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Interview with Lynne Cheney

Aired February 19, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, exclusive conversation with Lynne Cheney. Where was she when terrorists struck America? Plus, rare insights into her post post-9/11 life with the vice president, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We must tell you that President Bush has scheduled to start a news conference, a joint news conference with President Kim Dae-Jung of South Korea. That could begin any time in this half hour. We will, of course, go to it. Lynne Cheney will be with us until the press conference. If it ends before 10:00 Eastern, we'll also be joined by Bob Schieffer and Hugh Downs. They're our stand-business tonight. That's not bad if your going to have stand-bys; have Bob Schieffer and Hugh Downs.

Thank you so much. Are you second lady?

LYNNE CHENEY: Well, my children joke about this. I mean, if you look at the acronyms, second lady of the United States, it's SLOTUS? You know, the first lady is FLOTUS -- first lady of the United States. That has a sort of pleasant and beautiful feeling to it. But SLOTUS lacks something. When we went to Disneyland they got me a hat that said SLOTUS across the top.

KING: By the way, she'll be back with us in mid-May for a full- hour, because she's got an extraordinary children's book coming out in mid-May called "America." It's a lesson in America, right, for children?

CHENEY: It is. And I'm so excited about it.

KING: Where were you at that moment, that morning?

CHENEY: I was downtown. And --

KING: Washington, D.C.?

CHENEY: In Washington, D.C. And the first plane went in, and like everyone else, I thought and the security people with me thought that it was an accident.

KING: Where were you, in an office?

CHENEY: Oh, Larry, I've been trying to avoid that. I was getting my hair done. I mean, I hate to have been doing something so trivial at such an awful moment, but that's the truth.

KING: Was there a television there at that place?

CHENEY: There was a television. And then the second plane went in. And it was clear we were now in a time of crisis. And so the security people took me out at a very rapid pace, and we headed first for the vice president's house, going very fast. And then, the plane hit the Pentagon, and as I've tried to reconstruct it later, I think that we were heading for the vice president's house, because downtown Washington was considered a danger zone.

When the plane went into the Pentagon, then it was decided the best place for me would be in the bunker at the White House. So we did a rather dramatic u-turn, headed back to the White House where they wouldn't let us in. Everyone else was being evacuated. And I thought -- I think they thought some sort of crazy person was trying to come in at that point. The very smart security people I was with, drove up on the sidewalk, a fire engine immediately blocked our path. They didn't want us in, but finally we got in.

And I spent that day down in the Emergency Operations Center, the president's center down under the White House...

KING: Is that called...

CHENEY: ... watching it.


KING: ... a bunker?

CHENEY: Well, no, it's a word that I use. It's called the PEOC. The Presidential Emergency Operations Center.

KING: And who was there?

CHENEY: Dick, I went down with him. Condi Rice was there most of the day. People came in and out, Norm Mineta was there for a long time. The FBI head, CIA head dropped in and out.

We were in television contact with different offices in Washington.

KING: How many different moods -- I guess, there's rage, anger, what happened -- what was going on?

CHENEY: You know, at the time everyone was just cool and professional. It --

KING: Really?

CHENEY: Yes, of course, there were gasps when the towers went down. But really so little display of emotion in that room. And it was exactly right that there wasn't. I sense, though, had a chance to look at some photographs that were taken. And people have the most devastated looks on their faces. They were clearly all affected by it at the same time that, you know, my impression at the moment was that everyone was such a professional.

And I was also struck by how important it was. Colin Powell was there for a while. How important it was that they had all worked together before, and knew one another and felt so at ease with one another.

KING: Colin Powell told us that in all the scenarios they've run through in the Clinton administration, earlier Bush administration, Reagan, no one scenario did they take an American plane and kill themselves.

CHENEY: It is astonishing, isn't it?

KING: What happened to you in those days after when we had all the missing stories. Dick Cheney is gone?

CHENEY: Well, I often was gone with him.

KING: And gone where?

CHENEY: Well, I --

KING: You can't tell us?

CHENEY: I can't tell you where. And sometimes I didn't go, it sort of depended upon our circumstances. One day, though, when I was in the vice president's house, there were reports -- five all at once, that a plane was headed for the vice president's house.

KING: Really?

CHENEY: And I was there by myself. And the secret service came and took me out. You don't have a chance to pick up your pocketbook or anything. And we just headed out of the city at an incredible pace. It turned out to be a false alarm. There were many false alarms in those early days.

