Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Transcript & Video of 'Hardball', Mike Barnicle Interviews Joe Biden, August 1, 2007

Transcript of entire segment with Joe Biden:
BARNICLE: Senator Joe Biden of Delaware is running for president. He‘s the chairman of the Foreign Relations committee and the author of new book called “Promises to Keep.” Senator, before we get to the book and your candidacy, I was watching you as you watched David‘s film piece, and when they showed General Myers and General Abizaid and former secretary of defense Rumsfeld testifying, you had sort of a—what I would consider a sad look on your face. What was going through your mind when you were watching that?

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No accountability. This is the only administration that no one‘s ever made a mistake in the face of constant disaster. You know, it used to be—my grandpop used to talk about you got to stand up. I mean, it used to be an honorable thing that somebody‘s come forward and say, Hey, I screwed up. That was me. I mean, think of the fact—I mean, who has been held accountable for anything in this administration? They attorney general, the secretary of defense, secretary of state, vice president, national security adviser, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff? What‘d this all happen on the watch of privates?

I mean, I just find it incredible, the lack of—I don‘t know. My grandpop would call it honor.

BARNICLE: How frustrated is it for you, as a United States senator, never mind being out on the campaign trail, running for president—you‘re a United States senator. You‘ve been there since 1970. How frustrating is it for you that you have this going on, what you consider to be this lack of accountability, and yet you can‘t get people to be held accountable?

BIDEN: Well, you can‘t. You know, it‘s all about elections. You know, we barely have control of the Senate. We have 50 votes. One of our colleagues has still not been able to vote because he‘s still ill. And the House doesn‘t have effective control. It‘s frustrating as the devil.

And what‘s even more frustrating, the people who voted to send the Democrats to Congress last time out expected that somehow we were going to be able to really, you know, have a—you know, operational control, really call people to task. But it‘s—it‘s just really frustrating.

What‘s most frustrating, Mike, is that you got all these folks out there who‘re just losing confidence in the government, losing confidence anything that‘s going on. And you got 160,000 families implicated by having folks over there in Iraq. They don‘t see any plan. They don‘t know what these guys are doing. I mean, it really is. It‘s—it‘s sad.

BARNICLE: What do you think General Petraeus is going to do when he comes back and speaks to you people, speaks to us in September, September 15?

BIDEN: I know General Petraeus well. I‘m in constant contact with him the last four-and-a-half years. I disagree with his plan on the surge, but I think he‘s an honorable guy. I think he‘ll come back and say two things. You‘re going to have to read between the lines. And one‘s going to be we‘ve made some progress in the surge. We‘ve made some military progress. But I think he‘ll be honest enough to say we‘ve made no political progress.

And absent some political accommodation—you just showed—you had the Sunnis getting up and walking out of the cabinet. They continued to adhere, as a lot of my Democratic colleagues do, Mike, to this flawed—fundamentally flawed premise that somehow, you can establish a strong unity government in Baghdad that can control the country. It‘s not going to happen in anybody‘s lifetime.

BARNICLE: You know, I can‘t recall a war that‘s been as difficult for reporters to cover as this war. It‘s so lethal to anybody on the ground working for any news organization.

BIDEN: Absolutely.

BARNICLE: And yet you keep hearing anecdotal information that seems so at odds with what you get out of the White House or the Pentagon in terms—fine, military success in Ramadi. I understand that. I accept that. I believe that. And yet when you hear people who continue to come back, United State senators, as well as regular soldiers, saying they can‘t get the lights on in Baghdad, they can‘t get the water running...

BIDEN: They can‘t. They can‘t. I‘ve been there seven times. I‘m heading back in a couple weeks—actually, a month. I‘m heading back for my eighth trip. And let me tell you something. I‘ve been in and out of the Green Zone, been to Muradi (ph) -- excuse me—I‘ve been down to Basra. I‘ve been out in Anbar Province. I‘ve flown over most of it in a helicopter. I‘ve been up as—far us as—I mean, the idea that somehow there‘s any cohesion here is absolutely fanciful.

