WASHINGTON – The following is a partial transcript of the Sept. 16, 2007, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace":
"FOX NEWS SUNDAY" HOST CHRIS WALLACE: Joining us now from the presidential campaign trail in Des Moines, Iowa is Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, you just heard Secretary Gates talk about his hope of getting down to 100,000 troops by the end of 2008. What do you think is possible?
SEN. JOE BIDEN, D-DEL.: Well, I think a lot more is possible, Chris. Look, I think that the main thing is getting the American forces redeployed out of the fault lines of the middle of this civil war and to move along the lines of General Jones' objective, which moves them back to the border, have their mission focus on training Iraqis and protecting — and force structure protection.
We don't need anywhere near that many troops for that purpose.
WALLACE: Let's talk, though, about the consequences of leaving, because it's something that Secretary Gates talked about. President Bush did as well.
He said this week that if we pull out of our forward combat position too early, there will be a humanitarian crisis, Al Qaeda will get new recruits, Iran will be encouraged to dominate the region.
You just heard Secretary Gates talk about the fact that this would be more devastating in terms of encouraging the terrorists than the Soviet pullout from Afghanistan.
Clearly, stabilizing Iraq is no — is only a possibility. But isn't it certain that we would pay a terrible price if we were to pull out of Iraq?
BIDEN: If we pulled every troop out of Iraq now, I think that would happen, but there's a terrible consequence of staying the course.
WALLACE: But even if we went down to what you're talking about.
BIDEN: No, not at all. Absolutely not. There is no evidence to sustain the assertion that if we were on the border protecting that inflow of material and men coming from Iran and other places, if we were training Iraqi troops and dealing with taking out Al Qaeda in large swaths of area they try to occupy, there is no suggestion — no suggestion — that would be anything remotely approaching abandonment.
It would be a fundamental change in tactic. And what is the tactic we're engaged in now? What is the consequence of it? The consequence of it is unremitting American casualties, loss of support for the war, an overwhelming desire on the part of the American people to get out completely, which would cause that consequence you've spoken about.
So there's not only consequences of pulling out completely, there's consequences of staying in the manner and mode we're in now.
And, Chris, the fundamental strategic strategy Gates and everyone else clings to is that there's a possibility to establish a strong central government in Iraq.
That will not happen in your lifetime. It will not happen, and today's op-ed piece by Henry Kissinger reinforces that. There is no possibility. They have no political strategy.
WALLACE: But he also talks about the fact that the dangers of withdrawal — I mean, if the Democratic Congress...
BIDEN: Sure, you're setting up a straw man.
WALLACE: If I may ask the question — if I may ask the question, sir.
BIDEN: Sure. Sorry.
WALLACE: If the Democratic Congress were able to force the president's hand, and the headlines around the world were "Democrats Force President to Pull Troops out of Iraq," not all of the troops, but most of the troops out, and to change his policy, you don't think — and I'm just asking the question.
You don't think that Al Qaeda would play this as a huge victory and a defeat for the U.S.?
BIDEN: No, I don't. I think the rest of the world would say they're finally getting smart. I think the European allies would say they're finally getting it right. I think, in fact, the regional parties would begin to think, "Whoa, these guys are starting to figure this out."
Look, Chris, why are we in the middle of Baghdad? Why are we on all these fault lines? What are we doing? The president's express purpose, he said, was to surge into the midst of this civil war. For what reason? To get a political reconciliation in the central government.
I think everyone would say they finally started to come to their senses. They finally started to figure out the only way this is going to work is with three regions in this country that are loosely federated, and they'd begin to focus on establishing that.
And they'd have a diplomatic surge — they brought in the rest of the world to say, "Hey, pal, let's get this straight here in Iraq. You guys stay out. Here's the way this is going to work. There's going to be a regional government." I think they'd think we came to our senses.
WALLACE: Senator, let's talk about this idea of partition, because that is your central idea for Iraq, to...
BIDEN: Not partition.
WALLACE: Well, let me...
BIDEN: Not partition. You keep saying that. It's not partition. Kissinger's not talking about partition. I'm not talking about partition. Gelb's not talking about it.
It's regions within a whole government, with a defined border, with a central government distributing resources and protecting the borders. That's what it is.
BIDEN: Not partition.
WALLACE: So to have regional governments with a...
WALLACE: ... and divide it, though, along ethnic-sectarian lines — the Kurds, the Shia, the Sunnis...
WALLACE: ... with a limited central government to do things like share oil revenue.
But I want you to address a recent poll taken of Iraqis. Let's take a look at that, if we can. Sixty-two percent of Iraqis now said they favor a unified Iraq with a central government. Only 28 percent want regional states and a weaker federal government.
So, Senator, how do you impose your plan on the Iraqis, especially when they don't want it?
BIDEN: Well, first of all, that poll is misleading. You don't want to start comparing polls with me because you got 78 percent of the Iraqi people saying it's all right to kill Americans.
So polls — you don't want to get into that with me, Chris, because you have no argument at all.
WALLACE: Well, I'm perfectly happy — this was a poll taken by ABC and the BBC of 2,200 Iraqis.
WALLACE: The indication seems to be by a margin of more than 2- 1, they don't want — whether you call it partition or regional governments, they don't want it.
BIDEN: Well, the Kurds sure want it. That takes care of about...
WALLACE: I know. They were the one group that does want it.
BIDEN: And the other ones who want it now are — the Shia began to want it.
WALLACE: Actually, not in the poll, they didn't.
BIDEN: The reason the Shia want it — they want to have a — well, look, Chris, polls taken in the middle of a war — I don't know what they mean.
But I do know one thing. I was there last Thursday and I met with the Shia vice president who supports a regional form of government. I met with the Sunni vice president, Hashemi, who said his heart tells him a central government, his head tells him a regional government.
