CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About Preferences
powered by Yahoo!
Return to Transcripts main page


Interview with Trent Lott; Bob Woodward

Aired December 11, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, Trent Lott speaks about his controversial remarks about Strom Thurmond and about his apology.

And then Bob Woodward. his new book, "Bush At War" is the No. 1 bestseller in America. And we'll ask him the No. 1 question everybody's asking in America: are we going to go war with Iraq? That and much more with America's best-known investigative journalist. Here for the hour, we'll take your calls too, next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: Good evening and welcome to another edition of LARRY KING LIVE. In a little while, Bob Woodward will join to talk about "Bush At War" and the comings and goings of vis-a-vis Iraq.

We begin tonight on the phone with Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi. Been on this program frequently. He's the Senate Republican leader and he will resume role of majority leader come next month when the Senate convenes.

What's caused all the hullabaloo is obviously the remarks made at the Senator Strom Thurmond going-away party. Let's watch a bit.


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him.


LOTT: We're proud of it.


LOTT: And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.



KING: All right, Senator Lott, how is that explainable? What did you mean by all the problems over the years would not have occurred had Strom Thurmond been elected? LOTT: Well, first I want to emphasize that this was an event to honor the legendary Strom Thurmond for his 100th birthday, and it was about the man, not about his positions or his, you know, bad policies of the past. The things he advocated when he was running for president, obviously, he has repudiated and we have moved way beyond that, and I repudiate them.

But, you know, I must say that I have apologized for the choice of words. Look, you put your foot in your mouth, you're getting carried away at a ceremony honoring a guy like this, you go too far. Those words were insensitive, and I shouldn't have said them.

Having said that, you know, I see -- I was 7-years-old when, you know, Strom first ran for president. I don't really remember anything about the campaign.

But I do remember the Strom Thurmond that I've seen and heard, a man that landed in a glider during World War II at the Battle of Normandy, a man that's been very strong in making sure our country has a strong national defense, one that has spoken up for law and order to protect our people against criminal acts, balanced budgets and economic development.

That's the way I have seen Senator Thurmond. He has changed over the years and I think that, you know, he has developed, you know, a progressive record in many ways.

So that's what I was thinking about.

KING: Would you agree, Senator Lott, though, that he has changed, certainly publicly, but that your statement appeared to go back to prior to that change?

LOTT: Well, I would agree that that was the -- you know, the poor choice of words. And I, you know, I shouldn't have used them, and I regret it and I apologize for it.

KING: What do you make of all the hullabaloo?

LOTT: Well, I was a little bit surprised. You know, for years I have kidded him saying, you know, "You'd of been a great president," and he smiles and, you know, he lights up, he's proud to hear that.

This is a guy that's 100 years old, and I've been in the Senate with him, you know, since he was 86. And I've always, you know, been nice to him and, you know, tried to honor him every way I could.

So, I don't -- again, I -- you know, I don't endorse all the positions he's taken over the years, and I don't think anybody would.

You know, my positions have changed over the years. I have changed my emphasis -- greater emphasis on things like education and economic development and, you now, opportunity for community development.

KING: How about, Senator Lott, reports that you have made similar comments in 1980 when Ronald Reagan was running?

LOTT: Once again, I was introducing him, apparently, and, you know, I said, you know, "He'd of made a great president," or something like that. Again, it was to promote Strom Thurmond and to honor him; again, not intended to advocate all his positions that he had espoused in the past.

KING: You can understand civil rights groups, especially, being very sensitive to that?

LOTT: Oh, absolutely I do. And that's why I have been on the phone and talked to people like Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, with the Black Caucus, and other minority leaders.

That's why, you know, in my own state, though, Larry, I do have a long record of trying to involve African-Americans and supporting our historical black colleges and universities -- Jackson State University, Alcorn University -- making sure that we had an active intern program to bring African-Americans into the state.

We have a leadership program at the University of Mississippi that probably has half of its students are minorities; not all African-Americans, Vietnam and Vietnamese and others.

So I think the record of things that I have been supportive, the programs I've supported, indicate that I'm not insensitive to the need for fair elections and community renewal.

KING: Al Gore had something to say about it today. Let's roll that tape for the senator.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Strom Thurmond, God bless him, has changed. Trent Lott has not. To say that a segregationist should have become president and that would have avoided a lot of problems that we have now, that is racist. That's racist.


