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Larry King Live
How Is Broadcast News Changing?Aired June 13, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Tom Brokaw, award-winning anchor of the "NBC Nightly News." His book, "The Greatest Generation," has been on "The New York Times" bestseller list for 79 weeks. And from public television, Jim Lehrer of the "News Hour." His 12th novel, now on shelves, his bestseller ever. They're both next on LARRY KING LIVE.
By the way, we welcome both. It's a distinguished pleasure to have these two great newsmen with us for the full hour tonight. And with Father's Day coming, two very appropriate books. Tom Brokaw's original "The Greatest Generation," as we said, has been on "The New York Times" list for 79 weeks. Its follow-up -- there you see the cover -- "The Greatest Generation Speaks," has been back on that list for 18 weeks.
And Jim Lehrer, who's with us as well here in New York, who is the executive editor and anchor of Public TV's "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer." His newest novel is "The Special Prisoner." It's already his bestselling book ever, and he's written -- this is his 12th -- is it your 12th novel or 12th...
JIM LEHRER, "THE NEWS HOUR WITH JIM LEHRER": Twelfth novel.
KING: Twelfth novel, dealing with WWII topic as well.
Why -- we'll start with you, Jim. We were talking before you went on that you and Brokaw were talking before he are wrote "The Next Generation."
LEHRER: That's right. And he owes it all to me actually.
KING: You said write a book?
LEHRER: I said, Tom, go write -- no, we have -- some friends of ours, the Brokaws, the Lehrers and some others get together once right before Thanksgiving. We have the last several years. And one night, he was entertaining us about his views about the greatest generation, about World War II. He had just spoken about it in a commencement address, and we all said, hey, Tom, there is a book there. And he had sense enough to listen to us, and do it.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: The nice thing is the next year when I came back with the book, Jim picked up book and said to me, you know, 50 years from now, you're grandchildren and great grandchildren are not going to find your videotapes, but they're going to pick up this book, and they're going to read this book and hold it in their hands, and there's a permanence about something that you've done here. So it's great to have friends like Jim, and especially people who encourage me.
KING: How old were you in WWII?
LEHRER: When it started -- well, I'm 66. So when it...
KING: You were 8.
LEHRER: I was 8.
KING: You were in the Marines, but where.
LEHRER: I was in the Marines, a Cold War Marine, 56-59.
KING: Where were you? Hold old were you?
BROKAW: I was living on Army base during war. I was like 3 years old in '43, and so my earliest memories of life are of people going to war or coming home from war. I had a toy helmet, and I fought imaginary German soldiers every day.
LEHRER: We always win.
BROKAW: Yes, we always won. And people were all around me, were going to war. We lived down on an Army base in southwestern South Dakota, where they were detonating ammunition and storing it there at same time, and we had a huge stockade of battalion prisoners of war on the edge of the Army base, because they were shipped over here, didn't have a place to keep them, and I guess I thought that's how the world would always be. Then the 50s came along, and there was this new prosperity in America, and kind of all receded for me.
KING: Let's go back and -- what do you think, Jim, has rekindled this interest in a war that, I mean, someone said the joke was -- it was in all the papers -- but was kind of dormant for a while?
LEHRER: Well, I think there are a couple of reasons. One of them, Tom's talked about this, written about this, but a lot of these, in fact probably the majority of the veterans came back and did not talk about their terrible experiences, and there are a variety of reasons for that. One of them was, of course, they witnessed terrible brutality, a lot of brutality was committed on them, but they also committed brutality themselves. I mean, war is a mutual exchange of brutal acts, and if you're a civilized person, you want to come back, you want to put it behind you, so they didn't talk about it so, a lot of them died. You know, their dying now at, what, a rate of a thousand a day, right, and they didn't...
LEHRER: And so a lot of the children and grandchildren have never heard these stories, and they know that grandfather was in WWII, or they know daddy in WWII, but they never got him to talk. And so the 50th anniversary came, Tom's book came out about the same time, Tom called it the greatest generation -- I wish I could take credit for that title, but I can't -- but it all came out at one time, and...
BROKAW: "Saving Private Ryan" had a lot to do with it, too.
KING: Was that your title, "Greatest Generation?"
BROKAW: It was. It was a title that I said quite spontaneously at the 50th anniversary of D-Day, and a lot of people challenged it, obviously, said I don't know if you want to go that far or not, and other historians. My short answer is that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. The longer answer is I don't think there's ever been a time when it was so inclusive, men, women, young, old, African Americans and Asian-Americans, even though they were shamefully discriminated against, didn't give up on the idea of America and fighting for it. I think a couple other things. I think that we look back at the turn of 20th century, and say, what would world be like if we had not prevailed in WWII? That had a big impact. And then 1998, when all that was going on in Washington with the president, and Monica Lewinsky, and Kenneth Starr, there was an enormous appetite to build up for something more ennobling.
LEHRER: That's right. Were we better than this? Yes, there was a time when we were much better than this.
KING: Tell us about the book with the great title.
LEHRER: "Special Prisoner."
