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Hall of Shame at the NFL; Interview with Representative Jack Kingston; Former Top Commander: U.S. Has Mishandled ISIS; Dewey Beats Truman in 2014: Will Dems Hold Senate?; Romney for President in 2016?
Aired September 13, 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: Thank you for joining me. And welcome to the program. I have a packed show today including this. Dewey beats Truman or the 2014 version anyway -- the Democrats win big in November. "The New York Times", "The Washington Post", the TV networks, they are all wrong, says Princeton professor, Sam Wang. And he's been right a lot.
Then Mitt Romney will run for president, Pat Buchanan says it, so I'm inclined to believe it. He'll be here with me.
And finally, he was running things during the Iraq war and they told the White House this thing is a mess. General Anthony Zini on Obama's war against ISIS.
Let's get started.
Up first today. What is wrong with the NFL? Early this morning star running back Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings turned himself into authorities in Texas to face child abuse charges. He admits to having hit his 4-year-old son with a tree branch repeatedly. The indictment says the little boy suffered substantial injuries.
Peterson says, I did nothing wrong. I was just spanking my child.
So what is wrong with the NFL? Adrian Peterson will not be playing for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday but around the league at least 10 convicted or suspected domestic abusers are scheduled to take the field. One is Carolina Panther Greg Hardy, a defensive end who's been convicted, not accused, convicted of beating his ex-girlfriend, throwing her across the room and trying to strangle her.
And there is San Francisco 49er Ray McDonald. He was arrested two weeks ago accused of beating up his pregnant fiancee. Ray Rice of course will not play. As the whole world now knows he was fired from the Baltimore Ravens for delivering that awful knockout punch to his then fiance in an Atlantic City elevator.
But others are avoiding suspension because in the past the league has been disgracefully lenient. One former player who's appalled by what he sees is Amani Toomer.
Thanks so much for being here.
AMANI TOOMER, FORMER NY GIANTS PLAYER: Thanks for having me. SMERCONISH: So tomorrow guys are going to suit up, some of whom have
issues of their own. There is a guy playing for the Carolina Panthers with an allegation of domestic violence against him right now.
Do you expect that there is a process about to occur where they get ferreted out as well, that they get punished by the NFL where previously they hadn't been?
TOOMER: Yes, you're talking about Greg Hardy.
TOOMER: He's actually convicted by a judge and now he decided to go to a jury trial. You know, usually in this country you're innocent until proven guilty. But he's actually been proven guilty so I think that his case and there is another case of McDonald in San Francisco, who just got charged. I think McDonald has an opportunity to defend himself and he should be able to play.
But Hardy, a player who's already been convicted, I don't see how the NFL after this situation after how bad it's looked, after how they made the whole domestic violence, doesn't look like the NFL is taking domestic violence seriously outwardly looking in. I think that Greg Hardy should definitely not be playing on Sunday.
SMERCONISH: A number of my radio callers this week, and I'd be curious to hear what you heard on the radio this week, we're drawing parallels with Michael Vick. And one argument was, well, when a guy has paid his penance, when he's been punished by the law, and I don't think that happened sufficiently with Ray Rice, he should be able to eat, he should be able to come back and engage in his profession.
What's your thought on that?
TOOMER: Well, playing in the NFL was a privilege.
TOOMER: And you know, you have to -- there is a code of conduct that our commissioner has put forth and you have to live up to that standard. He could be able to eat, he could do -- he could, you know, work in a job, he can do anything he wants. He just might not be able to play in the NFL until he proves without a shadow of a doubt to the NFL and to all of the people in the community who he's affected by this behavior to come back.
I don't look at it the same way. I think he needs to really get out in front of this thing and become like Michael Vick who got -- who was -- you know, did a lot of work with PETA. I think Ray Rice should be -- they should use him as a -- as a spokesperson to create awareness for domestic violence moving forward. And I think then I would be more willing to allow him back into the community.
SMERCONISH: You mentioned the commissioner. Let me ask you about Roger Goodell. It seems like there is a fact dispute as to what was said at a June meeting where Ray Rice and his now wife were meeting with Roger Goodell and Goodell is saying that he wasn't told that there was a punch in the course of that meeting, others are saying that Ray Rice's side of it is, I told Roger Goodell exactly what happened inside the elevator.
