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Barack Obama an Elitist?; Jimmy Carter to Meet with Hamas; Phillies Catcher Pens Book

Aired April 14, 2008 - 19:00:00   ET


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, Obama`s bitter reaction as Hillary Clinton blasts him about small town voters.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Shame on her, she knows better.

SMERCONISH: How it`s impacting the fight for Pennsylvania.

Plus, former president, Jimmy Carter, visits the Middle East. His plan to meet with leaders of the terror group Hamas generating outrage around the world.

And why are some areas in Pennsylvania no-go zones for candidates? I`ll meet with the mayor of Hazleton and the owner of this famous cheese steak restaurant.

All this and more, tonight.


SMERCONISH: Hi, everybody. I`m Michael Smerconish from Pennsylvania, in for Glenn Beck all week long. Hope you had a nice weekend. Take a look at how I spent mine.

While I was shooting skeet with a 12-gauge, my son was at a religious retreat preparing for his upcoming confirmation. And meanwhile, Barack Obama had something to say about we Pennsylvanians who like our guns and our religion.

It was a week ago Sunday at a San Francisco fundraiser where Senator Obama said, and I quote, "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years. And it`s not surprising, then, that they get bitter. They cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren`t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

Here with me now to talk about this controversy and a lot more, Ken Dilanian, a reporter for "USA Today"; Carrie Budoff Brown, a reporter for the Politico; and John Ridley, a political commentator for NPR and "Esquire" magazine contributor.

Hey, Carrie, I want to start with you. Because on the Politico today, Barack Obama`s flip side revealed. You talk about how he`s known for being brilliantly on key. What went wrong here?

CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN, THE POLITICO: Well, I traveled with him for, I think four or five months now. And Obama, the guy you see on television, he`s you know, by all accounts a brilliant politician. Very good in front of audiences. But obviously, if you follow a candidate seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for the most part, they have off moments.

And one thing that we`ve seen thread through the last few months is that he has moments where he gets in situations where sometimes he just doesn`t connect. He has a sense of tone deafness when he`s in certain situations. And this comment in San Francisco, in some ways, could be an outgrowth of one of those off moments that he had.

SMERCONISH: John Ridley, if he said this in Aliquippa or in Allentown, I think as a Pennsylvanian, I would be less offended by it. In other words, I feel like I`m a patient in the psych ward, and Dr. Obama out in San Francisco is offering a differential diagnosis of what ails me. Do you understand what I`m trying to say?

JOHN RIDLEY, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, NPR: Yes, I absolutely do. And I agree with that. It`s one thing when you create a dialogue; you`re in one of these downtrodden areas. The beginning of his comment, it kind of makes sense.

But when you say this in San Francisco with sequestered, high-level fund-raisers in that other part of the country that is very different, and opposed to what`s going on in Pennsylvania, absolutely, it sounds like you`re hectoring or lecturing more than having a conversation. And the comment earlier about being tone deaf, I mean, that`s absolutely true in this situation.

SMERCONISH: Ken Dilanian for "USA Today," I thought it was great coverage. You went out on the road. You spoke with Pennsylvanians to find out, OK, how`s this playing? And one of the issues that you raised is maybe this is an issue for the chattering class, you know, the four of us and others. And maybe it will not, to quote the president, resignate [SIC] with Pennsylvanians. What do you -- what do you think?

KEN DILANIAN, "USA TODAY": You know, that`s very possible, Michael. I mean, I was out yesterday in rural York County, heavily Republican, conservative place. Votes on the gun issue and on the abortion issue. And even the conservative Republicans I spoke to were not very exorcised about this. I mean, they kind of take it all with a filter, you know, and kind of suggest that maybe the media was making a little bit too much out of it.

Is it going to help him? Certainly not. But -- and of the few Obama supporters I found in that Republican county, none of them were swayed by this. They`re still standing by their guy.

SMERCONISH: Hey, John, isn`t one of the ironies, I mean, in a good way, a silver ling to this, that the African-American candidate. The criticism of him now is he`s an elitist? I mean, isn`t there something nice about that, that the black guy is the elitist? He`s the country-club candidate in this race?

RIDLEY: Well, there`s something, you know, very nice about it if you`re a person of color like myself. Yes, it`s absolutely great to see that, that you`ve gone from trying to get by to being -- absolutely having gotten over. It would be great if we could turn it into being president of the United States.

Again, I would agree, this isn`t going to destroy him. But more, it`s not helpful. And we`re talking about this in the news a week later. So yes, it is a big deal in terms of speak.

SMERCONISH: Well, and Carrie, I want to get to the way in which this all came to life. Because, you know, it`s not -- it`s not from Glenn Beck. OK? It`s not from Sean Hannity. It`s not from Rush Limbaugh, all the big names, the A-list in the conservative community. This is Huffington Post, where when I blog, I`m a token.

