Vice President Cheney Calls In
August 30, 2011
RUSH: We are happy once again to welcome back to the program Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney, we have a half hour with you today, and you're making the rounds. I know that you were on the Today Show today, Matt Lauer said to you that some people have called you the most divisive political figure in this country in a century. I don't know how you get a better compliment than that.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: No, I thought that was high praise, Rush.
RUSH: We spoke a couple weeks ago, ladies and gentlemen, in an interview for the Limbaugh Letter, and I'm gonna take a different tack in this one. Folks, political memoirs, many people think of them as dry, dull, boring, and not too revealing. This one is anything but. And, Mr. Vice President, I'm gonna embarrass you here and there's no way to avoid it, but you are a great man. You have devoted your life to the service of the United States of America. I have just a brief resume here. In 1969, congressional intern for William Steiger; '69 to '70 working for Donald Rumsfeld; '71, White House staff assistant; '71 to '73, director of the Cost of Living Council; '74-'75, assistant to the president under Gerald Ford; '75 through '77, White House chief of staff, President Ford; 1976, campaign manager for Ford's reelection; '79 to '89, five-term congressman, Wyoming; '87-'89, director, Council on Foreign Relations; 1989, House minority whip; '89 to '93, secretary of defense under Bush Sr.; '93 to '95, second term, director, Council Foreign Relations; '95 to 2000, chairman of the board, CEO Halliburton. And of course from 2001 to 2009, vice president of the United States. You have given your country everything. What, if anything, stands out in all of your years of service, what stands out if you could single anything out as the most important or the most crucial element you were involved in in all those years?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Boy, that's a good question, Rush. Let me give you a two-part answer that comes at it a couple of different ways. Number one, sort of one of the absolute highlights of my career was the opportunity I had over time to work with the men and women of the United States military. They were superb. And it was always an honor, whether secretary of defense or vice president or chief of staff, any time you could be associated with an enterprise peopled with the folks that serve in uniform for the United States of America was a very special period in your career. I guess in terms of a specific result or something that I feel was most important that I was involved in would have been the years after 9/11 when we put together things like the terrorist surveillance program and enhanced interrogation techniques, a lot of that stuff very controversial, but it was absolutely essential in allowing us to prevent further mass casualty attacks against the United States by Al-Qaeda, the fact that for seven and a half years there after 9/11 we were able to keep the country save from attack.
RUSH: Let's talk about that, because you write extensively of the process that led you throughout enhanced interrogation techniques. You discuss Abu Zubaydah, what led you to Ramzi Binalshibh, eventually to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and when you write about this, you mention that it was two United States senators in your own party who threw some obstacles in your way, despite the invaluable intelligence we were obtaining through the program of enhanced interrogation. And, by the way, you describe how it all was sanctioned as legal by the authorities. In 2005 there was a move on Capitol Hill led by Senators McCain and Graham to end it. Tell us about that.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, no question there were controversies surrounding that particular program. John McCain, man I've known well, served with in the House and so forth, John had strong feelings against the enhanced interrogation techniques that went back, he said, to his own personal experience as a POW in Vietnam. We just disagreed. There were others who served in the military in those days who were also POWs and who believed very deeply in what we were doing, who strongly supported our effort. So there were divisions over the question of what was appropriate here in terms of putting together the program.
RUSH: But it had all been sanctioned legal. What was Senator McCain's problem with it? And he wasn't alone. Senator Graham was part of this. This was 2005. You even describe, you and the then-CIA Director Porter Goss went up to Capitol Hill to talk to them about this.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Right. Yeah, there was a vote as a matter of fact in Congress, because it was controversial, a lot of people, and I don't attribute this to Senators Graham and McCain. I think they were operating out of conviction, but there were -- I can recall a vote in the Senate.
RUSH: But you say he didn't even want to hear what you had to say.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, that's true. We set up a meeting in the secure spaces in the Capitol building where the Senate intel committee used to meet, and I took Porter Goss, who was then the CIA director, myself went up and sat down to brief Senator McCain on the program, and John only stayed a couple of minutes and then got very angry and stormed out. We were never able to talk to him about it. We also had a vote about that time. There was an effort to put an amendment on a bill that would have required that you could only use the US Army field manual in terms of techniques that you applied to high-value detainees, and that measure passed the Senate 90-9. There were only nine votes who stood with us in the program. Now, in private they'd say we're with you, you need to keep doing it, it's an important program, but when it was a public issue there were a lot of members who didn't want to have to defend it, who headed for the hills because of the controversial nature of the program. But the fact was, as you mentioned, Rush, we didn't do anything that wasn't signed up to by the Justice Department. In fact, the techniques we used were techniques that we used with our own people in training. There wasn't anything there -- (crosstalk)
RUSH: I'm just gonna mention that.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: -- our own forces.