KING: And the senator -- and Vice President Gore added this afternoon, Senator, saying that if the Republicans act in their best interests their party will choose a different leader in January.

You want to respond?

LOTT: Not really, you know, I understand that -- how former Vice President Gore would say that. But I do reject segregationist policies of the past.

And, by the way, we've made a lot of progress in my own state, way beyond that. And I reject those policies of the past, and apologize for any appearance of connecting to that.

But I do still think that there are issues that Senator Thurmond has advocated that are in the best interests of his state and people of all backgrounds. So...

KING: But you don't think he'd of been a better president, say, than Harry Truman who defeated him that year?

LOTT: You know, I'd have to go back and look at the election of that year. Harry Truman obviously did a lot of great things for our country, and, you know, I was trying to remember who the Republican nominee was...

KING: Dewey. Tom Dewey.

LOTT: Yes, it was Dewey. I don't -- you know, I couldn't tell you one thing about what Dewey's policies were at the time. I remember the headline, you know, that Dewey wins.

KING: Yes, Dewey defeats...

LOTT: Yes, Harry Truman won.

But, you know, one of the things that people don't even, you know, remember is that his running mate was a guy named Fielding Wright from my state.

KING: Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, who is going to throw his hat into the Democratic ring for the presidency, asked you to step aside as leader. He said, "It saddens me greatly to suggest this, but in the interests of the Senate, his party and the nation I believe Trent Lott should step aside as majority leader."

Are you going -- are you considering stepping aside?

LOTT: No, I'm not, Larry. Again, I was trying to honor the man not his policies. I've apologized for the -- you know, the remarks and what they seemed to infer in such an insensitive way.

But I'm still focused on trying to work with the people of our country and in the Senate to get the right things done, you know, for our country. And that does include economic growth, health insurance, education, which is very important to people of all backgrounds.

KING: Has anybody in your party suggested it to you directly? Has anybody said anything?

LOTT: Not that I know of. I haven't heard anything personally. You know, I haven't kept up with all the comments around the country, but I think that, you know, some people are, you know, saying how -- "Hey, what's going on here? He's apologized and he, you know, has said the things he needed to say and yet it, you know, now it's being spoken about by Al Gore and by John Kerry."

But I, it shouldn't be about what they're saying. It's about what I've said, and my desire to, you know, say the right things for our people.

KING: And winding it up, no administration official has spoken to you on it? LOTT: No.

KING: All right, in winding it up, then, what you're saying is that you're totally in the interest of good race relations. I don't want to put words in your mouth. You're an integrationist to the core.

LOTT: Absolutely. We're way beyond those policies of the past, Larry. They were bad at the time; we've made huge progress since then. My state has more African-American elected officials than any other state.

We need to come together, we need to be uniters not dividers.

You know, this was a mistake of the head or of the mouth, not of the heart, and that's -- you know, I've asked for forgiveness and now I want to, you know, do the right thing in the future.

KING: And you will remain majority leader.

LOTT: Yes.

KING: Thanks, Trent.

LOTT: Thank you, Larry. Bye.

KING: Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi. The Republican leader of the Senate and he'll be majority leader next January, unless different forces come to bear.

We'll ask Bob Woodward about that and lots of other things, He's next. Don't go away.


KING: I don't think we've ever spent a full show with the author of a book and then invited that author to come back within two to three weeks. But this book has skyrocketed to No. 1 on the nation's bestseller list and it's always good to welcome Bob Woodward to LARRY KING LIVE. He's the assistant managing editor of the "Washington Post," Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author or co-author of eight No. 1 best-selling nonfiction books, and, of course, "Bush at War" is No. 1.

What do you -- I know your name is synonymous with bestsellers, but how do you account for the instant and uproarious kind of attraction this book has to people?

BOB WOODWARD, WRITER: Only because of the subject. People are interested in who Bush is. He's -- even though he's been president almost two years, there is a mystery about him. How does he really operate?

He does not give a lot of interviews. There are not a lot of stories about what really goes on behind the scenes. And this is kind of an autopsy of exactly what happened in the last year on this. And then I think -- people realize that we are at a turning point in history, and we are at war, even though it may not seem like it all of the time. We definitely are with terrorists and perhaps maybe with Iraq.