BROWN: Yes. Absolutely, it comes from the Huffington Post. It sort of took away that argument from Obama or those who support him to say, "Hey, this is a right wing smear." This came from a liberal Web site, from a supporter, apparently, the citizen journalist who wrote it, who struggled with the fact that she would have to put these things out there that may cause problems for him.

And it`s fascinating that it happened at an event that he presumably thought was off the record. And here you go.

SMERCONISH: Let`s all take a look at the way in which Hillary is responding to this out on the campaign trail.


SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do think it raises a lot of concern, because it did seem so much in line with what often we are charged with. Someone goes to a closed-door fundraiser in San Francisco and makes comments that do seem elitist, out of touch and, frankly, patronizing.


SMERCONISH: And then Senator Obama with the widely-quoted response, where he compares Senator Clinton to a well-known individual.


OBAMA: She`s running around, talking about how this is an insult to sportsmen. She -- how she values the Second Amendment. She`s talking like she`s Annie Oakley. Hillary Clinton is out there, you know, like she`s out in the duck blind every Sunday. She`s packing a six-shooter.

Come on. She knows better.


SMERCONISH: Ken Dilanian, does she run the risk, she being Senator Clinton, that if she pushes too hard on this issue, it`s going to come back to bite her?

DILANIAN: Yes, I absolutely agree, Michael. I think -- I think she`s played it beautifully thus far. I mean, after all, we`re talking about it. It`s been in the news every day, in part fueled by her well-timed comments.

It`s starting to look like today, she may be overplaying her hand a bit. In fact, there was just an event in Pittsburgh. She was talking to some steelworkers. She raised the issue again. And my colleague, Kathy Kiley (ph), reports on our blog that there was stoned silence in the room. People just kind of were sitting here.

SMERCONISH: One of the merits, one of the problems I have with what Senator Obama said is that it expresses a fundamental misunderstanding of the state of Pennsylvania.

I mean, ours, mine is a state where the first day of buck season is a holiday in most of the public schools, in most of the state, with the exception of Southeast Pennsylvania.

Carrie, you know that well. And this is -- hunting is a tradition that`s handed down from generations, not only when the economy turns sour.

BROWN: Absolutely. I remember having the first Monday after Thanksgiving off because too many folks went out hunting, growing up in York, Pennsylvania. But yes, these comments could not have come at a worse time for him in terms of the state that he`s campaigning in.

I mean, this -- every issue he touched there is an issue that`s pretty prominent in terms of the demographics of the state: hunting, religion. I mean, that`s the heart of what Pennsylvania is.

SMERCONISH: John Ridley, I was of the view that Barack Obama, going into the weekend, and I said this on my own radio show, was about to take her out. I thought that he was going to win by a whisker in Pennsylvania, and there the nomination process would end. Where do you think we go from here, given that the election is one week from tomorrow?

RIDLEY: You look at the numbers and you saw double digit numbers for Senator Clinton reduced to single digit. I think they`re going to remain in the single digit. And I think she may eke out a victory, but even eking out a victory is not going to be a victory for Senator Clinton. She needed a big victory. She needed to push that for the nine remaining primaries.

So even if she gets a win at this point, I don`t know if it`s going to be a convincing win.

SMERCONISH: And Ken Dilanian, it`s bad news for the party, because the best thing for the party be to stop this whole process. And if John Ridley is correct, and I suspect that is he, we`re going on for awhile now, the remaining nine or so contests. And no one is going to go into that convention with a sufficient number of delegates in his or her pocket to control the nomination.

I mean, what`s the happy ending for the Democratic Party?

DILANIAN: Well, I`m not sure about that. But in terms of her position in the state, there`s a poll out this morning that has Obama down by 20 after climbing to within five. So -- and that`s the poll, first poll there that was taken beginning Friday night and into Sunday after this thing hit. So -- so you know, it could open up the margin in Pennsylvania again and be, you know, terribly bad news for the Democratic Party.

SMERCONISH: Carrie, in the aftermath of the Reverend Wright controversy, Barack Obama, you know, dealt with that situation -- I`ll give him great credit for this -- head on. I happened to have been in the room when he delivered that speech on race at the National Constitution Center, and I thought he delivered a wonderful set of remarks.

And I think, perhaps, the learning experience from that was to confront your demons. So when now this flap arose, he didn`t really back off. He stood his ground, said that that it was poorly worded but that he stands by those sentiments. I`m not sure that the approach relative to Reverend Wright is the approach that works in this scenario.

BROWN: Well, if you notice, he`s saying he stands by the remarks that people are not happy with the situation right now, economically. And that is a message that can resonate. Obviously, you look at any poll, people are not happy with the direction of the country.

So if he sticks with that piece of his comments, he could gain from it. It`s when it goes into the cultural issues, and that`s the problem for him. So if you notice, if you listen to him, he`s saying, "I`m sticking by what I`m saying on people being bitter. Maybe the wrong word: angry, yes. And I will fight for you. I`m not out of touch."

That`s kind of been his message for many months, that he is not out of touch. He`s not Washington. So you know, he may not lose on that piece of it.

