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Interview With Bob Woodward

Aired January 27, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, legendary journalist Bob Woodward. On the day U.N. weapons inspectors gave Iraq thumbs down, we'll ask the reporter with extraordinary White House access, is America on the brink of war?
Plus, excerpts of his exclusive presidential interviews. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

First, a quick housekeeping note. Tomorrow night is the State of the Union. We'll be on at 10:45 Eastern, 7:45 Pacific, a full hour edition of LARRY KING LIVE, and among the guests will be Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Senators John McCain, Dianne Feinstein, Joe Biden, John Warner, Mitch McConnell, and former senators Alan Simpson and George McGovern. All tomorrow night.

Tonight, though, it's Bob Woodward. He's the author of "Bush at War." It is again number one on the "New York Times" best seller. It may be his best book selling book ever. Tonight, we're going to hear audio excerpts from the long interview that Bob did with the president for that book, "Bush at War." We're going to hear our first one in just a couple of moments, but Bob's break in the story in tomorrow's morning's "Washington Post," which in essence says what?

BOB WOODWARD, WASHINGTON POST: Well, that the U.S. has intelligence that the Iraqis have been rather actively and systematically moving and hiding weapons of mass destruction around, and that some of this will probably be released next week. People -- some people who have seen it say it's quite compelling and unambiguous. Some of it is circumstantial, but it's part of the public case that obviously Bush and the administration need to make to people in this country, in the world, to justify any military action, which may be coming.

KING: From your sources, will this story, if it is, in fact, true, will that be the break they need in a sense to say those of you who have asked for proof, here's proof?

WOODWARD: Well, I think people will read it differently. As I understand it, they don't have a smoking gun, they don't have the kind of proof that would convince 100 out of 100 people. At the same time, when you look at the pattern and what apparently some of this evidence is, I think it will be a piece of the puzzle, and a lot of people are going to look at it and say it's pretty obvious that the goal in the U.N.-mandated disarmament is not taking place and there is a rather pernicious game of cat and mouse going on by the Iraqi regime, and people aren't going to like it.

KING: We're going to be hearing excerpts, six in all, in each segment of the show tonight from this extraordinary tape that led to the book. Before we hear the first one, how did you get the president to agree to sit down with you for an hour and a half for a book?

WOODWARD: Well, it was an hour and a half for a series I did with Dan Balz at "The Washington Post" and then two and a half hours last summer at his ranch. Essentially, as I have said, having the luxury of time to talk to lots of people, get National Security Council notes, get some of the documentation here, and then I laid it out in a 20-page memo to the president, saying, this is what I understand happened in the war in Afghanistan and the buildup to the confrontation with Iraq. Do you want to talk about it? And somewhat to my surprise, he said he would.

KING: Now, you have been kind enough to let us have these tapes, we have taken out excerpts. And in this first segment, in this quote, the president talks about preparing for war.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is impossible in war to get everything perfect, and therefore you try to get as much perfect as possible, and then go.


KING: How close are we, Bob? Is this a foregone conclusion based on today what you're going to report tomorrow, based on your discussions with him?

WOODWARD: No, I don't think there's anything foregone about it. But what that quote shows is that he realizes in war you're not going to have everything absolutely right, but you do the best you can, and then, as he said, you go. And there is a sense he conveyed to me and has conveyed in his public comments, and I suspect will tomorrow night, a very forward-leaning, very -- if in order to achieve the goal of disarming Iraq we have to have a war, my sense is there is not any doubt in his mind that that is what must be done.

He has the responsibility now. The Congress has said -- authorized it and said, he should do what is necessary and appropriate. And that sense of, you know, and now you go, well, you go, there is something about him that is, let's get this mess solved, let's move on, let's act.

KING: What do you make, what's your read on the report today, the first mandated report from the inspectors?

WOODWARD: It's quite comprehensive and specific and tough. And the chief weapons inspector and the inspectors have been kind of conservative in their statements, and I thought today's summary was a look -- these people in Iraq, Saddam Hussein, is not serious about complying here. There are all kinds of holes. It's porous, there is no active effort on their part to assist. And so, again, this points in the direction that this might have to be solved with military action.

