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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Tom Brokaw
Aired May 25, 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, Tom Brokaw, one of America's favorite newsmen is six months away from leaving his anchor's chair after more than 20 years. We'll cover that. Plus Iraq, the race for the White House. All the latest news with Tom Brokaw here for the hour with your phone calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: It's always a great pleasure to welcome Tom Brokaw to this program, the anchor and managing editor of the "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw." His phenomenal bestseller, by the way, "The Greatest Generation" has been reissued. There you see its cover in time for the 60th anniversary of D-Day and Tom is heading for Normandy. It includes a new preface by Tom and a DVD of the NBC special on "The Greatest Generation." We'll be talking lots about that in a little while.
First, some breaking news, Tom, and I wonder your thoughts on this. Several U.S. officials have said that intelligence indicates that unnamed terrorists, possibly al Qaeda operatives are already in the United States and that alleged attacks may take place prior to the November presidential election in attempt to affect the election. CBS also learned that FBI director Robert Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft will hold a news conference tomorrow to discuss all of this. What do you make of it?
TOM BROKAW, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS WITH TOM BROKAW": We were working on it just before I came over here, Larry. As a matter of fact, since you're in Los Angeles, you could have watched the "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS" tonight. We had an update on all of that. They will have a news conference tomorrow to talk generally about this threat, but they won't raise the threat level, we're told. There's no specific time or means of attack that they've been able to determine.
For some time we have known that there are other operatives in this country, the so-called sleeper cells. What caused them to release this tonight in this elevated form without attaching any specific nature to it, I can't say. This came across the AP wire tonight, shortly after we went off the air. So we've been running it down all evening long and my guess is that we'll begin to hear more of this kind of talk. In the summer months, you have the G-8 summit coming up this weekend. In Washington, I'll be part of the World War II memorial dedication. That will be a huge crowd. Both conventions this summer and then later in the summer overseas, of course, the Olympics in Athens. So, there's lots of reasons for concern, just at a time when we're at a volatile stage in the Iraqi situation.
KING: By the way, I don't think your news show is for another half hour yet in Los Angeles.
BROKAW: OK, fine. I know you'll be there to watch.
KING: Because I watch you a lot. By the way, Tom, you're going to Normandy, right?
BROKAW: I am. I have been there already working on two documentaries, one for NBC and one for the Discovery Channel. The one for NBC that will run that night at 7:00 is about the 507th Infantry Regiment about a group of paratroopers that landed effectively in one small French village and how they were helped by those villagers, particularly two women who are now in their 80s. And we reunite them and their story is at once inspirational and absolutely harrowing. I thought I'd heard all the D-Day stories, but this one really is a stunning story. We finished a one-hour documentary on it.
KING: Is it true also you have an interview scheduled with the president in occasion with his speech there?
BROKAW: I do. That morning, before he speaks, I'll be talking to the president for about 30 minutes. He's going to arrive in Paris on Saturday, I think he's probably going to have some other stops in Europe, as well, before he goes to Paris and then comes to Colleville- Sur-Mer which is that striking and haunting cemetery that overlooks Omaha Beach.
It's going to be interesting, Larry, because the president will be there, French President Chirac is going all out for this anniversary. He's invited 100 veterans of D-Day and he's going to give them the French Legion of Honor which is their equivalent of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Also, for the first time, a German chancellor will be there. Chancellor Schroeder will be there, Tony Blair, obviously, from Great Britain and Queen Elizabeth. Not all these people see eye to eye on this world so we'll be interested to know how they're going to get along during what I think will be a very memorable anniversary. These D-Day veterans now are in their late 70s and 80s and it will be their last big anniversary.
KING: You wrote all about them as the greatest generation. Why re-release it? I know it's the anniversary and everything, but, I thought you reached every potential buyer of that book.
BROKAW: You would think that, but it continues to sell and there continues to be interest in and in the preface I described the effect that it's had on my life and the effect it has had on those people. And then we also re-released in it, the DVD of the "Greatest Generation" documentary. I have stacks of books in my office, every day, Larry, people want me to autograph them and when I go across the country people will come up to me in airports and ask me to autograph the book or told me their own stories and when I've gone to Iraq I've been quite surprised at how many paperback copies there are among the young troops that are reading the book as well. On the other hand, I must tell you, Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, from my home once said not too long ago, on a roast in Washington, "Brokaw can't stop writing about the greatest generation. The fourth in the series was called "The Greatest Generation Says Stop Following Us Around. And the last in the series, he said, would be "The Greatest Generation Gets A Restraining Order."
