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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Peter Jennings

Aired September 13, 2002 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: He's back, Peter Jennings of ABC's "World News Tonight" on today's top story: a terror scare shut down a Florida interstate.
How about President Bush's U.N. speech on Iraq? No network anchor has the Middle East experience of Peter Jennings.

And he just won a pair of Emmys.

And he's here for the hour, and we'll take your calls. And a book is out too.

Next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Peter Jennings is the co-author of "In Search of America," written with Todd Brewster. It's a six-part series that was reported by Peter Jennings on -- for broadcast on ABC September 3 through the 7th. Earlier this week we -- there you see the cover of the book. We congratulate him on two Emmys for coverage of 9/11.

Before we talk about "In Search of America," the book and the TV series that accompany it. You always have a series -- you write a book and a series accompanies it.

PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS: The book in both cases has inspired the series, which has been exciting.

KING: Book first, series second.

JENNINGS: Book first, and Todd spends all his time on the book, and I spend as much time on the book as I can. He's the architect of it in many ways. And I work on the television side. He works on the television side too. And they all go together, just like I actually think, "In Search of America" and 9/11 go together too, believe it or not.

KING: We'll get to that.

Did you break the story tonight of this guy...

JENNINGS: Yes, we did.

KING: ... caught the 20th hijacker?

JENNINGS: Yes, it's a very interesting piece. We've got a wonderful investigative unit, which I think you know. And we got a tip just before the broadcast and managed to source it up a couple times and, you know, led the broadcast with it.

It's a very good get for the United States. We don't know precisely where he is this evening. We know he's in custody. We know Americans have access to him. We think he's in Pakistan, but we're not, you know, 1,000 percent sure at this point.

You know, this was the guy who would have been the hijacker had he not -- he applied four times to come the United States. He got turned down every time. And ironically, all those times he got turned down, nobody put him on his trail.

And so he ended up being very important to the operation in logistics terms on the outside. These are all the accusations; I shouldn't take this quite so literally. And he is charged with being the man who funneled a fair amount of money into the country...

KING: He's certainly the biggest get since...

JENNINGS: Well, he's a big get in a couple of things. I have no way of judging what terms of get he is in terms of the actual crime itself, but if -- to take him out of circulation, I think, at the moment, is regarded by the government as a huge get. And may, they believe -- may, they believe -- be very, very debilitating for the senior operations of al Qaeda.

KING: This just in...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Yes. Law enforcement authorities in Buffalo, New York are in the process of rounding up members of a terrorist cell according to sources familiar with the investigation. The sources have told CNN that five individuals, including at least some al Qaeda trained men are either now in custody or still being sought. Justice Department officials have refused comment. All of the men sought are believed to be United States citizens of Yemen descent.

JENNINGS: Yes, actually all but one, I think. We've been talking about this earlier this evening, too. And we're not truly sure yet of the significance of this, but we've had people looking at the Buffalo connection for quite some time.

They do all appear to be Americans, the ones they're interested in. One, I think, is out of the country at the moment. And that's a story actually developing even later than the break in Pakistan today.

KING: And what did you make of that terrorist story today? The Florida story.

JENNINGS: It's a terrible thing for a journalist to say, but it was fascinating in a way because it brings together so many of the ingredients that we're all living with in the post-9/11 period.

The country's nervous. Something happened in a restaurant. I don't know whether it had to do with what these guys looked like or whether there was an exchange with the woman that was uncomfortable for her. She reported it to the police right away. These guys turn out, as far as law enforcement is concerned tonight, to be innocent, and now have been let go and are on their way.

But one was Jordanian, one was of Pakistani descent. They're all -- again, two out of three are Americans. One is here on a legal visa. But one is Pakistani descent, one is Jordanian descent, one is Iranian descent.

I mean, it has all the makings of this terrible dilemma we have in the country about racial profiling and how people are suspicious and nervous. And it may well be that these guys -- may well be, we've not heard from them yet -- may well be that they said something that they shouldn't.

The woman said that, you know, they said, you know, you think 9/11 was bad, what about 9/13?

And at the end of the day, without hearing their story, their families were very angry. Without hearing their story, the police authorities in Florida said the woman did the right thing.

KING: Are we right in being nervous and covering it, or wrong in overdoing it, or is it a little bit of both?

JENNINGS: I don't think you can make any rules. I mean, I think the answer is, you're reminded today of the advent of cable because it's on the cable networks all day. And that gives it an elevated status that it wouldn't have had before cable. And I think, you know, we're all pressured to some extent by what happens on the cable, and sometimes we have to resist that, depending on the quality of the story.

It tied up Florida in some ways, but not completely. Thank goodness it didn't happen in the tourist season, is what Florida officials are saying today because, in fact, the east/west passage across the state stayed fairly normal.

