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Group Of Senators Propose New Gun Control Bill In Wake Of Oregon College Shooting; Interview with Jack Welch. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 3, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. That's it for us.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: See you at 10:00. "Smerconish" starts now.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Might this time be different?
I'm Michael Smerconish. Welcome to the program.
Another sad chapter in our national epidemic of deadly shooting sprees. Nine shot dead in an Oregon community college classroom and everybody's reaction was well here we go again.
President Obama got angry about how this has become much too routine. Jeb Bush is under fire for shrugging and saying stuff happens. But was he making a legitimate point and will any thing change. I'll talk to Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal who is introducing a gun control bill this Tuesday. Larry Pratt, head of the Gun Owners of America, who says guns-free zones are the problem. Psychiatrist Gale Saltz who warns that simply blaming mental illess is wrong.
First, the latest news, trying to combat years of congressional inaction, Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy representing the state where the 2012c Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took place are introducing new legislation on Tuesday that would bar gun sales until background checks are complete.
Richard Blumenthal joins me now from Stanford. Senator, if we couldn't get something done in this realm post-Sandy Hook when we had 20 young individuals, young Americans slain in a school setting, why might this time be different?
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: This time should be different. History shows that time is necessary to accomplish effective measures to prevent gun violence. The president of the United States, Ronald Reagan was almost assassinated. And Jim Brady paralyzed. It still took 12 years to accomplish the Brady bill.
In Stockton, California, more than 30 people were mowed down by an assault weapon. In fact, an automatic machine gun. And the ban against assault weapons took five years to accomplish. So every reform has a kind of tipping point. I think that this incident, this tragic, horrific, unspeakable tragedy, much like Sandy Hook could be the tipping point.
And that's why we're introducing a very common sense, sensible measure to close the loophole in the existing law. So that no gun will be sold without a background check.
SMERCONISH: What is a default sale? Explain, because I think people probably don't understand that this even exists.
BLUMENTHAL: Absolutely right. The default sale, in essence occurs when 72 hours have passed. And the background check is incomplete. At that point, the gun dealer, a licensed gun dealer is permitted, not required, but allowed, to make a sale.
In other words, if there's no completed background check, the sale can go forward. Now Walmart voluntarily has said it's not selling guns to any one without a background check. We've asked bass pro, easy pond, collabris (ph) to do the same voluntarily, they have failed to respond and that's why in part in this tragedy as an added reason we're going to introduce this bill to close a loophole.
But more broadly, Michael, the background check has to be extended to all sales, not just federally licensed dealers but universally. There needs to be other measures as well.
SMERCONISH: Senator, would any of the recent mass shootings have been presented if what you're advocating and will introduce on Tuesday had already been law?
BLUMENTHAL: (inaudible) the shooter in Charleston, South Carolina would never have accessed that weapon if he had been required to get a background check. He obtained a gun in spite of his criminal record because the background check was incomplete.
And the point is not only that specific instances would have been prevented but simply, that America can be made safer by keeping this wash of weapons out of the hands of dangerous people. Right now, the law forbids that a convicted felon to have a weapon but 15,729 people deemed ineligible have bought guns over the past five years, that's 15,729 people who, in effect were ineligible to buy a weapon under existing law. (inaudible).
SMERCONISH: Yesterday, Ohio Governor John Kasich who is running for the presidency on the Republican side of the aisle said this. "You can strip away all of the guns but the people who are going to commit crimes or have problems are always going to have a gun." Doesn't he make a valid point?
BLUMENTHAL: He makes a point that access to guns right now is much too easy, by various means. And in a sense, the weakest link in the system, among the state, can populate the rest of the country with guns. [18:05:03]
Because our boundaries and borders are so porous, that illegal trafficking means that guns can spread across the country. Come to New York or Connecticut with tough gun laws, through the means of transport from the southern states where there are relatively weak laws. So, he's right that right now, we have a lot of guns reaching a lot of people who shouldn't have them. That's why a comprehensive approach is necessary. It's not just one law. It's ban on illegal trafficking.
SMERCONISH: This is your starting point, is what you're saying?
