MR. TOM BROKAW: Our issues this Thanksgiving Sunday: She has been a passionate advocate for women's issues in Afghanistan throughout her husband's presidency. She's made three trips to the region. How will she continue her work after her husband leaves office? Our exclusive guest, first lady Laura Bush.
And what is the future of that war-torn nation? Also joining us, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad. Plus, he was a champion sailor, the man who invented CNN. He now wants to save the world. He's written a new book, "Call Me Ted," for the first time revealing his personal story. Our exclusive guest, Ted Turner.
And in our MEET THE PRESS Minute, another first lady with a strong interest in the world, Eleanor Roosevelt. Fifty-one years ago on this program, she describes her three-hour meeting with Communist leader Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union.
(Videotape, October 20, 1957)
MS. ELEANOR ROOSEVELT: I'd been told beforehand that he's an impossible person, vulgar, drinking, disagreeable. He was none of those things.
MR. BROKAW: But first on this Thanksgiving weekend, we take a step away from the rough and tumble of politics of Washington to focus on global humanitarian concerns, notably life for women in Afghanistan. And with us is the first lady of the United States, Laura Bush, who has made this issue a cornerstone of her work since September 11. And she's joined here this morning by the Afghanistan ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad.
Welcome to both of you. Very nice to have you.
MS. LAURA BUSH: Thank you very much.
MR. BROKAW: Thank you.
Mrs. Bush, I thought we would share with our audience a radio address that you made, the first radio address by a first lady, shortly after September 11. And you chose Afghanistan to talk about. So let's listen to that...
MS. BUSH: OK.
MR. BROKAW: ...and then we'll begin there.
(Audiotape, November 17, 2001)
MS. BUSH: Life under the Taliban is so hard and repressive, even small displays of joy are outlawed--children aren't allowed to fly kites; their mothers face beatings for laughing out loud. Women cannot work outside the home, or even leave their homes by themselves. ... Only the terrorists and the Taliban forbid education to women. Only the terrorists and the Taliban threaten to pull out women's fingernails for wearing nail polish. The plight of women and children in Afghanistan is a matter of deliberate human cruelty, carried out by those who seek to intimidate and control. ... In America, next week brings Thanksgiving. After the events of the last few months, we'll be holding our families even closer. And we will be especially thankful for all the blessings of American life. I hope Americans will join our family in working to insure that dignity and opportunity will be secured for all the women and children of Afghanistan.
MR. BROKAW: Not too long after that, great progress was made in Afghanistan.
MS. BUSH: That's right.
MR. BROKAW: Women became involved in politics, they're members of the parliament. They've taken a much more active role in that country. But as we all know, the Taliban have come back into Afghanistan in larger numbers, and now there were 15 schoolgirls that were attacked...
MS. BUSH: That's right.
MR. BROKAW: ...with acid in Kandahar just recently. Some arrests have been made...
MS. BUSH: Mm-hmm.
MR. BROKAW: ...but that's pretty discouraging, isn't it?
MS. BUSH: It is discouraging. But on the other hand, there has been lots of progress. Are there steps back? Yes. And they're terrible, brutal happenings like the girls who were just walking to school and were targeted just because they were going to school, and disfigured with acid. The really good news is these--the people who did it have been arrested. There is an Afghan police force now and an Afghan army that are building up to be able to protect the people of Afghanistan internally like the--like we want them to. We all want them to. And there are many, many signs of progress. When I was in Bamiyan this year I met with a governor, female governor, I met with female police officers. Are there--are women afraid to step out and have some of these roles? Sure, to some extent they are. But these sort of happenings are more isolated than they sound when we read about them in the newspaper, because they are so horrific when we read about it.
MR. BROKAW: And it's much worse in the south and in the rural areas...
MS. BUSH: That's right.
MR. BROKAW: ...than it is in the north.
MS. BUSH: That's--and Kabul is in much better shape, I think, than it has been. Violence is down there in the city. But in certain parts of Afghanistan, because there are still so many very conservative people, women themselves are afraid. I met with a group of women, parliamentarians, members of parliament, who were in the United States recently, and they said, "This is our chance, and if we don't take this chance, if we don't succeed now then when will we ever be able to?" And I think the main thing that that says to me is that we need to stay with them, we have to continue to support them.
Recently when there was a terrorist bombing in Afghanistan, a group of people--1,000 protesters actually came out to protest. Most people in Afghanistan want to be able to build their country, live a decent life, not be afraid of a terrorist attack, and the fact is we just need to keep working with them so they can do it.
MR. BROKAW: Mr. Ambassador, part of the problem is as the Taliban come back into the country, people of good will even in the rural villages may want to do the right thing, but they worry about reprisals from the Taliban.
AMB. SAID JAWAD: This is true. The way Taliban operates is by forcing people into submission. They don't provide an alternative to what the United States or the Afghan government is doing as far as providing educational opportunities. And the way they operate is by terrorizing people. And there is no future for such a vision. They might be able to undermine a few of our...(unintelligible)...forces for as building more schools, but the people are truly determined, and the people are also very fortunate to have the support and the friendship of the United States and also the first lady of the United States.
Can you imagine for the--how the situation will be for the women of Bamiyan, an isolated, poor province of Afghanistan that have witnessed with their tears on their eye the slaughter of their children, the destruction of the magnificent Buddha, to be standing on the line to shake hands with the first lady of the United States?
