CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND
Interview With Bob Schieffer
Aired February 16, 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: From war zones to the White House, he's been everywhere.
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BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: ... New Delhi...
-- Buenos Aires...
-- the State Department...
-- the Capitol...
-- the White House...
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KING: And there's not a story he hasn't covered.
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SCHIEFFER: ... the national Putt-Putt championships at Rockville, Maryland.
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KING: Bob Schieffer of CBS News. Hear the stories he couldn't tell you TV until now. He's here for the hour, and he's next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.
Good evening, and welcome to a very special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND with an old friend, Bob Schieffer, the anchor and moderator of CBS News "Face the Nation" CBS News chief Washington correspondent and author of a terrific new read, "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You On TV."
Mr. Schieffer, I thank you very much. It's always great welcoming you to these microphones and cameras. Is it true that the I-man, Mr. Imus, the notorious Imus, is partially responsible for this book?
SCHIEFFER: He absolutely is. That's actually quite true. Don for a long time had been goading me to try to get me to get my commentaries that I do every Sunday on "Face the Nation" at the end of the broadcast -- to get them published. And I've kind of fooled around with it. And finally, he said, I'm going to get my agent, Esther Newburg (ph), on this case, and I'm going to get you to do this. Well, before I could call Esther, she called me. She said, Look, don't tell Imus I said this, but it's very difficult to sell journalism collections. Why don't you just write a real book? So I did.
KING: This book is not just about remembering. You add new -- you talked to people for the book. Was it intended originally as just a memoir?
SCHIEFFER: You know, it wasn't even intended as a memoir. I had an idea in the beginning to do a book about some of the events that I had covered, just various stories that I've covered. Reporters spend a lot of time telling each other tales about how they covered stories, and that's what this book started out to be. But as I got more into it -- my memory's not very good sometimes -- I started calling people who were involved in some of these stories.
I wound up talking to about 85 people, including one president and two former presidents, three or four secretaries of state and secretaries of defense who were around at the time. And I wound up getting their views, as well as my own. And that was one of the kind of fun things about it, Larry. And I'll tell you something from a psychological point of view. They would remind me of things that I had forgotten, and then I would begin to dream about them. So I...
SCHIEFFER: I found out about a lot of things that I -- that were in my mind, I guess, in the back part of it, but I just sort of forgot them, and they reminded me of it.
KING: By the way, about this book, Howard Kurtz of "The Washington Post" wrote that Bob's book reflects his seemingly impossible accomplishment, becoming a big-shot Beltway pundit without developing a skyscraper-size ego. The book pokes fun at people but never draws blood." "Publisher's Weekly" said "He's seen it all and has much wisdom about journalism and governance to impart. The telling is so unfussy, modest and straightforward that it really prompts speculation about the juicy bits that he couldn't write in the book."
What -- why do you think you are the way you are? I mean, why aren't you more heady about what you've accomplished?
SCHIEFFER: Oh, I don't know. I've tried not to take myself too seriously down through the years, and I've always had the view -- and I learned this, I guess, when I was working at the "Fort Worth Star- Telegram." As you know, Larry, I used to be a newspaper reporter. And my mentor there was a reporter and later an editor there named Phil Record (ph). And he said, The thing you need to remember, Bob, on this job is, is that you're never as important as the people you cover. And I guess it kind of stuck with me, and I still believe that. And as a result, I guess I'm just kind of a rubberneck. I'm kind of a -- someone who likes to see things and likes to see these events and talk to the people who make them happen. But I don't think journalists are as important as the people they cover. KING: There's an old adage: I never learned anything when I was talking.
SCHIEFFER: That's probably right.
KING: You are one of the few, are you not, who have covered the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and Capitol Hill?
SCHIEFFER: Yes. And all of those beats came about -- I didn't ask to cover any of them. My first beat in Washington -- I'd been working in the CBS bureau for about, I guess, three or four months, and the Pentagon correspondent left. And one day, they needed somebody to cover a briefing that Mel Laird was having out at the Pentagon, and I just happened to be sitting there, and they sent me out there. And I wound up staying for five years. It became my first beat in Washington. It's still one of my favorite beats. But it just -- it just sort of happened. The same thing happened -- when Dan Rather left the White House, Bill Small, who was my boss at that time, said, We want you to be the White House correspondent. And I said, Why? And he said, Well, because we want you to. And that's how I kind of became the White House correspondent. It's sort of been that way most of my career, oddly enough.
KING: Bob has -- Mr. Schieffer has won six Emmys. He's in the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. Are our busts near each other? I'm proud to be in the same group with you.
SCHIEFFER: Well, thank you, sir.
KING: You witnessed a whole lot of changes in journalism, especially television broadcasting. What's the biggest change?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I think...
