The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

March 24, 2002

The Vice President Appears on Meet the Press (NBC)

MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: Vice President Dick Cheney's trip to the Middle East; 12 countries in 10 days. What did he learn about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? What was he told about Iraq's Saddam Hussein? This morning: Our guest, the vice president of the United States, reports to the nation.

Then: Day 169 of the military operation in Afghanistan. The enemy continues to hide, regroup and resist. With us: The commander in chief of the United States Central Command, General Tommy R. Franks.

MR. RUSSERT: But first: Here is the vice president of the United States.

Welcome back.

VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY: Good morning, Tim.

MR. RUSSERT: The Middle East: Assess the situation.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Enormously important part of the world from the standpoint of the United States, enormously complex set of problems and issues that are all sort of interrelated; a sense of opportunity and danger, if you will, simultaneously. It's an area that we've got major commitments in, in terms of U.S. military forces. I spent some time with our troops while I was out there, and they've done a magnificent job. The source of the terrorist attacks that hit us on September 11, also the source of one of the vital commodities we have to have to run our economy in terms of sort of the world's reserves of oil, so it's a big, important, complicated piece of business.

MR. RUSSERT: How important is it to the security of that region that the United States play a central role in helping resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think it's very important, Tim. The fact of the matter is, there isn't anybody but us. I think what we've seen is that, left to their own devices, the Israelis and Palestinians have been unable to resolve those issues. Given our stature, if you will, in the world and the fact that we've got good relations on both sides, both in the Arab world as well as with the Israelis, they all look to us. I think sometimes they probably even have unrealistic expectations of what we're capable of doing under those circumstances. But there's no question but what it's important for the United States to be engaged, as we are, as we have been, in trying to facilitate some kind of resolution of this conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

MR. RUSSERT: There had been some criticism during the campaign by the Republicans of the Clinton administration for highly visible high-risk negotiations involving the Middle East. Are you now imitating, in fact, the Clinton administration approach?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No, I think our approach is different but I'm reluctant to second-guess, you know, what people have done before, attempted before, partly because it's got to be one of the most intractable and difficult problems that I've ever encountered, that I think that anybody else has. The notion that we have not been engaged in the past, I think, is not accurate. We've done a lot. The president has not been involved directly in negotiating between Arafat and Barak the way Bill Clinton obviously was, but we don't think that's the right way to proceed in this particular instance.

What we have done--the president's been actively engaged in setting overall policy. Colin Powell, the secretary of State, has been actively engaged directly with Arafat and Sharon on a direct basis. Now, we've got General Zinni in the region now who's a superb officer who's on the ground every day actively working with the security officials on both sides, as well as Sharon and Arafat. So we are doing everything we can to move the process forward. But it's a different set of circumstances than the Clinton administration faced--a different government in Israel and different set of circumstances on the ground; much higher level of violence now that we're having to deal with than was true back in those days.

MR. RUSSERT: We had removed General Zinni from the area. He said he wouldn't go back unless the violence subsided. That didn't happen.


MR. RUSSERT: We had to recalibrate and adjust and send him back even though there was violence going on.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: That's correct. I think the--there's no question but what the--as I say, the--left to their own devices, the parties appear to be unable to make any progress or even to be able to see their way out of it. The United States has had close historic ties to Israel. Those are very important. That commitment to Israel is absolutely unshakable. The Israelis, obviously, want us there to be of assistance as well, too. I spent a lot of time with Prime Minister Sharon during the course of my trip, met with the Israeli Cabinet, as well, to discuss all of these issues. So there's no question but that we are engaged and will be engaged going forward.

MR. RUSSERT: The Arab League is meeting in Beirut this coming Wednesday and Thursday. Will you meet with Yasser Arafat before that time?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: The arrangement that I worked out while I was there--and this was signed up to both by Prime Minister Sharon and Yasser Arafat--was that we would move forward aggressively in trying to implement the so-called Tenet plan as a series of steps that would get us into a cease-fire.

