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Interviews with Gordon England, Jim Jones, Vern Clark

Aired December 13, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, does the United States have Osama bin Laden cornered? And is this tape proof that he masterminded the attack on America?

Plus, the United States Navy at war, and exclusive, close up look at an extraordinary fighting force. In Washington, former naval aviator and P.O.W. Senator John McCain; with him the secretary of the Navy, Gordon England; the chief of naval operations Admiral Vern Clark; and the commandant of the Marine corps, General Jim Jones.

And then later another former naval officer President Jimmy Carter, on the holidays and healing, and his new book "Christmas in Plains."

And then Oleta Adams sings from the soul. And they're all next on LARRY KING LIVE!

KING: We're going to focus on the Navy tonight on LARRY KING LIVE, we may have a first, in that together, at the same time, in the same studio on same program, live are the secretary of Navy, the chief of naval operations and the commandant of the Marine corps. We haven't researched it fully, but I can't imagine it having happened. And joining them Senator John McCain the former naval aviator, P.O.W., member of Armed Services Committee.

We'll start with the Senator, what's your read on the bin Laden tape?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think it's good for America. And it's chilling. It gives America -- reminds America of the kind of diabolical enemy we are facing. And I think it we'll keep us strong in the weeks and months ahead as we go through this difficult trial.

KING: Do you think they're going to get him based on reports we've been hearing?

MCCAIN: I think the commandant of the Marine corps and the chief of naval operations are more informed on that, but I believe we'll get him. I really do. But I think they'll know much more than I on that.

KING: Your father and grandfather, give us a little litany of your relationship with the Navy.

MCCAIN: Well, my father and grandfather were both naval officers, naval academy graduates, as I was barely, and, they were four star admirals. The first four star father and son in the history of our Navy. My grandfather was an early naval aviator and fought in the Pacific under Admiral Halsey (ph), he was commander of the carriers there. And my father was a submarine commander in World War II, fought in the Korean War. And also was commander-in-chief of the U.S. forces in the Pacific during the Vietnam War. I might add during the period that I was in prison, which was very difficult for him, because at least on some occasions he had to order the bombing in the city where I was held captive.

And I graduated from the naval academy, and retired as a captain, and that's pretty much it.

KING: Not bad. A lot of John Paul Jones running through the McCain group. Gordon England is secretary of the Navy, this is a second return trip for Gordon. Give us the chain of command, as you sit there with Admiral Clark and General Jones.

GORDON ENGLAND, SECRETARY OF THE NAVY: Larry, we are the leadership team for the Navy, the Marine corps, the secretary of the Navy, is the civilian leadership of the military, so all the service secretaries -- that's the first line of what is referred to as civilian control of the military by the Constitution. But, Larry, we are a team. We work together every day, we have our offices next to each other. We see each other every day. So I view this as a leadership team. I know they do, and we work together very close in all the issues that affect the Navy and the Marine corps, so this is a close working relationship.

KING: And Admiral Clark and General Jones are both members of the joint chiefs, right?

ENGLAND: That is correct. Yes, sir.

KING: Okay. Now, Admiral Clark, chief of naval operation, CNO, means guess it means what it sounds like -- what does it mean?

ADM. VERN CLARK, CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS: Well, it means that I am the senior naval officer, serving on active duty. And I report to the secretary of the Navy directly. I'm the senior naval adviser to him and to the secretary defense, and to the president if that is required. And the most important thing I get to do is serve the young men and women of our United States Navy. And that is one of the high honors of life, Larry.

KING: How long have you been in?

CLARK: Thirty-two, and a little bit.

KING: Were you Annapolis, too?

CLARK: No, sir I came in through officer candidate school.

KING: And General Jim Jones, I guess some people might be surprised to learn, although I guess it's generally well-known, that the Marine corps is part of the Navy, so why are you a general and not an admiral?

GEN. JIM JONES COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS: Well, because back in 1775, the leaders of our country decided they needed a landing force. And when they created that landing force, they just didn't realize we would be around for 226 years. But we are, and we are very proud of that association.

