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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Former President Clinton is Interviewed

Aired February 6, 2003 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, exclusive. Former President Bill Clinton here for the hour with lots to talk about: Iraq, the space shuttle tragedy, North Korea, his new foundation, AIDS and Black History Month. Even the Rolling Stones concert where he's going right from here. We're get all into it with the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton, next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We're fortunate to have Bill Clinton right here in Los Angeles with us. He's going to introduce the Rolling Stones tonight at a concert to benefit global warming and we'll get to that in a while.

But first thing's first. Mr. President, thank you very much for giving us the honor.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Glad to be here.

KING: OK. Iraq. You, I imagine, saw Colin Powell yesterday. Did he make a good case? What do you think?

CLINTON: Well, I think he made a good case. He always makes a good case. But the most important thing he said from the point of view from the United Nations is that we had intelligence and photographs which seemed to prove that Iraq was almost taking these chemical stocks, at least, out of the backdoor while the inspectors were going through the front door, that they were moving things.

And if that's true, it means Mr. Blix and his inspectors might never get to do the job that they were appointed to do. So I think that we need to listen to Blix, listen to the Secretary Powell and I still hope the United Nations can act together on this and I think there's still a chance we can.

And, you know, there's still a chance that Saddam Hussein will come to his senses and disarm.

KING: You support the president?

CLINTON: I think that he's doing the right thing now.

What I wanted him to do all along was go to the U.N. I think, you know, we've got three big security problems now.

We still haven't, for sure, eradicated bin Laden and also we're hearing the leadership of al Qaeda and they're still very active. And that's the most imminent problem.

And then we've got the North Korean problem we can talk about later, if you want. That's the biggest potential problem.

But Saddam Hussein, for 12 years, has defied the will of the United Nations and we contained him effectively, but I think it's fair to say that after what happened on September the 11th the will of the international community has stiffened, as represented by this last U.N. resolution which said, clearly, that the penalty for noncompliance is no longer sanctions. It can be your removal from office.

So, I -- my position all along has been one Senator Dole and I took here together on your show that we ought to let the U.N. do its work and I still believe that. But I think the fact that Colin Powell demonstrated persuasively that they're moving the weapons, or the weapon stocks in this case, which -- and it would be easier to move the much smaller quantities of anthrax or aphrotoxin (ph) or they may have a little smallpox. But we're pretty sure they've got a botulism (ph) and the chemical agents, VX and ricin.

KING: Does it look inevitable to you? I mean...

CLINTON: It's not inevitable. It still would be much better if this could be done without violence. But the man needs to get rid of his chemical and biological weapon stocks and...

KING: Did you see information when you were president that led you to think he was doing this?

CLINTON: Sure.

You know, in 1995, keep in mind we had information from two members of his family, two men who had married into his family that defected to Jordan. They gave us thee information and basically the Iraqis, said, OK, we were lying all of the time, here's what we really have. We went in and got that and destroyed it. Everything these guys knew about. Then they foolishly went back to Iraq and they were killed within a month of going back.

In 1998, when we and the British bombed for four days when we kicked the inspectors out, we degraded their capacity further, but there's no question they've had some time to rebuild.

Now based on the declarations they made in '99 and the estimates that were there in '91 at the end of the Gulf War, it's clear that the inspections destroyed more stuff than was destroyed in the Gulf War. but it's pretty clear there are still some things, substantial amounts of chemical and biological stocks unaccounted for.

KING: When you say up to the U.N. -- if -- would you demand another thing other than 1441 from the U.N. if you were sitting in still back in that chair?

CLINTON: Well, as a matter of international law, I don't think it's required. But what we're trying to do here is two things. We're trying to get rid of the chemical and biological storehouse in the hands of a tyrant because he might someday use them or give them away, and more importantly because international law, through the U.N. resolution, says he shouldn't have them.

The second thing we're trying to do is to build a global alliance for peace and freedom and security. So if we can do it with broad support within the U.N., it would be much better. Otherwise, there will always be some who believe that America acted alone. They will question our motives. They will use what we did as an excuse to attack other countries.

KING: But that would stop you from doing it, if you felt it was right.

CLINTON: I don't think it -- I don't think as a matter of law he has to go back. I think that -- not as a matter of American law and, in my view, not as a matter of international law. I think, as a matter of international politics, because we really are trying to build a global cooperation of nations.

If we can get, based on this evidence, and letting the inspectors do a little more work if we can get an agreement with the French and the Germans and the others who are skeptical and who think that we've been too eager to do this all along, that would be better and it might give us a chance to resolve this peacefully. I think the greatest victory of all would be is if Saddam Hussein saw the whole world arrayed against him and thought, you know, they jig was up and he either had to...

