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Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 06/06/15

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Good morning once again. I`m Steve Kornacki here in New York this morning. MSNBC is bringing you special coverage of the funeral for former Delaware attorney general and son of the vice president, Beau Biden. Services in Wilmington, Delaware, are expected to get under way just 30 minutes from now, at St. Anthony of Padua, Roman Catholic Church. Beau Biden died last Saturday, a week ago today at the age of 46 from brain cancer. Biden served for two terms as Delaware`s top law enforcement official. He announced last year that he would be running for governor of Delaware in 2016. Beau Biden was also a major in the Delaware Army National Guard. He was deployed to Iraq back in 2008 and he was awarded the Bronze Star for his service. On Thursday, his body lay in honor in Delaware`s legislative hall in the state capital in Dover. The Biden family, including Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Beau`s widow Halle and their children, all of them attended the memorial where state dignitaries spoke about Beau`s life, including the current governor of Delaware Jack Markell. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. JACK MARKELL (D) DELAWARE: Beau made Delaware a better place for us all. And he did so because of his determination and his persistence, because of his intellect and his willingness to fight. Because he persuaded and cajoled. And most of all, because Beau had an extraordinary heart. And from that heart, he lived a life that is a model for us all. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: The family received hundreds of mourners, some of whom had arrived hours early to pay their respects. Vice President Biden reportedly stayed and greeted well-wishers for several hours. On Friday, hundreds more attended a wake at the St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington, that`s where that funeral mass is going to be held today. Some of them waiting in line for several hours to mourn with the Biden family. Also yesterday, the Biden family held a small private funeral at the church that Beau attended in Greenville. And this morning, President Obama will deliver the eulogy at a funeral mass. That mass is open to the public. Joining us now from Wilmington, Delaware, is NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent Luke Russert. Luke, good morning to you, thanks for joining us. What can you tell us about what we can expect in today`s services? LUKE RUSSERT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning there, Steve. We can tell you that President Obama and the first family, including Michelle Obama and the two daughters have just recently landed and are on their way here to the church in Wilmington via motorcade. And this church is really I think reflective of what the Biden family is to Delaware, which is representing people of all stripes. It`s a diverse neighborhood, working class neighborhood. Formerly Italian catholic neighborhood and it`s diversified over the years. And there`s many people here, they are just watching the services, and many are paying their respects. As far as what we expect to see from the funeral, which I mean - I think you can see this wonderful picture of Beau right here. This is a very catholic funeral. You`re going to have the catholic hymns that are often sang at funerals. Ave Maria, Amazing Grace, Eagle`s Wings. Also, there will be some readings. One reading is from the Book of Wisdom, which talks about not the quantity of years of a life, but the quality of a life. And that`s really what you`re sort of getting this sense, that Beau Biden, 46 years old, taken way too early, but he did so much in a short amount of time. Now, telling that message will be three people. General O`Daniel (ph) will talk about Beau Biden`s military service, President Obama will obviously talk about Beau Biden and his service to his state. And then his brother and sister Hunter and Ashley will talk about Beau Biden the family man. And he`s got his beautiful wife and beautiful kids. I think that`s what is really gripping at the heart strings here, is that gone so young with a young, beautiful family, and a family that`s known so much tragedy. So very emotional here in Wilmington. KORNACKI: All right, NBC`s Luke Russert. Please stand by. We`re going to be coming back your way in just a moment. Now, sadly, Vice President Biden is no stranger to difficult loss, having suffered great tragedy just as his political career was getting under way decades ago. Just after being elected to the Senate for the first time in the year 1972, his first wife Neilla and their 13-month-old daughter Naomi were killed in a car accident. The accident also severely injured his sons Beau and Hunter. Biden was just about to turn 30 years old then. He was considered - he considered resigning the seat to which he had just been elected, but instead he did take the oath of office. Not at the Senate, but at the Wilmington hospital where his sons were recovering from that accident. Just a few weeks ago, the vice president spoke about how he was able to persevere through that grief. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN: But by focusing on my sons, I found my redemption. I can remember my mother, a sweet lady, looking at me after we left the hospital. And saying, Joey, out of everything terrible that happens to you, something good will come if you look hard enough for it. She was right. The incredible bond I have with my children is a gift I`m not sure I would have had had I not been through what I went through. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: The vice president is not expected to speak today at the funeral of his eldest son Beau. Instead, President Obama will deliver the eulogy. Now, Luke, what can we expect from Obama at today`s service in that eulogy? RUSSERT: Well, a lot has been said about the relationship between Vice President Biden and President Obama. It was one that started out as one of political convenience, right, is that Joe Biden knew about foreign policy and Barack Obama needed to shore that up in 2008 when he was running. But since that time, they have really grown close. Their families have grown close. The Obama daughters are in the same grade as Vice President Biden`s granddaughters. So Beau Biden was obviously very close to President Obama as well because they were closer in age. And when he took a turn for the worst, Joe Biden alerted the president and the president, as we know from aides, consoled Joe Biden and as soon as Beau Biden passed, when they were speaking, it was decided that President Obama would, in fact, deliver the eulogy. And we`re told from aides that the president is taking this responsibility very seriously. He is writing the entire eulogy himself. He spent a lot of time on it over the last week. And as we know about his orator skills, this should be one that we`ll remember for a long time. KORNACKI: All right, thank you to NBC`s Luke Russert, again, outside that church where that mass is expected to begin less than a half an hour from now. We`ll be checking back in with you throughout the morning. But by all accounts, Beau Biden and his father had an extraordinarily close relationship. That`s something quite apparent when Beau introduced his father as the vice presidential nominee back at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BEAU BIDEN: My father would be a great vice president. As I mentioned, my dad has always been there for me. My brother, my sister, every day. But because of other duties, it won`t be possible for me to be here this fall to stand by him the way he stood by me. So I have something to ask of you. Be there for my dad like he was for me. Please join me in welcoming my friend, my father, my hero, the next vice president of the United States, Joe Biden. (CHEERS AND APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And with me in the studio this morning are Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC contributor, Father Jim Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large of American Media. Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, MSNBC contributor and fellow at the LBJ school at the University of Texas and Jonathan Alter, MSNBC political analyst and columnist for the "Daily Beast." Well, Jonathan, let me start with you. That speech we just played a clip from in 2008, I remember being out there at the convention, and what an incredibly emotional moment that was when you took into account the Biden family history and you knew the story of that accident in 1972 and how Joe Biden had almost lost his son. And how close they`ve become, and his son has been serving - be serving in Iraq. And there they are onstage at this incredible moment of triumph for Joe Biden after all he`s been through personally and professionally. He gets this crowning moment and his son gets to introduce him. JONATHAN ALTER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, it was very, very moving at the convention. And then a few weeks later, just by coincidence, I was covering Joe Biden. It was right after the vice presidential debate, and it happened to be the day that Beau Biden was shipping out for Iraq. And I was with Joe and Jill Biden and Beau`s children that day as there was this, you know, big departure ceremony, and you saw Beau Biden get on the plane in uniform. And, you know, they were very upset, as I think any parents seeing a son or daughter shipping out would be. And I just got a little glimpse. I don`t know the family well. But I got a little glimpse of the emotional feel. The intensity of the family bond in the Biden family. They are very worried about his safety and very anxious to reach out to other families. And you saw that Jill Biden, in particular, has been very involved in that. So that whole period in 2008 when Joe Biden was being elected vice president was also an intense family period for them because Beau Biden was shipping out. KORNACKI: All right. We`re going to show some pictures here. I think this is the White House right now. You can see that the - up on the screen, the flags have been lowered to half-staff there in honor of Beau Biden. The president, of course, now apparently in Delaware on his way to that church for the funeral mass. MSNBC`s live coverage is going to continue after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: The death of former Delaware attorney general Beau Biden came in the middle of what had been an accomplished career in public service with still greater promise for the future. Biden worked for nine years as a prosecutor in the Philadelphia U.S. Attorney`s office, and then in 2006, the Delaware voters elected him to the office of attorney general. Beau stepped into the national spotlight in 2008 after introducing his father at the Democratic National Convention on the night that Joe Biden accepted the party`s nomination for vice president of the United States. And just a month after that, Beau Biden, who was a major in the Delaware Army National Guard deployed to Iraq where he served for one year and was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions. Last year, after serving two terms as the state`s attorney general, Biden announced that he would not be seeking a third term because he had his eye on a higher office. Delaware Governor Jack Markell spoke Monday on MSNBC`s "Morning Joe" about what would have been next for Beau Biden. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARKELL: We expected him to run. Had he run, he would have won. And when he won, he would have been a very effective governor. This is a huge loss for all of Delaware. Not just because of how good he was as an elected official, but just because of what an incredibly decent and good person he was. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: And with us this morning from Washington, D.C., we have Jamal Simmons, Democratic consultant for the Raben Group, Christina Bellantoni, editor-in-chief of "Roll Call". And right now I want to bring in former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, NBC News political analyst and the CNBC contributor. Former governor Randell was the mayor of Philadelphia while Beau Biden was the assistant to the city`s United States attorney. He remembers Beau Biden for his engaging personality and unquantifiable potential. Well, governor, let me ask you a little bit about that potential. Because it strikes me looking at the career and the life of Beau Biden, obviously, he was ambitious. You`re not in politics if you`re not ambitious. But there was something more than just ambition there. This is somebody who was essentially offered his father`s Senate seat, an appointment to his father`s Senate seat back in 2009 and he said no. This is somebody who in the middle of his political career shipped off to Iraq. An enormous obviously personal risk. Something he didn`t have to do. He had an incredible future in politics in the period ahead of him, but there was something else driving him. FMR. GOV. ED RANDELL: I think Beau always had a sense of duty. I mean, that Senate seat would have been pretty attractive to go into the Senate at his early age. He could have been a powerful senator. Ted Kennedy serving for 30, 35 years. Or it would have vaulted him into national attention. But he believed he had a job to do as attorney general. And that sense of duty propelled him. The same sense of duty that made him go to Iraq with the Delaware National Guard. But I think, Steve, his potential as a politician, as a political figure was unlimited. Governor Markell is definitely right. Beau would have been elected governor in a landslide. And normally, the governor of a small state like Delaware, look at Jack Markell, an incredibly capable guy, nobody talks about him being on the national ticket. But because Beau was a Biden, if he had been a successful governor, I could have very well seen Beau being a vice presidential or even a presidential candidate down the road. KORNACKI: Yeah, I wonder we are talking earlier about the role of President Obama today`s service delivering the eulogy. And there`s that relationship between the vice president and the president, that personal relationship that has grown so much. I`m curious what you`ve watched over the last eight years from those early days of the 2008 presidential campaign. When they are running against - there was tension between them. There clearly was. To this moment now where the president feels so close to the Bidens that he wants to be there, he wants to deliver the eulogy. He`s writing it himself. RENDELL: I think it`s extraordinary. And I remember in the early stages of the 2008 campaign, when Joe would make one of his characteristic gaffes, the president would just shake his head. And I thought mine, this isn`t going to work. Even if they win the election, they`re going to be like fire and ice. But they grew to respect each other. I think the president respected Joe`s opinion. I think Joe was very impactful vice president. But most of all, they became friends. And the friendship with senator and family. I think the president, as you know, Steve, is an incredibly devoted family guy and so is Joe. So I think there`s that sense of a father feeling another father`s loss. KORNACKI: You know, also today, the former president Bill Clinton, his wife Hillary Clinton, now a presidential candidate, they are expected to be at this funeral mass today. And there`s a little bit of -- I guess there`s been in the last few years, probably, a little bit of professional awkwardness with Biden and with the Clintons, with Biden wanting to be president and Hillary Clinton basically monopolizing all of the support that Joe Biden otherwise maybe would have had. Can you talk a little bit, though, obviously, you know the Clintons so well. The relationship between the Clintons and the Bidens. RENDELL: Well, go back to when President Clinton was president. He turned to Joe Biden on a number of pieces of key legislation to sponsor it. The crown bill, for example, was written by Joe Biden, but it was a centerpiece of President Clinton`s first term, no question about it. And I think the president and Joe had a great mutual respect for each other. And even Hillary and Joe -- and you`re right, Steve, there must have been some sense of rivalry, but they worked together, particularly on the National Security Council. I think they respected each other`s views, their intelligence, and their input. So I think it`s a close relationship despite the fact that they`re political rivals. I know when Bob Casey and I ran against each other, it was a very tough campaign. But we have always been and continue to be very close personal friends. You can do that in politics. I think people don`t realize that there is a level of friendship in politics that transcends even winning and losing. KORNACKI: All right, Governor Rendell, please stay with us. All of our guests will be staying with us as we continue our live coverage of the funeral of Beau Biden. Up next, more on what we can expect from those services, which are expected to get under way about ten minutes from now. Also the role that faith plays for Vice President Joe Biden. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Vice President Joe Biden is a devout Roman Catholic, something he has spoken about throughout his political career. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN: My religion defines who I am. And I`ve been a practicing catholic my whole life. And it has particularly informed my social doctrine. Catholic social doctrine talks about taking care of those who can`t take care of themselves. People who need help. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Now, today, the funeral mass for Biden`s son Beau Biden will be celebrated at the St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware. So, Father Martin, take us through what we`re about to watch. We had Luke Russert on earlier and he said this is going to be a very catholic funeral. What does that mean? FATHER MARTIN: Well, it`s a Catholic mass. It`s the kind of mass that anyone would get in the Catholic Church. The body will be greeted at the door by Father Leo O`Donovan, who`s the presider. There will be readings, of course. There will be the gospel, homily from Father O`Donovan, the liturgy of the Eucharist, distribution of communion, and then eulogies afterwards, and then a final commendation, which is kind of a final goodbye to the body, which will be taken to the graveyard by Cardinal McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington. So, the important thing that this is a traditional catholic mass and it`s the same catholic mass that someone who is unknown would also receive. KORNACKI: Is it - I mean so we`re being told General Ray Odierno is going to be delivering one of the eulogies. President Obama, obviously, also, Beau Biden`s brother and sister. Is it customary to have that many eulogies at the mess? I`m remembering - I`m a (INAUDIBLE) catholic here, but I remember, when my grandmother passed away, we were told by the priest, you know, one of you speaks and that was sort of it. FATHER MARTIN: Yeah, it`s not customary. Usually it`s one person briefly speaking about the person`s life. But in a public setting, these are actually customary to have a little bit more attention paid on the person`s public life. KORNACKI: We bring in now - joined by Chris Hale, who has written extensively about Joe Biden`s faith. He`s the executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, co-founder of the Catholic journal Millennial. He also ran catholic outreach for the Obama-Biden 2012 campaign. So, Chris, thank you for taking a minute with us. Here, if you can just - you`ve seen Joe Biden up close. You`ve written about his faith so much. The role of faith in Joe Biden`s life. Can you tell us about that? CHRISTOPHER HALE, CATHOLICS IN ALLIANCE FOR THE COMMON GOOD: Well, Joe Biden says there`s two things that matter to him the most, his faith and his family. As we`ve seen now throughout this tragedy, and also the tragedy of losing his older daughter and his first wife in 1972, faith has sustained him. He also talks, though, I think it`s important that, he`s experienced anger at God, Father Martin can tell you, it`s a very common reaction. It`s a very biblical reaction. Moses had anger at God. David. Modern heroes of faith, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day. So, he - that anger, but that gospel they will talk about Martha losing her brother. And she too experienced anger. So, I think it`s a very common reaction that we`re seeing. The vice president will see faith has sustained him and will probably move him forward from this tragedy. KORNACKI: All right, thank you to Christopher Hale in Washington, D.C. You`re watching special live coverage here on MSNBC, remembering Beau Biden. The funeral service expected to get under way any minute now. President Obama will be delivering one of the eulogies. Our coverage continues next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) KORNACKI: Today, you`re looking live at what is happening right now inside St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware. Any minute now, funeral services for the son of Vice President Joe Biden, Beau Biden, are expected to get under way. Obviously a full church there. We have a list of some of the dignitaries who have come to pay their respects at this service, including former president Bill Clinton, his wife Hillary Clinton, the Senate`s top Republican leader Mitch McConnell is there. Top Democratic leader Harry Reid is there. Nancy Pelosi there as well. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. A host of cabinet members. A number of other elected officials and members of Congress. Of course Joe Biden had served for 36 years in the United States Senate before becoming vice president. And on Monday, senators from both sides of the aisle took to the floor to mourn Beau Biden and to pay their respects to Joe Biden. