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Former GM Employees Call to Action; Feinberg's GM Announcement Monday; Suspected Benghazi Attacker Arrives in U.S.; Armed to the Teeth
Aired June 28, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish.
How much will GM victims get? We're going to find out on Monday. That's when attorney and compensation expert Kenneth Feinberg will unveil the plan for those who died or were injured as a result of defects in GM automobiles. At least 13 people died and many more were injured due to faulty ignition switches, a defect that took a decade for GM to address. Let's get started.
Normally at this point I'd give you a headline. I'd welcome a guest with expertise to talk about that story. And then I'd redefine the headline. Today, because of a special guest, we're doing things differently. You are about to see the first television interview of a man who worked inside GM for more than 35 years.
His time there didn't end well after he highlighted safety concerns to his supervisors and the GM board. Today he argues that if his complaints to management had been acted upon, the ignition switch catastrophe would never have occurred. Before you meet William McAllere, let's remember how we got here.
While some GM employees were aware of problems with ignition switches back in 2004, it wasn't until this year that a recall was announced. And but for the sleuthing of an engineer hired by a trial attorney who represented a woman who died in her GM car, we might still be in the dark. A recently completed company initiated investigation found the delay was a, "culture of complacency problem at GM."
Just last week another three million plus cars were recalled bringing the total this year alone to more than 20 million vehicles. That's for a wide array of problems. And in fact, just yesterday GM announced four more safety recalls covering nearly 430,000 vehicles nationwide. That covers nearly 30,000 air bag inflaters in the most popular model, the Chevy Cruise.
New CEO Mary Barra has testified before Congress a couple of times now and has promised to take care of the problems. But correcting a corporate culture many years in the making won't be easy. Which brings me to our exclusive interview with William McAleere. He started on the GM assembly line in 1968 then moved up the company ladder and was put in charge of a corporate quality audit checking cars for defects that were about to be delivered to dealerships.
What he saw alarmed him. I spoke to him earlier and I'll let him pick it up from there.
SMERCONISH: I know that you became concerned in your role as being in charge of GM's corporate quality audit about what you referred to as safety defects. Was your concern something that arose suddenly or did it develop over time because of what you were seeing in the field?
WILLIAM MCALEER, FORMER GM EMPLOYEE: Well, what happened was in 19 - around 1996 and '95, we were asked to include a check on the vehicle where we actually drove the car around over a little obstacle course. And the goal of that was to find the kind of rattles and squeaks that annoy customers and document where they were after the vehicle had been shipped.
But what we found as soon as we started doing that check was what I would have termed a catastrophic defect, a defect that called into question the safety of the driver of the vehicle. And we found in that, what all of the people involved in the audit believed to be alarming numbers. These were reported back to Detroit and through the system because it was, I think everybody involved was shocked at what we saw.
SMERCONISH: Were these concerns of yours that you believed to have been potentially catastrophic of the same kind or were they of a wide variety?
MCALEER: A wide variety, it could be anything from spewing gas into the engine compartment to the rear end falling out of the vehicle. This was a simple test being done. We weren't - these cars weren't going over anything that a normal car wouldn't go over in the first week of ownership, so it was steering gear linkage, you name it.
It was widespread and it pointed out the fact that we had apparently internal to the corporation, we had let some sort of guard down. Nothing like that should ever be found in a rail yard never mind finding it in large quantities.
SMERCONISH: Mr. McAleer, it sounds like up until the point where you began the driving inspection, these were things that hadn't been noted.
MCALEER: No, nothing of this magnitude had been noted. You know, the - there are very few things in a stationary vehicle that could - well, basically only a gas leak - that could really harm the occupant. The things that can really hurt somebody, the car has to be moving to detect them.
SMERCONISH: The detection of the problems that you're referring to, given that you were having these inspections done on a global basis, at least that's what I'm understanding from what you're explaining to me, were they coming from one geographic area, one point of delivery, or were you getting reports on a worldwide basis that were of a similar nature?
MCALEER: I was getting them from North America. The people that were running the equivalent audit in Europe and Latin America didn't report their defects to me. But, no. We were seeing them from pretty much everywhere which again brought home the fact that we had a systemic problem that was developing that we were unaware of and that needed to be addressed immediately. And that's what we - that is the message we took back to Detroit.
