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Donald Sterling Breaks His Silence; 2016 Election Discussed
Aired May 2, 2014 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Hey good evening, I'm Michael Smerconish. And tonight, Donald Sterling is breaking his silence, as if he hadn't done enough talking already, but he's not apologizing for the racist remarks that were caught on tape which ignited a fire storm across the country. Nope, the man who for the moment anyway still owns the Los Angeles Clippers is blaming the woman heard on the tapes with him, V. Stiviano.
And he says, "I wish I had just paid her off." That's according to Jason Binn of Du Jour Magazine. Stiviano's lawyer says his client, the woman behind the mask and Sterling were just good friends. I would ask, "Why Sterling gave here such lavish gifts?" The attorney said, "Because he cares about her."
The attorney also insists Stiviano was not the one who leaked the tapes. Meanwhile ESPN and the New York Post report that Sterling has been battling cancer. CNN has not been able to confirm that report. And when a reporter asked Stiviano about it, her response was less than illuminating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pardon me. Did you know that Donald Sterling was fighting prostate cancer?
V. STIVIANO: I love your sandal.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
V. STIVIANO: All right, where are they from?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Banana Republic.
V. STIVIANO: I love Banana Republic. They make nice things.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. Why are you wearing the shield?
V. STIVIANO: Why are you holding a microphone?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's my job.
V. STIVIANO: Well then, it's my job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: We've got a lot to talk about here. Joining me now is CNN's Rachel Nichols. Also the original Jerry Maguire, sports agent Leigh Steinberg. Rachel, not an apology but regret at not having paid her off.
RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, not regret for anything that anybody else in this country would like to hear regret. And this is definitely going to dig him even deeper. Is that possible to dig him even deeper? I think this has done it. Any NBA owner who may have been waffling, right, about, "Gee my old friend Donald." So they really vote him out, "is this the slippery slope?"
You hear something like that, you can't work with this man, you can't have him associated with you league.
SMERCONISH: Well maybe Leigh I'm over thinking it but as I parch that limited statement that we received from Du Jour, "I wish I had paid her off." The implication is that she was looking to be paid off, is it not?
LEIGH STEINBERG, SPORTS AGENT: I think it is. The whole thing is like Alice in wonderland, gets curiouser and curiouser. This woman is been out roller skating in front of her house with sort of duck build visor in front of it. But she doesn't want any press. She knows they're out there. I think what you're seeing with Donald Sterling is denial. And you would hope that someone would be around him to give him some real life advice here and explain to him the dilemma that he's in.
I don't think he's really aware of the fact that yesterday 10 owners said we want him out, we want him revoked. He has five days to respond. After that there's 10 days till the hearing. And if they vote three quarter after that hearing, that franchise automatically transfers directly to the league. And it doesn't matter what any of this (inaudible) on rush of it is.
And there's a clues 14J that says, "When you have revocation hearing, every owner agrees that the decision is final, binding and they won't take recourse in court."
SMERCONISH: So to use the line for which you're known, at least through Tom Cruise, are they going to have to show him the money? How are they going to resolve the financial issue and put a price tag on that team?
STEINBERG: They don't necessarily have to accept the highest offer. Once the franchise transfers, it's not his business anymore. He bought it for $12 million. It's probably worth somewhere north to 700. What will happen is they'll put a list of criteria together and one of them will be scrutinized very heavily. Any statement, any intimations of racist or any other problems and then they look for the group that most represents a D packet owner who's got the where with all to go ahead and takes this opportunity and finally get the Clippers as more than the stepbrother here.
And second of all someone in a group, it will be layered with entertainment figures, blacks, Latino's, representative of southern California, they can make it heal. This is the first time in the history of the Clippers, they have an actually opportunity to start to retake the market, down here in Los Angeles.
SMERCONISH: Rachel, in the court of public opinion, and I hear your point at the outset that this is a guy who hardly could be rehabilitated, right? At some level, does it help him that she's wearing that, whatever that contraption is, I mean do people now in middle America seat back and say, "Man, she looks a little whacked herself." What really went on there?
NICHOLS: I mean look, she might have stock in the visor company, right? I mean you got to start wondering, "Yeah, the fall of things." You know, she's got the pink visor for days, the night visor, the black visor and now you can have your style, who knows anyway.
