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CNN Larry King Live

Interview With Jimmy Carter

Aired September 26, 2010 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Jimmy Carter; the former president opens his White House diary.


JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On the Inaugural Platform, my feelings were of regret that I had lost the election, but a sense of relief to be free of the responsibilities for a while.


KING: Revealing bitter feelings about the late Ted Kennedy, his take on Barack Obama and the hostage crisis in Iran that probably cost him a second term. What's changed in the 30 years since he left office? Jimmy Carter in his last hour-long interview with me, next on "LARRY KING LIVE."

Good evening. We're in New York with Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, the Nobel Prize laureate and co- founder of the Carter Center, best-selling author. And his new book is "White House Diary," an extraordinary collection published Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

You kept a diary and now you reveal it?

CARTER: Well, I thought I'd wait 30 years and do it.

KING: Why wait?

CARTER: Well, it was highly personal. When I wrote it, I never thought I would let it be published. But I re-read it a few years ago and I saw that there were so many things that are pertinent today, the same issues that I faced, that Obama is having to face today. And also I thought it was good to have somewhere on the historical record just the actual day by day thoughts and dreams and ideas and failures and successes and impressions of other people that are still quite fresh in people's minds.

So those are the main things I wanted to point out.

KING: Were you, before the presidency, a diary keeper?

CARTER: No, I never did. As a matter of fact, the first time I thought about doing a diary was when I was governor. And we went up to the White House to the governor's conference. And we met Richard Nixon, who was the first president I ever met. He was standing there with Billy Graham. And Richard Nixon, he kind of ignored me. And he reached over and shook my wife's hand and said, young lady, are you keeping a diary? She said, no, I don't. He said, well, you're a governor's wife and you ought to keep a diary.

So we talked about it. So when I became president, I decided, well, why don't I keep a diary? So it was really Richard Nixon who talked me into keeping a diary.

KING: What a great story. Did you just write it in pen?

CARTER: No, I dictated it. I had a small, hand held Dictaphone. And so I -- when I finished up a tape, I just threw it in the out basket. I never looked at it again. I put a new tape in. And six or seven times every day, I would dictate my latest thoughts about what I was planning, what I had succeeded in doing, and what my impressions were of people who just left the office.

So I tried to put down in my diary things that wouldn't come out in the public print. You know, every Friday there's published every word that a president says, every question that he answers, every statement that he --

KING: In public, right?

CARTER: In public. So I try to put in my diary things that weren't going to be in that public diary. So when I got home -- I never looked at it again. But when I got home, I had 5,000 pages of diary notes that had been typed up. I still have those, one of two copies in the world, one in my room at home, my study, and the other one at the Carter Presidential Library.

So this is about 20 percent of the total words that are in my original diary.

KING: If you go to diary, can you read it all -- if you go to the center?

CARTER: After a year -- I think when the paperback of this book comes out, I'm going to make it available to scholars and news reporters to go to the presidential library and read the original taped original.

KING: I'm told that if you're a diarist -- that's what they call them -- you must write every day, no matter how bad the day.

CARTER: I do that.

KING: You did that?

CARTER: I probably wrote more in the bad days than I did the good days, because that was more memorable, more emotional for me. And I wanted to get down how I felt about things and issues and people more than I did what I actually -- you know, what I actually did and activities. KING: We're going to have you read one -- a couple of excerpts from the book. But this is from the Inauguration Day, January 20th, 1977. We printed it out to make it easier. CARTER: Good. "I think the inauguration speech itself, perhaps one of the briefest on record for the first inauguration for president, was quite compatible with my announcement speech in December of 1974 and also with my acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention. It accurately expressed some of the major themes of my administration. Even though I had been preparing to be president, I was genuinely surprised when the benediction by the bishop of Minnesota referred to blessings on President Carter. Just the phrase President Carter was startling to me."

Well, you know, I had been a peanut farmer. I had -- you know who the first president -- Democratic president I ever met? Bill Clinton.

KING: No kidding.

CARTER: No kidding. I had never -- I was just out of the peanut fields. I met Nixon -- President Nixon -- after I became governor. So I was new at the presidential level. And it was kind of startling to me to be called president.

KING: How long does it take to get into the job?

CARTER: Well, I had to get into that first day, because I had a lot to do when I came off the reviewing stand. You know, immediately to make --

KING: I remember you walked.

