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Obama Slams the Bankers; Donald Trump Talks about the Economy; Interview with Dennis Rodman; Return to Tarawa

Aired December 20, 2009 - 21:00   ET


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Here is a look at our top stories in the CNN Newsroom, a brutal winter storm blasting parts of the east coast, up to 20 inches of snow predicted, from the Mid-Atlantic States up to New York. Strong winds creating near-whiteout conditions in many areas. Everybody should stay off the road according to the people trying to clear the roads.

Senate Democrats are on track to pass health care reform by Christmas. Party leaders convinced hold-out Ben Nelson of Nebraska to support the bill, giving them enough votes to overcome Republican efforts to block it. Once it passes, the Senate bill will still have to go and reconcile with that House version passed last month in the House of Representatives.

Some travelers bedding down for the night in the last place they want to be -- an airport. Many flights have been canceled around Washington, D.C. Some airports closed until tomorrow morning.

Karen McGinnis, watching this all in the Weather Center -- Karen?

KAREN MCGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: We have been watching this. Live picture out of New York City. This, at Harold Square, making this right here. In the past 45 minutes, Drew, I have watched this snow come down at a terrific rate. It picked up rather dramatically since about 4:00 p.m., light snow flurries. You can see how heavy it is. Quite a tremendous snowfall rate. The traffic has tapered off. New York City is expecting between ten and 15 inches of snowfall as this classic nor'easter moves up the coast. It goes from the mid-Atlantic where it has shut down quite a few interstates. They're saying, in Virginia alone, they have reported more than 4,000 traffic accidents.

This area of low pressure treks towards the northeast. From Philadelphia to Boston, between ten and 24 inches of snowfall. The nation's capital will rival the snowstorm of 1922, the Knickerbocker storm that produced 28 to 33 inches of snow.

Drew, back to you.

ROMANS: CNN will have complete coverage of the storm and everything else that happened today at 10:00. Right now, stay tuned for "LARRY KING LIVE."

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, President Obama slams the money men.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street.


KING: And tells them to pay their profits forward.


OBAMA: And now that they're back on their feet, we expect an extraordinary commitment from them to help rebuild our economy.


KING: Donald Trump joins us with what he thinks.

And then, fallout from Tiger Woods' infidelity. Corporate backers backing out of deals with the disgraced golfer. Will his self-imposed exile repair a reputation?

NBA bad boy, Dennis Rodman, is here with what it will take for Tiger to claw his way out of controversy.

Plus, return to Tarawa (ph), Ed Harris tells us why a bloody a World War II battle is in the news now.


Tonight, Penn Jillette, the famed magician, comedian, actor author and producer, a libertarian; Larry Elder, a libertarian commentator. He has a new web cast, by the way, called "We'"; Robert Reich -- good to see Robert again -- professor of public policy, University of California, Berkeley, former labor secretary in the Clinton administration. And here in New York, S.E. Cupp, the conservative columnist of the "New York Daily News."

Obama pressed Wall Street bankers today at the White House, urging them to help rebuild the economy. Listen to what he said.


OBAMA: My main message in today's meeting was very simple, that America's banks received extraordinary assistance from American taxpayers to rebuild their industry. And now that they're back on their feet, we expect an extraordinary commitment from them to help rebuild our economy.


KING: Let's start with Ms. Cupp. What do you make of it?

S.E. CUPP, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Well, there's a couple of problems. Tough talk is great, Larry, but a little disingenuous when we're looking at a health care bill that's going to strangle small businesses. That's one. Two, you know, I -- I -- I think this is a bit of a dog-and-pony show. These bankers are in a really tough spot, getting pressure from regulators not to lend. And now Obama is coming in and saying lend or else. You know, the lend or else, is what got us here in the first place, lending to unqualified borrowers.

KING: What does he do with all of the people out there that need mortgages and need money?

CUPP: I understand, but you have to appreciate the fact that these bankers are trying to be responsible at a time when they've been excoriated for being irresponsible, and rightly so.

KING: Robert Reich, what's your read?

ROBERT REICH, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY: The public has provided these bankers and banks with hundreds of billions of dollars, taxpayer dollars, to make up for the mess they created initially. Now so many small businesses, Main Street businesses, many people with mortgages and everybody else are finding they can't get credit. There's no quid pro quo. There's no deal here. The bankers are getting ready for a gigantic end-of-year bonus, something on the order of $20 to $30 billion.

Of course, Obama is going to have a dog-and-pony show. I hope it's more than that. I hope he actually says to them and says to members of Congress, look, we're not going to allow Wall Street to get away with this. We're not going to allow them to sic their lobbyists on Congress and prevent Congress from generating real reforms so this kind of stuff doesn't happen again.

KING: On "60 Minutes" last night, the president hit out at Wall Street bankers, called them fat cats. Watch.