So, this is an opportunity for those who are interested to get a very unusual look at a sitting president at a time of intense pressure and stress.

KING: And you had a lot of access to him, right?


KING: Had a long interview?

WOODWARD: Yes, and interviewed him a couple of times. And, as you know, having interviewed thousands of people yourself, sometimes people want to answer all of the questions and go beneath the surface, and sometimes they don't. And in this case, he was very interested in all of the questions, did not stiff them or brush them off. And when I was able to ask things like why, or where did that come from, or what was your reaction to Cheney or Powell or Rumsfeld, he was -- he answered all of those questions. And on some very sensitive and touchy subjects, like times he got fiery and angry.

KING: In other words, quite candid?

WOODWARD: I believe so. Certainly.


KING: You interviewed more than 100 people involved in the decision-making key people in all of this?


KING: All right.

One of the critiques -- strong critiques -- in fact, most people have praised this book, but Frank Ritz, certainly a very respected writer, the former "Times" -- "New York Times" theater critic and now the Op-Ed page writer, first criticized you as -- I want to give a couple quotes -- before we get to that -- as to overall, you favor those who give you interviews and those who don't, don't come out well in your books. And he says Bush and Powell come out well and Rumsfeld doesn't come out well and it's obvious because Bush and Powell talked to you and Rumsfeld didn't. How do you counter that?

WOODWARD: Well, he's wrong.

I would have liked to have talked to everyone more. But I was able to discuss these matters with all of the key people and in many cases, multiple times.

My job is to figure out what happened as best I can, and not only were there interviews, but I was able to get the contemporaneous notes of exactly what took place at these key meetings and decision points.

So is it perfect? Are people going to find out other things? Of course they're going to find out other things. But it is a very unusual, detailed slice of it.

KING: But do you say that because Bush gave you an hour and a half you're not more favorable to him than you are to Rumsfeld who may not have spoken to you?

WOODWARD: Well, Rumsfeld -- well, I did for a series, I did for the newspaper, did with my colleague Dan Baltz (ph) interview Rumsfeld and interviewed lots of people in the Pentagon, and his comments about what happened at various turning points, the secret deliberations of the National Security Council are quoted extensively.

I would have liked -- as I said, would have enjoyed and attempted to talk to everyone more. But this is, to a certain extent, a total universe portrait. Everyone is quoted. Everyone's perspective is presented as best I can as a reporter.

KING: I understand. But what you're saying is, because Bush spoke to you, and whoever might be didn't, doesn't mean Bush comes out better because he spoke to you?

WOODWARD: I don't think so. But at the same time, as a reporter, you know, if somebody comes on your show and you interview them like Senator Lott and he presents his point of view and what's going on, that is going to have more impact than somebody who is not on the show.

In this case, I was able to, if you will, interview everyone on the show, everyone who was involved in this.

KING: Let me just put another quote out of the Rich column then move to other things.

He writes, "The book often minimizes administration failings that should worry us as we prepare to march on Iraq." Adding, Rich -- he also writes, "We hear no inside accounts of the administration's failure to track down the anthrax terrorists, or John Ashcroft's inability to arrest a single terrorist during the post-9/11 mass roundups."

WOODWARD: Those are interesting subjects. I was focusing on the war, on terror abroad, because that is the primary threat. And that is the emphasis that the National Security Council gave to it.

There's a great deal of discussion about failure and things that don't work and the biggest, largest failure in all of this is, as we know, is not catching Osama bin Laden.

And I report in the book, the CIA assessment of the exact time and place in mid-December last year where Osama bin Laden escaped.

KING: So you're saying the critique is unfair because you weren't writing about anthrax, at home things, and also that you do point out the failings as we prepare to march on Iraq?

WOODWARD: No, I don't say it's unfair. This person is not a reporter. He is a columnist and a pundit who is trying to leverage the information for his political point of view. I just don't have to have a political point of view.

KING: That's true. People have bet for years in Washington, Who does Bob Woodward vote for? What is his political philosophy? No one knows. Does your wife know?

WOODWARD: Well, it doesn't help me to have one as a reporter. I'm able to go and talk to people and try to understand what they're doing in the context of the situation or a book. And they will deal with it I suspect, in part, because I'm not carrying political water for one side or the other.

There is such a tendency, and it's almost inevitable, to look at all of these events through a political lens. I happen to think that the political lens distorts and often can distort to the point where you can't see what's there.

