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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Six Great Writers
Aired February 22, 2004 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST LARRY KING LIVE: Tonight, veteran news man, Bob Schieffer, the host of "Face the Nation" reveals the stories behind the news. And then Michael Deaver, one of President Reagan's closest aides discusses Nancy Reagan as he knows her.
Also, Emmy winning news producer, Richard Cohen, the husband of Meredith Vieira of "The View" has overcome cancer, multiple sclerosis and being legally blind.
Plus, what does the former head of the Manhattan D.A. sex crime unit make of the Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson and Kobe Bryant cases. We'll ask best-selling author Linda Fairstein.
All that and more next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening, and welcome to another edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." A great lineup of authors tonight, and we begin with one of my favorite people, Bob Schieffer, the anchor and moderator of "CBS NEWS: FACE THE NATION." He is CBS News chief Washington correspondent. His best selling book, what a read it was, "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV," is just out in trade paperback.
Let's get an update first, Bob. You had grade III bladder cancer last year. How are you doing?
BOB SCHIEFFER, "CBS NEWS: FACE THE NATION": I am doing great, Larry. And I've kind of become an evangelist for when you see symptoms of this stuff, go to your doctor. Because these days, cancer can be treated in most cases, if you get to it early enough.
I was very lucky. When the first symptom happened, and it turns out it is blood in the urine, I went to the doctor. I had an MRI. We discovered there was a tumor there. He operated through a catheter the next day. I've undergone treatment since then, and as far as I know, I am totally clean of cancer.
It will be a couple of years before we know for sure. But had I waited another two weeks, Larry, it would have been an entirely different situation, and I might have faced having to have my bladder removed.
So I'm saying to men, if you get this symptom, don't fool with it. Go to the doctor. It is very curable if you catch it early. I feel better than I've felt in a year and a half.
KING: Blood is the telltale sign?
Tell me first about the book, "This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You on TV." I know you wrote one book and you said you weren't sure you were going to write another. Are you now an author?
SCHIEFFER: I suppose so, and, in fact, I'm actually at work on another book right now.
KING: Doesn't surprise me.
SCHIEFFER: Yes. About "FACE THE NATION," which is going to be 50 years old in November, and so I'm writing a little history of the program ...
SCHIEFFER: ... and it is -- it's been a lot of fun to do. But "This Just In" surprised everybody. It wound up on the "New York Times'" bestseller list when it came out a year ago. I think there was nobody more surprised, probably, than the publisher, Putnam. But it's been a lot of fun to go around the country. I've reconnected with people.
When I wrote this book, you know, Larry, I didn't really plan to do a lot of reporting. But to kind of check my own memory, which I've discovered I need to do, just like I'd check a story that anybody else would give me, I started calling people that had been at some of these events that I've covered over the past 40 years. I reconnected with so many of them, and it was just a -- it was a wonderful experience for me.
KING: But it was also a pleasure to read, I might add.
SCHIEFFER: Thanks, Larry.
KING: Who was the first host of "FACE THE NATION?"
SCHIEFFER: First host was a guy named Ted Coop (ph), who was the Washington bureau chief, and the first guest, this was on November 7th, 1954, the first guest was Joe McCarthy, of all people.
SCHIEFFER: And it was the Sunday before the Senate took up the resolution to censure him, and it turned out that was kind of a -- the hurrah for Joe McCarthy. He did very poorly on the broadcast. He made the Senators even more furious at him, and they toughened up the resolution of censure, because of some of the things he said on "FACE THE NATION."
KING: And you've been doing it ever since. "FACE THE NATION" -- as we've become an American treasure.
Let's get into some current things. What do you make of this Democratic race?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I think we're going to go through California it seems to me...
KING: And New York.
SCHIEFFER: And New York, and Ohio. I think you have to say John Kerry right now is the overwhelming favorite, but John Edwards has always said, if he could just get it down to John Kerry and John Edwards that he thought he had a chance.
So I think that's where we are right now. I have to say, the smart money's on John Kerry, but I don't think it's a done deal yet.
KING: Is it a done deal that Edwards would be the running mate, necessarily?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I think he'd be a very good choice, it seems to me. I would throw out one other name -- I mean, John Edwards says that he can take on George Bush in the South, and I think that would be -- I think he would be very tough going for the South, whether he could carry a Southern state or not, I don't know. But I think John Kerry has to look to the South, it seems to me, for a running mate.
If he decides John Edwards is not the man, I would think of people like Sam Nunn, the retired Senator from Georgia, an expert on arms control, strong on national defense. He might -- could carry Georgia.