Once that had happened, I started packing a little bag, you know, in case there were another such --

KING: Did you ever have to live in the spartan manner?

CHENEY: We were always comfortable.

KING: Did you agree with keeping them apart, and keeping your husband hidden?

CHENEY: Oh, well, it makes so much sense. You just want to be unpredictable. And I think that is just the ultimate wisdom. The threats changed. You know, we used to worry that a nut with a gun was the threat. But now it's a nut -- someone who may be operating with a team of other people who intend us harm, who may have weapons that they invent out of airplanes or other kinds of weapons of mass destruction that can take out a large area. And what you don't want to have happen is for the government to be decapitated is the word that's used. And so keeping the president and Dick unpredictably together, unpredictably apart is a very good idea.

KING: How did you react during that time to the natural rumors that Dick is sick?

CHENEY: You know, I never heard one.

KING: Well, there were, you know. He's hidden, boy, it's two weeks, I tell you, something's really wrong.

CHENEY: Well, I think, usually if there were such rumors, all it would take is for him to come out, and, you know, be on a television program or make a speech. I noticed this morning in the paper he was described as fit and feisty.

KING: I saw that, yes. His health is good?

CHENEY: It is, yes.

KING: We'll talk about that, too. Lynne Cheney is with us, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney. I like the way she doesn't say, our house, she says the vice president's house. We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.


KING: We know that our friend, Dick Cheney, is here for a "Tonight Show" visit with Jay Leno. But why are you here?

CHENEY: Well, to do a LARRY KING show. That's an important reason to have this itinerary. I'm also visiting a school tomorrow in Engelwood, California, that's a school where a lot of the little kids come from poor families. A lot of kids on the free lunch program. They are the kinds of -- they have the demographic at this school where you might predict they won't do well. Well, no, these kids do very, very well. They've had inspired leadership in the principals that they've had. They have a team of teachers who are absolutely dedicated to using scientifically based methods of teaching.

KING: Mixed cultures and races.

CHENEY: It's mostly Hispanic, mostly African-American. It's a wonderful school.

KING: Do you do -- education has been your...

CHENEY: Well, and what I love about being married to the vice president is I've been given a little spotlight. You know, I can go around and just shine the spotlight on places where good things are happening and people will pay attention. I went to a school in Baltimore, I think it was last week, another school, where the little kids don't have many advantages but they have a great principal. They have good teachers. And their test scores are just going right up. So, it's very -- it's a great privilege to be able to do that.

KING: And you're going to the Olympic closing, right?

CHENEY: We are.

KING: Are you -- do you -- you've had both, the life with Dick Cheney as a public official and as a private entrepreneur, in a sense. What do you like better?

CHENEY: Well, when we were in private life, I think I liked that better. And I was a bit taken aback when Dick decided to run for vice president. In fact, we came on your show and I've since watched that tape. And I look like I was shellshocked.

KING: I remember that night. You came on the night it was announced. You looked like the owl.

CHENEY: Where was I? What's happened to me? But it was the right decision for him. He loves being in public service. It is truly an honor to serve your country, particularly at a time like this. So I'm glad he made that decision even though at the time, I was hesitant about it.

KING: Is he and you, are you going to campaign this year for candidates around the country?

CHENEY: I know Dick is and I suspect I'll be doing some as well.

KING: Have you discussed Dick serving eight years?

CHENEY: Well, I've heard Dick talk about it on television. No, we haven't really had that discussion.

KING: You haven't personally discussed it?

CHENEY: No. It is so far away. It is the kind of thing that the press likes to talk about. But as a real decision, it's nothing that you need to address right now. When you are in one of these jobs, your life is so full and so busy that what you tend to do is focus on what you can affect right now and the decisions you need to make right now.

KING: We and I -- Dick and I travel in similar circumstances with heart and everything. And he's been so kind and we've talked about it a lot. I talked with him the night before he had his surgery. As the wife of someone with that, do you jump when the phone rings? Are you constantly alert that my husband has this illness and something could happen?

CHENEY: You know, I mostly don't think about it. And I think I take my instruction from Dick on that. You know how you handle it. You worry about what you can change, you know. And I am a bit of a nag sometimes.

KING: You do.

CHENEY: Now, Dick, It is 8:00, it is 8:00 a.m. and you haven't exercised, you know. And I'm not sure if I'm effective at this or not, but I sort of take that as my role. You worry about what you can change. And the rest, you know, it is just wasted energy to worry about, so you try to, you know, push that out.