KING: In news coverage.
SCHIEFFER: ... the biggest change, Larry, is there's just more of everything. There are more reporters now. There are more public relations people. There are more people working in the government, dealing with the press. People are more sophisticated in the way they go about dealing with the press. You know, they have all these talking points, and they have these public relations coaches. There was none of that when I was a young reporter back on the beat, covering the police station and covering the courthouse for the "Star- Telegram" in Fort Worth. We had total access to everybody. We walked in and out of everybody's offices.
So I think the fact that there's just so many more reporters now would probably be the main thing. And the other part, Larry, is we now have this 24-hour news cycle. When I started, the mayor would give his side of the story in the afternoon paper, and then the people on the other side of the issue would give their side in the morning paper. Now, if you don't get your view into the same newscast with the people that are on the other side of the story, it just gets lost in this great maw of information that's out there.
KING: More with Bob Schieffer. The book is "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell you on TV." It's a terrific read.
We'll be right back. Don't go away.
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SCHIEFFER: The other night, the announcer described a lady curler as the Roger Clemens of curling, said she liked to throw the high, hard one. Say what?
Let me just read this to make sure we don't -- he unzipped his pants and exposed himself and they had sex, of a kind.
We may have the first reviews for my camera work. Someone walked up to me just a while ago and handed me this button. It says, "Come home, Bob."
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KING: We're back with Bob Schieffer, the author of "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell you on TV."
One of the things you never told before on TV was your drinking problem, and you write about it. Why'd you choose to write about it?
SCHIEFFER: Well, because I -- I want people to understand that you can fall into these things without -- without realizing that you have. And I never really thought of myself as a problem drinker. I always -- I always enjoyed alcohol. I drank for fun. I never felt a need for it. But in those years when I was doing the morning news, I found myself -- it was very difficult for me to sleep, and I was getting up at 3:00 o'clock in the morning, going in. I was drinking so much coffee to stay awake to do the show. In those days, myself and another fellow wrote the entire show by ourselves.
By the time 7:00 o'clock came along, when we started the program, I was totally exhausted and completely wired from all the coffee I'd drunk. And I found myself -- in order to get to sleep, I found myself starting to take a drink. And I got ahold of it. I got ahold of it in plenty of time. I never -- I never considered myself an alcoholic, but I guess people who become alcoholics don't consider themselves alcoholics for a lot of the time. But I got ahold of it. I don't drink anymore.
KING: You saw the danger.
SCHIEFFER: Yes, I saw the danger. And when I finally stopped drinking, oddly enough, was in 1988, and I did it for a totally different reason. I'd covered the campaign in 1988, and I'd managed to gain an even 20 pounds, which is one of the dangers you have covering those campaigns. You know, the three rules of covering campaigns, Larry, is when you see a chair, sit in it. When you see some food, eat it. When you see a bathroom, use it because it might be the last time that day that you have an opportunity to do any of that stuff.
KING: That's true.
SCHIEFFER: Well, the result is, as you well know, you wind up eating five or six meals a day. It's always the wrong kind of food. You're drinking beer late at night. And so I was 20 pounds overweight. Election day, 1988, I decided to not drink for a while so I could lose some weight. About six months later, I realized I hadn't had a drink, and so I just never started back.
KING: Is the personal part of the memoir more than you expected? Did you expect to get into your personal life as much as you did? Because when you write a book, things always surprise you.
SCHIEFFER: Well, I did, and this is a very personal book. And I talk about -- you know, in several stages of this book, I talk about mistakes that I made. I talk about when I went to New York and uprooted my family here in Washington to become the anchor of the "CBS Morning News," as it was called in those days, and it was a very, very difficult period for me. But I kind of tried to put in the down side of all of this.
I mean, I was a very selfish person in those days, to be quite honest. I didn't remember that I had a wife and two children. I -- Dad was getting a big promotion to go to New York and anchor the morning news, and it never occurred to me that they might not think of it as a promotion. They had their lives. They had their school. My wife had just started a business. And it suddenly hit me one day that maybe I wasn't being a very good father, that maybe I'd put myself ahead of my family.
And I came away from that experience, and it was a very difficult experience -- I came to understand that you have to practice at being a good father and practice at being a good husband, just as you have to practice at being a good journalist.
KING: Now, you were a pre-med student, right?
KING: What took you to journalism?
SCHIEFFER: Comparative anatomy.
SCHIEFFER: I'll tell you exactly what took me to it. You know, it's a funny thing, Larry. I had -- all my life, everybody who knew me thought that I would probably grow up to be a reporter, a newspaper reporter because we didn't have much television in those days. But my mother, as was the style back in the '50s, her idea of a success was to have her son, the doctor. And so instead of enrolling in journalism or something like that, I enrolled at TCU in pre-med. And after about two years, I realized that creative writing was not going to help you ace those biological tests. So I switched over to journalism. I didn't graduate with honors, but I did graduate on time and with some doing.
