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Larry King Live

Jimmy Carter Discusses Politics and His New Book, 'An Hour Before Daylight'

Aired January 8, 2001 - 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, the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter. He's watched overvoting around the world. What if he monitored the election 2000 here in America?

But first, Bush Cabinet picks are under fire, and joining us with partisan perspective on the looming confirmation fights, Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, a member of the Judiciary Committee, and also Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin before we talk with President Carter with Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. The hearings are beginning to approve or not approve those members of the Cabinet selected by the incoming president, George Bush.

The first one on-deck -- well, Chavez be discussed next week, but Ashcroft has gotten the big story so far.

Senator Kyl, you've served with Senator Ashcroft. Do you see any problem in his record?

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: No, I don't see any problem in his record, but then, I'm a Republican like John Ashcroft. I think all Republicans will support his nomination, as will a number of Democrats. He will be confirmed.

There will be some tough questions, as there should be for any attorney general, but I'm confident he'll be confirmed.

KING: Is there anything about his opinions and the like that give you concern for the job he's about to get?

KYL: Well, Larry, let me say this: There probably hasn't been a more qualified candidate for attorney general in -- in anybody's recent memory. He is a law professor. He was attorney general of the state of Arizona for -- state of Missouri for eight years, governor of Missouri for eight years, in the United States Senate. He got his law degree from University of Chicago, very prestigious law school, undergraduate from Yale.

Patrick Moynihan, retiring from the Senate, says he would make a superb attorney general, and I think Pat's right. KING: Senator Kerry, do you have any doubts?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, let me begin by saying, Larry, because I don't want to sound a negative note, I think President-elect Bush has put together by and large a very competent Cabinet. And when you look at people like Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld and Tommy Thompson and others, these are very capable go-to people who are experienced and knowledgeable. And so is John Ashcroft. But the question is, is this, I suppose, the right job at the right time for him?

And I think some of us, without making a complete judgment yet -- I have not decided how I will vote, but I think there are tough questions to be asked and appropriate questions to be asked. First of all, we know that a large part of America was significantly outraged by what happened in this past election, and particularly we saw on the floor of the House of Representatives the African-American community express their anger still at a sense of disenfranchisement at what happened in Florida.

I would think that for the top law enforcement official of the land, for the person responsible for making the judgment of where the resources of the Justice Department will go, what will be prosecuted, what will not, which laws you will apply a specific task force to, what the solicitor-general will argue before Supreme Court and so forth, you would want someone who would be completely beyond question.

And here at a time when President Bush, elect Bush, comes to Washington supposedly to unite, not divide, I think that the John Ashcroft nomination actually raises many divisive questions.

KING: But you're not saying you're going against him yet?

KERRY: No, I am not. I think the worst thing any of us could do at this point is have a repeat of the Bork nomination. I think it was not a great chapter in the Senate. I think we need to listen. We need -- but we also need to ask the tough questions. I mean, I find it hard to understand how an attorney general in the state of Missouri could oppose voluntary desegregation. I find it hard...

KYL: John, that's a low-blow.

KERRY: I find it -- it's not a low-blow.

(CROSSTALK)

It's the reality of what happened.

KYL: Finish your thought and I'll tell you why it's not accurate.

KERRY: I also find it hard to understand how someone can be deemed to pull together the country when they have accepted a -- an honorary degree from Bob Jones University and give a commencement address there with its policies that I think have been discredited to the point President-elect Bush had to apologize to the Catholic community.

KING: Now, Senator Kyl, you'll agree that those are legitimate questions to ask.

KYL: No, they're not. Let's -- voluntary segregation, every attorney general of the state of Missouri has opposed the plan that was imposed upon it by the district court there, including his -- John Ashcroft's Republican successor, William Webster, and his Democratic successor, Jay Nixon. To suggest somehow that opposition to this court-ordered bussing in Missouri was a good -- that that opposition wasn't appropriate for the attorney general or any other elected official of the state and to draw some innuendo from that that -- what? -- that John is a racist or something, I mean, that is -- that is very irresponsible.

