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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview with Ross Perot

Aired February 20, 2002 - 21:00   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, an exclusive one-on-one with Ross Perot exacly 10 years ago tonight on this show he gave the country a political wake-up call. And now he has got a new message for America. He is next with your calls on LARRY KING LIVE.

Last time he was on this program was November 2 of 2000. That's the night he endorsed George W. Bush for the presidency. Ross Perot, a businessman, philanthropist and former presidential candidate.

Let's just quickly start right where -- we have a lot of messages to get through tonight, a lot of things to discuss. Let's go back, ten years ago tonight, it just worked out that way. We weren't that genious, we just happened to book it that way, ten years ago tonight, near the end of the program, after twice saying he was not interested, I asked him this question -- is there any scenario, Ross, under which you would run? Here's what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSS PEROT, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would simply say to them and to all these folks who are constantly calling and writing, if you feel so strongly about this, No. 1, I will not run as either a Democrat or Republican because I will not sell out to anybody but the American people. And I will sell out to them.

KING: So you would run as an independent.

PEROT: No. 2, if you're that serious, you, the people, are that serious, you register me in 50 states.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Did you ever expect to happen what happened?

PEROT: No, but I learned a lot from that experience. And I understand the effectiveness of the American people at the grassroots level. That's what brings me here tonight, because we're at war. We're in a war that is going to last for a long time. We know that our enemy has brought people into our country over a period of years and positioned them strategically.

We are warned repeatedly about the weapons they have, including chemical and biological and even possibly nuclear weapons. What we really need to do and do now, is get organized in every city, town, neighborhood and down to every block, just like we were in World War II.

KING: I want to get to that in a while. I want to reminisce a little with you. Did you expect to get -- did it shock you to see the way the public reacted? You learned a lot, you said. Did it surprise you?

PEROT: Well, I was never surprized at the American people, because the heart of America is the people. This is their country. It belongs to them. They are the owners, and they have tremendous capability.

KING: So you were not surprised?

PEROT: Well, I was somewhat surprised, yes, but not -- I knew they had the capability if they wanted to.

KING: Where were you on September 11?

PEROT: Well, I was in my office.

KING: At work or...

PEROT: At work.

KING: How did you learn of it?

PEROT: Someone came in from our financial desk and told me it had just occurred, then I saw the replays on television.

KING: What was your first reaction, former military man, patriot?

PEROT: Well, it broke my heart, because I knew of all those people in those buildings and their wives and their children and their husbands or whatever their relationship might be, and I knew the number of hearts that would be broken. And as the numbers were announced later on during the day and you realized the magnitude of those numbers, it made me sad.

It certainly made me angry, and it certainly gave me an absolute resolve to make sure that our country did whatever we had to do to protect this great country and protect its people and the only way we are going to be able to do it is if the ordinary citizen gets organized at the grass roots level, and we will have a network of auxiliary policemen, auxiliary firemen, auxiliary nurses. We'll have a plan for each home. Everybody will know, all right, we have extra food stored here, we have a backup plan. We have everybody in the house trained in first aid at level that laymen can be trained.

We know exactly what to do if there's a medical emergency. If something happens and we have to go to another location, we've got that planned. All of these things worked out in every home. Our government has started that.

KING: Have you discussed it with Governor Ridge? PEROT: Yes, I certainly have. I'm thrilled at what they're doing. I think they're right on the path. The thing I want to try to do tonight is get every person listening to this show and then every person listening to America. Amd I hope CNN and the networks will take this program down to the American people, because it's not well known now, they're ready now. See, what they really need to do is...

KING: What's the name of this?

PEROT: Well, the basic name for the program is U.S. freedom core.

KING: Is this new?

PEROT: Well, it's fairly new and it has been announced. But the main thing is, like in the Dallas, Ft. Worth area, all the mayors have gotten together and started to organize it. We need to have that happen all over the country. Everywhere I've been...

KING: What does it do, this -- what is it for?

PEROT: Well, it's basically to get everybody to come in and volunteer to help protect their community and to have a plan in case of an emergency of exactly what everybody does.

For example, let's take the typical big city. Drive around and look at the power plant. There's not much security there. Imagine what happens if the electricity goes off. Then skip the power plant -- just go to the nuclear plants and think of the after-effects of Chernobyl in Russia.

KING: But aren't they...

PEROT: Not the level of security they can have if we have this huge trained volunteer force. There's some security. Now, let's go out, drive along the power grids that literally let the power go across the area, across the country and so on and so forth. They're all public record. Everybody knows where they are. And everyone I drive by, there's a chain link fence with nobody there. These things -- were taken care of in World War II by the people in the community who were organized, trained and volunteered.

