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Obama's Foreign Policy; Sweeping Changes in SATs; Dad Who Fought Church Reveals Secret; What's Fueling the ADHD Explosion?

Aired March 8, 2014 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Hey, good morning. I'm Michael Smerconish. I have worked in television as a commentator and guest host for years, but I have always wanted a program of my own, and this is it. And I am really psyched.

It's fitting that it should air on a Saturday morning given our political climate. See, Saturday mornings growing up in the Philly suburbs back in the '70s that's when my brother and I used to watch pro wrestling.

We'll be down in our rec room surrounded by this cheap paneling sitting on these hideously colored beanbag chairs. I think they were some shade of green and on TV we watch our heroes. That meant Haystacks Calhoun or the living legend, Bruno Samartino, or my favorite, Chief Jay Strongbow. And by the way, I can still do his war dance.

Well, look at me now. Today I work in the media equivalent of the pro wrestling that I used to watch as a kid. In other words, there are good guys and there are bad guys. Every battle is good versus evil. The sides are predetermined, and every fight is choreographed. Nobody got hurt. Watching pro wrestling back in the day, because all of our parents, they knew it was fake.

But today, this media form of entertainment, it comes with a cost. It sets the tone for our public debate. Consider that in the last 30 years, we've experienced unprecedented polarization. In the early 1980s, on Ronald Reagan's watch, 60 percent of the Senate was comprised of moderates. Today, every Senate Republican is more conservative than every Senate Democrat. Every Senate Democrat is more liberal than every Senate Republican.

Compromise? That's the new c word. Incivility reigns. Now, that's the same time period these last three decades that have marked the rise of a polarized media, and I don't believe in coincidence. I see a causal connection. I think too many elected officials are taking their cues from broadcasters who should be wearing wrestling tights.

So I want to try a different approach. I want to try by covering the news of the day in a way that enhances your ability to reach your own independent conclusions. Me? I've got plenty of opinions. They just don't fit neatly into one label. I'm liberal on some things. Conservative on plenty of things and there's a heck of a lot I just haven't figured out. So one rule. There will be no litmus tests for watching. And thank you for joining me.

In this polarized climate, most Republicans don't need an excuse to skewer President Obama but they got one when Russian troops effectively seized control of the Crimea region of Ukraine. The president's critics say this is just one more example of his weakness. Inviting America's adversaries to brazenly act out.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Why do we care? Because this is the ultimate result of a reckless foreign policy where nobody believes in America's strength anymore!

SARAH PALIN, FMR. GOVERNOR, ALASKA: People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans, and equivocates, embloviates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seeing a president that doesn't understand that a strong America leads to a peaceful more stable world. Seeing a president who doesn't understand that a weak America leads to instability. Seeing a president who doesn't seem to understand that our allies, our enemies alike need and want a strong America.

You know, we have long thought and said this president is a smart man. IT may be time to revisit that assumption.


SMERCONISH: We're joined now by a very vocal critic of the president, Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee. Congresswoman, as I've been watching these events unfold over the span of the last 10 days what occurs to me is that what makes us a weak, what makes the United States weak is when elected officials criticized the commander in chief in a time of crisis.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: Well, I think that what we can all agree on, Michael, is that the president's track record with foreign policy has not been one of strength, and that is troublesome to people regardless of what they're political affiliation is.

We want to see our nation strong and healthy, and vibrant and focused on protecting our sovereignty and protecting freedom. Free people, and free markets, and so some of the steps the president has taken not being sure about where to draw a red line have led not only to the American people questioning his decisions, but, I think, world leaders questioning his decisions.

SMERCONISH: But how does it serve our interests?

BLACKBURN: But we're not going to criticize him for it that now.

SMERCONISH: How does it serve our interests to -

BLACKBURN: That's the thing -

SMERCONISH: -- to portray him as something out of the old, you know, Charles Atlas cartoon where he's getting sand kicked in his face? You speak to weakness. I see a man with a mixed record. I see a man who gave the order. It seems like it was a no-brainer in retrospect but it wasn't at the time for Seal Team co team 6 to take out Bin Laden. I see somehow who has incrementally increased these drone strike attacks. I see the NSA still spying in the name of national security. I see an air war that was supported in Libya and what I don't understand is how this equates to weakness?

