CHENEY: Well, good afternoon, Rush. Good to talk to you.
RUSH: Good to talk to you. All right, a couple things. We have you for a limited amount of time and I want to race through a couple things. I see here today an AP story that the House of Representatives has voted to delay the demise of the wiretap law by two weeks. So we’ve got a two-week extension on FISA. You know, we’re in the middle of a presidential election year, and a lot of people’s attention is focused on that, not on FISA and the efforts that you and the people in the administration are doing to continue to detect potential attacks. What’s the status, what’s the big deal about two weeks?
CHENEY: Well, the legislation is absolutely essential, of course. They passed a six-month extension last August, which expires on Friday, with the idea that they would finish up the legislation by Friday. They’ve had six months to work on it. One of the main things we need in there, for example, is retroactive liability protection for the companies that have worked with us and helped us prevent further attacks against the United States —
RUSH: Like the phone companies?
CHENEY: — the most controversial part. Right. And so far they haven’t been able to get it done. So what has been agreed to is to give them 15 more days to wrap it up and finish it up here. The president’s been holding their feet to the fire. They claim they can get it done in 15 more days, and the battle right now is focused on the Senate. The House has already passed a version of it, but we do badly need this legislation. It’s been essential in terms of protecting the country against further attacks, vital, one of the most vital things the president’s done since 9/11, and it would be a tragedy if this authority weren’t extended.
RUSH: The opposition in the Senate is primarily from Democrats, correct?
CHENEY: Correct. People who don’t want to — I guess want to leave open the possibility that the trial lawyers can go after a big company that may have helped. Those companies helped specifically at our request, and they’ve done yeoman duty for the country, and this is the so-called terrorist surveillance program, one of the things it was called earlier. It’s just absolutely essential to know who in the United States is talking to Al-Qaeda. It’s a program that’s been very well managed. We haven’t violated anybody’s civil liberties. It’s in fact a good piece of legislation.
RUSH: Yeah, it’s amazing that it’s a political issue. I want to ask you, is the Democrats’ opposition to this oriented toward, you know, payback for a big constituency of theirs, the trial lawyers, is it purely political and trying to damage George W. Bush because of their pent up resentment of his success, or is it something else? There’s a story, I forget where it is, I just finished reading it. It’s at Politico.com. It said that with Rudy Giuliani’s defeat last night, that the politics of 9/11 are finished, they’re over, that nobody is going to succeed running on 9/11 and thus the continued threat. Is this really part of an effort by some in the Senate to try to convince the American people, we don’t face a threat anymore, and there’s no reason to run the risk of violating people’s civil liberties blah, blah, blah?
CHENEY: Right. Well, it’s been focused especially on the Democrats and the Senate Judiciary Committee. Pat Leahy, chairman of the committee, has opposed parts of the statute that we think are essential in terms of going forward, including specifically this retroactive liability provision. I don’t like to question people’s motives. I assume he’s got reasons why he believes the way he does, but the fact is their inability to resolve that issue that’s delayed passage on this legislation. I think there are people out there frankly, Rush, that don’t like what we’ve done, that are opposed to the bold action, tough decision the president’s made since 9/11. I think there were a lot of people who were panicky in the aftermath of 9/11, but now that we’ve demonstrated our ability to defend the country for the last six-and-a-half years, they want to act as though there’s no threat and we don’t need to take these important measures. But the fact of the matter is the threat’s still there, it still exists. I look at it every day in our intelligence brief. We need to perpetuate and protect our capabilities here as well as in terms of our ability to interrogate prisoners.
RUSH: You may not be able to answer this, but if you feel confident that two weeks can take care of this retroactivity in protecting 40 civil lawsuits that have been filed against the phone companies, what do the opponents of this want in exchange for going along with this?
CHENEY: Well, I think the fact of the matter is at this point they don’t have the votes. I don’t think they can prevail. I think there are a number of Democrats, for example, who have indicated they will vote with us on the key issue on this legislation in the Senate, but to date it’s been hung up through various parliamentary maneuvers. But I think eventually we will get the legislation. I think the votes are there, but they want more time to let the opponents sort of air their grievances and probably vote on some more amendments before we go to final passage.
RUSH: Is there any surprise on your part, do you feel any surprise that this issue has not — specifically this issue that we’re talking about today — been discussed front and center in the presidential campaigns?
CHENEY: Well, I can’t speak, obviously, for the Democrats. I don’t know where they are on these issues. I think generally they have not been as supportive of the kind of robust strategies as the Republicans. I know most of the Republican candidates have in fact been solidly supportive of what we’ve been doing on the global war on terror, and I think there’s probably less enthusiasm if I can put it in those terms on the Democratic side for some of those same measures.
