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Larry King Live
Peter Jennings Discusses 'Family Business'Aired September 14, 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: ABC news anchorman Peter Jennings. We will talk campaign politics, candidate profiles, and more. And we'll take your calls -- next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's always a great pleasure to welcome Peter Jennings to LARRY KING LIVE. And he's become kind of a regular. And we like that around here. He's one of the top newsmen ever, and a great credit to the profession of the newsman. It's always good to see you.
PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS: It really is. I've become a regular. I think last time I was here, we were talking about Jesus.
KING: Jesus. And now we go to...
JENNINGS: Where are we going?
KING: From Jesus to Gore and Bush. There's a story there.
Anyway, before we talk about your two "20/20" specials -- one coming up tonight, the other tomorrow night -- and the unique fashion the way you're doing them -- first some current things.
KING: What did you make of the New York-Buffalo debate last night?
JENNINGS: Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Lazio. I watched all the spin afterwards, and all the debate afterwards. And I was glad that I hew to a rule in my own shop: that we never allow campaign staff on to tell how us well their candidate did. That sort of complicates the process.
KING: Not a learning process.
JENNINGS: And I came away feeling that, however you were invested in the candidate on one side or the other -- whether Mr. Lazio or Mrs. Clinton -- you thought they did quite well. If you pro- Mr. Lazio, he took -- he took the battle to her. If you're Mrs. Clinton, she lived up to expectations, etcetera, etcetera.
KING: So they didn't lose any of their guard?
JENNINGS: Well, one of the things I think that all of us who live in New York are quite struck about is how hard the positions are at the moment. It's a bit like the national election, anyway. So many people appear to have made up their minds at this point. And the two presidential candidates, as the senatorial candidates are here, fighting for a very small pool of voters.
It's very hard to tell about last night, whether it will move people one way or the other.
KING: Were you surprised that a lot of independent people interviewed today -- I think there's a certain part...
JENNINGS: There's no such thing as an independent person.
KING: People who haven't made up their mind thought that she did better.
JENNINGS: Oh, I see. I call them the hold-outs, in a way, because -- because often people are leaning in one direction or the other, and -- and very often, because people are so busy these days, they haven't had a chance to hear the candidates on various issues -- and so they're going to hold out for the longest period of time possible.
I mean, I think you can walk out on the street today and find five people that think Mrs. Clinton did better. And you can walk out, another five people think Mr. Lazio did better. And we will ultimately never know -- despite all of the yam, yam, yam, yam, yam, that we guys do -- until people begin to count the votes on election night.
KING: There was a moment in the debate -- we'll show it to you now -- it dealt with soft money. We will get Peter's reaction to it, as a veteran broadcaster, what he thought of this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RICK LAZIO (R-NY), N.Y. SENATE CANDIDATE: Let's just get this deal done right now.
MODERATOR: We have Mrs. Clinton.
LAZIO: Right here. Here it is. Let's sign it. It's a New York freedom-from-soft-money pact. I signed it. We can -- we can both sit down together. We can all get all the media in here. We will make sure it's an iron-clad deal. And I'm happy to abide by anything that we all agree on. But let's get it down now. Let's not give any more wiggle room.
MODERATOR: Mrs. Clinton, do you want to respond?
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), N.Y. SENATE CANDIDATE: Well, yes, I certainly do. You know, I admire that. That was a wonderful performance.
LAZIO: Well, why don't you sign it?
H. CLINTON: And I -- and you did it very well.
LAZIO: I want you to sign it. I'm not asking to you to admire it. I'm asking you to sign it.
H. CLINTON: Well, I would be happy to, when you give me the signed letter...
LAZIO: Well, right here, right here.
H. CLINTON: When you give me...
LAZIO: Right here. Sign it right now.
H. CLINTON: Well, we'll -- we'll shake on this, Rick.
LAZIO: No, no, no, I want your signature, because I think everybody wants to see you signing something that you said you were for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: I think it may be one of moments in the debates last night when people actually smiled, because every candidate goes into every debate hoping that they can own a particular moment.
KING: I've gotcha.
JENNINGS: And -- well, yes, I think that's a very good description. I think that every candidate -- no matter which party -- goes into a debate with some kind of thing in their mind. I hesitate to call it a gimmick. I think it was smart of him to try to move her. I think she responded in a way that will suit her voters.
One of the things I try not to do in my job is either to make judgments or give advice. But I did think it went on a tad long.
KING: When you watch it, Peter -- and this may be hard to answer -- do you watch it as a viewer, as a voter, as a newsman?
JENNINGS: Well, I watch it too. I think it's impossible for any of us not to find television -- and the political process at its best on television -- compelling. And so you watch it as a human being. You know, the other part of your brain and my brain watches it having seen a good deal more of it than many other people. And therefore, we are skeptical -- trained to be skeptical.
I hope not cynical, though it's been a pretty good year to make cynics out of us in some ways. But even if you're skeptical, sometimes you simply get carried along by -- and it's something -- that's just sort of the magic of this relationship between television and politics.
KING: And before we talk about this race and your specials coming up, what are your thoughts on this -- for want of a better term -- the Clinton phenomena, his presidency, her, the whole Clinton story?
