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Senator John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards

Aired July 21, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Democratic candidate vice presidential candidate Senator John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth Edwards, John Kerry's pick for running mate. John and Elizabeth Edwards next on LARRY KING LIVE.

They join us from New York, Senator John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards. He's the 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate, along with his lovely wife. He will speak one week from tonight to deliver his -- I imagine you will accept next Wednesday. Is that correct, Senator? You will accept?


SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's a great guess by you, Larry. Yes, I will accept.

KING: Because it's hard to predict things at conventions. But I want to go out on a limb.


KING: Has it all set in yet?

EDWARDS: Yes, it's starting to set in, because we've been spending a lot of time campaigning with -- with John and Teresa. We've been out on the campaign trail ourselves. So, yes, it's -- it's settling in.

KING: Elizabeth, were you surprised that your husband was selected?

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, JOHN EDWARDS' WIFE: Of course I thought he was the best candidate, so -- and I think John Kerry is a very smart man, Teresa agrees with me. So I was not surprised.

KING: How did you get the word, Elizabeth?

E. EDWARDS: I actually got the word from our -- from our daughter, Emma Claire, who was -- John had intended to call me. I was in North Carolina. He was going to call me on the phone if he heard from Senator Kerry one way or the other. He -- he said, "Hello," and immediately Emma Claire starts talking.

She grabbed the phone from him and said, "Mommy, mommy, John Kerry picked daddy." So that was -- I got the word about 10 minutes of 8:00 Tuesday morning, a couple of weeks ago.

KING: Was there any, Senator, doubt about this? There are some people who -- who don't want it, didn't want it, wouldn't want to be asked.

J. EDWARDS: You mean any doubt about...

KING: About taking it.

J. EDWARDS: Oh, about me taking it?

KING: Yes.

J. EDWARDS: No. I thought it was an extraordinary honor for me to be able to have this chance to serve my country. I have enormous admiration and respect for John Kerry. I think he'll make a -- an extraordinary president. So, no, I didn't have any doubt about it.

KING: And no disappointment having come in second in the primaries?

J. EDWARDS: Oh, of course. I mean, I'm competitive, and I fought for the nomination. And John Kerry earned this nomination. He's entitled to the nomination. And -- and I'm proud to be able to serve with him on this ticket.

KING: Elizabeth, do you approach the possibility of being second lady with some bit of awe?

E. EDWARDS: Well, of course you do. But on the other hand, it's a tremendous platform for which to talk about the things that you care about. And, you know, I care about a lot of things in terms of changing the direction of the country. So I get to talk about after- school programs that I care deeply about, I get to talk about preventative medicine. And people listen to me more than I would if I was sitting at home in North Carolina.

KING: So you intend to be involved?

E. EDWARDS: I hope to use that position in as productive a way as I possibly can to make the country better.

KING: You're an attorney as well, aren't you?

E. EDWARDS: Well, I'm a recovering attorney. I quit practicing...


E. EDWARDS: I quit practicing in 1996.

KING: Have you recovered?

J. EDWARDS: Oh, I don't agree with that. She hasn't completely recovered. She argues with me regularly. KING: I want to get into some things very current. What's your reaction, Senator, to the whole Sandy Berger story, the investigation, the handling of the terror documents and Sandy removing himself as an adviser to John Kerry?

J. EDWARDS: Well, I actually know Sandy Berger well. I think he's a terrific public servant, a very good man. I, of course, know -- I know no more about the facts of what happened than what you've read in the news and I've read in the news.

I think that Sandy is a guy who's -- who's been giving advice to Bill Clinton, to myself, to John Kerry, to others. So we'll find out at the end of the day what -- what the investigation reveals.

KING: They've been going on since October. Are you suspicious of the timing of the leak one day before the commission report?

J. EDWARDS: Well, I guess my -- my instinct is to trust the American people's judgment about whether this seems political or not. I, of course, don't have any inside information. I don't know whether it's political or not. The timing is -- is -- is certainly close to the Democratic convention, but I have no way of knowing.

KING: Are you saying, though, in your heart Sandy Berger would not do anything knowingly illegal?

J. EDWARDS: He doesn't seem like the kind of man who would do anything knowingly illegal to me, no.

KING: Now, what's your advance on the commission report? We know that they're going to say that there were operational opportunities. That's a term they're going to use. And they're coming out in -- for some commission head. I think you favor that, right? Some one person to run it all?

J. EDWARDS: Yes, I do. I -- well, actually, I'll be briefed tomorrow. So I'll get the details of this tomorrow morning. But my sense is, first of all, I think we ought to all lift up this bipartisan commission and the fact that they've approached this issue in a very bipartisan way.

I understand that they're going to be -- they're going to be critical of some of the things that have happened in the past without regard to whether it's a Democratic or Republican administration. I think they're being straight shooters, from what I can see. The chairman certainly deserves praise, so does former Congressman Hamilton. I think they've done a great job.