KING: Speaking of Iraq, it seems to be changing news every day. You were there last summer. Can you nutshell this for us? Where is all this going?
BROKAW: I don't think that we know until June 30. That's the big marker on the calendar right now and between now and June 30 the president will have to get a resolution through the U.N. security council, pretty spirited debate going on among the security council members about what kind of a caretaker government will be formed. Lakhdar Brahimi who is the secretary-general's special representative there is trying to find people to fill those top four jobs that will be acceptable to most of the Iraqi people.
As you know, there are lots of divisions in Iraq and then the question is what happens to the American troops? Prime Minister Blair was saying today that the Iraqi government will have a great deal of influence, if not control over the foreign forces and Secretary of State Powell immediately came out and said, no, American troops will do whatever is necessary to protect themselves, whatever the objections are from the Iraqis.
So, they're trying to find a mechanism in which the Iraqi government can have some influence on the presence of foreign military forces and of course the United States has the biggest part of that. I think the big worry is on June 30, once the power is handed over, all those competing groups will be at each other and that civil war could break out. Now, short of that, they may be able to kind of stumble through the summer and into the fall. The elections are scheduled for January, but as we've already learned, Iraq is just one big surprise waiting to happen, almost every day and it's not worked out at all as the American people were told that it might work out.
KING: Was this, in hindsight, predictable?
BROKAW: I think a number of people said that it was. Brent Scowcroft who had been President George Bush's, the 41st, national security adviser wrote a compelling op-ed page piece in the "Wall Street Journal" before the war began citing the British experience back in 1918. It has no history of real democracy there. There are those competing groups, the Shia, the Sunni, the Kurds in the north who will have a big claim on the country.
General Zinni, as you know, who is the former commander of the central command responsible for that part of the world has been very outspoken in the past week or so about the absence of planning and the absence of vision in that part of the world. But a lot of people, on the other hand also believe that there were weapons of mass destruction there. I remember Bill Clinton was on your program shortly after so-called major combat ended and said that he believed that there were weapons of mass destruction there. So, we're now at a point where a lot of people are playing the tape back trying to find out who is responsible. No one has been held truly accountable for it yet either in the administration or for that matter, among those who have now come over and said this was a big mistake.
KING: More with Tom Brokaw in a moment and we'll be taking your calls at the bottom of the hour and that phenomenal bestseller, "The Greatest Generation" has been reissued. It includes a new preface by the author and contains a DVD of the NBC special on maybe one of the great books ever written. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROKAW: 36 days and counting, a little more than a month until the United States begins turning over power to the Iraqis. Who gets the power and what happens next? How long will American troops stay? Who do they report to and will other countries now get more involved? Those are just a few of the vexing questions still to be answered even after the president's speech last night on the administration's plan for handing over power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROKAW: Suddenly you look on the screen and from Iraqi television there are five Americans prisoners of war, including a woman who was a cook, Shoshana Johnson.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your name?
BUSH: It was a tough day. It was a tough day for America. A tough day for the commander in chief who committed these young soldiers in the first place, which made their release even more joyous, but war is tough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: My guest is Tom Brokaw "The Greatest Generation" has been reissued. In the new "Newsweek" you're quoted as saying, recalling summer 2002 summer conversation with a friend of Tarik Aziz, one of the missing, by the way. He's captured but we don't know where he is. The man told you that you guys could have Mr. Chalabi. You can keep feeding him all the prime rib and expensive scotch, he doesn't know anyone here, he hasn't been here for 25 years. What do you make of the whole Chalabi or Chalabi story?
BROKAW: Many people predicted that it would in fact come to this. He was a favorite in the Defense Department, especially, and among people who are the so-called neocons in Washington. Richard Perle knew him well. Bernard Lewis who is the scholar from Princeton thought he was quite a remarkable man. He is a very bright guy. Highly regarded for his intellect but viewed with great suspicion by a lot of people who were outside that immediate circle because they thought he was in it for his own purposes. And in Jordan he was indicted for a big bank fraud and they don't want to see him in any kind of power again. Yet, he was brought back into Iraq by the Pentagon.
