Guests: Mark Halperin, Reverend Al Sharpton, Edward Rendell, Joe Madison,
Heidi Harris, Bob Windrem, Stephanie Miller
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: Good evening and welcome to THE ED SHOW. I‘m Michael Smerconish in for Ed Schultz and these stories are hot tonight.
Some critics are making a big deal about how often the president hits the links. I say give the guy a break. The country will be better off for it.
And the immigration fight is heating up. Is the White House really ready to act on this hot button issue? The Reverend Al Sharpton was at the president‘s speech and he‘ll join me.
Plus, Michael Steele is in hot water again after calling Afghanistan Obama‘s war. Now some conservatives are demanding that he will resign.
But first, tonight begins the July 4th holiday weekend, many Americans will enjoy a three-day weekend. My plans are to float down the Delaware River in an inner tube surrounded by my family.
The weather will be 90 degrees, the water will be 80. And I‘m anxious to recharge my batteries after a week that included 10 radio shows, two newspaper columns and a host of TV appearances right here on MSNBC.
I can only imagine how the president feels. He‘s dealing with war on several fronts, the oil spill in the Gulf, and an economic crisis that may or may not have the light at the end of the tunnel. Russian spies, the prospect of a nuclear Iran.
I hope he gets in a round of golf or plays hoops or engages in whatever leisure pursuit will allow him to maintain his mental edge while in office. Others would rather him stick to policy than putting.
Michael Steele thinks it‘s fitting and appropriate to the criticize Tony Hayward‘s yachting habits and equally incredible that the president would continue to golf while oil spills into the Gulf.
I disagree. That assumes the president‘s tee time hinders his taking care of business. Far from it. Time spent outside the Oval Office will benefit both the president and the American people. Why? Because the White House is a 24/7 fish bowl.
It functions as both the country‘s workplace and the first family‘s home base. There‘s an enormous and chaotic staff presence at all times. Its unruly layout gives it the feel of a hospital that has undergone a never-ending series of additions.
There‘s just no privacy. And with the pressure of the job, the attention it requires, the constant media presence, nonstop public curiosity and the frenzied nature of life in Washington, it‘s no wonder that presidents need to get away.
According to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, George W. Bush spent all or part of 490 days of his presidency at his ranch in Crawford, Texas and 487 days at Camp David.
Bill Clinton spent parts of several summers socializing at Martha‘s Vineyard, that is until Dick Morris said that Jackson Hole, Wyoming polled better.
And Ronald Reagan spent the better part of an entire year of his presidency at Rancho del Cielo near Santa Barbara.
But Knoller is careful not to use the word vacation to describe that time. Being out of the office doesn‘t mean the same thing to a president as it does to the rest of us. The job demands that its occupant always be plugged and ready to take the phone call or make a decision no matter if the commander in chief is in the Rose Garden or in the rough.
Which is why no one should begrudge a president who takes a couple of hours twice a month to hit the links or one who clears a bit of brush between briefings or one who enjoys a glass of wine at the vineyard or a horse back ride in California.
Say what you want about any president‘s policies. But the health of the country is largely a function of the physical and mental health of its commander in chief. And if blowing off some steam with a couple of bogeys and a beer in the clubhouse keeps him sharper when the red phone rings, we‘re all better off for it.
Folks, get your cell phones out right now. I want to know what you think. Our text survey tonight, do you think it‘s wrong to criticize President Obama for taking time off? Text A for yes, B for no to 622639. And we‘ll bring you the results later in the program.
Joining me now Mark Halperin, MSNBC senior political analyst and editor at large of “TIME” magazine.
Hey, Mark, do you agree with me?
MARK HALPERIN, TIME MAGAZINE: Michael, that was a very persuasive case and I don‘t agree with you at all in this case.
SMERCONISH: Wow. Why not?
HALPERIN: Well, look, I think the president does live in a fish bowl and he deserves time off but there‘s two things that have happened lately that I think demand that he be careful about the symbolism. There‘s a difference between what he is and what not to be.
Of course, he should be able do this stuff but I think the symbolism in the face of joblessness—persistent joblessness which is killing parts of this country and crippling families is too serious for him to be out doing the kind of stuff he‘s been doing.
SMERCONISH: So --
HALPERIN: And number two, the Gulf crisis. The Gulf crisis, the oil spilling out of there, it‘s just not politically—it‘s politically tone deaf, I think, for him to do some of the things he‘s done.
SMERCONISH: But, Mark, I think that it would be—I mean I think that it would be a danger to have a guy straddled to that desk in the Oval Office 24/7. That‘s not where I want him.
I gave you my own example. How are you going to spend the July 4th weekend?
HALPERIN: Doing some work, but I‘m not a good test in this case. You‘re not president of the United States. You‘re a really busy guy. No one asked Barack Obama to run. He‘s not been in office that long. He took on the biggest job in the world willingly.
And again, I‘m saying he should be working around the clock, what I‘m saying is the symbolism of doing things like hanging out with sports teams, hanging out with Paul McCartney, going golfing. It‘s just not good symbolism for the country.
