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SMERCONISH

Giuliani Says Obama is a Communist; Final Verdict on "American Sniper" Case; New Revelations from Obama's Inside Man; Candid Revelations About Oscar Voting Process

Aired February 21, 2015 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: That's it for us.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: "SMERCONISH" starts for you right now.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Welcome to the program. I'm Michael Smerconish. President Obama does not love America. That's the explosive and frankly in my opinion ridiculous claim made by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani this week, we've been talking a lot about this on CNN but now he's doubling down on it.

With new allegations about the president's background. In a moment, my exclusive interview with someone very close to President Obama, the perfect guy to talk to about all of this, former senior adviser David Axelrod.

But first the latest comments from Giuliani. Now America's mayor says the president may be a communist. This is the cover of the "New York Daily News" today. The tabloids in this city are having a field day with this stuff. Giuliani told the other tabloid "The New York Post" details about the president's alleged communist leanings. Quote, "from the time he was nine years old he was influenced by Frank Marshall Davis," who was a communist, and the mayor went on to discuss other communist influences in Obama's life. What? Here's the mayor defending himself. On Fox.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI, NEW YORK: I'm right about this, I have no doubt about it, I do not withdraw my words. If the president goes and makes a speech and talks about what a great country this is, if the president could complete the following sentence. During the crusades the Christians were barbarians and so were the Muslims, if the president could say Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is our enemy, I will applaud the president. But until he does that I will have doubts about his emotions, his feelings, his attitudes and the way in which he developed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Many have criticized Giuliani's remarks as racist. He is defending that too to "The New York Times" he said, "Some people thought it was racist. I thought that was a joke since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people. This isn't racism, this is socialism, or possibly anti-colonialism."

So, how did politics become this ugly?

Let's dig deeper with someone who knows the president very well. David Axelrod is a former senior advisor to President Obama, author of a brand new book called "Believer" and he joins me now. David, we all know the president has indeed proclaimed his love for the country, he has also defined what he regards as American exceptionalism. So Mayor Giuliani's statement was not grounded in fact. What drives it? Is it race? Is it some form of anti-intellectualism? How do you assess what he said?

DAVID AXELROD, FMR. OBAMA SENIOR ADVISER: I can't climb into Rudy Giuliani's head and explain why he said what he said. What he said was despicable. And completely inconsistent with a man I know and I this I the man most Americans know. Barack Obama is a guy who lived the American dream. He understands the greatness of America from his own experience, and I don't know anybody who feels more strongly about it than he.

I don't know what possessed Mayor Giuliani. My recollection of him as a leader was that he was a pretty divisive leader in New York, so perhaps this isn't entirely surprising but really disappointing. This is what we have to get away from in our politics, kind of disqualifying people's patriotism simply because we disagree.

SMERCONISH: Well, it's upsetting to me because I have held him in high regard. Mayor Giuliani. And to see him now repeating the sort of things frankly that have dogged President Obama from day one, and that's why I ask what do you think drives it because it's not just him.

AXELROD: Well, I want to impute you know, again I don't want to delve into his motives. I will say this and I wrote about this in my book, "Believer," I never talked about race when I was working with the president because I didn't want to appear to be suggesting that all of the opposition was rooted in it but there is no doubt that race enters into some of these criticisms, no other president had his citizenship persistently challenged. No other had a man stand up in the House of Representatives or a member of the congress and shout "you lie."

And I do think some of that is rooted in people's resistance to the notion that we're a more diverse country, and that there's a president, an African-American president named Barack Obama. Now whether that motivated Mayor Giuliani or whether he was simply pandering to that point of view I don't know.

SMERCONISH: OK. So put on your political consultant cap. You're now advising Scott Walker. He was in the room when those words were offered. What should have been his response?

AXELROD: Well, I think that these are the tests that you get as a presidential candidate, Michael. And I would have said -- disassociated myself from those comments. I think the appropriate thing to have said would have been I disagree strongly with the president on many, many issues but I don't doubt his love for this country or his patriotism.

SMERCONISH: I mean it occurs to me that if Scott Walker had stood up and said exactly what David Axelrod recommended maybe Scott Walker would have lost the room at the 21 Club but he would have helped himself immensely should he ever run in a general election. This is the primary versus general election issue that the Republican Party faces.