I do believe that there are a lot of things that need to be done with respect to our intelligence community, Larry. I think you and I have actually talked about this before.

You know, I was involved in helping the congressional investigation of September 11. Why it happened, how do we keep it from happening again. And it's been pretty clear for a long time that there are real problems in our intelligence community and that there are fairly dramatic reforms that are needed.

KING: Now, when they say there were operational opportunities that were missed, but that 9/11 was -- they're not going to say it was preventable, isn't that contradictory?

J. EDWARDS: No, I don't think so. I think that's just -- that's just common sense. What it means is this: It means that there was information out there that, had all the dots been connected, there's a possibility that it could have been prevented.

For example, the Phoenix Memo, which had information about some activities that had occurred out in Arizona, the Moussaoui case. There were -- there were different pieces of information that had one person had those in front -- that information in front of them, they may have been able to put all this together. But there's just -- you know, that's 20/20 hindsight. There's no way to know that.

KING: Do you favor a kind of czar of intelligence?

J. EDWARDS: I do. I think it makes sense to have one person whose full responsibility is to oversee all of the intelligence operations of the government.

KING: And that would be a cabinet-level person?

J. EDWARDS: Yes, that's correct.

KING: And so the CIA and FBI reports to him or her?

J. EDWARDS: That's correct.

KING: Would that be another bureaucracy?

J. EDWARDS: No, I don't think so. I think you need -- we need one individual whose day-to-day responsibility is to make sure that all of our intelligence-gathering operations, the FBI, the CIA, all of our intelligence operations are acting in concert and that they're communicating with one another. I think it makes a lot of sense.

KING: You were a big supporter, were you not, of homeland security?

J. EDWARDS: I was, yes.

KING: And the appointment of Governor Ridge.

J. EDWARDS: Yes. I think Governor Ridge is a good man.

KING: Has that worked out well?

J. EDWARDS: There's still work that needs to be done if we're going to keep this country safe. I mean, I believe we can -- and John Kerry has talked about this also -- there's more to be done to keep our ports and our borders secure.

We just discussed -- I think there's more that needs to be done to reform our intelligence operations, particularly our domestic intelligence operations. I think we can do a better job than we're doing now at securing our chemical plants and our nuclear plants, some of our most vulnerable facilities.

KING: Elizabeth, where were you on 9/11?

E. EDWARDS: Well, I'm embarrassed to tell you I was shopping. So I was shopping away from home. Our -- actually, all five members of our family -- or four members -- or five members of our family were in different places.

John had just dropped Emma Claire off at school. So she was there. He was on his way to the Capitol and then at the Capitol.

I had gone to a sale that started early. And Jack had gone to a play group. So we were all in different places, which was a very -- what had happened, that was not what I wanted. Cate was at -- in college in New Jersey.

KING: How did you hear about it?

E. EDWARDS: The word started passing because we were in Washington. Word started passing around the sale. People were getting cell phone calls about it, and of course there were a lot of people at that sale who had family members at the Pentagon.

So there was a tremendous amount of panic. And people were -- you know, were leaving, quickly dropping what they had in their hands and going immediately home. And there was -- I was actually lucky to get back into Washington, because they started closing the bridges.

KING: Senator, did you go to the -- to the Senate?

J. EDWARDS: What happened with me, Larry, is I dropped Emma Claire, my now 6-year-old daughter, off at school. I was on my way to -- in fact, I was just beside the Capitol on my way to the Senate office building when I received a call on my -- on my cell phone telling me what had happened in New York.

I went on in to the -- to my Senate office building. Then we saw the second plane hit, and, of course, the strike on the Pentagon. I left the Capitol, because I was worried about my family. I left the Capitol, went home. I was there for a period of time.

And, actually, after I was there for a fairly short period of time, the Capitol Police came to my home, knocked on the door, and said that they were gathering up senators to take us to a -- to a safe or secure location. And I said, "Well, what about my wife and my kids?" And they said, "Well, they'll stay here."

And I said, "Well, if they're staying here, I'm saying here." So...

KING: You didn't go.

J. EDWARDS: I did not go. KING: We'll be right back with Senator John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards right after these words.


SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am pleased to announce that with your help, the next vice president of the United States of America will be Senator John Edwards from North Carolina.



KING: We're back with Senator and Mrs. Edwards.

Do you serve on the Intelligence Committee, Senator?

J. EDWARDS: I do, yes.

KING: All right. Did -- so, therefore, you had to be since 9/11 heavily involved in all this.

J. EDWARDS: That's correct. I have.

KING: Did you know right away this was bin Laden?

