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Florida 2000
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Text: Cheney Calls on Gore to Concede
Sunday, December 3, 2000

Following is the transcript of Republican vice presidential nominee Richard B. Cheney's interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."

TIM RUSSERT: And with us now, the Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney. Welcome to "Meet the Press."

RICHARD CHENEY: Good morning, Tim.

RUSSERT: You just heard the speaker of the House of the Florida legislature. Would you encourage the legislature to go forward and select a slate of electors pledged to George W. Bush who would cast their votes for Governor Bush, in case there's still legal turmoil in Florida?

CHENEY: Well, Tim, we clearly don't control the Florida legislature, I think as demonstrated by the fact that the brief they filed with the U.S. Supreme Court took a somewhat different tack than the one we took.

They do have a constitutional obligation and responsibility that I think Speaker Feeney articulated very clearly. They've got to take whatever steps they think are appropriate in terms of carrying out those responsibilities, and I think they're doing that.

But I'm not in a position to be able to predict what the final outcome is likely to be there, nor to say, you know, you should do A, B, C or D. Those are decisions they'll have to make as independent actors in this drama that now we're all part of.

RUSSERT: He seemed to suggest that if the Florida Supreme Court declared Al Gore the winner, it wouldn't be relevant to his thinking, that he would obey the U.S. Supreme Court, but that the Florida legislature is paramount to the Florida Supreme Court. What would that mean for the legitimacy of your administration if you won by electors cast by the Florida legislature, rather than those approved by a Supreme Court of Florida?

CHENEY: Well, let's remember what's already happened here. There are electors that have been selected. There has been a count and a recount and a certification. The electoral process has been followed, the laws of Florida have been followed. The Supreme Court intervened, added 12 days to the period of time; we went through that whole process, and we still emerged as the certified winners of the Florida election. And I don't see anything that's going to change that.

Now, Al Gore has decided to go back in and use the courts to try to overturn this certified presidential election, first time that's ever happened in history. I see the legislature, in effect saying, look, here we are nearly a month after the election. We still don't have a concession from Vice President Gore. The matter's still in the courts, being debated, and they could end up on December 12 having to act under their obligations and responsibilities under the U.S. Constitution.

RUSSERT: But the U.S. Supreme Court could say that Al Gore is right, there should have been a manual recount, and the circuit court in Florida could say count those 10,000 votes in Miami-Dade, and the judge in Seminole County could say those 15,000 absentee ballots shouldn't count because the applications were incorrect, and you would have a situation where the Florida Supreme Court will say Gore won, and the Florida legislature say, no, Bush won, and you have two sets of electors come to Washington.

CHENEY: Tim, I mean, you know, it could snow in Miami tomorrow too. These are all hypotheticals. What we have to deal with are the facts. The facts are that we've been through this very long and involved process. We've followed the law: the statutes of the state of Florida, the Supreme Court of Florida. The whole electoral process has been followed very, very carefully here, and the conclusion is that George W. Bush won the Florida election. And we have been certified the winners.

Now, Al Gore's back in court trying to overturn that. We're in arguing our side of the case, but to predict, you know, if this, if this, if this, then that, if we've learned anything in the last month it is, we ought to be very careful about making those kinds of predictions.

RUSSERT: The Miami Herald, front page story today: ``What if the vote were flawless, without hanging chads, voter mishaps, Gore would have had edge.'' The Miami Herald calculates Gore would have won by 23,000 votes if all those dimpled ballots and swinging chads were counted on his behalf. The thesis of the story that more people went to the polls in Florida with the intent of voting for Al Gore than the intent of voting for George Bush.

CHENEY: There's a process by which we cast ballots, count ballots, make decisions, and that process has gone forward. I have not seen the article, so I don't know what it argues, but the notion that somehow we had all of these people vote, or intended to vote, and that their vote somehow didn't get registered, I think is--I just don't think it's valid, but it's being tested in court anyway.

If we're going to go down that road, why don't we say, look, NBC and the other networks made an early call on Election Night, decided that Al Gore had carried Florida, and announced it before the polls closed, and thousands of Republicans in the panhandle of Florida who would have otherwise cast their votes for George W. Bush and myself stayed home because...

RUSSERT: Can you prove that?

CHENEY: Well, I know that you guys announced the result before the polls even closed.

RUSSERT: But can you prove that thousands of Republicans stayed home?

CHENEY: There's been statistical analysis that's just as valid as the statistical analysis in The Miami Herald this morning. What we have is we've had votes. They've been cast. There's a process for counting, a process for recounting, a process for certification. We've been through that process. And we now ought to get on with the business of putting together the new government.