KING: What is that? That's WWII.
LEHRER: WWII. That's not something I made up. The novel, the story I made up, but the special prisoner was a designation the Japanese had for all captured American flyers. This was after the Doolittle Raid in 1942 on Tokyo off an aircraft carrier. They bombed -- we bombed Tokyo, killed some civilians, enraged the Japanese government, and they decreed from that day on, all captured American flyers were essentially war criminals, meaning they could be executed or brutalized in prison, it didn't matter.
And my story is about one of those special prisoners. And in a way, we were talking earlier about where we were WWII, my mother worked on the B-29 assembly line, the Boeing plant in Wichita, Kansas, so I got kind of implanted with the B-29 thing.
KING: Tom. you said about Jim's book -- I quote -- "a provocative and haunting novel in which the past and the present intersect in chilling fashion, a special way to consider lingering effects of war and moral choices.
BROKAW: I thought it was wonderful book, and I say that not just because he's my pal.
KING: Just started it on the plane.
BROKAW: I read it.
KING: This is the best you've written. You can tell in 10 pages, really.
BROKAW: I read it straight through. And you know, I might have had a little more skepticism about it if I'd not been so immersed in the stories that came out of the Pacific theater that I'd been dealing with that were real stories. The first story in my new book, "The Greatest Generation Speaks," is about a man who had been captured in Philippines and was confined to a Japanese coal mine for the duration of the war, three and half years, lived in a wine cloth, one box of rice every day, brutalized, came out one day 1945 and saw the atomic explosion in Nagasaki just across the bay from him. And when he wrote me that letter, Meredith said to me, that can't be true. So when I found out it was true, and then I read Jim's book, "The Special Prisoner," and all the things that had happened to his fictional character, I knew it was true.
KING: how did you know about these things?
LEHRER: Well, I did a lot of research, Larry. It was not something that -- there has not been much written about the American prisoners of the Japanese. And, you know, most of the attention went to the European theater, and there was some stunning statistics that really opened my eyes. Ninety-six percent of all the American service personnel captured by the Germans alive survived captivity; 60 percent of the Americans captured by the Japanese survived captivity; 5 percent of the special prisoners survived captivity. In other words, the American flyers who were captured alive, only 5 percent of them came out alive.
My novel is about this guy, who's put all this behind him. Tom was talking about putting it all behind, well, this guy put it behind him. He's a Methodist minister, a retired bishop of San Antonio, Texas, changing airplanes at Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, sees a man walking down the gangway toward him, whom he believes is the man who brutalized him in that prison camp 50 years ago, and so my story is the story of today and the story of 50 years ago.
KING: We'll right back with Brokaw and Lehrer on WWII and lots of other things, and your phone calls. Two great books for father's day, too.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JUNE 6, 1984)
BROKAW: Here at American Cemetery in Normandy, which is behind Omaha Beach, permanent reminders of the high cost of those bloody battles which took place throughout Europe.
You know, it's a curious fact of war that the killings are so brutal and the memorials to horrors, are so beautiful. And of course this bittersweet place reminder of something of else, a time when we were all bound together, by a common purpose. Ozakowski (ph) of New York, Abernathy of North Carolina, Haig (ph) of Minnesota -- here they had a rendezvous with death, and they were all heroes. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That was Tom Brokaw in 1984. You were pretty young.
BROKAW: That was the -- that's really when I began to think about writing these books.
BROKAW: The first time that it occurred to me, my God, these are people who raised me, they were the friends of my parents, the coaches and the wives of my -- of the friends that I had in town, the mothers of them all. It was that generation that lifted me up and made the life that I have today possible.
KING: Jim, you were mentioning during the break something interesting. We have not come together like that since then.
KING: Do you need a war for this country, too?
LEHRER: You see, that is a depressing thought, Larry, that's what I always say. I mean, what's wrong with us, that the only time we can pull together, and have shared experiences and feel good about each other and all of that, depend on each other, is when we have wars? I think we need to kind of put -- we need to start talking about this. We -- I think our presidential -- you and I, and I everybody in our business, all of us who are in our business line of work, ought to be forcing the candidates for office...
KING: To talk about?
LEHRER: What are we going to do about this? What is our country...
KING: But every candidate says let's bring us together.
LEHRER: I know. But how? What can we do? There are some great ideas out there that we could talk about, possibly.
BROKAW: Well, one of the things that we're not doing, I mean, I think that that generation, was the "we" generation; now it is the "me" generation, and politics is the perfect reflection of that. It's now all about attack ads and dividing and conquering, and playing to the special fiefdoms that exist out there. That generation learned during the war about what they could accomplish by rising above their own individual interests, and I think that would it be a tribute to them and the closing days of their life if this country did make the turn that Jim was just talking about.
LEHRER: For instance, I'm not in the position, it's not what I do for a living, or in any way I'm not advocating a political position or anything whatever, but why not have a national debate over mandatory national service? Is that an answer? Yes, it is. It may not be the answer, but let's talk, what. KING: Truman talked about it.
