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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interview with Ann Richards

Aired May 20, 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, Ann Richards, the always sassy former governor of Texas is here for an hour of outspoken talk on the Iraqi prison abuse scandal, the race for the White House, you name it. You can ask her about it, too, because we'll take your calls. We're talking about everything with the one and only Ann Richards next on LARRY KING LIVE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: We'll be including your calls, of course. It's always great to have her with us. The former Democratic governor of Texas, senior adviser to Public Strategies Incorporated, proud resident now of New York City. Let's get right to it, Ann. The situation in Iraq. The president will lay out details of the plans for transition in a speech Monday at the Army War College and they're now warning of more violence that may get even worse. How do you assess this?

ANN RICHARDS (D), FMR. TEXAS GOVERNOR: I never saw anything unravel quite as fast as this whole deal has, and it's just amazing to me, Larry, first of all, that we went in there and didn't even have the correct information to sending our men and women in harm's way. Now the very guy who gave us our information, we find out they raided his place today, and he is now in disrepute, and the White House didn't have anything to do with him. They sent a bunch of people who were totally unprepared over there.

You remember, we were in such an all-fired hurry to get there, that we couldn't wait until the United Nations actually completed their search for weapons of mass destruction. We had to go do it ourselves and then we get in there. We can't find them. This guy is gone and we put a bunch of people in charge of the prison. Did you know that the woman in charge of that big prison where the worst of it happened was a woman whose training was hotel management?

I've run a prison system, you know, in the state of Texas, and I can tell you that you have to have very, very specialized people, especially if you're going to interrogate them to try to get information. It was a -- it's been a joke from beginning to now.

KING: Are you saying, Ann, that the mistake began with going?

RICHARDS: i think the mistake began with going with insufficient information, going for all the wrong reasons, going without the support of the rest of the allies and the world to help us.

KING: So then are you saying that these men and women who lost their lives died in vain?

RICHARDS: I think these men and women who lost their lives did so as patriots, doing exactly what they thought they should do for their country at the behest of their president and of this administration. You can never say that they died in vain, when people are trying to protect liberty.

KING: What do you make -- you mentioned him, Ahmed Chalabi, a close friend of, I think, Secretary Wolfowitz...

RICHARDS: Yes, and Cheney.

KING: Very involved with the Pentagon, a very pro hoc, pro- going. Now in such disrepute, they raid his house. What do you make of that?

RICHARDS: I can't figure out -- what do you think was in his house they were after? What did they want in his house? I don't think they wanted to just, you know, have a dust up. I think they went in there looking for something and now that he's been so discredited and they're trying to get distance between the White House and him, I'm wondering what he had in that house that they wanted to find.

But believe me, Larry, I think that we will. The interesting thing about our times that are different than they have been before, and this whole prison scandal proves it, is that with the Internet, you can't keep any secrets anymore. You can't have the collaborative process that it takes to hide stuff, because it's all out there on the Internet. I heard tonight on television that they had a worse prison over at the airport in Baghdad than the one where all of these photographs occurred. And we had that on the Internet from bloggers weeks ago.

So I think what's happening is that the mainstream press begins to pick up that stuff from the Internet, regardless of its source, and then slowly check it out, and then it becomes a mainstream news story.

KING: What do you think would lead Americans to do the acts they did in the prison?

RICHARDS: Ignorance, someone telling them that they were doing a good job, making light of the kinds of things that they did as if these people were something less than human beings. You know, even when they've done studies at colleges like they did a big one at Stanford, where they took students and divided them up, and they played keeper and the kept, and the keepers, after two or three days, started doing all sorts of heinous things that they would never have dreamed of doing, and I think a lot of these people they sent over there were certainly not trained to be prison guards.

Four of them now, I understand, have been fired when they were guards before for committing assault on the prisoners that they were keeping in another domestic situation. So you know, I think first, we had ignorance. Secondly, we had very poor supervision. From everything we read in the newspapers now, they had carte blanche from the Pentagon to do whatever it was they wanted to do and they were rewarded and applauded if they got any information, regardless of whether it was any good or not.