KING: When he went to the hospital that time, though, in a kind of an emergency state, what was that like for you?

CHENEY: Well, it was comforting to have people helping.

KING: Great hospital, too.

CHENEY: Well, and we had the Secret Service, you know, getting us there, the doctors we have great faith in. You know Dick, and if there's anyone that is comforting to be around, it is Dick, even in a dire emergency like that. You take -- you become very calm just because he's so calm.

KING: Has he always been that way?

CHENEY: He has.

KING: He's in control, isn't he?

CHENEY: Well, it's in control, but it's also just sort of dealing with the reality of the situation, and knowing that a lot of flailing around is not going to change the reality. You have to figure out how best to deal with it. He was like that even when he was in high school.

KING: You know each other from way back then.

CHENEY: That's right.

KING: And you're very active. You're into politics. Does he bring the job home?

CHENEY: Not very much.


CHENEY: You know, I think in our early years, he did more, because it was sort of a process of educating me. He had such an interesting life in the White House as a very young man. He was, I think, 34 when he became White House chief of staff.

KING: He was dashing, too, I might add.

CHENEY: Oh, quite a handsome young man. I think he's quite a handsome 61-year-old as well.

KING: He still is, but he had that full head of hair.

CHENEY: I had little kids. I was home a lot. And so, you know, we talked about his day because it helped me be involved in it. Now I'm more involved. And what I think is when you have a job where you're very busy all day long, what you kind of want to do is come home and put your feet up and maybe not think about it and not have somebody quizzing you about what was your schedule from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. KING: Considering some things current, how has he been about this standing up for not releasing the list which is not a plus politically? I mean, it don't get your votes to not release a list.

CHENEY: Well, he really does feel that it's a principled stand, that if you're going to be a good president or a good vice president, you have to be able to meet with people and talk to them and get their honest opinions without having to report all of that to Henry Waxman. I suspect if Henry Waxman were asked to report to the White House all the meetings he has with, say, labor union people or trial lawyers and the details of their meetings, he might say, whoa, folks, the founders created three branches of government.

KING: Is it a thin line? What should we know? Florida has a Sunshine Law. You can't have a private meeting with an official.

CHENEY: Well, you can't have a private meeting with a member of the legislature?


KING: I don't know. I'm trying to remember how. They have a strong Florida Sunshine Law.

CHENEY: The federal government has a strong Sunshine Law as well. And that's what Mrs. Clinton ran afoul of. She brought in people from the outside, treated them as government employees to have meetings. So that was the problem.

KING: We have to break right there, Lynne. We'll see you in May.

CHENEY: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Let's go right to Seoul, South Korea and the press conference.

KIM DAE-JUNG, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH KOREA (through translator): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to give my presentation.

First, on behalf of the Korean people, I would like to warmly welcome President Bush and thank him for taking time out of the war against terrorism to visit our country.

His visit is the first by President Bush since his inauguration, and it is also the first by an American president in the 21st century. It is for this reason that this visit will lay the foundation for future progress in Korean-U.S. relations in this century.

During today's meeting, President Bush and I recognized that the Korea-U.S. alliance is indispensable, not only for stability on the Korean Peninsula, but also in Northeast Asia as a whole.

Furthermore, President Bush and I expressed satisfaction that the bilateral alliance is not limited to cooperation in security matters, but that the comprehensive partnership has expanded and developed to all areas, including political, economic and diplomatic arenas.

President Bush and I exchanged views about the war against terrorists and future course of action.

I praised President Bush for the success in the war against terrorism under his outstanding leadership and indicated that Korea, as an ally, will do its utmost to cooperate and provide full support.

President Bush and I agreed to work with mutually consistent objectives and strategies in close consultation in pursuing the North Korean policy.

I greatly appreciate President Bush's staunch support for our Sunshine Policy as well as the U.S.'s unconditional proposal to dialogue with North Korea.

President Bush and I also discussed in-depth issues related to the threat of WMD proliferation, such as the possibility of terrorists obtaining WMDs and U.S. efforts to deter their spread across the world.

In this regard, we also concurred that the objective is to resolve the issue of North Korean WMDs and missiles at an early date through dialogue.

To this end, we agreed that Korea-U.S. joint efforts were necessary.

President Bush and I concurred that continued expansion and progress of bilateral economic and trade relations are in the interest of both our countries. Furthermore, we also agreed to further deepen cooperative relations at the multilateral level, such as the WTO Doha development agenda.

