VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT CHENEY: Good morning.
Well, I'm delighted to be here this morning and have an opportunity to pay a courtesy call and pay my respects to Senator Joe Lieberman. We've been able to work together in the past. I think back to the days of the Gulf War when Joe was a new member of the Senate and one of the strong supporters of the policies that we pursued then.
And the campaign this year, of course, was very hard-fought on both sides, ended in a way I don't think either one of us expected, but I enjoyed and am proud to have been his competitor and delighted to be here this morning to have a few minutes to talk with him and share some thoughts and ideas on areas that we may be able to work together on in the future, and to wish he and Hadassah the very best for the holidays.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you. Thanks, Dick.
It was my pleasure to welcome Secretary Cheney. We have worked together in the past. We were opponents this year but certainly on my part, and I know both of us, very respectful opponents of one another. The conversation was a very warm and cordial conversation.
I appreciate Dick Cheney's offer to come and visit this morning.
We talked about areas in which we can work together. I think we both agree that we have some opportunities for bipartisan agreements that can create the kind of results that people in this country expect of us, and that we should, together, take every opportunity we can to achieve those results.
So I wish you a good holiday. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, all the best.
I've had the pleasure, actually, of working with Lynne Cheney on some stuff, too, and maybe we can even find ways for that to continue.
QUESTION: ... you talk of appointments? Any talk of potential problems with appointments?
LIEBERMAN: You mean for me?
LIEBERMAN: I was just going to say--I was going to make clear that the position that I aspire to in the administration seems to have been filled.
QUESTION: Is there any potential problem with nominees?
CHENEY: Well, we are, of course, in the process of nominating members of the Cabinet. One of the things we take into account as we go through that process is try to assess whether or not there will be any confirmation problems. So far, we don't anticipate any.
But we get to nominate, and the Senate gets to confirm. And I'm sure the Senate will do its thing.
QUESTION: Mr. Cheney, the White House says the Bush team is deliberatively talking down the economy for political gain. Do you believe that you're being unduly pessimistic about the state of the U.S. economy?
CHENEY: No, we've tried to be very precise and accurate in our statements. We don't want to talk down the economy, clearly. And I think both President-elect Bush and myself have tried to be cautious in that regard.
But there does seem to be a lot evidence out there--it's not just something that we're seeing--but a lot of evidence that, in fact, the economy has slowed down some. It was growing at a fairly rapid rate, on the order of 5 percent or better, and it's slowed.
And the evidence is there in a number of areas. Whether you're talking about automobiles or rail car loading, there are various sectors of the economy that clearly are not growing at the rate they were growing earlier.
Whether or not this ultimately results in a recession--that is, negative real growth--nobody knows at this time.
I think our views are very similar to those that have been expressed by Chairman Greenspan. And we have an obligation as we get ready to take responsibility to make certain that we've got an accurate sense of where the economy is. That's one of the reasons one of the first meetings we had this week was with Chairman Greenspan and that we are prepared to do whatever is required to maintain our long-term growth and prosperity as a nation.
QUESTION: What areas did you find, or do you think you can work together on?
LIEBERMAN: Look, as a general principle, I'd say that it's in the nature of the relationship I have with Dick Cheney, and I hope the relationship that Democrats in Congress have with this administration, that where we can find common ground, we should do so, and that's what people sent us here for.
Maybe the closeness of the election at all levels, not just presidential, but congressional as well, will shake all of us to the extent that we do what the people of America always tell us they want us to do, which is work together to get something done.
And there will be areas of disagreement, but I think it's equally important to make sure that on those areas of disagreement, we disagree with mutual respect and civility. And I was very proud of the debate that Secretary Cheney and I had during the campaign, because I think we managed to do just that in just that way.
Two areas we spoke about were education reform and national security. As you know, together with Senator Evan Bayh and nine or 10 other moderate Democrats in the Senate, I introduced an education reform bill earlier last year. It is in some regards quite like the Bush-Cheney proposal; in other regards it's not.
But I think there's a real basis there for trying to achieve an early bipartisan agreement, which, incidentally, is not only a good idea but our responsibility because the Elementary and Secondary Education Act ran out last year and we really should authorize it this year.
