Delaware Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. joins us for the Hardball College tour at the University of Delaware, on January 15th.
AS THE OUTGOING chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Biden is the Democratic party’s chief spokesman on national security and foreign policy issues.
Biden recently spoke out against North Korea, calling it a “greater danger immediately to U.S. interests at this very moment than Saddam Hussein is.”
Join us for the Hardball College Tour as Chris and Sen. Biden are going to
discuss the war on terror, the war with Iraq, Bush’s motives, and America’s next move overseas. Is America slouching towards Empire?
Plus, as Bush gears up for re-election, what’s it going to take to bring “regime change” to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave? And is Biden interested in the job?
The Hardball College tour airs live on January 15, 9 p.m. ET from the University of Delaware, at Mitchell Hall. It’s open to the public. Seating is on a first come first served basis.
Biden’s Senate Homepage
Official MSNBC Release
Biden on the issues
University of Delaware homepage
University of Delaware press release
To get news on the Hardball College tour delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Hardball Briefing. Click here to subscribe.
READ A TRANSCRIPT OF THE SHOW
Guest: Joe Biden
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: I’m Chris Matthews live from the University of Delaware. Tonight for a full hour, one of the youngest men ever elected to the United States Senate, now described as a party elder. Will he run for president in the year 2004? Joe Biden of Delaware, let’s play HARDBALL.
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), FOREIGN RELATIONS CMTE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Good to see you.
BIDEN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Take it easy on me now, OK.
MATTHEWS: Joe Biden. I can’t resist. I can’t resist. I’ve got to ask you the first question, I’m overwhelmed by this question. You look like you’re running for president. Are you?
MATTHEWS: Your mother is here.
BIDEN: You’ve got to ask my mom. No, look, I’m considering it. And I’m not being smart with you. Look, there’s-people tell me that the timetable I’m on to make a decision will mean I probably couldn’t get the nomination, but I got to do first things first, Chris.
We’re about to go into a war possibly. I’m a ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. The moment that I would announce for president, my ability to influence events in this administration would end, but I believe it’s possible still to do it. I would-I’ll make that decision. It’ll be a late announcement if I did it, and maybe by the time I think I am-can do my duty and run, it may be too late.
MATTHEWS: Is Bush beatable?
BIDEN: Oh clearly he’s...
MATTHEWS: Because the economy is so bad and because his numbers are down?
BIDEN: Because the economy is so bad and-but beyond that, I think the real hard part is coming now, Chris. It’s one thing to go in, if we do, and take out Saddam, another thing to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Look at Afghanistan. So I think-but he’ll be very tough. He’s a very, very strong guy. He has a very experienced, tough team around him, and so he’d be very tough. It wouldn’t be an easy race.
MATTHEWS: But you could beat him?
BIDEN: Well I don’t know about that.
MATTHEWS: Who could?
BIDEN: I think of the...
MATTHEWS: Can Kerry beat him?
BIDEN: I think so. I think Kerry is the strongest candidate in the field...
MATTHEWS: Best candidate?
BIDEN: ... we have. I think he’s the best candidate right now, and maybe totally, but you know you got a guy, as one friend of mine said, you got John Edwards, he’s a four-foot vertical jump, you know and...
BIDEN: ... you know he may be able to step up to this. You got...
MATTHEWS: But you don’t think so, do you?
BIDEN: No, no, no, no, no...
BIDEN: No, no...
MATTHEWS: ... put off this...
BIDEN: All kidding aside, he’s the single best natural candidate ever seen.
BIDEN: And there’s a lot of really serious people. It’s a serious crowd, but they’re not going to get much respect because of the nature of this game for the next five months. There’s no bar to jump.
BIDEN: There’s nothing to do and so is all the focus...
MATTHEWS: Tonight here at the University of Delaware, your home state, I want to ask you some tough questions, OK?
MATTHEWS: I don’t know if there’s a hotter issue than affirmative action in this country. Should race be used as a basis for letting kids into college or law school, or should we be race blind? What’s your answer?
MATTHEWS: Race blind?
BIDEN: No. Yes, it should be used, and the reason I say that is unless we’re going to eliminate it all-all incentives-like, for example, in the case in Michigan everybody is talking about now. You know you get four points if you’re a legacy. You get 20 points if you’re economically disadvantaged. You get 20 points if, in fact, the provost likes you. Give me a break. I mean how many people would get into Harvard, Yale, and the rest of these places if their father had not gone...
MATTHEWS: But why should race be one of the factors?
MATTHEWS: It has nothing to do with intellect or anything else. Why should you have an advantage of being black and trying to get into a school over a white candidate, for example...
MATTHEWS: ... or an Asian candidate?
BIDEN: For the same reason if you conclude that being economically disadvantaged is a characteristic of whether you-what you consider. Look, I’m all for...
