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Protests After Cop Killed Black Teen; Marking 50 Years since "Bloody Sunday"; Clinton Email Flap Sparks Firetstorm; Jeb Bush's Iowa Courtship; More of John Gotti, Jr, Interview; Clinton Portrait Flap
Aired March 7, 2015 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SEMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish. Welcome to the program.
We begin with breaking news. Demonstrations through the night in reaction to a police shooting of an African-American teenager this time in Madison, Wisconsin. This comes as thousands are gathering right now in Selma, Alabama to commemorate the historic civil rights march there 50 years ago. We'll get to that in just a moment.
But first, to Madison where a 19-year-old is dead, police say it happened because the teen attacked an officer, as word spread of the shooting a crowd gathered at police headquarters. Kristen Barbaresi is a reporter from our affiliate WKOW in Madison. She joins us on the phone with the very latest. Kristin, what happened?
KRISTEN BARBARESI, REPORTER, WKOW: What we know right now, according to the Madison police chief Mike Colbam (ph) is that officers were responding to reports of an individual running through traffic causing a disturbance, as officers were responding the call was upgraded, they were told that this person had committed some kind of battery.
The chief says that when officers arrived the subject was inside an apartment and officers forced entry because he says he heard a disturbance inside. And at that point they say that the teen then attacked the officer, knocking the officer to the ground with a blow to the head. And that's when the officer drew his weapon and fired at the teen.
SMERCONISH: I understand that you've had the opportunity to speak to the shooting victim's mother. What did you learn from her?
BARBARESI: I did. I spoke with her just about five hours after this happened. She is obviously shaken up. She's angry, she told me, she wants answers, she wants to know what happened to her son. She said that the mayor of Madison, Mayor Paul Soglin, had been to the home to speak with her. She was waiting for more information. As we were leaving the medical examiner was coming to talk with her. She says she's never known her son to be violent and again she is looking for answers.
SMERCONISH: Is there any history of racial unrest in the area? I'm thinking in particular while the events were playing themselves out in Ferguson, what was the mood like in Madison? BARBARESI: Well, we didn't have demonstrations here but they all
remained very peaceful. The black coalition is the group that's really been organizing those. What is interesting is that the Madison Police Department has actually kind of let those protests happen. The police chief has taken the mentality that he will just block off the streets they want to march on and let them speak and let them demonstrate. And even the protesters have commended the way the police department has handled their demonstrations, so we have seen them but it's been very peaceful.
SMERCONISH: Kristen, am I right in saying that Wisconsin is among the few states that has passed a law that govern in a circumstance like this, where the investigation will be held by state officials, not those who are local?
BARBARESI: That's correct, actually. Last April, Wisconsin passed a law, I believe we were the first state in the country, that requires independent reviews of police officer involved deaths, so that means an outside police agency has to be the main agency investigating this shooting and then it can be assisted by other outside agencies.
In this case it is the State Department handling the investigation. It's the Department of Criminal Investigation that will be heading this investigation into what happened. Madison police will not be involved unless they are asked questions.
SMERCONISH: I heard a report and perhaps you can confirm this, that the state legislator from Wisconsin who was the catalyst for passing that law was actually an eye witness to some of these underlying events. Is that true?
BARBARESI: That is true. Representative Chris Taylor, she is one of our state assembly women, she could-authored this legislation. She was actually - I spoke with her shortly after this happened. She was pulling into a gas station across from the apartment building where this happened. She was told to get down. She says she heard shots fired. She said a couple of shots, she didn't quite know how many.
When she got up she witnessed some of the aftermath. She learned then that it was officer involved and shortly thereafter we arrived on scene and we were able to speak with her and she said this is why we passed that bill. This is why I pushed for it.
SMERCONISH: Kristen Barbaresis from WKOW, that was an excellent report. We thank you for it.
As the events in Madison, Wisconsin unfold, in just a few hours President Obama will join tens of thousands of people in Selma, Alabama to honor the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.
