CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interviews With Nancy Reagan, Mike Wallace, Richard Shelby, Bob Graham, Allen Mikaelian
Aired May 16, 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, Mike Wallace of CBS "60 Minutes" for the hour. His network broke the news that President Bush was warned of hijacking dangers before 9/11. We'll get his take on this and a lot of other things stirring up.
Also weighing in on whether the United States had information that might have prevented the September tragedy, the chairman and vice chairman of the Select Intelligence Committee, Senators Bob Graham and Richard Shelby.
But first, Nancy Reagan accepted the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of her husband and herself earlier today. We'll have a special chat with her about this great honor. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Joining us by phone from Washington, the former first lady, Nancy Reagan. First time back in Washington in some time. And joining us in our bureau in New York is Mike Wallace, the co-editor of CBS "60 Minutes," a long time friend of Nancy Reagan. I think he knew Nancy before Ronnie knew Nancy. And he's written the commentary for a new book called "Medal of Honor," about the nation's highest award. There you see the book. Its author and Mike will be joining us as well together later in the program. Mike will be with us throughout.
Nancy, what was that like today for you and -- accepting for you and your husband, to go through that scene?
NANCY REAGAN: It was so exciting. Really so exciting. It's hard to describe. You know, I haven't been back here in so long. And first of all, to come back and see all my friends, and then have this, the medal. And last night was wonderful.
KING: What happened last night?
REAGAN: Last night, there was a library dinner, and there were over 700 people, and the speakers there were -- everybody had me in tears, Mike -- Larry.
KING: Mike, what did you think? You were watching it today.
MIKE WALLACE, 60 MINUTES: I didn't see last night. I wanted to be there and couldn't, but I was watching today, and as -- well, of course the president had wonderful things to say, Speaker Hastert, and Senator Byrd and Senator Lott. But best of all came when she got the award, when Nancy got the award, she got a standing ovation that went on and on and on and on. She finally had to say, "thank you, thank you."
And then everybody wondered what -- was she going to deliver a lecture or something of the sort? And she was a little bit teary and a little bit overcome -- and you looked great, Nancy.
REAGAN: Thank you. Thank you.
KING: Nancy, I guess you've never been as well accepted in Washington as you are since you've been former first lady.
REAGAN: I had to leave to be -- no, it really was great, just great. Both times.
KING: When you spoke, you recalled the time you and your husband came to the Rotunda after the first inaugural and met the United States hostages that had come back from Iran.
KING: What was it like, comparing the two events?
REAGAN: Oh, well. How can you compare them? I mean, gosh. With the first inaugural, it was all the excitement of the inauguration and so on. But then, to hear that the men had been let go and were out of Iranian airspace, I mean, that just was topping on the cake.
KING: The president also lauded you for your love and devotion to your husband, referring to your care for his Alzheimer's affliction. By the way, how is he?
REAGAN: He's fine, thank you, Larry.
KING: Mike, what do you make of all this, the adulation for Nancy, who, we both admit in her early days in Washington, was not this well received.
WALLACE: Well, it was all about that White House china. No, it was quite apparent to me that my old friend was going to do a wonderful, wonderful job as first lady, and has -- and wait until the history books, the real history books are written about her contribution to the Reagan administration. She is too modest and too self-effacing to tell the whole story, but she will, I hope, some day.
KING: You're not kidding, because every friend that asks me, I tell her what a great lady she is.
Nancy, I don't want to keep you, I know you're heading back to L.A. tomorrow. What's the medal like?
REAGAN: It's beautiful. It's gold, naturally, and it has a profile of Ronnie and me on it. It's beautiful. You'll have to come out and see it, Larry. KING: I sure will. Have a safe trip home, Nancy. And what else can we say but congratulations.
REAGAN: Thank you. And thank you, Mike.
WALLACE: Thank you, Nancy.
REAGAN: I'll see you soon, I hope.
WALLACE: Take good care.
REAGAN: I will. You, too.
KING: She is, Mike. Do you think it will ever be written, the real story of Nancy Reagan? Because there are so many things you know and a few things I've learned that the public has never learned about her involvement.
