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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript

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This is FACE THE NATION.

ANNOUNCER: From CBS News in Washington FACE THE NATION with Bob Schieffer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning again. And welcome as we begin the new one-hour edition of FACE THE NATION and we start with the Vice President Joe Biden who sat down with us for an interview earlier this week in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Well, good morning, Mister Vice President--

JOE BIDEN (voice overlapping): Good morning.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --and welcome to FACE THE NATION. We did some checking. This is your third appearance as vice president, your fifty-fifth appearance on FACE THE NATION, that's more than any other Democrat. You still haven't caught up with John McCain--

JOE BIDEN: Oh.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --who-- who's the leader right now. Well, let's get right to it.

JOE BIDEN: Yes.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You really laid into Governor Romney this week. You said he was consistently wrong about everything. Does this mean that you and the President have decided that Mitt Romney is the nominee, that he's who you're going to be facing come fall?

JOE BIDEN: Bob, I can never figure out who the Democratic nominee is going to be in the primary. I don't-- that-- that's not the-- he seems like the front-runner. But what he's saying is not fundamentally different than-- than Santorum have said.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But would you be really surprised if he was not the nominee, right?

JOE BIDEN: Well, yeah, I guess I would, but, you know, look, I really-- it's really amazing. I've been-- I'm not being facetious. I've been surprised by this whole Republican primary process.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Why do you think he has had such a hard time closing the deal?

JOE BIDEN: I really don't know, Bob. I mean, look, this is not your father's Republican Party. This is a different party that I'm used to. And I've been around for a while, both in the House and the Senate. It's a different party. And my guess is, the electorate is-- the Republican electorate is different than it's been the last ten to twelve years. And so, you know, that's the change that I'm most fascinated with watching is how much has it changed? How far right has it gone or how anti-government has it become? I-- I mean, it's just a different-- it seems there's almost a different language.

BOB SCHIEFFER: It is very clear how Mitt Romney, if he is the nominee, is going to try to frame this election. He's going to try it make it a referendum on Barack Obama. Here's what he has been saying.

MITT ROMNEY (March 23): People are unhappy with the results that they've seen so far under this President. Gasoline prices have doubled. The deficit is massively larger. The President said he was going to cut it in a half. He has doubled it. The national debt, he-- the-- the President, by the end of his four years, will have put in almost as much debt on this country as all of the prior presidents combined, and of course, you have twenty-four million people out of work, or underemployed, and-- and so, this presidency has been a failure, and-- and at the-- at the centerpiece of this failure is this-- this piece of legislation back here, Obamacare.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So, what's your take on that?

JOE BIDEN: I think that-- I think Governor Romney is a little out of touch. Look, you know everything that he said that the American people don't think the policies have worked. Romney argued about-- let to-- not an exact quote, but let Detroit go bankrupt. Wasn't a very popular action the President took? Now they're hiring people, you know, hundreds of thousands of new people instead of losing four hundred thousand jobs. General Motors is the largest corporation in the world again, twenty-four straight months of economic growth. Americans going back to work, the unemployment rate dropping by a percent. I-- I understand the Republicans talking about Obamacare. I get that. They have been against it from the beginning, but you know, you go out there and take a look, Bob. Everywhere I go in the country, there's millions of people out there that are benefiting now. There are-- there are those people with chronic diseases like cancer that don't have to worry about getting a phone call saying you're cut off, your insurance has run out. There are tens of thousands of several million kids who are on their parents' insurance policies that wouldn't be there before. And what is-- what is the Romney answer? There's nothing. All they argue is cut. Get rid of that. Get rid of that. I-- I just think that-- look, this is about the middle class, and what affects middle class people, their jobs, being able to own a home, being able to live in a safe neighborhood, being able to send their kid to college. It's about their dignity. This is about the middle class and none of what he is offering, does anything. It's just returning to the old policy.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I take your points, but the fact is unemployment did go up after the President took office and so did gas prices.

