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Full video and transcript: Rachel Maddow interviews Vice President Joe Biden

Rachel Maddow interviews Vice President Joe Biden at Union Depot in St. Paul, Minnesota, February 18, 2016.

Rachel Maddow interviews Vice President Joe Biden at Union Depot in St. Paul, Minnesota, February 18, 2016.

This is a rough transcript and may be updated for accuracy.

MADDOW:  Mr. Vice President, thank you so much for this time.  I really appreciate it.

BIDEN:  I'm flattered to be here.

MADDOW:  So we are at Union Depot in St. Paul and this station was rebuilt and reopened in part because of the recovery act which you led in it's implementation for the administration.  I looked back on the congressional record on that vote seven years ago.  It got zero Republican votes in the house, it got a grand total of three Republican votes in the senate, and that was after you guys had to shrink it considerably to attract Republican support.  That was right at the beginning of the administration.  You'd just come out of decades in the congress and the senate.  Were you surprised at that wall that came down?

BIDEN:  You know, I was, I was.  Matter of fact, the way we got a path, a great friend, Arlen Specter, I convinced him to switch parties.  Not a joke.  Not a joke.  He was the deciding vote.  And, but you remember, the Republican leadership had that meeting which I'd never heard of before, where they met before the president was sworn in and said, we got to make sure this is a one term president, and they were going to graft him.  It was like, boom, day one.  And it's had a lousy legacy.

MADDOW:  In terms of infrastructure, I know it's a passion of yours -- stimulus, recovery act was the biggest public works investment since the interstate highways under Eisenhower but our infrastructure, obviously, is still a piece of work.

BIDEN:  It's real work.

MADDOW:  It needs a lot of work.  I mean I lived in part of rural Western New England where we don't have broadband, and nobody can sell their house, but that's OK.

BIDEN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  With interest rates at zero or near zero, obviously the recovery act was a big deal.  But, where is the appetite, politically, for fixing what needs fixing, and investing more?  Is it just part of some opposition to your administration or this there appetite out there?

BIDEN:  I think there's an appetite out there.  I think if we did anything we failed to explain what the act was really about.  It wasn't just about infrastructure.  It was almost -- it was over $800 billion.  It fundamentally changed the way do with energy in America.  We spent $90 billion in Anova (ph) energy.  Now we have wind and solar energy about as cheap as coal is out there.  

We spent $100 billion on education, saving the education system 300,000 teachers who were laid off because of the recession.  We also put tens of thousands of lower income kids in college through Pell grants which has fundamentally all their opportunity.  We did the same thing with regard to what we did on transportation.  So we weren't' just trying to -- we knew we had to do something big to keep us from going over the cliff into a depression and pull us out of hole.

But, we also wanted to change the story -- change the approach to the 21st century on energy, on education, on transportation, on infrastructure, generally, and it laid the groundwork for that.  And one of the reasons I'm doing this trip is not only to say what we did worked, but to say we should do more of this.  And keep in mind, for every dollar the federal government put in, there were $3 to $5 that came off the sideline.  

This place we're standing today used to have 300 trains a day in the 1920's.  Three-hundred trains a day.  We have a new problem today.  The new problem is not suburban sprawl, it's job sprawl.  You're in a neighborhood here that has a significant minority population of African-Americans, Hispanic, and Asian.  The jobs are out in the suburbs now.  They don't have cars.  So, we have to adapt to the reality of what the opportunities are here.  But of the money, we put in $50 million, they put in $250 million.

MADDOW:  Put leverage.

BIDEN:  It's leverage.

MADDOW:  One big history of the Obama-Biden administration that's written, I think arguably, the biggest achievement of the administration will be pulling the country back from the brink of what would have been a second grade depression.  The (inaudible) act Recovery Act, obviously, a big part of that.  But now, running to succeed you.  

We've got Sen. Sanders and Secretary Clinton both running for president, in part by saying the economy is rigged.  That it's disastrously unfair for the average working person.  Is that, in part, a criticism of you and President Obama, that however far you took us back from the brink of great depression in 2009, the system still has a fundamental unfairness to it that you haven't been able fix.