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

CLINTON: ...exit or give up the stuff.

KING: Colin Powell was your chairman of the Joint Chiefs. What -- how do assess him as secretary of state?

CLINTON: I think he's done a good job.

I think, you know, as you might imagine, no two people agree on all policies. I think he's been loyal to President Bush.

He went -- we were in Davos, I came there right after he did at the world economic forum. And he gave a very tough speech and a lot of the Europeans thought too tough and I said, Well, he did a good job. He was supposed to be loyal to his president. That's what he hired on to do. And I think he's been loyal to the administration but I think he's been pushing more than, say, Secretary Rumsfeld or the vice president and some others for international cooperation.

Colin Powell is trying to build a new era of international cooperation along with getting rid of these weapons of mass destruction.

KING: It ain't easy. CLINTON: And it's not easy. But I -- and so I think he's doing a good job.

KING: You mentioned North Korea. How serious is this?

CLINTON: I think it's very serious.

First of all, let's make sure the people listening to us understand what exactly has happened. North Korea is a poor country with about 17 million people and about a million and a half or a million seven in the army. Over a million of them very close to Seoul, South Korea.

They know they can't win a war in the end, but they could do a lot of damage. They can't grow their own food. It's the most isolated society in the world. When their soldiers defect sometimes they weigh less than 100 pounds. Their only cash crops are bombs and missiles. They're great at it. They're really good at bombs and missiles. But they know they can't use them except to sell them because they need money.

China, for example, long a sponsor of North Korea, now does 10 times as much trade with South Korea as North Korea. So nobody in the region wants them to have the weapons. The main reason they had weapons or missiles was either to sell them or to be paid not to sell them and to be recognized as important. Their objectives are to survive with food and energy and not to go the way of East Germany. They don't want to go away.

So, in '94, we found out they would have the plutonium power planks and you can take the spent plutonium rods, after you generate electricity, and still have enough to make a lot bombs. We had a tough time with them, but we got them to end that program and they kept it ended until apparently today they started again. They would have 100 hundred weapons if we hadn't done that.

And then in '98 we got them to stop testing long-range missiles and in 2000 we nearly got them to end the missile program. It turns out they had this smaller laboratory program to develop a nuclear bomb with enriched uranium.

KING: So what do you do?

CLINTON: So what we should do, in my opinion, is get their neighbors, first of all, beginning with the South Koreans, and then the Japanese ,who tried to make up with them. The prime minister of Japan took a very courageous and controversial trip to North Korea. And the Chinese and the Russians and get them all together and say, Look, here's the deal. We'll make an omnibus agreement if you'll end both nuclear programs, let testing in so you can't start any thing again, end the missile program, something that they had not agreed to do. And we'll make sure you got enough food and energy. We'll teach you how to grow food and we'll give you a non-aggression pact. They want this non-aggression pact, I think that's a no-brainer. Why? Because if we ever had to attack it would be because they did some thing that violated the non-aggression pact. KING: Right.

CLINTON: So, I think that the diplomatic course is right -- the president and the administration has said that they want to handle it diplomatically. But I think you have to firm in public and absolutely brutal in private. You cannot let them become a nuclear arsenal, because the pressure on them to sell these bombs will be overwhelming. They have no other way to make money.

KING: And who do they sell them to?

CLINTON: Well, you tell me.

I mean, you know, we found some missiles they were selling to Yemen not very long ago and put the president in a terrible bind because the Yemenis had helped us get the people that blew up the USS Cole shortly before I left office.

But this can be handled diplomatically as long as there -- we should not take the threat off the table and we shouldn't think we're bribing them if we get something we didn't have before. We can't pay them twice for the same thing. But if we can make a comprehensive settlement that says, Here's the way you can be part of the East Asian community. Here's the way you can be part of the world community. And here's what you have to do. That's what I think we ought to do.

KING: Let me get a break and we'll be back with more. Lots of other issues to talk about. Talk about his new library, how that's coming along. And this is Black History Month and lots to talk about with the former president of the United States, the youngest former president since Teddy Roosevelt.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with President Clinton. Your wife, the junior senator of New York was critical of the president's general approach with Homeland Security, not enough being done. What are your thoughts?

CLINTON: Well, if you read the Rodman-Hart Report, it's a bipartisan report and a good one. Or you just talk to anybody in a major city, it's obvious that we have a lot to do to better protect our ports, our tunnels, our bridges, our water supplies, our power plants, just to start there.

And after September the 11th, there were repeated attempts in the Congress to get more money to do those things. That's a big part of Homeland Security and to get more direct support for first responders, fire and police.

Instead, was there opposition to this in the Congress and from the administration to getting a lot of this money, most of the money. And now they're proposing even to get rid of the program that we started to put more police on the street, which I think is a mistake especially when just basic crime is going up again.

