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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Rudy Giuliani

Aired February 14, 2007 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Rudolph Giuliani answers the big one.

KING: Are you running or not?

GIULIANI: Yes, I'm running.


KING: So what would he do as America's next president about Iraq, abortion, gay rights and more? New York's former mayor there are questions on some tough questions.


KING: But there were mistakes.

GIULIANI: Of course, there were mistakes.


KING: Plus, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on the controversy that had some calling his campaign anti-Catholic.

It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

We welcome to LARRY KING LIVE an old friend, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, who has formed an exploratory committee for the 2008 presidential race, which usually leads to an advisory committee and a maybe committee.

Are you running or not?

GIULIANI: Yes, I'm running. Sure.

KING: Oh, you are.

Have you -- when would you -- do you make an official announcement or is this it -- here, right now?

GIULIANI: I guess you do...

KING: You just said, "I'm running." GIULIANI: I guess you do one of these things where you do it four times or five times in a day so that I can, you know, get on your show and about five others.

KING: So you're running?

GIULIANI: Yes, I'm running.

KING: Final -- what led to the decision?

GIULIANI: I think I can make a difference. I believe that the country needs leadership. I think that we're going through a war on terror -- or a terrorist war against us, which maybe is a better way to describe it. We've got lots of problems that we have to tackle and resolve. We need fiscal discipline. We need better education. We need energy independence. There's so many things that we haven't sort of tackled.

I mean one of the things I do is...

KING: Tackle things.

GIULIANI: Tackle things, yes. Lead. Try to get things done. Try to improve...

KING: It takes a lot of chutzpah, though, doesn't it, to say...


KING: ... I'm the best?

That's what you're saying.

GIULIANI: Yes, it does. And very humbling. And it takes a long time to come to a conclusion that with all your imperfections and all the things, you know, that we all are, none of us -- none of us do everything well and none of us are perfect. You have to say to yourself is this something that I can do?

And for a kid from Brooklyn, sometimes you wake up in the morning and say gee...

KING: Is this really --

GIULIANI: ... is this really happening?

And then sometimes you wake up and say I can do this. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: Let's get to some issues.

A leading industrialist, a friend of mine, said if the United States were a corporation, based on the Iraq War, everyone at the top would be fired.

How would you comment on that? And that -- in other words meaning it ain't going right.

GIULIANI: Yes, but that would have been true -- he would have said the same thing about the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln would have been fired. And he might have said the same thing at the Battle of the Bulge and Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Marshall -- all would have been fired. And...

KING: So you're confident this is all going to turn around?

GIULIANI: Oh, no. No.

KING: Because those -- they turned around.

GIULIANI: No, no. I'm not confident it's all going to turn around.

Who knows that?

I mean, you never know that in the middle of a war. I'm confident that we have to try to make a turnaround, and we just can't walk out and that it is critical to us that things get to the point in Iraq that we have some degree of stability and not the way they are now. Because if we leave it the way it is now and we run out, then we're going to face further difficulties in the future. Then we're going to lose more lives in the future.

And I'll tell you who tells me that -- a lot of people that have been there. I was just in San Diego speaking to sailors and Marines that have been in Iraq. That's what they tell me. They tell me look, this is a volunteer army -- you want to take our advice? Our advice is give us a chance to try to stabilize that place, otherwise we know what's going to happen. Two years from now you're going to send us back because there's going to be a major war in this area.

KING: But what do you do to change it? Are 20,000 troops going to change it?

GIULIANI: I think you've got to change the whole strategy, which I hope they did. I mean I hope -- I hope -- the whole strategy has to be a strategy of not just pacifying places, but holding them, and holding them for some period of time.

It reminds me a little, on a much bigger scale, of what I had to do to reduce crime in New York City. We had to not just go into neighborhoods and make them safe -- which the city had been doing for years. But the city had been going in there, making them safe and then leaving -- and then going to another place, make that and leave. Another place -- make it safe, leave.

We've got to go, make it safe in the areas, the districts of Baghdad, and then stay there for a period of time and stabilize it and allow people to have their kids go to school. And we have -- you know, there was a real doubt as to whether we could do this, nation building?

KING: Yes.

When are we going to do it?

GIULIANI: Well, we weren't going to do it and we weren't sure we could do it, and this is a real hard thing to learn how to do. And it's very different than what the military used to have to do in the past -- or America.

But right now, if we don't do a better job of stabilizing Iraq -- and not just for the benefit of the Iraqi people, for the benefit of our people -- then we have -- then we have a country where Iran has got a major, major ability to expand their activities.

KING: Would you...

GIULIANI: Two Shiite countries right next to each other, slaughtering, you know, where one group, at least, is slaughtering Sunnis.

KING: Would you agree, Mr. Mayor, if they had to do this all over again, go back years, no one would vote for the Iraq War? A hundred to nothing, probably, in the Senate? No WMD --

GIULIANI: Yes, I guess...


GIULIANI: But I'm not sure that explains to us what's right about us. You know, the idea of taking out Saddam Hussein was one that was premised on the fact that he invaded Kuwait, that he used chemical weapons, that he had billions of dollars at his disposal, which he used to support various parts of this Islamic terrorist movement.

