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Immigration Crisis Continues; Germany Kicks Out Top U.S. Spy Over Espionage Claims; Surviving on Government Assistance; Behind the Scenes of the Nixon Campaign
Aired July 12, 2014 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: An urgent humanitarian crisis continues on our southern border, leaving tens of thousands of immigrant children in limbo. In the southwest, it's a crush of emotions, from anger to exacerbation. While in Washington, it's the usual finger pointing and chest thumping. Reform, security, compromise, so many choices.
I'm Michael Smerconish. Let's get started.
My first headline is from "The New York Times." It reads "Immigrant surge rooted in law to curb child trafficking." Some of the blame for the current immigration crisis is being given to a 2008 human trafficking law. It gave greater protections to unaccompanied children coming into this country from other non-contiguous countries. So is the needed fix as simple as amending that law.
My next guest is Nebraska Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry who is the chief backer of that legislation. Congressman, children from Central America are treated differently than those from Mexico. Why? What was the logic of the law?
REP. JEFF FORTENBERRY (R), NEBRASKA: Well, first of all, I was very proud to be part of the sponsoring of the victims rights. Human trafficking is a modern form of slave. It is a scourge for humanity and America must project its values and protect vulnerable persons. So I was proud to be a part of this 2008 law.
This problem with the surge of children and families at the border did not occur until 2013. Did not occur in '08, '09, '10, or '11. Five years after this, the reality is this is convergence of factors of desperate poverty, ungoverned space as well as an exploitation of our laws. The president fostered an environment in which in 2012, he suggested that deportations were going to decrease.
And I think that was a corollary to exploitation of this law and other factors that have led to this sad, sad tragic situation along the border. Let me add this as well if I could. I just think it's unconscionable that the president would go to Texas for a fund-raiser and a photo op, but not visit our border. Communities are suffering, children are suffering and our immigration policy appears in disarray. He should be in the White House right now preparing a speech to the nation as to how we are going to get this back in control. SMERCONISH: Congressman, I respect all of that. It doesn't answer my question. I really started with a simple premise of what was the logic of treating kids from Mexico different from kids from Central America. Could you answer that?
FORTENBERRY: It is my understanding buried within the '08 law, there is a provision that allows the president to negotiate with the Central American countries, repatriation agreements and that hasn't happened. There may be a need to actually fix that portion of the law so that that aspect of the dynamic which has fostered the conditions for these surge of children can stop. But the first thing that needs to happen is some leadership. If I would suggest to the president, that he send the National Guard troops to the border to help back up the border control and get the situation under control. Continue to suggest and say clearly any person here illegally will be sent home quickly.
Third is work and demand from the governments of Guatemala, Honduras as well as El Salvador, that they create the safe conditions for repatriation of children and families so that they are humanely treated. That would create the conditions by which we can maybe fix portions of the earlier law that are being exploited, restore order and then deal with the necessary exceptions for those who have just reasons to seek asylum here.
SMERCONISH: Allow me to show you what conservative syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer published yesterday in the "Washington Post" and indeed around the nation. What he said was "stopping this way does not complicate it. A serious president would go to Congress tomorrow proposing a change in the law simply mandating that Central American kids get the same treatment as Mexican kids and be subject to immediate repatriation."
Is it that simple?
FORTENBERRY: What I suggested to you is the president fostered the conditions for the arrival, the surge of children along the border. That didn't happen until 2013. In 2012, the president sent a clear messages that he was going to decrease the number of deportations. And that fostered the conditions along with the (INAUDIBLE) for poverty.
SMERCONISH: I hear you. I hear you saying that but here's where I'm coming from.
SMERCONISH: Respectfully, you got colleagues like Jeff Flake and John McCain, two Republican senators who are introducing legislation to change a law, a law that for which you were the chief backer. You got Henry Cuellar, a Democrat in the House, Jon Cornyn, a Republican in the Senate, who are saying the same thing. That this law in 2008 brought about unintended consequences when you began treating Central American kids different from Mexican kids. They all seem to be saying and so does Charles Krauthammer the first thing we got to do is change that law. FORTENBERRY: First of all, you are setting me up in some sort of odd opposition to the necessary changes of law -
SMERCONISH: Not at all.