But it's just the way it is at the moment. And I think we have to be really careful all the time about what we put on the air and what we don't.

But we try to be careful, and have tried to be careful for years.

KING: What was -- before I get to the book...

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: I mean, I think, you know, there's real danger, I think, if you flog this stuff. And I think occasionally people do. If you flog this stuff, you inflame people.

KING: Is it a thin line?

JENNINGS: Oh, I think it's a very thin line. And sometimes -- and I think we have to be very careful going over it. I'll give you a small example, which is self-criticism in a way. We with did this 15 hours on 9/11. We prepared very long and hard for it and we did -- some of our people did just absolutely fabulous work. And we built a set in Studio One, which was a sort of replication of the skyline of New York City, including the trade towers.

And people were deeply moved by the notion that we had put the trade towers there because people miss the trade towers in and of themselves, as buildings, as well as all the people who lost their lives. And people were moved by it.

And one woman sent me an e-mail, said, How dare you do such a thing like that? How dare you put the trade towers -- she thought it was in appallingly bad taste.

And I thought, well, who's to argue with her, because it's...

KING: There is no right, is there?

JENNINGS: That's right. It's what she believed.

KING: What did you make of this whole Bush thing and the U.N.?

JENNINGS: Oh, it's a very good speech. I think -- I don't quite know where it's taking us.

KING: You know the region?

JENNINGS: Yes, I do know. I do know the region. I lived there for a long time.

I think the president made a very good speech. I think people are immensely relieved that he's decided, at least publicly, to go the United Nations route in the short period. I think he's been very -- he's impressed people a great deal by wishing to put time limits on this. I'm not sure the United Nations is up for these time limits. And I don't think we're absolutely sure how serious the president is about his engagement with the Security Council.

But it took a lot of the sting out of the American go-it- aloneness that had been very evident in places like France and Canada, Italy, the Middle East, even in Britain, other than the prime minister, Tony Blair, who's fully in Bush's camp.

So I think we'll see what happens. The question, next question for me is what happens if Saddam Hussein says to the U.N. inspectors, come on in? That's going to be a real test.

KING: You have to give him that -- or don't you?

JENNINGS: I don't know. That's a big question. I don't know the answer to that, and I think that's why...

KING: Well, what are we asking for?

JENNINGS: Well, they're working on a resolution now. And Colin Powell, the secretary of state, is deeply involved in working on the resolution with the other permanent members of the Security Council.

I suspect it will be very tough. It will say: Comply with every U.N. resolution there's been in the last decade and let us in and de- arm. I know that's what the president wants.

And I just have no idea how the Iraqis are going to respond to this.

KING: We'll be taking calls later for Peter.

We're going to ask him about how "In Search of America" relates to 9/11, and lots more with one of the top journalists in the business, the anchor and senior editor of ABC "World News Tonight" who has signed a new contract, right? You're back in the fall, is that true?

JENNINGS: Well, everything but the "I"s and the "T"s. But yes, I'm still not going anywhere.

KING: You remain with Disney.

JENNINGS: I remain with ABC News, and we are owned by Disney.

KING: We're owned -- everybody's owned by somebody.

Right back with Jennings after this. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNINGS: The landscape of New York City has changed once again. And in this instance, it's not New York City, it's not New Yorkers' city, it's everybody in the country's city at this moment because this was an attack on the United States, no question about it.

Everybody said it all day: A declaration of war, an act of war against the United States. You have any number of politicians and commentators, us included, who are reminded that the last time there was an attack like this on the United States, it was Pearl Harbor, which finally induced the United States to get fully involved in World War II.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We touch other bases. Peter just told me something, I'm not a geography whiz, of how difficult it is to go to a land war in Iraq.

JENNINGS: It's not impossible. I'm not a military analyst, but I was just, you know, we were talking about this with a colleague of mine today who also knows the region very well, I think who went to Baghdad with me when I went to see Saddam Hussein just before the Gulf War.

It's 14 hours in a fast car from the Jordanian border to Baghdad. KING: Fourteen hours?

JENNINGS: Fourteen hours in a fast car to go from Jordan. I don't think the Jordanians would ever let the United States into Iraq through Jordan, or it would be, perhaps, the end of Jordan. Yes, conceivably, we could go into Kuwait, into the southern area, which is held by the Shiites and is part of the no-fly zone. It's conceivable the United States could get land forces. We would not -- we wouldn't get land forces in through Iran, which is on the other side, is my view. It's conceivable that the U.S. could go in on the ground through Turkey, but it's very complicated for Turkey, because the northern part of Iraq right next to Turkey is Kurdish territory.

They, by the way, never agree with one another on anything. They signed an agreement a week or so ago and it fell apart pretty quickly after that. Half of them supported, you know, in the north by the Turks to the west and half the Iranians to the east. And -- and that leaves Turkey as a land bridge.