So there are challenges in Afghanistan, definitely, but there's also a lot of signs of progress. We are optimistic for our future. We have made a big progress.
MR. BROKAW: I want to share with our audience what The Wall Street Journal had to say about the situation there in which you were quoted widely in the article, if we can, to give them a sense of a political reality now we're dealing with.
"The Taliban are setting up courts and other local-government institutions across southern Afghanistan, challenging U.S. efforts to pacify the country and bolster the authority of the central government in Kabul. ...
"Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, Said Jawad, said ... that the Taliban is expanding its reach into Afghans' daily lives.
"`It is a disgrace that seven years after the beginning of the military operations in Afghanistan we are seeing a U-turn back to how the situation was before September 11, he said.'" That's the Wall Street Journal.
What can the central government--what should the central government, your government, be doing more of to counteract what is going on in those rural areas where the Taliban have come back in, even in a nonmilitary way?
AMB. JAWAD: The people of Afghanistan have done their job as far as electing a president, a parliament in a democratic government. What my government needs is more resources to deliver services to provide protection to our people. So in many areas that--where there is lack of delivery of the services because of the lack of human capital on the part of the Afghan people or the shortage of resources, the Taliban are making a comeback. It is not--they do not provide a vision for the future of the country; therefore, more investment in building and education in Afghanistan is very important. The future of Afghanistan, of the new generation of Afghan people, of Afghan women, will depend on further investing in education to train a new generation of Afghan leaders and also to provide for true gender equality.
MR. BROKAW: And, Mrs. Bush, at a recent meeting that President Karzai addressed, a lot of women stood up and challenged him about law and order in Afghanistan. They wanted really to crack down on these terrible, terrible crimes against women in that country. Do you think that we have to find a whole new model for dealing with women's rights there that we've really reduced it to a military equation on the one hand and relying on Kabul on the other? Are we going to have to find a new model in the rural areas?
MS. BUSH: Look. We have, we have a model that you didn't mention and that's the building of civil society. And many, many people from around the world are working on building civil society, building schools, making sure girls are educated. When you look at the whole situation, Afghanistan is a country that was totally decimated. Many, many people lost all the years that they would've been in school. They were never educated. The population is generally not skilled or educated. There are jobs, there are jobs that people could do if they had the skills for them, but they're--but people are not educated. So what we have to do, what the Ambassador just said, is do whatever we can to educate people as quickly as we can. And the U.S. government, working with the Afghan government, working with a lot of people in civil society, the Afghan American Women's Council, for instance, who just returned home this week from a trip to Afghanistan, are doing, is trying to do teacher training as fast as possible. We built early on a teacher training institute so that women would have a safe dorm to stay in when they came into Kabul to be educated to teach. So their family members will let them leave their provinces and come in to be educated and then they were educated and went back to their own provinces to try to train teachers in a cascading effect, train as many teachers as possible.
But it is true that with security issues like they are, NGOs and a lot of civil society that are very, very active in other parts of the world and would love to be active in Afghanistan, are afraid to send workers there to work on all these ways that we can help both with microfinance for enterprise for women, literacy. Literacy training already that's set up in Afghanistan is set up to teach life skills. As you learn to read your text that you're reading is based on life skills, health information, all the things that mothers would need to know to either be able to get a job, and of course, there are many, many widows with children in, in Afghanistan, or to be able to start some sort of little enterprise so that they can support their family. And all those life skills are what they missed while they--missed learning to read and do math and all the other things that are part of a primary education.
MR. BROKAW: You mentioned NGOs, nongovernmental organizations.
MS. BUSH: Yes.
MR. BROKAW: I had the privilege of being in a meeting of the International Rescue Committee when you addressed it a few years ago here in Washington.
MS. BUSH: Yes. Uh-huh.
MR. BROKAW: The IRC just had a terrible, terrible event...
MS. BUSH: That's right.
MR. BROKAW: ...in Afghanistan.
MS. BUSH: Hm.
MR. BROKAW: Four of our aid workers were killed there...
MS. BUSH: Hm.
MR. BROKAW: ...including three women who were plainly targeted because of the work that they were doing with women.
MS. BUSH: Hm. Mm-hmm.
MR. BROKAW: The IRC had no choice but to suspend its operations...
MS. BUSH: Mm-hmm. That's right.
MR. BROKAW: ...for security reasons.
MS. BUSH: I mean, that's, that's what a lot of NGOs have done and it's a very, very difficult issue because these are isolated. It's not everyone that that happens to. But, but just like you said, a lot of international aid organizations are targeted, and so they don't go there, even though that's really what the kind of help that the people of Afghanistan need the most. Their cold winter's coming on. Afghanistan can have very, very brutal winters. A lot of parts of Afghanistan are totally isolated once the snow has closed the roads that are, that are there. And we're working, along with the government of Afghanistan and international organizations, the U.N., for instance, to make sure there's plenty of wheat in Afghanistan before the cold winter comes on.
But there are a lot of problems, but we need to look for a lot of different situations, and certainly one of them is the training of the police of Afghanistan. The training of a national army so that they can do those sort of jobs themselves. And then, really, I think another thing that's very important is for the people of Afghanistan to stand up, just like the protesters protested terrorist attacks, so say, "We don't want to live like this. We want to be able to build our country. We don't want to be afraid. We want our girls to be educated and we want a decent life."