RUSSERT: Why not agree to a statewide hand recount overseen by former President Ford and former President Carter, so that once and for all you can get a clear, honest statewide count and people can--and both campaigns agree to it--and then there is legitimacy to whoever wins?

CHENEY: Well, let's see. What are we going to do with the hanging chads, the dimpled chads, the intent, devising, trying to devise?

There are no clear standards for how that ought to be handled. If you go look at what happened in Broward County: There's a brief I just happened to read in the last day or two, that we filed with respect to the Broward County recount, where they changed their standard after they started the counting process, where the three individual supervisors used different standards in terms of evaluating the so-called dimpled chads.

It's virtually impossible to have an objective process for undertaking that kind of overall statewide recount. We think the right answer is that, in fact, the ballots have been counted and recounted and in some cases counted three and four times, and the results have been certified in accordance with Florida state law. Let's get on with it.

RUSSERT: Do you think Al Gore is a sore loser?

CHENEY: I don't want to get personal about Al Gore. He is, I think I understand it, I think all of us understand how difficult this is for him. With the enormous investment he made in the campaign, it would be hard for anybody to go through that process.

I do think it's time for him to concede. So far he's chosen not to do that, to pursue other avenues, and clearly that's his prerogative. But I think long term, I think history would regard him in a better light if he were to bring this to a close in the very near future.

RUSSERT: Three times in our history, 1824 with John Quincy Adams, 1876 with Rutherford B. Hayes, 1888 with Benjamin Harrison, we've had presidents who lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College. All three were one-term presidents. And, in fact, Rutherford Hayes was called ``His Fraudulency,'' because of the discussion, debate that went on post-election as to who should win the electors from Florida, ironically.

How concerned are you that if you do win, that your presidency will never have a fair chance, and it will be destined, like the other three who lost the popular vote, to simply one term and a very ineffective four years.

CHENEY: Well, but I can recall some other presidents, Thomas Jefferson, who emerged from a very complicated, convoluted process--some 36 ballots, I believe, in the House of Representatives before the decision was finally made that he had won the presidency--an enormously successful president.

So I think there's evidence on both sides, Tim. It will be up to what we do with it. It'll be obviously a challenge in part to how well we govern, to our ability to build bridges to the opposition, whether the country will come together.

I think the prognosis is pretty good, because I don't believe the country is deeply divided. I think this is a time of relative peace and prosperity in America, that we should be able to pull together. We don't have the kinds of deep divisions that times in the past and centuries past have been such an important part, if you will, of dividing the nation, North and South, over the slavery issue. Or the kinds of issues that have been historically very, very difficult for us to deal with as a nation.

We are united as a people. We are the most powerful nation on earth. We've got phenomenal success for the last 200 years and we can build on that and move forward. But it's going to be hard, difficult to do, but I think the notion that somehow it's doomed to difficulty, or that the next administration is bound to be only a one-term administration, I don't think that's a valid judgment. I don't think anybody can make that forecast.

RUSSERT: Governor Bush and you campaigned on a platform of a $1.3 trillion tax cut. Now that the Senate is 50-50, Democrats-Republicans, and the Republicans control the House by eight or nine votes, won't you have to scale down your tax cut in order to pass it?

CHENEY: Well, I would think, clearly, you're going to have to work very hard with a 50-50 Senate. I could end up living on Capitol Hill as the vice president...

RUSSERT: Casting the tie-breaking vote.

CHENEY: ... tie-breaking vote as president of the Senate.

But circumstances have changed, too. There's growing evidence out there, Tim, that the economy is slowing down. We're seeing it in automobile sales and a lot of other areas, earnings falling off for corporations. And we may well be on the front edge of a recession here.

And I would hope that would change people's calculations, with respect to the wisdom of the kind of tax cut that Governor Bush has recommended. We do, in fact, need to take into account those economic circumstances.

RUSSERT: You think we're on the front edge of a recession?

CHENEY: I think so. Now, I'm not an economist. I just follow it enough to know and to see out there that there is growing evidence that the economy is slowing down. And I would think that the kinds of tax changes we recommended--that Governor Bush recommended, especially in terms of reducing marginal rates, for example--are, in fact, exactly what needs to be done with respect to providing the kind of stimulus to ensure the resumption of long-term economic growth.

RUSSERT: But, in reality, with a 50-50 Senate and a close, close, small majority in the House, you're going to have to have a moderate, mainstream, centrist governance, aren't you?

CHENEY: Oh, I think so.

RUSSERT: Much more than the conservative principles that you adhere to and Tom DeLay or Dick Armey. Are you going to be working--sitting on Tom DeLay and Dick Armey trying to keep them in place?

