Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Vice President Joe Biden

Aired November 18, 2010 - 21:00   ET



LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight Vice President Joe Biden on the split in Congress. Are we headed for a stalemate on the most urgent issues of our times.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They didn't have a lot of faith in the Republican Party. Don't have a lot of faith in the Democratic Party. And so they're saying, OK, we want you guys to work together.

KING: What's his role in shaping Iraq's future? And should President Obama prepare to run against Sarah Palin?

Plus, Dr. Jill Biden.

All next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: It's a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, as always, a good friend, old friend, the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden.

Thanks for coming in.

JOE BIDEN: Yeah, it's great to be back with you, Larry.

KING: It's always good. This is like the hundredth time.

JOE BIDEN: Well, I'll tell you what --

KING: Senator --

JOE BIDEN: -- I don't know. It's a long time. But I'll tell you what. I told you this before, my mother, who lived with me, passed away last January. I never once walked in her house late in the evening that you weren't on the air. And so I -- I miss her and I'm really going to miss you, man.

The country is going to miss you doing this.

KING: All right, let's get into things.

Early today, Obama -- President Obama -- made you the focus on getting this treaty signed.


KING: What's holding -- you know, no Democrat -- I'm told today no Democratic president ever had a nuclear treaty.

JOE BIDEN: Well, that's true. And that's why this idea that somehow that some Republicans are -- pundits are talking about you can't let Obama have a win. This is not an Obama win. This is a continuation of a -- of a bipartisan policy. It started with Ronald Reagan in this case. It's critically important to our national security interests. And I think we're going to get it passed. I still think we're going to get it passed. And what the president --

KING: You have to get Republicans to come over don't you?

JOE BIDEN: Yes, we have to get eight Republicans to vote with us beyond Dick Lugar. Dick Lugar is, as you know, the single most informed guy, probably in either political party, on the issue of nuclear weapons and arms control. And he is passionate about it.

I met today, Larry, with -- we have five former Republican secretaries of state who think this is essential. Former Republican secretaries of defense, national security advisers. And so --

KING: So why are they fighting you?

JOE BIDEN: Well, we -- we actually haven't laid the treaty down yet. We've been working very closely with a very bright guy, John Kyl, a Republican who's their point man on the details of the treaty.

KING: But he -- didn't he announce he was against it?

JOE BIDEN: Well, no, but he announced that he didn't think there was enough time to consider it in a lame duck session. But the president has made clear today to the congressional leadership and he made clear to the -- to the outside experts, these Republican secretaries of State and Defense, et cetera, that this is his highest priority.

KING: But if you're the point man that means what?

JOE BIDEN: Well, that means --

KING: You have to round up the eight guys?

JOE BIDEN: Well, no -- yes, I do. But beyond that, Larry, you know, I've spent the bulk of my adult life dealing with strategic doctrine, that is, things relating to nuclear weapons. From the time I was a young man at age 30, it's something I -- at least I'm informed a great deal about.

People not -- may not think I'm right, but I think the vast majority of the informed community in terms of national strategic doctrine, knows that this is something that in -- as my brother would say, in my wheelhouse. And so -- and I still have great relationships in the United States Senate. So the president asked me to coordinate the efforts of the State Department, of the Defense Department, the intelligence community and making the best case possible to the United States Senate, something I spent a lot of years trying to do.

KING: So you're going to get it?

JOE BIDEN: I think we're going to get it.

KING: OK. Let's go to other things.

Was -- was the term shellacking correct as to what happened to you --

JOE BIDEN: Well, yes, look --

KING: -- and the guys?

JOE BIDEN: Look --


KING: And the ladies?

JOE BIDEN: Look, we lost the -- the House as big as we had won it -- bigger than we had won it. And we hung on to the Senate. But I -- as I was saying briefly coming in, if you take a look at where the unemployment rates were the highest across the country and the districts, you just tack on a R as opposed to a D in most of those districts.

It's awful hard to win elections when there's 9.5 unemployment, 9.6, 9.7 percent unemployment. And so it was a real loss. But what -- there was a real message sent. The message was they didn't have a lot of faith in Republican Party and they don't have a lot of faith in the Democratic Party. And so they're saying, OK, we want you guys to work together.

KING: But shouldn't, frankly, you have focused on jobs before the health bill?

JOE BIDEN: Well look --

KING: In retrospect.

