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Interview With Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter

Aired November 15, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, America on edge amid warnings terrorists may be plotting spectacular new attacks and worries of possible war with Iraq. Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn speak out about the state of the USA. and on seeing peace in an unsafe world.
The Carters, in depth and personal, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

From the Carter Peace Center in Atlanta, Georgia, it's a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE for one of many visits they've had with us, former President Jimmy and former first lady Rosalynn Carter. This is the 20th anniversary of the Carter Center. I've been to that center, it's a fabulous place and there's lots to talk about.

But first things, right off the top, Mr. President, when you look at the world and you see the Osama bin Ladens and the Iraqs and the Husseins, do you ever feel like it all ain't worth it?

JAMES E. CARTER, FMR. PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES, NOBEL WINNER: Well, it's certainly worth it, Larry, to accommodate whatever situation we have and to try to bring out of it some resolution or crises and some abhorrence of terrorist acts, protection of innocent people, the alleviation of suffering.

So it gives us a great challenge, but it also gives us a great opportunity to work together for the betterment of men and women all over the world.

KING: At times, though, Rosalynn, don't you feel a little helpless, might be the word?

ROSALYNN CARTER, FMR. FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, it's distressing to see so many wars going on, and we travel in the countries, because we have programs in so many countries, and see the effects of war and violence. And of course you don't like to see that, and you do wish that it didn't happen.

But since it is happening, we try to do something about it.

J. CARTER: That's the whole purpose of the Carter Center, Larry, for the last 20 years. It's to try to address those issues before they erupt into war and even after a war starts to try to bring about a resolution other than a ceasefire or permanent peace agreement.

And then -- but mainly, I think our efforts over the last two decades has been to shift our attention to the prevention of despair and hopelessness and suffering and anger and violence that might lead to terrorist acts.

KING: Well, what can the Carter Center -- Does the Carter Center feel a little hopeless when it looks at Osama bin Laden? There's no negotiations there, are there?

J. CARTER: No, one of the restraints on the Carter Center, and I think it's probably a legitimate and healthy restraint, is that we don't intercede in a crisis area, locally or globally, in which the United States government or the United Nations is deeply involved. We just go to places that are pretty much ignored and try to fill vacuums. That's where we do our work.

KING: What do you make of the federal bulletin sent to law enforcement around the country yesterday, al Qaeda may be planning spectacular attacks? The warning isn't specific, but it's based on intel reports and the bin Laden audio tape.

J. CARTER: Well, I've read some news reports that said the White House was displeased and thought that the FBI challenge or warning was excessive and might cause consternation or concern that wasn't justified.

But I don't have any background information about whether the intelligence reports were accurate, but I understand that the White House didn't like the arousing of danger beyond what, maybe, was justified.

KING: What should be made public in this? What -- If you're getting some kind of threats, they're not particular, we don't know where it might be, is it wise to issue a warning?

J. CARTER: Well, you always run into the danger of people becoming blase or accepting the fact that we're crying wolf too many times. So when a genuine crisis does come up and there's some specific opportunity or challenge or danger of a terrorist act, then people may not even react to it.

And I think that since 9/11, now more than a year ago, there has been, perhaps, an excess of constant warnings that were not materialized. And you have to know the inside of the basis for the warning in order to be as specific as possible.

But I think the nationwide warnings or the nationwide statements that this or that's going to happen, all our hospitals in the country, and then when it doesn't happen, you know, there's kind of a lull and the people say, "Well, to heck with them. I'm not going to listen next time."

KING: Rosalynn, what do you make about us living in a kind of state of fear, kids fearful of riding their bikes down the street, looking around the corner, profiling people that we see boarding on an airplane? What kind of life is that?

R. CARTER: It's very sad that it's happened in our country. But things like these warnings make it worse, I think.

But I think, also, that we have to be aware that mass violence happens everywhere, and no country's immune from it. Our country is not. And we have to prepare for it.