I don't know that Turkey wants a -- I don't know what Turkey's interest in the war. Turkey is a member of NATO. Turkey has a huge Kurdish problem of its own. The Kurds want an independent, autonomous state of their own, which would include parts of Turkey, as well as parts of northern Iraq. I think it's a very difficult geographical issue.

KING: And we don't want open inspectors? We don't want inspectors to go in?

JENNINGS: We is, again, I'm not sure we is the word. Does the president want inspectors to go in? I don't know, to be honest. But I think there are people who believe the president doesn't want inspectors to go in, because that may introduce the waltz that the United Nations security inspectors did with Saddam Hussein for so long before, and he won in that regard.

And so I sense the president -- and I said the other day, the president sees the world with such moral clarity.

KING: Them and us.

JENNINGS: Them and us. Him and me -- maybe even him and my dad. But he's wrong, we're right, you know.

KING: What are you in search of?

JENNINGS: Oh, I was in search of America. I've been in search of America ever since I came to America 30 some odd years ago. All journalists are.

But I -- we -- remember, we did the century, Todd Brewster and I together. And when it was over, we had such a great experience on the road. When they asked us to do another book, it wasn't hard for me to say, I want to do something about America, because it is every immigrant's passion, and as David Halberstam often says, it's every journalist's responsibility, to go out and keep rediscover the country, time after time after time. We were looking for an idea.

You know, when I was listening to the calling of the names the other day, I realized again what we've tried to find in the book, that all those names represent the DNA of America. People who have come here at some point in their lives from...

KING: My fellow immigrants.

JENNINGS: ... from somewhere else, and who struggled in many cases to enjoy and realize the American dream. And the founding fathers are part of the nation's DNA as well.

So we went looking in a variety of areas -- religion, government, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), race, business, culture -- for good, contemporary experiences of Americans, then tried to go back to the founding fathers and see how the strain came through the country.

And we found, of course, that, you know, Americans don't wander around thinking about the founding fathers every day, but they live the founding fathers' ideas and ideals every day. And if -- and if 9/11 was a national trauma and we mourned for a year, which we did, I think the anniversary of 9/11 is, in some respects, a passage, and now if -- especially if we go to war, now is a time, I think -- this may be a little pompous, I apologize -- that part of the healing process is to rediscover who we are who live here and who we are who are part of this unique, absolutely unique experience in history.

KING: But this is not a 9/11 book.

JENNINGS: No, no, it's not a 9-11 book at all. We started this two and a half years ago.

KING: How do you pick, when you do something like this, where you go?

JENNINGS: Luck, in some respects. I'll give you an example. I wanted very much to do -- we knew we wanted to do race. It's a huge subject. We knew that the founding fathers had not been good on race. So we looked around to the sort of scope of the American race experience. I'd worked in the South as a young reporter.

We found through my wife -- said, you know they're having the Miss USA pageant in Gary, Indiana. Gary, Indiana is a city in the Midwest which elected one of the first black mayors in America, Richard Hatcher (ph), in the 1960s. So we went to look at the black experience in Gary, Indiana. It's not a happy experience.

KING: I know.

JENNINGS: I wanted to do religion, obviously. It's a huge issue (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We went to Aiken, South Carolina -- 100 churches. They wouldn't let us into one of our leading character's churches because we work for Disney, which will give you some sense of the flavor. But we watched the town struggle with morality and we watched a man try to introduce the teaching of creation, or sometimes they now call it creation science, alongside evolution. Again, that's still going on in the country. That was an issue for the founding fathers, but a lot of people in the country thought we put that to bed with the Scopes trial in 1925.

We really wanted to do culture, because American culture is so individual. Like so much of the country, so individual.

KING: Is there an American culture?

JENNINGS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Don't forget that the founding fathers, you know, were Europeans, in many respects. And so it was part of the high culture. American culture became unbelievably more democratic than any other part of the world. And it was an immigrant culture.

And so we looked around to see -- we found a high school production of "Hair." Produced on Broadway in 1968, the time of the Vietnam War. Huge rebellion. We went and watched these kids try to produce "Hair." They didn't -- this is one very strong 9/11 experience. The kids just weren't getting this rebellion and free sex and free love and anti-Vietnam War and patches on their jeans and stuff until 9/11 came along, and then they understood what it meant to sacrifice for your country and what the issues were in front of them.

So we found all those stories everywhere. And it really is -- I -- I'm never very good at talking about why people should have the book, but I think the book is important now because it helps us. It helps all of us rediscover this experience. America makes it up as we go along.

KING: More in a minute with Peter Jennings. We'll include your calls at the bottom of the hour. Peter, of course, won two Emmys this week, for which we congratulate him. Amazing coverage of 9/11. We'll ask about his experiences again in reliving that day a couple of days ago. We'll be taking your calls. The book is "In Search of America." The TV series has aired. We'll be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNINGS: It had been a very hard three months' work for these young actors, but they were becoming '60s characters, as best they could.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JENNINGS: ... and they found him, you know, because he had his firefighter's lamp with him, and they found him.

