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Fareed Zakaria GPS

Interview with Bill Gates; Interview with Al Gore

Aired February 03, 2013 - 10:00   ET


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the Global Public Square. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.

We have two famous and fascinating guests for you today. First, the world's second wealthiest man, Bill Gates. Despite the weak economy, despite the strife in Mali, Syria, the South China Seas and elsewhere, despite massacres and messed up weather, Gates says he is optimistic about the future. He'll tell us why.

And the vice president turned businessman/thinker/film maker/environmental activist, Al Gore, on American politics, gun control, climate change and much more coming up.

Also, did you have more money in your bank account this week than a major African nation? Probably. I'll explain.

But, first, here's my take. The scenes of chaos and strife in Egypt that you've been seeing during the second anniversary of the Tahrir Square uprising are just the latest and most vivid illustration that Egypt's revolution is going off the rails.

It has revived talk about the failure of the Arab Spring and even some nostalgia for the old order. But let's remember, that old order was doomed. Arab dictators like Hosni Mubarak could not have held onto power without even greater troubles; look at Syria.

But events in the Middle East the past two years do underscore something I've long believed that constitutions should take precedence over elections. Let me explain.

Look at the difference between Egypt and Jordan. At the start of the Arab Spring, it appeared that Egypt had responded to the will of the people, made a clean break with its tyrannical past and was ushering in a new birth of freedom.

Jordan, by contrast, had a number of protests, but King Abdullah responded with only a few personnel changes and promised to study the situation and talked of reform. But then Egypt started going down the wrong path, and Jordan made a set of wise choices.

Put simply, Egypt chose democratization before liberalization. Elections became the most important element of the new order, used in legitimizing the new government, electing a president and ratifying the new constitution. As a result, the best organized force in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, swept into power and was able to dominate the drafting of the constitution.

The document had many defects. It failed to explicitly protect women's rights. It allowed for media censorship in the name of national security and, in November, Morsi declared that his decrees were above judicial review.

In Jordan, by contrast, the king did not rush to hold elections and was widely criticized for his deliberate pace. Instead, as he explained on this program last week, he appointed a council to propose changes to the constitution.

In September 2011, the council transferred some of the king's power to parliament and established an independent commission to administer elections. Those elections, held just ten days ago, were boycotted by Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood on the grounds that the changes were too small and that power still resided with the king.

But 70?percent of eligible voters registered and 56 percent turned out at the polls, the highest turnout in the region. Many critics of the king and government were elected; 12 percent of the winners were opposition Islamist candidates.

Thanks to a quota the commission set, 12 percent of the new parliament's members are women. King Abdullah II retains ultimate authority, but the new system is clearly a step in the transition to a constitutional monarchy.

Morocco has taken a similar route as Jordan enacting constitutional reforms in 2011 as well. On the other hand, the Arab world's two largest experiments in democracy, Iraq and Egypt, have, unfortunately, made poor choices in common.

Both placed elections ahead of constitutions and popular participation ahead of individual rights. Both have had, as their first elected leaders, strongmen with Islamist backgrounds who have no real dedication to liberal democracy.

The results have been the establishment of "illiberal democracy" in Iraq and the danger of a similar system in Egypt. The best role models for the region might well be two small monarchies though, of course, much more reform is needed in both places.

But, basically, Jordan and Morocco have chosen evolution over revolution. So far, it seems the better course.

For more on this, go to for al link to my Washington Post column. And let's get started.

Bill Gates is the richest man in America and the second richest man in the world, this despite having already given away $28 billion. Gates has just recently his annual letter detailing with that Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has accomplished in the past 12 months. But he also gives his surprising take on the state of the world. Bill Gates, welcome back.


ZAKARIA: So everybody worries -- you know, you talk to people and they feel as though things are going badly politically, economically. You -- in your annual letter, you talk a lot about the good news.

So cheer us up. Tell us, what is the stuff that you think is most heartening about the world today?

GATES: Well, through innovation, life is getting better at a really amazing rate.

One of the statistics I think is kind of a report card for the world is how many children under the age of five die every year and back in 1960 it was over 20 million. By 1990, it had come down to 12 million. And, now, we're on track by 2015 to be half of that, less than 6 million.

