Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Regis Philbin's Doctors; One-On-One With Governor Mitt Romney; Political Panel

Aired March 15, 2007 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, exclusive -- the men closest to Regis Philbin's heart other than Regis. They performed triple bypass surgery on Regis yesterday and now, Doctors Wayne Isom and Karl Krieger in their first interview since they operated on Regis. His doctors tell all in an exclusive.
And how did we get them on?

Dr. Isom performed my surgery 20 years ago; and David Letterman's seven years ago, too.

And then, a prime time exclusive with Mitt Romney, the man who thinks he can beat Rudy Giuliani and John McCain for the Republican presidential nomination. And if he does, he could become the first Mormon in the White House.

How will he convince Southern voters that he's conservative enough?

We'll also meet his wife Ann, who could be the next first lady.

How could her battle with multiple sclerosis affect his battle for the nation's highest elected office?

All next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

We begin in New York with two old friends of mine. Dr. Wayne Isom of the Weil Cornell Medical Center at New York's Presbyterian Hospital. He's chairman of the department of cardiothoracic surgery. He performed the surgery on Regis Philbin yesterday. And with him, another old buddy, Dr. Karl Krieger, who is vice chair of that department. And he was part of Regis' operating team.

Now, the news that Philbin was going to undergo heart surgery came from Reg himself on Monday's show.



REGIS PHILBIN, CO-HOST: I have been feeling chest pains, you know? And a shortness of breath and all of those little symptoms that you hear about. So I called the doctor. I decided to take some tests. I took about three different C.T. scans and then a stress test and a cathartic test -- a lot of tests.

And it was their conclusion that I should have a bypass. So -- to protect -- I'm looking -- I was looking forward to an angioplasty. You know, you get in -- bang, bang, bang, they blow it open and you leave the next day.


You were looking forward to that?

PHILBIN: Yes. I thought I could get away with that. But, anyway, there's some plaque in some arteries and I've got to get it cleaned out.


KING: And Kelly Ripa earlier today gave the television audience an update on how Reg was doing.



RIPA: We are thrilled, thrilled to report that Regis came through his surgery in flying -- with flying colors last -- yesterday morning. He is already up, joking around with the nurses and the doctors and harassing people and picking on people.

We can't begin to express our joy and happiness around here. And I'm going to get emotional, but I'm just -- Regis, I'm so glad that you're OK. I'm so thrilled that you're feeling better. And Nursie Pooh is coming with her sponge.


KING: Kelly Ripa is, of course, a layman.

So Dr. Isom, how did he do?

DR. WAYNE ISOM, WEILL CORNELL MEDICAL CENTER AT NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: Well, Larry, he did really well. He's a great patient. He came in with a positive attitude. He and Joy were right there the whole time. Joy has been very supportive. And he came through with flying colors.

So -- I told him he's got the heart of a 19-year-old and -- and these ought to last another 20 or 25 years. And at that point we'll figure something else out.

KING: Karl, when I went in for my surgery, I was told it was going to be quadruple. It turned out to be quintuple.

Was Regis a -- a triple bypass?

DR. KARL KRIEGER, WILL CORNELL MEDICAL CENTER AT NEW YORK PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: Yes, it -- Larry, everyone's anatomy is a little bit different and sometimes we don't know exactly what we're going to do until we're in the operating room. And he had three large vessels that were great targets for bypass surgery. We were able to bypass all three of them and he's going to get a really excellent result.

KING: Any difficulties at all, Wayne?

ISOM: It was pretty straightforward. You know, there's -- he's like anybody else, he -- you know, this is something we do every day, so he was straightforward. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

KING: How urgent was the need for this, Karl?

KRIEGER: This was -- this was not an emergency operation, but it was something that needed to be done over a period of several weeks. And so it was in a semi-urgent category.

Fortunately, he has a very strong heart muscle, as Wayne says, and he came off the heart-lung machine very well. He's had excellent cardiac function since the surgery, so we're expecting a great long- term prognosis for him.

KING: Wayne, was it more pressure because it was Regis?

ISOM: You know, a lot of people have asked me that question about you or Walter Cronkite or Letterman or various people. But I think Karl will agree, once you get there, you -- you're sort of so focused that you don't even think about who it is. And, in fact, everybody looks the same on the inside. You've heard me say that before. So there's not any difference. And sometimes when you finish up, you don't even realize what time of day it is -- is it morning, night or where the back door is.

So I think, you know, it takes nearly 10 years after medical school to do this training, to do this. So it's -- it's pretty much rote by that time.

KING: How long did it take, Karl?

KRIEGER: You know, the operating part on the heart took about an hour-and-a-half. The whole operation takes about three or four hours.

KING: You mean in preparation time?

KRIEGER: Yes. Sure. It takes a while to put the patient to sleep, to put the lines in and then to open up the chest. And it takes another hour after we come off the heart-lung machine to close the chest, transfer the patient into the intensive care unit.

So the whole thing takes four or five hours. But the actual surgery is about three to four hours.

KING: Without being too technical, Wayne, what are you doing? When you say bypass, you're doing what?