KING: What was this like as a story for you to cover internally?

JENNINGS: You mean the anniversary or the whole thing? The anniversary is very different for me. The event, the trauma as I call it -- as everybody calls it -- in some respects, I think I may have said this to you before, was in some respects easier for people like me, because we were so focused on what we were having to do, just getting information on the air, try to comprehend what was going on, that there was no time to allow yourself to indulge in personal emotions.

The only time I felt absolutely really shaken was when I got a couple of calls from my kids on that day.

The anniversary was astonishingly different. Two things just absolutely got me. You know I referred to all these names being the DNA of the country. We hadn't seen all those families of the victims for a long time. And as they emerged in numbers and went down to the circle of honor at Ground Zero, I thought it was astonishing. And then the Pentagon ceremony was so moving in a different way. It was so uplifting, almost, you know, flag-waving patriotic. And Shanksville in Pennsylvania, which people have paid not as much attention to this little town of 245 people, which is way off the beaten track near Pittsburgh. It was so spontaneous.

And so the commemorations were all just so much more moving than I had anticipated. It's not that I didn't think they wouldn't be moving, I just didn't think they would captivate me in the way that they did. And I -- and I did feel -- I don't get to interview as many people as you do, or like Charlie Gibson does on "Good Morning America." So -- but a lot of the families came and sat and talked with me, and I just found it a extraordinary and I now, you know, we appreciate and tell other people, tell their stories in public for reasons. Sometimes deeply personal, as a cathartic way to heal. Others, because they desperately need other people to understand.

So I talked to a lot of people that I hadn't talked to live, and I just could have talked to them all day and all night.

KING: What "In Search of America" surprised you the most?

JENNINGS: Well, there were lots of little things that surprised me in little ways. We did our immigration -- I wanted deeply to do immigration. We did our immigration story in Utah, in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is now very, very Mexican. And of course, most people in the country think it's Mormon and white and Republican. It's also that.

But it's -- I think it's what you learn as you go along. You know, it never occurred to me that when the Mormons went West, having been persecuted in New York and in Illinois, when they arrived by the Great Salt Lake, they were illegal immigrants, because in the 1840s, Utah was part of Mexico. Until the Hidalgo Treaty to end the Mexican War, Utah was part of Mexico. So it was the way it all kept coming around historically that was just revealing for me.

I don't think I was surprised to find, as I said earlier, I don't think people walk around thinking about Jefferson and Franklin and Adams and Madison all the time. And I'd grown up without it. And by the way, we play great games in my office, and a lot of Americans grow up without their history too, which is I think very sad.

But it was just so exhilarating to find that we live these ideals and these ideas. You know, communism was a system. America's not a system. It's an idea. I really mean this. Some people say they left -- gave us this system of government with the Constitution. They gave us a framework for government.

(CROSSTALK)

JENNINGS: ... so that they could -- so that Americans could time and time again just continue to improve. The -- not -- the anniversary reminded me again, the country is so unbelievably flexible. You know, people -- did we change as a result of 9/11? People say yes, we changed forever. Some people say, we didn't change at all. Some people say, well, how could we not change? People wrote -- I think it was Charles Krauthammer, I forgot who it was, who was writing about frivolity and how we'd gone back to frivolity, you know, six or seven months after the disaster. And I may have got my attribution wrong, but he said, well, you know, frivolity is part of being American. It's the -- what did he call it -- the embodiment of this perpetual happiness that America represents.

KING: Are we lucky too?

JENNINGS: Well, I...

KING: Geographically lucky.

JENNINGS: Well, yes, in some respects. Though, you know, when the founders came, when they created this notion, I don't think people had any anticipation of going back again. Deep, painful decisions for President Wilson in World War I to send Americans back from whence they had the chaos, from whence they had escaped. Difficult challenge for President Roosevelt in World War II, re-engage in a war in Europe, albeit it made more sense.

And in some respects now, the biggest challenge -- and this is again I think another reason we've had an exciting time during the book -- I'm sorry, I'm talking so fast, I get excited.

KING: I understand everything you say.

JENNINGS: Todd and I went to Gettysburg, and Gettysburg is -- oh, the most, I think the single most moving place I've ever spent time in the country. And as we were getting out of our car in the parking lot, some guy came up and said, "Hey, Jennings, are you global or national?" I said, "what?" And he wanted to know where I stood on the global, was America going to be part of the global community, or are we going to be sovereign and national and sort of stay unto ourselves?

And that, of course, is great struggle for Americans in the 21st century. Are we going to be part of the globe? Has the Internet changed our lives? Now that communism is gone, the end of the Cold War is over and we're the single superpower in the world, how will we behave? And you see the embodiment of that discussion in George Bush's current relationship with the Security Council of the United Nations.

