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CNN Larry King Weekend

The Best of Interviews With Margaret Thatcher

Aired June 17, 2001 - 21:00   ET



MARGARET THATCHER, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: To those waiting with bated breath for that favorite media catch phrase, the U- turn, I have only one thing to say: U-turn if you want to. The lady's not for turning.


LARRY KING: Tonight: steely words from Britain's Iron Lady; highlights of our conversations with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. The people of Britain did not listen to Lady Margaret Thatcher earlier this month. She warned of a dictatorship if the Labour Party won the country's June 7 elections. Labour was victorious, keeping Tony Blair in the prime minister's job. Shortly before the vote, he said a win by Labour would mark the end of Thatcherism in Britain.

Margaret Thatcher, the grocer's daughter who became one of the most formidable leaders of our time, served as prime minister from 1979 to 1990. She had been awarded a title baroness by the time she joined us the fall of '93. She also had a best-selling memoir, "The Downing Street Years." And we started by talking about her historic rise to power.


KING: When along the route to your own rise did you say to yourself, I want to be prime minister, I want to lead the country?


KING: Never said it?


KING: How did it happen?

THATCHER: I can tell you exactly how it happened. I became an ordinary Member of Parliament. I went and saw some of those scenes in Parliament, the debates -- you know how noisy they are -- I thought, thank goodness I'm on the backbenches, an ordinary member. I'm not a minister, I don't think I could take this, the catcalling they have. And then I became a junior minister, and it seemed all right, I could deal with it. Then I became a cabinet minister, and that seemed all right, and then we lost that election. And we had lost several.

And so Keith Joseph (ph) and I decided to go right back to the drawing board on principles, followed by policy, followed by detailed decisions. And I had expected when Ted Heath put up again as leader of the party, that Keith Joseph (ph) as the leader of this particular group would stand. And he came into my study one day and said, Margaret, I just can't stand. I don't think I can take that kind of criticism and that kind of pressure. And almost immediately I said, look Keith, if you won't stand, I will. Someone who holds our views has got to stand, so that we have a chance of putting it into action.

KING: So had he stood that day and said so, you wouldn't have...

THATCHER: I would have been his most loyal left tenant, and I wouldn't have been prime minister. We still had to go through, of course, a general election.

KING: Of course. Would you say that it was worth it, all the ups, all the downs, all the travails? Was it worth it?

THATCHER: Of course, every minute of the time. It was a most fascinating time of my life, but they were gripping years. We sorted out the economy. People came to have a higher standard of living, a real enterprise economy. You then saw the end of the cold war. You had all the suddenness of things like the Falklands and then the Gulf. Then I had a sudden telephone call from Ronald Reagan, what about the Libyan raids. Could his bases be used? There was fascinating event after event after event.

KING: But what does that take out of you? I mean, certainly there's -- with every good there's a bad, they say, up there's a down.

THATCHER: What does that take out of you? If you put yourself in the front line of politics, you're going to be shot at with all the criticisms. You're going to be criticized in the media, of course you are. You must expect that. And I don't know how you get through it if you didn't really believe in what you were doing, or knew why you were doing it. And I knew full well, and indeed I said to Mr. Gorbachev many years later, that when you are doing a great reform, when you're really changing things all the difficult things will happen first. And it will be quite a time before the benefits begin to show. That was so with me, and it was so with him.

KING: What is special about him? Because Mr. Reagan said it, you said it. What is it?

THATCHER: I had never met before a person from the Soviet Union who could get into argument, answer debates, be very ebullient in all of his actions. Normally they were so dull, they had great sheaves of paper, they looked in the sheaves of paper in the briefing for replies. Not Mikhail Gorbachev. He didn't have sheaves of papers. It was all in his head. He was willing to admit that some things were wrong in the Soviet Union, which was very unusual. And he'd tell you what they were. And also, when he got into power, he deliberately tried to make changes, to try to get them right.

It was difficult. They were turning from a totally controlled economy, which they controlled for 70 years. To try to say to people, look you must be enterprising. He didn't quite know how to do that, but what he did was to give people what you and I would regard as our birthright. Freedom of worship, they had never had it before; freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of association, freedom of elections.

KING: His life was a success.

THATCHER: Marvelous. His life was not only a success, it was a great factor in the history of our time.