You know, normally, Larry, a vice president can help, but he really isn't able to carry a state. But the one great exception to that, that we all remember, is Lyndon Johnson.
KING: You're right.
SCHIEFFER: John Kennedy would not have been president had not Lyndon Johnson carry Texas for him. I don't think there's any question that Kennedy would not have carried Texas had not Johnson been on the ticket. So I think Kerry would do well to look to the South for a running mate.
KING: Would another name be Bob Graham, very popular in Florida.
SCHIEFFER: Bob Graham, maybe Bob Graham could carry Florida for him. There are three or four people across the South, but I think in the end that he's going to -- he's going to turn to a Southerner.
Some are saying, well, maybe you ought to pick Dick Gephardt and have kind of a Midwestern strategy, that maybe Gephardt with his labor support could help in a big state like Ohio. But we'll find out soon enough, but that's going to be one of the interesting things as we get close to that convention.
KING: As someone who has covered in that area and who remembers Vietnam well, what do you make of it suddenly now coming to the fore in this race? SCHIEFFER: It's very interesting. I tell you, I, for one, am very surprised that this whole business about George Bush's attendance records at National Guard meetings had any legs at all as an issue, and I'll be surprised if that remains an issue when we get into the fall here.
But I was surprised by it that it's lasted this long, so maybe it will hang on. But it is interesting, isn't it, that this war that's getting to be so many years ago again casts its shadow on a presidential campaign.
KING: How big is Iraq in the election?
SCHIEFFER: I think it's everything. I think it's the ballgame. I think there are two things here. One is the economy, which is always an issue. And the other issue, it seems to me, is Iraq. If these casualties continue to go up, I think George Bush is vulnerable, and I think he could be vulnerable in the South, Larry, because so many of our soldiers now in this all-volunteer army come from Southern states, and that's where these coffins are going. We've had an enormous number of casualties.
If we don't see some resolution, or some sign that this is getting better, I think that this could be the one place, along with the economy, where George Bush is vulnerable.
KING: Is gay marriage an issue?
SCHIEFFER: I don't think it's going to be an issue. I think, frankly, the White House would like to try to make it an issue, because they see the polls that say most Americans do not favor gay marriage. The president is on the side of the majority of people that we survey. So I don't think they'd mind seeing it become an issue, but frankly, I don't think it will be an issue. I think it's going to be the economy, and I think it's going to be Iraq.
KING: As you look at your own career, Bob, how long are you going to keep being both the chief Washington correspondent and the host of "FACE THE NATION?"
SCHIEFFER: I don't know, Larry. I mean, this is so much fun. As I write in the book, most people who write books or who are in television generally have some beef or some complaint they want to make. I don't have any complaint ...
KING: You're not an angry man.
SCHIEFFER: I've had a lot of fun, and when I talk to kids in journalism schools, I say, look, I know what the journalism teachers tell you that this is a great way to perform public service and all that, but I say the main reason, if you decide what you want to do is be a reporter, the main reason you want to do it is because it's just so much fun.
KING: Boy, you're right. SCHIEFFER: I can't think of any place or any job where I could have gone or seen what I've managed to see and do in these last 40 years.
KING: And as I said, you're a treasure.
SCHIEFFER: Thank you very much, Larry.
KING: Bob Schieffer, the book out in trade paperback, "What I Couldn't Tell You on TV," Bob Schieffer.
When we come back, Michael Deaver.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHIEFFER: The government's view is that the best time to announce bad news, news that it doesn't want the public to dwell on is late on a Friday, when it will wind up in the Saturday papers, which if you were readers, then the week day editions. A holiday weekend is even better.
Which brings me to the story to the president's attendence record at those Nation Guard meetings. To make that an issue after all these years seems silly to me, until the White House released Mr. Bush's military service records late Friday, on the eve of Valentine's Day, and at the beginning of the President's Day weekend. Records, that on inspection, prove nothing.
Then, officials topped that story with another one, confirmation that the president would meet with the commission investigating 9/11 intelligence failures. I am still not sure this guard thing amounts to very much, but the frantic way the White House has responded and the timing have made me begin to wonder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He may change the physical location of the desks. He may not be as close to hand as he's been, but there's one thing that won't change at all, and that is a friendship that's been built on almost 20 years of very close association.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome to "LARRY KING LIVE," always good to see him, Michael Deaver, who spent more than 20 years as one of Ronald Reagan's closest advisers, was an assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff from '81 through '85 and a new book, "Nancy: A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan."
Mike, you wrote a book about Ronald Reagan, "A Different Drummer." Nancy was in that book. Why a separate book?