The Navy-Marine corps team is not just a bumper sticker. It's a fact of life. And the close relationships that I have with Vern Clark and the secretary of the Navy are a matter of daily occurrences. There isn't anything that we do that we don't share completely, and it's a very, very powerful and effective team, as you are seeing every day in Afghanistan, right now.

KING: Now, you do not, though, report to Admiral Clark, right?

JONES: No. I don't. Effectively, the secretary of the Navy is also the secretary of the Marine corps. And in that sense this is -- the Navy Department has two services and we are equal partners and members of the joint chiefs, as you pointed out.

KING: And Senator McCain, the Navy has its own Air Force in a sense, right?

MCCAIN: Yes, we do. The Naval air, which is performing extraordinary missions from the aircraft carriers in the area today, we provide a degree of mobility and presence that I think is important. I honestly, Larry, do not see the kind of competition between the Navy and the Air Force that perhaps there was some years ago. I see more integrated, efforts and we are seeing that in Afghanistan, today. But the Navy, I think, will be -- and will be -- and continue to play a very vital role, for example now they're providing a great deal of air cover and support for the Marines at Camp Rhino and other places.

KING: All right, Admiral this is just in, and we'll ask you to comment first, then get the thoughts of all of our panel, A senior military official has told CNN that the United States believes that bin Laden is effectively surrounded by opposition fighters and U.S. forces in a cave complex at Tora Bora. This official also said, the best intelligence that U.S. officials have indicates that Taliban leader Mullah Omar is in Helmand province to the west of Kandahar. The official spoke on condition of anonymity. What can you tell us, Admiral Clark?

CLARK: Well, I can tell you that I heard that report as we were coming to the studio. And that is a report that will be well received, when it is confirmed. At the present time I couldn't do that, I don't have intelligence or am not in the operational chain of command, General Tom Franks is the person who is running the operation in the theater. And so, my response would be that as the president has said, as the secretary of defense has said, sooner or later, he will be brought to justice.

KING: General Jones, does the -- would the news surprise you if it were true? JONES: Nothing would surprise me, but I can't comment one way or the other, simply because that's such a late breaking story. But I do know that there are an awful lot of us over there, trying hard to make sure that if he is there, and Omar is where they say he is, that we'll try very hard to make sure that we bring him to justice.

KING: Mr. Secretary, do you have any --

JONES: I think it's clear that they're -- they are on the run, and that's good news.

KING: Mr. Secretary, do you have a comment on this report?

ENGLAND: Well, I certainly hope it's true, Larry, I mean a lot of this effort, of course, is to certainly get the OBL -- bin Laden. But on other hand, keep in mind that is not really the objective. The objective is to stamp out terrorism and the camps and networks and that's really what this is all about. And it's not just in Afghanistan, as the president said this is a worldwide effort, so this will be a continuing effort. It doesn't end, even if we do have him surrounded. That's certainly not the end, as the vice president said, this is this is a good beginning. So we still have a long way to go. This is not a sprint it's a marathon. And we need to be prepared for what happens after this action in Afghanistan.

KING: Well, we are going to discuss a lot tonight is how the Navy interacts with the other branches of the armed forces. How they work with the secretary of defense, and their role in Afghanistan, Navy and Marines.

When we come back, we'll get an update right from Brent Sadler, on the scene, in Tora Bora. And as we go to break, here are excerpts from that now infamous tape.



KING: We'll get right back to our naval officials and more on the Navy's role in all this. But let's go right now to Tora Bora in Afghanistan, get an update from Brent Sadler on the scene. We are getting lots of reports of closing in on Omar, bin Laden and the like. What can you tell us, Brent?

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly it seems they are getting down to the nitty-gritty of some really serious fighting up in the hills behind me. Again, last night and early this morning, there was a bang just before we came on air here, U.S. warplanes, again, using a variety of weapons against al Qaeda positions in the White Mountains around Tora Bora. One of our staff saw a rocket hit one of the areas last night.

