Video: Biden responds to Bush, NIE

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updated 12/4/2007 9:15:36 PM ET 2007-12-05T02:15:36
TRANSCRIPT

On Tuesday's "Hardball with Chris Matthews," Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden said if President Bush attacked Iran without congressional approval, he “would lead an effort to impeach him.” 

Below is a transcript.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, “HARDBALL”: We're going to have Joe Biden joining us right now.  Here he is, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.  Senator Biden, I know you've been the foreign affairs expert for the Democratic Party.  Were you snowed? 

Were you shocked to hear we do not face a weapons system under production in Iran?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN, D-DEL., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No. I never believed we were.  And I said it.  I've been trying to engage Iran way back five years ago with Dick Lugar and others, trying to engage them.

This isn't about curiosity, it's about credibility. This administration has damaged us to a degree that no other administration has in American history.  We have no credibility, Chris.  It's amazing, absolutely amazing to me.  Were it not for the fact, your point about it making it virtually impossible for them to go to war now, were it not for that silver lining, which is immense, this is unconscionable.  It's unconscionable.

MATTHEWS:  What did you think about the policy and how it's changed?  You're a critic, as well as a candidate. 

The policy of this administration was to scare the bejesus out of everybody in the world that we were going to face a World War III — those are the president's phrases there ... World War III.  And now, what do you think the policy is now?  Despite what he said today at the press conference, what is our policy now, do you think?

BIDEN:  The policy's no different now.  The rhetoric is going to change.  The policy's no different.  I made a major speech yesterday on Iran.  I've laid out in detail over the last five years exactly what we should be doing with Iran, which is diametrically opposed to everything this president is doing.

Now look what's happened, Chris.  In terms of our allies being willing to stay with us on other really critical issues, it's going to be virtually impossible.  The Russians are running around the world, touting the fact that now it's proven that they've been right and we've been wrong.  Now it undercuts our ability to deal with the real problem.

The real problem is their continued effort to deal with Hezbollah and Hamas, their continued effort to deal with trying to find — being able to produce highly enriched uranium.  That's real.  That's real.  And now what's happened?

Secondly, what have we done?  We have added to the urban legend in the streets of all the Muslim capitals in the world that this is a war against Islam.  We have made it more difficult for every moderate Muslim leader, from Karzai on, to be able to deal directly with us.  This is incredibly devastating to our interests in the Middle East, from Iraq through Pakistan, as well as our credibility around the world.  It is going to cost us in a way that no one's calculating it.

The good news is it makes it harder for these cowboys to go to war. 

The bad news is we have been further damaged, and that hurts America's interests in a big way.

MATTHEWS:  Well, this propaganda war that's been fought now for years now, their phrases like “weapons of mass destruction” that you and I never heard of growing up, “regime change,” all the rest of it, “homeland,” all the rest of the new language we've learned from this crowd that came in a few years ago, around the late '90s they started pushing this — if their motive is not to find weapons of mass destruction, which don't seem to materialize when they're supposed to in either Iraq or the Iranian case, what is the grand motive for war? 

Why did we invade Iraq?  Why were we threatening World War III with Iran?  Why did this administration, Cheney and the president, keep pushing the war?  Why do they always want to fight or scare somebody?  What's it about, if it's not weapons?

BIDEN:  Let me tell you what I think it's about.  I can't prove it.  I think it's about our ability to try to dominate that region of the world and control oil.  I don't think we went to war because of oil, but I think there was an absolute belief.  The only thing I can fit together with Cheney and his gang is that they went to war and they're smarter than they're acting.  They're smarter than they're acting.  They went to war in the hope they would be able to do two things.  One, have a government that sat on a whole bunch of oil that still exists in the world that would be indebted to us. Two, have permanent military bases in Iraq to dominate that part of the world to be able to control oil.  Not to go steal it for American oil companies, but to be able to control the pricing, control the access of it, a very Machiavellian view.  There's nothing idealistic about Cheney.

I don't know what President Bush thinks, but I think he's bought hook, line and sinker the Cheney rationale that the only way for us to be able to be dominant in the 21st century is to use our overwhelming power in the face of the moral disapprobation of the rest of the world, threaten the rest of the world, and that's how we avoid war in the future.

I think these guys are irresponsible.  But the thing that angers me the most and it angers me, Chris, is how incomprehensible it is for anyone to think that the president did not know that his intelligence agencies didn't believe what he was saying.  I believe that's why these guys came out with now 16 American intelligence agencies uniting, saying, I'm not going to wear the jacket again on this one.

And I disagree with only one thing that Andrea (Mitchell) said.  The intelligence community didn't misread what was going on in a major way in Iraq; they misused the intelligence they were given.

MATTHEWS:  I keep waiting for that second part of that intelligence analysis to show how it was manipulated.  But I want to ask you about something you've been involved with.  You said that if the president of the United States had launched an attack on Iran without congressional approval, that would have been an impeachable offense.

BIDEN:  Absolutely.

MATTHEWS:  Do you want to review that comment you made?  Well, how do you stand on that now? 

BIDEN:  Yes, I do.  I want to stand by that comment I made.  The reason I made the comment was as a warning.  I don't say those things lightly, Chris.  You've known me for a long time.  I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee for 17 years, or its ranking member.  I teach separation of powers and constitutional law.  This is something I know.

So I got together and brought a group of constitutional scholars together to write a piece that I'm going to deliver to the whole United States Senate, pointing out the president has no constitutional authority to take this nation to war against a country of 70 million people, unless we're attacked or unless there is proof that we are about to be attacked. 

And if he does, I would move to impeach him.  The House obviously has to do that, but I would lead an effort to impeach him.

The reason for my doing that and I don't say it lightly.  I don't say it lightly.  I say it because they should understand that what they were threatening, what they were saying, what was adding up to be what looked like to the rest of the world what we were about to do would be the most disastrous thing that could be done at this moment in our history that I can think of.

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You know, Senator, the great thing about you being elected to the Senate when you were about 29 years old is that you were a senator back when there were real senators there, like Wayne Morse and J. William Fulbright, who understood the constitutional importance of what you just said.  I wonder whether a lot of people who watch this show don't even get what you're talking about.  They don't even remember when there were senators that understood the checks and balances of our government, of our Constitution.  I am so impressed you said it.

Watch “Hardball” each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

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