Transcript: Vice President Cheney on 'Larry King Live'
KING: We're in a very special room in a very special building, the old Executive Office Building. Our guest of the hour tonight is Vice President Dick Cheney.
We'll talk about this room a little later. But we've got to move to first things first, before we talk about 100-days, health or anything: Taiwan. Now we seem to have -- is it a difference of opinion? Is there a conflict inside the administration? What is our policy?
CHENEY: Well, the policy is as it has been now for a little over 20 years, since we extended diplomatic recognition to China, to the PRC, and that is that there is one China, both the mainland and Taiwan are part of it. And that's their interpretation as well, too.
But we have insisted over the years that any change in the status between Taipei and Beijing, in terms of a closer relationship and so forth, needs to be resolved by peaceful means. We've emphasized that over and over again.
KING: But when the president says, "We will do whatever it takes to defend Taiwan," whatever it takes means, I mean, hypothetically, if the mainland did something of a contrary nature to Taiwan, we would send troops?
CHENEY: It's to reinforce the notion, to make it very clear to the mainland -- because, in effect, as I look at it, they've been changing their posture over the course of the last few months.
We've seen a number of trends that indicate or that would seem to indicate, they're not as committed or haven't been as committed to the notion of a peaceful process, as they've been in the past. There's been a big buildup in military capability, in missiles deployed along the mainland coast.
KING: Directed at Taiwan?
CHENEY: Directed at Taiwan. We've seen a much more aggressive treatment, for example, of their fighters of our surveillance aircraft.
KING: So you were issuing a warning, in a sense?
CHENEY: We issued a warning last December on a surveillance aircraft, that, in effect, when they flew too close, we put a demarche -- the Clinton administration did that, of course.
Subsequent to that, we had the accident where they actually flew into one of our planes, killed their pilot and nearly killed 24 of ours.
What the president did was simply reiterate and make very clear to the Chinese that we're very serious about wanting to see whatever transpires between Taipei and Beijing, in terms of moving closer together be handled through peaceful means rather than resort to violence.
KING: If I call you "Dick," forgive me. We've known each other for a long time.
KING: We're in the same club, we're in the same heart thing. I'll never forget that night, talking to you.
CHENEY: I remember it very, very well.
KING: We sat in New Orleans, in the Republican Convention, we sat on the stairwell. Dick Cheney asked me to explain everything about heart surgery. He wanted to know.
CHENEY: Well, mine was slated about 36 hours later, and you were the expert. You'd been through it already.
KING: I've been through it.
All right, back to this. How do we define, "Whatever it takes," because that's what is causing all the furor? The president did say, "Whatever it takes." Whatever it takes means whatever it takes.
CHENEY: I don't think it should cause a furor. I think that the appropriate way to look at it is, the United States clearly has the capacity to come to the assistance of Taiwan should they be threatened by the mainland.
We saw, in 1996, during the Clinton administration, when the mainland launched rockets in a threatening direction, ballistic missiles at Taiwan, off the coast, we sent two U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups as a reminder to the Chinese of this policy.
And what the president has done is to reiterate that very strong determination on our part, that there should not be a resort to force by the mainland in order to try to pull Taiwan closer.
KING: In other words, "If you do something, expect consequences."
CHENEY: Absolutely, and people talk about diplomatic ambiguity, and of course, there has been some ambiguity there over the years. But in this particular case, especially given what appears to be a somewhat more threatening posture of the mainland toward Taiwan over the last few months, ambiguity may be exactly the wrong thing to do.
And to make it very clear that we're serious about seeing them proceed without resorting to force is, we thought, very important to do.
KING: Is this the human factor, or is Taiwan a national security?
CHENEY: Well, I think from the standpoint of the Chinese, obviously, it's a very important issue, but the United States has had a relationship now with Taiwan, going back as long as there has been a PRC, of course.
And if you go back and look at it, of course, it used to be the island of Formosa, at the beginning of World War II was occupied by the Japanese, and they launched air strikes against the Philippines out of here. After the war and at the time of the revolution on the mainland, a large number of Chinese moved to Taiwan. Representatives of the Chinese government, for example, at the time, we had a historic relationship with.
Over the years, that's evolved. In 1971, of course, President Nixon went with the opening to China. In 1979, President Carter shifted and recognized -- extended diplomatic recognition to the mainland. They took over the U.N. security seat that had belonged to China. In 1989, of course, there was the dust-up over Tiananmen Square that really damaged the relationship for a period.
In '92, we sold 150 F-16s to Taiwan. So what we've done more recently on the Taiwan arms sale is the continuation of that policy that's been in place for some years now.
KING: Well, we're not selling them the strongest strategic weapons, right?
CHENEY: Well, what we sold -- they submit a list, basically, of what they'd like to have, and what happens is, the administration goes through that. We review it. We decide to go forward on some of the systems they requested that we think they can use and that are available and that are consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act.
KING: So it's a human element as our friend, rather than Taiwan being in the security interest of the United States?