MATTHEWS: Why is race a disadvantage in itself? If you’re-suppose your father is a doctor or a lawyer or professor here, why should the kid who’s the son of a professor or a daughter of a professor have any break over a working class white kid?
BIDEN: They shouldn’t and...
MATTHEWS: But Michigan gives...
MATTHEWS: ... an automatic 20 points for being black.
BIDEN: No, no, that’s not what I understand. If you read what they said, I actually went and got the admissions sheet, it doesn’t say that. It doesn’t say that.
MATTHEWS: It says you get 20 points for being black.
BIDEN: No, it said you can get up to 20 points and it says not only for being black, for being a minority, any minority, and being economically disadvantaged as well. So look, I mean I love these folks who tell me that — I was-not long ago-it was during the Clarence Thomas hearing and the guy said to me, you know, Biden, you know I went to Yale and I got there, and he was from Alaska...
BIDEN: ... Alaska. And I said, you’re the guy that took my spot.
BIDEN: He said what do you mean? I said I bet your daddy went to Yale. He said well yes, what difference does that make? And then the next question he said to me, he said to me, I said you’re from Alaska, I’m from Delaware. Guess what? You get an automatic preference if you’re from Alaska.
BIDEN: If you want to do away with preferences, Chris, do away with all of them.
MATTHEWS: How about the kids sitting next to each other, there’s a black kid sitting next to a white kid and one’s got a “B”, the other one’s got an “A”. The kid with the “B” gets in because he’s black, and the kid with the “A” says what, or what do you say to that kid...
BIDEN: I say to that kid look at the kid on your left. The kid on your left was from Alaska. The kid on your left...
MATTHEWS: Is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) believe you?
BIDEN: No, it’s true.
MATTHEWS: He’s not going to be believe you.
BIDEN: Sure, these kids know the...
MATTHEWS: OK let’s...
BIDEN: ... law and the way it works.
MATTHEWS: What do they know?
BIDEN: These kids know a lot...
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you this. It’s a hot question, it’s not an easy answer. How many in this room think that race should be an advantage, you should get an extra 20 points or whatever being black when you apply to law school or undergrad? How many think you should get an advantage for being black? Applaud.
MATTHEWS: How many think that we should be race blind in applications and acceptances?
BIDEN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) let me ask you this. How many think if your daddy went to this school you should have an advantage? Guess what, you do if your daddy went to this school.
MATTHEWS: Even in a state university like this?
BIDEN: Even in a state university like this and every university. How many of you think if you lived in a rural community as opposed to New York City, you should have an advantage? Raise your hand. Give me a break. How many of you-how many of you think if you’re a better athlete, not a star, the better athlete than the guy next to you is a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) of a lot smarter than you should get into this school? Raise your hand. So come on, come on, I’m not saying that race should be determinate. It should not be determinate. It should not be...
MATTHEWS: This young man, join in here, what do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Due to the most recent controversy remarks by Senator Trent Lott along with President Bush’s speech earlier today about how the University of Michigan’s admissions programs is unconstitutional, do you believe that Congress, including yourself, and even the president, will be more inclined to vote in favor of affirmative action?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not?
BIDEN: Because I don’t think it’s going to have that kind of impact. I think people have made up their mind on affirmative action. The key is they’re defining what affirmative action means. Affirmative action means, in my view, going out and finding qualified people who are minorities who otherwise would qualify in every respect-every respect to be able to get into that university.
Let me give you an example. I spoke to the dean of Yale Law School. There’s something like 7,000 people apply. How many of you think of those 7,000 people that apply, that none of them are able to-that all of them are able to do the work? He said, every one of them that apply, so it gets very subjective. It gets very subjective who they pick out of 150 people.
The same thing for all universities. Look, the fact of the matter is,
it should not-there should be no quotas. It should not be in and of
itself dispositive, but if you’re going to use these other things, which,
by the way, in your almost exclusively to the benefit...
BIDEN: ... of white boys, then, in fact, it should...
BIDEN: ... be the same way...
MATTHEWS: Do you believe diversity is a value in itself?
MATTHEWS: Diversity is a value in itself.
BIDEN: And by-I believe diversity is a value in itself, and you know why they bring the kid from Alaska into University of Michigan before they bring the kid from Delaware in? Not for the kid from Alaska, but for the kid from Michigan and Delaware, so they’re exposed to people who are all over...
MATTHEWS: Right. I understand...
BIDEN: ... represent...
MATTHEWS: That is the argument the Ivy Leagues use to limit the number of Jews they let in. That’s the same exact argument. We don’t want them because all the kids with the top scores are Jewish, we’re going to make sure that the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) get in here, even if the kids have lower scores. So they say we have a limited number of Jewish slots and then we let the WASPs (ph) and the Catholics in.
MATTHEWS: Was that OK for diversity purposes? Too many Jews, that’s a quota argument.
