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Bill Cosby Accused of Rape; Ferguson on Edge; Congress to Take Action on Immigration; Interview with U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania; The Wars We Will Never Win; Interview with Boris Johnson
Aired November 15, 2014 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Hello and welcome to the program. I'm Michael Smerconish. Great show planned for you today. We're digging down on important stories with terrific guests.
America's favorite dad, Bill Cosby accused of rape and sexual assault. An alleged victim joins me. While Cosby denies the charges. I've got a lot of questions. I'm an attorney, I intend to get answers.
Ferguson, Missouri, nerves are raw; people are buying guns, the town holding its breath. We talked about what could happen if there is no indictment. What happens if there is one? I'll ask the cops.
And political war in the nation's capital, the president versus the Republicans over immigration. My take, there's got to be a better way and I think I have one.
And the mayor of London is here, on his new book about my favorite historical figure, Winston Churchill. I say he defeated the Nazis but now I wonder if he is partly to blame for the implosion in the Middle East. All that and more. I hope you'll stick around.
We begin with America's favorite dad, Bill Cosby and the women who say that he has a darker side, one of them Barbara Bowman was a teenage actress when she says he raped her. My take, I'm a lawyer, I'm sympathetic to victims. But I've got some questions on specifics, the details of her story. All in all, it's been a bad week for Cosby.
On Monday he tweeted a photo of himself inviting folks to mean or caption him. He got a lot more than he bargained for. The man known as Cliff Huxtable, super dad and for those Jello commercials was then bombarded with posts about past accusations of rape and sexual assault. The whole thing was eventually deleted but not before lots of people had taken their shots.
Now one of his alleged victims, Barbara Bowman, is speaking out. She will join me in a moment. In an op-ed in "The Washington Post" this week she wonders why she's had a hard time getting any one to listen to her story. For years Cosby has denied these allegations through his attorneys. But this morning for the first time he addressed the charges, he appeared on national public radio with his wife, Camille.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UINIDENTIFIED MALE: This question gives me no pleasure, Mr. Cosby. But there have been serious allegations raised about you in recent days. You are shaking your head no. I'm in the news business; I have to ask the question. Do you have any response to those charges? Shaking your head, no. There are people who love you who might like to hear from you about this. I want to give you the chance. All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Barbara Bowman heard Bill Cosby deny these charges before. But she says she will continue to tell her story and she joins me now. It's the most serious of allegations that you could ever lay at someone's feet. Bill Cosby raped me. So let me ask you some particular questions. You said in the "Washington Post," "I'm certain now that he drugged and raped me." Were you less certain then?
BARBARA BOWMAN, ALLEGES SHE WAS RAPED BY BILL COSBY: When I was 17, 18, 19 years old, and I was experiencing what I was going through there were times that I really did not know, and I was not certain at all, due to mental manipulation, mind control, the controlling circumstances that I was in. But I am very certain and there were times that it was - it was convoluted, and certain times it was quite direct.
SMERCONISH: You certainly couldn't control the first time if you were drugged. But you could control the second. Why return to close proximity to Bill Cosby if you believed or suspected that he raped you?
BOWMAN: I can't say that it went in that succession but what I can say is that I was in a position where I was in New York City, my agent had brought me here, and my agent and Bill Cosby were subsidizing my apartment and my acting classes. And I was in a very, very controlled environment. I had no outside connection to the world, I had no friends. It was a very, very slow, very methodical, very calculated situation, very slowly breaking me down. I was terrified of my agent. And I was terrified of Bill. And I was being groomed to tolerate and deal with what was coming my way.
Now, when I did speak to my agent and tell her, she did nothing about it. And I felt very unsafe and if I had told her his allegations of me that I was making up things and I was not acting appropriately, accusing me of being drunk if there were times that I questioned him like why am I in this shirt, or what happened here? I would get reprimanded and berated and told "you were just drunk. Maybe you don't drink so much."
SMERCONISH: You were 17.
BOWMAN: Eighteen by now. And knowing that he was going to say that and accuse me of that and tell my agent that, it was devastating to me. And I was not drinking and I was not doing anything other than what I was supposed to be doing and that was being a straight clean cut kid going to acting classes, coming straight home.
