CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND
Interviews With Michael Beschloss, Tony Orlando, Larry Elder, Arthur Levitt, Phyllis George
Aired December 15, 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, starting with shocking revelations on America's role in World War II with best-selling historian Michael Beschloss. And then Tony Orlando tells us how he survived drug abuse and the psych ward.
What's wrong in America? Nationally syndicated radio host Larry Elder will get you thinking about it. And former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt on how you can defend yourself against Wall Street's worst. And then Phyllis George, who broke through the glass ceiling on the NFL today. And what does she think about Andy Rooney's comments?
And we close it off with Diamond Rio performing their hit, "I Believe."
It's all next on a jam packed LARRY KING WEEKEND. We always look forward to these editions of LARRY KING WEEKEND when we meet some terrific authors with some great new books. And no better one than the one we kick off with tonight. Michael Beschloss, the renowned historian and best-selling author, the commentator for ABC News, PBS' "THE NEWS HOUR WITH JIM LEHRER," a frequent guest on this program. His new book is "The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany 1941-45."
Now I understand you've been on working this for 10 years or you put it aside or what?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, AUTHOR, THE CONQUERORS: I did. You know, I started it in '91 and almost finished it a few years later. And then I was told I found out that a lot of stuff was coming open. British intelligence archives and CIA documents. The Soviet Union is putting a lot of -- out of lot of stuff that showed us what Stalin thought. So I basically set the book aside for a few years. And good thing I did.
KING: Haven't there been tons of books about World War II, the end of World War II, about Churchill, about Roosevelt, about Stalin? What could you find that's new?
BESCHLOSS: There -- it's a great thing about history is that even 50 or 60 years later, there's all sorts of new stuff. One example is that British Secret Service agents were trying to kill Hitler all through the war might have succeeded. The most grave one I found was that it was thought that Franklin Roosevelt had never dealt with the question of possibly stopping the Holocaust bombing the death camps. And I found an interview that had never been seen before in which it turns out it did come up to Roosevelt. He was told you've got a chance to perhaps stop Hitler's killing of the Jews by bombing the death camps. And to my great disappointment, he sort of flicked it away, said well I'm not interested in that, did not really take it seriously.
KING: And his Jewish secretary of the treasury, Henry Morgenthal, fought for it, did he not?
BESCHLOSS: He did. And that's really a great story. I think the most moving in the book because Morgenthal was Jewish, but unobservant. If you can believe it, he had never attended a Passover Seder by the age of 50, but when he learned in 1943 about the Holocaust, it radicalized him. He almost fainted. And he found out that FDR and the administration had been stopping Jewish refugees from coming out of Europe. They had been unwilling to use military resources to stop the killing.
And even though Morgenthal said my friendship with the president was the most important thing in my life, and he also worried that Roosevelt that did not like him to raise Jewish matters, he went to the Oval Office and he said, "Mr. President, this has to stop. You have to do something about the Holocaust."
KING: Now Roosevelt so loved by Jewish America. I believe he got 98 percent of the Jewish vote.
BESCHLOSS: Close to it.
KING: Why didn't he bomb? Why didn't he help?
BESCHLOSS: Well, it sort of goes back. One scene I got in the book is that shortly after Pearl Harbor, Morgenthal had lunch with Roosevelt, along with a Catholic guy named Leo Crowley. And Roosevelt said to them, you guys have got to understand that America is Protestant country. And you Jews and Catholics are only here under sufferance, he said. And therefore, you have to do everything I ask. And Morgenthal, who loved Roosevelt, went back to his office and almost went, you know, what the hell am I working 24 hours a day for, if America is not for me?
KING: Is Roosevelt diminished in this book?
BESCHLOSS: I think he's diminished in terms of not being able to face the big moral crisis, perhaps of the 20th century. The murder of the Jews, the Holocaust, this monstrous crime...
KING: Where is the elevated?
BESCHLOSS: He's elevated in terms of understanding that we did have to fight Hitler. That was very unpopular in '39 and '40. Had he not said that to Americans, we could have lost the war. Many of us would not be here.
KING: Right wing America was opposed to us going into helping Europe, was it not? BESCHLOSS: Absolutely. And if Roosevelt had taken the advise of his advisers, they were saying America's isolationist. You know, don't alienate people. You might lose the election.
KING: Including Joseph Kennedy?
BESCHLOSS: Including Joseph Kennedy, who in my book Roosevelt says to him in private, interestingly enough, Roosevelt was always worried that people say that he was going into World War II to save the Jews, because there were many Jews in his administration. Ridiculous charge, but Roosevelt said to Kennedy in private, which I've got in the book, he said, "I think if an American demagogue took up anti-Semitism," Roosevelt says, "there would be more blood running through the streets of New York City than in Berlin." I think he was wrong, but it shows how sensitive he was to this.
