Return to Transcripts main page


Millions Traveling Over Thanksgiving; Biden Delivers Address to Nation. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 25, 2020 - 15:00   ET



JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Keeping social distancing, limiting the size of any group we're in, until we have a vaccine, these are the most effective tools to combat the virus.

Starting on day one of my presidency, we will take steps that will change the course of this disease, more testing. We will find people with cases and get them away from one another, slowing the number of infections.

More protective gear for businesses and our schools to do the same, reducing the number of cases. Clear guidance will get more businesses and more schools open. We all have a role to play in beating this crisis. The federal government has vast powers to combat the virus.

And I commit to you I will use all of those powers to lead a national coordinated response, but, but the federal government can't do this alone. Each of us has a responsibility in our own lives to do what we can do to slow the virus.

Every decision we make matters. Every decision we make can save lives. None of these steps we're asking people to take are political statements. Every one of them is based on science, real science.

Now, the good news is, there's been significant, record-breaking progress made recently in developing a vaccine. And several of these vaccines look extraordinarily effective. And it happens that we're on track for the first immunization to begin by late December or early January.

Then we will need to put in place a distribution plan to get the entire country immunized as soon as possible, which we will do. But it's going to take time.

I'm hoping the news of the vaccine will serve as an incentive to every American to take these simple steps to get control of the virus. There's real hope, tangible hope.

So, hang on. Don't let yourself surrender to the fatigue, which I understand it is real fatigue. I know we can and we will beat this virus. America is not going to lose this war. We will get our lives back. Life is going to return to normal, I promise you. This will happen. This will not last forever.

So, yes, it's been a really hard year, particularly hard for over 250,000 people and their families. But I still believe we have much to be thankful for. There is so much to hope for, much to build on, much to dream on.

Here's the America I see. And I believe it's the America you see as well, an America that faces facts, an America that overcomes challenges, an America that we -- where we seek justice and equality for all people, an America that holds fast to the conviction that out of pain comes possibility, out of frustration comes progress, and out of division unity.

You all know, in our finest hours, that's who we have always been, and that's who we shall be again, for I believe that this grim season of division, demonization is going to give way to a year of light and immunity.

Why do I think so? Because America is a nation not of adversaries, but of neighbors, not of limitations, but of possibilities, not of dreams deferred, but of dreams realized.

I have said many times that this is a great country. We are a good people. This is the United States of America. And there has never been anything we have been unable to do when we have done it together.

Think of what we have come through as a nation, how many things we have come through, centuries of human enslavement, a cataclysmic Civil War, exclusion of women from the ballot box, World Wars, Jim Crow, the long twilight struggle against Soviet tyranny that could have ended not in the fall of the Berlin Wall, but in nuclear Armageddon.

Look, I'm not naive. I know that history is just that, history. But to know what came before, what's come before, what's happened before can help arm us against despair, knowing that previous generations got through the same universal human challenges that we face, the tension between selfishness and generosity, between fear and hope, between division and unity.


And what was it that brought the reality of America into closer alignment with the promise of reality, justice and prosperity? It sounds corny, but it was love, plain and simple, love of country, love of one another.

We don't talk much about love in our politics. The political arena is too loud, too angry, too heated.

To love our neighbor as ourselves is a radical act. It's what we're called to do. We must try, for, only in trying, only in listening, only in seeing ourselves as bound together in what Dr. King called the mutual garment of destiny can we rise above divisions and truly heal.

Look, we all know America has never been perfect, but we have always tried to fulfill the aspiration of the Declaration of Independence, that all people are created equal, created in the image of God, and we have always thought to form a more perfect union.

What should we give thanks for this season? Well, first, let's be thankful for democracy itself. In this last election, the one that just took place, we have seen record numbers of Americans exercise the most sacred right, that of the vote, to register their will at the ballot box. Think about that.

In the middle of a pandemic, more people voted this year than have ever voted in the history of the United States of America. Over 150 million people cast a ballot, simply extraordinary. Many waited in line five, six, seven, eight hours to vote.

If you want to know what beats deep in the heart of America, it's this, democracy, the right to determine our lives, our government and our leaders, the right to be heard. Our democracy was tested this year. And what we learned is this. The people of this nation are up to the task.

In America, we have full and fair and free elections, and then we honor the results. The people of this nation and the laws of the land won't stand for anything else.

