Deval Patrick surprised by Biden's "awkward" answer on busing question at Democratic debate

Deval Patrick on Biden's debate performance
Deval Patrick on Biden's debate performance 05:17

Round two of the opening Democratic presidential debate turned up the heat Thursday night, with 10 candidates pushing to make themselves seen and heard. Former Vice President Joe Biden faced a fiery challenger in Sen. Kamala Harris when she questioned his record on school busing during the 1970s and invoked her own personal experience as a young girl. After the debate, Biden's campaign told CBS News Harris' attacks were a "low blow."

Former Massachusetts Democratic Governor Deval Patrick told "CBS This Morning" he was surprised at how "uncomfortable" and "awkward" Biden seemed during his exchange with Harris.  

"I agree with Senator Harris that Vice President Biden is not a racist. I was surprised about how awkward or uncomfortable he seemed in answering the question because he's answered the question many, many times over the years," Patrick said.

In the 1970s and 80s Biden opposed the federal government's involvement in using busing to help desegregate schools. Taking aim at Biden, Harris said, "You also worked on them to oppose busing and there was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to schools every day and that little girl was me."

"The fact is … there are lots of progressive Democrats and liberal-minded people who are uncomfortable with busing and were at the time," Patrick said. "In many respects we sent the kids in to do what the adults wouldn't do. We sent the kids in to integrate the schools because the adults wouldn't integrate the neighborhood. And sooner or later we're going to have to confront the bigger question about the importance of learning to live an integrated life."

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Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris at the second night of the first Democratic primary debate in Miami, Florida, on June 27, 2019. NBC News

Biden also faced questions from Harris over his comments about working with segregationist senators, saying, "It was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputation and careers on the segregation of race in this country."

Patrick also felt Biden didn't address that issue as well as he has in the past though he agrees with the sentiment that it's important to be able to work with people whose views differ from yours.

"I think the point he was making is if you want to get things done in Washington, you have to be willing to work with people who don't agree with you on everything. You know, there is a value in a politics that says we can work together on some things without having to agree on everything."

Former aides to former President Barack Obama encouraged Patrick to run for the Democratic nomination this year himself. He said no, citing "the cruelty of our elections process," and how it could affect his loved ones.

Asked if he wishes he were up on that stage Thursday night, Patrick said, "That's not how I was thinking about it although when I was thinking about it many months ago one of the questions was, how do you break through in a field this large and talented without being a celebrity or sensationalist, and I'm none of those things."