KING: Who trains them?

PEROT: The firemen will train the Auxiliary firemen, the policemen will train the auxiliary policemen. It's a great source of talent in retired military people for things like this. So the VFW and the American Legion and groups like that could help mobilize -- think of all the retired master seargants, all the retired majors and colonels. The typical general retires in his late 50s.

Here is a huge amount of talent. Then in corporate America, there's all kinds of talent. There's no question that when the mayors go out and say to the business leaders of the community, I need for you to lend me some of your best people to help get this set up, they'll get them. Now, let's assume I was running the electrical power company in an area. And I could loan him some of my most of my most talented people to help train people to protect the power grids and so on and and so forth. Let's take the oil pipelines, the gas pipelines, let's take the huge water reservoirs around our country.

KING: You fear for all of these things?

PEROT: I'm not going to quote anything that our government hasn't publicly talked about, that and more. Everything that could be vulnerable, we need to protect. The places where we have sea ports, we need to protect those. The places where the container ships come in...

KING: And the average every day person can volunteer to learn how to do things?

PEROT: Absolutely. Can volunteer to learn how to be -- for example, either an auxiliary policemen, an auxiliary fireman, an auxiliary nurse. It goes on and on and on. There would be a huge array of things that are needed.

KING: You don't want neighbors spying on neighbors. You don't want vigilanteism?

PEROT: Oh, no, no. In World War II, that never happened. That was not an issue. I was just a boy scout then, but I was trained in advance first aid as far as they could take you without being a true medic.

KING: Yeah, we all got trained, we were kids, but we all -- civil defense.

PEROT: And then we collected tin foil, and we collected -- you know, we were all out on the street doing something every day for our country.

KING: This is a different kind of war.

PEROT: It's worse, because they are here and we don't know where they are and we don't know what they have, and see, in World War II, we were gearing up for something that couldn't happen, because the Germans didn't have airplanes that had the range to get over here.

We were told again and again, these people are here, we need to be prepared, ready, organizedm, trained. And then it is almost impossible. For example, just think of the people who could be trained properly to profile, to look for odd things happening in the community, and if the community is organized, then there's a place they turn this in to a group of very sophisticated people who look at it to see if it has any validity.

KING: Shouldn't homeland security run this operation?

PEROT: Homeland security does.

KING: So then wha...

PEROT: This freedom core is under homeland security.

KING: It is? OK, let me get a break, we'll come back. Ross Perot is with us. He never comes here without some idea to get people involved in something. We'll be back with more, we'll be taking your calls. Don't go aaway.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): When Ross Perot comes marching in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Ross Perot. In this time of fear and fearing about the next step and what could happen tomorrow, Ross Perot is urging us to all get involved in this -- by the way, how do you assess the performance of Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, the Bush team?

PEROT: I think they're doing a great job. And I think we're very fortunate to have people with that much experience in our government right now. And so I'm very pleased with the way they're conducting their business.

And they have so much on their plate. I'm sure there's not a dull second in their lives. And yet, this is a major issue that they have publicly announced to the American people and they feel very strongly that we need to get organized at the grassroots level.

Let me give you an example. Do you remember when we had the Niagara Falls way back when and we had huge amounts of energy going over the falls? That's what we have right now, all this patriotic energy since September the 11th. We need to put a turbine under that energy, and turn it into useful work.

KING: How does it work? You got a number here? You brought along this...

PEROT: Basically, here's the first thing right here. One place that you can either get on the Internet -- and this is the U.S. Freedom Corps. This is all under homeland security. This is a division of homeland security that's responsible for getting done what we're talking about here tonight.

KING: And anyone can volunteer for the U.S. Freedom Corps?

PEROT: Oh, yes. Oh, yes.

KING: Just like www.usafreedomcorps.gov.

PEROT: And you get a lot of information. You see, there are different groups in the Freedom Corps. One is the type of thing I'm talking about, another is aimed at more senior citizens and special program where they would assist in schools and do things like that. And then there's a third one that's aimed at the Peace Corps.

So all of this would be on the Web site, you could get that information, but the heart and soul of this is to protect our country in every block and every community and every farm in the place, and we can do it.

KING: How did you get involved?

PEROT: I got involved because I felt very strongly that, unless we did this, with this network in our country that's been here for a long time, they tell us, that sooner or later -- now, I'm grateful for every day that goes by when nothing happens, but that tends to make us complacent . While we are having this time is the time to get organized.