CHENEY: Well, that's true, but I think it's important to recognize, in that part of the world, the United States is forward- deployed. We've got and have had forces in Japan since the end of World War II. We've been in Korea for over 50 years. And peace and the stability in the western Pacific and that part of Asia depends very much upon a continued U.S. presence and upon everybody in the area being comfortable that none of the nations out there has hostile intent toward any others.
KING: But there's nothing about what President Bush said that you changed?
KING: We'll be right back with Vice President Dick Cheney on the -- near the 100 days already. Where did it go?
KING: We've got lots of bases we want to cover with Vice President Cheney.
Were you happy with the outcome of the plane situation, about which your friends at the Weekly Standard called a "profound national humiliation"?
CHENEY: Well, I still have some friends, I think, at the Weekly Standard, but I fundamentally disagreed with the way they characterized it.
No, it was one of those events that should not have happened. It happened because the Chinese flew too close to our aircraft, but I thought it was well-managed.
To give the Chinese something here, they were as surprised as we were when our plane landed at their airfield. And it took them a while, I think, to get around to the right response, but in the end it got sorted out in pretty good shape.
They've still have our airplane. We want the airplane back.
KING: And how are those discussions going?
CHENEY: Well, there have been a number of meetings in Beijing, headed up with our ambassador, and I'll expect there will be continued conversation. But eventually, we do expect to see the return of the aircraft.
KING: Two polls, both from CNN-USA Today-Gallup: 62 percent approved of the way the Bush administration is doing the job; 63 percent say big business has too much influence. How do you react to those two seeming contradictions?
CHENEY: Well, I like the first one. I think that's very good.
KING: Does big business have a lot of clout here?
CHENEY: No, I don't think so, not any more than it ought to have. The backbone of the American economy is made up of small businesses, basically, and the president talks about that a lot.
Our tax proposals, for example, is really targeted on individuals, on American workers and families, not on corporations. We're not reducing the corporate rate. We're not cutting the capital gains tax, although that might be a good move down the road.
The fact of the matter is, it's very much, I think, focused on people and individuals and families, as an administration, more than we are for big corporations.
KING: So why the public perception, do you think?
CHENEY: Well, I don't know. I suppose, in part, because we're Republicans. I used to...
CHENEY: I used to run a major corporation before I came back into government again, but I'm proud of that. I think we've got some of the world's great companies that started as small businesses.
The company I ran started with one guy, with four employees and the oil patch in Duncan, Oklahoma, in 1919. By the time I was running it, we had over 100,000 employees in 130 countries. So there are a lot of success stories like that. And all of those big companies that started out, at one point, as small businesses.
KING: Maybe part of it is when we hear stories that maybe Justice is going to pull back in its enforcement of actions against tobacco. Are they?
CHENEY: I don't know yet. You'd have to ask General Ashcroft.
KING: But that could lead to the perception, couldn't it?
CHENEY: It could. But, again, you have to be careful, I think, in terms of deciding always that the government is the enemy of big business, vice versa. Sometimes corporations do things that are inappropriate. They ought to be prosecuted when they do that.
And the administration in this case, the attorney general's got to decide how he wants to handle the...
KING: And that's his decision?
CHENEY: His decision.
KING: Daschle, Tom Daschle, the Democratic leader, said the other day, "Under FDR" -- he was discussing the first 100 days -- "all we had to fear is fear itself. Now, we have to fear arsenic in drinking water, pollutants in the air, drilling in public lands, rollback of women's rights, workers' rights, return of crippling deficits."
Dick Gephardt said that the first 100 days, "can be summed up in one word, disappointment." How do you react overall to that statement?
CHENEY: Well, I think that's proof positive that we need to change the tone in Washington. I think that's exactly one of the reason George Bush got elected president, is that kind of, sort of, partisan, vitriolic statement that doesn't move things forward, doesn't contribute to any dialogue. It's just a blatant partisan crack, I think, frankly. I didn't think much of it.
KING: Were you disappointed in it?
CHENEY: Well, I, frankly, I've come to expect it. I've spent enough years here, Larry, to understand that that goes with the turf. I think we have made significant progress on this president's watch. And now we're close to coming to fruition of having the biggest tax cuts on the American taxpayers in a generation.
KING: Less than you wanted, though?
CHENEY: Well, less than we wanted. We originally asked for $1.6 trillion, but we knew eventually we'd have to compromise. And we'll end up with a good strong package that will, in fact, return significant dollars back to the American taxpayers, and that's what we argued on.
KING: How about the appraisal, though, even those -- and many, even conservative newspapers that have praised the Bushes in many area. Have said that in one area, whether it's P.R. or they agree with you, the environment you've looked weak.
CHENEY: Well, but I disagree with that assessment. No question, we've been criticized. But if you go look at the facts in each, everyone of these cases, for example, the argument over drilling on public land, there's been drilling on public lands in this country for a very, very long time.
KING: Nothing new?