FORTENBERRY: ... that have been a factor.
And I'm just telling you that it is more complicated than that. It is a convergence of factors. It would be helpful if the president showed some responsibility as well here. He in 2012 suggested that deportations were going to decline. We did not have this problem in '09, '10 and '11 and '12. Five years after the law, if we need to make necessary changes that's fine. But it's my understanding that there is a provision already in that law that will allow the president to negotiate repatriation agreements with Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Look the first lady of Honduras said "We want our children back." And we agree with that. And at the same time we have to get order restore order to the border as well as treat children humanely. But if we don't do all of these things quickly, there will be additional surges of children who are being exploited, who victims of trafficking, which is, by the way, the reason that this law was set up in the first place. America must lead with her values and human trafficking is a form of modern slavery and it's simply wrong, especially children.
SMERCONISH: The president has asked Congress for $3.7 billion so that there could be more immigration judges and that we can help these Central American nations repatriate these kids. Are you supportive of that?
FORTENBERRY: I serve on the appropriations committee. This is something that is completely overlooked by the media. Last week, we dealt with what's called a foreign operations sub committee appropriations bill. We already appropriated money to try to stop the flow of families and children from these Central American countries and set up the repatriation processes by which children and families will be humanely treated. But it would be helpful if the president also demand that those governments get into action right now.
That might be something that Congress comes together around as well as additional border security. But we're not trying to simply give a blank check. We have to go through this methodologically, in a sound way to restore order in a situation that's chaotic.
If you don't do that, you are undermining America's ability to be generous to those who are in need. America is a hallmark of immigration policy has been to open ourselves to people who want to come here who are fleeing economic hardship or political persecution and build better lives. But if you don't have an orderly and just immigration system, you undermine the ability of the country to do that generously and it's not fair to those who are already following the law.
SMERCONISH: I was listening to your critique very carefully of the White House and the role that you think that the president played in creating this, which is why I brought up the $3.7 billion request that he has made because from the sidelines, sir, it seems like he is offering to the Congress exactly that which a moment ago you told me is necessary. And so then, I say to you, are you supportive of this and the answer seems to be no.
FORTENBERRY: The president has asked for a very big, large expenditure. It's the responsibility of Congress to go through that line-by-line. But it's also the responsibility of the president to propose policy changes and to take some responsibility for this. I did not say create it. I said he fostered the environment by suggesting that deportations were going to decrease. Five years after the law that you are suggesting is the main corollary here for the surge of children. So, there needs to be some responsibility taking. I imagine Congress will be intent on helping to increase border security.
SMERCONISH: Well, respectfully, it is not me. It is some pundit saying it. I mean, you got Jeff Flake and John McCain, two Republicans in the Senate who were saying the first thing we ought to do is change that law. I'm simply trying to get to the bottom of it. You can have the final word. And thanks so much for being here. Go ahead.
FORTENBERRY: Well, I think the first thing that we ought to do or the president ought to do as I said earlier is call the National Guard to the border to assist border control in getting the situation back under control. Secondly, clearly send a message that each person who arrives here illegally is going to be sent back quickly and third, demand that those governments in Central America work with us for the proper repatriation of children and families. Then we got a framework for order here. We can deal with tweaks or adjustments to prior laws. But we got a framework for order and then we can address people who have the legitimate needs, just needs for asylum in our country.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
FORTENBERRY: That's the way to get this situation back under control.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, thank you sir for being here.
You remember that old headline, the one that said "Immigrant surge rooted in law to curb child trafficking." The headline I would have written, "The law of unintended consequences."
Hey, so we're going to continue this hot immigration discussion because it has huge ramifications for the mid-term elections. Who wins or loses depends between the parties on who you ask. Donna Brazile and Michelle Bernard are here.
And by now, you've heard the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lebron James.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SMERCONISH: We know. Lebron is headed back to Cleveland. Cavs fans are psyched, but Lebron isn't the only one headed to Cleveland.
