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Guests Discuss Guilty Verdict in 'Rink Rage' Trial; Interview With John McCain

Aired January 11, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, a guilty verdict in the rink rage manslaughter trial. We'll hear from the victim's father, as well as a juror, and the DA in this controversial case. Plus, perspective from former prosecutor Nancy Grace, now of Court TV, and defense attorney Mark Geragos.

And then, Senator John McCain, fresh off a plane. His first one- on-one since coming back from the first congressional trip to Afghanistan since the war started.

What's the word from American troops? Will Saddam Hussein be next in the crossfire? As a former P.O.W., how would McCain rank the treatment of Afghan detainees? And why did Enron donate money to him and 70 other sitting senators? All next on LARRY KING LIFE.

The verdict in Massachusetts was involuntary manslaughter. We're going to spend some moments discussing this. First, Martha Coakley joins us, Middlesex County district attorney. Her office prosecuted the case. She was not the personal prosecutor.

Did this verdict satisfy the office?

MARTHA COAKLEY, MIDDLESEX CO. D.A.: I think we are very pleased with the jury's verdict tonight. You know, our goal from the beginning was to make sure that Thomas Junta was held accountable in some way in Michael Costin's death, and this question of what's the state of mind is always a jury question. So I think the family was pleased, and I think we're pleased.

KING: Is a thin line between voluntary and involuntary, Martha?

COAKLEY: It can be sometimes, and it's not a straight line. You know, different factual situations will call for different ways in which a jury will make that determination. It seems clear cut when the judge is reading the instructions, but it's really a pretty complex decision-making process, and I think it's a tribute to the process that not only do the jurors sit, but then 12 of them get together and figure it out.

KING: Do you know what sentence you're going to recommend?

COAKLEY: We do not at this time. I am not going to comment on that, because that hearing is on January 25, but we will consider based upon the jury's verdict and sentencing guidelines what we feel is appropriate.

KING: And do you know why bail was rescinded and he was put into custody?

COAKLEY: Well, it is customary. And in Massachusetts at least, when there is a felony conviction, when we expect and presumably the judge did also, to give him a sentence of jail time, to revoke bail. The situation has changed, he's now found guilty. And it's somewhat a matter of course for that to have happened. There was no argument over that tonight.

KING: Thank you, Martha. Martha Coakley, the Middlesex Country district attorney.

Joining us now from Boston is Gus Costin, he is the father of rink rage victim Michael Costin. And also, Kevin McGrattan, who was a juror in the case.

Gus, are you happy with this verdict?

GUS COSTIN, FATHER OF RINK RAGE VICTIM: Well, I'm satisfied. Nobody's happy. Nobody's a winner in this. I'm satisfied.

KING: Did you expect this?

COSTIN: Yes, I did.

KING: Kevin, take us into what the -- why were you out 10 hours? More hours I think?

KEVIN MCGRATTAN, "RAGE RINK" JUROR: Going into the deliberations, one of the things I felt we were going to get is a simple guilty-not guilty verdict on a single charge. And at least personally, I was somewhat surprised to actually get three separate charges that we had to go through. And they were, in my opinion, fairly complex charges. It was not a simple case of look at this piece of evidence and make a quick decision. That and the fact that the testimony, a lot of it was from different witnesses.

KING: Contradictory?

MCGRATTAN: Not so much contradictory, but nobody had quite the same story, inconsistency so that you didn't get one clear, single, concise picture of what happened.

KING: When you got down to it, was the argument mainly over voluntary versus involuntary, or were some jurors in favor of acquittal?

MCGRATTAN: I wouldn't say it was voluntary versus involuntary. What we really did was we took a look at the charges, the individual charges, the wording of those charges, and we ended up where we ended up. I don't think we went in saying, "let's look at this charge." I think what we did was we made a best effort to weigh the evidence, to look at everything that was in front of us and try to go through the relatively complicated charges and figure out where we sat at the end. KING: Was there a lot of arguing, Kevin?

MCGRATTAN: Actually, I would say that the entire jury was articulate, well behaved, some discussions. I don't think there was much arguing at all. I thought it was all very rational.

KING: Did anyone make a case to exonerate him? Did anyone stand up and say, you know, the evidence is not clear, he should be not guilty?

MCGRATTAN: I don't think anybody made a case that we should just -- took that stand and stuck with it. What we had a lot of difficulty deciding is of reasonable doubt. That was one of the key issues here, what is reasonable, what is unreasonable and when does something -- is something no longer reasonable. That was really the tough decision here.