AXELROD: This is the syndrome they have, and this is why they had two center right Republicans in the last two elections who had to basically make (INAUDIBLE) bargains with the right wing of their party in order to be the nominee. I'm interested in what Jeb Bush is doing because he seems to be saying "I'm going to stick to my positions on things like immigration reform and education reform and I'm going to either win the nomination on my own terms or not be the nominee."

SMERCONISH: Mayor Giuliani this week again raised the question of why did now President Obama remain seated in the pew at Reverend Wright's church. What's the answer to that?

AXELROD: The president's answer is that had he heard the things that were on the tape - remember, they took years - decades of sermons that were available in the gift shop of this church and found a few minutes of these comments. And the president said if "I heard these comments I would have taken issue with these comments but I didn't hear these comments" and I guarantee you neither did Mayor Giuliani who was never in attendance either.

So you know, I think Mayor Giuliani was involved in a full out you know, bout of pandering there. And was taking liberty with the facts.

SMERCONISH: David, this week the president said that we are at war with people who have, "perverted Islam." I get that he needs to build a coalition among Muslim nations, I also get that he needs to tamp down Islamophobia. But by omission it seems dishonest not to acknowledge the role that religion is playing in the minds of those jihadists.

AXELROD: Well, I think when he said they are perverted religion that's what he's talking about. Listen. A quarter of the world's population are Muslims and 99.99 percent of them aren't involved in extremism. So, obviously it's not something that's rooted in Islam, it's rooted in the minds of these extremists who are perverted Islam to jibe with their warped ideology and it's really important that we separate them from the rest of the world's Muslim community. We need to attack this together and not divide those who should be fighting this as one force.

SMERCONISH: I get that his critics like to say well he won't use radical Islam because they then try to equate that with the president being weak against that threat. That's not where I'm coming from. I think that he has - stood up to the task at hand. But I do worry that if you don't acknowledge what's driving some of the jihadists then you can't assess and stop the recruitment process. If it is religion for some of them we need to know that and act accordingly.

AXELROD: But Michael, I think what he's saying is that it is their interpretation of religion that is driving them in this instance. And that's what we have to - that's what we have to acknowledge because otherwise we're tarring the other 99.9 percent in ways that create not just divisions between us and them, but really fan what you said before which is this kind of anti-Islamic sentiment that makes it harder to solve the problem.

SMERCONISH: Graham Wood wrote a great piece in the "Atlantic" this week that got tremendous discussion, thousands of comments appended to it. And he pretty much said that when we say ISIS has a distorted Islamic texts, we're making a preposterous statement that they are literalists, they are fundamentalists those who are interpreting the Koran for this evil purpose.

AXELROD: Well, religions generally, if you take ancient texts and interpret them literally, they can lead you to conclusions that aren't rational or consistent with the larger themes. And so you know, I haven't seen the article, I don't want to comment on the article, but all I know is that these extremists, ISIS and the offshoots of them, are not reflective of the broad Muslim community in the United States and around the world and we should resist the notion that it is all of one piece.

SMERCONISH: David Axelrod, thank you. We'll see you a little bit later in the program to talk more politics.

First, as mentioned President Obama said this week that we're at war with people who have perverted Islam. Is that really true? Or, do we pretend that ISIS isn't actually a religious movement to our detriment? Yes is that answer according to the author of a fascinating article on ISIS who joins me next.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFED MALE: My chief of staff Leo McGary insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to killing myself or is it OK to call the police. Here is one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7.

If they promise to wear gloves can the Washington Redskins still play football, can Notre Dame, can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: That scene from the hit show "The West Wing" tells an important story, taking religious scriptures literally is in some cases irrational whether they are from the bible or the Koran. It's exactly what ISIS is doing committing violent acts in the name of religion citing the Koran as their justification.

In a remarkable new article for the "Atlantic" titled "What ISIS Really Wants" writer Graham Wood explores the terror group's religious beliefs. He says ISIS is no mere collection of psychopaths but rather a religious group with carefully considered beliefs. And I'm thrilled that he joins me now.

So President Bartlett makes a good observation, he may as well have been talking about ISIS, right?

GRAHAM WOOD, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR "THE ATLANTIC": Yes, exactly. That's exactly what ISIS is trying to do. And there is some dispute whether they are the best kind of literalists. Certainly in some dispute over the best kind of Muslims. But the idea they are not reaching into Muslim traditions is simply in fact actually inaccurate.