KING: Margaret Thatcher recognized Mikhail Gorbachev's talents well before he became the Soviet premier. In 1984, then a politburo member, Gorbachev visited London and met with Mrs. Thatcher. After that encounter, she said she liked him. She also said, we can do business together.

When we return, Lady Thatcher's thoughts on the royal family.


THATCHER: I stand before you tonight in my red tar (ph) chiffon evening gown. My face softly made up and my fair hair gently waved, the iron lady of the Western world.





RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She is a leader with vision and the courage to stay the course until the battles are won. And on occasion, she has born the added burden of heavy criticism incurred on America's behalf.

I've been fortunate over these eight years, and for several years before that to enjoy such a close professional and personal rapport and a genuine friendship with Margaret Thatcher.

KING: That's Ronald Reagan's picture, what's your picture of him?

THATCHER: It was just very providential that he and I were in power together. He had the same beliefs that I did. He had something else, he had the most marvelous voice and communication talents. And that he could get everything across, not only what he wanted to do but the reason why. And also we had something else in common, he never deflected from his purpose. He kept straight on towards his goal and so did I.

KING: But you can have same opinions, the saying goes, but that don't mean you have to like someone. And the two of you had genuine affection, correct.

THATCHER: Yes, indeed, yes, we just got along very easy together. Sometimes, you know, the chemistry works and you just click into action with someone. But I knew him before I was prime minister and also before he was president.

KING: And it was the instant you knew him you liked him, when you first met him?

THATCHER: I knew his views, and therefore -- I knew his capacity for communication, I'd seen him speak. And he can grip people with his total belief and sincerity. And I saw it again in action. You know there were some people among other heads of state in government, who we met in the G-7 who didn't think that he could make speeches off his own bat. I think they thought speechmakers made up all his speeches.

And once in Paris he was asked really about what he thought about the economy and how it should come right. And he just sat and gave a 15-minute's belief in free enterprise and why it worked and low taxation and how marvelous the people were who could create the jobs. And after that President Mitterrand was in the chair, even he said, well you just have to know that President Reagan really believes every word, and it's very compelling.

KING: You do not, according to advanced reads of this book, have the same feelings about President Bush, correct?

THATCHER: I like President Bush very much. You couldn't have a more decent, honorable man than President Bush. I felt that he inherited these principles, and it is one thing to inherit them it's another thing to have fashioned them and believed in them. And to have had an absolute yen to achieve your goal.

KING: He didn't have that?

THATCHER: I don't think so. I think President Bush was absolutely first class with all his experience on foreign affairs and we were very grateful for that. That was his experience. I think that he felt that the kind of regime that Ronald Reagan had put in place, cutting the regulations, cutting the taxes, the enterprise would come up again. And of course it did, but it wasn't showing at the time of the last election.

KING: Do you know President Clinton?

THATCHER: No, I don't know President Clinton.

KING: What are your impressions of thus far from across the Atlantic?

THATCHER: It is very early to say. He's obviously trying very hard indeed. He obviously can put an argument extremely well and the rhetoric is excellent. I noticed that during the election campaign. He's very anxious to please, and very anxious to do as much as he possibly can for people. The ways he chooses would not be the ways I choose, but that's a different political view.

KING: The royalty aspect of that job -- something you have to deal with? Something you like, dislike? What are your thoughts on Lady Di and the queen?

THATCHER: I think the monarchy is the best possible system. No matter what happens all of the patriotism and affection goes to the monarch. The queen's been on the throne since 1952. Every day of her life she has had to do the red boxes, the documents, receive ambassadors, go round the world -- indeed she probably has more experience than any other head of state.

At seeing other heads of state, and knowing first hand the problems of other countries. Every day for more than 40 years, and until she dies. She can't get out of it. Her very name spells duty. And then the Prime Minister takes all the flack, that's absolutely right.

KING: You like that. Does the prime minister ever talk to a queen about things material?

THATCHER: Oh indeed, usually every Tuesday evening there is an audience with the queen, when she is in London. Maybe at Balmoral (ph), if she is at Balmoral or elsewhere. There's a regular weekly audience between prime minister and queen, prime minister and monarch, and the prime minister reporting to the queen. Telling her all the things which are going on and which are expected to come up.

KING: When the tabloids get onto something, or you have a Charles and Di, is it -- does it bring you down?

THATCHER: I think these things happened in the past, but it wasn't dealt with on the front pages of the newspaper. I think it would be better if it were wholly private, but that's not the world we live in. But the important thing is that the monarchy must continue. There is a monarch and a prime minister, and the prime minister's elected, and the continuity is in the monarchy.

