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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview With Bob Woodward

Aired April 23, 2004 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Bob Woodward is back for the second time this week with more of the explosive White House details that still has everybody talking about his new book, "Plan of Attack." Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize winner with extraordinary access to the Bush administration for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Bob Woodward was first with us on Monday night. Hillary Clinton was on the next night. You're going to hear a statement of hers in a little while about Mr. Woodward's book. But it's a great pleasure to have him back tonight. Lots happened during this week.

Are you surprised at all the reaction to this?

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "PLAN OF ATTACK": In a way, no, because this -- people are still trying to get the answer to the question, "Who is George Bush?" And is it somebody that they want to vote for. And obviously, the election, obviously, with the economy kind of in a middle position, the Iraq war being -- such awful things happening there, it's kind of center stage, and people are saying this is a window into who this guy is. And I believe it is.

KING: Is that why you think so many people read themselves into it? For instance, a Democrat might say, boy, this is a good attack. A Republican says, boy, this shows a strong president. Is it an ink- blot test?

WOODWARD: In a -- in a way. And it is -- it's a long book, full of detail of -- so you can kind of walk the road with Bush as he did this, and it does show a strong leader. At the same time, there are lots of problems when you look at it, and you would kind of say, wait a minute. When Colin Powell warned him about the dangers of owning Iraq, why didn't he call in all the experts about occupation and look more thoroughly at what the alternatives are? When he was warned about weapons of mass destruction, or when he really warned himself because he didn't like the presentation by the CIA, and then George Tenet said, oh, don't worry, it's a slam dunk, why didn't he call in some experts and say, we're going to start from square one on this and make sure we're absolutely right?

KING: And that point right there -- in fact, I mentioned Hillary Clinton. I'm going to go to it now because I asked her about the book and her thoughts on the president and questioning things. Watch this clip, and then your reaction to it. Watch. This occurred the night after you were on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I think it's important to have a president who asks a lot of questions, who's intellectually curious, who seeks out contrary points of view, who doesn't just surround himself with people who see the world the same way he does. You know, there is no one world view that encompasses every reality that exists on this planet, and you have to have a decision-making process that pushes a lot of information up and asks a lot of hard questions. You don't get that sense from this White House.

KING: But in this book, he does ask questions of Rumsfeld, of Cheney...

CLINTON: He is very...

KING: ... Are you sure, do you...

CLINTON: Yes, but in very formal settings -- you know, meetings where information's been portrayed and it's the same people he's asking over and over again. You know, if you're going to ask Cheney the same question over and over again, you're going to get the same answer because it's the answer that he wants you to have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Is she right, Bob? Did he not broaden it to more people?

WOODWARD: Well, that's -- that's probably true. He -- interestingly enough, he's the one who asks the most questions. And if there would be a criticism that somebody might have -- and this is not me, some people who have actually read the book said he didn't follow through from his own skepticism, that when he was given warnings, he didn't say, wait a minute. Stop everything. Let's -- as Senator Clinton suggests, let's make sure we're right. And of course, the only way to do that -- and of course, you never can be sure you're right -- is to make sure you've looked at alternatives.

KING: How do you react to this. "The Stewart Florida News (ph)" says, "It would seem supporters of the president have a great deal to like in this book. It makes no slam-dunk case against him." "The Charleston, West Virginia, Gazette" -- "a disturbing picture of a president who's a shallow thinker." Today, front page calendar section, "L.A. Times," gives this book -- they don't like many things -- an enormous rave and credits it for fair and balanced and your best writing.

What's your reaction to all this -- these bouncing balls?

WOODWARD: Well, everyone's going to see it differently, and that is -- some columnists would say, well, you're not making it simple. And my reaction is, it's not simple at all. This is the most complex, important decision that a president can make, and people who read the book are going to bring very different things to it. I'm sure there are lots of people who are just George Bush fans no matter what, and there are lots of people who don't like him or are appalled by the war, and they bring that to the start of it. And there's a lot of fodder for both sides.

