2/07/06: NPR: Fresh Air: Joe Biden on presidential power, secrecy, Iran. Hamas, Supreme Court, partisan politics, Gingrich revolution, Democrats' prospects, John McCain, and a run for the presidency
Fresh Air interviewer: Terry Gross
Terry Gross: My guest, Joe Biden, has witnessed a lot of changes in the Senate. When he was elected, in November 1972, he was a couple of weeks shy of 30, the minimum age he needed to reach before being sworn in. Now he's a senior member of the Senate. Biden is a Democrat from Delaware. The National Journal's Almanac of American Politics describes his voting record as moderate to liberal. As a member of the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees, he's been focused on the recent Supreme Court hearings and the war in Iraq. He chaired the Judiciary Committee from 1987 to 1995. Back in December, when Republican Senator John McCain was our guest, we promised that we would soon be joined by Senator Biden... Biden, like McCain, is considering a run for the presidency. He ran in the Democratic primary in 1988. We recorded our interview yesterday. Earlier in the day Biden questioned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during the Judiciary Committee hearings into presidential power and the NSA's secret surveillance program Senator Biden, welcome to Fresh Air!
Joe Biden: I'm delighted to be here!
Gross: Let's start with the hearings on presidential power and the NSA secret surveillance program. You've had your chance to question Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. What do you most want to know about this secret NSA surveillance program?
Biden: Terry, I'd like to know what they're doing! Not merely whether it's constitutional. What are they doing? And I asked that of the Attorney General: could he tell me with absolute certainty he knows that no email is being opened, no telephone is being tapped unless it emanates from foreign soil and is emanating from a suspected Al Qaeda terrorist and/or one of their sidekicks. And he said he couldn't guarantee that. I asked who could. Who could? And he didn't have an answer for me.
Gross: Is it possible that we need to have a much wider net and not be confident for certain that somebody's Al Qaeda, but just have a hunch and be able to tap phones -- for our own security?
Biden: The answer is yes. And I was around years ago, Terry, and was a co-sponsor of the so-called FISA -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- back in the '70's. I was a member of the Intelligence Committee at the time and the Judiciary Committee. And that was intended to meet the needs for secrecy at the time and to be able to be expanded to meet ongoing needs. But the real question here is, who is making the judgment as to who a terrorist is, and are they the only people being tapped. Or is there so-called "data-mining" going on where there's just a wide net spread indiscriminately. I'm prepared to take the President at his word. But I am not prepared to have that go in perpetuity without ever being reviewed by anyone, including the courts.
Gross: Do you feel confident that this wiretap and email surveillance program is being used solely to try to track terrorists? Do you fear that it's being used for other reasons as well?
Biden: I think I'd be foolish, after so many years of being here and, as I said, being here in the '70's when the reason why we voted this law into place -- FISA -- was that we found J. Edgar Hoover and others were using this material for totally unrelated reasons than determining whether or not during the Cold War some foreign government or agent was plotting against us. And so I think it would be foolish of us to also make the assumption today that that's the only thing it's being used for. And even if it is being used for that purpose alone -- now -- what about the next president? and the next president? It requires that there be some point at which this activity is reviewed so somebody other than an administration official assuring us that, no, this is okay, understands what it being reviewed.
Gross: So what action do you want to see taken?
Biden: I'd like to see us do what we did back in the '70's. The Intelligence Committee -- that is the committee with access to secret information and is able to conduct hearings in secret and from which no information has leaked -- I'd like to see them go and take a hard look at what is going on now. Have the Administration come and lay out what they're doing and who they're doing it to and why they're doing it and why they need it. And then go ahead and amend the law, if it needs amending, to give the Administration the power to do what we all want done. Obviously, we want to be able to eavesdrop on suspected and/or known Al Qaeda terrorists and anyone with whom they're communicating. There isn't a single member of Congress I know of that isn't prepared to grant the president and any president the authority to do that. So I'd like to have the Intelligence Committee look at in secret what's doing on and then determine what is needed in order to make it crystal clear that this is fully within the bounds and propriety of the law.