And that's the greatest rate of decrease we've ever seen. Now, it's vaccines, it's better nutrition. We are making progress against these very tough problems. And I think it's probably because bad news happens kind of all the sudden and good news is sort of a little bit at a time.

Even the empowerment with the Internet, now it's one little thing at a time and so you could miss -- you could almost think people are saying that life was better beforehand, which is not even close to being true.

ZAKARIA: And what would you say to somebody, an American, who says yes, this is great, but we are going through this terrible economic crisis and things look pretty grim for the United States?

GATES: Well, it's not -- I don't want to understate the challenges that people have, but the kind of goods that people have, learning on the Internet, how you get at books; things have improved a lot in the last 20 years.

There are places where we don't have market mechanisms so in health care and education, as we've gotten rich, those have become bigger parts of our economy and our ability to use sort of normal, private sector things to work in those areas is very, very weak.

Ninety-five percent of teachers are never given any feedback, never told hey, you do this well, but you should work on this, go over and see how some other teacher calms the classroom down or makes a complex interesting.

And I think if we bring feedback systems, which means measuring and telling people how they're doing, if we bring that into areas like teaching, we can get more out of the education investments that we make.

ZAKARIA: So you -- but you think that because of technology and that kind of thing, Americans today have many more opportunities in some sense than they've had before.

GATES: That's right. If you just take median income and say, "Oh, that means that we haven't had this big improvement" ...

ZAKARIA: Which hasn't changed in the last 25 years.

GATES: Right, that really understates what's happened. I mean, would you rather be, you know, a gay man 20 years ago, 50 years ago? In Africa, GDP didn't go up, but lifespan has almost doubled. Literacy went from 20 percent to 60 percent.

And so we don't capture all the wonderful things about, you know, gosh, I can use Wikipedia for free. I can sit there with my son and explore new things. And so innovation has been underestimated today more than any time in history.

I mean, we had the Internet bubble, where it was actually briefly overestimated. That was kind of uncomfortable, I think. But it's strange to be in such a funk because people look at political roadblock and some of the way these numbers measure things and they aren't getting a sense of the progress in the rich world and in the developing world.

ZAKARIA: But when you look at Washington and you look at the political gridlock, you must get very depressed.

GATES: Yes, I'm not expert on politics and I -- but I know the country's faced many challenges in the last several hundred years and somehow democracy's been self-correcting; that is eventually democracy has -- particularly in the U.S., has always found its way there.

You know running the government with a two-month budget -- you know, try to run a business, try to hire people, try to do capital spending, try and figure out how you're going use innovation, it's -- no matter what you think about what the government budget should be, doing it the way we're doing it is absolutely insane.

It's terribly inefficient. Every bad thing you can say about government gets worse when it's on these short-term, unknown, future processes.

ZAKARIA: On the big public policy issue of the today, which involves economic policy, and I'm asking because you founded and ran for many, many years the largest company in the world.

The issue is do we need to get the fiscal house in order with a long-term budget deal? Will that trigger a kind of avalanche of business investment? Is that what's holding businesses back?

GATES: Well, certainly, the uncertainty that we haven't reached compromises on these things, that can't be good. It's got to make business hold back. The fact that the investments in the future may be cut back, that's a little bit scary.

I mean are people really saying that the medical research budget should be cut?

ZAKARIA: Which it is on track to be cut.

GATES: Well, yes, sequestration is king of this across the board thing that -- should you plan for that or not plan for that. Say you're a graduate student right now, is there going to be money for your lab, not money for your lab? Really awful to not make decisions.

I'm not a macroeconomics person. You know clearly there's this global almost devaluation where everybody's trying to get their currencies to be worth less, which is quite unusual, which has business standing on the sidelines a bit in terms of their capital spending.

And you'd like to unlock that. It's one of the big pools of money that's out there.

ZAKARIA: When we come back, Bill Gates tells us he thinks he knows what makes a great teacher, an answer to an age-old question when we come back.


