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Why Wasn't Ebola Doctor Quarantined?; Will ISIS Get Nukes?; Ex- Jihadi on Lure of Radical Islam; The Long Wait in Ferguson; The Case for Monica Lewinsky
Aired October 25, 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: Hello, I'm Michael Smerconish. Welcome to the program. I've got a packed show today.
Digging down on some key questions. Should the New York City doctor with Ebola been allowed to roam the nation's largest city? Why didn't he self quarantine for everybody's protection?
And then a terrifying question, what are the chances that ISIS is going to acquire nuclear weapons? I'll ask former CIA agent Valeria Plame. She's an expert on tracking nukes.
And Monica Lewinsky, love her or hate her, we're learning new information about what really happened during that scandal that bears her name. Some pretty shocking details. All that and more on today's program. So let's get started.
New York is a city of packed subways, crowded sidewalks, building stacked with layers of people on top of each other and now Ebola is here. The doctor who brought it back from Africa was out in many of those crowds. Craig Spencer went all over the city. He rode three different subways. He went to the highline tourist attractions, ate at a restaurant in Greenwich Village, he took the subway to a bowling alley in Brooklyn and took an uber car back to his apartment in upper Manhattan.
Still no one in panicking and the chances that he's infected anyone are very small. But my question is this. If he was feeling sluggish on Tuesday, should he have been out and about on Wednesday. Joining me now to talk about this and more is Dr. Alex Van Tulleken, a CNN medical analyst from Fordham University. Doctor, welcome.
What's your answer to that question, if we were feeling sluggish on Tuesday, should he have been so free with his movements come Wednesday?
DR. ALEXANDER VAN TULLEKEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I actually don't think he's done anything wrong. All we've heard all day long is how irresponsible he's been. How he could have done this. How dare he bring this back to the city. And of course, New York is a place we think of for the spread of disease we see in the movies, things like this. In fact, he's adhered very rigorously to the (INAUDIBLE) the Doctors Without Borders protocols which are based on CDC protocols and there's absolutely no reason to believe he's exposed anyone to any risk at all. SMERCONISH: I don't have concern that he exposed anyone. I've read, even researched about whether you can contract it from a bowling ball because we had to get that far into the weeds this week. But doesn't common sense dictate that if you're within the 21-day time period and if you might test positive because of the good work that you've done, then maybe you should limit your activities so as to not inspire fear. God forbid, you end up being diagnosed with Ebola.
VAN TULLEKEN: It's really difficult (INAUDIBLE). We don't know exactly what his experience of feeling sluggish was. The mission that he's been on, would have been very exhausting and feeling sluggish is not - I mean, we have sluggish days anyway. And sluggish is not a hallmark symptom of Ebola. The thing he's been told to look for is fever, and the moment he spiked a fever, and a low fever at that. He didn't spike -
VAN TULLEKEN: Yes. It's not a high fever at all, he called his organization, everything was arranged and everything happened properly. I think what would we ask these people to do. Taking people out of circulation completely for three weeks is a huge ask when we think about the numbers of health workers required to combat the disease of Ebola.
SMERCONISH: Should we regulate their movements in any way?
VAN TULLEKEN: What I'd say is I think they shouldn't be getting on planes. He would have been given controlled movement guidance from his organization. He has to be checking in a couple of times a day. And he has been told not to -- if you look at his movements, although he's been all over the city, he hasn't been wildly extravagant with his movements.
So I think the main thing here is that we've set a protocol which means that he doesn't expose anyone to risk and he sat within that protocol.
SMERCONISH: I think Americans, Dr., are now familiar with the concept of tracing. We learned that in the aftermath of what went on in Dallas. Tracing in a city of 8.4 million. It's an impossible task.
VAN TULLEKEN: Yes, it's a very, very interesting question. Because I'm sitting here saying look, there's nothing to worry about. Then you go why are we spending all this time, all this energy tracing down everyone?
VAN TULLEKEN: That's because we need to know the full story. I mean, it could be if he had gotten out and gotten drunk, cut his hand. If he'd actually been sick on the sidewalk and the subway, something like that, then the risk changes dramatically. So we know that none of those happened because we've traced his movements. So we were able to very clearly stratify who we need to be in touch with. They haven't contacted everyone on A train and everyone on the L train. Those are the trains I rode today and they're absolutely fine.
