Video: Biden on Dean

updated 6/8/2005 12:04:54 PM ET 2005-06-08T16:04:54

DON IMUS, HOST:  Please welcome now from the great state of Delaware, the next president of the United States, maybe.  Senator Joe Biden. 

SENATOR JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE:  Hey, Don.  How are you?

IMUS:  I’m fine, Senator Biden.  How are you?

BIDEN:  I’m well, thanks.  Good to talk to you. 

IMUS:  Well, I’ve seen you on TV.  You look tan, you look rested.  You look good.

BIDEN:  You get tan when you go to Africa, in Darfur.  Actually I was on the Darfur border, but you get—I don’t know how the hell anybody lives there in Chad.  Why the French ever wanted Chad is beyond me.  God love them, it’s just a moonscape.  It’s awful. 

IMUS:  You described the trip in something I read as going to hell. 

BIDEN:  Yes, well, it really was.  You walk into those refugee camps.  You know, you land in the only airport in the eastern part of Chad and then get in a small plane, and then on a helicopter.  And you go out and you land on this field that is marked in the middle of the desert by just rocks.  You can’t tell the difference between the airstrip and the desert.

And right in the middle of nowhere, no trees, nothing, there’s 30,000 people in tents, mostly women and children, who have been either—had their husbands or fathers mangled or they’ve been raped or brutalized.  And there’s 30,000 of them sitting there in the middle of the desert. 

IMUS:  Over the years, hasn’t—well, correct me—obviously you will if I’m wrong—but hasn’t this government and—through private donations, haven’t we raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Africa?

BIDEN:  Well, we have.  We have.

IMUS:  What’s happened to that money?

BIDEN:  Well, Africa is really gigantic.  I mean, you think about it, Africa is twice the size of all of Europe, from Iceland down to the tip of Italy all the way to Russia.  So it’s gigantic.  It doesn’t go very far. 

Look, we—we’re in a situation where we—the president announced yesterday how much aid for not just Africa but for other countries we are going to be part of with the Europeans.  And the Europeans and we signed on to a goal of saying 0.7 percent of our GDP would, by the year of 2015, go to help, you know, poor countries.  And we’re at 0.007, and I’m not—that’s not a criticism, it’s an observation.  So...

IMUS:  What should it be?

BIDEN:  Well, I think it should—I think by the year 2015, we should be at 0.7, because I watched your guest yesterday, a friend, Tom Friedman, and he had a great expression he used about three years ago.  He said, “If you don’t visit the bad neighborhood, it will visit you.” 

IMUS:  That’s the truth.

BIDEN:  And so if we don’t figure out how to deal with failing governments, you know, they are, to use a trite phrase—they become incubators for terror.  And ...

IMUS:  How much money is that, 0.7 percent?

BIDEN:  You know, I don’t know.  I don’t know the answer to that.

IMUS:  Well, round figures. 

BIDEN:  It’s—it’s tens of billions of dollars. 

IMUS:  Billions?

BIDEN:  Billions, as in “b.”

IMUS:  Yes.

BIDEN:  And—but in terms of our whole gross domestic product—it’s relatively small.  It’s still a lot of money.  Look, the American people are generous as hell, and all they want to know is that whatever they are, quote, “giving” is going to that thing for which we said it was going. 

It’s a little bit like your ranch.  I mean, the reason why people care so much about what you’re doing is you’re actually helping these kids.  You know, so the reason why you get the kind of help and you do what you do is people know that if they send something to your ranch, it gets there.  It’s not going to a spa. 

And it’s the same thing with the American people.  When they talk about, quote, “foreign aid.”  I think the American people are pretty smart.  They know damn well, you know, if you know, you have millions of people living in, you know, abject poverty and being abused, that that’s the place where these guys go hunting for their—you know, the guys that strap bombs on themselves. 

IMUS:  Isn’t—isn’t the problem, though, these corrupt—these corrupt governments?

BIDEN:  One of the really good things the president did do is he changed the formula for how we give foreign aid.  There’s two issues.  One, the amount of foreign aid we give, and two, the way we give it. 

Now under this fancy phrase they use, a typical Washington thing, it’s called it the Millennium Account.  What that means is that we learned a long time ago that you don’t give aid to—you don’t pour more money down a rat hole if you’re going to give it, to example, to the government in Khartoum, you know damn well it’s going to be used for all the wrong reasons.