Gross: CIA Director Porter Goss has said that the leak of this secret NSA surveillance program -- he said about it that the damage has been very severe to the capabilities to carry out our mission. Are you concerned that the questions you're asking might be damaging to our security? Do you think that the leak about this has genuinely damaged our ability to fight Al Qaeda?
Biden: Well, without them telling us the alleged damage, it's hard to believe how serious the damage has been. The idea that this organization which, the President points out, is very sophisticated in terms of its own means by which it uses electronic media, etc -- the idea that they are unaware that we and other countries are unable to intercept communications in the airways is, I find, kind of silly! I mean, they're clearly aware of that! Secondly, this leak is as likely to come from the Administration -- more likely to come from the Administration -- than anywhere else. Matter of fact, the idea that the several members of Congress who are told of the existence of this without any real detail have leaked this is highly... is much less likely. And the news accounts that you and others have reported where senior officials in the Justice Department, senior officials at NSA, senior officials in the White House, senior officials of the Defense Department who had the responsibility of putting this program together, either resigned because they thought it was unconstitutional and inappropriate or made their views known to their superiors. So I would think the problem rests more with Porter Goss's shop, if there is a problem, that it does with the Congress!
Gross: So what do you think the outcome of these hearings will be?
Biden: It's hard to tell, Terry. I think it would be irresponsible for the United Stated Senate Intelligence Committee (of which I'm not a member) not to hold closed, secret hearings on what is actually being done. The first question I asked the Attorney General on Monday was the following: How will we know when we've won the war? And he seemed startled. And he basically said that, well, that'll take a long time. We don't know. And then I said, now does that mean you're asserting the President has this plenary authority under the Constitution to be able, in perpetuity, to wiretap and/or open emails of anyone, someone, an officer at NSA says is a suspect? Is that what you mean? And he said, Well, but Congress can proscribe that. And I said, But you just finished telling us for the previous hour that even if the Congress attempted to proscribe your use of eavesdropping it would not be constitutional because you argue the Foreign Intelligence Act is in fact unconstitutional if in effect it attempts to limit the President's plenary power in time of war. And you just got finished telling me, Mr. Attorney General, that a time of war could go on for decades. So this is a pretty open-ended thing. The way I think of it, Terry, is this: I can't imagine our founders having concluded the president has so much authority that he could go for literally decades, engaging in activity that may or may not violate the civil liberties and constitutional rights of innocent Americans, without anyone at any time ever being able to go back and review whether or not it is appropriate.
Gross: Senator Biden, you not only serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, you're on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. I want to ask you about Iran. The UN Atomic Energy agency voted on Saturday to report Iran to the Security Council, and after the vote Iran announced it would immediately end its voluntary nuclear cooperation with the agency and would begin full-scale production of enriched uranium which could be used for nuclear weapons. Iran was named by President Bush as part of his "axis of evil" before we invaded Iraq. Do you think the Bush administration is considering a military option in Iran. Do you think the Bush administration would eventually try to persuade the Security Council to seek some kind of military approach or that it might be considering a unilateral military approach like it did with Iraq?
Biden: I don't think there's anything -- to use the colloquial phrase -- that the Administration has "taken off the table" in terms of potential options to move against Iran if they viewed it as necessary. But the fact of the matter is, there are not many options. Unlike the program that existed in Iraq as opposed to Iran -- years ago when the Israelis very famously took out the Iraqi nuclear reactor -- all the experts will tell you there is no single military action from the air or through sabotage that could "end their nuclear program." And so the options are more limited. I would make two other points. The Administration has, I think, of late -- in the last year -- adopted the correct policy with regard to Iran. That is to attempt to further isolate Iran by cooperating with and getting the consensus of the European community, Russia, China and others to say to Iran, If you continue to act in a generic sense this anti-social behavior internationally, there will be consequences for you. Notwithstanding the fact that the president of Iran has been somewhat bellicose, the very day they said they're going to renew their effort to produce material and come out from underneath the IAEA safeguards, he also said that the possibility of Russia being a vehicle for dealing with the enriched uranium that comes as a consequence of this civilian nuclear power plant, all of it being shipped back out to Russia was still on the table. So I don't think we know, nor do they know, exactly where their end position is. I think the Administration is going at it the right way now, and I think that we won't know until the international community finally decides -- if it does -- to sanction them, what the result is likely to be.
