Vice President Dick Cheney was interviewed by FOX News Channel's Tony Snow Thursday for broadcast on Special Report. Following is a transcript of the interview.
TONY SNOW: On the Patients' Bill of Rights, Congressman Norwood now is with the president to put together a deal. Last night a number of members who don't support the deal got up and said, "Wait a minute, we were left out of this conversation." Were they?
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: We've talked with nearly everybody I can think of on the Hill about the Patients' Bill of Rights. The meeting and the session the president had with Charlie Norwood I think was a good one. Charlie had been one of the key movers and shakers, if you will, in this legislative arena. Had a bill in. He's been a key interlocutor, if you will, for the administration.
The fact that he and the president have been able to reach an agreement I think means that the House will now come together behind that particular proposal and pass it. You can't have all 435 members in the room when you sit down to actually finally negotiate. But in this case I think Charlie Norwood was the right one for us to talk with.
SNOW: Of course, now it goes to a conference. The Senate bill's much different from the House — they've got to reconcile the differences. If there's a lot of variation from this Norwood bill, would the president still consider a veto?
CHENEY: I think he will if the bill is unacceptable and I think he's clearly going to reserve that right. But he would clearly like to sign a bill. He wants a good bill that he can put his name on. I think he'd prefer not to veto a bill, but I think if a bill comes down that doesn't give due regard, if you will, for patients' rights, for health coverage, for the cost of this, if it simply turns out to be sort of a gift to the trial lawyers, I think he would probably oppose that.
SNOW: Mary Gall of the Consumer Product Safety Commission — the Senate committee has rejected her nomination. Tom Daschle not too long ago said, "I would just say with regard to nominees what I've said on several occasions already. I don't believe in payback." Does he believe in payback?
CHENEY: I'm not sure what Tom believes in here. He talks a good game about wanting to cooperate with the administration. He and I have talked, for example, about moving nominees along. With Mary Gall, you've got somebody who's eminently qualified to be chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. She has served on the commission for 10 years. She's twice previously been confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate for service on the commission, the last time when Bill Clinton nominated her in 1999.
The issues in question that they were concerned about this time occurred prior to the last confirmation. So under a Democratic president, nominated by a Democrat, she's confirmed unanimously. Then we come to town and a Republican President, George Bush, nominates her for service on the same body and she's rejected by the Democratic committee in the Senate. You have to conclude, I think, that, in fact, there is a degree of partisanship here.
SNOW: Congress is about to take a break. Why not have a recess appointment? Bill Clinton did it.
CHENEY: Well, we may get to the point where we want to do recess appointments. We certainly have not considered that in this case. We've got a lot of people up there we'd like to have appointed. We think it's not too late for the Senate Democrats to redeem themselves and demonstrate that they really are seriously interested in approving qualified people for office. And they clearly did not make the case that there was some problem there of disqualification for Mary Gall. She obviously is qualified for the post, and maybe we can get them to reconsider.
SNOW: On energy, now the amount of acreage for exploring the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has shrunken to 2,000 acres. That may be, sort of, a political victory, but you know the oil business: Is it possible on a parcel of land that small to be able to go in and get the oil reserves that we believe are there?
CHENEY: Yes, we believe it is. If you look at the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, a lot of it — almost 17 million acres — was always intended to be off-limits to development anyway.
CHENEY: It's only that stretch of about 1.5 million acres along the coast that we think has significant reserves that is really of interest from the standpoint of exploration for oil and gas. And the requirement that you limit the surface disturbance to 2,000 acres, that might be in two parcels, it may be four parcels, but no more than a total of 2,000 acres disturbed on the surface is sufficient, given modern technology, for us to be able to go in and develop that resource.
So I think it's a good compromise, it makes it clear to everybody the vast portion of the national wildlife reserve, some 17 million acres, is treated virtually as wilderness, it's not going to be disturbed in any way, shape or form, and only a small part, 2,000 acres of the remaining 1.5 million, will actually have to be disturbed in order to get at that resource.
SNOW: Do you feel any sense of vindication here?
CHENEY: I do. I think it's been a good debate, important debate. People care deeply about these issues. We do as well, too. But I thought the House conducted itself admirably yesterday in their debate on and vote on energy. We still have to go to the Senate yet, clearly, and there'll be changes made in the Senate, then we'll have to go to conference.
But it's long overdue. It's time we had a comprehensive, long- term energy policy that talked about our technology and paid attention to the environment at the same time and the need to guarantee affordable supplies of energy, and I think we've done that.
SNOW: Let me read a Tom Daschle quote, because this came right before the president's trip to the G-8 summit in Genoa. He said, "I think we are isolating ourselves, and in so isolating ourselves, I think we are minimizing ourselves." What did you make of that at the time?
CHENEY: Well, I thought Tom was out of line to offer the criticism he did just as the president was traveling overseas, embarking upon a second major foreign trip. A certain degree of courtesy, I think, is due a president. I've criticized presidents before in terms of foreign policy, but you try not to do it at a time when they're right smack in the middle of some significant foreign negotiation, especially if you're the leader of the opposition party.
I think the criticism that he's leveled, that Tom Daschle (inaudible) we're isolationist, he's got it 180 degrees backwards. I think, in fact, what we have is a president who's embarked upon the most fundamental change in strategic posture in terms of nuclear weapons and defensive systems in the last 50 years. It's going to get us squared away, if you will, for the 21st century in that regard.
He had the courage to stand up and announce that Kyoto is dead when Kyoto was dead, it had already been voted down 95-zip in the Senate.
He's led the way in terms of trade. We're very eager to have the Congress grant to the president something most presidents have had in recent years, that's the authority to go negotiate trade agreements; trade promotion authority, we call it. One of the major obstacles to getting that done, frankly, is Mr. Daschle.
So if somebody is guilty of isolationism, I really do believe that you'll find that in the other party. They're the ones, for example, who are trying to undermine the NAFTA agreement with Mexico by imposing restraints on Mexican trucks operating inside the United States.
SNOW: Kyoto — you said it's dead. Are European leaders trying to have it both ways?
CHENEY: Yes. They, I think, in many cases, don't want to have to live with restraints of Kyoto. They like being able to point the finger at us and say the Americans are the ones who torpedoed it. But it's a flawed agreement. It leaves out big parts of the world. It imposes a very harsh solution on a problem that is still only partially understood. So I think many of them are probably breathing a sigh of relief behind closed doors that George Bush had the courage to stand up and speak the truth.
SNOW: Middle East: Israel now has a policy of assassinating opposition leaders.
CHENEY: In Israel, what they've done, of course, over the years, occasionally, in an effort to preempt terrorist activities, is to go after the terrorists. And in some cases, I suppose, by their lights it is justified. If you've got an organization that has plotted or is plotting some kind of suicide bomber attack, for example, and they have hard evidence of who it is and where they're located, I think there's some justification in their trying to protect themselves by preempting.
Clearly, it would be better if they could work with the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority and the terrorists of whatever stripe could be headed off and imprisoned and tried, rather than having them actually assassinated.
SNOW: Have they given us any indication that these are, in fact, preemptive strikes?
CHENEY: I think that's their claim. I do know in some cases they have, in fact, gone to the Palestinian authorities with names and locations, and asked that the Palestinians take action against the terrorists in Palestinian territory. And when the Palestinians have failed to do that, then the Israelis have gone forward and launched a strike.
SNOW: All right. Vice President Cheney, thank you.
CHENEY: Thank you.
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