Here's my question. If Goodell had been told by Rice at that meeting what happened inside the elevator and he chose to only suspend him for two games, does Goodell now need to go?
TOOMER: I don't think Goodell needs to go. I think he needs to know what domestic violence is. I don't believe that he should just be fired because I just think that that's the easy way out. It's the easy way out to fire him. I think that what needs to happen is the league needs to move forward and to become just like Ray Rice, on top of this situation in terms of becoming -- you know, creating awareness.
Because there is no other league, no other entity in this country that can create more awareness than the NFL. And I think they have an opportunity to turn the narrative from being the NFL doesn't care about domestic violence to the NFL champions the awareness of domestic violence.
SMERCONISH: Meanwhile, Janay Rice says, hey, media, back off, essentially it's your fault.
TOOMER: Well, that's the classic, my mother telling me that most victims are very apologetic and they take on a lot of the responsibility of the action of the abuser themselves. Now that's -- if Roger Goodell and the NFL realized that before and they knew, they looked at it through the victim's role, then this situation would have been handled much differently.
SMERCONISH: Amani Toomer, good to see you. Wear the ring next time. Please?
TOOMER: I know. I know. It's --
SMERCONISH: What was it? A trophy case?
TOOMER: It's too big to wear out.
SMERCONISH: A good problem to have. A good problem to have. Thank you.
TOOMER: I'm not complaining about that, too.
SMERCONISH: Thank you for being here.
TOOMER: Yes. Thanks for having me, Mike.
SMERCONISH: Meanwhile, who the heck is advising NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell? By any standard his handling of the Ray Rice scandal has been a PR disaster.
So let's talk to an expert in crisis management, somebody who knows the NFL well, Lanny Davis, former White House special counsel to President Bill Clinton. He has also represented Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.
Lanny, thank you so much for being here.
LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: Hi, Mike.
SMERCONISH: If today you were whispering in the ear of Roger Goodell, you would be telling him what?
DAVIS: Well, first of all, I'd be telling him to restate that he got it wrong to begin with when he only imposed a two-game suspension based upon the first videotape that he saw. He said he got it wrong, now he's got to expand on that. I happen to think that he not only got it wrong for only doing two games, I would recommend a full year suspension for the first incident of domestic violence to send a message to all men including Adrian Peterson, that violence, whether it's women or children, is not acceptable and you're not playing in the league for one year and the second incident it's suspension indefinitely. So that's what he got wrong.
And now I think he needs to be more forthcoming about exactly what he plans to do going forward for all of these other incidents that we're now hearing about of men who play football who think violence is OK on the field and violence is OK off the field because it's off the field. They need to be told that there is no distinction when you're violent against women you're out, you don't play football and at least for one year you never play football. If you do it a second time, you're out forever.
SMERCONISH: I read your book, I know the mantra, the Lanny Davis mantra. He did not tell it all, tell it early nor tell it himself.
DAVIS: No, he didn't. And I think that not asking the casino for the second videotape was a mistake. I think he's right that law enforcement during a grand jury proceeding wouldn't turn over that tape. But I also would beg to differ that you characterize that there were facts about what was told behind closed doors, let's talk about Mr. Rice.
Mr. Rice did not follow my rules and was not honest with the public when he held a press conference. He didn't say, I cold cocked my girlfriend and that's why I dragged her out.
DAVIS: He left that part out. And now he sends four anonymous sources to ESPN to say, I actually told Mr. Goodell that I cold cocked my girlfriend when you have two people on the record, the president and the owner of the Ravens, disputing the anonymous sources. So at the very least, Mr. Rice has not followed any of the rules of crisis management. He did something terrible, he should take himself out of football for a year and get help and then go --
SMERCONISH: Lanny --
DAVIS: -- teach other men not to touch women and not to be violent against women. SMERCONISH: Give me just 30 seconds on Adrian Peterson. Today's
latest ripple in this now ongoing NFL saga. How should Goodell respond to this?