BLUMENTHAL: And the starting point really has to be politicizing in a good way this issue. So, that elected officials can be held accountable. Because we face a public health emergency.
SMERCONISH: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thank you for being here.
BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Let's now get the other side, joining me from our D.C. bureau is Larry Pratt, he's the executive director of Gun Owners of America. Mr. Pratt, doesn't he make a valid point, the senator, in saying that you shouldn't get a gun permit or a gun purchased by default. You ought to at least undergo that background check?
LARRY PRATT, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA: If you look at the recent mass murders, in fact, for quite some time, they get their guns legally. They don't have a previous record that's going to trigger anything. So we're dealing with the fact that there are evil people who are going to do terrible things as this dirt bag did in Oregon.
And what we need to change, and what I hope the senator, one of these days will take a look at, since he wants to look at things in a comprehensive fashion as he said, look at the laws that are denying people the ability to defend themselves. That was a gun-free zone in Oregon as so many - of all but two of our country's mass murders since 1950 have occurred in such gun-free zones.
I think that's a clue that we ought to be changing it and the senator doesn't get that memo.
SMERCONISH: Are you telling me that you will oppose that measure which he will introduce on Tuesday which says if 72 hours elapses and the background is not completed by default, the person ought to be able to purchase the weapon?
PRATT: Sure - he's not addressing -
SMERCONISH: Sure, you'll oppose it. Respectfully, I just want to know, yes or no, are you going to oppose that measure?
PRATT: Sure, we're going to oppose it, absolutely. SMERCONISH: But why, why should someone, just because of bureaucratic
ineptitude, hasn't completed a background check, why by default should they get the weapon?
PRATT: And that way, we're going to feel better that everything is going to be OK if the background check is finally accomplished?
SMERCONISH: I'm going to tell you something, as a firearm owner. I have multiple firearms all under lock and key at home. So I don't want you to think that this is some left wing hit job. I'm going to sleep better as an American knowing that whomever is purchasing a weapon at least has been investigated if the 72 hours isn't enough time then it should be extended before they get the gun?
PRATT: Even though it's been shown that it hasn't been addressing the problem. The problem is that we're disarming the good guys. Making them sit there and wait for a bullet. Which is what happens with a mass murder in a gun-free zone. And I think that is outrageous that we're not talking about the senator's love for gun-free zones.
SMERCONISH: So your answer, and I don't want to be too simplistic is, more Americans should be armed? What you're saying is take away those gun-free zones and instead allow people to carry everywhere?
PRATT: Would it have happened if some of the potential victims had been armed in that English classroom?
SMERCONISH: I don't know, because that presupposes that a person who was armed would have reacted appropriately and frankly there's no requirement that an individual would have to be trained to respond in that kind of a circumstance.
I say to myself if one of my four kids were in that classroom and someone would have pulled out a weapon with the best of intentions maybe they would shoot my kid by error?
PRATT: You know, if that's really going through your mind, maybe you ought not go to class. The fact of the matter is you can't point to something like that that actually happened. You're trying to argue against my position with a what if, could if, sort of thing. It just doesn't happen.
SMERCONISH: Respectfully, you raised - wait a minute -
PRATT: The guy at the scene of the crime knows who the attacker is.
SMERCONISH: You raised the what if scenario, by saying what if someone had a gun in this school and could have taken this gun out. I want to show you two slides. You can react to them.
Here's slide number one which shows that the U.S. has 29.7 homicides by firearm per one million people. Look at that, just by sake of comparison, Germany has 1.9, Second slide, we have 4.4 percent of the world's population but 42 percent of the civilian-owned guns are here in the United States.
Doesn't that mean we have more homicides, because our firearms are more plentiful?
PRATT: Actually, when you look at the time frame that you selected, it's obvious that you've cut out two world wars, concentration camps and other means of mass murder that were perpetrated against disarmed populations in Europe. So, no, it's much more lethal to live under a gun control regime than it is in the United States where you can protect yourself.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Pratt, thank you so much for being here.
PRATT: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Now, many are saying that the fault isn't with guns but with mental illness but is that actually the correct diagnosis?
