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Former VP Dick Cheney on Obama Administration 'Dismantling' Terrorism Policies

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This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 20, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And we are 91 days into the most radical left-wing administration in a generation, but those are not my words, that is the opinion of the former Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, and tonight in an exclusive interview, Mr. Cheney, he pulls no punches and openly talks about his concerns for this country and the direction that this administration is taking us all.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: We often hear from former President Carter, former President Clinton. We often hear from Vice President Gore, but it seemed that every time since you've left office that you speak out, people are critical that you still have opinions.

Does that surprise you?

RICHARD CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: No, I don't — after all this time, I'm not surprised by much of anything in this business. Yes. No, I've done a couple of interviews. This is the third one, I guess. I'm often asked my views on administration policy, and I'm happy to give them.

I think there is — it's important not to personally attack the new president, I've never done that, but I do think they are addressing big issues, and those positions they take should not go unanswered. I think it's important that we respond to them. We've seen a lot of decisions made, especially in this administration with respect to the War on Terror, which is no longer a War on Terror, it's an overseas contingency operation.

This whole question of detainees is extraordinarily important. The terrorist surveillance program is important. We were challenged in very fundamental ways after 9/11. The nation was threatened, we lost 3,000 people that day.

The biggest task we had as an administration was to make certain that that never happened again, and do everything we could to prevent those kinds of attacks. We put in place certain policies to do that.

The Obama administration campaigned against those policies. And they're now in the process of dismantling some of them. And I think it's perfectly appropriate for those of us who have a different point of view that we have the opportunity to express it, and that the American people have the opportunity to evaluate whether or not the Obama administration is doing the right thing with respect to some of these important challenges.

HANNITY: Well, we're going to maybe go through these one by one and get into some great specificity. But it was interesting because after the last interview that you gave, you know, Joe Biden came out almost immediately. It seemed like he was the point man to criticize you and at one point had even referred to you as the most dangerous vice president in American history.

Did that concern you in any way? Or do you have any response or...

CHENEY: No. I — it doesn't concern me. I mean, Joe Biden has been saying a lot. He has been a senator for, what, 30-some years. He's never been one who couldn't come up with a comment.

(LAUGHTER)

HANNITY: He's known for that.

CHENEY: Joe has got the job. And I wish him well. I hope he's able to prosper and make a contribution. So I'm — you know, I've been criticized by experts, Sean, I don't worry a lot about it.

HANNITY: About criticism. Well, I did notice that the administration — the outgoing administration, President Bush made great outreach to the incoming administration, and one thing I couldn't find or didn't — wasn't able to read anywhere, did Joe Biden ever in any way reach out to you and ask any questions about the job of being VP in spite of maybe the public posturing?

CHENEY: You know, we had a — we had one session where he and his wife came to the house and basically we talked about the house. We showed him the vice president's residence and so forth.

And I gave him at that point some administrative information basically about how many slots I had had, how big the budget was, how much of it came from the Congress through the Senate, how much of it came from the executive branch and so forth. But that was it. We never talked policy.

He suggested he might want to call me before January 20, I said I'd be happy to talk to him. But I think they got busy on their side and so we've never talked much about policy.

HANNITY: In 90 days a lot can happen when you have change. We have a president that is now critical of our economic system. He is apologizing seemingly for our superpower status in the country — around the world, apologizing for America in general.

He's now been described as going on an apologizing tour. And he doesn't seem to like to tell the story — the good story of America, at least he hasn't on this trip or on most recent trip.

Do you think that — does that show you anything about his ideology, about his thinking, or does that concern you in terms of what his belief system is or the principles that guide him in making decisions?

CHENEY: Well, I've — I guess I've been concerned the way that we've been presented overseas. There is a great temptation for new administration to come in and when you find the problem, obviously, to blame them on your predecessor.

We did it. I'm sure the Obama administration is not the first one ever to do that.

But what I find disturbing is the extent to which he has gone to Europe, for example, and seemed to apologize profusely in Europe, and then to Mexico, and apologize there, and so forth.

And I think you have to be very careful. The world outside there, both our friends and our foes, will be quick to take advantage of a situation if they think they're dealing with a weak president or one who is not going to stand up and aggressively defend America's interests.

The United States provides most of the leadership in the world. We have for a long time. And I don't think we've got much to apologize for. You can have a debate about that. But the bottom line is that, you know, when you go to Europe and deal with our European friends and allies, some things they do very well, some things they don't.

Sometimes it's important that a president speak directly and forthrightly to our European friends. And you don't get there if you're so busy apologizing for past U.S. behavior.

HANNITY: His line was, America has shown arrogance and has been dismissive of Europe. Is that the type of comment that you think is detrimental and should he have maybe spent a little bit more time talking about the great sacrifice that America has made?

While Europe was adopting totalitarianism and embracing appeasement, America was acting decisively to beat back totalitarianism.

CHENEY: Sure, I think it's fair to say historically that much of Europe is free today because of the United States and because of our military forces, what we were able to do in World War II.

Now we're faced with more challenges. They come about in Afghanistan, where obviously NATO has got troops deployed. That's a first. That's a significant development and we ought to be grateful for that.

On the other hand, a lot of the forces that are deployed with NATO in Afghanistan aren't allowed for domestic political reasons and their governments to actually engage in combat.

The — very few of our NATO allies have robust military budgets, what they spend on defense is miniscule compared to what we spend. So I think, you know, there are always areas there for us to have a good, thorough discussion.