So it's just a place where we disagree. I'd rather see -- I don't think that you and I should be getting a tax cut, Larry. I think they should take that money and guarantee more police and more fire protection and do this other stuff. And they got something left over, they can send kids to college.

KING: What do you make of the alerts we're under? The Yellows and the Greens and the -- what do you do in the cases?

CLINTON: I don't think there's much for us to do, but what happens -- to be fair to the government, they're in a pickle. If they don't issue the alert and something happens, then they cover up.

If they do issue the a and people don't have anything to do they feel like they're being jerked around. It's a difficult thing for the government.

If the alert is a possible terrorist attack, then at least, you know, people can look around. You'd be amazed how many things are foiled almost, not by accident, but just by alertness.

There were, for all of the terrible things we suffered when I was president -- Oklahoma City, the first World Trade Center bombing -- there were lots and lots of things, an attack on the Lincoln Tunnel, attack on the Holland Tunnel and attack at the Los Angeles airport....

KING: That were stopped?

CLINTON: ... that were stopped. Planned bombings in cities in the Northeast, the Northwest over the millennium.

KING: Really?

CLINTON: Yes, that were stopped by vigorous law enforcement and working with citizens and sometimes somebody picked up a tip.

So I think that the government's in a difficult position because they know when they give these alerts they may scare people and there's nothing quite they can do and they don't really want them to stay off airplanes or anything like that.

But if they don't give the alert and something happens then they'll always wonder might somebody have picked it up?

KING: So you agree with your wife's critique?

CLINTON: On the spending, I do. I think we should be spending more on Homeland Security. I think that the Iraq issue, as I've told you, is serious. And I think -- so far, I have supported all these steps to work through the U.N., but to get tougher, but it is by no means, or in my view, the most serious security problem facing the country.

KING: Al Qaeda still... CLINTON: I think al Qaeda is No. 1. I still believe that. And I still believe over the long run having North Korea making nuclear bombs and big missiles with nothing to do, but sell them, knowing that if they'll use them they'll be incinerated...

KING: What do you do with desperates everywhere when you're the only super power?

CLINTON: Well, I think first of all, you can't unseat them all. And you have to have either -- if they don't do anything to you, you have to have some authority under the U.N. to do something because otherwise you create a bad precedence.

Suppose a writer I respect, Robert Kaplan wrote a book recently called "Warrior Politics" in which he says that people don't cooperate unless you make them. So Bill Clinton did the right thing in Bosnia and Kosovo, but he should have done more of it sooner.

And he basically argues that -- I would imagine, therefore, he thinks what we're doing in Iraq's all right and if we had to it by ourselves it would be fine.

We could do it easily enough. Militarily it's not a problem. The problem with that is that the biggest security threats we face are not necessarily from other governments, but from terror cells and in an open society an action can produce a reaction...

KING: That cell could be in Syracuse.

CLINTON: That's correct. And what we need to do, therefore, is to be, in my view, we need to be aggressive, but we need to do it by building international cooperation as much as possible. Even if we have to slow down, and there's some things we can do.

You don't do everything in life you can just because you can. Nobody does.

KING: You miss the job?

CLINTON: Well, I loved it. I miss the work. I like having my life back and I love the work I'm doing now. And I knew when I went in I could only do it for eight years if the people were good enough to reelect me. So I never sit around and regret in that sense that I'm not president.

KING: Are there days you'd like to be there?

CLINTON: Oh, sure. And I think anybody that's ever been there feels that way. I think former President Bush does. Former President Carter does. Former President Ford does. I think they just do, you just feel that way.

KING: By the way, it is the 92nd birthday of Ronald Reagan. You've had Alzheimer's in your family?

CLINTON: Yes, I have. I lost an uncle at 84 and an aunt at 78 to Alzheimer's. And my heart goes out to Mrs. Reagan and to President Reagan's children. I had a wonderful visit with him in late '92...

KING: After you were elected?

CLINTON: After I was elected but before I took office. I came out here to see him. And he complained to me then that he repeated himself once in a story and he complained that he was beginning to forget himself.

And I've lived through this very closely. My aunt who died of it was one of my primary raisers when I was a boy and my mother was widowed. And my uncle loaned me the first $10,000 I got to go into politics in 1974.

But that's one of the reasons that I tried to invest so much government money in research into the human genome because what happens is once you sequence the human genome you can begin to identify the variances that are high predictors of certain conditions.

We've already done it with breast cancer and I think we're getting very close on Parkinson's and on Alzheimer's. And since the fastest growing group of Americans are people over 85 and you know, we all -- you and I we won't live forever and we're going to live longer than our predecessors did unless something bad happens, as a generation, getting to the bottom Alzheimer's is really important.