ISOM: Well, first of all, I'd like to say, you know, Letterman said the other night that we were cracking him open like a lobster. That's not the case. We make a small incision in the midline and gradually open up until we get to the heart. And then we take some -- some vessels from the back of the chest wall or from the leg or we can even take them from the arm and go around those vessels that are stopped up.

So it's -- it's like doing a plumbing job. You're -- if those vessels go ahead and are stopped up, then you've got new vessels and a new blood supply.

KING: So, Karl, it's like a blocked exit on a highway, you create another exit?

KRIEGER: That's correct. We're creating another exit. Another way to look at it, as Wayne says, it's glorified plumbing. We're putting in some new pipes. We're not taking out the old pipes, but we're putting in new pipes around the obstructions.

KING: When will he be back at work, Wayne?

ISOM: Well, I think that depends. You know, I still recall -- I think you did your radio show one or two nights after your surgery.

KING: Yes, by -- from the bed.

ISOM: That's true.

KING: But it took me about four or five weeks to get back.

ISOM: I think it -- you know, your heart is in better shape when we finish, because it's got a new blood supply.

KING: Yes.

ISOM: But your stamina is decreased. And I think it takes three or four weeks before you really feel with a lot of stamina.

KING: Well, they are two of the best in the business.

Dr. Wayne Isom, Dr. Karl Krieger of Weil Cornell Medical Center in New York.

Thank you both very much.

ISOM: Thank you.

KING: And, Regis, if you're watching, we're all so glad to hear your doing fine.

Since we're friends, I was going to send you something, but I know you're asking that instead of gifts, donations be sent to the American Heart Association.

And Sean and I are happy to donate to this fantastic organization in honor of Regis.

And if you want to donate, too, go to

OK, coming up next, Mitt Romney -- the man who could become the first Mormon president in U.S. history, when LARRY KING LIVE returns.


KING: It's a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.


Why are you running?

MITT ROMNEY (R), 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: Well, I care very deeply about my kids and my grandkids and the kids and grandkids of America and I think I can make America a more prosperous and safe place.

KING: It is a kind of ego thing, isn't it, Mitt, to say hey, I'm the best person for this job?

M. ROMNEY: Well, no one can really think they're the best person. There must be, in America, a lot of people better than me. But I just happened to have had some experiences that I think prepare me to turn Washington around. It's a mess. We need change in Washington. We've seen too many years of people talking about problems, but not doing anything about it.

And I think I can actually make a real difference in Washington.

KING: Do you include Republican and Democratic administrations when you say mess in Washington?

M. ROMNEY: Oh, it's -- it's a two party phenomenon. You have -- it takes two to tango. It takes two not to tango. And, in a lot of respects, we've seen so much bickering and so much partisan divide and so much unwillingness to actually deal with the challenges we've got -- beating the Jihadists, becoming more competitive with Asia, raising the bar here in education and in health care, spending less money.

We've got to bring our spending down, keep our taxes down.

We've got some major challenges in this country and somehow the politicians talk, talk, talk, but they don't get the job done.

KING: How -- one of the things that would stand greatly to your credit is how did a Mormon win in Massachusetts?

M. ROMNEY: Well, that's a good question.

KING: Which is 99 percent Catholic.

M. ROMNEY: I think it's probably harder to win as a conservative Republican in Massachusetts than even as a Mormon.

But the truth is early on in the campaign, people are interested in things like your religion and other aspects like that. But as soon as they start watching you in debates and see you on TV, they start focusing on your positions on issues. They want to know where you stand on this issue and that. And I said if I ran, or if I won as governor, I would not raise taxes on the people of Massachusetts.

And we were facing tough times. I said I won't raise taxes. I won't go out and borrow more money. And I won't cut vital services. And, frankly, that was more attractive than the -- the posture that my opponent put out there and they didn't care about what religion I was, they didn't care about what party I was, they said this is the guy who is going to make Massachusetts better for working families.

KING: Let's get into a lot of things.

What do you make of the whole Mormonism issue?

M. ROMNEY: Well, I think the American people...

KING: Should it be or not be an issue? Is it fair to bring it up?

M. ROMNEY: Well, look, people can look at whatever they like. People are going to make an assessment of the person who is president of the United States, or that would be president, based on every piece of information they have. And I think if they take a look at me and my family, they'll say you know what?

This guy has got the same values that I have.

Look, my -- my religion's theology may be different than that of other faiths, but my religion is like other religions. It has its own unusual beliefs, for those who weren't born in the church and yet it has also taught me to be a better person than I would have been.

Look, I'm not perfect. But I have a better marriage because of my faith. My kids, I think, are better kids because of their faith. And I'm, frankly, a better person than I would have been otherwise.

KING: Speaking of faith, does someone, in your opinion, have to have faith to be a president?

For example, let's say someone had -- you ideologically totally agreed with someone and they turned out to be an atheist.

Would you vote for them?