KING: I've got a time limit -- I've got a time limit here, fellows, so -- and this was booked late and we do have a president scheduled. So Senator Kerry, let's move to Linda Chavez. That will come up next week. Are you concerned about this apparent illegal immigrant who lived in her home, did odd jobs and got money?

KERRY: Larry, I honestly don't know enough about it. I don't know the facts. I don't know exactly how that person came to be there or what the circumstances were. So I wouldn't make a judgment about that.

But I think there are questions about Linda. Again, if you're trying to unite and reach out to the working people of America, and suggest that somebody who will be responsible for the relationships with them doesn't support the minimum wage, or in fact, doesn't believe there's a glass ceiling in America where women earn less working for the same job as men work for, I think you have a problem in establishing the kind of rapport with working people that the labor secretary is supposed to have.

So again...

KING: Is she going to have a problem?

KERRY: ... there are questions. I think there are -- I don't know whether she'll have the problem. I think there are definitely people who have some very deep reservations.

KING: Senator Kyl, do you? Because we remember when Clinton began, there were questions about maids and Social Security and payments and the like, and nominees were not approved.

KYL: Sure, and the questions that have been raised here need to be asked of her, and obviously, she's the best person to be in a position to answer those questions. She'll have to do so.

I think what you're seeing, though, is the fact that the more liberal Democrats in the country weren't happy that George Bush was elected president and they're not going to like a lot of his Cabinet picks. But ordinarily, the Congress, the Senate in particular, gives a new president a great deal of deference with respect to who he wants in his Cabinet. And I think this is the first test of the Democratic leadership here.

Are they willing to walk the walk of bipartisanship as well as talking the talk?

KING: Senator Kyl, did you approve when President Clinton removed his nominations because of things like this?

KYL: Well...

KING: Eight years ago?

KYL: Well, you have to define what you mean by "things like this"? You had people who were employing illegal aliens.

KING: Well, not reporting -- not reporting money paid.

KYL: Right, exactly, and as an employment situation. And Linda Chavez has denied that she employed this woman. So...

KING: Did she report it then as a gift? Do you know?

(CROSSTALK)

If you give someone money, it's a gift.

KYL: You don't have to report a gift.

KING: You have to pay taxes on gifts.

KYL: Well...

KING: Senator. I pay them. You have to pay taxes on gifts.

KYL: Maybe the level of gifts you give, Larry, you'd have to do that. But to bring somebody in your home as an act of kindness, which she has done on several different occasions with young Puerto Rican boys, with a couple of boys from Vietnam -- her church was running a program here to help this woman. She brought her into her home and had her help out, and yes, she gave her spending money. Whether this woman should have reported that on her income taxes or something like that, I don't know.

Those are all questions that we can get into at the hearing.

KING: Senator Kerry, don't you believe, though, she deserves the benefits of the doubt? Does Linda Chavez?

KERRY: Absolutely. I think any nominee deserves the benefit of the doubt and they deserve a fair hearing, which is why I think it's very important for all of us to allow that process to go forward and to simply ask the tough questions. But again, Larry, I mean, my concern is -- look at the nominee for attorney general. I know John Ashcroft. I like him. I know he has nothing but deep convictions.

But you have to look at this moment in history. This president effectively was elected by one vote, one vote electoral college, one vote in the Supreme Court. And he ought to be, I think, thoughtful about reaching out to large communities in this country that really felt angry and continue to feel angry about what happened.

My belief is that when you have an attorney general who -- who -- who measured against, for instance, Senator Jack Danforth, who is an Episcopal minister, pro-life, fits most of the conservative needs of the president-elect, but clearly would not raise any of the controversy that Mr. Ashcroft does.

KING: We're out of time. Senator Kyl, do you expect both -- do you expect them all to be approved?

KYL: I think they will all be approved. Certainly in John Ashcroft's case. I think I've checked the votes and he's already got the votes to be confirmed. It will be a good thing for the country.

KING: Thank you both, Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts. Kyl spells Jon without an "h."

When we come back, the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter is our special guest. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It is always an honor and a pleasure to welcome Jimmy Carter to this program, the 39th president of the United States -- joins us from our studios in New York. His latest book -- and all of his books have been bestsellers -- is "An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood."