KING: We'll be back with Lady Margaret Thatcher, or is it Margaret, the Lady Thatcher? What -- help me with this...

THATCHER: Just Margaret Thatcher, and I've been Mrs. Thatcher for over 40 years, and since...

KING: But when you are a lady, though, do you feel different?


KING: The book is "The Downing Street Years," published by Harper Collins. We'll be taking your calls in a little while, and we'll be back with the lady, right after this.



THATCHER: The other plank in Labour strategy, we're told, is to have a long campaign so that they can -- and I'm only paraphrasing their argument -- nail that woman. I think that must be reference to me.



UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Good evening, Mrs. Thatcher has resigned as leader of the Conservative Party, but she remains prime minister until a successor is chosen. She went to Buckingham Palace at lunchtime to tell the queen she could no longer carry on.



NEIL KINNOCK MP, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: May I pay tribute to the prime minister and to her decision this morning. She showed by that, that she amounts to more than those who have turned upon her in recent days.

PADDY ASHDOWN MP, LEADER, LIBERAL DEMOCRATS: However wide our political divisions, and they are, of course very wide, no one can doubt the special style she has brought to that dispatch box, nor her courage, conviction and determination which she has brought to her premiership.

DAME ELAINE KELLETT-BOWMAN, CON: LANCASTER: ... my honorable friend accept from me the love and affection of millions of people in my part of the world who have looked to her over the years with the greatest admiration and delight.

THATCHER: I'm particularly grateful to receive that from my honorable friend. We were at college together; I think we've been together ever since.


KING: Margaret Thatcher resigned as prime minister in November of 1990, after being ousted as leader of her own Conservative Party. Nearly three years to the day afterwards, I asked her how it happened.


THATCHER: What happened was that there is a system of reelecting the leader of our party, which can be operated every year. Normally it is not during the time a prime minister is in office, but it can be. And it was operated that particular year, 1990. And Michael Heseltine, who had great ambitions, and no one blames anyone for that, who wanted to be leader. It came through the first ballot with a majority of the MPs in my party -- only MPs can vote -- so I got the majority, but not quite a big enough majority for the rules, just two short. I was away. I was negotiating and indeed signing one of the treaties we had worked so hard with Mr. Gorbachev on a reduction in conventional weapons.

And all of 35 heads of government and state were assembled in Paris to sign it. And so of course I stayed there. And of course we stayed for two days debating the issues of the future. I remember the ballot coming through, and thinking, oh, I'll have to go through a second round. I do wish it had been sorted out in the first round. It wasn't, but I was away, and that night my fellow MPs and my fellow Cabinet ministers just lost their nerve. That's the only way I can explain it.

KING: Nerve to do what, hang tough?

THATCHER: The nerve to say, right, we must go out and get a few more votes for Margaret, and then all will be well. And those who were very much against my policies -- there are always those in your own party -- got working. And I'm afraid that by the time I got back the whole thing had fallen apart.

KING: This would be similar if the challenge to Bush were forced into a second poll of the delegates...

THATCHER: A second poll...

KING: ... and the people around Bush quite him.

THATCHER: Well, the second poll of people in Congress...

KING: Yeah.

THATCHER: Yes. It was never put to the people.

KING: Is there any one particular -- do you have bitterness?

THATCHER: No point in being bitter. I saw every Cabinet minister separately. And what they said is fully recorded, because there were two other people in the room with me. And what slowly dawned on me, as they came in one after another, is now look I'm a friend of yours. And I must tell you as a candid friend that I will support you if you go on, but I don't think you can win. And I think that you should stand down, and let someone else who is more likely to be -- Michael Heseltine. And then the next one came in, you know I am your friend and I will support you, but I must be candid -- it was the strangest thing. And then one came in.

KING: What did you say?

THATCHER: One marvelous man came in and said look, I support you and if you go on I will fight for you. And you can do it with all guns blazed and go out fighting. I was beginning to doubt that any of the guns would blaze. And that in fact, after I had seen them all, just really decided me. Even generals must have good officers. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, HOUSE OF COMMONS, NOVEMBER 22, 1990)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, doesn't the prime minister find it at all nauseating and hypocritical to be so much...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Order, order. Come along.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The prime minister find it the height of hypocrisy and a bit nauseating...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: .. to be so much praised by Tory and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when last week 152 of them stabbed her in the back?