I dispose of it, and, you know, people -- there will be a review of this book in the "New York Times" book review this coming Sunday, which -- it comes out early -- in which the reviewer says it shows essentially that they didn't know what they were doing in the war on terrorism.

So people can read it many ways.

KING: Bob Woodward is our guest. The book is "Bush at War." It's the No. 1 bestseller. We'll be taking calls for Bob and when we come back. the big question: Does Bob think we're going to war with Iraq? Don't go away.


KING: Bob Woodward, is this a fait accompli? Are we going to war?

WOODWARD: Obviously I don't know. I think it's important to try to figure out where we are in the way it's possible to get there is to say how did all of this start.

In the Bush administration, it turns out after Bush took office, people in the Pentagon, particularly Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, and Rumsfeld the defense secretary to a certain extent, and military people and other civilian people said, Let's see if we can come up with a military plan to get Saddam Hussein out of there. They worked on it. They never really came up with anything, but it was bubbling on the stove, so to speak.

The terrorist attacks took place on 9/11. Rumsfeld said in these meetings, Maybe this should be an opportunity to go after Iraq. There was debate about it. President Bush realized that the threat was from al Qaeda and bin Laden and Afghanistan and said, We will not go after Iraq at this point. When I talked to President Bush about it, he said very explicitly, I didn't need any briefings on this. At that point, a year ago, or a little more than a year ago, he knew he couldn't go after Afghanistan and start a war there and Iraq at the same time.

After we won the first phase of the war in Afghanistan, and the Taliban was overthrown, Iraq came back on the agenda. Bush gave his speech earlier this year identifying the Axis of Evil -- Iraq, North Korea and Iran. This summer, as you recall, there was a lot of publicity about military planning. It looked like we were going to go to war. No decision had been made, as best I can tell.

Colin Powell, the secretary of state, realized that all of the discussion in the National Security Council was about military plans. He felt somewhat strongly that we could not go to war alone with Iraq, that we would have to go through the U.N., or have at least some allies.

And at a dinner in august with the president, laid out the case for giving the U.N. a chance, going the diplomatic route. The president chose that. And that's where we are now with the weapons inspectors.

So I go through all of this, because I think it shows that what the administration has done -- they've got diplomatic pressure on Saddam Hussein. There is the continuing economic pressure. The military planning in itself creates a kind of pressure.

Here's Saddam and his people follow what's going on in the American media, and there's all this discussion of war plans, how many troops are going to be used, what the timetable is. And as I reported, there is a substantial, if not massive, CIA operation underway, trying to overthrow Saddam.

So you've got all of these, what Rumsfeld calls, all the components of national power directed on Saddam. I don't think he has any friends in the world. No one seems to be supporting his position. He's isolated. So in a sense, you could argue time is on our side, at least in the short run.

KING: It certainly looks ominous for Mr. Hussein.

WOODWARD: Yes. In the long run. But we're in this game now, which unfortunately he plays very well of the document dump. Twelve thousand pages. He's very good at hiding things, as we found out in the '90s. It's not clear exactly what his goals and motives are, and how far he will go. It's universally agreed, he is a threat.

My read of President Bush is that he said, when I talked to him about this, that he knows he has to be careful and patient. Then you look into his eyes, quite frankly, and you realize, he'll pull the trigger. And I suspect he'll pull the trigger at some point when it looks like that is the only course.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with your phone calls for Bob Woodward, the author of "Bush At War," the No. 1 selling book in America.

Tomorrow night a look back at the life and times of Marilyn Monroe. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Bob Woodward. The book is "Bush at War."

The caller is from Lexington, Kentucky, hello.

Hello, Lexington?

Hello, Lexington?

OK. Let's try Rockford, Illinois, hello.


KING: Go ahead, Rockford. Go ahead. OK, we seem to have a -- let's try one more and see where we're going here.

Tampa, Florida, hello.

Well, I don't think the phones are working.

WOODWARD: I think...

KING: Something tells me the phones aren't working. OK, now back to the Iraq situation. How, in your estimation, are the inspectors doing? Is there a way to gauge this?

WOODWARD: It's very soon now and I don't think anyone has a full handle on what they're coming up with. So, you know, there are people who think -- and it is a reasonable conclusion -- that this is a kind of shell game and a delaying tactic.