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-KY.: Beau Biden was known to many as a dedicated public servant, a loving father of two, and a devoted partner to the woman he loved, Haley. I`ve known the vice president for many years, and it`s hard to think of anything more important to him than his faith and his family. I hope he will find comfort in the former as he grieves such a terrible loss. SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, D-VT.: I said there and cried last night, when we heard the news. I think what a wonderful family. I think about a life cut too short. Far too short. SEN. RICHARD DURBIN, D-ILL.: We knew that he was in a life struggle, but the fact that he would lose his life Saturday evening at age 46 is a personal and family tragedy. It`s a tragedy which is compounded by the extraordinary person that Beau Biden was. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think every member of this body reaches out to them with our thoughts and our prayers as they go through this very tragic situation. SEN. HARRY REID, D-NEV.: There`s no question that -- I repeat, that Delaware`s a better place because of Beau. Our country`s a better place because of Beau. And the world`s a better place because of Beau Biden. (END VIDEO CLIP) KORNACKI: Christina Bellantoni down in Washington, D.C. with "Roll Call." Let me bring you in on this. We almost forget I think, such a big part of Joe Biden`s career was those decades he served in the United States Senate. We`re always talking about how partisanship and polarization has never been worse in Washington. And in a way, Joe Biden`s Senate career is a bit of a throwback to that time we talk about when there was a little bit more of a common bond between the two parties. And it looks like we saw a little bit of that this week. CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, ROLL CALL: And part of that is bringing your family with you into that sort of deliberative body, right? Those senators knew Beau in real ways, not just hearing about him. He spent time there, he spent a lot of time in Washington and with a lot of the lawmakers there. One of the things that`s so -- you know, it`s an awful tragedy, no matter how you look at it. Set aside all of his political destiny and all of the things that he could have achieved, it`s awful to lose a child in any way, shape, or form. But this family, the Biden family, one of the reasons so many journalists are so touched by this is because that family was very open with everyone. I spent time with them in 2007 and 2008 in Iowa, you know, out on the campaign trail. They embraced everyone and let everyone embrace them back. So you knew the Biden family in a bigger way than many other politicians. And the Senate is exactly expressing that. That`s how they knew that family, everyone in it. And this is a tragedy for everyone. KORNACKI: And, you know, Jamal Simmons, as Christina is saying, the people who knew and who know Joe Biden, who know the Biden family up close, who get to know them that way, I often think of people who only know Joe Biden through the jokes that are made about him, through that Onion caricature that`s out there. I think a lot of people would be surprised by the warmth that exists, the respect that exists in Washington on both sides of the aisle for the vice president. JAMAL SIMMONS: There absolutely is respect. And because people know that Joe Biden really does take these things seriously. I don`t know the Bidens extraordinarily well, but I know the vice president a little bit, and I remember introducing him to my mother. And the amount of time he took with my mother and talking to her and telling her about me and all the things that he was working on and asking her questions about her life. And I think every political staffer sort of knows that. As a political staffer, you spend a lot of time with these families. You work for senators. You work for people who run for president. You spend time with the kids of these families, the grandkids. Sometimes you`re babysitting kind of while they`re off doing what they`re doing. And you see the way these families work, and they are just like the rest of American families, except they have to live out these high points and tragedies in front of cameras. And I think for those of us who get to be backstage and see how these things work, it`s an incredibly sad day to imagine what that family is going through. KORNACKI: And again, we are just moments away from the start of this funeral mass for Beau Biden. You`re looking at live images from inside St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church. That mass expected to get under way any minute now. It looks like, as you see, the president arriving. The crowd standing and the president taking his seat in the front pew there with his wife, with his family. Jonathan, that relationship between the president and Joe Biden, I mean, as we see the president now taking a seat. We`ve been told he`s been spending all week working on this. ALTER: Yeah. The relationship between the president and the vice president goes a whole lot deeper than their titles. These are two people we`ve been talking about for a couple of hours now who grew to like each other. Grew to really respect each other. The president depends on the vice president to be his deal maker. We`ve seen that happen over and over again during his presidency. The ties between the two families also go a lot deeper. The first lady and Dr. Jill Biden, the second lady. They have been working on their pet project, military families, making sure that military families are taken care of and looked after by the country that their loved ones are defending. They`re workout buddies. Kathleen Biden, Hunter Biden`s wife and the first lady, they work out together. So these are two