JOE BIDEN: Gas prices, look. We're pumping six hundred and fifty thousand barrels of oil a day more than we did when we took office. There are more oil rigs and gas rigs running in the United States today than all of the rest of the world combined. We are importing less foreign oil than we did the last time it was this slow was sixteen years ago. And these guys, what-- what were do they offering, two dollars and fifty cents gas that-- that I think at least one of them is offering that, that's what's going to happen and what's their policy? Continue a four billion dollar tax cut from their old companies. Drill more? Where are they going to drill more now? This can produce something now and they're going out there and they're emasculating all the efforts to deal with renewable energy and so they have no policy.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me go back to health care.

JOE BIDEN: Yeah.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Governor Romney continues to say that the centerpiece of President Obama's failure is health care. We are seeing these arguments in the Supreme Court this week. What do you think the impact would be if the court decides to throw this thing out, or if it just decides to throw out the part about the mandate that you have to buy insurance?

JOE BIDEN: Well, first, I think we should bring the temperature down. You and I have watched the Supreme Court for a lot of years. No one has made any money betting an outcome of cases based on the oral arguments and the questions asked. We think-- we think the mandate and the law is constitutional. We think the court will rule that way. And what this is really about is the Republican alternative, which is what-- they-- they are going to continue, no matter what the Supreme Court does, to go after trying to eliminate or-- or-- or strangle this law. In the meantime, all those folks I mentioned before, all those folks that are benefitting now. All those people that are about to benefit as more kicks in 2014, they're in real trouble. This is about them. And-- and I don't know what is the alternative these guys are offering. The Ryan plan, the further go in there and take on Medicare and social-- I mean I-- I-- I just-- I don't-- I don't get their position.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, what would happen, though? I mean, if-- if this whole thing was thrown out?

JOE BIDEN: Well--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you have to start over?

JOE BIDEN: I-- I'm not going to speculate about something I don't believe will happen. I don't believe it will happen. And-- and so, I-- I just think we should focus on what is the law doing for people now, and what would happen if in fact the Republicans were able to repeal it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You called Mitt Romney. You really called him out the other day for saying the President was out of touch. Here's what you said. I want to play a little what you said.

JOE BIDEN (Wednesday): Governor Romney has called the President of the United States, "Out of touch," that's a quote, "Out of touch," for encouraging young people to try to get manufacturing jobs. Out of touch? Romney? I mean, pretty remarkable, pretty remarkable. As an old friend of mine says, that's chutzpah.

BOB SCHIEFFER: What did you mean by that?

JOE BIDEN: When you have-- I can't remember a presidential candidate in the recent past who seems not to understand by what he says what ordinary middle class people are thinking about and are concerned about. Whether it's his comment of saying, well, we ought to just let the foreclosures just hit bottom, just let them go. I don't know if he understands that there is-- there are millions of-- there're twelve million people out there paying their mortgage payments. They have done it on time, and all we want to do is give them a chance to refinance at a lower rate. And he says, no, that's-- that's not a good idea. We talk about kids going to college, and being able to get an opportunity to get a tax break to send your kid to college, or increasing the number of kids with Pell Grants from six to nine million. Here's what I don't think Governor Romney seems to understand. It's not just about the kid that doesn't get to go to college because we're not willing to help him. It's about that parent, that proud parent looks at his kid, and knows there's nothing I can do to help this kid. We're stripping people of their dignity. It's not just the kid that doesn't go, it's the family. I don't know that he understands that there are-- there are people like my dad who were-- felt ashamed that he wasn't able to borrow the money and apologizing to me. The worst thing in the world for a parent is to know they can't help their child, whether they're sick, because they can't get insurance for them, because they have a pre-existing condition, or they can't help him go to college, I mean, and that's the part that seems to me to be missing. I don't think they understand that piece of it. It's about dignity. These things are about people's dignity.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Are you enjoying this Republican primary? I-- I know you said one day, "God love them, I hope they have another twenty debates."

