CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND
Interviews With Orrin Hatch, John Hastings
Aired January 19, 2003 - 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, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, a conservative who can still be close friends with Ted Kennedy. No wonder he calls himself a square peg, and he'll tell us how things really work on Capitol Hill.
And the, a true diet revolution from "Reader's Digest" health editor John Hastings, a weight loss plan that actually makes sense for real people like you and me. They're both next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.
Good evening and welcome to a special Sunday night edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Later, John Hastings, senior staff editor for health at "Reader's Digest," but we begin an old friend. Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, and author of the political memoir "Square Peg: Confessions of a Citizen Senator." Lots to talk about. Explain the title "Square Peg," does it mean that you don't fit?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, actually it does mean that. I think the -- I think the -- that came from the publisher themselves, Basic Books. I think they -- first of all, I think I'm pretty square, and then of course they know that I don't fit in any round holes, in other words, I do what I think is right, and you can't put me in any particular categories, although I am conservative.
KING: What was it like to write it?
HATCH: Well, it was a lot of fun. You know, I wrote it basically over the Christmas season in the year 2001, and I really had a great time writing it. It has a lot of humor in it, as you know, and people -- you know -- some of the folks who've criticized it have said that they just laughed out loud from some of the stories that I tell, but there's an awful lot of background in there, and behind the scenes information that you won't get anywhere else.
I also had a top political science professor say, I'm going to use this as the class text book because it will help people -- these kids to know more about what goes on in Washington and how they can react to what goes on.
KING: One of the essences of Orrin Hatch, which you get from this book is you are not the kind of person who calls up the president and says, "How do you want me to vote?" Right?
HATCH: That's right, I do what I think is right, and of course, you know, I'm certainly going to try and support whoever is president. I think that we have an obligation to try and do that. But if the president is wrong, or the president can be helped to make it a little bit better, I'll be there trying to help him to do it.
KING: Lots of great stories in the book too.
HATCH: Yes, there are a lot of them.
KING: And also, about you -- you have an unusual friendships, one of your best friends being Ted Kennedy.
HATCH: Well, you know, he is a good friend, and frankly, we're called the odd couple. We all know who the odd one is, don't we?
KING: How did that begin?
HATCH: Well, you know, I came back to fight Ted Kennedy, and we do fight each other most the time, I'd say about 95 percent of the time, we're slugging it out, but that 5 percent of the time when we get together, we've done some of the important legislation in this country's history, and it couldn't have been done without a leading liberal and a leading conservative putting aside their differences and doing what's right.
KING: How did the friendship begin?
HATCH: Well, it began back in 1981, when I became really the youngest committee chairman in history over a major committee, and he was the ranking member. He came over from Judiciary, where he would have been ranking, and I just went to him and I said, "Look, I can't run this committee without you," because there were two liberal Republicans, Weicher (ph) and Stafford (ph) on there, who went along with him on almost everything. And I said, "I can't run this committee without you, I need your help," and to his credit he said, well, he said, "I will. There's some things I can't do," meaning the major really liberal problems, but he actually did help me, and we struck up a friendship that literally has helped to produce some of the most important health care legislation in our country's history, and it's -- a lot of that legislation is doing a lot of good today.
KING: Did you regret that you entered the presidential race?
HATCH: Oh, no. Remember, I announced it on your program.
KING: You did.
HATCH: And to make a long story short, I got into it because I didn't know whether President Bush, then Governor Bush was going to fall out, and I frankly didn't seen anybody else other than John McCain, who had a chance of making it, and I wasn't sure that John could pull together all factions of the Republican Party.
And as I got into it, I found out that not only were the rumors untrue about our great president today, but I kind of fell in love with him and his wife, I thought they were great people, and I stayed in through Iowa. And I think they enjoyed me there, because I would be the one who would take on Senator McCain from time to time, so he didn't have to.
KING: Where you glad they made the decision to convene in New York?
HATCH: Well, I think that's a good thing. You know, it's time for the New Yorkers to realized that, you know, Republicans are alive and kicking, and people like Giuliani don't happen by happenstance, they're true Republicans who really, you know, helped that city to come out of the woods, and helped that city come out of debt, helped that city to straighten up from an anti-crime standpoint. And we stand for those good principles. And I think, I think it's going to be great to be in New York. I think New Yorkers will receive us gladly, and frankly it's a great city, and we ought to have a lot respect for being there.
KING: Let's get to some issues. The book, by the way, and we'll be mentioning it again, is "Square Peg: Confessions of a Citizen Senator," a terrific read by Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah.
Race seems to, every time you think it's gone, it rears its ugly head again. What did you make first of the whole Trent Lott thing?
HATCH: Well, as you know, I don't think anybody in their right mind would believe that Trent was saying, let's go back to the days of segregation. But the statement was really a dumb statement. It was a mistake that he made, it was a terrible mistake and one that needed to be condemned. But you know, almost everybody, and who's in anything, and who really does anything in political life makes some dumb statements from time to time, and but it's very important that when you make a dumb statement, you immediately apologize.
And I think where Trent got into trouble is he didn't immediately apologize. He knew that he didn't mean go back to the days of segregation, he was trying to flatter a 100-year-old senator, and he was trying to be humorous, but it was a sad attempt at humor. And when he didn't immediately apologize, it gradually got a momentum that really he couldn't stop. But Trent's a very fine persona, and he was a good majority leader, and I just felt badly that he was treated that way.