families that are intertwined professionally, but also personally. And to add on to something Jamal said. The thing -- we talk about, as you said, the Onion caricature of Vice President Biden, how, you know, he`s gaffe-prone. How we spend a lot of time joking about the vice president. Uncle Joe. Well, the thing about Uncle Joe is, everyone loves Uncle Joe. He`s gaffe-prone, but you know his heart is in the right place. The Bidens, and particularly Vice President Biden wears his emotions, wears his faith, wears everything on his sleeve. There`s no artifice there. What you see is what you get. And that`s why you see the outpouring of grief for this family. For that man. But also for Beau. If you spent any time with the Biden children, with the Biden boys, they are a reflection of him. So that`s why when a tragedy like this happens, and especially to Beau Biden, at the age of 46, the son of the vice president, it hits everybody, whether Democrat, Republican, reporters who cover the vice president, regular, everyday people. This is something that I think has hit a lot of people in a very personal way that I think surprises them. KORNACKI: It`s also something -- the news of Beau Biden`s decline of his health was something that I think was a very closely guarded secret. We`re told the vice president told the president when that diagnosis -- that grim diagnosis came in the last few months what was going to happen to his son. He told a few others, but nobody else. This was something last Saturday night when this news started to break about Beau Biden, a lot of people just said I didn`t realize that it was that bad. Vicky, we talk about Joe Biden, though. I think a lot of people are surprised. We`re told he`s not going to be among those offering eulogies at today`s services. I think a lot of people from the outside may be a little bit surprised by that. Joe Biden is somebody that has spoken so movingly about grief, about personal loss, about his family`s losses in the past. We played that clip earlier. It was just a few weeks ago. It`s amazing to think about now in light of what`s happened since then, but just a few weeks ago, he`s at Yale University talking about his family`s experiences, losing his wife, losing his daughter, his sons nearly dying in 1972. A lot of people are surprised he is not one of the speakers today just given how he`s connected with so many people on the subject of grief. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, grief is something that everyone deals with differently. I think at this moment in time, we see Vice President Joe Biden leaning on his friend President Obama. He is letting President Obama speak for him, provide those emotions in a public forum. And he is resting on his faith and his friends and his family. So I`m not surprised that at this moment, he`s decided not to eulogize his son. But I do think in the coming weeks, we will see him open up, because he is a very public person, and because he is going to share those emotions with us. Because as a country, we are sharing in that grief with Vice President Biden. KORNACKI: If we can go back, looking at scenes right now outside St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church in Wilmington, an honor guard set up there. You see bagpipes coming in right now. If you look inside the church, it looks like we were starting to see some activity there. The crowd is now standing inside the church, and Father, what are we looking at right now? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there you see the other priests and archbishops and cardinals, including Cardinal McCarrick (ph) taking their places in the sanctuary. You see the cross now going out from the sanctuary. Will go out, and the presider, Father Donovan will greet the body, which will be you know, accompanied by the family. Now you can see the funeral cortege being pulled up to the front of the church. So we are from the actual beginning of the services, how far away do you think we are right now? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the beginning of the service. You can see the cross bearer now coming out. That`s (inaudible), Father Leo Donovan (ph). He will go out and bless the coffin with holy water. The pall will be placed over the coffin and he will welcome the crowd and pray over the coffin. KORNACKI: You can see there looking live outside the church, a hearse now pulling up. Presumably the casket inside there, as father says, will be greeted outside the church, brought in for that funeral service for Beau Biden, which is getting under way right now. You`re looking at the beginning of the service right now. I think Jonathan, we look at the vice president`s family. I think one of the things this week that really struck me were those images from the memorial services in Dover. I`m told that all sorts of average citizens showed up for that this week, just to pay their respects, to shake hands with the vice president and his family, and Joe Biden stayed there for all of it. ALTER: Yeah, extraordinary. You know, Delaware is a small state. And you get the sense when you travel with Joe Biden in Delaware, as I have, that he knows everybody in that state. And they know him. And as Jonathan just mentioned, there`s a closeness there because of his human qualities that really comes out. So even if they don`t know him personally, they feel, as was said of Franklin Roosevelt, that he knows them. That`s a very powerful bond that they have. I want to just say a word about Dr. Jill Biden -- KORNACKI: We`ll get that word in, but let me just -- as you can see right