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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Encore Presentation: Interview with Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein

Aired February 19, 2006 - 21:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) this White House guy, a good one, a pro, came up and asked what is this Watergate compulsion with you guys?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Compulsion, I think it's a story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I said...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not compulsion (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said well we think it's important and he said if it's so goddamn important who in the hell are Woodward and Bernstein?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, they broke the story of Watergate, the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD M. NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: They earned fame, fortune and inspired a smash hit film.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT REDFORD: We're from "The Washington Post."

DUSTIN HOFFMAN: I'm Carl Bernstein. This is Bob Woodward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Three decades after "All the President's Men" hit the silver screen, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein join us to talk about how their stories held up and how the Bush administration compares to the Nixon team when it comes to controversy and press coverage.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening, a two-disc DVD special edition of "All the President's Men" will be released on February 21st, the day after president's day. The 1976 film was based on the Woodward and Bernstein best seller. It starred Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. It earned four Academy Awards and was nominated for another four including best picture of the year.

Joining us to celebrate this release in Washington is Bob Woodward, who earned the Pulitzer Prize for "The Washington Post" coverage of that scandal. He was the co-author of "All the President's Men" and "The Final Days" and is assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post," his most recent book "The Secret Man the Story of Watergate's Deep Throat."

And, in New Orleans tonight is Carl Bernstein who earned the Pulitzer for "The Washington Post" as well for the coverage of the Watergate scandal and was the co-author of both books, "All the President's Men" and "Final Days." He's contributing editor of "Vanity Fair" magazine and is working on a book about Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mr. Woodward is working on his third book about George Bush.

Before we talk about "All the President's Men" and Watergate, let's get an update on the gentlemen's reaction to the Cheney incident. How do you read that Bob? Mr. Whittington spoke again -- spoke for the first time today and said he's doing well.

BOB WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST": And I guess he was released from the hospital. I mean all of the flurry about this at least initially focused on the delay in releasing the news. I'm not sure that's the issue.

I think there are some unanswered questions here. It may have to do with what President Bush said that this was a traumatic experience for the vice president. I'm sure it was. It should be.

What the problem I thought was that there was this story initially when this came out at the beginning of the week that somehow it was the victim's fault that Harry Whittington had broken some hunting protocol by not announcing that he was coming up after looking for some other bird he had shot.

At that moment, Cheney who clearly was following this should have just come out or released a statement and said, "No, look, it was my fault." He has subsequently done that but I thought that failure to kind of step up to the plate early created the atmosphere of, hey, what's going on here?

KING: Carl, with your investigative background, did you suspect something?

CARL BERNSTEIN, "VANITY FAIR": I think the most interesting aspect of this is to compare it to the Nixon presidency because we are at a point in the Bush presidency, as in the Nixon presidency, where what the president says and what the vice president says is not believed on its face by a large part of the American people, by a large segment of the press.

And, indeed, there is a track record of falsity, untruth, disinformation, misinformation, so that there is becoming a distrust in this presidency that's very similar to what we saw under Nixon and that is why all these questions have been raised that ordinarily the question would be one of merely sympathy for both the shooter and the man who was shot.

KING: Did it cause, Carl, distrust in your mind?

BERNSTEIN: Sure. As Bob says there are unanswered questions and pretty much at this point almost anything on an important question that the vice president says raises a question of distrust in my mind because look at the numbers of almost every word that you say, "mission accomplished," "Abu Ghraib," "WMD," whether it's the president or the vice president, Katrina, the response to Katrina. You look at this house behind me and you hear, you know, "Heck of a job, Brownie."

There is a disinformation campaign in which words mean almost nothing. It's almost Orwellian. If you went back and read 1984 that's not to say that this presidency is 1984 but if you look at 1984 it's about largely the use of language and the use of language by this president and by Mr. Cheney is disingenuous and I think that is not always disingenuous but on the big questions it has been.

KING: What will be the impact on Cheney? It can't be much. He's not going to run for president, Bob. He's a lame duck vice president. What's the impact?