KING: But how did they get -- how did you -- who did you -- what did you do? What did Ross Perot do?

PEROT: I've talked to a number of people. I'd rather not -- I've talked to a number of people since shortly after September the 11th. I always got a positive response, but they had so many things going on, and...

KING: Because you are a man of -- I mean, you sent your own people in to get prisoners out.

PEROT: Yes.

KING: I mean, you take action.

PEROT: But now we're ready to do that now. And everybody is behind it. And they are getting it organized. And the thing I wanted to do with you tonight was send a big alert to the whole country that let's get organized and protect every part of our country from this and make it just almost impossible for these terrorists to pull a stunt off, because we're so well organized.

But if it happens, we can protect our children. We'll have a plan of what to do at the schools, we'll have a contingency plan for our families. We'll have -- manuals are being written now about all these different things that will be distributed all over the country.

But if I were a private citizen, heard this and got all excited, I'd go down to city hall and talk to the mayor. Now, for example, all through our community and the North Texas community, they're getting organized now. And there are other places across the country where the mayors -- there's a coalition of mayors -- and then they even have a national co-chairmen that are putting this together, and one of them is Mary Poss, who is the mayor of Dallas at this time, and she's doing a brilliant job. And then the mayor of Ft. Worth is playing a key role in North Texas, and all the other mayors.

KING: Do you worry that we can get over security, that every day of our lives becomes looking left and right?

PEROT: No, because I saw this all in World War II and it worked like a charm...

KING: Yeah, but people in Chicago didn't think they were going to be bombed in World War II.

PEROT: Well, in Texas, where, you know, the odds are that we wouldn't be, we all thought we were. So maybe we were naive.

KING: You did?

PEROT: But all over the country, people were mobilized, people were ready. Keep in mind, if you're organized like this and your National Guard gets called off to war, you can give them a going away parade that they'll never forget. When they come home, you can give them a welcome right there. You're organized. When wounded soldiers come home, when a person is killed in action, you can make sure there's a hero's funeral. It just goes on.

When you get the ordinary citizen organized, with a mission to protect his community and serve his country -- and think of the impact, and this is one I really have to cover tonight. I want to talk to all the young people who are finishing high school. I want you to think about either going in the armed forces and volunteering, or, if you don't want to do that and you're going to college, join the ROTC. Now, do it because your country needs you.

But if for any reason you're really self-centered, if you go in the military -- and I've been observing this now for almost 50 yeas -- and you serve in the military, when you come out, you're at least 10 years more mature than your friends who didn't. And you have leadership skills. You have an advantage they don't have that will help you be far more successful in business. When you come out, if you go to college, you're men and women if you've been in the armed forces.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: ... volunteerism, right -- all over America, a corps of -- that President Bush (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

PEROT: Volunteer for the military, volunteer for the ROTC as you go through college. And believe me, it would be one of the greatest experiences of your life in terms of turning girls into women and boys into men.

KING: Is there any -- I don't mean this disparagingly, paranoia here, that this is all reacting out of fear? Or is it justifiable fear?

PEROT: Well, I think it is -- we know what's happening. Our leaders agree that we need to have protection in every city, town and block and community in the country. The people want it. The people -- I can't go into a mall, Larry. If I'm wondering through a mall, everybody stops and says, Ross, what can I do, what can I do, what can I do? Now our government has this organized, and they can start playing a key role. Nothing is better -- let's go back to the revolution -- you know, if we would have been paranoid, we wouldn't want the minutemen, right? They were firing one minute, farming the next.

KING: What do you do in this volunteer area?

PEROT: Anything I can do to help my country.

KING: Do you go down and talk to mayor -- I mean, you want to get them, you would go...

PEROT: You know, I've been very involved, and I just keep all that behind the scenes. But I'm just saying, that's just to get it set up. But you know, after it's set up, if I need to be a block captain, if I need -- whatever I need to do, I will do, because I owe that to my country.

That's the way the average citizen feels. The guy on the street is dying to get involved to protect his country, protect his family, protect his community, and do something, not just sit and hear what's going on and be a couch potato.

Now, our government is giving them a mission. And I think he'll really be excited to see the positive things that happen. Now, the good news is, if it will be controlled at the community level, you know, if we have a little weird stuff going on at the local level, it's a lot easier to fix that than if it's all controlled out of Washington, right?

KING: Is there anyone at homeland security that's sort of in charge of this under Ridge?

PEROT: Oh, yes. His name is John Bridgelin (ph). And I would urge you to have him on. He's doing a great job, and very creative. But all of them understand, this is going to win -- succeed or feel, down at the local level. The mayors are going to be the key, the police chief will be the key, the fire chief will be the key.

