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Encore Presentation: 1991 Interview With Ronald Reagan

Aired February 9, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, happy birthday, Mr. President. A look back at our most recent interview with Ronald Reagan. It's next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. Ronald Reagan joined 91 this past Wednesday, or, as he would say, celebrated the 42nd anniversary of his 39th birthday. To mark the occasion, we're replaying his most recent interview with us. That was a 1991 chat. We covered a lot of topics still in the news today, like the military budget, the press, the Middle East.

On January 10, 1991, the nation was on the brink of war. American and coalition forces were massing to begin the liberation of Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and we started by getting the president's thoughts on the battle to come.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think that it is really a situation that should capture everyone's interest, and I think that a lot of things are being over emphasized and maybe some of them under emphasized in this.

First of all, the constant repetition of the United States versus Iraq and Saddam Hussein is overlooking the fact that it is the United Nations that is in this. We are there because the United Nations did what they were set up to do, and that is come the rescue of a small country that was viciously assaulted and now faced with the possibility that only military action can bring about what it is that the United Nations has advocated and wants to see done.

And the -- I think that one of the things, one of the arguments that's going on in our country with the Congress is helping Saddam Hussein. And that is that our Congress -- and I hope within the next 48 hours all this will be done -- our Congress should pass a resolution that they will be behind the president if he has to take military action or not.

KING: Do you agree, Mr. President, that they should debate it?

REAGAN: Well, but I do -- if that's what it's going to take to get a vote from them. But what we need is to get rid of a situation that is now, I think, strengthening the stubbornness of Saddam Hussein. When he sees our government supposedly divided here between the Congress and the president, now if the Congress says yes, commander in chief, and so forth, and if he takes this action, we will be supportive of him.

KING: What do you do, though, with this dilemma? And you've been someone all your life who has spoken out on issues. Ronald Reagan, when you were a Democrat you spoke out, when you were a Republican, you were president, whether you were in the senate -- whether you were, rather, governor of California, an actor, you spoke out. Shouldn't you, if you sit in the Senate tonight and you don't favor this, shouldn't you say so? Or are you saying no?

REAGAN: Well, I suppose that they have to argued and debate, but I would have to say to anyone who is sitting in that body and is disagreeing with regard to what must be done, if necessary, to change this situation, I'd do my best to persuade them they were on the wrong side.

KING: Do you think they should not stand up? In other words, do you think they should disagreed in private?

REAGAN: Well, they might disagree in private, but I think they -- I think that our government has to recognize always, and sometimes I don't think it does, it has to recognize that we, the people, are in charge of this system in this country. We're unlike almost any nation on earth, and the representatives and the government employees and officeholders work for the people. The employer is out there, the American people. And I think they should keep that in mind.

KING: But the Senate also works for the people?

REAGAN: Yes, oh, yes.

KING: So we have to hear what they think, though, right?

REAGAN: Well, yes, but, they should be guided a little bit also by what the people want.

KING: It's fair to ask this: Would you have done what President Bush did? Would you have sent troops on that quickly after August 2nd?

REAGAN: Well, it's hard for me to answer that kind of a question of what would I have done, because only the person who is there has access to all the information and all -- every facet of it. And, therefore, for someone to sit on the outside who hasn't had access to that information and to try to make a decision comparing to someone else's -- but as I said, we have to view with some reason the fact that this was put up to the United Nations. And this is the type of thing that they were created to resolve. And the United Nations heard all the details and everything, and the United Nations did this.

Other nations have a quarter of a million fighting men there in the Middle East along with ours. These other nations have contributed the kind of running expenses of all this, 80 percent of the cost. So it's not just the United States doing something. KING: Mr. President, your wife the other night in an hour here implied -- I don't want to say she said directly -- but she seemed a little angry that you are not being kept in daily touch of events here. If we can assume that, does it annoy you?

REAGAN: Well, I get notes and I get calls and so forth to a certain extent, but having been there I understand also that you're so busy in a thing of that kind that you can't be doling out information all the time on everything that comes up.

KING: You mean it doesn't bother you then?

REAGAN: No, I wish I knew more about it. But I can also understand why they can't just take the time and trouble to do that.

KING: How well do you think President Bush is handling it personally, I mean as you view him? You just left that place.

REAGAN: Yes, but I understand the situation he's in in all of this. And I don't -- I don't have any way of criticizing him.

