A Conversation With Former Vice President Dick Cheney On “Heart” and Hillary
Here’s the audio and transcript of Thursday’s interview with former Vice President Cheney which began with a focus on his new book, co-authored with Dr. Jonathan Reiner and Liz Cheney, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey, and then moved on to Hillary, bin Laden, Iran, Saudi Arabia as well as Peter Baker’s new book on the Bush-Cheney Administration.
Off to Ohio for the weekend. Thanks in advance to Guy benson for sittingin for most of the show Friday.
HH: Joined now by the former vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney. Mr. Vice President, welcome back, good to talk to you.
DC: Well, good to talk to you, Hugh. How’s everything going?
HH: Terrific. You know, I was thinking as I read Heart, your new book, the first time I interviewed you in the White House, you had a stent. The second time when you were out here in my studio in California, you had the LVAD. And now, you have a brand new heart. You have been playing Roadrunner to your Wile E. Coyote of a heart for a lot of years and winning.
DC: Yeah, about 35 years. No, and it’s nothing short of miraculous. It’s really been an amazing testimony to the wonders of modern American medicine.
HH: It is, and I told people in the run up to this, I told Mark Steyn earlier, in Heart, your book, you really lay out the science and the medical technology and the genius of our system. And I like the fact that the founder of Macaroni Grill and Fudruckers are responsible for the stent. That’s a heck of a story.
DC: Well, it’s a great story about the free enterprise and American medical technology. And my friend, Phil Romano, who was the investor that made all that possible, has now had a couple of stents himself. So it’s, one of the things that we try to convey in the book is the reason to be hopeful. And there are 80 million Americans who have some form of heart disease. You know, one out of every four Americans, basically, have or will have during the course of their life. And we’ve been able, over the years, to deal with that problem, to get better and better as we treat it. When I had my first heart attack in 1978, all the stuff that’s kept me alive for the last forty-some years hadn’t even been invented, yet. And we’ve made major progress because of the tremendous health care system we have and the innovation that’s embodied in all of that. And it’s very important that we not screw it up, that we not get so involved in some of what Barack Obama wants to do that we lose that capability. I’m not, we didn’t write a political book. It’s really using my history to tell the history of modern cardiology. But it really is one of the great strengths of our civilization, and we need to make sure we protect it.
HH: I also want to say to the families of heart patients out there, this is really a hymn to the support you provide. Whether you’re detailing how Liz, your co-author, along with Dr. Reiner, drives you around, or how Mary brings you cookies, or how Lynne actually learns the details of the LVAD technology in order to help you with that. It’s an amazing technology.
HH: Family is part of Heart, and it’s very, I think it’s going to inspire a lot of families who have heart patients.
DC: No, you’re absolutely right, Hugh. Well of course, you know Lynne from years past.
DC: …working together, but to have somebody, you have to have somebody when you go through the LVAD process. This is a left ventricular assist device. It’s a pump they can plug into your heart when your heart is failing in its later stages, and it will pump blood and keep you going for, in my case, 20 months until I could get a transplant. But it involves a lot of technology. You’ve got to be on power 24/7. And every time, every day, you’ve got to change the bandage that covers the point where the cord that runs it all comes out of your chest wall into the battery pack, and so you’ve got to have somebody who’s really dedicated to doing whatever you need to do. Lynne became a master of the LVAD. You need sterile water, sterile gloves, sterile mask. It’s a very careful procedure you have to go through. But it works.
HH: It works.
DC: And of course, it saved my life.
HH: I think people who read Heart are going to walk away saying I can do this.
HH: And my family’s going to rally me. I also have got to say, I was pleased to find out you’re a Daniel Silva friend. He’s a friend of the show, comes on annually.
HH: But your trip into Never Never Land, when you were on the ventilator and deeply sedated in your Italian villa…
HH: That’s really quite a story. I haven’t seen any of the other interviews pick up on that. But Daniel Silva’s happy that Gabriel Alon was with you in Italy.
DC: That’s right. Well, it’s a great story. I went through this very difficult period when I came out from having the LVAD there. They did it on an emergency basis, operated on me all one night, and used over twenty-some units of blood. I was lucky to survive. And then I went on the respirator, I developed pneumonia, so I’m sedated, had no idea what was going on around me. But what I do have are memories of, in essence, this dream or this experience, whatever you want to call it, and I was living in Northern Italy in an little villa, and eating great Italian food and drinking Italian wine and so forth.
HH: Getting your morning newspaper. It’s really a remarkable story.
DC: It is.
HH: And I would encourage everyone listening, it will amuse you. It will also encourage you as you go through sophisticated heart treatment. My guest is former Vice President Dick Cheney, who along with Jonathan Reiner and Liz Cheney have written a new book, Heart: An American Medical Odyssey, which I can only recommend to you as sort of a history of science book. It’s part biography, it’s part autobiography, but it’s really about science and technology. When we come back, though, we will talk with the former Vice President about some of today’s headlines. And you in the meantime, head over to www.hughhewitt.com. Heart is prominently featured there. You can order it right now. And if you have heart disease in your family, if you’ve got it, if you’re wondering about if you’re ever going to get it, go and get Heart. You’ll learn more there than from a thousand Scientific American articles, and in a way that will really impact you.
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HH: Mr. Vice President, a book tour gives us a chance to get your opinions on matters both present and past. And I’ve got four areas of foreign policy I’d just like to touch on with you, both two in the past and two in the present.
