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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Dan Rather Discusses 'The American Dream'

Aired May 14, 2001 - 21:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: If it's news, he makes it, and he knows it, because he makes headlines of his own, too. CBS news anchorman Dan Rather with us in New York. He'll take your calls.

But first, the Hollywood whodunit everybody's buzzing about, the brutal unsolved killing of Robert Blake's wife. The actor's personal assistant and bodyguard, Earle Caldwell, will join us in L.A.

Then, the attorney who represented Blake's late wife, and now represents her younger sister, Gary Goldstein. They're all next, on LARRY KING LIVE.

First, I want to thank Pat Sajak for sitting in so superbly while we were on vacation. And Catherine Crier, who tuned in and took over last Friday night.

We start with Earle Caldwell. He is Robert Blake's personal assistant. He handles security and other duties. Thank you for joining us, Earle. Where were you the night of this tragedy?

EARLE CALDWELL, ROBERT BLAKE'S BODYGUARD: I was up in the Bay area visiting my wife.

KING: Then you aren't with Robert every day, or drive him around every night?

CALDWELL: No. I wasn't around. I had taken a break for a few days.

KING: How long have you known Robert?

CALDWELL: About five years now.

KING: And you've seen him recently since all of this, I understand. Is that right, Earle?

CALDWELL: Yeah, I saw him a couple of days ago.

KING: How is he dealing with it?

CALDWELL: Not well. He doesn't look good. He's, you know, distraught. I mean, he is in mourning.

KING: Is he disturbed at all about so many people saying, by innuendo or the like, that they think he was involved?

CALDWELL: I'm sure he is. We're not -- we don't discuss that. We look at the sky, we watch the birds, and we don't talk about it.

KING: What was the relationship, as you saw it -- in five years, you would have seen a lot of it -- between him and the late wife?

CALDWELL: It almost seemed like the beginning of dating. You know, they were getting to know each other on this little vacation trip that they took. They were, you know, walking hand in hand and getting along and enjoying each others' company.

KING: Did you like her?

CALDWELL: Yeah. We got -- I thought we got along very well.

KING: Did you know anything about any threats to her?

CALDWELL: Not directly. She didn't talk about any person in particular threatening her. She did seem to be, you know, a little paranoid, looking over her shoulder and wanting me to enter the house before she did -- things like that.

KING: So obviously she was worried about something.

CALDWELL: She was worried about something.

KING: All right. Now we obtained today, in fact, following the killing of Robert Blake's wife, his lawyer's gave police what they say are tapes that Bonny Lee or Lee Bonny Bakley made of her own telephone conversations. CNN has been told these tapes were found by investigators working for Mr. Blake. They were discovered on the actor's property in his small guest house where his late wife lived. After turning the tapes over to the LAPD as evidence, Blake's attorney let CNN copy the recordings, We're going to play you one excerpt, Earle, and get a comment. Listen.

CALDWELL: OK.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BONNY LEE BAKLEY, MURDER VICTIM: The kid that everybody hated in school, because I was, like, poor and couldn't dress good. And everybody always made fun of me because I was, like, real loner type.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BAKLEY: So then you grow up saying: Oh, I'll fix them. I'll show them. I'll be a movie star, you know? And it was too hard because I was falling for somebody. So I figured, well, why not fall for movie stars instead of becoming one, you know?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: Is that pretty typical of her, Earle?

CALDWELL: That was pretty typical. She would ramble on about things, and mention things, that, you know, really made no real sense. But she was pleasant and, you know, she was nice to be around.

KING: How was Blake toward his daughter?

CALDWELL: You mean the new baby?

KING: Yeah.

CALDWELL: He adored it. I mean, you just take one look at this baby and the baby was yours. I mean, it would just take your heart away.

KING: How did you first hear of this incident? Where were you, Earle?

CALDWELL: I was up in the Bay area. It was actually a Saturday morning, I believe. And my wife's sister called and said, "Did you hear about Robert Blake and his wife?" And I didn't believe it at first. And I waited for a call from Mr. Blake, and he called me a few hours later.

I told him, you know, hang in there. Everything is going to be OK. We'll get through this.

KING: Did you ever give a thought -- I mean, you know him as well as anyone -- that he might have done this? Did you ever think that?

CALDWELL: Never even crossed my mind. He's a tough guy and all that, but he was so into making this work that it's just unbelievable that that would go through his mind, to want to do something like that.

KING: Now, the announcement tonight by the LAPD was there is no pending arrest. Does that surprise you that there are very little clues turning up, or apparently very little clues in this bizarre setting?

CALDWELL: Well, I was hoping that they would get somewhere. I mean, it would be nice to put some kind of closure to this, to have some kind of evidence pointing in, you know, some direction.

KING: Did you know that Robert carried a gun?

CALDWELL: Oh, yeah. Sure.

KING: For what reason?

CALDWELL: It probably goes back to the days of "Baretta," when he probably did have stalkers and nut cases following him around. He's probably had it since then.

KING: The other side, and we'll talk to the attorney in a minute, seems to be saying that they're trying to make her out to be the villain. Do you see any of that?