SMERCONISH: Like a reality show. And I`m loving it. I`m the only one who wishes the election in Pennsylvania were a few weeks removed.

Ken, Carrie, John, not to be confused with Peter, Paula and Mary, thank you. Appreciate you all being here. Thanks so much.

BROWN: Thank you.

RIDLEY: Thanks a lot, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Coming up, former president, Jimmy Carter, is in the Middle East. On his itinerary is a chat with terror organization Hamas.

Plus, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continue to campaign heavily across my home state of Pennsylvania. But they`re going to avoid at least two popular spots, and I`ll explain.

And should convicted child rapists be sentenced to death? The state of Louisiana thinks so. But is it constitutional? Stick around.


SMERCONISH: Coming up, Pennsylvania`s no-go zones. Those are locations that were once must stops along the Democratic campaign trail but now are being completely avoided. And I`ll tell you why illegal immigration is to blame in just a bit.

But first, former president, Jimmy Carter, is in the Middle East this week, doing what he does best, and that`s hoping to insert himself into some sort of a peace deal. So guess who Carter is meeting with to potentially broker this peace? Hamas.

That`s the organization that has pledged to destroy Israel, has killed 250 Israelis in dozens of suicide attacks, and according to the State Department, is responsible for the death of Americans overseas.

Shouldn`t come any surprise that the United States is up in arms over this little visit, or that Israel has refused to help with his security.

Jed Babbin is a former deputy undersecretary of defense for George Herbert Washington Bush, currently the editor of Michael Ledeen is a freedom scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of "The Iranian Time Bomb."

Hey, Jed, I`ve got a wacky theory, and I want to run it by you. Is it possible that former President Carter is, in fact, a shill for this administration? In other words, they keep him at an arm`s length-distance, because he said that the State Department never expressly told him not to undertake this mission.

So if it doesn`t bear fruit, they`re able to say, "He`s really not our guy." But if it does bear fruit, he`s able to shuttle that information back to the State Department.

JED BABBIN, FORMER DEPUTY UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE: No, I think it`s more likely that he`s going to be a shill for Hamas. I mean, he has been told very clearly by the State Department to not do this. You have a former president of the United States being a useful idiot for a foreign terrorist organization. There is no possibility he`s going to do anything good over there, good insofar as American or Israeli interests.

And in fact, what he`s doing is he`s now recommending that we have direct negotiations with Hamas, which is simply not the right thing to do. He`s performing a shill performance, but really for Hamas, not the United States.

SMERCONISH: You know, you regard him as the village idiot or whatever your word choice was, but isn`t the counter to that to say that he had some level of success in the late `70s, relative to the Camp David Peace Accords?

BABBIN: Well, not really. I mean, the Camp David Peace Accords fell apart. I mean, they`re the prelude to the first intifada. So really, Carter has no record of making peace over there. He`s an officious intermeddler.

I called him a useful idiot, which is Lenin`s term for people who are so dumb that they do the bidding, inadvertently, of their enemies. And that`s exactly what Carter`s role.

SMERCONISH: That`s in contrast to the village idiot, which is the expression we use in Philly.

BABBIN: Well, I mean, I won`t argue with him that -- I won`t argue that Jimmy Carter is not exactly a descendent or Werner Von Braun, but this guy is clearly not doing anything for the good guys.

SMERCONISH: Michael, what`s the downside of talking? I mean, maybe it`s a little Rodney King-ish: "Can`t we all just get along?" But what`s the harm in having some dialogue?

MICHAEL LEDEEN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Because it leads to -- it leads Hamas and other evil people to believe that the American government is willing to make deals.

And so for all the various terrorist organizations and countries that sponsor terrorism all around the world, it teaches them, you know, just keep on killing people and the Americans will eventually show up in some form or another and give us what they want.

SMERCONISH: So give me the alternative. If the position of speaking to Hamas is inappropriate, then paint for me a scenario where there can be peace in the Middle East. How do we get there?

LEDEEN: Well, you can`t -- I mean, you can`t solve the Arab-Israeli problem by talking. The Arab-Israeli problem is something that will come at the end of this long war in the Middle East.

I mean, Hamas is now, effectively, an extension of Iran. And you remember how Jimmy Carter negotiated with Iran. So in order to even get at the Arab-Israeli issue, you`ve got to defeat Iran.

SMERCONISH: Jed, was Jimmy Carter`s history always one of that which was perceived as being anti-Israeli? I mean, when he wrote this recent book, I had him on my radio show, and he almost hung up on me when I questioned him about the title, which had "Apartheid" in its -- in its book jacket.

And it caused me to wonder, you know, where did he go off track, if that`s a proper way of describing his history.

BABBIN: Well, I think it is proper. And I think he went off track the moment he left the presidency. I mean, Mr. Carter is such an insecure and insignificant person. He really has nothing that he`s accomplished in his life, other than getting elected to the presidency. So ever since then, he`s been striving to make himself significant in history. And this is just another part of that effort.

