Radio Interview of the Vice President on the Chaz and AJ in the Morning Show
Office of Senator Joe Lieberman
Hart Office Building, Room 706
8:59 A.M. EDT
Q: Big time just walked in the room. Ladies and gentleman, the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney. Good morning, sir.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning, gentlemen.
Q: This is huge. Now, first of all I want to tell you, you know, the Secret Service walked in and handed me this pin and they said, well, you got to have this pin on because if the Vice President has to leave the room and then come back in, people who don't have a pin get taken out.
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: Right.
Q: So some guy walked in and I showed him my pin and I said, "Here's my pin." And then Megan introduced herself and said, okay, no pens; hands on the table. And I'm, like, are you serious?
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: Right.
Q: Then she said, no, just kidding. (Laughter.) She's a real joker.
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: I've been wanting to do this to you all for years, you know, hands on the table. (Laughter.)
Q: Hands on the table, say "Mother, may I?" (Laughter.)
Well, good morning, sir.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's good to be here.
Q: And you have a chair straightener.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I didn't know that.
Q: Apparently you do. She came in and she said, where will the Vice President --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think she works for Joe. (Laughter.)
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: She does. We've been meaning to tell you.
Q: She came in and said, where's the Vice President sitting? I pointed to your chair and she straightened it and walked away.
Q: I'm like, I want that job.
Q: Yeah, the chair straightener. Now is your nickname -- the President always has nicknames for people.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He does.
Q: Is your nickname "Big Time?"
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It was for awhile there.
Q: What is it now?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What is it now? Darth Vader, I think. (Laughter.)
Q: Well, that's original.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's what Senator Clinton dubbed here awhile ago. So I ask my wife about it, I said, doesn't that make you angry when they call me Darth Vader? She said, no, it humanizes you. (Laughter.) So that's the latest.
Q: That's good. That's good.
Q: Is your name pronounced Cheney or Cheney?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The family says Cheney with an "e." A lot of people say Cheney and it's close enough.
Q: Right, yeah, it just got to the point where you're tired of --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't argue about it one way or the other.
Q: And you went to Calvert Elementary School?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I guess that's right.
Q: Have you ever gone back there just to walk back through, hey, I'm the Vice President?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I did. A couple of years ago I was in Lincoln, Nebraska where I was born. I was there for a political event, and the candidate I was there to speak for arranged for my two kindergarten teachers to come visit me. This, of course, I was a lot older than I had been when I was in kindergarten. But they found them both. They were both still alive; and you might ask why I had two kindergarten teachers.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I got kicked out of one school and had to go to the other one. (Laughter.)
Q: Did you stay back?
Q: Well, you showed them, huh? (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's right. No, we had a great time. We went back to the old family place we'd moved into right after World War II when dad came home from the Navy and I was six or seven years old. And the woman still lives in it that we sold it to 50 years ago.
Q: And what do they say to you?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it was a lot of fun going back to the old neighborhood. There's still some people there I grew up with.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: A lot of stability in that community. You don't have as much turnover as you've got in a lot of communities. And so we went back and reminisced about old times.
Q: They must be proud of you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, they are. I think they probably are.
Q: Hey, I had this kid. He's the Vice President now. If you can't impress him this way, come on.
Q: So you were paying attention.
Q: Your mother was a softball star in the '30s?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: She was. She was from a small town in Nebraska; Syracuse, Nebraska. And in those days softball was big, and a women's sport as well during the Depression. And the Syracuse team twice won the state championship and went off to the nationals in Chicago.
Q: Holy smokes. What position did she play?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: She played second base.
Q: No kidding? Did you ever get involved in baseball, softball?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I did.
Q: And how good were you?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Not great, but good enough.
Q: That's nowhere on your resume.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good enough, yeah.
Q: And you went to Yale? And you know we're a Connecticut radio station so they're listening now. Is there anything you'd like to say to Yale University?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's funny. I went back years ago when I was Secretary of Defense. I was invited to come back and give a speech there in the commons. Joe knows it. Thousands of people, alums, and so forth. And I gave a speech and it was well received and so forth; and I was convinced that they never knew, when they invited me, that they had kicked me out 30 years before. (Laughter.)
So, no, I did two years at Yale and then left by mutual agreement. (Laughter.) But it wasn't Yale's fault. I didn't know what I wanted to do, and I went out and worked for awhile and then got serious about getting an education and went back to school.
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: So this is an encouragement for anybody who's ever been kicked out of college.