MICHAEL DEAVER, AUTHOR: Well, when I finished that book, it occurred to me that he would have never been able to accomplish all he had without her. That this -- you couldn't say Ronald Reagan without saying Nancy, that it's been a team for 50 years, and nobody had ever written that story, and like with Reagan, I had been there for 30, 35 years. And so I mentioned it to Nancy, and she said, why not?
KING: And she cooperated, did she not?
DEAVER: She did, yes.
KING: And she cooperated, did she not?
DEAVER: She did, yes.
KING: What do you think, Mike, is the biggest misconception people had about her?
DEAVER: Well, I think the biggest misconception was that she was somehow pulling all the strings, that it was her philosophy, that she was the one that wanted him to run for all these offices, that she was the one that had an agenda. And nothing could be further from the truth.
He came to that relationship with very strong beliefs. She was always the one that was saying, wait a minute, Ronnie, what about this? What are we going to do if this happens? Are you sure that this is what you ought to be doing?
So I think that's the biggest misconception. This was really about Ronald Reagan. It wasn't about Nancy.
KING: You also write eloquently about the effect the assassination had on her.
KING: Describe that.
DEAVER: Well, I think this was her worst nightmare. There had been threats on him and threats when they were in Sacramento when he was governor. And her greatest fear was that it would be Dallas all over again if he became president. And so that horrible period of time, rushing to the hospital knowing he'd been shot, and going through the recovery and so forth, it changed his life, but it changed her life, too.
I don't think she slept a night through until he got out of the White House.
KING: Why did she -- I've come to know her so well. She's a dear friend. Why does she get such bad reviews in Washington? DEAVER: Well, I'm not sure she still does. I think there was a time when she did ...
KING: No, I mean then.
DEAVER: Then ...
KING: Yes. Well, now, I think she's well respected and loved, in many cases.
DEAVER: Yes, I think you're right. I think it was a combination of things. One, her life was always about him, as I said before, not about her. So she didn't pay a lot of attention to her image.
She set about not doing -- she didn't have a project that was public. She set about repairing the White House and doing the things that was going to make his life comfortable and easier when he got home. And when she finally realized, I think, that her image was not doing well, she set about to change it. Others didn't do it. We were all worrying about him. There was nobody worrying about her.
She did the famous skit at the Gridiron, which -- you know, the best way to get along in this town is to laugh at yourself, and she was smart enough to realize that. And then, of course, she did the Just Say No campaign, which was her idea, something she wanted to do, and it really was a meaningful change in the way young people saw drug use and addiction in America.
KING: And we also discovered that that gaze that she would give to Ronald, that people kind of made fun of at times, was in fact true.
DEAVER: Well, Larry, it was a love affair. It still is a love affair.
KING: Yes, it is.
DEAVER: And the fact that she would watch him that way, that she would adoringly look at him, that they would hold hands, people laughed at and made fun of, but I don't think they make fun of it today when they see what that love translates into in her role as a caregiver.
KING: Describe -- your last visit with the president was seven years ago, 1997.
DEAVER: Right, right.
KING: What was the setting? What was it like?
DEAVER: I went to his office to see him, and he was at his desk. He didn't look up when I came in. He was -- had a book in front of him, and I sat down, and I really didn't know how to deal with somebody with Alzheimer's, and I sort of just barged in and said what are you doing. And he very slowly looked up at me and said, "I'm reading a book." And I could see it was a book, and I could see it was a book of horses. And he went back to it. And I realized that I was not in his world at that point. He was someplace else and ...
KING: It was that bad, huh?
DEAVER: I sat there quietly and just got up and left.
KING: How do you attend for how amazingly well she's handled this? Because she's not the strongest physical person in the world.
DEAVER: No, but she is a strong person.
KING: Oh, yes.
DEAVER: She always -- when you say how could she handle it, I've asked her that question, how do you do it? And her answer always is the same, well, he'd do it for me. And I just think it's part of -- I think one of the reasons I wrote this story is it's such a terrific story of commitment and loyalty. When you see half of our marriages in this country are ending in divorce, here's a real story for people to see about what it means when you make a commitment for better or for worse or for sickness and in health. This is what it's all about.
KING: How important was she -- when you battled your alcoholism, successfully battled it, she was very important in that fight, was she not?
DEAVER: She was. I was -- when I finally came to terms with it, I was very embarrassed about talking to either of them about it, and when I finally did get ahold of them, and I'd been in rehab for a few weeks and she didn't know where I was. And when I finally called and said where I was and what was up, she said, oh my gosh, thank goodness, I thought this was something really serious. Well, you can handle that. I have lots of friends that have been able to handle this.