CHENEY: Absolutely nothing new there. The debate now is going to be over ANWR, whether or not we ought to go forward with the development of ANWR. But that's a classic example of a lot of emotion creeping into the argument and a lot of distortions, frankly.
ANWR is the 19 million acres in Alaska. About 8 percent of that, along the coast, was originally intended to be looked at and developed for oil and gas when we created ANWR, in connection with the Alaska Native Claims Act in 1982. So it's always been anticipated that at some point, we go look at that.
Out of that total of 19 million acres, an area roughly the size of South Carolina, the amount of the surface disturbance that would be required to develop the oil and gas resources there is about 2,000 acres; it's smaller than Dulles Airport, outside Washington. So, important to put that in perspective. When somebody comes and says, "You want to despoil 19 million acres of wilderness in Alaska, that's just -- that's hoorah.
KING: I guess the big hullabaloo, certainly revolves around arsenic in the water, and Christie Todd Whitman apparently saying something that the administration disagrees. That started this kind of P.R...
KING: ... downside.
CHENEY: The arsenic in the water.
Remember what happened here now. At the tail end of the Clinton administration we saw the president dump out a whole bunch of decisions at the very last minute. Among those, for example, dozens of pardons, many of which were highly questionable. He also made a number of a policy decisions and issued a number of orders at the tail end of the administration, I think some of which were equally questionable.
So our obligation when it came into review those, and one of those had to do with arsenic in the water. The current standard is 50 parts per billion. Arsenic is a naturally occurring substance. You'll find some in all water -- has some arsenic in it. The question is, how much can be tolerated from the health standpoint?
The Clinton administration, last minute, took it from 50 parts per billion, down to 10 parts per billion. We think it probably ought to be lower, but we wanted to review before we decided it ought to be 10 parts per billion. The problem if you go too low, there's a lot of small municipalities out there simply can't afford the equipment to achieve those levels...
KING: You think 50's too high, though?
CHENEY: I think 50's probably too high. But if they go outside and you get individuals who can't afford to pay the cost of those systems -- treatment systems, then they end up using their own water supply, and lots of times may have 100 or 200 parts per billion, and there's a much more unhealthy situation. So it merits careful review.
KING: You mentioned pardons, Denise Rich will be our guest on Monday night. Just thought I'd throw it in.
We'll be right back with Dick Cheney. Don't go away.
KING: OK. Certainly, we've got to worry about energy. Gas prices are soaring, crisis in California, summer coming, many predicting a very warm summer. What's the energy strategy?
CHENEY: Well, the president's put together a Cabinet committee, asked me to chair it. And we're now working aggressively to come up with a set of recommendations for him.
KING: How close are you?
CHENEY: Well, we're pretty close. We should have something to him within the month.
The key here is to recognize this is a long-term problem. We didn't get here overnight, and it'll take time to sort it out. There's almost nothing you can do to produce a lot more kilowatts short-term for California, for example. They're going to have to go through a tough summer. We'll do everything we can to help, and we have done everything the governor's asked us to do.
But the key out there, eventually, is to increase supply and/or reduce demand. That's the way you deal with it.
KING: More nuclear plants?
CHENEY: More nuclear may be required.
I think the important thing to recognize is that we can both produce the energy we need for our economy, and at the same time take care of the environment. A lot of the debate gets couched in terms of, "Well, either you're going to have energy, or you're going to take care of the environment." And the answer is technology. We've gotten very good at reducing pollutants, for example, cleaning up smoke stack emissions, cleaning up the air and water. We've got a lot of success stories there to talk about as a government and a nation, over the last several years.
But it's also true, at the same time, we know, for example, we're going to need build at least 1,300 new power plants over the next 20 years.
KING: Money coming from where?
CHENEY: Well, the private sector.
And the government clearly has a role, in terms of regulations that we have here. If we decide we want to pursue nuclear again, I think it's important to look at that from an environmental standpoint. It's the one way to generate electricity that does not produce greenhouse gas emissions.
KING: Why are gasoline prices so high?
CHENEY: Gasoline prices are high partly because we got very limited refinery capacity in this country. We haven't built a new refinery in 25 years.
KING: So we're dependent on others.
CHENEY: Well, we're dependent, first of all, on a lot -- about half of our crude now is imported from overseas, about 54 percent. Now, we're starting to import some product, refined product, because of our limited capacity with respect to refineries.
But we also want clean air, so we've imposed a lot of requirements with respect to the type of gasoline and the additives that are required in certain jurisdictions around the country. That's a much more complex product to produce. It costs more to produce it. There are more requirements on the companies that produce it so that it meets the clean air standards.
KING: You agree, though, the public always thinks they're being ripped off by oil companies?
CHENEY: I think that's generally true that they think that, yes.
KING: How does the government know they're not?
CHENEY: Because the Federal Trade Commission, for example, has the authority to go in and investigate if, in fact, there are allegations of price gouging. This happens year after year. It happened last year. Last summer there were charges of price gouging. The FTC went in and looked at it, and found absolutely no evidence to support it.
