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Breaking News

Vice President Cheney Checked into Hospital for Chest Pains

Aired March 5, 2001 - 4:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: We have to interrupt you and bring you the latest update from Washington. There are late-breaking developments coming to us. We understand that Vice President Dick Cheney has been admitted to a hospital in Washington, D.C. We understand there are concerns there and it is to the George Washington University Hospital.

We've got some late information as well as some pictures coming to us from the scene. We understand that Mr. Cheney taken there late this afternoon. Not very much information yet, but we understand CNN White House correspondent John King is on the telephone line now.

John, what can you tell us?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joie, the White House will release a statement, we're told, shortly. I'm told by a senior administration official that the vice president twice in recent days has felt some discomfort in his chest.

He called the doctors and the doctors asked him into George Washington Memorial Hospital -- University Hospital, excuse me, and we are told that that statement will say that the doctors have decided to perform a repeat catheterization. You will remember several months back, Vice President Cheney had a catheterization procedure performed to clear out arteries and we're told there will be a repeat catheterization.

Exactly when that will take place, unclear. This senior official telling us that Vice President Cheney is having some tests being conducted and that the expectation is that he will at least spend tonight at the hospital.

Again, we're awaiting the White House statement with more details on exactly how this procedure will take place.

CHEN: John, do we know when he went to the hospital?

KING: Earlier today. We know that he called doctors and according to this senior administration official, what the doctor said was that he could come in or tomorrow. They're trying to suggest that this is not a major thing, that the vice president actually went skiing just last weekend and saying that he had minor discomfort, nothing major, but the doctors as a precaution asked him to come in within the next couple of days and Vice President Cheney decided to do so today.

CHEN: This was done relatively quietly, that is, it was not an emergency situation where he went by ambulance, sirens blazing or anything like that that brought the attention to the news media up there in D.C.

KING: Again, details are sketchy and we're waiting to see, but my understanding was that the vice president decided to go voluntarily. It was not at all an emergency situation in their view.

CHEN: John, do you know if there are parallels, clear parallels to what happened during the campaign, when Mr. Cheney -- or actually, right after the campaign, I guess, when Mr. Cheney was also admitted to a hospital there in D.C.?

KING: He had a stent put in one of his arteries at that time, we're told, and a catheterization procedure, which is to clean out the arteries and we're told in the statement there will be -- the statement, I'm told, will say this is a repeat catheterization.

Beyond the details, we don't know, but obviously it is very similar to what happened after the end of the campaign when he was treated. Remember, he had had heart attacks several years back. That was one of the early questions when he was picked to be then-Governor Bush's running mate, was about his heart condition and the White House has consistently said, as has Mr. Cheney, that he is fine and fully capable of serving.

CHEN: Interestingly, John, we're going to ask you to stand by here. We understand that Mr. Cheney just yesterday told Wolf Blitzer on the "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" program his own thoughts about his health.

Let's listen to this report from Wolf Blitzer's "LATE EDITION."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's been viewed that way given his length of service with the FBI, the level he was at in the agency, the kinds of assignments he had, his access to computer capabilities inside the bureau and the fact that he apparently worked for the Russians for at least some 15 years. All of that has to be taken very seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: Obviously, that was the wrong part of the interview that we wanted you to hear. We're going to try to find the correct part of it, Dick Cheney talking about his own health yesterday with Wolf Blitzer on the "LATE EDITION" program on Sunday afternoon.

John King, are you still with us?

KING: Yes, Joie.

CHEN: John, can you talk to us about Mr. Cheney and the way he has dealt with the health issues before?

KING: Well, there have been some questions since he was picked by then-Governor Bush, again, to be his running mate. There were some questions as to whether they would -- how much of the records they would release of his past treatment and things like that, a little bit of a tug-of-war between the news media and then the Bush campaign and Secretary Cheney himself, prior to the end of the election, about releasing all this.

And they did release some records and made some records available after his last treatment right after the campaign. He is a man who says that he believes his privacy should be respected and that there are limits to what he should disclose to the public. Obviously, as vice president, he would draw quite a bit more attention than he did in his private life after leaving the government or even when he was the defense secretary in the previous Bush administration.

CHEN: I know, John, over the years we have always heard about the president's annual check-up. All the presidents, I guess, have the annual check-up and then the report is given to the nation about the current state of a president's health. Is something similar done with vice presidents? Is there something of an annual check that they do?