SMERCONISH: Jed, I ask you the same question I asked Michael. Give me, then, the solution. If this is not it, what is the solution for peace in the Middle East?

BABBIN: Well, I think Michael hit it just dead-bang right. You have to deal with Iran. The whole issue of peace in the Middle East -- Iraq, Iran, Israel, whatever -- it all comes down to ending state sponsorship of terrorism. Unless we do that, the war against us will never end and the war against Israel will continue, as well.

SMERCONISH: Michael, I`m trying to read the tealeaves as to the way he was treated by the Israelis. He meet with Shimon Peres but was not met by or greeted by Ehud Olmert, and the Israelis would not provide security. Explain that to me.

LEDEEN: Well, what it shows is that the person who met with him is someone who holds a ceremonial position with no authority. And the people with real authority wouldn`t talk to him. And the people who could provide him with safety couldn`t -- wouldn`t do it either.

So they snubbed him. As they should snug him. I mean, he`s -- he`s one of the world`s most outspoken anti-Semites at the moment. He`s wondering around saying terrible things about Jews and Israelis.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Jed, you served in the administration of Bush `41, George Herbert Walker Bush. And I guess you`re the appropriate individual to ask. Any precedent for this, where a former president of the United States extends himself in this regard, apparently against State Department wishes, and has this sort of unilateral dialogue?

BABBIN: Never in history, that I`m aware o, have you had something like this happen, except where a president has asked a former president to go do something like this.

This man is a loose cannon. He is off on his own frolicking detour here. And he`s going to do some considerable damage. It`s just like my friend, Dr. Ledeen, said: he is going to paint the -- the issue that you can get away with murder, and America will come and look to talk to you.

SMERCONISH: Jed and Michael, appreciate you being on the program. Thank you.

LEDEEN: Thank you.

BABBIN: Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Coming up, it`s a story of inspiration, perseverance and a whole lot of patience. Coming up, Philadelphia Phillies catcher Chris Coste to talk about his new book, "The 33-Year-Old Rookie."

And the issue of illegal immigration may have taken a backseat to the economy. That`s in recent weeks, of course. But Pennsylvania voters certainly haven`t forgotten. It`s the modern-day third rail of American politics. Will any of the candidates dare to touch it?


SMERCONISH: He spent 11 years playing baseball in independent leagues and the minors and at age 33 was contemplating retirement, leaving his dream of playing in the majors behind. But he finally got the call. The call that he was waiting for and the rest, as they say, is history.

Philadelphia Phillies catcher Chris Coste is with us to talk about baseball and his brand-new book, "The 33-Year-Old Rookie."

Hey, Chris, welcome to the program. Describe the call. What are you, what are you doing when that phone finally rings?

CHRIS COSTE, PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES CATCHER: Well, it was a Sunday morning. I was supposed to have a AAA game that day. About 1:30, the Phillies two hours away were having a game at 1:30, as well.

I got a call from my manager in AAA. When I saw the caller ID, I didn`t want to answer it, because I thought maybe I was getting released or I was traded or something like that. I mean, after all, I was hitting .177 at that particular time, six weeks into the season. So I thought there was bad news.

Usually, managers try to be a little bit, you know, joking around with you in these situations, but unfortunately, he didn`t have time. He just said, "Chris, get your bags packed. You`re going to Philadelphia." I honestly had no idea what he meant. In no way were the big leagues in my mind, whatsoever.

Finally, he said, "Seriously, you`re going to the big leagues. You`ve got to hurry up, and you`ve got to get there. Their game`s in a couple hours."

And I`ll spare the expletive, but I said something to the effect of, "You`ve got to be kidding me." You know, what happened? I mean, why me? I`m hitting .117. And at that point, I really honestly thought I was in a dream, because I`ve had so many dreams just like that in the past. So in my mind, I was expecting to wake up from the dream.

SMERCONISH: You`re a kid, and you know, no longer a kid, but from Fargo. No one formally instructed you on how to be a catcher. Right?

COSTE: Yes. On the job training, literally.

SMERCONISH: And -- and when you finally make it to the big league. You know, I mean, the cities, where I`m now located, New York, it`s a foreign land. Is it true that, when you finally check into a hotel and you`re part of the Philadelphia Phillies, you have room service for the first time?

COSTE: Well, I`d probably had variations of room service, but never at, like, a Ritz-Carlton or a Westin or those type places. So when I -- when I got my first room service, I believe it was 35 bucks for a ham and cheese omelet or something like that. And believe me, it was probably the best omelet I`ve ever -- I`d eaten.

SMERCONISH: When the team stays in New York City at Times Square, you don`t want to leave the hotel for fear of getting lost?

COSTE: Well, I do now. It was just that at that particular day, I wanted to go out, but I was like, I`m not sure if I can find my way back. You know, I may be from Fargo, but I`ve, you know, played all over the world. So I`m actually a more experienced traveler than most people, just I had never been, you know, in the heart of Times Square where, you know, it`s pretty fast and you know, you can easily get lost. So I stayed in my hotel room the first couple days.

