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Dr. Arthur Agatston's new book "The South Beach Heart Plan". Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe discusses his new book "What a Party!" and his role in Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid.

Aired January 27, 2007 - 21:00:10   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: More than a million Americans will have heart attacks or stokes this year. The doctor behind the super successful South Beach Diet, Cardiologist Author Agatston is here to talk about his new heart program book and the four steps plan that could save your life.
And then, inside dish on the Democratic Party and the 2008 presidential race. Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman and former head of the DNC, Terry McAuliffe, telling tales from the front lines on American Politics.

And it's all next on "LARRY KING LIVE."

This is a very special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE" tonight. Important, on this weekend, to concentrate on a major health risk in the United States -- heart disease.

And we welcome the foremost cardiologist around, Dr. Arthur Agatston. He's the cardiologist, creator of the South Beach diet and best-selling author of the new book "The South Beach Heart Program: The Four-Step Plan That Can Save Your Life."

There you see his cover. It is now working its way up the best- seller list.

How does this differ from the first?

ARTHUR AGATSTON, CARDIOLOGIST & AUTHOR OF "THE SOUTH BEACH HEART PROGRAM": This has some diet, but it's really -- it's shouting from the rooftops that we don't have to have a heart attack or a stroke. And frankly, one of the best-kept secrets in America is that doctors all around the country practicing aggressive prevention are seeing heart attacks literally disappear from their practices.

And it's happening under the radar. The country doesn't know about it. We're still doing too much interventions, too much expensive stuff. We can prevent heart attacks today, not in the future.

KING: How did a noted cardiologist come to write a diet book?

AGATSTON: Well, it's really accidentally. When the statin drugs came around in the late '80s, we thought we could have our cake and eat it too. KING: And the Lipitors and...

AGATSTON: Lipitors. And the first was Mevacor. You could just pop a pill and that was it.

One of the first problems was who to give these magic bullets to. I was having all of these people walk into my office with big bellies, which we know now had pre-diabetes or diabetes. And they were some of the people who weren't being treated successfully by the statins.

There was a lot of new information about the importance of fiber, what we call glycemic index, the good fats, the Mediterranean oils. And we came up with a good fats-good carb diet for my patients.

KING: First chapter of the new book, called "The South Beach Heart Program" -- Arthur Agatston is our guest -- "You Don't Have to Have a Heart Attack." Are you saying all of them are preventable?

AGATSTON: Almost all.

KING: Really?

AGATSTON: This really snuck up on us. In the past five, ten years, there's been an incredible revolution in heart disease. We have the imaging. We have more and more advanced blood testing, new medications. And what I noticed in my practice was, over the last five, ten years, I'm not seeing heart attacks anymore. And as I talked to...

KING: Where are they going?

AGATSTON: They're gone. You know, and talking to doctors around the country, who are practicing aggressive prevention, will tell you the same thing. They've hardly had a heart attack, especially in people who hit the goals.

Now, we always have people who don't show up, don't take their medications, don't lose weight.

KING: But is that saying -- are you saying heart disease is curable?

AGATSTON: Yes, the great...

KING: Curable?

AGATSTON: The great majority, 80 percent, 90 percent, if we -- if we just apply what we know today. And again, it is happening. If you talk to cardiologists -- like your cardiologists frankly, P.K. Shaw. You know, Larry, I know you've done so much with your foundation. But really, you're a role model because you started with coronary disease a long time ago.

KING: Twenty years.

AGATSTON: And you're still doing well today, not because you had good bypass, which you did, but because you changed your lifestyle, your diet. You exercised. You don't smoke. And you happen to have an outstanding preventative cardiologist.

KING: So all that works.

AGATSTON: All of that works.

KING: you have to have the motivation though, right?

AGATSTON: You have to have motivation.

KING: Isn't it hard to motivate someone who hasn't had a heart attack?


KING: I got motivated by the heart attack.

AGATSTON: Yes, and that's difficult. And that's one of the problems that people we still have -- who still have heart attacks. We know they're at risk. We tell them they're at risk. But they feel fine. They don't feel like taking medication. They want to do everything naturally or don't want to exercise. And those are the ones who still do have heart attacks.

Now, imaging has helped. The imaging, the heart scan that we developed, the calcium score, shows people actually what's going on in their coronary arteries. And you can see the plaque that leads to heart attacks, years before.

If you're 45 and you're heading for a heart attack at 55 or 60, you're already developing plaque. And you can image that plaque.

And if you see that, that improves your compliance. Some people put it right up by their refrigerator. So they look at the plaque in their arteries and they're...

KING: Is it true, Doctor, that a heart attack is not predictable?

AGATSTON: No, absolutely not. We used to think it was more predictable. Really, there's one of the conflicts going on in American medicine today -- I call it the conflict between the plumbers and the healers. The plumbing view of heart disease was what I learned when I went to medical school and during my cardiology training in the 1970s.

