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Interview With Jimmy Carter

Aired December 12, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Jimmy Carter, a rare one-on-one with the 39th president of the United States. We're here for the hour to talk about it all in depth and personal, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We're in the middle of quite a week here on LARRY KING LIVE and who better to highlight that week than the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, recipient of the 2002 Nobel peace prize. On the day that he learned that, he was a guest on this program and he's the author of a new book, "The Hornet's Nest." There you see its cover. A novel about the South in the Revolutionary War. It is Mr. Carter's first novel. It is also the first novel ever written by a president. We've got lots to talk about tonight. We'll talk about that a little first and then a lot later on. How come a novel?

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, this is my 18th book. By the way, I painted the cover for the novel, too. I'm an artist now. But I thought it was time to tell the story of the Revolutionary War in a very entertaining and accurate way. There have been hundreds of books written about the Civil War, the war between the States and dozens about the Vietnam war and the first and second world wars.

Very rarely has there been a book written about the entirety of the Revolutionary War which I think is the most important war of all and I thought it would be good to write as a novel so I could go into the heart and mind of people who lived in those days, all of whom started out as British citizens and how they had -- went through the torturous experience of changing from a person who had sworn before God to be loyal to the King, into somebody that was willing to take up arms to fight against the King's forces.

And by the way, only about 25 percent of the British subjects of America ever decided to fight against the British for their freedom.

KING: If they lost, they would have gone down as those treasonist fellows.

CARTER: They would have and they would probably have been executed. And had it not been for the French assistance, toward the end, obviously, we would not have won.

KING: I'll get to a lot of this later. Do you enjoy making up things?

CARTER: Well, I really do. You know, I've never had experience making up things when I was...

KING: You never lied.

CARTER: Well, I really have enjoyed it. You know, I created the fictional characters to fit in without disturbing the accuracy of the picture of what really happened during the Revolutionary War and I was really amazed.

First of all, at the things I learned about the Revolutionary War. Most of them, battles that amounted to anything were fought in the South. In Florida, Georgia, The Carolinas, and Virginia but most of the history books have been written by people from New England so you don't know much about those real battles.

Secondly, the war lasted for nine years. From 1775 up until 1784 when the British finally were forced out of this continent. And third, it was the bloodiest war ever fought and I really learned a lot about fictional writing in that I would make like an one-page biography of my major characters but how they changed as the novel progressed and as they got interrelated with each other was really... (CROSSTALK)

KING: Let's move to some areas and then when we get back, we'll be talking a lot about "The Hornet's Nest" already on all the major bestseller lists. You now consider yourself a writer, by the way, right?

CARTER: Well, Larry, this is my 18th book and its been the major source of my income.

KING: I guess you're a writer.


KING: What did you think of the Medicare law signed into law on Monday?

CARTER: Serious mistake. A lot of promises in it that will never be fulfilled. A major political payoff to the drug companies, HMO and even to AARP, the retirement group, and I think it will be many years before elderly people ever benefit from it.

KING: Yet, the right wing conservatives and the left wing liberals have been staunchly opposed together for different reasons but the middle seems to be in favor.

CARTER: Well, the middle who are persuaded by financial contributions and also who have an obligation, you know, to insurance companies, HMOS and to the medical profession, but I don't have any strong feelings against it. If it passed, it is all right with me but the promises made and the ones who benefit from it, I think, have been quite misleading.

KING: Do you think it could bankrupt Medicare?

CARTER: Well, I think Medicare -- this is the first step toward eliminating Medicare as we have known it. There's a strong inclination in the bill, built in, to shift from Medicare to private insurers and to private providers of medical care so it's a first step downhill for Medicare.

KING: Why did AARP support it?

CARTER: Because they're in the insurance business and the AARP is one of the largest insurance companies in the world now and so they've supported, in my opinion, not for the benefit of elder people, I happen to be one of them, by the way, but to benefit their own interest.

KING: You are how old now?

CARTER: Seventy-nine.

KING: You and President Bush 41, NO. 41.

CARTER: He and I were both born in 1924. Bush Sr. --

KING: Will be 80 in June. When will you be 80?

CARTER: I'm a lot younger than he is. I won't be 80 until October.

KING: Oh. Do you keep in touch with other presidents?

CARTER: Pretty -- I keep in close touch with President Ford. He and I have developed a very intimate and close personal friendship so we exchange telephone calls and letters and so forth quite regularly and have ever since Sadat's funeral when we really got acquainted after I was lucky enough to defeat him for president.