SMERCONISH: Well, are you --
HALPERIN: It may not be fair. We didn‘t force him to be president.
SMERCONISH: Are you making an appearances argument saying, hey, of course, I want the guy to have some R&R but I want him to do it out of camera lens? Or are you saying that he‘s not entitled to the R&R that I‘m advocating he is entitled to?
HALPERIN: Something a little bit in between. He‘s entitled to R&R. The appearances matter but also what he‘s doing matters and the quality and quantity of it matters. If he wants to spend time with his family, of course we want our president to be clear headed.
But I think some of the social things he‘s done, some of the choices of leisure activity at critical times is just not good symbolism. It doesn‘t send the right message to the country about his focus.
SMERCONISH: Were you --
HALPERIN: I‘m not saying work 24/7.
SMERCONISH: Were you equally critical of W for being at Crawford, Texas in a post 9/11 world? Or Camp David or Reagan clearing brush in Rancho del Cielo in Santa Barbara?
HALPERIN: My goodness yes, when it was a time of war or a time of an ongoing crisis, without question. This is not a partisan issue and it‘s not to pick on this president. He works plenty hard as have our previous presidents.
But at a time of crisis, and again the unemployment thing is a lingering thing. It‘s gone on his entire presidency. And I‘m not saying he can‘t—as long unemployment is high, he can‘t enjoy himself. But I think he‘s chosen to do it too often. And I think he‘s chosen to do it at inopportune times.
SMERCONISH: All right. Let me go to the—as we lawyers say—the demonstrative evidence because so far I‘m having a tough time persuading you. I‘m going to show you a photograph of W in 2000 and a photograph of W in 2008.
I mean, I think if the progression had continued he‘d end up with a hairline that looked like mine. Take a look at that. I mean that‘s pretty stunning in terms of the aging process for commanders in chief. Is it not?
HALPERIN: I don‘t remember drafting him to be president either. These guys stepped forward to do the job. It‘s a really hard job. It requires really hard work. I‘ll tell you, these are two guys—George Bush and Barack Obama, two of the coolest customers I ever met.
They can handle pressure and stress. They take plenty of time for themselves and with their family.
SMERCONISH: Well, let me --
HALPERIN: George Bush did, so does Barack Obama.
SMERCONISH: Let me ask you a question on that score because I—despite your comments, I loved “Game Change.” It‘s better than any shiny covered novel for a summer beach reading.
HALPERIN: Thank you, sir.
SMERCONISH: You know it. You had a front row seat. You know all of those who were seeking the presidency. How has he handled the stress? What does he do? I mean we see the golf. We see shooting hoops. But how does he deal with the stressors in his world?
HALPERIN: He is—naturally calm. You know they say about him, he says about himself, never too high, never too low. It is that evenness about him that it‘s—I don‘t know where it comes from. You look at—he kind of have this incredibly tumultuous upbringing with the separation of his parents and being moved around and living with his grandparents for a while and then switching colleges.
At some point I think when he got to Columbia here in New York, he just became a cool customer. And as a professional, he‘s not faced very much adversity. He‘s had a charmed life. He handles it extraordinarily well.
I‘ll say again, he should take tons of time for himself. It just should not be at certain points in his presidency in a visible way. He can shoot hoops in the back of the White House to his heart‘s content, as far as I‘m concerned.
SMERCONISH: Hey, I always of the opinion didn‘t had as close a perspective as you that President Clinton was one who thrived on adversity, that the hotter the coals got on which he had to walk, sometimes the better that he functioned. Am I mistaken in that impression?
HALPERIN: No, you know, my—our friend John Harris of Politico wrote a biography of Bill Clinton, a great title, “The Survivor.” That‘s what he is and the cycles he has—this is not my observation, made by John and others—he has these cycles of incredible success and then a huge decline and failure and then redemption and comes back.
He thrived on that and, as you know, he is—people say about him, he wished he‘d been in office for a crisis of the magnitude of 9/11 to be able to prove himself in the office and when he faced a crisis like in Oklahoma City, he rose to the occasion.
And I think this president has done a pretty good job of doing that as well when there‘s a big crisis. I think his bigger problem and it goes to the topic we started with is on the day-to-day stuff.
When we‘re not in the end-game or we‘re not in an obvious crisis situation with a lot of intensity, which is an ongoing issue, I think he‘s not as good. He doesn‘t rise up. And again, he wants this time to himself. I‘m not begrudging it to him. But I think he needs to see this presidency because particularly of the unemployment as an ongoing crisis situation all hands on deck. Not every minute but more often than he‘s been I think.
SMERCONISH: All right. I want you in the office tomorrow, Sunday and Monday.
HALPERIN: I‘ll send you.
SMERCONISH: I‘ll still be floating in a tube down the Delaware.
HALPERIN: Michael, I‘ll send you my time cards.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Mark, thank you very much.