I am more than satisfied with the frank and open exchange of views I had with President Bush this morning on numerous issues. I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to President Bush for the interest he has expressed in peace on the Korean Peninsula, for the unparalleled affection he has for Korea, as well as the efforts and enthusiasm he has demonstrated in the development of bilateral relations.

Thank you.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President. It is such an honor to be here. Laura and I are grateful for your hospitality and the hospitality of First Lady Hui.

We look forward to a full day in your beautiful country.

The president's right; we had a great meeting. It was so good that we didn't want to go into the meeting room where there was more people. We had a very frank exchange. And that's important, when you're friends, to be able to discuss issues in depth.

A lot of times I find in the diplomatic world that people want to gloss over issues. They don't want to spend much time really understanding each other's positions.

Because of our friendship, because of the friendship between our countries, we had a very frank exchange and a positive exchange and one that allows me to safely say that this relationship has -- it's 50 years old, the relationship between South Korea and America. And it's seen a lot of problems and we've dealt with those problems together. And I'm confident we'll be dealing with problems 50 years from now in the spirit of cooperation and openness.

I understand how important this relationship is to our country. And the United States is strongly committed to the security of South Korea. We'll honor our commitments. Make no mistake about it about it, that we stand firm behind peace in the peninsula.

And no one should ever doubt that, Mr. President. No one should ever doubt that this is a vital commitment for our nation.

It's also vital that we continue to trade together. And so we obviously discussed issues of security issues on the peninsula. We also discussed ways to make sure our trade was more open and fair to both sides.

I'm very impressed by the amount of investment capital, foreign capital, that has come in to South Korea in the last four years. It's a testimony to a country that understands open markets and freedom.

I'm going up to the DMZ here in a little bit, and it's going to be an interesting contrast to talk about the benefits and the dividends of freedom. And part of that is an economy that is vibrant and improving, thanks to structural reforms.

I assured the president we are doing everything we can in our country, as well, to make sure our economy recovers. It's hard to be a good trading partner if you don't have a good economy.

And we're beginning to see signs that there's economic vitality in America, which would be good for our partners here in South Korea as well.

And, of course, we talked about North Korea, and I made it very clear to the president that I support his Sunshine Policy, and I'm disappointed the other side, the North Koreans, will not accept the spirit of the Sunshine Policy.

We talked about family reunifications, the displaced family initiative that he started, which I think is a great initiative. And yet only 3,600 families, I believe it was, have been allowed to reunite.

I asked him how many -- "What's the potential, what are the potential families on both sides of the DMZ that could reunite?" He said, "10 million people."

In order to make sure there's sunshine, there needs to be two people, two sides involved. And I praise the president's efforts, and I wonder out loud why the North Korean president won't accept the gesture of good will that the South Korean president has so rightfully offered.

And I told him, we, too, would be happy to have a dialogue with the North Koreans. I've made that offer.

And yet there has been no response. Some in this country are -- obviously have read about my very strong comments about the nature of the regime.

And let me explain why I made the comments that I did. I love freedom. I understand the importance of freedom in people's lives. I am troubled by a regime that tolerates starvation. I worry about a regime that is closed and not transparent. I am deeply concerned about the people of North Korea. And I believe that it is important for those of us who love freedom to stand strong for freedom and make it clear the benefits of freedom. And that's exactly why I said what I said about the North Korean regime.

I know what can happen when people are free. I see it right here in South Korea. And I'm passionate on the subject. And I believe so strongly in the rights of the individual that I, Mr. President, will continue to speak out.

Having said that, of course, as you and I discussed, we're more than willing to speak out publicly and speak out in private with the North Korean leadership. And again, I wonder why they haven't taken up our offer.

This is going to be a great visit for us, Mr. President. It's going to be a great visit because it's a chance for me to say clearly to the South Korean people, "We value our friendship. We appreciate your country. We share the same values. And we'll work together to make sure that our relationship improves even better as we go into the 21st century."

Mr. President, thank you, sir.

QUESTION (through translator): First, I have a question for President Kim. There is a difference between the axis of evil and the Sunshine Policy. Do you feel that the gap was overcome during this summit? And right now the Korean people are concerned about how inter-Korean relations will develop following the summit. How do you perceive the inter-Korean relations to develop in the future?

KIM (through translator): In my view, I believe that the U.S. policy and the Korean policy are fundamentally similar and there are no major differences.

We both believe in democracy and market economy.

Furthermore, we are allies. Korea and the U.S. are strong allies. And I believe that this is important and vital for the national interests of both of our countries. And so that's our top priority.