But the thing is it doesn't matter how crazy she is, this is serious stuff. She's a side show, she's a circus act. But this is serious, this is being incredibly racist throughout years and years, there's evidence, there's all kinds of lawsuits that have been filed. And you're dealing with the league of players and coaches and managers and now owners who don't want to deal with it, fans that don't want him in their game.
And trust me, the players are walking this process very, very closely. Leigh was outlining, it takes five days. But this, it takes 10 days for his. But if it does starts to drag on, because by the way, those 10 owners who unanimously decided to "move expeditiously", they didn't decide to give him notice. This process actually hasn't even started yet.
They just decided to move forward with the discussion about giving him the order. That's a big difference.
SMERCONISH: And no one wants to stand up, I think to the snow ball effect that's now taking place in this case. Rachel, Leigh stick with me, because I want to bring in Bo Kimble. He actually played for Donald Sterling's Clippers in the1990's. Hey Bo, thank you for being here. Would you please give us the short version of the story where now you see in retrospect why you might now have received more playing time while on the Clippers?
BO KIMBLE, RET. COLLEGE BASKETBALL PLAYER, LOYOLA MARYMOUNT UNIVERSITY: Well, Donald Sterling is a very shrewd businessman. And when I was playing for the Clippers I had a close in my contract that if I played over 15 minutes per game, I make $300. And we did that just so it wouldn't be a long hold out. I would be there to join the team after contract negotiations. Little did I know that it would be to my demise.
But again, it's a business. And Donald Sterling has -- wasn't thinking in that regard about the team and winning games. When you have a lottery pick, the guidance has came out in 35 points a game, you would think team that lack scoring wasn't winning at the time, you know, it was my assumption that they will like me to play and bring a value to the team and hopefully start winning right away.
SMERCONISH: In other words you think he gave the coach the word, "Not to play Bo Kimble, because I don't want to write a check for a $300K." KIMBLE: Well, I found this information out last year from someone from the front office. And I was shocked to hear it at the time. But it all made sense. You know, when you lose in 25 by the 35 games, you have your top draft choice sitting on a bench and you're not scoring and you're not shooting well, then it all comes together. But again, I just found this our last year.
Now, if I know half of the things that I knew now, probably would have been a little bit more selfish on the court, probably would put the ball in the whole. But you can not score from the bench. And so from a business perspective my hand was tied, it cost me millions in endorsements, marketing, opportunity of a second contract.
So really it was detrimental to my family but at the same time I was honored to be Clipper, I was an eight pick and I was -- had the opportunity to provide for my family.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Leigh Steinberg, if that's the way the story unfolded and I don't doubt those word in that regard. It doesn't sound to me like a guy who is going to go quietly into that night, meaning Sterling. I'm wondering if the longer this plays itself out the more the value of that franchise ins diminished, maybe that's the incentive.
STEINBERG: No, it's not diminished because it's a franchised. It's got the opportunity to do a media contract, very akin to the Lakers and to the Dodgers. It doesn't have that kind of contract now. It's a growth stock. Donald Sterling is penurious, he was penurious for years. And I understand Bo's story. And Bo was very popular, clear coming out a loyal and fan favorite.
The reality of this situation is that this is all just a detrimental because there's no way that Adam Silver, Kevin Johnson, the Union are going to allow this to drag on. They will force the issue very quickly. This fire storm is not going to away. This is the most vilified public figure in sports since Michael Vick dog fighting.
This issue has engaged the entire country. There's not a sanction being in the United States who's followed the news that has not have an opinion in all of this. This is...
SMERCONISH: Well speaking of opinion, when we come back, I'm going to share some polling data with you that might surprise you. Thank you Rachel Nichols and thank you Bo Kimble. Leigh Steinberg, please stay right where you are.
So now that Donald Sterling has broken his silence, what will that mean for a future sale of the L.A. Clippers? And V. Stiviano still seems to have avoided an investigation into a secret recording, how come? Well, we'll ask Gloria Allred, next.
SMERCONISH: Donald Sterling is speaking out tonight but what he is saying doesn't seem to be helping his cause and it certainly doesn't seem like it will change the minds of the NBA owners who are beginning to process of deciding whether the force Sterling to sale the Los Angeles Clippers.