KING: How does Churchill come out in a book I cannot wait to read? The book is "The Conquerors," by the way. Churchill, up or down?
BESCHLOSS: Actually very well because, for instance, on the issue of the Holocaust, he got the same information that FDR got. And rather than Roosevelt saying let's just win the war and not deal with this directly, Churchill with his great sense of history said we're obviously witnessing the great crime in human history. He asked his Air Force to explore every possible way of stopping the killing.
KING: But they didn't?
BESCHLOSS: They couldn't do it. And they found that actually the Americans were better situated to do it. That's why the question when to Roosevelt, who turned this down very brusquely.
KING: Churchill was the first of the three, was he not? Of the Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt, to see Hitler for what he was?
BESCHLOSS: He was back in the '30s. And as you know, he was seen by the British people almost as a crank. And in that relationship, he's the one who's always giving very good advice, but the problem was that he was the junior member. I've got a scene in the book, for instance, 1943, they were in private. They were meeting at Tehran, the big three. And Stalin is talking about what do you do with Germany at the end of World War II? And he says, I think the way to fix the Germans is let's murder the top 50,000 German military officers. That will do it.
And Roosevelt replies well, you know, Uncle Joe, that's too harsh. Why don't we murder only 49,000? And Churchill, you know, sort of storms out of the room and says, you know, this is ridiculous. We're fighting a war for justice. I'd love to do this emotionally, but this is exactly the opposite of what we're saying to the world. And Uncle Joe sort of brings it back in and says, "Winston, we were only kidding." Of course he wasn't kidding at all.
KING: Stalin, how did he dance the dance? He signs a pact with Hitler. Hitler invades the Soviet Union. He gets us in. He wants to -- he forces a break-up of where he gets control of Eastern Germany? How did -- pretty good player, wasn't he?
BESCHLOSS: Machiavellian player. Roosevelt was always terrified that at any time during this war, Stalin would make a deal once again with Hitler and say, you know, we'll make a deal on the Eastern front. You turn the German army against the British and the Americans. That's why Roosevelt said let's all fight this war to unconditional surrender, even though that cost many more British and American lives.
KING: One terrific review in your book, which widely praised it, ended it by bringing in Iraq, saying we learned from Beschloss' book. Know what you're going to do when you win. That's as important as winning.
BESCHLOSS: Absolutely, because what Roosevelt did, and I hope President Bush does if we do this thing, is Roosevelt said we've got to find -- fight this war to unconditional surrender. Bush will have to do that against Saddam Hussein if we do this. But the other part of it is that in Germany, just like Iraq. We didn't just win the war, FDR and Truman said let's make it into a democracy so we'll never have to do this again. And Iraq, that may mean that we Americans have to stay there for a long time with a lot of sacrifice.
KING: What surprised you the most?
BESCHLOSS: The fact that FDR, who I always have thought of as a humane man and as a great president, could have been pretty cold- hearted on the Holocaust, because you know, he was confronted with this evidence. He realized that the murder of the Jewish people, this is the first time that someone had tried to remove an entire people from the face of the earth. Despite that, he dealt with this as if it were sort of a minor military matter instead of the great moral issue that we now know it was.
KING: Did we learn a lot about the military activity of World War II in "The Conquerors?"
BESCHLOSS: We do. And one of the diamonds in the chandelier is this. You know, this war took until 1945 to win. One reason it took so long was that Roosevelt kept on saying this time, let's not just defeat Hitler and maybe sign a peace treaty with the Germans. We've got to go all the way to Berlin and have absolute victory. The meaning of that, Roosevelt didn't want to advertise it, was that this war took a lot longer, killed a lot more Brits and Americans, but in the end, it was the right thing to do because that's the only way that you absolutely overwhelm the possibility of another Hitler in Germany.
KING: And how about Truman, who finishes it off? Roosevelt dies before seeing this?
BESCHLOSS: Complex, because Truman for instance, his first week in office begins to see these pictures of the death camps opening. And I was born 10 years later, but I know that even anti-Semites in this country saw those horrible pictures and said, you know, how could I have said and thought such things? They changed their minds.
Truman, although a humane man, would write in his diaries such things as the Jews think that they're God's chosen people. I think God had better judgment. You see the two sides of Truman as more complex. At the same time, he finally did the right thing on Germany, which was punish the Nazis, get them out of positions of power after VE day, but try to make them like Americans.
KING: And he didn't know about the A-bomb, right?
