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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Analysis of Deanna Laney Verdict; Interview With Edward Kennedy
Aired April 5, 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: Tonight: A mother stones two of her own sons to death, critically injures a third, and claims God told her to do it, and a jury finds her not guilty of murder by reason of insanity.
Tonight: inside Saturday's Deanna Laney verdict with Buck Files, Deanna Laney's attorney, Matt Bingham, district attorney for Smith County, Texas, who prosecuted the case; and exclusive, Rusty Yates. His wife, Andrea, said God told her to drown their five children. Deanna Laney has said that she and Andrea Yates have been called to be witnesses for God. Also with us is Dr. William Reid, forensic psychiatrist called by the presiding judge to testify at the trial, and Kevin Berns of KLTV, in court Saturday as the verdict was read.
And then Senator Ted Kennedy, junior senator -- the senior senator from Massachusetts, slamming President Bush on Iraq, the economy and more. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We'll start with Kevin Berns in Tyler, Texas. Deanna Laney currently remains in jail, awaiting the civil commitment proceedings. When will that happen, Kevin?
KEVIN BERNS, KLTV, IN COURT FOR VERDICT: Well, we'll find out tomorrow morning where she advances from here. There was a decision that needed to be made today on if jurisdiction would be shifted to the county court or would remain with Judge Cynthia Kent (ph). And it looks like it will remain with Judge Cynthia Kent. She will announce that officially tomorrow. And then Judge Kent will determine where she goes from there.
KING: Matt Bingham, what -- can you say, as the prosecutor, this case, you were surprised by the verdict?
MATT BINGHAM, SMITH CO., TX, D.A., PROSECUTED DEANNA LANEY: Well, I wouldn't say I was surprised by the verdict. I thought when they went out to deliberate, I felt like, you know, we had a big hurdle to overcome with the five -- or four mental health experts. However, I felt still pretty optimistic when the jury was coming back in. You know, it could have gone either way. I wasn't surprised by the verdict, but I was still optimistic, you know, that it might come out to be a guilty verdict. You just never know.
KING: Was it a tough case to prosecute?
BINGHAM: It was a tough case to prosecute. You know, we had four mental health experts that were all in agreement that she was insane. These were very qualified, very good doctors, very nice doctors. But you know, what we told them to do was look at all the evidence in the case, and that's what state law in Texas says, and base your verdict not just on what the mental health experts say but look at all the evidence and base your decision on all the evidence. And that's what we asked them to do.
KING: Buck, in retrospect, how did you win it?
BUCK FILES, ATTORNEY FOR DEANNA LANEY: Well, we did have the blessing of four psychiatrists, who could all agree that she was legally insane. This is very, very uncommon in an insanity defense case. Normally, there's someone from the state and someone from the defense, and the jury has to sort out the testimony. In this case, we had four wonderful psychiatrists, all of whom agreed on the diagnosis.
KING: Before we ask Dr. Reid a question -- Deanna Laney was asked questions by many psychiatrists. We're going to show you a brief glimpse of one of those questions taking place. She did not take the stand. This was in private questioning. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEANNA LANEY: I was not thinking these thoughts. I was feeling this from inside, that, Take them to those rocks. And I told him, I said, Baby, just lay down right here and turn your head this way, and he did. And I just picked up the rock that was laying right beside him and I started hitting him on the head with that rock.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We thank Court TV for obtaining those tapes and making them possible for us to show that tape.
Dr. William Reid, forensic and clinical psychiatrist, did an independent evaluation of Deanna Laney for the judge, Cynthia Kent, and testified at the trial. What do we call this illness, Dr. Reid?
DR. WILLIAM REID, PSYCHIATRIST, TESTIFIED IN LANEY TRIAL: Above all, it's an illness that affects the way Ms. Laney viewed reality in a very profound way. Most of us believe that the diagnosis is likely to be a severe delusional disorder. There was a little quibbling about that, but very little.
KING: Therefore, by the -- by the legal concepts, she did not know right from wrong?
REID: It's not a "therefore." There are lots of people that have delusional disorder or are even psychotic or out of touch with reality. In this case, that had to be combined with a severe illness that causes her not to know that her conduct is wrong. In this case, and in some others, but not all, that was found by all of us that saw her. It simply wasn't controversial for the psychiatrists in the group.