KING: How's he taking being just another senator?
HATCH: You know, I'll tell you, if you look at Trent Lott and how he's taken this, you've got to say, this is a great man, because Trent has said, look, I made a mistake, it was something I shouldn't have said, but I'll be darned if I'm going to let it stop me from being a good senator and doing what's right, and supporting Bill Frist, and the others who are working so hard to try and help our party. And I have to say, Trent has really come out of this I think with greater stature than he had before, from the standpoint of how he's taking this.
KING: Now, we taped this on Wednesday, it's playing on Sunday night. On the day we taped it, the White House announced its plans to oppose the University of Michigan affirmative action program in a case before the Supreme Court. The White House says the president opposes quotas in racial preferences, because they don't serve to lift up the country. Tom Daschle said this is a watershed moment for the administration. The question would be asked this way, Senator Hatch, if the playing field isn't level, and obviously if we still have racial problems, it isn't level, how do you make it up, other than with programs that affirmatively treat one side?
HATCH: Well, you can't prefer one group over another in this day and age, that's what you call racial quotas. All that does is create more animosity, more grief. It's unfair to those who are excluded and left out.
KING: But what do you do about 200 years of unfair?
HATCH: Well, keep in mind, I think we've all got to be very concerned about racial matters. I think we've got to do more outreach programs. I think we've got to do more job training. You're looking at the fellow who saved the job training program during the Reagan years. I absolutely put my foot down as chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee at the time and said, "No, we're not going to do away with that program," even though it was very costly for each student. These kids didn't have a chance without job training -- without the Job Corps Program.
KING: So, you agree, some things have to be -- that's an affirmative program.
HATCH: That's right, now, that's what we call -- that's what I would call affirmative action, is a -- would be affirmative programs that really reach out and help these young kids, and do so without regard to race, but do so with regard to race. In other words, helping the kids that really don't have a chance otherwise. And job, the Job Corps Program is one of those. There are other programs as well, and we ought to be doing as much as we can to give these kids a hand up and a leg up in getting to college, and getting on to better education, so they can support themselves.
KING: What about things that are symbolic? What are your thoughts about the Confederate flag, and Georgia and South Carolina?
HATCH: Well, I have to say that I was one who came out when I was running for president and said that I think that South Carolina should do away with the Confederate flag, because it's a symbol that causes so much animus throughout the years. It's their right to do what they want to do, but I think they ought to do away with it, and frankly, I think the country would be better off if we got rid of some of the symbols that have been racial in the eyes of others.
In the book, "Square Peg," I mention that one of the -- I confessed that one of the mistakes that I made was voting against the Martin Luther King holiday. And the reason I did was all conservative, it was all fiscal. I thought why should we pay another billion dollars for another vacation day for federal employees who have too many now, when we're not doing vacation days for other top authorities like Truman, like President Roosevelt, like Teddy Roosevelt, like, you know, Lincoln, et cetera. Why would we do that?
And I didn't take into consideration, as I should have, or as much as I should have, the aspiration and the feelings and the deep feelings of hurt and pain that so many African Americans felt because of slavery. And I was wrong, and I felt very badly that I, afterwards, that I didn't do that. On the other hand I was happy to see that we're now celebrating that Martin Luther King holiday, and it'll be tomorrow.
KING: This is the eve of Martin Luther King Day, a national holiday tomorrow. And when we come back -- there's -- we'll have more questions for Senator Orrin Hatch, the author of the political memoir "Square Peg: Confessions of a Citizen Senator." And he is that. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's make it official. We'll go to our studios in Washington where Senator Orrin Hatch, who filed today, is about to make it really official. You are now what, Senator Hatch?
HATCH: Well, I filed today an exploratory committee for president of the United States, and I'm going to give it every chance, every shot I have, Larry. It's something I think I've got to do in the best interest of our country, even though I'm a little late, and some people don't give me much of a chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Senator Orrin Hatch, author of "Square Peg: Confessions of a Citizen Senator." Still to come, John Hastings of the "Reader's Digest."
All right, these are certainly unsettled times. Does it look to you like this country is going to war with Iraq?
HATCH: It does to me, because we know that we can't trust this man, we know that he has had weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical weapons. He's used chemical weapons against his own people. He's threatened neighbors in the Middle East. He certainly threatens Israel, has threatened Iran. This man has threatened our country, and we know that he supported terrorism, Hamas, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad -- you name it, he's been there to support them.
And frankly, I don't think he's going to change. We know that they came very close at one time to having a nuclear device. We have no doubt that they have the knowledge and the know-how to reproduce a nuclear device, and we just can't -- we simply can't allow that to happen in one of the most important spots of the world.
KING: Is in incumbent on the administration to explain to the public exactly why, if they go, what they're going for, and why they're going?
HATCH: You know, I think it is. I think the administration needs to make the case, but you know, a lot of the case's already been made. You know, one of the most startling things, if you look back in time that has occurred, was when the Security Council voted unanimously for going ahead and expecting Saddam Hussein to live up to the Security Council resolutions, to the U.N. resolutions, which he has never done.
And I think that was a remarkable, remarkable day, and this administration deserves a lot of credit. I think Ambassador Negroponte, who's a terrific human being and a wonderful ambassador, and of course, Colin Powell and others deserve a lot of the credit, as does the president who stood in there and who has an inner feeling about what has to be done. He's a lot like Reagan in that regard, and he's right, he really -- we really cannot allow these type of people to acquire nuclear devices and to utilize these type of weapons of mass destruction.
