CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Gray Davis
Aired November 1, 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, new threats against U.S. landmarks -- this time California could be a target.
And a big victory for President Bush on Capitol Hill on aviation security. But will it make skies safer?
In Los Angeles, California Governor Gray Davis on what the state is doing to stay safe.
In Washington, chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, John Mica; along with the newly-elected Democratic Whip Nancy Pelosi and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, one of the authors of the aviation security bill passed by the Senate; from Washington, Senator Mary Landrieu, chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities; also in D.C., Senator Pat Roberts, ranking member on that same committee; and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander George Joulwan; in New York, "Hardball's" Chris Matthews on the war, the media and more; plus in L.A., country western singer Aaron Tippin takes us where the stars and stripes and eagle fly.
All next, on LARRY KING LIVE.
We begin with Governor Gray Davis here in Los Angeles, the governor of California who made a rather startling announcement today. Terrorism has not come to the West Coast. What have you been warned about?
GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we received information from three separate federal agencies indicating that there was a potential terrorist attack against suspension bridges on the West Coast and that that attack would begin on -- during rush hour of November 2, which is tomorrow.
KING: What bridges?
DAVIS: They don't specify the bridges. Obviously, I'm concerned about bridges in our state.
And we have taken a lot of precautions already to protect the major bridges. We have heightened security in light of these threats even further. But we have the Highway Patrol, the Coast Guard and a number of other agencies already assigned to these bridges. In addition, I said if the National Guard thought it was appropriate to put some additional personnel in the bridges, they were authorized to do that.
KING: You realize, Governor, that in making that statement, you are telling people -- all people are going to be fearful of going on those bridges tomorrow.
DAVIS: If I didn't make that statement, and, God forbid, something happened I'd be kicking myself.
I have an obligation to share with the people of this state, information that may well be credible that affects their lives. More importantly, I want them to know that we have gone the extra mile to protect them. And certainly calling up the National Guard shows that we are serious about this.
KING: Now, the FBI has told CNN that the information on the threat came to the FBI through another intelligence agency. And the FBI is currently working vigorously to determine the credibility.
Ron Iden, the FBI bureau chief in L.A., says he can provide no more specificity for you. "I can say, though, the governor's comments are right on point. We need to inform anyone who might intend to a terrorist act that we are aware of their plans."
Are we in conflict here?
DAVIS: I think we're on the same page. I've been in touch with Tom Ridge, who supports my decision and Director Mueller.
We are all on the same team. We are all trying to keep America safe. And governors and senators and mayors have to be responsive to their specific constituents. Again, if I had said nothing and there had been some terrorist activity on a bridge in California, and people found out we had information warning of that threat, I'd just be kicking myself from now until Sunday.
KING: So the FBI is not saying it's not credible. They're saying, right, that they are checking it out?
KING: I mean, the other agencies reporting to you said it is credible?
DAVIS: I can't go into too many details, but one federal agency believes it is credible. They have reported to the FBI. The FBI is checking it out.
But while they're checking it out, they're providing this information to the sheriffs, the police chiefs and the law enforcement agencies on the West Coast. We got that late last night and early this morning. And because the threat is supposed to start tomorrow, I wanted to tell people what we are doing to keep them safe, tell them what might happen, and tell them that they have to make their own best judgment as to whether or not to use bridges. But if they use bridges, they are going to be safe.
KING: How did you learn of it.
DAVIS: I learned of it because our security people received this...
KING: Did they call you or...
DAVIS: Yes, they briefed me in the morning and tell me what information they got the night before. This happens every day. We must have had 100 to 125 bomb threats. I have not revealed that to the public because we work through that and happily, all those threats turned out to be not credible. I didn't report the information on the threat to Hollywood Studios because I thought that the agencies here in Los Angeles had done enough to protect it.
But this was so immediate, so specific, and targeted suspension bridges, I felt people had to know this.
KING: Therefore, you agree with the idea of forewarned.
DAVIS: I believe it.
KING: Better to tell them than not to tell them.
DAVIS: Yes. And I think if terrorists know we know they may be coming, they may not come and that is what we want. We don't want to just clean up, you know, the dead and wounded. We want to prevent terrorism in the first place. And I think letting them know we know what they are thinking, and we have already beat them to the punch, is a good strategy.
KING: California's most famous bridges are in San Diego, right?
KING: Coronado, the two in San Francisco, one in -- there are two in San Francisco.
DAVIS: Golden Gate and the Bay Bridge.
KING: And then what's the one in Los Angeles?
DAVIS: Well, there's the Vincent Thomas Bridge here in Los Angeles.
KING: So, would they be the four you'd give the most look at?
DAVIS: Well, those were the four that we were protecting anyway with the Highway Patrol and the Coast Guard. And those are the four we're adding additional protection to in light of these threats.
The threats to us -- the information to us did not specify those bridges. It said there was a potential threat to suspension bridges on the West Coast starting tomorrow during rush hour.
