Richard B. Cheney photo

Interview of the Vice President by Sean Hannity, the Sean Hannity Radio Show

January 12, 2009

2:02 P.M. EST

Q: It is an honor, it is a privilege, it is a pleasure to welcome back for the last time now as Vice President, Dick Cheney, is back with us. Mr. Vice President, it's an honor to have you back and we're so glad you could be with us. Thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Sean, it's great to be back again on the show. I can't think of a better way to spend one of my afternoons on my way out of town.

Q: (Laughter.) Look, I know you pretty well, at least I think I do. I think you're excited about fishing, hunting, relaxing, reading, and maybe just taking it all in for a while. Is that your plan?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes. I've given serious thought to writing a book. I never have, and my family has been bugging me about it. I've got 40 years since I came to town to stay 12 months. I've got a lot of stories to tell, and a few scores to settle. So I'm giving that some serious thought.

Q: I like the "scores to settle" part, because if I were you, I'd have a few scores to settle, as well.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) No, no, I'm going out with a good heart. It's been a tremendous experience. It's been great serving with this President. And I think we did some good work. And I do look forward to family time, and a little more time on the stream and out in the fields. But I don't plan to retire yet.

Q: So Alan's last night on Hannity & Colmes was last Friday, and I gave him three gifts. One was a really nice gift, a watch. And I gave him a picture of Obama supposedly signed by Obama, XOXO, "thanks for -- (inaudible) -- Hannity." And then the other was a certificate, an all-expense paid hunting trip with you, Mr. Vice President.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, great. (Laughter.) Was he eager to take advantage of that?

Q: I think he probably would be, only because I know that he knows that you're a good man. Let me ask you, are you --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I know -- I also want to say before I forget, Sean, I'm really looking forward to seeing your new show. I guess that starts tonight?

Q: Yes, it starts tonight at 9:00 p.m. Thank you.

Are you emotional at all? Do you think back how -- did the years go by fast? Are you getting sentimental now as you have your last week here in office?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, what you will miss most about the job are the people. The Secret Service guys who were head of my detail just came in and presented me with a nice painting of the official residence. There are a whole series of these things that happen, everybody wants to say goodbye.

By the same token, though, I mean, even though I'm looking forward to the next phase of my life, I've been through this four times now since I've transitioned out of the government. And I'll miss it. It's been an important part of our lives. And I think we've been able to do some very good work. It will be -- as the President said today in his press conference, you get used to doing that intelligence briefing every morning at 8:00 a.m. with the top intelligence people in the government, and that sort of thing I will miss.

Q: I met the President Friday -- actually, we're going to have part one of the interview that I had with him -- and one of the questions I did ask him was about these intelligence briefings. And I said: "Do you think if the American people had access to what you were reading every day, that they would have a different view of decisions that you made?" What do you think?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think they would. The fact is that's what we have Presidents for, to get up to speed on that stuff and to make those decisions that are required, based on the intelligence he gets. And you don't want the whole country doing what he does every day, or otherwise we wouldn't need him. And people got to get on with their lives, raise their families, build their businesses, work their farms.

But it's -- I think the thing that I sense most is that as we get farther and farther away from 9/11, we've got more and more people sort of taking it all for granted, getting pretty complacent about the world we live in, and lose sight of the fact that there are some very bad actors out there still trying hard to find ways to kill more Americans.

Q: Mr. Vice President, every job has its ups and downs. What are some of your tougher days? What are some of your best memories?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the things that stand out in terms of best memories oftentimes has to do with the troops. The President and I, for example -- last Saturday we were down -- we commissioned a new aircraft carrier, the George H.W. Bush, at Norfolk, a magnificent Nimitz class nuclear carrier. And then we went from there over to the headquarters for the Navy SEAL teams on the East Coast, and spent a couple hours with a few hundred of some of the absolutely finest people in the United States military, the Navy SEALs, who have taken on some incredible assignments in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years. And the chance to spend time with them is really something that stands out, and always will in my memory.

The difficult times are those times especially when you're -- find that in the situation, for example, where you're dealing with a family whose son or daughter is never going to come home, because they went in harm's way voluntarily on behalf of the nation and made the ultimate sacrifice. Those moments stand out, too.

Q: You're one of the few Vice Presidents, really in history, that didn't aspire to the presidency. You said pretty early on -- and I know in many of the interviews that we've had over the years, I think I'd often ask you, especially before the 2004 election and 2008 election, if you'd consider running for President. And your answer was always no, that you did not aspire to that. Do you think that may have helped you in your job? Would that have been distracting for you?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I think it did help. I made that decision some years ago, back -- in connection with the '96 election, I looked at running then and decided not to. And I think it was part of the reason things worked well between myself and the President. I mean, I was able to stay focused on his agenda. I didn't have a separate agenda. I wasn't worried about how I was going to be received in Iowa caucuses in '08; I was able to go out there every day and slug it out on behalf of his policies and those things he was most focused on.

And I think that really did help. I think it meant that I could deal with people, and they knew, whether they were on the staff here or on the Hill, that my only concern was the President, and that I was giving him the best advice I could based on his agenda and what his needs were. I wasn't worried about feathering my own nest, so to speak.

Q: I find the President -- I've had an opportunity to interview him a number of times, and just this past Friday, and part one will air tonight on the new show. But I find him very inspiring in this way: that he does not -- when he says principle guides him, it is -- when you're around him for any length of time, you see that is the truth. And he does not make decision based on polls. He believes he had an obligation to the American people especially after 9/11 to keep this country safe.