KING: Certainly, at Mr. Cheney's age, he would be -- it would be recommended by his doctors and then because of his previous heart conditions, he gets regular check-ups much more so than an annual check-up.

He is in regular touch with his doctors, we're told and has been -- himself, he makes jokes about it sometimes, about the fact that he has a hard time sticking to the diet his doctors have recommended because of his heart condition. He has made light of that.

There were several times pictures during the transition period when he was at his office eating things and friends of his would call us and complain and say they were going to call him and complain that he was not sticking to his diet. But as of late, aides say he has been much more regimented in his approach to that.

CHEN: What about other things for his health, say, exercise? We know that President Bush does a bit of running. How does Vice President Cheney maintain his fitness?

KING: He says he periodically exercises, but by no means -- the president himself calls himself a gym rat from time to time. He likes to go to the gym and work out almost every day. The vice president is not known as someone who likes to go the gym every day.

As to exactly what he does to stay in shape based on his doctor's recommendations, I could not answer that question.

CHEN: Can you go back a little bit in Mr. Cheney's history, his health history, for those who sort of lost touch with that, the previous heart conditions that he's had and the kind of treatment that he's had? KING: Well, he had twice before -- I am out of the office, Joie, and don't have records in front of me so I want to be very careful. He has twice before been treated for this mild, what he calls mild heart attacks, and again, at the close of campaign had this catheterization procedure and has been told to change his diet a bit. But at the same time, his doctors have said that this is nothing that keeps him -- that in any way would undermine his ability to serve as vice president or of course, should he have to, to assume the presidency.

CHEN: All right, John, we understand you are not with your notes today, but an individual who might be able to help us, and we will ask John King to stand by. We want to go now on the telephone line to Dr. David Pearle, who is at George Washington University, has been there and has treated Vice President Cheney in the past.

Dr. Pearle, can you talk to us little bit about Mr. Cheney's history and the current condition he's being treated for?

Dr. Pearle, are you with us?

DR. DAVID PEARLE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: ... University Hospital, not George Washington. I'm certainly not with the vice president now. The only thing I know is what I'm hearing and that very fragmentary, and I was involved in his care, but it was many, many years ago. I'm not speaking with any knowledge of his immediate situation or his -- or any direct involvement in his medical care.

CHEN: And we appreciate your caution and correction on that particular subject. Can you talk about the history and the treatment that you were involved with some time ago?

PEARLE: Well, I certainly couldn't talk about the treatment I was involved with in the past. As I say, it was many, many years ago. I would only be -- I'm an interventional cardiologist myself. I'm a director of the coronary care unit at Georgetown Hospital, so, I can talk little bit -- I can talk in general about the kind of issues going on with the vice president now and what I know about his medical condition from afar.

CHEN: Well, what can you tell us about that?

PEARLE: Sure. Well, I'm just hearing now that he is back in the hospital with chest pain, and would certainly hope that this is a false alarm.

There are a lot of causes of chest pain that have nothing to do with the heart, and someone who has the kind of extensive history of heart disease that Vice President Cheney has had would certainly be recommended not to take any chances. If there's anything the least bit suggestive, reach medical care and treat it as if it's a serious cardiac problem until proved otherwise, and I'm sure, like everyone else, we hope this is a false alarm and not serious.

He did have an angioplasty in the setting of a small heart attack about three months ago, that was with placement of a stent, and one of problems with angioplasty and to a lesser extent with placing stents is that there is risk that the artery will tighten down again where the stent was placed.

In the old days, when we did angioplasty with balloons without stents, that risk was as high as 30 to 40 percent. Nowadays, with placement of these little metal scaffolding devices, these stents, the risk is on the order of 10 to 20 percent, but the smaller the artery, the higher the risk of the artery tightening down again.

The longer the area that is fixed, the higher the risk of tighten down and this would be a typical time frame for an area of the artery that received a stent to tighten down again if it were going to do so. So, that would be certainly my first thought and probably his treating doctor's first thought if, in fact, that this is a real cardiac problem.

CHEN: And symptomatically, would that present some pain, some chest tightening, something similar to the feelings that some people suffered in a heart attack.

PEARLE: It can, because it's in effect the same process, the artery is tightened down. It usually happens slowly and sometimes there's no chest pain at all, but it can present as chest pain.

CHEN: What kinds of other things might produce sort of the symptomatic effect or a heart attack, but just mimic it but not actually be another episode of that variety?