DAVIS: As strongly as striking a woman certainly as strongly as beating up a child much less his own child. He needs to be the teaching moment for this country about abusing children, and that should be part of the equation in the NFL, off-field behavior, whether it's drunk and driving, whether it's violence against women and children, they are just as responsible off the field as on the field.
SMERCONISH: Lanny Davis --
DAVIS: That's should be the message from Commissioner Goodell.
SMERCONISH: As always, thank you for being here.
DAVIS: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Have to take a very quick break. When I come back, here's what I want to talk about.
President Obama is sending more Americans on dangerous missions to Iraq and Syria. But Congress has not weighed in. Don't our elected representatives owe us a real debate about whether this is a risk worth taking?
Mitt Romney says he's not running again for the White House in 2016 but Pat Buchanan says oh, yes, he is. And we're going to talk.
And why isn't anyone prosecuting Ray Rice? He committed a crime that the whole country has witnessed and no one is charging him? We'll talk about that right after the break.
SMERCONISH: As awful as that Ray Rice elevator assault is, this point needs to be spelled out. That Ray Rice cannot be prosecuted further. He was charged with third degree aggravated assault but back in May he was accepted into what's called a pretrial diversion program. And as long as he completes the program the charges will be dropped and he will avoid prosecution. It sounds like justice failed. So what happened at the local level with the criminal justice system in Atlantic City?
I'm joined by Steve Sweeney, he's the president of the New Jersey State Senate, he's calling for the state attorney general to investigate how prosecutors handle the case.
Senator Sweeney, let me ask you this. What did the police and prosecutors know of that appalling video and when did they know it?
STEVE SWEENEY, NEW JERSEY SENATE PRESIDENT: Well, they had the film, Michael. And the problem is that you saw that violent act, the prosecutor actually went and moved for Mr. Rice to be upgraded in his charge. And went before a grand jury. And unfortunately, our laws, we've just (INAUDIBLE) our laws. A third-degree crime comes with a presumption of non-incarceration, which means you can't put somebody in jail regardless of the violence. So we need to -- we need to change our law.
SMERCONISH: In other words, if it hadn't been Ray Rice, if it had been Joe Smith, some random individual, not a celebrity, same outcome would have occurred?
SWEENEY: Well, that's what the prosecutor in Atlantic County is doing, and that's why I asked the attorney general to review to ensure that there was no special treatment given. Because there's conflicting reports right now, Michael, that it looks like he was given some special treatment but, you know, we're dealing with a -- basically a victim that's defending the abuser and that's pretty common in domestic abuse.
So we're looking at this as if this is common practice and this is the way you deal with this issue then we need to change it.
SMERCONISH: There is a perception across the country as people have watched this god-awful video. They know of his celebrity status and they think that he was cut a break because he plays in the NFL.
What I'm hearing from you, Senator Sweeney, is that the law needs to be changed and that your suspicion, as you were calling for this investigation is that it was not a celebrity who was treated in a beneficial manner.
SWEENEY: Well, I'm giving the prosecutor the benefit of the doubt but I am asking the attorney general because we have to make sure that he wasn't given a special treatment because of who he was. And you know, more importantly for us, this puts domestic violence on the forefront again for a lot of people and it's a serious issue, Michael. We're taught as children you don't beat children, you don't beat women. It's the wrong thing to do.
SMERCONISH: Something's wrong here. I mean, on that we can all agree, right? The justice system for whatever reason didn't react as society would demand to what we all saw in that videotape.
SWEENEY: Absolutely. And what we've seen from that videotape is really there is a failure in our system. Mr. Rice honestly should have went to jail. That was a violent act. He could have killed -- he could have killed his girlfriend at the time and he's gotten a slap on the wrist. It's like a traffic violation. Don't do it again. You're speeding, don't do it again.
Domestic violence has to be treated in a way that it deals with the problem. And unfortunately Mr. Rice slipped through the cracks.
SMERCONISH: Well said. I agree with you.
Senator Steve Sweeney, thank you for joining us.
SWEENEY: Thank you, Michael. SMERCONISH: I want to squeeze in a commercial here but when I come
back I've got a question. Why in the heck hasn't our Congress debated whether we should be escalating military action against ISIS? There are life and death concerns here. Shouldn't we hear all sides?