SMERCONISH: Here is one of the important images of the week. President Obama and Rick Perry together in Texas to talk immigration reform. Perry now bespeckled and minus the cowboy boots back in the 2016 presidential conversation. He accepted the White House's invitation to talk.
And that brings us to our next headline. This is from "Politico." "Obama's Warning. Right size immigration expectations." The party's bickering has become what we expect on every big issue. Health care, unemployment, the budget and now immigration. Where Washington has yet to resolve the immigration situation.
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REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: ... underway, the children caught in the middle. Unfortunately, it is a crisis of the president's own making. His actions gave false hope to children and families if they enter the country illegally, they would be allowed to stay. Our priorities are clear. Take care of the children, return them safely home to their home countries, to their own families and secure the border.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I sponsored a bill declaring apple pie American, it might fall victim to partisan politics. I get that. On the other hand, this is an issue in which my Republican friends have said it is urgent and we need to fix it. If that's the case, then let's go ahead and fix it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Donna Brazile is a CNN political commentator and democratic strategist, Michelle Bernard is president and CEO of the Bernard Center for women politics and public policy. Great to have you back here.
Can we go back a segment? I know you were watching. Michelle, what just went on with Congressman Jeff Fortenberry. He was a backer of this 2008 law that everyone seems to be saying plays a critical role in this problem, so much so that John McCain and Jeff Flake are saying say we got to change it. And when I asked him as the chief backer, shouldn't we make that alteration so that Mexican kids and Central American kids are treated the same, he seemed to balk. What did you make of it?
MICHELLE BERNARD, PRESIDENT AND CEO BERNARD CENTER: Oh, he did more than balked. He absolutely refused to answer the question, just listening to his responses, I have to say anyone watching the show today is going to feel very, very unsatisfied by what we heard from that particular member of Congress. Because the bottom line is everyone knows and it's quite obvious that people who are smuggling these young and innocent children into the country found the loophole and they found the way in.
If you smuggle in children from Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador, they know that these kids are going to be here for a very, very long time before they get any kind of hearing and before the United States government is in a position to either deport them back to their countries of origin or find them a place within the United States.
He seemed to be, from my perspective, quite frankly more interested in partisan politics and blaming everything on the president of the United States than taking the responsibility for the unintended consequences of the piece of legislation that he championed in the United States Congress. It is really quite a shame.
I think it is the reason many Americans have set up on the Houses of both Republicans and Democrats because they don't get anything done. We are in the midst of a terrible humanitarian crisis.
SMERCONISH: And Donna Brazile, I think what we just saw was an illustration in the way in which this is being used by both parties to stoke their respective bases in the mid term elections. So if the status quo continues, who wins and who loses politically speaking?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I want to say this, as an American, this is about our values. This is not about our partisan politics. It is about who we are as a country. Look, when you have refugees from Central America, many children, they are human beings. They are like our own children. We need a surge of values in dealing with this crisis in a very humanitarian and compassionate way. I agree with everything Michelle Bernard just said. Look many of these kids are being exploited. And we don't know where they may end up.
Right now, they are being held in some cases in our federal detention centers, waiting for hearings, waiting to be deported. But they are children. We should treat them with dignity and respect. In terms of the politics, I think this is one of those awkward moments in our country when you can't blame this on either party. This is a law that was intended to do good. Now we know that it is being exploited and it is harming children and yet it is overwhelming our country with kids who may not have any place to go. I think as a country, we are adult enough to deal with the crisis without finger pointing.
SMERCONISH: Michelle Bernard, should the president have visited the border?
BERNARD: My personal belief is yes. I think the president made a mistake in going to Texas and not visiting the border. Quite frankly, to me, despite a bit of a difference, I have a preference in the example I'm going to give. There is not much difference in the fact that the president chose to, for example, to go to Newtown, Connecticut after the slaughter of the children that took place there.
After Gabby Giffords, the member of Congress from Arizona was shot down and nearly died in Arizona. The president went to Arizona, he spoke at the memorial service for the victims there. It was a tremendous way to highlight the importance of gun control in the United States. And frankly, Gabby Giffords, in the book that came out recently, her husband describes the meeting that she had with the president. He conveyed to the president shortly after Ms. Giffords came out of her coma where her husband says to President Obama, "we were trying to think of things of that Gabby would want us to convey to you. And Gabby most importantly would want to convey to you come back to Arizona. Take a look at our border and see what is happening at the borders because we have a very serious problem."
