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Larry King Live

Democratic Senators Discuss Their Vietnam War Experiences

Aired August 16, 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: Night three of the Democratic National Convention, addition No. 1 of LARRY KING LIVE. We have two additions each night -- outstanding lineup of guests on tonight's program, including Tipper Gore and Marcia Lieberman, the mother of Joseph Lieberman.

We begin with two decorated Vietnam veterans, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Senator Max Cleland, Democrat of Georgia. Max gave a convention speech on Veterans Day, his first convention speech since. And John Kerry also was with us tonight as a salute to veterans night. Max lost three limbs in this war.

You weren't injured. Or were you injured?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I was wounded three times. Three Purple Hearts.

KING: And you won what?

SEN. MAX CLELAND (D), GEORGIA: Silver Star. So did John.

KERRY: But never anything like this fellow.

KING: They don't come like...

KERRY: He's an example to everybody. He's extraordinary.

(CROSSTALK)

CLELAND: ... my brother here.

KING: The idea of saluting Vietnam.

CLELAND: Well, we're saluting veterans. I mean, we wouldn't have a political, open process if it weren't for our Veterans. I mean, I think we have to take time out to say that. And we did tonight.

KING: You agree?

KERRY: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think -- but also I think for all of our generation, Vietnam was an enormous event. And I think as we move into the next century, our party is showing extraordinary leadership in military affairs. If you look at what President Clinton and Al Gore have done with Kosovo, with Bosnia, with Haiti, there has been projection of force. We sent forces into the Straits when Korea was threatened.

I think that, you know, we have shown significant willingness to project for us and to have a strong military. And that is part of message.

CLELAND: And this is the first Vietnam veteran to really have a chance at being president. I mean, Bob Kerrey ran for president in 1992, didn't make it. But Al Gore is a fellow Vietnam veteran. He's got a real shot at it.

KING: And -- this also -- you would agree that a lot of the -- certainly, the younger members of your party were opposed to that war.

CLELAND: Well, my generation was split. But -- and the younger generation really doesn't know much about it. So it is a whole new thing here that we are trying to point out. And that is, that we have this country and we have this democracy courtesy of our veterans. And we have six of us Vietnam veterans in the Senate, one of which is sick tonight, John McCain, our dear friend.

KING: Yes, we're going to ask about that in a minute. Either of you bitter about going to serve a war that proved inconclusive at best? And you were injured for it.

KERRY: Not in the least.

KING: You are not.

KERRY: Larry, I volunteered to go over. I volunteered for duty in Vietnam. I came back, and I opposed the war. And some of my fellow vets didn't like what I did in opposition to it.

(CROSSTALK)

KERRY: But I nevertheless have extraordinary pride in my service. I'm proud that I went. I'm proud of what I did. And I love the people that I served with. They are an extraordinary group of people. And it is with me for the rest of my life.

CLELAND: That is something I think a lot of people don't understand.

KING: You must have regret, Max.

CLELAND: Well, no, no, no, not that.

KING: No.

CLELAND: I mean my point of view is, I had a choice between getting better or bitter, and bitter didn't work. Better has. And my life has turned out better. One of the things that has turned out better in terms of, is I get a chance to serve in public life, and with good people like this. We have six fellow Vietnam veterans in the Senate. And we are a band of brothers -- what, four Democrats and two Republicans. But we pulled together when the going gets tough. And we're very special group, I think.

KERRY: I think there's a special bond of friendship that crosses party lines. I mean, John McCain and I have grown extraordinarily close. And it is because, partly, that bond.

KING: In that regard, in a couple minutes, we are going talking with a top doctor at Sloan/Kettering in New York. You spoke to Cindy McCain, did you not?

KERRY: I did talk to Cindy -- in fact, called John and he called me back and we missed. But she said he is upbeat, very -- in great spirits. He has talked to lots of doctors. He has a very good sense of where he stands, or at least thinks he does. And he is going to be campaigning in Ohio on Saturday, so...

KING: But then he's going to curtail, right?

KERRY: Well, I understand -- I don't want to reveal anything that is private -- but I understand there are some things set up next week to sort of get a handle on this thing, and that ought to come from him and his family. But obviously, he is going to get handle on it. But my sense is, you know, he's a remarkably optimistic, strong person. Everybody in this country knows that now.

CLELAND: He's a survivor.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: What's going to scare him, right?

CLELAND: That is right. What are they going to do, send him to Vietnam?

(CROSSTALK)

CLELAND: So, I mean, he is incredible human being. And our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family tonight.

KING: And you will all stay close, right? You are buddies in the Senate. It has nothing to do with party here, right?

CLELAND: That's correct.

KING: How close were you, do you think, to being the vice presidential nominee?

