CBS "Early Show" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: Feb. 1, 2006
Location: Unknown

MR. SMITH: I'm joined now for some reaction by Democratic Senator Joe Biden.

Mr. Senator, we appreciate you coming in this morning. First off, was there anything last night that absolutely made you wince?

SEN. BIDEN: No.

MR. SMITH: Then let me ask you this. The other real thing on the table is about oil conservation and about finding alternative fuels. We're addicted to oil. I was wondering why he didn't say we're addicted to cheap oil.

SEN. BIDEN: Well, we are addicted to cheap oil. We're addicted to oil. The good news is this is the first time I've heard the president say, "Look, we need a whole new way of going about this." But the question is, the devil is in the details. What are you going to do to promote all these other issues?

In the past, as you know, at the beginning of his first administration, he resisted doing this stuff. So I'm looking forward to working with him to see if he really is going to, you know, put his support behind what he says.

MR. SMITH: Should we be raising mileage standards? We use more oil per capita than anybody else on the planet. We're consumer-crazy here with this stuff.

SEN. BIDEN: We are. We have to do all of the above. But what he talked about was alternative sources of oil. For example, he talked about the bio-fuels.

MR. SMITH: Right.

SEN. BIDEN: We're ready to do that, but we need support. You need support from the government for the infrastructure. You need support to get this going. You've got to get involved in it. And so far we haven't been willing to do that. But now he seems to have changed his view, and I think it's a good idea.

MR. SMITH: He came right out of the box and he says, "Differences cannot be hardened into anger." He offered this sort of olive branch of peace, of comity. Do you find that genuine?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, look, I hope it's genuine. He says that all the time, and then his administration comes out through the vice president, the secretary of Defense and others and says anyone who criticizes the war, they imply they're not patriotic and all that. I hope we're beyond that.

I think the president is in enough trouble politically; he understands that it's time to really reach out. At least that's what I hope. I looked at his speech and I heard what he said, and I got a sense that he knows that he needs to cooperate. He has to manage things better.

I mean, this is not -- and he talked about democracy. Well, we've pushed democracy, and what do we have? We have Hezbollah in Lebanon. We have Hamas in the Palestinian territories. There's the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. There has to be a plan behind these assertions, and it requires staying power. And I'm prepared, and I think most Democrats are prepared, to work with him if he's really going to focus on this.

MR. SMITH: What about health care?

SEN. BIDEN: You know, health care -- the key is affordable. If you look at his savings accounts -- if you're parents making a combined income of $80,000, $90,000, do you have $10,000 to put away in a savings account? I don't think so.

MR. SMITH: Yeah.

SEN. BIDEN: I don't think he had any answer for that.

MR. SMITH: Yeah. The other things that -- one of the big news stories today is the IAEA came out and said, "We really do think the Iranians are trying to turn this uranium into weapons-grade stuff."

SEN. BIDEN: That's right.

MR. SMITH: Do we have a plan there?

SEN. BIDEN: He does. He does. You know, for four years --

MR. SMITH: We're relying on the Russians. We're relying on the EU. Now he says he wants to send it to the United Nations.

SEN. BIDEN: But he's right. See, he should have done this four years ago. What we're doing now is we're bringing the pressure of the entire world on Iran. And if it fails, then the whole world is in on the deal, rather than doing what you did the first three years with Iran and saying we're going to isolate them; we're not talking to anybody else.

I wish he would do the same kind of thing with regard to dealing with Iraq now; get these other nations in there, putting political pressure on these three forces in there, and come up with a political settlement. Absent that, we don't have a shot.

MR. SMITH: Finally, let's talk about Iraq for a second, because the president really re-emphasized that we have to stay the course there. What was your feeling about what he said last night?

SEN. BIDEN: He set up a straw man. No one's talking about isolationism. He keeps saying, "We can't be isolationist. We can't retreat from the world." Who's talking about retreating from the world? The question is, Mr. President, what's the plan to secure our interest in Iraq and get our troops home? Tell us the plan.

MR. SMITH: All right, Senator Biden, thanks so much for your time this morning.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you, Harry.

MR. SMITH: Do appreciate it.