SMERCONISH: You write that the Islamic state is very islamic, you use words that are not typically ascribed to ISIS, you say that their followers derive from a coherent even learned interpretation of Islam.

WOOD: Yes.

SMERCONISH: Defend that.

WOOD: It's a learned interpretation of Islam that is rejected by most Muslim scholars but they have their own council of scholars, they have scholars who are looking at these hadib, these sayings of the prophet, looking at scripture and they are finding ways to use them. They are not people who are illiterate. They are people who are looking into these books and they are trying to come up with justification. Again justifications that are rejected by everyone else but they are scholarly and there is no denying that.

SMERCONISH: What I'm taking away from your piece, I read it twice, is that they are justified, they are able to point somewhere in the Koran on in the hadib for a justification of that which they are espousing.

WOOD: Yes. That includes things like burning the Jordanian pilot alive. This is something that mutilation of bodies, burning alive - this is something that historically in Islam has been rejected. They go point by point and they find that the examples, they find the examples in the texts and in Islamic history for why that's permissible.

SMERCONISH: OK. Graham, then it begs a question that I want to ask after I show everyone what the president said this week on this subject.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SMERCONISH: Is he right?

WOOD: I'm grateful for that statement because it's true, and the idea that there's some narrative that we are crusaders who are against Islam is something that we should reject as he did. However, he says we are at war with people who have perverted Islam. This is really a theological judgment. It's interesting when we have a president who is willing to make theological judgments. I would say that is a bit beyond his writ.

SMERCONISH: Well, they are purists is what I think I learned from reading your piece in the "Atlantic." You can't say that they have perverted the faith when they can point with specific reference to that portion of the faith that they are relying on.

WOOD: They could have looked at other parts of the faith. They could have found more tolerant traditions of it. The fact that they are pointing to parts of the faith means that they are drawing on this diverse contradictory tradition of Islam. So to say that they are perverting I think is really to make a kind of judgment that's far beyond the political judgments that the president can make.

SMERCONISH: Why does any of this matter? Does it matter? Do we really need to appreciate and understand the true justification of ISIS?

WOOD: I think it's very important to understand the enemy. Going to war with them when thinking that Islam and especially this kind of jihadi version of Islam is one monolithic thing is quite dangerous. It would be like going to war with Nazi Germany without understanding what nazism even is or going to war with the Soviet Union without understanding what communism is. Clearly these are important background bits of information to understand the motivation that the enemy is providing to its own foot soldiers.

SMERCONISH: You rely on an expert at Princeton University Bernard Hikele. Professor Hikele told you that the idea that ISIS has distorted texts of Islam is itself preposterous.

WOOD: Yes. Professor Hikele's view is that they are quite good at looking back into the past. They are historical but look, they found texts to justify what they say and they used the same kind of reasoning that would be acceptable in other contexts, again you could find other texts and you could use other reasoning also acceptable. But they are looking in this tradition, not outside of it.

SMERCONISH: My colleague Fareed Zakaria called your essay intelligent work but he also with regard to Professor Hikele said that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Perhaps 30,000 members of the Islamic state and yet Hikele feels that those .00019 percent of Muslims, they define the religion, that sounds political.

WOOD: I think that he is misreading Hikele. Hikele does not think - I can speak for him I think in this case - that ISIS defines Islam any more than say the branch Davidians would define Christianity. Are the Branch Davidians Christian? Absolutely. Is ISIS Islamic? Definitely.

SMERCONISH: You say that we have responded in a daze. What do you mean by that, we the United States government?

WOOD: Well, there is this narrative that ISIS is a group of thrill kill nihilists, or perhaps that they are just part of Al Qaeda. These are both simply mistaken. And so when we have responded and tried to figure out ways to keep other people from joining this group, with that narrative in mind we simply just don't understand what this group is. And what the motivations are behind it.

SMERCONISH: Well, let me confess my naivete, what I learned from you is that in the end their savior is Jesus, because in the end of time's prophecies that they believe they are fulfilling they will be cornered in Jerusalem, their ranks will be reduced to just 5,000 and Jesus will come to their rescue.

WOOD: Yes. They think it will happen fairly soon. So they have this view that in a fairly short calendar, talking about years not decades, not millennia, they will expand over the globe and then eventually because of the forces an anti-Messiah, be cornered in Jerusalem and then Jesus will come back and lead them to victory.

