he found support he didn't expect from senate elders of both parties. >> these old bulls all took him in and helped buffer him from that grief, helped him carve a path towards real meaning and value in that experience. he saw their humanity before he saw their politics in many respects. >> biden's senate was a much less polarized place, and in a 1974 interview he recoiled at being pigeonholed by special interest groups as either
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liberal or conservative. his political connections were always personal. >> he'll talk about a republican opponent in private with a great deal of empathy and compassion. >> those relationships were built by a series of just quiet moments sitting down next to someone without any particular point to it, just to see how you're doing, what's going on. >> he kept the personal close, and over the years became the unofficial eulogizer of the senate, even delivering a final tribute for a conservative republican segregationist. >> i tried to understand him. i learned from him, and i watched him change, oh, so suddenly. >> he delivered strom thurmond's eulogy, too. >> yes, he did. yes, he did, at strom thurmond's request.
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i think that when you can hold on to your own political beliefs and have the respect of people whose political belief is totally different, that says something. >> over time, biden developed an almost pastoral habit of consoling others. in public on the campaign trail -- >> someone who has been through it and says, "i know how you feel," you kind of look and you say, "i guess i can make it. they made it." >> he did it privately, too. >> in the middle of his campaign for the presidency, my dad had passed away. joe was the first one to call. he's running for office. you know, you can leave a voicemail. >> right. >> yeah, he's a good man. >> one evening i heard some crying and i went out to see what was going on. i heard the vice president's
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voice, and i heard him consoling somebody. he was still in the west wing working and had bumped into a staffer who was giving a tour to a widow who had recently lost her husband. he was walking down the hall and that was his instant reaction. >> people talk about your empathy and your pastoral nature when people are suffering. did that begin after the accident? >> i think it really began in an earnest way with my stutter, because it is the most humiliating thing in the world for someone. how do you walk up to the girl to go to the eighth grade dance and say, would you go to th-th-th-th-th-the -- and there are always a bunch of chumps out there who would make fun. that's how i kind of learned to fight. >> he found himself in the middle of a political struggle in the 1970s and early '80s when he took a controversial stand against court-ordered bussing. >> i happen to be one of those
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so-called people or labeled as a liberal on civil rights but opposed busing. >> if you're a biden, that's going to be a tough issue for you because of that big empathy, that big heart. is this good for kids? you know, is this the right way to get kids to get along, to get parents to get along? is there another way? >> and i'm going to now direct this at vice president biden. >> that decades-old decision became fodder in the democratic debates. >> you also worked with him to oppose busing. and you know, there was a little girl in california who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. and that little girl was me. >> if you go back and look at the polls back then, the vast majority of black people were against busing. i was against busing. >> you were? >> yes. the first real serious discussion i ever had with my
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wife was over busing. that is because i thought court-ordered busing put too much of a burden on the students. i believed in neighborhood concept schools rather than being bused. and when i expressed that publicly, my wife took me to the woodshed in such a way that i would never forget it. >> while biden's political life was tumultuous, back at home he was trying to get his personal life in order. >> i had 1,000 yentas, you know, everybody had somebody for me. and they were very nice about it. >> by 1977 he had found someone he wanted to marry, jill jacobs. >> i had to ask her five times to marry me. five. five times. she would say no every time i asked her.
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>> i knew what the boys had been through. they had lost their mother and they lost their sister. i had to be 100% sure that this marriage would last until death do us part because i loved the boys so much that i thought they can't lose another mother through a divorce. >> two years later, they have ashley. she not only married joe, she married the boys, she married the biden family, and she married the state of delaware. >> and she may have saved his life. >> i said, what do you mean giving him last rites? he's not going to die. (harold) twelve hundred strings of lights.
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♪ the greatest senator from delaware, joseph r. biden! ♪ >> by the mid '80s joe biden was a senator going places. >> how are you, pal? >> he was young, he was dynamic
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and people said this is the next kennedy, this is a guy who will be president of the united states someday. >> but was biden really ready? >> you know the funny thing about '88, i never said this to anybody, i wasn't sure how much he really wanted to run. >> was he conflicted? >> i think he was conflicted. it was a full-time commitment, and joe really was, you know, joe who took the train home at night to be with his kids, and you can't do that when you're running for president. >> but what senator can resist the presidential lure? >> he didn't get up in '88 and say, "i'm running for president." it was so many people came and said, you've got to think about this, you've got to do it. >> and so amtrak joe moved on to the presidential track in a wide open and competitive race, announcing his candidacy at the wilmington train station. >> as today i announce my candidacy for president of the
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united states of america. >> just a few weeks after his announcement, some unexpected news took him on a detour. >> it is the surprise retirement this summer of swing vote justice louis powell. >> biden was chairman of the senate judiciary committee and would lead the confirmation hearings to replace justice louis powell, the crucial swing vote on the court key to major decisions like roe v. wade. >> abortion along with other women's and civil rights issues are what many supreme court watchers say prptd president reagan's appointment will have a strong opportunity to influence. >> president reagan took the opportunity to nominate an icon of the right. >> but i today announce my intention to nominate united states court of appeals judge robert h. bork. >> reaction from the left was swift. >> civil rights groups promised all-out efforts to block bork's confirmation. >> the campaign was pushing us to come out against bork early. we knew if we did that all we
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would end up with is the 45 liberals in the senate and we wouldn't win. >> so biden found himself running two campaigns, one against robert bork and another for president. and they were pulling him in different directions. >> my name's joe biden. i would like to be the democratic nominee for president of the united states of america. >> in iowa, an early caucus state that mattered most, biden was bunched with others near the top of the polls but his attention was split. >> there was a mismatch between the expectation of joe and what was going on in the campaign, the sort of basic stuff wasn't getting done. >> but that was nothing compared to what unfolded next. >> live from the iowa state fairgrounds in des moines, election '88. >> at the end of a key debate at
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the iowa state fair, biden used some of his stump speech which included quotes from british politician neil kinic. a populist life story, politically compelling. but it wasn't biden's life. and it was delivered without any attribution. >> why is it that joe biden -- >> what am i, the first kinic in a thousand generations -- >> the first in his family. >> to be able to get to university. >> ever to go to a university. >> i mean he had given that speech 25, 30 times, and in every case he had attributed it to kinic. he didn't plagiarize. >> i don't think anyone in the campaign saw it as a major thing when it happened. >> but it was, especially after a staffer from the michael dukakis campaign leaked the story on the eve of the bork hearings. >> democratic presidential candidate joe biden finds himself on trial charged with political plagiarism.