KING: You're pretty smart, Peter. You ought to consider this business.

JENNINGS: No, I'm not -- I have to -- I've had -- I've had -- I've been in a lot of countries, I've covered a lot of great stories. I've been there for some of the great moments of the last 30 years. I'm really lucky. ABC, as I've said to you before, was my educator. But this canvas you and I paint on, this canvas of America, I mean, no wonder we keep doing it.

KING: The book is "In Search of America." The guest is Peter Jennings. When we come back, we'll start to include your phone calls. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNINGS: In the last 10 years, many thousands of illegal Mexicans have put down roots in Utah and made lives for themselves. They bought homes and cars and sent their children to school. They live as if Utah wanted them.

But on December 11, last year, three months after the U.S. was attacked by terrorists, Utah's illegal Latinos suddenly felt their lives here were in jeopardy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I'm really anxious to get at this book. I've been just looking through it and hearing about it.

JENNINGS: It's nice of you.

KING: I really am excited. Peter Jennings...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I asked him if there's music in the book.

JENNINGS: And the answer is yes, of course there's music in the book, because you know, so many great patriotic songs in America were written by immigrants.

KING: Russian Jews and Irish.

JENNINGS: Yes, absolutely.

KING: George Irving and Irvin Berlin.

JENNINGS: Exactly. Exactly. That whole tradition...

KING: "God Bless America" from a Russian Jew.

JENNINGS: Exactly, exactly.

(CROSSTALK) JENNINGS: Well, yes, we would. Of course, Fannie Farmer. I mean, Fannie Farmer, you know, systemized cooking -- there is American cuisine. I don't mean the fancy stuff, but the knowledge has been here since -- and the cookbooks of the early colonialists are fascinating.

KING: Queens, New York for Peter Jennings, hello. I'm sorry, Apple Valley, California, and then Queens, New York. Hello, Apple Valley, are you there?

CALLER: Yeah, I'm here.

KING: Go ahead. Queens, you're next. Go ahead, Apple Valley.

CALLER: All right.

JENNINGS: Is this Queens or Apple Valley?

KING: Apple Valley.

JENNINGS: I'd probably know by the way he sounds.

CALLER: Larry, my question is I'm just wondering how much differently were President Clinton still in office, would the situation from 9/11 to this point, in his opinion, how much differently would the world be today?

JENNINGS: Are you in Queens or in California?

KING: California.

JENNINGS: California. I can't answer that question. You know, we always ask it. It's like -- it's like on 9/11, the politicians decided they'd read the Gettysburg address and the four freedoms of President Roosevelt wrote in the political speeches of the day, so you can reach back at times, but I don't think I could answer the question. You know, I think we all know that on 9-11, which, by the way -- 9-11 is going to be in the dictionary, I'm sure. One of the things we did for the book is go to the dictionaries and discover the American language. I'm sure 9/11, 9-slash-11 will get in the dictionary sometimes, because it's part of our lexicon. At first, I didn't think it was sensitive to say it.

But I think we all now believe that George W. Bush was the man of the hour. Rudy Giuliani was for New York City, but I think the president was the man of the hour for 9/11.

KING: Now Queens, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hi, yes, good evening, Mr. King, Mr. Jennings. Firstly, I just want to say you're a true professional, Mr. Jennings. I really admire you and you're my absolute favorite by far.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

CALLER: My question is, in your opinion, sir, after one year, what do you think America has learned most from the September 11 tragedy?

JENNINGS: The moment she said Queens, I'm reminded there are 146 different languages spoken in Queens, which really tells you something about America.

I think what we've learned -- I can't say what we've learned. I think that would be presumptuous. I think that I have learned a lot about the common ideals that the country has. I mean, I remember right after 9/11, we were all desperately anxious, and maybe this is true for people who come from somewhere else, or more true, I think, that any worry about the country's stability at all. Totally believed in the country's flexibility, didn't believe that the republic was in any danger.

So I think I'd say to you, ma'am, that what I learned was that we all, no matter where we came from, no matter who we are, have focused to a greater extent on the common ideals in the country, and the country's just unbelievably resilient.

KING: How do you react, by the way, before taking the next call, to some of the controversy that surround you? And I know Brent Bazell (ph), a columnist, has criticized you as being kind of pro-Arab, and I've heard this for years.

JENNINGS: Well, I think it's a bit silly...

KING: ... in the Middle East. Where did that come from?

JENNINGS: Well, I lived in the Middle East for a long time.

KING: Yeah, but Middle East, there's a lot of culture.