CARTER: -- make official things that I had decided to do. One of the things I did was among the most controversial I ever did. And that was to pardon the so-called draft dodgers who escaped into Canada. And I did that before I ever began to walk down toward the Oval Office.

KING: Wow. Did that come up in the campaign, that issue?

CARTER: No, it never did. No.

KING: But you knew you were going to do it?

CARTER: Yes, I knew I was going to do it. A lot of people that were families of those men who -- and a few women I think -- who went to Canada and they were -- they wanted to come back home. So I just issued a blanket pardon for them. I got some criticism, obviously, because a lot of folks thought the draft dodgers should be executed for treason and so forth.

KING: It's funny -- not funny, but that you would be here on the opening day of the annual UN opening, that your book would be published at the same time, and that Iran is always in the news. We're going to be talking to President Ahmadinejad on Wednesday. CARTER: All right.

KING: And now we have this lady held more than a year on spying charges, and Iran says they want eight arrested Iranians released. What do you make of all of this? CARTER: Well, first of all, I think we ought to keep maximum communication with leaders and their nations with whom we disagree. And I know that President Obama promised he was going to do that when he went into office. But I think that's important.

And I don't know -- I don't know what charges are against the eight Iranians. I understand they violated the sanction against Iran somehow or another. But I hope that the two that are still remaining over there, her fiance and her friend, would be released.

I just got back from North Korea. You may know I went over there to get one of our young men from Boston, Elijah Gomes, who walked across a frozen river from China into North Korea and he was arrested. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and fined 700,000 US dollars.

So I just got him out. But he made a mistake and he admitted it, that he shouldn't have gone into North Korea. So she -- they say that they didn't know they were crossing the border.

KING: We have the one woman out. Would you go there to try to get the other two? If they asked you?

CARTER: If I was asked to go, I would. But, you know, I'm not the most popular person still in Iran, so -- although as soon as the Shah fell, left Iran against my wishes, I immediately established diplomatic relations with the revolutionary government under the Ayatollah Khomeini. So we had full diplomatic relations and full communications. Those were my diplomats over there under the revolutionary government that were captured.

KING: We can never go a time without President Carter making news. And he had some harsh words in this book for Ted Kennedy about health care. Very surprising. We'll talk about it ahead. Don't go away.



CARTER: I'll never tell a lie. I'll never make a misleading statement. I'll never betray the confidence that any of you had in me. And I'll never avoid a controversial issue.


KING: The book is "White House Diary." Jimmy Carter. Great cover, Farrar, Straus and Giroux published. Already making news. What's your read on Ahmadinejad? We have interviewed him twice. This will be number three. CARTER: Well, I think he's -- deliberately tries to be provocative. He tries to say whatever he can to attract attention to himself. I think within certain bounds, he stays within -- within the wishes of the religious figures who are actually superior beings, politically speaking, in Iran.

He makes some obnoxious statements, obviously, on occasion, maybe just to be controversial. I think he -- it is very doubtful that he actually won his last election. KING: Do we take his seriously or not?

CARTER: I think you have to take him seriously, because within -- as I said, within bounds, he speaks for the ultimate authorities in Iran when he says something. He couldn't get too far removed from what they want him to say.

KING: All right. Do you think Iran today more or less a threat?

CARTER: I think --

KING: Are you concerned about them?

CARTER: I am. Yes, I am. Because they feel isolated from the western world, first of all. And we make constant threats that we are going to bomb them, as you know, if they don't comply with our wishes on the nuclear proposals.

I think they -- my own belief is they are planning to make a nuclear weapon, a nuclear explosive. They claim they are not. So that's of great concern to me, because it will disturb the status quo in the Middle East region.

KING: So what do we do though?

CARTER: I would like to see us have more easy communication with them, to negotiate directly with them, talk to them. That's what Obama promised before he was president. So far we haven't been able to do that effectively. They haven't responded very favorably either.

So I think communicate with them and stop threatening that we're going to attack them, because if there are moderate I would say ultimate leaders in the religious circles of Iran, who are doubtful about whether or not to have a nuclear weapon, the more we threaten them and isolate them from us, the more likely they are to go with a nuclear weapon.

KING: We have a new health care bill.


KING: First one ever passed in 75 years. And in your book, Ted Kennedy is generally perceived as the creator of this or inspired it.