We will talk about that in a little while. Mr. President, we thank for being with us. Want to cover some other bases first.

"The Washington Post" in an article on December 31st said that the Carter Center, which looks at, monitors votes around the world, would have had a problem if it were asked to monitor the United States election. Is that true?

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, Larry. We -- the Carter Center monitored six elections in the world in 19 -- in the year 2000: Three of them were in Latin America and the others were in Asia and Africa. And if the basic rules in those countries for holding elections were the same as those that prevailed in the United States, in particular, Florida, we would not even go into those countries to try to ascertain if the election was fair or not.

There's no central election authority to make judgments in a hurry after an election's over. There's no standardized method of voting. Every local precinct in Florida at least had its own independent way of judging whether a ballot was legitimate. So the answer to your question is we would not monitor elections in the United States if called in as an outsider and we wouldn't go into a country that had laws like ours.

KING: Are these correctable? CARTER: Well, I think so. One of the most obvious things there was that in some of the low-income voting places, primarily with African-American and other minorities voting, the expected error in the count was up to 3 percent -- that's what they have experienced in elections gone by -- whereas in the more up-to-date voting methods used in the affluent areas, the expected error was much less than one half of 1 percent in the election.

So I think one standard device for counting votes and for tabulating votes would certainly be a good thing. And I think in every state there should be some maybe blue ribbon commission, ostensibly either nonpartisan or bipartisan, that could make rapid judgments in case they were major challenges to the outcome of an election that's important as the one last year.

KING: So if there were -- we would have probably seen problems in other states had the election been this close there, right? This wasn't exclusive to Florida?

CARTER: If the other states used many different ways of voting -- for instance, electronics in some arenas where the voters are rich, and the punch-card system where the voters are poor -- that's a disparity, I think, that needs to be corrected first.

KING: Our guest is former President Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States. His newest book is "An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood." We'll be talking about that in a while. We'll talk about the next president, lots of other things with one of the great men of our time, Jimmy Carter. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The answer is no, I don't have any interest in that. I -- I don't want one. And I am prepared to stand before any bar of justice I have to stand before.

But I would like just once to see someone acknowledge the fact that this Whitewater thing was a lie and a fraud from the beginning, and that most people with any responsibility over it have known it for years.

Next question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That was President Clinton saying he would not want a pardon. Today, President Carter, GOP Senator Orrin Hatch said he would pardon him. He thinks its time to put it all to bed and do, I guess -- or he said it this weekend -- to do what Gerald Ford did with President Nixon. Should the -- should George Bush issue a pardon?

CARTER: I would think not based on what President Clinton said. Larry, I would like to say that my book that I wrote has absolutely nothing do with American politics except it does cover elections of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, '36 and 1940, and how those elections affected the landowners and the sharecroppers around Archery, Georgia.

KING: Oh, I'm going to get to the book...

(CROSSTALK)

CARTER: So if people want to escape -- if folks want to escape from politics, that's a good way to do it.

KING: Your books rarely dealt with politics. They've all been very interesting, and your poems, and your children's book was terrific, too.

CARTER: Thank you.

KING: We want to get to the book, but I've got to cover these things first.

CARTER: I'm delighted to.

KING: You would say, if he doesn't want a pardon, then don't pardon?

CARTER: That's right.

KING: OK.

(CROSSTALK)

What about the Ashcroft question, Chavez, the questions we were just asking with the two senators?

CARTER: Well, I don't know anything about it compared to what the two senators know. I would guess that there would be very severe questioning on both of those nominations, and I don't see any possibility that Ashcroft could be turned down. If it turns out that the evidence shows that Ms. Chavez did indeed employ the woman who was an illegal immigrant and didn't pay the proper taxes and so forth, then I think her nomination is in serious doubt.

But I don't know what the evidence will be.

KING: Concerning your party, what is the future of Al Gore?

CARTER: I don't know. I've had several conversations with Al Gore and with Tipper since the election was called by the Supreme Court. And I don't think he's made up his mind what to do. I understand he has had some possibilities to go to work in universities, which I've done. This is my 19th year as a professor at Emory. That's always a promising career, if he likes it.

