Vice President Dick Cheney Talks With Sean Hannity
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," June 13, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Mr. Vice President, great to see you again.
VICE PRESIDENT RICHARD CHENEY: Sean, good to see you.
HANNITY: All right, here we are at MacDill Air Force Base, and you just gave out a Bronze Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Silver Star and a Distinguished Service Cross.
HANNITY: I got to meet these guys. These are great Americans.
CHENEY: They are. They — it's the kind of thing that I think we need to see more of in terms of reminding the American people, that we've got some phenomenal young men out there who put their lives on the line every day for all of us. And these were five guys who had earned some of the highest decorations the nation can bestow for their service, especially in Iraq.
HANNITY: I met one of these guys who had gotten the Distinguished Flying Cross. He's my age. He was born in December '61. He's got four beautiful children, his wife. He's going back to Iraq. And a friend of his' helicopter went down, and he flew back in under-fire to get his buddies out of there. They're just incredible stories that all these guys tell.
CHENEY: Yes. No, it's a special privilege to be able to meet them and to be able to decorate them on behalf of the country.
HANNITY: You said, "America's safer but we are not yet safe."
CHENEY: Well, it's true. We've made major progress, I think, in the War on Terror, and what we've been able to do in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But we're still faced with a deadly adversary out there in the Al Qaeda (search) organization. We've just recently captured Abu Faraj Al-Libbi, who was currently the number-three man in the organization. We know they're trying to mount more attacks against the United States. Up until now, we've able to disrupt those attacks or intercept them. But we can't let our guard down for a minute.
HANNITY: You know, you said — we're talking about Al Qaeda. Are there Al Qaeda that we know are in the United States? Are they here, some, that we know, and we're trying to find?
CHENEY: Well, I can't say that. I mean, once we find somebody, then we'll move on them, obviously, as aggressively as possible, if somebody's been actually involved in terrorist training, for example, in the camps in Afghanistan or provides financial support and sustenance to a terrorist adversary.
But we do a lot of work, obviously, through the FBI, as well as their coordination with the Central Intelligence Agency and our other intelligence agencies can do overseas. And so far, say it's been now going on four years without another strike on the United States.
It's not because they haven't tried, but we've successfully disrupted a number of operations. But you cannot — the important thing to emphasize for people is it's so important not to let our guard down, to remember that threat's still out there. And just because it's been a long time since they hit us doesn't mean they aren't trying and they won't do it again.
HANNITY: I read your speech to the U.S. Air Force Academy. And you went into detail talking about the same topic here. And you said, "They hate our country. They oppose everything we stand for in the world. They hold an ideology that demands complete conformity, the crushing of dissent."
You talk about subjugating of women, et cetera, and you said, "They have declared their intention to strike America again and kill even greater numbers of our citizens." So we're getting further and further away from 9/11, we forget, don't we?
CHENEY: That's right. And it's important for us to remember here. If you look at the — talk about an extreme ideology, these guys really want to revert back to the 7th century, to the time when their Islamic faith pretty much dominated the world, and it stretched from Spain all the way down to India.
Now we know they're out there looking for ways to develop deadlier weapons to use against us, that they'd like to get their hands on a nuclear weapon if they could, or anthrax, or some kind of deadly biological agent. And if they're succeed in that, and they are able to launch an attack against us, obviously, the casualties of 9/11 will be seen small by comparison.
HANNITY: You keep, in the administration, coming under fire for Iraq. We just had elections in Iraq. The security forces are growing in Iraq.
HANNITY: There's still an insurgency, but there's a lot of progress. What do you make of how that war has been politicized? Where would we be today if we didn't go to Iraq?
CHENEY: Well, I think if Saddam Hussein (search) were still in power, if Iraq were still a safe-haven for terrorists, if in fact he'd been able to continue the pattern of activity he'd undertaken in the past — remember, he's the guy who did produce weapons of mass destruction, did use them against his own people and against the Iranians.
The world's much better off and much safer today because Saddam Hussein's in prison, will soon go on trial in Iraq, and the 25 million people in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan, have been liberated. Those are all major achievements.
Now, we've still got a lot of work to do, obviously. We're still engaged in a major effort to build security forces in Iraq, Iraqi security forces that can take over that responsibility, as well as help them put together a government, write a new constitution.
