CBS’s Harry Smith ‘Googling’ Over Bill Clinton

In a typical softball interview with former President Bill Clinton on Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith ran defense for the Clinton campaign:

I also want to set the record straight. When you were in Muscatine a week and a half ago or so, right, and said 'I've always been against this,' speaking about the Iraq war. I did a little Googling last night, and the best I could tell, was you said the weapons inspectors should be allowed to do their jobs.

Beyond Smith’s idea that a thirty second Google search is journalism, one wonders why he felt the need to "set the record straight" for a particular presidential campaign. Maybe it has something to do with Smith’s belief that the Clintons are a "still-young couple" and "political rock stars."

Smith also asked Clinton about former UN Ambassador and civil rights leader, Andrew Young, who said that "Bill is every bit as black as Barack," during a media forum event in September. However, in both the interview with Clinton and a previous report by co-host Julie Chen on Young’s comments, the "Early Show" failed to mention the more controversial statement by Young that Bill Clinton "...has probably gone with more black women than Barack."

Smith previewed the interview with Clinton by gushing, "We are live in Harlem this morning with former President Bill Clinton, just a couple of blocks from his office, and we're here to talk about this, his best-selling book "Giving," also maybe talk a little bit about politics too." During the first half of the interview Smith focused on the book and tossed softball questions like, "Do you think people should be obligated to give of themselves or give of what they have?" and "This book has raised more than a million dollars for other charitable efforts. Are you more energized by this than you were by politics?"

Then Smith asked about Young’s comments, but apparently did not do a thorough Google search for the question:

SMITH: And I want to transition now, and talk a little bit about what's surfaced, first off, the internet, and then in papers across the country, your good friend Andrew Young, who was your United Nations Ambassador --

CLINTON: President Carter's United Nations Ambassador.

SMITH: I'm sorry.

CLINTON: But he's my good friend.

SMITH: And you're good friend. Sorry, I stand corrected. Actually said in a group setting for cameras and everything else that you were more black than Barack Obama. He said he was joking, but --

Smith then attempted to ask a challenging question, "When you're on the stump for her as campaigner-in-chief, some people have even suggested you actually do more harm than good. Have you heard that?" However, he showed nothing but agreement as Clinton responded:

CLINTON: Yeah, but they're people that probably wouldn't be for her anyway.

SMITH: Right.

CLINTON: That's not -- the evidence doesn't show that. Most Democrats think I did a pretty good job as president and they think I'm pulling for them.

SMITH: Right

Finally, after defending Clinton’s statement about Iraq, Smith gave the former president plenty of time at the end of the interview to exclaim:

I supported threatening Saddam so we could do the inspections...The mistake we made was not letting the inspections finish. If they had, there would have been no war. And I was always against doing it without the inspections.

Here is the full transcript of the Clinton interview, as well as the earlier segment on Andrew Young’s comments:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: And an "Early Show" exclusive interview live from Harlem. Former President Clinton on the hot-button points of race, religion, celebrity, money, and gender in the 2008 race for the White House, "Early" this Monday morning, December 10th, 2007.

7:01AM:

SMITH: Morning, everybody, I'm Harry Smith. We are live in Harlem this morning at the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention, which is one of those places there was a demonstrated need, the doctor in charge goes to Ralph Lauren, says give me $6 million, and now they have this amazing state-of-the-art center, which all goes to the point of Bill Clinton's book "Giving," which we're going to be talking about in an exclusive interview with him along with all of the politics there is to talk about, especially all the campaigning done over the weekend by Oprah Winfrey.

7:15AM:

BILL CLINTON: I don't have a problem now.

SMITH: Alright. Thanks very much, Julie. We are live in Harlem this morning with former President Bill Clinton, just a couple of blocks from his office, and we're here to talk about this, his best-selling book "Giving," also maybe talk a little bit about politics too. We'll be right back.

7:21AM:

SMITH: Well, we hear there is a presidential campaign going on. If we have time, we'll talk about that, but it's also the season for Giving. We're going to talk about that with President Bill Clinton after these messages and your local news.

7:30AM:

SMITH: 'Tis the season to be Giving. We're in Harlem this morning with former President Bill Clinton. We'll be talking about his book. We'll also talk a little politics this morning as well. Thank you for being with us, Mr. President. We'll have that in just a second.

7:32AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: First things first, we want to say where we are. We're at the Ralph Lauren Cancer Center in Harlem on 124th Street, just a couple of blocks from your office. And tell very briefly the story of how this place came to be, because there's a demonstrated need for cancer care, and especially in underserved areas, of which this is one. The doctor who's running this place says 'I need some money.'

BILL CLINTON: And he called Ralph Lauren and Ralph Lauren gave it to him.

