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Sen. Coons on how Biden can unite America in a time of crisis

Delaware Senator Chris Coons has known former Vice President Joe Biden and his family for three decades and is one of Biden’s closest allies in Washington, D.C. In fact, Coons will be helping to introduce Biden when he accepts the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination on Thursday night. Coons joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why he believes Biden can unite America through its current crises.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware has known Joe Biden and his family for three decades. And he's one of the former vice president's closest allies in Washington.

    He will be helping to introduce Mr. Biden on Thursday night.

    And he joins us now from Wilmington.

    Senator Coons, thank you very much for talking with us tonight.

    You have known him for so long. He's been in American public life for, what, half-a-century almost. So, what more is it that's going to come across about Joe Biden this week that we don't already know? And what does this convention need to say to those voters who maybe voted for Trump four years ago, but who are taking a look at Joe Biden and can't decide?

  • Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.:

    Well, Judy, tonight, at the convention, you are going to see a strikingly broad range of Americans speak up about why this moment calls for the leadership of Joe Biden, some of them lifelong Democrats, folks who are passionate progressives, some of them lifelong Republicans.

    Obviously, we are going to hear from former first lady Michelle Obama, who got to know Joe Biden very closely, very personally in the eight years that President Obama and Vice President Biden and their families served alongside each other in the White House.

    We're also going to hear from former Governor Kasich, a Republican governor from Ohio, as well as Christie Todd Whitman, former Republican governor of New Jersey.

    And, as you asked in your question there, Judy, for those Americans who may have voted for Trump four years ago, I can understand how some folks might have thought, eh, what's the worst thing that could happen?

    Now you know. The worst thing that could have happened has happened. We have got a wreck of an economy. We have got a pandemic, a nationwide health emergency. And we have got widening divisions and disagreements over longstanding and unaddressed issues of racial inequality.

    Our country is in tough shape. And so what I hope the average American who listens this week will hear about Joe Biden is about his heart, his character, his faith, how life has knocked him down hard at the beginning and in the latest stages of his service career and how Joe's been able to get back up again. He believes in us, and I believe in him.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, I was going to ask you about his faith in a moment, but you have raised it.

    You are — you have been saying you are going to talk about that on Thursday. What else it about his faith that you want to get across, and why is that important at this convention?

  • Sen. Chris Coons:

    Well, Judy, there's tens of millions of Americans who are getting through hard times and hard days because of their faith. It's what sustains them. It's what strengthens them and their families.

    And so I think it's important for those folks to know, from someone who's been close to Joe for decades, that it's central to who he is. It's essential to how he's made it through all the challenges he's faced in life.

    But another important point is that Joe is someone who will bring us together. He will be a president for all Americans. Joe is a proud Catholic. He's a proud Irish Catholic. But he's someone who respects and recognizes and will represent Americans of all faiths and those who are Americans of good conscience, but who practice no particular faith.

    So, I think it's important folks hear how it strengthened him personally, how it helps connect him to millions of Americans who get through their daily lives with faith, and how he will represent us in a way that brings us together, rather than divides us along lines of religion.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Several other things I want to ask you about.

    One is this issue that is bubbling right now about the Postal Service. Democrats, of course — and you're one of them — are saying President Trump, his postmaster general are trying to undermine, undercut the Postal Service, harm the ability to get ballots delivered and counted in November.

    Today, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said the Postal Service is going to be fine. He said the administration is going to spend $10 billion on it. So, can you clarify where things really stand right now?

  • Sen. Chris Coons:

    Well, I'm visiting the largest postal handling facility in Delaware tomorrow. I'm joining with my delegation in calling for more transparency.

    If the postmaster general can explain and justify these dramatic changes, disassembling and taking out of service large mail handling and processing machines, changing the service and delivery standards, then he ought to do that, and he ought to do it promptly.

    But I'm very skeptical. I have gotten 1,800 calls just this week from Delawareans concerned about delays in medication, in Social Security checks, small business owners concerned about getting payment.

    I, frankly, think this is a legitimate concern on behalf of the American people that the postmaster general needs to address.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator, you mentioned and you have been talking about a number of Republicans you speak with privately. You said you wouldn't be surprised if they privately voted not for Donald Trump, but for Joe Biden, when they vote in November.

    We don't know who they are. We will hear from a few this week.

    But my question to you is about the two parties working together. What is it that Joe Biden would do as president to get the parties to work together different from what President Obama did?

    I mean, we are in a much, even more polarized environment today than when he was — Biden was vice president.

  • Sen. Chris Coons:

    That's right.

    And there may very — there may be a very real chance that Majority Leader McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate will refuse to work across the aisle to help our nation. That would be disappointing.

    And if that happens, we're going to have to take tougher partisan action to try and move forward.

    But Joe Biden enjoys a longstanding personal relationship with many of the most senior senators in the Republican Caucus. They know his character, they know his heart, and they know that, if he tries to work with them, they will be able to work together with someone who keeps his word.

    One of the things that's been hardest about making any legislative progress with Donald Trump is, he will ask us to take on some tough task, for example, dealing with immigration and the status of dreamers.

    Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, taking that opportunity from Donald Trump, worked really hard, came up with a bipartisan deal, took it back to President Trump, who said, this is a great deal, let's move forward, and then, 36 hours later, completely changed his mind, changed direction, and campaigned hard against it.

    If you can't make a deal with the president that's bipartisan and that lasts, it's increasingly frustrating to even try. On issues like gun violence, dealing with the environment, dealing with racial inequalities and policing reform, or dealing with immigration, making bipartisan progress with Donald Trump has been very frustrating, very difficult.

    Joe Biden is someone who respects and understands the role of the Senate. If Republicans are willing to work with him in good faith, we can make progress and get America out of its current challenges.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And finally, in just five seconds, Senator Coons, how do you make an inspiring speech at a convention with no one in the room?

  • Sen. Chris Coons:

    It's tough, but, if anyone can do it, Joe Biden can.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, I was asking about you, but we will let you pass on that one.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Sen. Chris Coons:

    Thanks, Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, thank you so much.

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