JENNINGS: Somebody said to me -- and I've not forgotten it -- several months ago, that on November 7 this year, the most popular politician in the country will be the one not running for office: namely Bill Clinton. And we all wrestle with how to grasp with this. We all wrestle with how to analyze this. I think I've come to the conclusion that the American people have wisely -- from their point of view -- managed to split themselves, as I think we all do.
Whatever you may think about Bill Clinton professionally, you think about him in personal terms, in moral terms, and in other, and it is possible for so many people to make judgments about his job performance and similarly make other judgments about his moral turpitude or standing. And those will all blend on election day, because people will have to make choices.
Will their sense of morality in the White House overwhelm their assessment of his political performance. Does he get credit? Does George Bush get credit for the economy?
KING: And what trails off to her?
JENNINGS: Well, I think that's the very big question. A lot of the analysis I have heard today was that -- if Mrs. Clinton last night -- by the way, this is conventional wisdom I'm listening to, just like you -- was that she didn't tie her wagon quite as tightly as she might have to Mr. Gore, who is doing well in the polls in New York compared to the president.
The answer is: I simply don't know. And if I give you some long-winded answer here, I would be faking it.
KING: We're going to take a break. And when we come back, Peter, as always -- last time he was here, as he said, we talked about Jesus, which not only turned into a brilliant program, but was incredibly viewed.
JENNINGS: Yeah, I'm very lucky.
KING: "20/20" tonight and tomorrow night, he's going to do an unusual thing with regard to these two candidates. And we will talk about it. And we'll take your calls later as well.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: He stands here and tells us that he's a moderate, mainstream, independent member of Congress. Well, in fact, he was a deputy whip to Newt Gingrich. He voted to shut the government down. He voted to cut $270 billion from Medicare. He voted for the biggest education cuts in our history.
LAZIO: Mrs. Clinton, you of all people shouldn't try to make guilt by association. Newt Gingrich isn't running in this race. I'm running in this race. Let talk about my record.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC "FAMILY BUSINESS")
SEN. ALBERT GORE SR. (D), TENNESSEE: Twenty-five thousand American men have died. What harvest do we reap from their gallant sacrifice?
JENNINGS: Senator Albert Gore Sr. was one of the first outspoken critics of the Vietnam War. In 1970, facing reelection, his position that the U.S. should get out of Vietnam alienated many Tennessee voters.
TIPPER GORE, WIFE OF AL GORE: I think that Al that if he went, it would strengthen his father's hand as an anti-war senator. And that wasn't the reason, but it helped ease the decision that he had already made I think. He decided to volunteer for the Army, and he enlisted when he graduated from Harvard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You have not seen that clip before because it hasn't aired yet, and it's part of this four-hour -- two two-hour special from Peter Jennings, running on two consecutive nights on "20/20."
JENNINGS: Tonight -- tonight at 10:00...
KING: Tonight at 10:00 and tomorrow.
JENNINGS: ... Eastern Time and tomorrow at 10:00 Eastern Time.
KING: And what is the...
JENNINGS: It's the first time in my life I'm ever going to come to CNN and tell people not to watch "NEWSSTAND."
KING: You can watch the follow-up of "NEWSSTAND."
KING: "NEWSSTAND" gets repeated following us at midnight. So...
JENNINGS: You know, it's really -- it's really interesting watching this. We call our program "Family Business," and it's all the kinds of things you cannot do on "World News Tonight." And Albert Gore Sr., who died in 1998, gave young Al so many lessons in life, clearly the dominant figure in his life and his thinking in so many ways, and similarly for George W. Bush, whose father was a great inspiration in many ways and his mother to some extent, who gave him this first initial sense of family service.
But it reminds me looking at it -- it's a wonderful, it's a wonderful segment. We talked to about 46 people who know either Al Gore or George W. Bush from birth, and the parallels are astonishing, but the differences (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
KING: So the concept of the show is "we follow them each"?
JENNINGS: Well, we didn't follow them. We...
KING: It's not a one night Gore, one night Bush.
JENNINGS: No, it's not one night on Gore and one night on Bush. It is -- it is just -- innate -- inordinately struck, as I think people must already be if they've paid any attention to the convention, about how similar these men are in some ways. They both come out of the South. They both come from political families of great note. They both went to Eastern prep schools and they both went to Ivy League colleges.
They both had split lives between East and Texas, in the case of George W., between Washington and Tennessee. They both had strong parents, strong sense of family values.
They both went through the period of Vietnam, which is one of the ways you judge them as having astonishingly different experiences.
I -- it's the kind of thing, as I said to you earlier, you and I probably know, and a lot of the audience might know. But when we put it all together, it became very compelling.
You and I were talking about books earlier on. May I? I carry this book, "The Power of the Presidency" around with me. And there's this great...
KING: It's a collection of...
JENNINGS: It's a collection of wonderful essays about the presidency by David McCullough, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Michael Beschloss, who works for us, Bob Carroll (ph), Ben Bradley, Ed Morris.
And there's this one about the -- John Steinbeck: "We give the president more work than a man can do, more responsibility than a man should take, and more pressure than a man can bear."
And what I think has been wonderfully fun and exciting for me about these hours is to find out how do they get trained for it, how were they conditioned for it, or were they in every case, et cetera.
KING: And for you doing it -- by the way, are they interviewed?
JENNINGS: No, no.
