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Larry King Live Weekend
Nancy Sinatra Reminisces; Alan Dershowitz Talks About Justice; Hamilton Jordan Discusses Cancer; Lou Cannon Puts Reagan in PerspectiveAired June 17, 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, Nancy Sinatra -- she's moving with a very special DVD -- attorney and best-selling author Alan Dershowitz, his latest book, "The Genesis of Justice"; former White House Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan, three-time cancer survivor, says "There's No Such Thing As A Bad Day"; plus, veteran journalist Lou Cannon on President Ronald Reagan and "The Role of a Lifetime."
They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. Four great guests tonight.
Let's begin with our favorite, Nancy Sinatra, with a DVD called "Movin' with Nancy," which originally aired in 1967.
Give me the genesis of this? How did this all happen?
NANCY SINATRA, "MOVIN' WITH NANCY": RC Cola, they called and said, would you do TV show for us? I said sure, what time? Where? and they said you do what you want, spend all the money we give you, if you want to, whatever.
KING: This was 33 years ago?
SINATRA: Carte blanche, yes.
KING: And this was a big hit special, isn't that right?
SINATRA: It was.
KING: NBC went through the roof with this, right?
SINATRA: Yes. The second time was higher than the first run. Apparently, the word of mouth was good on it.
KING: Everything was on this. You were dancing. You were singing. You were jumping. You had guests, like your father.
SINATRA: Daddy, Dean, Sammy, all for nothing, didn't charge me a cent.
KING: How did you do that?
SINATRA: I couldn't have afforded them anyway.
KING: How did you manage to get them?
SINATRA: I made a couple phone calls.
KING: What is the DVD process? What have they done now?
SINATRA: Well, the restoration is difficult, because it's going from old film -- we did it on 16 millimeter file, believe it or not.
KING: No tape.
SINATRA: No tape. No, it was done documentary style, which was my vision, and I wanted -- I really was very specific about that, got Jack Haley, who agreed to do it, and he was then doing I think something about Hollywood and the stars, a series, remember? Joseph Cotton, I think was the host. And he said, sure, I'll do it, and he won an Emmy for it, so it worked out for him, too.
KING: Now the DVD process puts it on so that it looks like it's brand new, right? I mean, there's no...
SINATRA: It's better. It's better than new, Larry, really, pause the film just doesn't look as good as the digital version of this show.
KING: Now there were some controversy in this show. You kissed Sammy Davis in this show, right?
SINATRA: I kissed Sammy, and...
KING: Whites didn't kiss blacks on television in the '60s.
SINATRA: No way. No, absolutely. Isn't that pathetic? And those were the days when my dad was still trying to get the casinos to agree to let people sleep there who were working there of a certain color.
SINATRA: Can you imagine that, in the '60s still?
KING: A lot of nostalgia, though, on this show.
SINATRA: It's a lot of fun, it is. It's fun. It's fun, and it was sort of the precursor to music videos.
KING: That's right. They were doing it then, and you were the forerunner?
SINATRA: Well, kind of. They didn't exist then. I think the Monkees on their TV special -- on their TV series, I think they did a process that would, if you took the songs out, they would look like music videos.
KING: The music -- to those in the audience 30 or less who didn't know what the music of -- the '60s were evolving, right? I mean, for your father and to the Beatles, Presley, and the late '60s you had hits. How would you describe the music of the '60s?
SINATRA: Eclectic, fun, and just so diverse. I mean, think about it, you had Frank Sinatra, like you said, and Elvis, and you had the Stones and still Patty Page, people like that. It was really quite -- and Brazil 66, and Herb Alpert.
KING: Herb Alpert. Tony Bennett had "San Francisco" in the '60s.
SINATRA: Yes, fabulous decade, something for everybody.
KING: So, like, anything goes?
SINATRA: Kind of.
KING: Anything went in it. It was a turbulent era, represented probably are the times with assassinations, and political upheaval and all that going on.
What was life like for you then?
SINATRA: In the '60s, it was great. I was single, I was having a ball, I was going to night clubs, and dating, and you know, carrying on like crazy. It was my one time to howl a little. And professionally, it was superb.
KING: Great for you. Had to be a threat for guys dating you, right?
SINATRA: Do you think so?
KING: You don't think so? You came with a strong father and a pretty strong father's friends. I mean, you know, there had to be some intimidation. You never felt that?
SINATRA: I don't know. I think by the time I was in my mid 20s, I don't think it was a problem. But growing up in the '50s was great, you know. I wasn't afraid of anything. I think until I saw Khrushchev with his shoe on the desk at the U.N. Remember that?
KING: Yes. Did you want to be a singer?
SINATRA: Not really.
KING: I mean, you grew up in a house with a singer.
SINATRA: I studied music all my life, classical music, and I wrote five-part harmonies for my sons at school, and we won contests and things, but I really wanted to have a family, and my first marriage ended after three and a half years. So I kind of had no choice but to do what I knew how to do, which was music.