SMERCONISH: So with whom did you share this information and what was their response?
MCALEER: Well, I would say, Michael, before 1997, when it became to the point where we couldn't continue like this anymore, any time we had come up with a safety defect we would take it back to Detroit and it would be taken care of immediately. And we never ran into resistance. We never ran into anything but people doing the right thing.
We would trace cars down, get the ones that got away. Bring them back and correct the system to make sure it didn't occur again. In 1997, something had happened internally in General Motors where no problem could be admitted, whether it was safety or any kind of a problem. We couldn't have a problem. And when I got back to Detroit, I reported to my supervisor who - and to the vice president of quality.
Both of them were engineers and both of them were very concerned. They understood exactly what we were talking about. They attempted to take it the next step higher than the vice president of quality and that's when the trouble started.
SMERCONISH: You wrote in your eventual letter to the board of directors, "my continued insistence on the need for corrective action provoked a hostile reaction from the operations quality management." How so?
MCALEER: Well, basically I was told that I was going to have to leave the job. It wasn't particularly hostile at first. They told me I could have any job I wanted anywhere. But I would have to leave this job. And to test that, I asked them, could I have a job in Hawaii? And they said, you certainly can have a job in Hawaii.
Then I - at that point I actually understood how serious this was. And I told them I would be glad to take another job but first we had to correct this problem. As soon as it was corrected I would be glad to leave this job. I was tired of it anyway.
SMERCONISH: It doesn't sound, Mr. McAleere, like it was one particular problem, though, that the issues that you were detecting were a multitude of safety related concerns unlike, say, the ignition switch which came later, which seemed focused in one particular area.
MCALEER: Well, no. It's all over the vehicle, Michael, but the correction is - the correction is what you do to the process. Anybody who builds cars creates problems. There are always problems that are created in the production of a car but you have to have a process that corrects that before the vehicle leaves the corporation's hands.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SMERCONISH: My interview with Bill McAleer doesn't stop there.
Next, what happened when he went to sue GM and how he believes all of the horrific crashes and deaths could have been prevented.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCALEER: If that had been corrected in '98, if we had done a thorough check of all our procedures and found out how safety defects were getting through, none of this would have happened. And it's pretty simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY BARRA, CEO, GENERAL MOTORS: As I look at the culture of the company during the time frame this part was designed in the late '90s and went into vehicles that went into production in '03 the latest of which went out of production in the '11 time frame. The culture of the company at that time had more of a cost culture focus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: That was General Motors CEO Mary Barra speaking to Congress in April. She was a plant manage in Detroit around the time that William McAleer was fighting to get the attention of his supervisors. More now of my exclusive interview with McAleer, a GM employee of nearly 36 years who in 2002 wrote to the GM board of directors and warned of what he called safety defects that had come to his attention as the head of the corporate quality audit. Concerns that he says fell on deaf ears.
SMERCONISH: So what was your opinion as to why you were getting a, "hostile reaction" from supervisors with whom you shared your safety concerns?
MCALEER:: Well, you have to get into - I have to get into my opinion here. My feeling was just talking to people that it wasn't particularly the defects that bothered people. It was the fact that if these defects actually existed, it called into question the entire system that was in place. If the entire system that was in place was in question, then there were a lot of people at the top of General Motors that had been telling untruths to other people at the top of General Motors .
We were basically at that time living in a world of everything is wonderful and we have no problems. So the safety defects in and of themselves were pointing to a larger problem that was unacceptable for us to have a problem. That's basically the way I read what I was running into. There are no problems, Bill.
SMERCONISH: But what caused you to decide to write the letter of July 25, 2002 to the board of directors?
MCALEER: Well, I had been removed from my job and I had no job. Basically I was paid a six figure salary for five years, full benefits, company car, everything. And I was just home. I just did whatever I wanted. And I had tried to sue General Motors as a method of bringing this to more people's attention.