SMERCONISH: OK. Help me understand something else that I can't get over. You wake up on a particular morning or series of mornings; you believe you have been raped. Why not call the police?
BOWMAN: Who was going to believe me? I went to a lawyer. He laughed me right out of the office. After telling two trusted individuals that I was being molested violated and raped by another trusted individual, who had made it very clear that he was very safe, that I must be vulnerable, he was teaching me how to tear down my insecurities, my vulnerabilities, telling me I had to give him 100 percent. I had to trust him like my own father.
If I didn't that I was somehow not fulfilling my end of the bargain, that I'm not going to be successful actress because I've got walls up. It was kicking in in my head. I told my agent. She did nothing about it. I trusted her. She was all I could tell. When I went to the lawyer he laughed at me, at that point I'm so broken down and so viciously attacked mentally, physically and spiritually, that I said this is never going to go anywhere. Nobody's going to believe me that Dr. Huxtable is molesting me.
SMERCONISH: Did you ever have, Barbara, consensual sex?
BOWMAN: Absolutely not. Never.
SMERCONISH: And pardon the salacious nature of the question but if it's your word against his word is there some salacious aspect to Bill Cosby, some defining characteristic that you could say "hey, I can tell you this about him and that's how you know it really happened."
BOWMAN: Absolutely. And if he'd like to take a polygraph I'll take one too.
SMERCONISH: What is it? What is the detail?
BOWMAN: Nothing that we can talk about right here at the desk.
SMERCONISH: OK. For many years, people haven't, you say taken you seriously. They are taking you seriously now.
BOWMAN: They are.
SMERCONISH: Why has it taken this and what is it that now people want to hear what you have to say and are giving you more credibility than they have in the past?
BOWMAN: Well, it gained momentum quite a lot since the "Daily Mail" article came out that was beautifully written by Lesia Naft. She was fantastic to really get down to the real details. I felt really safe too. To be as open as I could be. And that opened a lot of doors, a lot of curiosity began. Hannibal Burres coming out and mentioning it in his routine which was very courageous. I really admired him for that.
SMERCONISH: Is it because he spoke up, and a man was finally saying this?
BOWMAN: I would say yes.
SMERCONISH: Something sexist about this?
BOWMAN: I would say yes. In a way you say why did it take a man to wake people up? Now, is it because he's a man, is it because he's also a comedian and there are peers in the comedic circles and that's like wow, if the he's going to say it then I need to be listening. Because up to that point I went from 1986 to 2004, 2005, when a woman did file a lawsuit and I was called to testify in court, those years didn't exist, in other people's eye, in the public's eyes.
It was only in 2004 forward that just little bits were coming to. Something would bring it up into the media, it would be listened to, there are "People Magazine" would do an article and "Newsweek," would do an article, different news outlets would pick it up, and then all of a sudden it would go away. It would be pushed under the rug.
SMERCONISH: Final aspect about this. For people who are watching cynically perhaps at home, there is no pay day here for you.
BOWMAN: Absolutely not.
SMERCONISH: No lawsuit. The statute of limitations has run, there's no book. There's no nothing. You are here because you want people to know.
BOWMAN: That's exactly right. That is exactly right. My agenda was never to get any money. I never took money, I never asked for money. I had no monetary incentive whatsoever. My statute of limitations had run out. After I got laughed out of the lawyer's office it was over and done. I needed to get on with my life. In that time the statute of limitations ran out. I came out to help other victims. I was hoping that the other 10 Jane Does that are listed as witnesses in our case would say "my goodness, it's safe to come out. I don't have to hide anymore."
My lawyer had said do you want to stay Jane Doe? I absolutely refused. I said "No, I have been a Jane Doe for 17 years. If I continue to stay hiding what good am I doing somebody else." I believe her, and I believe the next person and now - as in back then my agenda is to speak out publicly through action and education, through my advocacy group pave and to help maybe change some legislation.
SMERCONISH: Final question. NBC is about to get another show, should they give to the him?
