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Interview With Dick Cheney; President Obama Set to Unveil Jobs Plan

Aired September 6, 2011 - 18:00   ET



Happening now: my interview with the former Vice President Dick Cheney. Eight years after the controversial invasion of Iraq, he is certain, absolutely certain, the Bush administration made the right call. We will talk about that and much more in my extended interview. Stand by.

Also, a conservative American billionaire borrows a line from Saddam Hussein. Is he declaring war on President Obama? We have the leaked audiotape at the center of a huge political controversy.

And we are learning that President Obama will likely be talking about more than just jobs Thursday night when he addresses Congress. We have new details of what we expect him to say about education.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM

We want to welcome everyone to a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. We're live here in Los Angeles, where I sat down just a little while ago with former Vice President Dick Cheney for an in-depth interview. We covered some of the most controversial chapters of his eight years in office with President George W. Bush, including what is arguably the most controversial chapter of all, an extraordinarily vigorous defense of how the Bush administration conducted the war on terror.

And we will follow up with a thorough fact-check.


BLITZER: Let's talk about the war in Iraq and the buildup to the war in Iraq, which you remember well and you write extensively about it in the book "In My Time."

In August of 2002 -- the invasion took place in March of 2003 -- you told the Veterans of Foreign Wars:


DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That statement was incorrect, right?

CHENEY: The statement was incorrect?

BLITZER: The statement you made.

CHENEY: It was based on the intelligence that we had received at the time. It also tracks almost perfectly with what Bill Clinton had said two years earlier based on the same intelligence when he was president.

BLITZER: But you say there was no doubt.

There was doubt.

CHENEY: Well, there was not at the time, not at the time.


CHENEY: The intelligence we had received repeatedly since the transition period, when we started getting our intelligence briefings, and for 27 months after that, right until '03, all showed that he had significant activity under way with respect to weapons of mass destruction.

Now, what we found after the war, when we went in with the Iraq Survey Group, was we found there were no stockpiles, but he did in fact had a preserve and still had the capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction. He had the people, he had the technology, he had the feedstocks, he had the basic capacity to resume production as soon as the sanctions were lifted, and that that was in fact his intent.

If you go back and you look at statements by David Kay, who chaired the Iraq Survey Group, he said -- after he finished, he came out and he said, look, I thought there were stockpiles, too, but there weren't, but I was even more concerned once I saw what he did have, because it was clear to him that Saddam was gearing up to get back into the business again.

BLITZER: Because if you read the 9/11 Commission report and other reports and all sorts of books, "Fiasco," that book, there were those analysts in the U.S. government who had doubts, who had serious doubts, at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, at the State Department. At the CIA, there were some analysts who said, we're not so sure about these stockpiles and weapons of mass destruction.

CHENEY: With all due respect, Wolf, I think that's a lot of Monday-morning quarterbacking.

The fact of the matter is, if you go back and you look at 1998, two years before we arrived, you had Bill Clinton making public statements that he believed that Saddam Hussein did in fact have weapons of mass destruction and that he would use them unless he was stopped. And based on that, he signed legislation passed by the Congress that made changing the regime in Iraq an object of U.S. foreign policy and appropriated $100 million for that purpose.


CHENEY: That was all before we even arrived at the election, two years before the election.

BLITZER: Because I remembering Hans Blix on several occasions, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector of the U.N.

They expressed doubts all the time. They thought, as you once thought when you were defense secretary and the years that followed, that Saddam had been contained in a box. He represented an enormous threat to his own people, but not to anyone else.

You didn't agree with them, did you?

CHENEY: I didn't. I also think there was a little thing called 9/11 that happened.


BLITZER: Did he have any involvement in 9/11?

CHENEY: Listen. Hear me out, Wolf.

The fact of the matter is, on 9/11, we moved from a situation in which before that we thought about terrorist attacks as law enforcement problems. Somebody blows up a building. We go out, we arrest him, we try him, we put him in jail.

On 9/11, when we lost 3,000 people that morning, we decided it wasn't just a law enforcement problem, that it was in fact an act of war. And we had to deal with the possibility of further attacks. Everybody expected there would be more. The morning after 9/11, nobody would have bet there wouldn't be any for the next seven years.

But we expected there to be more attacks. We expected there was a very real possibility that it would mount an effort for example by al Qaeda to try to attack us with weapons of mass destruction. We had intelligence that suggested they were pursuing that kind of capability.

