Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Larry King Live
Interview With Caroline Kennedy
Aired May 07, 2002 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a private woman the whole world knows, Caroline Kennedy. Keeping her father's legacy alive, she's here for the hour. We'll take your calls. She's next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE a return visit for Caroline Kennedy, who edited and wrote the introduction for "Profiles in Courage For Our Time." This new book just published by Hyperion. She also edited the "New York Times" best-seller "The Best Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She's president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
Later in the hour, Michael Beschloss, the historian and Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer-prize winning writer will be with us. They are both part of this book. Now, tell me about this project?
CAROLINE KENNEDY, "PROFILES IN COURAGE FOR OUR TIME": This is a great project and so many wonderful writers have contributed to it. And I think that that really is a wonderful way of bringing my father's concept of profiles in courage, which was a book that he published in the '50s, bringing that to life for our time.
KING: So you got a good title to begin with?
KENNEDY: We had a great title, and I think that it's really a timeless idea. And I think people really have responded to courage in so many forms recently, and I think this book is a way of celebrating political courage.
KING: Was it your idea?
KENNEDY: It was an idea that had been around for a while. Actually, John and I started working on it together because...
KENNEDY: ... we were both involved in the Profile in Courage Award, which the Kennedy Library has been giving out since 1989. So the idea was to have a chapter on each of the winners. And now that we've been doing it for a number of years, we finally got the book together.
KING: So had he lived, it would have been by both of you, compiled by both of you? KENNEDY: Yes, but I would have done most of the work.
KING: You love writing, right? You like editing and writing.
KENNEDY: I do. No, he did too, and he was a great editor. So I'm sure it would have been a lot of fun to work together.
KING: Now, did you like call Bob Woodward and say, this is Caroline Kennedy, I'd like you to do a chapter in this book?
KENNEDY: Some of the authors really spoke up for the people that they wanted to cover and that they wanted to write about. Some of them had known or covered some of the people. Bob Woodward was great because he had -- obviously is so well known for his Watergate-era work and had spent a lot of time with Gerald Ford recently. So it was great because he had really thought about the whole issue of the pardon and was able to explain it for so many people who had changed their minds.
KING: We know how your father defined it when he wrote that now historic book. How do you define courage?
KENNEDY: Well, it is hard to define, but I think it really lives -- the spirit of it is so much alive and when you see it, I think it is really something that we should celebrate.
KING: You know it when you see it?
KENNEDY: Well, I don't want to get into that comparison, but Hemmingway's definition was grace under pressure. And I think that that really is something that my father really believed. And the amazing thing about the winners I found is that none of them really felt that they were doing anything special. They just felt like it was the right thing to do. And I think that that's something about courage that really all of us have within us, which is the capacity to do the right thing. And...
KING: Did you and your brother select the winners?
KENNEDY: We're on a committee, and we have a number of other people on the committee. There's Senator Snow from Maine and Senator Cochran from Mississippi who are on it now. David McCullough (ph), the historian.
KING: Is it the kind of committee where the vote is 42-1, but you are the one, so you win?
KENNEDY: No, the kind of committee where the vote is, you know...
KING: Everybody has got one vote?
KENNEDY: Yes. Everybody's got one vote. And it is always very close because we're deciding between people who are all so deserving that sometimes it becomes very intense.
KING: In the light, Caroline, of September 11, where I will imagine one of the courage awards is going to come next time, do you give it to -- you can give it to the NYPD Fire Department, so many people?
KENNEDY: Well, we did, actually. We have -- I mean, I think that public service was really redefined on September 11. And I think that we had a ceremony yesterday at the Kennedy Library where we did honor the public service heroes of September 11.
KING: Oh, I see it there.
KENNEDY: And we had representatives from the Pentagon and the New York Fire and Police Departments as well as a Boston firefighter whose brother had served in New York. So it was tremendously moving as so many of those things are. But I think that it really -- people don't look at any of the people who help and serve us the same way anymore. And we just don't take that for granted.
KING: Where were you that morning?
KENNEDY: I was at home in New York.
KING: Do you remember how you first heard -- was the television on?
KENNEDY: Yes, it was. And then I think I was on the phone with my husband who was downtown.
KING: Was he anywhere near there?
KENNEDY: No, not too near, but he could see what was going on.
KING: What was your -- you know, you lived with shock -- your life has been a series of shocks. What was that like for you?
KENNEDY: Well, I think everybody just obviously was just horrified. And I think that, you know, the loss was so overwhelming. But I think it did bring people together and that was something that was really an extraordinary thing.
KING: Were you surprised at how New York reacted?
KENNEDY: No. New York is great. And it was just -- I think the way it came together was just a wonderful thing about New York, that people don't always realize.
KING: "Profiles in Courage For Our Time" implies that there was the previous time. This is for our time. How were they selected? When you select a person, you said if it gets down to, a lot of times there's disagreements. What does it come down to? What does that person have to do?