KING: And it's the USA Freedom Corps. We'll get back with more of Ross Perot. As we go to break, a scene you may remember. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, OCTOBER 11, 1992)

PEROT: If I get there, it will be a very unusual and historical event, because the people...

(LAUGHTER)

PEROT: Because the people, not the special interests, put me there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we take phone calls and get back to more and talk about Teach for America, another concept that Ross wants to discuss with us, a couple things based on your own experience and your knowledge of foreign and international affairs. Do you think it's important that Osama bin Laden get caught?

PEROT: Yes.

KING: Do you think it like adds to the...

PEROT: Don't leave loose ends. You know, to go all the way through Desert Storm and leave the problem standing. Now we're going back to correct it.

KING: You would have gone in 10 years ago?

PEROT: You know, it's easy -- hindsight is 20/20 and I understand all that and I don't in any way, you know, want to be critical of anything at this point. We need to all come together. But the point is -- a good example is we left some unfinished business. We need to just button things up from the start.

KING: What do you make of this John Walker case?

PEROT: He's a traitor.

KING: Try not to be too down the middle here, Ross. Do you have an opinion?

PEROT: Yes.

KING: You think he's an out and out traitor?

PEROT: What do we consider Benedict Arnold in the Revolution? A person that turns on our government in a war and does the things he did, I consider him a traitor. Now, it will work out through the legal system. I'm back to the man on the street, the people I run into...

KING: I just want to touch some other bases.

PEROT: As you know, I eat out in barbecue places and what have you...

KING: I've heard.

PEROT: Down in the real world, you know, where the rubber meets the road and the real folks are that make it go, I haven't found anybody that's a fan, I'll tell you that. And they all feel that he is a traitor to our country.

Now, let's go back to this wonderful sergeant that was killed, Sergeant Chapman. You remember, in Seattle? You saw the pictures of his children and so on and so forth. Now there's a man that's a role model for all of us. He gave his life for his country. You could see in his family's face what it meant to lose a father. Now, to have a man that had all the advantages of growing up here, then goes over there and turns on his country and fights against his country, I don't know what else you'd call it. Now, I'll leave that up to the expert. But you asked me for my opinion and I gave it to you.

KING: How about the treatment of the detainees in Guantanamo?

PEROT: I find that to be a -- I think it's an interesting challenge. These are not -- first off, who are these people? These are the worst of the worst. These are near bin Laden's, these are the top of the pile. The objective was to get them over into a safe place, get them out of the Middle East and what have you. And, again, the publicity around it has been the big problem, I think.

KING: Well, because we're a country that tries to be fair and humane.

PEROT: Again, see, I spent a number of years of my life on the prisoner of war issue.

KING: Oh, I know.

PEROT: And I was in all the prison camps...

KING: You tried to get them out on your own.

PEROT: ... in Vietnam, so I'm very sensitive to this. On the other hand, it appears to me that the people are being put in proper retention at this point in time. The fact that they were so manicled and what have you has to do with their martyrdom philosophy and the fact that they feel that one of the greatest things they can do is give their life for a great cause. And then, the real pitch is after you die, you know, all kind of good things happen if you're a martyr. I won't go into them. But anyhow, the point being, they didn't want that to happen. And that's the reason they were so totally secure. But I have no question in my mind that they will be treated properly in Cuba.

KING: Before we get back to your other things, let's grab one quick call first. Chillicothe, Ohio. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, my name is Roger Oiler (ph).

KING: Hey, Roger.

CALLER: And I'm glad to hear about this program through homeland security. I was wondering if there is anything in place to get the word out through local media and governments about it, because I had never heard of it before?

PEROT: Well, I hope we're kicking that ball off here tonight. I hope it will be all over television, radio and the newspapers, and everybody will know now. The best thing that can happen -- how big is your hometown?

KING: He's gone now, but I think Chillicothe it's about 75,000.

PEROT: OK, great. Go down to the city hall, go to the mayor's office, tell them what all these other cities are doing. I've told you about north Texas and what have you. The best thing that can happen is for the mayor and the city council to take the lead, then everything starts to move... KING: But doesn't it coordinate under the Freedom Corps in Washington?

PEROT: Of course. No, no, they'll link back up -- the mayor will link with the governor and link with the Freedom Corps and all that works out. See, it comes down from Washington through the state level and eventually, you'll have small little groups that coordinate this. One of the great things that happened is with today's technology, all of the good ideas are going to come down at the grassroots level. You have a lot of theoretical ideas up here at the top. But I know, if I know anything, it's out where the rubber meets the road, that's where the real good ideas come from. And with today's technology, we can take the best ideas all over the country every day and make it better and better and better. We couldn't do that in World War II.