J. EDWARDS: No. I -- when the second -- when the first plane hit, honestly, my reaction was, could it have been an accident, is there a possibility? When the second plane hit, and certainly when the second plane at the Pentagon strike occurred, then it became clear it was -- it was coordinated. And pretty soon I started thinking about the possibility of al Qaeda and bin Laden.

KING: Elizabeth, are you worried about Boston and terror?

E. EDWARDS: I'm actually not worried about Boston. I think that they have -- terrorists have made their strikes in places that are not heavily protected. You know, the strike on the Cole, which was just a ship that was -- that didn't have any fortification, the World Trade Center was not fortified. The 9/11 attacks began at -- at -- at airports where they didn't expect much scrutiny.

So there's going to be so much security in these locations, I really feel -- I wouldn't be bringing my family there if I didn't think it was safe.

KING: What about you, Senator?

J. EDWARDS: I think we'll be fine at the conventions. I think the conventions are going to be so protected, as Elizabeth just talked about. No, I think the greater likelihood, and the greater vulnerability are in other big public events that are not associated with the national political conventions.

KING: Senator, is terrorism a fair campaign issue? J. EDWARDS: Of course it is. I mean, the American people need to know that their president will keep them safe. I think it's -- I think that there should be -- from my perspective, what I'd like to see is a serious debate about the differences -- and you and I just talked about some of them -- but the differences between what President Bush has done and not done, and the things that John Kerry and I would do, and how that relates to terrorism.

Just one example. You know, we believe -- John and I believe very strongly that we -- while America needs to lead in the world, that strong alliances matter, so that we're not doing things alone.

This is directly related to terrorism, the difference in the way the president has -- has approached this problem. For example, for us to get at these terror cells and crush them where they're operating, we have to have cooperation with the countries involved.

So these positive alliances and relationships matter, because we need these countries to get at these terrorist organizations where they're operating and originating and stopping them before they do us harm.

KING: So when the president says the world is safer because of his administration, you say that's wrong, the world is not safer today than it was since 9/11?

J. EDWARDS: I say that we can make this country safer than it is today. And I think if you were to ask most Americans about how they feel, I think they still feel a significant degree of vulnerability. And I believe there are other things that ought to be done to keep this country safe that are not being done.

KING: Knowing what you know now, the benefit of hindsight, would you still vote "yes" on Iraq?

J. EDWARDS: It was -- let me say, first of all, I think for most voters in this country that's not the major question. The major question is, what are we going to do now that we're there going forward? So I hope we'll talk about that.

KING: Of course.

J. EDWARDS: But to answer your question specifically, I believe it was the right thing to give the president the authority to deal with Saddam Hussein. Second, I think that Saddam Hussein being gone is a very good thing, good for the Iraqi people, good for that region of the world, good for the security of the American people.

I do believe, though, that the president did not use his authority the way he should have. He did not build the alliances that he should have built so that we ended up with Great Britain largely alone in this operation. And second, he didn't have a clear plan to win the peace. And the consequences of this have been -- have been devastating.

KING: But you also, along with Senator Kerry, voted against the $87 billion supplement...

J. EDWARDS: That's right.

KING: ...which the administration is saying in commercials is you voted against supporting our troops.

J. EDWARDS: Well, let me say, first of all, since you brought this up, the commercials that the administration are -- is running, now think about this, Larry. You've been president of the United States and vice president for almost four years, you spent $100 million roughly on television, and the vast majority of that $80, $90 million of it, has been spent in attack ads against an opponent who's really just becoming known by the American people.

It says so much about what your administration has not done. Because instead of talking about your accomplishments, you're talking about your opponent. That's the first thing.

By the way, I happen to believe that most voters in this country are sick of that. I mean, they want to see a positive, uplifting, optimistic vision of where we want to take the country and what our differences are, which is what they should be. What they, at least in my judgment, should be asking.

On the $87 billion, I voted the way I did because it was clear to me by the time we got to that vote that the president was not doing what we believe we needed to do. The things that all of us had said in the very beginning, John Kerry and I both said, you've got to build coalitions, you've got to have a clear plan to win the peace.

He had neither of those things. I thought it was important for us to say -- we had a "yes" up or down vote -- that this policy and the way you're operating is not working. You have to be willing to change course. So I voted "no," and I stand by that vote.

KING: And you would do it again?

J. EDWARDS: Yes, sir, I would.

KING: Elizabeth, how do you deal with it when you -- those times when you disagree with John?

E. EDWARDS: Well, one of the things about being a United States senator is that it doesn't matter what my opinion is, he's the guy that gets to vote, you know. After being married to him, we're just shy of 27 years, to have to lose every one of those arguments is tough after that length of time.

But I don't disagree with him that much. We disagree about small things and on large things we usually disgree.

KING: You usually agree?

E. EDWARDS: We usually agree. I'd like to say something, though, about terrorism. And that is, this is something, actually, John would always say, and as a mother is the way that I look at it. The shortcomings of this administration, in my view, really have to be on a real personal level.

