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Interview with Andy Rooney

Aired November 13, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Andy Rooney's new book is "Common Nonsense" addressed to the reading public. There you see its cover. It is Andy Rooney on subjects like food, drink, money, sports, politics, religion, education, the arts, home life, work life, health, doctors, people, travel and progress. It is Andy Rooney on everything.
We'll talk a lot about the book in a little while, but first let's get to first things first, and that's the major story of the day, Andy, and what do you make of the inspectors? They're going in Monday. Do you think this might work itself out without war?

ANDY ROONEY, AUTHOR, "COMMON NONSENSE": I think it may, but I don't think bin Laden -- I don't think that Saddam Hussein is being honest about anything. I don't know what he'll do. He'll find ways to postpone. But we certainly have a great thing going for us with that 15-0 vote in the Security Council, the United Nations. That was one of the great events of the last 50 years.

KING: And they pulled it off. So you think there will be chicanery?

ROONEY: I should think so, why not? There always has been with him.

KING: And what are your thoughts on that new audio tape that now apparently assures us that Osama bin Laden is alive?

ROONEY: Well, it may assure you. It doesn't assure me. I heard tonight that they feel that by scanning these audios that they feel that it is him, but I can't believe he's alive. I mean, this guy must have some ego, and it just seems to me that if he were alive, he would have found a way to surface and make himself apparent to the whole world by now. I just can't believe he's alive. Everybody says he is, so I must be wrong.

KING: Do you think we're ready -- are we geared down for this war on terrorism, Americans? Do you think they're ready to accept the cost it's going to involve? The fact that we may have to go to war in Iraq, do you think it's hitting them?

ROONEY: No, I don't think the American public has any idea what we'll have to go through if we go into Iraq. No. They do not, and I think they will be less enthusiastic about it once we do get in there, once some American boys start getting killed and women -- and American girls. KING: That's right. Watch yourself, Andy. What's the Andy Rooney read on the elections? Were you surprised at the Bush success?

ROONEY: I was moderately surprised. I'm surprised at the -- how conservative America has become in recent years. I don't take a position whether -- I'm not saying whether I was pleased or disappointed by the election results, but I am surprised at how conservative Americans have become. I don't think that they wouldn't have not have elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt now. I think many of the Supreme Court decisions that have been made in the last -- since, say, 1960, would not have been made if the judges had been appointed by President George W. Bush, because they would have been more conservative.

KING: What does this say, then, about the future of the Democratic Party?

ROONEY: Well, I don't know. They have got to pull themselves together. I don't know what it was. Al Gore, in retrospect, seems to have been a disaster, and George W. Bush is a very appealing person, and he's appealing to a great many Americans.

KING: Let's hop, skip and jump to other things. Bill and Bob now have Senate spouses. Bob Dole has Hillary -- Bob Dole has Elizabeth, Bill has Hillary. What's your read on that? Two candidates who ran against each other are on the sidelines, and their wives are in the Senate.

ROONEY: It's very nice for them, Larry. There's a party going on here that you're missing in your office.

KING: What is going on there?

ROONEY: I don't know. They're having a lot of fun out here.

KING: Well, someone ought to tell them to stop...

ROONEY: And do people know that you're in California and I'm in New York? I don't think they do.

KING: Yes, they -- I think they do -- well, they know now.

ROONEY: It won't work, you know, Larry, this -- your being in one place and the guest being in the other.

KING: We've been doing it a while, Andy...

ROONEY: Well, it probably didn't work... huh?

KING: OK, but...

ROONEY: Well, it doesn't work because I like to sit there and look you in the eye...

KING: Well, I like it too. I wish you -- why didn't you fly out here, Andy? ROONEY: Well, I didn't know -- I came in looking for you. Ten, 15 minutes ago, I asked the woman who was combing my hair where you were, and she said, Oh, he's in California.

I wouldn't have bothered to comb my hair if I knew you were out there. I have been hearing all day how fascinating I was going to be, and I couldn't wait to hear myself.

KING: OK. Let's get to another base, I want to get to the book. I want to take a lot of calls because I think this, again, like most of your books is going to wind up way up on the best seller list.