KERRY: Larry, I don't know. But you know, all of that kind of guessing -- I mean, obviously, it was up to the last hours. It is irrelevant now. We've got a great nominee. We've got Joe Lieberman. You know, I went to Connecticut to persuade Joe to run for United States Senate when I was chairman of the Campaign Committee. And he has done a terrific job. A lot of these differences people are trying to find are really playing at the margins. The point is that we Democrats -- and I think you will feel it tonight when Joe speaks -- are going be energized, because we have got a plan for health care, a plan for prescription drugs for seniors, and the Republicans don't. We've got a plan to fix Social Security. George bush puts it at risk by taking this enormous tax cut, using the surplus, and not dealing with Medicare at all. These are things that are differences. And Joe Lieberman is a strong on those things as any of us in the Democratic Party

KING: So, you don't feel badly about not being chosen.

KERRY: I feel honored to have been part of process. It was a great learning experience. And we've got a great nominee. And on we go. And I'm going to work hard for the ticket.

KING: Can your ticket win, Max? Really, can it win?

CLELAND: Yes, I think it can.

KING: Can it win Georgia?

CLELAND: I'm not sure. Georgia is an uphill battle, quite frankly. But I think the ticket can win the country, because I think the ticket has the country's interests at heart and has the issues that the country cares about at heart. And I think you will see Al Gore come out and really become the fighter that he really is. Most of us know him privately and personally. But he is a much more energized, energetic fighter.

KING: You'll see a big night tomorrow then.

CLELAND: And you will see that Thursday night.

KING: Two true American heroes, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, Senator Max Cleland, Democrat of Georgia -- in a minute Dr. Daniel Coit from Sloan/Kettering to talk about melanoma disease and what it might mean to John McCain.

As we go to break, here were Al Gore's comments about Senator McCain this afternoon.

We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My thoughts are with him and his family. He is a brave fighter. I know that all Americans are going to be praying for this to turn out for the best. And one thing about it, he so is courageous that he will he will, you know, he will just face it. And I'm hoping and praying that it is going to be all right. And our thoughts are with Cindy and his entire family, and with John.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A hot strangely humid day today in Los Angeles. News of John McCain's cancer comes just a few days after he campaigned with George W. Bush. The senator was sporting a band-aid while he was out on the trail. Reporters did ask him why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Senator, what happened to your face?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I -- it's a personal question. Every few months, I have to go and get these basal cell things cut out from having a lot of exposure to the son when I was very young and having fair skin. And my advice to everyone, wear sunscreen, wear sunscreen, I'm dead serious.

QUESTION: Today's message.

MCCAIN: Today's message: Wear sunscreen, or you'll be going under the knife.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And rather ominous. We are now joined by Dr. Daniel Coit. He is co-leader of the melanoma disease management team at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

What, Dr. Coit, is it melanoma?

DR. DANIEL COIT, MEMORIAL SLOAN-KETTERING CANCER CENTER: Melanoma is a form of skin cancer, Larry. It's one of the more unusual forms. It's distinct in the sense that it has -- really has the ability to spread to other parts of the body, something that the more common skin cancers don't.

KING: So it is serious in and of itself?

COIT: It is certainly can be, yes.

KING: And if caught early, is highly curable?

COIT: That's absolutely correct. And I think one of the points that Senator McCain was making is that, particularly for the fair- skinned individuals, it's very important that any suspicious lesion be brought to attention of a physician early, because in its early stage, it's very curable.

KING: All right, since we don't know what stage this is in, right?

COIT: We don't have all of those details at present, that's correct.

KING: Assuming surgery is needed, I've been watching and I still don't have an answer to this, what happens in the surgery in skin cancer? What do they do?

COIT: Well, if we're talking about the management of primary skin cancer at initial presentation, it's very important to excise the entire skin cancer, and melanoma, in general, that involves removal of somewhat more skin than for the more common basal and squamous cell cancers.

KING: So it is a major operation?

COIT: Most of the surgery is actually done as an outpatient.

KING: Really?

COIT: For most skin cancers, that's correct, yes.

KING: Is -- does it leave large scars?

COIT: No. In fact, most of the treatment philosophy over recent years supported by clinical trials has been that less -- taking less and less skin is...

KING: Does the surgeon know if he or she got it all?

COIT: Yes. The -- every specimen that's excised is examined carefully by pathologist with specific attention to the margins of excision.

KING: When someone tragically dies of skin cancer it means what? It spread to where?

COIT: Well, in general, it mean -- and again, this more applicable to melanoma than the other more common cancers -- that the seeds have broken -- the cells have broken off from the primary tumor and spread to other parts of the body.

KING: Is surgery the only out?

COIT: Surgery is generally the initial management and the best in those tumors that can be surgically removed. But there are certainly other strategies, both conventional and investigational, that -- for which there is a lot of enthusiasm right now.

KING: So what we're really saying is, we don't know enough. We are going to more after those tests next week in Arizona, right?

COIT: I think that's exactly right. Yes, and that will be very important in determining not only what the immediate treatment should be, but also what the -- how serious a problem this is.

KING: So anything else now, at best, is speculation?

COIT: That's right.

KING: Thank you, doctor.

That cogently gets us right up to date on this. Dr. Daniel Coit at Sloan-Kettering.