President Bush and I have been always been very good friends. You know, I've been to visit him and Rose and his wife get along well with each other. President Reagan, obviously, there's no way to communicate with him anymore. President Clinton and I --

KING: Have had your differences.

CARTER: Have had some differences but not serious. You know, I respect him and I think he respects me. His people and he have sought to take a look at what the Carter Center does as a partial guide to what he will do, you know, in his post president years.

KING: How about the current President Bush?

CARTER: Well, we don't have much of a relationship with him. We have some common commitment. One is to find peace in Sudan and he's cooperated with the Carter Center and vice versa on that particular project but we rarely have anything to do. I went -- my wife and I went to the inauguration of President Bush after the altercation in Florida. I think we were the only Democrats who were there voluntarily. The rest of them were in the U.S. Senate and so forth. But we are -- you know, polite.

KING: Frankly, should former presidents be used more?

CARTER: Well, I would personally favor that. As you know, President Truman did use President Hoover.

KING: Put him in charge of "Food for Peace," right?

CARTER: Yes. And I constantly briefed and called upon both President Nixon who was in somewhat of a disgrace then and my good friend President Ford to help me with major projects and I gave them complete information, every week, as a matter of fact, what was going on and all the things that were important to me.

Finally President Nixon said I was giving him too many briefings so I backed off a little bit but I really depended on them for advice and counsel and, of course, since I was a Democrat and there were a lot of Republicans in the House and Senate, when they agreed with what I was doing, they helped me with the members of Congress.

KING: Is it hard for you to come back to this city?

CARTER: No. It is very pleasant for me. We just came through Rock Creek Park where I used to jog a lot and I used to run about, oh, 40 miles a week as a matter of fact, 7 miles a day when I could get away out by the canal. So I feel at home when I come to Washington. I like it. You know, it's a different political environment.

KING: You don't feel wistful or sad in a little way?

CARTER: Not really. I look back on it with a great deal of pleasure and appreciation for having been the leader of the greatest nation in the world and we have a lot of very pleasant experiences back then. It was a time, as you remember very well, Larry, you're old enough to remember --

KING: I am.

CARTER: That there was a very close and intimate and mutually respectful attitude in the House and Senate and between the Congress and the White House. That's gone now. There's a lot of animosity and deep partisan divisions that really didn't exist when I was president or Gerald Ford was president.

KING: What changed?

CARTER: Well, I think one thing that changed was the evolution of very negative advertising as a major factor in the outcome of a political campaign. I never referred to President Ford or then Governor Reagan as anything except my distinguished opponent and it would have been a devastating and, I think, suicidal political activity to have any sort of (unintelligible) or direct personal attacks on one's opponent then.

KING: Now it's common.

CARTER: Yes, it's a common thing and unfortunately, it works.

KING: Because of television?

CARTER: And the massive amounts of money that are injected into politics. President Ford and I both just used a, you know, dollar -- a person check off as our source of funding for the general election and I had a hard time just raising my part to qualify to get government funds. Now it's difficult for, you know, a candidate to be seriously considered unless you can raise fifty or $100 million in advance.

KING: The president's new book, his first novel, "The Hornet's Nest: The South and the Revolutionary War" got tremendous reviews. We just got started. And already on the bestseller list. Back with more of President Carter right after this.


KING: Our special guest is President Jimmy Carter. His new book is "The Hornet's Nest." And actually, we have to move to the most important topic of the day, and the situation in Iraq.

Your overview? Were you opposed to going there?

CARTER: Yes. I wrote editorials and made speeches against our going into Iraq in a unilateral way, with just a few British troops tagging along behind us. I thought it was an unjust and an unnecessary war. I would not have objected if the United States had joined with other nations and gone in as a multi-national force in three different categories -- one, military, also political and economic.

But a decision was made in Washington that we would go in unilaterally, in effect, so that we can dominate not only militarily, which we did quite easily, but also dominate the political and economic situation in Iraq after the war is over. I think that was a mistake.

KING: Even though its purpose, getting rid of Saddam Hussein, was -- I don't know if "noble" is the right word -- correct, wasn't it?

CARTER: Well, that was not the expressed purpose, as you know, at the time. The expressed purpose was that Iraq was filled with weapons of mass destruction that were aimed at America and was a direct threat to the military security of our country.

And the other expressed purpose was that Saddam Hussein was a key and integral factor in al Qaeda and the terrorist organizations of the world. Both of those allegations have proven to be false.