He has said recently, even after his home was raided, that he is the best friend that the Americans have there. And I know very recently he was at a very substantial dinner with Brahimi, who is the U.N. special representative there, organized by the man who represents Sistani, who is the leading Shiite Cleric in southern Iraq. So, he still has a voice in all that is going on, but he does remain an extremely controversial character. And the fact that the United States cut off his funds first and that the Iraqi police raided his home, apparently without the knowledge of the Pentagon, is a real indictment of where he now stands, I think, in all of this in terms of the planning for the future on the part of the people in the Defense Department, at least.
KING: With his job rating down, how did you assess the performance of the president last night?
BROKAW: Well, I think that's up to the American people to make a judgment about that and his political supporters and opponents. I always worry about the people who have the kind of job that I do of getting into the business of calling balls and strikes on a president's performance. I think we'll know better probably in a week or so. A lot of people thought it was a reiteration of what he said before, but that it was strongly stated. I think it was Joe Biden who said he didn't offer a strategy really, he offered a rationale for what we're doing. That will become the fulcrum for the argument.
It's the first in a series of speeches by the president about what's going to happen next in Iraq. There's still a great deal of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Larry. I've been talking to people at the United Nations about how they get it through the Security Council. French President Chirac has great reservations about the American military operating independently of this new government. He says that if the Iraqi people are to have power, they must have full power. We have a ways to go here.
KING: Some of the right wing, some, are saying that the media, all of us included are overplaying the prison story.
Do you self-examine that, and are we?
BROKAW I think what happens in this very crowded spectrum in which we now live with CNN and MSNBC, and Fox News and the three networks going all the time and all-news radio going all the time that the screen is crowd would images when there's a big story like that one and it seems like every independent agency is just playing it again and again and again. And what they're responding to is the accumulative effect. The fact of the matter is that that is an important story and an enormous scandal because there were three big reasons for the United States to go to war against Iraq. Weapons of mass destruction, the connection to terrorists and that we were going to establish a kind of higher moral ground there. Well, weapons of mass destruction have not been found, the direct connection to al Qaeda and terrorist organizations has not been demonstrated, clearly, in the mind of a lot of people and then the moral ground gives way when you have the kind of humiliation and abuse that we saw in those photographs. And the Islamic culture, there really is no greater insult, especially to a man than to be humiliated in that fashion. And there were not just one or two incidents it turns out, that there are hundreds of them and they went on for many days and many hours and we still don't know who was fully responsible.
So, it was a big story and I think that what you're seeing in the administration's response to it is that they take it very seriously and they now think they have to do something as dramatic as take down Abu Ghraib Prison. When I was there last summer I drove by it and I remember thinking at the time, the horrors that must have gone on there under the regime of Saddam Hussein. And they were must worst than what we saw here. But for the United States to be involved in these kind of abuses, just ricochet around the Islamic world. And I think, personally, that it was a setback in our already-losing battle for the hearts and mind of many people.
KING: Last night on this program Bob Woodward said Iraq will be the deciding factor in this election.
Do you agree?
BROKAW: I think it will be. I have been putting it a slightly different way. I think that the deciding factor in this election will be what I call the anxiety factor. The anxiety about Iraq, the anxiety about the war. The anxiety about what appears to be new rules about the American culture. And in saying that, I'm not making a judgment who will win or lose because it's who can best reassure the American public on all those issues under the broad umbrella of anxiety that we can go forward and reclaim higher ground and common ground for this country. I think a lot of people out there are very concerned that we're just simply too polarized. That we've driven each other into far corners and everything is mean and bloody and not enough people are worrying about the common welfare of the country.
KING: We'll be back with more with Tom Brokaw. At the bottom of the hour we'll take your phone calls. The anchor and managing editor of NBC "Nightly News." His phenomenal best seller "The Greatest Generation" now reissued in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of D-Day. And he will interview the president on the occasion of the president's visit Normandy. It includes a new (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this book does, and a DVD of the NBC special. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROKAW: How can you come South, given what you said about the Democrats making a mistake and spending too much time worrying about the South, and expect to do well here?
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I never said that. I never said Democrats made a mistake, I never said that at all. I was asked a question about the mathematics of election. And I answered a question about the mathematics with respect to Al Gore's election. But I've always said I will compete in the South; I've always said I think I can win in the South.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Our guest is Tom Brokaw. "The Greatest Generation" has been republished. This will be your last major election. We'll be asking you in a while about how you feel about all this, but are you going to be up late that Tuesday night in November?
BROKAW: My guess is that I will be, but I think it's way too early to say now. You know, remember in 1980 when Ronald Reagan was running against Jimmy Carter, it seemed to be nip and tuck, and then in the last 10 days of that race it broke big for Ronald Reagan. There is a possibility that it could happen to either one of these two candidates this time.