RUSH: Everything you used is part of training for our own troops, including waterboarding, correct?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Correct.
RUSH: And everybody thinks when they hear enhanced interrogation techniques, everybody thinks that waterboarding is what's being discussed. In this case Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, is there any doubt that it succeeded?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: No. I think there were three prisoners that were subjected to waterboarding. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the one that it was most effective with, and in fact he became a major source -- I've seen studies to this effect -- major source of information and intelligence for us about Al-Qaeda. On 9/11 there was a lot we did not know about Al-Qaeda. It was still an organization that was relatively new to us. We didn't have a lot of detail about the members or where they operated and so forth. We needed to learn all of that if we're gonna track town those people responsible for 9/11 and prevent further attacks. And capturing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in '03 and then being able to interrogate him effectively with these techniques was vital in giving us the knowledge we needed in order to defeat Al-Qaeda.
RUSH: Talking with Vice President Dick Cheney, his book is In My Time. We have to take a brief commercial time-out here. But again, folks, the phrase has been bandied about, "heads will explode," and even though he denied it, General Powell's head has exploded. It did on Sunday on Bob Schieffer. He said something, by the way, Mr. Vice President yesterday, before we go to the break, now, this may not be news, but it was to me. General Powell said that when he found out with Richard Armitage that Armitage was the source for Bob Novak on the whole Valerie Plame story, that they called the Department of Justice. Now, I didn't know that. I thought all along that Armitage wasn't saying a word while Scooter Libby was being held accountable and twisting in the wind in a process trial or crime for this. Were you aware that Armitage had gone to DOJ, and if that happened, why did the special prosecutor even pursue the case if they knew who the leaker was?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: We didn't find that out 'til much later. In fact, he'd been the source, I have to think back, as early as June of that year, of '03, for Bob Woodward. Woodward didn't write about it, but Woodward actually taped the conversation, and it's available on the Internet. But that's a key question.
RUSH: So you didn't...? I just want to ask: You did not know that Armitage and General Powell had called the Department of Justice and said, "We are the source;" and Armitage had said, "I'm the source for Robert Novak's piece"? You did not know that they had made that call?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: That's correct. And I don't know what they said when they talked to Justice. I do know they -- I think; you know, the supposition is that the Justice Department -- knew by the fall of '03 that Armitage was the source of the leak. When they appointed the special prosecutor, Fitzgerald, and he started work in December of '03, one of the first things he learned was that Armitage was the source of the leak. But even knowing all of that... Ordinarily since that was the charge that was being investigated, that should have ended it. Instead what happened was they ran a two-year investigation that drug a lot of folks over at the White House through the mud and mire of a grand jury proceeding in order to try to find somebody they could indict -- and, of course, in the final analysis Armitage was never sanctioned for the leak that he was responsible for; and the only one who was was Mr. Libby.
RUSH: Who didn't do anything!
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Correct.
RUSH: Other than apparently get confused in testimony and get caught up in what they call a "process crime." Well, that's fascinating. I thought that was news Sunday when General Powell said that. We must take the break now. We'll be back with Vice President Cheney right after this.
RUSH: And we're back with Vice President Dick Cheney. In My Time is the title of his memoir. Mr. Vice President, I have a procedure. I ask people before interviewing people such as yourself, "Is there anything you'd like to hear Vice President Cheney answer?" and it's amazing with you. I've asked people from all walks of life, every sphere and circle of friends I have, and without question the most frequently asked thing I was asked to ask you was, "How did you deal...?" I mean, being the person that you are, investing your life for the goodness of this country, "How did you deal the last eight years of your service being called a demon, a devil, Darth Vader, the most divisive?" People want to understand what that's like from a personal standpoint and how you dealt with it and stayed focused on your job. How did it affect you?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: (chuckles) Well, if you've been around as long as I had, Rush, by the time I got to be vice president, I certainly expected -- especially if I did anything controversial -- that I was gonna be the subject of a certain amount of criticism and abuse. It goes with the turf. You can't let it get to you. If you haven't got a thick enough hide to take some of those slings and arrows and to keep on doing your job, then you're probably in the wrong job. Part of it, frankly -- some of the comedians at night -- was pretty good.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Pretty funny, that is. I got as big a laugh about it as anybody. I remember Darrell Hammond on Saturday Night Live portraying me as a one-man Afghani wrecking crew living in a cave outside Kandahar, Afghanistan. I had on my chest a built-in machine that made me invisible to radar and brewed coffee.