And I know that the -- I believe that Congress is committed to this on a bipartisan base. They've been great on medical research.

KING: Should we say with humans going into space?

CLINTON: I believe so. I gave the approval for the Israeli astronaut to go.

KING: Really? It started then.

CLINTON: And on the day that he went up, former Prime Minister Barak called and thanked me and reminded me that he and I had done this deal to allow this remarkable human being to go into space.

And I fought for the space program when I was president. Dan Golden, who was the director of NASA a did a great job of economizing. He cut some expenses when we had to cut the budget deficit. But we increased manned spaceflight funding by $150 million.

I believe in it. I think we learn a lot about it. What I'm doing tonight to talk about global warming at the Rolling Stones concert -- a lot of what we know about the Earth's environment we know because of space exploration and what we know about the planet from outer space. We need to know what black holes in outer space are like.

KING: And robots won't do that.

CLINTON: Robots will do a lot of it, but I supported the international space station. And I supported the extraordinary efforts we made to keep the Russians involved in it. I believe in it. It's -- you know, that and the deepest depths of the oceans are our last great frontiers and we've always been requesting people and I still believe in it.

KING: Where were you the morning of Columbia?

CLINTON: I was home and.

KING: Saw it on television?

CLINTON: I saw it right after it happened. Actually I had CNN on and I saw the shards going across the sky.

KING: What goes through your mind?

CLINTON: Well, I thought about it a lot because we had a lot of missions when I was president. And I hosted a show on the "Apollo 13" at the White House with Tom Hanks. And because I was so interested in it and I went down to Florida and watched the liftoffs. The most dangerous points of space travel are the first 90 seconds when the liftoff. You have the powerful rockets and you have got to lose a couple of stages and a lot of things can happen. That's what happened before 17 years ago with those people on Challenger.

And then when you come back in. If the spaceship goes in at too shallow a plane, it will bounce off and just fly off into outer space. If it goes in it too steep a plane it will burn up. So it came in, they said that the problems happened at about 205,000 square feet, I think? So I thought to myself what could have happened? You know, did the computer go out and the pilot have to make a last-minute -- you know, the pilot would take over? Did he not have enough time? Did the computer malfunction or was just something that happened to the spacecraft that it did not...

KING: Are you confident we will find out?

CLINTON: I think we probably will and I think the rest of it, we should left them do their work. They'll shoot straight with us because they want to know.

KING: We'll be back with former President Clinton after these words.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with former president Bill Clinton, you mentioned earlier briefly about the tax cuts.

Why won't they work?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, they're spread out over too long a period to do a lot of good now. And secondly, they're too heavily weighted for people who don't need them like me and you. So we're building the long-term deficits without getting short-term stimulus. What I think ought to be done is at the top rate on the last year's tax cut ought to be frozen. We've already gotten 10 or $15,000 more than -- ten times more than the average person got out of the last one.

Then this whole thing ought to be reworked, and I think there ought to be a one or two year tax cut concentrated to tax relief to middle income and lower middle income people, and the investment incentives for small businesses and others that will get the economy going. And then they ought to go off because otherwise we'll have huge deficits.

When the economy begins to recover as it will. Interest rates will then go up, because there will be a big demand for money and the government will be the pig at the trough. And it will hurt in America ask it will hurt around the world. It's bad economics and I don't think you can justify if it. Everybody else is being asked to sacrifice for this war on terror, and you and I are getting a tax cut in the Social Security retirement fund of middle class people. It's not right. We don't need it and you know it's not right. It's just not right. It can't be justified and it's not good economics.

KING: Were you surprised that Al Gore is not running?

CLINTON: A little.

KING: Thought he might?

CLINTON: I did. I did. You know I saw him the other day. We ran into each other in Florida and I was coming and he was going and we didn't have time to talk. But, you know, I will say what I've said many times. He's the finest vice president this country had. He had more responsibility and did more good with it. And I wish him well. I hope he'll be very happy and I understand his reasons and, you know, he's still a young man. His life is nowhere near over. His service is nowhere near over and his political career may not be over.

KING: You're not going to tell me, but do you have a favorite among those announced.

CLINTON: No. I think it's a very impressive group. I think they've given a lot to our country. They also all supported me and did things for me and so I don't have a favorite. I think that what happens when this mystical process starts of the nominating season, one of them will emerge. One of them will have some spark a message, a fire, a feeling for the American people. And that will happen and we'll just see what happens.

KING: Tell me about that -- let's show this piece first. We have a little advance here to show you. Kind of a virtual tour, a quick virtual tour of what will be the William Jefferson Clinton Library. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Our of Democracy must be not only the envy of the world, but the engine of our own renewal. There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.