SMERCONISH: Donna Brazile, do you agree with that? Michelle thinks he should have gone to the border.
BRAZILE: Michelle, we are two for two today. Let me tell you why the president should have gone. He should have gone to say "look, under my watch, we have tripled the enforcement budget. We have doubled the border patrol and if Congress would get off their hinnies and pass comprehensive immigration reform law, we would have even more resources to deal with this problem. Yes, I would have gone to just basically tell the American people and show Congress that he is acting.
The vice president has called the leaders of all of those three Central American countries. The president could have gone and say "here is what I'm doing. These clowns want to sue me because I'm doing my job and all they are doing every day is showing up and doing nothing." I would have -
SMERCONISH: Donna Brazile, Michelle Bernard, can't we all just get along? Apparently yes is the answer today. Thank you both.
BRAZILE: Two for two.
SMERCONISH: All right. You remember that headline. "Obama's warning right-size immigration expectations." What I would have written, "This border war pits "Rs" against "Ds."
So it might be hard to believe but Lebron isn't the only big name going to Cleveland. There is another big name and it is sure to get a lot of press.
And take a look at this building. It's the U.S. embassy in Berlin. What just happened there is making America's relationship with Germany far from comfortable.
SMERCONISH: Big day in Cleveland. I'm happy for Cleveland. Cleveland is like Philly, my hometown. They don't get the praise they often deserve.
Time to celebrate the talents of some of America's best political cartoonists. As seen through some of their work this week. Now first up, Nate Beilor from the "Columbus Dispatch," Cleveland 2016, of course, you know that Lebron is going to Cleveland. The GOP is going to Cleveland and Johnny Football is already in Cleveland which is great to see. Why are the Republicans headed to Cleveland? Because the GOP knows that in order to win the White House, you need to win Ohio. But does the host city necessarily sway a state. And the data on this suggests not that often. Take a look at the Republicans in 2012. Went to Tampa because of the importance of winning the state of Florida. But Barack Obama ended up winning Florida in 2012 and the White House and not Mitt Romney.
It's very much like vice presidential selections. Much gets made as to the political ramifications. But often there isn't any unless by the way the GOP nominates Lebron James and then I think it will be a homerun all around. One last thought on this. Vegas is where they all should go. No city is equipped to host a convention like Vegas, hotel rooms, facilities, climate, night life but of course, both parties fear that what happens in Vegas, won't stay in Vegas and that's why they never seem to go there.
Nora, give me another one. Here we are. Love this. Randy Bisch from the "Pittsburgh Tribune Review." Eventually, life on earth returned to normal. Well, not yet. Because Germany and Argentina tomorrow will battle it out in the World Cup finale. I'm for Germany. It is not because I like the German pope more than the Argentinean pope. You know, both Popes are represented in this world cup. It's because Germany defeated the United States, 1-0. I think it will make our guys look good if we lost to the team that goes on and wins the World Cup. So those are my thoughts on the World Cup. Go Germany tomorrow.
What's next? There are no secrets between friends, right?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Germany is one of our strongest allies. Angela is one of my closest partners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Well, not so fast. Germany just gave America's top spy chief the boot from the U.S. embassy in Berlin. This could make things a bit awkward.
And brand new parents with gorgeous twin daughters. But the family with a nice home and the Mercedes, they defied the stereotype.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back. Let's get to our next headline. It comes from the "Associated Press." Germany kicks out top U.S. spy over espionage claims. The claim is the U.S. was buying secrets from at least two people. One inside German intelligence and the other in the German defense ministry. And needless to say, it has put a strain on relations between the United States and Germany.
My next guest is Bob Baer, CNN national security analyst and former CIA operative. Bob, why would we be spying on Germany?
BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, number one, 9/11 plot was hatched in Germany. The Germans missed it, completely missed it. There is a sentiment at the CIA that we have to have a parallel source of information. We just can't depend on the Germans completely. Their police and their intelligence service aren't that effective. It helps the CIA, it helps the president to have independent information on that country.
