Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Larry King Live
Discussion of Kirk Douglas's autobiography, "Let's Face It," Deepak Chopra's new book, "Buddha, a Story of Enlightenment," and Lucinda Frank's new book, "My Father's Secret War." James Patterson, Allen B. Clark discuss the inspiration for their novels.
Aired May 19, 2007 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, movie legend Kirk Douglas. What's eating him?
KING, HOST: Are you angry?
KIRK DOUGLAS, ACTOR: Yes.
KING: And then...
DEEPAK CHOPRA, AUTHOR: When was the last time you heard of a Buddhist terrorist?
KING: Deepak Chopra has got questions and answers."
CHOPRA: The answers to some of the deepest mysteries of existence.
KING: Plus, she thought her father was just a cold dysfunctional gun nut, until she learned his top secret past as the war hero Super Spy.
LUCINDA FRANKS, AUTHOR: When he told me about the second assassination he did, I nearly had a heart attack.
KING: That incredible true story and a lot more next on "LARRY KING LIVE."
(on camera): A great pleasure to welcome a great friend of this program and to your's truly, Kirk Douglas, the legendary Hollywood star of such classics as "Spartacus," "Bad and the Beautiful," "Lust for Life," author of a new autobiography called "Let's Face It."
That book, by the way, is number 13 on the L.A. Times best seller list. Didn't you write an autobiography already?
DOUGLAS: I wrote -- this was my third.
KING: Third autobiography?
DOUGLAS: No, fourth.
KING: Fourth autobiography. DOUGLAS: "The Ragman's Son," and I wrote "Climbing the Mountain," with a (inaudible) theme. Then, when I got my stroke, I wrote my "Stroke of Luck." And then, my last book is "Let's Face It."
KING: Do you fear dying?
DOUGLAS: No, no. Larry, first, I was in a helicopter crash. Two people died. One was 18 years old. He was getting ready to attend his senior prom. I'm almost 75. I said "God, why didn't I die? I lived 75 years." So who can -- that's beyond our control.
KING: But you don't fear it?
DOUGLAS: I don't think so.
KING: "Let's Face It" takes on a lot of issues. It was fun to read, as well as very serious, and you can read it really in one sitting. Are you angry?
DOUGLAS: Yes. Yes, I have always been a little angry. I think, Larry, anger is something that pushes you forward.
See, I'm angry that we live in such a world. Really, people putting a gun and blowing themselves up. Now we have the women doing it. We have genocide. We have poverty. We lack education, even in our country.
And my country, we are a superpower. We should show the world by example, not by military might, but by example. I think we have to make a formal apology about slavery.
KING: Some states have.
DOUGLAS: North Carolina, they have instituted it.
DOUGLAS: But more than that, we should apologize like a Marshall Plan for Africa. And for the genocide, starvation, poverty, AIDS. We should do something.
KING: We sure should, and it's amazing we don't. Do you have a title when you turn 100? I mean it.
DOUGLAS: When I wrote "Let's Face It -- at 100, I said I don't want to face it.
KING: That's a great title. Do you miss acting? I know you've done a little. There's a theater named after you in Los Angeles. My God, what you've obtained.
DOUGLAS: Not really.
DOUGLAS: Although there's not many parts for an old guy with impaired speech. But last week I got a script. I was tempted.
KING: A script?
DOUGLAS: For a guy my age, 75.
KING: Are you going to take it?
DOUGLAS: I don't know. I'm not so interested in acting. I think I've done my share of acting.
KING: And you have Michael.
DOUGLAS: He's one of my favorite actors. He's terrific. We were together last week. He came over. He had a golf tournament. He has two wonderful kids, Dillon and Kareth (ph). Kareth (ph) is three years old and they call me Pappy. And they say, Kareth (ph), have Pappy go and see, see.
KING: Michael is a wonderful guy. His wife ain't bad either. I was in her movie, "America's Sweethearts."
KING: I had a great time working with her.
I want to talk about other things in a minute with Kirk Douglas, the legendary actor. And this is a terrific read, "Let's Face It, 90 Years of Living, Loving and Learning." He packed it all in. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGLAS: Get that look off your face. Who gave you the right to dig into me and decide what I'm like? How do you know how I feel about you, how deep it goes?
The people I know either like you or they don't. They don't like you one day and change completely the next minute.
LAUREN BACALL, ACTRESS: They're rather dull, aren't they?
