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CNN Larry King Live
Interview with President Barack Obama
Aired June 03, 2010 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, President Barack Obama exclusive from the White House. On his first 500 days in office, facing his biggest test yet -- the catastrophe in the Gulf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The worst case scenario is even worse than what we're seeing now.
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KING: Rage over illegal immigration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This puts American citizens, potentially, in an unfair situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And the troubled economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We're not out of the woods yet. People are still hurting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: President Barack Obama is next on LARRY KING LIVE.
President Obama faces enormous challenges on his 500th day in office. I sat down with him at the White House today to discuss some of them. And we began by talking about an environmental disaster that has no end in sight.
Mr. President, thank you for being with us on our 25th anniversary week.
OBAMA: Larry, congratulations on 25 wonderful years.
KING: Thank you.
It's been a special honor. OBAMA: Unbelievable.
KING: And an honor to be here and be with you.
OBAMA: Thank you.
KING: I know you're going down to the Gulf again. But there's a question that a lot of us are pondering.
After this is over, what about hurricanes?
What about oil raining down?
Have we thought about what we're going to do when it's over?
OBAMA: Well, this is an unprecedented oil spill. We haven't seen like -- anything like this before. And that's why the minute that the rig blew up and then sank down to the bottom of the ocean, I called in my entire team. And I have to tell you, Larry, that the worst case scenario was even worse than what we're seeing now because...
KING: This is worse than what you thought it would be?
OBAMA: No, no, no. What I'm saying is it could have...
OBAMA: -- been even worse. So we realized right away this was going to be a big event, a big problem and that we had to put everything we had into it.
So right away, we started mobilizing our Coast Guard, making sure that we are putting pressure on BP to activate their response. Eventually we ended up sending our top scientists. We now have about 100 of the top scientists from around the world in our national labs -- to look over BP's shoulder in terms of figuring out how they're going to plug the well.
And we also knew, though, that, ultimately, the only way to relieve the well safely is to drill what are called these relief wells.
Now, BP and other oil companies traditionally just drill one. We said, drill two in case one of them doesn't work. But that takes some time. It takes about three months.
In the meantime, they've been experimenting with a whole bunch of other ways that they can capture the oil. But we've had a big spill. And we know that it's going to be a long response, a long cleanup. And my commitment has always been -- for the last 40 some days, to make sure that we are doing everything we can to mitigate the damage, to help clean up, help recover, because this is an area that already got battered during hurricane season. And this is an area that is a concern not only for the economy of the Gulf, but also for an entire way of life. KING: Have the scientists discussed, what about a hurricane?
OBAMA: You know, Wolf, I did -- I had a Situation Room meeting about a week-and-a-half ago where we got the report that this could be a more severe than normal hurricane season.
And I asked, well, how does a potential oil spill interact with a hurricane?
And it turns out that -- and now these are all estimations and probabilities. It turns out that a big, powerful hurricane, ironically, is probably less damaging with respect to the oil spill because it just disperses everything and the oil breaks up and -- and degrades more quickly. It's those tropical storms and tides that would just wash stuff into the marshes that would really be an ecological disaster.
But, look, we -- we've got a couple of tasks right now.
Number one, BP has to shut down this well. Now, the only guarantee to shut it down is the relief well and that's going to take a couple of months. In the meantime, we hope that by cutting the riser and putting a cap on this thing, they can funnel up the oil and that will help.
In the meantime, we've still got all these barrels of oil that are sloshing around in the Gulf. They move with the currents. We don't always know where they are. But what we can do is make sure that our response doesn't hold anything back, that we put everything we've got into Louisiana, which has been hardest hit so far; Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
KING: Senator Nelson wants the Defense Department, he says, more fully involved -- more troops.
OBAMA: Yes. You know, I think that there's a mistaken understanding.
First of all, the Coast Guard is part of our armed services and they're responsible for the coordinating, along with the responsible party -- in this case, BP -- to make sure that recovery efforts are top notch. And what I've said to Thad Allen, who's the national incident coordinator and is somebody who has been dealing with oil spills for 39 years now, is whatever you need, you will get.