And she's been extremely supportive, not only to me, but other friends.
KING: When a president has his Alzheimer's and his wife hangs on and we see her and people will see him in the past tense. And he keeps on, and he's in good health, except for the Alzheimer's, what's his legacy? What are we going to -- how are we going to remember him? We may not have to remember. He may go on forever.
DEAVER: Well, I think one of the reasons why Nancy protects him today, and only the family sees him, is that she wants to keep the legacy that we have in our minds of this cheerful, happy, wonderful, principled guy who changed the world, ended the Cold War, changed the way we thought about ourselves as Americans, changed the dialog in Washington, D.C. from what it had been for the last 50 years. I think it's a very powerful legacy.
KING: Michael, you've written a terrific book, and thank you. I'm glad to see you're looking so well. DEAVER: Thanks, Larry. It's good to be with you.
KING: Michael Deaver. The book is "Nancy: A Portrait of My Years with Nancy Reagan," a terrific read.
We'll be right back. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY REAGAN, FRM. FIRST LADY: (SINGING)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome to "LARRY KING LIVE" from our studios in New York, Richard Cohen, the author of "Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness." He's a three-time Emmy winner, a recovering network television news producer, he calls himself. He worked for CBS and CNN and contributed to the "Health & Fitness" section, as well, of "The New York Times."
The subtitle of the book is "A Reluctant Memoir."
Why reluctant, Richard?
RICHARD COHEN, AUTHOR: Well, it's reluctant because I wanted to write about coping with illness, which is something I've been doing for some years, and I really didn't want to reveal too much about myself. And I was sort of dragged kicking and screaming into actually doing a memoir, on the theory that my life was a pretty good spine for the book.
KING: You have a weird -- I mean, medical. You have M.S. at age 25, then later you get colon cancer, and that pumps up the - they're not joinable, are they?
COHEN: They are not joinable in any way that I know of, but it was sort of weird. I thought -- I thought having one would indemnify me against anything else, but it didn't quite work out that way.
KING: How did M.S., if at all, affect your being a television news producer?
COHEN: Well, it could have affected it a lot. I went into my career at CBS News with great fears about whether I could actually do the job or not. I'm legally blind, and legal blindness and television don't always go together. And going out and covering breaking news, being in bad situations in Poland, Beirut, El Salvador, really tested my endurance on that.
KING: How could you do it if you're legally blind?
COHEN: Well, legal blindness is different from blindness, and television, as you know, is a collaborative medium. And I just had good people with me -- camera crews, correspondents -- and I really relied on the vision of other people to sort of fill in what I could not see clearly, myself.
KING: What do you see, shadows?
COHEN: Yes, I mean it's like an impressionist painting. You go 20 feet away and it all fades away and blurs and becomes very fuzzy in the distance.
KING: Is that caused by the M.S.?
COHEN: It is. It attacked both optic nerves.
KING: And you got it at age 25. Isn't that a little young?
COHEN: Well, you know what? I would love to complain, if you can tell me who to complain to. But yes, it's pretty young, but you begin to sort things out very quickly, and my feeling is that people make instant decisions on how they're going to react to bad news, and I think that what I decided was that I was going to live my life. I was not going to panic or freak out. And I was too hellbent on becoming a television producer, which I was sort of doing anyway, to let it get in my way.
KING: We have a -- my good friend is your wife, Meredith Vieira, a very important part of this story, is she not?
COHEN: She is. She really -- she walked onto the stage in my 30s and was confronted with the truth pretty early on, and didn't blink. I think she decided what she wanted, and she wasn't going to get scared off too easily. She's really been terrific. She's stood by me and been through some pretty tough times.
KING: When you were diagnosed with colon cancer, that had to be one of the worst things a person could hear, right?
COHEN: Yes. I mean, it was -- it was quite shocking, though it was really the second time. The cancer came back less than a year later, and talk about blindsided. That really was a shock, and ...
KING: You mean you had surgery, and then it came back?
COHEN: Yes. I had the surgery. I was pronounced cancer free, and really, six or seven months later it was back, and this time it was much more invasive, the surgery. I had a spot on my liver which needed to be explained. It turned out not to be malignant. But it was the beginning of a very tough period of time, because it was a huge adjustments.
KING: How did the children handle all -- you had three, right?
COHEN: Yes, three kids. The kids were great. I mean, the kids first of all took their cues from us, and we had learned by then to be very open with them. We both feel very strongly that the kids are the smartest ones in the house and you really can't try and fool them. And the more open you are with kids, I think the more reassured they are, and they were really troupers. What happened after the second cancer surgery was tough on them, because I think I didn't have a handle on myself emotionally, and came back from the hospital pretty dark and pretty isolated.
