Kamala Harris photo

Remarks by the Vice President in a Moderated Conversation with Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times 12th Annual Dealbook Summit in New York City

November 29, 2023

MR. SORKIN: The Vice President, everybody. (Applause.)

The Vice President is with us this afternoon, and it could be -- could not be a more timely time to speak with you. During her time in office, she has now visited 19 countries, met with more than 100 leaders.

You are a trailblazer in every way: first woman, first Black American, South A- -- South Asian American to be elected vice president in the United States.

We're going to talk about a lot of things today. We're going to talk about inflation, the economy, geopolitics, AI and tech, abortion laws. I think we're going to go to a lot of different places this afternoon.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I've got time. (Laughter.)

MR. SORKIN: And I'm hoping that as a result of this conversation, we can all understand you and the way you think. And that's my hope from this -- from this discussion.


MR. SORKIN: Just -- so, thank you for being here.

The entire country is looking at you, I think you know, in so many ways. Let me ask you this -- and this is where I want to start. You can look at where we are in the economy today and take credit for the following things, I think -- or you would you would like to think: near record low unemployment, near record high housing prices, oil prices are coming down, rate of inflation is slowing, near record stock prices, actually -- quite high. You passed the CHIPS Act. All of these things.

And yet, despite that -- and you know this because you look at the polls, former President Trump not only on a national level appears to be beating the Biden-Harris ticket but uniquely in those five of the six key swing states, that seems to be the case.

And so, I'm trying to understand the way you think about when you see these polls -- what you think is happening and what you think the American people feel.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's good to be with you, Andrew. Good to see everyone.

So, most of the setup of that question related to the economy, so we can to discuss that first. But there are many factors that the American people consider during election cycles. And the midterms and then recently in Ohio and Virginia prove that point.

When we look at the economy, I appreciate you recognizing that we have accomplished quite a bit, especially when we reflect on where we started in January of '21, when we, of course, were looking at record unemployment, we were looking at a crisis that was global in proportion.

Fast forward to today, we have actually dealt with inflation in a better way than most advanced economies, we have had record unemployment for an extended period of time, wages have surpassed inflation in many ways. So, we've seen great progress.

And I think the American people know it on some level. But these are also macroeconomic measures and don't necessarily connect with the heart and the experience and the feelings of the American people.

For many Americans, prices are still too high. And we still have work to do to address that. And we've been doing that in a number of ways, capping the cost of insulin at $35 a month, what we are doing in terms of student loan debt, over $120 billion in forgiveness, what we're doing to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, the work is happening. And frankly, when you look at polls, I will tell you: If you poll insulin at $35 a month, if you poll Medicare negotiating drug prices, if you poll what we have done with a historic investment in an existential crisis, which is the climate crisis, when you poll on you have done on gun safety -- polls incredibly.

MR. SORKIN: So, that's so interesting. So, on individual issues, you're absolutely right --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: And our challenge is just to let folks know who brung it to them. That's a big part of our challenge. It's all these individual accomplishments --

MR. SORKIN: So, were you surprised when you see the polls?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- they are very popular.

MR. SORKIN: When you see the -- when you see the -- what do you what do you think when you see the polls?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Listen, if I listened to polls, I would have never run from my first office or my second one. And here I am as vice president. (Laughter.)

MR. SORKIN: One of the other things you have said is that this election -- and you said it for the last election, but this election, in particular, democracy is at stake.


MR. SORKIN: And so, if it's at stake and the polls are as close as they are, what does that say to you either about your message or the American people?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, let's put polls aside for a moment. I think we all can agree that we are living in a time where we've seen great instability and destabilizing -- historic destabilizing events. And it is having an effect on all of us, on everyone. Most recent event, starting October 7. Many of us are carrying a very heavy heart.

We just survived -- the lucky ones -- a historic pandemic where there was an extraordinary loss of life, loss of normalcy. People lost their jobs, their sense of identity.

And we are, then, at a moment where it requires us to have a certain level of faith in the integrity of certain institutions, including democracies.