CHENEY: They're both good friends of mine. I served with them in the Congress when I was the whip briefly in the House of Representatives. Tom was going to be my chief deputy whip. Dick Armey has been my congressman while I was in Texas for the last five years. Dick Gephardt's a good friend. I've known Dick--we cam together to Congress about the same time. So, it's entirely possible.

I worked years ago, Tim, for the governor of Wisconsin under two circumstances. Under one circumstance, we had two-thirds control of the legislature. In the next session, it was 50-50. Fifty-fifty, we got a lot more done, because there was much more discipline, because everybody had to work together. That was the only way anything...

RUSSERT: And low expectations?

CHENEY: And low expectations. But I think there's no reason in the world why we can't do exactly what Governor Bush campaigned on, and that the very closeness of the ballots in the Congress will, in fact, be a spur to cooperation rather than...

RUSSERT: But true conservatives out there might be a little disappointed because, in order to get someone on the Supreme Court, for example, they have to be confirmed by the Senate. You're going to have to stay to the center.

CHENEY: Well, I can assure my conservative friends that there'll be a strong conservative voice in the counsels of the administration. But in the final analysis, Governor Bush will make those decisions. I think he's had an excellent track record in Texas. He's been very good at achieving worthy objectives by bringing people together, even when the other party controlled both houses of the legislature. And there's no reason in the world why we can't do that in Washington.

RUSSERT: Trent Lott, the leader of the Republicans in the Senate, and Speaker Hastert were in Texas yesterday. Lott refers to Governor Bush as President-elect Bush. Should the country?

CHENEY: Well, we're getting close to that moment. Governor Bush, at this point, still prefers Governor Bush, and that's the way we're referring to him and that he's asked the staff to address him. We have not yet crossed the Rubicon, so to speak, to the point where we feel comfortable using the other title.

By the way, did you notice the feather in Trent's hat yesterday?

RUSSERT: Quite impressive.

CHENEY: Mississippi cowboy.

RUSSERT: When will you make appointments to the cabinet, secretary of state, attorney general, secretary of defense?

CHENEY: As soon as possible. We've spent a lot of time. We spent six hours with General Powell this past week.

RUSSERT: He's going to be secretary of state?

CHENEY: Well, we haven't made any announcement yet, but he, clearly, is a man we're consulting with extensively on all of these issues. We spent a lot of time yesterday with Speaker Hastert and Leader Lott on a lot of the same questions. Governor Bush is spending a big chunk of his time on all these issues.

We have not yet set a timetable in terms of an announcement. Right now, it has more to do with making decisions and getting people signed on and committed, rather than anything else, in terms of pacing the timing. But I would expect that certainly within the next couple of weeks we'll be able to start making some announcements.

RUSSERT: You'll have some well-known Democrats in the cabinet?

CHENEY: We are casting the net very broadly. And Governor Bush has given us directions to do exactly that, to look at--he wants a cabinet that represents the best in America...

RUSSERT: So blacks, women, Hispanics, all will be represented?

CHENEY: ... Is diverse in every sense of the word, politically and in terms of ethnic background and experiences. Those are all valuable commodities and dimensions that he wants us to focus on, and that's exactly what we're doing.

RUSSERT: Let me turn to your health. November 22, you had a heart attack, as you well know, better than I do. Governor Bush appeared on television at noon, and this is what he had to say.


GOVERNOR GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX): It turns out that subsequent tests, blood tests and the initial EKG, showed that he had no heart attack.


RUSSERT: Now, this is two hours after you had undergone surgery to open up an artery--people at the hospital, your doctors knowing full well that you had a heart attack. Why would the governor tell the nation something wrong?

CHENEY: But let's remember, the governor's in Texas. When I went into the hospital that morning--walked in under my own steam, by the way Tim. The heart attack label is appropriate in a technical sense, but as heart attacks go, it was not a big deal.

RUSSERT: But a fourth heart attack's always of concern.

CHENEY: Always of concern, that's why I went to the hospital. But the early tests in terms of the electrocardiogram, enzyme levels, and so forth, showed no change. I talked to the governor on the telephone and that's the information he had from me during the course of the day.

After that, I went in and undergo the angiogram, which is a decision we made after I talked to the governor. Doctors recommended it. We didn't know for sure whether there was a problem, but it was worth going to check out, it had been several years since I had the full-up (ph) angiogram, so we went in.

We discovered while I was in there that there was, in fact, a narrowing in one the branch arteries. That's when they went in and put the stent in. And I did not know at that time even that there'd been any change in the enzyme levels, and we were really focused on it cause we're in the room doing the procedure.