LEHRER: Yes. Let's say every kid in America, boy, girl, whatever, had to...
KING: Kennedy wanted it.
LEHRER: Everybody has wanted it in a way. And I don't -- talking about military...
KING: Yes, if it's everybody, you can be blind and...
LEHRER: Yes, and then suddenly, you have that same kind of shared experience, and you get to meet people that you would never meet any other way. I don't know if that's -- I'm not advocating this. But I am advocating that on the table as a something as something to debate and discuss or something better, if someone has got a better idea.
KING: Had they spoken out, the second prisoners, the people of your book, would it have been different, had they come back and spoken?
BROKAW: Well, I think that they did. I think that they did have their time, in their communities, in the schools, in the churches we were talking about that. Jim had a fascinating statistic about how many veterans there were in Congress at one point during the '50s. You think of the lions of the Senate that we knew on both sides of the aisle during the '50s and '60s, almost all of them were WWII veterans, but there time came and went, in a manner of speaking. So now the succeeding generation doesn't have that same sense of passion about public service, about volunteering the in community.
Young people are doing a lot of good things today, but that generation had so little first in the Depression, and then went through so much sacrifice in the war that when they came home, it was almost an instinct for them to get involved in their community.
LEHRER: Yes, but I think we need to do something about this. I mean...
KING: You think we can do it without a war?
LEHRER: Well, I hope, because, you know.
BROKAW: They say, Larry, that that generation will say to you, look, we fought that war so there wouldn't have to be another war. We fought that war to make it possible for us to solve all of our other problems without having to put a gun in some kid's hands.
KING: We'll be back with more. We'll be including phone calls. Tom Brokaw's books, "The Greatest Generation and "The Greatest Generation Speaks," and Jim Lehrer's new novel about World War II relived through a man later on looking back on experiences, called "The Special Prisoner."
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROKAW: When Leonard Limel (ph) landed in Normandy, it was not a movie, and it defines his life to this day.
LEONARD LIMEL, WWII VETERAN: A day doesn't go by I don't think about it.
BROKAW: Although they would succeed, that moment still haunts him.
That's been more than 50 years ago.
LIMEL: It was yesterday as far as I'm concerned, and it always will be yesterday.
BROKAW: At end of the day, one day, more than 6,000 Americans would be killed, wounded, missing, captured. Almost 15 years ago, I met Limel at the spot where he came ashore. He has returned often. The beach is calm now, but there is one place he can no longer visit.
It's one of the most haunting and beautiful places in the world, that cemetery.
LIMEL: It is, but to walk up to one my ranger's graves there just gets me to the point where I -- he knows I've been by.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Before we talk about some current issues and take your phone calls, what was the D-Day Museum like? You emceed the opening in New Orleans.
BROKAW: It was in New Orleans because the Higgins boat, which was the landing craft that made Normandy possible, but also made Iwo Jima and Okinawa possible was constructed there and designed by a man by the name of Andrew Jackson Higgins. And Stephen Ambrose, who I think was the godfather in reverse kind of greatest generation, has been teaching there for all these years.
It's a very evocative museum. You go there and you see little tiny mementos -- a belt filled with bandages from the day of the landing, for example, bibles, diaries from people who are killed, mockups of German soldier and an American soldier, how they were equipped a different way. And then here, the oral histories of people who landed on that day, and it takes you through the whole invasion on a kind of a ramp-like experience as you make your way through museum. Then you come to the handwritten note, that Eisenhower scribbled that day saying, "If this fails, I take full responsibility." And he'd thrown it away and an aide retrieved it, and they have the original copy there, kind of at the end of the day.
KING: Is there a pacific D-Day? Is Iwo Jima, I guess -- that's where the memorial for the Marines is, Iwo Jima. I know that's an isolated spot. Does the Pacific have a D-Day.
LEHRER: Well, you know, that's a good question. I think Iwo Jima's probably the closest, because Iwo Jima was crucial to the Pacific war, because those B-29s were bombing Japan, but they had no place to go afterward, if they ran out of fuel or if they were damaged in anyway, and the Marines went ashore in Iwo Jima -- heavy, heavy casualties. and before -- there were still fighting when the B-29s, they diverted the B-29s to land there. It was -- because Iwo Jima was between Saipan and Japan, and it was an amazing feat because it was all, you know, black, it was corral reef, it was a terrible place to go ashore.
KING: Those guys have all died, didn't they, all five have died?
LEHRER: No. One of them lived, and his son has written this wonderful book called "Flag of Our Fathers." He came back...
KING: That guy lived?
BROKAW: He came back, and he was he was an undertaker in Wisconsin, as I remember. I think it was Wisconsin. His son then later went and has written a very evocative book. I think the generosity of authors, we can mention "Flag of our Fathers."
LEHRER: That's a terrific book.
BROKAW: A terrific book. At the D-Day Museum, a man by the name of Harrison came down. He was a medical corpsman in the first wave at Normandy, and a medical corpsman in the first wave of Iwo Jima, and Steven Ambrose...