KING: Now, Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show, called the book anti-Bush and anti-war. Limbaugh says, "I don't know why the president or anyone else in the administration who supports the war against Iraq would give Mr. Woodward the time of day. Surely, they had to know his reporting methods and his popularity with the beautiful people." I don't know who -- does he mean there are ugly people? I don't know what that means.

WOODWARD: If there are ugly people, I represent that group.

KING: What do you make of the criticism of why they give you access?

WOODWARD: Well, it -- you know, we've talked about this access, and what it is is reporting, and the editors and owners of "The Washington Post" gave me a year to dig as deeply into this as I could. And so you get information. You get more. And as I say in the book, I sent the president and people in the White House a 21-page memo outlining what I had. And one of the very key people looked at it and said, you're going to write this book anyway, aren't you. And I said, Yes, I am. And I think they then decided that the information was accurate, that I would listen and represent the president's point of view completely, and so you might as well talk.

I think -- you know, when you were talking to him about baseball for an hour, hour-and-a-half, he gets into things. And this was only supposed to be an hour, and after we went an hour-and-a-half, he said, I want you back, and actually called for his schedule for the next day and marked something out and then said, you come at 1:30 tomorrow and we'll do it. And so you know, it's kind of clear the decks, I'm going to tell you what I felt and how I did this.

KING: In fact, as we go along, Bob will read some of the transcripts of what exactly the president said. We'll get to that in a while.

Our guest is Bob Woodward, returning again after Monday night, returning tonight. The next book is "Plan of Attack," already a major, runaway best-seller. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Bob Woodward, author of "Plan of Attack."

There is a dispute over when Bush decided on war. Rice and Powell have challenged your assertion that he decided in January of 2003. They say it was March.

WOODWARD: You want my answer?

KING: Yes. WOODWARD: The best answer I can give is what the president said about this. On page 40 of the transcript of the first interview, December 10, 2003, I went to this question of the meeting with Prince Bandar and Vice President Cheney and Don Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense. And I -- my question to the president -- I'm going to read you literally but not too much.

And the question is, "And Don Rumsfeld then comes to you at this point -- this is early January, and says, `look, other countries are going to make commitments and take on risks." The president, "Oh, yes."

Question, "They're going to put people's lives in danger, and this is almost an unbreakable commitment. I've got to go tell them we're going." The president, "yes."

Question, "And you authorized him" -- that's Rumsfeld -- "and Dick Cheney, starting with Bandar." That's Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador. The president, "Right."

"For the Saudis," I say. President, "Right."

Question, "Calling him in?" The president, "To say we're serious."

"My question, is what -- what I was told occurred. You can count on this. You can take that to the bank. This is going to happen." The president, "Yes. Right. That Saddam Hussein will be removed at this point in time."

Couldn't be clearer. Interviews with all kinds of other people on this. Returning to that with the president, the part of the on- the-record transcript with Rumsfeld, he deleted in which he, Rumsfeld, tells me that he told Bandar, "You can take this to the bank. This is going to happen."

Now, what's fascinating is you have these people not really arguing with me, they're arguing with their boss, the president.

KING: Why did they delete that?

WOODWARD: They -- in fairness, Pentagon people say that it was an honest mistake, that we had a misunderstanding on it. I mean, the idea that I would -- we have the transcript, and I went over it with some people over there. The idea that I would want to delete what backs up is in the book -- you know, that's not something I'm going to do, I can promise you.

KING: Now, at the Pentagon briefing this week, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was asked about the January 11 meeting last year attended by he, Rumsfeld, Cheney, General Myers and Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar, who called in to our show on Monday night. At that meeting, Woodward -- you say in the book, "Rumsfeld pointed to a map of the war plans for Iraq and told Bandar it was going to happen."

Here is what Rumsfeld responded. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: To my knowledge, a decision had not been taken by the president to go to war just at that meeting. There was certainly nothing I said that should have suggested that. And any suggestion to the contrary would not be accurate.