Joining me now, victim's right, Attorney Gloria Allred. She's known Donald Sterling and his wife Shelly for many years. Also sports super agent Leigh Steinberg. I have to begin Gloria with you, Inquiring Minds want to know, why aren't you already representing this women?
GLORIA ALLRED, LAWYER: I have no comment on that and she does have an attorney.
SMERCONISH: Are you surprise that there's not an investigation already underway by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office about the context in which the reportings took place?
ALLRED: Not necessarily Michael for this reason. We really don't what all of facts are. I'd seen reports for example that say that she was his archivist, that she in other words was recording him with his knowledge, with his consent. I've seen other reports that say someone else was there who heard it. And so, the real question is, "Did she do anything illegal?"
Of course in California, it's a two-party state. Both parties to the recording must consent to the recording with some limited exceptions. So, essentially her position is that he had knowledge of it that she didn't do anything illegal. And of course reports also say that she denies having released it to the press.
SMERCONISH: There's a new poll out tonight from CBS and the New York Times. Nora (ph), can you put that up on the screen because I want to get my guests to react to this. What I -- and I don't know if the two of you if you can see it. Let me just tell you that relative to Donald Sterling's punishment, 9 percent say "too lenient", 25 percent say "too hard", 55 percent like the porridge say "it's just right."
The 25 percent who say "too hard", Leigh, is that number take you by surprise?
STEINBERG: Not at all. I think there's a real strong undercurrent here. That's not the way most of the country feels which is that there's freedom of speech...
STEINBERG: ...and that he shouldn't be punish for free speech. And then there is a strong sentiment that it shouldn't be taken form him, that you own this. People misunderstand. When someone buys a franchise in professional sports, it is not like buying another private business. It is both subject to whole set of rules, bylaws and the better interest of the sport.
And the owners agree to that. They understand that there's an over winning interest in the sport to have their brand be strong, have public opinion. This is not everyday bread and butter on the table, we're talking about discretionary entertainments spending. So there's an entertainment business aspect to it. They know that when they buy that. So, I think there is an undercurrent of ragged individualism in private property here. But it's misperceived because this is not a taking of some private business, it's a leagues standing up and saying, "We have existential threat here." This third rail operation...
ALLRED: Well, I might disagree.
SMERCONISH: Go ahead Gloria, why?
ALLRED: I might disagree -- well, I mean in the sense that, you know, I don't know which argument would prevail. Should Donald Sterling file a lawsuit against the NBA if they vote that he is force to sale his franchise. He may make an argument that in fact that this is restraint of trade, that in fact that the owners are colluding to restrain his trade by forcing him to sell.
He may also make an argument, there's nothing specific in the NBA constitutional bylaw s about using racist personal comments to disenfranchise him, forcing to sell his business. I'm saying that he will prevail on the courts. But what I am saying is that he may make an argument and have this tied up for a very, very long time.
SMERCONISH: Gloria, you have a lot of experience with very high profile litigation and something else that we learned tonight courtesy of the Du Jour Magazine, is not only that he saying, he wish that he paid her off. But apparently that he'll do his next talking with Barbara Walters.
If you were counseling him from a public relations standpoint and you've got a pick that person to whom he is going to eventually share a story, is that the direction on which you would go?
ALLRED: Well, let me just say first about the remark "I wish I had paid her off", if they had an opportunity to settle it and resolved it confidentially, that would have been a great opportunity for him to avail himself off. But apparently, he didn't take that opportunity if he had it.
In reference to who he'd speak to, I, you know, maybe that Barbara Walters is a long-time friend, I don't know. And maybe he feels comfortable speaking with her if else and when he decides to speak and give an interview. He is also a lawyer. He has a law firm, very active law firm. I'm sure that he is going to be very, you know, careful about his words. Although he wasn't necessarily so careful when he spoke to his girlfriend who now says she was just a friend.
SMERCONISH: Leigh, do I understand you to say that this actually represents an opportunity for the Clippers to supplant the Lakers as the L.A. franchise? And if so, how?
