Return to Transcripts main page


Trump and Biden Final Face Off; Candidates Acted Civil and Calm; Both Candidates Scored Points. Aired 10:35-11p ET

Aired October 22, 2020 - 22:35   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So, there you have it. A much more coherent debate compared to that first match up a few weeks ago. The President of the United States obviously listened to his key advisers here. There was very little interrupting. They mostly -- mostly -- followed the rules, but still focusing in on some of the major differences that they have.

The American public clearly has a better appreciation of where these two men stand on some of the most important policy issues of the day. Their family members are coming up on the stage right now. We're going to watch a little bit of this before they both disappear.

But, Jake, this was clearly, clearly a much different debate than the first one.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Yes, that's right, Wolf. It was definitely a more normal debate. President Trump behaved more like a regular person might theoretically. I think it's fair to say that Trump supporters and Republican office holders can relax for the night. They can exhale. He didn't set himself on fire tonight like he did at the first debate.

I mean, he did lie like Pinocchio and I'm sure Daniel Dale will get to that in the fact checking section. But beyond that it's fair to say President Trump got in a couple of clean hits when it came to Vice President Biden, when it came to the 1994 crime bill, when it came to Joe Biden being in politics for so long.

He even probably fed some raw meat to his base successfully using Breitbart and Fox lingo that most voters have no idea what he's talking about. But he got those shots in there however based in reality they are.

The problem for the president as I see it is twofold. One, Joe Biden did fine. He had a fine performance. He definitely reached the threshold. And given that so much of this election is a referendum on Donald Trump and he is the underdog, according to polls, Joe Biden is ahead. Joe Biden did nothing to disqualify himself. It was a fine performance.

And the second problem is that Joe Biden scored points. He got his licks in on issues that I think might affect voters more when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, when it comes to healthcare and the fact that the Trump administration has not offered any sort of viable alternative to Obamacare.

And then there was that rough moment that had to do with the fact that -- of the child family separation policy, there are still more than 500 kids that the Trump administration has not been able to place back with the parents whose arms they snatched them from.

So, I think at the end of the day, Dana, the race has been fairly stable. I think, you know, there might be some movement when it comes to soft Trump supporters who are unsure feeling like, well, that's a more normal person than the last debate.

And maybe even some points scored in terms of getting black men who really hate that 1994 crime bill and their families on board, perhaps. But I don't see anything that will change the trajectory of the race in a significant way. What do you think?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I agree with you. Look, we all described in colorful terms what we thought of the first presidential debate. And this was a debate. It's what Americans should expect when they are watching two people who want to be the leader of their country, the leader of the free world to try to figure out where they stand on policy issues and where they are when it comes to their character.


As you said, there were a lot of things that Daniel will get to that were just flat out lies and they got off course talking about things that probably most people don't care about, especially in where we are in a pandemic in very, very tough times.

But Donald Trump listened to his advisers this time. I talked to a lot of them going into the debate. They told me exactly what they were trying to get him to do, which is much like they did the last time. He didn't listen last time. He did this time for the most part. But do you know what? So did Joe Biden. He did what he practiced to do.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and you know, honestly this debate was just the same content from the first debate except that now you can understand what people are saying. And so, in that respect, it was better because people could, you know, really evaluate the differences between what was being said.

But in terms of the substance of what was being said, the president fell into some of the same patterns, continued to downplay the virus and the effect of this upswing that the country is currently in right now heading into the holiday season. He kept doing something that I think Joe Biden actually tried to exploit, which is dividing the country into red states and blue states. Repeatedly talking about the red states or the blue states are doing this and the blue states are doing this --


TAPPER: Your Democrats, your Democrat governors. Yes. PHILLIP: -- your Democrat want that. And if you watch the ads that are

on television for the Biden campaign right now, the message right now is not about, you know, coronavirus. It's not about fracking. It's not about any of those things. It's about unity. It's about bringing the country together.

And you saw Joe Biden repeatedly saying I'm not going to do that. I think the president really walked back into that trap because if you listen to him day to day like we all do, you hear the same content that he gives off in all of his interviews, in his media gaggles. It happened on the debate stage in a calmer tone, but it still isn't bridging the gap with the voters in the middle.