KING: So in other words, Dr. Reid, she was not responsible for what she did. It will be like someone having cancer. REID: "Not responsible" is the legal term. I think that we all felt that that was the fair verdict -- that is, all of the psychiatrists. But that's the legal term, and we viewed that as the right verdict.
KING: Rusty Yates, you were with us last week. You're the husband of convicted child killer Andrea Yates. He's in Houston. Andrea, his wife, killed their five children, drowned them in the family bathtub on June 20, 2001. And you favor this verdict, do you not?
RUSTY YATES, WIFE ANDREA DROWNED THEIR 5 CHILDREN: Yes, I do. Yes. You know, I wish that this had been the outcome in our case, but I'm very happy for Ms. Laney and the Laney family that, you know, through all their trials and hardship, that they did at least get a good outcome in this trial.
KING: Both cases were so similar. How did the defense side lose yours?
YATES: Well, I think it was more the prosecution's side that lost ours. I mean, you know, one of the experts that testified in the Laney trial also testified in Andrea's trial, but he found her to be sane. And really, his findings defy logic. I mean, the fact -- you know, he said, well, in the Laney case, God spoke to Laney, so she was sane, and then Satan spoke to Andrea, so she was -- I mean the other way around. I'm sorry. Laney was insane, and then Satan spoke to Andrea, so she was sane. And I don't understand that because they were both psychotic. You know, they both heard voices. Andrea had a long, long history of mental illness and psychosis documented in her medical records. And how he could have found her to be sane is beyond me.
KING: Matt Bingham, realistically, I mean, wouldn't any person say you have to be really sick, something really the matter, to kill your children?
BINGHAM: Well, I guess you could ask Susan Smith that question. You know, I don't think every woman that kills her kids kills them because she's sick. You know, in this case, we never contested the fact that Deanna Laney was mentally ill, but we had some questions as to whether or not she met the legal definition of insanity in the state of Texas. You know, we had the 911 call. We had her telling Keith Laney -- when he came into the bedroom and she was stoning Aaron (ph), she turned around to him and told him everything's OK. He went back to bed. On the 911 tape, she stated, I think I did wrong by Aaron. She attempted to hide Luke's body, did hide Luke's body from Joshua. She pulled Luke's little 6-year-old body around and hid it after she'd killed him. So there was things we wanted the jury to look at in this case and -- you know, and not just go on the mental health experts' testimony.
KING: Kevin Berns, what's...
BINGHAM: So I don't -- I don't...
BINGHAM: I was just going to say I don't think that every -- I'm sorry to interrupt you. I just didn't think that every mother that kills her kids is insane.
KING: Kevin Berns, what's been the community reaction?
BERNS: Well, I think anyone who followed the case very closely and understood the testimony and the facts in the case agreed with the verdict. But it was interesting. We did, as a television station, take a poll, an informal poll on our Web site last Friday, Was she guilty or not guilty? And 69 percent who weighed in said she was guilty. But once again, I think a lot of that boiled down to they weren't in court, they weren't in the jury's shoes, and they didn't know all the aspects of the case. They were basing that only on the knowledge that someone in the community killed their kids.
KING: Buck Files, did you interview or talk to any of the jurors?
FILES: No, we have not. We believe the jurors are going to be very hesitant to talk to anybody. And after being locked up for nine days, sequestered, we did not want to impose upon any of them. So we've not attempted to do that.
KING: Dr. Reid, what will her treatment be like?
REID: In general -- speaking generically, since I won't be one of her treaters, she will get very likely some sort of serious evaluation, and then she will very likely need treatment for three things. One is the continuing delusional disorder or psychotic disorder. That'll be treated biologically, with medication, much as it is now. The second is treatment for her reaction to the terrible thing that she did. And she's very aware of it at this time -- she wasn't before -- so that she's very depressed. That's going to take enormous antidepressant treatment and psychological treatment.
Third, she will need -- if she is ever to get out, she will need psycho-social therapies in order to adapt to coming back to the community or wherever she is able to go back to live, assuming she is able to get out. I certainly don't have that information.
KING: Would you say the likelihood is she'll be -- a lengthy stay in the hospital?
REID: The average, certainly, is a lengthy stay. I can't say in this instance. It's certainly true that she had no previous history of other kinds of violence. But both the state mental health officials and staffs, and the judicial system, are going to work very hard to be certain that things are safe before and if she leaves the hospital.