CALDWELL: Yeah. It's a shame that you have to see that. I, personally, don't like seeing that, but attorneys do their jobs. And the way they do their jobs, sometimes you don't like.

KING: Earle, are you still working for Robert?

CALDWELL: I guess I'm still working for him. I haven't gotten a paycheck, but I'm doing shows like this to hopefully help him out.

KING: You sure helped him tonight. Thanks, Earle.

CALDWELL: I hope so.

KING: Thanks, Earle.

CALDWELL: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Earle Caldwell, he is Robert Blake's personal assistant handling security and other duties. We're going to spend a few moments, coming up, with Gary Goldstein. He was originally Bonny Lee's attorney, and he now represents her sister. And then our special guest of the evening, my man, Dan Rather.

We'll be right back with Gary Goldstein after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, also in Los Angeles, Cary Goldstein. He is the attorney for Marjorie, the sister of the deceased Bonny Lee Bakley. He was Bonny Lee's attorney as well.

You are representing Marjorie in what capacity, Cary?

CARY GOLDSTEIN, BONNY LEE BAKLEY'S ATTORNEY: Well, basically, I was assisting her, arrange her civil affairs -- mustering her estate, basically, and dealing with the press.

KING: Do you see any lawsuits coming out of this?

GOLDSTEIN: Yes. Certainly, there will be a wrongful death suit. Of course, that's going to depend on when we get a defendant.

KING: What do you make of all this? We asked Earle Caldwell, who works with Blake, and he said he's upset by it -- of making your former client, the late Ms. Bakley, the villain?

GOLDSTEIN: As I've said, I'm deeply troubled by it. Before her body was cold, Mr. Braun was on the air trashing my client, Lee Bonny.

KING: That's his lawyer, Mr. Braun.

GOLDSTEIN: That's correct. You know, trashing her, and really revealing to the public, skeletons from her closet, from her past -- things that are totally irrelevant. You know, what Mr. Braun is doing is preconditioning the potential jurors, or in really simple English, he's tainting the jury pool. And I don't think that's appropriate.

Really, the subliminal message here is that this woman had it coming to her. There is nothing, nothing that Lee Bonny ever did in her lifetime that justified her being murdered.

KING: Now, Cary, that would be expectant then, of his client being charged. Do you expect Robert Blake to be charged with this?

GOLDSTEIN: You know, Larry, it is really not easy for me to call that shot. The police are doing their investigation. I have spoken with them today.

Certainly, though, I think his story wasn't well thought out that was presented, or -- and if it is a true story and an accurate story, I don't think it is very smart thing for him to have done, it doesn't make sense. It's rather preposterous, if you ask me.

KING: So you see something...

(CROSSTALK)

GOLDSTEIN: Any time -- any time, Larry, that a wife is murdered, the husband is always a prime suspect. In this case, I think he may have done it. I don't know, though. I wasn't there.

KING: Did you, from knowing her, have any indication that he would treat her violently?

GOLDSTEIN: Violently, I can't say, but I know she feared her life. There were times when she was greatly in fear of him. There, he -- she was treated, I think, very wrongly by him, brutally, and taken advantage of.

He was controlling her by having kidnapped the child. She was still under federal authorities, she was out in Los Angeles, introducing the baby to Blake, they were bonding, and he basically kidnapped the child at that time. When she went back -- when she needed to go back to Little Rock, he didn't produce the baby for her. He sent her on a wild goose chase around town.

KING: Certainly, reason for her then to be concerned?

GOLDSTEIN: Oh, absolutely.

KING: Yeah. We have another excerpt from what Robert Blake's attorneys say are recordings the actor's now-dead wife made of her own phone conversations. Let's listen to this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BAKLEY PHONE CONVERSATIONS")

BAKLEY: I know. I got three years probation just for having different IDs, you know. And it wasn't even, like, I was -- really used them for anything, totally, you know, to -- to illegal either, you know. I mean, it is my business, and if I want to, you know, like, fool guys in the mail and say that I'm somebody else, you know, what's the difference? (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You know, no matter what she was, Cary, she is the one that's dead.

GOLDSTEIN: Oh, that's right, Larry. What did she do that ever justified her being murdered? What relevance is it, at least in the national media? Why do that in the national media? If you have some information that is going to assist the police in taking a close look at other potential suspects, tell it to the police, don't tell it to the world.

Larry, this was his wife. This was the mother of his child. And the first thing he did was put himself out there and trashed her. I think it's a disgusting thing to do. I think it's a disgrace. And I think also that America has shown some real backlash. I don't think they are happy with it. I think -- I think the battering of Lee Bonny has been pulled back.

KING: What does your client, the sister, think?

GOLDSTEIN: I can't speak for her.

KING: What is -- where is the baby?

GOLDSTEIN: I'm not at liberty to say, I'm very sorry, Larry.

KING: You mean -- the baby is -- but is the baby safe and protected?

GOLDSTEIN: Yes, and on -- with Blake and his family, wherever Robert Blake has them.

KING: Do you know where she is?

GOLDSTEIN: I have been told where she may be, but I can't confirm that.