Joining me now is psychiatrist Gail Saltz. Gail, thank you so much for being on the program.
GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: I read something in the "Times" today from the online work of the shooter whose name I'd rather not say but I want to put it up on the screen, and get your analysis of this.
He said "I have noticed," he's now talking about the Roanoke shooter, so this is the shooter from Oregon talking about the Virginia shooter. "I've noticed that people like him are all alone and unknown and yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. Seems the more people you kill, the more you're in the lime light." Does that seem to you that this is a guy who wanted his moment in the sun, even if he's not here to "enjoy it"?
SALTZ: Well, he's right - I mean he's right that we and the media do propagate and give fame, even if it's infamy to people who do this. And so when you are an angry, disenfranchised young man, and you feel that you've got nothing going on that maybe the place that you turn to, does that mean you were mentally ill in the classic sense that people who want to say that mental illness is the issue - no, that is not schizophrenia, that's not bipolar disorder, that is not the severe kind of mental illness that would be flagged and prevent you from buying a gun. That is not the kind of person that would come into the system. They will not be hospitalized. They will not see a therapist.
They do have certain things in common that make them more likely to participate in something like that. Data show that there is the past history of violence. Of any sort, of any interaction with the law, of any arrest, a past history or current history of substance abuse. A past history of early trauma. So there are certain things, and of course, access to guns, those things correlate with mass shootings and they correlate with any kind of gun violence.
SMERCONISH: I don't have your expertise, obviously, I look at this incident, I read as much as I can about his background and to me there are striking similarities with the guy at Sandy Hook. SALTZ: Yes.
SMERCONISH: In so far as they were estranged from their fathers. Living with very protective mothers.
SMERCONISH: Have access to firearms. Were Loners, et cetera, et cetera. I bet there are people watching who say, gosh, I know someone like that in my orbit, in my family, in my social circle. How do I know if they have that extra characteristic of actually being violent?
SALTZ: Well, the reality is, they can't know, we, mental health professionals can't know - I'm unhappy that President Obama say mental health in his talk yesterday because it gives people the impression that there is some sort of flag that we can specifically know. However, if they do have a history of violence, if they are abusing substances, that does raise the risk.
And what should one do? Well, if we want to supply the mental health system with methods of helping these kinds of people, there could be crisis centers. More crisis centers for people who feel angry or disenfranchised or the mother of the son who is not functioning and who is angry and disenfranchised and buying guns to bring them in, to report them. We as physicians should be able to report, and we're not in many states asked if someone has a gun and take a gun away, if they are meeting these criteria.
SMERCONISH: You just heard Senator Blumenthal explain that on Tuesday, in the U.S. Senate, he'll be introducing legislation that says if 72 hours passes and a background check has still not yet been concluded by default, an individual shouldn't get a weapon.
SMERCONISH: And then Mr. Pratt, my guest from a pro-gun lobby says we're going to oppose even that?
SALTZ: Right. That makes it seem completely like a political issue. I would add to background checks and I think, of course -
SALTZ: That we should be screening for people who have any history of arrest, of any violence, of substance abuse, because those are the things that from the mental health perspective specifically correlate -
SMERCONISH: The libertarians will go crazy with that.
SALTZ: I know they will. I know they will but if they're going to look at the data, that's the way to do the screening. If they want to ignore the data and say our rights trump any data that correlate, we're not going to look at the science and we're not going to look at what correlates with gun violence, then it has become a completely (INAUDIBLE). SMERCONISH: I think I know how the president feels. As much as I enjoy your company and respect your opinion, I'm tired of having this conversation with you.
SALTZ: And I'm tired of having this conversation as well. We keep spinning a circle because one side tries to say it's mental illness, which it's not, and the other side tries to say something else. We need to look at what is the data? We need to use the data that is available. And those should be the screenings, if we want to supply mental health, I'm all for that, for goodness sake. We're all (INAUDIBLE).
SMERCONISH: Gail, thanks. Thank you for being here. Gail Saltz.
I now want to know what you think. Tweet me @smerconish. I'll read some of the best later in the program.
Coming up, Donald Trump finds religion. Check this out. Anybody buying that image?