Stay with me, I'll be right back.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to the program.
President Obama has now laid out his plan to go after ISIS. Although he once again uttered the magic words "no boots on the ground" it sure looks and smells like war. Even if on a limited scale. So I believe that there is something else that must now happen. It's time for Congress to have an up or down vote on authorizing the use of force.
Sadly, that doesn't appear likely. And not because Congress is too busy on other matters of similar import. This week the House found time to vote to amend the Wild And Scenic Rivers Act but American military intervention in Syria? That didn't come up. On the Senate side of the aisle senators approved the multinational species conservation fund's Semi-postal Stamp Reauthorization Act of 2013. But again no time for authorizing military action.
Meanwhile, there have been plenty of sound bites about ISIS, just no voting. Despite the fact that resolutions to authorize force were introduced last Monday in both Houses, too many representatives seem all too willing to sidestep the accountability that comes from having to vote for or against war.
Representative Jack Kingston of Georgia summed up the situation when he said, "A lot of people would like to stay on the sidelines and say just bomb the place and tell us about it later." It's an election year and I'll be speaking with him in just a moment. But I suspect some representatives are looking at Hillary Clinton's vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq in 2002 as the type of albatross that comes from such votes. Others have such a sense of antipathy toward the president that they don't want to stand for anything that he supports.
The president has, of course, invited a vote but that could simply be because he knows Congress is too spineless to do it. And of course the White House has repeatedly said the president has the authority he needs to take action against ISIS.
Whether congressional approval is legally necessary is unclear. But I think the American people are entitled to know exactly where our elected representatives stand not from a media appearance but from a vote. Accountability demands that people close the curtain on a ballot booth in the midterms knowing whether their representative voted for or against the use of military force.
Look, going to war is a momentous decision. Placing men and women in harm's way and that enormous financial consequence to the nation should never be easy. Authorizing military force should be the stuff of ongoing debate and serious decision making. We elected them to make these tough decisions. So members of Congress, our post offices, our scenic rivers can wait. It's time for you to face the serious of your responsibilities that you were elected to do.
So let's turn now to a member of Congress, put some of these questions to him.
Jack Kingston is the Georgia representative who supports a congressional vote authorizing military intervention.
Congressman, nice to have you here. Thank you.
REP. JACK KINGSTON (R), GEORGIA: It's glad to be with you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: You know, the "Times" lead editorial on this very issue on Friday said it's a matter of cowardice if Congress won't take on a vote for authorization for war.
What do you say?
KINGSTON: Well, I think that there are those in Washington who would just as soon not vote on it. I don't know why you run for Congress, though, if you are afraid to cast a vote. I mean, that's what we're paid to do. That's why we came to town. Whether you are Democrat or a Republican, and as you have just outlined, this is a very serious decision. We have not gotten it right in the Middle East in 13 years.
And we need to know all of the information that we can. We need to be having a robust debate, we need to be getting a lot of eyes on this and a lot of fingerprints on this decision. I think it strengthens the president's hand internationally, but it also brings the country together through the education process on what the American interest is.
SMERCONISH: Did he give you enough, in his address to the nation, Congressman Kingston, that you would be comfortable voting for an authorization for war against ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
KINGSTON: Not quite but I will say this. I'm old school enough to believe that the commander in chief needs to have the tools to, if this is a serious situation, which it is, he needs to have the tools to be -- the tools that he needs to be victorious. That's why, while I don't think anybody is embracing putting troops on the ground, I don't think you can get around that eventually. And I think that the president has to have Congress behind him if he needs to make that decision. He has not said he needs to make that decision but I want him to have all the tools in the toolbox to win this war. And I do believe that -- that it is a war.
SMERCONISH: I was surprised that a survey this past week from "The Wall Street Journal" and NBC News said that two-thirds of Americans are supportive of some type of military intervention against ISIS.
In fact, Congressman, a full third of Americans said that they'd even support boots on the ground. And as I analyze the internals of that data I was saying to myself I wonder if they have been swayed by the horrific images of those two beheadings and the fact that we've just marked the 13th anniversary of September 11th and maybe the dust needs to settle a little bit for a more reasoned approach to all of this.