BOWMAN: I think it would be irresponsible.
SMERCONISH: Thanks so much for being here. Barbara Bowman.
BOWMAN: Appreciate being here.
SMERCONISH: We'll take a short break. When we come back, Ferguson on edge. People are buying guns and planning boycotts waiting on the grand jury. The police, they are waiting and I'll talk to a veteran cop about getting ready and why an indictment would make them very nervous. And it looks like fireworks in the nation's capital. The president says he's going it alone on immigration reform. That has Republicans mad as hell. But can they agree on what to do about it?
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to the program. It's white knuckle time in Ferguson, Missouri. Both black and white citizens are on edge. Will a grand jury indict white police officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown?
People are so nervous that many are buying guns, one gun dealer says his sales are up 300 percent. And that has many of us worried, in my case also bewildered. Here is my take. Even with all of the news coverage at the end of the day we don't have all of the facts. I made lists on my legal pads, we know that Michael Brown was unarmed. We know that his friend says he was trying to surrender.
On the other hand the official autopsy and other witnesses afraid to come forward publicly seem to support Wilson's story. In other words, that which the public knows is outweighed by what we don't know. How can so many be making plans on what they will do when the indictment decision is announced?
One group wants to send a loud message to the governor and the business community asking folks to keep wallets closed on Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving. We're joined by Akbar Muhammad. He is an international representative for the nation of Islam and he is a member of the Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition.
Mr. Muhammad, whether someone is pro-indictment or pro-police officer, wouldn't you agree that we don't know enough and that we won't know enough until we see the evidence that was presented to the grand jury, to recognize whether there was an injustice here?
AKBAR MUHAMMAD, INTERNATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE, THE NATION OF ISLAM: Well, I would disagree with that. We do know enough. We know that Michael Brown laid on that ground for 4 1/2 hours. We know that he was unarmed. And we know that his hands were up. We do know enough. And the world knows. And what it is it's a case of trying to cover the misconduct of a police officer who murdered this young man in cold blood. So they want to know why the community is upset, they are upset because we are sick and tired of seeing this happen throughout the country.
SMERCONISH: But we live in this country by a rule of law. Wouldn't it be better in this circumstance to have a cooling off period, to let all of the information, the evidence that was presented to the grand jury be put forth. Let people digest it. Let people understand exactly what those grand jurors were weighing, before any plans are made as to whether there should be a protest. Wouldn't that be a more prudent course?
MUHAMMAD: Well, we live in a country of laws but there are laws in this country that put my forefathers in slavery. There are laws in this country that kept us from voting. There were laws therein country where we had to ride in the back of the bus. So don't say to me about why don't we let law - the law in Missouri is that no police man will be convicted and go to jail for killing a black man. This is the law that we know in Missouri and law is a word but the behavior speaks for itself.
SMERCONISH: Will you be calling for the protesting of both black and white businesses on that day that is known as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving?
MUHAMMAD: The coalition is calling for it. The coalition is calling for boycott of the business establishment, not black businesses, because the black businesses they are with us in this process. 99.5 percent of the black businesses want to see justice in the case of Michael Brown. So the businesses have to know that we want to hear their voice. For justice in the case of Michael Brown.
And we want to also see them push the law enforcement that this is not a war, it's like we're going to war and even those who are interviewed in the law enforcement department say we're going to protect businesses, we're armed, we're going to bring the National Guard in.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Muhammad, we've only a minute left together. I worry that you're about to further the racial divide by protesting only white businesses. Frankly, businesses of any kind without knowing all of the facts but only white businesses in the aftermath of this decision. You get the final word.
MUHAMMAD: Because the final word is that the white businesses have the power, they are the ones that pay the taxes that keep the state running and they should demand that justice be done in the case of Michael Brown Jr..
SMERCONISH: OK. Thank you. Akbar Muhammad, we appreciate you having been here. No matter what happens with the grand jury decides, there will be lots of police on the street. Officials are hoping for the best but they spent a ton of money preparing for the worst. And some officers have another worry.
