'This Week' Transcript: VP-Elect Joe Biden

ByABC News
December 7, 2008, 1:27 PM


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Thanks very much for joining us.


STEPHANOPOULOS: There's so much to talk to you about, but let's begin with the news of the day. President Bush announced today that he's going to give a bridge loan to the auto industry, but they have to meet strict conditions by March or the money, billions of dollars, comes back to the Treasury. If they don't meet those conditions, will the Obama administration require the money to come back?

BIDEN: Well, we're going to do everything we can to help meet those conditions. Look, every stakeholder has to get in this deal. It's clear there's going to have to be some real sacrifices made. And when I say stakeholders, from the management to the parts suppliers, to the dealers to labor. And they're just going to have to do it.

They have to reach what the president, President Bush, referred to as viability. Roughly translated, in March, when they take a look at what it looks like, the next year they'd likely be able to meet payroll, they'd likely be able to sell enough automobiles, they'd likely to be able to float - keep themselves going.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But labor says they're being singled out for unfair conditions, and they're worried about -- UAW is worried about this provision that says their wages have to be equalized with foreign-owned companies. They want that change.

Does the Obama administration willing to change that part of the agreement?

BIDEN: Well, I'm not going to get into the specifics of what we're willing to change. I would just say one thing generically. Labor isn't the reason why the automobile companies are in the trouble they're in. Labor is going to have to make some additional sacrifices, and they know it and they understand it.

But the idea that -- every once in a while I turn on the television and I read $73 per hour and all that kind of thing. Well, that counts legacy costs, that counts costs that have built up over the past 40 years.

You know, it's a little bit misleading to imply -- it's been very bad decisions made about the type of automobiles, the way to market automobiles, the way to allocate costs that has been the overwhelming reason why the industry is in trouble. But labor, in order to save their own jobs, in order to save the prospect of an industry, is going to have to make some more sacrifices...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But they're saying they can't do it. Are you open to adjustments or not?

BIDEN: Well, it remains to be seen, George. We haven't seen the detail of it. It just got announced last Friday. I haven't had a chance to look at all the details, nor, to the best of my knowledge, has Barack, has the president-elect. And so -- but the bottom line here is all of the stakeholders are going to have to make some real sacrifices.

STEPHANOPOULOS: This is against the backdrop of an economy in deep trouble.

BIDEN: Exactly right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And members of your transition have gone up to Capitol Hill this week and said that the economic rescue package has to be in the range of about $700 billion, it could go as high as $850 billion.

Why is a package of that size necessary?

BIDEN: Well, first of all, if you're referring to "The New York Times" article from Friday, it's not accurate. Parts of it are accurate; some parts are not.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Actually, on my own reporting, I've talked to several people on Capitol Hill who say that your team is talking about a package in the $700 billion range, it could rise. But in the $700 billion range.

BIDEN: Well, you're saying two different things. I sat for four hours with our team in Chicago last week, and what we're doing is putting together what we think will be the economic package that will do two things. One, stem the hemorrhage of the loss of jobs and begin to create new jobs, at the same time we provide continued liquidity for the financial markets.

This is like a scooter. You need two wheels in this scooter.

Up until now, all we've been focusing on is liquidity and what people -- average people talking about bailing out Wall Street, about making sure the banks have the money to lend and people are willing to borrow and lend and so on. That's one piece of it.

The piece we've been pushing for, Barack and I during the campaign, as you'll recall, is that we needed an economic recovery package we thought back in September, October, November. And we still think we really very badly need it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But then you were talking about $150 billion, $200 billion.

BIDEN: We were. We were. We were.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what have you learned? What exactly have you learned?

BIDEN: What have we learned? Is the economy is in much worse shape than we thought it was in. This is a spiraling effect, and what you're seeing now is a whole -- every economist that I've spoken to, George, from well-known economists on the right, conservative economists, to economists on the left and everyone in between, says the scope of this package has to be bold, it has to be big.