The fact is, if we look at the higher price we're paying for energy, it has a lot to do with the fact that our supplies are limited. We don't have any surpluses now, because we have made it more difficult. We also want clean air and clean water, so we've got certain requirements that we impose to achieve that and we have to pay for it.
KING: Don't we always have a lot of oil in the ground?
CHENEY: There's a lot of oil in the ground...
KING: Being held?
CHENEY: Well, we've got the strategic reserve, of course, down in the Gulf Coast. But over time, we used to import about a third of our oil, now it's over half of our oil; 20 years from now it'll probably be two-thirds of our oil. Because we've got the world's largest economy. People love to drive, we drive a lot. We like to drive big SUVs. And the fact is that we consume more energy, each one of us, than any other country in the world. It's got to come from someplace, and we import a lot of that from overseas.
KING: Enjoying this job?
CHENEY: I'm having a great time.
KING: What surprises you?
CHENEY: I guess the thing, of course, I'd been involved in politics and government for 25 years, then left for eight years and now back.
KING: But you've never been vice president before.
CHENEY: Never been vice president before. This is my fifth tour of the executive branch, third time in the White House. The thing that's different I think is partly your business, Larry. It's gotten to be so much more, much bigger volume than when I was here.
KING: All news all the time.
CHENEY: All news all the time.
KING: When you were here, what was it, three networks?
CHENEY: When I was here in the Ford administration, there was no CNN. We had three networks. That was all and a couple of
KING: Six o'clock, got your news and that was it.
CHENEY: That's it and everybody went home and turned on...
KING: So this changed the way you have to do things.
CHENEY: Now it's 24 hours a day. CNN is always there, all the time and stories break much more rapidly, much faster and there's a huge appetite for news out there, because there are so many news outlets. That's probably one of the biggest differences.
KING: We'll be right back with more of Dick Cheney. We'll talk about his health and lots of other things on this -- I don't know why 100 days became important. Maybe he knows why. He's been around. AL BREAK)
KING: We're back with Vice President Cheney. Why is 100 days important? Why not 110?
CHENEY: Well it goes back to the first-to the Roosevelt administration 1933 when FDR came in, did all those sweeping things.
CHENEY: The country was in terrible shape. This was the absolute depths of the depression; the stock market had crashed; banks were failing all across America; unemployment was 25 percent and rising. And they really had a series of crises and the president came in with a whole raft of proposals which they got through Congress very rapidly in those days.
KING: When they say you're the most "powerful" vice president ever -- you have more to say than any other vice president, how do you react?
CHENEY: Well, I'll let others make those judgments. I...
KING: You feel powerful?
KING: Don't feel powerful.
CHENEY: Don't feel powerful. When you're in one of these jobs you know, there's the perception perhaps from the outside that you're powerful. On the inside, you're not sure of the leverage you're connected to anything. I mean, you deal with difficult problems: try to move the Congress; shape public opinion; deal with a difficult international situation -- and it's usually three yards in a cloud of dust. There aren't very many home runs in this business.
KING: No, there aren't, right? This is not a profit and loss business, right?
KING: There's no, wow, we did great today.
CHENEY: Lots of times, there are arguments over whether or not it was a success.
KING: No one is going to agree with everyone 100 percent of the time.
KING: How do you deal with those moments -- and I know you're not going to tell me publicly -- but, those moments when you do disagree with the president?
CHENEY: Well, I signed on with him, with the understanding that I would have the chance to tell him, whatever I thought. And he's...
KING: And he's very attuned...
CHENEY: And he wants that.
KING: He wants that.
CHENEY: Now, he doesn't always agree what -- what I contribute and return for getting the chance to tell him what I think is, in turn, once he's made the decision, to go out and support it. And that's a fair deal. If we weren't simpatico in many respects -- if we didn't agree on a lot of basic philosophical questions -- he would never have picked me to be his vice president. So we started from, I think, from a common understanding of, of sort of how we look at the world, but different experiences. He comes out of the world of state government; I came out of the world of federal politics and business. But, together, it's -- it works pretty well.
KING: So, when you -- when you do disagree, you win some, lose some? Like any other...
CHENEY: Like anybody else in the administration, the president makes the key decisions. He's the guy in charge and we all work for him -- so we all get a shot to tell him what we think.
KING: Cabinet members have been complaining about lack of deputies. What are we doing with that?
CHENEY: It take a long time, unfortunately, to get people on board these days.
CHENEY: Because the confirmation process has gotten so complicated and the full field...
KING: Security checks.
CHENEY: Security checks; full field FBI investigations; the financial disclosure requirements; very complex confirmation process on Capitol Hill. So it is... We have fewer people confirmed now. We got the cabinet in very rapidly, but it...
KING: But it makes it harder to do their job, doesn't it?
CHENEY: Oh, yes. I mean, Don Rumsfeld is over at the Defense Department at this point and still basically only two people confirmed: himself and his deputy. And you've got 40-some presidential level slots over there that he -- we picked people for. The nominations are going forward with the Congress; now it's up to the Senate to confirm.