KENNEDY: Well, I think it comes down to -- in my father's book, he wrote about and many of these winners like Charles Elliott and Michael Beschloss will talk about it and others, really risked their career for something, a principle that they believe was in the national interest and they made a stand on conscience. And often, they are not rewarded for that. Many of them are defeated afterwards. And the award is really supposed to recognize and honor that so that we look for it and expect it in our leaders.
But I think that we're also seeing new kinds of courage, which is the courage to compromise and to reach out, or the courage to take on sort of the established interests. And this is really the only award for political courage as opposed to many other forms of courage. And I think it is something that all citizens need to be aware of and we need to become engaged in our government and our democracy. And I think we need to recognize that there are people at all levels of government, Republican and Democrat.
And I think that what's different maybe about this book is that it really shows a range of issues and at all levels of government, men and women. You don't have to be a senator, you don't have to be in Washington to be courageous and to serve your community.
KING: You said something odd or that sounded odd. The courage to compromise?
KENNEDY: Well, I think we see in this book and Kofi Annan was talking about yesterday about leadership. And sometimes it takes a lot of courage to meet and make a compromise that will achieve your goal and achieve something larger, something...
KING: Doesn't it belie courage?
KENNEDY: Not always. No, I don't think so.
KING: To give a little. You mean, it is courageous sometimes to give a little?
KENNEDY: I think it is. I think it can be.
KING: That's very interesting.
KENNEDY: It is very interesting. I've learned really a lot in working on this committee. And I think that when we had the Irish peacemakers come, they really talked about how much each of them had to risk and give up and how angry their own supporters were when they reached out to their historic adversaries.
And so I think that there really are many forms of courage, although the one that I think most of us respond to is the solitary figure who really does risk it all. And we have many examples of that in this book too, somebody who sees an injustice and they just think it is wrong.
KING: How did you select the Woodwards and the Beschlosses?
KENNEDY: Well, we wanted the best people and we have a number of wonderful writers in there, two of the, I think, the great historians and writers of our time. KING: You did all the -- you and the committee...
KENNEDY: I did some of the contacting of them. I wrote them all. And one of the great things for me, I think, having grown up in a family that really values writing and words is the way that the writers responded to being involved in this project.
KING: Did you edit them?
KENNEDY: They didn't need a lot of editing which is the even better thing.
KING: But did you?
KENNEDY: Like I said, they didn't really need a lot of editing.
KING: Did you have the courage to call up Bob Woodward and say this third paragraph we should take out?
KENNEDY: Yes, I would have that courage, I hope.
KING: You would. But you're a good editor.
KENNEDY: Well, I don't know. But luckily, I didn't have to do that.
KING: Do you think that, when you mention the Kennedy family and writing, your father -- it was generally assumed -- what would he have done after the presidency? And some people thought he would have worked for the "Boston Globe" maybe.
KENNEDY: Well, he said he'd like to go back into Congress, like John Quincy Adams. But who knows?
KING: Do you think he would have written?
KENNEDY: I don't know. I'm sure he did. I mean, he wrote a number of books in addition to "Profiles in Courage." And I think his speeches and his work in the White House, so much of it lives on through the words that he used and the power of those ideas.
KING: You were five when he was gone, right?
KING: When you see him, is it difficult for you?
KENNEDY: I do have a lot of my own memories.
KING: You do? Because a lot of people at five don't.
KENNEDY: Yes, I think it was like seven or so. But I do. And so those are really precious to me and that's really what I kind of think of, and then there's the sort of a more public persona.
KING: Like you drive by the Kennedy Center. KENNEDY: Right.
KING: It's kind of weird, isn't it? I mean, not weird but it's like...
KENNEDY: Well, it really is something that I'm really proud of and it means a lot to me. And I have -- my family is another way that I think, you know, I take tremendous pride in the work that they all do. And so it's all kind of...
KING: Your family has always given.
KENNEDY: Well, my family is great and it's wonderful to be part of it.
KING: Caroline Kennedy, the book is "Profiles in Courage For Our Time," introduced and edited by Ms. Kennedy. The publisher is Hyperion. We'll meet two of the people contributing later. Back with more of Caroline after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY: And I'm truly honored to present the first international Profile in Courage Award to United Nations Secretary- General Kofi Annan, who has relentlessly challenged individuals and nations to take moral responsibility for creating a more equitable world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The United States today is the great defender of freedom. If we fail, that cause fails all over the world. If we succeed, the cause of freedom succeeds. I do not know any time in the life of this country when a comparable responsibility has been placed upon the people of the United States. And therefore, what we start here in New Hampshire today I believe must succeed next summer and next November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, senator from Massachusetts, running for the presidency, speaking in New Hampshire before that primary in 19 -- what do you feel when you see that? And you've seen hundreds of them.
C. KENNEDY: Right.
KING: What do you feel?
