The Choice 2020: Trump vs. Biden

Ahead of the 2020 election, FRONTLINE's critically acclaimed series "The Choice" returns with interwoven investigative biographies of President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. The documentary examines each man’s approach to power, the defining moments that shaped their lives, and their visions for America’s future.

AIRED: September 22, 2020 | 1:54:21

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

>> Our challenges are great, but our will is greater.

>> NARRATOR: For three decades....

>> Defeat sometimes is an important lesson...

>> I, George Herbert Walker Bush, do solemnly swear...

>> NARRATOR: Seven presidential elections....

>> A generation assumes new responsibilities...

>> NARRATOR: "Frontline" has investigated the candidates...

>> America's best days are yet to come...

>> NARRATOR: Who would be president?

>> I, William Jefferson Clinton, do solemnly swear...

>> I believe we have to make the right choices...

>> We will meet aggression with resolve and strength.

>> Do everything in our power to change the world.

>> I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear...

>> NARRATOR: The moments that shaped them...

>> I won't let you down. I won't...

>> Let it be said we refused to let this journey end.

>> That future is our destiny...

>> NARRATOR: The presidents they would become...

>> I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...

>> We have to heal the divides in our country.

>> I am your voice.

>> NARRATOR: And now on "Frontline"...

>> That the end of this chapter of American darkness began here.

>> NARRATOR: "The Choice 2020."

♪ ♪

>> Overnight, growing national unrest...

>> NARRATOR: With the nation in crisis...

>> ...mobs sowing chaos in cities across the nation...

>> NARRATOR: ...this is the story of two candidates forged

in their own crises...

>> Political pundits said there was no way it could be done!

>> If the city would gather around with us...

>> NARRATOR: ...personal tragedies...

>> An automobile accident killed the wife and baby daughter

of Biden...

>> NARRATOR: ...public controversies...

>> Trump's newspaper ads contribute

to the city's racial polarization...

>> NARRATOR: ...challenges that shaped them...

>> Anita Hill comes to Washington...

>> The Donald is facing an incredible cash crisis...

>> I can't breathe! I can't breathe!

>> NARRATOR: ...and show how they would lead a country

now in crisis.

>> Together, we are taking back our country.

>> NARRATOR: "The Choice 2020."

>> a battle for the soul of America.

>> NARRATOR: "Trump vs. Biden."

>> "America Wants to Know!"

>> Welcome to "America Wants to Know."

I'm Ernie Anastas, and this is the...

In 1992, I hosted a special show in New York

where viewers asked a lot of questions

about their favorite celebrities.

Many, of course, were interested in Donald Trump,

and what he was like as a young boy growing up in Queens.

I managed to catch up with Donald's parents,

Mary and Fred Trump, and asked them,

"What was Donald's favorite game as a child?"

>> He played Monopoly. Yes, indeed.

>> He liked to play.

>> He played with his brother. >> Uh-huh.

>> He played with Robert, but more than Monopoly,

he played with building blocks. >> Ooh.

>> Always with building blocks.

>> NARRATOR: But Donald Trump's childhood

was much more complicated.

Early on, a family crisis, his mother seriously ill.

>> When he was two-and-a-half, my grandmother got very ill.

Donald, who was at a very, very critical point

in his development as a child,

was essentially abandoned by her.

He may not entirely trust women.

He finds it difficult, if not impossible,

to connect with them on any deep level,

because I don't believe he ever was able to with her.

>> When you ask him about how she showed her love,

he has nothing to say.

The complexity of that relationship, I think,

plays out through all of his relationships

with women throughout his life.

With one wife after another.

There's a, an inability to reach

any recognizable level of intimacy.

>> NARRATOR: Young Donald had his own crisis:

finding his place in a family dominated by his father, Fred,

a stern and demanding real estate developer.

>> I strongly suspect that he had a relationship

with his father that accounts for a lot of what he became.

And his father was a very brutal guy.

He was a tough, hard-driving guy

who had very, very little emotional intelligence,

to use today's terms.

>> Donald's father's overall message to his children was--

and it was a very different message to the boys

than to the girls-- to the boys, was,

"Compete, win, be a killer.

Do what you have to to win."

>> NARRATOR: Inside the family, a harsh game of apprentice:

who would take over Fred's empire?

The first in line wasn't Donald, it was his older brother Freddy.

>> My father was sensitive, he was kind and generous,

he liked hanging out with his friends who adored him,

and, maybe worst of all, although it's hard to say,

he had interests outside of the family business.

My grandfather understood none of that.

>> NARRATOR: Their father said Freddy wasn't "a killer."

He wanted to fly airplanes for a living.

Donald thought that was crazy.

>> He could not understand why Fred did not go

into the family business and be a builder like their father was.

But Fred wanted to be a pilot,

and Donald looked at that and said,

"Well, that's sort of like being a bus driver.

Why would you want to be a pilot?"

>> NARRATOR: Donald watched as Freddy was cast out.

>> My dad couldn't do anything right,

and my grandfather made his life miserable.

He was frustrated, and he began to realize that he,

it wasn't going anywhere.

>> NARRATOR: His life ended early in alcoholism

and poor health.

Through the years, Donald would take a much different path.

>> He wanted to avoid my father's fate of, you know,

abuse and humiliation at the hands of his father.

He took that lesson to heart.

>> NARRATOR: He was determined to live up

to his father's ideal-- be "a killer."

(trumpet fanfare plays)

>> Ha!

>> NARRATOR: But he was also tempestuous, impulsive.

And at 13, his father sent him to military school.

(students chanting)

>> He must have said, "This kid's going to grow up

in a tough world, really tough world.

If I want him to succeed, he's going to have to be tough."

>> He talks about it as almost this rite of passage.

He said to me that when he arrived at the military academy,

for the first time in his life, someone slapped him in the face

when he got out of line.

>> NARRATOR: It would be a five-year lesson

in how to be a bully.

>> Donald Trump yelled at his classmates.

He pushed them around.

He even used a broomstick as a weapon against classmates

who didn't listen to him when he told them what to do.

>> All of us were part of this culture of, you beat on kids

when they didn't do the right thing.

>> You got hit.

You may have gotten slammed against the wall.

You were put in, in...

You got put artificially into fights.


>> He became a leader of the cadets.

He became one of the student leaders

who had a number of kids under him in the dormitories,

and he ruled the dormitory life with an iron fist.

>> NARRATOR: Inside that brutal world,

Donald had found his place.

>> His mother told me that he was never homesick.

He loved it.

He loved all that stuff because it was also really competitive.

Other kids didn't really like him all that much.

He wasn't that popular because he was so competitive.

He was always looking for the edge.

But it was, it was an environment that he thrived in.

>> NARRATOR: With his father and mother by his side,

Donald graduated.

He'd become a killer, learned the power of bullying

to get ahead: a method he'd carry into the future.

(military students chanting)

(beeping on countdown)

>> (stammering): Hope to p...

Teach P.E.

...two s...

(stuttering on "S")

Uh, s...


Well, my...

...father is very strict.

>> Among the many causes of retarded speech

are low intelligence, hearing loss,

emotional conflicts, poor methods

of the teaching of talking by the parents,

brain injury, and many others.

For example, a child may stutter as he comes out

of the early stages of retarded speech.

>> NARRATOR: Joey Biden's crisis was stuttering.

>> He came of age in a, another time, in which people...

(stuttering softly)

...weren't as open about disorders

or disabilities or setbacks...


When the common...

...prescription was...

"Buck up.

Deal with it."

>> NARRATOR: Dealing with it: a rough-and-tumble childhood

in Delaware, his father a car salesman fallen on hard times.

For little Joey, Catholic school.


>> He had an assignment he had to memorize.

He had to stand up and deliver it in the classroom.

>> NARRATOR: The words were in front of him:

"Sir Walter Raleigh was a gentleman."

>> When Joe read it, it went...

(claps out rhythm): "Sir Walter Raleigh was a gentle man."

"Say that again?"


"Sir Walter Raleigh was a gentle man."

And this went on three times.

>> He said "gentle man" instead of "gentleman."


the nun said...

(imitating nun): "Mr. B-B-B-B-Biden,

what's that word?"

And this is a person in a...

position of authority, this is a person who's meant

to protect you.

>> It was so embarrassing and so enraging

that Biden walked out of the room,

he walked out of the school.

He walked all the way home.

(car motor starts)

>> NARRATOR: Joey's mom, Jean, marched him back to the school

to confront his teacher.

>> The sister starts telling her how disrespectful Joe is,

and my mother, "Stop."

She said, "Just tell me, did you make fun of my son? "

"Well, I..."

"Sister, did you make fun of my son?"


And my mother said, "Well, I'll answer it for you.

You sure in hell did.

And if you ever, ever, ever do that again,

I'm going to come back and I'm going to knock your bonnet

right off your head.

Do we understand each other?"

>> Stuttering is a fear problem.

The person feels fear, shame, guilt, tension.

He's always worried about what might happen.

He might get into a situation, not be able to say his name,

or the telephone rings and he can't answer it.

>> I was surprised at how often this subject came up

during my time with him.

It helped me understand that so much of who he is

comes back to that.

That people are ready to make fun of him.

That people will laugh.

>> NARRATOR: Bullied, harassed, ridiculed,

he was hell-bent on beating the stutter.

>> Biden would stand in front of his bedroom mirror

holding a flashlight to his face,

and he would recite Yeats and Emerson.

>> NARRATOR: He kept pushing-- against the stutter,

the bullies-- and it paid off.

>> People liked to be around him, he really had a presence.

You knew him when he walked in.

He was a little taller than most, and in very good shape.

He was a star football player on their team.

>> NARRATOR: Joey Biden found another way to fight back:


>> In high school, he's president of his senior class.

Honestly, that's when he gets a taste for it.

The stutter is still part of him during his senior year

in high school, where he has to introduce his family

at the, at graduation,

and he has to stand up there and not stutter,

and say this publicly.

And he does it.

>> We want Joe! We want Joe!

>> NARRATOR: In the crisis of stuttering, a life method:


Just push through.

>> More medical research to confer--

to conquer devastating diseases like cancer, and...

Not the end in, um, um, in themselves...

The UAW took ex-- credible cuts in their future...

>> Many people would say Biden's stutter

is among his most visible weaknesses,

if not number one.

But it's also a source of his strength.

It's also...

