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JOHN KING, USA

Interview with Dick Cheney; President Obama in New York to Attend U.N. General Assembly; Perry Accuses Obama of Undermining Israel; Interview with Austan Goolsbee; Interview With Antonio Villaraigosa, Mark Penn

Aired September 20, 2011 - 19:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, HOST: Good evening everyone from Los Angeles. Tonight part one of an extended conversation with former vice president Dick Cheney, who is here in California tonight for a big event at the Reagan presidential library.

A little problem with the tape and we will get to that. Vice president taking issue there with somebody that hits close to home. Also, the president's support among Latino votes is down dramatically. How might that change the presidential race here in California and several key swing states?

But at first tonight, delegate diplomacy and rob politics collide in New York City. President Obama is there tonight for the annual United Nations general assembly. And his biggest challenge is navigating a Palestinian demand for an immediate security council vote on statehood. The administration has vowed to veto the Palestinian request and risk a backlash on the Arab street. But it is trying to negotiate some compromise so that it doesn't come to that. That's tough enough.

And now add in this in your face political challenge from the Republican presidential front-runner. Texas Governor Rick Perry who came to New York city to accuse President Obama of fumbling Middle East diplomacy and undermining Israel in the process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And we are equally indignant of the Obama administration and their Middle East policy of appeasement that's encouraged such an ominous act of bad faith. Simply put, we would not be here today at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naive and arrogant, misguided, and dangerous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And the governor didn't stop there. He called the Obama foreign policy naive and said that it left Iran's radical remember emboldened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PERRY: To date we have fumble our greatest opportunity for regime change. Average Iranian citizens were marching on Tehran in the green revolution in 2009. America was wasting precious time on a naive policy of outreach to Iranian and Syrian governments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's discuss the president's diplomatic challenge and Governor Perry's political gambit with CNN's David Gergen and Gloria Borger.

Let's start first with the policy challenge. The president is at the United Nations. He was not scheduled to meet with the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas but they will have that meeting Wednesday.

David Gergen, how critical is it for the president to try to convince President Abbas to back up, to not go to the security council with the state at resolution and what might there be as a compromise?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It is enormously important to the United States, John. And too much of western Europe. That's why Tony Blair is also trying to head this off. We are in this situation. President Obama said he supports statehood for the Palestinians. If the Palestinians now look for a vote on that in the security council we promise we would veto it. In other words, the president who supported statehood is going to now veto statehood and that, as you saw, will risk a backlash not only in the Arab states but Palestinians and could put the United States - it could - the statehood issue itself could lead to more violence and certainly will lead to an end to prospects for negotiations any time soon with the Israelis.

KING: And Gloria, the president, we know he is frustrated with the Netanyahu government of Israel. We know, he wishes there were negotiations and there had been more progress but at the same time he has a, the United States and Israel allies. B, you have domestic political consideration. Listen here. Listen here to former president Bill Clinton talking to Wolf Blitzer earlier today. If you listen closely, it seems that President Clinton also thinks Mister Netanyahu has been too intransigent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Sooner or later everybody has to come clean here. If the current government has decided that there would be no Palestinian state and that they have no intention of having a reasonable settlement on the West Bank and they should say that so the Palestinians can get on with their lives and they should live with the consequences. But meanwhile, the United States will veto this because we have to keep open the possibility of a negotiated peace. And the people in the Arab world that understand that, it will be fine with it. We need to contain the fallout, make something good happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: And for a former president there who thought he was once close to an Israeli/Palestinian agreement, that's a very small, if you will, goal, contain the fallout.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And he is you know, he's really making a charge about Netanyahu saying, you know, there is talk that he really doesn't want this two-state agreement and ought to come out and say it. I mean, it is very clear to me and, and of course, don't forget Bill Clinton is married to the secretary of state of the United States. That he was you know, he was making a charge that there's not some sort of straight talk going on and it is clear that he feels for Barack Obama in all of this.

KING: And yet, they have to be so careful, David and Gloria, because it is no question they are frustrated with the Israeli government. But also no question we are heading into a re-election campaign where being openly frustrated with the Israeli government could cost you key financial, key political support here in the United States. It used to be said politics stopped at the water's edge. If the president was overseas then his political rivals did not criticize him. Of course, the president is in the United States. But he is at major international meeting. And yet, the Texas Governor Rick Perry comes into New York City, a direct assault on the president's foreign policy and a direct assault on his relationship with Israel. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Neither advisories nor allies nowhere America stands. Our muddle of a foreign policy created greater uncertainty in the midst of this Arab spring and our policy of isolating and undermining Israel has only encouraged our adversaries and their aggressiveness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, that's certainly in your face. On camera in the same city where the president is trying to manage his delicate diplomacy. But it's not only Governor Perry, another leading Republican candidate, former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, issued this statement today.