MR. RUSSERT: This is CIA Director George Tenet, who told both sides that the violence had to subside and specifically what they had to do to bring that about.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: That's right. It's such things as regular security meetings on both sides, sharing of intelligence, denying anybody the opportunity to use their territory to attack the other party, etc., a series of six specific steps. What I said was that if Arafat will actively implement the Tenet plan and to the satisfaction of General Zinni, and that General Zinni would be the one who would decide, then I was prepared to meet with Arafat. Arafat signed up to this and Prime Minister Sharon signed up to it, as well, too, and I say I met with the Israeli Cabinet and discussed it with them. So we had everybody agreed to the procedure. So far, though, the conditions on the ground have not warranted my going forward with the meeting. The arrangement was that at a time and place to be determined, if, in fact, these circumstances were met, I would agree to meet with Arafat, but right now, there have not been developments that would warrant us actually scheduling a time and a place for a meeting.

MR. RUSSERT: So it's unlikely you'll meet with Arafat before the Arab League meetings on Wednesday?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think that's an accurate statement, yeah. The meeting begins Wednesday.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you meet with Mr. Arafat later in the week or earlier next week if the circumstances seem to warrant?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Again, this is--all is going to depend upon what happens on the ground in Israel. I'll be guided very much by General Zinni's thinking. Part of the purpose of this arrangement, obviously, is to give him some leverage over the process. And I will not hold a meeting unless we see those circumstances that we specified. To date, we haven't seen them, but if we do, then I'm prepared to go forward with the meeting.

MR. RUSSERT: But at least for the immediate future, no meeting?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: There's no meeting scheduled as of right now.

MR. RUSSERT: Is Yasser Arafat capable of stopping the violence on the Palestinian side?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We're confident he's capable of doing much more than he has. But up till now, he has not expended the level of effort that we think is warranted. We've talked about 100-percent effort. Remember the arrangement, the way we got into these circumstances we have now, after Oslo, the Oslo Accords in '93 and a series of letters exchanged between Prime Minister Rabin and Yasser Arafat, it specified among other things that there'd be 30,000 armed security personnel on the Palestinian side, even specified what kind of armaments they'd carry, and they would be responsible for securing the Palestinian areas, for making certain that there were no problems emerging from those areas. And part of this, of course, was a commitment by Arafat to renounce violence.

We find ourselves today where, clearly, that hasn't happened, where there is a reason to believe that organizations subject to the PLA, the Palestinian Authority or at least offshoots of it, have, in some cases, engaged in some of these attacks. Now, I can't say that there would never be, for example, an attack by Hezbollah, who clearly is devoted to trying to torpedo the peace process, is a controllable proposition from the standpoint of Yasser Arafat. But we do know he could do a much more aggressive job than he has, that he needs to give explicit instructions to his security forces, not only not to engage in any of this kind of activity, but also to stop it. They need to actively share intelligence with the Israelis, which is part of the Tenet plan. That he also needs to make a strong, forthright statement in Arabic to the population at large that they need to put an end to these kinds of attacks.

Now, he's gone further than he has before with a statement he made this week after Colin Powell talked with him, but we're still at the point where negotiations are under way. Even as we meet this morning, General Zinni's presiding over a trilateral security meeting, and hopefully, he'll be able to make some progress. But we're not there yet. What we do want to see is an acceptable level of performance such that General Zinni is convinced that, in fact, they're actually implementing the Tenet work plan. And to date, that hasn't happened.

MR. RUSSERT: He has not said or done enough?


MR. RUSSERT: Should he be allowed to go to Beirut to meet with the other Arab leaders?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I know there is a division within the Israeli government itself. I see Shimon Peres, the foreign minister, suggested he should be allowed to go to Beirut. Up till now, I think Prime Minister Sharon does not share that view. The issue in Beirut, I think, will be a question of whether or not the focus is on Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia's proposal that he put forth that is scheduled to be the centerpiece of the debate and the discussion and basically calls for Israeli withdrawal of the 67 borders in return for normalization of relations with all the Arab nations.

We think the summit will be probably a positive contribution, if, in fact, that's the focus of the discussion and the debate. If Arafat is not there, the concern is that he will become the focus--the fact that he is not there and that you won't have the kind of positive result that might otherwise be possible. So I think as a general proposition, we believe that it would be better for him to be there, than not be there.