SMERCONISH: So I get it. It is the Hamburg cell to which you are referring. I am wondering if we are spying on Germany, you know, if I'm the Brits, if I'm the U.K., aren't I looking at this story and saying if they are spying on the Germans, they must be spying on us as well or the French.
BAER: Michael, we have an agreement with Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada, not to spy on them and that agreement is adhered to. It's an old -
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: -- this story and saying, if they are spying on Germany, they must be spying on us as well, or the French.
BOB BAER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Michael, we have an agreement with Britain, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada not to spy on them. And that agreement is adhered to. It's an old agreement. It goes back to the '40s.
We've never had one with Germany. Germany has always been a subject of espionage, American espionage, during the Cold War especially. What's new here is that the Germans are finally saying enough is enough, and I can't emphasize enough what a change this has been throwing out the chief of station from Berlin.
It has never happened before. You know, it's huge.
SMERCONISH: The chief of station is the top CIA official in that country. Maybe this is a naive question. Would he necessarily have known that subordinates of his were spying on the Germans?
BAER: Oh, no question. He would have known. I would have imagined that other people have been thrown out as well. The chief wouldn't be handling these cases himself. Case officers, subordinates would have been. They probably left quietly, too. We don't -- I just don't know how many people left.
So, you know, they are talking about raiding offices. Did they raid CIA office? That's my question. I don't know yet. Well, I suppose we'll find out.
SMERCONISH: What would you think the president knew and when did he know it? I'm thinking of Howard Baker, of course, and we lost him recently. Is this information that would have risen to the presidential level?
BAER: No, the president would not have known about these sources in Germany. This probably came as a surprise to him. It probably came as a surprise to the CIA.
Frankly, my speculation is that Merkel was waiting to pull this. She was very upset about the national security agencies listening to her cell phone. She expected more from the United States. And when she did not get it, she pulled the trigger on this one.
The Germans are serious. I -- they are going to take this to the mattresses as it were.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Bob, I get this is news. But is it necessarily new? In other news, you're a guy with the credentials. You worked in these waters.
Is this the way it is? Are the Germans spying on us? Have we always been spying on the Germans? Does everybody spy on everybody else?
BAER: The Germans don't spy on us. I never heard of a case where they run agents in this country. They are fairly passive. So, this is sort of a one-sided war. But we have been spying on the Germans since the end of World War II.
So, it's not new. What is new is nearly a formal declaration of persona non-grata, which is telling me that our relations with Germany haven't been worse in my memory.
SMERCONISH: And the second recent episode between Germany and the United States, of course, vis-a-vis Snowden, we found out the Angela Merkel eavesdropping that was taken place. How is this handled at a diplomatic level?
BAER: Well, I can tell you right now it is getting in the way. We need the Germans to deal with Ukraine, with Russia, the Middle East, other problems in Europe. So this is a huge distraction for the president. He will want to get over this as quickly as he can. It is the last thing he wanted to have is an espionage scandal with Germany.
SMERCONISH: Bob Baer, many thanks.
BAER: I hope it works, quick.
SMERCONISH: Many thanks for your expertise.
We started with the headline, Germany kicks out top U.S. spy over espionage claims. How I would have written this one -- keeping our friends even closer.
When Darlena Cunha wrote about pulling up for public assistance while driving a Mercedes Benz, 5,000 people posted comments. You're about to meet her.
And former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan is here with me this morning. And he's got a unique insight into the Oval Office, one that Mitt Romney might want to hear.
SMERCONISH: Hey, time for the next headline.
This one comes from "The Washington Post". "This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps."
Let that sink in for a moment. This is actually a wonderfully written, thought provoking piece written by my next guest. Darlena Cunha is joining me now.
Darlena, 5,000-plus comments the last that I took a look. Why did you strike such a cord with a piece that frankly you had difficulty in getting published?
