|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
August 31, 2004
Telephonic Interview of the Vice President by Sean Hannity, Fox News Radio
4:20 P.M. EDT
Q But first, we are very pleased and proud and happy to welcome back to these microphones the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney. Mr. Vice President, how are you?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good afternoon, Sean. I'm very good, sir.
Q Well, it's an honor to talk to you again. I saw you -- actually, I was broadcasting last night above your left shoulder. I don't know if you saw us.
Q Yes, that's got to be a little scary for everybody, right, to see all that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right, right.
Q Well, thank you for being with us. I appreciate you being on board. Let me first start with -- I guess, perhaps it has been taken a little bit out of context, the President's remarks on the Today Show. And Terry McAuliffe was the air, "the President is saying we can't win the war on terror." That's not what he was implying. He was talking about in a four-year period of time, am I correct?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right, and he was also talking -- we've both talked about the fact that this is a different kind of war than any we've fought before in the sense that you think back to -- well, my experience when I was at the Defense Department. We had Operation Desert Storm. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. It was over in a few months. And here, there's not likely to be a treaty at the end of the day here, or a negotiation, or an arms control agreement that finally wraps this up. It's going to be the kind of thing that requires constant, continual effort by the United States for a significant period of time. But the President certainly never intended to convey the notion that we can't win. We clearly can, and we will.
Q How could there ever be a formal surrender, or any treaty signed? Considering there are all these different groups out there, Mr. Vice President, I don't think you're ever going to get them all to unite and say, we'll forever -- they'll denounce terrorism.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. They're own -- by definition, they are non-state actors. These are individuals and groups. Their motives are very different. They're terrorists. And they have to be dealt with accordingly.
Q This is likely to go on throughout our lifetime, and perhaps even beyond. Is that a fair assessment?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, perhaps. It's just -- it's very difficult to put a time frame on it. I think the way to think about it, and the way the President thinks about it is that we're engaged in this conflict now -- it actually started sometime before we were aware we were at war, that bin Laden had declared war on us as far as back '96, that there had been a series of significant terrorist attacks going back 20 years. And it was only after 9/11 really that, I think, the American people came to understand that we, in fact, at war, and that this is a conflict that's fought on different terms, and sometimes with different weapons and different motives than any we've been engaged in before. But it is every bit as much of a war as we've ever had to deal with. And if they are ever successful at unleashing a weapon of mass destruction against us in the midst one of our own cities, we'll suffer massive casualties. We can't let that happen.
Q Vice President Dick Cheney is with us. President Reagan had said about the Democratic Party that the party left him. We just had Senator Zell Miller, of Georgia, on this program. He will be giving the keynote address for you tomorrow night. There has been a change and a shift as it relates to national security issues by the Democratic Party. We've moved away from a philosophy once embraced by people like FDR and JFK and Harry Truman and Scoop Jackson, and now represented by people like Zell Miller, this is a different party. What do you think has happened to the Democratic Party on defense issues?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it clearly has changed. I can recall my early days in the business, and where there really was strong bipartisan support for the tough policies that we pursued oftentimes in the past. I think part of it -- I think the party itself underwent a transformation. I guess, part of it, I suppose, does go back to the Vietnam period. And that was a traumatic period of time for the country, domestically, especially here at home, with a lot of the controversy over that conflict. And to some extent, that's sort of been reignited now.
But I think the fact of the matter is, a lot of the -- what I would describe as the boll weevil Democrats, many of whom served in Congress when I first went there in the '70s, have either converted and become Republicans, or have retired. There's no longer a significant number -- say, 30 or 40 Democrats -- for example, in the Congress who basically were conservative. That's a thing of the past.
Q John Kerry spent about 28 seconds of his speech at his convention talking about his 19-year record. Here's a guy that had wanted a nuclear freeze when President Reagan was confronting evil in his time, the former Soviet Union. He voted against the death penalty for terrorists who kill Americans. After the first Trade Center attack, he wanted to cut intelligence by $6 billion. And we know his differing positions on Iraq. Is that the cornerstone of the philosophical divide between your position and the President's position and John Kerry's position?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think if we're going to evaluate who can best serve as Commander-in-Chief over the next four years, which is sort of the fundamental issue here, at least in my mind, then you have to look at what each candidate, each man has done in public office when he's been involved in casting votes, or making decisions on those basic fundamental issues of war and peace, and of national security, and how we deal with the threat we're faced with today. And in the course of doing that, obviously, you can look at George Bush's record. He has been the Commander-in-Chief now for the last three-and-a-half years, and it's out there for anybody who wants to see. And you go back and look at John Kerry's record, especially from his time in the Senate. Now, he clearly served in Vietnam. We honor him for that service. We've never said anything other than very positive things about his time in the military. But the real essence of it, in my mind, comes in the 20 years when he was in the Senate, when he was casting his vote, representing the people of Massachusetts on such things as weapons systems during the Reagan era, or questions like the nuclear freeze, or more recently Desert Storm. He voted against Desert Storm, for example, back in 1990-'91 when we kicked the Iraqis out of Kuwait, as well as his more recent decisions and actions and statements he's made in connection with the war in Iraq. So I think that's a clear record. It gives us an abundance of material to go look at and say, well, how does this man think about these issues. How has he cast his vote in the past when he's been a member of the Senate, and asked to vote on these kinds of questions? And I think that's what we really need to focus on.
Q Vice President Dick Cheney is with us on the Sean Hannity Show. The only -- the Swift Boat vets, they're angry with John Kerry about what he said in 1971 when he accused them of committing atrocities. Some people want him to apologize. Should he apologize in your estimation?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I've -- I'm in the position like a lot of Americans, Sean, where I didn't have to serve in Vietnam. And I try to make it a point always to thank those who did, for their service, regardless of what their views are, or exactly where they served during that period of time, or under what circumstances. And I really don't think it's for me to be trying to judge his behavior then. There's obviously a debate raging among those who served with him. But we've never done anything as far as the Bush campaign is concerned other than to praise his service. So we think it was praiseworthy. And that's true of anybody -- anybody who participated in the military ever, but especially during those years.
Q Eight-seven percent of the 527 money spent in this election cycle has been spent on ads against you and the President, Mr. Vice President. And the President had a conversation with Senator John McCain about limiting the amount of money that can be donated or spent by individuals in these groups of 527s. Does that in any way stifle free speech?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's -- the difficulty we have is having gone through the exercise of passing that major campaign reform law, and with people I think voting on it or supporting it based upon their notion that we were somehow going to take the big soft dollar contributions out of politics. And of course, that didn't happen. In effect, what happened was the ability -- or the power of the parties to raise money and candidates to raise monies to some extent have been inhibited. But they've created this huge loophole for these so called 527s, named after an article in the Internal Revenue Code. And I think a lot of us do look at that and say, it looks like it's being abused.
Q Mr. Vice President, we're really looking forward to hearing your speech tomorrow night. We wish you the best. You've got to be happy with the way the numbers are rolling, and hopefully we'll be talking to you real soon.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thanks, Sean. It's always a pleasure to be on the show.
Q All right, thank you, Vice President Dick Cheney.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You bet.
END 4:29 P.M. EDT