KING: We'll be right back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Senator Kennedy later. We'll include your phone calls in a little while. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The State of Texas versus Deanna Laney. The court has received the following verdict. We the jury, unanimously and by a preponderance of the evidence, find the defendant, Deanna Laney, not guilty by reason of insanity. Signed by the foreman. Cause # 114141203. The court has received the following verdict. We the jury find, unanimously and by a preponderance of the evidence, the defendant, Deanna Laney, not guilty by reason of insanity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
LANEY: I just killed my boys.
911 OPERATOR: You did -- ma'am, you did what?
LANEY: I just killed my boys.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KING: Rusty Yates, does your wife, Andrea, know about this case and the verdict?
YATES: She knows about the case. I haven't seen her since the verdict. I'll see her next Saturday.
KING: What do you think her reaction will be?
YATES: I think she'll be happy. I really do. You know, one thing that -- you know, one advantage Ms. Laney will have now is that she'll be in a facility where, you know, the focus is treatment and not security. So she's much more likely to get good treatment. I think she'll get more privileges with respect to seeing her family, and you know, getting the support from her loved ones and friends that she'll really need to recover, so...
KING: Buck, is her husband supportive? Is Deanna's husband supportive of her?
FILES: I think he is very supportive. He took the witness stand. He said he still loved her. Unlike Mr. Yates, he's a very private person. He didn't give any tours of the house. His support has been strong but quiet.
KING: What's been her reaction? What has she said to you since?
FILES: Obviously, she is so very pleased that the stress of the trial is over. Like Bill Reid was talking about, she is totally aware of everything that she did. This causes her pain every single day. It will be a long time before she is going to be able to handle the depression, which she's experienced since about a week after the events. KING: Let's see a little bit more -- we should you earlier -- we thank Court TV again -- of the psychiatric interview with Deanna Laney. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LANEY: And then I grabbed the rock that was next to his head.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A different rock?
LANEY: A different rock. And I started hitting him. And Luke had passed out the first time. The first hit, Joshua didn't. I had to hold his hands down with my knees.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Dr. Reid, in her delusion, did she think she was helping these kids, sending them to a better place?
REID: No, it wasn't this kind of filicide or mother killing her children. It wasn't an altruistic thing at all, but she did believe deep in her heart that an infallible God, a God that would never steer her wrong, was telling her, requiring her to do that.
KING: Matt Bingham, when you prosecute a case like this, are you as forceful as if this were a premeditated murder? Is one case like another, or was this different?
BINGHAM: Well, no, this case was different. We don't really, in Texas, have the term premeditation. But you know, this case was different in the fact that, you know, the mental health experts did unite on the side of insanity, so procedurally, it was a little bit different. What we told the jurors early on is, Look -- look at all the evidence, we're going to put it out there on the table in front of you. If you agree with the mental health experts, then find her insane, and the system works. If you find her to be sane, then find her guilty, and the system also works. You know, we wanted them to look at everything and make their decision and -- but it was a little different. It was a different type of case, definitely.
KING: Kevin, has this gotten reaction all over Texas, as it has outside of Texas?
BERNS: This is all over the country. I've been getting e-mails the past three days from Arizona to Virginia, from people who are disgusted with the verdict, who don't understand, I guess, what was going on here. But yes, it's not contained to Texas. This is all over the country.
KING: We'll take a break and come back and include some of your phone calls. Senator Ted Kennedy still to come later. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LANEY: I heard him breathe one more time. And I looked up, and I saw a streak of lightning come out of the sky, and I knew that he was dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BINGHAM: If she's so committed to what she believes to be God's plan that she puts this little blood-soaked body back into the crib alive, not dead -- not dead, like she tells you God told her to do -- and he's making a sickening gurgling sound, as she so described it, that she throws a pillow over his head.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Let's include your phone calls. Farmersburg (ph), Indiana. Hello.
KING: Hi. What's your question?
CALLER: I have a question. Will Mrs. Deanna Laney ever be able to have contact with her infant son?
KING: Do we know that, Buck?
FILES: If she does, it's going to be a long time from now. She's in the Smith County jail. The jail has a policy of no visitation for young children, so she has not seen Aaron for a long time. And I'm sure it will be some time in the future, if ever, before she sees him again.