KING: General Abizaid said they're probably going to need more troops. What are you expecting July 1, the day after the 30th, to happen in Iraq?

RICHARDS: I told you the last time I was on here, Larry, that Bush was going to come out of there, in whatever form that he could because he wants to be able to say before this election that he got out as fast as he could. What I expect him to do is just to turn this over to a bunch of people who, number one, do not have the authority, number two, do not have the respect of the people they're about to govern, and that we're going to have 200,000-plus soldiers left there and we're going to have so-called advisers there that are going to be very much like the troops, the people that we've got there now, and we're going to have more of the same but we're going to say it's not our deal.

KING: But if you said he was going to pull out, how do you pull out if you send in more troops?

RICHARDS: Well, that's what I can't figure out. When they keep saying that they're coming out of there at the end of June, you know, come hell or high water, and they're still going to have to send more troops, and they're going to still have to leave a bunch of advisers there. I think it's their hope very much that the press will lose interest and will not cover this stuff day to day, if the White House says we're no longer in charge.

KING: What do you make of the possibility of a draft revival?

RICHARDS: Well, I've always thought, Larry, that it was wrong for us not to have some sort of voluntary service for young people in this country, whether it was serving in our domestic communities or whether it was being a part of the military, because you and I know full well that the people, by and large, who are in our armed services are poor people.

They are minorities who joined because they need the job. I, for one, would never be opposed to reinstituting a draft as long as all young people had to go into service of some form, and they don't just have to go into the military. They could go into domestic service.

KING: Let me get a break and we'll come right back with Ann Richards, the former Democratic governor of Texas. We will be including your phone calls. Bob Woodward returns to LARRY KING LIVE on Monday night. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Ann Richards. We will be including your phone call. What's your assessment of the 9/11 commission.

RICHARDS: I think they're doing a really good job. I like it that it's balanced between Democrats and Republicans. I like it very much that they seem to be asking the very pointed and difficult questions.

Because if anything should come out of this, it shouldn't have anything to do with this election or politics, it should give us a road map for what we have to do in this country for the future for our safety, and for our protection.

KING: Do you expect the president to release the report as soon as he gets it after vetting it? He's going to have to take some things our, right?

RICHARDS: I don't know what -- listen, Larry, don't ask me what this White House is going to do. I couldn't have predicted any of the stuff they've done in the past four years. But I think that the report is certainly going to be public. If they start scratching through it with the big, black pencil, a lot of questions are going to be asked of why? And I don't think they can take that heat. So I suspect they're going to leave it as intact as they possibly can.

KING: Are you concerned, security-wise, about the Republican National Convention in your adopted city?

RICHARDS: Well, I think there is a concern, and I think the leadership of this city is concerned. Just as they are about the Olympics in Greece. We are in a time of serious unrest. We have made so many enemies around the world now, and people hate us in a fashion that we've never experienced before. And the unpredictability of that would make anyone very cautious.

So sure, I think security's going to be really tight, and I wouldn't be in New York during the Republican Convention if you paid me.

KING: Because you're fearful?

RICHARDS: No, because I think that it's going to be locked down. I think it's going to be hard to get around this town.

KING: All right, let's talk politics. Bush has got approval rating below 50 percent. That's usually troublesome if you're an incumbent in any race, mayor, Senator or whatever, but Kerry does not seem to be jumping on top of this. What do you make of that?

RICHARDS: Well, here's what I think is going on. No. 1, people don't know John Kerry. They're just getting to know him. And two, the interest in this country on the news every night is not what John Kerry is doing or saying politically, but what's going on with an ever-unfolding scandal in Iraq. And as a consequence, getting any kind of traction, it would be very difficult for him to do.

I, for one, think he's doing exactly what I would do if I were in his shoes. It's going to take him some time to put his marker down on every issue that the people will want to know about. What does he think about education? What does he think about jobs? What does he think about the environment? You know, what is he going to do for our kids in the public schools?

And he's got to tell them all of that stuff. And this is a good time for him to do that while the country is distracted by other stuff. And one rule of politics, believe me that is inviolate, Larry, is that when your opponent is in serious trouble and becoming unraveled the way this administration is, don't get in front of it. Don't get in the way of it. Don't distract. You just let that go on and do its thing, and you just continue to talk about the things you want to talk about. Believe me, the public's going to make up its mind which one of these people they want to be president when the time comes.