I met with the deputy vice premier of the — the vice prime minister — deputy prime minister who happens to be a Kurd who thinks that's inevitable, the way we're going.
This is about the same thing we did, essentially, in Bosnia. What did we do? We got the world powers in. We got the Russians, the French, the Germans, everybody in one room.
We brought in the warring factions. We sat them in a room and said figure this out, but there's not likely to be a strong central government in Sarajevo that can hold this country together.
Same thing pertains here. This is what you call diplomacy. This is what a president's supposed to do. A president is supposed to bring about a diplomatic solution.
This president is AWOL. He continues to cling to a failed strategy that he somehow thinks relying on a Maliki government or anyone else is going to establish a strong, central, unified government that's going to end this civil war.
And that is an abject failure. It's proven to be a failure. We should get off of it.
WALLACE: Senator, let's talk about what Democrats are going to do, because the leading ideas I talked about with Secretary Gates in the Senate at this point is the Webb plan, which would require troops to be home as long as they are deployed overseas.
You just heard Secretary Gates say it would be a disaster in terms of manpower, you'd end up splitting up units, you'd end up having — regarding — involving the National Guard and the Reserves even more.
And I can tell you, because I was at a lunch with the president, he says Congress has no role in telling the Army how to deploy its troops.
In fact, one of your colleagues, Senator McCain, has just said this morning that it would be unconstitutional. Your reaction.
BIDEN: First of all, the president doesn't know a lot about the Constitution, based on his conduct. He has a very unitary view of the Constitution, number one.
Number two, we do have a right to make such a judgment.
Number three, let's talk about consequences. What are the consequences of continuing to do what we're doing with — essentially the way in which we're deploying these troops?
As the military has said, we're breaking — we're breaking the United States military, flat breaking it. And what we're doing is we're going to end up in a situation where you don't have people signing up. You're going to end up having to go to a draft.
This long-term consequence of keeping these kind of deployments is absolutely disastrous for the United States of America and for the United States military.
It's not a good thing the other way either. You choose two very bad alternatives — one very bad and one OK. And if you don't figure out how to get these folks some time home, you are going to break — break — this military. That's what this is about.
And we can do what we need to do in Iraq with significantly fewer troops. That is my contention and the contention of a whole lot of other people outside this administration.
WALLACE: Senator, let's turn to the MoveOn.org ad that we've been talking about, about General Petraeus. When you were asked about it last week, you said, "I don't buy into that. This is an honorable guy."
But I want to ask you directly. Was MoveOn.org wrong to attack the integrity of General Petraeus?
BIDEN: MoveOn.org is as frustrated and angry and can't — with this policy. What you saw is a burst of frustration. It was more about MoveOn.org than about the war.
And look. The idea that they have said — they use one phrase, that somehow these guys are a bunch of un-Americans who should be run out of the country or something — this is great political tactic for people to use. They were wrong in saying what they said, in my view.
But speaking of moving on, we should move on and decide what we're going to do about whether or not this continued failed policy that's chewing up American lives, chewing up American dollars, with no end in sight, is worth some disdain on the part of a lot of Americans who are really angry.
That's what you saw. You saw frustration there. And so, you know, this is what it is. I think it was a mistake. But I don't think it's a capital offense.
WALLACE: Fine. And you have just said that you thought that it was a mistake and you thought it was wrong.
And I'm not asking to you speak for them, but people are noting the fact that Senators Clinton, Senator Obama, Senator Edwards have all refused to say those simple words that you just said.
And it raises the question whether there are some people in your party that are pandering — that are scared of the antiwar left.
BIDEN: Look, I'm confident all the rest of those colleagues, all those others that are running as well, feel the same, and I think probably the majority of MoveOn.org probably regrets the way it came out.
But I think what you saw here is something that is — it's over. It's done. They went, in that one instance, I think, overboard. But the point they were trying to make was still valid.
The point they were trying to make is that the American public hasn't been told the truth about this war from the beginning, and they don't think they're being told the truth about it now.
And this president — you know, the earth moved when the president spoke the other day. He made clear what I said, I think, on your program 10 month ago: There is no plan to end this war by the time he's president. This is all about handing it off to the next president.
As one of your colleagues in the media said, he's using the American troops as a cork in a bottle which is to keep the very bad things from happening, spilling out into the region.
But there's no plan. There's no plan here to end the war. What's the plan? We're going to stand up the Iraqi forces? Here we are, 4.5 years later, $20 billion later. They still can't stand up.
And if you read the whole report that was put out by General Jones, it's going to be another four years before they're fully capable.
The American public are not prepared to keep American forces there just to keep bad things from happening.
WALLACE: Senator, we have about...
BIDEN: They want to know what you're going to do to be good.
WALLACE: Senator, we have about a minute left, and I want to change to one last subject, and that is the choice of a new attorney general, because there is increasing reporting today that former federal judge Michael Mukasey is the leading contender — may, in fact, have been given the job.
As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, what do you know about him? And could you support him?
BIDEN: The truth is I don't know anything about him. I mean, I know the name but I don't know anything about him. And as long as he can prove — not prove; assert, and I believe, that he understands he's not just the president's lawyer but the country's lawyer, I could support him.
But I don't know enough about him, so he has to pass that test for me, go through that filter. Is he going to be the president's guy? Is he going to — or is he going to stand up and defend the Constitution and be the people's lawyer as well?
And I just don't know the answer to that, Chris.
WALLACE: Senator Biden, it's always a pleasure to talk to you. Thanks for coming...
BIDEN: Thanks, Chris. Thanks for having me.
WALLACE: ... off the campaign trail to talk with us. Safe travels, sir.
BIDEN: Thank you very much.