You're looking now at live pictures of the famous bridge where today's march is taking place, Bloody Sunday was the terrible day when Alabama police brutally attacked a peaceful civil rights march, an ugly scene that galvanized this country into ultimately passing the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was, of course, a turning point in the American civil rights movement. Joining me now is former United States senator and confidante of Martin Luther King who himself marched in Selma, Harris Wofford and Martin Luther King, III.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for being here. Mr. King, let me begin with you. You just heard that there's news today of another high profile police shooting and of course the nation is still dissecting what went on in Ferguson. It occurs to me that your father would have been displeased to know that before the Mike Brown shooting in Ferguson voting participation there was so low, I think in the neighbourhood of 12 percent.
MARTIN LUTHER KING III, GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: That is correct. Not only would he have been disappointed but he would certainly be disappointed that all over the country many states have imposed new laws making it more difficult to vote. And the reality as we observe today it really is not a celebration. It cannot be a celebration unless there's legislation that creates new voting rights for all people.
SMERCONISH: You have in an opinion piece that you have just penned commemorating the 50th anniversary you noted that we rank 138th out of 172 democracies in terms of voter participation. So let's look forward. What's to be done about that?
KING: I think number one, we have to examine why is it that people are not voting. The first thing we have to do is to create legislation. And I proposed three things. Number one, electronic voting which is done in 20 states around the country. Number two, to make it where there's not just one voting day like Tuesday. Maybe we should have three days or official voting days, Tuesday is the worst day of all times that any one would vote. And the final thing is everyone has a social security card so perhaps putting a picture I.D. on social security cards, everyone would have a government I.D., and then that's the first step.
The second step is we got to find a way to create greater participation. That's a big challenge. Something is wrong with our system when so few are participating.
SMERCONISH: When people take a look at the data and they say that Ferguson is 66 percent African-American, but has only four out of I think the number 52, African-Americans on the police squad, it's all related to the activism that you are describing, that's the point.
KING: Well, it certainly is related to the activism. But one of the things my father and his team did was he also had an effort voter education along with registration. We are no longer doing voter education. I think voter education with voter registration ultimately creates voter participation.
SMERCONISH: Senator Wofford, you marched at Selma with Dr. King. And the public has a perception of Dr. King but you knew the man. What is it that you know about him that you think the rest of us would benefit from hearing? FMR. SEN. HARRIS WOFFORD: I think right now we need what Martin III's
father had in full force, that is, the purpose of ending the denial of the right to vote needs the kind of thinking, King was a thinker. He was - when he was silent after a big problem put to him, you could almost hear him thinking. He was one of the most thoughtful persons.
The public knows that he's passionate with the "I have a dream" speech, it knows that the marches in the end turned a corner for civil rights. But it turned it not because the first march was a catastrophe with terrible violence. That was one way of reaching people and it reached people. The third march was entirely peaceful. And it was peaceful because Martin Luther King had figured out that they had to do something new, they had this order from an honorable judge champion of civil rights, not to march until he had a hearing and it was a temporary injunction.
And the most of the people there were ready to march in Selma, and not after the violence on the bridge, not let anything stop them. But King thought it through, and decided that he would - the purpose was persuasion, and he would lose persuasion if he had led the marchers right into the Billy clubs and the violence.
He turned around, he made the decision that they were going to obey that injunction which was a reasonable one, but they would take a vow when they went back to Selma, that they would come as soon as the injunction was lifted. Eight days later it was lifted, and we came back. King asked me as we started the other march, do you think you'd all really come back? I said yes. We're going to come back. And more that were there in the second march.
For the third we marched the whole way. Although only 300 of us were picked for the short area of where the road was narrow and the woods and the bushes were great. It was - it was a dangerous area. One of my lucky moments was Martin Luther King had me as one of the 10 guests that were in the 300. But Martin the third I agree with everything he said and he's got a quality that his father had. He's trying to persuade people and to think newly, we need to be more inventive if we're going to do our duty and that takes thinking and the aim of non- violent direct action which King epitomized in this country, the aim is persuasion.
In a moment of real trial he decided we're going to obey the injunction, if he had told everybody in advance, some of the militant passionate young people would have just marched into the Billy clubs. And we would have had another and maybe even worse violence. But instead, it's that second march that made the difference and it's because of this quality of thinking. When I go and see the memorial, I find it conveys the kind of thoughtfulness that Martin Luther King gave to this problem. We need more of that right now.
SMERCONISH: Mr. King, Senator Wofford has given you high praise. I'm giving you the final word. Let me just say I'm looking forward to watching CNN all day long to see the imagery that will come from Selma today including President Obama and President George W. Bush.