OBAMA: I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street. The only ones that will be paying out these fat bonuses are the ones that have now paid back that TARP money and...

60 MINUTES ANCHOR: Do you think that's why they paid it back so quickly?

OBAMA: I think, in some cases, that was a motivation, which tells me the people on Wall Street still don't get it.


KING: Larry Elder, if you've had a bad year, how do you justify a big bonus?

LARRY ELDER, LIBERTARIAN COMMENTATOR, WEB CAST HOST: Well, how do you justify being bailed out for making bad decisions? We've had a policy in this country for many, many years that says, if you have a pulse, you shall be able to apply and get a mortgage. We had Freddie, Fannie, then we have the Community Reinvestment Act that distorts the behavior of borrower and lender. They get in trouble and we bail them out. Then we tell them to lend, that they ought not lend. We ought to let capitalism work and let people that make bad decision should deal with consequences of bad decisions. If we had done that, we wouldn't be in the situation in the first place. Going forward, that's what we ought to do.

KING: In fairness, it was President Bush that started doing that, right?

ELDER: No. We've had Freddie and Fannie for a number of years.


KING: No, I mean in bailing out the banks.

ELDER: I agree with you. But Obama, as Senator, voted for it. Now he's acting as if it was a rash decision. He is one of the ones who supported it. We shouldn't have gotten involved in this at all. The banks should have failed. Many of them didn't even want the TARP money. And those that were solvent could have bailed out the other ones. That's the way capitalism is supposed to work.

KING: Penn Jillette, the report was he was rather cordial with the bankers today. Does that surprise you, Penn?

PENN JILLETTE, MAGICIAN, ACTOR, LIBERTARIAN: No, because it's just simply numbers. There are not that many bankers so you say whatever bad you want about them. Things are going badly. People are looking for a scapegoat. When he says they're getting, you know, $10 million bonuses, that's a huge number, but $700 billion -- I mean, it's really like he's talking about, what, a billion is a thousand millions, so it's like one penny on $7,000? I mean, the numbers have to be thought about when you're talking about how much is being spent and trillions of dollars being thrown around. The president doesn't have time to talk about a $10 million bonus. It's not the bonuses that are the problem.

KING: Do the bankers get it, S.E.?

CUPP: I think they do. Frankly, saying the bankers don't get it and coming out and doing this private and public scolding, calling them fat cats...

KING: He apparently didn't privately scold.

CUPP: Well, I don't know. I wasn't in the room. But all accounts are that it was friendly.


CUPP: Of course, they watched "60 Minutes." It was a scolding. I though it was very undignified. And I think it makes the Obama administration look a little out of touch.

This administration has not yet learned that they don't have to say every thought that comes into their head. Valerie Jarrett today came out after the meeting and said -- basically implied that we shouldn't really trust these business leaders. That's not an appropriate or professional thing to say. I think this administration needs to take back some dignity and professionalism.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with more with Penn Jillette -- Robert, I'll come right back, starting with you -- with Penn Jillette, Larry Elder, Robert Reich, S.E. Cupp. Don't go away.



KING: Professor Reich, puzzling, the key people in his administrator are Wall Street insiders, aren't they?


REICH: Many of them aren't. Tim Geithner, for example, certainly was the head of Federal Reserve from New York City, put there by the major bankers. There are others that have ties to Wall Street.

The fact of the matter is, Larry, this administration has tried to damp down, camp down, regulate Wall Street. But it needs to do much more. It is not a matter of tone. It's not a matter of the right choice of words. It's a matter of deeds. Wall Street is not responsible. Wall Street has demonstrated irresponsibility again and again. And to be on the verge of awarding $20 billion to $30 billion of bonuses to its top executives in the face of all of the money from taxpayers that went to Wall Street, that the inspector general of the TARP funds say much of which is never going to be returned to taxpayers, is the height of hubris. The president, again, ought to force Wall Street not only to return all that money, but also to return it with interest, and to, as I said, break them up, break up the big ones, and to resurrect Glass-Steagall.

KING: Larry, do you think government has no say in this at all?

ELDER: Of course, government has a say in it. You have to regulate against fraud and abuse. And the banking industry is one of the more heavily regulated industries that we have, so every regulation has a reaction. The banks will try to find a way around it. What you can do is police them and make sure they don't cheat people. But beyond that, there is not a lot that you could do or should do. One again, these banks made decisions, many of them were reckless decisions, and they ought to deal with the consequences of those decisions. That is how you let the next guy down know how to improve his behavior. If you don't do that, you're going to be back in the same position down the road.

KING: Penn Jillette, as a libertarian, do you oppose regulation?

JILLETTE: Did he say taxpayers get the money back? Is there anybody that thinks there would actually be a check written back to us if they paid it back? I mean, that seems insane to me. If you give me -- Larry, I'll make this deal with you right now. You give me $700 billion. You can call me anything you want any time on any show you want, anywhere. (LAUGHTER)


KING: Good point.