BIDEN: But that’s not what they did. They absolutely limited the number of Jews...
BIDEN: It was wrong...
MATTHEWS: But why did they do it?
BIDEN: ... flat wrong.
MATTHEWS: They would argue diversity.
BIDEN: Because they were anti-Semites.
MATTHEWS: You think that was it?
BIDEN: That’s why they did it.
MATTHEWS: And in this case the motive is the key. It not-quotas are OK if the motive is right.
BIDEN: Quota is never OK. We’re not talking...
MATTHEWS: University of Michigan has a target of eight percent to try to get the kids into law school based on race.
BIDEN: It is not a quota, though.
MATTHEWS: It’s a target...
BIDEN: They did not...
MATTHEWS: ... and they achieve it by playing around with the factors.
BIDEN: No, you know how they achieve it? They achieve it by coming to this university and finding that brilliant young woman about to ask a question and say come to Michigan. All...
MATTHEWS: They didn’t do it that way, because they said...
MATTHEWS: ... they only did it that way it wouldn’t work. They said is the only way they could work it is to jiggle the factors and give 20 points to black applicants. It was the only-that’s their argument before the court. They have to give the numbers.
BIDEN: ... I’m saying-if I were arguing that case, I’d say fine, then don’t give any advantage for being economically disadvantaged, don’t give any advantage for being from a rural area, don’t give any advantage if your father went to the school. Fair is fair.
MATTHEWS: OK, let’s go to-next question, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to ask you, Senator, do you think that race will ever be eliminated from the college admissions process?
BIDEN: I don’t think race will ever be eliminated. I don’t think that legacies will ever be eliminated. I don’t think that geography will ever be eliminated.
MATTHEWS: Why would you keep race and perpetuity if you corrected the abuses of the past? Wouldn’t you say at some point say we’ve reached the point where everybody is judged entirely...
BIDEN: I would...
MATTHEWS: ... on the character-the content of their character and not the color of their skin as Martin Luther King argued for in ’63?
BIDEN: Absolutely would...
MATTHEWS: When will that come?
BIDEN: I don’t think it’s going to come as long as this administration is around or people think like they do.
MATTHEWS: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Miss, do you think we should reach a point when we do?
MATTHEWS: Do you think there is a point-an historic point where we should stop considering officially race as a factor in admissions...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I disagree. I think it is an important factor...
MATTHEWS: ... forever?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... in the admissions process.
BIDEN: Well it may not be...
MATTHEWS: Why-let me ask her why.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because the level field-the playing field isn’t leveled when it comes to different races. Different people have different access to educational resources and...
MATTHEWS: What about...
MATTHEWS: What about the African American kid who does have equal access, who have the advantages of perhaps a prep school education even...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He’s a minority.
MATTHEWS: Should that person get an automatic 20 points for being black?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If-yes I do think so...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... because we can’t weed out students like that who-this one black student who goes to a prep school.
MATTHEWS: Well it’s easy to just say what school did you go to? You went to public school 26 of (ph) Manhattan or you went to St. Paul’s. It’s pretty hard to figure one kid had an advantage, the other kid didn’t. That’s not hard.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can’t do that with the whole African American race. The college admissions process is not that easy to weed out students like that. You can’t do it like that. You have to do all or none. I just-that’s how I feel.
MATTHEWS: So you don’t think economic disadvantage should be issue, just race?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I think that is an issue also. I think...
MATTHEWS: What about economic advantage? Should that be an issue?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MATTHEWS: Well in other words, a black kid with economic advantage should have three points taken off for the 20 put on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well...
MATTHEWS: Let’s go to the-let’s go to a hotter issue here. Are you finished? I’m sorry. Do you want to say some more?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No that was my question.
MATTHEWS: You’re great. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: I hear from both sides. We haven’t had anybody with the guts to come out against affirmative action yet here. Anybody want to do that? Anybody want to make the case against affirmative action so we have — because I noticed the applause was tree to one, yet nobody’s talking. Come on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, well, first of all, hello, Mr. Senator.
BIDEN: How you doing (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I just-I was just going to ask you about Joe Lieberman because I hear that he’s come out a couple of times against affirmative action and whether that will cause a problem within the Democratic Party if he’s nominated.
BIDEN: No, the Democrats are as divided as everybody else is on this and-they are. I mean, you know, this is a very, very difficult issue. And, you know, I can get you all excited about this. If you give me a few moment, I can get you hating everybody who’s wealthy because they took your spot at Harvard, you know, if you want.
You know, this is easy to demagogue. This is easy to demagogue. It just seems to me to be a basic simple premise here, and that is that if, in fact, you want the opportunity for people to go to universities that don’t represent only one strata, for example, in the early-in the late 1980’s, Stanford University, they accepted students...
