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Larry King Live

Republican National Convention: George P. Bush, Rick Lazio Discuss Convention, Campaign

Aired August 1, 2000 - 8:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Thank you very much, guys. You deserve a little rest. They'll be returning. We got lots of excited things happening tonight, and before we see the video and hear from General Schwarzkopf, let's spend some moments and he'll be with us for a while with George Prescott Bush. Those names live forever. He's the son of Governor Jeb Bush. You're father arrived when?

GEORGE PRESCOTT BUSH, GEORGE W. BUSH NEPHEW: Just a few minutes ago. He was actually traveling around the convention floor saying hi to the different delegations.

KING: Why did you get so involved for your uncle?

GEORGE P. BUSH: Well, at the age of 23, when I was rounding out years of public high school teacher, I looked to all the presidential candidates, Democrat and Republican.

KING: You were open?

GEORGE P. BUSH: I was open, out of college, a free agent, as they say, and I definitely was astounded by uncle's record of accomplishment as it related to his record, and closing the achievement gap on the minority test scores that are proportionately lower across our country. His record in the state of Texas really was impressive. And for me being a relative and also believing in his message, it appealed to me, and I had this opportunity, so I couldn't pass it up.

KING: So you're saying the decision was, as best you could say it, objective?

GEORGE P. BUSH: It was.

KING: Had he been less than you thought, you would not have gotten involved?

GEORGE P. BUSH: Yes. I would be the first person to leave the campaign if I didn't believe in this message.

KING: Now for the youth -- I saw you addressing the youth today, right?

GEORGE P. BUSH: Yes. KING: Are they getting involved in this message? Republicans never had great appeal with people your age.

GEORGE P. BUSH: That's true. But if the statistics or the recent polls are any indication, younger voters now are voting more Republican than ever, especially minority voters. You'd be surprised, especially among Latino, young voters, we're making serious inroads as far as the Republican Party is concerned. I think it's great to actually finally have a person at the top of the ticket who really appeals to younger people, who's talked about issues that face younger Americans, such as economic opportunities, college affordability, Social Security. These are all issues that face us, and he has a comprehensive plan to improve the situation.

KING: Maybe even as important, is he a good uncle?

GEORGE P. BUSH: He's a great uncle.

KING: You can have favorite uncles. Is he one of those guys that we liked it when uncle George came around?

GEORGE P. BUSH: Of course. You know, as owner of the Texas Rangers, I was able to score a few tickets with the Rangers. But in all seriousness, he's a really down to Earth guy, he's always there whenever I needed his counsel as it related to my own life, to my personal life, or to professional advice as well.

KING: Now, you are going to go to law school, right, at Southern Cal?

GEORGE P. BUSH: Yes.

KING: Does this whet your appetite enough so that we're going to see another Bush running for something?

GEORGE P. BUSH: To be honest with you, I really am not sure. I have so much in front of me. Law school can definitely change a person. Maybe one day have a family. You really do have to sacrifice a lot once you enter the arena of politics, but right now, I know one thing that I'm -- want to be a loyal advocate and help my uncle.

KING; Are you embarrassed by this stud appeal, you know? Here he comes, the Ricky Martin of the Republican Party?

GEORGE P. BUSH: I'm somewhat embarrassed. It's flattering, but I really do have a message. I've worked tirelessly on behalf of my uncle, and I really do believe in his message. But I also care about the Latino community and the issues that face our community, and I definitely want to continue to be involved with that.

KING: We're looking now at Governor Christie Todd Whitman of New Jersey. She was with us last Saturday night, with the vice presidential designate to be nominated officially the next couple of night, Dick Cheney, people greeting them. Nancy Reagan is in the house, so is Gerald Ford. We're going to honor the presidents in the next hour. We're going to be hearing from General Schwarzkopf. And at midnight tonight, by the way, we'll have an exclusive interview with President Bush and former President Ford, presidents Bush and Ford will be with us at midnight tonight.

We're talking with George Prescott Bush, the son of Governor Jeb Bush. He's George Bush's nephew, and he was one of "People" magazine's 100 most eligible bachelors. What was that like?

GEORGE P. BUSH: It was a great experience.

KING: Surprising?