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>> how did it feel to have your integrity challenged in such a -- >> other than losing my family it was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. >> the controversy fit the narrative biden was more show than substance, all as the bork hearings began. >> i honestly believe, judge, i think i read everything that you have written. >> biden zeroed in on bork's controversial opinions like his critique of a supreme court's decision to strike down a state law banning contraceptives. >> does a state legislative body or any legislative body have a right to pass a law telling a married couple or anyone else, telling them they can or cannot use birth control? >> i don't know what -- what rationale the state would offer or what challenge the married couple would make. >> the problem with bork is he would never admit there was a right to privacy under the constitution. >> biden may have been swaying
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public opinion on bork, but his own presidential campaign was imploding with more charges. >> first there came reports he had lifted the phrases of other speakers without identifying them, then new charges that as a student of law at syracuse university he used five pages from a published law review article without quotation or attribution. >> i knew i had one of two choices, leave the bork hearing and go out and save my campaign if i could by going out and making my case, and i thought that i don't want to go down in history as the guy who to save his political life let bork get in the court. >> so he was out. >> all of my energy and skill is required to deal with president reagan's effort to reshape the supreme court. i have concluded that i will stop being a candidate for president of the united states. >> i can remember how devastated i felt and how devastated joe felt.
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i mean no one had ever assailed his character before. >> it was a big blow to him. some people, they'd never come back from that sort of ending of a campaign. >> and lest i say something that might be somewhat sarcastic, i should go to the bork hearing. >> he was about to go into the meeting room and i said, joe, you have to go in and win. you have to win this one. >> if you look at the next paragraph of that talk -- >> bork was pummelled by biden and others and left to fight largely on his own by president reagan. >> he thought he was marter than biden and he thought he could beat biden, and he was wrong. >> the yeas are 42, the nays are 58. the nomination is not confirmed. >> in a 2008 interview four years before his death, bork
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told cnn that, quote, as a whole biden wasn't fair. >> the democrats, including biden, spent the time making the most scurrilous charges about me. >> democrats praised biden, but others blamed him for permanently politicizing judicial confirmations. >> well, he really presided over the inauguration of the politics of personal destruction in the judicial confirmation process. >> now the ideology of the judge is front and center. it's about how are you going to vote on these things. >> for some, bork became a new verb, a shorthand for getting railroaded and destroyed, and remains to this day. >> it was just a good old fashioned attempt at borking. >> what is your response to them when they say, well, it was all about his ideology? >> well, it was about his constitutional philosophy which is totally legitimate. nothing i did went after bork's character or anything in his background. >> so biden won one fight and left another, and his family now
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sees it as a life saver. >> maybe this is rationalization, but his pulling out probably saved his life. you know, he never would have stopped. >> right as the campaign would have been in full gear, biden collapsed after an event in new york. he made it home and jill rushed him to the hospital. >> he looked so gray, and i thought, oh, my god. >> my brother had an aneurism, and an aneurism didn't have any calculation whether joe was running or not running. the aneurism was in his brain and it erupted. >> there were two aneurisms, both extremely dangerous. >> there was a better than every chance that i was not likely to make it through the first operation. >> the situation was so dire a priest came to give the 45-year-old biden his last rites, but was interrupted. >> i ran into the room.
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the priest was at the bedside, and i said "get out, because he is not going to die." and the priest -- i think i just shocked the priest, and he just ran out of the room. >> biden had two surgeries and a tough recovery. seven months later he returned to the senate and more controversy. >> do you swear to tell the whole truth? coming up. >> would you be willing to work with him? if you have moderate to severe psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, little things can become your big moment.