MR. BROKAW: It's very hard, though, isn't it in a rural village, Ambassador and Mrs. Bush?
MS. BUSH: It's very hard.
MR. BROKAW: I mean, if you're a male in a rural village, and I've been in those villages...
MS. BUSH: Mm-hmm.
MR. BROKAW: ...and the U.S. Army comes in during the day and says we want to help you, we'll set up a clinic, we'll do whatever we need to do. Night falls.
MS. BUSH: Mm-hmm.
MR. BROKAW: The Americans go back to their base. Guess who arrives next?
MS. BUSH: Yeah, sure. And they target the people who said, "OK, good, let's build a house."
MR. BROKAW: Right. So how do we get around that? I mean, that seems to me to be a conundrum that needs either a lot of new resources that is poured into it, poured into it.
MS. BUSH: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
MR. BROKAW: ...or you need a new model for dealing with this in some...
MS. BUSH: Well, of course we need resources, and the United States is--has supplied a lot of resources, financial resources to Afghanistan. And I urge the United States and the international community to not quit, you know. We need to continue to do that. But it'll take time, it'll take reconciliation. Maybe there are ways to be able to reconcile some of these groups. A lot of them are--cross the border from Pakistan. They, they, they think that these young people who were--or people who were arrested that had thrown the acid on the girls' faces were Afghans, but they came across the border from Pakistan.
MR. BROKAW: And apparently, they were paid a reward for doing it.
MS. BUSH: You know, and people need jobs. I mean, they're, they're desperate.
AMB. JAWAD: And, and also, we should add this, the issue of the terrorist sanctuaries.
MS. BUSH: Mm-hmm.
AMB. JAWAD: We have to really make sure that the ideological, financial and logistical support that's available to the terrorist groups still in the region will dry up. In many instances, they are capitalizing on poverty and ignorance. And if you give the people a hope, there's nothing else that will drive them to these criminal groups.
MR. BROKAW: But some of this is rooted in the Islamic religion as well. If you go into the rural areas and into the villages, you find a lot of fathers and husbands who believe strongly in the traditional interpretation of the Quran and the place of the women in their society, and so they're not much encouraged about doing a lot for the women in their family. Isn't that a big part of the problem?
AMB. JAWAD: Exactly. No, no, this is, this is separate from terrorism. Of course, where the extremism is wrong interpretation of religion, but here what is needs--what needs to be done is to change gradually the culture and the tradition, and the culture and tradition could be changed only through education, not through a decree by the government. It, it--really, we have to invest further to educate both men and women about the rights of women. And, and this is--this will be a gradual process with heavy investment on education and more importantly, opportunities for women to have a job. If, if women brings some sort of income to home, whole...(unintelligible)...will change automatically. And these are the kind of programs that we are implementing, with the assistance of the first lady, in Afghanistan.
MR. BROKAW: General David McKiernan, who is running American military operations there, I heard him in a briefing the other night saying we have an absence of human capital. All the warriors, the accountants, the teachers have left the country.
MS. BUSH: That's right.
MR. BROKAW: We have to build a...
MS. BUSH: And they left a long time ago. They...
MR. BROKAW: Right.
MS. BUSH: It's not--you know, and a lot of people have come back, of course. There are Afghans who have come back from--who left, you know, before the Taliban really even. But of course there are a lot who haven't come back. And can you blame them? I mean, it's a very, very difficult life. And people who've built their lives in another country, in the United States or in Europe, you know, it's, it's hard--it's a sacrifice for them to go back.
MR. BROKAW: But do we have to have a new international model? Most of the emphasis, understandably, has been on the military equation, trying to shut off the Taliban in Pakistan and fight them on the ground in, in Afghanistan itself. Should we be going to our allies and saying, "Look, we have to step up here on building roads and on building markets and on building schools?"
MS. BUSH: Sure. And on electricity and infrastructure. I mean, all of those things. Afghanistan needs everything. There's no infrastructure. There's not just not expensive infrastructure, like sewage and water treatment and electricity, but there's no infrastructure of laws. And you know, all of those things take time. And, and we can--we need to help however we can. But I will say, there are military groups, the PRTs, the provisional reconstruction teams, that are there from many, many countries--I don't, maybe 18? Is it that many?
AMB. JAWAD: Forty countries have troops in Afghanistan.
MS. BUSH: Yeah. But that have these...
AMB. JAWAD: But 18 PRTs, yes.
MS. BUSH: ...PRTs that are building schools, that are working to train policemen, for instance. There are a lot of civilians from the United States I've met when I went to the police training institute where I met the women police officers. The, the policemen that were there, some were from Texas, the trainers that were there helping train. So there are many people who are doing whatever they can. But you're right, how can we increase every one of those, every piece of it, including the civilian people that help, and then how--you know, what more can the PRTs, these provisional reconstruction teams, do to help educate Afghanis so that they can do what they want to do for their country and what we know they want to do.
MR. BROKAW: Mr. Ambassador, a couple of tough questions about your government. As you know, you've been reading the press, President Karzai said recently that he would like to explore the possibility of opening negotiations or talking to the Taliban. So if I'm a rural villager and the Taliban are coming around and I hear my president is going to be talking to them, I'm thinking maybe I should make my own kind of accommodation here.