KING: It's about them.
JENNINGS: They appear in the program obviously, because you can't do the program without tracing, without tracking their lives. But we -- we were very -- we thought at first it might be fun to do the programs and talk to all of the witnesses to their lives and all the forces in their life, and then at the end say: "Well, we've decided this about you, sir. What do you think?" And we thought that was kind of cheeky to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) end, a little impertinent. So we decided not -- no. They don't get to talk about this. Only the people who contributed to their lives.
KING: So are we going to see, here's about Al at 12 and here's George at 12, Al at 15, George at 15?
JENNINGS: Well, but not quite so literally. George W. Bush grew up as a child in Midland, Texas.
KING: How many ages apart, about a couple of years?
JENNINGS: About 52, 54 -- 52, 54.
KING: Same generation obviously.
JENNINGS: Yes. Oh, absolutely. The ultimate baby boomers. The first -- we will have the first president, who -- the first member of a presidential campaign who's experienced with World War II. I mean, over the border with Bill Clinton -- you went over with one person.
George W. Bush grew up in Midland, Texas. Al Gore grew up between Washington and Tennessee, and as a result they are different human beings.
George Bush's -- W. -- father has one take on public service and politics. You can see it passed down to George W. Al Gore's sense of his father and the very serious demands his father made on him, particularly in the summertime when he came home to the farm in Carthage, Tennessee. You can see those -- you can see the imprint on Al Gore today. And I think what the program does is enable us to see them both today in a way we don't very often see them on the campaign, which is as human beings.
KING: We'll be back with more of Peter Jennings. These our specials on "20/20," lots to talk about, your calls as well. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC "FAMILY BUSINESS")
GEORGE BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I saw some idiot complaining that George didn't demonstrate against his country in the '60s. Well, I wasn't impressed by that, and I don't think most people that I know were impressed by the fact he didn't do that. And you're not going to condemn somebody that did.
But why should it be such a terrible thing to, as I did when I was in Congress, support the president?
CLAY JOHNSON, BUSH FRIEND: The issue of Vietnam was not the philosophy of whether we should be at war or not. The issue was there was a draft, and if you didn't have a plan, you were going to get drafted.
JENNINGS: George W. had a plan. He arranged to join the Air National Guard in Texas, which meant he would not be sent to Vietnam. (END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC "FAMILY BUSINESS")
REP. AL GORE (D), TENNESSEE: It concerns me that we've got thousands of these dump sites that are cancer cesspools.
JAMES SASSER, GORE FAMILY FRIEND: As soon as the House would adjourn for the week, Al Gore would be on the airplane to Tennessee, and he would be wherever two or more were gathered together in his congressional district almost -- he would be there.
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS: He likes the hard work, and you can tell -- and in fact he has said -- it comes from what his dad did to him, which was drive him. And if there's one hallmark of Al Gore, it is relentlessness. He will continue to come at you and come at the issue and hammer away and work it until he gets what he wants or you beat him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: These programs are going to be able to stand on the shoulders of other people. That's Terry Moran, our correspondent who covers Gore, and he's brilliant. Dean Reynolds, who covers Bush, is very good. And that's Jim Sasser, of course, an old family friend, former senator from Tennessee, U.S. ambassador to China.
KING: Gore went to Vietnam because of his father?
JENNINGS: Well, it is argued that he felt compelled to go to Vietnam for several reasons, but one certainly was the fact that he didn't want to have a negative impact on his father's campaign. Of course, his father ultimately got beaten by Vietnam, though, throughout the campaign.
JENNINGS: In that year, of course, you see Richard Nixon sending Spiro Agnew down -- wonderful footage in the film -- sending Spiro Agnew down to campaign against Al Gore Sr., and you see, of course, Richard Nixon wanting George Bush to be elected the first time.
So all these parallels. Nixon was there.
KING: You talk to the man who ran against George W. Bush.
JENNINGS: Oh, yes, a wonderful man named Kent Hance, who was his congressional opponent in 1978 when George W. ran for the first time. Again, another parallel, George W. and Al Gore ran when the longtime congressman in the district dropped out, and both of them made fairly spontaneous decisions to run for it.
Kent Hance is now a very, very big supporter of Governor Bush's, but at the time you could see him painting George Bush as the outsider and himself as the good old boy. And some of the stories are really wonderful. And of course, you get to see how George W. campaigned in those days.
KING: Key telling point in the early lives to you are what? Was there a key moment in young George W. Bush's life?
JENNINGS: I don't think so, but there were many at the same time. I think that one of the things that strikes many people who have had any association with him is that he's been very comfortable at himself. He did not set out with a great passionate invention.
Cokie Roberts, who's an important figure as an analyst in this program makes the point, she doesn't think George W. hungers for this the way that Al Gore always has.
But he grew up, I think, with -- I don't want to use the word listless; I'm very careful -- with a sense of following in the family footsteps to some extent, but not in the political vein. His father, former President Bush, made money in the oil business, Texas. That's where George W. went after Harvard Business School, went back to Midland to see if he could strike it rich.
Mr. Gore, I think, was somewhat more tormented about what he'd do with life and clearly affected by Vietnam, came back, took some divinity courses, went to work as a reporter, tells us he wasn't sure he wanted to go into politics. But the inextricable pull of politics, which is almost like a vein in the family tree, ultimately worked on both of them.