But remember, it's only been about two years since we embarked on the operation in Iraq. And we've come a long way. We're making major progress. We'll need to keep at it until we've completed the mission.
HANNITY: Think it will be done by the end of your term, your second term?
CHENEY: I certainly hope so. But I — we've never put a time limit on it. I think you have to define it in terms of the mission and completing the mission. We don't want to stay a day longer than necessary, but we do want to stay long enough to make certain that we get the job done.
HANNITY: Let's talk about Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Guantanamo Bay (search). He said it's not being considered for closing. There was a little bit of ambiguity there. The people weren't sure if the president was saying they're looking for all alternatives there. Is there any consideration to close Gitmo?
CHENEY: I think the way to look at what the two of them said, they both emphasized the importance that you need to have the capability to imprison detainees that we capture during the course of the war on terror. They both emphasized that.
At present, there's no plan to close Gitmo. The president says we review all of our options on a continuous basis.
The important thing here to understand is that the people that are at Guantanamo are bad people. I mean, these are terrorists for the most part. These are people that were captured in the battlefield of Afghanistan or rounded up as part of the Al Qaeda network. We've already screened the detainees there and released a number, sent them back to their home countries. But what's left is hard core.
HANNITY: About 550 people.
CHENEY: That's right. And they are well treated. Their medical needs are attended to. They're well fed. They've got — their religious requirements are catered to. If they want the Koran, they've got the Koran. These people are very well treated for terrorists. If you put them out on the street now and if you were to take action to release them, then you'd find yourself in a situation where the — you may well find them back trying to kill more Americans.
So we need a facility. If it's not Guantanamo, it's got to be something else. The function has to be performed.
HANNITY: You have to have a place for these detainees?
CHENEY: Absolutely. And Guantanamo, I think, makes good sense. And in spite of some sensational charges that are often made about it, the fact of the matter is, these people are treated appropriately. And it's vital for us to maintain this kind of capacity, because we derive significant intelligence out of it.
HANNITY: Let's talk about when a group like Amnesty International (search) compares Gitmo, Guantanamo Bay, to what happened in the gulags, where millions of people were murdered. And then later they admit they don't know what's going on.
Or when Newsweek puts out reports that the Koran was flushed down the toilet, and then later they have to retract a story like that. The impact it has on people worldwide and those people that are looking for reasons to hate the United States or justify, perhaps, actions against our troops. How dangerous is that?
CHENEY: Well, it hurts. And there's no question about it. I talked to Hamid Karzai (search) when he was here, president of Afghanistan, shortly after Newsweek had to apologize for their inaccurate report.
But the report, in turn, precipitated demonstrations, I think, in Talalabad, in Afghanistan, that led to burning down of a major cultural facility there. Live threatened and so forth. In fact, something like 400 Korans were destroyed in the fire in the cultural center, supposedly as a way of protesting what had allegedly happened at Guantanamo, which of course didn't happen at all. The Koran had not been flushed down the toilet, and the — Newsweek had to withdraw its comment.
It's important that they be careful and exercise a sense of responsibility here, because lives are at stake.
HANNITY: We — you mentioned we give the — the prisoners at Guantanamo, we give them copies of the Koran. We — the soldiers and the people that are watching over those detainees are told the proper method in which to hand over the Koran to people. That doesn't seem to get a lot of — a lot of press. Do you feel there's a purposeful distortion? And what could be the purpose of that?
CHENEY: I don't — I don't know that it's purposeful. I just think that there's this drive to report the sensational. And it's news if you can say that somebody flushed a Koran down the toilet at Guantanamo, because it does inflame opinion, when in fact the news is that these individuals held at Guantanamo all have the right provided by the United States — there probably isn't another country in the world who do what we do, which is make sure they all have a copy of the Koran, if they so wish, even though they're there as terrorists who tried to kill Americans.
HANNITY: Recently, by the North Korean Central News Agency — I don't know if you've read this — but you were called a "bloodthirsty beast." Are you surprised?
CHENEY: No. Not by the North Koreans. They frequently say outrageous things.
HANNITY: Where are we with talks with them?
CHENEY: We're working hard to resume the six-party talks, and working with the Chinese. And the president just today was meeting the president of South Korea. This is an effort with the Chinese, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States to meet with the North Koreans to persuade them to give up their aspirations to acquire nuclear weapons.