CARTER: Of course. KING: Here in your book, you say the late senator killed health care reform back in 1978. You describe him as having an irresponsible and abusive attitude, essentially accusing him of blocking health care out of personal spite.

CARTER: Well, you know, let me point out once more that that actually was written 31 years ago. And Kennedy --

KING: That was your feelings at that time.

CARTER: He was actually running against me for president. I was holding office. He was trying to take my office away from me. And he and five other chairmen of the key committees dealing with health care all worked with me in preparing the proposal that I put forward. And so the other five leaders stayed with me. But at the last minute, Ted Kennedy withdrew his support for what he had helped to draft and killed it, in effect, because he was a powerful and influential senator at f that time.

And he was -- he had two motivations, I'm guessing now. He didn't want to give me a great success, since he hoped to knock me off as president. And secondly, I think he saw that if he could kill my bill, then maybe later on when he became president, which he hoped to do in 1981 then he could put his own bill forward as a much more complete bill.

KING: Actually, that was written, as you said, 31 years ago. But his former chief of staff, Larry Horowitz, called the criticism that you did in the book "sad, classless, clearly embittered." You could have chosen to leave that out.

CARTER: Well, you know, I didn't leave out anything that I thought was pertinent, even though it was very frank, and although I had great admiration for Senator Kennedy as one of the most wonderful and successful senators we ever had. And I would say that after I left office, he and I became adequately reconciled. He worked very closely with my wife Rose on health legislation and that sort of thing.

So we were basically friends after I left office.

KING: So it's just an honest, that's what it was?

CARTER: That's what happened. It's all in the record. I actually quote the laws that I put forward that would have given catastrophic coverage to everybody in America, would add 16 million people that would have complete health insurance. And in four years, it would have given comprehensive health coverage to every person in America. And it was killed.

KING: Our guest former President Jimmy Carter. We have lots to talk about, the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, the current state of politics, and this incredible book. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with President Jimmy Carter. "The White House Diary" just published. This is it's opening day, in a sense.

All right, Obama signed the health care bill six months ago. What did you think of it? And why are you -- are you surprised that more Americans oppose it than favor it?

CARTER: Well, I was delighted when it passed. I thought it could possibly have been much more aggressive with a single payer simple system. That's what I personally preferred. But he did the best he could under extremely difficult circumstances, with no Republicans helping him.

And I think the negative aspect to it is because of the total distortion of the news that Fox broadcasting has perpetrated on the American people, when they hammer away day after day after day that his health program will kill old people and things of that kind. A lot of gullible folks in the United States actually believe what Fox puts forward as facts when most of it is just complete distortions.

And they've also attempted to twist around what his religious faith is and whether or not he's an American and so forth. So I think that's a new version of cable news that was not there, thank goodness, when I was there.

But I would attribute most of the negative attitude not to the facts, but to the distorted facts that comes out of the Fox.

KING: What do make of all this? Tea Party, Fox, the Glenn Becks of the world? What do you make of this phenomenon, in a sense.

CARTER: Well, I'm very disturbed about it. I can't really criticize the Tea Party people, because I came into the White House pretty much on the same basis that they have become popular. That is dissatisfaction with the way things are going in Washington and disillusionment and disencouragement about the government. But that's what happened before I ran for president. Had it not been for that feeling in the country, I would not have been elected.

For instance, we were just out of the embarrassment of Watergate and the defeat in Vietnam and the fact that a lot of people lied about what was going on in Vietnam, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and both of the Kennedy brothers, and the revelation by Frank Church Committee that the United States government and the CIA and some presidents had actually perpetrated murder in other countries. All of that had brought about a feeling among the people that something was wrong in our government.

And I think that's what's being utilized by the Tea Party people to arouse animosity.

KING: Are you saying all's fair?

CARTER: Well, it is fair. My guess is that the Tea Party will be very influential in the upcoming election, in the midterm election, this coming November. My guess is that they'll soon be absorbed in -- each other will absorb the Republican party and the Tea Party movement. So a couple of years from now, maybe in 2012 when the presidential election comes on, I think the Tea Party will be not a unique, startling newcomer on the political scene, but all hat stuff.

KING: Bill Clinton said the Tea Party supporters have good impulses, calls the movement a general revolt against bigness.

CARTER: I think it is a general result against something that many of them don't like, yes.

KING: How much of it do you think is racist? We have a black president.