JOE BIDEN: In retrospect, that can be argued, and some argued that beforehand. The idea that we weren't focusing on jobs while we were focusing on health care is not accurate, but when you turn on the television every day for a year and it's just health care, all the work we're doing on creating jobs and dealing with trade and all those issues, they just -- it's not anybody -- I'm not complaining, I'm just stating the fact that it just has not surfaced.

And that's why you're going to see, for the next two years, all we're about is American competitiveness, American -- made in America and American jobs. And we need to cooperate, Democrats and Republicans.

KING: Should, frankly, the president have been doing a better job in the area of what is -- what we -- you know, what's reality and what's perception?

JOE BIDEN: Well, look --

KING: Did he do a poor job in perception?

JOE BIDEN: Look, I don't think he -- he didn't misunderstand at all the dilemma we faced. But he knew, for example, that -- again, this is -- it's our responsibility. So this is not -- it's not the other guy.

KING: The buck stops.

JOE BIDEN: The buck stops with us. It actually stops with the president, he's the guy that makes the final decision, God love him. But here's the deal. We found ourselves in the position where the banks were collapsing, so we have to make sure that the financial markets were stabilized -- one of the most unpopular things you could possibly do.

It'd be -- would have been easier to pass through the Senate and the House a resolution saying protect rattlesnakes, you know? I mean they didn't want to -- you know, I understand that. And then we believed we had to deal with long-term debt, and the biggest -- the biggest driver of long-term debt is health care costs.

And that's the unspoken part about the health care bill we passed. It's about the gigantic savings long term in terms of federal spending on health care. But again, we --

KING: But does it --

JOE BIDEN: We could have done a lot of things better in retrospect.

KING: Including perception, right?

JOE BIDEN: Including perception. But we've learned from where we are, and we're determined to take advantage of those lessons and not -- you know, have the perception clearly focused.

KING: What's behind the postponement of the "Slurpee Summit"?

JOE BIDEN: Oh, well, look, there's a whole lot there. Look, the truth of the matter is, I met with Mitch McConnell, I've talked with John Boehner when I called to congratulate him. These guys want to meet and --


JOE BIDEN: And so it's we -- now the 30th. It was never nailed down finally for last -- this Thursday, and I think it's a much ado being made about not much at all. We're going to be meeting on the 30th, the president and I and the leadership.

KING: Who else? All the leaders?

JOE BIDEN: No. Well, the Republican leadership, it's going to be the House and Senate Republican leadership. I assume that will include the number two and number three in the House and the Senate. But mainly, it's John Boehner and it is Mitch McConnell.

And look, I know both these guys. I work with them. I get along well with them. I think there ought to be places where we can agree. And the most important thing we can agree on is how to grow the economy.

KING: And we'll be right back with the vice president of the United States. His wife's going to join us later, will particularly improve this set.


KING: Don't go away.

JOE BIDEN: That's cute.


KING: We're back with the vice president of the United States.

Nancy Pelosi is coming back, this time as minority leader. She was a lightning rod, you've got to admit that.

JOE BIDEN: Oh, yes. When you spend 65,000 -- $65 million to make someone a lightning rod, it works.

I go back far enough. You and I remember when Tip O'Neill was made the lightning rod. Remember that off-year race with Reagan?

KING: Sure do.

JOE BIDEN: But look, she also is the most effective person in generating results in the House. The House members decided she was the one, that she --

KING: But people either like her or don't like her.

JOE BIDEN: Well, you know --

KING: She's not a halfway.

JOE BIDEN: I think that's the case with almost all great leaders. People either are going to like Ronald Reagan or didn't like him. They liked George Bush or didn't. They liked Bill Clinton or didn't.

KING: Do you think Pelosi is a great leader?

JOE BIDEN: Well, I think she is. I think she's a very, very effective and competent person. She gets things done. And it's easy to -- you know, in this environment, to -- you know to characterize someone.

Again, if you notice, the thing I love about her, never complain and never explain, my dad's notion. This is one tough, smart lady. Let's get to business, let's move on now, let's see what we can get done.

KING: All right. Now, are you going to extend the Bush tax cuts --

JOE BIDEN: Well, look, I tell you --

KING: -- for all the rich folk?

JOE BIDEN: No -- no. Let me tell you what our position is.

Our position is we want to permanently extend the tax cuts for middle class people, for the top 98 percent of the wage earners in America -- or the 98 percent of the wage earners in America.

We don't think we can afford to extend permanently the tax cuts for the top two percent. That would blow another $700 billion hole in the budget. And so our position is permanent for the middle class and not permanent for the top.

KING: But temporarily?