But here's how we look at it. Anything we put in this economic recovery plan has to be designed to create jobs, to stimulate the economy quickly, get jobs moving quickly. And it has to be for something that has a long-range impact on our economic health.

Case in point, we want to spend a fair amount of money investing in a new smart grid. That is, the ability to transmit across high-tension wires in the minds of most people in the public, or underground in these wires, wind and solar energy. You can't do that now.

That would create tens of thousands of new jobs, high-paying jobs. It needs to be done and it will have a long-range payoff not just for next year and the following year, keeping the economy from nose-diving, begin to turn the nose of that aircraft up, but it will also change our energy picture. It will deal with global warming.

They're the kind -- for example, weatherization. The biggest bang for the buck you can get right now to deal with global warming, but also create thousands of new, decent jobs, is weatherization, paying for everything from public buildings and schools, to homes to be weatherized. Save a lot of energy, create a lot of jobs. What we're not going to do is come up with make-work jobs.

And the second thing we're going to do, George, is that the president-elect meant what he said. That's why we came up with Mr. Orszag, who is a very...


BIDEN: The OMB director, with a very sharp pencil. We're going to go through that budget line by line by line, eliminating those things that aren't productive, eliminating those things that aren't really needed now. So we have to -- at the same time we're investing more in the economy that creates immediate stimulus to the economy, but with a long-range positive consequence for the economy, we have to at the same time we're doing that be cutting spending in other areas.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But how do you balance out the economic need for a big, bold package, several hundred billion dollars, some in the Congress have said you need $700 billion just to keep the unemployment rate from going up, with this concern about a deficit of a trillion dollars -- could go to a trillion dollars?

BIDEN: That's a really good point. That's really important. Look, the -- we're going to inherit a deficit that's probably going to exceed a Trillion dollars to begin with if we don't do anything, nothing at all.

If nothing happens between now and the time we take office on January the 20th, we're going to inherit the largest deficit in the history of the country's...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But then you almost double it with the rescue plan.

BIDEN: No. Now here's the second point. The second point is, what do you do, you know you have to infuse money into the system now. Every economist, as I've said, from conservative to liberal, acknowledges that direct government spending on a direct program now is the best way to infuse economic growth and create jobs.

The question is, are you going to create jobs that are just going to add to the deficit, or are the jobs you're creating, are they going to be doing a task that can draw down the deficit in out years?

Let me give you an example. You know, because we've talked -- you -- I know you know this area really well, I don't mean to sound condescending. You know that the Rand Corporation and other independent research groups have pointed out, if we were to put all medical records on electronic -- be able to be electronically transferred, we could save, they estimate, I think it's $78 billion a year.

But it cost money to put the entire medical industry in a position where they can put all of those records on an electronic basis. So we're going to invest money in what they call IT, this new technology, that's going to create jobs that are needed to make this transition.

The end result, though, the money we're spending, we're going to get back three- and four-fold.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But in the short run, at what point…

BIDEN: There is no short run other than keeping the economy from absolutely tanking. That's the only short run.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's why as President-elect Obama said, we can't worry about the deficit in the short run. We can't worry about it…

BIDEN: Exactly right, cannot.

STEPHANOPOULOS: … right now. But at what point on Capitol Hill, you know the politics on Capitol Hill…

BIDEN: Yes, sure I do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: … does sticker shock set in? What is the upper limit to what…

BIDEN: Well, let me tell you, first of all, I'm not sure, but I've been -- it will not surprise you, I've been around the Congress a while, I've been on the telephone, not promoting any particular package, but asking my colleagues, including more than half a dozen senior Republican colleagues, folks, ladies, gentlemen, what do you think we're going to have to do here?

And every single person I've spoken to agrees with every major economist. There is going to be real significant investment, whether it's $600 billion or more, or $700 billion, the clear notion is, it's a number no one thought about a year ago.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And President-elect Obama can sign it into law as President Obama by February?