AMB. JAWAD: No. At the same time what the Taliban are telling to the villager is that there's no future for you. The Afghan government is after you, the international community is after you, so we would like to give them an assurance to the villager that if you're not actively involved in any kind of crime, there is a future for you to join the political process in Afghanistan. That the purpose of the talk is to bring over some of the more moderate elements of the Taliban to join the political process, because we cannot have another circle of revenge and violence in Afghanistan. It's going on for a long time.
Alongside the pressure on the military front, we have to make sure that we bring into the fold those elements who have been--joined the Taliban because of ignorance or money or other reasons.
MR. BROKAW: But do you honestly think you could ever make--strike a deal with the Taliban to share power in Afghanistan?
AMB. JAWAD: No. We are not--we will not share power with them. We will not compromise on the values of the Afghan constitutions, but if they realize that there is no future for them in Afghanistan through military operation, they will come to the table and talk to us.
MR. BROKAW: I think the other issue that troubles a lot of people who've been there, including a lot of our very senior American military and diplomatic officials, is that they see a very high level of corruption in Kabul in the central government, that billions of dollars have been spent, and it's not getting out to all those parts of Afghanistan that so desperately need it.
AMB. JAWAD: Well, most of the money is being spent outside the Afghan government budget, so there is--there is serious efforts in Afghanistan to address this issue. In fact, we have removed a number of the ministers, we have sacked one of the ambas--ministers very recently for lack of proper performance. It is a partnership between the Afghan government and the international community and where we have worked together we have been provided the resources, we have made tremendous progress. In the areas that has been less investment we are still having challenges, but we're determined to overcome those.
MR. BROKAW: Let me just share with you as we talk about this, the quote of David Petraeus, who is our most successful military commander in Iraq, now in charge of the southern command, which includes Afghanistan. He said, "The effort in Afghanistan is going to be the longest campaign of the long war."
Do you think the American people, especially given the economic difficulties that we have here at home now, Mrs. Bush, have the patience for that?
MS. BUSH: I hope so. I hope they do. I mean, our tendency in the United States is to, you know, become isolationists, become protectionists, but our world is just this small now. We're so aware of what the problems are in every corner of the world. And so I hope people in the United States will look outside of our life here in the United States and do what they can both financially, to be able to support the people of Afghanistan, and then every other way.
I remember shortly after September 11 when people would--church groups or Girl Scout troops would collect school supplies to send to Afghanistan for the children there, because people were so shocked and amazed that a government would forbid their children from being educated, or their children from even playing or flying a kite. And so I know that it's wearying, I'm sure it's wearying for the people of Afghanistan, but it's really important for us to continue to support the people of Afghanistan, to look outside ourselves. And I do know, and I know you know this from your children as well, that young people in the United States do have the energy and do want to help and they do--their world is small. They're well-traveled. They've traveled to many places, and they want to keep continue helping. And so I urge the people of the United States to do that.
MR. BROKAW: The time is winding down for you at the White House.
MS. BUSH: That's right.
MR. BROKAW: You'll soon be in your post-White House years.
MS. BUSH: That's right. The after-life.
MR. BROKAW: And what will be your role in Afghanistan?
MS. BUSH: Well, I hope to continue to work on this. The Afghan American Women's Council has--will move to Georgetown--has moved to Georgetown University. I hope to continue my role with that. The president is going to build a freedom institute with his presidential library and museum at SMU in Dallas and that'll be a really good vehicle, I think, for me to continue to work with especially women and children in Afghanistan.
MR. BROKAW: Mrs. Obama visited you at the White House recently. The question that I always have in mind when we see these kinds of transitions take place...
MS. BUSH: Mm-hmm.
MR. BROKAW: ...could you share with her anything that was a big surprise to you when you arrived there that you said to her, "You have to be prepared for this?"
MS. BUSH: Well, I didn't say anything like that to her about something she had to be prepared for. I'll be perfectly frank. What we talked about were things like closets, you know, what the children can do. Barbara and Jenna came home to--when the little girls, when Malia and Sasha came to have their tour of the--of the White House and they showed them the fun things that they remembered doing. Running down the main hall as an obstacle course, crawling underneath the Partner's desk in the middle that they did when they were seven, when they first came to the White House when their grandfather was president, showed them how to slide down the ramp from the solarium and all of the fun things. I mean, the main point I wanted to say to her is that this is a--the White House is a home and it can be a very happy home for her and for her children and her husband and it certainly has been for us.
MR. BROKAW: Had you met her before that?
MS. BUSH: Yes. I'd met her before. When they were freshmen senators, they came to the events that freshmen senators and their spouses came to.
MR. BROKAW: And when you first met them, did you see in them a prospective president of the United States and first lady?
MS. BUSH: Well, I don't know if I would say that, but I certainly saw somebody who was very ambitious and accomplished in both of them.
MR. BROKAW: And what did you think of the election?
MS. BUSH: Of the election? I think it's a major, historical event for the United States and I think that's very good.
MR. BROKAW: And did you talk to Mrs. Obama about raising children in the White House and protecting them from us?
MS. BUSH: We did talk about that and I know you and all the rest of the press will, of course, you know, defer to all common sense with little girls, especially. And I appreciate the way most of the press let Barbara and Jenna make all the mistakes of growing up out of the limelight and I appreciate that very much.