JOE BIDEN: We're going to be sitting down -- we're going to be sitting down on the 30th with the Republicans -- the Republican leadership, say, guys, here's our position, what's yours, and let's see if we can work something out.

We're not looking for confrontation. We know if we don't extend the tax cuts for the middle class, not only is it not -- is it unfair, but it will have just an incredible drag on the economy.

KING: But you don't want to lose your left, do you?

JOE BIDEN: No, we don't want to lose our left. But look, what we want to do basically is what's right, right for the country. And what's right for the country is, both in terms of fairness and economic growth, is giving the middle class, who's been battered -- from 2001 to 2008, they lost five percent of their worth, five percent of their income. And, you know, I don't want to take away from them now.

Look, a family of four making 50,000 bucks, Larry, a man and a woman, they get a $2100 tax break now. If -- put it another way, if you don't extend it, their taxes go up $2100. $2100 for a family of four means the difference between if they can pay their automobile insurance to drive their automobiles to work if they have a job.

A family of four making 100,000 grand, that's $4100. That's a difference where they can keep two kids in school, and particularly if one's a private institution. So this matters to people who make less than $250,000.

KING: Let's touch -- we're going to touch some bases here.

JOE BIDEN: Sure, absolutely.

KING: I mean, you're here, right?

JOE BIDEN: I got you. Fire away.

KING: I'm leaving soon.

JOE BIDEN: I'm going with you.


KING: We both go out on a sinking ship.

JOE BIDEN: That's right.

KING: All right. What do you make of the Charlie Rangel matter?

JOE BIDEN: Well, you know, I --

KING: Is he a friend?

JOE BIDEN: He is a friend. I give you my word, I don't know the detail, the charges, but when the Ethics Committee run -- a bipartisan committee rules that he violated X number of rules of the House, then, you know, it's hard to argue against.

I think the rules apply, and they apply, but I don't know the details. I really don't.

KING: They don't put him out though, do they?

JOE BIDEN: I hope not. I don't think so. But I don't know enough -- I give you my word, I don't know enough about the specifics of each of the rulings.

KING: OK. All right. The -- Sarah Palin has apparently now confirmed that she's thinking about running for president. How does that make Joe Biden think?


JOE BIDEN: Well, you --


JOE BIDEN: I -- look, I think Sarah Palin has turned out to be, and she is, a real force in the Republican Party. And I think Sarah Palin is -- I -- were I a Republican senator or a Republican political leader, I would look and say, wait, she's got a good chance of getting the nomination.

But look, it's hard enough for us to figure our side of the aisle let alone go over and sort of handicap whether she can win or lose.

KING: What do you think of her?

JOE BIDEN: Well, I like her.

KING: You do?

JOE BIDEN: I mean -- no, no, I personally like her. I mean, if you met her, she's an appealing person. When we campaigned --

KING: You debated her.

JOE BIDEN: Yes, we debated. There was not a harsh word. I mean, we have a fundamentally different outlook on the world, and I think that would be a really, a really interesting race.

KING: Would that be a race you'd like to take on?

JOE BIDEN: Well, you know, my mom used to have an expression, be careful what you wish for, Joe, you may get it. So I never underestimate anyone. And -- but I think, in that race, it would be a clear, clear choice for the country to make, and I believe President Obama would be in very good shape.

KING: The White House shot down the rumors that you and Hillary Clinton were going to do a switch.

JOE BIDEN: I tried, but it didn't work.



KING: Because you wanted State, didn't you?

JOE BIDEN: No, no, no.

KING: No? OK. All right.

JOE BIDEN: No, no. Look, here's the deal -- the president and I, there was never any serious talk ever that anyone ever heard about me not being on the ticket with him or her not staying at State.

KING: Woodward started it, though.

JOE BIDEN: Well, if you look at -- even Bob backed off a little bit on that as he -- what he said is I read -- and I read his book. What he basically said was when she was being considered for secretary of State, it was suggested by one of her pollsters she should take it because maybe there would be the opportunity to be vice president.

Hillary has made it clear right from the first time I came out, Joe, I don't want to be vice president. The president has made it clear, Joe, I expect you to be on the ticket. I want you on the ticket. So it was really, kind of -- you know, sort of a Washington parlor game. KING: More -- more with the vice president of the United States right after this.



JOE BIDEN: Collectively the generation of soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Marines who have served and sacrificed for us are the heart and soul, the very spine of this nation.


KING: We're back with Joe Biden, the vice president.