GEORGE P. BUSH: It was surprising. It was flattering. I really expected myself to be bumped off the list to 101. It was really an interesting experience. I think it's brought new people into the fold. At a lot of the professional meetings that we've had, the younger Republican meetings, a lot of younger females are definitely into politics more so than before, which is good. I think it brings more young Americans.

KING: Are you enjoying the attention?

GEORGE P. BUSH: Not really, to be honest with you.

KING: You know, mean if you were in the background, that would suit you fine?

GEORGE P. BUSH: Yes, I'm a very low-key kind of guy. Always played a minor role in this campaign from day one. In New Hampshire holding signs in subzero temperatures on behalf of my uncle. You know, really,this is not what I'm searching for, seeking, but if it brings new faces, Latinos, younger Americans into the Republican Party, it's all for the good.

KING; You know your grandfather. When I was with him in San Antonio in 1992, I asked him to show his driver's license. We want to know if he lived in Texas or Connecticut. A Texas driver's license. And underneath that license, your picture, his Mexican grandson, as he called you.

GEORGE P. BUSH: The little brown one.

KING: The little brown one. Have you always been close with the grandparents?

GEORGE P. BUSH: Oh, yes. My grandfather is an incredibly wise man. He's always given me the right counsel when I need it. My grandmother, of course, the silver fox, the enforcer. She enforces the family rules, makes sure, as far as grandchildren are concerned, very polite and look people in the eye, very traditional, but very loving, sincere, and great role models, I think.

KING: And you also raised to treat people with courtesy. Do you expect to be -- soon, you know, when a campaign gets heated to be bashing Mrs. Gore and whoever runs with them?

GEORGE P. BUSH: No, not exactly. I don't think that's a strategy that my family has employed throughout the years.

There they are.

KING: There's your grandparents. There's Gerald Ford. Now you called her what?

GEORGE P. BUSH: The silver fox, the enforcer.

KING: And there is Betty Ford looking very well. Both of those presidents, as we said, will be with us at midnight. Boy, he looks amazingly well, does George Bush and Barbara Bush, waving to the crowd. They'll be honored, as does Nancy Reagan, representing her husband Ronald Reagan, who of course has Alzheimer's Disease and was unable to attend. The crowd knows they're all here now. They're giving him a cheer. There you see Nancy right to the left of George Bush, to your right .

Good reception in her honor tonight. Over at the Ritton House Hotel. I get to see Nancy about once a month. We have lunch, catch up on the gossip, as she says. She's always interested in what's going on, and she's very impressed with your uncle, by the way.

GEORGE P. BUSH: Really? That's great to hear. I'll make sure to convey that message.

KING: What's it like? It's your family. I mean, it's got to be a little weird.

GEORGE P. BUSH: I myself am just astonished looking at the TV right now. I consider myself to be a very fortunate person to see all this behind the scenes, and it's just been incredible, not only looking at people who have shaped so many minds throughout the years, but to see politics behind the scenes, and it's just such a noble profession. I wish more...

KING: Anything you don't like about it?

GEORGE P. BUSH: Well, as you alluded to before, the combative nature of it.

KING: Backbiting?

GEORGE P. BUSH: Yes, it's unfortunate. But unfortunately, sometimes, that's what it takes to win. As long as it helps win elections, politicians will, I think, continue to use those kind of tactics.

KING: And what about your aunt? She made a good impression here last night.

GEORGE P. BUSH: She sure did. She's an incredible woman: sincere, down to earth. She's really a breath of fresh air, I think, to a lot of people. You know, as a former educator, I can really relate with her in her professional background. And, you know, she's an incredible woman. And if she's fortunate to be the next first lady, I think she would do a great job in working with literacy. KING: Your father will tell us, later, that, in truth, if you would have said 10 years ago, they are nominating a Bush for president, it would have been Jeb. He'd have thought first, Jeb.

GEORGE P. BUSH: That seems to be the family consensus as it relates to who would have been the next to follow the footsteps. But you know, my uncle definitely brings his own set of leadership skills to the table. He's demonstrated in the state of Texas that he's able to bring together Republicans and Democrats. I think that's what a president needs to do, whether they are Republican or Democrat: a person that can seek consensus on issues that face our country and move our country forward; a person who doesn't pay lip service to the public-opinion polls; somebody who stands on principles.

KING: Nothing wrong with ambition, is there?