The main source of his grit and his...

determination to just be there, competing.

>> This is the "CBS Evening News" with Walter Cronkite.

>> Good evening.

For seven months, New York City has teetered on the brink

of financial disaster.

>> Another piece of New York fell by the curbside today

for who knows how long.

>> NARRATOR: By the 1970s,

New York City was in crisis.

>> part of the struggle to keep the city

from going bankrupt.

>> New York City suddenly comes apart.

The city, for the first time, was losing population,

as well as jobs.

And losing its economic base.

(siren wailing)

>> New York was in tatters then,

but there were opportunities everywhere you looked.

The New York City of the early 1970s was made for someone

like Donald Trump.

>> NARRATOR: In that crisis, 25-year-old Donald Trump

saw a chance for personal gain.

He was struggling to make a name for himself,

break out of his father's shadow.

>> Donald, from a very young age,

wanted to exceed his father

and go into Manhattan and be the success that his father

hadn't been in terms of notoriety and fame.

>> Why? What's going on?

>> NARRATOR: Trump took his shot.

It started with a run-down hotel near Grand Central Station.

>> The old Commodore Hotel was in such sorry shape

that it had boarded-up windows,

it had rodents all over the place.

It was one of the markers of New York's sorry decline.

And Trump saw this as a grand opportunity.

>> In New York City, the rate of unemployment is much higher

than it is...

>> NARRATOR: It was an enormous gamble,

but with the city on the brink...

>> And so the city continues to stagger

beneath the weight of its multiplying fiscal problems...

>> NARRATOR: Trump believed New York was desperate enough

to pay him to transform the hotel.

>> If the city would gather around with us, we can produce,

with a lease, guaranteed by the State of New York,

a New York City lease...

>> NARRATOR: But he was new to Manhattan.

He needed a guide.

He found Roy Cohn.

>> Roy, who was a rough-and-tumble fixer--

Democrat, power within the Democratic power structure

in New York City, close friend of Mayor Abe Beame,

close friend of Carmine DeSapio,

the boss of the Manhattan Democratic Party--

I think he was, like, Donald's ambassador

to the world of Manhattan.

>> NARRATOR: Cohn had been disgraced

for leading McCarthy-era witch hunts,

but Trump saw him as a "killer."

>> Roy cultivated an image as a bulldog.

Nothing, nothing would stop him from tarring opponents

or even doing illegal things.

His pride and joy was bullying people and bribing people

and making deals behind the scenes.

He was a fixer. He was a connector.

>> Roy Cohn was the kind of master of the dark arts.

He was the person who helped shape Trump's approach to life.

>> What he learned from Roy Cohn was never apologize,

always attack.

Attack the character of your opponents,

that they're somehow malicious,

that they're somehow doing the devil's deed here.

And, and let the public know that.

That was Roy Cohn.

>> NARRATOR: Cohn knew just how to get the tax breaks

Trump needed to build his hotel.

>> Roy Cohn, because of his unique positioning

within New York City at that time,

was able to pull certain strings, to get tax breaks.

>> NARRATOR: New York taxpayers would be on the hook

for more than $400 million.

>> He is able to set up this deal,

which the state bills as a special new program,

but isn't a special new program.

It is just a giveaway to Donald Trump, a tax giveaway.

>> It's been a long, hard fight. How do you feel?

>> Well, I'm very happy, and I think the city of New York

is going to be very happy.

>> NARRATOR: He transformed the Commodore Hotel.

With Cohn's help, Trump had thrived in crisis,

used it to his advantage.

>> The mayor and the governor of New York were among

those on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony...

>> He got it done.

He got it done by bulling his way through,

by pretending to have more backers than he really had,

by pretending that he was actually putting large sums

of money into it when he really wasn't.

Uh, and the con worked.

He got the money, he got the permits.

He got it done.

>> You use deception, you use intimidation.

You use all of the tactics that you can find.

It is a utterly transactional sense of the world.

And "what's in it for me?" is the kind of founding credo.

>> One of the things that Donald learned from School of Dad

and School of Roy was that

almost everybody has their price.

Whatever... it might not necessarily be dollars,

although it often is.

It might be some vulnerability that won't be revealed.

But Roy said that almost everyone,

there's a pressure point.

>> NARRATOR: It would become Trump's playbook:

exploit crisis, in business, in life, in politics.

♪ ♪

>> ♪ Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy ♪

♪ Kennedy for me ♪

>> NARRATOR: Joe Biden also had a role model:

Irish, Catholic, good-looking.

Joe emulated what he could.

Kennedy was drawn to politics, Biden was drawn to politics.

Jack had a photogenic wife and children.

Joe had a photogenic wife and children.

The Kennedys had a family compound at Hyannis Port.

The Bidens would have a family compound

in Wilmington, Delaware.

>> Joe Biden was always fascinated

by the Kennedy mystique.

He really saw himself as a natural heir to that tradition.

>> I'm Joe Biden and I'm a candidate

for the United States Senate.

Politicians have done such a job on the people

that the people don't believe them anymore,

and I'd like a shot at changing that.

>> NARRATOR: But Wilmington was no Hyannis Port.

>> We, the Bidens, we had no money.

We had no power or influence.

We didn't know anybody who was a big name who could help us.

>> Hi, how are you? >> Hi, how are you?

>> Joe Biden's my name...

>> NARRATOR: Like the crisis over his stutter,

his political start was a struggle.

Behind in the polls, facing a powerful opponent:

United States Senator Cale Boggs,

an ally of President Richard Nixon.

>> Joe Biden asked me about getting involved

in his campaign.

I started off by telling him that

"There's no way you can win."

Cale Boggs was the candidate for the Senate.

He'd been a two-term congressman.

Two-term governor.

Two-term senator.

He was beloved around the state.

So I said that he couldn't win.

>> "Audacious" is a good term to apply to Biden back then.

This is a guy who wasn't yet old enough to hold the seat.

>> NARRATOR: It was a time of crisis in the country.

The Vietnam War had divided Americans...

>> Opposition to the war in Vietnam has set off

demonstrations in several major cities.

>> NARRATOR: ...igniting social unrest.

In Delaware, racial tensions boiled over.

>> The National Guard was called out in several cities

to put down riots.

One of these cities was Wilmington, Delaware.

>> NARRATOR: Black residents were angry.

Joe Biden saw an opportunity to draw on his personal experience

with race-- back when he was 19, working at an inner-city pool.

>> He was a lifeguard.

He was one of the two white guys.

He was a tall, slim, uh... young-looking, good-looking,

Elvis Presley-looking kind of guy.

>> That's how he got to know some of the guys

who were in the gangs.

He just seemed to have a natural instinct

for getting to know people, getting to understand them,

but not being afraid to be around them.

>> We became friends.

We became friends.

I was a very troubled child. Okay?

Leader of a gang, no food at home, electric cut off,

no soap-- sometime no soap

and water to take a bath, no hot water.

>> NARRATOR: Joe and Ricky-- he likes to be called "Mouse"--

forged a lifetime friendship after beating a shared demon:

they both stuttered.

>> Understand, back there for Black, Black folks

back those days, when you stuttered, you was retarded

or you was, or you're...

something was mentally wrong with you.

>> I'd start with...

>> So he basically told me, go to the mirror,

look at yourself, pronounce your words.

Go and put your voice on tape.

Well, my words did change.

I started reading the papers from the back--

from the back to the forth, back and forth.

>> NARRATOR: Mouse introduced Joe all around the neighborhood.

Over the years, Biden kept in touch, building relationships

in the Black community that would pay off.

>> He would go through this personalizing with people.

I never really heard him say,

"I'm going to change the community.

I'm going to deal with employment.

I'm going to deal with..."

You know, the typical politician mess that you hear.

I always tell people, be wary of any politician

who tells you he's going to create jobs.

He's lying to you.

>> Some people are in politics

because they're in love with policy,

but they're not necessarily in love with humans.

He loves the game of it.

He loves the dance of it.

He loves meeting people.

He loves hugging strangers.

>> NARRATOR: It became his go-to strategy.

>> President Nixon's landslide didn't help the Republicans...

>> NARRATOR: And in 1972, that method worked.

>> Some of those who did lose had been considered

the most certain to win.

>> NARRATOR: The Black community helped make Joe Biden a winner.

>> In Delaware...

>> NARRATOR: By less than 3,000 votes.

>> ...whipped by 29-year-old Joseph Biden.

>> It was very close.

And people were still surprised,

you know, how this even happened.

>> All of you have done something

that the political pundits said there was no way

in the world it could be done!

>> (cheering)

>> That night, all the college kids were so excited.

A lot of us went to the Hotel Du Pont ballroom.

And it was packed, packed.

And there was so much excitement in the air.

I saw this woman coming through the crowd,

and I realized that it was Neilia, Joe's wife.

And so I walked up to her, and I shook her hand,

and I said, uh, "Congratulations on your win."

And she said, "Thank you very much."

And that was our exchange.

>> The war of the Trumps has ignited

a battle of the tabloids.

>> The unfolding saga of Trump versus Trump...

>> A high-octane mix of the stuff that sells newspapers.

>> NARRATOR: They called it "the divorce of the century":

Trump versus Trump.

>> It was on page one, page two.

I likened it to World War III.

I never saw publicity equal to that.

>> Reports linking Trump to a bevy of beauties...

>> NARRATOR: This time it was a crisis

Donald created himself.

>> ...passed as the other woman...

>> NARRATOR: He'd been cheating on his wife, Ivana.

>> He was in a real crisis,

and there had been scandal after scandal in the tabloids.

His children were sobbing, Ivanka was sobbing,

Donald, Jr., was apparently not speaking to his father.

And Donald's mother said to someone who was very close

to her, "I don't know who my son is anymore."

>> NARRATOR: The marriage that produced the divorce

of the century had begun more than a decade before...

At a trendy New York bar.

She was a model out on the town with friends.

>> Donald came up and introduced himself.

"Hi, I'm Donald Trump, and I see

that you're having a problem getting a table."

So he went over to the maître d', well, next thing you know,

the girls had a table.

>> NARRATOR: An immigrant from Czechoslovakia,

she was going places.

What Fred Trump would call "a killer."

>> The interesting thing about Ivana is,

I consider her to be every bit as ambitious as Donald,

and every bit as committed to remaking herself

or creating herself.

>> NARRATOR: Ivana Zelníková had become Mrs. Trump,

but that was just the start.