MR. BROKAW: I remember one of your daughters saying to me one time when I suggested to her that she just have a good time during the campaign. She said, "Does that mean I can stick out my tongue again?"
MS. BUSH: They learned some lessons the hard way.
MR. BROKAW: And did you talk at all about the other perks of being in the White House? Like Camp David? The two of you, the president and Mrs. Bush, the two of you have gotten very fond of Camp David.
MS. BUSH: We're very fond of Camp David. We didn't, really, but the girls did tell the little girls about all the things you can do at Camp David like bowling and there's a great playground there for children and so they did tell them about it.
MR. BROKAW: I thought we would share with our audience, as well, an appearance that the president made this past week at Fort Campbell, the home of the 101st Airborne. They're going off to Iraq and the president addressed them and he was in a reflective mood and I think it's worth sharing with our audience today.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, this is going to be my last Thanksgiving as president. Sometimes I am asked what I will miss most about the job. Well, above all, I'm going to miss spending time with men and women who have volunteered to serve the United States of America, the fine men and women who wear the uniform. We are blessed to have defenders of such character and courage. I'm grateful to the families who serve by your side and I will always be thankful for the honor of having served as the commander in chief.
MS. BUSH: He made me weep, I can tell.
MR. BROKAW: What will you miss most?
MS. BUSH: Well, I'll miss being with the military, too, and that's one of the things about Camp David that we liked so much, and that's going to church at Camp David with the people who are posted there, who are stationed at Camp David. I met Marines and Navy personnel that are there. I'll miss a lot of things. I'll miss all the people that are around us all the time. From the ushers and the butlers who are there for every president and have been there four or five administrations, to our own staff, of course, that we love to laugh with and talk with and solve problems with. And so I'll miss the people the most.
MR. BROKAW: And final question, have you worked it out, the two of you, the president and you, more time in Dallas or more time in Crawford?
MS. BUSH: It'll be a split. We'll spend probably the weeks in Dallas, the weekdays in Dallas and the weekends at the ranch.
MR. BROKAW: Mrs. Bush, thank you very much for being here.
MS. BUSH: Thank you very much.
MR. BROKAW: And especially for your attention to what's going on in Afghanistan.
MS. BUSH: Thanks a lot.
MR. BROKAW: And Mr. Ambassador, thank you, as well, for being here.
AMB. JAWAD: Thank you.
MR. BROKAW: Thank you very much. Very important issues that we're talking about here today.
Coming up next, the one and only Ted Turner weighs in on the economy, foreign policy, his life and times. He'll even sing a little bit. His new book is called "Call Me Ted."
Plus our MEET THE PRESS minute with another first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, 51 years ago.
MR. BROKAW: Ted Turner and his reflections on life, the economy and foreign policy, after this brief station break.
MR. BROKAW: We're back now with a special edition of MEET THE PRESS with a very special guest, one of the most familiar figures in American life, Ted Turner, of course; champion sailor, founder of CNN, environmentalist and also restaurateur these days. He's out with a new book called "Call Me Ted," about his life story. He has just turned 70. This is a more familiar figure for me, the one on the back.
Because, Ted, it's no secret we see each other across the Great Plains and across the western United States. It is Thanksgiving weekend. What are you most thankful for, besides the fact that at age 70 you're still standing vertical?
MR. TED TURNER: Be healthy and be alive and that my family's healthy.
MR. BROKAW: And what about you personally in terms of your own goals now at this age? You're not going to go off to some kind of a rest home, but do you have some big plans in mind?
MR. TURNER: Well, I'm still working with the U.N. Foundation, the Turner Foundation and the Nuclear Threat Initiative to get rid of nuclear weapons; change over our energy system to a clean, renewable, locally produced energy system and phase out fossil fuels; eliminate poverty and disease; make sure everybody gets an education. And I'm talking about the whole world, too, which we--all these things we can do if we put our mind to it.
MR. BROKAW: That's not a very short shopping list. But let's talk about the current conditions in this country. America is in economic turmoil. To use a phrase from your old profession of a professional racer, we're sailing through some very stormy seas. This is what you often say about your life: "Don't worry about the wind; adjust the sails." We're going to have to be pretty good adjusting the sails, aren't we, to get through all of this?
MR. TURNER: Well, what happened, I, I think, the way I see it, is we spent more money than we could afford for years and years and years. And you could do that for a while, but eventually it catches up with you and it's time to pay the piper.
MR. BROKAW: But, Ted, for a long time CNN was on the ragged edge of going into bankruptcy or having to be sold, because you were skating so close to that ragged edge financially.
MR. TURNER: That's true. But, but I made it, and I did it without any federal bailout, too. And I was trying to build a viable financial enterprise, which I did. And while we had a lot of debt at the time, it was debt that we could, that we could support, not debt that we couldn't support.
MR. BROKAW: Did you think at some point during those early days of CNN that it was really a fool's mission, that you couldn't pull this off?
MR. TURNER: No. I--before I started CNN, I knew I didn't have enough money to see it through and I didn't know how much it was going to, going to take. I was kind of like Columbus when he set out to discover the new world. He didn't know where he was going when he left, he didn't know where he was when he got there and he didn't know where he'd been when he got back. But I had it--but I thought it through very carefully for several years and went over all the things that could go wrong, because even before, even before I started CNN, I knew what the greatest threat to it would be and that was a right-wing news network. And in fact, Fox came along and was the greatest threat. And I had, I had a solution to that, and that was Headline News. I could've--when I first heard that Fox was going to get started, I could've taken Headline News and transferred it over to a right-wing network and hired Rush Limbaugh and let it be the right-wing network and pre-empted Fox. But by the time we were so successful by the time that Fox announced that they were going to start a news network that I just couldn't do it because I'm not really a hard right-winger.