KING: San Bernardino, California. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, this is Elizabeth. And I applaud you, Mr. Perot. I voted for you. And I wish you were president, but what I want to know is once a small community gets involved in this program, how can we know what impact it will take afterward? What will the feedback be?

PEROT: You'll get tremendous feedback from Washington on what is going on all over the country, what the best ideas are, how you can do even better. And you will be giving Washington -- see, out of the small towns will come some of the ideas that revolutionize the big cities because the communication is so good in a small town. So it works both ways, and I'm really impressed with the people who are running this, that they will just take this information, make sure everybody gets out, give the local people an opportunity to build a shoe that fits their foot.

KING: Why hasn't homeland security itself done more to promote this?

PEROT: They're just getting started. Then you called me and asked me to be on the program and I didn't want to do anything that would be counterproductive. So I called them and said, will this -- and so, with their approval, I'm here tonight.

KING: I got it. So, you cleared it?

PEROT: Yes, absolutely, because I have one interest and that's my country.

KING: Do you fear, before we talk about the teaching thing and take more calls -- and we discussed this a little off the air -- in this kind of concept, do you fear profiling, neighbors saying I'm worried about that guy down there. He's got a beard.

PEROT: I think, worst case, it will be minor. And if it occurs, let's assume somebody profiles me and they want to go -- I could care less. I'm willing to take that time and energy to say, well, no, you've got the wrong person. That doesn't offend me at all because sooner or later, if we do it properly, and I can't get into the common sense -- now, keep in mind there's one group that now has a network in 28 states setting this up on their own. Now, that's just ordinary people who have put together a network in 28 states...

KING: And you would feel that the average person would not care if he were profiled as long as he...

PEROT: Well, you know, I would say, well, I just -- why would they pick me? You know, if you're innocent you'd react that way. But my second thought would be, small price for me to pay. They've got it wrong. I'll go down and clear it. I have got nothing to hide.

KING: We'll take a break and we'll talk about another concept called Teach for America. We'll be repeating the dot-com where you can contact. As we go to break, the most watched show in the history of regularly scheduled television was this one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NOVEMBER 9, 1993)

PEROT: Here is the NAFTA game. Buy U.S. manufacturing companies cheap right after NAFTA passes that are labor intensive, that make good profits that have marginal profits. Close the factories in the U.S., move the factories to Mexico, take advantage of the cheap labor. Run your profits through the loop, sell the company stock for a profit. You'll get another one.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: That's what they do now. They're doing that right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: When I said that the debate, the Gore-Perot debate was the most watched in television history, I meant in cable television history. It didn't beat some Super Bowls. It was the most watched program in television history. Ross Perot is our guest. We're discussing the USA Freedom Corps, and if you want information, that's an informational service: www.usafreedomcorps.gov. You can contact that or go to your local city hall, your mayors and everything. We'll talk about this teaching aspect in a moment.

Let's get in one more call and then go back to this. Tampa, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question for Mr. Perot is do you feel, sir, that NAFTA program turned out the way you envisioned 10 years ago? And your thoughts perhaps on how environmentalists have said that NAFTA has actually lined our borders with factories and created pollution for both Mexico and the United States?

KING: We don't want to get into NAFTA tonight, but he still thinks you're right on NAFTA, right?

PEROT: I think if you study the trends, you'll have to, for example, factories are now being closed in Mexico and being moved to Asia, because labor is cheaper in Asia. These are almost new factories. So it will be interesting to watch the trend, but we are talking about our country's defenses. One of the reason -- the reason we won World War II, is that a tough crowd grew up during the depression, and when they went to war, they were hard as steel. And I think that's number 1. But number 2, we were the world's manufacturing super power, no matter how many planes were shot down, tanks were shot down -- equipment -- ships were sunk, we could rebuild them. If we move all that outside our borders, it would be very difficult for us, and long term in the future to be -- to protect our country.

KING: What's Teach for America?

PEROT: Well, the next thing I want to talk to young people about, people that are finishing colleges and I particularly want to talk to those of you who have been blessed or over-privileged, you went to a private school, you had wonderful parents, you were fortunate to be financially very secure, you've gone to one of our countries more elite schools or maybe not, maybe you didn't fall in that category. But still in all, you want to serve your country. And I want somebody that has tremendous desire to serve their country. Put that other stuff I said aside.