HALPERIN: Thanks, man. Have a good holiday. Happy Fourth to everybody.
SMERCONISH: You too.
Coming up, the border battle heats up. President Obama makes a case for immigration reform and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer slams back.
Reverend Sharpton sounds off ahead.
And Karl Rove accuses President Obama of being on a fiscal orgy. He says the road to fiscal hell has been paved by the Democrats. My panel weighs in.
All that, plus the latest on the Russian spies and Stephanie Miller joins us for the week in review.
You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.
SMERCONISH: Coming up, the latest jobs report shows 125,000 jobs lost. The president says the economy is still moving in the right direction but not as fast as he would like.
But who‘s really to blame for it? And the president needs help from the right. Governor Ed Rendell gives us his take at the bottom of the hour.
Stay with us.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Arizona‘s controversial new immigration law is set to go into effect in less than a month and the state is preparing its police to enforce the law with a new hour-long training video. The video warns officers that they will be under the microscope.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The entire country is watching to see how Arizona, in particular Arizona law enforcement, responds.
Racial profiling is a step on the slippery slope of career and public trust destruction. If it is done, the reports then must be falsified to cover it up. Internal affairs statements might have to be fabricated. Testimony at trials perjured.
Lost job, lost career, lost retirement, lost way of life. Over what?
Catching a person who didn‘t obey the law to get into this country.
Integrity is best maintained by maintaining one‘s perspective.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Now the president addressed the new Arizona law in a speech on immigration reform yesterday calling divisive. Last night in an interview on FOX, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer disagreed with that characterization.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. JAN BREWER ®, ARIZONA: It hasn‘t been divisive. It has united Arizona. It has united America. The people of Arizona have lived with these porous borders and illegal immigration into our state. And that people throughout America realizes that. Everybody understands the problem. Except the president of the United States.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Reverend Al Sharpton was a guest of President Obama at his immigration speech yesterday and joins me now.
Reverend, doesn‘t she have a point in saying essentially that the federal government has abdicated its responsibility and Arizona has no choice but to act?
REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: Well, first of all, no, I don‘t think that‘s true at all. If in fact Governor Brewer felt that the federal government had abdicated its responsibility, then she would be going on television last night calling on Republicans to meet the president halfway in terms of immigration reform bill rather than taking shots at the White House.
The president said let‘s pass immigration reform, let‘s come together. There were 11 Republicans that had agreed what Senator Kennedy and Senator McCain did propose before. Where are they now?
So if the governor was using her time to tell fellow Republicans to let‘s do this rather than talking about what is not being done, I think she would have a lot more credibility in her statements.
SMERCONISH: I take it that the training video of which I just showed a clip doesn‘t temper or moderate any of the concerns that you have that this will be a vehicle for profiling?
SHARPTON: The nature of the law is to profile. To say that you have reasonable suspicion to ask people something when you‘re looking for Mexicans. It is inbred in the law that you‘re looking for a certain type of person.
Now you can put out videos and all of that so that later when people look into the practice, you can say well, look at what we put out to try to stop that. But how do you get away from the fact that that‘s who you‘re looking for? You‘re looking for people that look Mexican.
SMERCONISH: I saw, Reverend, on Keith Olbermann‘s program about a month ago a congresswoman from Tucson, Arizona, Gabriel Gifford, who made the case that today between 700 and 1100 apprehensions are being made in the Tucson sector alone and that last year that number was 240,000, which at least for me begs the question of if that‘s how many they‘re apprehending how many are still getting through.
And here‘s my point. Why does this have to be an all or nothing proposition? Why can‘t the approach of the White House be, let‘s take control of that border, let‘s show the American people that we are in control of the border, and then come up with a workable solution as to what to do with the 10 to 12 million?
SHARPTON: Well, I think that that is a reasonable proposition, but I think that as long as you have the Republican Party saying no matter what the White House says, we‘re saying no, even if they propose what we agreed to with Kennedy-McCain, then what are we talking about?
The president made very clearly in his speech yesterday, you‘ve got more boots at the border now than you‘ve ever had in the history of this country. So the question is not the federal government at the border. The question is whether we can get a bipartisan agreement on immigration reform.
And in the absence of that, whether we‘re going to allow people to be profiled with a state law that is saying oh, you won‘t do anything because my party won‘t allow you to do anything. Therefore I‘m going to rob people of their civil rights and civil liberties.
SMERCONISH: But if I—if I were giving the president political advice—and I don‘t but I know you have his ear—it would be that the way in which to win the hearts and minds of those that he doesn‘t have right now is to convince them that the porous nature of the border has ended.
I respect the fact that there are more boots on the ground than ever before but I think we still have that problem. And that‘s why I think phase two is not something that he‘s able to win over at this point.
SHARPTON: Well, first of all, I don‘t know who has the president‘s ear. I mean I meet with him from time to time on civil rights. I have not met with him on immigration. But secondly I think that, again, as this goes into later this month, I think that a lot of the tide will change when Americans start seeing this law enacted in a way that citizens—I‘m not talking about people that are here illegal.