KIM (through translator): Furthermore, in matters related to North Korea regarding the WMD or missiles or nuclear issues, our views have coincided. And during the summit meeting this morning, I believe that there was no difference in opinion between our two leaders. And we believe that it is through dialogue that we will be able to resolve this issue. And we agreed on this point.

Therefore, recently in the press, there were some indication that there might be some difference of opinion. But during the conversation that I had this morning with President Bush, we were able to reconfirm that there is no difference of opinion between Korea and the U.S.

And in the future regarding U.S.-Korean issues, we were able to reaffirm that we have made the proposal to North Korea to dialogue. And it is through dialogue that we hope to resolve all of the issues. And so we hope that North Korea will, at an early date, accept our proposal and that inter-Korean dialogue and dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. will resume.

On September 15, there was the fifth inter-Korean -- inter- ministerial meeting and several issues were decided.

There were 10 agreements made regarding the meeting of separated families and the re-linking of the Kyongi (ph) railroad line, and we are implementing these agreements. Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. President, some South Koreans, perhaps even President Kim, had some concerns about your comments about the axis of evil and North Korea. How do you think your approach fits with and helps the Sunshine Policy?

And if I may, President Kim, did you have any misgivings, sir, about the president including North Korea in the axis of evil? And secondly, why do you think that North Korea is genuine about opening up? We have heard here about their failure to participate in the reunification of families, they haven't built their end of the rail line, and they refuse to talk to the U.S. What makes you think they're sincere in wanting to open up?

BUSH: You know, during our discussion President Kim reminded me a little bit about American history when he said that President Reagan referred to Russia as the evil empire, and yet was then able to have constructive dialogue with Mr. Gorbachev.

I will not change my opinion on Kim Jong Il until he frees his people and accepts genuine proposals from countries such as South Korea or the United States to dialogue; until he proves to the world that he's got a good heart, that he cares about the people that live in his country.

I am concerned about a country that is not transparent, that allows for starvation, that develops weapons of mass destruction. I care very deeply about it because it is in the neighborhood of one of our very close friends.

I don't see -- and so therefore, I think the burden of proof is on the North Korean leader to prove that he does truly care about people, and that he is not going to threaten our neighbor. We're peaceful people. We have no intention of invading North Korea. South Korea has no intention of attacking North Korea, nor does America.

We're purely defensive. And the reason we have to be defensive is because there is a threatening position on the DMZ. But we long for peace. It is in our nations' interests that we achieve peace on the peninsula.

I also want to remind the world that our nation provides more food to the North Korean people than any nation in the world.

Nearly -- we are averaging nearly 300,000 tons of food a year. And so, obviously, my comments about evil was toward a regime, toward a government, not toward the North Korean people.

We have great sympathy and empathy for the North Korean people. We want them to have food. And at the same time, we want them to have freedom. And we will work in a peaceful way to obtain that objective. That was the purpose of our summit today, to reconfirm that our nation -- my nation is interested in a peaceful resolution of the -- here on the Korean Peninsula.

And at the same time, of course, I made it clear that we would honor our commitments to help South Korea defend herself if need be.

I think we had a question for the president, I think.

QUESTION: Mr. Mike Allen (ph) of the Washington Post.

BUSH: We got cut off after. Just got filibustered.

QUESTION: Mr. President, in Beijing, do you plan to meet with any political dissidents or Christian activists? How did you decide that? And what do you plan to do to try to persuade the Chinese government to extend more rights to these individuals?

BUSH: Mike, I am not exactly sure of all the details of my schedule yet since I am focused here on this incredibly important relationship. I can tell you that in my last visit with President Jiang, I shared with him my faith. I talked to him in very personal terms about my Christian beliefs. I explained to him that faith had an incredibly important part in my life, and it has a very important part in the lives of all kind of citizens. And that I would hope that he, as the president of a great nation, would understand the important role of religion in an individual's life.

BUSH: That's why I put it in that context.

I then segued into talk -- discussions about the Catholic Church, and I will do so again. I will bring up the need that there be a -- that I would hope the government would honor the request of the papal nuncio to be able to at least have dialogue about bishops that are interned there.

I also talked about the Dalai Lama, as well as Christian faiths, and I will do so again.

As to what my schedule is and who I'm going to see, I'm not sure yet.

QUESTION (through translator): I first have a question for President Bush.