I do think that the machinery on both sides is so well-oiled and so efficient that they have identified who they have to get out and get to the polls, and probably a handful of states and a cupful of voters will end up determining all this.
Last time, as Tim Russert so famously said, it was Florida, Florida, Florida. This time, it could be Florida, Florida, Florida, Ohio, Ohio, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania. I think there are a lot of states in play this time, Larry. And it's going to be a very exciting election.
I can't remember since 1980, really, when the issues had quite the complexity and the magnitude in our lives as they do this time.
KING: How do you feel about hanging it up?
BROKAW: Mixed feelings. I'm an adrenaline junkie, so I know that when 6:30 comes around every night, wherever I am, I will probably have some kind of a twitch. But I have thought about it for a long time. This is my call. I'm absolutely at ease with it. I've been on "Nightly News" for 22 years, as you know, and I've been at this business almost every day for the last 42 years.
I want to have all the more personal freedom to go do the things that I like to do on my schedule. Go climb mountains in the wintertime and go fishing in the fall. When I've done that in the past with my pals out in the wilderness, they always laugh because they got a shortwave radio up at my ear and a satellite phone at my side, in case I have to jump on a helicopter and come back.
Also, I think strongly that I had my opportunity, and John Chancellor and David Brinkley and the others who were ahead of me at NBC gave me the chance to sit in that chair. And Brian Williams will sit in there now. We've got great other young correspondents, and David Gregory, and Campbell Brown, and Chip Reed on Capitol Hill and Laura O'Donnell. We have got a lot of people around the country and around the world, for that matter, right now, tonight, in Iraq. And I want them to have their shot at all of this.
KING: We know you signed a new deal. You will be doing what?
BROKAW: I will be doing documentaries and special projects for NBC. I'll provide some analysis when there's a big breaking story of some kind, but I'm going to disappear for a while. It's Brian's turn. I want him to have a kind of a ramping up period going into the holidays, and then after the 1st of the year with the inauguration, and I'll be gone, working on some documentaries and also pursuing some other interests that I have.
KING: What will be your last night?
BROKAW: It will be early in December. We have decided that it would probably be the first week in December so Brian can have the rest of the month, and then I can get out and go work on -- as I say, some projects and go some places that I like to go.
I love Patagonia, for example, in South America, and that's a great time of the year to go down there. I am already involved right now in three or four major documentaries, and we have some others penciled in. And then I would like to write another book, not about the greatest generation or the World War II generation. I'm casting around. I have got some ideas, I've got some things on the back burner that I'm letting simmer right now.
So I'd love the idea of writing a book, writing "The Greatest Generation" -- and a sequel to "Greatest Generation Speaks: An Album of Memories." Have been in many ways, Larry, the most important things that I have done professionally, and certainly one of the most gratifying experiences I have had in my long and very, very lucky life.
KING: A little ironic, I guess, that that may be what you are most remembered for down through history. I mean, you are a great anchor and you led the news, and you leading in the ratings every week, but those books stamped you differently.
BROKAW: I think that -- I think that they did. And this is not, as I've often said, anchormen don't even fake humility very well, so this is not fake humility, but I really was a doorman. I opened the door and said, this way, please. There are some stories that you should hear and remember.
And what has been so pleasing to me is that succeeding generations have come to me and said, I didn't understand my father or mother, I didn't appreciate what they went through. We're talking now more than we ever have about values and about life and what I should learn from them, and what they can learn from me, as well. So I hope that I have been a small part as a catalyst for a dialogue across this country.
KING: What do you think of Russert's book?
BROKAW: I've read it. Tim and I had a great time talking about it. I have known Big Russ for a long time. I have in the morning, plastic (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from his "South Buffalo Legion Post" that I use for brushing my teeth. Big Russ and my father, the late Big Red Brokaw, as we called him, were so similar in so many ways. And Tim and I have often talked about how fortunate we are as working-class kids who had parents who cared about us. Had much tougher times than we did, but taught us so much about the values of honesty and hard work and doing the right thing. And then when we got to some levels of success, they always had -- knew how to let the air out of us a little bit. There was no greater crack that I could get from my dad than, "OK, big shot," and then I knew that I had been brought back down to a different level.