KING: Is this more now or less than in the past, or is it unusual?
CHENEY: It's always been. It's been...
KING: Does it have something to do with the Florida vote?
CHENEY: No, well, it -- it, the Florida recount might have affected some because we lost several weeks there, after the election, during which we didn't have the Cabinet in place. We moved as rapidly as we could and we actually got the Cabinet confirmed about as fast as it's ever been done. But, the cabinet members weren't in place back in November and December, when they could begin starting to pick their subordinates. And, until we got them in place, then they couldn't really move to the next stage.
KING: So how do you catch up to that?
CHENEY: Well, you know, we do the very best we can. We -- the president's heavily involved in. The personnel shop is. We made an awful lot of choices. And we've got probably upwards of 100 nominations now, pending on the Hill with confirmation and a lot more to come very fast.
KING: Do you help speed it up? I mean, do you make calls? I mean, you're a veteran of...
CHENEY: Occasionally -- sure. Occasionally we'll call a committee chairman and say, look, you know, we've got a problem here. How soon can we schedule his hearings? And we really need to move on this. And they're trying hard, too. I mean, they've got obligations and responsibilities to me. So I mean to criticize the Senate.
KING: More with Dick Cheney, vice president of the United States. Denise Rich on Monday. We'll be right back.
KING: We're back on this Friday night with Dick Cheney. We're halfway through -- lots of other things to discuss. But now your health. How you doing?
KING: We all worry.
CHENEY: Well, I appreciate that. I hear from a lot of people out there around the country who have offered up their prayers and their hopes and best wishes for my health. But I'm doing those things that a prudent man needs to do. I've lost about 20 pounds. My food supply is controlled by my wife. And the stewards at the residence take good care of me, regular exercise. So I feel great, Larry.
KING: I was at the hospital a few days after you were visiting George Washington, where I had my heart attack. We have a lot in common.
KING: And I was in the cath lab where you had your catheterization, they did your angioplasty. I spoke to your doctor. And he said that it wasn't as bad as they first thought.
CHENEY: Correct. Well, there was a -- but part of what happened back in November, of course, was they actually changed the standard for determining what's a heart attack and what isn't. But it was a very, very mild episode. It was only as a result of having changed that standard and having better data today than we used to have, that you would even call it a heart attack. But they did, and...
KING: And then the recent episode, they said it wasn't.
CHENEY: The recent episode was in part a response to that original treatment. They put in a stent and got some scar tissue, which happens in about 40 percent of the cases. They went back in and cleared that out, and I haven't had any problems since. I may have to go back again at some point for another procedure.
KING: You jump, though, at pain, right? We all do.
CHENEY: Yes, and I've never had -- I'm sure the same is true for you, Larry -- you become very sensitive to what's going on.
KING: Oh, do I. And you think sometimes, you get false...
CHENEY: You occasionally get false feelings, but it's never been intense pain, but it doesn't take much to trigger, and say, "Well, I better go have it checked."
KING: You do the smart thing.
KING: Maybe this is out of kilter, but everyone has an opinion on it. What do you make of the Bob Kerrey story?
CHENEY: Well, I...
KING: You were secretary up there...
CHENEY: I was secretary of defense, and I worked with Bob Kerrey when he was in the Senate. I think he's a fine man, a good senator. And he's, obviously, going through a very difficult patch here in terms of his recollections of his Vietnam War experiences.
I think it behooves those of us who have not been through that experience, and who did not have to go through what Bob Kerrey went through, to be very, very cautious about trying to judge now something that happened 32 years ago.
I take him at his word that it was a very, very difficult thing that he had to go through. It's a reminder for everybody that war is a terrible thing, that very bad things do happen once you unleash the dogs of war, and it's why we take so seriously the responsibilities of a secretary of defense, for example, before you recommend to a president that he commit troops.
KING: Can you also understand his argument that it was not political that he didn't discuss this before? This was just 32 years of a dark period that...
CHENEY: And I'm sure Bob Kerrey's not alone. I mean, there are a lot of veterans out there tonight from World War II or Korea who've had similar experiences and never talked about it.
And it's -- I would say we need to be very cautious about people rushing out trying to make judgments. Bob, I think, has been very forthcoming and forthright in terms of a very painful episode in his life. It happened at a time when he was serving his country, and he served it very ably and very well, as a volunteer in the Navy SEALS, and we ought to respect that.
KING: On last night's guest, what do you make of Commander Scott Waddle?
CHENEY: Well, that's a real tragedy. Of course, what happened was the loss of life, the nine Japanese. He obviously feels terrible about it. He's taken responsibility for it. He took the hit, which is, in fact, the right thing to have happen.
It's just a tragedy that a man as able and competent as he is, on the fast track in terms of the Navy, should have his career ended. But as he himself said, that's the right outcome. But I think, you know, he's got a lot of good years left, and he'll land on his feet.
KING: It is -- I don't know if "strange" is the word -- but one little incident could change your whole life.