M. ROMNEY: Well, I'd have to take the whole picture. I think the American public, generally, would like to have a person of faith lead the country. They want somebody who fundamentally believes that every single person is a child of god, that we're part of a human family. And as they look at someone suffering in some part of the world, they feel that a member of their family is suffering. And so I think we -- we tend to gravitate toward individuals from the very beginning of our country who had a basic fundamental belief in a divine creator.

We don't particularly make a distinction based on the brand of faith. But the values associated with -- with faith are -- those values are important.

KING: That would be -- that would be important to you in voting for someone?

M. ROMNEY: Well, those...

KING: That's a...

M. ROMNEY: A person's values...

KING: Yes?

M. ROMNEY: A person's values, what they believe, what they stand for, how they live their life, that's something that's very important to me.

KING: Let's discuss some current issues.

Iraq. Now today, Hillary Clinton said she wouldn't pull everybody out, she would leave some people in. We're going to have to stay there a while.

Barack Obama would pull everybody out.

McCain would give more troops.

Rudy Giuliani supports but hedges.

Where are you?

M. ROMNEY: Well, my view is that right now the right step for us to take is to support the commander-in-chief by putting in additional troops to make sure that Al-Maliki's government is taking the lead. I think we're seeing that the troop surge is beginning to show signs of working.

Now, I'm not wild about keeping any troops there any longer than we have to. But I think dividing the country in parts and then getting out, or just simply getting out, presents some risks to America that people have to stop and think about. Because if this country divides, either through civil war -- massive civil war -- or by our hand in helping divide it, you could well see the -- the Iranians play a dominating role among the -- the folks in the Shia south.

You could have al Qaeda play a dominant role among the Sunnis. You could have the borders with Turkey be disturbed by the Kurdish populations. And you could end up with a regional conflict with our having to be involved or impacted in some major ways. So, keeping a central government together is our first priority. I can't tell you it's 100 percent sure it's going to work, but it's the right next step and the troop surge is right.

KING: Would you agree, if you had to do it all over again, the Senate would not vote for this?

M. ROMNEY: Oh, I -- I can't predict what the Senate would do. But I think it's kind of hard to go back and say knowing what we know now.

KING: All right, but major mistakes have been made.

M. ROMNEY: Of course. There's no question but that we did an exemplary job in knocking down Saddam Hussein's government. But then after that, we have not done a fabulous job. We were under prepared and under planned. We weren't properly staffed. We weren't properly managed. And as a result, the situation we find ourselves in is, to some degree, part of our own making.

But that doesn't mean that you say well, we made a mistake, let's get out. It means you say what's the right thing to do right now for America?

And getting out right now could cause far more serious consequences than if we were able to stabilize Al-Maliki's government.

KING: Would President Romney talk to Iran, North Korea? Would he?

M. ROMNEY: You know, I'm willing to have our nation, through various emissaries, talk to everybody in the world. I like talk. I want to listen to my opposition's prevarications, if I have to.

But I -- so I'd keep the channels of communication open. But I would not give, if you will, an engaged kind of platform to Ahmadinejad in Iran, for instance. He needs to be isolated diplomatically. He needs to have economic sanctions putting pressure on him and his people to know that what they are doing is offensive to the world.

Talking, yes. But formal engagement, sitting down across the table, having one-on-one negotiations, don't do that. Have indirect discussions.

KING: If you don't do that, though, and the -- that commission suggested that we should do that -- that when you turn away, when you don't have discussions, you're missing great chances for leadership and to get ahead.

M. ROMNEY: Well, of course you talk. Of course you have an open channel. You let people know what you believe, what things you'd be willing to do if they'll do certain things. You have that communication.

But right now, Ahmadinejad is on thin ice. His people are very concerned about -- about his leadership. It may well be that Khamenei, as well, looking at him, is concerned about Ahmadinejad.

I don't want to do anything that hands him a lifeline and gives the perception to the people in Iran and the Middle East that we'll back down from the -- the promises we made, that we're willing to give him the respect and dignity of sitting across the table from our secretary of state.

That's not what I'd do.

KING: Would you agree Iraq will be the central issue in the campaign?

M. ROMNEY: Iraq, Iran, North Korea, without question. The...

KING: Foreign affairs?

M. ROMNEY: Foreign affairs will be critical. And the Jihadists in particular -- the need to develop a strategy to successfully overwhelm the jihad. And by that I mean violent Islamic attack on the world of Islam as well as us. That effort is going to be an ongoing effort and will be a central issue in the campaign.

KING: When we come back, a presidential endorsement -- key to victory, kiss of death?

We'll ask Governor Romney.

As we go to break, a look back at the moment Mitt made it official.


M. ROMNEY: And so, with them next to us, with the fine people of Michigan in front of me and with my sweetheart at my side, I declare my intention to run for president of the United States.



KING: Our guest is the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney.

His hat is in the ring for the Republican nomination for the presidency.

In 2002, on a NARAL -- N-A-R-A-L -- questionnaire, you said: "I respect and will protect a woman's right to choose."

You also told Planned Parenthood you supported the substance of "Roe v. Wade."

What changed?

