Transcript: Sen. Joseph Biden on 'Fox News Sunday'

The following is a transcribed excerpt from 'Fox News Sunday,' June 13, 2004. 

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: For more on the future of Iraq, relations with the allies, and other hot spots, we turn now to the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a key adviser to the Kerry campaign, Senator Joseph Biden, who joins us from Wilmington, Delaware.

And, Senator, welcome. Good to talk with you again.

U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN, D-DE: Good to be with you.

WALLACE: Let's begin with these attacks on senior Iraqi officials. You just heard Secretary of State Powell. What can be done to protect these members of th more security. You've been talking about it. We've been talking about it. The administration is focusing more on it now.

And, look, ultimately we have got the Iraqi people to buy into politics rather than violence. And by that, I mean, you know, they have to decide that the enemy — the average Iraqi has to decide their enemy is not the occupier but their enemy is the person doing the assassination, the car bombing, et cetera. And we're not there yet.

And in the meantime, what every general I've spoken to over the last year has said, "We're going to need more security, more forces on the ground in order to get more security," and especially as you lead up to this electoral process between now and January, the next electoral cycle and then the following cycle in December. So we still have a way to go.

WALLACE: So you would send in more U.S. troops to try to protect the new Iraqi government?

BIDEN: Well, let me put it this way: You've got to get troops somewhere, Chris. We have 138,000 people there, our forces there. Everyone I've spoken to has indicated that you need more forces there.

Hopefully, what will happen is, with the — seeing an Iraqi face now, in terms of running the country — and I agree with you about moving up, quite frankly, the turnover. And I'd even move up the electoral process from January into late October, November for the very purpose of getting Iraqis to invest in the political side of the equation rather than essentially be agnostic and standing back when you see this carnage going on.

So it's possible, it's possible there can be such a transformation in the attitude of the Iraqi people. I doubt it. But it's possible that more troops will not be needed because you'll have the Iraqis investing more, I said, in the politics.

But I think you need more troops. We have one last chance at Istanbul.

And by the way, the secretary said we never expected to get massive NATO involvement. No one ever suggested massive NATO involvement. I've been talking about no more than 3,000 to a maximum of 7,000 troops, NATO troops.

But bottom line is security. We've got to deal with the training of the Iraqis, which has been woefully inadequate so far — Iraqi forces, as well as disbanding the militias. So it's a tall order. I'm still optimistic it can be done. But we need more buy-in.

WALLACE: But, Senator Biden, let's talk about this issue of more foreign troops, non-U.S. troops. French President Chirac made it very clear at the G-8 summit this week, he and other allies, they have no intention of sending in more troops. Do you really think another president, John Kerry, for instance, could do any better?

BIDEN: Well, it would be too late by then. That's not until January, if that occurs. But I do think we could have done better and can do better. Back in — I think I spoke on your program before, back in December, Chirac agreed to vote to allow NATO forces in. The president didn't ask. I think what Chirac and Schroeder did this time, they wanted to preempt the president from directly asking.

I make — maybe this is just hopeful. Were I the president of the — advising the president of the United States, when we have the NATO summit, I would have the new Iraqi government make a formal request at that summit for NATO support for the mission, official NATO support. I think it would be very difficult for Chirac, very difficult for Schroeder to turn down that request. It is my hope that that is something the administration is contemplating, that the secretary of state is thinking about.

And the main reason to do this is to demonstrate to the Iraqi people and to demonstrate to our people, the United States, that there's a bigger buy-in here and it's not just American forces that are going to be needed.

Now, short term it's going to be, still, 95 percent of the real fighting is going to be done and protection done by the American military in Iraq. But this is a long haul. We're not even talking about an exit strategy until December of 2005 when there is an actual, in effect, final election after a constitution. And we need more than 138,000 forces, in my view, between now and December of 2005.

