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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Reverend Jesse Jackson

Aired October 20, 2006 - 21:00   ET


JESSE JACKSON: Our day has come! You march on. Don't let them break your spirit!

LARRY KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, with Martin Luther King, Jr. when he died, presidential candidate, hostage negotiator.

JACKSON: We will win and deserve to win! Keep hope alive!

KING: And survivor of scandal; after 40 years as a civil rights leader, this American original looks back at the history he's helped make.

JACKSON: There will be a change because our time has come!

KING: And ahead to the future he'll help forge. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, what a life, what an hour and he'll answer your calls and e-mails too.

It's next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Good evening.

Our guest tonight has been called a quintessentially American figure, Jesse Jackson's face and his one-of-a-kind voice are never too far from headlines and he's made a fair share of them over the years. Watch.


MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: We have the right to walk to Montgomery if our feet can get us there.

KING (voice-over): Jesse Jackson was just 24 when he joined Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the height of mid-1960 civil rights turmoil.

JACKSON: May I be admitted?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir you cannot be admitted.

JACKSON: Why? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not going to serve you.

KING: He rose fast through the ranks and he was there with King in Memphis in 1968 when King was assassinated.

JACKSON: The bullet lifted him off of the ground and (INAUDIBLE) that took off a part of his job. He bled profusely.

KING: Jackson broke with the civil rights establishment in the '70s forming Operation Push and later the Rainbow Coalition, which has fought for the rights of workers of all colors and ethnicities.

JACKSON: From slave ships to championships, march on!

KING: That work, along with his powerful speech making style, helped him win 16 Democratic primaries when he ran for president twice in the '80s, despite the scandal that hit his first campaign. He first denied and then apologized for calling Jews "Hymies" and New York City Hymie town.

Jackson also became a global diplomat. Since the mid-'80s, he's helped negotiate freedom for captive Americans in Syria, Kosovo, and Cuba. And, he's met with world leaders from Nelson Mandela to Hugo Chavez.

Scandal struck again in 2000 with news that he'd fathered a child in an extramarital affair with a former aide. But in 2004, CBS/BET poll African Americans ranked him the most important African American leader, ahead of Colin Powell and Condy Rice.

JACKSON: We have the right to reconstruction.

KING: And from post Katrina protests to meeting with Hamas leaders after the recent Middle East crisis, Jesse Jackson remains a high profile player on the world stage.


KING: And it's a great pleasure to welcome him, his 50th appearance on this program, Reverend Jesse Jackson, the founder and president of the Rainbow Coalition.

What didn't you accomplish in these years that you would have wanted to accomplish? What missed?

JACKSON: You know, I don't look back with regrets because we fought the issues as they were served up to us. I mean, I was jailed in 1960 trying to use a public library. In part it was the humiliation of being locked in legal segregation.

But I suppose the kind of anger was that my father was literally sent to World War II to die because he talked back to his boss. His brother was already in the war and he came back home from the war and (INAUDIBLE) and he could not vote.

KING: But you don't think there's anything you fought for didn't come about that you, if not regret, wish would have happened?

JACKSON: Well, I think that some of what happened, happened you know, Larry, so slowly. You know, you think about the (INAUDIBLE) the 1965 was 346 years after we arrived and 95 years after the 1870 Voting Rights Act. It was a long time.

And then, Dr. King was taken from us so quickly. I mean just 39, he went from being a beloved guy who talked non-violence in the face of violence to being the most hated as he began to challenge our war policies and so...

KING: Who were you talking about, by the way, at that moment outside that motel room on the window ledge?

JACKSON: We were on the way to Reverend Billy Cowell's (ph) home for dinner and we had been in the room all of that day just kind of casually walking back through his life. His father met us, mother, and just walked through his life that day.

And I was coming across the courtyard and he said, "Jesse, you know it's time to go to dinner. You don't even have on a tie." And I said, "Doc, you know, to eat the prerequisite is an appetite not a tie." He said, "You're crazy" and we began to laugh and being...

KING: You were how old?

JACKSON: Oh, 24 I guess at that time.

KING: Yes.

JACKSON: Twenty-five and...

KING: What happened?

JACKSON: And he said, "The bed and breakfast played my favorite song for me 'Precious Lord' because he had been to the bread basket meeting a couple weeks before." And then I said, "Doc," I said "Doc" -- the bullet hit here and it just knocked him against the wall and he -- and I think (INAUDIBLE) was saying "Get low" because whoever was shooting if he had sprayed he could have shot a lot of us at that time.

And, I dashed to the top of the stairs because I was on the ground level. He was up. And the blood was just everywhere. I remember Mr. -- a photographer tried to scoop up a jar of blood (INAUDIBLE) and said "This is history." It was too eerie to touch.