Isn't it S.E. Cupp? Hey, you take, you've got to pay for the taking.

CUPP: Yes, absolutely. But the Obama administration seems to be indignant, forgetting the fact that they were behind these bailouts to begin with. And scolding them for using the money seems a little misplaced. The Obama administration has to realize their own culpability.

KING: President Obama sat down with Oprah Winfrey and she asked him how he would grade himself on a number of issues since he became president. Watch.


OBAMA: The economy is growing again. We are on our way out of Iraq. I think we've got the best possible plan for Afghanistan. We have reset our image around the world. We are -- we have achieved an international consensus around the need for Iran and North Korea to disable their nuclear weapons. And I think that we're going to pass the most significant piece of social legislation since Social Security, and that's health insurance for every American.


KING: We'll get the panel's reaction to that after this.


KING: Before we discuss health care, let's get the panel's reaction to the report card.

Penn Jillette, what grade do you give the president?

JILLETTE: He said B plus. That's the only possible answer you can give, any president, any time in history, any human being, if you ask me how I am as a husband, a driver, a juggler, a magician, I will answer B plus. Higher than that, you're an ass. Lower than that, you're pathologically honest.


The only possible answer is B plus. I would go to A minus, if I checked my rear view mirror, and that's for all of those.

KING: Larry Elder, what grade do you give?

ELDER: I would point out the American people now have him at 43 percent, 44 percent in the latest Rasmussen poll. If he were run again today, he would not be elected. I would give him...

KING: Well, it would depend on who ran against him, wouldn't it?

ELDER: That's true. If I ran, he probably would get elected.


I would give him a D minus on the economy. I like what he's doing in Afghanistan. Don't like the fact that he put a deadline on it. And regarding our NATO allies, yes, they do like him a lot better than George W. Bush. Until very recently, they did not put a single combat troop in Afghanistan. So...

KING: What's your overall grade?

ELDER: Overall grade on foreign policy, a B plus on Afghanistan, except for the fact that he has a deadline. I give him an A, continuing the Bush policies on Iraq. The rest of it, Iran is still building a nuke. North Korea has not backed down. And both the Israelis and Palestinians are upset with him because he told the Israelis not to build any more settlements, not to expand them.

KING: I asked a simple question, I got an involved answer.



KING: A D, OK. It sounded like it would be a C based on the A in there.

But Professor Reich...

ELDER: Depends how much weight you give the A.

KING: The only man who grades papers might have a thought. What would you give him?

REICH: I've been doing it all day, Larry. In terms of aspiration and goals and ideals, I would give him an A. In terms of effort, just a sheer brute, just getting in there and trying -- the administration I give an A minus, maybe an A. In terms of deliverables, actually what they've done so far, I have to be a much harsher grader, I would say B minus at best.

I'm worried mostly about the economy. I think that there is no reason for the Obama administration to claim that we're out of the woods. Most Americans don't believe it.


And S.E., your grade?

CUPP: It's almost Christmas. I'm going to be charitable and give him a D minus.

KING: That's charitable? CUPP: Yes. I don't want to be the scold here and say F. But he is systematically dismantling our national security. We're at record unemployment. He is going to have to answer for Geithner and Holder come 2012. If I'm an objective strategist, thinking about his chances, I'm very concerned, because of those two issues. Health care is not going to matter. I can tell you that right now. Afghanistan is not going to matter. It will be the economy, unemployment. And it's going to be Holder's decisions on CIA interrogations and the 9/11 terrorists.

KING: Two senior Democratic sources have told CNN senior Democrats are headed toward dropping the compromise idea to allow 55 to 64-year- olds to buy into Medicare because of the opposition from Independent Senator Joe Lieberman. Senate Democrats had an emergency meeting tonight to discuss the issue, which threatens to derail health care. The Medicare buy-in concept was intended to -- I hope you're hearing me. I'm hearing Lieberman -- was intended to appease liberals that were upset that Democratic leaders were dropping a public option. That ran into a wall when Lieberman said he would support a GOP filibuster to block health care if a Medicare provision was in the bill.

What do you make of this compromise, Penn?

JILLETTE: Well, it kind of means there isn't much left of the health care in terms of any sort of public option. It's now just very similar to what we have, which is not good.

KING: What do you think, Larry?

ELDER: The whole thing is a bad idea. The idea was that it was not going to increase the deficit, and it won't for the first ten years because, for the first four years, money is coming in without anything going out. The next ten years, and the next ten years after that, money will be going out and less will be coming in. So he's not going to fulfill his promise that this is not going to break the bank. It is going to break the bank. It is a rotten idea for government to get more involved more in health care than it already is.

KING: What is the Republican -- you don't think there's a health care crisis with 48 million uninsured, Larry?