KING: Do you know if Gore ever planned a career in journalism? Did he ever think that this is what I want to do for a living?
JENNINGS: Well, there's a wonderful moment in one of these hours in which Gore criticizes his colleagues at "The Nashville Tennessean," which is a newspaper quite accustomed to having the sons and and daughters of famous people work for it -- it's a great newspaper in Tennessee. And -- and they play all the usual tricks on Al Gore, and we do a couple of them in the broadcast.
But at one point he says to his colleague, because they're all speculating about whether he'll follow in his father's footsteps, whether he wants to be a politician, whether he will be president some day, and Gore says, you know, knock it off, knock it off, that's not what's on my mind at the moment.
KING: Do you read -- do you deal with George W. Bush's problems?
JENNINGS: Yes, very much so.
KING: Talked to people about that?
JENNINGS: In fact, there are some very unusual pictures in the broadcast of George W., you know, prior -- his mother, Mrs. Bush, former first lady, talks quite openly about the decision to give up drinking when he was 40. We certainly talk about the impact of his wife on his life. We certainly talk about his reckless years, because you could not. And the interesting think about Governor Bush is he doesn't shy away from them.
KING: It's what forms a man, though, right?
JENNINGS: In his early 40s he gave up drinking, his mother says at the age of 40. He claims to have -- and I use the word in the most neutral sense -- claims to have found a relationship with Jesus in his early 40s that helped him turn his life around as did...
KING: Billy Graham had a great effect on him.
JENNINGS: Billy Graham to some extent. And so the spiritual influence in his life -- sometimes a little hard to see in contemporary fashion. I think we were all struck at the beginning of the campaign year how openly, almost nakedly both these men were espousing their religious associations and their spiritual associations on the campaign. They're doing it less now, but, you know, it is there in both of their lives.
KING: The title of this is "Family ..."?
JENNINGS: "Family Business." Yes, we thought of all sorts of -- I thought "Family Matters" would be an even better title, but it turned out to be, of course, a prior title of a program.
KING: "Family Business" is American; "Family Matters" is Canadian.
JENNINGS: No, "Family Matters" is actually a very -- very famous sitcom.
KING: You're right. Beaten again by -- anchors, they always do that to you. They've got to top you.
We'll be right back -- we'll be right back with more of Peter Jennings and we'll be taking your calls soon as well. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC "FAMILY BUSINESS")
BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, he gave up drinking on his 40th birthday. I think he decided that that -- that he didn't want it.
GEORGE H. BUSH: He wasn't an alcoholic in the sense of he had to get up in the morning and have a drink to get things going. But he -- he realized that he couldn't hold his liquor, as they say, and decided not to take a drink, and he hasn't.
JOE O'NEIL, BUSH FRIEND: George just came to the conclusion that he wasn't in charge or in control all the time when he drank. That was a time all of us were going through: your 40s, business was getting bad, and you kind of -- you get that "seven-year itch" in your marriage and things like that. And they all kind of came to the same point for all of us. And so, that's when George got more religious and went down this road of sobriety. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: "Family Business," by the way, airs tonight at 10:00 Eastern and tomorrow night.
JENNINGS: 35 minutes.
KING: Switch over, and then come back for CNN "NEWSSTAND" when it's repeated at 1:00.
Just leaving the program for two quick things: your thoughts on a couple of items in the news. Fund raising's back in today, with Gore issuing -- Bush issuing a very tough statement about apparently Gore pitching for funds from trial lawyers.
JENNINGS: Well, there's no question the trial lawyers have been strong supporters of the Democratic Party. What goes on here I think is what goes on in all of campaigns, which is candidates attempt -- and now, we're talking again. Remember, there's this tiny pool of independents or holdouts, not independents in terms of registration, people who haven't made up their minds. Both these candidates are trying to appeal to this tiny pool of people left.
KING: By the way, you keep saying tiny. If it's that tiny, then what does it all mean? Will the debates swing the election? And is it that close, that tiny will swing it?
JENNINGS: Well, certainly, the debate will be the next big event in the whole election process, and we've seen the impact of debates before. You started tonight's conversation talking about Lazio and Mrs. Clinton last night in terms of the impact of that debate and the way it spins out.
I'm always a bit sensitive about folks at home who only get what we push on down through the tube after a particular event. So you'll get the debates plus the entire spectrum of media analysis of how it went.
So yes, I think it will be important. But if you look at the polls throughout the country today, you'll see that the race is pretty much resolved on the coasts. Reasonably resolved in the South at the moment, though not completely. Florida may be up for grabs.
But in the these toss-up or battleground states as we refer to them every day on the news, you know, it's still up for grabs, and that makes a pool of voters that may represent 2 percent, may represent 8 percent, but maximum will represent 12 or 15 percent.
KING: What do you make of this Wen Ho Lee story? They keep the guy in jail, he's a master spy, and he's convicted on one count.
JENNINGS: I was struck by two things. I was struck by the prosecutor yesterday, when asked if they were going apologize to him, said, you know -- or did he treat them badly. You know, of course, we treat people who steal our secrets, which, of course, hasn't been resolved. But it gives you a sense of how some people in the Justice Department felt about the prosecution.