Now, you can spend two years of your life in the inner-city schools and in the poorest neighborhoods, bringing a life to children they would never have. If you study how a baby's brain develops, you understand that in the first few years, of the baby's life -- at first the baby is born like an unwired computer. The experiences the baby has in the first few years of their life determines the intellectual capability of the child. If you will go into those poor neighborhoods and teach, as a mission, now they'd be paying you for being a teacher, but not as much as you could make on Wall Street or somewhere else. You are going on a mission. You say, why should I go on a mission? I'll give you one good example, as my companies grew and matured, I've found again and again, some of the most successful people were Mormons. So I called them all together, and they were very modest, and finally I got it out of them.

They felt the fact that they had been on that mission for two years, and given two years of their lives to helping other people in need, turned them from boys and girls to men and women. There were other reasons too, but the Mormon mission, and giving two years of your life -- now this is part of President Bush's program, he's asking you to give two years of your life to helping others. You can go the Peace Corps, go all over the world as missionaries helping people, or you can take two years and teach children who don't get the love and attention and all of the things that you and I got growing --

KING: But who pays them? If all these people want to go teach in Cleveland, where is the budget?

PEROT: The money is there, believe me. The money is there. It's hard to get teachers to go to the schools, and it's very hard to get teachers at this level of talent to go to the schools. But there's an organization -- this is what I love about America. One young lady, very young, but inspired decided to create Teach for America. She made it work. This is the way you can find out all about how can you do go, really impact the lives of a huge number of disadvantaged children ho won't have a chance unless you help them get their brains wired.

KING: 1-800-832-1230. How does it work?

PEROT: Well, you sign up for two years, Teach for America puts you --

KING: Do they assign you to a school?

PEROT: I've worked now -- just -- I've worked with this young lady since she had an idea. I've seen it work. She's working now with the Freedom Corps. And that's the reason I mention this particular group tonight. You sign up, she helps you locate the schools which is acceptable to you and so on and so forth. I've seen people who have had nothing but an elegant country club life giving two years of their lives, coming out of college from some of the most elite schools in the country. They're now finishing their two years, they're now out doing other things. They're still in touch with those little children. It's a part of their family. In fact, they can't give those children up, because in effect they have become the mom or dad those children don't have. Isn't that what makes a society like our's great?

KING: You have a lot of faith in people, don't you?

PEROT: Oh, -- no. That's the -- go back to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) who studied our country. He said America is great, because her people are good. He said it wasn't through all these different things, he said it was the goodness of the people. And he said if the American people ever ceased being good, America will cease being great.

Well, I know the goodness of the American people. I see it every day when I'm walking around. Because they are saying, what can I do? What can I do? And what we're telling them tonight are some of the things they can do. And once the cities get organized, little towns get organized there will be a much bigger menu. And there will be something that really excites each person.

KING: What do you say, though, to people who kind of give up on this? Who see greed? What do you say to people who look at Enron -- and say now there's a company in your city --

PEROT: No, not my city, in my state. In my state.

KING: Here's a company, say, look at this, look at these guys.

PEROT: No excuses. Again, we know through history that people do things that are improper. And we have a legal system that's supposed to take care of that, and so that's in process now. Now, all we can do is learn from that experience. And inspire young people never to even think about doing things like that.

KING: Yes, but they see people make $100 million and other people lose their --

PEROT: And they're going to see them go to jail, too. So, as the old story, as they used to say, if you can't do the time, don't commit the crime. Let's assume you're the richest man in the world and you're in jail -- not a happy paradise, right?

The point being, we can't tolerate this sort of activity. It happened. I'm certain that action will be taken in the legal system. And our young people and all the people who are looking at it should say, justice was done.

KING: Now, you may get a financial law that changes the picture, the McCain concept could pass if it gets through the Senate. You were saying that ten years ago, for campaign finance reform.

PEROT: You mean the soft-money.

KING: The soft-money thing.

PEROT: Well, again, we do need campaign reform. It's very difficult to get, if this does occur, it's an incremental first step. That's better than nothing. But it's a long way from where the whole process needs to go.

I want the American people not to forget, our problem is that campaigns cost so much because they go on too long. All over the world, you can elect people in less than two years, right? Campaigns go on forever. Shorten it. That's the first thing. Then, don't let a congressman take any money outside his district, don't let a senator take any money outside his state.

If a senator or congressman are on any committee, they can't take any money before any body or any company that is controlled by that committee Just clean it up, let the money come right from the folks right from within their area, and keep the contributions relatively small and have no exceptions, and then if you don't have to campaign forever, if you're a Congressman, you never stop. A senator gets a break. Then he's out there two and a half years. That's why it costs so much.