SMERCONISH: It's a great piece of work. It's generated a tremendous amount of commentary which I think is healthy. I commend you for writing it. Graham Wood.

WOOD: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Coming up a remarkable trial is coming down to verdict time. Closing arguments in the "American Sniper" trial set for Monday. Just how hard is to the prove insanity as a defense? Attorney Mark O'Mara says it's harder than you think.

The Oscars are just a day away. An Academy insider, a former actress, did I mention a nun joins us to talk about who she voted for.

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SMERCONISH: Welcome back to the program. The dramatic "American Sniper" murder trial is about to enter closing arguments. The question remains did Eddy Routh know what he was doing was wrong when he killed Navy SEAL Chris Kyle and another man? Key testimony suggests he could have known but there's also strong evidence that he was mentally ill.

My next guest knows all about making closing arguments in high profile cases. Mark O'Mara is a criminal defense attorney who represented George Zimmerman in the famed Trayvon Martin case. Mark joins me now. Mark, we in the media, we love the insanity defense. The reality to a practitioner such as yourself it doesn't come up that often.

MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Not often at all. Less than one percent of the cases in America evens suggest that the insanity defense is appropriate. For those cases that get the insanity defense, less than a tenth, anywhere from one to five to 10 percent of those cases are successful. It doesn't work very much at all.

SMERCONISH: In lay terms what is the issue? O'MARA: Was he crazy is the true issue. Did he know right from wrong at the time is what Texas, Florida and a lot of cases suggest. So the defense has to go out there and prove that his bizarre behavior before was bizarre enough that he should be forgiven for a very, very criminal act.

SMERCONISH: What if someone is impaired by drugs or alcohol? Does that impact their ability to assert an insanity defense?

O'MARA: Well, it absolutely does. As it was testified to by one of the experts, if you think of the insanity defense on a spectrum, it is way at the end of the spectrum. You can be on drugs, you can be drunk, you can be mentally disturbed, you can have paranoid thoughts, you can even suffer schizophrenia, none of that gets you to the insanity defense unless you get to the long end of the spectrum where it says you have no idea that what you are doing was wrong.

SMERCONISH: So with regard to this case, give me a piece of evidence that suggests the insanity defense has merit, and then give me something that mitigates against it.

O'MARA: Here's one reason why the insanity defense may work. Why else did he do it? There is no other reason why he would have killed two people, comrades of his who are helping him out, in a situation where nothing suggested to a rational mind that he would have done something other than being insane.

The other side of the coin is the prosecution side, he was drinking, that diminishes what he can argue as insanity. But more importantly, he knew what he was doing before and afterwards, when he left the scene he knew how to drive the car away and drive it on the right side of the road. When he bought tacos he knew he had to pay for them. Even when he talked to the officer at first when he said I was suffering from paranoia and schizophrenia, insane people don't know they are insane.

SMERCONISH: You know, one of the things that occurs to me about the insanity defense is the fundamental belief that I have that if you take a life, if you knowingly take a life you got to be a little off your rocker.

O'MARA: And that's one of the best arguments. If I had one sentence to say in my closing argument on this I would say to the ladies and gentlemen of the jury why do you think he did it? Because in fact, taking a life like with no reason, no justification, you might think he has to be insane. It's just that under our law the insanity defense is way at the end and very, very difficult to prove.

SMERCONISH: Mark, I don't know if weather is going to interrupt the Monday closing arguments schedule. But it is conceivable that Sunday night America tunes in to the Oscars, and watches "American Sniper" regarded as picture of the year and Monday morning closing arguments are given in this case. What's the impact of the film on the trial?

O'MARA: Well, it has an enormous impact. Unfortunately we can't change the reality of it. But everyone in America now likes one of the victims in this case, Kyle. And that has impact on the jurors, it's going to and has impact on the way we look at the case. It's bizarre that it's going to happen. I only hope that he gets a fair trial even though it's in a very difficult circumstance.

SMERCONISH: I take it given what you have already explained the very nature of a case like this, that you don't often put a defendant on the witness stand who is asserting an insanity defense.

O'MARA: You don't because really he can't help himself at that point if you think about it. That's got to come from the experts and the psychologists and psychiatrists and the lay witnesses who are going to come in and say here's who he was right before and maybe here's who he was afterwards.