TAPPER: Yes, and that's the thing is that the president has been lying about the coronavirus pandemic since February. I mean, just straight up lying about it. It's going to be over by Easter. You know, I could go through them, but you get the point.

And we cover this every day. The three of us and all the journalists at CNN cover this. And the truth of the matter is the president did it again tonight. He said we're turning the curve. We're not going into a dark winter. The vaccine is going to be here in weeks. None of this is true. Every health expert including health --


PHILLIP: He criticized Fauci.

TAPPER: Yes, every health expert including those in his administration, Anderson, every single one says what Joe Biden said tonight. And they all say that what President Trump said tonight to the American people is not true. And this is the fundamental problem with the president's pitch is that the country can see that he's lying about the pandemic.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and so many people in this country have already voted and will vote by election day. Let's go to our team standing by, David Axelrod, just for everybody's quick take, what did you think?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, fundamentally if you're ahead and you get a draw, you win. And both of them were better than they were last time. But I thought that Joe Biden held his own. And that's all he had to do. He -- the trajectory of this race did not change. And as Abby pointed out on some, he did some big business in terms of speaking as an American president and swiping at Trump for being so partisan and talking about red and blue states and so on. I thought those were powerful points, and it's one of the reasons why he is in the position he's in.

COOPER: Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think that I agree with David. I think that Biden was sharper tonight than he was at the last debate. Maybe that was because he wasn't given much of a chance, but I do think he scored some points really against Biden -- I mean against Trump, particularly on immigration. When they were talking about the children in cages.


BORGER: What struck me was when Trump said they are so well taken care of.


JONES: Total lie.

BORGER: It was just -- well, a, it's a lie. And b, the statement itself is just so stunning to me that I almost couldn't believe that someone would really say that. And then, you know, just looking over the whole debate, overall, what the president was trying to do was to present himself as the outsider talking about you politicians when, in fact, he's been running the country for the last four years. And I thought that was pretty striking also because it also isn't true.

COOPER: Senator Santorum, he did a lot of what you said was going to do.

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. He sure did. You guys you watched a different debate than I did. And certainly, from everything I'm hearing from my folks, I mean, you guys watched a very different debate.


I think Donald Trump was right on his game. I actually think that he completely skewered Joe Biden. You mentioned the point where he called Biden a politician, looking into the camera. I think every time after that, everyone thought about that line. Here he is just looking into the camera being a typical politician.

The other thing, and I'll be curious to see how many people pick up on this. Joe Biden at the end of the -- I think looking at his watch. If you recall the campaign with George H.W. Bush, looked at his watch because he was sweating it out and I think that's what a lot of people are saying, that Joe Biden was bodily a little shaken at the end and looking at his watch to see when this thing would be over. I think that's going to be a meme out of this debate.


JONES: Look, I think Donald Trump did his best ever and his best was not good enough. Bottom line. It was the same stuff just with a little bit less volume on it. But no plan for the future. A big apology for a bunch of failures and then smacking at Joe Biden all the time.

But he literally he did nothing he has always done. He sounded better, he looked better, but there was nothing there. There was nothing there. And some of the stuff he said, I agree with Gloria that the shocking lack of humanity that he demonstrated talking about those children, no apology.

I mean, a human being just would have said, hey, I can't sleep at night thinking about those kids. I'm doing everything I can for those kids. For him to sit up there and lie and say they're being treated well was horrific. It was -- it was inhuman. And I disagree with you, Senator when --


JONES: -- whenever Joe -- I just disagree with you. Whenever Joe Biden looked in the camera and cut through the crap and start talking about real stuff, I think it did land.

COOPER: Senator?

SANTORUM: Number one, we're not keeping kids in cages anymore. And the bottom line is --


JONES: Where are their parents?

SANTORUM: -- Trump I think very effect -- very effectively said who built the cages. And the reality is Joe Biden built the cages.


BORGER: Who separate the children?

SANTORUM: Not Donald Trump.

JONES: And who used them -- and who used them in a horrific barbaric way? Who used them in a horrific and barbaric ways that are --


SANTORUM: I agree. But what he was talking about --

JONES: -- stench in the nostrils of God. If you want to talk about what's happening to those children and what's happening to those families, we can talk about it. But yes, in fact those things were never used in the way that the Trump administration has used them. And the kind -- the horrific abuses -- I don't think that you guys want to have this conversation with the American people.