It wasn't until later that afternoon that I became aware, for example, of it.

RUSSERT: So you insist there was no intentional attempt to mislead the country.

CHENEY: Absolutely not. And we had sent the doctors out twice that afternoon to brief--to make sure that everybody understood what...

RUSSERT: The first time they said there wasn't any heart attack.

CHENEY: Well, that's what was the a--they didn't say there was no heart attack, they said there's been an elevation in the enzyme levels, which is the technical term.

RUSSERT: They came out at 4:45 to clarify.

CHENEY: To use the exact same words so nobody can say we misled anybody.

RUSSERT: In July when you were on this program, I talked to you about your bypass in 1988, and after which time you served effectively as secretary of defense, I might add. And it's eerie, it's almost prescient, what you talked about. Let's just watch that for a second.


RUSSERT: Bypasses usually last 10 to 12 years. Will you be in need of another one soon?

CHENEY: Well, that used to be fairly standard guidance. If you can manage your disease properly, which is much more feasible today, than that either extends the time before you have to do it again or obviates it altogether.

There are other options available like stents, for example, that weren't around 10 years ago, where you go in and do a catheterization and insert a stent in the artery to keep it open. So, there are a lot of possibilities like that. With luck, I'll never need anything else. But, if I did at some point, one of those procedures is a possibly. But obviously if I thought that was imminent, I wouldn't be here today.


RUSSERT: You called it.

CHENEY: I said stent procedure was possible. I'm delighted the technology's there. What they were able to do for me is something that would have been almost impossible ten years ago.

RUSSERT: But you also said if I thought it was imminent, I wouldn't be here today. It turned out to be imminent. Should you be here today as vice president based on your health?

CHENEY: I'm here based on the strong recommendation of my doctors, first-rate cardiologists and internists who followed my case for years, who would never advise me to proceed as I am if there was any doubt about my capacity to do the job.

My health is that of a 60-year-old, nearly 60-year-old man. I do have a history of coronary artery disease, but the angiogram, among other things, showed there'd been no progression in the artery disease over that last 12-year period of time except for this one narrowing, which has now been repaired with a stent.

So, if anything Tim, according to the doctors, I'm stronger and healthier now than I was six months ago because we've gone in and done that procedure.

So, I'm very comfortable with my current circumstances. The doctors have given me the green light to proceed. If I had any doubts about that, or if they expressed any doubts or reservations about my capacity to do the job, I would not do it.

RUSSERT: You'd step aside?

CHENEY: Absolutely.

RUSSERT: When will this all end? When do you believe that George W. Bush and Dick CHENEY will be able to say, we are president and vice president-elect?

CHENEY: Well, we're--I think we're getting close. I would hope that it will get resolved within the next few days. December 12 is a date that a lot of people are focused on. I think the--hopefully, it'll be over and wrapped up by then. I would hope it would happen sooner.

We really--from the standpoint of transition, a lot of people do not understand we're down to only about six weeks left. It is very hard to put together a complete government for the United States, tougher than it's been because of the complexity of issues and clearance procedures required. We really, really need to get on with that as quickly as possible. And we are, I think, rapidly approaching the point where there will be damage to the nation, at least to the capacity of the next government to function, if we don't get this resolved shortly.

RUSSERT: You've been extremely visible, leading some to suggest that Dick CHENEY, in fact is de facto president, and George W. Bush is simply in the wings, and that you're going to be running the government.

CHENEY: Well, you know, the same people that are saying that are the ones that criticized him when he picked me last summer because I wasn't from a big state or I wasn't going to help him in terms of the electoral college. Now people saying nice things about me. They turn around, they don't give him credit.

He deserves the credit for the fact that I'm here. He's very heavily involved in all of this. We talk several times a day on the telephone. I think he's going to be a very effective executive, because he grabs people, puts them on a problem, gives them their head (ph), and says go solve it, then holds you accountable for your performance.

It's the way I like to work, and if it's working well, he's the one who deserves the credit. He's the candidate, he's the man that put together a very successful national campaign strategy. He's the--I think about to become the president-elect of the United States, and to the extent that we've had any success at all, George W. Bush deserves a lot more credit than I do.

RUSSERT: You've introduced two words to the American political lexicon, big time.

CHENEY: Right.

RUSSERT: Any comment?

CHENEY: No, no comment, Tim.

RUSSERT: Dick Cheney, we thank you for joining us. Next time you'll be back, you'll be Dick Cheney or Mr. Vice President.

CHENEY: I hope so.

RUSSERT: Good to see you.

CHENEY: Thank you.

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