KING: You're not saying you'd do it again?

GIULIANI: I would remove Saddam Hussein again. I just hope we'd do it better and we'd do it in a different way.

KING: But what do you say to the...

GIULIANI: ... that we do the nation building part or the hand off to the Iraqis or the rebuilding of the Iraqis -- here are the things that I learned from it. Not -- take out Saddam Hussein in a second again. I think the world is much better off without Saddam Hussein than with him. And I think maybe some of the confusion doesn't lead us to really see that. Here's what I would change. Do it with more troops.

KING: Which was recommended and turned down.

GIULIANI: ... maybe 100,000, 150,000 more. I would do it in a way in which we didn't disband the army, which we've learned. This is all -- you know, this is all Monday morning quarterbacking, but you Monday morning quarterback in order to play the next game better, right? Monday morning quarterbacks who just want to criticize is cheap stuff. Monday morning quarterbacking so that next Saturday or Sunday you can play better is absolutely right.

I would -- I would have us not disband the army. You wouldn't de-Baathify. See, de-Baathify sounds like the right thing to do because you're getting rid of all the old Saddam guys. But that meant getting rid of the entire civil service. The country had no infrastructure.

KING: So are you -- are you -- who do you blame?

GIULIANI: So you learn from these things.

KING: Do you blame Rumsfeld?

GIULIANI: No, I don't blame anybody.

KING: You don't blame any -- somebody's got to...

GIULIANI: No, no, no. You don't do it that way.

KING: Nobody's to blame?

GIULIANI: You don't do it that way. That's why you don't make progress. Just like I don't blame people for not figuring out September 11 before it happened. What I do is, I kind of look at what happened, so you learn for the future.

KING: But there were mistakes.

GIULIANI: Of course there were mistakes. Lincoln made mistakes. Roosevelt made mistakes. Eisenhower made mistakes. The Battle of the Bulge was the biggest intelligence failure in American military history, much bigger than any in Vietnam or now. We didn't know that the Soviets were moving 400,000 or 500,000 troops. We missed it.

KING: Shouldn't they be blamed for not explaining it well enough?

GIULIANI: Learn from it. Learn from it. Don't blame them.

KING: How about the American public is so against it, have they done a bad job in explaining?

GIULIANI: Maybe, maybe, you know. Yes, maybe they didn't do that.

KING: Would you communicate better?

GIULIANI: I don't know. I hope -- I hope I would. I mean, you know, I hope -- I hope that I would learn from the mistakes that were made in this situation.

KING: Such as? GIULIANI: Just as the mistakes I made when I was mayor, I tried to learn from them. If I get to be president of the United States, I probably won't make the same mistakes, because I will have learned from them. I'll probably make different ones.

KING: Now how is...

GIULIANI: And then the next one will learn from the ones that I made. And I would say that about Bill Clinton or George Bush. This job is so difficult that you've got to have humility about it and you have to understand how to look at the past not in a way in which you cast blame, but you learn from it.

KING: The House is apparently about to vote -- and will vote, apparently -- to say that this 20,000 troops is a mistake.

Now, an important question, do you hold those who vote for that as helping the enemy?

GIULIANI: No, I hold them as...

KING: Because some say that.

GIULIANI: OK. There's a...

KING: You don't?

GIULIANI: I mean, there's -- you can look at the practical and common sense conclusion of it anyway you want. But there's something more important than that.

We have a right of free speech in this country and we elect people to make decisions.

Here's what I would prefer to see them do, though, if you ask me what's my view on that. The non-binding resolution thing gets me more than are you for it or against it. I have tremendous respect for the people who feel that we either made a mistake going to war, who voted against the war, who now have come to the conclusion, changed their minds -- they have every right to that -- that it's wrong. You should, in a dynamic situation, keep questioning.

What I don't like is the idea of a non-binding resolution.

KING: Because?

GIULIANI: Because there's no decision.

KING: But it's a -- making a -- it's a statement.

GIULIANI: Yes, but that's what you do. That's what Tim Russert does. That's what Rush Limbaugh does. That's what you guys do, you make comments. We pay them to make decisions, not just to make comments. We pay them to decide. The United States Congress does declarations, the war, that's the...

KING: So are you telling them if you feel that way, withhold funds, if that's the way you feel?

GIULIANI: Well, the ones I -- the ones that I think have a better understanding of what their responsibility is and are willing to take a risk are the ones who are saying we've got to hold back the funds, we've got to vote against the war or we're for the war.

KING: So...

GIULIANI: And maybe it's because I, you know, I ran a government and I tend to be a decisive person. I like decisions. And I think one of the things wrong with Washington is they don't want to make tough decisions anymore.

KING: You know, if you're...

GIULIANI: Non-binding resolution about Iraq; no decision on immigration; no decision on Social Security reform; no decision on what to do about energy independence; no decision. No decision.

You know why that happens?

Because it's unpopular.

KING: I've got to take a break.

I don't want to break your heart, but if you're president, you can't root for the Yankees.

GIULIANI: You've got to make decisions.

KING: You have to root for everybody.

Rudy Giuliani's our guest, the Republican candidate. He's running.

We'll be right back.