Says, "What we are watching unfold at the United Nations is an unmitigated diplomatic disaster. It is the culmination of President Obama's repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position. That policy must stop now."

David Gergen, is this new line in our politics, when the president is at such an important moment, does it surprise thank you Republican candidates are so in his face?

GERGEN: It does, John. I actually did not think we would soon see someone to the right of George W. Bush on Israel. And yet, here we are with Rick Perry. Rick Perry sounded like he was channeling Netanyahu. He took almost every position Netanyahu has taken and he was very hard-line about it. And I say this about Rick Perry. He at least has been there and is not speaking entirely you know from ignorance. But it is such a hard-lined position that it will you know as you well know, there was just this congressional election in New York in which a lot of Jewish voters voted for the Republican out of frustration with the president.

There is unhappiness with President Obama within the Jewish community and this country. They think he pushed Netanyahu way too hard in the beginning of the settlements and then he botched the negotiations. Got a long litany of things.

Having said that, however, no one has gone as far as Rick Perry who is in a major position of authority. The front-runner for the Republican nomination who essentially has said everything is OK with Israel and it is all the Palestinian's fault.

BORGER: You know I think, John, in the context of a Republican primary, what Rick Perry did today, may play pretty well. He was his press conference with hard lined conservatives there. And I think that it may play well and that part of Brooklyn where the democrat lost 2-1 because of the conservative Jewish vote.

But I think that in a general election, there is still some suspicion about Rick Perry with some Jewish voters. For example, he led the August six day of prayer. And there's some you know, Jewish voters that are sort of confused about that. So I think that, you know, he's walking a fine line here. Aligning himself with Netanyahu on the one hand but there is still questions about him in the Jewish community and there are some moderate Jews who may not be aligned with Netanyahu who may be independent voters. So I think that there are two sides to it politically for him.

KING: I want you guys to help me on this one. I'm shifting gears a bit here. But I had an extended conversation with Dick Cheney today. They are going to play a lot of it later in the program. One of the issues we talked about was with his new book, he re-stirs up some of the old debates, about weapons of mass destruction and reasons the administration, the Bush administration, went into Iraq and stirs up tensions between secretary of state Powell, former general Colin Powell, and the vice president of the United States. Listen to this piece of the interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: General Powell, secretary of state Powell, has said, he's like a few things you said about him in here, that you are someone who saw snip it or suggestions or possible evidence but unproven, unsubstantiated things and to you they became facts.

DICK CHENEY, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, that's interesting coming from general Powell. He is the one that went to the United Nations after he personally had worked for days going over all of the intelligence and made the presentation to the United Nations that turned out to be all flawed intelligence. I mean somebody got sandbagged, I think it was General Powell.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Interesting language there, David Gergen. He does concede it was al flawed intelligence. All flawed intelligence and says that General Powell one time he was considered a Dick Cheney friend. Not so much now, got sandbagged.

GERGEN: Well, General Powell did get sandbagged by people in the CIA who misled him on some aspects of that and to this day I think probably the most humiliating day of his public life. What's surprising is that Dick Cheney had been pounding on general Powell so hard. They were friends at one point. You always like to see you know friends who sort to renew themselves after it is over. Part of them, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams tradition, if you like when you leave office to try to compose your differences. But I do think on General Powell's party, there's no question that when he went to the U.N. that was I think and most humiliating day of his public life.

BORGER: You know, I -

KING: David Gergen and Gloria Borger, appreciate your - go ahead Gloria, quickly.

BORGER: You know, I think that Dick Cheney is trying to say that, you know that Colin Powell himself got sandbagged as if he had any choice but to believe the intelligence that he was presented with. It was sort of an interesting way of describing it.

KING: Gloria and David, thank you. More of that conversation to come. One-on-one conversation with Dick Cheney at the Reagan presidential library.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: I think the Democrats ought to have as much fun on their side as we are on ours.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And blockbuster allegations of indecision, turmoil and sexism at the Obama White House. One of the aides said to have seen it all joins us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The author of a new book about the Obama White House is defending his unflattering portrait of the president and top adviser. Ron Suskind's book, "Confidence Men" quote "the female ex-staff were saying the boy's club atmosphere made her feel quote "like a piece of meat". It also describes the president as often uncertain, second- guessing himself.

The Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, a major figure in the book, says those and other descriptions don't match the reality he lived. But on NBC's "Today" show this morning, Suskind strongly and repeatedly defended what he wrote. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RON SUSKIND, AUTHOR, CONFIDENCE MEN: Everything in this book is solid as a brick. This book, like all the books I have written, is densely sourced and the analysis is picture perfect. When the curtain is pulled back they often respond vigorously they are. And I think that's testimony to the fact that this is really, this is really who they are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: With us is another vet from the Obama White House and economic team, Austan Goolsbee. He was the chairman of the council of economic advisers. He is now an economics professor at the university of Chicago, Booth school of business.

Mister Goolsbee, I want to play more a little bit more of Mister Suskind because he was repeatedly challenges on his account because so many of your former colleagues have said it is simply not true. Here's a question here put to Ron Suskind as to whether Larry Summers, the president's top economic adviser at the White House at the beginning of the administration, thought the president of the United States was in over his head.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSKIND: Seems he did. It seems from the comments of Orszag and others, certainly the start of the first year in 2009 into early 2010, these sorts of things were part of the prevailing conversation in the White House. When I asked Larry summers he was one of the source force the book about that quote, I said look, what did you mean when he said that? He offers a comment in "Confidence Men" which is I think more seasoned and less political than that and says we were overwhelmed. We had five times as many problems and didn't have five times as many people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Incredibly damning Mister Goolsbee, especially when you know the economy is such major challenge facing the administration. I want to read one more example from the book because I know you want to come in here.

Larry Summers to OMB Director Peter Orszag as described in the book. "You know Peter, we are really home alone. There's no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes."

Is this a fair characterization of what happened at the top levels of the White House at such a critical time?

PROF. AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO'S BOOTH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: I mean, that doesn't at all describe what I saw. I mean the episode you are describing there is Ron Suskind hearing what Peter Orszag says he heard Larry say about a fourth person and so I wasn't, I wasn't at that dinner.

I have seen the book. I went through it. I would characterize it as the - you would want to read the book if you are the kind of person who would like to hear from the a ten-person meeting what the one person who was upset and happened to be the one who talked to Ron Suskind thought. I thought that the overall characterization that somehow the president wasn't decisive or wasn't really in charge was, frankly, ridiculous.

I mean, we were in the middle of a terrible economic crisis, the worst in all of our lifetimes. And I can give you many examples where the president would hear the evidence on both sides, of course there are were disagreements. And if you go find somebody upset they are going to say oh, I disagree and I was contradicted.

KING: One of the questions -

GOOLSBEE: The president -

KING: Forgive me for interrupting.

GOOLSBEE: He decided and then would do it.

KING: Forgive me for interrupting but one of the questions here some of your former colleagues are saying there is now probably under their breath, is Larry summers so arrogant that he is trying to protect himself and in the process criticizing the president? There is more in the book and part that directly involves you. Says, there was a meeting on the Chrysler bailout. And the president looks up, Obama realizes Goolsbee is the architect of the Chrysler strategy and asks, where's Austin? Summers had frozen him out of the meeting and go and get him. Goolsbee presents his case. Were you frozen out meetings by Larry summers? Is that how things worked?

TEXT: When it became clear the Goolsbee was the architect of this proposal, Obama began to look around the room. Where's Austan? Of course Summers, master of the debating society, had excluded his old rival from the meeting, prompting a frenzied few moments.

GOOLSBEE: Look, the -- I was on involved in these auto discussions. I don't think that it is appropriate for people who were advising the president in private meetings to come back and then try to re-litigate their battles through some, through somebody's book. I will say that I absolutely got my position heard and everybody on that got their position heard and that's a perfect example of where the president hears all the evidence and he decides in very short order what we are going to do and we proceed to do it and everybody gets onboard right away and says the president's decided, he heard the evidence and let's proceed.

I mean there's nothing administrations where everybody just says good idea, boss, and all agree with each other have not done very well through history. That there were people who disagreed on policy is not unhealthy and that's perfectly healthy. What I think was, to me, the most unrepresented thing about the books the thing I think the book is flat-out wrong, is the author trying to portray that the president was indecisive, wasn't making decisions, wasn't getting things done. It is ridiculous! The president was absolutely making the decisions and when he would make the decisions, people would get behind those decisions. KING: Austan Goolsbee, we appreciate your insight tonight. We will continue to follow this one as the book place out.

