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Undaunted by pacemaker, vice president promotes energy plan

WASHINGTON (AP) – Vice President Dick Cheney waded back into energy policy, national security and U.S.-China relations on Monday, undaunted by the new pacemaker in his chest. He flashed an ”OK” sign when asked how he felt two days after it was implanted.

Cheney said in an Oval Office session with President Bush he was ”a little tender in the shoulder,” but added, ”It’ll pass.”

The vice president said little with reporters present, but at midday he took to the nation’s airwaves to defend the administration’s energy strategy, conducting a series of radio interviews meant to boost its prospects in Congress.



”Our way of life depends on having adequate supplies of energy and affordable energy,” Cheney told WHAM in Rochester, N.Y.

”We think with coal as abundant as it is in the United States, there’s enough here to last us several hundred years,” he told WWVA in Wheeling, W.Va. – a major coal-producing state.




Cheney quarterbacked the administration’s development of a national energy strategy, which the White House released in May.

The vice president has refused to divulge to congressional investigators the identities of those who attended the dozens of meetings that helped his energy task force formulate the strategy.

”We’ve refused to do that on the grounds that people ought to be able to talk to their government without having their names appear in the newspaper simply because they spoke to their elected officials,” Cheney said on WHAM.

He rejected comparisons to then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s health care task force, which received fierce GOP criticism for meeting in secret. ”She was not a government employee and a lot of the people involved in the task force – that is, actually sitting in the meetings and making decisions – were not government employees,” he said.

Asked to characterize China’s relationship with the United States, he said, ”We’re not enemies at this point, probably not friends either.”

”Unfortunately, it’s still a communist regime,” Cheney said. ”They still govern themselves in a manner that we think is unfortunate, in part because we don’t think they have due regard for the rights of their citizens.”

A dual-purpose pacemaker was implanted in Cheney’s chest in an hourlong procedure Saturday at George Washington University Hospital.

The device works like any other pacemaker, ensuring that his heart does not beat too slowly. When it detects the beat slowing below a certain level, it sends a mild electric charge to pace the beat at a minimum level.

More dramatically, if the heart suddenly surges to a dangerous, high-speed beat, the defibrillator kicks in. It sends an electrical jolt to the lower chamber of the heart and causes it to slow down. Sometimes this will cause the heart to slow too much, and that is when the pacemaker turns on and adjusts the rhythm.

Aides went out of their way to paint Cheney’s first day back on the job as typical.

He entered the White House at 7:45 a.m. – in plenty of time for an 8 a.m. national security meeting with Bush.

He told one interviewer that his heart ”seems to be working pretty good.”

”I’m back at work today, and no complaints,” he said.

Bush said Cheney ”sets a good example for Americans who may share the same condition he has, and that is to listen to your body, take precautionary measures, and to be active.”

”We were thinking about doing some jumping jacks before you came in,” Bush joked to reporters, as Cheney smiled by his side.


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