You know, as you said, I've met now with over 100 world leaders -- presidents, prime ministers, chancellors, and kings. When we walk in those rooms representing the United States of America, we walk in those rooms chin up, shoulders back, with the appointed authority -- the self-appointed and earned authority to talk about the importance of rule of law, of democracies.

But the thing about being a role model is that people watch what you do to see if it matches what you say. People around the world are watching what's happening in our country --

MR. SORKIN: What do you think of the American --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- to see if we are measuring up to our ideals.

And -- and then, when we think about the election and in the context of that, we must understand the duality of the nature of democracy.

On the one hand, it's very strong in its nature, in terms of what it does to protect individual rights and freedoms. And there's great strength in that.

And on the other hand, it's very fragile. It will only be as strong as our willingness to fight for it. And this is one of those moments in time --

MR. SORKIN: Do you think the American public under- -- to the degree that you're right, if you are, do you think that the American public understands that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think at their core, they do. I travel our country. I was just, in the last couple of days, in Houston and Atlanta, D.C., and now New York. I've tra- -- and, before that, California.

I traveled our country, and I'll tell you something: They may not talk about it in the -- using the term "democracy," but they understand the importance of freedom, of liberty, of human rights.

You talk about freedoms. And -- but, by the way, there is a full-on attack by some against hard-won, hard-fought freedoms in our country: the freedom to make decisions about one's own body, the freedom to love who you love with pride and openly, the freedom to be free from gun violence and of fear, of hatred, antisemitism, Islamophobia.

There are fundamental freedoms that are at stake right now, and the American people do understand that.

And again, I will point to the midterms and the most recent elections. When freedom was on the ballot, be it from Kansas to California, Ohio to Virginia --

MR. SORKIN: Do you think the polls --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- the American people voted in favor of freedoms.

MR. SORKIN: Do you think the polls are just wrong?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's a little too simplistic. I -- with all due respect, I don't think that we should use polling as our only measure of who we are as Americans and our values and our principles and our priorities.

That's -- that's something you can't necessarily poll, but it is something you know when you're sitting around with your -- with your family, with your neighbors, with the people that you may pray with, the people you may work with.

MR. SORKIN: Let me ask you a question that I know you get asked a lot. And I know it's a question that I imagine you don't like. And it is --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I expected many of those today. (Laughs.)

MR. SORKIN: This is the headline. It ran in the Wall Street Journal and it ran as a question. So, I'm just going to ask it directly to you.


MR. SORKIN: Is a vote for Biden a vote for President Harris?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: A vote for President Biden is a vote for President Biden and Vice President Harris.

We are a ticket. It's called "Biden-Harris." That's the administration. That's on the ticket.

MR. SORKIN: Right. Okay.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. I was elected. And I intend to be reelected, as does the President.

MR. SORKIN: Let me ask it in a different way then. (Laughter.) No -- no, no.

Do you think -- and this is a very, just, personal question -- when you voted historically before -- before you --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I voted for myself.

MR. SORKIN: No, but be- -- (laughter).

Before you were in this role -- before you were in this role --


MR. SORKIN: -- you voted for presidents and tickets before.


MR. SORKIN: Okay. So, here's the question. Do you accept the idea, the conception that when people in this room and other places vote for your ticket -- this is the Biden-Harris ticket -- that they have to believe -- everybody in this room has to believe that you would make an exceptional president?

Are they voting affirmatively for you in that role? Or are they voting for something different?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, they're voting for so much when they vote for president. They're voting for what are the accomplishments, when you're talking about reelection; the values, the principles that -- that those leaders stand for and exemplify.

They're voting, for example, when we're looking at increasing instability around the world -- I mean, a war in Europe. Seventy years where we took for granted basic international rules and norms, such as sovereignty and territorial integrity, upended by Russia's unprovoked attack on Ukraine.

We look now at what is happening in the Middle East, with one of our longest friends and allies, Israel, being the subject of a terrorist attack where 1,200 people were killed and now what we look in Ga- -- at Gaza and what has happened where far too many Palestinians civilians have been killed.