ELDER: There are more ways of dealing with it, including letting people buy insurance across state lines, giving individuals the same kind of tax breaks that businesses have, allowing more competition. That's what will bring down the costs. But to put on millions of people and to make this guy pay for that guy's health care, and tell people with a straight face, it's not going to increase overall costs, is nonsense.

KING: Robert -- Professor Reich, am I my brother's keeper?

REICH: We're all in the same boat together. I think there are a lot of good things in the health bill, even if the compromise comes apart. Telling and requiring that health insurance companies not look at pre- existing conditions and not drop people because they get sick, and also recovering 31 million more Americans, that is good.

What I'm most concerned about in the bill is there is not sufficient competition among private insurance companies. The entire insurance system, even in the bill, still depends on private for-profit insurance companies. And there's just -- we know that, in at least nine states, two private insurance companies dominate 85 percent of the market. They are consolidating like mad. There is no public option in that bill right now. I think that's dangerous.


CUPP: This health care bill, I think, is a disaster for small businesses. It's going to strangle small businesses. It's not 48 million uninsured. It's far less. That number has become sort of ubiquitous. But it's...

KING: How do you know?

CUPP: I called the Census Bureau. Actually, I think 11 million of that number is illegal immigrants. Four to five million of that number are people my age, who don't want health insurance but could afford it.

When you get really right down to it, it's more like nine million. Not that they should be ignored. But why would we trample on the rights of the many to satisfy the rights of the few when most of us are pretty satisfied with what we have? We're going to be putting small businesses out of business because we're going to require them -- why would a small business owner, who can save 8 percent per employee by siphoning them off into some government health care option, why would they choose private health care?

KING: We know that Donald Trump has something to say about Obama's fat cat remark and a few other topics. He'll sound off right after the break.


KING: Joining us now by phone is Donald Trump.

Donald, Obama sat down with the bankers today at the White House. It wasn't just a photo-op. You think they're listening to him?

DONALD TRUMP, FINANCIER: I think they're probably not listening to him, Larry. We're in a situation where banks are not lending at all. They obviously don't have very much respect for the president, so it's a problem.

But I saw the folks over at the White House. I just saw a newscast. They're obviously not listening. You're not going to get the economy going unless the banks start to lend. And they are not lending to anybody for virtually any reason.

KING: But they took all this money. What are they doing with it?

TRUMP: They're buying airplanes, like Jamie Diamond at JPMorgan Chase, has a whole big fleet of planes and, I understand, building a magnificent hangar. They're doing lots of wonderful things. But they're not loaning money.

KING: How do they get away with it? Wasn't there -- don't they put a stipulation on the loans we gave them?

TRUMP: I don't think they put much of a stipulation because you see what's going on. I can say, you can have the finest job in the country. You can have the finest tenants in the country if you go -- as an example, for a mortgage to build a building or a construction loan, the banks will tell you, we love you very much but there is -- there are no loans. Loans are not available.

I have cases where I have buildings where people bought a unit but they can't get money to close the unit. They just can't what they call end loans. They can't get them under any circumstances, great buildings. So the banks took in billions of dollars. I don't know what they're doing with the money. I can tell you one thing they're not doing with it is lending.

Another thing. You used to have many banks in New York. You had Manufacturer's Hanover. You had Chase. You had JPMorgan. Those two merged. Chemical Bank, you had them all over the place. Today, you have very few banks. They've all merged. They've become monsters. If they go bad, it's going to be a catastrophe. They should do really something possibly to break up the big banks.

KING: Is the president between a rock and a hard place here?

TRUMP: I don't think so. I think he is trying very hard, but the banks are not listening.

KING: What does he do?

TRUMP: He has to get them to loan money and put out the loans. If they don't do that, they're just showing a great lack of respect for the president.

KING: Do they need more regulation?

TRUMP: I don't think they need more regulation, Larry. But something is haywire. You can have -- it's very interesting. Rates are very low, but you can't get money. In theory, if you can't get money, the rates should be high. But rates are record low, but nobody can get money. Strong people, really good people, people with high credit ratings, cannot get money. So, something is wrong with the system.

KING: So the obvious, how did we get to this?

TRUMP: Well, look, it's been a long road. It's been a long-and- winding road. It was a mess a year ago. The various folks did really, I think, the right thing by stuffing the banks with money. Because every bank would have been out of business, no matter how strong it was. You would have had a run on the system, a run on the banks. So I listen to a lot of people saying they shouldn't have done that, let capitalism work. That would have been fine, but we would have gone through a about a ten-year depression and we were really right there. So they did the right thing in putting the money into the banks. It kept the system alive. The problem is, Larry, the banks are not loaning the money.

KING: Overall in the economy, how is the president doing?

TRUMP: I think you would have to say he's working very, very hard. I would like to say incomplete. You don't know until you see -- you know, finances is a very interesting and very complex thing. You really don't know what's going to happen until you can look out with a crystal ball four or five years. Nobody can do that. Really, the word would be "incomplete." He is trying hard. He's doing his best.