During your presentation, you said that you are ready to dialogue with North Korea at anytime, anywhere. If North Korea accepts, then will you continue with the economic aid to North Korea? And also, in order to tell Pyongyang that you are ready to dialogue, are you willing to send an envoy?

My next question is to President Kim. You said that you were satisfied with the summit meeting. What do you feel is the largest, the biggest achievement of this summit meeting?

BUSH: Well, first, dialogue or no dialogue, we will continue to send food to the North Korean people. I reiterate: Our issue is not with the North Korean people. As a matter of fact, we have great sympathy for the North Korean people. Any people that live under a despotic regime has our sympathy.

And so I presume that's the economic aid you're referring to. We will send food.

As to how any dialogue were to begin, it obviously takes two willing parties. And as people in our government know, last June I made the decision that we would extend the offer for dialogue. We just hadn't heard a response back yet. And how we end up doing that is a matter of -- you know, the diplomats, the great secretary of state will be able to handle the details.

But the offer stands. And if anybody's listening involved with the North Korean government, they know that the offer is real and I reiterate it today.

KIM (through translator): Yes, this morning's summit meeting, I believe that I am most satisfied with the fact that we were able to have a frank and open discussion and that we were able to reconfirm that we are close allies. Not only are our two countries allies, but I believe that we have become close personal friends as well.

And so I believe that we will be able to learn a lot from each other and that we will be able to understand each other more and better in the future. And we were able to have an open and frank dialogue. And I am most satisfied about that.

And the second point is that, at today's summit meeting, even before we had the summit meeting, we had agreed that we would talk on the four main issues and that we wanted to have concrete results on four areas.

And that is to reconfirm the Korea-U.S. alliance.

The second was to fight against terrorism. And that we would work on a global scale in order to uproot terrorism.

And that we would continue to cooperate in order to do so.

And third, is for the North Korean, WMDs and missile issue must be resolved. And this is -- more than any other country in the world, it a matter directly related to the security issue of Korea.

The fourth issue, is that for inter-Korean relations to resolve the current issues such as the WMDs and the missile issue, we must resolve these issues through dialogue.

And so regarding these four points, I concurred and we agree -- I agreed with President Bush. And as was mentioned earlier, President Bush is more than ready to dialogue with North Korea. And that he has reiterated his position. And the Korean people, I believe, will be assuaged by this reiteration.

And I believe that President Bush's visit to Korea will reaffirm the alliance between our two countries and will also lay the foundation for inter-Korean relations and improvement in those relations.

In the future, regarding economic issues, and also the Winter Olympics, which are being held in Salt Lake City, and also the World Cup, we are going to have to deal with security issues. And we agreed that there will be a lot of cooperation between our two countries in order to ensure the security in those events.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This concludes the joint press conference.

Thank you very much.

KING: That was President Bush and President Kim Dae-Jung of South Korea, their joint press conference following a summit meeting this morning that obviously went very well.

Joining us now on LARRY KING LIVE in Washington is Bob Schieffer, the anchor and moderator of "Face The Nation With Bob Schieffer" also "CBS News" chief Washington correspondent. And in Phoenix, one of the beams in American journalism, Hugh Downs, the former co-anchor of ABC's "20/20." w Bob, what did you make of what we just saw?

BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS'S "FACE THE NATION": Larry, you never really know how these things went until you have the chance -- you have to kind of be on the scene, you have to talk to the aides that were with them, get the story that they don't want to be quoted on.

But every indication is that it went very, very well. As you well know, the Koreans have been very worried. There's been a lot in the Korean press, there's been a lot of comment coming out of Seoul that the South Koreans were worried that the president's very hardline speech talking about North Korea being the part of the axis of evil, that this would somehow upset what South Korea has been trying to do, and that is to open some sort of dialogue with the North Koreans. You heard the South Korean president say over and over again, we had very frank discussions. Often when a discussion is characterized as frank, that means there were difference of opinion. But in this case, the South Korean president seemed to go out of his way to say we're in agreement on the sunshine policy, we're in agreement on fighting terrorism. So it sounds as if that things went very, very well.

Another thing, Larry, I was quite struck, the president did not appear to be reading from a prepared statement. He at points seemed to be referring to notes, but this was George Bush telling you what George Bush believes. It was not like the old days, where you sometimes saw American leaders reading from a prepared script. He obviously had just come from the meeting, knew what he wanted to say.

KING: And said it.

SCHIEFFER: As far as I can tell, said it very well.

KING: Hugh downs, what was your read?