But I think it was good to get rid of Saddam Hussein, of course. And there was no doubt that we could prevail in the war. America has -- and our military budget is approximately equal to all the military budgets in the rest of the world. So there was no doubt that our superb fighting force could prevail. And I'm glad they did and that Saddam Hussein is now no longer in, at least, public control.

There's a lot of allegation that Saddam Hussein in the background is still orchestrating some of his former associates in continuing the -- the illicit acts against our people. KING: Is that unexpected?

CARTER: Well, I think we thought we would destroy the military forces in Iraq and that Saddam Hussein would be almost immediately captured and either executed or brought to trial.

In retrospect, it seems that Saddam may have given the order to his forces not to fight, as we had anticipated, but to go into hiding and to wait until the Americans took over and then to wage an indirect war against them. I don't know for sure, but that seems to be what the evidence indicates.

KING: Does it not, Mr. President, though, make a statement by going in against terrorism.

CARTER: Of course...

KING: Saying that you do this and we will not sit around?

CARTER: In a way. And obviously, it does make that statement. But I think there was a general sense around the world, Larry, when we pretty well -- we did a superb job in Afghanistan. And then in effect pretty well abandoned Afghanistan and devoted our time to attacking Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein.

We had built up, I would say, an unprecedented sense of cooperation and good will and sympathy and partnership with almost every nation on earth after the 9/11 horrible attacks. That has now been frittered away, and most people feel disillusioned about it.

And now I would say that America, unfortunately, is kind of at a low level of friendship and support in the nations around the world, many of which have always been our close allies and friends.

KING: Newt Gingrich, in a surprising statement over the weekend, said we've gone off the cliff -- off a cliff in post-war Iraq. And the White House has got to get a grip on this. Were you surprised at that criticism?

CARTER: I was surprised that Newt Gingrich said it, but privately, I have communicated with some of the former leaders in the Reagan administration, Bush Senior's administration, you know, who privately tell me it was a terrible mistake.

KING: Really?

CARTER: Oh, yes. And they are reluctant, obviously, to speak out. I was surprised that Newt Gingrich spoke out so clearly, but his voice is not alone among very conservative Republicans who feel the same way.

KING: Was the president's trip to Afghanistan (sic) on Thanksgiving a smart move?

CARTER: I think it was smart politically, and I'm glad he took that trip. And I don't have any doubt it boosted substantially the morale of our people in the military forces.

KING: How does the Iraq thing end?

CARTER: I don't think anyone can anticipate how it's going to end. My hope is that over this next year leading up to the election, which I'm sure is an incidental factor in Washington, that there will be an increased inclination by the Bush administration to share responsibilities, both politically and perhaps economically.

And I think there's going to be a very difficult decision made in June or July, do we really let the Iraqi people choose their own leaders, or not? Does America keep tight control? And are we going to share some of the authority or influence in Iraq's future economic status, including oil, with other nations or not?

I think in any case, America has to keep tight control over the military or security factor. But if we do share with other nations, I think they will be much more amenable to letting us have some military support.

KING: And will political polling be the determining factor?

CARTER: It will certainly be a factor. And I might say quickly that if I was in the White House, it would be an important factor for me, as well.

KING: Polling?

CARTER: I think polling would be a factor and also, you know, every president incumbent, as he approaches reelection, wants to do everything he can that's legitimate and fair to be reelected. So obviously, ending the -- reducing the violence in Iraq and having an ability to claim some success in Iraq will be one of the most important factors. The other one will be the economy.

And both of those are unpredictable.

KING: Before we move to politics, isn't it difficult for a new president -- let's say the president were defeated -- to change foreign policy? Wasn't it hard for you to change foreign policy, when you took in from a president from another party?

CARTER: Well, I had my own agenda that I had evolved over the long and tedious months of being around the nation and listening to different groups, sometimes only 15 or 20 people would come to my rallies. So by the time I was actually inaugurated, I had a list of about 10 major items that I wanted to accomplish in foreign policy. And I made those quite clear to the public in my inaugural address and in other ways.

But I would say that a new president could change the tone of America's foreign policy even the first day that he is in office, with the inaugural speech. You know, an eagerness to reach out to other nations, to elevate human rights or civil liberties to a top level and to resolve conflicts in the world in a peaceful way. You know, those kind of messages, I think, would send a very clear signal that the foreign policy provisions were going to change.

And the implementation of those changes would obviously take time.

KING: That doesn't -- overnight, you don't pull every troop out of...

CARTER: Of course not. And we wouldn't. I wouldn't want to.