We just had a mental health symposium here last month, and our subject was the status of mental health needs in the country since 9/11. Mayor Giuliani came, his health commissioner, and so forth, and the message was that we need to prepare for another violent -- for more violent -- mass violence.

And I think that if we do that and have our communities and our cities and our country all prepared, then I think we'd be able to relax more about it.

KING: Mr. President, do you fear actual biological, chemical kind of attacks in this country?

J. CARTER: I don't have any fear of it. I know there's always a possibility.

One of the things that the United States government has not done is to try to comply with and enforce international efforts targeted to prohibit the arsenals of biological weapons that we ourselves have and others have, and also to reduce and enforce the agreement to eliminate chemical weapons. And the same way with nuclear weapons.

The major powers need to set an example, Larry, where we're willing to comply with international standards in reduction. This applies to land mines and the proliferation of new kinds of nuclear weapons and the canceling of existing nuclear agreements.

I think quite often the big countries that are responsible for the peace of the world set a very poor example for those who might hunger for the esteem or the power or the threats that they can develop from nuclear weapons themselves. I don't have any doubt that it's that kind of atmosphere that has led to the nuclearization, you might say, of India and Pakistan.

And I think we, ourselves, and the British and the French and the Russians and the Chinese, have to be willing to make some sacrifice on our own part in order to convince the rest of the world this is a right way to go.

KING: Do you support the Bush methods and approach toward Iraq? The getting the U.N. approval, the inspectors go in starting Monday. Are you generally in support of that?

J. CARTER: I am now. I was deeply concerned two months ago when the Bush administration was taking just exactly the opposite position. As you well remember, the vice president, the secretary of defense were openly saying, on behalf of the administration, "We don't need to go to the United Nations. The inspections are a waste of time. We're going to concentrate unilaterally on a regime change."

And now I'm grateful that our administration has changed its position and we are going to the United Nations and have. There will be inspections. We're going to concentrate on weapons of mass destruction and we're going to work with other countries. So I'm very pleased with the latest developments, hope and believe that there's a good chance for the U.N. resolutions to be honored. And I pray that the Iraqis and their abominable leader, Saddam Hussein, will decide to comply.

KING: The president is the recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. A more deserving winner maybe never. We'll be right back.


J. CARTER: I'm delighted and humbled and very grateful that the Nobel Peace Prize committee has given me this recognition. And I think all of you know who are familiar with my life that it's shared by me with my wife Rosalynn and I would say just equally with the Carter Center people.



KING: We're back with President and Mrs. Carter. Are you hopeful about Iraq? Do you think we're going to have full inspections? Do you think we're going to avoid war?

J. CARTER: All we can do is hope and, I think, pray. I think the strictness of the U.N. resolution and the immediate dispatching of the inspection teams into Iraq Monday is a good indication that the international community stands together in enforcing these resolutions completely.

And I think it's going to be a devastating, suicidal decision if Saddam Hussein refuses to comply with the resolution.

I don't want to see the potential for an Iraq war be on a hair trigger, where even a minor discrepancy that can be corrected by the inspectors might precipitate an armed attack. So I personally favored the requirement, or the agreement, that if there is a failure on the part of Saddam Hussein to comply, that the decision will be going back to the United Nations for further action.

I realize, too, that this might be beneficial for the United States to have retained the right, if the Security Council on that second chance doesn't decide to take action, that we, ourselves, would take it, maybe with Great Britain and other countries.

So I'm pretty well pleased, Larry, with the present agreement and I really believe and hope that the Iraqi people want to comply. And I hope that Saddam Hussein will not be stupid enough to take a chance on the destruction of his own country, if he does fail.

KING: Mr. President, do you see any link between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein?

J. CARTER: I don't have any access to intelligence briefings on that subject, and I know that all the reports that I've seen from the Congress Intelligence Committee and from others is that there has never been any proof that there's a direct link between Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda on the one hand and Saddam Hussein and Iraq on the other.