And then I was struck again today by the president, whose Justice Department it is, dare we say, who came out and I thought represented the sentiment of quite a lot of Americans when he said, wasn't this a pretty bad thing and he was sorry, and he always had mixed feelings about it.
So it's interesting to see the president and the attorney general, Janet Reno...
... on opposite sides of the fence, not for the first time.
KING: And Clinton's going to Vietnam?
JENNINGS: Yes. I think one has to be kind of delicate about that, too, because the first instinct is to stay Clinton going to Vietnam finally.
And that, of course, is what his critics will say. But I'm also very mindful of the fact that the president, you know, made an enormous effort to normalize relations with Vietnam, to enhance the trade relationship with Vietnam.
And I went with the president to India and not to Pakistan, but I went on that trip. And I've always been struck with why the country will in many ways miss the president, because, though I had done a lot of work -- because one of our last programs had been on India and Pakistan. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a lot of work, and I was reasonably up on my game.
And the White House was somewhat anxious about doing an interview with him, and I just knew going in not only that the president would know it cold, but that he would, no matter what the territory was when he got there, he would handle it.
And of course, they loved him in India, not in any sort of unbridled, unsophisticated way, but because he came to grasp with their issues. And I think that is what the country will miss about Clinton.
KING: "Family Business" airs tonight and airs, part two, tomorrow night. We'll come back, talk more abut it, and take your phone calls. We'll also talk about the influence of the wives. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC "FAMILY BUSINESS")
JENNINGS: George W. Bush was 42 in 1988. He had spent his life as the loyal son in his father's footsteps but without his father's accomplishments, living in the long shadow cast by the man he idolized.
There was nothing in the record to suggest that in only 12 years he would stand before the Republican Party to accept its nomination.
Not so with Al Gore.
AL GORE JR.: Some have asked me, "Why don't you wait?" That is the same question which confronts our nation in 1988.
JENNINGS: Al Gore was not yet 40 when he charged into the bright sun of the national media spotlight.
AL GORE JR.: Today, I declare my candidacy for president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Before we take our first call for Peter Jennings, you discuss their successes and failures, take us right through their lives.
What about the influence of Laura and Tipper?
JENNINGS: Enormous in both cases. One of the things I love about working on a program like this is, is how much we actually learn. You know, we get to pass along what we learn. I've got have two wonderful producers on this, Mark Obenhouse (ph) and Richard Robbins (ph), and they focus a lot on the two wives.
Tipper you can see from the very beginning: a sustenance for Al, a strength for Al. As we've seen I think a lot in the campaign this year, her presence enables him to loosen up. He's not always been the loosest guy, certainly at his public performances.
For Laura, Mrs. Bush, gets enormous credit for helping him to turn his life around. He fell head over heels in love with her almost when he first looked at her. She was not quite so smitten in the early stages -- which if you look at Bush in his '30s you'd probably sympathize with.
But yes, it's really interesting, and I was saying to somebody today that in this new generation in which wives and husbands get cast off more readily than they did in our parents' generations, these two guys, very solid with their same wives, yes.
KING: Ventura, California, as we go to calls for Peter Jennings, anchor, senior editor, ABC News "World News Tonight," and the host of Family Business on "20/20".
KING: Hi. CALLER: My question is, Mr. Jennings, what do you think motivated Hillary Clinton to run for the Senate?
JENNINGS: Oh, what a wonderful question.
Well, I think on the very positive side, I think Mrs. Clinton is very committed to public service. I think she believes, as a great many people who go into political life, that politics is in part about power, but it's in part about public service, and to some extent the two are inseparable.
So looking at it on the bright side, I would say a commitment to public service. There are a lot of people, as you know, who speculate this was a way for her to separate herself from the president's successes, if not from the president, and declare herself as an independent character. But I generally think, whatever you may think of Mrs. Clinton as a character, I think she believes quite strongly in public service. And I know no politician who doesn't believe that the way to accomplish things in the public arena is having the power.
KING: And a vote for me will do it.
JENNINGS: Thought you were running for a second...
KING: Annapolis, Maryland, hello.
CALLER: Hello. My question, Mr. Jennings, is you've been covering presidential campaigns for a while now, and over the last 20 or 30 or so years we've seen a lot more negativism and personal attacks. And I'm just wondering if you see this as a continuing trend.
JENNINGS: Well, the trouble about negative politics or the fact about negative politics I think is that every political tactician, every political strategist, much wiser than me on the subject, will tell you that it actually works. It is possible to drive a person's negatives up.
I do sometimes think that we in the media get a little caught up in the candidates' notion of what is a negative campaign. We hear George W. and Mr. Gore, for example, throwing around: "That was a negative attack on me and that was a negative attack on me."
And as Kent Hance once -- who was George W.'s opponent in 1978 -- said: All we did is say he hadn't lived here long, and he took it as negative campaigning.
So I think sometimes negative campaigning, like so much, is in the eye of the beholder, and I don't think we'll ever get rid of it.
KING: But yet in one of our closest races ever, Kennedy-Nixon, there wasn't a lot of negativity, was there? JENNINGS: No, not certainly not as much -- I mean, let's face one thing, times have changed. But I think the politicians and their campaign staffs spend an enormous amount of time testing the public waters.
