Must-see morning clip: "Dick Cheney is a product of modern medicine at its best"

The former vice president insists that his severe heart disease did not interfere with his job


Prachi Gupta
October 21, 2013 5:19PM (UTC)

Clearing up any former misgivings, it appears that Dick Cheney does indeed have a heart. On Sunday night's "60 Minutes," the former vice president opened up about a lifelong battle with heart disease; after having received "nearly every medical breakthrough to combat heart disease over the last 35 years," correspondent and cardiologist Dr. Sanjay Gupta calls Cheney "a product of modern medicine at its best."

In a conversation exploring Cheney's memoir, "Heart," which he co-authored with his cardiologist, Jonathan Reiner, Cheney admitted that he wrote a "pending" resignation letter only 67 days after he was sworn into office in 2001 and continued to suffer a series of life-threatening ailments during his time in office.

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But Cheney vehemently insisted that his poor health did not affect his performance on the job:

Sanjay Gupta: Did you worry about your physical health impacting your judgment and your cognition?

Dick Cheney: No.

Sanjay Gupta: Not at all?

Dick Cheney: No.

Sanjay Gupta: Were you the best you could be?

Dick Cheney: You know, I was as good as I could be, you know, given the fact I was 60-some years old at that point and a heart patient.

Cheney didn't want to acknowledge numerous studies that show a significant connection between severe heart disease and memory loss, depression, a decline in decision-making abilities and impaired cognition. Or that he could be one of the many patients vulnerable to these side effects.

Sanjay Gupta: Did they talk at all about potential side effects because of limited blood flow to the brain, on cognition, on judgment? Was that something that you had heard about in any way?

Dick Cheney: Yeah.

Sanjay Gupta: Both, you didn't know about it? You weren't worried about it?

Dick Cheney: No.

Sanjay Gupta: Did anyone counsel you at all on that?

Dick Cheney: Not that I recall.

Sanjay Gupta: What about even things like depression?

Dick Cheney: No. No.

Gupta also challenged Cheney's assertion that he was fit to take office in 2001 -- despite evidence to the contrary:

Sanjay Gupta: This idea that you have this respected heart surgeon from Texas [Denton Cooley] who didn't see you, didn't examine you, and then writes something saying that you have normal cardiac function. That just wasn't true, Mr. Vice President.

Dick Cheney: Go ask Denton Cooley about that.

Sanjay Gupta: But sir, you saw it.

Dick Cheney: Listen to me, I think the bottom line is: was I up to the task of being vice president? And there's no question. I think based upon the fact that I did it for eight years that they were right.

Sanjay Gupta: How were they able to say that you were able to do the job?

Dick Cheney: The way I look at it, Sanjay, is that first of all, I didn't seek the job. The president came to me and asked me to be his vice president. The party nominated me. The doctors that consulted on it reached a common conclusion and the people elected me. Now what basis do I override the decision making process? Do you want to have an offshoot where we come check with Sanjay Gupta and say, "Gee, is he up to the task?" That's not the way it works.

Cheney explained, "I simply don't buy the notion that [job stress] contributed to my heart disease. It was in fact that getting back to work, getting back to that job, whatever that job might be, was important enough that I, in fact, kept 'em separate, I guess would be the way to think about it."


Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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