I don't think there's any evidence to that effect.

KING: Rosalynn, it's been a summer of kidnapped children and media coverage and what do you make of all this? You're an expert in the mental health field. Is something out of whack? Or are we just hearing more about it?

R. CARTER: I hope we're just hearing more about it and there's not more of it going on than in the past. Any that goes on is too much.

But what concerns me is the need for mental health coverage for people who are in these kinds of situations. When we were talking to Mayor Giuliani about New York, he said that he had his commissioner, who also is a psychiatrist, and he was by his side, telling him what to say all of the time. And so that people wouldn't get more inflamed and so forth.

But he said also how important it was to have mental health care for those people who suffered the tragedies. And so that's what I hope can be available for people in these troubled times, these terrible situations.

KING: We still have never placed the emphasis, have we, Mrs. Carter, on mental health that we do on failed kidneys and heart attacks?

R. CARTER: No. No. The services for people with mental illnesses in our country is very poor and something I've worked on for a very long time. And it's so exciting in the mental health field, because mental illnesses today, because of research, can be diagnosed and treated effectively, and the overwhelming majority of people can lead normal lives, living at home, working, going to school.

That's the message I've been trying to get out for a long time now, so that people will go for care.

But then medicine is so expensive, services are not available. It's just a really bad situation. And I think that more and more people, people who never dreamed that they might need mental health care, are going to be needing -- are already needing it. In New York, for instances, in cases where there were terrible acts of violence. And I just think it's critical.

In fact, we -- the reason we had our conference was to be sure that mental health is a part of all the preparation that goes on in case of another -- more violence.

KING: Mr. President, you've traveled the world extensively. I don't know anyone who travels more than you. Why do so many people hate this country? J. CARTER: Larry, Rosalynn and I have been in more than 120 nations in the world, mostly the very poorest and most destitute and needy people. We have programs at the Carter Center now in 65 countries, 35 of them in African and not coincidentally. And it's given us a chance to have an incident into the lives of those people and the attitude of those people.

And I think there is a sense that the United States has become too arrogant, too dominant, too self satisfied, proud of our wealth, believing that we deserve to be the richest and most powerful and influential nation in the world. I think they feel that we don't really care about them, which is quite often true. Because they see that a tiny bit of financial help would change their lives for the better.

I think there's a feeling, too, that our emphasis has been on countries in the Third World that have oil, and countries like Mali or Burkina Faso or Ghana or Benin or even Haiti and Guyana are not even on our radar screen.

They all know, the ones that are at all educated, that among the developed, industrialized nations on earth, the United States is at the bottom, way at the bottom, in providing humanitarian aid for peace and for human rights and for housing and for health and education. We give about one-thousandth of our Gross National Product for development assistance. That's one-tenth of one percent. And the average European country gives four times as much. For every time an American gives a dollar, a citizen of Norway gives $17.

And I think that we -- maybe after the tragedy of 9/11, we'll begin to see that a very tiny investment of help in those poverty- stricken countries will prevent the hopelessness and lack of self- respect and despair and anger and violence and potential terrorism. And that will be of great benefit to our own country.

KING: I'll have Rosalynn chime in on that right after we come back from the break. The Carter Center is 20 years old today, and of course the president is this year's recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. We'll be right back.


RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When we dedicate this center, Mr. President, we dedicate an institutions that testifies, as does your life itself, to the goodness of God and to the blessing He bestows to upon those who do their best to walk with him. I can think of no greater gift that you could make to our nation.


KING: We're back with the Carters. Rosalynn, you wanted to add something on that question of why we're not liked?

R. CARTER: I do, because it's not the American people. The American people don't see what we see. They don't see the ravages of war. We go into these countries and see people who have lost everything, even their babies. And if the American people could see that, they would respond overwhelmingly.

We're talking about the government and our foreign aid program. But if people in our country could see, as I've said before, the poverty and the terrible conditions these people live in. And when we're there, they don't ask us what the United States can do to help them. They ask us if we know anybody in Japan or if we know anybody in Norway, because those countries give more.

