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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript


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NBC "Meet the Press"

MR. WILLIAMS: Our issues this Sunday -- McCain versus Obama, the general election in full swing, and the debate over public campaign financing takes center stage.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): (From videotape.) We've made the decision not to participate in the public financing system for the general election.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): (From videotape.) He has completed reversed himself and gone back not on his word to me but the commitment that he made to the American people.

MR. WILLIAMS: With us, for Barack Obama, former presidential candidate, Democratic Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. For John McCain, the campaign's national co-chair, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Biden and Graham square off on Obama versus McCain.

And our Decision 2008 political roundtable -- John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times, and Andrea Mitchell of NBC News.

Then -- after a sad week of mourning across this country, we look back at the celebration of the life and legacy of our friend, Tim Russert.

But first and, welcome, this Sunday morning -- our intention is to do the very same broadcast that we had planned before Tim Russert passed away. Tim was excited about doing this broadcast. As usual, he had done all the preparation, so we chose to go ahead with the format and the guests we had scheduled. We've had new issues, of course, that we've been handed in the interim.

Joining us this morning, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Joe Biden. Gentlemen, we thank you for coming by this Sunday and welcome to you both.

SEN. BIDEN: Thank you. It's kind of strange being here.

MR. WILLIAMS: It is, and we'll all get through this.

SEN. BIDEN: I'd just say one thing quickly?

MR. WILLIAMS: Yes, Senator?

SEN. BIDEN: After all the programs that I'd be on with him, we'd sit here and talk about his son and my sons, and I want to tell you, Luke met every -- I'd never met Luke -- but he met every expectation his father ever had of him -- an incredible kid. He should know that. His father talked about him all the time after this show.

MR. WILLIAMS: For all the people who have stopped all of us with their condolences about Tim, wherever the three of us have gone this week --

SEN. BIDEN: -- incredible --

MR. WILLIAMS: -- the thing they have all said is what a spectacular young man Luke Russert is.

To politics and some of the subjects we'll be tackling this morning, first of all, the Obama decision not to go with public campaign financing and to start us off, a clip from the Democratic debate in Cleveland, Ohio, February of 2008 --

MR. TIM RUSSERT, "MEET THE PRESS": (From videotape.) Well, let me ask you about motivating, inspiring, keeping your word -- nothing more important. Last year you said if you were the nominee, you would opt for public financing in the general election of the campaign; try to get some of the money out. You checked "Yes" on a questionnaire. So you may opt out of public financing? You may break your word?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): (From videotape.) What I have said is at the point where I am the nominee, at the point where it's appropriate, I will sit down with John McCain and make sure that we have a system that works for everybody.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Biden, that didn't happen; the two didn't sit down and discuss this. It's been viewed as a kind of pragmatic, real politic decision. Senator Russ Feingold came out with a statement saying this part of campaign financing wasn't broken, but, in effect, it is now. Your response on behalf of the candidate?

SEN. BIDEN: Look, I've been a strong supporter of public financing my whole career. I'm the first guy to introduce a public financing bill in the United States Senate in 1973, and the purpose was to get big money out of the politics. The irony is, although he has changed his position, and I'm not going to color that, he's changed his position.

The fact of the matter is, he has over 1,400,000 contributors the vast majority of whom contribute less than $100 apiece. So the effect of campaign financing is in place, but it's not campaign financing.

MR. WILLIAMS: So this is all because of the structure of the Obama campaign, the support, the support levels they are finding they have on the Internet -- a pragmatic decision?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, yes, but it's also a substantive decision and no one major influence can affect Obama. He has 1,400,000 contributor, not one of them could say, "If you don't change your mind, I am withdrawing my support." Whereas, with campaigns, the reason I am so supportive of campaign financing -- major interests that are able to accumulate hundreds of thousands -- in this case, millions, of dollars can say, "Hey, look, you don't change your mind, I leave."

So in terms of the downside of his not accepting, in terms of influence of big money, there is no influence of big money in his campaign. In terms of undermining the public financing idea for everyone, it doesn't help.