KING: Let's move to some things domestic. You've had some quotes lately that -- that seem contradictory.

I know you're pro-choice, you've always been pro-choice.


KING: Yet you'll say you'll appoint judges who are strict constructionists. If that's the case, they're going to vote to overturn "Roe v. Wade," which you don't want.

GIULIANI: I don't know that. You don't know that.

KING: Well, what is strict constructionist?

GIULIANI: Well, OK, there are a lot of ways to explain that. I mean (UNINTELLIGIBLE)... KING: Do you still favor ""Roe v. Wade?""

GIULIANI: I am pro-choice, yes. But I -- I'm also, as you know -- always have been -- against abortion, hate abortion, don't like it, wouldn't personally advise anyone to have an abortion and -- but I believe a woman has a right to choose. And you can't have criminal penalties and I think that would be wrong.

I would select judges who try to interpret the Constitution rather than invent it, from my views as a lawyer. And I don't want to sound presumptuous, I'm not a constitutional lawyer, but I have argued in the Supreme Court and I have argued in many of the circuit courts.

I've spent more time in court than I have in politics.

And I just think it's very, very important that a judge have a judicial philosophy that says I am going to try to figure out what the framers of the Constitution meant when they wrote this or what the people who amended it meant when they put it in, not what I'd like it to mean, not what I feel it means.

I had that view about the criminal law. I thought a lot of the decisions of the Warren court were a mistake.

KING: Would you...

GIULIANI: I thought the exclusionary rule was a mistake. I thought, to some extent, "Miranda" was a mistake.

Now, here's what the court did with those. A lot of people thought that with the -- with the Berger...

KING: I know prosecutors who loved "Miranda." It made cases more solid.

GIULIANI: "Miranda's" OK, but when people -- if people, you know, don't give a "Miranda" warning quickly enough and somebody blurts out a confession, I still want to put that murderer in jail. And when a cop makes a mistake in finding a weapon or finding -- and finding drugs, I never liked the idea of giving it back to the criminal.

So here's what the court did. The two courts that came after -- the two conservative courts that came after, Berger and Rehnquist, people thought they were going to overrule "Miranda." They thought they were going to overrule "Escobedo," the exclusionary rule.

They didn't overrule it. They limited it.

KING: All right. And...

GIULIANI: And they limited it to a point where it is now quite rational.

KING: Are you pretty sure that no matter what you appointed, "Roe vs. Wade" will remain? GIULIANI: I don't -- nobody knows that.

KING: Would it hurt you if they overturned it and you appointed judges that overturned it?

GIULIANI: I don't think it would hurt me or help me or -- it would be a matter of states making decisions or...

KING: You'd be indifferent to it?

GIULIANI: I wouldn't be -- I wouldn't be indifferent to it. It wouldn't be the litmus test on which I would appoint somebody.

KING: All right.

GIULIANI: I'd appoint somebody because I thought they'd be a good judge who would do the best they could to interpret the Constitution. And maybe nine times out of 10, I'll satisfied with that appointment, and one out of 10 times, I'll be sitting there like I used to do when I appointed lots of people when I was the mayor and say how could they do that? Why did they do that? I didn't understand why they did it.

KING: You're pro -- basically, the gay movement, right, that gays have equal rights to heteros, that they be treated...


KING: ... the same way in society...

GIULIANI: Gays should be...

KING: ... in hospitals...


KING: ... insurance benefits and all of that?

GIULIANI: Gays should be protected. I signed The Domestic Partnership Law in New York. But the way I'm portrayed by my opponents -- and I guess to drive people away from me -- is that I'm in favor of gay marriage. I am not. I did 220 weddings. They were all between a man and a woman. I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. At least, I hope they were all between a man and a woman. It looked that way at the time.

But, yes, I believe that marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman and that the way to handle this, and the way to handle respect and everything else is to have something like domestic partnership, which I support.

KING: Would you favor a constitutional amendment saying marriage is a man and a woman?

GIULIANI: Not if it remains the way it is now. Unless all of a sudden lots of states do what Massachusetts does and kind of come at it from the other side and decide that the Constitution says that -- that you cannot have marriage between a man and a woman. If it stays the way it is, you don't need one.

KING: Gun control...

GIULIANI: If it changes, then you may very well need one.

KING: Favor gun control? Favor Brady?

GIULIANI: For handguns. And I did. But I also understand the second amendment. I understand the right to bear arms. I think that a lot of these things have to be resolved on a state by state basis. And I used say often when I was the mayor, it's one thing for New York, it's something different for Texas.

KING: Got you.

Rudy, is it going to be rough for you -- oh, by the way, we've got a big presidential debate on April 4th in New Hampshire. Democrats one night; I think Republicans the next. CNN is co- sponsoring it with WMUR, New Hampshire.

Are you going to come?

GIULIANI: I didn't know. I didn't even know about it. This is (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

KING: I'm inviting you on behalf of CNN.

GIULIANI: Let me take a look.

KING: If your schedule's open, would you come?

GIULIANI: Let me take a look.


Isn't going to be hard for you?

What they say about Rudy Giuliani is you're way ahead in the polls -- by the way. You could win the election, but not the nomination, because you can't win South Carolina, you can't win Alabama with the views you have via abortion and gay rights.