OK. The royal mess in Britain. I know you must have some thoughts on the internal investigation into allegations about gay rape and this whole thing of the butler squealing.

ROONEY: Why can't we have -- I mean, we really could use a monarchy, couldn't we? Those stories are so much fun for the tabloid newspapers. I think we're missing out on a lot of things in this country by not having what the British have in their monarchy. I mean, I read those stories, and they are so British, and they've been happening for an eternity.

KING: Why do you think Americans are so fascinated by the royals?

ROONEY: Well, I don't think they are anywhere near as fascinated with the royals as the British are. They were fascinated by certain aspects of it, but -- the accident, but I don't think, for the most part, the American public doesn't give a damn about British royalty, and it's ridiculous that they have it, but I like the British, and they're not going to give it up. But it is a foolish thing. Imagine, in these modern times having a king and a queen and a prince, for God sakes. Ridiculous.

KING: All right. What do you make of the Winona Ryder...

ROONEY: I heard how outspoken I was going to be, so I'm trying to outspeak.

KING: Yes, they promoted that all the way, the outspoken Andy Rooney. I saw that.

ROONEY: I heard that.

KING: OK, Andy, you are really keeping up with it. You're rolling, boy. Osama's dead. Bush is forever, the conservatives are in, the Democrats are dead. I'm just recapping for late tuners in. OK.

The Winona Ryder trial, did that interest you?

ROONEY: It didn't at all. I don't know Winona Ryder, and I would assume -- I don't know, nor do I know whether this is libelous or not, but I would assume that she's a sick person, probably a kleptomaniac, and was -- some impulse that we don't understand that drove her to do it. I don't know much about it.

KING: In a September "60 Minutes" essay, you called Martha Stewart one of the most capable people you have ever known in terms of home skills, but he does not -- but you did not believe her stock alibi about selling it and when she sold it. What do you make of this whole Martha Stewart story?

ROONEY: I feel bad about it. I only met her, I guess, twice. She really is a capable person. I mean, gosh, she does everything so well in the kitchen and around the house, that sort of thing. She is just a fabulously capable person. And so -- you know, we are short of capable people in the world, so I feel bad that she has fallen on to bad times. But she obviously did something wrong. I -- I live in Connecticut, and I have been amused for years -- here she is, she's really a very attractive woman, and I don't know why, but people hate her. They love hating Martha Stewart, and I can't quite figure out why.

KING: I can't either. They do hate her, though. They hate her.

ROONEY: The papers...


ROONEY: Yes. You see the headlines in the papers, and they just love to hate Martha Stewart. I feel bad about it.

KING: Now, and the reverse is true, some people may hate you, but they love you, Andy. Even the haters love you. That's my humble theory.

Andy Rooney is now in his 25th season with CBS News' "60 Minutes." His Emmy Award winning essays, "A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney" is a regular feature, and has been since 1978.

His latest book is "Common Nonsense." It is out now, and we'll talk about it in a while, and his book "My War" is now out in Trade paperback. We'll be taking calls for Andy Rooney.

We'll be back with more right after this.


ROONEY: Why do so many people hate Martha Stewart? Some of the people she works with hate her, people in the town of Westport, Connecticut, where she lives, hate her. Newspaper headline writers hate her.

Martha sold some stock just before it took a nose dive, and she's being accused of knowing that was about to happen. It's called insider trading, which is illegal. We'd all like to get in on a little of that. Martha says she took advice from a young stockbroker, but I'm skeptical. Martha doesn't take advice about anything from anyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Andy Rooney's new book is "Common Nonsense Addressed to the Reading Public" on a variety of subjects. We'll get into some of them and we're going to take your calls for Andy Rooney. The book is now available everywhere.

But we cannot go by without discussing his latest controversy. Andy is always steeped in something.

And last month on the "Boomer Esiason Show" he dissed the idea of women reporting from the sidelines. Here's what he said.


ROONEY: And the only thing that really bugs me about television's coverage is those damn women they have down on the sideline who don't know what the hell they're talking about. I mean, I'm not a sexist person, but a woman has no business being down there trying to make some comment about a football game.


KING: And then, Andy, you did -- you apologized on "60 Minutes." Why?