C. KENNEDY: Well, I feel tremendously proud. I think that he was so eloquent and really set a standard for leadership and showed a great deal of courage throughout his presidency. KING: But you also say, that was my dad.
C. KENNEDY: Right. No, I do say that and it reminds me of other people in my family and the way they talk and their gestures. So, it's nice. It is a very nice thing to be able to see because there are so many films and everything.
KING: You've got a cousin going to run for governor from Maryland?
C. KENNEDY: That's right.
KING: Now, will you campaign for Ms. Townsend?
C. KENNEDY: I hope so.
KING: Do you get involved in the races?
C. KENNEDY: I do. I do.
KING: So they're all over, right, Rhode Island, wherever they are?
C. KENNEDY: That's right. A lot is going on in Maryland, I'd say.
KING: Do you have a plan to run for anything? Would you run?
C. KENNEDY: People like you always ask questions like...
KING: Could you get up and give -- could you go on a tour?
C. KENNEDY: I could go on talk shows and all kinds of things like that.
KING: And take firm stands and (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You're good at that. You love it, right?
C. KENNEDY: I love it. I just can't wait.
KING: You're so comfortable. You just can't wait for the media. You're a media hog, right? You can't wait to do this.
C. KENNEDY: I'm here. I'm here. Look at me.
KING: I know. You watched your brother when he was here that night.
C. KENNEDY: I did. I did.
KING: And you told me that you knew...
C. KENNEDY: I knew exactly what he was thinking whenever you asked him a question.
KING: What was special about him that maybe we don't know? C. KENNEDY: I don't know. I think that his personality really came through. So, in a way, there are not maybe particulars that you don't know.
KING: In other words, what you saw was what he was?
C. KENNEDY: I think so. That was special too. He was just so much fun to be around.
KING: Worst morning of your life?
C. KENNEDY: Probably.
KING: Putting up with tragedy, you know, that's courageous too. The Kennedys have had to be courageous. They live with it. Is there anything -- are you self-motivated to do this, to put up with the things that the Kennedys have had to put up with? Where does it come from?
C. KENNEDY: Well, I don't know. I mean, I just -- I think there's a lot of important things that keep people going. And...
KING: You mean, you're able to look beyond it quickly?
C. KENNEDY: Well, no. I don't think so. But I think that I have a tremendous amount of support and love from my family. And I think if you care about other people, that really helps.
KING: Did your mother give you a lot of that?
C. KENNEDY: Sure.
KING: Because she was a gutsy lady.
C. KENNEDY: That's right. She was. She was a lot of fun also.
C. KENNEDY: Right.
KING: I've heard that. She wasn't public a lot and I wonder where you get that from, right? You don't like attention...
C. KENNEDY: I do. I love it. I do. I'm here and having such a good time right now.
KING: But you're not an attention seeker by nature, correct?
C. KENNEDY: Maybe.
KING: Oh, is this a new Caroline?
C. KENNEDY: No, I mean, I'm not an attention seeker, I'm not. I'm very happy. I enjoy writing. I enjoy that kind of process.
KING: What makes a good editor? C. KENNEDY: I don't know. I think someone who really likes to read.
KING: That's what they are. They're readers, right?
C. KENNEDY: I think so.
KING: They're able to say...
C. KENNEDY: They say I like to read.
KING: Now, Woodward will announce this when he comes on, but he said you did edit him.
C. KENNEDY: I did, right.
KING: We'll have him tell us the story.
C. KENNEDY: Have him tell all, OK.
KING: What do you think of how President Bush is doing?
C. KENNEDY: I think he's doing very well. I think he's doing great.
KING: Surprise you?
C. KENNEDY: I think that -- not particularly. I think that the presidency really brings out the best in a lot of people.
KING: Do you thing people rise to it?
C. KENNEDY: I think they can, yes.
KING: What about Teddy? How is he doing?
C. KENNEDY: Teddy is doing great. I think Teddy has shown a tremendous amount of courage in his career. And there's somebody who compromises and always is working for the ideals that he believes in.
KING: Do the Kennedys ever gather as they used to do, all of them together?
C. KENNEDY: Well, it is hard to gather so many people, but we just went to Mount Vernon a couple weeks ago.
KING: You did, all of you?
C. KENNEDY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) took a lot of us. Not everybody but a lot of us. It was a lot of us. We had a great time...
KING: How many there?
C. KENNEDY: ... with grandchildren, great-grandchildren. I don't know. You keep asking me that because maybe you know.
KING: No, I don't know.
C. KENNEDY: But I think there's somewhere around 70-something or 80-something.
KING: Do you feel that you have been -- you have a special privilege. Do you feel that you've also been given a kind of a burden in a sense? By that, you have to live up to something?
C. KENNEDY: No. I feel that I have a great example and I have a lot of support and a lot of opportunities. So I really actually feel very lucky. I feel like my grandparents and parents gave me a tremendous amount. And if I can pass some of that on, then I'll be very happy.