BIDEN: Well, God willing, because, look, we can't -- the whole idea here is the single most important thing we have to do as a new administration, to have -- to be able to have impact on all of the other things we want to do, from foreign policy to domestic policy, is we've got to begin to stem this bleeding here and begin to stop the loss of jobs in the creation of jobs.

Our goal is the combination of stem the loss and create new jobs. We -- there are 2.5 million jobs we can do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You mention being on the phone with other senators.


STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you've been fairly invisible since the election. Can you lift the veil a little bit on what else you've been doing during the transition?

BIDEN: Well, sure. Look, let me start off and define for you, at least, the role that Barack and I have worked out for me as vice president.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'd like to ask you about that, because your staff said you wanted to restore the Office of the Vice President to its historical role.

BIDEN: Well, let – I – my staff use of historic, that's now how I think of it. I think we should restore the balance here. The role of the vice president of the United States as I see it is to give the president of the United States the best, sagest, most accurate, most insightful advice and recommendations he or she can make to a president to help them make some of the very, very important decisions that have to be made. When Barack Obama, Senator Barack Obama then talked to me about being his vice president I said we have to – let's talk and we spent three and a half hours talking and one of the things I asked was, I said I don't want to be picked unless you're picking me for my judgment. I don't want to be the guy that goes out and has a specific assignment – an important assignment to reinvent government, which Al Gore did a great job of. Dealing with some specific discrete item.

I said I want a commitment from you that in every important decision you'll make, every critical decision, economic and political as well as foreign policy, I'll get to be in the room.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Has he kept it?

BIDEN: He's kept it. Every single solitary appointment he has made thus far I have been in the room, the recommendations I have made in most cases coincidentally have been the recommendations that he's picked. Not because I made them but because we think a lot alike. I have been there for every one of those meetings. I have been asked, the president is going to announce today, the formation, for example, of a middle class task force that I will chair …

STEPHANOPOULOS: So isn't that a specific responsibility?

BIDEN: It is a specific responsibility in terms of – it is a discrete job that is going to last only for a certain period of time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What will it do?

BIDEN: What it's going to do, it's going to include other Cabinet members, including Labor, HHS, OMB, Education, etc, and my focus is going to be, I'm going to chair this group and it is designed to do the one thing we use as a yardstick of economic success of our administration, is the middle class growing? Is the middle class getting better? Is the middle class no longer being left behind?

And we'll look at everything from college affordability to after school programs. The things that affect people's daily lives. I will be the guy honchoing that policy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Will you then have line authority? If you determine that a policy …


STEPHANOPOULOS: … isn't serving the middle class you'll have the authority to change it?

BIDEN: No, what I have the authority to do is to try to get a consensus among those people I just mentioned. If in fact there is no consensus, go to the president of the United States and say, Mr. President, I think we should be doing this, Cabinet member so and so thinks that, you're going to have to resolve what it is we think we should do.

But we're going to present him with a package as to what are the main elements of restoring the middle class. For example, I've been asked by the president and I've been meeting separately and collectively with the foreign policy team. That is the national security advisor, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense. One of my tasked responsibilities is to work with that group to come up with a baseline for the president as to what we view the circumstance we're inheriting in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan so that we don't accept, we may or may not accept, all these reports are being done, stating – let me give you an example in Iraq.

Iraq, there is a great deal of focus and has been on the military side of the equation, very little focus on the political resolution in Iraq. One of the jobs that I've been asked help honcho is to get a consensus or get an agreement or disagreement, if that's (ph) what it is, among the foreign policy team.

So we the new administration have a priority set that we're going to start with and a baseline from which we're going to start as to what we think we need to do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you prevent that from overlapping with the job of the national security adviser?

BIDEN: Well, the way you do that is it's ultimately the national security adviser's job. I'm just the guy that's honchoing this baseline study. And so that requires coordination and look, as you well know, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense and the national security adviser have their hands full on a whole range of issues. So there are going to be things that have cross jurisdiction a lot of the time.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I was told by several people in a position to know that you also played a key role in convincing Senator Clinton and President Clinton that this secretary of state job was a good idea, that it made sense.

