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Trump on Media; Clinton Servers in Hot Water; Interview with Jesse Ventura. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired August 15, 2015 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish. Welcome to the program.
Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is running a successful campaign, and how has he been able to pull it off? I will ask a noted strategist with whom he has just parted company.
Plus is the media giving Trump a free ride, because he is so good for ratings? And Hillary turns over her private server, but wasn't anything on it? Today's "Washington Post" suggested the Clinton camp is getting nervous about the e-mail issue.
We start today with the inside look at the Trump campaign. Exactly how has Donald Trump been able to defy the pundits like yours truly, and remain atop the pack of GOP candidates? The answers might lie in an internal Trump campaign memo that was leaked to the media this week. It was presumably authored by Roger Stone, a Trump advisor of some 30 years who has since left the campaign. Stone said he quit. Trump said he was fired, either way Stone has been a campaign fixture for decades.
He famously cut his teeth working for Richard Nixon. In fact, he sports a tattoo of Nixon on his back. Roger Stone is here to share his insights. Do we get to see the tattoo by the end of the segment?
ROGER STONE, FMR. TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISOR: Perhaps.
SMERCONISH: If I play my cards right. This is an amazing internal document. It quotes Roger Ales and Ales' strategy because apparently Ales said to Reagan, back in the 80s, you didn't get elected on details, you got elected on themes." This is exactly what Trump was doing.
STONE: Well, Roger Ales is a genius and those who say that he is for this candidate or that candidate and trying to describe political motives. No, Ales is about ratings. Ales is about the success of his network. Twenty four million people tuned in, why? Because Donald Trump is great television. He is charismatic. He is interesting and now you contrast him with the 15 career politicians all of whom are like trying to parse their words and be so careful. Trump is genuine. He's spontaneous. He's interesting. SMERCONISH: But how long can he get away with this advice, Roger.
You know, you did not get elected on details, you got elected on themes. Sooner or later he's got to give the details.
STONE: Well, right. So I would urge people to read his book "Time to Get Tough," published in 2011. I was (INAUDIBLE) editing that book. Trump has big themes, big ideas for America. He has laid them out in writing, and I have no doubt he's going to lay them out as the campaign progresses.
SMERCONISH: Something else from the internal Trump campaign document, be prepared for that first question, it could very well go to you. This would be your opportunity to set the mood for the evening. He got that question, and he did set the mood.
STONE: Yes, he did. Look, first of all, I'm a little surprised that you are have that memo, and CNN and the "Washington Post" were the first to get it. And I'm not going to characterize my direct advice to Trump or the campaign other than to say that other than Ronald Reagan, he is the most charismatic, and interesting and kind of larger than life figure that I have worked for and I think voters are seeing the passion. They see a can-do guy and having a good time, and that Reaganesque self-confidence just exudes from Trump.
SMERCONISH: The internal memo prepares him for particular questions that might be asked including will you run as a third party candidate if you do not get the Republican nod. He is then to say all options are on the table. Let's watch the way he handled that question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I cannot say that I have to respect the person that if it is not me, the person that wins. If I do win and I'm leading by quite a bit, that's what I want to do. I can totally make that pledged. If I'm the nominee, I will pledge I will not run as an independent, but I am discussing it with everybody, but I am talking about a lot of leverage and we want to win, and we will win. But I want to win as the Republican, and I want to run as the Republican nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I don't get it. So in the memo, you say to him, someone says to him, be ready for the first question, and if you are asked, whether to run as a third party candidate say that all options are on the table, and how is that a growth strategy within the GOP, aren't you offending all of the Republicans?
STONE: No, I don't think so. Actually it's a nonpolitician's answer, and everybody knows what the politician's answer would be, but two of the guys on that stage, pardon me, three of them, and one of either side of Trump, according to "The New York Times," were in discussions about boycotting the Fox debate and future debates if Trump were included.
In 19 states, the Republican bosses, the Republican establishment just keep Trump off the ballot, and if they did that, they wouldn't give him a level playing field, a fair shot at the nomination, well then yes, he could pursue the nomination of a third party and if he did, you know what would happen? The Democrats would probably win, Trump would run a strong second - and I think the Republicans would run third.
SMERCONISH: Is that a lot of bluster? Or does Roger Stone think there's a legitimate chance that Trump runs third party?
STONE: I think this is nonsense, he's the front-runner for the Republican Party, and why would we even ask the question.
SMERCONISH: You're not answering the question.