MR. WILLIAMS: Where does this leave public financing? I mean, is this --

SEN. BIDEN: Well, that's the point --

MR. WILLIAMS: -- the cost of good intentions?

SEN. BIDEN: Yeah, it leads it on a place where it's going to be harder to make the case, to be honest about it.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Graham, does this mean it's broken forever?

SEN. GRAHAM: It means his word's broken forever on this issue. I think that's what it means more than anything else. You tell people you're going to change this country, you're going to bring about change that people yearn to embrace.

Senator McCain supported campaign finance reform, at his detriment, with Senator Feingold on our side. It did not go over well, but John did it, anyway. He took a beating to try to change the campaign finance system.

Senator Obama looked in cameras all over the country, literally signed his name, "I will accept public financing," and now, for whatever reason, he has broken his word, and is it a 1.4 million donors that allows you to break your word? This is reinforcing everything that's wrong with politics; this is a game-changer in terms of the general election. This will not go unnoticed by the American people.

SEN. BIDEN: But he did say --

SEN. GRAHAM: And it will not be soon forgotten.

SEN. BIDEN: Obama did say, "I'm going to be a game-changer." He has been a game-changer. Big money is not influencing his campaign. Major interests are not influencing his campaign. People who are able to say, "Look, if you don't change your mind, I'm withdrawing, I can affect your decisions." They do not impact on Barack Obama. He's had this incredible appeal that no one ever anticipated.

SEN. GRAHAM: I would argue that has played him like a fiddle on Iraq. He said, "We'll never vote to cut off funding, it was a mistake to go in Iraq, but they're there, they need the equipment." laid down the law. On the next supplemental there should be timetables for withdrawal. Within three or four days he's changed his position on Iraq. He has played very much to the left. He has been told what to do by the hard left. There's a million times, and we will have plenty of time between now and November to talk about how he is captive to the left.

SEN. BIDEN: That is not true.

MR. WILLIAMS: Back to your response on campaign fundraising -- you say that he has done this for whatever reason -- we know the reason. It's because of the Internet appeal that his campaign found out halfway through it.

SEN. GRAHAM: And -- (inaudible) -- John.

MR. WILLIAMS: But had that been the McCain campaign, wouldn't it have been just as easy for them to discovering this potential gold mine on the Internet have made this same decision?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I think John has proven that he'll make decisions for the good of the country. John supported campaign finance reform and paid a heavy political price for it as United States senator. The public financing system that we all are touting here today as great has been abandoned by one candidate, and that wasn't John McCain. It's been abandoned because of political expediency. He is a calculating politician. The bottom line about Barack Obama, whatever the position, whether it be Iraq, campaign finance reform, public financing, he's going to take a tack that allows him to win. He wants to win beyond anything else, even more than keeping his word.

SEN. BIDEN: I'm not sure this is a place this debate should go, but if you talk about flip-flopping, you've got John McCain, all of a sudden, deciding now we should drill in 600 million acres offshore that he adamantly opposed before. You've got John McCain changing his position on Iraq. He started off talking about how they were going to be accepted and greeted with open arms and how we'd have a lot of money to pay -- oil to pay for this war, et cetera.

You know, you talk -- I'm not sure that's the place -- the bottom line in campaign financing -- Barack Obama said major interests, lobbyists, major influence, corporate influence, would not be involved in affecting his decisions as president because he would not accept funding for them. He has kept that commitment, whether it's been in the context of the federal funding for presidential elections or not, is an issue but it's not about the essence of him keeping his promise.

And, lastly, the idea that he is going to sit there and go through what John Kerry went through with these independent finance organizations where the candidate running says, "Oh, no, I had nothing to do with those Swiftboaters. I really don't agree with them," but they're spending tens of millions of dollars against them, something the Democrats have not had is not something is reasonable for him to say. I'm not ready to take that -- those charges.

MR. WILLIAMS: You don't think we'll see Swiftboaters on both sides of this election cycle?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, I think we will, and that's part of the problem.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Graham?