GEORGE P. BUSH: Nothing wrong at all.

KING: OK, let's get down to the platform and Party Chairman Jim Nicholson for a special introduction.

JIM NICHOLSON, RNC CHAIRMAN: I was a graduate of West Point and am a proud Vietnam veteran.

(CHEERING)

NICHOLSON: Thank you. There I served with a brave soldier, an inspiring leader, who became a good friend. He sure did us proud as a commander of Operation Desert Storm. Standing on the deck of USS New Jersey, across the river in Camden, my old buddy and comrade in arms, General Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf!

(CHEERING)

RETIRED GENERAL NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF, U.S. ARMY: Thank you, Jim.

(APPLAUSE)

As I stand here on the deck of this great battleship, the New Jersey, that made so much history and witnessed so much heroism in its day, surrounded by these proud veterans of American wars in far-flung times and places, I am once again reminded of what a great nation we are.

(APPLAUSE)

As young West Point cadets, our motto was, "Duty, honor, country." But it was in the field, from the rice paddies of Southeast Asia to the sands of the Middle East, that I learned that motto's fullest meaning. There I saw gallant young Americans of every race, creed and background fight, and sometimes die, for duty, honor and their country.

(APPLAUSE)

I've seen a lot in the 44 years since I received my first commission as a second lieutenant. I have plenty of memories. But tonight, in this patriotic setting, one of them especially stands out in my mind. Exactly 10 years ago tomorrow, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Our commander in chief, President George Bush, declared to the world that we would, quote, "not let this aggression stand."

(APPLAUSE)

We drew a line in the sand. We told Iraq either withdraw its troops or get kicked out.

Despite opposition from many in his own Congress, the president almost singlehandedly forged a coalition of 40 nations that led to a great victory with minimum casualties.

Just as importantly, he restored the American people's confidence in their armed forces and made us all proud to be Americans.

We should never forget the heroic dedication of the 540,000 American fighting men and women who won that magnificent victory in the sand. They were both active duty and reservists, who willingly answered the call to duty that disrupted their lives, took them away from family and jobs, and put them in harm's way.

Once again they reminded us all that freedom is not cost-free. It is bought and paid for with the blood and guts and limbs and lives of veterans just like these who are all around me.

(APPLAUSE)

We must not forget that our liberty is protected every day by soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. Without them, there would be no liberty.

So if American forces are called into action again, we must make sure that they go into battle as well-equipped, well-trained and highly motivated as the men and women of Desert Storm.

(APPLAUSE)

Unfortunately, that may not be the case today. As of 1999, the number of fighting Army divisions ready for war had shrunk to less than half of what they were before Desert Storm.

The Navy's battle force of the last eight years has been cut by one-third, and the Air Force reports that it's now called on to mount four times as many operations with a force that has been cut by 40 percent.

Meanwhile, service enlistment targets fell short again this past year. There are reenlistment problems and 6,300 military families are now eligible for food stamps.

We must do better for the great men and women who defend our country today.

(APPLAUSE) And we owe it to them and to those who we honor tonight.

(APPLAUSE)

Knowing this and recalling Operation Desert Storm, I can't help asking myself, wouldn't it be great for our armed forces and for America if we could have another commander-in-chief named George Bush with Dick Cheney on his team?

(APPLAUSE)

From the Battleship New Jersey with some of America's true heroes, thank you and God bless America.

(APPLAUSE)

NARRATOR: December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy. United States of America is suddenly and deliberately -- with confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God.

(APPLAUSE)

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome one of America's greatest heroes: Bob Dole!

(APPLAUSE)

BOB DOLE, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

There is still time for a recount.

(APPLAUSE)

Well, I've had a very exciting day today. This morning Strom Thurmond took me to Constitution Hall and showed me where he first met Ben Franklin. So it's been fun.

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you. Thank you, General Schwarzkopf.

Tonight I have the honor and pleasure of being here with no agenda and no greater ambition than to help give our country what she deserves, leadership worthy of the next American century.

(APPLAUSE)

Like presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, I am honored to be part of what is called the greatest generation. And flattering that sounds, the truth is, we were ordinary Americans who along with millions of others who were called upon to meet extraordinary challenges. And whatever we may be today as a nation, it is because many generations of Americans were willing to make the greatest of sacrifices.