ZAKARIA: And we are back with Bill Gates. Bill, you have spent a lot of time -- your foundation, you've spent a lot of money on trying to alleviate poverty and deal with issues of disease and things like that. But, then, you also spend a lot of money on education.

One of the -- and I remember in previous conversations that we've had on this show you've said that you have determined that the most important thing in fixing an education system is getting good teachers, that that is more important than class size, than curriculum, than anything.

But, then, that left the question of what is a good teacher, can you figure it out and can you replicate it?

GATES: Well, it's amazing that the difference between the very best teachers and the ones that are the worst is incredible. Even from the best to the average is a dramatic difference and, yet, we don't really look into why that good teacher is so good and try and capture it so that we can help the average teacher move to say the top quartile.

If we did that, we'd have the best education system in the world. But our teachers get the least feedback. Over 95 percent are never told what they're doing well, what they're not doing well.

And it just doesn't provide excellence to not know where you -- what you need to work on. You know, in baseball, we're serious. We tell you all your statistics, but in baseball -- why should we measure that and be so much hardcore than about education, which is the very basis of the economy.

ZAKARIA: And what is it that makes a good teacher?

GATES: Well, it turns out that the way you engage the class is a critical difference. So an average person -- an average teacher comes in, and this is only through research we know this, they pretty much know what they're going to present during that class.

And looking at the students and seeing if they're sort of fidgeting, moving their leg, you know, there's a lack of energy in the room, going in, asking them questions, getting them engaged, seeing if they can (inaudible) to topic.

The best teacher is very interactive. It's more performance- oriented. And, you know, I think it's fantastic that we're finally getting to the bottom of why are those amazing people so good.

We're not saying we can everybody to the very top, but at least we can do a lot better and it only costs about 2 percent of the salary base to put these observers, surveys, statistics gathering together and that is a fantastic investment.

ZAKARIA: Tell me about another trend that's sweeping education or has just begun to.

It's these massively on-line course, so-called MOOCs, where what I'm struck by is that you have the ability now, because Stanford and MIT are putting all their courses on-line and Harvard is putting all its courses on-line and everyone else will probably follow suit.

That you have the ability to now take courses in an interactive fashion, because they're designing them pretty well with some interactive software, where you can be taught physics by basically the best physics teacher in the world.

And that feels like it's -- you know, it should have a massive, elevating effect on education.

GATES: I'm very excited about this. The fact that on-line can be personalized, it's the best lecturer, it's great interactive demos. Absolutely, we are going to revolutionize education.

But it may take a while for all the pieces to come together, maybe five years. Our foundation is the biggest backer of these activities. Putting the course videos on-line, MIT OpenCourseWare and others, almost nobody used that because they would get confused, they would get stuck so that was a problem of course.

And they wouldn't get a degree. And, today, that degree is what the employer values. So the number of people who take hard courses, where there's not a degree benefit to them, that's pretty small.

The elite students who have been the early consumers of these things, even they've had pretty high dropout rates. And so -- but enough people are using these things that we're in a process where they're just going to get better and better. So I am very enthused about what's in the years ahead.

ZAKARIA: What about the institutional blockages that people talk about to some of the education issues? You know the teachers' unions and some things. How big a problem is that?

Do you think if you really could, you know, have vouchers and charter schools and all this stuff much more responsive to new trends and market demands that education would be transformed much more quickly?

GATES: Well, in K-12, almost everybody goes to local schools. Universities are a bit different because kids actually do pick the university. The bizarre thing though is that the merit of university is actually how good the students going in are, the SAT scores of the kids going in.

ZAKARIA: We have no measure going out.

GATES: Exactly. And so the best university is one whose bulletin board should read we took kids with the lowest SAT scores and they're now making $100,000 a year. That's what you'd really like as an output measure.

And so we're completely missing the right thing. And so what happens is kids give feedback to professors, they don't want courses to be so hard. So the amount of time you spend in class or working on your studies has gone down over the last few decades.

And universities have competed to have these very elite students, partly computed by non-classroom, you know, restaurants, climbing walls, things like that.