JOE BIDEN: Well, look, I find it-- look, the one thing, Bob, and by the way, it remind myself of my grandfather's admonition, he said, "Joey, any team can beat any other team on any given day." So this is not because I'm so sure that we're going to win. But what I do find is of all of the times I've run for office, Bob, this is the first time the Republicans aren't hiding the ball. They're saying exactly what they think. They're not talking about compassionate conservatives. And they're not talking about the need for health care in America, but we have a different way. They're not talking public education being the key to economic growth and stability in the country. They're just saying straight up-- straight up what they believe. And so, in that sense, I think this is going to be an incredibly stark choice, the American people are going to have--not just on the economy, but on social policy, as well as educational policy. I think across the board, they have been very straightforward about where they are, and-- and so, in that sense, God love them, they're not hiding the ball. They're just saying exactly what they believe.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about-- we now know about the President's now famous unguarded moment before the microphone when he told the Russian president, look, I'll have more flexibility after the election to deal with missile defenses and so forth. Governor Romney really hit him hard on that. He said it was alarming. And he said, what else is he going to be flexible about. What do you-- what do you make of all of that?

JOE BIDEN: Speaking of flexible, Governor Romney is a pretty flexible guy on his positions, but look, and by the way, I know a little bit about unguarded moments with microphones. And-- but look, here's the-- the President just stated the obvious. The idea that in this election year, we're going to be able to deal with an agreement with the Russians on further reducing our nuclear arsenals and the environment that we have in the United States Congress now is difficult. And what the President was doing is stating the obvious, that it's going to be difficult. We're going to have-- we're not going to the flexibility to sit down and talk with people in this Congress that are going to be able to listen and be able to work with this probably between now and Election Day. So-- and the second thing is, Governor Romney's answer I thought was incredibly revealing. He acts like he thinks the Cold War is still on. Russia is still our major adversary. I don't know where he has been. I mean, we have disagreements with Russia, but they're united with us on Iran. The only way we're getting one of only two ways we're getting material into Afghanistan to our troops is through Russia. They're working closely with us. They have just said to Europe, if there is an oil shutdown in any way in the Gulf, they'll consider increasing oil supplies to Europe. That's not-- this is not 1956.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, but didn't-- doesn't it play to the Republican allegations, because I hear this from conservatives all the time, if you don't like Barack Obama now, wait until he gets re-elected because if he's-- he's free to do whatever he wants to do, he is going to raise our taxes. He is going to put in gun control. He is going to do everything from-- you know, authorized gay marriage to-- to whatever, just once he gets past that election.

JOE BIDEN: Well, look, every opportunity they get to try to seed that argument, they do. So I agree with you that anything that is said that allows them even-- you know, the patina of saying that's what he is doing, they use it. But what I think is most revealing about it is the Governor's response. The Governor talking about this hurts Israel. He either hasn't been informed yet or doesn't know that this missile defense system we put in, and I was responsible as you remember for going to Europe and selling the new system which better protects them, also better protects Israel and in terms of the early warning capability. I mean, he just seems to be uninformed, or stuck in a Cold War mentality. So, I think what the-- the exchange did, it exposes how little the Governor knows about foreign policy.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Mister Vice President, we'll continue this in just a minute.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

BOB SCHIEFFER: Mister Vice President, I want to ask you about this whole thing, that's blown up about contraception. My sources tell me that when the President decided the Catholics would have to buy birth control insurance for their employees at their universities and-- and colleges and so forth, that you and Bill Daley were among those who told him this is not a good thing. This is-- this is going to cost you votes, but you were on that side of the issue. But since this thing has happened, and the way it's kind of shaken down, it seems to have sort of gotten Republicans off talking about the economy, and sort of campaigning for against birth control in some funny kind of way. What's your take on that?