And we all went through some tough times together, but we really circled the wagons. We really embraced each other, and it was OK.
KING: Are you free now?
COHEN: I am cancer free as far as I know. It takes some years to really know that you're out of the woods. We chose not to do any chemo or radiation because it would wreak havoc with the M.S., but everybody thought that we had really gotten the cancer. So I'm doing OK.
KING: And have you learned to live with the M.S.?
COHEN: You know, you do. It's a constant companion. It's just built into life, and, you know, it just is something you endure, something that you -- at least I decided early on, and Meredith decided early on, it was not going to deter us from having a normal life, raising three kids, and going forth.
KING: Thank you, Richard. You're an extraordinary guy. She's an extraordinary lady. Terrific book, "Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness."
Thanks a lot, Richard.
COHEN: Thank you.
KING: Richard Cohen. The book is available everywhere. Back with more after this.
KING: We now welcome a returning guest to "LARRY KING LIVE." Coming to us tonight from London, Linda Fairstein. Linda is "The New York Times" bestselling author. Everything she writes sells a ton. Her new one is "The Kills." She's former head of the Manhattan D.A. Sex Crimes Unit. This is the latest in her Alexandra Cooper series.
Where do you come with these plots, a rape, abuse case, an elderly Harlem Renaissance dancer - does this just swim through you?
LINDA FAIRSTEIN, AUTHOR: Well, some of them are based through - the motives are based on cases I actually handled. The trial that Alex begins in this case with a Yale University graduate CIA ex- operative is a case I worked on in the '80s, and I was fascinated by the motive in the case and the fact that I couldn't get any information about the defendant. Whenever I tried, the government files would come back Top Secret classified.
And the underlying story is sort of ripped from "The New York Times" story about this very rare, fabled object, and it was described in the "Times" article as several years back the "Times" said if Dashiell Hammett were alive, he'd write the thriller about the saga of this coin. And my husband threw the gauntlet down, circled the article for me and said, well, Hammett's dead, why don't you try this story?
KING: You do it. "The Kills" is a double meaning, right? "The Kills" has a double meaning.
FAIRSTEIN: Yes it is. Yes. Many hunters, detectives, military, often use the word kills to talk about prey and murdered bodies - dead bodies, but also because, as you know, New York was once New Amsterdam. It's a Dutch word that means creeks or channels, and in fact, the Hudson River waterway is full of kills, fresh kills, Arthur (ph) kills, all these little inlets that become a place of peril for the heroine.
KING: What turned you to writing fiction?
FAIRSTEIN: It's actually what I wanted to do all my life. I mean, as an adolescent and a teenager growing up, as an English literature major at college, I dreamed about writing novels, about writing fiction. And I had a loving and very practical father who used to say, you have nothing to write about, get a career first.
So the desire to write was always in the background when I was prosecuting. I just never dreamed I'd start the career while still prosecuting, before I retired, but I did.
KING: Without getting into specifics of the case, we don't want to try a case before it happens, do you think it's harder on the prosecution - let's say that Kobe Bryant is just an example - when you're trying a matter of a major public figure?
FAIRSTEIN: Well, anything - yes, the high-profile are certainly harder. I think they're hard for both sides. Most prosecutors like to try the case in the courtroom, don't try and do the media spin. But I also think it's a reason for the prosecutor to have examined this case and the facts of this case very carefully before ever charging the defendant.
I think there are disturbing things that have come out - the second DNA profile that is not Kobe Bryant's. The defense didn't bring that into the case. This young lady walked into the hospital with evidence that connected to a sexual act with somebody other than Kobe Bryant. And our goal in investigating these cases was always to get that information before you ever charge, because lives are at stake here and the stakes are enormously high.
KING: Would you explain why this is the only type of case where the identity of the victim is not given out?
FAIRSTEIN: Well, traditionally in this country, Larry, as you know, we have a bad history. We came to the understanding of these crimes very late. When I started prosecuting in '72, the laws - in fact we inherited from the British, from where I am now in London, were terribly archaic and really blamed the victim and required of her extra evidence before she could go forward with these cases.
So we had a very bad history of getting women to come forward, of letting them testify in the courtroom. And we've gone a long way to try and protect them, to make them - make it more comfortable and victim friendly. The laws finally are on the same footing. The laws don't protect these victims more than they do in other crimes, but I think in order to make survivors of the crime more comfortable, because there's still such a societal stigma that too many people place on rape victims, we have taken protections in the media.