KING: Wouldn't someone suggest it, wouldn't one of the ways to prevent all this is just keep the inspectors there ad infinitum? They're not going to start anything with people walking around, so you're almost protected by having them there?

WOODWARD: I don't think that works. As many have pointed out, Iraq is a very large country, the size roughly of California, I guess. Imagine sending a couple of hundred people into California and say, find something, find drugs, find hidden caches of weapons. Where do you start? How do you ever get to the bottom of it? It truly is a bottomless pit.

And the fear here, and the theory, and it's a theory, it's not proven, that there is such an effort on the part of the regime in Iraq to build and hide and conceal these weapons that perhaps they want them not just for deterrence purposes, but they want them to use them. And the great lesson of 9/11 in the Bush White House is, take care of threats early.

And everyone agrees Saddam is an immense threat, a grave danger, as Colin Powell said the day before yesterday or yesterday. And I think anyone who looks at this agrees that there is the grave danger there. So you aren't going to send a couple of hundred or even 1,000 people into this large country and satisfy yourself, particularly if the leader in the government and the military are determined to conceal these things.

KING: By the way, we will be taking calls for Bob Woodward, author of "Bush at War." He's our guest for the full show tonight, with excerpts from his interviews. You can start calling in early. We will be taking calls for Bob Woodward during the course of this program.

Why are Germany and France so intransigent in this?

WOODWARD: Well, I mean, that's their political system and the leaders have questions about this. I think they don't have all of the intelligence information. I think that there's a real possibility when this is laid out, when more information is gathered, more information is gathered every day by intelligence agencies from the United States, from other countries. Information is gathered by the weapons inspectors.

You may reach a point where it's cumulative, and public opinion will switch. And again, maybe not. The burden is, at least in this country, on the president. He can't just say, we're going to do these things. One of the great lessons of war is, you need to have the public behind you. And you get that by making a convincing case.

KING: We'll take a break. We'll be back with more. More excerpts and more phone calls as well for Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post," the Pulitzer Prize winner, the author of "Bush at War." Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.



KING: Again, we're back with Bob Woodward, author of "Bush at War," and we're hearing quotes from the direct interview he did at the president's ran in Crawford, Texas in August of last year. In this quote, the president offers insight into his tough approach to war. Listen.


BUSH: If you've got a shot at the enemy, take it in any way you can. I mean, I am -- I am a soft-hearted person when it comes to suffering, innocent people. But in war, it is important to get after them.


KING: Did his resolve surprise you?


What one of the parts of this that was interesting is that he laid out this vision of he is worried about the suffering of the Iraqi people, worried about the North Koreans, saying that he loathed Kim Jong-Il and making it pretty he's got almost a list, if it's only in pencil, it's not engraved in stone, of these places in the world where he at some point wants to do something to improve conditions. That doesn't necessarily mean war, but even at one point he said, It's your view of religion and God and that he feels some obligation, as he says, to get after them.

And so on one hand, there is this humanitarian impulse, and on the other hand in some -- some may says this is a little contradictory, he would argue not, that he believes it's OK, you have these humanitarian impulses and convictions, but in order to bring about peace and fix things, sometimes you have to go to war.

And again, many of these sentences ended with this OK, let's go get 'em, then you have to go after them. Let's do it, I will do it, so forth. There is that sense. He is a believer -- if there's anything he believes in the most, I think it is action, of taking steps to solve things.

KING: Let's get Bob Woodward's comments on this just in from our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. The U.S. military will be ready by mid to late February, to quickly go to war if President Bush orders it, Pentagon officials told CNN Monday, adding the military action could begin with days of a presidential decision. Officials also said if Iraq made an aggressive military move before then, the United States could respond instantly. The February time frame refers to the goal of being ready with a full invasion force that could achieve the goals of disarming Iraq and regime change.

Your comment on that.

WOODWARD: There have been lots of dates thrown around. I think it depends on what level of force the president and his advisers decide is necessary. And there's no fixed number. You have to have this many there in order to do something.

