Biden: Pollution More Deadly Than Terrorists
Sen. Joe Biden answers questions in our presidential mashup.
The following is an unedited transcript and may contain typos or omissions. Click here for more on the presidential mashup.
Rose: Sen. Biden, welcome to mashup. Let me begin with Iraq and ask, did you accept the evaluation and interpretation by Gen. Petraeus as to the situation on the ground in Iraq and leading him to conclude that he needs 160,000 troops until July 2008?
Biden: Absolutely not. I think it's the wrong strategy. We should be drawing down troops now. We should be by the beginning of—in the middle of the 2008, being down to 30,000 to 40,000 troops with an end date of getting out of there based upon a political settlement where you set up a federal system there. Iraq will not be governed from the center. It will only be governed when you give the regions more authority and control over their own security.
Rose: What is it Petraeus believes in that you don't?
Biden: I think Petraeus believes in what I believe in, that his troops will do whatever they're asked. I think Petraeus doubts whether or not militarily he can reach a political solution. His job is a military man. He's given a military mission to try to stabilize as much of the country as he can. But he will tell you flatly that absent a political solution, that is the Sunnis and Shias and Kurds getting together and reaching an accommodation on how that country will governed, it doesn't matter how much troops he has in there. So he has a difficult job. As a military man, he's doing what he's asked to do, but he knows it will not solve the problem. There is no military solution to Iraq that will allow us to leave without leaving chaos and a civil war behind.
Rose: Sen. Clinton said you have to suspend belief to accept his testimony. Do you agree with that?
Biden: Well, I think you have to—you have to only focus on whether or not there is more security in Anbar province, because that's the only tangible result from this. That has nothing to do with the central problem occupying 120,000 troops, which is a civil war in Iraq. That has to do with helping the Shia—excuse me, the Sunni tribal chiefs who got sick and tired of al-Qaida, Iraq persecuting them to join with us to go after al-Qaida Iraq in Anbar province. That's all—that's all that it does. Nothing else. It does not go to the central problem. We're there because we're in the midst of a civil war that has no end in sight without a radical change in the political, political solution being offered.
Rose: Does the Congress of the United States have the will to do something between now and the election?
Biden: The Democrats in the Congress clearly have the will, the spirit, and the desire. The question is, are there 17 Republican senators, for example, just taking the Senate, who are prepared to vote with Democrats to override a presidential veto when we put faster constraints on the president to bring troops home more quickly? That's the question, and that remains to be seen.
Rose: Let me move to health care. Do you favor universal coverage for everyone without exception?
Biden: Yes, I do.
Rose: How would you pay for it?
Biden: I would pay for it by three ways. One, I start off dealing with going into a prevention-and-treatment mode here that required us to simplify and modernize the system. I know we only have three minutes. That could save $100 billion a year in redundancy that goes on right now. Secondly, what I would do, I would immediately move and provide for catastrophic health insurance for all Americans, and I'd immediately move for insuring every single child in America, and would do that in the first two months as president. That would cost less than what the top 1 percent tax break costs, $85 billion a year. It would cost less than that to do that. Then what I would do is I would move to insuring everyone through one of two vehicles. Either a system we work out among the stakeholders, an agreement that everyone essentially gets Medicare from the time you're born or a system whereby everyone can buy into the federal system. I don't understand why we can have a system where I, as a federal employee, have a great health-care system and every American does not have one available to them. You can have them buy into that system, and those who don't have the means to buy in, then you subsidize them into the system. I would pay for that by direct revenues.
Rose: Do we, beyond the question of access and financing, need to fundamentally rethink the way we view health care?