What happens if Darren Wilson is indicted, are other officers going to feel that puts them in the crosshairs? I want to dig into this with Gabe Crocker. He is the president of the St. Louis County Police Association, that's the union that represents police officers and he joins us from Ferguson, Missouri.
Mr. Crocker, so much of the attention has been on what if there is no indictment. It occurs to me there could be a police morale issue if there is an indictment. What concerns you from a police officer's perspective?
GABE CROCKER, ST. LOUIS COUNTY POLICE ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT: That's right, Mike. It's something that we thought about. That would send a pretty tremendous message to our officers that are faced with these life and death situations across our country and especially here in St. Louis where I'm most concerned about deadly force involving a police officer and someone from the public. So, what could that cause an officer to hesitate, could that cause an officer to not react as fast as they normally would because of the hesitation involved, possibly from an indictment of Officer Wilson? Sure, that's on our mind and that's something that we try to engage in a dialogue with our officers about.
SMERCONISH: The "Associated Press'" reporting that St. Louis County has spent $100,000 on riot gear. Do you worry that the militarization of the police meaning this effort to keep them safe, actually has the opposite effect and brings out the worst from potential protesters?
CROCKER: No, I don't think that at all, Mike. I have never been a fan of the term of militarization of police though I do understand that there are some concerns and we worked to address those concerns. I don't think the term militarization of police is a fair term when you put a helmet on that prevents you from being hit in the head with a brick or a frozen water bottle or you have a shield that stops bottles of urine being thrown at you.
Officer safety is certainly a huge priority. So I don't think there's much concern about us being accused of or the appearance of militarization of our officers out there who are working with a lot of peaceful protesters and of course embedded within them are some very violent protesters. Militarization -
SMERCONISH: Do you know what the argument is - the argument is that equipment, machinery that was intended for a battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan and now because the military no longer needs it and they offer it to police departments across the country, that when individuals see those armaments roll out on main street USA, it has the unintended consequence from the protesters or from those reacting to the police, but you don't buy it in a case like this?
CROCKER: Sure, I can understand that point. But when it comes to officer safety and when it comes to utilizing those vehicles in a manner that protects the public and protects officers, for me it's a no-brainer.
SMERCONISH: Final question, Mr. Crocker, do you worry about the ability to keep businesses safe where now there is this discussion of a protest against businesses?
CROCKER: Well, you know, I heard about the protests against businesses and certainly we don't - we're going to do everything within our power, we have a unified command. Our chief, john Bellmer has assured a lot of local businesses and business leaders and community leaders that we're going to do everything within our power to protect those businesses. We understand that this is a high level of frustration for people out there. But we need to protect our businesses and we need to protect the public. Also, protesters. I mean it's a very dynamic situation that we're in out there. And it's a tough job. Our officers are ready to do the best that they can.
SMERCONISH: Gabe Crocker, thank you and good luck to you.
CROCKER: Thanks, Michael. SMERCONISH: Just ahead, immigration reform is heating up. The president says he's going to do it with or without Republicans, they are fighting back but not everyone in the GOP is on the same page. Some of them are talking about a government shutdown even impeachment. I'll talk to a leading Republican about the right way to fight back.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to the program. It looks like war on Capitol Hill. The president is reportedly going to order major immigration reform in a matter of days, bypassing the Congress. Republicans are furious, they want Congress to do it. But the president says he's been waiting for Congress to act for years.
My take, why can't the president issue the executive order and then give the GOP 90 days to pass their own bill? I want to dig down on this with Congressman Charlie Dent. He is a Republican from the great state of Pennsylvania. Congressman, good to have you back.
On your website it says I oppose any amnesty program that overlooks or downplays illegal activity. If the president creates a path for five million folks where they are protected from deportation, because he's giving them work permits, does that factor into what you are concerned about?
REP. CHARLIE DENT (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, let me first say I would object to the president taking some type of administrative action with respect to five million people. Now that said I do believe Congress should deal with the issue. The American public, I don't want to take this executive action and tie it into the spending bill. I think we need to have a debate independent of the appropriations process and I believe we should address the legislatively. Immigration. On a step by step basis.