WALLACE: That's correct. I really believe that she was a real worker for the rapprochement between the Soviet Union, Russia, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan. But she'll never tell the story, I imagine, but historians will.
KING: Possibly, do you think, no treaty without her?
WALLACE: Oh, I don't know. I can't...
WALLACE: You know who knows a lot of the story and is going to be writing, I think, a lot of the story is Mike Deaver.
KING: Yeah, close friend, and he would know.
WALLACE: He was there.
KING: Before we move to the subject with Senators Graham and Shelby, what's your next bit -- what are you cutting back, what's going on? What do I hear? You are quitting?
WALLACE: I'm not quitting. I'm going to cut back. Instead of doing 20 or 25 pieces a year on "60" and "60 Minutes II," I'll do probably just half that number.
You fly, Larry, right?
KING: Yeah, I do.
WALLACE: You fly a lot.
KING: A lot.
WALLACE: It's a pain -- I don't know, maybe you are chartered by CNN, but we are not. We belong to a poor network.
KING: Oh, yeah. WALLACE: And as a result of which, seriously, you know, by the time you wheel your luggage and you carry your garment bag and you have your -- and you walk a mile and a half to the gate, and then you take off all your clothes and then you got to put your shoes back on -- it's just not worth it.
We'll take a break and come back. Mile Wallace will be joined by Senators Graham and Shelby, and talk about the events of the day, and then Mike will be with us alone. And then with the author of that extraordinary book about the Medal of Honor. Tomorrow night, an evening with Barry Manilow. Next week, Vice President Cheney. We'll be right back.
KING: Mike Wallace will be with us for the hour, remains with us. Joining us now in Washington, Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama, vice chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. CBS broke this story, everyone's run it all day. Mike can chime in with questions as well. We'll start with Senator Graham with the now familiar what did they know and when did they know it?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Larry, I frankly think this is probably an overblown story. The president gets a briefing every day on the major issues that he's likely to face. I have not seen the specific document from which he was briefed on August the 7th, but we heard a summary of it, and if that summary is correct, it had some important information, but not exceptional information in terms of what I'm certain that the White House already knew, about the threat of Osama bin Laden.
KING: Is this something, Senator Shelby, that in retrospect something might have been done based on what we know later?
SHELBY: Something could have been done, but I agree with Senator Graham, I don't believe what the White House was briefed on was anything new. I don't believe it was anything that we had not briefed -- been briefed before on, but it was sort of a recapitulation of some events, general, not specific, as to anything, but you mentioned could there have been some other things? Absolutely, but I believe that had to do with the memorandum, FBI memorandum from Phoenix, and also what the FBI did or didn't do on the Minnesota case.
KING: All right. Mike, do you see this -- first, do you agree that this may be overblown or do you think this is the kind of story that if Clinton were in office the conservatives would be railing against him, with Bush in office, the Democrats are railing against him?
WALLACE: Of course it's political. But what I don't understand is if he was briefed back in August before September, why didn't we know about it? It seems to me that it was sufficiently interesting, Osama bin Laden is named. We didn't -- obviously nobody expected, and as Condolezza Rice said today, nobody expected that planes were suddenly going to be turned into missiles, but isn't that the job of the intelligence community to try to play out that sort of scenario?
KING: Senator Graham?
GRAHAM: Yes, I think, Mike, you put your finger on it. It is the job of the intelligence community to have creativity and imagination so they can look at a series of events and try to see a pattern from those events. But it is the intelligence community's responsibility, in my judgment, not the president of the United States. He's not expected to be a trained analyst and case officer. If there was someone who should have been taking the information from that August briefing paper, which is one of the most closely-held documents in Washington, as I say, I know I haven't seen it, I don't think Senator Shelby has seen it...
WALLACE: How come?
GRAHAM: Because it is only for the president's eyes and absolutely those who are absolutely the closest to the president. But if there were to have been a reaction to it and recommendations as to what to do, those would normally have come from the intelligence community itself.
KING: All right. Senator Shelby, should at least based on that, Americans have been told, be careful on airplanes?