WOODWARD: Yes but Carl's right. Carl's making a very strong statement there and I look at it from a different angle and that is, yes, you need to look at the words and then see what's really happened and look behind it.

BERNSTEIN: That's right.

WOODWARD: And, from the perspective of a reporter the answer here is transparency. This administration, like all White Houses and they tend to circle the wagons. They get into a bunker mentality and they should come out and explain what they're doing and why they're doing it.

And the Cheney incident triggers this, you know, hey what's going on here? Why is there the delay? There's a mystique about it all rather than -- you know Cheney, you know, wasn't born yesterday and he's been around Washington for decades.

He knew that this was going to be an issue and certainly he had people on his staff, Mary Matalin who's his former press person, you know, maybe she didn't know about this but somebody should have come forward and said, "Look, this is what happened" but I still think most importantly the issue is who's responsible?

And, there was this fog, and this is what Carl is talking about, put out by people who were in this hunting party that somehow the victim is responsible. Well now that's absurd. I'm not a hunter but I recall reading enough about it. One of the rules is you hunt in front. In other words, you look out in front and if you're going to shoot you shoot in front.

According to Cheney's own explanation, he kind of reeled 90 degrees to the right because there was apparently some bird in the bush over here. I mean, you know, I don't understand the hunting culture.

My wife says it really is a misnomer to call this a hunting accident because it's really -- it's not fair. It's not a contest. But the anxiety or the drive, the pressure to get this poor bird out of the bush that you would swing a shotgun 90 degrees that strikes me is bizarre and odd.

And the idea of responsibility and I think that's what Carl's talking about on not just this issue but all the government questions. Let's get it out. Let's deal with what really happened instead of fogging things up and people don't like it.

KING: Carl, why not just -- maybe this is stupid, Carl, but why not just tell the truth?

BERNSTEIN: First of all, before Bob gets his NRA card taken away, you've raised the right question.

WOODWARD: I don't have an NRA card.

BERNSTEIN: Larry just asked exactly the right question why not tell the truth? Why not tell the truth about WMD and the failure of intelligence? Look behind me again. This president has refused to give the record of his deliberations and of those aides of his as to how they responded to this hurricane to the Congress of the United States.

This is unheard of. Why not tell the truth? Why not tell the truth about how it is that this president authorized the use of torture in regulations promulgated by the now attorney general, then counsel to the president Mr. Gonzales?

Why not tell the truth about this spying program without warrants that George Will, the conservative columnist said yesterday represents a grab of presidential authority that might be as dangerous as terrorism itself.

We have got a real problem of truth and I would suggest that we are at a point. We now know, you know, John Dean wrote a book called "Worse than Watergate" about this president and when he wrote it I thought it was just hyperbole. Now, we are at a point where we were after the reporting Bob and I did in Watergate, after Judge Sirica entered the Watergate situation and brought to the light some more facts. We are at a similar point in this presidency where we were with the Irvin investigation...

KING: Hold it, Carl.

BERNSTEIN: ...where the Congress of the United States...

KING: I just wanted to get a break. We'll come right back and pick it up with Carl -- with Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. "All the President's Men" is being re-released on Tuesday, the day after President's Day. It's the anniversary. It came out in 1976, one of the great films ever.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY WHITTINGTON, SHOOTING VICTIM: We all assume certain risks in whatever we do, whatever activities we pursue and regardless of how experienced, careful and dedicated we are accidents do and will happen and that's what happened last Friday.

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a wonderful experience to be greeted with such warmth by the leaders of our great state. That's especially true when you've had a very long week. Thankfully, Harry Whittington is on the mend and doing very well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAL HOLBROOK, ACTOR: It involves the entire U.S. intelligence community, FBI, CIA, Justice. It's incredible. The cover-up had little to do with Watergate. It was mainly to protect the covert operations. It leads everywhere. Get out your notebook there's more. Your lives are in danger.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: That's Hal Holbrook as Deep Throat and Robert Redford as Bob Woodward in "All the President's Men" now being re-released on its 30th anniversary.

Bob Woodward, what's different now from then?