But I still want to impress on you that is not the American people, who are good, and you know how they respond to if there's a tornado, an earthquake in a country, and we see it on television and so forth, people respond to it.

KING: Well, Mr. President, isn't the government the make up of the people?

J. CARTER: Well, in a way, Larry, but you know, there's an interesting thing that has been kind of surprising to me.

When I go to Belgium or to the Netherlands or to Norway or Sweden or Denmark or Finland, even to other countries, I may not name them all, when they run for Parliament, one of their most attractive political planks is, "If I'm elected, I'm going to make sure that our country will do everything in its power, say in Africa, to promote justice and peace and freedom and democracy and human rights, and alleviate suffering there." And it's a very popular thing.

But can you imagine what would happen for an American candidate for Congress to say, "If I'm elected, I'm going to increase foreign aid?" It would be suicidal. So you put your finger on it; foreign aid in this country has a bad name, but in other countries it's a right thing for the government to do. And that's where we at the Carter Center quite often have to turn.

KING: Rosalynn, where were you on 9/11?

R. CARTER: I was -- When we heard about it, we were on the way from home here to the Carter Center. And it came through on the radio and so we were here. We got here and watched television.

And it was -- and actually, I have a mental health program, mental health fellowships for journalists, trying to educate a career journalist so they will know mental health issues and can report accurately, not sensationally, and have some effect also on their peers.

And it was the day for our fellows to be here, and we had two from New Zealand. We have eight in our -- most of them didn't get here. Some had come in the night before. But that was an interesting situation too -- Jimmy called us in to call everybody together. He said, "Our country's been through tough times before, and we will overcome this, too."

And I don't know where -- but it made us feel like we needed to go on about our business. And it was interesting to see the discussion with the people from New Zealand here. J. CARTER: I hadd come in, flown in, from Mongolia the night before to New York, and then had come down to Plains and got in a few hours sleep and was on the way back to the Carter Center with Rose.

And there was an incredible tragedy for our country and I'm just thankful that it's brought our nation together and let the world know that we all need to act in concert to address this threat of terrorism.

KING: Do you think, Mr. President, as a nation, we're ready for the long haul of a war on terror? A war on terror may never end. There's always going to be, I guess, terror.

J. CARTER: Well, I'm sure there will be, always, threats of terror. Sometimes precipitated, as you know, in Oklahoma with American citizens, sometimes with foreigners. And this is something that we have to face.

But I think our country is prepared for it, and some of the safety precautions we are taking at airports and so forth will certainly help. I think it will help the feeling of security of people as well as prevent acts of terrorism.

But the main thing is that we have to constantly remind ourselves that this is a global situation. And that we need to act in concert, as much as possible, with respect for other nations to join us as full partners. Because it's in those deprived countries that sometimes feel alienated from, and sometimes antagonistic toward, the United States, that the terrorism evolves or is born.

And so we need to constantly help to bring them in to feel that they are really respected partners.

KING: Moving to another area, were you disappointed to learn about North Korea and nuclear weaponry?

J. CARTER: Well, this was a very familiar subject with me. As you may or may not remember, I went over to North Korea in 1994, Rosalynn and I did, as a Carter Center mission. Because Kim Il Sung, the dictator of North Korea, was developing a plutonium capability, which is very frightening.

And we were able to defuse that and to get him to shut down his plutonium generating reactors -- reactor, and to let international inspectors come in. And he has complied with that agreement, or his son has complied with that agreement.

We promised to build North Korea two, more safe, water-moderated reactors to develop their nuclear -- their electric power. Our governments did. The United States and Japan and South Korea, primarily. We have not done that.

And we also promised to provide them with the fuel oil to replace the nuclear power generation that they had shut down.

It has been a surprise to me that the North Koreans have announced that they do have an alternative method of developing nuclear capability. That is, centrifuge purification of uranium.