KING: Is the toughest think about that job risking lives?

REAGAN: Well, I think that's one of the things that of course bothers you the most.

KING: I mean, you're pressing a button.

REAGAN: Yes, and it's the greatest tragedy that happens to you was when I had it happen to me. For example, the terrorist act that killed 241 Marines in Lebanon, that was a great tragedy, and I tried to reach the families, the men who were lost and all and talk to them. And it's the one thing that you -- you just suffer the most.

KING: You think we're going to go war?

REAGAN: Well, as I say, I believe the United Nations in this situation has, if there is no other way, they have no choice. But here is a small country that was just openly invaded by a savage conqueror. Their civilian population has known great losses, people from being slaughtered, women are being raped, children are being killed and so forth. And I think the United Nations was created to stop out law countries from doing that to neighbors.

KING: And do you think they will?

REAGAN: Well, yes, because I believe -- I believe that there is no way that you can reject the use of force if it comes down to where that is the only means of straightening this out.


REAGAN: I think we should all recognize that these deeds make so evident the bestial nature of those who would assume power if they could have their way and drive us out of that area, that we must be more determined than ever that they cannot take over that vital and strategic area of the earth, or for that matter any other part of the earth.



REAGAN: We have strong circumstantial evidence that the attack on the Marines was directed by terrorists who used the same method to destroy our embassy in Beirut. Those who directed this atrocity must be dealt justice, and they will be.






NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY: Just four years ago, Ronny stood before you and spoke for what he said might be his last speech at a Republican convention. Sadly, his words were too prophetic. Sorry. When we learned of his illness, Alzheimer's, he made a decision to write his letter to the American people, and the people responded, as they always do. We learned, as too many other families learned, of the terrible pain and loneliness that must be endured as each day brings another reminder of this very long goodbye.


KING: On November 5, 1994, in a handwritten letter to the nation, President Reagan revealed he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. That was nearly four years after that last interview he did with us.

Still, the topic growing older and growing forgetful did come up during our 1991 conversation.


KING: One of the things we were talking about during the break -- a lot of people wonder what do you talk about during the break -- we were talking about one of the most difficult things about getting older is forgetting things. And a lot of people have fun with you, comics have had fun with you. Is that for you frustrating to not remember something?

REAGAN: Yes, it's very frustrating. And yet at the same time I don't know whether it's all just the passage of the years. Incidentally, you referred to that birthday coming up. I don't call them birthdays anymore. They are anniversaries of your 39th birthday. And this would be the 41st anniversary of my 39th birthday.

KING: Of you 39th. So you're a kid. And the library should open around February 6th, right? REAGAN: Yes, that's what...

KING: OK, what about forgetting things?

REAGAN: Well, I think for example on names. The -- it's the number, as they accumulate. For example, it's something like 1,200 people in the executive branch there at the White House. Now you meet them and you recognize them and you know them and so forth and you hear their name. And now day after day goes on, and you come up to them in the halls and so forth and see them in the meeting. But you've heard their name once. And you know you know them and you know what job they're doing and all, but you have to go back and look it up to remember that name that you only heard once.

KING: But you can remember a movie from 1942 and know who the 12th star was in that film? I mean, you have great memory when it goes back, right?

REAGAN: Well, sometimes -- I've been surprised when I've looked at a movie that I made quite some time ago. And what really surprises me is, yes, I remember that movie and the whole story and everything, except there will come a scene on there in which I'm involved. And I'll find that I have no memory whatsoever of doing that particular scene. And it bothers me.

KING: How is your health?

REAGAN: Well, I'm sound. I'm of good health.

KING: Nancy told us the other night, and we may never have known this, how close you came to dying. She said three times close.

REAGAN: Yes, that was when I was shot.

KING: Were you aware that you were that close?

REAGAN: No, at no time. And it was a surprise to me afterward to be told how close I came, the amount of blood that I had lost. You know, I got to the hospital, got out of the car myself, the first one out of the car, and walked into the emergency entrance and met a nurse who was coming toward me and told her I was having a little trouble breathing. I still didn't know I'd been shot.

KING: Did you enjoy writing the book?

REAGAN: Yes, except that I also think it's one of the hardest tasks anyone give themselves.

KING: To relive your own life.