BROKAW: ... never, ever encountered that before, and he said it was more brutal at Iwo Jima in many ways that it was on the beaches of Normandy. You know, Omaha Beach was the worst on D-Day obviously. It not as bad on Sword, and Juno and Gold, and some of the other beaches. But he had both landings. Think about that. A quiet, little, unassuming man.
LEHRER: Take for instance this is a kind of story that didn't get told very much, before, I mean, after the war or since. But it talks about what we were talking about earlier. I -- since my novel came out, I talked to a man the other day who a Marine at Towera (ph) -- another of those little islands that nobody knows about. They went ashore, and they started taking prisoners, the Japanese, and they treated the Japanese prisoners with great civility, just like they had been trained or told to do so.
And about the third or fourth day, a guy -- another Japanese soldier comes and surrenders. He's wired, and he puts his arms up, and he blows himself up, and kills three or four of the guys telling me the story's best buddies. So the next day, a Japanese tries to surrender, he just kills him, and the next day and the next day. And he said, I am so ashamed that I did that. That was an act of brutality equaled to, and I was civilized man, but I did that. And I know if I had to it do all over again, I would have done exactly the same thing. That's the point about brutal acts.
KING: War is insane.
BROKAW: Leonard Limel -- we saw him just a few moments ago. He's one of the Rangers that landed at D-Day and at the D-Day Museum in New Orleans. He get out before this huge arena, 10,000 veterans, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, all the dignitaries from New Orleans, and stood up. And he had a terrible war. He fought brutally all the way across Europe. And he said everybody is trying to figure out the real meaning of this museum. I'll tell you the real meaning of this museum: "War is unacceptable. We have to find other ways to evolve differences, it's as simple as that."
He's 81 years old, and I -- my heart soared when he said that. He's a great man.
KING: The books are "The Greatest Generation Speaks" and "The Special Prisoner." I'm Larry King. We'll talk about some other things, take your phone calls right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: From Washington, NPAC brings you gavel- to-gavel videotape coverage of today's hearings by the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities.
LEHRER: We are running it all each day because we think these hearings are important, and because we think it is important that you get a chance to see the whole thing and make your own judgments. Some nights, we may be in competition with a late, late movie. We are doing this as an experiment, temporarily abandoning our ability to edit -- to give they whole story, however many hours it may take.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That was Jim Lehrer, live from his bar mitzvah that day, and a memorable event for a 13-year-old.
LEHRER: It certainly was, certainly was.
KING: The hair.
LEHRER: I was not -- to graduate from high school was a big day for me.
KING: Let's take some other -- touch some other bases, and then your calls.
And what do you make of I guess we'd call it tabloidization of news these days?
LEHRER: Well, I think...
KING: Any local newscast in America starts with a killing. LEHRER: I know, I know. Larry, I think that it's contributing to the loss of our credibility of all of us who are in news business. I think that there is a there is a -- it -- it there is no evil people behind this, it's just happened, what constitutes news, has been redefined, and I think it's a self-fulfilling prophecy they're going to destroy themselves, because there isn't enough of that kind of news out there. And what I think eventually is going to have to happen is people say, what do we do now? Let us go back to covering city hall. Let us go back to covering county government. Let's go back to covering our schools.
KING: Why did that stop, Tom?
BROKAW: Well, I don't know. It's a bits of a dilemma, because Jim and I grew up in same process tradition in broadcasting, and I'd like to think that I'm holding the line at NBC News, It's constant struggle because this wide exists out there, and competition is fierce, want to keep your place in it. But the most alarming statistic that I heard in the last year or so was when they had this very spirited race for governor in California, and they devoted something like four minutes to the governor's race, and something like two hours and 80 minutes to car chase up and down the freeway.
KING: What does that tell you?
BROKAW: Well, that's a -- well, it tells you a lot of people watch it, I know that, and that is a fact. But then you have to work harder, at making these serious issues more accessible to people, and there are ways engaging in that. I think there was heartening earlier in this primary season, for example, when John McCain and George W. Bush were having a spirited campaign, the country was interested, you know, their attention span peaked at that point, and we have to seize that. I've always said that you can't really underestimate the intelligence of the American television viewer. If you play to your intelligence, they'll respond in kind. It doesn't mean that you can say here your spinach, eat it everyday, whether you like it or not. You have to find a way to mix the stuff up and it make more engaging.
KING: Is it tougher for you, Jim, when they're -- are there people that, even at PBS, say we want to play to a lower denominator.
LEHRER: Just the opposite, Larry. Because everybody else is playing to that denominator, it makes us more unique by not doing so. Our audience is stabilizing. We're doing very fairly well under this competitive environment.
KING: Let's take the upcoming convention for you. CNN, we're going to be full-fledged. You're going to be full-fledged there, right?
KING: NBC what? Two hours a night.
BROKAW: Yes, we have MSNBC now, so we'll do that, and we have wonderful days when NBC and PBS had this partnership, but we have our own cable outlet now, and...
KING: But is there is no -- little interest because they know the public needs not to know outcome?