KING: Well, the due date is next Sunday. What do you expect -- what do you expect the inspectors to come up with?
HATCH: Well, I don't expect them to come up with very much, but they do know now that Saddam Hussein hasn't been honest in his disclosures. He hasn't disclosed a number of matters that they're aware that he should disclose. It's too easy to hide biological and chemical weapons -- so, no matter where they go, they're going to move those from place to place. And a nuclear device, you know, it would be easy to hide that too.
And I'm not sure we're going to find an awful lot there, but we do know, and I can tell you, I'm on the Intelligence Committee, we do know that he's had weapons of mass destruction, and has used them against his own people.
KING: And what, Senator Hatch, will the war be like?
HATCH: Well, it's hard to predict, but I have to say that we have overwhelming power to go in there and right the wrongs that are in the country of Iraq right now. I would hope that we could make it a quick charge through there, and hopefully get some democracy instilled within the -- within Iraq.
KING: And now, there are some who say, if you're talking about problems and threats, isn't North Korea a bigger threat, vis-a-vis the United States?
HATCH: Not really. As a matter of fact, I think the administration has been handling that very well. They made it clear we're not going to be nuclear blackmailed. The North Koreans are now making overtures. Kelly has done an excellent job in going there. I believe we can diffuse that particular matter. We also have all kinds of allies. It's not in the Chinese best interest to allow them to continue doing what they're doing, nor in Russia's best interest nor in any surrounding country's best interest, and I think -- you know, they're a dangerous bunch of people. There's no question that the leader of Korea, of North Korea is a despot.
KING: What do you make of the proposal reported last week that China offered to be a broker, kind of, set up a meeting between the two parties in China? HATCH: Well, that's going to be up to Colin Powell and, you know, Assistant Secretary Kelly and others, but I think we ought to utilize any possible means that we can to diffuse that situation, to get them to withdraw from producing atomic weapons, and to, of course, get them to abide by the IAEA approaches towards atomic energy.
KING: Never hurts to talk.
HATCH: No, it doesn't hurt to talk, and we've already established, we're not going to talk if there's going to be nuclear blackmail. And I think this president has, I think, stood up very well in this matter, and I think we'll get that one solved.
KING: And now turning to economics, a sore point apparently, one of the reasons that George W. Bush fell in the ratings a little last week in the polls, due to a crisis that -- approaching a crisis, we don't want to call it a crisis; do you think this tax -- this plan is going to work?
HATCH: I do. I don't -- I have no doubt that over the long haul this plan's going to be good for America. Just think about it, 90 some million people will receive pretty high tax benefits out of this. And of course, you know, the Democrats say, well, the wealthy are going to get wealthier. Well, you know, the upper 50 percent of all taxpayers pay, you know, basically 95 -- 96 plus percent of all income taxes, so naturally people from $30,000 a year on up are going to make money.
But what isn't said by the other side is that this is very much weighted in favor of the middle class, when you consider not only the acceleration of tax cuts that we've all, mostly, that we overwhelmingly have already voted for, but the changing in the marital penalty that's going to help middle class people, the changing in taxation towards small business, which is going to help small-business people. The double taxation of corporate dividends will be done away with, so there will be a more responsible corporate world, there will be less bankruptcies, and of course, we'll have an incentive for the stock market to go up at least by 20 percent, they believe.
KING: And don't you automatically, though, create deficits?
HATCH: Well, the issue there is if you've -- have double -- if you do away with double taxation of dividends, they estimate that you will actually increase revenues about the same amount that you lose in taking away the double taxation.
So, look, if we can get this economy going. The reason the economy was producing surpluses in the past was because it was -- it was booming. Now, we've got to get it back booming. This recession started in the last year of the Clinton administration. It has been very difficult to come out of it, when you consider that we had to put up with 9/11, and all of those fears that American people have had, and so many other difficulties that have been problems -- Iraq is another one.
KING: We'll be back with more moments with Senator Orrin Hatch, and then John Hastings. By the way, the book "Square Peg: Confessions of a Citizen Senator" has some hysterical, laugh-out-loud moments. We'll be right back with more moments with Senator Hatch, right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HATCH: I campaigned hard, and the results were immediate. Within a month of my announcement, I moved to number nine. A few weeks later, I was number eight, then I in-stepped to number seven, and then within a month I was number six.
Now, some nit pickers may say that this was because Lamar, Dan Liddy (ph) and Pat dropped out, but I kind of like the trend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HATCH: I think it's time to be fair to the nominee. He's come this far. He's the one who's being accused. They have the burden of showing that he's not telling the truth here, and he has a right to face the accuser and everything that accuser says. And if he doesn't, then I'm going to resign from this committee today. I'm telling you, I don't want to be on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Senator Orrin Hatch, the author of "Square Peg: Confessions of a Citizen Senator."
Let's touch some other bases. There have been reports of -- complaints on both sides of the isle that Congress is not adequately briefed by this White House, that there is a schism. Do you see that?
HATCH: I haven't seen that. I've felt that I've been given the briefings that are essential, but you know, Congress always feels like they're left out. They always feel like any White House doesn't help them as much as they should. And of course, one reason that sometimes members of Congress aren't told as much as they'd like to be told is because the minute they are told some of these secrets, of course, they get out, and many times it isn't Congress -- it is not members of Congress who have done it; many times it's the bureaucracy that has made those leaks.