SEN. GRAHAM: Here is the question -- if you are nominated for president in 2008, and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system? Obama -- "Yes, I have been a long-time advocate for public financing the campaign combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of monied special interest" -- November 2007.

It wasn't worth the paper written on.

SEN. BIDEN: The important point, as a means by which to reduce the influence of big money, he has kept that commitment of reducing the influence of big money in his campaign unlike -- unlike other campaigns.

MR. WILLIAMS: The words of Senator Hillary Clinton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 17, 2008, "My understanding is that Senator Obama said he would take public financing and that now he's saying he won't. So I think it raises some serious questions about what it is he stands for." Her words, Senator Biden.

SEN. BIDEN: I understand her words. She was competing against him. Were I still in the race, I'd probably be raising it, but the essence, the honest-to-God truth is he's kept his commitment of keeping big money, individual influence, out of his campaign. If you noticed, the end of the quote that Lindsey read, he said, that's why he supported public financing. That's the effect. And so the idea that anyone is going to be able to go say almost 80 percent of his contributions are $100 or less. How much influence do they have on him?

MR. WILLIAMS: But you heard the line of argument, Senator Biden, from Senator Graham this morning -- this has been something we're seeing, especially in print this past week. David Brooks, op ed page New York Times, "Barack Obama is the most split personality politician in the country today. On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high- minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spend this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now. But then, on the other side, there is Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who would throw you under the truck for votes."

It goes on -- Associated Press, "Barack Obama chose winning over his word. He tarnished his carefully honed image as a different kind of politician; one who means what he says and says what he means while undercutting his call for a new kind of politics -- so much for being a straight shooter."

Senator Biden, what do you think we're seeing here? Are people realizing that Barack Obama is, by the way, a politician?

SEN. BIDEN: I think what you see is two things -- One, Barack is a politician, an honorable politician. But Barack Obama said, and he's kept his commitment, he would keep major influences out of his campaign and out of his presidency. It didn't fit within the matrix of public financing as we talked about it. But that was the purpose of public financing. That's the rationale.

Put it another way -- if everyone in America agreed that 80 percent of their contributions for House, Senate, and president, could only come from people making contributions of $100 or less, we'd have a pretty darn good system. The influence of money would be gone. He was able to do it because people recognized something incredible about this guy.

He is a tough politician. He is also "Dr. Barack," as he said, he's a high-minded guy, but he's a guy who knows -- he knows -- he'll know how to govern.

The very things that people are looking at him now, like call him naive on the one side about being able to govern, and yet the talk about him being a hard-nosed politician on the other. The truth of the matter is this guy is a realist who is keeping his promise of keeping influence out -- big money, big influence, out of the decision-making process.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Graham, you heard that -- it turns out he's keeping his promise.

SEN. GRAHAM: It would be news to everyone who has listened to what he said, and this is just really sad for the country for somebody with this much ability, this much talent, to fall this far this soon.

The idea that we're going to change this country and do things that are hard and tough and keep one's word is music to the American people's ears. Well, let me tell you, what he did by breaking his promise has reinforced every bad thing wrong with politics, and you can talk about it, Joe, until the cows come home -- this guy wants to win, he'll do anything to win, and the reason John McCain is going to beat him is because John's put the country ahead of the desire to win for himself, and that's going to be the defining issue in this election.

SEN. BIDEN: We haven't even gone to John's flip-flopping yet. Wait until we get to oil -- talk about big influence.

MR. WILLIAMS: We're going to get to oil drilling by way of Canada first. We're going to talk about NAFTA. John McCain gave a speech about NAFTA in Canada. First of all, is there a short, short laundry list that both of you can agree on -- let's call it what's broken about NAFTA?