Citizens are going to be violated and I think you have any number of law enforcement officials in Arizona that are saying they cannot enforce this law without profiling and in fact want to sue. So I think that time is going to be against Arizona.
It‘s easy to paint this picture now but when the law goes into effect, if it is not stopped, they will not be able to cover up the abuses and the law officials in Arizona have said that.
SMERCONISH: I just—my feeling is that these poor cops in Arizona are getting middled. I mean I watched that training video. They‘ve got a terrible job ahead of them now to try and enforce of trying to enforce it.
SMERCONISH: But I come back to saying at the outset if the federal government were in control of the situation, I don‘t think Arizona would have had to pass such controversial measure.
SHARPTON: Well, I think you‘re right. I think the federal government has not been in control, which is why I think this president who‘s only been in under two years has said let‘s try do this.
If you want to talk about why the president was in—why the federal government was not in control, you‘d have to ask Governor Brewer, ask the preceding president why none of that happened when we had Kennedy-McCain and now we‘re going to ask this president who inherited almost a depression and other things, why he hasn‘t also done immigration reform when it lingered?
I mean, I think this president made a strong statement yesterday. I don‘t know why we‘re not asking Governor Brewer why you‘re not telling your fellow Republicans to let‘s have the federal government take charge if in fact that‘s what they want to do.
SMERCONISH: Reverend Al, thanks for being here. Enjoy the Fourth.
SHARPTON: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Coming up, I‘m no fan of BP, but I am still filling my tank with their gas. And I‘ll tell you why ahead.
And later, we‘re all having a laugh at those Russian spies. But what makes us think it‘s only those 11?
You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.
SMERCONISH: Today, Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen announced that since the beginning of June, oil skimming capacity in the Gulf of Mexico has increased from 100 to 550 vessels and more than 750 skimmers will be at work by mid-July.
The announcement was in response to mounting complaints that volunteers and offers of help were being ignored by both the government and by BP. Of course, for BP, rampant criticism is nothing new.
There are even plenty of calls for a boycott of the company, a “Boycott BP” Facebook page has more than 760,000 supporters.
I‘m not one of them. Now I want to make this crystal clear. I am no fan of BP. They have bungled the whole operation from the beginning. It‘s their mess. But a boycott is not the answer.
And here‘s why. BP still has to plug that damn leak, clean up the oil on the coastline and deal with thousands of legal claims from people affected by the spill. If the company goes under, before that happens, the federal government will have to deal with all of it.
And that means our tax dollars will go to pay for BP‘s mess. And President Obama has admitted that the feds don‘t have the resources or the expertise to get it done.
Another reason not to boycott BP. The company is one of the only oil giants not operating in the Middle East. Not originating in the Middle East. If BP fails, its business will likely fall to its competitors which means the U.S. would become even more dependent on oil from a very dangerous and unstable region.
We could end up indirectly funding groups that want to harm Americans. Hopefully the oil spill will be the wakeup call we need to finally kick our dependence on foreign oil.
But a boycott of BP is not the answer. It puts our tax dollars on the line and our safety at risk. So ultimately, we can pay at the pump now or pay the piper later. I choose to fill up my tank at a BP pump.
Coming up, a mixed job report out today. The president says Congress needs to do more. Things like pass unemployment benefits and stimulate small business. Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania joins me ahead.
And RNC chairman Michael Steele is under fire. He says Afghanistan was president Obama‘s war of choice. Those comments making a lot of waves today.
All that, plus Lindsey Graham slams the Tea Party and Sarah Palin celebrates an anniversary. So do we.
You‘re watching THE ED SHOW on MSNBC.
SMERCONISH: Hey, welcome back. I‘m Michael Smerconish in for Ed Schultz. The Battleground story tonight, who‘s to blame for the sluggish economic recovery? Republicans say, the president and his party haven‘t done enough to create jobs. The president complains the GOP continued to obstruct his efforts to stimulate the economy. The new jobs report today shows the economy is crawling in the right direction but it‘s certainly not fast enough. There was a boost in private sector job growth but it came with a predicted drop in employment overall. As temporary census jobs came to an end, the unemployment rate went down a hair to 9.5 percent, a number that everyone of every political stripe agrees is unacceptably high. For more let me bring in, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. Hi Governor, thanks for being here.
GOV. EDWARD G. RENDELL (D), PENNSYLVANIA: My pleasure, Michael.
SMERCONISH: What data do you rely on? Because I look at this and I list into the spin and it reminds me that, you know, figures lie and liars figure. Everybody can read what they want in these numbers.
RENDELL: Sure. Absolutely. But the truth of the matter is that we were losing 750,000 jobs a month in January and February of 2009. And in the first six months of this year, we‘ve gained 600,000 jobs. Not enough, but we‘re headed in the right direction and as you know, Mike, Pennsylvania in the last three months has gained 76,000 jobs, more than any state except for Texas. So, we‘re headed in the right direction. It‘s slow. And the blame game absolutely is despicable. Right now, we should put aside the partisanship, put aside the finger pointing and get down to passing legislation first and foremost that helps unemployed people. I mean, I‘ve heard a few republicans, not all by any means but a few say, well the unemployed people, they don‘t deserve our help, they should go out and finds jobs. That‘s crazy.
