CBS's Harry Smith Urges Gore to Declare Presidential Run, Presses Gore '08 Button on Him

Updated with video (13:50 EDT).

Is "Early Show" anchor Harry Smith stumping for an Al Gore presidency? On the May 30 edition of the show, it appeared like he did as he tried to place a "Gore 2008" pin on the former vice president’s suit. Before a tee ball interview, Smith demonstrated his desire for a Gore presidency to co-anchor Hannah Storm.

Video (0:29): Real (798 kB) or Windows Media (906 kB), plus MP3 (130 kB)

HANNAH STORM: Good morning, everybody and welcome to "The Early Show." Julie is off this morning, and Harry is spending the day down in Washington. Good morning, Harry.

HARRY SMITH: Good morning Hannah. We're here to talk to Al Gore, author, environmentalist, Oscar winner, and if you believe him, former politician. His new book is called "The Assault on Reason." But some people think it's more of an assault on President Bush. We went to a lecture he did last night at George Washington University. 1,500 people packed into a 90-degree room. They stood in line forever to get a signed copy of his book. And they were handing out little buttons that look like this. [holding up "Gore 2008" pin] I wonder what that means? Can you see that?

STORM: [laughing] I guess you'll be asking him about that as well Harry, right?

SMITH: We might. That might come up. We'll see you in a little bit Hannah.

After several short news stories, the Gore/Smith love fest began with seven and a half minutes of soft questions. Harry Smith, who regularly grills Tony Snow, and offered a puffy interview of Al Gore several months before, asked such questions as "where’s the other party?" implying that the Democrats do not attack the administration enough.

Gore read through the usual left wing talking points such as U.S. troops "trapped in a civil war" in Iraq, implied Congress has been a rubber stamp for the administration, called for public financing of political campaigns, and of course, called reducing greenhouse emissions a "moral issue." As Gore ticked these off, Smith simply said "right" several times. Harry Smith set up the former vice president to speak out against Bush’s environmental policies.

"President Bush getting ready to go to Europe for the G-8. The folks in the European Union want to do emissions reductions. The president said yesterday we're not going to participate. Your reaction?"

At the end of the interview, Smith essentially begged Gore to run as he presented a "Gore 2008" pin.

SMITH: Yeah. If you were president, you would have probably signed on.

GORE: Yeah, yeah.

SMITH: Do you mind if I [holding up "Gore 2008" pin]

GORE: [Laughing] No, no.

SMITH: -- you don't want to -- they were handing these out at the lecture last night at George Washington University. Are you sure you--

GORE: Thank you. Thank you for coming to that, by the way.

SMITH: There you go. You can hold it.

[laughter]

GORE: I don't want to invite that kind of speculation, but thank you.

SMITH: Here, let's see what it looks like. [holding up pin to Gore's suit]

GORE: Yeah, okay.

SMITH: All right, all right. Save that in a freeze frame.

The entire transcript is below.

SMITH: Former Vice President Al Gore believes it is time to act to save American democracy. In his new book, "The Assault on Reason," he argues that the foundations of our republic are under threat by today's politics of fear as practiced by the Bush administration and Al Gore joins us this morning. Good morning, sir.

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: Good morning.

SMITH: I want to dive right into the book. There are so many sections that literally lift off the page. Here on page 181 you're talking about President Bush. "We are less safe because of his policy. He has created more anger and righteous indignation against us than any leader of our country. In all the years of our existence as a nation, he has exposed Americans abroad and Americans in every U.S. town and city to a greater danger of attack because of his arrogance and willfulness." That is -- those are damning, damning words.

GORE: I think they're accurate. And I think that the deeper problem is how we have, as Americans, allowed the implementation of policies that have led to 150,000 troops being trapped in a civil war, just to pick one example. There are many.

SMITH: The thing -- as I read this book -- because you talk about television. You talk about a disengaged electorate. And I kept thinking to myself as I read it where's the other party? Where is the other -- we, we do live in a two-party system. Where's, where's the other party?

GORE: Yeah, and I criticize both parties and the system as a whole. And I say in the book very clearly it's too simple and too partisan to simply place the blame on President Bush because we have a Congress and free speech and independent courts and checks and balances, free press. We are all responsible for the decisions we make. And, and if this administration persuades the Congress to vote in favor of invading a country that didn't attack us, it is important for us to look at the reasons why that was acceptable to the Congress. At the time of that vote, more than two-thirds of the American people had been given the impression and believed it, that Saddam Hussein was the man who attacked us on 9/11.