KING: Why would that be something secret?

GOLDSTEIN: Because I don't think security would...

KING: Oh, OK.

GOLDSTEIN: I think it would compromise security.

KING: Have the funeral arrangements been complete for your client?

GOLDSTEIN: Well, we finally reached an agreement with opposing counsel on the funeral issue. The arrangements are not complete. They are pending at this moment. We hopefully -- hopefully, tomorrow will be able to give the date, location, time.

KING: What about this story confounds you?

GOLDSTEIN: How he could come up with a story like this, Larry.

KING: Well, he says he left something in the restaurant, went back, came back, and she was dead. Things can happen in a second, can't they?

GOLDSTEIN: Yeah, Larry, anyone who has ever carried a concealed firearm knows that you just don't accidentally leave it in a restaurant and say, oops I left my firearm there, I better go back and get it. Anyone who has been to the scene of the murder knows what a dangerous location that was, and if he was at all concerned, as he says he was about her safety, particularly that evening, why would he leave her with an open window sitting in that neighborhood? It was really bad.

And you know, I have another question that I haven't heard anyone ask. Why does Mr. Blake have a bodyguard? What's going on in his life that he has to carry a firearm and needs a bodyguard full-time? Why are they doing this to Lee Bonny, the murder victim, and not even suggesting that maybe he's a suspect?

KING: Well, Earle Caldwell suggested maybe it was a throwback to "Baretta."

GOLDSTEIN: Well, what about the bodyguard? Why does this man need to pay a bodyguard.

KING: Baretta didn't need a bodyguard.

GOLDSTEIN: That's for sure.

KING: Thanks, Cary.

GOLDSTEIN: Thank you very much.

KING: Good seeing you, thank you. Cary Goldstein, he originally represented Bonny Lee Bakley, and he's now representing her younger sister Marjorie in what could be upcoming civil action.

Dan Rather is next! Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE the sometimes host of this program, good friend and a great reporter, the anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News," the anchor of "48 hours," special correspondent for "60 Minutes II," Dan Rather. His seventh book -- and all of them have been bestsellers -- the latest is "The American Dream." There you see the cover. "The Stories From the Heart of Our Nation." It was played up on the front page story in "Parade" magazine.

We will talk about that in a little while. Let's cover some other things: right away off the top, what do you make of this story we just talked about?

DAN RATHER, CBS NEWS: Well, first of all, I thought there was two really interesting segments. I don't know what to make of it. I will be very interested to see how this plays itself out.

KING: How is the CBS news playing it?

RATHER: Well, not all that heavily. We did a story on it when it first broke, and I think we have done it one time since then. I would say that for "The CBS Evening News," it's not the kind of story that we pride ourselves on taking and running with it, but it is a very, very interesting tale.

KING: Now, I will move to the one that everyone is talking about, McVeigh. How we are covering -- are we covering this from all aspects, from your standpoint? Is it an FBI story, as well as a capital punishment story, as well as a horrendous story?

RATHER: All of those things, and Jim Stewart, one of the best story-breakers on this or any other planet, broke this story on "CBS Evening News" last Thursday that the FBI had not only made a mistake, but had made a really grievous error.

But all of those things, I think, now come into play. And you know, the thing foremost in my mind, Larry, are the families of the victims of the bombing in Oklahoma City. They don't deserve this. This is outrageous for them to have to go through it.

But having said that, you know, this is America. And we have a system of justice where the rules apply to everyone, thank God. This is -- I will be very interested to hear the FBI's explanation of this.

KING: Did it shock you? It seemed so open and shut to them, and now they even have like a confession in a book. Why hold back anything?

RATHER: It shocked me. It astonished me. I mean, you never met anybody with more respect for the FBI than I do, but let's face it: Director Louis Freeh and the Bureau has an awful lot to answer for in this particular case, particularly given the timing of when it broke out.

I mean, I just -- I can't -- I find it myself still sort of disbelieving, but believe it we must, because there it is. And I will say that the Terry Nichols situation may be more serious than McVeigh in the long run, which is to say Nichols -- he's has taken this straight to the Supreme Court, as you know, and he's got a very strong argument. I have nothing for Nichols, zero, zip, nada, but he has got a case now.

KING: Does it give you pause that if it happened here, it could have happened in other cases, less important?

RATHER: Absolutely. It has to give us pause. It has to give us pause.

This is what I hate about it, is because it gives fuel to those who say, listen, criminal justice system in America is corrupt. It is not corrupt. But this kind of situation gives all kinds of talking points to those who say listen, the FBI couldn't track an elephant in six feet of snow if he were bleeding, but that is not true. But it undermines confidence bureau -- it undermines confidence in the system of justice. I hate the whole thing.

KING: How about the media and McVeigh? CBS "60 Minutes" repeated that whole interview with him Sunday night. He is in the news everywhere. That picture of him is almost tiresome by now, of him walking through with the...

RATHER: He is getting basically what he wants, he wants to be made into a martyr.

KING: Are we playing it for him?

RATHER: I think the honest answer to that is yes.

KING: What, then, do we do?