Next, Japan braces for yet another natural disaster. Also, what former vice president Dick Cheney thinks of Governor Rick Perry's in your face criticism of the president. Just blocks from the United Nations today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Here's the latest news you need to know right now. An 11th person died today from injuries suffered in Friday's air show crash. There is also new video of the crash itself. And we want to warn, it's disturbing. The pilot of the world war II vintage plane lost control just before it plummeted into a crowd of spectators. Several memory parts have been found at the site and may have come from data recorders on the plane.

In an attack that raises questions about the competence of Afghanistan's security forces, a man with a bomb hidden in his turban killed a former afghan president who was leading the peace talks with the Taliban. A million people, a million people have been ordered to evacuate from western and central Japan because of a typhoon expected to hit Wednesday. That storm may pass by the Fukushima nuclear plant crippled by last March's earthquake.

When we come back, one-on-one with the former vice president Dick Cheney. His thoughts on the 2012 Republican presidential feel the tea party and why, why he keeps encouraging Hillary Clinton to run on the democratic side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is considered state of the art?

CHENEY: Oh, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Live pictures there of the Los Angeles skyline. We are here in California tonight because the former Vice President Dick Cheney is here for a book party at dinner at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. "In my time" is the top the New York Times' bestseller list. And in the book, an interviews promoting it, the former vice president stirs up a fair amount of controversy. Between spent about an hour together today discussing issues ranging from his days in the ford White House to his disagreement with President Obama over taxes and water boarding. Not to mention his debate now over whether to seek a heart transplant and some political issues front and center today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: On this day, the president of the United States is at the United Nations General Assembly, and the Palestinians want to file for statehood, they want the Security Council to recognize them. And their case is George W. Bush supported statehood, Barack Obama supported statehood; we don't have statehood, so we're going to try this way.

Why are they wrong?

CHENEY: Palestinian state that is recognized, and it looks like they're trying to short circuit the process there.

I worry that this isn't going to advance the process and make it more likely that they can reach an agreement, it's likely to retard it, to diminish it. And so I don't think it's helpful.

KING: It's an important diplomatic challenge for the president of the United States, who happens to be a Democrat at the moment. But it's an important diplomatic challenge for any president of the United States.

And on this day, one of the leading Republican candidates for president, the Texas governor, Rick Perry, decided to go to New York City, just blocks from the United Nations, not only criticized the Palestinians for doing this, but criticized the president of the United States for having what he calls a policy of appeasement that he says helped bring this moment about.

Is that appropriate? I know we're in the early stages of a presidential campaign, but when the commander in chief is about to appear at the United Nations General Assembly, smart move?

CHENEY: Well, I haven't seen what he said. I don't know what -- what Governor Perry's up to. I'm not involved in our presidential primary processes this time around. I haven't endorsed anybody, I'm not likely to any time soon either.

But -- no, I think -- I think there is room for criticism of the president in the foreign policy arena. I was really disturbed when he went off to Cairo and announced a proposition that the United States didn't have any sort of special role in the world, we were just like everybody else. And I think that's a mistake. I think that diminishes U.S. influence.

KING: That became a big argument in conservative circles, that he was somehow saying America wasn't an exceptional nation.

CHENEY: Exactly.

KING: His take on that is that he was inheriting what he would call the baggage of the Bush-Cheney administration. That the United States was reviled, especially in that part of the world, and for at least for a short period of time, he needed to be more diplomatic, more deferential.

You disagree?

CHENEY: I disagree, absolutely. I think it showed a fundamental misunderstanding on his part on what the U.S. role in the world is.

I don't believe the U.S. is reviled in that part of the world. I've been involved out there off and on over the last 30 years, through the first Gulf War when we went out and, in effect, liberated Kuwait and put Saddam Hussein back into Iraq, when we had a coalition that included nearly every single Arab nation on the face of the Earth, couple of exceptions.

It's just -- it's just wrong and it diminishes our influence and it's more difficult for an American president if he's going to do to what Barack Obama did, which basically is trot out there and say, oh, we're just like everybody else.

KING: On the politics, had John Kerry or John Edwards, back at that time, shown up 25 blocks from the United Nations when George W. Bush was giving his General Assembly speech in 2003, your would have said, it's, OK, fair game?