STONE: Yes, I learned that a long time ago.
SMERCONISH: All right. Also from the internal memo, on immigration. Now, again, the Ales strategy that you imparted to Trump is to be thematic, don't get involved in details.
STONE: Trump understood this long before he met me. So I'm not going to take credit to this.
SMERCONISH: I got it in black and white, so I got to refer to it. OK. But there is an exception - there is an exception to the Ales rule on immigration. This, the memo says this should the issue centric, this is a big selling point. Why? Why be detailed on this and not other issues?
STONE: Well, because it is a signature issue. Because when he came out in his announcement speech, and identified crime caused by illegal immigrants, the ruling class, the media elites, the political elites went crazy. It was so politically incorrect. It was the end of Trump. He was going to crater. This is a disaster. Guess what? The American people completely got it, and he zoomed to number one. That's Trump's instinct, by the way.
Trump is the one who identified illegal immigration as a hot button issue, and just like he is the one who identified the treatment of our veterans today, and it is not some poll or some memo, and it's osmosis, before he goes, the veterans say, "please, Mr. Trump, I'm a veteran and I can't get healthcare."
SMERCONISH: I like the opportunity that we are giving the viewers to go into the Trump war room and to understand the strategy, you've been around for a long time, and how is he to work with as compared to other candidates, does he take advice?
STONE: He considers everyone's advice, but unlike all of the other presidential candidates that I have worked for, he really is unscripted. He is uncoached. He is unhandled, and it is that genuineness that people are digging, and that's why he is doing so well.
SMERCONISH: Last night in New Hampshire, Mr. Trump had something to say. I want to roll the tape, and ask Roger Stone a question. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: But Jeb Bush has $114 million and what is he going to do with it? He'll start hitting me with ads, I guess. You know, at some point he's got to, because he is going down the tubes, the guys is going down the tubes, there is no energy.
So when Jeb and Hillary and all of these other candidates start spending money, remember this, that money was given by people that have total control over them. And those people, many of whom I know very well, they don't care about him, and they don't care about the color of his hair, and they don't care anything about him, and they don't care about the country in many case, and they only want whatever they want, and they will get plenty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: On the subject of campaign fund-raising, if you pull the F.E.C. report from the Trump campaign, you see, he is doing this on a shoestring. It's like a major reimbursement for his own travel expenses, and sooner or later, is he going to have to spend the dough?
STONE: Sure he is because -
SMERCONISH: Is he prepared to?
STONE: I am hopeful. Look, he reported $350 million in liquid cash or cash assets in his financial disclosure. He certainly has the money. He also is a shrewd businessman and he understands the bottom line. He has propelled his campaign thus far without massive spending, but when the going gets tough, he has got the bullets if he needs to use them. I think he'll use them. Trump is a competitor. He's not going to let $100 million in dirty Wall Street money that's been lavished on Jeb Bush to stop him in his efforts to change the country, right there on TV, you just saw him challenge the ruling class, challenge the existing structure.
SMERCONISH: Are you still working for him?
SMERCONISH: I mean you don't sound like -
STONE: I'm supporting him.
SMERCONISH: You don't sound like a guy who either quit or was fired? Look at all these Trump books. I think you've authored or edited -
STONE: No, I edited - I had the privilege to work for two of his books, "Time to get Tough" and for those who say he has no prescription for the country on issues, I urge you to go buy the book, because there's his prescription.
SMERCONISH: OK. But it seems to me, there's more than meets the eye her with Roger Stone parting company from the Trump campaign, coming on my program and others and giving the big Trump pitch. STONE: You media types are so conspiratorial.
SMERCONISH: No, the Stone-Trump types I think are conspiratorial.
STONE: Unlike political consultants like the late Ed Rollins, I am not going to go bad mouth my clients.
SMERCONISH: Are you breaking news on CNN. He is still with us.
STONE: Really? You could have fooled me.
SMERCONISH: And so it goes. Roger Stone, thank you. Appreciate very much you're being here.
Donald Trump has no need for paid advertising. Thus far, he's getting it all for free. Mr. Trump is ubiquitous all over TV, radio and in print. Here's my question, is he getting a free ride? Is the ratings high from his rants sparing him from having to answer policy specifics?
Jackie Calmes is a national correspondent for the "new York Times" who has written on the media and politics as a fellow at Harvard's prestigious Kennedy School of Government. Jackie, is he getting a free ride?