KING: Do successful books like yours or television shows like "LAW & ORDER," in addition to just being darn good reads, increase our understanding of the law?
FAIRSTEIN: I think so. I mean, I really think that so many - the "LAW & ORDER," the Dick Will (ph) franchise, the "CSI," these shows really have educated people. I mean, I think every juror who comes - who has seen these shows comes to the box in a trial expecting that every police department in the country has the means to do what's done on "CSI," which just isn't the fact. And while I write books to entertain, they're - what I thought I could bring to the genre was the authenticity of the job that I had for 30 years and gently educate.
They're not meant to hit the reader over the head with a hammer, but the cutting-edge forensics and the courtroom work - in this case, Alex is trying a case. And it is a date-rape case, and so many of the things that you're reading in the news today and the cases you cover every - often during the week during your show, have exactly the same examples in the book, the things that judges say, the things jurors expect to hear about victims.
So I think a lot of our information is coming responsibly from writers who do their research and really bring the state-of-the-art forensics, if you will, to crime fiction.
KING: Are you in London as a promotion for the book?
FAIRSTEIN: Yes. The book just was published here, and I'm doing - I did a lot of BBC and print interviews today and this week, Dublin last week ...
KING: How well ...
FAIRSTEIN: ... nice life. This is ...
KING: How well do you sell in London?
FAIRSTEIN: Well, to be modest, I debuted on the "London Times" list this past weekend at number nine, so we're - the Brits love this genre. Crime fiction is enormous here and in Ireland, and it has a great tradition with when Agatha Christie and P.D. James and many of the writers I learned from and tried to model myself after. So it's a thriving industry here, and very warmly received.
KING: Do you ever miss prosecuting?
FAIRSTEIN: Sure I do. I want to say every day. I miss the collegiality of it. The writing, as you know, is very solitary work. A good day, you're in the room and nobody calls, nobody comes, but like Alex Cooper in the books, she's got these great detective partners that she worked with, and I had the best and the brightest in the NYPD. I had wonderful colleagues in the Manhattan D.A.'s office, many of whom I still talk to regularly to find out what's going on.
And of course that work is immensely rewarding and satisfying. It was different every day. You were doing things that were important in the lives of other people. So I still do a number - I'm on a number of nonprofit boards and I do a lot of victim advocacy and consulting with police departments and prosecutors' offices. So I do miss it and I think I'm trying to live it through my characters and the fictional side.
KING: Always good seeing you, Linda. Keep up the great work.
FAIRSTEIN: Thank you so much for having me, Larry.
KING: Linda Fairstein. The book is, "The Kills." Automatic bestseller.
We'll be back with more right after this.
KING: We now welcome to "LARRY KING LIVE" an old friend, Renee Poussaint, the veteran network journalist, three-time Emmy winner, president and CEO of Wisdom Books. She and Camille Cosby are co-editors of "A Wealth of Wisdom: Legendary African American Elders Speak."
Renee for years was one of the major anchors in Washington, D.C., gone on to even bigger things in the world of books and reading. This book features nearly 50 African Americans, all over the 70.
Why that age?
RENEE POUSSAINT, AUTHOR: Well, we were trying to figure out what point in someone's life you can actually call them an elder. The 60s, too young, maybe because both Camille and I are Baby Boomers, and 80 was too far along, although some of the visionary elders whom we have interviewed who are in their 80s, and some in their 90s, say that 70- year-olds are still children.
KING: Well, I'm 70, so I'm an elder.
OK, the book includes wisdom from a political view (ph), former U.S. Senator Edward Brooke. How is he, by the way?
POUSSAINT: He's doing well. He has his bouts of illness every now and then, but he is amazing, and is living a very lovely life in terms of part time in the Virginia countryside, and part time in the Caribbean, where his wife comes from.
KING: Still the only black United States senator, right?
POUSSAINT: Well, except for Carol Moseley Braun.
KING: Yes, that's right. POUSSAINT: Right.
KING: And then the only male black senator.
KING: Also in here are Shirley Chisholm, David Dinkins, Andrew Young, Coretta Scott King, Dick Gregory, Maya Angelou, Gordon Parks, Ray Charles, Katherine Dunham.
Did they all write pieces for you, or had they spoken these words elsewhere?
POUSSAINT: They all spoke to us. Camille Cosby and I started an organization about 2.5 years ago, where the sole purpose of what we do is to go out and do videotaped interviews with extraordinary African American elders. And the interviews usually last about two hours, and he book is the result of excerpts from those interviews, which can be seen in large part on our Web site, which is visionaryproject.com.