SANTORUM: What Donald Trump was talking about is how those children are being taken care of now, not how they were taken care of then. I think everyone agrees how they were taken care of then was reprehensible --


JONES: Their parents --

SANTORUM: -- and it's no longer taking place. Just like the people who built the cages probably wouldn't have built them again today.

JONES: I know a lot more about this than you do, Senator. Those children are still in very nasty situations. A lot of people. But the way that they are deliberately dehumanizing people at the border in this country is a stench in the nostrils of God. It is one of the worse things.


SANTORUM: It's a different issue.

JONES: It's not a different issue.

SANTORUM: It's a different issue.

JONES: This president has no humanity for those children, not one scrap of humanity. And you would have said, anybody would have said I can't sleep at night. I care about these kids. You can pull it off.


SANTORUM: He said --

JONES: He doesn't care.

SANTORUM: What he said was, Van, is they were trying -- they are taking good care of these children. That's what he said.

JONES: That's not true.

SANTORUM: That's showing humanity that we want to take care of those children.

BORGER: Where's his plan? Where's the plan?

AXELROD: Rick, Rick, can I just, to Gloria -- to Gloria's point, and you said he attacked him for being a politician and he was very effective there. What does it feel like to you when he stands up there and says we're going to have a big beautiful healthcare plan, that he's been saying that for five years?


AXELROD: It was a classic -- it was the classic politician dodge.


SANTORUM: It was the worst answer of the night.

AXELROD: What did it say to you when he tries to unload all of this Giuliani stuff on Biden and ends up in a long whine about his tax returns and how he's been mistreated by the IRS and he can't release his tax returns. I mean, the fact is, he can say you're a politician and I'm not but he behaved like a politician. I agree that he was far better than he was. And if I were you, I would be giddy too because you had to defend that performance and you didn't.

SANTORUM: No, I didn't --

AXELROD: No, you didn't do it. I give you that. BORGER: Can I --

AXELROD: He was much, much better tonight, but there were these moments that reminded people exactly what bothers them about him. And some of them were about where he, you know, he talked about the Biden wanting blue state bailouts and talking about how the blue states are doing badly on coronavirus, which is patently untrue. The whole country is suffering through the same thing.

And every time Biden got to say I am running to be an American president, not the president of my base, I think that he rang up points with those voters who might be thinking one way or the other.

COOPER: I got to get a quick break in. Here's what to look for tonight as we break down the debate.


COOPER: Gloria, one of the things that the president clearly felt he scored points on was Joe Biden talking about wanting to get off fossil fuels in 20 --

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: -- 30, I'm not sure the exact year in the 2030.

BORGER: Yes. So, for the man who's not a politician and he's an outsider, is not making a play for the state of Pennsylvania because fracking is a big issue there --

SANTORUM: I hope so.

BORGER: Right, right, Rick Santorum, you know that. So, the politician was making a play for the state of California. And the president -- and Joe Biden has said, you know, you have to, he is for keeping fracking now, but eventually in the distant future, obviously, you have to phase it out. He made a huge point about, you know, the president made a huge point about that.

But what was -- where I thought he really lost his way because he has no answer is healthcare because, you know, he kept saying to Joe Biden, you had so many years to do x, y, and z, why didn't you do it? Well, the president had so many years if he hated Obamacare, and is repealing Obamacare, and is in the Supreme Court trying to get rid of Obamacare, why haven't they replaced it with anything?

SANTORUM: Yes, look --

BORGER: There is no answer for that, Rick.


BORGER: Other that Republicans can't agree on what they want.

SANTORUM: I -- first off, I agree with you, it was a pathetic answer on -- and frankly, he's had a pathetic answer, I just wrote an op-ped today in The Hill --


BORGER: I'll read it.

SANTORUM: -- today with his former healthcare adviser --

BORGER: I'll read it.

SANTORUM: -- saying, hey, hey, you have an answer, Mr. President, actually conservatives have put forward a plan that actually will reduce premiums and increase the number of uninsured -- increase the number of insured and do all the things that you want to do. Please endorse it. So, I'm as frustrated as most Republicans are.