KING: Well, that is probably the most remarkable part. And the reality is it took a bipartisan effort for the voting rights bill to be passed in 1965 that Lyndon Johnson signed. As Senator Wofford said and articulated so clearly the time, today we still need this nonviolent effort and movement. I think we're seeing young people around the country becoming very engaged in a positive way to bring about social change. And ultimately to get involved in the voting process which is the first step.
SMERCONISH: Martin Luther King III, Senator Harris Wofford, thank you both gentlemen. We appreciate you having been here.
KING: Thank you.
WOFFORD: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Coming up Hillary Clinton facing more fallout from her e- mail issues. Now the White House and the State Department are getting hammered with questions why she used her private e-mail and home server. We'll tackle all of it, next.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back. This morning questions continue to swirl around Secretary Hillary Clinton and her notorious e-mails. As secretary of state she relied solely on a personal address to conduct State Department business.
Now reports that White House and Clinton staffers were made aware of this back in August, that's when the House Committee investigating Benghazi began asking about these e-mails and threatening to subpoena them. It wasn't until this week that the e-mail flap was exposed by "The New York Times."
I want to bring in an expert to help us understand all of this. Former director of litigation at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Jason R. Baron. Mr. Baron, this is your bailiwick, for 34 years you worked in the federal government addressing these kinds of matters. How unusual is it that an individual in this position would rely solely on a personal account?
JASON R. BARON, FMR. DIRECTOR OF LITIGATION, U.S. NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION: Well, Michael, it is highly unusual. It is not unprecedented for officials to, from time to time in the past, use a private e-mail network. But for the secretary of state to have chosen from the onset of her time in office, to use a private e-mail network for the transaction of public business is extraordinary and raises some serious questions about whether we could have full compliance with the record keeping laws.
SMERCONISH: Does it suggest any violations of law to you?
BARON: Well, I am very happy that the State Department, after Miss Clinton's time in office did reach out to her and others to ask for e- mail records to be returned into government custody and the secretary of state has complied. And so, as a technical matter the 2009 National Archives Regulations have been respected because now, 55,000 e-mail records are in the government's custody and are available under the Freedom of Information Act or otherwise.
The legitimate question to ask for anyone inside the government is, how that transfer of records should take place in the normal course. So if you're using a private e-mail network, one would expect that you rather contemporaneously transfer or forward records, so that they can be appropriately stored in a record keeping system. There is now -
SMERCONISH: What I think I'm hearing you say is that this is very unusual, but doesn't represent a violation of law. And if I misunderstood, by all means correct me.
I want to ask this. Don't the government rules that apply to a circumstance like this mandate a time period in which the e-mails would have had to have been produced, because it occurs to me, Mr. Baron, that if this congressional committee had not sought this information, maybe we'd go on for another decade before it would be produced.
BARON: Well, that's what had troubled me originally when I heard about this. And was asked about it on the record. The fact is that the 2009 regulations did not set an express deadline. That deadline of 20 days to forward e-mails from a private account to an official recordkeeping system was only made part of the Federal Records Act, the statute, in 2014 after Secretary Clinton left office. But no one would reasonably read the existing 2009 regulations to allow for a high level official to leave office and years later choose on their own initiative to provide the government back with government records.
So, it's a strained reading of the existing regulations. I am glad that the State Department has asked, and that Secretary Clinton has now forwarded the records back. This is a moment where we should all sort of take a step back and ask some hard questions about government agency practice in general. We have a new statute on the books looking forward, we need to make sure that e-mails that can be very important, candid communications, constituting federal records that they are adequately preserved under the records law.
Because this is the history of our country. The nation's history in a digital age is increasingly one that involves e-mail and other forms of electronic communication. So every agency of government needs to step up and sort of tighten up their procedures in line with the new law to make sure that the regulations and the law are followed.
SMERCONISH: Jason R. Baron, thank you so much for being here. We appreciate your expertise.
BARON: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: I want to bring in a member of the Benghazi committee which issued a subpoena for Secretary Clinton's e-mails, that would be Congressman Mike Pompeo who joins me now. Congressman, how have these revelations of the last couple of days impacted the work of your committee?