We had to be focused upon those places in that part of the world where terrorists could get their hands on anthrax or upon some other deadly substance or upon nuclear weapons. And that led us to sit down and take a look, for example, at a country like Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

And we concluded, based on that, that that was a place where there was most likely to be this interchange, if you will, between terrorism on the one hand and a rogue state on the other.

BLITZER: But just to be precise, he had no involvement with al Qaeda and planning or implementing 9/11? CHENEY: He had no responsibility that we were ever able to confirm for 9/11. We were told right after 9/11, I received a briefing from the CIA provided to me by George Tenet that he had.


BLITZER: But that turned out to be false?

CHENEY: Turned out to be false.

But at the time, he -- supposedly, Mohamed Atta, who was the leader hijacker, had met with one of the senior officials of the Iraq intelligence service in Prague five months before 9/11. That was information provided to us by our intelligence.

BLITZER: False intelligence.

CHENEY: Yes, but you didn't know it was false. The CIA didn't come in and say this is false. There were months that went by that they in fact had that very much on their platter.

Now, in the final analysis, they were never able to confirm it. But initial reporting was that there had in fact been this cooperation if you will between Mohamed Atta and the head of Iraqi intelligence.

BLITZER: But that turned out to be false, incorrect, because you always said -- and we interviewed -- I interviewed you many times -- he's in a box. He's contained. He represents a threat to his own people, no one else.

Under this theory, though, after 9/11, that potentially he could represent a huge threat to the United States if he started cooperating with al Qaeda in a major way, there were other state sponsors of terror that the United States did not go after in a way as it did Saddam Hussein, like Iran, for example, a relationship with terrorists, right?

CHENEY: Correct.

BLITZER: Syria, a relationship with groups you consider terrorists, Hamas, Hezbollah. Why didn't you go after Syria or Iran, just Iraq?

CHENEY: Well, because that was the next one that we were really concerned about.

We had first of all to deal with Afghanistan, because the attacks of 9/11 had been launched out of Afghanistan. Afghanistan had provided safe haven to bin Laden. He had set up training camps and trained some 20,000 terrorists. Afghanistan came front and center. It was the base of operations from which they launched that attack.

BLITZER: Afghanistan, everybody understands, because they did have a huge al Qaeda presence.


CHENEY: Right behind Afghanistan was Iraq. And we were convinced based upon Saddam Hussein's history, based on the fact that he had started two wars, based on the fact that he had violated 16 out of 17 national security -- or U.N. Security Council resolutions, based on the fact that he had produced and used weapons of mass destruction against his own people -- there were thousands of dead Kurds because Saddam Hussein had killed them with his WMD -- that that was the target we had to be focused on if we were going to avoid a situation which we were going to end up having to deal with a terrorist organization equipped with that deadly capabilities.

Now, Saddam had also provided safe haven to terrorists. He was making $25,000 payments to the families of suicide bombers.

BLITZER: But a lot of other countries were doing that as well.

CHENEY: Well, not making $25,000 payments.

You couldn't go after everybody at once. What we did was we went after the ones, Afghanistan first and then Iraq, that we thought represented the biggest threat to the United States. I think it was the right call.


BLITZER: We will have more of the interview coming up.

But let's discuss what we just heard from the former vice president.

Joining us right now, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger and our CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen. He has written at length about the debunked issue of Iraq's connection to 9/11 in his book "The Longest War."

Peter, you are an expert on all of this. Did the former vice president give us the full picture between any intelligence connecting Iraq supposedly and 9/11?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, he used an interesting construction, which is we never confirmed that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11.

That is kind of a strange thing to say given that the fact that the largest criminal investigation that has ever been being conducted in history -- they interviewed 160,000 people -- they followed up hundreds of thousands of leads -- produced absolutely no evidence of any kind of Saddam's links to 9/11.

So leaving the idea that somehow there's some possibility that there could have been a confirmation and also the idea that Mohamed Atta, the leader hijacker, had met with an intelligence agent was something -- it was as so devious that even when Secretary Powell gave his famous United Nations speech before the war, which was basically an attempt to get the international community to buy into the war, Secretary Powell and his staff excluded that because they thought it was so dubious.

And now we have in custody the very Iraq intelligence agent who was supposed to be at that might. He denied the meeting and the FBI he did an enormously sophisticated timeline on the hijackers and what they were doing. And the time of the supposed meeting in Prague, Mohamed Atta was actually in Florida, based on multiple calls that he made in Florida. His cell phone usage was found. He also made withdrawals from a local bank. He tried to rent an apartment, et cetera, et cetera.