SHELBY: Well, I'm not sure, Larry we have been briefed on -- well, really for the past eight years that I've been on the Intelligence Committee, and I chaired it for four and a half years, and I can tell you some of the same things that were told to the president we've been reassured on, on August the 7th were things we already knew and they were not specific in nature.
Now, what the president would do with this I would certainly think he could not put all of America on alert based on that finding alone, and if there was a lot to it, the president would have acted on it. Any president would have acted on it. The CIA director would have just about insisted that he act on it. That didn't happen.
KING: Mike, what do you feel we should have known? What should we have been told?
WALLACE: You know, it's easy to second-guess. What I don't understand, and apparently this is so, the FBI and the CIA don't talk to each other enough. Members of the intelligence community don't talk to each other enough. It's quite apparent that we are awash in all kinds of intelligence information, all kinds of intercepts -- I noticed on the news tonight on the Rather news that there is the ability now in our own intelligence community to bug virtually every telephone call in the world. And it's difficult, obviously to some degree to be able to translate all that stuff, first of all, because it's frequently in foreign languages.
The American people have the right to say, hey, look, fellas, we taxpayers spend at least $30 billion a year. We didn't have a clue? Particularly after the embassies buildings went down over in Africa.
KING: Is that a good point, Senator Graham?
GRAHAM: That is a good point, and Mike is right that we don't have as close a cooperation among the intelligence and law enforcement agencies as we should have. Senator Shelby and I and members of the Senate and the House Intelligence Committee are going to be launching a series of hearings on what happened before on and after September the 11th. We're going to do this in a strictly bipartisan it, bi- cameral way in order to have a report that reflects what Americans want to know about what happened without any partisanship.
And I believe that we're going to find that one of the problems that led to September the 11th was that there was information coming in, but it wasn't being properly shared so that no one or group of human beings had all the information which could have resulted in putting the dots together and arriving at a conclusion.
KING: And Senator Shelby, is that the responsibility of the Intelligence Committee?
SHELBY: That is, I think it's the responsibility of the intelligence community working together, all 13 agencies or more.
KING: But you oversee them.
SHELBY: We do the oversight, and we have legislation jurisdiction over the committees, but it is not our responsibility to furnish the intelligence to the policymakers. That is the responsibility and obligation of the community.
But Mike Wallace hit it right on the head. There's a lot of information floating around. There was a lot of information floating around in the various intelligence agencies. The FBI, NSA, and I believe CIA that this inquiry that Senator Graham was talking about that we're involved in is going to show if this information had been marshaled, put together, I think we would have had an earlier response, perhaps maybe even have thwarted the attacks of September the 11th. But that's premature to come to that conclusion now, but I believe we're just scratching the surface in our investigation and a lot more will come out.
KING: And we're going to be hearing a lot more about it. Thank you Senators Graham and Shelby for joining us. We'll be calling on you again. Mike Wallace will remain with us. As we go to break here a couple of hours ago, a statement made on this matter in New York by Vice President Cheney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Basically, what I want to say to my Democratic friends in the Congress is they need to be very cautious not to seek political advantage by making incendiary suggestions, as were made by some today, that the White House had advance information that would have prevented the tragic attacks of 9/11. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Back with one of the great figures in broadcasting history, Mike Wallace. It's an honor to call him a friend, an honor always to be in his presence. What do you make of agencies? Why doesn't the CIA talk to the FBI? Why don't -- why is that?
WALLACE: I suppose it is typical bureaucracy. Turf jealousy. It doesn't make any damn sense at all, Larry. And you know something, I admire the fact that the two senators were talking in a bipartisan way, and telling us, in effect, to not go off half-cocked about this thing. But the fact remains that if it made the front page -- the lead article in the "New York Times" -- David Martin did such a job in breaking the story.
This is -- one would think that the White House -- and that even at the end with Dick Cheney sort of saying well it's really not all that, and a lot of it is political and so forth.
The fact of the matter is I think that we were fat, happy, and to a certain degree arrogant. There were probably not enough human intelligence. There was not enough human intelligence on the ground. We were depending, perhaps excessively on what is known on of signal intelligence.
I'll bet you, I'll bet you that the White House is going to have to come up with a fuller explanation of just how that happened.
KING: And why they didn't tell it sooner.
