The following is a transcript of a 15-minute discussion on Saturday, Jan. 25, with Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president of the United States Joseph R. Biden Jr. by Eagle Times managing editor Jordan J. Phelan.
Some singular words such as "we," "they" or "it" have been substituted with the actual individual’s or group’s name to avoid confusion. These changes are indicated by words or phrases placed between open and closed brackets.
The Eagle Times: Thank you so much for taking the time this afternoon to talk with the Eagle Times.
Thank you. Sorry for the delay.
The Eagle Times: As a veteran senator from Delaware and the former vice president of the United States, how have you determined the balance between simply promoting peace and enforcing order around the world, and how would you continue to showcase that foreign policy rationale as the 46th president of the United States?
Well, I do not think [promoting peace and enforcing order] are inconsistent. I think [foreign policy] requires partners, it requires the rest of the world to know what [the United States of America] stands for. That is why I often use the phrase, "it is not just the example of our power, but the power of our example." That is what has allowed us to organize the world since World War II. And we have done really well. Our grandparents, our mothers, our fathers, and great grandparents did well.
First of all, from my perspective, we are in a situation where we have to look at the alliances we put together. [Those alliances] were designed to do important things. For example, I have spent a lot of time in Europe. I was a student of foreign policy when I was in school. But, when I got to the Senate at 29, I found myself deeply engaged in my first assignment on the Foreign Relations Committee with NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). And what everybody forgets about NATO is that we organized NATO after World War II not merely to keep then-Soviet Union from overtaking Europe. What we did is we also organized it so that no nation would become so strong that it would [be capable of doing] what [Germany] had done in the beginning and middle of the 20th Century - cause a World War. And so, that is why we put all these countries together. When I was the chairman of the committee, I was the person responsible for expanding NATO, making the case to expand [NATO] to Hungary, Poland, etc. The rationale for that was the more democracies that are engaged in Europe, the better off we are because it is hard for us and like-minded democracies in Europe, without a platform, to sustain our position around the world in terms of other responsibilities we have on other continents. That is the backdrop of it.
What I have always believed is that it is vitally important that we have alliances that are based on the same basic, fundamental values sets and basic democratic values sets. When I first got elected what I ran against was what I considered to be an abuse of power and the idea that we, our nation, was the world’s policeman. The argument of the Vietnam War was on the grounds that unless we police the world, that we were going to be overrun - literally talking about Soviets coming up under San Francisco Bay Bridge. So, the notion of us being the policeman of the world, in fact, is the only alternative if we do not have allies.
My greatest concern [as president] and into the future is going to be failed states and terrorism. What we are going through is referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. And it is upsetting societies all across the world, not unlike when you study about the first industrial revolution. We are in a position now where the entirety of the world is asking, “How can we, in fact, have economic growth without economic domination by the new elites and tech industry?” So, that is the context in which this is all being played out. It is overwhelmingly in our interest to have alliances to deal with failed states that are not always the consequence of a "strong man" coming about but have occurred as a consequence of elections that were legit, and then the barriers - all the safeguards - were taken down. The safeguards built against the barriers were alliances that, in fact, we agreed that we were going to maintain and keep those alliances, and keep our sacred word.
So, the fact that Trump leads NATO as if it is a protection racket is so counterintuitive to everything we have stood for since 1946. This is causing everyone to disassemble. Look now what happened when [Trump], who walks in like he - I should not say that. The point is when [Trump] moved into Iran - and it was totally predictable when [Trump] started his “America First” program that we would be “America Last” - after all [Trump’s] screw ups in the Persian Gulf and Iran, look at what has happened. We are now on our own. You have the Europeans and you have particularly NATO making a moral equivalency between us and Iran. What the hell is that all about? We now have a circumstance where South Korea is not talking to Japan. [Trump] has given legitimacy - the only thing that Kim Jong-un wanted was legitimacy, which [Trump] gave him through his meetings. [The current administration] has done nothing to deal with the things it is doing wrong, and that only hurt our economy. There is nothing there, there, now. As we see this global warming and we are going to see, in places like Indonesia, over the next 15 years, mass migrations across the world because of a lack of water. And we have not done a damn thing about it. We have lost all legitimacy around the world.
So, when you say, “What would I do? Is there a relationship between the United States using force by indirection and persuasion?” We do not have to use force. I am opposed to any U.S. standing armies anywhere in the world because we should not be the nation builders. The reason why I strongly opposed the surges into Afghanistan - I can say it now because it was made public - is we do not have the capacity and it is not particularly relevant for U.S. interests to be spending trillions of dollars there in Afghanistan when, in fact, all we should be doing there is have a counter-terrorism strategy with a small footprint. So, my generic point is when we have the confidence of the rest of the world, we can help make sure that the world - the world does not organize itself, we can organize trade, we can organize international airspace, sea lanes, etc. But we cannot do it alone. And we are now isolated.
The Eagle Times: South Carolina lawmaker Dalhi Myers switched her presidential endorsement from you to Bernie Sanders on Wednesday, saying that her initial endorsement was “a compromise choice.” Meanwhile, your campaign released an ad also this past week that said, "This is not the time to take a risk," referring to the 2020 presidential election. Did Myers take a risk in changing her endorsement and do you fear that other South Carolina voters are doing the same?
No, not at all. [My campaign has] overwhelming support in South Carolina. There are more Bernie supporters that have switched - although, he did not have that many [supporters] in South Carolina. But - no, not at all. Look, I - the one place where I feel certain is with the African American and Latino communities. That has been my base for my whole career. I come out of a state that has the eighth largest percent of African Americans of any state in the Union - 19.8%. I have had that support from the beginning. It has never failed. And that is why I think the most recent national poll, I forget who did it, shows that I get something like 77% of the African American vote in terms of support for me. So, no, I am not worried about that.
The Eagle Times: Some current Democratic presidential candidates are largely relying on their own personal wealth to fund their campaigns, leaving others like California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker to drop out of the race. Do you believe there should be a cap on the amount of personal funds used in campaigns for elected office and, if so, what should that cap be?
Yes, it should be zero. I introduced a constitutional amendment way back, the first major one back in the ‘70s, ‘78, stating my position that I think the only money that should be involved in federal elections is federal money that is from the taxpayers. There should be a limit set on [the amount of money] spent, negotiated and set by the United States Congress. That is the only way to get “big money” out of the race. I find there to be not a whole lot of difference between someone going out and getting a contribution for a billion dollars and someone who has billions of dollars, putting a billion of dollars into the race. [I would ask], “Where did that billion dollars come from?” It is not bad, it is good. But it comes from a special interest that that person has, as well, on the interest that they in fact made the money from. And, so, I do not think they are bad people, they are not - they are good people. But, the point is the only way we can overcome this “dark money” as well as money [from unknown sources] that is flowing into our elections is by public funding of campaigns. And it can be done. I promise you, it can be hell-of-a-lot cheaper.