BESCHLOSS: Didn't know about A-bomb. Knew virtually nothing that Roosevelt wanted to do, because Roosevelt told virtually no one in his circle.
KING: Can't wait to read this, Michael.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you.
KING: And always great seeing you.
BESCHLOSS: Great to see you, Larry.
KING: Michael Beschloss, highly recommended, great reviews. The book is "The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the destruction of Hitler's Germany 1941-45."
Tony Orlando is next. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The beginning of a permanent structure of peace upon which we can begin to build under God that better world in which our children and grandchildren, yours and mine, children and grandchildren of the whole world must live and can live.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING WEEKEND, singer, entertainer, Tony Orlando. Known for hits like "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree," "Knock Three Times." He's got a new autobiography out called "Halfway to Paradise." Tony comes to us from Springfield, Missouri, near Branson, Missouri, where he of course entertains at his own spot.
Why did you title the book the name of one of your recordings?
TONY ORLANDO, AUTHOR, "HALFWAY TO PARADISE": Well, that's one of the reasons, it was the first record. It was the beginning. It was the marker, but also, it had a kind of a double entendre. You know, half empty, half full, life is just -- is always offering that to you. And I just -- oh, I remember seeing George Burns, Larry, at Caesar's Palace. And you were there, I'm pretty sure you there for that night when he came on out of his 100th birthday. And I thought, my God, if I could be so lucky to work in this business and perform for people," which I've been doing since I'm 16-years old, until I'm 100, and I'm 58 now. So I'm halfway there.
KING: Now you grew up -- you're a Puerto Rican kid. You grew up on 21st Street in Manhattan near Hell's Kitchen. You would not have bet that Tony Orlando would become what he became.
ORLANDO: No, I'm actually half Greek, half Puerto Rican, which makes me a Greeka Rican. And born in Midtown, Manhattan, right smack about in the shadows of the Empire State Building on 21st Street. And there is no way that I would have looked at a 43 year -- this has been a 43 year career for me. And no way would I have ever though that, you know, doing my little do-wops on the corner or in the subways of New York, that I'd work with everyone from Jackie Wilson to Jackie Gleason, including yourself.
KING: What Tony was, if any, the big break?
ORLANDO: Well, the big break was certainly with Don Kirschner when Donny had -- you know, he was the mogul. He was the young entrepreneur at a young age of 26-years old. I was 16. And all the people who were signed at Carole King, and Jerry Goffet (ph), who wrote half of the Paradise, Barry Mann, Cynthia Wild, great writers. To this day, winning Academy Awards. Neil Sedaka, Connie Francis, Bobby Darren, all of us working in that same room and with Donny. And he was the one that really, you know, rolled out the carpet and said, "Take the walk to your dream."
KING: And how did you end up with -- tell me the story of Tony Orlando and Dawn?
ORLANDO: Well, you know, you don't -- many times in this business, you walk into success. And sometimes you back into it. When I was working for CBS, I was working for Clive Davis in 1966. My earlier career had really been over. You know, I thought I was probably the youngest oldie but goodie that ever lived. By the time I was, you know, in my 20s, I had a find a job when a mutual friend of ours, when Paul McCartney, we saw him together. And you and I in Las Vegas started in '63 and '64, American acts were not getting any air play. And so, I had to find a way to make a living.
I had just really recently had gotten married, inherited a five- year old son in that marriage. So I had some responsibilities to take care of, and went to work for Clive Davis at Columbia Records, ended up becoming general manager there, working there for four years with great artists and signing Barry Manilow and working with James Taylor and Blood Sweat and Tears and all these wonderful people.
And little did I know that a friend of mine, Hank Medriss, one of the Tokens that recorded "Lion Sleeps Tonight" and his co-producer, Dave Apple, came to me as a favor and literally said, would you do us a favor and put your vocal on this record because we're not able to sell it with the vocal that's presently on there. And that vocal that I put on was "Candida," which was the first Dawn hit, which sold a million records. Never telling Clive, Larry, that I did it because I was afraid to lose my job. I figured it was a one hit wonder situation. And I wasn't about to jeopardize my future in an executive capacity, you know. (SINGING)
KING: In "Halfway to Paradise," you write that you didn't like "Tie Yellow Ribbon?"
ORLANDO: I didn't. It wasn't as much as I didn't like the song. Irvin Levine and Larry Brown, who wrote all the Dawn hits in those days, "Gypsy Rose," and "Candida," "Knock Three Times," great writers, I just didn't want to go that way musically. I wanted to try and show off the talents of Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson and myself. I wanted to get away from the "Knock Three Times," which was a basically a novelty record. And I was sing "Yellow Ribbon" as a novelty type song.