SCHIEFFER: Barely graduated, I would say.
KING: Was one of the first big things you reported was the enrollment of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi?
SCHIEFFER: Yes, it was. And I had come back from the Air Force -- I had worked at a small radio station when I was in college. After I switched to journalism, I got a job working there and working at night in the news department. The job paid one hour -- paid $1 an hour, and you got -- for every hour of overtime, the pay went down 10 cents. First hour of overtime, you made 90 cents, second hour, 80 cents. If you worked 11 hours, you had to give them a dime.
But anyway, I worked at that little station, and then I went off to the Air Force. I came back from the Air Force, and immediately after was sent down to Oxford, Mississippi, to cover the enrollment of James Meredith. It remains the most terrifying experience of my life. I later would go to Vietnam and have other kinds of adventures, but that night, caught on that campus -- there were snipers on the roof of some of the dormitories. Two reporters were shot and killed that night.
SCHIEFFER: It was a very terrifying experience.
KING: It may shock the viewer, and you ought to explain it. Maybe it shocked you, too, that here was a citizen of Mississippi whose grades were OK and allowed him to get in, who couldn't go because of the pigment of his skin. Now, that seems stupid now.
SCHIEFFER: Well, we take all of these things...
KING: The whole Mississippi basketball team is black.
SCHIEFFER: Yes. We take all of these things for granted, Larry, but in the days when I worked at the "Star-Telegram," most newspapers in the South did not put pictures of black people on the front pages. That didn't happen until the Vietnam war. Black-on-black crime generally was not covered by the news media across the South. There was a time when, you know, Southern papers -- the Associated Press used to take two pictures and send it out on the wire. When Joe Louis fought, they would take a picture of Louis knocking out the opponent that went to papers all over the country, and then they would always take a picture and send along for Southern papers of the white guy hitting Joe Louis. We sometimes just don't realize how far we have come on that front. And you know, enrolling this black man, enrolling at Ol' Miss, was a major event and...
KING: What did it do to you, as a Southerner? SCHIEFFER: Well, it -- the one thing it did, I think, Larry, is it raised my consciousness about -- about the struggle that black people were going through across the South because I had been -- for the previous three years, I'd been in the Air Force. I was based out on the West Coast, and you're kind of isolated in a situation like that. The Civil Rights -- the marches, and so forth, had begun, but it really hadn't come home to me what -- what these people were going through. And it -- it was a very unsettling thing for me to watch all of this transpire.
You know, the hard thing about it for me, Larry, was I came from Texas, and when I drove up, I drove radio station's little mobile unit, as we called it. It was a panel truck with the call letters across the side. When I drove onto the -- into Oxford that evening, people started throwing beer bottles and rocks at me. And I mean, I'd declared no allegiance for anything, and I thought, you know, a Texas radio station -- and yet I was an outsider. And it was just one sign of the times that...
KING: Why do you think that 41 years later, it's still topic A?
SCHIEFFER: Well, because it's the hardest problem. It's the one problem that remains unsolved in our society. It's the one thing that the Founding Fathers, geniuses that they were, they were -- they were not able to -- to work this one out. I mean, and in order to form this union, they had to leave the whole idea of slavery and race relations off to the side, and it took a civil war to finally get us where we should have been in the beginning. And it's a problem that's still not resolved and probably will not be for some time.
KING: Bob Schieffer's our guest. The book is "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell you on TV." And when we come back, we'll talk about his involvement with and coverage of the assassination of John Kennedy.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - "FACE THE NATION," JANUARY 20, 2002)
SCHIEFFER: When I graduated from college, no black person had ever gone to any school that I had attended. And I still remember the first black person I shook hands with. I was grown, and I was in the Air Force. It wasn't because I'd tried to avoid it, but the opportunity had never arisen. We lived on one side of town, the black people lived on the other. Yet in less than my lifetime -- a lot less, I hope -- we have gone from a country that officially sanctioned segregation to one in which it is universally condemned.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - JUNE 5, 1968) SCHIEFFER: In a nation stunned by repeated violence, the shooting in Los Angeles this morning of Senator Robert Kennedy was probably felt more deeply here in Dallas than in other parts of the country. It was from the building behind me that the Warren Commission says that a lone assassin hid in wait for Senator Robert Kennedy's brother and shot him as he drove along the street behind me.
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KING: We're back with Bob Schieffer. Again, heartily recommending "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell you on TV."
You had an unusual thing happen to you in the -- not that the event was unusual, but you -- you drove Oswald's mother, right? Give us the story.