THATCHER: Well really, the honorable member wasn't exactly complementary on my last appearance, was he? No, I don't find it nauseating. I find it very refreshing. That's what I thought.





THATCHER: The difficulties we face are formidable, but our determination to secure a just solution is relentless, and in that I believe we have the whole country with us.



KING: Layden Holland for Lady Thatcher, hello.

CALLER: Good evening Lady Margaret Thatcher.

THATCHER: Good evening.

CALLER: My question is, what is your current opinion about the British Falklands? And do you still believe you made the right decision when you decided to defend the Falklands by military means instead of diplomatic ones?

THATCHER: Most certainly. The Falkland Islands were invaded by an aggressor. At the time there were no Argentinian people on the islands except those who were running the air service from the Falklands to the mainland. British people had been there for 149 years. It was a plain straightforward invasion of the queen's lands, and taking captive British people. Just our people at home simply wouldn't have had it. We had to go back and get those islands from Galtieri and he had to be seen to be defeated, and he was defeated.

But what makes you think the diplomatic activity could have gotten those Falkland Islands back? When you read the book, you will see there were negotiations after negotiations. Al Haig (ph) did some, they would approve proposals, and one lot of proposals after another, all designed to say, keep on negotiating, all designed. I'd be negotiating now, and the people would have still been under a military junta and not under democracy.

KING: Isn't it the hardest thing to send people into battle, though?

THATCHER: Look, this was a remarkable thing. A prime minister never expects to send people into battle. I was agonized over it. But you couldn't leave our people captive of a military junta of the Argentine.

Yes, it seemed militarily impossible to go 8,000 miles into the South Atlantic Ocean where it was bitter winter. To have to fight with your aircraft bouncing upon the deck of aircraft carriers in the cruel seas. What have I got to stand as in good stead? We've got all the weaponry, we've got all the ships, we have the best-trained professional men, as you do also have in the United States. And I had great faith in them. I had marvelous admirals, marvelous officers, marvelous men, wonderful fighting men, marvelous sense of humor. And they had a task to do to free British people.

KING: And like Harry Truman, I guess, once you make a decision like that, no qualms.

THATCHER: No, it is done. But you go through agony every day when things go wrong.

Can I tell you one thing that was the first thing that happened? And it caused me great grief and alarm. We were going to get South Georgia back first, because that too had been taken. And we had to put a reconnaissance team on the Fortuna Glacier (ph), and excellent reconnaissance crack troops landed by helicopter. Very soon the weather worsened, a terrible blizzard; and they radioed to be taken off, there was no cover. A helicopter went to try to rescue them and could not take them off. A second helicopter went, that could not get them off. They just couldn't get out.

At that stage the admiral came into tell me what had happened. And then my Secretary of State for Defense, that here we had these troops in a blizzard, two helicopters, two helicopter crews, and we couldn't get them off. And I had to go out to a dinner in the city of London that night, and I was agonizing. I said to Admiral Ruen (ph), oh, does this mean we should never have gone?

And he, with all his experience said to me, "No don't be dismayed yet. Sometimes, the best of battles start very badly." And I went upstairs and changed to go to the city of London to speak. Came down with a heavy heart, nothing in my mind except what was happening on that glacier (ph). I didn't know what I was going to do about the speech.

Suddenly at the bottom of the stairs, it was the prime minister's staircase, out dashed my principle private secretary from his office. He said, it's alright, a third helicopter has gone in, and it has taken off all the troops and the other two crews. And is due to land on HMS Anton (ph) very shortly. And it did.

It was as impossible again. We specialized in making the impossible happen during that campaign. And I walked out of No. 10 Downing Street to do dinner absolutely on air. I've never in my life felt so relieved.

KING: We'll be back with Lady Thatcher, the book "The Downing Street Years" after these words.


THATCHER: The government wants a peaceful settlement. But your government totally rejects a peaceful sellout. There would be neither honor nor credibility in our country or our people if we were to do that.



KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING WEEKEND. We're showcasing highlights of our interviews with Margaret Thatcher, one of the most remarkable women we've ever had as a guest. She joined us in June of '95 to talk about her new book, "The Path to Power." That told the story of her life before she became Britain's first female prime minister. And I was curious about her early years.


KING: Was your a happy childhood, generally?

THATCHER: A happy...

KING: Yes.

