In the first pre-Super Bowl interview of his presidency, President Joe Biden said that it’s his “hope and expectation” that fans will be back in the stands in full force for next year’s big game.
At this year's Super Bowl, only 22,000 fans will be allowed in the stands – about a third of the capacity of Tampa's Raymond James Stadium, where Super Bowl LV is being played.
“The Super Bowl is just one of those great American celebrations,” Biden said to CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell. “And all those house parties, all those things that aren’t happening.
“God willing we’re gonna be able to celebrate it all as usual a year from now” Biden said.
Biden warned people to “be careful” when celebrating Super Bowl this year, acknowledging how hard it was for Americans to modify their Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s celebrations due to the deadly pandemic, which has killed over 463,000 Americans, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Biden said that one of his team’s “disappointments” was how the previous administration handled the pandemic, adding that the circumstances were “even more dire than we thought.”
“We thought they had indicated there was a lot more vaccine available," he said. "And didn't turn out to be the case. So that's why we've ramped up every way we can.”
“Look, it was one thing if we had enough vaccine, which we didn't. So we're pushing as hard as we can to get more vaccine manufactured,” Biden said, adding that he’s gone to vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna to get them to ramp up production.
“The idea that this can be done and we can get to herd immunity much before the end of next — this summer, is very difficult,” Biden noted.
When asked if he would take NFL commissioner Roger Goodell up on his offer to use all 32 NFL stadiums as vaccination sites, Biden said “absolutely we will.”
On the subject of getting children back to school, Biden specified that he thinks “it’s time for schools to reopen safely,” adding that the director of the CDC will issue guidelines this week “to lay out what the minimum requirements are” to get schools open again.
“You have to have fewer people in the classroom. You have to have ventilation systems that have been reworked,” Biden added.
The president noted that 20 million children not being able to go to classrooms for about a year, as well as women dropping out of the workforce, are a “national emergency.”
Clips from the interview already made headlines this week, including one from Friday in which Biden said that there is “no need” for former president Trump to continue to receive intelligence briefings, a courtesy that historically has been granted to outgoing presidents, “because of his erratic behavior unrelated to the insurrection.”
“I just think that there is no need for him to have the intelligence briefings,” Biden told O’Donnell. “What value is giving him an intelligence briefing? What impact does he have at all, other than the fact he might slip and say something?”
On the foreign relations front, President Biden was firm on his stance on Iran; when asked if his administration would lift sanctions against the country to get them back to the negotiating table, he simply said, “no."
Biden nodded when O’Donnell asked if Iran would need to stop enriching uranium before the U.S. would return to the negotiating table.
Iran resumed enriching uranium to 20% in January. Under the terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement — which former president Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from in 2018 — Iran cannot enrich uranium in exchange for relief from sanctions. Trump went on to reimpose sanctions on Iran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign against the country.
Biden also spoke about the relationship between the U.S. and China, saying that “we haven't had occasion” to speak with President Xi Jinping, but said “there’s no reason not to call him” before reflecting on their personal relationship.
“I probably spent more time with Xi Jinping, I'm told, than any world leader has,” Biden said, “Because I had 24, 25 hours of private meetings with him when I was vice president. Traveled 17,000 miles with him. I know him pretty well.”
Biden conceded that the two leaders have “a whole lot to talk about.”
“He’s very bright. He's very tough,” Biden said of Xi. “He doesn't have — and I don't mean it as a criticism, just the reality — he doesn't have a democratic, small D, bone in his body.”
Biden also signaled that he will likely return to a more traditional multinational diplomatic approach to China: “I've said to him all along, that we need to not have a conflict. But there's going to be extreme competition. And I'm not going to do it the way that he knows. And that's because he's sending signals as well. I'm not going to do it the way Trump did. We're going to focus on international rules of the road."
Biden also got emotional speaking about his son Hunter’s forthcoming book.
"The honesty with which he stepped forward and talked about the problem. And the hope that — it gave me hope reading it,” Biden said. “I mean it was like my boy’s back.”
Biden also added that his family’s struggle is relatable to many Americans: “I'll bet there's not a family you know that doesn't have somebody in the family that had a drug problem or an alcohol problem.”
The interview ended on an upbeat note: Biden said that as a former football receiver — "I had wild dreams,” Biden told O’Donnell. “It wasn't to be president. I thought I could be a flanker back in the NFL." — he’d rather catch a pass from the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes.
"Seems like he's got a lot of potential,” Biden said of Mahomes, “And, so, I'd probably take a shot with the young guy I didn't expect as much from.”
He demurred when asked who he thought would win, saying that he thinks Mahomes and Buccaneers coach Tom Brady are “both great quarterbacks,” but Mahomes is “a younger version, potentially, of an old, great quarterback.”
"Not old,” Biden corrected himself, with a laugh. “In NFL terms, old."
The tradition of Super Bowl interviews dates back to 2004, when George W. Bush sat down CBS’ Jim Nantz. Barack Obama sat down for an interview in each of his eight years in office, including a notable 2013 interview with then-Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who grilled the 44th president about the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, and the launch of the Affordable Care Act website. Trump sat down for pre-Super Bowl interviews in 2020, 2019, and 2017, but opted to skip an interview in 2018, when NBC carried the game.