here, this is the Biden family now arriving outside the church. You see the vice president right there in the middle of your screen with his sunglasses on, preparing. You see his wife to his left there. That`s Dr. Jill Biden. All sorts of nieces, nephews, grandchildren, around him and the hearse being opened up. So we see Dr. Jill Biden there. You were saying about her. ALTER: The immensity of her loss I think needs to be recognized. She came into Beau and Hunter Biden`s life when they were very young. You know, 5, 6 years old. And very quickly she became mom. Not stepmom. KORNACKI: In fact, at one of those memorial services this week, she was referred to as their mother. ALTER: Yes. And they thought of that. They actually urged Joe Biden when they were very young to marry her. They suggested it to him. They wondered why it was taking him so long. So while they honor their birth mother Amelia, who died in the accident, basically their entire lives have considered Jill to be their mother, and they spent an immense amount of time with her growing up while Joe Biden was in the Senate back in Delaware. And Senator Biden would go by Amtrak famously home every night. But because of the distance and because of his duties, it was a fairly long way, and Jill Biden was really raising those boys as well as their daughter, Ashley. KORNACKI: And you can see that to Joe Biden`s right there, that is Hunter Biden, that is Beau`s brother, Joe Biden`s other son. He`s standing there to the right of the vice president. I think Governor Ed Rendell is still with us. Governor, the pride that Joe Biden took in both of his sons was - - he tells the story, as we`ve been talking about it, the story of getting through that loss in 1972 with them. There`s that moment on the stage back in 2008 at the Democratic convention where Joe and Beau Biden embraced. This was a father who took an enormous amount of pride in what his sons grew up to be. RENDELL: No question. That was the highlight of the 2008 convention for me, and for most of the delegates there. As great as it was to nominate Senator Obama as president, the most moving moment was the exchange between Beau and Joe. And every father loves hopefully all of their children, but for Beau to follow in Joe`s path, I think that created a special relationship. KORNACKI: Valerie Biden, Joe Biden`s sister, very, very close member of the family who took care of Beau and hunter after the accident in 1972. You know, has been -- she and her family have been very close. It`s impossible to exaggerate the closeness of this particular family. We`re just taking a moment here to take in the scene, to watch and to listen as Beau Biden`s casket is brought into the church. Let`s just take a look outside the church right now. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they removed the flag before the casket`s blessed with holy water. And then on the casket will be placed a white cloth that is a symbol of baptism. A child is given a white garment at his or her baptism at the beginning of his or her Christian life. And then the pall is placed over the casket at the end of their life. So it`s a lot of baptismal imagery you will see in the beginning of the mass. KORNACKI: We see the casket brought up to the steps of the church there. Looked like it was a military honor guard that was escorting it. There are official pall bearers for this mass as well. Two of the vice president`s brothers are pall bearers. His brother-in-law as well, that is the husband of his sister Valerie, who Jonathan was just talking about. Also the son, his nephew, the son of Valerie also one of the pall bearers. Another nephew as well, and Joe Biden`s son-in-law, that would be the husband of his daughter Ashley, they are all pall bearers for this. As you can see now, Joe Biden and his family making their way into that church as well behind the casket. We just watched the casket carrying his son Beau being brought into St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Wilmington, Delaware. Father, the difference between the pall bearers that I just read off and who we just saw bringing that body up, there`s a ceremonial role here? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The honor guard is more of a military distinction. The pallbearers carry and help the body into the church. So it`s a distinction between more of a public role and the private role of religious ceremony. Not everyone would have an honor guard, obviously. KORNACKI: Right, and Beau Biden, an Iraq war veteran, as we said. Quite a scene there. You see Joe Biden comforting one of his young relatives there right outside the church. We`ve been seeing a lot of images like that this week of Joe Biden standing with his family trying to comfort them, and you just wonder -- you can`t see his eyes, most of the shots I`ve seen of him this week he`s had those shades on. And you just wonder, the incredible grief that this man has suffered several times in his life, to have his son with such a promising future in front of him taken at the age of 46. What has been going through Joe Biden`s mind this week. And father, next there will be some kind of procession I`m assuming? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`ll bless the casket with holy water. They`ll place the pall over it. And the casket and the family will be brought up to the front of the church. So there will be a procession of the casket and the family. KORNACKI: Okay. Let`s listen and watch as the Bidens enter the church right now. (LIVE COVERAGE OF MASS) THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END