CARTER: I don't think the Tea Party people are racist, except maybe a tiny portion of them. But there has been a deliberate effort -- again, referring to Fox Broadcasting -- to inject the race issue into it. They have actually called Obama a racist on television. And when they say, like some of the leaders of the Republican party have said, that he's epitomizing the tribal influence of his father from Kenya, you know, that obviously has political connotations. So I think -- I mean, racist connotations.

So I think some of it is racist. But I don't blame the Tea Party movement for --

KING: What do you make of Gingrich's recent suggestion?

CARTER: I was talking about Gingrich.

KING: Kenyan, but also anti-colonial.

CARTER: Yes, I was talking about Gingrich. I think that Gingrich five years ago would be embarrassed at what Newt Gingrich is saying today and doing today.

KING: Why isn't it embarrassing today?

CARTER: I think he has ambitions to be a presidential candidate. And he thinks that to go hard right and to appeal to the extreme even Tea Party movement members may be beneficial to him politically.

KING: All right. What is your read on Obama?

CARTER: I think he's a good, solid, intelligent man who is suffering from perhaps the worst Washington environment of any president in history, and I would even include Abraham Lincoln as we led up to the war between the states. No other president has faced such a polarized Congress, where he can hardly get one or two votes, you know, out of hundreds who are Republicans in the House and the Senate.

So he has had to overcome that. And I think he's had remarkable success in light of that handicap.

KING: President Jimmy Carter's our guest. The book is "White House Diary." We'll be right back.



CARTER: I would hope that the nations of the world might say we have built a lasting peace based not on weapons of war, but on international policies which reflect our own most precious values.


KING: Back with former President Jimmy Carter. The occasion -- this is book number what?

CARTER: Twenty six. KING: His 26th book, "White House Diary." an extraordinary account of his years in the presidency, in which he kept a daily diary by dictating every day, sometimes three, four times a day.

All right, you write extensively, of course, about the Mideast. I remember great interviews we did about --

CARTER: I remember.

KING: -- the summit at Camp David and everything. But most particularly about Camp David and your efforts then. You got a peace treaty that still exists.

CARTER: That's right. Not a word has been violated in 32 years.

KING: Amazing. The only one ever I think between them. What are your expectations of this next go around?

CARTER: I think if anybody can be successful, Hillary Clinton is the right one to be the chief negotiator. She's competent. She knows her background. She's I think, very forceful. And she is determined to prevail. And if she can get any sort of glimmer of accommodation by both sides at the same time, I think she'll be successful.

But I wouldn't bet on it, because I know that s intransigence is involved there.

KING: How frustrating is it to be a deal maker there?

CARTER: Well, it's very frustrating. As I wrote in my diary every day, I mean -- I had probably 50 entries -- what Israel has wanted is to keep the West Bank. And that's the main thing they haven't yielded on in 30 years. They gave up the Sinai. They didn't want the Gaza Strip ever. But they've always wanted to keep the West Bank. So they've got now control over probably more than 50 percent of the West Bank, including all of the Jordan River Valley, and multiple settlements, as you know, between Jerusalem and the Jordan River. So I think that's basically the cause of the problem. And if they would --

KING: Israel's the cause by keeping it?

CARTER: Well, there's faults on both sides, but that's the thing that has not changed. Of course, the Palestinian issue has changed a lot. They have had three elections. The Carter Center and I have been there for every election. But obviously the unwillingness of the Palestinians to make concessions and to agree to accept Israel's existence and right to live in peace is a major factor as well. And the violence on both sides has been a major factor.

But the unchanging issue is Israel's desire to keep the West Bank.

KING: But when Prime Minister Netanyahu was here a little while ago, he said he was open to anything. Just let's sit and talk.

CARTER: I pray that that's the case. KING: You don't believe it?

CARTER: I don't know. We'll have to see. I don't know. But I think Hillary will give them every chance to make the right concessions to move forward.

KING: You're impressed with her?

CARTER: Yes, I am. I met with her the other day when I came back from North Korea with messages from them leading toward de- nuclearization of the peninsula and peace. I enjoyed meeting with her. She was very open minded. She was very inquisitive. She was knowledgeable. I know that she is a competent person who would do the best she can. And I think that she sees that this is her chance to do something that others haven't been able to do.

KING: What about those on the far left, the extremists on both sides who hinder this process?