RATHER: I would like to think we should stop and give it a little more careful thought. I don't accept myself in this criticism, but we all have a lot to answer for in the way we have covered McVeigh from the very beginning. And particularly, now, it is such an overwhelming story at moment, what do you do with this? You can't ignore the story.

On the other hand, every time, every time you are going to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or worried about him, it is playing right into his hands, I can't remember a more exasperating situation recently.

KING: The public is probably -- I don't want to -- bewildered, right?

RATHER: Yeah.

KING: Here's a guy writing a book, saying, I did this, giving interview, saying -- he gives an interview, saying I did it.

RATHER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I think they are somewhat bewildered, but I also think they are outraged. I think they want some answers from the FBI about how and why this could happen. Rightly or wrongly, I do think that this suspicion has run fairly strong from the beginning, that perhaps it wasn't just McVeigh with some help from Nichols, and all of this, again justifiably or not, refuels all of those suspicions that they may have been other people involved.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Dan Rather. He's got a terrific book out; we are going to talk a lot about that. We'll be taking your calls, and he has nicer suspenders than I do tonight. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: By the way, Dan's compatriot, Peter Jennings, will be here tomorrow night. It's news night -- news week on LARRY KING LIVE. RATHER: Good man, Peter Jennings.

KING: Good -- all three of you, top guys, so are you.

RATHER: Thanks.

KING: Dennis Tito will be here tomorrow night, too, his first television interview. Have we gotten over the Democratic fund-raiser thing. Did you make a mistake?

RATHER: Yes, I made a mistake. It was all the worse because it was a dumb mistake, Larry. But I think the record is pretty clear: I'm capable of making dumb mistakes and I made one then.

KING: Do you think controversy -- was it around you all the time?

RATHER: I never feel that way. I know sometimes people write that and think that, but any time you are in journalism anywhere near -- at or near the top -- you are going to have some controversy. And, look, I have had my share of big great stories.

KING: Sure have.

RATHER: Civil rights movement, Vietnam, Watergate, Afghanistan...

(CROSSTALK)

RATHER: So, you get credit when it's due, and you get a lot of the blame when it is due. And sometimes, when it isn't do. But I have no complaints. Over all, I have been -- treated terrifically, you know, any reporter worthy of a name is going to run into controversy.

KING: I read a terrific piece with you -- I forget where -- discussing the Bob Kerrey story and your feelings about it about "60 minutes 2," presenting it, the whole -- do you still have pain over the story?

RATHER: Absolutely.

KING: Did you not want to run it?

RATHER: No, that is not true. Bob Kerrey, in effect, came to us and said he wanted to unburden himself of this story, and I had some reservations about that.

I respect Bob Kerrey. I'm one of those people who did and still does, anytime he walks into the room, I stand up. He wears the Congressional Medal of Honor, I think he deserves that. He has it coming.

On the other hand, war and accountability is basically what this is about, and Bob Kerrey said, I want to, in effect, unburden myself of this because, he said, I think Americans need to think carefully, and talk among themselves about what happens when you send young men and women to far away wars.

Now, he told us his story as I think he remembered it. He said he remembered it, and to take him at his word. We began checking into the story, some of the story did not match. It did not match up to others. Gerhardt Clan, who was a very experienced commando member of his unit, had a different memory.

Maybe we made a mistake -- maybe I made a mistake, but I don't think so. We went back to Senator Kerrey and said, some of the things you told us don't match what others tell us. Primarily Gerhard Clan. And he didn't know what people in Vietnam had told us. And he didn't know specifically what Bob Kerrey had told us.

His story was so different. We went back to the senator and said, look, these are the contradictions. Would you like to come back for a second interview or not? And he elected to come back. My conscious is clear on this, Larry. We try to be fair and we were fair.

But I knew going in, any time you deal with Vietnam, it touches off very deep emotions. Not just among the people who have been in Vietnam, many of whom do have nightmares, that is, wounds that have not healed, and that is sort of the dark side of the American dream, if you will.

But any time you deal with this subject, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) some hell, and probably will catch it from all sides, which we have.

KING: Won't go away.

RATHER: No, as it recedes into history, as it gets back in the midst, and so many people are alive today in the United States don't even remember the war, have no idea what it is about, it's still one of those things that grinds on us, and I think it will for a long time.

Because there are so many unanswered questions, such as, how is it that you send some of our best -- Bob Kerrey, Gerhard Clan, and they wind downing some unspeakable things? We need to understand how that happens, and why and who is accountable.

KING: They are re-releasing "Apocalypse Now," too. There were some parts left out.

RATHER: I thought it was a great movie, until it got frankly, to the Marlon Brando part, now I'm eager to see it.

KING: Yes, then it got weird.

Dan Rather has written a remarkable book about the kind of people we talked about earlier, the opposite of the McVeighs, we will talk about them.

And to test your knowledge on tonight's subject, log on to my Web cite at www.cnn.com/larryking. We'll be right back with Dan Rather. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We are back with Dan Rather.

We'll cover some other news items, we'll take your calls. Let's talk a little bit about his extraordinary new book, "The American Dream: Stories From the Heart of our Nation."

