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Cheney Reflects on Legacy, Defends Interrogation Policy

January 14, 2009 at 6:10 PM EDT
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Vice President Dick Cheney looks back on the Bush administration's eight years in office, answers new questions on claims that the U.S. tortured terror suspects and assesses the challenges ahead for the Obama team.
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JIM LEHRER: Mr. Vice President, welcome.

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: It’s good to be back, Jim.

MR. LEHRER: Thank you, sir. Yesterday President Bush said that he will leave Washington next week with a great sense of accomplishment. Do you feel the same way?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I do.

MR. LEHRER: Why? Explain.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think there are a number of areas where we’ve had a significant impact on events or on the course of history, if you will. The one that stands out in my mind, that I think is most important, is something that didn’t happen and that’s the fact that we were able to interrupt, block, defeat all further attempts by al-Qaida to launch mass-casualty attacks against the United States after 9/11.

That’s taken some very tough decisions by the president, some great work by a lot of folks in the intelligence services, in the military and so forth. But I look at that and the lives that were saved and the threats that were defeated as probably our greatest achievement.

MR. LEHRER: And you feel it’s actions that you took, the president took, the administration took – resulted in this happening? In other words, prevented these further attacks – there would have been further attacks had you not been there and you’d not taken action.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Yes, sir. I can go back – and a lot of the details are still obviously classified – but what we did in effect was, in the aftermath of 9/11, in ’02, ’03 timeframe, when we first began to capture high-value detainees – senior members of al-Qaida like Khalid Sheikh Muhammad or Abu Zubaydah – we then were able to interrogate them and collect intelligence from them, both about the al al-Qaida organization generally: how they functioned, who they were, where they came from, how they were financed.

But then also to get specific intelligence on perspective attacks and allow us to go out and wrap up, capture and arrest others. And that list is very impressive.

MR. LEHRER: And if that had not happened, you think there would have been further attacks?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: There’s no doubt in mind there would have been.

MR. LEHRER: Serious attacks of the level like 9/11?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Serious attacks, well, plans, for example, to fly an airliner into the tallest building on the West Coast, plans to develop a so-called dirty device to be detonated someplace in the United States, plans to highjack aircraft that were all headed for Heathrow and then to capture them, blow them up over Heathrow. And plans to launch aircraft that they’d captured in Europe and destroy them as they came into the United States.

I mean, it was a robust set of programs. There were others; other regions of the world that were involved as well as the United States. We got a wealth of information from those programs that are the source of some controversy, obviously, but we did not have a lot of information on al-Qaida on 9/11; it was very important that we develop it in the aftermath of 9/11 and we did.

MR. LEHRER: The president has also said that he made some mistakes in the last eight years. Did you make any?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, make mistakes – I can think of places where I underestimated things. For example, talking about Iraq, the extent of which the Iraqi population had been beaten down by Saddam Hussein was greater than I anticipated.

That is, we thought that the Iraqis would be able to bounce back fairly quickly once Saddam was gone or the new government established and step up and take major responsibilities for governing Iraq, building a military and so forth and that took longer than I expected.

I think that what happened in Saddam’s reign as well as what happened in ’91, when after the Gulf War there was an uprising in Iraq that was brutally crushed by Saddam. I think that eliminated a lot of the people that were potential leaders; if they’d stuck their heads up they’d have been chopped off.

And if I were to look for one where there was a miscalculation on my part, I think I underestimated the difficulty of getting an Iraqi government stood up.

MR. LEHRER: When you look back on that, why? How did that miscalculation come about?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, we didn’t have that good of intelligence, I don’t think, with respect to sort of the state of affairs inside Iraq. A lot of that had been wiped out over the years. Saddam Hussein was so brutal, killed so many people, slaughtered so many innocents, that it had a lasting effect on Iraqi society that was greater than I expected.

MR. LEHRER: Is it fair to say, then, that the miscalculation resulted in chaotic situation that existed immediately after for awhile and got – immediately after the invasion and all that sort of stuff?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I can’t say that. I can’t like those -

MR. LEHRER: Sure.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: – two particular points. What I can say is I think if we had been able to move more rapidly to stand up a government that was capable, I think we might have avoided some of that. But I don’t want to blame all that on the Iraqi government; it was a difficult situation, but it was successful. We now find ourselves in a situation where, five years later, we’ve achieved most of the objectives that you would have set out in the spring of ’03 when we launched into Iraq.