And the world pay -- the world pays attention and Americans pay attention. And I think it does us all a discredit to underestimate the intelligence of the American people to see what's happening in the world and their desire for consistency and stability and moderation and leadership versus chaos.

The American people have the ability to see a split screen and understand what will be presented as a difference in November of '24, much less what you have seen over the last four years in terms of establishing stability that was lost in the previous administration.

It is Joe Biden -- and I spend a whole lot of time with our president -- who was able to reestablish the strength of NATO. Don't forget -- from our friend Macron to others, who at one point presented an existential question, "Does NATO have a reason for being?"

Joe Biden, I would dare say, singularly, as a world leader, who often receives phone calls -- because I've been there -- from world leaders asking his advice, who was able to strengthen NATO to the point that now two more countries will be joining.

MR. SORKIN: Okay, so --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: The American people watch and understand. It may not be part of what keeps them up at night and -- and figures out how to pay their bills on a daily basis in terms of what I'm now discussing, but they appreciate the leadership of the United States.

MR. SORKIN: The reason why I'm asking the question is because of his age. I say it objectively. That's -- that's the issue.

Kevin McCarthy was here this morning. And he was -- in very stark terms, effectively said that he did not believe that President Biden was the same President Biden that he used to talk to. Went so far as to say that when they were having the debt negotiations, that he didn't even think he was negotiating with him, that he thought he was looking at cards and that if the information effectively wasn't on the cards, he wasn't able to do it.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: With all due respect -- (laughter) -- when anyone who has had the experience that he has most recently had, I don't think he's a judge of negotiations. (Laughter and applause.)

But that being said -- that being said -- that being said, to the point, because it is a point that has been made, first of all, I would say that age is more than a chronological fact. I spend a whole lot of time with our President, be it in the Oval Office or the Situation Room and in other places. And I can tell you, as I just mentioned, not only is he absolutely authoritative in rooms around the globe but in the Oval Office, meeting with members of Congress, meeting with leaders in industry, meeting with community leaders.

I will tell you that he is in front of, often, everyone in the room in terms of thinking about how we can resolve issues, negotiate in a way that is about concession where necessary but for the sake of accomplishment and actual work.

Remember, so many talked about -- and one in particular -- "Infrastructure Week." It never happened.

Under Joe Biden's leadership, there were many who said, "Don't give concessions on this" or "Go a different way on that." He was steady. He was mature. And he made the call every time.

Only one person sits behind the Resolute Desk.

MR. SORKIN: Let me ask you in a more complicated way. I think there's a lot of people would say, "She can't say anything else. She -- she couldn't tell -- if there was a problem…"

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not lying. (Laughs.)

MR. SORKIN: If there was a --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm telling -- but I'm telling you a fact.

MR. SORKIN: But if there ever is a problem --


MR. SORKIN: -- do you think that you could go tell the American public? Do you think, in your role, that you're -- that you're in a position to do that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Of course, if necessary, but there's no need for that. I don't --

There is a political argument that is being made that is not based on substance. And you're asking me to hypothesize around what are my duties to the American people as vice president of the United States that are based on ethics and morals and the law.

I will always follow those rules. But I am suggesting to you that it is important we not be seduced into one of the only arguments that that side of the aisle has right now on this issue in a way that is int- -- is intended to distract from the accomplishments.

We have an historic investment in a pro-growth economy.

We have done the work that has been about saying that we will create alignment with our allies, that we will invest in the American economy around workers and industry and business.

We have done the work that is about an investment in chips and science. The Inflation Reduction Act, may I remind everyone, not one Republican in Congress voted for.

If you look at the track record of accomplishment under this president on infrastructure alone, many historians would argue not since Eisenhower have we seen that kind of investment in America and a- -- the creation of American jobs, not to mention recovering from an historic economic decline because of the pandemic.