And it's that history on both sides of the event that's really significant to prove up insanity. And he doesn't really offer very much to help himself by testifying.

SMERCONISH: Great job, Mark. Thank you as always.

O'MARA: Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Coming up. David Axelrod's gripping new memoir offers a candid look at his 20 year friendship with President Obama. I'll ask him why it was Barack and not Barry who ran for the U.S. Senate. We'll also get his take on 2016.

Plus, she was once a famous actress who traded her red carpet designer dresses for a habit. The woman who put god before Hollywood, will join me to talk about one of Hollywood's most well-kept secrets.

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SMERCONISH: Welcome back.

Inside the mind of Barack Obama, from one of his closest friends. Here's one tidbit from David Axelrod's new book on the president. Axelrod wrote one of the iconic campaign slogans in recent memory, the unforgettable "Yes, We Can" Obama rallying cry. But would you believe Obama thought the slogan was just too corny?

That's one of many revelations in Axelrod's gripping new book "Believer: My 40 Years in Politics." In it, he gives us a look at an Obama we've never seen, along with some other political superstars.

David, I want to talk to you about your brand new book "Believer".

So, it's 2004, you've got this young upstart, he is a state senator in Illinois. He wants to run for the U.S. Senate. But he's got an odd- sounding name. Someone has the idea that maybe he should run as Barry, not Barack.

DAVID AXELROD, AUTHOR, "BELIEVER": Yes.

SMERCONISH: What happened? AXELROD: He laughed it off. One of our -- someone doing polling for us said split sampled their poll. So, they asked half the voters how they felt about Barack Obama and half the voters how they felt about Barry Obama. And Barry did marginally better.

He laughed that off. And this, of course, goes to the core of who he is. Barack Obama knows who he is. He's not going -- he's not going to pervert that to win an election campaign. And so, he dismissed that out of hand. And said my name -- that's really great, but my name is Barack.

SMERCONISH: Which was your bigger blunder at Obama's side? Not making sure that someone was there to videotape the speech when he voiced opposition to the war in Iraq, or, giving the recommendation that he bowl in Altoona, Pennsylvania, which yielded a score of 37?

AXELROD: Well, I have to say the second one was more of a blunder because I didn't think through that someone would actually -- my notion was there are a lot of people sitting in the bowling alley and a lot of hands to shake.

And I didn't realize that an advance person would say, hey, why don't you roll a few? Which wasn't a preposterous idea. Who knew he was a 37 bowler at the time. He is much better now, by the way, now that he has his own bowling alley over at Camp David.

But in terms of the first, I kicked myself years later. He made probably the most prescient speech I've heard anywhere in October of 2002, as a young state senator running for the Senate, about why we shouldn't go into Iraq. And everything he forecast then came to pass, when I tried to find tape of it two years later, all I could find was 14 seconds from one news reel of him speaking because it wasn't considered a major event and I didn't have a film crew there. I wish I had -- I could have looked into the future, because I would have turned that into some very good TV ads.

SMERCONISH: On first blush, the president found yes, we can to be in your word, his word, "corny".

AXELROD: Yes. It was the first ad that I had written for his Senate campaign in 2004. And it ended with him using those words, "yes, we can". It was a story about all of the improbable things he had already been able to accomplish in his life. And when he got to the end of it, he said "yes, we can", is that too corny? And I made a strong case for why I thought it was really important because it was inclusive and positive, and really played against the political environment in the right way.

But he turned to Michelle Obama who is on the staircase in this home where we were shooting and he said, Mich, what do you think? And she slowly shook her head and said not corny. So, he didn't really -- all my arguments as a trained professional didn't mean all that much but her opinion really did. And thank God because that slogan became, you know, an icon for that campaign and the campaigns to come.

SMERCONISH: All right, David, give me something specific. If you were advising Secretary Clinton into 2016, who among the Republican field would be most concerning?

AXELROD: Well, it depends how the Republican race unfolds, Michael. If as I said earlier, Governor Bush succeeds in getting nominated without making the Faustian bargains that the previous nominees had made, he could be formidable because he would have a reach into the Hispanic community, he's got a kinship with the Hispanic community the other nominees haven't had. That could change the demographic makeup of the vote in a way that would put states in play that we had won, including Florida. But that's a big if.