This is a brutal economy out there right now. It‘s just starting to recover. We need to take care of people who have paid into unemployment and who have worked hard most of their lives and lost their jobs because of no fault of their own. That‘s number one. Number two, the president did pass a legislation that helps small businesses and created tax credits for new job creation but we need to do a whole lot more which is why the job extender bill, it‘s unfathomable to me that will no republican will support the job extender bill. Number one, helps the states so we don‘t have to lay off people because we lose extra Medicaid money. In Pennsylvania, if we don‘t get that money, we‘re going to have to lay off 22,000 people. That would be nuts. It would be counter intuitive. Secondly it helps small businesses with additional tax cuts and with a lending fund, Michael, very important.
SMERCONISH: Let me ask you about that unemployment benefit debate. At what point does a republican criticism that it‘s cost prohibitive, at what point does that become credible? I mean, if you carry this out a year, three years, is there at some point on a timeline you would say, well, yes, at that stage we just can‘t afford it?
RENDELL: I think it wouldn‘t be time that would to me differentiate that, Michael. It would be when the unemployment rate drops below a certain point. When you can say that there are people out there who are now receiving unemployment because they don‘t want to go to work and don‘t want to find a job, but until this economy recovers, and everyone‘s to blame for what happened to the economy for not overseeing Wall Street and letting a few rich people drive this economy into the tank, until the economy recovers and unemployment drops to an acceptable figure, I think it‘s an emergency. And we can‘t say to those people, we‘re not going to help you pay for your mortgage, we‘re not going to help you buy food. And by the way, in terms of stimulus, we know that unemployment compensation dollars are the best stimulus of all because those people Michael, they don‘t save it, they spend it because they‘re desperate to spend it to feed families, to pay for rent, to pay for gasoline, things like that. So it goes right back into the economy.
SMERCONISH: If the unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, doesn‘t that mean that the stimulus package thus far hasn‘t worked?
RENDELL: Well, again, it‘s proving the negative. Has it worked, has it not worked. It‘s worked very much so in Pennsylvania. Of those 76,000 jobs that we produced, at least 22,000 were directly related to the stimulus. On March 31st, there were 16,000 people working in Pennsylvania in jobs that were fully funded by stimulus. That‘s number one. Number two, the stimulus has worked because we haven‘t had to lay off 20,000 policemen, firemen, state workers, teachers. But we will if the stimulus runs out while we‘re still in this period of slow recovery. So, the stimulus has certainly helped us retain jobs. And it‘s created jobs. As many as I would have liked? No, if it was up to me, Michael, I would have doubled or tripled the amount of infrastructure construction money in the stimulus.
SMERCONISH: Governor, does this...
RENDELL: A lot less tax cuts.
SMERCONISH: Does this become self-perpetuating? And I‘m not making the John McCain argument here that the fundamentals of the economy are strong but by the same token, my wife is a realtor. I hear from her constantly that she‘s got a lot of folks out there with good product, low interest rates, afraid to pull the trigger because they are continually turning on programs, reading in the newsprint how God awful things are and consequently, they don‘t want to do anything.
RENDELL: Yes, a lot of this is—perception drives so much of this, so much of this. Which is why it‘s important to keep the stimulus going. And I know stimulus has gotten a bad flame but to keep economic help going.
Look, do I agree that we have to do something about the deficit? Absolutely. But that has to be the long-term. Every economist says, right now it‘s about jobs and it‘s about the economy. So, if we can pay for the entire job extender bill, that‘s fine. But if we can‘t and we need to use some of those funds as emergency funds and not be paid for, let‘s invest right now. In fact, you‘ve heard me say over and over again, Michael, what this country should be doing, we should go on a ten-year revitalization effort of all of our infrastructure, our water systems, our roads, our highways, our bridges, our transit, our rail. That would create an incredible amount of jobs, hundreds of thousands of good jobs...
SMERCONISH: Got it.
RENDELL: ...and it would bring back American manufacturing. We need to do it and do it fast.
SMERCONISH: Hey Governor, many thanks. You free to head to Ocean City now. Thank you, sir.
RENDELL: No, we‘re still stuck in Harrisburg, still stuck in Harrisburg.
SMERCONISH: Governor Ed Rendell. Now, let‘s turn to our panel for some rapid fire response on these stories. RNC Chairman Michael Steele tells republicans at a Connecticut fund-raiser that Afghanistan was President Obama‘s war of choice. It‘s prompted a furious response from some top conservatives who say, this is the last straw for Steele. Karl Rove accuses President Obama of being on a, quote, “fiscal orgy” in his latest “Wall Street Journal,” Op-ed. And South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham slams the Tea Party movement calling it incoherent and unsustainable.