REAGAN: Yes, I don't think that I'm -- or even to write a book, I don't think I'm going to try another one very quickly.

KING: Back to things, things current. We, at one time in your administration, this comes out, supported Saddam Hussein.


KING: What -- do you look back at that now regretfully?

REAGAN: Well, we didn't know as much about him as we know now. And the opponent that he had, Iran under Khomeini, was, we thought, pretty lacking in some of the nicer sides of life and all. So there was a tendency to, even though we were officially were neutral and all, inwardly you cannot help but think the fellow that's fighting Khomeini and Iran must be the right guy.

KING: The lesser of two evils.


KING: So no regrets.

REAGAN: No regrets.

KING: Were you shocked when we went into Kuwait?

REAGAN: Yes. The whole brutal way in which that was done, and here was this small country. And, you know, again, about the thing where people are talking about it there's a war and so forth it's over oil, yes, Iraq's goal was oil. But I think our interest there is the savage attack on a small country that wasn't doing anything wrong to anyone. That is what we have to counter. This is -- that's what this problem is all about. Never mind oil, it's the inhuman act that was committed.

KING: Do you think she would attack Israel as her foreign minister said yesterday she would? Do you think Iraq would attack Israel if attacked?

REAGAN: I certainly hope not. And I have to question whether they would. I hope on the other side that Israel stands firm and doesn't join in any activity.

KING: Do you think Israel has equated itself well so far?


KING: Our guest, the former president of the United States Ronald Reagan. The book is "An American Life," and your calls come next.

Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We interrupt -- there's been a late development, shots reported fired outside the hotel where President Reagan spoke a short while ago. Here's Bernard Shaw in our Washington bureau.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Bob, as you can understand, details are very sketchy. We don't know precisely what happened -- pardon me -- OK, my apology.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House has confirmed now, just in the last few minutes, that President Reagan has indeed been shot. His condition is listed as stable, which we understand means all his vital signs are normal and that he is in good condition.

SHAW: The president of the United States is quoted as telling his wife at his hospital bed, "Honey, I forgot to duck."





REAGAN: You know, I keep remembering back and not too far when someplace along the line there would always be a picture of a president standing in the Oval Office as looking out the window, usually the picture from the behind, and he's standing there. And then, his words are quoted as a tag for that picture about, "this is the loneliest place and rather lonely," and so forth.

I don't know about them. I haven't been lonely one minute.



KING: Do you miss Washington?

REAGAN: I miss a lot of the people there. I suppose maybe I might have more missed it if I had known from the very beginning that there was a limit due to that constitutional amendment that was put through so that you knew that at a time certain you were certain to leave. But when I say miss the people, yes. For example in the White House, the people in the White House there that take care of you and your lifestyle and all, they have a spirit and a pride about what they're doing that you miss them when they're not there.

KING: I imagine there are things you don't miss, though.

REAGAN: Well, that's right, yes.

KING: Like the press. You had a about good time with the press, didn't you? You got had along well.

REAGAN: Well, I seem to be -- there seemed to be a hostility. I felt, and I think properly, that in every press conference there was an adversarial relationship. They weren't there to just get some news. They were there to trap me into some kind of boner.

KING: What is -- you don't -- what is their job?

REAGAN: I think their job is to be totally responsible. And I'm afraid that sometimes they let -- they have goals of their own, and they aren't as responsible as they should be. For example, some of the things that take place, when there is a hostile situation and the press comes forth with a story and they say they can't name the source of the story, that this has been denied them the right to do, and then they say something that must be of great value to the enemy, they reveal secret movements and so forth.

This was why with regard to the Grenada experience, I kept that the best and most total secret in all of the eight years. I didn't even tell my own press secretary. I didn't -- I didn't tell anyone, because Cuba with its forces was so much closer to Grenada, and the whole situation there was the communists had seized by power the government of Grenada and in fact had murdered some of the government people. And I made this such a total secret...

KING: You think the press would have revealed that you were going to attack, had they known?


REAGAN: You're going to find this hard to believe that with all these early morning meetings and everything else, we have managed to keep one thing in the administration from leaking. And at 5:15 this morning, the joint force landed at two spots on Grenada, the paratroopers in the south, the Marines and other forces in the north, secured both airports. They're eight miles apart, but ones the south tip of the island, and then the operational one, the one that the Cubans have been building, is up further north.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) please turn Mr. Reagan's mike off for a minute.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Green, can you turn that microphone off, please.