BROKAW: The fact is that conventions are still important because you get to see a kind of dialogue within a party, but they've become kabuki dances -- we know how they end. There is no air of expectancy anymore; they're carefully orchestrated.
You're not going to a Knick game if you know the final.
LEHRER: Yes. I feel -- I would just follow up on what you just said a moment ago about city hall and the county government, the same to these conventions. Yes, there kabuki, but so is a presidential news conference, so is an address by the president of the American people. They are -- it just means we have to work harder to make those events relevant. And we -- to just suggest that, well, they're not very important, because they're not as exciting as they used to be because they don't have floor fights and all that sort of stuff -- they're not -- they're not traditional news the way it used to be.
KING: Let me get a break, and we'll come back. We showed you Lehrer covering Watergate. We have to be fair. Here's Brokaw in the same thing. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AUGUST 8, 1974)
JOHN CHANCELLOR, NBC ANCHOR: We're going to switch to the White House and our correspondents Tom Brokaw and Tom Petty (ph) -- Gentlemen.
BROKAW: It was a day of expectancy around the White House this morning as the president scheduled a meeting with Vice President Ford at 11 o'clock, and then came word that the president had requested television time for tonight. That television time nearly upon us now.
It seemed a confirmation that he had reached the decision that was breaking out all over Congress, that he had decided to resign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Two of the most familiar faces on American television. They're Tom Brokaw, the anchor and managing editor of the "NBC Nightly News." His books, "The Greatest Generation" and now "The Greatest Generation Speaks," both on the bestseller lists. With Father's Day coming Sunday, what a gift. And Jim Lehrer's best work ever, his new novel, "The Special Prisoner." Jim is the executive editor and anchor of Public TV's "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer."
And before we take some calls, the impact of the Internet on news business. A Pew search out, I think, yesterday: 59 percent of those not on the Web watch some TV; 53 percent of Web users say they watch a little; 40 percent say hardly ever, watch news, who are now into the Web. And if the Web is growing, what does that say for the future here?
BROKAW: Well, one of the things I think that we have to do is find the intersection between the Web and traditional television and cable television. And we're working hard at that. I know you are at CNN and Time Warner. We certainly are at NBC.
LEHRER: So are we. So are we.
BROKAW: And they are there as well.
LEHRER: Oh yes. We're all trying to figure it out.
BROKAW: Yes. I think we just have to find a way that we intersect these, and they'll turn to those familiar places where they trust the gatekeepers to tell them why things are important, to analyze what's going on.
KING: Therefore, Jim, can you tell us what it's going to look like 10 years from now?
KING: What's evening program going to look like?
LEHRER: No way, Larry! I don't think anybody can. Everybody is trying to figure it out.
LEHRER: Yes. Well, I think what -- there is going to be a lot more -- a lot -- a lot of news footage, a lot of news reportage on demand rather than 9 o'clock I'm going to watch LARRY KING. I'm going to watch LARRY KING LIVE any time I want to. I'm going to watch the "NBC Nightly News" and "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer" any time. And I'm not going to watch the whole broadcast. I'm just going to watch Brokaw's answers about World War II, see, and they'll get it all.
BROKAW: Very wise man (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
LEHRER: Yes, yes. Right.
KING: So will -- will -- will we -- or we, the viewer, will have much more impact on what we are seeing.
BROKAW: We're going to be much more selective. It won't be nearly as appointment as it is now.
LEHRER: That's right.
BROKAW: You'll be able -- and to take that one step further, I believe that you'll be able to refine what it is that you want to watch, not just when you want to watch things. The spectrum will be divided up into so many parts. If you're interested in just specific kinds of financial news or sports news or cultural news, you'll have places to go to do all that.
LEHRER: It's something to worry about, too. Talking -- we were talking earlier about shared experiences. It used to be you'd go to a dinner party or go down a street at the end of the early evening, everybody there had watched, say, one of you all's broadcasts. That's not -- that's going to be -- and so, the frame of reference for which you begin the evening or begin the discussion about any event isn't going to be the same.
Well, I got it off the Internet. I got it off this. I got it off that.
KING: There's no more 15, 20 shares.
BROKAW: No, no. That's gone forever.
LEHRER: No. But more importantly -- forget that. I mean, more importantly, you won't have the same information base on which people start their discussions.
KING: Are you glad to be, all of us, at the end of this sort of than at the beginning of it?
BROKAW: I think it's very exciting, frankly, because I think it's empowering, and I like the idea, because it's small d, democratic: that more people have more access to information and they have more control over their own lives. It's not just lightning bolts from the mountaintop that are coming down.
And it's also going to change the political structure of America, and I think we have to work our way through that. It's going to be more stuff that's going to be resolved from the ground up rather than from the top down.
LEHRER: I agree.
KING: Therefore, less chance...
LEHRER: I agree 100 percent...
KING: ... less chance of a Lehrer or Brokaw or Rather or Jennings 20 years from now, 10 years from now.
LEHRER: Well, I think that's true.
KING: Let me get a call. San Diego, with Tom Brokaw and Jim Lehrer. Hello.