KING: Do you, Ann Richards, have a favorite for vice president?

RICHARDS: Well, I only have one criteria, and that is I hope whoever he chooses looks like tomorrow and doesn't look like yesterday. I want someone that has a little youth. I want someone that says next generation, and there are several people that could do that. John Edwards certainly is No. 1 on that list. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Senate Bayh is another, Vilsack in Iowa is another one of those. I think that he could choose someone that compliments his appearance, and someone who is a fighter. I'd like that very much.

KING: What do you make of all these stories continually denied by John McCain about a Kerry/McCain ticket? They are very good friends. And just this week the House Speaker Dennis Hastert, took a shot at McCain, in fact, acted as if he didn't know who he was?

RICHARDS: You know, how do you spell stupid? If I were a Republican, I'd be in there kissing McCain's boots and patting him on the back telling him how smart he is and how much we love him. I wouldn't do anything that might push him into a decision that would allow him to run.

I don't think it's going to happen. I think it would be very difficult for McCain to completely leave his party. And I know that Bob Kerrey, for example, who is another possible vice presidential choice, said, well, let him stay in the Republican Party and just run with us on the Democratic ticket.

But I just think it's highly unlikely. But if people like Hastert and Bush and Cheney carping his heels -- you know McCain is sort of a quixotic guy, and you can tell he's an emotional person. So I -- if I were those guys, I would be hugging up on him.

KING: You were a supporter of Howard Dean. Were you wrong?

RICHARDS: Yes, I loved Howard.

KING: Were you wrong?

RICHARDS: No, I don't think so. I love Howard for what he did, and that was forcing, forcing the candidates to talk about issues that the people in the country cared about. I thought it was terrific that Dean was the one that talked about this war, questioned our commitment of all of this money and what we were doing. I liked it that he showed that this whole education, No Child Left Behind is a fraud.

By the way, Larry, my favorite bumper sticker this time is No Child's Behind Is Left.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Let me get a break -- it says it all. Let me get a break and come back with more. We'll be including your phone calls for the delightful Ann Richards. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Ann Richards.

He certianly hurt four years ago, do you fear Ralph Nader.

RICHARDS: I think we are concerned about it. I don't think nader is going to get what he got four years ago. And Larry, i've been all over the country making speeches and appearances for people, and I don't detect any enthusiasm at all out there for Ralph Nader this time. I'm very happy that Kerry and Nader are talking to each other. I thought that should have happened the last time. If Nader is concerned about the Democratic candidate or the platform or whatever it is the Democrats are doing or saying, then that certainly should be vetted and discussed with him, and it can't do anything but help us are. Just in case he decides he wants to no longer be in this race. He certainly wants Bush out of the White House. I don't think there's any doubt about that. So we'll see what the future brings. I'm not going to say anything bad about Ralph Nader. I think he's got an institution that he's got to support, and as long as he's running for president, people are going to ask him to be on TV and stuff like that, and he can keep the money coming in.

KING: All right, let's get into some people in your thoughts.

Colin Powell, what do you gather about all this?

RICHARDS: Well, I think Colin Powell, from the very beginning of the administration, was the one person everybody in the country felt like they could trust. It's been really interesting to me to watch the administration isolate him more and more, and you can tell by the way he looks when he comes out to speak to the cameras. He looks like a guy who is sort of wounded. And I don't think there's any doubt, they've got to hang onto him until this election is over. But I think if bush is reelected Colin Powell is out of there, and I don't think anybody would blame him.

KING: Don Rumsfeld.

RICHARDS: Well, rumsfeld, you know, is certainly certain of his own opinion. And I think a lot of the stuff that we're facing now is a hangover from the old Bush administration that they were a part of, and we're just seeing their dreams lived out and we're seeing that it's a nightmare.

KING: Dick Cheney.