We have good people in Congress trapped in a bad system. That's our problem. That all gets corrupted when you have people floating around, giving the soft money and playing with both sides and that sort of thing. And it's not good for our country.

KING: I have to break. Right back with more of Ross Perot on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. William Shatner tomorrow. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Ross Perot, a proud graduate of the United States Naval Academy. To Canyon Lake, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Ross. I stood in a long line to vote for you. I was wondering what happened to Perot Services, which I bought at $43 and now it's $16?

PEROT: The company is continuing to grow. I'm still the chairman. My son is the president and chief -- CEO. Things are going along well now. And part of this was the Internet bubble. One of the things I hate is stocks that get overpriced. And I actually called the New York Stock Exchange and said, this is way overpriced. I guarantee you the people on Wall Street aren't buying it, it's the folks on the street who are buying it. They're the ones that are going to get hit.

KING: Do you see a recovery around the corner here?

PEROT: In terms of the economy, I'm not smart enough to know, but I will tell you this, if the American people do get organized and we get our feet on the ground, and we do get in that positive frame of mind that we had in World War II, and we don't, as the war goes on year after year, turn into a bunch of flag burners like we did in Vietnam, then -- see, this is the beauty of getting everybody organized, we're part of the team, right?

KING: You think that spreads and you have more faith in your country and therefore, you...

PEROT: Absolutely and you have more faith in the economy. It will have a positive effect on our country.

KING: Gastonia, North Carolina, for Ross Perot, hello.

CALLER: I was wondering if Ross had any regrets.

KING: Good question.

PEROT: Satchell Page said, never look back, somebody might be gaining. You can spend all your time fretting about this or that or the other, but I think our real challenge is to look forward and say, what can I do?

KING: I think I cut him off. He said regrets that in running, you elected Clinton in a sense.

PEROT: Again, that's incorrect. That has been -- Goebels (ph) , Hitler's propaganda chief said, if you feed an untrue statement often enough, it becomes a fact. Go get all of the data from all of the polls and you will see that I drew equally from both candidates. I didn't elect Clinton. Clinton would have won anyhow if I hadn't been in the race, but that other side of the story has been repeated so many times, I guess it becomes a fact. You might as well say, we take all that and push it aside and keep marching forward.

KING: No regrets?

PEROT: No regrets.

KING: By the way, the USA Freedom Corps is www.usafreedomcorps.gov. And teach for America, which we showed you is 1-800-832-1230 if you want more information about volunteering when you get out of school to go into teaching. Ross knows all the camera works.

PEROT: Our next call is from San Jacinto, California.

CALLER: Yes, sir, Mr. Perot, I was going to ask you, do you envision a draft in this war on terrorism any time soon?

PEROT: There may be, if we have to. I would prefer to have the young tigers and tigresses volunteering at a level that made it unnecessary to have a draft. How would you like to be the other side if that were happening? That our young people out of patriotism are volunteering to join the military, we are not having to draft them?

We will have to do whatever it takes. I would prefer to see the best of the best volunteer to serve their country. I promise you that you will have advantages for the rest of your life that your peers who didn't serve your country will never have -- leadership. You will understand responsibility for the lives of others and things that others just don't relate to.

KING: Why do you love veterans? You hire veterans, right? Everyone knows that if you servee your country, you are going to get a job with Ross Perot.

PEROT: If you look at the success of my first company, EDS, it all goes back, and everybody that is there today will agree, to a training program we created. We hired young officers coming out of Vietnam, getting off the airplanes coming home when everybody else was spitting on them and treating them rudely, we never had any post- Vietnam syndrome in the company.

One day I called all these tigers together and I said, why don't we have some post-Vietnam syndrome? They just laughed and said, Perot, we got off a job when we landed. We've been surrounded by people who admire and respect what we did, we were insulated from all of that.

Put it in perspective: I had one young tiger who turned out to be a senior leader in the company. He had been there for a while, he was a Marine. Been in combat, severe compat, what have you.

He was walking down the hall one day, and I said, Don, is the stress getting to you? He looked at me and grinned, and winked, and he says, Perot, nobody's shot at me yet. So you know, this is a cake walk.

The young enlisted men, we get the best and brightest enlisted who have not gone to college. We put them on our computer centers, they can work any one of three shifts. We give them scholarships into state universities becausr they've been in combat for less pay than second lieutenants and they understand the need for a college degree, then they became some of our greatest technologists.

Now, these young men, the enlisted men, too, they were 35 years old. They had been -- hammered and turned iron into steel, to make a long story short.