At that time, Dr. Abernathy came out and said, "My friend" but Dr. King was gone. And I walked and called Mrs. King and said, because that was a long ten steps, I said, "Dr. King," -- his bedroom phone "I think he's been shot I think in the shoulder." I really knew but I couldn't say. But within ten minutes the world knew that he had been shot and was killed.

KING: Did you hear the crack of the gun? JACKSON: Absolutely. We were in -- as he was -- as he raised up from cracking the joke from laughing, pow! And it hit him. It was just one big -- it severed his tie, apparently went down and blew his heart out. It was one...

KING: Was he dead there?

JACKSON: No doubt about it. He never -- he never felt anything.

KING: Did he say anything?

JACKSON: Oh, no.

KING: He was dead at impact?

JACKSON: That bullet hit here and severed his necktie and shirt, eerie scene it was.

KING: What did it do to you?

JACKSON: It was -- it was traumatic. I think that Dr. Lowry (ph), who became a huge force for us at that time, who was 85 last night I might add, and Dr. Abernathy, the angle was it's not who killed him or what killed him. We kind of tried to rise above our pain, not who but what (INAUDIBLE) decided to kind of keep rising.

And so, the determination I had then and others was I would not let one bullet kill the whole movement. We had to -- it was our obligation to pick up the pieces and go forward. That meant going on to Washington, fighting for the political campaign. It meant building a coalition of working class people.

The beauty of that campaign was the last staff meeting before that. We went there. He convened whites from Appalachia, Latino Americans, some of Chavez' group, some Asian Americans, some whites from Appalachia, Al Lowenstein (ph), some of the Jewish allies from New York we all came together to talk about, a) that morning how to -- how to mobilize to end poverty at the base. There should be a floor beneath which no American will fall, whether you're in Appalachia.

And he was convinced that you would not have such a floor until it included all people. You couldn't just have it for blacks. It had to be for blacks, Latino, Asians, and Native Americans and that was kind of his dream and we were going to march to Washington and have a civil disobedience sit-in (INAUDIBLE).

KING: The history of the movement, is he the most important?

JACKSON: Well, he would have to be. I mean you think about the period before him coming out of slavery while the impact of say Frederick Douglass as the consummate political leader, orator, of that time. And, of course, the Civil War was the big factor in ending slavery as a matter of law.

But toward the end of that last period, it was his combination of intellect and mass action and courage. A lot of intellects do not have courage. A lot of courageous people don't have much intellect.

KING: He had both.

JACKSON: But he also acted and that's what made him different than the litigators was this issue of mass action to create a new climate out of which other things would happen.

KING: And, arguably the best public speaker of our time maybe.

JACKSON: Of our time. And I often think if I had a regret, I wish that he could have been secretary of state. Look what we missed, Martin Luther King as secretary. We had no role for him to play, except as a protester. He could not be in the day when you could run for Senate, aspire legitimately to become president. We missed that talent in that giant.

KING: We'll be right back with Reverend Jesse Jackson. Lots of things to cover tonight; don't go away.


JACKSON: May I be admitted?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir you cannot be admitted.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not going to serve you.

JACKSON: Because of my race?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going to serve you.

JACKSON: Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, what time is it? When we come together what time is it?

A religious organization with an economic mission, we believe that the black church is the political and spiritual salvation of our people and it is to that extent that we challenge churches and church members to get involved.




JACKSON: And announce to you this day my decision to seek the nomination of the Democratic Party for the presidency of the United States. The Democratic or the Republican Party they cannot do without us. We are necessary. (INAUDIBLE).


KING: He has been 40 years in the civil rights movement. He is 65 years old. And next Saturday night in Chicago, his town, they're going to have a dual celebration, celebrating his 40 years in the civil rights movement and his age, his birthday, 65.

We have an e-mail question from Paul in Santa Maria, California. "What do you feel are the primary issues in the coming mid-term elections?"

JACKSON: The overwhelming issue is the Iraq war. We are losing lives and money and honor, made some huge mistakes. For some reason or the other we were right when we were hit to fear we could be hit again and therefore we pursued bin Laden and the Taliban.

We knew who they were. They had been our allies in Chechnya. So, we went after them. And we left him in the hills and left as if we were pre-dispositioned to to Iraq which (INAUDIBLE). And we chose corrupted Iraqi exiles over U.N. inspectors.

And, Colin Powell warned that when you break that glass you'll have to fix it. And we found no weapons of mass destruction or al Qaeda connection and no imminent threat.

And see our mission there is not to stop the -- it's not to stop them, it's to bring about democracy, democracy at gunpoint. That thing is costing us $250 million a day on in the world and it's a very defining issue. There are some others but that...