The former Guantanamo detainee is tried on a -- in a civilian court. He's acquitted on all but one of 280 charges. The other side says he should have been found guilty on all of them. One side said, though, if it's a result of terror, you can't introduce it in court.

Where do you stand?

JOE BIDEN: Well, if it's a result of torture --

KING: Torture, I'm sorry.

JOE BIDEN: Look, the fact of the matter is what's going to happen to him, he's going to go to jail for a minimum of 20 years to life. Had he been tried in a tribunal, which some of the critics say he should have been tried in a military tribunal, the same evidence -- and they voted for the change in the rule of the tribunal, the same evidence would have been inadmissible.

If we held them, as some have suggested on the right, just held them indefinitely as a -- as a -- basically a detainee, a prisoner of war, the idea that Guantanamo is going to be around in 50 years and him still in jail with -- I think our bets are better.

This proves what exactly what George Bush did. When you go to so-called Article 3 courts, that is try in federal courts, all this stuff was you can't try them in federal courts, you've got to worry about terrorists attacking the court. You can't try him in federal courts, they're not going to get sentenced.

He's getting a longer sentence. He'll be in jail longer than if any other method were tried. Same thing George Bush did with the shoe bomber. Same thing he did with the 24th hijacker.

KING: So you're saying, in the future, with others, you would go civilian court?

JOE BIDEN: Yes. There's no reason not to go with civilian court based on this case at least.

KING: OK. In week one of the administration, your president signed an executive order requiring the Gitmo detention facility closed within a year.


KING: Still there.

JOE BIDEN: Still there.

KING: Why?

JOE BIDEN: Because what we found out when we got in there is there's an awful lot of very tough cases that present real, real difficult situations. And so we still -- our intention is still to close it. But --

KING: But?

JOE BIDEN: But we could not meet that within a year.

KING: Spoke to soon?

JOE BIDEN: Well -- the answer -- I speak for myself. I spoke too soon because, quite frankly, we didn't have all the detailed data on every single prisoner, the status of that prisoner, what that prisoner's circumstance was, whether we could move them into an Article 3 court, whether they should be released, et cetera, or whether they should be tried in a military court.

That's the process. It's being whittled down until we get down to the point where we're able to deal with having to either transfer, move, try or release. And -- I know -- everyone that's in that -- in that prison system.

KING: Well, are you saying it's going to be around a while?

JOE BIDEN: Well, I don't know how much longer it's going to be around but I -- what I am saying, the rest of the world understands we're making a good faith effort to deal with it and it has helped us a great deal in our overall war against terror.

If you notice, they're no longer using the argument that was being used three years ago that, you know, Americans don't mean what they say about civil liberties, Americans don't mean -- we're getting overwhelming cooperation now from not only our -- and I'm deeply involved in this piece -- not only from our European friends, but we're also getting overwhelming cooperation from Muslim states. And you know, states where there is -- where al Qaeda is trying to burrow in and reside.

KING: Wouldn't it have been politically smart, frankly -- you're an old --they don't come on the older hands than Joe Biden. Politically smart for you to announce tonight that in the future these kind of trials like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, that's going to go to a military court? That that would be a plus politically?

JOE BIDEN: Well, it -- I -- it would be a plus politically for people who didn't focus on it. But the example I just gave you, the trial we just had. We are going to put this guy in jail longer than he ever would be had he gone to a military court.

And what we want to show to the world is we're not afraid of putting our criminal justice system for the whole world to see. There is no reason that we are a nation of laws and we can accomplish our end of taking these very bad guys off the street for a long, long, long time, if not forever.

KING: Joe Biden is our guest. He's been the point man on Iraq. What is your assessment of how that country is doing?

JOE BIDEN: It's doing -- it's doing very, very well. Here's the deal. It took them a long time to form a government because it was a close election. They have now formed a government that reflects -- only demand I made and I've been on the phone I -- or I've been there six times since we've been elected.

I know every one of these Iraqi leaders by their first names, I know their children. I mean, I know them. We've been deeply involved. We've a great ambassador and general over there in General Austin. And we've been deeply, deeply involved in helping them facilitate the -- a government that reflects the outcome of the election.

You know, they always say, Larry, that in a new democracy, the most important election's the second one. A lot of them have a first one, but they don't have a second one. And what's happened now is that we're -- there's a real power sharing arrangement underneath -- within the context of their constitution.