One person makes the decisions ultimately on all these big issues and many that are less known, and that is the president. And in our case, that is Joe Biden.

He has proven himself to be able to do the work that I do believe the American people want.

MR. SORKIN: Let me ask you about you and your own popularity.


MR. SORKIN: You've seen the polls, also. Your ratings, 38.5 percent. Biden's, 40.4 percent. And Trump is higher.

Ron Klain says this, and -- and you've -- you've seen press about yourself over -- over the years. He says that he believes that your popularity -- or unpopularity or whatever rating you want to put it as -- is a function of sexism and racism. He says that's part of the problem. He says, "She doesn't get the credit for all that she's done." Do you think that's true?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, are we talking about the media or people? As it relates to the media, I'm sure some of that is true.

MR. SORKIN: As relates to people?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, that -- that's -- let me tell you, I just finished a college tour where I -- I started in September. I've now, through that college tour, by the end of it, met with over 15,000 college-aged Americans -- universities, community colleges, and also trade -- trade schools. Every auditorium was packed. And in almost every school, there was an overflow room. And the excitement was palpable.

When these folks, meaning the American people, have an opportunity to hear firsthand where we are and what we are committed to in terms of the issue --

MR. SORKIN: Do you think it's a winning strategy?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- of essential freedoms, on a lot of these issues, they believe in the leadership and they applaud the leadership. And I will tell you, that was the case everywhere I went.

MR. SORKIN: I want to pivot to Israel for just a moment. We had the President of Israel with us just -- just --


MR. SORKIN: -- before lunch.


MR. SORKIN: And there's also a big article in the New York Times today about potentially a divide inside the Biden administration about how to approach this -- whether to support Israel further; whether to put on -- in terms of providing funds and things, making it conditional; how civilians in Gaza are being treated.

What -- what are you seeing inside? Can you take us inside what that debate is right now?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: From day one -- and I think many of us will remember where we were on 7 October -- we have been very consistent as an administration on where we stand.

First of all, that after that horrific attack -- 1,200 people massacred, many of them young people simply attending a concert -- that we would stand with Israel's right to defend itself.

And I'm happy to say that, as of today, we have also been very consistent about where we stand on the American citizens and other hostages that were taken and our priority to make sure that they are -- are rescued and -- and are able to leave.

We have also been consistent, both in public and private conversations -- at the beginning, perhaps, most of them private -- with Prime Minister Netanyahu that it is critically important that humanitarian aid be given to Gaza and that the rules of war be followed.

MR. SORKIN: Do you think they're following them?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, that's a very broad question. There are many rules. But I will say that they -- we are looking at the -- that -- that is, at some point, a discussion that can be had.

But right now --

MR. SORKIN: But is that up for grabs? Meaning, I think there's a lot of people who are looking at what's happening, and they're saying they have every right to go and try to destroy Hamas. But the question is can they do that and at the same time put civilians in harm's way, and how the global public is supposed to think about that, and, by the way, what that may or may not do to the future of that region --


MR. SORKIN: -- in terms of how people there think about all of this and what happens next.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, I'm going to share something with you that I think many of the people in this audience will appreciate, which is that when you are in the midst of attempting to leverage whatever influence or authority you have in a relationship in a way that it will impact decisions, it is counterproductive to do that publicly. It doesn't mean it's not being done.

And I will say to you that perhaps one of the political challenges that we have faced -- and you've seen this before, when we were looking at the potential of a government shutdown -- is that our President has enough -- he's secure enough with who he is to not feel he has to go on TV every day to boast about how strong he is or the positions he's taking if it's not going to actually be productive in terms of influencing the desired outcome.

So, I say to you: There have been many conversations, both in public and private, about the fact that far too Pal- -- many Palestinians have been killed, and it is important that Israel do all it can to protect innocent civilians.

It -- these conversations have been taking place. I've been on those conversations, at least 14 that President Biden has had with Netanyahu. I've had conversations with President Her- -- Herzog over the many years actually -- he and I have become friends -- including most recently --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- after October 7th.