KING: Tom Brokaw is our guest. We'll take a break and go to your calls. And again, "The Greatest Generation" has been reissued, with a new preface and a DVD of the NBC special. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll go to your calls for Tom Brokaw right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROKAW: Some of my earliest memories are of men in uniform. My father worked on an Army base, and I saw soldiers pass through on their way to war. I was 4 years old, so, to me, the soldiers looked grown up. I realized later most of them were not men, not yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He's going to be at -- you're going to be at that World War II dedication at the memorial, right? Sunday?
BROKAW: On Saturday, actually, Larry. I'm going to be there, I'm going to be one of the speakers. Kind of setting the stage, I suppose, for the day in terms of who these people are that we're honoring. And also on stage will be General P.X. Kelly (ph) and Bob Dole, our old friend, yours and mine, who had been the driving force in all of this, still going very strong. And then Tom Hanks is coming in. And he's going to be at a gala I think the night before, but he will be on stage that day as well, because both in Bob Dole's experience and mine, Tom really did answer the call when there was a need to raise some funds for the World War II memorial, and actively, deeply involved in it ever since, and well before his experience in "Saving Private Ryan."
KING: Extraordinary security, we understand, for Saturday.
BROKAW: Yes, there will be. And part of the problem has been, as well, is that for these veterans, they know it's their last opportunity to be involved in something that is this momentous for their generation, and not all of them could get tickets. So wisely, the National Park Service opened the memorial earlier so people could go and walk around and see it, and then go home before the actual ceremonies. But it will be very tough security on Saturday, because the president will be speaking at the conclusion of the ceremonies.
KING: It is Saturday and not Sunday. Saturday. BROKAW: It is Saturday afternoon, not Sunday. There are some events on Friday. There is a memorial service at the National Cathedral on Saturday morning, and that will be very bipartisan in nature, and then that afternoon outside at the Mall we'll have the formal dedication.
KING: Let's go to calls for Tom Brokaw. Modesto, California, hello.
KING: I can't hear you, speak up.
KING: Yeah, go ahead.
CALLER: OK, first of all, I would like to say that my father celebrated his 20th birthday on June 6, 1944, on the beach of Omaha. And my question for Tom would be, I have supported this memorial from conception to completion, and all I've heard from the critics is how horrible it is. And I'm very upset with that and I'd like to know his opinion. The critics have trashed it.
KING: "New Yorker" this week -- "New Yorker" this week, the architectural critical of "The New Yorker" rapped it.
BROKAW: Yeah, in fact, there's been kind of a mixed review. The late Carter Brown, who was a great steward of fine arts in Washington, D.C., the man, the driving force behind the National Gallery of Art, was the man who reviewed this design and signed off on it. It went through all the appropriate stages. And I'm going down Thursday morning to see it for the first time. I haven't been able to see it yet, but my friends who have been there say it is really quite moving, and they think it's very appropriate.
My own judgment about this is, you can't make a snap judgment about these kinds of memorials. I know that architectural critics and design people will make their judgments, but I think that we have to let some time pass to see how it fits in, not just into the Mall, but into the national consciousness.
You'll remember that when the Vietnam wall was first put up, many critics loved it and a lot of veterans hated it, because they thought it was kind of a gash in the earth. I think now there's been a confluence of opinion that it's a wonderful memorial. So let's give this one some time and not let those who are the architectural critics -- and their right, absolutely, to make a judgment about it -- detract from the big weekend that we have coming up.
KING: Spokane, Washington, with Tom Brokaw, hello. CALLER: Hello. I just wanted to ask, how come in all the talk of President Bush's peace plan, how come there is no mention on how to bring the Sunnis and the Shiites together? And can there ever be peace in Iraq if we can't get those two factions together? Are we ever going to be able to leave?
BROKAW: That's a very good question. And what you can't leave out of that equation, of course, are the Kurds up in the north. There is a lot of discussion and a lot of concern about the so-called minority plank in the new constitution, which gives the minority rights to people in Iraq. Will the Shia allow that to happen?
When I was talking to some folks today, they were saying, look, it's not just the Kurds, there are Christians and other groups there who want to have a place at the table. And how you get them all together and headed in the same direction is a major concern after June 30.
Now, all of this was in play before we began a war. Those groups were already there, and, unfortunately, that does not appear to have been enough of the post-war planning, I think, to make an understatement.
KING: Fairfax, California, hello.
CALLER: Yeah, hi, Larry and Tom.
CALLER: Hi, Larry and Tom. I enjoy both of your programs.
KING: Thank you.