We have kept our commitment. We said we'd end this war responsibly. We got all the troops out of the cities last summer. We brought home 100,000 troops that we promised this summer. And we're going to be out of there by the end of 2011 and we're going to leave behind a stable government because the Iraqis stepped up to the ball.

Politics broke out in Iraq.

KING: Broke out. We'll ask about Afghanistan right after this.



JOE BIDEN: "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is over. But American engagement with Iraq will continue with the mission that begins today. "Operation New Dawn."

As the name suggests, this ceremony not only marks the change of command but the start of a different chapter in the relationship with Iraq.


KING: We're with Vice President Joe Biden. This is his -- get this -- 49th appearance on LARRY KING LIVE.

JOE BIDEN: It's been an honor.

KING: And we've been on the air 25 1/2 years, that's two a year. OK. With those specials -- maybe we'll do a special on the Joe Biden I know.

JOE BIDEN: I want to be honest with you.


KING: OK, Afghanistan. A lot of Americans say leave.

JOE BIDEN: Well, I don't blame them for wanting to say that.

Look, here are the facts in Afghanistan. We inherited a war that had been neglected for eight years. Neglected. The first thing the president asked me to do after we got elected, before we got sworn in, he said, Joe, I want you to go to Afghanistan, give me an independent assessment of what you think we should do, come back and report. I used to be Chairman of Foreign Relations.

I came back and I said, Mr. President, you ask 10 of our combatant commanders, you ask 10 of our civilians why they think we're there, you get 10 different answers. There is no clear rationale why we're there.

So, we sat down and I recommended and he then added to it the notion that we -- why are we there? We're there to make sure al Qaeda is -- is degraded and ultimately defeated. What we call -- everybody now calls al Qaeda central in those mountains in Pakistan and Afghanistan, that they cannot return and use Afghanistan as a platform.

Number two, we give the freely elected government an opportunity to be able to protect itself against its -- against the Taliban and any other interests that it can't reconcile with. And we're going to train up their forces.

And here's what we said. We said we're going to add additional resources to get that done. We're going to begin to transition our military out of Iraq -- I mean, excuse me, Afghanistan in the summer -- this coming summer. And now, all of NATO -- the president is about to head off to meet with NATO, all --

KING: In Lisbon, right?

JOE BIDEN: In Lisbon.

All of NATO has said, look, we agree with -- we're going to begin to transition and by 2014, it's theirs to take care of themselves in terms of their own security.

KING: And Americans might say, but how many die before 2014?

JOE BIDEN: Well, unfortunately, if one dies, it's one too many. I had a son who spent a year in Iraq. And every single day I got up and every single day, having been to Iraq 17 or 18 times, it was on my mind. And I would -- I'd walk in, Larry, and I swear to God, in -- into the kitchen while Jill was getting coffee and making toast, and she'd be mouthing a prayer. Every minute, if you have a husband, wife, son, daughter there, every minute it's on your mind.

But here's the deal, this is what we inherited and we had to finish it. We're making significant progress against al Qaeda. It has been significantly diminished in that so-called al Qaeda Central. And at the same time, we are moving into a new position where we're not going to need American forces in those 34 provinces protecting the Afghani people. They're going to begin to do that themselves.

And our NATO allies believe we can begin to transition some of those 34 provinces beginning in January.

KING: Do you have faith in President Karzai?

JOE BIDEN: Look, I know -- I've known President Karzai for a long, long time. I think he's in a very difficult position. I have -- you know, we could argue that there could be a stronger leader, but you deal with the hand you're dealt, as the old saying goes.

And we are all on the same page now for the first time -- the American military, the American civilians, the administration, the Congress, the NATO, our allies, the Afghanis, that here's the deal, you've got to step up your governance capability. We're going to help train your folks. You've got to step up -- we cannot want peace and security more than you want it in your villages and in your homes. We're going to help train you.

In the meantime, we've said a -- and, you know, a lot of -- a lot of our critics say you shouldn't set a deadline to get out. The reason we needed to do that is the same reason we did in it in Afghanistan. We had to say, look, you've got to step up, man.

Let me tell you, we're going to start -- daddy is going to start to take the training wheels off in October -- I mean in next July, so you'd better practice riding.

KING: The wife will be joining us shortly. But one other thing I want to cover before she does join us and that's Don't Ask, Don't Tell.


KING: You were against it, as I understand?


KING: Certainly the president is against it.


KING: Most of the administration is against it. Apparently, they polled troops, they're against it. And you poll America and they're against it.

So why is this our policy?

JOE BIDEN: It is not -- it is -- look, Larry, this is complicated for people to understand and I don't blame them.