STEINBERG: Well, first of all I want to make the point that under the constitution that he said he'd follow. When revocation occurs 14J says, "Every owner will accept the decision as final and binding and more over no owner will take legal recourse to court." So he specifically waved the right to challenge this decision. SMERCONISH: ...the upside,...
ALLRED: Not necessarily.
SMERCONISH: ...Clippers versus -- what's the upside? Clippers versus Lakers? And I'm limited on time but I want to hear your thoughts Leigh.
STEINBERG: So here is where we are. The Lakers were in the worst position they have been in, since they have been in Los Angeles. They have no cap room. They have an aging star, Kobe. They have no one behind it.
They charge top premium dollars for all the sits, all their everything else. The Clippers have two incredibly marketable stars in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. They also have a great coach marketable in Doc Rivers. L.A. is a little bit of a front running town. After a couple of years of the Lakers being in the state, the Clippers have a tough quality product...
SMERCONISH: I get it.
STEINBERG: ...a new group that knows how to market...
SMERCONISH: I get it. Having nothing to do with this catastrophe, you're saying they've got the raw talent to surpass the Lakers. Gloria Allred, always a privilege. Leigh Steinberg, nice to see you as well.
ALLRED: Thank you Michael.
SMERCONISH: New question about who knew what, when in 19 months after the attacks on American compound in Benghazi, Libya, but is it really the next Watergate. You'll hear from the man who's the authority on that Washington's scandal.
SMERCONISH: And I want to turn to a question of credibility and it goes back to September 11th, 2012 when an assault at a U.S. compound in Benghazi killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The questions were raised almost immediately about who is to blame. On September 16th, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice went on Sunday talk shows and said the assault grew out of a protest against a video about the Prophet Muhammad.
The Republicans blasted that assertion and in the following days it became clear that an Al Qaeda affiliated group took part in a coordinated terrorist attack. Five weeks later, on October 26th, I interviewed President Obama in the Oval Office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Is it true that your statements in those of Ambassador Rice, were simply repeating what the PDBs were telling you? BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: What's true is that the intelligence was coming in and evolving as more information came up. And what is true and this is something that the American people can take to the bank is that my administration plays this stuff straight. We don't play politics when it comes to American national security.
So what we consistently have done throughout my presidency and what we did in these circumstances. As the information came in we gave it to the American people. And as we got new information we gave that to the American people. And that includes by the way the members of the congress. So, you know, one of the things that always frustrates me about this town is when people go out there and try to politicize issues despite knowing that we...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Now more than 19 months later, the battle over Benghazi shows no sign of dying down. Speaker John Boehner said today that he'll form a select committee to investigate. House oversight committee chair Darrell Issa announces today that he has subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry.
And earlier this week, an e-mail surface from September 14th, 2012 in it, Ben Rhodes, a National Security official listed talking points for Rice about protest at U.S. embassies in the Muslim world. The talking points that include "underscore that these protests are rooted in an internet video and not a broader failure of policy." Many Republicans have been calling this a modern day Watergate.
Earlier, I spoke to fame Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein to see if he agree.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: You created the benchmark. You created the benchmark for scandal and of course ever they are after, everybody wants to say, "Well this is another Watergate." I want to ask you, has there been another Watergate since Watergate?
CARL BERNSTEIN, THE WASHINGTON POST: No. Watergate was about a criminal president of the United States who presided over a criminal presidency for virtual pole of his time as the president of the states. And was recognized to such particularly by his fellow republicans who led the efforts to have him remove from office when we finally left. Barry Goldwater the great conservative senator from Arizona march down to the White House with a group of Republican leaders finally and said, "Mr. President, you must resign."
This was about a criminal president, nothing we have seen since his about a criminal President of the United States.
SMERCONISH: How about Benghazi? Where does Benghazi coming in?
BERNSTEIN: And Benghazi is certainly is not about a criminal President of the United States or anything of a kind. SMERCONISH: What is it?