M. ROMNEY: Well, you know, I've always been personally pro-life. But I've questioned what the role of government should be with regards to abortion. And in our state, we were having a debate about cloning, the creation of new embryos for purposes of harvesting stem cells. And as part of that discussion, I came to believe that if the people of a state want to enact pro-life, reasonable legislation, they ought to have the right to do so.

So my view is the right course is to allow states to make their own choice in this regard. And that makes me pro-life and I'm proud to be pro-life. I followed the same course in this regard and had the same education that both Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush had. They were pro-choice. They became pro-life. As they became leaders and they saw the impact of these decisions, they decided that life was the right course.

KING: But what -- what changed you from the total right of a woman's right to choose to let a state decide whether she has the right to choose?

M. ROMNEY: Well, I'd let each state make its own decision in that regard.

KING: Yes, but why should Mississippi tell its women you can't choose?

M. ROMNEY: Well, there are two lives involved. There's the life of the mom and there's also the life of the unborn child. So there are two lives involved and it's a real balance, as you look at the very difficult decision a mom has to make and, of course, a society has to make.

And I was sitting there in my office and I had the provost of Harvard University and the head of stem cell research telling me that creating these new embryos was not a moral issue because they destroyed them at 14 days.

And I imagined row after row of human embryos being destroyed at 14 days. And I said look, something is wrong in a society where we have so cheapened the value of human life that we think destroying human embryos at 14 days isn't a moral issue.

And I came out -- that was about two, two-and-a-half years ago. I wrote an op-ed piece in my paper and said look, I'm going to honor my promise that I made to you, but I'm going to come down on the side of life. And every decision I made as governor, I made on the side of protecting human life.

KING: The chief of staff of the American military said, the joint chiefs, said that he believes that being gay is -- I'm going to quote him exactly -- "is a sin" and that he's opposed to gays in the service.

Where are you?

M. ROMNEY: Well, you know, I think America is a compassionate nation and that we respect the right of other people to live their lives as they'd like to live them. I hope we can come together and be less divisive and bitter amongst our people. And so I'd like to show more tolerance and respect for others that live different lifestyles than we do.

So I think the choice of -- of words of the chief of staff were -- were inappropriate for -- for the public discourse. He can believe what he wants to. That's the great thing about America -- believe what you want.

But in a -- in a governmental setting, the right way to go is to show more of an outpouring of tolerance.

In my own view, I originally didn't think the don't ask, don't tell policy made a lot of sense. It seemed kind of silly to me.

But you know what?

It's worked. It's been in place now for over a decade. The military seems to be getting along pretty well with that rule. We're in the middle of a conflict right now. I wouldn't change it right now. Let's -- let's leave it the way it is.

KING: Did you support gay marriage in Massachusetts?

M. ROMNEY: Never have. I oppose gay marriage and civil union, if it's equivalent to gay marriage. And the reason for that is not because I -- I don't want to show respect and tolerance for other people, but because marriage is primarily about the development and nurturing of children. And children deserve a mom and a dad.

So I -- I support traditional marriage and have probably been in the center -- the center of the battlefield on all important social issues in America over the last several years -- not only gay marriage, where I opposed gay marriage, but also life, where I came down on the side of life; stem cell research, which I support, but I do not support creating new embryos for the purpose of destruction of those embryos.

Likewise, abstinence education in schools -- I'm in favor of that education.

So these issues have been front and center in Massachusetts and I've been, if you will, a strong advocate and defender of traditional American values.

KING: The major issue of the day -- should the attorney general resign?

M. ROMNEY: Well, we -- we collect facts and interview witnesses before we convict. And we don't have that information yet. Of course, with regards to a U.S. attorney, that's an appointment made by the president at his or her pleasure. And that's a political appointment. That means the president has a right to choose people who share his political philosophy.

On the other hand, we do not expect politicians to interfere with or meddle with investigations or stimulate investigations through political pressure.

So which has happened here?

Is it just a matter of carrying out political philosophy or was there political interference?

And that's something I think time will tell.

KING: Does it look suspicious, though, these eight?

M. ROMNEY: Well, I don't...

KING: All of whom seem to be investigating -- more Republicans and Democrats all get axed?

M. ROMNEY: You know, I think you have to look at each case and gather the information. It certainly raises questions and that's why there has been the public scrutiny and that's why I think you'll see Congress and others ask for more information.

Again, we don't mind people who carry out a political philosophy that's in line with the president, but we don't think that political pressure should be applied to pursue legal challenges or prosecutions.

KING: Would you want President Bush to endorse you?

M. ROMNEY: Of course. I'd like everybody to endorse me. I want the whole nation to endorse me.

KING: But some people say he's got a 31 popularity rate, I might want to run away from it.

M. ROMNEY: Look, I am proud of our president. He hasn't done everything perfectly. No one will. But there's no question in my mind that this president is a man of character and integrity. He loves his wife. He loves his family. And everything he does is done for the motivation of America and what's best for the children of America.

Has he been perfect?

Again, no.

But is he a man who's endorsement and support I would welcome?

Of course.

KING: Why -- you mentioned family. Family is very important to you as a leader and as a head of a family, because you think that's an important part of running a country?