JENNINGS: And I covered the Arab world for a long time. And, you know, I believe -- I believe Arabs are people, and I believe -- I mean, I'm anti-prejudice. I'm anti-bias in a very strong way, and I go out of my way, as, by the way, I must tell you the president did so brilliantly on 9/11, to speak volumes to the bigots in the country. I think one of the real challenges we have at the moment is racial profiling. I think it's inevitable in some respects, but it's very hard on -- it's very hard on people who are as loyal and dedicated to this country as anybody else. So I think those kind of things, yeah.

KING: Roll off you?

JENNINGS: No, they don't. No, criticism should never roll off you, I don't think. That would make you -- I don't think any of us are immune to criticism. And we get -- in my trade, we get criticized all the time.

KING: Crestview, Florida, for Peter Jennings. The book is "In Search of America." Hello.

CALLER: Hello. I have a question for Mr. Jennings. I'd like to ask him what his reaction is to the prime minister of Canada's remark today that we brought these attacks on ourselves in America.

JENNINGS: I don't believe the prime minister of Canada would have said that.

KING: Did he say that?

JENNINGS: I honestly don't believe that Jean Chretien, the prime minister of Canada, would have said that.

KING: Where did you get that from, ma'am?

CALLER: From your competitors' network, Fox.

KING: Well, I didn't see it. Was he making a speech?

JENNINGS: I personally wouldn't believe it for five seconds. And if a Canadian politician said that, I believe, given the closeness that Canada and the United States feel in the wake of 9/11, you know, thousands of Americans got stranded in Canada. I believe any Canadian politician who said that today would find his career practically doomed. I just don't -- I simply don't believe it.

KING: And Canada was one of the first to join us.

JENNINGS: Now, there is a story about Canada today and the United States. Of course, you know, the Air Force has said that these two pilots who dropped the bombs on the Canadians in Afghanistan should be prosecuted, one for manslaughter.

KING: The Air Force, the United States is prosecuting.

JENNINGS: The United States Air Force is prosecuting them. And I know that at the time -- it was a friendly fire incident. I know when it happened, a lot of Canadians felt that maybe certain politicians in the United States had not taken it seriously enough. But I think that's gone. I think it's very -- but I can't believe. I just won't even comment. I can't believe it. If I saw this (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I couldn't believe it.

KING: Are they supporting us on the -- us...

JENNINGS: On Iraq?

KING: ... in Iraq?

JENNINGS: No. The best I can tell you, you know, the prime minister and the president met in Detroit the other day. You know, there is more traffic across the Detroit Windsor bridge commerce than anyplace else in the country. And the president briefed the Canadian prime minister, we're told, and that Mr. Chretien is holding his -- reserving judgment, but they're not very happy with the United States going it alone.

KING: I know something. Windsor is south of Detroit.

JENNINGS: That's true, yes.

KING: Canada is south of Detroit.

JENNINGS: That's right.

KING: I know something!

JENNINGS: You know, I grew up -- I was so bad in geography when I was a kid.

KING: Me, too.

JENNINGS: I was so bad in geography. And when I went to live in the Middle East, I had to learn, you know, that I lived in Beirut and that Syria was there and Jordan was over there.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

JENNINGS: And I wanted to own the whole region. I wanted -- and I wasn't going to let anybody else from ABC come on the territory. And I sent a map to the home office once with these circles of how long it took me to get to -- takes two hours to drive to Damascus, four hours to drive to Amman, to Jordan, you know, five hours to get -- that impressed them.

KING: Peter Jennings, the book "In Search of America." Back with more calls after this. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The back page of this book sums it up for Peter: America's principles have been shaken, molded, adapted and assaulted; yet, remarkably, they endure. "In Search of America" by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster.

JENNINGS: Todd's got another engagement. He's the best. He is one -- we would never have had either of these books without Todd Brewster. He knows that, and my colleagues know that too.

KING: The wire story...

JENNINGS: Somebody in the CNN newsroom, thank goodness, ran in and gave us this because it's a reminder to tell folks that you have to read -- when you read a story in the press, you want to read the story, because reporters are surrounding the quotes, and then you want to read the quotes.

And here's what the prime minister told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in an interview today: There was a lot of resentment," he said, "about the way in which powerful nations treated the increasing number of poor and dispossessed in the world. You know, you cannot exercise your powers to the point of humiliation for others. That is what the Western world, not only the Americans, the Western world has to realize, because they, the have-nots, are human beings too and there are long-term consequences if you don't look hard at the reality in 10 or 20 or 30 years from now."

Those are the only quotes I see in the story.

Yes, so how the story gets interpreted by the people is another matter; but that appears to be what he said. I thank your newsroom for showing us that.

KING: Is there a tendency, sometimes, to blame ourselves?

JENNINGS: Well, I think there are those among us who blame ourselves. You remember when 9/11 occurred, there were some intellectuals in the country who were stomped on very heavily. Maybe I shouldn't label them intellectuals...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: ... describes him as the first leader of a Western major nation to suggest the suicide hijackers may have been motivated by what he described as the misguided policies of the rich and the powerful. It doesn't quote -- it says that, but it doesn't quote him as saying that.

