Purchased a FORA.tv video on another website? Login here with the temporary account credentials included in your receipt.
Sign up today to receive our weekly newsletter and special announcements.
Good afternoon and welcome to today's meeting of the Commonwealth Club of California. I am Elizabeth Sherwood Randall, a Senior Research Scholar at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation and a member of the club's Board of Governors. I am your moderator for today's program. Please turn off your cell phones or any other noisy gadgets. Before we begin I have been asked to tell you about several up coming programs. On Wednesday, May 16th San Francisco's Mayor Gavin Newsom will be in conversation with KQED Radio's Scot Shafer to discuss the major issues confronting the city as well as the Mayor's campaign for reelection. This will be a 6:30 p.m. program at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. And on Tuesday, June12th the next of our "Get to know the Presidential Candidates" series will feature Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico. This will be a noon program in San Jose. For more information on upcoming events please pick up a copy of our magazine, The Commonwealth, in the lobby or go to commonwealthclub.org. Now on to the program, you will find on your chairs question cards. Please write down any questions you have for Senator Biden and these questions will be collected during the program. The Commonwealth Club, as many of you know is a non partisan organization that features speakers of all points of view. And we do ask that our speakers be allowed to make their remarks without interruption. We do encourage you to write and submit challenging questions however. I would now begin the formal program for our radio audience. This is serious, god remember she said, all of you would be nice, what kind of a crowd are you, I am in little worry here, man. I thought as in San Francisco. Hi Liz, how are you? Hello Senator, welcome to San Francisco, it s a thrill to do this. Good afternoon and welcome to today's meeting of the Commonwealth Club of California I am Elizabeth Sherwood Randall, a Senior Research Scholar at Stanford University Center for International Security and Cooperation and a member of the Commonwealth Club's Board of Governors. I am your moderator for this program. Today's event is the first in the Commonwealth Club series, "get to know the candidates" and we feature Senator Joseph. R. Biden Junior of Delaware, a 2008 Democratic Presidential candidate. By the size of the audience here today we can see and feel the sense of urgency that many Americans are expressing about the State of our Union and our relationship with the world. Given the stakes for all of us, civil public discourse is more important than ever. It set us apart as a country and we all have to take responsibility for what is going on in the public sphere. That is why I have been drawn to work in this world and I have admired those like Gloria Duffy, the President and the CEO of the Commonwealth Club and you Senator Biden, who have chosen to commit your lives to public service. Thank you. This should The Commonwealth Club has asked Senator Biden, and we will ask all future presidential candidates appearing before us to do the same, to engage in a wide ranging conversation rather than giving a traditional speech. This should allow us to talk about the greatest number of issues that are of interest to the American public. As a moderator we have agreed that I will cover topics that the club will also discuss with each of the candidates who comes before us. So now before we begin let me tell you a little bit about Joe Biden. Don't tell them everything. I have known Joe Biden for more than twenty years. When we met I had just finished my PhD and he had already been in the Senate for Fourteen years, having been elected at the ripe old age of 29. He offered me the opportunity to serve as his Chief Foreign and Defense Policy Advisor early in my career and I was honored to do so because he had already established himself as a leading light in the Democratic Party on Foreign Affairs. He taught me a life long lesson about reaching out to others and about the difference between the ivory tower and the political arena. Joe pointed out to me that when you are in at an academic institution, like Harvard or Oxford, you listen to what someone says and if you agree with 99 percent of it, you find the one percent that you disagree with and that's what you talk about. But in Politics, Joe urged, even if you disagree with 99 percent of what someone thinks, you look for the one percent where you agree and that's where you find common ground. So today, Joe is one of our Nation's Senior Statesman and I am still an academia. He has served in the Senate for 35 years; he has engaged in all the political debates that have shaped our lives, from Watergate to Vietnam, from (bussing) to Bosnia, from Robert Borg to this week's historic stand off on Iraq war funding. He has chaired several of the Senates most important committees, the Senate Judiciary Committee and now once again the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is known in Washington for reaching across party lines to forge bipartition approaches to the toughest international problems. He played a major role in USSoviet Arms Control during the cold war. And more recently has lead efforts to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. But there is much more to this man than his expertise on foreign policy. Joe Biden is a person of passion and gumption and grit. And he has been through some very tough times. Today, as in each of our forth coming Presidential forum events, we will seek to get to know this man's character and his substance. Because in times as perilous as ours and thinking back to John F. Kennedy's handling of the Cuban Missile crisis as a model, we need a President who can handle the toughest confrontations with experience and sturdiness and judgment and imagination. To allow for a coherent conversation, I'll try to cluster my questions in three broad groups, though of course there will be some overlap. We're going to try to be forward looking in this discussion