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Vice President Cheney Discusses His Book: "Heart: An American Medical Odyssey"

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  We are happy to once again welcome back to the program, the vice president of the United States, former vice president, Mr. Dick Cheney.  Mr. Cheney, welcome back.

CHENEY:  How are you, Rush?

RUSH:  I'm great.  How are you doing?

CHENEY:  I couldn't be doing better.  It's really, what, 18 months ago now I got my new heart, heart transplant, and it's just been phenomenal ever since.  It's nothing short of a miracle.

RUSH:  And you've written a book about all this.  Why?

CHENEY:  Well, what happened was -- this was before I finally had the transplant. I was living on a pump then, an artificial pump. I got a call one day from the Cleveland Clinic, one of the world's foremost heart institutes, said they were having a big conference on innovation in cardiology. They had the suppliers come and they had the docs come and decided that they ought to have a patient.  And then they figured out I'd had everything done to a heart that you could do to a heart patient, except transplant at that point, and so they called me and sent their plane for me, and I was happy to go participate. 

But it occurred to my doctor and I that if the Cleveland Clinic was interested in my case as being sort of illustrative of all of the developments that have, in effect, reduced the incidents of death from heart disease by about 60% over the last 40 years, there's a story there to be told.  I had a lot of calls from people who were going through similar problems to what I had, or they've got a relative or a spouse, and I wanted to be helpful, and my case literally illustrates all the things that saved my life, from stents and implantable defibrillators and left ventricular assist device and heart transplant, a bypass surgery and so forth. And we wanted to do the book, frankly, because there are 80 million people out there that have some form of a heart problem in the United States, and this will answer a lot of their questions and I think also convey a sense of hope about what's possible.

RUSH:  Well, you sound really good.  You sound filled with energy and you sound optimistic about things.  Are you rested from your time in office and in a different way, somewhat stress free now?

CHENEY:  Well, I love the jobs I had, but I'm not sure the stress has gone away.  All I have to do is turn on the television and watch the news.

RUSH:  (laughing)

CHENEY:  I'm very worried about the country. I know you are, too, because I listen to your program. But from a physical, personal standpoint, I feel great.  From the standpoint of the fate of the republic, I'm very worried.

RUSH:  Well, before we get into that, I want to go back to what you just said about the advances -- --

CHENEY:  Right.

RUSH:  -- available to you.  You know, I've had a similar medical problem with my hearing. 

CHENEY:  Right.

RUSH:  I lost my hearing, and I literally lost it a hundred percent.  And I was thinking when it happened, if I had lost my hearing 20 years earlier, it would have meant the end of my career.  I was really lucky that my time on earth happened to coincide with the level of medical and technological advancement that hearing loss could be recovered with something called a cochlear implant.  My time on earth, everybody's time on earth is a speck of sand compared to the age of the earth -- yours, mine.  I looked at myself as profoundly fortunate.  You must think the same way.  You're born with your heart problem but you happen to be alive at a time when these kinds of advances are taking place in the country of your birth, and they're able to give you a normal life and add years to your life.  Now, am I right about that?  I don't want to put words in your mouth.

CHENEY:  Absolutely right, Rush.  When I had my first heart attack I was 37 years old.  It was 1978 and virtually none of the treatments and devices, medications that saved my life had even been invented yet.  And now when I look back on that experience, my doc has a way of describing it, he said, "Dick, it's like you're getting ready to go to work in the morning, but you're late. You jump in the car, you head out and every single stoplight is red." But he said, "When you got to 'em every one of 'em turned green," and that's exactly what happened. Each time I needed some new capability to deal with my latest problem, it was there, and it was there because of the innovation and creativity of the American health care system.  It was a blessing.  It was dumb luck to some extent. Some of the procedures I went through were difficult, but my dad had exactly the same thing I did, and of course never had the benefit of all of those things that kept me alive.

RUSH:  Now, people are going to accuse me of taking advantage of your appearance here today to go political on this, and I reject that because I'm simply reacting to what's happening before my very eyes. In light of these medical advances made available to you, especially from your former perch, you look at what is happening to the US health care system, what do you think?

CHENEY:  I think Obamacare, if I can use that word on your show, I've heard it there a time or two.

RUSH:  Feel free, yes.

CHENEY:  It's devastating.  There's a big piece in the Wall Street Journal I just read this morning written by, I think, a pediatric cardiologist talking about what's happening in terms of the way the health profession is being shaped and changed because of what's being done with respect to Obamacare in terms of reducing the extent to which physicians can be reimbursed for the expense they bear in treating their cases and their patients.  It's having a devastating impact from that perspective.  The device tax, you know, I've got a good friend who was involved in the development of the stent.  That's one of the techniques that saved my life.  George W. Bush just had a stent.  It saved hundreds of thousands of lives over the years.

RUSH:  His case was more serious than was originally believed, too.