DOUGLAS: Well, at least you know where you stand with them.
KING: We're back with Kirk Douglas, the author of "Let's Face It."
Jack London passed away recently. He was going to be a guest on this show. He was a wonderful fellow and your best friend?
DOUGLAS: Yes, for 45 years. I cemented a friendship years ago when I came to Washington, Larry, to meet with the head of USIA (ph). We were going to a foreign country as an ambassador of goodwill and talk about America. I was in the reception room and I kept waiting for my interview. I called Jack. He was an aide to President Johnson. He said come over here and wait. I came over there and within two minutes I was sitting in the Oval Office talking to the president of the United States. So I forgot about my interview.
KING: He was a special guy. Now he died of a stroke.
DOUGLAS: A massive stroke. Two days before he had the stroke he came to visit me in New York. I was giving a talk at the 82nd Street Y. He was so -- Jack had such vitality. Two days later, I was holding his hand. He was in a coma and never came out of it. I couldn't believe it. He was a great guy and a great friend.
KING: A couple other things. What are your thoughts about Iraq?
DOUGLAS: Well, you know, it's easy to get hindsight. We should never have started the war and I'm not smart enough to know how to end it. People say take the troops all back. Is that the right thing? I don't know. I'm not start enough.
At my age, what made me almost cry when every day when I see the list of young people, 19, 20, 21, who were killed in the war. I wish I had a magic formula to present to end the war, but I don't.
KING: How's your health?
DOUGLAS: It's good. You know, when you have a stroke, I tell you -- see, I'm usually talking much more rapidly. But when you have a stroke, you have to talk slowly. And I've discovered that when I talk slowly, people listen.
KING: Are you aware of the way you sound?
DOUGLAS: Not really. Not really. I ask people, like I say, did they understand me. Or I say, honey, I have an injury, I don't think I will be able to talk. She said when they put a mike in front of you, you will talk.
KING: I will never forget that night at the Academy Awards with your son.
DOUGLAS: That was the first time I spoke in public after my stroke. I was just going to say thank you when Steven Spielberg presented me. But then I saw about 2,000 people sitting there, and I said I have to say more than that.
KING: Do you watch your old movies?
DOUGLAS: No, no. But a few weeks ago, I came home and turned up the television and there was a movie. I said what movie is that. I sat there watching it. Suddenly, it came up close-up. It was Michael. It was Michael.
KING: You give our love to everyone at home.
DOUGLAS: Thank you. KING: I salute you, as usual. Much longer life.
DOUGLAS: Thank you.
KING: Kirk Douglas, "Let's Face It, 90 Years of Living, Loving and Learning."
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
DOUGLAS: We must stay true to ourselves. I do know that we're brothers and I know that we're free. We march tonight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome to "LARRY KING LIVE." A dear friend, Deepak Copra, the New York Times best-selling author who's newest work is "Buddha, a Story of Enlightenment.
Now, Deepak Chopra, is this fiction?
CHOPRA: Parts of it is fiction, Larry. I looked at all the things that were happening in the life of the Buddha externally, but then I went into his mind. I said what was he going through as he sought the answers to some of the deepest mysteries of existence. How are we? Where do we come from? What happens after we die? Do we have a soul? Does God exist? Why is there suffering in the world? I had to imagine a lot of what he was doing while trying to vanquish his own demons.
KING: How do you do that?
CHOPRA: You look at the history. Then you look at all of the mythological stories. Then you go to these actual historical places. And then you have a sense of what must have been the struggle.
KING: How did Buddha go from human to higher consciousness?
CHOPRA: Well, when he was a young prince there was a prediction by the royal as astrologers that either he would become a monk or he would rule the world. And his father, who was the king, was very scared that he would become a monk. So he surrounded him with pleasure. In fact, he built a pleasure palace for him.
But one day, the young prince saw an old man and he asked his best friend, he said, "Does everyone get old?" And his best friend said yes. He said, "Will I get old?" And his friend said yes.
The next day, they saw a sick man and he said, "What's that?" They said, "That's a very sick man." And the young prince said, "Does everyone get sick?" And his friend said yes. He said, "Will I get sick?" He said, "If you live long enough, you will."
And finally, the third day, they saw a dead man, a corpse. And the little prince was very scared. He said, "Does everybody die?" And his friend said, "Yes, ultimately, everybody dies."