Through the vote, the noblest instrument of nonviolent protests ever conceived, we remained anew and were reminded anew that progress is possible,. that we, the people, we, the people, have the power to change what Jefferson called the course of human events.

And with our hearts and our hands and our voices, today, we can be better than yesterday, and, tomorrow, we can be still better than that day. You know, we should be thankful, too, that America is a covenant, an unfolding story, that we have what we need to create prosperity, opportunity and justice.

Americans have grit and generosity, a capacity for greatness and reservoirs of goodness. We have what it takes. Now we have to act. This is our moment, ours together, to write a newer, bolder, more compassionate chapter in the life of the nation.

The work ahead is not going to be easy. It will not be quick. You want solutions, not shouting, reason, not hyperpartisanship, light, not heat. You want us to hear one another again, see one another again, respect one another again.

You want Democrats and Republicans and independents to come together and work together. And that, my friends, is what I'm determined to do. Americans dream big. As hard as it may seem this Thanksgiving, we're going to dream big again.

Our future is bright. The fact, we have never been -- I have never been more optimistic about the future of America than I am right now. I, honest to God, believe the 21st century is going to be an American century. We're going to build an economy that leads the world. We're going to lead the world by the power of our example, not just the example of our power.

We're going to lead the world on climate and save this planet. We're going to find cures for cancer and Alzheimer's and diabetes, I promise you. We're going to finally root out systemic racism in this country.


And this Thanksgiving, in anticipation of all the Thanksgivings to come, let's dream again. Let's commit ourselves to thinking not only of ourselves, but of others as well, for, if we care for one another, if we open our arms, rather than brandishing our fists, we can, with the help of God, heal.

And, if we do -- and I'm sure we can -- we can proclaim the psalmist. It was the psalmist who wrote these following words: "The lord is my strength and my shield. And with my song, I give thanks to him."

I give thanks now for you, for the trust you placed in me. Together, we will lift our voices in the coming months and years, and our song shall be of lives saved, breaches repaired, a nation made whole again.

Folks, from the Biden family to yours, wherever and however you may be celebrating, we wish you a happy Thanksgiving. May God bless you, and may God protect our troops.

Happy Thanksgiving.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Wow, talk about a stark difference, the man there, president-elect Joe Biden, giving his Thanksgiving address, so different from what we have seen and lived through these last four years, imbued with empathy and unity and optimism.

I want to begin with Arlette Saenz. She's been covering the president- elect and this transition, and she's there in Wilmington, our political correspondent.

And there's so much to note about what we just heard in his speech, just even the pronoun usage, I, we, as an I'm with you, we're in this together, this is our moment. He says, yes, we are at war with the virus, but we will get through this.

What did you make of his message?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, Brooke, what you heard president-elect Joe Biden do there is express this shared commitment that people across this country need to have when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.

He talked about how this is a war against the virus, and not against each other, and that there are steps that people need to take in order to ensure that the virus does not spread more than it already has.

He talked about the shared sacrifices that people are making across the country in their own holiday gatherings, limiting the sizes, unable to meet with certain members of their family, due to this pandemic.

He also put it in very personal terms with himself, as he talked about his own family's experiences, one, an experience with loss, trying to make that personal connection with people who are enduring the loss of their families this Thanksgiving due to COVID-19.

And he also talked about his own family restricting their own Thanksgiving holiday plans. Normally, the Biden family goes to Nantucket for a large family gathering. It's a tradition that's gone back for many years. But, this year, he said it will be limited to just four of them, he his wife, his daughter Ashley and her husband.

And so he is trying to make these personal connections with people on COVID-19. But you also heard the president-elect projecting this message of unity, right? That's like a -- that's a hallmark of Joe Biden.

And as he -- as the country is battling this -- not only this crisis, but also a lot of divisions stemming from the election, he urged Americans to come together.

You also heard him say that one thing that people need to be thankful for is democracy and the way that this election has played out, and that the democratic process was allowed to unfold, this coming at a time when you have President Trump, who continues to question the legitimacy of the election and has refused to concede to Joe Biden.

But, overall, you heard this message, this commitment to combating the virus, both at the government level, but Biden also stressing to people that they need to take personal actions to try to ensure that this virus does not spread more than it needs to.

And he talked about that fatigue that people may be feeling in this moment, and that they need to remember that it's for the greater good that they need to try to take these steps when it comes to COVID-19.