Q: You could become the Vice President.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't know what -- the President went up there right after we were elected. Of course he was a graduate of Yale, I think, with a 'C' average, and he said to the student body that day, the graduating class, he said, you know if you graduate from Yale with a 'C' average you can be President of the United States. He said, of course if you kicked out you can be Vice President. (Laughter.) So he reminds me of that periodically.
Q: I think you're the youngest White House Chief of Staff ever, is that right?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Pretty close. Hamilton.
Q: You were 34?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I was 34 when I took over. Hamilton Jordon was about the same.
Q: What were you doing when you were 34 years old? Living with your parents?
Q: No, no. I moved out when I was 33.
Q: Oh, okay. How did that happen?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, a lot of it was due to Watergate, frankly. I had worked here during the first Nixon term for Don Rumsfeld, and then left and went to the private sector after the first Nixon term, and then when Jerry Ford took over as President, he asked Rumsfeld to come back. He had gone to NATO as ambassador. He asked Rumsfeld to come back and run the transition and Don asked me to come back from the private sector and help out with the transition and it led, ultimately, to request for Rumsfeld to become Chief of Staff, and I became his deputy. A year later, Don went to the Pentagon as Secretary of Defense and I replaced him.
Q: What was that like being 34 years old?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It was remarkable. We were so busy we didn't have time to think about it. I was always convinced the President didn't know how young I was. (Laughter.) I can remember taking my folks in one day to visit him in the Oval Office, and went back in later after they had left and he kept commenting on how remarkably young my dad looked. (Laughter.) My dad was younger than he was.
Q: So I have some very important Vice Presidential questions I want to ask you. Where do you keep the UFOs? (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Area 51.
Q: See, I knew it. And would you go hunting with Dick Cheney? Wait a minute, that's for Senator Dodd. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Senator Dodd you're going to ask that? Well, Nino Scalia was just here. Nino and I have hunted together.
Q: You guys go hunting?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q: What do you go hunting for?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Ducks.
Q: And what do you use, shotguns?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q: 12 gauge, side-by-side?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I shoot a 20.
Q: Now we want to let these Secret Service guys know, we're talking about hunting here with the Vice President. And what's the biggest thing you ever shot and killed?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, I'm a bird hunter, basically, pheasant, duck, quail.
Q: Because I got a rifle when I was nine years old for Christmas and I went out hunting with my family, and all the men, we had all kinds of different guns. Some guys didn't have hunting guns, they had semi-automatic weapons; having a good time.
Q: What the hell were you hunting?
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: It was a great family. (Laughter.)
Q: All outstanding citizens. They were out in the woods and we're out there for hours and hours and hours and it's cold and we hadn't seen anything all day. Finally, this poor little squirrel comes running --
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: Oh, no.
Q: -- man, it ran up the tree. The top of that tree was gone. (Laughter.) It was great fun. You should try it some day, Mr. Vice President.
Q: And they all missed the squirrel.
Q: You met your wife when you were 14?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's when I first knew who she was. She didn't have anything to do with me until I was 17.
Q: And how did you propose? Were you romantic?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Actually, we dated in high school and a very steady relationship thereafter; got married when we were 23. And we can't remember who asked who. It just sort of happened. It seemed like a good idea, so we did it.
Q: Yeah, and Megan's sister wants to marry you.
Q: She's in love with you.
Q: She also loves your wife.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'll remember that.
Q: It would be a real different relationship.
Q: Yeah, she does. And she says she's such a good grandmother. I'm, like, how do you know? But she's a big fan.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good, well, thank you.
Q: Where were you when you first heard the news that we were under attack on 9/11/2001?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I was in my office in the West Wing and having a session with my speech writer, and called in from the outer office and told us a plane had hit the World Trade Center, so I turned on the T.V. and saw the first reporting of that. And as we watched, we saw the second plane go into the World Trade Center.
Q: That's when you knew?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's when we knew it was terrorism.
Q: I think everybody knew at that point.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: At that moment there wasn't any question.
Q: Then what happens then? People run in and grab you?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I had a conversation with the President, who was in Florida. He called me from Florida and we talked briefly about it. And shortly thereafter, my Secret Service agent, who was right outside the door, came in and grabbed me and said, sir, we have to leave immediately. And he grabbed me by the back of the belt and put a hand on my shoulder.
Q: Like he was going to throw you out the door. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There wasn't any question that I was going with him.