So that started his inner turmoil, he inner anguish, his inner journey. He had tried everything from extreme asceticism to extreme pleasure and everything in between. And finally, he realized nothing extreme will ever lead to enlightenment?
KING: Are you a Buddhist?
CHOPRA: I am a secular person, but I think Buddhism is the most secular spirituality.
In today's age of conflict and violence, we need to understand how higher consciousness and spontaneously changes how we think, how we feel, how we behave, how we relate to other people, how we have personal relationships, how we need the environment to be healthy.
This is a secular spirituality that has great significance because, once you understand the deeper significance of Buddha's teachings, you realize the only way to solve the problems of the world is through creativity, which comes from realizing how that's connected to all that exists.
KING: Did Buddha know what he had obtained in his lifetime?
CHOPRA: Yes, he did. At a very young age, he did understand. And the world Buddha simply means one who is awake, someone who is aware. He never pretended to be a messiah or messenger of God. In fact, he never mentioned God in all his teachings. He said all you have to do is be aware, to be mindful, to know that everything isn't permanent. If you create the impermanent, then you will suffer. If your ego takes over, you will suffer. If you don't understand the meaning of death, you will suffer. The key to all of this is to recognize that your consciousness, which is behind your thoughts, is the same consciousness, which is responsible for all of the intelligent activity of the universe.
It was an extraordinary insight 2500 years ago. And today, scientifically, we are just beginning to understand what he meant by consciousness.
KING: So he was close to the time of Christ?
CHOPRA: He was about 500 years before Christ. .
KING: Did Christ know of Buddha?
CHOPRA: No. Christ came about 500 years later. Buddha had emissaries that went all over Sri Lanka and Cambodia and Vietnam and China and Japan. It was basically the first philosophy, or you might say way of life or spirituality that India was responsible for, in a sense, colonizing the world, not through weapons, but through compassion, love and kindness and understanding.
KING: Does this have a possibility of a film?
CHOPRA: That's how it started out. I was inspired to write this book by a film director, the same director who produced the Academy Award-winning movie "Elizabeth," who had a lot of good accolades. I spent some time with the director and he inspired me to write this.
And, of course, if you've seen the book, then you see that Brian Grazer, who produced "A Beautiful Mind," and Peter Goober, who produced "Rain Man," have enthusiastically endorsed the book. So I'm looking forward to a possible movie.
KING: How widespread is Buddhism?
CHOPRA: It is one of the fastest growing religions in the West, also right now. American Buddhism is on the rise. It's all over Southeast Asia. It's, of course, not as big as Christianity or Islam. But because it's secular nature -- you know, when is the last time you heard of a Buddhist terrorist? It is getting a lot of popularity. And, of course, we have the Dali Lama, who is the total embodiment of sweetness and love and compassion and understanding as the symbolic representative of this great religion of compassion.
KING: Thank you, Deepak.
CHOPRA: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Deepak Chopra. The book is "Buddha, a Story of Enlightenment." We'll be right back.
KING: We now welcome an extraordinary lady to "LARRY KING LIVE." She's wife of Bob Morgenthau, the long-time district attorney of New York. But more than that, the youngest journalist ever to win a Pulitzer Prize, the author of "My Father's Secret War." There you see its cover. A personal account of her investigation into her father's secret past and her struggle to reconnect after decades of estrangement.
Why did you bother with the project?
FRANKS: My father was called a failure all his life. He was remote. He was inaccessible, Larry. At the end of his life, I found out that he had been not a failure, but a hero. I wanted to set the record straight.
During his life, I didn't respect him. And I didn't really know him until the last three years. I kind of wanted to make up for that time.
KING: Why didn't you respect him?
FRANKS: Because he failed in his marriage. He failed in his job. But more than anything, he failed as a parent. He was remote and inaccessible and an enigma. He had guns hidden around the house. I found a gun under my mattress once. I thought he was paranoid. I only knew later that those guns probably saved the family life.
KING: Your father, who you thought was a naval officer in World War II, was actually involved in dangerous espionage work. How did you uncover it?
FRANKS: It was not easy. I had to use every reporter's strategy in the book to get my father to talk. He stonewalled me and he said he had taken an oath of silence never to talk about any of his missions.
But finally there came a time when he forgot he was supposed to forget and his wartime activities just tumbled out. I was able to confirm them by going to the national archives, by going to his military records in the St. Louis military records personnel bureau, and other archives, and to build up circumstantial evidence for what he had done.