My own belief is that the North Koreans don't have the capability of a nuclear explosive yet. And my belief is -- I think I have some information about this -- that it is primarily a kind of a threat to bring attention to themselves as a negotiating ploy. It was a serious mistake on their part, and from every information that I have, the North Koreans would like to get out of this problem and have some genuine negotiations with our country and others.

And they have offered, as you know, to have international inspectors come in to have a complete end of their nuclear program, if we could have good faith negotiations. I hope that will take place.

KING: We're going to take a break, and we'll come right back.

Monday night, Bob Woodward will be with us, and on Tuesday night, Al Gore, the former vice president. Going to ask him about the Democratic Party, as well.

We'll be right back with the Carters on this historic occasion. The Carter Center in Atlanta is 20 years old. Don't go away.


J. CARTER: Here today, as we set very careful limits on our power, we draw boundaries around our fears of one another. And we begin to control our fears, we can betetr ensure our future.






KING: We're back with the Nobel Prize Winner, won the Nobel Peace Prize this year, former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalynn Carter on this 20th anniversary of the Carter Center.

Mr. President, what happened to your party?

J. CARTER: Well, Larry, the Carter Center for the last 20 years has had a policy of non-partisanship, and this has re-emphasized in my mind quite vividly after the election. We're much more non-partisan now than it was 10 days ago.

KING: I'll bet.

J. CARTER: I don't really know what happened to it. I -- there are a lot of local issues that took place, and as you know, some of the losses that the Democratic Party suffered for the U.S. Senate were very close calls. And I think with that narrow margin of victory for the Republicans, they were primarily determined by local issues. The main issue in Georgia, strangely enough, was the Georgia flag, where the governor courageously, and I think properly, changed the flag to do away with the so-called Confederate emblem. And it was a matter of great emotional disturbance. And the people that were for the old flag were fervent and worked day and night, all supporting the Republican candidates. And that has created a major change in Georgia.

So I think it's still a close call, and I was not involved in it, except I was a personal friend of Max Cleland. I hated to see Max Cleland be defeated. I think he was a wonderful senator, and he'd been a friend of mine for 30 years. And, as you know, was a Vietnam veteran and he was basically defeated because his opponent alleged that Max was not adequately patriotic.

KING: Mr. President, are you going to get involved in the primaries? Are you going to get involved in the presidential election?



J. CARTER: No, I never have done that since I left the White House.

KING: Because?

J. CARTER: Well, my life is now at the Carter Center, Larry, and whenever we go to a sensitive area of the world, in the past, like to Nicaragua or to the Mid-East or to Sudan or wherever, that are holding an election in different places, we always bring in a very prominent Republican to stand side-by-side with me and to do the work with me. To show the world and this country that we are not just a Democratic institution. For instance, I would say my main ally and friend and partner in those efforts has been President Gerald Ford.

So I got away from the Democratic Party partisanship when I left the White House. Still a Democrat, but not active.

KING: Rosalynn, we want to congratulate you. Rosalynn Carter was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, officially inducted in Seneca Falls, New York, in October. Was named last year, but the induction was postponed because of 9/11. She's the third first lady. The others were Eleanor Roosevelt and Abigail Adams. Pretty good company, Rosalynn.

R. CARTER: I was very excited about being installed in the Women's Hall of Fame.

KING: But only three first ladies. Very interesting.

All right, Mr. President, something you were very involved in. Your thoughts on the Middle East: Are you optimistic about anything there? J. CARTER: Larry, the Nobel Committee pointed out in this statement to me, in a public statement, that they looked at the Camp David Accords and the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which by the way, not a word has been violated for the last 23 years.

But primarily the work of the Carter Center in the last 20 years was the reason for my being honored.

And I have obviously had a deep emotional and political interest in the Middle East. For a number of years after I left the White House, I was over there regularly. But as I mentioned earlier on this program, we don't interfere with areas of the world in which the United States government is deeply involved. And the U.S. government is deeply involved now in the Mid-East peace process.

