Transcription – Richard Cheney Interview

Q: In a close race. So in 2000 when Governor Bush wanted to choose you, you sat him down and gave him all the reasons why he shouldn’t choose you. When you approached him in ’04 did you do the same thing? Did you say here’s what you ought to be thinking of when you’re deciding whether to replace me?

CHENEY: No, not in any kind of elaborate — I mean he knew by being president for four years in terms of what — I may have made some reference to like, “Mr. President, I’m carrying a lot of baggage out there if you want to make a change or get somebody else, I’ll be perfectly happy to support it.”

Q: How did your strengths as a campaigner and a candidate match up with or [00:27:00] complement those of George W. Bush? What did you bring to the campaign that –

CHENEY: Yeah, we were obviously from different backgrounds and so forth. He tended to talk more I think about domestic issues. He’d been governor of one of our biggest states — a very successful governor of Texas and he has his own set of experiences and things he believed in and he was driving the train. When I got on board at the convention so to speak in Philadelphia, I’m a late comer. I’d been a supporter of the campaign but I hadn’t been involved in anything beyond really — well, I was part of the Vulcans group. The Vulcans were a collection of people with background in foreign policy and national security and we used to meet periodically with the president.

Q: And that was before you took on the vice presidential search, right?

CHENEY: Well, this was — yeah it would’ve started back in probably late ’99. [00:28:00] Condi sort of headed it up and managed it. Paul Wolfowitz was part of the group — Scooter Libby, myself and we focused specifically on National Security matters. The president — as I say his main focus had been — when I gave a major speech I believe down at The Citadel on defense and so forth but his primary focus and the campaign’s primary focus was domestic. In terms of how we campaigned, he had run twice in Texas. He had been on the campaign for maybe two years — a year and a half at least by then so there was a long background there. From my perspective, I started campaigning basically at the convention. We had — the first thing I had to do was sit down and write a speech. And the day we announced my candidacy I went back to the mansion there — the governor’s mansion in Austin. Lynn was with me and we sat down with John McConnell and Matt Scully. There were two speech writers who’d been working as part of the Bush speech writing team but they were delegated to help me write my acceptance speech in Kansas City which they did. It was — to some extent it captured the differences I suppose in terms of what I talked about. The convention theme the way it had been managed by the people that set up the convention was sort of soft I guess is the way I would describe it — and positive. It didn’t really go after the Democrats. I thought it was more appropriate to be more aggressive going after the Democrats and that’s what we basically did. The crowd loved it. I had more fun giving that speech than just about any speech I can remember. It was very well received. [00:30:00] So partly my role became to the extent there was going to be an attack, I did as much of it if not more than anybody else. And that especially became truer in 2004. But my — I saw my job basically as going after the president’s opponents and like I said that was more pronounced in 2004 when we were running against Kerry. The president – I’m trying to think of something – what was different about campaigns — I can’t think of that much that differed. He spoke a version of Spanish and I didn’t. I was good in some communities. He was more into education and those kinds of issues. I was more focused on Defense. Part of my convention speech really focused on Defense [00:31:00] — the need to rebuild the military after the Clinton years.

Q: This was in 2000?

CHENEY: Mm-hmm.

Q: In 2000 basically your full time job is candidate for vice president. In 2004 you’re vice president and dealing with more issues more intensively than most vice presidents are because of 9/11 and the aftermath. Did you find campaigning in 2004 was a distraction from more important work?

CHENEY: No. We had good fun. I’ll put it in those terms. We’d been heavily involved — I had been in the aftermath response to 9/11 and setting up what became known as a terror surveillance program and later enhancing interrogation techniques — all that stuff was classified at the time. But I had spent a lot of time on that. [00:32:00] In 2004 I was more engaged as the person in charge of going after the other candidate — in this case John Kerry. So things like — he voted for it before he voted against it, talking about an $87 billion appropriation for supporting our military efforts. That was a gift. When he did that as I recall he was on a tour of the Grand Canyon or something and he stopped in front of the microphones and we’d been hammering him on his vote against the funds for the war and that’s when he said, “Well, actually I voted for it before I voted against it.” And that became part of the litany that we used at every stop. It was always good for a laugh. It always conveyed this notion that he was something of a flip-flopper between having voted for the war and then being against it and so forth. [00:33:00] Things like that where I would actively and aggressively take on the challenge of going after the nominee. We considered it a good day if I could start a fight with Kerry and he spent his time defending himself against my charges or attacking me and then the president is free to run as the president – above it all.

Q: And Kerry often took the bait.

CHENEY: Often took the bait.