Gross: The President has made creating democracies in the Middle East a priority. But it seems that voters in that part of the world don't have the same agenda as the US [Biden laughs]. Iraq's constitution says that laws have to be compatible with Islamic law. Iranians elected a president who thinks Israel should be wiped off the face of the map and its the president was also defying the international community with a nuclear program. The Palestinians elected Hamas which is on America's list of terrorist groups. Do you think that the push for democracy is kind of backfiring on the US?
Biden: Well, look... (choose my words here!)... um... You may recall about four years ago this month that President Bush made his famous "axis of evil" comments in speeches. He talked about the need to isolate these countries. That was the policy adopted by the Administration. In that four-year period you have Korea acquiring four times as much nuclear capability as they had before he made the speech; you have Iran on the verge of becoming a nuclear power in contravention to its pledges and what the international community wants; and you have a constitution, like you just cited, in Iraq, where you have a Shia-dominated, religious-leaning, Iranian-allied government that's emerged. And then on top of that you have in Lebanon -- you have Hezbollah having won elections, and you have in Egypt one election which took place of late having the Muslim Brotherhood gaining a foothold. I think it all reveals a) that the Administration doesn't have much of a policy, and b) democracy is more than rhetorical assertions and more likely to take time to be put in place than imposed. And I'm not sure the ADministration has fully grasped that reality at this point. The end result has been -- as the result of a failed foreign policy in my view -- a much more dangerous Middle East and a much less stable international environment.
Gross: You were an observer of the Palestinian election and you've said you think unless Hamas recognizes Israel, we should not recognize them. But how do you push for democracy and then say, oh, but we don't like the decision you made! So now we're not going to recognize you!
Biden: I was, as you may or may not know -- you implied by your first question -- I have never agreed with the President's view on what he calls "how you acquire democracy in the Middle East." Democracy comes about as a constitution, a consequence of long-term investment and institution-building. Institution-building and support through non-governmental agencies -- a free press, an open economy, transparent financing, etc. And I think in the Palestinian area I also was an observer in last year's election where they elected a president. And immediately after coming back in January of last year, I contacted the Administration and laid out in some detail what I thought we had to do to equip President Abbas with some credibility to be able to compete in the elections which were to take place, and which they now have in the following January -- this January -- and indicated that we had to give direct help and assistance to them for building schools, hospitals, college tuitions, etc., all of which were being provided by Hamas on the street! And this administration coupled with the rightwing Republicans -- not all Republicans -- the rightwing Republicans in the House of Representatives did not allow us to have any direct aid to Mr. Abbas and Mr. Fayad and the duly elected personnel of the administration of the Palestinians. And you see the results. Senator Lugar, conservative Republican from Indiana, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and I sent a letter to the President last March, saying in effect, Mr. President, unless we do some more democracy-building in the Palestinian areas, Hamas may very well win this election! The bottom line is the Administration thinks that an election produces a democracy. Elections are necessary for a democracy to exist, but they do not result in a democracy. You need compromise, you need political institutions that foster that ability to compromise. They do not exist in the area of the world the President is trying to democratize.
Gross: Let me move on to Iraq. John Negroponte, the new National Intelligenge Director, said last week the Al Qaeda's reach and appeal has been expanded through its merger with Al Zarkawi's operations in Iraq. How do you interpret that?