February dates are thrown around; March dates are thrown around. I've heard other scenarios. I suspect there are a lot of things on the table.

I think it's also quite correct that it could start within days of a decision. I suspect it could start within hours of a decision if he was determined to do something.

We are in -- if it's possible, try to get in the shoes of Saddam Hussein now. He is under extraordinary pressure, this continual military pressure. We've reported in "The Washington Post" about covert action that they're spending up to $200 million, that's a lot of money in the secret world, to try to topple Saddam Hussein. Diplomatic pressure, economic pressure. And this all gets ratcheted up each day.

And I'm sure the, you know, maybe Saddam Hussein looks at this as a pleasant time. I would suspect it's not very pleasant.

KING: What do you expect the president to say tomorrow night?

WOODWARD: I don't know. I really haven't tried to report that out. Some people say there is not going to be a whole lot of new information. I suspect that's correct. But again, those things change.

One of the things I found in working on this book in the war in Afghanistan, we all thought it began in October, which it did, October 7, the bombing of Afghanistan. When you look behind the scenes and get into the chronology and some of the notes of their national security council meetings, you find that the president wanted to go a week earlier. He was quite impatient about it and was pushing the envelope and others had to talk him down and he waited a week.

So it's quite possible he is in that state of pressing and agitating for sooner rather than later.

KING: Is the administration surprised that the parent public being 50/50 on this?

WOODWARD: I don't know. I mean, I think, given the evidence in the debate that's going on, that makes sense. I would think in the end, President Bush should welcome a very serious debate about this. The decision to go to war, not to go to war, is one of the biggest he'll make. Much, much hinges on this.

I've found it fascinating that I guess it was 10 days ago President Bush and his wife went to Walter Reed Army Hospital to visit five military people who had been seriously wounded in the war in Afghanistan. And it struck me as significant that he was reminded himself or maybe his wife was encouraging it or some of his advisers that there are consequences. This is not a video game -- that the cost in human life can be unpredictable and immense and it's really, literally all on his shoulders, at least for the moment.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Bob Woodward. More excerpts from the tapes and your phone calls in a little while as well. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE.

Again, tomorrow night, we'll be on at 10:45 Eastern, 7:45 Pacific, with a whole array of United States senators following the State of the Union and the Democratic response.

Don't go away.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The issue is not how much more time the inspectors need to search in the dark. It is how much more time Iraq should be given to turn on the lights and to come clean. And the answer is, not much more time. Iraq's time for choosing peaceful disarmament is fast coming to an end.



KING: We're showing the television viewing audience shots of the president rehearsing at a podium the speech he will deliver tomorrow night to a joint session of the House and Senate. Our guest is the assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post," the Pulitzer Prize-winner, the author of "Bush at War," Bob Woodward. We're continuing playing excerpts from the long interview that he did with the president for this book.

In this quote, we'll hear the president reflect on the vital importance of the presidential strength in leading a White House team. Listen.


BUSH: A president has got to be the calcium in the backbone. If I weaken, the whole team weakens. If I am doubtful, I can assure you there will be a lot of doubt. If my confidence level in our ability declines, it will send ripples throughout the whole organization. I mean, it's essential that we be confident and determined and united.


KING: Bob, your sources -- do they tell you everyone's on board? It appears that Colin Powell is certainly entrenched, on board. Now is there any disagreement in this White House?

WOODWARD: Well, I think there's always disagreement in this White House and it's probably a good thing.

A colleague at the "Post," Glenn Kessler, the other day had an excellent story, I thought, about Powell saying that Powell is talking much more hawkish. He played a quote from his press conference where he makes it clear that time is indeed running out. He's getting very impatient. He, like all of these people, doesn't like to be played with. And I think he feels that he's being played with.

And so the -- it's not a transformation of Powell. Powell was the one who argued, let's go to the U.N. We need to have friends in this enterprise. But he is seen -- he has seen what is going on.

And clearly, as in the Gulf War, when he was chairman of the joint chiefs, he's willing to go to war and to support a war.

