MSNBC "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" - Transcript

Interview

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: Sept. 27, 2008
Location: Unknown

MR. OLBERMANN: Comparisons to President Bush were many in this debate, but one most unlikely one came not at Senator McCain, but from him.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ, Republican presidential nominee): (From videotape.) You know, we've seen this stubbornness before in this administration, to cling to a belief that somehow the surge has not succeeded and failing to acknowledge that he was wrong about the surge.

MR. OLBERMANN: Joining me now from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket, Senator Joe Biden.

Senator, a pleasure.

SEN. BIDEN: Hey, Keith. How are you?

MR. OLBERMANN: I'm well, sir. And yourself?

SEN. BIDEN: A good night for us. (Laughs.)

MR. OLBERMANN: Did you think so?

SEN. BIDEN: Big night for my team. (Laughs.)

MR. OLBERMANN: But have you -- that was a comparison -- we just played that clip there -- of Senator McCain trying to compare Senator Obama to President Bush.

SEN. BIDEN: To George Bush. (Laughs.)

MR. OLBERMANN: Something of a reach?

SEN. BIDEN: I found that fascinating. (Laughs.) Well, I think that's a bit of a reach. You know, I find that, you know, here's a guy that's gone along with George Bush on 90 percent of everything he's done, who's been dead wrong about the war, not only -- I mean, look, John did -- at the same time I was on your show saying we were not going to be greeted as liberators, there wasn't going to be enough oil to pay for this, there was going to be an initial civil war, the Sunnis and Shi'as were going to fight each other, John was on your show and others saying, "No, no, no, no, no. That's not the case."

At the same time guys like Barack and I were saying, "Hey, look, Afghanistan's a big problem; that's where the real terrorists are," John was saying, "Afghanistan? The reason you haven't heard about it -- it's a success."

This was about judgment. Barack Obama passed the commander-in- chief test tonight. I think this is over in terms of that issue. I think John had his -- it was on his strongest turf, and he argued about the past. He had no suggestions about the future, when you think about it.

Look what he's talking about Iraq. He continues to talk about the surge. And he even got that wrong. He talked about the surge being a strategic idea. The surge was a tactical necessity to accomplish a strategic goal. Remember what he used to be? I'll bet you can do the mantra with me. "We have to surge in order to create breathing space for a political settlement."

MR. OLBERMANN: Yeah.

SEN. BIDEN: That was the strategic objective, which has not been accomplished yet. And then John says he wants to take the same strategy and apply it to Afghanistan. Come on. And John's talking about he won't sit down. John won't even sit down, he said, with a NATO ally who has troops in Afghanistan fighting with United States troops against the Taliban and al Qaeda? I mean, there's a man out of touch.

MR. OLBERMANN: The substance of this -- I think anybody who took -- maybe who read this debate would have no doubt about their equality or Senator Obama's supremacy in terms of international relationships as the main topic tonight. But always the visceral things, as you well know, get just as much play and are just as important in people's decision-making process --

SEN. BIDEN: Sure.

MR. OLBERMANN: -- as anything else. If John McCain says of or to Barack Obama repeatedly, "You don't understand," "What Senator Obama doesn't understand," "Here's another example of what Senator Obama doesn't understand" -- if you repeat that long enough, does that message actually get through and make people think that Senator Obama does not understand?

SEN. BIDEN: No, no. Look, the American people are so much smarter. The American people know that Barack has a plan to end this war that even George Bush has essentially embraced, to draw down our troops over 16 months, hand the responsibility over to the Iraqis, stop spending our 10 billion bucks a month, start spending their $87 billion.

Barack Obama made it clear what he would do in Afghanistan. He called for 14 months ago that we needed to beef up our ability in Afghanistan. Look, we spend more money in three weeks in Iraq than we spent in six years in Afghanistan, and we wonder why things are being lost; more money on combat than we have on building up Afghanistan.

So, look, I just think, Keith, that they get it. The one thing they may not have gotten is that, you know, John McCain, being the hero he is -- and he is a hero -- John McCain saying he'd take care of veterans. I just want to point out, Disabled Veterans of America rate John at 20 percent on his voting record. The veterans' groups don't think John has cared for the veterans coming home.