KING: Did you call Ridge and the others before making the announcement or was that solely your decision?
DAVIS: I was in a meeting, with the -- Ron Iden, the head of the FBI in Los Angeles, the head of our Highway Patrol, Chief Parks and Spike Helmick, who is the head of the -- the commissioner of the Highway Patrol, and also Sheriff Baca.
And we were announcing a new security adviser that was coming on my staff. And I said I'm concerned about these threats. I'm going to make this information public. Does anyone have any thoughts? And the people had a few thoughts but they were, basically, supportive of my making the statement public.
KING: What have you been doing when you get bombing -- I mean, how do you, as governor, react to what you have been getting? What do you?
DAVIS: It's very hard.
You get this information every day and you don't know if it is disinformation just to make you scurry about and take a lot of precautions that turn out not to be necessary. But you have to err on the side of caution. You have to do everything you can to protect people, and then if the threat turns out to be false, fine. If you dismiss them and the threat turns out to be serious, you can't live with yourself.
KING: Do you have any thoughts as to why nothing has happened on the West Coast at all -- anthrax, nothing?
DAVIS: I -- thank god, but, I don't think we can rest on our laurels. I mean, we did see some cows that contracted anthrax in the San Jose area and again in the San Diego area. The FBI is checking that out.
KING: All right. Should we, therefore -- if you are in California, be careful about going over a bridge the next five days?
DAVIS: I think people have to make that decision themselves. What I can tell them is we have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep them safe. These bridges could not possibly be safer that they are today. And if they feel like going over the bridge, they are going to be safe.
KING: Could an attack come from the air?
DAVIS: Well, the attack could come from anywhere.
But without getting into too many details, those possibilities have been envisioned and there's precautions taken in that regard as well.
KING: Thank you, Governor. Thanks for coming by.
DAVIS: Larry, good to see you.
KING: Governor Gray Davis, the governor of California. When we come back, we will talk with two congressmen and one member of the Senate. We'll talk about aviation security, a bill -- the Democratic sponsored bill -- that failed in the House today. So we have a quandary. The Senate likes one bill, the House likes another. What's going to happen?
Don't go away.
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, all in Washington, Congressman John Mica, chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, a principal author of the Republican House aviation security bill. That bill passed late today in the House.
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, newly elected minority whip -- she takes over on January 15. She's the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
And also in Washington, our friend Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, one of the authors of the aviation security bill that passed in the Senate 100 to nothing -- a long time advocate of aviation security.
The president, by the way, has praised the House for its action. It will now have to go to conference. What the Senate passed 100 to nothing was, in essence, what the House defeated today. The House passed its own bill.
The main difference, Congressman Mica, is what?
REP. JOHN MICA (R-FL), TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE: Well, the main difference is that we have a single system of security in our House legislation that deals with transportation security, that deals with aviation security in a comprehensive plan.
I think the Senate did a good job. They acted, they got an agreement on what they could. But there were problems with it and they were uncovered as we went along in our process. But, today we saw really the process of our great government work. The Senate did their job. The House did their job.
Now it's important that we work together and get the very best possible aviation and transportation security legislation for the American people.
KING: And Congresswoman Pelosi, how do you see that coming together? If the Senate wants it where it's all in the federal mandate and the House wants federal guidelines, how do you come to a meeting of the minds?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY WHIP: Well, Larry, tonight the House of Representatives missed an opportunity to make the skies safe for Thanksgiving and for our families. This is really a tragedy.
Instead of rejecting the status quo, which created a situation where seven weeks ago, our own jetliners were used as weapons against the American people -- instead of rejecting that -- this Congress gave an endorsement to the security system that allowed that to happen.
KING: So what do you do now?
PELOSI: Instead of an endorsement -- instead of an endorsement, there should have been an indictment against those in that -- by that I mean, the airline industry and the private screening companies that have not invested...
KING: I realize...
PELOSI: Well, what you do is instead you try to -- what our bill would have done -- professionalize the service. These companies have not invested in training or in...
KING: I know, but the question was though -- the question is what do you do now?
PELOSI: Well, I think what happens now is that Tom DeLay, the majority whip, has gotten his way. I don't think that this bill will see the light of day.
The Senate bill, that Senator Hutchison was one of the authors of, is what we were trying to pass in the House. It passed 100 to nothing. I think this is the end of airline security. I don't think this bill will go to conference. It's a tragedy.
KING: Senator Hutchison, are you disappointed by your Republican friends in the House?
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R-TX), AVIATION SUBCOMMITTEE: Well, I certainly thought the Senate bill was more comprehensive. It did have a law enforcement requirement. We put it in the Department of Justice. We wanted to have the screeners be a part of an entire system where you would have a career where people would work together, and you would be screener and then you might be a sky marshal. That was our approach.
But I really think now that -- and I want to say I'm pleased that the House acted so that we can go to conference. I was concerned that perhaps the House wouldn't act at all and then we would not have a comprehensive program.
