Interview of the Vice President by Sean Hannity, The Sean Hannity Show
The Vice President's Ceremonial Office
11:21 A.M. EDT
Q: Mr. Vice President, good to see you again.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sean, it's good to be on the show again.
Q: Here we go. Election is two weeks away. Predictions? You optimistic?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm optimistic. I think we'll hold both the House and the Senate.
Q: Let's talk about, for example, how close are you following these races? Do you look at the polls everyday? Are you that involved?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I do get regular reports on the races, the key targeted races around the country. I've done about 115 campaigns myself over the course of the campaign events in this election cycle, so I've been out to an awful lot of these contests. I know the candidates. I've had a look at the districts. So I do have an interest, obviously, and I think it's important because it's important for the country.
Q: Let's talk about some of the Senate races that everybody's watching pretty closely. Are there some you're more concerned about -- more than others? You got Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Montana, Rhode Island. Which ones are you concerned about?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We are focused on the races you mentioned, as well as a couple of others. I mean these are the ones I think everybody agrees on both sides are the targeted races, where they're most competitive. And probably half a dozen of those across the country, I've been in most of them. I haven't been in Rhode Island; I've been in all the others.
Q: Tennessee is a big race.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Tennessee is a big race, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Montana, and Rhode Island. Those are six that come to mind. But I also think New Jersey where we got a shot at picking up the Menendez seat, switching that over, and I think Maryland, where Michael Steele is running a good race against Ben Cardin, another Democratic seat that --
Q: Forty-six/Forty-six, SurveyUSA -- last poll; pretty close here. Let's talk -- do you think in many ways, because you have been out actively campaigning, is this a referendum in your view? Is this an election about the war? Is this about the administration? Is this about individual candidates? Is it a combination thereof? Your thoughts.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think it's a combination. I think there's a temptation and a tendency to focus at the national level in terms of the national media on the big issues, the ones that are sort of common threads around the country. And there we're talking about, obviously, the global war on terror, war in Iraq, the economy.
In other cases, you cannot divorce the fact that in many, many instances you're talking about people who have held office for a long time, issues at the local level, issues that may take on significance in a particular race that don't have anything at all to do with the national debate.
And I think sometimes we overestimate the extent to which these are national in scope because we try to bring some order and understanding to it. It's a normal kind of thing for politicians to do and for the press to do, but I don't think we should underestimate the extent to which a lot of these races will turn on local issues.
Q: I'm going to ask you some thoughts about Nancy Pelosi. She was on 60 Minutes this weekend. Among some of the things they pointed out that she has said about Republicans, the administration: Republicans are immoral, corrupt; they are running a criminal enterprise. She said she could say much worse than that if she wanted to, that the administration has no judgment, incompetent leaders -- and she also said that she wants to restore civility in Washington. Your thoughts and reactions?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it would seem to be a little inconsistent to use that kind of language on her adversaries and then talk about trying to restore civility. Nancy Pelosi is -- she's the Democratic leader in the House. She earned that post, ran for it, had to compete for it. I think, frankly, she helps our cause with that kind of talk, but also because of what she believes. I think Nancy is not in sync with the vast majority of the American people.
The Democrats in the House overwhelmingly opposed, for example, legislation that authorizes the Terrorist Surveillance Program that's let us intercept pending attacks against the United States; opposed overwhelmingly the legislation that set up the military commissions and authorized our ability to run a sophisticated interrogation program against al Qaeda. The Democrats in the Senate voted overwhelmingly and -- tried to filibuster the Patriot Act. The fact of the matter is there are fundamental differences, and Nancy represents what I think is that side of the Democratic party that has not been supportive of and does not believe in a really robust, aggressive prosecution of the global war on terror.
Q: You've mentioned that, and you mentioned the very specific things: the Patriot Act, the NSA surveillance program. Conferring rights to enemy combatants, I guess, would be another issue. If the Democrats are in power, I guess then it becomes a fundamental question, is America then less safe?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I -- in terms of what I think needs to be done to defend the country, I think we're better off because the President has made some very good decisions, and because we've had majority support in Congress. It's been a Republican Congress that has provided that support, and, as I say, the vast majority of Democrats on some of these key issues have voted against the tools that we've used to defend the country successfully now since 9/11 against further terrorist attacks.
