NBC's Curry Hits Biden from the Left on Afghanistan War Funding

NBC's Ann Curry, in an exclusive interview with Vice President Joe Biden aired on Thursday's Today show, pushed Biden from the left on war funding for Afghanistan as she exclaimed "boy there was some reluctance" in the House and pressed: "How long can we keep paying for this war?" The bill actually passed by a vote of 308 to 114 but Curry claimed the "reluctance" was significant as she recited Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern's frustration that "we need to do more nation building here at home," as seen in the following exchange:

ANN CURRY: Meantime the House, on Tuesday night, agreed to fund a surge in Afghanistan - $33 billion for 30,000 additional troops. But boy was there some reluctance. We've got Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern saying, quote, "We're told we can't extend unemployment or pay to keep cops on the beat or teachers in the classroom but we're asked to borrow another $33 billion for nation building in Afghanistan. I think we need to do more nation building here at home." How long can we keep paying for this war?

JOE BIDEN: Jim's half right and half wrong. We're in Afghanistan for one express purpose, al Qaeda. The threat to the United States. Al Qaeda, it exists in those mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are not there to nation build. We're not out there deciding we're gonna turn this into a Jeffersonian democracy and build that country. We made it clear, we're not there for 10 years. We are there to defeat al Qaeda which is a clear and present danger to the United States operating out of that area.

After the airing of the full interview with Biden that covered foreign policy and the state of the economy, Curry and the rest of the Today cast discussed how Biden can relate to those currently out of work as she stressed how he "has such blue collar roots" and "that he's never let those go," It's safe to say Dick Cheney never got this kind of treatment from NBC News when he was vice president.

CURRY TO JOE BIDEN: So, I wonder, having had - seeing your mother leave you, having have, had your son suffer a stroke, how has that informed you and how you do your job at this time in our nation's history, when so many are facing the suffering, the challenges of this time?

JOE BIDEN: Look, I'm sometimes often legitimately criticized because I am too emotive or whatever you all say. Not you, but - look, all, all, all I know is that, that there's millions of people out there like my dad and my mom, who, as my dad would say, the measure of success is not whether you get knocked down, it's how quickly you get up. It's an incredibly resilient nation. I look at my circumstance, and what my mother used to always say, you know, you'd break your arm and say "Joey you could have broken both arms." You know? But for the grace of God. The truth of the matter is, I have it so much better off than the vast majority of people who are going through tough times now. And but one thing I have absolute faith in, and I really do, Ann, I know it's middle class and all that, but it's who - I have absolute faith in the grit and determination of the American people. I really do.

(End of interview clip)

MEREDITH VIEIRA: No doubt that he does. Yeah. Yeah.

ANN CURRY: He does. And, and that really sort of informs, I think, his work. He's such a, has such blue collar roots. And he's, that, that he's never let those go. Those have actually fueled him as he has moved ahead in his career.

VIEIRA: No doubt that he does. Yeah. Yeah.

CURRY: He does. And, and that really sort of informs, I think, his work. He's such a, has such blue collar roots. And he's, that, that he's never let those go. Those have actually fueled him as he has moved ahead in his career.

VIEIRA: Yeah.

MATT LAUER: It has been a tough, tough year for him.

CURRY: Tough, tough, tough.

LAUER: No question about it. And you can see he's, quickly gets emotional about it.

CURRY: His mom is so important.

VIEIRA: Yeah he's a likable guy...

CURRY: Yeah.  

The following interview was aired on the July 29 edition of the Today show:

MATT LAUER: Now Ann's exclusive interview with Vice President Joe Biden. She caught up with him on Wednesday and Ann joins us now.

[On screen headline: "Biden One-On-One, Iraq: Will Violence Return When U.S. Leaves?"]

ANN CURRY: Alright, thanks a lot Matt. Good morning. And the Obama administration, as you know, is in the middle of a planned drawdown that will reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to just 50,000 by the end of August. We caught up with Vice President Biden at Fort Drum in upstate New York, where he was attending a homecoming for soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, and we talked about the wars, the economy, and we also asked him about the commitment of our troops.

JOE BIDEN: This 10th Mountain Division, you don't really get it until you see these families.

CURRY: As relieved, as these families are, to see their sons and daughters and husbands and wives come home from Iraq, can you guarantee, in the wake of this withdrawal, we're not going to see an explosion of sectarian violence?