We were taught the coronary artery that supplies the heart muscle with blood was like a pipe. And it filled up with sludge gradually. When it was 70 percent blocked, you started to have chest pain. And you better do something it before it became 80 percent, 90 percent, 100 percent blocked. The obvious answer was Roto Rooter, put in stents, bypass.

KING: That's out now? AGATSTON: That approach was totally wrong. The plaques that kill us, it's not the gradual sludge. It's little, like, pimples in our vessel walls, except they're not filled with pus. They're filled with cholesterol.

And they grow without affecting blood flow. So we don't have any symptoms. But one day they burst. They injure the blood vessel, inside the blood vessel. And you get a healing response, a clot. The clot suddenly blocks the artery. And you can pass a stress test, be fine one day, the next day, boom.

KING: Does drugs like Plavix help?

AGATSTON: Yes, if you rupture one of those plaques, then either Aspirin, Plavix, other blood thinners will make the resulting blood clot, the healing process, less large, and less likely to obstruct the vessel.

Most of these little plaque ruptures don't actually cause an event. We don't even know they're happening. They heal over. When they heal over, they may be 10 percent, 50 percent, 70 percent blocked. But we don't feel them when it happens.

KING: This is very encouraging. This is an upbeat book.

AGATSTON: Oh, yes. Yes, this is exciting. And it's like the emperor's new clothes. It's out there. People are doing it. But the public doesn't know about it. And thanks to the success of the South Beach diet, I'm trying to scream it from the rooftops.

KING: Are you still practicing?

AGATSTON: Yes, four days a week, yes.

KING: Dr. Arthur Agatston is our guest. His new book is "The South Beach Heart Program." It is working its way, as we said, up the best-seller list.

We'll be back with more right after this.


KING: We're back with Dr. Agatston.

A recent "New York Times" article said, is this true, that only three of your 2,800 heart patients had heart attacks last year?

AGATSTON: That was a guess. As far as people who hit our goals, the answer, frankly, is zero. I guessed about three. There are people who just didn't take their medications, we hadn't seen in six months or a year, who were called and had heart attacks.

One person in our practice, who we saw three times in one year, didn't take his medication or do anything -- had a heart attack.

KING: Women should worry as much as men? AGATSTON: You know, in the past year, it was 500,000 to 400,000, women to men, having heart attacks.

KING: More women?

AGATSTON: More women than men.

KING: But it's presumed a male disease, isn't it?

AGATSTON: In men it does happen earlier.

KING: If I tell you someone had just had a heart attack you would not expect a women?

AGATSTON: It depends probably on their age. Pre-menopausally, women are protected with estrogen. But after menopause, they begin to catch up fast. And they surpass men. And very often you have so many women who bring their husbands or spouses into the office, so concerned about them. Sometimes the women have many of the worst risk factors than the men, and assume they're not at risk.

KING: Are you saying no one should have a bypass anymore?

AGATSTON: Right. There are two reasons. Well, number one, if you start...

KING: What are -- all of the surgeons are going to get mad at you, right?

AGATSTON: Yes, I know. I'm taking out special insurance for that. First of all, you can prevent where you get to that point. The other thing is, too often -- and this is the fault of cardiologists and, I think, our health care system. We're bypassing or stenting that sludge, and we're making arteries look better. We're really practicing cosmetic surgery on the coronary arteries. They look better, but in fact, they don't prevent heart attacks.

Before somebody has a procedure, they have to ask their doctor, number one, is it going to prolong my life. And number two, is it going to improve my lifestyle?

And often, the answer to both of those questions is really no. And the procedures are done anyway, especially angioplasty.

KING: To you, aggressive prevention counts more than treatment, right?

AGATSTON: Yes. And as a society, you know, we, as the baby boomers, are getting into the coronary age group. And health care insurance is increasing per individual.

We have these two trends that are colliding. And they're going to break the bank.

And the other thing is, primary care doctors, the internists, cardiologists, who do prevention in their offices, because of the incentives of the health care system, they're paid less and less for these office visits. And they have more and more overhead.

And they are retiring. They're going out of business literally. And they're not being replaced by young doctors. That's another problem.

KING: Medications are still very, very important in this, as they advance along, aren't they?


KING: And concerning that, those that reduce cholesterol, give me a layman's explanation, HDL and LDL.

AGATSTON: Well the LDL is what we call the lousy cholesterol. And that's...

KING: Meaning it does what?

AGATSTON: It's a particle that carries cholesterol and it easily -- it burrows into the vessel wall and builds up those plaques, those pimples that can rupture and cause a heart attack.

KING: What is HDL?

AGATSTON: I think we can think of it as the healthy cholesterol. It's a particle, also with cholesterol, but it picks up cholesterol from those pimples and actually can reduce the size of those pimples, takes the cholesterol away, and disposes of it.

