EXCLUSIVE: Cheney defends war on terror’s morality

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“By the time of his passing a couple of years ago, opinion had totally turned on that,” Mr. Cheney said. “In fact, most people by then, even many who had been very critical 30 years before, were in agreement that in fact it was a good decision, it was the right thing to do from the standpoint of the country.

“I’m personally persuaded that this president and this administration will look very good 20 or 30 years down the road in light of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

The reliably conservative and old-fashioned vice president stood by the huge growth of spending and size of government during the Bush years.

“Given your druthers, you’d rather not have a growing government, … but there are exceptions,” said Mr. Cheney, who was not a big supporter of the president’s large expenditures on reforming education and Medicare prescription drugs.

Most of the growth, Mr. Cheney said, came from the government’s increases in defense and homeland security spending after Sept. 11.

“I fully support the spending we did because I think it was essential,” he said. “It obviously has, as a byproduct, the fact that it increases the deficit and the overall size of government, but I think this is one of those occasions like World War II when that was appropriate.”

As for President-elect Barack Obama, Mr. Cheney said, “He’s got obviously some very difficult issues that are soon to be on his platter, just because of the time we live in.”

“No president gets to choose what issues he has to deal with on his watch. You don’t come having run on a platform of, ‘Well we’re going to respond to 9/11,’ ” he said. “You don’t get to choose the time in which you govern. and that will be true for President Obama as well.”

Mr. Cheney, as he did earlier this week, praised Mr. Obama’s choices for his Cabinet so far, and said the Bush administration is pulling for him to do well.

“We’re doing everything we can to help on the transition. In the end, when you put away the banners and the bullhorns of the campaign, he’s now our president, about to be, as of January 20. And it’s important for all of us that he succeed.”

The man whom the Secret Service calls “Angler,” in part because he is a huge fan of fly-fishing, said he did not know what he’ll do after he leaves office but would bring the same intensity and focus that is his trademark to whatever he does next.

“Will I be focused on what I do? Yeah, I suppose I’m focused when I’m fly-fishing,” he said, laughing.

• See Cheney unplugged: Excerpts from the interview.

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