Q: You said, only my wife grabs me like this. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But they took me to a shelter underneath the White House, because at that time there was an aircraft, American Airline 77, inbound at a very high rate of speed for the space over the White House. They thought the White House might be a target. That's the one that hit the Pentagon.
Q: Holy smokes. This area that they brought you, had you ever been there before?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, I knew about it.
Q: You knew about it. Were you ever there?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, I've been there.
Q: So was there a reason or you were just touring the area?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: When I had seen it before?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, it was actually a part of the White House that was built during World War II. It was an underground facility that dates back to World War II.
Q: You guys have T.V. down there?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q: Pool table, ping-pong, foosball?
Q: Game Boy? (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, there was basically -- there's a table down there. The room is not much bigger than this, actually. And it was a place where, that day, we convened various key people. That's where I spent the day. It's called the Presidential Emergency Operations Center under the White House. Our Secretary of Transportation was there. We went through the whole exercise of taking all the aircraft down; having them all land; maintain communications with the President, of course; and that's where I spent the day.
Q: Will we ever catch bin Laden?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think so.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I really do. I think we've done a pretty good number on al Qaida. They're still out there, obviously.
Q: Well, bin Laden's not leading the good life now, cave to cave.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But Mike Hayden, our CIA director, gave an interview to the Post here -- I think it was last week -- a pretty good rundown of his take on the status of al Qaida and where we've succeeded and what the challenges still are. Nobody should relax. They're still out there; still working; trying to find ways to get at us. They haven't been able to, frankly, because of the good work of a lot of great people in the intelligence business; armed forces; some good decisions made by the President supported by the Congress.
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: The number three, -- I know that we got bin Laden and al-Zawahiri -- and then the number three operations person hasn't had a long life in al Qaida because of really tremendous work by folks working with us and allied governments.
Q: Do we kind of know where he is?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There are general ideas, but I mean, if we knew precisely obviously --
Q: Yeah, there'd be just scorched earth.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- but the general view is that he's in that area up in eastern Afghanistan, western Pakistan. That's some of the most rugged country in the world. If you've ever flown over it, it's really remarkably difficult terrain. And he's gone to ground. He doesn't communicate. But I think eventually we'll get him. And as Joe said, the most dangerous job in the world these days is being number three in al Qaida because they keep getting taken out. (Laughter.)
Q: Number three's the tough one.
Q: The benefit's got to be tough.
Q: We're talking to Vice President Dick Cheney. Looking back at the last seven years in office, do you have any regrets, besides not getting bin Laden?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, besides not getting bin Laden, no, not really. We'll have time to think about all that after we get through and sit down analyzing what worked and what didn't work. I feel very good about what we've done in some of the most controversial part of our policies, but in terms of the global war on terror, the fact that we've successfully defended the nation against further attack now for seven years, that's no accident. I think the progress we've made in Iraq and Afghanistan, a lot of that because of guys like Joe Lieberman, who've been willing to take tough stands, controversial stands, and support what they've believed in because they think it's the right thing to do; and especially the troops. You could never say enough good about the men and women in uniform.
Q: Yes, yes, God bless the American troops.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: They really are remarkable.
SENATOR LIEBERMAN: They're the greatest.
Q: We're going to be talking to Senator McCain, and he's right now in a Vice Presidential search, and I know that you conducted that for George Bush.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And Jerry Ford.
Q: I'm wondering how that went. You were in charge of the search and then George gets the papers and is like, hey, Dick, how come your name's on every page? (Laughter.)
Q: It's a typo, right? You were here and then you are again. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The way it actually worked was they talked to me about whether or not I was interested in the job originally, and I said, no, definitely not interested; and then they came back and said would you help us find somebody, and I said, sure, I'd be happy to do that. We got through doing the search. It took a couple of months, and at the end of the day, the President, after we reviewed all the candidates, looked at me and said, you know, you're the solution to my problem. I took that as a threat (laughter) and redoubled my efforts. He persuaded me that what he wanted and what he needed in a Vice President, that I fit the bill. So I was willing to give up private life, which I was enjoying at that point, and join in. I don't regret it for a minute. It's been a tremendous experience. He's been absolutely true to his word in terms of letting me get actively involved in the whole range of activities. And it's been well worth the effort.
Q: I'm being told you have to leave. I could talk to you all day. Thank you so much.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you.
END 9:14 A.M. EDT
Richard B. Cheney, Radio Interview of the Vice President on the Chaz and AJ in the Morning Show Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/286010