QUESTION: Do you remember saying, "You can take it to the bank. This is going to happen"?

RUMSFELD: It -- I -- I don't remember saying it, to be perfectly honest, but I -- I have said that, that phrase in my life. But I could have said it about a dozen different things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Your reaction, Bob?

WOODWARD: Well, I'll take Rumsfeld's own words, authenticated, from my interview with him October 23, 2003. Quote directly, Rumsfeld, "I remember meeting with the vice president and I think Dick Myers" -- who's the chairman of the Joint Chiefs -- "and I met with a foreign dignitary." Rumsfeld doesn't want to say it's Bandar. Later totally confirmed. "And at one point, I looked him in the eye and I said, `You can count on this.' In other words, at some point, we had had enough of a signal from the president that we were able to look a foreign dignitary in the eye and say, `You can take that to the bank. And this is going to happen.' "

Now, they're not talking about the lunch menu. On -- in the meeting is the top secret war plan that explains graphically how we are going to invade Iraq. I -- I -- there's no ambiguity here.

KING: Now, you -- you're reading from a transcript that you also have on tape, right?

WOODWARD: Absolutely.

KING: This isn't note taking.

WOODWARD: That -- this is a transcript authenticated with the Pentagon. And I have asked them to restore this page to what they put out.

KING: Why deny, then?

WOODWARD: You know, that's -- you know, do a dance, fuzz it up, perhaps get the focus on this issue rather than the 150 other issues in the book. You'd have to ask them.

KING: But that's not like Don Rumsfeld, isn't it? Isn't he generally regarded as a direct kind of guy?

WOODWARD: That's right. And when I interviewed him, he was very direct about what happened. Now, as the book points out, this is early January, 2003. We didn't go to war for about two-and-a-half months after that, or two months. And at a press conference, you could dig it up, I think on March 6, the president said he had not decided on military action. Of course, all of this is somewhat of a contradiction.

Now, in fairness to the president on all of this, when you're deciding on war, you can't wake up one morning and call everyone in and say, let's go to war this afternoon. You have to play in. There was diplomacy going on. You are working two tracks that are often in contradiction, in tension. And as I write in the book, as soon as the president had these meetings in early January, he then became enveloped in a very complicated world of contradictions, hedging. He was going both ways. But if you look at any war where somebody's trying to keep it from occurring, they're going to be engaged in intense planning and deciding about military action and diplomacy.

KING: Do you regard it as weird or is it a compliment that both the Kerry website and the Bush website have your book as suggested reading? It seems to be that the Bush campaign seems to regard it as a net positive.

WOODWARD: You know, that's -- I think that's people in the White House, and I think the president himself -- I don't know whether he's read it. Somebody who has talked to him said he's looked at the book, and he's happy with it, and this is a quote, "warts and all." And so I think there is a kind of realism on his part about, yes, you're going to tell people you've decided something and you have to move forward, you have to get the Saudis, you have to get the Jordanians, you have to get lots of countries on board. You just can't call them up and say, we're going tomorrow.

KING: He's extremely confident in his views, correct?

WOODWARD: He is. Unshakable. And of course, lots of people are going to like that and lots of people are going to say, wait a minute. Look at all the points where he got information and warnings and didn't consider it. All of this is going to be answered, in a sense, during this political campaign, and ultimately, by the outcome on the ground in Iraq.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more of Bob Woodward. The book is "Plan of Attack." Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We saw a threat based upon intelligence in Iraq. The intelligence said there's a threat. The very same intelligence looked at by the United States Congress, caused them to reach the same conclusion.

The United Nations security council looked at the intelligence and said, Saddam's a threat and so -- and for about -- I can't remember how many times they said it but they said disarm. They said, you're a threat, disarm.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Bob Woodward.

Let's get to Colin Powell, the impact of the book on him. Clarence Page in "The Chicago Tribune" says, "portrays a secretary of state blatantly dissed by his boss. Why didn't Powell quit while he was behind?"