RUSH: Again another compliment.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Yeah, another compliment. (chuckling) That's right. But you really have to take it with a grain of salt. It wasn't also personal. Sometimes it was, but it goes with the turf.
RUSH: Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What was your reaction? Every intelligence service around the world including our own said that there was little doubt Saddam Hussein was working on a serious weapons of mass destruction program, perhaps even nuclear. After the invasion, for all intents and purposes, nothing was found. What was your reaction?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, what I recall from the report that was done... You may remember we had an Iraq Survey Group that went in and looked at everything, and they're the ones that did not find any stockpiles. Obviously that had been falsely reported. On the other hand what they did find was that Saddam had retained the capability to go back into production on relatively short notice. He had the raw materials and the technology and the people to be able to resume his program as soon as sanctions were lifted and the inspectors disappeared from the scene. Mr. Kay, who, in fact headed up that search, said after he'd finished his work with the Survey Group that he was more concerned about the threat Saddam represented than he had been when he thought he actually had stockpiles. In other words, very concerned that Saddam was potentially somebody who would quickly get back into the business of producing WMD. Again, he's one of the few people who not only had produced it in the past, he'd also used it in the past. So to say that there was no WMD, that's sort of the conventional wisdom that's out there, but what it was is there were no stockpiles, but there clearly was the capacity -- as well as, supposedly, the intention -- to go back into that business on short notice.
RUSH: You're out of politics now. You're an observer. You've finished the book; you're doing your interviews. What is your assessment of the country? What's your assessment of the future?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, I'm as pro-American as I've been. I've got seven grandkids. I hope that they'll take away from my own experience a willingness on their part to get involved in our political system and be a part of the history that's bound to be made in the decades ahead. I'm worried. I think we've got some significant problems right now. You talk about 'em a lot on your show, and legitimately so. I think we've gotta be very concerned still about the prospects of a terrorist attack on the United States with something deadlier than airline tickets and box cutters. I think the debt problem we've got is horrendous and badly needs to be resolved. But I'm also worried about, oh, such things as the fact that in this year's campaign coming up everybody's focusing on jobs and the economy -- and it's very important to do, but I'm worried that the price for that will be paid by drastic cuts in the defense budget. And that would be a big mistake. I think we've gotta find ways to make certain we don't decimate our military capabilities as we try to bring our domestic spending under control.
RUSH: We have about a minute and a half here. The current Republican presidential field, anything surprise you about it?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, I haven't signed on with anybody yet at this stage. I expect, in the final analysis, I will support the Republican candidate, but to date --
RUSH: I hope so! (laughing)
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: (chuckling) I can't imagine I'd -- well, I'm confident I won't -- support President Obama. Obviously, I've got fundamental disagreements with him. But I think we'll have to see what develops here over the course of the next few months and hopefully we'll have a good strong candidate emerge from that primary process.
RUSH: I know you're really busy today. This is my second opportunity to talk to you -- and, folks, I want to tell you: The newsletter interview takes an entirely different tack than this one. It's a little bit more... Well, I won't describe it. Read it when you get to the newsletter. But I want to thank you, Mr. Vice President, for giving me both opportunities to talk to you and for giving me the chance to embarrass you here. I do think you're a great man, and I think that this book of yours is -- no matter what page you open it to -- riveting. It is fascinating. It is not your typical political memoir, ladies and gentlemen. It is from the heart and honest, and there are heads exploding despite the fact people may not want to admit that.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: (chuckling)
RUSH: I want to congratulate you on this. It's a great book, and I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to you about it, sir.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, thank you, Rush. You do great work. I'm a huge fan, as you know, and I'm honored that you'd take time out of your show to chat about it.
RUSH: Any time. Vice President Dick Cheney and the title of the book is In My Time.