Proving negatives is very, very hard. But we have proved -- the United States government proved definitively that there was no link between Saddam and 9/11, that there was no meeting with Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker, and the Iraq intelligence agent and that was known well before the war.

BLITZER: And it's interesting that after the war started in March of 2003 and in the years that followed and even until this day, a lot of Americans believe there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers.

A lot of us, Gloria, remember your interview back in 2004. But what do you make of what he is now saying?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's interesting because he's moved a little bit.

Back in 2004, I interviewed him actually, Wolf, the day after the 9/11 Commission report came out which said that there was absolutely -- they had no evidence of a link between al Qaeda and Iraq and that they had no evidence to prove that Mohamed Atta had had that meeting in Prague.

And I remember asking Dick Cheney about it. I said the 9/11 Commission doesn't have evidence. Do you have any evidence? He said I don't have evidence one way or another. So I am still a skeptic.

I think the way he has changed, Wolf, in listening to your interview is that now he is clearly blaming the CIA for providing bad intelligence. His argument is, look, we are only as good as our intelligence was.

But I have to say that Dick Cheney then was the last person standing who seemed to believe that Mohamed Atta had been in Prague that day and met with al Qaeda.

BLITZER: Met with -- right, that Mohamed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague.

BORGER: Iraq intelligence. Sorry. Right.

BLITZER: I want to be precise on that.


BLITZER: Please, Gloria, stand by. We will have much more as well. Peter, stand by as well. I want to fact-check some more of the interview that is coming up.

Much more of the interview with the former vice president here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Coming up at 25 past the hour, your questions for Dick Cheney, our followers on Twitter and on Facebook. We asked them what they would want me to ask the former vice president, whether Dick Cheney thinks the cost of the Iraq war was worth it, among other things. Much more of the indeed coming up.

Also, new details about what you could hear in President Obama's major jobs speech set for Thursday night before Congress.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, President Obama has a tremendous amount riding on Thursday's jobs speech, maybe even his presidency.

As President Obama gets ready to address a joint session of Congress and a nation reeling from 9 percent unemployment, he's in a very tough spot. And the Republicans know it.

Mr. Obama's approval rating continues to slide. A brand-new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll out today shows him at the lowest mark of his presidency. Only 44 percent approve.

Another new poll by Politico shows 72 percent of those surveyed say this country is headed in the wrong direction, almost three- quarters of us, and that's up 12 points just since May. Only 39 percent approve of the president's handling of the economy, issue number one.

If this economy doesn't start to turn around, the president is finished. In fact, one Democratic pollster already says that President Obama is no longer the favorite to win reelection, which is why Thursday's speech is so important. But here's the thing: The president has made speech after speech on the economy for three years now. Where are the jobs?

The details of the speech are being kept under wraps. The president might call for infrastructure spending, job training programs, tax breaks for businesses and workers and extending unemployment benefits -- again, so far, no word on where the money for all this will come from. We are $14 trillion in debt.

The president claims he will propose ways to get Americans back work that both parties can agree to. Don't bet a lot on that agreement thingy.

Washington is more divided than ever, and Republicans can smell the blood in the water here. They know President Obama is vulnerable, and it seems highly unlikely that they'll agree to anything that might improve his position.

So here's the question to you: What's the point of President Obama's job speech?

Go to file and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack, for that.

We are learning, by the way, that the president will talk about more than just jobs when he addresses Congress Thursday night.

Let's bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She is getting some more.

What are you learning, Jessica? What are you picking up?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Democrats tell me that they believe schools and teachers will be big beneficiaries of the president's jobs plan.


YELLIN (voice-over): Though his plan is still under wraps, President Obama is already pressing Congress to pass it.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time for Washington games is over. The time for action is now.

YELLIN: Policy-makers expect one of his themes will be education, which should sound familiar from his State of the Union.

OBAMA: If we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas, then we also have to win the race to educate our kids.

YELLIN: Teachers have not fared well in the recession. In August 2007, the unemployment rate among educators was 4.9 percent. By last month, it had skyrocketed to 9.4 percent. Policy-makers believe the president's jobs plan will propose new funding to put some laid-off educators back to work. Democrats say it's a win for teachers and for students.