MR. RUSSERT: Here's a tough question, but it's--and it's hard to answer. I accept that. But it's one that's on a lot of people's minds. Why is there an endless supply of young Palestinians who are willing to be suicide bombers? And how do we ever stop that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, it is a tough question, Tim. I heard a report when I was there last week, for example, that the Israelis had actually had a report of a 13-year-old boy who was wired with explosives loose on the West Bank looking for a target where he could blow himself up. Now...

MR. RUSSERT: A teenage girl volunteering repeatedly finally succeeding. Why is that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Yeah. It's--I'm not sure I'm smart enough to understand it. I think in part it goes to the depth of feeling and emotion on the Palestinian side. We can say it's misguided. We can say it's a tragic situation where young people feel that maybe there's so little hope that all they've got left to do is to sacrifice their own lives, to kill as many Israelis as they can at the same time. But it's a kind of situation that simply adds to the sense of frustration, of horror that, I think, the world sees, and the Israeli and Palestinian people. The ultimate losers in the process are the people of Israel, and the Palestinians themselves, who suffer day by day by day and see these events unfold, and see, you know, hundreds of casualties and fatalities, oftentimes innocent children and innocent civilians. There's got to be a way out of it. Unfortunately, we've not found it yet.

MR. RUSSERT: The Saudi peace plan, the proposal that you suggested, would demand that the Arab nations normalize relations with Israel, fully recognize Israel's right to exist and engage in trade with them. Some Arab nations, like Syria, are saying, "Well, maybe we can just live in peace with Israel." Living in peace is not normalizing relations and respecting the right to exist.


MR. RUSSERT: It has to be the latter, correct?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Normalization means normalization, exactly. And I would not expect that necessarily everybody in the Arab world will sign up to that. I hope they would. But I think it's important to recognize this is a significant step forward by the Saudis. I spent a lot of time with Crown Prince Abdullah in Jeddah last week. I've known him for many years. This is a courageous step for him to take, given the sort of traditional way the Saudis like to operate, and the Saudis have been working hard to try to round up the support of other Arab nations for this proposition, also, to keep it fairly simple. One of the propositions or problems here that you need to avoid is hanging a lot of bells and whistles on it. The more detail you add, the more people have an opportunity to find something they disagree with, but if, in fact, the Arab nations meeting in Beirut will endorse and embrace what the Crown Prince has put forward, I think that would be a contribution.

MR. RUSSERT: The Israelis say that, as a democracy, they realize they cannot stay in the occupied territories. It's contrary to a philosophy of a democracy to do that, but if they pull back, they have no confidence the Palestinians are capable or inclined to stop the terrorism and violence. Would the United States be willing to commit U.S. troops to be in that area, working with the Palestinians to guarantee Israel's security?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Boy, that's a tough question, Tim. We have engaged in the past, clearly, in having troops out there. And one of the things I did on this trip was to visit a battalion of the Arkansas National Guard that right now is part of the peacekeeping force, if you will, in the Sinai that's been there since the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty several years ago, and we actively participated in that multilateral force. It's a different situation, though, there, because you've got national boundaries easily recognized.

I think we're prepared, obviously, to do everything we can to be of assistance. Somebody would have to point out how the presence of U.S. troops would help in this particular case. It's not clear to me that it would. In the end, what has to happen is that there has to be a political solution, a negotiated settlement between Israelis and Palestinians that both of them are willing to abide by, with security forces able to guarantee that the territory, for example, of the Palestinians does not become an area for launching attacks against the Israelis. And one of the reasons the problem is so intractable is we haven't been able to get even to the point where we can talk about what those arrangements might be because of the ongoing violence that's there now.

MR. RUSSERT: But if we concluded that our presence was the only way to guarantee Israel's security and maintain the peace, would we consider deploying U.S. troops?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, that's a very speculative question, Tim. Let me reserve judgment on that. I have not had an opportunity to discuss that with my leader, and I wouldn't want to go beyond that. I think it's...

MR. RUSSERT: Is that Mrs. Cheney or the president?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: The president. And it's not an easy question, obviously. The U.S. wants to do everything we can to help and be of assistance here. I'm not sure that would work, but I'll take it under advisement.