CHENEY: Well,, I don't know if I said OK. I didn't like a lot of the things they said about us in '08. But I was vice president for eight years, John, people say bad things about you all the time. It's -- it goes with the turf.

Now if somebody steps out of bounds and goes overboard with it, then obviously that's a separate proposition. But the American people will judge whether or not they think a candidate is handling himself appropriately or is he abusing the prerogatives of criticizing the incumbent.

KING: You like to stir things up from time to time in our politics occasionally.

CHENEY: Certainly.

KING: You said something in a recent interview, that you thought the current secretary of state, the former senator from New York, Hillary Clinton, to be the strongest Democratic candidate, not for vice president, for president in 2012. Her husband, who has a little experience at this, the former president, said that he has high regard for your political skills, but he thinks you're trying to, quote, "cause a little trouble."

You trying to cause a little trouble?

CHENEY: Well, he didn't turn down the opportunity to accept my suggestion that Hillary ought to run. I --

KING: I think it's pretty clear she's not going to.

CHENEY: I said it tongue in cheek, and I think he could tell that. But I -- I just think the Democrats ought to have as much fun on their side as we are on ours.

KING: Do you accept any responsibility for the birth of the Tea Party in the sense that if you talk to Tea Party voters, they would say the Obama stimulus plan and the Obama health care plan, that that was the last -- those were the last straws. That got them thinking government has too much power in Washington, we want to return it to the states.

But if you have an extended conversation with most Tea Party voters, they would say deficit spending in what was supposed to be a conservative administration, the Bush-Cheney administration, and then the bailouts, the government getting directly involved at the end, that that, for them, said whoa, this is not what we bought.

Are you, in part, a father of the Tea Party?

CHENEY: Well, nobody's ever accused me of that.

I did support the TARP program, and I did because the federal government is the only entity in our society that is in a position to maintain the viability of our currency and the functioning, if you will, of our -- of our financial system. Without that financial system, everything else falls apart.

When we get into the area of individual industries, the automobile industry or whatever particular product we want to talk about, that's a separate proposition. I think the markets ought to work there and the government shouldn't be in the business of trying to make choices or play favorites.

But when it comes to the basic fundamental functions of the Federal Reserve Board, the Treasury and the overall health of our financial system and our banking system, only the federal government can maintain the viability of those -- those institutions, and it's absolutely essential we do it.

If we hadn't done what we did with TARP, I think we'd have been in big, big trouble, much worse than we are.

KING: And so when a Tea Party voter railed against that, is it just they don't understand, they don't understand the complexity of it, they don't understand that moment?

CHENEY: Well, they don't agree with me. That's their prerogative.

KING: As you watch the debate now among the Republicans, you say you're not going to endorse now, maybe not any time soon, anything you see concern you?

Let me ask particularly. When you see Governor Perry, at the moment the national leader in the polls, Governor Huntsman, the former governor of Utah, saying that it's time to get out of Afghanistan and quickly, that worry you?

CHENEY: Yes. It does worry me, because I think after all of the effort that's been made and the sacrifices that's come in the form of lives of our soldiers and national treasure, both Afghanistan and Iraq are extraordinarily important.

KING: Are they naive? (CROSSTALK)

CHENEY: Well, I think that they're responding to the -- what they believe to be popular opinion in the country. I haven't talked with either one of them about this.

But I do see this sense of it's time to head for the exits. Let's get out, let's bring the boys home, let's spend their money there in the states. And I think that would be tragic if, in fact, it led to a resumption of the kinds of problems that both those nations faced when we went in.

Remember, Afghanistan was the base from which al Qaeda trained their terrorists and launched the attacks against the United States. We've made significant process, but it's fragile, it needs nurture, it's needs continued support and sustenance, if you will. And I don't think it requires the kind of level of commitment in terms of numbers of troops or finances that we did in the past. But I don't think you want to turn your back on those two countries and walk away.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Next, Dick Cheney on Ronald Reagan's deal-making with Democrats, gay rights and whether he will seek a heart transplant.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We'll have more tomorrow from my sit-down interview with the former vice president. We spent about 40 minutes. Interesting conversations about a big disagreement with his successor's vice president. More on how George W. Bush came to pick him as vice president, a lot of talk about foreign policy and other issues.