BIDEN: ... just based upon their SATs and their placing class, they’d all be Asian American.
MATTHEWS: Well-I went to a high school where they give 10 scholarships a year-one to a black kid on purpose-the white kid who was next in line, his parents complained. What would you say to that kid’s parents? You didn’t get it because the black kid gets it...
MATTHEWS: ... black kid gets an automatic scholarship here. That’s the way it works. What do you say to that parent?
BIDEN: Well, by the say, what I say to the parent is the same thing that happened to me. You know I come from the same kind of background I think you do. You know, it turns out that there are certain advantages and disadvantages of being wealthy and being poor and being in between. Look, the idea of this is to try to figure out some equitable way to bring everybody along-to bring everybody along.
And for example, if we’re all so hot about the few times at a white student might get bumped, otherwise being equal with a black student, then how outraged are you about the study just done by MIT, and I forget the other major university, that said-they did this study and they showed that if they picked up the phone and they sent out 5,000 resumes, and if they put on the resume the first name Rashid (ph) or Tabika (ph)...
BIDEN: ... as opposed to James...
BIDEN: ... what happens? The Rashids (ph) didn’t get a response.
The Johns and the Georges and the Brians got responses.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, let’s come back and talk about something even hotter than war.
BIDEN: Let’s solve that problem.
MATTHEWS: And who’s going to fight this war? The poor black kids or the kids sitting here? We’re going to come back and talk about that when we come back on HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Coming up, Senator Joe Biden on the conflicts of North Korea and in Iraq. Has President Bush made the world a more dangerous place? Back in a moment with the HARDBALL “College Tour”.
MATTHEWS: OK we’re back. Let’s go back to the University of Delaware and we’re talking about affirmative action. It’s an even hotter issue in America today. Everybody here is a free American with a choice to make. I want to ask you right now, how many people in this room, and make your voices heard, support a war with Iraq now?
MATTHEWS: I want every one of you who supported the war in that applause to tell me how many of you by standing up are going to participate in this war.
MATTHEWS: Applaud now-applaud if you’re participating in the war.
Applaud if you’re participating in the war.
MATTHEWS: OK, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.
OK, you guys are ROTC?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: National Guard.
MATTHEWS: National Guard. OK, thank you very much. My point being, Senator, that these so-called opinion polls that ask people if they support this war don’t mean crap, because it doesn’t ask people to do anything. They just say, oh, sure, I’m being for a war. Who’s fighting the war, by the way?
Doesn’t it bother you that the college kids in this country, unlike our generation, have to-they don’t have to deal with this war? It’s just a thought. It’s a video game to a lot of people in this room and to us. It’s just a war as an idea.
Do you think we should have some sort of mandatory national service as Charlie Rangel has supported, the congressman from New York and as Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina, suggested on our show last night? Some kind of requirement that if we’re going to have a war, everybody participates.
BIDEN: The answer is no, and let me explain why no. We have a volunteer army that is essentially reflective of the population right now. It is. Let’s get this straight. Let’s get the numbers straight. The numbers are that roughly 10-12 percent of the population is African American, and about the same is Hispanic or Latino. In the United States military, it’s about nine percent Hispanic and about 17 percent African American. Roughly one-quarter of the United States military is Latino or African American. Roughly one-quarter of the...
MATTHEWS: How many who are white?
BIDEN: Probably a whole (EXPLETIVE DELETED) of a lot.
BIDEN: Probably-but by the way, as I go all around, and I’ve been in Afghanistan and I’ve been in Kuwait, I’ve been in-excuse me, I’ve been to Afghanistan, Bosnia, I recently was in northern Iraq. Everywhere I go, black, white, or otherwise, these kids have joined in large part because they really think they’re doing something important.
They really think they’re doing something important. They have not joined, in my view, because of purely economic alternatives being unavailable to them. Now, if this economy keeps tanking like it is, if this economy keeps going downhill like it is, we may not give many alternatives to people who are getting out of high school.
MATTHEWS: Does it bother you, Senator, that half the people in this country according to “The Philadelphia Inquirer”, front page this Sunday in a big poll they did for Knight/Ridder, that half the people in this country are wrong about the facts. They believe that Iraqi nationals, Iraqi citizens, were among the suicide bombers on September 11 of 2001, a fundamental mistake. They think Iraq attacked us, and there’s no evidence they did. Doesn’t it bother you, that kind...
BIDEN: It does bother me a great deal...
MATTHEWS: ... lack of information?
BIDEN: You and I have talked about this before. I had a long conversation with the president of the United States in the presence of about 12 of my colleagues. He made a personal commitment to me that if he was going to go in Iraq, he would do what has not been done yet, and that is go on national television and tell the American people what was going to be asked of them.
BIDEN: Tell them the facts. He has not...
BIDEN: ... done that yet.