CALLER: And Tom, I hope you get to do some mountaineering when you retire, because I know you like mountaineering. My question is, Tom, you have covered a number of presidential elections, and in this day and age, when things happening so quickly it seems like four-year terms -- and I must admit, I'm not going to vote for the present president to continue or next one, but in this day and age, these four-year terms seem too short because of the fact that we're barely getting into their term, and then we're dealing with the campaign, you know, it's about a two-year campaign. They have no time to really implement their platform or any kind of policy, and we're primarily dealing with politics rather than platforms. And I would just like to have your idea and thoughts on that.
KING: There was a long-time thought about a one-term, six-year presidency. Tom?
BROKAW: I think some people think that a four-year term is much too long, depending on your point of view about the president.
You know, the fact of the matter is I do think there needs to be a lot of reform in the American political system. I think those of us in my business have to think about that, as well. It's become too much of a game of gotcha on a daily basis. Your comments are appropriate, that the campaign begins about two years out, and a lot of stuff gets set aside so that the campaign can really get under way in earnest.
My own strong belief is that we have to hold both parties responsible for driving the electorate in this country to the far corners of the political spectrum. There are too few people who are willing, as John McCain is, for example, to say, we're wrong here, we're spending too much money. Or I think the Democrats may have a good idea on this and the Republicans have a bad idea, or the Democrats have a terrible idea and I'm for this president. We have too few of those people who are kind of pivotal in the middle who want to be healers. There are a few down there, but, boy, it is as polarized now as I can remember it in the more than 40 years that I've been covering all of this.
KING: Dallas, Texas, for Tom Brokaw. Hello.
CALLER: Good evening. Mr. Brokaw, two years ago, my brothers and I each bought my mother "The Greatest Generation." I bought her the children's version, because the print was larger and the book was decidedly lighter. And she read it cover to cover, and for that I want to thank you.
BROKAW: Well, thank you.
CALLER: I was with her and my 96-year-old aunt at the time that the pictures of abuse in Iraq broke. We had just been reviewing pictures of my father and each of my uncles as they marched off to and returned from World War II. Looking at those young men and the dedication they had for this nation, it was almost impossible to reconcile those faces now serving. How do we as a nation deal with the lack of -- the loss of pride that we as a nation are now suffering from? And I thank you.
BROKAW: Let me say something very quickly, and I think that on this point there is consensus however people in Washington feel about this scandal. And that is that those people who are responsibility for those abuses are not at all representative of 99.99 percent of the American military.
We have a great American military. It's an all-volunteer force, it's more highly educated and better trained than in any time in history, and no one was more offended by what happened at Abu Ghraib than the military people that I know, from the lowest enlisted man to the senior career officer. They were just outraged, because it was such a stain on them, as well. They didn't know whether to cry or to burst a vein in anger.
So, I think it's important that we not, in a way, or in any fashion, assign blame to the United States military for the reprehensible, inexcusable actions of a few people at that prison.
But I think at the same time, we have to find out how far up the chain of command this goes and hold people responsible and accountable for it, because that is the compact that we said that we took to the Iraqi people. This is the way democracy works. KING: Lubbock, Texas, hello.
CALLER: Good evening. My question is, has the president lost credibility in the world community to the extent that it would be impossible for him to build a meaningful, worldwide coalition to assist U.S. efforts in Iraq?
BROKAW: I think that that's what they're attempting to do right now and we'll see that play out at the U.N. This still remains the greatest power in the world, however people may feel about us on a day-to-day basis, they know that they have to deal with the United States. They also know that Iraq was problematic before and it's more problematic now in many ways, and no one can afford to have that kind of cancer in the middle of the Middle East. So it's in the best interests of everybody to get it resolved in the best practicable way. And I my own experience with statesmen is no matter what they say that they know their national interest will determine how they're remembered and everyone has a stake in all of this.
The big issue will be in the next couple of weeks and it will be a tough debate is, A, what kind of government are we going to put in place temporarily in Iraq until the elections in January?
B, what kind of minority rights will some people, like the Kurds have?
And, C, what kind of security can the Iraqis organize for themselves and what will be the role of the United States military forces that are already there?
Will they just retreat to garrisons or will they take an active role?
Will there be some kind of mechanism in which the United States military can consult with this new Iraqi caretaker government before it does take action?
So, we have some very fine point and important ones to negotiate between now and June 1st. Just 36 days away.