GIULIANI: Well, you just heard -- you heard the views that I have and there are a lot of other issues you can cover.

KING: How tough is it going to be for you in the South?

GIULIANI: I've been in South Carolina quite a bit -- and other parts of the South. And it seems like they're open. It seems like people are open to maybe approaching this election a little differently from the point of -- both on the Republican side and the Democratic side.

We need leadership. I think there's an understanding that you can't -- you can never find a candidate you agree 100 percent of the time. I don't agree with myself 100 percent of the time. So how are you going to find a candidate that you agree with?

KING: So you think they'll vote for you?

GIULIANI: I think they will. I think they will. And I think they will on the basis of leadership. I think that -- I think they will on the basis of ultimately we need someone who we think can handle this country at a time of war and a time in which we have real tough things that we have to face that we haven't been facing for a while.

KING: A couple of other quick things.

Your long relationship with Bernie Kerik, a potential campaign problem?

GIULIANI: It -- you mean the...

KING: The former police commissioner?

GIULIANI: ... his -- recommending him?

KING: His downfall, yes.

GIULIANI: Recommending him and that?

It was a mistake. I made a mistake.

KING: Do you think it will hurt you? You think an opponent would bring it up?

GIULIANI: Sure. You guys bring it up.

KING: Let me bring it up.

Why am I bringing it up?

GIULIANI: Yes, I think the answer is I made a mistake and I took responsibility for it.

KING: Your divorce and personal life being something...

GIULIANI: They'll bring all of that up. They'll bring all of that up, and they'll probably bring up things that aren't even true. And they'll bring up things that are true. And I think the way I deal with that is, hey, I'm a human being. You know, I made mistakes. I'm not perfect.


GIULIANI: I keep trying to learn from them. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. I keep working on that. I keep trying to learn from them. I'm a human being, much like, I think, everybody else. There may be a perfect candidate in this race. I don't know which one that is. I wouldn't want to be the one that is the perfect candidate. KING: The last time we had a presidential race, I remember you liked John McCain, and he was a friend of yours.

GIULIANI: We still are friends and I like John McCain very much. I have tremendous admiration for John McCain. And, you know, we have -- we're going to both battle it out for the Republican nomination.

KING: You are.

GIULIANI: But it's not going to -- not going to in one -- one iota remove the kind of respect I have for John. I think John is a great American. And beyond that, he's a great person. He's somebody I know. I really like him very much.

I like Mitt Romney. I campaigned for Mitt Romney.

KING: Would you like to run against...

GIULIANI: I campaigned -- the night before he got elected governor, I did the last campaign event with him and we were in the South Side of Boston. We had dinner in a great Italian restaurant and he told great stories. And I have great respect for Mitt.

KING: Do you think Mormonism should be held against him?

GIULIANI: No. Oh, of course not. Absolutely not. It would be -- any more than Catholicism should be...

KING: Held against you.

GIULIANI: ... should have been held against John Kennedy or being from Brooklyn should be held against the two of us. I think, if I got elected, I'd be the -- maybe I'd be the first one from Brooklyn elected.

KING: I want to be ambassador to Brooklyn. I boldly accept (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

GIULIANI: You might not get confirmed.

KING: I wouldn't.

Would you like to run against Hillary?

GIULIANI: I'd like to run against anybody...


GIULIANI: ... the Democrats nominated. If it's Hillary, god bless her. If it's Obama, terrific. If it's Edwards -- I hope I haven't left somebody out, but I think those are the three top ones.

KING: Thanks, Rudy.

GIULIANI: Thanks, Larry.

It was very good to see you.

KING: See you along the trail.

GIULIANI: See you around.

KING: And if you can make that debate, it's April 4th in New Hampshire.


KING: Just, you know, check with the squad.

GIULIANI: Thank you.

KING: Always pushing.

Senator John Edwards is scheduled to be here. I'm looking at the door. He isn't here yet. There's a lot of traffic in Los Angeles tonight.

We have a panel of outstanding pundits if he's late.

It's all next.

Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you running?

GIULIANI: I -- yes, I am. I mean, sure I'm running.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I declare my intention to run for president of the United States.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today I'm taking the first steps on the yellow brick road to the White House.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm preparing to run for president of the United States in 2008.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'm in the best position.



KING: Again, as we said, Senator Edwards stuck somewhere. A lot of traffic tonight on this Valentine's Night in Los Angeles.

Let's meet our panel.

Michael Isikoff, investigative correspondent for "Newsweek," co- author of the best-selling book "Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War."

In Boston, David Gergen, who served as a White House adviser to Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. He's editor-at-large of "U.S. News" and professor of public service at Harvard's JFK School of Government.

Here in L.A. Arianna Huffington, founder and editor of, syndicated columnist and best-selling author. Her most recent work is "Becoming Fearless In Love, Work and Life."

And in Washington, Amy Holmes, speechwriter for the GOP, strategist -- speechwriter for former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a GOP strategist, as well.