RUSH: All right, moving on because our time is dwindling. A New York Times story today, headline: ‘White House Shows Signs of Rethinking Cut in Troops.’ The pull quote here, ‘Mr. Bush has made no decisions on troop reductions to follow those he announced last September. In his address to Congress Mr. Bush spoke of those reductions but not of any future ones.’ I don’t think there’s a story here. It seems like he’s delivered on the reductions he spoke of. He hasn’t indicated any others, as he’s waiting on another assessment from General Petraeus, so what are they trying to stir up here?
CHENEY: Well, it sounds to me like they’re trying to stir something up, I would agree with you, Rush. The fact is the president said last fall that we would pull out a brigade about the end of the year, that we’d have another review in March when General Petraeus could come back and give us his recommendations going forward; and in the meantime that we would go back to the pre-surge level. We had 15 brigades in Iraq when we started the surge. We added five brigades there now and in the process of coming out, and we’ll get back to pre-surge levels by this summer but we have not made a decision to go below that. That will depend very much on circumstances on the ground. The last thing we would want to do at this stage is having made the enormous progress that’s been made over the last year with the dramatic drop in casualties and number of incidents, number of attacks by insurgents and so forth and with all of the bad guys that we’ve rounded up and killed, you’d hate to see that reversed by going too fast or taking out troops too soon. But we are keeping the commitment that was made previously and the president said he’ll listen very carefully to his commanders on the ground, and specifically General Petraeus in terms of what he thinks he needs to complete the mission.
RUSH: I find it fascinating — I predicted this — I find it fascinating that this issue is not even a part of the presidential campaign, particularly on the Democrat side precisely because of what you just said. The news is robust and positive, it serves them no purpose. But they’re still working behind the scenes with the FISA thing and other things to eventually weaken the country. One more quick question, topic, before we go, and that’s the economic stimulus. I saw a poll, it might be Rasmussen, I’m not sure, only 42% of the American people are really cool with this. There’s a greater number combined not cool or not all happy about it, think it isn’t going to matter that much, and we got a fed rate cut of a half-point that was just announced today. What is your overall feeling on the economy and where it’s headed?
CHENEY: Well, I think we are experiencing a bit of a slowdown. We don’t believe we’re going to have a recession, though. A recession would be two negative quarters back-to-back. I think the action that the Fed’s taken has been very positive. We think the stimulus package will have a positive effect. We’re talking here only 1% of GDP that’s directly affected by it. But the president believes that getting a stimulus package through on a short-term sort of one-shot basis will be helpful in terms of consumer spending. So our hope is that we can get through this rough patch and continue and resume the growth of three to four percent in the future that we’ve enjoyed in the past. We’ve had now over, what, 52 months of uninterrupted job expansion in the economy. It’s an all-time record in terms of longevity, and we’re hopeful we can keep that up, and I don’t see any reason we can’t.
RUSH: What would you say to people listening who are alarmed at the housing crisis, subprime crisis, the people in their homes who see their equity or the value of their home plummeting. You’ve been around politics a long time, you’ve been through economic cycles, member of Congress, various administrations, what would you say to people who are feeling a little bit uneasy about the value of their home. How long is it going to be before this rebounds?
CHENEY: Well, we clearly have to work our way through the current glut, if you will, in the housing market. We’ve got a large inventory of unsold homes out there, and that’s affecting the price. These things have consequences for everybody. But the economy, I think the economy is very resilient and we’ll work our way through this. Obviously, you know, you want to do everything you can to help those folks who are most adversely affected by it, but you can’t repeal the laws of economics. We’ve gotta get through this patch. The president’s got work being done by Hank Paulson over at Treasury and Alphonso Jackson at HUD to try to provide support and opportunities for refinancing for some of those folks who are most directly affected by this. But you also need to be careful here to make sure the government doesn’t do something that makes the situation worse instead of better, and —
RUSH: Which it can easily do. (laughing) All right, Mr. Cheney —
CHENEY: Wouldn’t be the first time. I can remember, Rush, back in the eighties when I was in Congress we had another housing crisis, and the home builders got upset and they started mailing two-by-fours in to us. I ended up with my office chock-a-block full of two-by-fours with stamps on them from all over Wyoming.
RUSH: (laughter) Yeah, but we came through it. This is what people need to realize. We always come through —
RUSH: — these things and we end up stronger in the end. Look, I appreciate your time. It’s always nice to talk to you, and I appreciate the update on the FISA situation, because it’s really off the radar with the presidential campaign going on. So thanks so much for that, and your time again.
CHENEY: It’s a vital issue, Rush. I love your show. It’s a pleasure to talk to you again.
RUSH: Thank you. Vice President Dick Cheney.