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Beginning of the End of Trump; The Politics of the Pope's Visit to America; Reviewing Carly Fiorina's Tenure as Hewlett Packard CEO; Ronald Reagan's Advice. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired September 19, 2015 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:03] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Don't go anywhere, though "SMERCONISH" is here right now,.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish.
What a week, everything has changed.
I'm back from Simi Valley where I witnessed CNN's game changing debate first hand. I found something buried in the Reagan Library that Donald Trump should have seen before he took the debate stage. More on that later.
Although Trump may be on the cover of next week's "New York Magazine" as saving our democracy, he ended the week banged up pretty badly.
Meanwhile, Carly Fiorina's stock rising but will the CEO's record that she bragging about prove her undoing?
And now the "Wall Street Journal" was reporting that Joe Biden is more likely getting in the race. You will not find a smarter group of people this weekend to unpack all of this. David Axelrod is here, Bob Beckel is here. Pulitzer prize winner Kathleen Parker is here. I've even got the guy whose Fiorina article Trump sided the debate and Carly dismissed as a Clintonite.
Here's the big question, is the air coming out of the Trump balloon? I think Carly won the debate. As I predicted, the intimate Reagan Library venue and nearly three-hour format demanded more substance that Trump could offer. Then he failed to rein in some knuckle headed questioner. And ended the week by cancelling an appearance in South Carolina, citing a business conflict.
Joining me now is David Axelrod, CNN's senior political commentator, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama. David, you recently told "The Washington Post" that you want to be known for your expertise, not as a surrogate for Democrats. So let's start with the Republican presidential race, is this what the beginning of the end looks like for Donald Trump?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think so. You know, look, Michael, you've been a student of this for a long time. I think presidential races run in phases. And I wrote a piece for cnn.com today. And I talked about this -- the spring is for casual dating. The summer there are often these torrid romances that are never going to go anywhere. But in the fall, people start looking for solid, dependable, reliable, long-term relationships. And the tests get harder for the candidates.
I think Donald Trump failed the test at the end of the week when he was confronted with that questioner about the president's -- who accused the president, again of being a closet Muslim. I don't think -- I don't think being a Muslim should be a slander in any case, but unlike John McCain in 2008, didn't stand up to it, didn't correct. I think that combined with his inability to participate and answer in specific ways some of the more detailed policy questions in the debate, I think, yes, are the beginning of the end.
I think his support is capped. And I think some of it is going to move away from him.
SMERCONISH: If 54 percent of those who are supportive of Trump also believe erroneously that the president is a Muslim, he's not going to lose their support. But I guess you're saying that there's just no growth potential?
AXELROD: Yes. And there's also 46 percent who don't believe that. Look, I think a lot of people supporting Donald Trump are the same people who showed up at those Sarah Palin rallies at the end of the 2008 campaign. We know that there this cohort out there who believes that, you know, we are being encroached on by aliens, illegal aliens, Muslims, China. And trump has tapped into that -- into that constituency.
It's no accident that Sarah Palin was one of the first people to stand up and defend him after he attacked Senator McCain for his war record. And Rush Limbaugh came to his defense. That's his constituency. It's not the majority of the Republican Party. It's certainly not the majority of the country. But it is an activist group and then some of them may stick with him.
SMERCONISH: Can money solve his problems? He told Patrick Healy at the "The New York Times" that he's ready to spend $100 million.
AXELROD: I don't think that money can solve his problems because he's getting such intensive media coverage. That it's his own performance that's at question here. $100 million does not solve the problem of being unwilling to stand up to someone who makes outrageous comments at one of your rallies. That's on you.
And you know, you can't buy the courage to answer or the common sense to answer. But these are the tests that presidential candidates face. And it's not about how big your bank account is. It's about how stout your character is.
SMERCONISH: As you referenced, you wrote for cnn.com about his debate performance. Here's part of what you said. "He turned in a now familiar performance short on specifics, long on burlesque, and laced with incendiary dog whistle appeals to his nativist flock. Yet the bombastic billionaire seemed to wilt in the latter stages of the debate as the temperature in a steamy Reagan Library plane hangar rose."
Is this what happens when you're forced to offer substance over a span of an extended time period?