We’ve got the violence level down to the its lowest level since ’03, we’ve had three national elections, a constitution written, a new government stood up, a new army recruited and trained, the Iraqis are increasingly able to take on responsibility for themselves and we’ve now entered into a strategic framework agreement with the new Iraqi government that will provide for the ultimate withdrawal of U.S. forces.

You could not have asked for much more than that in terms of the policies that we started on in ’03.

MR. LEHRER: Mr. Vice President, getting from there to here, 4500 Americans have died, at least a hundred thousand Iraqis have died. Has it been worth that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think so.

MR. LEHRER: Why?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Because I believed at the time that what Saddam Hussein represented was, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, was a terror-sponsoring state – so designated by the State Department. He was making payments to the families of suicide bombers; he provided a safe haven and sanctuary for Abu Nidal and other terrorist operations. He had produced and used weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological agents.

He’d had a nuclear program in the past. He killed hundreds of thousands of his own people and he did have a relationship with al-Qaida. Now, we’ve had this debate, keeps people trying to conflate those arguments.

That’s not to say that Saddam was responsible for 9/11; it is to say – as George Tenet, CIA director testified in open session in the Senate – that there was a relationship there that went back 10 years.

So this was a terror-sponsoring state with access to weapons of mass destruction and that’s the greatest threat we faced in the aftermath of 9/11: The next time we found terrorists in the middle of one of our cities, it wouldn’t be 19 guys armed with airline tickets and box cutters, it would be terrorists armed with a biological agent or maybe even a nuclear device.

So I think, given the track record of Saddam Hussein, I think we did exactly the right thing, I think the country’s better off for it today, I think it’s been part of the effort alongside Afghanistan to liberate 50 million people and establish a vibrant democracy in the heart of the Middle East. I think those are major, major accomplishments.

Assessing the War on Terror

Vice President Dick Cheney
I think the argument that this is a failed presidency is just dead wrong. I think we'll hear that from some of our critics, but when I look back at what we've been able to do - we dealt with big issues.

MR. LEHRER: Speaking of Afghanistan and miscalculations, do you consider it a miscalculation to have gone into Iraq before Osama bin Laden had been found, arrested, killed? Before al-Qaida had been completely destroyed, before the Taliban had been routed?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don't.

MR. LEHRER: In Afghanistan.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don't. We had pretty well routed the Taliban and the al-Qaida and closed the training camps and captured and killed a great many of al-Qaida members as well as the Taliban when we originally went in.

The situation now, obviously, is that we've got to continue to be engaged in Afghanistan. It's one of the most difficult places to work in because of the territory, the geography, the terrain, but also because it's one of the poorest countries in the world; they don't have a lot of resources.

And we've now got the added problem that's totally unrelated to Iraq, that in Pakistan, next door to Afghanistan, you've got a sanctuary, for example, for some al-Qaida that are still there, as well as the Taliban and move back and forth across the border.

We'll be involved there for a long time, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't have taken out Saddam Hussein. I think we were capable of doing both; I think in effect we've done both.

MR. LEHRER: But you didn't do both simultaneously, right?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, pretty much simultaneously. I mean, there'd been -

MR. LEHRER: Osama bin Laden's still - that's what I mean - al-Qaida's still functioning.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: But Osama bin Laden - wherever he is, and he's in a deep hole - he does not have much impact on the organization, as best we can tell. The important thing was to go after the organization - after al-Qaida.

Even if you got Osama bin Laden tomorrow, you'd still have a problem in terms of whatever residue of al-Qaida is out there. We have had a big impact on al-Qaida; this is a significantly diminished organization, I think, compared to what it was four or five years ago when we killed Abu Musab Zarqawi, the head of al-Qaida in Iraq in June of '06 - major accomplishment.

And over the last - I don't want to get in the classified area, obviously, but within the last year or so we've had a very significant impact on senior al-Qaida leadership.