BERNSTEIN: However, in terms of the immediate memo that is causing such noise in Washington, the White House in the state department, were absolutely wrong not to turn it over. Jay Carney the White House press secretary on his stop his double talked and say they shouldn't been turned over. But it's all in the context of the scorched earth, politics, ideological cultural warfare that's been going in Washington for 30 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So does the White House have a credibility gap when it comes to Benghazi and why wasn't the administration were transparent? Joining me now is Christian Whiton, a former State Department senior adviser and the author "Smart Power between diplomacy and war." And Mark Jacobson, senior adviser to the Truman National Security Project. Christian, with regard to this Ben Rhodes e-mail, where in lies the significance that it wasn't handed over sooner or that which it actually says?
CHRISTIAN WHITON, FMR. STATE DEPT. SENIOR ADVISER: To me what it actually says is more important. You know, they're going to subpoena Kerry but he can always just blame this on the clerical error, the reason it wasn't turned over. The reason it was discovered was because of a freedom of information request from a conservative group. But to me the more important is that it identifies political appointees at the White House as the source of what's been described as a cover up.
Before it wasn't clear who change the talking points specifically. Did it happen at the NSC? Did it happen in the State Department? Now we know that Ben Rhodes was at the crossroads of that. And presumably he had to take director as a midlevel staffer from somewhere else at the White House.
SMERCONISH: Mark Jacobson, what is new here beyond the fact that the administration should have had handed over this information sooner?
MARK JACOBSON, SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMAN NATIONAL SECURITY PROJECT: I actually don't think there is anything new here. The narrative hasn't change. The information from what happen at Benghazi hasn't change. There's been an accountability review board. You have the chairman of the joint chief of staff testify, had numerous administration officials over and over again.
We have former secretary Clinton being abundantly clear about what happened and I just -- what worries me here is the analogy is not Watergate, the analogy are the McCarthy hearings. I mean, this is really a political witch hunt that in the end weakens the nation.
SMERCONISH: Christian, I take that you don't see it that way.
WHITON: I don't. You know, John Boehner, of all people, has been very hesitant to go down this road. This has been something that's been focused mostly by the media that's been considered more on the Conservative side. And John Boehner frankly wanted to spend this entire campaign season focused on Obamacare. And he's now been forced to create a select committee because you have this revelation, not only in the Rhode's email but also in an e-mail from Beth Jones, a senior assistant secretary of state at the State Department, who told and wrote the day after Benghazi that no this is response, not to a video, but this is in response to a terrorist attack from Ansar al- Sharia, the Al Qaeda affiliated Islamist group. So you do have some new information here.
And, you know, going back to your interview with the president two weeks after Benghazi happened, I mean, the President said he was shooting straight with us and he's being honest. That's not true. In what the select committee can discover is whether this was just sort of obfuscation at the political midlevel of the White House to whether it in fact goes up to the level of the President and Secretary Clinton.
SMERCONISH: Mark, how about politically speaking. Do you see this as all designed to thwart (ph) a Hillary effort in 2016?
JACOBSON: And Michael, let me get to that in one second. I'm thinking -- in what Christian has said, I mean, this is the guts of it. We're talking -- and I've been an intelligence officer for 20 years, and the first thing you are taught is that first reports are often wrong.
And I'm thinking, in your interview, in fact, the Beth Jones email and Ben Rhodes discussion of the talking points, what you see is a White House trying to get to the bottom of what happened. It was unclear what happened initially. And again, I just don't understand why the Committees after nine hearings closed to 50 briefings from the administration on the issue aren't focusing on trying to fix the problems.
For example, such as greater support for our diplomats abroad, rapid diplomatic security forces where they're needed, and making sure the Department of Defense and Department of State can defend our diplomats.
SMERCONISH: So do you think it's politically motivated with an eye toward Secretary Clinton running in 2016?
JACOBSON: Well, it's either ignorant or politically motivated. And I don't think we're talking about ignorance up here. So yes, they are going after Secretary Clinton. They are trying to create a political agenda. They can help kind of drives this false narrative for the 2016 campaign.
SMERCONISH: Christian, this drum was dumped in the last campaign, the last presidential cycle, and without the intended effect. Do you think now this issue has some new residence that it lacked? And I don't mean with the hardcore conservatives, I mean with independence and maybe even some folks who are left of center who are going to sense that there was some chicanery here that they previously didn't recognized. WHITON: You know, I think it has to, to an extent just because it's going to be more covered by the media when it was just a few hearings by the Committees. And those hearings were not run well, those Republicans asking questions. I'm a conservative, but I'll be critical here.