I tried to sue under the whistle blower law, but, unfortunately, Georgia is the only state in the United States that doesn't have whistle blower protection. So General Motors took the position in court that I worked in Georgia although I didn't. They took that position and the judge agreed and threw the case out that I wasn't covered under whistle blower.
Then it went to appeals court and we had a mediation with the appeals court. That didn't go anywhere. I felt that my history with General Motors was going to end any second now, and I thought this is my last ditch effort. This is the last thing I can do is attempt to get to the board of directors to point out to them that if they don't address this, this is going to be really bad on several levels.
I wanted to invoke their sense of fiduciary responsibility. I wanted to invoke their sense of morals, and they are supposed to be care taking General Motors. So I thought, you know, one of them has got to respond to this. This is my last chance. This is the last way I can do this.
SMERCONISH: Do you know whether any member of the board of directors actually saw the letter that you wrote? I asked that question because some of the notes and research that I have in front of me suggests that the minutes of board of director meetings don't make reference to your letter. Do you know if it was received by any of the folks who were the intended recipients?
MCALEER: No. I don't know that. I know I sent it in a form with the U.S. Postal Service that guaranteed delivery. And so I know it got to the place it was supposed to get. But I also know that General Motors was actively stopping people from getting to higher ups about problems. I personally wouldn't be surprised if they stop those letters from getting to the board.
SMERCONISH: Despite McAleer receiving proof that the offices of the board members did receive his letters, there is no way to tell whether they read them. But in the final portion of the interview, McAleer was definitive when he told me this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCALEER: I know online a lot of people are saying that they're not going to buy General Motors cars anymore. That's not the answer. General Motors has to be fixed because if you're driving a non-General Motors car on the road and there are General Motors cars around you, you're in the ball game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Welcome back.
Former U.S. attorney Anton Valacas was tasked with finding out exactly why General Motors either ignored or hid a deadly problem with ignition switches for more than a decade. Thus far 15 people have lost their jobs. Even after the Valacas report put much of the blame on a single engineer. I talked about that finding with former GM employee William McAleer.
McAleer spent nearly 36 years working for GM, a portion of which had him as the head of a corporate quality audit. In 2002 he warned the entire GM board of directors of safety defects in GM cars, concerns he says were not acted upon. Here is more of the exclusive interview.
SMERCONISH: My reading of the Valucas report without your area of expertise and without your knowledge of the subject matter, I'm just a lay person, when I take a look at it, but it seems as if there was one particular engineer who knew or had reason to know there was a problem, actually changed the design of a particular part but did so without changing the corresponding part number in an effort maybe to hide that which he had done. How are you ever going to be able to weed out that kind of a, for lack of better description, bad apple?
MCALEER: I'm not sure we're dealing with a bad apple here. I think that what he did was he repaired the problem he had without admitting that it was a problem. And I actually believe the environment he was in required him to do that. And I don't think, I'm not sure how much of a bad apple he was as much as he was a person who played along with the game that he was facing.
You don't change the part number because if you change the part number, then you admit there was a problem. Now, did he do that to cover the problem or did he do that because that's the way business was being conducted? I don't know the answer to that but I do know that was the way business was being conducted.
SMERCONISH: If the company's response is to say, "look he's a disgruntled employee, he had his day in court, and he lost, and what he is saying today is all from that experience," you would respond how?
MCALEER: Well, I would admit right off the bat that I am disgruntled. I was very unhappy with what happened. But, no. This is not a pleasant experience. It's not something that you do in trying to get some sort of revenge. I personally would like for this just to be behind me and never hear about it again.
But I would say that throughout my case General Motors never denied anything that I said about the safety issues. In fact, multiple people were deposed and said that "oh, yes they were all true but we fixed them." That's the way General Motors handles a problem. You have to admit the obvious but then you say it's all been taken care of now. It's pretty much what General Motors is saying about the switch. That was a terrible thing and we're all ashamed of it but we've taken care of that now and we've put some real steps in place that it won't happen again. But that is simply isn't true.
SMERCONISH: Do you believe that there are still GM cars on the road today, the time period where you ran the corporate quality unit, that pose a risk of catastrophic injury?