"The Boston Globe", "Powell cut loose the ties of loyalty via Bob Woodward's new book. While his instincts seem deadly accurate, given the sad state of affairs in Iraq, the tactic of telling all and telling it anonymously for a pre-election book is unquestionably disloyal."

And a "New York Times" editorial -- "If the Woodward book is the version of inside-the-White-House history that Mr. Powell wanted people to believe, it has done nothing but burnish his reputation. Knowing that Mr. Powell thought the invasion was a bad idea, doesn't make him look better, it makes his inaction puzzling and disappointing."

What's your reaction?

WOODWARD: Two points in Powell's defense, and this is in the book. First of all, he's a soldier, spent 35 years in the Army, and you learn in the Army, you may talk to the commander and say, no, we shouldn't try to take that hill, but then when the commander says, yes, you go. Even though the machine guns are directed at you, you don't turn around and say, this -- this -- oh, I was opposed to this. I'm running back down the hill. Powell would not do that.

The second reason, which I think is even larger, the soldiers over there. He -- Powell identifies -- I did a book on the first Gulf war, when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and he identifies with the -- he was a soldier. He's -- did two tours in Vietnam and watched the impact not only on the country, the United States and Vietnam, but on the people who went there. And it was devastating.

And if he were to resign at any point in this build-up, in this decision process, imagine how the soldier in the foxhole or the tank or the pilots flying the Air Force plane would feel. It would be like the most respected man in the government, in many ways, the most respected former military person around, had walked off the battlefield. And Powell would not -- I think for him, it's unthinkable to leave in that context.

KING: What do you make of his denials about the book?

WOODWARD: I think it -- I understand it's a very difficult time for him. I got this information over a long period of time. I think there were a lot of people who thought it would come out before the election and not at this time. I wanted it to come out as soon as possible.

You know, just an indicator on this -- and I think it's an indicator of the anguish he's going through, when he was asked about this, he said -- he said, we all talked to Woodward, that the White House instructed us to. And then he said, in his case, it was a couple of phone calls.

Well, a couple is two, maybe three. Well, there were six long interviews on the telephone, tape-recorded, long transcripts, one is 32 pages, one is 16 pages, one is 26 pages, very comprehensive. I'm not going to go into what he said because it was -- these were background interviews. But I can assure you that all the questions that are being discussed here were addressed.

And I think, you know, it's one of those things where you get caught or you don't like the outcome, and you say, oh, it was a couple, when it was six. In a sense, that's all you need to know.

KING: When I asked you on Monday, if Bush were reelected, whether Powell would stay, you said, no chance. Do you think, as a reporter, he has been harmed?

WOODWARD: Well, harmed in what way? I'm sorry to ask you a question back.

KING: Oh, people's opinions of him are less, generally, that he should have stood up for what he believed in or should have quit, even though you make a strong point that a general doesn't quit, and that he -- if he's in an uncomfortable situation, why stay?

WOODWARD: Well, he warned the president about, you're going to own this country if you invade, and talked at length with the president about the consequences of this. And then in the fall of -- in September of 2002, so six months before the war, the president gave his speech to the U.N. essentially saying, you, U.N., and a coalition disarm Saddam Hussein or we're going to do it alone in the United States.

Interestingly enough, there's a top secret document which I quote from, the month before that says specifically, signed by the president, that this is our policy. We're going to disarm Saddam Hussein one way or the other. We hope there will be a coalition, but we will go alone if necessary.

So in a sense, that's -- as I report, Powell described it -- that's -- you get the to a fork in the road. You're planning for a military invasion and you're conducting diplomacy, and the president, after months of diplomacy, decided it is not going to work.

And so Powell is confronted with having been, in a sense, the architect of the diplomatic route and the -- and he knew once he persuaded the president to do that, that he was going to get a -- it's going to be either/or and to walk away would be difficult.