WALLACE: Senator, let's turn to another subject. It came out this week that Justice Department officials had written memos saying that the president was not prohibited by law from authorizing the use of torture in the war on terror. And that led to the following exchange between you and the attorney general. Let's take a look.


BIDEN: There's a reason why we sign these treaties: to protect my son in the military. That's why we have these treaties. So when Americans are captured, they are not tortured.

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, as a person whose son is in the military now on active duty and has been in the Gulf within the last several months, I'm aware of those considerations.


WALLACE: Senator, does it make a difference that, according to the administration, the president never approved the use of torture?

BIDEN: Well, it makes a difference. It'd be much, much worse if he did. And I take him at his word that he didn't.

But it sure set a tone. I mean, you heard the secretary respond somewhat obliquely to that this morning, necessarily, I think.

But when he was before the Congress before, the secretary of state said — if I can put on my glasses, I'll read what he said, thinking you might ask me this question. He said back on January 26th that, "Declaring the Geneva Convention inapplicable would reverse our century of U.S. policy practice in supporting the Geneva Conventions, undermine the protection of our laws and the war — and our troops." And he goes and says, "It would also undermine public support among critical allies and populations."

Look, this is a big deal. And the idea that — I haven't gotten that angry, quite frankly, in a long, long time, because, just prior to that exchange you saw, the attorney general was saying he wasn't going to make available any of those memoranda; no rationale other than he said he wasn't going to do it. No Cabinet member has a right to do that, to the overseeing committee of the United States Senate.

And further, it was clear that some of the memos that were written go very, very far in making it clear that they thought, legally at least, we were allowed to use torture, which I find absolutely debilitating for our forces.

I don't have a son in the Gulf. He hasn't been called into the Gulf yet. He and thousands of other young women and men, who are called, or may be called, are the ones that are — are the ones put in jeopardy by this policy.

And there's no outright condemnation. What the attorney general — I was looking for him to say, Chris, was, "Yes, those memos may have been written, but I fundamentally disagree with those memos, I think they were wrong, they never had any authority, and I think they're legally incorrect." Where was that kind of response?

WALLACE: Senator, I want to move on, if I can, to a little domestic politics. What do you make of the reports that have come out that John Kerry has apparently approached John McCain seven times about being his running-mate?

BIDEN: I think it's an exaggeration.

WALLACE: Well, we're hearing it from people close to both campaigns.

BIDEN: Well, I'm sure he's talked to John seven times; John has spoken to John seven times.

Look, John Kerry and John McCain are friends. I've made it clear for over six months, I think having John McCain on the ticket would be absolutely a smart, decent, wonderful idea. It would take the blue states and the red states and begin to unite us. It would also be, very practically, a great help to the Kerry campaign.

I don't expect John McCain to do that. I would be disappointed, at some point, if it hadn't already occurred, if John Kerry did not have a very frank conversation with John McCain about that possibility.

I don't know that it's been seven times. I don't even know that it's been one time. But it makes sense to me, and it also is reasonable that John McCain very well would say no.

I think John McCain still has another presidential campaign in him, whether it's as a vice president with Kerry, or a presidential nominee himself, in four years, I don't know, but there's a whole lot left in John McCain.

WALLACE: Does it trouble you at all that Senator Kerry would want someone who disagrees with him and disagrees with the Democratic Party platform on so many fundamental issues?

BIDEN: No, it doesn't, because on the fundamental things, there's an awful lot of agreement. And the point here is, I think everyone acknowledges, on left, right and center, that we need to unite this country. We are much, much too divided. We are much too partisan. Things have gotten much too bitter.

And I think it would be a little bit like a unity government. And I think reaching out at this moment in our history, at this time, with the difficulty we face, would be very much in the interest of the United States of America.

WALLACE: Senator Biden, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for coming in today.

BIDEN: Thanks, Chris, for having me.

WALLACE: Up next, stories you won't find on any other Sunday show, and we'll talk politics with our panel: Bill Sammon, Mara Liasson, Bill Kristol and Juan Williams. Stay tuned.