MCALEER: Yes. I think the answer to this is for NTSA to set up a thing where General Motors employees who have direct knowledge of all of these things can contact them anonymously and tell them what they know. Because there are people in the corporation who are too scared to talk, who are trying to talk and have been beaten down, who know all of the details that need to be known.
As much as Ms. Barra might want to get people to phone that to her, I just don't think they'll do it. I don't think the atmosphere is really conducive to that. NTSA needs to get up off its back, set up a hot line, let General Motors people send in what they know, and their documentation, check it out, see if it's real, and take care of it.
I know online a lot of people are saying that they're not going to buy General Motors cars anymore. That's not the answer. General Motors has to be fixed because if you're driving a non-General Motors car on the road and there are General Motors' cars around you, you're in the ball game.
SMERCONISH: My thanks to Bill McAleer. We reached out to General Motors for a comment on our exclusive interview with William McAleer and here it is.
"If McAleer's concerns were submitted by an employee today they would be thoroughly investigated within the safety organization. However, that is not to imply that in this particular case his issues weren't. The company has not had sufficient time to analyze this particular case. This individual litigated his case and lost. While it's important to take every suggested safety concern seriously, not every suggestion results in a defect."
Next, you'll hear the first reaction of one family who lost their daughter to an accident blamed on the faulty ignition switch. It was their case that brought the ignition switch issue to light. Beth and Ken Melton will join me live to explain were they think Bill McAleer's early warnings could have saved their daughter's life.
SMERCONISH: During the first half hour of the program you listened to my exclusive interview with William McAleer, a former 35-plus-year veteran of General Motors. He believes he was let go when he pressured his superiors to fix what he called catastrophic problems with their cars. His crusade began in the late 1990s. He also says the 13 deaths attributed to ignition switch problems could have been avoided. My next guests are Beth and Ken Melton. Their daughter Brooke's death four years ago and the investigation that followed is credited with forcing GM to acknowledge those faulty ignition switches.
How surprising is it for the two of you to sit and to hear that in 2002 a gentleman with ultimately 36 years of GM experience under his belt, an individual who ran the so-called quality audit, warned the entire board of these defective automobiles?
KEN MELTON, BROOKE MELTON'S FATHER: Michael, we're always very grateful when any employee of the General Motors Corporation stands tall and comes forward with the truth. This also shines light on the fact that G.M. as a corporate culture wantonly ignored safety issues, even when alerted by their own employees.
SMERCONISH: There was something he said, which was -- which was breathtaking. And I'd like to just play a brief tape and have you respond to it. Roll that if you would.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM MCALEER, FORMER GENERAL MOTORS EMPLOYEE: If that had been corrected in '98, if we had done a thorough check of all our procedures and found out how safety defects were getting through, none of this would have happened. And it's pretty simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Mr. and Mrs. Melton, do you believe if his concerns about the corporate culture as expressed in the letter to the board in 2002 had been addressed then, your daughter would still be with us?
BETH MELTON, BROOKE MELTON'S MOTHER: I do. It's heartbreaking to me that his concerns were ignored.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Melton, can you explain in a language we'll all understand the significance of the issue of not changing the part number? That, too, was made reference by Mr. McAleer.
KEN MELTON: Yes. It's very clear that the number was not changed so it could not be tracked. So, no one could tell that the number had been changed or the part had been changed or swapped out. And an afterthought, if we go through researching, if we didn't have some of the documents that we have now, we would have never known that the switch had ever been changed.
SMERCONISH: In other words, an engineer who was engaged by your attorney did some sleuthing in junk yards and he finds that parts don't square up. The ignition related parts. And yet the number is the same. It's only by doing that kind of a comparison that he figures a change was made without the proper notification.
KEN MELTON: Absolutely. He did what G.M. engineers could not do. He dug down and would not stop until he got to the root of the problem. And when he come forward with the problem, it was obvious what the problem was and now if we are finding out almost on a daily basis, more stuff comes to light where we find out that they knew more than they ever told us.
SMERCONISH: Come Monday, Ken Feinberg, the attorney, very skilled individual, bright guy, who is in charge of compensation in these cases, is going to make some valuation determinations public. You're not participating in that process as I understand it. Please explain.
