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Public Statements

"Fox News Sunday" - Transcript

Interview

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MR. WALLACE: For more on the port controversy and the situation in Iraq, we turn to the Democrats' point man on foreign policy, Senator Joe Biden, who's in his home state of Delaware. Senator, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."

SEN. BIDEN: Hey, Chris. Nice to be back.

MR. WALLACE: From what you hear about this possible deal, Dubai Ports World resubmitting its takeover for a whole new review by the government, would that satisfy your concerns?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, it would mine. I'd like to see that 45-day review. And I just listened to Fran, and you know, all allies aren't created equal. When we sell foreign military sales, for example, we can sell, the president doesn't even have to notify us if sales to NATO to a certain amount, but if he sells to other allies who are friends who are not part of NATO, they have to go through a different review.

The idea of comparing England and the United Arab Emirates as the same in terms of status as allies, I think is -- misses the point of how we've handled things for the last 40 years.

MR. WALLACE: But Senator, what's the point of the review when Mrs. Townsend, and she was very honest about it, basically said we have thoroughly vetted this, we're thoroughly satisfied with it, so isn't the review basically a political charade?

SEN. BIDEN: No, the review is a reflection that the Republican leadership and the Democrats have no confidence in this administration's port security program. And one of the things I want to lay out here, you know, under our marine -- our maritime safety act, there are responsibilities. Fran just said, and I have it in front of me here, Fran just said that, in fact, all the security's going to be held by, you know, the Coast Guard and the --

MR. WALLACE: Customs.

SEN. BIDEN: The same way -- Customs. Well, the truth of the matter is, under our act, listen to this, the managing company has to identify has to identify the vulnerabilities in their system. They have to develop -- they, develop a security plan for the port. They have access to the Coast Guard's response plan, which is classified. They control the cargo manifest, which determines what the Coast Guard, in fact, goes and inspects. And I want to know, is all that information sitting on a computer back in Dubai? Who has access to the computer in Dubai? How do we know this? There's a lot of things here.

MR. WALLACE: Senator, let me ask you about the opposition from Democrats. I want to play you a clip from yesterday's Democratic radio address in which New Jersey Governor Corzine blasted the idea of a company from the United Arab Emirates taking over operations at U.S. ports. Here it is.

GOV. JON CORZINE (D-NJ): (From videotape.) Dangerous men, tainted blood money, and nuclear technology have moved across UAE borders. The Bush administration said they'd looked at the transaction and that the public shouldn't worry.

MR. WALLACE: Senator, is that the Democratic position, that no matter what the United Arab Emirates have done since 9/11 as an ally in the war on terror, that this is a country of, let me put it and see it again, "dangerous men and tainted blood money?"

SEN. BIDEN: Well, the answer is, the Democratic Party is concerned about this, but I could have closed my eyes and thought that was Peter King, the Republican leader of the subcommittee on that point. He's saying the same thing. You have a whole lot of people saying the same thing, and the bottom line here is, Chris, it's shone a spotlight on something that everybody's worried about. And let's be honest about it. It reflects the fact that the 9/11 commission has given this administration failing grades on port security, failing grades on homeland security, and that's what you're seeing underneath all this.

The president can no longer say trust me, my agencies have taken a look at it, I think it's okay. That's the root of the problem here.

MR. WALLACE: But Senator, let me get to the issue that I discussed with Mrs. Townsend.

SEN. BIDEN: Sure.

MR. WALLACE: Doesn't -- isn't there, for lack of a better word and I think she said, let's be honest, isn't there some anti-Arab bigotry here? I mean, the fact is, since 9/11 the United Arab Emirates have arrested and turned over one of the masterminds of the U.S.S. Cole. They let our warships use their ports, they let our warplanes use their air bases. And isn't it going to send a bad message to moderate governments in the Middle East if we say to them, in effect, Arabs need not apply?

SEN. BIDEN: The answer is yes and yes. You're first question is that, you know, the fact of the matter is, that there are some people, I'm sure this is anti-Arab, I'm sure that's true. But the fact is, as I said before, I've been dealing with the Foreign Military Sales Act for the last and I don't know how many years of my career. You don't sell the same aircraft to Saudi Arabia, our great ally, than you do to England or to France or to a NATO country.

So there's always been this distinction, number one. And number two, I hold the administration accountable for Secretary Snow saying he had, paraphrasing, he had no idea this would cause a problem. The diplomatic problem has been brought on by this administration's tone deafness. What they should have done, knowing this application was being made, they should have brought in those Republican leaders in the first place, they should have gone through this thoroughly and showed everybody what was going on. They created the diplomatic problem, and it is a diplomatic problem, I don't deny that.

MR. WALLACE: Senator, we've got a few minutes left, I want to change to a different subject, and that is Iraq.

SEN. BIDEN: Sure.

MR. WALLACE: How serious a threat of civil war and how have the events of this week changed your view of the success of the U.S. mission there?

SEN. BIDEN: Well it's diminished my optimism of a possibility of success. You know, I still think we can succeed, Chris. The real question is, and I got a call from Steve Hadley last night, the national security advisor, kind enough to tell me about that meeting you showed a picture of. The question is, are those guys still in control, or has the street taken over. You notice what Sistani felt he had to say immediately when the dome was blown up. He's sort of back to his original position of calming things down.

But the real issue here is, are the militias in control. Who controls the militias? And we made a fundamental mistake, I don't want to rehash history by going into it, too few troops, not providing enough security and stability, the militias continue to rise, they're a major, major power. The question is, what does Jafri control? And the bottom line is, if in fact in the next couple - in the next month or so, you don't have a non-sectarian control of interior and of defense. And if you don't end up with a constitution this summer, that is a unifying document, all of the king's horses and all of the king's men are not going to keep this country together.

We can't want security and peace in Iraq more than the Iraqis want it.

MR. WALLACE: Finally, Senator, I want to talk to you a little bit about presidential politics. Because you have made it clear that you are running for president, unless and until you decide that the voters don't actually want you to be the president. Let's look, if we can, at the latest poll. Let me put it up on the screen, which shows Senator Clinton, not surprisingly, with a big lead, and you in fourth place at seven percent.

Question: Senator, what's your hook? How do you persuade voters that they should choose you over Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and John Edwards, people who may have be better known on the national stage?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, they're all better known than me on the national stage. I think the only way it can work for me is say what's on my mind, tell them what I think about national security, demonstrate to them I have the experience and I'll be straightforward with them about what I think needs to be done, and let the public decide.

I mean, look, the only thing I know I can do is deal with what I think, not what the other three candidates, and we'll see what happens. It may very well be that they decide that I am, as one person recently told me at a Democratic event, I'm too centrist for this. Maybe I am. But, look, I'm going to go out and find out, and if it works, it works, if it doesn't, it doesn't.

MR. WALLACE: Senator Biden, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you so much for talking with us --

SEN. BIDEN: Thanks an awful lot.

MR. WALLACE: It's always a pleasure. Please come back.

SEN. BIDEN: I enjoyed being on your program. Thanks a lot, Chris.

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