KING: So if he says troops, he'll get troops?
OBAMA: If he -- if he says that there's equipment that's helpful in dealing with this problem, he will get it. But keep in mind that all this stuff has to be coordinated. Right now we've got over 20,000 people who are working there. We've authorized the activation of 17,000 National Guardsmen. We've got 1,700 vessels already in the water.
And, you know, what you don't want is a situation where everybody is stepping on each other and not doing the best possible job, in coordination with the state and local levels.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
KING: President Obama rips into BP, next.
KING: President Obama makes no bones about who's responsible for the oil spill -- pointing a finger of blame squarely at BP. That was during our conversation today at the White House.
KING: What part of it is your baby?
What part of it is the country and not BP?
OBAMA: Well, BP caused this spill. We don't yet know exactly what happened. But whether it's a combination of human error, them cutting corners on safety or a whole other variety of variables, they're responsible. So they've got to pick up the -- the tab for the cleanup, the damages, fishermen who are unable to fish right in the middle of their most important season.
And my job is to make sure that they are being held accountable, that we get to the bottom of how this happened, that they are paying what they're supposed to be paying, that they cap this well.
In terms of actually solving the problem, BP has particular expertise when it comes to capping the well. They've got the equipment that -- that our Defense Department -- the first thing I asked was, do we have some equipment that they don't have?
And they, along with other oil companies, have the best equipment and have the best technology to deal with the well at the bottom of the ocean.
What we have a responsibility for is to make sure that the recovery efforts, the mitigation efforts along the coastline, making sure that fishermen and businesses that are being affected are getting paid properly, making sure that local people are being hired -- all those efforts are ones where we can do it better.
And so what we've said is, you're going to pay. You will coordinate -- BP -- with us. But ultimately, if we say that you need to deploy folks over there or you need to compensate such and such here or you need to, for example, most recently, help to dredge up and create some barrier islands in some selective areas of Louisiana in accordance with some of the ideas that the state had down there, then you need to do it.
KING: Some -- I know you -- you appear so calm.
Are you angry at BP?
OBAMA: You know, I am furious at this entire situation, because this is an example of where somebody didn't think through the consequences of their actions. And it is imperiling not just a handful of people, this is -- this is imperiling an entire way of life and an entire region for, potentially, years. So...
KING: Has the company felt your anger?
OBAMA: Well, they have felt the anger. But what I haven't seen as much as I'd like is the kind of rapid response.
Now, they want to solve the problem, too, because this is cost -- costing them a lot of money. And the one thing that I think is important to underscore is that I would love to just spend a lot of my time venting and yelling at people. But that's not the job I was hired to do. My job is to solve this problem. And, ultimately, this isn't about me and how angry I am. Ultimately, this is about the people down in the Gulf who are being impacted and what am I doing to make sure that they're able to salvage their way of life?
And that's going to be the main focus that I've got in the weeks and months ahead.
KING: Governor Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, he's asked you to -- he's got concerns about the impact of stopping -- of the moratorium you have on drilling. And now that's been extended to -- to the shallow waters, as well.
What would you say to him?
OBAMA: Well, actually, the moratorium has not extended to the shallow waters. It's only...
KING: Oh, that's wrong?
OBAMA: It's only the -- it's only the deep water wells that we've placed a moratorium.
Look, we've just seen an environmental disaster that's come about because these oil companies said they had a plan to deal with the worst case scenario and, obviously, it wasn't a very good plan because it's not working, Larry. And nobody is being impacted more than the citizens of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal's state.
So I have said in the past that we need to transition to a more clean energy future. But we're not going to do that overnight. We've got to have domestic oil production. And I am supportive of offshore drilling if it can be done safely and it doesn't result in these kinds of horrible environmental disasters.
And the problem I've got is until I've got a review that tells me, A, what happened; B, how do you prevent a blowout of the sort that we saw; C, if, even if it's a one in a million chance something like this happens again, that we actually know how to deal with it.
Until that happens, it would be irresponsible of me to lift that moratorium.