BLACKBURN: Well, in what you're describing is what we hear from so many of our constituents. It's inconsistency. And there are times where it's been very weak. There are time that he has spoken out in strength and he said the right things, but you referenced to growing up and sitting in those bean bag chairs, and I bet as you were doing so, your mom just like my mom reminded me every day that actions speak louder than words.

And what the American people would like to see is a consistency of action from this president. This is a - a situation that, yes, indeed, the world is watching very closely.

SMERCONISH: Well, let's - let's then address the - let's address the big question -

BLACKBURN: -- everyone is concerned about an aggressive Russia.

SMERCONISH: Congresswoman, let's address the big question. Because when you say actions -


SMERCONISH: My mom did say that, by the way, and usually she had a yardstick in her hand when she said it to my brother and me. When you say that actions -

BLACKBURN: So did mine.

SMERCONISH: -- speak louder than words, are you saying that Crimea warrants a U.S. troop commitment? This is another thing that has bothered me. I hear all the criticisms of the president as a 98-pound weakling but I don't hear Republicans opponents saying we should commit troops. Are you ready to make that statement?

BLACKBURN: Michael, I think that what we should do is look at the options that are there. The president in his phone call with Putin has laid out some things - the international monitors, the logistical support, bringing together the talks that would be under international oversight, if you will. Then looking at sanctions and I know it's early in the process for that, and that the State Department is working on those, but certainly that's a consideration that we should move forward on, and probably do so quickly.

SMERCONISH: But it sounds like those are the things that he actually is doing. Permit me to ask it a different way. On the world stage, do you see a European leader right now that you perceive to be acting with the sort of strength that you wish you'd get from President Obama? And if so, who is that individual and what is it that they are doing?

BLACKBURN: I think that what we would like to see is President Obama be more forceful and take that lead. You know, let's look at the issue of the energy right now. And Speaker Boehner had a great piece in the "Wall Street Journal" speaking specifically on that. There are things that we could do domestically to work with our European allies and in the energy sector, with LNG. You know, the House took an action itself last week to allow, or this week, to allow loan guarantees for the Ukrainian people. Wide bipartisan support.

What we need to do is realize, we are Team America. We need to send this message to Russia, to China, to others that may be aggressors and say, we are not going to stand for this.

SMERCONISH: Well, that's actually where I began, when you put this in the terms of, we are Team America. And maybe I should express it this way. David Ignatius had a great piece in the "Post" this week. He interviewed former Defense Secretary Gates. Secretary Gates, as you know, congresswoman, having served for both Republicans and Democrats himself.

BLACKBURN: Sure, absolutely.

SMERCONISH: And he said in a time of crisis we need to speak with one voice, and I think that's what upsets me the most about this.

BLACKBURN: Absolutely.

SMERCONISH: We're in a crisis, but we're not. You saw that montage. We're not speaking with one voice and some are putting politics ahead of national security. That's how I perceive it, but you get the final word.

BLACKBURN: This president has had a very weak past when it comes to foreign policy, and has had difficulty in articulating a foreign policy. What we want to do is make certain that we move to a point that the world understands what our foreign policy is, and that we are going to stand with people that honor freedom, free people, free markets and that we protect the sovereignty of the United States. That should be our goal.

SMERCONISH: Congresswoman, thanks so much.

For better or worse -

BLACKBURN: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: You're my first guest ever on CNN and I'm appreciative.

The unfinished story. Thank you.

The S.A.T. is one of the most important tests that many students will ever take. Now it's undergoing big changes. The secrets behind the overhaul and why the exam still may not be fair.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SMERCONISH: If you're like me, this image still strikes fear in your heart. I took the S.A.T.s.. We all did. Right? I remember that stress and the questions and the empty circles. The clock is ticking. Your future may depend on getting all the answers right.

The College Board, the group behind the S.A.T., just announced sweeping changes to the test that will take effect in the spring of 2016. There's an unfinished story here. About the reasons for the overhaul and whether it will help students get better scores.

Todd Balf wrote "The New York Times" magazine cover story for tomorrow about the test, and its role in education. He joins me now from Boston. Hey, Todd. No joke. If Jeffrey Zucker were aware of my S.A.T. score back in the day, Central Bucks West class of 1980, he'd have never given me the gig on CNN which explains my bias against the test. My question for you - how did a test that was designed to reveal diamonds in the rough turn out to be a test that many of us think rewards privilege?