KING: What are the rules on hospital visits, Matt?
BINGHAM: You know, I -- Mr. King, I don't know the rule on hospital visits. I hope that -- In my opinion, and it's just my opinion, I think she's forfeited that right ever to see Aaron again. You know, he's got a shunt that's drilled in the skull of his head and he's got a tube going down his abdomen to drain synovial spinal fluid for the rest of his life. So you know, I don't know that, in my opinion, she ought to ever see Aaron again.
KING: Dr. Reid...
BINGHAM: But I don't know the rules on hospital visits.
KING: Dr. Reid, should she?
REID: Whether she should or not, it's very hard to say right now what the future holds. So I simply don't know. I simply can't comment on it.
YATES: Once she's treated, I'd really hope that she is able to. I think it would mean a tremendous amount to her and absolutely a tremendous amount to her son, as well. So I really hope that happens one day.
KING: Kevin, would you say the community would be opposed?
BERNS: Yes, I have a feeling that they're going to side with Matt here, and she's forfeited that right to ever see him again.
KING: Chicago. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. My question for the panel is, do they feel that with this verdict, that they -- they're setting up a precedent for other people in the country to commit these kind of murders and blame it on, you know, something that's not tangible and get away with it, you know, blame it on whatever it is, the...
KING: Matt, do you fear the "God told me to do it" excuse?
BINGHAM: Who was the question for?
KING: Matt. For you, Matt. Do you think people will do...
KING: ... in the future who do maybe irrational things will have the "God" out?
BINGHAM: Well, you know, I don't know. I'm getting a little tired of hearing it. And I'm getting a little tired of the mothers always hurting their babies. I'm ready for the mothers to hurt themselves. You know, I'm getting a little tired of the mothers hurting their children. And hopefully, that -- you know, that won't happen. But I'm getting a little tired of hearing it, you know, and hopefully, no more kids will be hurt.
FILES: Let me jump in, Larry.
KING: Go ahead.
FILES: If I may -- if I may jump in? I understand that the national view on this is generally against Ms. Laney and against the insanity defense in this case. Let me point out the insanity defense is raised very rarely anywhere, and including the United States. The insanity defense has been with us, in one form or another, for a thousand years or so. It's been with us in Western law, in English law, since the mid-1800s. It is not used very often. When it is used, it is very difficult to win. Just ask any lawyer -- defense lawyer who has tried. And particularly here in Texas, and in Smith County and other counties in which I've worked from time to time, this is a very unusual win.
I am not at all worried about a precedent. What I am worried about, or interested in, is juries that hear all the evidence on both sides and come to a fair decision, which this jury apparently did. That is, 12 people saw terrible photographs, they also heard a lot of testimony, and at the end of the day, all 12 voted for the insanity verdict.
KING: That was obviously based on some very convincing testimony by the experts. Rusty, was your wife's plea insanity, too?
YATES: Yes, it was. And let me say, you know, people act as though, well, you know, it's a forgone conclusion that these cases have to go to trial, and I completely disagree with that. There's a tremendous burden and cost to the family for these, just financially and emotionally. And take, you know, Ms. Laney. I mean, here she is, she's -- you know, she loved her children. She became sick. She did the unthinkable. And then what do they do? They take her into a courtroom and, you know, rub her nose in crime scene photos. That's the cruelest thing, you know, that could be done. There's a tremendous cost of going to trial, and they did not have to go to trial. They have the discretion...
KING: They could have done what?
YATES: Defer the case and send her to a mental institution, save the taxpayers' money, save the families' money and anguish and save Ms. Laney from the trauma of going through that trial.
KING: Matt, did you consider that?
BINGHAM: No, I didn't. You know, my focus was on those little dead boys in that rock garden. You know, Joshua had -- was hit so many times that he had the brains leaking out of his head. And you know, he fought his mother for his life. His tongue was bruised, which means he was yelling. And you know, the last thing that he saw in his life was looking up, seeing his mom beat him to death after he just asked her, as he was walking outside, Where are we going, Mommy? So my focus wasn't too much on whether or not Ms. Laney was going to have her nose looking at autopsy photos. My focus was more on those little boys and what they had to endure in the last minutes of their life.