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KING: For the record, just before I sat down with the president, there was a report that the Minerals Management Service had stopped issuing permits for new oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, regardless of the water depth. Hence my question to the president.
The Interior Department has since denied that it did extend the drilling freeze to include shallow waters.
The turmoil over Gaza -- whose side is the president on?
His answer, ahead.
KING: President Obama addressed the situation in Gaza during our interview today and the immigration debate in this country.
KING: A couple of other things. Former President Carter has condemned the Israeli raid against those ships in the -- the flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza.
Where do you stand on that?
A former American president has condemned it.
OBAMA: Well, you know, the United States, with the other members of the U.N. Security Council, said very clearly that we condemned all the acts that led up to this violence. It was a tragic situation. You've got loss of life that was unnecessary. And so we are calling for an effective investigation of everything that happened.
And I think that the Israelis are going to agree to that -- an investigation of international standards -- because they recognize that this can't be good for Israel's long-term security.
Here's what we've got. You've got a situation in which Israel has legitimate security concerns when they've got missiles raining down on cities along the Israel/Gaza border. I've been to those towns and seen the holes that were made by missiles coming through people's bedrooms. So Israel has a legitimate concern there.
On the other hand, you've got a blockade up that is preventing people in Palestinian Gaza from having job opportunities and being able to create businesses and engage in trade and have opportunity for the future.
I think what's important right now is, is that we break out of the current impasse, use this tragedy as an opportunity so that we figure out how can we meet Israel's security concerns, but at the same time start opening up opportunity for Palestinians, work with all parties concerned -- the Palestinian Authority, the Israelis, the Egyptians and others -- and -- and I think Turkey can have a positive voice in this whole process once we've worked through this tragedy -- and bring everybody together to figure out how can we get a two-state solution, where Palestinians and Israelis can live side by side in peace and security.
KING: It's premature, then, to condemn Israel?
OBAMA: Well, I -- I think that we need to know what all the facts are. But it's not premature to say to the Israelis and to say to the Palestinians and to say to all the parties in the region that the status quo is unsustainable. We have been trying to do this piecemeal for decades now and it just doesn't work. You've got to have a situation in which the Palestinians have real opportunity and Israel's neighbors recognize Israel's legitimate security concerns and are committed to peace.
KING: You met with the Arizona governor today.
KING: Will the administration bring a legal challenge to that law?
OBAMA: You know, I'm not going to comment on that, Larry, because that's really the job of the Justice Department. And, you know, I made a commitment early on that I wouldn't be putting my hand -- thumb on the scales when these kinds of decisions are made.
I've expressed a personal opinion, which is that although I understand the frustration of the people of Arizona when it comes to the inflow of illegal immigrants, I don't think this is the right way to do it. I think this puts American citizens who look Hispanic, are Hispanic, potentially in a unfair situation and...
KING: But you're not going to (INAUDIBLE)...
OBAMA: And, more importantly, it also creates the prospects of 50 different laws in 50 different states when it comes to immigration. This is a federal job. What we have to do is take on that federal responsibility by working with border states on border security.
And I told Governor Brewer that we've already put more resources into border security than we ever have. We have got more border guards in Arizona than we ever had. We've got -- we just made decisions to put in additional National Guard.
But without comprehensive immigration reform, that is Congress' responsibility, we are not going to solve this problem and that's what we have to do.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
KING: He's got the toughest job in the world.
How does President Obama size it up, now that he's been at it for 500 days?
Plus, he's got some advice for LeBron James, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: Being president of the United States has aged every man who's had the job. I asked the president how he's doing so far.
KING: A couple of other quick things, because I know we have a little bit of a time limit.
First, do you still like this job?
OBAMA: Well, this is the best job on earth. I mean it's a -- it's an extraordinary privilege to be able to wake up every day and know that you have the opportunity to serve the American people and -- and make their lives a little bit better or maybe it's the next generation's lives a little bit better. And...
KING: No matter what a poll says?
OBAMA: You know what, the truth of the matter is, is that given everything we've gone through, my poll numbers are doing all right.