DARLENA CUNHA, FORMER TELEVISION PRODUCER: I think there are so many people that I didn't even know about that had gone through a similar situation. This is really exposed an under belly of what is actually going on with the individuals in the country right now. Many of whom were solidly middle class and many of whom are now struggling, barely holding on or have lost their footing. And I can't tell you how many messages I have received, thousands of messages that I received from people saying, "Thank you. Me, too."
SMERCONISH: 2007, you're cruising along. 2008, the bottom falls out because your fiance loses his job, you're about to deliver twins. The house that you purchase loses a significant share of its value. And that's how you find yourself, driving up for public assistance one day in your husband's Mercedes Benz.
Many say, well, why don't you sell the car?
CUNHA: Well, there are a lot of reasons. In the piece, it doesn't really make financial sense. It takes time to sell a car. The amount of money that we would have gotten for it, we could have bought, like I say, a used -- another used car, a crappier car or make car payments and then we would be furthering our debt.
The car we had, we knew was reliable. And we needed two cars. We were just using it instead of taking our time to advertise it and sell it. Not many people were buying Mercedes in 2008. It wouldn't have been an easy sale to make.
SMERCONISH: You describe pulling up for public assistance driving the Mercedes as the most embarrassment moment that has ever happen in your life. What was driving what was the source of the embarrassment that you were feeling?
CUNHA: Honestly, that's an important piece of the essay because it brings the internationalization of the shame factor into it. So, you have these people who have a certain image of themselves or an idea of who they should be or who they are, and then inside of their own selves, they find judgment if they should fall.
So, there is a crash that affects the entire nation. These people who once could afford things, no longer can. They feel as if they are to blame as if somehow it's their fault. That was the embarrassment I was feeling. It was more internal embarrassment in that particular example than an external one.
SMERCONISH: You struck a chord with a lot of folks who found themselves, as you describe, in similar circumstances. When I talked to you on the radio and when I read some of the comments appended to the piece, there is a mindset also out there that says, well, you didn't make sound decisions and that's why you found yourself in this position.
Would you respond to those folks who are of that opinion?
CUNHA: Sure. I would like to know which decisions we personally made that made or house go upside down in value and that lost my husband his job and that put me in the position of having premature babies, because I'm pretty sure I didn't consciously make any of those decisions and we were just doing the best we could with what we were given, which I think a lot of people did.
SMERCONISH: Is it possible that that car, that Mercedes provided a silver lining of sorts, because you're driving up in a Mercedes and you're saying, my God, I'm in a Mercedes. What am I doing here? And somehow it provided a level of motivation to get off public assistance that wouldn't otherwise have existed?
CUNHA: I have been asked that before, and it's an interesting thought. But I'm not quite sure it has much merit.
I would say that anybody that's on public assistance, whether they fall on it because of the economic crash or whether they have been on it, I would say there is motivation to get off. I don't understand the people who say people feed into the system and stay there forever and want the handout. I would say anybody that's in the system is working their butts off to get off the system. I'm not sure that a Mercedes would be mean motivation or not.
SMERCONISH: The short version of what I took away from the piece, which was, don't judge me because I'm driving a Mercedes. Don't judge anybody else who's already there maybe driving a hoopty.
CUNHA: Correct. People think that they have the right to judge other people based solely on looks. Whether or not how they are -- how poor you are, whether or not you deserve assistance, whether or not you are poor enough or not poor enough or you're lazy or you work hard. And my issue is you don't know. You have no idea how hard people are working.
SMERCONISH: By the way, you still have the car, right?
CUNHA: We do. We have the car, yes.
SMERCONISH: OK. Darlena Cunha, glad you're on your feet. Thanks so much for being here.
CUNHA: Thanks for having me. CUNHA: So, again, that headline I started with was this -- this is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps. What I would have written: there but for the grace of God, drive I.
So, if I were to tell you that a former president, a Republican president, was caught on a secret White House tape saying that gay people are born that way and they should be left alone, who do you think it was? You're about to get quite a surprise.
Plus, locked and loaded.
Why the power that be are misfiring when it comes to gun control and why it's time to do something about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT: As I leave you, I want you to know just think how much you're going to be missing. You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: That's some real history. That's a famous quote from Richard Nixon, shortly after losing the '62 California gubernatorial race. That was two years after he lost to JFK. And many thought he was politically dead.