MR. SORKIN: But -- you're seeing the -- you're seeing the Democratic Party is divided over this. And I want to try something --


MR. SORKIN: -- out on you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There's no question about that.

MR. SORKIN: I -- I want to read you something. This is the New Yorker. Tell me if you agree with this. "Foreign policy is rarely, if ever, a decisive issue in a U.S. Presidential contest." This is about the political thinking of what happens here.


MR. SORKIN: "And it's hard to imagine pro-Palestinian protesters deciding that Trump -- he of the Muslim ban and the whatever-Netanyahu-wants Israel policy -- will better represent their cause than Biden."

Basically making the argument that you -- that's why you can support Israel in this moment, politically.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: The reality of it all is not about politics for us. In fact, maybe we would make different decisions if it were about political popularity.

We are making decisions based on what we absolutely believe is the right thing to do. And those decisions are consistent with what we have publicly stated are our values.

And there is more work to be done.

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: This is a fluid situation, as you know, Andrew --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- at this very moment. Okay?

So, I'm not going to sit on this stage in front of a bunch of cameras talking about the conversations that we are having internally or with our allies and -- and the people we have -- I've had con- -- direct conversations with Arab leaders as well since October 7th. We're not going to talk about it publicly.

But I will say that on the principle of humanitarian aid --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- getting the hostages out; Israel's right to defend itself; the need for, from day one, serious work being done to establish an ability to have a productive situation the day after. Which includes that there must be a two-state solution. Which includes that when this is over -- and we all want this conflict to be over -- that there be no reoccupation of Gaza, that there would be no forcible --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- displacement of the Palestinians.

These conversations are all happening.

MR. SORKIN: Let me -- I'm going to ask you two related questions. The Second Gentleman, your husband, is Jewish. And I am Jewish. I have watched with bewilderment about the antisemitism --


MR. SORKIN: -- that we're seeing. Do you think it was always there?


MR. SORKIN: You do?


MR. SORKIN: And we just didn't see it? We didn't know it? What?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, we did see it. Come on.

No, you know, you're reminding me of a conversation that I had with then-Chancellor Angela Merkel. She was actually the first foreign head of state that I had over to the house, for breakfast.

And she's, by the way, wonderful. She really is. She's warm. She has a sense of humor, unlike the media would portray her.

In any event, after we -- (laughter) -- after we talked about Russia, we talked about China -- it was before Ukraine -- she leaned over and she asked me -- you know, this is now at the end of what was a 15-year tenure, where many would argue she was probably one of the most prominent heads in Europe, and she was very concerned about what she'd be leaving behind in the world -- and she asked me, "What -- what is going on in the United States?" What is -- what -- what's happening in terms of the -- the hate, what's happening in terms of the --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- voting rights attacks, and various things. And I said to her this. So, I -- I am a daughter of a mother who had two goals in her life: to raise her two daughters and to end breast cancer. My mother was a breast cancer researcher. And I grew up, then, in an environment that was all about public health.

I say that to say this: I offered -- I usually offer two kinds of analogies, either public health or cooking. I like to cook. And so, I said to her, "Listen, it's -- it's like in our bodies: We -- we all have something in our body that can attack us. But God willing, we have a healthy enough immune system that will suppress it."

But from time to time, something will come and it'll -- it'll incite it. It'll flare it up.

To the point of your question, antisemitism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia -- these things have always existed in our country. Come on.

MR. SORKIN: And do you think it's better or worse?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's just a question --

MR. SORKIN: But -- but let me ask you a different question, then.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's just a question of where --

MR. SORKIN: We're going to -- we're going to have --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- we've been in our cycle in terms of how we've been able to suppress --

MR. SORKIN: So, here's a question, then.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- or deal with it or not.

And recently, and in the last few years -- several years, I would argue -- there are people who are attempting to incite hate and division in our country.