>> She said to me, "Oh, you know,

I'm going to go work for Donald."

I said, "What? You're getting married

and you're going to work?

I never heard of anything like that.

Don't you get married not to go to work?"

She goes, "No, I told him that I want a job.

Give me any job, I don't care what it is.

I can't sit at home."

>> I love to work.

I like to see the final product.

I just, uh, I don't care what kind of business it is in,

or what kind of work it is.

I just adore to work.

I can't sit home and look up at a ceiling,

it's just not enough for me.

>> She was driven, too.

Driven, driven, driven.

Ivana Trump was Donald's...

Like they were born from the same sperm.

Donald and Ivana mimicked each other.

You know, so they were like a ball of fire.

>> Its opening party was one to end them all.

Guests-- thousands of them-- mingled with Le Clique's...

>> NARRATOR: Together, they headlined Trump's biggest

real estate project: Trump Tower.

And as he expanded into Atlantic City,

she became C.E.O. of one of the casinos.

In Manhattan, she took charge of the iconic Plaza Hotel.

But it would not last.

>> Ivana, in the beginning, that was great,

it was very refreshing.

He had this powerful woman by his side,

but it grew tiresome for him.

And why did it grow tiresome for him?

Because there are no co-stars in Trump's orbit.

There's only one spotlight, and it's on him.

>> When things went well, he became enormously jealous

of the attention she got.

And when things went poorly, he became extremely angry

and insulting and vindictive toward her.

>> NARRATOR: During Ivana's renovation of the Plaza,

Trump's resentment boiled over.

>> We came in and saw the finished room,

and the first thing, he didn't like the furniture,

and he started cursing out Ivana.

And he pulled the drawer off a piece of furniture,

he was so angry.

I, I-- I never saw him so angry in my life.

He was very scary that day.

He was very, very angry.

>> Do you all argue?

>> NARRATOR: In public, Trump made it clear how he felt.

>> We should have world record-setting fights.

But we really don't.

We get along very well,

and there is not a lot of disagreement,

because ultimately, Ivana does exactly as I tell her to do.

>> (laughing, exclaiming)

>> See, wait a minute...

>> Male chauvinist.

>> Right, right, men?

Is that right? Huh?


(cameras clicking)

>> NARRATOR: In the eye of the tabloid storm,

Ivana said she was doing everything she could

to hold onto her life and her power.

>> She starts weeping.

And I said, "Ivana, what is it?"

And she says, "You, you don't know what it's like.

You just have to deal with him when you work for him.

I have him 24 hours a day."

And I felt so terribly sorry.

I mean, she really did everything she possibly could

to please Donald, and I think she got

the short end of the stick.

>> A marital split between the billionaire builder...

>> He wants out.

There's rumor of another woman.

And the wounded wife...

>> NARRATOR: But for Trump, the crisis was made-to-order.

He leaked stories to feed the media firestorm.

>> One of the things he really learned from Roy

was the manipulation of the celebrity press,

the so-called society press:

Page Six, "The Daily News"...

He plays them like a piano.

>> New York's tabloids, having a field day, report...

>> These tactics and techniques that he learned over time,

that he picked up from Roy Cohn and his father,

and everything he gleaned from those people

could be directed at the closest people in his life,

including his wife.

>> NARRATOR: This personal crisis

taught Trump another life lesson: never share power again.

>> We've seen it in Trump's presidency.

When aides become too out front in their own right,

he reacts in ways that sort of shove those figures back down

to maintain the role of primacy that he not only seeks,

but needs.

>> NARRATOR: He's 30.

Joe Biden had it all.

Three children, wife Neilia at his side,

about to take a seat in the Senate.

>> I was assigned to do a long, long piece on him.

Something like, you know, "Young Mr. Biden Goes to Washington."

That's when I spent a good bit of time with Joe.

And I had lunch with Neilia in the course of doing this story,

and I just thought to myself, you know, this couple, you know,

really has everything.

>> It's a love story.

He met her on a beach in spring break in college.

They fell, within days, madly in love.

>> Neilia was the love of his life

and it was really a happily-ever-after tale.

Until it isn't, abruptly.

>> NARRATOR: Biden and his sister Val were in Washington

setting up the office, hiring a staff, when the crisis hit.

>> The phone rings, and Val gets it.

And Biden is sort of paying attention,

and then he really starts paying attention

when he sees her face.

>> I got a call from Jimmy Biden.

And he said, "Come home, now.

There's been an accident."

And Neilia was in the car, the station wagon,

with the three children, Beau, Hunt, and Naomi.

>> Neilia was literally bringing home

the Christmas tree, with the kids in the car,

the three kids in the car.

(siren blaring)

>> NARRATOR: Campaign flyers from the car

helped identify the bodies.

>> She was hit broadside by a tractor trailer.

And she and Naomi, who sat behind her in the car seat,

they died instantly.

And Beau and Hunter were seriously injured.

>> And he... he knew, he knew.

He knew from the look on her face.

>> My brother looked at me and said, "She's dead, isn't she?"

And I said, "I don't know, Joey."

I did know.

Jimmy told me.

>> NARRATOR: His sons were in the hospital hours away.

>> The pain cut through like a shard of broken glass.

I began to understand how despair led people

to just cash it in;

how suicide wasn't just an option, but a rational option.

>> In six short weeks, he went from being on top of the world

to being a young widower, a father of two children,

and-- a single dad-- and a man with, you know, a broken heart.

>> NARRATOR: He got to the boys; they were all that was left.

Broken hips, legs, arms, Beau was all cut up

and Hunter's skull was fractured.

>> Since the accident, Biden himself's been living

at a hospital in Wilmington, Delaware,

taking care of his sons.

>> Today, the senator took his swearing-in ceremony...

>> Joseph Biden, Democrat of Delaware...

>> NARRATOR: Somehow, Biden pulled it together.

They held a swearing-in ceremony at the hospital.

>> It means a lot to me.

I appreciate it, and I hope

that I can be a good senator for y'all.

I make this one promise, that if in six months or so,

there's a conflict between my being a good father

and being a good senator, which I hope will not occur--

I thought would, but I hope it won't--

I promise you that I will, will contact Governor-elect Tribbitt,

as I had earlier, and tell him that we can always get

another senator, but they can't get another father.

>> NARRATOR: The road ahead for Joe Biden would be tough,

like the fight against stuttering

and the uphill political battle.

Once again, in crisis, he would persevere.

>> Valerie's going to help raise the children.

He's going to have a job in Washington

and a home in Wilmington,

and he's going to ride that train back and forth.

He's going to be home for dinner every night

with his kids and his sister.

And that's going to be the family unit.

It's not the one he chose, but that's going to be the one.

>> You don't lose a wife and child at the point in life

that he did and not grow from it.

You learn from those kinds of experiences.

What you do, though, is, like, uh, Muhammad Ali said one time,

"I've never been knocked down. I was always been getting up."

So Joe just never been knocked down,

he's always been getting up.

>> For some people, the ultimate goal...

>> NARRATOR: The question was first asked on TV

when he was 34 years old.

>> Would you like to be the president of the United States?

>> I really don't believe I would, Rona.

But I would like to see somebody as the president

who could do the job.

>> NARRATOR: The question would not go away.

>> ...political, presidential talk to me,

and I know people have talked to you about

whether or not you want to run. Would you, would you ever?

>> Probably not, but I, I do get tired

of seeing the country ripped off.

>> ...indicating that you could do it better

and you do intend to run for president at some point?

>> No, I'm not going to run for president.

>> Yeah, but if you want something done right...

>> Do it yourself. (audience laughter)

>> Not only does his ego get fed,

he gets a nice note from Richard Nixon,

who's seen him on television.

>> Mrs. Nixon told me that you were great

on the Donahue show.

She predicts that whenever you decide to run for office,

you will be a winner!

>> Donald proudly framed this letter

and showed it to me at the time we were working together

on interviews.

>> NARRATOR: He'd made his mark in Manhattan

exploiting an economic crisis.

Now he'd take on another crisis and raise his profile yet again.

>> It is Christmas Eve in New York and the talk of the town

is not peace on Earth, but the violence among us.

>> ...vigilante who shot and wounded four young men

over the weekend...

>> To have it happen in New York City, unbelievable.

>> the New York City version of a racial lynching...

>> The man is dead, somebody got to go to jail for that.

>> No justice! >> No peace!

>> NARRATOR: Crime and racial tensions

were tearing New York City apart.

>> And not one killing, a hundred killings,

are going to stop us from going where we want to go.

>> NARRATOR: Trump seized on one headline.

>> A jogger is fighting for her life

after a brutal attack in Central Park.

>> She is a white Wall Street investment banker,

her Black attackers being called animals in the media.

>> The savage beating and gang rape has provoked outrage

in a city filled...

>> It is the ages of the accused,

14 to 17 years old,

and the horror of their alleged crimes

that has caused a furor.

>> The defendants are about to have

their two months in court.

Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray.

They are finally through...

>> There's a rush to judge because there's a rush

to solve the crime.

>> NARRATOR: Yusef Salaam's arrest

was at the center of the storm.

>> We became what was wrong.

We became expendable.

>> Trump saw this classic tabloid story.

He saw his role and his position instinctively.

He knew in his heart that those guys were bad.

>> NARRATOR: As in so many other areas,

his attitude towards race was shaped by his father.

>> He was being raised by a father who was discriminating

against African Americans in the very first apartments

with the Trump name.

He was raised in a setting where the people of color

and the Black people that he saw were people who were working

for him-- it was his father's driver.

>> They were just a very racist family, you know.

People of color, you know,

African Americans in particular, Jewish people,

women were all considered fair game.

And, you know, racism, anti-Semitism,

and misogyny were very common in my grandparents' house,


It was just the way it was.

>> Trump took out full-page ads in four city...

>> NARRATOR: Trump took the extraordinary step

of buying a full-page ad in four New York newspapers.

>> Trump's newspaper ads contribute

to the city's racial polarization...

>> We haven't even gone to trial yet.

Two weeks passes, and we are essentially given

a death sentence... with this ad.

>> They should be executed for their crimes.

I want them to understand our anger.

I want them to be afraid.

>> And then he signs his name at the very bottom.

People don't sign their name to things

that they're not proud of.

>> The ads are basically a very strong and vocal...

They are saying, "Bring back law and order to our cities."

