Vice President Biden: What Trump Is Doing Is 'Very Dangerous' NPR's Robert Siegel talks to Joe Biden about the latest report on the cancer moonshot initiative, the state of the presidential race, and possible U.S. retaliation for Russian hacking.

Vice President Biden: What Trump Is Doing Is 'Very Dangerous'

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At the white house today - a report from Vice President Joe Biden on what's wrong with cancer research in this country and what can be done to speed progress toward a cure. Biden, who chairs the administration's Cancer Moonshot initiative cited a lack of coordination, a failure to effectively share information and antiquated research and funding culture.

Robert sat down today with Joe Biden to talk about the cancer project and about politics as the vice president heads into his final months in office.


Mr. Vice President, thanks for joining us...

JOE BIDEN: Delight to be here.

SIEGEL: ...Today. First, on the so-called Cancer Moonshot, you've spoken of a global commitment to end cancer as we know it today. There is a history ever since President Nixon's war on cancer of some very unrealistic forecasts. Someone once said there would be no more cancer deaths by 2015, if not 2010. What's a reasonable expectation of the progress we can expect from this - what's called a moonshot?

BIDEN: Let's put this in perspective. In 1971 when Nixon well-intended moonshot was put in place, we had no army. We had no research. We had no weapons. Over the last 40 years, the world has changed. We have an inflection point we've reached where we have disciplines that never worked before together - immunologist, oncologist, virologist, computer scientists.

And so we have an enormous amount of information, and we have the capacity within the next five years to do a decade's worth of work, and we're making real progress.

SIEGEL: What do you think that means - a decade's worth of work in five years? Does it mean...

BIDEN: Well, I...

SIEGEL: ...That there are far fewer deaths from cancer at that time?

BIDEN: Yes, far fewer deaths from cancer, a number of cancers going from being death sentences to chronic diseases and a number of specific cancers - and there are over 200 cancers. We didn't know that. You know, there was one moon when Clinton - when - excuse me - when Kennedy decided to go to the moon. But there are over 200 individual cancers. And so it's much more difficult.

SIEGEL: One obstacle I've heard about to the Moonshot is in fact sharing data, which sounds like mom and apple pie.

BIDEN: Yeah.

SIEGEL: But in fact scientists can be very protective of their own data. It's what their careers are about. It's what their own fortunes are about.

BIDEN: Well, there has to be incentives to share data. But think about it. In '71, there was only - there was no real data to share. They were just in the process of accumulating the data. Now there's enormous amounts of data.

For example, at the Department of Defense, we have over 220 - or 250,000 samples of blood from military people who have had cancer. Now, by using the big data we have at the Department of Energy being able to do a million, billion calculations a second, we can take all that accumulated data and look at it and determine what cancers develop from what blood type and be able to begin to make real progress.

SIEGEL: Let's move on to politics in this presidential election season.

BIDEN: Sure.

SIEGEL: Given the ugliness of this year's presidential campaign...

BIDEN: (Laughter).

SIEGEL: And in particular I'm thinking of the chants, lock her up; lock her up. Can Hillary Rodham Clinton lead the country if she's elected, or can we expect more paralysis division and acrimony? Is the country just too divided to have any kind of effective leadership?

BIDEN: The election will determine that, but I think not. I think if we appeal to the better angels as Americans, we've always succeeded. Trump is out there doing something very dangerous. I'd like to read you a quote because I thought you might ask me that question from Charles Krauthammer this weekend.

He said incendiary talk about the election being fixed - he said such incendiary talk is an affront to elementary Democratic decency and a breach of the boundaries of American political system. In democracies, electoral process is substitute for electoral - is subtle and an elaborate substitute for combat and the age old way of settling struggles of power. And he goes on to talk about how this is so dangerous.

SIEGEL: But Donald Trump lost the conservative...

BIDEN: Lost...

SIEGEL: ...Commentariat many, many months ago.

BIDEN: Well, he lost...

SIEGEL: A significant share of Americans express a concern the election could be fixed.

BIDEN: He lost all the commentariat. Name me a commentariat that you would identify that he has.

SIEGEL: But you think there'll be no traction with that despite polls which show...

BIDEN: Well, I think...

SIEGEL: Significant numbers of Americans who share that concern.

BIDEN: The answer is I think the - there's one way to make sure there's no traction. Vote; vote.

SIEGEL: Are Hillary Clinton's emails a self-inflicted wound that's hurting her campaign and the Democratic Party?

BIDEN: Well, obviously they've hurt her campaign. But when the - there's - but there doesn't seem to be there there (ph). But that's why a lot of people thought that - would have been better a year ago to say, here - here's everything I did in my emails. But...

SIEGEL: Well, people criticize the absence of that kind of...

BIDEN: Yeah, no, I...

SIEGEL: ...Openness from this stuff.

BIDEN: I understand that.

SIEGEL: Yesterday on "Meet The Press" when you were asked about it, you said the U.S. is sending a message to Vladimir Putin about Russian hacking of U.S. targets like John Podesta's email. You said Putin will know it, and you hope the public won't know it.

In this age of state-sponsored hacking - if that's what this is - what do you understand the rules to be? If a foreign country hacks a non-governmental organization here, it's...

BIDEN: There are no rules.

SIEGEL: ...Tit for tat?

BIDEN: There are no rules. We're trying to, among the more democratic nation in the world, establish rules relating to cyberspace. But it's clear that based on what the director of the intelligence community said, that the Russians are not engaging in any kind of effort to establish some rational rules in cyberspace.

SIEGEL: But then for the United States, what would strike you, you know, broadly speaking, as a kind of measured retaliation that would make sense?

BIDEN: We are in the process of making that decision, what that measure of retaliation is. But it warrants retaliation.

SIEGEL: You say the decision has been made to retaliate. It's just a matter of...

BIDEN: It warrants retaliation.

SIEGEL: With Donald Trump's alleged sexual advances under attack, people have been recalling both the Clinton impeachment and also the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas when you were chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Anita Hill, who accused Thomas of sexual harassment, has said you did a terrible job as chairman during those hearings.

BIDEN: She didn't say terrible. I don't think she used that word.

SIEGEL: I think two years ago she said terrible.

BIDEN: Well, she may have.

SIEGEL: It's a quote I saw. But it's been 25 years.

BIDEN: Yeah.

SIEGEL: It's been 25 years. I mean given what you've learned since and your involvement in the issue of sexual assault, would you today run those hearings differently if you...

BIDEN: Not in any fundamental way. And you'll recall at the time I said that these hearings are about an underlying systemic problem in American society about the treatment of women. And I predicted to you that would result in significant change in social behavior. And it should change.

And I continue to fight that, make that effort to change the culture of how women are treated. That's why I wrote the Violence Against Women Act, and that's why I'm leading the It's On Us campaign to try to change the culture on college campuses.

SIEGEL: Does the entire discussion of Donald Trump's videotape and his alleged actions - does it make you wonder how much has actually changed since that time?

BIDEN: Well, what Donald Trump did I hope is not a reflection of American public opinion and the conduct of the vast majority of men. I was a pretty good athlete. I spent a lot of time in a lot of rocker - locker rooms in high school and college. I never heard talk like that.

SIEGEL: Elsewhere in the program, we hear what Vice President Biden has to say about the Democrats loss of support among white, working-class voters.

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