We also, Larry, have a fellowship program where we teach college students to go out into their local communities and do the same kind of thing with elders that they choose from their local community, and some of those interviews are also in the book.
KING: Proceeds support the National Visionary Leadership Project.
POUSSAINT: That's right.
KING: So there's no profit involved?
POUSSAINT: Absolutely not. No, this is a very nonprofit venture. Believe me.
KING: The Western society does not treat its elders, black, white or whatever, as well as the society in the East, correct, where they are almost revered?
POUSSAINT: Absolutely. One of the things, I think, that we lost track of in the United States in particular is the extended family, the concept of generations living together or at least living within a few blocks of each other. I know growing up in New York, within three blocks, there were three to four generations of my family. So we were constantly involved with elders and had access to elders, sometimes more than we wanted, because they would keep track of us and let us know when we were doing things that we shouldn't do. But they were a part of our lives.
Now, the younger generation doesn't have that, and we're so separated, and we strongly, strongly feel that the younger generation can only improve, can only get better, from having the benefit of the elders' wisdom.
KING: If you're black and you're over 70, you lived through different kinds of lifetimes, didn't you? POUSSAINT: Absolutely.
POUSSAINT: Absolutely, in this country. And the reality is is that so many young people, black and white, have no idea what it was like to live under segregation in this country. I mean, they consider that part of the dark ages. And the reality is that it was pretty recent.
KING: Who should read this?
POUSSAINT: Everybody. Everybody should read this. This is really about American history, and it's about getting to know legends on a very personal basis. We don't just stick to the professional stuff. We also ask these elders about their childhoods, about what their parents were like.
Coretta Scott King talks about being a tomboy when she was 10 years old and having fights with the little boys in her neighborhood. Andy Young talks about the most frightening part of his growing up was not dealing with mobs and dogs during civil rights marches. The toughest thing was when his parents were on a train coming up from New Orleans to attend his graduation at Howard University, and he wasn't sure he had enough credits to pass.
The kinds of things that the elders share are all sorts of things that - certainly some of them have to do with their professional lives, but most of the lessons are about life lessons.
KING: Did everyone you ask agree?
POUSSAINT: Virtually everyone we asked agreed. The only one who didn't - well, we had a couple who didn't want to do it. One was an elder who was over the age of 100, and she told us she was very flattered by the invitation, but she had talked about her life far too much, and she had nothing further to say about it. So we could not talk her into changing her mind.
KING: Renee, great seeing you again. Much good luck with this and all that you do.
POUSSAINT: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me, Larry.
KING: My pleasure.
Renee Poussaint, she and Camille Cosby are the co-editors of "A Wealth of Wisdom: Legendary African American Elders Speak."
We'll be back with more after this.
KING: Now, a great pleasure to welcome Matt McAllester to "LARRY KING LIVE," the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, author of the new book, "Blinded by the Sunlight: Emerging from the Prison of Saddam's Iraq." He was in prison when the Marines came into Beirut - into Beirut - when they came into Baghdad. I got my wars mixed up.
How were you taken prisoner, Matt?
MATT MCALLESTER, "NEWSDAY": They came to my hotel room, the Muhabarat (ph), that's Saddam's secret police, late one night. It was about three or four nights into the war, and there was a knock on the door. And I looked through the peephole, and it wasn't one of my friends, as it usually was. It was about 10 or 12 uniformed and plain-clothed officers, and so obviously I had to open the door, and that's how it all started.
KING: You and how many others?
MCALLESTER: There were five of us in total - four journalists and an American peace activist.
KING: Why were you arrested?
MCALLESTER: Well, I tracked down my interrogator after the war to try and find this out. And we were on visas that were irregular, there was no question about that, but we had also accidentally stumbled across, in just the course of our normal reporting, an opposition stronghold. There was a Sufi mosque, a Sufi temple, that was being monitored very carefully by the Muhabarat (ph), and we were completely unaware of that.
KING: Was your interrogator now in prison, or was he OK to be free?
MCALLESTER: He's free. It took me weeks, or months, to track him down. And I found colleagues of his, someone who considered him like a brother, and through lots of intermediaries, eventually persuaded him to come around to my hotel room for a cup of tea. And it was just quite easily the most bizarre ...
KING: I'll bet.
MCALLESTER: ... hour, hour and a half, of my life.
KING: Was he bad to you when you were a prisoner?
MCALLESTER: You know, in some respects, no. I mean, he didn't beat us. But clearly execution or torture were two of the things on the possible menu, and in fact the - 10 of the 15 cells on our block were occupied by Iraqis who were indeed all executed after we were released, and when I asked him about this, he just said, "I don't know."