KING: Simplify it.

JOE BIDEN: Simplified as easy as I can say it is, Congress passed a policy it has not repealed yet.

KING: But the president could sign it away, couldn't he?

JOE BIDEN: No, the president couldn't -- cannot sign it away.

What the president can theoretically do is tell the Justice Department to breach what is the understanding that all Justice Departments have. Justice Departments are obliged to defend laws constitutionally passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by former presidents.

KING: So they attorney general --


KING: -- has to defend it for now?

JOE BIDEN: He has to defend it for now.

We are pushing it as hard as we can. We just had a meeting today with the leadership in the Congress, saying we very much would like to see you pass legislation now saying end Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

KING: Dick Cheney -- not Dick Cheney, I'm sorry. Colin Powell was here the other night.


KING: And --

JOE BIDEN: A good guy.

KING: -- said that he supports John McCain in this matter. Let's wait until we do the whole investigation by the military. Let's wait until we hear from everybody, don't rush it.

JOE BIDEN: Well --

KING: Do you agree with that?

JOE BIDEN: We're going to see that very, very shortly. There's going to be a report early in December coming from the Defense Department and -- on their recommendation.

So, as my grand papa used to say, with the grace of God and the goodwill of the neighbors, they'll be a confluence of the two.

KING: Do you think we'll see the end of it by the end of the year?

JOE BIDEN: I hope so. I hope so.

KING: We'll be back with the better half. Don't go away.


KING: We're back.

He's been on 49 times over the years. This is her first appearance.


KING: Dr. Jill Biden, who taught three classes today at her school. She is, of course, Mrs. -- what are you, Mrs. First Lady? What do they call you, Second Lady?

DR. JILL BIDEN, SECOND LADY: Second Lady, second lady.

KING: Second lady.

JILL BIDEN: Or captain of the vice team.

KING: Has he changed?

JILL BIDEN: Oh, no, he hasn't changed.

KING: I mean, now he's vice president. Has he changed?

JILL BIDEN: No, I don't think. Not at all.

KING: You say that you love her more than she loves you.

JOE BIDEN: Everybody knows that.


KING: You think so?

JILL BIDEN: Probably.



KING: You still -- you taught three classes.

JILL BIDEN: I did, yes.

KING: You teach?

JILL BIDEN: I teach writing. I teach English at Northern Virginia Community College.

KING: Why do you continue to work? JILL BIDEN: Well, it's what I do. You know, I've been an English teacher for 30 years and it's what I love. And when we were elected, I said to Joe, I'm going to continue to teach. And he said --

JOE BIDEN: And I strongly encouraged her.


JOE BIDEN: Look, I think it's really important that someone in Jill's position as second lady or the wife of an elected official, if they want to, has their own separate sphere and their own -- and she's deeply involved in matters relating to the White House. And besides, she loves it. I don't know --

JILL BIDEN: And he's always been supportive of my career and whatever I do.

KING: Were you teaching when you met?

JILL BIDEN: Yes. Yes, I was. I was teaching.

KING: Always at the junior college --

JILL BIDEN: No, I taught high school for 13 years, actually.

KING: Why do you like teaching so much?

JILL BIDEN: Well, I think especially at the community college, I think I do make a difference in their lives. You know, they're working, they're going to school, they're raising families.

KING: Are they 18, 19, 20?

JILL BIDEN: Or -- no, they're all ages. So, actually, I think 26 is like the average age of a community college student. And I think I make a difference. I can make a difference.

KING: I see you a lot with Michelle Obama.

JILL BIDEN: Right, yes.

KING: PSAs, public service announcements. How do you two really get along?

JILL BIDEN: We really like one another. And I think from the very beginning when we got together, I think, you know, fate brought us together. And she had her projects that she was interested in and I had mine, but the one thing that we came together was military families.

And so that's what we're working on together and we have a lot of fun together.

KING: We just heard your husband talk about Iraq and Afghanistan. Now you talk to military families, right? JILL BIDEN: I do.

KING: Wives, husbands, children.

JILL BIDEN: Children, yes.

KING: We know we always hear about the military families who say, we support them. Do you hear from people who say we don't support them?


KING: They don't say --

JILL BIDEN: Not from Americans, no. I think --

KING: They don't say we wish you'd bring them back?

JILL BIDEN: Of course we wish would bring them back, but --

JOE BIDEN: We always hear, can you get my son home quicker or my daughter home quicker.