TODD BALF, "NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think that, the whole idea behind the S.A.T., and by the way, just to mention, I think that you and me both would be, you know, given my S.A.T. score, I'm not sure I'd be working for the "New York Times" either. So I think we're in agreement there. But, yes. I think that, you know, the idea with the S.A.T. historically was that it would serve the interests of Ameritocracy. That this was going to be a standardized test that people could, you know could, do equally well on.

The problem is, that it's very socio-economically based. There's been a lot of discriminatory issues over the years with it. So, you know, it's been problematic, and, you know, certainly the test and the College Board as a whole has a pretty - and has had a pretty significant PR problem.

SMERCONISH: Well, is it possible to develop a test that can't be gamed? I read your piece. Your piece is terrific and gives a great insight into the thought process, but at the end of it I was still wondering, even with these changes, will those who can afford to hire a prep service still have a significant edge?

BALF: Well, that's the big question. Right? I mean, we're still early in this process. They've just announced the changes. You know, I think they've contracted with the Khan Academy, a well-respected online resource for students to help everybody.

So the idea, you know, the way David Coleman, who is the president of the College Board, the relatively new president of the College Board, explained it to me is that this is a nudge. That there should be additional changes coming down the pike, and I don't think you know - this is a huge issue, right? It encompasses all the education. Our students being prepared equally at the high school level. I think we pretty much are all in agreement to know that isn't the case.

SMERCONISH: You make -

BALF: Whatever should happen - go ahead. SMERCONISH: You make reference to some research by folks, some academics associated with Bates College and what they point out, is that when you do a comparison at those schools where it's not necessary that you're application include an S.A.T. score, you find a very negligible difference between students who were admitted with no S.A.T. score and those who were admitted by filing an S.A.T. score, which, of course, begs the question maybe the whole thing ought to be ditched?

BALF: Correct. Right. It's a very significant study. You know, there have been test optional schools, so-called test optional schools dating back decades. Many of them small liberal arts schools, but this was the first study to look at a large swath of schools, a lot of different types of schools. I think there's 30 different universities and colleges that were looked at.

This is a very significant study, and I think, but the fact of the matter is, it's that still 80 percent of four-year colleges require the S.A.T. and I think the issue is, it's complicated. There's a lot of - you know, because of the common application, there's a - you know, a huge number of applications that colleges, college admissions offices are trying to funnel through, and I mean, I know - you know, I'm here in the northeast, in the Boston area. You know, a school like Northeastern sees 50,000 applications. You know? It's kind of problematic to think that a school of that size could do -

BALF: What occurred to me in reading your piece and I hope everybody reads it tomorrow in the "Times," is that if we go the achievement route, it's really going to put the onus on teachers.

Todd Balf, thank you so much for being on the program. That's tomorrow's "New York Times" magazine.

The headlines redefined. We're finding out for the first time who really blew the whistle on the Penn State abuse scandal.


SMERCONISH: Headlines redefines. The headlines in big, bold print that may have missed the market. Number one, this one from Read - Sources say McQueary abused as a boy. This is what I think it should have been. Penn State fan blows whistle to D.A. after abuse revealed in online chat, and I refer to excellent reporting at ESPN's magazine by Don Van Natta Jr. under the headline, "The Whistle-blowers Last Dance."

You remember Mike McQueary in the context of the Penn State story. Mike McQueary, the big red head. He was a star quarterback, then goes on to be an assistant coach under the tutelage of Joe Paterno. It's Mike McQueary who sees something despicable take place in a Penn State shower in 2001 involving Jerry Sandusky but we all know he didn't call police.

I often wondered how did law enforcement find out about Mike McQueary and what he saw in the shower. Now, we know the story and it's unbelievable. Don Van Natta reports that nine years after the shower incident, McQueary's older brother is involved in an online chat pertaining to Penn State football and some random Penn State fan says, "Do you ever think Jerry Sandusky will get a head coaching job?" McQueary's brother responds by saying, "Heck, no. My brother walked in on him with a young boy in the shower."

Here's the kicker. That individual, and let me give him a shout-out, because he's a hero. Christopher Hauser. He did immediately, what Mike McQueary never did. He saw that report in the e-mail chat and he sent a report to the D.A. in Center County, Pennsylvania. The Center County D.A. acted on that tip, reached out for McQueary and got his story.

In other words, the person participating in the online chat did what McQueary should have done nine years prior. That's a heck of a story.