KING: That's the overall biggest issue?

JACKSON: I think -- I think beneath that, of course, 50 million Americans have no health care. That's a big deal in America today. We've lost four million middle class jobs. We're exporting jobs, importing capital and cheap labor. That's a big piece of the underbelly.

There's an overall sense of cynicism, a king of disbelief in the leadership that might be a factor in this -- in this Barack notion that somehow there's a growing cynicism, people looking for a ray of hope.

KING: What do you make of him?

JACKSON: Very impressed because here's a combination...

KING: He was here last night.

JACKSON: ...a combination of talent and timing and content and on the progressive side of history. The talent, the preparation, the intellectual preparation, he writes his own speeches. He doesn't say the same thing over and over again because somebody told him what to say.

But the timing, there's a certain maturity in the American public now to begin to see blacks and women and Latinos anew, I mean the idea of what Deval Patrick is doing in Massachusetts. He's about to win that governor's race. That's a big deal kind of in the lineage of Edward Brooks and then maybe an even bigger deal as Harold Ford in Tennessee. Here it's not Illinois. This is Tennessee and from Davy Crockett to Elvis Presley to a Grand Ole Opry (INAUDIBLE) records, you know, here is this guy capturing the hearts of Appalachians and urban dwellers. So there's something in the atmosphere now that's healthy and I think he is a part of that moment.

KING: Here is what he said about you last night on this show. Watch.


KING: What does he mean in the picture to you?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) ILLINOIS: Well, look, Jesse has been a freedom fighter and a warrior for justice for a lot of years and we actually know each other well personally. He's from Chicago. His daughter was one of the maids of honor in my wedding because they went to school (INAUDIBLE).

And so, they're good family friends. I have enormous respect for the reverend and I appreciate all the work that he's done in the past. You know, I can't say enough good things about him.


KING: The Senator said last night that the Democrats will take the Senate. He predicted that.

JACKSON: Well...

KING: What about the House?

JACKSON: Well, they could very well take -- take both because there is a movement for change and between the waste, the fraud, the abuse and the corruption and the war, there's a kind of thirst for change.

I have my anxious moments about Barack because he is now in the stratospheric climb, between his credentials and young and smart and handsome and intelligent, he represents that alternative. And so in the stratosphere he's there. If he succumbs to temptation to run for the presidency, he'll have to come down to another atmosphere. At that time, he becomes a competitor with the Clintons and a competitor with the (INAUDIBLE).

KING: You're saying he should not run?

JACKSON: No, I'm saying if he does, it's a choice. I think it would be a wise choice. I certainly would support him. I am saying that when you're in the stratosphere like Colin Powell was in the stratosphere and so was General Clark was in that stratosphere. But when you come down to running it becomes competitive. At that point, you're no longer the untouchable. Like on the field you get tackled.

KING: You speak from firsthand knowledge. JACKSON: Oh, I've been there and I'm concerned that he can turn this -- this glow around him to focus on issues that matter and I think (INAUDIBLE) to do that then for the presidential run but then you make that run you must now compete for labor's money with Hillary and Kerry. You must now compete for loyalties.

And so, you move as I would put it from a kind of stratospheric where you're by yourself to an atmosphere where there's extreme competition. But he seems to have (INAUDIBLE) all of the right stuff to do it but you have to have beyond all that the gut and the will to take on that fight.

KING: By the way, we'll talk with Jesse as well about his skill as a negotiator in foreign lands bringing home hostages.

As we go to break, some moments from arguably the best keynote speech in the history of American political conventions.


JACKSON: If we cut that military budget without cutting our defense and use that money to rebuild bridges and put steelworkers back to work and use that money and provide jobs for our cities and use that money to build schools and pay teachers and educate our children and build hospitals and train doctors and train nurses, the whole nation will come running to us.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to thank the delegation, Reverend Jesse Jackson and the delegation of clergy who traveled to Belgrade. I just thank them for all the hard work they've done in our release.

JACKSON: We thank and praise thee, oh God, for seeing us through as these young men go back to their certain places give them a peace within.

GROUP: Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we're free at last.


KING: Jesse Jackson, you see him there weeping. He secured the release of captured U.S. Navy pilot Robert Goodman from Syria, negotiated the release of 22 Americans held in Cuba, negotiated the release of three U.S. POWs captured on the Macedonian border.

Why do you do those things?

JACKSON: Well, and the Americans from Iraq when Saddam was going to use them as hostages as well. Well, you know, part of it being around Dr. King to see the world through a door and not through a keyhole. That's why this secretary of state thing never quite leaves my mind.