>> This ad was a whisper into the darkest,

most sinister parts of society.

>> You better believe that I hate the people

that took this girl and raped her brutally.

You better believe it.

And it's more than anger, it's hatred.

And I want society to hate them.

>> Trump found a way to insert himself into the story,

to signal where he was on these issues.

And began to learn the lesson that if you can capture

that fear, and you can become the champion

for those afraid people,

that there's a lot of political opportunity in that.

>> Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho!

All the racists have to go!

>> NARRATOR: In the process, Trump had touched a nerve

and found a sympathetic audience.

>> I've never done anything that's caused

a more positive stir--

I've had 15,000, 15,000 letters in the last week and a half.

I don't know of more than two or three

that were negative out of 15,000.

>> He's learning how to dip his toe in and out

of these remarkably racially incendiary issues.

He's learning how to dog-whistle,

he's learning how to signal,

um, and also learning how to do that while keeping

a little bit of distance.

>> More than a decade later,

new information has blown the case...

>> There were cheers in a New York City courtroom today...

>> Turns out they apparently got the wrong guys.

>> The Central Park Five were released from prison.

>> It turned out another man entirely had done this rape,

and these kids were innocent.

They'd been not only publicly exonerated,

but officially exonerated.

>> NARRATOR: But Trump would not apologize then,

nor over the years when the subject came up.

>> We went to prison for a crime that we didn't commit.

Still to this day, we still have not been apologized to

from the people who harmed us in that way,

that political way, right?

>> NARRATOR: It was part of the Roy Cohn playbook

that Trump continued to use: fan the fires of division,

get what you want, move on.

>> You can almost draw a straight line

from what he did with the Central Park Five

to then onto birtherism.

I mean, there is something within Donald Trump that makes

him drawn to those kinds of issues--

very, very divisive issues that are aimed at

a particular part of the electorate or the population,

that, in one way or another, stir things up.

>> Thank you very much.

(cheers and applause)

>> NARRATOR: After 14 years in the Senate,

Joe Biden was going for the big one:

running for president.

It was a family affair.

The boys were older now.

He had remarried, had a new daughter.

>> You know, he said, "Let's just test the waters."

And so I said, "All right."

I mean, it sort of just snowballed,

and we were into it, really, before we even knew it.

>> NARRATOR: But as he campaigned,

he headed towards another crisis

stemming from a persistent question:

what did he stand for?

>> I think that's always been one of his challenges.

As he tries to go for president, he casts about

for what he wants to say.

He casts about for the issues he wants to put forward,

and what he wants to say he believes in.

And it, and it feels cast about.

>> NARRATOR: Then, one day, a video.

A story that would give him something to say.

>> Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations

to be able to get to university?

>> NARRATOR: Obsessed with the tape, Biden studied it.

He later wrote, "The ad was riveting;

I couldn't take my eyes off Neil Kinnock."

>> Was it because they were weak?

Those people who could work eight hours underground

and then come up and play football? Weak?

>> Biden could put himself into the Neil Kinnock story,

family in Scranton, Pennsylvania,

family in the mines.

And so, in a sense, he absorbed the Kinnock story

and making it his own.

>> The campaign begins in earnest with the first votes

for the next president in Iowa.

>> The candidates spent much of yesterday fanned out...

>> NARRATOR: In Iowa, during the primary,

he took Kinnock's words, made them his own.

>> And now Mr. Biden.

>> Thank you very much.

I started thinking as I was coming over here,

"Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family

ever to go to a university?"

>> He got up there and he gave his speech,

and he got to the end, the last three minutes,

and he gave Kinnock, but he did not attribute it to Kinnock.

>> Is it because they didn't work hard?

My ancestors who worked in the coal mines of

northeast Pennsylvania and would come up after 12 hours

and play football for four hours?

>> Joe Biden borrowed it and applied it to his own life,

and made a moving sort of aria,

a moving sort of part of a speech about his own life,

which in fact had been taken from Neil Kinnock.

>> I hope you'll consider me. Thank you very much.

>> And that concludes the Economics for America debate.

>> Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden

today faces a controversy.

>> Biden seems to be claiming Kinnock's vision--

and life-- as his own.

>> NARRATOR: It became front-page news.

>> Biden has been caught with a sudden embarrassing comparison

of his recent campaign speeches.

The first example came from Great Britain.

>> Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations

to be able to get to university?

>> And I started thinking as I was coming over here,

"Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family

ever to go to a university?"

>> NARRATOR: His campaign said it was a mistake,

that he had cited Kinnock other times.

>> For a second time in two weeks...

>> NARRATOR: But then, the avalanche.

>> He looks like a Joe Biden wind-up doll,

with somebody else's words coming out...

>> NARRATOR: Allegations of failing to cite

a source in a law school paper...

>> Plagiarized a law review article...

>> NARRATOR: Taking lines from his political idols,

the Kennedys...

>> One from John Kennedy's inaugural,

others from Robert Kennedy--

their words from the lips of Joe Biden.

>> When he was accused of plagiarism, we felt that,

you know, his character was being attacked.

And it sort of took us back.

>> Thank you for coming, I apologize for not being able...

>> NARRATOR: In trouble, Biden tried to do

what he'd always done.

>> I did not say, "To paraphrase Neil Kinnock."

I should have. >> NARRATOR: Apologize.

>> I should have known it was Robert Kennedy's quote.

I did not know that.

>> NARRATOR: Admit his mistakes.

>> I've done some dumb things.

And I'll do dumb things again.

>> NARRATOR: Persevere.

>> But I'll tell you one thing.

My learning curve is moving on this presidential race.

And I wanna tell 'em all:

I'm in this race to stay,

I'm in this race to win,

and here I come!

Thanks a lot, folks.


>> NARRATOR: He thought he could put it behind him.

But then...

>> This does not mark the beginning

of a better week for Senator Joseph Biden.

Today he's having to defend what he has said in public

about his record at law school

and what the record really shows.

>> One real quick question, what law school did you attend

and where did you place in that class?

>> NARRATOR: Insulted, his anger was on full display.

>> I think I probably have a much higher I.Q. than you do,

I suspect.

I went to law school on a full academic scholarship...

>> Joe Biden's always been very sensitive to the perception

that he's being disrespected.

And when that happens, those are the moments

when he tends to erupt.

>> The only one in my, in my class

to have a full academic scholarship.

And, in fact, ended up in the top half of my class,

I won the International Moot Court competition...

>> But Syracuse University Law School records released by Biden

just last week show he sought a partial, not full, scholarship,

for financial, not academic reasons,

that he finished not in the top half,

but 76th out of 85 students.

>> Joe Biden comes off as someone who has a lot

of self-confidence, but obviously,

there's an imposter syndrome dynamic at work here.

Because if you feel like you have to make up stuff

about yourself and invent stories that are not your own,

and then do it in such a self-destructive way

in which you can be caught, that speaks to a level of character,

and certainly insecurity,

that is common among a lot of politicians.

>> Delightful to see you all here.

You know my wife, Jill.

>> Pulling out of the 1987 presidential race

was really devastating to, to Joe and to me

and to our family.

>> The exaggerated shadow of those mistakes

has begun to obscure the essence of my candidacy

and the essence of Joe Biden.

>> He recognized that this was a fatal blow

to his hopes of winning the nomination in 1988.

I think it was a very painful decision.

>> Thanks, folks, my wife and I thank you very much.

>> NARRATOR: Biden lost this fight...

>> Delaware Senator Joseph Biden dropped out of the hunt...

>> Joe Biden blames mostly himself...

>> NARRATOR: He returned to the Senate, continued his method--

persevered through it all.

>> Real estate developer Donald Trump opened his new casino,

the Taj Mahal, in Atlantic City today.

>> Is this the Eighth Wonder of the World?

The Taj Mahal shines as Trump's slickest deal.

>> NARRATOR: The biggest crisis of Donald Trump's business

career began with one giant bet.

>> It certainly represented something bigger and bolder

and probably what was going to be the greatest statement

ever made in Atlantic City.

And so, it was a big deal.

It was a big deal to Donald.

>> NARRATOR: The casino was the size of two football fields.

Trump said he spent $14 million on chandeliers.

His bet-- $1 billion.

(people talking in background)

>> People were mobbing Donald.

I was shocked, I couldn't believe that, you know,

asking him for his autograph and everything.

I mean, he had just catapulted into this rock star.

>> NARRATOR: In TV reports, Trump bragged

that he was the reason the Taj would be a success.

>> The Taj Mahal needs to make over $1 million a day

to cover expenses.

Trump says his business sense and ego will make it happen.

>> Ego is an interesting thing.

I mean, I've always been referred to as somebody

with a big ego, but I really believe

that I've never met a successful person

without a very large ego.

And if you don't have a big ego, you're not gonna be successful--

it's as simple as that.

>> NARRATOR: Ego was central to Trump's method,

but there was something else-- positive thinking.

A technique he'd learned with his father

at this Manhattan church.

It was the place to be seen for business leaders, socialites,

politicians, and the Trumps.

>> Every Sunday, he would show up at Marble Collegiate Church

to go to Norman Vincent Peale's services.

>> The God who made this world was a wise God!

He wants people who live life and like it.

Love it.

>> I think part of it was this positive message that Peale had,

that you could achieve anything you wanted--

there was nothing that could stop you.

>> NARRATOR: Peale's book, "The Power of Positive Thinking,"

taught followers "visualization,"

envisioning the world that they wanted.

>> One reason that the positive thinker gets positive results

is, he is not afraid of a problem.

>> It's this toxic positivity that perfectly fit in

with what my grandfather already thought.

Everything's great, you know, and if you think that way,

then everything will be great.

The problem is, everything is not always great.

>> How, then, can you face the future with confidence?

>> The three influences on Donald Trump,

as I sometimes describe them, are school of Dad--

school of Fred Trump-- school of Roy-- Roy Cohn--

and school of Norman Vincent Peale.

>> NARRATOR: It was Peale's kind of outlook

that carried Trump into Atlantic City,

with the vision of his name in lights:

Trump Plaza, Trump Castle,

then the billion-dollar Trump Taj,

paid for with junk bonds.

>> I don't think Donald Trump spent one minute

worrying about debt.

If he introduced doubt into his life,

the whole, the whole thing would unravel.

>> NARRATOR: Trump was warned repeatedly

he was headed for disaster.

But he dismissed the warnings.