But when we were done sitting down, we took a walk through that 707 at the Reagan Presidential Library. It was Air Force One to many presidents, including Ronald Reagan. It was a plane Defense Secretary Dick Cheney used on many sensitive diplomatic trips around the world. We took a walk through it and we stopped and chatted a bit more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Trip down memory lane, but some of the pictures also are instructive. When you see President Reagan with Bob Michael and Paul Laxalt, there were some who remember those days who say it's so different now. That those were conservatives, but guys who were maybe more open to compromise and making a deal.

Are our politics now, have they changed from the tone and the diplomacy, for lack of a better term, for those guys?

CHENEY: Well, it certainly appears to -- I remember in the Reagan era when we fixed Social Security, 1983, and we put together a package that got the approval of President Reagan and Tip O'Neill, Democratic Speaker. In those days, we also had a situation where Republicans controlled the Senate, Democrats controlled the House of Representatives, and, of course, we controlled the White House. But it worked.

KING: Was it, was it people trusted each other? There was less acrimony? Maybe be there was less of what I do, the cable and the blogosphere and the shouting? What was it?

CHENEY: There was -- there was certainly less acrimony. Tip O'Neill didn't get along very well with Ronald Reagan from a policy standpoint, but he liked him.

I can remember the first time President-Elect Reagan came to meet with the bipartisan leadership in the House. I was a newly elected chairman of the Policy Committee, so I was included in the meeting. And we sat down in a big circle just off the Senate floor and then the president came in, sat down at the empty chair.

And Tip began to go through a list of issues that we had to resolve -- tax policy, deficits and so forth. And he got all through, he stopped, turned to the president, expecting the president to respond. He told a joke about some Irish movie actor, and we all scratched our heads and thought, you know, you got to respond.

No. He knew what he wanted. He knew what he believed in, what he wanted to do. And -- immediately, obviously, everybody's laughing by the time he gets through with his story.

But it was a different style of leadership, and there was a degree of warmth and respect that -- that -- well, frankly, I don't see today.

KING: And do we lose from that? Do you have--

CHENEY: Well, you know, you get to be my age, you start to reminisce for the good old days.

But it -- it was -- you know, I was a great admirer of Tip O'Neill. Disagreed with him on virtually every issue, served under him for some years, and a big fan of Ronald Reagan's.

I don't want to convey the impression that somehow all was sweetness and light, it wasn't. But on the other hand, at least during that period of time, we did -- we got a fair amount done.

KING: The tone about a lot of issues was different, and we're having a conversation today on the day "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the repeal, takes effect.

In the book, you talk about how you bristled when John Edwards brought up your daughter in 2004, during the debate, because you don't like, A, your family being brought into the public sphere and I think -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- you think certain issues should be dealt with privately, and they're more family-related issues or community-related issues --

CHENEY: Well, what I objected to, especially, was an effort by John Kerry and John Edwards to try to score political points off the fact that my daughter's gay, and you had their campaign manager on television saying that Mary's fair game.

Now, when was that ever true in a presidential contest where you would go after or try to use the candidate's daughter to score points in a debate? I really thought that was over the top.

KING: What about Karl Rove and George W. Bush at the end of the 2004 campaign? When they thought it was close, the president ended every speech with the constitutional amendment, something you've made it very clear, he's the president, you disagreed with him on -- were you comfortable with that or did you think that was a bad way to do business?

CHENEY: Well, it was not the same thing as what Edwards and Kerry were trying --

KING: They were making it personal.

CHENEY: They were making it personal by specifically naming my daughter and saying she's a fair game, et cetera. It wasn't a policy debate.

The -- no, I think the president had strong feelings on the subject, many Americans do. It's a divisive subject. Perfectly OK, if that's what they believe. And I didn't believe that, everybody knew what my views were, I was free to express them and did.

KING: As you were writing this book --

CHENEY: Right.

KING: -- you obviously -- you have -- I'm not even quite sure what to call it -- attached to you.

When you were writing this book, I don't mean to sound morbid, but were you thinking, you know, my days could be numbered and I need to get this right, this could be my last word?

CHENEY: Well, I -- it wasn't directly linked to the book, but I was very much aware that my days are numbered. So are yours. Mine presumably because I'm a lot older than you are, John, it's more of a factor for me.

But I went through a period in the -- during the time I was writing the book where I became very ill. I had a long history of heart disease, had my first heart attack at 37. And in December of '09, shortly after I left the White House, I had an episode of ventricular fibrillation when your heart beats very fast and irregular. Fortunately, I had a deliberator implanted years before, it kicked in restored a normal heart beat. A few months later I had my fifth heart attack and by the summer of last year, of 2010, I had gone into end stage heart failure. My heart simply wasn't moving enough blood to service my kidneys and so forth.