KING: Was he OSS?
FRANKS: He was a troubleshooter. He was every place. He was OSS. He was naval intelligence. He worked with the SOE, which was the British version of the OSS. He was all over the place. He went into a holocaust camp and saw things he never got over. He was a small-town boy, and he'd never seen anything like it. He was an assassin. And he told me...
KING: What was that like to hear that your father killed people?
FRANKS: When he told me that he had posed as a Nazi officer and broken into Nazi headquarters to obtain the files in which resistance members were listed for execution, and he was broken in on by a Nazi sergeant and killed him, I thought he was wonderful. I thought that was great. But when he told me about the second assassination that he did, I nearly had a heart attack. And I don't think I've ever gotten over it.
KING: And what was that?
FRANK: Well, he had a friend who was an undercover agent who he worked with, a Frenchman. It was at the end of the war, and he found out that the undercover agent was a spy for the Russians, a double agent, and that he recommended to his superiors that he be eliminated so that he didn't get the weaponry that the U.S. was looking for and would give them an advantage in every area.
KING: You also had to interview his mistress. Wasn't that emotionally difficult?
FRANKS: Definitely. I had hated her all my life, and I knew I had to approach her. I didn't even know her, but when my father told me about her, I burst into tears because I had always wanted to bring my parents together -- because after the war, when my father changed completely, their marriage just went south.
So when I found out about her, I was brokenhearted to go to her, to ask did she know what my father had done -- because she was the only one he could confide in. She was the only one who -- she was the only one who knew him as he was after the war, not comparing him as he was before the war, and so I went to her, and I found out all sorts of leads. I also found out she was a wonderful person. KING: He has a butterfly collection with the New York Museum of Natural History? Your father also collected butterflies?
FRANKS: Yes. Well, he was an expert in everything he did. He was a butterfly collector. His collection at the Museum of Natural History is deemed the best of anyone - that anyone has ever donated. He was a crack marksman. He had a deadpan demeanor, a photographic memory, nerves of steel. He could become anything that anybody wanted him to become. In a matter of days he would be an expert at it. So he was great at his job and disguising himself.
KING: Lucinda, this might get you another Pulitzer.
FRANKS: Well, thank you, Larry.
KING: It's a great book. My best to Bob Morgenthal (ph), your incredibly talented husband, and again, I highly recommend...
FRANKS: And somebody who helped me with the book tremendously.
KING: I'm sure he did. "My Father's Secret War: A Memoir" -- everyone should read this book. Lucinda Franks, a previous winner of the Pulitzer Prize -- in fact, the youngest woman ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. We'll be right back.
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE the incredible - there's no other word to describe him -- James Patterson, the award-winning American author. He has sold more than 130 million books. "Time" magazine named him "The Man Who Can't Miss."
His new one is "Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports." That is his third in the Young Adult Series; it will be out May 29.
How many books have you written?
JAMES PATTERSON, AUTHOR: I don't know. A lot. Forty or so -- six this year.
KING: Sometimes you -- six so far this year - and sometimes...
PATTERSON: Six by the end of the year, yes.
KING: Sometimes you pair up with other writers. How does that occur?
PATTERSON: I have more ideas than I could possibly do. I've got a big folder at home - and I guess it's sort of like some of the film directors, like a Spielberg or whatever, that there are more stories than he could possibly direct by himself. On some I kind of direct, co-write, produce a little.
KING: Your most famous character, I'm sure you would admit, is Alex Cross. He became one of America's most memorable heroes, movies. He's a black former policeman now in the FBI.
Why did you choose as your hero a black figure -- with a wonderful black aunt, black children, black girlfriends -- when you are white?
PATTERSON: I am?
You know, I grew up in a small town, upstate New York, and my grandparents had a little restaurant. The cook there was a black woman, and when I was 4 or 5, she moved into our house, and I wound up spending a lot of time with her family -- and they were funny and wise, and the food was good and the music was good, and in some ways, I preferred at times being with her family as opposed to being with mine, and I think that influenced me in terms of the Cross family.
KING: How - why - how did you get into the theme of the thriller?
PATTERSON: I like thrillers. I'm disappointed with Hollywood because they seem to have forgotten how to make thrillers -- but I - they just keep the adrenaline flowing, they - you know the nice thing about thrillers and people that love them is their appreciation is so honest.