All right, Michael Isikoff, what did you make, generally, of Giuliani, who's in that unique position of being ahead in the polls but maybe behind in the Republican primary polls?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, "NEWSWEEK" INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you can see from the interview just why he's ahead in the polls. He's clearly engaging and a sort of winning personality. He came across as quite -- quite frank, quite open, willing to admit mistakes.

But, you know, he's got a -- he's got a long way to go. I mean he's got -- you know, there's no getting around the fact that he's going to be running in promise where social conservatives predominate and his views are just not compatible with those.

And beyond that, I think that, like every other candidate, Iraq is going to loom large for him, as it is for everybody else. And right now he's -- he's supporting the surge, he's supporting the president.

But the big question that every Republican candidate is going to face is six months down the road from now, if things don't start to prove -- to turn around, if there isn't some measurable progress, are they going to stay committed to a course that doesn't look like it's going anywhere?

KING: Arianna?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, FOUNDER/EDITOR, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: You know, I find it amazing the way he has decided to completely support the president, all the way down, comparing their policies to Lincoln's and Roosevelt's when you tried to press him. And what is, I think, his calculation, perhaps, is that given that he is pro-choice and pro- gun control, he probably decided that he has to be -- to out-McCain McCain on the surge, to be in favor of every escalation in order, somehow, to improve his credentials for the primary voter.

KING: So you're saying it's all -- all calculated?

HUFFINGTON: It doesn't make any sense. You know, he should know better than that. And on top of it, it's the wrong calculation, because you can never out-McCain McCain, you know?

He owns that space of escalating the war.

And now, so on top of it, he did spend five years at the Hanoi Hilton, while Giuliani got a deferment because a federal judge thought that he was a very good law clerk.

So it doesn't make any sense.

KING: David Gergen, what do you think about the Giuliani candidacy?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER TO PRESIDENTS NIXON, FORD, REAGAN & CLINTON: Well, what I find really interesting, Larry, is that the pundits -- the commentariat, if you would like to call it that, has discounted -- and I've been among those who have discounted a Giuliani candidacy for some time.

We've always said, you know, he looks attractive on the surface, but people are going to move away from him. This is, after all, the Republican Party.

But something really interesting, though, has happened over the last 30 days. A month ago, the "USA Today"/Gallup Poll had Giuliani and McCain basically running neck and neck for the Republican nomination. Giuliani was ahead by around four points.

Their recent poll -- it just came out today -- has Giuliani ahead of John McCain for the Republican nomination by 16 points. Sixteen points. He's opened up a huge lead and I find it really interesting.

I must say, my good friend, Arianna, I disagree about what's going on here, in part, with Giuliani. I think he's taking these stands because that's what he believes in. And I think his appeal is he seems -- like Barack Obama, who lights fires on the Democratic side -- he is appealing because he's authentic. He is who he is who he is. And it's not all calculated...

KING: Let me -- let me -- let me get a break and we'll pick up with Amy Holmes' thoughts and we'll get into lots more about politics 2007-2008.

Don't go away.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My candidacy for president of the United States of America.



FORMER SENATOR JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The single biggest responsibility of the next president of the United States is to restore America's leadership in the world.



SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I still plan on running. I haven't, quite frankly, thought through all of the, you know, the mechanics of it at this point.



GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today I filed the paperwork creating a presidential exploratory committee.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am announcing my candidacy for president of the United States.



KING: Let's bring our buddy, Amy Holmes, into the next.

All right, Amy. What happened -- as David Gergen points out -- what's happened to McCain?

AMY HOLMES, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, he as been overshadowed by this big Giuliani announcement. And I think in the interview we saw tonight, Giuliani proves why he's such a formidable opponent. He is charismatic. He's candid and he's comfortable in his own skin.

And with McCain, among conservatives, there's a lot of skepticism. Now remember, he was for campaign finance reform. That wasn't so great for some of the religious conservative groups and the rise of the 527s on the left was an unhappy development in the last election. McCain, there's some ill will on the conservative edge.

So Giuliani does have an opening there. Some polling shows that he's ahead in Alabama. He's ahead in Georgia. And when he was mayor of New York, he was a real hero to conservatives with his conservative reforms in New York as mayor. So I think it's an exciting -- he's an exciting candidate, and he's going to bring a lot of sizzle to this election.

KING: Michael, what about Mitt Romney, a Mormon from Salt Lake who becomes governor in Catholic Massachusetts. Isn't that formidable?

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, "NEWSWEEK" INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, look, I like a lot of other people, don't know all that much about Mitt Romney. I think he's positioned to be the conventional conservative candidate in this election and probably well positioned to do that.

But I just want to -- you know, we cannot get around -- not to echo myself, but Iraq is the stumbling block for all these guys. And they've got to deal with it.

And you know, they are all at the moment supporting a war that the American public does not support. And you know, the longer they do so, the longer they -- they're going to have problems. If any of them -- you know, whoever gets the nomination, is going to have that problem in an election.

KING: Does that mean, Arianna, that Iraq could make it a loss for Republicans? That Iraq would be the reason?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, HUFFINGTONPOST.COM: Absolutely. I completely agree with Mike. To hear Giuliani respond to you, Larry, by saying that Iraq is a little bit like New York and fighting the war in Iraq is like fighting crime in the streets of New York. It's so laughable that I can't imagine how anybody can take it seriously as a position on the war.