KING: So you want a high HDL and low LDL?


KING: and you want a total that's fairly low?

AGATSTON: And a total that's fairly low.

KING: Would it be okay if your HDL was 30, and your LDL 140?

AGATSTON: No. You're really concerned about both. And we often can be misled by the total cholesterol.

This was one of the things we noticed, I mean, with the heart scan. And the reason we needed it -- actually more people in this country, who have heart attacks with total cholesterol is less than 200, than over 300.

First of all, there are a lot more Americans with cholesterol less than 200. But in the advanced blood testing that we talk about in the book, we're not interested just in the good and bad cholesterol, but the size of the particles, particularly in diabetics and pre-diabetics.

Often, we've found that they have very low total cholesterols. That's because their LDL and HDL particles are very small. The small particles of the lousy cholesterol, the LDL gets into vessel walls more easily. And the HDL, when they're small, don't do the cleaning well.

KING: Do people get more confident because they're taking one of the statins, and they say "I don't have to worry about the other things because I'm taking Lipitor"?

AGATSTON: Yes. And actually we find -- two problems I find in my practice. And one is exactly what you say. Doctor, don't tell me about diet and exercise. I'm just going to pop the pill. That's a band-aid. There are a few people that may work in, but most, it won't. You need the lifestyle changes also.

And there are some who want to do everything naturally. They want to do everything with lifestyle, and not take the pill, which is fine. If you start proper lifestyle early enough, you won't have a problem. But once there's disease, you really need medication, too.

KING: There's an "in" word every generation it seems. The current word is transfat. What is that?

AGATSTON: Transfats, they're the partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils that are found in so many of the baked goods, the commercial baked goods.

KING: They're trying to ban them in some places.

AGATSTON: Yes. In New York City they did ban them. They were substituted for tropical oils -- coconut and palm oil.

KING: Which are bad?

AGATSTON: Which were -- they were saturated. We thought they were bad. We're not sure they were so bad.

KING: I thought they were bad.

AGATSTON: Transfats -- everything changes. They may not be so bad.

The transfats were polyunsaturated. We thought they were good. It turns out they increase our bad cholesterol. They decrease our good cholesterol. They're lethal. They're the worst fats.

KING: So transfats are the worst.

AGATSTON: They have to be eliminated.

KING: What foods to avoid? Give me some foods to avoid.

AGATSTON: All of those great -- if you've gotten a box of doughnuts. And you put it up in your cupboard and leave it there. And a month later, it still tastes good, that's because of the transfats. They're great for the shelf life of food.

So it's all those baked goods, the fast foods that are deep fried. That's where the transfats are. KING: We'll be right back with Dr. Arthur Agatston, the M.D. and creator of the world selling best-seller "The South Beach Diet" and now "The South Beach Heart Program." Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Dr. Agatston. The book is "The South Beach Heart Program," now available everywhere books are sold.

I have two boys. One's going to be eight. One's going to be 7. Should I find out their cholesterol now, since I've had heart disease?

AGATSTON: It's a good idea to find out at some point, if there's a really bad family history of early heart disease.

But your boys, frankly, are not going to have to worry about heart attacks or strokes in the future.

KING: Or stokes?

AGATSTON: Because the science is moving so fast. The genome project has moved ahead to the point that, in a few years, we'll be able to look at their genes and precisely know if they've got your genes, your wife's genes, and exactly what has to be done, exactly which medications they'll respond to.

And the imaging is going to be better than it is today. You'll see the whole vascular system easily and non-invasively. And you'll see very early signs of disease.

KING: They're going to live longer?

AGATSTON: They're going to live longer.

KING: Than we are? All young people are?

AGATSTON: Well, if we start practicing prevention, because there is a concern -- now in schools, there's the obesity epidemic, so much diabetes. What we used to call adult-onset diabetes, we call now Type II diabetes, we're seeing in kids.

And some people predicted that this generation, if they keep eating like that and not exercising, may not live longer.

KING: Is preventing heart disease expensive?

AGATSTON: Not compared to treating it after a heart attack. It really, in the end, is very inexpensive.

You know, the scans initially can be somewhat costly, $30, $400, some of the new scans up to $1,000, the advanced blood testing, a few hundred dollars, and, of course, medications, if you need it.

KING: The "New York Times" article of January 25th said that your private practice is losing money. How can that be? AGATSTON: Well, it's a few reasons. You know, partly I'm away a little bit. And I take my time in practice prevention. And I can be holier than thou, because I'm, fortunately, have the best-selling books an outside income.

And I can practice the way I like, and have a wonderful staff that spends time with patients, as well as I do, and practice prevention.

Unfortunately, the way the health care incentives, the way reimbursements are, most primary care doctors don't really get paid enough for spending time with patients. And they have more overhead than ever before. And that's why, again, they are literally retiring. They don't have time. They have to see 50 patients a day to pay their overhead often.