When we come back, Tom Clancy is back for the third night in a row, the author of "The Hunt for Red October." We're joined by Nick Harris of the British embassy. He's a navy defense attache. Britain on the way to try to help. And then we'll meet Marcia Lieberman, the mother of Joseph Lieberman.

Stay tuned.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back at Democratic convention. We've covering this every night. We do it again. We go to New York, where Tom Clancy stands by, the author of bestsellers, including "The Hunt for Red October." His new one is "The Bear and the Dragon." And in Washington, Nick Harris, navy defense attache for the British embassy. He's a submariner himself. The Russian sub, the Kursk, is trapped at the bottom of the Barents Sea. Britain has been asked to help.

What is Britain doing, Nick?

COMMODORE NICK HARRIS, BRITISH NAVAL ATTACHE: Well, Larry, good evening.

KING: Hi.

HARRIS: Britain on Monday morning made an offer to the Russians when we learned of this tragic situation. We were very fortunate, because we were about to conduct a submarine escape and rescue exercise of our own, by absolute coincidence, which meant that the rescue facilities that we have at our disposal were being prepared to fly away in any event. And so we were able to make a genuine offer to the Russians almost as soon as we learned of the tragedy.

KING: And?

HARRIS: And we have now moved our rescue capability up to Trondheim in Norway, and they'll be setting forth from there tomorrow by sea, and we expect them to arrive at the scene, slightly dependent on weather how quickly they get there, but we're thinking around about in terms of Saturday.

KING: What do your British counterparts out there in ocean tell you is the possibility?

HARRIS: Well, I think we're all seriously crossing our fingers and hoping. As a submarine officer myself, I think I can reflect the views of every submarine person around the world when I say that a chill runs up our spines when we learn of an incident of this nature, and our thoughts are very much with crew on the board. It must be quite dreadful circumstances.

KING: We are seeing film of Russian ships in their attempts to contact, rescue, get survivors -- what?

Tom Clancy, we've been very pessimistic. Any room for optimism now?

TOM CLANCY, AUTHOR: Not very much, I'm afraid. The information I've been getting today is -- and remember, this is all pure speculation, that the cause of the incident may have been a battery incident in the No. 2 compartment of the submarine, which would also have the affect of disabling the escape system they have aboard. Many Russian submarines are designed with an escape pod or capsule that they can put the whole crew in and then pop it loose from the hull, and the thing will float up to the surface. And then unfortunately, the access to that had to that -- that chamber, they call it, is the No. 3 compartment, which is right after the No. 2 compartment, which is right after the No. 2 compartment, where the plutonium explosion may have taken place.

But I'll tell one thing, Larry, if there's any reason for hope, it's our friends in the Royal Navy, because the Brit navy, they're awful darn good. They have good equipment. They have very fine people. And if it can be done, they'll do it.

KING: What will the key, Nick? What's are conditions must be for this to work?

HARRIS: Well you know, I think one of the keys is probably nature. I think the weather is a really, really important factor here. And I would suspect that one of the problems that the Russians have had in their own search efforts, which I'm sure have been as best they possibly can, has been the effect of the weather in the Barents Sea.

I have been watching the weather, and the conditions have been really very poor. I think it's fortunate that it is daylight up there right now, which is one thing that is on their side. But the weather conditions impact enormously on the kind of operation which I believe they've been doing, which has been putting diving bells down.

If the weather is rough on the surface and if the currents are in turmoil beneath, then I think it's almost impossible to speculate on what the conditions are like on the ocean bed.

KING: Frankly, Tom, do you think anybody is still alive or is that pure -- are we too far speculating there?

CLANCY: It's pure speculation, Larry, but I should think the odds are rather heavily against it.

KING: So as you said last night, prayers are part of what's left for the rest of the world that's looking on.

CLANCY: Well, it can't hurt. They -- you know, God can do wonderful things if He is of such a mind.

KING: And Nick, this crew that's going is well-trained in what they're doing, right?

HARRIS: Yes, they're extremely well-trained. This is primarily a team that we retain commercially on sole contract to the Ministry of Defence to do this work for us. They are absolute experts.

KING: That's what they do?

HARRIS: They're absolute experts in their field.

KING: Thank you both very much...

HARRIS: They know exactly what they're doing.

KING: We're doing more updates all the time. Nick Harris and Tom Clancy. Tom's newest book is "The Bear and the Dragon." Nick is the Navy defense attache for the British Embassy.

When we come back, a conversation with the possible mother of the next vice president: Marcia Lieberman will be with us. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Still to come, Tipper Gore, Governor Ann Richards, Jack Kemp.

As we've said, tonight is Joe Lieberman's big night at the Democratic Convention. Earlier today, I talked with his mother, Marcia, her first interview, and I began by asking how she first heard her son was Al Gore's pick.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARCIA LIEBERMAN, JOSEPH LIEBERMAN'S MOTHER; Fortunately, I have a wonderful daughter-in-law and a wonderful son, who invited me to come up on Sunday, because I had (UNINTELLIGIBLE) all day. And they said, come back to the house and stay with us.