and explore who who Joe Biden would be in the Whitehouse rather than talking solely about the issues in the newspapers today. So first, who is Joe Biden as a person? What is the stuff of which he's made? What makes him tick? Second, as President how would he contend with the vast array of domestic challenges that we face. And third, perhaps most familiar to those who have followed his career; how would he lead America in a troubled World? We'll start with a conversation between us and then following Commonwealth Club tradition, I will ask a series of questions gathered from our audience. So Joe, tell us a little bit about your youth. You came to the senate so young. What where the forces that shaped you before we knew you on the public stage? Well I I think the forces that shaped me were my neighborhood, the parents that raised me, the religion I practiced. You know just my I think may be the most formative thing I and part of an (indiscernible) before, for me was, when I was a a kid, I used to stutter very, very badly. And it was of sort of debilitating. And I worked very hard to to over come it but it gave me an appreciation for how a lot of other kids and as an adult, lot of other people carry the burdens that they have. And it I think it made me a whole lot more tolerant and may be someone more empathetic. But you know, I come from middle class background; I guess technically lower middle class if you are going to talk about it in economic terms, we didn't think of it that way. I grew up in a Scranton, Pennsylvania and moved down to Claymont, Delaware, little steel town, lived in what is now we are turning it down, it was Section 8 housing but then it wasn't then it was you know garden type apartments that a lot of working class people. My dad was an elegant man who was a high school educated man. My mother is a did none of the college education but a very bright woman, she lives with me now. She still runs the show. You all think I am kidding, no and you know I am my we were raised to in our family there is an expression, if we have to ask it's too late. And so I have a very close family and and I have always had a great deal of help and support whether it's my family, the nuns and priests that taught me, my friends, I have just been really fortunate. You are a true survivor as a man and as a public servant, as you said you had a terrible stutter as a child and now, well you knows who is someone who sometimes can't stop oneself from talking. Sometimes I wish I had stutter, you know they why don't that guy just shut up, you know but And you have made it through a couple of harrowing brain surgeries for two aneurysms. Oh, lets get it clear, they didn't affect the brain, folks. I mean they are in my, I had two craniotomies, I did have two aneurysms or, as you know I was married to a doctor in my so called subarachnoid cavity, so inside my skull below my brain and and I was assured that the second time that when and they took out the that temp record you know we knew it was squared away but but you know, look what I what happened in me is not much. There is everybody in this audience has something that has been really challenging for them. Some of them are living through challenges right now, I just - it just got a lot more focus because I was a national figure You have also faced political humiliation, what of these challenges is the toughest one you have ever faced and how did you get up from it and come back fighting? Well, I was raised by a guy, my dad who, he didn't, he is a man of few words, but he had like many of you I suspect you can recall something your mother or father repeated it to you a 100 times when you are growing up. And my and my dad has an expression had an expression. He would say measure success is not whether you get knocked down, its how you quickly get up. The one thing I ever remember my father whether I was playing football or I got turned down for it - on a date or I didn't do well was get up, just get up and so as my part - my mom has a different way of saying it, my mother says as long as you are alive you have an obligation to strive and you are not dead till you have seen the face of god. And she is Irish, and so but all kidding aside it was just that. It was just the just get up and the recognition that so many people have gone through things so much tougher than I have, I lost a wife, I lost a child, I guess there was nothing that rivals that in terms of just genuine loss. But there was a different kind of loss, it occurred when I was accused 20 years ago on not being an honest man. It was the most devastating thing, other than loss of my family, that I have ever undergone because as you - all of you, you build, you have your sense of who you are, my entire reputation as from the time I have been a kid to the time I was through the Senate was that I am my dad had have another expression, you are a man of your word without your word you are not a man. I mean I don't know how many times I heard him say that. So everything in my family and way we were taught, raised was build on this notion of honor and for a littler bit of time there I was questioned by many people whether I was an honorable person. I hope that's behind me. But that was - that's the hardest thing because you don't want to sound like you know, Richard Nixon you know you know I am serious, you know when something happens you don't want to explain, my dad used to always say never explain and never complain. But you know you feel like going out and say, I didn't do that, that's not what I said, that's not and you just - he does protest too loudly, so you just have to learned to just suck it in and hope that people will judge you based on your record and concluding I would say the great advantage I have had is I have lived long enough for people to get a a continual look at me. Not just judge me by a single incident, but judge me based upon public life, this has been very public and I will take my chances on that. But that that was the most, truly in a sense personally devastating, the other is just you know, it was just what it was, just hard. Tragic. Hard. Do you have a hero, someone you really admire living or dead? You know I am almost reluctant