KING: And that was to a singer. You were married to Tommy Sands, right? SINATRA: Yes, but we got married too young. It just didn't work. You know, we were silly. In those days, you couldn't live together. Although I heard about a thing in New Mexico last night with couples being -- they were arrested or something for cohabitation? Did you hear about that?
KING: No, you're kidding.
KING: Now on this special, a lot of funny things happen. By the way, you were also included with "Some Velvet Morning," "Up, Up and Away," "Friday's Child," "Jackson," Who Will Buy?" Sammy Davis Jr. appears as David the photographer. Dean Martin is your fairy God uncle.
KING: Today they would take that completely different.
frank is a security guard, and he also plays himself. It also includes the RC Cola commercials, which had to be funny to look at.
SINATRA: Right, and that's why we wanted to air it on AMC, because they would agree to air the commercials. A lot of the other channels, the network, would not. You know, they said the commercials have to come out. Well, that's part of the fun of it, is the original commercials. Dino, Desi and Billy do one in there.
KING: One critic calls it a mix of the Rat Pack glitz, flower power and mainstream pop. Is that fair?
SINATRA: Wow. Yes.
KING: Probably right.
SINATRA: Yes, pretty good.
KING: Why didn't you make more of a career? You had a major hit record. You danced. I mean, you went through the roof. You obviously had a great name. Why do you think? Was parenthood more interesting?
SINATRA: I had a pretty good career, more than what you think I had, you know, because I did have 21 chart records, which is pretty good.
KING: You're kidding.
SINATRA: No. It's pretty good. They weren't way up on the charts, but they made the charts, and -- but oldies radio has sort of reduced my career to two songs, you know.
KING: "Something Stupid." SINATRA: "Boots" and "Something Stupid."
KING: Tell me about "Something Stupid." How that came about to record with your father like that?
SINATRA: Well, a guy who used to work with my dad named Sarge Weiss (ph) found the song, he heard the song, and then he played it for my dad, and my dad said fabulous, play it -- get it Nancy, and they attached to the end of the Jobine (ph) sessions.
KING: He did the albums on Jobine?
SINATRA: Yes. So we sneaked in there and did it the end one of those dates.
KING: One of his biggest sellers ever, one of your biggest sellers ever.
Nancy Sinatra, terrific entertainer, terrific lady. Her DVD, "Movin' with Nancy," originally aired in 1967, out now.
We'll be back with more. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK SINATRA, MUSICIAN: Ready?
Beautiful, beautiful. If you don't like that, baby you don't like black-eyed peas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MOVIN' WITH NANCY")
SINATRA (singing): Think about things.
DEAN MARTIN, ENTERTAINER (singing): Like a walk in the park.
MARTIN: Like a kiss in the dark.
MARTIN: Like a sailboat ride.
SINATRA: Yes, yes.
MARTIN: What about the night we cried?
MARTIN: Things like a lover's vow, things that we don't do now. Thinking about the things we used to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: When you watch yourself 30 -- and this is also available on video, too, right?
KING: So if you don't have a DVD machine you can still get the video.
KING: When you watch yourself and the outfits you wore, does it look funny to look back?
SINATRA: No, don't you think people are wearing things like that now?
KING: I guess I'm not into that, you know, so I don't know.
SINATRA: Yes, mini skirts and boots. You know, what else?
KING: But you made miniskirts and boots.
SINATRA: Oh, thank you. You're giving me a lot of credit. Well, I think it was Mary Kwantz (ph). But fortunately for me I was over there in England a lot, because I had hit records going there before I had anything here. And I brought the fashion back with me. And I was photographed in them. But it wasn't just me, it was Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, a lot of us were wearing that stuff.
KING: What do you make of the modern music scene?
SINATRA: It scares me. I mean, it's so huge. You know, you put out an album now and it goes platinum the first day.
KING: It's a golden oldie in two weeks.
SINATRA: I know, it's scary.
KING: I mean, it really is. It's an amazing business -- and videos and everything.
SINATRA: Yes. Well, you know, I'd love try to break through that ceiling, but I can't.
KING: You can't?
SINATRA: I mean I'm trying. I've got a new album I'm working on now, so...
KING: Singing what kind of songs?
SINATRA: Kind of danceable. Hopefully I can -- you know, I look at Tina Turner and Cher. I think, if they can do it, maybe I can do it, too. You know, it's worth a shot. Plus, I have a line of vitamins coming out for men and women. I expect you to take them.
KING: I will. I'm a vitamin freak.
KING: Your own brand?
SINATRA: Yes, my doctor and I -- he's a homeopathic person -- and we're excited about it. I can't wait. I'll send you some when I get them.
KING: The adventuresome Nancy keeps on keeping on.
KING: How's life been?
SINATRA: It's been fine. It's been fine, really.
KING: How old are the kids now?
SINATRA: Twenty-three and 25, beautiful, beautiful girls.