And, I also knew that I had been to the Middle East before. I had met Assad before. I had met Saddam before. And I felt that our government was reluctant to put a lot into getting them out because Mr. Reagan had protested hard on the Iranian hostage situation. So, Reverend Wyatt Walker (ph), a number of us, decided we should go.

KING: Did you go as an individual without government support?

JACKSON: Without government but with government knowledge. I mean it's never in -- out of contempt but just using our rights and taking our risks. Mr. Reagan in effect said, "You shouldn't go because you don't know what you're doing. But, if you go and don't get them, it proves it. But, if you do get them, bring them back. We cut the deal and we went."

KING: What's it like to get them out though?

JACKSON: Well, look here, when we have Reverend Jack Mendolson (ph) and Minister Farrakhhan and Wyatt Walker (INAUDIBLE) were there together and we had gone back and forth arguing with Assad.

Assad would say "I can't let him go because he's a soldier." I said, "But, he did not mean to hurt your people. He was really lost. The other guy got killed."

I said, "Having him as a trophy will not help you let the guy go." He said, "I'll get back to you." He said, "My guy's out." I said, "If I have to have one lawyer in Syria, you would be my lawyer" and so he laughed and by now he called and said "He can go."

Reverend Jack Mendolson was there, Unitarian preacher, great friend. I grabbed him and cracked his ribs. It was an exciting moment, you know. And then tears began to flow because I mean Gutner (ph) walked out. That was one of those special kind of moments.

KING: You agree then with former Secretary Baker you should always talk to people?

JACKSON: You should always talk. You see you should talk with anybody unconditionally and agree conditionally. There is no future in no talk. And what I found whether we were in Syria or Cuba or Iraq, Yugoslavia, there was always a common thread.

That common thread was the countries that we had a no-talk policy toward, the countries who we underestimated the impact of religious leaders in those countries, where there was abounding poverty and where there also was a sense of our lack of intelligence because we did not talk. And so, no-talk policy has no future. You cannot help the captured unless you talk to the capturers.

KING: You would talk to North Korea? JACKSON: Absolutely. More what I really wish would happen, since we can think out of the box, if Mr. Bush speaks of foreign policies bipartisan, why not send President Carter to North Korea, Nobel Peace laureate. He has rapport there.

Why not let Bill Clinton go to the Middle East and help -- he sent him to Katrina, send him to the Middle East because he can be of service. I would love to help with Venezuela. I just know that I could.

KING: You know Chavez, right?

JACKSON: I know Chavez but I also know that it was not right for him to call Mr. Bush the devil and not for Mr. Bush to be calling people evil. Those pejorative theological terms distort and distract. We need Venezuela and they need us. You know it's that they're in our hemisphere number one.

Number two, a million and a half barrels of oil from Venezuela a day, a crude oil deposit greater than Saudi Arabia, they're four days away, Saudi Arabia is four weeks away, and they share 1,400 miles of border with Colombia.

If you're ever going to stop the drug trade, you need Venezuela as an ally, so the stakes are too high to be like taunting each other and I would think Chavez, as I challenged him about that devil business, is really more angry than he is like crazy.

The anger is he won an election. We didn't recognize it. It was a coup of which we were a part. He won. He beat the coup back. And then the secretary of state went down there and (INAUDIBLE) said he was a bad guy. Pat Robertson said maybe we should assassinate him.

And there was more attention to Janet Jackson's situation at the Super Bowl than Pat Robertson assassination. So, all I'm saying is that this guy can be pulled in and we should not miss this moment.

KING: You would talk to Iran too?

JACKSON: We have to talk with them because they're too big a player. We don't have all the cards anymore. In some sense to give them recognition is not giving them more power. It's giving them more recognition and recognition is a basic drive of nature.

If we don't talk to Iran and don't talk to Syria and hardly talk with Lebanon, then our interests are broader than our conversations are, so we cannot leverage. We can only bomb and bombing is not a solution to these crises. We must have at least a stronger diplomatic arm as military arm.

KING: Our guest is Reverend Jesse Jackson. We'll get to more e- mails, some of your phone calls as well. Don't go away.


JACKSON: But somebody has to measure their giant-ness not by leaping up but by reaching back and reaching out and loving and caring and sharing. Democrats, if we pursue that ethic, that love ethic, that care ethic, we will win and deserve to win. Stand tall! Never surrender! Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive!



KING: We're back with Jesse Jackson.

We said this would be a retrospective, and we would cover lots of areas, some of them a little difficult.

How hard was it for you to deal with your own scandal?

JACKSON: It was a storm, a very difficult one.

And when you -- and life is full of storms. And, you know, they say on the airplane, on the plane, put your seat belt on. It's clear, but there may be turbulence. And when turbulence comes, there must be some preparation.

