Thursday, January 08, 2009

Interview with Vice President Dick Cheney

Cross posted at The Next Right

Excerpts from the January 7, 2009 interview with Vice President Dick Cheney

Interview of the Vice President by Mark Knoller, CBS Radio
West Wing Office

Q You said recently that many of your predecessors have been frustrated by the office of the Vice President. Have you ever been frustrated?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I really haven't. I always remember what Jerry Ford told me about the job. He said it was the worst nine months of his life. I watched Nelson Rockefeller do it; he was never happy as Vice President. So it's often been a job that was frustrating for the incumbent. That hasn't been my experience, and that's primarily due to the President. He said he wanted me to be a major part of his team when he asked me to do the job, and he's kept his word. And so I've been actively engaged for a full eight years.

. . .

Q Did Republicans become big spenders on your watch? You've run up a debt, a national debt now that's in excess of $10.6 trillion, nearly $5 trillion of which was run up on your watch.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. I think we'd rather have not added significantly to the debt, but frankly, we were faced from September 11th, 2001 onward with a very, very difficult challenge. We had to spend money on the military; we had to spend money on homeland security. The one exception that we've almost always said we would recognize to trying to run a tight fiscal ship was if we had a national emergency, in particular, wartime. And we've had that. We've had two wars and the global war on terror, and it was necessary and I think the right thing to do, to spend whatever was required in order to be able to prosecute those strategies.

Q So fiscal discipline took a backseat to these other, more important issues?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: In my mind, yes. Fiscal discipline is important, but in a crisis, in an emergency, I think national security comes first. And that's consistent with the decisions we made.

Q Are you worried about the future of the Republican Party?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not. I think we're in a period here where obviously we're in a troff, if you will -- Democrats have taken the House and the Senate by substantial numbers and won back the White House. But my experience has been over the years that the pendulum swings back and forth. I can remember the '74 election, when we lost the Congress immediately after Watergate; '76, when we lost the presidency; '78, I got elected to Congress; and 1980, of course, Ronald Reagan took the White House and we began the Reagan Revolution.

So over a period of time, clearly we're going to have periods when we're in the majority, periods when we're in the minority. Right now we're the minority, but we've got some very talented folks coming along, and I'm optimistic that the party will rebuild and reenergize and acquire new leadership, and we'll again have a period when they are, in fact, dominant in public affairs and the nation.

. . .

Q What is the biggest mis-impression people have about you?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) That I'm actually a warm, lovable sort. No, I'd have to give that some thought. I think the job I've had to do as Vice President -- which essentially is a matter of offering advice, I don't run anything -- has meant that I've had to be a very private person during these last eight years, that I could not sit down, for example, with CBS Radio and tell you what I just advised the President that day. If I'd operated that way I wouldn't have been asked much longer for my advice.

So I've had to be a, as I say, fairly private person in order to be consistent with the duties and responsibilities I've had. I haven't talked to the press a lot. That's been a deliberate decision on my part. And that probably results to some extent in the image that's been created that I don't like the press, or that I'm a private, Darth Vader type personality. I think all of that's been pretty dramatically overdone, but it does relate specifically to my responsibilities in terms of my job here.

Q You must know that there are people who just don't disagree with you, they hate you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, I'm aware of that. (Laughter.)

Q Are you troubled by it?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: No. It goes with the turf. No, we got elected in one of the closest elections in American history in 2000. Some people never got over that. And then I've had to, in my capacity as Vice President, be actively involved in some very tough decisions that some people find controversial. I think we made good decisions. I think we knew what we were doing, and I think that's why the nation has been safe for the last seven and a half years. And as I say, some political opponents will never adjust or acquiesce in the view that we did the right thing. But I think we did, and I think history will regard the Bush administration in a favorable light.

Q Do you believe there are those that misunderstand the nature of your relationship with the President?


Q In what way?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the notion that somehow I was pulling strings or making presidential-level decisions. I was not. There was never any question about who was in charge. It was George Bush. And that's the way we operated. This whole notion that somehow I exceeded my authority here, was usurping his authority, is simply not true. It's an urban legend, never happened.

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