WOODWARD: Well you just heard Carl say in his view that we're right at a point where the Irvin Senate Watergate Committee investigation began. Why I love Carl is sometimes he gets ten steps ahead of the facts. I'm not sure we're there. He might be right.

I think the really interesting question is on some of these issues is there going to be a serious investigation? Now in Watergate 33 years ago, I remember Senator Irvin calling us up to his office and saying he was going to investigate Watergate.

He was a Democrat and he asked us for our sources and we said, "We're not going to reveal our sources to him or anyone." He accepted that rather than saying "Oh, no, we're going to get somebody to investigate where you're getting your information."

Then they launched a truly great investigation. That was a time when we had divided government, a Republican Nixon in the White House and a Democratic Congress. Now there is no divided government and if you look at the investigations that are conducted by the Congress, with a few exceptions, they really aren't investigations. They go limp.

An exception is the Republican investigation into Katrina in the House of Representatives. The report they put out this week was very strong, got to the bottom of a lot of these issues, not all of them but I think just in terms of really getting to the bottom of some of these questions you need real investigations and we don't have them yet.

KING: What did Watergate...

BERNSTEIN: Bob's absolutely right. That was my point that we are at the point where Irvin stepped in. I'm not moving any father than that. The truth is we don't know if it's worse than Watergate and the only way we would find out at this point is by a real congressional investigation with subpoena power.

And one of the most interesting aspects of this is that ideological defenders of this president in the Republican party are, some of them are very uneasy in private with this president and with his actions and his answers to questions that might not be truthful and at the same time they continue to defend him because they agree with his ideology.

One of the great things that happened in Watergate was eventually Republicans did not continue to support Mr. Nixon and his actions when they found them to be against the law.

KING: Did Watergate, Bob Woodward, change American politics?

WOODWARD: Oh, you know, I don't know. I mean it changed a lot of things. It changed the presidency. It made Congress at least for a while more aggressive in these investigations and obviously made us in the media more aggressive. But people have looked at it. It's a mixed bag.

I think in some respects the press is a lot better and a lot more thorough and at the same time this impulse, this impatience, you know, let's get it on the Internet right away, let's get it on cable news immediately, this rush to try to explain complicated things.

This is one of the points Cheney was making and I thought it was a very good one, this, you know, we're going to do it immediately in 30 seconds and you can't do that and somehow the process needs to be slowed down in my view.

KING: Carl, what was the impact on journalism?

BERNSTEIN: I think the worst one was we began becoming so aggressive in some places that we let the facts get in front of us that there became a great demand for the big scoop, ala Watergate, as a kind of career methodology by some young reporters.

But I think the really important trends in journalism in the last 25 years are basically the dumbing down of media what I called in a cover piece for The New Republic in 1990 the triumph of idiot culture, manufactured controversy, sensationalism, shouting from the left and the right as if this were real news and real information.

In this cacophony truth, the best obtainable version of the truth, which is really what reporting is that snapshot at a given moment of where an event and the facts stand when reporting is good that's getting lost in this noise and, as Bob says, in this rush to get stuff out. Who the hell knows what's right and what's right and what's fact and what's context and what's not? And if you -- it's particularly egregious on television with all due respect and on the Internet.

KING: All right, let me get a break. We'll be right back with more. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOFFMAN: I'm trying to tell you that if you'd read mine and then read yours...

REDFORD: May I read yours?

HOFFMAN: Yes. I walked by, gave yours a glance. It didn't look right so I just figured I'd refine it a little. That first paragraph has to have more clarity if the reader is going to understand it. You don't mention Colson's name until the third paragraph. I think mine's better but you go ahead and read it. If you think yours is better, we'll give yours to the desk. I've got Colson's name up front. He's a White House consultant and nobody knows him.

REDFORD: Right. Yours is better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOFFMAN: You made a mistake in there.

REDFORD: What?

HOFFMAN: You said to Bradley we haven't had any luck yet and that's something that he jumps on. If you can't talk about luck or you can't talk in specifics you shouldn't say anything.