THATCHER: Yes, I think so.

KING: Brothers and sisters?

THATCHER: I had -- yes, I had an elder sister. We were a very close-knit family. My father was a grocer and my mother had been a dressmaker with her own business. He was also on our local council; he became mayor.

He had to leave school at the age of 13 because in those days, you know, you couldn't go on easily without paying something for it. And so he was the best self-educated man I ever met. He read and read and read, and taught us to read.

KING: When did you know you were different? I mean, most little girls don't grow up to be prime minister. We have yet to have a little girl grow up to be president. When did you know you were different? THATCHER: That's a strange question to ask, and for a moment I have to think. I was very much aware, from quite an early age, being the youngest in the family, I much preferred the company of my elders to the company of my contemporaries. I was much more interested in the things that they were talking about, because these were the '30s and these were interesting times...

KING: Well, that's a time...

THATCHER: ... times of great unemployment...

KING: And you were a very young lady. You must have felt different -- why aren't I hanging around with my 12-year-old friends? Why do I want to be with my 22-year-old...

THATCHER: I enjoyed the conversation and the company of older people very much. And I enjoyed the things they were talking about, and I listened, and then gradually came to join in.

We were also quite a musical family. And we love music, and we love to sing songs around the piano sometimes.

KING: When did you first run for -- how old were you when you said, I'm going to run for office?

THATCHER: Oh, I was really at university when I expressed the wish to become a member of Parliament. And it wasn't I who really triggered that expression. We were just sitting round the kitchen table with a number of friends after a dance one evening, and we were talking about politics. Of course, I was often talking about politics. And all of a sudden one of my companions said, you want to be an MP, don't you?

And it crystallized it for me. Just like that. And I said yes; but I couldn't afford it. MPs weren't paid very much in those days.

KING: So you ran when?

THATCHER: When they were paid enough.

KING: Britain's had a history of strong women. You had strong queens. Was it still unusual for women to be in Parliament?

THATCHER: It was still quite difficult for us to get into Parliament, to get adopted. I remember I first put in for a fight at a tough, industrial seat. And the chairman said, we can't have a woman here. This is an industrial seat.

However, they adopted me, and that was the first seat I fought. It was a tough Labour seat, but it really gave me a great deal of experience of fighting. And I had a very interesting Labour member opposite me who challenged me to a debate in the local school hall. And I think he thought he was going to make mincemeat of me, but I really had grown up to debate in my family, so we had a very equal debate. And he was very magnanimous, you know. It's very good when you have a good relationship with your political opponents. It makes for much better politics...

KING: It's also better than being hostile and angry...

THATCHER: Oh, you don't want to shout names at one another the whole time. Politics is too important for that. It's about the lives of people.

KING: You have been very critical of Prime Minister Major, though, have you not?

THATCHER: I have been critical of the increase in taxes when we fought the last election on reduction in taxes. And if you put up public expenditure, you have to increase taxes. But the people were not expecting that. He hasn't increased them enormously, thank goodness. I think the alternative party would. But it was enough to make people a bit concerned, that the Conservative government was increasing taxation.

KING: Similar to George Bush in the United States?

THATCHER: Yes, just really rather like that. What it means is that the people don't want socialism, they want more conservatism. And when a Conservative governments return, they expect them to be really conservative.

KING: Have you spoken to Mr. Major?

THATCHER: I speak with him from time to time, and drop him a not from time to time. I had, some time ago, spoken to him about that.

KING: Would you like to be in that office again?


KING: Not ever?

THATCHER: No, I reckon I'm too old. I was in that office for 11 and a half years. There will be plenty of people who will say, it was time the old girl went. The old girl went, and the old girl is not going to come back.


KING: Stay tuned. We'll be back with more highlights of our interviews with Margaret Thatcher in just a few moments.


THATCHER: I think honorable members may be certain that I shall make my views clear if I am given the opportunity to do so. It is not my custom to use coded messages. I believe that the majority of the British people do not want to hand over substantially more powers to the European community. (END VIDEO CLIP)



THATCHER: What has happened is a total violation of international law. You cannot have a situation where one country marches in and takes over another country which is a member of the United Nations. I don't think the particular weapons they have affects that fundamental position.



KING: Montreal, Canada with Lady Thatcher, hello.

CALLER: Good evening Lady Thatcher, good evening Larry.


