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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews"

MR. MATTHEWS: Check out Senator Joe Biden's final thought to Ambassador Ryan Crocker at yesterday's hearing.

SEN. BIDEN: (From videotape.) And the last point is, Ambassador Crocker, just so you know, nobody thinks you're surging. (Laughs.) Nobody thinks there's a diplomatic surge anywhere -- nobody -- nobody. And we need to surge.

MR. MATTHEWS: Senator Joe Biden, who's the veteran chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Biden, you have conducted probably the most important hearings on a war since your predecessor, William Fulbright. Congratulations. We're all talking about what we're learning here.

I guess I have to start, however, to a young man from Scranton. I have to ask you about the Senate race, the race between your two colleagues in Pennsylvania for the nomination. You were in that fight. Now you're watching it. Does it matter to you, watching this, that the data shows us tonight that that race has narrowed from what it was two weeks ago, a 12-point spread for Senator Clinton down to a six-point spread for Senator Clinton? It's eroded by half in just two weeks. What do you make of that?

SEN. BIDEN: Money. You know, I think Hillary's being outspent, what, two, three, four to one, number one. Number two, I think to see Obama is to like him. And I think that the best weapon Obama has is showing up in those areas where they may have been, as you said, in a different context earlier, a little hostile to him, or not inclined to think they were going to go for him. But when you see him, he's a very attractive and compelling personality.

So I think the combination of those two things explains what I believed all along, that it would tighten up. And I think it may even tighten more.

MR. MATTHEWS: You know, when you look back at our history -- we're about the same age -- you know, the big elections -- '32; that's not quite in our history --

SEN. BIDEN: No. (Laughs.) Don't do that to me.

MR. MATTHEWS: (Laughs.) Not me either; the '80 election, where Reagan came in out of nowhere. A guy that never would have won, probably, like FDR or Reagan, wins when times are really difficult. Do you think we're in that kind of change mode in this country where somebody really surprising like Barack Obama could win Pennsylvania, come November?

SEN. BIDEN: Oh, yeah, I do. Absolutely, I do. Look, you know, I'm born and raised in Scranton. You're a Philly guy. I've been hanging out in Philly the last 50 years, and 35 as a senator. You and I know the neighborhoods that we both came from. They're not totally dissimilar. Yours was bigger. But the bottom line here is it really is about the economy. It really is about change.

The one thing I'm confident of is they have had their fill of the Republicans. I mean, look, Chris, everybody talks about how bitter this race is. I don't see this race as a bitter race between the two Democrats. I know you all are trying to -- not you, but trying to make it that. I've seen a lot more bitter races.

But one of the great, incredible things that's happening, look how many new registrants there are in Pennsylvania who are now going back to their roots or brand new becoming Democrats. This is a big deal. It's happening all over the country. So I think if Obama is the nominee or Hillary, they're going to have a real leg up, notwithstanding the fact that this was a tough fight.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, having been through all the debates, Senator, and watching the hearings and conducting them yourself now -- and they were impressive hearings -- can you tell the voter of Pennsylvania how to decide between the Republican, the Democrat, the Hillary voter, the Obama voter? Is it possible to learn, in watching the hearings as you presided over them, where these three different people stand on how we get out of Iraq and when?

SEN. BIDEN: Yeah, I think it's real clear. I think the Democrats -- there's not a lot of difference. They're trying to make it a difference in order to appeal to different aspects of our constituency.

But the bottom line is they both know we've got to leave. They both know it's costing us dearly around the world to stay. They both know that we can't leave immediately, like Richardson used to talk about; it's not physically impossible. And they both are rational people who will do it in an orderly way while investing in our security in the place where the real threats are, like on the Afghan- Pakistan border.

In the case of John McCain, I've known John. He's my friend. I love him. I know we say that lightly, but you know he's my personal friend. I think John's dead wrong on Iraq and the way he talks about Iran. I thought it was interesting in his question, he kept focusing on al Qaeda and Iran.

The fact of the matter is, most experts are believing now if we left tomorrow, al Qaeda would shrivel up in Iraq -- we're their reason for being there -- and go after them where they really live, number one.

Number two, the idea that anyone who thinks, Chris, that we're going to be able to have our interests met in Iraq no matter what we do without some accommodation being reached with Syria, Turkey and Iran knows that's not possible, yet you still have John continuing to talk about Iran as if we're going to have to take them on physically rather than actually sit down at a table with them.

So there's a fundamental difference between the two Democrats and John McCain on Iraq and no prescription, no prescription from my good friend John McCain as to how this ends. You know, how do you know when we've succeeded? None.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, we went in there to knock off Saddam Hussein. Then we started to fight the insurgents who were Sunnis. Now, I was taken, Senator -- you're the expert, but I was taken at the number of groups we're fighting. We're fighting groups now called the special groups. They're coming in with the back of the Qods Force out of Iran, as you mentioned.

We're fighting groups called criminals. We're fighting the Shi'a militia. We're worried about the Kurdish rebels up north, as well as the old fight with the insurgents. How can we possibly disentangle ourselves on so many fronts in the reasonable future?

SEN. BIDEN: We can't without us engaging the international community and the region in a political settlement in Iraq. And the outlines are there, Chris. I know I'm a broken record. It's a federal system, giving local control to local authority where the power is made about security and neighborhoods and the power is made about education at the local level with a weak central government.

But, look, here we are. You've got Maliki, who's a member of the Dawa Party, who is now in league with the guy who is the head of the party that runs the Badr Brigade and against Sadr, and they're all Shi'a. They're all Shi'a.


SEN. BIDEN: And guess what -- they're all embracing getting supported by, getting funded and trained by -- all of them, all of them -- by the Iranian Qods Force. And at the same time, Ahmadinejad is visiting and getting kissed on both cheeks by Maliki and every one of them.

So, look, this is a complicated situation, but there's only one way out. The only way out is local control. And absent that being able to be done, you know, what says tomorrow that the 90,000 troops in the, quote, "awakening" the Sunnis -- why is that working, Chris? It's working because you and I talked three years ago it had to be done. You had to say to the Sunnis, "Hey, here's the deal. No Shi'a can come into Anbar Province. You can control your own territory." That's the deal. That's why things are calm. That's why things are calm.

MR. MATTHEWS: Well, I think you've got the idea, because if you look at the number of fronts we're fighting on, Senator -- and you're the expert again -- but if we're fighting the criminals over there, I thought we had enough in Philly to fight right now. They don't have to go looking over there for criminals.

We're fighting the Shi'a. We're fighting the special groups coming out of Iran. We're fighting the Kurds. We're fighting the Sunnis. I don't know. Anyway, thank you, sir. You've got the idea to break the country up. It makes sense.

Thank you, Senator Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you.

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