BIDEN:  It does have a fundamental unfairness to it we've been trying to fix for the last two years.  We went from crisis to recovery on the verge of resurgence.  There are $1.2 trillion in tax expenditures -- tax cuts for wealthy people, mainly.  Six-hundred billion of those, there is no social redeeming value for.

For example, one way to bring the middle class back is through the tax structure, but also using the tax structure to make value judgments.  For example, we say that we can pay for 9 million community college students to go to school free.  And, by the way, the fact it's 12 years, it's just not enough.  Twelve years of education is not enough.  For 14 years, guess what?  We can do that and still reduce the deficit under $5 billion dollars by eliminating one tax break. It's called "stepped-up basis". Sounds complicated.

If you go out -- and either one of us should have gone and buy a million dollars worth of stock, we held it for a year and it was worth $2 million, we'd pay a million dollars in capital gains. But, if before -- if I die and leave that to my die, she inherits $2 million dollars worth of stock, she sells if for $4.

She only pays the difference (ph) between two and four. She doesn't pay the $1 to $2. There's only about two-tenths of 1% of all the people in America that benefit from that, they're already very, very wealthy, and we would be able to pay for every single solitary student and community college, nine million, and still reduce the deficit by $5 million dollars, even if we just eliminated that.

The point being we used to have a system that wasn't as rigged in how the tax structure functioned. The president and I have been trying to get rid of some of these loopholes for some time. Look, we have to change the corporate culture.

Wealthy people are just as patriotic as poor people, I honest to God believe that. And, they understand we're one America, and we do best when we're all together. But, here's the deal, since when is the only job creator the person who invests in the company?

My Dad sold automobiles as a general manager of a General Motors automobile dealership. He was a job creator. Everyone of those cars he sold he created a job for somebody on the assembly line. But today -- I have in my office, I have a cartoon from the New Yorker, great big rotund guy, a burglar with a mask on, and black beret, and black turtleneck, big bag of money on him just marked money.

He's saying to the cop, he's saying, "How was I supposed to know he was a job creator?"


BIDEN: Since when to corporations not have responsibility to the community? Since when do corporations not have responsibility to the community? Since when to the not have responsibility to their employees? You've got some leading guys in the country, who are like Fink (ph) and others who are making this case, Blackstone (ph).

But it's about time. We don't have to reinvent the wheel, just go back to what it was in terms of how corporations acted in terms of their collective responsibility just 20 years ago.

MADDOW: When I hear you talk about that work that remains to be done, building on what you've done, getting credit for what you've done in making sure that it gets advanced, I hear a desire for you to continue to do the work that you are doing.

You have said on the record that although it was the right decision for you to not run for president this year, you also regret that decision every day. Why do you regret it?

BIDEN: Well, the truth is I don't regret it. It was the right decision for my family, and the right decision for me. But, what I did say in the Rose Garden was I don't plan on remaining silent. And, I plan on doing this year, as I'm doing with you right now, making the case for not only the administration, but making the case why what we've done has laid the groundwork for a renaissance in America.

You know, you turn on the television, it's like, "Woah is me! God almighty, we're awful." We are so down and out we are -- name me a country in the world, name me one leader anywhere in the world who wouldn't trade places in a heartbeat. We by far, we're going to own the 21st century.

We have the greatest resource universities in the world, the only place in the world. We have the most productive workforce in the world. We have the most agile venture capitalists in the world. We have a situation where right now in the United States of America, we are near energy independent. North America is beginning to be the epicenter of energy. What is it that makes people think that this is not going to be the American century? I don't get it. I really don't.  I really, really, really don't.  And I know the polling data shows people have a negative view but if you listen to everything out there, you think, my God.  We're in such deep trouble.  We created more jobs than every other industrial country in the world combined.  Combined.  I travel a lot on foreign policy, as you know.  I'm in Europe a lot.  I travelled over a million miles as vice president.  They didn't do stimulus.  Look where they are.  Come on.  I mean, this is like, I just get so frustrated.  Like come on.