KING: Our guest is the former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter. His new book, the novel, "The Hornet's Nest," already a best seller.

Back with more after this.


CARTER: You have given me a great responsibility, to stay close to you, to be worthy of you, and to exemplify what you are. Let us create together a new national spirit of unity and trust. Your strength can compensate for my weakness, and your wisdom can help to minimize my mistakes.



KING: The book is "The Hornet's Nest." The author is the 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter.

Back in 1975, a largely unknown governor from small -- Georgia, relatively small Southern state, started going around the country, knocking on doors, saying, "I'm Jimmy Carter. I want to be president."

A lot of people said, "Who are you?"

Following in the same kind of footsteps, a governor from a much smaller state, who wasn't even governor at the time he started doing this, started saying, "My name is Howard Dean. I want to be your president."

What do you make of this campaign?

CARTER: Well, Howard Dean came and talked to me and particularly my wife, more than a year ago, about his plans and wanted to know how we addressed the original launching of our campaign, how high a level we placed on -- of our importance on Iowa and on New Hampshire and subsequent states in the South.

And we shared our experiences with him, and we talked to two or three other candidates, as well. And I was impressed with him because of his enthusiasm but didn't think he had a chance, to be honest with you.

And so his campaign has pretty well followed closely in the same tract as mine did. With one exception, he's got enormous income from his Internet connections.

KING: Which wasn't around?

CARTER: Which was not around then. And along with that cash contribution benefit has come little cadres of his supporters that have been influenced through the Internet, you know, to have meetings and to help him politically.

So I think that at least at the present time, his chances in Iowa and New Hampshire look quite, quite good. After that, though, he'll go through a much wider range of states, including some in the deep South. And I think that's much more uncertain.

KING: Is there a fear that he could be a McGovernite, in that his appeal will be great in primaries, but he can't win?

CARTER: I don't have that fear. Otherwise, I'm not expressing any preference among the candidates. No, I don't think that's the case at all. I think that Howard Dean is inherently a very conservative political person.

KING: Really?

CARTER: Yes. I think his record in Vermont indicates that, on fiscal matters and on many other matters -- you know, gun control and things like that -- he has a very conservative record.

And my guess is that, if he should get the nomination -- and that's certainly not assured -- that in the general campaign he, with his adequate financing, not nearly to equal George Bush's financing, will begin to put forward his conservative, or more conservative, credentials.

Now, of course, in the Democratic Party, those are not being put forward as strongly as it will be in the general election.

KING: And Iraq has been his prime moving force, has it not? His opposition to...

CARTER: I think so. Although several of the others, as you know, have also put forward that idea. But I believe that's what Governor...

KING: He was first.

CARTER: He was the first one. And the most consistent and the most vociferous, yes.

KING: John Kerry is another candidate, touting both you and President Clinton to be envoys to the Middle East.

CARTER: Yes. If he called on me, if any future president called on me, or the incumbent president now called on me to help in the Mideast, I would be eager to go.

KING: As anything? Arbiter? CARTER: In any substantial role, representing my country that would promote peace, yes. That's -- peace in the Middle East for Israel, and I would say justice for the Palestinians, has been a burning issue with me ever since even before I was inaugurated as president. Yes. And it still is.

In fact, last week I was in Geneva for the announcement of a new -- maybe a very significant piece of negotiation between Palestinians and Israelis.

KING: Colin Powell and Bill Clinton have both said to me that they were -- that this problem, as great as it is, is even greater than they thought. It is very, very tough. Tougher than Britain and Ireland.

CARTER: It probably is more difficult than Britain and Ireland. Well, you know, 25 years ago, which seems like ancient history to some, I met with two courageous leaders, Begin and Sadat, prime minister of Israel and president of Egypt, and we negotiated a framework for peace, which was applicable to the Palestinians and to all of Israel's neighbors.

And then six months later, we negotiated a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Very difficult. Just as difficult then as it is now.

KING: Still in place?

CARTER: Every word is still being honored of that peace treaty. And this followed four major wars between Israel and Egypt in just 25 years. There was a deep sense of hatred and resentment, because leaders on both sides had their own children and acquaintances killed in the wars.

So it's equally -- it was equally as difficult then as now. But what we tried to demonstrate was not only that peace was possible -- and that's still a message that is extant. It hasn't faded away. But that good faith negotiations with the United States taking a balanced and equal position between Israel and Egypt is a crucial factor. And that's something that's missing for the last three years.

KING: What about current leadership? Is Arafat's strength -- still strong?