MR. BROKAW: And that was also the time, though, when you were really at war with Rupert Murdoch.
MR. TURNER: Yeah. Well, I was at war with him for a long time, many years. I'm glad that we have it behind us, I think.
MR. BROKAW: And why do you have it behind you?
MR. TURNER: Well, he--when he announced that he was going green, I sent him a congratulatory note because I do that with everybody that goes green that's of consequence. And he wrote me back and said, "Why don't we have lunch?" So I invited him, invited him to lunch and he was the only person I really didn't like, and it hurt, it hurts you when you don't like somebody. It doesn't really hurt them. And so I don't know, I guess I was just--had the Christmas spirit. It was before the economy turned south, too, I might add. So I just--we decided to bury the hatchet. After all, he's in his mid-70s now and I don't think he's nearly the threat that he was when he was younger.
MR. BROKAW: You're not very sympathetic to what's going on in Detroit. Let's share...
MR. TURNER: Well, I am. Really, I don't like to see anybody do--not doing well, but I'm afraid--I saw it coming years ago, Detroit was going--headed for a crash, and it's amazing to me that they didn't see it, either, you know, and start building smaller cars, more fuel efficient cars a long time ago. Because anybody, anybody with half a brain could see we're going to have, you know, big disruptions in the fossil fuel business.
MR. BROKAW: Let me read you what you had to say about it recently. "If we give the Big Three automakers a $25 billion bailout, they're going to blow through it by the first of March. They won't know what to do with it. Let them go bankrupt and get Toyota to buy them out." A lot of jobs are connected to the American automobile industry. Do you think that the government ought not to have any role in trying to put them back together?
MR. TURNER: I don't, I really don't know, but I feel like that it would be a lot better if we're going to put--if the United States government's going to put money in anything, why not put it into clean, renewable energy and create jobs for the future instead of trying to keep alive a smoke stack industry of the past whose days--the days of big automobiles are over. The days of fossil fuel are over.
MR. BROKAW: Let me ask you about your personal life. You had a difficult childhood. I read your book. I've heard a lot of the stories from you personally, but I was surprised by how difficult it was when you were a youngster growing up. You were in boarding school at the age of four. You had a demanding and alcoholic father that you loved very much. He cut you off when you went to college, when you didn't perform the way that he hoped that you would. It made you work hard because he made you work hard. You also wanted to earn his respect and affection. What was the lasting effect of all of that on you? First positively and then negatively?
MR. TURNER: Well, I think it made me a better, made me a better person overall. I approached it that way, too. I've always tried to look at the positive side of things and move forward rather than look at the negative side and just stay put.
MR. BROKAW: You were at Brown and you wanted to be a classics major. You were--you remain to this day someone who's deeply interested in history, classics and books. And when you announced that to your dad, he wrote you a long, detailed letter.
MR. TURNER: Well, he, he, he really wanted me to go to business school. He was very practical. And--but Brown was a liberal arts college, and he knew that when I went there. Even the economics courses I took were economic theory. They weren't how to balance, balance books and the sort of thing I would have gotten if I'd have gone to, say, Wharton or, or to a business school. That--but that's where he decided later on, where, where I ought to be. But I was already at Brown. It was really an attack on a liberal, liberal arts education. And there are reasons why, there are reasons why I, I had a liberal arts education, and I was extremely successful in business. And I think I would have not been as successful if it had not been for my classical background, because I learned about Alexander the Great and Pericles and Aristotle, and I think it made me a better businessman.
MR. BROKAW: Your father was in the billboard business.
MR. TURNER: That's right.
MR. BROKAW: You like to say, "Early to bed, early to rise."
MR. TURNER: Actually, that came from a friend of mine who was a radio salesman.
MR. BROKAW: Yeah?
MR. TURNER: Work like hell and advertise. It was just a joke.
MR. BROKAW: But throughout the course of your career you have been known by a variety of nicknames: "The Mouth of the South."
MR. TURNER: I don't like that one particularly.
MR. BROKAW: "Captain Outrageous."
MR. TURNER: I don't mind that one.
MR. BROKAW: How much of that, however, is a true expression of what you're feeling at the time, and how much of that is a kind of a marketing device to draw attention to Ted Turner and all of his enterprises?
MR. TURNER: No. I, I, I never use those terms to describe myself, they just--you know, sometimes you get hung with that sort of thing.
MR. BROKAW: Is that part of your...
MR. TURNER: It's hard to shake.
MR. BROKAW: Is that part of your past now?
MR. TURNER: I would like to think so.
MR. BROKAW: The other thing that I read in the book that I thought was very touching in a lot of ways was that very, very difficult time, that tragic time in your life when your father took his own life when you were a young man, 24 years old, I think, at the time. And as you reflected on it, he had really achieved everything that he set out to do.