MADDOW:  Well in some frustration, what you want to do with it.  When you said that, in the rose garden, you weren't going to run.  You said you weren't going to stay silent and you said you were going to keep speaking out on the direction of the country and the direction of the party.  That part about the party, what do you want the Democratic Party to be doing differently --

BIDEN:  To start to look more focused on the good that's been done and can be done.  I always kid the president in different circumstances.  Mr. President, a country's never going to be more optimistic than the president.  What is there to be pessimistic -- we have serious problems.  But compared to the problems we've had in the past in our -- I mean this isn't even close, where we are.  Sure, we have an obstacle, ISIS.  They can do great damage.  They can do great damage and they scare the living hell out of everybody with good reason.  But they are, instead of dealing with nation-states that are arranged against us, we're to deal with non-state actors that can do damage to us.  But this is within our control.  We are beginning to make genuine progress as to how we isolate them, how we take them out.  We're in a situation -- I mean, I just could go on.  But I am -- the only generic criticism I had is we're not talking about the possibilities.

I was with Dung Chow Ping -- I mean, excuse me, I'm really dating myself.  I was the first guy to meet with him with six other senators a hundred years ago.  But I was with President Xi and I traveled with him a lot because his predecessor and President Obama thought we should get to know each other, and I had, I'm told by the State Department, 24, 25 hours of private dinners with him.  And we were in Chengdu, a town of 19 million, 20 million people.  There was only 2 million like a decade ago.  And he looked at me and just me and he and I and two interpreters, and he said, can you define America for me?  And I said, yes, I can define America for you.  One word.  Possibilities.

That's who we are.  That's why I am so enthusiastic about this (ph) cancer effort.  One of the reasons to pick the cancer effort is to demonstrate to people that there's not much beyond our capacity.  It will take time, but if we focus, if we narrow down where the bottle necks are and we move, there's never been a problem we can't solve.

MADDOW:  It's this work that you've started on cancer, I know you've met with hundreds of researchers and philanthropies involved in cancer research -- we've declared war on cancer in the country in the past.  Nixon did it.  George W. Bush campaigned in 2000 on it, make an effort against cancer.  What have you learned about how it needs to be fixed and is this the work of the rest of your life?

BIDEN:  Yes, and I'll tell you, and yes.  With regard to what I've learned -- there's been, we are at an inflection point.  Almost every researcher and expert in cancer will tell you.  It hasn't been but the last five years that you had the immunology guys talking with the genetic guys talking with the virology guys -- they're all sort of separate silos.  And they're making some real progress now.  Secondly, what we have now, it's going to sound strange, we have enormous computing capability.  We're approaching being able to do a billion billion calculations per second, and that's the -- that's the objective of our national labs.  We're still not there.  But with (ph) hundreds of millions of calculations per second.  

Say, "what's that have to do with anything, Joe?"  Well, every single solitary cancer you can't see, and it's like that -- it's like all those dots in that -- in that -- that light. 

MADDOW:  Yeah.  

BIDEN:  There's about 100 different cancers in a cancer cell.  And so what we're finding out is, they're finding out ways to deal with one or two of the cancers there, with certain medicines.  

But they don't know why, if you have that cancer and I have that cancer, and I get the therapy and you get it, I don't live and you live.  That -- they don't know why.  

So it's about aggregating data.  If we were able to put every single solitary cancer cell that has a genomic -- had their genome done in one place, we have the computing capacity to go in and look at what are the similarities and dissimilarities that make them work and don't work.  

And every expert will tell you, it is probably gonna exponentially increase the capacity to be able to find, A, cures, B, vaccines, and C, turn some cancers into chronic diseases, rather than it cost you your life.  

MADDOW:  And is that -- that's the... 

BIDEN:  But it's hard. 

MADDOW:  ... trajectory of -- of the -- of the research and -- therapy research right now, is the -- has been can the government do something to accelerate that?  

BIDEN:  Yes.  Here's what they can do.  They can do two things.  We can say, "if you want government money, you have to make this data public -- you have to share it." 

