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MSNBC Hardball Transcript

Location: Washington, DC

BIDEN: Yes. I think he could lay out in detail what it is we knew they had in 1998, that the whole world knew, is not accounted for. Right now, he just makes the assertion, but were he to say tonight—I hope he'll say, or whenever—There were 322 tons of this. It's not there. There were 14.8 boom, boom...


BIDEN: ... as detailed as you can get to generate this notion of credibility. And secondly, if he can release significant circumstantial evidence—there's no smoking gun, but combining the two, I think it makes it very difficult, particularly for foreign leaders, to pretend they don't know what they do know.

MATTHEWS: Does he have the capability, by releasing this information, of changing your mind, Senator Biden's mind—are you for the war, based upon what you know he knows?

BIDEN: I am for taking those weapons out of Saddam's hands, preferably the right way, but we may get stuck the wrong way. By that I mean he has to make the case to the world in order to get the rest of the world to come with us. That matters because after we take him down—what you've been saying for a long time—it's going to be a multi-billion dollar...


BIDEN: ... multi-year commitment. And I don't want to do that alone.

MATTHEWS: Well, let me ask you about this. Are the costs and consequences of going to war greater or lesser than the costs and consequences of not going to war?

BIDEN: I think...


BIDEN: I think he's put us in a Hobson's choice, where the costs and consequences of not going, ever—that is, bringing the boys back home and Saddam in power—that cost is greater than the cost to our interests in going to war.

MATTHEWS (voice-over): Did he limit his options by deploying the troops?

BIDEN: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: Was that—that was a mistake?

BIDEN: Mistake. He limited his options by the bravado way in which he talked to people...

MATTHEWS: Would you go to war because the president has put himself in a position of embarrassment?

BIDEN: No, I'm not worried about the president's embarrassment. I'm worried about our interests around the world, and I'm worried about whether or not we can make anything stick and whether we—whether the United Nations, which I think is a valuable tool—the more powerful we are, the more we need United Nations, in my view. And I think...

MATTHEWS: Why is that?

BIDEN: ... the reason is that we don't want to have to carry the whole load around the world on every single, solitary thing. We cannot—the horse can't carry that sleigh, Chris. And that's the position the president is putting us in. And if we—I believe. And if we do not enforce the U.N. resolution, when we know, in fact, that he's in material breach of that, then, in fact, I think, we render essentially useless the Security Council and the utility of the United Nations.

MATTHEWS: On the Senate floor today, in a major speech you gave, you said that the president owes it to the American people to tell them the full costs and consequences...

BIDEN: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: ... not just of the military engagement but of the occupation which will come later...

BIDEN: Exactly right.

MATTHEWS: ... which could be extensive. Do they have to have this information to decide whether to support the president now, or do they need that information, as you see it, to feel better about the president's policies down the road?

BIDEN: They need it to be able to support the policies they're going to be asked to support down the road. When they feel like they've been—let me give you a specific example. Look at Afghanistan, Chris. The president said Marshall Plan for Afghanistan, more force in there.

Now, when myself and a couple other Republicans come along and ask for another $20 million for Afghanistan, they go, Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. We didn't know that.

We're—the president's going to have to be coming back to the United States Senate a year from now, asking for another $20 billion. Now, what I don't want to do, when I address the troops in Qatar, I don't want to go to those guys and say, We're not sticking with you anymore. I can't get the public to vote for this. You cannot expect the public to sustain a policy when they don't have informed consent ahead of time.

MATTHEWS: OK. By the way, thank you very much for having us up to the University of Delaware.

BIDEN: Oh, it was a great honor.

MATTHEWS: I thought I was in a scene from "Mr. Smith"—or no, not Mr. Smith, "It's a Wonderful Life." Those people love you up there.

BIDEN: Oh, I love the...

MATTHEWS: Senator Joe Biden.

BIDEN: Thank you. It was great being on your program.

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