SCHIEFFER: Well, it was -- and you're right. It's probably the most unusual thing that ever happened to me. When I was working at the "Star-Telegram," Kennedy came to Texas. Presidents didn't travel as much in those days as they do now, and it was a very big event. He spent the night in Fort Worth and was to go to Dallas the next day. Since I was the police reporter, I wasn't involved in the coverage of when he came to Fort Worth. And we had, like, 7,000 people turned out to see him at Carswell Air Force Base when he came in. But because I didn't get off work until 3:00 o'clock in the morning, I was sound asleep when he was shot over in Dallas. My brother, who was in high school and had gone down to see the president in Fort Worth, came and woke me up and said, You better go to work. The president's been shot.
To make a long story short, I got to the "Star-Telegram." I first was sent down to the police station because we had heard a man had been arrested who had a load of dynamite in his car. It turned out that he had nothing to do with it. He was just a demolition contractor. But then I went back to the "Star-Telegram," and I'd just walked in the door when the phone rang on the city desk. I picked up the phone, and a woman said, Is there anybody there who can give me a ride to Dallas? Well, I said, Lady, you know, this is not the taxi service. And besides, the president's been shot. She said, Yes, I know. I heard it on the radio, and I think my son is the one they've arrested.
Well, it was Lee Harvey Oswald's mother. I forgot all that business about not being a taxi service. I asked her where she lived...
KING: What was that ride like?
SCHIEFFER: I'm sorry?
KING: What was the ride like?
SCHIEFFER: It was unbelievable. Another reporter and I took her to Dallas. He drove. I got in the back seat with her. And she really was the -- the old witch of the piece. She was -- she was a very unusual woman. She immediately began to talk about how, you know, people would have sympathy for his wife, but they wouldn't have sympathy for her, and she'd starve to death. She was obsessed with money. And even on that -- that ride over, she was talking about money.
And the talk was so awful that I really couldn't bring myself to put some of those quotes into the story I wrote for the morning paper the next morning. But the unusual part is when we got to the Dallas police station, Larry -- I always wore a snap-brim hat in those days, so I'd look like a...
KING: A reporter.
SCHIEFFER: ... a detective. I just walked up to the first uniformed officer I saw and said, I'm the one who brought Oswald's mother over from Fort Worth. He assumed I was a Fort Worth detective and found a little office there where we could go. And it had a phone in it. And it was a great advantage for us. I was able to go out in the hall and find our guys and gather up information and go back to that office and phone it back to the paper and almost -- almost got to interview Oswald. At one point, she asked if she could see him, and Captain Will Fritz (ph), who was the chief of detectives, said, I can arrange that. And he took us into a little holding room there. And I thought, My God, they're going to bring Oswald down, and I'm going to be the only person that's interviewed him so far.
Well, finally, and rightly so, an FBI agent finally turned to me, the first person of the day who asked me who I was, and said, Who are you with? And when I had to tell him, he sort of told me I'd better get out of there if I valued my life in any way.
KING: What, Bob -- until 9/11, you write that this was the biggest impact on your life.
SCHIEFFER: Yes, and it was. I mean, those two stories, which are sort of bookends in this book -- I never felt the emotions that I felt that day. I was totally drained at the end of that experience. It was such an overpowering feeling. Nothing like this had ever happened in our country. It had happened in our state. I was embarrassed. I was terrified. We didn't -- you know, in the first hours after that, Larry, we didn't know if the country was under attack. We didn't know if the Russians were behind this. They closed off the borders with Mexico. It was -- it was just an unbelievable event and nothing like anything the country had ever gone through before.
And so at the end of that, in the days after that, I went back to the police beat, and I finally realized the toll it had taken on me. I was covering a horrible automobile accident one night, when a family had been killed. And I saw these bodies being wheeled -- I mean, and I realized I had no emotion to express. I had just been drained of it. And it took a while before it came back, and it was not until 9/11 that I -- that I ever felt that way again.
KING: And I guess people don't remember how much the country blamed the city. SCHIEFFER: Oh, they did. I mean, in the beginning, you know, it was Dallas's fault. People were looking for somebody to blame. But so many things that day, Larry. I mean, I was talking to my brother the other day, and I said, You know, that was the day -- and I write about this in the book. That was the day that America changed. And he said, Don't stop there. He said, It was the day the world changed because it was after that we changed the way we thought of our presidents. Up until that time, we thought of them as being sort of superhuman. Then we realized they were vulnerable, and it made all of us feel vulnerable.
I think it was also the beginning of kind of a period of great cynicism, Larry, when we began to lose faith in our leaders, in our institutions. And in some ways, I'm not sure we -- it took us until 9/11 to finally get that back.