Where did this idea come from?

RATHER: Well, it came from my Depression childhood to tell you the truth. My parents, God bless their souls, were such great believers in the American dream. I think most of us -- certain people in my generation, I think people since -- have grown up with a sense of the American dream, and a sense at its very core of our national character.

But so often, we don't stop and think, what is it? Is it alive today? Is it alive and well? Is it dying off? I'm going to go out and talk to rank-and-file Americans and see -- those who feel they are living the dream, what do they think the dream is, how they are living the dream.

And one reason, Larry, you know, I think this book is an inspirational book, it certainly could inspire young people.

KING: Everyone in it feels they have lived the dream.

RATHER: Everyone in it feels in one way or another they have lived the dream. For some, it's the dream of wealth and fame...

KING: They have different definitions.

RATHER: Exactly. And for some, it is giving something back, for some it is all poured into education, some, you know, they want family values.

Widely believed it may be, but true it is not that for most Americans the dream is fame and wealth. I was really taken with the number of people who said: "Look, I don't really care if I make $1 million in my life. I don't want to see my name in lights, I don't want to be on television all the time. I just want to give something back to the society."

Now, I would say for any young person who may be graduating from high school or college today and he says, you know, I want to live the American dream, but I kind of want a road map of how to get there or how to think about it. I think this book will help inspire them.

KING: How did you select the subjects?

RATHER: Well, you know, first, it was -- let's talk to as many people as we can about it. Now, once word got around that I was working on a book called "The American Dream," ideas for people to talk to just came pouring in. Some of our CBS affiliates sent in people. People would write letters. We looked in the newspapers, the magazines, and picked them out. I could have done this book, you know, four times as long as it is. I will say it's a mercifully short book.

And by the way, Larry, I have -- there will not be a test. No, but once the word got around -- a lot of it was word of mouth, people came to us with stories. A guy in Iowa, I don't know -- you may have met this guy, Wayne Ford. This guy grew up in the toughest neighborhood in Washington, D.C., and when he walked in, people in effect said, don't fuss with him, this guy can hurt you.

KING: Big bad Leroy Brown.

RATHER: Yeah, but he went to Minnesota, wound up in Iowa, and is now an outstanding American. He's put himself into something called "Urban Dreams." He's giving back big time, and he is a walking personification of the American dream to me.

KING: You had someone who was -- what -- out of the internment Japanese camp?

(CROSSTALK)

RATHER: Yes, but this is an example of the American dream being lived. This woman who was born in this country -- I still think she's never been to Japan, but she was interned in the Japanese-American internment camps, and her dream was to have the government take notice and redress a wrong. This is part of what makes America new thing in history.

And she spent 20 -- 20-some-odd years do it. She is now in her early 80s, but beginning in the Carter administration, working through the Reagan administration, into the first Bush administration, she finally got the Congress of the United States to say: "Yes, we did wrong," write letter to every living person who had been interned, and, you know, small stipend given to each one.

Now she waxes eloquent about the American dream. This is a very patriotic American. And she points out, you know, this is what makes us a whole new thing in history, makes us unique. This doesn't happen in other countries. You should hear her talk about it, and it's in "The American Dream."

KING: Don't many of the dreamers come from first-generation Americans, whose parents came from somewhere else?

RATHER: Many of them do. They come from first-generation parents or second-generation, but by no means all, you know. It's a mixture.

KING: You got many generations going back that still grow up with the dream of -- despite the fact that ancestors may not have materialized that dream?

RATHER: That's absolutely true, and I think -- one of the things we are in the process of doing, Larry, to this day is perfecting the American dream. Look, there is a dark side of the American dream, and not everybody who dreams is going to realize their dream.

But the fact is what America is about, this is a foundation of the American dream, is freedom -- we absolutely, you know, fight for freedom and we value opportunity. Freedom and opportunity are at the very bedrock of the American dream, and here are people who are living it.

I come back to here: blueprints, if you're saying to yourself -- I said, maybe it's not too late for me to dream, or you're graduating some place you say, I want to dream big, but I don't quite know how to do it. You can read this book, "The American Dream," and say to yourself, boy the five or six ideas in here that I think will inspire me to live my own version of the American dream.

A guy like yourself, you know, you are living...

(CROSSTALK)

RATHER: ... the American dream.

KING: Absolutely, think of it every day.

RATHER: And so do I.

KING: By the way, do most of these people think of it every day?

RATHER: Every day, and a lot of them think of it almost every minute of every day.

KING: Pinch yourself.

RATHER: Pinch yourself, and you might give some serious thought to thanking your lucky stars you were born in the United States.

KING: Any millionaires in the book?

RATHER: Yes, there are some millionaires in the book.

KING: Whose goal was to financially do well?

RATHER: Yes, and woman named Melissa Nelson, for example. I'm not sure she would say she is a millionaire, I think she must be. But nonetheless, this is a woman who said to herself, look, you know, I need to make money, but I don't want to do it at the expense of raising my child, so she quit her job and started her own business, and she has made a tremendous success of that business.