My burden is only to prove she did it under the law. And I don't have any burden as to sanity or insanity. I only have to prove she did it. And that's what the law says, and I followed it.
KING: Buck, did you try to get them to do that, to save a trial?
FILES: You better believe I did, But unfortunately, it is not the defense who has the option of whether or not the case goes to trial. I don't doubt that Mr. Bingham proceeded in absolute good faith in making decisions, which he did, but we certainly did argue very early on that this was a case where the defendant was clearly insane. I knew by May 16, less than a week after the event, that Dr. Philip Resnick (ph), who is one of America's authorities on infanticide, had come to the conclusions which Dr. Reid talked about all the doctors having. So we had to wait for 10-and-a-half to get into court and get the result which we believed that we were going to get.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with some more moments and some more phone calls, and then Senator Ted Kennedy. Don't go away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LANEY: I just went and got Joshua. I got him out of the bed, and I took him outside and I laid him down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On a rock also?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On a rock?
LANEY: Laid his head on a rock.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We'll take another call on this extraordinary matter. Toronto, hello.
CALLER: Good evening.
CALLER: My question is to Matt. I wanted to know is this just like a one-time incident that these women hear these voices telling them to kill the children, or do they hear this all the time? And why aren't they out doing it you know, to the neighbors, to anybody else? It just seems to me like it's an isolated...
KING: I think that's better suited to Dr. Reid, who would be the expert in the matter. Dr Reid?
REID: We know that Ms. Laney has been very sick for a long time. It is unusual but certainly not unheard of for people to be sick without others knowing it. We know there are a few good reasons in Ms. Laney's case. It's not something that came up over night. The illness has been there for a long time, so that it's simply not a snapping, if you will, at least not in this matter.
KING: Was it part of your contention, Matt, that it was a snapping, or she had some kind of planning going on?
BINGHAM: Well, I never contested that she had been mentally ill, and I think they said there were certain psychotic breaks over a period of years. You know, but to me, the aspect of her trying to hide it was very important. You know, if you're looking about if she knows her conduct is wrong or not, when she tells Keith Laney as he comes into the bedroom, everything is fine, and she attempts to hide the body, Luke, from Joshua. She tells on the 911 tape I think I did wrong by Aaron, those were the things I wanted the jury to look at and consider. I think the mental health experts for the most part addressed that, I know Dr. Reid did in his, but that's something I wanted the jury to look at because to me it was an indicator of possible sanity.
KING: Kevin, were you surprised they were back in seven hours? BERNS: I actually thought it would be quicker than that. This was a jury sitting through voir dire with the jury selection, very open-minded, willing to make the hard decisions, as is typical for Smith county jurors.
KING: Were you, therefore, not shocked at their verdict?
BERNS: I wasn't shocked at all. They were very emotional when they came in, sat down and were openly crying. They were looking at Deanna throughout the reading of the verdict, trying to get her reaction. One juror had a box of tissue, and they really took it seriously. Throughout the trial, what was very interesting to note was when they were showing the graphic videos and photos, many people in the audience, including Keith and the family, couldn't watch. They had their head in their hands, but the jury was very intent and kept their eyes on the task in front of them.
KING: Portland, Oregon. Hello.
CALLER: My question is for Mr. Yates.
CALLER: I was wondering with the verdict in this trial, because I do believe that both women were insane when they did harm their children, is there a possibility that there might be a new trial for Andrea Yates?
YATES: Well, you know, that's a little tough to say. Usually, you know, we're going to file an appeal soon in Andrea's case, and I think, at least to me it seems like the general trend is people are beginning to under there are reasons why, you know, women may kill their children that are, you know, valid and not their fault. You know, if that influences the appellate court, great. It's not going to change Andrea's record, but it may improve public sentiment and influence the court in that respect.
KING: Ottawa, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry, a question for your panel. I look at the Laney and Yates and Susan -- I don't remember her last name.
CALLER: I look at the family, and they're all boys in all three cases here. My question to your panel would be is -- what is the ratio between boys and girls when mothers kill their children.
KING: Dr. Reid?
REID: I don't think there's any particular preference for boys over girls. The children are very often younger. The person who kills them is very often a mother, as contrasted with a father. I don't know of any differentiation between boys and girls.