BIDEN: Well, I don't know whether I played a key role or not but I have had a longstanding relationship with Senator Clinton. She's one of my close friends and when this came forward I did talk to her, she sought me out, I sought her out as well to assure her that this was real. And that I thought that …

STEPHANOPOULOS: She was skeptical.

BIDEN: Well, look, it was – there was a lot swirling around before she actually got asked and so she is an old friend, I talked with her all the time. I have continued. There hasn't been a time since she's been in office I haven't – not many days go by I don't talk to her. So it wasn't so much convincing but they wanted to know my perspective and I gave my perspective.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And the entire national security team met this week for about five and a half hours …

BIDEN: That's right.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You took some heat during the campaign for these comments that President Obama would be tested in the first six months but as you listened to that briefing, as you participated in those five and a half hours of meetings, what's your sense of where the test is going to come? Of the number one challenge you're going to face in national security issues over the first six months?

BIDEN: Well, look, I think whoever was president was going to be faced with the same test. By test I meant – and you know it from your experience, the president of the United States no matter how well thought out their foreign policy is, there are things that are going to occur in the first months and the first year and throughout the administration no one ever anticipated.

And I think what is clear from the outset here is that we have a situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan that is urgent. It implicates India. It also implicates a whole lot of other very complicated issues.

And so first and foremost I think if you want to talk about immediacy, I think that the Afghanistan-Pakistan track is a very immediate concern where we are in the process of getting down clearly what our priorities are, what our policy need be, from the day we are sworn in.

There is also – in a sense it's good, it's less urgent, but it's a real issue, it's how to implement the SOFA – excuse me, how to implement …

STEPHANOPOULOS: The status of forces agreement in Iraq.

BIDEN: The status of forces agreement in Iraq that is negotiated between Maliki and this administration which is not at all inconsistent in principle with what Barack and I are talking about during the election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it is inconsistent in details because that agreement says all American troops have to be out of Iraq by 2011. You and the president-elect have said that you believe we need a residual force. Secretary Gates said it could be 40,000 troops after 2011.

BIDEN: Well, if you take a look at that agreement, the agreement allows for the incoming administration and the government of Iraq, whatever happens to be at the time these drop dead dates occur in the SOFA, to be able to look at and mutually agree that maybe something else need be done.

But look, our goal is to get American combat forces out of Iraq. That's what our goal is. And turn over responsibility to the Iraqis. And so we – but the other aspect of this that we know we're going to inherit and have to deal with is what is the political circumstance going to be left behind?

And that is, are we leaving behind the stable Iraq that has a government that has the trust of all the major factions in Iraq or not? So there's a lot of work to be done is the only point I'm making.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But The New York Times reported that, at your national security meeting this week, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen came forward with a withdrawal plan prepared by the commanding generals. They would start the withdrawal, but they said that they could not meet the 16-month deadline called for by President-elect Obama.

Did he say, "Go back to the drawing board; come back with a plan that meets my promise"?

BIDEN: Well, I'm not going to get into detail, but the answer is, nothing was that stark at all. There is -- there isn't any -- there isn't any conclusion reached or presentation made that suggests that we cannot rationalize the -- the status-of-forces-agreement terms and the objectives of the Obama-Biden administration.

But the characterization you just made of how starkly things are presented was not -- that's not an accurate characterization.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But is he still committed to meeting that promise, all combat troops...

BIDEN: He...

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... President-elect Obama...

BIDEN: Yes, he...

STEPHANOPOULOS: ... in 16 months?

BIDEN: He is committed within the context of what he said at the time. He said he would at the time confer with the military leaders on the ground.

We will be out of Iraq in -- in the same -- in the -- in the way in which Barack Obama described his position during the campaign. That will happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But they are indicating to you that they can't meet the deadline he set, aren't they?