A leader who guided America through a period of great transition. This presidency will forever be captured at the 12th presidential library. The William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center and Park.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Kind of cooky.

CLINTON: That's easy. That's my DVD.

KING: Where's it going to be?

CLINTON: In Little Rock. Right on the Arkansas River.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Financing?

CLINTON: Yes, the of the city gave me 26 acres there, and we're going to build a main building as you saw there up off the ground and out into the river like a metaphor for the bridge for the 21st century. So it will be a public park. Most of the land will be a public park. We'll have a library there, a big museum that will chronicle America's transition into the 21st century, and the global economy. And we'll have a university program there and public service.

KING: Tom Joyner, the host of the syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show," who I know you're working with, will be joining us in a couple of minutes. And when we have a discussion about black America and national black month and what were doing and not doing.

Couple of other things, does Chelsea have a job somewhere it's been reported in the paper?

CLINTON: She's done some job interviews and gotten some offers. And the last time I talked to her the day before yesterday, she hadn't decided which one to take.

KING: What does she want to do.

CLINTON: She told me she wanted to work in the private sector. My daughter is fascinated by how things work. And I thought she might go into law school. She just needs one course and she wanted to go to medical school. And she of the wanted to work and get off the payroll.

KING: She engaged to someone? Is she going to get married?

CLINTON: Not to my knowledge. She's got a steady boyfriend and he's a really fine young man. I like him very much.

KING: Hillary like him?

CLINTON: She does. We like him and we've enjoyed spending time with him and with his parents.

KING: Look serious now? If you know the parents it's serious.

CLINTON: Not necessarily, you know, I learned a long time ago not to speak for my daughter. And I'm always afraid if I like her boyfriends too much they'll be toast. So I think -- we just support her. And I'm very proud of her. I'm happy for where her life is now and I like this young man.

KING: How is the book coming?

CLINTON: I'm working like crazy on it.

KING: Doing this by yourself?

CLINTON: Well, I am writing it by myself. I am writing it in big notebooks. I have a young assistant Justin Cooper who back facts checks things for me. He types it in the computer and puts it back. Then I edit it two or three times.

KING: When are we due for publication?

CLINTON: I don't know. I'm trying to get it done this year, but it's amazing. You know, I've got massive documents. I've saved every letter my mother wrote to me and that I wrote to her in college.

KING: But you don't want -- you don't want 4,000 pages.

CLINTON: No. No. That's what I'm saying. So you had -- but you had to go through the stuff to know what not to write. I just was looking at all of the records I have from my college years and law school years. I save every -- I'm a total packrat and it makes it both -- it could be a better book if I know how to handle materials. But I'm having a good time.

KING: A good editor to help.

CLINTON: Yes, I've got a great editor.

KING: And you're still not going to do a hosted talk show, right?

CLINTON: No, I don't think I should host a talk show. I'm not as good as you are.

KING: OK. Thank you.

We'll take a break and then Tom Joyner will join us. Lots more to talk about with the former president.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We are joined now, President Clinton and I, with -- by Tom Joyner, host of the nationally syndicated show "The Tom Joyner Morning Show." He's founder of the Tom Joyner Foundation, a non-profit organization which aids African-American students attending historically black colleges and universities and February's Black History Month.

A couple of other quick thing I want to ask you before we get into the whole discussion about black America is do you fear another terrorist attack in this country?

CLINTON: I think it can happen and I think that we're doing the best we can to deal with it. But that's why I thought Hillary was right in trying to get more support for homeland security because I think while you can't prevent them all, what you -- the goal has got to be to stop big, bad thins from happening and the homeland security investments that she's been pushing are to protect the big infrastructure and then just to have enough folks out there, enough fire and policemen.

So I think Yes, it could happen, but we can't be paralyzed by it. We got go on.

KING: I noticed your friend Jim Kennedy came out here with you and I the only reason is because the Rolling Stones were here tonight.

CLINTON: Yes, I think so.

KING: But we don't care. But for the Rolling Stones...

CLINTON: That's right.

KING: What are you doing with the rolling stones? Are you going to sing?

CLINTON: Oh God, no.

KING: Are you going to play?

CLINTON: No.

You know, first of all I want to say this is a remarkable thing. The Stones don't ever do this. They're doing this concert for free to highlight -- to highlight global warming and cooperation with the Natural Resources Defense council. That's a big environmental group, Washington-based, they've got a million members and they're great. They work to protect the environment.

So they actually asked if I would come introduce them to make sure everybody knew they were serious. And I really respect the fact that they care about this and we've got to get this up the radar screen.