I went up there, consoling them that they weren't going to make it.

KING (on camera): Didn't look good on Sunday.

LIEBERMAN: It didn't look good on Sunday, and I said, you know, we did come this far, we have a lot to be grateful for. You know, a mother's schtick.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Then what happened?

LIEBERMAN: And we went to bed. We got very silly about 11 o'clock at night and we all started to laugh -- went to bed knowing that it was going to be Edwards.

KING: Edwards of North Carolina?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, that's what we had heard. And then 7 o'clock in the morning, Hadassah woke me, and said, "Ma, ma." I looked up, and her face was like a mask, just white. She was in shock.

And I said, "Oh, thank God, it's over." And we'll go on with our lives, and this was a wonderful experience. And Joe kept saying, it's been a great experience, we met wonderful people, I won't feel badly, not much.

And she -- she said -- when I said that to her -- we'll go on with our lives, everything will be fine now, just this is it -- and she said, "Oh, ma, we made it." And that was it.

KING: You cried?

LIEBERMAN: When -- when do I not cry? I cry when I'm happy and I cry when I'm sad.

KING: So, that's my son, the possible -- how did you feel feel?

LIEBERMAN: It's still very hard to believe. I almost feel that it has happened to somebody else.

KING: Really, like you're looking at it?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, and I'm looking at it on the outside looking in.

KING: Now, what has it been like this week? Motorcades today...

LIEBERMAN: Motorcades...

KING: Speech tonight. You've got the whole hullabaloo.

LIEBERMAN: I know. And what I can tell you? It's -- I -- it's just been thrilling.

KING: I would gather you thought of his father.

LIEBERMAN: I was just going to tell you, I thought of his father and thought of all the wonderful family that helped make him what he was: his father first, his grandmother, who had a great influence on him all the time. She lived with us. At that time, they were extended families. Now we're building beautiful nursing homes to put us into.

But she lived with us and she had a great influence on him. I had sisters, a brother that, too, had great influence on all my children and we on their children. That's the kind of home we came from.

KING: Was he, as they say, a mensch?

LIEBERMAN: Always.

KING: Called home? A good son?

LIEBERMAN: Every night. He calls me every night regardless...

KING: It's very important in the tradition of the family.

LIEBERMAN: Exactly. He won't change. He's called me -- since this has happened, he's called me every day.

KING: And he has said -- and he told me -- that a generation later, you would have run for the Senate. You're a very political -- I mean, you're very politically involved, though, right?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I love politics. My husband loved politics. And we grew up with it. Henry would read "The Times" and come home and knew everything that was going on, and we discussed and argued, and kids all took part in it every night.

KING: It's been reported you were a big fan of President Clinton. What do you think of Al Gore?

LIEBERMAN: Love him. He's a great man, and I give him the greatest respect that he had the courage to break the barrier of having a Jewish vice president, which opened up the world to everybody. All races, all...

KING: We're ready for a black, we're...

LIEBERMAN: We're ready for everybody. That's wonderful.

KING: How long have you been able to handle, because we know how much mothers -- forget Jewish -- mothers and sons, that's a strong tie. During his life, when he's been criticized, knocked -- political campaigns, people running against him, people say bad things. You're going to hear a lot of it in the next two months.

LIEBERMAN: How can anybody say anything bad about him? Never.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Never.

LIEBERMAN: Never.

KING: How have you handled it in the past on those rare occasions when someone has criticized?

LIEBERMAN: I have to think. I don't think I've heard that criticism, to me anyway. And if I have, I try to explain and let it go. They have to learn.

KING: Tell me about the grandchildren. Your son was divorced once.

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

KING: That had to be unpleasant.

LIEBERMAN: Very unpleasant.

KING: Are you...

LIEBERMAN: It was a difficult thing for all of us. And -- but we weathered the storm. And now he's got a wonderful wife.

KING: Did you like Hadassah right away?

LIEBERMAN: Right away, loved her.

KING: Because? LIEBERMAN: Well, she, too, is a mensch. She's a wonderful daughter-in-law, has knit together this family of her son, Joe's two children, and then they had a child together. And these are four children that are very close to each other. And a lot of it comes from Joe, but I think it mostly comes from the mother.

KING: So the children from the first marriage are very close to the child in the second.

LIEBERMAN: All the children are very close. Very close.

KING: And grandmother is close with everybody.

LIEBERMAN: All of them, absolutely. And her son is my grandchild, too.

KING: Your son is also funny. You know, he won as the funniest celebrity...

LIEBERMAN: I know. He has a sense of humor.

KING: Was he a funny kid?

LIEBERMAN: He always was.

KING: But a quiet -- he was not a sports, he wasn't an athlete, he was...

LIEBERMAN: He did track. He did basketball. And I just repeated a story, when he was a kid -- shall I tell you that?

KING: Yes.