REDFORD: Is there any place you don't smoke?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: On a personal note with the re-release of the DVD what was it like, Bob, to have Robert Redford play you?

WOODWARD: You have no idea how many women I've disappointed over a long period of time. They -- I hadn't seen the movie for a long time and Carl and I last -- this -- six months ago in the summer they had a film festival in New York and went up to see it and my then 8- year-old daughter, Diana, watched it and I sat next to her and she was squirming a lot.

And after it was over I asked what she thought because I knew I would get an unvarnished review and because she lives in Washington sometimes she talks like a policy wonk. And so when I asked "What did you think," she said, "A) the guy playing you doesn't look like you at all; and then, B) she said "boring, boring, boring."

And, you know, I don't think the movie is boring but investigative reporting sometimes is and I thought the movie captured that sense of knocking on lots of doors and only getting an answer on one of them.

KING: Carl, what was it like, how did Dustin Hoffman do?

BERNSTEIN: I agree totally with what Bob says that the great thing about this movie is it's about the process of journalism. It's not really about Redford being Woodward or Hoffman being me. They do what we did and they do it very well in that movie and you see the grubby, slow, difficult, slogging process of what real reporting is really about and the doors being slammed.

And there's a second DVD that I looked at the other night that's really a film about the making of the film that is quite fascinating. And one of the things that the cinema photographer Gordon Willis, notes is how these shots that you see of Redford and Hoffman that they're two little reporters in this huge city.

And then in the Library of Congress with the camera going up to the dome they're needles in a haystack and that's what reporters do. It's not about glamour. It's not about our personal lives and that's why it's such a brilliant film about reporting and journalism. Let me tell you if reporters did what those guys do in this film more often today we would know more and we would have less confusion about what we know.

KING: But you did get, Bob Woodward, fame and notoriety and wealth out of it.

WOODWARD: Yes but I, you know, I stayed at "The Washington Post," keep reporting and keep working on books and that's what's interesting. I mean we're talking about the Bush administration. The mysteries abound and so there are many avenues.

Now, I'll tell you what struck me also about the movie, the show is really, the movie is stolen by Jason Robards who plays Ben Bradley, who was our editor at the Post. And, Carl's talking about reporters doing things.

We were a couple of kids and they kind of let us follow our nose and follow the information and the money but Bradley was the guiding force there. He was the one who, I've said this many time, a great editor, not just because of what he printed from our stories but what he didn't print. And there's a scene in the movie where we have a story which turned out to be a great story and absolutely right about one of these White House people investigating Teddy Kennedy and Ben read it and he slapped the page and said, you know, "You haven't got it kid." And Carl was upset. I was upset.

BERNSTEIN: I'm still upset about it.

WOODWARD: But what he was saying about it was not that we're not going to print this. It was go back and get more information and when you do that we will.

KING: Let me get a break and come back with more. We're celebrating the re-release or the, yes, the re-release DVD of "All the President's Men." Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOFFMAN: (INAUDIBLE).

JASON ROBARDS: Well it's (INAUDIBLE).

HOFFMAN: This is a story stronger than that. We got White House librarians (INAUDIBLE) a whole lot of books. We got a secretary in Colson's office that sat at the desk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right that's a column. Ben, that's a page one story.

ROBARDS: Take it inside someplace.

BERNSTEIN: This is a goddamn important story.

ROBARDS: Get some harder information next time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, what else beside the money? Where is the goddamn story?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The money is the key to whatever this is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Says who?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Deep Throat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, that is Woodward's garage freak, his source.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Garage freak? Jesus, what kind of a crazy story is this?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.

A two-disk DVD special edition of "All the President's Men" will be released on Tuesday, the day after President's Day. The 1976 film based on the Woodward and Bernstein best seller starred Redford and Hoffman.

With us are Bob Woodward, who earned the Pulitzer Prize, as did Carl Bernstein. Bob is in Washington. Carl is in New Orleans. Bob is currently working on his third book on Nixon -- on Bush. You get a little intertwined. And Bernstein of "Vanity Fair Magazine" is working on a book on Hillary Rodham Clinton.