PEARLE: Sometimes, it can be as simple as a strained muscle in the chest, someone who lifted or did exercises or pulled something; pain related to the esophagus, gastric acid reflux into the esophagus can present with a pain similar to heart pain. A pinched nerve in the neck can present that way.

There's a long list of causes that can mimic cardiac chest pain, but certainly somebody with the vice president's history should reach medical attention and have it evaluated.

CHEN: Dr. David Pearl, who is with the Georgetown University Medical Center, we appreciate your insight in helping us to understand a little bit more about heart conditions, particularly as we understand now the concern about Vice President Cheney who, if our viewers are just joining us, understand that Vice President Cheney was admitted earlier in the day to George Washington University Medical Center.

One of our White House correspondents, Major Garrett, now joins us with late information from there -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Joie. The counselor to the vice president, Mary Matalin, has just released a statement.

Allow me to read it to you, please: "Vice President Cheney checked himself into George Washington Hospital for repeat cardiac catheterization after experiencing two brief, mild episodes of chest discomfort. This is a non-emergency, precautionary procedure. An EKG obtained at the White House this afternoon was unchanged from one obtained last Thursday."

Clearly, the White House is trying to suggest this is simply an episode that they need to monitor. They do not consider it in any way an emergency situation. They're trying to, at least through this statement, provide as much reassuring information they can. But this is a part of the ongoing monitoring of Vice President Cheney's ongoing heart problems -- Joie.

CHEN: Major, as you talked to Mary, was there any indication how long Vice President Cheney would be at the hospital? Is there any expectation he'll be there for several days?

GARRETT: Let me underscore, Joie, I have not spoken to Mary Matalin. This is a statement just released by the White House itself. I have calls out to Mary, as do many other reporters. At this moment, we have just a statement to go on, trying to get more information as time allows.

CHEN: All right, Major Garret, we will ask you to stand by and bring us more information from the White House as you learn it there. We also have Senior White House correspondent John King standing by and trying to learn more information. So CNN is trying to follow up on this story.

But we want to now report to you what Mr. Cheney himself had to say about his health. He appeared yesterday with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's "LATE EDITION" program. Let's hear what he to say then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: Well, I feel great. The -- I'm well-behaved. They've taken control of my food supply. So, I'm trying to do all these things you need to do to be a responsible individual with a history coronary artery disease and somebody who's 60 old. So far, so good.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: No pizza at midnight?

CHENEY: No pizza at midnight. I'm not a big pizza eater anyway, but lots or fruits and vegetable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: We want to remind you how plugged in our CNN correspondents and journalists are in Washington. Up-to-date and the latest information coming to us from the Washington bureau now is Judy Woodruff, who, Judy, I understand that you yourself saw Vice President Cheney just last evening?

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: I did, Joie. I was at a small dinner where Vice President Cheney and wife were. So, I saw him over the period of about three hours and, in fact, was seated across the table from him, table of about eight people, for about two hours. I did notice he wasn't talking a great deal and he is not normally a very loquacious person, but he did seem to be a little bit quieter than usual. I also noticed that he wasn't eating very much, but, of course, all of us watch what we eat.

However, when he did stand up briefly to make some remarks during this dinner, he was, you know, the Dick Cheney that those of us who have known him for years was. He was articulate. He was certainly lucid. He didn't seem to be in any discomfort.

So, you know, you could read it any one of two ways. I have to say that based on what I saw last night, I was surprised when I heard this afternoon that he had checked himself into the hospital.

CHEN: He was, as you say, talking to folks. He made no mention of his health concerns?

WOODRUFF: If he did, Joie, I did not hear it. There was no discussion of his health or of any health concerns. It was just ordinary conversation around a dinner table.

CHEN: It's interesting to note, I just received a wire story from the Associated Press back in January talking about Mr. Cheney and his health and the question of his weight and exercise as well as heart patient over time. Some of his aides saying that he had dropped some weight, although they had not said how much.

Did you have the sense that Dick Cheney was a person keeping an eye on what he was eating? I'm sure at those Washington dinners you probably have opportunity to indulge in some pretty fancy meals there, but did you have the feeling that this was a person who was carefully monitoring what he was eating?

WOODRUFF: Well, I made -- I will say this: The main course was a fish course, a salmon course, if you will, and I noticed that he wasn't eating very much of that. And I think that most of us know that fish is considered a little bit healthier than the other things, red meat, for example, and I just -- I made a mental note that he wasn't eating very much and he was not drinking any alcohol either. I noticed that he was sipping water and that was it. You know, I try to be a good reporter all the time and I notice...