REP. MIKE POMPEO (R), KANSAS: Well, good morning, Michael. You know, it reminds us when Secretary Clinton testified to Congress before she said what difference does it make. And we're now beginning to learn what she meant. She meant what difference does it make if she complies with the rules, if she has a private set of e-mail accounts that no one told any one existed and only upon inquiry when we continued to press as a committee to get these answers that we now have been able to determine that she had these in a place that didn't have the benefit of the State Department's security system, and didn't have the benefit of allowing our committee to do the work we're engaged in which is getting the facts for the families of the four dead Americans and making sure that our State Department employees around the world continue to remain secure.
She had she these e-mails stashed on a private e-mail server apparently in her basement and we now have the task of making sure we get a chance to see each and every one of those that relates to the important events of September 11, 2012.
SMERCONISH: I think you heard the former head of litigation for the National Archives say that he finds this to be highly unusual but not illegal. Do you agree with that assessment?
POMPEO: I don't know if it's - if it broke any technical law or not. I know it's deeply inconsistent with what the White House instructed the State Department to do. I know it's deeply inconsistent with Secretary Clinton told her State Department employees to do. She told all of them that you can't behave this way, that you have to use an official account to conduct governmental business.
And I know it presents risk, to this day whether it's the Iranians or the Chinese. I don't know who it is that might be attacking that Clinton server and I know that it doesn't have the benefit all of the taxpayer resources that have gone into securing these networks. We need to get access to these e-mails, we don't need them screened by Secretary Clinton or her lawyer. They need to go through the normal process. And that's the task that our committee has.
SMERCONISH: Respond to the critics who say this is all about politics, that Jeb Bush maintained a similar system as governor of Florida and no one was beefing about that. Or that Secretary Colin Powell relied on a private server as well. And it was not made an issue.
POMPEO: Michael, we heard that for a long time. What I know is every time we sought documents, every time we tried to get access to the e- mails that related to the tragic events in Benghazi we've been stonewalled, we've been denied access, we've not been told about these private e-mail accounts. We've been working hard to get the answers for the American people and the families of four dead Americans and we're determined to get those facts. So that we can all see them and can conclude our investigation.
SMERCONISH: Congressman Pompeo, one additional question if I might. It seems to me that if this is what took place that she was managing all of her e-mail through one private account, and now your committee comes along and says we request to see all of the Benghazi related e- mails, someone and presumably it's not Secretary Clinton, needs to go through a tremendous amount of electronic communications to decide that which has relevance to your congressional committee. Who are those people? Are they private employees, are they government employees, and what kind of a clearance do they have to be reviewing that sort of information?
POMPEO: Michael, this is exactly the problem you have when you have a government employee go rogue. And take this on as a personal matter. You know Secretary Clinton tweeted the other night, she said "I want them released." Goodness, gracious, if they are her personal e-mails release. They she could have them out in the American public today. Yet she hasn't done that. So I couldn't tell you what the full scope of those e-mails is. I simply know this.
Our committee has an obligation to get to the bottom of this, to get access to every single e-mail of the secretary of state and every other State Department employee or DOD employee or any government employee who has decided to have a personal e-mail account, we have a lot of work ahead of us and I can assure the American people we're determined to get all the facts and complete a full investigation of what happened that night in Benghazi, Libya.
SMERCONISH: Congressman Mike Pompeo, thank you for your time. We appreciate it.
POMPEO: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: There are still more questions than answers in all of this. Since Secretary Clinton has yet to officially declare a 2016 presidential run she doesn't have a war room of sorts to quell the controversy. But she does have Lanny Davis, who served as special counsel to President Clinton from 1996 to 1998. He is a crisis manager and Lanny joins me now.
Lanny, your mantra, tell it early, tell it all, tell it yourself. She's not following that.
LANNY DAVIS, FMR. SPECIAL COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, it's about a week and a half into this story. I'm not sure I would be able even with my best client even you to get it all out immediately. But we've gone a week and a half and she is now - number one, we now have established the misquotation or out of context quotation about the "New York Times" that this was unlawful. We now have the man quoted saying it's reasonable to release this within a time period not specified in the 2009 regulations, nothing illegal, one.
Two, nothing secret. She sent thousands of these e-mails out to State Department officials with her e-mail address on it. That's some cover. No cover-up. And number three, she has committed to turning all of these e-mails that have been looked over by the State Department or will about to be, to make them public.