But this Republican economist disagrees.

KEVIN HASSETT, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: The idea that stimulus monies are going to hire a bunch of teachers and fix the economy is a crazy one. What we need to do instead is come up with a way to help the private economy get going again. And throwing money at schools is not going to do that.

YELLIN: Democratic policy-makers also expect the plan to propose funding to renovate dilapidated schools which Democrats see as a quick way to get workers on the job while cleaning up campuses.

DONNA COOPER, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: It makes our schools safe and it puts people to work relatively quickly. So not only are we putting construction workers back to work. We're increasing factory orders for construction materials. And those are made in America. YELLIN: But no buy-in here.

HASSETT: There's no way that an idea like this is going to have any impact on long-term growth.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, another group that policy-makers tell me could benefit in the president's jobs plan are first-responders. Now, Democrats see a substantive advantage here, but also a political one. As you can imagine, it could be harder for members of Congress to vote against new monies for teachers and first-responders. Then again, in this political environment, maybe not -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin, we will be watching that speech together with you Thursday night. Thank you.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, much more of my interview with the former Vice President Dick Cheney. We will get his reaction to the killing of Osama bin Laden, why he thinks the Bush administration -- yes, he thinks the Bush administration deserves some of the credit.


BLITZER: Let's get more of my interview now with the former Vice President Dick Cheney. We discussed the war in Iraq at length, with Cheney vigorously defending the decision to invade Iraq back in 2003.

But many of you wanted to know more.


BLITZER: We asked our followers on Twitter, on Facebook for questions for you.


BLITZER: And a lot of them, I'm not going to ask you.

I will give you one, though, from Ken Blevins (ph).

"Mr. Vice President, the current fatality count in Iraq is 4,474. The cost to the U.S. is climbing over $800 billion."

I think it's more than that.

"That being said, has it been worth it so far, in your opinion?"


BLITZER: No doubt about it?

CHENEY: No doubt about it.

BLITZER: Even though the current regime in Iraq is moving closer towards Iran, which arguably may be the biggest strategic winner in this whole U.S. involvement in Iraq, than the United States?

CHENEY: Look at what happened here when we went in and we took down Saddam Hussein.

First of all, we got rid of one of the worst dictators in the world when he was tried and convicted and ultimately executed. Secondly, when we went in, we have got the rudiments of a democracy now established in Iraq. It is not perfect by any means. They have got major problems they have got to overcome as they move forward.


BLITZER: This alliance that they're developing with Iran is not concerning to you?

CHENEY: They have got a major amount of work to do, without question.

A third proposition in terms of what happened, Moammar Gadhafi saw what we did. And five days after we captured Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Moammar Gadhafi became public and coughed up all of his nuclear materials, his uranium centrifuges, his uranium feedstock, the weapons design that had he acquired from A.Q. Khan in Pakistan, who was running a black market nuclear operation to Libya, to Iraq, and to North Korea.


CHENEY: So, there were a lot of things that came out of what we did in Iraq that were very positive, that had to happen.

We're much better off today with Saddam Hussein gone. You got Moammar Gadhafi gone. You have got neither Iraq nor Libya in the nuclear business today. You have got A.Q. Khan, the outfit that was supplying them, out of business. We shut down their operation. So, we got a lot done. We didn't get it all done, but we got a lot done.

BLITZER: But I'm concerned that when all the dust settles in Iraq and the U.S. troops pull out, supposedly by the end of this year, although there may be a residual number of some troops left -- they're negotiating that -- when all the dust settles, the Shiite-led regime in Iraq of Nouri al-Maliki is going to be a partner of Iran and Syria, for that matter.

In recent days, Nouri al-Maliki's government has supported Bashar al-Assad in his crackdown on -- on peaceful protesters in Syria, together with the Iranians, one of the few countries to do that.

Is that why the U.S. went to war, so that Iraq would become a strategic partner...

CHENEY: Well...

BLITZER: ... of Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

CHENEY: First, you're constructing the -- a worst-case scenario there, Wolf. I don't think it's going to happen that way.

BLITZER: You think there's going to be democracy...

CHENEY: I think the...

BLITZER: ... a pro-American...

CHENEY: ... I think the Iraqis...

BLITZER: ... government...

CHENEY: ... I think the Iraqis will, in fact, be somebody we can work with on a regular basis, that they will have a rudimentary democracy, if you will. And I think it will be a success. But we will have to see.