KING: It's 48 percent.
Is that all right?
OBAMA: You know, the -- we've gone through the worst recession since the Great Depression. We've got two wars going on right now. We've had multiple crises that have cropped up and people still haven't fully recovered in terms of their job losses, in terms of what's happening in housing.
So, you know, people, I think, understandably, are frustrated. But what they're starting to see is that the economy is getting better. We had the biggest job growth in years last month and I think we'll have decent job growth this month...
KING: Tomorrow it will come out.
OBAMA: Tomorrow we'll get an announcement. Businesses are starting to invest again. Manufacturing is stronger than it's been. The investments that we made early on -- some of which were controversial -- are paying off.
If you look at, just to give you one example, the auto industry. I mean, G.M. is now turning a profit and hiring again. And the banks, as frustrating as, you know, the situation of having to bail them out was, they are repaying that money.
And so a lot of the decisions that are being made are starting to pan out. But we're not out of the woods yet. People are still hurting. And, you know, it is a great privilege for me to have the most interesting job in the world and one where, every once in a while, I'll get a letter from somebody -- you know, I -- I was traveling through Iowa. A woman comes up to me and says, you know what, that healthcare bill you passed, I'm a small business woman, I'm going to take advantage of that credit this year. This is going to help me and I might be able to hire somebody else because you just gave me the chance to get decent healthcare.
KING: And one other thing. LeBron James is with us tomorrow night. We pre-interviewed him. And he says, all things being equal, he's probably leaning toward Cleveland. That's where he grew up, in Akron. But he grew up a Bull fan.
You want him to go to Chicago, right?
OBAMA: No, no, no. I...
KING: What did you say?
OBAMA: I want to be clear. What I -- what I said to...
KING: Clear it up.
OBAMA: First of all, LeBron, I've had a chance to meet him -- a wonderful young man, an amazing talent.
What I said to him was -- I -- I didn't say it to him, I said it to Marv Albert. He needs to be in a place where he's got a coach and a team around him that can do what Phil Jackson and the Bulls did for Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan couldn't win a championship on his own. It's all about having a team concept that works. And he hasn't quite gotten that yet and he needs to find that situation.
I'll be honest with you -- and my folks in Chicago may be mad at me for saying this, but I think it would be a wonderful story if LeBron says, you know what, I'm going to stay here in Cleveland. You know, he's from Ohio. You know, that -- that's a town that has had some tough times. For him to say...
OBAMA: -- I'm going to make a commitment to this city, you know, I think would be a wonderful thing.
But he's got to make sure that he's got a team around him and a coach that he respects, he's bought into a team concept, he's willing to be coached. And -- and if he does that, he'll have an even more remarkable career than he's having right now.
KING: I saw you singing to "Michelle" last night with -- with Paul McCartney.
That was a pretty nice kick, huh?
OBAMA: Let -- let me tell you, the -- I think that was one of the highlights that Michelle's had, is when Paul McCartney sings "Michelle."
OBAMA: To her, you know -- when she was a little girl growing up on the south side of Chicago, I suspect she didn't think that was ever going to happen.
KING: Thank you, Mr. President.
OBAMA: Thank you, Larry. Appreciate you.
KING: Thanks for celebrating with us.
OBAMA: Congratulations again.
KING: President Barack Obama.
Bob Woodward is here. His take on President Obama's first 500 days in office. Is the oil spill President Obama's Katrina? That's next.
KING: A program note; NBA superstar Lebron James will be our guest for the full hour tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE.
Here now, and it's great to have him on in this anniversary week, because he's been such a good guest, Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist of the "Washington Post." He's a "New York Times" number one best selling author, and he's working on a book about the Obama administration, scheduled for release this fall. Have a title?
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR: Not yet, but we're getting it ready. It's got lots of new information.
KING: You always get new information.
WOODWARD: Well, never enough. But it's -- it's there in this book. What -- what --
KING: Overall impression of what you just saw.