I don't know now any more than I knew on September 9th or 10th what I would do differently if there were an attack in my town. And I don't think most Americans do know what they would do differently. How do I protect my children? That's the first question on my mind, and I don't yet have an answer to that.

And so the shortcomings, from my point of view, from a personal point view, as a mother, is that we're not -- we haven't been provided with the kind of information to protect ourselves. We're very self- reliant people. What we want to know is what we can do for ourselves.

KING: And are you saying that's the role of a president and vice president?

E. EDWARDS: I think it's the role of the government, role of Homeland Security, to help us know how to protect ourselves. We don't want just a paternalistic, the-government-will-take-care-of-you in some abstract way, we want our firefighters to be funded, we want our emergency rooms to have the equipment they need, and we want to have the information we need to protect ourselves and protect our children.

KING: The big problem, though, isn't it, is that the terrorists, Elizabeth, knows what he or she is going to do tomorrow, the defender doesn't.

E. EDWARDS: No, I think that's right. But, as I said, the defender in this case doesn't know anything at all, and there is information that we could have that would be useful to us.

When I was at -- I asked the Capitol Police what we should do, because they help serve the senators, and he said watch the news. Do I go get my children? Do I try to move out of the area? Or do I hunker down exactly where I am and hope that whatever it is passes? I just don't have the information from which to act.

J. EDWARDS: Can I say just one quick word about that, Larry? I'll be brief.

It is -- I agree with what Elizabeth just said and one of the great lessons that I've learned in investigating September 11, and seeing what went wrong is the best defense in this case is a good offense. For the very reason you just pointed out.

We Americans live in an open society. That's not going to change. It makes us extraordinarily vulnerable, which means for us to be successful in this war on terrorism, we have to find these terrorist groups where they are, whether it's within our borders or outside our borders, and stop them and stamp them out before they do us harm. It is by far the most effective way to win this war on terrorism.

KING: Even if it means suspending civil liberties?

J. EDWARDS: Oh, I don't think -- I think that's a false choice. We don't have to suspend civil liberties to do the things that we need to do. We can -- it's an inconsistent thing to believe that America, in order to stamp out the people who don't believe in the freedoms and liberties that we believe in, have to give up those very freedoms and liberties in order to accomplish it. We do not.

It is absolutely clear that we can do the things that have to be done at home and do the things that have to be done abroad and still protect the very core of what we are as a country.

KING: We'll be right back with Senator John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards. He will accept the nomination of his party one week from tonight.

We'll be right back.


J. EDWARDS: What I know is this, we're going to win this election. We are going to make American strong at home. And once again American will be respected around the world when John Kerry is the president of the United States, that's the America we will build together.



KING: We're back with Senator Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth.

If the military is stretched too thin, as many believe, should the draft return, senator?

J. EDWARDS: No. I don't think we have a need for the draft, but I do think we need to expand our military and have some real reform. And the starting place is one of the things that Senator Kerry has laid out over the last several months.

I mean, what we see happening, and you know this, Larry, because I've heard you talk about it. What we see happening is we have members of our Reserve and our National Guard who are being kept for long tours of duty, way beyond anything they expected. Now, my own belief is that it's a combination of not having enough troops, which is why we need to add troops to our military, but secondly, we shouldn't be doing these things by ourselves. We shouldn't be in the places that we're in.

I was, just a few weeks ago, for example, I was in Brussels at NATO meeting with a whole group of NATO ambassadors and hearing their perspective on this. I just believe that these countries around the world, whose cooperation and alliances we need, believe that in order for them to have a fresh start with America, we're going to need a new president to do that. Now, they're not going to want to say this very vocally, of course, but the reality is that in order for us to reestablish old relations and to establish new relationships, I believe we need a new president.

KING: Are you saying they implied that to you?

J. EDWARDS: They didn't say that directly. What they said was they're very frustrated with the way this administration has dealt with them.

They believe that in this case our trans-Atlantic relationships are important, should be important to America, are important to them. They want to be treated with some level of respect. They understand, because I made it very clear, at the end of the day, the president of the United States is going to do what's in the best interest of the American people.

But the vast majority of the time, our interests are aligned with the interests of our allies around the world.

KING: Can you say unequivocally in a Kerry-Edwards administration there will never be a preemptive strike?

J. EDWARDS: No, I can't say that. No...

KING: So there might be occasion in which the United States would make the first blow?

J. EDWARDS: No, of course. Suppose, for example, we identified some significant terrorist operation operating in some country that is hostile to us. We know that they're about to hit us. We have absolutely credible evidence, intelligence, that that's going to happen. It may be necessary for us to act preemptively.

