For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
April 10, 2008
Interview of the Vice President by Sean Hannity of the Sean Hannity Show
2:31 P.M. EDT
Q Mr. Vice President, how are you, sir?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, Sean.
Q Well, it's great to have you back on the program. Hope all is well with you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it is. We're working hard. There's a lot of good stuff going on, but it's a pleasure to participate once again in your show.
Q Well, we appreciate it. Is there a part of you that is sort of glad you're out of this political cycle? (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I watch it with great interest. I ran six times, I guess, statewide for Congress in Wyoming, and then twice for Vice President, and it's -- I enjoyed it. Of course, we won every time, so -- (laughter) -- that affects how I look at it, I'm sure. But, no, I'm also -- you know, we are, on the one hand, a little bit detached because we're not out there actively involved in the campaign, but on the other hand, I think like all Americans, we've got a huge stake in the outcome. And I think the differences between the candidates are stark, and the issues are enormous, especially in terms of how it's going to affect the national security and the future of the republic.
Q Let's talk a little bit about the President. He gave a speech on Iraq today. We had General Petraeus testifying before Congress this week. It's somewhat amazing to me, Mr. Vice President, is the -- you know, we go back a year ago, and after the President had proposed the surge, there was non-stop coverage. Now that by every measure there has been tremendous success, there is far less coverage at this point in time, which I would argue makes my case about a media that is slanted somewhat. But what are your thoughts on the progress, and where we are, and what it means for the country, in terms of national security?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we have made significant progress, Sean. I was just over there a couple weeks ago, and spent time both in Iraq and Afghanistan, and had the privilege of spending time with the troops, as well as with our commanders on the scene, as well as spent quite a bit of time with Iraqi officials. And the tone of the place has changed fairly dramatically over the last year. It had been about 10 months since I'd been there, and just the feel you get, in terms of the progress on the security front, the mood and attitude with respect to the Maliki government itself -- all of those things showed significant improvement.
And it's remarkable to see, in a sense, because I think you -- you've captured it correctly -- when the President made his decision last January -- a year ago, January -- to surge troops, to put more troops in at a time when nearly everybody was saying it's time to bring them out, it was a very bold and courageous decision. But now you can go look at it, and there's no question about what it's had a very positive effect.
Q Vice President Dick Cheney is on our newsmaker line.
Mr. Vice President, it was also somewhat dramatically different the way Congress treated General Petraeus this time. The cynical side of me thinks it was out of political motivation and some type of tactic and strategy developed in a closed-door room and meeting, because if you remember, the last time General Petraeus testified before Congress, he was met with The New York Times full-page ad by MoveOn.org, saying, "General Betray Us."
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I remember that.
Q And over the years we've had Democratic prominent senators, Dick Durbin compare our troops to Nazis; John Kerry say our troops in Iraq were terrorizing women and children in the dark of night; Senator Ted Kennedy compare our troops to Saddam's troops. And more recently we had this week Jay Rockefeller say about Senator McCain that he was a fighter pilot who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet, he was long gone when they hit; what happened when he got to the ground -- they got to the ground, he doesn't know. You have to care about the lives of people -- McCain never gets into those issues.
What is one to conclude about the Democratic Party and the military and their feelings about it with those repeated statements?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think Joe Lieberman has probably been the toughest critic of what used to be his own party in terms of his view that an awful lot of them seem to be invested in failure; that they just absolutely refuse to recognize that progress has been made. And I'd forgotten that ad in the newspaper about -- that you mentioned about General Petraeus last time, but it has improved significantly, in the sense that I think there's no denying the result, and that's made a lot of our friends on the other side of the aisle I think a little more cautious and restrained in terms of the kinds of comments they make.
But if you were to ask most of those people you cited what their answer is, what their strategy is, what strategic objective they'd have for dealing with that part of the world, I don't think they've got one. Their only suggestion is that the United States ought to bail out on our friends and stop doing what we're doing. And I think down that road lies disaster.
Q If we pull out too early, what do you believe the consequences would be?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, what I remember, Sean, is Afghanistan -- I try to remind people of this -- back in the '80s, when we were actively involved in supporting the mujahideen there against the Soviets. We were successful, and then everybody who was involved in the effort walked away from Afghanistan. The result after that was the Taliban -- first you had a civil war; then the Taliban came to power; and then they brought in Osama bin Laden in '96. And then in Afghanistan, they trained 20,000 terrorists, a bunch of whom came here and killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11.