CARTER: He's strong, but I think what Arafat has proven lately is that a lot of his strength comes when the United States and Israel condemn him and refuse to recognize him and keep him bottled up as a prisoner in, I think, one little room, you know, where he is secluded.

Every time we attack him, it strengthens him among his own people. And I don't think Arafat deserves to be strengthened. I don't think there's any doubt -- and I know a lot about it -- that his administration is very corrupt. And Arafat, whom I know quite well, and I'm sure you know him well, is also -- he plays both sides. And he's kind of a common denominator between the extremists on one side and those who are more progressive on the other. On the other hand, I think Sharon has a major commitment. I've known Sharon for 25 years. I've had friendly relationships with him when I was in the White House. I think what Sharon has as his ultimate commitment is to colonize almost completely the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. And I think that as long as he's building settlements, still, today all over the West Bank, it creates an obstacle to peace that's going to be very difficult to overcome.

KING: We'll pick it up in a minute. So both are obstacles?

CARTER: Yes, I think so.

KING: Our guest is Jimmy Carter, the former president. His book is "The Hornet's Nest," a novel about the South and the Revolutionary War.

We'll be right back.


CARTER: The countrysides of both lands are free from the litter and carnage of a wasteful war. Mothers in Egypt and Israel are not weeping today for their children, fallen in senseless battle. The dedication and determination of these 2 world statesmen have born fruit; peace has come to Israel and to Egypt.



KING: We're back with Jimmy Carter. The book is "The Hornet's Nest." We'll talk about that in a little while and touch on more of his fascinating interest with the Revolutionary War and writing a novel about the Revolutionary War. Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States.

Back to politics a little. Is your son, Chip, supporting Howard Dean?

CARTER: Yes, he is. Yes.

KING: Did he ask you about it?

CARTER: No. He didn't ask me for my permission. My sons don't ask for permission on how they -- how they vote. But he was out in Iowa, I found out through the news media, when they had the big Jefferson Jackson Day banquet. And Chip went out to -- he spent many months in Iowa when I was running for campaigns. Some of his old friends were there, so he is helping Howard Dean.

KING: What do you make of the popularity of Hillary Clinton? That -- the Democrats, when polled, say she would win if she ran.

CARTER: I don't think there's any doubt that she would get the nomination if she ran. Yes. I noticed that she was on several of the talk shows, I think, yesterday. KING: Last weekend, yes.

CARTER: And she made clear that she was not going to run, and she wouldn't accept either the nomination or the vice president slot. But I don't have any doubt that she has thoughts about the White House in her mind for the future. I haven't talked to her about it, but I think that's common knowledge.

KING: Would it be a political mistake for her to get in now?

CARTER: Now? I think it would be a mistake for her. I think that's inconceivable -- it is in my mind -- that she would get in now.

KING: It would be wrong politically for her...

CARTER: For her in the long run.

KING: Don't play?

CARTER: Well, you know, she's done a good job. I think she's done an extraordinary job in New York State of convincing the people in her state that she's really attentive to their needs and their political challenges and so forth. And she's played a very modest but effective role as a member of the Senate.

I think she's really laying down her credentials, which I think is going to take a few years, to separate herself from her husband, and let the general public know that she can stand on her own feet and that she has her own agenda and she's a good political player on her own.

KING: Why can you not endorse a candidate in the Democratic primary? No law says you can't.

CARTER: I don't know. I could if I wanted to. I don't have any real preference at this point. My...

KING: If you had, would you?

CARTER: I don't know. My overwhelming desire, Larry, is to help the candidate that, in the last stages, maybe even of the primary, I think will do the best job in defeating George Bush in November. I want to choose the strongest Democratic candidate.

KING: So if we're down to two or three, and you had a favorite, you would support them?

CARTER: If I thought it might -- if I thought my voice would choose the best person to win, yes.

But there's several candidates now that I think need to be winnowed out, or elevated to the top position during the long and tedious political campaign. That is very important to me.

It was to me personally. I learned an awful lot about my country that I would never have known otherwise. And I think the American people got to know me well enough, ultimately, to let me go to the White House.

KING: Let's touch some other bases before we go back to the Revolutionary War.


KING: Back to the Mideast, quickly. Possible that we'll see peace there? Possible?

CARTER: I think it's possible. One of the brightest lights in the last number of years has been this so-called Geneva Accord. That was negotiated privately, but very effectively, by leaders from the Palestinian and the Israeli side, many of whom were in Camp David with Bill Clinton during the last few months of his administration and who continued the peace talks in Egypt in a little coastal village named Taba (ph) and who just continued that.