Now we've got to roll up our sleeves and we've got to sit down in a conference committee and we've got to see what is the same in both bills. And there are some things. Cockpit doors will be more secure. We will have sky marshals who will be armed law enforcement officers. But now we've got to deal with the areas where we disagree, and that is what kind of a screening force are we are going to have and what kind of a supervisory force we are going to have? And I think we can come up with a solution.
KING: Congressman Mica, what was your main argument against total federal control?
MICA: Well, first of all, we need some flexibility in whatever we do. We need, also, the ability to put into effect rule making. One of the problems September 10 was that in order to get the most up-to-date equipment in place, we couldn't get it in place. Those screeners are only as good as the equipment, so we had to have expedited rule making provisions which the Senate bill didn't even address.
There were many other defects and shortcomings in the Senate bill. And the longer the bill was examined -- for example, the law enforcement provision was which Miss Hutchison, Senator Hutchison, talked about. They actually left, either by air or whatever, law enforcement with the Department of Transportation and transferred the baggage screeners to the Department of Justice. Not really what I think they intended.
So I think we can work together. I'm sad to hear the whip on the Democrat side say that the public isn't going to be safe. Nothing can be further than the truth. The president has put into step some intermediate measures. Cockpit doors will be secured within a week. Air marshals are on planes.
And the president has taken steps in the interim. He said today to me that he wants this done right and safety and security for the American people. And that is what we intend to do. And I will work with the Democrats on that.
KING: Congresswoman Pelosi, can't you come together in some manner to produce a bill that the president is going to sign -- whatever bill you give him, he wants to get this through.
PELOSI: That is true, and the president had presented some guidelines and he has taken some steps on his own.
But they have nothing to do with what happened here tonight. I hope that Senator Hutchison is correct and that there will be a conference. But I think what happened on the House here today, this evening, was a signal that we will never go to conference on this.
The very same private firms that had been conducting the screening have -- and I disagree with my colleague. The screeners are not just as good as the technology. Of course, the technology is important and we have to invest heavily in that. But also we have to invest in training of those screeners. They have over 100 percent turnover in the screenings. The travel -- the airline industry regards travel as a commodity. They have taken their chances on safety. They should have been rejected. And instead, we endorsed the status quo.
I hope that I am wrong. I challenge Tom DeLay to bring this bill to conference. I fear that he -- it will never go there.
KING: Congressman Mica, will you say -- before we get back to Senator Hutchison -- will you say it will definitely go to conference?
MICA: Absolutely. I'm committed to it.
I went over and talked to Mr. Gephardt, Mr. Oberstar has worked very hard, the Democrat ranking member. We can get a great bill out. And I feel confident working with the senators, we can do that.
I will do everything in my power, and we are going to get the best aviation security bill. I guarantee it, I guarantee it.
KING: Senator Hutchison, don't you have to -- you get what you pay for. Don't you have to pay these people more who do the checking?
And what I don't like about the House bill -- and I hope we can work on this -- is for the federal government to set the qualifications, to do the training, to set the salaries and then let someone else do the hiring, I don't think is a comprehensive system.
I think we need to have an approach that says these are law enforcement personnel and we absolutely want them to be paid well. We want them to have the benefits so that they are quality people. That is what they do in Europe. They have people who are screeners, but they forgot to tell you that they also have health benefits that are paid for by the government, and retirement benefits that are paid for by the government.
So it is very important, I think, that we have quality people with good salaries that can support their families.
KING: Congressman Mica, frankly, did the private companies that do pay them and run these securities -- did they lobby heavy to keep that it way?
In fact, I don't remember talking to anybody. But I do remember us holding weeks and weeks of hearing and making the process work to try to get in place the very best security provisions.
I think Senator Hutchison is right though. We've got to find something that does the job. We've got to work together. We can do it. It is not a problem. Some politics have gotten in the way, but I think we will roll up our sleeves and tonight, if necessary -- I'm over here on the Senate side. I'm ready to go to work. And tomorrow -- we'll get this done. And I think everyone will be very pleased with the top-notch security system that we put in place that is comprehensive.
KING: Let's take a call from our guests -- Dallas, hello.
CALLER: Yes, Larry, my question to you is: Why aren't we checking the luggage that's in the belly of the airplane? Why isn't that x-rayed? That is very important.
KING: Do we know, Nancy, why luggage that doesn't go through the -- you know -- that you carry on -- why isn't that x-rayed?
PELOSI: We have to x-ray everything that goes on the plane, in the belly of the plane or on -- carried on by people. No, I completely agree with the caller that if we are going to have airline security, everything that goes onto that plane has to be checked.
HUTCHISON: Yes, our goal in the Senate bill is 100 percent screening of checked baggage. I think it is essential.
KING: And, Congressman Mica, do you agree with that?