And Jeb Bush's response to the shooting was stuff happens. Did he have a legitimate point?
Also Kevin McCarthy's bragging about derailing Hillary Clinton may cost him the speakership of the House. Who could take his place? To weigh in on all of that and more I've got one of TV's legendary dynamic duos, Morton Kondracke. He and Fred Barnes, who do they like for 2016, who do they don't like. May I wet your appetite with this classic parody of them from "SNL" by Dana Carvey and Mike Myers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Presenting inside opinions and forecasts on major issues of the day. With Morton Kondracke, Fred Barnes.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Now that Bush has (INAUDIBLE) Buchanan off his shoe, will his platform be affected by one iota by the views of Pat Buchanan!
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Well, John, I think I've made significant inroads into the Republican --
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Wrong!
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Well, I think Pat ran a decent case.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Wrong! Tony Maroney!
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Well, I don't think Pat has anything to be ashamed of.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Wrong! He had no impact whatsoever.
(END VIDEOTAPE) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SMERCONISH: I want to get to the political implications of that horrific shooting story in Oregon. Today Jeb Bush under fire including from President Obama and here's why - this comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I had this challenge as governor because we have - look, stuff happens. There's always a crisis and the impulse is always to do something. And it's not necessarily the right thing to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So let's get into it with these two wise men. You know them from their legendary run on the Mclaughlin Group. Fred Barnes is co-founder and executive editor of the "Weekly Standard," Morton Kondracke's resume include "Roll Call," "Newsweek" and the New Republic. Morton, sorry, I've waited my whole life to be able to say that to you on TV.
MORTON KONDRACKE, FORMER EXEC. EDITOR, ROLL CALL: That's all right. It will be on my headstone.
SMERCONISH: Well, hopefully, that will be a hundred years from now. Let me just say that together, you have authored an overdue book. I'm so glad somebody wrote it. It's the two of you, "Jack Kemp, the Bleeding Heart Conservative who Changed America." We'll get into that in just a moment.
May I put up on the screen the full response of what Jeb Bush said relative to this shooting incident. And it was in response to a question of whether more prayer would be helpful. He said, "we're in a difficult time in our country and I don't think more government is necessarily the answer to this. I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It's just very sad to see. But I resist - I had this challenge as governor. We had - look, stuff happens. There's always a crisis. The impulse is to do something and it's not always the right thing to do."
Fred Barnes, was he being tone deaf or was he making a point about a tendency of over reaction on the part of policy makers?
FRED BARNES, CO-FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "WEEKLY STANDARD": No, I think he made a good point. There is always this overreaction. The media has a lot to do with that, of course, what happened in Oregon was horrendous but is there a federal role that has to step in here? Obviously, Senator Blumenthal thinks so. I'm not so sure.
SMERCONISH: Morton Kondracke, what's your thought as to what Jeb said?
KONDRACKE: Look, this is the second time when he said the other day, something about the free stuff. I read the entire quote. He was obviously not talking, saying that African-Americans are intentionally dependant and waiting around for free stuff. He was saying that what democrats do is that they offer a government solution with benefits in order to buy the votes of minority groups.
Now that's a perfectly legitimate thing to say. This I think is perfectly legitimate but, you know, everything you can say that can be interpreted as a mistake is being used against you. And you've got to just got to be very careful. And the way to do that for him is to be positive and have solutions to stuff instead of being as passive as he is often.
SMERCONISH: Fred, why is he stuck? There's a brand-new Pew Research survey. I'll put it up on the screen. It shows Jeb Bush - he may have $100 million in his account for his PAC. But he's at four percent in the poll, why can't he get, as his father would say, the big mo on his side?
BARNES: Well, he's running a terrible campaign. I mean, that's the obvious reason. And the campaign is looking at the past. He's running on his record as governor of Florida. It was really a fantastic record. He was an extremely successful governor, but he left, you know, nearly 10 years ago. Presidential races are about the future. I think Jeb Bush has a terrific tax reform plan that would spur the economy which is stagnated under President Obama.