What is interesting about that quote about Bush talking about him, the president needs to be the calcium in the backbone -- I suspect tomorrow night it's going to be an all-calcium in the backbone speech. That he's going to show no doubt, no hesitation, confident, direct.

As he said there, if he shows any little wobble or wavering, people will pick up on it and then they'll start saying, Well, maybe this isn't the right thing to do, maybe we shouldn't go there, maybe we should do it in a different way.

So I suspect he will take that lesson and in that conviction and practice it tomorrow night. And it will be a very forceful, -- there won't be any kind of, well, I'm not sure about this, I'm not sure about that. It will be, This is the course of action. Perhaps saying he hasn't decided finally on war or not, but that he has indeed decided that the menace of Iraq having these weapons of mass destruction is going to be history at some point in the near future.

KING: Do you think he would be willing to go it alone, as they say?

WOODWARD: Well, as others, including Powell have said, we wouldn't have to go it alone. There would be a dozen countries who would support us.

It's no secret in the Middle East, in the Arab world, that Saddam Hussein has no friends. Take what people say publicly and multiply it by 10 in terms of their discomfort and disdain for his regime in that area. So, it would never be alone, and you know, 10, 12 countries, maybe a lot more. Much hinges on the case.

I think the White House and the people there realize they have to make a more convincing case -- that this needs to be done now, that there are things, there are activities going on in Iraq that further make the regime a threat and a menace and something needs to be done in the very near future. And that burden rests with them. And they may make it and they may not. KING: Our guest is Bob Woodward. The book is "Bush at War." we're hearing audio excerpts from the long interview that Woodward did with the president for the book. He is the assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post," Pulitzer prizewinner. And this might be his best-selling book ever.

When we take break, we'll come back. More excerpts and your phone calls for Bob Woodward. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Bob Woodward. We're going to go to some of your phone calls. But let's here another excerpt from this fascinating interview that Mr. Woodward conducted with the president leading up to the book "Bush at War."

In this quote, Bush reflects on international disagreement over the use of force.


BUSH: Well, we're never going to get people all in agreement about force and use of force. But action, confident action that will yield positive results provides kind of a slipstream into which reluctant nations and leaders can get behind and show themselves that there has been -- you know, something positive toward peace.


KING: how did you assess that statement?

WOODWARD: Well, it fits with the theory of operation, which is -- but before that he said, Talk to the allies and they'll say, before you do anything, consult. Let's have consultations, let's have debates, let's have meetings.

And he said, There are limits to that and that in fact, if the United States, as the only superpower, takes the lead and says, Look, this is what we've got to do and these are the reasons that reluctant nations will fall into what he called, unusual use of the word slipstream, that kind of that you create a momentum, that almost a obliges others to follow. And so that fits with what might happen with Iraq. He'll make an effort, consultations, debate, U.N., but clearly feels that OK, there's a time to step up to the plate and indeed when you do that, people will follow.

KING: All right. Let's get some phone calls in for Bob Woodward. Phoenix, Arizona, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Mr. Woodward, Larry.


CALLER: Mr. Woodward --Mr. Woodward how do...

WOODWARD: Yes... CALLER: ... you defend the assertion -- how do you defend the assertion that your time with President Bush has jaded your objectivity and that's why you seem to defend and approve of the rah- rah antics of the Bush administration?

WOODWARD: I don't make a judgment on them and I'm not approving of them at all. If you would look at book, you would see there are lots of things in there that show that he was -- that he made mistakes, that he perhaps in the White House -- not perhaps, actually, like the Clinton administration, like people in my business of journalism, didn't take bin Laden and al Qaeda seriously enough and that much more should have been done.

What I'm trying to do is let him present his rationale for doing these things. I think back to Vietnam or some of the world wars that this country has been in and there's never been an opportunity where a sitting president was interrogated, because it really was an interrogation about why certain things happened and what his motive was.

KING: Tampa, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, my question for Bob Woodward...

KING: And congratulations to Tampa.


