Cheney: "The Situation In Iraq Was Stable When We Left"

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MIKA BRZEZINSKI, MSNBC HOST: Joining us now, the former Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney, along also with us, Liz Cheney, who is a former deputy assistant secretary of state. They are co-authors of the new book "Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America." They are also father-daughter.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: They are father-daughter.

BRZEZINSKI: On our show we love that.

SCARBOROUGH: Let's just start by saying, you obviously have not been cheating on your wind sprints. You're in great shape. I saw you here couple years ago and -- you're healthy.

DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Three years ago I got a new heart.

BRZEZINSKI: My gosh.

D. CHENEY: Thanks to the donor and modern medicine and the prayers of a lot of people. And it's remarkable. It's the whole new lease on life.

SCARBOROUGH: That's a good heart.

D. CHENEY: Good heart.

SCARBOROUGH: It's working. Fantastic. Well, let's talk about -- these are crazy times.

D. CHENEY: They are.

SCARBOROUGH: You think you've seen it all and then Donald Trump gets into the race.

D. CHENEY: That's correct.

SCARBOROUGH: And --

D. CHENEY: Lots of surprises.

SCARBOROUGH: What's going on with the Republican Party right now?

D. CHENEY: Well, I think -- one, I think we've got obviously a lot of candidates. But I mean, there is some pretty good talent there. I think it will sort itself out over time. That's the way the primary system is supposed to work. But our concern when doing the book was to make certain that the national security issues were front and center in this campaign --

SCARBOROUGH: Right.

D. CHENEY: -- for our party and as part of the national debate.

SCARBOROUGH: Are they?

D. CHENEY: Well, I think they will be. I think given the threat levels out there that are rising around the world and what we believe is our diminished capacity to deal with those threats, I think it's a very important issue for this campaign.

SCARBOROUGH: What have we done over the past seven years, eight years?

D. CHENEY: Well, we have turned our back on a lot of our allies. Look at the Middle East. The Israelis and Arabs that are traditional friends are appalled by the deal that's been done with the Iranians. Our defense budget has been cut dramatically, our capacity to project power is significantly less than what it used to be. Ray Odierno, the former Chief of Staff of the Army, just retired. He said the army's readiness level is the lowest it's ever been in the history of the army. So we have serious problems.

SCARBOROUGH: And looking back over the previous eight years, what's the worst mistake that you and President Bush made that's still having an impact on the Middle East?

D. CHENEY: Well, I think we got it right with respect to Iraq. And when we left, Iraq was in pretty good shape as a result of the surge that the president made.

SCARBOROUGH: You got what right in terms of Iraq?

D. CHENEY: The situation in Iraq was stable when we left. Even Barack Obama admitted that. And there was a coalition government, the vice president was a Sunni. And there were Sunni officers in a lot of the military ranks after we left and after Barack Obama pulled out with leading a stay-behind force. That was the key. And those stay-behind force created a vacuum and ISIS resulted from that. So I think that was a significant problem.

SCARBOROUGH: Was going into Iraq, though, in 2003 the original sin?

D. CHENEY: No, I think it was the right thing to do.

SCARBOROUGH: You still do?

D. CHENEY: Our objective was to take down Saddam Hussein, we did that. When you (INAUDIBLE) previously, it had nuclear programs. Israelis took it out in '81. We took it out in '91 with Desert Storm.

SCARBOROUGH: But wasn't the world more stable with Saddam Hussein in power?

D. CHENEY: No. I don't think it was. When we took down Saddam, Muammar Gaddafi, for example, gave up his nuclear program. He had centrifuges, uranium feedstock, weapons design.

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