MICA: I agree, but one of the problems we have had is getting rules in place that get the very latest technology. You know, Larry, we've got some great technology, but it isn't deployed. And that was one of the flaws, that they couldn't get expedited rule making process to get that technology in place.
So, we want the very best technology. We don't want to make the mistake they made in 1996 when we went out and bought $443 million worth of explosion detective devices, some that isn't deployed and some that doesn't work.
KING: Take another call -- Hartford, Connecticut, hello.
CALLER: Hello, I would like to know exactly what will be done before the Thanksgiving holiday.
MICA: I will be glad to comment.
KING: Go ahead, Congressman Mica.
MICA: First of all, the president has already ordered the securing of cockpit doors. So you can fly with great safety. Almost every large commercial aircraft by December 7 will have cockpit door secure mechanisms in place. Secondly, we have sky marshals being deployed. Thirdly, the president has ordered personnel from other law enforcement agencies on board those aircraft, so they are as safe as they can possibly be.
Third, Secretary Mineta has ordered interim provisions. They are interim provisions until we get this legislation passed, which -- and you see some of them, you see the National Guard, you see other enforcement people at these locations. And then looking at the perimeter and the rest of aviation, so never before have you been safer to fly.
Our long term goal is to get good legislation that puts all of these mechanisms that have failed in the past, in place, in a proper order for the future.
KING: Congresswoman Pelosi, can...
KING: Let me ask the question -- Congresswoman Pelosi, can you get all that done in time? PELOSI: Well, first of all my colleague, with all due respect, the list he read, he didn't say anything about improving airport screening. And that is what we need to have.
Now, I do not want to be a fearmonger. I'm hoping for the best. My family will be traveling at thanksgiving as well as every other family in America, the highest travel time of the year. But there is nothing that is going to happen before Thanksgiving.
If the Senate bill had passed, and by the way, let's review that, 100 to nothing in a bipartisan way, it passed the United States Senate. If that bill had passed the House today, as it was presented, it would have been on the president's desk tomorrow, and we would have had safety in the skies immediately. But...
MICA: That is totally false.
PELOSI: But there is no screening in anything that my colleague said. KING: Obviously we have strong disagreements on the House side. Senator Hutchison, do you think it is going work out?
HUTCHISON: Well, I do. I think we will go to conference and we will send a bill to the president. I would like for it to have gone tonight, too. But we are going to sit down and work on it. But back to the woman's question, we also have National Guard members at every monitoring station and airport.
So, I do think that we are going to have security, but it is not permanent. What we want is the permanent security, where we have supervisors that are trained, that work with the screeners who were trained, who know who the sky marshals who are who are trained. And we can't just borrow from other agencies for the long term, we have to deal with this issue.
KING: Thank you very much, Congressman John Mica, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
When we come back, we will talk about other aspect of all this, terrorism abroad and at home, and the ongoing war with Senators Mary Landrieu, Pat Roberts, and General George Joulwan, the former NATO supreme allied commander.
Chris Matthews is still to come and another great musical windup tonight. We'll be right back.
KING: We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, Senator Mary Landrieu, chair of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities. She is a Democrat of Louisiana. Senator Pat Roberts, ranking member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities, member of the Senate Intelligence Committee as well, Republican of Kansas; and in Washington, he has now become a regular on this program, always good to have him, he is back from Ireland, General George Joulwan, United States Army (Ret.), former NATO supreme allied commander, former commander in chief, U.S. European Command.
Senator Landrieu, do you agree with Governor Davis in making that announcement today about the fear of bridges?
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D-LA), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, I think that was his only option giving the information he had about a credible threat more specific in its location. I think that that is what we are going to have to sort of use to govern this that, Larry, is going to last unfortunately, for longer than I think most people might want to believe, or accept.
This is just a new kind of war that we are engaged in. If we catch bin Laden tomorrow, which I wish we could, and eventually we will catch him, and destroy his cell, this unfortunately, is going to continue. So we have to develop ways and methods and education of dealing with it and we will learn as we go.
KING: Senator Roberts, do you agree when forewarning, even if we don't have specifics?
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R-KS), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I think if we are going to win this war against terrorism you are going to have to shoot straight with the American people. I think the governor did the right thing. It is a tough it -- is a tough choice. We had a lot of folks who were scratching their head and second-guessing the attorney general, and the FBI director, the president, on this latest alert.
But the other side of it is that if you do not shoot straight with the American people and have everybody on alert, you don't want to do that either. Yes, I think he made right call.
KING: General Joulwan, we know about the National Guard. Is there a role for the military in the domestic war on terrorism?
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: I believe so. I think the military has been hesitant to get involved in this in the past, but I really think there is much more, Larry, in what I would call a facilitating role, helping in the coordination. We found this in the drug fight when we tried to bring 40 agencies together.
I think we can help facilitate the coordination between law enforcement, the federal -- FAA and other agencies, and we can make that work with our National Guard and with our military.
KING: Senator Landrieu, on the battle on the anthrax front. Are you satisfied with how the government is handling it?