And if you look at the records that were making it during that time, Larry, it certainly kind of fit that category, because music was making a big change.
ORLANDO: Progressive rock was happening. And I just didn't think it would be competitive. Low and behold, not only was it a hit, it changed my life and became the signature theme song for me.
KING: What led to the -- does anyone really know what led to the cocaine addiction?
ORLANDO: I think it was just a matter of, you know, the times. If you look at the '70s and you see some of those VH-1 shows that "Behind the Music," you'll see there was a very, you know, common place thing to self and destruct in the '70s. It was a drug period. Here I am, to this day I've never -- I don't drink, never have, never smoked grass, but there I was doing cocaine. How low and behold and why?
Well, you know, you're doing 16 hour days on those variety shows. 16 hours a day, every day. I was involved in much too much. And you know, someone came in and said, "Hey, it's 12:00 and I can't make my way onto the set. Try this." I says, "Well, look, I don't like getting stoned. I don't like the feeling of getting high." And he said, "No, no, no." He said, "You'll go out there and you'll feel like you just had a, you know, a few cups of coffee." And indeed, I felt that way, never knowing that that few cups of coffee would end up being a struggle to get back to that high that coke gets you. So you hit the wall. You hit the wall. You fall. You take more. You hit the wall. You fall.
And for nine months of my life, and only nine months of my life, I experimented with coke. And I had to pay the price, Larry, like anybody who does drugs. I mean, it's not...
KING: Yes, but you paid -- you ended up in a psycho ward, didn't you?
ORLANDO: Well, every -- yes, I did. And of course, you know, if you look at Richard Pryor, he certainly ended up in a situation where he put himself on fire. And Freddie Prinze was certainly someone who -- all of us really had to pay the price. And I did. I self committed myself. I wanted to get better. I found myself there. I didn't realize that there was a 72 hour commitment in which that you have to, by law, stay within the confines of as you put it, the psycho ward. And I really mean it was sobering, man, I mean to walk through those halls, and meeting up with people who you knew were definitely not all there.
And in a time when people were not sophisticated about drug use. We didn't have a Betty Ford Center. We didn't have the knowledge of drugs as we do today. And so, that was the place to go. It was probably not the right place to go, but it certainly was so scary...
ORLANDO: ...and so sobering, that it puts you back on your feet pretty fast.
KING: A very revealing autobiography. The death of Freddie Prinze hit you pretty hard, didn't it?
ORLANDO: Well you know, he was a buddy of mine. He was 22-years old, Larry. How does anybody handle seeing a 22-year old genius, really, go the way that Freddie did? And yes, I'm sure you knew Freddie.
KING: I met him twice.
ORLANDO: Freddie was one of those brilliant, brilliant, brilliant comedians. And to see him, I was in my early 30s. I was 10 years older than Freddie. And to see him lose his life like that had a tremendous effect on me, when I had never seen anybody die in my own presence. And there I was with his wife Kathy and his mom. And it was a horrific time. And it affected me deeply. It really, really did.
But I'm happy to say that his wife, Kathy, has done an amazing job in raising that young man and keeping him away from the Hollywood types, and keeping him away from that area, and raising not only a talented young man, but what seems to a very wonderfully, wonderfully well raised young man, Freddie Prinze, Junior.
KING: There's no better story of ups and downs than Tony Orlando. And we're so happy to see him up and happy to see him happy. And the book is "Halfway to Paradise." See you soon, Tony. Thanks so much.
ORLANDO: Thank you, buddy. Thank you very much, Larry.
KING: Tony Orlando.
Larry Elder, very popular radio talk show host, now heard nationally has a new book out. His earlier one was "The Ten Things You Can't Say in America." The new one is "Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests that Divide America." Larry Elder's next. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: He is nationally syndicated on radio, finally. Should have happened a long time ago, but it finally is a reality. He's called the sage of South Central, long a popular figure in the Los Angeles area, now being heard nationally. Had a bestseller called "The Ten Things You Can't Say in America." And his newest book, there's his cover, is "Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests that Divide America."
Larry, how do we define special interests?
LARRY ELDER, AUTHOR, SHOWDOWN: Well, the book, Larry, makes two broad points. The first part of the book is called "Showdown." And I make the argument that there are two competing points of view regarding America and the Constitution. Those of us who believe that the founding fathers wanted a limited government, a government that did not get involved in health care, did not get involved in education, did not get involved in Amtrak, did not get involved in corporate welfare, and those who believe that the Constitution is a living, breathing document. And it lets the Constitution, the government, Congress, and the president do anything they want, as long as they feel it's in our best interests.