Again, we heard the drone of C-130 gunships up there and really some heavy ordnance pounding those mountains, much as it has been last two weeks, but this time in a much more concentrated area. And this going on with parallel attempts by the Eastern Alliance, Afghan forces on the ground, really trying to move forward, hill by hill, to try and take more area.

Now a couple days ago, Larry, when I was able to get up to the first sightings of tunnels and caves in the main terror training base, the mujahedeen, the Afghans, were celebrating what was a breakthrough. They were euphoric. But at the end of the day, as is very often the custom here, they stopped fighting. They'd come down from the hills. And it seems that they lost ground that they gained. And that did not serve this purpose very well of going after bin Laden, assuming he is here, and his associates, his top leaders.

Now we had that surrender deal that was on the table, the last element of which was if bin Laden himself gave himself up, then the Afghan Eastern Alliance would allow all the other fighters up in these White Mountains behind me, to go free. Now on face of it, that seems to me, at least, a preposterous arrangement, whereby you would have the possibility of all these terrorist suspects walking away free. So that surrender deal has completely gone it seems and the Afghan Eastern Alliance rejoined battle and we are told overnight, gained some more ground. And we hope to be able to get up to the frontlines today to see whether or not they are really making any of those gains.

Bin Laden himself, is he up here? Well, they are still believing he is, but there is no visual evidence of that, of course, as yet -- Larry.

KING: Thank you, Brent. Brent Sadler is standing by in Tora Bora and if things break and any news breaks, we will go right to him. That is at any moment on CNN. Brent Sadler right on the scene.

What, Admiral Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, has been, to this minute, the Navy's role in all of this?

CLARK: Well, Larry, first and foremost, we had naval forces on scene when our nation was attacked. We are a globally deployed force every day. We are out there, around the world, around the clock.

We had two carriers on scene. And we have been conducting operations since we commenced the attacks in Afghanistan. Today, we have over 30 ships, over 30,000 people. The pace of operations is intense. In fact, I would imagine that as we speak, there are other planes taking off of one of those two aircraft carriers, two amphibious ready groups, on scene, on station.

KING: Now, the Enterprise, I'm told, Admiral, there is some extraordinary story that the crew of that amazing carrier saw the World Trade Center hit on CNN and immediately deployed, not waiting for orders. Is that true? And can they do that?

CLARK: Well, that is exactly true, Larry. And here is the way it happened. Enterprise was on its way, getting ready to depart the area of operations and heading for home. The USS Carl Vinson was moving into station. Enterprise had departed the Gulf. And they heard about the first attack and, of course, today, with the kind of technology that we have today in our ships, they were watching and saw the second attack on CNN. Without receiving orders from the national command authority, they knew that their presence was going to be required. The admiral in charge and the captain of the ship put the rudder over and back they want. And within a few minutes, the formal order came for them to be standing by. That is the story of Enterprise. And it is typical of the way our men and women have been responding on station.

KING: And, Secretary England, that is OK, right? That is OK to do that?

ENGLAND: That is OK. They saw a problem, a threat to the United States. And they were ready to take the front and protect and defend the people of the United States and they are great Americans. And, you bet, that is OK, Larry.

KING: General Jim Jones, what has been the role to this date, to this moment, of your group, the Marines?

JONES: Well, Larry, we have had two amphibious ready groups that have been deployed to the region. The first one arrived very quickly and the second one a few weeks later because they were doing an operation in Egypt. We are talking about 4,500 Marines basically. We are also embarked on the carriers flying the attack air missions over Afghanistan. And we waited patiently aboard our ships. We supported the initial phases of the operation as best we could. And then when the time came to land the landing force, we deployed into Afghanistan, proper into Camp Rhino.

And it has been a very great success story so far. It is logistically challenging, but the distances are quite large, but hasn't been anything that we haven't been able to deal with. And you can see, they are doing very good work there.