I know we've got to worry about terror and all of this other stuff. But we can't just shut America down. And global warming is real. If we don't do something about it, in 50 years we'll lose 50 feet of Manhattan Island. Islands in Pacific will change, agricultural production.

It's a big problem and the good news is we can do a lot about it and it will help the economy if we do right.

KING: Are you going to stay for the concert, too?

CLINTON: You bet.

KING: Yes.

What are you two doing together, Tom? What are you and the president involved in?

TOM JOYNER, RADIO HOST: We're involved in this.

KING: An interactive guide to historically black colleges and universities.

JOYNER: CD-ROM dealing with historically black colleges and universities. There's some 104 around the country.

This is everything you need to know about enrolling, financial aid, profiles in the schools, what they offer, in one CD-ROM. There is a -- a deal with his foundation and my foundation.

KING: You're working with the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation?

JOYNER: I'm working with the William Jefferson Foundation.

KING: And how do people get this?

JOYNER: It's being distributed. There's 500,000 of these. They're being distributed in high schools and middle school all around the country. And this month and next month they will be in "Vibe," "Essence," "Saboy"...

KING: Come with the magazine?

JOYNER: It will come with "Black Enterprise."

KING: Were you alarmed at Trent Lott's remarks?

CLINTON: Let me just say one more thing about this.

KING: I'm going back to it...

CLINTON: I'll talk about Trent Lott's remarks, but I have a different take on it.

We're worried about the number of African-American kids going to college and finishing college and dropping. When I was president, we had the biggest increase in college aid since the G.I. Bill and more kids went. But we need -- this was designed to make sure every African-American child in this country knows they can go and I want to thank Tom and Clayton Banks and the media for...

KING: And they don't know they can go?

CLINTON: I don't think a lot of them know they can really go to college. And so this is designed to make sure they know, Here's how you go to college. Here's what you got to do and here's some help you can get.

Tom's got a book that he prepared to do that and I think it's very, very important.

KING: "Eight Steps to Help Black Families Pay for College."

JOYNER: Yes. It's in schools now.

KING: With your own foundation.

JOYNER: Along with the Princeton Review.

CLINTON: But it's amazing. A lot of people don't think their kids can go to college. One of the things I found is that just because you pass a law and confer a benefit doesn't mean people know it exists.

So, if this works, we're going to do it next year for Hispanic kids, too. So I think that -- and then we'll go to other targeted populations in America that are underperforming in college, because it's absolutely critical to our economy and to their future.

KING: Before I ask about Trent Lott, Tom, people have said when they ask will we ever have a black president, some said we already have had one, President Clinton.

Does the black community look upon him that way? I know you can't speak for the whole black community, but you have one of the most popular radio shows and you're in touch with them all of the time.

JOYNER: I think -- I think that right now, as people are watching this, I don't think I'm the only one that wishes that he was still president right now.

KING: No, but the black America.

JOYNER: I'm talking about black America, mainstream America, but especially black America.

We're getting kicked in the teeth right now by the current administration from what -- from affirmative action to education and we need -- we need somebody that will speak for us and our issues.

KING: Was Trent Lott a step back or it was an isolated incident?

CLINTON: Well, I have a completely different view on this and I don't want to reopen an old wound.

KING: Go ahead.

CLINTON: First of all, you know, Trent Lott was my neighbor from Mississippi. I had a very good personal relationship with him and we disagreed on nearly every thing.

I actually have -- see, I don't have a job any more except when I want to work, which is most of the time. But I actually happen to be watching Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party on C-SPAN when all this happened. KING: Only you would be watching....

CLINTON: I just happened to watch it. And when Trent said, I said, Oh my God. You know? Because I think 90 percent of what he said was just enthusiasm. He was trying to think of something nice to say about Strom Thurmond.

Now, if Trent Lott had been alive in 1948 -- I mean, he was alive, but if he had been an active voter, I think he would have voted for Strom Thurmond. But that's why I think John Lewis said he forgave him.

But the thing that bothered was I thought that the way the Republicans treated him was bad because-- for the following reason: I thought he was made a scapegoat. I mean, you know, we had Republican Senate candidates out there running in states that were getting white votes on the Confederate flag in 2002 and all the others were for that, you know? They're bringing back this -- the judge that was defeated when the Democrats had a majority who went easy on the Ku Klux Klansmen and they're all for that.

So I thought what they did was -- that Trent Lott made a boo-boo. It was like the equivalent of, you know, an uneducated guy scratching his ear or picking his nose at a dinner party. And they made him a scapegoat so that other people in America who were uncomfortable with what he said wouldn't think the rest of the Republican Party was doing that.

But I thought, I'm more interested in the policies. I think -- you know, when Trent Lott was majority leader at least we passed the Balanced Budget Act that had the biggest increase in child health care since Medicare. There are 4.6 million kids that have health insurance because of...