KEN MELTON: That's correct, Michael. We have open litigation with General Motors right now, and we are not part of the G.M. dictated compensation.
BETH MELTON: Compensation plan.
We still want information, Michael. We still want to know the truth. So we don't want to stop with being part of that compensation plan.
SMERCONISH: Mrs. Melton, what is it that you still need to know? What is it you think is a remaining mystery with regard to this case?
BETH MELTON: We do not feel like it stopped with the engineers that have been let go from General Motors. We think that more people at the company knew and we hope that the Justice Department is able to get that information. We would love to see criminal prosecution against anyone who broke the law.
SMERCONISH: Where Mr. McAleer just shared with us his view and his view again put in writing to the board of directors of G.M. in 2002, my audit team began to detect serious safety defects on vehicles previously OK'd for customer delivery.
Would you like to see him testify in front of a congressional committee in addition to what he just said here on CNN?
KEN MELTON: Absolutely. Mr. McAleer has become brave enough to come out and have the integrity to come out. I applaud his bravery for coming forward, and his persistence in trying to get the board and other managers and people in leadership positions to come and notice what he is doing and understand what he's trying to tell them. But it looks like that didn't happen.
SMERCONISH: And, finally, as gratified as I know you both are to hear a gentleman like this speak up, who has spoken up repeatedly in the past, albeit didn't garner a lot of attention, I'm sure that it frustrate you to know that there had to have been many employees who saw things on the inside and, unlike Bill McAleer, didn't take the time to write a letter to the entire board of directors.
KEN MELTON: And just as -- in Mr. McAleer's case he not only was ignored, he was penalized for not come -- for not keeping with the G.M. corporate culture.
So, yes, we hope that others will come forward. We know there are other people out there that know more than has been said. We understand that the pressure they're under to keep their jobs, but if they will, we would hope they would come forward with the truth.
BETH MELTON: Yes. SMERCONISH: Mr. and Mrs. Melton, we're sorry again for your loss. Appreciate your fight.
I need to underscore again that but for your standing up, we wouldn't know what we know today. So, thank you for that. You've done all of society a favor.
KEN MELTON: Thank you, Michael.
BETH MELTON: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: On Monday, Ken Feinberg will announce the guidelines for compensating families affected by the G.M. problems and Feinberg will be on "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER". Hear what he has to say Monday. That's 4:00 p.m. Eastern.
Tanks, grenades, battering rams -- I'm not only talking about military equipment deployed overseas but the tools of local police. A recent report questions how much heat your cops are packing and whether they really need it.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
SMERCONISH: We have breaking news now into CNN. Ahmed Abu Khattala, the suspected mastermind behind the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi in 2012, has just arrived at a federal court in Washington.
Let's go to our justice reporter Evan Perez in Washington -- Evan.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, yes. We know that Abu Khattala has arrived here at this courthouse. There was a heavy police presence, helicopters overhead as he arrived a couple hours ago, and then he was brought into the courthouse. We expect that there will be a court appearance later today.
This is the first time he's been on U.S. soil to face these charges that were filed against him last year here in Washington federal court.
Now, he is the chief ring leader, U.S. authorities say, of the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi back in 2012 that killed four Americans including Chris Stevens the ambassador to Libya. What we now expect is that there will be a series of hearings over the next several months before he finally goes to trial here in Washington.
SMERCONISH: Evan, we'll be most interested to learn of course to what extent was he cooperating while he was on that literally slow boat to the United States? Is there anything known at this moment on that issue?
PEREZ: Well, we know that for the last two weeks ever since he was captured in Benghazi, just outside of Benghazi, we know he's being -- was being interrogated by the FBI FIG team, which is the high value interrogation group that specializes in intelligence collection from these terror suspects. We know that they've been talking to him for the last couple weeks. We don't know exactly what he said and how cooperative he's been.
We do know the fact that he is here in court indicates they've now read him his Miranda rights. He has now access to a lawyer. He could have waived that hearing today, so it indicates that at least for now, he has decided to stop talking to the FBI interrogators that have been questioning him.
SMERCONISH: Evan Perez, thanks so much for your report.