What has happened here is, to the extent that Petraeus has concentrated on certain areas and localized—localized—the conflict—that is, let local tribal chiefs have local police forces and local control. To the extent that‘s happened, there‘s been some progress. But absent a larger political agreement here—as soon as we leave—remember Tal Afar?


BIDEN: You know how you learn all these—all these names, you know, average Americans learn them. Well, you know, a year-and-a-half ago, we heralded this as a great example. We had 10,000 combined troops in there. We cleaned out the city. We rebuilt the schools and the city facilities, et cetera. And then we had to leave, and a town of 250,000 people once again became basically a ghost town of 80,000 people.

I mean, same thing‘s going to happen. Same thing‘s going to happen if we leave absent giving local control, local police, local regional power...

BARNICLE: So is this hopeless?

BIDEN: It‘s hopeless absent doing what—I‘m going to say bluntly what Les Gelb and I have been talking about for well over a year. I did on your radio program up in Boston, you know? And now everybody‘s coming around to it. You have General Garner now saying—quoting—I‘m paraphrasing, Biden and Gelb are right.

The only way this ends without the whole thing splintering apart—meaning the whole country—and it‘s not going to just break up in three pieces, Mike. It‘s going to break up not on just a religious basis but tribal basis. You‘re going to see this civil war metastasize into Turkey, into affecting Iran and Syria. And we have a real problem now, it‘s going to get a lot worse. And why they continue to adhere to the prospect that Maliki can put together a unity government that can control the country is just beyond my comprehension.

BARNICLE: So what you‘re talking about, what you‘re saying is not only something that‘s going to be handed off to the first term of the next president, it sounds like the next two terms and perhaps...

BIDEN: Well, let me tell you something...

BARNICLE: ... two presidents.

BIDEN: Yes. I think that‘s—look, Mike, what happens—what happens when, in fact, we leave? We have to leave. We have our commanding general saying you can‘t—the new chief of the Army is saying you can‘t keep 160,000 troops there next year. We don‘t have the troops to do it. We can‘t do it. So everybody knows we‘re going to be leaving, Mike, and you either leave with putting together a political settlement, bringing in the international community that‘s ready to come in—because, look, the French aren‘t looking to help us, the Russians, the Chinese, but they know things are really bad for them if this place fractures.

BARNICLE: You know, back on the point of—the larger point of David‘s piece on the death of Private (SIC) Tillman—do you think Rumsfeld was telling the truth? I mean, how could it be that the secretary of defense could sit there and not find out for several weeks that someone as famous as Corporal Tillman was killed and how he was killed?

BIDEN: I find it absolutely improbable. I—look, they‘re so good at plausible denial. They‘re so good at kicking the can down the road. It‘s a little bit like—go back to Abu Ghraib. Abu Ghraib was a disaster. I went down to see the president right after Abu Ghraib. I said, Mr. President, you got to do something drastic. You got to literally bulldoze the place down, build a hospital, demonstrate our overwhelming distaste for what happened. It‘s not part of us. Nothing happened.

So we go back. I called for Rumsfeld‘s resignation years ago. I go back. I‘m sitting with the president of the United States of America and the secretary—then national security adviser, and the vice president. He said, What‘s this stuff about picking on Rummy? I said, Mr. President, I have to be honest with you. And I turned to the vice president. I said, Mr. Vice president, were you not a constitutional officer, I‘d call for your resignation, too. And the president looked and said, Why? I said, Name me one piece of advice you‘ve been given on Iraq from either the secretary of defense or the vice president that‘s turned out to be correct? Name me one.

BARNICLE: That‘s all in the book.

BIDEN: Well, but also...


BARNICLE: We‘re going to get to the book.

BIDEN: No, no. But it‘s beyond the book. It goes to your essential point, I think, Mike, and that is these guys just never level. They just never level.

BARNICLE: Senator Biden is staying with us to talk more about his bid for the White House and his new book and his confrontations in the White House.