KING: They're great kids, beautiful kids. Still in New York.
SINATRA: One in New York -- actually living in Hoboken on the same street where my dad grew up -- believe that one, it's true -- and one in Washington, D.C.
KING: The one in Hoboken was on our show.
SINATRA: Yes, A.J. (ph), she was.
KING: Yes. She lives on the same street?
SINATRA: She lives on the same street where my dad grew up.
KING: Have they renovated that neighborhood?
SINATRA: It's gorgeous.
SINATRA: Hoboken is gorgeous.
KING: Hoboken is in?
SINATRA: Yes, it's absolutely in. You've to go and see it. And it's the best view of Manhattan that exists.
KING: Oh, the best. When we were kids, you never had a desire to go Hoboken. In fact, Frank couldn't wait to get out of Hoboken.
SINATRA: I know.
KING: Now it's, like, in. SINATRA: It's very in and very pretty, and I feel very safe and secure that my daughter is there. And my other kid, of course, in Washington -- with the Democrats in office, I'm fine with that. If that changes, I don't know.
KING: Did you argue with your father politically?
SINATRA: Oh, yes, of course.
KING: Because he was a big Democrat when you were growing.
SINATRA: He was still a registered Democrat, even when he was supporting Reagan and Nixon.
KING: Which had to bother the Sinatra clan.
SINATRA: But he loved President Clinton.
KING: He did like President Clinton?
SINATRA: Yes, yes.
KING: And your mother -- or you grandmother was the No. 1 Democratic of all time, right?
SINATRA: Grandma Dolly, absolutely.
KING: She ran a Democratic machine in New Jersey.
SINATRA: She did. She was tough. But she was like a ward healer or something. You know, one of those people that sits in the window and waits for people to come and complain.
KING: Yes, but they take care of things.
KING: The DVD is out. It's called "Moving With Nancy," which was the name of the...
SINATRA: Of the special.
KING: ... special. It first aired in 1967 on NBC. Even the original RCA -- the RC Cola commercials are included -- they invented diet cola.
SINATRA: They did?
KING: They did.
SINATRA: And it's still out there.
KING: RC Cola was the first one to make a diet cola.
SINATRA: They still sell it. And the NBC logo, the original, is on there, too. KING: The Peacock.
SINATRA: The peacock, and the letters at the end.
KING: NBC -- thanks, Nancy. Always great seeing you.
SINATRA: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Get this. You'll love every minute of it. The DVD is "Moving With Nancy."
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SINATRA (singing): I've got to get out of this town and go someplace. I've got to get out of this town and forget your face. There ain't nothing I want from nobody like you. I got some places I itch. I've got some scratching to do. I've got to get out of this town.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Still to come, Hamilton Jordan and Lou Cannon.
We now welcome Alan Dershowitz, the famed attorney, Harvard law professor joins us from Boston. His new book is "The Genesis of Justice." It deals with 10 stories of biblical injustice that led to the Ten Commandments and modern law.
How in the world did you come up with this idea?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, AUTHOR, "THE GENESIS OF JUSTICE": Well, Larry, you know, I went to yeshiva. I was a Jewish rabbinical student for 12 years, and studied the Bible all the time. I love the Bible. I use it in class, I use it in the courtroom, I use it with my clients, and I decided the time had come to write a book about the influence that the Bible has on our not only legal system but our sense of morality. And I picked the one book of the Bible that doesn't have any laws in it: the Book of Genesis, which comes before the law and is the predicate for everything legal and moral in our world today.
KING: Did, therefore, Genesis being God, he gave us the law?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, he gives us the law in stages. First he commands, and says, you know, if you eat from the Tree of Knowledge, you will die -- surely die. And Adam doesn't die. He threatens, he doesn't carry out his threats.
He's soft on Cain, Cain murders Abel, and God basically puts him in the witness protection program. He says, anybody touches my man Cain, sevenfold will be his punishment.
Then, like any good liberal who's soft on crime, he overreacts and he floods the whole world. And then he promises he won't do it again. It's a remarkable portrayal of God as somebody who isn't perfect, somebody who is learning about justice as he achieves justice by trial and error. He finally gets it right in the Book of Exodus when he comes down with the Ten Commandments, but the Book of Genesis is all about kind of the common law development of biblical rules.
KING: My friend Herbie Cohen (ph) says everything is negotiable except the Ten Commandments. That's a fait accompli. Would you agree?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, you know, even there it's negotiable. The first version of the Ten Commandments had adultery applying only to married women. That got changed by Christianity. But the original Ten Commandments only defines adultery to include married women. We learn that we can't have such unequal laws and we changed. So even that was a little bit negotiable.
KING: All right, how difficult is it for us to apply this, Alan, since we know the word "God" does not appear in the Constitution?
DERSHOWITZ: And it shouldn't appear in the Constitution, because everybody's definition of God is different. We live in the most heterogeneous, multi-religious, multi-cultural country in the history of the world. It's an experiment in diversity, and we can't have one group's rules in our public school.