MR. RUSSERT: There has been some commentary about the president's comments about the Middle East from fellow Republicans. This is what William Bennett had to say, and I'll show you on the screen: "The administration's policy in the Middle East just took a dramatic turn in the wrong direction. This turn at once marks a concession to terrorism and a violation of principle. Just as Israel was defending itself from unremitting, unbearable terror, President Bush stated that what Israel was doing--targeting terrorists and militarily occupying the land they were coming from--'was not helpful.'... We pressure Israel and make no demands on our Arab allies to cease the dissemination of medieval, terror-inspiring propaganda... The Arabs' conclusion? Speak platitudes in English, foment terrorism in Arabic, and the United States will apply pressure to fellow democracies over and against those who rule by bullets rather than ballots. These lessons in double standards bode tragic for democracy, not just here at home or in Israel, but across the globe."

Your reaction?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I disagree with what my good friend Bill Bennett has written. It's not that simple a proposition from the standpoint of trying, first of all, to lump all of the Arab nations or Arab people into one group. In fact, there are Arab leaders out there who have had historically good relationships with the Israelis, and worked closely with Israeli prime ministers, for example, in the past, and have been helpful in the current circumstances in terms of providing entree and bringing pressure to bear as well on the Palestinians. You've also got Arab nations, for example, that have had major problems with the Palestinians. And after the Gulf War, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were kicked out of the Gulf states because there was concern that they'd supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Thirty years ago in Jordan, the armies of Jordan went to war against the PLO because the PLO threatened the very survival of King Hussein's regime.

So to start trying to always bring it back to this sort of black-and-white proposition, it's much more complicated than that from our standpoint. What we've been doing, for example, in terms of the efforts I made while I was there, this agreement that I would meet with Arafat if, in fact, he implements Tenet, was something I worked out with Prime Minister Sharon, discussed extensively with the Israeli Cabinet, announced a press conference in Jerusalem in the headquarters of the government and that General Zinni simultaneously got worked out with Yasser Arafat.

So, you know, Bill gets to write a column and be--draw sharp distinctions, but the fact of the matter is I think what we're doing there is the right thing to be doing. It's totally supportive of our historic commitment to Israel.

MR. RUSSERT: Iraq's Saddam Hussein--when we spoke on September 16, five days after the tragic day of September 11, I asked you if any evidence of linkage between Saddam Hussein and Iraq and al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. At the time you said no. There's an article in The New Yorker magazine by Jeffrey Goldberg which connects Iraq and Saddam Hussein with al-Qaida. What can you tell me about it?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I've read the article. It's a devastating article I thought. Specifically, its description of what happened in 1988 when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against the Kurds in northern Iraq, against some his own people. I was aware that he had used chemical weapons against the Kurds. That's been general knowledge, but what the article is very good at is pointing it out in depth that he may have struck, if the article's correct, as many as 200 towns and villages over a 17-month period of time and killed upwards of 100,000 Iraqis.

What's even more depressing is the apparent medical legacy that's left of continuing increased rates of infertility, birth defects, rates of liver cancer among children, etc., as a result of these attacks. It demonstrates conclusively what a lot of us have said is, that this is a man who is a great danger to the region of the world, especially if he's able to acquire nuclear weapons.

With respect to the connections to al-Qaida, we haven't been able to pin down any connection there. I read this report with interest after our interview last fall. We discovered, and it's since been public, the allegation that one of the lead hijackers, Mohamed Atta, had, in fact, met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague, but we've not been able yet from our perspective to nail down a close tie between the al-Qaida organization and Saddam Hussein. We'll continue to look for it.

MR. RUSSERT: In this same article, August Hanning, the chief of the German BND, their CIA, says, quote, "Iraq will have the atomic bomb in three years." Do you agree with that assessment?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I'm reluctant to put that kind of time frame on it. I don't think we can be that precise, but we do know that he was working on it back in 1981 when the Israelis took out the Oseric reactor. We know he was working on it before the Gulf War. We know as a result of things we found after the Gulf War, as a result of defectors, for example, his own son-in-law came out in 1995 and talked about all of this, that he had an aggressive program throughout that period of time. And now, of course, for the last three years there've been no inspectors and there's good reason to believe that he continues to aggressively pursue the development of a nuclear weapon.