KING: Ross Perot, we'll be back with our remaining moments. Here's Ross' last appearance on this program, when he endorsed a candidate. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PEROT: There are two horses in the race. We have two people in the race. One of them is going to win. The only thing that matters to me is a citizen who loves his country and wants his children and grandchildren to have a better life than you and I have had, and wants this country to be safe and secure during the 21st century. I think he is clearly the better of the two men.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

2150

KING: Get in one more quick call. Lake Havasu City, Arizona, for Ross Perot. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Larry, I've been watching you for 40 years.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: Hello?

KING: What's the question?

CALLER: My question to Mr. Perot, who is not a citizen of the United States, but he's a patriot of the United States, which is a little bit higher...

KING: What's the question?

CALLER: My question is, your new program, which sounds fantastic, is that going to be applied to all of the coalition countries that President Bush has collected in the fight against terrorism?

PEROT: Great question. I don't know the answer. It certainly should be, because if you get people involved at the grassroots level, then you have superglued the nation together. Everybody is a part of this conflict, and everybody is determined to see justice done.

KING: Every time you've been on this program, every time I've been with you, you wear -- there's no other way to put it, Ross, a boring tie. You wear just the straight, white -- it's either gray or maybe red but not a bright red. Why are you -- you're wearing a tie here with a flag on it? Looks like camouflage.

PEROT: No, this is the camouflage pattern that's on the uniform of our troops that are in the Middle East. I wore this tonight because I want to give it to you with the understanding that you will wear it on your show a lot during this war, and every time people see it they will remember that we have men and women who have their lives at risk for us, and they will never forget Abraham Lincoln's words, "any nation that does not honor its heroes" -- and these are our heroes -- "will not long endure."

We broke that pattern in Vietnam. We tend to break it. Now, this time around I want to make sure that we all stay together, we never forget the men and women who have their lives on the line, the sacrifices they make. And you can send that signal to millions of people.

KING: I will wear it, Ross.

PEROT: Great. I'll sell it to you at a fair price.

(LAUGHTER)

PEROT: I'll give it to you.

KING: Are you glad you endorsed George W. Bush?

PEROT: I think that if you look at what he's done and you look at his principles and you look at how he conduct himself around the world, he's a president we can all be very proud of. So I have absolutely no regrets. He's been put in some very difficult situations, and he has shown great leadership skills and very high principles. And our country was thirsty for that.

KING: Because I noticed in your endorsement statement, you did say you were worried about security.

PEROT: If what's that?

KING: If you're worried about security, you should vote for him.

PEROT: Yes.

KING: And that sure has panned out.

PEROT: Yes. One thing about a leader, who did he pick in his cabinet? And he has got, you know, a gold medal team, to use an Olympic phrase. And his cabinet has a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience, and as a team they're doing a great job for our country.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for America is 1-800-832-1230. If you want more information, it's USA Freedom Corps in Washington, D.C. under the Division of Homeland Security, and you can contact your local city hall. You said you wanted to say something.

PEROT: In closing, I'd like the American people as we go through this strife...

KING: You got about a minute and a half.

PEROT: To never forget that the last words of the "Star Spangled Banner" are a question. And that question is, oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave over the land of the free and the home of the brave? Now, as long as you and I undertake the responsibilities we have as the owners of this country, and if we do the kind of things we're talking about tonight, that flag will wave proudly for centuries. On the other hand, if we turn into couch potatoes and leave it up to everybody else, we could lose it. So let's make sure that a century from now or two centuries from now or 10 years from now, when that question is asked as "The Star-Spangled Banner" is sang, that we can very proudly say, yes, it still waves over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

KING: You know, I never thought of that. It is a question.

PEROT: Exactly. And a good question.

KING: Because Francis Scott Key didn't know if it did.

PEROT: The Scottish historian Alexander Tightler (ph) said that the history of democracy is 200 years. We're at the 200-year mark, and we need to make sure we just ignore that and keep that going, and break the pattern.

KING: Thank you, Ross.

PEROT: Thank you.

KING: Ross Perot of Dallas, Texas. As the caller said, you may agree or disagree, you cannot deny he is a true American patriot.

We'll be back to tell you about tomorrow night on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I'll welcome my old friend Bill Bennett to the camp -- to the group of CNN contributors. Nice to have him aboard. You're going to see a lot of him starting March 4.

Tomorrow night, William Shatner is our special guest. We'll talk about lots of things, including the death of his wife.

"NEWSNIGHT" is next in New York, and my man Aaron Brown is on deck.

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


 
 
 
 


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