KING: Senator McCain, has the success ratios just described surprised you at all?

MCCAIN: It has again. I anticipated that we would take more casualties and, obviously, we all are keeping our fingers crossed because the Marines particularly are in a very dangerous phase. I know that General Jones can elaborate on this, but they are now patrolling around Kandahar to try to intercept these al Qaeda or bin Laden people. And they can be and have been engaged in combat.

But I think that what is happened here is we have seen the incredible efficacy of airpower. The use of airpower has really had a tremendous effect. But it also, at the end of the day, requires people on the ground like our Marines are at Camp Rhino now.

KING: General Jones, what can you tell us about the lack of casualty figures that Senator McCain was expecting?

JONES: Well, Larry, I would just add to that that if you contrast the Kosovo campaign, for example, where we had an air campaign without anyone on the ground to direct it, and that is in the vernacular to say that we didn't have eyes on target. In this one, we had eyes on target and that is a force multiplier for the high-tech -- the high technology weapons systems that we have above the ground.

And the combination of those two things has reminded a lot of us what we always knew, that if you can get -- if you can get a visual sighting and you can get good communications, you can give -- you can bring the precision type weapons that we have into devastating effect. And I believe that that partnership has reminded us that war is still a very personal experience. And it is, if we are going to prosecute it successfully, it is going to be done in partnership with all elements of national power.

The lack of casualties is surprising. But I think it has -- that has more to do with the fact that we studied previous experience of other nations in that part of the world and we decided to do it a little bit differently than in the conventional force on force, which is an attrition type warfare that we didn't choose to get involved in.

KING: Senator -- Secretary England, you are relatively new to the job. You come from private industry. What do you make of these people who serve with and under you?

ENGLAND: Well, Larry, first of all, they are all volunteers and we should never forget that. These are all great Americans that step forward. They voluntarily step forward to protect and defend our freedoms and our liberties. And that includes the three gentlemen here with me tonight, two in uniform, and literally a great hero. By the way, in a ship named after his father and grandfather and that is the USS John McCain. So these are great Americans. I have said before on your show it is, for me, a great privilege and a great honor to be with these outstanding people.

You know I have been out on ships at sea. I have met a lot of these young Marines, a lot of these young sailors, and they are young. A lot of them are very, very young, very capable, very patriotic. They are out there defending us, I mean just, God bless them. It is just terrific, Larry. These are great people, and again, I'm honored privileged to be part of this great operation.

KING: We are going to take a break and come back. We will ask about the effect and what they learned from the Vietnam War that might affect naval and Navy operations and the Marine operations today with our outstanding panel. We think we have a first here, with the secretary of the Navy, the chief of naval operations, and the commandant of the Marine Corps, along with a genuine American hero, Senator John McCain of Arizona.

As we go to break, more of that tape, released earlier today, by the Defense Department, of Mr. Osama bin Laden. Watch.


BIN LADEN: He did not know about the operation. Not everybody knew (...inaudible...). Muhammad ((Atta)) from the Egyptian family (meaning the Al Qa'ida Egyptian group), was in charge of the group.

SHAYKH: A plane crashing into a tall building was out of anyone's imagination. This was a great job. He was one of the pious men in the organization. He became a martyr. Allah bless his soul.



KING: You are watching a live shot of the current most famous place in Afghanistan, Tora Bora. We are back with our panel. Let's run down the thoughts of all of them.

Senator McCain, do you think Vietnam, the way it was fought, has had an effect on the Navy and the Marines?

MCCAIN: Absolutely. I think in all the services as a result of the Vietnam War and it was defeat, there was a reappraisal and a reorganization that was profound, significant, and obviously reaped great rewards both in the Persian Gulf conflict, as well as this one.

So I don't think there is any doubt that not only did it produce changes in doctrine, but it also gave us outstanding leaders like General Colin Powell, who spore like many of us that we would never repeat the mistakes that were made in the Vietnam conflict.

KING: Admiral Clark, is it one is that studied well by naval operations?