And we tell them what we don't like. They tell us what they don't like. We can find some middle ground out there. And I think it's important, the United States not come across as arrogant. But it's also important as we not come across as weak or indecisive or apologetic.

We did, during the Bush administration, take some very tough, bold action in terms of trying to deal with and defend the nation as well as our allies against that terrorist threat.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: And coming up, more with my interview with Vice President Dick Cheney including what he thinks about President Obama's glad handing with Hugo Chavez.

And a scandal brewing in California as Democratic congresswoman Jane Harman was allegedly caught in a wiretap offering political favors in exchange for something that she desperately wanted. We have all the details coming up. Straight ahead.

Watch Video: Part 1

Watch Video: Part 2

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And we continue now with more of my interview with former vice president, Dick Cheney.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: When you saw the picture this weekend of the president shaking hands with an anti-American dictator, Hugo Chavez, a guy who a month earlier, by the way, referred to Obama as — President Obama as an "ignoramus" and had referred to President Bush as "the devil." What did you think of that picture?

CHENEY: Well, I didn't think much of it. I mean, I've seen Hugo Chavez in operation before, and Daniel Ortega down in Nicaragua. These are people who operate in our hemisphere, but who don't believe in and aren't supportive of basic fundamental principles and policies that most of us in this hemisphere adhere to. We believe in democracy.

Nobody would ever accuse Hugo Chavez of being somebody committed to democracy. Basically, the position we took in the Bush administration was to ignore him. I think that was the right thing to do.

HANNITY: Is there something wrong maybe with the president of the United States laughing and joking with a dictator that has been so anti- American? Is that what — is that image a bad image for the country?

CHENEY: Well, I think it's not helpful. I think it's important. You have millions of people all across South America who are watching how we respond. And if they see an American president sort of cozying up to somebody like Daniel Ortega or Chavez, I think it's not helpful. I think it sort of sets the wrong standard.

I think we — you know, we need to be good neighbors, but that doesn't mean that we should not distinguish between those that are working hard or helpful, or doing good work like Uribe in Colombia, Calderon in Mexico. I think, you know, they need to be hailed...

HANNITY: Propped up.

CHENEY: A president's got to provide leadership. And I don't want to be in a position where you don't interact with your adversaries. I think you do need to do that, but I think it's got to be done properly. It's got to be done in direct conditions.

And it's got to be made clear that you do distinguish between good guys and bad guys, between those who believe in democracy, who are friends and allies of the United States, and those who don't. And you don't treat them equally.

HANNITY: I want to go back to the issue of interrogation and the releasing of the memos that gave out specific information. Even Leon Panetta said it was dangerous. Four former CIA directors said it was dangerous. They urged the Obama administration not to do it.

Why do you think they would do that in spite of that recommendation if only for political reasons? And secondly, why is it important that those interrogations took place? I mean, the ones they were talking about were sleep deprivation, waterboarding, putting insects into small, confined areas and telling them they were deadly insects.

Why were those tactics needed, necessary, and why do you think they continue to be necessary?

CHENEY: Well, I'll try to keep it short, but there's a lot there, Sean. Obviously, it's a key question.

In the aftermath of 9/11, with 3,000 dead Americans, 16 acres in downtown New York devastated, a big hole in the Pentagon, we didn't know a lot about Al Qaeda. We didn't have the body of knowledge we have today. But it was a relatively unknown group. We knew a little bit about it, but not a lot.

We also, in the aftermath of 9/11, within a very short period of time, were faced with the anthrax attacks. What we didn't know about Al Qaeda was that they were trying to acquire nuclear weapons. So we had serious concerns, if I could put it like that.

In short order, we were faced with the possibility of the AQ Khan network, the black market selling of nuclear weapons technology, the enrichment facilities, the feedstock and weapons design by AQ Khan out of Pakistan for the Libyans, the Iranians and the North Koreans.

And obviously, one of the questions that would come up then is, AQ Khan, in Pakistan, with this technology and capability dealing with Osama bin Laden. He may be in Pakistan, too.

All those kinds of issues meant we had to collect good, first-rate intelligence about what was going on so we could prepare and defend against it. And that's what we did.

We — with the intelligence programs, the terror surveillance program, as well as the interrogation program, we set out to collect that kind of intelligence. It worked. It's been enormously valuable in terms of saving lives, preventing another mass casualty attack against the United States.

One of the things that I find a little bit disturbing about this recent disclosure is they put out the legal memos, the memos that the CIA got from the Office of Legal Counsel, but they didn't put out the memos that showed the success of the effort. And there are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity. They have not been declassified.

I formally asked that they be declassified now. I haven't announced this up until now, I haven't talked about it, but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country.

And I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was, as well as to see this debate over the legal opinions.

HANNITY: George Tenet had actually said we got more from those interrogations than we would ever have gotten from the FBI, the CIA, or the NSA combined.

CHENEY: Right.

HANNITY: But you're saying that they're not telling the whole story.

CHENEY: Well, I think if you're going to have the whole — if we're going to have this debate, you know, let's have an honest debate.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: And we'll have more of my exclusive interview with former vice president Cheney tomorrow night. Now here's a preview of what's in store.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: And what the Obama people are doing, in effect, is saying, well, we don't need those tough policies that we had. That says either they didn't work, which we know is not the case — they did work, they kept us safe for seven years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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