To ignore, you know, the fact that there is a civil war going on there is really to show absolutely no understanding of what is happening and to try and treat it like a crime problem in the streets of New York.

So, therefore, it's really exactly what Mike said. This is going to remain a huge vulnerability both in the primary, because you have Sam Brownback, who is against the escalation, who has 100 percent rating by the Conservative Union. So his conservative credentials are beyond reproach. And he is going to actually prove quite formidable if the war in Iraq continues to deteriorate.

KING: David Gergen, is Iraq going to be the win and the loss of this election? DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think Arianna is right that it could obviously affect the elections in November of 2008. But at this point Rudy Giuliani is not focused on winning 2008. He needs to win the nomination.

And in that sense, you know, he's in the same boat -- the three front runners, as Arianna just pointed out, in the -- from the Republican side are all for the surge. So it's not the war that is going to define who wins the nomination so much. I think it will -- once you get the nomination, then you've got a whole new ballgame. Because then the war does, I think, weigh heavily against Republicans.

And you know, you could easily see an election in 2008, Larry. Whoever the Republican nominee is, they'll get swamped by the war, and the Republicans could lose a lot of ground in the House and Senate. And you could have a Democrat coming in with a big, big margin.

But we're still two years away. Long ways away. So Rudy Giuliani, I think, is right. The war position will not define him right now. Can he win over the conservatives? Can he win their support to make it through the primaries?

KING: Amy, is your -- Amy, is your party in big trouble?

HOLMES: Well, I think 2008 is wide open, and the war question is a complicated question for the Democratic side, as well.

We're seeing that played out with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Barack being staunchly anti-war and being a favorite of the base of his party, and Hillary Clinton being asked over and over and over about her vote in the Senate to give the president authorization to go to war.

I think Giuliani supporting the surge right now is simply showing his loyalty and his support of the president as -- president as commander in chief. The surge will play out. And six months from now, eight months from now, Giuliani, rather, can you know, make a policy depending on how that surge worked. I don't think his position today on the surge is going to determine his outcome in 2008.

KING: We'll take a break, come back. We'll take a break, come back and talk about the Democrats. We'll also include your phone calls on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Four of the best of the business: Michael Isikoff, David Gergen, Arianna Huffington, Amy Holmes.

Mr. Isikoff, give me your view of the Democratic picture.

ISIKOFF: Well, Hillary Clinton is -- is the front runner. But, obviously, she's got an Iraq problem of her own. It's the question she's getting asked the most about every time she goes and speaks. And she has yet to be able to go to give as direct an answer as John Edwards has, starting with the words, "I made a mistake." That's a constitutionally very difficult thing, if not impossible thing, for Hillary Clinton to say. And I think people are trying to push her into saying that.

The interesting dynamic is to watch as that plays out. Will she finally be able to bring herself to utter words that are clearly uncomfortable for her?

KING: Why is that so urgent, Arianna? Why can't she just say, "I voted for it because of the information I was given, and now based on that information, I had wrong information. That's why I voted. My mistake...

HUFFINGTON: Again, not to be able to say that she made a mistake is such a fundamental problem about her and her campaign.

Mark Penn, her pollster, tried to explain by saying it's important for her to keep saying that it's the president's mistake. Well, everybody knows it's the president's mistake, but it's also the mistake of those Democrats who voted for the war, despite all of the information they had available to them.

After all 21 senators did not vote, Democratic senators, to authorize the war. So clearly, they had better judgment, given what we know now. One of them, Paul Weston, was actually running for reelection. He had the guts to vote against the war authorization.

KING: David Gergen, she says that she wasn't voting for the war. She was voting for some allocation that could lead -- she wasn't voting directly to go to war.

GERGEN: Well, listen, you know, let's give credit to Mrs. Clinton in one sense. A month ago in that same "USA Today"/Gallup poll she was ahead of Barack Obama by about 11 points. Now she opened up a lead of 19 points. So she's doing something right with the voters, and one has to recognize that up front.

I do believe that the way she's answering these Iraq questions will come back to haunt her with the voters.

When she voted for the resolution on Iraq, it was perfectly obvious to everybody, we are about to go to war and that this was a vote to authorize. And when you start parsing that too much or qualifying it too much, being too cute with it, I think you look like you're trying to -- you're in effect not authentic.

And I think what is going to work this year as Peter Hart and others remind us, authenticity matters. And for her, I think she will be better, as Arianna said, come right out. She mad a mistake. She made the wrong judgment. And look at the way Giuliani handled that in your interview with him. He kept saying, "Look, we all make mistakes. You learn from it. You've got to move on."

She needs to move on from it. I think to play games with words on this is a mistake for her in the long run. It will come back to haunt her. KING: Amy Holmes, but might she still have the nomination?

HOLMES: She may. She has a very formidable machine that is rolling up support. I mean, she has Terry McAuliffe as her campaign manager. The Clintons have been known to be pretty smooth political operators. Bill Clinton won reelection twice.

I think part of her problem, though, that she also has a long record of giving very fiery speeches about the threat that Saddam posed and her husband, the former president. He himself said that Saddam Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction. These -- that's a real conundrum for Hillary Clinton. It's going to be hard for her to right that square.