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) credit for that?

CLINTON: Yes, because he supported it. The point I'm trying to make is I don't agree what he said. I wouldn't have supported Strom Thurmond in '48, even though I like him personally. And I don't agree with most of their Civil Rights policies.

But the thing that bothered me, the Republicans didn't ax him for that. They axed him because he embarrassed them and risked undermining their policies. But their policies are what I disagreed with and I just thought it was terrible that used him as a scapegoat.

KING: We'll be right back. I want to talk about AIDS and the black community and especially -- Bill Clinton was just in Africa. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: By the way, if you want to simply order an interactive guide to historically black colleges and universities, no cost, just call 1-888-538-4455. 1-888-538-4455 or log in to tomjoyner.com. You can also check for information about the book "Eight Steps to Help Black Families pay for College." It's a crash course in financial aid, the forward by Tom Joyner, published by the Joyner Foundation, the Princeton Review.

You were in Africa. You saw, I guess, the horrors of AIDS. I know in fact, I think we have a picture of you in Rwanda. Were you surprised that the president focused so much attention on it in the State of the Union.?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, let me say I was pleased. When I was president we tripled overseas aid to AIDS and by the time I left office America was providing about half the money that the governments of the world were spending on this, but it's nowhere near enough.

So I was very pleased and I'm very glad. And we need to get that money out there as soon as possible. The second thing we need to do is clear away all of the obstacles to getting medicine at the most affordable rate out there to these countries.

And then people like me who don't have government responsibilities need to make sure it can be done right. What my foundation does is we work with a heart and medical school and a lot of other providers and health care managers and we're working in 16 countries in the Caribbean. And two in Africa, soon to be three and maybe four. And we try to set up nationwide health systems to deal with AIDS and related things like TB and malaria. To make sure we can do prevention, care and treatment and get the drugs out so they've got to be able to get them out there.

But we need -- there's still unbelievably, two years after the South African drug case was settled, there are still efforts to stop affordable drugs getting out there. Now, we've got drugs that stop mother to child transmission when the mother's infected and the baby's born free of AIDS, 98 percent of the time.

We've got drugs that make AIDS from a death sentence into a chronic illness for healthy people if they can get them. And there a tiny, tiny fraction of the people in Africa and in the Caribbean, where the second fastest growing rate is, and in the former Soviet Union, less we think this is a black disease or an African disease. The former Soviet Union is the fastest growing rates of AIDS in the World.

KING: Really?

CLINTON: Yes. The third fastest growing rate's in India, a billion people. The biggest democracy in the world. A third of the people of Bombay are homeless, (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It could cut through there like a hot knife through butter if we don't do something about it.

China has whole world villages full of orphans because the parents were poor and they tried to sell their blood to make money and they got infected with tainted needles and people are dying. This is a global problem and I welcome the president's financing. The Congress needs to pass it. We need -- they need to get it out in an intelligent way and the rest of us who are out there working in the field, we need to make sure the money's spent right and we need to make sure the infrastructure is there to keep the people alive if the money comes.

KING: It seems, Tom, to have died down as a major subject in America, hasn't it?

JOYNER: No.

KING: The drugs that keep people alive longer.

JOYNER: Well, the drugs.

But getting back to what he was saying, I'm just concerned about how much money he said he wanted -- the Bush administration said they wanted to give to Africa. It sounds like a lot of money, but when you do the math on that, you've got 30 million people infected in Africa with AIDS and you're going to spread $15 billion over five years? If my math's right that's about $1,000 a person. That's not...

CLINTON: But if we get -- he's right, but see, we pay $13,000 -- in Harlem in my local AIDS clinic...

KING: Where your office is.

CLINTON: Yes, just around the street from my office, down the street where I visit. It's a great clinic. The government will pay $13,000 a year for those AIDS strokes.

But if we can get them out there in these countries for $500, $300, then $1,000 can pay for care and medicine. That's going to be the key. That's why I say the government of the United States can have a huge impact in talking to the drug companies and making sure we clear out all of the roadblocks to either getting these drugs out let at an affordable price or setting up the facilities like in South Africa as they do in India, Thailand and other place to produce the drugs. We've got to get the medicine out there.

And let me just say that, you mentioned Rwanda. One of the reasons there's a picture of me in a clinic in Rwanda with all these women nursing their newborns is they at least at this clinic have the medicine to stop mother to child transmission.

So people will come in and get tested, but if people think all they're going to do is find out they're going to die, then they have no incentive to test.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Tom Joyner and William Jefferson Clinton, the former president of the United States.

Heavy company here, Tom.

JOYNER: He comes first.