And we really have to look at that. We have to change the health care system, change our incentives.

KING: They don't have best-selling books. What are they doing?

AGATSTON: Right. Right. They are not practicing good prevention often, because they don't have the time. They're putting out fires. They say to their patients "do you have pneumonia?" If they say no, fine, next patient. Do you have pneumonia? Yes. Go to the hospital. They don't have time to sit with their patients and really practice prevention.

KING: What did you think of President Bush's State of the Union as it related to health?

AGATSTON: Well, I think there are a lot of excellent ideas. Many that he mentioned are being pilot -- in pilot programs in Massachusetts, where there is -- they are giving universal coverage. They're having many small businesses that get together so they have the buying power to compete with larger businesses to buy insurance. They're trying the health savings accounts, where people have control over their own income. And they're subsidizing.

The one point I would like to make is that we have to try pilot programs, as he mentioned, in different states. Often there are so many unintended consequences of our new ideas.

There are many new ideas, but they should be tried in states before we adopt something nationally that may not work.

KING: So you were encouraged then?

AGATSTON: I'm encouraged that we're beginning to understand the problem and that several states, you know, like Massachusetts, are going in the right direction.

KING: Any pharmaceuticals on the horizon that are going to be dramatic?

AGATSTON: Oh, boy. You know, there's some that are coming out of Europe. One, unfortunately, it was supposed to raise HDL, didn't make it. It was taken off the market before it got on the market a few weeks ago.

But there are new medications coming that will make the LDL and HDL particles bigger. That will help us prevent diabetes.

And with the genetics, with the blood testing, we'll know ahead of time which medications that we'll respond to.

KING: We're going to have a magic pill? You're cured of everything.

AGATSTON: Well, the British -- the British have actually recommended a polypill that they say, give to everybody over the age of 50. It's a combination of statins and beta blockers, a class of medications that we're using. And they say it would decrease heart attacks by 80 percent. They should almost put it in the drinking water.

We're not quite there. And I think we do much better tailoring our medications.

KING: Sounds logical.

AGATSTON: Yes. I think we will have that that eventually.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Dr. Arthur Agatston, and then Terry McAuliffe.

Don't go away.


KING: The new book is "The South Beach Heart Program." He wrote "The South Beach Diet." This is the four-step plan that can save your life.

Each step is described in detail. Step one is following the South Beach diet. Step two, follow the South Beach heart workout, right? Step three is getting the right diagnostics test. You tell them what test to get? And step four, getting the right medications. And this, of course, depends on the right doctor.


KING: Because we don't know, right?

AGATSTON: Right. You need the right prevention-oriented doctor.

KING: Benefits of an aspirin a day?

AGATSTON: Decreases heart attacks by about 25 percent, sometimes 30 percent. People say, if aspirin cost a lot more and had more side effects, it would be taken more seriously.

KING: A wonder drug. AGATSTON: It's a true wonder drug. Absolutely.

KING: you say every American Should take one a day?

AGATSTON: No, if men over 40, women Over 50, if there are risk factors, because there are still side effects. There's gastrointestinal bleeding. And so you should do it in consultation with your doctor if there's some cardiac risk. If there's cardiac risk, it is a magic pill.

KING: What about nutritional supplements?

AGATSTON: The only one that works that we know of today is fish oil. I believe, in that, which is almost a magic a magic pill.

The (inaudible) and the vitamins we all thought would work about ten years ago, but several large clinical trials...

KING: You mean Vitamin E?

AGATSTON: Vitamin E, A, C, in a pill. And the doses that have been tried in large studies have not worked.

You need the whole foods. The whole foods have literally thousands of micronutrients, the good carbohydrates, vegetables, whole fruits, whole grains.

KING: So Vitamin C is better in orange juice than in a tablet?

AGATSTON: Yes, yes, because the antioxidants are actually just a small part of the total antioxidant power of the good fruits and vegetables.

KING: What about things we hear about, like CQ10?

AGATSTON: You know, that, as far as preventing heart attacks, as a pill, it's not been shown to. In some of our patients on statins, we do find that they have less aches and pains if they're on CQ10.

KING: Are there a lot of fads?

AGATSTON: Yes, and --

KING: A lot of pills that don't do what they say they do?

AGATSTON: Almost all of them, and we're understanding better in the last several years -- we understand a lot about all of these polyphenols that you hear about, and red wine, and my favorite food, chocolate, and many other micronutrients. We're just learning about them, but we realize we don't know how to take them out and put them into a pill.

KING: Chocolate is your favorite food?

AGATSTON: I'm an admitted chocoholic.

KING: Dark chocolate?

AGATSTON: Dark chocolate.

KING: Arthur, always good seeing you. Congratulations on a terrific book and great follow-up. The book is "The South Beach Heart Program, The 4-Step Plan That Can Save Your Life," authored by the No. 1 New York Times bestseller of "The South Beach Diet," Dr. Arthur Agatston, a proud resident of Miami Beach, Florida.

And Terry McAuliffe, another friend, will visit us next. Don't go away.



TERRY MCAULIFFE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: My fellow Democrats, stand up. Stomp your feet. Our march to victory begins tonight!


KING: A terrific new book has just been published, written by a friend, and what a read -- read it in three days -- "What a Party! My Life Among Democrats, Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators and Other Wild Animals," by Terry McAuliffe, written with Steve Kettmann.

Terry McAuliffe, of course, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the legendary fundraiser and the resident of McLean, Virginia, who has done so much building, and major builder in Florida and the like. We used to meet all the time, and meet now.

Who came up with this whole title?

MCAULIFFE: Oh, I actually worked with my publisher. I tried to think -- you know, it's 400 pages of great stories, and all I could think of is "what a party" because that's what my life has been working with the Democratic party. It's been a great party working in the Democratic party, so it sort of was a natural fit for me, Larry.

KING: How did you become a political junkie?

MCAULIFFE: Well, my father, as I talk about in the book, took me to my first event when I was about 8 years old and said, "Terry, no one gets in the door unless they give you a check," and I've been shaking people down for money ever since, Larry.

I just got hooked. I got out of college, went to work for Jimmy Carter, ended up being his finance director when I was 23 years old, and then have stayed in it - and, you know, went in and out, went back to law school, then got back into fundraising, and the last 12 years chairing the party and helping the president and Hillary Clinton.

I've been doing it for an awful long time, and I enjoy it. I do it all for free. It's a passion for me. It's a commitment that I have. I've got the greatest life in the world, and I think one good way to give back is to try and help people get elected to keep this great country going.

KING: Your title with Hillary now is what?

MCAULIFFE: I'll serve as the campaign chairman, and my job is to go out and get people fired up, pumped up, and help Hillary become the next President of the United States.

KING: We'll get to that in a minute. Why do you like asking people for money for campaigns?

MCAULIFFE: You know, Larry, it's got to be genetic. I mean, 99.9 percent of people, I don't think enjoy it.

I love asking people for money. The worst thing they can say is no. Nobody has ever taken a gun out on me, no one has ever thrown me out of a window. I know you need money to run these campaigns.

I try to make it fun. You have to convince people that, first, your candidate can win. You agree with them on the issues. You've got to be passionate about it, and then you've got to make it a lot of fun, and I've raised well over $1 billion in my time. But the book talks about all the crazy stories. You know, I had to wrestle an alligator once for $15,000, a 9-foot alligator. I've chased people down at their vacation homes. Once you make a commitment to me, Larry, I'm going to go get that money.

KING: You are not kidding, and it's a terrific read. One of your extraordinary disappointments, which led to a major plus, is when Mario Cuomo didn't run for president, and then the attention all turned to Clinton because had Cuomo run, forget Clinton.

But you did bring to mind, have you ever figured why Mario did not run?

MCAULIFFE: I didn't -- and I'd also many times -- I think he was there, they actually had a plan going to file the paperwork, as you know, Larry, up in New Hampshire at the last second - and his wife didn't even know. He just pulled the plug on it. I think he's one of the greatest orators in our party, just a spectacular, spectacular governor, and, you know, people like him are what makes this great party what it is.

KING: The San Francisco keynote speech in '84, maybe the best ever.

MCAULIFFE: He's great as it gets. People were in - I was there - in the Moscone Center in San Francisco...

KING: Me, too.

MCAULIFFE: I was actually sitting next to Nancy Pelosi then, who was the finance chair in charge of raising money for the host committee, and I remember people there with tears coming down their cheeks as they were listening to Gov. Cuomo. KING: Terry, this book "What a Party!" deals in extraordinary issues. We already mentioned Hillary Clinton. How did you deal with what had to be the most difficult time in Bill Clinton's life, being his friend during that crisis?

MCAULIFFE: Well -- and I deal with that in the book -- I mean, all marriages have different issues and problems, and I was a close friend to the president. He and I usually went out golfing most Mondays -- that was his day off -- during the toughest times.

But, you know, Larry, everybody is with you when you're winning. I want to know who's with me when I'm not on top. He was my good friend, and so was Hillary, and he was going through a personal anguish, and that's when your friends need to be there for you. So he and I would go out golfing.

I went on several trips with both Clintons during that time, and, you know, I just wanted to buck them up and try to be there to be a friend, but sure, it was a very difficult time. The president went through personal hell. He said that himself - the anguish - but you know what? You've got to look at everybody in their totality, but I think friends have to be there in difficult times, and I was there for Bill Clinton because he was my friend, and I'd do it again at any time because, you know, that's what is important.

KING: That's what friends are for.

MCAULIFFE: You bet. Absolutely.

KING: Is this nomination Hillary's to lose?

MCAULIFFE: Well, clearly I would say she is the frontrunner. She's got the smarts. She's tough. She's got - you know, the book talks a lot about her personal side, her great sense of humor, her great belly laugh.

She's got the leadership skills. She has relationships with people throughout the world, which, at this time, when we need to bring the world together, I think it's very important to have someone like Hillary in the White House.

But she's the frontrunner. We have no reason -- this is going to be a long, tough campaign. We have some great candidates in who are also running on the Democratic side.

I think, literally, Larry, this is the best field the Democratic party has ever fielded. No offense against anyone else, but this is our best field. I think it's one of the weakest fields on the Republican side.

But yes, it's hers to lose, and we've got to work hard, we've got to work for every single vote and get out there. People have to get to know Hillary Clinton.

Listen, she just won in a landslide in New York. She won in Upstate New York in Republican counties because they saw her for who she was, working hard, fighting for them, and that's the message that she's got to take all over the country.

KING: Who do you fear the most on the Republican side?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I'd say, Larry, that John McCain is probably the frontrunner. I disagree with wanting to do the surge that he wants to put these new troops into Iraq. I disagree with that, but I think clearly he is the frontrunner, commands tremendous respect. The man was a prisoner of war for five years.

I just think, after you get through John McCain, you've got Mitt Romney, who's somewhat attractive. Will they go for a Mormon in Massachusetts? I don't know, on the Republican side. Rudy Giuliani, he's pro-choice, he's pro-gay rights. I think he'd have a very tough time in the Republican primary. So, they've got a lot of issues on their side.

We're focused on Hillary. She's, as you know, traveling to Iowa, which is an exciting time, and New Hampshire and South Carolina and Nevada, the beginning of the caucus and primary states, but I got to tell you this -- that she is ready, she is pumped up. She's in the best spirit I've seen her. She is ready to go, and she's having the time of her life, which is important.

KING: Are you concerned -- is that a fair word -- about Senator Obama?

MCAULIFFE: I'm concerned about everybody in the Democratic side, because I've been doing this for 25 years, as I talk about in the book. We need to be concerned about everybody.

I'm not shocked that he's in the race. When that brass ring comes along, you've got to grab it. You can't win unless you're on the playing field, and if I were Barack Obama, I would have run myself. So he's out there. He's got to get the campaign up and running.

But Hillary has the most experience. We're not worried about anyone. She is going to go out there, lay out her plans, have the time of her life, have fun, and tell the American people where she'd like to take this country. So we're focused on Hillary and what she wants to do, and let the other candidates speak for themselves, but this is all about her.

We're excited. I've wanted her to run for a long time. When I left the chairmanship of the party, I've been talking to her ever since. She said, "Oh, Terry, quiet down." Finally she's decided to run, and we've got a great campaign team put together.

Patti Solis Doyle, campaign manager, has put a great team. We have everybody coming in to help. When we announced, we had 100 hits per minute on our Web site. It's going great. It's going to be tough, it's going to be long, but, you know, I'm the ultimate optimist. You know that, Larry.

KING: Oh, do I know that. We'll take a break, be right back with Terry McAuliffe, author of "What a Party!" What a book. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Terry McAuliffe. A couple of other candidates I want to mention. You must like John Edwards.

MCAULIFFE: Yes, I worked very closely with John. He ran for president in 2004 while I was chairman of the party. I thought he ran a very effective campaign. You know, he was very close. He came in second in Iowa. He almost won it, then went on to become John Kerry's vice presidential candidate.

He has been living in Iowa since the last election. He has been traveling many weekends to Iowa. He's doing very well in the polls there. People say, "Well, he's up in the polls." That's right because Hillary hasn't been out in Iowa or New Hampshire in years, but, sure, I think he's very formidable. I think he's got a very effective message.

I think ultimately it's going to come down to the experience, and you just can't -- you know, the eight years that Hillary had in the White House, and the world leaders that she knows, and the situations that she's been in and dealt with, the issues, you know, I just think that's hard to beat.

KING: You recently predicted that the Democratic party would have its nominee by Feb. 5 of next year. How?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I want to you know I predicted March 10 in 2004, and I was right on that. Why? Because, as you know, these states are moving up.

Florida has just announced that they want to move up to Jan. 29. California, Larry, has said they want to move up to Feb. 5. New Jersey wants to move up. New York wants to move up. With all these states moving up, there will be enough delegates chosen by Feb. 5 that will have a nominee.

What will happen very quickly is you will have Iowa and Nevada and New Hampshire and South Carolina -- at that point, it's down to two candidates, and then literally within a couple of days you're going to have so many delegates at stake, 40 percent, possibly, of the delegates out there by Feb. 5, it's over. And then we're into a 10- month general election, so it's going to be a different calendar. It's rapidfire. That's why Hillary announced, got in, began to put the field people out there. It is going to be a very quick and then a very long general election.