Now will he have one in a year, five years? I can't be that precise. I don't know enough to be able to put that kind of time frame on it. All I know is he's got enormous resources because of his oil wealth. There's nobody watching. He's had the technical expertise that he put together in the past to pursue this kind of a program and that he's one man out there who's not only acquired weapons, he's used them--chemical weapons against the Kurds and against the Iranians. I think it would be a great tragedy if Saddam Hussein were to be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, and that's one of the concerns I shared as a traveled through the region last week.

MR. RUSSERT: Will we allow that to happen? Will we allow him to develop and acquire weapons of mass destruction?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: The president's been very clear that we will do everything we need to do to make certain that that doesn't happen.

MR. RUSSERT: The Arab League announced today that at their meeting on Wednesday, they will say the United States should not preemptively attack Iraq to take out any weapons of mass destruction. Reports from your trip around the Mideast that Arab country after Arab country said to you, "Don't do that, Mr. Vice President. Don't you dare attack Iraq." Tell us the best you can what happened inside those meetings? And are you able to say to those Arab countries what the president said to the world after September 11, "Either you're with us or you're with Saddam Hussein. Make a choice"?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: That's not the way that I would describe, first of all, their opinions. I had private, confidential meetings at nearly every stop. And those meetings, obviously, were and need to remain confidential. Secondly, I did not find a situation in which my hosts were unconcerned about Iraq. They're all very concerned about Iraq. They live in the neighborhood. They know Saddam Hussein better than we do. Many of them know that right after us, they're high on his list of governments he'd like to do in because of the historic relationships there. And that applies to virtually everybody in the region. I had good conversations with our friends there about how we might best proceed to deal with this problem. They're actively engaged in offering advice and counsel and in mutual discussions, and I expect those discussions will continue.

MR. RUSSERT: So what was reported publicly seems to be in stark contrast to what was said privately?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I wouldn't believe everything I read in the newspapers. I mean, the fact of the matter is that--well, I had, as I say, private, confidential meetings. That's one of the reasons I went was to be able to hold confidential meetings with our friends. And they are able, under those circumstances, because we know each other, to talk honestly and frank with one another, and that's exactly what we did.

MR. RUSSERT: Is the bottom line in the Bush administration that Saddam Hussein is evil and he must go?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I would say there is grave concern on our part. That's been heightened partly by the events of September 11, which demonstrated our vulnerability, partly by virtue of the fact that we've seen the terrorist organization, al-Qaeda now, with major efforts to acquire these capabilities. We don't have any evidence yet that they actually acquired them, but we know they were trying very hard on chemical, nuclear and biological weapons. We're worried about the possible marriage, if you will, on the one hand between the terrorist organizations and on the other, weapons of mass destruction capability, the kind of devastating materials that Saddam used against his own people in '88. So this whole subject is at a higher level of concern--excuse me, Tim--than it was previously, but I think it is for everybody out there, too. And I think that the president's made abundantly clear this is a top priority for us, and that we'll spend whatever time we need to seeing to it that this threat is, in fact, dealt with.

MR. RUSSERT: And if we need to go it alone, we will?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We'll just leave it right where it's at.

MR. RUSSERT: Tony Blair of Great Britain led the way in making the case against Osama bin Laden. There are now plans for him to come forward with a portfolio against Saddam Hussein and his plan to build weapons of mass destruction. Are you aware of that?


MR. RUSSERT: Do you expect that to happen?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I can't speak for his government. But there are--you know, the evidence is overwhelming, and one of the things we need to do, not only from the standpoint of our friends in the region, but the international community at large, our friends in Europe, for example, as well as the American people, is to make the case, lay it out there. This is the evidence. This is what he's done. This is what he's doing. This is the threat to the United States and to our friends around the world.