KING: Tough days for you, Kevin? Was it this rough for you?

MCGRATTAN: It was tough. It was emotionally exhausting. Originally I thought, you go home, you get out at 4:00, you go home, and hey, you know, I'm going to go do something. Very exhausting emotionally. You can't do anything afterward. It was tough, but I have to say it was extremely interesting, and my view of this trial from where I sat just gives me a lot of faith in the system overall.

KING: And, Gus, I guess you have to say you can't be happy, but satisfied the word?

COSTIN: Yes, I feel that it was justified. Like I said, there was no winners in this. And I just hope this puts it to a closure, and his family is in tremendous pain tonight, as is mine. And I think if my son was alive right now, he'd say, you know, let's forgive and try to, you know -- so much hurt has been done here.

KING: Well said, Gus. Thank you both very much. No winners in this.

Joining us from New York -- thank you both -- Nancy Grace, the former prosecutor, anchor of "Trial Heat" on Court TV; and here in Los Angeles, defense attorney Mark Geragos.

Nancy, what are your thoughts?

NANCY GRACE, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, I think what the juror said was incredible important. At which point did the attack by Junta on Costin become unreasonable? Remember, the defense was self- defense. Was Junta really afraid for his life?

You know, he left the ice rink and went back in to continue the fight. And I think that, compared with the fact that Junta weighed in at 270 and the victim at 150, hardly a fair fight, controlled the day.

KING: Mark, what do you make of the juror? Pretty bright juror's explanation. MARK GERAGOS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Very bright. And he gave you -- he said something that is one of the quandaries you have as a defense lawyer. He said he was surprised when he got in there that there was three choices. And that's something that you have to go through any time there's a death case. You have to ask yourself, am I going to ask for a lesser-included or is a lesser-included instruction going to be given? In this case, the involuntary manslaughter.

Because what that has a tendency to do is if that jury is split, and in a case like this where you have a civilian versus civilian testimony, where it isn't civilian versus law enforcement, jurors are going to be caught in a quandary as to how they interpret the evidence. If you give them a middle ground, and in this case you have the involuntary manslaughter, jurors and people tend to go for that middle ground, and that's -- you know, as opposed to an all or nothing. So that's what you ended up having here in this case.

GRACE: Larry, he's right. And I was really surprised the prosecutors did not charge with murder one, because, yes, this was a fight, there was mutual combat going on, but for premeditation, you only need an instant. Premeditation can be formed in the twinkling of an eye.


GERAGOS: Exactly. No, Nancy's right. Because their theory was that he came back into the rink with the intent to fight. Now, obviously, the defense's theory was that he went back in to get the kids. However, they clearly could have made a credible case for a murder prosecution. If they had done that, the compromise at that point would have been a voluntary manslaughter, as opposed to involuntary. So to some degree, that's exactly right, and it's something you always have to watch out for in a case like this.

KING: What will he be sentenced to, in your opinion, Nancy? First offense.

GRACE: Well, if the judge wants to throw the book at him, the judge wants to throw the book up at him, it can be up to 20. Now, he's had a little trouble with the law before, but nothing incredibly serious. So I'm thinking somewhere between five and 10.

But another thing that Mark Geragos just mentioned, the fact that he claimed he went back into the rink to get his kids. Remember this, this is a fly in the ointment, Mark. There was a woman standing at the door that tried to block Junta from coming in. He shoved the woman aside so -- with such roughness, she had a huge bruise on her arm. Now, Mark, would you go back into the rink to get your kids and throw a lady aside? He went back in to pick a fight.

GERAGOS: The bigger problem he's got right now is depending on what the judge wants to do, because there are sentencing guidelines in Massachusetts, the judge could find that he obstructed justice based upon the testimony or that he was...

(CROSSTALK) GERAGOS: Absolutely. And then they can enhance the sentence. So that could come back to bite him. I agree with you, Nancy.

KING: Thank you both very much. Have a great weekend. Nancy Grace in New York, Mark Geragos here in Los Angeles. And when we come back, the rest of the way with Senator John McCain. Welcome home! Don't go away.


KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. And now we welcome to our program for the umpteenth time -- it's always good to see him, though -- Arizona Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, just back from Afghanistan. Member of the first Senate delegation to visit Afghanistan since all this military action started.