Sometimes you take opera or ballet, and you just feel that some people truly do love it, but some people seem to be a little pretentious about it. When people say they love a thriller, it's honest, it's genuine, they really, really, really like what they are reading, or watching in the movies.
KING: As I said, I think I've read all your books, and you are a great thriller writer. Where do the ideas -- are you always pouring out ideas?
PATTERSON: Yes. Yes, I'm always writing. On the way here I almost had a car accident. I wrote down a couple of ideas. I'm just always coming up with notions for new books.
And now with the YA stuff, like "Maximum Ride," that is a whole other arena for me. My thing about getting kids reading - and if you are watching, you are a grandparent, or a parent or whatever - get kids books that they are going to love. And you're probably going to have to buy them because the kids won't buy them for themselves.
KING: What age are you writing for in "Maximum Ride"?
PATTERSON: Ten to 110.
KING: When you say "young adult"...
PATTERSON: It's a little like Harry Potter. You know, a lot of adult - we know from the first two books a lot of adults are reading them, too.
KING: What's the key to writing to an age group of, let's say, 17 years old?
PATTERSON: I think, don't write down. Don't insult their intelligence. They are as bright as we are. They just don't have quite as much experience.
Understand that they are very impatient, they want things to move along. I used to go out - I would go on tour, and people would come up to me, and sometimes with tears in their eyes, and they would say, "You got my kid reading." That is really what stimulated me to do this, plus the fact that I have a 9-year-old now.
PATTERSON: You're laughing.
KING: James Patterson -- I know the routine -- will be inducted into the "Guinness Book of World Records" - get this -- for being the only author to write five No. 1 best-selling titles two years in a row. "Forbes" magazine says that his novels have grossed more than $1 billion in sales.
Are you stung when Stephen King said you write "dopey thrillers"?
PATTERSON: Oh, I don't know. Whatever. I mean, everybody's got an opinion. There are thousands of people that don't like what I do, and, fortunately, there are millions who do. So, I'll take the millions and, you know, the billions.
KING: How did you come up with the idea to have feminine heroes -- or heroines?
PATTERSON: I grew up in a house full of women - mother, grandmother, three sisters, two female cats -- and I still have that kind of "chatter" in my head. I find it easy to write about female characters.
I have a series, Women's Murder Club -- it's for women. There's a pilot now with Angie Harmon for ABC, and she is spectacular. She is so, so, so good. She will be a major star, I think. And that's all women in that series.
KING: When I first met James Patterson, you were the youngest CEO of J. Walter Thompson, right?
PATTERSON: Those were the days.
KING: And you were writing books at the same time -- the Thomas Berrymans, I remember that. In fact, you came up with "Toys 'R Us kid," right?
PATTERSON: I came up with the line, yes. A very talented woman named Linda Kaplan wrote the song and the jingle and...
KING: James, you are a great - I thank you.
"Maximum Ride" is your newest - "Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports." Are we going to have an Alex Cross novel again soon?
PATTERSON: We will have an Alex Cross in the fall - "Double Cross."
KING: "Double Cross"?
Thank you, James. James Patterson -- the best at what he does.
We'll be right back.
KING: It's good to see her again. We welcome Kathleen Kennedy Townsend to LARRY KING LIVE, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, former deputy assistant attorney general in the Clinton White House, the eldest child of the late Robert Kennedy and the author of the new book, "Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way."
What led you to write this?
KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND, AUTHOR: I wrote it because I had grown up in this very Catholic family in which we were taught to love our neighbor and fight for justice and the common good, and that's what my faith had meant to me, Larry.
And I looked around at what was going on with religion today, and it just seemed that it had been hijacked, that they've -- the churches -- it seemed that they've "shrunk" God, and it really upset me, and I thought I wanted to recapture that great sense of faith that I had grown up with and that I think is a great part of our country's history.
KING: Are you including your own church?
TOWNSEND: I am. I actually wrote about my own Catholic church, which I love -- and I go to church on a weekly basis, not a daily basis, like my mum.
But, you know, it seems that they've really focused on women as not sort of being worthy in the way that they don't allow women priests, and they won't allow women to be bishops or cardinals or even deacons. They focused on abortion as sort of the one sin that, of course, men can't commit. And I'm asking them, my own church, "Stop, wait, look at what you're doing."
KING: How, when you say it has been captured - who have captured the churches? What changed them?
