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NBC "Today" - Transcript


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NBC "Today" - Transcript


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MR. LAUER: President Obama also announced that Vice President Joe Biden would oversee the implementation of the stimulus package because, in his words, "nobody messes with Joe."

Mr. Vice President, good morning. Nice to have you with us.

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: It's great to be with you. I saw the look on my wife's face. She didn't quite understand that.

MR. LAUER: (Laughs.) You're going to have to deal with that one at home.


MR. LAUER: Let me ask you about this speech, okay? The president laid out in broad terms his plans to stimulate the economy, to loosen up the lending markets, to invest in things like energy and education and infrastructure.

Let me read you what the man who will follow you on this program this morning, Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, had to say about the speech. He said, "Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line and saddle future generations with debt." He went on to say, "Who among us would ask our children for a loan so we can spend money we don't have on things we don't need?"

Can you respond?

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Yes. I'd ask the governor, "Who among us would let our kids not be able to have good meals or fathers not have jobs, to be kicked out of their homes, not being able to have a -- to borrow money? Who among us would do that?"

You know, I mean, in Louisiana they're losing 400 jobs a day. What's the governor doing about that? I hear a lot of criticism, but I never hear anything in response. What would you do? The fact of the matter is, Matt, the president was clear and commanding. He said, "Look, you've got to get the economy moving by stimulating work. You've got to get people" -- if we don't do anything, every economist says we're going to lose 4 (million) to 5 million more jobs this year.

You've got to move. You've got to stabilize it. You've got to go get the credit flowing in the banks. And then you've got to, at the same time when you start this, you've got to put in place a way in which to gain control of this so it doesn't get out of control in the out years.

MR. LAUER: Mr. Vice --

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: And the president laid that out clearly.

MR. LAUER: Mr. Vice President, over the last month the president has lowered expectations and talked about the fact that this crisis was going to be longer and deeper than any of us planned. And it was interesting on Capitol Hill yesterday; the chairman of the Fed, Ben Bernanke, went up there and said, in his opinion, the economic recovery could start at the end of this year. That sounds like two very different stories.

I'm curious. Does the president agree with that?

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, look, the economic recovery will start, we believe, our economists believe within the administration, this year. By the third or fourth quarter you'll see us moving to positive growth. But the president is letting people know, though, in similar recessions -- and none as bad as this -- unemployment always lags far behind.

So the idea that we're going to take this action and unemployment is going to drop off the edge of the world and we're going to get back to 3 percent unemployment, that's not realistic. It's going to take some time. And he's letting the people know that there is no magic bullet to this. And so -- but he is absolutely, positively convinced that if we move decisively, we can be back in the saddle again, leading the world in the 21st century within the next two years.

MR. LAUER: Let me take you back to something you said on this program September 16th, 2008. Of course, you were running at the time. And this was the morning after we all learned that AIG, the insurance giant, was on the brink of collapse. And Meredith asked you, "Senator, do you think that AIG should be bailed out by the federal government?" You said, quote, "No, I don't think they should be bailed out by the federal government."

Here we are, five months later. We've given them $150 billion. They could need some $60 billion more. Were you right? And is the president now throwing more good money after bad?

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: I was right and he's right. Let me explain what I mean. I was right then because I was convinced they wouldn't put the constraints on AIG they needed to. We are not going to do what the last administration did with AIG. You're going to see us moving forward in repairing and helping these banks get back to solvency, but we're going to demand that they restructure.

We're going to demand that they be in a position that, when we finish helping them with taxpayers' money, they are solvent and they are secure. We're not going to allow them to do what, in fact, is allowed with AIG and others in the first attempt in the last administration to help the financial institutions. They must pay part of the price if they have capital.

MR. LAUER: All right.

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: And so that's the difference, and that's part of the job that this administration has.

MR. LAUER: Jim Miklaszewski, our Pentagon correspondent, is reporting this morning the president's nearing a decision on a plan that would withdraw 92,000 U.S. troops from Iraq within 19 months. Now, you guys ran on a pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat troops within 16 months. I'm not going to split hairs on the three months; I don't think anybody will. But I want to get these troop numbers down. That would not be a withdrawal of all combat troops, would it?

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Look, the president is going to make an announcement on Friday -- I believe it's Friday, or very soon -- on this very point, Matt. And I'd rather have him speak to that. He'll speak to it in detail. And I think the American public will understand exactly what we're doing, and I think they'll be pleased.

MR. LAUER: But are we going to -- are you keeping a campaign promise or breaking a campaign promise?

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: We're keeping a campaign commitment.

MR. LAUER: Vice President Joe Biden. Mr. Vice President, good to be with you.

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Good to be with you, Matt. Thank you.

MR. LAUER: Thank you.


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