MR. TURNER: Well, he told me that. He had--he set his goals too low and he suggested to me that I don't do that, to set goals high, high enough to--so they can't be achieved in your lifetime, and then you'll always be motivated to keep working and keep engaged. And I'll never retire. I read in a book somewhere that the average man dies within 24 months of retirement, no matter when he retires.
MR. BROKAW: When you met Barack Obama, I guess maybe for only--the only time that you've met him...
MR. TURNER: A few minutes.
MR. BROKAW: You met him for a few minutes in Atlanta. Describe for me that exchange.
MR. TURNER: Well, we had a, we had a very, very cordial meeting. I told him that I was really excited about meeting him. I'd wanted to meet him for a long time. And he said, "I wanted to meet you for a long time, too." And I offered to help in any way I could, and said I don't want anything in return. He said, "You don't need anything." This is true, I don't need any bailout from the government. I, I once gave the government $32 million to make up the shortfall for the dues. The government was a little short, so I had to bail them out.
MR. BROKAW: Among other things, however, you were lobbying for getting rid of nuclear weapons in the world.
MR. TURNER: Well, I, I think I did, but he's already written papers where he's said he's for doing that.
MR. BROKAW: You're very close to Sam Nunn, the former senator from Georgia who is one of the co-chairs of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which is backed by Richard Lugar of Indiana and Warren Buffett, among others. Do you think there's the realistic possibility, given the time that you've spent in Russia over the years and the United States now, that we can rid the world of nuclear weapons if the United States and Russia were to take the lead?
MR. TURNER: Absolutely, no question in my mind. It--I--there--it's a big if, but I really believe it could be done because we did the Goodwill Games with the Russians, and if you approach them properly they are very reasonable, pragmatic, practical people.
MR. BROKAW: You met Vladimir Putin when he was just an aide to the mayor of St. Petersburg. He picked up you and Jane Fonda, to whom you were married at the time. But as you have watched him since then, most people see not in his eyes a soulful person, but the eyes--three letters, as someone has put it: KGB. That he is...
MR. TURNER: Well, he had that background. But you know, we have an FBI and, and, and, and, and we're not prejudice against somebody who's worked at the FBI. It's an honorable place to work. And the KGB, I think, was an honorable place to work. And it, it gave people in the former Soviet Union, a communist country, an opportunity to do something important and worthwhile.
MR. BROKAW: But in the meantime, it appears that he's very much more interested in just causing difficulty for the United States, getting in our face in a manner of speaking.
MR. TURNER: Well, wait. We're the ones--in my opinion, we're the ones that started that. We're the ones that started by putting the Star Wars system in Czechoslovakia and Poland when they wanted to be part of it. We've said that that system is only to protect us from Iran or protect Europe from Iranian missiles. So why didn't we cooperate with the Russians? Why have we constantly been pushing--we've been pushing on the Russians all the time.
MR. BROKAW: Your friend, Jimmy Carter, tried to be friendly with Leonid Brezhnev, and for his friendliness what did Brezhnev do?
MR. TURNER: Hell, I don't remember. It was before I...
MR. BROKAW: He invaded Afghan...
MR. TURNER: ...got involved.
MR. BROKAW: He invaded Afghanistan.
MR. TURNER: Well, we invaded Afghanistan, too, and it's a lot further--at least it's on the border of the Soviet Union or the former Soviet Union or Russia. A lot of these countries have changed names several times.
MR. BROKAW: But, Ted, don't try to go there in terms of justifying that. I mean, it is--the fact is that the Russians--it was a naked...
MR. TURNER: Why can't I try and justify it?
MR. BROKAW: It was naked aggression on the part of the Russians at the time.
MR. TURNER: Well, going into Iraq was naked aggression on the part of the United States.
MR. BROKAW: Yeah, but big power politics and changing big power politics requires everyone to come to the table, and that includes the Russians, not just the United States.
MR. TURNER: They'll come if we invite them, I'm sure.
MR. BROKAW: And what about Fidel Castro, who's your old friend? And he's no longer, it appears, in day-to-day power in Cuba?
MR. TURNER: It appears that he's quite ill. I'm sure that's the case. He wouldn't have disappeared if he wasn't real ill.
MR. BROKAW: Do you think the United States should normalize relations with Cuba?
MR. TURNER: Absolutely. They should have done it a long time ago. We did after the war with Vietnam and Vietnam fought a shooting war with us and we lost and we still have normalized relations with them. I mean, I don't think there's any, any hatred at all, and we killed three million Vietnamese during that war.
MR. BROKAW: Do you think 10 years from now we'll be off carbon-based fuels in this country?
MR. TURNER: I sure hope so. It's possible, but it's going to require--and that's, that's where the jobs could come from. It will create millions of jobs. And we don't just need solar panels and windmills and geothermal installations, we also need a new grid. It's going to cost about $1 trillion. But we need a new grid anyway that goes from coast to coast and border to border. So we can move the solar power from the Southwest where the best place to put solar panels are, out in the deserts of New Mexico, Arizona, Southern California and southern Nevada, and carry it--bring that electricity with a new digital grid all the way to New York. And then out on the Great Plains is the best place for wind. So we have to have a new grid, too, to move--to move this power from where it originates to where it's used.
MR. BROKAW: There's a very poignant part of "Call Me Ted," your book, toward the end when there's a discussion of faith and Christianity. Your former wife, Jane Fonda, discovered faith and became an active Christian. But your good friend Jimmy Carter also talked about it, and I'd like to share with our viewers what he had to say in your book.