REAGAN: I am paying for this microphone!



REAGAN: That's the end of the statement, and I am now going to turn you over to -- no, Ellen, there is a press conference tomorrow.



QUESTION: What are you going to do if there's a baseball strike?

REAGAN: Well, I'm not going to go to the ball game.



SAM DONALDSON, ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Polls show that a lot of American people just simply don't believe you, that the one thing that you've had going for you more than anything else in your presidency, your credibility, has been severely damaged.

REAGAN: Doing everything we can.

REAGAN: Maybe I used three fingers, I don't...

REAGAN: It's nice to see you. Where have you been keeping yourselves?


KING: Before we get back to the calls, you discussed the press and Grenada and how you kept it from your own press secretary. How do you view press coverage of the Gulf? Would you limit that? Would you keep things from us if you were president about tactics there?

REAGAN: Well, I think anything that could conceivably give information that would be beneficial to a prospective enemy, no, that shouldn't be done. And yet there are, as we go back into the past and even to World War II, there were times when the press -- I remember when a ship went out of New York of ours headed for Iceland, a liner, didn't even have a gun on the deck or didn't have any military escort, but it had some thousands of American troops on. And they were going there to -- and we weren't in the war yet. But the submarine packs were all up and down the Atlantic. And all of a sudden, one of the major newspapers in New York came out with the news that this ship with these soldiers was on its way to Iceland. And it was almost like an invitation for a wolf pack of those submarines to come in.

KING: How do you balance it? Don't you think that the press would be responsible? That if you called in, if you're the president, the heads of CNN and ABC and NBC and "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" and said, listen fellows, this is going to take place on Thursday. You can help us. We can lose a lot of lives if you break this. Don't you think they'd work with you?

REAGAN: Well, I don't know, because when you start doing that you can't control who all hears this or learns of it. I found that Washington was the -- leaked like a sieve. Almost anything that was going on, there were leaks. And almost always there would be that the person who revealed the information's name could not be given. And I can't tell you how many times I had to get on the phone and call a head of state of another allied country of ours and apologize and explain to that head of state that this was not true, because it could have been very offensive to that individual, tell them this was not true and I was just as sorry that such a story came out.

KING: Do you see any danger at all in television's coverage so far of this crisis?

REAGAN: No, I don't believe I have. I think the people are interested, and they want to see and hear. But as I say, I do think that there could be less U.S. versus Saddam Hussein and more it's U.N.

KING: Well, some might say, though, that President Bush has made it that way, he's the one that's been the most active. Of the world leaders, the one talking the most about Saddam Hussein is George Bush.

REAGAN: But also because he's a prominent part of the United Nations also. When you've -- the United Nations isn't a separate thing. It's a collection of countries and governance.

KING: You're saying then that if we say -- we're not the one that's going to say go. If we go January 19th or February 3rd, it's the U.N. that's saying go.

REAGAN: I think it should be the United Nations, and I hope that they are responsive to that responsibility that they have.

KING: So you're saying it's not George Bush that's going to push this button?

REAGAN: Well, I've never discussed it with him. I don't know. There might be some reason why...

KING: Let's say if you were in that boat tonight, you would call someone else? In other words, it would be a U.N. person who would make this decision, the hypothetic if you were.

REAGAN: Well, I can't answer that, because not being there and not in that situation and never having had the thing of the United Nations in a situation of this kind, I just don't know what my position would be.

KING: "Newsweek" magazine reports that there's anger among many Republican conservatives over the way they fell you're being treated by President Bush, that you're being kind of avoided. Are they wrong?

REAGAN: Well, I think so, yes. I know there's a limit to what a president can do and how busy he is and all, and I am...

KING: You don't feel avoided?


KING: We go to Ocala, Florida, for President Reagan -- hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Mr. President.

REAGAN: Good evening.

CALLER: I'd like to begin by saying, thank you for the eight years of leadership you gave this country. It was truly a blessing to have you. My question is, I would like to hear your opinion on reinstituting the draft.

REAGAN: Well, thank you very much for your kind words. And my opinion with regard to reinstituting the draft is no. We have been so successful with regard to simply having -- opening the ranks and people are choosing to join -- I prefer that. Now, it's possible that some time there could come a hostile situation in which you might be forced to draft, if there was any letdown in the rest, but we haven't had any trouble with getting recruits.