There is one example after another of that in the book. If you are looking for examples of people who dreamed of wealth, and there are plenty of them in "The American Dream," but I would say this, each and every one of them, once they made their millions, then started dreaming the dream of giving back.

KING: What surprised you the most in doing this? RATHER: Surprised me the most of how alive and well the dream is. You see, I thought maybe it was true, becoming cynical, or skeptical...

(CROSSTALK)

RATHER: Jaded. I came away from doing this book, "The American Dream," Larry, convinced the dream is healthier now, perhaps and being lived by more people in meaningful ways now than it ever has before in American history.

And I don't know what the 21st century is going to bring to the United States, but on the basis of my conversations with these rank- and-file Americans, my neighbors and yours, who still feel connected to the idea and the ideal of the American dream that our forefathers set forward, I think the 21st century is going to be the greatest century yet for the American dream.

KING: We will take a break, come back, include some phone calls, touch some other bases with Dan Rather. This extraordinary new book, "The American Dream: Stories From the Heart of Our Nation," just published. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We are back with Dan Rather. We're going to start to include your phone calls. How is -- just quick, off the top -- how is Bush doing?

RATHER: So far so good, from his standpoint. I don't know of anybody who gives him really low marks overall for the way that he has stepped in. Certainly, he is beginning to take some criticism, such things as rolling blackouts, environmental protection and conservation measures, in favor of what many people see as big business, big oil, that kind of thing.

But, you know, so far so good. But it's still early in his presidency. I would say that those who felt that he would just fall on his face right from the beginning, and there were some people, they have been disappointed.

KING: Has Bill Clinton started to fade a little, do you think?

RATHER: Yes, I think a little, as any former president would do. But Bill Clinton is of an age that we say to ourselves, we are doing be hearing from and about Bill Clinton for a very long time to come, whether you like it or not.

KING: Let's go to some calls for Dan Rather. The book is "The American Dream," the caller is from Lawton, Oklahoma. Hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry. Dan, you are a guest in my home every night.

RATHER: Well, thank you for that. I really appreciate it. Thank you very, very much. CALLER: My question is, as a journalist, what was the most challenging story you ever had to cover?

RATHER: It's always hard to pick one. I would say for a short, compact period of time, the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.

(CROSSTALK)

RATHER: In Dallas. I was with CBS at the time, but for short, compact time, you know, those four dark days in Dallas, total hammer to the heart, was about as difficult assignment as I have had.

Vietnam was extremely difficult, because to tell the truth, I was not as prepared as I should have been to cover combat, particularly combat in that kind of green jungle hell. Watergate was an extremely difficult story to cover, one that still gnaws at me because it's just hard to remember that we had a president of the United States who wound up being an unindicted co-conspirator in a widespread criminal conspiracy. But I would say those are three of the ones that stick in my mind the most.

KING: What -- in which of the stories did you personally face the most danger?

RATHER: Well, there...

KING: Aside from on our show when the wind was blowing, the full hurricane.

RATHER: I just started to say, answering tough questions...

KING: You blew off the screen once with us.

We have Dan Rather as a hurricane, and it wasn't enough to be covered on his own show. He had to cover for our show, and you blew off a pole once.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Afghanistan tough?

RATHER: Yes, and Vietnam. But I never have any complaints. In some ways, on some days, danger is my business.

KING: Do you like it?

RATHER: I'd have to truthfully say I paused only because I'm wondering whether to tell you the absolute truth. There have been times when I caught myself saying, you know, this is -- this is what I trained myself to do and I'm glad I'm here. But I can't say I like it.

I do think that there is some danger of being addicted to risky situations. And I have seen my share of correspondents who got killed because they pushed things too far too long. But, you know, Vietnam, Afghanistan. Yeah, there is danger, but I wouldn't get anybody -- I don't consider -- listen, a cop who walks a beat every night has a really dangerous job.

KING: But people like Christiane Amanpour. They go. They like going where there's somebody shooting at someone.

RATHER: Well, Christiane, one of the great foreign correspondents and war correspondents of all time, she'd be one to answer. But actually, for all of us who have done that line of work for any great amount of time over a period of years, you do have to sort of hold yourself in and remind yourself that the adrenaline rush you get from doing that and your curiosity to find out what's going on can kill you.

And you need to strike a balance. You can't go all the time. Even Christiane Amanpour, who goes every time a shot's fired anywhere, God bless her for it, I know she needs her down time. Because otherwise your life gets out of balance and you begin to take those chances. And you take one chance after another, you begin to think you're invincible. And that's when you're going to get killed or maimed.

KING: Hello, Jay, Georgia, for the author of "The American Dream," Dan Rather, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Dan, Mike Wallace is 83 and Paul Harvey is 82, and they seem to be at the top of their game. Have they achieved "The American Dream," and are you going to work that long?

RATHER: Well, first of all, they certainly have achieved the American dream. Paul Harvey, whom I know a bit, and Mike Wallace, my good friend, I think, would tell you they have lived the American dream. They've lived several American dreams. I'd be delighted if I could continue working in journalism when I'm that age.