Norah, give me another one. This is one comes from the "San Antonio Express News." New evidence of wrongful conviction. Behind that headline, there is so much more to this story. Maybe the headline should have been, Governor Abbott, or Governor Davis, may have to admit that Texas killed an innocent man. That would be more like it.

You know, over the years I've been involved in many number of debates pertaining to the death penalty as a death penalty proponent and like others I have said to those who are in opposition to the death penalty, "Well, name for me one individual who was put to death that we now conclusively can say was innocent?" People aren't able to answer that question. That may be about to change.

Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in Texas in 2004 for having killed his three daughters. The evidence that caused his conviction, twofold. A jailhouse snitch, and also so-called arson expert testimony. Well, the arson expert testimony has been discounted, has been disproven now, and aspersions had been cast on the jailhouse snitch, which is what that "San Antonio Express" headline is all about.

But here's what I think is really going on in this story. Rick Perry, the governor of Texas is on his way out. Rick Perry has never wavered in his belief that Cameron Todd Willingham got what he deserved. I think the likelihood is strong that his successor, whether that's Greg Abbott, whether that's Wendy Davis, might soon after taking office in Texas have to come to terms with the fact that Texas did, in fact, execute an innocent individual.

And that will change the death penalty debate. David Graham from the "New Yorker" deserves all the credit for bringing that story to light.

Headlines redefined.

Hey, hang out a few minutes. I have a secret that I've been keeping for more than a year. Al Snyder has been keeping it for a lot longer that than, and you're about to meet him.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AL SNYDER: My first thought was - eight justices don't have the common sense god gave a goat.


SMERCONISH: That was Al Snyder back in 2011. The U.S. Supreme Court had just ruled the Westboro Baptist Church had the right to free speech where the group protested outside of Snyder's son's funeral. Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Snyder, 20 years old when he was killed in Iraq in 2006. The signs that Westborough members carried outside of Matt's funeral, despicable. In fact, I'm not even going to read them aloud. Al Snyder has been keeping a secret for a while and he's here to share it with us now. Al, what's the secret?

SNYDER: Well, the whole time I was going through this, I managed to keep from the media that while I was fighting this hate, gay hate group, that I myself was gay.

SMERCONISH: Why keep it a secret during the course of the multiyears of litigation?

SNYDER: Well, in the very beginning of the process, my partner and I made the decision that we would not share this, because we didn't want to turn this into a gay issue. It wasn't a gay issue. It was a human issue, and we felt like everybody had the right to be buried peacefully.

I'm sure Westboro would have had a field day had they known, and after losing a son and going through what I did with the Westboro Church, I just didn't want to deal with anymore on top of it.

SMERCONISH: You gave me the privilege of telling your story in long form for "Politico" magazine. Please, tell the CNN audience who was Walt Fisher?

SNYDER: Walt was my partner for many years. He was a good man. I could not have gone through what I went through without him by my side.

He was the one I confided in. He was the one that was there for the tears. He was the one that was there for the glory. But he never got any glory for it.

And I think it's about time people know that this man played a very important role in the outcome of this trial, for me, at least, and I wish he could see the outcome of the trial.

SMERCONISH: In other words, individuals such as myself praise you for the strength that you had to stand up to Westboro Baptist, to take them all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. You want folks to know that all the while Walt was there at your side?

SNYDER: The whole time.

SMERCONISH: Including sitting in the chambers of the Supreme Court. SNYDER: Yes. We sat in the chambers of the Supreme Court during the first federal trial Walt was not with me. He did testify in the federal courts, but every other day that he wasn't testifying, he stayed off. We didn't want the jury to be distracted by him being in the courtroom.

SMERCONISH: And, Al, this was kept out of the case, and it was kept out of the case because a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush said your sexuality has no place. When questions would be asked of you in deposition and other portions of the discovery phase, this judge, Judge Bennett, said, not going to let that happen.

SNYDER: He did, and I was very grateful to Judge Bennett, especially when they requested my medical records, and there were portions of the medical record that did indicate that I was gay, and Judge Bennett gave them the medical records, but blocked anything out of the records that dealt with that.

SMERCONISH: Yu allowed me to read, and, Norah, if we have that envelope, please, put it up on the screen. You allowed me to read letters. There's one of them. That your son would send to you from basic training, Parris Island.

I mean, look at the way it's addressed. "Dad", 760 Spring Street, Lane, pardon me, York, Pennsylvania. In reading those letters, he would acknowledge, he would give a shout-out, he would ask about Mr. Walt.