BIDEN: No. No, they're not. But I'm not going to get into the internal deliberations that we have underway now, the purpose of which is, when we are sworn in on January 20th, what is -- whether the specific elements of the plan with regard to Iraq are we going to implement? And how are we going to do that?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned earlier you want to restore balance in the job of vice president. And during the campaign, you called your predecessor, Vice President Cheney, probably the most dangerous vice president ever.

He was pretty defiant, though, this week in interviews with ABC, with Jonathan Karl. And he said, "Those who have accused the administration of condoning torture or violating the Constitution with the terrorist surveillance program don't know what they're talking about."

BIDEN: Well, I still -- I don't agree with the vice president.

STEPHANOPOULOS: It sounded like you were going to say you still stand by your characterization.

BIDEN: I -- I -- look, I think the recommendations, the advice that he has given to President Bush -- and maybe advice the president already had decided on before he got it -- I'm not making that judgment -- has been not healthy for our foreign policy, not healthy for our national security, and it has not been consistent with our Constitution, in my view.

His notion of a unitary executive, meaning that, in time of war, essentially all power, you know, goes to the executive, I think is dead wrong. I think it was mistaken. I think that it caused this administration in adopting that notion to overstep its constitutional bounds, but at a minimum to weaken our standing the world and weaken our security. I stand by that, that judgment.

And he also went on to say that he still thinks we should have gone into Iraq, knowing exactly what we knew and the way we did, as I -- I heard the interview. He also stands by the fact that we still should keep Guantanamo Bay open and so on. So -- so we have fundamentally different view.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He says, the more you learn about threats, as you -- as you see the intelligence, the more you're going to come around to the Bush administration's point of view on their counterterrorist policies.

BIDEN: I'll make two responses to that. One, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, unless they were lying to me all along, I knew the details of the threat. I was one of those four people that had access to all that information, excuse me, one of those eight people the -- that had access to that information.

Secondly, I have been getting what they call that presidential briefing you get every morning from the intelligence community since the day we have been -- since the day we were elected, not sworn in.

I have learned nothing thus far that would change my view...


BIDEN: Nothing thus far that would change my fundamental view that Guantanamo should close, number one, that, number two, the way in which we have conducted our policy, in terms of both surveillance as well as the detainees, has hurt our reputation around the world.

And to quote from a previous national security report put out by the -- the intelligence community, we have -- we have created, not dissuaded, more terrorists as a consequence of this policy.

Nothing I've learned thus far has changed my fundamental view on the constitutional as well as the practical positions we should take relative to the issues of torture and others.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The Senate Armed Services Committee last week had a unanimous report that said that the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, at prisons around the world is a direct and indirect result of decisions made by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other high officials. Should they be prosecuted for that?

BIDEN: First of all, that's a judgment, remember, four years ago on your program I made, so I haven't changed my mind. And this confirms.

But the questions of whether or not a criminal act has been committed or a very, very, very bad judgment has been engaged in is -- is something the Justice Department decides.

Barack Obama and I are -- President-elect Obama and I are not sitting thinking about the past. We're focusing on the future. Obviously, that if the Justice...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But should the cases be reviewed?

BIDEN: Well, that's a decision I'd look to the Justice Department to make.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're not ruling it out at this point?

BIDEN: I'm not ruling it in and not ruling it out. I just think we should look forward. I think we should be looking forward, not backwards.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Looking forward, switching subjects here to the inaugural, quite a bit of controversy the last couple of days over the choice of Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inaugural. And I'm sure you've seen the reaction in the gay community. We've gotten e-mails, phone calls.

And many in the gay and lesbian community simply can't understand how you can give this place of honor to a man who's equated gay marriage with incest and pedophilia. What do you say to that?

BIDEN: Well, look, Barack Obama, candidate Obama, Senator Obama, President-elect Obama has a -- a stellar and outspoken record in support of equality for all Americans, including gay and lesbian Americans.