LIEBERMAN: He -- the rabbi was in the house one day. In fact, he repeated this on Saturday. He came to the house one day, and Joseph had a basketball in his hand and he dribbled it -- is that what they call it?

KING: Yes.

LIEBERMAN: Through the driveway, into the kitchen, into the dining room, into the living room, into the den, into the cornice. And the rabbi, he said, "This kid will amount to nothing unless you correct him."

(LAUGHTER)

But I'll tell you, the cornice is still there and you see what Joseph has amounted to.

KING: The orthodoxy, he was raised that way?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, he was.

KING: The family has always kept a kosher home?

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

KING: Observant?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, always, always.

KING: Did that ever cause any problem for you? Was that ever hard for you?

LIEBERMAN: No, it never did.

KING: Sitting upstairs in the Shul?

LIEBERMAN: No, never did. It was great, because we women could talk about the next woman (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what hat she was wearing.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: How do you like...

LIEBERMAN: You couldn't say that to a man, could you?

(CROSSTALK)

KING: How do you like the limelight? How do you like this? This is your first major interview.

LIEBERMAN: Well, this is...

KING: It's being seen all over the world as we sit here. It's being seen in Austria, where you're from, where your family is from.

LIEBERMAN: I almost -- I almost feel as though I have known you all my life, because I watch you all the time.

KING: Did you see your son last week?

LIEBERMAN: I did. It was great.

KING: Nachas, as they say.

LIEBERMAN: Nachas, that's the word. Yes, there's no other word that describes it.

KING: Now, are you going play a role in the campaign?

LIEBERMAN: Always.

KING: What are you going to do?

LIEBERMAN: Whatever they ask me to. I go around to senior citizens, residents, old-age homes, convalescent homes, and I speak to them. I have been doing that since Joe has been senator in the state of Connecticut. So I'm accustomed to it.

KING: So you have always been an activist.

LIEBERMAN: Yes.

KING: Do you live alone?

LIEBERMAN: Don't tell anybody.

KING: Why?

LIEBERMAN: I don't want any company, unwanted company.

KING: Well, I mean, but you have managed by yourself.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I do. I'm independent.

KING: You didn't need a nursing home or anything?

LIEBERMAN: No, thank God. I'm home. I'm in the house that we have been in for 50 years.

KING: Fifty years.

LIEBERMAN: Fifty years, same house.

KING: You know your way around.

LIEBERMAN: I think so.

KING: I want to ask one other thing. We received the disturbing news about Senator McCain today having melanoma skin cancer. And you were telling me before we began that you knew someone young who died of this.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, somebody in Stanford, a young woman who had it, had surgery. And then the end was not good.

KING: Tough, that's a....

LIEBERMAN: Tough, tough, tough.

KING: Your husband died of cancer.

LIEBERMAN: Yes, my husband died of colon cancer. And I'm very much aware of it. I kept him home to die in his own bed in his own home.

KING: Are you well yourself?

LIEBERMAN: I have had a few problems and was told I wasn't going to live past 35. I wrote out my will at 35. The doctor asked me to, because he didn't feel it was fair to tie my husband up with anything that -- we had nothing -- but tie him up with that. And...

KING: I feel, Marcia...

LIEBERMAN: But here I am alive.

KING: ... you will be around a long time. LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Joe is healthy?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, thank God. Thank you. Thank you. What a pleasure.

KING: Shalom.

LIEBERMAN: Shalom to you.

KING: Marcia Lieberman. You have met her. You are going to get to know her a lot better.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Senator Lieberman addresses the convention and the nation in the next hour -- and the world on CNN.

We now welcome our dynamic duo, the Honorable Ann Richards, the former Governor of Texas, a regular commentator for LARRY KING LIVE, and Jack Kemp, another regular, co-director of Empower America, who was his party's vice presidential candidate in 1996.

Well, Ann, how goes it in your reading so far? I know you are going to say it's terrible.

ANN RICHARDS (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF TEXAS: Well...

KING: This convention.

RICHARDS: Well, actually, I have enjoyed it myself.

KING: What a shock.

RICHARDS: You know, I really have. But, you know, they are talking about things I care about. They are talking about children. They're talking about the future. They are talking about how bad George Bush's record is. And everything is fine with the world.

KING: Is it difficult, Jack, to come into enemy territory?

JACK KEMP, CO-DIRECTOR, EMPOWER AMERICA: No, people are friendly.

KING: No, they're nice to you. I see everybody...

KEMP: And there were a lot -- you know, I saw James Carville at the Republican -- Paul Begala. It is -- well, I was going to tell, Ann, don't mess with Texas. I think he has been an outstanding governor. And Bill Bennett, my colleague, pointed that out last night. But there is one thing that I think Ann really needs to hear. And I did some checking after her last statement that the family faces the lowest tax burden since World War II. It is demonstrably, palpably, unambiguously false. They face the highest tax burden in peacetime in the history of the

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Then why are people so happy?