BORGER: Have you heard that?


SANTORUM: No, I haven't. I'm as frustrated.

AXELROD: You know --

SANTORUM: But here's the bottom line. What the president doesn't talk about is that Medicare premiums are down 30 percent since the beginning of his term. Prescription drug premiums for Medicare part "d" are down 12 percent since the beginning of his term. Why he doesn't go out and talk about the successes of actually lowering Obamacare premium, broadening the market for people as a result of Obamacare and some of the things he's done and, but you're right.

JONES: I tell you what --

SANTORUM: As long as he doesn't have a plan, he's in trouble with answering that question.

BORGER: Exactly.

AXELROD: You know, just on that -- just on that --


JONES: And then he --

AXELROD: I'm sorry, Van, go ahead.

COOPER: Van, go ahead.

JONES: Then he tried -- he doesn't have a plan. He has no regrets looking backwards. He's already said, I have no regrets looking -- he's standing on the graves of a quarter million Americans with no regrets looking backward and then no plan going forward. So, what does he do? He covers up that failure and he covers up all those deficits by attacking Hunter Biden and trying to dirty up a Biden.

And no president who was proud of his past four years would ever mention Hunter Biden or any of that stuff. They would be doing exactly what you're saying, pounding away on successes. The reality is you have a president who knows that he has a colossal failure, and he has to distract Americans by attacking somebody that nobody believes is corrupt and nobody believes is a bad person. And that he wasted a lot of time tonight. A lot of time tonight.

COOPER: David Axelrod.

AXELROD: On the healthcare issue -- on the healthcare issue, I think a significant thing happened that actually helps Biden which is Trump was bearing down on him about socialized medicine, people were going to have to give up their healthcare.

And Biden turned to Trump and he said, I think he's confusing me with someone else. He was talking about Bernie Sanders and the others he ran against.

BORGER: Right.

AXELROD: He said, I'm -- he's running against Joe Biden. Joe Biden. I beat all these people because I disagreed with them on this issue. And he's absolutely right about that. He took --


AXELROD: -- he took a more moderate position that preserved -- that preserved private healthcare, that builds on the Affordable Care Act. I thought that was an important piece of business for him, for any voter out there who is confused by Trump's rhetoric about socialized medicine.

BORGER: Right, and then --

SANTORUM: Hold on, if you recall, you guys discussed the whole public option thing when you guys were debating Obamacare back when and you abandoned it, why? Because of its impact on private insurance. There's no question you put a public option in there, you're going to destroy a lot of the private insurance markets. So, again --


AXELROD: That's not --

SANTORUM: President -- President Trump didn't make an effective case against it, but the reality is, Biden's plan is not going to help the private market.

AXELROD: That is not why -- that's not why the public option wasn't in there, Rick, the public option wasn't in there because there were a few Democrats with ties to the insurance industry who opposed the public option.


SANTORUM: Because it was going to destroy private insurance. AXELROD: No, no, no, no. But, so, that wasn't why it was in there. And

you know what, there's enormous public support for this, enormous. Just as there's enormous public support for the Affordable Care Act.


You know, 55 percent, I think, in a poll today approve --


SANTORUM: Not in 2010, 2012, 2014.

COOPER: Let's turn to --


AXELROD: The president is not on the right side of this issue if you want to be on the side of the large majority of --

COOPER: Van Jones.

AXELROD: -- Americans.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: Van Jones, in those states that, you know, John King right before the debate were showing in these key battleground states where polls are actually quite close. I mean, nationally, you know, national polls are one thing, but all that matters is these key states. And polls are pretty close. Did this, tonight, change that dynamic in any way? Did it change the dynamics of the race?

JONES: You know, I would be surprised if it did. I do want to give Biden some credit. It took courage for him to say what he said about the oil industry. For him to say, I am committed to transitioning them over time, in a responsible way, to a better business model, frankly, these energy companies could have, you know, a much better business model, even the energy companies themselves are talking about this transition.

But for Joe Biden to not duck it, say, yes, we are going to move responsibly to that, that takes courage in an election where he's looking at a Texas as the senator just said, he's looking at a Pennsylvania.

