Updated at 9:36 a.m. on November 19.
In a live interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, Vice President Joe Biden called Congress’ failure to extend unemployment insurance a “gigantic mistake,” reviewed the administration’s plans for Afghanistan, and expressed confidence that the stalled New START treaty would win Senate approval.
The vice president did the interview following an appearance Thursday night on CNN’s Larry King Live. Both times, the loquacious and gaffe-prone veep made a clear, concise pitch for the administration’s positions on the economy and foreign policy.
Biden argued that extending unemployment insurance is important to getting the economy back on track. “I think they're making a gigantic mistake, not only what the society has done with unemployment -- we've always extended it -- but also the economy,” he said of the failure to extend benefits. “The single biggest stimulus to the economy are the unemployment benefits we're paying. The people go out and spend the money -- they have to get by from paying their mortgage or paying for food.”
He also maintained the stimulus bill was successful, though he admitted that he sometimes disagreed with the way the administration focused the bill. “Most people thought it was a billion in new highway projects,” he joked.
But he said the administration understood its No. 1 job going forward is to focus on jobs.
That didn’t stop Biden from making the administration’s case on the foreign policy front. On Afghanistan, he said that Americans need to decide “what is good enough” to achieve in the country. For the U.S., he said, that is to guarantee national security by making sure that al-Qaida is defeated and the Afghan government is stable, if not a perfect democracy. “Our fundamental responsibility -- and the president stated again and the guys keep missing it -- it's not to defeat the Taliban, it's to degrade and ultimately defeat al-Qaida,” he said. He reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to start pulling U.S. troops out in 2011 at a pace consistent with circumstances and transfer control to Afghan troops by 2014.
And Biden, the front man for the administration’s push to pass the New START treaty, made the case yet again. “We're not able to verify what the Russians are doing or not doing with their nuclear stockpile," he said. "That's why we need the treaty, for the verification purposes.”
Echoing what both President Obama and Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., have said this week, Biden said he believes there will be enough Republican votes in the Senate to pass the treaty. Biden's take: Republicans are afraid of the internal party dynamic but, when push comes to shove, know the treaty is necessary.
What was a highly policy-focused interview ended with a touch of politics, as the hosts asked him what has changed in the Senate and who would win a Barack Obama-Sarah Palin matchup in 2012.
“There's a cacophony of voices out there that make it very confusing for serious people to try to figure out what are the facts, what's the real deal here,” he said of today’s legislative branch. “Things have just gotten a lot more complicated. And unfortunately, we always learn the wrong lesson from one another.”
And Biden showed just how far he’s come in disciplined public communication as he sidestepped the Palin question.
“I don't think she could beat President Obama, but, you know, she's always underestimated...” He trailed off.
“I think I shouldn't say any more.”