KEMP: We'll find out. But I'll tell you what. We will leave it up to people. If people are under-taxed, as Ann says they are, they can vote for Gore. And if they're overtaxed, they can vote for George Bush.

KING: Is it still the economy?

RICHARDS: The problem is that the Republicans want to make tax the issue, because it is a lock step version of what their campaign is all about. The reality of it is -- and everyone knows -- things are better for blacks, things are better for women, employment is as high as it has ever been historically in this country. We are finally getting some medical care and need more. All of it is better.

KING: Let me hold you both right there. Tipper Gore has arrived, and she's on a whirlwind schedule. So we are going to ask Jack and Ann to step aside. They both know Tipper very well. Tipper will come in. We will talk with Tipper. And then they will come back. How is that for a hook?

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The Democratic convention, and the lady who might be the first lady of the United States joins us. Mary Elizabeth -- Tipper Gore. It's always good to have here with her ever trusty camera.

Let me tell you -- once I'm standing in National Airport, waiting for baggage. This lady goes running by, says, "Can I get your picture?" I said, "Lady, please." It's her.

Why do you take pictures of people?

(APPLAUSE)

TIPPER GORE, VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE'S WIFE: I love to take pictures of people. Now I sent you that one, too.

KING: You did.

GORE: Yes.

KING: What is it, a hobby, or you publish it?

GORE: Well, I used to -- I started off as a newspaper photographer, and I gave that up when Al first ran for Congress. And I have kept my love of photography, and I enjoy taking pictures.

KING: When you read a newspaper now, do you look at the photography and say, "I'd of shot that differently"?

GORE: Well, I do look at the photography. And I think photographers are very important in reporting the news, and photo- journalists are to be credited with what they do. You know, many of them lose their lives even bringing us the truth. And images, you know, are very important.

KING: OK, Tipper -- we can call you Tipper, right?

GORE: Please. Of course.

KING: How different is this than running for Mrs. Vice President?

GORE: Well, this is different, obviously. Al is running talking about his vision of the future and what he wants to do to make people's lives better. And it's a whole different campaign. It's very exciting. I'm looking forward to his speech. I'm sure everybody else is -- looking forward to finishing it.

KING: Do you know what he is going to say?

GORE: I do know a lot of what he's going to say, because he's going to talk about specific things that he wants to do for the American people. He wants to tell people where he wants to lead this nation so they can make up their minds.

KING: Will we see some of his sense of humor, which his friends know he has and the public doesn't?

GORE: Yes. I know. I think we'll see some of it. This is obviously a serious moment and he wants to be able to really convey his message to the American people. But yes, I think his humor and his wit does come through.

KING: Were you consulted on the Lieberman pick?

GORE: Well, I'm a sounding board for Al...

KING: I mean, did they say, "What do you think?" Or...

GORE: Well, you know how it is in families. All big decisions, I think, people talk to each other about that, yes. I'm very, very excited about Senator Lieberman.

(CROSSTALK)

GORE: I think he brings a lot to the ticket.

Joe and Hadassah have been friends for 15 years, frankly, so we know them very well, admire them and know him to be a man of courage and conviction and has been a great leader.

KING: Are you ready, really, for the rigors of this? As you said, it ain't Mrs. Vice President; it's a lot different.

GORE: Well, I better be ready.

I am ready. I think it's -- of course, I'm ready. This election actually is going to be one of the most important, I think, that we have had, because we're going to have such a clear-cut choice, two very different visions of the future for people. And it's up to us to get our message out and to tell people where Al wants to lead the country in this next century.

KING: Are you surprised, Tipper, that you're behind in the polls?

GORE: No. I think it depends -- I don't really care that much about polls, Larry. I don't pay that much attention to them. I think they change.

KING: Even when you're ahead in them?

GORE: Even when I'm ahead. Even when I'm ahead. I think that they at some point do become important, but I think that right now it's very early.

I believe the convention, both the Democratic and Republican convention, are, sort of, the starting gate for the campaign.

Most people are going to start paying attention in the fall -- I would say in October. And I think, you know, by then, they're really going to know Al Gore and what he stands for, and where he wants to take this country, and what he wants to do to make people's lives better.

KING: This is -- this your first look at the floor, right?

GORE: It's very exciting, yes.

KING: When did your daughter begin to get so involved politically?

GORE: My oldest daughter, Karenna, who's 27?

KING: Yes.

GORE: She -- I think in this election. She's always been an activist. I mean, she's always been -- she just cared about...

KING: Well, we've never seen here come to the forefront before.

GORE: No.

KING: A campaign director almost.

GORE: She's old enough now to do what she -- you know, she's 27. I've got to let go. She's old enough.

KING: Let her go already.

GORE: I know. I've let her -- I'm letting her go. And I'm very proud of her I think because she cares so very passionately about the issues. And she knows that people her age need to understand that politics is personal and that every vote counts.

You know, we were watching Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and Senator Ted Kennedy last night, and I was thinking back to the fact that John Kennedy was nominated in this city. But the important thing is, he won by one vote per precinct when they averaged it out. Every vote is important. And more importantly, I know Karenna and my other children feel strongly as well. Young people need to know that they should have a voice in choosing their future.

