CBS’s Smith Denies Giuliani's Charge of Pro-Obama Bias

Harry Smith, CBS On Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith talked to Rudy Giuliani about Sarah Palin’s performance in an interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson on Thursday’s World News and Giuliani observed: "The whole issue of whether she knows world affairs or not, these are questions that were never asked of Barack Obama, never asked of him to this day." A visibly upset Smith vigorously denied such bias: "That's not true. That's not true." Giuliani continued: "To this day he hasn't been asked these questions, about travel-" Smith kept up his defense: "That's not true. That is absolutely not true...That is absolutely not true. Those -- all those questions have been asked over the last 19 months." Giuliani got in the last word: "I don't know where."

Despite Smith’s assertions that Obama has been pressed on his foreign policy credentials, since October of 2007, Smith has interviewed Obama eight times and asked the less than one-term Senator a total of two foreign policy questions. The first question came in a December 18, 2007 interview in which Smith asked: "Obama is positioning himself as a candidate for change, particularly on the war. Were you a fan of the surge?" The second question occurred on April 2, 2008: "And there is concern about China's violations of human rights. Should we be a full participant in the Olympic games?" On July 9, 2008 co-host Russ Mitchell hit Obama from the left on the troop surge: "What do you say to those folks out there who are saying ‘I voted for this guy because he told me he was going to bring the troops home in 16 months now he says he wants to refine his position.’" None of those questions challenged Obama’s qualifications to be President of the United States.

During the Friday segment, Smith went on to ask Giuliani: "Let me ask you this. Do you have every confidence that she's ready to be president in case she needs to be?" However, on February 29, 2008 Smith interviewed Time magazine editor Richard Stengel, on a story in that publication about whether experience really matters in the presidency: "The question of experience dominating the Democratic campaign, does it really matter?...Time Magazine has two articles on the subject, on the issue that hits news stands today. ‘Does Experience Matter in a President' and ‘The Science of Experience.’" Stengel explained: "...character trumps experience...It's really the way you are as a person. Your temperament, your intelligence, all of those things make up for what you may lack in experience."

Just prior to Smith’s interview with Giuliani, co-host Maggie Rodriguez got reaction to Palin’s interview from New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who argued: "I think in that interview she failed the national security threshold test." Smith then quoted Richardson in his first question to Giuliani: " First thing Bill Richardson said was that Sarah Palin failed the national security threshold test." Giuliani chuckled at the Democratic talking point and Smith admonished him: "Don't laugh for a second, just -- I need -- I want to have a serious conversation with you."

Here is the full transcript of the Friday segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: Palin unplugged. In her first interview, John McCain's running mate says she's ready for the job.

SARAH PALIN: I answered to him yes, because I have the confidence in that readiness.

SMITH: We'll ask Bill Richardson and Rudy Giuliani how they think she did.

7:01AM TEASER:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Also ahead this morning, we'll talk about Sarah Palin's first interview, answering questions for the first time about everything from her readiness for the job, to her position and her knowledge on important issues. Ahead this morning, we have two former presidential candidates, one Republican, one Democrat, saying what they thought of the interview. We'll speak with Rudy Giuliani and Bill Richardson ahead this morning.

7:05AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: On the political front this morning, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has given her first big sit-down interview. CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports from Alaska.

CHARLES GIBSON: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of this state give you?

SARAH PALIN: They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.

NANCY CORDES: The first-term governor says she's ready to be vice president and that she didn't hesitate when McCain asked her to join his ticket.

PALIN: I answered him yes, because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink.

CORDES: Palin conceded she has never met a foreign head of state, but argued that's not unusual for vice presidential candidates.

PALIN: Let me speak specifically about a credential that I do bring to this table, Charlie, and that's with the energy independence that I've been working on for these years as the governor of this state that produces nearly 20% of the U.S. domestic supply of energy.

CORDES: On Thursday, Palin addressed 4,000 Alaska-based soldiers about to deploy for Iraq, with her 19-year-old son Track among them, she spoke not just as a governor, but as a proud and nervous mom.