And beyond that, I don't think we know. Scott Walker's getting a lot of buzz right now, but as you pointed out earlier, even on this Giuliani situation, every day is a test when you're running for president and no one knows how you're going to handle those tests. He's been a very proficient political player in a small environment. But presidential races are entirely different. And so, I can't predict how he or any of them will perform.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, David Axelrod.

Coming up, who will go home with the golden statue tomorrow night at the Academy Awards? Everyone has their pick. The bigger question is who gets to cast the votes? The nun who co-starred with Elvis and is also an Academy voter joins me next.

And another round of brutal weather is marching across the eastern U.S., millions are in the path of a record-breaking deep freeze.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back.

"I want to thank the Academy" -- no doubt you're going to hear those words tomorrow night at the Academy Awards. But who exactly comprises the Academy?

Well, we found an Oscar voter in the last place you'd expect. She's an actress who has walked the red carpet at the Academy Awards. She even gave Elvis Presley his first screen kiss.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELVIS PRESLEY: Well, I wanted to be with you. And not only here, but I want you with us on the road. Where will we go?

DELORES HART: They don't need me, and you don't need me. You're going to the top, Deke, and you're going alone.

PRESLEY: I need somebody.

HART: Agents in Hollywood wanted me for loving you.

I had a lot of films after that, and it was wonderful.

(MUSIC)

I was 19 and just on the threshold of the biggest career that you could have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: After she made that kiss, she made a career change and became a nun. That's right. A nun who in between prayers screens movies and votes on the Oscars.

From the Oscar-nominated documentary "God is bigger than Elvis," academy voter, Mother Delores Hart joins me now.

Mother Delores, I have to believe there are many women among us who can claim that they kissed Elvis Presley but not too many nuns. How did that all come about?

(LAUGHTER)

HART: Well, I wasn't a nun when I kissed him. I can grant you that. But I was -- actually, I was 17, just out of school, and it was my first film. And, indeed, it was Mr. Pressley's first kiss too.

SMERCONISH: At age 24, as one who was leading a career as an aspiring actress, a successful actress, you then became a cloistered nun. And it begs the question of me today, now that you're a voting member of the Academy, how do you react to sex in so many films?

HART: Well, I think sex is wonderful. I think God created it as the greatest creator of all. And I think it's a certain spirit, a lack of love that destroys it.

SMERCONISH: The nominees for best picture this year, "American Sniper," "Birdman," "Boyhood," "Grand Budapest Hotel," "Imitation Game" "Selma," "Theory of Everything," and whiplash. Is this a good year for films or a not so good year?

HART: I think it's been one of the most wonderful years for films because I think the films have tried to show situations as they really are, and not in a brutal -- brutality or mean way.

SMERCONISH: For what film did you vote, if I may ask, as best picture?

HART: The film "The Great Budapest Hotel", to tell you the truth.

SMERCONISH: Really.

HART: I thought that was so beautifully done and very, very intricate and delightful. I had a hard time with that and "Boyhood" because that was extremely fine and good taste in the way they took that whole life. And I can't imagine an actor being faithful through that many years. And a whole team of people.

SMERCONISH: Mother Delores, do you get lobbied for your vote as a member of the academy? Do people try and curry favor with you? Do they try and ply you with favors? How does the process work?

HART: Oh, I have never been asked to -- even to tell my vote. You've given me the first courtesy in my life. I felt that maybe it was not supposed to be told or they shouldn't say anything to you. I think the newspapers and the magazines do everything they can to try to get you to vote their way. And you have to see the film and judge yourself.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Mother Delores. We appreciate your time.

HART: Thank you very much. God bless you.

SMERCONISH: And you.

Coming up, it's the winner that won't quit. Get this -- new record lows are coming. Temperatures never seen before in some places affecting millions of people.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back to the program.

You've heard a lot about this brutal winter, but now, we're seeing a record number of never-before-seen temperatures and expecting more. It truly is deep freeze, the likes of which we've seldom seen bearing down on most of the eastern U.S.

Let's get right to CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera. He's tracking the latest developments -- Ivan.

IVAN CABRERA, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Twenty to 30 below zero, I mean, even for the heartiest folks in the winter wonderland up north that's just incredible and dangerous wind-chills we're talking about here. Look at the temperatures as we woke up on Saturday morning. Well below zero as far as the wind-chill and even down South, down to Florida, it was feeling like it was in the 30s. So, that's a significant dip for them.