And my question for Bob Woodward is, with the war against Iraq seemingly at a point of no return, how is that we can expect to get support from a Russia, a China, a France, or a Germany when each of these countries have economic trade deals, and with the United States using Iraq oil to pay for the occupation. Do you feel this creates a conflict of interest?

WOODWARD: Well, I think this thing is filled with conflicts of interest and many parties and countries, like the ones you mentioned, would have reasons not to want a war.

At the same time, you can argue and people who know a lot about Iraq much more than I do say, that it is quite possible that the country could be much better off after Saddam Hussein, that conceivably could turn into a democracy. And all of the business deals and transactions that these countries and these companies have could actually get better. So there could be an economic argument for war in addition to one against war, as you propose.

KING: New Castle, California hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Mr. King. Good evening, Mr. Woodard.


CALLER: You know, I just want to make a comment. I guess my big concern is, no matter what, we will stand behind our military and God bless each and every one of them. My question is this. How secure do you feel that we really are in our country that when we do make an attack on Iraq, what do you think the consequences are going to be our people here and our country? Because that's my biggest concern. I feel like with our borders being so open and we know the mess that Arizona is going through, and then in Canada we're told we had five that got through, supposedly, nobody knew where they went. And then we found out that was false.

Well, I'm very concerned as an American on what do we have to look forward to in order -- if we go to war?

KING: Retaliation, Bob.

WOODWARD: Well, and that's a wonderful question and a -- and exactly the right concern. And the answer is, No one knows.

A lot of people who know a lot about the intelligence and what bin Laden operatives and other terrorists are up to said we can expect another attack in this country at some point. They expected it in the weeks, months and year after 9/11 and it did not occur. For a number of reasons, one that we have gotten better at disrupting and preventing these things. The government clearly takes the terrorist threat more seriously.

If there is a war with Iraq, the potential of unleashing some terrible retaliation is always there. That's something that they -- one of the things Bush says, He's always making a risk assessment. If you do this, What is the benefit versus the downside? And that's one they have got to make.

But it's made in an atmosphere of uncertainty. No one can know the exact consequences and what you might unleash with a war.

KING: Daphne, Alabama, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, gentlemen.


CALLER: My question to Mr. Woodward is, I understand about going to war against Iraq. But in the past months I haven't heard anything about finding Osama bin Laden and is this all connected?

KING: Yes. Where's he gone?

WOODWARD: Boy, I can't tell you the number of people I know who wish they knew, including myself.

There is evidence that he's still alive. It's one of the permanent mysteries of all of this. It's probably the biggest -- Larry, have you ever known a bigger international manhunt for so long? I haven't.

KING: Nope, I guess -- since who?

WOODWARD: I don't know. I don't think there's ever been one.


KING: And he has alluded -- there's a $25 million bounty on his head. That should provide some incentives for some people. Apparently it has not.

My biggest concern is that it suggests not only that he's been able to hide, but there are things about him and his organization that we don't even begin to understand. And that may suggest that they're still out there, things are being planned, and communications capabilities, the ability to get money in all of the things these groups need to do is still in tact.

KING: This may interest you. It's just in, again, from our correspondent at the Pentagon, Barbara Starr. A U.S. and coalition military forces were in the largest firefight with suspected Taliban or al Qaeda members since "Operation Anaconda" and the fight at Tora Bora in Afghanistan last year. This occurred Monday.

Initial reports indicate no U.S. or coalition forces were killed or wounded wounded. The firefight took place near the eastern Afghan city of Spinvolvak, an area known to harbor Taliban and al Qaeda sympathizers.

U.S. Troops went to the area late last Monday. Aircraft was called in. The operation lasted six to seven hours. Is this sporadic, Bob?

WOODWARD: Well, it tells you exactly what's going on. The war against al Qaeda and bin Laden is not over. It continues. That the war in Afghanistan, the first phase, was won. I like to think that we're in the second, third or fourth phase. And it's not clear where all of that's going to go.

People who know a lot about it see lots of troubling signs. One of them is the necessity to conduct these sort of very aggressive military exercises, ...