But you know, if you're in the administration, and you're in the time of crisis and you're having difficulty, and there are a lot of things you'd like to keep close to your vest, you might now want to be quite as forthcoming to Congress as you -- as you ordinarily would, but it's important that the administration keep us informed, because we've got to help them.
KING: Senator Joseph Lieberman has thrown his hat into the ring for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. You tried to secure your party's nomination -- can -- is America ready to elect a Jew or a Mormon?
HATCH: Well, I sure hope so. I remember when I announced on your program back there in 2000 -- it was 1999, I guess -- I remember you mentioned that there were 18 percent of the American people would not vote for a Mormon for president under any circumstances. Now, I think that's pretty pathetic, because Mormon people are very honest, decent, hard working people, and you can trust them.
KING: But do you think that's true?
HATCH: A -- yes...
KING: That the -- that was the poll at the time.
HATCH: That was a poll at the time. I think it -- I think it may be true, because there's been a lot of prejudice against my church, because there's a lot of misunderstanding.
Now, with -- when it comes to the Jewish people, why would we, why would we, not be willing to have as president a person who is Jewish? I mean, my goodness, these are tremendous contributors to our society, they're wonderful people, and frankly, you know I -- they have been contributors in every society that the Jewish people have been in, and Joe Lieberman is a very fine person.
Now, I would prefer George W. Bush for president, naturally, but I like Joe Lieberman, and yes, I just wish Joe didn't always vote so liberal, that's all.
KING: And he's considered a moderate to conservative.
HATCH: By the media. He's not conservative.
KING: Civil libertarians, including some conservatives, Bob Barr, the former congressman, among them, are concerned about their civil liberties in this war on terror, that we can sometimes go too far. Are you concerned?
HATCH: Well, very concerned, because I'm frankly one of the authors of the Patriot Act. Now, had we put the same provisions into the 1996 Hatch-Dole Anti-Terrorism Effective Death Penalty Act, we may very well have caught those terrorists on 9/11.
Now, I have to say I was arguing to put them in back then, but it was those who were concerned about, quote, "civil liberties," unquote, who prevented things like getting the phone numbers for a terrorist in and out of his phone, or allowing cooperation among intelligence agencies and the law enforcement agencies, or being able to tap the terrorist rather than his phones that they would through out the window, because they were using cell phones. These are things that seems to me are gimmes, but we weren't able to get these type of things into the 1996 act.
Now, we all have to be concerned about civil liberties, no question about it, and I think that the Patriot Act does take those matters into concern. But you can push it too far, where we have another 9/11, and then the whole economy gets screwed up as a result of it, and that's part of the reason why we're having some of the difficulties today.
KING: You were one of the staunchest defenders of and helped get Clarence Thomas approved by the Senate.
KING: The justice has just signed a major book deal with a Rupert Murdoch company. Does that concern you?
HATCH: Good for him, good for him. I think a book by Clarence Thomas should be one of the best sellers in this country's history, because it would be really good to get inside his head and see how he felt at the way he was treated and the slanders and libels that came his way, and the way he's been treated ever since. Clarence Thomas is writing some of the most intelligent decisions on the Supreme Court, he's a terrific human being. And I knew him so well, I mentioned in the book, you know, there's a chapter in the book on this...
KING: Yes, I know.
HATCH: I had a lady call me, she said, "I've been totally opposed to Clarence Thomas, but when I read that chapter, it's the first time I really understood it."
KING: ... a very controversial citizen like Rupert Murdoch is -- owns the company that's going to publish the book.
HATCH: Well, I don't think there's anybody who would say that Rupert Murdoch is trying to influence the Supreme Court. And look, if Mrs. Clinton can get what -- what did she get, $8 million for her book? Well, why wouldn't Clarence Thomas be able to be compensated for his book, and...
KING: I'm just asking the question -- I'm not...
HATCH: Well, no, I understand, but I'm saying that to the people -- I'm talking to the people who would criticize, you know, Justice Thomas. I think, I think that ought to be one of the most interesting books in history. I'll be -- I'm going to read it, I'll tell you that.
KING: All right, tell me about the Hatch musical career -- how would -- Orrin Hatch writes songs, my brother-in-law sang on some of those songs on some of your albums.
KING: Well, have you always done this?
HATCH: No, it was about eight years ago, one of the leading composers in Utah said, "How about writing some songs, and I hear you write poetry," I said, "Oh, only for my own consumption." But I said, "Sure, I'd like to try." So, I wrote -- sat down that weekend and wrote 10 songs, and that became our first CD.
But you know, in March 25, the Jackie Valesques (ph) is one of the best inspirational singers in the country, a young, beautiful young, Hispanic woman, has her CD coming out, and the title song on there is written by Madeline Stone (ph) and another young man, and myself.
KING: What's the song titled?
HATCH: It's called "Unspoken."
I might add that Natalie Grant with Mike Curb is just coming out with her first CD. She's a wonderful, young, inspirational singer, and one of the songs on there, "I Am Not Alone," is her song.
And we just had this last week Steve Holy, the great country singer who's one of the real up-and-coming singers, singing one of my songs in studio just this last week.
So it's been a lot of fun for me. I've really enjoyed it, and I -- people seem to like my lyrics.
KING: The late Alan Jay Lerner told me, though, that songwriting -- song lyrics are not -- is not poetry. It's apples and oranges. It's a different kind of craft. Do you agree?