No, we wouldn't take that off the table. But I might add, this is an important thing, that the administration has gone to this doctrine of preemptive strikes, which is completely unnecessary. Every American president has always had the authority to act in a way to keep the American people safe, whatever that requires. And laying this doctrine out just said to the rest of the world, we don't care what you think, we're going to do whatever we want when we please. It's just not the way to interact with the rest of the world.

KING: Am I correct, Elizabeth, wasn't your father a decorated Navy pilot?

E. EDWARDS: He was, 30 years in the Navy. My grandfather was also career Navy.

KING: So this is like a Naval ticket with Kerry, right?

E. EDWARDS: That's right.

KING: In fact, you were raised part of the time in Japan?

E. EDWARDS: I was. I lived on Navy bases really my entire life, as I was growing up, and he had three tours of duty in Japan. Flew reconnaissance flights at one time. Had a tour of duty in Vietnam at which time we stayed in Japan so we could be close to him and see him periodically.

But, no, my life has been lived under the American flag.

J. EDWARDS: You should get Elizabeth to tell you a little more about her dad, because her dad was a real hero. There are some wonderful stories about him.

KING: Is he living, Elizabeth?

E. EDWARDS: He is. He had a stroke in 1990 and he has been fighting for the last 14 years.

KING: What does he think of his son-in-law?

E. EDWARDS: He's pretty pleased about this. He's actually undergoing physical therapy right now, and I think the possibility of an inauguration gives him something to shoot for.

KING: On the campaign trail, Senator Edwards, do you have to clear speeches with Senator Kerry -- I mean, how does it work? Do you answer to the presidential campaign or do they pretty much let you go?

J. EDWARDS: That's evolving is the honest answer to that question. But for the most part, Senator Kerry and I have just gone out and done our thing. You know, you remember, because you moderated a debate that we had during the primaries...

KING: The California debate.

J. EDWARDS: ... the California debate. One of the struggles that both of us had during those debates was trying to find any real differences that we had...

KING: Correct.

J. EDWARDS: ... and the reality is that we believe in the same thing, so we've not -- there's just not been any bump. We believe in taking the country -- our vision for the country, our values for America are the same.

KING: Are you pained at this campaign against trial lawyers?

J. EDWARDS: Well, I don't know if I'd say it that way. I'll tell you what, first of all, you know this, I am proud of what I spent my life doing before I went to the Senate. You know, I fought for kids and families against big insurance companies and big HMOs. I'm proud of that.

I think it's a mistake to stereotype and demagogue against anybody or any profession. There are wonderful, wonderful doctors in this world. There are some who are less good. Same thing is true of lawyers. Same thing is true of political leaders. Same thing is true of talk show hosts. I think it is a mistake...

KING: You've gone too far!


J. EDWARDS: I think that it's a mistake to lump everybody into the same category. I think some lawyers do very good things.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Senator John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Senator John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards.

Elizabeth, does it annoy you when they pick on trial lawyers?

E. EDWARDS: I mean, I saw John spend 20 years, basically giving himself up entirely to families who needed his voice. Our family sort of backed off. And I saw how much difference he made in their lives.

So, you know, it's almost like a fight -- you want to almost sort of whisper to the Republicans, this is not a fight you want to have, not with this man. Because he did such great work and helped so many families in real ways.

You know, it's not a bunch of -- John talked about there are good lawyers and bad lawyers. This is a very good and very moral lawyer.

KING: Do you think, John, Senator, looking younger than your actual age, it doesn't help in that people will say where is the experience, he's boyish.

J. EDWARDS: Yes, I think that's fair. I mean, I'm 51-years-old and sometimes people -- and what I say is I wear all my scars and experience on the inside, because they're there. No, but it is, you know, when people have an initial impression, that is the impression. But I have a lot of confidence, Larry, in the American people. From many years of being in front of ordinary Americans in courtrooms and from all of my years now in politics, the years I've been in politics, I have a lot of faith in people. I think that they are good judges -- the American people are good judges of character. I think they go right past the superficial. I think they're going to decide what I'm made of, what I care about, what my values are, what kind of judgment they believe I have.

KING: They are saying, the ads, the opposition, that this is a very liberal ticket. According to the ABA, I think John Kerry was rated 1 or 2 and you were rated 4 or 5 on liberal voting. How do you respond?

J. EDWARDS: It's not true. I have a simple response to that. If you look at instead of one year the entire time I've been in Senate, the same thing with John Kerry, the truth of the matter is that statement is factually wrong.

But I go beyond that. I don't think these labels help anybody. What people in this country want to hear from us is what are you going to do with our healthcare system, because we believe we have a real healthcare plan. What are you going to do to create jobs. How will you interact with the rest of the world and keep this country safe and Americans safe in a way that's in any way different than this administration.

This should be a discussion and a debate about what our values are, what our ideas are, and what our vision for the country respectively are. Because they are not the same. They are dramatically different in my judgment, and I think that's what we need to be talking about going forward.