KING: Do you think both parties will have the nominee by Feb. 5?

MCAULIFFE: Yes, same thing. I think the other states will match for the Republican side, so we're going to have a nominee, I believe, Feb. 5 for both sides.

KING: What didn't you like about John Kerry's campaign? You said he wasn't tough enough about the issue of the service?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I talk about the campaign, and John, I remind you, got 9 million votes, more than anyone had ever gotten on the Democratic side.

He ran a great campaign. We made a few mistakes. I don't say this personally, just, as Democrats, we've got to learn by our success and our failure. I think we, as Democrats, when we're running, have got to respond immediately to attacks, which the Republicans are prone to do. They did it to John McCain.

Their history in the past is going after and tearing our nominee down. When they hit us, we've got to hit them back immediately. We should have hit them back immediately on the swift boats.

The Kerry advisers advised John that we should have no attacks on George Bush at the convention in Boston. So no speeches in Boston at our Democratic convention used the words "George Bush." Larry, we're trying to beat an incumbent president while at war, and we have to tell the American public why we want to replace him and put our own person in. And in order to do that, you've got to show what that person has done wrong. Very hard to do that when you couldn't use your opponent's name, and then, finally, as you know, millions of dollars were left in the bank account on Election Day.

If John had shifted 60,000 votes in Ohio, he'd be President of the United States today. I could have got you those 60,000 votes with the 15 million dollars that were left in the bank.

My only point in raising these issues -- it's a blunt book. I'm an Irish storyteller. But, you know, these stakes are important. There are millions of people who are counting on us.

It's not about John Kerry or Terry McAuliffe, or anyone else. These are people with no health insurance. They don't have quality education. Their disposable income is down. They want us to fight because if they don't see us fighting for ourselves, they sure as heck don't think we're going to fight for them. I think that's an important lesson for Democrats. We've got to get tougher.

KING: What does the public not know about Hillary?

MCAULIFFE: I think the main thing that people don't know about Hillary is how much fun she is, what a great sense of humor. They all know that she's smart. She's got leadership qualities. They all know that. They know that she's tough, that she will keep us safe.

But they haven't seen the personal side of Hillary Clinton, and I think that's why I would ask everybody to read the book because I take you inside fascinating stories. But they don't know, I think, what a great sense of humor, what a great -- I mean, she's a great mother. You know, she just, you know -- Chelsea brought about 20 friends back for Thanksgiving. They all sat around and cooked Thanksgiving dinner...

KING: On the sense of humor part, though, will you have your say -- we know, and Bob Dole has told me this, that they wouldn't let him be funny in '96, a mistake because Bob Dole is funny. Whenever you restrict that -- Hillary has a great sense of humor, I know. You got to let that out.

MCAULIFFE: It has to come out. Listen, at the end of the day, the American public has to like you.

KING: Yes.

MCAULIFFE: You know, I give it the beer test. Who would you rather sit down and have a beer with? And she is going to be -- and I got to tell you, she is so excited to be in this race. She's having so much fun.

It's Hillary Clinton, and no one is going to tell Hillary Clinton what she can do or cannot do, just as they weren't able to tell her husband, Bill Clinton, what he could do and not do. She is going to be Hillary Clinton.

She is going to lay out her plan, and she is going to do it the way she wants to do it. It's real; it's real Hillary Clinton, and so you are going to see the real Hillary Clinton as she goes out to Iowa and gets in these small groups and ends in New Hampshire and these smaller states.

People are going to get to know her like we know her and are going to get to know her like the voters in New York, who, as I say, she won resoundingly in a landslide in many Republican counties. People came out and voted for her in overwhelming numbers because they got to know her and they saw the qualities that she had. She was right for New York, and she'd be right for America.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Terry McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, the current national chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential bid, and the author of "What a Party!," Terry McAuliffe with Steve Kettmann. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Terry McAuliffe. A lot of funny stories in this book, too -- "What a Party, My Life Among Democrats, Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators and Other Wild Animals."

In an opinion piece, Terry, conservative columnist Cal Thomas said that men can't run against a woman the way they run against other men. He claims there is a double standard voters apply to a female candidate.

He also said smear tactics on Mrs. Clinton will turn her into a victim and cause many not predisposed to vote for her to support her. What's your overall look at that thought?

MCAULIFFE: I think people who think they can go in and attack Hillary Clinton with unfounded attacks, they're going to pay a big price for that.

First, we are going to respond immediately. Listen, through the years, people have said all kinds of unfounded rumors, have spent a lot of money to try and knock Hillary Clinton down.

You know what? She's still standing, and she's still moving forward. , and I think the American public respects that. They like to see people get knocked down, and what they want to see you dust yourself back up, and get back up and start moving forward, and she has done that.