SMITH: Right.

GORE: That wasn't true. And the fact that, that case was made is bad, but what's much worse is that the immune system of democracy, our natural defenses against such gross errors, failed to work, and we have to address these underlining problems. Because whether it's the invasion of Iraq or the climate crisis or other crises --

SMITH: Right.

GORE: -- There are -- there's lots of evidence available ahead of time that should be used to show that we should make a different decision.

SMITH: You certainly -- the news media comes under assault in your book because we seem to be so obsessed with a lot of things that tend not to matter. But one of the things that occurred to me was if, if, if part of the problem is there's not enough of a free flow of information back and forth, which you also argue about, wouldn't a public television show, like a Jim Lehrer, for instance, wouldn't they have 25 million viewers every night as opposed to the several million that they have, because they do what we don't do every day?

GORE: No, I don't think so. The, the essential -- the element of television that I think has been troubling for democracy, now that it has become the most dominant medium by far, even with the rising importance of the internet, is that it's one way. And whether it's public television or commercial television or whatever --

SMITH: Right.

GORE: -- Or community access television. When it's one way --

SMITH: Radio -- radio is one way. If you look back --

GORE: It is --

SMITH: -- Some of the greatest presidents of, of our democracy -- or the republic happened during the age of radio. That was a one way.

GORE: The most popular radio format simulates two-way communication by having call-ins. But you're quite right, that radio preceded television as the first broadcast medium.

SMITH: Right.

GORE: And the first concerns among defenders of democracy arose with radio. And that's why the equal time provision and the fairness doctrine and the public interest standard were put in place here. Those protections were almost completely removed during President Reagan's term.

SMITH: You talk about this disengaged electorate. And one of the things that occurred to me is maybe people don't feel they have a stake. Maybe they don't participate. Maybe they don't listen or search out information they, they, they should because they don't feel they have a stake because, quite honestly if you go a block over onto K Street, that's really who runs the people over there [pointing to the Capitol]. If you're a lobbyist, you have a say. If you're not a lobbyist, how do you have a say in that though?

GORE: Yeah, and I think that's right. I think that's related to the fact that the American people don't feel as if they have a way to make their voices heard, to make their votes count. And for all the work on campaign finance reform -- and I've always supported it --

SMITH: Yeah.

GORE: I do think that it sometimes misses the, the elephant in the middle of the room, which is, that as long as politicians in both parties have to rely on huge sums of money to buy 30-second television commercials, which is the principal means of communication in our democracy between candidates and voters now --

SMITH: Right.

GORE: Then they're going to go to the people who reliably have that money year in and year out and the special interests dominate that group.

SMITH: And in the book, you advocate federal, federal funding for elections. Two quick subjects, very quickly: President Bush getting ready to go to Europe for the G-8. The folks in the European Union want to do emissions reductions. The president said yesterday we're not going to participate. Your reaction?

GORE: Well, I think that's an abdication of U.S. leadership in the world. We are the largest source of global warming pollution. We are the natural leader of the world. All of the other countries in the G-8 are unified in support of taking action to save the planet's environment for us as human beings.

SMITH: Right.

GORE: And, and President Bush is opposed to it and is blocking any progress. Look, Harry, we are putting 70 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere today and every day. This is a moral issue. And the fact that our country is not providing leadership and, worse, is blocking progress, should be an issue that brings protesters out, that brings people to speak their minds, loudly and clearly and forcefully on this.

SMITH: Yeah. If you were president, you would have probably signed on.

GORE: Yeah, yeah.

SMITH: Do you mind if I [holding up "Gore 2008" pin]

GORE: [Laughing] No, no.

SMITH: -- you don't want to -- they were handing these out at the lecture last night at George Washington University. Are you sure you--

GORE: Thank you. Thank you for coming to that, by the way.

SMITH: There you go. You can hold it.

[laughter]

GORE: I don't want to invite that kind of speculation, but thank you.

SMITH: Here, let's see what it looks like. [holding up pin to Gore's suit]

GORE: Yeah, okay.

SMITH: All right, all right. Save that in a freeze frame.

GORE: Thank you for the interview.

SMITH: All right, thanks very much. Vice President Al Gore, we do appreciate it. You can read an excerpt from "The Assault on Reason" at our website at cbsnews.com.