KING: Elizabeth, every pundit is saying, this is going to be the least civil of campaigns. This will be the toughest. It's going to get rough. It's going to be -- the attack ads are going to be on both sides.

What do you think about that?

E. EDWARDS: Well, in the primaries the University of Pennsylvania analyzed the political advertisements and I read that they had hired extra people in order to analyze all of the negative advertising they expected during the primary.

John set out a course -- and John Kerry did the same thing -- of deciding that they weren't going to engage, they weren't going to take the low road, and they didn't, and those were the survivors at the end of the day because that's what the American people are clamoring for.

You're seeing a lot of negative advertising coming out of the Bush-Cheney campaign. You're not seeing the same thing out of this campaign, and it's my expectation, my hope, and my believe in both of these men that you will not see that in this campaign.

KING: Can you avoid it, senator, if the going gets tough?

J. EDWARDS: Oh, yes we can. It is a really fundamental thing, Larry. It is the way you view the world. I don't know any other way to say it. I mean, it's the way you view the world and the way you think you should be elected or reelected the president of the United States is to tear down personally the people who are running against you, that says a lot to the American people about what kind of leader you are and will be.

If on the other hand you believe that fundamentally tomorrow can be better than today, that if we put our nose to -- if we're willing to put our nose to the grindstone, work hard, take the steps that are necessary to improve the lives of ordinary Americans, we can do it.

I mean, I and John Kerry, we are just eternally optimistic about what's possible in this country.

KING: Are you looking forward to debating the vice president?

J. EDWARDS: Well, I don't underestimate the vice president. I think he's got a lot of experience. He's been around a long time. He's been through these debates numerous times. He's been through a vice presidential debate. There are dramatic contrasts in the way he views the world and how I view the world. My goal will be to make sure voters know what those differences are. But I wouldn't for a minute underestimate him.

KING: Are you nervous about it, Elizabeth?

E. EDWARDS: Not a bit. I think that -- you hear a lot about how different these two men are from one another in superficial ways, but I'm confident that John will be able to communicate to the American people what this campaign is all about. And if he does that, I have a very high confidence level about the outcome.

KING: Senator Edwards, how do you deal with the questions of John Kerry's apparently being cold? Is that something that the public doesn't see -- is there a warmth that we don't see?

J. EDWARDS: Oh, yes. I think people will see it, Larry, but there is absolutely a warmth. I mean, we spent a week, a week-and-a- half with them and with their family. The way he interacts with his kids. He loves his kids and Teresa so much and it's so obvious. The way he interacts with me and with Elizabeth and with my own children. I mean, my kids, my daughter, Emma Claire, who is a really tough judge, she's 6-years-old, she said to me after spending a couple of hours with John Kerry, "Dad, Senator Kerry is really cool." And that's the ultimate test for her.

I think that people are going to see the warmth of John Kerry. I also think, by the way, they're going to see what he's made of inside as we go through this, some of which we'll see at the convention with men who served with him in Vietnam.

KING: By the way, speaking of that, is his war record fair?

Is it fair to say I served, they didn't?

J. EDWARDS: It's fair for him to say this shows something about who I am and what kind of leader I'll be, which is exactly what John Kerry does. If you listen to Senator Kerry, his is not about his opponent. He talks about -- actually, he doesn't talk about it as much as I do. He talks about how when somebody graduates from college, loves their country enough to volunteer for military service, volunteer for Vietnam, volunteer for one of the most dangerous duties in Vietnam, wounded multiple times, being recognized for his valor, and then you listen to these men who served with him, and I know you've heard some of them, I mean, these men adore him. I mean, they look up to and respect him 30 years later. It means something. There were no political campaigns back then, Larry. These men put their lives in John Kerry's hands and they trust him.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Senator Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards right after this.


KING: Our guests are Senator John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards.

In the time we've known them -- Elizabeth, this is new and I've known Senator Edwards for a while. He's been on this program. Something we haven't discussed but we ought to, what did losing a son do to you, to the marriage, to your life? Senator, you first.

J. EDWARDS: Well, Larry, you know, you're talking about our son, Wade, who died when he was 16, in 1996, and he was an extraordinary young man. He was warm and caring and a wonderful writer. We both were attached to him at the breastbone. He was such a huge part of our family and very important to us for that reason.

But, you know, beyond that, I think that this is something that ought to remain within our family and private and so it's a perfectly reasonable question for you to ask, but with your permission, I think I'll stop there.

KING: Elizabeth, I know you quit your law firm, didn't you?

E. EDWARDS: I did. I did. I think that it -- like John, we answer questions about Wade, but we don't usually bring him up in any kind of public dialogue, and so I try to move it sometimes to the grief -- what happens in the tens of thousands of families across the country where this terrible loss happens.

