Karl Rove on War of Words Between Dick Cheney and Joe Biden

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," December 22, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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JOHN KASICH, GUEST HOST: Hi, I'm John Kasich in for Bill O'Reilly. Bill's taking a little time off over Christmas. We want to thank you for watching us tonight.

Our top story, Cheney vs. Biden in the battle over the powers of the president and the role of the vice president. In a wide-ranging interview yesterday on "FOX News Sunday," Vice President Cheney fired back at Vice President-elect Biden for calling him the most dangerous vice president this country has ever had.


CHENEY: I don't take it seriously. And if he wants to diminish the office of vice president, that's obviously his call. I think that President-elect Obama will decide what he wants in a vice president. And apparently, from the way they're talking about it, he does not expect him to have as consequential a role as I have had during my time.


KASICH: Well, Biden told ABC News that that's just simply not true.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: I said I want a commitment from you that in every important decision you'll make, every critical decision, economic, and political, as well as foreign policy, I'll get to be in the room.


BIDEN: He's kept it.


KASICH: Cheney and Biden also clashed over the powers of the president during a time of war.


CHENEY: I think that what we've done has been totally consistent with what the constitution provides for. He could launch kind of a devastating attack the world's never seen. He doesn't have to check with anybody. He doesn't have to call the Congress. He doesn't have to check with the courts. He has that authority because of the nature of the world we live in.

BIDEN: His notion of a unitary executive, meaning that in time of war, essentially all power, you know, goes to the executive, I think, is dead wrong. I think it was mistaken. I think that caused this administration in adopting that notion to overstep its constitutional bounds.


KASICH: Joining us now from Austin, Texas, FOX News political analyst Karl Rove.

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Karl, I had — I actually was going to start this with a different question but actually after watching those sound bites, I think Cheney's getting to Biden. Why didn't Biden just kind of laugh this whole thing off? I mean, why doesn't he say, come on, let's move, what do you have to talk to me about of substance? He seems to be responding.

KARL ROVE, FORMER BUSH ADVISER: Yes. Look, Biden sort of disappeared after the election. He has now sort of reappeared. You know what's amazing to me? I would never believe that Vice President Cheney, I know for fact certain he never asked President Bush, Governor Bush at the time in 2000 for the kind of commitment that Senator Biden apparently asked of Senator Obama, that you know, I, the vice president, have to be in the room at every major decision you make and you have to consult with me. That's a pretty expansive view. And Dick Cheney never asked that of George W. Bush. And I'm confident that it's pretty extraordinary if Biden asked that of Obama.

You're not certain that he really did, incidentally. But if he really did, it's a pretty expansive request and a pretty large demand.

KASICH: Well, I just think he should kind of slough this off. I would bet that Obama would have kind of chuckled about all these questions and wouldn't have paid attention.

ROVE: Yes.

KASICH: All right.

ROVE: Yes.

KASICH: What was the relationship, Karl, between President Bush and Dick Cheney? I mean, obviously they were very close. It seemed to me that in the beginning, Cheney had great influence as time went on last influence. Describe the relationship for us.

ROVE: You know, I'm not certain that's accurate. I think Cheney had durable influence throughout because Cheney understood having been a former White House chief of staff and having watched the presidency up close. Remember, this is a man who served seven — under seven presidents. And so he had a pretty clear idea of what the office was about. And he knew that as vice president, he really served at the president's sufferance. He would take on the assignments the president gave him. He would give his opinion when the president asked for it. And it was his job to, once a decision was made, smartly salute and move on and to make certain that his people worked in concert with the rest of the White House in support of the president's policies.

KASICH: You know, Karl, some people, think that Cheney at times was a defacto president, that he had...

ROVE: Yes.

KASICH: ...enormous power. That he told the president at times what to do. Comment on that.

ROVE: Well, look, that's part of the myth. If you don't like George W. Bush and you don't think that he was legally elected in the first place or you don't think he's up to the job, what you do is you diminish him by saying well, it was all Cheney.

KASICH: Right.

ROVE: Cheney would be the first to say to you that George W. Bush was the man in charge and that you know, I'm going to talk about this in my book, there are points at which and Cheney talked about them one this weekend in which the president took Cheney's advice, keep Donald Rumsfeld and said with all due respect, Cheney, I'm going a different direction.

KASICH: Yes. All right, let's talk a little bit about these controversies over war-making powers, eavesdropping, interrogation. OK. So, you were there right down the hall from the president. OK. The country is attacked and 9/11. And you're getting intelligence briefings and you're picking stuff up, I would assume, that's pretty scary stuff about some idiot in some part of the world that's thinking about coming over here and blowing something up, right? What is it like to be right there? I mean, it's one thing to be up in the stands critiquing people, but when you have to make the decisions on these issues, what is it like when your head is basically put in a vice and you know somebody's going to try to come and get us?

ROVE: Yes, well, look, there are — we talk about three instances. For example, first, the issue of what do you do with these high value targets once you get them? You want to squeeze them as much as you can within bounds of propriety. You do not want to torture but you want to use every technique that you can in order to extract information from them, particularly in the aftermath of 9/11.

If you remember, we had enormous concern after 9/11 that we would be hit again. The pattern of al Qaeda in the past was to stage attacks like they had in East Africa.

KASICH: Right.

ROVE: Where they hit target one after another. So, there was concern about that. And the president used his war-time authority in order to make certain that we got as much intelligence within the bounds of the constitution and within the bounds of our commitment not to torture.

Terrorist surveillance program, after 9/11, it became clear that using email and satellite telephones and long distance telephones that the enemy was able to communicate inside the United States and that we had the technical abilities to intercept their messages as long as they passed through U.S. networks. And should a battlefield commander, should the commander in chief at a time of war use that - use those abilities in order to get information? You bet. And it's protected our country.

And the fact of the matter is that when Barack Obama had a chance in the middle of last summer to vote against reauthorizing those powers.

KASICH: No, he did.

ROVE: He voted for them.


ROVE: As did Senator Biden.

KASICH: Here's the thing. You're a conservative. I'm a conservative, OK? When government has power, it never gives it back unless you take a crowbar and pry it out of the government's hands. Have you ever worried that too much authority to eavesdrop, to spy, to look at things was going to be very intrusive and that you and I, our liberties would be disrupted and we would never get them back again? Has that ever worried you?

ROVE: Well, it has, but only because — but that's not a worry we should really have because, look, the terror surveillance program intercepts messages from people abroad.

KASICH: Yes, no, I understand that.

ROVE: It's not just designed to listen in on Americans talking to their neighbors.

KASICH: I understand that.

ROVE: I mean, the only way that you can take a U.S. citizen.


ROVE: And listen in on their phone number is to go get a court order.

KASICH: All right. You know, the only thing I get concerned about is once you give it, can you ever get it back? That's why you have to give it reluctantly.

ROVE: It's hard.

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