LANDRIEU: Well, we obviously need to improve, and again, I think everybody is doing the very best under very difficult circumstances. But we've got to improve a great deal, Larry. But I want to support what the general said. If you think about it, the military has to get back to its original focus, which I think it wants to do. It is just going to take some transformation and some new thinking -- that is, protect the homeland, protecting lives, property, livelihood in the appropriate ways with partners, as the general has outlined. But it is going to take new thinking, transformation, and a new way of doing business. But I think our military is up for it, and I know that they are capable of doing it.
KING: Senator Roberts, what are your thoughts in that area?
ROBERTS: Well, I think the military does have a role. It didn't take too much time for the Air Force to put caps on all major cities when we had the attack in regards to Washington and New York. There is a separation of powers, there is something called posse comitatus. You have to be careful of that. But I think we can overcome that. There even been some talk about legislation in that arena.
But yes, the military has a strong role to play. It will continue to do so. In regards to the anthrax business, we are on a steep learning curve. But I know one thing that we just had is a hearing with Senator Landrieu here, who is the chairman on something called Dark Winter, and the danger of a smallpox attack. Excellent hearing, and I think we really we really made some progress on what we would like to do.
We ought to have a Marshall Plan, Larry, really, in terms of our public health system, there is another threat out there that I'm very worried about, and it is creeping ever higher, something called agri- terrorism. We have a bill to deal with that, with the bioterrorism bill in the Senate, but what if our nation's food supply was in danger, not only what would happen in regards to our farmers and ranchers, but the chaos that it would cause all throughout this country.
KING: General Joulwan, now let's do it to the area of the war, the public getting more anxious, there is no Osama bin Laden. Ramadan is coming. Winter is coming. What's the outlook?
JOULWAN: Well, I think you see a lot more cooperation now, Larry, as we have been discussing over the last few weeks. We now have made a clear commitment to support the Northern Alliance. We have troops on the ground, special forces on the ground. The air support is much better now. Remember the Special Forces, with eyes on the ground, can laze the targets and that laser guidance is a lot more effective. So I think we are starting to see the shift.
I still think to a degree, we are going to have a problem with Ramadan, even though our political leaders say press on. As I said before, I think we need to have alternatives for the military if that doesn't occur. But I truly believe that there has been a shift now to really support the Northern Alliance, and I think you will see an objective around Mazar-i-Sharif as being one of the early strategic points that will be taken.
KING: Are you confident, Senator Landrieu in that area?
LANDRIEU: I'm confident that our military will ultimately be victorious because this nation has a tremendous spirit and courage to support our military and do what it takes. But we've got to fight with our muscle and our brain, and do it in a smart way. Because this is a different kind of war.
We've got to be ready for attacks in many different ways, to our own homeland as well as try to fight in this very inhospitable place in a very difficult time of the year as well as making sure people know we are not at war with the people of Afghanistan, and not cause more instability, Larry, in that particular region, which is volatile, and as Pat knows who chaired the emerging threat subcommittee in a magnificent way for three years, people have access to weapons of mass destruction, unfortunately, in this area of the world. It is not a safe place by any stretch of the imagination. So our military has to be very shrewd, very calculating and I think that they are laying out those plans.
KING: Thank you all very much. We are going to be calling on you again often, and always great to see General George Joulwan, and Senator Pat Roberts and Senator Mary Landrieu.
We are going to take a break, and when we come back, Chris Matthews, the hose of MSNBC's "Hardball" program, author of a terrific new book, "Now Let Me Tell You What I Really Think!" Chris is in New York, and he is next, don't go away.
KING: It is now a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE an old friend, one of the major political pundits in this country, the host of MSNBC's "Hardball," and the author of a terrific new book, "Now Let Me Tell You What I Really Think." I read this book in a couple hours. It is a quick read. If you like Matthews you will love the book. It runs you right through, tells you why he does everything he does. It is -- I must compliment you, Chris. As a follow-up to your other works and "Hardball" and the like, a great work. I recommended it highly.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST, MSNBC'S "HARDBALL": Thanks.
KING: And I take the credit for your success.
MATTHEWS: You started me.
KING: I started you.
MATTHEWS: I was just working for Tip O'Neill and you started to put me on your radio show every couple weeks, your show was with Gergen, usually, David Gergen, sometimes. And then you would just say on that radio show, I discovered this guy. You actually did, you know.
KING: That is right. So if you like him, credit me and if you hate him, blame me.
MATTHEWS: You can't blame Larry for me.
KING: What's your reaction to this California bridge story?
MATTHEWS: Well you know, I think it is a problem of too many Jack in the boxes. Too many people, Tommy Thompson is a good man, but he announced smallpox, and then he warns us about lettuce and some of these fresh vegetables we buy, and then Ashcroft makes his announcements.