So we're a bad pattern that you get this paradox that if you want unemployment in the U.S. to go down -- it's not just cyclical, you know in college graduates, we're below 4 percent. And new job creation will favor college graduates more in the future than in the past.

So you've got to get a higher percentage of the people through a strong four-year degree, but the costs are going up and the amount of money, state money's going down because it's going to health.

Federal money, you know, assume the best guess is it gets plateaued. It's gone up a lot over the last decade, but it won't be able to keep doing that.

ZAKARIA: But it does sound like, you know, because of this ability to measure teachers, because of these technologies, we may be at an inflexion point in education where you're just going to see a massive uptake in productivity.

GATES: That's right. As soon as you can bring market-type things, where you measure, give feedback, identify best practices, then innovation becomes very pervasive and particularly when you've got technology. And there are so many ways to use technology, the measurement of the students and teachers, this is a very important time to get that right. And that's why I love the fact that things like student surveys that are so easy to do are very diagnostic.

The students have a lot that their feedback can indicate to a teacher where they need to improve their practice.

ZAKARIA: All right, wonderful to hear some optimism. Thank you, Bill Gates.

GATES: I'm very optimistic. Great to see you.

ZAKARIA: And we will be back.


ZAKARIA: Now, for our What in the World segment. Zimbabwe's finance minister made a remarkably honest disclosure this week. Tendai Biti told reporters that his government had very little money left in its public account, $217 U.S. to be exact; no, not $217 million or billion, $217.

Zimbabwe has made these kinds of headlines before. At one point, in 2008, annual inflation hit an estimated 96 sextillion percent. This the number 9 followed by 22 zeros. The Central Bank was forced to print a $100 trillion note which now sells on EBay for a view U.S. dollars.

But once Zimbabweans adopted American currency as legal tender, hyperinflation stopped and the economy stabilized. According to the International Monetary Fund, GDP grew by more 6 percent in 2009 and the nearly 10 percent for each of the next two years.

It is now projected to grow around 5 percent per year through 2014. So despite the seemingly robust growth, why does this nation of 13 million people have $217 in its state coffers? What in the world is going on?

I should add that Zimbabwe's finance minister later clarified that $30 million had been added to the government's account since he last spoke. But even that amount is a pittance for a modern state.

It is, however, a telling symbol of Zimbabwe's status. Imagine asking a multinational company to invest in Zimbabwe. Transparency International puts this country at 163 in the world in its latest corruption rankings.

The World Bank ranks it 172 for ease of doing business. Zimbabwe has gone from being Africa's breadbasket to its basket case. The country's basic problem is not economic, but political.

Zimbabwe has known only one real leader in all its existence, Robert Mugabe, the man who helped the country gain independence in 1980. Mugabe will be 89 this February and he's made clear he wants to contest elections once again this year. The man who could challenge, opposition leader, Moran Tsvangirai, is currently the prime minister, a post that was created in the last election in a power-sharing deal. But Tsvangirai's power and influence is severely limited.

Mugabe and his ZANU PF party control many of the most important ministries as well as the police and military. As with the last election, may observers expect violence, threats and bribery to influence how people to vote.

Meanwhile, the ruling party continues to steal this poor country blind. In November, a Canadian watchdog alleged that more than $2 billion worth of diamonds have gone missing in Zimbabwe since 2008.

And it's not just diamonds. Tendai Biti, the same guy who raised the alarm about the state's finances, told a newspaper last year that the mining sector produced exports totaling $2.5 billion in 2011.

But only $150 million of that went to the government's official coffers. That's 94 percent of revenue missing and even the country's finance minister doesn't know what happened. Where does this money go? Average Zimbabweans here reports of how $1 million was spent on President Mugabe's lavish 88th birthday last year. Meanwhile, the national per capita income is barely more than a dollar a day. If elections this year were truly free and fair, I think we could expect big changes. But I don't expect fair elections this year, unless the world polices it very carefully. Zimbabwe has disappeared from the front pages, but the tragedy in that country continues. Up next, one- on-one with the former Vice President of America, Al Gore.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington with a check of the headlines. Vice President Joe Biden says the United States is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran about its nuclear program, but only if the country's leadership takes them seriously. Biden made the comments at a security conference in Munich, Germany, Saturday. Iran says it's enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, but the U.S. has enclosed stiff sanctions to try and keep the country from developing a nuclear weapon.