ROONEY: Well, I don't know if it was an apology is what I did. I'm sorry I said it. But I still do not like to see women down on the sidelines. I admit that. Seems to me I have a right to think that.

KING: Sure.

ROONEY: It was interesting that the San Diego newspaper took a poll. They said, Andy Rooney says that women have no business being on the sideline at football games as reporters. Do you agree with him? Yes, 1, 197, No, 124. I forget the numbers but, I mean, it was overwhelming.

And people aren't agreeing with the people -- people are agreeing with the people who are criticizing me, but an awful lot of peel agreed with me. it's just -- I find it demeaning for women.

KING: Demeaning?

ROONEY: I find it demeaning for a woman to be down there on the sideline trying to talk like a jock. Yes, I do. I just don't like it. I think a great many men who wouldn't be so dumb as to say what I did, agree with me.

KING: You have to admit thought, Andy, a lot of them do know football.

ROONEY: Oh listen, there's some very good ones. That's the thing I regret. There are four of five of them who are really quite good. That's not the point. That's not the point.

KING: And you did say on "60 Minutes" a statement was a derogatory remark. I'm probably better off not having made it. I mean you did concede that some women are quite good. But it's hard to lump everybody, right? I mean, that's the difficulty, you lumped everybody so the woman's who's real good...

ROONEY: Well, I think the idea of it. I can lump the idea of it. I do not like the idea of a woman on the sideline talking about football.

KING: That you can lump. That lump is permitted.

ROONEY: I don't care how competent is woman is. And admittedly some of them are. Although some of the most competent are not on the sidelines -- sports reporters.

KING: What do you make of the Augusta National Club? They've decided again this year -- they -- I guess they bring it up every year. But certainly most recently in the headlines not to admit women?

ROONEY: Oh they have to admit women. I have a friend who suggested that they might solve the problem by making all the wives of men members, also members and that would solve it. I don't know. But obviously the Augusta Golf Course has to accept women at some point.

KING: Their statement that it's a private club and a private club can have any rule it wants?

ROONEY: Well, they're legally -- they can do that legally, yes. But I think the pressure will mount so that they will have to do it. And it would be the right thing to do, whether it's legal or not.

KING: And do you think some of the pressure might come from your network, which broadcasts the Masters?

ROONEY: Gee, that's out of my league, Larry. I don't know what our network does or doesn't do, you know? Don't say anything now because I have lost my ear plug. If you're talking, I'm not hearing you.

KING: All right, I'll wait until you put it back in. Are you hearing me now?

ROONEY: Say something to me, Larry.

KING: Are you hearing me now?

ROONEY: Say something nice and I'll..

KING: Do you hear me, Andy?


KING: I just said you're one of my favorite people and you're one of the most wonderful broadcasters who ever lived. And you're such an astute writer. I got that all in.

ROONEY: I got it -- I do hear it very well. Thank you. KING: I'm going to move now to the book. Why this concept of a series of essays?

ROONEY: I do not have -- I am not an intellectual. I do not have a great brain. I don't have the kind of brain that can sit down and write a book 430 pages long on one subject. I flick. And I am an essayist. And I like to think that if you handed me a sheet of paper with a word on it, I could write 800 words in the next hour on the subject you gave me. I like to do that.

It's fun to think of a subject and then turn it over in your mind and think of all the aspects of it. I -- years ago, when I started doing the essays on the CBS, which I wish I was still doing instead of what I am doing, the longer documentaries. I did some of them for Harry Reasoner and then I did some myself.

But I went to the president of CBS and I was writer-in-residence. And I said, I'd like to do some essays. He said, on what subject? Well, he had this big office. There were three doors in there. And I said, Well, I could do an hour on doors. And he said, OK. Go ahead.

He was -- we had a great time. We shot every great door in the world. And we had -- I mean, you get to thinking about one subject like that and the idea of the drama of a door is, if you are inside and want to get out, it's a lot different from whether -- if you're outside and want to get in. That's the big difference.

KING: The drama of the door. You have a way of making us think about things, Andy. Andy Rooney.

The book is "Common Nonsense: Addressed To The Reading Public." The publisher is Public Affairs. We'll be including your phone calls for Andy Rooney.