MATTHEWS: Let’s come back and talk about that. Senator Joe Biden says the president has to explain this war. Unfortunately, the more people know the less they’re for it. We’ll be right back with HARDBALL.
MATTHEWS: Senator Biden, a big question, a lot of people, and you know more than I know, you know a lot and you probably can’t tell us, but it looks like we might be going to war next month, that’s February, late in the month. What evidence do you need to see from the president that will say to you as the representative of this state, we’ve got to go to war.
BIDEN: I’ve seen the evidence the president has. What I think we have to do is make sure that we go to war, if we go to war, with the support of the United Nations and the reason for that is not that we’d need them to win the war, but we need them for the decade after the war. Most people don’t realize this is going to cost us tens of billions of dollars.
Mark my words; we’re going to have somewhere between 75 and 100,000 American forces in Iraq for a minimum of three to five years. Initially the president said, no, that won’t be it. Now his military is saying at least 18 months. People-look, the thing-one thing I learned from-when I was here at the university during the Vietnam era is that no matter how well formulated the foreign policy, it cannot be sustained without the informed consent of the American people.
BIDEN: The American people don’t have the information yet.
MATTHEWS: Senator Joe Biden. Back with him to talk about the presidency. Back in a moment after this at the University of Delaware.
MATTHEWS: This half hour on the HARDBALL “College Tour,” Senator Joe Biden rates the Democratic candidates for president. Can any of them beat George Bush? Back in a moment from the University of Delaware, but first, the news.
MATTHEWS: We’re back. I don’t think Trent Lott could have jumped that high.
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D) DELAWARE: Both ways.
MATTHEWS: At Ole Miss. We’re going to go down there some day with me and have him answer some of these questions.
BIDEN: This is a great place to be. Let’s get to a couple of questions because this is a serious time and it is a democracy in our country. Senator Biden represents the state but you folks are all voters as students. Everybody votes here?
MATTHEWS: I’ll put the question to you and then I’ll put it to the senator. Two simple questions. Do you think there is enough evidence now that the president has presented to the country to go to war with Iraq? Applaud if you think so.
MATTHEWS: Applaud if you don’t think so.
MATTHEWS: All right. I think the nays have it. Let me ask you about the bigger question, which is something that the senator I will now ask him about, is the United Nations because he brought that. Should this be a multilateral action endorsed by the United Nations if we go to Iraq or can it be-first question, should the United States go it alone? How many want us to go as part of an international organization?
MATTHEWS: The commander in chief thanks to the votes of many Democratic senators and Republicans, including yours, has the authority to decide this without your approval. He can simply sign the provisions of the resolution passed by the United States Senate last fall that he can take any actions which protects U.S. security vis-a-vis Iraq. Can he, do you believe politically, make this move without the support of the United Nations? Can he go it alone?
BIDEN: He can, but he shouldn’t.
MATTHEWS: Does he know that?
BIDEN: I think he does because, remember, — do you remember-I literally remember talking about this on your show. Everybody was saying we’re going to go to war last summer. Because remember Rumsfeld said we would not go to the United Nations. We would not go to Congress. That is when I held all those hearings, remember, and remember the polling data started to change and then Dick Lugar.
And I were beginning to work very closely with the president, trying to make the case that Paul was making to him. The president has made the right decisions, although sometimes belatedly, to do it the right way, and that is under international consensus. That’s a wise way to go and not because we couldn’t do it by ourselves, but because after the fact, we do not want to inherit the wind.
I just came from northern Iraq. I’m one of only two United States senators, Congress or anybody, who has ever been up there. Let me tell you something. This is going to be like putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. There is a town called Mosel (ph) where all the oil is. Guess what? They’ve been trying to Arabize it, kicking all the Kurds out for the last 20 years. Guess what? The Kurds want back. This is going to make (UNINTELLIGIBLE) look like a picnic. I don’t want us inheriting all that ourselves.
But Saddam Hussein, if we leave him unfettered, leave him unfettered for another five years, he will with that billion, $200 billion a year, have a nuclear capacity. This is a guy, remember now, this is a guy who started a war of aggression. He got beat after crossing the border and doing damage to another independent country.
The condition for him staying in power, the treaty in effect he signed with the whole world was he would get rid of his nuclear weapons. Now what do you say in the future if, in fact, we, the world, do not enforce that? What do you and I say? It’s just like you sign a peace agreement. You clearly violate it. The whole world knows it and you are doing bad things. Now, what’s the deal here? The deal is this is the world’s problem. We should be smart enough to keep it the world’s problem. And if we keep it the world’s problem, we’ll get this done the right way.