What was it like overall before we get into specifics?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I was very impressed with the quality, the morale and the efficiency of the men and women in the military and the job they're doing there. Their success has exceeded all expectations. As the president has said, there are significant challenges that remain in the region, from getting control of the country of Afghanistan to this very serious crisis that exists between Pakistan and India. So there's challenges in the region, but overall the success so far has been very impressive.

KING: By the way, we'll be taking calls for Senator McCain. He's with us the rest of the way. Was it difficult for you to go back to a war area?

MCCAIN: No, no, no, Larry. One of the things we did, we went out on one of our aircraft carriers, and it made me a bit nostalgic. And these young pilots and crew, 18, 19-year-old kids on the flight deck, they renew your faith in the youth of America.

KING: Can you fly one of these things now?

MCCAIN: I would like to try, but if I were a taxpayer, I don't think I would want to trust me with it.

KING: "New York Times" today, front page analysis called it "a war of loose ends." Said -- it was yesterday, I'm sorry, "what just weeks ago looked like a ruthlessly effective war from the air today looks more like police work in a bad neighborhood."

MCCAIN: Oh, I think that's right. I think this release of Taliban that took place near Kandahar, the problems that people have moving around the country, the problems that our media are having, you know, with people holding them up and extorting them.

Look, look, this government is a good government. We met with Karzai and his cabinet there at Bagram Air Base. They're good people, and they're dedicated. But this country has been under the control of warlords for a long time, as you know. They're going to have to establish a national army, and that army is going to have to go out and get control of the whole country. And it's not going to be easy, and it's going to take time in order for that to happen.

KING: Is the mood of the troops good?

MCCAIN: Oh, it's wonderful. You know, there -- I see these Marines and Army and Air Force guys living in conditions that are really primitive, and their morale is high, their spirit is high. And one of reasons why it is -- and I think this is important -- they know that all America is behind them.

That wasn't the case in Vietnam, as we know, particularly in the latter stages. They're very proud to be there. On board the USS Theodore Roosevelt they have a little mock up of the World Trade Center, the flag that was sent to them by Mayor Giuliani. I mean, it's really remarkable, the pride they feel in what they're doing, because they know the American people are really supporting them.

KING: Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said today that capturing Osama bin Laden or killing him is still a top priority, but equally or more important is stopping any terror attacks already in the works. Would you agree with that?

MCCAIN: I agree. And the fact is that Osama bin Laden, when he had sanctuary in terrorist camps, training camps, where he was able to train thousands of people, was a tremendous threat.

He's on the run now. I think he's still a threat as long as he's alive, but it's a far different scenario than the one where he was sanctuary and was able to operate with a financial network and the network of terrorists that he had throughout the world.

Now he's on the run. I think it's a matter of time before they find him and capture him or kill him. So his effectiveness has been dramatically reduced. And I don't think we should forget that, in our frustration that all of us feel that he hasn't been captured or killed. But he can't -- he has a minimal effect as compared to what he was capable of doing before.

KING: There is some dispute about the treatment of detainees. As a former P.O.W., what do you know about the flights to Guantanamo? Are they being hooded, are they being shackled? We know that one person was sedated, I think the secretary of defense admitted to that. What do you make of that treatment?

MCCAIN: I think that -- I take Secretary Rumsfeld at his word. He said they're being treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention, and I have no reason to believe otherwise. But I think it's important to add, these are dangerous people. These are people who were willing to take their own lives in order to take that of others. There's nothing they'd like better than to cause the plane to crash that's taking them to Guantanamo. They are very dangerous.

We found that out in the prison scenario outside of Mazar-e Sharif, as you know, when we lost our first casualty in the war. So you've got to handle these people with the utmost kind of care. And we have an obligation to treat them according to the Geneva Convention, but we also have an obligation to our military people who are guarding them. And I believe and hope that they're maintaining a careful balance.

KING: Is Guantanamo a good idea, do you think?

MCCAIN: I think so. I think so. And it will be a good place for them to be for a variety of reasons, including the ability to keep them -- even suppose that they escaped under the most dramatic, unusual circumstances, there wouldn't be many places to go.

KING: What's your view on the possibility of telecasting a federal trial of the one person we know or they think was involved who did not die on September 11?

MCCAIN: I don't know, Larry. I'd leave that up to a federal judge. I mean, I'm not enough of an expert to know these things. If bin Laden were captured, I would be very inclined to have a public trial, the same way that they had a public trial of Adolph Eichmann. Every person in the world should know the category of crimes and evil that this guy has committed on America. But in the other case, I'm not qualified to judge that.

KING: What are your thoughts about the puzzlement of John Walker?