I make the argument that the latter review was not only wrong, Larry, but it hurts us. On September the 11, where was George W. Bush? He was in Florida reading to elementary school kids. I'm sure it was sincere. I'm sure he cared, but that's not his job. His job primarily is to provide for the common defense. And if federal government focused on its number on responsibility to the exclusion of other things that they shouldn't be doing, maybe 9/11 could have been avoided. And maybe future 9/11s can be avoided.
KING: Is this a book saying I am conservative, liberal is wrong? Or is it not a conservative, liberal treatise?
ELDER: Well, it's a book that says the founding fathers were people who believed that Americans should be trusted with their own money and their own freedom, and that we have drastically drifted away from that.
The second part of the book, to answer your first question, Larry, confronting bias, lies, and special interests that divide America is why don't more people feel the way I feel, or at least why aren't we having a more vigorous discussion? And I argue that there are three major sources in America that prevent that discussion.
The first is our mainstream news media. The second is academia. And the third is Hollywood regarding mainstream news media. One time you had Andy Rooney on your show. And Andy Rooney was responding to a question of yours regarding Bernard Goldberg's book called "Bias." And Andy Rooney admitted that much of what Goldberg said was true. And he referred to Dan Rather, their anchor, as transparently liberal.
In my book, I have a quote from Peter Jennings after the Republicans took over in 1994, Jennings said, and I'm paraphrasing, this will be remembered as a day that Americans went to the polling booth and pitched a tantrum like two-year olds. NBC, recently I saw my friend, Charlton Heston, interviewed by Matt Lauer. And Lauer said something like this. You know, Charlton, when you pick up the newspaper and you see a kid's been killed or you see a Columbine, do you ever say to yourself, "You know, I may be on the wrong side of this issue."
And Heston said no, I side with the founding fathers and so forth. I said to myself I've watched this show a lot. I've never seen, for example, when they've had Sarah Brady on. And the question is as follows. You know, when you read some research, as I have, that shows 2.5 million Americans every year use guns for defensive purposes, when you look at research and you find out that among burglaries, break-ins in homes in England, half of them take place when somebody's in the house because the bad guys know whoever's in there ain't packing versus only 13 percent of hot burglaries, burglaries that take place when somebody's in the house in this country -- when you read that, Ms. Brady, do you ever say to yourself you may be on the wrong side of this issue?
Those are the kinds of things that I mean by media bias.
KING: So it's a two pronged book?
KING: OK. You mentioned health care. This is a ticklish area. Lyndon Johnson once said, the answer's halfway between what the founding fathers who had to deal with two million people, and a nation that now deals with 280 million people. You can't dismiss that health care is just -- tough break. You got a bad burn and there's no doctor in your neighborhood. That's the breaks.
ELDER: Well, if health care were something different from any other kind of commodity, Larry, and it's a commodity like anything else, whether it's a car or sweater, the more competition it is, the cheaper it's going to be.
KING: How fair is the competition?
ELDER: It ought to be. It's a business. You're supplying...
KING: My (UNINTELLIGIBLE) better than you. My doctor's better than your doctor?
ELDER: You're supplying a good or a service. Frankly after Medicare Act came into effect in 1965, the projections were off by a factor of eight. Price controls do not work. If we really want everybody to have access to health care, we should have more competition, less government, not more. That's why Canadians are coming down here to get their health care. They have a single pair system up there. And it ain't working.
KING: Would you say, Larry, you're more libertarian?
ELDER: I would. KING: Than conservative?
ELDER: I would. And I would also say so were the founding fathers.
KING: Probably very libertarian, right?
So therefore, you think the role is so limited as to protect our citizens in view of an enemy, right?
ELDER: Of course.
KING: The army has to be...
ELDER: Of course.
KING: ...effective, but limited otherwise.
ELDER: And limited to the functions that were described in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.
KING: How about civil rights? If the playing field isn't level, what's the government's responsibility?
ELDER: Well, the government's responsibility is to provide equal protection for people by government. I'm to be equally protected against police abuse, things like that. But if I as a private employer, for example, don't want to hire you because you're a woman, because you're black, because you're Asian, I have a right to do that. It's foolish.
KING: I have a right not to like you.
ELDER: Sure. It's foolish.
KING: Not to purchase your goods?
ELDER: Of course.
KING: You have a right to picket that store, saying they won't serve this person?
ELDER: Absolutely. And I, for one, would not patronize a store that did not hire black people, that did not hire people and be fair. But do they have a right in order to do that, because of their own private property? Absolutely.
KING: Do you think most of the major talk shows are conservative as an outgrowth of the networks being liberal?