KINGSTON: We don't know who our allies are, that question incidentally was asked this week in a hearing. We don't know what these allies are willing to do in terms of writing a check, sending equipment or sending ground troops. And all that is important because if the air campaign isn't successful enough and we can't get enough Iraqis to train up to defend themselves, then you're going to have to have some ground troops and they're going to have to come from somewhere.
SMERCONISH: Well, I worry that there's not a sufficient Arab component to this and that the perception will be among ISIS that it's yet again the West and America encroaching on what they regard as the Arabian Peninsula and that they'll use this for propaganda purposes as a recruitment device.
KINGSTON: I think members of Congress from both parties are going to want to know what are they willing to do, how much skin are they going to put in the game. And one of the things that we learned from Afghanistan and Iraq, there were a lot of people in our coalition almost that there were almost there on paper only. Their contribution was very small. And so while we said we had 48 nations in the coalition, some gave a little bit -- a lot more than others. And I think people are going to want to know that as well because we can't continuously intervene in the Middle East and fight the wars that they should be fighting for themselves.
SMERCONISH: It's funny you say that. Because a couple of years ago I toured a base in Djibouti at the invitation of Secretary Rumsfeld's office. And I was impressed to see this listing of all of the countries that were represented on the base but when we saw the sizes of the respective barracks, you know, there was the United States and then there was everybody else.
KINGSTON: Yes. That's absolutely right. They are there on paper only. And we were told this week the administration is hoping to have 70 countries in the coalition. Well, that would be very, very good news. I don't see how they are going to be able to accomplish that in a few weeks' period of time, though.
SMERCONISH: Congressman Jack Kingston, thank you so much for being here.
KINGSTON: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Time for a break but I've got a fascinating guest coming up.
General Anthony Zinni was the commander who broke with the White House during the Iraq war, went on national television to say this thing is a mess. You'll want to hear what he has to say about the war on ISIS, stick with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SMERCONISH: The CIA now estimates that the number of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria could be as high as 31,500. That's more than triple its original estimate. The Pentagon has been bombing ISIS targets in Iraq to slow the advance of the terror group, and now, it's about to launch air strikes inside of Syria.
But, General Michael Hayden, the former CIA director says the strategy isn't going to work and he used a very interesting analogy to make his point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER NSA DIRECTOR: The strategic level, air power has all of the attraction of casual sex. It offers gratification, but with limited commitment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: That's one way to put. I think my next guest may agree. General Anthony Zinni says they should have put boots on the ground against ISIS months ago. He is the former head of U.S. Central Command and he's the author of the new book, "Before the First Shots Are Fired: How American Can Win Or Lose Off The Battlefield."
General Zinni, welcome. Thanks for being here.
GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI (RET), FORMER CENTCOM COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF: Good to be with you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Do you cringe as a military leader you hear an elected official make a pledge like no boots on the ground? And if so, why?
ZINNI: I do cringe for several reasons. One, first of all, don't tell your enemy what you're not going to do. You know, presidents have always said all options are still on the table. They may caveat by saying that we'll look carefully before certain commitments.
The other thing I think we're missing here and this is very important from a military perspective -- boots on the ground provide a capability that cannot be matched through just air strikes or providing intelligence or advisers and equipping. We could have had ISIS out of Iraq in a matter of a week or so if we had a substantial American ground force.
By that I mean maybe two brigades. Now they have been in for months, and they have been able to recruit, it's helped their image and even international recruiting. And they have been able to dig in, in places like Mosul and others and it's going to be much harder to extract them at this point as a result.
SMERCONISH: I think, General, civilians such as myself equate boots on the ground with longevity. Is that necessarily the case? We hear boots on the ground, we think, oh my God, this is going on for many, many years.
ZINNI: No. I think that's a misunderstanding. The decision to stay is a political decision. Remember in the First Gulf War, when we put in overwhelming troops in accordance with the Powell Doctrine and Weinberger doctrine, we ended that fight pretty quickly and then we're able to reduce to a small containment force that didn't have boots on the ground. Remember when the Kurds were brutalized by Saddam. We put in a ground force to push Saddam's military back from Kurdistan and brought them home, and then protected them with an air contingent that work out of Turkey and off carriers.