KING: Back with more phone calls for Tom Brokaw in a moment. Dr. Phil joins us tomorrow night. You're watching "LARRY KING LIVE," don't go away.
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BROKAW: This was a familiar ritual when I was growing up on the South Dakota Prairie. The men in my community and in others would place flags at the grave sites of veterans on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. These veterans are hobbled by old age now, but I've come to understand their values and their spirits. The memories of what they did half a century ago still guide their lives. They wonder what will happen once they are gone.
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BROKAW: They were the winners and the celebrations could have gone on for months, but they didn't. Most G.I.s weren't looking to be called heroes, they were looking to apply what they learned to apply to their lives.
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KING: Before we take the next call, were they different?
BROKAW: Well, I think, you know, that's argument that will go on for a long time. I think one of the ways that they were different, Larry, is that they really had as their formative years, the great depression and I think that had an enormous impact on this generation. They learned the real meaning of deprivation and working towards common goals within their families. Kids dropped out of school to go to work, not to buy a new pair of sneakers, but to put food on the family table or to help out the parents or buy clothing for their siblings. So many of them then, just as there seemed to be some hope economically in this country were asked to go off and fight the greatest war in the history of mankind, in the Pacific or in the Atlantic. And by the time they got back here, now in their mid to late 20s, they were mature beyond their years because of all that they have gone through. First the depression, then the war. They have been trained, disciplined. They had seen great horror. They made great sacrifices. They had been separated. When they came back, they wanted to put all that behind them and get on with business building this country and enjoying the prosperity that came their way.
KING: Remember that great movie "The Best Years of Our Lives." Great movie.
KING: Yes, about World War II.
Harrisonville, Missouri. Hello.
CALLER: I would like your opinion on the news media. Now it seems to be yellow journalism, sensationalism rather than giving the facts like you and Mr. King do every night. Thank you very much.
KING: Have we gotten too much into the area of whatever sells?
BROKAW: I think that's always been a big piece of journalism. The fact is if you turn back the clock in this country the tabloids that really dominated New York for example, and Chicago and Los Angeles, you know, extra, extra read all about it, front page. That's great tradition. The Lindbergh trial. The Sam Shepard trial. I grew up on. That was the stuff of life in those days. And what's happened now, as I say, we have a much more crowded screen so it seems that way and then you add to that the Internet. And on the Internet you can have the -- you can have the Drudge Report, for example, which is a tabloid report. But you can go from that to an Oxford or Cambridge Web site or to a Harvard Web site and get very sophisticated detailed information about any number of subjects. So, we have a wide range of sources available to us now. It is how we determine what we need and where we go.
KING: San Gabriel, California, for Tom Brokaw. Hello.
CALLER: Thank you, Larry, for this opportunity. Mr. Brokaw, I would personally like to thank you so much for your great work and the job you've done with the greatest generation, which I totally agree. My question, gentlemen, is this, politicians and leaders of the yesterdays, were they stronger and had better sight of the future than our leaders and politicians of today?
BROKAW: You know, that's a judgment that's hard to make. I think one of the things about "The Greatest Generation" people say you should have talked about the generation just behind them. The Eisenhowers, the FDR's of the world. The George Marshalls of the world. They did have great vision. And one thing that was impressive about that generation even is even before the war was over, they were planning for international financial institutions and rebuilding the enemies that we had. But at the same time it was a pretty narrow group. They didn't pass the civil rights bill, for example. We had no campaign reform. There was a lot of corruption that went on at that time. And the pace of life was different then. They could take time to worry and think about common problems. I talked to senators, like Gaylord Nelson, who was a member of the greatest generation from Wisconsin. He said at the end of the day, I'd get together with my Republican pals and we'd have a drink and we'd decide what was in the best interest of the country. At the end of his term as a senator from Wisconsin, his entire day was consumed with having his picture taken with the automobile dealers or with the dairy industry because they were writing the checks for his re-election campaign. And so, that I think changed it as much as anything else.
KING: By the way, I meant to ask before we go to break and take some more calls, what do you think of NBC merger with Universal?
BROKAW: Well, I'm very excited about it, not just because I can get my grandkids discounts at the Universal Theme Park now. But I do think that Bob Wright has done a marvelous job of marrying these two companies. Giving us a lot more capacity. We'll be more than the sum of our parts. We're adding two cable channels to the mix now, that will give me a chance to put some of my documentaries. And will have resources that we didn't have before. Unfortunately, in this modern world, as you know here at Time Warner, the parent company of CNN, you have to be big to compete. Then it's a question of how big is too big? How -- when does it become monolith and control too much information? I think we're very close to the tipping point right now.