with all the cameras here to say yes, but I do. And its its my sons are the most incredible two young men you have ever seen and you know my mom has an expression, she has lots of expression, she would say, but really I remember when the accident occurred and I thought it was so cruel she said, Joey out of everything tragic something good will come if you look hard enough for it. And what has come out of that relationship is, I have a great relationship like I am sure all of you do with your children, but its a like a steel band that runs through our chest and connects us all. My boys are they are grown men, Hunter is 38, Beau is 39, both well educated, wonderful guys but the thing about them is they are like my daughter they they are genuinely good descent people who have who have taken these knocks, its hard for a father or a principal to be have bad things said about them. Its nothing to be sitting as a fresh men at University of Pennsylvanian, the first three days of school and a great big giant screen and see your father's name come up as been a no good lying, cheating so and so. But I I watched how my sons handle it, you know, watched how they took care of one another and took care of me, so I can say without reservation that two people I most admire are my two sons. It's magnificent. We know from what you have said and from your career that your faith is very important to you. Talk to us about how you balance that faith with the requirements of separating church and state that are so fundamental to our democracy? Well, they are fundamental and I have a career that if you just looked at it you would see I was a Jeffersonian in my view about that separation, but there is a great I would recommend to you all. I am going to start asking you for cut of the book because I would recommend it to so many people. Meacham wrote a book called the American Gospel and he has a many phrases in that. But one of them that I think best characterizes how I look at it is that the beauty of the American Gospel is that - that religion shapes the life of the nation without strangling it. There is this notion that we are a spiritual nation, to pretend we are not I think is to deny deny reality. But in the other hand the beauty of this system was that our founders who were fully aware that adherence to any one religion or any one creed was the thing that brought other nations down. And so we have been very scrupulous in separating our public religion from our private religion and and there is no "public religion" there is this though, to use Meacham's phrases, American Gospel that we are kind of a unique if you think about it, we are one of the few nations where we generate that we argue that our Civil Liberties, Civil Rights or humanity comes from and acknowledgement that there is something bigger than us, you know we hold these true is self evident that all men are created equal endowed by their creator, with certain inalienable rights inalienable, no government can take those. I remember you and I talking during the board nominations and I opened the hearing in a way that there is lot of the very bright people you exclude not you, but in my staff brilliant young people like you, were little uncomfortable when I characterize the difference between Robert Borg and me at the outset. And I suggested to Robert Borg, I said judge if I mischaracterize what you have what you stand for let me know. But here is what I see it after I have been read everything you have ever written. And I said you believe our rights that we have as individuals are coming from a document. They spring from the constitution. I believe I have all the rights I possessed merely because I was born, merely because I am a child of god, the constitution doesn't confer a single thing on me that I don't already posses. All the constitution does for me is this is the arbitrary the the document by which we engage in arbitration, determining what role the government would have. And so I I find it as not so much my religion, in terms of my specific beliefs, my Catholicism but I think the public is I think they when look to their leaders and get the feeling that they think they are something bigger than they are. So I I don't have any problem with separating my specific beliefs as a catholic from my role as a public official that sworn to protect agnostic, atheist and the most religious conservative out there. I don't have a problem. I know that one of your sons has started down the path toward public service as well - I tried to talk to him out of it. - in the state of Delaware. What do you aside from trying to talk him out of it, what is your advice to young people who are interested in a career in public service today? Well you know you have observed it, the idea of the political system being closed is probably the biggest fiction, promoted by those who don't want people to get involved. I mean it is so wide open and whether it is to get involved in a political party, to try to change things through the political process or getting involved in public interest organization, it is just is literally, simply getting involved. And the younger you are, in a sense the easier it is because there is so much work to be done that those who have been around a while are ready to hand off to you a significant amount of responsibility very quickly. That's what I found when I got involved, when I was a young guy. But I would just say know what you believe, know what you here is another a lot of young people come to me and say I am thinking you are running for office, what should I do? And I mean this as I have been saying this for 30 years what I say, you may remember my saying it and that is that make sure you know what you are willing to lose over before you ever run for office make sure you know what you are willing to lose ever because if you don't know that then are being propelled primarily by ambition. Ambition is a necessary ingredient to succeed; it is necessary but not sufficient to be a good public servant in my view. Know what it is you are willing lose over, that defines why you are being involved, that's the principle that propels you into public life and that's the single piece of advice I would give to