CLARK: Well, absolutely. And the lessons -- we are constantly evaluating operations past, and we'll be, in fact, have already started looking at lessons for our current operations.

When you talk about the aviation side of this, and we have focused on the aviation piece, although we have submarines and cruisers and destroyers, and other units in the theater, but there is no better person to talk about what it was like in Vietnam than Senator McCain.

He is obviously the world class expert and especially sitting at this table. I would say that one of the things that we have learned is that power, precision, we have learned a lot of things in tactics techniques and procedures, and what we are seeing today is the result of the injection of technology, superb training of our people, and Jim Jones made the point, we are not fighting a war of attrition. We are using the power of our technology and the superb training of our people to bring about victory.

MCCAIN: Larry, could I mention one other thing? We've got a team of leaders now, both civilian and military, that I'm very proud of. This team, the president, our national security adviser, secretary of state, Rumsfeld, and our uniformed leadership, is really doing a marvelous job, and the American people are behind them, which is obviously a dramatic difference from the Vietnam War.

KING: General Jones, from that war what did the Marines learn, come out with?

JONES: I think we learned quite a bit. My baptism under fire was in the 1968 Tet Offensive as a lieutenant, platoon commander then company commander. From my standpoint, the big shift on the ground has been that we have migrated from the war of attrition, if you will, to a much more intelligent way of fighting with the most precious assets that we have, which is our young soldiers, sailors airmen, and Marines, and the Coast Guard and our allies.

The -- this principle of maneuver, and principle of empowerment of our young commanders and making sure that our national policy statement is aligned with our military capabilities, produces a very powerful and capable force. The guarantees that we can accomplish our missions and do so with -- thanks to technology and our way of using technology -- do so with a minimum number of casualties to our own forces. Recognizing, of course, that war is not is never going to be a zero casualty game.

But we are certainly doing much better at it than we have ever done before, and I like to think that as an asymmetric advantage that we have over any opponent, that I can foresee coming down the road.

KING: Secretary England, give us a little of the modus operandi. Are all three of you together every day? Do you talk every day? Do you meet with the other members, secretary of the Army, and the other joint chiefs all the time?

ENGLAND: We do almost every day. Of course we are not always here every day. But just every day we are here we do get together. And I would add to the comments you just heard, there is a lot of jointness now between the military. That is, we call it teamwork, but we have integrated the military so we have an integrated fighting force. It is always all the services there, together. And that is also true in the Department of Defense. So, the secretary of the Air Force, Jim Roche, the secretary if the Army, Tom White, myself, the undersecretary of defense, many times the secretary of defense, the joint chiefs, the chairman of the joint chiefs, or vice chairman, we get together regularly. We discuss issues of policy, issues of financing, all those issues associated with the Department of Defense.

So this is indeed an integrated team, and I would echo what Senator McCain said. This team really starts with the president, it includes everyone in the Department of Defense and the White House and also the Congress. Congress is an integral part of this because of course they fund all the programs.

So this is a very, very close-knit team and very important, and I believe that has a lot to do with the success of our military in this nation.

KING: We will back with more. Still to come, another Navy Veteran, former president Jimmy Carter. This is LARRY KING LIVE. Tomorrow night, we will have the Army side of things, the general and a Vietnam hero as well, Senator John Kerry. Don't go away.


BIN LADEN: They were overjoyed when the first plane hit the building, so I said to them: be patient. The difference between the first and the second plane hitting the towers was twenty minutes. And the difference between the first plane and the plane that hit the Pentagon was one hour.



KING: Some quick facts: The Navy and Marine Corps are older than the republic. Both were founded in 1775. Naval, by the way, means Navy and Marine Corps combined, as a word. The aircraft carriers considered a 4 1/2 acre territory of sovereign American land. You step aboard an aircraft carrier, no matter where it is, you are in the United States of America.

Have they always worked well together, Admiral Clark, or have there been rivalries?

