Former Vice President Dick Cheney talks Obama, health, and Tucson in new interview

Amanda Carey Contributor
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In his first interview since he had heart surgery last July, former Vice President Dick Cheney discussed whether he still believes President Obama is making America less safe and said he is considering getting a heart transplant.

While Cheney told NBC “Today Show” national correspondent Jamie Gangel he believes Obama will be a one-term president, he went on to clarify a 2009 comment he made to CNN that the president was making America less safe.

“Well, when I made that comment, I was concerned that the counterterrorism policies that we’d put into place after 9/11 that had kept the nation safe for over seven years were being sort of rapidly discarded,” said Cheney. He cited the enhanced interrogation techniques and the terror surveillance programs as two examples.

“They’d been vital from our perspective,” said Cheney. “And we were able to put in place a successful policy that did prevent any further major attacks against the United States over those years. And he [Obama] campaigned against all of that.”

But, Cheney said, he now has hope that President Obama has adopted a similar perspective with regards to what is necessary for American security as President Bush and he had.

“I think the President [Bush] and I worked for an absolute commitment that that’s never going to happen again on our watch. And that we’ll do whatever we have to do in order to prevent it. And I hope President Obama is to that point now where he has that same basic attitude,” said Cheney.

“But we might never find out until there’s actually another attack,” he added.

Cheney also weighed in on the recent tragedy in Tucson, Arizona, and warned against rushing to any kind of judgment regarding the motives of accused shooter Jared Loughner.

“And 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,” said Cheney, after noting that “our politics can get pretty rough at times.”

He did go on to say, however, that politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle should be careful about rhetoric and be respectful during political debates.

“I think that’s always good, sound advice,” said Cheney. “But I don’t think we should anticipate that we can somehow take a system that was designed for political combat, if you will, between the parties, between ideas, between principles and set that aside. I wouldn’t want to do that. That’s the heart and soul of our political system. And that’s basically a good thing.”

When asked about his heart condition, Cheney said his doctors equipped him with a battery-operated device that assists pumping blood throughout the body. The vice president’s heart condition has lasted about 30 years. In that time, he has suffered five heart attacks, the last being in February 2010.

Now, doctors have told him he needs to decide if he will pursue a heart transplant.

“I haven’t made a decision yet,” said Cheney. “The technology was originally developed to provide a transition. To take somebody who’s reached the point where they needed a transplant but a transplant wouldn’t immediately be available, so they put this in as a temporary measure.”

“So I’ll have to make a decision at some point whether or not I want to go for a transplant,” he added. “But we haven’t addressed that yet.”

When asked about revelations in President Bush’s memoir “Decision Points” that he offered to resign during the 2004 presidential reelection campaign, Cheney said that he didn’t want to stand in the way of the president winning a second term. According to Cheney, he offered to resign three different times.

“And I didn’t wanna stand in the way if in fact that kind of decision would enhance the President’s prospects of winning reelection in 2004 when he was up against John Kerry,” said Cheney. “And I thought he ought to have the freedom to change anybody he wanted, including me.”

The interview will air Monday night on “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” and Tuesday on the “Today Show.”