One of the things I think we've seen about Mr. Bush this year is a man who may have lost a little bit of control of his -- of his public image at the moment -- still time to go -- because he had the high road, there was no particular challenge to him. He was deemed the easy front-runner, then things began to go somewhat the other way, and his campaign message changed somewhat, got a bit more dour.
KING: We are fascinated by it. Do you think there's ever a time the public gets tired of it?
JENNINGS: Negative campaigning or politics in general?
KING: Yes, negative...
KING: I don't think the public gets anymore tired of it than we do. I mean, I think it's true that the press likes a good race. Walter Cronkite used to say, "We don't go airports to watch planes land safely."
So part of what we do in life is conflict, part of what we do in life is try to give conflict some kind of context. But I -- I take exception to the notion that we're also not human beings with similarly -- similar -- sorry, with similar sentiments to the public at-large.
If I see a candidate trashing another outrightly and I know it's dishonest or untrue, I'm offended.
KING: Vancouver, British Columbia, hello.
CALLER: Good evening, gentlemen. It's an honor to speak with you.
KING: Thank you.
CALLER: I was just wondering what do you, with the American elections coming up, what do you think are the qualities of an effective leader?
JENNINGS: You know, it's the great question. In Canada, you're going through this, at the moment, with Prime Minister Chretien deciding to run again day, and Stockwell Day, the conservative leader, coming -- coming up, who's very charismatic -- a great many people think Mr. Chretien's charismatic in his own way; he's been in politics forever.
But I think this is true no matter where politics are waged. Do we elect a man because of what he stands for, because of where he stands on the issues, because how he makes the nation feel? David McCullough, a great American historian, makes the point time and time again that it is essential for politicians to make a connection with us, as Franklin Roosevelt did, as Teddy Roosevelt did, as John F. Kennedy did, as Ronald Reagan did.
KING: Harry Truman did?
JENNINGS: As Harry Truman did in -- in another way. And I'm inclined to think that when -- that when we get down to it, in the final analysis, that it is the character in terms of the quality of leadership that ultimately makes the difference.
I think most people have a sense of what a president can accomplish and can't accomplish when in the complex relationship we have here between the executive and the legislative branch.
So I think the country ultimately looks to a man who it's comfortable with.
KING: Is Canada politics very different?
JENNINGS: Canadian politics are becoming more similar to -- Canada has a parliamentary system. We have a republican system here. Canada is becoming more like the United States in many ways, and so politics are changing. Politics are practiced; cosmetics have become more important in Canadian politics, I think, in recent years. But they're entirely different systems.
If you run for the parliament in Canada, you get elected from your district, your constituency, your -- and it is your party that makes you the leader. You don't run for prime minister.
KING: And Canada, by the way, just I heard this today, is doing the Olympics live.
JENNINGS: Yes, I...
KING: Even with the weird hours?
JENNINGS: If you want to see the Olympics live and you don't want to wait 12 hours, as NBC's going to make us wait, then you should be thankful you live along the border.
KING: You get it.
JENNINGS: Whether you live in Detroit or (UNINTELLIGIBLE), because you watch the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, see it all live.
KING: Tomorrow night on this program, a special on breast cancer. You won't want to miss this. Rob Lowe and a lot of others guests tomorrow night. And the specials with Peter Jennings air tonight and tomorrow night, and we'll be back with more calls after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE SR.: How anyone could in good conscience distort the record of one who led the fight. MORAN: Al Gore's father was one of the first victims of a new kind of attack and negative politics, and I think Al Gore learned from that that he was never going to get out-attacked, and he has always managed a style of attack that for the most part is analytical but carnivorous.
AL GORE JR.: I don't know why you did a 180 degree reversal on that issue.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: The problem for Gore is that the most lasting impression he made in 1988 was that of a slashing, desperate, slightly mean candidate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC "FAMILY BUSINESS")
JENNINGS: For the whole Bush family, it was a bitter loss. No one took it harder than George W.
G.H. BUSH: My defeat was rough. And it was tough on the family. And everybody, I think -- our sons and our daughter were hurt for their father. But that doesn't mean you get out of the game.
JENNINGS: The Bush family did not stay out of the game for long. The next generation was ready to go: Jeb for the governorship in Florida, and George W. to challenge Governor Ann Richards in Texas.
G.W. BUSH: I want to be the next governor of this state. I really believe it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: Here's another example of where the parallels are quite astonishing. No one knows the pain of politics more than the children of politics who have been defeated. And George W. saw his father defeated. And Al Gore -- younger than George W. ...
KING: Saw his father...
JENNINGS: ... saw his father very, very badly beaten up. And I think both of them learned a great deal from that. George W., in his father's campaign, worked with the late Lee Atwater for South Carolina, one of the great political strategists in the country, who in many ways in concert encouraged George W. to go more vigorously after Michael Dukakis in that particular campaign.
I've never talked to Mr. Gore about this, but I -- but looking at the video, just looking at the pictures of the night of those debates that his father got involved in, and the loss of his father, I -- the pain must have been just quite astonishing.
KING: Why -- before we go back to some calls -- why are so many pundits wrong so much? Analysts, I mean, they... JENNINGS: Oh, that's a tough -- that's a tough -- I, you know -- I --George Stephanopoulos, you see on the -- George Stephanopoulos is one of my favorite analysts, because he works. I was with him in South Carolina. And this -- a question came up. And I didn't see George for a couple hours. And he came back. And he had called every county in the state to try to get an answer of something that was occurring.