By the way, where are you in New Orleans, Carl?

CARL BERNSTEIN, WASH. POST; BROKE WATERGATE STORY THAT FORCED PRES. NIXON FROM OFFICE: Right now I'm on the edge of the Ninth Ward, where the damage was the greatest. You can see this house behind me that was seriously damaged. When you get more down that way, they're all gone.

KING: Are you down there doing a story?

BERNSTEIN: No, I came down to give a talk. And then I'm staying a few days to learn what I can and talk to people. It's just devastating, sad. You know, the cause of this city ought to be the cause of America. And the people here are devastated, among other things. At least what little I can ascertain as a reporter.

So far, the one thing that so many people say is how they feel they've been failed by their government from the top down.

KING: Back to Watergate.

Bob, now that Mark Felt has been revealed as Deep Throat, how important to the whole story was he?

WOODWARD: Well, he was part of it. And the movie and the book showed that we had dozens of sources. He was somebody, number two in the FBI, who guided us. And, as the movie accurately shows, he wasn't dishing out documents or explaining the whole story. He was subtle and paranoid, as often good sources are.

And so it was just a piece that he provided. I think it was very comforting to Bradley at "The Post," knowing that we had a source who was high in the Justice Department. So it wasn't just a bunch of kids or disgruntled people at the Nixon Committee or at the White House. So it was critical. But only part.

KING: What do you make, Carl, of the criticism of him when his name was revealed?

BERNSTEIN: I think that he really did not want it revealed. The people in his family did. And that invariably there's always questioning about the motives of sources. I think that he was a tormented man. I don't think we know all the answers as to his motivations.

There's a book being written now that is going to go into some of that with some new information, I think. Not by either Bob or myself. But I think that the idea that he was somehow a -- some kind of treasonous person, I think he was heroic in that the moment he was tested, he did the right thing for his country. And that he's owed a great debt because of it.

KING: What do you make of -- I guess it will be a lot in your book, Bob -- about the domestic eavesdropping controversy?

WOODWARD: Well, this is the NSA program where, you know, a lot of people say, and maybe correctly, it's not rightly called the domestic eavesdropping program. It is a program to listen to people who might have suspected connections to al Qaeda who are in this country. They're talking to somebody abroad.

I think there's a real serious issue here. Again, go back to that initial point. It should really be looked at aggressively in a nonpartisan way. The legal issues are -- I think, you really have a preponderance of evidence that something should have been done to go to Congress to change what's called the FISA law, dealing with this kind of surveillance.

At the same time, I know in those weeks and months after 9/11, probably most people in the position that the president was in would say, yes, we've got to listen to this. But it should have been fixed soon afterwards, and it wasn't.

KING: And what do you make of the Scooter Libby story, Carl? We've always got one of them.

BERNSTEIN: Well, I think that it's emblematic that Scooter Libby himself is unimportant. That's what's important are the charges against him that have to do with lying.

And that this is emblematic of what so many reporters have found in their stories, is what happens when they try to get straight information, or the people of the country want straight information out of this presidency. And so often what we get, particularly when they're not under oath, is questionable fact.

I want to go back to the movie on one thing, and how much it is a tribute to the people at "The Washington Post," not just Ben Bradley, but the whole process. And also it is a tribute to a great director who recognized what that process is about. And that's Allen Pakula.

This is his movie to a large extent. Tragically died young in an accident. But God, I watched that movie a few months ago with Bob, and I thought, you know, this -- you know, look at Bradley up there. Look what Allen Pakula did.

You know, we were so lucky that all of this stuff came out right so that there now is a record of what happened from the journalistic end as well as from the Nixonian end. And we owe a lot to all of these people because of it.

KING: Very well said. It's a brilliant film. And the DVD is well worth your effort. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Bob Woodward, do you think the Abramoff scandal -- and he's already pled guilty -- will lead to significant changes in lobbying?

WOODWARD: You know, it's hard to tell. There is a lobbying scandal every season, it seems, in Washington. Obviously this one is significant and much bigger, but you don't know.

