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The Electors Vote: Cheney to Take on Less High-Profile Role Once Administration in Place

Aired December 18, 2000 - 1:07 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Kyra, we'd like everyone to know that CNN formally starts a new program tonight, starting at 8:00 Eastern, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Along with the day's news, Wolf will have interviews with key players, giving issues a lot more depth.

Today's guest is definitely a key player, and he's going to join us now -- Wolf will join us with a preview of that.

Wolf, congratulations, everyone here is excited about your debut tonight.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you very much, Stephen, I'm pretty excited as well. And we have a good guest for tonight's program, a good news maker, in fact, Vice President-elect Dick Cheney is going to be my guest. In fact, I caught up with him earlier this morning, over at the Madison Hotel, in between meetings with potential Cabinet members and other Bush administration officials.

We sat down, and we talked a lot about what is going to be happening over the next several weeks and months. One thing he did reveal to me is -- and this is sort of newsworthy -- the Pennsylvania governor, Tom Ridge, has removed himself for consideration for potentially becoming a member of the Bush Cabinet. There had been widespread speculation that Governor Ridge was seriously being considered for defense secretary, and Dick Cheney said that a few weeks ago Governor Ridge informed himself and President-elect Bush that he wanted to stay in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, complete term as governor, didn't want to uproot family and move the kids.

As far as Dick Cheney is concerned, he was very forceful saying yes, he's taking a very high profile right now because he's basically the only game in town, once the rest of the Cabinet gets in place, and other administration officials get in place, he revert to a little less high-profile stance.

I want you to listen to this excerpt from the interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT: Not just go to funerals and fund-raisers, I've got a major role to play in the Congress, because as vice president, I preside over the Senate as the president of Senate. And President Bush has asked me to take on special responsibilities, in terms of working with the Congress, but -- and I'll serve as an adviser in a lot of other capacities: I'll sit on the national security council, be involved in economic policy, etcetera.

But to the extent that this has been a unique period of time, during the 35-day Florida recount, and now the transition, where I've had major responsibilities, as we get the administration stood up and all the other players identified and in their slots and off and running, then I think you'll see that my role, at least of the public profile of it, will more nearly resemble that of traditional vice presidents.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He also said that he, like President-elect Bush wants an inclusive administration, an inclusive Cabinet, no problem with bringing in certain individuals who may be in favor of abortion rights, gun control, affirmative action. He thinks that it's important to unite the Republican Party, despite some criticism already coming from the more conservative wing of the party that that may not necessarily be a good idea.

And he spoke very highly, by the way, of New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and New York Governor George Pataki, both of whom were down in Florida, helping President-elect Bush making sure that he got recount exactly where they wanted it, of course, enabling him to become the next president of the United States -- Stephen.

FRAZIER: Wolf, based on your experience and based on his comments during that interview, where would you rank a Cheney vice presidency compared to how engaged Vice President Gore was?

BLITZER: Vice President Gore was very engaged. I covered him for seven years when I was CNN senior White House correspondent. He was very much involved, perhaps more involved than most vice presidents is recent history. My sense is Dick Cheney, whom I covered at the Pentagon many years ago -- 10 years ago -- we reflected, of course, on that, during court of interview, the lead up to Operation Desert Storm -- Cheney will be very involved; he'll be a senior adviser, probably the most senior adviser to President-elect Bush.

He made that clear that he wants to have that role, although when General Powell becomes secretary of state, there's a new treasury secretary, a new defense secretary, his role will be a little bit less visible. But he's going to be a player in this, and he's raring to go.

And he seemed to stress the importance that he wants to attach in terms of relationship with Congress. He was, after all, for 10 years, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, including a leader in the Republican Party there.

So he wants to be very active. He looked fit, by the way, he looked excited, he looked pretty good. I didn't see any indication that he was suffering at all from that minor heart attack that he had a few weeks ago. FRAZIER: Wolf, thanks very much, we'll look forward to seeing that tonight.

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