AXELROD: I think that is. And I think that it's only going to get more difficult, as I said, because as these races go on, the bar gets lifted, people expect more of you. You're not going to get away with my policy for Russia is I'm going to get along with Putin. That's just not a compelling answer to that question.
I think Donald Trump is an incredibly talented entertainer as he calls himself. He's been masterful at dominating the media during the summer months. But the tests are getting harder now. And he's coming up wanton.
SMERCONISH: In the aftermath of this gaffe, maybe coincidence, maybe not, he cancelled a South Carolina appearance. The optics of that not good for a campaign. Of what significance is that cancellation?
AXELROD: I think it is significant. I think, first of all, that was a big deal down in South Carolina. Thousands and thousands of people, as you know, conservative movement down there is very strong. And to stiff the group was not good. But the other thing is if you're whole schtick is I'm the biggest, toughest dude around --
AXELROD: And you run into a little trouble and then you go into hiding, that's not very good for your message.
SMERCONISH: David Axelrod, thank you so much.
AXELROD: Good to be with you.
SMERCONISH: If the summer romance with Donald Trump over? Here are two pros, Bob Beckel is a democratic strategist and a contributing columnist for "USA Today." Kathleen Parker, a Pulitzer-winning prize columnist for "The Washington Post" who writes on politics and culture. Great to have you. Glad you got the purple memo.
KATHLEEN PARKER, "WASHIGNTON POST": Yes, we totally did.
SMERCONISH: Ax didn't get it. So the Donald is now responding, Bob, he's saying "do I have to come to the defense of the president when a situation like that occurs?" Should he have confronted that guy?
BOB BECKEL, MANAGED WALTER MONDALE'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: No.
BECKEL: Just pure politics. Remember, we talked about McCain when Mccain defended him, that was a general election. Donald Trump's people who vote for him believe that. Now, is he going to stand there and tell all of his base that you don't really understand what you're talking about, is he really a Muslim? He got away with it once again by saying, and going into look into these things investigate all these camps and things. But the fact is that when people say Trump should have done that, should he have done it, was it the right thing to do? Of course. Was it the politically expedient think to do, I don't think so.
SMERCONISH: Do you agree with that?
PARKER: Not really. No. I think it would have been so easy for him to say look, I think we have to take the president, his words, that he's not a Muslim. But let's be clear. Muslim is not a bad word. Lots of good people are Muslims and they're Americans, too. But, you know, we're certainly sensitive to the fact that people are concerned. They're concerned about (INAUDIBLE).
SMERCONISH: By the way, the tweet, "this is the first time in my life that I have caused controversy by not saying something," Kathleen.
PARKER: Well, that's a very good point. Because, you know, he's such a blabber mouth. I mean, he's unfiltered most of the time and will say whatever and shoot from the hip. This time he was very careful in parsing his words and saying we will be looking into these things. Some people say he was almost delicate with it. I thought when who are you trying not to offend here. Who are you trying not to alienate? That's not the best sliver of our population.
SMERCONISH: Bob, look at the second part of this "am I morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him? I don't think so." But how is that growth strategy for the Donald not to the guy in?
BECKEL: Michael, it's not about growth here. Let's try to be -- understanding. It's upsetting to be really (INAUDIBLE) with pure politics. But I've been in Iowa six different times. There's a sliver of Iowa that believes this, and you're never going to convince him otherwise that he's a Muslim (INAUDIBLE). Now those are the people that are going to go to caucuses and vote for Donald Trump.
I think what Trump is saying, it may be in the longer scheme to broaden his base. I don't think he can broaden his base much. I mean I think he's got about 30 percent of the Republicans and that's all he's going to get.
SMERCONISH: Kathleen, my point is 32 percent or thereabouts of the GOP, and if the GOP is 21 percent of the populous, and I was never good at math --
PARKER: Yes, this is hard for early morning.
SMERCONISH: But it tells me that one-third of the Republicans translates to somewhere between seven and nine percent of Americans. That's it. Maybe it's enough to do well in a primary process or a caucus process, but you're not getting elected president with this sort of thing. PARKER: Of course not. He's so bad for the Republican Party. You
have to be -- in order to be elected, to present yourself as a leader, you have to say sometimes unpopular things even if it does cause some members of your base. And again, we are talking about a sliver or slice of a little tiny piece. You have to be able to say, "look, we're not going to play into this, because we're better than that. Let's raise the level of the conversation.