Barbara Walters tomorrow night. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 Minutes")

ROONEY: There's an official flag code but it is routinely ignored. It is not proper to use the flag as a table cloth, not to be used as an awning or a canopy or plastered to the hood of a car.

The code says the American flag is not to be used as decorative clothing. Some find it irresistibly fashionable though, and we are more amused than mad.

This is how the Star Spangled Banner was meant to be flown, on the end of a pole of its own, free to wave majestically in our own free air.



KING: Back with Andy Rooney.

With the title "Common Nonsense" have you now assumed the role of the Thomas Payne of this century?

ROONEY: Thomas Payne is one of my heroes. And the book -- that is the idea behind the title, yes.

You know, I appreciate your plugging the book this way. I always find it so wrong for a writer -- gosh, I spent all this time writing this damn book and now I have to go out and sell it, too, you know? It just seems wrong. I guess there's no other way.

KING: Andy, how else do you communicate the writing of the book to the public?

ROONEY: I know. There is no other way. You're absolutely right. But I mean, it does seem wrong that the writer has to do it. What does a publisher do? I mean, Peter Osnos, a publisher, is a good friend of mine, but...

KING: How would it look with him sitting here? This is a book...

ROONEY: I wrote it. Here I am out here trying to sell it. What does he do? He divides up the money. That's about all he has to do.

KING: By the way, in your book you write about how you don't give autographs, but you do autograph your book.

ROONEY: I do autograph my book because I'm proud of writing it. But I don't put my name on a sheet of paper that somebody shoves at me, no.

KING: Because?

ROONEY: Oh, gosh. You know, the whole business of well- knownness is so shoddy and it's so fake. And there is a tendency and -- I think we have it more here in America, although it may be all over the world.

There is a tendency to endow well-known people with virtues they do not have, like intelligence. I mean, people ask me all sorts of questions about subjects I know nothing about. You're a good example of asking me about things I don't know anything about. I have to answer. Here I am. I have to answer.

But, as soon as somebody puts something in front of me and asks me to sign it, as if my signature was valuable, it forces on me the idea that I am important enough to give somebody an autograph that is valuable to them to keep. It's ridiculous. I just -- it's offensive to me and I don't do it. I have offended a lot of people, but I do not sign sheets of paper.

KING: The book's broken down into politics, religion, education, money, sports, et cetera. You remain a sports fan, do you not, despite some of your criticisms of the pay in sports and the way professional teams treat their fans. Aren't you still at every Giant game? ROONEY: I am at every Giants game. And I am a sports fan. I mean, sports is a great release because if you're a fan, you can get really involved with your team and cheer it on and hope it wins and you can enjoy yourself an afternoon in front of the television set.

But in the end, unlike almost anything else in your life, it doesn't make a damn bit of difference who wins. You know, you may feel good or bad about who wins, but it doesn't really matter to your life. And that's why sports is such a good diversion.

And the other thing that, I think, is an improvement over some other diversions like movies is that no one knows how it's going to come out until it ends. And this is -- there's something real about that that appeals to me.

KING: Kind of unimportantly important.

ROONEY: It's not important at all.

KING: No? Not important to you, your team?

ROONEY: Oh, well, money involved and the commerce and everything is important, but, no, it has no effect on the world, no. Or on me.

KING: Are you a nonmovie fan with that line about it being better than movies?

ROONEY: I don't go to many movies. I don't read many novels. I -- it's strange, and I have tried to analyze it. But I am so -- I enjoy my own life. I am so interested in the realness in my own life that I am not interested in being carried away into somebody else's world in a novel or in a movie.

KING: You write about health. Are you in good health, Andy?

ROONEY: Yes, as far as I know. I don't go to -- I had at the end of the summer I worked 10 hours a day, seven days a week and I -- my hand began to go to sleep and I had the carpal tunnel problem, so I had surgery just six weeks ago and -- on my hand. Now I have to have this other one done, but other than that, as far as I know I'm in good shape. Could use a haircut.

KING: You wrote the book in long hand?

ROONEY: No, Larry. I typed it.

KING: So what were you writing?

ROONEY: I mean, I'm typing.

KING: Oh, typing did it.

ROONEY: Yes. Well, you know, a lot of people get it from typing. You never had -- do you do much typing?