We're not singing in chorus. It was like cats meowing at random often at witnesses from the executive branch. Now, you'll have a hearing. It's a TV spectacle whether if you agree with it or not, then I think it is important that we know whether our politicians are lying to us or not and how high this -- whether it was a misunderstanding conspiracy went. But, you know, Mitt Romney in 2012, he did not take the opportunity to make this an issue. It was early days after the attack. But now, I think just the absence of other news and the fact that you'll have a committee, that is a big media thing. It means that this is an issue going forward. I don't think it necessarily needs to impeachment, but it will lead to a better reformed electorate about the performance of President Obama and Secretary Clinton when they have positions of intense responsibility (ph).
SMERCONISH: Quick response from Mark Jacobs. And you'd admit at a minimum, it's a transparency problem and a credibility problem from the White House not to have handed over an email with such clear relevance.
JACOBSON: I'm not willing to say that's a credibility problem. I think we'll see in the coming days, you know, why this took place but, you know, spectacle theater (ph). I mean, that's what this is. This is not true concern for the nation's security.
SMERCONISH: Christian Whiton, Mark Jacobson, thanks so much for being here.
JACOBSON: My pleasure.
SMERCONISH: Republican donors are facing a tough choice for a 2016 one made harder by a scandal and a nostalgic name (ph). And Rick Scott makes it about face on a major issue just months before an election. So what's his real motivation?
SMERCONISH: Hey, time for Headlines Redefined. The headlines that got the story half right. First up, from the Drudge report, "800,000 quit labor force in April." Today, as you may know is jobs day and jobs day is that first Friday of every month when the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases information relative to the unemployment rate.
What did we learned today? We learned that we grew in April by 288,000 jobs. That's more I think than most had anticipated. But you know how these goes. Both parties then spin the data and try and use it for their own purposes. It did drive down the unemployment rate, but Republican say, well, the reason the unemployment rate actually has declined is because fewer Americans are seeking jobs.
Maybe the reason that fewer Americans are seeking jobs though is that long term unemployment benefits have now ended. And one of the checks on this system that we used to have is that in order for you to receive those long term unemployment benefits, you have to demonstrate that you are actually looking for a work. And so now, that check has been removed from the system and that may explain why folks are no longer in that category.
Here's the way I would have written the headline. You remember the old one? The old headline said "800,000 quit labor force in April?" What I would have written, "Unemployment drops to 6.3 percent, the lowest level in 5.5 years."
Now, number two from CBS News. "Nigerian school girls reportedly sold as brides to Islamic Boko Haram militants." Sad but true, Islamic extremist believe to have taken into custody in access of 200 16 to 18-year old girls, then the purpose to sell them in to marriage for the equivalent of just $12 each. 50 have escaped leaving -- the initial report set behind 220 still in captivity, that number has since grown higher. But when I saw that figure, 220 individuals in paroled (ph), you know what thought it put in my head? All of the reportage about 229 other individuals who's lives were recently threatened.
And boy, that's where the comparison ends. Because if you compare the resources and media attention given to missing Malaysian Flight 370 to this Nigerian story which is only now starting to garner attention, there's just no comparison. You remember the old headline? The old headline said "Nigerian school girls reportedly sold as brides to Islamic Boko Haram militants?" What I would have written, "Resources to find 200 missing girls one fraction of those to find the plane."
And the last headline is from CNN. "Rick Scott would sign bill in favor of medical marijuana." I think Florida has got the hottest gubernatorial race in the country. Rick Scott, the Republican incumbent Charlie Crist who used to have the job, now running as a Democrat and both trying to curry (ph) favor with the pro marijuana crowd. Why? Because poll show that Americans in increasing burst and Floridians are supportive of decriminalizing or even legalizing for some purposes marijuana.
So what's now taking place? Charlie Crist has already said that he's supportive of a ballot initiative that comes up in November once supported by his law partner to actually get it on the ballot to begin with and so he's looking to drive supporters from that initiative. And now, comes Rick Scott saying, you know what, on second review, I will sign that bill that goes to step in support of medicinal purposes for legal marijuana. You remember the old headline on this story? "Rick Scott would sign bill in favor of medical marijuana?"