BLITZER: So when they support Bashar al-Assad, what goes through your mind?

CHENEY: Well, you know, I think Bashar al-Assad is not long for this world either. It looks to me like he's -- he's on his way out because of the unrest that's been occasioned by his own people inside Syria.

He's one of the least popular leaders in that part of the world. it's -- it's the Middle East. And stuff happens in the Middle East. You know it. You've covered it for years. But you cannot -- I don't think you can make a case that the world would be better off today if Saddam Hussein were still in power.

BLITZER: So, no regrets about Iraq?

CHENEY: I think we made exactly the right decisions.

BLITZER: Afghanistan, no regrets about Afghanistan, the way it's unfolded? Do you think that is going to have a happy ending when all the dust settles?

CHENEY: Oh, I think so. I think certainly it's worth our doing everything we can to get it to have a positive outcome.

BLITZER: What did you think when you heard that President Obama succeeded in killing bin Laden? After all the years that you and President Bush and your administration tried unsuccessfully to kill him, he finally succeeded in killing him.

CHENEY: I thought it was great. I went out and made a public statement to that effect, congratulated him on it.

I also am convinced based in part on some of the folks I still talk with in the government that a lot of the work we did through the intelligence community and with our special operations forces in that period of time during the Bush administration laid the groundwork ultimately for the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden.

I think it was an effort that our career people in intelligence and the military deserve a lot of credit for. I gave President Obama credit for sending in SEAL Team Six. He had to make the decision at the last minute.


BLITZER: It was a gutsy decision on his part.

CHENEY: It would not have happened if it hadn't been all that work that had been done for years by the CIA, by our intelligence community, by our special-ops forces.

BLITZER: The criticism of the Bush administration was that you had bin Laden cornered in Tora Bora shortly after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, took your eye off the ball, started focusing in on Iraq and let bin Laden escape.

CHENEY: I don't buy that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Did you have him cornered in Tora Bora?

CHENEY: I think we've got -- we've got a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on now.

BLITZER: There were a lot...

CHENEY: This is what happened.

BLITZER: A lot of people...

CHENEY: I don't -- I don't believe it.

BLITZER: Did you know that he was cornered in Tora Bora at the time? Were you getting those daily reports?


BLITZER: Nobody told you about that?

CHENEY: No. We had a major effort under way to take down the Taliban, which we did. We were successful. Bin Laden obviously was high on our list of people we wanted to get our hands on. We weren't able to capture him, and he survived for several more years.

But the steps we took, including I think, things like enhanced interrogation techniques, made it possible for us ultimately to provide the intelligence that was required to take down bin Laden. And I think our guys who worked hard on that in both administrations deserve the credit.


BLITZER: All right. More of the interview coming up, but let's bring back our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our national security analyst Peter Bergen.

Peter, you just heard Dick Cheney say they didn't know for sure that bin Laden was at Tora Bora. No one told him about that. You've documented that extensively. What do you make of that suggestion by the former vice president?

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think that fails every common sense test in the book, Wolf. I mean, what was the point of the war in Afghanistan? It was because the Taliban wouldn't hand over the intellectual author of the largest mass murder in American history.

And the idea that suddenly the White House was not being informed that bin Laden was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) at Tora Bora suggests one of two things: either sort of incompetence and ignorance, which I don't think is possible, given the fact that this was a pretty competent group of people, or it would suggest that simply, to put it politely, there was dissimilation and what the vice president told you.

Because it was widely known in the U.S. government that bin Laden was at Tora Bora. There were multiple briefings by the Pentagon to that effect, including by Paul Wolfowitz, publicly saying that, in the time frame that bin Laden was there, the CIA knew he was there, the Special Forces community knew he was there, and in fact, President [SIC] Cheney on two occasions was asked publicly on NBC News and ABC News if bin Laden was at Tora Bora, and he basically said yes, the preponderance of reporting was that he was at Tora Bora. So there's been a kind of amnesia here.

And it became a political issue in 2004, you may recall, when a very close-run election with Senator John Kerry. And President Bush and Vice President Cheney both said that -- you know, that they didn't think that bin Laden was in Tora Bora, because it was politically convenient in a very close-run political race to say that he wasn't there.

But it was well-known within U.S. government and this is -- this isn't Monday morning quarterbacking. This is simply assessment of what happened. This isn't Monday morning quarterbacking at all. The record is voluminous on this subject.

