Should Bush Replace Cheney?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," February 16, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The vice president was involved in a terrible accident. And it profoundly affected him. Yesterday, when he was here in the Oval Office, I saw the deep concern he had about a person who he wounded.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: In our "Political Smackdown," as you saw, the president is standing by Dick Cheney, offering his first public comments on the hunting accident just a short while ago.

It may seem farfetched, but one conservative is suggesting it might be best for the White House and the Republican Party if the president at least thought about picking a new second in command. Should he replace Cheney? Let's get reaction to that from Republican strategist Terry Holt, former adviser to the RNC, and Democratic attorney Julian Epstein.

So, Terry, this came from Peggy Noonan no less and I don't think it casts any aspersions on Cheney per se, it just says well, he has gotten to be sort of a drag on the president's numbers, maybe the president ought to replace him. What do you think?

TERRY HOLT, FORMER RNC ADVISER: Roll over, give up. It's obnoxious. There's no way and I'm glad that I cooled down and I'd heard that this was a topic before I came on, or I may get too hot about this again.

The fact of the matter is he is a highly qualified person. He has put his country in front for 40 years in politics. And because he was part of a hunting accident — it's a ridiculous assertion, John and I'm sorry that it was made. I'm hoping that maybe she'll reconsider it maybe.

GIBSON: Julian, it isn't just the hunting accident, it's everything that Dick Cheney is. And while that is true, you are going to see coming up in this program, a little while ago Scott Rasmussen's poll shows that by two to one, even though Cheney has only got a 30 percent approval rating, by two to one Americans are saying get over it, it's just a hunting accident, that's the end of it.

JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC ATTORNEY: That may be true in that isolated incident and look, I'm certainly not one to start calling for people's resignations. I think certainly most Democrats would probably like to see Cheney stay because they believe anyway that he emblemizes a lot of what's wrong with the administration.

Look, the president's numbers have not been very good for the past year. People think the president doesn't get done important things like Iraq and Katrina, at least doesn't do it well.

And that it's less than candid when it comes to important things like the outing of Valerie Plame or like the Abramoff scandal. They just think that this administration is less than candid. And Dick Cheney seems to really personify that.

Now I don't think Cheney is helping the president very much, but I do think that he is a constant reminder of all of the things that the majority of the public think is wrong with the administration. So I don't think he's helping the president, but this president, to his credit, is loyal to a fault and I doubt that he will do anything about it.

GIBSON: Terry, there is a very pragmatic way to discuss this. It doesn't have anything to do with diminishing Cheney or anything. And that is, you know, Cheney is not going to run for anything. His political career is done. If he were to resign and someone else were to take over as vice president, at least it gives the Republicans a leg up for '08 about new people.

HOLT: No, no, no, no, no. This administration needs continuity. It needs experience. You don't lead by doing the easy thing, by doing the convenient thing or polling numbers and leading because of some result of a poll. You do it by offering results to the American people, by making the country more secure.

And sometimes it means having tough guys. And Dick Cheney is a tough guy. He has done a great job for this country and to throw him out because the polling is down is ridiculous. And I think that we need to all take a step back and find out whether or not this country has been better — and I think it has — as a result of Dick Cheney being vice president.

GIBSON: Terry Holt, I suppose you'll have a word with Peggy Noonan eventually.

Julian Epstein, thanks very much, appreciate both of you guys helping me out with this.

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