The Pakistani girl who became the international symbol of opposition to the Taliban has undergone another round of surgery. Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth's Hospital says the pair of operations on 15-year old Malala Yousefzai were a success. Malala was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman last October because she advocated education for girls.

A former Navy SEAL who was known for his record-setting sniper skills has been shot to death. Chris Kyle was one of two men killed Saturday at a gun range in Texas. He served four combat tours in Iraq and wrote a best-selling book about his experiences as a sniper after he left the Navy in 2009. Police have arrested a suspect in Kyle's death and the second shooting victim, Chad Littlefield. Those are your headlines. "Reliable Sources" is at the top of the hour, but now back to "Fareed Zakaria GPS." ZAKARIA: There's only one person in the world who has won a Nobel Prize, an Oscar, a Grammy and an Emmy. He's not an actor or a singer, he is an environmental activist, a writer, a very successful businessman and he happens to be the former vice president of the United States. I am, of course, speaking of Al Gore. He has a fascinating new book out called "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change." Welcome back.


ZAKARIA: Now, we could talk about everything and we will talk about the book, which is fascinating. But since I have you, there is so much we could cover. Gun control. You and Bill Clinton passed the first big assault weapon ban.

GORE: Yes.

ZAKARIA: Do you believe that that was responsible for your losses in the mid-term election, which has cast a shadow on the Democratic Party making even today conservative Democrats or moderate Democrats very, very reluctant to embrace any kind of tough gun control laws?

GORE: I think it was only one of many factors, Fareed. Others, including some with keen political minds have focused on that as a central element in the 2000 campaign. I think it was only one of many issues and I think that some have given it way too much responsibility for the result in 2000. I think that the tragedy at Sandy Hook School is really a watershed event that is likely to change the political discourse. I'm so hardened by the many pro-gun advocates who have said in heartfelt terms, we need to make some changes. It still remains to be seen whether our sclerotic political system can process this change. It's an open question, but I certainly hope so and I am encouraged.

ZAKARIA: And so, and you would say to Democrats, don't run away from this. You're not going to pay a price at the polls?

GORE: I think the prize, whatever prize to be paid it pales in comparison to the duty that they and all of us have to respond to this tragedy.

ZAKARIA: You would support Dianne Feinstein's assault ban?

GORE: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think she's doing a terrific job.

ZAKARIA: One of the things you talk about in the book, but, of course, we all have been witnessing, is the extreme weather phenomenon.

GORE: Yes. Yes.

ZAKARIA: You know, and I was just wondering, since you've brought this issue up, we haven't really been able to do much in the United States, the European Union has done something in terms of the kind of things you want to see, cap and trade or perhaps a carbon tax or things like that. China and India continue to add a coal-fired power plant, essentially, every week. So, do you look at that and say, you know, this is - climate change is going to happen, no matter what at this point?

GORE: Well, some climate change is already happening and will continue to happen. The physics of the problem are quite challenging. We put, well, 85 percent of the energy used by Earth, inc., it comes from fossil fuels. And the combustion of those fuels results in us putting 90 million tons of heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere every day, as if it's an open sewer. And it does obey the laws of physics. It traps enough extra energy every day to equal the amount in 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. And that's what's evaporating much more water off the oceans and filling the sky with a lot more water vapor and these great basins of water vapor in the sky are now filled or overflowing. And so, you get the kind of downpours in my home city of Nashville where thousands of my neighbors lost their homes and businesses, had no flood insurance because it was a so-called once in a 1,000-year event.

Yesterday in Australia 2.5 feet of rain fell in Queensland. All over the world these events are occurring with regularity because we have changed the climate. Now, the good news is, you mentioned China and India. India has passed the coal tax, it's the first step. China has put cap and trade in place for two cities and five provinces and has announced it is a pilot for a nationwide cap and trade system two years from now.

ZAKARIA: But when you look at these measures that India and China are taking, compared with the enormous increase ...

GORE: Yes.