And any viewer who's interested, just one final point. The Special Forces history of the battle of Tora Bora is now publicly available and it's said between December 9 and December 2014, there was multiple intercepts of bin Laden talking on the radio. So, you know, this isn't just my opinion. This is the opinion of the U.S. Special Forces historians who looked at the battle.

BLITZER: Because it was -- in his book, he's thunderously silent on Tora Bora. That's why I questioned him about it.

Gloria, as I run on my blog today, the vice president has no regrets about any decision he made during his eight years as vice president. He refuses to say he made even one mistake on the economy, on the wars, on anything as vice president.

Does this surprise you as someone who's reported on him and covered him for many years? GLORIA BORGER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: For many years. No, actually, it doesn't. Dick Cheney is someone who, as you know, Wolf, has been the most outspoken defender of the Bush administration, even more than George W. Bush. I mean, he's been the person out there criticizing Barack Obama. And he's been the person out there talking about enhanced interrogation and the value of enhanced interrogation, as he -- as he just did to you.

He's been out there talking about Iraq, Afghanistan, the fact as he said, that Iraq has no nukes and Libya has no nukes now. And giving credit to the Bush administration.

Look, this is part -- and I think you can understand it. This is part of Dick Cheney trying to build his legacy and trying to set the record straight, as he likes to do. You know, I covered him in Congress, Wolf, for an awfully long time. He was a man who prided himself -- and I think still does -- on truth telling as he sees it.

I mean, you know, as Peter says, the Tora Bora thing very much a question. Mohammed Atta very much a question. But he's going to tell you exactly what he remembers and how he remembered it, because this is his legacy as he sees it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Gloria, thank you.

Peter, thank you, as well.

Dick Cheney, as all of our viewers probably know by now, he has survived five -- repeat, five -- heart attacks, and he now relies on an implanted machine to keep him alive. He's going to demonstrate how he stays alive when we come back.


BLITZER: Dick Cheney relies on a special machine to help keep him alive right now. He showed us during the interview how it works.


BLITZER: Let me talk a little bit about your health right now. You've got some heart issues, as all of our viewers know. Explain what's going on with this battery, if you don't mind.

CHENEY: Well, I've got -- had a series of heart attacks. Five heart attacks over more than 30 years. I had my first heart attack when I was 37 years old back in 1978, my first campaign for Congress.

And I reached a point a little over a year ago after my fifth heart attack, where I went into end-stage heart failure. That's when your heart isn't pumping enough blood to provide adequate supply of blood and oxygen to your kidneys and your liver and so forth. And at that time what we did was go in and install something that's called a Heart Mate 2. It's not an artificial heart. We don't have those yet. But what it does do is it supplements the beating of the heart, and it's tied into the ventricle and takes the blood out of the ventricle, puts it through a pump that's implanted in my chest, a small one. It runs about 8,000 rpms. It's at a very high rate of speed. Pumps blood then into the aorta and then throughout your body.

And as a result of that, it's restored normal blood flow to my vital organs. And for the last year plus now, I've been living with this device implanted in my chest. It's battery operated and I wear a vest all the time. And two batteries here.

BLITZER: Which is the battery? That's the battery?

CHENEY: There's two batteries. Here's one. I've got another one just like this. It comes apart. And it will bleep in a moment.

BLITZER: And that means you better put it back?

CHENEY: That's means that you're disconnected.

BLITZER: And that lasts for how long?

CHENEY: Several hours.

BLITZER: And then you have a spare? The other side is the spare?

CHENEY: I carry. Well, the other side is automatically wired. And you always have two batteries going. And then I carry a bag that's got spares for all of this external equipment, in case something happens to it.

BLITZER: Can you live many years with that? Or at some point, someone suggested you need a heart transplant.

CHENEY: So far, so good, Wolf. The concept itself came about as a result of trying to build a transitional device that would take people from -- who needed a transplant but couldn't get a heart yet, put them on this system and allowed them to survive long enough until they could get a heart.

Now, I haven't made a decision yet, whether or not I want to go for a transplant. What's happened over time is this technology has gotten better and better, the device has gotten smaller, more efficient, more reliable. And so you've got more people living on it for a matter of years. And I'll have to make a decision at some point whether or not I'll go for a transplant or whether I want to stay with this.

BLITZER: You're 70 years old now.

CHENEY: Seventy.

BLITZER: And are your cardiologist saying you're strong enough for a heart transplant? You are?