And what is the problem here, in the intelligence business, you rarely get a smoking gun. You rarely get the kind of information that convinces everyone 100 percent that say, in this case, Saddam is violating the agreement in his pledge, and that he really has weapons of mass destruction hidden away, or production facilities hidden away.

So in the intelligence business, you have to build a mosaic. And it's a puzzle. And some judgments are going to have to be made about that. And I think the expectation some people have now is, Oh, there will be photographs and testimony. There will be items like, if you recall, last December, the bin Laden tape which came out. There were questions, you know, did bin Laden really do 9-11? And then here he was on videotape describing his knowledge and absolutely providing the smoking gun. The expectation might be that that will be the case here. I don't think it's the case.

The other element is that, it's risky if you believe that Saddam is dangerous and really wants to have weapons of mass destruction destruction. It's risky to not do something about him in a very proactive, if not preemptive way. At the same time, as has been outlined, or was outlined by Secretary of State Powell to the president, it's very risky to go to war. That the Middle East could be turned into a cauldron regimes that could be friendly to us could fall. And all kind of unintended consequences could follow.

KING: They tell me our phones are fixed. Santa Rosa, California, hello. Are you there Santa Rosa?

CALLER: Yes, I'm here.

KING: Speak. Go ahead.

CALLER: Why is -- I'm sorry. I was caught off my guard. Where is it more of a threat in Iraq that supposedly has a bomb, than North Korea, which has admitted to the bomb, in your opinion?

WOODWARD: That's a very good question. People have raised that issue. North Korea has been willing, on occasion, to engage in diplomacy on these issues. In the case of Iraq, with Saddam Hussein, diplomacy has not worked in the past at all.

I think one of the things you have to look at, what is the mindset of -- that Bush and his war cabinet have? And after 9-11, it is simply, Gee, we need to take care of threats early. We need to be preemptive if necessary. They look around the world, and they say, where is danger? And obviously Iraq comes near the top of the list.

But differentiating it from North Korea is a difficult task. They have done it and made that assessment at this point. I don't think there's any guarantee they're right, as, at the same time, there's no proof they're wrong.

KING: Columbus, Georgia, for Bob Woodward, author "Bush at War," Hello.

CALLER: Hello. I'm calling to see if the U.N. is doing everything it can to prevent weapons of mass destruction and to prevent war. I think President Bush is doing a great job.

KING: You think the U.N. is doing all it can? And, as a postscript to that, Bob, what if, the unlikely event, they find nothing?

WOODWARD: I mean, that's an interesting question, if they find nothing. It doesn't prove they don't have it. And there definitely is intelligence, and there are defectors who are reliable who come out of Iraq and attested to these programs and the existence at certain points, existence of weapons of mass destruction.

In terms of the U.N., President Bush and Secretary of State Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, really mobilized the world in getting the resolution passed 15-0, forcing Saddam to accept weapons inspectors back in Iraq. They are there. They are doing their job. But it is a monumental task. Hiding something is very easy in a small space. It's almost a piece of cake in a large space. And Iraq is a very, very large country.

KING: Tampa, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question for Bob Woodward is, with the impending war with Iraq, do you feel that his will spread the U.S. too thin and therefore take it away from our fight against terrorism, specifically al Qaeda and the search for Osama bin Laden?

KING: A war on two fronts.

WOODWARD: Yes, it could. We are involved in a war on 100 fronts already. And it's very easy not to realize that. When President Bush went to war with al Qaeda, he made it very clear from the first night, their first meeting on September 11 of 2001, when the CIA Director Tenet said, al Qaeda and these bin Laden cells operate in 60 countries, and President Bush said, OK, well, pick them off one at a time.

That does not mean militarily. But it does mean employing the CIA covertly to go after terrorists in these countries. And we know that the CIA and foreign intelligence services have rounded up literally at least a couple of thousand suspected terrorists in over 100 countries.

So that war is going on out of view. It's very invisible, but very critical to the war on terrorism.

So the question is, The war in Afghanistan militarily has subsided. There are lots of questions about it. It is not clear where Afghanistan is going. But there is not the regular routine bombing going on as there was last year.