But the former V.P. was about to embark on a great comeback, and Pat Buchanan (AUDIO GAP) row seat. He's now written a book about those years. "The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from the Dead to Create America's New Majority."
Pat, great to see you. How down and out was he in '62?
PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR, "THE GREATEST COMEBACK": He was in terrible shape. And Howard K. Smith of ABC ran a special for one hour after that election, Michael, called "The Political Obituary of Richard M. Nixon." And Nixon was regarded by everyone then as politically finished.
He gave up politics. He moved to New York to practice law. And he did go out and campaigned for Barry Goldwater. And it looked like the Republican Party was dead after that, they lost 44 states to Lyndon Johnson.
And then it was then that I joined up with him. He had that long steady climb through the turbulent decade we call the 1960s and unbelievably wound up at the end of the '60s raising his hand and taking the oath of office as president of the United States.
SMERCONISH: Now, let's not gloss over this. This is important. You graduated from Columbia in journalism. You are writing editorials albeit a young guy in the Midwest. And you pursue Nixon for a job and you remind him you once caddied for him. BUCHANAN: I grew up in Washington, D.C., and I had gone out to
Burning Tree Country Club trying to find a summer job. And a friend of mine and I, we went to the Burning Tree Country and they said, OK, you can go over there and showed on the caddy log but you're the last ones the bench.
And late on afternoon, they put out this plaid golf bag, and I looked at my buddy and I said, that's the vice president's golf bag. The pro at Burning Tree looked at the two sad looking caddies and said, OK, you're the only guys we got. So, we went around with Richard Milhouse Nixon, 18 holes. You know, this was not Arnold Palmer, I have to tell you that, Michael.
SMERCONISH: "Vanity Fair" is out with a new piece and yet, more Nixon tapes, Pat. Give a listen to this because I want you to analyze it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
NIXON: I don't want my views misunderstood. I am the most tolerant person of anybody in this shop. They have a problem. They're born that way. You know that. That's all. I think they are. But the point is that Boy Scout leaders, YMCA leaders and others bring them in that direction and teachers. And if you look over the history of societies, you will find, of course, that some of the highly intelligence people, Oscar Wilde, Aristotle, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, were all homosexuals.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Richard Nixon, ahead of his time with regard to homosexuality, gays, we would say today. Does that surprise you? I mean, you were there for the whole ride.
BUCHANAN: No, it doesn't. Now, I know some of the tapes Richard Nixon talked in country club language, if you will, and said some bad things.
But I will say this, look, we had homosexuals on Richard Nixon's staff, gays. We knew who they were, we knew who they were in the press corps. They were loyal to Nixon. Nixon knew who they were.
It was no problem with him and working with him because he believed that many of the most highly intelligent people in journalism, in politics, in the government agencies were indeed themselves gay and he had no problem having them around as long as there wasn't some kind of social scandal.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Pat, a lot of the book talks about Nixon and foreign policy. You made a historic trip with him when he was burnishing his credentials. It occurred to me as you were writing and I was thinking about a speech that Barack Obama recently delivered, President Obama, at West Point -- a commencement address this spring.
BUCHANAN: Right. SMERCONISH: Am I correct in thinking that there is a lot of the Nixon doctrine in what Obama is now saying about foreign policy?
BUCHANAN: You're exactly right. And what he is saying and what Obama is doing, that was in the worst years of Vietnam when we had 200 guys coming home every week in body bags or caskets. Nixon started to move out of Vietnam and he went to Guam, out in the Pacific, right after the astronauts came back from the first trip to the moon.
And he gave a speech in Guam where he said, look, in the future, the United States will stand by allies and we will provide the logistic support and firepower and the rest of it, but in basically, they will have to provide the soldiers themselves for their own defense. At the United States, we are not going to send our sons, now our daughters, over to fight in everyone else's wars. We will help out but they're going to have to carry the burden of battle themselves.
And that's exactly what Barack Obama is doing, I think, with regard to Iraq and Afghanistan. He brings our troops home.