SMERCONISH: I took the E train yesterday.
VAN TULLEKEN: Exactly.
SMERCONISH: But now thinking about all these issues. Let me ask you this. Do we know all that we think we know? By that I mean, doctor, there have been a series of incidents now where you have people who have contracted Ebola who say I have no idea how I contracted it and they were apparently taking precautions. It doesn't give someone like me, a lay person, a high degree of confidence.
VAN TULLEKEN: It's such a difficult story to tell this. Because we have two exactly opposing scientific facts. One is we know it's hard to catch because we can look at the family of Thomas Eric Duncan exposed to diarrhea and vomiting in his house, bodily fluids over many days, didn't catch it.
Similarly, Patrick (INAUDIBLE), the American man who brought Ebola to Nigeria did not infect the people on the plane despite having symptoms. So we know it's hard to catch. But equally we see health care providers wearing all that protective gear catching it. I mean, the answer is how long it takes to manifest a lot of virus in your body. In the early stages, Dr. Spencer's viral levels would have been very, very low, very hard to catch. In the end stages, you're talking about millions of viral particles, the tiny drops of blood, so very easy to catch. You only need a tiny number of viruses to get into your body.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Van Tulleken, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate you being here.
I want to turn to an ethicist, a doctor who's trained to consider a lot of these questions that we've been asking. Did Dr. Craig Spencer behaved unethically? Should he have self quarantined? Let's dig into that with medical ethicist Art Caplan from the New York University Langdon Medical Center. Dr., you've heard my conversation with Dr. Van Tulleken. What do you make of it?
ARTHUR CAPLAN, MEDICAL ETHICIST: There's two viruses circulating right now, Michael. One is Ebola. That's hard to catch. The other is fear and that's pretty easy to catch and a lot of Americans are getting it. Do I think for medical reasons, infectious disease reasons, he needs to self isolate? I do not. I agree that he's watching for fever, as soon as it appears, he gets himself to the hospital.
No one was put at risk unless they had sex with him in the bowling alley or shared a toothbrush with him on the A train. There was no risk to anybody. But fear is strong so I think prudence says ethically stay at home, isolate yourself and don't wander around. And I have a different proposal, Michael, Maybe we should set up a hotel for heroes. They are heroes. They're going to the front lines to fight this disease. Let's put them in a nice place. They shouldn't be going to jail. They should be going to a place where the food is good and there's plenty of videos to watch. Let them do interviews about what they saw in West Africa and get us all on board the idea that we're going to stamp out the epidemic. Let's celebrate them but maybe we can keep them a little bit restricted for the three weeks before we kind of let them go their merry way.
SMERCONISH: Listen, I like that idea. I don't want to hammer this guy. He was apparently doing god's work.
SMERCONISH: But when you go through the chronology. It was the times on Friday, Dr. Caplan, that said - there wasn't any explanation. It simply said that he was sluggish, began to feel sluggish on Tuesday and then you learn that on Wednesday he goes from Harlem to bowling in Brooklyn, he's on the high line and so forth. That's when I said to myself, at the minute that he started to feel sluggish, why didn't he just stay at home.
CAPLAN: I can't disagree with that. And also, you know, why are we doing the contract tracing? What if he did cut his hand somewhere or what if he did get drunk and have sex with somebody out in the city, et cetera, et cetera. It's more prudent for the protection against fear, let's do the isolation but let's celebrate them.
What we don't want to do is turn it into jail. We want people to go over there and stop this epidemic and we want people to go back over there and stop this epidemic. The way to do that is to say just like 9/11 and the cops and the firemen who went toward danger, these doctors, these nurses going toward danger, let's handle them appropriately. We need to be prudent to control fear and panic but let's really give them their props. Let's say, you're doing good things, you're doing wonderful things, you're doing ethical things, let's reward you for that.
SMERCONISH: On your Facebook page at the end of the weekend, and if we have this, can we put this up on the screen, and remind Dr. Caplan of what he said, but you ended - there it is. "So could we all not go insane at once. Ebola doc at Bellevue went bowling, went in taxis, so what. He had no symptoms. He wasn't infectious. His fiancee needs to worry if they had had sex or shared a toothbrush. Unless you did this with him in a taxi or in a bowling alley, you're good. Those trying for strikes should be spared any concern. Come on media, do better." Explain that last part before you leave me.