So, when these storms come -- and they will come, if you keep living -- you must turn with a sense of contrition of your heart. You must be sincere about that. You must turn to those that -- who you have offended and who you have hurt, because you -- you will take a lot of people down with you. You never go down alone in these kind of situations.

KING: Was your family supportive?

JACKSON: Indeed, they were.

But so many other people -- you know, I got a -- got a call from President Bush, a call from President Clinton, a call from Dr. Chris Odala (ph), calls from Reverend Jasper Williams, and people that I related to, some I did not relate to.

KING: Saying?

JACKSON: Hang in there. We may be of different political persuasions, but hang in there.

And -- but I knew it was a burden I had to bear. And, so, when these storms come, what do you do? You have storm laws. One, know that it is a storm. It's not a rain shower. Two, eyes open, mouth shut. Keep walking, because there must be -- storms don't last always. And there are silver linings beyond these storms. I was born in a storm so I understand storm.

KING: Do you...


JACKSON: I -- I was born in a storm, and so, I understand storms. (CROSSTALK)

KING: Do you have -- do you have contact with your daughter?

JACKSON: Oh, matter of fact, last Sunday, I spoke at a church in Los Angeles. And I served her communion.


KING: How old is she now?

JACKSON: She's now 7.

And she's in the third grade, as opposed to the second. She skipped a grade, and -- and taking fifth-grade subjects. She's a -- she's a brilliant child.

KING: Whoa.

JACKSON: So, just, as out of the David crisis, you know, with Bathsheba came Solomon, you never quite know what the silver lining is in those clouds. But clouds, when they do come, they're heavy and they're hurtful.

KING: Does it cause you to have empathy for others hit, even -- they may be diverse -- the Foley scandal? Do you have empathy for Congressman Foley?

JACKSON: Of course it does, because, in -- in the case of Foley, here was a guy who apparently had been injured and was sick. And, therefore, he was hurting children.

Those who knew he was sick, but used him for their purposes for fund-raising, used him to keep their seat, they are, in some ways, worse than him, because they never came to help the guy out. They only used him.

But I submit to you that -- that you really, when you fall down, you must have the will to get back up again, as Donnie McClurkin says. And you -- and you must know when you're down. And there are these down moments that the ground is no place for a champion. And -- and you rise and know that God will give you the rope of hope, and that I believe and I know nothing is too hard for God.

So, for me, it was a very tough, but a very spiritual, revealing moment for me.

KING: Is your son Jesse going to run for mayor?

JACKSON: You know, his position on that is that he's running for congressional reelection now. He has the message and...


KING: Safe seat, right?

JACKSON: And, to that extent, it is. But, if he gets the money, he will -- he will probably do it. But that's his choice.


KING: Daley will not run again?

JACKSON: Well, he probably will. But, if Jesse were...

KING: He would run against Daley.

JACKSON: If Jesse Jackson -- oh, yes. If Jesse were to run, it would be a serious race.


KING: Let's take a call.

Clinton, Massachusetts, for Jesse Jackson, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, I would like to ask the Reverend Jackson a question about the Christian faith and American politics.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: And, basically, the question is, would -- does he think it would be a good idea if the Democrat Party, at some point, could nominate a candidate for president who could employ the Christian principles -- the Christian principles of peace and communicate that to American public, as...

KING: Well, Jimmy Carter was certainly...

JACKSON: Well, of course.

And I think that the real Christian principle is its mission statement, in order preaching the Gospel, good news to the poor to heal a broken heart and set the captive free, and that our problem is not just individuals and personalities, as Paul said, but powers and principalities.

We must, therefore, have structures to provide equal high-quality education and health care for all people. There's -- the Christian doctrine leads us to a more perfect union, where race and gender do not -- do not limit people's capacity to serve.

KING: Does that enter into politics, though?

JACKSON: Of course it does.

I mean, it is our -- in some sense, my religion makes me political. My politics don't make me religious. I must fight to seek to end the war and seek reconciliation. I must fight to feed the hungry.

When 51 million Americans have no health insurance, we have a religious obligation to fight for health insurance. When -- when people are working, but poor, when we are losing first-class jails and second-class schools, religion obligates us to serve.

And I would hope that we would not use that as some mandate, however, to exclude other religious beliefs. But there are certain ethical principles that transcend a -- a given doctrine.

KING: We have an e-mail question from Nick in Mount Laurel, New Jersey: "Why is it so difficult for black politicians to do anything about crime in the inner cities of America? More people are killed there every year than were killed on 9/11."

JACKSON: Well, that is true.