The number of misstatements by a partisan Republican that you just aired are impossible to refute all at once. But let me at least mention that the server is not in her basement, the congressman doesn't do his home work on this as on many other things that he just misstated the facts. The server is on a Comcast server in Connecticut. Jeb Bush's server was his own. Millions of e-mails which he decided to release a portion of, all the rest he self selected out.
And finally your point about a neutral, I know that Secretary Clinton if asked by the State Department to have everything reviewed and differentiate personal messages to Chelsea versus official, would have to agree to that request. So I have no idea what the congressman is talking about except six Republican congressional committees have cleared Secretary Clinton of any wrong doing, cover-up or anything that is suggestive of wrong doing. And he doesn't mention his Republicans disagreeing with this highly partisan -
SMERCONISH: Lanny -
DAVIS: Committee that he is part of.
SMERCONISH: Here's the $64,000 question. Why? Why did she go this route. I mean, it seems to me a no-brainer. If you were advising her at the outset of her tenure I think you would have said well, "of course, Madam Secretary, you have two phones. And on one you set up your dental appointments and you plan Chelsea's wedding, on the other you try and negotiate Middle East peace."
DAVIS: I don't know the answer but I'll guess. Convenience. Why did Colin Powell do it, probably convenience. He had a hand held device back in those days. Why did Jeb Bush do it for eight years, probably convenience. And an idea that personal ones should be under his control. But that's what people are saying concerning cover-up and control as a motive.
Excuse me, a subpoena you can't control, you can't delete these e- mails from the server of Comcast. Neither could Jeb Bush, neither could Colin Powell. I guess it's convenience but it's not nefarious. There's no intent to hide. So we have legal, no cover up, accessible. What's the scandal here? What is it?
SMERCONISH: I think what it does is it puts her in a position of power where now the screening -
DAVIS: What power?
SMERCONISH: I'm going to explain. The screening takes place at her end of the equation, whereas if a Benghazi subpoena came in, some functionary would simply say, oh Benghazi, you know, here are all of those e-mails. There is an initial screening that needs to take place and it begs the question of, well, what is she holding back that perhaps everybody's not getting to see?
DAVIS: So, let's get fact out. As usual, you are always reasonable in your questions and you give me a chance to answer.
There is no control here. There may be that she has it and she has to turn it over. But if the State Department asks for everything, she cannot say no. If a subpoena is served that asks for everything, she cannot say no. So, whatever, quote, "power and control" that the congressman in his partisan ways says, oh my God, it's in her basement -- false, do your homework, Congressman. She has no control when asked by the State Department, they have asked. Mr. Baron and I definitely agree nothing illegal has occurred here. The State Department has asked, by the way, they asked her for all of her private e-mails, she turned them over right away, after the law changed, and no other secretary of state has turned over anything yet. She is the only one to respond to the State Department. So, Michael, quick answer, no control if asked. She has to turn over everything either by the State Department voluntarily, or by subpoena from Congressman Gowdy.
SMERCONISH: Lanny Davis, as always, thank you.
DAVIS: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Coming up: more of my exclusive interview with John Gotti Jr. Find out why he says he has never seen an episode of "The Sopranos" and why movies like "The Godfather" didn't tell the whole story of what he calls the life.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back.
Vito Corleone and Tony Soprano where a couple of fictional mafiosos that fascinated America. But the real life example was Gambino family mob boss John Gotti. Gotti was known as the Dapper Don and his crime exploits dominated the New York tabloids for years until he was finally convicted of five murders in 1992.
For his son John Gotti Jr., the mafia was simply the world he grew up in. Last week, in an exclusive interview, he told me a lot about what that life was like. This week, more of his story, the son is bringing his notorious father's story to the big screen in a way only he can tell it.
SMERCONISH: How could John Gotti Jr. not be interested in "The Sopranos"?
JOHN GOTTI, JR., SON OF JOHN GOTTI: I never watched "The Sopranos". I never did.
SMERCONISH: You watched "The Godfather"?
GOTTI: I loved "The Godfather". I loved the movie.
SMERCONISH: How close does it come? Listen, I'm reading your book about your wedding at the Helmsley Palace, 350 grand, right, later given to you that the Feds seized.
GOTTI: I made more than that. That was left over.
SMERCONISH: So I'm wondering the movies, do they get it close?