With us tonight, Joe Madison an XM satellite radio host and Heidi Harris, a radio show host on AM 720 KDWN in Las Vegas. Thank you both for being here. Allow me to play for you a short snippet of this Michael Steele speech that is causing great controversy on this Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: This was a war of Obama‘s choosing. This is not something that the units had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in. If he‘s such a student of history, has he not understood that you know, that‘s the one thing you don‘t do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right. Because everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history has failed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Heidi, do you want to add your voice to the chorus of some republican conservatives who are saying, hey, he‘s got to go now?
HEIDI HARRIS, RADIO SHOW HOST: No, I‘m not going to add my voice to that. I‘m not exactly sure what he meant. I know that Obama has said Afghanistan is where the war should have been focused all along instead of Iraq. Maybe that‘s what he was talking about. He‘s also right about the fact that we‘re not going to win on the ground over there. You know, what do we do? Bomb them back to the Stone Age? They never left. I don‘t know how we are going to win. I don‘t know what victory means in Afghanistan. So, I‘m really not sure what the chairman was trying to say but it didn‘t come out very well. I give you that.
SMERCONISH: Joe, what do you think about Michael Steele‘s comments?
JOE MADISON, SIRIUS XM RADIO HOST: Well, I happened to talk to Michael Steele and I wish that Bill Kristol had done the same thing. If I can pick up the phone and call him, so can the voice of the GOP. I think they‘re a little schizophrenic here. The reality is that Candidate Obama said, he would have invaded Afghanistan instead of Iraq. Michael Steele was absolutely historically accurate. You‘ve had every empire from Alexander the Great to the Russians that have been driven out of Afghanistan. I think what he was trying to say is as this war goes badly, it will be Obama‘s war.
SMERCONISH: You make reference.
MADISON: And that the candidates out there running should be prepared to address that. But let me finally say to you, Mike, is that Michael Steele‘s not going to resign. So, these calls for his resignation mean nothing.
SMERCONISH: Well, let me show you one of them because you made
reference to it. It‘s Bill Kristol for “The Weekly Standard.” And this is
the conservative to whom I was referring, Heidi. “Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not a war of Obama‘s choosing. It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort. Indeed, as the DNC communciations director of all people has said, your statement puts you at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party.” Heidi, do you find that compelling? Does that change your view?
HARRIS: No, I have lot of respect for Bill Kristol. I read “The Weekly Standard” of course. I read that and I understand what he‘s saying. He makes some very good points. But I don‘t know why Chairman Steele should resign. I just don‘t understand what he was really trying to say. And I have read the statement from the RNC about trying to clarify. I think maybe Chairman Steele has got to come out himself and maybe clarify exactly what he meant. I don‘t think he should resign now.
MADISON: And no, he won‘t resign. And I can tell you that from a very reliable source and that‘s Chairman Steele, he‘s got going to resign. And this would be devastating. Look, I‘m not a defender of Michael Steele, the Republican Party, the conservative movement. But the reality is that this is a fight within the Republican Party. You have the Rand Pauls of the world who don‘t like this war. You have other people within the Republican Party don‘t like the way it‘s being executed. So you know, or prosecuted. The reality is that the republicans are fighting themselves and when you go to the South Carolina story, Michael, and you know.
SMERCONISH: You know what? I‘m going to get there in a minute. But I must throw that the Karl Rove “Wall Street Journal” Op-ed into the mix. And Joe, I‘m going to start with you. He calls this Obama‘s “fiscal orgy.”
MADISON: Well, what else do I expect from, what do they call him, turtle, turtle or something, I don‘t know. What else do I expect from Karl Rove? I mean, that‘s a policy position. He‘s a conservative, a fiscal conservative. That‘s exactly the way the republicans are going to run. I don‘t expect Karl Rove to say anything else but you just heard from the Governor of Pennsylvania who said look, we need to spend money on the infrastructure, put people to work, improve the infrastructure of this country. It will go a long way in helping to repair this country‘s unemployment problem as well as our infrastructure.
SMERCONISH: Heidi, a fiscal orgy? You buying that?
HARRIS: Absolutely. Listen, when you‘re in a hole, what‘s the first thing, you stop digging. You cannot dig your way to prosperity by continuously spending money. It‘s not going to work. I love the way the democrats have done this. If they pass the stimulus and it actually worked, then they would have taken full credit. But the fact that it hasn‘t worked and in Nevada unemployment is over 14 percent, the fact that it hasn‘t worked, it hasn‘t held at a day percent, means it‘s Bush‘s fault. Isn‘t that great? It‘s like a dice game, heads I win, tails you lose.
MADISON: Michael, but this is the schizophrenic of them. It‘s Bush‘s war. Bush did this. Bush. But then when it comes to the economy, oh, don‘t bring up Bush. So you know, you guys can‘t have it and ladies you can‘t have it both ways. You just simply can‘t have it both ways.