And you have a combination. When you export jobs and industry and banks and quality education, and import guns and drugs, you recycle poverty, it becomes a -- it becomes a crime zone. So, we must figure out some way for the -- to green-line red-line America. You don't have gun shops in the urban ghettos.

And the cocaine comes from Colombia, not from the ghetto. And the heroin comes from Afghanistan, not from the ghetto. And, so, if we're going to have some defense to -- to protect our borders, try stopping cocaine and heroin. If we're fight insurgents, where are the guns coming from the people are doing the killing with?

So, yes, we need, I think, a -- an urban policy that begins, in the formative years, begin to create alternatives to violence and fear and self-destruction.

KING: By the way, Monday night, we have a major program dealing with gangs in Los Angeles. And that transcends across the United States, as well, gangs, inside gangs -- Monday night. And there's a lot you're going to learn.

We will be right back with more of Jesse Jackson. Don't go away.


JACKSON: If blacks vote in great numbers, progressive whites win. It's the only way progressive whites win.


JACKSON: If blacks vote in great numbers, Hispanics win.

When blacks, Hispanics and progressive whites vote, women win. When women win, children win. When women and children win, workers win. We must all come up together. We must come up together.





JACKSON: Blacks, women, Hispanics, workers, Indians, Chinese, Filipinos, we much come together and form the Rainbow Coalition.


JACKSON: We need each other.


KING: A retrospective on the life and times of Reverend Jesse Jackson, who is 65 years old.

You get your Social Security check yet? You know, you get it automatic.


KING: You get it automatic.

JACKSON: Half-price at the movies.

KING: Right.

JACKSON: And half-price on the buses, you know?

Be I feel like a junior, you know? And, to that extent, I mean, McCain is 70. If he runs for president, he will be 72 when he starts. Reagan was 70 when he was first elected, 74 when he was reelected. Mandela came out of jail at 72. And, here, you are...


KING: Seventy-two.

JACKSON: Seventy-two.

And, so, in some sense, it's -- I'm blessed to be a long-distance runner.

KING: Lacombe, Louisiana, with Jesse Jackson, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

My question is, what is the driving force in your life that keeps you going, that strengthens you? It seems like you are colorblind, in terms of various causes. It doesn't matter what color or what gender that person is. What keeps you going? You came to New Orleans and fought for us after we were denied access to cross a certain bridge to escape floodwaters. What is your driving force? What...

KING: What gives you -- what gets you...

JACKSON: I think it's a sense of religion...

KING: Really?

JACKSON: ... and a sense of personal dignity. But I got involved at first because I was humiliated. I mean, my father couldn't vote, you know, coming home from World War II. That was -- that touched me deeply. I -- I can't turn that out of my mind.

I came home from the University of Illinois. I was a freshman. I couldn't use a public library, and had to go back to school a week early. And, so, I was just fighting for my dignity.

And one thing kind of led to another. At some point, I met Jim Farmer and met Floyd McKissick and the same kind of group to a Dr. King.

But, then, my own sense -- Reverend James Hall, who first sent me to jail...


JACKSON: ... my pastor in Greenville at that time.

And I became enamored with people like Dr. Howard Thurman, and Dr. Mays, and Dr. King and Adam Powell. They became kind of my inspirational force, beyond my athletic heroes, the Jackie Robinsons of that time.

I became inspired by these social justice preachers. And I built my theology around that.

KING: You mentioned Jackie Robinson.

"Black athletes continue to dominate."

This is a question from -- an e-mail from Dwayne in Las Vegas.

"Black athletes continue to dominate the collegiate and professional level as performers, but not as coaches or managers. Why haven't we pooled our resources together for ownership?"

JACKSON: Well, in some instance, you know, in the case, Bob Johnson does own the Charlotte Bobcats now. Walter Payton, the late Walter Payton, tried to put together a team to buy a football team. And -- and they would not sell it to them. Other groups have tried to buy baseball teams. And...

KING: Reggie, I think...


KING: ... the Oakland A's.

JACKSON: Tried to buy a baseball team. So, it's kind of hard to break in.

We do well on the field, because, whenever the playing field is even, and the rules are public, and the goals are clear, we can excel. Who becomes coach, G.M., owner is highly subjective. There are no rules to determine the next coach, the next G.M., the next owner. So, it's -- our job is to expand that field of science beyond the field.

KING: Why, in the intellectual world of colleges, are they farther behind than anyone else? I mean, last Monday night, we had two black coaches opposing each other in the NFL -- in NFL -- Arizona and Chicago.

JACKSON: Well, that...


KING: But how many -- how many major colleges have black coaches? I think three.