And it -- and it -- it bothers me to such a deep extent that there are -- you know, when you talk about leadership --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- and I just have to get this --


THE VICE PRESIDENT: Give me a second. (Laughter.) There's a certain perversion, I think, that has occurred around how we measure strength of a leader -- to the extent that there's some suggestion that the s- -- the measure of strength is based on who you beat down instead of who you lift up. The suggestion that somehow it is a sign of weakness to have empathy, which is just basically the -- the -- some level of concern and -- and care and consideration for the suffering of other people.

If you have been aware of -- one -- I don't mean you -- if one has been aware --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- of the suffering, of the fears, of the experience of people in our country over any period of time, one would know antisemitism never left.

MR. SORKIN: Do you think social media is making it worse? We're going to have Elon Musk here later today. The White House condemned what he said. What do you think of what he said?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I have nothing to say.

MR. SORKIN: And what do you think of his trip?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I -- I have nothing to say about that. But I will --

MR. SORKIN: At all.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't know him. I have nothing to say about it. But I will say this: I'm not here to talk about people; I'm here to talk about issues.

MR. SORKIN: Let me ask you, then, about social media --


MR. SORKIN: -- and the role of social media, the role of -- of Twitter or X. But let's talk about TikTok.


MR. SORKIN: We were talking about TikTok actually earlier this morning.


MR. SORKIN: The role of Chinese-own -- Chinese-owned operation.


MR. SORKIN: We had the CEO of TikTok here last year. We're walking into an election right now. Information, misinformation -- you saw the Osama bin Laden --


MR. SORKIN: -- video -- or -- or writings that went --


MR. SORKIN: -- went viral


MR. SORKIN: What should happen to TikTok?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'll step back for a moment and say that one of the things that should keep all of us up at night is the level of mis- and disinformation that is rampant and -- and has been facilitated in a most extreme way by social media. There's no question about that.

I was a member of the United States Senate -- when I was -- for four years. My favorite committee -- I served on the Senate Intelligence Committee, where we would meet in a SCIF in a bipartisan way. One of the reasons it was my favorite is because when we walked in there, people just took off -- no cameras, no public. People took off their jackets, rolled up their sleeves, and we were just Americans -- not Democrats or Republicans.

When I was on that committee, we investigated Russia's interference in the 2016 election. And then we declassified our findings. And it's available for anyone here to read who's interested.

Russia interfered in the 2016 election, targeting specific groups of Americans with dis- and misinformation, with an intention to undermine the American people's confidence in our institutions --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- including our electoral --

MR. SORKIN: And that was with American-owned social media platforms.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: And that was 2016 --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- which was a lifetime ago in technology.

By the way --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- as an example of that, most of the method was by text -- literally, words and letters --

MR. SORKIN: So -- but do you -- do you belive that a Chi- --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- versus images and -- and audio.

MR. SORKIN: Do you believe a Chinese-owned social media platform -- which virtually everybody in the country is now looking at on a daily basis, if not an hourly basis -- needs to be regulated? Or -- in some states, as you know, they're trying to ban it completely.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think we should take very seriously the fact that not only individuals but nation-states take very significant --

MR. SORKIN: Do you think China is doing that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- measures to undermine the democracy of the United States of America. And it is incumbent on us -- with one of the highest if not the most important priority being national security -- to take seriously any attempts to undermine our security as a nation. Period.

MR. SORKIN: Did you talk to President Xi about that when he was here?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: The President talked with him. I -- I met him --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- in Bangkok. I did not talk with him during this trip to San Francisco.

MR. SORKIN: But is -- in the view on the social media piece, though, you don't have a specific view on -- on TikTok itself?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not commenting on that.

MR. SORKIN: Are you on TikTok yourself?


MR. SORKIN: Do you -- are you not like a voy- --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: But many of the young people --

MR. SORKIN: -- a voyeur?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- in my family are. I'll tell you that. (Laughter.)

MR. SORKIN: And do you tell them to get off?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: You know, you can tell young people in your family all kinds of things to do. (Laughter.)