CALLER: Hi. My question is for Tom Brokaw.
CALLER: I spent a lot of my time from Pearl Harbor to the end of the war in the Pacific. My question is, were we luckier than the enemy or were we smarter than they were?
KING: They both could answer this. They both researched.
BROKAW: Well, I think that...
I think a combination of the two. But when you go back, one of the remarkable things for me is to go back and realize how decimated we were at Pearl Harbor -- we really effectively had no presence in Pacific -- and how quickly we got back up to speed, and how valiant and courageous and smart our military planners were, especially in the Pacific, because there had been such a devastation there.
So I do think it was a combination of the two: of luck and great strategy.
I talked to guys like Joe Foss (ph), who was a fighter pilot out there, and you know, the Japanese Zero was a better plane in many ways than what they were flying, but they prevailed.
LEHRER: And the -- also the Japanese didn't follow up on their advantage they had after...
KING: December 8th.
BROKAW: And they were strung out.
LEHRER: Yes, they were strung out.
BROKAW: They were so strung out across the Pacific. They'd -- you know, they'd had a -- they were in China before the war, and then were strung out all the way across those islands. It was still a small island nation, and we had the Allied forces working against them.
KING: Edwards Air Force Base, California, hello.
CALLER: Hello. Do you know approximately how many African- Americans fought in the war? And of the ones you wrote about in your book, who stands out the most in your thoughts?
BROKAW: Well, one of them I just saw again the other day was Johnny Holmes (ph). He was a -- a member of a tank battalion, and he said that they keep talking about African-Americans not being in combat. He said: Look at this skin, man. He said: I lost buddies and I was in combat.
I talked to another guy, who was -- who landed on D-Day, as a matter of fact. He was a member of the engineers.
I don't remember the exact number, but there were a lot more of them than they've been given credit for being in combat. Most of them were relegated to rear echelon positions or they were stewards on the boats or on the ships.
KING: But there were famous squadrons, weren't there?
BROKAW: Yes, there were.
LEHRER: Yes, there were. But not...
KING: Tuskegee Airmen.
LEHRER: Yes, right. Not -- not B-29 squadrons, not B-29 bombers.
BROKAW: And they were not in the Airborne, for example. They were kept out of it until the very end. Finally, they did form one unit.
And I think that those people were so heroic because the shameful discrimination that they suffered.
LEHRER: They weren't in the Marine Corps.
KING: Now, wait a minute. Nobody in the country was speaking out against, nobody was standing up for...
BROKAW: Well, yes. Actually, I'll tell you who was, was Eleanor Roosevelt. She went around the country.
LEHRER: The only one.
BROKAW: And she really crusaded for the -- for the presence of people of color in the armed forces.
Now, think about this for a moment: On Army bases, people could be in uniform, but if they were African-Americans, or negroes as they were called in those days, they could not go into the officers club. But if you had a stockade of German prisoners of war, they could.
KING: We'll -- "the good old days." We'll be right back. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEHRER: The news of this day is that Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel, is investigating allegations that you suborned perjury by encouraging a 24-year-old woman, a former White House intern, to lie under oath in a civil deposition about her having had an affair with you. Mr. President, is that true?
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That is not true. That is not true. I did not ask anyone to tell anything other than the truth. There is no improper relationship. And I intend to cooperate with this inquiry. But that is not true.
LEHRER: No improper relationships: Define what you mean by that.
CLINTON: Well, I think you know what it means. It means that there is not a -- a sexual relationship, an improper sexual relationship, or any other kind of improper relationship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That interview was scheduled, right, regularly scheduled, and it happened to break that day?
LEHRER: Break that day. The interview was -- it was supposed to be a preview to the State of the Union. I've told this story before, but I woke up that morning, went out and got my morning "Washington Post." And I saw the headline: President Accused of Having Improper Relationship With This Intern. I took it -- I took the paper upstairs and showed it to my wife. And to paraphrase what I said, "Oh, golly gee, honey, what do I do now?"
KING: You said during the break, though, that was the worst thing you've covered, the Lewinsky.
LEHRER: It was the most difficult for me as a journalist making decisions as to what we should do and what we should not do -- I'm talking about "The News Hour" -- because every day there was some new flurry of something, and sorting through it. Is this an important development or is this just titillation? And I blew it. I made mistakes. I mean, sometimes there were stories that we should have covered that we didn't cover, because, oh, no, that's not important. And then there were some that we -- some that we did jump on that I think in retrospect were not that important.
KING: What was your worst?
BROKAW: I think Watergate was the worst for me. I was on the front-lines for NBC as a White House correspondent, and the stakes were obviously, I think, larger at that point, although certainly this president, too, was up for impeachment.
This is, as Jim indicated, was a very, very difficult time for those who were back making the decisions, and I was one of them. And you raised the business of the Internet earlier. One of the things that happened is that a lot of reports got on Web sites late in the day before they got in the paper. And it was kind of the first draft, if you will, of somebody's work.
KING: Some of them were wrong? LEHRER: Sure.