KING: Margaret Thatcher is coming for -- we learned today, for the opening of your library.

REAGAN: Yes, I've just learned it recently myself.

KING: That's a great feather in your cap.

REAGAN: Well, I have a great respect for her, and she did a wonderful job in England, and I guess was the longest prime minister serving that they had.

KING: We go to Los Angeles for President Reagan -- hello.

CALLER: Yes, I'd like to know, Mr. President, why there was just a Band-Aid put on the S&L bail-out situation, why during your administration you never told the American public exactly what was going on there? Thank you.

REAGAN: Because I didn't know what was going on there. The -- that entire thing -- you know, there are so many agencies and departments and so forth of government, and you're dependent on these people to bring you up to date on something that's going on. Well, I was never notified of any great problem or trouble with the savings and loans.

KING: You -- there's a man that you brought to prominence in public life and now every American knows. He was your national security adviser. What do you think about the job that Colin Powell is doing?

REAGAN: I think it's a great job. I think he's a very remarkable man. I was greatly impressed with him and the way he thought when he was my adviser, and I had the pleasure and honor of putting stars on him to be a general, and I think we have a remarkably fine man as our commanding general.

KING: How about some of the other key players? Are you happy with Secretary Baker?

REAGAN: Yes, yes, he seems to be doing all that he can.

KING: Mr. Cheney?


KING: I note, though, from the answers that Powell is your favorite of this group.

REAGAN: Well, I have really...

KING: Personal interest.

REAGAN: ... really a great admiration of him and a personal feeling of friendship.

KING: In a wartime situation, no doubt that he would be a great leader?

REAGAN: Yes, he would.


REAGAN: I know I shouldn't say this, but I have a confession to make. I just might have had an ulterior motive for inviting Colin Powell up here today to my presidential library. You see, I am hoping that perhaps one day he'll return the favor and invite me to his.





QUESTION: Any last thoughts for us, President and Mrs. Reagan, on your way out? Any last thoughts for us as you go out today?

REAGAN: Carry on.


KING: Our guest is President Reagan. We got to Ocala, Florida. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, Mr. Reagan, how did you feel the night you left office and you were riding on the helicopter, you and Mrs. Reagan? What were your emotions? How long did it take you to get back into the stream of things? And I guess that's my question.

KING: Yes, what was that like?

REAGAN: Well, I have said already that knowing that you had to leave in advance wasn't like, say, being defeated and ousted or something. But then -- and I shall always have a warm feeling in my heart for that Marine pilot -- we got on Marine 1 that had been the presidential helicopter to go out to the airport to the air base and take off for California.

Well, he, the pilot, circled at a very low level Washington there. And we could see the parade forming and things of that kind. And then, at the lowest point of attitude, he circled the White House. And as Nancy said the other night on here, said the same thing about what I said I did. I said, look, honey, there's our little shack down there.

Well, yes, there had to be a feeling down there, because life was most comfortable. And again, as I say, those people were so wonderful in the White House that we knew we were missing a lot of people that we thought of as very good and sound friends.

KING: Mr. President, do you think your wife got a bad rap? We talked about it the other night, her and the press?

REAGAN: Oh, yes, and I think it was because of a kind of an opposition to me and everything I stood for that they picked on her.

KING: You think it reflected off you rather than just picking on her?

REAGAN: Well I think that was part of their trying to get even with me.

KING: How did you feel when that was happening? Were you defensive? Were you angry?

REAGAN: Well, I was mad, completely mad.

KING: It's hard to picture you mad.

REAGAN: Well, the outright dishonesty of things. For example, a thing that she mentioned, on the China that was ordered. And she was accused over and over again of spending the taxpayers money on this very expensive set. Now I have to tell you that the China for the White House has to be able to provide for about 120 people. And we had discovered that because even at those high-falluting affairs there are people who want souvenirs...

KING: They steal?

REAGAN: They'll come with the normal breakage but also some souvenirs that at a state dinner with 120 people in the state dining room, we had multiple settles of China. They couldn't -- you couldn't serve one. These people put together and had that set created and donated it, gave it as a gift to the nation.

KING: Prominent Americans steal China?

REAGAN: Yes, I guess so.

KING: Westwood, California, with Ronald Reagan -- hello.

