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Al Gore kicks off book tour in Beverly Hills

Al Gore launched his national book tour Tuesday evening with an event that seemed more like a campaign stop than a book signing.

Attendees wore "Gore 2008" buttons and some held signs that read "Re-elect Gore 2008."

For his part, the former vice president appeared at ease, joking with actor-satirist Harry Shearer during a discussion on "The Assault on Reason" that preceded a book signing at the Wilshire Theatre.

When asked about the timing of the book's release, Gore's response was drowned out by chants of "run, run, run."

In his book, Gore lambasts the Bush administration and laments what he described as America's diminishing political discourse and eroding democracy.

During Tuesday's hour-long talk, Gore said that despite a lack of evidence regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, both Congress and the media largely didn't question the Bush administration.

"They were afraid of being branded unpatriotic. I'm troubled by the fact that we were so shockingly vulnerable to being manipulated," Gore said.

Gore also charged that President George W. Bush did not ask questions during critical meetings regarding Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina before the storm hit landfall.

"If there is a determined incuriosity, what that tells me is there is a belief that the way our country operates now, that there wasn't much fear on his part that he be held accountable by the news media or by the people or by Congress for not paying attention," Gore said.

The tour was one of several events in the coming weeks that will boost Gore's visibility - and inevitably invite questions about his political plans.

"The guy's a visionary. He was right about climate change, he was right about the war. He was right about technology," said David Nemtzow, an energy conservation consultant who attended the book event.

Deborah Merlin, 53, of Los Angeles said Gore should run for president because she believes global warming is the top crisis facing the world.

"He's so knowledgeable and so intelligent. We need somebody enlightened in the White House," Merlin said.

Gore, whose documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" won an Academy Award this year, is scheduled to headline the seven-continent "Live Earth" concerts in July to raise awareness on the threat of climate change. The concerts will mark the start of a multiyear campaign to fight global warming.

Gore, who lost the 2000 presidential election to Bush despite winning the popular vote, has said he is not running for the White House in 2008.

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