I think they've got to get one person who is allowed to make these announcements, and makes them at the same time every day, let all the networks cover it. I think it is a little dis-spiriting to have governors now, in the game of announcing these things. I guess the FBI didn't like him doing it, but you know they have got to agree on one voice, so we know whether it is credible or not.
KING: What do you make...
MATTHEWS: That is what I think.
KING: What's your reaction been to this whole thing? To the terrorism, to the anthrax part of this story?
MATTHEWS: Well, I think we have to be careful, but we now know that probably most of it comes through the mails, and of course, this New York woman that died just the other day is kind of scary because we don't see the connection yet.
But I think we have to keep in mind that an epidemic involves more than just four people. This is a horrible, sort of, terrible national Lottery. Somebody will get hit next, we know that. But I don't think people should be so fretful about it as we do about something really serious, like Aides where that is killing millions of people. I think we have to keep the numbers in perspective. It is a sad thing, but it is not yet a national calamity. And I don't think we should be treating it that way.
KING: You write about things -- by the way, are you a writer who is on television, or are you now a television host who writes?
MATTHEWS: Probably more TV because I'm on an hour a night, Larry, and that is more time than -- I can only write a column once a week. The book I got done by staying up all night. I don't know how you write your books so quickly, but I stay up all night. Maybe do them at lunchtime, but I basically stay up until I fall asleep and that is how I wrote this one.
And very luckily I wrote about the American spirit, all this year of writing it and then, of course, we have all shown our own spirit. You don't need a book to know what the American people feel about their country now.
KING: Were we wrong, or were we were we neglectful in do the days of Condit and Lewinsky and not covering terrorism and the Middle East and bin Ladens? Did we go to the -- to play to the more publicly interested element and forsake our proper duty?
MATTHEWS: Well, we can argue that. We can say that we haven't covered foreign affairs and even the broadcast, the antenna nets don't do it very well either. Very little foreign news coverage on the evening news programs on any network now. Of course, CNN is very good at it and had been over the years, it made a commitment to it.
But I think generally, networks of all kinds have had a hard time interesting the American people in foreign coverage. A friend of mine for years, Bernie Kaplan -- he died last year or the year before -- Bernie covered cornered Paris for 30 years. And he told me the only way to get a story in the newspaper that you write about foreign policy, or foreign stories, is to say the word "American" in the first paragraph or the newspaper editors won't run it.
So I think we are kind of a xenophobic country -- you know a very much an insulated country because we have gotten away with it, you know.
KING: How are we -- the collective we -- if we can even describe it that way, doing with this story?
MATTHEWS: I think it has been hard on this country for one big reason, which you have just alluded to. You know, we built this country, and we built -- we play baseball, we play American football, we play basketball, we have invented our own sports, invented jazz, invented rock'n'roll, invented the clothing styles, the jeans, the movies.
Americans are very proud of the fact that we made this country ourselves. We didn't import it. All of a sudden, and even the bad things we did over the centuries, like slavery, were basically our bad things. Watergate, or Jim Crow, or anything, or Vietnam, even, was a mistake although I think it was based on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .
This thing comes from abroad. It comes at us, and we don't really know how to deal with it because it is almost an invasion of us to kill 6,000 of our people. And it wasn't our doing. We can argue about Middle East policy forever, we can always argue about it, but we had nothing to do with 6,000 people being killed. These guys came here from Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in that world over there and they killed our people because they didn't like our country.
This is new and I don't think we like the feeling of it one bit. And the one good thing about it is, it has united us in a way that -- remember how Ronald Reagan and I would talk about how he would fantasize about somebody coming from a foreign planet, like, you know, some sort of intergalactic monster, and everybody would unite against this force and race wouldn't matter so much, and class wouldn't matter so much, and people would unite together.
I feel that just walking streets of New York. People look at each other now. They say hello. I just think it is a nicer country now than it was just two months ago.
KING: What's your view -- and you write about being in the media, the media is part of your book, part of your existence. You explain how you do what do you -- about the media's role in a story like this? Are we impartial? Do we root? What do we do?
MATTHEWS: Well, I think I root, I am sort of an analyst, you know, I love to study politics and I think the American people have a very simple ambition and I think that is why George Bush has a high job approval rating, about 90 percent, because about 90 percent of the American people have a very simple solution to this problem: Bring justice to the people who did it, or bring them to justice, as the president put it very well.
I think people are not interested in nation building in Afghanistan, or all the other problems. They want to get the people who did this, and basically wipe them out. And I think that is fair. We can call it justice or vengeance or whatever, but I think it is fair and it is just. And I think as long as this president is on that line and in pursuit of that kind of justice to get bin Laden, I think we are he going with him.
I think the press should cover this like a war, and you know, I mean Winston Churchill once said, "I refuse to be impartial between the fire brigade and the fire."
I think we're the fire brigade this time and I think to cover the fire brigade as if it's morally equal to fire is nuts. I don't think it is true. I don't think it's a fact to cover it that way.
KING: So saying "we" is perfectly OK?