JENNINGS: It doesn't quote him as saying that. The quotes are slightly different, yes.

KING: OK, I didn't get that city.

OK, Malibu, California, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Mr. Jennings, if the United States goes to war with Iraq, wouldn't the unprovoked nature of U.S. military action lead to even greater resentment of the U.S. in the Arab world, and thus make the United States even more vulnerable to future terrorist attacks?

JENNINGS: I'm not sure of the first part and the second part necessarily go together.

But would it cause resentment in the Arab world? No question. And the only country in the Arab world which has shown any wavering on this at the moment is, of course, Egypt. And they'd like to deal with this, in the first instance, through the United Nations Security Council. And they were part of the coalition, of course, in Desert Storm.

But yes, there's no doubt in my mind. That's why I said earlier, I think it would be very difficult for the U.S. to get access to Iraq on the ground through, for example, Jordan. It would undoubtedly cause resentment.

I should probably also say at the same time, though, that we sometimes see -- and maybe in television we're a little to blame for this -- we sometimes see a pretty limited version, where the pictures can be -- you think you're getting the whole picture, but not the picture.

We sometimes forget that there are people throughout the Arab world, as there are through some of the other parts of the world where terrorism is an issue, in Asia, who are deeply in love with America and want to come here and want to send their children here, and who believe in American ideals, and who are as angry at their own governments -- including the Egyptian government and the Jordanian government in many instances -- as they are at us. But yes, we -- and the United States of America's support for Israel is a profound issue for people in the Arabs -- Arabs. And now they've got Al Jazeera, the cable television which everybody -- the satellite television which everybody can see in the Arab world now.

And so they are seeing the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis live on television as we've become so accustomed to here. And it's has -- public opinion in the Arab world is making a difference for the first time in modern history.

KING: Milton, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Two things. Mr. Jennings, in all the negative media, people saying bad things about our media, it's always refreshing to see that you have such a wonderful sensitive side and a caring side.

The other thing is, out of all the people that you've interviewed, is there still someone out there that you'd love to get ahold of and talk with?

JENNINGS: Well, to be -- somebody asked me the other day, this isn't quite the answer that you were looking for, but maybe it will give you how my crazy mind works at times. Somebody asked me the other day, if I could read an autobiography of someone who had not written their autobiography, was no longer alive, and I said I'd be very interested in reading the autobiography of St. Paul.

Now, in truth, one of the things I've done after we did a program on Jesus, as I think you remember, and...

KING: Oh, I remember that very well.

JENNINGS: And we've subsequently done one on St. Paul, and it's yet to get on the air because 9/11 has put it aside.

But I'd love to talk to him about, you know, what happened on the road to Damascus. This is the man who's, you know, a lot of people believe is the man who created Christianity and became the great salesman for Christianity throughout the world in the first century.

I'd love to talk to him about, you know, was he a little crazy? Was he deeply passionate? Lots of things.

KING: What's your read on the Florida election?

JENNINGS: Well, it's clearly a black eye for the system. And it will become very politicized very quickly, of course. I notice the governor is blaming the Democrat county chairs in Dade and Broward County for the machines breaking down. They haven't got a long time to get it right, because we've got an off-year election, midterm election coming up.

I wasn't quite sure that -- it was interesting, I think Janet Reno has been beaten. There's no question. I don't know whether she'll ask -- she would ask for a statewide recount today and they decided not to give it to her.

I don't know what she'll do. I don't think a lot of Democrats don't want her to do that.

But hey, we'll get past this too.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments -- yes, we do get past it -- with Peter Jennings. The book is "In Search of America."

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: There's a disturbing poll out I want to ask Peter about. Let me get another call here. Plantation, Florida. Hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Mr. King and Mr. Jennings.

KING: Hi.

JENNINGS: Good evening, ma'am.

CALLER: I would like to find out, do you think the president is going to go after all the countries with weapons of mass destruction, or is it just Iraq?

JENNINGS: What an interesting question being asked. The answer is I don't -- I think the answer is no, but who knows? And as I said to Larry earlier, I'm not even absolutely sure the United States is going to go after Iraq either militarily. I don't think we can be sure of that at this moment.

But the other countries in the axis of evil, as the president calls them, Koran and Iran? I don't know. And which is why you do find people in the country today to think that the president is in some respects being hypocritical. I wouldn't necessarily agree with them, but I think the woman asks a question that's very much part of the debate.

KING: The state of the First Amendment. The latest, which some people think is the one thing that separates us from most of the world. The latest state of the First Amendment survey shows 49 percent of those polled believe the First Amendment goes too far -- I hate to laugh -- in the rights it guarantees. And that's up 10 percent in one year.