Coming soon to Main Street USA, the weapons of war.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I wonder what the campaign slogan was in Mississippi the past couple days. Uncle Toms for Thad?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: And how the talking heads missed the lesson of the Mississippi primary run off, at least according to this talking head.
SMERCONISH: Let's check another headline. This one from "The Washington Post."
New ACLU report takes a snapshot of police militarization in the United States, specifically the report looks at the way that SWAT teams are using the weapons of war.
My guest now is, Radley Balko, the writer of that "The Washington Post" article. He's also written a book "Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces."
Bradley, good to see you.
After ten-years-plus of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, a lot of hardware is coming home. Where is it ending up?
RADLEY BALKO, AUTHOR, "RISE OF THE WARRIOR COP": Well, a lot of it's ending up at police departments across the country. We're not even talking about big city police departments. These MRAPs, these mine resistant armored personnel carriers, that are designed to withstand blasts from IEDs, or any other places like the Ohio State University Police Department or in, you know, tiny sheriff's departments and police departments, little towns across the country.
This is stuff that was designed for use on a battle field being used, you know, on American streets and American neighborhoods.
SMERCONISH: Well, is there a need for it? I imagine law enforcement might be saying, look, we don't know what we're up against. We don't know what is on the other side of that door. It's a good thing the federal government is making this available to us. BALKO: Sure. And you hear this argument a lot. A lot of police
officers will say that we live in an increasingly violent society, that, you know, officers, police officers work in war zones. There's just not a lot of data to back that up. The violent crime rate has been dropping dramatically since 1994. Police officers themselves last year was the safest year for police officers in a century.
Fewer officers were killed on the job than any time since the early '50s, and the rate of homicide was lower than since the early 1900s. So, you know, besides getting safer, at the same time, the police are getting increasingly militarized.
And the other problem is, you know, SWAT teams, there's a legitimate use for them when you have an emergency situation where lives are at immediate risk. So, if you think hostage takings or bank robberies or terrorist incidents. The problem is these tactics and weapons are increasingly being used to serve search warrants on people who are still only suspected of crimes and usually those crimes are pretty low level drug crimes. We're even seeing SWAT used for white collar crimes, for regulatory violations.
This is a -- you know, a level of force that was once reserved as a last resort to save lives that's increasingly being used as a first resort under the argument that we have to do whatever we can to protect police officers. I think it's making things less safe for cops and citizens.
SMERCONISH: In other words, the argument that gets advanced in the ACLU data and you made in your book which I read and found very interesting, is that if you provide these bells and whistles to local law enforcement, they're going to be more inclined to use that equipment in a very routine kind of process or procedure.
BALKO: Correct. And, look, you know, when you're using SWAT for a legitimate reason, you're using violence to defuse an already violent scenario, using SWAT to serve search warrants, when you're breaking into people's homes in the middle of the night with battering rams and flash grenades, you are creating violence and confrontation where there was none before. That's really the difference.
SMERCONISH: It would seem to me that there's also a concern about maintenance costs. So, maybe I am "Mayberry RFD", somewhere in the United States, and I'm offered an MRAP, and with the best of intentions I say, that would be great. In order to have that equipment, who the hell knows what's going to come? But when the transmission goes bad or when the tire needs replacing, where exactly do I turn to repair it?
BALKO: Yes. The maintenance costs can be very expensive. The Army itself actually in a newsletter a few months ago recommended against using MRAPs even at U.S. military bases, because they said that they're -- they had a very specific purpose, which was to protect soldiers in these convoys in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On paved streets in the United States, they're actually unsafe. They tear up the states. Have high roll over potential. And, you know, the other thing to keep in mind is the military, you
need hours of training before you can drive one of these things or operate a lot of this equipment that police departments are getting. Police officers when they get this stuff aren't getting that training and then they are using that equipment, again, in American streets and American neighborhoods -- and that, I think, is disconcerting.
I mean, we're sort of getting, you know, the citizens of the countries where we're fighting more protection than we are American citizen from this stuff.