And the interesting thing about that agreement is that it is completely compatible with the so-called road map that has been endorsed by President Bush and by leaders from the European Union and the Soviet Union and the United Nations. So it consummates, in effect, in the final stages, the division that all of us have, including the White House now, about what can be done to bring peace.

KING: Is this White House active enough?

CARTER: No, I don't think so. We, you know...

KING: Should it be more active?

CARTER: Yes, I think it should be more active in the peace process in the Mideast.

KING: Because he seems to be very active, as opposed to what was said in the campaign, when he said he would stay one step removed.

CARTER: Well, the activity, which is a radical departure from all previous presidents, has been completely supportive of and compliant with the Israelis' side, that is Sharon's side, to the detriment of the fairness to the Palestinians. And I think that I and all my predecessors, including George Bush Sr., by the way, tried to keep a balanced position so that they would be trusted by both sides.

KING: But President Bush 43 is the first to call for a Palestinian state, right? The first president?

CARTER: Yes. I called for a Palestinian homeland and everybody has contemplated, ultimately, a Palestinian state. When I was in the White House, I didn't really know whether the Palestinian area might ultimately prefer to be joined with Jordan in some way. But that's become clear.

KING: Al Gore and a liberal radio or television network.

CARTER: Well, I don't know much about that.

KING: What do you make of it?

CARTER: Well, we have a dearth of, I would say, I'd use the word "moderate" radio stations. Overwhelmingly, they are arch conservative and far right. And they pretty well dominate the airwaves these days.

KING: Do you see a hope for someone coming along on the left side of the ledger?

CARTER: It's kind of difficult, because listeners like to hear the most radical and accusatory voices. And a moderate, or balanced voice, as measured by me, in a highly subjective way...

KING: Is the left not strong enough?

CARTER: I think the left on the radio waves is almost insignificant these days. And the ultra-right is completely dominant, yes.

KING: Because they're the -- they're not the outs? I mean, the right wing is the party of power, isn't it? Well, not the extreme right wing, but...

CARTER: That's true. They're not on the outs. But they're the ones, they're the voices that are much more impassioned.

KING: North Korea.

CARTER: Yes. Well, I hope we can find a rational way to resolve the North Korean issue. And I think today's news, as a matter of fact, indicate that the United States and China are now looking to a way to guarantee, or assure the North Koreans that we will not make a military attack against them, in exchange for which they will undergo international inspection to reduce that nuclear threat.

KING: You, more than any other major politician, seems to understand the North Korean positions.

CARTER: Well, I've been there. I've spent hours talking to them. I've met, as you know, with their former leader, Kim Il-Sung. I worked out a deal that I thought was very balanced and fair, and I've stayed in contact with them since. But I don't have any role to play in it now.

KING: Back with more of Jimmy Carter. We'll talk about the Nobel Prize and the Revolutionary War, right after this. Don't go away.


CARTER: It's vital to the United States and to every other nation that the lives of diplomatic personnel and other citizens abroad be protected, and that we refuse to permit the use of terrorism and the seizure and the holding of hostages to impose political demands.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you decided at all what you might study?

AMY CARTER, JIMMY CARTER'S DAUGHTER: Well, I'm leaning probably toward the sciences like physics. But, I also like other things, English and (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

KING: Amy Carter, little Amy Carter is 35 years old.

CARTER: Absolutely.

KING: How's she doing?

CARTER: Well, she's the mother of my 11th grandchild. Four and half years old. Far above average already. His name is Hugo. My Amy is an artist. She studied art history, and she's contemplating being a curator in a museum.

KING: What does her husband do?

CARTER: He's been a book buyer, as a matter of fact. And then he went into the business of teaching people how to organize and create Web sites.

KING: The emerging field.

CARTER: That's right.

KING: Another Web site guy. Amy is 35.

What's it like -- where do you put the Nobel Prize? Where is it at home? Or is it in the Peace Center?

CARTER: Well, it's at the Carter Center in the presidential library.

KING: What was it like that night?

CARTER: It was beautiful. I had given up. Early I thought I might be considered for the Nobel Peace Prize, but I had forgotten about it completely. I had no idea that there was a day to make the choice, even. And we were amazed when we woke up at 4 a.m. in the morning and had this call from Norway. Obviously, I was overwhelmed with pleasure.