HANNITY: Do we have hope?
CHENEY: Well, certainly, we have hope. We think this is the right way to proceed, is to resolve the matter diplomatically. But it's important that we continue to push hard on this, because if North Korea becomes a nuclear weapons state, it could well destabilize that part of East Asia.
HANNITY: I take calls from people three hours a day on the radio. One issue that people keep coming back — I would say probably the conservative movement in the country, the one criticism they have, the biggest criticism they have of the administration is the issue of immigration and border patrol.
We know the border patrol admits that there are 4 or 5 million people that they know that they don't get every year that cross the border. And people express their concern about the vulnerability and susceptibility of our borders. Your thoughts?
CHENEY: Well, it is a big problem. We've got millions of people here illegally. They are, on the one hand, an important part of the economy. They hold a lot of jobs that would not otherwise be filled. The concern here, though, obviously, is that it adds significant cost to local communities who have to provide educational services or health services.
And so we need to do a better job than we do of getting control of our borders. The president is a deep believer in that. We have a had a session just this week where we looked at this specific issue, with the domestic policy advisers for the president.
It's also a national security issue. And one of the things we worry about is the possibility of terrorists being smuggled across the southern border with some of those illegal aliens. So we need to do more to beef up our border patrol and so forth, and that is being done by Michael Chertoff (search), the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (search). There's more money in the supplemental [budget] that was just approved by the Congress for border agents. We need to develop and apply more technology to controlling access to our borders.
But at the same time, we need to deal with the basic incentive that's there that attracts these folks in the first place. They come here to work because they're hungry, because they want to make money, and because they are jobs here.
And we think a temporary worker program's the way to go, like the old Brassero (ph) program, where we'd know who was here. We'd have a record of it. And they'd have to go back home after a period of time.
HANNITY: Would you support at any point troops on the border, if that's what it took? And what did you think of the Minutemen (search)?
CHENEY: I think trying to put troops on the border, this is asking our military to perform a mission they're not really trained for, especially at a time when we've got a lot of other major military requirements around the world. I think a better way to go is with your conventional border patrol. It's a police function more than a military...
HANNITY: But increase the numbers somewhat significantly?
CHENEY: Increase the numbers, add money to the budget to be able to beef up the number of people we have involved, as well as apply a modern technology to it. And we're doing some of this already, things like our Predators, our unmanned aerial vehicles, for example, that can cover broad areas of the border and point your resources in terms of where they need to go. We need to do more of that sort of thing.
But it is — it's a major continuing effort. And we need to do everything we can to shut it down and make sure that whatever immigration does occur occurs on a legal basis.
HANNITY: All right, in spite of all your denials, there is still tremendous speculation that you may run for president yourself in 2008. Do you give it any consideration?
CHENEY: Sean, I looked at it many years ago, and concluded back about 1994, '95 that I was not going to run, and went off to private life. I came back at the request of the then-governor of Texas to be his running mate. I've loved being vice president. It's been a tremendous experience. But it works in part because my agenda is his agenda. I don't have anything here that I'm trying to do. I'm not worried about what I'm going to do in the Iowa Caucuses in 2008. I'm here to serve the president and to focus on the problems of the moment. And I think it's very important that I continue to do that.
So I've made it clear that this is my last job in public life.
HANNITY: Under no circumstances...
CHENEY: I've got other things I want to do when my time is up here — spend time with the grandkids.
HANNITY: So when they draft you at the convention, you will say...
CHENEY: If nominated, I will not run, et cetera, et cetera.
HANNITY: Right, right.
I want to ask you a few political questions, because pretty interesting times we live in. Howard Dean is the head of the DNC. In recent weeks and days and months he's said the following: He's said he hates Republicans. He said Republicans are evil. He said Republicans are brain-dead. He said Republicans are corrupt. He said Republicans are mean and not nice, that they're dark, dishonest, untruthful. Republicans have never made an honest living. They're a white, Christian party. And that the only way Republicans can get African-Americans in a room is if the wait staff was here. What is your reaction to that?
CHENEY: Well, I think Howard Dean's over the top. I've never been able to understand he appeal. Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does. He's never won anything, as best I can tell. He ran for president and lost all the primaries. And now the Democrats have seen fit to make him their national chairman.