CHENEY: Well, in the military, again, you're in command of a nuclear submarine, and the lives not only of your crew, but others around you, are in your hands and you can't afford mistakes. You can't afford foul-ups, especially those that cost lives. And so the standards have to be very high, and there have to be consequences for failure.
KING: And he said he was very proud of the way the administration handled this whole thing.
We'll be right back with more of Dick Cheney and more things to talk about. This administration is 100 days old. It seems like it's been 100 days. Has it been fast, by the way?
CHENEY: It's gone very fast.
KING: Right back with Dick Cheney. Don't go away.
KING: The president's going to make a major speech next week about missile defense. He's expected to announce a plan for a defense system, linking deployment to a cut in nuclear armaments. Any advance you can give us on this? Come on.
CHENEY: Well, no. One of the things I learned, Larry, is you don't preempt the boss on something like this.
But it is -- the general area we've talked about, the president talked about during the campaign. The world has changed. We've moved away from the old bipolar confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is no more, and no longer is the kind of threat that they represented for so many years. And we can move off that onto a regime now that takes into account the need to deploy defenses.
Of course, as the president said during the campaign and we've made very clear, there is an emerging ballistic missile threat out there in other countries, from Third World countries trying to acquire these weapons -- Iraq, Iran, Libya, others who've tried to acquire ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction to go on them.
That's a new development. We need to be able to defend ourselves, as well as our friends and allies against that. Think about what would have happened in the Gulf crisis in '91 if, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, he had had ballistic missiles targeted upon some of our allies in Europe or elsewhere in the Middle East, and had been able to hold them at risk.
I doubt very much that we would have had the kind of international support we had for rolling back his aggression out of Kuwait.
It's important that we not allow a nation that has hostile intent to acquire that kind of capability to be able to interfere, frankly, with the policies and actions of our friends and allies.
KING: Will that be some sort of shield?
CHENEY: We need defenses. Technically, we think they're very feasible, but the president will talk about this next week.
KING: Next week. Do you know when?
CHENEY: I believe Tuesday.
KING: Can you say unequivocally that our policy in the Middle East is even-handed?
CHENEY: I think it is. I think that if we look at what's transpired there we've made major progress, partly as a result of the Gulf War and coming out of that, that led to the Madrid Conference, the peace conference got started between the Israelis and Palestinians. And unfortunately, over the course of the last year, the things have really run off the tracks. And we have now...
KING: Way off.
CHENEY: Way off. And we've had a period now where the prospects that appeared so bright there for a while don't appear to be as bright today, and the key is to reduce the level of violence on both sides.
We've been trying hard to do that. The United States cannot impose a settlement, but we are actively engaged. The president's made a number of calls out there. We've visited with a great many of the Mideast leaders who've been through. President Mubarak has been here, for example. The president of Lebanon last week.
KING: Why not Arafat?
CHENEY: Well, up to this point, that hasn't been something that we felt would definitely move the process forward. But it may be...
KING: Do you expect him to come?
CHENEY: It may be appropriate at some point, but we don't have anything scheduled at this time.
KING: But either side can know that you're not favoring one side or the other?
CHENEY: No, we're trying very hard to move the process forward. And the only peace process that can last here by way of a settlement is something they both agree to. Outsiders can't come in and say, "You will do the following." They're the ones that have to abide by it. And if either side is uncomfortable or unhappy with it, then there's likely to be a resort to violence and that will be the end of peace.
KING: Can you say we are less aggressive than the Clinton folk were?
CHENEY: Well, I think Bill Clinton had a style of...
KING: Going there, getting people going there.
CHENEY: And getting personally engaged and involved.
KING: Hands on.
CHENEY: A hands-on kind of thing, and that's not always the right way to go. What you end up with I think in that situation was the perception that somehow he was trying to impose a solution. And I don't think he could do that.
The president's made clear -- President Bush has made clear -- we're very, very interested in doing everything we can to facilitate a settlement, but it has to be acceptable to both sides.
KING: An awfully ticklish part of the world, though.
CHENEY: It is, a very complex part of the world, a long history of violence and bloodshed, several wars.
KING: As Clinton has told people, his biggest disappointment was. But he also never saw people more in conflict than he saw in the Middle East.
CHENEY: True, well, and the fascinating thing was, Larry, the day of the inaugural when President Bush and I came over to the White House and met with President Clinton and Vice President Gore, and then we all went to the Hill for the swearing-in ceremony, right up to the very last minute, President Clinton was talking about his disappointment and frustration at his inability to get this matter resolved.
KING: What was that day like for you, by the way? CHENEY: Well, it was wet. It rained a lot that day. But it was a tremendous day to be sworn in with President Bush.
KING: The kid from Wyoming.
CHENEY: The little kid from Wyoming. I sat up there on the stands with the president and his family and my family, looked out over the Mall and remembered the first day I'd come to Capitol Hill, back in 1968. I was a very green, recent student -- graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, came to go to work on the Hill, and I didn't know how the bus system worked. I actually had to walk all the way from downtown to Capitol Hill because I couldn't figure out how to transfer buses.