CHENEY:  Apparently.  I talked to him just after he had the procedure, but, basically, you know, 30 years ago stents didn't exist. Two docs came up with an idea, didn't have any money, went to a friend of mine, a guy named Phil Romano, who owned Fuddruckers and Macaroni Grill and so forth, and he put up $250,000.  They got the patent, they sold it to Johnson & Johnson, and now stents are widely available across the country.  And even Phil now has a stent, but it literally added for millions of Americans the ability to deal with an impending heart attack without ever having to go through that process.  It's a lifesaving device because of the private free enterprise system in this country, and now Barack Obama wants to tax those kinds of devices from day one, and the more you tax it, the less creativity you're gonna have in that regard.

RUSH:  Well, that's all true, but I blanch at the deceit that has been part of this.  I mean, everything they've promised people has turned out to not be true.  Their premiums are not cheaper. The health care is not gonna be better, it isn't gonna be more plentiful, everything.  The insurance companies have been depleted, and all this is happening at the behest of people who have no experience whatsoever in this field.  They're lifelong academicians, theoreticians.  They've never worked in this field or anything else in the private sector, and yet they have this arrogant presumption that they know better.  It's scary to me what's happening, because it is the best health care system in the world. I mean, you mentioned the Cleveland Clinic.  I read that they are going to have to start laying off doctors and nurses because of this.

CHENEY:  Right.  That's exactly what's happened.  I've heard the same about the Cleveland Clinic.  It's one of foremost heart institutes not just in the US, but in the world.  When you put that much strain on the system as they're doing, and as you say by people who don't appear to be able to find their fanny with both hands, they don't know anything about the health care industry, and he basically is trying to take over what, 16, 17% of our economy, which is what the health care system in this country constitutes.  They appear to be without a clue in terms of what they're doing, the damage they're inflicting. They can't even set up the computer system so you can get on to that so-called health care system.  So I think it's a travesty, Rush. I think it's one of the worst things I've ever seen in the domestic policy arena, and I hope we get it shut down before we're unable to correct it.

RUSH:  What did you make of the latest efforts by various wings, if I can say, of the Republican Party to try to defund it or delay it or slow it down?  You're watching from afar, and yet you've been close.  What did you think of the effort?

CHENEY:  Well, I'm sympathetic in terms of their desire to want to try to shut it down.  I didn't feel like they had a strategy that would work, and didn't.  You know, unfortunately we got into a situation where we didn't achieve the desired result.  I'm a great one, for example, in believing we shouldn't extend the debt ceiling unless we get commensurate reductions in spending.  I think it's important to link those kinds of connections together.  It's not clear to me that we achieved much with the strategy that was followed.  Now we seem to have Republicans fighting against Republicans when the real enemy is Barack Obama, and he's standing back from the fray watching us duke it out.

RUSH:  Do you have a few more minutes?  I have to take a break. There's no wrong answer.  If you have to go, that's fine.

CHENEY:  No, I'll be happy to talk.

RUSH:  Cool.  Vice President Cheney is with us, and we will be back in mere moments.  Don't go away.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH:  We are back for our remaining moments with Vice President Dick Cheney, eight or nine minutes here, and, Mr. Vice President, I mentioned in the first hour of the program, the audience, one of the things I wanted to ask you about was that you feared, with your pacemaker, some kind of terrorist sabotage via the Internet because the pacemaker was vulnerable to that.  I remember the TV show Homeland, that is how the vice president was actually killed in that way.  Now, I'm sure your concern predated that episode, but who put that possibility into your mind?

CHENEY:  Well, it was a pacemaker plus in the fact my doctors were afraid that I might go into sudden cardiac arrest, and the way you save that, come back from it is with the paddles.  This is a built-in set of paddles, like a pacemaker wired into your heart, and after the one I'd worn for about five or six years needed to be replaced, the new one that came in was capable of being controlled remotely. That is, you could affect it and adjust the settings on it from a wireless capability, and they were worried that if I was on a rope line someplace, somebody could get close enough to be able to, in fact, set off a heart attack with the right pulse, if you will, at my implantable defibrillator.  So we had them disconnect that feature while I was wearing it.  Some years later we actually saw that scenario played out on Homeland in a fictional way.

RUSH:  How realistic was that?  Was that just a precaution or was it something they really thought somebody could do if they studied it?

CHENEY:  Well, it was technically feasible.  Somebody demonstrated that it could in fact be done, and so we had to guard against it.  But I wanted to come back, if I could, Rush, to the point you mentioned just before the break in terms of the most recent battles over budget and so forth.

RUSH:  Sure.

CHENEY:  I really feel very important -- I'm from Wyoming, obviously, and daughter Liz is running for the Senate out there this year, but one of the things we've got to be able to do is to build bridges between and establish working relationships I think with all factions in the party.  There's a tendency right now for people to want to condemn the establishment or condemn the Tea Party, and I think, in Wyoming anyway, we're working hard to try to keep everybody pulled together and headed in the same direction on a basic fundamental set of conservative principles that we all believe in and taking on Barack Obama, who is in fact the adversary. 