Number two, and I'm gonna say something outrageous, but I've met with all these people you've mentioned, the heads of all the major institutions, and they'll pull me aside private and say, "hope you stay and then seek out (ph) forces for this.  Can't do this (ph) -- you got forces (ph) to do this."  

MADDOW:  So they need a convener.  We need something outside our world... 

BIDEN:  A convener, absolutely, to get them to the point where the -- we don't want to take away any profit motive here.  But, for example, insurance companies.  They're just beginning to change -- excuse me.  Drug companies.  

There are -- I can give you examples, if we had more time, where one drug company has a -- has -- has developed, through their immunotherapy research, a particular drug for a particular cancer.  Another one, a different drug for a slightly different cancer.  

Researchers say, "it'd be really great if we combined the two of them, put them together, because they -- they'll have an exponentially more positive impact than just using one."  The drug companies say, "no, no.  This is my proprietary interest."  

They're beginning to change, and part of it is making sure that every single person who -- or family member who has -- who is a cancer patient, and/or, God forbid, dies of cancer, that they own their cancer genome and all their information, and they can decide where it goes.  They can decide the proper privacy guarantees around it, that it should be put in one repository.  

But now, you have these great institutions, each building these pipelines to figure out how they can amass more of the data that's -- not just cancers.  It's protein data, a whole range of things.  

And my -- my -- my objective is to bring them together and say, "guys, there's got to be a better way where we can aggregate this more rapidly," now that we have the computing capacity to go in and do the things that you say can be done in order to get answers that are not obvious on their face, and exceed the capacity of the human brain to figure out right now, including artificial intelligence.  

But ironically, Big Data's gonna play a gigantic role in -- in... 

MADDOW:  As an accelerator, and as an (inaudible).  

BIDEN:  A significant accelerator.  

MADDOW:  You -- it -- it seems clear that part of the reason that you have taken this on, and asked President Obama, basically, to put you in charge of this new effort, which he did overtly at State of the Union, got a huge response from the room in there when he said it.  

Obviously, part of the -- the inspiration for you in this is the death of your son, Beau.  We know that at the time that he passed he had been mulling a run for governor in Delaware.  I had been lucky enough to spend some time with him.  I was immensely impressed by him as a public servant.  I didn't know him as a friend.  I knew him as an attorney general.  A lot of people say that they could imagine him having gone on to run for president.  Does that -- is that something that you wished for him?  Do you daydream about that for him?

BIDEN:  Yes.


BIDEN:  Yes, I think it's a lost opportunity for the country.  I mean, this is an exceptional guy.  He's my son, and people expect me to say that, but I think if you -- almost anybody you talk to you -- I mean this is a truly exceptional guy.  This is a guy who never complained, never explained.  This is a guy who -- everything about him was duty.  I mean, this is a guy who didn't have to go to Iraq, but he insisted on going.  This is a guy who was highly-decorated and came back.  This is a guy who had a chance to be appointed to the Attorney General's office.  He wouldn't take it.  He had a chance to be appointed to my Senate seat.  He wanted no part of it.  He wouldn't do it all himself.  And so, he had his own brand.  

But, you know, one of the reasons why I got so engaged in this wasn't just the loss of my son.  When you have someone you adore in trouble, you try to learn as much as you can as quickly as you can in the hope that you can (inaudible) somehow what they're facing.  And so, Beau's illness, that lasted well over a year, forced me -- not forced me -- enabled me to get deep in the weeds about cancer and cancer research.  

And so, it wasn't just that he was ill, he died, and I decided that I had to help, or try to help.  It was that I learned so much from so many of these brilliant, brilliant docs, that I began to realize they were right, and we are at an inflection point and we need something to push it over.  And it's -- and, by the way, you know, I almost wish we didn't say Moon Shot because what we're really talking about here is to be able to do in the next five years that would take 10 to 15 years to do.  It's within our capacity to do that.

MADDOW:  You want to be an accelerator.

BIDEN:  Absolutely, positively, because it will save lives worldwide.

MADDOW:  Let me ask you about the Supreme Court.

BIDEN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  I know that you're going to be going to Justice Scalia's funeral on Saturday.