But that's the thing about Joe Biden. He actually believes in some stuff. He's willing to take some stands on some stuff and there are, frankly, more job, a lot more jobs putting up solar panels than there are going to be on the oil rigs the next several years and he is willing to make that case as well. I'm just very -- I'm very proud that Joe Biden stood up for his beliefs and stood up for better jobs in the future rather than trying to back in the line for the old jobs.

BORGER: You know, I'll tell you another thing that came out of Joe Biden's mouth that was surprising to me because it was so stunning and frank. And we hear all this back and forth all the time now so maybe it just kind of floats over our heads.

He was trying to make a joke about Donald Trump and he called him Abraham Lincoln over here. And, of course, of course, Trump didn't get the joke. And he got very angry, but he said you're one of the most racist presidents in modern American history. Period.

And Donald Trump was talking about the '94 crime bill and all the rest of it. We know the history of that. We don't have to go through that again. But he made a statement sort of a blanket statement here, and he said, this guy is dog whistle is about as big as a fog horn, period. And we're used to that kind of language, I guess, in this campaign, but one candidate just called the other candidate a racist and, you know, it's not out of the ordinary.


SANTORUM: So, you can make the argument, Gloria --

BORGER: It's not out of the ordinary.

SANTORUM: You can make the argument, Gloria, that Joe Biden got in the gutter and Donald Trump didn't --

BORGER: Well --

SANTORUM: -- in this race tonight.

BORGER: Well, no, I won't make that argument. I won't make that argument.

SANTORUM: I will, because I think he did.

BORGER: Because -- I won't make that argument because I think that --

SANTORUM: You think it's true. I don't think it's true.

BORGER: I think there are reasons to believe that it is true, yes.

SANTORUM: Nobody called Donald Trump a racist before he was president of the United States. No one.

BORGER: And Donald Trump --


COOPER: That's not true. Wait, I'm sorry.

SANTORUM: Central Park thing, but Donald Trump --

COOPER: No, no, but wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute.

BORGER: Wait a minute. Let me stand about --


COOPER: Other than the Central -- excuse me, other than the Central Park thing, the Central Park thing --

SANTORUM: I understand that case.

COOPER: -- actually has five human beings' lives who were sent to prison --

SANTORUM: I get it.

COOPER: -- convicted for crimes that they did not commit.


SANTORUM: I understand.

COOPER: And he refuses -- I mean, you know that, rick.

BORGER: And also, he says, you know, justice reform, I really wanted that, well, talk to Van Jones about how they had to talk this president into the kind of -- into that kind of reform. That he went into --


SANTORUM: He did it.

BORGER: -- it kicking and screaming. Kicking and screaming. Van.

COOPER: OK. Van, I want to --


AXELROD: Rick, three weeks ago, three weeks ago we were talking about him refusing to condemn the Proud Boys.

BORGER: Proud Boys. Right.

AXELROD: So, I mean, it isn't as if Gloria is pulling that out of the air. This has been part of the president's political project. He does -- he does dog whistle and he does stand down when he's called on to condemn --


BORGER: Biden called him out.

AXELROD: -- racist organizations and that has been a problem for him. And you know that as well. It makes you uncomfortable as well.

COOPER: Van, Van, go ahead.

JONES: I -- this is a complicated thing here. First of all, the right wing always says nobody called him a racist before he was president. It's just not true. Once he started on the birther thing, that shocked a lot -- Donald Trump did have allies in the black community. Donald Trump had been a supporter of civil rights causes. In fact, Donald Trump had been a supporter of Kamala Harris, believe it or not, but when he went down the road of the birther thing, that changed his relationship with the black community. That, it did. And then since then, he's trying to do two things that don't go well together. He's trying to put together a peanut butter and ketchup sandwich.

OK, on the one hand he has done good stuff on criminal justice, on opportunity zones and on black colleges. That's true. But he's also appealed to white supremacist organizations and other stuff and so what happened -- what continues to happen is I think that campaign wants credit for the good stuff they've done and they don't take responsibility for the horrific climate that they have emboldened and helped in this country.


If you are a black parent or parent or color trying to raise your kids in this environment, you do not appreciate the role that Donald Trump has played in poisoning the atmosphere.