MATTHEWS: Senator, if you were-you have been around the world as chairman-you have been the leader of the Democrats. You’re the top Democrat in foreign affairs in the whole country right now. If you were sitting in an Arab cafe-I often imagine this question. You are sitting with a 25-year-old guy or woman, a well educated Cairo kid who is pro-American because he wants to get ahead in the world. He’d like to come over here if he hasn’t already and you are sitting, having a cup of coffee with this guy and he says to you, I know what you are up to. This has nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. You got a bunch of ideologues around the president, a lot of guys like Paul Wolfowitz whose real goal here is to encircle the Palestinians, grab Iraq.
And you’ve already got Afghanistan, and you build up and restructure the middle east and this is really about mideast politics. It is about power and you guys are colonialists. You want to help out Israel. You want to grab back the power the west lost years ago in the middle east. I don’t want you colonizing Afghanistan. I don’t want you colonizing Iraq. I don’t like the fact you’re always on Israel’s side. What do you say to that guy. He’s an Arab? He’s up for grabs. What do you say to him?
BIDEN: What I say to that guy is you are right about some people in the administration. But the president’s heart and mind is up for grabs here. This is the most divided administration of seven presidents I have served with. The ideological divide between Powell at the State Department and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Pearl in the background...
MATTHEWS: You jumped in on Powell’s side and got him involved in bringing this into the United Nations. The hawks around the president, Rumsfeld didn’t want to go to the U.N.
BIDEN: Absolutely right.
MATTHEWS: Tell me if you can keep that up. Can you keep the pressure on the president to stick with Powell and not with the hawks?
BIDEN: Well, I don’t know I’d call it pressure. I hope I can keep the persuasion up. For the president, at the end of the day, even though he uses all this sort of hard edge, right-wing rhetoric, which uses up a lot of capital worldwide, he’s ended up making the right decision before he pulled the trigger. Remember, he wasn’t going to go to Afghanistan, He was going to go straight to Iraq.
Remember those plans. He in fact listened. He listened. And so I believe that is it is important that I — I get in trouble with Democrats because I weigh in with the administration, one part of the administration to try to convince the president of a point of view that is not only shared by me, but by the Dick Lugars of the world, Senator Lugar of Indiana and Mr. Powell, Mr. Hagel and so I just think that I have an obligation, an obligation to push as hard as I can to keep us in that track.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he’s got a little bit of problem with control of his own operation? The president gives speeches about the axis of evil. He calls, he goes over and calls the North Korean president a pygmy. He says, I’m sick and tired-a lot of this lingo is driven to him it seems to me. Would you have ever given an axis of evil speech naming all these countries we hate?
BIDEN: I would hope I wouldn’t. The reason I wouldn’t. Look, believe me, I’ve made some serious mistakes. Let me explain what I mean by...
MATTHEWS: You never started a war.
BIDEN: That’s right. Thank God. Well, actually, if you read in some of these books, I am credited or blamed for starting the war in Bosnia for pushing so hard on the president to go to war and use force in Bosnia as well as in Kosovo.
MATTHEWS: Well, that was raging when you got there.
BIDEN: Well, that’s true. But here’s the deal. It seems to me that the president of the United States-foreign policy is new to him. I’m not being wise guy. Look, we have been there a long time. Four presidents have been governors. They all do the same thing, Chris. They bring in one from the left and one from the right because they don’t know what they think and they assume if they argue it out, they’ll figure it out. He is in the process of working his way through this process.
And I know nobody believes that. Nobody believes it in my caucus. No one believes it in my caucus when I make the case to Democratic senators, look, let’s weigh in and try to persuade him to move the direction that half his administration wants him to move. And look the bottom line of all this is that it is a very serious mistake. Let me put it this way-
Helmut Schmidt back when Jimmy Carter was president, he wouldn’t speak to Carter and remember Helmut Schmidt, chancellor of Germany.
So he sent me over to talk to him. For some reason he liked him. And I was sitting at this little conference table, no bigger than four chairs and he’s a chain smoker. He pounded the table and said, Joe, you just don’t understand. Every time America sneezes, Europe catches a cold. I think presidents have to understand words matter. They matter.
MATTHEWS: Let’s bring in the next call (ph). Thank you. Let’s hear from this young man.
STUDENT: I turn 18 a week from today.
MATTHEWS: Are you a Democrat or Republican?
BIDEN: I’m leaving.
STUDENT: That’s what my dad says. I was wondering if you’re going to support reinstating the draft?
BIDEN: No. Not now. I may-I may, by the way, if, in fact, we end up so extended, which this-if they listen to the Rumsfelds of the world, we may get so overextended around the world that a volunteer army cannot do this. I am not opposed to-back in the late 1980’s with Sam Nunn introduced a bill that you all won’t like, but I want to remind you of it and that is for national service.
You got to choose between going into the military, doing domestic work or doing foreign work in like the Peace Corps because I thought every American should be obliged to participate. You know what? This generation is ready to participate. You are the most volunteering generation in the world in our history. You are the next-you’re going to be the greatest generation. And the reason I say that-I ‘m not joking.