And the pundits I admire, and the pundits who I think ultimately succeed -- or get it right most of the time -- are those who continue to work as reporters: Bill Safire, a very good...
KING: First a reporter.
JENNINGS: First a reporter -- very good example of that. It's just so easy for all of us to have opinions. But to have working opinions I think is a much more important thing.
KING: Dallas, Texas, hello.
MARTIN MURPHY, FORMER ABC NEWSMAN: Peter, you and I arrived at ABC back in the 60s at about the same time. I'm very -- wondering...
JENNINGS: Oh, I recognize that voice. That's Murphy Martin.
MURPHY: As you did this program -- or these programs -- did you find yourself feeling that these two men -- because of their deep political backgrounds -- are better qualified candidates to serve, either or both of them, if they are elected, number one. And secondly, do you perceive that the voters -- because of the deep political backgrounds of these two candidates -- feel they are better candidates than usual?
KING: By the way, is this Murphy Martin?
MURPHY: Yes, it is.
JENNINGS: That's who I thought it was. I recognize... KING: What are you doing, Murph?
MURPHY: Not too much.
KING: What, are you retired?
MURPHY: ... your show right now.
KING: Thank you.
JENNINGS: He is retired. He -- Murphy Martin was one of the great reporters...
KING: Oh, yeah.
JENNINGS: ... in the early days ABC.
Nice to hear your voice, Murph.
And had -- I remember coming to ABC when I was very young, and Murphy Martin had a voice that practically ran you off the block. I mean...
KING: We have a term for it we can't repeat on the air.
JENNINGS: Exactly. The two -- in some respects -- I think I alluded to this earlier -- the two things I don't think a reporter should do is give advice or make predictions. But the qualities of the candidates are very different in many ways. Al Gore is a man who has dedicated his life to detail. George W. Bush has not. He's the first to admit it.
George W. Bush is a man who I think feels more comfortable with himself historically than Mr. Gore has. Those are each qualities which we look to in a president. I haven't the vaguest idea how the reporters -- how the voters are going to respond. We are all told -- the convention wisdom is -that voter turnout will be lower this year than it's been forever, if not in a very long time.
We are told that young people again won't vote. I'm split even about that. There's -- you know -- the hard thing for Mr. Bush is, in some respects, is to play as well as he's doing in such a good environment. If the economy is the bottom line for most American voters -- it has been historically, except in types of war -- then you could say on one side of the coin, Mr. Bush is in pretty good shape to be where he is.
So I have no idea how the voters will ultimately respond.
KING: Would you say they both...
JENNINGS: And, you know, we have also been through a period where we see power leaching away from Washington, in many ways. Who is more important in the world today: Bill Clinton or Bill Gates? I don't know. It's a good question.
KING: Do you think they both have the nation's respect?
JENNINGS: I think it's too much of a generalization to say the nation's respect.
JENNINGS: I think they are both respected by those people who admire them. What's interesting in terms -- I think Mr. Bush has some difficulty at the moment in terms of a team. I notice that more people in the internals of the polls respect the Lieberman choice by Mr. Gore than respect the Cheney choice by Mr. Bush. But again, we are always reminded and we are always saying ad nauseum, you know, we got the next few weeks. A couple of weeks is a long time in American politics.
KING: And you pick Quayle, you got no chance to win.
JENNINGS: Didn't touch that -- won't touch that with a ten-foot pole.
KING: We all remember that. Right? Remember, Bush picked Quayle. It was over.
JENNINGS: I saw -- I saw the former vice president.
JENNINGS: Actually, he is having a very happy life living out there with all the time in Arizona.
KING: You remember in '88, they had no chance.
JENNINGS: Well, you know, I don't think the press ever...
KING: Last time I checked
KING: Never gave them the right time.
JENNINGS: I mean, never gave Dan Quayle 10 minutes.
KING: Back with more of Peter Jennings. The specials air tonight and tomorrow.
We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC "FAMILY BUSINESS")
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.
BILL TURQUE, AUTHOR, "INVENTING AL GORE": I think, like a lot of people at the White House, he had kind of this queasy feeling when Clinton got up and said: I did not have sex with that woman. Gore had no illusions about that aspect of Clinton's character. He knew the history just as well as anybody else did.
But he really had no choice but to take him at his word and proceed.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, FORMER CLINTON ADVISER: You're Al Gore the day that story breaks. What can possibly be going through your head? Number one, what was going through everybody's head: How could he be so stupid? Number two: Any wrong move I make at a moment when perhaps the presidency is in peril could come crashing down on me as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, ABC "FAMILY BUSINESS")
G.W. BUSH: I do have a compelling reason to consider running for president. I want the 21st century to be one of prosperity with a purpose.
G.H. BUSH: Prosperity with a purpose means, in short, helping your brothers and sisters, whoever they are.
G.W. BUSH: And we must make sure the purpose of prosperity is to help every single person have a shot at atrieving -- achieving the American dream.
G.H. BUSH: I say to my fellow Republicans: We are the party of Lincoln. Our whole history was protecting those who needed our protection.
G.W. BUSH: I want the party of Lincoln to be the party that makes sure no one gets left behind.