Q: Iraq obviously is the most controversial issue of the administration. The big, I guess, debate that's going on now is over the phrase or the term -- the President has used it in the past -- "stay the course." Now people say, well, we seem to be changing that phrase. What specifically is the administration's position on that phrase, and what does that mean now?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the way I think about it, Sean, is what our objective is obviously. And it's to -- in Iraq to get the situation stabilized with good government, self government, for the Iraqis, with adequate Iraqi security forces to deal with the security threat. That's where we're headed. That's what it takes to complete the mission.
The process for getting there is to get the Iraqis actively involved in this process, to train and equip a 325,000-man force that's capable of providing that security. So I think about it in terms of completing the mission.
Now, strategy has stayed the same pretty much all the way down the road. That is giving the Iraqis a position where they could deal with their own affairs. We change tactics from time to time. We move forces around different areas. Sometimes we've had to beef up our forces in order to deal with anticipated violence when there were national elections. We recently moved troops into Baghdad to help deal with the Baghdad security threat. So we are flexible in terms of how we adapt and adjust to individual circumstances. That's the way I think about it.
Q: You know, you listen to the daily rhetoric on the war. I'm not talking about, for example, talk radio, or the new media, or the blog-o-sphere, but from the leaders -- the John Kerrys, the Pelosis, the Reids, the Ted Kennedys -- the continual use of calling the President and Vice President liars everyday. What impact do you think that, A, has on the war effort, and maybe public perception of the war? Has that campaign, which has been pretty vicious at times --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It has.
Q: -- has that campaign hurt the war effort? Has it hurt public perception of the war?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's made it very difficult obviously to create any kind of -- sort of bipartisan support for the ongoing effort. There has been some. Joe Lieberman, for example, has been a big supporter of the global war on terror. But for his troubles, he got purged from the Democratic Party in Connecticut.
Q: Are you supporting his reelection?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't want to harm Joe's chances or prospects, so I haven't said anything about his election campaign. But the fact of the matter is, the mood and tenor has been pretty vicious, without question.
The thing I worry about, though, and where I think it really has an impact is overseas. And when you think about the fact that the basic strategy of al Qaeda, of the terrorists is to break the will of American people, they fundamentally believe we don't have the stomach for the fight. And when we see this kind of conduct during the course of the campaign, that kind of verbiage used, those kinds of sort of really bitter, vicious comments made, I think what it does is it encourages our adversaries to believe that they're correct. It, in effect, validates their strategy. It leads them to conclude that if they just keep it up long enough that we won't have the stomach for the fight, that eventually we'll hang it up and go home.
Q: You actually said Osama bin Laden continues to predict the people of the United States simply do not have the stomach to fight and stay in the fight against terror.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q: That's all part of this debate. That's --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Exactly.
Q: Do you believe that if --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's his strategy. That's --
Q: -- Democrats get -- if they got control of the Congress, would they de-fund the war? Would they cut and run? Would they be successful?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, all I can go on is based on what they say, and based on their votes. We've seen their votes on the crucial matters for defending the nation in the last few weeks. They have to date, for the most part, give credit where credit is due, they have supported for the most part our funding request in terms of the defense budget and the supplemental that's been necessary to prosecute the war. So at this stage, I can't predict that.
I think -- but if you look at the record, you've got Jack Murtha, who is one of the leading Democratic spokesmen on military affairs. Jack basically wants to hang it up and pull the troops out. I think that would be a terrible mistake.
Q: Why isn't the economy -- look at unemployment, look at interest rates, inflation --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Look at the stock market.
Q: Stock market, new records. Why hasn't that been a bigger issue in the campaign?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we're eager to talk about it. I don't know that anybody else is. I spend about half of my remarks out on the stump talking about the economy because the track record is, I think, very, very good. I think an awful lot of it is due to the tax policy, what we did with taxes in the spring of '03, when we cut the rates on capital gains and dividends and reduced the marriage penalty and increased the child credit and so forth. I think the Democrats are committed, if they get in, to reversing those.
Charlie Rangel would become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and he's said he doesn't think a single one of the Bush tax cuts should be extended. He thinks they all ought to be terminated and be ended. So it is an important issue.