I don't have any doubt that he could, you know, earn a good living writing a book about his experiences. It'd be a very intriguing book. And the lecture circuit is always open to prominent people, and I think he would be a very attractive speaker. But what he does in the long term, I don't think he's really decided. At least he tells me that he hasn't.

KING: Would he still be an effective voice in the party politics? Would he be an effective guy to run in four years?

CARTER: Well, I would have a great admiration for Al Gore. I think it really depends to a large extent on what the Clinton family is going to do. You know, with Hillary in the Senate, she and her husband maybe in the background could very well be the dominant factors in the Democratic Party, which would kind of push Al to the side. I have a personal loyalty to Al Gore, because, you know, I feel like he didn't get a fair shake in this election.

But it may very well be that somebody would come out of the distant horizons -- like a very bright young governor -- and prevail when the four years expires. I know how rapidly things can change in the political situation in this country. So I think it's just completely premature to know, first of all, does Al want to spend the four years, in effect, campaigning for the renomination, or get out of it? And secondly, how much competition would he have from other sources?

KING: Are you -- what are your thoughts about president-elect Bush?

CARTER: Well, I know him from some acquaintances. We built homes in Houston a couple of years ago. And he was a very delightful host, as a governor. I spent an hour or so with him then. I was with him again and had a chance for some private conversation the day we dedicated the library of his father. I think he has got a remarkable responsibility on his shoulders, as do all incoming presidents.

I think he has made a good choice in general on his Cabinet members. He had to do same thing I did when I went to Washington. And that is to choose people who were very experienced in previous administrations. And I also chose a very experienced vice president, Fritz Mondale, who kind of tided me over into my learning process when I got to Washington. So I think he has the same bridge to cross. The result of this election has indeed alienated some voter groups.

And I don't have any doubt that George W. Bush, with his experience as a effective governor in Texas, will make every of effort to reach out to them and to reassure them that he is going to be the president of all Americans. I think that is what he ought to do. And I believe he will do it.

KING: President Carter's new book is "An Hour Before Daylight." We'll talk about it in a little while. We'll also be including your phone calls for the 39th president of the United States -- 'N Sync tomorrow night, Dan Rather on Wednesday -- back after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: The presidency is more than an honor. It is more than an office. It is a charge to keep. And I will give it my all. Thank you very much. And God bless America. (APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: President Carter, when George Bush steps in, there's only been 43 of you people in the whole history of this country. What advice would you give to President Clinton about facing life after office? I mean, no one knows it better than people who were there. What's that like? What advice you would give him?

CARTER: I would say there is life after the White House, even though you may not think about it the day you get defeated or the day you have to leave. I have had a couple of brief conversations with President Clinton about what he might do in the future. I have seen in the news media that he has complimented me and the Carter Center about the kinds of things we have done. I don't yet know what he is going to. I talked to him last Saturday morning about the Alaska lands.

And he told me that he was going to move to New York and that would be the basis for his operations: New York City. He is a lawyer. I think he could very well go back to teaching, if he wished. He used to be a professor at the University of Arkansas Law School. As a Rhodes scholar, he is familiar with global affairs, even before he became president. As a president of the United States, he has access to almost any leader on Earth, as have -- as I have had the last 20 years.

And I would guess that he would establish his library in Little Rock, and also a working center, or a foundation there, or an institute, and then choose the issues that interests him most. Once he does that -- by the way, Larry, I would be delighted to invite him to join me as co-chairman in some of our projects, primarily in Africa. Or if he called on me to act as one of his advisers, or as co-chairman on his productions

(CROSSTALK)

CARTER: I would say that his opportunities are unlimited. He has...

KING: From what he said about you, I think he would jump at that. He has said, in some quotes, that if he could do anything in the area that -- of things you have done, it would please him immeasurably.

CARTER: Well, that is almost an inevitability. I have had -- I guess the closest that any two presidents have ever been in history has been between me and Gerald Ford. And he and I have been partners on these kinds of projects on a number of issues since he and I both left the White House.