There's a guy now running for chief justice of Alabama, running because -- on the platform that he's willing to violate the law and keep the Ten Commandments in our schools. You know, it's ironic to me that Christians want to keep the Ten Commandments in our schools, because Christianity has abrogated four of the Ten Commandments. For example, the Sabbath day according to the Ten Commandments is Saturday, not Sunday. And the reason is because God rested, not because Jesus was resurrected.
DERSHOWITZ: ... do not make a graven image -- look at the Sistine Chapel. It's the most beautiful graven image you've ever seen. There are two references to slave in the 10 commandments. So you know, nobody really wants the Ten Commandments on the schools; they want the 10 bumper stickers, just the little statements that don't create controversy.
KING: According to you, Alan, the Bible -- I want to get this right -- uses stories of injustice to teach about the need for justice. Explain.
DERSHOWITZ: Well you know, all law is about injustice. You know, you learn how to do justice by looking at examples of injustice -- Cain killing his brother Abel, Jacob cheating his father and his brother about his birthright and then being cheated. The book of Genesis is all about injustice. And from what we learn from the way in which God responds to the injustices of Genesis, we learn about justice. We build a common law of justice from the stories of injustice.
KING: You also write, brilliantly I might add, about how the characters are flawed, all the main characters of the Old Testament, major flaws.
DERSHOWITZ: It's amazing, because you compare it to the New Testament or the Koran. If you're a Christian parent, you can give your child the New Testament and say, follow the example of this great man Jesus, you'll be a perfect person. Follow Muhammad, you'll be a perfect person. No parent would ever give their child the Old Testament and say, follow, Jacob. He cheats. Follow Abraham. He tries to kill his son. You know, all these people are flawed characters who try to overcome their flaws and become better for it.
But the most remarkable aspect is that God is not perfect yet in the book of Genesis. He creates the world and he steps back, like an artist saying, not bad. He regrets creating human beings. He promises he won't do it again with the flood.
KING: You're a believing Jew.
DERSHOWITZ: I'm a believing Jew, but I'm a skeptical Jew. I've always been a doubting Jew. I used to ask questions in class that got me thrown out of school all the time, and I continue to ask those questions. I think to be a believer you have to engage believe. You can't accept it as static. You know, believers shouldn't believe that the world is a bunch of flies stuck in a piece of, you know, wax. Everything changes, everything moves around, and the Bible should be challenged.
Ever Jerry Fallwell, who I disagree with about most things, loved this book. He calling it "heresy at its best." I think he intended that as a complement. I hope so.
KING: Are you agnostic?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, you know, I change. When I go to synagogue, I'm agnostic. When I sit on the beach and look at the stars, I'm a deep believer. So, you know, it depends.
KING: We'll be right back with more of Alan Dershowitz, the famed attorney, Harvard law professor. His new book, "The Genesis of Justice." We're going to ask him, in addition to all of that, about lie detectors, after this.
KING: We are back with Alan Dershowitz. His book is "The Genesis of Justice."
Earlier this week, F. Lee Bailey was on. This coming Monday night, Johnnie Cochran and Chris Darden will be on together, Alan.
And much in the news is the lie detector test, and the Ramseys took one. We had a detective on with them who didn't believe it. Now O.J. was supposed to have taken one. They stopped it in the middle. What's your belief about lie detectors tests?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, I use lie detector tests in a very different way. I threaten my clients with them. And on the way down to the lie detector, they often tell the truth. The test itself can I think be fooled both ways. It makes mistakes both ways. It has some utility, but it wouldn't ever substitute for trial by jury. You know, in the book of Genesis, God uses the lie detector, too. He comes down to Cain and says, where is your brother? You know, and Cain says, am I my brother's keeper? You know, kind of answering the question evasively, which is the best proof of his guilt. So it has limited utility.
KING: You would never permit it in court.
DERSHOWITZ: Oh, no. Under no circumstances would I permit it in court.
DERSHOWITZ: No. It's junk science, for the most part, although it has some utility in helping to prepare a case. But it's too easily fooled, I think.
KING: Can you stretch DNA to the Bible?
DERSHOWITZ: There's a lot of blood, I'll tell you that, in the Bible. If God had DNA, he would be -- there's a wonderful story in the Bible. They find a body halfway between two towns, and the question is, which town is responsible for the killing? If they had DNA, they would have known.
KING: Is God, the God of the Old Testament, would he be considered a tough judge?
DERSHOWITZ: Oh, he's a very tough, but he's also an erratic judge. You know, he threatens Cain and Abel -- I'm sorry, he threatens Adam and Eve, on the day that you eat, you will die. And he let's Cain live 970 years. And he's very erratic, because he's learning. This is the beginning. He finds it easier to create a physical universe than to create a world with justice, and that's why we create the hereafter, because there so much injustice on this world that we desperately need to believe that there's a world to come in which all the wrongs will be righted.
