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MSNBC Hardball - Transcript

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MSNBC Hardball - Transcript
Thursday, May 12, 2005


MATTHEWS: Thank you very much, Norah O'Donnell.

Delaware Senator Joe Biden is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator Biden, thank you.

We've been just doing the math here with Norah O'Donnell. Do you believe there are enough votes to prevent the president and the vice president from getting the 50 votes they need in the Senate to win the nomination of-to win the confirmation of John Bolton?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: If this were a secret ballot, more than enough. I'm not sure, with the incredible pressure the president and vice president will put on their Republican colleagues, that there are enough.
But let me tell you, Chris, I always think there are enough people of rectitude in the Senate that will do the right thing. I don't think George Voinovich is the only person with that kind of courage. And-but whether there are six, I don't know.

MATTHEWS: Has any Republican senator told you that he or she will vote to oppose the nomination?


MATTHEWS: Has Joe Lieberman said anything about where he stands?

BIDEN: I haven't heard-I haven't spoken to Joe, no.

MATTHEWS: Do you think he might vote for the nomination?


MATTHEWS: In other words, do you assume all Democrats will oppose the nomination, including the hawks?

BIDEN: Well, I haven't done that yet, Chris. I simply don't know.

We've been concentrating in the committee. I haven't, as we say, whipped the Democrats yet to find out where every Democrat is. So, I can't answer that question.

MATTHEWS: When did you get the word, Senator, that George Voinovich, the Republican from Ohio, was going to oppose the nomination in committee?

BIDEN: I-I would rather not answer that.


Is the president in danger here of losing his credibility? Here he is with his point man on arms control around the world, you could say the man on the wall, the man who is probably the most ferocious in advocating his very strong forward-leaning foreign policy. If Bolton goes down, does Bush go down? Does this hurt the president?

BIDEN: Well, no, no. I don't think-I mean, look, the president of the United States is the-is the biggest fish in the international pond. Bolton could go down. The vice president could go down. The secretary of state could go down and he still, still has credibility because he is the president of the United States of America.

But I do think that sending Bolton, not understanding the message that was sent today, there are not a sufficient number of Republicans in a Republican-controlled committee to send this nomination to the floor favorably. And the fact of the matter is, what the president could do to vastly enhance his credibility around the world on international matters, as well as make a giant leap here for-toward a bipartisan foreign policy, would be to understand the message sent today, this was damning with faint praise in the extreme, and decide to send some tough conservative Republican who has wide respect in Bolton's place.

I don't think he'll do that. But that could greatly enhance his capability.

MATTHEWS: Do you think John Bolton would be trusted by the world community as U.N. ambassador?

BIDEN: Chris, I'm in a tough spot here, because, if he goes up there, he's going to be the ambassador to the United Nations and I'm going to want to support him. He is the only man we will have at the United Nations speaking for us.
But I think it is clear that there is no one of prominence that could have been picked by this president who the rest of the world leadership, who focuses on us, as well as my colleagues, think is the least likely person to...


BIDEN: ... support.

MATTHEWS: I'm sorry, Senator.

Do you know-maybe this is an internal matter for the White House. But do you know whether President Bush was aware of all the complaints made against the job performance of John Bolton before sending his name to the committee?

BIDEN: I would be surprised if he was aware of it, because, being aware of it, I think he would have-look, there's nothing good that's-let's assume Bolton gets confirmed next week or two weeks or four weeks, whenever. Let's assume that occurs.

Does anybody think the president's stature and ability to lead has been enhanced by this fight? I can't imagine, if he knew this, if he knew this, that he would have set Mr. Bolton up, because even if he-quote-"wins the fight," there has been damage done. I can't imagine he would have done that.

MATTHEWS: Let me try this another way, Senator Biden. You grew up, like a lot of us did during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And you saw Adlai Stevenson, a man who was a liberal, perform admirably as a cold warrior in the U.N. when we had to present evidence of missile bases in Cuba.

BIDEN: That's right.

MATTHEWS: Offensive nuclear missile bases. He was believed by the world community.

BIDEN: Absolutely, positively.

MATTHEWS: In the world of public opinion. Will John Bolton be able to make our case in the courtroom of public opinion?

BIDEN: Not without a significant change. And I don't know how that can happen in the near term.

MATTHEWS: Are you going to lead the fight against John Bolton or will George Voinovich?

BIDEN: Well, I just-I would be happy to have George lead it. I think my-on the Democratic side, I will be the one managing this nomination, to use the jargon here, and, in that sense, leading the fight.

But if I could say to my Republican colleagues, just do one thing. Just read Senator Voinovich's statement that he made in the committee. It was elegant. It was impressive. It was coherent. And it was profound. And I can't imagine-everybody on that side knows George Voinovich, as we do. This is a guy who has real gumption, real character. This is a guy who is a stand-up guy.

And for him to move in the direction he did, with the ferocity with which he did it, an ordered argumentation that he presented, has to be taken seriously by anyone who respects this process and respects this place.

MATTHEWS: Senator Biden, will you oppose the use of a filibuster to stop this nomination or would you allow it?

BIDEN: I would not oppose it. I do not propose it. I think a lot will depend, Chris, on whether or not the administration comes forward with the information that we're entitled to, merely as a matter of institutional responsibility.

We do not, we should not, we must not allow the president of the United States' administration to determine what is relevant to our consideration. That's what they're arguing. They're not arguing that this would be, the information we're seeking, would violate executive privilege or there's a constitutional basis for it. We will be making a serious mistake under the doctrine of separation of powers if we let them get away with that.

MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you very much, Senator Joe Biden.


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