KING: I used to do a lot more typing. I never got that though. Are you comfortable writing? Is writing easy for you?

ROONEY: It is easy. I love to do it. And I wouldn't have thought this was true, but the computer has made -- I think it's made writing a lot better. It's made it better for me.

I make corrections and change things and improve things that I would not have bothered doing 20 years ago if I had to tear the sheet out of the typewriter and start all over again. And there was always a lot of cutting and pasting and it was a mess.

And I mean the computer is just -- it's very good machine -- invention for a writer. I am appalled at how good young people are with the computer considering how bad they are with what they write on it.

KING: Let me get a break and pick up on that.

Andy Rooney is our special guest. And his new book is called "Common Nonsense."

Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, Barbara Walters will be here.

Hey, an ABC person, a CNN person.

Barbara Walters tomorrow night. We'll be right back with Andy Rooney. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Andy Rooney. The book is "Common Nonsense." We'll be taking your phone calls in just a moment.

I want to pick up on the last thing that you said, that the kids -- to the young people today use the computer well but they don't write well. You don't see a lot of good young writers?

ROONEY: I do not see a lot of good young writers. I'm appalled by it. I mean, we -- here we have this great language. We have the best language in the word. The English language, quite aside from our cultural or economic dominance in the world, is the best language in the world because it is -- it's something like -- there are three times as many words in the English language than in any other. And people who speak some other language get mad at me when I say that.

But it is the best language because we have -- just like America, we have accepted, taken things into it and if a new word a slang word comes along that has a nuance of meaning that we had no way of expressing before, we take it into the language. And the kids start with slang usually and we usually don't like it when our children use certain slang words, but eventually, nine out of ten of those slang words disappear and they're gone. But there's one of those ten that adds something to the language and we take it in and use it and it gets into the dictionary and makes it a better language.

KING: You don't like the way it's being used? ROONEY: I just don't think -- the kids are faking it. It's much easier to fake it. It's impossible to fake it if you write it down. I mean, if you really have an idea, you ought to be able to put it down on paper and words. Kids keep saying, "You know what I mean? I mean You know what I mean." No, I don't know what you mean. Put it down on paper and let me see what you mean.

KING: An essay.

ROONEY: Yes. I just -- I think -- and it's difficult. I don't think they're facing the difficulty of expressing themselves in words, writing. And writing, I see writing classes and it's very difficult to teach. I mean, you can teach grammar but you cannot teach kids -- you can't write anything unless you have something to say. And that's very difficult to teach a young person. So you have to teach them to inspect himself and inspect the world around him so he has some observations to make and something to write down.

KING: Let's go to calls for Andy Rooney. Sacramento, California, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. Rooney.


CALLER: I have enjoyed many of your comments.

ROONEY: That means many of them you haven't enjoyed. I hear you.

CALLER: OK. But when you say that women commentators on the sidelines shouldn't be there because, what they're talking to the players and coaches? How is that degrading? Why can cheerleaders in their little outfits be on the sidelines...

ROONEY: I don't approve of them either.

CALLER: What is it about women...

KING: Andy doesn't like any women on the field at all, right?

ROONEY: That's one of the good things about the Giants, they don't have cheerleaders.

No, I just don't think they look -- it is just something that doesn't appeal to most men, to have women pretending to be an expert on the sidelines. And even if they know what they're talking about, it just doesn't come off.

And I think most men feel that way. I certainly understand women's desire to get in on such a lucrative thing. But I don't think they do themselves any good. And most men agree with me. Ninety percent of the people, men, in this country, would agree with me.

KING: Arlington, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Andy, I am sure glad to talk to you. How you been doing lately?

KING: He's doing fine. What's the question?

ROONEY: I don't answer that question.

CALLER: How are you doing, Andy? I just wondered how's your health?

ROONEY: Did you write that down and read it or what? How did you come up with that question? What do you want to know?

KING: Andy, she just wanted to know how you're doing? They love you, Andy. Some people love you and just want to know how you're doing. Don't get mad at them for liking you, Andy.

Las Vegas, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Andy. I heard you once make a disparaging remark on one or two occasions about general of the Army, George S. Patton in favor of Omar Bradley. I have always felt that if it wasn't for George S. Patton we might be speaking German instead of English.