KING: Not even alphabetical.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: We'll be right back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Again, the number for the interactive guide to historically black colleges and universities is 1-888-538-4455 or log on to tomjoyner.com. The book is "Eight Steps to Help Black Families Pay For College." The Princeton Review and the Tom Joyner Foundation make it possible and Tom wrote the forward.

We've got about less than five minutes left. We want to touch other quick bases.

What should they do down in lower Manhattan?

CLINTON: Well, I don't have a particular plan. They've apparently narrowed it down to two.

KING: Two.

CLINTON: I think the most important thing is to be deliberate in picking the plan so the victims' families and the business interest down there and the people who live there all feel like they had their input. And then to me, after you're deliberate in picking a plan we should be radically fast in putting it up. Whatever we are going to build we ought to do it in a hurry.

I think one person should be picked to be in charge, a Robert Moses type, you know? Somebody whose go the authority, the ability and the sheer will power to get this done in a hurry because for emotional as well as economic reasons, we New Yorkers need this thing done. We need it done in a hurry and there should be an integrated vision with a proper memorial and then life going on.

KING: How much commercial, how much memorial?

CLINTON: Well, my guess, as I said, I'm not going to pick a plan because it's not my responsibility, but it looks like they'll have a wonderful memorial and trying to maintain Lower Manhattan's position as the financial capital of the world and maybe have a little more mixed development. I would like to see some more cultural stuff. Some more housing, some more small businesses. A real distinct community there that would sort of rise up out of the ash at ground zero, anchored by a magnificent memorial. And they can do that.

KING: If asked, would you serve on the commission too.

CLINTON: I would, but we don't need a commission. They need to find one person who can run this thing and ram it through. That's what I think. Once we decide. I wanted them to take all of the time in the world to make sure everybody feels like they're considered, but once we decide, man, there needs to be somebody who thinks about nothing else until it's done and gets it done. No sacrifice in health and safety, other wise, no delay for anything.

KING: He keeps including us, in not affected by tax cuts. Your not effected by the tax cuts, you don't need it.

CLINTON: Joyner, shouldn't get one either.

KING: Joyner, don't need it either.

CLINTON: We shouldn't. We should spend it to send these kids to school. Put police on the street. It's wrong.

JOYNER: I agree.

KING: You don't want the tax cut either. You keep mentioning this. What's it like for you to have money. A lot of money.

CLINTON: It's ridiculous. I can't believe it.

KING: What's it like?

CLINTON: Well, look. I'm glad because I have the senator's support, you know, and that's not the least expensive thing in the world. I'm glad, it's wonderful in a lot of ways. My daughter can in home if she wants. She doesn't have to worry about that. We have a nice place to live in Washington and our home in New York is nice. I'm grateful to be able to earn this money, but I wouldn't have been able to do it if I hadn't been able to live a life in America. And those of us who have been fortunate to have benefited from the American dream and there's not a living soul in America that's benefited more than I have.

KING: Money was never your driving interest.

CLINTON: I never cared about money. But, I needed it. I had big legal bills to pay and other expenses when I left office. But I'm grateful for what I have and I think we should pay our fair share. We're supposed to be fighting terror. And the only people asked to sacrifice are the people who benefited most from the American dream. It's not right.

KING: Do you feel lucky, Tom? Blessed?

JOYNER: If he's the luckiest, I've got to be the second. And what I do, I don't do for money, but it's been a blessing because of, you know, the money. But my passion is in -- is in sending making sure the kids stay in historically black colleges and universities. We do a lot. We've raised a lot of money and every dime goes to students. And now we're -- we're going into the next phase and trying to educate people on how they can go, how they can stay in school, and the benefits of a historically black college.

KING: We only have 30 seconds. But you are always comfortable among black Americans. CLINTON: Yes. But I owe that to my grandfather. When I was a kid my grandfather had a store in the black section of Hope, Arkansas, across from the cemetery.

JOYNER: And every time I see him. First thing he does is give me the soul handshake.

CLINTON: My grandparents supported the integration of the school in the '50s when hardly any white people were for it. It's not my fault that I had a good hearted grandfather and grandmother who do made me this way.

KING: Dot soul handshake.

JOYNER: You're my man, brother.

KING: We'll be back in a couple of moments to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I've in the good fortune in my life to interview presidents, former And sitting presidents. A couple of former presidents right on this set. President Clinton tonight. President Gerald Ford, President Jimmy Carter and President Ronald Reagan.

Ronald Reagan is 92 years young today. He suffers from Alzheimer's, his wife Nancy and a courageous group of people are always around him. And we share in America's best wishes to one of our gladiators, Ronald Reagan who keeps on, keeping on. Happy birthday.

Tomorrow night Dr. James Dobson will talk about the family.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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