MCCAIN: Well, on the one hand, I have sympathy for his family and sympathy for this kind of idiotic behavior that would send a 16- year-old kid to Yemen, to tell you the truth. But I'm on the other hand, I'm also outraged that anyone would take up arms against his own country and want to kill Americans.

And so I think that most Americans are conflicted in that way. But taking up arms against your country is an act of treason, and if the people who are the legal scholars judge that that's appropriate, then I'm fully behind it. But it's a serious, serious business to go to another country and take up arms against your country and be involved in something that would take the lives of innocent Americans.

KING: We'll take a break and come back with more of Senator John McCain. Your phone calls will be included. There's lots to talk about on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Mr. Karzai, the interim head of the Afghan government was a guest here a couple of nights ago. I know you met with him. He mentioned that in the interview. What did you make of him, Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: I'm very impressed with him. I'm very impressed with his cabinet. He has some women in his cabinet. I think he is fully committed.

But, let's put his problem in perspective, his challenge in perspective. He just issued an order that armed people should be off the streets of Kabul that are not part of his newly-trained police force. In other words, you've got people wandering the streets of Kabul that are armed and dangerous and you have no idea who they are. Then you've got to get control of the rest of the country and that's going to be extremely difficult. In '89, when the Soviets were driven out, the place descended into various factions of warlords and corruption and it's about to move in that direction now. And he's got to get ahold of the country and we've got to help him and that's not going to be an easy task.

KING: Senator Lieberman suggested that it's going to take a lot of time, effort and money in Afghanistan and we can't think of pulling out. This is long range. You agree with that?

MCCAIN: Yes, but I would argue that it's a good thing that the British are taking over the primary responsibility for peacekeeping, the Turk -- Turkey is going -- and the Turks are very well respected in the region -- are going to take over from them. I think this is now time for our friends and allies who are threatened by this terrorism as much as we are to step up and make major contributions, particularly financially.

The United States has borne the brunt, the overwhelming majority of the brunt and expense and risk in the conflict side. And I think it's very appropriate for the peacekeeping and for a lot of the financial aid to come from our friends and allies. The United States has done its share but we shouldn't leave. .

KING: A lot of anxieties in Washington and other places about Iranian influence in Afghanistan. Are you concerned?

MCCAIN: I'm very concerned about Iran and Iraq. Apparently, there's significant evidence now and I think we'll find out positively very soon that this arms shipment that the Israelis intercepted with the help of U.S. intelligence came from Iran. That is a departure from their previous policies. This is a very dangerous kind of a precedent. If that equipment had gotten through to the Palestinians and they'd started firing those rockets onto Israeli population centers and setting off some of those explosives, my friend, you'd have seen an escalation in the Middle East that would have been a blood bath. And thank God it was intercepted. Apparently, the evidence is now indicating that that came from Iran. Also, al Qaeda fighters are being harbored in Iran, so we're told. So I'm very concerned and I think we should all be concerned.

KING: How about Iraq? Could you go so far as to go there?

MCCAIN: Saddam Hussein presents a clear and present danger to the security of the United States of America. He continues to try to or has achieved acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. His intelligence people met with al Qaeda operatives in Prague. His activities continue to indicate that he is in flagrant violation of the 1991 cease-fire agreement after the Persian Gulf War. The president has demanded the return of the weapons inspectors. There's been no response from the Iraqis. I think we need to consider what actions we need to take, but I'd finish up the job in Afghanistan first and then I'd work with our friends and allies. But Saddam Hussein has to be addressed in my view.

KING: You wouldn't take it off the table, though? MCCAIN: Oh, I think he has to be -- I think he has to leave. Another question is is in what way and how and the manner we approach it. But as long as he's in power, I think he will be bent on our destruction and every bit of evidence points to that that's the case.

KING: Is there a cooling off now on the India-Pakistan thing?

MCCAIN: I don't know. There's still a million men on the borders, soldiers on the borders of both sides. Both of them are nuclear powers. The Indians claim with some credibility that Musharraf -- President Musharraf of Pakistan has not dismantled the terrorist camps. The Pakistanis claim with great credibility that the Indians have oppressed and repressed the Muslim majority in parts of Kashmir.

This is a very, very serious situation. And I'm not sure how many Americans know that both of these countries possess nuclear weapons, the means to deliver them and there's not a doubt in my mind that one of those countries, if there was a conflict, would be sorely tempted to use nuclear weapons, particularly Pakistan. India is superior militarily to Pakistan. And Musharraf cannot appear to have caved in too much to Indian demands. Otherwise, he loses his position. The Indians have an election coming up, which is strong domestic pressures on the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee. And so you've got a very difficult situation.