MR. SORKIN: Okay, let me ask a different question. AI -- and I -- I know we don't have a lot of time. Sam Altman has been talking a lot about the need for regulation. You've talked about the need for regulation.


MR. SORKIN: Washington has not been able to get its arms even around social media.


MR. SORKIN: How do you imagine Washington could? And what -- if you had to regulate AI, how would you do it?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. So, I actually am back a few weeks now from London, the U.K. Rishi Sunak invited a number of us to talk about safety and AI. And I presented, basically, our vision, the vision that we have for the future of AI in the context of safety.

And I would offer a number of points: One, I think it is im- -- is critically important that we, as the United States, be a leader on this, including how we perceive and then interpret what should be the international rules and norms on a variety of levels, including what would be in the best interest --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- of our national security.

I do believe also that we should evaluate risk. There is a lot of discussion on AI that is about existential risks, and those are real, but one should also ask: Existential to whom? So, we have an image of the Terminator and Arnold Schwarzenegger and the machine and -- right? -- machine versus man. And many would argue that that is something that we should take seriously as a possibility. It is not a current threat.

We should also, in thinking about AR -- AI policy, think about the current threats. And in that way, I present it as existential to whom when we ask about existential threats.

For example, if we are talking about a senior and -- seniors, I've done a lot of work in terms of abuse of seniors. They have lived a life of productivity. They are sitting on assets. They are vulnerable to predators and scams. And the use of technology and AI is one of those that is currently happening where you've heard the stories -- you may know the stories; you may have family members -- who the audio sounds like their grandson, "I'm in distress; I need help," and they start giving away their life's savings.

Existential to who? Existential to that senior. That's how it feels. Existential to who?

How about the father who is driving and then is the subject of facial recognition that is flawed, ends up in jail? Well, that's existential to his family. Existential to who?

So, the spec- -- the full spectrum of risks must also be evaluated as we are establishing public policy.

My final point is: Public policies should be intentional to not stifle innovation. And I say this as the former Attorney General of California. I ran the second-largest Department of Justice in the United States, second only to the United States Department of Justice, and created one of the first Privacy and Protection Units of any Department of Justice. Back in 2010, I was elected.

I know that there is a balance that can and must be struck between what we must do in terms of oversight and regulation and being intentional to not stifle innovation. I will also agree with you, as a devout public servant, government has historically been too slow to address these issues. AI is rapidly expanding.

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: And we have to, then, take seriously our ability to have the resources and the skillset to do this in a smart way that strikes the right balance and doesn't accept false choices.

MR. SORKIN: Okay. I have a handful more questions, and we're going to run out of time. So, I'm going to go very quick.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay. We have eight seconds.

MR. SORKIN: Well, we're going to go longer than that. (Laughter.)


MR. SORKIN: We're going to go longer than that. (Laughter.) Vice President's privilege, we're going -- we're going to go longer than that.



MR. SORKIN: It was handed to you as a big issue. Places like New York City historically didn't talk about needing --


MR. SORKIN: -- more work done at the border.


MR. SORKIN: Didn't. Today, we do. You're seeing it. You're seeing it in cities all across the country -- not just red cities, blue cities.


MR. SORKIN: Two questions. Are you doing enough? But the other question is: Do you think the federal government needs to be providing financial support to these municipalities that are having these issues?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: The second question first, yes, and we are. Now let's get to the first point.

MR. SORKIN: But the states -- the states and the mayor would say not enough and not really.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: We are. So, we can negotiate whether more is needed, and that is something that -- in terms of this conversation, but more importantly, what is needed. And let's -- you know, we can reevaluate that, but we are providing resources.

And -- and to your point, this is a -- this has become an issue for many cities around the country, red and blue. But let's --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Let's take a step back, Andrew. First of all, I would say it's no surprise to anyone here that our immigration system is broken. It is. And one could talk about what happened over the previous four years before we came, in terms of what may have been an intent to break our immigration system. But it needs to be repaired, and we are working on that in a way that we establish a -- a safe and humane and orderly immigration system at the border.