HATCH: I sure do. I might write a poem to get my col -- my collaborators excited or get their creative juices flowing, but, gradually, we have to write it to the music and write it to the beat, suggest the beat in some ways. It's -- it's really an interesting process, and I -- I'm still learning, but I've come quite a ways in this area, and I've had a lot of fun.
People think I sing. You wouldn't want to hear me sing. Your brother-in-law, you'd want to. Not me.
KING: You are not a singing senator.
KING: Thanks, Orrin. Always good seeing you and continued good luck.
HATCH: Larry, I'm grateful to you. It's always nice to be with you. You're great.
KING: Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, author of a terrific political memoir, "Square Peg: Confessions of a Citizen Senator."
When we come back, John Hastings, senior staff editor for health at "Reader's Digest," has a new book out. We'll talk about you and your weight.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
"MANY DIFFERENT ROADS" WRITTEN BY ORRIN HATCH AND JANICE KAPP
GLADYS KNIGHT, SINGER: Oh, many different roads lead to glory / Many different lamps can bring the light...
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING WEEKEND John Hastings.
John is senior staff editor for health at "Reader's Digest." He has a new book out called, "Change One: Lose Weight Simply, Safely, and Forever." It's billed as the official "Reader's Digest" diet. It has a 12-week eating plan that Hastings developed with co-authors Peter Jaret and registered nurse Mindy Hermann.
What do you mean by "Change One"?
JOHN HASTINGS, SENIOR EDITOR FOR HEALTH, "READER'S DIGEST": The idea is -- we like to think of it as lose weight one meal at a time, one week at a time, and we wanted to simplify dieting. I think the key thing in dieting is that you learn how to eat sensibly and you learn how to work in the foods that you love.
So we start basically with the idea that the first week you'll only change your breakfast. If you didn't eat it before, you'll start eating it. If you ate it already, we look at portion control, and we make sure that you eat the foods that you like but eat them in the right sizes.
KING: You are not a doctor.
HASTINGS: That's correct.
KING: You're the writer, right?
HASTINGS: That's true.
KING: You're depending on the impacts (ph) from the nurse. And who is Peter Jaret?
HASTINGS: It's actually -- Mindy's a dietitian. It's -- but Peter Jaret's also a writer there I've worked with for years. Together, we've been in the health food business as journalists for about a total of 50 years. I don't like to admit that.
But -- but we also -- because we're not doctors, we brought in a staff -- actually, we had a group of doctors -- about four or five doctors who came in and advised us on the program.
KING: Well, how did you get the "Reader's Digest" to agree to call it the official diet of their famous publication?
HASTINGS: Well, they've never done a diet before, and they were very interested in finding one because of the issues that we're -- Americans are facing right now in terms of obesity and overweight in this country. I mean, we've got two-thirds of Americans overweight. One in five are obese.
You know, it's the cause of -- disease and death that's coming from obesity is starting to rival that of smoking, and so "Reader's Digest" was really looking for a sensible, smart approach that would work, and, luckily, they liked "Change One."
KING: Is it an extreme problem, John, simply put, we love to eat?
HASTINGS: It's -- that is exactly what it is. In fact, that was the thing looking into this program and talking to the diet experts that we brought in, it's that we're eating so much more than we used to, and we just continue. We're on this pattern of just constantly every year eating more and more food.
KING: And why is it so hard to change?
HASTINGS: The difficulty, I think, is that it's -- it's very much an American -- in our American nature, I'd say, just to look for the good deal.
If somebody offers us a chance to supersize food, we take it. You know, for 50 cents more, we can have more fries, we could have more -- you know, a bigger burger, and that's just too appealing to us.
I've done it. I'm guilty of it myself. I'll go into a restaurant, and I'll -- you know, they -- the food's OK, but they give me a great, big serving. I recommend it to everybody I know, you know, and it's because of the good deal.
So we always just -- we are -- our issue that we eat larger and larger portions.
KING: Why is there such a lack of an agreement? We have Dr. Robert Atkins, cut out carbohydrates. We have Dr. Dean Ornish, says Dr. Atkins is nuts. Is it somewhere in the middle? Who's right and how does the public deal with 600 diet books?
HASTINGS: It's very confusing. I think that's another reason that we really -- that "Reader's Digest" was ready to come in with a plan, and that's -- it -- you hear one thing from one week to the next.
You know, we've heard now that Atkins, in fact, is -- you know, it works, and it has worked.
KING: You lose weight, right?
HASTINGS: You lose weight on this plan. There's no question about it.
And then Ornish works as well. But the thing that's happening in these plans -- it's not that these foods are necessarily magic foods. It's just that people are starting to focus on how much they're eating and they're -- you know, they're -- once you become conscious of how you eat, generally, you start eating less, and --
For us, we felt like this is sort of a pendulum swing. We go from no fat to all fat, to either no carb to all carb. You know, it's -- we're splitting the difference here. Our diet gets about 35- percent calories from fat, and it's -- you know, it's very much down the middle. Moderation is really key.
KING: Is it geared for quick weight loss?
HASTINGS: It's not. It's -- I mean, safe weight loss is about two to three pounds a week. This is another thing we've learned from looking at the research and speaking with the doctors, that anybody who's promising more than that -- it's not a safe way to lose weight. You want to stick at right around that level, and that's about what this diet would give you.
KING: Has it been tested?
HASTINGS: We did test it. We had a group at "Reader's Digest" do it. We didn't threaten them with their jobs, if they didn't lose weight, and they did -- they did quite well. We also had a group in Iowa and a group in California. And they all lost weight. They were very happy with the diet.