So now, if you go militarily in Iraq, the military says that they can do this. But, again, there are lots of unknowns in war always. And if you really -- if you had President Bush here on sodium penathol, truth serum, and asked whether he's decided, my suspicion is that he has not decided. That he is very -- being very practical about this. His goal is to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction and almost certainly to get rid of Saddam Hussein, but there are many ways to do that.

KING: We'll come back with more calls for Bob Woodward, author of "Bush at War," right after this.


KING: We're back with Bob Woodward. Starkville (ph),Mississippi, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Mr. Woodward, I was just wanting to know your opinion, if terrorist nations used weapons of mass destruction on the United States, would you support the use of nuclear weapons as a last resort in the interest of national security? Such as if Iraq or Iran used mass destruction weapons on us?

KING: I think the president said today he would do that.

WOODWARD: Yes, there is a document that was released. It's always been implied and implicit, we have had these weapons for decades. And obviously if the circumstance arose where they had to be used, as you say, to protect the national security, I suspect they would be used. What's important right now is, I think the Bush administration wanted to make it clear to Saddam Hussein and others that there's no reluctance to use these if necessary.

In a practical military sense, even if someone used weapons of mass destruction, I'm not sure that the logical or sensible military response would be to use tactical nuclear weapons. You might -- you might not solve the problem at all. And it's something that any president would have to come to ten thousand times before doing because it would, again, be the United States unleashing the most devastating weapon that has ever been known.

And I think that there would be a lot of hesitancy to do it. And we have such dominance militarily that there are other conventional means that could be used to achieve, I think almost anything.

KING: Alameda, California, hello.

CALLER: Yes, good evening. Mr. Woodward, do you -- did you get any kind of a feeling during your work on this book that our government had a -- had information that Iraq actually has weapons of mass destruction? And if you got that feeling, do you think it's incumbent upon our government to tell the public about it?

WOODWARD: Well, the government has told the public that Rumsfeld and President Bush have been very clear, they believe that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. They believe...

KING: I think he was saying, has he shown you proof that they have? Have they shown the public proof?

WOODWARD: No, they have not shown the public proof. And we will get to a stage where there will be a natural demand for some sort of evidence. If it looks like we're going to go to war on this issue.

As I was trying to say earlier, I don't know whether you're going to get the kind of lay-down case that would satisfy everyone. Or maybe even most people.

KING: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, great show.

I was just curious, how much President Bush, Sr., have, Bob, on the situation? I would think he would be quite valuable being a former chief executive, helping out his son in the administration? What do you think about that?

WOODWARD: That's a great question. And I confess that I was not able to get any information on that. I, like you, I agree, I'm sure there are conversations. There's some indications I had from people who knew that there's less communication than you might expect.

But I don't think that that's something -- I tried to find out. I tried to -- I was aggressive as I could be on it. And essentially got nowhere, I acknowledge.

KING: North Port, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, good evening, Mr. Woodward. I read your book in one day, and I loved it.

WOODWARD: Thank you.

CALLER: The question of human intelligence, or spies on the ground in Afghanistan played such an important part, at least the part that I read in your book. Is there any spies that are going into Iraq, which I think is extremely important, because we need human intelligence.

KING: Do we have anybody there?

WOODWARD: That's right. We do need human intelligence. We have some. I don't know exactly how much. There have been some published reports about it.

If you look at Afghanistan as a model, though, it was a loose confederation of warlords. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein has a central government. He has his hands around everyone's throat, it seems. So getting spies in there, having opposition forces and paying people off is going to be substantially more difficult.

If you read the book, I report in there that Tenet did say to Bush, when Bush approved this covert operation, an accelerated covert operation in Iraq, tenet said, the chances of this overthrowing Saddam Hussein alone are about 10 percent to 20 percent. In other words, quite low. And that if you want to really get him out, it's going to take other means.

KING: We'll take a break. Mr. Letterman will take us to the break. We'll be back with our remaining moments with Mr. Woodward. Don't go away.


DAVID LETTERMAN, TALK SHOW HOST: This Saddam Hussein, you know, he's nuts. He's just like a maniac. He's also very wily. And now he's starting to pretend like he's a nice guy, like he apologized to Kuwait. And then earlier today he resigned from Augusta National Golf Club.



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "The Daily Show") JON STEWART, TV HOST: That's right. It took Iraq 12,000 pages to say the phrase, We have no weapons of mass destruction. I say we bomb these verbose bastards into succinctness.


