Interview of the Vice President by Don and Roma Wade, WLS 890-AM, Chicago
8:10 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning.
Q: Good morning.
Q: Good morning, and welcome.
Q: I know you're coming to Chicago for a really good event, and I wanted to ask you about the funding, because this seems to be paramount on a lot of people's minds. The funding for the U.S. troops in Iraq is up in the air. The President threatens to veto the Democratic spending bill because of the troop withdrawal deadlines. How is that standoff going to end, Mr. Vice President?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it will end with a clean bill ultimately being passed. The Congress sort of has two choices at this point: They can pass out of conference legislation similar to what the House and Senate have adopted, which has a lot of pork in it and a lot of restrictions on the President's authority -- he'll veto that. We can sustain the veto, and then they can pass him a clean bill. The other option is to go ahead and clean the bill up in conference, make it acceptable, and send it down to us. That would be the preferred option, because we really need to get the money to the troops as soon as possible.
Q: Our son is on the U.S.S. Nimitz, headed for his third Iraq tour. And, Mr. Vice President, if the Democrats succeed in cutting off funding for the war, will his squadron's jets sit idle on the carrier because they have no fuel?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I think the forces that will be most directly affected by it, of course, will be our people on the ground inside Iraq. And the Nimitz would probably be steaming anyway, since we've periodically got them at sea, but, obviously, the mission would change, and they would not be involved, in terms of supporting our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By the way, I hope you'll thank your son for what he's doing for all of us. That's a tremendous sacrifice our young men make, and we deeply appreciate their service.
Q: Our troops are extraordinary.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: They are.
Q: I'm wondering, Mr. Vice President, whether some politicians are -- they prefer to make political points rather than winning the war.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think that's, frankly, what a lot of this is all about. There are -- to give them credit, there are some folks on the other side of the debate who have never supported the war, been opposed to it from the beginning, and have been consistent. But there are others -- I think Harry Reid, for example, comes immediately to mind -- the Democratic leader of the Senate, from Nevada -- Harry voted for all of this, he made statements last fall that under no circumstances would he support cutting off funding for the troops, and now he's completely reversed himself and has said he supports cutting off funds for the troops. I can only deem that the result of political pressure he feels on his side of the aisle.
Q: Were you heartened by Senator John McCain's speech at VMI?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I was. I watched it and then yesterday had the privilege of sitting in as Senator McCain met with the President in the Oval Office -- he and Lindsey Graham, Senator Graham, from South Carolina, were down to report on their recent trip to Iraq. And it was a very -- it was a fascinating meeting. They talked about their views of what was happening, their sessions they had with the troops in Iraq, as well as General Petraeus, our commander, and then talked about visiting with some of our troops at the hospital in Germany, just out of the war zone, who had been wounded. And it was a very moving, emotional moment.
Q: I'm certain it would have been. Nancy Pelosi thought nothing of going to Syria's Assad with an alternative Democratic foreign policy, and, yet, balked, as we know, at meeting with our President -- as did Reid -- about funding the troops. How dangerous is this to the success of our important mission?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, there's a tradition that needed to be adhered to that, you know, we have all the debates we want here at home over foreign policy, but once you go offshore, go overseas there's only one foreign policy, there's only one President, one Commander-in-Chief. And the role of the legislature is not to go conduct negotiations with foreign powers, especially when you have a situation where we have, as a matter of national policy, been isolating Bashir Assad.
This is an evil man. He's a prime state sponsor of terror. We believe the Syrians were behind a number of assassinations of prominent Lebanese leaders in the last two years, including Rafik Hariri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon. He's allowed Syria to be used as a base for reinforcing weapons for Hezbollah, and Hezbollah and Hamas both operate out of Damascus. He's allowed Syria to be used as a way station for jihadists going into Iraq to join in the insurgency there and fight against American forces.
So for the Speaker to go to Damascus and meet with this guy and treat him with the respect and dignity ordinarily accorded the head of a foreign state we think is just directly contrary to our national interest.
Q: Well, Mr. Vice President, Tom Lantos has said that he would jump on a plane and go and meet with Ahmadinejad. I don't quite understand. What is this running off to meet with these tyrannical thugs? And yet they don't want to go and sit down with the President and work out a way forward to win the war?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we'd all be better off if they'd all stay home and get their work done.