KING: And the "New York Post" had the wild headline about Bush knowing. The tabloids will go crazy with this.
WALLACE: That's correct.
KING: What about CBS' airing a portion of the video of the murder of Daniel Pearl?
WALLACE: I saw...
KING: I know you're not here to defend the network, but what did you think?
WALLACE: As far as I was concerned, it was the right thing to do. Look, it's fielder's choice, it's an editor's call. I know, I know that in something of that nature they didn't show the execution, there was no gratuitous sensationalistic effort at all.
What they -- what they showed on CBS news, and I would have done the same thing, I feel certain, what they said was that the man -- and they showed him saying, yes, I'm a Jew, my mother is a Jew. Well, that's what the whole hassle was about. As I say, it's fielder's choice. Editors on both sides -- editors at NBC and ABC decided not to go with it. Did CNN go with it?
KING: I don't believe so. No, we did not, I am told.
What do you make of the Carter trip to Cuba?
WALLACE: I like the Carter trip to Cuba. I admire the man. Look, they are how many miles from us?
WALLACE: Correct. And you can talk about the Mariel boat lift and how -- I abhor the fact that there's not a free press in Cuba, I think that of Fidel Castro has been in office much, much, much too long without a really free election.
There's no free press down there and so forth, but eventually, sooner than later, we're going to have to do business -- we should do business with Cuba, in my estimation.
Now a lot of politics is involved in that. The president's brother is running for reelection and governor -- for governor in Florida. Well, you know perfectly well they're going to make political capital out of this if they can in Florida because of the huge anti-Castro Cuban community in Florida.
KING: To show how good a reporter Mike Wallace is, both the Israelis and the Palestinians over the years have criticized him for favoring one side over the other.
WALLACE: I became a self-hating Jew to the Israelis for a while.
KING: Self-hating Jew, yes. I know you have known Arafat for 25 years. What do you make of him and it?
WALLACE: You know something, Larry, I came to -- I came to admire Arafat beginning back in 1977 in Egypt and then in Lebanon on a couple of occasions, and then went to Tunis with him and then even to Gaza.
As far as -- and then finally Ramallah, I guess, a month or six weeks ago. He has made mistakes along the way as all of us do. One of his biggest mistakes far as I was concerned was after the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein where did Yasser Arafat show up? In Baghdad. To the side of Saddam Hussein.
He has not done enough. Saddam -- boy, am I getting my Arafats and my Saddams mixed up because of a certain amount of feedback here. He has not done enough, and we're going to apparently see a reform now in Cuba. Not done enough in the schools, not done enough to bring his own people along to say, look, if we want to live side by side, then you've got to stop teaching in your schools in, your textbooks.
KING: What do you make of this wave of anti-semitism occurring in Europe and other places around the world?
WALLACE: Well, it's worrisome. It is worrisome.
KING: Is it shocking?
WALLACE: And Arafat, I'm afraid, certainly to some degree the Arab world, generally speaking, but Arafat had a chance to lead his people. After 30, 35 years of doing what he has done, and the unemployment rate in Gaza is still 40 percent, 50 percent, West Bank 35 percent, 40 percent, those awful refugee camps with no way out for so many of those young Palestinians.
You can understand what is going on with them. You know something, we talk about terrorism. Do you know who I think the -- one of the worst of the terrorists was? The young Jewish zealot who shot and killed Yitzhak Rabin.
Rabin was a tough guy, and he had -- do you remember how reluctantly he shook hands on the White House lawn with Yasser Arafat, but he shook hands, and they were working things out after -- after Oslo.
KING: That changed the course of the Middle East, didn't it? The killing of Rabin.
WALLACE: The killing of Rabin, absolutely right. He was killed by a fellow Jew. By a fellow Israeli.
KING: Do you see any light at the end of that tunnel?
WALLACE: I'm -- yes, I do. I -- at bottom -- it's a guess, Larry. Do you?
KING: You are 84, I am 68. You think you'll see something in your lifetime?
WALLACE: You're 68? Really that old?
WALLACE: In my lifetime, no. But who knows, that may be six months.
KING: Is it difficult, by the way, to be Jewish and be objective in a situation like this, where we're raised all our lives to pray for a state of Israel, want a state of Israel?