SMERCONISH: The Fighting Phils win the NL East last season. And I`m there, and I`m sitting behind home plate, and with my BlackBerry, I snap a photograph. You catch the ball from Bret Myers (ph), right?


SMERCONISH: But something goes wrong. Like, you`re supposed to have the "Sports Illustrated" -- there`s the picture I took, Chris. You`re supposed to hustle out the mound and have the big grip and get on the cover of "SI." What happened?

COSTE: Well, I knew -- I had a pretty good idea Bret Myers (ph) was going to strike out Willie Lapegna to end the game. And so I had all these thoughts in my head, you know, catch the ball, get out there as fast as possible, be in the celebration and -- and first thing I did when I caught the pitch, I threw my arms up in the air and I tossed my mask to the side. And for some reason, I let the ball go, which I can`t possibly explain that.

And in that slight hesitation, Pat Burrow (ph), the slowest man in Major League Baseball beat me, the second slowest man in baseball, to the mound. So as much as I love watching that highlight, and I do love watching it, I do wish they`d cut it off right after I get beat to the mound.

SMERCONISH: "Thirty-Three-Year-Old Rookie is a fabulous book and inspirational. Thank you, Chris Coste.

COSTE: Hey, great talking to you, as always.


Up next, why some areas of Pennsylvania are no-go zones for Clinton and Obama. I`ll explain after the break. Just stick around.


SMERCONISH: Welcome back. I`m Michael Smerconish, filling in for the vacationing Glenn Beck.

I can`t think a crime more heinous than child rape. But should it be punishable by death?

The state of Louisiana thinks so and they`re taking their case to the Supreme Court. We`ll here the arguments both pro and con in just a moment.

But first, primary voters in my home state of Pennsylvania will finally go to the polls next week. The candidates have been all over, but there are two places where none will travel -- Geno`s Steaks in Philadelphia and the city of Hazleton. And why not?

Well, because of their respective roles in the battle over illegal immigration. Geno`s used to be a must-stop for presidential candidates making the rounds. But that has stopped ever since proprietor Joe Vento put a sign in his window requesting the patrons, "Please speak and order only in English." Vento was recently the subject of discrimination charges by the city`s Human Relations Commission, charges denied and beat.

Hazleton has seen its stock plummet in the same way despite its location in the hotly contested coal region of the northeastern part of Pennsylvania. Mayor Lou Barletta had the audacity to punish employers who hire illegals and the landlords who rent them. The mayor has even gone so far as to invite the presidential contenders to tour Hazleton to see the problems he`s dealing with and to discuss the illegal immigration issue.

None have accepted. Not one candidate can find the time for a business owner in South Philly or the mayor of Hazleton. Hopefully, it`s not a sign of how they`ll handle this issue from the White House.

The owner of Geno`s Steaks, you know him by now, Joe Vento, and Hazleton mayor, Lou Barletto, joining me as well.

Hey, Joey, who was the last of the presidential candidates to come to Geno`s?


SMERCONISH: And that was in what cycle, do you remember? It was not his reelection.

VENTO: No, no. It`s `92.

SMERCONISH: Wasn`t -- but hasn`t been back?

VENTO: No. Hasn`t been back.

SMERCONISH: Nobody`s been back?

VENTO: No, the only one that came next was Kerry and he went to my competitor across the street. And you know, he didn`t know how to order a cheesesteak anyway.

SMERCONISH: Yes, he ordered with what? Swiss?

VENTO: Swiss. Yes.

SMERCONISH: I think it caused him the election, Joe.

VENTO: Yes, it probably did.

SMERCONISH: But you know what? It`s no laughing matter because, listen, I`ve been around awhile. You`ve been around for awhile. It used to be that no one would run for president without coming to Philadelphia and going to 9th and Passyunk to your place. And if they`re afraid to come there and eat a cheesesteak, doesn`t it say something about how they regard illegal immigration?

VENTO: Well, that`s the thing. They are afraid to address the issue. And I don`t know why. I mean if they`re afraid to come down and challenge a guy like Joey Vento on the speak English, on illegal immigration, I don`t think either one is capable of running the White House. What are they going to do when a real crisis comes up? You know (INAUDIBLE)

SMERCONISH: Well, let me ask you something. Did McCain come and eat there?

VENTO: No, he didn`t come either.

SMERCONISH: So it`s all three of them.

VENTO: It`s all three of them. None has the guys to -- nobody has the guts to talk about immigration except me and Lou Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton. And guess what? What they don`t understand with a town like Hazleton, that`s all through the United States.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Mayor Barletta, I want to ask you, have any of the three -- first of all, have you invited them? And secondly, what has been the response?

MAYOR LOU BARLETTA, HAZLETON, PA.: I have, Michael. I`ve invited all three presidential candidates. They`ve been here five weeks, driving by has Hazleton. I invited them to come here, talk to our police department, talk to our doctors, our teachers, and just learn a little bit of how illegal immigration is affecting communities like ours. Nobody will come to Hazleton. They`re afraid to come to Hazleton.