The United States is doing everything in its power to try to diffuse the situation. Finally -- and I'm sorry to give you such a long answer, but Musharraf is going to give a speech sometime in the next couple of three days. In that speech, he's going to have to make a pledge to take serious action against any terrorist organization within Pakistan, but he has to do it in such a way that it doesn't create political instability for himself. As you know, he came to power in a coup and not an election.

KING: We're going to take a break. And when we come back, we'll take calls for Senator McCain. We'll also discuss some things domestic and some more things overseas as well. John McCain's our guest all the way tonight.

As we go to break, here's some scenes from a memorial service today for the late Green Beret, Nathan Chapman.


KING: We'll be taking calls for Senator McCain in a little while, but let's discuss some things domestic. The Enron mess, and it certainly is a mess. A lot of people lost a money in this. A lot of people -- some small amount of people made a lot of money. They donated to a lot of people, mostly Republicans, including you. You got $9,500 from Enron. We know how you feel about campaign finance reform. Give us your impressions of this current dilemma.

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I think it's terrible, as you said, that there were employees and retirees who were left penniless, virtual penniless, while executives were doing deals and making $10, $20, $30, $50 million. It's an outrage, it gives capitalism a bad name. And obviously what has happened to those employees should never happen to the employees of any corporation in America again.

You know, I had my folks look at the contributions I had from Enron, and it was over two Senate campaigns. Obviously it was no soft money involved. It would be within McCain-Feingold, but the point here is that because of the massive amounts of money that they contributed, it taints all of us, including me. And that's why we need to have campaign finance reform to -- they literally gave millions of dollars in soft money, millions and millions of dollars in these soft money contributions. And it taints the whole process and requires, again, I hope it gives some impetus to get three more signatures on the discharge petition in the House so we can get campaign finance reform up and passed in the House of Representatives.

KING: Do you support the criminal inquiry of the Justice Department and Attorney General Ashcroft for removing himself, because he received support?

MCCAIN: I do. And I have great confidence in the professionals in the Justice Department. And I think it's appropriate. I know that there are many congressional investigations going on. Thinking ahead, on this thing, since it's apparently going to be a full-blown scandal or a full-blown kind of a thing, perhaps there should be some effort to consolidate within the Congress the hearings. I don't know if that means there should be, you know, Iran-Contra style, but at least maybe there should be a clear delineation of responsibilities. The Commerce Committee, in which I sit, we've already had one hearing, we're going to have another hearing, the Banking Committee is going to have hearings, the Government Ops committee is going to have a hearing, and I'm not sure that's the best use of all of our time.

KING: Obviously something went wrong, and one of the problems as people are saying today with the -- as you've discussed in the past -- if I give you a lot of money, you got to take my phone call.

MCCAIN: Absolutely.

KING: These people got top meetings with major cabinet officials, whether they were turned down or not is fine. How did they get the meetings?

MCCAIN: You know, I have said many times, Larry, they have fund raisers in Washington, D.C. where you can buy a ticket for $50,000, $100,000. And those people that buy those tickets generally are interested in a little more than good government. And it buys access, and what happens is access is influence in Washington because if you can get in to see me or anybody else and the people on the other side usually, the little guy, doesn't have that same access, then he doesn't have the influence. And that's what's happened in this whole business of huge campaign contributions where you see time after time special favors done for special interests in legislation. And the latest appropriations bills, the 13 appropriations bills we passed are full -- just full of goodies for special interests that are big major contributors. And it makes good people very good people do bad things. KING: Your very good friend Senator Lieberman will apparently be spearheading this from a Senate standpoint. Do you have faith in his objectivity?

MCCAIN: I do. Senator Thompson is the senior Republican. I hope to be chairman. They work well together, we're having hearings in the Commerce Committee, Senator Hollings and I work well together. I think the Banking Committee is going to be -- I certainly have. But the Government Ops Committee has subpoena power, and that I think will probably give them more over sight than some of the other committees. But I have confidence.

This whole proceeding is going to be watched very carefully by the American people and the media, and I think any show of favoritism or bias would not be well received.

KING: Any implications in your mind as to how high this might go, president, vice president?

MCCAIN: You have no idea about these things. I would, you know, I was involved in the Keating Five issue many years ago --

KING: I remember it well.