WALLACE: Right, and believe in a state of Israel.
WALLACE: Is it difficult to do what?
KING: Be objective?
WALLACE: It shouldn't be if you're a professional reporter. No, no, it is not difficult. It's not always comfortable.
I was fortunate enough as a young, much younger reporter back in the '50s, I met a man by the name of Faya Saig (ph) who was a Palestinian, and he was really a Palestinian to his roots, and he helped to let the scales fall from my eyes about the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis, between Arabs and Jews.
And you take on quite a chore when you go against your own religion, go against what you learn, what I learned from my folks growing up, but if you are a professional reporter, you do it.
KING: We'll take a break and come back with more of Mike Wallace, take some phone calls, then we'll meet the author of -- Allen Mikaelian, will be here, the author of "Medal of Honor: Profiles of America's Military Heroes from the Civil War to the Present."
Barry Manilow -- an evening with Barry tomorrow -- lots of great music. Among the guests next week, Bill Maher on his first appearance as a guest on a program to talk about being dropped by ABC. We'll be right back with Mike Wallace. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening, this is "60 Minutes." It's a kind of a magazine for television, which means it has the flexibility and diversity of a magazine, adapted to broadcast journalism. And our first cover story is about cops, by the top cop.
WALLACE: Chances are that you were watching television when they were balloting at the Republican convention. So was the man who won that nomination. And a "60 Minutes" cameraman was there, the only television cameraman in the room.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Mike Wallace. In a little while we will meet Allen Mikaelian, the author of the book "Medal of Honor."
Let's take a call from Ikampa (ph).
CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question for Mike Wallace is do you see common threads in the way news and government agencies actually gather and share information, and with stories such as what did the President know before 9/11 do you see them actually getting closer to actually prevent something like this from happening again?
WALLACE: You mean if the news media and the government were to get closer together?
CALLER: Yes, sir.
WALLACE: No. We should stay as far -- we need -- we need leaks, we need understanding, we need background, but our job is to report, and if the news media and the government get too close together, it's bad for both.
KING: Is the government's job to hide?
WALLACE: Certain military secrets, yes. I could understand the hiding of certain military secrets. But certainly there was nothing that needed to be hidden, as far as I was concerned, about that business back in August that CBS News David Martin reported on last night.
KING: Nashville, Tennessee for Mike Wallace, hello.
CALLER: Mr. Wallace, can you see any difference in the lines of communication open between the administration and the media since September 11? Is there less information or more getting to you all?
WALLACE: This is a very tightly controlled information policy by the Bush people. I was astonished, because -- astonished because when I first met Ari Fleischer, a man that I hadn't known before, and I went down to Washington, obviously, at the beginning and to talk also to Karen Hughes, who has now departed for home, they seemed to be very, very open.
The fact of the matter is they have been very, very careful. Karen Hughes ran a tight ship. Ari Fleischer, the press secretary, runs a very tight ship. It is not an easy -- well, no administration is easy to get information out of, but this is tougher than most.
KING: And Carl Rove do you include in that group as well?
WALLACE: Indeed I do.
KING: Now what is it that you want that they don't give you? Can you explain that to the public, what it is the administration does that the media doesn't like?
WALLACE: Well, the media by and large, I think, has been very, very fair to George W. Bush.
It is -- I think the media is worried about the fact that John Ashcroft operates in the manner that he does. When we wanted to tell a story recently and -- about something that the attorney general did -- he wouldn't talk to us about it. Wouldn't talk to us.
He decided instead to go on David Letterman's broadcast and talk to David Letterman about it. When we asked to talk to John Ashcroft, forget it. It's that kind -- not that there's anything wrong with going on David Letterman, he is a friend and a wonderful satirist, comic, call him what you will.
They know what is right, that's the feeling I get. There's a certain arrogance, we know what is right, we can lead this country, and we're going to lead this country, and we are going to do what is necessary, and if you don't like it and you feel that you're entitled to more information from us, well, sorry, that's not the way that we feel that we should treat the media. KING: Mike, permit me a personal question. You did an extraordinary hour with us once that is still being shown on college campuses about depression, you and Art Buchwald and others, and it was emotional, it was extraordinarily information driven. You are 84 years old now. Have you beaten depression? Is depression completely over for you?