KING: What are your own -- is the recession over?

TRUMP: The recession is over for the stock market, because the stock market seems to go up. Now, maybe it's either a great indicator, a leading indicator, or it's going to be one hell of a bubble. It's going to be a blast, because something's wrong. The stock market is doing well and everything else is doing badly.

And I have friends that run these big companies, the big public companies, they say they're doing terribly but their stock keeps going up.

KING: Why is this -- why is the stock market happy when unemployment goes up?

TRUMP: Nobody knows the answer. And that's why either a leading indicator, which would be wonderful, or it's going to be a bubble like you've never seen before.

KING: Are you optimistic?

TRUMP: Well, I'm pretty optimistic. But, again, we have no banking system. We have no banks. We have nobody to lend money to do projects. If I want to do a project where I'm going to employ thousands of people to build it, you can't get money from a bank.

So, until you get the banking system working and make it effective, you are not going to have much of an economy, Larry. You're going to have huge unemployment.

KING: What do you make of that new gigantic CityCenter in Las Vegas?

TRUMP: Well, it's a total catastrophe. First of all, it cost billions more than it was anticipated to. So, that you have to blame the company for and the people leading it. But it turned out to be a total catastrophe.

KING: We'll take a break. Hold, Donald Trump. When we come back, we'll talk about another area of expertise, branding and Tiger Woods. Don't go away. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Drew Griffin at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Here's a look at our top stories at this hour.

Senate Democrats say they are on track to pass health care reform by Christmas. Party leaders had to convince holdout Ben Nelson of Nebraska to support the bill. That gives them enough votes to overcome Republican efforts to block it. Now, once it passes, the Senate bill will have to go to the House and be reconciled with the version passed by the House last month.

A brutal winter storm is blasting parts of the east coast. Up to 20 inches of snow predicted from the Mid-Atlantic States, up and through New York. Strong winds have created near-whiteout conditions in many areas. Hundreds of thousands are without power and at least five deaths now have been reported in Virginia and in Ohio.

And some travelers are having to bed down in airports. Flights are delayed. Airports are shut down and the worst is probably yet to come.

A Delta spokesperson told CNN that they have canceled just over 500 flights now at the affected airports on the east coast.

And Karen Maginnis is watching in the weather center.

This has certainly been a mess both in the air and on the ground.

KAREN MAGINNIS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And it couldn't come at a worse time, when folks are out shopping, trying to get their holiday shopping done, and the commerce people, the commercial people, were really expecting a big weekend.

And here we go with a classic nor'easter that could rival some of the records. I don't think we are going to shatter records. But this one is definitely going to rank in the top five, definitely in the top 10.

This is a live picture of Herald Square. This is West 34th and Broadway. I've really watched the heavy bands of snow showers start to move in. We watched a person carrying a cart and there were some children trying to walk across the street. There was a person trying to clean off their car. Just wasn't happening. The snow has come down rather fantastically in the last couple of hours.

Now, this maybe a difficult map to see but it's of Virginia and some of the power outages that have been seen here. Here's Richmond, Williamsburg, some sporadic outages, but more so towards Fairfax and Fredericksburg, we're seeing more significant outages in those places.

But the airport is not closed but the runways at Washington's National and Reagan -- Dulles rather, they're not running because the snowfall has been coming down all day long.

Drew, back to you. GRIFFIN: All right. We'll have plenty of this and more tonight at 10:00. We're also going to keep that live coverage of current conditions of the weather and closures on the bottom of your screen.

But, right now, stay tuned for more "LARRY KING LIVE."


KING: Donald Trump is still with us. And now, Dennis Rodman is here, an athlete who knows all too well about being in the eye of a media storm. I think this might be the first time they've been together since "The Celebrity Apprentice."

And, Rodman, of course, the greatest rebounder in the history of professional basketball. There he is in Miami. The possessor of five championship rings.

Donald, give us your quick ten type of Dennis Rodman?


TRUMP: Well, you know, Dennis is a winner, Larry. Dennis was on "The Apprentice." He did fantastically well. We had a lot of time together and I gained a great respect and he's a champion. You know, as you say, he has five rings.

And how many people have five rings at anything? So, Dennis knows I like him a lot and he was great on the show. By the way, the ratings were fantastic, so I like him even more.

KING: All right, Dennis, what's your thoughts on the whole Tiger Woods thing?

RODMAN: Well, my thoughts are just like Donald's. I think Tiger needs to get back outside and just being -- just live his life. I think that the home life is not in good shape right but I think that, of course, personal entity. I think he's done he's very marketable still.

I think most of the people have really dumped him now, I think they should understand this guy is going to come back bigger, stronger than ever. You know, I think he's going to have to work on his home life. And I'm one to say that, right?


