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News story - Aub. 15, 2001
A Working Vacation
Vice President Cheney plans to fish, travel during month-long valley sojourn.
By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.
Vice President Dick Cheney took time off from his month-long working vacation Monday to outline his plans for August in Jackson Hole and to reflect on "an amazing year."
Cheney, who will live at his Teton Pines home about six miles west of Jackson until Labor Day, defended his energy policy, supported a local decision to limit drilling around the Gros Ventre Wilderness, recalled a life of service in Washington and said his health problems are not affecting his ability to fish for trout on his favorite Western waters.
The vice president touted the Bush administration's progress in its first six months and said he was glad to get out among voters during his summer vacation.
The suggestion to mingle came from the president, and Cheney said he embraced the assignment. Cheney will take day trips to dedicate a hospital, give a keynote address at a Republican convention, visit the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, attend a fundraiser and visit family in Casper.
"When he suggested it, I jumped at the chance and was happy to sign on," Cheney said of the president's plan for August.
The vice president also said he's going to get in "a fair amount of fishing." A fly fisherman, Cheney said he's had one "fantastic day" on the South Fork of the Snake River in Idaho and two slower ones on the Snake in Jackson Hole.
He said he favors casting Amy's Ant, a variation of the Chernoble Ant tied by Jack Dennis and named after Dennis' daughter.
It's on the river that Cheney said he's noticed the biggest change since he's become vice president. While he tries to travel "low key" without sirens and lights in his motorcade, he admitted that on the river he floats with "a bit of an entourage" that's unusual for anglers.
Asked whether his heart problems have affected his recreation, Cheney said "not yet." He said he skied while here on vacation in February and gets up early to exercise.
"I work out every day," he said. His main efforts are on an exercise bike.
Cheney said he's going to spend time with family and expects a visit by each of his daughters. He plans to visit siblings in Casper and keep things casual.
"It's quiet, relaxed," he said of his time in the valley. "It's an opportunity to see friends. This is the only time I'll wear a tie," he said just prior to a ceremony to name the federal courthouse in Jackson after valley resident and former U.S. Sen. Cliff Hansen.
He still works daily, despite the plans for rest, Cheney said.
"I get up early," he said. "I brought a lot of work with me. Work continues day in and day out."
Cheney also said he believes the president will visit Jackson Hole some day. "I hope so," he said when asked about a potential visit. "I'll persuade him."
Asked to reflect on the last year, a 12-month period that saw him ascend from a candidate's advisor to the vice presidential post, Cheney said the experience was overwhelming. He campaigned, helped Bush win a tentative victory, cemented that in the courts, jump-started a stalled transition, suffered a heart attack, endured the implant of a pacemaker, saw a Republican majority vanish in the U.S. Senate and worked diligently on budgets, energy and other Bush policies.
"It was an amazing year," he said. "It was an amazing trip."
Cheney, who served as chief of staff under Gerald Ford, called campaigning "great fun" but said the transition was difficult, even frustrating. With the court challenges ongoing over voting in Florida, Cheney faced a novel task.
"This was a whole different thing." he said, comparing the Bush transition to settling in Ford after Richard Nixon resigned.
President Bush has had a "very productive" first six months in office, Cheney said. Bush nominated more officials by the August break than any other president, passed a big tax-relief package, got an energy bill through the house, passed a budget and changed the nation's strategic posture with regard to missile defense, Cheney said.
"For me it's been great fun," he said.
Cheney said the first time he worked in the White House he was in his 20s. To return at the end of his career is remarkable, he said.
"I'm now the oldest guy in the West Wing," he said. "I wouldn't have missed it for the world."
Cheney said he's uncertain Republicans could have retained their majority in the Senate by adopting a slower approach to their program in an effort to keep Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont in the party.
"I don't know that that would have changed things at all," he said. The Bush administration was working diligently on its budget, and "We were locked into that debate," Cheney said.
Jeffords had been a difficult Republican as it was. Cheney recalled trying to woo him to vote for a Republican budget in 1981.
"We didn't get him [then], we didn't get him this time," Cheney said. "He never voted with Republicans very often anyway."
Jeffords shed his Republican affiliation and became an independent, giving control of the Senate to Democrats "for a lot of reasons," Cheney said.
As vice president, Cheney was to cast the deciding vote whenever the Senate was deadlocked along party lines prior to Jeffords' defection.
"I've cast two deciding votes so far," Cheney said. The third time he was summoned to the Hill, Democrats were battling against an amendment. Cheney said he got to the Capitol but didn't have to go to work.
"When the Democrats heard I had arrived in the lobby, they moved to accept the amendment," he said.
Cheney still works hard among legislators, he said, maintaining offices in both the House and Senate. "I spend a lot of time on the Hill," including attending regular Tuesday strategy luncheons with Republican legislators.
Turning to his energy policy, Cheney defended the strategy even as his methods are under attack and as the California energy "crisis" that provoked it has faded.
The vice president is keeping secret the list of people with whom he consulted in forming the energy policy a move that's been challenged. And he's watched as California utilities have gone from an electricity shortage to a period of surplus during which they've been forced to sell energy at a loss.
Cheney said forming an energy policy for the nation was a campaign issue for him and Bush. "You can't make energy policy on the spur of the moment," he said.
Looking back at economic downturns in the recent past, "All were related to price spikes in energy," he said. "People don't worry about energy as long as gas is cheap."
The vice president said he's gotten a bum rap on his policy.
"Contrary to a lot of the commentary, we spent a lot of time on conservation ... renewables," he said. In the end, however, "You still have to produce more energy."
He also said that the administration won't trash public lands in the quest for resources, despite a proposal to drill in the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and a call to review drilling access to other federal property.
"We have not proposed a radical change in terms of protection of public lands," Cheney said. He discounted the notion that sportsmen and women in Wyoming may reject the Bush program as they see treasured lands in southwest Wyoming industrialized by a proliferation of oil and gas development. Some of that is taking place in nearby Sublette County, where environmentalists are challenging an industry proposal to conduct an experiment by waiving drilling restrictions on mule deer winter range during the winter.
"There's no reason why someone who loves those areas should find that all that disturbing," he said of the impacts.
In Alaska, drilling would be done with minimal disturbance on the surface, Cheney said. "We can do it in a safe and sane fashion that won't have any damaging effect," he said.
And the administration hasn't made radical proposals to drill in treasured places like wilderness areas, national monuments and national parks. "You'd be hard put to find areas our proposal would be opening up," Cheney said.
Turning to the area around Jackson Hole, Cheney said he supports Bridger-Teton National Forest Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton's proposed decision not to lease for energy development more than 300,000 acres around the Gros Ventre Wilderness. If Hamilton's plan was formed according to the Bridger-Teton's overall management plan, "That's the way it ought to be as far as I'm concerned," he said.
And Cheney said Forest Service roadless areas proposed for protection by the Clinton administration an initiative stalled in court aren't all targeted for development under president Bush. "He wants to protect as much of that as possible," Cheney said.
The vice president said he doesn't carry the Jackson Hole banner when he does his business in Washington.
"I don't spend a lot of time on local
issues," he said. "I haven't gotten involved in
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