Transcription – Richard Cheney Interview

Q: Chris Matthews who’s not known for celebrating Republicans said –

CHENEY: Chris doesn’t care much for me either.

Q: After that debate he said it was like a howitzer against a water pistol.

CHENEY: Mm-hmm.

Q: It’s funny because in those debates you’re debating — you’re side by side with the other party’s vice presidential candidate but isn’t that kind of an artificial situation because otherwise in the campaign, you’re really focusing on the other party’s presidential campaign, right? I guess what I wonder is, [00:49:00] is the vice presidential debate so different from what you’re otherwise doing as a vice presidential candidate that it’s sort of an odd thing?

CHENEY: It can be. It doesn’t have to be. I treat it in part — it’s an opportunity for the country to see and evaluate the individuals who’ve been selected by the president to be his number two — to succeed him if something happens to him. And if you believe that the ultimate test is whether or not this individual is capable of being president of the United States, that’s the best look you’re going to have before the election at that proposition. So if you get up and really foul up or don’t do very well in those debates, it reflects badly on the decision making capability of the principal. I’m trying to remember the Palin thing. She gave a good acceptance speech at the convention [00:50:00] which was pretty impressive but she started to come unraveled after that in interviews and so forth.

Q: Although she had a good debate.

CHENEY: She had a pretty good debate.

Q: But that was about it for good.

CHENEY: I think the debate’s important and if you blow it, it does say something about the presidential candidate. In my case I think most of the president’s people supported me — maybe not all of them but the president had trouble on his first debate with Gore — or Gore –

Q: With Kerry.

CHENEY: With Kerry — that my debate stopped the erosion and got us back on the right track again.

Q: You mentioned debates as a time when you’re in the spotlight and also the acceptance speech. The convention in ’04 [00:51:00] had a very different tone than the kind of warm and fuzzy 2000 convention. Could you talk about the convention and then talk about your speech?

CHENEY: I’m trying to remember my speech there. Well, the convention, of course, by then in 2000 we’re the new guys. We’re not running for reelection. In terms of having to defend a record it’s more what you’ve done before. We got to office by ’04 and we were at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’ve had to deal with 9/11. There’s a lot of serious stuff going on that we’re responsible for. But we were still strong enough I think in terms of the polls that we basically challenged the ability of Kerry to be able to respond [00:52:00] to the crisis the way Bush had and to be able to manage the war against terror for example — raised doubts about him on how he’d handled the defense budget over the years. Things like “I voted for it before I voted against it.” Those kinds of issues – that whole the Swift Boat operation was very important in ’74 again, in portraying Kerry as somebody who had inflated his own military record. So there were — those differences played a role with respect to what happened in terms of how we handled ourselves. We were — we’d been through — we’d cut it a little close in 2000 when we only carried Florida by 350 votes or whatever it was. That was very much on our minds. We didn’t want that to happen again. Although, ’04 when you look at it, [00:53:00] we carried an absolute majority which hadn’t happened for quite a while I guess. The president’s dad had it back in –

Q: Oh, the popular vote.

CHENEY: The popular vote — percentage of the popular vote. We won enough so that in the Electoral College it was pretty clear cut but there were only three states as I recall whose votes switched — New Mexico, Iowa, and one other — Arizona maybe.

Q: Colorado?

Assistant: New Hampshire.

CHENEY: New Hampshire — yeah — New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Iowa. And we picked up New Mexico and Iowa and New Hampshire switched from Republican back to Democrat. That’s not a very big change. It was enough to give us about a 30-point lead in the Electoral College but we were very much aware of that earlier press and what had happened in 2000. And I think we’d been through the mill one more time [00:54:00] and it wasn’t our first rodeo and I thought we did a better job. Mehlman I thought did a great job as the overall campaign chairman.

Q: Ken Mehlman?

CHENEY: Ken Mehlman.