KING: How is Mr. Schlossberg?
C. KENNEDY: He is great.
KING: That is not your -- you don't use the name Schlossberg, do you? I mean, you do and you don't.
C. KENNEDY: Right. Well, I never really changed my name. But Ed is wonderful in every possible way.
KING: What does he do?
C. KENNEDY: He designs museums and interactive environments and does a lot of computers and science museums and he spends a lot of time with our three children.
KING: I grew up with a whole bunch of guys and not one wanted to design a museum.
C. KENNEDY: He writes books. And, yes, you should have him on your show some time.
KING: Would he come on?
C. KENNEDY: I don't know. You'd have to ask him.
KING: What are the ages of the children and what do they do?
C. KENNEDY: They do the same things that every other children do. They're 13 and 12, yesterday, and nine.
KING: All are in school?
C. KENNEDY: Yes.
KING: Girls and boys?
C. KENNEDY: Yes. Two girls and a boy.
KING: Are you a good mother?
C. KENNEDY: I don't know. You'd have to ask them. KING: Are you tough?
C. KENNEDY: Very, very tough.
KING: You are?
C. KENNEDY: Very, yes.
KING: Are they being raised -- do they go to church? Are they believers?
C. KENNEDY: You know what? They told me that if I talked about them, they would be so furious with me. So I'm not going to talk about them anymore.
KING: OK. We'll go back to the book and then we'll meet Mr. Beschloss and Mr. Woodward and get their contributions on courage and greatness.
This award that goes on every year, this is imperpetuity? Are we always going to have this?
C. KENNEDY: I hope so. I'm sure that there will always be courageous people deserving this award. And that's really what we look for. And we're always looking for nominations. And we, really, we receive nominations now from across the country, which is great. And we have an essay contest as well that we're trying to inspire younger people to recognize courage and seek it out and expect it in our leaders. And I think that that is good...
KING: What does the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation do?
C. KENNEDY: Well, it supports the work of the library and it runs the Profiles in Courage award. And it really seeks to carry out my father's belief that public service is a noble profession.
KING: Do you go to the library a lot?
C. KENNEDY: I do. It is up in Boston.
KING: Right on the water, right?
C. KENNEDY: Right. Right, looking out on the harbor. So, it is great. And they've been doing a lot of good programs. And it works with other presidential libraries and trying to really bring history alive, because I think it is really important. And there is so much to be learned from history.
KING: All right. Before we meet our panelists -- they'll join you in the panel -- what's your next project?
C. KENNEDY: I don't know. I've got a lot of projects, so --
KING: Bouncing them all.
C. KENNEDY: I'll have to wait until I come back to tell you. Yes.
KING: All right. We'll take a break and come back. Caroline Kennedy's book is "Profiles in Courage For Our Time." She's now totally relieved that two other people will join us. They are Bob Woodward and Michael Beschloss, both contributors to this book. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President-elect Kennedy takes time out from shaping his new administration for his job as a devoted father. It's daughter Caroline's third birthday and a proud and happy little girl turns church-going into a gleeful romp. A crowd of several hundred watches as Senator Kennedy and Caroline enter Holy Trinity Church.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J. KENNEDY: The next president of the United States, on his shoulders, will rest burdens heavier than they have rested on the shoulders of any president since the time of Lincoln. War and peace, the progress of this country, the security of our people, the education of our children, jobs for men and women who want to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Remaining with us is Caroline Kennedy who has edited and written the introduction for "Profiles in Courage For Our Time." Joining us now are two contributors to this book, both frequent guests on this program. Bob Woodward, the best-selling author and Pulitzer prize winning journalist, assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post." His essay is on Gerald Ford and the Nixon pardon. And Michael Beschloss, the historian and best-selling author. His latest book, "Reaching for Glory: Lyndon Johnson White House Tapes, '64-'65," and he wrote the essay on Congressman Carl Elliott of Alabama for this book, "Profiles in Courage For Our Time."
How did they get you, Woodward?
BOB WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST": Caroline called up.
KING: You remember that?
WOODWARD: Just out of the blue. And --
KING: You took the call.
WOODWARD: After you have done this many years you get to be a professional at saying no. It is very hard to say no to her. And the editing was in the concept. I said, well I've written about the pardon in detail. And actually went from the position of thinking that it was a very bad idea to the notion that it was a very good idea. And she just said, well, tell that story. KING: Pretty good, Caroline.
C. KENNEDY: Pretty good.
KING: Just tell it. So you knew you wanted a thing on Ford?
C. KENNEDY: We had given President Ford the award, along with John Lewis last year. And President Ford for this decision, that really was a decision of conscience and John Lewis for his lifetime of leadership and courage. And so this chapter was on that.