And I'm frustrated as somebody who is a big supporter of his that he does not get the credit that I think he deserves in keeping this country safe -- and you're a big part of this as well -- after 9/11 and the worst attack on America soil. Does that frustrate you like it does me at all?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, to some extent. But if you've been around as long as I have in this line of work, you recognize that you rarely get credit for things that don't happen. And so you need a thick skin in this business, Sean. And I think the President has developed that. And I'd say what I admire most about him is his ability to make those tough decisions and never look back.

Q: I think you need one in TV. I'm just preparing for the reviews tomorrow that smash me up pretty good.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, in your line of work I'll admit that there runs a close second.

Q: (Laughter.) The first review of Hannity & Colmes, 12 and a half years ago, was Alan Colmes looks funereal; Sean Hannity has a bad haircut and has no business being on TV.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) You remember those, huh?

Q: Yes, verbatim. Well, let me ask you this, as you look back on the presidency, I think the President, through the prism of history, is going to be viewed as a very principled, successful President. And that would include you being Vice President, because I don't think -- I think most people's memories are short. I think most people have forgotten the mood of the country after 9/11. I think there were many, many decisions that were made -- tougher interrogations, Gitmo, the Patriot Act -- that have all contributed to making this country safer. We seem to forget all those tough battles, and that was the biggest focus obviously of the administration.

Do you believe, as I do, that history will be kind to you guys?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. No, I do. I think -- I had the experience with Jerry Ford. I came in, went to work here the day he got sworn in as President, worked with him throughout his time there. I'll always remember, of course, what happened when he made the decision to pardon Richard Nixon. And he dropped 30 points in the polls in a week.

And at the time a lot of people were outraged about that decision. But, in fact, 30 years later we look back on it, and nearly everybody had come around to the point of view that it was exactly the right thing to do. It was a courageous thing to do, because he knew it might well cost him the next election in '76, but he went ahead and did anyway because he thought it was right for the country.

And I think there are parallels there in terms of George Bush. I think that when people have an opportunity to look back and sort of ignore the emotions of the moment, which tend to dominate now, especially in the mainstream media, and look with some time and be able to pause and reflect on it, that the decisions he has made and the things he has done in terms of liberating 50 million people and protecting the country and taking down a big part of the al Qaeda organization, et cetera, et cetera -- I think he will be well regarded.

Q: Did you happen to see George Stephanopoulos this weekend? President-Elect Obama was on and was asked about some advice that you had offered. And that is, well, now that the political season is over, it would be wise to put aside maybe even some promises and just stand on principle. And he thought that your advice was good advice. Did you see that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I didn't. But I saw a rerun of it later on, on another news show. Yes, I suggested that it was important in terms of making these decisions, especially about the policies we put in place to counter the terrorists, that they should not automatically run out there and implement policy based on campaign rhetoric; that they needed to pause and reflect and learn what we were doing and how we were doing it and what it had produced before they made those judgments. And he -- when asked, he said he thought that was good advice.

Q: What advice do you give the incoming President and Vice President? That would be Joe Biden.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, they -- the thing in terms of their relationship and how that's all going to work out, tends to be dominated more than anything else by the President himself and what it is he expects from his Vice President. Each one is a little different, a little unique. But over the years, especially in the last, oh, 20, 30 years, the vice presidency has sort of come into its own. It's a more significant job now than certainly it was in the early years of the Republic.

And how they handle that will -- generates a lot of speculation and so forth. But our experience has been that four hands are better than two, that you get an opportunity to get somebody who's got some experience as Joe Biden has, and give him some responsibilities, clearly the Vice President has the potential to make a contribution, as well.

Q: After eight years of being in office as the Vice President of the United States, you watched a very tough election unfold, and we at least hear what the guiding principles of Barack Obama are going to be. And in many ways they're the antithesis of many of the things that you fought so hard for in the last eight years. Does that worry you or concern you, be it on the economy or on national security?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I clearly disagree with him on a lot of major issues. I mean, I'm a conservative, he is a liberal by most standards. And so I think we are going to have our differences going forward. But I think like most Americans, in the early days of the administration here, we wish him well. We hope he succeeds in terms of addressing some of the major issues that face the country, like the economy and so forth.

But I expect there will be legitimate political debates going forward, where there are just fundamental differences between folks who hold my view and folks who support the President in terms of his policy views.

And that's as it should be. I mean, I -- a lot of people wring their hands about the fact that the Republicans now are not in power, and the Democrats have taken over the White House, as well as the House and Senate. I've been through these cycles before. That's what you get with a two-party competitive system, and it's basically fundamentally, long term, I think healthy for the country.

As I say, I don't think I'm going to like all the policies he is going to recommend, but people who have my views will have an opportunity at the next election to express them.

Q: Mr. Vice President, you kept this country safe, along with the President, for all the years and the days after 9/11. For that we owe you a great debt of gratitude. I know you woke up every morning and that was your number one priority. For the better part of the presidency and vice presidency our economy has been strong, unemployment low, inflation low, interest rates low, and we have two great Supreme Court justices. I think it's a great legacy.

I don't think the media gives you enough credit for it. But on behalf of those of us that are conservatives, we know you were there fighting every day for us and kept this country safe for us. And for that we owe you a debt of gratitude, and wish you only the best in all your future endeavors. And we hope we get to hear from you once in a while. We really look forward to it.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, Sean. You and your shows have been enormously important, a vital place where a lot of the debate takes place. So I want to wish you well in your new endeavors, and we'll watch with interest.

Q: Mr. Vice President, thank you for being with us. Vice President, Dick Cheney, thank you for being with us on The Sean Hannity Show.


END 2:16 P.M. EST

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

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