But the great virtue of the Bible is it's the first book in history ever to use narrative to explain the law. You know, other law books just say thou shalt not, or do this or do that, but here we have stories, and you learn from the stories, and the stories help explain why we have the laws, and I can trace each of the Ten Commandments to one of the stories in Genesis.
KING: And the writers, whether inspired or whatever you believe, certainly knew about man's frailties?
DERSHOWITZ: They knew about human nature. They knew about the frailties of man. They knew about injustice. They didn't expect too much. They didn't expect perfection. What they were striving for was a sense of justice. Later in Deuteronomy, God says "Justice, justice, shalt thou pursue," actively pursue. It'll never be achieved. We'll never Have justice. All we can do is strive to have a process that maximizes justice.
KING: By the way, isn't it true that the word is not definable.
DERSHOWITZ: Justice? I don't think you can define justice. Many people confuse the means and the ends. Justice is an end. We like to see the guilty convicted and the innocent acquitted, but it's also a process. "Better 10 guilty go free than one innocent be wrongly convicted" comes from the book of Genesis."
It's Abraham's argument with God about the sinners of Sodom, when he says, what if I can find 50 righteous people? How dare you destroy the whole city of Sodom. And God agrees with him and changes his mind. Ultimately, he doesn't find even 10 righteous people, so God does destroy the city, but if he had found those righteous people, he would have saved them.
And the governor of Illinois understood that when he put a moratorium on the death penalty after finding 13 people on death row. He said I'm not just going to save the 13, I'm going to listen to the Bible, and the Bible says if there as many as 10 innocent people, I better step back and reassess the process.
KING: Do you have a Bible hero? We used to read books, "Heroes of the Bible." Do you have one in the Old Testament that jumps out of you?
DERSHOWITZ: Sure. Abraham -- Abraham defines for me the word chutzpah, which I wrote another book about it, because he argues with God, and the first time chutzpah appears in history, it's in describing Abraham's argument with God. He's the first defense attorney, and he loses his first case, but losing to God is no shame.
KING: But he was willing to sacrifice his son.
DERSHOWITZ: Well, yes, and that really shows him to be a very flawed character, and God doesn't know whether he's going to sacrifice him or not, because the Bible says, after he expresses a willingness to do it, now God knows that you are a man who fears God. So God was waiting and trembling with bated breath to see how Abraham would could on this test. God tests people a lot. He tests Abraham. He tests Job. He tests Jacob. You know, he's a very, very tough God, and very demanding of human beings.
KING: Thanks so much, Alan. Always great seeing you.
DERSHOWITZ: My pleasure, Larry.
KING: Alan Dershowitz, the new book "The Genesis of Justice."
Next, a man who has written one heck of a book. Hamilton Jordan, "No Such Thing as a Bad Day." Don't go away.
KING: A terrific new book is deservedly climbing the best-seller lists. It's called "No Such Thing as a Bad Day." It's author is Hamilton Jordan. You know him as the former Carter White House chief of staff. And while there's a lot of politics in this book, there's a lot more about the subject of cancer. He's a three-time cancer survivor.
Why did you write it, Hamilton?
HAMILTON JORDAN, AUTHOR, "NO SUCH THING AS A BAD DAY": Well, I wanted to tell my sorry, Larry, hope that I would write something that maybe could help other people, both who had cancer and who might have cancer some day. You know, 40 percent of the people in this country will have cancer in their lifetime, so we're having an epidemic of this disease.
KING: How did you find that title?
JORDAN: I'd been talking to a young fellow on the phone for a couple of years who had a brain tumor. And I called him one day and I said, are you having a good day? And he said, well, I've got about two more months to live, my wife is in her 30s, I've got kids 3 and 6. He said, am I having a good day? He said, there's no such thing as a bad day. And he was the inspiration for my title.
KING: You've had three cancers, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, melanoma, prostate, which came first?
JORDAN: I had the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma first, then the skin cancer, then the prostate cancer.
KING: What was it like the first time you heard you had it?
JORDAN: Well it was never good. All three times it was pretty bad. The fires time it was probably devastating because -- most devastating because I had a 6-month-old son and a young wife. And I wondered if I would live to see my son reach his first birthday.
KING: Were you confident?
JORDAN: I was scared, but I ultimately realized that I should put all my resources and mental and emotional issues -- energies into getting treatment and getting cured. And I ultimately was confident, but I certainly didn't start off confident.
KING: You became "dogged" would be a good word, wouldn't it?
JORDAN: Dogged in what sense?
KING: Out to like this.
JORDAN: Yes, yes, I mean, I didn't spend all my time feeling sorry for myself or in denial or why me. I thought instead, I've got to spend every ounce of energy trying to live for my family and licking this disease.
KING: Why not why me after you got hit with it three times?
JORDAN: Well, it's not productive. I mean, there are two ways to look at it. I know a lot of people that had one cancer that are not alive today. I've had three. So my glass is much more than half full.