So I agree with Cal on that. I think if you go after her or anyone else with unfounded attacks, it's going to backfire on you. But listen, we know how tough it's going to be. The nominee of the Republican party, they are going to come after Hillary as our nominee.

It's going to be very tough. It's going to be a dirty, nasty, long campaign. We know that going in. But the point I'm making in my book is, we've got to be prepared for that, and we've got to be ready to fight back. If you hit us, we've got to punch you back harder, and we've got to send a strong message.

KING: She and John McCain are friends, though. Would that temper it some bit?

MCAULIFFE: Yes, I mean, they've traveled the world together. They've been to Iraq and throughout the Middle East together. You know, I'd like to go back to the days I started this business, which I talk about in the book, with Tip O'Neill. You know, he was as tough on Ronald Reagan and Bob Michael (ph) and others as anybody. But, you know, at the end of the day, they went out and had a beer together.

I have many Republican friends, and I'll debate on television, go out, have a cigar or maybe a beer with them after the show. You can't make this too personal. This is about issues.

I think what you learned in the '06 election, people want to see results. They're tired of the partisan bickering. They want to know what are you going to do for me? I think that was a resounding message that came out of the '06 elections.

We want to see results, and Hillary is going to talk about her plan for America, and if the Republican nominee wants to talk about their plan, we can have healthy debates and go forward, terrific. But listen, I'm not going in with any illusions that this is not going to be very tough. I'm just telling you, we are going to be prepared, we are going to be ready, we are going to protect our nominee.

KING: Will she debate all her opponents in primaries?

MCAULIFFE: Absolutely. I mean, everybody has to be. The primary debate process is very important. There will probably be eight to 10 candidates in. There will be many debates.

I think it's important that they all be there. They are speaking to someone out there in America, laying out their plans of where they want to take this country and drawing distinctions with Republicans. So, you bet, she is going to be actively out there debating and campaigning.

KING: Iraq obviously the key issue?

MCAULIFFE: It is going to be the issue that is going to be center stage. Obviously, I think health care on the domestic side, but on the international side, clearly Iraq.

We talk about this surge, as you know, Larry. I mean, it's going to be six to eight months until all of these troops even begin to get into Iraq. Two-thirds of Americans are against this war in Iraq.

You know, George Bush's approval rating is anywhere from 28 to 32 percent. People are very unhappy in this country, so obviously the Iraq war debate, the expenditure money, the loss of lives, is going to be front and center in this election. George Bush isn't on the ballot, but I can tell you this, Larry, his policies will be on the ballot in 2008.

KING: Do you expect him to campaign?

MCAULIFFE: That's a great question. If he's at a 28 percent approval rating, I mean, we saw in '06 that candidates -- the gubernatorial candidate in Florida, the Republican candidate -- wouldn't get anywhere near George Bush toward the end of the campaign, and it happened in other places around the country, and he was even higher approval rating than he has today.

I think the candidates on the Republican side are going to do their best to stay away from George Bush, as they did, as I say, the candidates in '06. If he's in the 20s or low 30s, I mean, obviously America has turned against those policies, and those are not the policies or the candidate that you want to be highlighting.

KING: You relish this, don't you?

MCAULIFFE: I love it. It's a passion for me. But you know, the key is, Larry, I have fun in it. I don't make it personal. I get out there. I give all I've got. I love life. My cup's overflowing. I'm the luckiest kid in the world.

I love it. I love to win. That's why I like to fight hard, but I hope I can get inspired through this book a lot of young people to get into politics, explain why it's important. Don't tell me, Larry, anymore that your vote doesn't count, after Florida in 2000, the Senate race in Montana and Virginia in '06. Your vote does count. These elections are very close. What I do teach you in the book, is this business can be a lot of fun.

KING: What do you think of the job that Howard Dean is doing?

MCAULIFFE: Terrific. Spectacular. When I had dinner with him right before he became chairman, I said, "Howard, you're about to become a human fire hydrant." That's just the nature of the chairman of the DNC. But when I handed over the party, as you know, I left him millions of dollars in the bank, no debt, new headquarters, voter files. We left it in great financial shape, and I said to him, "The national party is now fixed. You need to put your emphasis on the state parties," which he was very much interested in, and that's what he's doing.

It is a tough job being chairman of the Democratic National Committee. You haven't lived until you've actually been in it and done it. He's out there building up the state parties and getting us ready so that we can win all over the country, so I support him 100 percent.

KING: Terry, always good seeing you. We'll be seeing a lot of you, won't we?

MCAULIFFE: Thank you, Larry, and hey, listen, happy 50th anniversary.

KING: Thank you, man.

MCAULIFFE: You're a legend.

KING: "What a Party!" is the book, "My Life Among Democrats, Presidents, Candidates, Donors, Activists, Alligators and Other Wild Animals."

The guest is Terry McAuliffe, published by Thomas Dunne Books, a division of St. Martin's Press. He's the campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton, and she couldn't do better.


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