But he also has made a judgment -- I think correctly -- that in order to heal the wounds of this country and move this country forward so we get out of this -- this -- this mindset overstated of red and blue and the like -- that he was going to reach out, he was going to reach out.

He made it clear there are parts of the positions taken by the reverend that he strongly disagrees with, but there's also some very positive things about what he did.

So he believes -- and I think he's right -- that this is a time to reach out, reach out to constituencies and people who you don't share the same view with in the hope that the end result of all this will be ultimate reconciliation.

And so -- and, look, he's giving an invocation. He's not making policy. He's not part of the administration.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So on matters of policy, what do you say to the gay and lesbian community? They're calling out for an action plan, saying have an action plan on revoking "don't ask, don't tell" within the first 100 days. Will that be done?

BIDEN: I'm not making a commitment for the administration based on any timetable.

But the commitments we made during the campaign to deal with these issues of equity and fairness we will deliver on in our administration.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But no timetable?

BIDEN: But there's no -- look, we are faced with the first, most critical urgent problem. And the immediate, the day we're sworn in, the thing that we have to worry about is the further collapse of this economy.

We -- we have not -- no president raising his right hand will ever have been in the position by the time he says, "I so swear," and drops his hand, will he have such an immediate, urgent obligation of consequence since Franklin Roosevelt. And I would argue this is equally as consequential.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Caroline Kennedy said this week she wants to be senator from New York. Do you support her?

BIDEN: That's -- look, I love Caroline Kennedy. I think Caroline Kennedy is an incredibly talented woman. I think she's an incredibly talented person who has a lot to offer. That -- that's for the people of New York to -- to make.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Actually, the governor of New York.

BIDEN: For the governor, and, eventually, within two years, the people of New York to decide whether the governor's judgment was correct.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, what do you say to -- and there's been a lot of commentary about this -- the idea that the Senate is starting to look a lot more like the House of Lords in the U.S. Senate? Your own son wants to -- might want your seat in a couple of years.

BIDEN: Well, look, let's talk about my son, because that's -- I love talking about my son. My son, Beau, who's, as we speak, in Iraq, he's going to spend his Christmas with an awful lot of friends of his in -- in Iraq, is a guy who is 38 years old, spent time in Bosnia, worked with the Justice Department, had his own law firm, got an offer to be appointed attorney general when the attorney general stepped down to become a judge, refused the appointment, waited eight months later, ran, won on his own merit, came back.

He's the attorney general of the state of Delaware. Before anyone could even consider him, the governor said in a press conference that she considered appointing him. He made it clear in a press statement he wants no part of being appointed to anything. He's made no decision about what he's going to do.

And guess what? If he runs, if he comes back and he runs, if he runs for attorney general again, which his term will be up, or he runs for the United States Senate, the people of Delaware will decide that. I don't -- I don't -- I don't get the problem if that occurs.

I give you my word, George: I don't have any idea what he will do. I truly do not.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if he runs, he's earned it himself?

BIDEN: Absolutely positively. Look, he's attorney general of the state of Delaware. They're looking at him, he's getting great grades. This is -- in terms of what he's done. He's doing it -- I mean, you know, I'm not -- you know, his judgments, good or bad, aren't because his name is Biden. I mean, people can judge him based on what he's done.

STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the situation in Illinois? Why not a special election?

BIDEN: Oh, that's -- look, you -- you all -- look, you're an historian, I mean, a student of -- of -- of the -- our political process. The reason why states historically have not done that is they're worried that they'll go an extended period of time without representation and because, while they're holding the election and giving adequate time to prepare for an election, and the cost of an election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But it looks like impeachment proceedings are going to take a long time in Illinois, too.

BIDEN: But if states -- look, as you know, the exception is becoming the rule here. Here you have an apparently corrupt governor who has taken -- and this is the -- I've been around for 36 years. I have not seen, at least in terms of allegations, anything as bold as what's being suggested here.