KING: With the Marines coming in, all of it that close, did you have any fear that your own side would kill you with a bomb?
MCALLESTER: Yes. I mean, every night the concrete in the cell would shake, and there was a cat and mouse game going on between the local gunner and the jets that were dive bombing overhead. And initially, I was delighted. I was yearning for a bomb to hit the prison so that we could do an absurd sort of Steve McQueen sort of bust-out, and then I realized that we would just die. And in fact, I realized afterwards that the Muhabarat (ph) guys that were holding us felt the same, and they sent out one of their men to persuade the gunner to just give up, because everyone knew shooting these antiaircraft weapons at American jets was pointless.
KING: What did they want to learn from you?
MCALLESTER: They wanted to know where we'd been, who I'd spoken to, and then they came across some things which I had tried to hide. Like, if you're a journalist in Arab countries, you do not admit that you've ever lived or worked in Israel, for example. They came across in my Palm Pilot hundreds of Israeli contacts, and that was a very, very unfortunate moment, and I had to be very aggressive with them at that point say, well, of course I go to Israel. It's one of the most important stories in the world, and it's a legitimate journalistic enterprise.
KING: Now, you went back to do this book, right?
KING: And you went back recently, right?
MCALLESTER: Yes, I was there on Thursday was the last time I was there.
KING: What's the biggest difference?
MCALLESTER: I would have to say the fact that you can go onto the streets of Baghdad without - without much of a chance of getting carjacked, and there's no curfew there anymore. When I left in late August, you couldn't go out after about 10:30 at night.
Now families, Iraqi families, are going to (INAUDIBLE) for dinner. They're going out - less so to restaurants, because especially some of them have been targeted by bombers, but there's no question that, not in political violence terms, but in sort of normal, everyday crime terms, things are much better.
KING: What do you make of the resistance?
MCALLESTER: I think that it's the hugest problem that Iraq faces. And what I think is especially alarming is that the capture of Saddam did not reduce the resistance and the numbers of attacks. I mean, when I was there last week, I was almost literally wading through the flesh of recruits at both an army - Iraqi army and Iraqi police stations. And there were dozens of Iraqis who had just been ripped apart by these suicide bombers. And within 48 hours, over 100 Iraqis were dead. That's not getting better.
And as we move towards the transition of power in late June, as is planned, there could be more attacks. I mean, there's an incentive - political incentive there for the insurgents.
KING: Are you surprised that no WMDs? MCALLESTER: I have to be honest, I am a little surprised, yes. I thought before the war that we would probably find those things, those weapons, there, and they're not. But I'll tell you who's not surprised - the Iraqis. I've never met a single Iraqi who thought that Saddam still had weapons of mass destruction, and that's one of the fundamental problems, is that they feel that - even those who supported the war, they feel they were lied to.
KING: Is your prison still intact?
MCALLESTER: You know who's running the prison these days? The Americans. It's now the biggest holding - I think the biggest holding center in Iraq. I mean, they have this ready-made prison, which incidentally was built partially by Americans in the '60s, and they have this ready-made thing. So they're getting Iraqi contractors to renovate it, and there are Iraqi prisoners in there, and I don't know if there's anyone in my cell, but I hope not.
KING: Did you visit your cell?
MCALLESTER: I did several times after the war, when it was a free for all in Iraq and you could sort of stroll in and out. And I spent a little time there ...
KING: How were you freed, Matt?
MCALLESTER: They let us go. And when I asked - it was April the 1st, which seemed like an April Fool's joke, but it wasn't. When I asked my interrogator in the summer, when I tracked him down, he maintained that it was his decision, that he had power of life and death over us, and was a good, upstanding law enforcement officer. He had done his investigation and decided that we were who we said we were.
I think there were other political factors involved, mainly that Saddam was always concerned about his legacy and his public image and did not - I mean, I'm sure he didn't know that we were in there, but it was institutionalized, this disinclination to execute foreigners, even in the last days of the regime.
KING: Matt, thank you so much.
MCALLESTER: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Matt McAllester, one of the great reporters, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of the new book, "Blinded by the Sunlight: Emerging from the Prison of Saddam's Iraq."
I'll be right back.
KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of "LARRY KING LIVE," six terrific authors, six terrific books.
Tomorrow night, we're back live with two of the greatest race riders ever. The young guy, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and the veteran, still young, Jeff Gordon. Earnhardt, Jr. and Gordon, together on "LARRY KING LIVE," tomorrow night. Thanks for joining us.
Stay tuned now for more news on your most trusted name in news, CNN.
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