And I have the same feeling, Michael, if they`re afraid to come to Hazleton, Pennsylvania and talk with Lou Barletta about illegal immigration, how in the world are they going to deal with countries like Iran and Venezuela?

SMERCONISH: And you know, the northeastern part of the state, which is where Hazleton is located, the coal region with a proud tradition, is perceived as being very much in play. Hillary Clinton has spent a lot of time there, you know, vacationed as a child outside Scranton at Lake Winola. I know Barack Obama has been in the northeastern part of the state as well. So it`s not like there are no votes there to be had. They`re just scared to death. And I got to say this, guys, John McCain as well. They`re all three just scared to death of illegal immigration issue.

BARLETTA: There`s no explanation why they would not stop in Hazleton. We are a ground zero of this battle nationally. Hazleton is known all over the country. We don`t only represent Hazleton anymore, we represent cities all across the country, even if they differ -- their opinion differs with mine.

Michael, I believe the American people want to know how they will deal with it and at least show that they understand problems that we`re facing as well as others.

SMERCONISH: Well, and mayor, if not to come for illegal immigration, I mean, what about your constituents, the Obama girl?

BARLETTA: That`s right. I could see bypassing, you know, the mayor, but how you could bypass the Obama girl, I don`t know. But you know, I think they`re sending a very serious message to millions of Americans that want something done with illegal immigration. And you know, Michael, if the next president does not feel this is important, well, then, we`re going to have to fight this in Congress.

SMERCONISH: And Joe Vento, you were accused of discrimination because you asked the people, please speak English. You didn`t say, you know, no shoes, no shirt, no service.


SMERCONISH: No English, no service.

VENTO: That`s right.

SMERCONISH: You simply said, "Would you please speak English. I`m going to serve you anyway."

VENTO: And you know, the funny part, they said I was discriminating against non-speaking English people. If you don`t speak English, the sign means nothing. I put that down as a political statement. I made that. That was saying, "Joe Vento, he`s an American, he believes the language should be English." So anybody who does speak English, come in here to Geno`s Steak. That`s all we understand. That doesn`t mean you`re not going to get a product. That`s not (INAUDIBLE) window`s case. They could never find one person, in my 41 years of business, that was refused service for not speaking English. You just might not got what you thought you ordered.

SMERCONISH: We talked in the -- at the outset of the program, we talked about Senator Obama`s comments about Pennsylvanians clinging to their religion and guns when the going gets rough economically.

Mayor Barletta, you know that he also threw in to the mix anti- immigrant sentiments. And so -- I mean it just shows me how off message he is, in particular, but both of the Democrats and the Republicans on this issue. It`s not anti-immigrants, it`s anti-illegal immigrants.

VENTO: Illegal immigrant. You`re right. Nobody used that word, illegal.

BARLETTA: That`s right. And actually when Hazleton lost its case in federal court, Senator Obama put out a press release saying that Hazleton`s loss was a victory for America. And I took offense to that. You know many of the families that have become victims of t illegal aliens and crimes, I don`t think that was a victory. You know, I don`t see that as a victory for American. I think what Americans want is that the next president to understand how illegal immigration is affecting this country.

SMERCONISH: All right. Now, Joe Vento, if one of the three is watching THE GLENN BECK program tonight and they decide to come down your window and they`re ready to order, how do they avoid the John Kerry catastrophe? What`s the proper way to order down there at Geno`s?

VENTO: You got three chesses you got a choice with, Cheez Wiz, American, and provolone with onions or without. That`s how simple it is and that`s how much English you have to know at Geno`s Steaks.

SMERCONISH: Yes. Most of the people they walk up and they say, I`ll take a whiz-whip, right?

VENTO: That`s correct.

SMERCONISH: Yes, but the thing is, I`ve eaten there with you. You always get provolone.

VENTO: Well, because the true cheese is the provolone with onions or without.

SMERCONISH: And Mayor Barletta, if they`re coming to Hazleton, you`d take them down to Jimmy`s for a Coney Island dog.

BARLETTA: Either get a Jimmy`s hotdog or some Snap`s pizza but they`ve got to come to Hazleton. They`ve got to tell the American people that they`re serious. You know, Michael, the question I have is when that phone rings at 3:00 in the morning and it`s Lou Barletta on the phone, what`s the next president going to say, "Don`t answer it?"

SMERCONISH: Hey look, guys, if nothing else, we know how to feed them.

Mayor Barletta, Joey Vento, my friend, good to see you.

VENTO: Lou, remember something, they talk about winning. By me winning this case, I won one for you and all the American people across the country. We finally won one that matters.

BARLETTA: Thanks, Joe.

VENTO: Speaking English.

SMERCONISH: See you, guys.

BARLETTA: You`re a great American. Thank you.

VENTO: And so are you, Lou. Michael, thank you.

SMERCONISH: The state of Louisiana -- yes, I`m all right, they`re great Americans.