HUGH DOWNS, FORMER CO-HOST, ABC'S "20/20": Well, it's obvious that President Bush has the ability to cement a friendship with friendly nation. And he did that very well. And I think there may have been in that meeting an understanding on the part of the South Korean president that the strong language is not as damaging to chances of dialogue with North Korea as might be thought.

And I'm sure he would understand that when we were attacked -- you know, the World Trade Tower -- the destruction of those towers, terrible as it was, it was not the first time we were attacked by terrorists. Think of the Marine barracks in Beirut, embassies that were attacked by terrorists. And what did we do? We didn't even beef up the airport security.

But here, with this terrible thing that happened 9/11, President Bush did something, and we might be critical of exactly how he handles it, but he did something. And I think that will be understood by friendly nations even if he uses strong language like evil empire -- or not evil empire -- axis of evil.

KING: How about unfriendly nations? Bob, do you think that North Korea -- what do you think they're going to say tomorrow?

SCHIEFFER: It's very difficult to say. My guess is it will not be complimentary. This is a hermit nation. This is a nation that has isolated itself from the rest of the world. It is a nation that clearly does not understand the rest of the world in much the same way that the rest of the world does not seem to understand it.

It is South Korea that has been trying to make these overtures, has been trying to find some way to at least get a dialogue started. You heard the president say tonight, look, the South Koreans have done all the right things. They have tried to open the dialogue. We have tried to open the dialogue, but as yet we've had no response from the North Koreans. North Koreans took a very hard line against the president's statement. I would guess that you'll see much the same coming out of North Korea tomorrow, but again, I think it's going to be important to see what U.S. officials and what South Korean officials are saying on background and what they're saying off the record about how these meetings went. Because there's where we'll get the real indication of how this went.

But again, as the president and as the South Korean president described it tonight, Larry, it could not have gone better.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with more on this edition of Larry King Live. Lynne Cheney was with us earlier. Tomorrow night Ross Perot will be with us, significant date. On February 20, 1992, Ross Perot on this show announced that if enough people supported him, he'd run for president. The rest is history. On the 10th anniversary of that night, Ross is with us tomorrow. We will be right back with Bob Schieffer and Hugh Downs. Don't go away.


KING: Hugh Downs, are you optimistic that there might well be meetings between the United States and North Korea, that something might well come of this?

DOWNS: Yes, I tend to be optimistic, anyway. But I think that there have been instances where people have seemed hostile to each other, but eventually they realize they've got to have a dialogue. I think it will happen, maybe sooner than many people think.

KING: This incredible popularity of the president, Bob Schieffer, is it going to affect November elections?

SCHIEFFER: We were just talking about that at the office today. And I really haven't kind of started my homework on how -- what's going to happen in the elections. It is bound to have some effect, Larry. But I think these elections are going to be very, very close.

You have this razor thin majority in the House of Representatives right now. You have a 50-49 Senate now with one former Republican now voting with the Democrats. I think it's all up for grabs right now. I think it's still to be decided. There are some issues out there, economic issues, as well as the -- as well as the president's war leadership. But I think the president is going to be a very powerful force in these elections. You're seeing this weekend, you had Lynne Cheney on the broadcast a little earlier. The vice president, of course, is out on the West Coast right now campaigning for candidates. I think you're going to see the vice president taking a very active part. But I'll just tell you, I don't want to take a pass, I don't want to make excuses here. I just don't think you can tell right now how these elections are going to go this fall.

KING: Hugh, what's the view from the American southwest?

DOWNS: From the American southwest? Well, it's interesting that even though the president's ratings continue to be very high, some domestic issues are resurfacing. Some people are bothered by the penchant for secrecy that this administration has. And I've always felt that on that, we need to discriminate between what should be kept secret and what shouldn't. As a citizen, I don't see that I have any particular desire or right to know all the documents that tell exactly how to make a weapon of mass destruction. That stuff should be kept secret. But as a citizen, I feel I would like to know what transpired in conversations between Enron officials and administration officials. That's the kind of thing we need to separate that out and not lose sight of that no matter how popular a president is.

KING: Gentlemen, I'm going to veer off a little here because a great man died this week. I had the honor of interviewing him a few times. I don't know if you worked with him. Bob, did you ever work with Howard K. Smith?

SCHIEFFER: I never worked with him but I knew him, Larry. And he was just a wonderful person. The one little remembrance I have of Howard K. Smith is some years back when I was named chief Washington correspondent for CBS News, I got a letter one day. And I thought, what odd stationery. It appeared to be kind of an old envelope. And I opened it up and here on a piece of stationery that was obviously very old, it was a letter from Howard K. Smith.

