Transcription – Richard Cheney Interview

Q: Election day — memories of election day and I’m thinking certainly one element of that —

CHENEY: — exit polls had been — well if you go back to 2000 we went to — I voted in 2000. I voted in Wyoming and then flew to Texas down to Austin which is where we’re going to watch the returns come in. As we were going down on the plane before we landed in Austin, the preliminary exit polls were starting to show up and they’re all negative. We’d learned in that 2000 process that they just aren’t very good or very reliable. You can’t count on them. [01:08:00] And by the time we got to 2004 I just didn’t pay any attention to them. I knew they were out there — I’m not even sure — I’m sure somebody came and told me what they were but I didn’t — still to this day I don’t have any confidence that those exit polls produce anything that’s of value. Afterwards if you get a fairly detailed questionnaire you can learn some things about people who voted and check it up against your polling report when you’re trying to estimate what the vote’s going to be and how people vote. But in terms of determining the outcome, the exit surveys that I heard about are just some of the early returns. In 2004 got Ted Kennedy to go to John Kerry’s house and congratulate him and call him Mr. President. It was election night but it’s more than just the exit polls. I don’t remember being especially concerned about the ’04 election survey.

Q: Do you have any memories of that day in general. [01:09:00]

CHENEY: I assume we voted in Wyoming. We came back here for that evening and we ended up going to the White House and upstairs in the residence. My granddaughter, Kate, was with us. She was the youngest person there and I can remember 41 was there — the Bush family basically and at one point in the evening he got hold of Kate and he said, “Look, you’re the youngest person here. I’m the oldest. Come on over here. We’re going to talk.” He could not have been nicer or more charming to her. We were more sophisticated at that point about concessions and who concedes and as I recall the Kerry people didn’t want to concede. At the time there was some question about Ohio. [01:10:00] I think it was handled better than it had been four years before but we ended up with the main rally the next day when we went over and made our statements. I think over at the Reagan building, and the President and I both spoke and we had a big gathering over there. But it was — it didn’t have the tension and the uncertainty that we had four years before.

Q: That event you just mentioned is where President Bush said he thought he had earned political capital from winning that election. Do you agree? Was there a mandate of any kind in the results of the ’04 election?

CHENEY: There had been a lot of thought given and discussion about social security. It was something that we wanted to do that needed to be done. And the president [01:11:00] and his people operated on the assumption that we could do it in the second term. That wasn’t a new idea that just emerged out of the campaign but then as we went into ’95 [’05] we put a lot of time and effort into the social security issue. The president did especially — I did a fair amount of it too. We went and helped town halls all over the country, laid out ideas, talked about allowing the younger people to be able to invest some of their taxes and other instruments into the market or whatever they might want to do. We got absolutely nowhere. We tried but the Democrats wouldn’t bite. They didn’t want to participate. We really worked hard at it for a better part of the year.

To say we had a mandate beyond that, we got elected. We won the election. [01:12:00] The first time around in 2000, we won by such a close margin. We refused to accept the proposition that somehow we needed to change our posture or our policy and take a more moderate course. I can remember arguing with the five moderates in the Senate that I had lunch with them around the time of the recount. They were sort of expecting us to go for the middle — “Absolutely not. This is what we ran on. This is how we got elected. Full speed ahead.” And that was our mindset certainly in 2000. In 2004 it was hard to say that it was a mandate although the president felt strongly that we had just won the election now we ought to go out and try to solve one of the biggest problems — the entitlements problem.

Q: So it’s very unusual for a president running for reelection to have his party gain seats in the Senate. And you gained four or five. Did that give a sense that this election was [01:13:00] not just a personal victory for you and the president but a party victory for the Republican party?

CHENEY: I don’t recall a lot of discussion about that. Anything would have been an endorsement compared to what we had in 2000 when we didn’t even win the popular vote. I suppose it’s all relative but you only get a 37-day recount, the Supreme Court sent it. You don’t know who won or who lost. You can’t get the transition started — anything more decisive than that would give you a feeling of I suppose having some kind of mandate. The voters had voted and it was a clear cut. By the end the president had the largest vote total up till that time in the popular vote and we actually won by a majority. That hadn’t happened for some time. [01:14:00]

Q: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

Richard Cheney Interview, Center for Presidential History, Southern Methodist University, The Election of 2004 Collective Memory Project, 18 November 2014, accessed at

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