Let us deal with border security, interior enforcement, agriculture workers, and have a responsible conversation about those individuals who are in our country unlawfully. I think we all recognize it's not practical or feasible to deport 11 million people. It's nearly the population of the entire commonwealth of Pennsylvania. So I'm prepared to have that debate. I believe that the administrative action would likely muddy the water in terms of moving legislation forward in a new Congress.
SMERCONISH: How about the solution that I proposed. I'm not taking original credit for it, as a matter of fact, it's something that Norm Warrenstine and I discussed together. What if he takes executive action, but he says the implementation won't kick in for 60, 90 days, and then he tosses the ball to the hands of now a Republican- controlled senate, Republican-controlled House and you got time on the clock when the Congress reconvenes in January to put something better on his desk?
DENT: Well, I probably would not pursue that tact. Look between now and the time Congress adjourns in December, I believe we should do a few things very quickly. Pass the appropriations bill to fund the government for the year. We don't want to talk about shutdowns. Pass a tax extender bill to provide some certainty to the tax code. Deal with the sustainable growth rate, the Medicare payments to doctors. We should deal with this now.
The CBO gave us a good score. And finally terrorism risk insurance. Clear the decks of these issues, that we can start with a clean slate, in January. And I believe that immigration should be one of the issues we discuss along with trade, transportation, and tax reform. The issues so we can start fresh on these policy issues, I think that's the best way to proceed. Look, I urged our leadership we should take up immigration on a step by step basis. Many of the members (inaudible).
SMERCONISH: Congressman, why not pass a bill? Why not in the lame duck session why doesn't the House pass its own immigration bill right now and take control of this issue from the president?
DENT: Well, I believe we could pass a couple bills in the lame duck. Specifically the border security bill is ready to go. The visas for the STEM work, science, technology, engineering, math, we can move forward on that. Agriculture workers. Maybe I don't know who (inaudible). We also have to deal with the unaccompanied children issue. Change the law as well. We have a lot of work to do. I don't believe we can do just one bill. I think we have to do this in a series of bills. I believe I'll call it a comprehensive process, but not a comprehensive bill. But we'll get to I think to - get us to a better result.
SMERCONISH: Congressman, the Friday "Washington Post" in the front page lead story quoted you as saying that you can't listen to the loudest shrillest voices within the party. I interpreted that to be a reference to Senator Ted Cruz, was I correct in that?
DENT: Well, he would be among a few who I believe want to take whatever administrative action the president might take. And in fairness, I have not yet seen the president's executive action. We don't know what it is. We're hearing about it.
But if he does take an executive action in the next few days, the president, there are going to be some in my party who will want to try to defund the executive action, as part of the appropriations bill.
I don't think that would be a particularly good tactic. It would ultimately if taken to the nth degree would lead to a shutdown. Now, I think many people do not agree with the president's policy or in this administrative action.
But at the same time the American people don't want us to shut the government down. And so, I think that we would see a replay of September 2013 or October 2013 where we got ourselves into a shutdown situation, it's a tactic that just will not succeed in the lame duck.
Harry Reid at least through the end of the year controls the Senate. So, I think we have to separate the appropriations process at this point from whatever administrative action the president will take. But we should deal with whatever the president does, legislatively.
SMERCONISH: Final question, Congressman. Thank you again for being gracious with your time.
Charles Krauthammer, the conservative commentator, says this is an impeachable offense by the president if he moves forward. I take it from what you told us you don't agree with that.
DENT: Well, I disagree very much with the president's proposed administrative action as I understand it. At the same time, I don't believe impeachment is on the table. It hasn't been. I don't believe it is.
And I believe that as we move into this new Congress, we on the Republican side are going to -- want to put forward a constructive agenda. If immigration -- if impeachment is the issue I think that will essentially suck all of the oxygen out of the capital and we'd be doing nothing but that.
I believe we're going to move forward on issues -- from transportation, some kind of tax reform, probably on the business side, trade issues and even perhaps immigration reform. I believe that's where we're going to go forward. I don't think immigration -- impeachment is by any means on the table.
SMERCONISH: Congressman Charlie Dent, thank you for your time.