KING: A decision, Michael, that may have cost Ford the election?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, HISTORIAN: I think that's right. It was an election where at 17,000 votes in 1976 went the other way, Ford would have won the presidency. So that year almost anything could have changed things.
KING: Who was Carl Elliott?
BESCHLOSS: Elliott was an Alabama congressman, and the reason why I really wanted to write about him is that somewhat unheralded are the southern white moderates who did things to advance civil rights.
KING: There weren't many of them.
BESCHLOSS: There weren't many of them. And we know the Martin Luther Kings obviously and the George Wallaces on the other side, but this was a guy who tried to keep on getting elected to the House of Representatives. And at the same time tried to move the ball forward with bills on education, and finally in the end he stood up to George Wallace when he was governor of Alabama. And the result was that Wallace destroyed him, not only caused him to lose his office, but kept him from getting jobs and the result was that by the time that Elliott got his "Profiles in Courage" award, the first one to get it in 1990, he was broke and that award really changed his life in a really wonderful way.
KING: You get cash?
C. KENNEDY: You get cash and you get a really beautiful Tiffany lantern that actually Ed, my husband, designed, which is a model from a ship's lantern and it lights up. And it is wonderful.
KING: What was Elliott like when he got the award?
C. KENNEDY: Well, he was just -- really, as he said, changed his life. I think it made a tremendous difference to him and his community, as well. And people really remembered the courage that he had had. And actually, my mother then asked him to do a book of his life story.
KING: For Doubleday.
C. KENNEDY: Yes. And so I think she was very moved by that whole experience. KING: She mentioned earlier that people of courage don't think they're doing something courageous. Did Ford think he was doing something courageous?
WOODWARD: What Ford was doing, he realized in the first month after he took over the presidency, that Watergate and Nixon just dominated everything. And he realized intuitively that the country had to get beyond Nixon, and there were likely going to be trials and investigations. And the only way to put an end to that was to pardon Nixon and get Nixon off the national agenda.
And so he did it and, as Michael says, it certainly cost him the election.
KING: Did Elliott know he was doing something courageous?
BESCHLOSS: Elliott did. And the biggest way he knew was that he knew he was presiding over his own political suicide essentially.
KING: But the first thing you think of, I'm doing the right thing, right?
BESCHLOSS: He felt he was doing the right thing and also felt that he could stay in office. But he met the big test. I think most historians or at least me, I think the ultimate test of a leader is you can look at all sorts of things that a leader does, but in the end is this someone who if there is an issue important enough, is willing to give up his political career for that issue.
KING: Let me get a break and we'll come back, and pick up more of the book. It is "Profiles in Courage For Our Time."
Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE Mary Tyler Moore. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J. KENNEDY: I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Each chapter written by a different individual. The introduction is by Caroline Kennedy. The book is "Profiles In Courage for Our Time" published by Hyperion. Others discussed include Lowell Weicker and Michael Synar, and all the Irish peacemakers, John McCain and Russell Feingold, McCain/Feingold bill, and Al Hunt wrote that.
C. KENNEDY: Right. He did a great job. They really took on their colleagues as well as the kind of the way our politics works today. That was pretty tough.
KING: You were mentioning that Ford will happily talk about -- not happily -- but he will graciously talk about that decision anytime you talk to him about it. Some guys would say, I've had enough.
WOODWARD: That's right. The first time I went to interview Ford in '97 about this I expected there to be a committee there. And walked into his hotel room, no PR person, no aide, my tape recorder, not his. Totally relaxed. Nondefensive. Willing to kind of say, look, this is precisely how I felt, this is why I did it.
Willing to let me come back and then back again to revisit some of the same questions. And he finally said, his best defense of the pardon is kind of an obvious point, but he said, look, I didn't have to make a deal to get to be president. I was going to be president anyway. Nixon was finished. Ford realized that, it's true.
KING: And the public never assumed there was a deal. If there were, that went away fast, didn't it, Michael?
BESCHLOSS: In the politics of the time there were a lot of people who said it. But if I might put a plug in for history, sometimes you really do need the passage of time to see these things more clearly.
KING: No one now would say, he made a deal.
BESCHLOSS: No, virtually no one would say that now. Also no one now or very new people would say he did the wrong thing. At the time, when it was enmeshed in politics and we didn't have that kind of hindsight, a lot of people did. As we said earlier that had a lot to do with his defeat in '76.
WOODWARD: He carried around in his wallet an excerpt from the Supreme Court decision which said when Nixon accepted that pardon, he confessed guilt. And of course, no one at the time focused on the Supreme Court decision, and said, well, the acceptance is confession. But it's true. And I think history is rendered that verdict.
KING: Is it a slap at politics that there are so few that are courageous, Caroline? You ever think about that?
C. KENNEDY: Well, it's not easy. It is not easy to stand up against your constituents or your friends or colleagues or your community and take a tough stand for something you believe is right. Because you always want to keep working and live to fight another battle and it might cost you your career.