So, there isn't necessarily that kind of commitment. It's a misunderstanding, I think, that's gotten our presidents and others in our understanding by the American people confused.
SMERCONISH: General, with regard to the coalition being assembled, is the enemy of my enemy my friend in this case and by that sir, I mean should we participate with Assad? Should we participate with Iran?
ZINNI: I would not participate in the sense that we're cooperating with either one. It may be that right now we have the same enemy. All that needs to be done is just deconflict what we're doing on the ground which basically means that we would say in the case of Syria, we would issue with demarche, we're going to strike ISIS targets inside Syria, do not interfere with us or else.
And with Iran, I would say we will keep you informed as much as we can, you keep us informed since we're basically sharing the same battlefield.
But we have to remember one important thing. Neither one of those entities has our best interests at heart in the end.
SMERCONISH: I worry about the reliability of those Syrian forces with whom we might now partner that we might be training. I reflect on Afghanistan when it seems like there was an unintended consequence and it came back to haunt with bid Laden and the other volunteers. What concern if any does General Zinni have about our new partners in Syria?
ZINNI: You know, I've always worried when we fall back to a rented army like we did with the northern alliance in Afghanistan. That cost us getting al Qaeda in Tora Bora. This collection that we have now is highly vulnerable in my mind. It's not only the Syrian opposition that we're counting on for the ground fight, remember they have two fights going on and we're not sure who they all are.
But we also have the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi military. The Kurds, they will fight but they are small and poorly equipped. In case with the Iraqi army, we should have doubts based on their performance and obviously the Syrian opposition is questionable, again in who they are and if they are able to handle the task of fighting two enemies, Assad and ISIS. So, this is the weak link in this strategy as I see it.
SMERCONISH: General, quick final question if I might. Is there a vital U.S. interest at stake with regard to ISIS?
ZINNI: There is. And it's a moral one. You know, had we not intervened as small as the first intervention was with airstrikes and humanitarian aid they would have committed genocide. The Yazidis would have been wiped out virtually to man and child, the Chaldeans (ph), potentially, the Turcomans (ph), certainly all of those Iraqi prisoners they took, both Sunni and Shia they were brutally murdering.
I don't think we want to do what we did in terms of the Holocaust or Rwanda and Burundi and stood by and watched this happen. Although that might not be an economic interest or a security interest, it's a moral interest in my view.
SMERCONISH: General Anthony Zinni, thank you, sir, for your service and for being here.
ZINNI: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: I need to get in a quick break. But when I come back, some startling predictions of very smart guy who says all of the conventional wisdom about the midterm elections is dead wrong. Princeton professor Sam Wang is standing by live.
Don't go away.
SMERCONISH: It's like Dewey defeats Truman all over again. November's midterm elections seven weeks away. And right now, all of the experts predict that Republicans will win a majority in the Senate.
But what if everybody's got it wrong? My next guest says they do.
Sam Wang is a Princeton University professor and the founder of the Princeton election consortium. Now, this guy has got a phenomenal track record. Back in 2012, he beat all of the so-called experts, including Nate Silver, the guru of predictors. He called the presidential race correctly in 49 of 50 states, he also had a perfect record for the close Senate seat. Sam Wang went 10 for 10 and missed a couple in the House.
Sam Wang predicts that Democrats will retain control of the Senate and he joins me now.
Dr. Wang, we visited your Web site. I want to put up what is currently posted at your site and ask you to explain.
SAM WANG, FOUNDER, PRINCETON ELECTION CONSORTIUM: OK.
SMERCONISH: Because you, sir, are saying the probability of Democratic control remaining in the hands of Democrats and independents on Election Day is 70 percent. What are you seeing that everyone else is not?
WANG: That's right. Well, I should first say that 70 percent is not 100 percent. But let me describe what we do there. For the last elections going back to 2004 when I started analyzing this stuff at election.princeton.edu, what we found is that polls are very good snapshot of current conditions at any given moment in the race and polls converge on the Election Day outcome.
So, what you're looking at there is the probability of all of the state races that are close including the ones that are not so close, and I turn those into a statistical snapshot of where the race is on any given day. And what the number you just came up with is a forecast based on what the polls are doing all summer of that number, landing on Democrats and independents having 50 seats or more on Election Day.