RUSH:  Well, what is it about the Tea Party you think that bothers some members of what is the so-called establishment?

CHENEY:  Well, I think there are people in what I would call the establishment that are comfortable with the status quo.  And what the Tea Party represents, at least in our state, very much are people who frankly have just gotten totally fed up with the existing operations in Washington. They feel the Constitution is threatened. They feel that their individual liberties under threat and Barack Obama is at the base of all of those concerns, but they're also looking for politicians who will stand up and fight for what they believe in.  I've got a lot of friends in the Tea Party movement.  I don't think it is a divisive force.  I'd much rather see them inside the party than outside the party.  I think it's important that we go forward in terms of building those kinds of relationships and get off this kick that everybody's trying to blame the other guy for the problems that occurred in the aftermath of the government shutdown.  We gotta get on with the next fight and we need to try to be united to do that.

RUSH:  And of course united against the Democrats and Obama.  There's just, sadly, little push-back.  You know, the Republican Party's seen as timid --

CHENEY:  Right.

RUSH:  -- in pushing back against Obama.

CHENEY:  I think that's correct.  They in fact are, in many respects.

RUSH:  Yeah.  And probably a couple reasons why.  I think race is a factor, and there's also the perception that the media loves him and no matter what you say about him the media's gonna crucify you.  And I think there's a misconception also in Republican Party that the majority of the American people love and adore Obama.  I think it's an image that's out there that survives from the 2008 election.

CHENEY:  Right.

RUSH:  But political parties, they have to identify as something, and if they don't push back against status quo when they agree with it, why do they exist?

CHENEY:  Right.  No, it is very important to push back, and I think the future of the party at this stage and the conservative cause is that we need a new generation involved there, too.  Part of is to reenergize the party and organization and find new candidates, people who are ready to take on those aspects of the establishment, if you will, certainly the Obama operation, if we're gonna win this fight, and we've gotta do it soon.  We sit around for another three and a half years, we're gonna be in a very, very deep hole in this country because of the policies of the Obama administration.  Obamacare's one of the problems.

RUSH:  You mentioned your daughter Liz, and I was going to ask you about that.  Are you are excited as a parent now, are you excited about her getting into this?

CHENEY:  I absolutely am.  It's great, frankly, to have somebody who watched me go through 40 years in the business and being willing to step up and with all of her professional qualifications, she's also the mother of five of my grandchildren, and she wants to and has jumped into the arena and gotten into the fight.  I couldn't be prouder of her.  I'm delighted that she's willing to do that, and a lot of good people out there across Wyoming have signed on, and she's going flat-out.

RUSH:  She doesn't hold back.

CHENEY:  She doesn't.  We appreciate it, too, Rush, you've said some very nice things about her, and, as a father, but also as a conservative Republican, we appreciated that.

RUSH:  Let me tell you, I've had occasion to speak with her a couple of times, and she actually called me out for pulling up short on a couple things that she thought I shoulda kept going, and which I loved.  I thinks she's really committed.

CHENEY:  She is, absolutely.

RUSH:  There's no question.  Now, your book, I want to get the title of the book out.  It's called Heart: An American Medical Odyssey.

CHENEY:  Correct.

RUSH:  You've had five heart attacks.

CHENEY:  Right.

RUSH:  And yet you're as -- I'm asking, I've got about a minute and a half here -- you're as active as you want to be now?

CHENEY:  The only thing I can't do, Rush, is I can't ski, but that's not because of my heart; that's 'cause I got bad knees.  But it's nothing short of a miracle.  Three years ago in July I was in end stage heart failure, my liver and kidneys were shutting down, blood ejection fraction was down to 10%, and they brought me back, put in a pump, temporary pump, it ran on batteries, bought me 20 months.  That got me to the transplant, and the transplant's nothing short of a miracle, and I owe a deep debt to the donor, to the surgeons, to the people all across the country who asked for my help in their prayers, and I'm a very, very lucky man.

RUSH:  Well, you're also missed, if I can say that.  I know I speak for millions in this audience.  You are profoundly appreciated, and you took all the arrows as pioneers do. You took hit after hit, and you remained who you are, and you remained focused, and there's such an immense amount of respect and love for you out there, and your perseverance here and your devotion to service. You and Rumsfeld both, I mean, you've given your lives to your country. You've taken all kinds of slings and arrows for it, and I just want you to know that I am at the top of the list among people who have a great sense of appreciation for what you've done.

CHENEY:  Well, thanks a lot, Rush.  That means the world coming from you.

RUSH:  Well, I'm flattered, but really it's an honor to have been able to know you and get to know your family and your friends, and we wish you the best, Mr. Vice President.  Keep on.

CHENEY:  All right, Rush.  Good luck.

RUSH:  Vice President Cheney, who is going hunting this weekend in the wilds of Wyoming, with live ammo.  He's actually gonna take a real gun and actually go real hunting.  I thought you leftists would like to hear that.

END TRANSCRIPT

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