(CROSSTALK)

CHEN: Good observations, Judy, thanks. We need to move on here. We understand that just a short time ago, President Bush himself spoke about Vice President Cheney's condition.

Let's hear what the president had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Has the vice president been taken to the hospital? We're hearing reports that the vice president is in the hospital.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's just a precautionary measure.

QUESTION: Precautionary.

QUESTION: What's the ailment, sir?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: We could hear there in the crowd, of course, you can understand there was a lot of concern and interest by the news media up there in Washington as they approached President Bush this approached President Bush, asking him -- he did say -- I think he heard just under the sound there, he did say that it was a precautionary move by the vice president to check himself into the hospital.

Let's turn again to Major Garrett at the White House, see what additional information he's gotten there -- Major.

GARRETT: Joie, only to confirm what your ear heard there. Yes, indeed, the president said precautionary measures, and a producer of ours who was in there, Christy Darden (ph) said the president looked slightly perturbed, somewhat disturbed by this information.

I can tell you that White House officials who were in that East Room where a ceremony was going for the president to congratulate two national championship collegiate teams, both of them as it happened, from the University of Oklahoma. Afterwards, he was sort of milling around with the crowd, made his way over to the reports and reporters began, as you heard there, sort of besieging him with questions about the status of the vice president. The president's face tightened a bit, and then again said precautionary measures, and that's all the president had to say on this particular episode -- Joie.

CHEN: Major, we want you to stand by here. We want to listen again to what Mr. Bush had to say. It's a very brief bit of the tape. Let's listen again to what Mr. Bush said just a few minutes ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Has the vice president been taken to the hospital? We're hearing reports that the vice president is in the hospital.

BUSH: Precautionary measures.

QUESTION: Precautionary.

QUESTION: What's the ailment, sir?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: Not answering very much, but just saying that he understood vice president had gone in, as Major reported, as a precautionary measure. Major Garrett, are you still there?

GARRETT: Yes, I am, Joie. CHEN: Can you talk to us little bit about how information reaches the press corps? We understand that Mary Matalin's statement came later, after some of the questions had arisen. How does this information get passed among you that there's a possibility, a report that the vice president has been taken to the hospital?

GARRETT: Well, at the White House you hear and you get a lot of rumors, pieces of information, particularly on situation like this. Ordinarily, the White House is not the sort of lead information source on a situation such as this.

We had picked up some information. We were trying to confirm it here at the White House. It was very difficult to get a hold of some of the people that are sometimes very close at hand in the communication shop here at the White House. Oftentimes, that's a signal to reporters such as myself that folks are in a meeting and perhaps a crisis is underway.

We don't want to suggest that this situation is a crisis, but oftentimes when you makes phone calls to people who are supposed to be, as their jobs, readily available to take calls from the media and they're not there and conspicuously they're all in sort of a undescribed or undisclosed meeting, you sort of get to wonder what's going on.

And that was exactly the situation that transpired this afternoon, and then shortly thereafter, we learned that a statement was to be released about the vice president's condition. Also, when our producer, Christy Darden, was in that East Room event with the president, asking people there, they seemed a little bit unsure of what was happening. They were running out of the East Room, trying to collected more information.

So information comes from the outside. We try to confirm it on the inside here at the White House as best we can. Oftentimes, it's a somewhat chaotic process, but we do bring it to you just as fast as we get it.

CHEN: Major, talk to us little bit as well, Vice President Cheney has been in the past a rather private person, not wanting to disclose too much of his personal business, and yet I'm sure that there is a question of balance for those reporting on situations, not only Vice President Cheney, but other health issues at the White House and at the top levels of government, trying to find a balance of not overexaggerating the significance of a particular event and yet wanting to keep people very informed about this. After all, the vice president checking himself in, but apparently under his own power.

GARRETT: There is a tremendous balance that the White House tries to strike. I would say from our perspective, we're just trying to get the most accurate information as fast as we can to our viewers.

And on this subject, it's one of very, very high sensitivity here at the White House and even in a situation like this where, by all accounts, the vice president did what his doctors asked him to do, make a call, a reference call any time he felt any chest tightness. As our doctor just on the air was describing, this sometimes occurs after a stent has a been placed in. In any way, shape of form, it looks like probably something that was to be expected -- not at all ordinary but to be expected -- in the realm of possibilities after having the stent placed in.