KING: What did it with the lymphoma?
JORDAN: Well, I was in Vietnam, and I was exposed to Agent Orange. And there's a high relationship between people that were exposed to Agent Orange and the kind of lymphoma that I had. The prostate cancer was genetic in my family. My father had prostate cancer, my -- three of my four uncles had prostate cancer. And so I had been watching my prostate for, you know, for 10 or 15 years -- not literally, Larry. That would be a circus act. But I've been very mindful about the possibility of prostate cancer and had had regular checkups.
And again, I caught it early. And that's one of the messages. I've had three different cancers, and I'm alive today because I had annual physicals and caught each of them at an early stage.
KING: And are all of them gone?
JORDAN: Jeez, you never know. I have some kind of check up every three to six months. And, boy, I sure hope so. But if it ever comes back, I'll let you know. I'm not planning on it.
KING: The decision as to how to treat the prostate, the mayor of New York is going through this, a lot of American males are going through it. What did you do and how did you make that decision?
JORDAN: Well, I was fortunate by due to the fact that I caught it early it was confined in my prostate. I had the surgery. There's a debate about what you should do. One of reasons that we're hearing about so many people -- Norman Schwarzkopf, Joe Torre, Rudy Giuliani -- having prostate cancer is because this test, this PSA test, detects this disease at a very early and curable stage.
So for all you men out there and the women that love them, you get -- start going to the doctor after 40 and getting this PSA test and a fun little thing called a digital rectal exam that we won't talk about on your program. But you do those two things and you catch the disease early, and you'll be -- you could be cured as I was.
KING: Now things you point out in this terrific book: seek and know the truth about your illness, get a second opinion, maybe a third or fourth -- why?
JORDAN: Well, it's just given the nature of health care today and managed care and the economics, you just need to get the best treatment you can. And if your doctor tells you you have a rare disease that he or she has never seen, if you've got an incurable cancer, boy, don't accept that. You know, go and get a second opinion. You know, it's funny. We know more about our computers and our cars than we do about our bodies. We would never go out and marry the first person we dated or buy the first car we drove, but, you know, why do that with our health? You know, you need to take charge of your own medical affairs in partnership with a doctor, in partnership with a good doctor.
KING: Hamilton Jordan's wife is a pediatric oncology nurse. They've started a non-profit camp for kids with cancer. He was a former chief of staff. And we've got more to talk about with the author of "No Such Thing as a Bad Day."
We'll be right back after this.
KING: In this terrific book, which includes a lot of political insight -- it's sort of a memoir, isn't it, Hamilton?
JORDAN: It is a memoir.
KING: All right. You say -- staying with cancer -- understand the economics of cancer care. Why?
JORDAN: Well, you know, you've heard this story. A lot of doctors want to do tests or screening tests or things that are not approved by your insurance company, your HMO. And you have to be realistic. And you have to -- you have to ask tough questions of your doctor. You want to have that extra test if he or she wants to give it to you, even if you have to pay for it out of your pocket.
KING: And the doctor, you have to find one you trust, right? That's important.
JORDAN: Yes, you've got -- if your doctor doesn't believe that he or she can cure you, why should you? You've got to find somebody you can believe in. That's an important part of the equation.
KING: And how about your own attitude? What part does that play?
JORDAN: Well, you know, we don't -- just because we can't quantify and understand the importance of attitude, it doesn't mean that it's not powerful. And in my experience, I have seen attitude time and again lead to people beating the odds and being cured of cancer and other diseases.
KING: Tell me about the camp.
JORDAN: Well actually we started our camp, Camp Sunshine, for children with cancer almost 20 years ago. We started it, ironically, before I had my first cancer. And it's now one of the largest and most successful programs. And it's a non-profit camp available to kids, and we serve about 500 children a year.
KING: You started because of your wife?
JORDAN: That's correct. My wife started it. But it ended up I learned from those kids. And because of our camp was one of the reasons I was able to deal with my own cancers that came later.
KING: Boy, pediatric oncology has got to be the hardest.
JORDAN: That's a tough business. That's a tough business. And when we started Camp Sunshine, we would lose over time about a third of our kids. And today, we're -- we only lose about 15 percent. And losing one is too many, but it's a tough thing to take care of these children with cancer.
KING: Hamilton, having had three, does that make you prone for a fourth? Do doctors say you're -- I mean, no, are you cancer ridden?
JORDAN: Yes, I suspect I have some kind of genetic predisposition to cancer, and so, I mean, it would not surprise me if I had a fourth. But I'm hoping that will not happen.
KING: You write brilliantly how politics is so personal today. On a couple other political notes, how personal is Bush-Gore going to get?
JORDAN: I think it's going to be a tough campaign and I think it's going to be a close campaign. And Vice President Gore is not connected very well yet with the American people. That's his challenge.
Governor Bush came out of the primaries with the question, is this guy kind of up to the job? And how both those candidates deal with those questions will probably determine which one of them is elected president.