BALDWIN: Of course, we're all feeling the fatigue. It's been quite a year, but so just noteworthy and different to hear the president-elect in such a different tone from what we have all grown accustomed to these last few years

Arlette, thank you so much.

And let me bring in CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

And, obviously, he has a -- he, being the president-elect, has an uphill battle when it comes to unity. You can use all these -- use poetry in a beautiful speech, but that doesn't change the fact that nearly 74 million Americans voted for this current president.

And so, obviously, we saw him as more of a consoler in chief and a unifier in chief in a way that traditionally we see presidents. But what did you think?


And it reminded me of when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 so close to Thanksgiving, and Lyndon Johnson had the task of giving a somber message to the country, even a mournful one, because of the recent death of Kennedy.

But then Johnson would pivot and say, better dare here to come and we're going to be able to take on all of these great challenges of the 21st century. That's what we heard Joe Biden do at the end, that the 21st century is the American century. We could take on climate change and cure diabetes and cancer, on and on.

And it's a tricky balance. On the one hand, you're doing this on the Wednesday where the CDC is saying, stay home, stay home, no big Thanksgivings. And Joe Biden did that in the first part of the speech, but his sense of poetry and the sense of history, much like his speeches he gave in Warm Springs, Georgia, FDR's home, a speech he gave on the campaign at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, trying to tie us together by a shared history, hence his invoking of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, and using the phrase, we're all in it together, which was the rally cry to bring Americans through the dark days of World War II.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes. Stay with me. I have more for you, Doug.

But I want to head to the White House just briefly to just check the other side of all of this, right, which is President Trump.

And our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, is there.

And we know that there was supposed to be an event today in Pennsylvania. We would have called it an election fraud event, right, because that's precisely what -- this president is still trying to degrade this election and say votes didn't count or that there was some sort of fraud. And he lost.

And we're all moving forward. And we're watching the president-elect give this speech.

Where is the president's mind-set today?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, Brooke, you talk about the other side. The other side looks completely different, because just moments before Joe Biden came out, the president called in on speakerphone to this event that's happening right now with Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania, where the president's legal team, Rudy Giuliani and his legal adviser Jenna Ellis are present.

They had the president on speakerphone, and they held it up to the microphone, and he continued to push these baseless theories about the election, acting as if the election is still happening, and not like the federal government is in the middle of transitioning power to Joe Biden, which we know they formally now are doing.

And it just is a sign of two different realities. And we talk about how different Donald Trump and Joe Biden are. Everyone in this building behind me will admit that, but to see it within moments of the these messages from them ahead of this Thanksgiving holiday and how different their messages are to the nation. While the president has offered no Thanksgiving message at all, besides his brief one yesterday at the turkey pardon, where he didn't speak for very long and wasn't really talking about the sacrifices that people have had to make this year because of coronavirus, and certainly not at length in the way that Joe Biden did just now, and then to see how the president was just on speakerphone in a room full of people who are not wearing masks, for the most part, who are not social distancing, for the most part, and who are pushing baseless theories about the election that is over, and that has been certified in several states.

And the federal government is moving on as if that has happened. And to see the president not acknowledging that, while, meanwhile, his successor is trying to fill that leadership void by coming out and giving this heartfelt speech to people.

It's really just a stark contrast to see the two different messages from them. And we have so far not seen the president today. He was supposed to go to that event today. But, instead, he was just put through on speakerphone. And so we're not sure if we're going to see any more of him at this point. Brooke.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you.

I want to jump off of your last point you just made about the stark contrast and these two realities, CNN political commentator Terry McAuliffe.

Governor, I mean, it is -- it's kind of mind-blowing, when you think of these two realities, these two versions of leadership, these two presidents, these two messages, all at once. How do you square this?



I mean, today, at this Trump press conference, they said that they won Virginia, the state of Virginia. Brooke, we won this state by 400,000 votes, by more than 10 percentage points.


MCAULIFFE: So, he is just putting stuff up in the air that has no tether to reality.

But you know what? You watch Joe Biden today. I was so proud of him. I'm glad I was an early supporter. This is what the nation needs. And I'm sure you see it, Brooke. When you walk around, people just feel like a cloud has been lifted.