KING: I ask it because you are public figures...

E. EDWARDS: Right.

KING: ... and it usually happens that when a child -- the worst of all things possible is losing a child -- there is change in a marriage.

E. EDWARDS: Well, actually, there is a huge percentage of people who get divorced...

KING: Right.

E. EDWARDS: ... I think, and I have been to grief parents groups where you see couples drawing closer together, and that's what happened with John and with me, although it's almost hard to believe we could have gotten any closer, but I believe we really did. And then you see couples that, maybe because they grieve differently or just have different levels of response, it's very difficult on the marriage.

But I think that one of the things I hope that our story represents to families who are undergoing this terrible loss is the idea that there is another day, that you can go on to productive lives, that you can remember your lost child in a way that is meaningful to you and sort of holds his or her place in the world as well.

KING: Senator, have you discussed with Senator Kerry the role as he sees it of the vice president? J. EDWARDS: Oh, yes. We've talked about that actually, during the selection process itself we talked about it. How he saw it and how I saw it. We've talked about it since he made the decision to choose me and for us to run together.

I think both of us want this to be a strong and powerful partnership where we trust and rely on each other. I think it's still an evolving partnership right now because it's still pretty young. It's only been a couple of weeks now. But I feel very, very good about how this is going.

KING: Is there a particular area you want to put your mettle on?

J. EDWARDS: I've got some ideas about that. But right now we're so into the campaign and what our respective roles are in making sure people in this country know who we are, and in my case making sure they know who John Kerry is and what our vision for the country is, and what we want to do to improve America. That's really the focus right now.

I'm sure at some point we'll have more discussion about that and I have thought about it a lot.

KING: You're going to leave the Senate, right?


KING: Why?

J. EDWARDS: Well, it really was a practical issue. It actually love the Senate and the men and women who serve there with me, I have so much admiration and respect for. They're wonderful leaders and they care deeply about this country. They sometimes don't get the kind of credit they deserve, especially a lot of the senators who have been there for many years, much longer than myself. I have enormous respect for them.

It was really a practical question. I was running for president and out campaigning all the time. It was very hard to say to people vote to me to be your president, but I'm going to hang on to the side of the pool and maybe I may run for reelection to the Senate if this doesn't work. It's just not the way I function. I felt like I needed to put everything into it.

KING: Which Joe Lieberman did four years ago.

J. EDWARDS: Others have done in the past, yes.

KING: The fact of the question of North Carolina comes into play. Do you think you can deliver the state that went to the Republicans four years ago?

J. EDWARDS: I think we'll be very competitive in North Carolina. The most recent polling since the selection was made show the state is basically a dead heat. Other states like Tennessee, have become more competitive. I think we're tied in Tennessee, for example. So we've made some huge progress just in the last week or two, but at the end of the day John Kerry is the candidate for president and if people in North Carolina, a place that I know very well, you know I grew up in a rural, small town in North Carolina, if the people I grew up with know John Kerry the way I do, know about his heroism, know about his service to the country, they will believe, I am convinced, that he represents the kind of values they believe in and they'll vote for him.

KING: Elizabeth, do you like campaigning? Do you like politics?

E. EDWARDS: Actually, I do. I mean, I like -- having given up the law, being able to listen in on policy discussions is interesting to me. But the very best part is just meeting people. It sounds like just words people say, but having been in the Navy, having moved constantly, my life has been this parade of what might be strangers to other people but if you grew up that way, they're just friends you haven't met yet.

KING: Senator, do you know the president?

J. EDWARDS: Not well. I know him a little bit. I introduced him at the National Prayer Breakfast one year and went to the Oval Office and met with him in preparation for that, but I don't know him real well.

KING: When a campaign starts to get hot and heavy, does hatred occur, or is that only from listening to the vibrancy of left and right on mostly talk radio? But, I mean, do you get to hate an opponent? Does that happen?

J. EDWARDS: No. Do you mean on a personal level?

KING: Yes.

J. EDWARDS: No. I'm only speaking for me, but the answer is no.

KING: So in other words, you have nothing personal against George Bush or Dick Cheney, you just want to win?

J. EDWARDS: Well, I care so deeply about this country that I have an enormous passion to change the direction we're going in, both abroad and what's happening here in America. So it drives me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

But I don't think of it as a personal thing. That's just not the way I view it.

KING: Do you, Elizabeth?

E. EDWARDS: No, I don't. I mean, it really is all about changing the direction. It's not about ego. You said, so it's all about winning, but it's not about winning. It's about changing the direction and one of the reasons that John Kerry and John Edwards were good candidates is because both of them have that as their -- they weren't ego-driven. They were all about what we need to do for the country. KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Senator John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards. We hope to spend much time with them in the months ahead, as we do all the candidates, right after this.