MCCAIN: Not long enough ago. Let's give all of these people the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Now, what has happened is an outrage because of what happened to the employees and the retirees. But let's give a presumption of innocence. Every citizen deserves that presumption.

KING: Personally you said it embarrasses you. Are you sorry now that you got donations from them?

MCCAIN: No, I'm not. What I mean is -- I'm not because they were thousand dollars contributions and in keeping with McCain- Feingold. Anybody -- you're always going to have money in politics. What we're trying to do is put a lid on it with the return, frankly, to a ban on union contributions and corporate contributions. Teddy Roosevelt got outlawed in 1907 corporate contributions. They've just found ways around it. So what I mean is that we are all tainted when a process has lurched out of control to the point where $50, $100,000, $500,000 contributions are made and everybody knows that that buys access, which then means influence.

KING: We'll go to your calls in a moment and we'll also get an update on his proposed formation of a 14 member bipartisan commission. He and Lieberman to head it to investigate intelligence failures of September 11. John McCain, who calls 'em as he sees 'em. More after this.


KING: By the way, if you missed our interview with Barbara Eden, discussing the death of her son, it will be repeated tomorrow night. And Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota will be our special guest on Monday night. And Sunday night, on a special edition of "LARRY KING WEEKEND" five top actors who could well be major award winners this year in many categories.

Let's take some calls for Senator McCain and then more questions. Sioux City, Iowa -- hello.

CALLER: Hello.


CALLER: Senator McCain, have you been as surprised and pleased, as I have, with President Bush's toughness in this was on terror. And would you please run for president again, as you were my first choice.


MCCAIN: Thank you.

KING: Are you surprised (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but she wants you to run again, Senator McCain.


MCCAIN: Thanks. I have no plans with answer to the second question. First of all, I've been -- I'm not surprised but very pleased at the leadership that the president has displayed and the support the American people have given him. I'm proud of him and I'm proud of his team. This team of Vice President Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Don Rumsfeld, this is a strong team and I don't know when we've been better led.

KING: Portage, Michigan, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Good evening, Larry and Mr. McCain. I would like to know what are the chances that maybe bin Laden is hiding with Saddam Hussein?

MCCAIN: You know, it's -- I'd like to tell you an interesting aspect of my trip. The first three countries that we were in, Turkey and Uzbekistan and then Tajikistan, the three heads of those countries said they all thought that bin Laden was in Afghanistan. Then we got to Afghanistan and they thought he was in Pakistan, the first three countries that he'd escaped and gone into Pakistan.

Then we got to Pakistan and the president of Pakistan, Mr. Musharraf, said that he thought he was still in Afghanistan. So to be honest with you, even over there at the highest levels they don't know where he is. But, could I say to our caller, I really believe that we're going to catch this guy. I think that our military and our intelligence and our capabilities and our tenacity is such that we will get him. And even though it's symbolically very important that we catch him, he is not -- he has lost his power because we've destroyed his network. We are destroying his financial network, and he's not capable or has been rendered mainly incapable of what he was doing before. KING: Prior, Oklahoma for Senator John McCain, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. Hello, Senator McCain. My question is, Mr. McCain, if you were given the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with Osama bin Laden with no one else around, what would you say to him?

KING: You're talking to a tough...

MCCAIN: Probably some of the words that are not allowable to be used, being an old Navy man, some words that are not allowed to be used on television. But I would also -- I guess it's an excellent question. I've never thought about it. I could only express more in sorrow than in anger that he has taken the lives of so many innocent people and that I believe that there's a hell, as I believe there's a heaven, and I think he's going to burn in it.

KING: How is it going with that formation you came up with, you and Senator Lieberman, to investigate the intelligence failures?

MCCAIN: I think we're going to move on it early next year.

KING: Early this year, you mean?

MCCAIN: Yes, excuse me, early 2002. Yes, this year. I believe that the purpose of our legislation, like the commissions that were appointed after December 7, 1941 and after the assassination of President Kennedy is not so much to find out what happened, although we need to do that, but also to make sure that we're doing everything necessary to prevent a reoccurrence.

And I think the only way you can know that is to know what the failures were of the past. I don't think it's some kind of a trial or indictment. What it is, an examination of what happened. Why is it that people could come to this country for years and take flight training and none of us seemed to note it? Why is it that some of these guys were able to come across the Canadian border as they did? We've got to find those things out so that we can be sure we're taking the necessary precautions.