CALLER: Lady Thatcher, I'd like to know if, when you visited with President Bush in Aspen, Colorado in August of '91, how instrumental were you in changing the president's mind in warring on Iraq?

THATCHER: Well, I don't know, but...

KING: You've been given the credit.

THATCHER: I don't know. We discussed it together, and I didn't have any difficulty in persuading him that that was the right thing to do. I gave my views very forcefully, and I had no indications he disagreed. I only thought he agreed with them.

And then I came back from Colorado to be with him in the Oval Office in Washington on the Monday before I went back home. And that was when the United Nations resolution passed. And we had both decided at that time that you must never let an aggression stand. And the moment that resolution was passed, the aircraft took off because it was vital they get to the fields -- airfields in Saudi Arabia, north of Saudi Arabia to make it quite clear to Saddam Hussein that he must not move further. And that gave us the time, then, to decide on sending ground troops, et cetera.

I thought he was a very, very good commander in chief on that occasion. Don't forget, George Bush had fought a war. And he's such an honorable man.

KING: Brussels, Belgium, hello.


CALLER: Hello?


CALLER: Good evening, Lady Thatcher.

THATCHER: Good evening.

CALLER: I would like to ask you -- well, I'm a Libyan immigrant living in Belgium, and I would like to ask you about -- who was your favorite Arab leader when you were in office?

THATCHER: My favorite Arab leader? Well, I knew so many of them, I couldn't possibly have a favorite one.

KING: Well, let's discuss someone who had an assassination attempt yesterday; did you get along with President Mubarak?

THATCHER: Yes, yes. President Mubarak is an Arab leader with tons of personality and a very outward-going approach, as you know. And he was marvelous, particularly in the Gulf War. It was he who did the televising -- very, very few Arab leaders do television. King Hussein of Jordan does, but he, as you know, that...

KING: He was just here with Rabin and Arafat.

THATCHER: Yes, yes. He does that.

But certainly President Mubarak just has a way with television. He has a way of taking the guts of a question and putting it -- and he was marvelous for presenting our side of the case to the whole Arab people.

KING: Are you still concerned about extremists in the Mideast? It's obvious...

THATCHER: I think one has to be concerned about extremism. You know, in many religions, you have fanatics. The fanatics turn to extremism, which has really no basis in the true religion at all.

KING: We'll take a break and we'll be right back with Lady Margaret Thatcher. Her book is "The Path to Power."

This is LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.



THATCHER: This is evil. The things that are going on in Kuwait are terrifying. They are brutal. And most people understand that evil has to be stopped. Either he withdraws, or the military option has to be used.



(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE, JUNE 25, 1995) KING: We're back with Lady Margaret Thatcher. And we go back to your phone calls. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; hello.

CALLER: Hello. Good evening, Lady Thatcher. Good evening, Larry.


CALLER: Lady Thatcher, being a principled person in power, what was your most difficult decision to make?

KING: Good question.

THATCHER: The most difficult decision might surprise you. It was not the Falkland Islands, which really made itself, we had to go. The most difficult decision was the day President Reagan rang me up and said, we have to do something about Libya, it is a terrorists state, we have all the evidences you know. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I want to do a raid on Libya. And I want to do it from the bases in Britain.

This came out of the blue. I knew the sort of trouble it would cause in Parliament. And I said, look, just give me a few hours to think it over. Called in my defense secretary, and we decided that unless someone tried to put a stop to terrorism and made it clear that people could not on bombing airports and the thing (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the terrible thing, and continuing to do that, we really should be failing in our duty.

And so we decided it was justifiable, provided the targets were military targets, strictly military targets. So I phoned him back and said yes, we would consent. It caused an uproar, as I thought it would, but many people realized later that it was the right thing to do.

Strangely enough, it was the most difficult debate in Parliament I ever had to take. And I had all the law and the case and the intelligence worked out about why we had to do it.

KING: You have any second thoughts?

THATCHER: No, I didn't. It was the right decision. It was the decision of Reagan, which took me by surprise. He was not a man to be beaten by terrorism. He was not a man to fear the consequences of making that grade, because he thought it was right.

KING: But it was France -- they didn't let them fly over France, right?

THATCHER: No. It was dreadful. I said of course they could use our bases. It would have been much easier had they flown straight across France, and straight down.

And my utter amazement, France denied them. Only the airspace -- that's all they had to do.