WOODWARD: In watching that, this is the Barack Obama brand. This is what people expected, fully confident, maybe over-confident a little bit, on top of it, confident in what he's done and what he's saying. The question with the oil spill -- and I think we have to stop calling it an oil spill. It's an eco-disaster of monumental proportions.
What's the mobilization? He said at the beginning they thought it might be worse; he's mobilized everyone. I suspect in the country there's not the sense that he has mobilized. Remember, President Bush was criticized after 9/11 for not coming out and saying, hey, look, this is -- I need something from you, I need -- this is going to be a time of sacrifice.
KING: All right. Let's take another look at what the president had to say about the Gulf oil disaster. Watch. (BEGNI VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What part of it is your baby? What part of it is the country, and not BP?
OBAMA: Well, BP caused this spill. We don't yet know exactly what happened, but whether it's a combination of human error, them cutting corners on safety, or a whole other variety of variables, they're responsible. So they've got to pick up the tab for the cleanup, the damages, fishermen who are unable to fish right in the middle of their most important season.
And my job is to make sure that they are being held accountable, that we get to the bottom of how this happened, that they are paying what they're supposed to be paying, that they cap this well. In terms of actually solving the problem, BP has particular expertise when it comes to capping the well. They've got the equipment that our Defense Department --
First thing I asked was, do we have some equipment that they don't have? And they, along with other oil companies, have the best equipment, have the best technology to deal with the well at the bottom of the ocean. What we have a responsibility for is to make sure that the recovery efforts, mitigation efforts along the coastline, making sure that fishermen and businesses that are being effected are being paid promptly, making sure that local people are being hired, all those efforts are ones where we can do it better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And I asked him, Bob, what if a hurricane happens and it rains oil, and the answer -- you weren't happy with that?
WOODWARD: Well, it's not that -- he said that a tropical storm would be worse than a hurricane, in that a hurricane would -- the oil would go up in the air and degrade, which might be, but it might be degrading on people and people's front lawns. But, again, there's that confidence. I suspect he had strong evidence that that was the case. But if there's a hurricane -- I mean, this is the whole issue of the imponderables, and it looks like it's going this way, and it goes that way. There would be another hurricane and it could bring all that oil up, or do things that would go to the disaster. And then people would go to the clip with him saying, well, that's really not what we're worried about.
KING: Is this his Katrina?
WOODWARD: No, I don't think so at all at this point. But you don't know. There's been a lot of criticism of him, which, quite frankly, I think is unfair, that somehow he's lost control of the narrative or that there's a narrative arc, and all of a sudden, because things are happening that are basically out of his control, that he's in deep trouble.
He may be in deep trouble. This is a serious issue. The test is going to be -- I remember Karl Rove, Bush's political guy, used to always say, it depends on the outcome. What's the outcome here? And what is the level of managerial effort that the president has made to make sure that all the bases are covered and the options are looked at?
This could be -- so, there was an oceanographer in "the Wall Street Journal" writing today about what this could be. He said, it could be years. Oil could be going to Europe, to the Arctic, that this is the -- potentially the sort of thing that has a bounce forever.
KING: Do you think he has a lack of emotion?
WOODWARD: No, I don't. And again, this was -- he was not hired to have purple fits or cry. He said he's furious. He said, "I'm furious." And then he said, look, I'm kind of -- I don't vent, I don't shout. He's not the venter in chief. People didn't elect him to do that. That would not be effective. I think if he tried it, it would backfire. People would say, that's not him.
KING: Can't see him screaming. President Obama also addressed the current international fire storm over the deadly Israeli raid on a flotilla trying to break the blockage against Gaza. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What's important right now is that we break out of the current impasse, use this tragedy as an opportunity so that we figure out how can we meet Israel's security concerns, but, at the same time, start opening up opportunity for Palestinians, work with all parties concerned, the Palestinian Authority, the Israelis, the Egyptians, and others. And I think Turkey can have a positive voice in this whole process, once we've worked through this tragedy, and bring everybody together to figure out, how can we get a two-state solution where Palestinians and the Israelis can live side-by-side in peace and security.
KING: Premature then to condemn Israel?