So, based on what we've been seeing all summer, the polls have been pointing towards a very close contest, everybody should vote, but indicating that Democrats and independents are favored.
SMERCONISH: We should make clear, you're a neuroscientist, you're an aggregator in this respect. You are not doing original polling. You're looking at a whole host of other people's data.
How do you protect against garbage in, garbage out? For example, do you exclude pollsters from your survey research that have a bad track record?
WANG: Right. The way I put it as a laboratory neuroscientist I'm always having to deal with points that might be off one by one. And the key is to aggregate them in some kind of statistically neutral way, where all of the data points have a say.
Since 2004, our observation at the Princeton Election Consortium though an individual pollster might be off, as a community those guys, those men and women, are very good at what they do. And as a community, they have this wisdom of crowds where they can converge on the right answer. What that means is that all polls are welcome in this and using statistical methods to not give too much weight to outlier polls -- Democratic pollsters can get in, Republican pollsters, neutral pollsters, everybody gets in and perhaps surprisingly that leads to a very good predictive tool.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Wang, I've been following you via social media. Seems there is a trash talking going on between Nate Silver and you.
WANG: Yes. It's sort of fun but I want to make sure that stays on the math and stays on the substance. And you are right there is a little bit of a tiff going on right now.
SMERCONISH: So, I watch that Netflix documentary about the Romney campaign. I think it's called "Mitt". It was tremendous.
And something that I took away for our purposes is the fact the Romney folks seemed stunned on election night.
So, my question for you, Dr. Wang, is, is there a tendency among pollsters to tell their clients what they want to hear?
WANG: Well, I think if you're an individual pollster, it is true you should please your client. One thing that pollsters can do is boost the spirits of the campaign they are working for. And so, it would not be surprising for a campaign to nudge numbers a little bit, just put a little finger on the scale, towards the candidate they are working for, to get him to run harder, work harder. This finger on the scale can happen with individual pollsters.
And if you look at the Romney campaign, I think a distinct possibility is that Mitt Romney was led to believe something that was a little off from what happened.
SMERCONISH: Finally, what I'm hearing from you, this is not a wave, this is at best a ripple year. Is that fair to say?
WANG: I think in the Senate that's true. I think these mainstream media sites like, "FiveThirtyEight" and "The New York Times", they came into this campaign thinking that it was going to be a better year for the Republicans and their computer models put a finger on the scale. But if you look at actual conditions on the ground right now in terms of polling in the Senate, the Democrats are currently performing better than expectations. I do think it's true that the Republicans are likely to pick up seats in the House, but it's not going to be a massive wave like in 2010.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Sam Wang, thanks so much for being here.
WANG: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Appreciate your time.
Coming up next, I'll be talking to one of the smartest political thinkers on the planet. Pat Buchanan says Mitt Romney probably is going to run for president again and he is usually right. You're going to want to hear what Pat has to say.
SMERCONISH: So, is Mitt Romney laying the groundwork to run for president again in 2016?
Last weekend on "FOX News Sunday", Governor Romney was highly critical of President Obama's time in office but insisted he's not running to replace him. And yet, listen to the exchange with host Chris Wallace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: In your heart, do you still think that you would make the best president of all of the people out there?
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, there is no question in my mind that I think I'd have been a better president than Barack Obama has been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: That was quickly followed by this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: You think you would make a better president than Hillary Clinton?
ROMNEY: No question about that in my mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Governor Romney is no doubt keeping an eye on the early polls. A recent Suffolk University/"USA Today" poll gives him a commanding lead over potential GOP rivals among Republican voters in Iowa. Romney's got 35 percent. His nearest competitor is governor Mike Huckabee at 9 percent.
Despite his latest denial last weekend, Romney also said recently the circumstances can change, and all this made me think about Richard Nixon who ran and lost to JFK in 1960 and then after a series of denials ran again in '68 and won.
So, let's talk to one of the smartest people in politics about all this, Pat Buchanan, who worked in the Nixon White House. He's also the author of the "The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority", and Pat joins me now.