Biden: Exactly like the Ambassador said. It's true. It has been expanded. You may recall that prior to us going to war in Iraq the President was saying this was a hotbed for Al Qaeda, etc. And there were many of us saying that was simply not true. But the way in which we've conducted this effort in Iraq has been so mishandled that it has resulted in it becoming a haven for terror.
Gross: Do you regret that you voted to authorize the President to use force in Iraq?
Biden: I regret... If I'd known that this administration would be so incompetent -- and I used that word advisedly -- in the way it went into Iraq and what it did since in Iraq -- shortchanging our military in everything from body armor to the number of forces needed, miscalculating so drastically in terms of the horses that they were backing in Iraq -- I would never have given this president that authority.
Gross: You told the Council on Foreign Relations in November, in terms of the question whether the invasion was based on bad information, you said,"We all operated on bad information but the only one who took the information that was most questionable and asserted it as fact was the Administration". Do you feel misled by the Bush administration?
Gross: In what way?
Biden: In multiple ways. First of all, we did not know -- the public nor did we in the Congress know -- how much disagreement there was within the Administration and within the intelligence forces in the Administration on what the state of play was and the danger presented by Saddam Hussein was. In that sense we were misled. Secondly, we were misled in a broader sense, and this is my greatest concern. We assumed that the broad assertions made by the Administration that they would seek international help, that they would give the military all that was needed, that they would in fact pursue democracy and democratization in Iraq in a way that made sense. Most of it turned out not to be correct. Their assumptions were just simply -- simply wrong. We went with too few forces. When we realized we needed more forces our commanders were not given more forces. The result was a sense of chaos that existed. We also found out that there was not nearly enough... there was no possibility of oil paying for the cost of this war. We were told that we would be greeted with open arms. We were not. Though I must admit I never believed we would be. So there were a lot of misleading assertions made by the Administration. Maybe they believed them. At a minimum they were dead wrong. At a maximum they were misleading.
Gross: You presided over two very controversial Supreme Court hearings when you were head of the Judiciary Committee. I'm thinking of the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1991 and the Robert Bork hearings in 1987. The rejection of Bork led to the verb "to bork." This had an enormous impact, I think, on the future of the confirmation process and perhaps on how justices are chosen as well. I wonder what impact you think the Bork hearings had on the future of the confirmation process?
Biden: Well, it had a significant impact. First of all, the Bork nomination was the first time in about sixty years we acknowledged that the American public has the right to know what the constitutional methodology or philosophy of a justice is. They have a right to know it. I pointed out in that hearing and prior to that that up to this time one in every four justices nominated to the Supreme Court have been rejected by the United States Senate since 1789. The first one being rejected by a number of signatories to the Constitution who were in the Senate at the time. Justice Rutledge. But what happened from that point on, particularly in the past ten years, has been that it's become a bit of a stylized dance where, whether it's a moderate liberal or conservative nominee, they come before the Senate Judiciary Committee very very practiced and practiced in basically refusing to answer any questions directly on the grounds that it might somehow jeopardize their independence on the bench. As a consequence of that, there is very little known about their judicial philosophy. In complicated issues, they're able to make it sound like they're giving reasonable answers. When in fact the answers being given may give significant insight to a justice being put on the Court who might very well change the direction of the nation without the public being aware of it prior to that occurring.
Gross: You've actually said you'd like to end the whole Judiciary confirmation process, bypass the Judiciary Committee part.
Biden: Yes. Well, you know up until 1953, with notable exceptions, the nominees never came before the Judiciary Committee. The Committee would hold a hearing, they'd bring in outside witnesses, they'd look at the spoken and written record of the nominee, they'd make a recommendation to the US Senate on that nominee, the Senate would debate the nominee based on his or her public record, and then they would vote. What that does is that would put an incredible premium on the nominees outside the system, that is, not being before the Judiciary Committee, to answer questions to the press and others as to what they really believe about issues. It would take away this sort of veil that exists now where it appears as though questions are being answered when in fact there is no direct answer. The basic premise is does the public have a right to know what a member of the third branch of government, equally as powerful as the other two, is likely to do about matters of life and death that affect them, knowing that person is going to be there much longer than any president or any senator. That's the fundamental question. What is the public's right to know.And these hearings basically say, we're not really entitled to know much of anything.