M. ROMNEY: Well, I think that America's strength is critical to the preservation of peace in the world. A strong America is the best ally peace has. And if you want to have a strong America, you've got to have a strong economy. But you also have to have strong citizens. And there is no work done in America that's more important to its future than the work done in the families and in the homes of America. And so if I want to see a stronger America, I want to find ways to build stronger families. That means, by the way, more families that have moms and dads bringing kids into the world, less teenage pregnancy. We need to encourage marriage before kids.

KING: Right now, the lovely Ann Romney enters the studio and is about to take her seat next to her husband...

M. ROMNEY: I don't see a chair here. But it's...


M. ROMNEY: Oh, she's going to stand right here?

KING: Just leave your arm around him.

M. ROMNEY: OK. Great.

KING: We'll be right back.

Don't go away.


M. ROMNEY: And I have with me the person you really wanted to see, my wife Ann, my sweetheart and partner of now, well, 37 years, almost 38. Our anniversary is on March 21st. Ann Romney.



KING: We're back with Mitt Romney, the candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, former governor of Massachusetts. And his lovely wife, Ann. They were married in 1969. They have five sons. One of whom worked for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but just left.


M. ROMNEY: That's right.

KING: Ann, you admitted you were not on board when your husband first wanted to run for governor. What changed?

A. ROMNEY: You know, it was my son. My middle son. And he made the argument, dad, if you don't do it, you'll look back the rest of your life and wonder should I have done that?

KING: Why didn't you want him to run?

A. ROMNEY: Well, we already had a Senate race in Massachusetts against...

KING: And you ran the best race ever ran against Ted Kennedy.

A. ROMNEY: It was tough. Politics is tough. M. ROMNEY: Yes. But I still came in second.


A. ROMNEY: And, you know, we had just come off an enormous high of running the Olympics. And it was the most extraordinary experience. It was wonderful. And to think of getting back in that sort of tough environment was not something that I looked forward to.

KING: You were diagnosed in 1998 with multiple sclerosis. How are you doing?

A. ROMNEY: Excellent. Thank you so much. I'm feeling -- I feel wonderful.

KING: You use holistic medicine?

A. ROMNEY: I do.

KING: You don't use standard?

A. ROMNEY: I have used standard. And anyone with M.S., it is hard to -- every M.S. patient has their own issues and problems and they find what works for them and what works best for them. When I was in a very aggressive stage of M.S., and I was really just deteriorating so quickly, I was on intravenous steroids and it stopped the progression. It was a wonder drug for me.

Since then, I have used holistic things, health, trying to stay as healthy as I can, eating as healthy as I can. And I'm OK.

KING: Did Ann's health have any effect on your decision to run or not run?

M. ROMNEY: Absolutely. There is no question. I would not have gotten into this race if Ann's health were in a deteriorated state and relationship -- my relationship with her is the most important thing in my life. And we have done this together. And we gave it a lot of thought. She has been healthy since 19 -- well, let's see...

A. ROMNEY: Well, '98 I was...

M. ROMNEY: ... '99 -- '98-'99.

A. ROMNEY: Well, you think that, I mean, I was in pretty rough shape for a few years there.

M. ROMNEY: Since the Olympics and actually during part of the game, she has been pretty healthy. And so as we discussed it, she said this is important. We're really concerned about the nation we're going to leave our kids and grandkids and your kids and grandkids. That's the concern. And we watch Washington not making progress on important issues. And I think I can make a difference. That's why we're in it.

KING: One of the major side effects of M.S. is depression. Have you had that?

A. ROMNEY: No. I haven't. Fatigue, though, yes. My goodness, terrible fatigue. But no depression fortunately. Well, I should -- I'll take that back. When I was first diagnosed -- and I'm not sure if it was the M.S. speaking or just the diagnosis speaking, I think more the diagnosis, I was extremely depressed and he really helped me get over that, I must say. He was terrific.

KING: Why do you want to be first lady?

A. ROMNEY: You know, I don't think of myself as desiring that position. But I certainly hope that my husband gets in a position that he can have huge impact on the nation. And I can -- might have a little impact. So there...

KING: Do you agree with him on everything?



KING: What don't you agree with?

A. ROMNEY: I'm not going to tell you, Larry. I'm sure you would love to know.

KING: Well, no, it would be ridiculous if you agreed on everything. That would be -- no one would buy that.

A. ROMNEY: Yes. But I'm not going to put political wedges in there. There are some issues -- political issues that I don't agree with him.

KING: What kind of -- good. What kind of first lady would you be? Would you be more of the stay in the background don't say anything or more the Eleanor Roosevelt, here is what I think, Franklin?

A. ROMNEY: You know, I would hope -- I mean, everyone would hope to be a little bit like Eleanor Roosevelt. I think she was an outstanding first lady. Probably just outstanding. I admire her greatly.

M. ROMNEY: She's also my best counselor. There is no issue that is important to me, political or personal, in terms of personnel type issues, that I don't ask Ann's advice.

KING: Has her opinions ever affected you?