ZAKARIA: ... in coals that they're using, it feels as though, you know, it's game over in the sense that ...

GORE: Don't give up hope. First of all, we cannot afford that. We have to respond. The future of our civilization is at risk. It - half the North Polar ice cap has disappeared. Look at Superstorm Sandy here. Look at the 60 percent of the U.S. in drought. Last year the hottest year in U.S. history. We have to stop this. We have to arrest it.

ZAKARIA: The single biggest reason for the decline of CO2 emissions in the United States or the decline in the grade of increase has been the substitution of natural gas instead of coal. Because of fracking, natural gas has become cheap enough that we're replacing coal. In fact, we are now doing better than the European Union in terms of meeting Kyoto-like targets. I've heard you on the subject, and it feels to me like you're still very, you're on the fence on the issue of fracking. And shouldn't you be more fully in favor of it with regulations and with protections because it is almost everywhere replacing coal and that is a big net plus in terms of CO2 emissions?

GORE: Well, we have to be careful in measuring the global warming impact of the strategies that we choose. If you look at the latest satellite pictures of North America, there's a new ball of light as large as Chicago in rural North Dakota. What is that from? It's from the flaring of gas in the fracking operations. The amount of leakage of methane, along with the flaring, which presumably can be stopped, but it's not being stopped. The leak -- each molecule of methane is 70 times as powerful as a molecule of CO2 over the short term. 10, 20 years or so and then it degrades to CO2 and water. But methane leakage may is - may now be occurring in sufficient quantities to outweigh the global warming advantages of switching from gas to coal. So, I think that the fracking story needs to be written carefully.

ZAKARIA: All right, we are going to come right back with Al Gore and we'll ask him about Current TV and Al Jazeera. When we come back.


ZAKARIA: And we are back with Al Gore, the former vice president of the United States, Nobel Peace Prize winner and many other things. You feel as though a combination of special interests and money have essentially completely corrupted democracy in America.

GORE: Functionally corrupted it, yes. The - you know, we're told that corporations are people, that money is speech and that might makes right. And we know all of those things are contrary to what the United States of America is all about. But, because our elected representatives now have to spend most of their time begging rich people to give them money, begging corporations and special interests to give them money, they spend more time worrying about the effect of their actions, votes and speeches on these big donors, some of them anonymous, than the time they should be spending thinking about how to serve the interests of the publics they represent.

ZAKARIA: And you were in the Senate. So, when you are raising all that money, when, you know, and it has gotten much worse since you were there ...

GORE: Yeah.

ZAKARIA: Those people are expecting certain lines and regulatory codes, lines in the tax code, correct? They're not paying $50,000 to have breakfast with the congressman because of his personality?

GORE: No, not at all. Some of them still do that, I'm sure. But the request for a quid pro quo has become routinely far more brazen than was the case in the past. Fund-raisers are often scheduled by special interests, according to the legislative calendar when particular bills come up. The same conversations involve legislation and fundraising. Now, there are exceptions. There are many honorable men and women, don't get me wrong. But there are good people trapped in a very bad system now.

ZAKARIA: And you'd be for comprehensive finance - campaign finance reform of some kind?

GORE: Absolutely. It is difficult to accomplish. But when I ran for president, both times I ran for president, my platform included 100 percent public financing for all federal elections. That's a tough thing to accomplish. But, we have got to get big money and anonymous donors and special interests out of the catbird seat. They are now driving the political system. The Congress now finds it virtually impossible to pass any kind of reform unless they first get permission from the special interests who are most involved with the issue involved and who finance their campaigns. And that's, that's pitiful.

ZAKARIA: Current TV. A great business deal, but you started it because you wanted to create a greater, well, another liberal voice, a stronger one, an independent voice. Is this an endorsement of Al Jazeera and you're saying, Al Jazeera represents the same kind of traditions that you were trying to further when you founded Current TV.

GORE: Well, I think that Al Jazeera has, in fact, established itself as a highly respected international news gathering organization. It has won awards all over the world, it has a reputation for integrity and excellent reporting. I'm sure you watch Al Jazeera English.