But to have the president-elect come out and talk about how I'm going to deal with COVID, what we need to do, I know you're going through a very tough time, he gave us inspiration, showed leadership, empathy, compassion, but we need hope in this country. We are dealing with a COVID crisis. We're dealing with a battered

academy. We want to get our children back to school safely. These are what families are dealing with every single day. Joe Biden addressed that today. And Donald Trump just absolute Looney Tunes today, try -- and the sad part about this, we can all laugh at Trump, but this is horrible for our democracy around the globe.

We are proud of peaceful transitions of our power. It's something we're very proud of as the greatest democracy. And Donald Trump's making an absolute mockery of it. Good for Joe Biden rising above it, proceeding ahead. But it's hard, Brooke, to go to your question, to square the two.

I watched Joe Biden today, and I was governor during that horrible incident in Charlottesville with 1,000 neo-Nazis and white supremacists. I talked to Trump. He refused to condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

I just think how President Biden would have handled Charlottesville and talked about the hatred and how we need to come together. I was so proud of him today.

BALDWIN: Well, we remember the rollout when he announced that he would be running. And we remember the images from Charlottesville and that he has reiterated he is fighting for the soul of this nation. Let us all pray, left, right, center, that he can cross the aisle, that we can have bipartisanship, and that he can somehow unite the country, because it was a beautiful speech.


BALDWIN: But we also -- let's pray for action and unity in these coming months.

Terry McAuliffe, great to have you on. Thank you so, so much for your insight there.

MCAULIFFE: Thanks, Brooke. Happy Thanksgiving.

BALDWIN: Happy Thanksgiving to you, sir. Thank you.

Still ahead here on CNN: It could be the mother of all super-spreader events. That is the holiday warning from a top health expert, as millions travel across the country, despite the CDC's advice.

Plus: Should schools close as COVID cases rise? I will talk to a doctor who is advocating for a winter shutdown.

And really want to shine a light on this today, food banks, food pantries now feeling the pinch, as the pandemic is making feeding struggling Americans even more difficult.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations setting grim new records, yet millions of Americans are ignoring the CDC's advice to skip Thanksgiving travel this year.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov has more.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This Thanksgiving will be one to remember for all the wrong reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to go see my grandparents.

KAFANOV: COVID-19 cases skyrocketing, now topping an average 174,000 a day, more than 88,000 hospitalizations reported Tuesday, the highest number since the pandemic began, and, for the second time since early May, more than 2,000 deaths reported in a single day.

DR. JOSEPH VARON, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: My concerns for the next six to 12 weeks is that, if we don't do things right, America is going to see the darkest days in modern American medical history.

KAFANOV: Despite the CDC last week urging people not to travel for Thanksgiving, the TSA says more than 4.8 million Americans have already hit the skies.

SHAUNA STARR, TRAVELER: Nothing has really changed. Put it that way. When I go home, we're having Thanksgiving.


ANA SANCHEZ, TRAVELER: I'm going to see my elderly parents. My dad's 90. My mom's 87. And I don't know if -- I'm getting emotional -- if, at Christmas, they're going to be around.

KAFANOV: Health experts warn dinner with grandma and the extended family could mean more grief in the weeks ahead.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's the -- potentially, the mother of all super-spreader events.

KAFANOV: The pandemic changing time-honored traditions, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in New York for living room crowds only this year.

BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: It will be different. It will be smaller. It will be made for TV. It is not a spectator event in person.

KAFANOV: From coast to coast, families hurting in so many ways, historic lines at food banks across the country, with the pandemic shuttering businesses and sending unemployment surging.

CHERYL HOWARD, UNEMPLOYED: Food, it runs out. And them helping with this, that helps out a whole lot. I will be able to cook dinner for my family.

KAFANOV: Doctors and nurses on COVID front lines also feeling the pain, the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota forced to bring in workers from out of state, even pulling some staff out of retirement to cope with their shortage.

DR. ANDREW BADLEY, CHAIR, MAYO CLINIC COVID RESEARCH TASK FORCE: It's troubling to a degree that there is, in my opinion, a degree of complacency from some about how severe COVID is.

KAFANOV: But for this struggling nation, some signs of hope.

ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: If all goes well, we could be distributing vaccine soon after December 10. The American people can be confident that hope and help are on the way.

KAFANOV: Until that help is here, health officials are bracing for another COVID surge, one last plea for Americans to do their part in slowing the spread.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: The final message is to do what really we have been saying now for some time, is, to the extent possible, keep the gatherings, the indoor gatherings, as small as you possibly can.


KAFANOV: Here in Colorado, hospitalizations are spiking.