E. EDWARDS: We believe that tomorrow will be better than today. Now if we do what we are capable of doing everything is possible. And I'll tell you something is going is going to happen. Between now and November, the American people are going to reject this tired old hateful negative politics of the past.



KING: We're back with our remaining moments with Senator John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards.

Are you working on the speech, Senator?

J. EDWARDS: I am. I've been working on it for about a week now.

KING: Someone wanted me to ask you if you're going to use a prompter or not. I don't know that I care, but someone wants to know.

J. EDWARDS: Well, I don't know that that's been decided yet. There will probably be a prompter on.

You know, the way I just naturally speak is probably the way I'll speak, so it may be on, it may have the words, I may use it from time to time, but I'll probably speak more from in here.

E. EDWARDS: He won't use it. It'll be there, but he won't use it.

KING: Neither would I.

Will it have a theme -- Senator?

J. EDWARDS: Yes, it will have a theme, and do you want to know what it is?

KING: Yeah!

J. EDWARDS: My purpose will be to accomplish three things. One is to make sure the country knows more about me as their vice presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. Second, that they know more about John Kerry and the way I view him. And, third, some pretty clear ideas about our vision for the country. And I think that those things will be built around a common thing, which I'll save for now.

KING: Who will introduce you?

E. EDWARDS: I will. KING: Oh, you will?

E. EDWARDS: I will. I'll do it, and actually our 22-year-old daughter will introduce me. Get our family out there.

KING: And Hillary will introduce Bill Clinton. Was that a mistake to not originally include her, Senator?

J. EDWARDS: I think it's a very good idea for Hillary to speak at the convention.

KING: Was it a mistake not to include her originally?

J. EDWARDS: I don't know because I wasn't involved in the mechanics. As soon as I heard about it, I did the same thing and John Kerry did exactly the same thing, both of us. As soon as we heard about it, it had been handled by other people. We immediately said she should be asked to speak.

KING: Have you attended conventions, Senator?

J. EDWARDS: I have. One, to be precise.

KING: Which was?

J. EDWARDS: In 2000.

KING: The nomination of Al Gore?

J. EDWARDS: That's correct.

KING: Did you think at that time, someday I'm going to be up there?


J. EDWARDS: Well, I probably did a little bit, only because you remember that I was actually one of the few people that Al Gore was considering for vice president. So it was hard not to think about that when Al and Joe Lieberman were speaking. So a little bit. But mostly I was thinking about how we could get them elected.

KING: Are you aware of what is ahead now? Are you -- I mean, this is going to be until November and, if you're elected, after November. Are you aware of how life changing this is about to be for you?

J. EDWARDS: Yes, it's already been life changing. I mean, having people around us all the time, staff, Secret Service, having my kids, my younger kids particularly, need to be protected. I mean, it's already been life altering, but my -- I mean, here's this opportunity, this extraordinary opportunity for this young guy who grew up in a small mill town in North Carolina to be able to run for vice president of the United States. How could it ever get any better?

I mean, I just -- this is an amazing thing for me and that's the way I view it.

KING: Do you like, Elizabeth, the Secret Service and the security and everything?

E. EDWARDS: I used to do things that I'm not doing now. I haven't yet done the grocery shopping. In Washington you have the advantage of being able to order some things by telephone, so that's been great. Instead of taking this entourage to the grocery store, I'm not looking forward to that.

So, you know, it has cut back on what I feel comfortable doing, but I think it's the early stages. I think I'll get more comfortable. The fellows sure are awfully nice.

KING: Senator Edwards, do you fear any surprises? By fear I mean October surprises, campaigns coming up with things unexpected?

J. EDWARDS: Oh, I think we have to be ready for everything. I mean, there's no way to predict what's going to happen. I think things could change tomorrow, things could change in October. We have to stay focused, focused on this not being an election about us but about the American people and where we want to take the country, about us trying to provide some hope to Americans who are desperately in need of it and wanting it, and I think we'll get through any surprises.

KING: Going to be a close election?

J. EDWARDS: Oh, it will be close. It will be close. That's one thing you can predict with certainty.

KING: We are a divided country.

J. EDWARDS: We are divided politically right now. I believe we can change that.

KING: Elizabeth, are you looking forward to it?

E. EDWARDS: I'm really looking forward to it. I am really delighted that Senator Kerry picked my husband because it sure would have been hard to sit on the sidelines for this one.

KING: Thank you both very much, we'll be seeing a lot of you. See you in Boston next week.

J. EDWARDS: Thanks for having us.

KING: Senator John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards, the 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate and his wife. He will speak one week from tonight in Boston. I'll be back in a minute and tell you about tomorrow night.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be in Boston all next week with a special show Sunday night, live, and two shows nightly at 9:00 and midnight.

Tomorrow night, Bill Maher joins us. Right now joining us, "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown.


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