SMITH: $6 million.

CLINTON: Amazing. And it -- but it's the kind of thing that you can do that will have a measurable impact on people's lives. All the cancer cure rates are going up, some faster than others. The cancer cure rate for kids is now about 80%, but you have to have proper screening. You've got to have early detection so you can get in there and care for these people. And I can't say enough about what this has done for Harlem, you know. It's -- and it's wildly popular, as you might imagine, in our neighborhood here, because people who otherwise would never have access to this sort of care and screening can get it.

SMITH: Yeah. State-of-the-art facility. I want to talk about the book, because one of the themes in the book is, you call ‘balancing the scales.’ What do you mean by that? What will people understand when you say balancing the scales?

CLINTON: Well, I think most of us get out of this world better than we would if all we got was simple justice. We get a lot of good breaks in life. And I think that those of us who have been particularly fortunate, either because of -- for financial reasons or the lives we've lived, feel that at a certain age we really have a heavy obligation to balance the scales, but more and more young people feel that they too should give back, and I think it's a sense of obligation but also a sense that you'll be happier if you do it.

SMITH: Yeah, we were talking during the break about Warren Buffett, whose sister we're going to profile in our second hour. Amazing job that he did of A, earning all of this money and then basically giving it all away. One of the things he said was, I was born in the right place at the right time. Why wouldn't I? I have more than anything, more than I could ever dream of. Am I not obligated? Do you think people should be obligated to give of themselves or give of what they have?

CLINTON: Well, I do, but I think your obligation is something that you have to define for yourself. But look at Buffett. He's going to give almost all of his money away. And he says -- he said to me many times, I can give 99% of it away and I'll still have more than almost anybody on earth and more than I need. The point I try to make in this book is that whether you feel obligated by religion, by ethics and philosophy, you can do this and be effective, and it will make you happier. You will like your life better if you're making somebody else's life better, for your time or money or skills or physical possessions you give away. There's all kinds of things for people to do, and you don't have to be rich to do it.

SMITH: One of the best ones I like in the book is the thing called Kiva.

CLINTON: Yeah it's -- I love Kiva. So these young people meet in Africa, fall in love, and they get married and they start kiva.org, which essentially enables you, or anybody passing us on the street, to become a micro credit banker to somebody halfway around the world because of the internet for as little as $25.

SMITH: Amazing.

CLINTON: And then they pay you back. You get a monthly report on what they're doing. And when you get your money back, you can turn it around and loan it to somebody else, you see their picture, you hear their business described, or you can take your money back. It's amazing. And you know, there's an opportunity here in America, called Donors Choose, which allows you to do the same thing for teachers and young people in schools that are underfinanced, to give them the same sort of opportunities. You just pick them up, Vinod Khosla, a high tech entrepreneur, gave them the money to basically take this from I think four states and eight sites nationwide because of the internet. So there are all kinds of opportunities now. Ebay has a place called Givings Work. I have a site called mycommitment.org, which will take you to up to a million other opportunities, just depending on what you're interested in. And we have in just a couple of months had people give about 50,000 hours of labor and a half a million dollars in tiny amounts.

SMITH: This book has raised more than a million dollars for other charitable efforts. Are you more energized by this than you were by politics?

CLINTON: Well, I'm just as energized. I love this part of my life. I love being in politics. I think government is very, very important, but there will never be a time in this interdependent world of ours when either the operation or the private economy or government will solve all the problems. We need what most people call civil society, people like ordinary citizens at all levels banning together to do it. And because of the internet, people with a little bit of money can do enormous good. And because we know what works, we can have an impact.

SMITH: Right. This doesn't have the rough and tumble, though, or the day-to-day of the political campaigns. And I want to transition now, and talk a little bit about what's surfaced, first off, the internet, and then in papers across the country, your good friend Andrew Young, who was your United Nations Ambassador --

CLINTON: President Carter's United Nations Ambassador.

SMITH: I'm sorry.

CLINTON: But he's my good friend.

SMITH: And you're good friend. Sorry, I stand corrected. Actually said in a group setting for cameras and everything else that you were more black than Barack Obama. He said he was joking, but --

CLINTON: Well, we've been friends a long time, and you know, my office in Harlem, I've always been close to the African-American community. I think we're trying to build an America where we're all pulling the same direction. And you know, Hillary and I have been working on a lot of these issues together that are very important to African-Americans now. When I met her in law school she took an extra year to work for Marion Wright Edelman and Children's Defense Fund and when she went out of law school, she turned down all these offers and went to work for her, because she cared about these issues. I think that there are a lot of people across the color line now that want to give all our children a chance and all our people a chance, and that's the kind of America we've got to build.