RICHARDS: Well, you know, what you see is what you get. He is one tough customer, and he is a good backup for Bush. He makes Bush look like he has some kind of wisdom and stability behind him, and then I think the country is, you know, not as fearful that Bush really is in charge. And in the long run, I think he showed very bad judgment in the case of Chalabi, if that's the way you say the guy's name, but you know, everybody in the world knew that Chalabi was a conman. And he just did a real good job conning Cheney and the rest of them in the administration.

KING: Presidential memoirs have historically not been big sellers. That may change this year with Bill Clinton's "My Life" due out in late June, I think they are going to published 1.5 million copies.

What do you think the impact of that book will be?

RICHARDS: It will be interesting if bill can sell as many as Hillary did, and don't think that hasn't occurred to somebody. The buzz on this the street here is that it's a very good book. And you know, Bill's a good storyteller, so I would be very surprised if it's not a good book. I think he's going to tell a lot about his background, what it was like growing up in Arkansas in a lower-middle class family, and the tough stuff he saw and the things he went through. And I think maybe it will give people -- well, let's say a better feeling about the kind of background that Bill Clinton came out of. You know, I'm crazy about Bill. I think he's as smart as he can be and I really look forward to this book.

KING: And one other thing before we break and take calls, what do you make of same-sex marriages, now legal in Massachusetts?

RICHARDS: Well, we've done such a good job with our own marriages, Larry, that I don't understand why we don't want to share it with everybody else. I cannot understand why anybody gives a damn whether those people get married or not. It just is -- it really makes no sense to me at all. So if those people want to live together, they want to have -- share a wedding ceremony, if they want to share insurance or whatever it is that they would like to have with their soulmate or their life partner, by all means, we need more loving families in this country, not less.

KING: Ann Richards, the governor of Texas. We'll go to your phone calls. We hope we're able to draw her out in the next half hour and get some opinions, rather than this wishy-washy approach we've seen in the last half hour. I have no idea. Calls for Ann Richards next. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Sunday night we're going to repeat interviews with Tony Randall, including Randall and Klugman together. Monday night Bob Woodward. Tomorrow night, Kathie Lee Gifford. Next Tuesday, Tom Brokaw returns to LARRY KING LIVE. And we go back to Ann Richards who's with us in New York, the former Democratic governor of Texas, senior adviser of Public Strategies, Incorporated. Let's go to your calls. Houston, hello.

CALLER: Hi.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Ann, I just real quick want to ask you, after your background here in Texas, our kids were left hanging when he was running for governor and all our scores just went through the roof and to -- testing wise, and then once he made president, they went back to the rigid standards and we had all of these kids failing and no one has brought this up at all.

KING: What about the school system in Texas, Ann?

RICHARDS: Well, Bush decided to do exactly what he did when he got elected president. I left $2 billion in the black when I left office and he gave a big tax cut that would endear him to the voters forever, and he, of course, had to take the money from somewhere, and so here's what happened. He decided he was going to set up a system where these kids were going to be tested, not that they were going to be any more educated but that they were going to be tested, and so the teachers then started having to teach the test, because they punished the schools by taking money away from them if the kids didn't do well on the tests. And you know, administrators and teachers are not stupid. They said hey, we better teach the kids what's on the tests, because if our kids don't do well, we're going to lose money. So that's exactly what happened.

KING: Why was learning what's on the test bad?

RICHARDS: As a consequence of that, all the kids spend all of their time learning a test, not learning a subject, and that's what they've instituted, Larry, in this No Child Left Behind all over the country. Here's the worst of it. Let's say that the program would have been a good program. What they did was they cut the funding. Just like Bush's budget when he became president. He went in there and proposed to cut $90 million out of public school education. Well, you can't ask for certain standards to be met and think that teachers and principals can meet them and you take money away from them. It doesn't work that way.

KING: You have a lot of conservatives now upset, that too many federal programs, too much going back into federal government.

RICHARDS: Well, let me tell you, any conservative that's unhappy with George Bush warms my heart, in any way that they can wake up and smell the coffee would be really great.

KING: Prescott, Arizona, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Hi. CALLER: I'm thrilled to have you on, Ann. I'm a staunch Republican but I love you dearly.

RICHARDS: Thank you very much.

