Transcript: Cheney Defends Hard Line Tactics

KARL: But when you were told during another interview that the American public is overwhelmingly against the war, you said, "So?" Do you regret saying that? Would you take that back.

CHENEY: No. In effect what I did was, the person who made the statement they didn't ask a question. And after they made a statement, I said, "So?" expecting a question and I didn't get a question. And I took "So" to mean that I didn't have any concern for public opinion. I do. But I don't think and the point I made then is that we could not have done what we'd done if we'd been reading the polls.

If we had responded to the polls I think the world would look very different today than it does. I think Saddam Hussein would still be in power. I think the progress that we've made in liberating 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan might well have not happened.

You can't base public policy or tough decisions in a presidency simply on what's happening in the polls. They change from week to week. You can take two polls on exactly the same day and get totally different results. It's just a bad way to make policy. And we didn't do that. What we did was what we thought was right for the country. We stood once for reelection and were reelected and we've continued to pursue those policies throughout our time in office.

Our objective has not been to see how high we could get our poll numbers by the time we left office. Our objective has been to do other things such as defend the nation, pursue a successful counterinsurgency program to prevail in Iraq and Afghanistan, reform the education system, add prescription drug benefits to Medicare, cut taxes. Those are all things that I think we've succeeded on. They were not all popular, especially what we did in the national security area I think has been controversial but it was the right thing to do and the president and I were elected to make decisions and not to read polls.

KARL: Now, President Bush recently said that his greatest regret was that the intelligence was wrong on weapons of mass destruction. Is that your biggest regret?

CHENEY: No, I wouldn't – I understand why he says that. I certainly share the frustration that the intelligence report on Iraq WMD generated but in terms of the intelligence itself, I tend to look at the entire community and what they've done over the course of the last several years. Intelligence – it's not a science, it's an art form in many respects and you don't always get it right.

I think while I would mention that as a major failure of the intelligence community, it clearly was. On the other hand, we've had other successes and failures. I think the run-up to 9/11 where we missed that attack was a failure. On the other hand we've had great success since 9/11 in terms of what the intelligence community has contributed overall to the defense of the nation, to defeating al Qaeda, to making it possible for us to do very serious damage to our enemies.

KARL: You probably saw Karl Rove last week said that if the intelligence had been correct we probably would not have gone to war.

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