Our Kansas motto: "To the stars through difficulties." And there the American century in a phrase.

And during the bleak '30s and '40s it was fashionable in some quarters to see democracy as a dying faith, an exhausted creed that must give way to dictators of the right and left, but we knew better. And when war was forced upon us, we left our homes to rescue civilization from those who would put the soul itself in bondage. And many of us, too many of us, never returned. And today, they rest where they fell, in the green fields of France, beneath Italy's frowning peaks and under the turquoise waters of the Pacific.

And tonight, I am honored to speak for these voiceless heroes and for their comrades who survived the deadliest war ever inflicted on the human family. And more than a half-century after the guns fell silent, our ranks are dwindling, our reunions grow thin.

We've gone from over 16 million to less than 6 million. But the memories endure. And with them, the ability to inspire unborn generations to meet their own defining tests. And may they take heart from the example of those who defended freedom in its darkest hour. Yet, whatever our past achievements, our main obligation is to the future. Thus, our mission is incomplete until we recognize now and for all time the World War II generation on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

(APPLAUSE)

There, on democracy's sacred ground, we will build a monument to those who saved democracy. We will honor their service. We will mourn their sacrifice. We will remind tomorrow's Americans that they are descended from heroes for whom liberty is a birthright.

But in a larger sense -- but in a larger sense, no group of stone pillars or arches, moving as those symbols may be, can fully recognize their contributions. If you want to see their true memorial, look around you at this convention, at the upcoming convention in Los Angeles, and the election in November, and every time free men and women assemble to determine their destiny. That's the true memorial.

(APPLAUSE)

Four years ago, I said I was the most optimistic man in America, and I still am.

And I have seen, in a single lifetime, Americans split the atom, abolish Jim Crow, eliminate the scourge of polio, win the Cold War, plant our flag on the surface of the moon, belatedly recognize the talents of women and others once relegated to the shadows, develop the Internet, lead the information age, and map the human genome. And much of this we all take for granted. Yet, all of this was once part of a barely imaginable America -- the youngest, bravest, freest land on the planet.

And today we meet in the birthplace of American liberty to renew our social contract. We look to Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney to raise our sights and restore honor and civility to our public life.

(APPLAUSE)

Meanwhile, the struggle to realize America's promise must be waged with every generation. And wherever I go, I meet young people who want to be part of something larger than themselves, heroes in waiting who realize that often the only path to the stars is through difficulty. And don't be fooled by their wardrobe or their music, they are as great a generation as this nation has ever produced and don't forget it.

(APPLAUSE)

And even as we meet, they're fighting quiet wars of their own, combating poverty, prejudice, isolation and indulgence. And my fondest hope that all their challenges are in community service and classrooms and research labs, not on foreign battlefields.

(APPLAUSE)

And finally, let me say this...

(APPLAUSE)

... and, of course, in my life I've experienced honor such as come to very few. For 36 years, the people of Kansas entrusted me with their voice and their vote in Washington.

(APPLAUSE)

And twice the party has nominated me for the nation's highest offices, but the greatest privilege of my life has been to wear the uniform of our country in a righteous cause in World War II.

(APPLAUSE)

And not far from here -- not from here, Lincoln at Gettysburg said: It is us for the living to be dedicated here to the unfinished work for which they who fought have thus far so no nobly advanced. It is for us to dedicated to the great task remaining before us.

The task before us is the unending struggle to realize America's promise, to build a society as decent as it is prosperous, to ensure freedom's survival and expand the frontiers of opportunity, to win home-front victories for justice and human dignity.

In this struggle we shall find our strength in many places, but the ultimate source of our purpose comes from above. So this evening, let us look up and let us look into the eyes of those who are defending our shores -- help all of us to reach for the stars.

Thank you very much and God bless America.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: What they're doing now following that stirring address by their former candidate, Bob Dole, is they're going to play a musical melody from the branches of the services.

I think Mr. Dole will explain it.

DOLE: Thank you, and now please join me in saluting the greatest generation of veterans and every generation of our armed services. We ask that all veterans who are here with us in the hall tonight stand and be recognized as your respective service songs are played.

(MUSIC)

KING: They've played the Marines and now "Anchor Away," honoring the Navy. You're hearing a medley of all the service songs, and as each song is played they're asking veterans who served in that service to stand. Bush and Ford, both naval veterans. They'll both be with us at midnight tonight.