JACKIE CALMES, "NEW YORK TIMES" NATIONAL CORESPONDENT: Well, to some extent he certainly is because he's good TV, as Roger was noting and he's, you know, (INAUDIBLE) but at some point that has to give way. If he has ridden it for quite a while now, but he is starting to get asked questions, whether he fills in the blanks, we don't know - immigration, you were talking to Roger about how that is the exception about that's where he has to give specifics. Basically, he just said build a fence.
I've been in Washington for 30 years and people talked about building a fence for the entire time, back to his former boss, Reagan. And it's just not feasible as a solution.
It can be done. It can be done in pieces, but it is the kind of thing. And there are some major questions on fiscal policy that are going to be front and center in the fall. You know, Obamacare, do you repeal it? Thn replace it with what? So there's a lot of questions out there that he is going to be asked. But campaigns, you can evade a lot of the details, and he will.
SMERCONISH: I want to ask if there is a methodology to the way in which he is approaching the media and the best is if illustrate it by virtue of a montage from Seth Myers. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SETH MYERS: Is there anyone who calls into more shows than Donald Trump.
Joining me on the phone is the man at the center of it all the Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
I'm joined now on the phone from New York by Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the phone, Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Donald Trump, on the phone.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Donald Trump joins us by phone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump joins us on the phone.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Donald Trump joins us on the phone.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: We have a phone call from somebody. Let me see who it is on the phone.
TRUMP: Good morning, darling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Jackie, you know how hard it is when somebody is on the phone. And even you and I doing it via satellite as opposed to sitting face to face, you can use body language to say, OK, I've heard enough and I need to move on and ask you a question, is he using that to his advantage?
CALMES: Of course, lest I jump on my brethren in the television industry, he is doing the same thing. He's calling up my colleagues at the "New York Times" at the "Washington Post," and others and in the newspapers, and you have this picture of him sitting in his boxer shorts just speed dialing.
But, you know, of course, people are taking his calls, and it is really reality TV come to the presidential campaign, and what is really interesting to me is while he is getting all of this attention, Bernie Sanders on the left is actually drawing bigger crowds on the biggest crowds of anyone, and in facts of all of the Republicans combined for his appearances, and he hasn't gotten near the attention.
SMERCONISH: I really taken with the paper that you published at the Kennedy School as a (INAUDIBLE) fellow at Harvard which analyzes the conservative media. One of the data points of the paper that you highlight is the Pugh research discussing the reliance of consistent conservatives on Fox News as an outlet, and why is that of significance?
CALMES: Well, as they described consistent conservative and this was based on issues and the stance these people took at the poll. It's only about 20 percent of the electorate, but that 20 percent consistent conservatives - those are the people that are sure to go out, not only go out to vote, but contribute maybe small amounts to candidates and are engaged all the time, writing letters to members of Congress, calling up candidates, and so they are the ones that really get a response.
I mean, political science studies show consistently that politicians respond to the people who are engaged. And so, when you have consistent conservatives very hard-line conservatives, those are the ones that the candidates are responding to.
SMERCONISH: Your thesis is that this overreliance on conservative outlets, not only Fox, but also talk radio and a variety of internet sites is actually driving the GOP into a ditch. How so?
CALMES: Well, I didn't exactly put it that way, and what I will say about my paper is I interviewed dozens of Republicans, and it's really their conclusion to me, a lot of these are what the conservative Republicans or the hard right Republicans in media and the base would call establishment Republicans, but which are of course, that's a pejorative in their lingo these days, but they are saying that their party can no longer govern and cannot pick presidential candidates with popular appeal once they get through the primary process.
SMERCONISH: But the response, the retort is to say that wait a minute, if only the Republican party were to put up a pure conservative a la Ronald Reagan, not a Mitt Romney, not a John McCain - those guys weren't true believers then we can win the White House.
CALMES: Right. Well and that is why it is a win-win with the conservative media and the Republican base, because in 1964, they got their way. Barry Goldwater was nominated and he went on to be one of the biggest defeats in political history, and the Republican establishment then which was much more moderate said that, you know, that saw that as proof that we finally had lanced this boil, and that they'll see that somebody that conservative is unelectable.
SMERCONISH: And I have just a minute left with us, and I want to show you what Sean Spicer, the head of the RNC's communications wing said in response to me offering him your theory on this program two weeks ago. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, CHIEF STRATEGIST AND COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think the problem is that for so long that the left wing, mainstream media has taken the people to the left and ONLY focuses on issues that a lot of the conservative activists and Republican voters have not cared about that they're sort of a shock wave through the mainstream media when they recognize how the issues and the concerns that the conservative media are bringing up that don't go covered.
You are looking at this recent planned parenthood scandal, and it's the conservative media that's out there bringing that scandal to light and to shed, and to share the concerns coming up, and if left up to "The New York Times" and the rest of the mainstream media, it would be swept under the rug?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Respond to that. Is this just the stuff of the liberal times, of Harvard and the Kennedy school?
CALMES: Of the planned parenthood, I'd say I have done seven of them and one of which was an interview with David Delieden who produced those videos, was the hidden camera activist, and it was on the front page of "The New York Times," and rode the home page for a number of hours, but this has been a claim of the right for decades, going back to post World War II where they are so, well, back to Franklin Roosevelt where they saw the mainstream media as too left leaning and they devised alternatives over the years, and we have now seen a proliferation thanks to the internet and to technological advances so that conservative media is so widespread that people who want to go to the news sources to validate their biases don't have to look at anything but conservative media.
SMERCONISH: It's amazing that we live in an era of such choice and yet so many among us are exercising it. Anyway, I thought the report was really worthy and I hope people will read it.
CALMES: Thank you, Mike.
SMERCONISH: I have posted it on my website. Thank you, Jackie.
Coming up, Hillary has got no mail. Her server has been turned over to the FBI and we have new information on what the feds are looking for, and the "Washington Post" says today that it is making the campaign very nervous.
SMERCONISH: Hillary Clinton has turned her private e-mails over to the FBI, and this is supposed to be a come-clean campaign moment, but one thing thatis apparently clean is the server. The company that provided it says that all the data was gone, but Clinton says that all of the work-related e-mails have already been turned over to the State Department and a thumb drive with copies of those e-mails has been given to the feds.
The inspector general of the U.S. intelligence agency says that classified information did show up in some of Clinton's e-mails and according to "New York Times," the FBI is trying to figure out how it got there and if her server was breeched with by any foreign intelligence agencies.
The whole e-mail controversy has taken a toll on Clinton's image, and according to today's "Washington Post" her campaign has gone from being nonchalant about the whole mess to being nervous.
Joining me now are two pros. Joseph Degeneva is a former federal prosecutor who has worked on everything from the Jonathan Pollard spy case to the prosecution of would-be Reagan assassin John Hinkley and Lanny Davis is a lawyer and crisis manager who was special counsel to President Bill Clinton.
Lanny, let me begin with you, everybody knows by now as secretary of state Secretary Clinton utilized a private e-mail server. She said back in March that she saw no need to hand over that server, and yet she just did. What has changed?
LANNY DAVIS, FMR. CLINTON COUNSEL: The inspector general of the intelligence community has found two, at least two out of four e-mails that the inspector general of the intelligence community believes contains classified information, and the State Department disagrees, and that happens a lot.
SMERCONISH: Was there anything on the server when she handed it over?
DAVIS: I don't know the answer to that. I am not her attorney, but I know what she has said publicly which is that she has turned over everything that she and the State Department staff considered to be related to official business and some of it not official as we've seen in reading them, and that there was nothing else left in her personal or private e-mail which are her privacy rights just like everybody else. She did not preserve.
SMERCONISH: Joe, I guess, Lanny's point is to say that there was nothing then classified on the server when that server was in her custody and control and that these items were classified retroactively. Does that make any difference?
JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: No, it does not make any difference at all and I don't believe that it's actually true. We believe that some of the markings were actually taken off f these documents. Let's remember what these documents are. The two that brought the FBI into the case are top secret sensitive classified information.
This is stuff of the highest level. You can't get any higher than this. Over 6 1/2 years this server sat in the private residence with no security whatsoever of the type require by the intelligence community. The fact that information like this, and believe me there was plenty of it and you can extrapolate from what has been revealed to know that there is all kinds of classified information that must have been communicated with her understandably for her to properly do her job.
SMERCONISH: Lanny, respond to those charges.
DAVIS: Quick response. Let me read to you from the Associated Press story today, "Clinton did not transmit the sensitive information herself, the sources said, and nothing in the e-mails she received makes clear reference to communications intercepts, confidential intelligence, methods of any other form of sensitive sourcing and indeed the one they are referring to contained a newspaper article about drones, so the State Department takes a position, they are not highly classified, Joe. It's a debate between State and the intelligence community. It's not about what you described as a violation of law.
DIGENOVA: Well, I don't care what the State Department says at this state, because they are completely unreliable with regard to production and classification, and the federal judge is supervising the Freedom of Information Act case and has told them that if he does not get better cooperation he is holding them in contempt.
I would prefer to listen to the intelligence community, inspector general who has maintained that these are highly classified top secret, sensitive, compartmentalized information and that is simply a 10 percent sample of a few.
I think the bottom line here is if you are secretary of state and you are maintaining a private server to conduct all of your business and to think that no classified information is going to come into that server is ludicrous, and that is why the FBI demanded the server, and they did not voluntarily give it over. The FBI said turn it over or you'll get a grand jury subpoena.
SMERCONISH: Joe, let me ask you this question.
DAVIS: Joe, what you just said there is false.
SMERCONISH: And Lanny, you will get a chance to respond.
DAVIS: It's is inaccurate but I'll just put that in for the record.
SMERCONISH: Joe - gentlemen, hang on.
DAVIS: There is no threat of a subpoena, and that is false.
SMERCONISH: Joe, I want to ask a specific question of you.
I get that the optics of this thing are horrendous, and that is my assessment, but is there any evidence that there was indeed a national security breach.
DIGENOVA: Of course there is. The evidence is quite clear, and first of all, you listen to the inspector general of the intelligence community, but beyond that, are we to believe that for 6 1/2 years she maintained a server and got no classified information on it. That is not speculation, that's called (INAUDIBLE) assumption, and by the way Lanny, you are not her lawyer, how do you know that she was not threatened with a subpoena?
DAVIS: Well, I believe what I read in the newspapers, that it was turned over voluntarily, and nobody but you has ever said there was a subpoena threat. This is the first time on the public record and nobody but you, Joe. Let me at least address what you just said and I do agree with you that there is a very great difficulty here in proving the negative that there was not some classified information retroactively.
What we both agree on because the inspector general that you are saying that you believe, and I have to reason to disbelieve his opinion. He said there was no designation of classification status on any of the e e-mails that he reviewed four of them out of the 55,000 pages. So holding him as of now what we know is that she did nothing turning over classified information that she had reason to believe, based upon his stamp. And that's the only thing we know now and I can't prove the negative, Joe, but that is it.
DIGENOVA: It's legally irrelevant. It doesn't matter. She knew and everybody around her knew, including Ms. Mills who is a very smart lawyer and Ms. Aberdeen is a very smart person, that the secretary of state receives classified information all the time in conversation, direct briefings, through and e-mail, and the notion that she is going to maintain that she never received or sent classified information in 6 1/2 years on the only server she ever used to perform her official duties is ludicrous.
SMERCONISH: But Joe, the point I'm trying to make is that people hear this and they assume that because there was classified information sent to a private server that it necessarily ended up in hands that should not have had it, and that is not the case, right? We don't have any evidence that there was indeed a security breach which put that classified information into the hands of individuals who should not have seen it?
DIGENOVA: We don't know that, but that is not the point, and that is not what this investigation is about, and it is not about an unauthorized disclosure or interception by a third party, it's about where the information was kept which was in an unauthorized location in violation of federal law.
That is not uncontradicted. The server was not a secure server. It was maintained in an insecure location. That is a violation of federal law.
SMERCONISH: Lanny, respond to that. Lanny, respond to Joe's point because I think Joe makes an important point.
DAVIS: A direct response is when Joe says that we don't know, we both agree. When Joe speculates, I agree that it is hard to prove the negative. We do know that the inspector general himself said that the information that she transferred to her private server was not labeled classified and we have also no evidence that the security of her server that was established by the Secret Service first for President Clinton is less secure than the OPM server that was hacked, that the White House server that was hacked and anybody watching the things that the government servers are more secure than the Clinton's servers, I don't think there are many people out there who agree with that, Joe.
SMERCONISH: Lanny Davis, Joseph Digenova, thank you.
DAVIS: Thank you.
DIGENOVA: You're welcome.
SMERCONISH: Up next, after a short break, Jesse "the body" Ventura, the governor took on the "American Sniper" in court and won big. It is a fascinating story, and I will tell you why some of America's biggest news outlets are now lining up against him.
[09:32:22] SMERCONISH: "American Sniper", the movie starring Bradley Cooper about former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was a box office smash. It was based on Kyle's memoir, but one former SEAL wasn't pleased with the book -- Jesse Ventura, the former professional wrestler and governor of Minnesota.
Ventura filed a lawsuit for defamation against Kyle and won. He was awarded a $1.8 million verdict against Kyle's estate. In the book, Kyle wrote about a bar fight involving a man who allegedly insulted the Navy SEALs. Kyle later said that man was Ventura. A jury didn't believe him.
Now, as Kyle's widow is appealing, she's drawing support from 33 major media outlets, including "The New York Times", "The Washington Post" and NPR.
Here to explain is Governor Ventura.
Governor, I have read the brief. Floyd Abrams, this guy is the dean of First Amendment lawyers in the United States. Why have these 33 media outlets all come in on this case on the other side?
JESSE VENTURA, HOST OF "OFF THE GRID" ON ORA TV: Well, I guess they want the ability to defame people and make money. They want to be able to profit from wrongdoing. They feel that when they defame you, which Michael, as you know the bar is already extremely high in a defamation case and how overwhelming the evidence must have been to beat a deceased war veteran and his widow. It was immense that showed it never happened. And I won overwhelmingly.
What -- they don't like the fact that there is a thing called unjust enrichment, where if you defame somebody and profit from that defamation, the defendant has the right to or the plaintiff in my case, has the right to have some of that money, because you made money defaming him.
And the example in this book was that this book only -- this came out at trial. This book had only sold 4,000 copies, and he went on Opie and Anthony and "The O'Reilly Factor", and 100,000 copies in one day. And the major story was him allegedly beating me up, which is totally fabricate --
SMERCONISH: And, Governor --
VENTURA: -- and never happened and we proved it in court.
SMERCONISH: And, Governor, what I know -- what I know and remember from my own practice, is "The New York Times" versus the Sullivan case which stands for the proposition that someone like you who's a public figure, in order to succeed, needs to show reckless disregard for the truth or knowledge of falsity. So, that jury sitting in Minnesota had to believe that was the case.
And what has this done to you? How has this harmed you within the military community?
[09:35:02] VENTURA: It's harmed me immensely. In fact, a petition went out signed by like 200 former Navy SEALs and UDT guys to have me thrown out of the UDT SEAL association, where I have been a member since way back in the 1970s. I have always supported my old underwater demolition SEAL teams. There hasn't been a bigger advocate in the country for them.
Why would I go badmouth my own unit? It doesn't make sense. I was actually out there at the time to attend the graduation of Class 258, because it's traditional. I'm class 58, that you go to your centennial graduation and then your bicentennial.
So, if I dislike them, why would I be out there to honoring them?
SMERCONISH: Well, I remember, Governor, I remember --
VENTURA: The whole story was made up to make money.
SMERCONISH: I remember reading Marcus Luttrell's "Lone Survival" book, and one of the details that stands out in my mind is that when he completed Bud's training, and you correct me if I'm wrong, you were one of the guys there from the SEAL community, you know, to welcome him into the fold. I want to ask you this, the movie --
VENTURA: Well, not exactly, Michael. I was there to secure Hell Week to be the first phase. I'm the first civilian to secure Hell Week, and it happened to be Marcus Luttrell's class.
SMERCONISH: Here's what I want to point out to the viewers, and correct me if I'm wrong. While the book had this page and a half reference to the bar fight that the jury concluded never happened, that didn't make, I presume that didn't make the movie because of Jesse Ventura's lawsuit. But how did it feel for Jesse Ventura to watch the box office records being set by "American Sniper", knowing what you knew about the underlying facts and fiction?
VENTURA: Well, first of all, and I don't know -- the only thing I'll comment on is my chapter. I don't know anything about the other. I never was in Iraq. I have been long since discharged, Mike.
All I can tell you is the chapter on me was a total, bogus, made-up lie. It's plain and simple. It's like a booster rocket when you go to outer space. You've got a rocket that gets you out into space, and then it falls off.
I was that booster rocket that propelled this book to number one. When they sold 100,000 copies based upon the story, and they didn't talk about Kyle shooting someone from 1,500 meters away as he alleged, they talked about the feature story was his confrontation with Jesse Ventura. And they went so far -- Harper Collins, the book publisher, they made it if you typed my name to the Internet, it would go immediately to the story to help them sell books. That's how bad it was.
SMERCONISH: Governor, I want you to clear up a discrepancy, and it's got nothing to do with Chris Kyle. I'm a Stern guy. I have heard you tell Howard Stern repeatedly that the two of you could comprise a hell of a ticket and now, this week, it seems like you are attaching yourself to Trump.
So, which is it going to be? VENTURA: I didn't really attach myself to Trump. I had Roger Stone
on my Internet show "Off the Grid" and we were having fun, and I have known Roger and I've known Donald for 25 years. All I did because -- I appreciate that Trump is breaking up the system, and causing havoc.
As an incomplete independent who despises both these parties, they are ruining our country. This is the best thing that I could see happen is Donald Trump and what he's doing. And all I did was to say, gee, if Donald really wanted the drive them crazy, he should pick me as a running mate, because I'm the most fierce independent that there is in this country. I said, imagine what the Republicans would do with that.
So it was really done --
SMERCONISH: What's the --
VENTURA: I wasn't serious.
SMERCONSH: What's the fate of Stern-Trump or Stern-Ventura?
VENTURA: Well, Howard turned me down when I talked to him last spring and I thought that maybe he sold out because he is making the big money at NBC now, and he's had Chris Christie to his birthday party and all that stuff. So, I don't know if the Howard today is the Howard of old. He doesn't seem to rebel as much today as he used to.
But I have my reasons, you know, and as far as the Donald Trump goes, if he asked me to run with him, I would give it serious consideration, because way back when I won governor of Minnesota, Trump thought about running as the reform party candidate for president, and I said that I'd love it if he did it then, he didn't do it then, he's doing it now.
But I love what he's doing. He's breaking up the good old boy network and exposing it for what it is.
SMERCONISH: Governor Ventura, thanks for being here. Good luck in your lawsuit.
VENTURA: Michael, thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it very much for allowing me to let the public know the truth about that lawsuit. And, by the way --
SMERCONISH: I read the brief. I mean, I understand this area of the law. I found it pretty stunning. I noted by the way that CNN was not on this list with "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" and NPR and Gannett and all the others.
[09:40:01] VENTURA: Yes. And remember this -- I want the people to know, this does not cost the widow or the children a nickel. I am out over $1 million and theirs is paid by an insurance company as will any settlement or anything with it. And it will be done by insurance, not Kyle's family.
SMERCONISH: All right. Thank you, Governor Ventura.
VENTURA: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Up ahead, if you think that Trump is bombastic, next, I will introduce you to Morton Downey, Jr. They called him the "Evocateur". The incredible story of the man who gave birth to our political food fight culture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I abstain from all animal products, including dairy and clothing.
MORTON DOWNEY, JR., EVOCATEUR: All animal products, and clothing.
I eat raw hamburger.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what is your cholesterol?
DOWNEY: I eat raw fish. I smoke four packs of cigarettes a day.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, can I say something?
DOWNEY: I have about four drinks a day. I'm 55 years old and I look as good as you do, baby.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[09:45:11] DOWNEY: If I depended on a guy like you, New Jersey's pre- eminent lawyer, I would find my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in the crapper for the rest of my life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait, you have your time --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: In 1987, Morton Downey Jr. launched a television program that would catch fire and then flame out under two years but not before casting a pall on the political discourse that continues today.
In the nearly three decades since Downey's foray into television, the media has become increasingly polarized and so, too, has Washington. Coincidence?
I think not. More probable is that too many of our politicians are taking their cues from the loud mouth successors to curry favor with the most passionate members of the electorate who in turn wield outsize influence on our political process, "Evocateur: The Morton Downey Movie": will debut this Thursday, on CNN. It tells the story of the son of an Irish crooner who turned the talk radio and television when his own dreams as a singer didn't pan out.
Downey's approach was all bark and bombast, and before the rise of Jerry Springer, it was Downey gesticulating, cursing at guests, chain smoking on set, who stole the spotlight from the more sedate, cerebral hosts like Phil Donahue, Oprah, and Sally Jessy Raphael. Many guests or targets of Downey's wrath are still familiar faces.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOWNEY: If I had a slime like you in the White House, I'd puke on you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Harsh words for Ron Paul, the libertarian leader and father current presidential hopeful Rand Paul, much to the delight of Downey's white working class student audience consisting of 30- somethings gathered in Secaucus, New Jersey.
And even as a conservative, he was no fan of chivalry. Today, you'd expect a woman on the receiving end of a Downey style sexist rant to hire the likes of Gloria Allred. Well, in his heyday, she got the full Downey treatment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOWNEY: What the hell is a feminist? I thought anyone who had breasts was a feminist.
GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: There are almost no feminists who have ever burned a bra, so let me get that straight with you right now.
DOWNEY: There's almost no feminist who ever had anything that they need to wear a bra for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Downey's success came from railing against liberal policies of the Democratic Party, no matter that the self-processed conservative rabble-rouser was himself a friend of the Kennedy clan, having lived near the famous compound in Hyannis Port. In New York, he lived a building developed by Donald Trump. Maybe some of the Downey bombast rubbed off.
Today's show was cancelled in 1989. But it created a template for media conflict that continues today. Entertainment masked as news, constant conflict, good guys versus bad guys, and preordained outcomes. If he were alive today, he'd fit right in.
And here's why he matters, his influence was more than just a cultural phenomena. The combative style that he fathered has taken a toll on the way in which we're governed, as the media has moved to the extremes, there's been more incivility, more polarization among our leaders, partly because of the power that Downey's successors exert over primary voters.
To be sure, other factors have driven the partisan divide, everything from lack of campaign finance reform to one-sided voting districts, to the flood of anonymous and often contemptuous comments online, but high atop the list of what has driven us into the ditch of extremes is the level of our discourse, and for that, we have a founding father, and his name is Morton Downey Jr.
"Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie" airs on CNN, Thursday, August 20 at 9:00 p.m. It's a terrific movie and well worth the time.
When we come back, Donald Trump in his own words, the most quotable a politician with some words to remember, or maybe to forget.
[09:53:46] SMERCONISH: Whatever you think of Donald Trump, he's clearly quotable whether it's on immigration, John McCain, Megyn Kelly and her journalism.
For the latest issue of "Politico" magazine Michael Kruse assembled a list of Donald Trump's 199 most memorable quotes, or maybe I should say most forgettable quotes. I talked to Kruse this week on radio. He told me it was tough to cut the list to just 199.
So, here are a couple that stand out at least to me. Number nine on the list, this is relative to race. Trump says, "I have black guys counting my money. I hate it. The only guys I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes all day long."
There's a lot from the Donald on women, such as number 23. He said, "Oftentimes when I was sleeping with one of the top women in the world I would say to myself, thinking about me as a boy from Queens, can you believe what I'm getting?"
And then there was this observation on fame, if you've ever been in midtown Manhattan and you've seen the sidewalk salesman, this may resonate. Trump said, "You want to know what total recognition is? I'll tell you how you know when you've got it. When the Nigerians on the street corners who don't speak a world of English, who have no clue, who are selling watches for some guy in Jersey, when you walk by them and these guys say, 'Trump! Trump!'"
[09:55:11] There was Trump on child rearing. This is item 167 on the list. He said, "Statistically, my children have a very bad shot. Children of successful people are generally very, very troubled, not successful, they don't have the right shtick. You never know until they're tested."
One seventy-three on the list is about Marla Maples. I always thought she was stunning. She was I think his second wife and relative to Marla Maples, he said, "I was bored when she was walking down the aisle. I kept thinking: what the hell was I doing here? I was so deep into my business stuff I couldn't think of anything else."
I have to say this about the Trump list, though, like, every seventh or eighth one would be actually one that I would find some truth in.
For better or worse, here's number 85, Trump says, "I've always felt a lot of modern art is a con and that the most successful painters are often better salesmen and promoters than they are artists."
The wit and wisdom of one Donald Trump. I will be right back with your best and worst tweets.
SMERCONISH: You know, I like to say, you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish, and a lot of you are. Thank you for that.
A lot of reaction to my commentary, some who didn't get the message, like Jacob who says, "He's only 32 and the Morton Downey dude is awesome, ah, the good old days, I don't think so." Or Mike who says, "Yes, we should all keep agreeing with each other. And keep taking the blue pill. Is that the message?"
No, the message is: have a robust debate, but know when it's time to work things out.
And a lot of Twitter reaction to my interview with Roger Stone, the former Trump strategist, at the outset of the program and a lot of folks, me included, are not buying the idea that there's been this break-up. For example, there was this from Diego, "Smerconish, you're right, everyone treats Roger Stone like he actually quit or got fired and is now a neutral commentator on Trump. That is bull."
There was Ninjetta who said, "Apparently you don't break up well." I think she means you don't break up at all. And there was Hector who says, "This is no doubt he's still part of the campaign, but it's a good strategy." To be continued. I'll see you next week.