And he said, I just thought you'd like to see a letterhead from a guy who was also chief Washington correspondent one time. And there on the letterhead, it said Howard K. Smith, chief Washington correspondent for CBS News. He was a guy who watched the news. He remained interested in the news. He was a great champion of journalists. He was also a wonderful role model, it seemed to me, for journalists everywhere. This is a great loss, the passing of Howard K. Smith.

KING: And, Hugh Downs, he quit two jobs, the two major jobs in his life, one with CBS, one with ABC, purely on principles.

DOWNS: Well, he was an old-style example of integrity. I did not know him and I never worked with him. I was a viewer, but a great admirer of Howard K. Smith.

KING: Part of that great CBS group, wasn't he, Bob?

SCHIEFFER: Oh, yes, he was.


And you know, you talked about him being a person of integrity, Hugh, and that's exactly what he was. He was not afraid to take a stand. He thought that journalists ought to take stands on things. He was a very strong supporter of Richard Nixon during the Vietnam War, and yet, toward the end, he became the first journalist, the first major journalist on television anyway to call for Nixon's resignation.

KING: Hey, Hugh, do you miss all of this?

DOWNS: No, I don't. You know, as a viewer, I find certain events where you're glued to the set, you cover better than if you were in the field focusing on one aspect of it. And so, that's sort of an advantage to me. I enjoy watching the kind of coverage that we're mounting now and the major networks are doing a great job.

KING: Bob, back to politics. Do you see a lot of people getting into the Democratic hunt for the presidency? We've got them going to New Hampshire already.

SCHIEFFER: Well, I think you're going to see Dick Gephardt. I think he is almost certainly going to run. I think John Kerry, the senator from Massachusetts, is almost certainly going to run. I think I would pick John Edwards of North Carolina as the dark horse. It's always hard for me to say those two words together. He is almost certainly going to -- he is doing everything to see if there's an opening there for him to run and if he's able to build some sort of following, I think he also will run.

There are some others out there. I think you'll have a full field in the end. You may also see Al Gore. I mean, if I had to bet right now, I would bet that Al Gore will also run. If he does, I would advise him, shave the beard.

KING: And, Hugh, it's still so far away, but doesn't it look like this president is unbeatable?

DOWNS: Well, it does right now. Surely, a wartime president always has an edge like that. And between now and the presidential elections, anything can happen. I think the fact that we're seeing more people interested in running shows that maybe we're moving a little away from the thing that Adlai Stevenson said when he said the tragedy of the American presidency is that in order to become president, you have to do that which renders you unfit to be president. That may no longer be true. And maybe we'll get some good people in there running.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, I would add also, Hugh, that George Bush's father also looked unbeatable two years before that election and we all know what happened there. So my guess is the Bush team will go ahead and suit up and get ready for a hard fight. That's the only way to run.

DOWNS: It'll be like the World Series, you know. Right up to the end, you may think it is going to go one way.

KING: Hugh, do you think the senator from your state will eventually prevail in the House and we'll have -- in the Senate, rather, with campaign finance reform?

DOWNS: You know, it is hard to tell. It seems as though eventually there has to be some reform of that. And Senator McCain has been a leader in that. It dies hard, though, the opposition to it. And I'm puzzled by that because I think the public would be more up on its hind legs than it seems to be about it.

KING: Bob, what are your thoughts in 30 seconds? SCHIEFFER: You know, I think, Larry, that it is going to pass this time. I think it is going to pass the Senate and I think the president is going to sign it. But that doesn't mean this battle is over because once this is written into law, everybody will start looking for ways to get around this piece of legislation just as they've gotten around so many other pieces of legislation. But I think this one is going to pass this time.

KING: Thank you both very much. It's an honor to share a camera with you. Bob Schieffer, the anchor and moderator of "Face the Nation", CBS News chief Washington correspondent; and Hugh Downs, the former co-anchor of ABC's "20/20". And earlier, Lynne Cheney, the wife, of course, of the vice president of the United States.

Tomorrow night -- it's February 20, 10 years ago on February 20, 1992, Ross Perot on this program appearing to discuss a bunch of things. At the end of the show, under prodding, said that he would consider running. The rest became history. Ross Perot is our guest tomorrow night.

"NEWSNIGHT" follows with Aaron Brown. I'm Larry King. Thanks for joining us from Los Angeles. Good night.




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