KING: So he's between a rock and a hard place, you think.

WOODWARD: Or many rocks and many hard places.

KING: What about the Powell-Cheney relationship, which you say is non-existent and Powell denies? WOODWARD: Well, they obviously meet. What I say in the book is that they have these two world views. Cheney is much tougher, believes, after all of his experience with Saddam Hussein going back to when he was secretary of defense in the first Gulf war, that Saddam is a trickster, that he will play games and use the U.N. to conceal what he's doing. And Cheney believed that war, military action, was the only way to get rid of Saddam.

And so you have his view and Powell's much more cautious diplomatic view. And what I report, that they could not sit down and talk about this, that their views were so embedded in them that they couldn't have a discussion. They couldn't have a lunch, never.

And probably, the person who lost out on that is the president. Though I think there were some contentious meetings, as I understand it, they were meetings of the principals -- Powell, Cheney, Rice, Tenet and a few others -- and not in front of the president. And probably the president -- I mean, he knew this tension. He should have called them in and said, OK, guys, I really want you to mix it up and I want to hear everything.

KING: We'll take a break. We'll be back with more. The book is "Plan of Attack." The guest is Bob Woodward. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We all talked to Woodward. It was part of our instructions from the White House. Just as we did with his first book. It was an opportunity to help him write history, contemporary history of this period. It was no secret that all of us were encouraged to talk to Mr. Woodward.

In my case, it was just a couple of phone calls.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Bob Woodward. He appeared with us Monday. He returns with us tonight. He's the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, No. 1 "New York Times" best-selling author. He's reporter and editor of "The Washington Post" -- and editor of "The Washington Post." And his compelling new book is "Plan of Attack," available in hardcover. It is out, as well, in audiotape.

The Powell speaking negatively about the Pentagon, referring to undersecretary of defense Doug Feith as running a "Gestapo office"? "The Washington Times" now reports that Feith is the son of a European Jew who escaped Nazi camps. His grandparents died in the Holocaust. And Powell apparently has apologized since the book came out. Comment?

WOODWARD: Well, there you are. There's lots of tension, not just between Powell and Cheney but between Powell and Rumsfeld. And I report that Powell concluded that Rumsfeld often seemed to operate with rubber gloves. He would sit at meetings and listen, ask questions, and not say exactly what he wanted to do.

And there are reported some very direct conversations between Powell and Rumsfeld. For instance, when Powell had the people in the State Department who had worked on the Future of Iraq Project, who were the experts in an occupation, they were supposed to go work in the Pentagon, which had the responsibility for stability operations, as they call it, after major combat.

And those people got kicked out of -- Powell's State Department people got, literally, kicked out of the Pentagon. And Powell called Rumsfeld and said, what the hell is going on? And Rumsfeld's answer was higher authority told him to do it. Well, that would be Bush or presumably Cheney.

KING: If this is going on, how can there be cohesion toward a plan and after-plan in Iraq? If all this is -- these personality disputes and conceptual disputes -- how's it working?

WOODWARD: That's -- that's an excellent question. And it accounts in part for the problem we now have. When Powell -- if you look at this as a study in how a decision was made, which is what the book is, and then you say, OK, there is this point where somebody could have done something differently. And I'm going to speak for a couple of people who have read this, said when Powell went and issued this warning, you're going to own Iraq, the president should have said -- asked what that meant and then said, OK, let's stop everything and get all the experts together and see if we can figure out how we're going to own Iraq and what the pitfalls are and who's in charge and exactly how are we going to do it, what is our level of commitment, who has succeeded and failed at occupation.

KING: Rumsfeld had made a list of things, I understand, that might go wrong with the Iraq war, but wouldn't give it to you, although you asked for it. Do you know why?

WOODWARD: I was able to get some from him and some from others. I don't know. It's a top secret document. And this is Rumsfeld at his best, because he really knows how to think around a problem, and he wanted to make sure that the president knew and had a formal document of these -- these are the things that can go south. And it's a good idea, and I think it -- the list went up to 29 or something like that.

