Dick Cheney defends the tea party: 'These are Americans'

Dick Cheney defends the tea party: 'These are Americans'

Former Vice President Dick Cheney defended the tea party's assault on Obamacare on Monday, calling it a "normal, healthy reaction" to President Barack Obama, whom Cheney referred to as the "most radical operator" in Washington.

In an interview on NBC's "Today" show, Cheney said the tea party has been a positive influence on politics.

"They raised issues Americans care about," Cheney said. "We have terrible track records with respect to federal spending. Nobody seems to be able to solve the problem. It's an uprising, in part, and it's taken place within the Republican Party. I don't see it as a negative. It's better to have that turmoil and change in the Republican Party than it would be to have it outside."

He also defended Sen. Ted Cruz's actions during the government shutdown. "He represents the thinking of a lot of people in Texas," Cheney said.

Cheney, though, stopped short of calling himself a member of the tea party.

"I'm not a card-carrying member," he said. "I don't think there is a card, but I have respect for what the people are doing. These are Americans. They're loyal, they're patriotic, and taxpayers and fed up with what is happening in Washington. It's a normal, healthy reaction, and the fact that the party is having to adjust to it is positive."

The former vice president, who saw his influence within the George W. Bush administration wane, did not dispute the notion that by the end of the second term, Bush rejected his worldview.

"I was an independent thinker," Cheney said. "We had differences. He promised when he made me part of his administration I'd have the opportunity to present my views, and I did. I was more influential in the first term. He needed my advice more than in the second term. I'm not surprised we had differences. I was the vice president. I got to offer my advice. Sometimes he took it. Sometimes he didn't."