And he needs to talk about that, make that and other proposals that he has, of things that he would do as president that are forward-looking, that are in the future, instead of running on his record which is something that voters don't seem to know about.
KONDRACKE: The other -
SMERCONISH: Go ahead, Morton.
KONDRACKE: The other thing I would say is, you know, he has a Kempian attitude toward the world but it's positive. He always says in these debate, we are on the edge, of the greatest time in world history. I look forward and see great hope. Well, that's fine, except that the public thinks that we're in terrible shape. And we are. That median incomes have not risen for 25 years. We have a stagnant economy. What he's got to do is acknowledge that we're in trouble.
God knows we're in trouble in foreign policy. You have to acknowledge that and say, here's what we're going to do about it. I mean, Trump is getting the whole benefit of everything that's going wrong just saying I'm the guy who is going to fix it. And by the way, everybody else is stupid.
SMERCONISH: And you're going to get bored with winning. Hey "SNL" comes back tonight, Hillary is going to be on "Saturday Night Live." Earlier this week, Kevin McCarthy seems to have done an enormous favor for her. Let's watch this clip and then you'll dissect it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFED MALE: The question I think you really want to ask me is how am I going to be different?
UNIDENTIFED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) But go ahead. That is one of my questions. Go right ahead.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: I know that you're going to ask it. What you're going to see is a conservative speaker that take a conservative Congress that puts a strategy to fight and win. Let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Fred, when he links the Benghazi Commission to her dropping numbers he's confirming the existence of a vast right wing conspiracy, no?
BARNES: I don't really think so. Look, I have a bias here. I know Kevin McCarthy quite well. My son actually works for him. I think it was inartfully said. Because he was saying look, he seemed to be implying that this was done politically to get Hillary Clinton. When you see what the committee has actually done, the Benghazi committee, they have been very straight.
Look what they uncovered. We wouldn't know anything about the server. We wouldn't know anything about the e-mails, we wouldn't know anything about the 400 or more highly classified, maybe they weren't marked that, but classified material that was going over this unprotected e- mail system that Hillary Clinton had. We wouldn't know any of that, that's what's hurt her. It's not because this Benghazi committee has been political.
SMERCONISH: Morton, is he ready for prime time? I mean, Kevin McCarthy?
KONDRACKE: He's not ready. He was sucking up to Sean Hannity. He was giving Sean Hannity an answer that he wanted. What have you accomplished as a member of Congress?
Well, as a matter of fact, you don't even know about this - maybe you do - the House of Representatives has passed a huge increase in medical research funding sponsored by Fred Upton of Michigan. Which - which is a positive development that will benefit the entire country. Does anybody know about it?
I mean, Kevin McCarthy ought to be citing things that have been accomplished by the Republican House, if they have. The things that have been.
SMERCONISH: Gentlemen -
KONDRACKE: -- that benefit everybody, not just the Republican Party. SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, I've got to ask you the question because you've
written now the definitive book on Jack Kemp. What would Jack Kemp think of Donald Trump leading his party?
KONDRACKE: He would be totally disgusted. He is - look, he was - when he died he was unhappy with where the Republican Party was going. This is off a cliff. Jack Kemp is the antithesis in every possible way except high energy of Donald Trump. Jack Kemp was in favor of citizenship for illegal immigrants with good records.
He was in favor of free trade. He was in favor of positive ideas. He never assaulted an opponent, he would - the whole idea of running by division is something that had he would be absolutely against.
SMERCONISH: Look, I work for him, as both of you know, and, Fred, I pulled from your book just a couple of reminders. A guy with a strong bipartisan streak. Supportive of tax cuts, possessed the forethought to oppose the Iraq invasion. Willing to oppose an effort to deny public service to illegal immigrants including education to children. He was equally reverential of MLK and Abraham Lincoln. He was utterly incapable of launching a personal attack.
Final question for Fred Barnes, could Jack Kemp have competed in this incarnation of the GOP?
BARNES: Yes, I think he would have been the voice of the Republican party. I think he would have been a dominant figure that the party would be banner.
SMERCONISH: Wait a minute, you think in a party where 52 or 53 percent are supportive of Trump, Carly and Carson would have any time for Jack Kemp?