KING: Was $700 million -- this is a direct question -- diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq without congressional say so?

WOODWARD: This is an interesting one. I don't -- I don't specifically say that it was diverted. What I say is there was a plan that General Franks drafted of $700 million, a project, what they called preparatory tasks, to be taken in Kuwait, in countries in the Middle East, that would put him in a better position if there was war.

Instead of going to Congress and having this relationship with some of the leaders and saying, look, we have to get ready, we need some money, they took large appropriations and took the money from them, and the large appropriations were for the war on terror and the war on -- in Afghanistan.

And Tommy Franks is the general for the war in Afghanistan and the planning in Iraq. So you can say, well, a runway is really for Afghanistan, but it could also be used for an upcoming war with Iraq.

When I went through this with people, with generals and people in the White House, it was very clear that this $700 million was specifically for Iraq.

David Rogers, one of the best congressional correspondents -- he works for "The Wall Street Journal" -- had a story the other day, going to the point and saying, well, they now have acknowledged $178 million was used for this. And once they dig deeper, which I suspect somebody will, they're going to find it goes to $700 million. Again, I asked the president about this, and he gave one answer, "Yup."

KING: As to the relationship between the president and Cheney, how would you describe it?

WOODWARD: The way the president described it is very close, said he thinks Cheney is a very good vice president. The president and his political strategist, Karl Rove, love Cheney because here we have somebody who's in the No. 2 spot who really has no further political ambitions. Cheney has made that clear. So he's totally loyal. His only product to Bush really is advice.

You look at the history of vice presidents who want to become president, often they will separate themselves from their president in order to improve their political position. George Bush's father, when he was Reagan's vice president, did this a number of times. And the most loyal vice president, George Herbert Walker Bush, of all things, in the '80s actually saying things that disagreed with Reagan policy because he wanted to run for president, and obviously -- and did, and became president.

So Cheney is this person who doesn't travel. He's right down the hall from the president, and is really, as the president described it -- I asked, well, what were the meetings and discussions about this? And he said, I really can't single out one. He said, Cheney's always there. We're always talking.

KING: Don't they have a different view of life? Isn't Cheney looked at more the darker side of people and Bush the more optimistic side?

WOODWARD: Yes, I think that's right. And President Bush realized this in the early days, even, of the administration, and assigned Cheney the task of looking at terrorism -- this was well before 9/11 -- looking at the threat of biological and chemical attacks in this country. And as I've described it, which is correct, Cheney sort of became the self-appointed examiner of worst-case scenarios. And so it is a dark view.

And all -- particularly after 9/11, he was worried about, and at these meetings and conversations he had with people, he said, look, we had 9/11, but if there's a nuke that goes off in an American city, 9/11 is going to be a footnote to history.

And so he worried very, very much about this and, you know, it's right to worry about it. The question is, is Powell right? Did Cheney develop a fever? And in developing that fever, did, as Powell concluded, the vice president over-read intelligence, take a piece of intelligence and say, this proves something, and we know, and then Powell would say, No, we don't know. It's a suggestion. It's intelligence, not fact.

KING: We'll be back with more of Bob Woodward, returning tonight after an appearance on Monday. The book is "Plan of Attack." Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Bob Woodward.

Would you make a guess as to why Bush and Cheney wanted to definitely appear together next week -- it'll be next Thursday -- before the 9/11 commission, rather than individually?

WOODWARD: I don't know the answer to that. When I interviewed the president for three-and-a-half hours, Cheney was not there. Condi Rice was, and Dan Bartlett, the White House communications director. But Cheney was nowhere around. And other times I've interviewed the president, Cheney was not there.

For some reason, they think it's a good idea. Just from a distance, it tends to reinforce this idea that somehow the president needs the vice president there. And the president is his own best advocate, probably -- at least, I found him that, in terms of conviction. And he probably -- probably ought to go alone.