M. ROMNEY: Absolutely. She sees things I don't see. She makes a better character evaluator time and again than I do. She'll look at someone and say, look, this person you can't trust them. This person is good to the core. She's very good at assessing qualities of character and heart.

And so I seek her opinion and her advice. And sometimes she'll say, you know, what you said there wasn't very good. That didn't connect well. This is a better way to reach people. And she has got a good sense of that.

KING: As a mother and as a victim of a disease, don't you think embryonic stem cell research is one of the great chances for the future?

A. ROMNEY: think stem cell research is fantastic. But for me, when it comes to -- if there is a cure for the disease, I hope that it comes through the alternative methods of stem cell research, not creating new life to experiment on that new life.

You know, we were all embryos at one point. And if anyone, you know, can feel differently about that, but it is the conclusion that I came to and really it was just a heartfelt decision on my part to think, there is a life, it is my life that is maybe not the best it could be and there is another life that has been created to maybe make my life better. And I couldn't -- I couldn't go there.

KING: How do you feel about the Mormon issue?

A. ROMNEY: Well, you know, I'm a convert to the church. And so for me I'm a little bit more defensive I think than Mitt might be. And I just get, like, you know, come on, this is -- he's a great guy. Let's just get past this. And I think...

KING: Did you convert because you met Mitt?

A. ROMNEY: Not at all. I obviously was introduced to the church because I met Mitt. But he was away on his mission. It was 100 percent my decision and it is my faith, not, you know -- it was a personal decision, 100 percent personal decision and I'm true blue through and through.

KING: Where did you do your mission?

M. ROMNEY: I was in France. Bordeaux, Paris, all over France. A great learning experience to live overseas.

KING: Is it worthwhile?

M/ ROMNEY: Oh, it is a fabulous experience. Look, I was sort of having fun going to college and not worrying about the future. And then I went to a different country and saw how different life could be if we didn't have the values and the kinds of opportunities that exist in America. Made me love America more.

This was during the Vietnam War. And every door I went to said, you're American, get out of Vietnam. So it made me search my soul, talk about what is important to my friends and colleagues and make some decisions that made me when I came home much more studious.

KING: Some more moments with the Romneys, Mitt and Ann. I was telling Mitt during the break that I knew his father, George Romney, rather well, having interviewed him a few times. The former governor of Michigan. We'll be right back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. ROMNEY: This isn't the time for us to shrink from conservative principles. Now if you ask some liberals what is the source of America's strength, they're going to say -- if they're honest with you, they're going to say, it is government.

America must remain the world's military superpower. That's a first principle of conservatism. We shouldn't let Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid dictate our battle strategy to the commanders in the field or to the commander-in-chief.



KING: We're back with the Romneys. We hope this is the first of many visits because there are so many areas to cover. Personal life of a political candidate. Should it be an issue? Rudy Giuliani has been married three times. Does that mean anything?

M. ROMNEY: Well, look, religion, personal life, all of these things, the American people are going to take a close inspection of all of us. And I'm not going to...

KING: Does it mean anything to you?

M. ROMNEY: I look at the full character of the people who are considering running when I vote in the past. There are things I just dismiss as not being relevant. I look at the full character. I'm not going to give advice to the American people what they should look at. They're going to make that assessment on their own, decide what they think is the right person to lead the country.

I expect that they're going to look at their heart, their character, their passion. They're going to want to know what their views are on issues. They're going to wonder if they can lead the country to a position of prominence and greatness and bring back what we have always enjoyed.

A. ROMNEY: And I think we are very fond of Rudy. I think he is a terrific guy.

M. ROMNEY: No question about that. I have nothing but positive things to say about Rudy Giuliani, John McCain. They are American heroes, great guys. I respect them enormously and think...

KING: Do you think the same of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama?

A. ROMNEY: You know, anyone that is in a position that they're in, we have to give them credit. It is tough. It is tough to be out on the front line. And they obviously care about the country. We all love the country. And so I think we have to give the respect that people are due for just being out there and putting themselves in the line. M. ROMNEY: That doesn't mean you endorse them. Because frankly I think on the part of the Democrats, they would lead America where Europe is going. Their view is that we need more government, more taxes, more protection from being able to compete around the world.

My view is we need smaller government, smaller taxes, and we need to be able to compete globally with better technology and better schools, better health care here. I'm a believer in America's future. America is a great place. It is the hope of the world. Always will be. But Democrats are thinking they have to protect us from ourselves and have to have government take care of us. And I look and say, give us opportunity. Give us freedom. And we can lead the world.

KING: Would you agree though that Iraq has hurt you, as a party?

M. ROMNEY: As a party, absolutely. There is no question about it. The weaknesses and the management of the Iraq conflict over the last three to four years has really hurt this party. And people have asked, gosh, couldn't they do a better job of managing that war?

And we didn't manage it as a -- the administration, 100 percent effectively. But that being said, the question is now who can do a better job maintaining the strength of America and maintaining a future which is as bright for our kids as what we enjoyed.

KING: President Romney, would you give Scooter Libby a pardon?