And I guess my question is, how was Matt, your son, your marine son, with your relationship?

SNYDER: Matt was fantastic. Him and Walt had a great relationship. They would do things together. They would talk a lot.

I remember the night that Matt found out, or the night that we discussed my relationship with Matt, he was probably around 14, and he -- we were sitting there and he said to me, is Mr. Walt gay, dad? And I said, well, would it make a difference?

And Matt said to me, well, it would if you were. And I said, really? He said, well -- and then I just -- I said to him, I said, matt, Walt is gay, and so am I. And he just kind of looked at me and nodded.

And I said, are you gay? And Matt said, no. No. I'm -- I'm straight. I like girls.

And I said to him, well, when did you decide you were going to like girls? And he just kind of looked at me and said, well, what do you mean? I said, when did you decide you wanted to like girls? And he said, well, it just kind of came natural.

And I just looked at him and nodded, and I guess a couple seconds later he got it, and he was fine with it. I'm sure there were times that, you know, he thought about it, but, you know, as far -- he was still close to Walt and still close to me.

SMERCONISH: Westboro, it seems, figured out during the course of the litigation that you were gay. They weren't permitted to bring it in.

But I want to make clear is that, Matthew, your son, was a heterosexual.

SNYDER: Yes, he was.

SMERCONISH: Westboro didn't know when they showed up at the funeral what you've now shared with the world. They singled you out and showed up with all that hate without any knowledge whatsoever and you decided to deep a secret.

You were the recipient of an outpouring support from the left, from center, from the right. Have you considered whether you would have been the beneficiary of all that support in fighting Westboro if America knew at the time that you were gay?

SNYDER: I don't know that, Michael, but I wasn't about to take that chance. I think I would have still had a lot of support and I did have a lot of support from the right, the left, straight and gay people, but I wasn't willing to take that chance.

SMERCONISH: Al, when the whole case was over, you received a communication from a supporter. I want you to tell that story. A person who said to you, don't worry about the Phelps. Fred Phelps and his family members, are the Westboro Baptist Church. You know what I'm referring to?

SNYDER: Yes. After we went through the -- after we got the decision from the Supreme Court, the next day I got an e-mail from someone, and it actually felt like a death threat against the Westboro Baptist Church.

SMERCONISH: What did you do with it?

SNYDER: I called my attorney first and showed him the e-mail that I got, and he got in touch with Steve Six who was the attorney general at that time out in Kansas. And it was turned over to the FBI.

SMERCONISH: In other words, you were concerned that someone was going to do harm to the leadership of Westboro Baptist, and even though they had treated you in such a despicable fashion for a period of years, and they still do, you undertook those measures to protect them?

SNYDER: Right. I don't want to see anybody get hurt out of this, Michael. I just wanted to bury my son in peace. And I didn't want to see anybody get hurt.

Do I like the Westboro Baptist church? No. Could I give my opinion of them on camera? No. But I don't want to see anybody get hurt.

SMERCONISH: May I just thank you for your courage? Gay, straight, makes no difference. You stood up to some folks who really are degenerates, in my opinion -- the way in which they've treated you and other military families, and the courage that you showed in staring them down. I only wish the Supreme Court had been 8-1 the other way, but all praise to you for telling the story and fighting that good fight. Thank you.

SNYDER: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: God bless your son.

SNYDER: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: I am addicted to "True Detective". And I am hoping the season finale tomorrow night will live up to all of my expect aces. Stick around and find out why I think it's the best show on TV.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd consider myself a realist, all right? But in philosophical terms, I'm what's called a pessimist.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. What's that mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means I'm bad at parties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me tell you, you ain't great outside of parties either.


SMERCONISH: Hey, have you been watching the HBO show "True Detective"? It is really filled the void for folks like me mourning the loss of "Breaking Bad".

Well, tomorrow night is the season finale. If you've seen any of the episodes you know anything can happen.

Christopher Orr is the senior editor and film critic for "The Atlantic." He's been following it as closely as I have.

Christopher, I think the appeal of the show is as follows -- if I'm watching a TV show, if I'm watching a movie with my wife, I want to see the gratuity of sex and violence. She's into the messaging. She wants the signs. She wants the symbols.

It's like we're watching two different films or two different shows. It's got something for both of us I guess is what I'm trying to say.

What do you think the appeal of is "True Detective"?

CHRISTOPHER ORR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I wrote half way through the season, it was the best show on television, which is a risky thing to do when the show is only midway through.