CALLER: Mr. President, please accept my comments on your wonderful presidency. I have been working with General John T. Chain and General Larry D. Welch to save the B-2 bomber. You recently made a visit to Palmdale to see it. Please give us your comments and whatever you can to boost it.

REAGAN: Well, I think very highly of it, of course. And I...

KING: Didn't Cheney just... REAGAN: And I put it back into use after it had been grounded. And I think that this -- things of this kind reflect our great technology, our technological superiority over so many potential enemies.

KING: You disagree with cuts then?

REAGAN: But what?

KING: You disagree with cuts in it?

REAGAN: Well, yes, although I understand that with all the over spending that's done and the national deficit, the only place where the Congress ever seems to show had a desire to cut is in military.

When I took office, I found that on any given day 50 percent of our military aircraft couldn't fly for lack of spare parts. Now this is just disgraceful. And as I say, that's the only place where they seem to want to cut. Every budget that I submitted they put on the shelf and said it was dead on arrival. Then they would send back to me a continuing resolution, which was their form of budget. Every time my budget was far lower than the money they wanted to spend.

KING: We're hop scotching in lots of places. Are you surprised Gorbachev has hung on this long?

REAGAN: Well, yes, because, you know, that vested aristocracy there, all of those Politburo members and so forth, they're frightened that a change in the system is going to take away their perquisites, just as he closed down their private stores where they could go in without waiting on line and they could choose from any one of a half a dozen meats, where the Russian citizens had to stand hours in line and there would only be one kind of meat when they did get in the store.

KING: Did you like him right away?

REAGAN: I'll tell you, there was something. Because having known previous leaders -- there were three before he came along. They kept dying on me. And in our first meeting, as we came together with my team and his team, I had told our people what I was going to do. And that was, as we started to sit down, I said to him, why don't you and I let our teams start this discussion and you and I go out and get some fresh air? He was out of his chair before I finished the sentence.

So we walked down to the edge of the lake, where there was a kind of a house there, a bath house, that belonged to the building where we were together. And we went in, and we had a little conversation. We had to have interpreters, but we had a little conversation between us. And...

KING: You liked him right away?

REAGAN: Yes, and I told him, for example, that -- we were there. I said, we don't mistrust each other because we're armed -- this is a quote of someone else -- we're armed because we mistrust each other. So in addition to talking about reducing the weaponry and so forth, why don't we see if we can reduce the causes of mistrust. And I said, the only thing left to us otherwise is to go back to an arms race, and then I made my declaration. I looked him right in the eye and I said, "and that's a race you can't win. There is no way we're going to allow you to maintain a superiority in weapons over us."


QUESTION: You still think you're in an evil empire, Mr. President?


QUESTION: Why not?

REAGAN: Well...






UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As president judge thyself, have you been a good president or a mediocre president?

REAGAN: I think that's an impossible question the way you framed it for me to try and answer it for myself. I would just have to tell you, I did the best I could, but I think somebody else should make that judgment, as to whether I've been good or not.


KING: On January 10, 1991, CNN's Bernard Shaw was headed for Iraq to interview Saddam Hussein. That face-to-face never happened, but Bernie did get one heck of a story in Baghdad. He reported live on the first night of the Persian Gulf War, along with colleagues Peter Arnett and the late John Holliman. Those broadcasts are now journalistic history.

On the way to Iraq, Bernie gave us and President Reagan a ring.


KING: Are you there, Bernie?

SHAW: Yes, Larry, I'm here.

KING: OK, the president can hear you. You remember Bernie Shaw well, I would imagine.

Go ahead, Bernie. SHAW: Mr. President, as I head into Baghdad to sit down with President Saddam Hussein, I have two questions for you: One, would you do what President George Bush is doing in this crisis? And two, what would you like to ask Saddam Hussein at this point in this critical crisis?

REAGAN: Well, you've about given me two questions, the first one here I don't see that I can answer about this unless you're actually there and know every shade of things that are going on can you say what you would or would not do. But I do believe with all my heart that unless there is a withdrawal, we have no choice but to use force to get Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait.

KING: And he might be watching right now.

Well, yes, and he asked me...

KING: That's what you'd say to him?


KING: In other words, we're not kidding.

REAGAN: No, he has to know that that's what would be done. Now, was that answering your question, Bernie.