BIDEN:  I am.

MADDOW:  He was confirmed unanimously by the Senate in 1986.  You voted for him.

BIDEN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  You said years later that you regretted that vote.  You said he was a fine, honorable, and decent man, but you wish you had not voted for him.  Why did you end up --

BIDEN:  Well, I went on to say because he's so effective because his view, his constraint -- I call constraint, he calls it strict, instructed (ph) view of how to read the constitution -- was different than mine.  I think it's a living document.  He thinks it's a dead document in the sense that's exactly was it says, basically, is what it meant at the time.  And so, we end up with very different positions.

I became friends with him.  I loved his wife, Maureen and his son, Carl (ph).  I mean, it's a -- we've got -- Jill and I have gotten to know them.  I have great respect for him.  And like the president said, he was probably one of the most significant justices in the history of the United States of America in terms of an impact on the court.

It's kind of like, you know, I wished I'd picked so and so on my team because, good, look at all the home runs he hit.  You know what I mean?  That's what I regret is he was so successful in taking the court a direction different than I thought it should be taken.

MADDOW:  In the Senate, you ran confirmation hearings for, I think, five different Supreme Court nominees?

BIDEN:  I think eight -- I don't know, but they...

MADDOW:  At least five.

BIDEN:  ... they -- they -- they tell me other than Jim Eastland, I presided over more Supreme Court nominees than anybody in history.

MADDOW:  You didn't vote for all the nominees at these hearings...

BIDEN:  I didn't.

MADDOW:  ... you oversaw, but you convened those hearings.  They all went to the floor for a vote.  Why do you think Republicans are now saying that President Obama shouldn't even nominate someone to fill Justice Scalia's seat?

BIDEN:  (inaudible) my words here.  I think because they're intimidated by -- by the dominant element of the Republican Party, the national politics right now, the far right.  I think they're intimidated by it.  I think it's the tail wagging the dog.  

And I think the leadership went out to make sure they got out ahead of Ted Cruz.  I don't believe in their heart they think this makes sense.  We've never done this before.  It's -- keep in mind, Rachel, if we don't start -- if we don't nominate someone in the next month or so, start the hearing process.  And they say nothing's going to happen until the next election.  It won't be until next June or July before you have a Supreme Court justice.  

We have a dysfunctional Congress now.  We don't need an institutionally dysfunctional Supreme Court.  

MADDOW:  If we have a vacancy on the Supreme Court for a year, for 18 months, is that a constitutional crisis?  Or is that a political problem of a different order?

BIDEN:  Well, I think it is a political problem of a different order because you're not going to get resolution, potentially, on serious issues that require resolution.  For example, you know, it's interesting how -- how back when Warren was deciding Brown vs. the Board, he had the votes, but he wouldn't actually bring -- bring the decision up until he had one southerner who would support it, because he knew that if it was -- if every southerner on the bench was against it, it would be viewed as a north-south, and it would legitimize people in the south saying "we're not going to participate in this."

There -- there is a -- the court is not just made up of individuals.  It's a body.  It's an organic organization.  And -- and to have it as, you know -- that's why it's an uneven number.  That's why there's nine.  And there are so many important decisions that have to be resolved that affect us internationally and nationally that I don't think it's responsible at all.

And by the way, you know, this idea of -- I remember George Mitchell -- I was doing the Clarence Thomas hearing, and there were 48 senators declared they were not prepared to vote for him at the front end.  We could have filibustered that and stopped it.  George and I -- George was the leader at the time -- took the heat from every liberal group saying, "No, no, that's not the way the system is supposed to work, since the Constitution -- the president shall propose and the Constitution shall dispose, we're going to let them hear this."

MADDOW:  Even though you knew -- you thought it would be no -- or it seemed clear that it might be no, you wanted to let the process go forward...


BIDEN:  Yes, because -- because that's what the Constitution called for.  And by the way, Bork only got -- excuse me -- Thomas only got 48 votes.  And you know, that's -- that's filibuster-proof.  You need 60 votes to break it.  So we could have easily -- not easily -- could have stopped him from, you know, being on the court.  But it would -- it was a -- it was a prostitution of the Constitution.  That's not how it's supposed to work.