KING: What do you think of the building there, by the way, Time Warner?
BROKAW: I think it's great. I must say. At the old place I at least had a cameraman with me. I don't have body here. You have an automated camera so...
KING: You're kidding.
BROKAW: No. In the green room, by the way, they have a nice bathroom and a shower, but the shower curtain has got a lot of little duckies. I don't know where that came from.
KING: Must be one of the cartoon characters of Warner Brothers.
BROKAW: It could be. That's what you would call synergy.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Tom Brokaw right after this.
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BROKAW: The spring is turning out to be the mean season for parts of the Midwest. Today President Bush declared four Nebraska counties disaster areas after a series of weekend tornadoes. Meanwhile, people along the Des Plains River in Illinois are dealing with a deluge.
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KING: Back with our remaining moments with Tom Brokaw. Wichita, Kansas, hello.
CALLER: Yes, good evening.
CALLER: Do you feel it is possible that the Bush administration has intentionally developed an adverse relationship with Middle Eastern countries to support a long-term negative environment which would aid companies like Halliburton and other military contractors?
BROKAW: I don't think that the Bush administration deliberately created the conditions in which they find themselves right now. The president has a burning fuse in the Middle East and it could, it could blow up in his face and his political career, as well. I know a lot of people believe that this was all done about oil. I personally believe that there has not been enough talk about conservation and alternative sources of energy, but I don't think that that's, in fact, why they created the conditions they have over there.
Some people have said that they lied to get us into war. I think that they honestly believe that they were going to find weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein was a gathering threat as the president has put it. The judgment of history will have to be whether they, a, had sufficient reason to go to war and then more important at this point, whether they had any sense of what was going to happen once they did finish combat and how they were going to put the country back together again. That seems to be the biggest indictment at the moment and the president and the administration is trying to address that.
KING: Frisco City, Alabama, hello.
CALLER: I wanted to tell Mr. Brokaw that we'll miss him as anchor and I wanted to ask him about John Kerry possibly not accepting the Democratic nomination at the convention and how that will affect NBC's coverage.
KING: Yes, if he waits a month.
BROKAW: We're struggling with that. My personal belief is that if he announces he will not accept the nomination, that there's no good reason for NBC the network to be in Boston covering the convention, it will be just one large political rally and party. Now, I'm told today that they're working on some variations on that theme. He'll give a big speech and then say as of September 30 or September 1st I accept your nomination, a later date. I'm not sure that's going to fly either.
I think part of the problem for Senator Kerry is that a lot of people believe that he can't land on one position and stick to it. The rules have been in place for more than a year now. It was his party chairman, Terry McAuliffe who decided they would have the convention in Boston on those dates. It's been fixed in time for a long time. So, now, at this late stage of the game to say, I may not accept the nomination because of the financial advantage, there's no question about that.
John Kerry would be restricted to the $75 million in federal funds and the president would have a full month before he locks into those funds to spend the considerable war chest that he has. So, this is a conundrum for the Kerry campaign, but my own judgment is, and I can get overruled about this at NBC, is that I'm not sure that NBC should go to Boston just to cover a big pep rally. We go there because there's going to be a nominating convention and at the end of that nominating convention, there will be the formally nominated presidential candidate of the Democratic party.
KING: We're about out of time. Somerville, Massachusetts, quickly.
CALLER: You, sir, are a true credit to your profession. Of all the people you have interviewed over the years, who do you feel was the most interesting and left the most lasting impression on you.
KING: You have 30 seconds, Tom.
BROKAW: Well, Mikhail Gorbachev was easily the biggest single interview that I had. But I've often said, and it's heartfelt, the ordinary people coming up against extraordinary challenges and doing it with great humility were the people who still are there in my memory bank.
KING: Tom, thank you so much. Best of luck. We'll see you in Boston, maybe.
BROKAW: OK, Larry. Hope to see you before that.
KING: Shut off the robotic camera as you leave.
KING: We'll be back in a couple minutes and tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.
KING: Mr. Brokaw was in one of our many auxiliary studios where they had a robotic camera. Tomorrow night, Dr. Phil. Hey, he's not in any robotic camera situation. He's on the main drag. He's the anchor of "NEWSNIGHT." By the way, have you seen "Shrek 2?" I'm the ugly stepsister. Go see it. I'm in it.
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