MATTHEWS: No, ours was the greatest generation.
BIDEN: No, it wasn’t. These kids are...
MATTHEWS: We had the 1960’s. Come on. You can’t beat them.
BIDEN: They are smarter...
BIDEN: These kids are smarter, they’re smarter than we were. And they know more than we knew. And the bottom line for all this is, folks, hey, look, you all-we have a missed opportunity. After 9/11, the president of the United States spent the...
MATTHEWS: We’re coming back with more. More questions and more endorsements. Senator Joe Biden will endorse one of the candidates for president when we return. More HARDBALL coming up.
MATTHEWS: OK. I know if I were Tim Russet tonight, I would bring up the Buffalo Bills, but they are not in the playoffs, Tim. Who is in the playoffs this Sunday at 3:00 in the afternoon?
ALL: The Eagles.
MATTHEWS: The Eagles. Go, Philadelphia Eagles.
MATTHEWS: No, you’re just teasing. You’re just teasing. Let me ask you about this. You know what my producer keeps asking me in the ear for the last ¾ of an hour? This guy is dynamite. This guy should run for president. He’s got moxy, charisma, all the good stuff.
MATTHEWS: Why-why-why is he not running and these other guys are?
BIDEN: The other guys are good.
MATTHEWS: Oh, come on.
BIDEN: No, they are. Look, look, you asked..
MATTHEWS: You have the charisma of Bob Graham?
BIDEN: I hope.
MATTHEWS: Do you have the knowledge base of John Edwards?
BIDEN: Hey, look...
MATTHEWS: Do you have the charm and charisma and oratoric ability of John Kerry? You have all these ingredients. Do you not have the bug and why not?
BIDEN: I don’t have the bug, and I mean it sincerely. I don’t have the ambition that I had when I was younger to be president. I’m 60 years old. But I do think that I am at the top of my game in terms of what I can offer. I-my sincere hope is one of these guys catch fire and that somebody-I mean it sincerely, that somebody is able to articulate why, why the problem with this president is he has too narrow a definition of national security.
Why the problem of this president is they are unable to connect the dots between security, economic security, political security, and security in my living room. We’re not far from Three Mile Island over here. We’re talking about a tax cut up to ¾ of $1 billion and we haven’t provided the money to make sure that every single nuclear power plant in the nation is protected. I think this is a misplaced...
MATTHEWS: From terrorism.
BIDEN: From terrorism. From terrorism. And so the definition of national security is not just physically abroad. It’s your living room and it’s your paycheck. And no one has articulated that yet. I am hopeful that the Democrats are going to be able to do that and be very blunt with you. If, in fact, no one does and if I think my message is one that could in fact, catch with the Democrats for the nomination and be credible, then I may very well do it in October.
MATTHEWS: If I were moderating the debate...
MATTHEWS: If this were, and it will happen. There will be a presidential debate next summer and next fall. It will happen. There will be a Democrat sitting a few feet away from the president of the United States and if it is Joe Biden of Delaware, and I ask you this question, if I’m the moderator-I probably won’t be-but if I ask you...
BIDEN: I probably won’t be there either.
MATTHEWS: I know, but I’ll ask you this question now as the prelude to the biggest national question we have next year, who should lead us, why should you lead us rather than George W. Bush? Senator Biden.
BIDEN: Let me tell you, I’m not sure why I should lead you, but why the Democrats should lead. This party that is in place now really has not asked-it has not set priorities in the way that ask all of you what should be expected of you. This is the first time we’ve ever gone into a war or been in a war circumstance where we were cutting taxes. This is the first time-forget whose taxes we are cutting. Forget the equity. This is the first time we talk about this horrible, horrible threat of terrorism and yet we have under spent by $20 billion.
We haven’t built the tunnels that go all through the railroads here where there are more people in New York City, 360,000 in those tunnels every single day, more at any one moment than in five 5747’s, no ventilation, no exit, no lighting, no nothing. Perfect targets. We have not done what we should be doing to protect you. And what are we doing in the meantime? We’re engaged in this thing that’s almost to me-forget the merits of whether or not it’s fair or unfair-this sort of neverland. Who pays for this? Where’s the sacrifice?
MATTHEWS: You mean the tax cut.
BIDEN: The tax cut.
MATTHEWS: While the Republicans are cutting taxes, your party the Democrats, all six of the top running nominees, all the big names you mentioned are trooping before NARAL next Tuesday night to swear who are the biggest guys on abortion rights. Why is the Democratic party become the abortion rights party. Why aren’t they talking about national security and issues that unite us all instead of finding these partisan, social issues that divide us? Why are they all trooping before NARAL?