CAPLAN: Well, you know, people kept saying to me, why are we so panicked. Let's face it, we see people in moon suits constantly.
CAPLAN: I should ask you what's the size of that Ebola virus because I think it's about three feet big when I see that thing come out, that wormy thing. It's like, holy mackerel. That's coming after me? So I think we're doing a pretty good job frightening people. What we want to do is come up with construct ideas. Here's a rule. No talking heads on your show unless they've got something constructive to suggest.
SMERCONISH: And credentials and you do.
CAPLAN: And some credentials.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Dr. Art Caplan. We appreciate your time.
CAPLAN: My pleasure.
SMERCONISH: I need to squeeze in a quick break but when I come back, the nightmare scenario. How would New York handle an outbreak of Ebola if a number of different cases were to appear. Who would maintain common the city of this size. I'll talk to the guy who knows a lot about keeping New York City safe. He used to be the police chief of the largest city in America. We're back in just a moment.
SMERCONISH: When a call comes in and someone might have Ebola, a city like New York has to mobilize. Public officials have to tell folks what's going on, keep everybody from panicking. First responders have to protect themselves and the public. If the problem gets worse, how prepared is New York City.
One man who knows the answer is Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner and the American-appointed interim interior minister for Iraq. And he joins me now from Washington. Bernard, how prepared is NYC for this.
BERNARD KERIK, FORMER NYC POLICE COMMISSIONER: I think it's extremely well prepared. In fact, it's probably better prepared than any city in the country. Keep in mind, New York city has resources that no other city really has. In the police department you have 41 - 40,000 cops, uniformed cops, you have an enormous fire department, emergency service, emergency medical service unit, you have an office of emergency management.
And today, Mike, the emergency management center is controlled and managed by the Commissioner Esposito who was the chief of department on and in the aftermath of 911, had to deal with the 911, had to deal with Anthrax, had to deal with the West Nile virus. And you have a phenomenal health department that works in conjunction with the CDC out of Atlanta and we had to do that with the Anthrax threat back in 2001. So you've got enormous amount of resources that I think is extremely beneficial to the citizens of New York City.
SMERCONISH: It sounds like you're unconcerned about turf battles between local, state and federal official.
KERIK: You know what? New York City is pretty good at working together with the state and the federal government. You know, for the city itself, you have Police Commissioner Bratton, who I personally think is one of the best commissioners they've ever had. The fire department works were cooperatively with the PD. The office of emergency management oversees all of the sort of critical infrastructure and working relationships between the city agency for the mayor himself. So there's an enormous body of people, city agency heads that work together. And the state comes in, the federal government comes in, they've done this for years. Unlike just about any other city in our country, they've been doing this back in 1996 when Mayor Giuliani created the office of emergency management.
SMERCONISH: Bernard, in my day job as a talk radio host where I like to say I answer phones for a living, I have never seen an issue where there's such a quest for information, a desire for information from the general public to which I would say to you I think communication is a very important part of the government response. Quick thought on that from you.
KERIK: Communications is the key to the success of handling any crisis. If you look back to the days of 911, you would see me, Giuliani, the fire commissioner four or five times a day notifying the public, telling them what's going on. That's one of the most important things you can do. And New York City has a device by which that is done.
So I think you're going to see a lot of communications, a lot of working relationships between the feds, the CDC and the city. And honestly, your two speakers earlier, the doctors, they were phenomenal. I think people should listen to them, don't panic, go about your business.
SMERCONISH: Bernard Kerik, thank you.
KERIK: Michael, thank you.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Spencer lives in Harlem on a quiet street where understandably many neighbors are nervous. Getting them information and helping them cope is a job their city councilman Mark Levine has taken on and he joins me now.
I know you've been on the scene and interacting with your constituents and neighbors. What's the vibe?