>> He doesn't really like hearing bad news.

An optimist sometimes is so optimistic

that they don't want to hear anything,

that even if they're heading right off a cliff,

they might not want to hear the news.

>> What worries some analysts is the amount of junk bond debt

Trump has incurred to build the Taj Mahal.

>> NARRATOR: Inevitably, reporters began to question

whether Trump's vision could be profitable.

>> Trump says he believes they will.

>> The Taj Mahal is going to be a tremendous success.

>> NARRATOR: That's when Trump turned to a key Roy Cohn lesson:

attack the media.

>> When CNN tried to pursue some of these matters with Trump,

this is what happened.

>> Do this interview with somebody else.

>> We talked about this yesterday on the phone.

This is exactly what we talked about...

>> Do the interview with somebody else, really.

You don't need this.

Do it with somebody else.

And have a good time with it, because frankly,

you're a very negative guy

and I think it's very unfair reporting.

Good luck.

>> It's just classic denial.

If you're an expert and you agree with Donald Trump,

you're a genius, but if you're an expert and you disagree

with him, you're a loser.

>> NARRATOR: He ignored the experts,

but they had been right.

>> Trump's casino business will file for bankruptcy next month.

>> NARRATOR: Trump's casinos declared bankruptcy...

>> The word is, "You're bankrupt."

>> NARRATOR: After bankruptcy...

>> All three casinos are facing bankruptcy.

>> NARRATOR: After bankruptcy.

>> ...chapter 11 bankruptcy protection...

>> NARRATOR: The collapse of the casinos

devastated Trump's investors and Atlantic City.

>> Bankruptcy is a situation where people are losing,

they're getting pennies on the dollar.

The banks clearly lost out.

So did the people of Atlantic City, who lost jobs,

who lost their tax base.

That's what happens in a bankruptcy

and that's what happened

in these Atlantic City bankruptcies.

>> NARRATOR: But Trump, as always,

refused to admit failure.

>> That is sort of Norman Vincent Peale,

hold on tenaciously, hold on to this image of yourself

as successful.

Never let go of it.

Never let the idea of failure enter your mind.

>> And I call it a beautiful puzzle.

>> NARRATOR: The crisis in Atlantic City

also solidified another method Trump would come

to rely on...

>> I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.

>> NARRATOR: Believe in yourself over experts...

>> The experts are terrible.

Look at the mess we're in with all these experts that we have.

>> NARRATOR: Reject the naysayers...

>> We have it totally under control.

It's one person coming in from China.

>> NARRATOR: Declare victory no matter what.

>> And we have it under control.

It's going to be just fine.

>> President Bush said he has no doubt Clarence Thomas

will be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

>> Thomas will try to persuade the Senate that he has...

>> NARRATOR: 1991.

Joe Biden, now the powerful chairman

of the Senate Judiciary Committee,

was facing his biggest crisis yet:

allegations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

This affidavit charged that Thomas sexually harassed

a former employee, Anita Hill.

>> Good evening, we begin tonight with the potential

for political explosion on Capitol Hill.

>> Clarence Thomas ran into trouble today...

>> Questions are growing over charges of sexual harassment

against Thomas...

>> It seems to have been a nightmare for Joe Biden.

As a man, he felt uncomfortable about it.

As a white man, he felt uncomfortable

taking Clarence Thomas, a Black man, on about it.

Um, and the whole subject matter just made him

incredibly uncomfortable.

>> Another witness has come forward against Thomas...

>> News of a second woman who once worked for Thomas...

>> NARRATOR: Biden was at first reluctant to have Hill testify,

but the story was exploding.

>> There were actually three other women, other than myself,

who were willing to testify, who had actually said they called

Senator Biden's office and, and offered their own testimony.

>> NARRATOR: Angela Wright offered her own

stark allegations against Thomas, which Thomas denied.

>> He asked me, in one situation, what size breasts,

my breasts were.

He told me he wanted to date me.

This is a man who has, who, in my opinion,

has often spoken inappropriately to women.

>> But committee chairman Biden conceded tonight

that new information about the allegations...

>> NARRATOR: With the pressure mounting,

Biden agreed to let the women testify.

>> The hearing will come to order.

>> Welcome, Professor Hill.

Professor, do you swear to tell the whole truth,

and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

>> I do. >> Thank you.

>> NARRATOR: Biden's committee was all white men.

The "Men of the Senate," as they were called.

>> There was not a single woman who might have understood

her story from a woman's point of view.

>> Can you tell the committee what was the most embarrassing

of all the incidences that you have alleged?

>> I think the one that was the most embarrassing

was his discussion of, of pornography

involving these women with large breasts

and, and engaged in a variety of sex

with different people or animals.

That was the thing that embarrassed me the most

and made me feel the most humiliated.

>> He's kind of in the middle of the road.

I'm a Southern woman, and I've always heard that the only thing

in the middle of the road is roadkill and yellow stripes.

And that you have to take a position

and you have to decide what you stand for.

He didn't know whose side to come down on.

>> Thank you.

My time is up under our agreement.

Let me now yield to my friend from Pennsylvania,

Senator Specter.

>> NARRATOR: Biden's close friend,

Republican Arlen Specter, led the charge against Hill.

>> I find the references to the alleged sexual harassment

not only unbelievable, but preposterous.

>> NARRATOR: He cast doubt on her memory.

>> How reliable is your testimony in October of 1991

on events that occurred eight, ten years ago?

>> NARRATOR: He suggested she was exaggerating.

>> You took it to mean that Judge Thomas wanted to have sex

with you, but in fact he never did ask you to have sex,


>> No, he did not ask me to have sex.

>> That was an inference that you drew?

>> Yes, yes.

>> My, my red light is on, thank

you, very much, Professor Hill.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

>> Thank you, Senator, thank you, Professor Hill.

>> Joe Biden allowed members of that committee

to grill Professor Hill in a way that was inappropriate

and humiliating.

He could have done something to provide her with some support,

some comfort.

But that didn't happen.

>> NARRATOR: Biden gave Clarence Thomas the last word.

He strongly denied the allegations.

>> This is a circus.

It's a national disgrace.

And from my standpoint as a Black American,

as far as I'm concerned, it is a high-tech lynching

for uppity Blacks by a committee of the U.S., U.S. Senate,

rather than hung from a tree.

>> Very powerful.

I mean, what it did was, it shamed these white senators.

And it certainly seemed to shame the Democrats,

who had just been accused of lynching a Black man.

(gavel bangs)

>> NARRATOR: With that, Biden moved to wrap up the hearings.

Angela Wright and the other women accusing Thomas

would not testify.

He'd end up voting against Thomas,

but his handling of the hearing damaged him politically.

>> It made him the face of an out-of-touch body.

And really wounded his prospects of a future run for president.

He had some work to do, he had some reputational rehab to do.

>> NARRATOR: Biden turned to his method for survival in crisis:

acknowledge the problem and repair the damage.

>> Joe is always able to say,

"Yeah, I didn't handle that quite right.

Let me see what I can do better the next time."

>> Carol Moseley Braun has entered political history.

She's the first African American woman elected

to the U.S. Senate.

>> Big changes here, a kind that have history

written all over them.

>> NARRATOR: "Fixing things" began by recruiting

the first Black woman elected to the United States Senate.

>> Braun's anger over the Clarence Thomas hearings

turned her into a candidate.

>> NARRATOR: Biden wanted to make sure

Moseley Braun joined his committee.

>> I made a joke, which he didn't think was funny at all.

I said, "You just want Anita Hill

on the other side of the table."

He did not laugh.

He didn't think it was funny.

And he still probably doesn't.


>> NARRATOR: But he convinced her and Dianne Feinstein

to join the committee,

beginning, once again, to rebuild.

♪ ♪

>> My name's Donald Trump, and

I'm the largest real estate developer in New York.

I own buildings all over the place, model agencies,

the Miss Universe Pageant, jetliners,

golf courses, casinos...

>> NARRATOR: Having prevailed in spite of personal

and financial crises, Donald Trump was now making crisis

his brand.

For 14 seasons, he played the role of a mogul,

as if he were still one in real life.

>> His financial dynasty toppling

like a house of cards...

>> NARRATOR: In the wreckage of Atlantic City,

Trump had changed course...

>> Trump's name once meant gold. Today, it means trouble...

>> NARRATOR: And doubled down on what had been

a side business: celebrity.

>> He's always saw himself as a potential TV

or entertainment star.

It's another part of his, his personality,

is, he likes to be an entertainer.

>> Donald Trump.


>> It's the Donald, oh, my God!

(yelps softly)

>> Excuse me, where's the lobby?

>> NARRATOR: Movies...

>> Down the hall and to the left.

>> Thanks.

>> The Donald is here...

>> NARRATOR: In the ring...

He always played the same character: himself.

>> (laughs wildly): Oh, my God!

The hostile takeover of Donald Trump...

>> What he was selling was a brand.

He learned that he just had to keep being relevant.

He just had to keep being talked about,

even if it meant being notorious.

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: They built a false boardroom

on the vacant fifth floor of Trump Tower.

>> My first time meeting Donald Trump,

we walked into the boardroom, we were seated.

And about 20 minutes later, the cameras starting rolling

and Donald Trump walked in.

>> The show transformed Donald Trump into this persona...

>> Okay, folks, I'm really busy today,

so we're going to go quickly.

>> Who almost completely redeemed

the pre-"Apprentice" Donald Trump...

>> As a little treat, you're going to see

the nicest apartment in New York City, it's my apartment.

>> In ways that are so substantial and so deep-seated

that, would "The Apprentice" not be in the picture,

I couldn't see him running for president.

>> NARRATOR: Every episode was a crisis.

>> You're fired-- you're fired. You're fired.

You're no longer with us-- you're fired.

I have to say you're fired. >> Please, please...

>> I have no choice and I have to say that you're fired.

>> NARRATOR: The carefully choreographed drama hooked

the audience, keeping them coming back for more.

>> What's the, the ethos of reality TV?

It's that fighting is the best state of human life.

It's that life is a competition. It's zero-sum.

For you to win, somebody else has got to lose.

>> Donald Trump...

>> NARRATOR: Donald Trump had become

a reality TV star, inside millions of homes

every week for years and years.

>> After "The Apprentice," he was Donald Trump on steroids,

you know? (laughs)

It's, like, this guy was bigger than life.

He was everywhere.