Let's acknowledge that we're concerned about immigration. We're concerned about, you know, certain people who are not interested in assimilating. But we're not going to demonize any one group of Americans. I think people would be able to handle that.
SMERCONISH: I don't think he loses his base.
PARKER: I don't either.
BECKEL: Listen, you got to remember for Iowa, everybody keeps dismissing Huckabee and Santorum, let's remember that they both run that state. They've got some people out there that are going to vote for them.
SMERCONISH: Right. But neither of them captured the nomination.
BECKEL: Yes, but it's not about the nomination politics right now, it's getting to next week. The idea here is there are four of them coming out of New Hampshire. I don't know who the four are going to be necessarily but I've got an idea. But it's going to be an attrition. And so you've got all these people that have got to drop out.
And in the meantime, you got to look at the next week, or the next contest. The big one is Iowa. And Trump is looking at that. He's got a base out there and he doesn't want to upset that.
SMERCONISH: Let me show you something -- you want to respond to that?
SMERCONISH: I want to show you something that "The New York Times" editorialized about the GOP debate. Put that up in the screen if we can. "Peel back the boasting and the insults, the lies and exaggerations common to any presidential campaign. What remains is a collection of assertions so untrue, so bizarre, that they form a vision as surreal as the Ronald Reagan jet looming behind the candidates' lecterns." I'm sure Republicans will dismiss this as the liberal editorial page of the "Times."
But isn't there a risk that the party is being branded in the same that the primary and caucus process branded the party in the last cycle when all the talk is about shutting down planned parenthood. And when the talk is also about how W. kept us safe, aren't they losing the battle in the rest of the country, meaning outside the Reagan hall? PARKER: Yes, of course. You do have to win the general election at some point. So you don't want to get locked into these conversations that are so -- that pertain to just a small portion of the population. The group that wants to talk about vaccinations and autism, for example. Or the other conversation they have, you know, as far as -- I don't blame Jeb Bush for wanting to say something positive about his brother, but he also doesn't have to volunteer. That was a forced (INAUDIBLE) on his part, I think.
BECKEL: You know, one thing -- let me say this about the Republican Party right now, it has moved farther right in a shorter period of time because of all of this coverage.
BECKEL: Whoever emerges with this nomination is going to have to do a lot of work to get back in.
SMERCONISH: That's my point.
BECKEL: Go ahead. But remember, there's so many of these people, you want to get there to be able to have that problem. Right now, they want to get through Iowa and New Hampshire alive. That's not going to be -- that stage is going to be very, very empty after Iowa and New Hampshire.
SMERCONISH: Here's "The Wall Street Journal," gang. It says it's more likely than not that Biden is getting in. You're the democratic strategist, is that going to happen?
BECKEL: I'm not buying into it yet. But I tell you this, this is a classic -- the people around Biden, (INAUDIBLE) brothers, for example, and others, are very good at dropping these things to keep Joe stimulated, right? Now Joe's going to find when he gets to the black caucus event in Washington that the wind is going to come out of the sails because Hillary Clinton is locked solid in that group. So, I just don't think Joe, in the end, final analysis, he's lost twice, does he want to go out after being vice president and a formidable political personality and get three percent of the vote? I don't think so.
SMERCONISH: You think he gets in, Kathleen?
PARKER: Well, that was very convicing, I have to say. I would have said yes and I still think -- I'm leaning more towards he will, than he won't, the reason is because what else is he going to do? I think Joe Biden really wants to be president. I think he thinks he'll be a good president. He's going to be a formidable candidate, in the sense that no one is going to attack him. They're just going to want to treat him somewhat gently. He's so likable. I mean, if we're going to elect somebody on that basis, he is at the front.
SMERCONISH: If you were -- the next debate, CNN debate, October 13, if you where whispering in his ear and if he were going to get in, would you tell him to get in before or after that debate? BECKEL: Certainly, before. He's got a long way to go. I mean, to get ready to be in Iowa, you know, with 7,000 precincts, I think he should get in before. Look, he's vice president of the United States, what's his excuse? He can handle all these issues.
PARKER: Right, he's fluent. Yes.
SMERCONISH: It's a cycle any I've ever seen. We've all been paying attention for a while. You couldn't script this sort of thing, right?