And there's a system, and this is one of the complaints, I think, people have, and rightly so, where lobbyists, people who can hire lobbyists put their fingers on the scale all the time.

And a number of years ago I was thinking of doing a book called "The Empty Chair." And that is when things come to the Congress, when major decisions are made in Washington, everyone's sitting around the table who has a monetary interest or a political interest in that the empty chair is the public interest.

No one really is sitting there permanently saying, well, how does the public benefit from this? And so you have got a system. I mean, look at the budget now. It is truly out of control.

When Colin Powell told George Bush six months before the Iraq war that if you invade Iraq, you will suck the oxygen out of everything, that's turned out to be true. But the war in Iraq has sucked the money out of everything else.

I mean, it is -- everything else is being cut. You look at the aid that was supposed to go to New Orleans. And there's been a lot of good reporting showing that it's not really getting there. Education is being cut. Lots of things are being cut.

And these people still sit around the table dividing up the pie, and the chair in many respects is empty, that chair designated public interest.

KING: Carl, what is going on?

BERNSTEIN: The system is corrupt, thoroughly corrupt. It's become corroded. The legislative system and the Congress and the state legislature is subject only to money, really.

And what the founders intended to be a citizen legislature is an oligarchical legislature today, is plutocrat legislature today. That unless money is involved, forget about the public good, and if money is involved forget about the public good.

The system isn't working. It's not about Jack Abramoff. He's just the example of what happens when you take it as far as it can go in terms of how toxic it can become and how the evil of what happens when money determines what goes on in our political system.

Abramoff is reflective of it. It goes all through this administration. It goes all through the more important administration. Who's in the White House doesn't matter ultimately. It's the Congress of the U.S., and they're no longer responsive to the people. They're responsive to money.

KING: How do you change it, Bob?

WOODWARD: Well, I don't know. You know, I'm not an editorial writer. I'm not qualified and not so inclined.

I think one of the things, and this goes back to the theme maybe of "All the President's Men" or what we're talking about, you need real inquiries that explains what's going on, that you need to get one of the old managing editor at "The Washington Post," the late Howard Simons, one of the great editors.

He was our editor on Watergate. He always would talk about get your flashlight out. Shine it in a dark corner. Well, there are so many dark corners out there, and probably not enough flashlights.

KING: We'll be right back with more of Woodward and Bernstein. And starting Tuesday you can get the DVD, the re-release of "All the President's Men." You'll do yourself a favor. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got more than one source? Well who are they? Sloane and who else?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's another guy who so far won't confirm the names of the other two who control the fund, but we are working on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What Deep Throat?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not a source on this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, do any of them have an accent, personal, political, sexual? Is there anything at all? Then can we use their names?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God damn it when is somebody going to go on the record in this story? You guys are about to write a story that says the former attorney general, the highest ranking law enforcement officer in this country, is a crook. Just be sure you are right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Woodward and Bernstein, two of the most famous names in history of American journalism.

Have you been in New Orleans, Bob?

WOODWARD: No, I have not.

KING: Before I get a call to comment, what do you make of this whole thing, and the release of the report this week?

WOODWARD: Well, again, it's promises, and then they are undelivered. But Carl's there and still the best reporter in the business, and probably after a couple of days there, he'll be able to tell us what it means. And, you know, I asked the question, what's it really like? And Carl's saying it's a disaster.

KING: Yes, Carl, what's it really like?

BERNSTEIN: It's a disaster. But what's so interesting, and again, I don't know enough yet, is what the people say, and that is, that they're not getting the help they need.

For instance, their mortgages are being threatened, they say. They're being threatened with foreclosure. The insurance companies are finding ways not to pay for what happened there organizations here say. And yet the efforts of the people here is just heroic.

Last night I met a guy, a state trooper colonel, who went into all the synagogues with two men and took out all the Torah scrolls as the synagogues went under the water and saved those artifacts.

The stories of people who helped people at that level are just heroic. And to contrast that with the reaction of FEMA, of the White House, of the president, who took so long to get here on the ground, who has said, you know, that they didn't really know that this was coming, and that this catastrophe could happen.

This is not a natural disaster that happened here. This is a disaster of negligence. That much you can tell, that it's nature and negligence.

KING: How do you imagine that bright people, Bob, could have let this happen, could have reacted so slowly to what was obviously a massive tragedy?

WOODWARD: Well, you know, again, what did it look like at the time? I mean, the great newspapers of America the day after the real problems down there had stories saying, New Orleans dodges the bullet, and so forth.

So, you know, there's such a great tendency to look at government, or some other institution and say, did we really -- you know, did they perform?

And I -- just going back and looking at that, the simple reality in New Orleans when they told people to evacuate, lots of people had no money, no vehicles, no conceivable way to evacuate. And we printed stories about that. And if we'd done our reporting, we would have realized that to lots of people in New Orleans, particularly black people, the order to evacuate meant hide. And at the time, as best I can tell, in the news media generally didn't know that. And so it's something we could have done better on also.

KING: Carl?

BERNSTEIN: That's an interesting example of where rarely television, I think, did far better, both early on in the story and through a lot of the coverage.

But you ask yourself a basic question, if you are a federal agency, the same federal agency sophisticated enough supposedly to protect us from terrorists, you ought to know enough that in a big disaster requiring evacuation, that you need buses to get people without vehicles out of your city.

They didn't even seemingly think about this problem early enough on. You know, the Republican report released yesterday is savage about the response from the top down.

And to listen to the people here, you know, there are a couple people here I've known for a long time. I've come to this city a lot, who are menial workers. Their families are in Texas. They're in Baton Rouge. And they are trying to hold down jobs, stay in makeshift quarters, deal with their families who may or may not come back.

You know, this has never happened in this country. We have never lost an American city or come this close to losing one. And I don't think we'll lose New Orleans, because finally people are recognizing how important it is. These are human beings...

KING: We've got to take a break, Carl.

BERNSTEIN: ...to our culture. So it will come back. Because of the people here more than anything.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Bob Woodward, your next project? There's another book on the Bush administration, correct?

WOODWARD: Yes.

KING: How far along are you?

WOODWARD: Oh, I've got maybe half of it written. I hope to have it out this summer, or, you know, certainly this year.

KING: Does that mean there will be one more, since there's still three years left?

WOODWARD: I don't know. You know, you can only do so much. But my focus, quite frankly, is Iraq. Because I think the war in Iraq -- the things Carl's talking about in New Orleans, clearly significant. The war in Iraq is the decision that President Bush made himself. It is defining, not just of him, travel abroad, defines how America's looked at. And I think in many ways defines how we look at ourselves.

KING: Carl, do you -- I'm sorry.

Carl, your next book is on Hillary?

BERNSTEIN: Correct.

KING: How far along are we on that?

BERNSTEIN: About the same place Bob is. Come out toward the end of this year, or early next year. And Iraq, of course, is part of her story, too.

But the great thing about her story is, she's the best known woman in the world, perhaps. And like the pope, who was the subject of my last book and was the best known man in the world, very little is known about who she really is. And that's what keeps amazing me is, when you dig deeper, you find out all these things that people don't know about her. And that includes how she has formed her positions on Iraq.

KING: Is she cooperating with you?

BERNSTEIN: She's been good about saying to people early on in this, you want to talk to them, it's up to you, but I'm not going to stop you from talking to them. It's totally unauthorized.

And, you know, she is a protective, self-protective woman. And she is not someone who welcomes really great inquiry into her life. And she's always kind of had a reaction that she jumps back, as Bob can testify to in his dealings with her.

WOODWARD: I'm sure she's going to be delighted to hear that you think people don't know who she really is.

KING: That's funny.

Thank you both very much. You'll have dueling books this year maybe. That would be interesting to see. Woodward and Bernstein out on the trail together promoting books of a different sort.

Thank you both very much as always. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, co-Pulitzer Prize winners for "All the President's Men," and that DVD will be available as of Tuesday starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. The story of Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate.

We thank you very much for joining us. We hope you have a great weekend. See you back again Monday night. We will have taped shows over the weekend. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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