KING: Do you think, Bob, that that cynicism carried over into Vietnam?
SCHIEFFER: Oh, yes. And I mean, that was a big part of it. I mean, think of what happened. We had the assassination of this young, vigorous president. And then along came Vietnam, the first war that we really lost. And then along comes Watergate, on top of that. You had the 1968 Democratic convention, where you had rioting in the streets. All of those things, one after the other, these just tumultuous events. And Walter Mondale -- and I -- is one of the people I talk to in the book. He told me that in 1968, for example, he really thought the country was coming apart for the first time in his life. But somehow, we held it all together. We got through all of that. And I think probably now, post-9/11, we're probably a stronger country than we ever were.
KING: There's a lot in this book that is eloquent, and the chapter on covering Vietnam, Bob Schieffer writes, quote, "As I have grown older, the question that keeps coming back to me is how many of history's wars were started because men felt, as I did, that only in war can manhood be determined?"
More on that when we come back with Bob Schieffer right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP - 1964, KXAS-TV)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bob, what kind of stories will you be writing in Vietnam?
SCHIEFFER: Well, Jack, we're not going to be writing much about the war. We're going to be writing about people, people from Fort Worth, people from Texas, people from this area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCHIEFFER: I am very honored and thrilled that I was chosen to go. I think the newspaper feels an obligation to send somewhere there, since there are so many people from this area who are in Vietnam. And so many of our readers have relatives and loved ones there that they want to know about, and that they deserve to know about and the "Start Telegram" should tell them about. And, personally, I'm thrilled to death. I'm a newspaper reporter and this is the name of the game. So I'm glad to be going.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Bob Schieffer, author of "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV." A terrific read. Concerning war, and Vietnam and the like, and you covered that war for your newspaper.
You write, "For all the talk about how the administration and the military tried to control the news, Vietnam was one of the few wars where there was no censorship at all. Do you think Vietnam, because of that, changed the military?
SCHIEFFER: Oh, I think it did, Larry. And there's still - you still have that hangover of this distrust of the media within the military. And the odd thing about that is that if - the more of the war you would share with the people in Vietnam, the more open and friendly and helpful they would be. If you go to where they were and where they were firing ammunition, they'd tell you anything. And they'd trust you, because they knew that you trusted them or wouldn't have come to that place.
But so much of the -- you know, the military was trying to tell one story, and they were trying to tell it from the Pentagon. They were trying to tell in the briefings in Saigon. But anybody who went out into the field knew there was another story out there. And so it was just -- there was a great deal of friction of -- I thought the military did a terrific job. They did the best job they could possibly do. It was an impossible task. And if was our job as reporters to report that.
And so -- but it didn't always suit the folks back at headquarters, and because of that you had a lot of animosity.
KING: Your compatriot, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), our guest a couple of weeks ago from Baghdad, and he said, if he had his way, if they let him he'd like to be there. Would you?
SCHIEFFER: Yes. Well, I think most reporters would. I think I might, somewhere down the line, if there is -- we actually do have a war in Iraq -- I'd kind of like to go and take one more look. I'm hoping that we are not going to have that. I am not one of those who believes that war with Iraq is inevitable. I think there is still a possibility, it may be a slim possibility, but I think there is still a possibility that we may be able to disarm Saddam Hussein without war. And that, in fact, he may go into exile. But, you know, that is just guess on my part. We'll have to see how that works out.
KING: How did you go from print to CBS? You went to Metro (ph) media first.
SCHIEFFER: Well, it was -- yes, it was very interesting. I cam back from Vietnam, and I was kind of a -- because I'd written -- wrote columns for the "Star Telegram -- and I wrote one for the morning paper, one for the evening paper and then a Sunday feature. And so I was sort of a local celebrity and the local television station invited me to come out and be on a noon talk show, to talk about Vietnam and to show some of my pictures.
Well, for one reason or another, the news director of the station, a man whose name was Jim Byron -- a great American -- offered me a job after seeing me on that noon talk show. And this is absolutely true, people laugh when I tell them this, Larry, but the pay they offered me was $20 a week more than I made on the newspaper. And I need the $20, so I took the job at the television station. And I took it for the money. I always say, I am one of the first print journalists to go into TV for the money.
But I went -- I was making $135 a week at the "Star Telegram," and that put me at a $155. And that seemed like more money than I'd ever heard of in my life. So I jumped at it.
KING: And then how long with them before you came to CBS?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I worked at Channel 5, which is the NBC station for a couple of years, was hired by a headhunting firm to come to Washington for work for Metromedia. They were going to form a fourth television network. They were going to merge with an insurance company. By the time I got here, the merger had collapsed. There was no fourth network. And I found myself working at the local Metro Media station here in Washington.