BECKEL: No. But there have been populists in the past and there will be populists in the future. They always stir things up.
PARKER: And they always lose.
BECKEL: They always lose, that's the other good point.
SMERCONISH: Bob Beckel, Kathleen Parker, David Axelrod, thank you so much, so much for being here. I really appreciate you being in the studio today and for wearing purple.
PARKER: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Continue to tweet at me @smerconish. By the end of the program, I'll make sure that I share some of the best and worst tweets. We'll be right back to talk about Pope Francis' visit to the United States.
SMERCONISH: Is Pope Francis the reformer that liberals want him to be and conservatives fear? The Catholic leader arrives on our shores next week and is speaking to Congress but there's already been pushback on who gets to greet him.
"The Wall Street Journal" reports that the Vatican has, "taken offense at the Obama administration's decision to invite to the Pope's welcome ceremony transgender activists, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop and an activist nun who leads a group criticized by the Vatican for its silence on abortion and euthanasia.
Who better to talk about all of this than the head of the Catholic League. Bill Donoghue joins me from Garden City. Bill, what do you make of that flap that who should be in that 15,000 group to greet the pontiff?
BILL DONOGHUE, CATHOLIC LEAGUE PRESIDENT: Well, I found it astounding that the president of the United States would actually show his contempt for Catholics by bringing in people like dignity. Dignity bought in Dan Savage, the most foulmouthed obscene anti-Catholic bigot to the convention to speak in July. They bring in Sister Janine Gramick (ph) who has been told by the Vatican to discontinue her ministry. She's been told by Cardinal George and Cardinal Ward not to represent herself as a Catholic voice and these other people -- there's a whole list of them. Every time a Jewish or Muslim leader is invited to the White House, properly, they have Jews and Muslims and others who are respectful of the leader. Only Catholics are exploited this way by this president.
SMERCONISH: Do you think that the pontiff himself will be offended? You refer to this as contempt for Catholics but I keep thinking of Pope Francis as the guy who famously said who am I to judge, I get the impression he'll want everybody there, all walks of life and all perspectives.
DONOGHUE: Look, why aren't the sisters of life there? Why aren't the sisters of Mary the Eucharist insist they sit along there? No, the loyal nuns are not there. They're bringing in groups which are against Mother Teresa. They were against the lighting of the Empire State Building on her centenary. Look, the Pope has already said, the Vatican is speaking for him. They're afraid that this photo ops can be exploited to the that the Pope therefore sanctions them. It's one thing to be welcoming and to be inclusive, it's quite another to bring in people who are opposed, strikingly and publicly to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
SMERCONISH: Bill, there's a schism, apparently, within the church of those who perceive this Pope to be quite liberal as compared to previous popes. It occurs to me he's going to be hosted by some very conservative forces, meaning Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop Chipault. Do you think, we'll see any evidence of a divide within the church along ideological grounds while he's here?
DONOGHUE: I think he probably will and it depends to some extent on what the Pope talks about. Look, to put it in terms, at risk of oversimplification, what the Pope is Mike Huckabee on moral moral cultural issues and Bernie Sanders on social economic issues. All right.
He really is. That's what he is. And so if he's before the U.N. and he's talking about climate control, he's going to stay on the left. If he's talking about income inequality and he's talking about other matters and climate control, then he's going to sound like he's a leftist.
But when it comes to marriage, when it comes to the family, when it comes to things of that nature, he's going to sound much more conservative. It depends on, look, the church has always been on the left on social economic issues and on the right on moral cultural issues. The difference with this pope is that he brings them into sharp belief and depending on what issue -- if he's talking about immigration, the conservatives will get anxious. But you know what, I think all of these people ought to pipe down. Maybe they should study the teachings of the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church has been a strange political mixture all along.
SMERCONISH: There's a lengthy piece in the "Times" today that talks about the pontiff in anticipation of his arrival. It makes the point that nothing has changed with regard to church doctrine that there's a more welcoming face now on the Catholic Church than perhaps been previously. But the rules are still the rules. Those are my words, not the "Times'" words. Respond to that notion.
DONOGHUE: I would agree 100 percent. In terms of process, he's widely different. In terms of style, very, very different. When it comes down to the substantive and doctrinal teachings, people don't seem to understand it. There are certain things you can't change. For example, it's not well reported but this is what the Pope said about women priests. He said, the answer is no, the door is closed. He cited John Paul II.