What I would have written, "Rick Scott hopes to win younger voters at the polls in November." There a lot of eager donors ready to get in to the 2016 race. The problem is they may have a candidate crisis. One donor tells me, the big choices between a scandal and a legacy. And you're about to meet Stan Powers, sort of. You may never have heard of him, but he's all around you.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SMERCONISH: Some Republicans looking to 2016 are asking, is it time for a third President Bush? Long-time front runner Governor Chris Christie's Bridgegate troubles of some big GOP donors looking for other options and another round of the Bush dynasty just might be one of those options. Listen to what President George W. Bush said to my colleague Jake Tapper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I have really have not talked to Jeb about the presidency. It's hard for people to believe. I, you know, I hope Jeb runs. I think he would be a great president. I have no clue what's on his mind. And we'll talk when he's ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Joining me now, a man who was Republican National Finance Chair under Ronald Reagan and George Hebert Walker Bush, Lawrence Bathgate. Nice to have you here.
When I read about you in the New York Times this morning, as a New Jersey and as a Garden State resident, I said, well, if this is a guy who would be on defense as between Governor Christie and Governor Bush, that doesn't go well for Governor Christie, does it?
LAWRENCE E. BATHGATE, FMR. FINANCE CHAIRMAN OF RNC: I think that many people who know the governor well also know Governor Bush well. And I think there's a lot of overlap in the Republican Party if people have been involved for a long time with President Bush and with George W., and now, with Governor Christie. And so, in on level, it's a blessing we've got competent qualified people who made choose to run for president. I think that an exciting thing actually.
SMERCONISH: Is my perception of you as a guy who wants to win? I mean, really, isn't that what a party is about? A party is there to win, not be an idealogical vessel. I look at you as one of the old guard. The mainstream Republicans who want to win this thing and wrestle control from the extremism within the GOP. Am I over stating it?
BATHGATE: No, I don't think so. I think the simple truth is that whether you're to the left of the spectrum or to the right of the spectrum, you're only going to get a certain number of votes of certain percentage of votes. And there's everybody else that's in the middle somewhere either right to center or left of center. And so, we need -- Republicans need to select someone that runs that can appeal to people throughout that spectrum.
SMERCONISH: In other words, you need someone who can win a general, not just when the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary.
BATHGATE: That's correct. Yeah.
SMERCONISH: When Reince Priebus came out with this so called autopsy about a year ago after the 2012 cycle, my opinion from the bleachers was to say, if you want to really open the process, then make the primaries open. Let everybody get in and dilute that factor that puts forth candidates who can't win.
BATHGATE: Well, one of the exciting things about 2016, I think for Republicans is, on the Democratic side, it looks like it's Hillary if she wants it. While on the Republican side, we have a big strong bench with a lot of very qualified people. And I, for one, I'm not frightened by the prospect of having many of those governors and people who win the Congress, people used to be in elective office like Jeb and Governor Christie and other governors and Paul Ryan as a whole (ph), and some of the senators who've talked to it. They are thoughtful people and people that would make strong candidates. So, I think -- and think that debates help me find a way (ph).
SMERCONISH: Governor Christie drew a line in the sand that said, look, I didn't know who's very bold in his pronouncement to the press. Weeks have gone off the clock. You'd think that if there had been something out there by now, it would have surfaced. Do you have an increase comfort level with him that he's whether (ph) this?
BATHGATE: I think all of us who know Governor Christie well respect him. He's a friend. And no one that I know thinks that he was the architect of closing down the lanes. And so, I think in time, it's all going to play out. And he's a very stoop, smart, (inaudible) guy. He is doing a good job now that he's out raising money all over the country for Republican governors. We have 36 races this year. 22 are currently held by Republicans. He is going to be -- in all of those 36 states at the same time trying to manage the State of New Jersey.
SMERCONISH: Today, Jeb Bush met with Russell Moore, an evangelical leader. I'm curious. Has he reached out for Lawrence Bathgate recently?
BATHGATE: Well, we happen to talk to each other at college stations (ph) three or four weeks ago by chance. And I'm co-hosting an event this coming Wednesday night in Westfield, New Jersey for George B. The next generation of the Bush family who's offering their services to the country.