And the system matters.  It matters a lot.  Procedure matters.

MADDOW:  Do you have faith that this is going to happen the way that you're describing it should?  Do you think that there is going to be a...


BIDEN:  I have -- I have faith that the president -- and he's asked me to advise him, as I have on the last two -- is going to appoint someone who is qualified -- by qualified, meaning that they have the intellectual capacity.  They have the judicial temperament.  They have no crimes of moral turpitude.  They are someone who will actually have an open mind and listen on the court. 

I think we ought to be able to find a consensus candidate that meets that criteria.  Because the Senate does have a right to have a say in who -- and what the philosophy of the nominee is.  But they only get to dispose.  The president proposes.

I'll tell you a quick story.  When Bork was defeated, then Ginsberg pulled out, I was chairman.  And Ronald Reagan called me down to the Oval Office.  And Howard Baker was then his chief of staff.  So the three of us sat in the Oval.  And he sat down.  He was gregarious.  And he said, "OK, Joe, who do you want?"  And I said, "Mr. President," I said, "Yours is to propose, mine to dispose."  I said, "You tell me who you have in mind, I'll give you an honest answer what their chances are in my view."

I said -- I said, "You know, Senator Borah, a famous chairman from the state of Idaho, went down to see I think it was Coolidge, although it could have been Harding.  I'm not sure."  And Harding said, "Well, I have a list of 10 names."  And he pulled out -- oops, I just took this off -- he pulled out the card.  And in doing so, he had 10 names on the list.

And Borah looked at the list and said, "Mr. President, great list, except it's upside down (inaudible)."


(inaudible).  So he then read off to me the potential nominees he had in mind.  And with Howard there, I told him, "Mr. President, I think that that person will have -- suffer the same fate as Bork; this person I think would probably get nominated; that person would..."  And you know, that's part of the advise and consent process.

MADDOW:  So should President Obama do that with Senator Grassley?

BIDEN:  Yes.  

MADDOW:  Do you think he will?

BIDEN:  Yes, I'm confident he'll -- he'll reach out to the Senate and go through the process of advise and consent.

MADDOW:  I'm going to throw you a little bit of a curve ball, which is that just this afternoon, a Senate source has told MSNBC that it is beyond just idle chatter that there's been some significant discussion that you might conceivably be the president's choice, (inaudible) under these unusual political circumstances.  Talk about one person who could get through and maybe nobody else could.  

If the president asked you to do it, would you say yes?

BIDEN:  You never say to a president for certain you wouldn't do anything, but I have no -- look at me now -- I have no desire to sit on the Supreme Court, none.  It would be a great honor (inaudible), but I have no desire, any more than George Mitchell did.  

MADDOW:  Who do you think the president should pick?

BIDEN:  Well, I'm not -- I haven't even had a chance to sit down with him yet to talk about the potential candidates.  When we do, as in the past, lay out all the people, go out and survey a little bit, and see who we think -- who meets those criteria and we think could have a chance of being confirmed.

MADDOW:  There is nobody alive who has more experience with the confirmation of Supreme Court nominees than you do, from your time in the Senate.  Literally, there's nobody else.

BIDEN:  Well, that's true, but I'm not sure what that qualifies me for.

MADDOW:  Well, I wonder, though, when it comes -- when it comes time and there is a nominee, presuming it's not you, I mean, will you be...


BIDEN:  Oh, I'll -- no, no.  I will be deeply involved.  I mean, it's -- one of my roles as vice president is to -- is to be an interlocutor with the Senate and the House because everybody up there knows I respect them and I enjoy it.  And I have a lot of good friends on both sides of the aisle up there.

So, whether that's enough to persuade them who we pick is a different issue.  

MADDOW:  We've had a conservative majority court since basically the early '70s.  

BIDEN:  Yes.

MADDOW:  If that changes and the conservatives are no longer in the majority for the first time in a generation, do you think that -- are conservative right to worry that that would mean a radical change in the country?   That...