KING: Mr. Isikoff, can -- can Barack Obama close the gap?

ISIKOFF: Sure he can. He's untested, but he's clearly created a lot of excitement out there.

Actually, the most interesting dynamic at the moment is Edwards. It's too bad he isn't here yet. But the way he's been answering, after saying, "I made a mistake," when he's asked to explain how it is he came to that mistake, he has said, "Well, I was listening to former Clinton administration officials, advising me that I should vote for the war."

And that's true. Almost all the top national security advisors to President Clinton were supportive of the war resolution. And that's a big reason why Hillary Clinton was voting for it, as well.

So it's -- in very subtle ways, John Edwards is sort of taking a shot at the former Clinton administration. I think Hillary Clinton is a little reluctant to embrace that for obvious reasons.

HUFFINGTON: And also, if you look at the way the war is going to play in the primary, obviously Obama is in the strongest position, because he is consistently against the war.

And his speech that he gave in 2002 against the war is a very powerful speech in which he says clearly, "I'm not against all wars. I'm against dumb wars. And Iraq is a dumb war." And he talked very presciently about what will happen, how impossible it was for us to predict what would happen once we invaded.

So in that sense he doesn't have to do the kind of explaining that even John Edwards has to do, as he had to do on "Meet the Press". Had about ten to 15 minutes of Tim Russert putting up on the screen previous statements supporting the war and him having to answer them. Well, Obama can jump over all that and come directly to where we are today.

KING: So he wants to pull out. And does the American public want to pull out?

HUFFINGTON: Absolutely. The majority of the American people...

KING: Want to pull out?

HUFFINGTON: ... want to pull out in a responsible way. Not irresponsibly wants to pull out overnight.

Now, of course, John Edwards has now proposed capping funding and making it clear that there will be no military bases in Iraq. So he's taken a real leadership role there.

KING: It appears the senator -- hold it one -- hold on a second, Amy. It appears that Senator Edwards may not be able to make it in this traffic. So we shall forge forth.

And let's check in with John Roberts. He will host "ANDERSON COOPER 360" at the top of the hour.

What's up, John?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Larry. A shame. Sorry to hear about John Edwards not making it.

We've got a lot to talk about on "360", though. The weather, the latest on the Anna Nicole Smith story.

And there's been a lot of talk about weapons in Iraq and their ties to Iran. Today we know what led up to a briefing in Baghdad that ratcheted up the case for war with Iran. Every since, everyone from the president on down has been backing away or restating what was said at that briefing. Today we learned how it came to happen and how one briefer apparently went a little too far beyond what his bosses wanted him to say. We'll lay all that out for you tonight, "360" coming up at the top of the hour -- Larry.

KING: That's "ANDERSON COOPER", 10 Eastern, 7 Pacific. We'll be right back with our panel after this.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I never would have started this war. And if it is not ended when I am president in 2009, I will end it.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The war was a terrible mistake. I think it should not have been authorized.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The incredible incompetence and the management of what's happened in Iraq.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All the king's horses, all the king's men cannot hold Iraq together.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our solders stand for us in the field. We must stand for them in the legislature.

TOM VILSACK (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: More troops is not the answer.




RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would -- I would give them mass support. I wouldn't pull them the support from them right now.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We can achieve success in Iraq. This is not just an increase in troops.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our wisest course is to seek stability in Iraq.

SEN. SAM BROWNBACK (R-KS), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we have got to stay in and get the job done, but we've got to do it together.

REP. TOM TANCREDO (R-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So we are trying to change the world for freedom.


KING: David Gergen, what do you make of this House vote Friday in which they will say to the president, "We don't like what you're doing"?

GERGEN: It's a very significant vote, Larry. The Congress hasn't registered any real protests against the war in four long years. They went on the record, of course, early on, especially that Senate vote, to support the war and give the president the green light.

Now the House is going to be flashing a strong orange light: "Slow down, caution, don't do this." Now, I found very striking today that the president in his press conference basically dismissed this, nonbinding. Who cares and so forth, so on? A lot of conservatives two weeks ago saying this will be a terrible thing if you vote for this. You will be giving aid and comfort to the enemy and you'll be demoralizing our troops.

The president said, "Well, the only thing I really care about," he said, "as president is will they bind my hands in terms of money?" And he sort of -- he's in effect conceded defeat. And it really has made it a lot easier for Republicans to go and vote for it.

So you -- we could easily see on the House -- in the House vote at least two dozen Republicans. And I think after the president conceded defeat today, it could well go above that.

KING: Amy Holmes, Rudy Giuliani said the only thing he doesn't like about it is that it's nonbinding.

HOLMES: Well, because he was pointing out that if the Democrats really do oppose this war, they out to be passing binding resolution, not something merely symbolic.

But I think the Democrats are actually making a big mistake in this, especially if they pass a binding resolution to cut troop levels or to cut funding.

First of all "The Wall Street Journal" poll just showed the American public does not want to cut funds to the troops. I think that would make Democrats very vulnerable.

