RUSH: Once again, Mr. Vice President, it’s a thrill and an honor to have you with us, sir.
VICE PRESIDENT RICHARD B. CHENEY: Well, good afternoon, Rush.
RUSH: All right. First thing. We just had a call that leads me into my first question for you about the economy. The caller was frustrated that the party at large doesn’t seem to be getting the news out about how good the economy is, and indeed the economic statistics are fabulous — unemployment, middle-class wage growth, Dow Jones Industrial Average flirting with 12,000 — and yet we’re told that people don’t “feel” this economy is good. Why do you think that is, if it’s true, and how do you all plan to use the economy in the next three weeks of the campaign?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think first of all you’re absolutely right, Rush. The economy is very good. I’ve been involved with a lot of campaigns going back nearly 40 years, and I’m hard put to find a time when things were as good as they are now for the party from our perspective, and you’ve cited all the data. We’ve got over 6.6 million jobs we’ve added in a little over three years now. Home ownership is at an all-time record high. The stock market is at a high. Everything is really kicking along in great shape.
RUSH: The deficit is down.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s hard sometimes to drive that point through to the public, and I think a lot of press coverage, you know, focuses on specific problems. Gasoline prices go up and everybody gets upset, and takes that as sort of a lead indicator for the economy, but now gasoline prices are coming down. Natural gas prices are coming down. Heating bills are going to be lower this winter. So I think it just takes time for it to sink in.
RUSH: Well, it’s interesting. The gas price run-up was hailed as a “failure” of the Bush administration’s economic policy. Now that gas prices are coming down, the focus seems to be on what is it you all are doing to manipulate the market before the election.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: (chuckles)
RUSH: Also, I wanted to mention to you that the deficit has been cut in half three years early.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.
RUSH: It really is stunning news, but it’s a large Drive-By Media megaphone to overcome. Is there a coordinated effort within all these candidates that are running for reelection to stress the economy?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re trying. I’ve got two major subjects I address when I’m out on the road. One is to talk about tax policy and what that’s done for our economy, and the other is to focus on the global war on terror. The president, in the last week when we had the good news on the deficit as we closed out the fiscal year, was out publicly talking specifically about that point, trying to take advantage of the opportunity to get the idea across to everybody that we did hit our target three years early in terms of deficit reduction. But again, that was primarily as a result of our tax policy and the fact that we’ve supported pro-growth policies, and it has generated more economic activity and more jobs and ultimately more revenue for the federal government.
RUSH: When you’re out there, are you encountering any apathy? Are you encountering engaged excitement? What’s the mood you’re running into? I know you’re speaking to a mostly Republican audience. How do you assess them?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure. Well, yesterday, for example, I was down in Louisville, Kentucky for Congressman Jeff Davis, who’s a great member, by the way. I think he’ll get reelected. I also stopped at Fort Campbell to thank members of the 101st Airborne for all their good work they’ve been doing in the Middle East. But the mood that I find in terms of the people I’m talking with is very positive. Now, of course, I’m probably not going to see a lot of Democrats coming to a Republican fund-raiser, so I don’t want to misread the situation, but I think I find a far more positive attitude out there than one would be led to believe just by reading the national press.
RUSH: Do you get frustrated when you see Republicans speculating on how many House seats they’re going to lose?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s a natural, normal situation at this stage. But I really think we’re going to do reasonably well, and I think we’ll hold the Senate, and I also think we’ve got a good shot of holding the House. I’ve done 114 campaigns so far this cycle. I’ve been all over the country and seen all kinds of candidates and all kinds of races, but I think the key will be who goes to the polls on Election Day, and certainly it’s always tough when you’re in the midterm of your second presidential term in office. Historically, those are the most difficult elections for the incumbents in the White House, but I think the basic fundamental facts — in terms of national security, in terms of five years of defeating the terrorists and their efforts to try to launch another attack against the United States, I think the overall health of the economy, I think the overall progress we’re making in all those areas all argues that, in fact when the American people have to make a choice between us and the Democrats, I think they’ll come down on the side of supporting the president and Republican candidates.