>> Reality TV show host-- U.S. president?

>> NARRATOR: It was time for Trump to take his brand

to the next level.

>> Donald Trump's recent White House flirtation

has gone above and beyond...

>> NARRATOR: He would run for president.

>> He recognized that entertainment

is now a central part of American politics.

Donald Trump actually decided that you can fuse everything

that he had learned about celebrity and entertainment

and ratings from having been on "The Apprentice"

into a presidential campaign.

>> NARRATOR: His announcement mirrored "The Apprentice."

>> It was staged just like a "Celebrity Apprentice" thing.

We had staged one of the "Celebrity Apprentice" things

in that same place, the camera angles were the same,

the lighting was the same.

>> He understood the drama of coming down the escalator.

The orchestration of it recognizes his showmanship.

He's a showman above all.

>> A crowd filled out with, yes,

with actual actors who were promised 50 bucks a pop

to simulate enthusiasm for him and play a role

in a similar way to the way that he was playing a role.

>> Ladies and gentlemen...

I am officially running...

>> (cheering)

>> For president of the United States...

And we are going to make our country great again.

>> NARRATOR: The developer who went bust, the reality TV star,

was on his way, harnessing the power of crisis and conflict,

image over reality.

>> Another day, another entry in the presidential race.

Delaware Senator Joe Biden is the ninth Democrat to jump...

>> NARRATOR: It was 2007.

Joe Biden was running for president, again.

But that very day...

>> It sure isn't easy running for president these days...

>> NARRATOR: It all blew up.

>> This was not a good day for Joe Biden, was it?

>> No, it really wasn't, Katie.

>> ...just got into the race today,

and no sooner than he did, he talks his way

into a national controversy.

>> ...spent much of the day discussing these comments

he made to a newspaper reporter about Senator Barack Obama.

>> I mean, you got the first sort of mainstream

African American who is articulate and bright

and, and clean, and a nice-looking guy,

I mean, it's, that's a storybook, man.

>> Some people listening to those descriptions of Obama--

"articulate," "clean"-- heard racial overtones,

or, at the very least, condescension.

>> I think when people heard the "clean and articulate" line,

there was a wave of eye-rolling,

certainly among African Americans.

It was the kind of well-intentioned but benighted

commentary that you expect from people who inhabit environments

where there aren't very many Black people,

and the United States Senate has historically been

a prime example of that.

>> Tonight, his campaign is doing damage control.

>> NARRATOR: He'd been here before-- damage control:

Kinnock, Anita Hill...

>> Joe Biden's apologizing for a remark

he made about Senator Barack Obama, saying,

"I deeply regret any offense..."

>> NARRATOR: He followed the playbook: apologize, persevere.

>> ...this is "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart."

(cheers and applause)

>> Nice to see you.

Do you want to talk about the comments, specifically,

that have generated the controversy?

>> Well, yeah, sure, I mean...

No, I don't want to talk about it.


>> The "Philadelphia Inquirer," yesterday,

you were quoted as saying,

"The one lesson I learned from my previous presidential run is,

'Words matter.'" >> That's right.

>> "'And you can't take words lightly,'"

and then you came out with this one, all right, here you go.

Listen to this one, this is great.

"Barack Obama, I mean, you got the first mainstream

African American who's articulate and bright and clean

and a nice-looking guy.

I mean, that's a storybook, man."

>> (exclaiming)

>> Well, let me tell you something,

I try, I spoke to Barack today...

>> I bet you did. (laughter)

>> I also spoke to Jesse and Al Sharpton and, and, and...

>> And Michael Jordan,

and anybody you could get your hands on.

The Jackson Five-- who else?

>> Michael didn't call me.

Michael didn't call me...

>> It was a reminder that this was somebody

who was capable of doing those kinds of things,

who was, in many ways, his own worst enemy,

whether it was because he, he didn't know when to stop

speaking or because he could say things in the moment

that would get him into trouble.

>> The latest news is that Joe Biden is dropping out

of the race-- Joe Biden is dropping out...

>> NARRATOR: Once again, Joe Biden's campaign would collapse.

But he wasn't taking himself out of the game.

He'd make it personal-- build a relationship with Obama.

>> Out of competition came mutual respect,

and mutual respect led to a real relationship, a friendship.

And Joe Biden became somebody

that President Obama looked to for advice and counsel.

>> Senator... (people talking in background)

>> You are not going to get anything out of me

on the vice presidential thing-- nothing.

>> NARRATOR: Soon, that relationship would pay off,

as Obama sought a running mate.

>> I am gonna say that I've, I've made the selection,

and that's all you're going to get.

>> I think Obama really liked the idea

of choosing the guy who had said these things about him,

that so many other people found offensive,

of showing this kind of magnanimity around racial issues

and racial rhetoric, that I think was key to his winning.

>> NARRATOR: Obama asked him to be on his ticket

as vice president.

At the house in Wilmington, the Biden inner circle gathered.

>> He was not going to do it.

I mean, there's no doubt he was not going to do it.

And we had another one of those family meetings

and a few key, key people.

>> The kids said to me, "Mom,

you have to talk Dad into running."

And I said, "Joe, this is such a great moment in history."

>> His ma said, "Well, well, Joey"--

she called him Joey-- she said, "Well, Joey,

you're telling me that the first African American president

in history thinks that you can help him get elected,

and you're saying no?"

Game, set, match, it was over.


>> Barack Obama is projected to be the next president.

>> Senator Barack Obama of Illinois...

>> NARRATOR: He'd turned a political crisis

into a relationship, and became vice president.

>> He had already squared away in his mind

that he understood that Barack Obama was president,

Joe was vice president.

And Joe understood the job of vice president

and, and, uh... And wore it well.

>> NARRATOR: In the Obama White House,

Biden brought with him something the president didn't have:

relationships in Congress spanning decades.

>> These were his recently former colleagues,

and he knew that he could call them

and they would take his call,

and that he could go and thrash issues out

with them with a degree of comfort

that President Obama didn't have,

because he hadn't known them as long as Vice President Biden.

>> NARRATOR: Biden became Obama's trusted partner.

>> The real question isn't what thing did you do,

if you're vice president.

The real question is, how much influence did you have?

And I think Biden understands power and leveraging power.

I think he had a genuine relationship with Obama,

and they spent a lot of time talking.

But I think he was a very influential vice president,

in that way, and an extremely loyal vice president.

>> NARRATOR: In return, Obama bestowed on Biden

something special-- a kind of political sainthood

they called the "Obama halo."

>> Joe Biden has the Obama halo, everybody knows that.

That is the cleansing of Joe Biden

and everything that may have happened.

And there is such a great irony,

that someone who was the architect of the '94 crime bill,

and a white man of this age,

when you think about Anita Hill, his crutch, his...

the reason for his success is a Black man with a funny name

who's kind of skinny from Hawaii by way of Kansas.

♪ ♪

>> ♪ Cowardice ♪

>> ♪ Are you serious? ♪

>> ♪ Apologies for freedom ♪

>> ♪ I can't handle this ♪

>> NARRATOR: 2015, Donald Trump's presidential campaign,

a made-for-TV spectacle.

(cheers and applause)

A showcase with all the conflict and crisis.

>> Turn them-- go ahead, turn them.

Go ahead.

Knock the crap out of them, would you?


Just knock the hell...

I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise.

(cheers and applause)

>> You've called women you don't like "fat pigs"...

>> Only Rosie O'Donnell.


>> By the time Trump arrives, running for president in 2016...

>> How does my hair look?

Is it okay? (crowd cheering)

>> ...he understands conflict, he understands celebrity.

He understands the power of television.

And he understands how to dominate.

>> NARRATOR: And against his opponents--

another strategy he had perfected-- personal attack.

>> Little Marco...

>> This little guy has lied so much.

>> Lyin' Ted...

>> You are the single biggest liar,

you probably are worse than Jeb Bush,

you are the single biggest liar...

>> All of this is classic Trump.

This is the person he's been, I think,

since he was five years old.

Donald told me that he is essentially the person he was

in first grade, and that he hasn't really changed.

>> NARRATOR: But a month before the election...

>> The Trump camp has swiftly launched into disaster mode.

>> NARRATOR: A bombshell.

>> A big, big development in this campaign...

>> That day, we're up in the 25th floor conference room,

and it's Friday afternoon, about 2:00.

>> And Hope Hicks was notified by the media

that they had Donald Trump having a conversation

with Billy Bush that said a number of incendiary things,

and they were going to publish the transcript.

>> She got this transcript.

And she's, like, about to cry, she goes,

"Oh, this is terrible."

>> NARRATOR: The Trump team watched it online.

>> Whatever you want.

>> (laughs)

Like, whoa!

Boom, that thing hits.

In video, it's pretty powerful.

So everything shuts down.

>> Everybody-- and everybody isn't quite everybody,

but most people both in and outside the campaign--

thought it would end his candidacy.

>> Donald Trump's campaign-- its worst crisis ever.

>> The future of a campaign that is in dire straits...

>> I think the question now is, how do Republicans

break away from him?

>> NARRATOR: Trump's campaign was in free fall.

Reince Priebus, the chairman

of the Republican National Committee, confronted Trump.

>> Reince Priebus basically said,

"You need to get out of the race."

And Donald Trump said, "No."

He said, "I'm not getting out of the race.

Not only am I not getting out of the race,

I'm going to go and run, I'm going to win."

>> NARRATOR: He would ignore the political experts.

>> In that moment, he won the presidency.

There was a 90% chance we were going the other way that day,

from the night before, from the pressure that was on him

and everything like that.

And that's what a leader does.

>> NARRATOR: In the midst of crisis,

he turned to what he had learned:

from Norman Vincent Peale, Roy Cohn, his dad, reality TV.

>> I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue

and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay?

It's, like, incredible.

>> NARRATOR: He went on the attack...

>> Every women lied when they came forward

to hurt my campaign.

>> NARRATOR: ...changed the subject,

stoking racial division...

>> And we will keep radical Islamic terrorists

the hell out...

>> NARRATOR: ...economic fears...

>> We are going to renegotiate our terrible trade deal...

>> NARRATOR: ...frustration with Washington...

>> It is time to drain the damn swamp.

>> NARRATOR: ...and making big promises.

>> We will build a great wall!

(cheers and applause)

And we will make America great again!

(cheers and applause)

>> Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States.