So what we did was we went in and installed what's called a heart pump. It's not an artificial heart, we don't have those yet, but it's a pump that supplements the work of my heart. It moves blood to all of my vital organs and its worked magnificently.

And I have to wear the vest all the time. It's got batteries that power the deal (ph) -- the control element. And then inside, a small pump that runs at about 7,000 rpm to move the blood through my system.

But it's really worked well. I'm back out on the river fishing. I'm traveling the country promoting the book. Life is good.

KING: You're a case study, in many ways, in the advancement of the medical treatment of heart disease. I was -- you showed me back in 2002, in your office, you had a mockup of what you had just had installed then, the defibrillator.

CHENEY: Yes.

KING: Medtronic, I think it was made by, you showed it to me --

CHENEY: Exactly.

KING: -- back then.

Now you have this, and the question is, you just mentioned you're going to go fishing with you daughter this weekend back home, what's the prognosis here and what is the consideration? Do your doctors tell you, if you wanted to have a transplant, are you healthy enough for that surgery? Strong enough?

CHENEY: Well, the -- originally, this was developed, this technology was developed as a transition so that somebody who came in who needed a heart, one wasn't immediately available, you could install the heart pump and that would tide them over until a transplant became possible. So transplant's still an option, I just haven't decided yet whether or not I want to go down that road

KING: Why not? What are the calculations in the decision --

CHENEY: Well, part of it is very personal.

KING: Do you think people would say -- do you think people would say, is Dick Cheney getting unfair treatment or something?

CHENEY: No, no. I'm not worried about that.

I will make a decision based upon discussions with my doctors and so forth as to whether or not I want to go down that road.

The other thing that's happened is that the technology's gotten better and better, so we've got more and more people that are living with the pump a longer period of time.

But I just -- you know, I get up in the morning and I'm delighted to be here and to have this time with my family and grandkids, and to get to write the book. It's been a -- been a remarkable period in my life and I'm very grateful for it KING: Let me close on that point. You wrote the book, and as you know, there have been some scathing reviews, some people saying why doesn't' Dick Cheney say I regret this or why doesn't Dick Cheney say I got this wrong. Reflect on that as you close.

And as you do, I read this part, somebody who keeps notes from my mother who I lost a long time ago, and I was struck by this. This is after the Ford loss, your mother sent you this note and you say you kept it in a frame for years. Quote, "It's hard to put down what I feel, much love, much pride, and I know you will come out of this knowing that you did your best."

You put that early in the book about an early moment in your career. Could you put it at the end of the book?

CHENEY: Oh, I think so, yes. That obviously is a judgment I cared a lot about. My mother, she's been gone now for many years, but I've still got that letter and I like to think she'd approve of the later stages of my career.

She died shortly after I left the Defense Department, so she never knew I got to be a vice president, but she would have loved it.

KING: And to those who have seen the interviews since the book came out and they're saying where's the apology, where's the regret, where's the this -- ?

CHENEY: They probably didn't agree with me when I was in office. And this certain group that don't think you've written a book until you've apologized for whatever it is they disagreed with you that you did, I don't worry about that

KING: A young kid came to Washington today -- Democrat, Republican, Independent -- about to start a career in politics, your advice to him or her would be?

CHENEY: Go for it. It's a great life, and it's very important and we need bright young talented people who are willing to get into the arena and take on those responsibilities.

KING: Mr. Vice President, thank you

CHENEY: Good to see you, John.

KING: Good to see you.

CHENEY: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: More of that conversation tomorrow, but when we come back, I'm in California tonight. In this state and other key battlegrounds he won in 2008, by his actions and inactions, is President Obama risking his 2008 coalition?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: More evidence and debate tonight about just how hard it would be for President Obama to recreate the coalition that helped them that big win back in 2008. This state, California, is a case study.

New research by both the Pew Center and Gallup shows the president's standing among Latino voters is in steep decline. And as the president pushes for higher taxes on millionaires, a veteran Democratic strategist who helped President Clinton says President Obama risks, quote, "smashing apart that coalition from 2008."

The Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is among the president's allies in the Latino community, and Mark Penn is the Democratic strategist who sees huge risks in the president's calls for tax increase.