ELDER: I think that's part of it, but I also think, frankly, that many liberals have difficulty defending their ideas. I think when you make an argument, for example, that gun control is a good idea, but you really look at the data, and you find out how often Americans use guns for defensive purposes, you look at the data and you find out that 200 years ago, when there was no gun control in this country versus 200 years ago when there was no gun control in England, we still killed more people than they do in England, just as we do now.
We're more a violent people for all sorts of reasons. I think once you have to have a show long form, where you have to take a position and defend it, many of the liberal points of view simply do not hold up. But I think secondarily, Larry, you're right. I think the liberal point of view, whether it's George Bush's tax cuts are a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for the rich, whether it's we ought to have more Family Paid Leave Act, I think you're going to get from the mainstream news media a positive spin on all that stuff. I think when you cut on talk radio, you're going to get a different point of view. And that's one of the reasons we're so popular.
KING: Going to go into Iraq?
ELDER: I think we are. I think we should.
KING: Got an end game to it, too?
ELDER: Boy, Larry, it's going to be tough. I think once Iraq goes, I think Iran's going to go. I think Lebanon's going to go. I think you're going to have freedom in that area, but it may be generations.
KING: Next visit, I want to have a full fledged debate between you and somebody else on the other side, who may be as eloquent.
ELDER: Sounds good. Larry, thank you very much.
KING: Larry Elder, his show is now heard nationally. You can pick it up in a city near you. If he doesn't have it, they should ask for it, because all good voices should be heard. And his new book is "Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests that Divide America."
Arthur Levitt, former chairman of Securities and Exchange Commission is next. Don't go away.
KING: Now a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING WEEKEND, Arthur Levitt. He was the 25th chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the longest serving chairman in SEC history from July of '93 to February of 2001. He's got a runaway best-seller on his hands. The new book is "Take On the Street: What Wall Street and Corporate America Don't Want You to Know and What You Can Do to Fight Back." It's been an instant best-seller.
Arthur, what -- if you're going to write a book that's this angry, what took so long?
ARTHUR LEVITT, AUTHOR, "TAKE ON THE STREET": Well, it took me about a year and a half to get the book written. And I started to write about a month before I left the SEC. But I thought about it a lot. I thought about it for the eight years that I was in Washington, because I really felt that the individual investor, potentially the most powerful political force in America, has nothing going for them. They are totally impotent because they're not organized and they're being taken over the coals by corporate America, by the accounting profession, by the brokerage firms, by all the things they don't know about.
KING: Right now, Arthur, obviously the public's responding to this. They're buying the book. You've had a major best-seller. This is a very important cog in your career, but one would say if I'm a horse player, and you're telling me the next race is fixed, I'm not going to bet it. If I'm buying your title, why buy any stock?
LEVITT: Because I'm telling you you can buy stock and do well if you follow some basic rules. Be a skeptical investor, not an emotional one. Learn the seven deadly sins of the mutual fund industry. And if you have less than $50,000 to invest, fire your commission based broker. Get an adviser or buy an index fund. Simple rules that any investor can profit from and do better, and make more money for themselves.
KING: Is the SEC tough enough?
LEVITT: I think the SEC has the best staff of dedicated professionals, the cops on the beat. They've been starved for resources by a deregulatory congress that has opposed just about every pro investor initiative that the SEC has come up with. They need resources. They need greater technology. They need more people power.
KING: Were -- is -- were the Enrons preventable?
LEVITT: Probably not. When you have wholesale fraud, it's very difficult to anticipate that. Could we have diminished the number of companies who have had to restate earnings, causing -- costing investors billions of dollars a year? You bet. We had an accounting profession that was seduced by the corporations that paid them huge consulting fees. You had corporate America giving vast contributions to politicians who protected them from regulations that would have protected investors.
We've had, in effect, a two decade long erosion of ethical values by corporate America. And now, we're experiencing a huge wake-up call, a hangover, if you will.
KING: Can faith be restored?
LEVITT: Yes, absolutely. The system is largely self correcting. The culture of America's boardrooms have changed. The kinds of directors on audit committees and on boards now know they must restore public confidence by standing for investors rather than being the cronies of management. And managements themselves are beginning to take on a new responsibility of partnering with public-private sector partnerships and thinking more about investors than they are their own stock option plans or what they can do to hype the value of their stock.
KING: When you were chairman, you knew all these things?
LEVITT: I did, but I learned a few. I learned a few in every experience in life that I've ever had. I couldn't believe the fact that we had one Internet fraud case involving someone who sold interests in a non existent eel farm. And investors poured millions of dollars into that eel farm. Think of it. Investors who were willing to go along with this stand, just because it sounded good.
And in my book, I say buy nothing from anyone that you haven't looked in the eye to determine are you straight, or is this a bunch of hokum?