GOTTI: It depends on your perspective. You could look at it -- I had experiences flying around, I spent some time in Florida, I spent some time in Boston. I spent some -- everything is different. Everybody I guess ran their household a different way. I guess you could take a mix, again not seeing "The Sopranos", you can take that movie "Goodfellas" and you could take "The Godfather", I guess somewhere in the middle lies what is an actuality.
My observation would be, if you take those two movies and put them together, somewhere there lies the answer.
SMERCONISH: Is it true that John Travolta will play your father in a movie adaptation of your book?
SMERCONISH: You think he'll nail it?
GOTTI: Correct. I think he will.
GOTTI: He is an amazing actor.
SMERCONISH: What's he doing to learn all he can about your father?
GOTTI: He'll talk to me on the phone, reads the book. He's reading the book. He will call me and ask me, how would he have said this? I can't use those choice words on TV. He would say, would he curse like this, would he curse like that? How would he hold his hand? Would he show his wrist out and show up his watch and his ring.
He is asking me all of these little details. When he came to the house to see my mother, met my mother, he insisted that I bring him upstairs to my father's bedroom. So, OK. We walked up to the bedroom. He says, John, you know, what side of the bed did he sleep on?
SMERCONISH: Travolta wants to know.
My mother says Johnny slept on this side. She called my father Johnny. He said, Mrs. Gotti, you mind if I lay in the bed? (INAUDIBLE)
SMERCONISH: Travolta laying in your father's bed to get the feel.
GOTTI: He laid where my father would sleep, he laid on the bed. Then went to the closet and he was his touching suits.
SMERCONISH: The suits are still there.
GOTTI: Everything is there. My brother Frankie's room is the same way when he died. She won't. She's old school. She's tough old gal.
SMERCONISH: Hey, what occurs to me in the book you are critical of the way in which the media glamorizes the life. And that it draws young street guys into it. So, are you worried that if John Travolta is starring in a movie based on your book, you're going to play a role in other guys now heading into that path?
GOTTI: You're right. And the way I look at it is again, from my father's viewpoint. I know better and I would guess your age, our age, you would know better as well.
But look, as you said earlier, regarding my own sons, yeah, does it would it could it, and will that destroy families? Father going off to prison, you think it doesn't hurt a kid? My whole life growing up, I'm not saying it affected me and -- but watching my siblings and watching my mother shepherd us, prison, Lewisburg Penitentiary, Green Haven, Dannemora (ph), Marion, Illinois, all of my life basically, by the time I was 13, my father had almost nine in. So, I spent a lot of time in visiting rooms.
What was ironic is the fact that years later, visiting my dad and being so intimidated by the walls in Lewisburg, and them myself being in Lewisburg, in transit, you know, some 30-some-odd years later, I shook my head and says, wow, this is really something.
Answer your question, it does hurt families, destroys families. You're leaving a good lady and empty bed. You're telling her basically that you have to be alone.
SMERCONISH: Let me tell you what's not in the book. What's not in your book is, we're throwing a football out back. What's not in the book is, we went to the beach. We went camping.
SMERCONISH: We went fishing. You did fishing maybe that one time.
GOTTI: We did fish every summer.
SMERCONISH: It's sad.
The kind of memories I hope I'm building with my children and that you I hope are building with your children are totally absent.
GOTTI: That never existed with my father. Go to a Jet game, yes. Big Jet fan.
We go to -- father a Yankee fan. We go to a Yankee fan. We go to a Yankee game, yes, we do that, but it always an event because there were six, seven guys coming with us. Did me and my father do these things alone? I can't recall ever.
I think the first time my dad ever said me he loved me was in Marion, Illinois. We had a two-inch glass between us. His way of saying it to me, he was seeing I was tired. He was seeing I was getting -- you know, the life was getting to me. And I was fighting his appeal, I was meeting with lawyer, I was running my children and my businesses and everything is just wearing me down.
He hit the glass and says, you know I love you, right, pal? It was his way of saying it. And I looked at him and says, yes, I know, dad. I know. He says, all right, good. He says, keep your head up. Face the world (ph). You know, that was it.
Coming up, a controversial portrait of Bill Clinton has grabbed head lines after the renowned artist revealed a hidden reference in the painting. In a moment, that artist Nelson Shanks joins me.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back.