BIDEN:  Sure.  They are -- look, if you go back and look at the history of Supreme Court fights from the very beginning -- I won't bore you with the history, I mean, I've read (ph) so much about it.

There is a corresponding interest, and and the intent of the interest of the Senate with, as it relates to the probability that the next appointee would alter the balance in the court. So, it is, and this is, you could not pick a more -- and we've know this was coming for a long time. We didn't think it'd be Scalia, but both on the side of the so called -- and, by the way, the liberal in the court today want aren't Brennan, you know? It's not like we just kind... (LAUGHING)

MADDOW: ... They don't make liberals like they used to?

BIDEN: It's going to be enormous interest. And, what I've found before, Rachel, is that I was raised in a scholastic tradition in education that the ends never justify the means. You'll find interest groups that are very principled, left and right now. If they think the courts going to change in one direction or another, they'll forget all about this in the means, they just want the ends. What's the end? I'll do anything to stop this person. I'll do anything to get this person. So, it gets very, very -- this is a place where there are very few interest groups on the outside that are totally, totally principled about sticking to exactly what they preached.

And, so it makes it more complicated.

MADDOW: Let me ask you one for of news of the day question, and it is also about the 2016 race. Pope Francis did his cross-border map yesterday...


MADDOW: ...  He is a world wide figure in a way that not all Popes have been. On his way home from his six day trip to Mexico on his plane he made remarks to reporters today, and he was specifically asked about Donald Trump. He said anybody who was building walls instead of building bridges is not a Christian.

And, Trump has reacted to this. Called it disgraceful, the Pope's remarks, and said that nobody should question his faith. I have to ask you as a Catholic, and as an observer of 2016, what you think about that?

BIDEN: Pope Francis, Trump, it's not a hard call for me. It's not even close.


MADDOW: Is it fair to say if somebody wants to build a wall, by definition, isn't a Christian?

BIDEN: Well, I am not a theologian, nor am I a priest or a minister, but I think building walls is fundamentally contrary to what made this country what it is. We're a pluralistic society in its functions.

Look around the world. Every other country where there's absolute chaos now, what is it? They're pluralistic without consensus. Look at almost every single country, from Syria, to Iraq, to Iran, Ukraine, no matter where it is. I just think it is totally counter to our tradition.

Should we have border security there? Yes. But the idea of the United States erecting a wall for the world to see makes a lie of everything we say about ourselves. It's a little bit like why the President and I feel so strongly about closing Guantanamo. It is inconsistent with who we are.

We have a Bill of Rights, we have trial by jury. We have a notion that you are -- you're innocent until you're proven guilty. We have all these things.

Look, I've been saying for the last nine years, our power comes as much from -- our respect in the world comes as much from the exercise of our power as it does from the power of our principles.  Why do people like America?  They say, well, you have the largest military in the world.  Because you have more people, et cetera.  They like America for what we stand for.  And one of the things, and I feel proud to be, what this president's for, the last seven years, is we have once again aligned our basic fundamental beliefs and principles with our conduct.  And it matters.  It matters in terms of our security.  It matters in terms of our ability to influence the world.  It matters in our ability to succeed.

MADDOW:  Briefly, just as a follow up to that, President Obama was asked this week if he could imagine Mr. Trump becoming the nominee of the Republican party.  The president reiterated that Mr. Trump will never be president.  Very deftly getting around the question of whether or not the Republican Party's going to nominate him.  Let us put that to you as well.  Do you think that he will be the nominee?  Do you think that could happen?

BIDEN:  I think it is very possible he could be nominated and depending on how this all plays out, I would take him seriously in terms of being able to win because he's appealing to a very, very -- he's appealing to fear.  He's appealing to, that whole expression, everybody who asked me, why is Trump able to win in those 16 people?  There's a whole expression.  In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.  I'm not very good at prognosticating but I would not be surprised if he's the nominee.  I would be surprised if he got elected.

MADDOW:  Mr. Vice President, having this much time with you is a real honor.

BIDEN:  Oh, it's been an honor.  Are you kidding?  Thanks.  Thank you.