PALIN: Because we're going to miss you. We can't help it. We're going to miss you.

GIBSON: Are you sending your son on a task that is from God?

CORDES: Gibson was referring to these remarks Palin made at an Alaska church.

PALIN: Our leaders, our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God. I don't know if the task is from God, Charlie. What I know is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision.

CORDES: She also seemed to distance herself from a previous stance where she questioned global warming.

GIBSON: Call me a cynic but I hear a little bit of change in your policy there when you say, yes, now you're beginning to say it is man-made. Sounds to me like you're adapting your position to Senator McCain's.

PALIN: I think you are cynic, because show me where I've ever said there is absolute proof that nothing that man has ever conducted or engaged in has had any effect or no effect on climate change.

RODRIGUEZ: That was Nancy Cordes reporting. We're joined now by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He is here to talk to us about what the Democrats thought about the interview. Governor Richardson, good morning.

BILL RICHARDSON: Good morning, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: You knew that you were going to disagree with her on issues simply because you're a Democrat and she's a Republican. But partisan policy differences aside, how do you think she handled herself in this interview?

RICHARDSON: Well, obviously, she's smart, she's telegenic, she's a governor, I'm a governor, I think you need executive experience, but I think in that interview she failed the national security threshold test. She didn't seem to know what the Bush Doctrine is, which is the foundation of our foreign policy for the last eight years. She seemed very casual about talking about war with Russia. She was factually incorrect in that many other vice presidential candidates and vice presidents, Cheney, George Bush I, Gore, had foreign policy experience and had met foreign leaders. I also noticed that she agreed with Barack Obama's position on going after the safe havens in Pakistan against the terrorists. John McCain has said that's naive so she's on our side on being tough with the terrorists and going after the Bin Laden's. My conclusion is-

RODRIGUEZ: She has differences -- she has differences with Senator McCain, I mean -- yes, as she said with drilling in ANWR, the global warming question, but isn't that a good thing? Senator Barack Obama said when he chose Joe Biden that he wants someone who will challenge him when he's in the White House.

RICHARDSON: Well, the point is that what you want is a vice president who's going to carry out your views. Yeah, you can challenge him internally, but you can't publicly disagree. And I also disagree with Governor Palin's view that because she has some experience on energy independence, that those are automatic national security credentials. Yes, becoming energy independent has become a national security issue, but the main issues affecting this country are nuclear proliferation, fighting terrorists and I know Governor Giuliani's been very, very strong on that issue. Global warming. Now she seems to be changing her position on global warming. So, look. I think these are factual substantive concerns that I have on the national security front which every vice president should have. They're, you know, a heartbeat away from the White House. And it's important that our national security credentials for that job be part of the qualifications and I saw Governor Palin-

RODRIGUEZ: Barack Obama has more national security qualifications, in your opinion, than Sarah Palin?

RICHARDSON: Absolutely. Senator Obama has traveled. He's a member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. He has extensive experience in the Senate on foreign policy issues with Senator Luger. He passed a nonprolif -- nuclear proliferation issue bipartisan. He's traveled abroad extensively. Yes, absolutely, dramatically more national security experience and then with Senator Biden, who's been chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, who has specialized in national security for 30 years, yeah, the ticket of the Democrats is substantially stronger on national security.

RODRIGUEZ: Right, Governor Richardson, but Senator -- Governor Palin has Senator McCain, if you want to make the Joe Biden [inaudible] the Republicans will challenge you there. And also, on the travel issue, you and I as Latinos know that Barack Obama has never been to Latin America. Should something arise with Venezuela or Cuba, would he be equipped to handle that?