RUSH: The war, Iraq, national security, war on terror, it’s all combined into one issue now as far as the election is concerned, but I saw the president last night say that he acknowledges that there’s some frustration on the part of the American people regarding Iraq because we all want to win, and we can’t declare victory yet. The president signed the Military Detainee Act today, the tribunal act, and it’s clear — to me, anyway — that you in the White House are not changing policy on this at all, that the operating policy here is victory. Is the perception that victory is possible strong enough? Is that possibility being laid out in strong enough terms to the American people that they think it’s possible, or are they beginning to doubt that it can happen?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think there’s some natural level of concern out there because in fact, you know, it wasn’t over instantaneously. It’s been a little over three years now since we went into Iraq, so I don’t think it’s surprising that people are concerned. On the other hand, this government has only been in office about five months, five or six months now. They’re off to a good start. It is difficult, no question about it, but we’ve now got over 300,000 Iraqis trained and equipped as part of their security forces. They’ve had three national elections with higher turnout than we have here in the United States. If you look at the general overall situation, they’re doing remarkably well. It’s still very, very difficult, very tough. Nobody should underestimate the extent to which we’re engaged there with this sort of, at present, the “major front” of the war on terror. That’s what Osama bin Laden says, and he’s right. It’s very important that we prevail there, but we’re engaged really on a global basis. We’re very active in Afghanistan. We’ve got continuing activities in Pakistan. We’ve captured and killed more Al-Qaeda in Pakistan probably than anyplace else. We’re active working with the Saudis and in many others in that part of the world. So it’s a major conflict. It’s going to run for a long time, and everybody needs to understand that. The campaign, I look on, as an opportunity to remind everybody what’s at stake here, and in this particular instance it’s especially important to point out to people that terrorists can’t beat us in a stand-up fight. They can only win if we lose our will, and they’re betting we will. They’re betting we don’t have the stomach for the fight, and I don’t think that’s true, and I think faced with that basic fundamental choice I think the American people understand that it’s having gone on offense, having gotten aggressive, going after the terrorists, closing those training camps in Afghanistan and working to take down regimes like Saddam Hussein and to stand up democracies in their place as well as stop measures here at home. It’s what’s kept us safe for five years and is the reason why there hasn’t been another attack like 9/11 on the US.
RUSH: Well, there’s no question the American people respond to leadership in times like this. Let me put it to you this way. I was reading something today. A writer, I don’t remember who, was speculating on increased terrorist attacks in Iraq attempting to demoralize the American people as we get up to the election. When I read that, it made sense to me, and I interpreted this as the terrorists are actually involved and want to involve themselves in our electoral process, which must mean they want to change. Now, I know you can’t comment politically on the point that I make, but do you expect — and is there preparation for — it? One of the things I read was that there’s been noted plots to actually try to blow up the Green Zone. One was aborted and discovered recently. But some major attacks being planned for right up until the election, which could be devastating if they happen in terms of the American people’s morale.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure. Well, I think there’s no question that this is a sophisticated crew who understand the impact on public opinion, and as I say, they say as much, that what they’re banking on, they hark back to Somalia in ’93 or Beirut in 1983 when after Americans were killed, our response was to withdraw our forces. So I think they’re very sensitive to that kind of thing, and, as I say, they clearly don’t have the military capability to defeat us, but they believe they can break our will. So you look at something like our elections here, and I think they’re probably — I don’t have any proof, but I think they’re probably — very sensitive to that. We saw what they did in Spain a few years ago, remember.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Aznar supported us very aggressively, and shortly before the elections in Spain they launched an attack on the trains that set off several bombs and killed a bunch of people shortly before the election and they probably did have that impact.
RUSH: There was a story in the Washington Post yesterday or earlier in the week. The reporter was amazed that the president and Karl Rove remain, quote, “inexplicably upbeat,” unquote, about the outcome of the elections, and that there is “no plan for if the Republicans lose” the House and/or the Senate. Can you tell us why the upbeat attitude in the White House?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, because we’re out there working hard in connection with this campaign, because I think we feel like we’ve got some great candidates. I’ve got great confidence in Karl and Ken Mehlman up at the RNC. These are two of the best in the business in terms of understanding this process, and I think our candidates are well financed. We’re doing everything humanly possible to succeed in this election, and, of course, we track polls as everybody else does, too. But I think it’s easy to sit in Washington and sort of absorb the vibes coming from the national media, but that doesn’t represent necessarily what’s going on out there around the country. When you get out on the ground talking with real people about real problems, their hopes and desires for their families and for the nation, as well as their appreciation for what we’ve been able to accomplish over the last six years, you get a very positive feeling.
RUSH: One final question. You guys are fighting so hard to defeat the terrorists in and around this country and around the world. Do you have any reaction to the lenient sentence that Lynne Stewart received yesterday in New York?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I was surprised. Of course, it’s not for me to substitute my judgment for a judge, but I think of course the prosecution had asked for a much stiffer sentence, and this was somebody who has been supposedly convicted or pled guilty to being a key intermediary for a major terrorist — and, you know, that’s significant. I think we need to make certain that when we find somebody who is indeed in bed with the terrorists, that they are appropriately brought to justice.
RUSH: Mr. Vice President, thanks very much for your time. I know you gave us a couple minutes extra than you have on your schedule. I appreciate it, and we look forward to the next time. The best to you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Rush, you’ve got a great show, as always, and it’s good to talk to you.
RUSH: Thank you, sir. Vice President Dick Cheney.