KING: If Barry Bonds hit 73 homers. His new contract will elevate pertaining to that. Why are there heavy compensation packages to executives who's firms lose money?
LEVITT: It's unconscionable. And any director or any member of a compensation committee that votes a compensation package to a director -- to a CEO who does a poor job, should hang his head in shame. And I think that's changing. I think that you're seeing more and more independence on the part of compensation committees. And I think these outlandish packages are going to change by virtue of humiliation and embarrassment, which will change behavior more than any regulation.
KING: By the way, we should add that in this book, there are many, many common sense tips for the investor, because obviously the public is gobbling it up. Thanks so much, Arthur. Continued good success.
LEVITT: Thank you very much.
KING: Arthur Levitt, the book, "Take on the Street: What Wall Street and Corporate America Don't Want You to Know and What You Can Do to Fight Back." It is already a major best-seller.
We'll be back with Phyllis George, Miss America 1971 and doesn't show that that's over 30 years ago. Of course, she ain't too bad to look at. She's got a terrific book out herself. Phyllis George is next. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This guy has been shook up...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...just by your mere presence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Get to the most memories when he was...
PHYLLIS GEORGE, NATIONAL TV SPORTSCASTER: Aw..
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...playing, he was so excited when you came by to interview him. He's kind of...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just found out she's single.
GEORGE: Come stand by me, Terry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a single woman, right?
GEORGE: Yes, I am single.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think? How do we look on TV together?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING WEEKEND an old friend, a gorgeous lady, terrific person too, Phyllis George, Miss America 1971, the first female national TV sportscaster, former First Lady of Kentucky, entrepreneur, humanitarian, the author of a new book, there you see it's cover, "Never Say Never: 10 Lessons to Turn I Can't Into Yes I Can."
Where'd this idea come from?
GEORGE: Well, my whole life, I've heard that, that you can't, or that'll never happen, or that won't work, or the no's, can'ts and nevers, because that had so many various careers, Larry, starting with being Miss America. You'll never be Miss America because you're just a bouncy piano player. Or you may be Miss America, you'll never make it in the Big Apple. And of course, you can't be a sportscaster, that's a man's job.
So the inspiration for the book came from, you know, overcoming the adversity and any obstacles of wanting to go forward and do things in your life and with new challenges. And certainly I've had a lot of nevers along the way.
KING: And you got people like yours truly, and you got Liz Smith...
KING: ...and Ann Richards and Roger Staubach, Johnny Bench, Walter Cronkite, all to contribute never stories from their life.
GEORGE: Muhammad Ali, that's right. We have a Paula Zahn, wonderful Mary Hart. They all told me wonderful stories. You know, when you start asking people, "Tell me about the times people told you couldn't do something or it would never work. And all of a sudden, it just -- the floodgates opened." And everybody told me wonderful stories. So I just asked some of my friends whom I've met through sports publishing, media, entertainment to tell me their stories.
And your story, in fact, I thought was excellent. You're in the first chapter, "Say Yes to Yourself."
KING: What -- how did you do it? How did you overcome your nevers?
GEORGE: Using doubt as my motivation. And believing in myself, and being true to myself. And as you say in your story, just be yourself. And if they like it, they like it. And if they don't, they don't. And I had believers. I had mentors, as you did with your friend Marshall -- what was his -- Marshall Simmons?
GEORGE: And I had Bob Wessler, who believed in me in the beginning. And he just -- he stuck by me. You know, you make mistakes. There are setbacks. There's some disappointments, but you learn from those. And you learn if you lose, don't lose those lessons.
And so, I just kept moving forward. And you know, we learn so many things. If you fail, you're not a failure. You just learn the lessons, write them down. You know, use them in your life to go...
GEORGE: ...listen, I've had five different careers. I've had -- I've lived in five states. And I've had two marriages. That's a lot of change. So that's a lot of challenge. And never say never I've heard all along the way.
KING: You can also -- also as you point out, you can make never an asset?
GEORGE: Oh, absolutely. Never works. You know, I tell my children, and I tell my friends and people that I speak to now that if you hear the never, just turn it around in your own -- in your head and make it work for you, not against you.
GEORGE: A lot of people in the broadcasting business, early on, when I started as a sportscaster, like when I interviewed Dave Cowans from the Boston Celtics, for example, he didn't talk to me all day. And when I went to the Celtics practice, they said they sent a girl? What is she doing here? And I worked for CBS on a 13 week option.
And you know, I just hung in there. I just didn't give up. I was tenacious and I persevered. And by the end of the day, we had a great interview. And I started talking to him about personal things, and kind of put a face and a personality on this superstar basketball player.