But the White House knows, anytime the wire services or CNN or any of the media now makes the American people know there is another problem with the vice president's heart, not only are they going to incur the wrath of late-night comics, but more and more Americans are going to be thinking, wow, what's really happening with the health of this vice president.

And it's no secret -- anyone here at the White House, or anybody who has been paying attention to the coverage of the early days of the Bush administration, that the vice president is a key and crucial adviser, not only to the president, but he is also the go-between to many important cabinet secretaries. He is the lead representative of the Bush administration on Capitol Hill, a vital player in everything this administration does and says.

So, when topic of vice president's health comes up, this White House is very sensitive to it, but they also know they must tell the public as soon as possible what they know to try to put the situation in the best perspective possible. That's what they tried to do this afternoon -- Joie.

CHEN: Major Garrett for us at the White House.

We want to join now our medical correspondent Rhonda Rowland, who's been following up on these late reports of Vice President Cheney having a repeat cardiac catheterization, that is what the White House and Vice President Cheney's spokesman is describing it as.

Rhonda, explain to us what this is?

RHONDA ROWLAND, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joie, this is a very, very common procedure, it's known as a heart catheterization, as you mentioned, or an angiogram, and patients undergo this procedure across the country every day in doctor's offices.

Patients are lightly sedated. A catheter, a very thin catheter, is threaded from the groin up to the heart, and up on a screen then, doctors can take a look and see if the patient has suffered a heart attack, if there a blockage.

And the patient, as I said, is slightly sedated. They are awake during the procedure. This is the procedure that the vice president had last November. When they did this, they did see a blockage, they used a balloon to open up the blockage, and then they put in a tiny mesh device called a stent to block it open, to keep it open.

Sometimes what does happen in the weeks or months following such a procedure -- it can close back up again. The only way you can find out if it has closed up again is to go in and do this particular procedure. It was mentioned that the vice president has had two EKGs. They were normal. That would also not be unusual. You may recall last November when the vice president went into the hospital, he had an exercise stress test that was normal, but they went ahead and they did the angiogram, and they did find that the vice president had a slight heart attack.

CHEN: Rhonda, can you talk to us about the symptoms that somebody might feel that would lead a doctor to say, hey, you are a heart patient, or we know that you have been treated for heart conditions before, you do need to come in. I mean, under what conditions does a patient need to come back in for something like this?

ROWLAND: Well, Mr. Cheney has described this chest discomfort, and that's also how he described it last November. It wasn't a pain, a shooting pain, you often hear about this pain radiating down the arm or in the neck -- he has not experienced this. He has experienced this discomfort. Again, very usual.

Somebody may also have shortness of breath, or they just may not feel quite right, and he seems to be a very educated heart patient, so he is in tune with his body, he knows some of these signs, and he does tend to seek medical attention, as he did last November, when he's feeling this, to make sure it isn't anything very serious.

CHEN: Rhonda, you say these things close back up. Is this just a natural product of time, or does it happen because you haven't been eating the appropriate things again, and the condition worsens? What is it that leads to this happening?

ROWLAND: Well, it's a little hard to say. Back in November, his doctor -- Mr. Cheney's doctors recommended that he take medications, also that get on a exercise program and change his diet.

Those are the steps that you take to try to avoid a repeat episode. So that's what you can do with your lifestyle, and that can be very effective, but again, if you had a procedure like this, you can have another blockage.

Also last November, we never heard what the condition of Mr. Cheney's other arteries were. We didn't know if they were blocked at all, if there was any blockage whatsoever. So it's hard to say if maybe he has a blockage in a new artery. We don't have that information. We don't know.

CHEN: Well, we're waiting to hear more. Rhonda Rowland, our medical correspondent, joining us with more information about the treatment that Vice President Cheney, we understand, is having this afternoon in a hospital in Washington.

Want to repeat for you a little bit of sound and interview -- part of an interview -- that Wolf Blitzer did yesterday with Vice President Cheney, in which he talks about his health. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: Well, I feel great. The -- I am well-behaved. They have taken control of my food supply. We are trying to do all those things you need to do to be a responsible individual with the history of coronary artery disease, and somebody who is 60 years old. So far, so good.

BLITZER: No pizza at midnight?

CHENEY: No pizza at midnight. I'm not a big pizza eater anyway, but lots of fruits and vegetables.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: Vice President Cheney just yesterday with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who joins us in our Washington bureau. Wolf, talk to us a little bit, did this just come up in conversation that you talked about his health, or was there reason to believe that there might be something bothering the vice president about his health?