Now, this is not Bill Donoghue speaking, this is what the Pope has said. So yes, there are certain things you can't change? Can you have
married priests? Can you end celibacy? Absolutely, you can do that. You can make changes on other issues? Very much so. And he certainly has. He's made the process of forgiveness to abortion widely accommodating. I think he's going to make a lot of change. Listen, we needed some changes in the Catholic Church. He's shaking things up in a way in which it can upset a lot of people, living in their comfort zone of certainty but I like him.
SMERCONISH: I appreciate your comment about him being a hybrid between Governor Huckabee and Senator Sanders. Do you expect that he's going to reset the presidential race that is now playing itself out against the backdrop of this visit? Will something he'll say maybe on climate change, maybe on immigration, maybe on a social issue?
DONOGHUE: Oh, I have no question there will be people who will seize on every word and they'll say, see that, you guys better get in line, it's already started. It depends on, it is likely that immigration, and climate control are going to be essential points. That would favour the democrats. There's no question about it.
But when he ends in Philly and he's talking about the family, he's not going to be disrespectful of gays but he said when he was the Archbishop of Buenos Aires that same-sex marriage is the work of the devil. He's not going to change that. I mean, that's him.
SMERCONISH: I have JUST 30 seconds left with Bill Donoghue. Of the many events about to play out, which one have you circled on your calendar that you that think is really going to sum up the visit? Is it the final mass in Philly, is it Madison Square Garden, what exactly -- the speech to Congress, what do you have circled?
DONOGHUE: It won't be Philly and it won't be Madison Square Garden because Madison Square Garden is a mass and Philly is mostly ceremonial.
There will be two events. There will be the Congress on Thursday and the U.N. on Friday. That's where you'll hear his more political-type speech. But don't forget, what's most exciting and driving a lot of people crazy about this is what he says off the cuff. Actually the most controversial remarks will probably be made on his way leaving from Philadelphia to go to Rome.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Bill, have a great week. I know it's a huge week for you. I wish you all good things.
DONOGHUE: Thank you so much, Mike.
SMERCONISH: Bill Donoghue, thank you for being here in my hometown of Philadelphia.
This head line on "The Enquirer" tells a different story, the church still has a lot to answer for about sexual abuse at the hands of priests and has been battling sex abuse lawsuits in the courts. Will this Pope change any of that?
Joining me now is a lawyer who has represented several victims of priest abuse. Marci Hamilton is a law professor at (INAUDIBLE) University. She clerked once for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. She's also the author of "God Versus the Gavel, the Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty." Marci, has the Pope put his house in order on this issue?
MARCI HAMILTON, ATTORNEY: Well, Michael, unfortunately, he's had a lot of nice words but he's not really done much in the United States at all.
SMERCONISH: What is it that he should do?
HAMILTON: What he should be doing is telling his bishops to treat the victims with love and with caring and not engaging in these hard ball tactics which is what he's doing across the country through his bishops.
SMERCONISH: Hard ball tactics such as what? Such as resisting an effort to say expand the statue of limitations?
HAMILTON: Well, the lobbying is very intense in a number of states, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey where the Catholic bishops have lobbied intensely and spent millions on trying to make sure that they don't get justice. But the other part of it is that when there are cases that actually make it under the statute of limitations, he's actually permitting his bishops to engage in really ugly hard ball tactics. Invoking every religious liberty theory that was ever concocted to avoid having to participate in a lawsuit.
SMERCONISH: Do you think that comes from the Vatican?
HAMILTON: I'm not sure that the Vatican is fully aware of it. I think it probably came from Pope Benedict. But Pope Francis has not changed at all the way in which these bishops operate. I haven't seen an iota of change in the United States.
SMERCONISH: Are there any plans as far as you know now for Pope Francis to sit down with any victims of abuse while he's in the United States this coming week?
HAMILTON: Not a peep. No one has heard anything. He is meeting with the family of a fallen police officer which is a wonderful thing for them but for the victims, so far, they feel as though they're being completely ignored.
SMERCONISH: Marci, you know it's anticipated that he'll say things about immigration, perhaps deliver a major address in Philadelphia using Abraham Lincoln's lectern, as I understand it. He'll also address climate change or so we've been led to believe. Do you think he'll address the history of abuse? Will he touch this issue while he's in the States and if so, what do you want him to say?