BROKAW: And some of them were very wrong from very reputable reporters, and that gave us migraine headaches all along.
So I think that those two stories were certainly the most difficult. But for me Watergate, being on the front-line every day, knowing what was at stake, was pretty tough.
KING: Montrose, British Columbia, hello.
CALLER: Hi. Do you believe the lack of serious international news on American newscasts today is causing Americans to develop a one-sided view of the world?
LEHRER: Well, I wouldn't go that far.
LEHRER: It's certainly true. There's not very much international coverage. I think that here again, to be self-critical here for a moment, I think all of us in the news business have to come to grips with the fact that we, too, must move into a post-Cold War mentality. We're still looking at news overseas at conflict terms. And if you say, OK, we won't...
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) conflict, you don't cover?
LEHRER: That's right. We're only going to cover wars, and so we're going to ignore the rest of the world. There are things happening, economic things. I don't -- and just shifts in power. Slow shifts in power, et cetera, particularly in Asia, and elsewhere in the world.
KING: Does that back up what Tom said: if it's a me generation and you're not fearing nuclear war, then does the average guy say, I don't care what's happening?
BROKAW: Well, there's some of that. I think that it -- it's hard as a journalist to say, look, you've got to pay attention to this, even though it doesn't seem to be an immediate threat to your lives. I mean, I've just gotten back from Russia, for example. I went over there to interview President Putin, even though we're not at the same sword's point that we've been in the past.
Tonight on NBC we had the Korean story, that historic meeting that is going on. So we do more of it than we're sometimes given credit for doing.
And in the old days, when people go back and say, well, there's a lot more international news, to a small degree that is true. But I'll tell you what was missing in the old days was a lot of stuff about what's going on in America that didn't get attention then. As I say, the editors in the evening news broadcast when I was first coming into the business were primarily white middle-aged men, and that was the prism through which you saw the world.
KING: Is the average American interested that the two Koreas get together for the first time in almost 50 years?
LEHRER: I don't know. I don't think that should be the test, frankly, for those of us in the journalism business, whether the American people are interested or not. If we as professionals believe it's important, then I go back to what Tom said a while ago -- if we think it's important, we have a responsibility to publish it or to broadcast. But we also have an additional responsibility, is to explain to our audiences why...
LEHRER: ... we think it's important.
And if that means starting the story earlier -- you know, first readers begin here -- then we must do that.
KING: Or give it more time.
LEHRER: Give it a little more time, get into it.
BROKAW: But I -- I do think, Larry, I honestly believe -- I mean, I was so struck when I got back from Russia, for example. I'd raced around the country. I was in Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington, and New Orleans, and in Boston, and in the course of the next six days. Any number of people on the street stopped me and said: "Hey, what's this guy like, Putin? I mean, what have we got to worry about in Russia? What's going on over there?" There was a real curiosity about it.
And I know that people who work in almost any company in America know that they are doing business with Asia and they're going to be interested in what's happening with Korea. There is a real awareness out there. And we ought not to overlook that.
KING: Back with more of Brokaw and Lehrer. That would make a nice show.
KING: Don't go away.
LEHRER: Umm, umm, umm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: "NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw." Tonight, from West Berlin.
BROKAW: Good evening, live from the Berlin Wall on the most historic night in this wall's history. What you see behind me is a celebration of this new policy announced today by the East German government that now for the first time since the Wall was erected in 1961 people will be able to move through freely. This crowd has gathered here tonight spontaneously. From the East German side they have been training water canon, as you can see, on some of the celebrants, but it doesn't seem to make much difference.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEHRER: Senator Dole, speaking of your tax plan, do you still think that's a good idea, the 15 percent across-the-board tax cut?
ROBERT DOLE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh yes, and you'll be eligible. And so will...
CLINTON: Me too?
DOLE: So will the former president, yes.
CLINTON: I need it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Lehrer and Brokaw at work. Birmingham, Alabama, hello.
CALLER: Hello. Yes. I would like to know what news story touched both of your lives the most.
LEHRER: Touched. In my case, the Kennedy assassination. I was...
KING: You were there.
LEHRER: I was there. I was a newspaper reporter for "The Dallas Times-Herald." And it was -- it was...
KING: Were you in the group?
LEHRER: I was -- I covered his arrival at Love Field, and then stayed there. I was supposed to stay there until he came back. He was only going to be in Dallas for...
KING: A couple of hours.
LEHRER: Couple of hours. And I then spent the rest -- I mean, I spent the rest of the day, the rest of the night, and the next six months of my life covering that story. And it -- it touched me in ways that even today every once in a while I think of things that -- that -- that was the first monumental event that as a kid reporter I ever touched.
BROKAW: I was living in Omaha at the time, and I was not in Dallas obviously. But I -- I remember...
KING: Local station?
BROKAW: I was working at a local station. I remember driving out to SAC headquarters trying to find out what was going on out there. We didn't know what was happening. And I had probably the same reaction that you did: I thought our world is never going to be same again. This does not happen in the land of innocence, because we'd grown up with the '50s and so on.