>> NARRATOR: Amidst outrage and anger,

he won the ultimate prize and stayed true to his playbook.

>> I think what Donald Trump learned from his entire run

for president is that he could really only count on himself.

He needed to rely on his own political instincts

to figure out how to move forward.

(cheers and applause)

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: Through the Obama years:

building racial tension,

outrage over police violence against African Americans.

(gunshots, shouting)

>> Get out of the car, dude!

(sirens blaring)

>> NARRATOR: Then, news of a revenge shooting

against the police.

>> We begin tonight with breaking news.

A deadly police shooting in New York City.

>> Two New York City police officers are dead

following an ambush Saturday afternoon.

>> They were, quite simply, assassinated.

>> Amateur video captured the frantic scene,

as paramedics desperately tried to save the lives

of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.

>> NARRATOR: As the vice president,

Joe Biden often tackled controversies.

And in matters of race, particularly,

Obama relied on him to walk a fine line he could not.

>> One of Joe Biden's chief responsibilities

was to be an ambassador to the country,

specifically to the white parts of the country,

where Barack Obama's presence might have only further inflamed

the situation.

>> NARRATOR: Now Biden was dispatched to New York.

>> 25,000 police officers are all there...

>> NARRATOR: It was tense.

>> A sea of blue filled the city streets...

>> NARRATOR: Police officers lined the streets

as Biden arrived.

>> Thousands of NYPD officers lining the streets

outside of the funeral service.

>> When we got out of the cars,

you could see that this mass of police had changed him.

>> Thousands of people lining the streets...

>> Gathered shoulder to shoulder at a Queens, New York, church

to say farewell to a fallen...

>> While we had understood the gravity and the sensitivity,

I don't think it really hit any of us

until we saw the tens of thousands of police there.

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: He used his method: keep it personal,

talk directly to the family of Officer Rafael Ramos.

>> Our hearts ache for you.

I know from personal experience that there is little

anyone can say or do at this moment to,

to ease the pain, that sense of loss, that sense of loneliness.

>> Joe Biden has been defined in public life

by heartbreak and empathy.

That when Joe Biden steps up at the funeral,

you know that those tears are real.

>> ...that the time will come.

The time will come when Rafael's memory will bring a smile

to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes.

That's when you know it's going to be okay.

I know it's hard to believe it'll happen, but I promise you,

I promise you it will happen.

>> It's an odd role in public life to be known

as a person associated with grief.

And Joe Biden never wanted to be that person, actually.

It was not how he imagined his own political future.

("Taps" playing)

But because of his life,

he ended up being this public political symbol

of suffering and of resilience.

And eventually he embraced it.

But he actually didn't want to be that.

("Taps" continues)

>> NARRATOR: That day, there was unfinished business.

Biden wanted to see Officer Wenjian Liu's family.

>> We came out of the church.

And Joe said, "I want to offer my condolences to him, as well,

to them, to that family."

(siren beeping)

>> He wanted to go and meet them and talk with them.

So the police worked it out so that we could visit.

And they had a translator there.

>> I can remember walking up the stairs

with the, with an interpreter.

And the family was all crammed into this tiny kitchen.

And we sat and we talked to them.

And we must have been in there, I don't know, a good hour.

>> I started to notice that Wenjian Liu's father

had rarely left my side.

Occasionally, he would lean into me

so that his shoulder touched my arm.

"Thank you," he kept saying.

"Thank you, thank you."

>> We went out on the sidewalk.

And the father, who didn't even speak English,

I mean, just held on to Joe.

And, I mean, he was so grateful

that Joe had come to offer condolences to the family.

>> We stood there for a long while,

embracing on the little sidewalk in front of the house

where he had lived with his only son, just two fathers.

I understood all that he wanted me to know.

>> NARRATOR: After decades in politics,

Biden seemed to have finally found his place.

♪ ♪

But soon after the crisis in New York, a personal crisis--

yet again.

(pipes and drums playing)

Biden was burying his own son, Beau.

(pipes and drums playing)

>> He was the apple of Biden's eye.

He was not just someone who he thought was brilliant

and successful and so proud of him.

It went beyond pride, it was almost like,

"He's the perfect version of me."

>> NARRATOR: Beau had served in Iraq.

He was attorney general of Delaware.

They talked about the presidency someday.

>> Joe often describes him as Joe 2.0.

And he looked like his dad, he had a lot of the same skill sets

as his father-- he was very charismatic,

he was charming, he was funny.

>> NARRATOR: But then, brain cancer.

Death at 46.

>> Beau Biden, former Delaware attorney general

and eldest son of Vice President Joe Biden, died...

>> ...Vice President Biden's office was the first to announce

his son's death...

>> ...vice president was with his son Beau

when he passed away tonight...

>> Very sad news, Beau Biden lost his battle

with brain cancer.

>> Family and friends gathered at St. Anthony's Church

in Wilmington yesterday to pay their respects--

some waited in line for up to six hours.

>> Lines, lines five blocks long outside the church.

>> NARRATOR: At one point, after several hours, a surprise.

>> There was Mr. Liu and his wife.

And they came to, uh... give us comfort.

It was just two men, really,

who had gone through something horrible,

um, just offering comfort to one another.

>> NARRATOR: Before Beau's death,

Biden had been considering another run for president.

Now the question was not just "would he," but "could he?"

>> I was, happened to be in Obama's White House,

and he walked in.

And I honestly...

It was almost like I didn't recognize him.

This was shortly after Beau died.

He just looked like he had aged years and years

in such a short amount of time.

>> NARRATOR: Through crisis and tragedy,

Joe Biden had his eyes on the presidency,

but now, in grief, he would decide to stand down.

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

>> I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear...

>> NARRATOR: From the very beginning

of Donald Trump's presidency, he ignited crisis.

(bursts, sirens blaring)


>> This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

>> It's a crisis; Donald Trump's president of the United States.

Now comes the hour of action.

There's been enough talk.

>> NARRATOR: Week one: a travel ban aimed at Muslim countries.

>> A scene of outrage at JFK Airport in New York.

>> Protests, outrage, and backlash...

>> To me, it just felt like continuing chaos.

>> North Korea will be met with fire and fury

like the world has never seen.

>> NARRATOR: Ongoing threats to other nations.

>> There was no effort to say, "What are the priorities here? "

And I think he makes decisions quickly

and can change them very quickly, too.

And, uh, it sometimes could be 180 degrees

of what he had decided just a few hours before.

>> NARRATOR: And just like "The Apprentice":

firings, turmoil, confrontation.

>> We've had reality TV framing for the presidency.

If you see the serial exits of people who, you know, really had

built significant careers only to be kicked around

and then ejected unceremoniously.

Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Anthony Scaramucci, John Kelly,

General Mattis.

People who were just kinda chewed up and spat out.

Humiliated in the course of it,

in their interactions with Trump.

>> ...FBI investigation, was there collusion...

>> NARRATOR: Overshadowing it all,

allegations of collusion with Russia,

obstruction of justice...

>> Russian collusion, give me a break.

>> President Trump now facing outrage after firing Comey.

>> I did you a great favor when I fired this guy, I tell ya.

I'm not concerned about anything with the Russian investigation

because it's a hoax.

That's enough.

Put down the mic.

>> Mr. President, are you worried about indictments...

>> NARRATOR: He lashed out.

>> Breaking news, the White House in crisis.

The Justice Department appointed a special counsel

to investigate...

>> This is a pure and simple witch hunt.

>> At first blush, maybe he really hates it and he's annoyed

by the Mueller investigation, or the media attacks,

or this or that.

But when you look at it further, he sort of enjoys the jousting,

he enjoys the fighting.

>> NARRATOR: It was the presidency Roy Cohn

had prepared him for.

>> He learned from Roy Cohn-- attack, never apologize,

seem to be in charge-- was true then, and is true today.

>> Wait a minute. I'm not finished, fake news.

>> NARRATOR: He was determined to be what

his father had called a "killer."

>> They are very, very dishonest people.

Fake news.

>> NARRATOR: Three years of chaos

would culminate in impeachment.

>> be impeached.

>> The absolutely crazed lunatics-- the Democrats,

radical left...

>> NARRATOR: He did what he always did.

>> ...are pushing the deranged impeachment witch hunt

for doing nothing wrong.

>> He only has the one playbook.

He uses it no matter what the crisis.

>> ...shadow of impeachment...

>> It didn't matter when the casinos went bust.

It didn't matter when his whole financial empire

seemed to collapse.

He was able to maintain the brand.

And so he ratchets up the anger.

He ratchets up the insults.

(cheers and applause)

>> NARRATOR: And in those first years, it seemed to work.

>> This is what the end result is.

(cheers and applause)

>> It really wasn't, in my opinion,

until the U.S. Senate voted for acquittal

on the two impeachment charges that Donald Trump

finally had a small air of breathability.

(cheers and applause)

>> We can take that home, honey, maybe we'll frame it.


It's the only good headline I've ever had

in "The Washington Post."

Thank you very much, everybody.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Thank you.

>> NARRATOR: He had unified the party behind him,

left his imprint on the Supreme Court,

delivered tax cuts, undermined Washington's institutions.

>> My grandfather remains Donald's audience of one.

It's to him Donald's continually trying to prove himself.

♪ ♪

>> White lives matter! White lives matter!

White lives matter!

(chanting continues)

>> NARRATOR: For the first time in decades,

Joe Biden was a

private citizen, watching Donald Trump's presidency.

>> Then came Charlottesville.

That was really the tipping point.

When he heard President Trump say, "There are very fine,

some very fine people on both sides," that was it.

That was the tipping point.

>> NARRATOR: In the streets, violent clashes

between white supremacists and counter-protesters.

>> It's hard to believe, based on his own statements,

that Joe Biden doesn't see some level of personal responsibility

for the rise of Donald Trump.

Joe Biden was the vice president

and he chose not to run for president.

You have to imagine that's weighed pretty heavily

on Joe Biden.

>> NARRATOR: He decided to do something about it.

At 76 years old, he would reverse course--

run one more time.

>> He was seen as yesterday's news.

He was a very rickety ship.

He was not as eloquent as he was 30 years ago,

like most people wouldn't be.

And he also, you know, he was saddled

with a very, very long record,

some of it going back to the '70s.

>> From NBC News.

"Decision 2020: The Democratic Candidates' Debate."

>> NARRATOR: In those early days,

his long, complicated record was a liability.