And there aren't that many professions where we really expect somebody to put it all on the line and give up the career that they've worked for, for something that they truly believe in. I think it is extraordinary. But I think when we do see it, we really should recognize it and celebrate it.
KING: It is easier to toe the middle, right, Michael? Don't rock the boat.
BESCHLOSS: It is. Don't rock the boat, and people like to have political careers and they don't like to lose or be driven out. But I think the tough thing is that it is also harder these days to be politically courageous than it was perhaps 50 years ago.
BESCHLOSS: You think, John Kennedy wrote "Profiles In Courage" in 1955. That was a time when you didn't have really elaborate polling or political consultants. A senator might go back to his home state maybe once a week, maybe less than that if you lived in Texas or California. So the result was there wasn't that leash of public opinion that would instantly pull at your neck if you did something that displeased people.
Nowadays you have instant polls, very advanced communications, e- mail. If a senator does something that people in his state don't like, he's going to be hearing about it about two seconds later. It makes it tougher for him to have that space that allows him to do things that may be courageous.
WOODWARD: One of the more interesting forms of courage is when somebody sets on a course and they're willing to walk the road alone not knowing the outcome in any way that it may be a disaster, it may be public acceptance. And looking at the Ford pardon and going through all the records, talking to everyone who is alive and kind of interrogating Ford about it, one of the things you find is he had no idea what the outcome or the political impact was. He had to get Nixon off the national agenda.
KING: Sometimes you can see it coming. But sometimes not. Right? In other words, Gerald Ford, while a very good Congressman, nothing in his career would have said, this guy is going to do something to just knock your socks off, right?
WOODWARD: Yes, that's quite right. Somebody like Michael Beschloss or McCullough is going to come along and do the definitive Ford biography and do what some of the historians have done for John Adams or Harry Truman and say, this is a man who was exactly the perfect, simple, direct person for his time.
KING: Was Carl Elliott a surprise?
BESCHLOSS: He was. And not only because you didn't hear very much about him, but because oftentimes southern white moderates don't look very good in the stretch of history because they're compared to people who were absolutely right on civil rights.
Elliott was someone who supported that southern manifesto in the 1950s that was for segregation. I guess it made me realize even more than I did before, that a lot of the progress that was made on civil rights not only in the south but elsewhere was made not only by the leaders we've heard about, but by people who are trying to sort of move progress along inch by inch. Elliott was a wonderful example of one of those.
KING: Are there heated debates over who should get this?
C. KENNEDY: There are very heated debates over who should get this. There was a lot of intense discussion last year when we gave it to Gerald Ford. Because I think people really had to go back in time. And it was something that they hadn't really thought about in the meantime, but at the time perhaps thought it was the wrong thing.
And when it was brought up again and had to take a fresh look at it and really put yourself in Ford's kind of mind and see what he did and what he was facing. I think people had a much greater appreciation for it. When we give out this award, it is hard to kind of -- because we're trying to keep it somewhat current as well, because we want to show there is political courage happening right now. Is it hard to figure out what is courageous and is this going to stand the test of time. So it is an interesting process.
KING: Let me tell the audience something. Our guests are Caroline Kennedy, Bob Woodward and Michael Beschloss. The book is "Profiles in Courage for Our Time."
Momentarily Ariel Sharon is going to hold a brief press conference before heading back to Israel. Because as you know what happened today, another bombing. He met with the president earlier today; at least 16 people were killed and 50 others wounded. Israeli police have said the work was the work of -- the incident was caused by a suicide bomber. The explosion occurred about 30 minutes after Sharon arrived at the White House to meet with President Bush.
Neither Sharon or bush addressed the issue of the bombing when they spoke with reporters after the meeting. Ariel Sharon will go from this occurrence, which we'll take you to at the Madison Hotel, he'll go right from there to Andrews Air Force base and fly back to Israel. If it ends before the top of the hour, we'll come back to this program. If it doesn't, we'll leave you now. So as soon as that's ready, we will go to it.
You were going to say?
WOODWARD: I was just going to say, one of the interesting things about Ford is he's the one who preserved the Nixon tapes and the Nixon papers. Nixon was all over Ford to say, send my papers, send the tapes out here and a lawyer named Benton Becker, who history will not remember probably but should, went to Ford and said, if you send these papers out to Nixon, it will be considered the final act of the cover- up. And you will be remembered for that. And so it's Ford who said, don't send the papers and tapes. And now we have our seasonal installment of the Nixon tapes which come out and tell us what really went on in that White House.
KING: You know, this award at least keeps these people remembered.
BESCHLOSS: Sure it does.
KING: Because Carl Elliott (ph) would have been forgotten in history without this.
BESCHLOSS: Absolutely. And the nice thing was that he felt vindicated before he died because his life was so hard. At least he felt, you know, here are people who understand what I was trying to do and history in the end has given me some vindication. And the poignant thing was that sometimes that's all that a political figure can really look to because sometimes they do lose their political careers.