HAMILTON: I don't know if he can avoid it. But what he needs to say is that the church of mercy. That they are deeply sorry for what has happened to these victims. And when they have legitimate legal claims, the church will treat them like they're legitimate. Instead of being so interested in avoiding every single claim and dragging victims who really don't need it through the courts.
SMERCONISH: Those hard ball tactics, though, protect the resources of the church, you're arguing for Pope Francis to do something against the financial interests of the flock that he's there to protect?
HAMILTON: Well the truth of it is, most of these lawsuits are settled through a large extent through insurance. The diocese that had insurance to cover clergy sex abuse for decades. So, it's really not about the money. It's about the secrets. They want secrecy to continue. And that's what the victims are fighting for. They're trying to get some kind of sunshine.
SMERCONISH: Do you think that this visit is going to recast the political landscape with things that Pope Francis will say or do against the backdrop of the 2016 presidential race playing itself out?
HAMILTON: Well the biggest political change among religious lobbyists in the United States in recent history is with the joining of power of evangelical Christians and the Catholic bishops. It has brought them together in a way. And it's changed the message particularly for the bishops.
I'm wondering if these positions that the Catholic Church is taking is going to start creating a difference between those two lobbying blocs, and if that so, that will radically change the election.
SMERCONISH: Because the Catholics, at the direction of Pope Francis, are taking a more liberal posture? Or at least liberal for Catholics?
HAMILTON: Almost -- it's almost crazy liberal from the perspective of so many of the right wing Christians that it's going to be hard to be in the same room.
[09:30:07] They're going to continue to agree on abortion, but what about all of those other issues on which Pope Francis is now walking away from the far right?
SMERCONISH: Marci Hamilton, thank you so much for being here.
HAMILTON: Thanks for having me. SMERCONISH: Keep your tweets coming @smerconish. Up next, Carly
Fiorina's whole premise for her candidacy is that she was a great CEO, but the numbers tell a different story. I'll speak with the expert who wrote Donald Trump's favorite article on that topic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The head of the Yale Business School Jeffrey Sonnenfeld wrote a paper recently, one of the worst tenures as CEO that he has ever seen, ranked one of the top 20 in the history of business. The company is a disaster and continues to be a disaster.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[09:35:17] SMERCONISH: I thought she won. Carly Fiorina gave what many found to be a star-making performance at Wednesday's Republican debate right here on CNN. But how much of it was just that, a performance, compared with her actual track record as CEO? At one point, Donald Trump made this accusation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The head of the Yale Business School Jeffrey Sonnenfeld wrote a paper recently, one of the worst tenures for CEO that he has ever seen. Ranked one of the top 20 in the history of business. The company is a disaster and continues to be a disaster. They still haven't recovered. In fact, today, on the front page of "The Wall Street Journal" they fired another 25,000 or 30,000 people saying we still haven't recovered from the catastrophe.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN MODERATOR: Ms. Fiorina, I want to give you a chance to respond.
CARLY FIORINA (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is a well-known Clintonite and honestly had it out for me from the moment that I arrived at Hewlett-Packard.
(END VIVDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Small fact check before I welcome that well-known Clintonite. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is not the head of Yale Business School. At least not yet. He's senior dean at the Yale School of Management. But he did write this article for "Fortune" magazine, called "Carly Fiorina as a boss: The disappointing truth."
And he joins me now from New Haven, Connecticut. Professor Sonnenfeld, let's deal with the issue of bias -- are you a Clintonite?
JEFFREY SONNENFELD, SENIOR DEAN, YALE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT: No, I'm not, and I've never taken kryptonite, I don't know Superman. I have met the Clintons; I know them. I know the Bushes. But I have never been in any way on any of these people's payrolls. I've met with four -- personally, recently, with four Republican
presidential candidates for private discussions not for compensation. I often take a position, Michael, like you, as I like each candidate to try to help formulate their own positions in the best way they can to avoid the personal invective in some of the kinds of anti-social behavior we sometimes see in these silly seasons. But no, I don't work for them.