CARTER: That's --

KING: Bombers, you know, the suicides.

CARTER: I know. That's a case on both sides, as you say. And I would say that Menachim Begin when he left Camp David had made a much more courageous decision than either Sadat made or I. And that was a major step forward. And, of course, it led to a complete treaty of peace between Israel and the other Arab countries that challenger them or threaten them, you know, militarily with whom they had been at war four times in the 25 years before I became president.

But Israel didn't carry out the commitments that they made to me and President Sadat about no more settlements and having the West Bank be turned over to the Palestinians. But I have always admired Begin because of that.

KING: Do you think you get a bad wrap over the Israeli/Palestinian issue from the Israeli side?

CARTER: Well, I lost a major portion of the Israeli political support in 1980, not all of it. I mean, but compared to what I had done in 1976 and what other Democratic presidents have done. And a lot of them felt that I took an even-handed stance between Israel and the Palestinians, and even-handed is not acceptable to many people. And also I have had severe criticisms from Netanyahu and a few others, because I gave away the Sinai Desert from Israel back to Egypt.

So that's comprehensible. I am not complaining about it, because I can see how people who are completely committed to Israel want to have Israel prevail on every issue.

KING: We're talking about an Islamic center and Ground Zero next.


KING: We're back with former President Jimmy Carter. The book is "White House Diary." The Obamas wept to church yesterday. Some said only because -- he's not basically a church goer. He was back in Chicago, but since -- because he's being tagged as non-Christian. What do you make of that?

CARTER: Well, I'm glad he went to church. And I don't think it was just that. I think he is a deeply religious person. He's obviously a Christian. And many presidents have not been to church. Reagan didn't go to church while he was president or before or after as a regular thing, although I don't doubt his Christianity. But different people have different approaches. I went to the First Baptist Church every Sunday. If I was at Camp David, we had church at Camp David.

KING: Are you still a lay preacher?

CARTER: I teach the Bible every Sunday at home.

KING: You've always gone?

CARTER: Yes, I have.

KING: What do you make of Obama going at this particular time?

CARTER: I'm glad he went. I think maybe -- I don't know his motivation. Maybe he just wanted to worship. Or maybe he wanted to let people be reminded accurately that he is a devout Christian. It's the certain prerogative of any human being, including presidents.

KING: What keeps your faith with all you see around you?

CARTER: It's a -- it's a basic precise of my moral and practical life. I've been a Christian all my life since I was three years old and was going to church. My father was a Sunday schoolteacher like I am now. And it's been a great solace to me in times of trial and disappointment or sorrow or failure or disillusionment. I prayed more when -- the last year I was in office than I ever have before or since, while the hostages were being held. My prayer was never that I would prevail or win or anything, but that every hostage would come home safe and free. And my prayers were answered, as you know.

And so I've been basically at ease with my faith. And I enjoy each Sunday that I'm home, about 35 times a year, teaching the Bible. I teach half the time in Hebrew text, Old Testament, and half the time in the New Testament.

KING: What do you make of the Islamic center controversy here, just a couple mimes from where we are?

CARTER: They ought to build it. They have a perfect right to build it. This is a part of our nation's premise, freedom of religion. And not only freedom of religion, but equality among the religions as far as the preference of worshippers is concerned. I think it's gotten a little bit false to say well, they have a constitutional right to do it, but they can't do it; we're not going to let them do it. I think they ought to go ahead and build it.

KING: You understand the unrest, though? CARTER: I do. Well, let them -- let there be some unrest. It's two complete blocks away from so-called holy ground of the disaster in 9/11. And it's not an intrusion on any other beliefs. And also it's surrounded by I understand strip joints and commercial establishments and so forth. It's just a contrivance, in my opinion, by people who want to arouse anti-Islamic feelings.

KING: What do you make of the president's handling so far of Afghanistan?

CARTER: Well, he inherited the Afghanistan problem. I was involved in the Afghan problem from the beginning. On Christmas day of 1979, the Soviets began to haul in about 12,000 troops and they invaded Afghanistan. That was the beginning of the problem. They stayed there about eight years, until Gorbachev finally decided to bring them out. And in that time, I gave the Afghan freedom fighters -- we called them -- every possible support I could in a clandestine or secret way.

In fact, all the weapons that I gave them were soviet weapons that we got from Egypt and from Saudi Arabia and from Pakistan. We didn't use American weapons. And eventually the freedom fighters prevailed.

