The Hawk Eye spoke with the Democratic presidential candidate during his Burlington visit last week.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden sat down with The Hawk Eye team last week when he was in town — actually, we stood outside The Barn on the Ridge enjoying a brilliant Iowa summer afternoon — and, after chatting with him about rock music, duck hunting and fathers, we asked the former vice president about his presidential intentions.
Joe Biden strives to connect with people. He doesn't shout at them, he leans into his conversations. Elegant yet subdued in deep blue suit and powder blue Oxford, he's an expressive man who grasps a forearm to make a point, clasps the shoulders of his listener to emphasize his commitment to what he's saying.
Positive human interaction is heavily dependent upon touch — newborn babies know this innately — and Joe Biden isn't afraid to reach out.
THE: Mister Vice President, we polled friends and associates to create some questions for you, and they all want to know what you plan to do, rather than what you think.
JB: OK. What I plan to do is try to put this country back on the path that brings integrity back to the White House.
THE: If you’re elected president, what are the first three things you’ll do after you’re sworn in?
JB: Immediately rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, which we put together; secondly, legalize Dreamers and send to the Senate a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform; and thirdly, I will send to the Senate my plan for health care, which takes Obamacare and adds a public health option to it and deal with the drug crisis.
THE: How will a Biden presidency affect Iowa?
JB: It will affect Iowa several ways: Number one, we'll end this incredible stupidity about the trade wars that's going on. It's killing not just Iowans, it's also killing folks back in my home state of Delaware. It's farmers who are getting hurt bad. Secondly, I think Iowans, and Midwesterners in general, are looking for some integrity, making sure they have somebody who does what they say and means what they say.
But there are a lot of things in an entire rural policy that I've laid out in great detail as to how we can, in fact, generate growth in industry as well as providing opportunities for people in rural America, to have all their kids have access to broadband, have the same opportunities others do, and businesses to have that opportunity. I have a distinct plan that costs several billion dollars; that's how we do that.
THE: What’s it going to take to get politicians from both sides to work together to move our country forward?
JB: Two things: One, right now Donald Trump has a stranglehold on the Republican party. They're afraid of him because of the fact that unlimited spending is able to be poured into districts by his friends, if in fact they don't act the way they want them to.
Secondly, gerrymandering. The thing that's going to change with Donald Trump gone, I think we'll find ourselves in a position where people in their districts, the Republican districts, know that their guy isn't voting the way they want him to vote, even if they're Republicans.
For example, in 2018, I went into 24 states and 69 races. Up to that time, until they started to take it away, no one knew what Obamacare was. All of a sudden people figured it out when it started being taken away. It was like, "Hey man,if you want to take it away we are going to hit it head on." I went from Alabama to Montana, and across the board I picked up 41 seats by just telling people the truth.
Look, go back to the late Sixties: The whole idea was that everybody was going to drop out, go to Haight-Ashbury, not get involved in politics, etc. Then what happened? Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, and Martin Luther King. I remember walking across the stage when I was getting my law school degree the day after my hero Bobby Kennedy was assassinated; I walked across the stage coming from no background at all in politics or having any influence and I decided to get engaged. A whole generation got engaged. Well, guess what? Donald Trump has awakened a whole generation, and you're going to see a lot of change.
THE: Iowa’s former governor Terry Branstad was appointed ambassador to China early in the current administration: We Iowans are wondering why we never hear from him in the current climate of trade discussions with that country. Do you have any insight as to why?
JB: He knows better. On trade, across the board, he knows this is killing Iowa. We're going about it the wrong way.
THE: Should Planned Parenthood be funded by the federal government?
JB: Yes, we should continue to fund it the way we have in the past.
THE: Where were you on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong took that giant leap for mankind?
I was driving to see my deceased wife's grandma up the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, heading to Syracuse, and we heard — we had the radio on — that Armstrong had landed on the moon. We pulled over, and I remember doing the dumbest thing in the world, looking back on it: looking up at the moon like I'm going to see him. [laughs] Then driving down that exit going into Scranton, my uncle Jack Finnegan's house where my brother was, and watching it on television. But I remember getting out and going [he cranes his neck at the sky], "Oh, gosh" like I'm going to wave at him or something [laughs again].
THE: Instead of trying to control guns, what about the possibility of controlling the manufacture of ammunition?
JB: You know the Second Amendment? The Second Amendment is like every other amendment — it has limitations. It's never been argued that you can't limit the kind of weapon — you can't go buy a flamethrower, you can't buy an F-15. No. By the way, the screwballs that talk about the Tree of Liberty is watered with the blood of patriots, about being protected from the government — we ain't going to do that unless you have some real heavy-duty weapons.
There is no rationale: If you're a hunter, deer aren't wearing a Kevlar vest to stop cop-killer bullets; it doesn't make any sense. And you don't need a hundred rounds; if you need a hundred rounds to go out hunting then you shouldn't own a gun because you're a menace to society. I beat the NRA once in 1994 and I beat those guys on background checks, as well as on assault weapons and the number of bullets that can be in a clip. We can do that again because you let the public know that's not the problem.
You want to change things? You can buy a weapon, a gun. I have three shotguns, my son had two shotguns locked up in my house, my son who passed away. [Beau Biden died in 2015 at age 46.] I only use them for skeet shooting, which I haven't done in a while.
But here's the deal: We now have the technology to be able to make sure we get a biometric read on the trigger you pull. How's that violate your Second Amendment rights? It doesn't. And that's where you have to go for gun manufacturers. They're the ones who are the problem.
When the president asked me to put together those executive orders after what happened up in Connecticut, we found the polling data showed that 56 to 58 percent of NRA members agreed with us on limitations of assault weapons, on the number of cartridges, etc. And so I think the country's moving on. I don't think anybody thinks that owning an assault rifle makes any sense. Now, if you're a collector, you have a special permit to do it, if you use it for purposes you're registered to use it — target practice — arguably there should be a way, but who the hell is taking an AR-15 to target practice? And if you want to keep an intruder out — I got in trouble for saying this before — take my 12-gauge shotgun.
Look, there's never been an argument that the Second Amendment says you can't limit who can own a weapon. So if you can't pass the background check, for God's sake, because you have a mental illness, because you have a criminal record, because you're a wife beater — there are reasons.
Now, in all honesty, you know as well as I do — 60 percent of all the people killed by bullets kill themselves: suicide*. We can stop what's going on in terms of these mass shootings ... in Ohio; a hundred rounds? C'mon, man! I took constitutional law for a long time, and the Second Amendment argument that I argue, and a lot of the legal scholars argue, is that it was for "A well regulated Militia," but the problem was there was no arsenal, we didn't have a standing army, and so the way you called the militia was, "The British are coming, man" and assemble a militia. That's why they had the Second Amendment — for a well-regulated militia.
Then it was time for Biden to head to the next town on his schedule.
"Mister Vice President, before you go: What's your favorite Beatles album?" we asked. "We're guessing it's the White Album."
Biden tried to suppress a mystical smile.
"The sun is shining and it's a beautiful day," he said and walked away into the glorious Iowa afternoon.
Joe Biden in conversation is, quite simply, a man on a mission in which he believes: Make America grateful again.
*In 2016, the CDC said 22,938 people committed suicide by firearm, while 14,415 people died in gun homicides.