CHENEY: Yes. I' m back doing everything I wanted to do before. I had to have the pump implanted, but again, I haven't made a decision yet with respect to going forward with the transplant. It depends a lot on how -- how I do with this and what my doctors recommend.


BLITZER: We're going to have more of the interview Sunday morning during the course of our tenth anniversary commemoration of 9/11. You're going to want to hear what he has to say about being briefed the summer before 9/11 about al Qaeda operations planned in the United States. Could that have been averted? Stand by. More of the interview coming up on Sunday, as well.

When we come back, "We have Saddam Hussein." Those are the words from one conservative billionaire. Much more of our coverage when we come back.


BLITZER: Billionaire conservative activists Charles and David Koch make no secret of it. Their No. 1 mission is to topple President Obama. Now an audio of the Koch brothers is raising some eyebrows. Brian Todd is digging deeper into the story.

What are you finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this audio recording is causing a stir because the Koch brothers are so secretive about these gatherings and because one of the brothers, Charles Koch, is caught using some of the heated rhetoric that's becoming more typical at these closed events.


TODD (voice-over): June of this year, a discreet affair at a plush resort near Vail, Colorado. Billionaire energy magnate Charles Koch addresses an exclusive group of million-dollar donors to his favorite causes.

In a segment of audio tape that Koch and his brother David likely didn't want to you hear, he says this about the 2012 presidential election.

CHARLES KOCH, ENERGY MAGNATE: We have Saddam Hussein. This is the mother of all wars. We have the light of this country. So I don't want to put any pressure on anyone here. This is not pressure. If this makes your heart feel glad, and you want to (UNINTELLIGIBLE), so be it."

TODD: Those remarks are reported in the left-leaning magazine "Mother Jones," the article claiming Charles Koch was apparently referring to President Barack Obama in his Saddam Hussein comment.

A spokesman for Koch Industries called that a false claim taken out of context by the magazine. In an e-mail to CNN, the Koch spokesman says Mr. Koch was not referring to President Obama in his remarks. He was referring to the "mother of all wars" comment made by Saddam Hussein on the eve of the first Gulf War. I asked the writer of the "Mother Jones" article how he got the audio recording of Charles Koch.

BRAD FRIEDMAN, WRITER, "MOTHER JONES": I was contacted after the event by someone who became a source. Someone who was an insider, if you will, at the event. And I sort of developed a reputation over the years for reporting on whistle blowers and sources of this type, so that's how the source found me, actually.

TODD: A move certain to make the Koch brothers seethe. The two billionaires are intensely private, some say secretive, part of what observers call the stealth political networks operated by both main parties.

They own the energy firm Koch Industries, one of the largest privately-held companies in America. Analysts say the Kochs raise millions every year for libertarian causes, promoting smaller government, less regulation of big business, and for Republican candidates. They also raise money for the arts and for some Democrats.

The liberal group Common Cause, which advocates for more transparency in government, protested outside a fund-raising and strategy seminar hosted by the Kochs.

(on camera) There's really nothing illegal or wrong with what they're doing, right?

ROBERT EDGAR, COMMON CAUSE: It's not illegal, but it's wrong to not be fully transparent. It's not illegal what they're doing, but we believe that, in the best interests of democracy and in the best interests of the American culture and nature, the future of America, for full disclosure to be made.

TODD (voice-over): Bob Edgar said he doesn't like the tone of what Charles Koch said, but he adds it was no worse than what Teamsters president James Hoffa said about voting Tea Party lawmakers out of office.

JAMES HOFFA, TEAMSTERS PRESIDENT: Let's take these son-of-a- bitches out and give America back to America, where we belong.

TODD: Two of America's most influential Republican governors were at that Koch brothers conference in June. Virginia's Bob McDonald, head of the Republican Governors' Association, and Texas governor and presidential hopeful Rick Perry.

(on camera) Is there a risk for Governor Perry to be associated with this event?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans certainly go after Democrats for ties to George Soros. Democrats go after Republicans for ties to the Koch brothers. And I think you will see, if Governor Perry is the nominee, in an effort to kind of link him to the most extreme versions of their views that are out there. TODD: Governor Perry did not immediately notify his constituents that he was going to that Koch brothers event. Contacted by CNN, a spokesman for Perry said it was a last-minute add to his schedule, that it will be reported on his disclosure forms and that he went there only to discuss jobs and the economy.