On national defense, Dick Cheney and I worked closest together during the period before, during and after the Gulf War.
And I think we have a lot of areas of overlap of agreement and priorities in the central importance of keeping our national defense strong and of modernizing our forces. So I hope--they're are two big areas that matter, I think, a lot to our country and to our people, where, if we use heads and common sense, we ought to achieve bipartisan progress.
QUESTION: Where did you all disagree?
CHENEY: I can't think of a single area. Can you, Joe?
LIEBERMAN: Only on the outcome of the election in Florida.
QUESTION: Did you talk about that?
LIEBERMAN: No. No, we didn't.
We actually did. We stressed the positive, too. We really did.
QUESTION: Senator Lieberman, are you comfortable with some of the names you're hearing quoted for Secretary of Defense? Specifically Senator Coats?
LIEBERMAN: Now, I don't know if my endorsement will hurt or help any of the candidates that are mentioned today.
Dan Coats and I, to respond to your question, happen to be very good personal friends, and we served together on the Armed Services Committee of the Senate. And we worked very closely and hard together on what I think he and I both think is the central challenge facing the Defense Department today, which is defense transformation, modernization of our forces to face the new kinds of threats that we'll face in the future.
I don't agree with Dan Coats on everything. We have pretty big disagreements on some issues, but on the central--on the most important issue for our defense as I see it--which is defense transformation, keeping us strong in the world, applying technology to our national security--I think Dan Coats would be a superb choice.
So again, I hope I don't hurt his chances by saying that, but you asked.
QUESTION: Can I ask either one of you, in your discussion on education, did you talk about vouchers?
CHENEY: The subject came up. This was not a session where we were trying to persuade each other of what to be in a bill; simply comparing notes that there are major areas of agreement and that we both thought this was an area where the new administration could work with the Congress to try to make some progress.
QUESTION: Senator Lieberman, are you now for or against vouchers?
LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, I supported demonstration programs for vouchers, and I still think those are a good idea, but this was a very brief part of our discussion about education.
I did say to Secretary Cheney that when it came time to putting together the education reform proposal that Senator Bayh and the other moderate Democrats and I in the Senate put together earlier this year, we did not have a voucher proposal in it because we felt it would make the overall proposal a nonstarter, it wouldn't go because the vouchers are such a controversial idea here.
You know, I haven't counted heads or anything, but my guess is that that is still true and that's something we'll have to work out.
I think there are other ways that we try to include in our bill that bring some of the features that vouchers do, which is to give parents more choice, to create competition within the school systems and you can do that with charter schools, you can do it with public school choice programs, you can do it with standards of accountability. And these are all areas, incidentally, the ones I've mentioned, in which there is a fair amount of overlap or similarity between the Bush-Cheney education proposal and the one that the Senate moderate Democrats put forward, which we called our three Rs bill.
QUESTION: Senator Cheney, we all expect that you'll be here more frequently than any other vice presidents to break ties in the Senate. You also seem to be, though, sort of the point-man here on the Hill for the administration. I just wondered if you care to comment on how you see your role in working with the Congress?
CHENEY: I clearly have an obligation, obviously, as an officer of the Senate--the president of the Senate, which is the responsibilities that traditionally go with the role of being vice president. It wasn't that many years ago that's all you did as vice president. And I don't even think the vice president had offices downtown until maybe the, certainly, the post-war period.
In addition to that, President-elect Bush has asked to me take on special responsibilities with respect to the Congress, to be prepared to work both for the Senate and the House, in terms of working on legislation and legislative proposals. So I would expect to spend a fair amount of time up here.
And I enjoy it. I spent 10 years in the House of Representatives. I think it's a useful endeavor for me, and one that I should be able to make something of a contribution in.
I'm going to have to bail out, but I wanted to thank everybody for being here today. And, again, I want to thank Joe Lieberman for his hospitality and look forward very much to working with him in the future.
LIEBERMAN: So do I.
CHENEY: Joe, thanks.
LIEBERMAN: Good to see you. I wish you the best.
CHENEY: All right.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you all.