KING: More excerpts...

WOODWARD: .. which tells you there are pockets, people in caves, people in the mountains, there people who are hiding these terrorists in remote areas. It's a big deal and a big threat.

KING: More excerpts, more phone calls for Bob Woodward right after this.



SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: The two crucial questions the president needs to answer on Iraq are, first, does Saddam Hussein pose a threat to national security so imminent that it justifies putting American lives at risk to get rid of him? And second, how are our efforts to deal with this threat helped by short circuiting an inspections process that we demanded in the first place?


KING: Our guest is Bob Woodward. That was Senator Tom Daschle. In this excerpt from the Bush interview with Mr. Woodward, Bush offers his view of the U.S. role in the world and his readiness to fulfill it.


BUSH: At this moment in history, if there is a world problem, we're expected to deal with it. It's the price of power. It is the price of where the United States stands. And we will.


KING: Back to the calls. By the way, does Senator Daschle, accurately, do you think, pinpoint what the opposite view is?

WOODWARD: Well, I think those are really important and critical questions. And the burden is on the administration.

War is an act like no other and Senator Daschle is a reasonable man. He is a patriotic man, somebody who would care deeply about supporting a president who explained what he is doing and intends to do.

I think we're in the middle of that process now. My sense is, in the information I have indicates that there are go to be answers to those questions. Whether they're going to satisfy Senator Daschle or the average person in this country we'll have to see.

In dealing with the kind of very sensitive intelligence information that the United States has about what's going on in Iraq, the White House and the president and his advisers are going to have to engage in a very tricky balancing act of, if we've got the goods here and we disclose it, will that compromise a source and method of intelligence gathering that we might need in case of war?

And in order to make the case, you might have to put out data that at some point down the road here would jeopardize lives. So that balancing is something that has got to be done with great care and there aren't easy answers to lots of them.

KING: Macon, Georgia for Bob Woodward. Hello.

CALLER: Hello Mr. King.


CALLER: This is an honor. I do have a question for Mr. Woodward.

Lately, and maybe I haven't been paying enough attention, but lately we haven't heard anything from the vice president. And I was just wondering if there's a reason for that, if it's health-related, safety security, or if there's an internal conflict within the administration.

WOODWARD: Those are good questions. I know of no health or any new security issue.

One of the things in working on this book and on the administration, I found is that Vice President Cheney is quite aware he's only vice president. There were theories around that he was running things and the power behind the presidency in fact. I don't think that's the case at all.

I think, at the same time, he's the primary adviser to the president. Brings a lot of experience, brings a point of view to matters. And his questions are often very good.

If you go back to the Gulf War when Cheney was Secretary of Defense and they brought the first war plan for ejecting Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi army from Kuwait, which the Iraqis had occupied, they brought the plan to Cheney, General Schwarzkopf's staff. It was a plan that sent our military force right up the middle into the center of the Iraqi army and Cheney, in a very commonsensical way said, Why go up the middle? And asked a series of questions that led to if you recall, the famous left hook where they came at the Iraqi army much more indirectly and, as it turns out, much more successfully.

Cheney is very good at answering or at least asking, those kinds of questions. I think that's one of the roles in private he serves with the president.

KING: Cambridge, Massachusetts, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Bob and Larry, and everyone at CNN, thanks for all your efforts.

If we send our army into Iraq, what are we -- are we looking to destroy the army in Iraq or are we looking for weapons in Iraq? If we go in there and kill the army, and many of the people, have we accomplished finding the weapons? Maybe some of these weapons have been transported over to Syria or Pakistan. What are we going to do then, go in there and try and find them there?

KING: In other words, Bob, what's the after-game?

WOODWARD: Well what's the after-game and you're asking a question about is the goal to destroy the Iraqi army? The goal is regime change. To get Saddam Hussein out of power. And create the possibility now, it sounds at times to me quite far fetched of a democracy in Iraq. At least a regime that we can deal with that will deal openly and deal with this issue...

KING: That we install?