ROONEY: Well, I don't agree with you. I had a very low opinion of George Patton. And I haven't changed. I know a lot about him, saw him a lot during World War II, knew where he was and what he did. He did a good job at the end of the Bulge. But for the most part, the 3rd Army was not a major factor in our march across France and Germany.

KING: And Omar Bradley was one of the significant figures of World War II, was he not?

ROONEY: He certainly was. He was a great general.

KING: That...

ROONEY: They were not comparable. Bradley was in command of a group which comprised several divisions. Bradley had the 3rd Armored.

KING: Windsor, Missouri for Andy Rooney. The book is "Common Nonsense." Hello.

CALLER: Hello there. Great show. Great show, Larry.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: Andy...

ROONEY: It's not that great, Larry.

CALLER: ... I have enjoyed you a long, long time. I think you got a couple years on me maybe.

KING: What's the question?

CALLER: OK, my question, I know you were a great war correspondent in World War II. And would you be willing to go over in Iraq if you were maybe a few years younger?

KING: Would you like to go back to that, Andy? The question is if you were younger, would you like to cover that?

ROONEY: I went into -- friend of mine, a woman who runs the news at CBS under the president and I said, How would you like to have the oldest war correspondent in Iraq go over for CBS News. I'd love to do it. Yes, I would.

KING: I'll bet you would.

ROONEY: You can't beat being where the action is. But there are no correspondents being allowed in there. Donald Rumsfeld is our only correspondent. He tells us what's going on. No one else is allowed to go in and see what we're doing.

KING: We'll be right back with Andy Rooney. In the next few segments we'll try to get him to formulate an opinion here on something. Don't go away.


ROONEY: The president admits he has a special reason for hating Saddam Hussein.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After all, this is the guy that tried to kill my dad at one time.

ROONEY: Well, I have a vindictive streak myself. My worst side would enjoy seeing us attack Iraq. But then I think of all the young American sons who would lose dads who have never been president. And all the good innocent Iraqis too. And once we blow Iraq to pieces, we'll have to spend years putting it back together.



KING: By the way, the gentleman who called about the question about Patton and Bradley, "My War" Andy's brilliant book on World War II, the best-seller, is now out in trade paperback and his new one in hardcover, published by Public Affairs is "Common Nonsense."

And we go to Portland, Oregon, for Andy Rooney, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Andy Rooney?

KING: Yes, go ahead.

CALLER: I've all enjoyed your commentary, but I would like to know if you think we send U.N. into Iraq, that they will keep them for hostages?

KING: Do you think they might take action against the inspectors? Do you think that's possible, Andy? Would they go that far?

ROONEY: Gee, I think whole world would come down on them if they did that. I think they would have better sense than to do that. I very much doubt that they would do that.

KING: West Salem, North Carolina, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Yes. Go ahead. Winston-Salem, I'm sorry, go ahead.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Yes, go ahead, ma'am.

CALLER: Oh. I'm calling from Great Falls, Montana.

KING: They told me Winston-Salem, but go ahead. Go ahead.

CALLER: OK. I would like to talk about Martha Stewart.

KING: Go ahead.


I would like to say that, you know, I used to really hate her, but you know what? When they did this to her about this stock thing, I absolutely think all the women in America should just love her because they made such an issue of her and have let the guys just go.

KING: Is that partially true Andy? do you think she's getting a lot of this because she's a woman, a successful woman?

ROONEY: I don't think so. I mean, if she did what she's accused of doing, it was illegal. That's what's wrong with it.

KING: So you don't think she's being picked on because she's

ROONEY: No, absolutely not. No, of course not. I mean..

KING: Langley, British Columbia, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Larry, I would like to ask Andy one question.

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: I have always considered him sort of a Socratic gadfly. Does he consider himself this or do his questions about our culture just emerge from his own integrity?

ROONEY: Well...

KING: Good question.

ROONEY: I hope they emerge from my own integrity, from -- I -- you know, I very often pick up a book, as I say. I'm not a great reader. But I have a great many books on -- you use the word Socratic. I am fascinated by the classic philosophers. And I read them a lot, although in short takes. I have 100 books of philosophy, many of them in my office.