It's a wonderful group of people, but I, by that time, had made up my mind I wanted to cover national news. And that's not what I was doing. So one day, just -- I tried for years to get a job at CBS after being in Vietnam, I'd always liked Walter Cronkite. and I just felt that would be the place I'd like to work. So one day without an appointment, I just went to the Washington bureau. The bureau chief, though, was a man named Bill Small. And after all these years of being rebuffed, I went up to the second floor, and I told the first person I saw, who turned out to be his secretary, I said, I'm Bob Schieffer, I've come to talk to Mr. Small about a job. She said, oh, yes, Bob, go right in.
And so, I was stunned. I was just ushered in, and sat down in the bureau chief's office. And we had this interview. And I couldn't understand it. I mean, how did I get in? Well, years later, I realized what I had done. There was another young reporter in Washington in those days, his name was Bob Hager. Bob had made an -- had made an -- this is true -- had made an appointment to see Mr. Small. By coincidence, I got there a few minutes before Bob Hager, who had an appointment. Mr. Small's secretary got me mixed up with Bob Hager, and ushered me in. And then I was hired. So --
KING: And the rest is history. And Bob Hager, that's a name I know. What happened to him? SCHIEFFER: Well, Bob Hager, today, is one of the leading aviation correspondents in the country. And he is a correspondent for NBC News. And I called him in the process of writing this book. I said, you know, I've always had this hunch. I saw you get off the elevator that day as I was leaving. I said, did you come to see Bill Small about a job? Yeah. But he said, you know, nothing ever came of it. So, he said, NBC offered me a job, so I went to work there. And I said, Bob, let me tell you the other part of the story. And he is very gracious about it. He is a very nice person.
KING: First place CBS ...
SCHIEFFER: Excellent reporter.
KING: Oh, man, that Bob Hager. He says Robert now, doesn't he?
KING: The first place they assigned you to was the Pentagon.
KING: Did you like that?
SCHIEFFER: I did. And I liked I immediately, because covering the Pentagon is -- it's like covering a small town. It's Washington, but it's Washington on the other side of the river. And if you like to cover hardware stories, you can find them at the Pentagon. If you like to cover politics, nothing more fascinating then the politics of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I mean, it's just a great place to learn a little about everything in Washington.
And I was covering Mel Laird, who was a very dynamic secretary of defense. He was kind of a closet dove, who had a great deal to do with ending the war in Vietnam. I mean, Mel Laird was one of the heroes in my book. And I hope I'm giving him some recognition that he has deserved for a long, long time for what he did.
KING: Well take a break and come back with more. Bob Schieffer, the anchor and moderator of "Face The Nation," CBS News chief Washington correspondent, author of the new book, "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You On TV." More ahead right after this.
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SCHIEFFER: The communists say these scenes are the aftermath of a raid in September involving more than 200 planes. They claim there was 66 civilian casualties. Again, we have no way of verifying this. But we do know that since May of 1970, there have been four large raids in to North Vietnam involving 200 or more planes. There is still no clear-cut answer on when it will end. Officials say only, that depends on future military developments and political decisions. Bob Schieffer, CBC News, the Pentagon.
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SCHIEFFER: Over this applause you hear, what has happened is that a moving van has just pulled up over at the White House. It may just be that the van is going down Pennsylvania Avenue. But at any rate, it pulled up here. And some of the people in this crowd began to applaud when it did. That's about the story here. Several hundred people still here, Walter. They've been here -- or crowds about this size through the week as this thing began to build.
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KING: We're back with the saga of Bob Schieffer. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but what a career. Then you replaced Dan Rather at the White House. And those were big shoes because Rather made a name for himself at that post, didn't he?
SCHIEFFER: Oh, I'll tell you, Larry, I don't know who the second man on the moon was, but I know just how he felt, because I replaced Dan Rather at the White House. He was the most famous correspondent in America. He was a hero the every up-and-coming journalist. And he was also a hero to members of the press corps, because he had to stood up to Richard Nixon when somebody didn't. And he was just almost larger-than-life in those days. And after Nixon resigned, the CBS bosses decided they wanted to replace Rather at the White House. Dan, to this day, thinks he was pushed out by some of our affiliates who didn't like some of his coverage. I tend to agree with him. CBS has already denied that.
But whatever the case, they called me and said, we want you to be the White House correspondent. And I said, why? And bill Small said, because we want you to. So get on over there. Well, I did. And it was -- it took me awhile to kind of escape Dan's shadow, but I guess I did after awhile. But you're right, they were very big shoes to fill.
KING: You've covered a lot of presidents, who jumps out at your?