M. ROMNEY: Well, it is way too early to talk about that, I think. I would like to see what the judicial process shows. And before I would ever give someone a pardon, I need a very careful review. As governor, I was in four years, as you know. A lot of people came forward for a pardon. I didn't give a single one.

KING: Not One?

M. ROMNEY: Not one, not one pardon. My view was, if a jury of peers said somebody was guilty, far be it for me to step in and take them out of jail. But the circumstances would have to be presented and studied thoroughly.

KING: Doesn't your faith tell you to forgive?

A. ROMNEY: Well, you can on a personal level certainly do that.

M. ROMNEY: Oh sure. Forgive, and that's absolutely right. But that doesn't mean a jury's verdict should be overturned if a jury believes that somebody has committed a crime, unless, of course, subsequent evidence shows that a crime was not committed, of course.

But in a setting where somebody has committed a crime, I think you have to recognize it is a very high burden to say, let's reverse the decision of a jury of peers.

KING: Would you accept a vice presidential nomination?

M. ROMNEY: Well, I'm running for president. I don't want to be vice president. I want to be president. And the reason for that is I think I can make a difference. And that being the case, I'm going to focus my eyes on the race I can win. And I think I can win this race and it is getting stronger and stronger.

I won the poll with the Conservative PAC a couple of weeks ago. I'm in a horse race now in the New Hampshire poll that just came out today. It is going to be a slow, steady build.

KING: You like this? You like running?

A. ROMNEY: You know, it has been an extraordinary experience. I -- there are parts of it that I absolutely love which is amazing to me. I love meeting the people. I wish everyone in America could have the opportunity we're having right now. They would feel so great about our country.

This is a great country with great people. It has been, to me, just an extraordinary experience. I've loved it. I love getting out and meeting the people. I loved that about being first lady of Massachusetts as well, to see all the different communities, what people are dealing with, what their lives are like, what their -- what we can do to make their lives better.

And I have such confidence in my husband that he would make an outstanding president.

KING: It is also interesting that Ted Kennedy thinks very highly of you and has said so publicly. You had a tough race with him.

M. ROMNEY: Well, I told you, I'll accept endorsements from anybody.


KING: He has often said that.

M. ROMNEY: Right. And he and I disagree on most issues. I love what Ronald Reagan said, by the way. He said, it is not that liberals are ignorant, it is just that what they know is wrong. And so when I talk to Ted Kennedy, we disagree on issues, but I respect him as an individual who cares about the country.

And we came together and found some common ground in health care. We found a way to get everybody health insurance because I think it make sense for people to have their own private health insurance. They don't have to worry about losing it if they lose their job.

And so we found a way to get that done in Massachusetts. It's one of the things I'm most proud of. I'm not sure it will be 100 percent perfect, we'll learn with time. But Ted Kennedy is a person who I was able to work with.

A. ROMNEY: He's a very hard working senator. Very hard working.

KING: Well, even those who disagree with him say how hard he works. Well, we'll be seeing lots of you. A. ROMNEY: Thank you.

KING: Hope you get better.

A. ROMNEY: I am better.

M. ROMNEY: Thanks, Larry.

KING: I hope the multiple sclerosis goes away.

A. ROMNEY: Oh, goes away, that would be great.

KING: Oh, quickly, quickly, what does Mitt mean?

M. ROMNEY: Gosh, my middle name is Mitt. And I was named after a guy named Mitt Romney, my dad's first cousin. He was quarterback for the Chicago Bears in the 1920s.

KING: But it is a baseball term.


M. ROMNEY: It is a baseball term. And then I named my oldest son Tagg. Can you believe it?


KING: Coming up, we ring the opening bell on what is sure to be the political boxing match of the night, Carville and J.C. Watts, David Gergen officiates. Don't go away.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Larry, at the top of hour, some breaking news on "360." New information about the role that Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, played in the firings of U.S. attorneys. The White House released e-mails today that show Rove may have had more to say than previously revealed. We'll have the e- mails.

And this, some shocking videotape released by the New York City Police Department, a shooting, two police officers executed in cold blood. They were unarmed. We'll show you the videotape and we'll look at the rise in crimes around the country. Violent assaults, murders up in double digits in some places. We'll try to figure out why that is happening and what can be done about it. All that and more at the top of the hour.


KING: All right. Let's get right to it with our political pros in Washington, J.C. Watts, CNN political contributor, Republican strategist, former congressman, a great football star too. James Carville, CNN political contributor, served as senior adviser to President Clinton. And the man of many cloths, David Gergen. He is in Fort Lauderdale. White House adviser to many presidents, editor- at-large U.S. News & World Report.

J.C. Watts, what do you make of Mitt Romney?

J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I -- Larry, that's first time I have really had a chance to hone in on what his message is, what he's saying, what he's saying concerning some critical issues. And, you know, I kind of liked what he said.

But I think it is way early yet. I think that every candidate out there is going to be trying to get on your show to kind of have 20, 30 minutes to tell their side of the story, explain their issues. And I think it is way early. But I obviously Mitt Romney and his wife, I can see, is going to be a real asset for him.