But, look, the people of Illinois can decide if they'd rather go ahead and spend the money and have an election and go forward. I would support that. In my own state, I'd support that, if they did that.

But that's for each of the states to decide. But what I think people forget is, when you focus on what is clearly an exception, just during the period in the old days when you were in the former administration, there were senators who retired and senators who were appointed.

I don't -- I don't know how many. I'll bet there's been between a half a dozen and a dozen appointments to the Senate since I've been there. Some people have looked at it and said, "That's a brilliant way to go."

But remember when Wendell Anderson appointed himself? He was governor after Mondale stepped down. And they said, "Oh, no, you're out the next day." The ultimate -- the next election -- the primary point to be made is, the people of the state maximum don't have to tolerate more than two years any gubernatorial appointment, and in many cases it gets down to months.

But if they want to jettison that and say, "Let's go to direct elections," that's OK, too.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We're just about out of time. I have three quick questions.

BIDEN: Sure.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Number one, President-elect Obama resigned from the Senate. Why haven't you?

BIDEN: Two reasons. One is that, from my perspective, I shouldn't acknowledge it, but being sworn in for the seventh time as a United States senator from Delaware, the greatest honor I've ever had is the people of Delaware electing me. And -- and it will in no way effect the seniority of the person who will follow me, number one.

Number two, there was a period there when it was thought that it may be useful for me to be in the Senate, in terms of some of the votes that were going to be cast in the Senate that may have been very close, that would have been consistent with our incoming administration's position that I could have been voting on those. It turned out that did not occur.

So they're the two reasons why I didn't...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're not going to stay on and try to preside...

BIDEN: No, no, no, no, no, absolutely not. I've already -- if I haven't done it -- to be honest with you, I think I've done it, but if I haven't done it, I've signed a letter, will sign a letter saying, notwithstanding the fact I'll be sworn in the first day, I have no intention of staying up until the day that I am sworn in as vice president.

Secondly, I yield responsibility to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to John Kerry. No, I have -- no.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your wife, Jill, community college professor.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Will she continue to teach after you become vice president?


STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you know where yet?

BIDEN: Well, she's -- she's been contacted by several four-year colleges and community colleges in the Washington area. She very much likes the community college student body, the people coming back in their late 20s, early 30s.

And so I don't know where she's going to do it. And this probably will not be full-time. It will probably be part-time.

But, look, I think it's very important she have and maintain her own life, her own identity. And she'll be a very active second lady. She'll be very active.

But I think it's important. It matters to her. And she -- and she -- I think it's -- I think it's a good example to set.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, you beat the president to the punch on the puppy.

BIDEN: Well, we're going to have more than one puppy. What I -- what -- from the time we got -- we've always had two dogs. And we've always had two big dogs and so they can have companionships.

And I've had German shepherds my -- from the time I was a kid. And I've actually trained them and shown them in the past, my past life. So I wanted a German shepherd, and we're going to get a pound dog that my wife wants, who is hopefully...

STEPHANOPOULOS: Very politically correct.

BIDEN: ... a golden. Well, no, it's because my -- we already have a pound cat. We've had pound animals at our house already. And so -- but it's mainly so there's companionship for the dog. So we've always had -- the last time around, we had a golden retriever and a lab. And before that, we had a Great Dane and a German shepherd.

So -- and the good news about the vice president's residence is there's a big fence around...


BIDEN: ... several acres.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Got a name for the shepherd yet?

BIDEN: No. My granddaughters are going to make that clear on Christmas morning. I gave it to them. They literally -- my number two and three granddaughter, Finnegan and Maisy, have been calling all the relatives saying, "Aunt Val, this is -- what do you think of this name? What do you think?" So they're really into this thing. So I'll know the dog's name Christmas morning.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I hope you have a great Christmas. Thanks very much for your time.

BIDEN: I'm looking forward to it. Thank you.

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