SEN. BIDEN: I think two things are broken about NAFTA -- no environmental protection whatsoever, allowing them to pollute their own people and drive down the cost of manufacturing as an unfair advantage to Americans and, two, not giving the workers in Canada -- excuse me -- in Mexico, I'm talking, in particular. Canada is not bad, but in Mexico the ability to work for very little wages without any protection, giving another advantage that hurts not only the Mexicans but hurts American workers. So it's environment and labor.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Graham, can you sign onto that?

SEN. GRAHAM: The whole idea of a presidential candidate telling our neighbors to the north and the south the "I am going to unilaterally renegotiate a deal America entered into" is a continuation of the past problem. You can't trust him. I want my country to be trusted. I don't want anybody running for president telling the unions what they want to hear at the expense of the credibility of the United States. The reason he's taking this position is because the unions want to rebuild NAFTA. He's running in the primary, he says what they want to hear, and it hurts the United States for us -- somebody in his position to be telling our neighbors, "We're going to withdraw from this deal." America doesn't do it that way.

SEN. BIDEN: I want to be -- I want a president who will look out for American interests. Every treaty we sign has a provision that a President of the United States, if he or she concludes that it's no longer in the interest of the country, can, in fact -- should, in fact -- step back. This has nothing to do with unions. This has to do with middle-class jobs; this has to do with the idea that there is an unfair advantage that no one fully appreciated of them being able -- for example, we have a Chrysler plant in Delaware. In order to continue to have a paint plant in Delaware, they had to spend tens of millions of dollars to mitigate against the pollution in the air.

The same plant goes to Mexico, they don't do any of that. They pollute their own people, they drive down the cost of being able to do business. That's not in the interest of our people nor in the people of Mexico.

MR. WILLIAMS: Fortune Magazine, this past Wednesday, "Obama says he doesn't believe in unilaterally reopening NAFTA. 'I'm not a big believer in doing things unilaterally. I am a big believer in opening up a dialog and figuring out how we can make this work for all people.'"

Now we go to the debate, same debate, Cleveland, Ohio, February 26, 2008 --

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY): (From videotape.) I will say we will opt out of NAFTA unless we renegotiate it.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): (From videotape.) I will make sure that we will renegotiate in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about, and I think, actually, Senator Clinton's answer on this one is right. I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Biden, "the hammer of a potential opt- out."

SEN. BIDEN: Well, sure, that's what renegotiation is about. Do you think Mexico is going to sit down and renegotiate with us if we say, "By the way, we don't like the way things are working," unless they know there are consequences if they don't sit with us to renegotiate it? That's what you call negotiation. He didn't say he was pulling out. He said he wants to renegotiate NAFTA -- renegotiate NAFTA.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Graham, let the record reflect, if the camera does not, you've been smiling throughout.

SEN. GRAHAM: All I can say, this is just an exercise. It's pitiful, really, to have someone this talented, who has so much to offer to the country -- it's like nailing Jell-O to the wall. This guy is everywhere. He sent -- he went to APAC and said, "I support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. Put it in the bank." The next day -- "Well, you know, not really."

He seems to be willing to say or do anything for the moment to advance his cause, and his cause is to win the election it's not to change this country, and that's sad.

MR. WILLIAMS: A topic you raised earlier, a topic we saw come up this past week positions mostly similar between John McCain and President George W. Bush. This from The Washington Post, "Senator John McCain called for an end to the federal ban on offshore oil drilling. His announcement is a reversal of the position he took in his 2000 presidential campaign."

Senator Graham, more than that, when you get beyond what constitutes a reversal and what doesn't, the environmentalists came out immediately and to synopsize their position, I guess it could be said they view this as a gift, this current energy crisis, $4 a gallon at the pump, a gift handed to the United States to change the way the nation does business and propels itself and powers everything. This was seen as something counter to that.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I'm not so sure most Americans feel like they've received a present for $4-a-gallon oil. I think John understands that energy independence is going to require a lot of things -- more domestic exploration, no to ANWR, yes to offshore drilling, deep sea exploration, get the states' consent. It makes sense. I can't go anywhere -- maybe Joe has a different experience here -- but everybody I meet says, "Why don't we find our own oil?" This is an effort by Senator McCain to allow that to be done in an environmentally sensitive way given the fact that gas is $4 a gallon. It makes sense to put American resources on the table to blunt the blow of what's happening overseas.