JILL BIDEN: Right. Yes.

KING: What do you say to that?

JILL BIDEN: Well, I think that -- you know, I saw the earlier segment, and I think that's what Joe and Barack are trying to do. They're going to -- you know, they brought our troops out of Iraq like they said that they were going to, and now they're going to start to bring them out of Afghanistan.

JOE BIDEN: It was interesting watching Jill's reaction when she came to Iraq, into a war zone with me on the 4th of July. And it was interesting to watch her -- well, you -- it was just kind of fascinating.

JILL BIDEN: Yes. I met with women soldier who, you know, had kids going off to college and had -- I met with mothers who had to actually -- their husbands were deployed and they had to leave their children with another family.

And you know, they're incredible men and women, and they never complain about their circumstances. And really, I just feel such pride in our forces.

KING: Your son was there. Your stepson.

JILL BIDEN: Well, we don't say "step," Larry.

KING: What do you say?

JILL BIDEN: We don't.

JOE BIDEN: He's just our son. JILL BIDEN: Son, yes.

KING: Back after this.



KING: We're back with the Bidens. What a couple they are.

And you had to go through the loss of a wife.

JOE BIDEN: Yes. But I tell you, no man deserves one great love, let alone two. I got real lucky.

KING: Is this your first marriage?

JILL BIDEN: No, this is my second.

KING: So you've had two loves.

JILL BIDEN: Well, yes. Maybe, maybe.


KING: That's a great line.

JOE BIDEN: I love you, child. I love you.


KING: Back to the military -- that was funny.

The outgoing chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Ike Skelton, says he worries that there's a kind of chasm -- a chasm between American civilians and the military families and their thoughts. In other words, a lot of civilians say we should get out of there. The military families, let's stay in there.

That seems like a contradiction in terms. You would think the military family would be more interested in them coming home.

JOE BIDEN: I also think he said, if you don't mind my saying -- I know Ike really well. He and I have talked at length about, here you have one percent of the population fighting these wars --

KING: Right.

JOE BIDEN: -- and does the other 99 percent understand what they're going through? And that was one of the chasms that Ike spoke about.

And Jill has worked with -- I mean, anyway -- you were asked the question. I apologize.

(LAUGHTER) JILL BIDEN: But I think that they are so proud of what they're doing. I mean, that's their job. That's what they're committed to do, and they have pride in their work and what they're doing.

KING: Do they understand it?

JILL BIDEN: I think they do understand it. And how could they not understand it with all the news coverage?

KING: You came in an administration headed by a man very opposed to war. Well, who isn't opposed to war?


KING: But voted against Iraq.

JOE BIDEN: Well, look --

KING: Has that perception in him -- and maybe both of you -- changed since -- in the past two years?

JOE BIDEN: Look, he was against the war in Iraq because he thought it could have been avoided and it should have been avoided. He at the very beginning was not against -- he thought we had to react in Afghanistan where al Qaeda was where they -- where they came in and -- and actually killed us.

And the thing that's interesting about the confluence of his commitment to make America safe and what Jill does running around the country is -- you notice there's this great phrase, only one percent of the Americans are fighting the war, but 99 percent owe them their support. And it's -- it's really interesting. Both Jill and Barack are from the Vietnam -- not the Vietnam era. They did not -- their -- their --

KING: But you are.

JOE BIDEN: I am. I am. And -- and so what Jill and Barack wanted to make sure and Michelle was -- and I agree with them -- that -- that coming home from these wars, that they never are treated like the guys in my generation who came home. Instead of being spat upon, they'd be embraced.

And so that's why I think -- in fact, I know -- why Jill and Michelle spent so much time going around the country reminding people.

KING: You meet with people who've lost people?

JILL BIDEN: Oh, yes. All the time.

KING: How do you deal with that?

JILL BIDEN: Well, it -- it is really hard and Joe and I have spent a lot of time -- a lot of time with wounded warriors.

Actually, next Monday, we're having a dinner for wounded warriors at the residence. We did it last --

JOE BIDEN: We have three Thanksgivings a year.

JILL BIDEN: Yeah. We did it last Thanksgiving. We've been to many, many hospitals, burn centers. It's tough. It's really tough.

KING: There's no formula, is there?

JILL BIDEN: No. There's no formula.

And -- but the one thing that -- one of the reasons I wanted Joe to join this team, to join this administration is that Barack wanted to get -- wanted to get out of Iraq. And I so badly wanted to get out of Iraq, especially since I had a son going to Iraq.