KING: I'm sure some psychic stopped you and said, "Some day, you're going to be vice president."
CHENEY: But to be back 30-some years later as vice president of the United States, that was...
KING: By the way, did the Gores handle it well, the transition?
CHENEY: They did, very well. Vice President Gore and his wife Tipper graciously had us over to the house and walked us through, showed us everything that was there so we could make plans in terms of moving in. And they were very gracious under difficult circumstances.
KING: More with Dick Cheney right after this.
KING: We're back with Vice President Cheney. The House has approved a bill to make it a federal crime to harm or kill a fetus during an assault. The vote, pretty big, 252-172. Supporters maintain this is not related to abortion. Do you relate it to abortion?
CHENEY: Well, I think as it's been defined by the folks who wrote the legislation, the debate, it specifically targeted the problem when a woman who is pregnant, the child, the fetus is injured, obviously murdered as has happened in some cases, killed. And what this bill would do is make that an offense.
KING: I'm sure...
CHENEY: I do agree with it. I think it's being debated in some circles as somehow having to do with abortion, but I think the supporters of it believe that it's not.
KING: Is abortion high on this administration's list of...
CHENEY: The president and I have both made it clear during the course of the campaign that we support the pro-life position, that we're opposed to abortion.
But the president's made it clear as well, during the campaign and I think the way he's conducted himself since, that we hope to be able to reach across the aisle here and try to reduce the incidence of abortion. There ought to be some areas out there where those who are pro-life as well as those who are pro-choice ought to be able to come together in certain areas, perhaps here, for example, given the vote in the House, and find ways to deal with these issues.
KING: How well, in this short time, is this administration dealing with gay America?
CHENEY: Well, I think that gay Americans have many of the same interests that everybody else does. They're interested in how high their taxes are, and they're interested in a strong, stable government, good education, a strong school system. I mean, I think there are a series of concerns out there from the standpoint of the administration looking at the gay community that...
KING: There's a big gay Republican organization.
CHENEY: There is a large gay Republican organization, Log Cabin Republicans.
One of the issues that's been important, obviously, to the gay community here is AIDS. Now, the international situation with respect to AIDS is truly tragic, what's happened in Africa especially. There it's more focused on transmitted by heterosexual...
KING: Yes. You appointed a gay to head the agency.
CHENEY: Exactly. And there's no litmus test in this administration. We do think it's very important to deal with some of these kinds of issues.
KING: The Supreme Court, the federal judges, there should be a whole bunch of them coming along pretty soon, right, announcements?
CHENEY: Well, nobody has announced a retirement yet. There's been a lot of speculation.
KING: But how about in the federal bench?
CHENEY: There are a lot of vacancies on the federal bench and the district court level and the circuit court level.
KING: No litmus test there?
CHENEY: No. We're going to look for -- the president is looking for people who are strict constructionists, that is who believe in interpreting the Constitution, not in making law from the bench.
But he's always said that. If you look at his appointments in Texas, he made four Supreme Court appointments in Texas, and I think they've generally been judged to be good appointments.
KING: There's a thin line, right, between what is interpreting and what is -- I mean, they're all saying they're interpreting, right? CHENEY: But it is important. The legislative function resides in the Congress. That's where we ought to make law. The role of the courts is to serve to interpret it and resolve disputes, and where you draw that line is important. These are important discussions.
KING: What's it like having a 50-50 Senate?
CHENEY: Fascinating. Every time I go up to have lunch with the Senate Republicans, which I try to do a couple times a month, I sometimes get a standing ovation. The first time it happened, I was amazed. I'm a former House member; senators aren't all that polite to House members. Then they explained to me that my presence there is what makes it possible for each of our Republican chairmen to be chairmen of their committees. If I wasn't there, if Joe Lieberman were vice president, then it would be 51-50 the other way and all of those chairs would be held by Democrats.
KING: You once described this economy -- you -- as dark clouds. Is the sun peeping through?
CHENEY: Well, I hope so.
KING: Hope or think?
CHENEY: Hope so. I think the jury's still out in terms of whether or not we'll actually get into a recession. And, of course, the president looks at all of the data that's available there, we listen to a lot of economists. I've met with a number of outside economists, as well as folks inside.
KING: Don't know?
CHENEY: We don't know for sure. Clearly, there's been a significant slowdown. It started last year. We saw it -- by the fourth quarter of last year, we'd really dropped off in terms of growth, although it was still positive, the first quarter was positive. Whether or not we'll actually tilt down into negative territory I think we still don't know for sure. Hopefully, we won't.
I think the efforts of the president with respect to the tax package are important in terms of our long-term prosperity and returning some of that expected surplus to the taxpayers. Clearly, the Fed has major responsibilities here and has been exercising it.
KING: It's not predictable?
CHENEY: It's not absolutely predictable. If it were...
KING: This would be a great world.