MR. RUSSERT: Lay the predicate for a potential attack.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Lay the predicate for doing whatever is necessary to make certain that the United States and our friends and allies are not threatened by a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Afghanistan in our remaining time. The Washington Post had an interesting editorial the other day about the situation there. And kind of a warning to our country, as well. Let me put it on the screen and read it for you: "The administration so far has argued that its support for the development of a national Afghan army offers the best hope for stability. But such a force will take time to build and train--years, most likely. In the meantime, the United States must stand up to out-of-control warlords and help extend peacekeeping operations beyond Kabul to other parts of the country where civilians are in danger. If the Afghan people were liberated from Taliban rule only to fall prey to returning warlords, history will not credit the United States with much of a victory."

What are we going to do to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan where warlords have returned to power bases, are punishing Pashtuns and other ethnic tribes they disagree with, and resulting in what has been described by some sympathetic to the United States as chaos in Afghanistan?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: One of the issues I talked about while I was out there was--I visited Turkey, as well as the UK is we're getting ready--we've asked Turkey to take on the responsibility for ISAF, for this international security force that currently provides security in Kabul. I think that's a very important mission, and I'm hopeful they'll do it. The Brits have had it up till now. We clearly will continue to have U.S. forces in Afghanistan for some considerable period of time to come. We're there to back up the ISAF. We're there to work with the Karzai interim authority and, hopefully, a new government, once it's stood up. We're prepared to train the new Afghan national army, which they badly need. The ultimate answer here, obviously, is to have a strong central government that has the capacity to guarantee the safety and security of all regions of the country. In some cases that may be a decentralized system where they worked out arrangements with the so-called warlords who are preeminent in some regions. They'll have to find their own way to do that, but we'll be actively engaged, and we need to be. We can't walk away from it until the--Afghanistan is, in fact, secure.

MR. RUSSERT: The administration has kind of a mental block to the use of the term "nation-building," but, in fact, we have to rebuild Afghanistan.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, rebuild it, put it back together again, whatever phrase you want. But we cannot allow Afghanistan to move to a situation where once again it's a sanctuary for terrorists. After the war between the Afghans and the Soviets, I think there's a general sense that the outside world walked away. We can't do that again. The president has made it clear we're there to work with Mr. Karzai, to work with the interim authority to help stand up the new national Afghan army, and to stay as long as necessary until we've wrapped up our mission of eliminating al-Qaeda and making certain that we have dealt with that terrorist threat that emerged from Afghanistan.

MR. RUSSERT: After September 11, there were non-stop jet patrols over Washington and New York. They--we are now told that they--it will be reduced and done more selectively. Has the threat declined so dramatically that we can now eliminate or restrict those flights over New York and Washington?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, the threat, I think, can be dealt with in different ways. Immediately in the aftermath of September 11, flying combat air patrol over our cities, we felt, was the best response. But over time, as we stand up our airline security measures, as we've established the Transportation Security Administration over the Department of Transportation, we're doing a better job on the ground of being able to search all the luggage and inspect everything and everybody before they get on the airlines that--so as we take up our security level, if you will, sort of, on the ground, it's less necessary for us to have as active a combat air patrol around the country. It's still there if we need it. If the threat level does go up in a period of time, we can always step up the level of planes that we actually have in the air or on strip alert, but we think we've got it balanced about right, and these are tough calls. It's very expensive, in terms of manpower and money and so forth. We've got to figure out how to best allocate it to ensure maximum security.

MR. RUSSERT: Very vigorous trip; 12 countries in 10 days. How is your health? How did you hold up?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Held up fine; felt great. We took my exercycle along so we could work out periodically during the course of the trip. Lynne went with me, so my diet was under control. And the president was nice enough to lend us one of his big airplanes, so it was a comfortable trip.

MR. RUSSERT: Since the defibrillator's been put it, has it ever gone off?


MR. RUSSERT: That's good news.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, it is good news. I don't sit around anymore waiting to see if it will go off, but I'm told if it ever does, I'll know it.

MR. RUSSERT: Since you're not meeting with Yasser Arafat tonight, are you going to watch the NCAA basketball or the Academy Awards?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I'll watch the basketball.

MR. RUSSERT: No Oscars for Dick Cheney?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No Oscars, that's right.

MR. RUSSERT: Dick Cheney, as always, we thank you for joining us and sharing your views.



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