Don't -- I mean, it's -- you know, Larry, out there in the ether is this idea that somehow Cheney is darkly directing Bush, and a lot of people believe this. I conclude and found in the book that is not the case, but it's still there. And you only reinforce that by insisting on testifying together.

KING: What do you make of the whole Bandar, Prince Bandar episode? He called in during the show. You were mystified as to his kind of explanation of not -- it was -- he told him one thing first and then another thing second. Then he's since done other explanations. What's your over-read on all this?

WOODWARD: That -- I spent a lot of time on this, and I had a lot of time, and I interviewed people and I re-interviewed people. And there's no question in my mind that the way I explain it in the book is the way it happened. You know, I think Bandar's trying to fuzz this up, or somebody has decided, Gee, let's fuzz it up, because there's some contradiction about when the president decided.

In fairness to the president, I report in the book that Andy Card, the White House chief of staff, after this Bandar meeting, concluded, well, yes, all of this is said to Bandar, but this is not an irrevocable decision, that it still could be walked back, that very clearly, there was a commitment, but you could break that commitment. There would be consequences to breaking it, but the consequences could be managed. And as the president said, and all through the book, all after these meetings, he is still working the diplomatic track. Colin Powell was still working the diplomatic track.

You know, that's all there, but I -- I think if they sit down and read it and kind of have a -- you know, a cool glass of water, they would, you know, kind of say, well, you know, this is -- and I when I went over it with the president for 10 minutes, his meeting with Powell, the president said, "it sounds like you've got it right."

KING: All right, let's discuss some people and their strengths or weaknesses now. George Tenet -- stronger or weaker?

WOODWARD: Because of what?

KING: The whole episode of...

WOODWARD: Of Iraq?

KING: ... information and wrong information and the piece of cake kind of thing?

WOODWARD: The slam dunk. Tenet is -- first of all, the record shows he revitalized the CIA. When he came in in '97, there were not enough case officers, CIA people to recruit spies. And he did a rather miraculous job of revitalizing that part of the CIA. I think he got caught up in this mentality after 9/11 of warn at any cost. There is -- was the feeling, oh, gee, we didn't do enough on 9/11, so let's make sure we warn everyone. And so Saddam is out there. He had weapons of mass destruction. We know he had used them. He had kicked the inspectors out in 1998. We had the inspectors in, but it looked like games were being played, and there was all this intelligence, people talking about nerve agents, and so forth. And so there is this tendency to kind of say, well, it's fact. And it's not fact. And they should have -- they all should have told the president, we're not sure. We don't have iron-clad evidence.

KING: Is he as strong as ever, in Bush's mind?

WOODWARD: Well, I don't know the answer to that. This idea of this slam dunk, when I asked the president about it and went over, he said that Tenet's reassurance was very, very important to him. And the fact that they have not found weapons of mass destruction, you know, has to be mighty troubling. I think before the election, you're not going to see -- and I report in the epilogue that Powell's conclusion again is they're going to circle the wagons. They don't want people jumping ship. Every time somebody has left the administration, they've had problems. Richard Clarke left and caused them problems. David Kay, who was the chief weapons inspector, caused problems. Paul O'Neill, the treasury secretary.

So you had that trifecta of departures that have caused all kinds of problems, and I think the president has made it clear no one gets thrown over the side, no one jumps ship. We're going to circle the wagons. So there's a lot of that we are seeing. KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Bob Woodward. The book, "Plan of Attack," is also out on audiotape, as well. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's cover some other bases in our remaining moments here with Bob Woodward. The publication of the photos from Dover's military mortuary -- what are your thoughts on that, what effect that might have on people?

WOODWARD: Those were very tasteful photographs, and that's reality. You can't -- they're not showing bodies, they're showing coffins respectfully draped with American flags. I don't know how anybody can reasonably object to that. It's real, and you -- you can't -- you can't bleach out what this war has done. It's killed lots of people.

