Former Vice President Dick Cheney said he still believes Barack Obama will be a one-term president, in part because of the health care overhaul he championed.
, the first since his heart surgery in July, Cheney also said Americans should not be too quick to assume that heated political rhetoric helped set the stage for the Jan. 8 mass shooting in Arizona.
Cheney reiterated his belief that Obama will not be re-elected because "he embarked on a course of action when he became president that did not have as much support as he thought it did," referring to the
"I think he's enacted a program that a great many people are very worried about," Cheney told NBC's Jamie Gangel. "And that there's a lot of support out there for the effort to repeal that health care package." An excerpt from the interview, conducted at Cheney's home on Maryland's Eastern Shore, aired Monday night on "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams," and the full interview ran Tuesday morning on "Today."
The former vice president said Obama's other big weakness is his failure to realize the public wants smaller government. Cheney implied that Obama is off course in his "overall approach to expanding the size of government, expanding the deficit, and giving more and more authority and power to the government over the private sector. . . . And I think he'll be a one-term president."
But he softened earlier criticism when he had maintained the country was less safe under Obama. He said the president has come to understand that some of the surveillance and security policies employed by the past administration were necessary. "He obviously has been through the fires," Cheney said. ". . . I think he has learned from experience."
Later in the interview, Cheney said he thought Obama did a good job in the aftermath of the the Tucson shootings that killed six and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, among others. "I think the president handled it well," he said. "I thought that was one of his better efforts." Cheney said that no one knows enough about the suspected gunman or his state of mind to draw any conclusions about what might have led to the rampage. He said blaming the crime on passionate language used by talk-show hosts and politicians
is ill advised.
"I think we need to be a little careful about assuming that somehow the rest of society or the political class bears the responsibility for what happened here when it was the act of a deranged, crazed individual that committed a crime," Cheney said. "I think our politics can get pretty rough at times. Having been vice president for eight years, maybe I'm more sensitive to it than others, but the fact of the matter is, a good, tough political fight is one of the great strengths of our democracy."
He said he was watching Sarah Palin's career with interest, enjoyed her television reality show about Alaska, and thinks she is a "factor within the Republican Party." But he did not offer any insights about his feelings on Palin as a potential 2012 presidential candidate.
Cheney said he was not troubled by depictions of him as "tough, mean and nasty" during his eight years as vice president. "You're at war," he said of the period after the 9/11 attacks. "I wasn't running for anything. I was there to do a job." He confirmed former President Bush's account of his offer to not run for a second term in 2004 because he had become a lightning rod for criticism. He went to Bush three times, Cheney said, telling him he would withdraw from the ticket if the president so wished. Bush came back to him and said, " 'No, Dick . . . you're my guy.' "
But their relationship was strained over Bush's refusal to pardon Cheney's onetime top aide Scooter Libby after Libby's conviction in a leak case involving the outing of a CIA agent. "I pushed very strongly for him to do that -- and he [Bush] disagreed," Cheney said.
The former vice president, who served for eight years under George W. Bush, has suffered five heart attacks. Last summer, doctors implanted a heart pump. Cheney called it a "wondrous device" that has improved the function of his liver, kidneys and other organs because they get a good supply of blood now.
Often, patients who receive heart pumps are heart-transplant candidates, but Cheney said he was undecided about that.
"What's happened over time is the technology's gotten better and better and we've gotten more and more experience with people living with this technology," he said. "So I'll have to make a decision at some point whether or not I want to go for a transplant. But we haven't addressed that yet."
Still to come later this year: Cheney's memoir. Will he settle some scores? "I have a bit of a sense that I am going to have the last word," the former vice president said.