KING: That's funny. Bob Woodward is out guest. The book is "Bush at War." Condoleezza Rice is prominent in your book. She's on the front cover of NewsWeek this week. How key is she?

WOODWARD: Probably the most key person. She has no personal life. She is in the White House, or with the president continuously. Takes his temperature, and then talks regularly, sometimes a half a dozen times or more with the key players, like Powell, Rumsfeld, Tenet, Cheney, and then kind of sets the agenda and says, Look, this is what we need to address. We may need a new policy here. This is something that's come up.

There have been instances where she will call these telephone conferences, or video conferences on the spur of the moment when a piece of intelligence comes in. As best I can tell, she is not somebody who has driving philosophy about foreign affairs. Again, it's very practical.

And if somebody's unhappy, or something's going on, she quickly provides the communication links for them to at least meet and assess.

KING: It had no effect on the administration, but what effect do you think Jimmy Carter's remarks when he received the Nobel Peace Prize concerning a little hesitancy about going to war had on the world?

WOODWARD: If you look at literally what former President Carter said, he said, it may bring about a catastrophe. And the key word there is "may." And I think anyone would agree that there are so many unknowns in this. And this is why we are on the road, the diplomatic road in all of these other roads, why all parts of national power are being brought to try to solve this problem at this moment.

KING: Getting one more call before Bob leaves us. Portland, Oregon, hello.

CALLER: Mr. Woodward, what do you know about Halliburton supposedly selling millions of dollars worth of equipment to Saddam for bringing back his oil wells when Cheney was CEO, and if that was true, and it's an ongoing war like the hawks say, why would that have been allowed?

WOODWARD: That's a good question. I wish I knew more about it. I've read something about it, trying to get information, as lots of people have found about the past dealings of people in private corporations is one of the most difficult things you can do. But it's a subject worthy of further inquiry.

KING: How much thought are they giving to what happens after Saddam? WOODWARD: They're giving a lot of thought. They're trying to figure it out. Of course, that may be premature. And if there's a war, how long is it going to be? What are the casualties? What is the level of destruction? And you need to plan for something like that, but the plan probably would be changed a hundred times if we ever get to that stage.

KING: Away from the topic at hand, what's your read on the Trent Lott matter?

WOODWARD: I have not done any independent reporting on it at all. So I really don't know. I listened to what he said on the show earlier. It seems to me he said the segregationist policies were bad. He has apologized.

At the same time, I was kind of struck where he said he would have to go back and look and figure out whether it was better that Harry Truman was elected in 1948 rather than Strom Thurmond. I think he may be in a very small minority, the need to go back and consult on that.

KING: A little over a minute left. What do you think of the proposal to put all of the intelligence agencies under one superchief, or admiral as was said today?

WOODWARD: I don't know. I was talking to a key senator last night about this, who is involved in, how do you reorganize, if you do reorganize the intelligence community? And he made a critical point. He said, George Tenet, the CIA director, who has loose control over the other intelligence agencies, not full budget control by any means, that Tenet has the confidence of the president. And that the variable in all of these matters is, Do you have somebody who really has the confidence of the president? And all the evidence I found, and in talking to President Bush at some length about this, and to all kinds of other people, even people who sometimes give Tenet an elbow, say that he has a relationship with Bush on the intelligence front very much like Condi Rice does on the overall security front.

KING: And he's a holdover from the Clinton administration.

WOODWARD: He is. And a lot of things that were done that made the war on terrorism, made it so we could fight it, were funded and done in the Clinton administration.

KING: Thank you, Bob, as always.

WOODWARD: Thank you.

KING: In Washington.

WOODWARD: Thank you.

KING: Bob Woodward, the assistant managing editor of the "Washington Post," the Pulitzer Prize winner and the author of "Bush at War," the No. 1 bestselling book non-fiction in America. Back to tell you tomorrow night and a comment on another book, right after this.


KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, remembering Marilyn Monroe. IT should be a fascinating program.

Tonight's guest has the No. 1 book in America. The No. 10 book in America is "The Conquerors." It's the story of Roosevelt, Truman and the destruction of Nazi Germany to end World War II in Europe. It is a fascinating read. I am halfway through it. Michael Beschloss, a frequent guest on this program, is the author and I would reccomend it to you highly. That's "The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany." Fascinating stuff.


© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.