G.H. BUSH: But where is it written that Republicans must act as if they don't care?
G.W. BUSH: I've described myself as a compassionate conservative.
G.H. BUSH: A president must never intrude. But a president can set a tone.
G.W. BUSH: A leader sets a tone. Should I decide to run for the president, I will set an optimistic and hopeful tone for America. I will campaign on my beliefs and my principles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JENNINGS: I thought at first, when we looked at this sequence, that we've got something here that was imitative, that it was perhaps unfair. But then I realized afterwards that it's another reflection of: like father, like son. And it's true in both campaigns. It's precisely true for Mr. Gore. And it's precisely true for Mr. Bush.
And former President Bush taught his son a sense of public service. He may have come late to it. But he taught his sense of public service. And Al Gore -- and Al Gore Sr. taught his son the -- what he believed were the benefits of government. And you see it in Al Gore today. He believes in government. One of the very clear differences between these two men is -- is the degree to which they believe in the role of government in people's lives.
KING: Grand Rapids, Michigan for Peter Jennings, hello
CALLER: Thank you.
Mr. Jennings, after such in-depth exposes, particularly like the "Dark Side of Camelot," why do you think people still so revere the Kennedys, especially JFK?
KING: Good question -- with all we know.
JENNINGS: Well, it's a very interesting program. "The Dark Side of Camelot" is a program that I worked on which was -- we did in conjunction with a very interesting, unconventional investigative reporter named Sy Hersh, who wrote a book as well, which was...
JENNINGS: ... about the darker side of Kennedy White House. I don't think that everybody does still revere the Kennedys. And I'm always reminded of the time of the president's assassination. The country did not entirely revere him.
KING: He wins every college poll as the best president of this century, of the...
JENNINGS: I think there have been some great presidents in this century. You would not find me in the corner which said President Kennedy was the best president of the century.
KING: But he wins.
JENNINGS: No doubt, I think -- as it did in the "Time" poll, for example -- go to President Roosevelt. But the magic of Camelot, accelerated to some extent by Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Kennedy's contribution to the country and the kind of light Mrs. Kennedy left -- and the wide array of Kennedy -- I'm being very careful -- but it's the wide array of Kennedy associates -- and some would argue even hangers-on -- I think has -- has promoted, argued the magic for all these years.
But I've never believed that the whole country was romantic about John F. Kennedy at all.
Back with out remaining moments for Peter Jennings.
Don't go away.
KING: By the way, the debates have been decided. There will be the three, as originally named. There are more meetings coming as to moderators and as to formats. And that's going to be discussed on CNN "NEWSSTAND" following this program.
JENNINGS: I'm a big fan of CNN, as you know. I watched it from the beginning. I watch "NEWSSTAND." This is the night -- this is just that one night you should give up "NEWSSTAND."
KING: Just one.
JENNINGS: Now, tomorrow night -- tomorrow night is even worse. I figure that tomorrow night...
KING: You're up against...
JENNINGS: We're up against the opening of the Olympic Games on NBC. But I sort of figured it out, that by the time we come on tomorrow night, all of the important -- the great events will be over. And they will have had enough.
KING: By the way, you've always been graceful of this network. You were on, on our 20th anniversary.
JENNINGS: I was. I was very flattered to be asked.
KING: And CNN "NEWSSTAND" is terrific.
JENNINGS: I enjoy it. I enjoy it.
KING: Allentown, Pennsylvania, hello.
CALLER: Yes, I spent my New Year's watching your wonderful, worldwide coverage of events bringing us into January 1, 2000. Are you planning any special coverage for January 1 , 2001?
JENNINGS: Well, you touched a nerve. But I thought you were actually talking to Larry, because Larry worked on -- Larry worked on the millennium as well. And at point, I tried to call you on the telephone so that we could talk to one another.
KING: Only have a minute.
JENNINGS: There is some talk about us perhaps doing another New Year's broadcast.
KING: The real millennium.
JENNINGS: Well, indeed, one would argue the real millennium. Many scholars do. But I -- the only thing I think we have to be careful with is that we don't -- we aren't a pale shadow of our former selves, because that was a wonderfully exciting adventure for all of us. And I don't want to feel that we intrude on people's New Year's celebrations, unless we have something that is really great. We -- we are working on it.
KING: OK. The specials are coming. "NEWSSTAND" is talking about it. How close is this going to be? And we are going to have you on once before this election is over.
JENNINGS: I -- I -- it's hard to judge how close it's going to be. I've always shied away from conventional wisdom. Though I know the power of it. And the candidate out front on Labor Day has historically been the one who stayed ahead in November. But given the media age in which we lead, just look at the difficulty week that George W. has had because the media has given him a very difficult week.
Next week, the media could give Al Gore a bad week. And I think, because it is close at this time -- close in your poll -- your tracking poll, at least -- very close in our poll -- particularly in the battleground states -- I think there is a big opportunity for each of the candidates now to make a -- to make an impression on the people that I keep referring to as the hold-outs. So this is not over by any means.
KING: Thanks, Peter.
JENNINGS: Thanks for having me. Nice to see you.
KING: Peter Jennings.
Those specials are tonight. And CNN "NEWSSTAND" is next.
And I'm Larry King. And we always thank Peter for being with us.
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