And when that interview ran at halftime, that game next weekend, the switchboard lit up and said, "Who is that woman?"
GEORGE: "She asked questions the guys don't ask."
GEORGE: And -- yes?
KING: Are you -- were you angry when Andy Rooney made that remark about female sportscasters on the sidelines?
GEORGE: No. I wasn't angry because I know Andy. And I...
GEORGE: ...heard things -- well, I mean, you know, that's vintage Rooney. I mean, he likes to stir things up a bit. And I know you had him on the show. I wasn't angry about it. We're going to be there, no matter what anybody says, Andy Rooney or anyone, we're there. We're strong. We're better than ever. And they deserve to be there. And they do a good job. And I think they play an important part in sports. And there are going to be more women as time goes on.
KING: You are part of what is now part of Americana, the pre- game football show?
KING: Was that nerve racking for you in a sense that there was a lot of pressure on you every Sunday to do good in a conclave of men?
GEORGE: Pressure is the understatement. There was a lot of pressure on me. And I just never thought about it, because I knew I had a job to do. And I knew I had a big responsibility for women. And when you're a pioneer or a trailblazer, you have to like just think as positively as you can, and kind of -- I didn't read the mail. And there was a lot of mail that wasn't very kind in the beginning. And I didn't read all the press, you know, the articles in the press. And I just tuned it out. And I just focused on my job. And I just kind of kept showing up.
And finally, they said, "She's here to stay." I did my homework, I was prepared, I tried to keep a positive attitude to it all, but there were times that they were challenging situations. There were challenging colleagues and challenging bosses, but you just have to, you know, temper yourself. And you know, patience is a virtue. And I don't have it. I'm working on it, but I had to be tremendously patient back then, and really try hard to keep my cool when everybody was out there. All the naysayers were doubting me.
KING: Why are you now not back on regularly? Somewhere? I mean not just sports, doing something?
GEORGE: Well, I'm doing something now with the book, "Never Say Never." My inspirational motivational book, all about having a positive attitude. There have been inquiries, if you will. There have been people that are interested in me coming back to work, but you know, I've been raising my children, as you know, in Kentucky, Lincoln and Pamela. And the book was kind of a way maybe to express my feelings and all the lessons and things that I've learned.
KING: You were in a movie. You were in "Meet the Parents."
GEORGE: Yes, I was.
KING: Was that fun?
GEORGE: I was in "Meet the Parents." Yes, with Bob DeNiro and the gang and Blythe and Ben. Yes, I had a great time. I talk about that in "Learn to Laugh at Yourself" chapter because it was my first movie. And I auditioned for the role, and I got it. And it was the most fun that I've ever had. We were on call 24/7 for 13 weeks. And who knew that that movie, my first movie, would be such a huge success? And I got to know Bob pretty well.
KING: Was Miss America all it was supposed to be for you?
GEORGE: Oh, Miss America was a huge turning point in my life. I'm a small town girl from Denton, Texas. And the first time I entered, I lost. I won swimsuit talent, evening gown, Miss Congeniality, and came in second. And I thought that's it. These points don't add up. There's something wrong with this picture.
So I said I would never enter again. And I really meant that. And they kept calling the pageant officials. And I said, "No, I'm not interested. I have other things going on in my life, like school and a boyfriend and doing student teaching. On a Friday night at midnight, I got a phone call and it said, come on, Phyllis, come back and enter. I don't know what made me do it. I said after saying a year of I'll never do it, I did it.
KING: Best thing you ever did.
GEORGE: And I ended up being the 50th Miss America. And the first one with a gold crown.
KING: You're an angel. It's always good seeing you. Terrific book, too. I'm proud to be in it.
GEORGE: Thank you. Your story was wonderful. Thank you.
KING: Phyllis George, Miss America 1971. The book is "Never Say Never: 10 Lessons to Turn I Can't Into Yes, I Can."
Sometimes we close off our weekend edition musically. And we're going to do that in a moment with Diamond Rio is going to be with us to sing "I Believe," next. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE: Joe, what is wrong with the New York Jets? JOE NAMATH, FMR. FOOTBALL PLAYER: We have a very inconsistent football team, not a very good football team at this point. In fact, we're terrible.
GEORGE: Ready, set.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Phyllis, that was the worst hold I've ever had. If I depended on you, I'll never make a field goal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We close tonight with an emotional song from the one of the biggest country groups around, Diamond Rio. We first welcomed them to LARRY KING LIVE last year to perform their award winning number one hit, "One More Day." They're here tonight to perform "I Believe," a powerful heart wrenching song from their new album, "Completely."
We hope you enjoy it. To wind it up tonight, Diamond Rio and "I Believe."
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