young people trying to get involved. Know if you are in getting involved, in electing office, getting involved generically, in public policy and public life, just like that Nike ad just do it, people are its wide open, absolutely wide open. So what have you been willing to lose over? Well I have been willing to lose over a number of things. I am willing to lose this election over this war in Iraq. I am willing to lose I have made a decision, its been 20 years since I looked at this before and I decided that and I mean it sincerely that that I am I know I want to be president, I know what I would attempt to do and I know I am not willing to make compromises on the big issues I care most about in order to get elected because then you just become trapped, I have been there for seven Presidents, you could become trapped behind that desk mortgaging the very things that caused you to run in the first place. I am willing to lose over my view on civil liberties, I am willing to lose over my notion of what constitutes the whole notion of privacy, I am willing to lose over a lot of things and like a lot of people, I am not unique, I am not suggesting that there is something unique to me. I think if you don't know that then why you are doing this, there is a lot of other things you can do that have significantly greater financial remuneration. I have had the dubious distinction of being listed as being one of the four poorest in the Congress for 35 years; I am not crazy about that. But blocked it inside, it's a there is a lot and by the way so I don't mislead you. There are certain things I am agnostic on, if don't have a very strong view on it I am going to take the advice of my people I trust in what's the best political decision to make. And I will make the best political decision if I am agnostic on the issue, the allocation of highway funding based on state population to effect now, if I have got to get a deal I will make it, but I am not going make a deal to escalate the war in Iraq in order to be able to win the nomination or to pull all troops out immediately in order to win the nomination. There is so much more we can talk about and some of the issues that you have just mentioned will cover in the questions to come. We are moving to domestic policy now. And I'd like to talk with you about the big picture first. You spend your whole career on Capitol Hill and you've spend a lot of time thinking about the right balance between the executive and legislative branches. Is that balance different for you when we are talking about domestic and foreign policy, when you think about the perspective of the President of the United States? Well, it's different in the sense that the way the Constitution is written, I suffer from being an adjunct professor of constitutional law over last 17 or 18 years. I teach every morning every Saturday morning, two semesters a year at Widener University Law School, Delaware. And what I point out to my students is there is a constitutional impediment in on the part of the United States Congress to be able of formulate policy, foreign policy. It's hard to formulate a policy. You can stop bad things from happening, you can support good things that are being promoted by the President, but it's very difficult for you to, for example, I have a view of foreign policy which all agrees with now that I could not put in legislative form and get it passed. I can't get passed, for example, on the floor of the United States Senate in the Congress and force the President to enter into the political settlement I believe is the only one that's available in Iraq. I am not in a position to take the Biden-Gale Plan and put it in legislation because there is no way you can force the President to engage in a negotiation that will resolve in the decentralization of the government of Iraq. All I can do is tell him stop doing what you are doing and getting us involved in this civil war and move to a different mission than the one you are on. Where as on domestic policy, I can pass the Biden Crime Bill that put a 100,000 cops in the street that became known as 1984 or it should be 1994 Crime Law, and I can affirmatively thrust that upon a President and force him or her to say I am for it and I sign it, or I am against it. So in that sense, it's easier to deal with domestic situations than it is with foreign policy situations, in that has been trying to shape it. So, if you had the power to initiate on domestic policy, what would you make the highlights or the priorities of a first Biden administration? Well, as President what I will do is focus on three over arching domestic issues. There are many there are many. But the three that I think will determine what whether we can right ourselves in the beginning of this 21st century so that it can remain an American century will relate to health care, energy policy and education. They to me are the three building blocks up on which we have to reassert our our primacy and in and embolden and the middle class to be able to participate more than they can now. The our foreign policy is, would be impacted drastically if we had a positively, if we had a excuse me, I've cold if we had a national energy policy. Our our foreign policy will be impacted by an education policy as well as a healthcare policy. American businesses are in a real disadvantage excuse me in the way in which we are we are in competitive disadvantage in being able to compete, domestically the same way it provides for upward mobility for people who are really in a stagnant circumstance right now. I think those three areas; energy policy, healthcare and education are the three. So let's take deeper on those. One healthcare, obviously one of the biggest challenges we face is that 47 million Americans are uninsured. How would they be covered in a Biden Administration? How many would be covered and how would you fund it? I'll tell you how I would fund it. The first think by the way, I I'd say involved as you know when when your children write their senior thesis or when they wrote scholars like you were and they are readying their final paper at Oxford and they are asked what is most important what was most important crisis or issue facing the world