During the month of July, CNN's "Larry King Live" both began and ended with interviews of vice presidents. On July 5, host Larry King interviewed former vice president Al Gore. On July 31, King interviewed sitting vice president Dick Cheney. The difference between the two interviews is like night and day. King, for the most part, did not press Gore for an answer to his questions, and asked a few light questions (such as, "How did you get Madonna?" for "Live Earth"). On the other hand, King's questions to Cheney pressed the vice president on a number of hot political topics (for example, "General Powell says he would close Guantanamo yesterday. Would you?" and the oh-so-typical follow-up, "You have to torture them when they're there?") and the interview was almost completely serious.
King's interview of Gore dealt mainly with Gore's "Live Earth" concerts, though it touched on more "hard" political topics such the troop surge in Iraq and the commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence. A sample of King's questions to Gore on July 5:
First, we need to ask, how -- how's your son doing? Have you spoken with him? And how's he doing, you know, emotionally?
How did this thing [Live Earth] come about? This massive thing Saturday night? I think we discussed it on this show once.
Penguins or people? [in reference to the Live Earth performance in Antarctica]
There was a question, Al, about Rio de Janeiro. Clear it up.
Wasn't it a question about Rio not coming off?
How'd you get Madonna?
Some items in the news, Mr. Vice President. Just today, Republican Senator Pete Domenici broke ranks with the administration, says he's unwilling to continue the current strategy in Iraq. He joins fellow Republican Senator Lugar, both good friends of yours. What do you make of this?
Can you call the surge [the troop surge in Iraq] now a failure?
Scooter Libby, what do you make of the -- I know your former running mate and former president served with you, of course, you as vice president, with Bill Clinton as president -- really attacked it yesterday. What do you make of the commutation of the Libby sentence?
Your book "The Assault on Reason," are you surprised at how successful it's been? I mean, it's a very strong political statement.
Do you -- how do you feel about Senator Inhofe, who has been, I guess, the most strong critic of yours in the Senate, who calls climate change "a hoax"?
When people say to you, Al, you have such strong feelings. You had the most votes last time. Why not consider it? I mean, it's kind of an obligation. You're so involved. Why not [run for president again]?
We have an e-mail from Jerry in Houston, Texas. "Mr. Gore, how can you fly in your private jet, live in a massive mansion and set an example for others?"
Did you see the Michael Moore film "Sicko"?
Other than the question about whether the Rio de Janeiro concert would get off the ground, it is clear from the interview that King did not press Gore for answers to his questions. The only really tough question he asked - on Al Gore's use of private jets - wasn't even one of King's questions, but was sent in by a viewer.
At the same time, King didn't challenge any of Gore's answers. In fact, when Gore compared Senator Inhofe to people who believe the Earth is flat, and when he made a comparison like "It's hard when some of the largest polluters close their ears and spend millions of dollars a year trying to intentionally confuse people into thinking this isn't real, the same way that tobacco companies spent millions of dollars to try to convince people that the doctors weren't really saying that smoking causes lung disease," King lets both statements go unchallenged. As icing on the cake, after Gore's comparison between polluters and tobacco companies, King gushed, "There's no stronger proponent of your position than you."
King's July 31 interview of Vice President Cheney dealt mostly with a number of political topics. A sample of the questions from the interview:
How do you deal with it when public opinion polls are stridently against the [Iraq] policy?
But in all cases, they did question themselves. In all cases, they said, well, let's look at it this way. Don't you? I mean the question is, don't you ever say, maybe I'm wrong?
In retrospect, you would still go into Iraq?
Does it pain you when Brent Scowcroft says this is not the Dick Cheney I knew?
Wouldn't you like to be liked?
OK, let's go back. On this program, May of 2005, you said the Iraqi insurgency was in the last throes. Why were you wrong?
In that same interview, you said that the Iraqis were well on their way to being able to defend themselves. Why not? Why are they gone?
To which branch of government do you belong? Are you executive or legislative, or both? We were a little confused over recent statements that you're not in either.
We have an op-ed piece by Walter Mondale, a former vice president, who held your job. And at that time, I guess, up to that time, he would be considered the most powerful vice president. He wrote that: "After 9/11, Cheney set out to create a largely independent power center in the Office of the Vice President. It was an unprecedented attempt not only to shape administration policy, but, alarmingly, to limit the policy options sent to the president."He also accused you of having "a near total aversion to the notion of accountability." How would you respond to that?
Don't you think this administration has also had its credibility problems?
Alberto Gonzales. Do you stand by him?
You're going to stand by him? No doubt about that?
In that regard, "The New York Times," which is -- as you said, it's not your favorite paper, reports it was you who dispatched Gonzales and Andy Card to then Attorney General John Ashcroft's hospital in 2004 to push Ashcroft to certify the president's intelligence gathering program. Was it you?
The "Scooter" Libby trial, did it pain you?
The Senate Judiciary Committee is subpoenaing Karl Rove in connection with the firing of federal prosecutors. Why shouldn't he appear?
But the public might say, what have you got to hide?
So he -- so he [Rove] will not appear?
General Powell says he would close Guantanamo yesterday. Would you?
You have to torture them when they're there?
How come in the past though there's been a question on that?
Have you ever said, "We support certain methods of physical harm"?
What is "enhanced" [referring to Cheney's line 'We support the ability of certain agencies of the federal government to have the capacity to use enhanced techniques for interrogation']?
Though King's interview of Cheney did not last the entire hour of the program as Gore's did, there were clearly more questions during the Cheney interview. There were also more follow-up questions and questions that pressed Cheney for an answer. The only critics of Gore that King brought up were Senator Inhofe and Bob Geldof, while King asked Cheney about criticism from Republican senators on the Iraq war policy, Brent Scowcroft, Walter Mondale, and Colin Powell's call for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
It is clear from the two interviews that King was playing "sympathetic ear" to Gore, while he was asking Cheney the questions that his left-wing colleagues in the mainstream media would like to ask the vice president themselves.