Gross: You think they're basically not even serving a function anymore.
Biden: I do think that.
Gross: When you entered the Senate in 1973, you were then the youngest member of the Senate. You had just turned thirty, and that's the minimum age for a Senator. So there couldn't have been anybody much younger than you! This year the Congressional Quarterly reported that 2005 was one of the most partisan years since it began its record keeping, with people from each party voting more often along party lines. How do you feel you've seen partisanship in the Senate change in the years you've been in the Senate?
Biden: It's changed drastically, Terry. When I got elected I was 29 years old, had to officially wait three weeks to be constitutionally eligible after my election and I came to a Senate that had... that was very very divided on matters of race. I joined a Democratic caucus that contained at least a dozen people who I had strong disagreement with, from James Eastland, John Stennis, etc., on race. But yet it wasn't personalized in those days. The partisanship was such that we spent time questioning each other's judgment but not their motive Around 1994, things really began to change. What happened was, if you disagreed with one of your colleagues, your motive was questioned. You were not moral, or you weren't a "decent person," or... it was not, Well, I understand your position and I disagree with it. It was "you must be immoral." And that personalized it in a much much deeper way. And then political campaigns began to reflect that kind of attitude. Views began to harden and there was a lot of division.
Gross: What do you see as the starting point of all that?
Biden: Well, it was gradual. But if I had to pick one moment, it was 1994 when so many members of the House of Representatives got elected to the Senate... the Gingrich Revolution. Where it was burn the House down to take back the House. And in fairness it was in reaction to dominance of the Democratic Party of so many years controllling both houses and the frustration many Republicans in the House felt about, basically, being muzzled for so many years. And they came to the US Senate with an attitude that was very very different from traditional Senate attitudes. The Senate is a different place from the House, not in terms of the men and women who make it up but in terms of the rules and the design of the institution. I would mark the beginning of the real change occurring in 1994 in the US Senate.
Gross: So what was different about how the new Senators who came from the House behaved?
Biden: Everything was viewed in personal terms; everything was viewed in terms of an open war. For example, it used to be, in the Senate -- I've been in the minority and the majority, both, before that time. When you've lost and you're in the minority, you've got one third of the staff and the majority has two thirds. When it flipped back the other way, it didn't matter. It was just the way it was and you never made it personal. In 1994 when they took over the Senate, it became very very personal. It's gotten to the point now that, for example, when you have a conference... I know you know this, but it's arcane... the Senate passes a bill on an issue, the House passes the same bill. There are some differences. They go into a conference where an assigned number of Senators and an assigned number of House members of both parties sit down and work out the differences. Well, it's become standard rule now that the Republicans in the Senate and the Republicans in the House meet and don't even include the Democrats, and they rewrite the legislation. And that's it. It's a very different attitude and it's a very different way in which we proceed. I fear if the Democrats win back the House or Senate, they may mimic that same behavior. I think it's very damaging to the body politic.
Gross: What bill is an example of the process you describe of the Democrats being shut out of the conference process?
Biden: Every major bill last year. For example, on the budget act, the reconciliation bill, which is the tax bill. The bill relating to whether we were going to pass parts of the Defense bill. It never had occurred in my previous years in the Senate where a House bill passes, a Senate bill passes, they go to conference and they come out with a bill that has a major element that wasn't contained in either of those bills before they went into conference. Which is totally inappropriate. It's just simply not a place where you sit down and there's comity, where you say, Okay, we disagree, how are we going to work this out? It's more like, We've won -- it may be by only one or two votes but this is it, it's going to be our way or the highway. It doesn't lend itself, in a heterogeneous democracy, to good governance, in my view.