KING: Do you like being a grandma?

GORE: I love being a grandmother. I have a wonderful grandson named Wyatt.

KING: Little Wyatt.

GORE: Yes.

KING: A cute little boy.

GORE: He's very cute.

KING: He and Chance will probably be friends.

GORE: I hope so. Absolutely.

KING: Canon'll help you get together.

GORE: I know. Yes.

KING: There were some reports -- let's clear it up. Was -- they said it was awkward yesterday in Michigan. You and Al and the president and Hillary. The body language was bad.

(LAUGHTER)

You're laughing. Was there any...

GORE: Who's they?

KING: I don't know who they -- Maureen Dowd today did a whole column about it.

GORE: You know, who's they?

KING: Get -- the "they" they.

GORE: I was there. Do you want to know my take on it?

KING: Yeah. That's why I'm asking.

GORE: It was great. It was great.

KING: Never awkward.

GORE: We were in Monroe. I don't know -- there were thousands and thousands of people there. It was wonderful. We've -- it's been a terrific eight years with so many accomplishments to feel proud of and to talk about in terms of what's been done for the American people. And it wasn't awkward at all.

KING: So there wasn't anything awkward? I mean, did you hear this?

GORE: No.

KING: There were reporting it.

GORE: I haven't even heard this, no. I haven't heard this...

KING: So that's...

GORE: Do you know what? I was there.

KING: I know.

GORE: So I can tell you.

KING: Someone said Hillary looked one way, you looked another. You didn't look at each other. I'm just -- I'm telling you what was reported. You're shocked.

GORE: I am surprised, actually, yes. No, it was very warm and we spent some time together before we went out and reminisced and talked and took pictures. And Chelsea was there, and she, if you might noticed, came out at the end.

KING: She's quite a lady.

GORE: Yeah, she's turned into a beautiful, lovely young woman.

There wasn't an awkward moment there. It was wonderful. And I think it was -- for me, it was very moving personally. KING: One other question and we'll let you go.

GORE: Yes, OK.

KING: And we'll see a lot of you, of course, on the trail, right? Maybe you could debate the first lady of Texas. It might be interesting. What about it?

GORE: Well, I think the debates are for the candidates. I think that it would be very good if, you know, my husband continues to ask for debates and that...

KING: They're ready.

GORE: ... that his opponent decides to do more.

KING: What do people watching not know about Al Gore? GORE: Probably this, that as busy as he's been with a life in public service for 24 years, that when any of us in the family have needed him, he as been there for us...

KING: Family first.

GORE: ... without fail. And I think what it says is that if he's been there for our family, and I can tell you this, he will be there for your family. And that's, I think, an important thing to know about him.

KING: OK, Tipper, one more shot and you're out.

GORE: OK. Thank you Larry. Oh, beautiful.

KING: Go get 'em.

GORE: Thank you.

KING: Tipper Gore.

The dynamic duo of Ann Richards and Jack Kemp return following this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back. Senator Lieberman speaks at the top of the hour. We're rejoined by the honorable Ann Richards and Jack Kemp. We were talking about things economic. Jack, I want to give you a quote said today by former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. He said, "George W. Bush rejects fiscal discipline and is wrong for the economic future." It's hard to knock Bob Rubin.

KEMP: I'm not knocking him. I'm knocking that statement. It's fallacious.

KING: He's wrong.

KEMP: Of course, the four-trillion dollar surplus, to whom does it belong? The men and women who work, and save and invest in this economy, or to government? And what is being said by everyone in the Democratic Party, it's risky to allow men to earn their own money and keep it after taxes. We don't think it is. George Bush doesn't, and Dick Cheney agrees.

KING: Now when he says government, do you react to that as harsh or as government people to you, or is that a bad word?

RICHARDS: I really think to the Republicans, it is harsh and it is a bad word. I think to the Democrats, we think it is an institution that is probably one of the most prevalent and important in our lives.

And I want to talk for just a second about where the rubber meet the road. When I was county commissioner and we had to pave roads, you would have these old boys come up to you, and they'd say, ma'am, my pothole in front of my house needs to be covered, and I want the government to come out here and do it. And you'd say, well, you know, we're worried about the taxes. Don't worry about the taxes, if you can keep my road paved. If the people get from the government what they feel the government should be providing them, like health care, like child care, like protecting Social Security, then the tax issue is a nonissue.

KING: Polls show, people asked, if they could get guaranteed health care and if they could get prescriptions, they would not -- they don't favor tax decreases.

KEMP: That is a sham argument. We're not arguing over whether or not there should be government. We're not arguing over potholes. We are arguing whether or not the government has a claim to 50 percent of your income, both in this life and as a consequence of dying. It is far too high. In peacetime, John F. Kennedy believed in government, he got cut tax rates. Ronald Reagan believed in government, and he cut tax rates. I believe in government, and was secretary of housing and urban development.