So now the amount of aid, the percentage of what we have to give, goes to those countries that have demonstrated they’re able to absorb it and actually use it for which it’s designed.  And that’s—and the president deserves to be complimented for that.  That’s a major change that this administration has made, and it’s good. 

IMUS:  As long as I can remember, we’ve been seeing—as long as there’s been television and the television has been in Africa, we’ve seen these heartbreaking—this heartbreaking footage of these kids and people starving to death and dying from AIDS and so on, and it never changes.

BIDEN:  Well, it doesn’t change, in the sense that, you know, what was left behind after 500 years of colonialism is—is just an absolute hodgepodge, you know, where there are, you know, country borders that divide historic tribes, you know, pitting people against people, et cetera. 

So I’m not suggesting we have the ability to change the world in a way that we’re not going to turn on the TV in the next—my daughter’s generation and not see those same kind of pictures.

But I do think what you can see is you can impact on the things where there are wholesale slaughters going on.  The president in Chad, where there’s 300,000 refugees in Chad, and they’re there as a consequence of a policy which the president actually accurately called genocide. 

So there’s a difference between just having poverty in the slum of Bombay and wholesale genocide, which is creating generations of retribution and generations of hate. 

So we can’t do everything by any stretch of the imagination, but we can do some things.  And the fact we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do the things that we could impact on. 

IMUS:  So the president is on the right track there?

BIDEN:  He is.  He is.  Now where he isn’t on the right track, at least so far, is you know, stepping up to the ball in terms of what was committed with the other major European nations as to ramp up what we are willing to do in terms of dollars.  Not how.  That part, he’s got, I think very well.  The question is when. 

And there’s other things we can do.  For example, in—in Darfur, which everybody’s hearing about, and you’re going to see another Academy Award winning movie in about five years.  It’s not going to be called “Hotel Rwanda”; it’s going to be called “Hotel Darfur.” 

What you have is you have these people, they call them the Janjaweed.  They refer to themselves as Arab—Arab Muslims in West Africa—in Africa, in Darfur, but they look no different.  They’re as black and they’re the same features as, quote, “African Muslims.”  They’re killing each other at the instigation of a government in Khartoum which is totally corrupt. 

And you have a group of African nations sending in troops that are very disorganized to try to stop the carnage.  It wouldn’t take very much at all.  It would take several thousand NATO forces to coordinate these 6,000 to 8,000 African troops, and you could stop it. 

And it’s just like we all say now, you know, “God, we could have done a few little things and Darfur would have—I mean, ‘Hotel Rwanda’ wouldn’t have been a movie.”  Well, we’re going to be saying the same thing if we don’t act, and we should and could act now.  And that’s the part that I—the lack of the sense of urgency is the part that bothers me. 

IMUS:  One of the things the president’s not right about, Senator Biden, as you obviously know, is Iraq.  When’s enough enough there?

BIDEN:  Well, we’re getting awful close to that.  You know, you and I talked about this a bunch.  I believe that if we, quote, “lose” in Iraq, and I define “lose” is it breaks into basically a civil war, looking like Lebanon has looked, I think we’re in real trouble for the better part of a generation in that part of the world. 

I think it ends all effort toward reform.  I think it jeopardizes any solution with Israel and the Palestinians, and the list goes on. 

But what I don’t get is—and I went down—I was invited down yesterday by our national security advisor, allegedly at the request of the president, to talk about my recent trip.  And we still are making a lot of the same mistakes, although we’re getting a little better.  We’re about a year and a half, or two years behind the curve. 

We have—the secretary of defense keeps saying we have trained up 150,000 or 160,000 Iraqi troops.  Well, there’s that many in uniform, but when you go there, Don, you realize that it’s not safe.  It’s less safe than it was the last four times I went.

And when you ask them to break it out, they say, “Well, we’ve trained 107 battalions, but only a total of three are fully capable; 27 are capable; 47 aren’t capable, and 25 are totally incapable.”  Bottom line is, you can’t replace these guys with American forces, and our exit strategy is a trained Iraqi force. 

And it goes back to what you guys have talked about a lot.  We went in there with insufficient force.  I know I got the hell kicked out of me and some of you guys did, saying we needed more force if we’re going to go in in the beginning. 

The generals are opening acknowledging we don’t have enough force, and there’s no border—and by the way, the insurgency is changing now.  You know, I heard the vice president say the insurgency is on the run.  Well, jeez, you ought to tell folks that over there, because they don’t know it. 