So although I hunger for a chance to help, I feel constrained to stay out of it because of proprietaries. I'm very disturbed about it; I don't see any hope for progress in the altercation between Israelis and Palestinians with the present leadership. And the fight, apparently, for control of the Likud Party is between Sharon and Netanyahu, each one trying to outdo the other about how they can be most abusive toward the Palestinians and avoid any relationship of a negotiating nature with Arafat. So I don't see how you make any progress there.

But I do know that there are some efforts being made behind the scenes with trusted Israelis and Palestinians, and maybe they can come up with some kind of pattern that could be debated openly, both in Israel and the Palestinian community and the world community. It might need to progress in the future.

I do know that the people want peace, and even public opinion polls in Israel say that a good majority of Israelis would be willing to withdraw from the occupied territories in exchange for genuine peace. But they don't trust Arafat, the Palestinians don't trust the Israeli leaders, and our country now is concentrating mostly on Iraq.

I hope, though, that out of that -- right now I would say an impasse -- can come some progress in the future. I believe it will come.

KING: A change of leadership, though, on both sides necessary?

J. CARTER: I would personally like to see a change in the Israeli government and in the Palestinian community. I think the proposal or idea that Arafat, if he is elected president, would be a titular leader and that a trusted prime minister might represent the Palestinians. I think that's one avenue, which obviously has been promulgated quite widely by the White House.

KING: We'll be right back with more of the Carters on this historic day, in a great year. I'm going to ask about his Nobel speech right after this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.


J. CARTER: Very good. I'm so proud of both of you. God bless you.



KING: Mr. President, when do you receive the prize?

J. CARTER: It's on the 10th of December in Oslo, Norway. The other four Nobel prizes, for chemistry, physics, medicine and literature, are given in Sweden. And after I do receive the prize in Norway, I will go to Stockholm, Sweden, to join the other Nobel recipients for this year.

KING: Would it be safe to bet that the cash that goes along with it is going to go to the Carter Center?

J. CARTER: Now that's correct. Almost all of it will go to the Carter Center, and some will go to Rosalynn's program, the Rosalynn Carter Institute, at Georgia Southwestern universities. So it will all go for the programs that have really earned me the Nobel Prize and Rosalynn her honor in the -- as famous women.

KING: You working on a speech yet?

J. CARTER: Yes, I've just about got it finished, as a matter of fact. I have -- as a matter of fact, my publisher of my most recent book will issue a beautiful little leather-bound copy of the speech. And the deadline for that is this coming week.

So I've been working on it myself, and I've had some advisers from my cabinet when I was president, as well as some Carter Center folks. And two of my favorite White House speech writers have also been helping me get the words a little bit more resonant.

KING: Can you give us the theme without the content?

J. CARTER: Yes, well, you know it's not a Nobel War Prize; it's a Nobel Peace Prize. And I'm going to try to give, in maybe one of the most widely publicized speech of my life -- I understand there's going to be 150 million viewers of this speech -- my concept of how the Nobel Peace Prize has shaped -- helped to shape the world in the last more than 100 years and what we can do in the future.

And try to tie together, without being too specific, you know, how all the way from Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin, who received the prize and then were assassinated, all the way to peace-loving people like Mother Teresa or Albert Sweitzer, can encompass the thrust of the prize.

And where we need to go now in the future to promote peace and the alleviation of suffering. KING: What is your role, Rosalynn, at the center?

R. CARTER: I'm co-chair of the center, so I'm involved in all the things that go on. And my main, special project that I have worked on since 1971 is mental health. I have a really good mental health program here at the Carter Center.

KING: What got you interested in that particular subject?

R. CARTER: I became interested in mental health issues when I was campaigning for Jimmy when he ran for governor a long time ago. There was a period of transition in our state when we were going from the big, major institution central hospitals where people were just kind to warehoused, into moving them out into the community. And I think we had one regional hospital at that time.