The secret love affair between Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton might be the biggest political sex scandal to date. And today, Lewinsky is still casting a shadow over the former president quite literally.
Renowned painter Nelson Shanks sparked a frenzy recently after he revealed that a portrait he painted of Clinton for the National Portrait Gallery includes a shadow of Lewinsky's infamous blue dress. Shanks says it's always been his goal to paint an important part of his subject's history. But now, he says the portrait has been blackballed and the gallery pulled the piece because of pressure from the Clintons. The gallery says the painting remains in rotation.
Nelson Shanks joins me now.
Nelson, why did you include that image of the Lewinsky dress in the Clinton portrait?
NELSON SHANKS, ARTIST: Michael, first of all the illusion to the scandal or whatever you want to call it is very, very subtle. It's a shadow. And it's somewhat ephemeral kind of a place in a painting, the important thing is Bill Clinton, the Oval Office, I think hills attitude which sp right on, it's him. And people are just making like I say the tempest in the tea pot.
SMERCONISH: Did you intend it as a slight?
SHANKS: Not at all, no. I meant it and it is simply a mention, a subtle mention of historical fact. Which I think is important, a painting is a document, historical document.
SMERCONISH: Had you ever done this before in any of your other noted artworks?
SHANKS: Michael, I almost always include references to the history, to the situation, to the circumstance, whether it's Princess Diana, Margaret Thatcher or whether it's just someone that I'm painting in the studio. Makes it more interesting. It becomes a book, not just a cover.
SMERCONISH: I know because we've spoken previously that you were able to establish a rapport with Margaret Thatcher or with Princess Diana or with President Reagan. Were you able to establish a rapport with President Clinton?
SHANKS: Of the ones you just mentioned, the only one that was a distant relationship was the one with Mr. Clinton. I don't know if he was self conscious or wondering what this person was going to do or what the circumstance was, but no, we didn't get close.
SMERCONISH: Nelson, the portrait gallery says the painting is still in rotation, it's just not being displayed at this moment. Do you believe them?
SHANKS: Not at all. No.
The painting was removed apparently one of the curators came through or guide through and said the Clintons had not liked the painting, therefore they had it removed. The man made the mistake also of saying that the Clintons commissioned the painting, which is entirely untrue. It was the official painting commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, with funds they had donated and there's only one. There may be a million portraits that little people or people had sent in for one reason or another, but there's only one official portrait that was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery, and that's it.
SMERCONISH: Would you like to paint Secretary Clinton?
SHANKS: Oh, absolutely. I think she's a charming lady. We had very nice conversations. I spent time with her. She's genuinely nice, genuinely attractive, very intelligent, and warm. And warm.
SMERCONISH: Nelson --
SHANKS: I think we'd have a great time.
SMERCONISH: -- you painted as I've referenced, President Clinton, President Reagan, you painted Margaret Thatcher, Princess Diana, Pope John Paul II, I'm leaving 10 off the list.
Do you worry that now that you revealed the presence of the Lewinsky shadow in the Clinton portrait, that famous people will be reluctant to sit for you as you paint them?
SHANKS: I'm more interested in intelligent people than famous people. But on the other hand, Michael, I'm sort of doing my own work and made that determination that I would be doing that, oh, really a couple years ago, because at the end of the day, my own work is more important than the portraits of someone else that I may do.
SMERCONISH: Nelson, I'm now showing the audience and I don't know that you can see this but you know the work that I refer to, I am showing time lapsed photography of the night you painted me for charity, for your studio, Studio Incamminati.
I need to know on CNN --
SMERCONISH: -- is there some imagery in the portrait you painted of me?
SHANKS: Well, other than subtle references to deification, I can't think of anything.
SMERCONISH: You know, it's absolutely amazing what you're able to do with your hand and in this case, you did it in under three hours. It wasn't finished, but the way in which it took shape, it wowed a live crowd of 500 people that night. They'll never forget it and I'm sure the CNN audience is thrilled to watch you go to work right now.
Thank you so much for having been here. We really appreciate your shedding light on this story.
SHANKS: Michael, my pleasure. Thanks a lot.