KING: And before we take a break and come back and talk about the book, what do you think it will be like if, say, Rosalynn had been in the Senate?

(LAUGHTER)

CARTER: That's hard for me to imagine. I don't have any doubt -- I don't have any doubt that Rosalynn would have been an outstanding senator, in case she is watching this program. But I don't think that she would want to go. And I would certainly hate to leave Plains and tag along behind her to Washington. But I think that now the Clintons have made a decision to establish their base of operations both in Washington and New York, so it won't be difficult for them.

KING: Our guest is former President Jimmy Carter. We will talk about "An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood." We will take a break and be back. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with former President Jimmy Carter; we'll be going to your calls in a little while. I just said his book was "An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhead"; I meant "boyhood."

I'm shocked; I'm starting to lose it. That happens with age, doesn't it President Carter? Tell me it happens with age.

CARTER: Well, someday I'm going to find out.

KING: Oh! Who came up with the title, "An Hour Before Daylight"? I love it.

CARTER: I did. In fact, one of the sentences in the book tells, when a guy that was in charge of our barn and our mules and our horses and so forth -- Jack Clark (ph) would ring the bell to wake up everybody on the farm, and he always rang it an hour before daylight sun-time. And the other time he rang it was exactly at noon, or when the sun was at its highest peak.

And so an hour before daylight showed the beginning of our day on the farm. It also, symbolically, shows that we were, 15 years before any semblance of a civil rights movement, before there were any black activists or white liberals who were insisting that the Supreme Court change its ruling that separate but equal was the law of the land.

And so an hour before daylight means it was before we woke up to the treatment we were giving our of African American neighbors.

KING: Excellent double meaning.

You were -- what was that life like? We're so used to -- we're so citified now in America. What was life like when the neighbor might have been miles down the road?

CARTER: Well, actually, our farm and the people that lived on it lived right close together, within 100 yards of the barn. And the barn was the center of our life. When Jack Clark rang that bell, usually 4:00 in morning, by the clock, we would get up in the dark, go to the barn, use lanterns to catch the mules that were assigned to us for that day. Hook the mules to the two-horse wagons or to a plow. Take the mules and the wagons and so forth to the field and stand at the end of the row until daylight became adequate, so when the mules started plowing we wouldn't plow up inadvertently our peanuts, our cotton, our corn or soybeans -- whatever it was that we had planted.

And then we worked until sundown; at which time we quit the field, brought the mules back, pumped water for them, put them to bed, in effect. And then we would go home about dark, eat supper and we would go to bed within a half an hour after the thing got -- after the day got dark.

And that was a routine, a working day for the farm. Of course, when it rained we couldn't go to the fields and work; and, of course, Saturday afternoon and Sundays we didn't work. But that was just an accepted day of life on the farm.

KING: Boy; does that seem far away from Annapolis and the submarine corps and the governorship and the presidency?

CARTER: Well, it was. And we didn't have electricity in our house until I was almost 15. We didn't have any running water in our house until I was 13 years old. Daddy put up a windmill and it ran a pipe to the house.

And we had a very extraordinary time during Depression years, because poverty was so all-pervasive; the average annual income of our neighbors was less than $75 a year. And we had millions of Yankees who moved down to the South during that time when their factories closed during the Depression or when their factories mechanized to save money and discharged workers.

So every day in front of our house we'd have between 200 and 300 hoboes that walked by on the dirt road going from Birmingham to Savannah, Georgia or vice-versa; or either riding on the open box cars in the railroad right in front of our house.

And then the other thing about that time of life was, as I said, it was 15 years or 20 years before the time of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. and nobody challenged the absolute separation of black and white people except that, on our farm, the intimacy with which we lived with our black neighbors was almost astounding.

KING: But you didn't question it. You didn't question what happened in the country or what was going on in Atlanta?

CARTER: We didn't question -- in fact, nobody questioned. No lawyer questioned it; no civil rights lawyers existed then. It was just an accepted fact. And then what happened was that the black and white people lived in the most complete intimacy but the black people had no basic rights. They couldn't vote; obviously, they couldn't serve on a jury; they couldn't go to a decent school; they had to ride on a separate part of the train that went by our house. And they lived in much more severe, abject poverty than their white neighbors did.