But you know, you have to be very lucky, God has to smile, and you have to keep your health to be able to do it. My prayer, most of the time, is: "God, just please give me one more night doing this," because I do have a passion for the news. But I would love to work well into my 80s

KING: You never think of doing what Bernie Shaw, though, did, do you? Do you ever think of just leaving it?

RATHER: No. Not leaving it. I could see not anchoring the evening news. I could see CBS saying: Listen, you're out of here.

And I've said before and I'll say again, I wouldn't mind covering for the AP at some small bureau off someplace. Now, as long as it's in news. But to give it up? No, I don't see that. I admire Bernie because he followed his heart. But my heart, I cannot see it ever leading in that direction.

KING: Williamstown, West Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Dan Rather? RATHER: Yes, sir.

CALLER: To paraphrase Don Imus, I wonder, what the hell have you done to your hair, and why?

(LAUGHTER)

RATHER: Well, that's a fair question. As usual, the I-Man gets right to the point of things. Well, look, it got to be spring. I thought, well, I needed a haircut. And the barber cut it a little shorter than I might have thought ideal, but I tipped him fairly well anyway. And so here we are.

But, you know, life's about change. It's about renewal, and so that's part of what the hell I've done with my hair.

KING: This is a kind of crewcut.

RATHER: Well, kind of...

KING: It has a World War II-ish look to it.

RATHER: I don't quite know how to describe it.

KING: What do you call it?

RATHER: Well, I will say it's probably the shortest my hair has been since my short and undistinguished time in the U.S. Marines. So I guess...

KING: That was -- a Marine cut?

RATHER: Not quite, but I'd call it a modified boot camp

KING: OK. When you sat down in the chair, did you expect this?

RATHER: Truthfully, yes, but maybe not quite this short.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Actually, you do look younger. It does add youth.

RATHER: You said the magic words. I appreciate it. Even though it isn't true, I appreciate it.

KING: We'll be back with more of Dan Rather. The book is "The American Dream." Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Dan Rather. Speaking of "The American Dream," before we take our next call, one of those dreams is: "I can be president." Anyone can be president, that's one of the American dreams.

RATHER: Anyone can do dream of being president in this country. I mean, the thing about dreams, and I keep emphasizing this, you know, it's not enough just to dream. You must be willing to work hard, study hard, and yes, be a little lucky. As I said before, you know, have God's grace.

The thing in this country that makes it so different is you are not limited by the circumstance of your birth. And you can dream to be president. You can dream to be a multi-billionaire. And you have models, people who have actually done it. You can also dream to be of tremendous public service to your fellow Americans, and make that dream come true.

And many of the people in this book, in "The American Dream," have chosen that way to dream, rather than the more materialistic way.

KING: Do you count it funny that people are talking about 2004 already? That, actually, people are going to New Hampshire? Living their American dream?

RATHER: Well, if you dreamed of being president, if that's part of your American dream, then you have to do it. But I have to tell you, this early on, I wouldn't go there at gunpoint.

(LAUGHTER)

RATHER: We just finished an election.

KING: Philadelphia, for Dan Rather, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Hi, Dan.

RATHER: Hi, how are you doing tonight?

CALLER: I think your haircut looks great. It really does.

RATHER: Thank you.

CALLER: It makes you so much younger. It really does, it really looks great.

RATHER: I appreciate that.

CALLER: I wanted to ask you, do you miss working with Connie?

RATHER: You know, I do. I like her very much. I do miss working with her. It's been a long while ago. She's gone on to bigger and better things. But do I miss working with her? Particularly when there's a big breaking story, yeah, I miss working with her.

KING: Were you going to go, by the way, to Terre Haute?

RATHER: No. KING: You were not?

RATHER: No.

KING: There were stories that -- I read somewhere where you were thinking of it, anchors were thinking of going?

RATHER: I don't know about anchors. I can only speak for myself. I never thought about it and I told my boss, Andrew Hayward, that I didn't want to go. He understood that right from the first. I am not saying he was in favor of doing it. We just had an understanding right away.

KING: Why?

RATHER: I didn't want to go there.

KING: Because?

RATHER: I just didn't feel right about it. To tell the truth, I'd prefer not to even have to anchor that. It is personal.

KING: Really.

RATHER: Yes, it's personal.

KING: So that's why you would not cover -- if television was permitted, the Donahue fight, to get it shown, you would not want to anchor that night the showing of an execution?

RATHER: I would not want to anchor it but it would be my job to anchor it. And if that kind of coverage came up, I'd probably be in the anchor chair. But that's a different thing than going to Terre Haute.

I tell you, Larry, I just feel so strongly on this McVeigh thing. I can't stand it. I mean, I keep remembering the 19 children who were blown up in that building. Every time I think of that, I just think, you know, the less I have to do with this story, the better I like it. But as a pro, I would do what I feel I have to do and it's compatible with my conscience. It wouldn't have been to go to Terre Haute.

KING: Houston, hello.

CALLER: Good afternoon, gentlemen, or evening. How are you all tonight?

KING: Fine.