When the Soviets did withdraw, Gorbachev did it. I think if we had just gone in then and spent a tenth as much as we're spending now on weapons and fighting, and rebuilt Afghanistan, there would never have been an opening for al Qaeda to go in. So I hope we'll get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible, and maybe work with moderate members of the Taliban -- and there are many of them -- and try to have some accommodations with them.

KING: All right. Back with President Carter after this.


KING: We're back with President Carter. The book "White House Diary." Colin Powell says that Obama has lost some of his ability to connect with the public, that he needs to be like a razor blade and go after the employment issue. Be more forceful.

CARTER: Yeah. Well, I don't think there's any doubt that he sapped away a lot of his political popularity concentrating so heavily on getting the health bill passed. And I think a lot of people feel, maybe legitimately, that if he had concentrated more on jobs, jobs, jobs, instead of anything else, he would be more politically popular now.

But that was a great achievement for health care. And I think in the long run it is going to be very good for our country. But I believe that what Colin said is accurate. But I don't blame President Obama for having made that choice.

KING: It is still a ways away, but is he in political trouble in 2012?

CARTER: I think the situation politically is going to be quite different in 2012 from what it is this time. I think in 2010, the midterm elections, the Democrats are going to be faced with some pretty heavy defeats. I think that he's got plenty of time to repair any political damage. My hope is that we'll see some improvement made in employment and in the economy. And so I believe that he's got a good chance not only to be the nominee, which I had to fight for, which I don't think he'll have to fight for, but to be re-elected.

KING: You don't think any Democrat would challenge him?

CARTER: I can't imagine that again.

KING: Is there any Republican on the horizon you as a Democrat worry about?

CARTER: Well, I worry about whichever one they might choose, because it's obviously going to be a tough campaign. And I would hate to see the Republicans take over the White House and the House and maybe even the Senate. I think our country would be put back there if that should happen, economically and in every other way. So I can't pick out one Republican that would concern me more than others.

KING: What do you make of former Governor Palin?

CARTER: I think she's a vivid political person that has made a major impact on the consciousness of the America, both whether you like her or don't like her. I think she's extremely eloquent. She knows how to appeal to whatever audience is in front of her. And she has tremendous influence, as she demonstrated for instance just recently in Delaware, where she went in and endorsed an unknown woman who then prevailed in the Republican primary.

I think that even the Republicans, from what polls I have seen, don't see her as a potential president. But they look on her with admiration.

KING: Do you see her as a potential president?

CARTER: I hope not, no. I don't see her as a potential president.

KING: Do you see her as a candidate? CARTER: I think she'll be very shrewd in making a decision to run for president, depending on what the public opinion polls show about her being acceptable among Republicans. I think if she sees she can get the Republican nomination, she'll go for it. But so far according to the polls I've seen, I'm completely outside of it.

KING: Have you ever seen this country as divided as it is?

CARTER: It never has been this divided. I don't think it was this divided, as I said, even during the time of Abraham Lincoln. Obviously during the war, the Civil War, the war between the states, it was divided severely. But no, it's not been this divided.

You know, I had superb bipartisan support when I was president. As the years went by of my own presidency, and Clinton -- I mean, excuse me, Senator Kennedy made more and more strong challenge to me, he sapped away the liberal members of the Democratic party. And I turned more and more toward the moderate to conservative Democrats. Also to the Republicans. But I had Congressman Michael in the House and Baker in the Senate, Howard Baker, who really helped me in -- on key votes. So I got superb support from Republicans and Democrats.

KING: There is no one like that around.

CARTER: No. There's no one like that around. And now they have kind of a solemn oath they take. If you're a Republican, don't vote for Obama no matter what he proposes, even if it's good stuff.

KING: The book is "White House Diary." We'll be right back.




CARTER: The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives, and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.


KING: We're going to have the president read another excerpt from "White House Diary." This is the day he leaves office, the inauguration of President Reagan.

CARTER: This is exactly four years after the first one. "On the inaugural platform, my feelings were of regret that I had lost the election, but a sense of relief to be free of the responsibilities for a while. Persistent, though, was my concern that at the last minute, the hostages might not be released. I watched the ceremonies as a somewhat detached spectator without any emotional feelings. I thought that the speech was remarkable hackneyed, nothing new, just a collection of campaign material. I was glancing back at the Secret Service agent with the MC said, would the president and First Lady please come forward. I had an involuntary inclination to stand up with Rosalyn, but I realized he was talking about the Reagans."