WALLACE: I think it's over for me, but only for the reason that I've stayed on my medication. I was told by my psychiatrist, whom I see every six months or so for a lube job, I was told to stay on the medication.
At your age just stay on that medication for as long as you live. I must say, it has done an extraordinary job. I've never felt better emotionally -- can't say physically, completely, but in the sense of depression I do not worry about depression anymore.
KING: You don't fear waking up in the morning and it's back?
WALLACE: Nope. Nope.
KING: When you look back at it, is it somewhat amazing to you that you could be that low?
WALLACE: I was suicidal, and you look back and you think -- I remember during the trial, during the Westmoreland trial I -- the judge (UNINTELLIGIBLE) we were spending months in a cold and drafty federal courtroom, and the judge decided to give us a two-week Christmas recess, and so my wife Mary and I went down to St. Martin and we had a little cottage on the beach, and I looked out at that water, and I wanted to walk into the water and keep on walking.
And you look back at that, and you say you were -- you were really crazy. You were absolutely...
KING: Do you think now through efforts by yourself and many others, the public has a much better understanding of this?
WALLACE: The public has a much, much better understanding, or is getting, little by little, a much better understanding.
It seems to me that strangely enough there are a lot of general practitioners who do not sufficiently understand depression. I know that this was true with my own doctor. I have been with him for 25, 30 years.
He is a good friend of mine. He was then, and he is a good friend of mine today. He said to me, oh, come on, Mike, you're strong, don't you worry about it. And he also said I don't think that you want to talk about it publicly. You don't want to let people know publicly.
Well -- and then it was on a late night broadcast with Bob Costas. You remember when he did "Later?"
KING: "Later." Yes. WALLACE: And suddenly in the middle of that broadcast -- we were talking about "60 Minutes" and I suddenly realized people who are watching at 1:00 a.m. in the morning can't get to sleep. And I thought those are my people.
Those are the people, like me. I couldn't get to sleep. I couldn't. I'd take sleeping pills, whatever, didn't do any good. And so I began to talk about it then. And it never...
KING: And of you have helped millions. Let me get a break, and we'll come back. Mike Wallace, the co-editor of CBS' "60 Minutes." When we come back, we'll be joined by the author Allen Mikaelian, the author of "Medal of Honor."
As we go to a break, a clip from Sunday night. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 MINUTES")
WALLACE: You knew Al Capone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I happened to know him, yeah.
WALLACE: What kind of a man?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Al Capone was a very jolly guy.
WALLACE: Al Capone was a jolly guy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jolly guy.
WALLACE: What do you find so funny, Bill?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My reaction is to your reaction, surprise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like him.
WALLACE: Why did you like him?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For his approach, for his -- the way he handled himself, the way -- the external appearance. I never know Capone from inside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Mike Wallace remains, we're joined by Allen Mikaelian. He's the author of "Medal of Honor," profiles of America's military heroes from the Civil War to the present. Mike Wallace is involved with this how? Did you write the introduction, Mike?
WALLACE: I wrote an introduction and the afterword. The two of us were going to do the thing together, and it became apparent that I wasn't going to be able to write this book. I wouldn't have enough time to do it, and so he's been working on it for the last year, and it never occurred to me that he would be able to make some of these real American heroes live in the way that he has. It's been stunning to read the book.
KING: Allen, how did "Medal of Honor" come about?
ALLEN MIKAELIAN, AUTHOR, "MEDAL OF HONOR": Medal of Honor came about 1863, the Navy decided that it had to come up with some way to improve efficiency, as it said. It was losing people due to low morale and bad conditions. The Army got on board shortly after that, and the medal was born.
At the time, it was -- it didn't have the same strict criteria that it has right now. It was given away for soldier-like qualities, almost like a good conduct medal. It wasn't until much later in the -- in this last century, in the 20th century, that it sort of took on this aura that it has right now.
KING: Is it still called the Congressional Medal of Honor?