OBAMA: Well, I think we need to know what all the facts are. But it's not premature to say to the Israelis, and to say to the Palestinians, and to say to all the parties in the region that the status quo is unsustainable. We have been trying to do this piecemeal for decades now, and it just doesn't work. You have to have a situation in which the Palestinians have real opportunity, and Israel's neighbors recognize Israel's legitimate security concerns and are committed to peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Was Carter premature?
WOODWARD: That's Jimmy Carter. You know, he has a strong position on all of these things. That's a very kind of measured statement. And to say that all of the problems over there are not sustainable, well, they haven't been sustainable for decades, and they keep going along. The real issue is, again, it's an engagement, and a thinking is issue. Will the administration get in there and do something on the peace process that's really constructive? And kind of -- where you have a sense of not only have we talked, but we've moved.
KING: We know some presidents leaned toward the domestic side, some international, Clinton everywhere, Nixon international. What do you think of Obama, or is it too early, internationally?
WOODWARD: We don't know. It's part of what I'm focusing on in this book, and trying to show, in an empirical way, exactly what he does, what he says, what his questions are, not just a few thing, but the whole shooting match. And, you know, people can look at it and see it. And again, if you look at the wars, particularly the Afghanistan war, which is his war, where he's added so many troops, the question is going to be, where are we at these demarcation points that he has publicly announced? Coming in December, there's going to be an evaluation. Well, is it up? Is it down?
KING: Is he cooperating with you?
WOODWARD: I'm able to get the information I need.
KING: Now you're being cute. Is he talking to you?
WOODWARD: You know, his -- his -- I'm ducking because I have agreed that I'm not going to talk about the book. That's the deal I make with the publisher. I hope you'll understand that. I -- it's got -- it is probably, I hope, the most intimate look at how he is doing as president.
KING: When is it due?
KING: We'll be back with more of Bob Woodward following the conversation with President Obama. How is he handling the burdens of office? From this observer's point of view; Bob Woodward's insights on our 25th anniversary moment of the night. That's coming, too, next.
KING: We're sitting with Bob Woodward. Shortly before sitting down with me, the president had met with Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona to discuss the red hot topic of illegal immigration and her state's controversial new law about it. I asked him about it. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You met with the Arizona governor today. Will the administration bring a legal challenge to that law?
OBAMA: You know, I'm not going to comment on that, Larry, because that's really the job of the Justice Department. And I made a commitment early on that I wouldn't be putting my thumb on the scales when these kinds of decisions are made. I've expressed my personal opinion, which is that although I understand the frustration of the people of Arizona when it comes to the inflow of illegal immigrants, I don't think this is the right way to do I. I think this puts American citizens who look Hispanic -- are Hispanic -- potentially in a unfair situation.
KING: But you're not going to --
OBAMA: And more importantly, it also creates the prospects of 50 different laws in 50 different states when it comes to immigration. This is a federal job. What we have to do is take on that federal responsibility by working with border states on border security. And I told Governor Brewer that we've already put more resources into border security than we ever have. We have got more border guards in Arizona than we ever have. We have -- we just made decisions to put in additional National Guard.
But without comprehensive immigration reform, that is Congress's responsibility, we are not going to solve this problem. That's what we have to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All right. Are you surprised that he's not telling the justice department to go ahead with this?
WOODWARD: But then he says his personal opinion is, and if you're the attorney general, you might get the signal. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to make legal challenge. But it's probably wise for the president, particularly one who is a lawyer, who is steeped in all of these issues, to distance himself and let the attorney general be the attorney general.
What one of the things that interests me about Obama, and presidents, is how they deal with the emotions of the office, because it's a roller coaster. And, you know, it's the same rain -- don't rain on my parade. Well, the parade is all his. Anything that happens, whether it's in the Gulf, whether it's the war, immigration, where basketball stars should go and so forth, he gets asked about it.
One of the mistakes Jimmy Carter made when he was president, he kind of retreated into himself. As you may recall, he went off to Camp David for ten days and gave that speech kind of blaming other people. And it doesn't work now.