CLARK: Well, there have been rivalries in the past, Larry, and I would tell you that I believe that our leadership today is more joint than it has ever been before. One of the reasons, in 1986 Congress passed a law, that had to do with the way all of us are assigned and the requirement for us to have joint experience before we can rise to certain levels of leadership.

This is the way it is today. This joint team is working very effectively, and my No. 1 joint partner, siting across the desk from me, Jim Jones in the United States Marine Corps, we are working and operating together in the field and in headquarters every day. And then I would tell you that the coordination, the integration with the Army and the Air Force has been absolutely superb. It absolutely is working better than it ever has, since I have been in the Navy.

KING: And Jim, would you say the same -- General Jones?

JONES: I would agree with that, Larry, and specially since we have down sized our forces, in case of the Army, Navy and the Air Force, by almost 40 percent since the end of the Cold War. The days when a single service could operate independently and do major things on the global playing field are over. We have to work more efficiently and more closely together. We have to buy our equipment that is compatible with all of the other services, and what you are seeing every day, on the ground, is a fairly -- in Afghanistan -- is a very seamless example of those technologies coming together, being used by members of our services of all different uniforms.

Really bring that power to bear in a way that is extraordinarily effective. So this cohesion that Vern Clark referred to is really alive and well. It has been there in the Navy and the Marine Corps for a long time, but now it really is a family of collective capabilities.

CLARK: If I can interject, I want to make sure that your viewers understand, Jim alluded to tack air. The United States Marine Corps is, in fact, flying one of their F-18 squadrons is operating from the Theodore Roosevelt tonight, in addition to the six slips that are carrying and supporting the United States Marine Corps and those 4,500 people there. We are very integrated and joint in this team, every day.

KING: Mr. Secretary, do you -- are you surprised at how well this has gone?

ENGLAND: No, I'm not surprised. This is a very superb force. The enduring strength of U.S. military are people, Larry, highly trained, highly motivated, very capable people. We give them excellent equipment but primarily they are well trained and superb people. And that is really our strength. This is a very professional force. So when you think about this very professional force fighting in Afghanistan, understand of course in Afghanistan, they know the terrain much better and that is very important.

But our force is so well trained, and so well-equipped, I'm not surprised. I, frankly, expected it would go well.

KING: Thank you so much. We have to do more of this.

Senator McCain, we always salute you. Thanks so much for appearing here tonight with these three great gentlemen.

MCCAIN: Thanks, Larry, thanks for having me.

KING: Senator John McCain, Secretary Gordon England, Admiral Vern Clark and General Jim Jones.

By the way, you may remember retired firefighter Lee Alpe. He joined us several weeks after the attack to talk about coming out of retirement to help search at ground zero in addition to his professionals reasons. He had a very personal one. His son, firefighter Jonathan, was missing.

Yesterday, Lee Alpe, and his rookie firefighter son Brendan, were called to ground zero. Jonathan's body had been found. He and Brendan carried Jonathan's body from the rubble yesterday. The funeral is Monday.

We'll be right back with Jimmy Carter.


KING: We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, always a great pleasure to have him with us. I guess this is his umpteenth appearance. It is his 15th book, "Christmas In Plains" is the book, subtitle memories. And the author is the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, with us in Atlanta. We will talk about that book in a couple minutes but first, obviously, Mr. President, your reaction to the bin Laden tape.

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well I haven't seen it yet. I have been out campaigning for a book. But it is obvious that this is fairly good proof, from what I have read, for bin Laden's deep involvement and his guilt. And my hope is soon we'll see him brought to justice one way or the other, and see an end to the military action in Afghanistan, and also see a beginning to the reconciliation there and the healing of that troubled country, which as you know first suffered the Soviet invasion when I was in office back in 1979.

KING: And caused Olympic problems, as we remember.

CARTER: Caused a lot of problems, that's true. In fact, that was a time when the hostages were being held. And then while that was happening, of course, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and caused a lot more trouble for the entire world. And I think Afghanistan has suffered ever since then. And maybe this common effort by us allies around the world will help to rebuild that country, bring freedom, and an end to suffering to the people there.