SMERCONISH: I get sick of it. I get sick of it. I tune out at the moment that they start that. Very quickly, Lindsey Graham says that Ronald Reagan would have had a hard time getting elected as a republican today. Heidi, there‘s something to this mentality that all these litmus tests are thinning the herd way too much for the GOP.
HARRIS: Well, I think, no matter what happens with the Tea Party, there are going to be people who will choose especially in Nevada, Sharron Angle over Harry Reid. Now, she may not be in the perfect candidate according to some Tea Partier but the Tea Party express did endorse her. She won the nomination of course, in the election and I think she‘s going to beat Harry Reid. So, the Tea Partiers will come together and try to keep the liberals out. That‘s going to be their focus ultimately.
SMERCONISH: Joe, get it done in ten seconds. Go ahead.
MADISON: That‘s what their goal is and I hope they fail. How‘s that for ten seconds?
SMERCONISH: You did it. Thank you. Enjoy the fourth. I appreciate both of you being here.
HARRIS: Thank you.
MADISON: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Coming up. The latest on the Russian spies. Are more spies out there? A former CIA official weighs in. Stay with us.
SMERCONISH: Hey, let us know what you think. Tonight‘s text survey question is, do you think it‘s wrong to criticize President Obama for taking time off? Text a for yes, and b for no to 622639. The results are coming up.
SMERCONISH: The alleged Russian spy who disappeared in Cyprus on Wednesday after being set free on bail is now believed to have fled the country. Here in the u.s., prosecutors are trying to keep the other ten alleged members of the spy ring securely in prison. Yesterday, a New York court denied bail to two suspects while releasing another, although she will be subject to house arrest. And today, three more suspects remain in jail after admitting they were Russian citizens living in the u.s. under false identities and waiving their right to a detention hearing.
For the latest on this story, let me bring in NBC‘s Bob Windrem. Hey, Bob, what is the latest?
BOB WINDREM, NBC NEWS: The latest is today we had two Russians or two of the accused admit that they were Russian citizens and provide for the first time their real names. Michael Zottoli, had been the name of the accused. We now learn that he is Mikhail Kutzik. In addition, a woman who‘s identity was Patty Mills has now identified herself as Natalia Pereverzeva. What we have here now for the first time is an admission of Russian citizenships and the name. The third person today, Mikhail Seminoff (ph) is a travel agent from Washington who is here on a visa, he was using his real name. But also today, we had information that there is tens of thousands of dollars has been found in safety deposit boxes registered to the couple, and that—as well as false passports. So, it just brings closer to the surface these people‘s identities and, of course, you know, their intentions.
SMERCONISH: I‘m anxious to find out if they were truly married, if those children for whom my heart breaks were really the product of those relations.
WINDREM: Apparently so. I mean, there‘s no indication that they‘re not. I have not heard anything that would indicate that. And certainly, we have now four children who is by my count two, younger children here and two older children in Montclair. So, there‘s at least four children that were the product of what may have been arranged marriages but quite apparently real marriages.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Bob, thank you very much. Appreciate your time.
WINDREM: Sure thing.
SMERCONISH: For more, let me turn to former CIA officer Jack Rice. Jack, I‘ve been so anxious to ask you, what makes us think that this is the extent of it? In other words, I hear folks calling my radio program and I‘m guilty of this to some extend as well, treating it as if the whole thing is a joke. But I‘m saying to myself, how do we know there aren‘t 500 or 1,000 who are already here and maybe have been successful in impregnating the government and getting into key positions for intelligence gathering.
JACK RICE, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Well, you know, Michael, I think it‘s a great point. I mean, realistically, this is what spy organizations do. It‘s not just the Russians. The Americans do this. The Israelis do this. The Brits do this. The French do this. The Pakistanis do this. I mean, everybody does this. So, the idea...
SMERCONISH: How about us?
RICE: No, including the u.s. without question.
SMERCONISH: So, you think that we have folks similarly situated in Moscow?
RICE: I‘m going to be very careful because if I‘m not, I‘m going to have a couple of guys who would have come pick me up after the show and I‘ll be snuggling up next to a guy named Bob in some federal prison someplace. So, what I am saying is there are intelligence organizations worldwide including the u.s. who are doing similar things. How is that for generic enough for you?
SMERCONISH: Good. I‘ll take it. Listen, I had a conversation with a Former British Intelligence Official earlier in the week when the story was breaking and he said to me that he believed that they were probably trained in some faux western town in Russia. Could you see that, like maybe there‘s a Starbuck on one corner and a target on another and a strip joint, you know, down the road like a real American town.
RICE: Well, you know, what‘s interesting about that is I recall this from the cold war days. I think, there was a Nelson DeMille novel or something about the...
SMERCONISH: “The Charm School.”
RICE: There you go.