MR. WILLIAMS: What does this get you and when? When do you see that price roll back?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I think it gets you some immediate relief. You know, why do you send a letter -- why did the Democratic leadership send a letter to President Bush and to Saudi Arabia telling them to drill more. The Democratic solution here is tax at home and get Saudi Arabia to drill more. The supply they want comes from the Mideast. The supply John McCain wants is here at home to blunt the effect of the tendency of Mideast oil.

SEN. BIDEN: Let's get something straight here.

SEN. GRAHAM: -- (inaudible) --

SEN. BIDEN: We're not trying to get Saudi to drill more. We're going to try to get them to pump more what they're drilling. They're not pumping what they could, number one. This is a gift, a gift to the oil companies by John McCain. They have now leased 41 million acres of offshore leases. They are only pumping in 10.2 million of those acres.

Seventy-nine percent of all the offshore oil available off the coast of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Coast, the Pacific Coast, lies within those acres that they now have. Why are they not pumping? Why are they not doing this? Why are they not pursuing what's estimated to be a total of 70 -- 54 billion barrels of oil at their disposal right now if they pump? Why are these greedy fellows deciding they want to go beyond that? It's because they want to get it in before George Bush leaves the presidency. It's because they're not pumping the oil to keep the price up. They are not even drilling.

So here you have 30 million leased acres they have right now that possesses 79 percent of all the offshore oil, and they're not drilling it, and John says they need more? And it would take 10 years for it to come online.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Graham, you have a beautiful coastline there in South Carolina.

SEN. GRAHAM: We certainly do.

MR. WILLIAMS: Would your position include exploration off your own shore?

SEN. GRAHAM: If the state of South Carolina consented. I'm for lifting the moratorium that prevents us, as a nation, from going offshore to extract oil and gas. Cuba is doing a deal with China, potentially, to drill off our shore. So, yes, now is the time that $4-a-gallon, $135-a-barrel oil to find more oil and gas here at home. If you are looking for a different form of energy between Obama and Senator McCain, he will allow American companies to go extract off our coast with state consent. A lot of oil and gas that exists there to get this country into energy independence and reduce the price of gas.

SEN. BIDEN: They can do that already.

SEN. GRAHAM: No, they don't. There's a federal moratorium --

SEN. BIDEN: They do. No, no, no, no, there's a moratorium --

SEN. GRAHAM: -- on offshore drilling.

SEN. BIDEN: No, this is off coast. Where do you think the 40 million acres are, Lindsey? They're off the coast, they're off the coast, 40 million acres off coast. They want to get to the other 600 million acres that are not included in that. There's 79 percent of the reserves they already have access to.

SEN. GRAHAM: I thought --

SEN. BIDEN: Seventy-nine percent of the reserves they already have access to.

SEN. GRAHAM: I thought the question that we were asked is there's new resources being made available by lifting the moratorium.

SEN. BIDEN: That's simply not true. There are existing resources that they have available that they're not drilling for now.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Graham, Greenville News, September 20, 2005 -- "Objections to drilling off the Carolinas center on the impact of tourism and the environment,' said Senator Lindsey Graham. 'All of our coastal communities I've talked with believe offshore drilling would be a detriment to our economy along the coast. I tend to agree with that." What changed?

SEN. GRAHAM: Four-dollar-a-gallon gas.

MR. WILLIAMS: And what about the future, 10 years down the road? You mentioned --

SEN. GRAHAM: Right, right.

MR. WILLIAMS: -- energy independence. Where does that conversation come in?