MIKAELIAN: In general, it's referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor. During my research, I came across to several references to others medal of honors given away to, for example, local fire departments and things like that. So just to differentiate it from those other medals, this one is referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor.
KING: How many have been awarded since Lincoln?
MIKAELIAN: Since Lincoln? Over 3,000 have been awarded since Lincoln. But in this century, just over 1,300.
And the other thing about what happened to the medal during and after World War II is that more people received it -- more people did not survive the action for which they received the medal than did survive the action.
KING: So it was posthumously given.
MIKAELIAN: Yes. It was more often posthumously given than given to somebody who survived.
KING: In brief, what, Allen, did someone have to do in modern times to win that?
MIKAELIAN: They had to distinguish themselves above and beyond the call of duty. And interestingly, that means that they had to do something they were not just following orders, that they had to do something that was really of their own initiative, of their own making.
WALLACE: That's something, Larry, that I had no understanding. I thought, you know, if you were brave and you followed orders, makes sense. You cannot get a medal of honor, is my understanding, if you you're just following orders, no matter how brave. You do it on your own. Because you're faced with a situation and you make up your mind and you make up your heart and you do it for yourself, in a fact, for what you believed should be done. It's amazing story.
KING: Allen reports in this book that the famous General Patton said that he would rather -- he would give his immortal soul to win that medal. Truman and Johnson told recipients they would rather have earned the medal than have been president. Why, Allen? What is so special special about -- even when you say the term Congressional Medal of Honor, it's like chills.
MIKAELIAN: Well, if you just think about it, the fact that we put 16 million people into uniform during the Second World War and only around 460 Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded during that war. It really is for action that is -- that is so conspicuous that you just can't deny that this was bravery at its highest.
KING: Like Audie Murphy, do you write about him raiding a machine gun nest, I believe?
MIKAELIAN: No, yeah, I'm familiar with the Audie Murphy story -- he's not in this book. I really wanted to look for people who were a bit lesser known than some of the stories that have been told many times before.
KING: Did you find living -- did you interview people who have won it?
MIKAELIAN: Yes, I did. Four living recipients are profiled in this book. And they are amazing people to talk to. They're not full of bluster, they're not full of -- they don't want to sit down and just fill your ear with their war stories, they really want to talk about mostly about the people who they were serving with, and especially the people they were serving with who didn't make it back.
WALLACE: And also...
KING: Yeah, Mike, I'm sorry.
WALLACE: Also what he does is he goes back into their earlier lives, before they got involved with the military, and shows the kind of individuals they were going into the services, and then, after they've gotten the medal, he follows them into their lives post-medal. And it's some of it is just simply stunning.
KING: The book is "Medal of Honor: Profiles of America's Military Heroes from the Civil War to the Present." We'll take a break and be back with more of Mike Wallace and Allen Mikaelian. And Mike wrote the forward to this book, and it's now available. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: These men are unloading sandbags for the new bunker, for HB21 (ph), the bunker where three men died last night. Why was there no overhead cover on this bunker to protect against an incoming mortar? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apathy, perhaps, ours or theirs, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I say no one really cared.
WALLACE: This new bunker will have a top on it.
Mike Wallace, CBS News, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: As we return, by the way, only one woman has ever won the Congressional Medal of Honor, that was Dr. Mary Edwards Walker in 1865. Boy, you would have thought, Allen, there would have been some more women acting above and beyond the call of duty.
MIKAELIAN: Well, the Medal of Honor is given to people who perform combat roles, and of course women have been excluded from combat for such a long time. But back then, since it was given out oftentimes just for exhibiting soldier-like qualities, Mary Walker was given the award.
Now, she was called by a Confederate colonel "a thing that only the debased Yankee nation could produce." And she was in her civilian life arrested several times, once in New York and in New Orleans and in St. Louis. And she was called that and she was arrested for the simple fact that she wore pants. Not pants like we would know, but in that picture you just showed that was a big loose-fitting skirt, and underneath were pants. And that was enough to cause that kind of furor.
But she received the medal because she stayed with the Union Army even though she had been rejected for a commission because she was a woman, rejected again, and then rejected by President Lincoln himself, who apologized for rejecting her, but she stayed with the Army. She went behind enemy lines to treat civilians who were caught up in this madness, and also probably, some people say, did some spying while she was there.