And so far, I think it's lived up to that. A lot really hinges on the finale tomorrow night. It is a mystery. And I tend to think a mystery is only as good as its conclusion.

But I think there are several things. I think the writing is tremendous. I think Matthew McConaughey in the lead role as Rust Cohle is just mesmerizing. One of the best television performances I've seen.

SMERCONISH: Unbelievable.

ORR: And Woody Harrelson, too. Two stars at the top of their game.

SMERCONISH: You know, for the benefit of those who have not been watching and hurry up and get caught up if you're in that category, I wonder if this will change the television model? Because the show will continue, but this plot point ends tomorrow night. It's the equivalent of an eight-hour movie, and while there willing something on TV called "True Detective", it won't look anything like what's on the screen now? ORR: That's exactly right. This is basically a miniseries. It's an eight-part movie with two stars. Either of whom is going to return next year. The show next year, if it indeed is on next year, it might be a little later, is going to have a new cast. It's going to be set in a new location. It's going to have an entirely separate plot.

And I think we're going to see a lot more of this coming in television for a lot of reasons. One is simply you can get stars like Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson to commit to six months or so, which is very different from getting somebody to commit for five years to regular television show.

SMERCONISH: Is television where the action is now? I mean, after Bryan Cranston and that fabulous cast in "Breaking Bad", now we're buzzing about "True Detective"? Do the A-list actors and actresses want to be associated in a TV project wherein the past, it was all about film?

ORR: I think that's absolutely right. I think it's been a gradual shift for the last decade or so, you know, starting back with the excellence of "The Sopranos" and "The Wire." But more and more you've seen sort of big film stars who have been moving to the television screen.

And later this year for instance, Cinemax is putting on something by Steven Soderbergh, a major film director, starring Clive Owen, about a turn of the century hospital. I think this is a model we're going to see more and more going forward.

SMERCONISH: Hey, before you leave me, Norah, if you could put up the beer can, stick figures, and, Christopher, you know what I'm talking about. It seems --

ORR: I do.

SMERCONISH: Yes, look at you laughing. It seems like we're headed for resolution based on five characters, maybe symbolized by the way in which Matthew McConaughey was making those stick figures out of beer cans. Give me a prediction.

ORR: Well, I think that those five figures who have recurred in several shots throughout the show, it seems that they are part of some kind of diabolical right that involves the -- the rape and perhaps murder of women, or young children, and we've seen a few scenes where there are five scary figures circled around someone lying helpless on the ground, and I think we're likely to see that resolved tomorrow night.

SMERCONISH: And Nic Pizzolatto, who is the genius behind "True Detective," you've written extensively about this for "The Atlantic," I think a great analysis. He doesn't seem like he's headed for a twist. He doesn't like it when audience has been fooled for the whole season. He says it's pretty much the way the evidence and story line should make it?

ORR: Yes, he's been very clear on this. He said that the finale won't have anything super natural. He said that the idea that either Marty Hart, the Harrelson character, or Rust Cohle, the McConaughey character, neither of them will turn out to be the killer. I'm expecting some small twists in here but I think he's basically going in the direction that he seemed to be going for a while. I don't think he's going to pull the rug out from under us.

SMERCONISH: Christopher Orr, thank you. My house will be in a radio silence tomorrow night. Please, don't call.

ORR: Thanks so much for having me on. I've enjoyed watching the show.

SMERCONIS: Thanks for that.

It's a must-read, a new book on the ADHD explosion. Is it fueled by medical science or money and ambition? I'm about to ask one of the co-authors.


SMERCONISH: I've always wanted to host a book show here on CNN. For the next five minutes I get my wish. Today's book is "The ADHD Explosion: Myths, Education, Money, and Today's Push for Performance".

And here to talk about it is one of the book's co-authors, Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, who's a professor of psychology at Cal Berkeley.

Dr. Hinshaw, just to put the problem in perspective, the Centers for Disease Control says the number of children diagnosed with ADHD has jumped 40 percent in the last decade. Maybe that's not necessarily a bad thing, ride? Perhaps it means that kids who are in need of a diagnosis are now getting necessary treatment.

DR. STEPHEN HINSHAW, CO-AUTHOR, "THE ADHD EXPLOSION": Yes, I mean, part of the issue here is that we're finally recognizing a real condition. But a 40 percent jump in nine years stretches credulity. It must be that we're diagnosing too many kids on the basis of a very brief pediatric visit that doesn't do the thorough job that's needed.