(MUSIC)

The Air Force, or as it was then known the Army Air Corps. It didn't become the Air Force until after World War II.

(MUSIC)

Coast Guard Academy. Rick Lazio will be with us in a couple of minutes. The Coast Guard Academy is in his home base in New York. I guess the only one left would be the Army.

(MUSIC)

Proud veterans standing up. There's the main box with Nancy Reagan. And now Bob Dole leads a salute.

DOLE: My fellow Americans, this proud veteran salutes you.

KING: OK. We're back. In a little while, they'll be honoring the three former Republican presidents. Two are in the House; the other -- Ronald Reagan, of course -- could not be here, but Nancy Reagan is.

We're going to spend some moments now with Congressman Rick Lazio, Republican of New York. He will be running against Hillary Clinton, in fact so much so you leave here tomorrow, right?

REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), SENATE CANDIDATE: That's a fact, Larry. We're going to get out and go back to New York, where I belong. KING: Because the race is hot and heavy.

LAZIO: Oh, sure. We've only been in this race a little over two months, and it's great to get the applause and the pats on back here at the Republican convention. But what I need to do is to go back to New York, answer questions from New Yorkers, talk about the issues that they care about. I want New Yorkers to know that I put them first. This race is all about New York, beginning and end.

KING: Hold it right there, Rick. In a minute, we'll be going down and maybe we'll have Wolf Blitzer talking with Bob Dole.

There are some who are saying that when you're in New York you don't say you're a Republican. Here you're a Republican, and in New York you're Rick Lazio.

LAZIO: Well, I am happy to campaign with Governor Bush. We've already done that. So I'm not running away at all. I feel real good about the message at this convention of inclusion, bringing people together, a positive message.

KING: So you're not hiding it?

LAZIO: Oh, not at all. Not at all.

KING: Let me hold you one second. Let's go down to the podium, where Wolf Blitzer talks with Bob Dole -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, Bob Dole, Senator Dole, you must be -- this must be an emotional moment for you.

BOB DOLE, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, it really is, because you're speaking for millions. You know, we've lost 10 million World War II vets already, and I've been chairman of the World War II Memorial, and we're just about complete in raising money.

But you think about a lot of things, you think about your friends and your high-school friends and your Army friends, and it's a generation that's about gone.

BLITZER: One line in your speech, you spoke about the need to restore honor and civility to our public life.

DOLE: Right.

BLITZER: That's a theme we are hearing repeatedly here. Tell us what you mean by that.

DOLE: I tried to say that in a nonpartisan -- I didn't point fingers at anybody. I just said it's time to restore dignity in public life. There's been too much criticism, too much negative this and negative that.

We live in the greatest country on the face of Earth. We ought to be very thankful, and we are thankful. But sometimes our emotions run away with us. BLITZER: You notice today President Clinton was outspoken in his criticism of Governor Bush.

DOLE: I understood that happened. I didn't hear it, so I can't comment on it. But that's a very -- well, you know, there are going to be -- you've got to discuss the issues. And I don't -- somebody's voting record is probably fair game.

But there are certain things, when they get personal -- I mean, I learned a long time ago, because I think I went over the edge a time or two when I was young and frisky and all that, that you don't -- you don't go over the edge, you don't go out and hurt somebody's feelings. And it's -- you know, we have opponents but not enemies in this business.

BLITZER: As you take a look tonight at this event, not only remembering World War II, but really the Persian Gulf War 10 years ago. General Schwarzkopf pointed out tomorrow, the 10th anniversary of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, General Powell's speech last night. What's the message these Republicans are trying to send?

DOLE: Well, I don't think it's just Republicans. You know, I find there's a sort of a surge of patriotism. Maybe it's the new century, maybe it's something else. But you hear from daughters and sons and grandsons of veterans of all these different wars and conflicts, and it's sort of a good feeling. We're thinking about America, thinking about our fathers, what sacrifices were made, or we wouldn't be here today. Where would we be had we not prevailed in World War II? We wouldn't be in Philadelphia for this convention.

BLITZER: Senator Bob Dole, I remember -- I think the music was reminiscent for you as well. Thanks again for joining us. Now back to your friend Larry King up in the booth -- Larry.