And inevitably, I think if you're a writer, as I am doing as much as you do, you pick up an idea or a phrase or something comes on. It's -- it could hardly be called stealing, but I get ideas from things I read.

Which isn't an answer to your question, but I didn't really understand your question.

KING: By the way, what do you make of this proposed possible CNN/ABC merger thing?

ROONEY: Well, our son Brian works for ABC as a correspondent and my only worry about it is his job.

I hope they don't -- if they merge, I hope they don't cut back when it comes to him. He's pretty good, so I don't think they will. But I am never -- I have never seen -- I am in no wise have any business sense, but it has not seemed to me that mergers have worked for the public good very often. Business mergers. They always -- their first announcement they make is that they're not going to make any changes. Everything's going to be the same. They're not going to cut anybody. First thing you know, year later -- one of them -- 2,700 people have been fired and they restrict building sizes and everybody gets into smaller offices. Never -- these mergers never work out for the public. They may work out for the stockholders. I don't know.

KING: Earlier this year, Mike Wallace said there's mounting pressure from CBS management to change "60 Minutes." Do fewer international stories, more profiles of people under 50. He claimed Britney Spears had discussed as a possible subject for a profile.

The president of CBS said that any pressure to change the show, that it's a jewel, it's not going to change, not going away.

Are you firmly secure in the fact that "60 Minutes" will remain "60 Minutes?"

ROONEY: Well I think it will as long as Don Hewitt is the producer.

I sit home Sunday night. Sometimes I have some inkling of what the shows are going to be. But I know only my part of it usually. From day to day I get some idea of what they're doing over there.

But I sit in front of my set, or I'll read in the newspaper what the stories are going to be and I think to myself, Gee, do I want to watch that? It sounds sort of like nothing I want to -- then I get -- I always watch it. Nine times out of 10 it is very well done and fascinating. And important.

Now, there is not another show, and I don't like to use the word show in relation to "60 Minutes." There is not another news broadcast that has the integrity and that tackles as difficult and important subjects regularly as "60 Minutes" does. And I hope it doesn't change. I hope Andrew Hayward is behind that statement he made.

KING: Toledo, Illinois, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Hello, Larry.

KING: Not Ohio, huh?

CALLER: I was wondering, after the 2000 election, what do you think? Should we get rid of the electoral college and go straight with the popular vote or what?

ROONEY: I shouldn't give this away, but I did a piece today for "60 Minutes" for Sunday.

KING: Give it away. Give it away.

ROONEY: My idea is that as long as fewer than 40% of the people eligible to vote voted this year. Skip the vote. Forget the vote. Forget the election speeches. Give every one of the candidates a written test. And the one who gets the highest score is the winner.

KING: That's funny. How about the electoral college? Would you do away with that? Gore would be president if you didn't have that.

ROONEY: Well, it has happened a few times in the past that we would have different presidents.

I think the electoral college seems like an awkward, artificial device and I'm not sure what its value is.

KING: By the way, former Vice President Gore will be on this program next Tuesday night.

Barbara Walters will be here tomorrow. Former President Carter on Friday. And back with more moments with Andy Rooney right after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "60 Minutes")

ROONEY: On television, the drug companies make it sound as if you could talk to your doctor any time you wanted to about anything.

ANNOUNCER: Ask your doctor -- ask your doctor -- talk to your doctor. Talk to your doctor -- ask your doctor --

ROONEY: Well, forget trying to call your doctor. We've all tried to do that.

PHONE MESSAGE: You have reached Internal Medicine Associates. Please make your selection from the following menu. If this is a serious medical emergency or you are a physician press 0.

ROONEY: I understand, though, busy doctor doesn't want to talk to you about whether you should take plavix of flonase. They've got sick people to take care of. Got to make a living too. No money talking to you on the telephone.



ROONEY: I recently bought this new laptop to use when I travel. Look at that, though. It fits right into the briefcase here. Weighs less than three pounds. I lose that much, getting mad waiting to get on the plane through security at the airport. But that's it. I'm ready to go.