in the year 2007, they probably will not pick Iraq. But you know in Iraq is like the boulder in the road right now. Absent dealing success with Iraq we like the flexibility to deal our domestic problems at home and the credibility to deal with the problems we have abroad as well as the opportunities. So I would end this war which we may get into. And that saves me a $100 billion a year. I would take away your tax cut, those of you in the top one percent because you are as patriotic as poor folks are. You know you don't need it and you know or not of I am speaking very - I am being deadly honest. That's $85 billion a year. I would eliminate the the tax break on dividends on the capital gains which were needed to boost the economy and not needed now. That would give me well over an additional $200 billion a year. Imagine what I can do as President with $200 billion a year to kick start this this effort. For $26 billion here I can insure every single solitary child is on insurance. The 35 million people 36 million people who are adults that are uninsured, you all know that 70 percent of them work, they work 40 hours a week, some of them work more than one job. I would I would move immediately to a catastrophic health care bill. The third thing I would do as President is immediately implement through seeking through the legislature, a modernization of the health care system relating to record keeping, electronic record keeping - things we well, we could save considerable amounts of money. And then I would do something that is a little unusual. I would use the model of welfare reform for even though I have arguments about the welfare reform for health care reform. Your state state of Pennsylvania, state of Massachusetts, Texas while they are all seeking how to mandatory insurance, health insurance for everyone in your state. I would give the states considerable flexibility and under-write their cost in experimenting with that process. When we reach the point we have 30 to 35 states who have universal coverage in your states, we've reached the critical mass. We'll be over the argument about whether or not we need a national healthcare policy, we'll be able to go out and cherry pick those policies in order to come up with a national healthcare policy that is able to be implemented. Because the bottom line is that there is a different environment here. Business knows as much the corporate community represented here knows they need a national healthcare policy more than labor unions need a national healthcare policy. So as the President of United States one of the first things I would do I would literally, not figuratively, invite the CEO's of the Fortune 100 companies in America to my office for real. And I would say, "Gentlemen and ladies, you have six months to come back with me with a proposal", and I would start from there. But the elements would be the ones I mentioned first. I would pay for those healthcare cost fund and it would reduce the cost of those of you having to go out and get policies on their own, individual purchases, taking children off and catastrophic off, it would reduce the cost to business of maintaining healthcare policies for their for their employees without giving them a justification or walk away from healthcare. And it would set the ground work for which could be able to come up with over the first four years of my Presidency, a full blown national healthcare policy where there is universal coverage and contain cost. One follow-up question to you Senator, would you cover metal health just as you cover other physical illnesses? Absolutely. Absolutely, I should have mentioned that, it was a mistake not mentioning that. I've been part of a a correlation, actually lead by a Republican, Pete Domenici and Ted Kennedy. There has been a group of about 15 of us for the last 10 years, actually longer. 15 years we have been arguing that there is virtually no distinction between mental health and what other average people talk of your physical health. You are in you have a serious depression, you are clinically depressed, that is as much a illness beyond your control as you break your arm or you break the femur in your leg. And we have to start thinking about it that way. And I I would include it as it's covered the same exact way every other healthcare cost would be. Let's stick with your big three on domestic policy, on the environment; you said in the first democratic debate that you believe there should be a Manhattan project on climate change. Can you tell us a little more about this idea? Well, there are four things that have to happen I am trying to do this very quickly. Number one, I think as a legislature all these years I've learned that in order to get the public invested in a major undertaking you have to convince them that it's doable. You have to give them something bite size to demonstrate that if they are to make this kind of sacrifices needed, that they could actually make progress. So the first and foremost thing I would do is I would make sure that every single automobile made in America by the year 2009 and abroad sold new, had to be a flex feel automobile. I would mandate in every gas station in America build more than 400 gas stations as every major in America have at least 10 percent of their pumps pumping e85 ethanol by the year 2009 and 25 percent of their pumps by 2012. I would also increase mileage mandate mileage increases. We don't need any new technology; all we've had to do is the the success in technology over the last 10 years, if it wasn't put in Horse power in size we could increase the mileage of automobiles the day that we are driving by seven to eight miles. I would mandate every single category of automobile had to have an increase of one mile per year, ten miles a gallon. If we just today had the same mileage standard as Europe we wouldn't have to import any foreign oil, it was 34 miles a gallon. And so there are things with in our power, we have to demonstrate to the folks we can do that they have to part of. I would also, in addition to that make a significant investment in alternative energy sources. The investment in cellulosics, the investment in in Lithium ion batteries for automobiles, the