RODMAN: So, it's like wow. But I think that, you know, we all love Tiger. I mean, Tiger is a great guy. And one thing people in this industry have to understand that built this man to be this great god. We didn't ask Tiger Woods to come out and to say, you know what, I'm not bad, I'm not good. He's just a great golfer. I'm pretty sure he's a great dad.

And all these girls are coming out right now just making all these functions and I think it's just that.

KING: What about -- what about the endorsements, Dennis? Nike is sticking by him but the rest are wavering and Accenture dropped him.

RODMAN: Well, I just think that, you know, you have to weigh all the options, and with me, I lost a couple of endorsements. But, you know what, it's not all about endorsements. It's about fixing your life and understanding, you know, how the world works.

Now, I think that Tiger has made over $1 billion over less than -- less than 10 years. He has done a lot of things, a lot of great things for people around the world. And I think that he's not bigger than golf. I think golf needs him. And the people need him.

And I think that, as far as Americans, we are so forgiving, for no matter what we do in the world, we could be normal, we could be abnormal, we could be great, we could be fantastic. We could be infamous. We could be famous.

No matter what we do, people here in America is always going to give you a second, third chance.

KING: Donald, if you had a product, would you have Tiger endorsed it?

TRUMP: Well, the answer is always yes, because he's just a guy that I like a lot. But it really would depend on what the product is. I can see Accenture maybe taking their stance. I can also see -- and I never had a doubt that Nike, you know, that's all about hitting the ball, and I never had a doubt that Nike would stay with him and some of the others will stay with him.

But Tiger is going to be a little different. His image over the years will be a lot different probably than it was. And that's not necessarily so bad.

I mean, look at Dennis. Dennis' image is slightly different.


TRUMP: And Dennis does just fine.

Tiger -- hey, Larry, Tiger will be a different guy.

KING: Yes.

TRUMP: But I agree with Dennis, I think he has a chance to be bigger and better than ever. That's a big statement.

KING: All right. Let me get a break. Back with more.

More Tiger talk with two top people, Dennis Rodman and Donald trump, together here. More after this.


KING: Dennis Rodman has a wonderful organization. He raises money for a homeless shelter in Florida. If you want more information, go to -- I salute you for that, Dennis. RODMAN: Thank you, brother.

KING: All right. People are already complaining Donald that Mr. Knight of Nike is supporting him. He's taken a lot of hits for that. Do you understand that?

TRUMP: Well, I'm supporting him also. So, I guess, they're going to have to complain against me. And Dennis, I know, is supporting him. So, I know plenty of people that are supporting him.

It's his personal life. It's just one of those things. It's unfortunate. I certainly never saw Tiger in this light. But you know what? I know him. I like him. He happens to be a good guy.

KING: Dennis, should he come forward in another form than issuing press releases?

RODMAN: Well, I think that, you know, what being in my position, of course, I'm being a bad boy -- I think you just go out and just live life, man. I think you can't do anything now, because a lot of women are coming out and just chasing him because he's Tiger Woods. I think, if he was an average guy, people wouldn't care. But I think, because he's such an icon and legend right now, such a young age.

He just needs to come out and just go play golf somewhere, go down the street and play golf, go somewhere, go to Vegas. Go see Donald trump. Go to New York. Go to the Hamptons. Go to do something.

KING: He'd be hounded, though. He couldn't walk down the street.

RODMAN: But it doesn't matter. I think, sooner or later, you're going to have to come out and let people see you. I mean, the more you stay hidden, guess what, the more people are going to come out and start saying these things about you.

So, what's going to happen? You know, he'll go on "Oprah." He probably go on "60 Minutes." He could probably do this, could probably do that.

And guess what? He's going to have to say the truth and say, you know what, you know, I've learned -- I've learned a big lesson of being a billionaire, a great golfer, a great icon, a famous person. Now, I go I have to put all those things together and be a great father and a great husband.

KING: Donald, do handlers play a part in this, people around him and yes men? People who must have known the kind of life he was living and not say anything to him about it.

TRUMP: Sure. The handlers are there and a lot of blood suckers. And I'm not talking about Tiger necessarily, but when you're famous like that, a lot of times, and especially, athletes, they have handlers all over the place.

And they have a big -- they have a big role in somebody's life. And, obviously, Tiger had some handlers and maybe they didn't do him justice.

KING: Dennis, did you think about your public image? Didn't you care about what people thought about you, or you didn't?

RODMAN: Obviously, people think -- no. That's because why I'm famous. That's why I'm famous.

I think Donald understands it. I think he knew that I was a great marketing tool in what I've done in my career.

And I used -- I used those things for it. Now, I wasn't a bad guy. I was a bad boy as far as like, you know, marketing myself. As far as going out there and doing certain things, people know about me. People know about some of the girls I've dated, people know about some of the things I've done.

Well, people don't hold me credible as far as like, hey, Dennis is a bad guy. We know Dennis is a good guy. We know he's a good guy.