SMERCONISH: Sounds to me like the thing is getting serious. Lawrence Bathgate, thank you so much for being here.
He's smart, crude (ph), and suffering a crisis of conscience. No, he is not a senator in the midst of scandal. He is Stan Powers and he may be a fictional character, but he has a message for all of us. But first, fitness training can benefit our health, but for people living with disabilities, that benefit may be out of reach. This week's CNN hero has a found a way to help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NED NORTON, CNN HERO: When I'm running, I feel limitless. Being in motion makes me feel free. When you're really pushing yourself, that's when you really feel alive.
But there are millions of people around the world that are facing severe physical limitations. They can't be independent. They can't live their lives.
I spent years training Olympic athletes, football players, body builders. One day a young guy, newly spinal cord injured, came to the gym, asking for help.
At first, I didn't know what to do. But, just worked together, he made tremendous progress.
Take a breath, reach out, reach out. Bring it back.
Before I knew it, my phone rang off the hook, people asking for help. So I opened a gym designed to fit their needs.
Ready to go to work?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.
NORTON: For the past 25 years, I've provided strength and conditioning training for people with disabilities.
Push, get up. Nice job.
People come to me when they're at their lowest.
Up, up, up, up. Hold it, rack it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel much better now.
NORTON: You come to the gym, and all of a sudden, you have a natural support network.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 1971, I broke my back, and I've been in a wheelchair ever since.
NORTON: That's it, Tom (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks to Ned, I keep my upper body strength at a maximum. I've been able to live a full life.
NORTON: I never worry about what they can't do. I worry about what they can do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can do it, Ned.
NORTON: Yes, you can. Good job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did up to 10.
NORTON: I'm building them up, building them stronger, so they can go out and live life like they're supposed to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: And one last thing, Benghazi is back in the news. You know, the mere mention of that (inaudible) House since partisans scurrying to suit up in their usual uniforms. To Republicans, it's a one-word catch phrase for the multitude of sins that are committed by this president. And to Democrats, it's about an overused talking point by opponents who were always intent on strangling this administration in its crib.
In the bigger picture, it's just this week's (ph) clearest example of our partisan divide in a political world marked by heightened polarization and corresponding lack of civility. Not just Benghazi. Look at the debate over Ukraine or the latest job figures. Surely truth (ph) is more new ones than either portrayal of each of these issues such as my conviction that it's time for independent thinkers to rest control of our debate from extremist. But on Tuesday, my 6th book will be published and it concerns this subject. It's called "Talk."
And I took some liberties as I wrote it. It's written as fiction. Not exactly 50 shades of talk radio, but it's a body (ph) read. And you know what they say, there's a truth ingest. So, get ready to meet one Stan Powers. In talk, Powers is the radio king of the I-4 Corridor, the stretch of swing votes between Tampa and Orlando. You win there, you win Florida, you win the Sunshine State, you capture the White House, which is not bad for a former stoner and slacker who lacks any personal political conviction, but succeeds nevertheless by simply parroting the Conservative talking points of a legendary consultant. The sad truth is that it's not farfetched.
Think about it. The polarized media is itself a creation in the last three decades. This is where those ideologically driven voters who dictate the nomination process in hyper partisan districts within close primary states go for their news and opinion. And it's where members of Congress who are elected strive to stay in good stat. Today, the quickest path to success is to say something incendiary, get picked up in the cable or talk radio world, and then become a fund raising magnate. And issues like Benghazi are perfect vehicles to do that.
In talks, Stan Powers recognizes that the more he says with which he personally disagrees, the higher star rises. It's not important that he offers substance, it's only important that he offer a consistent idealogical point of view regardless of accuracy. And the question for Powers is this. Will he continue to play the game according to his cynical advisors or listen to his own conscience?
You're going to have to read the book to know how it resolves. But when you think about it, that's not just a question for my fictional protagonist. It's a question for the nation. Surely, we live in a world more new ones than one where everything one party does or represents height (ph) and the other is wrong. Because the alternative is, we are all two-dimensional characters living in a fictional America.
I'm Michael Smerconish. Thank you so much for watching. I will be back here tomorrow morning at 9:00. CNN Special Report: The Trials Amanda Knox, starts right now.