Dick Cheney: No Regrets, No Apologies About a Long Career in Washington and His Memoir

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 13, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: He has no regrets and he's making no apologies. Former Vice President Dick Cheney is getting a lot of attention with his candid new book, "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir." Vice President Cheney wrote the book with the help of his daughter, Liz. They both went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: You both worked together on this, but this is hardly the first time you two are working together.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, Liz helped me get elected when she was about -- what were you when I ran for Congress first time, 10, 12 years old?

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    LIZ CHENEY: You keep getting that wrong.

    DICK CHENEY: No, she's been involved in all my campaigns. She actually ran the search in -- when I was in charge of finding a vice president for George Bush, Liz was my chief of staff person on that whole process, so we've done a lot of things together.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Is he easy to work with or not?

    LIZ CHENEY: He's great to work with. And this was just a tremendous project, to be able to spend such intense time with your dad hearing about his life.

    DICK CHENEY: Listening to my old war stories. It's a rare treat to get a child who will sit and listen to all of that.

    VAN SUSTEREN: It is a different description in the book from what Mary said. She describes one opportunity working with you nine days of hell when she campaigned with you in 2000. A little different.

    DICK CHENEY: Yes. That wasn't that I was hard to work for, but rather stuff happened. It began with campaign where I made a speech on the complexities of bond finance and to build schools to a roomful of third kidders in Florida. I was a mismatch between the speech and the audience. That happened every once in a while. It took a few days to get on track when I first started campaigning again.

    VAN SUSTEREN: You have no idea how lucky you are because I saw in the book that you got dragged into a polka dance campaign in Illinois. We looked for that video.

    DICK CHENEY: You can't find it.

    VAN SUSTEREN: If you were in high school it would have ruined your life.


    DICK CHENEY: I'm not a good dancer I'm just fortunate it didn't show up in the book.

    VAN SUSTEREN: We found four, five seconds.

    LIZ CHENEY: It was worth seeing. It shows you what you have to do on the campaign trail, totally unexpected.

    DICK CHENEY: So you dance the polka.

    VAN SUSTEREN: We walked through protesters today. And they said "Arrest Dick Cheney, War Criminal.'

    LIZ CHENEY: It makes me mad. I think that in politics, people are going to disagree. And clearly, a lot of the policies that my dad has been involved in are once that are controversial. But one of the reasons I'm glad he decided to write the book was to layout the reasons behind the policies. You hope you can have a debate about the policies and people will read it and say, I still don't agree, but now I understand why they did it.

    I think most people who read it hopefully will come to understand the wisdom of the decisions. That's the kind of debate you want. There will be folks yelling and screaming part of that is the way our system works. I don't think they make as important contribution to the system and country as those who debate on substance.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Does it bother you the war criminal signs and posters?

    DICK CHENEY: No. I spent time at the University of Wisconsin in my youth as a student in the days when there was a lot of disruption and demonstration and violence on campuses across America. I think what we see today is pretty tame.

    VAN SUSTEREN: People do talk about today as if it is so rough and everything. Going back through your career, your book, it has always been a rough -- it is a contact sport, politics.

    DICK CHENEY: It is.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Any regrets?

    DICK CHENEY: No. I have loved every minute of it. I started out I was going to be an academic, wanted to be a professor, came to Washington to stay 12 months and it stretched into more than 40 years. Enormous privilege to have the opportunity to serve to get to do the things I've been able to do, the people I've worked with, and the issues we had to grapple with.

    Some were pretty tough -- being secretary of defense and responsible for in those days four million employees and troops in the department of defense, Desert Storm, sending half a million troops to the gulf. Or the events of 9/11 and the aftermath as we put in place policies to collect intelligence we needed to keep the country safe. A lot of criticism I get these days relates to that period after 9/11. I came to grips with that a long time ago. I believe deeply in what we did.

    VAN SUSTEREN: The most controversial course is the enhanced interrogation. I'm curious, but obviously I know that you supported it or you wouldn't have gone along with it and still backing it. I'm curious, do you worry let's say that it ever develops on the streets of Washington where someone gets picked up for a crime, are you worried it is taken behind war area and into the domestic area?

    DICK CHENEY: I think on enhanced interrogation the president, and properly so, was very, very careful and very, very insistent upon safeguards that would make we didn't interfere with any individuals legitimate constitutional rights.

    When we got into enhanced interrogation, waterboarding, that's the one held out as the rough stuff, that was done on three people, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed primarily the man who among other things responsible probably for the murder of Daniel pearl "Wall Street Journal" reporter who was beheaded. And claimed himself and there's no reason to doubt it, that he was the man behind 9/11. He killed 3,000 Americans on that day.

    He was subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. But it was done only after the Justice Department signed off on it. After the director of the CIA approved the particular program is applied to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. And the president signed off on the policy, the National Security Council signed off and the justice department handed down a ruling saying this was not torture. So we were very careful not to get into a situation where there was a danger that some Americans are going to be arrested on the street and subjected to that kind of treatment.

    VAN SUSTEREN: You don't worry in the next administration or the next 20 years or something there is going to be some slippery slope that was accepted now will be used beyond that?

    DICK CHENEY: I don't think so.