Gross: A lot of liberals have felt very frustrated with the Democratic Party for being ineffective in opposing the Republicans. I'll read you an example of what I'm talking about in the Monday, 2/6 edition of the Philadelphia Enquirer, a front page article by Dick Pullman. He writes: "The Democrats are a mess. Right now they seem ill-poised to score major gains at Bush's expense for several fundamental reasons. They can't agree on what to stand for and what issues to fight for. They seem most adept at fighting each other with grassroots liberals savaging the Washington moderates and vice versa. Nor do they have a clue about who should lead them." What do you say to people who are criticizing the Democratic Party for being a mess and ineffectual?
Biden: Well, I could start off an joke and say, like Will Rogers, that I belong to no organized political party -- I'm a Democrat!"
Biden: But the truth of the matter is, Terry, that it's a reflection of two things. Number one: No one with the single exception of Newt Gingrich has ever led a congressional party when the party has been out of power. No one. Until they got a nominee. So they said the same thing about every party out of power with the single exception of Gingrich in '94... Number two: The person writing the article talked about gaining at Bush's expense. That's part of the problem. We have one president, one president of the United States. If he messes up in foreign policy, it not only makes him look foolish, America is hurt. Part of the responsibility, I feel, particularly in the foreign policy area, is to try to encourage him where I think he's doing the right thing and not make it about Bush! It's not about Bush! It's about America's security interests. Now the author of that article may not have meant that but that's what it sounds like to me. Thirdly, and most importantly, there's a reason why Democrats are so frustrated. We have no organ of government we control. Therefore there's nothing that you and the press cover about what we have to say. I can make all the speeches in the world I want. It's not going to get the kind of coverage it would get if in fact we were able to hold three days of serious hearings like I did when I was chairman before the war in Iraq where close to 70% of the American people supported going to war before the hearings began and after the hearings were over it was down below 50%. But we don't get to put up a bill to "vote" on Iraq. We're not in a position to get that vote to the floor. We're not able to hold hearings. Again, I'm not whining: elections have consequences. And one of the consequences of losing is you lose a platform.
Gross: Let me ask you something about your own story. You were elected. But right before you were sworn in, you nearly withdrew because your first wife and your infant daughter were killed in a car crash right after you got elected. You considered withdrawing. You were talked into staying. You were actually sworn in at the hospital bedside of one of your sons who as also injured in the crash. How did you make that decision about whether to stay or whether to withdraw?
Biden: I listened to my dad who used to say -- he's passed away now -- he said, You know, in moments of real crisis, just decide not to decide. Let things settle a little bit -- until your mind is clear. I agreed in response to requests by a wonderful, wonderful man, Senator Mike Mansfield of Montana who was the majority leader, to get sworn in and stay for six months and reconsider at the end of six months whether or not to stay. My greatest concern was that I didn't think I could be the kind of father I wanted to be and the senator I wanted to be. And that's when I started commuting. My two sons were very badly injured and hospitalized. They've fully recovered. They're grown men now. But it was never one of those decisions... I think like most people listening, Terry, you don't make long term decisions about your life, you make decisions as they come. I agreed to stay for six months and here I am thirty-three years later. If you'd ever asked me when I made that decision did I plan on trying to stay this long, my answer would have been absolutely not. I didn't intend this.
Gross: What are some of the things you were able to do to manage as a single father of two injured sons and as a new senator?
Biden: Well, I had the incredible gift of having a sister. We have an expression in my family: if you have to ask, it's too late! By the time I came home from the hospital with my sons -- and I was not injured -- my sister and my brother-in-law who's a wonderful, close friend and very successful lawyer, they'd given up their home and moved into my home to help me raise my children. And roughly five years, six years later, when I fell in love again -- lucky as I was -- and got remarried, we came home after being married and they had moved out. My mother, my brother, my father -- they all lived in the area. And I was close enough to be able to commute every day. And I still commute after thirty-three years. I got very lucky. God was good to me. I fell in love with an incredible woman whom I've been married to for twenty-eight years. And so I was very, very lucky.