KING: Thanks very much, Wolf, and Rick Lazio before he leaves us -- and he'll be on with us for a full hour as the New York campaign draws hot and heavier. He has a story about what we're talking about here tonight.

LAZIO: Yes, I sure do. You know, I am a son of a Navy WAVE, my mom, and an Army sergeant, tech Sergeant Anthony Lazio. I was looking at those pictures. I thought I saw my dad's face. I bet a lot of people saw their -- their dad's face in those pictures.

I had about two months ago or three months ago, I guess, Larry, this guy who came up to me who was a veteran of D-Day, and he had been wounded on those beaches over in Normandy and had received a Purple Heart. And he came up to me and he said, you know, what you're doing now is as important as what I did 50 years ago, you had better win.

It was one of the most powerful statements I've heard since I've been in this race.

KING: Your mother was a WAVE?

LAZIO: My mother was a WAVE. Yes, my mom was a WAVE. Army-Navy games, I left the house.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: I'll see you in New York, Rick.

LAZIO: OK.

KING: You're heading back.

LAZIO: We'll head back.

KING: Rick Lazio, congressman, he'll run for the Senate against Hillary Clinton. You may have heard of that race.

When we come back, some distinguished gentlemen will joins as we lead up to our presidential salute. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Philadelphia at night, a beautiful downtown Philadelphia. They've had some skirmishes here today with protesters, handled very well by the police. There's William Penn sitting atop their famed city hall, and this is inside our arena, second night of the Republican national convention. In a couple of minutes, they'll be honoring the three former presidents who represented this party: Ford, Bush and Reagan. Ford and Bush, Messieurs Ford and Bush will be with us at midnight with part two of LARRY KING LIVE.

We welcome Donald Regan. He was President Reagan's chief of staff. He was also his treasury secretary. Senator Fred Thompson, Republican of Tennessee. He goes back to being minority counsel of Watergate committee and had endorsed John McCain for president but is here, tried and true for the party. And in Huntsville, Tennessee is Howard Baker. He was Ronald Reagan's chief of staff and the former majority leader of the Senate.

What's it like to come to one of these, Donald?

DONALD REGAN, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY: Oh, it's old hat at this point, Larry, but I will say one thing: This convention is acting like a clock. I mean, it's just ticking away. It's doing very well.

KING: Senator?

SEN. FRED THOMPSON (R), TENNESSEE: Yes, I've got to say the same thing. You know, it drives the news people nuts. There's no news, and it makes us feel pretty good.

KING: Your man who you were for in the primaries lost. Have you gotten the wounds over with?

THOMPSON: Oh, sure, no wounds really. Two good men, said it all along. A lot more in common than they disagree on. They're together now and we're all together now.

KING: Howard, we're going to be concentrating on the presidents of course, and you were very close to President Reagan. Your feelings tonight knowing he can't be here.

HOWARD BAKER, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, it's a very moving moment to see Nancy Reagan there, and it's a shame indeed that President Reagan can't be there.

You know, I admire, President Reagan in so many ways, but Nancy Reagan's courage and strength in these times is absolutely remarkable.

KING: And Donald, I know you've had your ins and outs with Mrs. Reagan. I understand everything's OK now.

REGAN: It is. I think she's doing a great job taking care of the president, and I wish her well in that respect.

KING: Gerald Ford, how are going to think of him? He's 80 -- will be -- he'll be almost in the 90s: 87, going to be 88 years old.

THOMPSON: Well, he's still making a contribution, you know. Every time he speaks, people listen: He makes a lot of sense.

I guess the thing he'll probably be remembered most for is being a healer. He came in after Watergate, after President Nixon left office, and he, I believe, healed the nation in large part.

KING: And you were part of that, Howard. In fact, indeed was not Fred Thompson your minority counsel?

BAKER: He was indeed, and those were tough times, Larry, as you know and certainly as Fred knows. But you know, I remember so vividly the first time that Republicans in the Senate met with then Vice President Ford on the -- on the very beginning of the end of the Nixon presidency. And you could feel the electricity.

Gerald Ford not only is a healer. He had a quiet strength that was markedly reassuring not only to Republican members of the Senate but I think to the country, and that was a huge contribution.

