Richard B. Cheney photo

Interview of the Vice President by Laura Ingraham

February 03, 2006

Via Telephone, The Laura Ingraham Show

9:36 A.M. EST

Q Former President Jimmy Carter saying on Larry King that Hamas should be recognized by the United States. Money could be funneled, if not directly to the Hamas government, to other entities through UNICEF and the United Nations and so forth. Back on the Laura Ingraham Show. We are absolutely thrilled to be joined now by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Mr. Vice President, thank you for joining us.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good morning, Laura.

Q Mr. Vice President, if you could respond to the comments of our former President Jimmy Carter talking about the new government in the Palestinian Territories, Hamas. Under any circumstances at this point would Hamas be recognized by the United States?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Not until they change their policies, Laura. The important thing here -- it's true, they did get elected. But it's important to remember Hamas' track record. Their objective, part of their platform is the destruction of Israel. They are a terrorist organization. They've been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings. And they need to give up their objective of the destruction of Israel. They need to forswear violence and I think close down their military wing before anybody is going to treat them seriously as a legitimate interlocutor, if you will, and governer of the Palestinian people.

That's not just a U.S. position; that's -- we feel very strongly about it, but it also, clearly, is the view of most of the responsible governments in the world.

Q Yesterday, Porter Goss said on Capitol Hill that national security leaks have damaged us. And he said it has -- the damage done to our national security has been very severe. And he was talking, in part, about the information out there now about the way we eavesdrop on communications coming into the United States from al Qaeda affiliates.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, he's right about national security leaks. There have been a number over the years, but there have been some recently that have been most egregious; and one, obviously, does have to do with the NSA program that's been the focus of a lot of attention in the last few weeks. And of course, someone there went to The New York Times, and The New York Times published extensive stories about it, which disclosed the fact of the program.

There have been others. I thought Director Goss was rather restrained in his comments, but he was absolutely correct. Those leaks do do enormous damage to our national security. It happens in several ways. It, obviously, reveals techniques and sources and methods that are important to try to protect. It gives information to our enemies about how we go about collecting intelligence against them. It also raises questions in the minds of other intelligence services about whether or not they can work with the United States intelligence service, with our CIA, for example, if we can't keep a secret. If every secret that we're told, or that we had ends up on the front page of the newspapers, some of our friends overseas are going to be reluctant to do business with us. So it's -- it is a serious problem.

Q And, Vice President Cheney, I'm heading to Iraq late tonight. I'm going to be there for about nine days. I'm anxious to get my own perspective on the situation when I'm there. But I know you were just recently in Iraq, and I'd like to know your view on what it's like today in Iraq versus, let's say, a year ago -- the security situation.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm delighted you're going, Laura. I think it's great when commentators and journalists and so forth get out there and spend time with the troops and see what's actually going on, on the ground. And I think you'll find it a remarkable experience. We've got some fantastic people over there doing truly amazing things.

I think the overall situation in terms of the security situation I believe is improving. The biggest difference you'll notice over the last year is the extent to which Iraqis now are increasingly taking on responsibility for various areas of the country, and taking the lead now. We've got some 40 Iraqi battalions now that actually have the lead in providing security in their relative -- respective areas. That's a big change. A year ago, you would have -- probably wouldn't have had more than one or two Iraqi battalions capable of doing that.

The other thing that is especially noteworthy, obviously, is what's happening in the political arena. And I'm sure you'll spend time focused on that. They're clearly in the midst of negotiating arrangements for this new government based on the election results of last month. And that's moving rapidly forward at this point, and hopefully we'll have a government here before too long that is based on that new Iraqi constitution and a free vote of several million Iraqis.

Q And why do you think that in most the public opinion polls, the war itself with the progress that you've cited and that we've certainly heard from troops on the ground, commanders on the ground, it still seems to be fairly unpopular here in the United States. We know what it's like abroad, which is very unpopular. But why does that persist, that feeling?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think -- war is a very difficult proposition. And obviously, casualties and the cost of war are something that nobody likes -- that people try to avoid as much as possible; governments certainly do. We do. It's the last, last resort. You only resort to military action when you have no other choice. And so I think there's a natural sort of response that we get out there when you ask people, do you like the war, a lot of people are going to say, no, based on principle. That doesn't mean they don't support completing the mission; doesn't mean that they think we ought to cut and run; or suddenly withdraw and turn Iraq over to the bad guys. I do think there's a basic fundamental level of support out there in the country for the troops, and for what we're working to achieve in Iraq.