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♪ it was terrifying. >> professor, do you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god? >> i do. >> it was really scary, because it was something that hadn't happened before, and the stakes were so high. >> at stake, a seat on the supreme court for clarence thomas. the man in charge? senate judiciary committee chairman joe biden. >> i expected for joe biden to
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have a fair hearing. joe biden's leadership was very weak. >> almost 30 years later, thomas sits on the supreme court. biden is the democratic nominee and the president-elect. and even before the election anita hill had made a decision. >> i think joe biden is the person who should be elected in november. >> so you're going to vote for joe biden? >> yes. >> would you be willing to work with him? >> my commitment is to finding solutions. i am more than willing to work with him. >> is it just about the fact that he's running against donald trump? or is it more about joe biden? >> actually, it's more about the survivors of gender violence. that's really what it's about. >> hill, an attorney, is now a professor of gender politics. she was 35 when she testified before biden's committee. accusing thomas of sexually
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harassing her when she worked for him at the equal employment opportunity commission. her testimony was graphic. >> he referred to the size of his own penis as being larger than normal. >> her motives dissected. >> do you have a martyr complex? >> no, i don't. >> and additional witnesses who may have corroborated her story were never called to publicly testify. >> the idea that anyone who was saying what i had to say was going to be heard, was just sort of out the window, because the republicans were in control, and joe biden lost control. >> some say you let the republicans take over. >> i don't think i did. but the point was, i wish i could have done it differently under the rules. there are certain rules you cannot call people out of order if they're asking questions related to the issue. i wish i could have done better for her.
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the truth is, i believed her, and i believed he should not be on the court. >> sexual harassment is a serious matter, and in my view, any person guilty of this offense is unsuited to serve not only -- >> biden led the floor fight against thomas and lost. >> as a black american, as far as i'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching. >> thomas denied the allegations and his supporters still seethe about the hearing. >> with the hill allegations he said, you know, if these come out in public i will be your biggest defender. quite the opposite. he repeatedly was saying one thing, talking out of one side of his mouth to one group and one side to the other. >> so what does this tell you about joe biden? >> he's someone who wants to try to please everyone. >> and even when hill received a call from biden earlier last year, she remained unsatisfied.
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>> what i heard on the phone call was an apology that went something like "i'm very sorry if she felt she wasn't treated fairly." and, you know, an apology, to be real and sincere, has to take responsibility for harm. that was what i wanted to hear. that, if i had done better -- and this is joe biden speaking -- if i had done better, maybe there would be less harassment in the workplace today. >> but hill has watched the vice president talk more about the hearings on tv, and she says it's encouraging. >> she did not get a fair hearing. she did not get treated well. that's my responsibility. >> what it says to me is that
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maybe the next step is these are the things that i'm going to do to make it good. >> but the story of biden and women's issues is not just about hill. when the thomas hearings ended -- >> i was determined to do two things. one, make sure never again that there not be women on the committee. so that year i went out and campaigned for two women, dianne feinstein and carol moseley-braun, on condition they join the judiciary committee if they got elected, and they did. and i was determined to continue and finish writing and passing the violence against women act. >> it was an idea born one year before the thomas hearings, to beef up protections for women, including a provision allowing them to sue their attackers in federal court. >> some in the legal academy who decided that women in the 1950s were basically making up rape, there were fancy lawyers, liberal and conservative, who would say domestic violence is,
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you know, as american as apple pie. prominent liberal lawyers. >> overall, the toll on women's lives and health are devastating. >> biden held senate hearings to share their stories. >> in 1983 my husband stabbed me 13 times and broke my neck while the police were on the scene. i nearly died, and i am permanently paralyzed. >> they all have the same story. >> and what was the story? i don't believe you. this doesn't happen. and they said they did not believe it was a crime. >> biden believed it was and spent four years pushing the bill. but it would ultimately take more than violence against women to get enough senators on board. so biden and president bill clinton, looking for a win, combined the issue with a comprehensive crime bill. >> at that time, there was a
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large amount of concern about growing violent crime in the country. >> violent crime rates had been steadily rising for a decade, and there was political pressure to do something. >> democrats felt like they needed to show they were tough on crime. >> no, as a matter of fact, violent crime had risen exponentially, mainly because of the crack epidemic. >> it was a good political issue. >> no, it was more than that, it was a danger. >> his solution was a big bill. >> it was $30 billion. it had the assault weapons ban in, it the violence against women law in it. it had the drug courts in it. >> the bill passed with bipartisan support in 1994. but times have changed. while biden worked with the police unions to write that bill, he's now promising to reform policing, and he wants to fix other parts of the measure that democrats charge led to
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further mass incarcerations targeting communities of color. >> that tough on crime phony rhetoric that got a lot of people elected but destroyed communities like mine. >> tough on crime meant tough on people who look like me. the core of the bill was to criminalize behaviors that really should have been addressed through addiction services, through employment services. >> i will accept responsibility for what went right, but i'll also accept responsibility for what went wrong. >> biden says the obama administration worked to reduce the prison population and reduce mandatory minimum sentences, and he wants to do more. >> we have to change the prison system from one of punishment to rehabilitation. >> so is this political expediency or a true change of heart? >> we get into this false debate about is this a true evolution or is this flip-flopping? we have this kind of weird thing
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where we really want the person to be believing in what they're doing. that's not what politicians do. the politics on this have changed. he's political enough to read the country at this moment and deliver on the changes that we want at this moment. >> with a career that spans more than five decades, biden has found himself apologizing and rethinking during this campaign. not only on the crime bill and not only to anita hill but to a group of women who said he made them uncomfortable by being too handsy. >> and the boundaries of protecting personal space have been reset, and i get it. i get it. i hear what they're saying. i understand it. and i'll be much more mindful. >> anita hill for one decided before the election to believe biden has changed. >> do you find some irony here that i'm going to vote for joe biden and that i might want to