CALLER: What I would like to know -- I'd like your comments on -- that several senators have been quoting Harry Truman, saying the buck stops here. Do you think punishing a couple of privates will earn us respect in the world or do you think Bush should step down? That's my question.

RICHARDS: Well, number one, Bush is not going to step down. And I don't think Rumsfeld is either. I don't think anybody's going to step down, but it is obvious that those soldiers in those prisons were not doing that just for the fun of it. Now, there may have been some really bad, rotten apples in that bunch, but you know darn well that they were told that they could use any means whatever they had to do. They were to extract information and if they had had the training necessary to be a prison guard or an interrogator, they would have known that they can't get good information under circumstances like that anyway.

So I think it goes higher up the ladder. Obviously, I do, and I think the Arabs are going to be satisfied that, well, we've got four or five or six of these people that they're going to court-martial, of course I don't. Those guys with all of the braid up there that sat and testified obviously knew that there were instructions that these people could do almost anything they wanted to do, and I don't think it's over yet. I think we're going to see this other prison out near the Baghdad airport that's going to be equally as bad. I think those other photographs are going to come out on the Internet, and when they do, it's going to hit the mainstream press and we're going to see all the gory detail of it, and it should go all the way upstairs.

KING: San Bernardino, California for Ann Richards. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Ms. Richards. Thank you for your service. My question is, do you believe or will we hear a call for impeachment and criminal charges for the entire Bush administration for their heinous acts, all the way from the energy crisis to current day with the prisoners? Thank you.

RICHARDS: Well, this is sort of a loaded question, but the answer...

KING: Slightly.

RICHARDS: The answer is, of course, no, I don't think that's going to happen, but I do think that the Democrats have a really good chance to win this election in November. I think the people are really sick of what's been going on in this country and I think they're going to insist on a change.

KING: What do you make of this oil situation?

RICHARDS: Can you believe it, Larry? I have tried, you know, to figure out why, in god's name, are we in this situation? Because I've talked to cab drivers. They're in a terrible circumstance. All the airlines, this price of gas is killing them, and I think what we did was that we believed all that hocum (ph) about we're going to go into Iraq, it's going to take us one week, the people are going to fall all over our necks and kiss us that they're so happy to see us. We'll take over the Iraqi oil fields, so we don't have to order as much oil or we don't have to put the marker down for as much oil for the future because we're going to have all this Iraqi oil come out. Now that's the only thing I can figure out. As a consequence, the cutbacks took place, and now we're paying the price.

KING: You know -- you're from Texas, you know about these things - do oil companies make more money now? Do they pay more? Do they pass that -- are they making unusual profits?

RICHARDS: Well, sure they're going to make profits, yes, no question about it. But here was the thing, Larry, still doesn't make any sense to me is that we begged George Bush Sr., Ronald Reagan, please, put a floor, at least a floor for domestic oil and they refused to do it. We said, if you will give us enough money, the equal amount to what it takes you to bring that oil out of the Gulf of Hormuz with the naval escort, if you would put that into domestic oil and a floor on the price, we will do fine in the Texas oil patch. They refused to do it and as a consequence, we had a huge oil crisis and now we're even more dependent on foreign oil.

KING: Kansas City, Missouri for Ann Richards, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Ann, I absolutely adore you and have for a very long time.

RICHARDS: Thank you.

CALLER: Don't you think that ultimately there has been almost 200 billion reasons for going to Iraq, that ultimately all of the interests that are involved all the way down to the private security guards at 1,000 bucks a day, that all of that is the reason why we're there?

RICHARDS: Well, you know, the golden rule, them with the gold makes the rules, and I can't say that this war was deliberate because I can't really think that evilly but it is stunning, the amount of money that is being made out of this war.

KING: But money is made out of all wars. So you're not going to question whether Bush is committed or not.

RICHARDS: Yes -- no, I'm not going to question that. I'm not going to question whether Halliburton is committed either. I know this, when you declare that you are in such extremist (ph) that you don't have time to have an RFP go out or have any kind of competitive bidding and you just from the Pentagon, award the bids to whoever your brother-in-law is or your vice president's company or somebody that is connected to the administration, no questions are asked because you say, you know, we got to go to war, so we got to have these people on the ground. There's a lot of money being made out of it. KING: We'll take a break. More calls coming for Ann Richards on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Ann Richards. Buffalo, New York, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry, good evening, Governor Richards.