So, recognizing ADHD is fine but this kind of increase has us concerned. SMERCONISH: And you have charts and maps in the book that illustrate your point about the disparity that exists among the states in terms of diagnosis and medication. I'm putting one of them up on the screen right now. Think about it for a moment. By living in North Carolina instead of California, the chances that a child would be diagnosed with ADHD were 2 1/2 times higher.

How come?

HINSHAW: Well, we looked systematically a lot of factors. Maybe it's demographics. There's more Hispanics in California and they tend to be diagnosed at a lower rate traditionally. That doesn't explain too much of the difference. Is it the number of doctors? That didn't explain much of the difference.

When we got to school policy, this is where we found some very interesting things. North Carolina and many Southern states started accountability legislation before No Child Left Behind. And when that started to happen, of diagnosis of ADHD jumped, effort poorest kids in those states.

And we think that the focus on testing leads to diagnosis, both to get kids treated and in some cases to get kids out of the district test scores. School policy may have a lot to do with this sudden jump in ADHD diagnosis over the last decade or two.

SMERCONISH: Let me -- let me say it in a simplified fashion the way they took it from your book when I thought it was provocative. It would appear that there is a relationship between high stakes testing and the increased level of diagnosis of ADHD.

HINSHAW: That's right. So if test scores are the be all and end all, the district wants to get kids treated to get those scores up, but also in some cases, if you get a kid a diagnosis in a special ed designation, that kid's scores may not count in the district's average score. So both are legitimate reasons and also in some cases for gaming the system, diagnosis may be a quick and dirty when it not done carefully in the way of either getting kids help or trying to get the boost in those test scores.

SMERCONISH: And, Dr. Hinshaw, we have just a minute left between us but you are also concerned the new emphasis on pre-K is going to impact the level of diagnosis. Take 30 seconds and tell me how.

HINSHAW: So, pre-K is, I think, a really good thing, left and right is pushing that these days. The American Academy of Pediatric says we can and should diagnose ADHD early by the age of 4, but only if it's done carefully. If we push pre-K hard and don't take the time to assess and diagnose, we could get a surge of over-diagnoses and that's something we want to avoid. Appropriate diagnosis is great. These kids need help when the problem is there.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Hinshaw, you really struck a chord. I talk about it on radio and I just can't tell you the level of interest from all across the country.

Dr. Stephen Hinshaw, thank you, sir.

HINSHAW: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Hey, it's my program, so I get the final word. And when I do, I will explain why I have an emotional connection to, of all things, a new U.S. warship.


SMERCONISH: Since 9/11, I've taken a keen interest in Flight 93 which crashed in western Pennsylvania. I wrote a book about Jose Melendez Perez. He's an unsung American hero who was responsible for keeping the 20th hijacker off that flight.

I've often visited the national parks services memorial in Shanksville and I raised money for its completion, which is why last week I was thrilled to take our 16-year-old son not commissioning of the USS Somerset. That's the newest war vessel named in honor of the Flight 93 passengers and the people of Somerset County, which is where the plane crashed. In fact, I shot that footage with my iPhone.

Maybe you already know but a commissioning marks a ship's entry into active service. The tradition is three centuries old and in our country, it began in 1775 when our Continental Navy commissioned the Alfred. The event was filled with pageantry. It inspired a sense of patriotism. I literally got goose bumps from the combination of the flags and the songs and the speeches.

But most exhilarating was the setting of the first watch and the manning of the ship by sailors and marines.

The Somerset carries many remembrances of 9/11, 22 tons of steel from a crane that stood near where flight 93 crashed are now in the Somerset's bowel stem. The names of the passengers of Flight 93, they are all painted inside the ship.

And there's another way that they're honored. See in the early days of ship building when foundations were built with wood, the law of the sea dictated that each sailor who served as a member of the commissioning crew owns one plank that he may claim when the ship is decommissioned and disassembled.

The 40 heroes of Flight 93 are all now recognized as plank owners of the USS Somerset. What a fitting tribute.

But we also have to remember given the events of the past two weeks that this ship is designed for warfare and will be deployed as part of our Pacific Fleet. Of course, as our military is poised to diminish pre-World War II levels, the deployment is a reminder that we can't fight all war on all fronts and that every newly commissioned ship is going to have to do that much more.

Thank you so much for watching. We'll see you next Saturday.