The state of Louisiana think child rapists should be sentenced to death. It`s no laughing matter, but will our Supreme Court justices agree? I`m going to have the latest.




SMERCONISH: This week, for the first time in more than 30 years, the Supreme Court is going to be faced with this question: is the death penalty an appropriate punishment for rape? But perhaps more specifically and definitely more emotionally, is it the appropriate penalty for an adult who rapes a child?

The arguments are going to be heard on Wednesday in the case of a Louisiana man sentenced to death after raping an 8-year-old girl. Nobody has been executed in the United States for rape since 1964.

Joining me now, Lisa Bloo, host of "Open Court" on TrueTv, and Mickey Sherman, criminal defense attorney and author of a brand new book, "How Can You Defend These People?"

Mickey, how can you defend these people?

MICHAEL SHERMAN, "HOW CAN YOU DEFEND THOSE PEOPLE?": With very typical thing, and the problem is that no one is going to stick up for people like this. But then again, we`re talking about the death penalty, and the problem I have is not that their conduct needs to be, in any way, excused, but the system just is not so perfect that we have such an exact science in determining whether or not people are guilty or not. And we`re going to screw it up. We`re going to execute somebody.

SMERCONISH: But that`s an argument in the death penalty in all cases.

SHERMAN: Yes, yes, that`s true. But here, no life was taken. And I`m not trying to be flip, but remember "Godfather 1" when they tried to have somebody killed Vito Corleone said, no, that would not be justice, your daughter is still alive. And not -- again, I`m not trying to make a joke by any means, but traditionally, that`s the way most people think. It shouldn`t.

SMERCONISH: In other words, it`s a disproportionate punishment.


SMERCONISH: And Lisa, that`s part of your argument as well?

LISA BLOO, ANCHOR, TRUTV: Well, I think the Supreme Court is going to look at it based on evolving standards of decency. We still have the death penalty in this country. We`re one of the rare western countries that still does. But we`re narrowing it. We can`t commit -- we can`t execute people anymore for crimes committed when they were juveniles or mentally retarded people, or mentally ill people.

And I think the Supreme Court is going to narrow it again and say, no, not for rapists, even for heinous, sick child rapist like this guy. I mean, look, want to kill him myself, bring him back to life and kill him again for raping an 8-year-old girl. But it`s only about the death penalty versus life in prison, I think life in prison is a better choice for me.

SMERCONISH: You know I wrote an opinion piece in my column, "The Philadelphia Inquirer," two weeks ago and I said it`s time to get rid of the death penalty. But I said it for a different reason than either of you is espousing now. I don`t think we mean it in this country. I think we got legislatures who thump on their chests and talk tough when they`re running for election, and then do nothing when the judiciary stands in their way.

So my view is, let`s really have it and really use it. But otherwise, you`re torturing victims a second time because their families going and thinking that they`re going to be subject to the death penalty, the perpetrators, and they never are.

Mickey, you agree with that? Get rid of it on that basis because we don`t really mean it.

SHERMAN: And there`s some jurisdictions that don`t ask the death penalty because it`s going to bankrupt the counties that are (INAUDIBLE) the people. One of the problems you have here is that the answer is life without parole. But the problem is that the majority of the American public doesn`t believe that they really will be given life without parole. They believe that the system will falter later on and that some bleeding heart liberal judge or prosecutor, whatever, will allow that person out of jail, somewhere in the future, 20 years down the road, will (INAUDIBLE) some child again. That`s the problem. We don`t trust the system to really keep them in jail.

SMERCONISH: Lisa, in the underlined facts of this case, this dirt bag, you know, rapes a relative who`s only 8, and then concocts some story for her that she`s out selling Girl Scout cookies and some teenagers take advantage of her?

BLOO: Yes, it`s sickening. And in addition, she was physically injured so badly that she had to have surgery. I mean this is a horrendous, sickening case. But unfortunately, there are a lot of crimes out there that are repulsive and we don`t execute people for them. Louisiana is the only state, I believe, that still wants to execute people for rape short of murder.

Look, here`s the practical argument against it, too. If you are a sick child rapist and you know you`re facing the death penalty for the crime that you just committed, well, you might as well kill the victim now because it`s not going to be any different of the penalty. Why leave a witness around? And that`s the way criminals think. So I think it`s important to have the death penalty be reserved only for murderers.

SMERCONISH: Well, here would be my response to that. I think you put down the child rapist on the theory that there`s such recidivisms among pedophiles that they`re going to go out and do it again. So I mean, I`ve never believed in.

BLOO: Well, not if you give them life without parole, though, and they can`t do it again.

SMERCONISH: But Lisa, I have never been a proponent of Megan`s Law. That happened within earshot of my radio audience and so it`s been difficult for me to make this case because of the passions that exist in the Philadelphia area. But to me, it`s an admission that the pedophiles are going to strike again to keep track of where they are. Well, if that`s really what you`re saying, then why don`t we never let them out?