JOE BIDEN: Well, first of all, on the substance, the President ended up exactly where he intended, and where he began, which was that one, every woman in America should be able to have insurance coverage for birth control, if she so chooses. And that the Catholic Church and other churches should not have to pay for it, or provide it. That's exactly where we--

BOB SCHIEFFER: For the record, is that what you advised the President?

JOE BIDEN: Yes, but that's also where the President was on the front end that, a) the Catholic Church, Catholic hospitals, should not have to provide or pay for this coverage as a matter of conscience for them. That's exactly where this thing ended up. They're saying that the-- we should-- women should be prescribed or states can prescribe or individuals can proscribe. Women say, you can't use birth control? I mean, I-- I-- I-- I think it's totally out of touch with reality, and totally out of touch with what the independents and the right of women to decide for themselves whether or not they want to use contraception, and I-- I just find it remarkable that the argument is even taking place.

BOB SCHIEFFER: What was your-- just your personal reaction when you heard about the-- the Robert Bales case, this sergeant, this American sergeant, who killed all of those people in Afghanistan?

JOE BIDEN: It was-- it was just one of a sense of-- you know, my God, what a tragedy, you know, I had a-- and I immediately thought to be-- about those kids, those children, and then I thought how many of our troops who are incredible, incredible troops are going to be put further in harm's way because of this-- this lone act and I got to admit to you, I-- I thought little bit about when my son was in Afghanistan-- I mean, when he was in Iraq for a year. Incidents like this actually increase the danger for every American troop out there, and 99.9 percent of these kids, most remarkable generation of the world, are doing-- doing their job, they're doing it well, they're doing it for people, and it's just-- I just have this sinking feeling like, oh, my God, this is--

BOB SCHIEFFER: What is our mission now in Afghanistan? How long are we going to be there? And I mean, it seems to me and ever poll suggests, the American people's patience is kind of going thin here.

JOE BIDEN: Well, you can understand why it is. I mean, it's been over ten years. That's why we came to office, we set on a policy that set the course for ending our participation-- military participation, in Iraq, and-- and I know we're criticized heavily by Governor Romney and others for setting dates. We've done the same thing we did in-- as I say, Iraq, Afghanistan. We've done the same thing we did in Iraq. This is winding down, not kicking up. We've withdrawn ten thousand troops of the surge so far. Twenty-three thousand more will be drawn by the end of September. The pace will continue apace until we get to the end of the process which will be out of this-- this-- our mission will have ended as we know it now by 2014.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You and I have both been in Washington for a long time. What's happened to our politics, Mister Vice President? It's just not the way it used to be. Things always looked better in the rear view mirror but--

JOE BIDEN: No, I know that. I wonder myself, you know, do I sound like the guys I used to serve with, the guys when I got there at thirty who were sixty-five. I mean-- and but, you know, it-- it really is different, but it wasn't sort of this personalized--you're good, you're bad, you're evil, or you're-- you know, you're-- you're this,-- it's just a different place. I-- I think the leadership in the Republican Party is prepared to actually work with us, but I think it's kind of the tale wagging the dog here. And--

BOB SCHIEFFER: But you don't think it's all the Republicans, do you because--

JOE BIDEN: No, no, no, no, no. Well, let me put this way. I-- here's what I do think. I do think the idea of compromise is still alive and well with the Democrats and the Congress. They're prepared to compromise. They're prepared to make difficult decisions. But with a-- enough of a minority in the Republican Party, controlling the majority, there is no-- no room for compromise. I mean, none. None. And it's never been like that before, at least not in my experience. And I've been there for a long time, and-- but I think we'll change, Bob. The American people, you know, we-- we-- we-- we go through phases like this, everybody says, you know, the politics is broken. It's always the case we've been broken, it comes back. And-- and I think that that's one of the issues in this election, and I think the American people are going to send a message to all the parties. Guys, you-- you got to at least start to talk about broad compromises on problems that we know are real, and they're going to continue.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Mister Vice President, thank you.

JOE BIDEN: Thanks.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Hope to see you again before the election.

JOE BIDEN: I hope so, too.

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