I'm confident we will succeed, that the only way we can lose this one is if we quit. And we're not about to quit. We're going to complete the mission, and I think you'll find when you're over there that that is, in fact, the desire of the people most directly involved, and those are the men and women wearing the American uniform, fighting on our behalf in Iraq.

Q I noticed that the President, Vice President Cheney, in the State of the Union speech used the word isolationist several times, and then in his speeches across the country after the State of the Union, he also used the isolationist word: "We cannot be isolationist . . . there used to be isolationism in the United States," and so forth. About whom is he speaking when he refers to isolationists today?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think -- I don't know that I want to put my finger on any one particular individual. Let me just describe a category. I would argue that people who want to deal with the terrorist threat, if you will, the way we dealt with it prior to 9/11 fall into that category. That is folks who feel that we can sort of retreat behind our oceans and everything will be okay, folks who believe that our involvement from a military perspective in the Middle East is somehow an "optional war, optional conflict." That's not true after 9/11. Once we got hit and lost 3,000 people here at home in Washington and New York and Pennsylvania, a little over four years ago now, when we weren't -- had done absolutely nothing from an international standpoint to justify that kind of an attack, I think pretty well makes the point that simply pulling behind our oceans and trying to sit safe and secure here at home doesn't work any more; that this crowd, the al Qaeda organization and all of its affiliates are committed to their objectives; and they're prepared to go anyplace and use any means at their disposal to kill Americans, as well as others around the globe; and that our only viable strategy in this case is to be actively and aggressively involved overseas, not pursue the sort of isolationist notion that somehow we can pull our heads in and hunker down and they'll leave us alone -- because they clearly won't.

Q And renewable energy really got the headlines, and the "addiction to oil" line in the State of the Union speech. And Tom Friedman wrote a piece in The New York Times today saying, well, it was great to hear that, but unless we really give people -- make it painful for people to drive as much, to be as addicted to their SUVs as they are, then we're not going to push this forward as fast as we could. We can't wait six years for this alternative fuel vehicle to be in operation. How do you respond to that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't agree with that. I think -- the President and I believe very deeply that, obviously, the government has got a role to play here in terms of supporting research into new technologies and encouraging the development of new methods of generating energy and powering our economy. And we're doing that. And that was a lot of what he announced in his speech on Tuesday night.

But we also are big believers in the market, and that we need to be careful about having government come in, for example, and tell people how to live their lives, that the market does work, that people make adjustments and make decisions for themselves in terms of what kind of vehicle they want to drive, and how often they want to fill up the tank, and from the perspective of individual American citizens, this notion that we have to "impose pain," some kind of government mandate, I think we would resist. The marketplace does work out there. People do make decisions, for example, to use less energy when it gets expensive, and to find ways to be more efficient.

There's a strong economic incentive in the marketplace for us to become much more efficient in how we use energy. We have, in the last 25 years, gotten roughly twice as efficient as we used to be. That is, we use only half as much energy per unit of output today as we did in 1980. That's the marketplace at work. That's not because government mandated some pain on the American economy.

Q I know you have to run, and we really appreciate you joining us, Vice President Cheney. And how is your health? Before we let you go, how are you feeling?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's good. I'm feeling fine. And I've got a lot of people looking after me and everybody knows if I have a hiccup. I think it gets over-covered at times, but that goes with the job.

Q What are you doing, the elliptical trainer? What's your exercise --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I've got a recumbent bicycle that I ride.

Q You do the -- you read, don't you? You read when you're on the bike. I know you do.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Read and -- that's right -- read and watch the news.

Q And listen to the Laura Ingraham Show.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: And listen to the Laura Ingraham Show.

Q Well, thank you. I appreciate it.


Q Vice President Cheney say hi to Mrs. Cheney for us, please.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'll do it. And enjoy your trip, Laura. I look forward to hearing what you've got to say when you get back.

Q All right, you take good care, and thanks so much.


END 9:47 A.M. EST

Richard B. Cheney, Interview of the Vice President by Laura Ingraham Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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