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Republican National Convention: Vice Presidential Candidate Dick Cheney Discusses His Warm Welcome

Aired July 31, 2000 - 1:57 p.m. ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And on the floor John King has a very special guest right now.

John, tell us all about it.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've been lucky enough here is Secretary Dick Cheney, his first visit into the hall since being picked by George W. Bush as the Republican vice presidential nominee.

It's been a bit of a tough week. You were picked as the vice presidential nominee, the Democrats launching an ad not criticizing the governor, but criticizing you. Quite a warm welcome when you came in here.

DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Even the president criticized me. I feel honored. I've only been the campaign now for a week.

No this is great. It's fun to be in Philadelphia, a beautiful setting for a convention. I think the hall looks great, it's the first time I've been in it. I've been in seven or eight conventions since 1972 and the feeling and the spirit here and the unity of the party is really something to behold.

So I think it's going to be a great week.

KING: One of the things people say a lot is that presidential elections are not decided based on vice presidential nominees unless they make a grand blunder in the campaign. Surprised with the vigor with which the Democrats have come after your record? And talk to me especially if you would, this city Philadelphia, the suburbs obviously very important to carrying this state. Gun control an issue, the Democrats are trying to use against you and the governor in this campaign.

CHENEY: Well I think the -- the criticism isn't -- isn't surprising. I mean that's sort of standard tactics for them. They've run an essentially negative campaign, and attack is what they know best. The intriguing thing of course is when Al Gore was a member of the House of Representatives, his record on gun control was just like my record on gun control. He didn't switch until later in life. I -- I don't think it has much impact frankly. I really think the key here -- and the key to this campaign will be which of us can do the best job of talking about the future.

Governor Bush has got a fantastic track record in Texas. He's got a great program laid out. The party is behind him. And so I think we'll do well because we'll be evaluated on what we want to do in the future not --not debates over how I may have voted 15 or 20 years ago.

KING: A very close friend of yours and of course your partner in prosecuting the Persian Gulf War, General Colin Powell to speak to this convention tonight. How important is he to the Republican Party in echoing Governor Bush's message of diversity. And have you spoken to him at all about his role in terms of day to day campaigning to help out the ticket in the fall.

CHENEY: Well I haven't talked to General Powell, it's been a couple of weeks since we last talked. We talk frequently. We're good friends. I'm an enormous fan of his. I was the one who selected him to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs. We worked together for four years. So we're very close personally and professionally, and I have enormous regard for him. I'm delighted he's going to be here tonight. I think he's going to give a fantastic speech. I here it's a great speech. And we're very, very glad to have him as one of the leaders in the Republican Party.

KING: We were down talking to your state delegation earlier. They said at breakfast this morning you said the one bad thing about this is you won't be able to go home and go fishing in October.

CHENEY: Well, what I've had to do because of the campaign is cancel my fall fishing trips. I like to hunt and fish and I'm not going to be able to do that this year because I'll be campaigning. But we'll make up for it later on.

KING: We here a lot on the floor about how welcome you are to the grassroots delegates, the conservative backbone of the Republican Party. What was it like after the week you've had to walk in here to all that applause?

CHENEY: Well, people have been fantastic, they really have. The friends that I have heard from for years, you know have called to congratulate us. Just the outpouring of warmth and affection you get when you get into a Republican crowd and an audience. The guy in the grocery store the other day -- I mean, there's a warm reception every place we've gone.

So it's very rewarding to suddenly find yourself thrust into that kind of an environment, but it's important work. It's very important that we win this election, and that's what we plan to do.

KING: Conventions tend to be scripted affairs right now -- one last question -- they tend to be scripted affairs, the governor wrapped up the nomination quite some time ago. You are the story at this convention, you're the new thing happening.

The American people perhaps remember you from your service in the Cabinet. What do you want to tell them as you step back out of the political stage, and any second doubts about that a week into this?

CHENEY: No, I'm glad I stepped back on to the political stage. It's tough to do, it's not easy, but it's important, and sometimes you've got to set aside personal considerations. In this case, that's what the governor suggested, and he's absolutely right.

It's important that good people get into the arena. And there are too many people in the country that sit on the sidelines and kibitz and never get into the arena themselves. I think the future of the country is at stake, this is an enormous period of opportunity for us, and I look forward to a good campaign, and I look forward to winning in November.

KING: We appreciate your time.

CHENEY: Thank you.

KING: Wolf, that's Secretary Dick Cheney, his first appearance in the hall here in Philadelphia, a wild reception as he walked in, quite a bit of applause on the floor as you interviewed the delegates on this, the first session of the Republican National Convention. A great deal of enthusiasm for a man they believe helps Governor Bush fill out the Republican ticket, brings experience that the governor does not have, especially among the conservative activists on the floor. This is a pick being very much applauded right now.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, John. And we're going to be talking a little bit more about Dick Cheney. We have to take another quick break. When we come back we'll be speaking with someone who was himself considered as a possible vice-presidential candidate, Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee.

He'll be joining us when our coverage from the Republican Convention here in Philadelphia continues.



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