KING: Your father was a very strong man, was he not? CARTER: Yes, he was. Daddy was an outstanding athlete. He was the best tennis player, you might say, in the county. He pitched and caught on the American Legion baseball team. He was an expert diver, he was the best tennis player in the whole area. And in addition to that he was a very successful farmer and a very strict and stern disciplinarian who raised me to mind what he said and to do my duties and never to expect any congratulations or, a well done. He called me "hot," for hot shot, but he never congratulated me.

And so I grew up in an environment where -- which pretty well, I guess, prepared me for working under Hyman Rickover a lot, many years later.

KING: Why, do you think, there's such fascination with the land, especially in the South?

CARTER: Well, I can understand how it was, as I described it in this book. My great grandfather -- great, great grandfather, who died during the Civil War in 1864 left behind a fairly good estate. He had 12 children, he left each one of them about $20,000. But that $20,000 consisted of confederate money and slaves and land.

And then a year later the war ended, all the slaves were freed, confederate money was worth zero and each one of his children wound up with a small parcel of land. And so from then until the time that I was a child, and even when I went off to college, the land was assumed to be the only thing that a family could own that had any inherent or permanent value. And people had a great distrust of anything else that they owned.

KING: And is that imprint still in you? Is land very important to you?

CARTER: It is; I think that's one of the things that has drawn me back to plains which, at the time I grew up, had about 500 people in it.

The land that I own now has been in our family, about half of it, since 1833, and our family bought the other half about 1904. So I have my grandchildren -- the 7th generation that will own the same land. And there's a strong tie between me and the land, yes.

KING: We'll be right back with President Jimmy Carter. The book: "An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhead."

We'll be taking your calls for the former president right after these words.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: That was the scene last August here in Los Angeles when the crowd at that Democratic Convention greeted the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter.

Boy, that must be a nice feeling, huh?

CARTER: That was. I didn't have to make a long speech and I got a long round of applause.

KING: I said "boyhead" again. I'm -- I'll never say it again. It's "Memories of a Rural Boyhood." I don't know what's got into me.

St. Joseph, Missouri for the author of "An Hour Before Daylight." Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Hello. Hello, President Carter.

CARTER: Hello.

CALLER: What words of advice would you have for incoming President George Bush?

CARTER: Well, I think the only advice I would give him is one that he's gotten from many people, including his own parents, and that is just to realize in spite of the divisive election and the altercation that surrounded the Florida primary and general election that he is now the president of all Americans, and that almost every person in this country really wishes him well and will give him every support that he will let them give him.

I'm a Democrat, but Rosalynn, my wife, and I are going to the inauguration, and we'll tell them that personally. And so I think if he realizes that this is not a divided country, it's a united country behind him, that's the best advice I could give him.

KING: Phoenix, Arizona for President Jimmy Carter, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Mr. President...

CARTER: Yes.

CALLER: I was wondering, why didn't you and President Ford get involved at the beginning of the election debacle? I really think you guys could have helped us.

CARTER: Well, we weren't invited. In fact, I was on Larry King's show during that time, at kind of the early part of it, and I said then that if we were called upon to head up some kind of a blue- ribbon commission that was totally nonpartisan, that if President Ford was asked and I was asked, that both of us would volunteer to -- to help look over the proper way to have the vote problem resolved in Florida.

But it was in the hands by then of Florida officials, which it should have been, and then later, of course, in the hands of the court, and finally the decision was made by the nine Supreme Court justices. So there never was an opportunity for us to help. We would have been glad to help if the proper officials had asked us.

KING: Bolton, Connecticut, hello. CALLER: Hello, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: It is an honor and a privilege to speak with President Carter and I admire how he has conducted himself since he left the White House. And I would like to ask him how he decided what he was going to do after he left the White House, and has he had any regrets as to what he has done since he left the White House.

KING: Good question.

CALLER: I personally think that he has done a wonderful job.

KING: Now, how did you come to that decision, to build homes, and go around and help people get together, form a Carter Center?