(CROSSTALK) THATCHER: They had to go all the way around, before they made their bombing runs, and they must have been exhausted. Three of the planes couldn't find their targets, so they couldn't drop their bombs. They were dropped later in the sea.

They were very careful, those pilots...

KING: Did you talk to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

THATCHER: No, I didn't talk to him. I don't think I could have changed his mind.

KING: Any life decision, personal or public, you do regret?

THATCHER: Oh, I'm sure there are.

KING: Anything jump to you?

THATCHER: I can't think what they are.

KING: Any public decision you would do over?

THATCHER: Yes, I'm sure there are. I just can't think of them at the moment.

KING: What do you miss the most?

THATCHER: I miss the sense of being at the center of things, and the dented end of the brain that goes with it. I miss the cut and thrust of swift debate. I miss the regularity of the life. Because life was extremely well-ordered.

In great variety, it was well-ordered. Tuesday and Thursday, there were questions; the Cabinet meeting was Thursday; had some certain conferences to attend, both international and at home. And that very ordered life suited me very well. It was packed full of activity. One had to work late into the night. But that suited me also.

KING: I asked you about Mr. Clinton and Bosnia. What about him in general, as a president?

THATCHER: He is an excellent communicator, in fact a brilliant communicator. And it was obvious during the election campaign that he was particularly good, I thought, during those televised debates. And he didn't seem to have a nerve in him, and I know full well, that when you look like that, you really aren't like jelly within.

KING: Are you saying that?


KING: He's not strong?

THATCHER: There are two things in politics -- well, more than two things. One of them is, having something to communicate; and the other is, being able to communicate it. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) be able to communicate very well. You wouldn't expect me to agree with everything he wishes to communicate, although in some things -- I think he was more right about Bosnia in the beginning, I'm sorry he didn't follow it through.

KING: We'll be right back with Lady Margaret Thatcher. The book is, "The Path to Power." More calls after this.


THATCHER: Just before I left, the news came that we had won a majority. It is wonderful to be entrusted with a government of this great country once again. And I want to say this to you: the greater the trust, the greater the duty upon us to be worthy of that trust, and we will indeed endeavor to serve these people these items in the future, as we have in the past.





THATCHER: Parliament is sovereign (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But we're giving away more and more as the courts interpret a bigger and bigger treaty. So as well as legislation behind closed doors, we are getting justice behind closed doors.


KING: Lady Thatcher, what is life like for you now? Tell us about...

THATCHER: I like this -- very exciting. I'm a member of the House of Lords, which is very much more sedate and dignified than the House of Commons. And the flash or (UNINTELLIGIBLE) debate is not there...

KING: Do you offend a lot?

THATCHER: ... you can have -- not a lot while I'd been writing the books.

On the other hand, you can make certain -- there are specialist professions there, like distinguished scientists and quite a lot of businessmen. So if you have a debate there, you have got people directly involved, either in an industry or in the services or distinguished scientists or doctors, and so on.

KING: What do your children do?

THATCHER: My daughter is in the press, and she's very good at writing. Yes, she's very good at writing...

KING: For a paper?

THATCHER: She's writing a book about my husband. And my son has had his own business for a time.

KING: Your daughter is writing a biography of your husband?

THATCHER: Of my husband, yes. And I think that's marvelous.

KING: Yes, it's about time he will get some attention.

THATCHER: That's right. That's right.

KING: How does he feel about it?

THATCHER: Well, he's absolutely thrilled that Carol is writing it. And she's a good writer, and she's done a fantastic amount of research about it, and found out things that we never knew. So he's going to be thrilled. And the more the book sells, the more delighted he'll be. You know how delighted you are if your children are successful.

KING: Does she write for a newspaper?

THATCHER: She's freelance. She did write for a newspaper, and then she decided to go freelance. And she always gets on television and radio. And she's quite often on what the papers say.

KING: Is Dennis a strong man?

THATCHER: Oh, marvelous. He has to be, doesn't he?

KING: That's what I was going to get to -- obviously.

THATCHER: Obviously. HE has his own industrial career. He's also a person in great demand. He's also very keen on sports, he's very keen on rugby football. He was a rugby football referee in his spare time at one time.

And when we went into Downing Street, he made a rule, which he kept to: He was never going to have any interviews with the press, nor even television. And the people respected him for it. And he made speeches -- after-dinner speeches -- and he came out with all the phrases which it would have been difficult for me to come out with.