And I think the American people agree. Michael, last August, you know, when Barack Obama was going to bomb and involve us in Syria, they stood up and said, do not go in. We've had enough of those wars.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Pat, just 30 seconds left. The guy I think could most benefit from your book, Mitt Romney.
BUCHANAN: Exactly. Mitt Romney against whom Richard Nixon ran against this father. If Mitt Romney will go out and run hard in every single congressional district, he could conceivably emulate what Richard Nixon did in the greatest comeback.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Patrick, the book is great history, and it's a lot of laughs. Nicely done.
BUCHANAN: Thank you, kindly.
SMERCONISH: The book is titled "The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority" -- thanks to Pat Buchanan.
So, what should it be? Rapid fire or rapid reload?
What New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's recent veto tells us about the gun debate.
SMERCONISH: One last thing: 82 people were shot in Chicago in the span of 84 hours over the July 4th weekend, 16 of them died.
Now, as bad as that sounds, homicides in the Windy City have actually been going down in recent years. Chicago still has the largest numbers of killings, yet Detroit and New Orleans, have a higher number of murders per 100,000 people. What's most alarming about the fact that people were being shot at
roughly at the rate of one per hour in Chicago last weekend is that the news was not necessarily treated as being alarming. In other words, we've become desensitized to the gun violence.
The gun violence that does command our attention is the one off, the lone gunman who kills many people. Like when I 2012, somebody entered that Colorado movie house in combat gear and killed 12 while injuring 70 more. Or when later that year, a 20-year-old entered the Sandy Hook elementary school killing 20 first graders and six administrators and teachers. And even then, there was no discernible response from the Congress.
Why no change? Well, we got an illustration of how difficult it is to take even intermediate steps this week. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie who once upon a time, long before he aspired to be president, was a supporter of an assault weapons ban, explained why he recently vetoed a legislative are proposal that would have limited the size of a gun magazine to 10 rounds.
Then, having decided to veto the legislation, Christie wouldn't meet with parents of first graders who were killed at Sandy Hook because he said he already made up his mind on the bill.
So, what was his rationale for vetoing the limitation on magazine size? Let's listen to the governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I've heard the argument. Are we saying, then, that the 10 children on the clip that they advocate for, that their lives are less valuable? If you take the logical conclusion of their argument you go to zero, because every life is valuable.
And so, why 10? Why not six? Why not two? Why not one? Why not zero? Why not just ban guns completely?
I mean, you know, so the logical conclusion of their argument is, that you get to zero eventually. So, you know, I understand their argument.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Hold it, Governor. The problem with that logic is that it goes both ways. See, where Governor Christie says there's no justification for reducing a magazine of 15 to 10, or 10 to five, or five to zero, the same holds true for expanding a magazine from 15 to 20, 20 to 25, 25 to 50.
By that thinking, why have any regulation at all? The answer, according to those Sandy Hook parents, with whom he refused to meet, is that limiting a magazine might force a murderer to take the time to reload and give somebody else a chance to stop them.
That is, after all, the way that the gunman who shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others was stopped back in 2011. Remember, on that day, six murdered, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. That shooter wielded a 9 millimeter Glock with 33-round magazine and was stopped only when he paused to reload and dropped a loaded. One bystander grabbed it, another hit him with the folding chair on the head, that's when a 74-year-old retired army colonel, a guy who's already shot himself, tackled the assailant.
Just two days after Christie explained his veto, "Politico" reported that the governor is going to make a second trip to New Hampshire in recent weeks. And therein lies the explanation as to why there's such an unwillingness to take any steps to curb gun violence. It's not because there's no difference between scaling back a magazine from 15 to 10. It's because we've ceded power in this country to a vocal minority, a minority who have drawn a line in the sand and are unwilling to accept any limitation. And those who seek election to higher office, even self-styled tough guys refuse to stand up to them.
Look, I myself am a firearm owner. I am not so naive as to think that we can cure this issue with gun regulations alone. But the reality is, there are too many high-powered weapons in too many hands, and we need to stop accepting the status quo and begin by making incremental change. We need to do something.
That's it for me. I'll see you back here next week. And until then, enjoy your weekend and have a fantastic week.