KING: What's your assessment as to how the President and Mr. Rumsfeld and General Powell are doing?

CARTER: Well, I think they've done a fine job, obviously, which is proven by the results. We have kept our own military personnel off the ground, at least, in major actions. Air Force has been superb. The Navy has joined in very well, I'm glad to say. And I think we've worked very closely and harmoniously with the allies that we've developed on the ground, in the troubled country.

So, so far, everything seems to be very good. And I think that the world support for our action has been proof that my judgment of the good work that we've done has been shared by a lot of people.

KING: What's it like when a president comes under intense pressure?

CARTER: Well, I guess I had about as much pressure on me as anyone outside of full warfare, like when Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman were in office, in that our hostages were being held for more than a year, as you know, including the time when I was just mentioning.

So I think that this is a time though in our country when the support for the president is nonpartisan in nature, almost completely universal on this commitment. And we have strong allies around the world.

But in times of trouble is when American people come together, and when our nation proves that their principles, for which we stand, are those that are admirable in every respect. And that's what marshals support of the world in terrorists or others violate international law and do things such as taking hostages and causing havoc in that particular area of world.

KING: You're writing about Christmas and growing up in Christmastime for you. Do you think Christmas can help a situation like this or possibly hurt it?


KING: Hurt it in the fact that people get sadder? CARTER: Well, I think that this is going to be a Christmas of reconciliation and unity in our country. And I hope that no one, during this holiday season, will forget the 4,000 or more people that perished in the terrorist attack in New York and Washington, D.C.

And I think it's a time when we can reconcile our differences, when all of us can come together as Americans, and say what are the great things that we share. And this book that I've written, "Christmas in Plains," shows how all during my lifetime and my father's lifetime, that there have been changing times, but principles that never change. And those principles that never change are what makes America strong and resilient and able to bear the setbacks that we have suffered in recent days.

KING: Are they different, do you think, in a small town?

CARTER: Well, I think so. We now have about 700 people in Plains. My ancestors and Rosalynn's ancestors that lived in the 1700's lived there and are buried there. We have about 60 percent black citizens, about 40 percent white citizens. We know each other. We share, you know, common failures and common success and common hopes and dreams and frustrated dreams, on occasion.

But I think this is America in microcosm. And I think it's given me, as I've become the leader of our nation, a pretty good insight into diversity of human nature. So I would say that being in a small town is like looking at America, you know, in a microscope. You can see the good things and bad things about people, but I think mainly emphasize the good things.

KING: You had so many happy Christmases growing up. Isn't this particular Christmas 2001 with the events of September 11 hard to be a happy one?

CARTER: I think we can make a happy Christmas out of it, if we just count our relative blessings. We have blessings that are not shared, I think. Afghanistan is one of the typical places where it's not shared. We have basic peace, a harmony among our people, relative affluence. We've got many material blessings of life. We've got freedom of religion. We can be diverse, and still not bear the punishment because we're different from the majority of people in our country. And we have a strong and able nation that's now recognized as a world leader.

So I think this can be a nation of thanksgiving for our own blessings, but a reminder that we shouldn't forget the suffering and the deprivation and the needs of other people around the world. And I hope that out of this particular crisis, that we are now weathering I think quite well, that we will have our leadership on earth strengthened and emphasized, and maybe bring some more dedication among Americans to share what we have with others.

KING: We all know the famous poet Dillon Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales." Did that have any effect on your writing this book? CARTER: Well, I think so. Dillon Thomas is my favorite poet. And I used to memorize his poems. And I used to make all my boys and girls in my family memorize the poems as well. I think this is a time when Christmas has a special meaning, not only for those who share my Christian faith, but also those who share the Jewish faith, the Muslim faith and others, to recognize that there's a time each year that we should pause, count our own blessings, see what we can share with others.