But it's been a very good thing for the Carter Center, because the work we do in 65 nations around the world has gotten very little publicity. And receiving the Nobel Prize for our work, most of which has happened since I left the White House, that's been a great boost for the Carter Center, which is the focal point of effort that Rose and I have exerted since I left the White House.

KING: What was that night like?

CARTER: It was beautiful there. Norwegians were overwhelmed with hospitality for us. We had a large group of my friends and supporters and family members that went over. In fact, they had to give us special tickets to get everybody in the auditorium that wanted to go. And I presume that every winner of a Nobel Peace Prize, you know, feels the same sense of gratification.

KING: What did you do with the money?

CARTER: I gave it to the Carter Center. And I gave about a third of it to the so-called Rosalyn Carter Institute at Southwestern University. She, Rosalyn, has committed to care giving for people that are in trouble and also for mental health. So about a third of it went to her, and the rest of it the Carter Center.

KING: Now we're going to get a little history lesson. We'll learn more when we read "The Hornet's Nest."

True or false, the Revolutionary War was the war of the rich against the establishment, not the guy in the street?

CARTER: No, that's true. Most of the rich people, the merchants along the coast, retained their loyalty to Great Britain. And quite often they were in conflict with those who lived in the interior, that is the settlers and the common laborers and workers and tradespersons.

So quite often, those who owned the major entities in Savannah and New York and Philadelphia and Charlestown, as they called it then, were very closely allied with the British. And their income...

KING: So it was not a revolution of the rich?

CARTER: No. It was a revolution of ...

KING: I said it wrong. It was a revolution of the poor.

CARTER: Of the poor. Yes.

KING: But the rich fought the taxes, did they not?

CARTER: In a way, but some of them administered their affairs of the British, and some of them were still very loyal to the king.

But quite often, the average person rose up. Because the stamp tax would be a very heavy burden on a poor person who had to pay for a stamp when he bought a few acres of land, when he bought a marriage license or anything else. Whereas a rich person, buying a stamp to go on a deed would be an insignificant expenditure.

KING: This requires a lot more time. But to briefly touch on it, how the hell did Britain lose that war?

CARTER: Britain shouldn't ever have caused a war. There was an insensitive commitment in London to prosecute their goals in the colonies without regard to the freedom of the people, the right of our ancestors, to choose our own leaders, under British law.

And the British felt that their long war against the French, that the colonists should pay for the cost of that and should house British troops and do things that were very unpopular. And when instances of resentment rose up, the British parliament in London was too slow to correct the problems they had made.

So what we know about the Revolutionary War is very fragmentary and distorted. If I ask the average American, what do you know about the British -- about the Revolutionary War, they would say they know about Paul Revere's riding a horse in the middle of the night. They know about some skirmishes around Boston. They know that George Washington crossed the Delaware in a snowstorm that had a horrible winter. And that's about it.

KING: Valley Forge.

CARTER: Valley Forge. That's about it. But the fact is that all the major wars that ultimately shaped the outcome of the Revolutionary War, were fought in the deep South, from Saint Augustine to Georgia to the Carolinas and to the southern part of Virginia.

And what many people don't know is that, although George Washington was the greatest leader, perhaps, our country's ever had and held our army together when desertions were rampant, he never won a major battle. He won a skirmish at Trenton, New Jersey, and at Princeton, New Jersey. The same month, by the way, we lost Philadelphia.

But he was a great general, and his aura and his prestige held the revolution together.

KING: Militarily, how did the British lose it? They had more arms.


KING: They were better equipped.

CARTER: They would have won, had the French not come in on our side. At one of the turning point battles, which is when Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, the majority of the total troops were French troops.

And -- And Cornwallis would still have survived if the British could have kept control of the ocean behind him. But the British fleet and the French fleet had a confrontation. The British fleet was wounded and went back to New York for repairs, which left the French in charge of the ocean.

So the French on the land with George Wallace -- with George Washington's army, and the French army behind Cornwallis, caused him to surrender. And that was one of the turning points in the war.

KING: Did Benedict Arnold think he was a hero? CARTER: He thought he was a hero. And he was. I mean, he was one of those sterling heroes at the early point when most of the war was taking place in what we now know as Canada. But eventually, he didn't think he was adequately recognized. He was a very proud man. And he deserted, as you know, because he felt that he was being mistreated by the American Congress, and joined in with the British.

KING: Died almost reclusive in Britain, right? He was not hailed in Britain.

CARTER: That's correct. He wasn't. I studied about 45 books in seven years to write this novel. And I read the biographies of British and American generals and British and American soldiers, enlisted men, to see how they lived. And I studied how people grew flax and how they grew rice and how they built houses and how they traveled without roads. I really immersed myself...