SMERCONISH: Coming up, Jeb Bush is making his first appearance in Iowa, courting weary 2016 voters. And he's already off to a good start, poking a little fun at the latest political controversy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I want to get the legal part of this out of the way. I'm seriously considering the possibility of running for president. All of that now allows me to talk about the possibility -- that possibility in a way that doesn't trigger a campaign. So thank you all very much for allowing me to be lawyered up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Welcome back.
The field of potential GOP presidential candidates already taking shape and some of the big names are in Iowa this morning, courting voters and top GOP activists. All eyes you can say will be on Jeb Bush, who's making his first appearance in the state since announcing that he's weighing a possible 2016 run. And the former Florida governor is already making it clear that he's going to do things differently than his brother and his father.
CNN's Mark Preston joins us from Des Moines, Iowa.
Mark, there's an analysis in this morning's "New York Times" and I think it makes a pretty good point about the reasons to avoid going to Iowa. It says that only a sliver of the voters participate in the caucus. They're 99 percent white. They're far more likely to be rural and evangelical than even Republicans are nationally, and yet as we can see, all the candidates still clamor for that support.
Why? Why is it so important? MARK PRESTON, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, CNN POLITICS: Well, Michael, it's not
just Republicans. This was a state that launched Barack Obama back in 2008. John Kerry, who went on to win the Democratic nomination, won the state's 2004, Al Gore in 2000. You know, Jeb Bush's brother George W. Bush won in 2000.
The reason why in presidential primary politics, this is the first contest, this is the starting line, this is what can either kill a campaign or can launch a campaign, and that's why we're seeing nine candidates here today.
Now, when it comes down to the general election, Iowa, you know, tends not to be as important, Michael. It is important in a purple state, doesn't has as anyone electoral votes in general but in a primary, very, very important.
SMERCONISH: If I'm Mike Murphy whispering into the ear of Jeb Bush, I got to believe I'm saying to him, look, Governor, you're dammed if you do, dammed if you don't, Huckabee won it in '08, Santorum won it in 2012, neither went on to capture the GOP nomination. But if you don't go out and compete in Des Moines, it will probably be an affront to Republican activists.
PRESTON: Absolutely right. In fact, last night when he did his first appearance here in Iowa, he said he's going to come back regularly. Today, they're not talking about social conservative issues which are important in the Iowa caucuses. Certainly, for Republicans they're going to talk about business and agribusiness.
Jeb Bush used last night to be critical of Barack Obama and very critical of Hillary Clinton. Let's hear what he had to say, Michael.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We have new threats that didn't exist a decade ago -- cybersecurity, these threats of terror, defending the homeland and protecting -- while we protect civil liberties we need to continue to be engaged to make sure that no attack takes place in our own country. There's a lot of things that we need to restore. This president and -- by the way, his former secretary of state, have let us down in this regard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PRESTON: And there you have Jeb Bush, just hours ago, last night talking about the state of national security here in the United States. Look, Jeb Bush right now, Michael, he says he's exploring, he's likely to run, but a lot of other people including Scott Walker, somebody you and I talked about, just about a few weeks ago, when Walker spoke out in California -- Michael.
SMERCONISH: So, I take it that in large measure it comes down to organization, grassroots organization? I go back to the point that I made a moment ago that even though there's all this attention on Iowa, just a sliver of Iowa Republicans will come out a year or so from now and vote in that caucus and therefore being able to wrestle up your supporters and get them to the polls on that night, is the key issue?
PRESTON: It's key and, in fact, Jeb Bush hired a top Republican operative not just to run Iowa for him but is going to run his national campaign. So, we're seeing all the important hires take place here in Iowa from all the presidential candidates. Today, they're trying to make a play to the activists, specifically the farmers and those involved in the agriculture business, which is important Michael here in Iowa.
SMERCONISH: Quick final question. Who won't be there from the GOP field?
PRESTON: Well, we're not going to see the likes of Donald Trump, Marco Rubio. The Florida senator had bowed out as well. We won't see Rand Paul.
Look, if this is a gauntlet right now, it might hurt them in the short run. There's going to be plenty of road ahead, though, for candidates to come here -- Michael.
SMERCONISH: Mark Preston, thank you for your report from Des Moines. We appreciate it.
Thank you, everybody, for watching me. Please don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish.
Also, programming note: tomorrow, I'm hosting "STATE OF THE UNION" at 9:00 a.m. Eastern, and I hope to see you then.