JACKSON: Alabama is relatively small. I remember University of Colorado, for example, when McCartney recommended a black coach to succeed him, behind closed doors, they said no.

And, so, many of these colleges are -- they recruit black athletes to fill up their stadia. But, when it comes to the G.M.s, and when it comes to athletic directors, they will perform, and that's -- we have an athletic department in Rainbow/PUSH headed by a guy named Dexter Clinkscale, formerly of the Dallas Cowboys. And we -- we keep pressuring the NCAA. we pressure the NFL.

KING: Why don't blacks get those jobs?

JACKSON: Well, because a decision is made behind closed doors that they're not worthy. They're not worth the risk.

And the reality is, the winning percentages are so great. I mean, the Colts -- the Indianapolis Colts football coach undefeated, and...

KING: Yes.


JACKSON: And the coach of the Bears, undefeated.

These guys have done amazingly well. But it's -- it's a matter of going through layers of culture. And that's why we look at these breakthroughs now of these Baracks and Harold Fords and -- and -- and Deval Patricks, we're breaking through different layers of culture. And, to that extent, white America is maturing.

KING: Yes.

JACKSON: We're -- we're not changing. White America is changing.


KING: Were you offended by George Allen's use of the word macaca?

JACKSON: Of course I was. KING: Do you know the word?

JACKSON: I understand what the word means.

But I think it's not just his use of that term, but his -- his blind commitment to a war that is going awry, his lack of compassion for -- for the working poor, his lack of commitment to raise the minimum wage for working people.

So, beyond his dropping these pejorative terms, his record is his real moral document.

KING: Are you sorry about your term "Hymietown"?

JACKSON: Of course.

When -- any time you say something that offends people...

KING: What led you to say it?

JACKSON: Well, I don't -- frankly, I don't even remember having said it, except here's what happened, I think, is that, in trash talking -- and that's why, when you are under these lights, you can't use trash talk.

It did not come out of something ugly or angry. And when I sensed it was a storm bigger than what I anticipated, I just said, this is not who I am. I cannot be defined by this. And I just kept on moving.

Again, when these storms come, Larry, you -- you can't stop in the water. You got to keep moving and keep reaching out.

KING: Fasten the seat belt.

JACKSON: And I really think, when we went this time to get the three soldiers out, the three Israeli soldiers, did it because it was right. And we keep saying that we are part of the human family. We don't...


KING: Are they going to get out?

JACKSON: Well, I'm convinced that they are alive. I think our no-talk policy limits our ability.

When we were there the last time, we -- we will not talk with Hamas, and we will not talk with...

KING: Hezbollah.

JACKSON: ... Hezbollah.

And we will not talk with -- with Syria. But France, Italy, Germany, the U.N. were talking. So, we were the -- we had the biggest stake in the game, and the least ability to talk. That is not smart.

KING: We got to get a break in.

We will be right back with more of Jesse Jackson. Don't go away.


JACKSON: Keep that faith. Stand with the ticket workers. Keep that faith. Stand with the coal miners. Keep that faith. Stand with shipbuilders. Keep that faith. Stand with the poor. Keep that faith. Stand with the widows. Keep that faith. Stand tall. Never surrender your hopes and your joys.

We will win and deserve to win. Keep hope alive.

I love you.




KING: I mentioned this to Senator Obama last night concerning AIDS in Africa. And he agreed. Bono was here last week, and said, we may -- you may not like him in many areas, or disagree with him, but, in the area of AIDS in Africa, this president has been superior.

JACKSON: Well, he -- he has been.

And -- and he has the capacity to spread that sense of commitment to health care there, as well as at home. I don't know why that same sense of health care as a priority does not extend to a health care plan for all Americans at home, as well.

And the AIDS epidemic is so great in Africa. It's killing so many people.

And I think Bill Clinton has done a great job, by the way. His working on reducing the cost of medicines has been a big factor in that. And I think his Global Initiative has been a big factor in raising money outside of governments to help, again, to address it.

KING: Have you been there a lot?

JACKSON: Been there a lot. And -- and I have just seen people dying at my feet. It's a painful sight.

And Oprah Winfrey, I must say, of all of the contributions, none has been greater than hers. Oprah built a $60 million institution in South Africa for orphaned children, orphaned by parents who die from AIDS.

She is, I must say, the most phenomenal woman of our time. She has a rich person's pocketbook and a poor person's heart. And she just does stuff with money that makes sense. And I think, if you mention AIDS, you can't think -- you can't mention AIDS, it seems to me, without mentioning her role in institutionalizing the impact of the victims of AIDS, who are the orphaned children.

KING: Lexington, Kentucky, hello.