Well, almost ready. When I've got everything together, I put the computer in the briefcase then pack everything else into a small suitcase and away I go. Tell you the truth, I might be better off bringing my underwood.


KING: Andy Rooney, the book is "Common Nonsense." And we go to Philadelphia, hello.

CALLER: Hi. Recently on "60 Minutes" Andy Rooney had discussed people putting flags everywhere. Flags on their shirts, flags on their clothes, flags...

KING: Right.

CALLER: And I was wondering it sounded kind of negative. I think it was just a general outpouring of people trying to show their patriotism and their grief, everything for this country was going through. And his commentary kind of sounded like he was disappointed because maybe the flag wasn't used properly.

I was wondering if he understood where that was coming from, the compassion, even though at times it was -- I know it's not supposed to be on clothing and things.

KING: Andy?

ROONEY: I think there's no doubt that the American public had a genuine enthusiasm for being American in the last year that they had not had quite as strongly before that.

Still, I don't know why it is. You can hate it if you want. But I do not like to see the American flag used in a cheap -- I don't like to see somebody with an American flag in their button hole, a pin or something. I don't like to see the president wear it. I mean what's he trying to prove? That he's an American? I know he's an American. I trust him -- his patriotism.

I just think it's -- somebody puts a flag on a pole in front of their house, it's beautiful, or in a public place. But this ubiquitous use of flags on everything it cheapens it and I don't like it.

KING: Toronto, Canada, hello. CALLER: Hello. In the context of Andy's comments about women reporters in the sports world, I'm curious to know what he would say about women in combat roles in the military.

ROONEY: If they feel physically up to it, I guess -- I don't think they are going to be put into combat very often for a variety of reasons, but if they want to do it, I wouldn't have any comment to make about it.

KING: Vancouver, hello.

CALLER: Hello, gentlemen. It's Canada night tonight. I've got a very quick question. Would you give us your opinion on "60 Minutes 2" and what your involvement is with them.

ROONEY: None. I don't have any involvement. I like the show. It's good. I like Charles Grodin, who has my part on it. He's very good. I don't have any -- I did not really approve of trading on the name "60 Minutes" and everybody there knew it. But I was apparently wrong because it's been very successful and I'm pleased with that. I like everybody on the show.

KING: I know him a long time he's been on this show quite a few times but you know him better than anybody. What makes, and the public's heard his name mentioned thousands of times. What makes Don Hewitt special?

ROONEY: He just has -- I have often said this, but if you met Don Hewitt, if he was here and you were talking to him, probably you wouldn't be much impressed with him. He has the best brain for editing I have ever known.

He said last year, somebody was talking about the woodworking I do. And I do some cooking. And he looks up and he says, You know, I don't know how to do anything. He said, You know, if they hadn't invented television, I'd be pumping gas somewhere.

He is a genius in the editing room. I showed him this piece today and he looked at it. There was six or eight people in the room. He had never seen it before. I had finished it. He looked at it. He said, Andy, great. I love it. But those two -- and he goes right to the thing. He said, Take those out.

It was about seven seconds and we went back to the editing room looked at it and took it out. He's almost always right. He very often, when I show him a piece, juggles something around. He is a genius in the editing room. And everybody, all the correspondents would not be as approving of him as they are in he wasn't right so often.

KING: Everyone asks this, Andy. How long can these people, yourself included, keep going?

ROONEY: Well, how long is life, Larry? About nine years?

KING: If you -- in other words, you don't see yourself retiring at all?

ROONEY: Well, if I lose it. I can imagine -- I see my brain in certain aspects going. My memory of names and things. But I do not yet notice any diminution in my creative abilities. I suppose I would be the last one to recognize it if they begin to go. And if they go, I should get out. But until that happens, and somebody tells me they're going, I'm going to stay.

KING: Andy Rooney, you are a national treasure. It's always great having you with us. Thank you so much. And next time we'll be together.

ROONEY: Thanks, Larry.

KING: Andy Rooney, best selling author of -- the latest book is "Common Nonsense" and you can also still get "My War" which is out in trade paper back and a terrific read.

And when we come back, we will tell you about what's up tomorrow night and the weekend ahead. Don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE this could be a preview of thins to come. Barbara Walters is our special guest for the hour. ABC/CNN.


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