And coming up later, more on Don Rumsfeld‘s testimony today with two veterans of the Iraq war. Has Pat Tillman‘s death and the Pentagon‘s handling of it hurt our armed forces?

You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.


BARNICLE: Welcome back to HARDBALL. We‘re back with Democratic presidential candidate Senator Joe Biden, author of the new book “Promises to Keep.” I read it. It‘s interesting. It‘s you. It‘s about your life.

And now, at this stage of your life, you‘re running for president again. And let me ask you—you‘ve been in the United States Senate for a long time. You‘ve been on TV for a long time, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. A lot of people know you. You‘re at 4 points in the polls.

Do you think that the country might be just going someplace else, might be saying, you know, No, I want to look at a woman for president, or a black man for president. I‘m tired of the old Irish guys—not that you‘re old.


BARNICLE: But where do you think the country‘s at on this?

BIDEN: Well, there may be a piece of that, but I think part of it that—what we find out in our polling, no one really knows me at all. They think, as my pollster said—I think it was she that said that they think I‘m this guy that‘s born behind a podium, went to Yale, is a wealthy guy, and knows a lot about foreign policy.

And so, you know, whereas, ironically, 22 years ago when I looked at this, you know, they knew everything about me personally, didn‘t know anything about what I thought. Now it‘s the flip. And—but I think it‘s early, Mike. I mean, when was the last time any of these polls have made a difference this early out? The polls up in your neck of the woods, out in New Hampshire, show that only 8 percent of the people in New Hampshire has made up their mind, have a definite choice. Nationally, it‘s about the same.

And it‘s an old thing. You know, recognition gets money, money gets recognition, gets coverage and press. So I don‘t think people begin to make up their mind yet. And as long as—as long as national security and foreign policy is a central issue, I think I‘m in the game.

BARNICLE: You know, when I listen to the debates, when I listen to each of the candidates, and when it comes down to issues of national security—well, today, you know, Senator Obama talking about—you‘re smiling. What are you smiling at? You thought he was trying to be General Obama when he was talking about Pakistan and everything? Sounded too much like you? What are you saying?

BIDEN: Well, you know, look...

BARNICLE: Come on!

BIDEN: Look, the truth is the four major things that he called for—and I‘m glad he did, but one of them is a surge in Afghanistan. Well, hell, that‘s what I called for when I was in Afghanistan in 2003, and Hagel and I wrote the legislation adding money. We have new money for Afghanistan in here.

The second thing he called for was, you know, aid to Pakistan be conditional. Well, Tom Lantos and I wrote that into the bill when we passed the 9/11 bill. It‘s law. I mean, it‘s already there. It happened weeks ago.

And he talked about the idea of U.S. troops in Afghanistan (SIC) if there‘s actionable intelligence. Well, that‘s our policy. The only thing you do is you don‘t go and announce it. You don‘t talk about it. But it is our—it is our stated policy.

And so I guess what I‘m trying to say is that I‘m glad that he‘s talking about these things, but there‘s—there‘s not a single thing that I heard of that he spoke about that isn‘t either already policy, already done, or has been spoken to at length before by myself and others.

BARNICLE: I get the impression, when you‘re all on the stage, that you kind of like Senator Clinton. You respect Senator Clinton.

BIDEN: Well, do like her. I do like her. I really like Dodd a lot. I—I mean, there‘s—no, there‘s people you know because you work with...


BIDEN: .. and you are certain of who they are.

I am certain of who Dodd is. He‘s a stand-up guy and he‘s knowledgeable. I‘m certain of who, you know, the governor is, because I have been with him a long time. And I know Senator Clinton a long time.

I don‘t know Barack as well. I have served with him. I respect him.

And I don‘t John Edwards as well. I know him, and I respect him.

And—but I‘m really for a ticket of Kucinich and—and Gravel.


BARNICLE: Senator Joe Biden, the book is “Promises to Keep.”


BARNICLE: Senator Biden, Scranton, Pennsylvania, this Saturday. All you Irish guys and Irish women, get up there and buy that book.