Mr. Mayor, let me begin with you and the president's challenge among Latinos. If we look back at the Gallup poll, February 2009, the president had a 75 percent approval rating among Latinos, a sky high number there. It is at the moment, a poll in late August, at 48 percent.

We talked to Gil Cedillo, he's a member of the Democratic Assembly. You know him in California, out there.

He says, quote, "The president's challenge is credibility. He made promises about immigration and other issues that he didn't act on. He will have to engage the Latino community and their leaders and convince them to give him another chance. He's got to get out of Washington and into town hall meetings."

In California, maybe the president has a margin, Mr. Mayor. But if we look at Nevada, if look at Colorado, if look at Florida, there are some states where Latino voters could decide yea or nay in 2012.

How steep is the president's challenge?

MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: Well, first of all, I think the president's challenge is the nation's challenge. It's the challenge of putting people back to work. And the president has put a plan to put people back to work.

Look, the president has better numbers than the Congress. The fact of the matter is the president has a plan. The Congress is essentially said no, no, no.

Yes, anybody --

KING: Forgive me for interrupting. But I understand the economic challenge. But isn't there an additional lay-on, if you will, add on in the Latino community, because he promised in his first year he would pass comprehensive immigration reform? He never even submitted a bill to the Congress.

VILLARAIGOSA: Actually, he's supported immigration reform and the DREAM Act. He hasn't had a vote in the Congress. The Congress could have put forward a proposal and tried to, didn't get support for the DREAM Act.

I think -- look, with an unemployment rate as high as it is, of course, there's going to be some slippage and even great slippage across the board. But I think when you look at what the president has done around jobs, when you look at what he's done around health care, when you look at what he did to save us from a depression instead of a recession, I think the vast majority of Latinos are going to come back to the president. It's a year away, a long time to campaign.

I know Los Angeles, I know California. And I can tell you that the president will win the Latino vote in California, Nevada, and, hopefully, in Florida, New Mexico, Colorado as well.

KING: And, Mark, you wrote in "The Huffington Post" yesterday that the president had this great coalition of lower income voters, affluent voters. You think he's at risk if he keeps pushing this proposal to raise these taxes on millionaires.

I want you to listen here to your former boss Bill Clinton. He talked to Wolf Blitzer today. He seems to disagree with you.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Now, this is not class warfare to say, we're all going to have to pitch in here, everybody has to give a little. Those of us who gained the most and paid the least in the previous decade should do our part.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Explain just where you see the risk, Mark.

MARK PENN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, the risk really is that President Obama got unprecedented support among those households making over $100,000, which was actually 26 percent of the electorate. So, his coalition was the lowest income voters and the highest income voters. He's the first Democrat probably to ever win the over $200,000 household, which was a top 6 percent.

He needs to bring this coalition together to win re-elections. And he may have some great policies and some good policy points. But he's sounding like a big taxer. He's sounding like he's moving to the left, instead of embracing the vital center.

And it's not about one proposal, it's the way he's sounding to Americans and it's the way he could be fracturing that coalition when he needs to bring it together in order to protect Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment.

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, John, I think he is fighting for the center. He's fighting for the center when he says our tax code should be fair, that we should all shoulder the burden of paying the taxes that we need to get the economy moving again. That is the center. And it's a position that the U.S. Conference of Mayors have gotten behind. And that's a bipartisan organization. What we've said is our tax code should be fair, that we should focus on job creation. That we should cut the payroll tax -- many of the proposals that President Obama's made in the last few days. All we've heard from the Congress is no.

KING: Mark, I'm guessing that as the mayor makes his case for urban America, you think the president's hurting himself in suburban America?

PENN: Well, I think that's exactly right. He really has to bring together these different voters and figure out a tax reform proposal that doesn't -- that isn't a temporary decrease for one vote, set of voters, and a big increase for another set. He's got to look at a way to do it class neutral.

That's what the kinds of things that President Clinton did, as part of the balanced budget, HOPE scholarships for people going to college. He used the tax system in a way that people in the middle class thought he was moving them forward.

And I don't think that's the way the president is sounding. It's not the way he's coming across. And it's going to take a lot of work for him to get back to the vital center and secure those votes for this re-election.

VILLARAIGOSA: Well, actually, the --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Gentlemen, I need to call it a night right there. But interesting debate between two good Democrats there. They're important to follow as the campaign plays out.

Gentlemen, thanks for coming in tonight.

That is for all us tonight. More of our Cheney interview tomorrow.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360," though, starts right now.