TOWNSEND: I think that there are two things that have changed. I think really the Catholic Church, my own church, got afraid of women.
If you look in the Catholic history, women were called "misbegotten males" and "the devil's gateway," and I think what they -- the beginning of the women's movement, they really said, "Whoa, what's happening?" and they just got afraid of what would happen if women became part of the church. Partially, they are probably afraid of change, but partially, it's just afraid -- they are afraid of women.
And then with the Protestants, I think it came out of the - after the Civil Rights Movement, the Brown v. Baord Education, when rather than integrate, many of these leaders and communities formed Christian academies.
I just said, you know, that that is really not what our Judeo- Christian tradition teaches. What it teaches - you know, there are 2,100 passages about how we are supposed to care about justice and the least among us and reaching out to our neighbors and being kind to others.
What I find from the churches is they are condemnatory, they are telling us who is worthy and who is not worthy. I'm asking ourselves, "Can't we be better than that? Can't we have a more open heart to those who are not like us?" I think that we are put on earth to help those who are not well off, not just to think of ourselves.
KING: Are you particularly taking on what might be called "Religious Right"?
TOWNSEND: I am absolutely taking on the Religious Right. I think that they have been so harmful.
I mean, they focus on three areas: abortion, same-sex marriage and stem cell research. It is as though those are the only three issues or only three areas that we are supposed to care about -- none of them, by the way, mentioned in the Bible.
What is mentioned in the Bible is taking care of the least among us, being good neighbors. I think it really comes out of this sort of "shrinking" of God, as though God cares only about these narrow issues.
I believe that the church has been so wrong -- and actually, I think the good news is now that they're starting to change. You can see the National Association of Evangelicals are starting to say we should care about the poor, we should care about global warming, but there is a fight now among the Christian Right as to which direction they are going to go in. My heart is hopeful that they are going to see the light.
When I started this book, I have to say, I was just devastated and so upset and saddened by what had happened to the churches.
You know, if you look at American history, every progressive movement that we've had in our history has had strong people of faith leading it, from the Abolitionist Movement, to the Social Gospel, to the Labor Movement in the 30s and 40s -- the Jesuits had 300 labor organizing schools -- the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-war movement against Vietnam. We've always had people of faith at the forefront, and what I think is important for our progressive politics in America is to embrace that wonderful tradition and say we can do better than what is happening right now.
KING: Do you expect religion to play a big factor in the 2008 elections?
TOWNSEND: I think it will. I think that there has actually been a kind of interesting shift between the Democrats and Republicans.
You see now Democrats such as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, all speaking about faith, talking about how their faith calls them to care for the poor, whereas the Republicans have a harder time because you can see many of the Republican candidates are switching their positions on abortion, or same-sex marriage, and so there is a lot of backpedaling that is going on.
Actually, it is a very interesting turn of events, and I think a helpful and hopeful one because I don't think that faith should be used to condemn others. I think it should be used to try to embrace others...
KING: Kathleen, thank you so much.
TOWNSEND: ... and I think that's what we're learning - good to talk to you.
KING: Keep on keepin' on.
TOWNSEND: Thanks. You do, too.
KING: Kathleen Kennedy Townsend - her book is "Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches are Mixing God with Politics and Losing Their Way."
Back with our remaining moments and extraordinary guest, Allen Clark, right after this.
KING: Joining us now from Dallas, Texas, an extraordinary American, Allen B. Clark, author of "Wounded Soldier, Healing Warrior: A Personal Story of a Vietnam Veteran Who Lost His Legs But Found His Soul."
His military commendations include Silver Star for gallantry in action, Purple Heart and the Combat Infantryman's Badge, appointed to high level position in Department of Veterans' Affairs in George Bush No. 41, and currently operates a lay ministry helping veterans recover emotionally and spiritually from adverse wartime experiences.
What was the hardest thing to get over, to accept losing what you lost and going on?
ALLEN B. CLARK: Well, Larry, it was not just my legs, which was obviously the physical aspect, but eight months into my hospitalization in 1968 I went without sleep for four days.
I had really started getting really scared about what I was going to do with my life as a double-leg amputee and the horror of my amputation, and I was in a closed psychiatric ward for 14 weeks. So I had what you would call external precipitating stress for severe post- traumatic stress disorder.
KING: How did you get through it?
CLARK: Well, No. 1, I was in the closed ward, and I had psychiatric care, I had counseling and I had antidepressants for the 14 weeks, and I had to see a psychiatrist for six years.