SMITH: There you go. When you're on the stump for her as campaigner-in-chief, some people have even suggested you actually do more harm than good. Have you heard that?

CLINTON: Yeah, but they're people that probably wouldn't be for her anyway.

SMITH: Right.

CLINTON: That's not -- the evidence doesn't show that. Most Democrats think I did a pretty good job as president and they think I'm pulling for them.

SMITH: Right. I also want to set the record straight. When you were in Muscatine a week and a half ago or so, right, and said I've always been against this, speaking about the Iraq war. I did a little Googling last night, and the best I could tell, was you said the weapons inspectors should be allowed to do their jobs.

CLINTON: Absolutely. I -- look, I said something like that a hundred times. Nobody ever said it before because everybody who knows what was going on and knows me knows that I was trying to get to -- even a new U.N. resolution passed. I was involved with an effort behind the scenes to talk to some people around the world to try to see if we could get another resolution passed to give some more time. I supported threatening Saddam so we could do the inspections, but I believe -- I even believe the Senate resolution, if you read it, said that the force was authorized if the diplomatic efforts -- i.e. the inspections -- failed. The mistake we made was not letting the inspections finish. If they had, there would have been no war. And I was always against doing it without the inspections. Now, after Saddam was deposed, the United Nations' position was we should all do what we can to make it work, and everybody was hoping it would. And still, I think we should still hope it works. We should hope those people have a government that's representative and that they can work out their oil deals and their conflicts and go on to a better life, but I believe it was a serious error to go in there before the inspectors finished. And I -- as you pointed out, most of my speeches weren't getting covered by the press and we didn't copy them or anything back then. But we do have several records, including one six days before the invasion where I said I don't think they should do this till the inspections finished. That was the deal. And if we had done it, there would have been no war.

SMITH: Alright, Mr. President, thanks very much for having us up to the neighborhood, we really do appreciate it.

CLINTON: Thank you. Glad to do it.

 

ANDREW YOUNG SEGMENT:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: Hillary Clinton gets some controversial support from a civil rights icon who says don't vote for Obama. The Clintons are simply more black.

ANDREW YOUNG: Bill is every bit as black as Barack.

7:12AM SEGMENT:

JULIE CHEN: As you heard earlier, former U.N. Ambassador and long-time civil rights leader, Andrew Young, is raising a lot of eyebrows with some comments he made about presidential candidate Barack Obama.

ANDREW YOUNG: I want Barack Obama to be president -- In 2016. I'll tell you why. I'll tell you why. It's not a matter of being inexperienced. It is a matter of being young. Barack Obama does not have the support network yet to get to be president. The Clintons, the Clinton's have -- he's smart, he's brilliant, but you cannot be president alone. Hillary Clinton, first of all, has Bill behind her. And Bill is every bit as black as Barack.

JULIE CHEN: Maynard Eaton, Editor in Chief of the News Makers Journal Magazine was the moderator of the forum where Young spoke. He joins us from Atlanta. Good morning, sir.

MAYNARD EATON: Good morning, Julie. How are you?

JULIE CHEN: I'm very well, thank you. How surprising is it that a civil rights leader such as Andrew Young, is voicing his support for Hillary Clinton and not Barack Obama?

EATON: Well, you have to understand, Andy Young and the Clintons have been tied together politically for a while and he's a serious player in politics. I think on one hand he was trying to warn, or suggest, to Barack Obama that leadership requires suffering. He used examples during that same interview about how Maynard Jackson paid the price and may have died too soon because of being in politics and that former Mayor Bill Campbell's in prison perhaps because he got involved in politics too soon. But Clinton -- the Clintons and Andy Young are long-time allies.

CHEN: Well, his interview with you, that was on September 5th.

EATON: Right.

CHEN: It is three months later. Why do you think it's making headlines now?

EATON: It raises our ire as well. I would suspect, and Andy Young told me last night, he suspects that this was rather -- may have been orchestrated by the Clinton campaign to blunt Oprah Winfrey's appearance in South Carolina.

CHEN: Well, let's talk about Oprah. Oprah Winfrey versus Andrew Young. Who do you think is more influential in this election?

EATON: Andy Young's been a proven political player, a civil rights icon for years. He holds sway among corporate captains, but Oprah's a bad girl, but this is her first time in the political arena. She's popular, Andy's a serious political player.

CHEN: But who's more far-reaching, to the numbers out there? Forget about black-white, just to the numbers out there.

EATON: Well, you know Oprah, millions watch Oprah every day, Andy's been in the political fray for a long time. Andy's -- he has international appeal, but in terms of numbers, you know, I think I like Andy, I'd bet on Oprah.

CHEN: Maynard Eaton, Editor in Chief of the News Makers Journal Magazine, we thank you, sir.

EATON: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC