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SMERCONISH

Dennis Hastert Scandal; Duggar Scandal; Race to 2016; Interview with Ron Paul; Jenner Revealed; Interview with George Pataki. Aired 9- 10a ET

Aired June 6, 2015 - 09:00   ET

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


(OPENING MUSIC - "SMERCONISH")

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish. Welcome to the program.

We begin with the latest developments in the scandal swirling around former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

We now know there were at least three alleged victims. CNN learning that the FBI interviewed at least one more person who accused Hastert of sexual abuse. And we also know the name of another alleged victim - Steve Reinboldt. He died in 1995.

His sister tells ABC News that Reinboldt was sexually abused by Hastert as a teenager in the late '60s and early '70s. Jolene Burdge says that Hastert - then a high school teacher and wrestling coach in Illinois - abused her brother who was the team's equipment manager repeatedly and for years. Burdge says she first learned of this when Reinboldt told her he was gay in 1979.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOLENE BURDGE, STEVE REINBOLDT'S SISTER: And I asked him, "Steve, when was your first same-sex experience?" And then he just looked at me and said, "It was with Dennis Hastert." And I just - I know I was stunned. I said, "Why didn't you ever tell anybody, Steve? I mean, he was your teacher. Why didn't you ever tell anybody?" And he just looked at me and said, "Who is ever going to believe me?"

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: The FBI contacted Burdge two weeks ago. Hastert is doing federal court next week on charges of bank fraud and lying to the FBI about alleged hush money that he paid to someone identified only as Individual A.

There are many open questions and it's possible that Hastert himself is a victim in all of this. Here to help me break it all down, defense attorney and CNN legal analyst, Mark O'Mara.

Mark, you're not used to this but allow me to ask you leading questions. You ready?

MARK O'MARA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Certainly. Absolutely. SMERCONISH: Isn't it true that he is not being prosecuted for any sexual misconduct?

O'MARA: That is correct. He's not. Too late.

SMERCONISH: Isn't it true would it - if the underlying facts - if the underlying facts stemmed from events of 34 to 50 years ago, the statute of limitations for those underlying events has probably run?

O'MARA: Almost definitely. Correct.

SMERCONISH: Therefore, if he paid money to keep quiet someone who didn't have a cognizable legal claim, there is the potential that this case is one of extortion?

O'MARA: That's correct. If he was being threatened with some type of public exposure and paid money in that regard, then the person who threatened him would be guilty of extortion.

SMERCONISH: Do you - do you think - I'm finished with the leading questions and thank you for playing along.

O'MARA: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Do you - do you think that in this case, the Feds might be reluctant to charge Individual A with extortion if they think such a case exists because they regard Individual A as a victim of sexual abuse and they don't want to be put in that position?

O'MARA: Well, they do have discretion in how they're going to prosecute a case. I think that they're probably going to look at it a little bit more analytically. There are rape shield statutes that say they cannot disclose the victim's name - a sexual abuse victim - even afterwards. So we know that's why they're calling them Individual A. But I would tell you if Individual A put himself in a position of committing extortion then I think that's going to override the discretion given to law enforcement. They have a legitimate extortion claim, they're going to go forward with it.

SMERCONISH: Do you wonder if at this stage, Dennis Hastert is cooperating with law enforcement in this regard? Has he provided his version of events sufficient that they'd be able to make an extortion claim to the extent there might be one underlying all of this?

O'MARA: That's the real problem for Hastert. If I'm - if I'm his criminal defense lawyer, what do you say? Talk to the Feds about the fact that somebody who you voluntarily agreed to pay $3 million to to cover up what now seems to be a sexual abuse allegation that may well have been true with all of the other victims identified and, Michael, as you know as well as I do, this may well be just the tip of the iceberg as far as potential victims out there. So does he deal or cooperate with FBI or Feds knowing full well that within that cooperation, he is going to have to admit to every act that they're going to ask him about and every other potential victim. If I'm his criminal defense lawyer, you may want to weather this storm of this (inaudible) publicity, keep your mouth shut, deal with an archaic attack under this (inaudible) banking statute and not open yourself up to the ridicule he's going to have if he starts talking.

SMERCONISH: And, Mark, you and I as two attorneys - we're pretty far into the weeds on this. I don't want a viewer of CNN to think that I'm sympathetic toward Hastert if in fact, he was responsible for this kind of conduct. I just want to explain that there are some legal dynamics to this which make it complex. It's not just a case of did he molest these individuals.

O'MARA: Absolutely true. I mean, he - it may well be and looks more - as a more victims come out - that he did, not speculating too much. But if that's true, he's got to deal with those sins, those crimes some ways, some how, some time.

[09:05:07] But you're right. The legal analysis of this which - again, we get this passionate 'cause we have to be - you start looking at crimes of 30 years ago, statutes have run even with the one person who had acknowledged or stated to the sister about the abuse - that wouldn't make it into a courtroom. So yes, there are some real legal problems with where we're going on this case.

SMERCONISH: Final question for Mark O'Mara. What business is it of the federal government if an individual has more than $10,000 in a bank and chooses to withdraw it?

O'MARA: Not very much, to tell you the truth. It's the Al Capone - maybe - method where you can't get him on much so you get him on tax evasion and they used a sort of archaic law to say one, he took money out and why, and then when you don't tell us the truth, you lied to us, and they may try to get him on some - well - you know they're trying to get him on this archaic banking argument and then maybe lying to the Feds about it. It's difficult. It's a stretch. But we all know now that we're probably looking at the underlying sexual abuse crimes 'cause that's what they found out about and now, they're just trying to bring it to the forefront however they can.

SMERCONISH: We'll learn more at the arraignment on Tuesday.

Mark O'Mara, thank you as always for your analysis.

O'MARA: Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: I want to turn now to the molestation scandal that's rocking the Duggars - the popular family behind the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting."

Jim Bob and Michelle speaking out for the first time this week. But their interview with Fox News' Megyn Kelly has left more questions than answers, particularly about the so-called safeguards they put in place after eldest son, Josh, admitted to molesting four of his sisters.

Two of the sisters, Jessa and Jill, spoke out about the scandal. Here's what they had to say last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JESSA DUGGAR: In Josh's case, he was a boy - a young boy in puberty and a little too curious about girls and that got him into some trouble and he made some bad choices that really the extent of it was mild, inappropriate touching on fully-clothed victims - most of it while girls were sleeping.

JILL DUGGAR: We didn't even know about it until he went and confessed it to my parents and they shared it with us.

INTERVIEWER: Neither one of you knew?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: I want to bring in psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz. She wrote the book "Anatomy of a Secret Life: The Psychology of Living a Lie."

So the sisters are defensive of the brother. Is that to be expected in a case like this involving family?

DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: It's not unusual. It's not unusual actually when children are abused by their parents or by a sibling because they still love that person and they need to have that person be a good person in their lives as they stay attached. So it's a defense mechanism to feel to some degree, this is understandable or excusable. It's sometimes why victims feel shame and guilt like they - "Did I do something? Is it my fault in some way?"

On the other hand, it may also be that if you have treatment over time and the other person has treatment over time, that you are able to rebuild a relationship. I don't want to say you should therefore not love your sibling anymore and have it all be over, but, yes, to defend them is your second defense mechanism.

SMERCONISH: I heard dad say this week, "Well, we didn't have a reporting requirement." What is a parent to do if, God forbid, they find themselves in the position of learning that a son or a daughter has acted improperly like this?

SALTZ: Right. I think, unfortunately, in a scenario like this, parents are kind of in a no-win situation as far as the law is concerned. That's a different scenario from, I think, the public health issue of "Is it safe to have this person around - around your children, around other children?" and that's why public reporting or reporting to authorities, child services being able to come in and assess is so important. And that's often done by the medical professional which is why it's also so important to get treatment - treatment for the victims and treatment for the perpetrator.

SMERCONISH: I get that. But do you think most parents really would report to the authorities what has taken place with a 14-year-old son?

SALTZ: I think they often would not.

SMERCONISH: Right.

SALTZ: How - and - but you're asking me, "Is that a good thing?".

SMERCONISH: No, I know it's not a good thing.

SALTZ: Yes. It's not a good thing but I think it's a common - first of all, you convince yourself that you can handle it within the home. I think these parents love their children and the sister loved the brother. I mean, they really tried in the way that they knew how but there were some failings and the failings come into account in terms of what kind of mental health care treatment. I think not all treatment is created equal. They've been very vague about counselors. Counselors doesn't mean anything.

SMERCONISH: Right. Consultants - yes. Exactly.

SALTZ: It doesn't - that doesn't have a (inaudible) so you need someone who is really trained, has an expertise in this area, has a real degree and really knows how to work with and treat because treatment does help. But not - but treatment can hurt if it's with somebody who is not qualified.

SMERCONISH: They are upset. The family is upset that this is playing itself out in public and yet, the Springdale, Arkansas city solicitor says, "We went by the book. The names were redacted in the way in which we produced this information pursuant to a (inaudible) request.

[09:10:10] SALTZ: I think it was a huge mistake to release this information. It's terrible for the victims. It's terrible for any potential victims. Confidentiality is the cornerstone to psychotherapy of any decent psychotherapy and it's the cornerstone of this kind of reporting in juvenile kids. You ask me, "Are parents going to be able to report it?" Certainly, they won't if they think it's going to follow them for the rest of their lives and be revealed. So I think they had a duty to keep that confidential. That's a moral duty. Is it legal? That's a different story.

SMERCONISH: OK. How about this judgment on their part - the judgment of after these events have played themselves out, there's a knock at the door and someone wants to do a reality television program and bring cameras into your home? Isn't the reasonable answer to say, "Holy smokes, we've got some issues here. We don't want the cameras." It's the same question, Dr. Saltz, that I ask about Dennis Hastert. Dennis Hastert followed sexual impropriety in the part of his predecessors. You'd think that he'd say, "I've got some skeletons. Maybe I shouldn't be Speaker of the House."

SALTZ: We're always curious about this. Why do people come out and do this public thing that's so far in the opposite direction, become the pillar of morality when there's actually some real skeleton - let's say - in their closet? And I think it's psychically motivated. It's called splitting. It's basically the mind's way of saying to itself, "I am not guilty of this. I do not have this urge to do something sexually wrong. In fact, I'm the opposite. I'm so the opposite that I will be the moral pillar for the world and show everyone and show myself that I'm that good."

And it's something that psychologically goes on, you could be talking about Mark Foley, right? You could be talking about (inaudible). You could be talking about lots of people that we say, "Why were they actually the representatives of the best of the best when this was going on?" And that is what the mind does to try to squelch urge when the better thing to do is to understand that urge so that you don't need to continue to act on it and behave on it.

SMERCONISH: Final question about the Duggars. I am not a psychiatrist. I only get to play one on TV. Is this confirmation of my poof theory of life that if you keep your kids so buttoned up and don't give them a taste of freedom, when they have the opportunity, they can't handle it?

SALTZ: Is being incredibly sexually repressed going to produce some problems? Potentially, yes. Do most people who are so repressed with their kids have their - have their 15-year-old molest their 5-year- old? No. So it can't account for all of it, I would say.

SMERCONISH: OK. Sound like the DSM will not have the poof theory in it at any time soon. Thank you for that, Dr. Saltz.

Coming up, so far, Ron Paul hasn't had much of a role in his son's campaign but that's been by design, maybe, to keep conservatives happy? And is it about to change? Is a new Rand Paul emerging?

Ron Paul joins me next to discuss the father/son relationship.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:01] SMERCONISH: Welcome back.

Fresh off his Patriot Act fight, Rand Paul is proving he's a lot closer politically to his father Ron Paul than some rank-and-file Republicans are comfortable with. So far, Ron Paul hasn't had much of a public role in his son's presidential campaign but is that about to change?

Ron Paul joins me now.

Let's talk about the 2016 cycle. What is it about Rand that gives you hope that he can get to the next level that you were never able to achieve?

RON PAUL, FORMER TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: Well, I think the main thing is he's the only one that, from my view point, is talking any common sense. Obviously, people point out that we're not identical and who would expect us to be identical? But he speaks more about personal liberty and limited government, a changed foreign policy, auditing the Fed and looking into our (inaudible) system and they said - when he did the NSA thing, people said, "He's done. He's finished." And the Republicans and Democrats all over the senate - everybody in Washington jumped on him. Yet when you did a poll - the national people, they were with him and not with - not with McConnell.

So the American people, I think he is able to talk more to the American people than the other candidates because I think he has a set of principles which means that he'd much rather see smaller government and not make excuses for expanding the surveillance state and not expanding our military presence around the world. They can't - you can't be conservative if you're always expanding government on surveillance and expand the government in the military industrial complex and expanding our government around the world. There's nothing conservative about that. That's big government spending as far as I'm concerned.

SMERCONISH: Now that he's running for the White House, does he ever call you and say, "Dad, you've got to rein it in on these issues? Don't rock the boat."

PAUL: No. No, he never has. Actually, like I said, he's made his own decisions politically and it's a busy job. And he has called me on things like mortgages and things and financial issues. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and what we went through in '09. So those kind of things (inaudible) financial but he'll - he stays pretty busy. He'll be visiting us this summer. We'll probably visit some more.

SMERCONISH: Are you going to get out on the stump for him?

PAUL: There's no plans for it and we haven't talked about it. So I don't know what we'll do. I went to his announcement and supported him there but it's his show right now and I don't want to - I don't want to distract from what he's doing. So it's one of those things that I think it will work its way out.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Congressman, when you ran for president, you had to share the debate stage but not with 15 or 16 other candidates. How should this process by managed given the number of individuals who are seeking the GOP nod?

PAUL: Well, I'll take it out of the hands of the media because that becomes very biased. I remember the first debate - a little bit of that happened before a most important first debate was in New Hampshire and it was a Fox debate and I was scheduled to be on and I was doing very well in the polls but I think two days before something, they said, "Ron Paul, you're not allowed to come to the debate", which obviously, was a negative for me. So, no, I don't think - I don't think they should have that much clout. I think it was better when (inaudible) voters or some other independent group but truly independent group would schedule the debates rather than media outlets because I think they're very, very slanted.

SMERCONISH: Well, does one media outlet - Fox - I mean, let's call it out - play too much of a kingmaker role in this process?

PAUL: Well, for the Republicans, I guess so. But I think that that the American people right now are getting more of their news off the majors because they are concerned about it. We need more people like you, Michael, because you and I at least can discuss these things. But this is not average that we're able to have a discussion and respect each other's viewpoints.

[09:20:01] Too often, it is very, very slanted. That is the toughest part to maintain a little bit of decorum when those who are interviewed are always trying to set you up and do harm to you because they have their agenda. And Fox is well-known for that on somebody like myself who is more libertarian than typical conservative, pro- war, yes, they don't like that.

SMERCONISH: Congressman, I want to show a picture. It's a picture that I saw on Twitter and I believe that it's you with your wife looking at a television set as Rand Paul is speaking from the floor of the United States senate and it brings to mind this final question: "What is the source of more pride? Your own personal achievements in elective office or the achievements of your son?"

PAUL: I have to admit. I think they're one and the same because political achievements are secondary for me. I thought they were worthwhile for me, as well as for Rand. But for one reason that we're promoting something we seriously believe in, that we believe we're making - doing some good. And so I can look at what he's done with NSA and I have to say that I have to sort of search around for what I've achieved. But I made an effort and maybe opened up the door. But, no, I would say it's equal and if the measurement is whether or not anybody respected the views we have and actually nudged them. And where I get personal satisfaction is when I talk to young people - the college kids that are still willing to talk about these issues and they tend to like civil liberties and they're anti-war and they would like to see less of our fighting overseas and they like sound money. So that's what I personally get satisfaction from. But I think that's equal for Rand and myself.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Congressman, it's good to catch up with you, again. Thank you so much for being here.

PAUL: OK, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Coming up, Caitlyn Jenner's big reveal. She made a splash this week in the world, got a VIP invite to her coming out party. Next, I'll speak with a physician who has herself transitioned and now performs gender confirmation surgery.

Also, 2016 could also bring us the first female president or first Latino. It could also bring the first bachelor since 1856. Lindsey Graham has no wife, no kids, some would say no baggage. But will that help or hurt him?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JON STEWART: Oh, with all due respect, the president does not care for he is a coward and a scoundrel. Why it is plain as the alabaster tone of my (inaudible) and as civil as my maid kicked in the head by a donkey. Will this president (inaudible)?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:25:01] SMERCONISH: Welcome back.

This week, the world met Caitlyn Jenner. My next guest has a very unique perspective on this story. Dr. Christine McGinn is a plastic surgeon who specializes in gender confirmation surgery. Since her own transition 15 years ago, she's been an activist and speaker on gender variant issues. She also appears in the documentary "Trans."

Dr. McGinn, thank you so much for being here.

DR. CHRISTINE MCGINN, PLASTIC SURGEON SPECIALIZING IN TRANSGENDER SURGERY: Morning.

SMERCONISH: So what did you make of the rollout - of Caitlyn's rollout?

MCGIN: Well, I was excited to see it and I think she looked great and I did catch her Diane Sawyer interview and so far so good.

SMERCONISH: No elements of it that seem exploitative to you given the reality show?

MCGINN: Well, I definitely cringe as a physician whenever I see the world get their education on gender dysphoria through a show like "The Kardashians", but it's a free country and she has a right to tell her story. But she's in a unique situation that her livelihood sort of depends on it. So just as long as the world knows that not every transgender person goes through a transition like this.

SMERCONISH: Well, this seems rather rapid but you're the expert. Is the pace with which this transition has taken place typical?

MCGINN: I think it always seems rapid to those who aren't directly involved because most times, it's kept a secret for so long and then when that person makes up their mind and decides to go through with it, it happens fast because, I mean, for Caitlyn, a whole lifetime. She couldn't probably get it done sooner.

SMERCONISH: I have lots of questions so pardon my naivete but I want to run through a quick list of them, if I - if I may. Is the surgery that you perform perfected for both men and women who are transitioning?

MCGINN: The male to female surgery is very good and there's always room for improvement but I think we're at a very good spot right now. And for the female to male surgeries, they - it's a little more difficult to make something that's not there than to take away 'cause we have more tissue to work with. But it's improving day by day. In this country, we don't do a lot of the - to get technical (inaudible) phalloplasty because it's expensive.

SMERCONISH: Do men and women transition in equal proportion? It seems the case that most often get discussed are men transitioning to female?

MCGINN: I agree. I think that male to female seems to be in the news a lot more. But we don't have any hard numbers on it but I would predict based on my practice that it's about equal.

SMERCONISH: Why is so much of this surgery performed overseas?

MCGINN: Well, in this country, insurance - there's a long history of insurance not paying for it and it's very expensive and other countries have set up a whole medical tourism situation for it and it's much cheaper in places like Thailand.

SMERCONISH: When you say "cheaper", how much? Ballpark for me what the transition would cost?

MCGINN: Something in the United States could run for let's say a vaginoplasty for a male to female would be anywhere from $17,000 to $25,000 and in Thailand, it's like $10,000 or $12,000.

[09:30:03] SMERCONISH: Is insurance changing in which the way it treats it in the United States? Are more carriers picking up the cost of gender confirmation surgery?

MCGINN: We're in the middle of a lot of change right now because, yes, they are.

SMERCONISH: Would the Affordable Care Act play a role in that?

MCGINN: Yes. And President Obama has also removed the barriers for Medicare, which used to have it as an exclusion.

SMERCONISH: So, here you are someone who has transitioned yourself now performing this type of surgery. Is it difficult for you as a practitioner to get hospital privileges to do so?

MCGINN: Yes, it has been. It has been difficult in the early stages to even get malpractice insurance. I'm friends with most of the major surgeons who performed this and at one time or another, I think all of our careers have been affected by that.

SMERCONISH: Is that changing?

MCGINN: Of course. Yes. The whole field is so much different than it was ten years ago.

SMERCONISH: Do you think the concerns that have been expressed whether it's malpractice insurance or whether to grant you privileges to perform gender confirmation surgery is based in religion? Is it based in science? What do you think the predicate is?

MCGINN: I think it's based in social norms and because it's certainly not based in science. This surgery has been going on since the late '60s in this country. It's not experimental. We have ton of research and it is effective at improving quality of life for these people.

SMERCONISH: How young is too young to begin this process?

MCGINN: Well, the standard of care is usually we wait until 18 years old, but we do have exceptions to that based on each individual patient, because we don't want to make somebody wait until 18 when their life might be in jeopardy over feeling so badly about it. SMERCONISH: How do you protect against buyer's remorse that someone

undergoes gender reassignment or confirmation surgery and then later regrets it?

MCGINN: That's very rare. I would say, less than 1 percent, less than 1/2 percent. I think the media likes to pick up on it and portray it because that's everybody's fear. But the reality is the screening and if someone goes through the process in the correct manner, we don't really see too much of it.

And if we do see it, it tends to be a social situation. Not that they're not transgender, but they're in a situation where their family is very religious or they aren't able to make money.

SMERCONISH: But I would imagine that before you perform, Mr. McGinn, the surgery, you want to be assured from a psychological or psychiatric perspective, this person is ready.

MCGINN: Yes, I get very involved with that.

SMERCONISH: Final question, hope it's not crass. Do you think that Caitlyn Jenner will be good for your business? Do you expect your phone to ring because others now having seen this coming out would be more willing to undertake a process they were fearful of?

MCGINN: People like Caitlyn and Chaz Bono are high profile. I think the rest of the world sees them. But the transgender community is a very small, tight knit community online and I don't thing it is really going to change things. There's not a lot of people who do what I do, so we're always pretty busy.

SMERCONISH: Thank you for that. Dr. McGinn, we appreciate your expertise.

Hillary Clinton calling out her GOP rivals by name insisting they're afraid to let citizens have their say. It's all part of her new push to support voting rights, does she have another agenda?

Plus, Lindsey Graham's announcement of a 2016 run has put his personal life at the forefront. Is America ready for a bachelor president?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:37:27] SMERCONISH: Welcome back.

Jeb sets a date, Rick Perry is running again, and Hillary is calling out her rivals by name. It was another busy week in the world of politics, let's dive right in.

Joining me now, nationally syndicated columnist and CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp, and columnist and liberal commentator, Ellis Henican.

Ellis, I expected Secretary Clinton's numbers to decline when she formally got into the race. But I don't think anybody could have foreseen that 57 percent would say she's not trustworthy and honest. How does she get beyond that?

ELLIS HENICAN, LIBERAL COMMENTATOR: Well, she ought to start campaigning and move things on to her agenda instead of just sitting back and taking the hits on the foundation and on the e-mails. Get out and mix with some people. Go show the good side of Hillary. All we've seen is the bad side the first few weeks.

SMERCONISH: S.E., I think we could run this race tomorrow and get very close to the result that we will get in November of 2016. The independents, she had an 11-point drop in just three months among independents.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, also among Democrats. And I think -- you know, if you listen to Hillary's surrogates over the past few months, defend her campaign plan which was not really to engage with the press, not to take a lot of questions.

They said, don't worry about it. She hasn't had to do any of this because her numbers have been good. Well, now, her numbers aren't good.

So, I think you're going have to start -- you're going to start seeing Hillary have to start engaging with the media, taking questions. And, frankly, you know, she's not always very good at defending herself, whether it's her record or her larger than life persona, her wealth. She's had problems doing this before.

So, I think she's been reluctant to really put herself out there for that reason. But, with these numbers, she's got to start doing something different.

SMERCONISH: Let's switch gears and go to the GOP side of the aisle.

Ellis, Jeb Bush now says it will be June 15 when he makes it official. Hasn't he just proven what a sham these election laws are? Of course he's running for president. And it's not just Jeb, but a master practitioner added. To go out and run the vacuum cleaner of all the funds and then finally to announce one's candidacy.

HENICAN: Yes. You're absolutely right. In the media, we're enablers, too. We make, oh, my goodness, is he weighing a run? Is he thinking about a run? Oh, look, he's exploring a run.

You know, we cover that stuff as if it has any truth in it. We ought to just cover it and assume they're running from the beginning. Oh, by the way, he made an official announcement yesterday.

[09:40:00] SMERCONISH: S.E., you wrote a column about Lindsey Graham this week. "Yes, Lindsey Graham is a bachelor. Who cares?"

What was the point you are making?

CUPP: Yes. I mean, when we have such a big field as we do now, you're going to find people trying to find ways to distinguish all of these people from one another. And one of the story lines we're all zeroing in on is that Lindsey Graham is the bachelor candidate and what does it mean? You see a lot of folks in the media trying to sort of make something of this.

And, frankly, I just don't think it means anything. You know, he's got 20 years of a record in the Senate, plenty of stuff to talk about. He's not an uninteresting politician when it comes to his policies and the things that he's done. I think there's a lot for us to talk about with this policy without having to talk about his home life.

SMERCONISH: The headline in part at CNN.com. No being unmarried does not make Lindsey Graham a feminist.

CUPP: Yes.

SMERCONISH: I thought I was going to say something else at the end of that sentence.

(LAUGHTER)

CUPP: Yes, I mean, can't you just imagine someone at "Salon" or, frankly, someone at like "RedState" writing that Lindsey Graham's bachelorhood makes him some kind of feminist because he hasn't tied down a woman to his political career.

And I just -- I mean, you know, the political season is crazy. It's the silly season. We're going to see all kinds of crazy story lines and not be surprised if someone tries to make that part of the Lindsey Graham story.

SMERCONISH: Ellis, I just interviewed Ron Paul. This week, Rand Paul seemed like a chip off the old block. Is that a calculated decision? Has he decided that that's where his space in the GOP be more of the embodiment of dad?

HENICAN: This is what he's got, right? I mean, there are 417 righties in the race. If you're Rand, what makes me different? And you know what? It turns out he's got some things. For months, he was downplaying them and hiding them.

You know, I say go Rand. Go be Rand. It's a whole lot better. And frankly, the only way he'll be able to chip off part of the constituency there.

SMERCONISH: Yes, S.E., I was surprised when I asked Ron Paul a moment ago, are you going to get out there on the trail for Rand and he kind of hesitated and said, well, you know, it's his moment in time. It's not mine. I was there for the announcement.

How do you think Rand Paul should use Ron Paul?

CUPP: Yes, I mean, Ellis -- Ellis just said Rand should go be Rand. I don't think Rand knows who Rand is.

Rand uses his father when co-opting the libertarian isolationist, you know, group is beneficial and then distances himself from Ron Paul when he knows that Ron Paul's policies are unpalatable to most Republicans. So, I think Rand Paul's challenge is constantly trying to find a way to turn his libertarian philosophies into actual governing policies and he is finding that to be very, very difficult.

SMERCONISH: Ellis, 30 seconds left. Rick Perry gets into the race this week. Is that all about trying to erase the memory of what happened in the oops moment and other aspects of the 2012 campaign?

HENICAN: You know, Michael, he's got to try harder to erase it out of my mind. I'm sorry. You think the launch was fine, but I can't help but looking at the guy and just thinking you're damaged goods, you know? He hasn't done anything to make me think that it was an aberration that he fumbled last time so much. You know, he seems like a fine guy, but I just don't think he can get past it. I think it's too late.

SMERCONISH: We'll find out. Thank you, guys. Great analysis. S.E. Cupp and Ellis Henican, we appreciate you.

CUPP: Thanks.

SMERCONISH: Coming up, Pataki unplugged. The former New York governor has thrown his name into the 2016 presidential race. He's hoping to emerge as the GOP's more moderate candidate. But, how will he feel if Donald Trump ends up on that debate stage and he doesn't? He's here with me next.

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[09:47:37] SMERCONISH: Welcome back.

Former New York Governor George Pataki has flirted with presidential runs in the past, but this time he's in. Prior to his recent announcement of the 2016 run, Pataki admitted to friends and allies, he's a long shot for the GOP nomination.

Out of office since 2006, he's trying to get back on the radar in Republican circles. He hopes his bipartisan appeal signals a resurgence of the moderate Republican and Governor Pataki is joining me now.

Governor, it seems like the dynamics have changed for 2016 and that the way to get ahead, at least in the early stages for the nomination fight is not the retail politicking, but rather to boost your name identification nationwide so that you get in the debates.

Do you find that frustrating the way this is coming together where there could be 16 individuals and not room for everybody on the debate stage?

GEORGE PATAKI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I don't let things frustrate me. The rules are what the rules are. CNN just had a poll after I announced showing that I was in the top 10 and wouldn't make the debates at this point. Whether that's the case or not, you have your vision, you have your ideas, you go out there, you make the case, you meet people.

And, by the way, Michael, I'm a great believer in retail politics. Maybe the experts say you got to do it nationally. I'm going to be out there sitting down across the table from people in New Hampshire, letting them know my views. having them ask me a question, looking me in the eye. No pollster telling me what to say and I'm very comfortable with that.

SMERCONISH: I mean, the possibility exists, though, Governor, that Donald Trump could be on that stage and you might not be if you don't make the ten-person cut.

PATAKI: If I don't, I don't. The rules are what the rules are. That debate is August 6th of 2015. The election is November of 2016. I'm not so concerned about where I start out from, as where I end up.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Governor, let's enter a lightning round. Pataki on the issues, unplugged, five issues, relatively brief responses.

Number one: the Iranian nuclear deal. Your thoughts?

PATAKI: It's a bad deal. It almost guarantees not just an Iranian nuclear weapon, but a Sunni response nuclear weapon. It should not happen. We have to prevent Iran from having a nuclear bomb.

SMERCONISH: Issue number two: as a result of what transpired in the Senate this past week, no longer will the governor warehouse the metadata, the bulk phone records, but rather the phone companies will. Governor Pataki says what?

[19:50:01] PATAKI: I think it's a bad mistake on the part of Congress. I think when I first heard Edward Snowden talking about tapping of phones and recordings of phones of all Americans, I was outraged. But if you look into it, there were no phone names, there was no phone content. It was simply a metadata of numbers. And they could only access that if they had a court order saying those people were communicating with someone they had very clear proof was possibly engaged in terrorist activity.

The other big problem with this, Michael, is we say, well, the data is still there, we can get it from the phone companies, there's nothing requiring the phone companies to keep that data. They can get rid of that data.

And just look at Boston just last week, where this radicalized American was looking to behead someone in the United States, they were monitoring his phone calls. I'd like to know who was working with him, who was plotting with him, who might still be out there prepared to launch a violent attack against American citizens here.

SMERCONISH: Issue three for Governor Pataki -- raise the minimum wage from $7.25, to $10.10 or thereabouts per hour.

PATAKI: You know if you want to raise it from $7 to $10.10 or whatever, why not go to $20?

And the answer is, when you raise the minimum wage, you drive up the cost of goods and services, and you increase unemployment.

Take a look at downtown Baltimore. Right now, it's something where America should be focused, because there is not economic opportunity. Twenty-two to 24-year-old young adults, the unemployment rate is 47 percent. Raising the minimum wage doesn't help someone if they don't have a job. And there will be more who don't have jobs.

There's a better way, the better way is to have people get an earned income tax credit. Hope from the government so that they don't live below the poverty wage. It has to be a program that's well-run in a way that goes after fraud. But helping low-income people advance up the economic ladder, instead of denying them a job is the way to go.

SMERCONISH: Issue four of five: Common Core.

PATAKI: I think it's a bad idea. The idea of having a national dictate from Washington, saying what every kid in every school in every community and every state in America has to learn is simply wrong. And I know the defenders are saying, "Oh, no, no, we need standards." Of course we need standards, but education standards have always been set at the state level. I have confidence in the states.

And they say, well Washington really won't dictate. The first thing they did is say, we're not going to dictate, but we're going to have hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars and unless you have Common Core, you're not going to get it. It's a bad idea.

SMERCONISH: And finally, how would President Pataki resolve the differences between federal and some state law relative to marijuana?

PATAKI: You know, I would -- I think there's a real problem here with the federal government has a law it's not enforcing. I would allow the states to experiment. The states are the laboratories of democracy. But I would do it in a way where they were required to report statistics on crime, statistics on dependency, statistics on mental illness and health consequences very promptly, so that we would use those handful of states who have legalized it as a laboratory where we could develop the data to see what the federal law longer- term should be.

SMERCONISH: Where is the moderate Pataki and what have you done with him? Those are five very conservative positions you've taken.

PATAKI: These are positions I believe in. You know I ran for governor of New York state, as a Republican conservative -- tough on crime, going to cut taxes across the board, going to replace welfare with work fair and dependency with opportunities.

You know, I've never defined myself other than as a conservative. Compared to some of the candidates out there, I'm sure compared to a lot of the rhetoric, I'm going to be portrayed as this left-wing Democrat masquerading as a Republican.

I am what I am, Michael. Some people agree, some people don't. But you know, I don't have a consultant or pollster in the other area saying, this is what it says -- it's what I believe.

SMERCONISH: I'm George Pataki and I approve this message.

Thank you, Governor. We appreciate you being here.

PATAKI: Thank you, Michael. Great being on with you.

SMERCONISH: I'll be right back with more on what's going on right behind me.

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SMERCONISH: After last week's program, I received an email from a viewer, Walt of Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

And he said to me, "I watched you on Saturday like others on TV, sitting in front of an image of our nation's capital building surrounded in scaffolding. But I can't remember anybody ever explaining what work is being done."

Well, good question. Here's the answer -- the Capital Dome is predominantly made of cast iron, so exposure to rain, snow, sleet and sun caused damage to its exterior, small pinholes in the statue of freedom and exterior shell have allowed water to rust the iron work beneath the exterior.

The current restoration project includes the removal of the old paint, repairs to the cast iron, window replacement and repainting. It will cost close to $60 million and it's designed to protect the dome from the elements for the next 50 years. The exterior work is slated to be completed by the winter of 2015, with the interior work to be done by the fall of 2016.

By the way, Walt is my dad. I hope that answers his question.

Thank you so much for joining me. Don't forget you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish. I'll see you next week.