It was -- what's been very key for me in watching the progress is that eight months later, after they started the program, they've kept the weight off, and some continued to lose.
KING: A diet presumes that it begins and ends. Is this a lifelong diet?
HASTINGS: That's exactly what we were trying to address with "Change One." We believe that people should work in the foods they enjoy instead of, say, eating nothing but meat or nothing but vegetables.
KING: But is it -- if you get on this, you will be on this.
HASTINGS: Yes, it's -- the idea is that you'll -- you will...
KING: But you don't want to lose two pounds a week forever. You'll eventually...
HASTINGS: Well, actually, you're going to eat a little bit more. Yes. You want to make sure...
KING: I thought about that. You weigh 180, and you're gone.
HASTINGS: It could happen. No. Ideally, once you get to that target weight, a healthy weight, you start eating a little bit more, so you start bringing it up. But the goal is that people really learn about the way they eat, they learn about their issues with food, so that, when they come out the other end of this diet, they're not really coming out of the idea. They're actually able to continue eating the...
KING: What's a "Change One" breakfast?
HASTINGS: "Change One" breakfast can be -- we have one breakfast that's an egg on a roll, and we -- we give real-life portion sizes for people to compare. So, for example, a tennis ball for the size -- or I think it's a baseball, actually, for the roll, and then, you know, some -- you can put some eggs on that.
You can have some fruit with that, and you can have your coffee with a little bit of, you know, creamer in there, and that's a great breakfast. Cereal, for example, with milk and some fruit on the side also a great breakfast. We recommend...
KING: It sounds like a very typical -- cereal, fruit...
HASTINGS: It's -- we really want to make sure that there are options that people do enjoy in life, and we -- we take a week on each meal, breakfast the first week, lunch the second week, then snacks, and then dinner.
And we do that because we want people to experiment. We want them to find the foods that they enjoy but also that will fill them up. We want to keep them from going off the edge, you know, before they get to their next meal and overeating.
KING: So are you saying both Atkins and Ornish -- I use them as extreme examples -- are...
KING: ... both in a sense right?
KING: If you cut your carbohydrates, will you do well? If you cut your fats, you will do well?
HASTINGS: They're right in this sense, and this is -- I think the research, of course, supports this as well, which is that they re -- they -- the people who are on these diets eat -- start eating less, and they start thinking about what they're eating, and then they begin to lose weight, and so these plans definitely work. There's no question about that.
The reason I have issues with some of those plans is I don't think either one's really sustainable as a lifelong plan, and people go on these diets, they stay on those diets, they lose the weight, maybe they get to their target, but then they go off the diet, and then they start gaining the weight back.
KING: Does the book help people make the psychological leap? HASTINGS: That's very much a focus of the book. We have quizzes all the way through the book that sort of ask people -- get people to think about how they diet, how they eat, you know, what are their issues around eating, and people tend -- this is really a -- the goal of this is sort of a journey of self-discovery, you know. We want people to understand what it is about the way they eat that causes them to overeat, that causes them to gain weight.
We had an example, one guy, Michael (ph). He got to the third week on this, and he was fine with breakfast, didn't have any issues, got to lunch, that was OK.
He got to snacks, and it -- he was surprised -- you would think -- on the surface of it, it's like, well, why -- you would know if you're eating snacks all day long, which is what he discovered, but he wasn't really aware how many calories they were contributing to his -- his diet.
So he's -- he asked if he could repeat snacks, rather than go on to dinner. He wanted to spend two weeks on snacks, you know, just to get those in order.
And so that was -- this is a sort of epiphany that people are coming to.
KING: I'll ask you in a minute if the fast-food chains are a menace.
John Hastings is the guest. We'll be right back. Don't go away.
KING: I was with a famous heart specialist today who was laughing at the fact that some hospitals -- children's hospitals have McDonald's as the key food center in the hospital. He said, "That is the worst way to raise children, on McDonald's." Is he right?
HASTINGS: In a sense, yes. If this is all they eat, I think that that's a problem. One of the things we wanted to do with the book is...
KING: In McDonald's, I include Burger King, Wendy's...
HASTINGS: Sure. All the fast-food joints.
KING: Fast food.
HASTINGS: Yes. And, you know, it -- that is one of the issues with Americans' weight gain, is that we're eating in these places and almost -- you know, what -- I think the average is four meals a week we eat in these places, and if that's the average, I don't know how many times you're -- and what you're eating there, but I'm -- you know, I'm not eating that much.
So some people are maybe getting eight meals a week there, and -- you know, we don't -- we don't ban fast food in this. We understand that that's the way Americans eat, but we strongly recommend you don't do it every day. We recommend it for lunch, a fast-food meal. We have a small...
KING: You do?
HASTINGS: Yes. A small...
KING: So I can go to McDonald's and Burger King and have a what?
HASTINGS: The idea is a small burger. This used to be the standard burger at McDonald's way back when. Of course, it's been dwarfed by everything else. Everybody likes to think of that standard cheeseburger, say, as a child's burger now, but that's actually a fine size portion for an adult for lunch and have that with a salad instead of the fries.
KING: Will it fill you?
HASTINGS: I think it will. We -- our experience was that people did stay full on this diet, and, in fact, this was the surprising thing for me when we were talking to the experts, that, when they've done the research, they've found that people don't get -- they can cut their calories by a lot and not be hungry, and, in fact, we say over and over again in the book, if you're hungry, you're not eating enough, you need to eat a little bit more.
