Exclusive Interview: Cheney on Elections and Iraq

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Vice President Dick Cheney during an interview with TIME magazine.

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If you'd have asked in the month after 9/11 what the prospects were for going five years without another attack here at home, I don't think anybody would have been willing to give you very good odds -- expected that there clearly was going to be another attack. So if you put all of that together, I think we've been very successful.

I think if you look at Afghanistan and what it was over five years ago, six years ago, a safe haven for al Qaeda; a location for training camps that trained 20,000 terrorists in the late '90s, that situation has significantly improved -- still got a lot of work to do; still got significant problems there. But the Taliban regime is gone. Karzai is in. There's been democratic elections, a new parliament sworn in, new constitution.

In Iraq, we've made progress, too. It's still very tough going -- without question, but Saddam Hussein is on trial. His government has been taken down. We've had three national elections, a new constitution written. The current government -- which has got a lot of heavy lifting to do -- has only been in power about five months; and so we've still got, say, difficult days ahead. But I think we're far along from where we were, and at the same time, we've been able to successfully defend the homeland against further attacks by al Qaeda. It's a pretty good record.

TIME: Mr. Vice President, there have been a number of stories about your changing role. Is it shrinking? Is it enlarging? Are you in charge of everything? How has your role in this White House evolved over the past six, seven years? How have your assignments changed?

Cheney: They haven't really changed that much, I don't believe. It's a unique kind of role, a different kind of role. When you're Vice President, you don't run anything. Basically, I serve as an advisor to the President. I've got some great people working for him. And one of the things that I think is unique about the way we've operated is that my staff operation is pretty thoroughly integrated with that of the West Wing, and the President.

We've worked hard to make certain you don't get the traditional kind of splits that you will between the White House staff and the vice presidential staff. And part of that is because I've made it clear I'm not running for office myself when this is all over with, that I'm there to serve the President, and because we've worked hard to keep the press operation integrated, and the congressional relations operation integrated and so forth, and my people have been an integral part of the White House staff. That's different than the way it's worked in most White Houses.

Over time, I've spent my time on those things the President wants me to spend time on, or has asked me to. I spend a lot of time on national security matters, which is an interest given my background as Secretary of Defense, on the Intelligence Committee and so forth. And that's clearly where he's spent a lot of his time, as well, too.

I spend a fair amount of time on Hill matters. Part of that is because of my background in the House of Representatives, and part of it because my continuing job as Vice President is in the Senate. Most people don't realize I'm actually on the Senate payroll. That's where my paycheck comes from.

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