RICHARDSON: Well, he has been to Latin -- to Mexico, it's true. My hope is that there be a visit to Latin America before the election, but, yeah, clearly, I think what Barack Obama has said on issues that are familiar to you and me as Latinos that he's ready to look at a new policy towards Cuba because the embargo isn't working, but we want the Cuban government to do something. He's ready to deal with the Chavezs of the world, with the North Koreans, by having a dialogue, a tough dialogue, a tough and smart dialogue. Yeah, there is a fundamental difference in approach on foreign policy between Senator Obama and John McCain. John McCain is more of the same and Obama is ready to lead America into a moral, political, and economic leadership that the world wants us to take once again.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright. Governor Bill Richardson, thank you.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

RODRIGUEZ: Now let's go over to Harry with Rudy Giuliani.

HARRY SMITH: Alright, good morning. Good morning, Mr. Mayor.

GIULIANI: Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: First thing Bill Richardson said was that Sarah Palin failed the national security threshold test. Don't laugh for a second, just -- I need -- I want to have a serious conversation with you.

GIULIANI: Sure.

SMITH: You would disagree because?

GIULIANI: Because first of all, there is no test. And he's making that a test. And she gave an acceptable definition of the Bush Doctrine. The Bush Doctrine can be preemptive war.

SMITH: Did you think she knew what it was, though?

GIULIANI: Well, she explained it's his world view, it's what he -- it's his desire to deal with Islamic terrorism, I think she said on offense. That would be at least an acceptable definition of the Bush Doctrine, which after all is not a formal doctrine anyway. It was kind of a -- I mean I --

SMITH: You think it was a gotcha question?

GIULIANI: Kind of, sure. It's not -- it's kind of like a quiz question rather than a real question.

SMITH: This wasn't-

GIULIANI: She handled the other questions terrific. I mean, the whole question about God. I mean, the way it was presented to her, they left most of her statement out so it was unclear. It sounded like she was talking about God's plan. If you go back to the early part of that, if you play the whole thing, she was talking about discovering God's plan and praying to discover God's plan which is, after all, acceptable Christian doctrine. It's-

SMITH: Here, as I was sitting in my kitchen watching it on the little TV.

GIULIANI: Right.

SMITH: Really wanting to listen and hear every single word, the one thing that gave me pause was when Charlie Gibson says, McCain comes to you and says be vice president. She says I didn't hesitate a second. I've done documentaries on this. People who think about the presidency and vice presidency, this is the most important decision of their lives. How do you not at least have a second when you think 'am I ready for this task?'

GIULIANI: Maybe she got herself ready before. Maybe she knew that John McCain was coming in order to ask that question and didn't want to show hesitation. Abraham Lincoln says that when he was going to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, he stopped. Everybody wondered: 'why did you stop?' He said 'well, I don't want my signature to show any signs of hesitation,' so he stopped and made sure it was a very definitive signature. So I got a sense of that. This is obviously a very decisive woman and gosh, that's what we want in a vice president. We want someone who's got some self-confidence. She's got tremendous experience. The whole issue of whether she knows world affairs or not, these are questions that were never asked of Barack Obama, never asked of him to this day.

SMITH: That's not true. That's not true.

GIULIANI: To this day he hasn't been asked these questions, about travel-

SMITH: That's not true. That is absolutely not true-

GIULIANI: About travel to other countries-

SMITH: That is absolutely not true. Those -- all those questions have been asked over the last 19 months.

GIULIANI: I don't know where.

SMITH: Let me ask you this. Do you have every confidence that she's ready to be president in case she needs to be?

GIULIANI: From everything I've seen. I thought she handled last night's interview about as well as anyone could handle it, even someone who'd been there for about 20 years. And the questions that she's being asked are very, very tough questions. Of course she's in it new, for the very first time, you expect that. But you've got to give here credit for the way she's handling it.

SMITH: Would she have been your choice for vice president?

GIULIANI: I don't know. You know, that's a hypothetical, could she have been? Yes. Would she have been? I don't know the answer to that. No one knows the answer to that until you're actually making a choice.

SMITH: Mayor Giuliani, thanks so much.

GIULIANI: Thank you.

SMITH: For coming in this morning. Do appreciate it.

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