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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview with Tim Russert
Aired May 23, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Tim Russert on the other side of the desk. The man who grills all the big newsmakers this time he's here on the hot seat with me. He's Tim Russert for the hour. It's next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's a great honor to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, Tim Russert the author of "Wisdom of our Fathers, Lessons and Letters from Daughters and Sons." It was hard to imagine how he could possibly follow up "Big Russ and Me" the number one "New York Times" best seller but he has with this terrific book.
We also have dueling books I'll mention on a few times. My book is called "My Dad and Me," and it's a collection of stories about fathers from a host of famous and infamous people who write about this dads.
This, of course, is different. This is letters to you from?
TIM RUSSERT: When I wrote "Big Russ and Me," Larry, I thought that Irish Catholics in Buffalo who grew up the way I did would feel comfortable with it and want to read it.
As I went around the country people would say, "Hey, make that out to Big Mike, Big Manuel, Big Irv, Big Mario." I said, "My God, this is resonating with people no matter where they came from, ethnicity, religion, it didn't matter. It was almost as if it was an invitation for them to talk about their dad.
You have your "Big Russ. Let me tell you about my guy." And not one person wrote me a letter or an e-mail or a phone call about any big vacation or new TV set. It was all "Let me tell you about what I learned from my dad, about his actions, about the way he lived his life, about that small moment when he grabbed my hand or gave me the good word or picked me up and dusted me off. Or, "My dad was a monster and it took me a long time to overcome a lot of the hostility between us and this is how we did it."
It took me a year. I got 60,000 letters and e-mails and I kept reading them and reading them and reading them. And I said, "These letters deserve to be read and remembered" because they really are a roadmap for every parent out there, new or old, how to get it right. What does your kid really notice? What means something to your son or daughter? It is amazing to find out.
KING: Practically everyone we contacted for my book wanted to talk about their dads, good or bad. Why do you think? RUSSERT: Because we all know a lot about a mother. A mother smothers her children with love from the beginning of time, maternal love, the maternal instinct there's nothing like it.
Fathers are different, certainly mine was, Big Russ. He left high school in tenth grade to go fight in World War II, involved in a terrible crash with his B-24 Liberator went down, six months in a hospital and then came back home and started a second mission with my mom and that was to raise and educate his four kids, two full time jobs for 30 years, sanitation man and truck driver, never complained.
But, never was outwardly expressive, never grabbed me and said "I love you. You're mine," none of that. It was "Pick up your things. This is the way you do it. I want you to do your schoolwork. I want you to be on time. I want you to go to church. I want you to give a firm handshake, not a wet fish."
I always knew he loved me but he never told me through his words, only through his actions and his sacrifice and I wanted to capture that spirit. I want to affirm his life and say to the world, "This is a true dad. This is true love. You may not know it but you're witnessing it."
KING: How did you pick the letters you printed?
RUSSERT: It was hard and I could have written a multi-volume set of books but one by one each of them were instructive in their own way. There was a young little girl in Berea, Ohio. Her father called her Wilma. Most of the dads had nicknames for their daughters and only they could call her that.
Her name was Wilma and she used to worry a lot and he said, "Wilma, sit down with me." And he built a little box. He said "Write down every worry you have. Give me the worry. Put it in the box."
Two weeks later he sat down with her, opened up the box, said "Now take out those worries. That one's gone. That one's been taken care of. You don't have to worry yourself to death. Understand the real problems and deal with them but always understand this box is here for you."
KING: Were you surprised at the success of Big Russ?
RUSSERT: Overwhelmed. I had no idea that hundreds of thousands in the end, over a half million people bought the book, shared it, because it connected. It resonated.
You know we're here in Washington where the debate is poisonous. Out in the country people want to talk about this. They want to talk about why can't you sit down at the family table and have differences and disagree agreeably and still respect one another and love one another and appreciate one another? Why do people hate each other?
They don't see it. They don't understand it. It's a total disconnect. And so, when I went around from city to city they didn't want to talk to me about politics. They wanted to talk about their dad and what they had learned from their dad.
The other day I got a letter from a friend of mine who is not in the book but he was watching one of my discussions on this. He said, "Let me tell you a story. I grew up in Oklahoma and there was a guy who wore his religion on his sleeve, a businessman who he didn't think was particularly honest but he was out there always preaching about religion and God and so forth."
And he went to his dad and said, "You know, Dad, this guy's a hypocrite and maybe all these guys involved in religion are hypocrite because I know the way he conducts his life."
He said, "Just remember one thing." He said, "It's better to see a sermon than it is to hear a sermon," example, example, example, and that's what these fathers did.
Larry, you'll love this. A kid going to a ballgame with his dad, old New York Giants, some hooligans knocked down a fence stampeding into some free seats, good seats. And the father and the son were going to the nosebleeds.
The kid made a move to go join, trample, get in free, a tug of the wrist. The dad pulled him back and said, "We got our seats. We paid for them." To this day, the kid remembers that. That tug, that little conscience. Every time you're thinking about what do I do right or wrong, dad is spiritually with you and those lessons are unforgettable.
KING: Nothing like taking boys to the ballgame.
RUSSERT: Oh, magical.
KING: How did Big Russ take all of this and how will he now take more fame?
RUSSERT: You know when I wrote "Big Russ and Me" I sat down and inscribed it to him and it took a long time because I wanted to say just the right things and I FedExed it off to him. Day one I heard nothing, day two nothing, day three nothing.
So, I called him. I said, "Dad, did you get the book?" "Yes, yes." I said, "But, Dad, the book with your picture 'Big Russ and Me'"? "Yes, I got it." I said, "Well what do you think?" He said, "I'm reading a chapter a night. I'll let you know."
So then, he finishes the book and he said, "You made a mistake." I said, "Dad, I vetted everything. I checked everything six times. You know, I'm known for my preparation. This is what I do for a living."
He said, "No, no you say that I always say you got to eat." I said, "You do. You call me at seven o'clock on my birthday and say 'Hey, happy birthday. What are you having for dinner? You got to eat.'" He said, "But that's only half the expression. I got that from Dr. Mattie Burke (ph). The full expression is you got to eat if you're going to drink." KING: We'll be right back with Tim Russert. His new one is "Wisdom of Our Fathers, Lessons and Letters From Daughters and Sons."
Wolf Blitzer is going to join us later, make it like half of Sunday morning.
And lots to talk about with Tim Russert, good guy, don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSERT (voice-over): These are really my roots, South Buffalo, New York, once a booming steel town where life centered around hard work, hard times, football and family, where my grandfather arrived with no formal education. He survived the depression and supported his family as a Water Department boiler man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was willing to take anything. He worked hard, proud.
RUSSERT: Grandpa wanted more for my dad. My father made it to the tenth grade, volunteered for World War II, then worked two jobs for 37 years to support and educate me and my three sisters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Tim Russert. We'll talk more about the book in a while. The book is "Wisdom of our Fathers."
Let's discuss some things current. First, congratulations what is it, how many years in a row now you're number one?
RUSSERT: Five years on Sunday morning. That's a long haul each and every Sunday.
KING: Does that surprise you too?
RUSSERT: It's hard work. We started off in third place amongst the networks but there's no secret to it, Larry. It's all about preparation and trying to get the best guest, talk about the most important subject, and people gravitate I think and watch when there's an expectation that you're going to do a professional job, whether it's a Democrat, Republican, Liberal or Conservative, take the other side, challenge them, always be civil.
We don't have yelling and screaming on "Meet the Press." It's just not part of what we want to be. It's 59 years old now, the longest running television program in the history of the world.
KING: Lawrence Spivak.
RUSSERT: And Martha Roundtree, Spivak and Roundtree.
KING: It was a radio show, right?
RUSSERT: Yes, it was for two years. I love to go back and watch the archives.
KING: I like when you do that.
RUSSERT: Yes, Jimmy Hoffa has one of the best, Jimmy Hoffa sitting there at the table and people are challenging his integrity and he says "Let me tell you something. Anybody at this table match your integrity against Jimmy Hoffa." So, if they ever find the body we have that tape cued up.
KING: All right, some things current, what do you make of Charlie Gibson now being the anchor of ABC's Evening News?
RUSSERT: He's a great newsman. I knew him when he worked on Capitol Hill here in Washington and...
KING: Big Oriole fan.
RUSSERT: Yes, he is. And I think that he did a wonderful job at "Good Morning America," a temporary assignment which turned out to be eight years. But now, he'll be at ABC.
Katie Couric, my buddy, leaving NBC going to CBS. And Brian Williams, America's anchor, my anchor at NBC. Who would have thought? Who would have thought a year ago if we had said Tom Brokaw's leaving, there's going to be a change at NBC that you would have Peter Jennings leave us and Dan Rather leave the anchor chair, three new anchors in 2006? No one predicted it.
KING: And Schieffer, who you recommended to get that job.
RUSSERT: Oh, you know, I was on Don Imus and the radio program, you know, I-Man and he said "What's going on at CBS?" This is after Dan Rather was going to leave. And I said, "I don't know what they're going to do. They're talking about experimentation and bringing new people into from the outside."
I said, "You know what I would do. I'd bring in my buddy Schieffer. He's terrific. He's a solid news guy. He does a great job on 'Face the Nation.' He can fill that chair. He can cover the news. He won't be surprised by anything."
And Bob called me up and said, "Where did you get that idea?" Well, a couple days later he called me up and said "Guess what? This may happen." And a lot of people were in there pulling for him inside of CBS because they knew who he is. He is a solid guy and he's a real honor. It brings real honor to that organization.
KING: What a job he's done.
RUSSERT: Terrific, absolutely terrific.
KING: How will Katie do?
RUSSERT: I think well. There will be a lot of interest in her, a lot of scrutiny but it's so novel. It's the first solo woman to anchor the evening news and I think that will create endless curiosity. She's a real professional. She's been on the "Today Show" for 15 years. She understands live TV. She understand preparing for interviews. She understands the news flow.
And I think all these anchors are tested early on in their careers, God forbid, because there's always a disaster, always a crisis. When Brian Williams went down to New Orleans with Katrina, he proved to the world what we all knew inside of NBC that he was a passionate newsman who understood news, could articulate it and explain it in a meaningful and understandable way.
And, I think we're now at network TV in a very good position because we have with Charlie and Katie and Brian three extraordinary competent anchors but I'm for NBC.
KING: What do you hear about Mr. Woodruff?
RUSSERT: I received a nice, wonderful note from Lee, his wife. The ironies here abound, Larry. When I got the terrible call that David Bloom had been killed in Iraq, I was on the phone and asking had anyone talked to Melanie Bloom, David's wife and they said Lee Woodruff, her best friend, was on her way to Melanie's house to be with her. When Bob Woodruff was hurt in Iraq it was Melanie Bloom who traveled with Lee Woodruff to Germany to greet Bob when he arrived from Iraq.
He's making progress and he is with his family and everyone's hoping and praying for a full recovery but make no mistake about it that was a very, very serious injury.
KING: Is it a sure bet he'll be back?
RUSSERT: I only know what I read from ABC and everyone has the expectation that he'll return to work at ABC and the sooner the better for all of us.
KING: You mentioned how there's not a lot of acrimony, there's certainly disagreements on "Meet the Press." How come there is so my acrimony in Washington?
RUSSERT: You know that's a great question and I wish I understood it. I used to watch Barry Goldwater and Hubert Humphrey debate on the Senate floor, this conservative, this liberal, robust debates. They they'd go to the cloakroom and have a drink together.
RUSSERT: They respected one another. You know a little point in history that most people aren't aware of Barry Goldwater in 1963 went to see President Kennedy and said, "Mr. President, I'm going to be the Republican nominee next year. I'm a conservative. You're a liberal. Why don't we travel around on Air Force One from city to city and debate so people know we have different philosophies, different ideologies, but we respect one another?"
That is so gone now. A lot of it might be because of television and the way we cover everything so closely and radio and the Internet and cable and so forth. A lot of it I think is how you get elected through negative ads so by the time you get here you have such a negative feeling about the other person or about the campaign they ran.
A lot of is the 435 House seats in Congress. About 380 of those are already safe seats the Democrat or Republican cannot lose because they guarantee 60 percent of the vote the way they've been carved out. So, there's no incentive to work across the aisle.
KING: Karl Rove suggests the president's low rating are due to a sour mood, do you buy that?
RUSSERT: Yes. The day we went to war in March of 2003, I was sitting there with Tom Brokaw and I said, "Tom, George W. Bush has now bet his presidency on the war in Iraq."
And I got a call from the White House saying, "Boy that's a little -- a big statement." I said, "I believe it. I believe it deeply." I think whenever a president goes to war it either works or doesn't work. It can be relatively easy or difficult.
This war has proven to be a lot more difficult and a lot more complicated than the war planners ever imagined in terms of weapons of mass destruction, the intensity of the insurgency, the level of troops.
And so the president now has to deal with that and cope with that. You can't just send an army to war. You have to bring a whole country to war and right now the majority of Americans are against the war in Iraq.
KING: Because he hasn't sold it well?
RUSSERT: Well, it's difficult to sell because the primary rationale was the existence of weapons of mass destruction. Now it wasn't just the United States who believed that. Countries like France, Germany, Russia, who were opposed to the war, believed he had stockpiles.
But all that being said you have to adjust the circumstances and continue to educate people and explain to them what you're doing. What is your mission and what your exit strategy is.
KING: The more you do the lower the polls go.
RUSSERT: It's pretty hard. I also think that Katrina complicated things for George W. Bush in a large way because as commander-in-chief the one thing you have, the one asset you have is that people trust you as a leader.
And what we have seen is dramatic erosion for this president after Katrina where people looked at it as a very incompetent administration as well as the governor and mayor of New Orleans.
KING: Our guest is Tim Russert, the best. It's an honor to know him and have him as a friend. We go back a long way, dinners at Cuomo's mansion.
RUSSERT: Oh, my God.
KING: "Wisdom of our Fathers" is the book. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LLOYD BENTSEN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Tim Russert, author of "Wisdom of our Fathers," compiler of wisdom of our fathers, letters from people.
Lloyd Bentsen died today, the courtly Texan who represented the state in his state in Congress for 28 years and was responsible for one of the great statements ever made in a debate.
"I knew John Kennedy. John Kennedy was a friend of mine. You're no John Kennedy."
RUSSERT: He said that to Dan Quayle.
KING: Did you know Lloyd Bentsen?
RUSSERT: I did. He was the Senator from Texas, chairman of the Finance Committee and then secretary of treasury, someone who when he ran with Mike Dukakis it was the Boston/Austin axis, Massachusetts/Texas.
But I remember him as chairman of the Finance Committee pushing a health care plan that was rejected because it wasn't broad enough and yet it's very similar to what we've just seen pass in Massachusetts, kind of a consensus plan, take care of catastrophic insurance for everybody.
My hunch is that we're going to see people reexamining the Bentsen health care plan almost as a tribute to him and it's something that probably could be approached and pass in a bipartisan way.
KING: Back to things more current. Can Bush bounce back?
RUSSERT: Every politician can bounce back. You know, we've seen people go up and down. This is a tough, tough set of circumstances because he cannot control the situation on the ground in Iraq. You have a new government in place, a new prime minister. Can they secure that country?
Larry, everybody has the same view in Washington about an exit strategy. When the Iraqis are able to secure their country, the Americans come home. The question is are there enough Iraqis who are willing to shed their blood to give their life for this new democracy? Or, do they prefer to sort themselves off in gangs, the Shiites versus the Sunnis, sectarian violence?
That's the unanswered question and I believe that by this fall we'll have a very good idea whether this new government, this new prime minister, can get control of that nation and resist the insurgency and start leading us on a path where the Americans can come home because patience is running out all across this country.
KING: How about those Americans who might say "Why can't you leave? If it was wrong to go in the first place, if Iraqis should be responsible for their own territory, if they're not a threat to us, if something is wrong why continue a wrong?"
RUSSERT: That's John Murtha, the Congressman from Pennsylvania, who voted for the war, someone who's known as a hawk.
KING: Military hero.
RUSSERT: Military hero, now a hawk. He gets more money from the Pentagon than anybody else in Congress.
John Kerry, who voted for the war, said he visited the Vietnam Memorial and said as he told Congress after the Vietnam War, "Who's going to ask the last man to die for this war?"
There's a growing consensus certainly within the Democratic Party that there has to be a midcourse correction, a change, made much more immediately than the president. It's going to be a huge debate that's going to play out and I think the midterm elections in 2006, this November in about five months, are going to be a real bellwether.
KING: Can the Democrats take the House?
RUSSERT: Sure. You know, I remember in 1994 the Republican revolution led by Newt Gingrich, every projection had they could win anywhere from 35 to 40 seats if everything went right. They won 55, 54. Think about it. It's a tsunami.
And, if the election were held today, I think the Democrats would be in a very good position to capture the House. It's a long way off. Events can happen and can change things.
I also think the Democrats are going to be asked for some specifics. What would you do about Iraq? What would you do about hurricanes and Katrina in terms of reorganizing the government? What would you do about gas prices?
Although, Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker, said all the Democrats should really do is just say "Had enough?" Pretty interesting, that's his observation.
KING: To see the bumper strip right?
RUSSERT: Yes, yes.
KING: Now to candidates anyone forging forth? Is it -- or can we assume it's McCain and Clinton? RUSSERT: I don't think you can assume anything. They are clearly the frontrunners in each of the parties. This will be the first time in more than a half century where you will not have an incumbent president or vice president running for president in 2008. Their name will not be on the ballot, Bush or Cheney or anyone else.
So, you have on the Democratic side Hillary Clinton. She'll raise $60 million in New York State, spend about 20 and have $40 million, just a little, little treasure chest that she can move right over to the presidential race.
But, John Kerry is not going away, John Edwards, Joe Biden. Chris Dodd wants to run I read. Mark Warner, the governor of Virginia; Vilsack, governor of Iowa; Richardson, governor of New Mexico; Evan Bayh, Senator from Indiana, former governor.
There's a ton of people and they all think why not? Howard Baker, the former Senator from Tennessee, they said to him, everyone in the Senate is running for the Senate. He said yes -- or for president -- why not? He said, "We all have a white suit in the closet."
Look at the Republican side. You have John McCain. You have Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts; George Allen from Virginia; Governor Huckabee of Arkansas; Senator Brownback; Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York.
I think you're going to have eight candidates on each side. There will be an alternative emerge to Hillary Clinton. It will be Hillary versus somebody. Russ Feingold, the Senator from Wisconsin, who is trying to secure the support of the left in that party. What about on the Republican side someone will be the alternative, more conservative alternative to John McCain. This is going to be a great race.
KING: John McCain will be our guest tomorrow night.
We'll be right back.
And Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, on Thursday.
Right back with our man Tim Russert, the book is "Wisdom of our Fathers."
Wolf Blitzer will be joining us.
More about his book right after this.
KING: We're back with Tim Russert. His new one is "Wisdom of Our Fathers." Were any of these people writing to you the sons of immigrants?
RUSSERT: Absolutely. And they talk openly and passionately about that, about coming from Cuba, coming from all places around the world and the lessons they learned, a father and a mother coming with nothing. I mean, nothing.
KING: In a boat.
RUSSERT: And one family decided to go to Iowa and open up a dry cleaning shop because there was opportunity there. He said there wasn't anyone who looked like us or talked to us in Iowa, but we went there and found and planted our flag and made our claim.
Larry, lesson after lesson, it is just so instructive to me -- a little girl who stuttered in her car, get all excited. Her dad would reach across the back seat, pull her close and say, it's all right and he'd squeeze her hand. I can almost imagine her now to this day when she started getting excited squeezing her own hand saying, my dad's there. A lot of children were adopted.
RUSSERT: One of the most interesting comments was a short little note that said, I was never a stepchild. I was only a love child. It cuts through -- fathers can come in all different sizes and shapes. And the fact that a father selects a child after they had been born means so much more to so many of these kids.
The daughters -- the daughters, Larry, write with such passion. Daddy's girls. They really are. I have three sisters. And they had a different relationship -- they have a different relationship with Big Russ than I have.
There's one, Andrea, her dad Alfred used to write little duck notes, congratulations on your math home work, stick it in her lunch box. He died. She went back to clean up the bushes and grabbed the shears, the cutting shears. Down fell some goggles and gloves. He had been dead ten years. She picked up the gloves and smelled the Aqua Velva. She picked up the goggles and there was a little note and it said please protect those beautiful brown eyes. Ten years later his spirit was still the protector.
What the daughters are saying and what these sons are saying is be there. It's the small moments that make the big difference. You can't do the quality time routine. You can't predict when there's going to be a question. Something will emerge, something spontaneous where a kid needs guidance or help or has a question.
One of my favorites was Saul Shear (ph). He comes home, said he just got diagnosed by Dr. Gruden. I got prostate cancer. His son says what are we going to do? You have to do surgery or the seeds or radiation.
He said I'm not doing anything. What do you mean? He said I'm 75 years old, I've had a great life and I don't want to deal with any of the complications. I love your mother. I want to romance her, make love to her. I'm not going to give any of that stuff up for some doctor that says I have prostate cancer. They went back and forth. He reads the obit and it says Dr. Gruden died. He rips out the obit, sends it to his son, Dr. Gruden pees no more.
KING: How do you measure yourself as a father?
RUSSERT: It's a hard challenge. When I wrote "Big Russ" I reread it and realized I had written it as much for my son as for myself. I wanted to take those same values and same lessons of preparation and discipline and accountability and instill them into my son. I lived in South Buffalo. He lives in Washington. Opportunity and access.
And I'm much more emotional with my son because I remember how much I missed that when my dad was off working. So I'm grabbing him all the time and roughing him up a little bit and telling him how much I love him. But I say to him -- his mom says it all the time as well. You're always, always loved but you're never, never entitled. There's no sense of entitlement. You're not just going to walk through this earth thinking it all revolves around you. You have an obligation to understand that it's something bigger than yourself. To whom much is given, much is expected.
When he went off to college, I wrote him a little note and I said three things. Work hard or study hard. Laugh often. And keep your honor. That's the only advice I'm going to give you. And it's something I try to live in my own life. Don't always succeed but it's my best shot.
He read the book. Came out in May of '04. Christmas Eve of 2004, we went to midnight mass together. We came home and my wife, Maureen, runs in the room and said you won't believe what I just saw. Luke has a tattoo. I said, a tattoo, are you kidding me? We talked about this. I told him about the health consequences, that he should wait until he can make an informed decision, that we should talk more about it.
Luke, get in here. No. I said, Luke get in here. He walks in, his hands locked on the side. I said lift up your arm. No. I said lift up your arm. He lifted up the arm and in very small block letters stenciled TJR. My dad's name is Timothy Joseph Russert, mine is Timothy John Russert.
He said after I read your book I wanted you and grandpa by my side. fell in the chair. I started sobbing. We're laughing, crying. I said, that's the most beautiful tattoo I've ever seen.
But it meant so much to me that he really now understood where my dad came from, sanitation man, truck driver and where I'm trying to come from, that I stand on my dad's shoulders and Luke stands on mine. It's a bond by blood and now it's a bond by book. And there's nothing -- writing these books has changed my life. It's a journey that I never expected but it's changed my life.
KING: We'll be back with more of Tim Russert and then Wolf Blitzer will join us. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSSERT: I grew up with these veterans. My father and his buddies at this American Legion Post. They fought to save the world from tyranny.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lost a lot of friends that didn't come back to the American shore. So we're very, very lucky to be here today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a prisoner of war, too.
RUSSERT: My dad, rightly proud of his friend, a flyer, who the Nazis held for a year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We crashed. I didn't bail out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We went all the way to Berlin.
RUSSERT: On this New Year's Day as always they gather to celebrate and remember.
KING: We're back with Tim Russert. The book is "Wisdom of Our Fathers." This is not dueling books. My book is "My Dad and Me." Hope you enjoy it.
RUSSERT: I will.
KING: It's a good book. Yours is a great book. A couple more political things. What do you make of -- I guess become the joke about William Jefferson's freezer.
RUSSERT: Cold cash, right? Well, the Democrats really wanted to make the culture of corruption a big issue in '06. And when congressmen had different problems with security at the Capitol or with driving a car, they would say, well, that's not his official duties or her official duties.
This one is hard because the allegations are it was bribery, taking money on tape, on film, and putting it into his refrigerator.
KING: How do you defend this?
RUSSERT: Pretty hard and it's going to be interesting to see his defense. The fascinating thing is, the FBI searching his office on a Saturday night, the first time in our history, a few hundred plus years, that law enforcement have gone into a congressional office here in Washington -- speaker of the house, Republican Hastert, former speaker Gingrich are outraged. The majority leader of the Senate, Bill Frist, saying, "Wait a minute, there's a separation of powers here." And can the executive branch suddenly say to its police force, go into that senator's office or congressman's office. I think there's going to be a real debate in Congress not about the merits of whether Congressman Jefferson's guilty or not, but about the tactics used.
KING: Speaking of debate, where's the immigration thing going to go? RUSSERT: What a discussion, what a debate. And you know, Larry, when it comes to securing the borders, Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives say we have to do it. That's legit. A work -- program, guest worker program, you find a lot of support for that.
It's what to do with the 11 million illegals who are here now. Some say send them back immediately. Some say send them back gradually. Others say put them on a path to citizenship where they have to pay taxes, pay Social Security if they haven't paid it, learn English, go to the back of the line.
KING: Don't most people support that concept? I mean, the polls say.
RUSSERT: Across the country. The reason I think is that those 11 million illegals, they have three million children, legal, American citizens.
So if you send mommy and daddy back home, what happens to the kids? They're American citizens. What I see happening is an attempt to find consensus, common ground.
Let's all agree to secure the borders. Let's all agree that you have foolproof I.D. cards in the future for people who are going to come here and work. Let's hold employers liable for hiring people who are illegal. But for those 11 million, is there something we can do, a 10-year plan, a 12-year plan that puts them on a path to citizenship if in fact they now come forward and do all the things they were supposed to do, like paying taxes and so forth.
KING: Where do you think it's going to go?
RUSSERT: It's going to be hard because there's a debate within the Republican Party. You have George W. Bush closer to John McCain and Ted Kennedy than he is to Republicans in the House.
KING: And that's always the way the president has felt. When he was governor of Texas, his position hasn't changed.
RUSSERT: He learned a lot about immigration, the way California responded to Pete Wilson and some of his measures in California. George Bush being a border governor didn't want to make the same mistake as a Republican governor. Republicans have big designs on Hispanic vote in the future. Demographics are destiny. This country is becoming more and more Hispanic. If the Republicans want to compete in presidential elections in 2012, 2016, they've got to be very careful not to polarize or alienate Hispanic voters.
KING: Tim Russert is the guest. And joining us is Wolf Blitzer right after these words.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper. At the top of the hour on "360," taking bribes on Capitol Hill. The FBI says Congressman William Jefferson took $100,000 bribe. They found $90,000 hidden in his freezer. He's a Democrat. So why are Republican leaders now complaining about the FBI raid on Jefferson's office? We'll look at that. Also, the battle on the border. Smuggled in carpets or tucked inside a dashboard. Illegals going to extreme just to get in. What more could be done to stop them? Find out tonight on "360."
KING: Joining us now in our remaining two segments, Tim Russert remains of course, is Wolf Blitzer, the anchor of CNN's "THE SITUATION ROOM" and host and moderator of "LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER."
Our two guests have something in common, more than something in common, in addition to hosting Sunday shows. They're both from Buffalo, right? Buffalo is a part of them. Who would have thunk it?
RUSSERT: Forty percent of the hot air on Sunday from Buffalo.
BLITZER: That's a James Carville.
RUSSERT: I'm stealing his line.
BLITZER: He said less than one percent of the population are Buffalonians, but 40 percent of the hot air every Sunday morning from Buffalo.
KING: Tim's father, "Big Russ" lives, he's followed it up with this wonderful book, "Wisdom of our Fathers." Your father?
BLITZER: My father unfortunately died a few years ago but he was a great guy and I certainly can identify with everything that Tim writes about his dad. In fact, when my mother read "Big Russ & Me," she said you know, so many of the wisdom, so many of the things that big Russ did as far as little Russ is concerned, David Blitzer, my late father did, as far as I was concerned. Instilling in me that kind of motivation and good instincts.
KING: How old was he?
BLITZER: Eighty-one when he passed away.
KING: Expected or not expected?
BLITZER: He had cancer, esophageal cancer and he suffered for about two years. But he was very vibrant. This is a guy who was an immigrant, who came to the United States right after World War II, came to the north side of Buffalo.
We lived on Broadway for a little while. Spent a year working at Bethlones (ph) Steel, struggling. Was really, really hard. That's not a fun job. That is hard work. Eventually opened a little delicatessen with his brother-in-law on Hurdle Avenue. He didn't like that. In the early '50s, he went into the building business and became a home builder and became very successful building homes in western New York. It's a really great story for an immigrant.
RUSSERT: A lot of Tim's in Buffalo, only one Wolf, Larry.
KING: How is Big Russ's health?
RUSSERT: He's great.
KING: How old is he?
RUSSERT: Eighty-two. When I called him up on his 82nd birthday, I said looking back over your 82 years, best day of your life? He said, are you kidding? Today. His glass is two-thirds full. And he had prostate cancer, has prostate cancer, but took the treatment and he's on his way. He just -- he loves life. What a country. If he has a hot dog and a cup of coffee, sees the flag, what a country.
BLITZER: My dad was exactly the same way. He was always optimistic, always upbeat and he was grateful for everything. He was the No. 1 patriot in this country. We had a flag outside our home every holiday.
RUSSERT: You lost your dad when you were 10-years-old?
KING: Just right before I was 10 and he was also a big patriot. Immigrant from Austria, loved the -- tried to enlist in World War II and they wouldn't take him. He was just over 40. Anybody in your book lose a father?
RUSSERT: Oh Larry, there's a whole chapter of people who lost their dads or never knew their dads. Some of them died in the war, some died when they were young. One calls it her virtual father, where she has a photograph and she looks at it and imagining what he would be telling her, imagining the lessons he would teach her.
And another -- just a gripping story. Pat Frons (ph) father Richard -- mom died when she was very young. He said, I am going to be your mother and your father. And he made her graduation dress, he made her pajamas, all the while holding a full-time job. And so what she would do is every day send him a Mother's Day card and a Father's Day card. One year she forgot the mother's day card. He called her up and said, hey, what is wrong with you? I want the Mother's Day card. I'm Mr. Mom. And he said, in fact, being Mr. Mom has been harder than being your dad.
KING: I was talking to Tim during the break, Wolf. Why is it when your kid gets a boo-boo they run to momma? They don't go to dad for boo-boos.
BLITZER: Yes, that's a good question. There must be the warmth, the tenderness -- like my mom is still alive, thank God and she's a wonderful mother.
KING: So what does dad bring?
BLITZER: I -- the best memories I have with my dad, just hanging out with him and he would take me -- we would do, on a Sunday, he would show me around where he was building homes out in Amherst, New York and Williamsville and the suburbs of Buffalo. And just hanging out and I remember he would always take me for a big chocolate milkshake. Little things like that you remember. I remember the first time he took me to a Buffalo Bison's baseball game. Offerman Stadium. I don't know if you remember. But it was amazing because we only had a black and white TV. Then we went in and all of a sudden the grass was so green. You remember that.
RUSSERT: Bill Mazer (ph) and the White Owl Wallop.
BLITZER: A sportscaster.
RUSSERT: We came from our mom's womb and there's the nothing warmer or comfortable. That's where we return whenever we're hurt. Dads are different. My mom used to say you keep fooling around you're going to get the big hand. My dad has big hands like hamhocks. I have a lot of pictures -- whack me in the back of the seat.
BLITZER: I don't think my dad ever hit me. He was a tough guy. He disciplined me but I don't think he ever hit me. My mom was more stern as far as making sure that I was doing -- my dad was --
RUSSERT: No whippings.
BLITZER: Neither one of my parents ever hit me.
RUSSERT: There's a wonderful story prosecute Barbara Bishop. Her dad Dutch Bialky (ph) 75 years old in Minnesota, eight kids. They're all saying we know what to give mom for her birthday. She's a mom. But, dad, what do you do? What do you give him? A big, tough guy.
The eight kids sat down and wrote 75 reasons, each independently why they love their old man. Nothing meant more to him. And, in fact, in the front of this book, I left a blank page about dad. I was so affected by that story because I really do believe when people read that, they're going to be sitting down for the 50th anniversary, 21st birthday, whatever event you're confronting in your family. Just sit down why you love your dad, your mom, your kid. Nothing will mean more.
BLITZER: Everybody can relate to "Big Russ and Me" and everyone will relate to the stories in this new book. If you have a dad and love your dad, you're going to want to read this book.
KING: And if you don't, you're going to remember him.
RUSSERT: In a way, yep.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with the Sunday twins.
KING: We're back. Remaining moments with Tim Russert and Wolf Blitzer. What makes Sunday morning different?
BLITZER: I think people want thoughtful newsmaker interviews go a little longer. These are not short, three or four minute quick hits. These are long substantive interviews. I think all of the Sunday morning talk show hosts we prepare a lot. We have a staff. We go through good, tough questions, fair questions but we want to make sure nobody gets a free pass. People appreciates that.
KING: Who watches? Give me a type.
RUSSERT: It's appointment television. What we have found is that the movers and shakers, opinion makers, not only in Washington but across the country -- if I travel someplace, St. Louis or Omaha, Larry -- could be the librarian, head of the chamber, head of the local union, local politicians. It's high profile people who have an active interest in politics and current affairs. It's one that I think they have high expectations and I hope we deliver.
BLITZER: And a it's a lot of people who work during the week and don't necessarily have as much time to watch a lot of television. Sunday mornings, a lot of them go to church, come home and want a thoughtful interview.
KING: You discuss on your show what was said on other shows.
BLITZER: Because we're the last word in Sunday talk.
RUSSERT: Because if it's Sunday, it's "Meet the Press."
BLITZER: We're the only one seen live around the world in 240 countries.
KING: Very competitive. Do you respect each other?
Is there a Sunday morning clique?
BLITZER: I respect all of the competition. These are all smart guys who know what they're been doing. Been at a long time. A lot of times, if it's a really big guest, we all do the same guest. It's a Ginsburg.
RUSSERT: When we share facilities around the world there's a deep and abiding respect because it's hard work.
KING: You also often make Monday morning newspapers.
RUSSERT: It plays out all day Sunday, all day Monday. You go to the White House briefing and often some of the exchanges on the Sunday programs are the basis of the questions at the White House briefings.
KING: Some people avoid you for a long time?
BLITZER: Sure, plenty of people avoid us.
KING: Who are the recent avoiders?
BLITZER: Hillary Clinton. When is the last time she was on "Meet the Press?"
RUSSERT: I haven't seen Vice President Cheney in three years. Secretary Rumsfeld, I haven't seen him in six months. When you see him Thursday, send him my way, will you.
BLITZER: Al Gore is about to do some interviews. We ask for all these people all the time and we all the time -- a lot of them get --
RUSSERT: We ask for Hillary Clinton, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld. They won't come on.
BLITZER: It's a tough interview. You've really got to be prepared when you come on a Sunday -- it's not going to be just a free pass and it's not going to be a moment where you can just give a little spin, if you will, because you know there's going to be 15, 20 minutes of you said this in 1988 and you said this in 2001. And you go back and we do our research. And it's not an easy thing. And if a politician wants to be a player, I think that politician has got to come on the Sunday morning talk shows.
KING: These are accomplished -- what would Hillary be -- what would you hit her with she would be frightened with?
RUSSERT: Right now she wants to be perceived as a New York senator running for reelection. And we would be asking her about running for president in 2008. She would prefer to avoid questions like that. Will you say categorically, hermetically seal the door you will not run for the president of the United States. Tim, I have no plans. I didn't ask you if you have plans. Will you run.
KING: Does it frustrate you often?
BLITZER: Sure. It frustrates you. You get somebody on who clearly is polished and not going to answer the questions, you badger a little bit but then you back off and you're polite and move to the next subject once you realize you're not going to get an answer. How many times can you say, what does that mean?
I had the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on last Sunday and kept asking him, what if the diplomacy as far as Iran's nuclear program doesn't work, are you ruling out a military strike like the Israelis did with the Iraqi nuclear reactor? He said, I know that's the answer you want me to give and say I'm not ruling it out, but I'm not going to say it.
KING: Tim, I salute you for the guy you are and the books you write.
RUSSERT: Our dads used to say, some day you'll thank me for this. My dream is on Father's Day hundreds of thousands of fathers will get this and say, that day is finally here, my kid is thanking me.
KING: Wolf, I wish your dad was here to read them.
BLITZER: I wish he were here, too.
KING: Tim Russert and Wolf Blitzer. Two Buffaloites... BLITZER: Buffalonians.
RUSSERT: Go Sabres.
KING: Go Sabres?
Tomorrow night, Senator John McCain and Thursday night, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. One week from tonight, an extraordinary appearance, Elizabeth Taylor will join us.
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