investment in clean coal technology, the investment that needs to be made in wind and solar is a requirement that is not dissimilar to the one that the John Kennedy made when he was talking about going to moon. And I will conclude by saying, every body thinks when Kennedy picked the moon as the target that that's what it was about. I have I have a copy with quotes some where, I carry with and that one is laminated cards, to remind people, but here is in essence what he did? The purpose of going to the moon is to get 480,000 additional engineers and scientists. That was the purpose of going to the moon. And he made it absolutely clear that we had never made a commitment like this before and we are going to have take resources from projects that were needed and needed to be funded, but we can take away from those projects in order to make this major commitment to literally leapfrog in the United States Science and Technology, in Mathematics. The same kind of initiative has to be put forward with hard dates, laying our start targets and making it clear to people sacrifice has to be made. Sacrifice has to be made if we are going to effect and that includes getting back in I have been pushing us to get back into a Kyoto like negotiation again, we can be energy independent tomorrow, its not going to affect us I mean there is still going to have Delaware flooded in thirty years, seven feet below above sea level for real. If in fact the Chinese and Indians with 2.5 billion people continue the pell-mell race toward the concentration of energy concentrated endeavors and global warming. So there is a lot we have to do and part of it has to do to be able to engage the rest of the world in this effort as well. This leads us directly into education. You described the Kennedy effort to train scientists and engineers, in the bay area we are keenly interested in the dynamism or Asia and the importance of keeping our competitive edge and many of us were concerned about how we are educating our young people and whether we will instill in them what they need to maintain the spirit of innovation that has defined our country. What would you do on education policy? Look you know, we have had all these very, very serious studies done over the last twenty five years I have been in the Senate about the nature of the crisis in education. But folks, there is two there is three compelling notions in my view. Again, to quote my mom "children tend to become that what you expect of them, children tend to become that what you expect of them". Every child should be challenged, no child should be presumed that they are incapable of handling calculus by the time they were in 10th grade, number one. So it's an attitude. Secondly, every body knows, the earlier the access to education, the better the prospects of success. So why do we keep talking about it? We should have head start available, for seventeen billion dollars you can make it available to every body in the country and that's a choice to people whether they whether they are willing to start their children into circumstances early as three years of age. The third thing we know, the smaller the class the better the prospects. I mean this isn't rocket science. My wife is a PhD in education, she is a professor at a community college, she is a very bright woman, you put her in a remedial class or put her in an advanced class teaching writing, I guarantee the smaller the class the better she will do in both classes. This is not hard to understand, we know this. Why we are unwilling to spend the money, because we don't value education as much as we say we value education. We give it a lot of lip service. And the third the fourth thing it seems to me is here you have 60 percent of all teachers who have gone on to of teaching in the last six years have left within five years. Now, we are competing with the very countries you named. In many of those countries they are now and over the past 10 years they have moved in the direction of paying their teachers as much as they pay engineers. My dad just say, "Show me your budget, I'll tell you what you value". We have to be providing we need to be providing salaries enough to attract the young engineer graduating from Stanford or the young mathematician, so he doesn't go work in Silicon Valley and he can go work in education. They have to be remotely competitive. We got a lot of you women in the audience like my sister and my wife for free. 40 years ago, we got you on the cheap, because we basically said when you graduated to the top of your class, you could be a nurse or you could be a teacher. Well, guess what, thank god those days are over, my daughter is not buying into that. And so folks we have to begin to pay and attract teachers. And I think there is a lot of other things you have to do, relating to standards, we have to reward merit and then you know in the class room and teachers, there are a lot of things but the basic principles are there. Smaller classes, more money to attract the brightest coming out of college, start education earlier, have kids go to school longer. They're all they are the four elements of making a fundamental change in American education. For our radio audience, you are listening to the Commonwealth Club of California Radio Program and our guest today is Joseph R. Biden Junior, U. S. Senator from Delaware, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidate. Senator Biden, we are now going to move to foreign policy; Defense, Intelligence and National Security. These issues are now centre stage more so perhaps than at any time in memorable history. Presidents' have a year or two to launch the most important initiatives of their presidencies. What would your foreign policy priorities be for the first one hundred days of your presidency? I would state flatly that the next President has no margin for error. Let me say that again. No time in the history of anyone's life time in this room has the hand off of power, from one President to next, been as consequential as this will be. The next President will have no margin for error. He or she will have to end this war in Iraq with out jeopardizing our future in the region and immediately it turn to other