Transcription – Richard Cheney Interview

Q: I can’t think of another campaign in with a president’s or vice presidential candidate’s child was mentioned by the opposition. And here in two debates her name was mentioned.

CHENEY: It was a no-class operation. It was stupid for them to do it. It did more damage to them. I think it’s because they knew they were behind and it was the ultimate cheap shot.

Q: Well Edwards — I’m thinking about the way in which you handled that when it came at your debate in ’04 because Edwards had made his fortune as a trial lawyer. So obviously very experienced at getting people to respond the way he wanted them to on the stand. Did you go into that debate thinking he’s going to try some things to provoke a reaction from you — maybe not even knowing what they would be — and here’s how I’m going to handle it if that comes up?

CHENEY: We did a lot of research in both debates [00:44:00] — both before Lieberman and Edwards. It was my view — still is — that there are two things — two events that are important for the vice president to handle well. You can put vice presidents out there, send them all over the country to make speeches — doesn’t really make that much difference. You might raise some money but most of the time what the vice president’s got to say isn’t that consequential in the campaign. The exceptions to that are the acceptance speech you give at the convention and the other is your performance at the debate. The whole country’s watching. So I treated them both very seriously. We spent a lot of time getting ready for those debates. Rob Portman, who was then a congressman from Ohio, now a Senator, played my opponent both times. He was superb. He was meaner and nastier than either Edwards or Lieberman. [00:45:00] And, so we did a lot of work. I watched with respect to Joe Lieberman — he had debated Lowell Weicker from Connecticut when he earned his Senate seat and they debated in a way that was pretty rough, and the tapes of Joe Lieberman is not the Joe Lieberman I got to know who was kind of a friendly fellow. He was very aggressive going after Weicker so I was prepared for that. I talked to Joe some months after the election — after we’d won. I stopped by his office one day and we were just sitting there chatting about the debate and we both agreed that we both had expected the other one to be just vicious and that we were loaded and neither one of us fired the first shot. So it turned out to be a really good debate and most people liked it and liked the way it went and I thought it had gone well. We had expected the worst and so we were ready to go [00:46:00] but didn’t have to. It was a gentlemanly affair but we got rave notices from the press on both sides. With respect to Edwards, I didn’t have the kind of respect of him — for him that I did for Joe Lieberman.

Q: You mean based on his career or –

CHENEY: His career, um, it turned out I was righter than I knew, given what was going on in the campaign, everybody found out later. He obviously had a mistress and conceived a child out of wedlock so to speak and that’s personal stuff with him. But he had been portrayed as this great trial lawyer so I operated on the assumption that this guy’s got to be skilled and know how to handle himself on his feet and so forth. I didn’t find that at all in the debate. I often felt [00:47:00] as we went through the evening that he hadn’t spent as much time preparing as I would have expected. The line that I came up with that I used on Edwards was to the effect that his hometown newspaper had labeled ‘Senator Gone’. That was a headline of a story in the newspaper. I mentioned that. I talked about his frequent absences from the Committee on Foreign Relations — that he’d only attended, I don’t know, 20% of the committee hearings or something like that. As the president of the Senate I was on the Hill every Tuesday for lunch with the Senate Republicans and in all that time I’d never seen him. And my closing line as I remember, “Frankly, Senator, tonight when you walked on the stage was the first time I ever met you.” His wife [00:48:00] after the thing ran up and said, “Well, he saw you at the prayer breakfast once.” OK. Fair enough — prayer breakfast once. But he was — that debate was not pleasant. Frankly, I had no respect for John Edwards and I was right.

Q: Is there a word you — one word you could use to describe him?

CHENEY: Scumbag.