The point is, how do you maximize freedom, maximize opportunity, have a safety net under which people are not allowed to be fault and a ladder of opportunity upon which all people can climb? That is the issue.

RICHARDS: But the Rubin quote that you used has to do with amount. The Democrats have said, yes, we ought to have a tax cut, but within the bounds of reason, so that we can reduce the deficit, so that we can make Social Security sound, and so that we can protect Medicare, and I think that that's the most important thing.

KEMP: Let me remind the governor that we don't have deficit, we have a surplus -- over four-trillion dollars.

KING: Is the argument there over priority?

KEMP: It is priorities. But here is another thing, what is happening in the Democratic Party, bless their hearts, they've got you earning $28,000 to $30,000 dollars, but then if you earn anymore, you are in a marginal tax bracket that is basically unproductive to keep working. I'm serious about that. In the Gore plan, if you are you earn $29,500 and you go up over $30,000, you lose your tax credits, you probably have your alternative minimum tax, and you face close to a 50 percent tax bracket.

RICHARDS: I expect him to get the charts out any minute. Any minute he's going to pull the charts.

KING: He's not bringing out charts. We'll be right back with Kemp and Richards after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Bernie, Judy and Jeff will be returning top of the hour. Senator Lieberman will be speaking.

What can we expect, Ann?

RICHARDS: I think he's going to probably lay out what is his vision of what the country should be and where country should go. I think he'll probably talk about issues that are controversial. I expect him to talk about women's rights, affirmative action. I think he's going to talk about a woman's right to choose, at least I hope he does. I have not seen the text of the speech. But I really think, Larry, that this election, as in the past elections, is going to turn on those women, and what they think, on the last 10 days of the race.

KING: He also has to tell us who he is, right. To most of America...

RICHARDS: Yes, but I think they're feeling more and more that they know him, because you in the media have done a really good job to introduce him.

KING: What was it like for you when you made your vice presidential acceptance speech four years ago?

KEMP: It was thrilling, challenging. He'll do a good job. He let his mother introduce him. That was a fabulous interview you did with his mother, reminding of me all of the mothers that I went to Fairfax High School with, you know.

But, Larry, this would be -- I think Joe Lieberman in the past has been very comfortable standing next to Bill Bennett on removing some of the schlock from our culture, and he's getting very comfortable with Connie Mack, say, of Florida Jack Kemp, talking about enterprise zones and eliminating the capital gains tax and trying to help people get jobs. It's going to be difficult to do pull way from that, albeit he will, and he's going to bash Texas. I saw the speech, and I was little bit surprised that Lieberman really goes after Texas. But I would hope that he is the man that I know and Bill Bennett knows, because I think that would be very attractive to center of the political spectrum.

KING: Doesn't a vice president, though, have to accommodate? You didn't agree with everything that Bob Dole said.

KEMP: You have to accommodate yourself, but you also have to stand for principle, and I like to think I did. and I think Joe Lieberman will. But I hope he doesn't keep saying, or engaging in class warfare. It's unlike Joe Lieberman to say people don't need it, you know, people are too rich or people are too wealthy. Kennedy cut tax rates across the board. I hope Joe doesn't take that tact.

RICHARDS: It's important say that if there are things wrong with your state, you ought to talk about it. It doesn't have anything to do with bashing the state. But we have gone in our state from being 28th in the place to raise a kid to 48th, in just the past six years.

KING: So what's the Texas...

RICHARDS: So let me tell you, they're going to use this, because they don't want them to attack Bush's record. And so they are going to make it bashing Texas. That's not what it is -- it's pointing out what is happened to Texas, and he we have the dirtiest city in America now. We have very lax environmental laws. And that's not bashing Texas, that's telling what's happened to us under this administration.

(CROSSTALK)

KEMP: It's a wonder he won the election. It's a wonder he won re-election.

KING: If Houston is dirty, is it bashing to say it's dirty?

KEMP: I don't know.

RICHARDS: Absolutely not.

KING: Well, with all due respect, he is doing what a governor should be doing at a time in which this economy is growing, at least, that is what Ann Richards says, to make sure that the environmental laws are being -- the regulations are being enforced, there is money being spent. I don't know if it's dirty. L.A. used to he be dirty. But I do know this -- this has been a governor who won, got re- elected, is running for president, is quite popular with the American people, and I think he's on offense, not defense.

RICHARDS: You can't argue with statistics that Texas is worse off today.

KEMP: That's nonsense.

KING: And they'll be back tomorrow, our dynamic duo.

KEMP: Dueling duo.

KING: Dueling. The honorable Ann Richards and Jack Kemp. Stay tuned now. Bernie, Judy, and Jeff Greenfield will be back, and they'll take you right into a big hour tonight, as senator Joseph Lieberman addresses the nation for the first time on this kind of setting.

We'll be back in two hours. We'll have a lot of fun later. John Stewart and others are going to join us.

I'm Larry King in Los Angeles. Stay tuned for more right here on CNN.

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