And then two minutes later, I was informed that the hostage plane had taken off. They had been sitting in the plane since 10:00 that morning, free and ready to be released.

KING: You're very critical of this book of the Washington press corp. Does that still stand?

CARTER: I think they're much better now than they were when I was president. I was critical of them because I thought there was a great distortion of what I was trying to do and doing. And --

KING: Couldn't George Bush say the same thing? CARTER: I think any president might want to say the same thing, except maybe a few. I think President Reagan was kind of a darling of the press a lot of his term. And I think probably John Kennedy was another one who enjoyed favorable reaction from --

KING: Personality counts?

CARTER: It does count a lot. And the ability to be part of their environment. You're part of their environment, too. I think Lyndon Johnson had a really hard time with the White House press corp.

KING: What do you make of the Jon Stewart and Stephen -- I know you're a Jon Stewart fan.


KING: You'll be on his show later tonight?

CARTER: That's true.

KING: What do you make of his rally? Rally to Restore Sanity?

CARTER: And to preserve fear I think is what Colbert says. I think it will be an interesting event. I believe it will be a pretty large turnout. I think there will be a lot of humor in it. And it is going to be interesting to watch how they avoid any alignment towards a liberal or a conservative philosophy, and make sure they stay kind of out of politics and still retain their role as humorous.

KING: It s obviously in retaliation to the Tea Party and the Glenn Beck rally.

CARTER: That's what I surmise. Of course, Jon Stewart hadn't told me that, I don't think he's told his viewers yet exactly what his motivations are, except, as you say, just to bring rationality back to the political debate and discussion.

KING: Jimmy Carter is going to be 86 in less than two weeks. What's he got planned next? Maybe the next decade? Or two? Hey, he talks to god. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with President Carter. The book "White House Diary." What's next? Can you go solve a war somewhere, solve peace, go to an election? You're not going to stop.

CARTER: No. I just got back from North Korea and China. And we stay in touch with about 70 countries around the world, which is the work of the Carter Center. So I'll continue to do that kind of work. Most of our effort at the Carter Center is in diseases, curing and preventing and eradicating terrible diseases that still afflict the poorest and most helpless and needy people on earth.

So I'll stay involved in the Carter Center as long as I'm physically and mentally able. I'm still a professor at Emory University. This is my 29th year as a professor. And I'll still write a book every now and then. KING: I know that. Many people you write about, Hamilton Jordan, Jody Powell, Ted Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Jerry Ford, Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin, Scoop Jackson, Robert Byrd, they're all gone. Does that give you pause?

CARTER: Menachim Begin. It does.

KING: Do you think about mortality?

CARTER: The book is dedicated to Hamilton Jordan and to Jody Powell, who were just about like my own sons, and who helped me become and be president and governor. So it was with a great deal of emotion that I dedicated this book to them. But, yes, times change and people go on. And I think one thing I would like to remind the readers of this book, although there's some very controversial and sometimes critical comments in there about me and them, is that the book was written 30 years ago. And times have changed. And I changed my opinion about a lot of people but --

KING: So read it with that?

CARTER: It's an absolutely frank, honest, undisturbed, unmodified -- I didn't change a single sentence meaning in the book about what it means to be president and to point out 30 or 40 things in the book, really, that I had to address that were very serious to me, that Obama is having to address today.

KING: Frank Sinatra told me the sad thing about aging is your friends are gone.

CARTER: That's exactly right.

KING: Same with you?

CARTER: It's sad, of course. And every year it seems like more and more of them pass away. Some of those much earlier than they should have, like Jody and Hamilton, who were a generation behind me.

KING: And your brother?

CARTER: And my brother Billy, who was 13 years younger than I was. So we have to be prepared for that.

KING: How's your health?

CARTER: My health is good, thank goodness.

KING: You're an amazing guy.

CARTER: Thank you, Larry, for letting me come.

KING: And you're a regular viewer, which we count on.

CARTER: I certainly am and have been for a long time.

KING: President Jimmy Carter. The book "White House Diary." This is going to be a major best seller.

Barbara Walters will be here tomorrow night. Right now, "AC 360" and Anderson Cooper. Anderson?