MR. LEHRER: One more general scope here, Mr. Vice President. What do you make of a current suggestion that you have been in fact the most powerful vice president in history, but in one of the most failed presidencies in history?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don't buy that.

MR. LEHRER: You don't buy that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No, I think the argument that this is a failed presidency is just dead wrong. I think we'll hear that from some of our critics, but when I look back at what we've been able to do - we dealt with big issues.

We didn't deal with school uniforms, we dealt with the fact that we brought down two of the worst regimes in the 20th century: the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. We were forced when we arrived - shortly after we arrived - to have to deal with the global war on terror, which had not been managed properly before that.

We ended up inheriting a situation that has been very challenging, but we've been very successful at it. And when you look at what we've been able to do, both in terms of our activities overseas as well as our operations that allowed us to block any further attack against the United States here at home, I think those are great successes and I think there aren't many administrations that can point to successes on that scale.

MR. LEHRER: What about in the domestic area? What of the economy? The economic downturn is on scope or on a par with the Great Depression. Was it not a miscalculation or a failure to see that coming?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No, I don't think it was a miscalculation. I think we had good economic policies, especially in the early years. I think the tax packages we passed in '03, for example, produced 52 months - uninterrupted months of job growth.

We've run into trouble recently, obviously, beginning in '08 because of the financial crisis, as well as the recession, but those are not U.S. problems alone. Those are global problems, those are problems that have affected nations and economies all over the world; that's not something that is just a U.S. problem. As I look at it, I think we've been successful at intervening -

MR. LEHRER: On the economy you've been successful?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We've been successful at intervening economically with respect to the financial crisis, in that what we did with respect to TARP by moving as aggressively as we did, that there is, in fact, positive progress. We stabilized, if you will, the financial system out there. Now, there's still a lot of work to be done, yet, but the inter-bank lending rate's back down where it belongs, interest rates are low - all of these things are moves in the right direction.

And I think if we had not intervened as aggressively if we did, the situation would be worse. But I don't think you can blame that financial crisis on George Bush; I just don't think that's a valid judgment.

MR. LEHRER: What about - going back to the original question - about seeing this coming? Isn't that part of the stewardship of the president, of the vice president and of his administration - to see these things coming and try to prevent them from coming, rather than to act after they've happened?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Did you see it coming, Jim? You're an expert.

MR. LEHRER: I'm not the president or the vice president of the United States.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: It's a - I think we did see some elements of it, in terms of our concerns about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And a couple of years ago, we went forward with proposed recommendations to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - couldn't get them through the Democrat-controlled Congress. That might have helped forestall what one of the key triggers was of the financial crisis.

But I think no; I think some of the best financial minds in the country didn't see it coming. We saw that five key investment banks in New York are no more, or have been transformed in a major way. They're folks that deal in this area all day, every day, and they didn't foresee it coming.

MR. LEHRER: So you don't accept any responsibility for - on the -

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don't think we caused the economic downturn.

Historically low approval ratings

Vice President Dick Cheney
I think the decisions we've had to make on things like terrorist surveillance, like on interrogation of detainees, Patriot Act and so forth, those steps we've had to take to guard against another attack have been controversial.

MR. LEHRER: Okay, okay. Why do you believe that the public approval, at least measured by the polls and other things, is so low - in your case, almost historically low?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Have you checked it recently? I don't know what it is.

MR. LEHRER: I have, I have. The - in terms of history, polling goes on 70 years. The only vice president that's ever had a lower approval rating is Dan Quayle.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Mm-hmm. Well, how does that fit with the other perception -

MR. LEHRER: My question is, why is that happening? What's your reading of that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I - in terms - let's talk generally about polls. We've tried very hard not to govern based on polls. That is to say, we haven't tailored our policies in order to appeal to polls.

We did start out - I think one of the things that contributed to the amount of hostility that's out there in the body politic was what happened in the 2000 election, that it was as close as it was, and I think that there were some people out there who questioned the legitimacy of our administration, given the way the Florida recount ultimately turned out.

I think that contributed to it. I think the decisions we've had to make on things like terrorist surveillance, like on interrogation of detainees, Patriot Act and so forth, those steps we've had to take to guard against another attack have been controversial.