KING: Hi.

RICHARDS: Good evening.

CALLER: I was wondering if you'd comment on the negative tone of this year's campaign ads and also why, perhaps, the Kerry campaign hasn't focused on the flip flip-flop of the Bush administration on nation building, fuzzy math, the 9/11 commission, the kind of endless list there.

RICHARDS: Yes. Well, No. 1, I think that the Bush White House thought that the best offense for them was to try to take John Kerry out very early. They have now spent about $70 million on television ads in the battleground states to accuse John Kerry of one thing or another to make him appear to not be a good choice.

It obviously has not worked very well, because I think the White House is in so much trouble that their television has sort of fallen on deaf ears. People are much more interested in other things. And they're saying, well, so what?

Now, it may be that there's some traction in being able to show that Bush says one thing one day and does another thing another. For example, the story that I saw yesterday, I think it was, in "The Times," pointed out how Bush had recommended all these cuts for policemen, and then the administration goes and makes an announcement that they're giving all this money to policemen, but actually, it was something they tried to cut in the budget and the Congress passed. I'm sure that, as the time goes on, Kerry may try to take advantage of that.

But I would suspect that the reason that Kerry hasn't done it so far is that the public's not really paying attention to this presidential race yet.

KING: Do you expect a very, for want of a better word, vicious campaign on both sides?

RICHARDS: Yes, I think it's going to be a knockdown drag out. And one of the things that pleases me is that John Kerry is willing to fight back. I thought when we ran against Bush 4 years ago, Bush just came after us hammer and tong, tore Gore apart, and Gore was going to rise above it.

Well, are that's perfectly ridiculous. If you've got somebody that's punching you all the time, your going to have to punch him back and I think Kerry has the stuff to do that and I'm happy that he's doing it.

KING: Lowell, Massachusetts, for Ann Richards. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, this is Alice, and I have first of all a thank you for Governor Richards. My two closest friends are a gay couple who live next door, and we're getting married next week, and thank you for coming out in front of -- in favor of their nuptials.

KING: You have a question?

RICHARDS: I mean, it's so silly.

KING: Do you have a question dear?

CALLER: Yes, I do. My question is how are the Democrats going to be able to counter any attempt by Republicans to seal the election through use of voting machines. I have heard rumors that the Pennsylvania governor has already promised his election to George Bush, because they've fixed the machines.

KING: Hold it, hold it, hold it, that's a little irresponsible dear. The governor has told him he's fixed the machines?

RICHARDS: Yes. And besides that, I know the governor of Pennsylvania and he's a Republican, so he ain't going to do that.

But of course, people are worried about the machines. Of course, people are worried whether their vote is going to be accurately counted, and I just have to say that the only thing that I can depend on is that, No. 1, those companies, I think, have been put on notice, and I think they're very concerned about any appearance that they might attempt to fix the election.

No. 2, I think that most local elected officials are very honest, straightforward people, and I think they're going to do everything they can to run this election fairly.

If I had my choice, I'd probably use a pencil and a piece of paper, and I would like it. But I vote on a machine now, and I trust those machines to count my vote.

KING: Ellojay, Georgia, hello.

CALLER: Thank you, Larry. Governor Richards, I'm a happy stock market investor. The economy's come back, there was 300,000 jobs created last month. Don't you think President Bush deserves to be reelected with the economy coming back so strongly?

RICHARDS: Well, here's what I think about the economy. I think that George Bush is going to be the first president since Herbert Hoover that is going to go out of office with less jobs in America than when he started, regardless of how many were created last quarter. And I would ask you to be sure and check and see how many of those jobs were government jobs. A lot of the numbers that we see are government employees ratcheting up, rather than private sector. Now, here's what I do hope is going to happen. I hope that when John Kerry is elected that he's going to do what he said he was going to do, and that is that he's going to give tax credits to manufacturing and to other businesses that create new jobs, because unless you give an economic punch and a stimulus to do so, those new jobs are not going to be created. And by the way, the Dow Jones got, I don't know what it was today, but it's been down the last three days.