ZAKARIA: You're talking about the English language channel, not the Arabic language.

GORE: Yes. Yes. And Al Jazeera America promises to be even better still. But as Secretary Clinton has said, Al Jazeera is part of the solution, not part of the problem. It is viewed as a highly responsible organization. And I'm very pleased. I think the net result is going to be very positive for the American media landscape.

ZAKARIA: Do you feel that President Obama should use his second term to push through some of the things that, you know, he or you really believe in and how should he deal with the Republicans, which has been the thorniest problem he faces?

GORE: Yeah. Well, of course, I do believe that he should move boldly on the agenda that he articulated in his inaugural address. I was very pleased that he put the climate crisis front and center, the first issue he brought up. A very bold commitment. He spent more words on that than any other issue. I was very happy about that. And I think he will follow through. I think he has to follow through and there are some actions he can take that do not require congressional approval. There is a law on the books that requires the EPA to regulate pollution. The Supreme Court has agreed with the obvious interpretation that global warming pollution is pollution. It's been applied to new coal plants. It should be applied to all facilities.

ZAKARIA: And how would you deal with the issue of the Republicans? There are people who say Obama is not a Lyndon Johnson. He doesn't know how to maneuver.

GORE: I think that he has learned a great deal during his first term. I don't want to sound patronizing in saying that. I've learned a great deal from watching his first term. But I think that you already see a greater depth and sophistication in his approach. And I also think you are seeing on the gun issue, on the immigration issue, on the fiscal cliff issue a new wariness by Republicans of the fire brands in their ranks who just want to stop everything. And I think that there is a new awareness that the American people don't want gridlock. They don't want sclerosis. They don't want this hyper- partisanship. And one thing that I think President Obama has demonstrated is an ability to reach across the aisle to try to invite more cooperation, but he's now tempering that with a new firmness, as we saw on the fiscal cliff that I think will serve him in good step.

ZAKARIA: Al Gore, always a pleasure.

GORE: Thank you.

ZAKARIA: And we will be back.


ZAKARIA: Following the similar announcement from Venezuela, Germany recently declared that it wants its gold back. It seems the Bundesbank wants 300 tons of gold that it keeps at the New York Federal Reserve to be repatriated to Frankfurt. That brings me to my question of the week from the "GPS Challenge." How many total tons of gold are stored at the New York Fed? Is it "A", 670, "B" 1,300. "C" 6,700. Or "D" 13,000. Stay tuned and we'll tell you the correct answer. Go to for more of the "GPS Challenge" and follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Also, go to If you've ever missed a show or a special, you can buy the video or get the audio for free.

This week's book is Alan Blinders "After the Music Stopped." It is the single best and wisest book about the global financial crisis and its aftermath. Blinder who is a Princeton professor and a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve challenges many of your assumptions about the crisis, shows the real causes and consequences and does it all in easy conversational prose.

Now for the last look, take a look at this form 1040. Americans know that's the form we all fill out to file our income taxes. But this one looks different. Why? Well, because it's an antique. You see, today is the 100th anniversary of the 16th Amendment, which gave Congress the right to levee a federal personal income tax. And this was the first form for filers. When the filing deadline was March 1st instead of April 15th and the top tax rate was, get this, 6 percent on incomes over half a million dollars. Now, the original tax act, the piece of legislation, was just 15 pages long. Today, the tax code has grown just a bit to more than 73,000 pages with all of the rulings and regulations. Now, we can't get rates back to the 1913 levels, but can't we try to get back to something simple, straight forward and honest that would, once again, fit on 15 pages? The correct answer to our "GPS Challenge" question was, "C," the New York Fed says at last check there was 6,700 tons of gold in their vault. That is more than a half million bars of the stuff and by our calculations, that's more than $300 billion worth of gold sitting below street level in lower Manhattan. All of it is owned by either the U.S. government, foreign governments or the Fed's fellow central banks, none by the Fed itself. By the way, storage is free, but you have to pay to move your gold in and out. So, we'll send you a bill, Germany.

Thanks to all of you for being part of my program this week. I' will see you next week. Stay tuned for "Reliable Sources."