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work with him? >> do i think it's ironic? yes. but this is not just about me. it's not just about joe biden. it's about millions of people in this country and around the world that we can be a model for. and i would love to be a part of that. and if it means voting for joe biden, so be it. >> i'll vote for this. >> up next, joe biden changes his mind. >> the iraq vote was a mistake. t from your walmart store. really fast. really perfect. let's end the year nailing it. ♪ let's end the year nailing it. ♪ ♪ light it up like dynamite
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by the early 2000s joe biden had one of the prime political perches in washington. >> chairman of the senate foreign relations committee is one of the best jobs you can have. >> even before he was chairman he spent decades traveling the globe, becoming a student of arms control and personally connecting. >> the focus he brings to it is always how do i put myself in the other person's shoes? because if i'm asking for something that they can't possibly give, we're not going to get anywhere. >> he also delivered blunt talk. one example, he says, is what he
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told slobodan milosevic in serbia in 1993. >> i pointed out that genocide was happening, genocide. i had a come to you-know-what meeting with milosevic in his office. and i told him i'm going to spend the rest of my career seeing you tried as a war criminal. >> and in 2008, to president hamid karzai in afghanistan. >> we had a private dinner. karzai hosted it at the palace. during the dinner, karzai really kind of lit into the united states. biden looked at him and came down on the table with his hand like that. and he said, "this dinner's over." >> that's it? >> that was it. and he walked out. and, and so everybody's, well, i guess the dinner's over. >> that was 2008. and biden's clear signal to karzai was "shape up." back in 2001, after 9/11, biden
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had backed karzai in building a new government and supported george bush's invasion into afghanistan. and a year later biden also supported the bush administration when it turned toward a new target, iraq, looking to stomp out terrorism there. >> by seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. >> these weapons must be dislodged from saddam hussein or saddam hussein must be dislodged from power. >> why didn't joe biden vote for the resolution? >> voting for the resolution is one thing, voting for war is another one. he didn't vote for war. he voted for tough diplomacy. he thought the best way to deal with it was to get weapons inspectors back into iraq. you the ip perspectives wenspecy were doing their job, and bush went to war anyway. >> it's hard when you're giving
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an authorization of force. diplomacy is soft power. so i don't buy that. >> there were no weapons of mass destruction. >> good to see you. >> joe biden and dick lugar and i were the first senators into baghdad, and after a couple years, it became clear to him that this was going nowhere. >> the iraq vote was a mistake. >> it's a vote that has dogged him for years from both sides. >> i did everything i could to prevent that war. joe saw it differently. >> why do you think he changed his mind on that vote? >> the same reason that hillary clinton changed her mind, the same reason that others did. if it had been a huge success, then nobody would be regretting their vote. >> can you explain to people when you would use force? >> yes, when there's a vital u.s. interest at stake or when we have a treaty obligation that we've committed that we would keep. now conversely, i'm not going to send my kids or anybody else's
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child to a place where our interests are not essential and where we cannot get it done. >> so the man who voted against the first iraq war in 1991 and then changed his mind about the second iraq war, deciding it was a disaster, ran for president in 2008 to end it. >> i wanted him to run. and the kids said, you know, dad has to run. and i felt that joe would be the only one who could end that war. >> are you running for president? >> i am running for president. i'm going to be joe biden. i'm going to try to be the best biden i can be. >> it wasn't enough. >> we just made a gigantic miscalculation, and that is once obama caught on there wasn't room on the track for anybody except hillary and obama. >> they locked up a lot of money, a lot of support, and it wasn't just joe biden. >> we were doing so well. [ laughter ] >> collectively, i think we had 2%. >> but it wasn't just the
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competition that sidelined biden, although the competition was formidable. it was biden himself. even on day one, talking about barack obama. >> he's the first sort of mainstream african-american who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. i mean, that's a storybook, man. >> yeah, it was unfortunate, because it was his announcement day, and he was simply trying to compliment senator obama. >> it didn't come off that way and was classic, careless biden, putting him into full damage-control mode right out of the gate. >> let me tell you something, i spoke to barack today. >> i bet you did. >> to this day his words can be cringeworthy and sometimes problematic. >> if you have a problem figuring out whether you're for
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me or trump, then you ain't black. >> bide anne apologized for that off the cuff mistake. his friends say when you talk a lot that's bound to happen. does he talk all the time? >> yes. yes. all the time. there is no ability to affect that. so you've kind of just got to go with the flow. >> certainly, on the floor of the senate, he would go on for long, long periods of time. >> why is that such a steady critique of you? >> because probably i talk too much sometimes. >> after biden's short-lived presidential campaign collapsed, long-windedness took a back seat as obama considered him as a running mate. >> obama was coming with relatively little washington experience, here was joe biden with 36 years in the united states senate. >> and 36 years of being his own boss. >> he was a senate man. he loved everything about the senate. >> when he asked me if i'd do it i said no, i didn't want to be
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vice president. because my view was i was a fairly powerful united states senator, i thought i could help him more as chairman of the foreign relations committee. >> and he called me, and i said oh my gosh, that's so great. he said i don't know. i said i'll call the kids, and we'll talk about it. >> i came home and we got the family together. my mom looked at me and said joey, let me get this straight. the first black man in history has the chance to be elected president, he wants you to run with him and you told him no, honey? >> game, set, match. all over. >> that was it. >> it was like the hand of god. >> ladies and gentlemen, my friend, barack obama, the next president of the united states of america! >> from that moment on, biden was all in, as long as he could have weekly meetings with the president and serve as his chief adviser on all matters. >> biden said, i don't want a portfolio. all i want to know is that when you make the big decisions that
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i'm going to be in the room, and obama joked, i want your advice, joe, i just want it in 10-minute increments, not 60-minute increments. >> for decades he's brought change to washington, but washington hasn't changed him. >> so the man of the senate, the two-time presidential also-ran, finally became a winner. alongside a partner who was at the top of the ticket. >> this is a moment so many people have been waiting for. >> i want to thank my partner in this journey. a man who campaigned from his heart, the vice president-elect of the united states, joe biden. my kids, they know i'm a scientist. but it's hard to explain to them what i do every day. ♪ right now, i'm working on purification technologies
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i, joseph robinette biden jr., do solemnly swear -- >> in january 2009 vice president joe biden swore on his family bible to defend the sfun. >> against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
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>> biden was obama's top adviser without portfolio, but his job quickly began with one huge assignment. economic recovery. >> 2.6 million jobs lost in 2008, the largest one-year drop. since 1945. >> the global economy, our economy is sinking. >> i mean, the view from the windshield was the ground. the economy was just going straight down. >> the obama administration proposed a massive stimulus bill, massive at least by 2009 standards. biden's job, corral the senate republicans needed to get it done. >> the recovery act passed the house on a straight party-line vote. but in the senate it faced a filibuster and that meant we needed three republican votes to get it passed and it really fell into joe biden's lap to go up to capitol hill and persuade those three republicans to deliver those three votes. we got to 60 votes right on the nose. >> on behalf of the country and its people, mr. president, let me presume to say, thank you, we owe you a great deal. >> so just four weeks after the
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inauguration, the administration pumped $787 billion into a teetering economy. it was risky business. with some democrats complaining it wasn't enough and republicans arguing it was too large. >> we have no assurance that it will create jobs or revive the economy. in short, we're taking an enormous risk. an enormous risk with other people's money. >> the president of the united states! [ cheers and applause ] >> i'd asked vice president biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort, because nobody messes with joe. >> to implement the stimulus, it had to be free of any problems, scandals. and it had to be fast and furious. so you had to move unbelievably fast but no problems and no slipups. >> over the next seven years the economy grew, though relatively slowly.
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unemployment dropped by half, and millions of jobs were added. >> good morning, folks, how are you? >> the following year, biden was on the hill again, this time to help find the votes for the affordable care act. >> the patient protection and affordable care act is passed. >> his role in obamacare was principally as an arm twister. >> but in the end, biden may be remembered as much for what he whispered to his boss when the legislation passed. >> ladies and gentlemen, the president of the united states of america, barack obama. [ cheers and applause ] >> this is a big [ bleep ] deal. >> thank you. >> and then there was the time biden jumped the gun on the president, announcing his own support for gay marriage on a sunday show. >> i am absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and
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heterosexual men and women are entitled to the same exact rights. >> but biden's utility went beyond domestic policy, as obama tasked him to handle assignments in afghanistan and also iraq, where the administration had promised to end the war. >> during the transition, president-elect obama said why don't you go to iraq and afghanistan in january to get the freshest possible information to inform our review. >> so, that's what they did. biden returned from the trip, believing afghanistan was a complete mess and told the president. >> there was not unity of mission, unity of purpose, and he said, mr. president, the first thing we need to do is make sure that we have a clear set of objectives and a clear strategy and that everyone agrees on it. >> one point of agreement was that the first order of business was sending 25,000 additional troops to afghanistan, to ensure the country's upcoming elections
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would be fair. but then came a request for even more troops. >> based on an assessment by the new commander in afghanistan, stan mcchrystal, he came back to washington and asked for an additional 40,000 u.s. troops. >> the military brass were on board, but not biden, who never stopped raising questions and clearly got on their nerves. >> you had gates, mullen, petraeus, mcchrystal, hillary clinton. the vice president saying to that vast array of experienced people stop, wait a minute, we have to rethink this. >> well, i think he was saying slow down, there's no rush to judgment here. >> so the vice president would play as he liked to say the skunk at the picnic. he would be the bad cop. he would be the one pressing the military, why do you need that many resources? i don't believe that. explain that. >> i would be the one taking them on.
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the president was new, they knew of he didn't have foreign policy experience, and if they went after him and it was a mistake it would be a very costly mistake. >> and it became total complicity with president obama. they would confer before the meetings. and the president would say, joe, it would be great if you pushed on this or focused on that or prodded on that. that allowed the president to kind of not show his cards, to sit back, to hear everyone out. >> the debates inside the situation room grew more and more tense, especially with the military brass. >> there's always an attitude that, you know, we're the ones who put our lives on the line. we are the military experts. we expect that, you know, when we make a recommendation that you'll -- you'll give deference to those that have military experience. and the vice president is not one to do that. that's why some have been critical of joe biden. >> one source of the tension was
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biden's notion of a much smaller presence aimed directly at the terrorists. >> fundamentally, the reason we're in afghanistan in 2009 and frankly today, ten years later, has to do with al qaeda and terrorists who can reach out of afghanistan to strike us or our allies. so he was laser focused on the terrorism problem. >> and how many boots on the ground would that have required? >> i think it was more along the lines of 10,000 or 15,000, in that range. >> biden lost the fight. unable to convince obama, who opted instead for the pentagon plan. the president committed 30,000 troops and told the brass to get the additional 10,000 from allies. former defense secretary robert gates, who declined to be interviewed for this profile, wrote this about biden in his memoir. quote, i think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four
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decades. but when asked about that quote this summer, gates chose to steer the conversation to his assessment of biden's character over their policy disputes. >> i have a lot of policy disagreements, frankly, with the former vice president. but i think one of the things that people will be weighing this fall is probably the character of the two contestants. >> good afternoon, folks. >> in 2010, biden was still looking for a way to end the iraq war. >> barack and i, who did he turn to to end the war? me. >> we are committed to building an enduring partnership between iraq and the united states. >> biden's goal? convince iraqi prime minister nouri al maliki that the u.s. be allowed to leave a small military presence behind. but al maliki refused. >> did biden not push hard enough on that? >> he didn't push at all.