CARTER: Well, the unfortunate thing was that after I got the final results of the election in 1980 and knew that I lost, about two weeks later my blind trustee who had been managing my very prosperous warehouse business during those four years told me that we were a million dollars in debt, and I had no way to pay it off.

So we went back to Plains, Georgia, where our roots were -- I've already mentioned that. And I sold the rights to my book, not nearly for the fancy prices that are given today. And I finally...

KING: You didn't get 8 million, huh?

CARTER: No. And I finally sold my entire business and didn't have to sell my farmland. So I broke even at that point.

Even before I left the White House, maybe unwisely, I announced to the press that I would not serve on corporate boards and I would not go on the lecture circuit to enrich myself from having served in office. I don't have any criticism of people who have done that, but I was mainly touting my choice after what Harry Truman and others had done in historical terms.

When we got back to Plains, my first duty, which was a very unpleasant one, was to raise about $25 million to build a presidential library, and as an adjunct to that, I built the Carter Center, where we first planned just to resolve conflicts between people who were at war or almost at war in the world, similar to what I did at Camp David between Egypt and Israel.

And out of that has come the annual Jimmy Carter work camp and -- which has been going on now, I think, for 18 years, and we brought, I think, an enormous amount of publicity to Habitat, although we only spend about one full week each year actually building houses. The rest of the time Habitat is now building about one house every 30 minutes somewhere in the world.

KING: Yes, amazing. And none of them get knocked down in hurricanes. CARTER: No, we don't pay off inspectors. We don't cut -- take shortcuts. In fact, some us who have volunteered maybe put in two nails when one nail would be adequate. But when a hurricane comes along like in Miami, every house on the block would be blown down and Habitat houses would be standing there.

KING: Every house stood in...

(CROSSTALK)

CARTER: ... very proud.

KING: ... Hurricane Andrew. All right. We'll be right back...

CARTER: We never lost a house.

KING: Never lost a house. We'll be back with President Jimmy Carter. The book, "An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood." I'm Larry King. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JANUARY 20, 1977)

CARTER: I would hope that the nations of the world might say we had built a lasting peace based not on weapons of war, but on international policies which reflect our own most precious values.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we take our next call, I would be remiss in not asking you -- President Clinton's still trying -- are you hopeful of some pro developments in the Middle East?

CARTER: I pray that there will be peace in the Middle East, but I'm not hopeful that anything is going to happen that's a breakthrough in the next few days, no. The differences are too great, and the proposal that President Clinton has put forward has now been rejected by both sides.

KING: And why did you leave the Southern Baptists?

CARTER: Well, I feel like that in a way that the Southern Baptist Convention has changed its basic approach to deep religious beliefs that I've had all my life and that my father and grandfather had. I don't have any criticism to make of any of the Southern Baptist Convention leaders, but I feel that some of the policies that they've established are just not compatible with what I really believe.

I'm still a very devout Baptist. I'm still a member of my own church. I teach Sunday school every Sunday that I'm home, which is about two out of three Sundays. I'm a deacon in my church, but I'm just not affiliated anymore personally with the Southern Baptist Convention.

KING: You didn't try to change it from within then?

CARTER: Yes, I did, as a matter of fact, Larry. Two and a half years ago I had meetings at the Carter Center with about 30 Baptist leaders, including more than a half a dozen presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention. All but one was very conservative. And we tried to work out some way by which Southern Baptists could reconcile the basic differences between us. That has not been successful.

In fact, now two of the states -- by far the largest group of Baptist churches in the world in the state of Texas -- no longer affiliates itself officially with the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Virginia Baptists have made the same decision. And a lot of individual churches have.

It's a very unfortunate thing, and I, if I had one prayer to make, one hope to make, it would be that we could get back together and work in harmony. But since we can't, then I think we'll go our separate ways to worshiping the same god in basically the same ways, maybe support a separate world mission program or something of that kind that might bind together the Baptists that have common beliefs.

KING: Toronto, Canada for President Carter, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Mr. President, it's a great privilege to speak with you this evening, and my question was, during the election, when problems tended to arise one after another, a lot of people would justify their intended solutions with what they felt the founding fathers had envisioned. And I was wondering what were your opinion would be given that, you know, the founding fathers could never have obviously envisioned the technology we have today and the type of problems that perhaps have appeared.