And, you know, and so my point is that there's some places John is -- because of his stature as a hero, is probably able to avoid being viewed as out of touch. But I just think he just came across, at least -- you'd expect me to say it, I know -- but I think he came across as out of touch --

MR. OLBERMANN: Can you --

SEN. BIDEN: -- and angry.

MR. OLBERMANN: But can you put together the component parts of the last three days, I mean, dating back even before he left the David Letterman Show in the lurch and we didn't -- I wound up having to go talk to David Letterman for 20 minutes?

SEN. BIDEN: (Laughs.)

MR. OLBERMANN: What was this whole thing about with parachuting into the bailout discussion? And why, if it was so important, was it not more of his answering, Senator McCain's answering, in tonight's debate?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, look, I think John -- his staff knows he needs a game changer, that this thing isn't going very well for him. So I think they probably thought -- I don't know what their strategy was, but to use your words, he looks like he's lurching back and forth.

Here's a guy last Monday who said the economy was doing great and was fundamentally sound; Bush had made great progress -- or had made progress over the last eight years. And then, two hours later, we have an economic crisis. As we Catholics say, where was the epiphany? What happened? Where was John a week ago, a month ago, six years ago, while he was on Wall Street talking about shredding -- how he was -- there wasn't a regulation that he saw that he liked.

I mean, this is a very difficult ground -- in fairness to John, it's really difficult to defend the terrain that he occupies. And the terrain he occupies is he's bought on to the economic philosophy of George W. Bush and the sort of, you know, free market, let it run its way; let it be on its own. And now, all of a sudden, he's talking about greed on Wall Street, the same way this foreign policy. He went in and thought this was a -- you know, this was going to be over in a short time, that we were going to be greeted, and so on and so forth.

John's judgment -- here's the point. John's judgment has been fundamentally wrong on the basic, critical foreign policy and domestic decisions we've had to make. And then John, at the same time, talking about he has to cut the budget, is still calling for an additional $300 billion a year in tax cuts for corporate America and the wealthy? Where does he think that money comes from? That goes straight to the deficit, or it goes straight to cutting programs or it goes to -- I mean, how does he -- I just don't get the math. I just don't get the math.

And I think people will get it. I hope I'm right about that, anyway. If they don't, then I'm really missing them. I think the folks are a lot smarter, a lot smarter, than everybody gives them credit for.

MR. OLBERMANN: Well, you step next onto the stage. It's your turn --

SEN. BIDEN: I do. (Laughs.)

MR. OLBERMANN: -- next week. I don't even -- I have about 400 questions about your debate in advance of it, and I don't think you'd answer more than two of them for me, because you'd want to keep the stuff as proprietary information.

SEN. BIDEN: (Laughs.)

MR. OLBERMANN: But what is -- are you holding back? Are you preparing to go in with kid gloves against Governor Palin in your debate?

SEN. BIDEN: No, no, no, no, no. I'm not going to do that condescending stuff John did tonight. You know, "My friend knows if he had the experience," "I mean, I've traveled around." I've traveled all those places John traveled to. I've been in Afghanistan twice. I've been in those mountains. I was the guy that, when the tanks were rolling into Tbilisi, I was there with the president, Mikhail Saakashvili, because he asked me to come and stand there with him. You know, I've been there. But that -- just because I was there doesn't make me right.

I think what we've got to do is we've got to talk about the future, what we're going to do, how we're going to change it, how we're going to make us a respected nation again worldwide. You know, and so I think it's about me and the listener, not so much me and Sarah Palin.

MR. OLBERMANN: We'll see if it plays out that way, but I'm just writing down your -- (inaudible) --

SEN. BIDEN: Yeah, we'll see. (Laughs.) I don't know. I hope I do as well as Barack did. (Laughs.)

MR. OLBERMANN: "Just because I was there doesn't make me right." I think that's one of the most honest statements I've heard in a long time.

Senator Joe Biden, the vice presidential nominee on the Democratic ticket. I haven't had a chance to say it on a personal level, sir. Congratulations.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you. Thank you.

MR. OLBERMANN: And thanks for your time tonight, sir.

SEN. BIDEN: Happy to be with you.