MARK LEVINE, NYC COUNCILMAN: Look, the shock has worn off at this point and many people are taking it in stride out there is a tremendous amount of misinformation out there and that had bred some panic, unwarranted. But there are people who live across the street, who are worried that because they shopped in the same deli as Dr. Spencer they might have been exposed. There are people who have told their kids not to hug anyone at school. There are people who are going around covering up their mouth. This is not airborne.
Even the postal carrier who went into the building a couple of hours ago had a mask on. This is not an airborne disease. You talked about the importance of information. We still have some work to do to get that out to the public. The media has a huge role here. But I think elected officials, health department, people on the ground have to get the truth out to the regular members of the community.
SMERCONISH: I'm curious councilman, are the neighbors critical of the doctor for having been so free flowing in his travel around the city? LEVINE: Those who know him are fond of him. (INAUDIBLE) But in the broader community, there is some anger, I have to say, honestly, that he was out and about. We're communicating to those people that if he was asymptomatic, there was no risk. That's not yet sunk in entirely. People are worried if they sat next to him on the subway or if they live in his building and grabbed an elevator button that he might have touched, they could be exposed. That's not the case. We're getting the word out but there is some fear.
SMERCONISH: I was on the E train yesterday, you know, to get here to the CNN building, coming from Penn station and you just sense that people are kind of looking around and it's on everyone's mind.
LEVINE: For sure. Blanket coverage in the media ensures that. But people are also getting the message out there, this is not an airborne disease, that if you didn't have intimate contact with Dr. Spencer you're OK. Thank you for highlighting that in your program. But there's a school on his block, there's an elementary school with a thousand kids on the very block where Dr. Spencer lives. Attendance was down some there today. Parents unjustifiably in my opinion and in the opinion of experts, holding their kids back. As an indication of the fear out there but there was good curriculum in the school today explaining to kids about this disease. So we're making progress.
SMERCONISH: Good. Councilman, good to see you. Thank you for being here.
LEVINE: My pleasure.
SMERCONISH: Just ahead, we've heard reports that ISIS is using deadly gas. Could they be looking for a nuclear weapon?
And Michael Brown's official autopsy leaked out this week. Are we any closer to knowing if the police officer who shot him will be indicted?
SMERCONISH: If you thought ISIS was frightening before, consider this. The State Department says it's looking into reports that the terrorist group is using chemical weapons against its enemies, specifically chlorine gas. Ever since we became aware of how strong and brutal ISIS was, one key question has been this. What if they got their hands on nuclear weapons? Is it possible ISIS could get hold of one?
Some one who can really help us with that question is my next guest. Valley Plame, the former CIA officer who worked to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons, she left the agency after her cover was blown by Dick Cheney's office. She's now an author and her latest novel is "Burned." She joins us from Washington. As a matter of fact, Valerie, your new novel talks about a nuclear arms dealer. How hard would it be for the Islamic state to get a nuke?
VALERIE PLAME, FORMER CIA OFFICER: It is fairly easy. Because nuclear technology has of course, proliferated. There's highly enriched uranium. For them, unfortunately, it's way too easy. SMERCONISH: Let's talk about the report this week that chlorine gas may be something that the Islamic state already have. First of all, how hard is it to produce that and secondly if they have chlorine gas, what else might they have?
PLAME: Well, the problem with chemical weapon use, of course is it's very ineffective on the battlefield. You have to assess where the wind is going and so forth. Chlorine is a fairly common and easy to make chemical weapon. Of course we had gone in to Syria and they had claimed that they had cleared all of their chemical stockpiles. But ISIS is using this, perhaps, to see how effective it can be on the battlefield, because they are clearly advancing and hungry for more territory.
SMERCONISH: Does the fact that many of the attacks that we're seeing from the Islamic state in North America, the fact that they are of a lone wolf origin, does that at least give us some solace against their use of a nuclear weapon or a chemical weapon insofar as it's harder for a lone wolf to get access to such weaponry?
PLAME: Indeed if that's how you want to look at it. But that is a grave concern because there may be those that are eat logically aligned with ISIS, they've been drawn in by their pretty slick propaganda and yet they're not officially part of it. They're taking out, acting out what they perceive to be their jihadist route in these attacks that we saw the other day in Canada, perhaps what we saw in New York. We don't know. And there may be others. In terms of getting nuclear material or dirty bomb, unfortunately it is much too easy.