Q: Who is, in the Congress, would be the biggest stumbling block, in your mind, when it comes to success in Iraq?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, at this point, I think the challenge is to get a policy adopted that's aimed at winning in Iraq. Victory needs to be our objective there. And every time we get somebody who's out trying to put together legislation that doesn't do that, but rather limits the troops' ability to perform their mission or puts restrictions on their commanders' authority and so forth, that's directly contrary to what we're trying to accomplish over there.
Q: Are you encouraged by General Petraeus' success so far, that there are glimmers of hope over there?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I am, I am encouraged by it. I don't want to paint a rosy scenario here; we've still got an awful lot of tough work to do. We saw just yesterday the attack of a suicide bomber inside the Parliament building there in the Green Zone. So the enemy, if they're willing to blow themselves up, will try to do all the damage they can. The whole strategy that they're pursuing is that they can break our will, that they can get us to give up the fight, in effect. And obviously, we're not going to do that.
General Petraeus is a superb officer, one of the finest I've ever known. He's done -- this is his third tour. He commanded the 101st when we first went in there; he set up the Iraqi training program on his second tour; and now he's over there in charge of the whole operation. And I think he's probably about as fine an officer as we could find at this particular moment in time.
Q: What can you tell us about the war czar position? We understand the White House is thinking about establishing a war czar. Is there anyone whose name we should recognize being considered?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, what it is, it's really a coordination role. The basic chain of command is going to continue to run, obviously, from the President, the Secretary of Defense, and down to our commanders in the field. But there are a lot of activities with respect to what we're doing over there that require coordination between various agencies -- State and Defense and a lot of our domestic agencies that have roles over there in trying to help establish, for example, a good judicial system for the Iraqis. And pulling all of that together we think requires somebody here in Washington who would report directly to the President, and then have the authority to make certain everybody is delivering what they promised to deliver on time, and in effect, sort of ride roughshod, if necessary, over the bureaucracy to make sure we get the job done.
And that's the kind of post that was being talked about here. We are actively looking for someone who can undertake that assignment, and I'm convinced we'll have somebody here shortly.
Q: We deeply appreciate your steadfastness in emphasizing the importance of this war on terrorism to our public.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's just vital that people not forget 9/11. And the thing that happened on 9/11 is we began -- we adopted a whole new strategy and treated these terrorist attacks as, in effect, part of a war against the United States, which clearly they are. And it is a global problem. We've got people now, some in the Congress suggesting we shouldn't call it the global war on terror. Well, I don't know what else you'd call it. It's clearly global.
We had -- just this week there were attacks in Algeria and Morocco by al Qaeda, bombings that were aimed at killing innocent civilians. It is a global conflict, by anybody's measure. And it is clearly against some of the world's worst offenders, and Iraq is very much a part of that. It is, right now, the central front on that global conflict.
Q: Is al Qaeda strengthening again?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's evolving, is the way I think of it. We've done a lot of damage to the senior leadership of al Qaeda. They're not the sort of hierarchical organization that they were earlier. But a lot of places, you've got al Qaeda wannabe organizations that develop. They -- sort of a franchising operation, if you will. So there now is operating in Algeria a group that's affiliated with al Qaeda.
So it's an ideology, a hateful ideology, obviously, that's directed at trying to drive the United States out of that part of the world and topple all those governments that are friendly, and to pursue their radical objectives and aims. And they're prepared to do anything they can to prevail.
Q: Mr. Vice President, I'm so glad we had a chance to talk to you. You act out of principle, not polls, and I know that a lot of Americans appreciate that. Thanks for coming to Chicago.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thanks.
Q: I hope you have a good experience here.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm sure I will. We used to get there a lot. One of our daughters lived there for a number of years, and we used to visit frequently. So I look forward to coming back.
Q: It's a great city. We welcome you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right. Well, it's good to talk to you. Thanks again. Thank your son for what he's doing for us.
Q: We definitely shall.
Q: Thank you.
END 8:20 A.M. EDT
Richard B. Cheney, Interview of the Vice President by Don and Roma Wade, WLS 890-AM, Chicago Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/284754