Sen. Joe Biden on Bush's Surprise Visit to Iraq

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," June 13, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, GUEST HOST: Resetting our top story Tuesday: President Bush surprised Iraqi leaders and U.S. troops by arriving in Baghdad's Green Zone. The trip comes less than a week after the death of Abu al-Zarqawi.

Earlier we heard reaction to the president's trip from Republican Sen. John Cornyn. Here now is Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, a ranking Democrat, the ranking Democrat, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He's been to Iraq six times, the last of which was in December 2005.

So, Senator, you were present when Secretary Rice and Secretary Rumsfeld gave their briefings in private to members of the Senate. What did you learn about the president's trip?

SEN. JOE BIDEN, D-DEL.: Well, Judge, as you know, I can't talk about that. What I learned is classified, but I think the president's going to Iraq was a good thing. And I hope when he went to Iraq he had the opportunity to lay out to the Iraqi leadership the three things we need at a minimum to be able to leave Iraq with a government intact.

That is, they've got to deal with this sectarian violence, purge the military of the death squads. No. 2, give the Sunnis a buy-in. You better amend your constitution to give them a piece of the action. And No. 3, you have to keep the neighbors out. We better figure out how to do that by getting the major powers to call a regional conference telling neighbors stay out. If he did that, he can turn what was a good day and a good week into a great outcome.

NAPOLITANO: Do you think that we turned a corner with just the things that have happened in the past four days? We get rid of the leader of Al Qaeda; we develop an extraordinary amount of intelligence; we conduct over 200 raids and arrest hundreds of people, and the president gives the troops a morale boost, the likes of which we never anticipated. Did we turn a corner?

BIDEN: It's all good stuff and I am not avoiding your question. It can be the start of a turn of a corner, but if nothing more than that happens, if three weeks from now and three months from now you're reporting on your program that there's the same amount of carnage, same amount of sectarian strife, same bubbling civil war, it won't matter at all. It'll be like how we had a great week when we got Saddam out of a spider hole, gathered all that information.

NAPOLITANO: Some of your Democratic colleagues in the Senate, I don't know if you are part of this group, are about to propose an amendment to a Senate appropriations defense bill which, if enacted, would require the president, require him to bring the troops out by December of 2007. Is that a political judgment or a military judgment on their part?

BIDEN: I don't know what it is on their part. On my part, I think you have to make a military judgment. It's not enough, not a plan to just say withdraw. It requires you to say what you're going to try to do, what you're going to try to leave behind. I think just withdrawing is not a plan.

NAPOLITANO: You have never been, as far as I know from watching your career, Senator, one who has been in favor of laying down a deadline in advance by which our troops will leave. For obvious strategic reasons, you rejected that.

BIDEN: I'm still there.

NAPOLITANO: I'm glad. Will you oppose what Senators Kerry and Reid and Levin and Feinstein are apparently putting together and will propose Wednesday?

BIDEN: I don't know. I was part of the group with Levin, my staff and his are meeting. To the best of my knowledge, Reid is not proposing a hard date to leave. I believe Sen. Kerry announced in his speech Tuesday he wanted all the troops out by the end of this year. I understand his frustration, but I don't think that's a plan.

What my hope is, that we lay out a consensus amendment among Democrats saying: Look, we have to do, we find the following three things have to be dealt with, boom, boom, boom, and if we do that, then give the military 18 months to plan a rational exit based upon leaving something stable behind.

NAPOLITANO: Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, thanks very much.

BIDEN: Thanks, Judge.

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