FULL INTERVIEW: Vice President Dick Cheney

ByABC News
March 19, 2008, 12:59 PM

March 19, 2008<br> <b>MUSCAT, OMAN</b> -- MARTHA RADDATZ: Mr. Vice President, I want to start with a speech Barack Obama gave. I doubt you've seen the entire speech, but he denounced comments by Reverend Wright, but he didn't distance himself completely. Do you think he did the right thing?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Martha, one of the things I've avoided so far is getting in the middle of the Democratic presidential primary process. And I think I'll stay there.

RADDATZ: But it was an important speech.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: It was an important speech, but I will let the Democrats wrestle with their own issues and problems.

RADDATZ: Do you have any problems with what Reverend Wright said, particularly about 9/11?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I do. I think -- I obviously don't agree with him.

RADDATZ: Would you denounce him completely?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to get into speculating on it. Again, I'll leave it to the Democrats.

RADDATZ: Well, let's talk about this: You're supporting John McCain.


RADDATZ: Would you campaign for John McCain?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: John will be, I think, the nominee of our party, and I'll do everything I can to help him.

RADDATZ: Do you think he'll want your help?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't have any idea at this stage.

RADDATZ: And since you're supporting a candidate, you can't talk at all about the Democratic race? Think it's too negative? Think it helps John McCain?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I will restrain my enthusiasm for the fray.

RADDATZ: Let's go to the economy. Alan Greenspan described it this way: "The current financial crisis in the U.S. is likely to be judged in retrospect as the most wrenching since the end of the Second World War. Correct?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I haven't seen the context in which Alan made his comments. I think we're a long way from being able to conclude that that's the case. We're clearly going through a rough patch here, there's no question about it. But we've had, prior to that, 52 months of uninterrupted economic growth and job creation, every single month for 52 months. Now, of course, we've got problems in the housing industry and the mortgage backed securities, and so forth, that have created problems that we're having to deal with. But I notice the stock market was up over 400 points yesterday in response to the actions that the Fed has been taking. And we've acted at -- in the executive branch and with the legislative, came together on a bipartisan basis and passed a stimulus package that will kick in here shortly, and provide a boost to the economy, we believe.

So I think we're a long way from the point where I would agree with Alan's assessment. I remember periods of time when we had interest rates around 12, 14 percent; inflation close to 20 percent; unemployment much, much higher than it is now. And that's happened on a number of occasions -- that's happened on a number of occasions since World War II. So your specific question, is this the worst since World War II, I don't believe so.

RADDATZ: You talk about it as a "rough patch." Those are the exact words the President used the other day. That seems like an understatement.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we've still got unemployment under 5 percent. We've had steady economic growth. We have not yet had a negative quarter, in terms of negative real growth on GDP. Now before you have a recession, you've got to have two negative quarters back to back. We may be there, but we haven't seen it yet.

RADDATZ: Many and most economists say it's a recession.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: We haven't seen that yet, Martha, but to say that it's the worst since World War II, I just, I disagree. I don't think that's accurate.

RADDATZ: Well, let's talk about recession. I know the administration has avoided using that word; I assume you don't want to announce this morning that it's a recession.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: There's a very technical term by which we define a recession: when you get two quarters of negative growth back to back, that's a recession. We haven't gotten it yet.

RADDATZ: Do you avoid -- is it dangerous to use that word now? Does that shake confidence further? Is there a reason you're avoiding it besides the technical issue?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think we try to be accurate. And the accurate statement is that we've not yet had two negative quarters back to back. Now it may be that we'll see that when we get the first quarter results in -- that will come in at the end of March, we'll get the preliminaries. I can't say we're not yet there, but I come back again with a proposition to say what we've got to date is the worst economic recession since World War II simply doesn't fit with what I remember as some very, very difficult times in the past.

RADDATZ: How much blame should the administration take for the current down turn, rough patch, recession, whatever you want to call it?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the first thing to recognize is that there are cycles in the economy. And from time to time, we do have recessions. We've had a very long stretch without a recession, because the policies I think we've put in place with respect to taxes back in 2001 and 2003, when we cut the rate on capital gains and dividends, lowered the rates across the board, reduced taxes on the broad bulk of Americans -- I think all of that helped create and sustain the conditions that produced over four years of sustained economic growth.

Now we're into a period where, obviously, where it looks like we're going to go through a rough patch. Now, is it a recession yet? We don't know yet. But where we will eliminate or work off, if you will, some of the excesses that have developed in the economy in recent years, and lay the foundation for the next expansion -- that's the normal cycle in a private sector economy, an economy such as we have. We do those things that we can. You can't manage it perfectly, but we do those things we can in order to try to minimize the impact, and to try to accelerate the point where we can get good growth again.

RADDATZ: You talk about cycles --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: As I say, with respect to hard times economically is when you have a high rate of unemployment, a lot of people out of work; we don't have that. It's when you have a very high rate of inflation -- we don't have that. It's when you get a long period of time when the economy is contracting instead of expanding -- we don't have that.

Now we do have the kinds off issues with respect to housing and in the financial markets that require action, a lot of it that can be taken by the Fed, a lot of it can be taken by us, and that's what we're doing.