MATTHEWS: Well I think when you say the United States, American, the forces, the coalition, we're going to get this person, I think it's fair -- it's a fair judgment to say that terrorism of the kind we saw -- that we suffered is objectively wrong and that is a fact. And I don't know any country in world that sort of objectively justifies it except maybe the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
All the Islamic countries have basically said it was wrong. All the former Soviet republics said it was wrong. All around the world, I guess even Castro said it was wrong. The Koreans said it was wrong -- I think the North Koreans.
I mean, I think the world agrees that this kind of killing of people is wrong. And we are trying to bring justice to those who did it. And I think that's an objective statement, you know.
KING: We will take a break and be back with more of the always interesting Chris Matthews, who's, again, got a great new book "Now Let Me Tell You What I Really Think" just published.
This is LARRY KING LIVE, don't go away.
KING: We are back with "Hardball" host Chris Matthews, author of "Now Let Me Tell You What I Really Think".
I holding in my hand a bunch of -- we all remember Topps cards, Chris. We grew up saving baseball cards, putting it in spokes of our bicycle tires. Topps has now come out with a series about enduring freedom. George Bush has a card. Bin laden has a card. Colin Powell has a card.
What do you make of it? What have we come to?
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, I was at the game the other night, Larry, in your hometown of New York here. And when that Irish guy came out and sang "God Bless America," the whole place cried.
I tell you, there is a feeling in this country, and it's not just about sports, it's about us. And I think maybe, maybe we are going back to maybe what we remember -- as you and I remember -- from the early '50s, that sort of simple, basic patriotism, where you flew the flag and we hid under our desks during air raid drills and we rooted for America. It was simple.
KING: Middlebury, Indiana -- we take a call for Chris Matthews -- hello.
CALLER: Yes, in all reality, how do we expect to stop the bioterrorism in this country when we can't stop the illegal drug trade?
KING: Good question.
MATTHEWS: Well, it is a new threat to the country. And we are going to have to deal with it because we have to deal with it. It is a matter of survival.
And we -- the first thing we've got to figure out is who's doing it. Because we really don't know yet who's doing it, whether it is part of the bin Laden operation or its Iraq or it's some domestic nut case.
My hunch is it's the latter, but that's just a hunch so far. And, you know, we are just going to have to start testing our mail. And we are going to have to be careful what mail we open. And we're going to have to rely more on e-mail.
And as for the dangers that we've talked about as out there, smallpox -- we are just going to have to be able -- maybe we're going to have to inoculate ourselves again. We're going to have to take some steps.
You know, I have faith in this country. I have been to Israel a couple of times. Larry, you have been there. Those people know how to live happy lives, they have great meals, they have sex, they have families, they go to the movies. And all the time, they are on guard. And they're a pretty happy people.
You can live a life based on being alert and being sharp and occasionally maybe not having to carry a gun. But I'll tell you one thing, it is better than being a sap to the world, and Israel's not a sap. And I think we have to think a little bit more like Israelis. And when somebody does something to you, you go out and track them down in the night, you kill them in their beds. And that's what Israel did to the killers of Munich.
And I think we've got to be a little tougher about things, not slaughter the enemy -- they don't do that either -- but I think we've got to be a little tougher as a country. And maybe the year 2100 -- what, the 21st century now -- will be better than in the 1990s. We will be a little less fat, a little tougher. I think that's better for the country. Be on guard. You know, we've got enemies out there. I think it's a healthier society to live in to know you have enemies than to act like you don't.
KING: How much information do you want out of the military on their exploits in Afghanistan. As a person in media, what is the public entitled to know?
MATTHEWS: Well, I think we need to know what we have done after we have done it. That is for one thing.
I think we don't have to know about operations that are under way before they occur because people can watch on this network and elsewhere and find out what we are doing, in middle of the night even. I think we shouldn't give away operations ahead of time.
But you know, it's the old question. We go all the way back to the Cuban missile crisis. If you get the scoop -- if we're marching at midnight and we are dropping bombs at midnight, do you move with the story? I think most reporters would say it is not the job of the American press to rat on the American military and give away their element of surprise.
I think, on the other hand, if we are over there slaughtering civilians, that is a great story and we ought to report it immediately. If we're over there doing nothing, if nothing is happening or getting done and we are just talking about it, maybe we ought to -- we got to report that too. I think there is a lot to cover, in terms of policy, without getting in the way of operations.
KING: And how about these calls for results. A lot of people are starting to get now itchy. Rumsfeld said today, "This is going to take years." Are we going to have a tough time with that? Is the public going to accept it?
MATTHEWS: The American people are an impulsive people, we all know that. We are quick on gratification.
It took four years to win World War II. I mean, I just think -- I think it's going to take a long time to -- if winning means catching the people that did this, if it means tracking them down through the United States -- and some of them are obviously here -- tracking them down through Europe with the help of the Germans, who have come off as real good guys in this thing, and tracking them all through the Islamic world is going take awhile. It's taken then awhile to develop those networks -- years to develop those networks.