My question for Reverend Jesse Jackson is that, if he feels -- does he feel that, if he didn't play a vital role in the civil rights movement, and, you know, use racism a lot, and does he feel his chances for becoming the president would have been a lot greater?

JACKSON: Well, I suppose so.

Those who -- you know, there are civil rights which are challenging laws, which is always confrontational. Dr. King died the most hated man in America, because he fought the power. Then, there is civil responsibility to take advantage of the new laws. And there's civil opportunity.

We now have a generation that has opportunity. And theirs is less confrontation. They didn't have to fight to break down structures. And, so, I have scars from those struggles. But you get your stars from your scars.

I have no regrets about having to do that role to make life better for an oncoming generation.

I will say, you can have the great runners that you first had great blockers, who knock down the opposition.

KING: We will talk about Katrina and some other things in our remaining moments, right after these words.


KING: Jesse has had a long and varied life, including hosting "Saturday Night Live." It was October 20, 1984, election year.



JACKSON: I will not eat them in a house.


JACKSON: I do not like them with a mouse.


JACKSON: I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere.


JACKSON: I do not like green eggs and ham.




KING: Did you have fun doing that?

JACKSON: You know, I did.

And I did not -- I was not into Dr. Seuss and all that stuff. That was the week that -- I think Michael Jordan was on that weekend. So, I said to my son Yusef, I have had the chance to do "Saturday Night Live." I said, they want me to read "Green Eggs and Ham." I said, I can't do that. He said, but you got to.

I sad, but in some preacherly rhythm or something.

He said, you have got to do it, Dad. And here's how to do it.

So, Yusef prompted me. I went to New York. And I was in the blind. So, I did it the first time. People didn't stop laughing. I never got it. And that night, we did, you know, the second time around. And, so, it's become a -- you know, like an all-time favorite.

KING: I know.

JACKSON: But I was in a vacuum.

KING: You...

JACKSON: I give -- must give Yusef all the credit for it.


KING: Have a little while remaining.

You went to Katrina?


And 53 percent of the people are still in exile, by the way. There was no mass plan for rescue. And those who are in exile have not gotten the right to return, with the right to -- priorities on job training and reconstruction.

So, even...

KING: Why not?

JACKSON: Well, our policy did not protect the most vulnerable. What hurt me, I -- I must say, beside the slow rescue and dispersing people, was, Iraqi-Americans could vote from America to Iraq by satellite. But Katrina survivors couldn't vote from Houston and Atlanta back to New Orleans.

We compounded their difficulty by denying them even basic rights, beyond the misery of them being exiled. We deserved better.

KING: You think race was a factor?

JACKSON: Race and class and ineptitude, a combination. I mean, you cannot separate one from the other.

And it -- and it stands as a source of shame for America and a real blemish on this administration. And, even now, the unfinished business there remains the challenge. The football team is back. Ninth Ward residents are not back. To me, that says it all.

KING: Do you ever think about hanging it up?

JACKSON: You know, I'm excited. I -- you know, I think that perhaps my best days of service are in front of me. At least, I live that way every day. And I thank God for the strength, the courage, and for the -- and the will to fight.

And I look forward to working, changing the Congress in -- in a few days from now, but, more than that, working with more young people.

When I see Jesse Jr. and Harold Ford and Barack and these guys and Reverend Al Sharpton moving out, that's a big deal to me.

KING: You feel like you're the forefather of all of this?

JACKSON: Well, at least I have sown seeds. And some seeds hit the rocks. Some go in. Some germinate.

And I see strong young women and men coming in pulpits who are now trained and disciplined and focused on their ministry. I see a generation of young political leaders.

And I see a coalition. And the 100 largest cities are majority black and brown. I see a coalition emerging that will take us to a broader politic of public interest and public service.

KING: Less than 30 seconds.

You ever doubt your faith?

JACKSON: I -- I do not doubt my faith.

KING: You do not?

JACKSON: And, when fate comes, and I can't deal with my fate, faith is -- is the deal. And -- but faith is not after -- it is the substance of things hoped for. It is that substance and faith that gives me the drive to carry on, knowing that God will not fail me. I have a sense of which I -- I have a sense of destiny, and that those who work, and work faithfully, God will not forsake them. I believe that.

KING: Thank you, Jess.

JACKSON: Thank you, sir.

KING: Jesse Jackson.

Hoped you enjoyed this hour.

We have two repeat shows coming over the weekend, highlights of the previous week -- and, then, Monday night, a special inside look at gangs. That's a very special program Monday night.

Another special program aired this past week, "War on the Middle Crass" -- "Middle Class," rather, with Lou Dobbs.


KING: Crass.


KING: It took place in Kansas City.

And, before that begins, here's some headlines from our man Tom Foreman -- Tom.