CBS "Early Show" - Transcript:


By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: Feb. 25, 2009
Location: Unknown

MS. RODRIGUEZ: We're joined now by Vice President Joe Biden, who is live at his home at the Naval Observatory with us.

Good morning, Mr. Vice President.

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Good morning, Maggie. How are you?

MS. RODRIGUEZ: I'm fine, thank you. And you must be happy too. You heard the poll results showing that Americans are overwhelmingly optimistic after hearing the speech last night.

But now you have to deliver. And the president said last night that that is, in large part, your job. I'm curious to know what exactly you will be doing as the head of this unprecedented oversight effort.

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, what I'm doing -- when I leave this chair, Maggie, I've called for a Cabinet meeting where I'm going to preside over to make sure that we know exactly what each Cabinet member is doing, what resources they have available, how they're going to distribute those resources, how we're going to follow the money. I'm meeting with the governors as well as the mayors. I'm also meeting with private industry and private business.

And we want to make sure that we don't do what the last administration did when it tried to help the banks. It ended up spending $350 billion, and the General Accounting Office said we can't account for a lot of it.


VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: This is a matter of discipline and getting this right, and that's what we intend to do.

MS. RODRIGUEZ: We all remember when the bailouts went so terribly wrong. Everyone was angry. The president mentioned it last night. So you will know exactly where the money is going. But how will we know?

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Because we're going to put every bit of this transparently up on a website. You're going to know -- be able to go to a website. Every single bit of this will be on a website. We're going to report regularly. I'm going to be traveling around the country, in addition to my responsibilities related to some foreign policy matters. I'm going to be moving to let people know exactly what's going on.

And when -- and when we find that the money isn't being used as it's intended to be used, when governors, if they were to take the money and put it in a rainy-day fund instead of create a new job, we will expose that. We will make it clear. And I will literally come on your show. I will be on television saying that "We're disappointed; this is what happened. The money was supposed to be spent for this; it got spent for that."

There's a lot -- and we've also hired, Maggie, one of the toughest inspector generals here in the federal government. We're putting together a team, an oversight team, that is going to be -- not just me, but I have a whole staff that's been created under me to follow the money, to make sure it creates jobs and begins to lay the groundwork for a 21st century economy and an electric grid, on new infrastructure systems around the country, and investing money in education that really will pay off.

MS. RODRIGUEZ: Mr. Vice President, we watched the speech last night with a cross-section of Americans, and we asked them if they had any questions for you. And I'd like to share one of them with you from a viewer --


MS. RODRIGUEZ: -- who had to lay off most of her staff last year. Take a listen.

LISA HENDRICKSON (small business owner): (From videotape.) What I'm looking for are real clear details about how is the stimulus package really going to help small businesses.

MS. RODRIGUEZ: Mr. Vice President?

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, there's a number of ways. It depends on what your business is. I would recommend that woman call my office directly and I will be able to guide her as to how -- what pieces of this package would be directly helpful to her.

For example, it may very well be that she's in a circumstance where she is not able -- her customers aren't able to get to her. There's no transit capability; the bridge going across the creek to get to her business needs repair. It may very well be that she's in a position where she is unable to access the -- her energy costs are so high; by providing smart meters, by being able to bring down the cost of her workforce -- I mean, excuse me, cost of operating her business.

But most importantly, where it's mainly going to come for the business people is getting credit flowing again. She probably has trouble maintaining inventory and paying salaries. And that's because we've got to get the bank credit flowing, and that's a separate issue the president spoke to.


VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: But we're going to be very, very demanding of the banks as we help them. We're going to demand that they act responsibly.

MS. RODRIGUEZ: So expect a call from Lisa Hendrickson later today.

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: But she should call me directly.

MS. RODRIGUEZ: Okay, very good.


MS. RODRIGUEZ: In the last 30 seconds, Mr. Vice President, you obviously did a good job -- the president did a good job of making Americans optimistic and convincing them that this is the right plan. But the Republican Party came out with their own charismatic, young, dynamic, ethnic spokesperson after the speech and said, "We don't buy it. We're not on board."

Are you taking any of their objections into account? Are any of their objections legitimate, in your view?

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Sure. I'm sure there are some legitimate objections they have. But what I don't understand from Governor Jindal is, what would he do? I mean, in Louisiana there's 400 people a day losing their jobs. What's he doing? What's the answer? In the state of Louisiana, the infrastructure problems are severe, not just the levees and the dikes; in every other state. What's he doing? So if you choose the inaction that Governor Jindal is talking about, how responsible is that while people are just sinking into the abyss?

Look, every single time we've faced a major crisis in this nation, with a Democrat or Republican president, a proactive president has come forward, stated what is needed, laid out clearly what he wants to do, and challenged the American people.

Barack Obama and I are absolutely, positively convinced that not only will we come out of this recession, but when we come out, we'll have a stronger middle class, a more competitive nation, and the 21st century will be ours, the U.S. That's what we've got to lay the foundation for.

MS. RODRIGUEZ: All right, we sure hope so. Mr. Vice President, thank you so much.


MS. RODRIGUEZ: By the way, do you know the website?

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: You know, I'm embarrassed. (To staff.) Do you know the website number? You know, I should have it in front of me and I don't. I'm actually embarrassed.

MS. RODRIGUEZ: All right. I'm going to call your office directly too and get it later.


MS. RODRIGUEZ: Recovery. Is that up and running already?

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: That's up and running.

MS. RODRIGUEZ: All right, thank you, Mr. Vice President.

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you. Bye-bye.


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