She was a POW for four months, and went on to become a very prominent suffragist.
KING: Eddie Richenbacher (ph) won one, so did Sergeant Alvin York (ph), Jimmy Doolittle, Audie Murphy, as we mentioned. Former Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska got one in 1970 and said, "I accept it on behalf of people who didn't get it." Extraordinary. The common thread running through them all, Allen, is a tendency to be humble, right?
MIKAELIAN: A tendency to be humble, a tendency to talk about the people, again, who didn't make it, and also to talk about how they wish they could have done more, about how they wish they could have gotten there sooner, wish they could have saved another life. And these are people who did incredible things, things that are just almost beyond comprehension, and they still wished they could have done more. Even though they oftentimes come back to very humble lives. One of my favorite stories in the book is about a man who after distinguishing himself in Korea came back to his small town in New Mexico and lived his life as a gas station mechanic. Was very, very happy doing that.
KING: A Medal of Honor winner fixing cars.
MIKAELIAN: Yes, fixing cars. Putting his kids through college.
KING: Mike, we have an old picture of you we want to show. Apparently, the producers are interested -- where was this? Look at Mike.
WALLACE: Lieutenant junior grade.
KING: You look like Chris.
WALLACE: I do, it's true.
KING: Where was this?
WALLACE: You got me. I was -- I was -- I served in Hawaii and in Australia and in the Philippines at Suvic Bay (ph), and I don't know where the picture was taken.
KING: Did you ever dream of winning this medal, Michael?
WALLACE: I never heard a shot fired in anger. I am -- I'm not ashamed to say it, but looking back -- and Andy Rooney, who worked with -- worked with Walter Cronkite and so forth, Rooney occasionally reminds me that I never heard -- that while he was...
KING: In war.
WALLACE: He really covered the war. He really covered the war and knew some of these Medal of Honors personally. He said, "what were you doing? You were sending messages back and forth."
KING: I want to tell you both, I'm anxious to read this book. I thank you very much, Allen, I wish you best of luck, I know how hard you worked on it.
MIKAELIAN: Thank you.
KING: The book is "Medal of Honor: Profiles of America's Military Heroes from the Civil War to the Present." We thank its author Allen Mikaelian, and the man who wrote its introduction, our dear friend, one of the great journalists, Mike Wallace.
WALLACE: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Thank you, guys.
MIKAELIAN: Thank you.
KING: When we come back, we'll tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
KING: When was the last time you drove?
GEORGE H.W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I drive when I -- I have my own truck, for example, in Maine.
KING: Oh, so you do drive.
BUSH: Yeah. I got a car in Washington, but I don't drive it very much. I drive around the circle in the Oval Office, oval in front of the White House. You can drive when I go hunting, something like that. I go hunting every year here in Texas, and I drive a truck.
KING: Still a Texas driver's license.
BUSH: Still, do you want to see it?
Let me see -- I got to be sure...
KING: Make sure it's not expired.
BUSH: No, no, it's not expired.
KING: And I like that smile.
BUSH: Does it say president?
KING: Wait a minute. Yes, President George W. Bush, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Department of Public Safety, Texas. It's a class C driver's license.
BUSH: Hey, wait a minute.
KING: Six-foot-one tall, sex is male, eyes are brown, birth date 6/12/24, and this expires 6/12/93.
BUSH: I'm legal. See? Where's your car? Let's go for a drive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: His new album just went platinum. We have a very special hour tomorrow night with Barry Manilow -- not only an interview, but Barry sings a number of songs. Manilow, tomorrow night. On Saturday night, we'll look at the whole cast of "CSI," that runaway hit on CBS, and among the guests next week will be Lynn Cheney, Marlo Thomas, Dick Cheney, and, as we said, Bill Maher will join us for his first interview since ABC dropped "Politically Incorrect."
Right now, we head to Atlanta. Aaron Brown is off this week, and "NEWSNIGHT" will be hosted tonight by my man, Bill Hemmer. And in accordance with this august presentation, we will turn it over to William.
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Shelby, Bob Graham, Allen Mikaelian>