KING: That OK, Bernie?

SHAW: That's fine with me, and I'm certain that during the interview with President Saddam, whenever it occurs, Sunday or Monday or maybe after the deadline, I will put that question to the president of Iraq.

REAGAN: Well...

KING: Let's hope.

REAGAN: ... put it to him -- yes, but I think he should know what he's up against and what he's facing.

KING: Bernie, good luck, and don't take any risks.

SHAW: No, Larry. And, Mr. Reagan, I'm very conservative when it comes to danger as the potential threat against life.


KING: Think well, Bernie, we need you back here.

SHAW: Thank you.

KING: We go to Orlando, Florida, for Ronald Reagan -- hello.

CALLER: Hello. Mr. President, my question is, do you think that there will be an uprising in the Soviet Union? REAGAN: Do I think there will be an uprising in the Soviet Union? It's difficult for me to believe that will happen. I do know that the greatest opposition to Gorbachev is coming from the system, from the Politburo, from the bureaucrats. You know, and bureaucracy, its cause is protect the bureaucracy. But he knows. He came into office and discovered that he had inherited an economic basket case and mainly because of the great military build up. So he's set about to bring back an economy, an honest economy, to the Soviet Union. And now, more and more, it has become apparent to them and apparent to a number of the people in the streets -- we were there a few weeks ago -- that our system, the system of free enterprise, is what they really should be having.

And I know that Gorbachev is very interested in bringing about the private ownership of Soviet land. As you know, now every inch of land is owned by the government. And he is trying to bring about things -- I know one thing that he wants to bring about is to see if he can't get these vast tracts of land that are used for the collective farms, the government-owned farms, to get those divided up into private farming plots and let them be privately farmed by the Russian farmers.

KING: Do you think he'll succeed?

REAGAN: I have to believe he will, because when we were there it was just unbelievable. For example, in Leningrad, the people of Lenin are literally storming in the streets. They want their city named St. Petersburg for the man who built the city. And in the streets, if they find a place where there's a bust or a statue or something of Lenin, they throw it down in the street and smash it.

KING: No kidding.

REAGAN: And nothing seems to happen to them for doing this.

KING: We'll be right back...

REAGAN: We went -- on Sunday morning, we went to church with a thousands Russians. Only a short time ago, you couldn't be a communist in the Soviet Union if you didn't sign a pledge that you were an atheist.

KING: On a personal note, do you miss Santa Barbara, the ranch?

REAGAN: Well I always miss the ranch. I love that ranch up there. But I have -- I've arranged with our scheduling people that unless something serious intervenes that every month I'll have a little period of a few days up at the ranch. And I can live with that.

KING: And we have a minute left, and what does one say? February 6 you'll be 80 years old. What do you think is going to happen in the next week or so -- I mean, just in reflection? Are you...

REAGAN: Oh, I can't -- no, I can't, honestly. This whole thing here is hanging there such that I can't -- I can't visualize Saddam Hussein suddenly turning around and doing the things that we're trying to get with the sanctions and so forth. Therefore, and I don't have enough information as to when is the proper moment to take action...

KING: Well we can't have an educated guess?

REAGAN: ... but I think that we're going to have to, and I believe that's going to be the end result.

KING: Will you come back on your 90th birthday -- no, not your 90th, your 42nd anniversary of your 39th.

REAGAN: Why, I'd be delighted to.


KING: I had the pleasure of interviewing Ronald Reagan on three -- four occasions, and his wife and members of his family on many occasions, and on this, his 91st birthday, we extend to Nancy and all of the Reagans our very best wishes. Extraordinary guy. Happy birthday.

Tomorrow night, a really important show on heart disease. Among our guests, Sylvester Stallone and Kirk Douglas. Until then, good night.


REAGAN: Whenever Nancy or I want to think something out, ranch Del Cielo (ph) is the best place to do it.

NANCY REAGAN: Oh, such a pretty dog. Oh, such a pretty dog.

REAGAN: Better switch to a horse now.


REAGAN: Riding on one of the tree-lined trails, or gazing up at the western skies, well, there's no better way I know of to sort out a problem. There's something about the wild scenery and serenity of the ranch and the easy gait of the horse beneath me that I find particularly relaxing.

And while I loved living in the White House, I must confess that nothing in this great wide world of ours quite compares to having a home on the ranch.





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