hotspots in the world before they explode into a crisis that may engage us in war. So I can't think of any other time where it's more essential that the President knows at least as much as his advisors know. This stuff that I know as much no, I mean that sincerely. The President better be as smart as his or her advisors. Better know exactly what he or she wishes to do in terms of their foreign policy, not on an ad hoc basis, but on more broad basis. So I believe, Elizabeth, the first thing that's going to have to happen is that the next President is going to have to end this war, its clear to me, this President has no intention of ending this war. He intends on trying to keep it from completely imploding and hand it off to the next President. That's the first thing. They got to know exactly how they are going to do that, or attempt to do that. And obviously things can change in 18 months; it may vary what they are able to do. Secondly, it seems to me the next President of United States has to know what the elements of his or her foreign policy are. The first thing I would do I would jettison Doctrine of Pre-emption and Regime Change. They are the two pillars upon which this disaster of the last six years have been built. We need a policy prevention and conduct change. And we have to un-mute the mute button. We have to actually engage our enemies as well as our friends. You know the fact I said earlier about the war, think about it folks. There is virtually no credibility that this administration carries in international affairs. People say, why is the Indian going south? The Indian deal is going south is because I believe in Delhi they are looking at Afghanistan and what would and what Pakistan is going to do. And deciding whether or not they want to bind themselves by the agreement they made and learning the fact, you will have to know how to connect the dots here, that old tried expression being used in Washington. So, the first and foremost thing is end the war in Iraq, only one way to do it only one way to do it. You have to jettison the Central Thesis of Democrat and Republicans in the United States Congress in Washington. We are faced with the false choice. The choice is either more of the same and hand it off to the next guy or leave and hope for the best. When even those who were saying, leaving hope for the best; what are they hoping for? What did they say to you when they say that? When they answer, then what. They think if you leave some how you are going to get the sectarian warring factions together to form a central government in Baghdad that's democratic. Ladies and gentlemen, not in the lifetime if anyone in this room, and I have said this before the war, not in the lifetime of anyone in this room is there a possibility of a central democratic government in Baghdad trusted by the factions that are making up this called polygod country called Iraq. So, you must decentralize, you must separate the parties within the context of a limited federal government. You must give them control over the fabric of their daily lives starting with their own physical security. If you do not do that, in my view there is a zero possibility. So when everybody says you need a political solution, ask them what is their political solution, not their tactical suggestion, what is the political solution? And so I think its you know go on, I am not being facetious my website joebiden.com and get excruciating detail about what I think political solution is, but it is pretty basic folks. Never am I aware of anytime in modern history there has been self sustaining cycle of sectarian violence, has it ended other in one of four ways. One side wipes out the other, a chance we cannot take, reigniting the Shia Sunni conflict that could go from the Mediterranean to the Himalayas. Impose a dictator which should be the ultimate irony for the United States of America. Occupy, which takes a generation of war and it's not on our DNA, or a Federal system. Let's get on with it let's get on with it. Senator, I am going to follow up with the great devolution of power in Iraq raises a number of questions and I am going to follow up with you on this now. It threatens to advance the prospects that the Kurds will ultimately declare independence and you have long been involved as a leader in US relations with Europe and are deeply knowledgeable about NATO; you know that we have a security guarantee with Turkey in NATO. If you were president when Kurdistan declares its independence how would you handle over the crisis with our NATO ally, Turkey? I would make sure that Kurdistan does not declare independence. I got smuggled in (indiscernible) on twelve hour car ride sometimes lying on a floorboard, going to the mountains of northern Iraq in order to be able to determine and meet with Barzani and Talabani before the war began. To try to find out what they were really thinking. I was with a great guy named Chuck Hagel, a really decent smart honorable guy, Republican, I came away from that meeting and subsequent meetings I have had, I have been there seven times since the war six times since the war and I had come away with a clear view that the Iraq that Kurds understand for well that if they declare independence they are at war. The likelihood of then being able to declare independence and survive is nominal at best. They will not only have Turkey moving on them, they will have Iran moving from the west and that's why I have been getting feelers from my not at liberty to say who in the Turkish government Turkish government of late, wondering whether I'll talk about my plan because they are finally beginning to realize in my view, that the only thing was than a semi autonomous Kurdistan within a country of Iran is a totally fragmented Iran with Kurdistan on its own let me say that again. Totally fragmented Iraq, you mean? Did I say Iran? I meant to say Iraq; I beg your pardon, a totally fragmented Iraq. And so there is a growing appreciation, not only in terms of the foreign policy of leading both parties here, but in terms of abroad. There may be a preferable way, everyone would hoped that, I never believed it, so I said at the outset, but a lot of people hoped and its a noble hope