KING: There is -- is this true: There is no forbidden food on this diet?
HASTINGS: It's true. I mean...
KING: Can you have a pizza?
HASTINGS: Oh, yes. Definitely you can have pizza. We were -- we have a pizza in the book that you could make for yourself, yes.
Again, it's -- the idea of bad foods and good foods is one we're really trying to get beyond. You know, I think if people start to see things as forbidden, they become in some ways more seductive, and then that becomes an indulgence that we, you know, overeat.
And the issue with this book is really the size, the amounts. Looking at this again and again, you know, the research has shown that it's not what we're eating, it's how much, and...
KING: Can we pull this off eating out a lot? Americans eat out a lot.
HASTINGS: They do. I think -- again, it's about three or four meals in just a regular restaurant a week. About three meals. And Diane (ph), another person who did the diet -- she's an employee at "Reader's Digest," and she's had great success with the plan, and one of the things that was really critical for her is that she find something that would allow her to dine out and allow her to live the life -- she also liked to entertain, cook dinners, and...
KING: So you can order portions in a restaurant? You can say I want a steak but a small filet.
HASTINGS: Yes. We suggest maybe splitting -- splitting the portions with -- you know, ordering one entree between two people if you're going with a partner, or if you, you know, are with a friend, and if you want, you -- there's plenty of ways.
The idea is also to just decide what you're going to eat right off the bat and have the rest taken away, you know, and -- by the way, I was just going to mention, too, is that week five of our diet is focused on dining out.
We ask you to eat out three times that week just to practice the techniques.
KING: What about the nemesis we've all learned to hate, sugar?
HASTINGS: Sugar, yes. Well...
KING: Is sugar flat out bad?
HASTINGS: Again, no. I don't think so. I don't believe so. I think sugar can be -- if we eat too much of it, it's a problem. There's no question about it. We all know about the issues with diabetes. We know that, you know, having too much sugar -- there's a lot of sugar in our food.
However, we do say -- you know, we have two snacks a day, and we -- some of those snacks can be salty snacks. Some we recommend -- you know, you can have Oreos.
HASTINGS: Chocolate. Brownies. There's a recipe for brownies in there. They're good. I like them.
KING: When you say recipe -- then you say Oreos. Oreos is a product.
HASTINGS: Sorry. This is for the brownies. Yes, we have a recipe for it. But for Oreos -- for example, a couple of Oreos as one of your snacks is fine. We recommend several snacks that are...
KING: So we start -- the changes begin -- it's a 12-week program, right?
KING: It begins with breakfast.
HASTINGS: That's correct.
KING: And the only thing we have to do the first week is concentrate on changing breakfast. You change nothing else. You don't change lunch or dinner.
HASTINGS: The issue with -- the idea of most diets is -- I -- this always threw me, which is that, you know, the -- one day, I'm eating the way I'd normally eat, and then, the next day, I have to throw out everything in my house, you know, and go shopping and start, you know, from the -- the other thing is it puts pressure.
If you eat a breakfast that doesn't really fill you up, you -- so there's a panic almost involved, like you're not going to be able to make it up at lunch, and then -- you know, then comes dinner. I'm going to be hungry all day.
So our idea was to sort of take that sort of loaded sense of panic out of a diet and say breakfast, and then the rest of the day you're off the diet, eat the way you normally would.
KING: For a week.
HASTINGS: For a week.
KING: And when you go to the lunch part, you continue with the breakfast, right? You don't...
HASTINGS: Exactly, yes.
KING: ... drop the -- go back to the old breakfast.
HASTINGS: Yes, we're building in blocks here. Yes, we start with that breakfast. We continue that breakfast. By the end of that week, ideally, you've found something that works for you. It fills you up. You enjoy it. You don't mind eating it.
KING: Do you count calories?
HASTINGS: We -- the real focus is not to count calories. Again, this is a plan that we wanted to look out over the long haul. Dieting needs to be something you can sustain.
I mean, you know -- or at least this new way of eating, and I don't believe people can count calories for the rest of their life. They can't weigh food for the rest of their life. So we wanted to come up with a plan that will count the calories for you. We'll tell you the portion sizes.
And, by the way, we use real world objects, as I had mentioned earlier.
KING: Like a baseball.
HASTINGS: Baseballs, yes, you know, and a checkbook for, you know, your chicken or your fish.
KING: How important is the exercise factor?
HASTINGS: Very critical. Very critical. We suggest it in the beginning, but we really stress it towards the end of the plan, about the -- week 11...
KING: You don't have to start strenuous exercise week one? HASTINGS: I don't believe it's a good idea, just because, if you're trying to lose weight, you know, it may -- there can be health issues with that, you know, overuse injuries if you're going out and doing 30 minutes a day right off the bat.
The -- and when you look, again, at the research and speaking with the experts here that -- to lose weight, you need to focus on food, but, once you've lost that weight, the only way to really keep it off is to exercise.
So we stress it at the 11th week, and we say, at this point, if you haven't started exercising -- and there have been plenty of little prompts. We try to get them to exercise before that, but the - at that point, they should really start.
KING: Those who have the toughest time with this have the toughest time with what aspect of it?
HASTINGS: I think with the -- probably the -- you know, it's interesting that -- one of the -- the feedback that we got from people was really that this is the simplest plan they've ever tried. Many of them had done a lot of diets before, and they'd tried various plans.