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>> they say they did. they say they pushed and they pushed and they pushed. >> no. they did not push with any conviction. president obama ran on ending wars. they didn't push hard. because what they wanted to do was skedaddle. and skedaddle they did. >> your dream of an independent and sovereign iraq is now a reality. >> in december 2011, the obama administration stuck to a schedule agreed to by president bush and with drew. >> ultimately, we did leave a vacuum there, and ultimately, we paid a price for that. >> in iraq right now, militant isis fighters are less than 40 miles away from the capital of baghdad. >> and that ultimately forced the united states to go back in to iraq in order to make sure that they didn't take over the entire country. >> so u.s. troops returned to
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fill the vacuum, temporarily. but the controversy over the growth of isis still remains. up next, the biden who returned from iraq to face another battle. >> they say 1% of, of people survive, and we kept thinking why, why can't he be the 1%? at visionworks, we know it's easy to forget to use your vision benefits before the year's up.
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joining us from wilmington, delaware is vice president joe biden. >> it was a monday in may just like any other. >> hey, harry. how are you doing? >> until it wasn't. >> criticism coming about the choice of elena kagan to be the next supreme court justice. >> i'll never forget it. >> the american people see what they're getting -- >> the vice president had gone home for the weekend, and he was doing tv to support the president's nomination to the supreme court. >> we're joined now by vice president joe biden. >> we got back to the vice president's house, and suddenly,
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there was this commotion behind us, and fran person, who was the president's aide, body aide, stuck his head in the window and said "beau's down." something's happened to beau. >> "beau's down"? >> "beau's down." i'm like, what? the motorcade bolted behind us and took off. >> the vice president rushed to the hospital where his eldest son, 41-year-old beau, had been taken. >> nobody knew at that point was he even alive, like what had happened? as the day progressed, the diagnosis was a stroke. i remember a moment in the hospital waiting room looking at the vice president and jill biden sitting together, holding hands, with just unbelievable anxiety and grief on their face and thinking, this is so unfair. that this would be happening to him, after what he's been through. gradually, the news got better that day, and the stroke, what they thought was a stroke resolved itself. >> thanks, everybody. >> it appeared resolved a week later when beau left the hospital.
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but it wasn't. the real problem would be hidden for three more years. >> can you describe biden's relationship with beau? >> incredibly close. it was more than just father/son. they were almost alter egos. >> you could just see the love and the pride. all quiet and unspoken between them. he was such a humble, decent person, beau was. >> the natural person to introduce his father to the nation in 2008. >> please join me in welcoming my friend, my father, my hero, the next vice president of the united states. joe biden. [ cheers and applause ] >> beau served in iraq with the national guard. >> the attorney general of the
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state of delaware, beau biden. >> and was the attorney general of delaware, contemplating a run for governor. he was bound for bigger things, and not just because of his last name. >> and i thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there for me. >> he was the heir apparent, but there was no question he could earn it himself. >> he was an incredible natural, right? who you just had to get out of the way and let him shine. >> i knew he would follow in his father's footsteps. i mean, he loved politics, even as a little boy. >> did you think he was going to run for president someday? >> oh, absolutely, absolutely, yeah. >> by 2013 beau biden was married with two young children. >> and then he had this incident while he was traveling with his family and ends up at the doctor's office, and it was after that initial visit with the doctor that we heard from the vice president that he
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needed to see a specialist at md anderson in houston. >> md anderson, a top cancer hospital. >> do you remember when biden called you? >> yes. i do. >> you could tell from his voice that they had had a very challenging conversation with the doctor. >> the diagnosis was deadly. glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. the chances for long-term survival near zero. >> it was hard. i mean, it was hard. we just kept hope that he was going to make it. you know, they say 1% of people survive. and we kept thinking, why can't he be the 1%? after the workday, i would head to walter reed hospital, joe would head to walter reed. he would be there till 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.
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and then he would come home, you know, grab a couple hours of sleep, or fall asleep, you know, at beau's bedside and then shower and start the next day. >> i said to him, i find it remarkable how you're able to deal with this. he said, you know, the reality is i've dealt with this before. i know how this story unfolds. >> friends and family say during this time he leaned heavily on his faith. >> i'd see him in meetings fingering his rosary beads. i knew he was praying for him. joe on occasion would come in to st. ann's or st. patrick's. he'd come in after mass had started and just slip in the back with his detail. and be there. and then he'd leave before it ended so he didn't, you know, disrupt everything, but i remember looking back and sort of stealing a glance at one
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point. and he just -- he was praying. >> biden also got support from his boss. >> the only person i told about how bad off beau was, and he kept the confidence, was barack. >> for years the president and vice president had a weekly lunch appointment, and when beau got sick the struggle became their shared conversation. >> did they become closer? >> they absolutely became closer. as people do, right? when they experience great life events together. >> so close that when the vice president mentioned he might sell his home to help his son, the president made a stunning offer. >> i said, if beau resigns, there's nothing to fall back on, his salary. and i said but i worked it out. jill and i will sell the house, we'll be in good shape. when he got up, he said don't sell that house, promise me you won't sell the house.
