Cheney: Kerry's Senate Record Is Troubling

Vice President Dick Cheney (search) on Tuesday re-stated assurances he would appear on the ticket with President Bush in November in an interview with Fox News' Brit Hume. He also clarified the campaign's criticisms of Sen. John Kerry (search), emphasizing his respect for the Democratic front-runner's years of service in Vietnam.

Following is the text of Cheney's interview on "Special Report with Brit Hume," which has been edited for clarity. To view a clip of the interview, click here.

HUME: Mr. Vice President, it appears clear that John Kerry is the likely nominee. He has said in a letter that this administration has attacked him on his Vietnam record and, in effect, on his patriotism.

CHENEY: That's clearly not true. I think everybody respects John Kerry's service in Vietnam. It's never really been an issue. What we're concerned about, what I'm concerned about, is his record in the United States Senate. He very clearly has over the years adopted a series of positions that indicate a desire to cut the defense budget, cut the intelligence budget, to eliminate many major weapons programs, to vote against, for example, the first Gulf War resolution back in 1991, and his inconsistencies with respect to Iraq.  So it's not a question of whether or not he served in Vietnam, he did. He served very loyally and very courageously and we honor him for that.  The question that you have to ask a would-be president is what kind of decisions he would make in that capacity about national security. I would say based on 19 years in the U.S. Senate, Senator Kerry's record is one that I think many Americans would have trouble supporting.

HUME: You've been in the legislature, been in the House, you know how often you end up voting for an amendment that appears to go one way then ends up going another way in final passage because you're just trying to work your will. Isn't it fair to suggest that the apparent inconsistencies in Sen. Kerry's record are the inevitable result of his service in a body where you have to work your will in various ways?

CHENEY: Well I served 10 years in the House of Representatives and there was never much doubt about where my record put me in that. If you're talking about one or two votes, certainly, but we're not. We're talking about a whole series of votes over almost two decades, and they without question position him as a man of a certain view. Perfectly legitimate view, I just think it's wrong.

HUME:  It appears that the U.N. is going to conclude in a report there were no WMD in Iraq after 1994. This mirrors to some extent what David Kay (search) says is his view of the matter. Are you now satisfied that that was the case?

CHENEY: I think it's important for us to be precise here in terms of what we're talking about. It's clear that Saddam Hussein (search) had produced and used chemical weapons in the past. It's clear that he'd pursued aggressively nuclear and biological weapons, etc.  It's also clear that even, as David Kay said, that he had the capacity in terms of his labs, in terms of the technology, in terms of the personnel who were familiar with all of this capability to produce those kinds of weapons on relatively short notice, especially with respect to biological weapons, for example, or chemical weapons. We still haven't completed the search. There's still a lot more work to be done before the ISG will be able to say they've turned over all the rocks and looked in all the crannies and nooks in Iraq. My judgment is — and even based on what we've seen since the war — that without question Saddam Hussein had the capacity to produce WMD. He had a track record of producing and using them in the past, and the only conclusion that you can draw based on that is that he was, in fact, a danger. And I firmly believe that, and you can have a debate over well, did he have any chemical weapons stockpiled ready to go at a moment's notice. So far we haven't found any. We may yet, we don't know. It's only a matter of weeks to produce a biological agent sufficient to kill thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people. So, the threat was clearly there. The question that will ultimately finally be resolved once the ISG completes its look at it, is exactly what shape it was in or what form it was in at the time. But to date, we've not yet obviously found large stockpiles of weapons.

HUME: Apart from the allegation that has been made by some who have been in touch with Jean-Bertrand Aristide that he was basically hustled out of Haiti against his will by the United States in effect at gunpoint, setting that aside, that's obviously been firmly denied, what about the charge that the U.S., by virtue of waiting as long as it did to do anything militarily, in effect participated in a coup there?

CHENEY: I think it's not a valid charge. This is not the first time I've watched a Haiti crisis unfold.  I think we moved very rapidly and decisively. The president, secretary of state, secretary of defense all did a great job. And the fact of the matter was that Mr. Aristide had worn out his welcome. He was democratically elected but he didn't govern in a democratic manner and had reached the point where clearly the opposition groups, rebels, were increasingly successful at undermining his authority. He made the choice to leave. He resigned the office of his own free will and left on a civilian aircraft which we chartered for him, he left with his security detail. This was his decision to go.

HUME: No American armed men around him?

CHENEY: No American armed men around him. We didn't coerce him to get on the airplane. We helped facilitate his departure when he indicated he was ready to go. We think it was the right decision, the right decision for the people of Haiti.

HUME: On the economy, the Democrats, led by John Kerry, are saying that the tax cuts manifestly haven't worked, the economy has failed to recover in a way that would generate job creation of the kind that everybody obviously wants. What's your answer to that?

CHENEY: I think that the economy is significantly improved. I think all the data point in that direction. We inherited a recession, a recession that began either shortly before or about the same time that we got into office. We'd had the economy complicated by the attacks of 9/11 and all the disruption that that put in. The president put forward with his tax cuts in spring of '01 and '02 and again in '03, and I think it's precisely the right medicine for the economy. We're now to the point where the last half of last year we grew at better than 6 percent with the highest rates in 20 years. All the indicators are headed in the right direction. We are creating more jobs, not as fast as we'd like, we need to continue to work on that. But the fact of the matter is we've made major progress and what the Democrats are offering at this point are tax increases, at exactly the wrong time. The kind of tax increases that would choke off the recovery.

HUME: The deficit has obviously grown, it looks huge. There are those who say that it is a real threat to the economy at these levels and, put together with vast, unfunded entitlements that lie out there in the future about ready to hit, that the Administration has really not effectively dealt with that issue. What's your response?

CHENEY: We have inherited a situation in which it's been necessary, it's in effect been driven by the economy into a deficit status, the budget has. The falloff in federal revenues, primarily due to the recession, accounted for about half of the increase in the deficit. We're also at war. We've had to spend a lot more on defense and homeland security, and those are all legitimate reasons for running a deficit. I think we'd be subject to legitimate criticism if we didn't go forward on those initiatives. And the fact is, over the course of the next several years, the president's budget calls for cutting the deficit in half, by 50 percent. The deficit today, relative to the total size of the economy, is not as big as it was back in the '80's or early '90's, so to cast this as some sort of economic crisis is not true.

HUME: That mysterious person that Russell Baker once referred to as "The Great Mentioner" has begun to mention other people as possible replacements for you on the ticket — what about that?

CHENEY: Well, the president the other night said he put me in charge of the search committee as he had four years ago and I came up with the same answer again. He told that jokingly, obviously. But he's asked me to serve with him on the ticket again for the next four years, and I'm happy to do that. As long as I can be of assistance and he wants me in that spot, I plan to serve.

HUME: Mr. Vice President, my time is up, thank you very much.

CHENEY: Thank you.

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