KING: Deville, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

RICHARDS: Hi there.

CALLER: Ann, I love you a whole lot.

RICHARDS: Thank you.

CALLER: Ann, would you consider, if asked by the next president of the United States, John Kerry, accept the position of secretary of state or any member of his cabinet?

RICHARDS: Oh, lord, I don't think so. You know, I don't know. That's just something I haven't even thought about. I've been saying, you know, it's time for me to go home and get a dog. I think...

KING: But you would do something if asked, though. We know you.

RICHARDS: Yes, I mean if my president asked me to do something, obviously, I would do it, but I don't think I would -- I don't think I'd like to take on one of those big cabinet jobs, thanks very much.

KING: Would you want to be an ambassador?

RICHARDS: I could do that. I know how to do that, you know, but I don't know, Larry. I have an awfully good life. I care a lot about Public Strategies as a company. They've been really good to me. They're doing very well, and so it's hard for me to even think about something like that.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with our remaining moments with Ann Richards, catch up on her health, too. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we take another caller or two, Ann, how is your health?

How is the osteoporosis?

RICHARDS: Well, I'm just strong as mustard gas, you know? My...

KING: As what?

RICHARDS: Mustard gas. KING: OK. That's not very Jewish, but go ahead.

RICHARDS: Well, but it's something we say at home.

KING: I gather.

RICHARDS: I feel terrific. I got, you know, my bone density is good. It's certainly stabilized. I'm working out in the gym at least twice a week, and I walk about six to nine miles a week. I work very hard on my health, and I think about it, of course, like I've never thought before. And I pay, of course, more attention to what the government is doing in healthcare in this country, as I think everybody that gets over 60 looks up and says, you know, what are these guys doing?

I pay close attention to prescription drug issues, stuff like that, and that's another reason I'm hoping everybody gets registered to vote so that we can change this administration in November.

KING: Sparland, Illinois, hello.

CALLER: Ann, my wife and I think you're wonderful.

RICHARDS: I think you're wonderful.

CALLER: Thank you. We're strong Kerry supporters, but one thing that bothers us, it seems like anything the Republicans throw out there are sticks. For instance, his idea of, their idea of him being a flip-flopper, people don't understand the workings of the Senate, and things like that kind of seem to stick with-to-him and that worries us.

What can he do to change that?

RICHARDS: I think he just stays the course. The Democrats are in a hurry. They see this White House unraveling. They think oh, my gosh, you know the polls ought to be changing dramatically. But you don't understand how hard it is for most people in this country, who are raising kids, trying to get them off to school, trying to make a living, trying to keep up with their neighborhood. And life is tough, and they're not going to concentrate on this election until they have to. People generally speaking make up their minds about two weeks out before the election or at least those that are, you know, in the middle. But I think we're doing just fine, and I think Kerry's doing just fine. And let Bush throw all of that stuff. Bush has got so much stuff to say grace over right in his own back yard that, that believe me, come November, they're going to turn to John Kerry and be very happy to see new leadership.

KING: What percentage do you think is undecided?

RICHARDS: Oh, I think it's narrow. You know, it can shift, but I'll bet you it's somewhere, 10 percent and less.

KING: So, all of the money being spent is for that 10 percent? RICHARDS: Absolutely, you better believe it. And every time you see an action by the White House to announce this program or that program, whether they were for it before or not is aimed at shaving the margins of the Democratic vote. And they're very precise. They're very good at counting, and the Democrats have to be equally as good.

KING: And it's all, as Tim Mercer said, in 18 states, right, 32 states they know.

RICHARDS: Yes, maybe 16 to 18 states.

KING: Thanks, Ann, we're out of time.

RICHARDS: My daughter is helping with registration. So everybody be sure to get registered and vote.

KING: Thanks, Ann. Always great seeing you.

RICHARDS: Thanks so much, Larry.

KING: Ann Richards. What a lady. We'll be right back and tell but tomorrow night. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tomorrow night Kathy Lee Gifford, joins us on LARRY KING LIVE.

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