And have been attacked robustly by our critics and our opponents. But that's not why we came to office, Jim. We did win re-election, I think, comfortably - not a landslide, obviously. And we went out there and put what we were doing on the line in the way, historically, it's to be tested in a democracy, and we got re-elected.

And we have been able, I think again, to achieve those objectives we set for ourselves. Now, over time, I expect that history will judge this administration in a fairly favorable light. I served in the Ford administration.

I was there and remember what it was like when Gerry Ford made a very controversial decision to pardon Richard Nixon and fell 30 points in the polls in a week. I also know that 30 years later, he was much-revered and much-respected for that decision, because he made it without regard to what it would do to him politically.

MR. LEHRER: But, Mr. Vice President, people would say back to you, wait a minute, you govern in the present, not about what some historian is going to say 50 years from now. The idea, in a democratic society, of having a - the disapproval of an overwhelming majority of the American people - does that work?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: That's what elections are for, Jim. And as I say, we went out and stood for election and we reelected comfortably. But you cannot, in these circumstances especially, start worrying about the polls in terms of whether or not you're going to make these tough decisions.

The easy thing to do is, well, let's not do terrorist surveillance, let's not have a robust interrogation program of these al-Qaida folks when we capture them, let's not take aggressive action to defend the nation, because then the New York Times will love us and we'll get editorials written about us all over the country and our numbers will go up in the polls.

That's not what we came to town to do; we came to town to make those tough decisions. And I think the president of the United States is the only one who can make those kinds of decisions. This president did it; I think he did it very well. I think he's been tough and aggressive when he needed to be, and been willing to take the political heat, which is more important, in my opinion, than being loved.

MR. LEHRER: More important than having the approval of the people who elected you?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, how do you want to go out and measure that? Do you want to go out and poll and say, gee, we aren't up to 70 percent yet, we'd better not make any tough decisions here? I mean, you cannot be driven by the polls. The polls change all the time; they're easily manipulated by whoever wants to ask those poll questions; they go up; they go down.

You've got to steer a more steady course than that if you're going to be president of the United States in these circumstances. And that's what we did. And you guys get to go on the tube every night and comment on it. There's a lot of debate out there about it. The public gets to decide whether or not they want to continue us in office. Obviously, we weren't up in '08, but they certainly did in '04.

MR. LEHRER: So it doesn't trouble you at all to be leaving office next week with the overwhelming disapproval of the majority of the people, as measured by the polls? It doesn't bother you, personally?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don't buy that. No, first of all - I don't buy that. And I find, when I get out and talk with people, that that's not the unanimous view, as you would have it. Things that count for me, in terms of the people I want to make certain are with us are, for example, the American military - young men and women who serve, the folks who go out and put their lives on the line to carry out the policies we've decided upon.

President and I had the opportunity, for example, last Saturday. We went down to Norfolk; we commissioned a brand-new aircraft carrier named after his father. Then we went over and spent the afternoon with about 650 Navy SEALS.

These are guys that have been in the battle in Iraq, in Afghanistan, deployed many, many times - have done all the heavy lifting in connection with our policies that we pursued in that part of the world. And they are a magnificent group of people. They also are very, very supportive of what we did. And they're the ones who went out and, as I say, put their lives on the line for the rest of us. It's not just cocktail party talk for them; this is the real world they live in. And having their respect and their approval counts for an enormous amount.

Two sides of the vice president

Vice President Dick Cheney
We had Abu Ghraib, for example. In that case, I believe, based on what I've seen, that that was the result of some military personnel who were improperly supervised - weren't given the right kind of guidance, weren't managed properly.

MR. LEHRER: On a more personal level, Mr. Vice President, there's one thesis that the Dick Cheney who has been the Vice President for the last eight years is a different Dick Cheney who had been a member of Congress, who had been in the previous administrations of Bush I, as well as the Ford administration - that somehow, you've changed dramatically, significantly. Is that correct?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I'm older. I've got less hair. I don't think I've changed, in terms of sort of my basic, fundamental philosophy or personality. My family doesn't think that I've changed - although as I say, to get older, I have more grandkids now than I used to have.