RICE: And that‘s the concept. I mean, the idea is something where you‘re trying to Americanize people and you know what, there is something to this. Actually, one thing that the Russians really do and they do this like the Chinese do this as well is they look very, very long-term. They‘re very patient when it comes to this. If you compared that to what the Americans do, we want something this week, this month, this quarter, maybe this year. This is a long-term operation which involves interests that may not bear fruit for a decade or more. But, you know what? When you‘re somebody like this known as an illegal or the Americans use the term noco (ph), not official cover officer, you may be in places that nobody else could get to if they were tied to an embassy. And there can be potentially true value and also exposure if you‘re on the wrong side of it, I mean.
SMERCONISH: Hey, thank you so much for being here. And enjoy the fourth.
RICE: Thank you so much.
SMERCONISH: As you know, Ed normally does his Playbook. Today, how about Smerc‘s Take. We start with Franklin Delano Roosevelt being named America‘s best president, this according to latest Siena College Presidential Poll. FDR is followed in the top five by four men who‘s legacies are carved in stone, they would be Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. Of the more recent president, it was a great show in for President Obama entering the list at number 15 following Bill Clinton at number 13, Bush 41 came in at 22, W. joined the bottom five at number 39. Here‘s what I find dubious or curious. In survey after survey, while some hold their position, others continue to rise or fall despite the fact that they‘ve all long been out of office.
And Mel Gibson is back in trouble. The moronic actor was reportedly caught on tape in a rage against his girlfriend. He was reportedly freaking out in a profanity laced racist rant saying things I can‘t even come close to repeating on television. Now, remember, this is the same guy who when expressing anti-Semitism registered I‘ll say only a .12 on a breathalyzer. What am I saying? I‘m saying that he was too wasted to be operating heavy machinery but not enough for any defense. You put a few beers in me and the worst you‘ll going to hear is that I‘ve loved you a long time.
And finally, a tradition like no other, the July 4th Nathan‘s Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island. The Michael Jordan of the sport, six-time winner Takeru Kobayashi is threatening to miss the event due to a contract dispute. Now, folks, this is always such a fun thing to watch. And I would love to be there in person but the one place that I don‘t want to be is near any of these guys once that contest is over.
Coming up, it was a wild week of mudslinging, John Boehner, the president, they were going head to head in a war of words. Stephanie Miller sounds off on the week that was, next.
SMERCONISH: Time for a fun look back at the week that was. This is Nationally Syndicated Radio Host Stephanie Miller. Hey, Stephanie.
STEPHANIE MILLER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Hey, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Elena Kagan had a pretty good week. Wouldn‘t you say?
MILLER: You know, a better week than John Cornyn. And I thought he was going to start spinning on his back like a five year old and came in our parking lot that she was going to make him eat his fruits and vegetables. What was all that about? First of all, she said it would be a dumb law. So then, you know, she was like oh, you‘re serious. I thought you were just being an obstructionist—you really want me to answer this? OK. I mean, and then I was going to say Orrin Hatch today, Michael says, he‘s not going to vote for her because she has no real legal experience. Excuse me, the Dean of Harvard Law and the Solicitor General of the United States has no real judicial legal experience? Isn‘t that like saying Jonas Salk had no real vaccine experience?
SMERCONISH: I thought that the Chinese line about Christmas Day was the line of the week, I really thought that was beautifully delivered.
MILLER: When you can make a Jew joke at a Supreme Court hearing, that is just—that was my highlight, as well. Here‘s the thing I hate though. They make it sound like a Harvard degree is a bad thing. Oh, you went to Harvard and Princeton. Can you imagine Michael, if we had a nominee where they were going, I see your degree is from an Larry‘s legal shack in Fresno.
SMERCONISH: President Obama catching some flack from John Boehner this week. What did you make of that dustup?
MILLER: Well, he said that going after, it was like, you know, going after an ant hill with a nuke. The financial crisis? And I thought, you know, him getting in a battle of wits with President Obama is sort of like going after a rocket launcher with a pea shooter, intellectually speaking.
SMERCONISH: Do you think that Michael Steele survives the latest flap in now calling Afghanistan Obama‘s war?
MILLER: Comedically, I hope so. I understand Mel Gibson is their next choice up to be head of the RNC. He may be less gasp prone is what I‘m hearing. Yes, it‘s hard to believe that he was the chairman of their choosing, but I guess he was, wasn‘t he?
SMERCONISH: Hey, we have just 30 seconds left. Larry King going to hang up those suspenders. How do you feel?
MILLER: I‘m going to miss my Larry. I don‘t know if he needs an ex-wife though because I‘m up for that. I‘m up for whatever. But I will miss him for sure.
SMERCONISH: Guy‘s a survivor. You have to give him a lot of credit.
Hey, Stephanie, have a terrific weekend. I appreciate seeing you here.
MILLER: Thanks, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Tonight in our text survey, we asked, do you think it‘s wrong to criticize President Obama for taking time off. Well, here are the results. Seventy five percent say yes, they agree with me, thank goodness. Twenty five percent say no. Hey, thank you for watching. I‘m Michael Smerconish. Ed is back next week and “Hardball” with Chris Matthews, that starts right now.
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