BIDEN: You’re asking the wrong guy. You’re asking the wrong guy. If you recall, when I was foolish enough to try this a long time ago as a young man, I didn’t make those troop trips. Not just NARAL, but anywhere like this. Look, folks, this-these are big, big, big decisions we’re going to make. Gigantic. Not like any other time since the end of World War II.
If we get this wrong over the next couple years, you’re going to inherit this for the next two decades. And these-there’s answers here. We should be, in fact, dealing with these problems straight up with the American people. The president of the United States should be standing up and saying, look, we-that tax cut we already passed, I want you to have it, but first thing we have to do would delay the last three years of the tax cut at the top.
We’re going to go out and spend the $20 billion. We’re not going to cut the cops program. We’re not going to undercut or under fund security in our highways. We’re not going to fail to protect what we’re not protecting now, all these vulnerable places. We are going to spend more money on finding that vaccine for botulism. We’re going to find-these are the things we should be doing. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure this out. Why don’t we straight tell the American people the truth?
MATTHEWS: More with Senator Biden. We’re going to have more questions when we come back. They are lining up now at the University of Delaware and the HARDBALL tour. More with Joe Biden when we come back.
MATTHEWS: We’re back with Senator Biden at the University of Delaware on the HARDBALL. By the way, next week we’re going to Georgetown-hold your applause-we’re going to Georgetown University, for an in-depth look at America’s plans for war. We’re going to have a bunch of generals, General Barry McCaffrey, General Wayne Downing, Bill Arkin (ph) and Peter Arnett (ph) to argue about our ability to win this war and whether we should be fighting it in Iraq. Right now I want to take some questions. You’re up, sir.
STUDENT: Senator, do you feel that North Korea poses a greater threat to our national security as opposed to Iraq?
BIDEN: I do. The reason is, quickly, we have an international force of inspectors on the ground in Iraq, the ability to end this, hand off biological or chemical weapons or produce nuclear weapons is nonexistent. They’re no immediate threat. In North Korea, we have a leader who has been isolated and is likely to make serious mistakes who exports things. They have a whole lot of plutonium. All you need is two little pieces of that plutonium and a homemade nuclear device to produce a one megaton bomb. I’m worried about that. I think the president should talk. I said on “Meet the Press” three weeks ago we should talk. We’re now finally deciding we should talk.
MATTHEWS: Next question.
STUDENT: Regarding Iraq, why didn’t we finish what we started the first time we had the chance?
BIDEN: Because President Bush, the first President Bush didn’t want to stay for five years.
MATTHEWS: Do you think we should have stayed there and taken over Baghdad?
STUDENT: Look where it’s getting us now. We’re stuck in this huge debate over Iraq. The economy is terrible, and if we had taken care of it the first time we had the chance we could have moved on...
MATTHEWS: How many casualties do you figure, how many casualties taking downtown Baghdad down in 1991?
STUDENT: I can’t estimate.
MATTHEWS: You have to if you want to make judgments like this.
STUDENT: Senator Biden, I have a question for you. Who do you think is a perfect candidate for 2004 presidential election?
BIDEN: That’s easy. Chris Matthews.
MATTHEWS: Nice. Second choice, please. Second choice.
BIDEN: I do not think there’s a perfect candidate. I think there is the right message and someone has to be able to explain to the American people why, in fact, we can do a hell of a lot better than we’re doing now and connect the dots for people, connect the point that there is this national security problem we face, also presents phenomenal opportunities for us. Anyway, so...
STUDENT: What kind of foreign policy would you have for 2004 if you were the president?
BIDEN: If I were the new president’s secretary of state, I would be talking about being strong enough to engage the rest of the world. I would have, for example, in Afghanistan, not told the Germans, who risked their election on providing for troops to go to Afghanistan, stiff arm them, say we don’t need them. I would include people. I would make sure that we — look, if we ask people around the world to join us when we have a serious issue at stake and it’s less serious for them, we have to be prepared to understand when things are more important to us but more important to them.
We should respond. The middle east, big problem for a whole lot of the world. Kyoto, a big problem for a whole lot of the world. All these issues that we sort of summarily dismiss and say, look, we write the agenda, that’s it. We should always be prepared to go it alone if our national interest is at stake. But there is the ability to lead and part of leading is leading the world, leading people to join us.
MATTHEWS: Senator Biden, I want you to come back and announce when you decide whether you’re running or not. You come and tell us either way.
MATTHEWS: Thank you. Senator Joe Biden. Who’s your favorite president in your lifetime?
BIDEN: I probably think Harry Truman, oh, lifetime Harry Truman, but I was a young guy. I was 13 years old.
MATTHEWS: OK. I thought you were going to say John Kennedy, but thank you very much. Next week by the way, but coming up next, for the next war, MSNBC reports, coming up, the question whether our fighting troops are ready for this war in Afghanistan with Forrest Sawyer, by the way, it’s the war with Iraq, with Forrest Sawyer, coming up next on MSNBC.
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