CHENEY: Be a great world. But, hopefully, we'll avoid a recession, but we don't know yet.
KING: Back with our remaining moments with Vice President Dick Cheney. Don't go away.
KING: Any sweeping changes coming in education? Promised a lot.
CHENEY: We did, and we're close to getting a bill through the Senate. The House is going to be marking one up shortly. I think they will be sweeping changes, emphasizing accountability as the president promised.
KING: That was his number one thing, right?
CHENEY: Number one priority. And I believe we will have major education reform this year.
KING: Are you working already on campaign 2002 -- congressional races, Senate races, gubernatorial races?
CHENEY: Not a lot. The fund-raising activity, I spoke at one fund-raiser here a few weeks ago.
KING: A fund-raiser, Dick?
CHENEY: A fund-raiser, in Washington.
CHENEY: And this was for members of the House.
KING: Not a bad word anymore.
CHENEY: No, not a bad word. I mean, the American people have a right to participate in the political process. There's nothing wrong with fund-raising as long as you don't do it inappropriately.
KING: Are you forecasting a lot of close elections?
CHENEY: I expect so. I've learned, Larry, never to take anything for granted in elections. After that 35-day recount in Florida, I assume every election is going to be very close.
KING: And you've got a 50-50 Senate. You have some people on the old side. Not everybody is in perfect health, right?
Are you concerned? Do you worry about Strom Thurmond?
CHENEY: Well, Strom's a good man. He's been serving longer than any other senator, and I certainly expect he'll be with us here for a good many years to come. But he's 98 years old.
KING: Lynne Cheney, how is she doing?
CHENEY: She's doing great.
KING: She's still working, though, right?
CHENEY: She's still working. Lynne's always had her own career. The year we were first married, she was teaching and I was a student. She was supporting me at that time, so she's always had her own career.
And she's gone back, since the campaign, to that. She serves on a couple of boards. She was affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank here in town. She's writing a book.
But she always does a number of things in connection with my activities. Of course, we have a certain amount of entertaining we have to do. She's in charge of all of that.
So she's enjoying life, spends a lot of time with her three granddaughters. Life's good.
KING: Now before we leave -- this room -- this is some -- I've never been in this room. That's Teddy Roosevelt's desk.
CHENEY: Teddy Roosevelt had that desk at one time. Dwight Eisenhower did.
KING: Truman signed it inside. Nixon...
KING: Who used it? How was this used?
CHENEY: When the building was built back in the 1880s, this was the secretary of the Navy's office. And up until about 1921, when Black Jack Pershing took over as Army chief of staff, and he had it for 26 years, until he died in 1947. He was so prominent...
KING: He was a world hero.
CHENEY: A world hero, and, in effect, a general for life.
KING: Yes. That's right.
CHENEY: Since then, it's really been the vice president's formal office. Now, I spend most of my time over in the West Wing or up on the Hill.
KING: We're next door to the White House.
CHENEY: We're next door to the White House, and we use this for conferences, meetings, sessions like this, for example. So it's a...
KING: So it's where important people come.
CHENEY: ... like Larry King. That's right.
KING: What's your biggest hobby? What do you do the most, for fun? You're not a golfer, are you?
CHENEY: No, I'm not a golfer. I'm an avid fly-fisherman and hunter -- I love to bird hunt. And so those activities have been significantly reduced since I've signed on with President Bush on the ticket last summer. I did get out once this year back to Texas for a quail hunt, and in August, I'll get out to Wyoming, hopefully, and do a little bit of fishing down there.
KING: Are you as good a fly fisherman as Carter?
CHENEY: Well, I've probably with the president. As a matter of fact, the guy he learned from is an old friend of a close fishing buddy of mine, who's been a park ranger in Yellowstone, and we still fish together every year.
KING: He's told me, would you agree, that the most tranquil moments are standing in a spring?
CHENEY: Yes, I think that's true. It's the one thing I do where I can set aside all of my other concerns and involvement, and focus just on what I'm doing. To do it well you have to concentrate on it. There's a lot of lore connected with it, a lot of history that goes with the sport -- all the gear and so forth. So it's the best thing I can do in terms of sort of relaxation and communing with nature, if you will. And you get to do it in fantastic surroundings with some great people.
KING: Finally, how many hour days do you put it?
CHENEY: Well, I've got a regular schedule. I leave the house, usually about 7:30 every morning. I'm back home -- Lynne and I usually have dinner about 7:00 every night. We're not social butterflies so we don't do all that much of that. We do some official things, obviously, and on the weekends I take work home. But I try not to come into the office on the weekends, and so far I think it's going very well.
KING: We'll see you on 200 days.
CHENEY: Will do it. Thanks, Larry.
KING: The vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney.
"LARRY KING WEEKEND" ahead on Saturday and Sunday.
Laura Bush, we'll repeat that interview on Sunday night. And Monday night, Denise Rich.
Thanks for joining us for Dick Cheney and yours truly, Larry King, the Old Executive Office Building. Good night.
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