[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/11/art.cheneyexclusive.cnn.jpg caption="Vice President Dick Cheney defends his administration's handling of the nation's financial crisis."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Appearing Sunday on the last broadcast of CNN's Late Edition, Vice President Dick Cheney defended the administration's handling of the recession and argued that its premature to call it the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
"I can't say that. I don't think we know that yet. I think certainly if you look at some earlier periods in our history, I remember back in the late '70s when we had a high rate of inflation, stagflation in effect and a high rate of unemployment," Cheney said.
He added, "We've had some difficult times. Is it the worst since World War II? I can't say that. I don't believe the data shows that yet but it is clearly a serious recession."
The vice president also defended the administration against criticism that it has backtracked on its principles by providing hundreds of billions of dollars to the private sector after previously lambasting the involvement of 'big government' in the economy.
"When the financial system is threatened, only the federal government can fix it and that's what we've been doing," he said. "So even though I'm a conservative, I feel very strongly that we did the right thing by getting active and involved when we did."
Cheney said President-elect Barack Obama's proposed $775 billion economic recovery plan should begin with a focus on tax policy.
"Democrats traditionally want to spend more money ... We Republicans more often want to pursue tax policy as the best alternative to promote growth and
to turn around an economic downturn," he said.
He added, "I haven't seen his proposal yet so I can't really judge it, but if I had to make a choice myself I'd say we ought to look at the tax policy
as our first priority."
Asked what advice he may have for his successor, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, Cheney said, "The most important thing that any vice president needs to
know was to understand where it is the president he works for wants him to do. That really will determine everything in terms of the kind of meetings he
attends, the policy issues he gets involved in, the kind of assistance or advice he's asked for by the president and others. It's a very different kind
of a job from being an executive, running a big organization, or being senator."
Some of Cheney's other remarks:
On the conflict in Gaza
"I think we've learned from watching over the years that there's a big difference between what happens at the United Nations in their debates and the facts on the ground in major crises around the world," Cheney said. "A lot needs to be done here. The real tragedy... is what's happening to the Palestinian people. They're innocent bystanders. This is not a struggle between Israel and the Palestinians. It's a struggle where Israel is trying to defend itself against what's been designated by many people as a terrorist organization."
On the war in Afghanistan
"We've made progress in Afghanistan. We overthrew the original Taliban government that was there that had sheltered Osama bin Laden. We've had a constitution written. We've had national elections. We've got a good start on building up the Afghan national army. And so I think we've made significant progress. But we're going to be there for a long time."
On Osama bin Laden still at large
When asked why the administration has been unable to capture of kill Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No. 2 al Qaeda leader, the vice president said, "Well, we've got a few days left yet."
"We would like very much to - to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. ... My guess is at this point he's operating in an area that's very difficult, very hard to get to, that he's not an effective leader at this stage. He can't really engage his organization without coming out of whatever hole he's hiding in. And the key thing for us, even if we got bin Laden tomorrow, is to take down his organization. And that's what we've been actively doing."