JOE BIDEN: Well, I wanted to get out of Iraq, but it's interesting, I did not initially want to be vice president. And when asked initially, I said -- he said he needed an answer right away and I -- I said, well if you need an answer now, Barack, the answer's no. And he said, well, go home and talk to your family about it and get back to me.

And it really surprised me when I went home, Jill said, you've got to do this. And this is not a woman who's pushing me to run for President before or wanted me to be vice president. But it was her firm conviction about Iraq.

KING: We only have a short time left but I want to ask about the reaction your boy had after Iraq to before Iraq. Then we'll ask a little about community college.

We'll be right back.


KING: We're back with the Bidens.

Did Iraq change your son?

JILL BIDEN: I don't think so. Do you, Joe?

JOE BIDEN: I don't think it changed him. I think it -- he came away with an overwhelming impression about the men and women he served with. Not -- no -- no -- no joke. I mean, he said, dad, you'd be amazed at these guys and these women. You'd just be amazed.

And I -- I was not amazed. I was there so many times. But Jill came with me, and an interesting thing. On the way back I said, you know, Jill, I feel guilty. I was here four times during the year Bo was here in Iraq. And I always felt guilty I got to see him. And I said, I wish you had.

And tell him your reaction to that.

JILL BIDEN: Yeah. I said if I had been -- if I had gone when Bo was there, I couldn't have left him there. You know, I don't think any mother who goes to a war zone could ever leave a child in a war zone.

KING: Couple of other things. You said that America's community colleges are its best kept secret.


KING: In what way?

JILL BIDEN: Well, I think community college -- colleges offer so much and especially in -- in this economy. You know, they're -- people come to them for job training. They're a fraction of the cost of four-year colleges. And --

KING: You never hear about them much.

JILL BIDEN: Well, I hope that's changed.

KING: You're changing it.

JILL BIDEN: I hope that's changed, because this administration so supports community colleges and education. And that's one of the joys of working in this administration. And so --

JOE BIDEN: She even spoke in the international forum in the U.N. about, you know, have everybody trying to set up Harvards of the world in these developing countries. And the point is, what you've got to do is you set up these community colleges quickly. You get the biggest bang for the buck, they're more affordable, people get something substantial for careers out of them and it's -- it's a good buy.

KING: Take a break, and when we come back in our remaining moments, I want to talk about holiday travel and the TSA.

Don't go away.


KING: OK. Thanksgiving's right around the corner. What do you make in a lot of discussion now in America, you -- everybody's got an opinion, the pat-down policy? Cause there's going to millions at airports.

JOE BIDEN: Well look, Larry, maybe because I spend so much time every morning dealing with the threat assessment that's out there and the fact that it's real -- I understand peoples' frustration, but I -- unless there's a new technology that comes along pretty quickly, I think it's -- I think it's a necessary policy. I think it will have the effect of saving lives intercepting explosives or -- or before --

KING: But in a democracy, it's an invasion. I mean, it is an invasion.

JOE BIDEN: Well --

JILL BIDEN: It is, but if you think about it, I mean, really, we're fighting -- I mean, terrorism is -- it's a threat. And I think Americans should -- I mean, they should realize it and -- and put up with it, I think.

KING: Anyone in the administration against doing it?

JOE BIDEN: No. We're all in the administration saying continue to look to see what the best technology and the least intrusive that gives us the greatest security.

KING: How you guys spending Thanksgiving?

JILL BIDEN: We go to Nantucket, and we've done it for over 30 years to get away.

JOE BIDEN: It's been 35 years. Back after we first got -- five years after the accident, I met Jill. I had an administrative assistant, wonderful guy who was 20 years older. And her mom and dad wanted me and the boys to come to dinner, my mom and dad and my deceased wife's mom and dad. And he said, the way to do that is -- he said, pick a spot where just you and the family go every year so no one's offended.

And he -- I said, where. And he said -- I said, Nantucket. I've never been to Nantucket in the winter. I mean what -- and we've been doing it for 35 years. Now 20 of us go.


JOE BIDEN: Our children.

KING: We're out of time. Thanks, Jill. Your first appearance.

JILL BIDEN: Oh, thanks. And happy birthday.

KING: Thank you. Yes, tomorrow. Thank you.

Hey, thanks for the kind words.

JOE BIDEN: A great run, old buddy.

KING: We thank the Bidens for being with us tonight. Hope you enjoyed it. Hope you enjoy John Roberts sitting in for Anderson Cooper. He's next. John?