KING: All right. What are we going to learn from this, Buck, if anything?
files: I think that you learn that it is possible for people to have serious mental illnesses and for no one, even the closest to them, to know it. I think you can learn this is a disease that is as serious as cancer, and there's absolutely nothing in the way of chemotherapy or radiation that just makes it go away. One of the significant points that was made in the case is that you can't put a delusion out of your mind. It's there, it controls you. With the exception of a belief in a supreme being, there is no stronger fixed belief than a delusion, and that loving, wonderful people, if they have a serious mental disease, can do something that is absolutely, totally unimaginable.
KING: What did you learn, Matt?
BINGHAM: Well, I think -- I hope what people learned throughout this trial is that, you know, this is an issue you try to a jury. Whether they come back, they find her sane or insane, when you've got kids that are being killed by their mothers, this is an issue that I think you need to take to trial, you need to let the jury decide those issues because you don't try this case in the hospital or with a panel of experts. That's why we have a court system, lawyers, and you know, I think the prosecution needs to meet its burden and make the defense meet theirs, and just understand this is something that, when women are doing this to their kids, or men doing it to their kids, that the loss is so tremendous. These children are gone forever, that this is something the juries need to look at. People need to know that there's going to be accountability in front of a jury.
KING: We only have a minute left. Dr. Reid, what have we learned psychiatrically?
REID: Psychiatrically, we saw things we've known for a long time. But the question is quite correctly decided in the courts. I would have very little to add to what Buck Files just said.
KING: Rusty Yates, has this buoyed your hopes -- we've got not a lot of time -- of an appeal. Because justices read the papers and they see stories.
YATES: In that respect, it does. It's encouraging the fact that unfortunately Andrea's case was first and I think it raised public awareness about this problem and I think we were able to take some lessons learned from Andrea's case and apply it to the Laneys case. So I'm encouraged by that.
KING: Kevin Berns, how long do we stay on the story?
BERNS: Locally, we'll stay on it until the end. I know nationally it will probably disappear in a few days here but we've been on it for 10 and a half months here and we plan to stick with it until the end, at least until we find out how long she will be put away.
KING: Thank you all very very much for an enlightening half hour. When we come back, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts will be our special guest. Don't go away.
KING: Now it's a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE the senior senator from the state of Massachusetts, Senator Edward Kennedy, from his office in Washington.
A blistering speech today, taking on Bush on the domestic side. Also included in that speech, stating, Senator Kennedy, that the administration known or should have known that they were saying things that were not true.
Are you calling this administration liars?
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, basically, Larry, when President Bush became president, I was very hopeful that we could work together in the areas of education reform. And we did.
And President Bush had asserted, as I did, that you needed two things for education reform. You -- you needed reform and you needed resources. What we did is we passed a bill that had reform, but we haven't had the resources. And that, I think, is similar to other kinds of issues that we're facing in public policy.
I think this administration misled the American people in the war with Iraq. Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction, it wasn't tied to al Qaeda. What we should have been focusing on is al Qaeda. And we've also seen that with the Medicare bill.
And I think one of the most important things that we can do is to have an administration that we can work with. We'll have philosophical differences, but I found that I could work with President Reagan on arms control. I worked with Bush I on the Americans with Disabilities Act, along with Tom Harkin and others, who've worked in a bipartisan way.
I was rather startled. I was rather surprised that after we had the downpayment on education, suddenly we stopped the funding, and it went in a different way.
KING: Senator, when you say misleading, are you -- distorting deliberately or not having the facts? What are you...
KENNEDY: Well, it's -- it's very, very clear with regards to education. We had reform plus funding. We just passed a $2.4 billion budget for this next year. We would have needed $8 billion out of the $2.4 trillion -- $2.4 trillion -- for the -- for funding the No Child Left Behind. We got zero money in it. We don't want to misrepresent that we're doing something for children and then not do it.
This was true in terms of the Medicare system -- Medicare reform, where the Medicare -- our seniors need prescription drugs. But they also need it at a price that they can afford it. And what we're going to have is a Medicare bill that they have at the present time with Medicare -- with prescription drug prices that are right up through the roof. KING: So are you saying it is more than a philosophical difference?
KENNEDY: Yes. Basically, we've had differences with Democrats and Republicans, but this is an administration that has, as I mentioned, manipulated, distorted, misrepresented information. They did with regards to Iraq. They've done it with regards to education. They've done it with Medicare. They've done it with our economic policies.