And secondly, if the surge were to fail, they would be complicit in that failure, because they might have capped troops when extra troops were needed. Petraeus said those troops are essential. Or if they cut funding. So they have now just put themselves in the position of having their so-called war strategy fail in Iraq.

KING: Michael Isikoff, what do you make of the candidacy of Al Franken in Minnesota?

ISIKOFF: I -- I got nothing for you on that one. But just, look, on the -- on the resolution, it's nonbinding so the Democrats are not cutting off funding at this stage.

And Amy is right. There is a risk, were they to do that, if they started to move in that direction, they could come implicit. But at the same token, there's a big risk for Republicans. You look at the rhetoric that's coming out from the Republicans who are defending the president, talking about how a -- he catastrophic consequences of a pullout of Iraq and how this is a key part of the global war on terror.

Well, again, I want to take you back to -- let's go back to what is this picture going to look like six months down the road? Every one of these House members is going to be up for re-election. And if we don't see measurable signs of progress, these guys and women are going to be looking at running for a war that has completely lost the support of the American public.

HOLMES: If you like at Chris Shays, it's not just that. They're also talking about that it is unconstitutional for the Congress to be usurping the power of the commander in chief to wage this war. He was -- he was given authorization by the United States Senate and the United States Congress in order to do this. And you can't have 535 congressmen and senators micromanaging this war.

HUFFINGTON: Actually, this is absolutely not true. And even John Edwards in his absence...

KING: He couldn't make it, by the way.

HUFFINGTON: He was very eloquent on this subject today when he said that there is no way that the president -- that the Congress has actually authorized the continuation of what is happening now, which is effectively refereeing civil war.

At the press conference today, the president refused once again to call it a civil war, because as he put it very quaintly, living in this beautiful White House, how can he possibly know whether it's a civil war?

Well, the truth is that it is a civil war. Way too many military experts have called it a civil war. We see the results every day. And effectively, the troops are there refereeing a civil war.

KING: I've got to get a break. When I come back, I want to ask you about Al Franken. Because in your old conservative days you did a great bit with Al Franken. And you both were in bed together arguing.

HUFFINGTON: That's right. Wait until that comes out. It will sink his campaign!

KING: Wait until that comes out. Franken is done.

As we go to break, here's President Bush at the news conference.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are weapons in Iraq that are harming U.S. troops because of the Quds force. And as you know, I hope, that the Quds Force is a part of the Iranian government. Whether Ahmadinejad ordered the Quds force to do this, I don't think we know. But we do know that they're there, and I intend to do something about it.



KING: All right. David Gergen, the Scooter Libby trial is over. The jury takes it tomorrow. Why so fast?

GERGEN: Well, I was stunned that Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney both decided not to testify. There's one theory that, you know, that the defense attorneys think they've already won this.

But many people came out of the -- out of the prosecution side thinking that the prosecution was ahead in this case and that the Scooter Libby defense hasn't been sufficient.

So it -- I guess they're avoiding potential embarrassments. But it's normally the case if you don't put your guy up there in this kind of -- on the defense side, you give an awful lot to the other side. It makes it much tougher to win the case.

KING: Michael, what does the president, if anything, do about Iran?

ISIKOFF: Iran? You know, he -- I think the press conference today was very revealing, because he was faced with this contradiction, which he had to acknowledge, that while there is this evidence of Iranian components being -- showing up in Iraq, particularly these -- the improvised explosive devices that seem to be made in Iran, no clear evidentiary trail on whether this is ordered from officials of the Iranian government, and if so, how high in the Iranian government? And that was General Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs, made those comments the other day and kind of undercut the whole thrust of the administration rhetoric over the last -- over the last few weeks. And it just leaves wide open what the policy implications of this are.

I think that a lot of skeptics at this point see the emphasis on Iran as, as much diversionary for political reasons as they do anything else.

KING: Amy, what do you make of all of these early debates?

HOLMES: I think that they're an opportunity for the American public to see these candidates, but unfortunately, it allows those candidates who are well funded, who have high name I.D., to be able to race out ahead of what they call second and third tier candidates in the Republican Party. That would be Mike Huckabee, for example.

So in that -- in that case, then it's not a great -- a great system for being able to see who all of these people are who want to be president of the United States.

KING: And we've only got 20 seconds. Are you going to go run home and blog this?

HUFFINGTON: Yes, and in fact, the Huffington Post, in partnership with YouTube, are going to put on the first online presidential debate and we're going to get video questions from all around the country, especially young people.

KING: An online video debate?

HUFFINGTON: Online debate in real time.

KING: Thank you all very much. Michael Isikoff, David Gergen, Arianna Huffington, and Amy Holmes.

It is Valentine's Day. We don't often get personal on this show, but I want to take a moment and wish a very happy Valentine's to my lovely wife, Shawn, who is not only a great gal and a terrific wife but a partner in life and in love. Much kisses, much happiness. You deserve it.

Happy Valentine's Day to the wife. And to all of you with all of yours as well.

We now turn it over -- I'm sure he has the same sentiments -- to John Roberts, who will sit in for Anderson Cooper and host "AC 360" -- John.

ROBERTS: Hey, Larry, thanks very much. And yes, happy Valentine's Day to my wife and everyone else out there who's celebrating this day.