And you can only do that, I think, with a highly respected commission. You know, Senator Hart and Senator Rudman entered -- did a report from their commission a couple of years ago that predicted that these things might happen. And I think people like them who are highly respected people should give the American people an objective report.

KING: What do you make so far of homeland security? Governor Ridge was here with us a couple of nights ago. How are they doing?

MCCAIN: I think they're doing fine. I think they've got a mammoth job ahead of them. And I think this coming year that I hope that we in Congress will continue to work together. For example, seaport security, there's no doubt there's vulnerabilities there. We know that in general aviation, apparently, there are vulnerabilities. That 15-year-old boy was able to grab an airplane and crash into a building. There's no doubt -- and our borders are still porous. So we have got a long way to go.

I have great confidence in Governor Ridge, but I think we in Congress have to really dedicate ourselves to that top priority. He needs legislative help and he's going to be coming forward with some requests pretty early, probably this month or early next month. And I think we ought to give those primary consideration.

KING: Senator Lieberman said on this show it should be a cabinet post. The president disagrees. What do you think?

MCCAIN: I think it should be a cabinet post and I think he should have budget authority and hiring and firing authority. Washington is a nice town, but the only thing people understand is power and the ability to control a budget and hire and fire.

KING: By the way, concerning back to your trip overseas, were there security worries about that high level a delegation going over?

MCCAIN: I think there were concerns. But I think Secretary Rumsfeld thought it was important that a number of us, and it was members of the Intelligence Committee and Armed Services Committee that were on the trip, and I think he felt it was good for us to get a first hand look. And, you know, I've been on junkets and I've been on trips. This one was a trip. One day we were in four countries in one day. We worked hard, I'm happy to tell the taxpayers.

KING: How long did it take you to get there?

MCCAIN: It took about 12 hours, I think, over -- it was a 17- hour flight back. I've never been on as long a flight in my life as it was back.

KING: Of course, they had films and drinks and leisurely lounging, right? You senators, come on, right?

MCCAIN: Pretty much, yes. There was -- we were -- that's exactly it.

KING: He never cops out, does he? Everything is a bust to Senator McCain. When we come back, more moments with Senator John McCain of Arizona on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Senator John McCain. Let's take a call from Savannah, Georgia, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, Senator McCain.

MCCAIN: Hi, how are you?

CALLER: I'm fine, sir. What an honor it is to speak with you. You look so well. I was wondering how you were doing physically. I know you had some problems during the campaign.

KING: We know you had prostate surgery. We also know that you had work on your face. How's everything going?

MCCAIN: I'm just fine for an old, broken down old man. I'm doing fine. I would like to say that I've had no reoccurrence on the melanoma side of the -- of my physical situation. I want to again emphasize to all of our viewers, particularly the fairer your skin is, if you've got a blemish, go see your dermatologist. Really.

You know, our dear and beloved Maureen Reagan, hers began with a small place on the back of her thigh, and these malignant melanomas are very dangerous business. And so, everybody wear sun screen, and stay out of the sun if you can, and go see your dermatologist.

KING: Any advice for the president who had precancerous lesions removed from his face last month?

MCCAIN: I think he's fine. Those are really routine. Almost all of us who reach, you know, a certain age those things come out, because we were so much exposed to the sun when we were children, and that's an extremely minor thing.

KING: We were raised with a myth then, huh? Go out in the sun.

MCCAIN: Oh, yeah. Listen, it's really -- it's turned into a real killer in the United States of America and in Australia, believe it or not.

KING: Are there more cases in your state, and in Florida than in other states?

MCCAIN: There's more in our state particularly because we have so flew clouds. Most of the effect, highest instance per capita are in Arizona, but most of this we sustain when we're children, and we were out in the sun without virtually not only no sun screen but encouraged to either burn and tan, as I did. My dad was in the Navy, so I spent a lot of time in the sun on both coasts.

KING: Now concerning airline security, are you confident that we fly safe?

MCCAIN: I am. I think we've got a long way to go. I think that it's regrettable that it took so long for the Congress to pass a comprehensive bill, but I do believe that we're moving in the right direction. I think the new head of aviation security is a man that's well credentialed, Mr. Magaw. And I think we're going -- I think it's going to be OK, but I think airport security, rail security, border security are all issues that we've got a long way to go on. But I'm confident that we'll be able to handle it.

KING: Sarasota, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hello, yes. My question to John McCain, Senator John McCain is this -- I'm wondering if they were thinking in terms of possibly visiting any of the refugee camps in Afghanistan? It's my understanding that just west of Kabul is one of the largest refugee camps, with 300,000 people who are dying at the rate of 100 people a day, children and women and families, because food cannot be -- or excuse me, our troops cannot be dropping for some reason in that area, and I know the infrastructural roads have all been destroyed.