SCHIEFFER: Well, they were all very different. Richard Nixon was, by any stretch of the imagination, the oddest person in public life that I have ever covered. I have never understood. He was -- he was such a private person. Lin Garment (ph), who was one of his very close friends told me one time that he used to travel with Nixon even after he was vice president when he was in private life. And he'd say, now you sit in the isle seat of the airplane because I don't want people to touch me. Well, you know, politics is the most public of all professions. And, yet, this very, very private man rose to the top. And -- I mean, he disgraced himself in the White House, there is no question about that. But he also made some very valuable contributions -- arms control, the opening of China.
KING: He was extraordinarily bright.
SCHIEFFER: He was -- yes, he was. And but, again, he was just the most perplexing person I've ever covered. Jimmy Carter was a very, very interesting person, a deeply religious person, who came to the White House, and as Hamilton Jordan told me one time, he said, "People used to say, we used up all our luck just getting to the White House. And, as a result, we had a hard time after we got there." But Jimmy Carter accomplished some thing. And he, certainly, set the standard now for former presidents. So he was an interesting person in his own way.
From the standpoint of just, who do you like, from a -- personally, who is a very nice guy. I would have to say Gerald Ford was. You know, he had a very easy way with reporters, unlike a lot of people that come to the White House. He used to deal with reporters daily as a Republican leader in the Senate. So he was comfortable around reporters. He loved to take a drink at the end of the day. He loved to know what all the gossip was amongst the press corps. He was just a lot of fun to be around.
And I think when he pardoned Nixon, I thought it was absolutely the wrong thing to do. I have now come to believe that probably it was the right thing to do. And I think when you look at the impact of president that we have had over the last 40 years, the fact that Gerald Ford came to the White House when he did, gave the country a change to settle down -- to kind of get itself back in order after Watergate -- and the fact that he pardoned Nixon, I think you might say, he had as much impact on our times as any of the others.
KING: Let's hear an assessment of Mr. Clinton.
SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, he is I think, Larry, the most disappointing president that I covered. People always asked me are you a Democratic or are you a Republican. I mean, the fact is, I am a registered independent. My family were all conservative Democrats back in Texas. But I don't claim any allegiance. I've voted for as many Republicans as I have Democrats over the years.
But where I am kind of prejudice is I always pull for people, in a funny kind of way, from my part of the country. I am not one of those who believes that every bit of wisdom somehow originates in the North Eastern part of the United states. So when somebody comes out of the South, I'm always kind of secretly pulling for them. I want to see them show up those guys who went to all of those fancy schools in the North. I mean, of course, he did go tot Yale. But, I mean, he grew up in Arkansas.
He had, I think, the best political skills of any politician I knew with the possible exception, I guess, of Lyndon Johnson. He had charm, more charm than any one, with the possible exception of John Kennedy. And yet, he let his private life just kind of overtake him. And you think of things that he could have done and didn't. He was just very disappointing to me.
KING: How about number 41, the first Bush?
SCHIEFFER: I liked President Bush. I don't talk about him much in this book, because I wrote a book in 1989 called "The Acting President," which was about Ronald Reagan and about the 1988 campaign. And I talked about them a lot. And people say, well, why didn't you put that in this book? I just say, go read the other book. I wanted to write about other things. I always thought he was -- I always thought President Bush was a better public servant than he was a politician. And I don't think he liked politics very much. His son, the current President Bush, who I know fairly well, is much different than his father in a funny kind of way. He really is from West Texas. His father, of course, you know, came out of the East, and so forth, and moved to Texas.
But the current George Bush grew up in Texas. He talks like anybody else from West Texas. He has kind of the same kind of accent as I do. And he likes politics. And I'll tell you something else, he is very, very good at it. I never thought his dad was all that good at it.
KING: We'll back with our remaining moments with Bob Schieffer, the author of "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You On TV." First, these words.
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SCHIEFFER: If, as you say, there is nothing there, Mr. President, how can so many reputable, respected professionals keep pressing on with this?
BILL CLINTON, FOR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, that's your characterization, not mine.
SCHIEFFER: You don't think Mr. Starr is a reputable person.
CLINTON: No, I didn't say that. I said, that was your characterization.
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SCHIEFFER: Finally, today, we had sort of a sad announcement to make. Sad for us, but we are happy for her. This marks Glory Borger last broadcast on the "Face the Nation." She has been here for the last six years or so.
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KING: We are back with Bob Schieffer, what do you make of Gloria leaving you?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I'm very surprised. I was very surprised about it. But I wish her well. She has a chance to become co-anchor of a show they are putting together on CNBC that is going to run in prime- time at night -- a show that as I understand is going to try to connect Washington and Wall Street. I think it is going to be hard row for her to hoe, and I think she knows that. But I admire her for her courage in wanting to take on a challenge like this, but we're going to miss Gloria. She is responsible for a lot of the good things that happened on the "Face of the Nation" over the last year. KING: Why do you like "Face the Nation"?