I was always ashamed that I had, quote, "broken," and I wasn't strong enough. I was a West Point graduate, regular Army officer assigned Army Special Forces. How could I - how could this happen to me, you know?
But it was by my faith walk and my faith in the Lord. So after six years of psychiatrists and antidepressants, in 1973, from then on, because of my faith I have been able to break away from it and go on to a functional life.
KING: Did you have that faith before?
CLARK: Well, you know, in our plateauing of our faith, there is that acceptance of your Savior, and for me as a teenager that's what happened in my Christianity. And then in 1973, I just kind of went to another level of my faith, where I believe very strongly in prayer, No. 1, and, No. 2, I really began to understand this great eternal struggle between good and evil in the world and God versus the devil, candidly.
KING: Who is "Wounded Soldier, Healing Warrior" written for?
CLARK: It is written for anyone out there that has had traumatic experiences in life and needs encouragement. I mean, to see the things that I have been through - double-leg amputation, post- traumatic stress disorder. My first wife divorced me after 30 years. My parents both died of severe cancer within 14 weeks of each other, significant, traumatic financial challenges in the 1980s in the Texas real estate market -- and all of these challenges and I've worked my way through them by the grace of God.
And so, it is not only for veterans to see that they can come out of these dysfunctions that we begin to have after our wartime experiences, but others can have encouragement that you can go on.
KING: Allen, are you bitter about the Vietnam War?
ALLEN: Not anymore. I was at one time, and I was actually angry at God at one time. I said, "Why me?" And I said, "Wait a minute, Allen. I mean, you're a West Point graduate, volunteered to be a cadet, you volunteered for Vietnam, you volunteered for Army Special Forces. You put yourself in harm's way. How can you now be bitter? You put yourself there, and you've suffered the consequences, but you were a proud soldier," which I was.
I'm angry at the mistakes that were made in the Vietnam War, as I'm angry at the mistakes that are being made, or have been made and continue to be made in certain ways for Iraq and Afghanistan. But I'm a soldier and I'm a patriot, and I believed in what I was doing at the time, and mistakes are made because we are human beings.
KING: Do you think we ought to think about leaving Iraq?
CLARK: I have thought often about this. I went to Walter Reed to the amputee ward and spoke with a Marine lieutenant who an amputee and several other people that are just back from the war and are suffering extensive post-traumatic stress disorder, and I believe that there is a larger strategic national security purpose for us and many other countries in the world to be served by continued involvement there and a success to bring that challenge to a successful conclusion with a democratic government.
KING: But you know it's hard when the public turns.
CLARK: No question about it, and one big difference today and my war, Larry, is that we were vilified as the warriors -- not just the war, but the warriors, and I'm just very grateful that today the American public may be against the war, but they honor the military people, and that's just a great thing to be happening.
KING: One of the high points in your life was the special award from President Reagan, right?
CLARK: Yes, yes. I was honored at the White House in 1984. I am of Hispanic heritage on my mother's side, and to have honored me there in the White House was an incredible experience for me.
KING: You are Hispanic?
CLARK: Well, my mother's name is Amalia Delafuente (ph), and she is of Hispanic heritage.
KING: You worked with, or for, Ross Perot?
CLARK: Yes. My first job after graduate school that I came back to after the military was with Ross Perot as his personal financial assistant in 1970. I had another breakdown when I was working for him, and I had to go have pills again and to see a psychiatrist, went to the hospital for a week.
So I told Ross, "Ross, I can't work to this degree of pressure. I need to have a few years where I don't work this hard." I put pressure on myself to try to be good and to be efficient and everything, so I did it to myself, and I had another kind of a mini- situation when the P.O.W.s came back in 1973. But Ross has always been just wonderful to me, and did the foreward for my book, and I'm very grateful for that.
KING: He is wonderful to all veterans.
CLARK: Yes he is. He is a gentleman that has done so much behind the scenes for so many of us.
KING: More people ought to know about it.
Allen, thank you very much.
CLARK: Thank you. I am delighted to be on the program.
KING: My pleasure. God bless. Allen B. Clark, author, "Wounded Soldier, Healing Warrior: A Personal Story of a Vietnam Veteran Who Lost His Legs, but Found His Soul."
That's it for tonight. Hope you enjoyed this very diverse program. We'll be back live on Monday night. Right now stay tuned for more news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com