KING: It's time for our LARRY KING LIVE moment, picked by you as our second favorite moment in 25 years on the air here at CNN. It involves another history-making event, as so many of your picks have. Take a look back at the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(SINGING) OBAMA: We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.
KING: The most extraordinary inauguration in the history of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's a love affair going on with the country and Barack.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think it was a time of celebration. It was a moment where Americans feel a coming together.
KING: A black president, largest crowds ever assembled in that city, cold, clear days, and you knew life was changing.
PUFF DADDY, RAPPER: I'm so happy the world gets to see that this is truly what America is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You say, wow, this is one that you'll never forget.
KING: I lived in Washington for 27 years and I never saw a city that up.
KING: Did you ever think you'd see a black president?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Certainly not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really a historic moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did not believe that this would happen in my lifetime.
KING: You knew you were part of history. They'll be talking about that moment as long as history's written.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: More with Bob Woodward right after the break.
KING: We're back with our remaining moments with Bob Woodward. In January of 2009, you wrote about ten lessons Obama and his team should take away from the Bush presidency. How are they doing on that?
WOODWARD: Pretty well. I mean, there's much -- I mean, the theme in this was you have to talk about the real issues. You have to get them out on the table. One of the lessons is you have to tell the hard truth, the hard, ugly truth to the public. To go back to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, do people feel they got the hard truth early about this? I'm not sure. This is one of those things where a president needs probably to come out early and say, look, this is my plan; this is how we're taking it seriously; this is exactly what we're doing; these people are responsible; this is the boss. Who's the leader of this really needs to be defined. And then, if it turns out it's not such a big deal and it's not a crisis, that's fine. No one's going to say, hey, you overreacted. This is the world in which you can -- you only under-react.
KING: You always cover everything when you cover an administration. How is Rahm Emanuel doing?
WOODWARD: He has survived. There have been lots of things. That is one of the toughest jobs. He is a real important behind the scenes player in lots of things.
KING: Is the chief of staff involved in policy?
WOODWARD: Oh, sure, he has to be.
KING: He's not just a gatekeeper?
WOODWARD: No. He's not just seeing if people will take jobs or might run against their favorite candidate. No, he is an extension of the president. A chief of staff is the closest thing we have to a deputy president. All the issues, national security, domestic policy, dealing with Congress and so forth. And the chief of staff has to go home at night saying, well, the boss is happy with what we did today.
KING: We know how important Bush's vice president was to him. How important is our vice president currently to this president?
WOODWARD: I think he plays a significant role in lots of things. And Obama has given Joe Biden what Joe Biden loves, which is running room, which means tell me what you think, don't go away, keep pestering me. Now, whether that has really changed policy or not, I think in some areas it actually has.
KING: A couple quick thing; when you do a book on the first year of a presidency, you run into a little danger of something big happening on the first day of the second year, right?
WOODWARD: Yes, of course.
KING: That's the risk you take?
WOODWARD: That's the you take. But it is, if you can get the detail of exactly what happens at National Security Council meetings, what happens offstage, what the relationship is, this player to that player, and so forth -- you get a pretty good picture of -- you know, character is action in everything, including the White House.
KING: How about 30 seconds, are you getting a good picture?
WOODWARD: I hope so. I know it's an accurate picture. It will be one of those things where some people are going to say, wow, it shows this. Other people are going to say, wow, it shows that. Whenever you take the cover off the watch and look inside, it's complex and people see different things.
KING: There's nobody like you, Bob Woodward. Lebron James is here tomorrow night. He joins us for an eye-opening hour-long interview. Here's a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, BASKETBALL PLAYER: I had an opportunity to go by the White House. I think he's a great person. I mean, he does a lot. He continues to do a lot for this country. I think the first full term for him is going to be a rebuilding term. And I think, you know, then he's going to be able to put what he wants ultimately --
KING: How good a player is he?
JAMES: I have not had an opportunity to play against him in basketball. But I'm looking forward. He's supposed to be doing the basketball courts on campus, so I want to go by there and play.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It's time now for "AC 360."