SCHIEFFER: Well, it's the best job I ever had, Larry. It is sort of like yours. I mean, if you are a journalist and you love to talk to people who make the news, to have these kinds of broadcasts where they come to you. You don't even have to go to them. And, you know, Sunday morning is a very special time. Jim Russert and I, although we are fierce competitors, we both look on these shows as sort of national treasures. And Tim has said this before, and he said, he sometimes feels like he is sort of the curator of a national treasure. I kind of feel the same way about that without getting to ...
KING: Well, both programs are institutions.
SCHIEFFER: Yes, they are. They are the two oldest programs on television. And both of us feel very fortunate and very special to kind of be in charge of them at this particular time.
KING: Well, you ought to feel very proud as well.
SCHIEFFER: I do. And it's also -- I mean, it's also a lot of fun. I mean, people who are bent to turn toward getting into journalism. And the reason you do that is because you are curious about things. You want to know why things work. You want to know why people do the things you do. Well, to have a half-hour broadcast on Sunday morning where you can, as we had a couple of weeks ago, Colin Powell to sit down and talk to you about whey the administration is doing what it is doing toward Iraq, and what's going on in North Korea, you know, most people don't get a change to do that, and I'm very fortunate to have that chance.
KING: Couple quick things. What do you make of the proposed merger of ABC News and CNN?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I hope it doesn't happen, because I hope some day there's a merger of CNN and CBS.
KING: That was talked about before.
SCHIEFFER: Yes, it was talked about before. You know, there was a time some years back, and you'll remember this, Larry, when Ted Turner tried to buy CBS.
KING: Yeah, I sure do.
SCHIEFFER: And I always thought what CBS should have done is gotten together with Turner and bought CNN. And I think it would have made a powerful news organization. But that didn't happen. But I think that if there is a merger between ABC and CNN, it will be a very powerful force.
KING: Do you ever think of quitting?
SCHIEFFER: Well, not for a while. I'm kind of taking it now kind of one story at a time. People say when are you going to retire. And I really don't know. My contract runs right now until 2005. I don't know if I will retire or not. I guess I'll retire when it no longer seems like fun, when there is no longer a story that seems interesting that I want to cover. But I kind of haven't gotten to that point yet. I mean, this is still fun to me. I wake up in the morning. I look forward to going to work. I enjoy reading the New York Times, and the Washington Post, USA Today and the other great newspapers that are here.
I turn on CNN and keep it on in my office all day. I guess I'm what they' call a news junky, and I always have been. So when it gets to be a load, I guess I won't do it anymore. But I'm not at that point now. As you know, Larry, sometimes we don't make the decision of when we retire. Someone makes it for us. So -- so far, they haven't retired me, so I'm going to hang in for a while.
KING: You were on with us a few times since 9/11, a number of times, discussed that morning, where you were heading for the Capitol. I remember that very well. Does that linger with you, that whole day?
SCHIEFFER: Absolutely. I think about it everyday. I shall never forget that day. Every reporter, Larry, who worked for CBS News in New York, who went to Ground Zero, had a near-death experience without exception. The fellow, Eric Shapiro, who was direction our coverage that morning, for the first 45 minutes thought his own daughter had been killed. It was just one story after the other about that. And I tell some of those.
Here in Washington, I was heading to the Capitol when the bureau chief called me on my car phone and said, where are you? And I said, I'm almost to the Capitol, there's a lot of heavy traffic. And she said, get out of there. We think there's another plane headed toward Washington. We think this one's head to the Capitol. Well, as it turned out that was the plane that went down Pennsylvania. I mean, those brave people, had they not done what they did, I might not be here talking with you today.
KING: Bob, it's always great seeing you. We'll see you in Washington. And look forward to many appearances with U.S. on this program.
SCHIEFFER: It's always a pleasure, Larry. And thank you very much. I really appreciate it.
KING: My pleasure. Bob Schieffer, "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You On TV," on this very special edition of Larry King Weekend. Thanks for joining U.S. For Bob Schieffer, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Larry King and the crew, good night.
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SCHIEFFER: Church theology is the church's business and can be as nuanced as church members care to make. But protecting children from sexual predators is everyone's business, and it's not at all complicated.
I knew a lot of nice people who lived in trailer parks and I know some real trash that lived in big houses. I am at the stage of life where I spend most of my time trying to keep the list of things I can do longer than the list of things I can't. And let me tell you, it requires a lot more maintenance than it used to.
Maybe the summer Olympics will be more my thing. I hear they're going to give a lot of attention to miniature golf.
Bob Schieffer, CBS News, at the National Put-Put Championships at Rockville, Maryland.
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