Despite our repeated attempts, a spokesman for Governor Bob McDonald did not get back to us -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty coming up next.

Plus, who knew Madonna doesn't like hydrangeas?


BLITZER: Get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: "What's the point of President Obama's big jobs speech on Thursday?"

Bill in Maryland writes, "2012 is riding on this speech. It's got to be a grand slam. I'm trying to figure out why the president's so reluctant to go toe to toe with Republicans. Unfortunately, every time he tries to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee, he gets swatted. Now's the time to do more than the right thing. If not, then he should withdraw from running for re-election and let someone else fight the fight."

Rod writes, "The only thing the president wants is to be re- elected. Obama knows that he's in terrible shape. It's a desperate attempt to get back in the game. Even Sarah Palin would have done a better job than the community organizer in chief."

Jim in North Carolina writes, "Purely political. He's got to seize this issue with both hands to convince the electorate, Democrats like me included, that he has a clue about how to solve the problem that's uppermost in the minds of at least 75 percent of his constituents. If this fails, if it falls flat, as I frankly suspect it will, he's in heavy seas indeed."

Rex in Oregon writes, "The point should be, I don't create jobs. Business and industry do that. I did not eliminate jobs. Business and industry did that. It's time to wake up and realize the limitations of the presidency. It's time to realize the control of the economy's not dependent on federal spending, but upon private sector spending."

Tom on Facebook says, "Everybody was clamoring for Obama's plan before he went on vacation. Now nobody wants to hear it. This is a pretty good indicator of what the response of his speech will be, no matter what details are contained in the plan."

And Dave in New Hampshire writes, "There is no point. No matter what he says, the Republicans will do whatever it takes to block any effort he makes in order to get him out of office. So, after 2012, then we'll have a Republican president, and it will be the Democrats' turn to block progress. Meanwhile, the country flounders. What a system we have. I wonder how the Chinese will run things."

If you want to read more on this, go to my blog,, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Jeanne Moos coming up. Her take on the queen of pop's big snub.


BLITZER: Here's Jeanne Moos on Madonna.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's enough to make a hydrangea wilt. Insulted by Madonna in videos that have gone viral. There Madonna is at the Venice Film Festival when a fan among the press people gives her a flower.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're my princess, thank you so much. I love you.

MOOS: But after Madonna tells him thank you, some say she rolls her eyes. Out comes the truth, barely picked up on an open mike. "I absolutely loathe hydrangeas."

MADONNA, POP SINGER: I absolutely loathe hydrangeas.

MOOS: Hydrangeas of the world unite. "Geez, Madonna, what did hydrangeas ever do to you?" The "B" word flew at Madonna, the one that rhymes with witch. We went to Flowers of the World in Manhattan to see why anyone would hate hydrangeas.

ANDREA VOTE, FLOWERS OF THE WORLD: A lot of people think that they're grandmother's flower.

MOOS: On top of that, hydrangeas grow in people's yards.

(on camera) Does that make it more lowly?

VOTE: Yes. I see it in other people's yards. It couldn't be that great of a flower.

MOOS (voice-over): But these hydrangeas are from the Netherlands and cost 20 or 30 bucks a stem. Could Madonna's loathing turn hydrangea into the new broccoli?

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do not like broccoli, and my mother made me eat it. And I'm president of the United States, and I'm not going to eat any more broccoli.

MOOS: At least Madonna doesn't have to eat hydrangea. Madonna may run through fields of lilies.

She's even accepted humble daisies and clutched them like a smitten schoolgirl. In the videos that have gone viral, hydrangea get no respect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madonna, where is the flowers that I gave you?

MADONNA: My assistant took them.

MOOS: Madonna's spokesperson says she's entitled to like any flower she wants, and she didn't want to hurt the feelings of the hydrangeas of the world.

Maybe, but her attitude was similar to that of the hoity-toity editor in "The Devil Wears Prada."

GLENN CLOSE, ACTRESS: Do I smell Fresias?


MOOS (on camera): Do I smell hydrangeas?

HATHAWAY: No. I specifically told them...

CLOSE: If I see Fresias anywhere, I will be very disappointed.

MOOS: If I see hydrangea anywhere, I'm going to be very disappointed.

(voice-over) But from the hydrangea's point of view, Madonna stinks.

VOTE: It's an unscented flower.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

MADONNA: Thank you.

MOOS: ... New York.

MADONNA: Thank you.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks for watching. The news continues next on CNN.