I think it will be a tight, hard-fought and probably highly personal contest.
KING: You are -- you have been quite critical of President Clinton. There are going to be aspects of him people will miss, though, will there not?
JORDAN: Well, it depends.
KING: I mean, the personality, certainly.
JORDAN: I've never been a Clinton fan. He's had some accomplishments and he's very skilled at politics, but, you know, he's had some successes and a very good economy. And the question is how much or how little of that does he deserve credit for. But if you look at the objective facts, Vice President Gore should be in pretty good shape today, but he finds himself trapped in a tough contest with Bush.
KING: As you reflect back on President Carter, who you served so well and for quite some time, started back when he just started out really, you're so close to him... JORDAN: Right.
KING: ... what do you think history's going to say?
JORDAN: Well, I -- you know, I don't know. I'm so terribly biased. But I write in my book, not everything he did as president was successful and not everything he does today is successful, but he and Roslyn Carter wake up every morning and try to do something in this world to make life a little better for some needy or underprivileged person. And I suspect that will be their great legacy is caring people.
KING: One other thing, Hamilton, do you suspect, do you hope, do you think we'll ever cure cancer?
JORDAN: Larry, we've got to. In 10 years, 50 percent of the people in this country will be projected to have cancer in their lifetime. We spend one-tenth of one penny out of every federal tax dollar for cancer research. So I sure hope so. There are very promising things on the horizon.
KING: We ought to go to war against it.
JORDAN: That's what Norman Schwarzkopf said, and that's what I think we need to do.
KING: Thank you, Hamilton -- great book.
JORDAN: Thank you, Larry. Kind to have me on.
KING: Hamilton Jordan, the former White House chief of staff and author of "No Such Thing as a Bad Day." Nobody knows Ronald Reagan better than our next guest, Lou Cannon, and his original book, "President Reagan" The Role of a Lifetime" has been updated and republished, and we'll talk with him right after this.
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE, and our special and final guest of the night is Lou Cannon, and his new book -- well actually it's not a -- yes, it is a new book -- "President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime" originally published in 1991. It's been updated.
Why, Lou? Why bring it back?
LOU CANNON, AUTHOR, "PRESIDENT REAGAN: THE ROLE OF A LIFETIME": Because a lot of things have happened. One thing is that when Ronald Reagan left office, the Berlin Wall still stood and the Soviet Union was still there and there's a legacy that I wanted to examine. Another thing is that the Iran-Contra report finally came in. Bill Clinton was in the White House when it did. And the other thing, as you know, and it's a sad fact, is that Ronald Reagan has been consumed by this mind-destroying disease of Alzheimer's.
KING: You've covered him for more than 25 years. It began when you were a journalist in California, right? CANNON: Yes, sir, 1965, when he was an undeclared candidate for governor of California.
KING: Were you one of the skeptics then?
CANNON: I wasn't a skeptic. I was I intrigued by him. I came -- I didn't know what to make of it, of course, but I went to cover him. And at that time, as you remember, the Democrats really wanted to run against him. They thought -- Pat Browne thought, boy, if we can get Ronald Reagan nominated by the Republicans, I've got a chance for a third time.
And I went to this speech he gave, and I noticed that the reporters liked him and treated him as a celebrity, and everybody seemed to like him. And I went back and told my editor, I don't know why anybody wants to run against somebody who everybody knows and everybody likes.
KING: The title, "The Role of a Lifetime," intended as kind of an entendre, referring to being an actor? Some people thought it a put down.
CANNON: It wasn't intended as a put down. And while I cannot tell you with any knowledge what Ronald Reagan thought of the book, I know he kind of liked the title, because he thought that being an actor was a big deal. he had spent his life as an actor, playing, as Gary Wills once put it, the heart-warming role of himself. He had respect for his profession, and I think -- and he saw the presidency as a stage where he could lead the American people. It was his biggest role, and it wasn't meant to puff him up or put him down.
KING: Fair to say, Lou -- and I interviewed you when the book came out a long time ago about Reagan and the '80s on my radio show. I remember visits with Lou Cannon -- would it be safe to say that he fascinated you?
CANNON: Yes, and he still does. I mean, when I got my contract for my second book, I said to him, I'm going to keep writing about you until I get it right. Good line, he said. Of course he never did say whether or not I got it right.
KING: Why "Dutch" -- in the book "Dutch." the Edwin Morris book, he said -- Edwin Morris said he couldn't find him. Did you understand that?
CANNON: Well, I think Mr. Morris had a lot of problems. He got depressed, as he said, as he told a group of historians, while writing the book. I think I found him, but I think that it's wrong to expect of any leader that they're going to just spill their guts to you in a structured interview. You have to know people over a period of time.
Ronald Reagan had a great reserve to him. He was a man who kept himself to himself. You've known other leaders like that. De Gaulle is a good example. And I don't think the fact that Ronald Reagan was reserved means that he was one of the mysteries of the ages.