And what seems to be a sacrificial way, but recognizing that invariably, when we do think we're making a sacrifice for someone else, it turns out to be one of our greatest life's blessings. And that's basically the message of Christmas season, no matter what faith we might share with each other.

KING: You miss Christmas in the White House?

CARTER: Oh, I enjoyed the four Christmases in the White House. I was home every Christmas except one. In 1979, we had the hostages being held. And the Soviets invaded Afghanistan that year. And we spent Christmas at Camp David, just me and Rosalynn and Amy. We thought we'd be quite alone.

As I describe in the book "Christmas in Plains," Amy suggested that we invite all the White House staff, who had never been to Camp David, by the way, to come to Camp David, join us and bring their families.

So we had the cooks, and the gardeners, and the electricians, and the janitors and everyone else from the White House come and join us at Camp David. It was one of the best Christmases we ever had. And that's one of the things I wrote about in this book, "Christmas in Plains."

KING: The preceding of the program tonight dealt a lot with the Navy. What was Christmas like for you in Annapolis and in the service?

CARTER: Well, one of the saddest Christmases I ever had was my last year in Annapolis, when I asked my wife Rosalynn, my future wife Rosalynn, to marry me and she had turned me down because she promised her father that she would finish college first.

KING: And you'd never amount to anything, right?

CARTER: Well, they didn't think I'd amount to anything. Maybe be an ensign, but then those early days in the Navy for me were very lonely, because we were away from home. And as you know, a junior officer on a ship gets last choice at vacation time. And I was always on duty on Christmas Day.

So we had to modify Christmas to suit our young boys and try to convince them that three or four days after Christmas was really when Santa Claus came and we shared gifts. But the Navy opened my eyes to, you know, circumstances around the world. And as I describe in "Christmas in Plains," it didn't always have to be in Plains. Though we kind of carried, you know, love for families with us wherever we went.

KING: What's Christmas going to be like for the Carters this year?

CARTER: Well, we've now got 11 grandchildren, Larry, and eight boys and three girls. Our boys and girls are now married, as you know. We just give them freedom on Christmas Day to go to be with their in-laws, which makes us very jealous. But two days after Christmas, we all get together and we go somewhere in the world, that our grandchildren basically pick out. Rosalynn and I pay all the bills. And this year, we're going to Disney World and then for a short sea trip on a Disney ship. So we'll have all 23 of us together at least the week after Christmas.

So these are glorious times for us. And I hope that everyone that's watching this program will have also a wonderful holiday, whether you share the religious aspects of Christmas or not, a time of love, of sharing, and for pleasant memories. And we can't forget those who have lost loved ones with the terrible terrorist attack on our country this year.

KING: Happy holidays, Mr. President.

CARTER: Same to you, Larry. Good luck to you.

KING: The book is "Christmas in Plains," always, always highly readable, anything he puts to pen.

When we come back, we close it out always on an upbeat note. And Oleta Adams will provide it for us, right after these words.


KING: Oleta Adam's going to close things out tonight. She has a new album, by the way, out called "All the Love," but the song she's going to do is called "Get There." It's from her tremendously popular album during the Gulf War, right?

OLETA ADAMS, SINGER: That's right.

KING: That song took off, right?

ADAMS: It really took off and it really helped an awful lot of people to deal with the seriousness of everything that was going on with the war and their family members being away, such as it is today.

KING: Where were you on September 11?

ADAMS: I was at home. And my husband woke me up early in morning. He was watching one of the morning shows. And I came out of a fog. And I just sat there crying in my bed, and just saying "Please help, please help, please help."

KING: Did you have to work soon after?

ADAMS: I was scheduled to work that weekend. And of course, the gigs had to be canceled because you couldn't travel at all. But we rescheduled them.

KING: All right, here's "Get Here," a famous song out of the past brought back by the girl who made it famous. Close it out tonight with Oleta Adams.



KING: Stay tuned now for "NEWSNIGHT." We're a little late. The host is Aaron Brown. He's in New York -- Aaron.




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