Trying to get people to focus on it, and to say, yes, the Republicans have done a pretty good job of managing the economy in spite of 9/11, in spite of recession, in spite of Katrina, and all of the turmoil, the economy has turned out to be very resilient. We've put good policies in place, and it shows in the results.
Q: Quick question about '08, I'll make it a multi-point question here: Has anybody approached you to run; do you think Hillary could be President; and what do you think about Barack Obama?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's going to take a lot longer than you've got on your show, Sean. I've made it very clear that I'm not a candidate, won't be a candidate. I'm not --
Q: Nobody has approached you, though, and said come on.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not coy about it. I made my decision a long time ago, and it's firm, final, fixed, irrevocable. I don't know how else I can say it. If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: With respect to the other candidates, how the Democrats are going to do, I don't know. I think it's going to be very interesting here on both sides in both parties because it's going to be wide open, obviously. I think Hillary Clinton is a formidable candidate.
Q: She could win?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think she could win. I hope she doesn't. I disagree with her on nearly all the issues, but nobody should underestimate her. She's a very serious candidate for President.
Barack Obama, attractive guy. Don't know him well, met him a few times. I think at this stage, my initial take on him was he's been two years as a senator. I think people might want a little more experience than that, given the nature of the times we live in. But certainly, he's an attractive candidate. If he decides to run, he'll be a player on the Democratic side.
Q: Let me ask you one last question because they're telling me my time is up. I look at the world situation now, and I've spoken to a lot of people, a lot of people are now using the analogy of the 1930s when we talk about evil in our time. Do you think that is an appropriate analogy? If we're talking about either Kim Jong-il and his pursuit of nuclear weapons, his defying of the world, or Ahmadinejad wanting to annihilate Israel and his pursuit of nuclear weapons; Islamic fascism and the threat, what we saw and witnessed on 9/11, and the possibility of terrorists getting a hold of nuclear weapons, are we dealing with a threat on the level of Nazism, fascism in your view?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's different, but it's deadly serious. If you think about what happens if a group of terrorists end up with the middle of one of our cities with a nuclear weapon, the casualties could rival all the losses we've had in 230 years of American history in our conflicts. And what is different, as well, too, is technology has changed so much now. It's possible for a few people to do devastating work with sophisticated modern technology, or a biological agent of some kind.
Sixty, 70, 80 years ago when we were worried about the Nazis, we were talking about a situation where -- obviously, deadly -- 50 million lives lost in World War II, but it took the work of vast armies to do that. Now because of modern technology, it's a whole different ball game. And you can have deadly capability and not even represent a state now, but just a group of terrorists living hidden in a society someplace, in Europe or someplace else that's basically friendly to the United States, that nonetheless has evil intentions and is prepared to kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of people.
So it's a different scale of threat in some respects. On the other hand, the consequences to modern society, what the damage that could be done to our economy, needless to say, those things are every bit as dangerous, I think, as the situations we faced in the past. It used to be we could retire behind our oceans and be fairly confident that we were safe and secure. That day is gone. We know in the aftermath of 9/11, that what's going on in the remote mountains of Afghanistan can ultimately lead to the deaths of thousands of Americans here at home.
Q: Well, my last thought here is, with that reality, are you as surprised as I am the country is so divided, and we're even debating the Patriot Act, even debating NSA surveillance, even debating securing the borders, in some respects? Is that somewhat shocking in light of the nature of the threat you're describing?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think it is. Of course, I have my view, and people say, well, that's just Cheney. He's the Darth Vader of the administration, always taking the dark view. I think we have to think about the consequences that could flow from these kinds of events and developments. And I'm sorry that there isn't more unity, if you will, in the nation in terms of how we address these issues. But the threat is very real. It's out there. And we need to do everything we can to make certain that we aren't struck again. And that requires the kind of bold, aggressive leadership the President has provided and the great support we've had in Congress. And unfortunately, at this stage, I think there's some jeopardy, depending on how the election comes out, as to whether or not we'll be able to continue those policies.
Q: Mr. Vice President, always good to see you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good to see you, Sean. I enjoy the show.
Q: I appreciate that, thank you, sir.
END 11:37 A.M. EDT
Richard B. Cheney, Interview of the Vice President by Sean Hannity, The Sean Hannity Show Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/285918