    Our concern, Greta, was on the morning after 9/11 that when -- and the president was very strong in this as well, that we were not ever going to let that happen again on our watch. And we were going to do whatever we had to do by way of putting together a policy that was effective in protecting and safeguarding the American people that's what we did and it worked.

    And it was done in accordance with our normal practices and procedures in terms of how we make policy many, how we safeguard the rights of American citizens. And so I'm very comfortable with what we did. The other option of course would have been to say we are not going to use those techniques, and if we lose more Americans, so about it. Obviously we weren't going to allow that to happen.


    VAN SUSTEREN: Stay right there. There's much more of our interview with our nation's 46th vice president coming up.

    And we all know the public side of Vice President Dick Cheney, but what was going on behind the scenes at the White House, the stuff we didn't get to see? The vice president is blunt. He is going to tell you, next.



    VAN SUSTEREN: Here's Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz Cheney.


    VAN SUSTEREN: How much power did you have? How do you define that?

    DICK CHENEY: Well, vice presidents don't run anything. It wasn't like being secretary of defense overseeing the defense department or running the White House with Jerry ford. Being a congressman even where you got your own staff and you are part of that institution.

    Vice presidents are successful when they have any impact at all, primarily because the president wants them to be because he allows them to function. Be an important part of the team. And I think it helps in my case that I was not trying to run for president myself, that I wasn't -- when I was working on things like enhanced interrogation techniques or terror surveillance program I wasn't worried about how I was going to be perceived this the Iowa caucuses some years hence.

    I was clear I was not a candidate, I wasn't going to be a candidate, had no plans to run for president once I finished the vice presidency. I was there to carry out the wishes and desires and agenda of George Bush. Sometimes we agreed, sometimes we didn't. But he always gave me the opportunity to present my point of view. So I think I had an impact and was fairly successful as vice presidents go. But he had a lot to do with that.

    VAN SUSTEREN: We've taken "On the Record" a number of times to North Korea, a continued fascination of ours. You write in the book about the inability in the Bush administration to keep nuclear weapons from North Korea. What happened? If you had a do over, what would you do?

    DICK CHENEY: Well, one of our major concerns was the issue of proliferation of nuclear weapons technology. We dealt with it effectively obviously when we got rid of Saddam Hussein. Then Moammar Qaddafi saw what we had done to Saddam and he surrendered his nuclear materials and bomb-making equipment. We took down the A.Q. Khan network that supplied Gadhafi and also dealt with the North Koreans. Those were all success stories.

    The one we did not succeed -- two really. One was Iran. The other was North Korea. North Korea has been a difficult assignment. It was during the Clinton administration, I'm sure as well for the Obama people. What they did on our watch was they tested their first nuclear device in '06. They built a nuclear reactor, plutonium reactor for producing reprocessed plutonium, same kind of reactor they have in North Korea, they built one for the Syrians in Syria. That was destroyed eventually by the Israelis, they took it out.

    But they have also acquired uranium enrichment capability, a different kind of technology that gets you to the same end when they swore up and down they hadn't. And I think the -- what I lay out in the book are rules that I think need to be followed when we try to deal with these situations. There have to be meaningful consequences. If you are going to lay down a marker and say don't proliferate nuclear weapons technology to the terror sponsoring state you have to mean it.

    VAN SUSTEREN: You gave then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a little hell in the book.

    DICK CHENEY: I did. I felt the advice that the State Department was providing was wrong. I disagreed with it. I thought that we needed to have effective diplomacy dependent upon your adversary believing if they didn't do what you were asking them to do there would be consequences. There were never consequences. What always happened with respect to North Korea was we kept making more concessions, lifting them off the destination as terror-sponsoring state, for example.

    VAN SUSTEREN: One of the words you used with Condoleezza Rice, a code word for women is tearful. I think she takes issue with that and some do describe her as tearful, which might suggest her as weak. Any do-over, want to take that back, or you stand by that?

    DICK CHENEY: I stand by it. It was a description of a particular meeting in my office.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Are you saying she is weak?


    LIZ CHENEY: As a woman I don't think that's a code word. I think it certainly -- it was a description of what happened but I wouldn't take it as any kind of code word.

    I would add, if I might to this North Korean story this point my dad made at the end which you see the State Department do repeatedly. When you are dealing with a dictator, somebody who is uncooperative, too often the state department's response is let's make another concession. Give them one more benefit maybe their behavior will change. I think the North Korea story shows, especially when you look at what has happened since, which my dad always talks about, the danger of that kind of approach.

    VAN SUSTEREN: One last question. Miss the job?

    DICK CHENEY: I enjoyed it very much, I really did. On the other hand, I'm a junkie. Otherwise why would I have stayed 40 years in the business? I loved every day I got to get up to go to work at the White House, whether I was the Defense Department in the Ford White House. Those were remarkable opportunities.

    On the other hand, I'm 70-years-old now. I've had some health problems. I had a lot of fun writing the book. I always joked about book writing that the reason I had the job I did now is because I didn't write about the last one. I've obviously now written about all of them. And I'm enjoying very much, much better health than I had a year or so go. I've been back out on the river with my fly rod, writing books, traveling, promoting the book, spending time with the family and those seven grandchildren. Life is good. And so I don't have any burning desire to get back into the arena. I've already done that.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you, Liz.

    LIZ CHENEY: Thanks, Greta.