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King won't decide first question till cameras roll

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Larry King interviews President Bush and first lady Laura Bush in August 2004.

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Behind the Scenes
White House
George W. Bush
Larry King

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- CNN's Larry King has interviewed every president since Richard Nixon. Tonight at 9 p.m. ET he conducts his second interview with President George W. Bush since his election in 2000.

The interview will be broadcast from the White House. The president will be joined by first lady Laura Bush. Larry King spoke to CNN.com about what he plans to ask the president.

What will be your first question for the president?

No idea. It might be about Ken Lay, maybe North Korea. Lay was a friend of his. It's the president's birthday so I might go there.

I never know in advance. I won't know until I say hello and start the interview.

I'll definitely ask about Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, who says he'll run as an independent if he loses the Democratic primary. I'd like to know if Bush would support him as an independent.

Is there one thing you want to learn from the interview?

I want to learn as much as I can about as many things as I can. I'm as interested in feelings as I am about facts. I know we have 139,000 troops in Iraq, but I want to know about how he feels about all the troops.

Who was your favorite president to interview?

Clinton because he was so gregarious, funny, interesting and bright. I also liked Carter, and the first President Bush. Nixon's paranoia made him interesting. This president is comfortable in his own skin. Clinton would have to be the favorite.

Is there any single highlight that stands out from all your presidential interviews?

No single highlight. Clinton and Gore sat together for the only interview of a sitting president and vice president in the White House, and they took phone calls. I also learned from Nixon that he'd never been in the Watergate, ironic since it was the break-in there that ultimately brought down his presidency. Carter was so hands-on every detail. He even knew who was swimming in the pool. Clinton was always late, even when he had to be on time he was late.

Is there a lot of talking off-camera, or does the president just come in, sit down, and start taping?

President Bush is always on time, we're taping at 2:30, and he'll walk in at 2:28. I (have spoken to him without the cameras) and once spent 90 minutes with him in his office when we weren't doing an interview, just talking baseball.

Have there been any changes over the years in the ground rules for interviewing presidents?

In terms of ground rules, nothing. I've never had any ground rules placed on me. Of course since September 11, security is tighter. You're not allowed to bring as many people in to the White House for the interview. But when you're doing the interview the Secret Service stays outside. You actually notice Secret Service presence more when the president is out of the White House.

.Do you prepare differently for the president than for other interviews?

No difference. The setting is different because it's the White House. All you do is all you do, the best you can.

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