SMERCONISH: Valerie Plame, thank you so much for being here.
PLAME: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: It's been a week filled with tragedy, death and heroism. Terrorism in our northern neighbor Canada as a gunman with a radical Islamist sympathy killed a soldier before the Parliament sergeant at arms bravely stopped his rampage.
And the bloody fighting in Syria and Iraq goes on nonstop. What draws people from all over the world to ISIS and jihad, even young Americans ready to give up everything? In some cases it's recruiters like this one in a Canadian video.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day regular Canadians before Islam. (INAUDIBLE) guided me from the darkness of (INAUDIBLE) to the light of (INAUDIBLE) to Islam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: This week three teenage girls from Colorado answered the call to jihad but were they pulled off of a plane in Germany. They were pulled off of the plane before they could get to their final destination which was Syria. I've got someone here who can help us understand all of this.
Mubin Shakh is a Canadian. He used to be a jihadi. Now he studies them. His new book "Undercover Jihadi" just came out. Mubin, those girls from Colorado, were they responding to a request from ISIS or is this self initiated?
MUBIN SHAKH, FORMER JIHADIST: We're seeing more of an increase in what is sometimes termed self radicalization. It's also called self starters. And traditional context we were thinking about a physical recruiter would come into a place, look for people, go and talk to them. And in fact I did some of that stuff back in my time.
But now what you're seeing is kids are at home, the recruiters are available on Youtube channels, on websites. They have their own handles tweeting out, facebooking. And these kids were staying at home, all they're watching are these videos over and over. They're getting recruited. It's cyber radicalization is what it is now.
SMERCONISH: I'm not being flipped but if the male jihadi gets to paradise and finds a plethora of virgins, what does a female jihadi get when he gets there?
SHAKH: Yes, I can tell you that they're both going to be disappointed. A lot of these individuals who claim that they're going - they want to get jihada. Jihada meaning martyrdom but what we say is they need to retake their shahada, their declaration of belief in god. So unfortunately for them, do not pass go, do not collect 70 virgins.
SMERCONISH: Take me into the head of that Canadian terrorist who shot the guard this week. What's going on in his world from your perspective? What motivates him?
SHAKH: There were two of them, of course, two terrorists, one who killed a war officer Vincent and the second Corporal Cirillo. The second shooter - look, he had a history of drug abuse, broken home, broken backgrounds, he was living in a shelter. These are other factors that play in together with Islamist ideology or extremist deviant ideology. This is an individual whose life experiences are pointing him down the road where he's going to commit acts of violence. So it seems what he's done here is he drew post-hoc justification since ISIS put out the call, they said, look, attack soldiers, drive them over with your cars, shoot them if you can. This is something that he was already inclined to doing. He got the green light, he made his move.
SMERCONISH: Mubin, final question. Is it easier for a would-be jihadist to join ISIS than it would have been for a would-be jihadist to have joined Al Qaeda?
SHAKH: Absolutely, far more easy. Al Qaeda used to have a closed elite group of individuals. You needed to be vetted. They needed to know you inside out. ISIS has opened the doors wide open to anyone and everyone, 15 year old girls, 18 year old boys. Remember the local, the guys who were fighting, the local women don't want to marry them. Is it any wonder that they need to rape women or they need to lure 16-year-old girls. Even the teenage girls who go from here, they have no idea what they're facing when they get to the other side. So that's why a lot of stories we're hearing of they want to come back home now because it's not what they saw on the brochure.
SMERCONISH: Mubin Shakh, thank you for your time.
Coming up, after a short break, the tension is building in Ferguson, Missouri, after a leaked autopsy report. What happens if the police officer who shot Michael Brown is not indicted?
And I'll talk to the man who wrote the book on how special prosecutor Ken Starr mistreated Monica Lewinsky.
SMERCONISH: This week, there were several leaks regarding the investigation into the shooting death of Mike Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson.
First, "The New York Times" reported that in his secret grand jury testimony two months ago, Wilson said he was pinned in his vehicle and in fear of his life as he struggled over his gun with Mr. Brown. Then came a report in "The St. Louis Post Dispatch" saying that the official autopsy on Brown shows that he was shot in the hand at close range. Then, "The Washington Post" reported that seven on eight black witnesses have given testimony in account to Officer Wilson's account.