As we get you into Sunday morning, look what's happening here. Some milder air will push briefly into the Northeast. But look at this on the backside of it, already in Bismarck, 13 below, Minneapolis 7 below. That arctic air is coming back at us here. We are stuck in this pattern and I think we're going to be in it the next few days.

Now, with this storm we have milder air that's going to be pushing in but mild enough or warm enough that I think it will switch over. That is the snow that will begin in Philly and New York and Boston, will eventually switch over to rain as we get you into Sunday. So, that is certainly some good news there.

But let's talk about the snow potential here. Anywhere from 4 to 6 inches, West Virginia getting in on a good 12 foot -- or 12 inches plus. That will be good for the ski resorts.

But look at this: more rounds of arctic air as we talk about here. Look at the clock into February and, in fact, I don't see this changing, Michael, until we get into the early and middle part of March.

SMERCONISH: Oh, man.

CABRERA: This is what's coming -- another series of arctic blast coming in.

SMERCONISH: Not what I wanted to hear. The pipes in my home outside of Philly are literally frozen and you're telling me it's not going to be until March until I've got running water in some parts of the house.

CABRERA: Put a lot of tape on them. Yes.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

CABRERA: Yes.

SMERCONISH: Hey, when we come back, there's something serious that I want to say about Rudy Giuliani's controversial remarks pertaining to President Obama. I'm going to get to that, next.

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SMERCONISH: Finally, I've always been a fan of Mayor Giuliani. In fact, I've considered him a friend. But I was terribly disappointed to hear him question the president's love for our country, joining a long list of Obama critics who I think have crossed the line.

I also objected when George W. Bush was the subject of undeserved hyperbolic criticism but the baseless scorn heaped upon President Obama, it makes Bush's detractors look diplomatic. The president, the office and our nation deserve better.

It's been unrelenting. The day after Obama took office, Rush Limbaugh told Sean Hannity he wanted him to fail. Later, Glenn Beck called the president a racist with a deep-seated hatred of white people. Donald Trump's birtherism took hold, while words like "socialism" were uttered with increased frequency.

Just before Hurricane Sandy hit, Ann Coulter called our sitting president a retard. Sarah Palin mocked his shuck and jive stick, and John Sununu questioned Colin Powell's weighty endorsement as being motivated by race.

There's been a prairie fire of falsehoods spread throughout the Internet suggesting, among other things, that Obama is a Muslim or that he refused to cite the Pledge of Allegiance, paving the way for Dinesh D'Souza's fictionalized documentary "2016", which characterized Obama as fulfilling the anti-colonial agenda of his father, a man he literally knew for just one weekend.

Among the usual memes used to undermine the president is the threat of some apocalyptic cataclysm, usually in the form of assertion of federal power like the seizing of guns. These demand unthinking acceptance of the notion that the president, like some bizarre Manchurian candidate is executing a nefarious agenda.

Before I made the move to Sirius XM radio, I routinely fielded calls from a.m. listeners with no hint of embarrassment in their voices, said things like, "I call him comrade." Or he's not my president. Their best evidence, Obamacare, crafted by the same people who wrote Romneycare. Critics, of course, ignore that the Affordable Care Act is premised upon personal responsibility and was born in a right wing think tank.

And while some have labeled the president a socialist for the signing of the $831 billion stimulus, nobody ever used that language, when Bush acted similarly with the $700 billion TARP.

And then, of course, there was Benghazi. Why all the attention to that tragedy, which happened on a September 11th? Maybe to deflect attention from Obama avenging the first 9/11. The president's critics have sought to diminish that achievement by a no-brainer and when candidate Obama told me and others in 2008 that he would not hesitate to strike bin Laden if he found him in Pakistan, he was derided by his adversaries, including Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.

And while you can be critical, as I have been, about the president's reluctance to label ISIS as Islamic terrorists, you have to admit, he hasn't hesitated to kill its members.

Let me be clear: there are plenty of reasons to criticize the job he has done, but this has become all too personal. There's much to be admired in the president and his rise to power, replace Kenya with Poland or Germany, and you'd have observers rightfully saying that only in America could such a career path be possible.

When I disagree with the president, I do so conceding that he's an intellectual heavyweight whose personal ethics have been above reproach. This first family has brought no disrepute to the White House.

And real patriots, voice opinions based on substance, not smears. Thank you so much for joining me. Please don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish.

See you next week.