I think what was significant for me was 9/11. And I think it's easy, if you didn't experience that, or if you're not worried about it now, because it was seven years ago, easy to forget what that entailed or what that involved.

But that was a devastating attack on the United States - killed nearly 3,000 Americans - worst attack ever on the history of - on the homeland. And when you contemplated the consequences of it - what it meant with respect to the possibility of a terrorist in the middle of our cities with a nuclear weapon, which is now the threat we're faced with - then, it seems to me, you're justified in - and obligated - to focus on that threat and do everything you can do defeat it.

The president and I took and oath when we were sworn in on January of '01 to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

And when you sit there every day and read the intelligence every morning - six days a week - and look at what we're faced with out there on a global basis, and look at the threat and the determination, if you will, of our enemies to come and kill more Americans, that's our problem, that's our job - to deal with that.

We're the ones who've got to sit down every day and figure out how to cope with that, and that's what we did. And now, some people can sit and say, gee, Cheney changed; no, I think circumstances changed. I think the United States was no longer safe and secure behind its oceans.

I think we found ourselves in a situation where, because of modern technology and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East, we're faced with a threat, the likes of which we've never had to deal with before.

MR. LEHRER: So, in this same context, people say you're - you hardened, you became less willing to compromise, less interested in a bipartisan approach to things - as a result - if that happened, that came as a result of 9/11 and the new attitude that you just explained?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think in terms of partisanship, or lack of partisanship, that's - you know, Joe Lieberman's my favorite Democrat. Joe's a great guy and he agrees with us on these issues. I think the significant thing is that the American people need to realize and need to be aware that the threat does still exist and that we still have to continue those policies.

The interesting thing to watch, now, is how President-elect Obama is going to adjust to these concerns.

He's reading the morning intelligence report, now, on a daily basis; he's finding out what the nature of the threat is out there, and they're wrestling with this question of what are they going to do with Guantanamo, what are they going to do with terrorist surveillance program or the interrogation program for high-value detainees.

And it will be interesting to see how he resolves those. It would be my personal view, if they don't continue those policies, they will in fact, put the nation at risk. We'll see.

MR. LEHRER: A specific question related to that: Lead story in the Washington Post this morning is about a Bush administration official, Susan Crawford, who said, on the record, that she had recommended against charging one of the detainees at Guantanamo, a native of Saudi Arabia, because he had, in fact, been tortured at Guantanamo.

And she made this comment, here - let me find it; here it is - this is Susan Crawford, who used to work for you, I understand, right?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: She worked at the department when I was there, correct.

MR. LEHRER: When you were at the Pentagon. She said, "I think someone should acknowledge that mistakes were made and that they hurt the effort," meaning the whole effort in Guantanamo and dealing with the terrorists, quote, "and take responsibility for it." End quote. Do you agree with her?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don't know the specifics of what she's talking about.

MR. LEHRER: You have never heard about this Saudi Arabia -

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I had heard about this individual before. This is Mr. Qatani, who was the 20th hijacker. He tried to get into the United States so he could get on one of the airplanes on 9/11 and fly into the Pentagon or the World Trade Center. He was stopped by an alert customs agent in Florida, I believe. I'm also, as I recall - I read the article this morning - that she said all of the techniques that were utilized were authorized.

None of them were in violation of the basic fundamental tenets that we used out there. She was, as I understand it, complaining about the way in which - well, specifically, the way in which they were administered - I don't have any way to judge that; I'm sure that the Defense Department has or will thoroughly investigate it and get to the bottom of it.

They're very good at those sort of things. So it's entirely possible there was a problem in terms of how one specific prisoner was handled. I can't claim perfection. But what I can say is that in terms of what the policies of the administration were, both at the White House level and at the Defense Department, was that enhanced interrogation was okay.

We had specific techniques that were approved by the Justice Department - but that we don't torture and that we would not support torture from the standpoint of policy. It was not the policy of this administration.

MR. LEHRER: But just, for a general premise here, looking back, you don't - nothing happened that you feel was over the line or that you feel that was a miscalculation or mistake of some kind?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, in terms of the treatment of a specific individual, I can't say that. We had Abu Ghraib, for example. In that case, I believe, based on what I've seen, that that was the result of some military personnel who were improperly supervised - weren't given the right kind of guidance, weren't managed properly.

