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Dick Cheney on Obama's Vulnerability, Tucson Shootings, His Health

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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.

In an interview with NBC News, 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 new law mandating health insurance coverage, among other changes.

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"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.

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pete

Boy oh boy. The haters are out in force this morning! Like all of you, I'm not a political expert, but I do try to keep myself informed enough to make an educated vote as opposed to voting on the basis of the last political ad I saw on TV as I walked out the door to go to the polls, or the last ad I heard on the radio before I got out of my car at the polls. In his book, "Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties," by Paul Johnson gives a tremendous re-evaluation to the importance of President Eisenhower who led the West into a great period of stability and prosperity while avoiding confrontation with the East. He explains: "the Carter years almost brought America to the point of suicide. He added that America almost lost its superpower status under Carter, and there's no guarantee it won't happen under Obama's watch. Our times seem eerily similar to the '70s: the economic recession, rising oil prices, international crises, and a weak president." Carter was perceived as weak because of his apologetic attitude about America, the same attitude Obama has shown the world, and our enemies moved aggressively against our best interests then, as they do now. Russia saw Carter as weak and invaded Afghanistan with the idea of owning the country. Russia and Cuba supported revolution in places like Nicaragua and El Salvador. My neighbor has an Es Salvadoran house nurse/housekeeper who, tho now a US citizen, regrets she had no choice at the time but to leave her home country. Today, NoKorea, Iran, Venezuela, are looking for ways to finish off the US, and with the aid and assistance of the current administration, they hope to do so in Obama's second term. I'm not some kind of political ideologue. The basics of my moral foundation are the same today as they were when I was a kid. I voted for JFK, and thought I'd never leave the democrat party. Well, the party left me. I'm now a registered independent, and have since my JFK vote, I've found the republican platform to be more in keeping with my moral values. I have not always liked the candidates, but then the democrat party has not impressed me with the people they've put forward recently either.

January 18 2011 at 11:22 AM
rker321

I wish all the Health of the World to Mr. Cheney, Having said, that, I always dubbed him as The Prince Machiabelli of the Bush Administration. As a Republican, I have always stated, that President Bush, was manipulated by this man, into doing what I feel he regrets doing now. I respect President Bush, he was my President, Like Ms. Palin, he should take care of himself. and please, retire into the sunset, Your comments are not welcome.

January 18 2011 at 11:22 AM
roflphd

Where he says-
"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
Doesn't that phrase just give ya the creeps and a half? "The political class" - That's how they talk like it's 'just the way it is everyone else is some slave or surf - I'm for voting everybody out of office across the board repeatedly

January 18 2011 at 11:20 AM
cliffy934

Well, I see that AOL is not posting my comment. The comment was, Dick Cheney Just gave Obama his second term by his remark of being a one term president.

January 18 2011 at 11:18 AM
knowthyme

Health Care Reform. Ok here is a list of compensation for CEOs of specific companies. This is for Health Care or is it to line sme ones pockets. First ammount 2007 then 2008. No names other than Company.In Millions Aetna $23.0/$24.3; Cigna $25.8/$12.2; Coventry $14.8/$9; Health Net $3.7/$4.4; Humana $10.3/$4.7; U.Health Grp.$13.1/$3.2; Well Point 2006 $23.9/ 2007 $9/ 2008 $9.8. Add it up and you have CEO compensation for 7 companies for 2 years $191.2 Miliion. That is a two year average of $27.3 million or $13.6 million per year average. So that's where our premiums are going and you think they don't spend part of those companies premiums convinceing (Lobby) your Representatives(Campaign Contributions) that the Health Care bill is bad. Get real.

January 18 2011 at 11:18 AM
davidjleahy

As a holder of multiple passports, I can say with authority that anyonew who
thinks the current so called health care is a good deal is uninformed and
knows nothing about what the U.S. future holds. These people should visit or
talk at length with some one living in the UK, Canada or any of the EU countries.

20 months wait for a MRI is standard. One cannot see a speialist unless ones
regular Doctor sets it up--you can;t go direct to a Specialist. Reach the age of
70 and you have real problems Why do you think Canadians and others come to the
U.S. for Doctors and surgeries? I know I am wasting my time bring up this
information because certain type people believe anything said by Washington/

January 18 2011 at 11:18 AM
Trudy Buck

Now he said he wasn't in the position to say who is or isn't certain to be president, but yet he says that the now President Mr. Obama "is only a one time president?" What a guy this is.

January 18 2011 at 11:17 AM
hi

My uncle was the same age as Mr Cheney when he, too, needed a heart transplant. He was denied due to his age.

January 18 2011 at 11:15 AM
Trudy Buck

My very first question to this man is this. Why is he speaking so much now and when he was just Vice President a couple years ago DID NOT SAY A WORD TO THE PEOPLE. Why is he so outspoken now? This to me truly shows he is not an intelligent man who knows how to speak or lead people at all!!

January 18 2011 at 11:15 AM
liber8er

What is "smaller" government? One, a thousand, 10 thousand less positions? Is it to be merely a figurehead with no authority? Our government has expanded exponentially regardless of political leaning. As to Cheneys fear of Obama expanding the deficit, Dick needs to look at his record.

January 18 2011 at 11:14 AM

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