That's what John Kennedy wrote about particularly, and they have these horrible later lives. So one of the conceits of historians I think is sometimes that, you know, people will be vindicated by history. Sometimes I think partly people would have preferred to keep their office, but it is probably not a bad second prize.
KING: Do you consider yourself -- do you admire historians?
C. KENNEDY: I do. I love reading history and so I think it's a tremendous service that they do because I think they keep these stories alive and teach us all.
KING: For example, they've kept the Harry Truman name going up every year, right? You guys weren't here. I was here. Harry Truman was hated when he left office, not disliked, hated. The press killed him.
BESCHLOSS: He was. And when he left office in '53, he was seen as a minor figure brushed with scandal. You go ahead almost half a century and you understand that Truman is the one who devised the strategy that won the Cold War. We didn't know it in 1953. We needed that historical hindsight.
KING: Still no word on the Sharon meeting. We'll come back with more of LARRY KING LIVE after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
J. KENNEDY: I now declare that the United States does not propose to conduct nuclear tests in the atmosphere so long as other states do not do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Bob Woodward writes that courage is not always wise. So, in other words, you can say you did a dumb thing there?
WOODWARD: Well, not necessarily dumb, but in the case of Gerald Ford, by doing -- by giving Nixon this pardon, full, clear, absolute on a Sunday morning, surprising the political establishment, surprising the public, he certainly lost the election. And he will say, if you sit him down and say why did you lose, he'll say, look, the pardon hung over him. There was the sense of the Nixon administration was not over and Ford's opponent in '76 was a guy named Jimmy Carter who came out and said, I'll never lie to you. The implication being that you've been lied to an awful lot.
KING: How do you like being a contributor, Michael? You guys -- and this is for both of you. You're used to being the name on the front. Your name is on the cover of books. BESCHLOSS: I'm glad to be Caroline's spirit carrier for a good cause.
KING: By the way, I didn't ask you. Did she call you?
BESCHLOSS: She wrote me actually.
C. KENNEDY: We didn't have that much time by the time we got to last summer. So I had to start writing.
KING: Did she say Elliott or did you say Elliott?
BESCHLOSS: Actually, I said Elliott because I've been fascinated in general by the civil rights movement and actually thought this was more interesting than doing one of the more usual suspects in life, someone who was absolutely right on civil rights because the contradictions were more interesting.
But as I say, you know, for historians, this is the most wonderful thing you can find in a leader, which is that ability to say, I love being in politics. I love having my job. But I love something else a little bit more. And what I worry about, as I was saying earlier, is that it is so much tougher nowadays not only because there are polls and consultants, but you were saying a moment ago, you and Bob, here in Washington, if someone does something against the advice of their political consultants and the numbers and all this other technology, people say, well, that guy is sort of stupid. Why would he do something against his own interests? Might cause him to be vulnerable the next election. And that's just the kind of thing you don't want to hear if you're looking at it historically.
WOODWARD: But one of the chapters is on John McCain. Did you meet John McCain and talk to him at all?
C. KENNEDY: Right. Yes, well, he came to get the award and...
WOODWARD: What did you think of him?
C. KENNEDY: And he gave a really powerful speech. And I think obviously, you know, people are familiar with his tremendous courage and physical courage and bravery during his time in Vietnam as a prisoner. But I think that he really took on a lot of the power structure...
KING: Boy, did he.
C. KENNEDY: And Feingold as well in a very different way and continued that through his campaign. So I think that they, you know, it also -- the adversaries are different. Sometimes you're taking on your constituents. And now, I think, more often you're taking on other special interests or sort of the structure of government. And I think that some of the winners that we have are people who are less powerful and more unknown. And it is interesting to watch them struggle to do something courageous when they don't have a voice. I think that's another interesting thing that we're trying to get across here.
WOODWARD: And John McCain almost changed presidential campaigning. I remember going out on his campaign plane. And it was totally free form. You could walk up and sit down next to him. You could chat with him for a hour. And normally if that happens on a campaign plane, all the other reporters have an anxiety fit. On McCain's plane, they didn't care because they knew they could have two hours with him.
KING: I remember moderating that debate in South Carolina. That was some night.
BESCHLOSS: And, you know, the other thing about McCain is that if he had done the smart thing, his advisers might have said, look, you want to be president, you are going to have to be nominated within the Republican party. You had better toe the line on issues that a majority of Republicans who nominate presidents care deeply about. And McCain, on most of these things, said I'm going to do what my heart tells me.
KING: And don't knock the Christian right.
KING: I want to ask you when we come back if there's a quality that runs through all these people. We'll be right back with our remaining moments. Again, if the Sharon press conference happens, we'll take it right to you. Don't go away.
KING: All right. As soon as Mr. Sharon steps to the mike, we'll go back to that special conference before he returns to Israel.