What’s happened is you made some—some inroads with the Sunni insurgency, but now you have pouring across the border, in from Iran and particularly Syria, all these jihadists, who are wreaking carnage on—on the people in Iraq, including American casualties being up.  And they’re making no progress because we don’t have enough forces to guard the border.  So...

IMUS:  On the day the vice president said that, I talked to Jim Maceda for NBC News who was there, and he said what you said.  He said the vice president doesn’t know what he’s talking about. 

BIDEN:  He has no idea, in my humble opinion.  No—look, let me put it—the best way for me to explain it is the way I explained it to my wife when I got back. 

She said, “How did it go?”

I said, “Look, they take me into Baghdad airport what they call a corkscrew landing so you don’t get fired at, or you’re less of a target.  They get you out.  They hustle you off of the fixed wing aircraft, put you on a Black Hawk helicopter with a vest on with two guys with 30 caliber machine guns hanging outside the helicopter.  And you fly somewhere around 100 feet off the ground and 150 miles per hour over Baghdad so you don’t have a profile to be shot at, land inside, quote, the Green Zone, the safe zone.  There’s great big cement walls and guards all around it. 

“And then you get out.  They hustle you in to an up-armored Humvee or they get you into a semi-armored, you know, Chevy van.  And they take you at somewhere between 40 and 60 miles an hour through an area that’s about a 25-block area, supposedly totally safe, get you out. 

“You don’t stand outside the car.  You wait until a Special Forces guy opens the door.  They hustle you into the building you’re going to go meet with the prime minister.  And that is my fifth trip.  And they’re telling me that’s safer?  When I went out last time, same thing.” 

IMUS:  What’s it going to take—what’s it going to take for somebody like you to call for a withdrawal?

BIDEN:  Well, I’ll tell you where I am.  I have—I’ve had a meeting yesterday at the White House, and I think we’ve got to set benchmarks. 

I’m going to make a speech, I hope, up in New York next week, where I’m going to lay out what I think has to be done within the time frame it has to be done, and then suggesting that if it can’t be done within that time frame, it means that we don’t have the strategy or the will to win this thing and there’s no sense keeping these guys in for pure fodder. 

IMUS:  It’s 16 minutes until the hour, and we’re talking with Senator Joe Biden.  When are you going to send Bolton over to the U.N.?

BIDEN:  I don’t think we will.  I’ll tell you what, I think the opposition is hardening.  You’ve got a couple Republicans already against him.  I’m told that by speaking to a lead Republican, Voinovich, that he is working very hard to change the mind of people. 

Look, this isn’t about Bolton, you know, not being a nice guy.  I know a lot of guys aren’t nice and they’re relatively effective.  This is a guy who, in my view, has manipulated the intelligence stuff, the very stuff you talk about. 

Look, let me give you one example.  Right at the time after we went into Iraq, remember all the talk in the next year, 2003 -- I mean ‘04, about whether or not we were going to go into Iran?  Excuse me, not Iran.  Syria?  Are we going into Syria next?

IMUS:  Yes.  Well, I was talking about Iran, too. 

BIDEN:  You were, but Syria—Syria was right there in the griddle.  And here’s a guy about to make a speech that is going to say things about the weapons of mass destruction program that Syria didn’t have, that the No. 2 guy at the State Department, and the head of the CIA, says, “You can’t say those things, because they’re not true.  We cannot sustain them.” 

And he goes ahead and tries to manipulate that intelligence.  They shut him down, and don’t let him make a speech.  They don’t let him make a speech for two and a half months, until he gets his act straight.

And this is a guy in the meantime who tries to get the intelligence agents, who are the ones telling him, “Hey, boss, you can’t say that,” he tries to get them fired when they disagree with him.  And then on top of that, not just one, but two and more people tried. 

And this is a guy we’re going to send to the U.N. who may have to stand up in the next month, three months, six months or year and say, “By the way, North Korea has the following weapons system,” or “Iraq is about to do this”?  Who the hell is going to believe him?

This is a gigantic mistake.  This is a payoff to the far right for a guy who is a very smart, very, very partisan, which is OK, but very, very tough guy who is the darling of the right wing neoconservative guys, and they’ve got to find a place for him. 

And by the way, here, the secretary of state says to me and to others, “Don’t worry, we’ll control him.”  Great.  That’s like having somebody to manage your ranch, saying, “Don’t worry, I know he’s been—he’s not treated children well, but we’ll control him.” 

IMUS:  You know, I did have somebody tell me—could have been senator Kerry, we were talking about Howard Dean. 