As we dig in and look at hundreds of cases, we may well find a few people who were not properly treated. You know, I ran the Pentagon. I know that you can't absolutely guarantee, at all times, that everybody's doing it the way they're supposed to be doing it.

I can tell you what the policy was; I can tell you that we had all the legal authorization we needed to do it, including the sign-off of the Justice Department. I can tell you it produced phenomenal results for us, and that a great many Americans are alive today because we did all that. And I think those are the important considerations.

MR. LEHRER: And you're personally very comfortable with that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I am.

MR. LEHRER: For what happened and the reasons it happened and the end result?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: In terms of the interrogation, generally?

MR. LEHRER: Yes, absolutely.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: General policy?

MR. LEHRER: General policy.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Absolutely.

Health concerns and reflection

Vice President Dick Cheney
It's been a remarkable experience. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

MR. LEHRER: Another personal thing - your heart troubles. Obviously, you've had many of them; we've discussed them.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Mm-hmm. Common problem.

MR. LEHRER: Common problem. Some people have suggested back to the changed Dick Cheney thing was that the four heart attacks, the bypasses et cetera also had an effect on you, personally, at some level. Do you buy that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. Jim, I had my first heart attack before I ever ran for office. I was 37 years old in 1978 - a candidate for Congress, as a matter of fact - in the middle of it. My entire time in elected office, over the last, what, 30 years now, has been after the onset of coronary artery disease. Whatever effect it was going to have, it had before that first election. So I just don't buy that. I mean, people are - want to go out and analyze and you live with it.

MR. LEHRER: Oh, sure.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: You've had a very active career since the onset of coronary artery disease. The technology is amazing; the doctors are fantastic. They've stayed ahead of the disease, from my standpoint. I'm not 68 - soon to be 68 years old.

And I've been extraordinarily fortunate that I've been able to go live a very active, stressful life. And I don't believe that my heart disease changed me for the worst.

MR. LEHRER: Well, of course, that was the other piece of the conventional wisdom. Oh my goodness, eight years of the stress and strain of being vice president - he'll never make it. You made it!

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I'm still here.

MR. LEHRER: Yeah, yeah. And the state of your health at this point is what?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: It's good. It's - let's see, I'm going to be 68 here at the end of this month. And I've got a few aches and pains and knees that don't work as well as they used to and so forth, but I've been very, very fortunate to have the kind of good medical care that I've had.

MR. LEHRER: Finally, did you enjoy being vice president of the United States?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I loved it. It's been a great job. It's been, obviously, a tremendous challenge. I'd spent 25 years in government when I left the Defense Department back in '93, decided I'd go spend the rest of my career in the private sector, and then the president tapped me to come be his running mate. And it's been a remarkable experience. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

MR. LEHRER: Did you ever, during the course of these last eight years, have a taste of, oh my goodness, maybe I should be president? Or did you ever desire to be president, at any time?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I looked back at that in the '94 election cycle. I thought seriously about running for president in '96. And so in '94, I put together a political action committee, I did 160 campaigns around the country, raised over $1 million and then sat down at the end of that campaign with my family and asked the basic question, do I want to run for president.

And I concluded that I did not - that I did not want to do all those things I would have to do if I were to mount an effective campaign. So I decided at that point, I'm not going to be a candidate for president and went off to private life.

I've never regretted that or looked back on it. I think that was the right decision and I also think my effectiveness for the president has been directly related to the fact that I've not been a candidate - that when I get involved in issues on the White House or on Capitol Hill, it's because I'm representing the president and we're working on his agenda.

I don't have my own separate agenda; I'm not looking over my shoulder to see how popular I am in the polls or how I'm going to do in the Iowa caucuses. I'm focused specifically on his agenda and I think that's been one of the reasons we've worked so well together.

MR. LEHRER: Do you think you would have been a good president?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I wouldn't want to speculate on that. We'll never find out.

MR. LEHRER: All right. Mr. Vice President, thank you very much. Good luck to you.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Thank you, Jim. Enjoyed it.