DENT: Thanks, Mike. Go Lehigh.
SMERCONISH: Go Lehigh.
Up next, parenting isn't easy. I've got four of my own but you would think this day and age, a black parent, an African-American parent, wouldn't have to parent differently than anybody else. But my next guest explains no matter how affluent you are, it just isn't the same.
SMERCONISH: You know, I'm the father of four. I have never had to do what my next guest is forced to do to keep his children safe. And I think it's because white parents don't understand what African- American parents have to do every day to protect their children.
Lawrence Otis Graham is a New York attorney. He's the author of 14 books, including "Our Kind of People." In a sobering essay in "The Washington Post", Graham describes the devastation both he and his 15- year-old son felt this summer when his son was called the N-word.
Graham was unable to prevent that despite raising his children to be respectful and well-spoken. And he writes about the rules that he's instilled in them -- from never running while in view after police officer, to never leaving a store without a receipt. So, that his kids cannot be unfairly accused of theft.
Lawrence Otis Graham joins me now.
It was unprovoked. Your son doing what he should have been doing and someone hurls or a group of individual in a car hurled that insult at him. LAWRENCE OTIS GRAHAM, ATTORNEY & AUTHOR, "OUR KIND OF PEOPLE": Right.
They basically called him over to their car, in fact, when he was walking along campus and that was the most disturbing part about this is because he was minding his own business. He thought they were calling to ask for directions. He got two to three feet of these men and they asked him, are you the only N-word at this school?
And what's troubling for us, Michael, like many black professional parents is we try to protect our children, give them suggestions how to dress, how to behave in the public, so that we thought we could insulate them from discrimination but we fail.
SMERCONISH: And in the end, the fact he was at a leafy Connecticut boarding school didn't make a difference. An elite environment was no protection.
GRAHAM: Exactly. We often think that that's the armor that's going to protect our children, particularly when they have grown up in affluence, my wife and I both went to Princeton, Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. We presumed that we could give our kids advice that allowed -- that would allow them to avoid that kind of abuse or attack on them.
But we find out that it's really hard. We give them a lot of rules.
SMERCONISH: How typical -- right. The rules, I want to talk about the rules. How typically, are you the outlier or is this typical of what African-American parents have to do? For example, even if you are going to buy a stick of gum, get a receipt, because you might be challenged.
GRAHAM: Absolutely. We tell them that because we don't want our children to end up like a Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown, because we recognize the reality of it. My kids know they are not to be walking after sundown in any residential neighborhood, not even ours in suburban New York or in our -- outside our apartment on the Upper East Side of New York, because they know that they can be mistaken for someone who is casing the area. And it's unfortunate, but my kids know the very same thing is that they are not going to be able to get a taxi so at the end of the day if they are with white friends, their white friends get them the taxi so my kids don't get left stranded.
SMERCONISH: The whole thing is so incredibly sad to me, and maybe the reason that I'm out of touch is and you wrote about this in the post, white male privilege. What is it?
GRAHAM: It's basically privilege that white males take for granted. It's not their fault or but they have this benefit presumption when they come in a store no one is following them expecting them to shoplift, which is my kids know always get a receipt, no matter how small the item might be.
There is also this presumption if they get on an elevator with a white woman, that they're not going to grab her purse. My 15-year-old son has seen enough women who sort of pull their purses back when he gets in the elevator, he knows not to get on. And my other children know the same thing that even within in our own
neighborhood, they are not to walk late at night or to carry objects that might be mistaken for a weapon. And because the accidental person, the security officer, the police officer, that presumes them because unfortunately even as African-Americans we recognize and in this society people look at skin color as a cultural shorthand to tell them what's dangerous.
SMERCONISH: How is your 15-year-old son doing?
GRAHAM: He's doing better now. He doesn't make the same eye contact with people on the street anymore, because he is a little nervous about doing that.
SMERCONISH: Lawrence Otis Graham, thank you so much for being here and sharing your story.
GRAHAM: You bet, Michael.
SMERCONISH: A high ranking general is speaking out, saying we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But were these wars ever winnable? If they were, who screwed up? And, should we have gotten involved in the first place?