For me, it would be hard to remove the year 1968 from the equation. The death of Bobby Kennedy and Dr. King, the Chicago riots, and all the civil rights activity, and the strong feelings about the war. I remember just being in total turmoil during that entire year emotionally. And I was trying so hard as a 28-year-old reporter to be detached from it.
But it was impossible, because I felt this land that I cared about and the people that I cared about were in such pain, many of them, and were going through life-changing experiences. And I'll never forget it.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Brokaw and Lehrer, and we'll show you -- talk about the books again, too.
Father's Day is coming Sunday. Don't go away.
KING: Get in one more quick call.
Grand Rapids, Michigan. Hello.
CALLER: Hi. I wonder if the guests could speak to the fact that I'm wondering if they think that perhaps the war and the men being away could have contributed to the breakdown of the family unit. Whereas the women were home working in the factories, getting a taste of independence, wanting to keep their jobs when the men came back, learning a new role as head of the household, et cetera. Could that have been a contributing factor in the breakdown?
LEHRER: It's a very interesting (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
LEHRER: I never heard that before. It makes sense. It makes -- as she said it just now, it makes logical sense.
BROKAW: Well, I think what happened... KING: Women were not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the first time.
BROKAW: It was certainly not a -- it was not a perfect generation. I think that those families remain, by and large, intact, but there were real strains, obviously, because women -- that was the beginning of the women's liberation movement.
LEHRER: You bet.
BROKAW: Betty Friedan grew out of that generation. But what really broke down the family was the cultural upheaval that came out of the '60s. And a lot of that was a reaction of young people to the more stern values and disciplines of their war-hardened fathers and mothers who had gone through the Depression. So it's a combination of all those things, probably.
It wasn't a perfect generation. I keep saying that. You know, they let racism go on. There was too much gender discrimination, too narrowly cast in some ways. But when you look at the whole arc of their lives, it's pretty remarkable.
KING: Are you surprised that, thus far, start-off success of "The Special Prisoner"?
LEHRER: Yes. I'm delighted, and it's doing very well. And I thought it might be a little tough for some people to read.
LEHRER: Well, because it does say exactly what happened in these prison camps. But it is -- I'm just -- I'm delighted and very heartened by it all. Very happy.
KING: Do you still pinch yourself over all this?
BROKAW: I do. I can't get over it. And I -- I say this in the presence of my friend here, but anchormen do not fake humility very well, any of us.
LEHRER: That's right. We cannot be falsely modest and an anchorperson.
BROKAW: Right. What I've said is, Larry -- and I mean this with all sincerity -- that what I did was open a door. And I was a doorman, and I just said to the country: this way, please. And it's a tribute to the country, as well as to the members of that generation, that there has been this response.
Schools have adopted the books as projects, going out to find parents and grandparents in their communities to write about their experiences. And in an unspoken way, I suppose that's what I had in mind, that I would -- wanted to create a dialogue about a time in America that we could learn from each other.
KING: It's interesting the impact is such that it's very well that more people may some day say, Brokaw, World War II. BROKAW: Yes, I think that that's...
KING: And Brokaw, NBC.
BROKAW: And I think that that may, in fact, be the case. And I -- it's the proudest thing I've ever done professionally.
KING: Is "The Special Prisoner" going to be published in Japan?
LEHRER: Well, I don't know. There was story today in the "Asahi Shimbun," which is the biggest newspaper in Japan, about the book. A Washington correspondent interviewed me about it. And he thought that it was going to cause some rumbles in Japan. We'll see. I'm...
KING: Will it be controversial?
LEHRER: Well, yes -- he says it will be. He said particularly among Japanese intellectuals. And he thinks that -- he didn't see it as anti-Japanese in any way whatsoever, because the whole point, the thing that's heartened me so much about the reaction I've gotten from this book -- both from people who are Japanese, Japanese-Americans, as well as Americans -- is that it does really go to this issue of brutality is a mutual thing. And you cannot fight a war -- you may fight it for a good cause; the other guy's got a good cause, too. And you may not agree with that cause, but you're both committing acts of brutality.
KING: You agree with that?
BROKAW: Oh, I do. And the lingering moral dilemma that Jim articulates so well in this book, it really is a -- it's a chilling and at the same time an exciting read. And the end of it, the denouement will linger with you for a long, long time. "The Special Prisoner" is a special book, really.
KING: Thank you both very much. It's been a great hour.
BROKAW: Thank you very much.
LEHRER: Thank you.
KING: Our guests have been Tom Brokaw, his two books "The Greatest Generation" and "The Greatest Generation Speaks" both on the bestseller list, both still there.
And Jim Lehrer about to appear, I'm sure, because the book has gotten enormous early attention. Jim Lehrer's book is "The Special Prisoner."
Big conflict in the Southern Baptist Church: Should women be ordained to be minister? We'll debate that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ministers tomorrow night.
And then a fellow these guys know: Peter Jennings will be here on Thursday. He's investigating the life of Christ.
Stay tuned for CNN NEWSSTAND.
We'll miss you, Judd Rose. Good night.
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