Exclusive Interview: Cheney on Elections and Iraq

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Vice President Dick Cheney during an interview with TIME magazine.

Dick Cheney tries to keep a low profile as Vice President, quietly advising President Bush and focusing on national security matters as far away from the spotlight as possible. That may be wise, since Cheney is not a popular man among the broader American public; his approval ratings (37% in a recent CNN poll) are lower than even the President's. But in election season the Vice President remains a big draw for conservative audiences. In this midterm election cycle, he has held 114 campaign events across the country and raised more than $40 million for the G.O.P. cause. On Wednesday morning, Cheney met with TIME's Mike Allen and James Carney in the sitting room of the Vice President's house in Washington to discuss the elections, Iraq and more.

TIME: Mr. Vice President, we really appreciate your making this time in a very busy season. You've had a very energetic, aggressive campaign schedule. I was interested in how it's different campaigning for House and Senate members, as opposed to campaigning for yourself. And when we were out the other day in Kansas and Louisiana, we noticed you didn't have the grandchildren. That was a little change from 2004.

Cheney: Well, it is different when you're doing it -- your own name is on the ballot. And of course, I did that, what, I guess six times when I ran in Wyoming, and then twice as Vice President. And I will say that's more fun. I've still got a lot invested in what I'm doing now. But I've done a lot of this over the years. Obviously, when I was in Congress, part of the leadership, I campaigned for colleagues all the time.

After I left the Pentagon in '93, in the '94 cycle, I did a lot of it. But still, it's a chance to get out. It's participating in what I think is one of the unique and distinguishing features of our civilization where we pick our leaders, hold them accountable. And so I've always enjoyed it.

There's the rap on me, occasionally, Cheney doesn't have any fun out on the campaign trail. It's not true. I do enjoy it. And we have oftentimes over the years turned it into a family enterprise. When I ran for Congress the first time was in an RV that my dad drove. Mom cooked. Lynne and I and the girls campaigned.

And when I ran for Vice President twice, it was very much a family enterprise. Daughter Mary was my aide de camp the first time out. Liz did all the debate prep, ran that whole operation for me. Second time around, Mary was in charge of VP operations for the campaign, and Liz did the debate prep again. So it has been an important part of my life, and I've enjoyed it. And I'm enjoying this, although I do look on it as sort of this is the last time I'll go out and do -- what, I think it's 114 campaigns so far.

TIME: Goodness. And do you miss your grandchildren?

Cheney: Yes, you don't have them on the campaign trail this time around. Part of that is it's just a lot tougher; they're in school. There was a legitimate excuse to take them out of school when I was on the ballot -- (laughter) -- and it was truly a family enterprise. And we did a lot. They liked to campaign with us.

The other day, as a matter of fact, Liz drove by the house here with the two older girls, Kate and Elizabeth. And they said, let's stop in and see Grandma and Grandpa. And Liz explained, no, we can't, they're out campaigning.

And their response was, what, without us? (Laughter.) They enjoyed very much being a part of it, loved the crowds and rallies, and so forth.

TIME: Mr. Vice President, you mentioned the investment that you have in this. What do you think a Democratic House would be like? What do you think a Democratic Senate would be like?

Cheney: Well, I don't expect that to happen. I'm optimistic that we're going to hold both the House and the Senate. One of the things I do talk about on the campaign trail is the importance of what we've been able to do with tax policy. How our changes in tax policy -- especially in '03 -- stimulated a recovery that's generated 6.6 million new jobs. Just today, the Dow broke through the 12,000 mark, first time ever for the Dow Jones Industrials. I think a lot of that goes back to what we were able to do with cutting taxes on investments, on dividends and cap gains and so forth. All of that is at risk if there were to be a Democratic Congress.

I talk about the fact that Charlie Rangel, for example, has announced that he doesn't think a single one of the Bush tax cuts ought to be extended. The fact is, of course, it's going to take an affirmative act by Congress to extend those cuts. They're going to be sunsetted here. We'll go back to the old rates unless there is action by the Congress. And I think, clearly, if Charlie Rangel were to be Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, he would put at risk -- because of his beliefs; he just fundamentally disagrees with those tax policies -- he would put at risk some of the best economic policy this nation has seen in a long time. It has produced phenomenal results for the economy.

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