and expectation, establish the central democratic regime in Iraq, in a multi ethnic country and will spread like wild fire through the region. It's not a possibility in my humble opinion, it's a great aspiration, it's a long term goal. And so what s beginning to happen now is in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, they are beginning to realize that the worst of the whole worlds for each of their naked self interest is a fragmentation not just a civil war, a fragmentation of Iraq. If Iraq implodes you will see Kurds on Kurds, you will see Shia on Shia six different militias and you will see an outright occupation by Al Qaeda of Anbar province and the war and the and the tribal chiefs at war with Al Qaeda. You will have chaos in the region. We may not be able to avoid it based on this administration's policy. But guess what; all of a sudden the neighbors are beginning to figure it out. So I would be literally on the plane we to whether to go now, I would have invited the Foreign Minister into see me with my Secretary of State, Elizabeth and I would literally, now but all kidding aside Elizabeth, this has to be proactive. Yes. Diplomacy requires not just imagination, but you got to take some chances. It must be proactive. And the only nation that has the possibility of being a positive catalyst for this is us. And we should be out selling selling, not contracting, not our foreign policy as we have done in the region to the Saudi's and to others. I am not supposed to express my opinion, but yes. One last question Senator, one of the most damaging consequences of the war in Iraq is the impact on the American built military. Absolutely. In a Biden administration what would you do to restore confidence of the military and the civilian leadership in this country? The first thing I would do is get them out of the civil war, understand what has happened here. We have pulsed up our forces to 160,000 people. We put them in the middle of a city of 6.2 million people, not following but the lead, knocking on doors. Every one sits and says, my lord isn't it amazing that Sadr hasn't stuck at us and the Mahdi army hasn't moved. Why would they? We are taking care of their business. We are in 23 Sunni neighborhoods, focusing on getting the bad guys who were Sunni's. These guys, they'll just take in their uniforms, put them in the drawer, hid their weapons and as soon as we take care for that part for them, they are back. And so I would get our troops and this is what the the President is vetoing. The Biden eleven language and the bill he is vetoing is what he is vetoing. And what did we say? The part that no one focuses on. The part we focused on is we change the mission, not just set target dates, but the mission is changed. We say in this legislation you just vetoed, Mr. President; you can only use American forces in Iraq for the following three purposes. Train the Iraqi Army, deny Al Qaeda and jihadist's occupation of territory, i.e. Anbar Province, enforce protection. If you do that you need considerably fewer troops than the 160,000 troops to do that. Number one, that's the first step. The second step is the political solution, which the constitution I might add, calls for. But the first thing I would do is demonstrate to them I know what I am talking about. I understand their dilemma. I'd said I been there seven times with these kids and they all are kids. They know this doesn't make a lot of sense. The second thing I would do, which many of you will not like, I would increase the end strength of the United States military including the Marines and the Army by at least 30000 folks folks. This Army that rests up on my son's National Guard Units, and units like him for 40 percent cannot function in a world that is no longer a bipolar world, we are talking about a two theater war. This is a totally different environment. And we have to adjust to that environment. Thirdly, I would be moving in a direction where I would re-instate and make clear that we are not - we are going to take care of the people who we sent and come home. Look folks, I got in trouble for saying the other day I didn't get into trouble, a lot of people liked it some didn't- for my saying, getting you cut off camera and you got to watch out, many of you these YouTube thing you know people with little cameras, I was at this rally of 3000 people, people asking me question and they said, "What do you do about? Biden, you put in the money for these MRAPs, you know what an MRAP is? An MRAP is a real is a real humvee that saves life. And that it has a V-shaped hull. And they cost a lot of money; $8.5 billion to build in the the number we need. And the President didn't want to build them as quickly as we need them. We need 7700. So and no one did quite frankly. So I went in the floor and with just a son of a gun and kept pushing it and got the money for it. And after it was over, and when this - when this guy asked me what would I do if the President vetoes the bill we were talking about MRAPs, I said I'll shop it down his throat, people were dying they are dying. We put these vehicles out there we can save five times as many troops. Ladies and gentlemen, we are bringing these troops home. What are we doing to these kids what are we doing? If I had $10 to spend as President, and it cost nine to spend on these veterans I'll spend all nine on it and no money on any of you for education, healthcare and anything else. These kids need to know. And folks, it is literally criminal, what we are not doing what we are not doing. So I would make it clear to them my commitment is real and it is primary because right now they are very confused and right now and by the way, it wasn't Joe Biden said it, Shoemaker, three star general may have four by now, said we are breaking the army we are breaking the military. That's the disaster, not just the 3,300 people killed and the 24,000 wounded but we are breaking breaking the military. I can tell I don't care much about this. But it really makes me angry, I have to admit that, I get frustrated. Senator, we could keep you here for several hours given the number of questions that have been submitted. So I will encourage you to be your concise self. Okay.