These leaks prompted a Justice Department source to tell "The Huffington Post" that Attorney General Eric Holder is exasperated by the apparent selective leaks in the case.
Here to sort it all out for us is CNN legal analyst Mark O'Mara.
OK, Mara, if, in fact, Mike Brown went for Officer Wilson's gun in the car, in the SUV, what difference does that make to the ultimate resolution of this case?
MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, in fact, he did, and that a couple of things. One, it shows that he has an aggressive tendency towards Wilson and that's very significant because that impacts or informs how Wilson is going to perceive him when he gets outs of the car.
So, if we dissect it to the extent that Brown is aggressive towards Wilson, and puts him in greater fear, Wilson still has to get out of the car, track down Brown because now a felony has been committed and he's been shot. So, getting out of the car, he's going to get out of the car with much more trepidation and much more fear at Brown's hands.
SMERCONISH: But the issue still is whether the officer was justified, had a reasonable fear for his life at the point that he fired those fatal shots.
O'MARA: Absolutely. What happened in the car is discreet or different and stands by itself as opposed to what happened outside the car. But when you're dealing with somebody in a traumatic situation, in this case talking about Officer Wilson, what happened in the car is going to have some impact on how he perceives Brown.
He still has to justify the fatal shots when he shot Mike Brown and killed him. But if in fact Brown turned back on him and that now seems to be apparent from the autopsy, then certainly, somebody who was willing to go for a gun, who was willing to hit a police officer, that's going to raise the specter or the fear level in Wilson when he perceives Brown turning on him.
SMERCONISH: Mark O'Mara, there's concern expressed by the attorney general about these leaks in the case -- as I referenced at the outset of this discussion. Have you given thought to the possibility that maybe the leaks are deliberate so as to take down the temperature in the community if and when there is no indictment, in other words, it won't come as a sudden shock?
O'MARA: Well, first though, I'm very frustrated with the leaks. I've said it in other cases I've been involved in, I've said with this case before. It is dangerous to let these snippets of information out for a couple of reasons, not the lest of which is, it allows people to speculate and allows them to become frustrated because they don't know where it's coming from, and whether or not it's legitimate or planted.
My frustration is that now, we let out these little bits of information, people fill in the void with imagination and it only leads to more and more problems. Having said that, you have to perceive or believe that everybody who is doing these leaks is doing it for a reason. One of those reasons could well be that it seems as though the information that's flowing out now is indicative that Wilson is probably not going to get indicted. And if that's true, then let it out slowly, as distasteful as that is to me, letting it out slowly may well be taking down some of the pressure before the lack of indictment comes out.
SMERCONISH: Take just 30 seconds and respond to those who say let's proceed to trial. Let's just let a jury of their peers sort it all out.
O'MARA: Absolutely not. We cannot take this case simply because sit a high profile case and say we will go past the grand jury process. The grand jury process is there because nobody should be charged with a crime unless the grand jury thinks so or a prosecutor thinks so. Grand jury is better. We have to listen to see what say to do in a case like this.
SMERCONISH: Mark O'Mara, thank you for being here.
SMERCONISH: Just ahead, a hard look at the war for control of Congress. The biggest player just might be the man in the White House.
And for years, Monica Lewinsky complained about how badly Ken Starr treated her. It turns out she could very well be right. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SMERCONISH: She's back. Monica Lewinsky gave a speech earlier this week in Philadelphia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONICA LEWINSKY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE INTERN: First, with an FBI sting in a shopping mall, it was just like you see in the movies. Imagine, one minute, I was waiting to meet a friend in a food court, and the next, I realized she had set me up as two FBI flashed their badges at me. Immediately following in a nearby hotel room, I was threatened with up to 27 years in jail for denying the affair in an affidavit and other alleged crimes -- 27 years. When you're only 24 yourself, that's a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: She was talking about the day back in 1998 when she thought she was going to have lunch with Linda Tripp at a Virginia mall and instead waiting for her was the federal sting. It was the beginning of a 12-hour ordeal in which she was confronted by FBI agents and lawyers working for independent counsel Ken Starr. Lewinsky has long complained that she was mistreated, dissuaded from contacting her lawyer by the Fed's heavy handedness.