SMERCONISH: Let me show you what Carly Fiorina wrote for CNN.com just last month. August 13. She said this, "Hewlett-Packard not only survived the dot-com bust, but we also became the leader in every market segment and product category in which we completed. We doubled revenue to over $80 billion. We quadrupled the growth rate to 6.5 percent. We tripled innovation to produce an average of 15 patents a day."
That sure does sound impressive?
SONNENFELD: Michael, I feel the proverbial mosquito in a nudist colony. I hardly know whee to strike first. Every single thing in that statement, that short passage, is exactly why she shouldn't be President of the United States and why she was a disaster as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard.
SMERCONISH: But she doubled the revenues by $80 billion.
SONNENFELD: First of all - she doubled the revenues; that's not what business is about. You're trying to increase profits. The proof is in the history. Everything she bought, Michael, has been shuttered or else it was divested.
SMERCONISH: Well, what happened to profits?
SONNENFELD: Nothing. That's what you care about, is profits, (INAUDIBLE) and finances making up the value, and it went nowhere. It went nowhere in profits. And she said, well, we're in tough time. The Standard & Poor's 500, which is the yardstick for profits, in those five years for other companies was up 75 percent. Then also -- even more importantly, she sliced shareholder wealth in half. This company was worth $1 when she got in the door. By the time she was fired, it was worth 50 cents. What that means is it was actually $60 billion she erased from your and my pockets as owners of the company. And she gets $100 million for doing that. They pay her $100 million.
SMERCONISH: There was a full-page ad, in fact I saved it because I knew this day would come, it was run by a gentleman who was then on the board at HP, participated presumably in her firing. And let me just show you a paragraph of what Tom Perkins said.
He said, "Critics questioned the move but history proves Carly was right. Post merger, HP became the biggest computer company in the world. It positioned HP to compete in integrated systems and allowed us to compete in sectors beyond the core strength of the company, printers." And he concludes by saying I can attest to her abilities, her intellect, her talent. I am proud to support Carly Fiorina for President of the United States.
This guy participated in her firing, was on the board, and he says you're wrong.
SONNENFELD: This is one board member who never minded speaking to the press about confidential board deliberations, then or more recently. What he said in the cover story of "Fortune" magazine on why Carly Fiorina was fired 2005, written by the dean of financial reporting, Carol Loomis at the time, he was very open about what a colossal failure she was in style and substance. He was the guy who was actively militating for her firing. If he had a change of heart, now I don't know why, if he did though, why hasn't he hired her in the last ten years? Why hasn't anybody hired her in the last ten years?
[09:40:02] If she's so great -
SMERCONISH: Has she held any CEO position since HP?
SONNENFELD: She's not only never held it, she's never been offered it.
SMERCONISH: When her tenure at HP was raised as an issue in her 2010 Senate campaign against Barbara Boxer, this commercial was aired, and it significantly changed the direction of the race. The race has been neck and neck until this hit the airwaves. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD NARRATOR: CEO of HP Carly Fiorina laid off 30,000 workers.
FIORINA: When you're talking about massive layoffs, which we did, perhaps the work needs to be done somewhere else.
AD NARRATOR: Fiorina shipped jobs to China. And while Californians lost their jobs, Fiorina tripled her salary, bought a million dollar yacht, and five corporate jets.
FIORINA: I'm proud of what I did at HP.
AD NARRATOR: Carly Fiorina outsourcing jobs, out for herself.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: I'm Barbara Boxer and I approve this message.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: In the California race, were these issues raised by the media or only by Barbara Boxr running against her?
SONNENFELD: The media got on to it late in the campaign, thanks to Barbara Boxer and her team raising them. But to tell you the truth, among we intimate friends here, that ad is too tepid. It was too light. It was too mild. There's so much more that could have been brought across in that campaign -- her imperious leadership style, there are many things that were documented, how dissent is equated with disloyalty. She would hire platoons of lieutenants who would question her and challenging her own board members. It's a leadership style much more akin to Russia or China today than public office here.
But also her own strategic flip-flops are so confusing. Before she went after Compaq Computer, she'd announced was the exact opposite strategy of what she wanted. Meg Whitman, who's a fantastic CEO of HP, has had to sell off the final vestiges of that in just recent weeks.
SMERCONISH: Yes, but Meg Whitman just laid off 30,000 people. I mean, by that standard, you could be making the same comments about Meg Whitman.
