Richard B. Cheney photo

Interview of the Vice President by Chris Wallace, Fox News Sunday

July 13, 2008

Naval Observatory

Washington, D.C.

4:26 P.M. EDT

Q Mr. Vice President, thank you so much for talking with us. How important was Tony Snow's voice over the past two decades in the conservative movement?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, he was a major player in the conservative movement, and the way I think of Tony is he's unique in terms of the extent to which he knew the news side of the business; then as a commentator and -- but also somebody who worked as part of the White House staff as a speechwriter and of course as press secretary.

And there are very, very few people that have had as much experience on both sides of the divide, if you will. And I don't know anybody who had as much experience on both sides. You can think of people like Rush Limbaugh, obviously, who are giants in the profession, but always on the commentary side. And there aren't many who've done what Tony did.

Q How would you describe his brand of conservatism? What kinds of issues animated him?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, he was -- I frankly agreed with him on nearly everything, and I'm generally viewed as pretty conservative. I'm not sure that that's saying something nice about Tony in some circles, but I always thought of him as a guy who understood very well the purposes of government and that they were limited, and that there were some things government shouldn't do that we are best able to do for ourselves. And I thought Tony was an effective articulator of that. He was a tough critic of the Bush administration. Before he came onboard as press secretary, he obviously had written some tough criticism of us.

Q I wanted to ask you about that, because when he was asked to be press secretary people noted that just before that he'd written some tough things about the President, about your administration, that you were maybe getting a little soft around the edges, particularly on domestic policy. Once he got inside the White House and was in policy meetings, would he speak up for conservative principles and say, you got to keep the faith?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it wasn't so much that. He saw his job, I suppose in some respects, the way I saw mine. I didn't always agree with the President, but my job was to present my point of view when asked and then support whatever the decision was. And Tony clearly operated very much on the basis that he was out there to represent the President of the United States. He worked for the President. It wasn't a matter for him, given the role he played, of trying to impose his views or to shape policy by virtue of the position he occupied. He was -- he had a different role as the spokesman, press spokesman than, say, the guy running the economic shop or the policy shop -- very different responsibilities.

Q Let's talk about his role as spokesman. I think it's fair to say that when he took over as press secretary in March of 2006, the White House in general and the press shop, press operation in particular, was back on its heels, was playing defense. How effective was Tony in turning that around and being a forceful advocate on behalf of the President?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, he was superb, Chris, because I've known or worked with a lot of press secretaries, White House press secretaries, in my 40 years in Washington, and I'd have to say that Tony's the best. He had this rare combination of intelligence, of commitment and loyalty to the President that he was working for, but also this great love of going out behind that podium and doing battle with what in effect were his former colleagues. And it was this capacity that he had to be unfailingly polite, to maintain good humor under the most trying of circumstances, and do it, I thought, better and more effectively than anybody I've ever seen in that post.

Q By 2006 -- let me ask it again -- by 2007, he became the first press secretary to actually go out and help raise money for Republican candidates. How big a star did he become inside the Party?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, he was a big star. I mean, I -- you know, our paths would occasionally cross out there because that's what Vice Presidents do, is a lot of fundraisers. But Tony had this depth of commitment and understanding, and he was a real media star. And it was -- I've never before seen a guy who was as good as he was at going out on the really tough issues, when you've got, you know, the crew in the White House press office -- not the staff, but the press -- actively and aggressively going after the President or me or somebody else, and Tony would stand up there and give as good as he got. And he always did it with great good humor. He was unfailingly polite. Everybody loved him. And you always had the feeling at the end of his briefings -- I used to watch them on closed circuit video in the White House because they were such a performance -- he'd always leave and everybody felt good about what they'd just been through, whether they were newsmen or on the White House side of the podium.

Q Which is not always the way it is in the White House press briefing room.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oftentimes -- I've been there often enough over the years when people dreaded having to go out in front of the press and answer questions, do the daily brief, when Tony absolutely relished it. He would never miss the opportunity to go out and engage with a journalist.

Q When he became such a star, did you ever think to yourself that if finances and health had not intervened, that he might have been an effective Republican politician?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, I think he could have been a great candidate if he'd wanted to do that. He obviously -- I can remember talking with him when he decided he had to leave again. He came by to see me and tell me what he was going to do, and he felt a great commitment obviously to his family, and he was concerned at that point, by virtue of his health situation, that he really felt he had to go focus specifically on the family. And everybody understood that. If it hadn't been for the tragedy of cancer, I think Tony had a unlimited future ahead of him.

Q Let's talk about the fight against cancer. What kind of a message do you think he sent, and what kind of public service do you think he provided through his courage, through his good humor, and by how openly he shared his fight with cancer?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I thought it rendered a significant service. The thing that always struck me about him -- we didn't talk about it very much; I just remember a couple of occasions when it came up -- he was unfailingly optimistic and positive in his outlook. He knew obviously that this was a situation that might well shorten his life, but he never lost his lust for living every day to the fullest extent. He never let it get him down. I never saw -- when I was around him, I never saw Tony down or depressed, like I think a lot of us might have been if we'd encountered the kind of health problems he did. You know, he was -- relished every moment of every day, and that's the way he conducted himself right to the end.

Q I know that you and he were more than politician and reporter, or even when you were working within an administration, I know you were good friends. What are your personal thoughts about Tony and about his passing?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's a great tragedy, obviously, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family. He'll be missed. I always remember the night he came to a dinner party at our house, and the house had burned down that day; they'd just had a significant house fire. And with Tony, you know, he would tell you that happened, but it absolutely didn't affect his enjoyment of the evening or his outlook on life. A lot of us would, you know, really be bummed out if we just had a major house fire. And he had this capacity to sort of put everything in its place, maintain his perspective, and I think he'd want us to do that now. I think he lived his life to the fullest. He's to be, I think, deeply revered for that.

Q And I don't know whether the two of you ever talked about this, but as a colleague of his myself, his faith was a very tangible, real part of his life. It wasn't, you know, once a week on Sundays; it was something that really guided his life, wasn't it?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think that's true. I think it helped him very much as he went through these last days in terms of wrestling with what, in effect, befell him -- having to battle cancer.

Q Mr. Vice President, we want to thank you so much for talking with us today and sharing your thoughts about Tony Snow.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's a privilege to be asked, Chris. Thank you.

END 4:37 P.M. EDT

Richard B. Cheney, Interview of the Vice President by Chris Wallace, Fox News Sunday Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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