BLOO: Well, I`m with you on that. I think we should have long, long prison terms for recidivist child rapists. Absolutely. Lock them up for a very long time, because it`s the one crime that we know people cannot control themselves. It`s obsessive-compulsive behavior. They`re going to do it over and over again. Lock them up in a prison with other adults. You`re not going to have a problem.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Mickey.

SHERMAN: But the public doesn`t believe that`s going to happen. Yes.

SMERCONISH: Mickey, I don`t want it to be too much lawyerly inside baseball, but the Supreme Court is going to be taking a look at this, Coker versus Georgia case, which dealt with the rape of an adult. How do we treat the rapist of an adult versus the rapist of a child generally now?

SHERMAN: Just because the visual reaction and the shock value and the moral outrage is much greater when there`s a child that`s been raped. Shouldn`t be necessarily, they should be equally heinous, but by the same token, human beings look at that as something actually worse than an adult being raped.

SMERCONISH: And Lisa, the outcome of that case was the banning of the death penalty for a rapist of an adult, so I guess this is now Louisiana going to the Supreme Court saying, OK, we know what you said about adults, but what about when the victim is a child?

BLOO: Well, here`s Louisiana`s argument. Yes, we have evolving standards of decency, but we also have evolving standards of understanding child rape. And it`s a lot worse than we thought it was. That child is going to be psychologically damaged for the rest of her life. I mean there`s no doubt about it. And as you`re saying Mike.

SHERMAN: But the child is alive.

BLOO: .the guy`s going to get out again and probably commit this crime over and over again so.

SMERCONISH: Yes, and you know what, they`ll just..

BLOO: .we don`t have to always be limiting the death penalty. That`s what Louisiana state is going to argue.

SMERCONISH: There`s some tendency when you talk about this to like queue the music from "Deliverance." But I got to tell you, my hat is off to Louisiana. I think they --you know, they`ve got some stones down there and they want to do something about it.

SHERMAN: Yes, but we`re going backwards. The trend around the world, not the country, but around the world is to lessen the amount of people who can be executed, not widen it.

SMERCONISH: Yes, I`m not (INAUDIBLE) with that trend.

BLOO: Yes, and the problem is.

SMERCONISH: What are they going to do? Give them a warm blanket and a piece of keesh?

BLOO: Yes, but -- of course not. But the problem is, so many people on death row who has been exonerated from new DNA testing, a lot of those unfortunately in rape cases. And once you execute somebody you can`t go back, you can`t undo the harm. That`s the worst problem with the death penalty, the possible execution of innocent people.

SMERCONISH: Hey Lisa, thank you as always. Mickey, your book is phenomenal.

BLOO: I`ve read it, it`s great.

SMERCONISH: I disagree with you on this issue, but your book`s a great read.

BLOO: Very funny.

SHERMAN: Thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: Coming up, I haven`t seen it by now, you`re going to see it next. I`ve got the story that has Red Sox and Yankee fans all fired up. Stick around.


SMERCONISH: Sports fans will do just about anything to sport their favorite hometown team. In fact, many people take it all so seriously, and if you`ve ever been to an Eagles` game at the old Vet, you know exactly what I`m talking about.

But one fan from Boston has now taken things to a whole new level. It`s just the latest chapter in the one of the longest-running rivalries in sports history.

CNN`s Fredrick Whitfield has that story.


FREDRICK WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Things haven`t been the same for the Yankees since that night in 2004 when David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox blasted an extra inning homer and turned around an American League Championship series the Yankees were all set to win. The hated Sox would go on to win the World Series, their first since World War I, reversing the fabled curse that fell upon the Sox in 1920 when they traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees.

As for their own recent woes, the Yankees hope their upcoming move from the house that Ruth built to a new stadium across the street will prove to be a charm. So Yankee fans were incensed at news of a plot to jinx it. "The New York Post" first broke the story of a worker at the new Yankees Stadium who was a Red Sox fan who buried the jersey in the stadium`s concrete bowels. None were more incensed than other construction workers.

FRANK GRAMAROSSA, STADIUM CONSTRUCTION WORKER: I read an article the other day that Derek Jeter said I hope somebody digs it out and that`s really what gave us the motivation.

WHITFIELD: Yankee brass called the jersey plot a (INAUDIBLE). But wasn`t sure about digging the shirt out.

RANDY LEVINE, PRES., NEW YORK YANKEES: It`s never a good thing to be buried in cement when you`re in New York, so we`re thinking about maybe we should just lay some more cement on it.

WHITFIELD: Rather than tempting faith, workers sprang into action after the Yankees got a tip on the jersey`s location. Five hours of digging on Friday and two more hours Saturday, and there it was, that jersey with the name of you-know-who, the Red Sox`s David Ortiz. Curse averted. The city that never sleeps can rest easy tonight, well, maybe.

Fredricka Whitfield, CNN, Atlanta.


SMERCONISH: That`s all for tonight. I`m Michael Smerconish filling in for Glenn Beck. From New York, good night.