But ultimately -- and the business leaders here know this -- we need to facilitate legal and lawful immigration in the United States to the benefit of not only many issues but our economy. And the fact that there are political games being played with this because, in November of '24, some people have decided that may be the best weapon against an incumbent Democrat --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- is to talk about immigration when let's all remember from a President Bush to John McCain to Lindsey Graham, at some point --

MR. SORKIN: Yeah, but it --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- there was an agreement that this should be thought of as an issue that affects our country as a nation and that this should be approached from a bipartisan perspective.

MR. SORKIN: Let me ask you about this.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sadly, there is no will to do that right now.

MR. SORKIN: Let me --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: And so, we have what we need to do in terms of a short-term approach and a long-term approach. Back to your question and your point: The work that I've been doing with a lot of the -- our partners in the private sector -- CEOs, in particular -- is to work on the root causes of irregular migration, borne out of a belief that, fundamentally, most people don't want to leave home.

And when they do it, it's for one of two reasons: Either they are fleeing fear, harm, or they simply cannot address their basic needs or those of their families if they stay.

Because of the private partnership that we have established, when I --

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- came into this, we've raised over $4.2 billion to address, in particular, three countries -- North and Central America -- to invest in digital inclusion. Most of their economy is agriculture based. To work on what we must do through, for example, our Department of Agriculture and other partners to provide some economic relief there, understanding the connection between that and irregular migration.

MR. SORKIN: Let me ask you a final question because I know we do have to go. What do you think you learned first day on the job to now? What is the one thing that you think you actually didn't know, maybe even weren't good at, that you actually now think you might have figured out?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There's so much. There's not one thing.

MR. SORKIN: Give us one.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: But nothing -- there's no job that will prepare you for being Vice President of the United States. (Laughs.) Right? There's not. There's no apprenticeship. That's the -- and so, I --

MR. SORKIN: What do you think you missed, then?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I've learned -- I've learned to --

MR. SORKIN: When do you think you realized -- you said, "If you had -- if you had asked me, I never knew that this -- this thing happens"?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Listen, I'm not naïve, but the first thought comes into mind, I never thought that it would be this bad in terms of politics. I have to tell you honestly.

You know, when you -- when you -- you're sitting in closed rooms, it's not a debate stage in our election. When you're sitting in rooms with elected leaders holding the highest positions in our land, trying to work out solutions, and people might say one thing in the room, and then they go out in front of a camera and say a whole other thing.

MR. SORKIN: They don't do that in California? (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm talking about the highest levels.

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm talking about making decisions about are we going to have a security package for Israel and humanitarian aid for -- for Gaza and Ukraine and the border and the Indo-Pacific.

MR. SORKIN: Right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: We haven't even begun to talk about that.

I'm talking about very serious matters. And the idea that it is -- it is diluted into something that is about petty gamesmanship -- you know, do what you will on a debate stage, but when you're in those closed rooms where there is the potential and the power to actually do something, I would like that it happened more often than it has. But it has happened.

It happened when we got the Infrastructure Bill passed. That was bipartisan. It happened when we achieved some of the first gun legislation in 30 years. That was bipartisan. It happened. It does happen. But it could happen so much more often.

But let's leave on a -- on a high note. (Laughs.)

All of that being said, I do believe that the American people believe in our future. And when we hear the polls, it is -- it is rooted in -- in everyone thinking about the future and wanting to know that for our children, for our grandchildren, things are going to be okay and it's going to get better.

And in that way, we are all in the same place in wanting -- deeply, deeply wanting a better future. And if we can start from that position with that perspective, and I do believe we can, I think we'll get there.

MR. SORKIN: Madam Vice President, I want to thank you for joining us.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. SORKIN: Thank you so very, very much.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all.

MR. SORKIN: Thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all.

MR. SORKIN: Thank you, everybody.


MR. SORKIN: Madam Vice President. (Applause.)

Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President in a Moderated Conversation with Andrew Ross Sorkin at the New York Times 12th Annual Dealbook Summit in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/368134

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