WOODWARD: Well I don't think you install. I think you try to create a process where there are lots of opposition forces within Iraq. If you believe the intelligence and I tend to, there are a lot of people who are unhappy with Saddam Hussein. The excellent reporting that's done, been done on the ground in Iraq has demonstrated that a lot of the people don't like Saddam Hussein.

So maybe it will be easier than we think. I tend to think that's not. I think it's going to be very messy and that the after war is go to be more complicated than the war, if that's the route that the president takes.

KING: We'll take a break. Be back with our remaining moments, play one more except and get us some more phone calls for Bob Woodward. Don't go away.


KING: The polls have him down a little. Here's what President Bush told our guest, Bob Woodward, about polls last year, explaining why he doesn't much care about them.


BUSH: A poll is history, it's not future. I mean, all that does is record the snapshot that may have been 24 hours ago. But that doesn't mean the next 24 hours.


KING: Let's take another call for Bob Woodward. This fascinating tapes put together in an in other words book, the No. 1 best-seller "Bush At War." To Ottawa, Canada, hello.

CALLER: Good evening. Someone with a background in foreign affairs I'm aware Saddam does pose a danger to the Middle East. My question is this. After the initial Gulf War, former President Bush when asked why they stopped short of going after Mr. Hussein said that it was not a personal fight.

Years later, when the former president went to Kuwait to receive an award, an attempt was made to assassinate himself and his entourage. Governor Bush, at that time, said that if the decision was his, he would do whatever it took to get Mr. Hussein personally. So my question is, is his current decision making being clouded by his personal feelings?

KING: Good question.

WOODWARD: It is an excellent question. I think it's impossible to filter that out. If it's true, and there's some doubt in fact about whether the Iraqis tried to assassinate his father on this visit to Kuwait, but there is some evidence that they did, if somebody tried to assassinate your father or relative of yours it would be personal. And I think you can't get rid of that.

I have not seen evidence that it is driving this President Bush. But clearly it's a factor. But again, on all of these things about motives, what's nice about the open system we have is that people continually ask those questions and insist on answers and the reports and the accounts is in this book I've done come out and people can say, Oh, well, that makes sense or that doesn't make sense. That there is a system of quite rigorous accountability in the government. If there's a war with Iraq people are going to, including myself, write books about it. The debate in the histories will be endless. And eventually, that onion will be peeled completely.

But in terms of it being the primary motivating factor, I don't see it.

KING: Benicia (ph), California, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Mr. King and Mr. Woodward. In the presidential debate, George W. appeared to take perverse pleasure in the killing of many convicted on death row. And so with that philosophy of his, is -- are the peace marches in this country and throughout the world, are they having little impact on him?

And also, Ramsey Clark at the peace march talked about impeachment issues that were applicable to Bush. And is that...

KING: You're rambling all over. He did, the caller is saying that he seemed to take joy having signed off on executions in Texas during the debate with Gore and would that affect his feelings toward Iraq. We only have a minute, Bob.

WOODWARD: I don't see a connection there. But there is a peace movement out there and they should be heard. And it shouldn't be just a matter of how many people marched or didn't march. There are real arguments here and people who feel, one way or the other ought to get out there.

And the main thing, though, is to ask questions. And people in my business will be asking them as long as this issue continues. And Senator Daschle and others will do it quite well and maybe even much better.

KING: In 30 seconds, why do people get angry at people who protest since this country began in protest?

WOODWARD: Because they disagree and, you know, sometimes the protests are accompanied by some antics and signs and so forth that people don't like.

But you're right, people should protest and make themselves heard. And I believe they will. I think there's a -- it would be interesting, and I don't know the answer to this question, what bush's response is. Does he just brush them off or does he listen? Let's hope he does listen.

KING: Thanks, Bob. Thanks so much.


KING: Thanks for make the tapes available.

Bob Woodward, the book "Bush At War." Be back to tell you about tomorrow's special night after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Big night around these parts tomorrow. State of the Union speech. We'll be on at 10:45 Eastern, 7:45 Pacific with Senators Frist, Bill Frist, John McCain and others.


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