BLITZER: Joie, there was no reason to believe there was any problem whatsoever. A week earlier, 10 days earlier, I interviewed Lynne Cheney, and we spoke at some length about Dick Cheney's health, and she insisted that it was getting much better, that he was now on a regular diet, he was exercising. It was a lot easier to deal with potential heart problem, she said, because he was no longer on the campaign trail, where you could have a pizza at midnight.

You get into a hotel room, you are hungry, and you don't eat the kind of fruits and vegetables that you probably do eat when you're on a regular schedule. And she said that on the show the other day, when I spoke to her -- I believe we may have an excerpt from that interview with Lynne Cheney. Let's listen to it right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LYNNE CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY'S WIFE: He is. It's been easier since the campaign has been over. You know, when you are out in the campaign, and you are busy, and it's the end of the day, and you're starving, and you don't have time to think about what to eat, it's just too easy to eat a pizza or something, but our lives are more regulated now, and we have had a lot of chicken and a lot of fish.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And, as a result of what she said, Joie, I thought I would ask him precisely how he feels. So at end of our interview yesterday, I asked him, and he said he feels great. After the program, we were chatting briefly, and he said he was going out to dinner. There was a dinner party for Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve. He wanted to attend that dinner party, and he was looking forward to that.

And he was also very, very upbeat about all of the -- the way things have unfolded since the Florida recount. The fact that he moved into the new vice presidential residence, the official residence for the vice president here in Washington on Massachusetts Avenue, only in the last couple days. He and Lynne Cheney and their families -- their family were very excited about that, very happy about that.

He's been very busy in the White House doing a lot of day-to-day activities. The point person for the Bush White House in dealing with Congress, so he's got a full schedule. But he says he has been exercising, he has been eating a little bit better since the incident during the transition, when of course, everyone had that scare when he had that mild heart attack.

I'll add one other point, Joie. As we spoke yesterday, he seemed fine, he seemed robust, he seemed excited. There were certainly no signs that he was having any chest pains whatsoever. If as the reports do suggest, he did have an incident, I think it was after our show yesterday. We taped that segment, that interview with vice president around 11:00 a.m. Eastern here in Washington.

And so, if he did have some problems, I believe it was later in the day, because he certainly showed no signs of pain as we were speaking.

CHEN: Right, Wolf, and we heard from Judy Woodruff a while ago, who was actually at that Alan Greenspan dinner in the evening. And she said that even though she was sitting across the table from him, she saw no indication.

Did you feel that the vice president was comfortable answering questions about his personal health? I know this has been an issue in the past, but the vice president, being a rather private person -- do you think that he was comfortable continuing to face questions about the possibility that he might have additional health problems?

BLITZER: I thought he was very comfortable, and I also thought that he thought he was doing a public service by showing every -- all Americans, look, if you have chest pains, this is not something that you want to conceal or try to gloss over, because this is a sign, your body is telling you something. Potentially -- that you want to have a trained cardiologist, a physician, check out.

And I think he was very sensitive to that whole aspect of the high publicity surrounding his mild heart attack during the transition. He thought he was doing a public service by explaining the need to go out and address these kinds of issues publicly and encouraging a lot of other folks out there -- if you do have -- if your body is telling you to get something checked out, have it checked out. So I don't think he felt uncomfortable at all when I asked him how he was feeling.

CHEN: Wolf Blitzer for us in our Washington bureau, as well as our other correspondents, journalists, all covering the latest situation with Vice President Cheney and his health.

Again, I'll repeat to our viewers who might just be joining us and wondering what all this means: Vice President Cheney checking himself in voluntarily into the hospital today for what is called a repeat cardiac catheterization. It's something of an evaluation treatment to look and see if there has been any deterioration of his heart condition.

We do know that the vice president has had episodes, heart attacks, in the past as well, and apparently, was enduring some chest pains and contacted his physicians, and they encouraged him to come in, so he is scheduled for a repeat cardiac catheterization at George Washington University medical center, one of the big hospitals in the Washington, D.C. area.

CNN is continuing to follow up on this story. We'll bring you the latest details on the vice president's health as we get them here at CNN and as they are released to us from the White House.

Also coming up after a break here, we're going to talk more about one of the other very big stories of the day. That is a school shooting with at least two fatalities in a high school right outside of San Diego. This is southern California. We'll bring you the latest update on that when we return after a break. Please stay with us.

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