How would one of the world's greatest leaders Winston Churchill deal with the rise of is? We have the mayor of London, the author of a new book on the British prime minister. We'll ask him, what would Churchill do?
SMERCONISH: The long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and now, the battle against ISIS. In my view, they are wars without end. They're unwinnable wars without end.
My next guest is someone who knows a lot more about the subject matter than I do. He is a military hero, and calls the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan an epical struggle.
Retired Army Lieutenant General Daniel Bolger is the author of a new book, "Why We Lost: A General's Inside Account of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars."
General, you have written maybe an incomplete and imperfect effort to contain the Islamic State, is as good as it gets. Does that mean in your view it's an unwinnable situation?
DANIEL BOLGER, RETIRED ARMY LIEUTENANT GENERAL: Well, Michael, I wouldn't say unwinnable but what I would say it's long term. The nature of this enemy these guys hide among the population. And when you go in with major force like air strikes, or if we were to put a lot of American troops on the ground like we did in both Afghanistan and Iraq earlier on, they'll just spread out and they go back to ground and wait for us to leave, then do their activities. It's a tough enemy to fight.
SMERCONISH: How do we define winning? What would victory look like in Iraq or Afghanistan?
BOLGER: Great question. In fact I think it's the question we were never able to answer in the Afghan war that's just wrapping up and the Iraq war that started in '03, then we pulled our combat force out on '11.
What does victory look like? To me, the key part of the victory is you got to protect the American homeland, you got to prevent terrorist threat or something emanating from Afghanistan, Iraq, whatever area we would be talking about, from causing another 9/11 type of event in the American homeland. In that aspect, we've done OK.
But you know, there was a famous statement made by the old Irish Republican Army terrorist of British Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher. They said, you know, you have to be right all the time. We only got to be right once.
So, it's a long term struggle with these guys.
SMERCONISH: General, I thought it very interesting that you recommended that there be a 911 Commission like look, at the conduct of these two wars. I can't imagine that would be a pleasant experience for you because it probably means that generals such as yourself get hauled in front of congressional committees.
Why do you think we need that kind of review?
BOLGER: I think the American people are hungry to find out what happened in this war, why it happened? And most important, what are we going to do to fix it so that as ISIS and other threats crop up what are we going to do about that?
If all we can do is the same old stuff because we haven't looked hard enough at it, then we really have truly done ourselves a disservice and more over, as a military, we have done a disservice to the American people we serve. We don't want to do that. We have to take that hard look.
And it's more than military, Michael. We're going to have to bring in the intel folk, law enforcement, the treasury people who look at terrorist money. All of those people need to come in and explain what happened, why, and then we need to get to fix it.
SMERCONISH: You lost 80 soldiers under your command. I would think what I'm getting to is the hardest question of all -- you also regard these as two failed wars.
To a parent of one of those 80, would you say if asked their son or daughter had died in vain?
BOLGER: I would not. And what I always tell them is, be proud of the service of your loved one, he or she went when the nation called. They gave their ultimate sacrifice, they fought with bravery, and that sacrifice made on the part of all Americans to keep us safe. They have kept Americans safe. The conduct of the missions over in Iraq and Afghanistan flawed,
failed, that goes on guys like me, the commanders. The military says that commander's responsible for everything the unit does or fails to do. We failed in our two missions but the soldiers did not fail. They did everything they were asked. I just didn't ask them to do the right stuff.
Retired three-star General Daniel Bolger -- thank you for your service.
BOLGER: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: I've always admired Winston Churchill. But is the great British prime minister in part to blame for the mess that we see today in the Middle East? He drew a lot of the boundary lines. I'll put that question to the mayor of London who will join me next. He's got a new book on Winston Churchill.
SMERCONISH: I've always regarded Winston Churchill as one of the most towering figures, truly the man of the 20th century. But I now find myself wondering, does he bear any responsibility for the disaster that we're seeing unfold in the Middle East, given the role that he played in drawing so many borders?
One man who can offer unique insight in that regard is Boris Johnson, he is the mayor of London, and he is the author of a terrific new book, "The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History."