"We have been distressed"--talking about Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter--"in the past when Ted has said things like `Christians are losers.' He knows I'm a Christian and he knows I'm not a loser, but he says things in the heat of the moment and often underestimates the permanence of what he says."
Did Jimmy Carter talk to you about becoming a better Christian?
MR. TURNER: Yes.
MR. BROKAW: You were in an early stage in your life, as you once said to me, kind of a hellfire and brimstone guy. You went...
MR. TURNER: I was. I went to a very religious school that had evangelists come periodically and I was saved, I don't know, six or seven times, including once at Billy Graham's Crusade.
MR. BROKAW: And how do you feel about it now at the age of 70?
MR. TURNER: I still pray when my friends are ill. I make the prayers fairly short because I don't want to load up the wires, there's a lot of messages going, I'm sure.
MR. BROKAW: Well, you said something else that I thought was very Turner-like when that came up. You were talking about praying for your friends, and one of your other friends said, "Ted, I thought you were an agnostic, didn't believe in God," and here's what you said. "I think God will let me in heaven; he may not let me sit on the 50 yard line, but I think I can get into the end zone."
MR. TURNER: I think that's true.
MR. BROKAW: And here's what Jane Fonda has...
MR. TURNER: Because, you know, I give a lot of money to those less fortunate than myself and that's one of the tenets of all religions. You know, the wealthy should help those less fortunate than themselves.
MR. BROKAW: And here's what...
MR. TURNER: Alms for the poor, right?
MR. BROKAW: Here's what your friend and former wife, Jane Fonda, had to say: "He believes that there's a God but he can't allow himself to have that become an event or an experiential revelation because that opens you up to everything and he can't truly open his soul to the Holy Spirit, or whatever you want to call it."
Does she have your number there?
MR. TURNER: Well, the very fact that we got divorced, obviously, means we disagreed about some things. And you know, I talk to her every week and I'm very fond of Fonda. But I don't agree with her about everything.
MR. BROKAW: Ted, I know how much you love the land. You've got a lot of it and I know how much you love the anthems to the land. This is a special edition of MEET THE PRESS. We've never done this before, but could you sing one verse of "Home on the Range" for us?
MR. TURNER: (Singing) Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play, where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.
MR. BROKAW: Ted Turner. The name of the book is "Call Me Ted." And I'm pleased to do that, Ted.
MR. TURNER: Thank you, Tom.
MR. BROKAW: Thanks for being here.
MR. TURNER: My pleasure.
MR. BROKAW: And to read an excerpt of Ted's book, go to our Web site at mtp.msnbc.com.
Coming up next, our MEET THE PRESS minute. Eleanor Roosevelt and her impressions of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev from 51 years ago.
MR. BROKAW: We're back. In our MEET THE PRESS minute, 51 years ago, former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, appeared right here on MEET THE PRESS.
(Videotape, October 20, 1957)
MR. NED BROOKS: And welcome once again to MEET THE PRESS. Our guest is Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose world travels recently took her to Russia. Mrs. Roosevelt spent about 27 days in the Soviet Union. In the course of her visit, she was granted a privilege seldom given to foreign visitors, a three-hour interview with the communist leader Nikita Khrushchev. Mrs. Roosevelt went to Russia as a reporter. Mrs. Craig:
MS. MAY CRAIG: Mrs. Roosevelt, you have been quoted as describing Khrushchev as being cordial, simple, outspoken. How can you think that any communist, particularly a top official, can be simple?
MS. ROOSEVELT: Why, I meant when I said that, of course, that in his manner and in his way of receiving you, he was simple. I don't mean he's simple-minded, if that's what you think.
I saw him under, probably, the best auspices. Most of the people who see him see him at big parties where much drinking is going on, and I'd been told beforehand he's an impossible person, vulgar, drinking, disagreeable. He was none of those things.
MS. CRAIG: You were also quoted as saying you found him very likeable, though you disagreed with his views. How could you like anybody who's done what he did in supporting murders?
MS. ROOSEVELT: I did not mean that I found him likeable. I said he was the type of person, at least I meant to say, that could be likeable. Now, lots of people can be likeable who fundamentally you don't like.
He was a perfectly pleasant, agreeable person. Now, we differed on so many things that at one point I thought he was ready to throw me out.
MR. RICHARD CLURMAN: What is your feeling about the possibility of peaceful co-existence with the Soviet Union? Can America and Russia peacefully co-exist?
MS. ROOSEVELT: At the present moment, I think it will take some time. I--we're living in a time when everything is changing. I think that we have to consider that there may be changes there and there may be some changes here. I would not say that as they are today there would be any basis for co-existence. We can live in the same world, of course, but co-operatively, it would be difficult.
There's no use in belittling your rival. There's no use in putting your head in the sand and saying, "I don't want to know." It's much better to know because what we have to prove to the neutral world or the world that is judging between us all the time, is that with freedom, we can actually do more for the lives of people than they can do with their system. And that's the important challenge. That's what we have to meet. It can't be met just with guns.
MR. BROKAW: Eleanor Roosevelt, another first lady with keen insights into the world.
That's all for today. We'll be back next week with an exclusive interview with President-elect Barack Obama. That's next Sunday right here on MEET THE PRESS. Because if it is Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.