>> I'm going to now direct this at Vice President Biden.

You opposed busing.

And, you know, there was a little girl in California

who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools,

and she was bused to school every day.

And that little girl was me.

>> It wasn't about the specifics of the busing debate.

It was a signal.

It was saying that this is a white guy who is so old

that he was taking a position on busing in the first place.

>> But, Vice President Biden, do you agree today--

do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing

in America then?

>> Precisely because he has such a long track record

in American politics, you can point to him

being on the wrong side of questions

that are now considered to be completely settled.

>> NARRATOR: It would be the first of many rough nights

on the campaign trail.

>> Meanwhile, in a stunning reversal,

Joe Biden's campaign struggles to match

rival presidential candidates in fundraising.

>> ...numbers are down among women, down among independents.

The drop is primarily among younger voters.

>> NARRATOR: He struggled to excite voters.

>> ...Vice President Joe Biden, struggling in the polls here...

>> Joe Biden-- is his campaign in trouble?

>> NARRATOR: He was selling what he always had, Joe Biden,

and it wasn't working.

>> The truth is, he does not have some transformational

or different vision for the country.

It's a, it's a tough campaign for him.

>> Joe Biden presently trailing in fourth place...

>> ...surprised how bad Joe Biden did-- he fled the stage...

>> One of his senior advisers had to call him

and have what she described to me as the conversation

you never want to have with a candidate, which is,

"We may be approaching the point

of having to shut this thing down."

>> Joe Biden is fighting for his political survival.

>> NARRATOR: But he wasn't giving up.

>> Joe Biden desperately needs South Carolina

if he has any chance...

>> NARRATOR: His last hope...

>> ...make-or-break time in particular for Joe Biden...

>> NARRATOR: ...South Carolina.

>> It all rests on South Carolina.

>> Joe Biden has spent a lot of time in South Carolina--

he can relate to South Carolinians.

South Carolina was very, very important to Joe Biden.

>> Joe, Joe, Joe!

>> NARRATOR: To win, he desperately needed

the Black vote.

(cheers and applause)

>> Joe Biden's been around for a long time.

People are comfortable with him.

They get him, they understand him.

Even if they don't agree with him,

they think he's, you know, a good-faith actor.

That means a lot.

To a community of people who have been betrayed and oppressed

and tricked and lied to, someone who you can trust at their word,

that goes a very long way.

>> Oh, my Lord!

>> NARRATOR: It was what he had done in that first Senate race:

making it personal, connecting.

>> NBC News is projecting former Vice President

Joe Biden is the winner.

>> NARRATOR: They gave Biden a victory.

>> ...was reinvigorated largely by Black voters in this state.

>> Joe Biden wins big.

>> NARRATOR: Three days later...

>> In a political earthquake,

these are the results nobody saw coming.

>> NARRATOR: ...he rode the momentum

and dominated Super Tuesday.

>> He pulled off one of the biggest political upsets

in modern political history.

>> NARRATOR: Soon, he won it all.

(cheers and applause)

>> In its own way, it's the culmination

of all of his training and ambition and his mistakes

and his regrets and his attempts to be better.

And it, and it came together.

At last.

>> Biden has made his pick.

>> NARRATOR: And when the time came...

>> And the pick is in...

>> NARRATOR: ...the man who had made plenty of mistakes...

>> ...historic decision announced via text and Twitter.

>> NARRATOR: ...and asked for political forgiveness,

turned to the opponent who'd gone after him

on the campaign trail...

>> ...Kamala Harris as his running mate.

>> NARRATOR: ...Kamala Harris, and picked her

as his running mate.

>> ...African American community will help propel him

to the White House.

>> It was an opportunity for him

to distinguish himself from Donald Trump.

"That I actually want to bring the person who's criticized me

most harshly into the fold

because I value dissenting opinions."

And that was part of the message

that was being sent with Kamala Harris.

♪ ♪

>> The growing worries and response

to the deadly coronavirus.

>> Wuhan, China, that's the epicenter...

>> Wuhan, China...

>> NARRATOR: The pandemic. A nation in crisis.

>> under lockdown.

>> The Philippines confirmed its first death.

>> France is confirming...

>> Italy is taking unprecedented...

>> This is Italy's darkest hour.

>> NARRATOR: A threat Donald Trump was trying to play down.

>> ...deadly coronavirus officially hitting the U.S.

>> ...worldwide, including at least 12 confirmed...

>> A tragic turn in the coronavirus outbreak,

the first death from the disease...

>> NARRATOR: He used the Norman Vincent Peale approach:

visualize what you want to be true no matter the facts.

>> Thank you very much.

We're ready for it.

It is what it is. We're ready for it.

You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days

is going to be down to close to zero,

uh, that's a pretty good job we've done.

(overlapping chatter)

>> As the country deals with this worst pandemic,

they're seeing in a man that doesn't see any problems.

He always sees a rosy, bright future, and that he can succeed.

>> There's no question that in the first several months

of 2020, staff on the NSC and the Centers for Disease Control

were raising red flags about what was happening in China--

the president was determined not to hear any bad news.

>> We have done an incredible job.

We're going to continue.

It's going to disappear.

One day-- it's like a miracle-- it will disappear.

>> This unwillingness to think about the implications

meant there was no strategic planning going on,

because that would have meant acknowledging we were facing

a severe threat.

And he simply did not want to do that.

>> Empty streets lead to packed emergency rooms

across New York City.

Paralysis in this typically vibrant city

in just a matter of weeks.

>> NARRATOR: As the death toll rose...

>> FEMA sent 85 refrigerated trucks to New York City

to hold the people who've perished.

>> NARRATOR: ...he doubled down.

>> Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,

you know that, right?


They're politicizing it.

>> Very Roy Cohn.

Very School of Dad.

Very Norman Vincent Peale.

Just insist that you're successful.

Insist that what you're doing is right.

>> Now, what do you say to Americans who are watching

you right now who are scared?

>> I say that you're a terrible reporter.

That's what I say. Go ahead.

I think it's a very nasty question.

And I think it's a very bad signal

that you're putting out to the American people.

>> That's part of this playbook--

double down, triple down,

say any problems are somebody else's fault.

(sirens blaring, radio chatter)

>> NARRATOR: And in the midst of the pandemic, once again,

racial strife.


>> Get up and get in the car.

>> Get off of him now!

>> What is wrong with y'all?

>> Bro, he's not moving!

>> Did they (muted) kill him?

>> NARRATOR: George Floyd, killed by police.

(sirens blaring)

>> And that opens the floodgates.

>> I can't breathe! I can't breathe!

I can't breathe!

(chanting continues)

>> What we saw in the days and weeks to follow that

was the confluence of these multiple factors.

>> The deeply, deeply frustrated Black Lives Matter movement,

of a particularly incendiary video...

>> No racist police!

No justice, no peace!

>> Ho ho!

These racist cops have got to go!

>> That movement was cognizant of the fact

that Trump had consistently talked to police

and urged them to behave more aggressively.

>> I can't breathe! I can't breathe!

>> NARRATOR: Trump's approval ratings were plummeting.

Protesters were massing outside the White House.

>> You are the threat! You are the threat!

You are the threat!

>> NARRATOR: In the Rose Garden that day,

he would go to his playbook-- fan the flames.

>> Our nation has been gripped by professional anarchists,

violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters,


>> What Trump is trying to do is change the subject.

That Antifa, um, is, is the new enemy.

Donald Trump likes to find enemies,

and to hold those up as, that he is the protector against those.

>> As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands

of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel,

and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting,

looting, vandalism, assaults,

and the wanton destruction of property.

>> NARRATOR: As he spoke, a choreographed show of force

across the street from the White House.

(crowd shouting)

>> I'm sitting on the corner of Pennsylvania and 17th Street.

>> I can't breathe! I can't breathe!

>> And I start coughing, and choking,

and I start wondering what's going on.

(crowd shouting)

And I look up and it's, it's clouds of smoke,

and it's officers throwing some sort of chemical gas

that is making my throat and my eyes burn.

And I see people running...

(explosions, sparks, shouting)

... and this line of police officers coming,

and they're clearing the streets.

And I'm completely confused, because I'm wondering,

why is the White House doing this?

>> NARRATOR: Then the president left the Rose Garden

for a dramatic TV moment.

(distant sirens blaring)

>> I felt badly for some of the people who were in that march.

I've been asked what I would do,

and I've said I probably would have gone along;

how am I going to say no?

And then I would have felt very badly about it later.

But that's an effect Trump has on people.

(cameras clicking)

>> Really, it's just a picture.

It's just an image of a president being in charge.

And that's his vision of what the president is--

the guy in charge.

(distant siren blaring)

He's just in charge.

(cameras clicking)

♪ ♪

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: For Joe Biden, the nation in crisis

gave him an opportunity.

>> May history be able to say that the end of this chapter

of American darkness began here, tonight.

As love and hope and light join in the battle

for the soul of the nation.

>> NARRATOR: One last chance to see if making it personal--

persevering in the face of adversity-- can prevail.

>> This is a battle we will win, and we'll do it together.

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: For Donald Trump, a lifetime of conflict

had prepared him for yet another fight.

>> And this election will decide whether we will defend

the American way of life or whether we will allow

a radical movement to completely dismantle and destroy it.

>> NARRATOR: Another chance to see if turning crisis

to his advantage can carry the day.

>> Together, we are unstoppable.

Together, we are unbeatable.

♪ ♪

>> NARRATOR: Now a deeply divided nation will decide.

>> Policy is not the choice that's on the ballot this year.

It is a choice of character.

It is a choice of temperament.

It is a choice of persona and personality.

That's always a factor in our presidential campaigns.

But I don't think it's ever been as big a factor

as it will be in November.

♪ ♪

>> Go to

for the latest "Frontline" Transparency Project.

Explore 60 interviews from the making of this film.

>> There was no strategic planning going on.

>> Joe had just never been knocked down.

He's always been getting up.

>> And listen to a conversation with director Michael Kirk

on our podcast "The Frontline Dispatch".

>> So we looked long and hard at all of the things

that have happened in their lives...

>> Connect with "Frontline" on Facebook and Twitter,

and watch anytime on the PBS App or

♪ ♪

>> For more on this and other "Frontline" programs,

visit our website at

♪ ♪

"The Choice 2020" is available on Amazon Prime Video.

♪ ♪


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