KING: She is. Mr. Carville, what do you think?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I thought he did pretty good. I thought he had a good performance. I think his wife is going to be interesting as the campaign progresses. She is obviously a woman with some pretty strong opinions.

She did a pretty good job of suppressing them tonight. But I thought that they looked good as a couple. I would give him a nice mark for his performance on your show tonight. I really would.

KING: And Mr. Gergen?

DAVID GERGEN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: He's almost picture perfect as a candidate, Larry, isn't he? He reminds me of John Edwards a lot, there are a lot of parallels. You know, both very attractive looking, they give good interviews. They are both running third behind two heavyweights but they both have a shot at coming up from the outside and taking it. He has got a long way to go. He does have some baggage.

WATTS: If Mitt wins the presidency, Larry, I want to be the one that goes up to him and messes up his hair.


CARVILLE: You want to mess mine up, J.C.?



KING: J.C., what you to make of this double-digit lead that Giuliani has?

WATTS: Not a whole lot, Larry. I think it is -- as I said, I think it is early. And I think Republicans -- Republican voters around the country are going to take a look at candidates. I think they are car shopping right now to see which car they want to buy.

I don't think that is anything that any other candidate ought to be concerned about. I think it is probably... KING: Really?

WATTS: ... driven in large part by celebrity. I don't think a lot of people really know Mayor Giuliani outside of the fact that he did a very good job as mayor of New York at a very difficult time. But I think people are still kind of shopping right now.

KING: Mr. Carville, are you surprised at the apparent slippage of John McCain?

CARVILLE: No. I'm not. It strikes me from a distance as he looks like he has just lost a lot of his energy, a lot of his passion. I think by nature he is sort of an insurgent, a guy who kind of rails against the system. Either he has people that convinced him that to go mainstream and he just wasn't very effective at it.

Now as I understand it, he's changing his strategy a little bit. Is going to go back as more of an outsider, maybe he'll do better. I have not been impressed with his campaign at all so far.

KING: Mr. Gergen, is Gingrich going to make -- is he going to get in it?

GERGEN: It looks like it. We're hearing, you know. He was going to make it in within a matter of days. I think he's going to be a long shot. But he has clearly got the most interesting mind of anybody on the Republican side. He has got a very inventive and he'll be interesting. The discourse will be terrific.

But, you know, given where his past -- if he ever gets really close to it, the reporters are going to do a number on him and may just well prevent him from going anywhere.

KING: We'll take a quick break. When we come back, we'll talk about the heat on the attorney general, right after this.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Am I running? Yes, I am. I mean, sure I'm running.

M. ROMNEY: I declare my intention to run for president of the United States.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My candidacy for president of the United States of America.

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



KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, Suzanne Somers, an emotional return to the site of the home she saw burn to the ground in recent Malibu wildfires. Plus, the hilarious Chris Rock. And don't forget, Monday, presidential hopeful Barack Obama, all coming up on LARRY KING LIVE.

Last night our question of the night was, does a presidential candidate's religion matter? Sixty-three percent of you said yes. All right, we have limited time. J.C., what is going to happen to the attorney general of the United States?

WATTS: Larry, I don't know. But I think the attorney general has got to search his heart. I believe that the president of the United States has a right to fire the people that he hires. But there is just some things that doesn't smell very good about this latest situation with the U.S. attorneys.

KING: James?

CARVILLE: Well, I think he's going to resign. And I think the Democrats believe that this is not a question of just replacing people. I think that they believe very deeply that the administration was using U.S. attorneys to persecute Democrats and protect Republicans. And maybe if they prove it, it will -- this will be a scandal like none we have ever seen. If they don't, it will go away.

KING: David, should he leave?

GERGEN: He's going to be forced out, Larry. The blood is in the water. The sharks are going to get him. And these new memos that came out -- have come out tonight showing that the White House was having conversations about this much earlier than has been acknowledged so far, only deepens it and ensures there is going to be a big set of hearings and Karl Rove is going to be called up to the Hill. This is going to be a real mess for them. I think he is going to leave.

KING: Won't the president try to keep him from testifying?

CARVILLE: I don't think they can keep it -- no, I think as a cabinet member, it's going to be the most difficult. They might have better luck and they're going to try like the dickens to not have Rove and people in the White House staff...

KING: That's what I mean, Rove.


GERGEN: They'll try, but I just don't think that -- I'm not sure they can get away with it this time. You know, this is -- if they had been straight to begin with. I don't think they would be under this pressure. But now with the Democrats in charge, I think it is going to be darn hard to keep him from volunteering to go up there.

WATTS: And then, Larry... KING: Thank you, guys...

WATTS: ... I think he makes it a bigger political...

KING: ... we're out of time, J.C....

WATTS: ... mess if that's the case.

KING: He doesn't. All right. Lots more time next time, fellows, J.C. Watts, James Carville, David Gergen. Sorry about the limited time. A little late folks, so good night, as Bob Hope used to say. Let's turn it over to Anderson Cooper. Lots happening with Anderson tonight on "AC 360" -- Anderson.

COOPER: Larry, thanks very much.