KING: Senator, what did you find? Did you go?

MCCAIN: We did not, because -- for security reasons, we could not. We were well briefed on the situation. I'm pleased to tell you that it's one of the top priorities of Mr. Karzai and his government, and all of our humanitarian agencies are working as hard as they can to get the food and supplies in there. It's a terrible tragedy, but it is not -- it is not unnoticed. And every effort is being made. And unfortunately, it's not only true of a camp outside of Kabul, it's true in other parts of the country as well.

KING: When is this war in Afghanistan over?

MCCAIN: I think it kind of winds down. I think that as we continued to move against remaining al Qaeda areas and Taliban areas, and I think gradually that we will reduce our presence. But I want to emphasize the problem of the new government, getting control of that country, is going to be huge and they're going to require a lot of help.

KING: And are we prepared to give it?

MCCAIN: I think we're prepared to give it, but I do also believe that our allies and friends, including the United Nations, can play a major role, and we shouldn't have to bear the brunt of the financial burden since we have done the fighting.

KING: A couple of other quick things. Do you think the Enron thing will help you get a campaign finance reform bill through?

MCCAIN: I predicted in the last year or so that the more money there is, the more likely -- I predicted there would be more scandals, because there's just too much money washing around Washington. And, yes, I believe it will help us get the legislation passed sooner or later. And if we don't pass it, there's going to be more scandals. That's one thing I'm sure of.

KING: Gross Point, Michigan for Senator McCain. Hello.

CALLER: Hi. I know you're running out of time, so...

KING: No, it's OK, we got three minutes, two minutes. Go.

CALLER: Oh, well, running out of time. Given the Enron scandal and the fact that the corporation has certainly made campaign contributions not only in the executive but in the legislative branches of government, and on both sides of the aisle, and given that fact that the U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has recused himself from any investigative duties in this matter, wouldn't it be advisable for the Congress to appoint a special prosecutor?

MCCAIN: You know, that law lapsed, as you know, and probably with good reason to have lapsed. I think that the Justice Department has some outstanding professional Justice Department people, and I would put a great deal of confidence in their ability to handle this. KING: So you have no doubts in that mind that this can be handled fairly, not needing -- although down the road, if other information comes forward, that might be recalled.

MCCAIN: Sure. There's always that possibility, but I believe that there are very capable professionals in the Justice Department, and I think that the attorney general made the right decision turning this situation over to them.

KING: And finally, Senator McCain, we have less than a minute, the domestic agenda. How's it going to go for the president?

MCCAIN: I think homeland security is probably our top priority, and I also think that a stimulus package would be very good for the country, if we could move on it. But we also have a long-term looming problems of Social Security and Medicare, both of which are going to go bankrupt, not a matter of whether it's a matter of when, and we better start thinking about them as well .

KING: And no doubt in your mind of that? If we don't, they're going to go bankrupt?

MCCAIN: There's no expert that will tell you otherwise.

KING: As always, thank you, senator. It's great seeing you, and continued good health.

MCCAIN: Thank you, sir.

KING: Senator John McCain of Arizona, just back from Afghanistan. This was his first interview since returning to the United States.

Before we go, something very special, it's this picture of little Morgan K. Beamer, born to Lisa Beamer Wednesday. Morgan K. is the daughter of flight 93 hero Todd Beamer. And we have this personal message from Lisa. Quote: "While it never occurred to me that my family would have such a national focus, Larry, I'm very thankful to you for all you're doing to let people know about the Todd W. Beamer Foundation and for your kind words to me and my children."

And there's the little baby. And in lieu of sending a baby gift to Morgan K., you can donate to the Todd Beamer Foundation, The foundation assists children who lost their parents on September 11, and does not go to the Beamer family.

We'll tell you about the weekend and Monday night right after this. Don't go away.


KING: Tomorrow night on LARRY KING WEEKEND, we'll repeat our interview with Barbara Eden. We hope you tune in for that. Sunday night, Sissy Spacek and others will be with us to discuss their major roles in films that are breaking records this winter all over the United States. And Monday night, when we're back live with you, Governor Jesse Ventura of Minnesota will be our special guest.

Thanks very much for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. He's back in New York! Aaron Brown after his trip South returns immediately. Lots of things happening tonight on NEWSNIGHT.




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