SMERCONISH: Bradley, just minute left between us. Do you think that part of the reason there hasn't been more of a public backlash to this whole program of war machinery coming to Main Street USA is that people by the way in which the news is presented in this country misperceive the data. They think that we're living in the most dangerous era of man's existence when the exact opposite of that is actually true?
BALKO: Two points very quickly. First I think you're right. Polls still show about 60 percent of the country think crime is getting worse, even though as I said it's been getting dramatically better for about 20 years.
The other thing is that, you know, these tactics for a long time have been primarily used against low-income minority communities, people who don't have a lot of clout or platform. As it expands and starting to hit middle class communities and these tactics are being used for white collar crimes, I think you are starting to see the political class take notice. It's an unfortunate kind of political reality but I think there is -- it is a situation where as it gets worse, that's probably the best hope for it getting better.
SMERCONISH: Bradley Balko, thanks so much for being here.
BALKO: Sure. My pleasure. Thanks for having me on.
SMERCONISH: You remember that original headline -- new ACLU report takes a snapshot of police militarization in the United States? What I would have written : soldiers return to Main Street -- so does their weaponry.
So, you would think that conservatives would be happy with the victory of someone who gets an 88.7 percent approval rating from the American Conservative Union. Well, not so much in Mississippi.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, RADIO HOST: Thad Cochran, a 196-year-old fart, won in Mississippi.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Leading me to wonder whether they have their party's best interest at heart.
SMERCONISH: One last thing. Thad Cochran's victory in the Mississippi U.S. Senate runoff last Tuesday could provide a road map for the Republican Party of the future.
By a slim margin, Cochran defeated Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel, where just three weeks prior McDaniel had won more votes than Cochran without receiving the 50 percent requisite vote. Cochran's victory this week was somewhat of an upset.
So, how did he win? He not only got out the vote of the Republican establishment, but he also took advantage of Mississippi's open primary rules to win new votes from black Democrats. This lawful strategy so incensed his opponent that McDaniel refused to concede on election night and instead said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MCDANIEL (R-MS), DEFEATED SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: There is something a bit strange, there is something a bit unusual about a Republican primary that's decided by liberal Democrats.
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SMERCONISH: Mississippi law allows any registered voter who had not voted in the Democratic primary on June 3rd to vote in last Tuesday's runoff. Cochran courted those voters and he was rewarded. "The Washington Post" reported that in the 24 counties with a majority black population, turnout increased by 39.4 percent, giving Cochran a big edge.
There was immediate blow back from conservative commentators about the election result. Rush Limbaugh called Cochran supporters, quote, "black Uncle Tom voters." Glenn Beck declared that the wind was unbelievable and referred to Cochran as a "196-year-old fart".
And Sarah Palin had this to say.
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SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Republicans are going to act like Democrats. then what's the use in getting all gung-ho about getting more Republicans in there.
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SMERCONISH: I say these reactions proved that those commentators don't have the GOP's best interests at heart. Political parties exist to win, not to be ideological vessels, and this strategy will likely keep the seat in the hands of a Republican, a conservative Republican, not just of the fire and brimstone type.
Had McDaniel won the primary, he would have jeopardized the seat in a race against democrat Travis Childers. This Cochran race reminded last year when Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus released what he called an autopsy, a 100-page report that was a frank assessment of not only why Mitt Romney lost in 2012 but also why the Republican nominee lost the popular vote five times in the last six presidential elections.
Now, the closest that the report came to addressing a fix for reigning in the party's most extreme elements was in this paragraph. Quote, "Our party needs grow its membership and primaries seem to be more effective way to do so. The greater number of people who vote in a republican primary, the more likely they will turn out and vote again for the Republican candidate in the fall election."
At the time, I said that if the GOP believes it benefits when more people vote in Republican primaries then the solution is self-evident, to let everyone vote in open primaries. The ranks of independents have grown to the detriment of the RNC. And with their exodus, the party has lost opportunities to balance the extremists in its ranks, candidates who can win primaries but not general elections.
We got that kind of strategy last Tuesday in Mississippi. Now, what remains to be seen is whether the party will get the message and encourage more participation in its primary process.
That's it for me. I'll see you back here in two weeks. Have a great week and a wonderful Independence Day weekend.