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he's going to be mad at me for saying this, he said, i'll give you the money. >> and while the vice president tried to help the son, the son tried to help his father. >> i absolutely believe and will believe it until the day i die, that the thing beau was most afraid of was not dying. what he was most afraid of was the impact it would have on his dad. that it would really take his dad out. >> did he tell you that? >> oh, yeah. oh, yeah. all the time. >> it's something the vice president wrote about in 2017 in his book "promise me, dad." >> beau just made me promise. this was just before he died. he said, "dad, you've got to promise me you're going to be okay." he said, "dad, look at me, look me in the eye. dad, give me your word as a biden, dad, you'll be okay." >> are you okay? >> i am, because it is still emotional. but i knew what he meant.
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he was worried i'd walk away from everything i'd worked my whole life, the things i cared about. he knew i'd take care of the family. he never wondered about that. but he didn't want me walking away. >> forward. march. >> beau biden died on may 30th, 2015. he was 46 years old. >> beau biden was an original. he was a good man. a man of character. a man who loved deeply and was loved in return. >> is it true you keep beau's rosary with you? >> got it in my pocket. >> all the time? >> i keep it all the time. he had it when he passed away.
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it was more gold. you can see it's worn. >> mm-hmm. >> that was the spring of 2015. and as ever in joe biden's life, another political deadline loomed. would he run for president again in 2016? >> we had a talk. he just kind of wanted, you know, do you think i should run for president? it inevitably turned into a talk about beau, you know, how would he get through it and how would he do it and how would it happen without him? >> so when you left that meeting, did you think he was going to run? >> i thought he was going to really, really wrestle with it, but i thought that he was not yet in a place where there was a floor. there was this moment where we started talking and you could just see there was no bottom. there was just this hole. >> the decision wasn't just about beau. it was getting late in the race for the democratic nomination.
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hillary clinton had already captured key support and big money. >> thank you all very much. >> have you made your decision yet? >> can't hear you. >> have you made your decision yet? >> and as biden wrote in his 2017 memoir, obama's political team thought the race wasn't winnable, and obama himself was not encouraging, and so -- >> as my family and i have worked through the grieving process, i've said all along that it may very well be that that process, by the time we get through it, closes the window on mounting a realistic campaign for president. i've concluded it has closed. thank you all very much. >> joe biden was 73 years old, and it seemed that the presidency was out of reach for good. did he think it was over then? the notion of running for president?
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>> yeah. oh, yeah. >> 2016? >> yeah. >> then the president gave biden another job. >> last year vice president biden said that with a new moon shot america can cure cancer. >> obama gave biden his moon shot. >> so tonight i'm announcing a new national effort to get it done. and because he's gone to the mat for all of us on so many issues over the past 40 years, i'm putting joe in charge of mission control. >> and then, this. >> i am pleased to award our nation's highest civilian honor, the presidential medal of freedom. [ applause ] >> with nearly 50 years of public service under his belt and the nation's highest civilian honor around his neck, joe biden thought his time in washington was over.
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♪ come on! ♪ over here! ♪
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thank you very much, everybody. as the curtain dropped on the obama administration. >> joe biden was beloved by everyone in this chamber. even those he drove crazy, from time to time. >> reporter: republican senators, who didn't want to talk with us about joe biden, heaped praise on him. >> i do trust him, implicitly. he doesn't break his word. he doesn't waste time telling me why i'm wrong. he gets down to brass tax, and he keeps, in sight, the stakes. >> reporter: a retirement party, senate style. where the compliments flowed freely, because biden would never run again. even biden believed it. >> then, along came charlottesville. >> jews will not replace us! >> these people, coming out of
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fields, with torches and contorted face, veins bulging, spewing hate. >> but you, also, had people that were very fine people, on both sides. >> he said there were fine people on both sides. and i thought, god. >> that's why, today, i'm announcing my candidacy for president of the united states. >> reporter: it was april, 2019, and joe biden, then-aged 76, had come full circle. from one of the youngest men ever elected to the senate, seeking to become the oldest person to take the presidential oath. donald trump, clearly, saw biden as a threat. so much so, that he was impeached by the house. >> article ii is adopted. >> reporter: over a phone call he had with the ukrainian president, asking him to investigate biden and his son, hunter. >> what biden did is a disgrace. what his son did is a disgrace. >> reporter: at issue was hunter
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biden's five-year stint on the board of a ukrainian energy company, burisma, which began while his father was vice president. >> biden and his son are stone-cold crooked. >> reporter: president trump claimed joe biden used his considerable influence to force out a ukrainian prosecutor, whom trump says, was investigating hunter. >> he said is that he wouldn't give, i think it was billions of dollars, to ukraine unless they fired the prosecutor who was looking at his son. >> reporter: there is zero evidence that this is true. biden did want the prosecutor fired, but that's because he was widely viewed as corrupt. and biden was leading an anti-corruption campaign, backed by the u.s. and western allies. >> there was this ongoing relationship between hunter biden and the board and joe biden and the country of ukraine. and there are those who would say that just, on itself, is a conflict of interest. you shouldn't do that. >> reporter: last year, hunter