You know, Pat, the more he says no, the more I think he's read your book and that he's following a the script set by Nixon in the '60s. What are you watching?
PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR, "THE GREATEST COMEBACK": I see something of the same thing. Richard Nixon, of course, lost for president and he lost in 1962 to Pat Brown, and he said, I'm all through with politics, you won't have me to kick around anymore.
And in 1966, Michael, which is comparable to this year for the 2016 campaign, Nixon went out after LBJ day and night on that campaign. We went in to 35 states, 80 congressional districts.
Nixon was on Johnson's case. He campaigned for liberals. He campaigned for conservatives. He campaigned for moderates and for everyone. At the end, he engaged Lyndon Johnson.
I think Governor Romney seems to be pursuing this strategy and it's exactly the right one I believe if he wants to run for president. And I don't have, from my vantage point, which is outside, I don't have any doubt that Mitt Romney would like to be president of the United States and believe he would be a good one.
SMERCONISH: Do you think he's going about this in a manner to set up a draft that having run and lost twice, that he doesn't want to announce candidacy in the conventional way. But as I think you just hinted, he goes out, he pays his dues, he does set the circuit, and sets up a circumstance where continually Republicans are saying, oh, Mitt, you got get into this thing.
BUCHANAN: Look, I don't go along with the draft thing. Richard Nixon, what we did when we got to '67, '68, Michael, was Richard Nixon said, I'm going to have to win in the fires of the primaries. I'm going to have to win every one. I'm going to have to get rid of this loser image, and the way you get rid of it, is going in and inviting every Republican in and beating every one of them.
I don't think if Mitt Romney wants to be president, and I believe in his heart he's got to want to be president, he run twice. I think if he's going to do that, he's going to have to get in and do battle and win the nomination. I don't think people are going to come and offer it to him on a golden platter.
I do think there's -- I mean, when you take a look at the candidates, Romney would be running against in his bracket, if you will, the establishment centrist candidates, you take a look at Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. I don't know why Mitt Romney should look at them, all of them have drawbacks and say, I can't beat these fellas and get into the finals.
SMERCONISH: As I look back at the last cycle, my appraisal is that conservatives within the Republican primary process caucus process split that hard conservative vote and allowed Romney, I'll take your word, the more establishment candidate to escape with the nomination. If Christie goes, if Bush goes, if Romney goes, might the establishment vote now be divided within the process allowing a conservative, maybe Pat Buchanan -- I don't know -- to capture the nomination.
BUCHANAN: This is so wide open, Michael. Nobody is above 15 percent. When I ran against Bob Dole in 96, he was over 50 percent beginning.
Look, there are going to be conservatives, maybe a libertarian in there. There's going to be Cruz-type populist, Marco Rubio, nobody is above 15 percent. So, the conservative libertarian side, populist side is going to be widely contested as well as the establishment side, maybe even more so. This is wide open. It's like a poker game. If you play draw poker, five cards. And you open up with two aces in your hand. You don't drop out of the game, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Let me switch gears briefly. So the president was on national television talking about what looks like war against ISIS, even though he doesn't characterize it as such. Am I crazy, if I was sitting on my sofa, watching this and thinking he's channeling R.N.?
BUCHANAN: Well, I don't think Richard Nixon would go into this the way the president is going into it, I'll tell you. The president -- ISIS is a miserable crowd and they ought to be destroyed. But he does not have the forces. You need forces on the ground in Syria and forces on the ground in Iraq to defeat ISIS. And I don't see him as having them.
And he won't deal with Assad, apparently the Syrian army which could do it. The Turks aren't going to come in and the allies in Europe and the allies in the Arab world, none of them are going to send troops. Where are the ground forces going to come from to defeat these 30,000 radicals?
SMERCONISH: Good question.
BUCHANAN: I don't know where they're coming from.
SMERCONISH: Patrick, thank you as always. We appreciate your analysis.
BUCHANAN: Thank you, my friend.
SMERCONISH: OK. I'll be right back.
SMERCONISH: Hey, that's it for today. It will be interesting to see next week if Congress has an up or down vote on war against ISIS. I think they owe us that. I want to remind you, if you have to miss the program, don't forget to set your DVR.
Thank you so much for joining me.