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, what you do is you have a supply/demand problem. The more domestic supply, the better we off are as a nation. But to get away from fossil fuels, in general, is a goal of Senator McCain. One thing you do on the power side is add nuclear power. We cannot address climate change without replacing oil and coal-fired plants with nuclear power. But when it comes to domestic supply, we're talking about 50 miles off the coast of South Carolina with the consent of the legislature where the state gets half the revenue. I think in an environmentally sound way, we can extract deep sea exploration, oil and gas, off our coast that will allow us to be more energy independent. John is for that, I am for that, and I believe the state of South Carolina will be for that.

SEN. BIDEN: We already can do that. Let's get the facts. You're entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts. Forty million acres leased offshore, number one. Number two, the first well to be dug, from the time they lease it, Lindsey gives them access to more area, it will take 10 years from the time the lease is let to the time oil comes out of the bottom of the sea in the new leases.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Graham, this is what people are talking about, Myrtle Beach Sun News, "The Senate may consider lifting bans on exploring for oil and natural gas along the East and West Coasts of the U.S. 'I feel terrible about that,' Graham said. 'The worst thing we can do as a nation is taking the easy way out. If you start opening up offshore drilling, then you are buying time, and you are not addressing the fundamental problem with fossil fuel.'"

So you see the argument -- you made it.

SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, and here's the honest -- well, here is my answer -- At $4 a gallon, time is not on our side. It is affecting food prices, it is affecting the quality of life in America. I have a lot of low-income people in South Carolina who drive the most inefficient cars. We're talking about allowing exploration in a deep sea area off the coast of South Carolina, Virginia and North Carolina with state consent that will enhance dramatically our supplies. I am willing to do that in an environmentally sensitive manner. Yes, $4 a gallon has changed my view of this; $135 a barrel has changed my view of this. I mean, the economic impact of not adjusting now is going to be devastating to the country, short and long term and, therefore, I have changed my position.

SEN. BIDEN: No short-term consequence of additional leases, period, 10 years, a minimum. Two, better to invest in windmills offshore, alternative offshore, give those people a break and, three, the change is called an election.

MR. WILLIAMS: I want to talk about this nation's dual wars. The Economist Magazine, on their cover and in their text, proffered a theory that while Americans have been preoccupied with this election season, as they put it right there, "Iraq starts to fix itself." We are just back from Afghanistan, I was there a week ago for a week's worth of reporting, and we were discussing, before the broadcast, more than one American commander while I was there showed me what they call an "HVT," a high-value target -- predator video on the screen, and then said "Right now, I don't have the 'air,'" as they put it, the assets, the fighters, the bombers, the predators, to go get these high-value targets in Afghanistan because, as they put it, their resources are going to the "other" war.

Now, if we all view Afghanistan as the original conflict growing out of 9/11, Senator Biden, how do you make the argument -- do you make the argument in the U.S. Senate, of increasing focus, funding, resources, for the in Afghanistan? How do you get the public's attention?

SEN. BIDEN: The way you get public's attention is make them realize that if you're going to continue to keep indefinitely 140,000 troops in Iraq, you're going to spend $3 billion a week in Iraq, you're going to continue to have 250 casualties a month and 30 to 45 deaths a month even with the reduced violence in Iraq. You do not, as general -- the commanding general in Afghanistan said to me, "I do not have the forces I need here to deal with where al Qaeda lives, where al Qaeda resides, where the real threat of terror exists."

So there is a price to pay. We can argue about how quickly we should draw down in Iraq. There is no argument about the price we pay for staying in Iraq now. General McCaffrey, "The Army is starting to unravel." Admiral Mullen -- "Having forces at the level we have in Iraq doesn't allow us to meet our needs in Afghanistan." General Casey -- "The army is out of balance." General Cody -- "This exceeds our ability to sustain the supply of soldiers and equipment.

General -- the list goes on and on and on.

John McCain is viewing this like he is the commander-in-chief of Iraq. The president of the United States has larger security concerns than merely Iraq, and there needs to be a balance here, and you cannot win the war in Afghanistan with the present level of commitment that is unnecessary in Iraq.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Graham, have we allowed the public focus to shift from what was the original war, after all?