CHENEY: So far, I think he's probably helped us more than he has them.
HANNITY: If the chairman of the Republican Party said similar things, would you ask him to resign?
CHENEY: That's not the kind of individual you want to have representing your political party. Politics is a serious business. It's a tough business. And party chairman are expected to sort of lead the partisan charge out there. But I really think Howard Dean's over the top. And more important — doesn't matter so much what I think; I'm a Republican — but I think many of his fellow Democrats feel the same way. In fact, I've talked to some of them who think that he's doing more damage to the party than he is good.
HANNITY: Not just Howard Dean. I mean, Harry Reid (search), in front of school children, called the president of the United States of American a loser. Hillary Clinton said there's never been in the history of this country an administration I believe more intent upon consolidating and abusing power. What is going on in your mind, I mean, as you hear those this? The campaign was over in November.
CHENEY: I sounds to me like...
HANNITY: Seems to be — seems like campaign rhetoric, right?
CHENEY: Well, or beyond it. Maybe Hillary's spending too much time with Howard.
HANNITY: That's a good line. And Harry Reid?
CHENEY: Well, you know, it's unfortunate when Harry conducts himself in that fashion. It's — we try to be restrained. I've had times when people on the other side of the aisle let me to react rather harshly, but I did it in private. I didn't do it in public. And I think it's not helpful. I think it's unfortunate when it happens. But I do think, from the standpoint of the Republican Party, that kind of rhetoric from Hillary Clinton or from Howard Dean or from Senator Reid does more damage to them than it does to us.
HANNITY: We're running out of time. Could Hillary Clinton become president in 2008? She's like the front-runner to win the nomination. Do you think she could win? And who would you like to see — four or five people, Republicans, run, considering you've taken yourself out of the race.
CHENEY: Let's put it this way, Sean. I haven't endorsed anybody. I wouldn't want to start through the list of...
HANNITY: Would Condi Rice be a good presidential candidate?
CHENEY: ... somebody else. And I'm confident that whoever the Republicans nominate in 2008 will receive widespread support and defeat whatever Democrat receives the nomination.
HANNITY: Last question on judges. Two hundred and fourteen years, we've never had a judge that would have otherwise been approved by the Senate filibustered. We had this deal, seven Republicans, seven Democrats, that it might result in, basically, people not getting an up-or-down vote. Is that fair?
CHENEY: Well, I think we need to restore the traditional practice of the last 214 years.
CHENEY: The agreement that has been made has produced some progress in the last few weeks. That is, we've gotten a number of judges through just in the last few days. If that agreement holds, and the filibuster is not used on the judicial nominations, then I think that'll be a major success, in the sense that we've returned to traditional practices there.
Traditionally, we haven't filibustered judicial appointments. Republicans haven't done it. The Democrats shouldn't do it, either. And we'll see what develops.
If they do, if they go back to sort of a systemic filibuster of judges, then we've always got the option, or the constitutional option, of...
HANNITY: Going back to it?
CHENEY: ... modifying the Senate precedents.
HANNITY: I got one last question, if you'll indulge me. Some people — this is for a FOX News special they're doing — some people predict the world is going to suffer irreversible damage from global warming trends that have been measured. What is your position on that, and what is the Bush administration's position?
CHENEY: I think we need to look at the facts. And clearly, there has been some warming. It's not clear exactly what caused it, how much of it's cyclical, how much of it's caused as a result of the activities of man.
But I think it needs to be addressed through technology. We spend more money on research in this area than anybody else in the world. And we need to continue to work on it.
But I also don't think of it as a crisis. I don't think we need to be in a panic mode. I think that technology and strong economic progress is the way for us to go.
We produce twice as much output per unit of energy today as we did 25 years ago. We're twice as efficient as we used to be, in terms of the energy consumption. That's major progress. That helps things like global warming. So I'm an optimist. I think this is a set of circumstances that we can deal with going forward.
HANNITY: Mr. Vice President, always good to see you.
CHENEY: Sean, thank you very much.
HANNITY: Thank you.
CHENEY: Pleasure, as always.
HANNITY: A lot of fun. Lynne, I was too tough on him.
I believe that God has planted in every heart the desire to live in freedom.
George W. Bush
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