And I worked -- I just was in touch with so many people who didn't know what was going to happen to their loved ones and who were concerned about it. And one day I said that I might work with mental health issues, and there were a handful of people in Atlanta, the only advocates for mental health issues in the state, I think, at that time, and they descended on me. They said, "We need you."

So I've been involved in that ever since.

KING: It is also Tipper Gore's main theme, as well, isn't it?

R. CARTER: That's right, and I worked closely with her when I was vice president, and my staff was in touch with her all the time. And she's really wonderful. I hope she will become more involved when -- I think they're writing a book or something, but anyway.

KING: They've got a book out.

R. CARTER: I hope she'll become more involved, maybe become a distinguished person at the Carter Center, something like that. Some relationship with us.

J. CARTER: She'll have to sell their book first. I suppose you'll help them with an invitation, right?

KING: Yes. Tuesday night. We do pretty good on that score.

Isn't it interesting, Mr. President, that when the Carter Center opened, some of the concerns in the world were Iran, the Middle East, Afghanistan? They're still around.


KING: What goes around comes around, and nothing changes.

CARTER: But those are the ones that are that of which are country is aware, but the biggest problems, actually, then, were in Sudan and Ethiopia and Sri Lanka and in Fiji Islands. And in different places around the world that never come on the radar screen of American consciousness. And really, that's where the Carter Center has oriented our efforts since that time.

So, you know, we still are not aware of the suffering and the deprivation and the constant wars and the loss of life every day that far exceed what we lost on 9/11, as far as death and destruction and despair is concerned.

And my hope is that part of the effort of the Carter Center and part of the recognition that will come with the Nobel Prize will go for a greater awareness by the world of what we must do and can do in those areas.

KING: Does it annoy you, Rosalynn, when they refer to your husband as the best former president ever?

R. CARTER: The best former...

KING: There's former president ever did -- It irritates you...

R. CARTER: That's right.

KING: ...because it plays down the presidency and up the post- presidency.

R. CARTER: That's right. That's right. And I don't like it at all. Because I think he was a really good president, and --

But when things are said about it, they always refer back to the press we got in the White House. And nobody knows, for instance, that Jimmy passed more of his legislation than Ronald Reagan. And he just did some really did some really wonderful, outstanding things. Everything he did was controversial.


KING: Does it bother you, Mr. President? Does it bother Jimmy?

J. CARTER: Not as much as it does Rosalynn. I think my reaction to the insinuation we didn't have a successful presidency, is tempered by the fact that I have to calm Rosalynn down whenever she hears one of those statements.

KING: She never got over it.

J. CARTER: When we look back on, you know, normal relations with China and doubling the size of our national park system and the Panama Canal treaties and the Mideast peace process and so forth, there's a great sense of gratification. I think the thing that has slighted the historical reputation was the hostages being held.

KING: Yes.

J. CARTER: And the fact that I was defeated for re-election. Well, I have long ago accepted those things. R. CARTER: But the things he did were controversial, like an energy program that nobody wanted, he had to take people screaming and kicking together.

KING: I know.

R. CARTER: And then -- I think a leader can lead people easily where they want to go, but I think it takes a real leader to lead them where they don't want to go, which is what he did.

KING: That may be the hardest thing to do.

We'll be back with our remaining moments with the Carters on this very happy day, the 20th anniversary of the Carter Center. Don't go away.


J. CARTER: We continue to face a grave situation in Iran, where our embassy has been seized and more than 60 American citizens continue to be held as hostages in an attempt to force unacceptable demands on our country. We're using every available channel to protect the safety of the hostages and secure their release.






KING: We're back, with our remaining moments with the Carters. A couple of other bases: Mr. President, Fidel Castro -- I know I'm right -- he has been head of a country longer than any leader of the 20th Century, now into the 21st Century.


KING: And I know you visited there. What do you make of that longevity? I mean, even dictators get shot sometimes.