And now, we've learned that a federal review of the incident concluded she right. Ken Gormley literally wrote the book on this. He's the dean of the Duquesne Law School. He's the author of "The Death of the American Virtue: Clinton Versus Starr." And in researching that book, he interviewed Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton and Ken Starr. And he joins us from Pittsburgh.
Of what significance is this new review, this new report -- I shouldn't say new -- but newly coming to light?
KEN GORMLEY, DEAN, DUQUESNE LAW SCHOOL: Well, Michael, it was one of the remaining mysteries of this entire thing because it was kept under sale and this report is significant because I think it vindicates Monica Lewinsky and it shows that her account of the events in terms of how she was treated by the Office of Independent Counsel and the FBI during that sting was accurate and that there really were mistakes made.
SMERCONISH: Dean Gormley, when they confront her in the mall, she says, you know, F you or F yourself. Then over a period of hours, essentially, they say to her, if you call that lawyer, we're not going to cooperate, we're not going to be as forthcoming with you.
Is that the way it always is? What stands that apart from the customary drill, if there is such a thing?
GORMLEY: Well, that's not how it's supposed to be. And the author of this report that has been kept secret for 14 years, Jo Ann Harris told me that she wouldn't have touched Monica Lewinsky with a 10-foot pole after she asked for her lawyer, Frank Carter, not once but multiple times.
She's supposed to have access to that lawyer. And the individuals in that room really dissuaded Monica Lewinsky for doing it. It could have changed history if she had been allowed to talk to her lawyer.
SMERCONISH: In other words, she already had counsel. Her father had retained a skilled litigator on her behalf. She knew that individual and wanted to make that phone call. But they repeatedly over the course of those 12 hours talked her out of doing so.
GORMLEY: Well, actually, the person who had been her lawyer was before the person her father hired. He hired her because she couldn't talk to the lawyer Frank Carter who drafted the affidavit that was at issue that they were saying she had lied about.
Interestingly, Michael, that affidavit, I interviewed Frank Carter hadn't been sent yet to the federal court. If he had been called, he could have, you know, not sent it FedEx or called the court and said, forget about that affidavit. So, in many ways, the crime hadn't been committed. But because she wasn't able to reach him, the event spun out of control.
SMERCONISH: Give me the takeaway for people who are not legal eagles. What's the takeaway from this new revelation?
GORMLEY: Well, the takeaway is really that Monica Lewinsky's account all along that she had been mistreated by the Office of Independent Counsel and the FBI in that hotel room was true, and she was really caught in this titanic clash between, you know, President Clinton and Ken Starr, and it was a political battle as much as a legal battle and there were victims, and Monica Lewinsky was one of those and now this report really allows the American public to see what went on. And I think it creates a much more sympathetic portrait of Monica Lewinsky for history.
SMERCONISH: Dean Ken Gormley, thank you so much for being here.
GORMLEY: Thank you. A pleasure, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
The pitch battle for control of the U.S. Senate. I'll talk to one of America's wise men about what it means for the rest of us.
SMERCONISH: It's only a week-and-a-half until the midterm elections. Republicans are close to taking the Senate and yet they still haven't closed the deal. Is that because of the Democrat strategy of distancing themselves from President Obama is working?
Who better to ask than David Gergen. He's worked in the White House under both parties, served four presidents. He's a senior CNN political analyst.
David, nice to see you. Is the Democratic strategy working insofar as the president's numbers are in the tank and the GOP doesn't yet seem to have put the hammer down on this?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think they put the hammer down on it. It's very close. "The Washington Post" over the weekend is saying 91 percent chance that the Republicans will take the Senate. I think they either got or are leaning ahead in seven races.
But the two -- there are two races out there, Michael, that could flip tight other way that seem to depend more on local conditions. One is in Georgia, where Michelle Nunn, the Democratic candidate, is running a spirited campaign. She moved slightly ahead, according to the latest polls.
And then the other is in Kentucky of all places. We thought Mitch McConnell had that wrapped up. Some recent polls suggest it maybe very close.