SEN. GRAHAM: The central battle fought on the war on terror according to General Petraeus is Iraq. The mistakes we made after the invasion were enormous. For four years, John McCain argued with the Bush administration -- "we do not have enough troops to secure Iraq." The insurgency grew. As a result of chaos and out-of-control sectarian violence, John McCain suggested something that no one else suggested -- send more troops into Iraq when the polling was clear that America wanted out of Iraq.

MR. WILLIAMS: But the question is about Afghanistan.

SEN. GRAHAM: Well, you can't talk about this war unless you talk about Iraq and how it affects Afghanistan and the overall war. If we hadn't lost in Iraq, if Iraq had broken into three parts and became chaotic, you would have had a Sunni-Shi'a civil war spread through the region, the biggest winner of a loss in Iraq would have been Iran second only to al Qaeda. Bin Laden said go to the Land of Two Rivers. This is the central battle. The Muslim population in Iraq took up arms, with our help, against bin Laden and beaten al Qaeda's brains out. Iraq -- the surge worked. It is not working, it has worked.

NATO is in charge of Afghanistan. Senator Obama is on the Foreign Relations Committee, the subcommittee dealing with oversight of NATO. He has never held one hearing about Afghanistan. We are not going to allow the hard work in Iraq to be ignored and not appreciated because we've got growing problems in Afghanistan. You have to win where the enemy is at. We are winning in Iraq, it will help us with Iran, it will help us in the region to defeat al Qaeda, and NATO needs to help more in Afghanistan.

SEN. BIDEN: That's all old thinking why we're in trouble. First of all, the reason Obama didn't hold a hearing on NATO, I chaired the committee. Every one of those committee hearings are held at full committee, number one. Number two, with regard to General Petraeus, central war on terrorism, I asked General Petraeus, and I asked Ambassador Crocker, before my committee when they were here -- if you have a choice only to eliminate al Qaeda one place -- Afghanistan or Iraq, which do you choose? Both of them said, "Obviously, Afghanistan. That's where they live," number one.

Number two, the idea of us pulling down, drawing down in Iraq, that the Iraqis themselves will not eliminate al Qaeda is bizarre. The overall thinking here is we continue to be bogged down by this old think that Lindsey and John stick to is the reason why we're in so much trouble to begin with.

MR. WILLIAMS: Senator Biden, I don't meant to interrupt --

SEN. BIDEN: No, I understand.

MR. WILLIAMS: You were in the news yourself this past week -- are you interested in the vice presidency?

SEN. BIDEN: I am not interested in the vice presidency.

MR. WILLIAMS: You are not interested in the vice presidency?

SEN. BIDEN: I'm not interested.

MR. WILLIAMS: "Meet the Press," April 29, 2007, Tim Russert asks Joe Biden, "Are you interested in being vice president?" "No, I will not be vice president under any circumstances." But in a different answer, you answered you'd have to say yes?

SEN. BIDEN: I don't know. Well, no, the bottom -- look, when I was asked that question, I thought I was still going to be president, number one. I am not interested in being vice president. I'd let the candidate know. If the candidate asked me to be vice president, the answer is I've got to say yes, but he's not going to ask me.

Look, you cannot walk away when your party -- if the party nominee asks you --

MR. WILLIAMS: Is that a rule out or a rule in?

SEN. BIDEN: No, it's -- I'm not interested. I'm answering your question honestly.

MR. WILLIAMS: But if asked?

SEN. BIDEN: Unlike most other people, I'm being straight with you. If asked, I will do it. I've made it clear I do not want to be asked.

MR. WILLIAMS: Do not want to be asked but, if asked, the answer, of course, would be yes.

SEN. BIDEN: Of course, it would, because the -- if the presidential nominee thought I could help him win, I'm going to say to the first African-American candidate about to make history in the world that, no, I will not help you out like you want me to? Of course, I'll say yes.

MR. WILLIAMS: On that note, we will thank both senators who, by the way, are up for reelection in their respective states. Senator Graham, Senator Biden, gentlemen, thank you for coming by this Sunday morning.


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