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biden told abc news he made a mistake. >> did i make a mistake? well, maybe, in -- in -- in the grand scheme of things, yeah. but, did i make a mistake, based upon some ethical lapse? absolutely not. >> do you ever think that you should have just told hunter to get off the board, even if it was only a matter of optics? >> optically, had i known earlier, i wish, you know, we -- we -- we both wish it hadn't happened that way. but the fact is all the people who testified under oath in the -- in the impeachment hearings acknowledge that there wasn't a single thing biden did, either one, that was illegal, inappropriate. there's no evidence of that. but it would've been easier. would've been a lot easier. >> reporter: the attacks clearly got under biden's skin. >> you're selling access to the president, just like he was. >> you're a damn liar, man. that's not true and no one has ever said that. >> reporter: and ethical questions continued to be raised by republicans. >> there is no way, as the vice
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president, that i would let my son do that. no way. i mean, and i would -- i would make a point to make sure that it didn't happen because i just think that that's wrong. >> thank you. thank you. >> reporter: by february, democrats were heading to the polls, and biden's fate was up to the voters. >> this 15.6 is a disappointment for biden, currently running fourth. >> fourth in iowa. fifth in new hampshire. soon, came south carolina. and did you think that it was looking pretty bleak? >> yeah, i thought that. >> reporter: and so, just days before the primary, influential congressman, jim clyburn, hoping to give biden a boost, endorsed him. >> i want the public to know that i am voting for joe biden. south caroli south carolinans should be voting for joe biden. >> it worked, big time. >> sweeping, blowout win for joe biden. 46 counties in south carolina.
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46 county victories for joe biden. >> my buddy, jim clyburn, you brought me back! >> by 29 points and he wouldn't have done it, without you. >> man of enormous integrity. >> there's -- there's no doubt about that. >> well, some people say that. >> reporter: the decisive results in south carolina quickly collapsed the democratic field. >> they don't call it super tuesday for nothing! >> reporter: so, biden, who started the race as the front-runner, was back at the top of the heap, and the world. but the next week, covid forced him and everyone else down to earth, and back inside their homes for months. >> travel restricted. schools shuttered. >> millions of jobs were lost. the death toll mounted. then came racial tensions, after the death of george floyd, at the hands of minneapolis police. >> i know what it means to have
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that black hole in your chest where your grief is being sucked into it. >> empathy is joe biden's superpower. and he applies it to everything. and i think he fully intends to apply it to the country and the challenges we are facing right now. >> reporter: as biden continued to rise in the polls, trump's attacks dug deeper. taking on his opponent's acuity and age. >> they're going to put him into a home, and other people are going to be running the country. >> reporter: trump and biden are contemporaries. both, born in the 1940s, and biden is less than four years older than trump. >> he's almost -- he's approaching 80 years of age. i don't know of anybody that hasn't lost a step when you're approaching your 80th year. you do and he has. >> i think it's ridiculous. i mean, if you follow joe, i mean, he's usually the last one
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to leave a rally or a rope line. and then, when he comes home, he's on the phone. he's doing briefings. >> what do you say to people, who watch you on tv and they say he's not the old biden i knew, and he's lost a step, after all these years? and it worries me. what do you say to those folks? >> watch me. i say, watch me. good evening. >> reporter: more than 21 million people watched joe biden accept the democratic nomination. >> so, it's with great honor and humility i accept this nomination for president of the united states of america. >> reporter: with his historic running mate, kamala harris, by his side, biden saw a ticket that looked like the future. republicans were quick to paint harris as part of the left wing. pulling her silver-haired elder in that direction. drawing a caricature of biden as an empty vessel, captured by radicals. >> he's a trojan horse, with
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bernie, aoc, pelosi, black lives matter, and his party's entire left wing. >> biden is a trojan horse for socialism. >> reporter: at his convention, biden saw himself as the man to lead the way out of the pan d pandemic, by believing in science, and understanding the pain it has caused. >> i know how mean, cruel, and unfair, life can be sometimes. >> reporter: and he made the case for a resilient america, moored by hope and decency. >> the calls for hope and light and love. hope for our future, light to see our way forward, and love for one another. >> reporter: there were two conventions, two alternate universes, two very different men. >> are joe biden and donald trump polar opposites? >> 100%. joe biden, in character and in policies, is the polar opposite of donald trump. >> and is that a good thing?
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>> 120%, yes. and i think i'm shaving 10 or 15% off. it could be 150%. polar opposites. >> joe doesn't read his compassion off a teleprompter. >> do you see yourself as the polar opposite of donald trump? >> i hope so. >> cnn projects joseph r. biden jr. is elected the 46th president of the united states. >> reporter: and so, the man who will be 46 began behaving as the polar opposite of 45. taking on the pandemic, not downplaying it. >> i'll spare no effort, none, or any commitment to turn around this pandemic. >> reporter: trying to unite the country, not divide it. >> i'll work as hard for those who didn't vote for me, as those who did. >> reporter: and charting the nation on a very different
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course. >> let this grim era of demonization in america begin to end, here and now! ♪ bri i want to welcome our viewers, in the united states, and all around the world. live, from hong kong, i'm anna cornyn. just ahead, on cnn "newsroom." days before christmas, the discovery of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus has placed the uk on lockdown. we will have the latest for you. we could be just hours away from a rollout of a second vaccine in the united states. what's next? and how will


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