CALLER: This is a question for Mr. Rather. I'm a native Houstonian. I've seen him a lot of years. Out of all the disasters he's covered. I'd just like to know what's really the most heartwarming story he's covered that's kind of stuck with him through the years.

RATHER: What a good question.

KING: A very good question.

RATHER: Please, give my very best to all the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in and around Houston, where I grew up, and about which I still have very strong feelings.

Well, during the coverage of the civil rights movement, when I first came to CBS News in the early 1960s, where it was my job to cover Dr. Martin Luther King, as up close and as personal as I possibly could, it was a bad time in the country, a lot of really terrible things happened.

But there were an awful lot of decent people who did all kinds of heartwarming things, during that awful period. Black and white. And those are burned in my memory forever.

I also have seen over the years an awful lot of people (UNINTELLIGIBLE) covering stories for the homeless, or families who had been hit by some disaster, whether it's a hurricane or some personal illness in the family, the way Americans gather around as neighbors and help out, anybody who comes to this country and doesn't remark on the neighborliness of Americans, one to another and see that as part of the American dream, has missed something very important in the country.

KING: In fact, they celebrated this weekend the 48th commemoration of civil rights marches of '61. You covered marches in '61?

RATHER: Beginning in about 1960, I was at a station in Houston, KHOU, Channel 11 there, and when I came to the network, late '61, beginning of '62, I was assigned right away to the civil rights movement.

KING: James Elroy, the novelist, calls Martin Luther King the most fascinating story of the 20th century. Would you put him way up there?

RATHER: I certainly would. I think a strong case can be made that for that. I think Mahatma Gandi was a very strong story of the 20th century, but there were a lot of great stories in the 20th century. Winston Churchill probably -- he certainly saved Great Britain, he probably Western civilization with the only weapon he had: words, was another great story.

KING: And you love words.

We'll be back with our remaining moments with Dan Rather.

Tomorrow night, Dennis Tito's first television appearance since going into space with the Russian group that he paid 20 million for.

And Peter Jennings will be aboard. We'll be right back with our remaining moments with Dan Rather right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: You can now log on to my Web cite cnn.com/larry king. And the answer to King's Quiz will be revealed. I'd love to know how to do that, but I don't know how to log on myself. I'm passed that age. You must log on, right? The wife logs on.

RATHER: I will teach you.

KING: I'm afraid -- there's something about it.

RATHER: Give me two days, I will teach you.

KING: You love it, huh? Once you get into it, what happens? You get fixated.

RATHER: I'm not fantastic at it. In some ways, I'm sort of clunky at it myself, but the speed with which you can do additional work, is what I like to do.

KING: What does it mean to the future of all of us?

RATHER: I wish I knew, I wish I knew. You know, I don't know how, the Internet is obviously going to be a very big part of our future.

KING: Everyone says that, but they don't specify how.

RATHER: Anymore than we could specify how television would evolve, when television first became popular in postwar period or for that matter, when news print first came in, the printing press first came in, or when radio first came in.

But it will be a very important part of the future, but I don't think it will completely replace a television, radio, or newspapers. It will be in addition to those.

KING: In the book "The American Dream," when you got together -- are there any stories you left out that, now that it's published, you said, maybe...

RATHER: Dozens of them, dozens of them. There's a great story, I wish I could remember the guy's name -- it escapes me at the moment.

This guy was a farmer in the middle of the country. He had a great story about growing up on a farm, keeping himself alive, making his way, dreaming of raising great crops. It made almost the final cut. But there were dozens of stories that we could have put in.

But one of the ones that was woman in Florida, Ruby Linda. This woman is the daughter of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and she is daughter of stoop laborers who came to this country, migrant laborers.

She was told by a lot of people, you know, you are not going to be able to realize your dreams, but her mother -- as so often the case and her father -- in effect, said listen, you are not better than anybody else, but you are as good as anybody else. And if you keep trying, you keep working, you can do it.

And, right now, she is one of America's treasures one of -- teachers in the country, has a masters degree, and is teaching others to dream their dreams and live the American dream. I love this woman.

KING: Isn't Colin Powell a pretty good example.

RATHER: Colin Powell is another wonderful example of the American dream. And in Colin Powell also -- he fits into that American dream, he became a path finder, a pioneer, making his way to flight rank, and not just a rank, but to become chairman of joint chiefs. And now to be secretary of state, I mean, this is an American who will be mentioned in history books, I think, for hundreds of years to come.

KING: You are going to be right there with him, Dan, in the history books.

RATHER: I don't know.

KING: You are a treasure, we -- have you, we need you.

RATHER: Not anywhere in the league with Colin Powell. But I will say this: when I'm able to do something like write "The American Dream," and do a book like this, which I really loved this book, I confess to you, that I love it because I do think it is inspirational book, and I would like for every young person in the country to read it. I wish I could give it to every young person, but I can't.

KING: Thank you, Dan. As always.

RATHER: You have been great.

KING: Dan Rather. The book, "The American Dream."

Thanks for joining us. Dennis Tito and Peter Jennings tomorrow night. Stay tuned now for "CNN TONIGHT."

I'm Larry King in New York, for Dan Rather and the whole crew, good night.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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