KING: It seems easy.
HASTINGS: Yes. And it's such an easy way in. I think that some people may have been a little inpatient at first, but, you know, we were trying to convince people that dieting is not a race. This is something -- you only want to lose weight one time in your life, or at least...
KING: By the way, two pounds a week ain't bad.
HASTINGS: Yes. Two or three pounds is -- it was great.
KING: Eight pounds a month.
HASTINGS: Yes, yes.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with John Hastings on this Martin Luther King, Jr., birthday eve. He's the senior staff editor for health at "Reader's Digest." The book, by the way is "Change One: Lose Weight Simply, Safely, and Forever." We'll be right back.
KING: We're back with John Hastings. I notice drink plenty of water. Why?
HASTINGS: Water is just -- one of the issues is that a lot of unnoticed calories come into our diet through soft drinks. We drink those things, and it would be 250 calories shot just with one soda, and then you're -- you know, you don't even notice it. Your mind doesn't register those calories. So that's just in addition to whatever else you may be eating. We really push the water. It fills you up. It's no calories. It's very good for you.
KING: It's healthy, right?
HASTINGS: It's healthy.
KING: You recommend eating slowly. Why?
HASTINGS: Yes. At one point, I was thinking about naming it the slow and poky diet, but the idea is that it takes a little while to feel fullness, you know, 10 minutes minimum before you really start to notice -- before your body registers that you've had enough food. So we want you to slow down.
The other reason is -- is that you can savor your food, you get more out of your food, and it gets you to focus on why we eat. You know, it's to satisfy hunger. It's not because I -- you know, it's a nervous habit, and I just need to put something in my mouth.
KING: You recommend two servings of vegetables at dinner.
HASTINGS: That's correct.
KING: So have a double -- you mean...
HASTINGS: Actually, vegetables are free on this plan. You know, you...
KING: You can eat all you want anytime.
HASTINGS: You can eat all you want.
KING: Carrots, green beans...
HASTINGS: Yes. You know, it's -- you know, a few vegetables you have to be careful with, but -- you know, potatoes, you know, you don't want to overdo.
KING: What about sweet potatoes?
HASTINGS: Sweet potatoes are great, yes. I love sweet potatoes.
But, yes, the vegetables...
KING: They're better than baked potatoes, right?
HASTINGS: Oh, yes. You get a little more out of it. You know, you get some good nutrients in there.
The vegetables being free, though, is -- the idea is that you really can't overdo it. It's low calories. There's a lot of great nutrients in...
KING: How about before bed?
HASTINGS: Yes, it's a question that comes up over and over again, and I've seen the research out there. It just is not -- and we asked the doctors that we worked with on this, too. There's nothing to justify it.
You know, if you're following this plan and you're eating the calories and staying fairly close to this, you're going to find, you can have, you know, 400 calories before you get in bed. It's not going to make any difference. Just...
HASTINGS: That's correct. yes.
KING: The thought being, if you eat before you go to bed, the fat just lies there in bed with you.
HASTINGS: It just goes right to your hips. That's what we all believe. But, yes, just -- there's no research to just -- to support it.
KING: How about the diets that have the -- eat a regular breakfast, eat a regular dinner, but, for lunch, take this bar, and this bar is low in carbohydrates and no sugar and it's -- you know. You know what I'm talking about.
KING: Nutrashake or whatever it is.
KING: Drink a shake.
KING: Does that work?
HASTINGS: I think it has worked for people. It's -- you know, it's a simple plan. It's a nice, easy thing. You don't have to think too much about the rest of your day. Again, I just wonder...
KING: A meal on the go.
HASTINGS: Yes, it's a meal on the go. It's convenient. I -- my only problem with it is it's not real food, and I -- this is a book about loving food. You know, it's about -- it's a weight loss plan, but it's -- we really celebrate food in this plan. We believe you can eat. You know, you don't have to...
KING: Are vitamins in the plan, or do you get all the vitamins from the food?
HASTINGS: Just like the American Medical Association, we recommend one a day. Sort of a multivitamin once a day. So I -- every day. Not -- we don't recommend any brands.
KING: What about all the health food fads, the folic acids and the VHEA and... HASTINGS: Yes. You know, it's -- the research keeps going back and forth on those. You know, they look great when you get them in food, but, you know, if you start over -- or not -- megadose on those that doesn't necessarily hold up if you're taking it as a pill. That multivitamin's going to -- you know, a good multivitamin is going to cover it.
KING: Is "Reader's Digest" still the major impact publication it's always been?
HASTINGS: "Reader's Digest" has -- we have 11-million readers. They say, actually, 44-million people see it, you know, when they -- in the doctors' offices and...
KING: It's everywhere.
HASTINGS: Yes. "Change One," by the way -- I just want to mention this as well, is for people who like -- a lot of people do well on programs that are sort of group oriented, and we have a changeone.com as well, so, if people want to...
KING: Oh, yes.
HASTINGS: Yes. If they want to get...
KING: That's great.
HASTINGS: ... and they can follow it just on line like that.
KING: Thanks, John.
HASTINGS: Thank you so much, Larry.
KING: We thank Senator Hatch earlier.
We thank John Hastings now, the senior staff editor for health at "Reader's Digest." The book again is "Change One: Lose Weight Simply, Safely, and Forever."
Have a great holiday tomorrow. We'll see you tomorrow night. Thanks for joining us, and good night.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com