And we need a basis of trust so that we can try and work through even differences in philosophy. That's the big difference that we have with this administration, as to compare to other Republican administrations.
KING: Is it rough, personally, to attack an administration?
KENNEDY: Well, in one sense, I certainly consider the -- the -- I have a personal relationship with the president. But I also feel very strongly about the issues that are at stake.
I've been fortunate enough to represent Massachusetts for 40 years in the United States Senate. I've been on the Education Committee. Education is very important to me. It is to families across the country.
And so when you see the opportunities that are missed, and then you see the distortion, misrepresentation, that isn't just making me upset, but it's upsetting the students, who are putting out at 100 percent, the parents, the school boards, all of those involved in education and reform. They're the ones that are the -- the ones that are being left behind.
I'm an advocate for the people that I represent, and I welcome the opportunity to do so. But I take these issues seriously.
KING: Concerning the economy, the general -- isn't the general indication that it's beginning to turn around? They had a job improvement picture in March.
KENNEDY: When I think of the economy, I think of a number of factors. I think of the issues of the jobs. And we know that all -- with each of the new jobs, they are averaging $8,000 less in pay than the jobs they replaced. And we're still two million jobs less than the jobs that we had at the time that this administration, the Bush administration, took office.
We -- certainly the 300,000 that were added last week is a hopeful sign. But when we're talking about the economy, we're talking about the jobs that are paying less. The average pay is about 21 percent less for the new jobs created.
We're also thinking about the cost of health care. The average cost for working families has gone up 43 percent. And so many people have dropped health care. The economy is also reflected in the fact that tuition has gone up 23 percent. And the tax cut nowhere near comes near to paying those.
So working families -- working families are working much longer. They're working much harder. And they're falling further behind. And that is the description -- that is what I'm concerned about when you're talking about it.
And also, we have an administration that opposes raising the minimum wage for seven years. We're paying $5.15. This administration has been opposed and is also threatening to take away overtime for workers. And even for those that have been unemployed, now let the unemployment compensation fund lapse.
You know, it just seems that working families, working people are just left behind with this administration, in a way which is really quite different from past administrations.
KING: What do you make of this attack on, quote, "liberals"? I guess you'd be called a great liberal of the United States Senate. You take that personally?
KENNEDY: Not at all. I mean, I'm proud of my record. I don't run from the label.
But I think what Americans are looking for, more than labels -- I think this administration would like to run on labels, because they have a basically weak record. Certainly they do in domestic and dealing with the economy and education and health care. But the fact is the American people want more than labels, and they want more than slogans.
They want to know which of the candidates, whether it's this administration or John Kerry, is going to offer a vision and see a restoration of our economy, and an expanding and growing economy. And also a vision about what this country is going to be, not only for the people of this country, what we're going to represent around the world.
John Kerry is going to have a positive, hopeful message. And that, I think, is what Americans are going to be -- really respond to. I think this administration is going to continue to try and look at labels, slogans, cliches, negative ads.
I don't think over the long term Americans will buy that. What they're looking for is really -- they're looking for addressing the kinds of issues that people are most concerned about in their daily lives -- education, health care, health care costs, accessibility of health care.
KING: We'll take a break, come right back in our remaining moments to talk about a couple of other things, including Iraq, with Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY: How do we reestablish the working relationships we need with other countries to win the war on terrorism and advance the ideals we share. How can we possibly expect President Bush to do that. He's the problem not the solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Senator Kennedy.
You said today that Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam, and this country needs a new president. Vietnam was started under a Democratic administration.
How do you compare the two?
KENNEDY: We're facing a quagmire in Iraq, just as we faced a quagmire in Vietnam. We didn't understand what we were getting ourselves into in Vietnam. We didn't understand what we were doing in -- in Iraq. We had misrepresentations about what we were able to do militarily in Vietnam. I think we are finding that out in Iraq, as well.
That is basically the -- the similarity. And we have to find new leadership in order to -- to be able to resolve this with a sense of dignity and with a sense of respect, which is going to make sure that we're going to see an independent Iraq, that Americans are brought home with dignity.
KING: What are you expecting from Ms. Rice on Thursday?