J. CARTER: I think it's been 43 years, and King Hussein in Jordan was the next longest surviving leader. He became king when he was only 12 years old.

Well, Larry, one of the things we need to address is how we can deal with an unsavory leader, in the eyes of our government, without punishing the people with an unwarranted embargo of food and medicine and things that they really need.

And how we think we can bring democracy and freedom to Cuba, and prohibit people from our country from even visiting Cuba, has always been beyond me. So in my visit there, I saw that the people, 13 million of them, are suffering in some ways. They've had some notable successes, say in health and education. But I think that our government policy is counter-productive.

KING: Did you try to change it?

J. CARTER: Well, it punishes the people who are already suffering and it also kind of makes a hero out of Castro, when he doesn't deserve to be a hero. And he can blame all his problems on us.

When I -- by the way, this was my attitude when I first became president, and within six weeks of my inauguration, I had already lifted all travel restraints so Americans could go to Cuba and let the Cuban people see what freedom and democracy can mean to them.

KING: A couple of other things: Rosalynn, married 56 years. What is the secret of your longevity in that area?

R. CARTER: Space. I think you need some space, and Jimmy gives me space to do the things that I want to do. But also, I think, it just develops. He was in the Navy, gone when we first got married. I had to take everything up again, very independent, taking care of the children and so forth.

And then we moved home and I started working in a farm supply basis, took an accounting course, knew as much on paper or maybe more about the business than he did. He would come to me and ask me things about the business, and so we kind of developed a mutual respect for what each other could do.

And it's been that way ever since.

KING: Jimmy, you were quoted as saying that Rosalynn was "an almost equal extension of myself." What do you mean?

J. CARTER: Well, actually, she is. She's the matriarch of our family, really. When our 11 grandchildren or our four children have a problem, they call Rosalynn first, because they know that they'll get a sympathetic ear. She has very sound judgment, Larry.

When the Carter Center for 20 years has decided to take on new projects or to phase out old ones, it's always Rosalynn to whom I turn for the primary advice, and we make the decisions together.

We have -- negotiating, like with Kim Il Sung in North Korea, that I've already mentioned, she's at my side, participating fully in the judgments that I make to try to bring about the realization of what the Carter Center is all about.

And of course, as she says, she has her own program and primarily in mental health.

But we learned a long time ago, I guess, a couple things. One is that we always try to communicate with each other, even when we have a short argument or difference of opinion -- and there have been a lot of them -- we try not to go to sleep without resolving that problem. Or at least talking to each other about it.

And the second thing is, as Rosalynn said, we give each other plenty of space so that each one of us can do our own things without interference from the other.

KING: Rosalynn, are you two...

R. CARTER: I am...

KING: I'm sorry. Go ahead.

R. CARTER: It's really important when you're both at home together that you have some space of your own.

J. CARTER: We do things together. We ride bikes together, we climb mountains together, we watch birds together, we play tennis together.

You know, we do things whenever possible together, and one of the main things we've done, Larry, which I would advise every viewer to do, is to take up fly fishing. And when both of you are learning how to fly fish, that's a good way to bring people together. It's one of the things that women and men can be at least equal. Rosalynn is superior to me in the delicacy of it.

Just to find a way to do things together.

KING: Ted Turner taught me how to do it, and it's one of the most relaxing -- and you wrote a book on it.

Thank you both very much, Carters. Continued long life.

J. CARTER: We've always enjoyed being with you, Larry, and your viewers.

R. CARTER: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, the former president and first lady of the United States. And he's the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and the Carter Center is 20 years old.

Over the weekend, talk shows on LARRY KING WEEKEND. Monday night we'll be back live. Bob Woodward's got a new book out, all about what took place in the White House right after 9/11. Should be fascinating.

And Tuesday night, Al and Tipper Gore will be aboard. Thanks very much for joining us. Stay tuned for Aaron Brown and "NEWSNIGHT" is next. Good night.


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