But he was -- he was really a great president, did a lot of extraordinarily important things. And I think as time goes by he's going to be recognized more and more for the great job he did as president in a very, very difficult time.

KING: And Donald, you came in of course with the Reagan administration.

REGAN: Yes, I did.

KING: What are your thoughts about President Ford?

REGAN: Well, I think President Ford served as a great liaison between one era to the next, and in that capacity he did a great job for the Republican Party and for this country.

KING: Your memories of Reagan?

REGAN: They're nothing but the best. Really a great guy. The type of person you couldn't help but like. The minute you were with him it was like you were with an old shoe. I mean, he just fitted in very perfectly. He had a great ability to tell a story. But a man that was not a simple man.

Most people seem to think of him, you know, as the type that had to have the cue cards and all of that. Far from it. That man knew what he wanted, he accomplished it, and in my judgment will go down in history as one of the great presidents of this century.

KING: He's had this disease for seven years...

BAKER: Larry.

KING: Hold it, Howard. And yet he seems to have -- still -- still that image is still strong with us, isn't it?

THOMPSON: It very much is, and it's very strong with those of us who are in the political arena now. Many of us didn't know him well personally. I met him on two or three different occasions, but he represents something, he stands for something for all of who are in politics now, and that is personal courage and...

KING: No matter what your politics.

THOMPSON: Exactly. In the face of adversity, and believing in something and being willing to act on that even when it was unpopular.

KING: Howard, you were going to say something?

BAKER: Yes, I was. I was going to say that Don Regan's right on the mark about Reagan. He was anything but a simple personality or simple person. He really was a very complex person. But when it came to governing as president, he had a central core of conviction. He knew exactly who he was, he knew exactly what he believed, and he knew exactly where he wanted to go.

And you put those things together, it makes a powerful president of the United States.

KING: We'll take a break, come back and talk about President Bush, who will also be honored here, and we'll carry those tapes for you as they are honored. They are not speaking, but they will be standing and receiving the plaudits of the crowd.

This is LARRY KING LIVE, part one. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Beautiful Ben Franklin Bridge over the Delaware River. It separates Camden, New Jersey from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the historic site of this 37th annual Republican convention.

Before I ask about President Bush, Donald Regan tells me -- we didn't see a lot of veterans standing, got a lot of young people in the crowd. You were a Marine in six campaigns in the Pacific.

REGAN: Five.

KING: Five.

Guadalcanal?

REGAN: Yes. Major at the age of 25 and 600 guys under me on Okinawa.

KING: I was going to guess you were a Marine. What is it that -- all right, Fred. I guess you're the youngster of the three. And so Bush is closest to your generation, I guess. What are we going to think of his presidency?

THOMPSON: Well, I think that the conflict in the Gulf, of course, will probably come to most people's minds. He was able to do something that hasn't been done since, and that is rally the free world, in effect, to support us in that.

KING: All together.

THOMPSON: We're having great difficulty now even getting our allies together on anything. The Bush administration was able to do that.

KING: Howard, how do see the Bush four years?

BAKER: Well, I think they were a huge success. I -- you know, frankly, I was flabbergasted when he was not re-elected because I think his record was absolutely extraordinary. He was strong, he was insightful, he had a good agenda, he was a good leader of the Congress. And I think that == I think he was a very successful president. And I think he paved the way for this unity and this convention here, because, he did bring disparate parts of the party together. And we're the legatees of that.

KING: Donald...

BAKER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we don't always do that, but we're doing it tonight.

KING: It was the economy, though, right, stupid?

REGAN: Well, it was the economy that had a little stumble, a hiccup at the wrong time, if you will, and it's been going strong ever since. But there's another thing that President Bush did. He had a very much of a tinderbox there as to what would happen as the Soviet Union dissolved, and he was able to keep us going and to keep the world going.

KING: They're about to introduce on the floor Governor George Pataki of New York, one of the more influential figures in the Republican Party, and he's going to set up our presidential tributes to Ford, Bush and Reagan. They will be showing tapes honoring each of their presidencies, and then each will be standing. Nancy Reagan will be standing in Ronald Reagan's stead. Here comes George Pataki. Upset when he beat Mario Cuomo and now a very popular governor of the state of New York. The New York delegation doesn't have the best seats in the world. They're sort of next to that barrier. Here's George Pataki.

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