And we know Tiger is a good guy. And Tiger needs to come on out and just be a normal human being and everything will take care of itself. I think Donald understands that.

TRUMP: People got to know -- hey, Larry, people got to know Dennis really strongly on "The Celebrity Apprentice." And he turned out to be not only a good guy but a highly competitive guy. And, you know, if you really think about it, you would assume that would be true. But he really, I think, shown very well.

KING: We have one segment left, and we'll ask if Dennis ever partied with Tiger. We'll ask if Donald ever party with Tiger -- after the break.


KING: Dennis, did you ever party with tiger?


RODMAN: Probably like back in the day when he first came out. When he first came out, when he started playing golf and he started getting very good back in 19 -- probably '96, '97, we hung out a couple of times.

KING: Was he fun to be with?

RODMAN: Well, he's a great guy. He's a great guy. He's a down-to- earth guy.

He's not Dennis Rodman, a wild party guy. He's more like subdued, probably smoke a cigar here and there. But other than that, I don't see him like, you know, drinking liquor all night long. Maybe a glass or wine, or something like that, but other than that, he's not a bad guy.

KING: Donald, how did your friendship with Tiger begin? TRUMP: Well, mostly through golf. I own a lot of really great golf courses and Tiger is there and I'd see him there. And I got to know him a little bit. And he's, you know, just very special and truly special in terms of playing golf. I mean, the guy is really amazing.

And, you know, it's like taking the canvas away from Rembrandt. You have to let Tiger play golf. You just have to.

And for him to be sitting home not playing golf and I think Dennis would agree, I think that's a terrible mistake.

KING: You really came out and supported him tonight, Donald. It took a little bit of guts.

TRUMP: Well, I'm a loyal person, and I think Tiger is a loyal person in many respects to be honest with you. I mean, that's one of the reasons he's, you know, obviously, working very, very hard to stay with the wife. A lot of people would have given up.

KING: I don't think loyal would be -- I don't think loyal would be attributed to him lately, Donald.

TRUMP: No, but he -- but you know what, Larry? He's working very, very hard to stay with the wife.


TRUMP: I can tell you, a lot of people would be gone.

KING: Hey, Dennis, what is -- tell me about

RODMAN: is an organization with the Mission of St. Francis. And they came for me to support them as far as like funding their organization. They're a nonprofit organization, and Lauren and Miles are very nice to give their home up because times are tough now, as Donald knows and they've given the house to the Mission of St. Francis. And I'm here to support them and support the mission, and they've been around for 40 years.

They've helped 10,000 people. And I'm just giving my service as a good guy. And most people don't know about me. I do give a lot of weight and give my service to people.

And I would like to thank Donald Trump for giving me an opportunity to come back on his show and show of face.

KING: And what do you want to say about Dennis, Donald?

TRUMP: Well, it was great having him on "The Apprentice," I have to tell you. He's a great character. And he really is a character. He's a unique person.

But he really is, you know, underneath all of that bluster, there's a good guy. There's a nice guy, and I respect Dennis a lot.

KING: Also, Donald, before than that, while he was kind of wild, on the court, there wasn't a more -- there wasn't better team player. You know, he didn't shoot -- he didn't shoot a lot, he passed off. He's a great rebounder.

TRUMP: One of the greatest rebounders of all time. And if you ask Michael Jordan or any of the great players on the team, Dennis was a very important part of all of those championship teams.

KING: And, Dennis, you're eligible for the basketball Hall of Fame next year. Do you think you might make it?

RODMAN: I hope so. You know, you got Karl Malone and you got Michael -- Scottie Pippen, sorry, Scottie Pippen. You got me that's eligible. Hopefully that we all three get in. If I don't get, I'm going to be there to support Scottie Pippen, you know, one of the greatest players I've ever stepped on the court.

KING: Hey...

RODMAN: And...

KING: Thank you both very much. Rodman, hang tough. Donald, as always, we appreciate the time.

TRUMP: Thank you, Larry.

KING: A World War II veteran returns to Tarawa, the site of one of the bloodiest battles in Marine Story. He and Ed Harris join us next.


KING: It's an extraordinary new documentary. It will air on the Military Channel on Monday December 21st. And knowing the Military Channel, they will repeat it often. It's brilliantly done.

Joining us to discuss it are Ed Harris, the Oscar-nominated actor and filmmaker and he narrates the "Return To Tarawa."

Leon Cooper, what a joy to have him here, a World War II veteran, survivor, present of the Pacific Theater. And Steven C. Barber, the producer and director of this documentary.

How did you come about to do this, Steven?

STEVEN C. BARBER, "RETURN TO TARAWA" PRODUCER AND DIRECTOR: You know, I was on a mountain bike ride about 13 years ago, I ran across Eddie Albert, the great actor Eddie Albert. And long story short, he invited me in, I wrote a story about him, we got to be good friends.