KING: You can tell.

CARTER: this thing. And I -- there's a good bit of love affairs in my novel, and some...

KING: Really?

CARTER: Oh, yes. Sure.


CARTER: You'd be embarrassed if you read it.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Jimmy Carter and more on "The Hornet's Nest" and the Revolutionary War, right after this.


KING: We're back with President Carter. The book is "The Hornet's Nest."

Even have gays in the military?

CARTER: Well, that's true, as a matter of fact. One of the small factors in my book is a relationship between a young American who is an expert on flora and fauna -- he studied outdoors -- and a young Indian man named Nabota (ph). And so there's a great deal of interrelationship between American settlers and the Indians, and a great competition between Americans and the British to get the Creek and Cherokee Indians to join their side. Because the side with the Indians, the loyal, ordinarily prevailed in the battles.

KING: Why -- the big battles in the South, why don't we know so little of them?

CARTER: Well, most of the history books and, I think, most of the novels have been written by people from Boston and New York and maybe Philadelphia. And the Southern role has been -- has been ignored.

And we don't realize how long the war lasted, and we don't realize how vicious it was. This was by far the most bloody war that Americans ever fought. Surprisingly so. In the war between the states, the Civil War...

KING: We clearly lost the most lives.

CARTER: Well, we lost the most lives...

KING: They were all American.

CARTER: Yes. But see, it was the -- there was a geographical division. If you lived north of the Mason-Dixon line, in general, you were a Yankee. If you lived south, you were a Confederate, there are some exceptions to that.

But in the Revolutionary War, there was no geographical division. The division was inside families, where maybe the oldest son would break away from a lifetime of oaths before God to be loyal to the king and say, "I'm going to take up weapons to fight for freedom."

And the ones against him he would be fighting in the next few weeks was his own father or his own brothers.

In fact, one of the wars that I described -- battles that I described in some detail, is King's Mountain, where there was a vicious battle, one of the turning points. Every soldier on top of that mountain, either American rebels or British Red Coats, was an American. The only British up on the top was an officer in charge of the British troops.

And at the end of those battles in the South, because the hatred had built up so much, orders would go out, "If you take a prisoner, your rum ration will be terminated for one month." And if an American surrendered to a British company that won a battle, they would execute every one who surrendered, with a bayonet thrust in his belly or with a bullet in his head.

And Americans did the same thing on our side, too. It was an extremely surprisingly vicious war.

KING: Mel Gibson's movie, "The Patriot."

CARTER: Yes, well, "The Patriot" is typical of the only books that have been written about the war, because usually they pick out one person...

KING: Yes.

CARTER: ... or one battle. I tried to tell the whole story of...

KING: The family is the essence, though, right?

CARTER: That's right. A family. Two families is the essence. They're the main, you know, fictional characters. Patterned, to some degree, after my own ancestors, who moved from the north down into North Carolina and then down into Georgia.

KING: In Great Britain, do they discuss this war?

CARTER: No. They don't want to talk about it much.

KING: Not in their history books much? A little skirmish occurred.

CARTER: No, they kind of -- they kind of cover -- as a matter of fact, in the global scope of things, the American Revolution was pretty well insignificant at that time. The only reason the French joined the Americans was not because they believed in America or freedom. They just wanted to defeat the British.

And the Treaty of Paris, which was signed in 1783 that pretty well ended the war, that was -- that involved Spain and France and Great Britain, to some lesser degree Russia. And in that process, to the amazement of everyone, the British even gave Florida to the Spaniards, after the Revolutionary War was over. So it was a very complicated and very interesting event.

KING: If you visit the CIA, the only statue is Nathan Hale.

And Jimmy Carter, always a great pleasure.

CARTER: I enjoyed talking to you, Larry, as usual.

KING: The 39th president of the United States, recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize and author of the new book, "The Hornet's Nest," the first novel ever written by a president of the United States. It's on all the best seller lists.

I'll be back to tell you about tomorrow night right after this.


KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. It has been quite a week. Hope you enjoyed the wind-up tonight, with former President Jimmy Carter.

Tomorrow night, on LARRY KING LIVE, we'll repeat our extraordinary interview with the three daughters of the late Ingrid Bergman. Don't miss it. That's tomorrow night.

Right now, "NEWSNIGHT" is next with Aaron Brown. For Larry King and Jimmy Carter and our whole crew, good night.


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