KENNEDY: Well, you know, I would hope that Ms. Rice would first of all respond to why the administration continues to have a character assassination to everyone that differs with the administration on Iraq?
I mean, here we had Mr. Clarke come up and make his presentation, and we saw the most vicious kind of attacks on him and -- by the administration. We had General Shinseki on the Armed Services Committee make projections and predictions of what was going to happen in Iraq. And they dumped all over him.
This is a technique. And I would hope that this aspect of the administration's assault on those that have been critical of the Iraqi policy and are showing to be correct, I would hope that that would be set aside.
Beyond that, what we want to do is to find out what are the lessons that we can learn from this experience, that can hopefully give -- give us a course, a path to the future so it can be avoided in the future.
KING: President Bush said today -- vowed to meet the deadline of June 30. Said he thinks there will be more violence as the deadline approaches, as terrorists try to test America's will.
Are you concerned about June 30?
KENNEDY: Well, very much so. I mean, we have to -- the date has been set. And obviously, to try and get the target, the bullseye, off the backs of Americans, as they are represented as occupiers and not liberators, that has to be something that we have to be successful at or we're going to have a very long, bloody, difficult, costly -- additionally costly fight.
The idea of transitioning into the Iraqi sovereignty makes some sense, but that date of June 30, I believe when it was set was set more timed to American elections than it was with regarding the development of the Iraqis to be able to achieve their own sovereignty.
The real question, I think, now is who are they going to turn the power and authority over to?
Certainly, that is not very clear today, and that is something that has to be addressed.
KING: What do you gather is public opinion concerning Iraq?
KENNEDY: Very divided. I think the Americans still believe that somehow Iraq was involved in the -- in 9/11 and that Saddam had some connection with it and that there was a danger of nuclear capability that would have threatened the world. And that if we didn't do something immediate, that Saddam was going to turn all of his weapons of mass destruction over to terrorists.
There was complete distortion and misrepresentation among the Armed Services Committee. I not only listened to the testimony, but you could listen to the open testimony, and if you listened to those military men, highly decorated, highly competent, that predicted what was going to happen there, you would have voted no. I did vote no.
But the point -- the most important point is that Iraq has been a distraction from our attack on al Qaeda. I think most people believe now if we'd given the full force and attention that we gave to Iraq and put that in pursuit of Osama bin Laden, we could have been successful in locating him and could have dealt a fatal blow to al Qaeda.
And now what we're facing is a hydra-headed terrorist group around the world. And it's more complicated, more difficult. And as I said, Iraq has become this administration's Vietnam.
KING: Would you say you're pessimistic?
KENNEDY: Well, I'm not by nature. I believe that there has to be an alteration or change. I believe that there is no way that this administration can develop the confidence internationally from any of the neighboring states in order to be able to build the kind of a policy where we could see the United States see a free and developed, independent Iraq and American forces brought home.
I think you -- there is no credibility left for this administration, and that part of the world needs a change. I think John Kerry has the background, the war experience, somebody that's seen war, understands war, and the foreign policy experience to give us a new opportunity to see this resolved, where we can bring Americans home with honor. That's what we're all interested in. And I think he's the man to do it.
KING: What kind of an election do you expect?
KENNEDY: Close, and I think it will be -- what we have seen to date, an effort to -- to stress the negative, rather than the hopeful. I think Americans are about to tire of that.
I think you'll see, from Senator Kerry, a hopeful message, an upbeat message, a vision about what he wants to do here at home, particularly with regards to the economy, which is the key to all the hopes and dreams of families.
And also, I think you're going to get a sense from this campaign the kind of leadership that he would provide in terms of national security here at home, in dealing with the challenge of terrorism abroad, and how he would be a leader within the free world community and get this issue behind us and address many of the other international issues.
KING: Senator, we'll see you in Massachusetts in July.
KENNEDY: Nice to be on your program.
KING: One more thing before we go. Congratulations to LARRY KING LIVE producer Nancy Baker. Her most amazing production ever, a little baby girl, born this morning in Los Angeles. Six-pound 14- ounce Abigail Morgan Baker is doing very well, as our new mom, Nancy, and her co-producer on this project, husband and father Darren (ph) Baker.
Tomorrow night, as we wish everyone a happy Passover, a major program on religion. And we invite you to stay tuned for "NEWSNIGHT" next.
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