HH: Thirteen months ago, the consulate in Benghazi was overrun. And that night, Secretary of State Clinton talked with Gregory Hicks, her charge d’affaires in Tripoli, and they were axing up the computers, they were evacuating Benghazi, the ambassador was missing, it was 2:00 in the morning in Tripoli. She never called back. Are you surprised she never called back?
DC: Yeah, I think the Benghazi thing is one of the great, it’s not just an embarrassment, it’s a tragedy, because we lost four people that night. And what I always recall is her testimony saying what difference does it make? And the fact of the matter is it makes a huge difference. And we should have been able to protect those people or certainly go to their rescue. They knew there was trouble in Benghazi, and they were unable to respond. So I think it’s a tragedy.
HH: Having once established communication, though, would you have stayed in touch, or at least called back to encourage your number two, beleaguered, and then after the loss of the ambassador, certainly, to buck him up?
DC: Yeah. No, she clearly wasn’t hands on, and now she doesn’t want to be hands on. And she’s doing everything she can to avoid responsibility for what clearly fell into her bailiwick.
HH: The second thing that happened a couple of years ago when bin Laden was killed, would you have advised the president to allow the victory dance that occurred and the operational details to come out that indeed came out?
DC: Well, my concern about the way bin Laden was handled, one, I was glad they got him. Two, they needed to recognize, as some have, although he never really has, but all the work that was done by our intel professionals over a period of ten years to make that possible. And the other thing was that by going public the way they did, they lost, I am convinced, some opportunities. When we used to take, for example, I remember when we took down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June of, I think it was ’06 in Iraq…
HH: 2006, yeah.
DC: We…2006, we collected an enormous amount of intelligence off that operation. You don’t go out and broadcast the fact that you’ve got the guy. You want to take that intelligence and be able to exploit it over the next few nights, and wrap up large parts of the network. What they did in Benghazi, they were in a such a hurry to go out, or not Benghazi, but with bin Laden, such a hurry to go out and announce victory, that I’m convinced that they probably did not get maximum damage out of the intel that they had captured.
HH: Now the two current events that are happening today in real time, USA Today is reporting this afternoon that Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in as little as a month, according to the Institute for Science and International Security. If that is in fact the case and believed by Israel to be true, can they allow that to go on? Can we allow that to go on, Mr. Vice President?
DC: Well, I don’t think we want Iran armed with nuclear weapons. I know the Israelis don’t. the Saudis don’t. The Emirates don’t. Nobody in the region thinks that it makes sense, or is a good idea at all. I have not seen this latest report. Frankly, I’ve been in Montana fishing and hunting for the last couple of days, so I haven’t seen the latest news. But that’s a huge threat to peace and stability in that part of the world. It’s potentially, ultimately, a threat to the United States.
HH: If the Israelis believe that report to be true and come to the same conclusion, do you expect them to strike?
DC: I can’t obviously speak for the Israelis. My own view, based on past experience, is that this, for them, is an existential issue. The very survival of their nation depends upon the outcome here. And if the Iranians, who have repeatedly over the years, time after time after time promised the destruction of Israel all of a sudden acquire a nuclear weapon, if I were the Israelis, I’d be very concerned.
HH: And a last question about the current events. Today, Saudi Arabia is communicating by various means, very bluntly, that they’re close to rupturing relations with us over the President’s fiasco in Syria. How serious should Americans take that attempt by the Saudis to raise a red flag over the competence level of the White House?
DC: Well, the fact of the matter is, Hugh, that you’ve got a lot of people in that part of the world that historically have been friends and allies of the United States. They’re people we worked with in Desert Storm. And they have been good friends. They’re people we can count on. And they’re now absolutely convinced they can no longer put any faith and trust in the United States of America. Part of it is because of the incompetence of the administration. And the whole Syrian episode, he drew a red line, then he didn’t pay any attention to it when they crossed the red line with respect to use of chemical weapons, and then he came back and said boy, we’re going to do something. And then they announced they were going to strike Syria, and then they said well, it’s not going to be a very big strike. And then said well, we’re not going to do it, we’re going to go to the Congress. And if you’re a friend and ally of the United States in that part of the world tonight, you’d have to say what’s this guy all about? Can we count on anything he’s told us? And is the historical relationship between us and the United States worth anything? At the same time, our adversaries out there no longer fear us. And I think the incompetence of this administration in the way they’ve handled these kinds of affairs, especially in the Middle East, is one of the worst aspects of this presidency.
HH: Last question, Mr. Vice President, Peter Baker has written the new book. I’m talking to him next week, Days Of Fire. And he said on Jake Tapper’s show today that your relationship with President bush underwent a “Shakespearian evolution.” Overstatement or true?
DC: Well, I’ve got a copy of his book. He sent me a copy. I’ve just looked at bits and pieces of it. So I can’t vouch for the whole book. But what I’ve looked at, it’s pretty interesting. And I’m not sure what he means by Shakespearian evolution, but we had a good relationship. It was primarily professional. He persuaded me that he needed me to be vice president, and I agreed. I went along with it. I never sought the office. I didn’t want the office. I turned it down the first time they offered it. But I was glad I signed on, and I think we did some good work together. He did not always agree. He always let me express my view. Often times, we disagreed. He was the president, and he had to make the decisions. So I’d say I’m not in a position at this point to be able to rate the book, so to speak, but it was an interesting relationship, a very important one, and I was proud to be his vice president, proud to serve, although I’ll be the first to admit that we didn’t always agree on what we should do.
HH: Well, I hope you keep writing books, because Heart is really a very interesting and very unexpected treat. Dick Cheney, thank you for joining us, Mr. Vice President.
End of interview.