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Joe Biden: "I wasn't prepared" for attack from Kamala Harris

In an interview with CNN, Joe Biden told Chris Cuomo that "I was prepared for them to come after me, but I wasn't prepared for the person coming at me the way she came at ..." referencing Kamala Harris' attack on his history with racial issues in last week's Democratic debate.

The big picture: Joe Biden had previously shied away from doing interviews as he leads the Democratic field in the polls.

Biden on key questions:

  • On tapping out during the racial conversation in the debate, citing time limits: "In 30 seconds? Come on, man.... Well we've never had a place where you have 30 seconds, man. What I didn't want to do was get in that scrum. Do you think the American public looks at that debate and thought, 'Oh boy, I really like the way that's being conducted, they're really showing themselves to do really well.' Come on, man."
  • VP: "I think it'd be great to have a female VP, and if I don't win, it'd be great to have a female president."
  • On immigration: Biden said crossing the border illegally should not be decriminalized, that those seeking asylum should "have a chance to make their case," and that money should be spent in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to improve conditions in those countries.
  • On wanting to provide health care for undocumented migrants: "This is just common decency...In an emergency they should have health care. Everybody should. How do you say, 'You're undocumented, I'm gonna let you die, man?'"
  • On Medicare for All: "If you provide an option for anybody who in fact wants to buy into Medicare for All, they can buy in.... But if they like their employer-based insurance, which a lot of unions broke their neck to get, they shouldn't have to give it up.... If you don't go my way ... you have to give up all of that. What's going to happen when you have 300 million people landing on a health care plan? How long is that going to take? In the meantime, a lot of people are going to be in trouble."
  • On the ACA's individual mandate: "Yes, I'd bring back the individual mandate."
  • NATO: "If he wins reelection, I promise you, there'll be no NATO in 4 years or 5 years."
  • On approach to North Korea: "I'd make it real clear: Look you want to talk, you want to deal with us, you want sanctions lifted? Show me something, ahead of time."
  • On the Democratic political spectrum: "I think Ocasio-Cortez is a brilliant, bright woman, but she won a primary. In the general election fights, who won? Mainstream Democrats who are very progressive on social issues and very strong on education and health care. My north star is the middle class."