So, the Democrats are clinging to hope. I don't think it's pure Obama. He clearly -- Obama's overall lack of popularity, down in the 30s in some of these key states is costing him a lot of seats. It's really suppressing the vote. But I don't think it's over.
SMERCONISH: Let me show a commercial. You referenced Kentucky. This is from Alison Lundergan Grimes. It's a 30-second spot. And then I want to ask about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALISON LUNDERGAN GRIMES (D-KY), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE: Mitch McConnell wants you to think I'm Barack Obama. Mitch is the same guy who thought Duke basketball players were UK, or who's attacking me on coal, after doing next to nothing while we've lost thousands of coal jobs. He even said it's not his job to bring jobs to Kentucky.
I'm not Barack Obama. I disagree with him on guns, coal and the EPA.
And Mitch that's not how you hold a gun.
I'm Alison Lundgren Grimes and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: She gets a freebie from us.
David, I think it's an effective commercial, and yet, I'm hearing Elizabeth Warren this week saying the Democrats need to stand and fight. What if they all had stood in unison and supported the president? Would this race have long ago been over? GERGEN: The race in Kentucky would have been over. And I think the
Republicans would be in a much stronger position now.
Listen, Elizabeth Warren from a state where Obama is still reasonably popular, Massachusetts, I live here. And -- but even here, in Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, who's a Republican candidate for governor, seems to have surged ahead, according to a "Boston Globe" poll yesterday.
But here -- the overall point is this: the elections on the midterm are closely tide to the president's coattails. The president is in trouble, the party is in trouble. That is where the Democrats are this year.
There are a couple of races where they pull surprises, and both of them, Georgia and Kentucky, women are running as the Democratic candidates. I think that's helping them modestly. And Grimes we just saw is so clearly separating herself out from the president, she feels forced to do that. If she stood up for the president, you know, this would be a non-candidacy at the moment.
SMERCONISH: David Gergen, a privilege. Thank you for being here.
GERGEN: Thank you. It's great to talk to you again.
SMERCONISH: Thank you.
Up next: my commentary. A new pole says voters are more polarized. But the real message from the numbers, that's one that will surprise you.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to the program.
This week, the Pew Research Center reached a study on how the sharp political divide in this country affects the way that people watch news. And, of course, we learned that the people who are the most partisan gravitate to the most partisan news outlets.
But I found something far more important in the data. A large majority in this country are neither consistently liberal nor consistently conservative. They have mixed views from both camps. So, why is it this vast group cedes the American political debate to a small minority of hardliners who are out on the edge of political thought?
Last June, Pew noted that the number of partisans is on the rise. Those with consistently conservative and consistently liberal views have doubled in the last two decades, from 10 percent to 21 percent, and that's the stuff of headlines.
But wait a minute, that actually means that roughly 80 percent of the country is not in this ideological grouping of uniformity and partisan animosity. Still those 20 percent continue to hold sway over the 80 percent.
This week on my Sirius XM Radio program, I spoke with Jocelyn Kiley. She's the associate director of research at Pew.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) JOCELYN KILEY, PEW RESEARCH: When we talk here about consistent conservatives and consistent liberals, it's important to think they are an important part of the political landscape in part because they have louder voices in the political process. They are more politically engaged. They vote more. So, even though they are a smaller percentage of the population, they punch above their weight when it comes to political behavior.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: The data bears her out. Think about this as we approach the midterm elections. Traditionally, turnout in an election like is in the range of 40 percent. But who are the voters?
Pew says that while the consistently liberal among us comprise only 30 percent of the electorate, its members are 58 percent like to vote. The consistently conservatives are only 9 percent. But among this group, they are 73 percent likely to vote. And those with mixed views, they are not as committed to voting.
So the result is a midterm elect rate much more polarized than the nation. Even though they are only 20 percent of the public, they have the power of about 35 percent of the voting public.
And, of course, none of this comes as any surprise to the politicians. They figured long ago that the best way to get elected and stay in office is to placate the extremes. And so, the consistent conservatives and the consistent liberals will continue to, quote, "punch above their weight", until such time as the rest of the country awakens and matches their engagement.
They hope you keep sleeping. Instead, go vote.
Thanks so much for joining me. And don't forget you can follow me on Twitter so long as you can spell Smerconish.
I'll see you next week.