KING: Did your husband like all the attention you got? Did he like going over to the United States, and he was like the Nancy Reagan of Europe -- of England?

THATCHER: Oh, no, no; he had his own career and his own respect and his own position...

KING: SO he never felt, like a step back?

THATCHER: No, you know I gave up politics when the children were born. And I was still fascinated by it. And because we lived in London it was possible for me to take it up again. And he eventually said to me, you know you can't give politics up; you just better try to get back in it. So he's backed me all the way.

I think it's worked because we've both been very busy people. And if you're both busy, you understand when the other one can't be there, or isn't there in the evenings, or when he can't do things.

KING: But some men have a difficult time taking it if the wife is very successful or better known -- the male ego.

THATCHER: Yes, but some have enough success of their own not to have that feeling.

KING: He was that successful in his field...

THATCHER: Yes, indeed.

KING: What was it like to raise twins?

THATCHER: Very busy, but -- very, very -- I was actually delighted. I didn't know I was going to have twins until the day they were born. They were born prematurely; so it was very exciting. And one girl, all at the same time, was just...

KING: But having to deal with that...

THATCHER: Yes, that's right...

KING: One cries, the other sleeps, one sleeps, the other cries.

THATCHER: That's right; that's right. You think the first two years will never end, and then all of a sudden they're over and gone and the children are growing up. They grow up so quickly.

KING: Was it tough to balance motherhood and elective office?

THATCHER: Well, you couldn't have done it until the children -- I didn't do it until the children were in school. I came into parliament when they were 6.

But I couldn't have done it unless our home had been in London. People often ask me, why aren't there more women members of Parliament or members of Congress, and I say, that if you have a young family, you couldn't come from miles and miles away to Washington or to London, leaving them, the family. You would feel they would miss you, and you would feel you weren't doing your duty by them.

KING: One more call for Lady Thatcher.

Evansville, Indiana, hello.

CALLER: Hello Larry.


CALLER: I'm glad to get to talk to you, and I'm glad to talk to Lady Thatcher.

I was wondering, Lady Thatcher, do you have a hobby?

THATCHER: Do I have a hobby, well...

KING: Other than politics.

THATCHER: I like music, I love opera, I love theater. I don't have as much time to go as I would like to, but they're all a great joy in my life. And I love visiting galleries -- art galleries or museums. I love -- the cultural things really add a great richness to life.

KING: Speaking of that, during the break we were talking about favorite cities, and you love Chicago, right?

THATCHER: I love Chicago. And also, of course, it has the most marvelous art gallery, and some lovely impressionist painting. Absolutely beautiful, and it's a lovely city.

KING: We only have about two minutes, and I haven't mentioned Mr. Yeltsin. How do you think he's doing?

THATCHER: Well, he's a very commanding figure, you know. He looks a president.

KING: You'd cast him.

THATCHER: Yes, yes, he looks a president. He's a very good speaker; he addressed our parliament. And to address a parliament in another language and to get a standing ovation was quite something. And I think, also, now we have a number of other people coming up who could take over when he decides to go. He has seen Russia through a very difficult period. After all, to go from the total tyranny of communism to a free society without a rule of law, without any other means of administering justice other than the dictate of the Communist Party, without knowing precisely how to have a central banking system to keep inflation down.

It's a massive task, and to say to people, you must take the initiative, when they've been kept under the thumb and under the heel, it's a big, difficult transition. And I don't think we had, perhaps, thought about it enough.

KING: And your health.

THATCHER: I'm superb health -- in superb health...

KING: You look great. Lost some weight, too.

THATCHER: Yes, good, thin, too.

KING: Exercise, diet? All the above?

THATCHER: A bit of diet. And sticking to the diet is the most difficult thing.

KING: I thank you so much... THATCHER: Thank you, it was lovely.

KING: Always great.

THATCHER: I've enjoyed it; thank you.


KING: We hope you've enjoyed this look back at our conversation with Britain's former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

And that's it for this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Thanks for watching; good night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could I take this opportunity to ask her whether she knows how many questions she's answered in her capacity as prime minister? And could I say to her and to Dennis, every good wish for the future and God bless.

THATCHER: Mr. Speaker, first, this will be the last question time where I shall answer. I don't believe in making a career of positively last appearances. May I thank my honorable friend for the kind words, especially about my husband, and thank him also for giving me notice about the question, because I might not have known the answer.

This is -- his is the 7,498 oral question that I have replied to in 698 question times.