What quality runs through all these people, Caroline?
C. KENNEDY: I think a deep caring and concern for what's right and a moral sense and unwillingness to tolerate injustice.
WOODWARD: I think a capacity to learn and re-evaluate what they have done, that they're always learning and that the best people are ones who are quite candid and frank and not hiding and don't have these awful public relations barriers so you can't get through to them.
BESCHLOSS: Character. I mean, one of the reasons you go into public life is not just to have a nice office and have people clap for you, but to do certain things that are higher and more important and to remember that sometimes you have to sacrifice to get those things done.
KING: Is there a quality that, if you research this, you could spot early? In other words, if we knew Gerald Ford at Michigan, would we have seen something?
WOODWARD: Is there a courage gene? KING: No, something they might have done in high school?
WOODWARD: You know, who knows? I mean, it takes such a very strange bounce.
KING: Well, Caroline said earlier you rise to the presidency, right?
C. KENNEDY: Well, I think you can. And I think that a lot of times, this is something that comes out of a circumstance that nobody ever expected to find themselves in. And it sort of surprises those around them, surprises themselves.
The man that we gave the award to this year, one of them was a former mayor of a small town in Illinois who there was a mosque that wanted to move into the town and a lot of the residents were opposed to that. And he had been a bricklayer all his life. This was his first term as mayor, a Republican bricklayer. And he just thought that it was wrong that there should be religious discrimination and he stood up on their behalf. And it cost him his election as well. But I think that nobody would have ever really thought he'd make a stand for religious tolerance.
KING: Now someone else is being -- there's an example. That's the guy that won this year. Boy, these guys -- this is really -- do you think they showed signs early, Michael? You're the historian.
BESCHLOSS: I think they do. But the problem is we've got a system that doesn't discover them very well.
KING: You mean our system?
BESCHLOSS: Indeed. Early on. And oftentimes, the people who know this best are people who have worked with someone for 10 or 20 or 30 years. The problem with the way that we select presidents nowadays is that oftentimes it is done by voters in New Hampshire or Iowa who watch TV commercials and they have some idea of who this person is but oftentimes not a very good one.
KING: Have about a minute and a half.
WOODWARD: One of the things Bill Clinton said during one of his troubles was, I wish I'd been president during World War II because then I would have known what the task was. It would have been very clear and he could focus all of his considerable energies on that one task.
And if you look at President Bush now, what happened September 11, clearly he understands that's the mission. If it's carried out well like Franklin Roosevelt and Truman did in World War II, I think the subject of your next book, you see that they were handed this opportunity and, you know, executed. And there's no way, as you go through interviewing people, where anyone ever says to you, no, I woke up on X morning and I knew this was going to be the important day to make those important decisions. You don't know.
KING: What's it like to be edited by Caroline Kennedy?
BESCHLOSS: There's nothing but a pleasure, especially because I don't think she asked me to change very much. So I wish I could have the experience again. Not all editors are not quite as genteel about it.
KING: You're used to your name on above the title, as they say, Mr. Woodward. What's it like to be a mere contributor? Not even the first chapter.
WOODWARD: You know, when she calls, you do what you're asked.
C. KENNEDY: That's true all the time.
WOODWARD: I'll return the...
C. KENNEDY: All right. You can call.
C. KENNEDY: The writers who contributed to this project were really outstanding. Everybody was very enthusiastic.
KING: Anyone turn you down? No, right?
C. KENNEDY: No, no.
KING: By the way, they tell us we're going to take it right up to the top of the hour in case that conference occurs and we don't want to split in the middle of the thing. So we're just going to take it right up to the top of the hour and either turn it over to Aaron Brown and "NEWSNIGHT" or send you to the press conference with Ariel Sharon. Obviously, there are things taking place before he speaks.
What's history going to say about her dad?
WOODWARD: Don't know. Don't know. I mean, Michael has written books about it.
KING: Because they're still writing it, right, Michael? I mean, the chapter ain't over and it wasn't a long presidency, yet he remains the most popular president whenever a vote is taken?
BESCHLOSS: He does. And I think if you're looking at the things that he did best, I'd say two things. One of them is got this country through the most dangerous moment of the Cold War, which is the Cuban Missile Crisis. Had John Kennedy not been president, we might not have been able to do that.
And the other thing comes back to political courage. We were saying earlier, 1963, John Kennedy sent a civil rights bill to Congress, said integrate the society. A lot of the smarter advisers were saying, don't do it. You have to run in 1964. You need the south. Kennedy lost a lot of support in the south, but he said, I'm doing this because I think it's right.
WOODWARD: And one of the things your father did is he had these tape recordings of the Cuban Missile Crisis. And if you read that book, one thing that comes through with -- the bell rings almost on every page that it is on his head. The person who was the president makes those decisions in crisis.
KING: Thank you all very much.
(INTERRUPTED FOR LIVE EVENT)
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com