BIDEN: I can't guarantee anything, but I'm willing to bet everything, that there will be no such explosion. Look, we'll still have 50,000 battle-tested combat troops in Iraq who are going from leading in combat...to supporting the Iraqi combat capability. And so I think neither I, nor General Odierno or the Pentagon nor the people who have been on the ground so many times think that is likely to happen.

CURRY: Meantime the House, on Tuesday night, agreed to fund a surge in Afghanistan - $33 billion for 30,000 additional troops. But boy was there some reluctance. We've got Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern saying, quote, "We're told we can't extend unemployment or pay to keep cops on the beat or teachers in the classroom but we're asked to borrow another $33 billion for nation building in Afghanistan. I think we need to do more nation building here at home." How long can we keep paying for this war?

BIDEN: Jim's half right and half wrong. We're in Afghanistan for one express purpose, al Qaeda. The threat to the United States. Al Qaeda, it exists in those mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We are not there to nation build. We're not out there deciding we're gonna turn this into a Jeffersonian democracy and build that country. We made it clear, we're not there for 10 years. We are there to defeat al Qaeda which is a clear and present danger to the United States operating out of that area.

CURRY: But you know and I know that al Qaeda is in Pakistan. It's not-

BIDEN: It's both, yes it is. It is.

CURRY: -but, right. And we're not, our attention is on Afghanistan. If we're really trying to get al Qaeda, why are we not in Pakistan?

BIDEN: Ann, I don't want to skirt on things I'm not able to talk about publicly, because of the classification. But I assure you, we are doing significant damage to al Qaeda, in Pakistan, as well as in Afghanistan. So we're making progress. We're making progress. But the truth of the matter is that there's more to go.

CURRY: I've got to ask you about this leak. This week 90,000-plus documents-

BIDEN: Yeah.

[On screen headline: "Biden One-On-One, WikiLeaks: Is Pakistan A Friend Or Foe?"]

CURRY: WikiLeaks. These documents indicate that your administration knew the names of people, specifically names of specific people in Pakistan, in the government of Pakistan, who were working with the Taliban against U.S. interests who were hurting, risking American lives. Yet at the same time, this administration gave Pakistan billions of dollars for military and economic purposes. How do you justify-

BIDEN: Easily.

CURRY: How?

BIDEN: Let me. I'll tell you exactly.

CURRY: Okay, sorry. I'm jumping on you. Sorry.

BIDEN: Exactly. Look all those links predate our policy. Not one leak is consistent with the policy that was announced in December. What isn't happening is, there are not moneys being diverted from the public works and economic projects [that] are needed to sustain a democracy in Pakistan, to the bad guys that exist within Pakistan. And there's not money being diverted from the military purposes that are designed to deal with counterterrorism to those areas. The real shortcoming relates, and I don't want to get - I'm skidding very close to what I shouldn't be talking about, in terms of classification. But what, what was talked about on those leaks we're the intelligence community within the ISI. That is, the sort of CIA of Pakistan. That has been a problem in the past, it is a problem we're dealing with, and is changing.

CURRY: This administration is being criticized for not doing enough to grow jobs.

BIDEN: Yeah.

CURRY: There is, in some pockets of this country, a 20 percent unemployment rate.

BIDEN: Sure.

CURRY: Has this administration done enough?

BIDEN: Let me put it this way, there's never enough until we restore the eight million jobs lost in the Bush recession. Until that happens, it doesn't matter. I mean it matters, but it's not enough. Look, I can tell you when you live in a household where dad or mom doesn't have a job, it is bleak. And all the promises in the world don't matter a lot until you get a job.

CURRY: So do people who are waiting, who are hungry-

BIDEN: First of all.

CURRY: -unemployed. People like the people from how you grew up-

BIDEN: Right, yeah.

CURRY: -what's your message?

BIDEN: My message is, keep the faith. We are moving in the right direction. We are not going to let you go without food or basic services. That will not happen in this country, in our administration. And secondly, we're creating new jobs that are going to be the kind you could raise your family on.

CURRY: And we have more from Vice President Biden later this morning as he speaks about the impact of his mother's death, and the stroke suffered by his son and how that has impacted him. Matt?

MATT LAUER: Look forward to that a little later in the program.

CURRY: Yes.

LAUER: Ann Curry, thanks very much.

CURRY: Thank you.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.