SONNENFELD: These aren't people that Meg Whitman hired and fired. This is the legacy of Carly Fiorina. This is Compaq stuff they should never have bought. Meg is just trying to get HP back to where they were. And this is -- it's really a shame. Yes, these are -- this was the ill-fated legacy - the legacy of the ill-fated acquisition that's haunted them still. Most businesses were shuttered.
SMERCONISH: Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, thank you so much.
SONNENFELD: Thank you very much.
SMERCONISH: Up next, what secret treasure trove did I find at the Reagan Library that would help several of the candidates vying for the Gipper's job?
[09:46:37] SMERCONISH: Donald Trump should have toured the Reagan Library before he debated at the Simi Valley venue, because he could have found hidden in the vault what I did, a piece of advice from the Gipper that might have saved Trump's campaign.
See, within the Reagan Library there's a permanent exhibit showcasing index cards on which the great communicate indicator handwrote his famous one-liners for use in after dinner and campaign speeches. According to the library display, Reagan began making such notations in the 1950s and for 40 years; it was his practice to keep them in a makeshift photo album. The 3 x 5 cards holding his favorite one- liners were wrapped with a rubber band and kept in his briefcase.
Reagan Library executive director John Heibush told me that the note cards were almost left to history. They can discovered during the Reagan centennial, the 100 anniversary of his birth.
Well, touring the Reagan Library last week on the eve of the GOP presidential debate, I spied a note card in Reagan's hand with a line that Trump would have benefited from reading. It said this: "Never start an argument with a woman when she's tired, or when she's rested." Trump violated that sage advice when in the presence of a "Rolling Stone" reporter he spotted Carly Fiorina on television and blurted out, "Look at that face, would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?" After all the attacks on immigrants and so many others, in that moment
he started an argument that finally turned the tide against him. And when given the opportunity to respond to Trump's offensive statement, Carly Fiorina took the high road.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIORINA: You know, it's interesting to me. Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly in what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Arguably, Trump's critique of Fiorina's appearance elevated her profile, which contributed to the number of questions that came her way. You could say that Trump ensured she received more than her fair share of face time.
And Trump's comments about Fiorina are just the type of behavior that had caused Reagan's eldest son Michael to tell me here recently that he believes Trump is the least Reaganesque of the lot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL REAGAN, RONALD REAGAN'S SON: Ronald Reagan didn't attack the people around him. He didn't demean the people around him. You know, he brought everybody together at the end. If Republicans don't bring everybody together, at the end of the day, we do not win elections. We're the smallest bus in the building. We don't have the ability to throw people off the bus and demean them. We have to figure a way to put people on that bus and move it forward to Washington, D.C. And I don't think that Donald Trump is the guy who in fact fills the bus with those people that he has demeaned as he goes in fact through the system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: You know, many expected Trump to go after Ben Carson in the debate, but the Donald played nice with the doctor. Perhaps Carson should also take a tour of the Reagan Library and pay attention to another note card that I saw in Ronald Reagan's handwriting. It said this: "Beware of those who fall at your feet. They may be reaching for the corner of the rug."
Your tweets coming in all hour. The best and worst are next.
SMERCONISH: I always say you can tweet at me if you can spell Smerconish and many of you have this hour.
Charlie Corona says, "Smerconish, I hope that all the analysts that were wrong should be fired. Trump should not correct the audience idiot." I'm wondering if Charlie Corona is the guy who asked that question of Donald Trump.
The Average American tweets at me and says, "Trump has no honor, no integrity, no policies. If he won't stand up for the truth, he won't stand up for the average American." I made the point he can't expand his base if he doesn't take a guy like that on in the audience.
Sports Nightly: "Michael, wanting Trump to be P.C. or answer things the right thing is wishful thinking. He's not a politician. That's his Trump card."
[09:55:05] It's funny, I had a caller to my radio program this week on Sirius XM say every time you people in the media think he made a gaffe, he only reinforces our support of him.
And, arguably, my favorite tweet is this one. Presidente Trump says, "You make some interesting points, ask some provocative questions, but you should smile more, Michael"
I get the joke. I said after the debate that I thought Carly Fiorina had won but that she needed to smile more, just exude a little bit more warmth, that's all.
I'll see you next week when I'm with Chris Cuomo in my hometown of Philadelphia, covering the arrival of Pope Francis.