During the interview process, he showed me this metal that he had won. And he was in the Battle of Tarawa. He told me all about it and said we lost, you know, 3,000, 4,000 men. It was horrible.

Fast forward 10 years later, I meet this extraordinary gentleman. I asked him, we're at a book fair at UCLA. I said, "Did you see Eddie Albert? Did you know Eddie Albert at Tarawa?" He said, "Absolutely, I remember seeing him. Japanese bullets were flying; he was dragging marines out of the bay." I'm like, "Leon, that's 65 years ago, how could you remember that?" He goes, "It's something you'll never forget."

KING: Ed, how did they get you involved?

ED HARRIS, ACTOR: Well, I'm not exactly sure who asked me. But Leon, I met with Leon and Steven. And I -- you know, he told me his story and what he was doing, and the documentary they were working on. And I saw the film, and I said, "Yes, I'll be happy to help out."

I mean, I really like -- I appreciate people of passion. And I have a lot of respect for my elders. And I was glad to help Leon out.

KING: Did you know about Tarawa?

HARRIS: Not at all. No, I mean, my dad was in WWII but he was in the Army and he was in Europe. You know what I mean? I knew there was a lot of hellish battles in the Pacific, but I didn't not know any specifics, really.

KING: My former father-in-law fought at Tarawa, fought (INAUDIBLE) and all of those, but he wouldn't talk about it. Why, Leon, do you think? Every time I'd asked him, he wouldn't talk about it.

LEON COOPER, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: It's pretty difficult to allow yourself to remember all of the terrible things that happened. By the way, I do want to say this before we get very far along, I want to have your viewers know how lucky we are to have Ed Harris be the narrator of this film, to lend his good name to an important film. And with his good name, I'm convinced that many more people would have seen this film and have known about what we've been trying to do.

KING: There is this wonderful memorial in Washington now, finally, to World War II veterans. They deserved it for a long time. It's been a long time coming.

We're going to show you a clip from this. Leon Cooper returned there last year. Here's a clip of what happens from the documentary film, "Return to Tarawa." A word of caution, you might find some of these images disturbing.



COOPER: I smell the stench of all those bodies rotting in the sun. It still comes back to me -- all that stink of guys decomposing. I came ashore about here, between here and the pier. And I crouched behind the seawall. And the Japs were shooting at me from up there somewhere. They were shooting at me from every (EXPLETIVE DELETED) angle there was.

I'm just -- I can't stand it. Look at - look at this sand here, I couldn't get anywhere near the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sand. I was up on the reef.



KING: This battle was fought from November 20th, 1943 to November 23rd, three days. It ended in American victory. The first U.S. offensive in the critical Central Pacific region, the first time the United States faced serious Japanese opposition.

What caused you to cry there?

COOPER: I remembered all those kids being shot. That memory will never leave me. A few feet away from me, I would see a kid and this teens being cut to pieces. How the hell I survived, I don't know. I remember my mother sending me letters from time to time, "Son, be careful." You can't be careful in a war, you're either lucky or you're not.


HARRIS (narrating): The brutality of the Tarawa campaign would soon hit home. When the American public began to see the pictures of the casualties and devastation in late December 1943, the gruesome carnage was so disturbing that some mothers demanded the Nimitz's resignation.


KING: We're discussing the new documentary, "Return to Tarawa."

What was it like for you, Ed, to -- you had to see all this, and document it, and narrate it.

HARRIS: Well, what the documentary is really about is what Leon's mission has become since he took that visit, which I really think he wants to talk about.

KING: What is your mission?

COOPER: First of all, to make sure that the guys I saw being killed in Tarawa who are still alive where they fell are being recovered and repatriated. There may be as many as 500 guys there, including a Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

KING: Buried there?


COOPER: ... shame.

KING: Buried there?

COOPER: In an unmarked grave. Nobody knows where he is for sure. I talked to his daughter, Bonnyman's daughter a few times.

KING: Why unmarked grave?

COOPER: Because at that time, the military didn't give a goddamn whether or not these guys were ever repatriated. And they still don't.

KING: Were you shocked -- Steven, were you shocked at this story?

BARBER: Larry, it's amazing. I feel really privileged I went back there. And because it's a atoll, the natural formation of that rock has never been washed out. I found bullets, I found cartridges, I found grenades, I found helmet, it's like the battle happened...

KING: Are people living there?

BARBER: ... five minutes ago. Yes, 100,000 people are living there. It's horrible. There's a -- it's unsightly. There's trash and garbage and defecation and more garbage than you could imagine on top of where these men are buried.

KING: We thank Ed Harris, the narrator. Leon Cooper, the incredible World War II veteran. They'll build a monument to you. And Steven Barber, who produced and directed and made it all possible.

It will be on December 21st. It will also be repeated.

Stay tuned for news around the clock on CNN. Good night.