These bad guys were in this country -- what -- four, five years developing this terrible plan to destroy us. We have to put as much time into this fight as they put into it. We have to put as much brains into it as they put into it or we are going to lose.
So it's easy to say let's be a bunch of dumb Americans and go over there and start shooting people. That's not going to get the bad guys. That is going to get the good people. So I think we've got to be as smart and as tough and as patient as they are or we are going to lose to them. And I think it's worth the struggle and I think it's worth the victory.
KING: Any thoughts about these differing aviation bills today in the House and the Senate?
MATTHEWS: You know, you and I travel a lot, Larry, and you see the kind of people that have to work and look at the baggage. It is -- some of the people are bored with their jobs, some of them work very hard at it. It's a very low-paying job. It's just like education. If you want your kids taught by the lowest-paid people in the country, you are going to possibly get some of the worst education.
We are talking about people that decide whether a person carries a bag on an airplane or not and whether it is important or not whether they carry a nail clipper or not or whether they're carrying a box cutter. I want to know that that box cutter doesn't get on the plane next time. I want to know that people who do the food and catering are not corrupted. I want to know who's on our side in this fight.
And I think smart people like the -- you go back to the Israeli example. When you travel on El-Al, the Israeli airlines, a guide gives you an interview before you get on the plane. He looks you in the eye. He sees if you're sweating. If he doesn't like your pockets, he keeps asking you questions until he is sure you're OK. And that is why we haven't had any hijacking of Israeli planes for years now.
We've got to be just as tough in ferreting out the bad guys. You can't just let a guy get on a plane, you know, and say he is just there to help you or be our friend. You've got to check him out a little bit. That takes some real scrutiny by professionals, not minimum wage people unfortunately. So I think it's got to be federalized.
The Senate wants to do it. They voted overwhelmingly. Kay Bailey Hutchison was for it. She's a Republican. I think that conference committee meets. When they meet, they've got to come out with something much tougher than protecting those companies.
What I'm afraid happened is, Larry, that those companies, they contracted out those jobs to check our luggage, did a better job of lobbying to keep those contracts than they did checking our luggage. And I don't think we should reward hot-shot lobbying. I think we should reward clever scrutiny of our luggage. And we have -- there is no reason to give these people any rewards for the work they have done.
KING: Chris, it's always great being around you, pleasure calling you a friend.
MATTHEWS: Thank you, you are.
KING: Hope this book does super for you. MATTHEWS: Thank you very much tonight. It's great being on.
KING: Because you deserve it.
He's the host of MSNBC's "Hardball". He's Chris Matthews and he's the author of "Now Let Me Tell You What I Really Think," just published.
We close every program every night with a musical -- uplifting musical note. We have a great one coming for you now.
Coming next, right after the break, is Aaron Tippin, the Country Western singer. And you're going to hear a terrific song.
So don't go away. We'll be right back with Aaron.
KING: We close it off tonight with one my favorite people, Aaron Tippin. He had the hit song "You Got To Stand For Something" during the Gulf War. He also wrote a song called "Where The Stars & Stripes And The Eagle Fly." That song is No. 1 on the Billboard list this week.
And you just recorded it, right?
AARON TIPPIN, COUNTRY SINGER: Yes, we just recently recorded it.
KING: You had written it -- what and remembered that it fit?
TIPPIN: We wrote it a couple years of ago, you know actually, Larry, but it -- for some reason it didn't make it on the album we were cutting it for. And, you know, I didn't know why at the time, but I know why now. I think it had a bigger purpose.
KING: So when the events of September 11 happened, you said...
TIPPIN: Well, you know, I just remembered it. As a matter of fact, there's a cameraman probably on one of you all's crews somewhere that was circling Manhattan. And he took a shot through the Statue of Liberty back in Manhattan. And I remembered that song, so I called him and told him.
And I said, you know, we ought to think about recording this song. Plus, "You Got To Stand For Something" -- both of these are our benefit record for the victims of the terrorist attacks.
KING: So the proceeds go to the victims?
KING: So you recorded this and already, you're No. 1.
TIPPIN: Well, yes, No.1 in single sales in the country and like No. 3 in all music. So it is a first time for me.
KING: Great having you with us. Thank you both.
Aaron Tippin -- and you're going to hear it now. It's No. 1. in the United States. And this is the song of -- that he had originally written and now recorded: "Where The Stars And Stripes And The Eagle Fly" -- Aaron.
TIPPIN: Thanks, Larry.
(MUSIC, AARON TIPPIN SINGING "WHERE THE STARS AND STRIPES AND THE EAGLE FLY")
KING: That's it for tonight. We'll see you tomorrow night with another great array of guests. Plus, Art Garfunkel singing "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." This is what we've trying to do every night, providing some sort of bridge over those waters.
And a man doing it expertly stands by in New York with a special report. Here's Aaron Brown.
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