BIDEN:  Yes. 

IMUS:  And he said, “Well, he’s not going to be the spokesman for the Democratic Party.”

And I said, “Has anybody told Howard Dean that?”

So my question for you, you’re thinking about running for the presidency.  How’s Howard Dean working for you?

BIDEN:  Well, look, Howard—here’s never been a Democratic chairman that set policy.  I think Howard Dean is doing a pretty good job, but the part I don’t—I was asked a question when he said, you know, Republicans never worked a day in their life, et cetera.  I’d have trouble telling my deceased father-in-law that.

And he said, “Do you agree with that?”

I said, “Look, he doesn’t speak for me on that.  And I don’t think he speaks for a majority of the Democrats.”

A lot of the things he does say, I agree with.  But you know, he has a style that’s a different style than mine, and he has views that are slightly different than mine.  Only slightly.  He’s basically right on the stuff.

But look, he’s a lightning rod, and the other side of it is, you know, it’s probably good that there’s a guy out there that’s this kind of lightning rod, making the point in the extreme.

But the Democratic chairman does not speak for me, an elected United States senator.  No party official speaks for me any time, any place, under any circumstances.  It could have been, you know, one of the great chairman.  They still don’t speak for me.  And that’s the point I was making.  And I don’t agree.  I think the rhetoric is counterproductive.  I think...

IMUS:  One of the great—one of the great chairmen as opposed to Governor Dean, apparently, is not?  Right, Senator Biden?  Is what you’re saying?

BIDEN:  Exactly. 

IMUS:  That is what you’re saying, isn’t it, Senator?

BIDEN:  I am.  Look...

IMUS:  You’re saying he’s a nut, aren’t you?

BIDEN:  There’s enough of these guys that are like, you know, McCain, me, Hagel, a lot of other guys.  Look, I think this country has a purple heart.  I don’t think it’s red, I don’t think it’s blue.  I think people really are not as far apart as our rhetoric makes them, and if we can’t—if we can’t bring this together, man, we’re in deep trouble. 

IMUS:  We’ve got about a minute here.  You called for—you mentioned Tom Friedman at the beginning of our conversation.

BIDEN:  Yes.

IMUS:  And you want to close Guantanamo Bay?

BIDEN:  No.  That’s not what I said.  What I said was...

IMUS:  What did you say?

BIDEN:  ... I introduced a bill back in January saying we should have an independent commission deciding what the hell to do with it.  And we should take those folks who are the bad guys that we should keep together and move them and keep them forever.

And the rest of them, we should, if we don’t have anything on them, we should let them go and we should move on.  I don’t think we should—there’s guys down there I wouldn’t let out on a bet. 

But the flip side of that is, there’s a whole hell of a lot of them there.  We have no good reason for keeping them, and we should find out.  Bring them up.  Make the case.  Move on. 

I mean, this is not—this is a giant recruiting tool.  I mean, it really is a recruiting tool. 

You saw what happened in Pakistan when they said somebody did what one of your guys want to do in the limousine, right?

IMUS:  That will be fine, senator. 

BIDEN:  Urinate on a—the allegation, urinate on a—on their holy book.  And what happened?  You put several hundred thousand people in the street of Pakistan.  Anybody who thinks there’s not a connection doesn’t—has never traveled the world. 

So let get on with it.  Figure it out.  Set up a commission.  Make a decision what the hell to do with them.  Do it and move on. 

IMUS:  Did I see you the other night—I saw you with Chris Matthews.  I kind of like him, don’t you?

BIDEN:  Yes, I like Chris. 

IMUS:  Were you in Syracuse.

BIDEN:  Yes, I was up in Syracuse, yes. 

IMUS:  You won something, right?

BIDEN:  Yes, I got this big award, the chancellor’s award.  I guess they were looking for—you know, they gave it to Ted Koppel.  They gave it to a guy who’s the tech guy at IBM, and they gave it to a woman who was the No. 2 person at G.E.  And then I guess they had to find somebody else, so they grabbed me. 

IMUS:  Kind of like the award I got from Gold’s Gym the other day. 

BIDEN:  I’ll tell you what, I’d like an award from Gold’s Gym.  My wife would like me a lot better. 

IMUS:  Always nice to talk to you, Senator.  Thank you.

BIDEN:  Good talking to you.  Thanks an awful lot. 

IMUS:  Thank you very much.  Senator Joe Biden here on the IMUS IN THE MORNING program.  It’s coming up on nine minutes until the hour. 


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