Richard B. Cheney photo

Interview of the Vice President by Sean Hannity

January 11, 2006

Via Telephone

The Sean Hannity Show

3:19 P.M. EST

Q: Thanks for checking in. Now more than ever, three hours a day every day is all we ask. The only one who may get an exception to that rule because he's sort of busy with other things is the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, who is on our Newsmaker line. You get an exemption.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Sean.

Q: That means you don't have to listen to three hours of -- (Laughter.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I wouldn't miss it.

Q: Well, anyway, welcome back to the program. I just made the point, I want these hearings to go on for another month or so. I think politically it's going to be good for the country.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, it's been fascinating. I've been watching some of them here in the office, and I think Judge Alito has acquitted himself very well. And I can't say the same for some of the senators.

Q: Well, it makes for good entertainment. I think it actually exposes what has happened to a once great party, the Democratic Party. But putting politics aside for just a second, when Joe Biden can literally go 12 minutes without asking a question, and only ask five questions in a half hour, it sort of reinforces Senator Cornyn's point that he doesn't think that anybody is -- that everyone has already decided to vote against him, and they're just looking now for reasons to do so. Do you sense that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think there's some preconceived judgments being made on the other side. There are a couple of things working here, Sean. I don't often agree with what I see in The New York Times, but they had a great headline today you may have already talked about, "But Enough About You, Judge, Let's Hear What I Have to Say" -- (laughter) -- attributed to senators.

And the fact of the matter is, the judge has proven he approaches matters with a fair and open mind. And it's pretty clear that some of the senators don't.

Q: It's clear that they want to make the issue of presidential power a big part of these hearings -- I would argue -- to politicize it and bring up the issue of NSA spying. Would you want to respond to that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think what they're doing -- there are legitimate issues, obviously, involved in a lot of these questions. I think the focus on that issue, the NSA program, in part is generated because they haven't found anything else they can go after him on.

He, of course, is a man who has been on the bench for 15 years and been involved in thousands of cases and written hundreds of opinions himself. And going through that whole record, they have trouble finding anything to criticize. So now they're trying to get him involved in an issue that's not yet before the courts. But I think it's all part and parcel of an effort by some of the -- especially some of the outside groups aided and abetted by some of the members of the committee to try to find some excuse to vote against what obviously is a top quality nominee.

Q: It seems to happen more often when it's a Republican President making an appointment to the Supreme Court, starting back in '87 with Robert Bork. Clearly, the Clarence Thomas nomination was a case in point. In many ways, I think you saw it with Roberts. You're seeing it here. Lindsey Graham thinks it's going to be split down the middle in committee and on the Senate floor. He doesn't think there's going to be many cross-overs at all from the Democratic side voting in favor of this nomination. But yet, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had a pretty radical record on the left got 90 some odd votes.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. She was the -- as I recall, the general counsel for the ACLU, and clearly holds views that many of the members disagreed with, but she got a lot of Republican votes because it was handled on the basis I think that it should be handled, that is with respect to the President gets to nominate, and unless there's some major disqualifying factor, the Senate ought to -- generally ought to confirm if people are qualified for the post they've been nominated for.

Clearly, that's not a reciprocal proposition from the standpoint of many of the Democratic members of the Senate. They're bound and determined to vote against somebody like Alito. They even voted against Justice Roberts, who obviously was about as fine a candidate as you can possibly find to serve on the Supreme Court.

Q: Vice President Dick Cheney is with us on our Newsmaker line. Mr. Vice President, just in the last 18 months, we've had -- the Supreme Court, I would argue, in many, many ways has rewritten the Constitution in some fundamental ways. They have said that private property rights, including people's own homes -- is no longer safe from seizure by their own government. They have said that a town can display the Ten Commandments on a courthouse property, but not inside the courthouse. Last summer, the Supreme Court conferred due process rights on terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, even though they're unlawful, enemy combatants. So when we look at it objectively, you got property rights, religious freedom, the principle of limited government, national security all hanging in the balance. This is probably one of the most important issues we face appointing a Supreme Court justice.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it is. And it's always vital, of course, because they serve for a long time, and they will deal with important issues that touch the lives of all Americans during the course of their tenure on the court. Lots of times it's not possible to know what issues they're going to have to wrestle with during the course of their career. But sooner or later, the court does take up extraordinarily important issues, and issues that, obviously, are not without controversy. But I think -- say, I think the nominees the President has put forward here, both Justice Roberts and now Judge Alito are really, really superb appointments.

Q: Are you concerned about decisions like the Kelo decision on private property rights? Are you concerned about the courts conferring due process rights to terrorists in Guantanamo?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I have views on those issues, Sean. And I don't always agree with what the court does, obviously, but that's partly the way our system is designed. And the Supreme Court gets to rule on those issues, and the Congress and the President have their appropriate roles, as well, too. So I don't expect to agree with the Supreme Court on all occasions, and I didn't there.

Q: The President and -- both yesterday and today has come out very strongly in defense of his Iraq policy. And he said for those to watch -- risk giving comfort to our adversaries, that they may suffer at the ballot box in November. He talked about the American people. He distinguished between honest critics and partisan critics, that the American people know the difference between loyal opposition that point out what's wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see anything that's right.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. He's made a series of speeches now over the last, oh, two months. We both have, but he's taking the lead on this. But I think they've been very important in terms of reminding everybody what's at stake in Iraq, giving the American people progress reports so they know what's happening both in the political realm, as well as the security and military realm over there. And I think we've had a lot of good news out of Iraq over the course of the last year.

It's hard sometimes to see to that given the continued level of violence, obviously. But when you think of the fact they've made every single political deadline that's been set in the January elections, wrote a constitution in the summer, ratified it in October, national elections in December, it has been -- I think -- a remarkable success story so far. We've still got a lot of work to do, but I think the President has made the point repeatedly out there that the only way we lose is if we pack it in and go home. And we're clearly not going to do that.

Q: Howard Dean said the idea that we're going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is plain wrong. John Kerry said that there's no reason young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, women, and breaking the customs, et cetera. When you hear that, what is your reaction? And do you think it puts our troops in greater harm?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's unfortunate. I take those comments as being offered primarily for political reasons. I don't think Howard Dean has ever given any thoughtful consideration to what's going on over there. He certainly hasn't indicated that by any of his public statements. And of course, John Kerry's views were aired pretty thoroughly during the last campaign.

The fact of the matter is that we have, in fact, come a very long way and made significant progress -- between Iraq and Afghanistan, having liberated 50 million people, gotten a good start to building democracies both places, and to having -- helping them build their own security forces. It's a remarkable achievement that's due primarily to the enormous capability and courage of the American military and the President's leadership. And I think history will judge it very favorably.

Q: We're almost out of time. You had this incident with your health the other day. You want to comment on that? And have you totally ruled out a run for the presidency in '08?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: With respect to the health, it's fine. I have periodically -- obviously, something happens like that, it gets an awful lot of attention, usually a lot more attention than it deserves. But I'm feeling fine, back at work, and no lingering problems. And with respect to my intentions, once I finish this tour as George Bush's Vice President, I plan to hang it up, Sean. I've spent the better part of the last 40 years in public service, and I think that's probably about enough.

Q: All right, Mr. Vice President, we're just out of time. And I know you have to run. We always appreciate you being with us.

Thank you and all the best, and we'll talk to you soon.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right, Sean. I enjoy the show.

END 3:28 P.M. EST

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

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