For us to walk away from Iraq I think would have at least that bad an effect, probably worse, because if al Qaeda were to take over big parts of Iraq, among other things, they would acquire control of a significant oil resource. Iraq has almost 100 billion barrel reserves, producing 2.5-3 million barrels of oil a day. If you take a terrorist organization like al Qaeda and give it that kind of revenue, there's no telling the amount of trouble they could get into.
So I -- for us to suggest that somehow we can hide behind our oceans and not worry about what happens in Iraq, or in the Middle East generally, or with respect to al Qaeda is just a travesty. I can't think that any American government can do that and accept the consequences of that. I think it would be a terrible, terrible development for the nation.
Q And I believe it would create a safe haven for al Qaeda and Iran inside of Iraq. What did you make of Senator Barack Obama's comments that he would talk to Ahmadinejad, a Holocaust denier who's repeatedly threatened to blow up and remove Israel from the state -- from the map, the world map, and obviously is pursuing some nuclear capability?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, he is, and I think the position we've taken with respect to that is that we would be prepared to talk when they stopped enriching uranium. Of course, they've never met that condition, so we haven't had talks at that level.
But Ahmadinejad is I think a very dangerous man. On the one hand, he has repeatedly stated that he wants to destroy Israel. He also has -- is a man who believes in the return of the 12th Imam; and that the highest honor that can befall a man is that he should die a martyr in facilitating the return of the 12th Imam.
It's a radical, radical point of view. Bernard Lewis once said, mutual assured destruction in the Soviet-U.S. relationship in the Cold War meant deterrence, but mutual assured destruction with Ahmadinejad is an incentive. You have to be concerned about that.
Q What do you make of the economy, Mr. Vice President? Conventional wisdom -- we're in a bit of a slowdown. Do you concur with that? And what steps would you take to get the economy moving and getting a little stronger?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think things have slowed down. I'm not ready to say that we're -- have gone into a recession. You can't really know that until you've got two back-to-back quarters of negative real growth, and we clearly don't have that yet.
I think we're on the right course in the sense that the President moved aggressively -- and with bipartisan cooperation, I should emphasize -- and put together a stimulus package that basically involves tax cuts for the vast majority of Americans. And that will kick in here in the next few weeks, in early May. I think that will have a significant impact in terms of stimulating the kind of growth and economic activity that we need.
We still have to work our way through the housing problem and I think -- I'm not an expert with respect to the financial markets, but I think hopefully we've turned the corner there, and the Fed and Treasury and so forth are on top of the difficulties that arose in the financial sector because of the subprime mortgages.
So I think, if I had to characterize it, I'd say we have gone through a rough patch. We may not be through it yet, but I do think by the end of the year that -- forecasters I talk with believe that we'll be back on the normal path of economic growth.
Q You mentioned earlier that you are watching with great interest the election that's going forward. I'd like to hear thoughts. Do you agree with me -- I think pretty much it's going to be Barack Obama; I think it's going to be very difficult at this point for Hillary Clinton to catch up. What are your thoughts generally on the presidential election, and more specifically on Barack Obama, and maybe even comment on the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy? What did you think of that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I am a McCain supporter. (Laughter.) I think that wouldn't surprise anybody.
Q I'm shocked. (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I've watched what's going on on the Democratic side with great interest, and sort of blowing hot and cold in terms of who is going to win, whether it is going to be Senator Clinton or Senator Obama. I thought the controversy over Reverend Wright was remarkable. I thought some of the things he said were absolutely appalling. And, you know, I haven't gotten into the business of trying to judge how Senator Obama dealt with it, or didn't deal with it, but I really -- I think, like most Americans, I was stunned at what the Reverend was preaching in his church and then putting up on his website.
Q Last question, Mr. Vice President -- and I know you have to run, and as always, thank you for your time. Hillary Clinton has asked the President or called on President Bush to boycott the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics in China. Your thoughts?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the President has made it clear that he's planning on going; that he thinks this is primarily a sporting event. He often has conversations with the Chinese leadership about these issues that people are concerned about. And his view, I think is, is that the best way to achieve progress and change in terms of the way the Chinese operate is to talk to them quietly. And boycotting the Olympics isn't the right way to go; that really penalizes our athletes. And so I think he certainly indicated at this point he does plan to go, and I'd be surprised if he didn't.
Q Mr. Vice President, it's always good to talk to you. All the best, and I bet there's going to be a lot of fishing going on in Wyoming come January of next year.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, you got to wait till June; it's a little cold out there in January, but there will be. (Laughter.)
Q That's probably a good point, unless you really want to be doing some ice-fishing over there. But we appreciate your time, as always. All the best, and thank you for being with us.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right, Sean, great to talk to you.
END 2:42 P.M. EDT