Mayor, great to see you. Thank you for being here.
BORIS JOHNSON, MAYOR OF LONDON: Great to see you. My pleasure.
SMERCONISH: Winston Churchill, you write, was one of the fathers of the modern Middle East.
JOHNSON: He was.
SMERCONISH: OK. He gets all the credit for taking down the Nazis, that's for sure. But what about the Middle East?
JOHNSON: He deserves the credit also for being one of the founding fathers of modern Israel. He gave effect to the Balfour Declaration of the 1917. In the '20s, he's colonial secretary. He has to make that happen. And he does.
And you read this stuff about Israel, how he sees it developing, it's fully of idealism, full of admiration for what the Jewish people might be able to do in that area. And you got to respect that vision.
OK, Iraq, Syria --
SMERCONISH: Mesopotamia. JOHNSON: It didn't turn so brilliant.
JOHNSON: And let's be clear -- but there was a long period in the '40s, you know, about the British got out, when it was very stable. And, yes, maybe you could argue now with hindsight that to put together Mosul and Baghdad and Basra, the three (INAUDIBLE) and that was over optimistic. And we're now seeing real strains. But it's never been easy.
The Roman Empire came to grief (ph) in a very same place.
How would Winston Churchill fight the Islamic State today?
JOHNSON: He would -- I think it's very unlikely that he would want to put boots on the ground. Remember when he says about Iraq. It's like an ungrateful volcano.
SMERCONISH: I thought George W. Bush said that.
JOHNSON: No, no, no, it was Winston Churchill --
SMERCONISH: They could both say that.
JOHNSON: They both said that, and many people who have gone there feel that way. So, I think he would have been very hesitant about committing Western forces to that area again on the ground.
Air power, now, that he might have been different, he might have been with more than strategic thinkers. But as you remember, Michael, he was a great pioneer and believer in power, in aerial bombardments of all kinds.
SMERCONISH: We've all heard the story about Bessie Braddock, although I'd be thrilled if you would quickly tell the story.
JOHNSON: Yes, it's diabolically rude. Really, Bessie Braddock, this rather large proportioned socialist MP, she sees him coming out of the treasury, slightly the worst (INAUDIBLE), and she says, "Winston, you're drunk." And he says, "You're ugly, but I will be sober in the morning."
And, you know, I'd say we couldn't say that sort of thing. It's too rude.
SMERCONISH: But here's the reason I bring it up.
JOHNSON: He was generally and very --
SMERCONISH: But he would be too politically incorrect to be elected today. JOHNSON: Yes.
SMERCONISH: And what a loss that would be. Are there Winston Churchills among us that could never today run for elective office?
JOHNSON: They are, I'm sure there are plenty of people who's views are being pasteurized and homogenized and sterilized out of the system by the terror of the storm of hate that engulfs them whenever they say something remotely politically incorrect.
And I think actually it's one of the reasons why people are so turned of politics, because they feel people aren't speaking from the heart.
SMERCONISH: You know, Mayor, here in the United States, we live in such polarized times. People are way to the left. They're way to the right.
The centrists, they don't speak up enough.
One of the things that you said in the Churchill factor is he's hard to peg ideologically.
JOHNSON: Absolutely. And you say they're polarizing the left and the right. Churchill believed it was his destiny to straddle the political divide and he saw himself as this sort of colossus of road with two feet over the entrance to the harbor. He wanted to incarnate the will of the nation in his person, and that meant having elements that were quite left-wing, unemployment insurance, you know, protection for people on low incomes, the tea break for the workers, but also a great belief in empire, of the destiny of Britain --
SMERCONISH: Can I say I was a skeptic when I received your book? I love Winston Churchill and his memory and his role. And I said, what could even Boris Johnson add to this dynamic? But you are such a character and I say that with affinity and entertaining personality that I think you understand him better than most could, certainly better than the academics.
So, thank you for being here.
JOHNSON: Well, thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: OK. Mayor Boris Johnson.
We'll be right back.
SMERCONISH: Hey, we're out of time. Thank you for joining me. Don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter so long as you can spell Smerconish.
I'll see you next week.