JENNINGS: Yeah, I thought you might ask that. I looked at that poll today and talked to Gary Langer (ph), who is our great pollster, and he pointed out to me that it's true, but it's been worse. It was worse in '99. And he points out that there's an eight-point increase, I think, in the number of people who believe that they have the absolute right to be informed by a free press.

And the thing that also surprised me -- you know, the First Amendment, let's remind ourselves -- religion, assembly, speech, right to petition the government -- is central to the country, and everybody seems to believe it. We rise and fall depending on the mood. I think people feel threatened by the campaign of the war against terrorism, so I'm not surprised. People are clearly prepared at the moment to give up some of their civil liberties, or some people are prepared to give up some of their civil liberties at the moment. So I'm not surprised people are questioning the First Amendment.

But there are some other things in that poll which also show that there's a deep, deep abiding need and respect in the public's mind for the First Amendment and for a free press.

KING: There are some who think the Bill of Rights would have a tough time today.

JENNINGS: I don't believe it. I don't believe it. I mean, a tough time passing?

KING: Yeah.

JENNINGS: Yes, but we don't have to, do we?

KING: No.

JENNINGS: It's the what-ifs of history, which I think are absolutely fascinating. At the end of our experience in the chapter on race in Gary, Indiana, there were so many what-ifs. What if U.S. Steel hadn't left Gary, Indiana? What if the federal government had not given the black community and the mayor in Gary so many handouts? What if they hadn't become so dependent on foreign money? You know, what if, what if, what if.

KING: Can you explain racial -- maybe the unexplainable -- can you explain racial prejudice? I haven't, in all the years I've been doing this, I never understand why people don't like people because of color of skin. I have no basis of understanding that. Why?

JENNINGS: Well, I wouldn't -- well, you and I can go have a drink over this for a long time. I think most prejudice I've encountered -- and again, I worked in the South when I was first at ABC as a reporter. And I didn't understand it. I think most of us who are prejudiced are usually afraid of that which we are prejudiced about.

KING: It's ignorance?

JENNINGS: Well...

KING: Prejudge is ignorant.

JENNINGS: Well, not necessarily prejudge, but I think people are threatened by all sorts of things. Some people are threatened by becoming the minority. You'll meet -- you'll meet -- in the chapter on Gary, you meet blacks -- black Americans living in Gary, Indiana who never wanted a white mayor. Gary has a white mayor now, sort of an act of desperation after many years of black leadership in the city. And the reason he was -- one, he said I don't want to be part of the minority. I don't want a white mayor to be -- to be saving our bacon -- and he hasn't, by the way. So that's prejudice in a way. Threatened by something. Most people, I think, who are prejudiced are threatened by something.

I was surprised in the middle of the anniversary celebrations to get an e-mail from our viewer in California saying that people were making outrageous phone calls to Muslims in the country. On this day. Hey, you know, we're a big country, 261 million people. Are we 261 million now? Expect us all to be wise -- John Adams would have liked all of us to be virtuous. Thomas Jefferson, you know, once said, look, just let them be as free as they can be. It will get them closer to an ultimate state.

KING: We have just about a minute. Are you going to write more?

JENNINGS: Oh, I don't know. Oh, I don't know.

KING: You said that after the first book.

JENNINGS: Yeah, you know, Todd and I were talking about that today. For now, we've had such a great journey. And I think what we want now is to share this journey with people. Again, I think this is an important thing, a book for us at the moment, because I don't think we fully appreciated when we started that it might mean as much to us in the wake of 9/11.

People said to us, you've got to go back and do it again. We said no. What we've done is something very essential. We believe it's essential. And by the way, lots of people have done it. We're in the tradition of journalists going out and trying to get under the skin of the country. Dick Reeves (ph), we were talking about de Tocqueville earlier, a young Frenchman who came here in the 1830s and did it so well that it's in every politician's (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Dick Reeves (ph), a great reporter, went out and followed de Tocqueville's footsteps in the 1970s. So, you know, we're in a good tradition. We're in a good tradition.

KING: And you're in keeping with it.

JENNINGS: Nice to see you. Thanks, Larry.

KING: Peter Jennings, anchor, senior editor of ABC News World Tonight. Nearly 40 years in broadcast journalism. Co-author of "In Search of America," written with Todd Brewster and published by Hyperion. The television series ran in conjunction with it.

We'll come back and tell you about the weekend right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our producers have put together an extraordinary show for LARRY KING WEEKEND tomorrow night, remembrances by family members of family lost on 9/11. Please try to watch it.

And on Sunday night, we'll repeat our interview with Prince Albert of Monaco. The anniversary of the death of Princess Grace.

Now, here in our august studios in mid-Manhattan, my main man, Aaron Brown, approaches the weekend with glee, because golf in his life and soccer returns to his life. Mr. Brown, it's been a joy.

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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