The following is a transcript of Neil Cavuto's interview with Vice President Dick Cheney that took place June 28, 2004.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: I’ve really been looking forward to this interview. I admire the heck out of this guy. How are top business executives reacting to the surprise transfer of power in Iraq today? Let us ask the guy who has a stake in the action. He’s the chairman and CEO of L-3 Communications (search), Frank Lanza.
Mr. Lanza, good to have you.
CAVUTO: All right. So this was the surprise out of the blue.
LANZA: Sure was.
CAVUTO: Did you see this coming?
LANZA: Well, we didn’t see it today coming or yesterday coming. I think it was a brilliant move whether it was accidental or by plan. I think it was an excellent move. I think it’s a new chapter, certainly not a new book, but it’s a new chapter of what’s going to happen there. And I’m kind of excited, I think things are going to start turning for the better.
CAVUTO: All right. Now you have what, you were telling me during break, about a thousand people in Iraq?
LANZA: We still have a thousand people supporting the military. And that’s a lot of people, you know, that are in harm’s way, which is always a worry for us, but I think you are going to see a big change now, Neil. You know, Secretary Powell is now going to be in charge what’s going on. We have an ambassador over there, not a secretary of defense now, and this is a political problem, so we’ve recognized them as a country. And the whole equation is going to change dramatically, because it is where it belongs, it’s a political solution now, it is Iraqi versus Iraqi, it’s not Iraqi versus the U.S. any longer.
CAVUTO: But we still have 130 (sic) U.S. guys there.
LANZA: Yes, but we are taking a back role now. We don’t have to worry about.
CAVUTO: Are we really though?
LANZA: Well, yes, I think we are. I think that we have come to the recognition that in the next six months, if Iraqis can’t take care of the problem and they really don’t want to be a free country with some form of democracy, we are going to pull out because we could spend there 40 years there, Neil. If they don’t want the problem solved, then it ain’t going to get solved.
CAVUTO: But how would that look, I mean, not that we should be concerned about such things, if after all of this, they tell us, bye-bye.
LANZA: Well, it is a big difference when you separate the war and the post-war, to what’s going on now. We have stepped back and said, Iraqi, your country now. Now decide your future. And we will be here to protect you so that you don’t get any militia groups that are going to intimidate another group.
CAVUTO: But, Frank, let me ask you, it’s a very simplistic question, but could we live with a new country that doesn’t like us?
LANZA: There are a lot of countries that don’t like us that were friends for 50 years that show they don’t like us very much and we lived with them. You know, you could live with a lot of people who don’t like you, right? I do business with people who don’t like me, right? My wife may not like me.
CAVUTO: But in other words, this is a positive development.
LANZA: Very much so, yes.
CAVUTO: And you, as a guy who does a lot of business over there this is more constructive to you and your people.
LANZA: It’s real constructive. Like I say, it’s a new chapter, certainly not written yet, but the next six months are going to -- in my opinion, going to determine the destiny of Iraq. And if they really take the bull by horns, and as 70 percent of the people say they want freedom and some form of democracy, I think it’s a home run.
CAVUTO: Your stock has been a home run for a lot of investors.
LANZA: Well, we’ve been lucky.
CAVUTO: I was taking a peek at chart there, and this despite the concerns about Iraq and your exposure to Iraq, which is interesting in and of itself. What do you think Wall Street has been telling you?
LANZA: Telling us?
CAVUTO: Yes. See, I think Wall Street has been saying, we don’t care about the dangers of Iraq, we think long term it is going to work out OK.
LANZA: Well, I think they got the message that we have been saying for seven years that we are in the sweet spot of what’s going on in the military with or without Iraq. And we’re committed to grow 20 percent a year. We built a company that is a products-type company to serve military, and develop products. And the products we’re developing independent of 9/11, or before Iraq, are where military is going in transformation. And that is what is important.
CAVUTO: But are you a terror play, how would you.
LANZA: A terror play?
CAVUTO: Some people have looked at your stock as, if you’re worried about terror, L-3 Communications is the company.
LANZA: That’s worst definition of L-3, honestly. We really are a defense-oriented company that’s in the transformation that started in 1997, OK? We are building product for the reduction of the Cold War, we’ve got a new military. 9/11 just shows that we needed a new military.
LANZA: That’s where we are headed. This is going to accelerate it.
CAVUTO: And you think whole Iraq thing is going to stabilize.
LANZA: I hope so, Neil. I’m hopeful. I’m honestly hopeful for the first time that maybe the chapter is going to be rewritten right.
CAVUTO: Very good, all right. Frank Lanza, always good seeing you. The chairman, the CEO of L-3 communications, one of the more stellar performers in this ongoing war.
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