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Transcript: Former Sen. Simpson Discusses His Friend, Dick Cheney

The following is a partial transcript of the FOX News Sunday edition that aired on Feb. 19, 2006:

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: To get an idea of how Mr. Cheney has been getting through what he described as a very long week, we turn now to one of his closest friends in politics, former Senator Alan Simpson, who joins us from Cody, Wyoming.

And, Senator, welcome to "FOX News Sunday".

FORMER SEN. ALAN SIMPSON, R-WYO.: It's always a pleasure, Chris. And it's rosy-fingered dawn out here, and I'm up.

WALLACE: Well, good. We want you to be up at rosy-fingered dawn.

SIMPSON: I just want to tell — let me just say, it was very interesting hearing Lindsey and Evan Bayh. Evan Bayh won't be in eighth place when the race narrows up. That's a very splendid man, and I served with his dad. Enough of that. And I know Lindsey, too. Go ahead. Shoot the works.

WALLACE: All right. Thank you, Senator. It's always a pleasure. I want to start with something that the vice president said to Brit Hume in his interview. Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: The image of him falling is something I'll never be able to get out of my mind. I fired, and there's Harry falling. And it was, I'd have to say, one of the worst days of my life at that moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Now, your friend is not a touchy-feely guy who generally lets people feel his emotions. But I've got to tell you, Senator, I was struck by how pained he seems to have been by this incident.

SIMPSON: Well, I haven't talked to him, because the first few days of it, I was in Ohio, and they were calling me, and I had the sense that they were saying have you talked to Cheney, and if you did, what did he say you should say — in other words, a sinister approach to put a spin on it.

I haven't talked with him. As soon as this is over, I will have done all these, and I'm going to call him. But let me tell you, he probably went home that day when he got back to Lynne and probably put his head down on her shoulder and cried, because this guy — think of how you would feel if you pulled up any kind of a gun and a human being was in front of it and he dropped. And then you went over to see him and he didn't say anything.

I always say in this line of work, how would you feel if this were happening to you — not you, Chris, I mean, but there is a human element here that got lost in the perfect storm of people who don't like Cheney. They don't like hunting. They don't like guns. They don't like people who kill birds and eat them. I mean, good grief.

WALLACE: Some of his friends have been quoted in the press as saying they worry about the toll this is taking on the vice president. And let me point out not the political controversy, but, as you say, the human feeling about having shot his friend. Do you worry about that?

SIMPSON: I don't, because of what Whittington has said. These two have known each other — if you hunt quail — I can remember a lot of pellets falling around me. Of course, when you're six foot seven, a lot of them fall around you, but none at that range. But it is a devastating thing. It has to be. I can't imagine an accident like that.

But as long as Whittington — I'll bet Whittington will call him. He's going to visit with his old pals on those wonderful places where you hunt quail, and it's not going to deter him from doing that, but it certainly, you know, is always in your craw, whatever you've done like that...

WALLACE: Senator, as we...

SIMPSON: ... the pain of it, the pain of it.

WALLACE: Senator, as we mentioned, Democrats have taken this opportunity to pound on the vice president and the White House for what they say is a display of arrogance. Let's take a look at some of that, sir.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, D-N.Y.: A tendency of this administration from the top all the way to the bottom is to withhold information.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

U.S. SENATOR HARRY REID,D-NEV., MINORITY LEADER: This administration is the most secretive administration in modern history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Senator, what do you make of that?

SIMPSON: Well, you know, that's an interesting pitch, but we haven't had another 9/11, so something good must be going on with all this, quote, evil, secret stuff. And then this business of the 20-hour gap — I mean, it is a laugher. I mean, that's a laugher. It's a lot more sinister than the 18 minutes on Rosemary Woods' tape with Nixon. I mean, what is this? What are they doing?

Let me tell you, the American people know that when you have an accident on your ranch, and you're the host, and a guy gets bucked off a horse and has a concussion, or there's a hunting accident, your first impression is not to pick up the phone and call your dearest, you know, A.P. or Reuters or Bloomberg. That is not the first thing in your head.