Gross: Were you in the car when it crashed?
Biden: No, Terry. I was down here -- one of my regrets. It was a Monday, December 18th. I was interviewing staff here and a tractor trailer broadsided my wife and my three children. My wife and my young daughter were in a carseat on one side of the car, and my two sons were on the other side. They needed the jaws-of-life to get them out, and the volunteer firemen to whom owe sons' lives to were able to free my sons in time for them to survive.
Gross: Were you afraid to drive after that?
Biden: No, but I was afraid for them to drive. ... I... well... I was... It was not a good time...
Gross: Senator, you are seriously considering a run for president. You're testing the waters. You've said if it looks good you're going to run. Talk a little about how you think partisan politics have changed in the Senate and how things have gotten more personal so that if somebody opposes you there might be a more personal or moralistic attack against you. Do you think the same thing holds true for campaigning, and if so, are you prepared for more personal attacks against you than you faced, say, in 1988?
Biden: I don't know if anyone is ever prepared for that. I expect that will be the modus operandi whoever the Democratic candidate is. And depending on who the Democratic candidate is, that may be the modus operandi of attacking the Republican nominee. I deplore it. But look, this is, as I kid with my family and others, I say, Look, in other countries when you lose, they shoot you! In this country, they give you a pension! So as rough as it is, it's not as rough as it is in other places! It is worth the candle. There is so much at stake for this country. There are so many opportunities that are being squandered that I think you have to suck in and say, Okay, there's nothing enjoyable about this but it is worth the opportunity to be able to change the direction of the country. You go out and you do it. How you handle it is part of the process. God only knows how I'll handle it until it's thrown at me, whatever "it" is.
Gross: One thing you know you're going to be asked about is a speech that you are alleged to have plagiarized from something a British Labour Party leader, Neil Kinnock, had said. And that came up in the 1988 run for the presidency. If that comes up again, how are you going to deal with it?
Biden: I'm sure it will come up again and it should come up again. I'll deal with it honestly by saying I made a mistake. I was arrogant in thinking I didn't have to prepare for a debate in which I failed to quote Kinnock on that occasion. I'd quoted him many other times. But it was my fault. I should have quoted him. The fact that I didn't quote him was my fault. It was legitimate for the opposition to raise it. I made a mistake.
Gross: You're friends with John McCain.
Gross: What if you decided to run for president. He decided to run for president. And you ended up getting your party's nominations and you were running opposite each other. What would that feel like to you?
Biden: I'm going to say something that's going to sound strange to you. I think the country would not lose in that circumstance. I would be dumbfounded if John McCain would ever engage in a personal attack, and he knows I never would with him. When they were going after John McCain in South Carolina, and when they were going after John McCain for having not been in full control of himself because of his days in the prisoner-of-war camp during the Republican primary, I called John and said, John, where do you want me? I'll show up anywhere in America -- he was in California -- and I will testify to your integrity and I will testify as to the soundness of everything you do. I think John would have done the same thing for me. Does it mean that each of our parties won't try to do that kind of stuff? I don't know. But I cannot believe that this country would not be treated to a campaign with real differences but with very little if any personal attack. And look. We cannot lead the world as a red and blue nation. We literally cannot. That is not hyperbole. We cannot lead the world as a divided nation. And whoever is the next president of the United States has to unite this country. And that has been pointed out by many others. This division is not, in my view, so deeply substantive. Six years ago, Clinton would have probably won reelection had he been able to run. He won in those red states, or got significant support in those red states. As did Bush 1 -- the first time he ran -- in some of the blue states. This is not a nation divided. It's being forced to be divided by the political parties.