KING: Do you know why we haven't seen them sooner?

WOODWARD: Apparently, there's a policy that goes way back in the Pentagon. I can see if -- if, you know, you were in the military, you wouldn't want this publicized. But you know, we publicize things. I was at a speech where John Kerry was talking today, and some protesters came in and started screaming things. And Kerry kind of absorbed it. And you know, that's the reality. Somebody protests. And they went out. They weren't dragged out, as best I could tell. You know, that's the nice thing about the country, that we look at reality, or we try.

KING: What's going to happen on June 30?

WOODWARD: They say they're turning it over to some Iraqis, but they don't know who they are. And what mystifies me, it'd be as if we were in September of this election year, and you and I were saying, who do you think's going to run? Who's going to be on the Democratic ticket and who's going to be on the Republican ticket? I don't know how they're going to come up with a government, but they will. Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage, was there, or is still there. The president announced Armitage has been sent over to execute this hand- off and help. He is -- he is as close to Powell as anyone. I think they're moving it to the U.N. and to the State Department. The portrait of Armitage in this book is he is -- he is one of the toughest, most direct people in government, and if anyone can figure out what to do, I suspect it will be him.

KING: Concerning sufficiency of troops, a prominent Republican, Chuck Hagel of the Foreign Relations Committee, and prominent Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel talking about reinstituting the draft. Think that might happen?

WOODWARD: Boy, I think even they've said they don't think it will happen. I think that's way down the road, if we get to that point. I lived during the period of the draft. I served five years in the Navy, because when I signed up for Naval ROTC, the draft was there. It was inevitable. You were going to have to serve one way or another. In many ways, I -- personal feeling, I thought it was a good thing. I did not enjoy five years in the Navy, but learned that afterwards that anything is easy.

KING: Where did you serve?

WOODWARD: I served on two ships and then in the Pentagon for the last year.

KING: What was that like?

WOODWARD: I didn't like the war, and quite honestly, I did not have the courage to do something about it, so I served and I saluted and did what I was told. It -- John Kerry -- it was -- John Kerry's right. It was a very anguishing time and very difficult, and everyone made their own choice, and I don't know whether anyone made the right choice. And it's -- I did not see combat. I saw a lot of people who did and I saw the war and it -- it was ugly. And it always has reminded me just how utterly ugly war is. And you just have to see the television clips of these people in Iraq and -- you know, I -- I -- my heart goes out to them, quite honestly.

KING: Your thoughts on the passing of Mary McGrory.

WOODWARD: Oh, Mary McGrory, columnist for "The Evening Star," and then when it folded, she came to "The Post." Her heart was always with "The Evening Star." She was always a "Star" person. She had -- her office was next to mine...

KING: Oh.

WOODWARD: ... in "The Washington Post," and so we talked and bumped into each other and would kibbitz. And you know, she -- she was a dynamo and a great voice. And in this book, I -- when Colin Powell made his presentation to the U.N. about the weapons of mass destruction evidence, I quote her column, in which she said that she believed Powell. And when Mary McGrory, who -- a relentless Bush critic, said she believed Powell on this, that -- that probably turned many minds. So she had the ability to do that.

KING: Bob, thank you so much for giving us two nights, and best of luck and continued good luck with the book. We'll see you down the road, and we'll see you at the -- we'll see you in and around the conventions, and of course, on election night. Thanks, Bob.

WOODWARD: Thank you.

KING: Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post," the book, "Plan of Attack," available hardcover and audiotape, a runaway best-seller. I'll be back in a couple of minutes to tell you about the weekend. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Hope you enjoyed that extra hour with Bob Woodward. Certainly informative. Tomorrow night, we'll repeat our interview with Dick Clark, and Sunday night on LARRY KING LIVE, we'll repeat the interview with Linda Evans. Right now, it's time for "NEWSNIGHT" in New York, and who else but Aaron Brown to host and take you into the weekend. Mr. Brown, the platform is yours next on CNN.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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