KING: In your terrific book -- and I remember reading it -- how much of it now updates? How many new things in this new one?
CANNON: Well there's a new ending about the legacy, there's new material on Iran-Contra, there's a new thing on Alzheimer's, and there's also a discussion of his legacy, which as you remember, Larry, at the time you interviewed me, the people had a high opinion of Ronald Reagan. But among the academic historians, he was very, very, very low rated. And one of the things that's interesting is to see his reputation rise among them,
MacGregor Burns, whom I have the highest respect for, said that Reagan will be remembered as a great or near-great president. You weren't hearing that 10 years ago. It's sort of reminiscent of what happened to Harry Truman.
KING: What changed?
CANNON: Well, I think the biggest thing that changed is that Ronald Reagan's policy of having a military build-up in order to get the Soviets to the bargaining table worked. It may have even worked better than he thought it would have worked, because when I asked him after the Berlin Wall came down and after the Soviet Union was no longer in existence, I asked him about, did you think this would happen? And he said, someday. I don't know that he thought it would happen so fast.
But I think it's clearly -- when I finished if book in '91, I was very hard on Reagan on the deficits, and I don't think the deficits are wonderful. But if you look at them as wartime deficits -- we ran huge deficits during World War II -- I don't think that they're -- I think that we now have a balanced budget because we were able to reduce defense spending because the Soviet Union is no longer around.
KING: Lou Cannon is our guest. Back with some more moments. The book is "President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime," terrific book, back out again with editions.
Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Lou Cannon. The book, "President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime."
You called him an odd combination of passion and detachment. Explain.
CANNON: Well, on matters that he cared about, like releasing the hostages, which -- where he approved the sale of arms to Iran, like cutting taxes, like dealing with the soviet union, Reagan could become deeply engaged and really focused on what he wanted to do.
On matters that he -- that weren't on his central agenda, like he once called the secretary of housing and development, Mr. Mayor, you remember that, and people laughed at that. I thought it was very appropriate, because Ronald Reagan never visited HUD during the entire eight years he was president. On matters which he was focused, he could be passionate and totally engaged; and on matters he didn't care about, he left to staff members or to cabinet officials.
KING: And did the latter way outweigh the former?
CANNON: I think that on balance, that Reagan was passionate about the right things. He was certainly disengaged on many, many more things, but the real issue of his day, of our time, was reducing the danger of nuclear war, and I think he did that.
KING: He is going to be, as you said, fondly remembered, but some critics said that they thought your book was a devastating account of his presidency. I read it as balanced. How do you view it?
CANNON: Well, you know, I was sort of bemused by some of the reviews. No author, certainly not this one, ever knocked a favorable review, but it seems to me that the liberal critics of Reagan went in and in their reviews took out the passages that supported their theory that Reagan was the amiable dunce and used that, and that the conservatives did the opposite; they took the phrases that showed that Reagan cared about some things and was successful in obtaining his objectives and used that. I didn't set out to do either thing. I set out to write a book about a president I thought I knew fairly well, and who -- and to get it down, the good and the bad.
KING: We -- of course will not know because of this terrible disease, but what do you think Reagan would think of Clinton?
CANNON: I think that Ronald Reagan -- the thing that Ronald Reagan never would the let me say about him. I criticized him on a lot of things, and he took it in stride, but he always bridled if I called him a politician. But I think Ronald Reagan was a great politician, and I think whether he would say it or not, he would admire Clinton's political skills, because Clinton is a terrific politician. I think that he would find deplorable the fact that Clinton's personal problems wasted so much of the promise of the Clinton presidency.
KING: Why didn't Reagan like being called a politician?
CANNON: Because he was a good enough politician to know that if you are not thought of as a politician, you're going to be popular with the American people.
KING: After covering people like Reagan and Clinton, is Bush- Gore difficult? I mean, they're not equal in personality to either of those two.
CANNON: I think it's problematical for both of them. Clinton is not everybody's favorite cup of tea, and he's a polarizing president, but he is a very, very effective politician, and I don't think that Vice President Gore or Governor Bush, with all due respect to both of them, connect with voters as well as he does. But I to see some of this in Bush. I mean, Bush seems to have some of those connective skills. He doesn't -- Bush is somewhat in the position -- you know, when Reagan was running for president in '80, as you'll remember, he was a governor, and he was widely disparaged because people didn't think he was smart enough.
KING: Yes, you're right.
CANNON: And he proved to be smarter than some of his adversaries thought.
KING: Lou, always great seeing you. Thanks so much, and congratulations on the publication. And you have a great last name.
CANNON: Thanks. Thanks, Larry. You -- do all your viewers know my great last name is also the name of your youngest boy? They should.
KING: If they don't, know. My little boy is Cannon King. Take it as a compliment, Lou.
CANNON: I do.
KING: the book is "President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime."
Thanks to all our guests for joining us. Have a great weekend. Good night.
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