You’ve said you would consider Democrats for Cabinet posts. Would that include Hillary Clinton?
She has expertise in a lot of areas. I admire and respect her, but we have certain philosophical differences.
What’s your advice to her for getting over the letdown?
I think she can be very pleased with her place in history, and she’s not done yet.
What’s the first thing you’d change in the White House?
Spending. Stop the out-of-control wasteful pork barrel spending.
What’s the first executive order you would sign?
Declare that we will never torture another person in the custody of the United States of America.
Tell me about your wife, Cindy. What made you fall in love with her in the first place?
I thought she was beautiful and very smart. To then find out she was a teacher of special education kind of authenticated that.
You’ve had sort of an unconventional marriage. Cindy stayed in Phoenix to raise the family; you came here to Washington, D.C., and weren’t home very much.
Actually I was home every weekend and for all the breaks and recesses Congress takes. We did a lot of travel, especially when the kids were growing up—took them all over the world.
What’s the last romantic thing you’ve done for her?
Let’s see … Over the weekend we ordered out, which was nice. Chinese. Didn’t have to entertain anybody. Didn’t have to have a political conversation. Didn’t have to ask for any money.
You’re not a flowers and diamonds kind of guy?
You know, I have not missed one of those occasions because I’m very blessed to have staff that remind me [laughs].
We’ve seen your daughter Meghan, 23, on the trail a lot. Will your boys campaign? [Jimmy, 20, is an active-duty Marine; Jack, 22, is at the U.S. Naval Academy.]
No. [Because of] the nature of their work, we try to have them completely out of the media as much as possible.
What’s your daughter Bridget, 16, up to this summer?
She’s going to be spending some time with a very close friend of ours at her home in Alabama, and then she’ll be coming out to join us.
What’s the worst thing about getting old?
I haven’t seen any real downsides to it. I wasn’t the fastest-maturing person in the world, to say the least, if you look at my record at the Naval Academy—ahem—and my early years as a Navy pilot. With age I’ve acquired a lot more knowledge and better judgment.
What do you do that makes you feel young again?
Hike. It not only makes you feel young, but in a state like Arizona, it always authenticates an appreciation for the beauties of nature.
Do you rough it?
Oh, yeah. We hike places where there is no trail and lots of cactus. [Laughs] Lots of times I’ve encountered cactus.
You and your sons were going to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim?
I did it two summers ago and wanted to do it again. But getting all the media there, which they would insist on doing, turned into an almost impossible logistics thing.
What do you splurge on?
Coffee, newspapers, books. I stop in bookstores whenever I can. But I don’t have a lot of expensive tastes and can’t think of anything that I’ve spent a lot of money on.
I’d like to tell you I have to go to the gas pump, but I’m being driven around by the Secret Service.
Do you think gas will reach $5 a gallon?
What do you say to people having to choose between groceries and gas?
We’ve got to become energy independent—do things like nuclear power. Help is on the way, but I know it is very tough.
Describe for me a perfect Sunday.
Get up early and enjoy the sunrise up in Sedona, [Ariz.,] read the newspapers to get your fix and, if we were in Phoenix, attend the North Phoenix Baptist Church. Then maybe go for a nice long hike, relax in the late afternoon and then barbecue on the grill. I still think my barbecue ribs are the best I’ve ever tasted.
Do you go to church regularly?
I wouldn’t say regularly. I go when I can in Phoenix. We were able to go a couple Sundays in a row, but then it was quite a while before that and it will probably be a while again.
You invited potential running mates to your ranch, but there were no women among them. How come?
First of all, [former eBay CEO] Meg Whitman and her husband were there. There were 10 or 11 couples. The majority of them had nothing to do with vice president.
But there weren’t any women up there you were considering for veep?
One, it was a social weekend and, two, not necessarily [chuckles].
You’ve gotten Heidi Montag’s endorsement. Who are you working on next?
We’re most pleased by Wilfred Brimley [laughs]. You know, I hadn’t thought about the question, but since I like Jack Bauer so much, Kiefer Sutherland. I doubt he would be on board; he’s probably already selected Senator Obama. I’m a big 24 fan.
Do you ever get starstruck?
Oh, always. I think I’m an average American in that respect. Last time was probably Clint Eastwood. And Warren Beatty and I are close friends.
What are you reading these days?
A book about a guy in the first World War called Horses Don’t Fly. It’s a kinda nice very touching true story. And I’m rereading a book of Hemingway short stories.
What’s the last movie you saw?
Indiana Jones. I really loved the movie because the old guy wins.