CARTER: Well, I doubt -- it's hard for me to know what the founding fathers (UNINTELLIGIBLE), although I've read the history books and I've read some of the comments that were made by those who actually drafted and signed the Constitution originally.

I think the last thing that the founding fathers would have thought that nine Supreme Court justices would vote five to four and pre-empt, in effect, the final determination by counting for the first time a lot of the ballots that were in dispute. But that's part of our Constitution, it's part of our laws. The election's over. And as I said to one of the previous questioners, now's the time to bring our nation together and know that all of us basically support George W. Bush as our president and we hope to make him a very successful president.

KING: By the say, we have a rare appearance next week -- speaking of Constitution and founding fathers -- Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia will be with us. As you know, President Carter, he doesn't do much media.

CARTER: I know. That will be an intriguing program.

KING: He'll be here. He'll be here next week, and we'll learn a lot about his thoughts on all of this. And we'll be back with our remaining moments with President Jimmy Carter, author of "An Hour Before Daylight." Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: One more quick call and then one more question about the book. Grand Junction, Colorado, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. Hello, President Carter.

KING: Hi.

CARTER: Hi.

CALLER: I want to tell you how much I enjoy your, reading about you, and I can't wait to read your book. And I would like to know what Rosalynn is doing and also anything that your daughter might be doing. Thank you very much.

KING: Thank you.

CARTER: Well, I'll take Amy first. Amy is the mother of an 18- year-old son, our 10th grandchild, and I think the finest grandchild probably in the United States. His name is Hugo. And so Amy is a full-time mother right now.

Rosalynn is really in charge of mental health programs, in some respects, all over the world. She not only works with all the mental health groups in the United States, about 60 of those groups, but she also brings together prominent leaders from nations around the world -- Three Queens and other first ladies and so forth -- to help promote the concept that mental health is a worthy cause, that some mental illness shouldn't be an embarrassment, it should be treated, and that the modern-day techniques and knowledge of medicine can actually give people a productive and useful life even if they do have some mental illness.

So Rosalynn's primary work is on mental health.

KING: The always activist Carters.

President Carter, why did you write this book?

CARTER: Well, Larry, I wanted to describe to the nation how circumstances were during the Great Depression, how people had to live together who were black and white next door to each other during those deprived times, and how we accommodated that. But also, having later been elected president, I wanted to tell how this early life experiences affected my future values and the way I live.

And toward the end of the book, I try to analyze, in addition to my mother and father, who were the five people who basically shaped my whole life, and I name them in the book. Only two of them are white. The other three were black people who took me under their wings or who inspired me in different ways with their personal courage or with their knowledge or with a profound relationship with other people.

So I would say three black people basically shaped my whole life, and that was another point I wanted to make, that although we lived in different kinds of homes and that we had different treatment under the law, we had mutual respect for one another. And that's a lesson I hope that our nation can continue to learn.

KING: May an I say on a personal note I think I've read every book you've written, including a great one on fishing, and I am certainly looking forward to reading this one. I thank you very much for joining us and giving us the time tonight.

CARTER: Thank you, Larry. I'm proud of this book. I think you would like it, too.

KING: The book is "An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood." The author is the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter.

Starting tomorrow, click on -- get this -- www.cnn.com/larryking, and you'll check out my new Web site. Starts tomorrow. And to kick off the launch, join me for an online chat at 4 o'clock Eastern. That's 4 o'clock Eastern Tuesday, and you tell me what you want me to ask my guests. 'N Sync will be on the show tomorrow night. So click in with us, and we'll -- I love this term -- we'll chat.

Right now, Bill Hemmer will host "CNN TONIGHT." He's next and he's my main man. Tomorrow night, 'N Sync. Wednesday night, Dan Rather is the special guest.

We thank the earlier senators and thank President Carder for being with us. See you on the chatroom tomorrow on our own Web site and tomorrow night with 'N Sync.

Bill's next. Don't go away. I'm Larry King. Good night.

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