First thing is take care of the guy, go to the hospital, call his relatives, sit down, say who wants to do this. As I understand it, Dick said, you know, to her it's your call. And the sadness, the tragedy, was that she called the Corpus Christi Caller-Times instead of The New York Times. This has just got them all worked up, for God's sake.

WALLACE: Some Republicans, though, Senator, have also been unhappy with the way the vice president handled this. I want to point out one example. Peggy Noonan, the former Reagan speech writer, wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal in which she said that Dick Cheney has become the hate magnet for this administration.

And then she went on to say this. Take a look. She said, "So Mr. Bush may feel in time that he has reason to want to put in a new vice president in order to pick a successor who'll presumably have an edge in the primaries." Senator Simpson, what do you make of that?

SIMPSON: Well, we have a word for it, but we won't use it here, out here in the wild west. Let me tell you, that is — she is a wonderful gal. And I mean, I know her, and when I read her words, they're lyrical and they're marvelous.

Dick Cheney has become the hate symbol from the beginning. He was the hate symbol when he was with Halliburton. He was the hate symbol when he came in and the votes with South Africa and this and that. And then he was the hate symbol of hiding an energy conference. He was the hate symbol of terrorists, hate symbol of torture.

Let me tell you, those who don't like him have put a big red tail on his bum, and cloven hooves, and horns on his head. And let me tell you, if anybody thinks — if this had happened to anybody else in America, it would have been like a sparrow belch in a typhoon.

WALLACE: Could you be a little more colorful, Senator?

SIMPSON: Well, I don't think I could, because it really is absurd. It's absolutely absurd. I go around the country. I travel all the time. And the American people are just shaking their heads and saying it's a hunting accident, a tragic hunting accident — a victim, a guy who's hurt, and a guy who's hurt because he shot, who's pained, who's anguished. What's new, for God's sakes?

WALLACE: Senator, perhaps the most interesting part of all this is what we learned about the vice president over the course of the last week. In his interview with Brit Hume, he said that he thinks, as you just pointed out, that the national press corps is upset because they were left out, and then he added this shot. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: It strikes me that the Corpus Christi Caller-Times is just as valid a news outlet as The New York Times is, especially for covering a major story in south Texas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Fair to say that your friend doesn't have much regard for the mainstream press, sir?

SIMPSON: I tell you, no. I think he has a high regard for the press, but he has a dismissiveness to stupidity. And where it started, where it started was when he and Colin Powell and Pete Williams, their press guy, when he was secretary of defense, answering questions on the first Gulf War, questions like when will you attack, where will the attack take place and how many forces.

Now, you've got to have rock for brains to ask questions like that. And I think at that time he just thought if they're goofy like that, you know, why not just stay away from them.

WALLACE: So summing up here, Senator — and we love your tour of this whole event — what does the last week tell us or should it tell us about Washington, about the politicians, about the press corps?

SIMPSON: Well, it tells you what — you should listen to Lindsey Graham and Evan Bayh and know that, really, there is cooperation, but what it really tells you, what are we going to expect of the national press corps, and especially the Washington press corps, when something really happens.

How are we to trust, after a whole week of absolute dribble, and babble, and people, you know, interviewing themselves — well, what do you think about Dick, oh, you know — and Jay Leno and Letterman — I asked them how would you feel if this happened to you.

Let me tell you, the American people are really waiting with sense of glee when something really, really happens in America, and I suppose they'll just have a catatonic stroke and pitch forward on their faces.

WALLACE: So I take it, Senator, do you really miss this place?

SIMPSON: No, I do. I loved it. I did. I loved it. And I loved it because it was fun. And I have a lot of pals on both sides of the aisle. I worked with President Clinton. I enjoyed him. President Bush, President Carter — good people doing good things.

But let me tell you, you'll never find it if you just follow the Washington media. You'll never know the good. All you get is controversy, crap and confusion.

WALLACE: Well, there you go. That's a slogan. I've got to put that on a bumper sticker. Senator Simpson, we want to thank you.

SIMPSON: Yes.

WALLACE: It is, as always, a pleasure to talk with you, sir.

SIMPSON: A delight, Chris, you bet.