BARNES: Yes, of course, look, Jack was not a guy with ideas. Jack was a very dynamic figure. The Republican Party needs him now. There's also a lesson, I think from Jack Kemp for President Obama. President Obama is going to be remembered as the president who wouldn't compromise. A lot of what he's done is going to be a race by the new president if he or she is a Republican.
Kemp was always ready to compromise. And the things that he succeeded in are things that are now part of the fabric of American society.
SMERCONISH: Well, I agree the country has a need for him. Whether this incarnation of the GOP would be receptive to him is a whole different question. Anyway, gentlemen, thank you. The book is tremendous.
[18:30:02] I really appreciate you being here.
BARNES: Thank you.
KONDRACKE: Thanks, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Coming up: Trump and Fiorina, both CEOs, claiming their experience qualifies them to run the country. Well, does it? I'll ask someone who should know. Former CEO of G.E. Jack Welsh is here. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SMERCONISH: Is America ready for a CEO-in chief? More to the point, are CEOs qualified to run the country?
Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina are currently two of the top three GOP candidates in the polls despite having zero experience in elected office. And Trump has said that he'd like to name a CEO as his secretary of treasury. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Specifically, who do you think -- give us a name on Wall Street that you might consider as a secretary of treasury that would a guy to negotiate?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll tell you what? I like guys like Jack Welch. I like guys like Henry Kravis.
[18:35:01] I'd love to bring my friend Carl Icahn.
I mean, we have people that are great -- we have people that are better than any of their negotiators. We don't use them, Joe.
TRUMP: We use people that are soft and weak and frankly stupid and incompetent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Well, who better to ask about the whole CEO phenomenon than one of those people Trump named, former CEO of G.E., Jack Welch, who joins me from Las Vegas.
Jack, if he asks, will you serve as his treasury secretary?
JACK WELCH, FORMER G.E. CHAIRMAN AND CEO: No.
SMERCONISH: Why not?
WELCH: Michael, I have got a wonderful life. I'm doing my thing. I'm out in Vegas talking to groups. I've got my school. I've got a lot of things on my plate. And I don't want a full-time job.
SMERCONISH: Does the CEO skill set transfer, do you think, to the White House?
WELCH: Well, parts of it do, clearly. I mean, there's no question that leadership, making decisions, setting priorities, differentiating between priorities, absolutely would it translate. Now, some of the give-and-take, some of the negotiating skills, that would depend on the person.
SMERCONISH: Your tenure at G.E. was legendary, a 1981 to 2001 reign. The stock value increase 4,000 percent if I'm not mistaken. Do you think that Jack Welch could have gone from G.E., from 30 Rock to Pennsylvania Avenue?
WELCH: Well, I probably wouldn't have been elected because I'm too opinionated.
SMERCONISH: Well, listen, that's Trump's blessing and his curse, right?
WELCH: Could I have done the job? I think, absolutely. Would I have the skills to do that job? Absolutely. Could I be elected? Would I want to run? Would I want to be in that milieu? Absolutely not. And I don't think I'd be elected.
SMERCONISH: Isn't that both Trump's blessing and his curse that he is so opinionated, that he is so un-muscled?
WELCH: Well, it certainly made this race a lot more interesting. I mean, it's almost must-see TV whenever he shows up. I've talked to groups that on the last week or two, a groups of thousands -- the first question on Trump, Trump is on everyone's mind.
SMERCONISH: Yes, I have the same experience with my radio callers on Sirius XM. And I can't take my eyes off the Trump phenomenon either. But I guess the serious question is whether he has the temperament to be president of the United States. What does Jack Welch think about that?
WELCH: Well, I'll tell you this -- I've had two or three experiences with him in business and he sure gets things done. We had a real estate project, you probably saw it in New York. It's called the Trump International Tower in Central Park. It was going bust. We owned the building. We found Trump. We gave him some sweat equity. He got the whole thing going, he fixed it in record time, and we walked away with $170 million from a wrecked building.
So, I mean, he gets things done. Now, now whether or not -- I'm not here endorsing him. I'm just saying he is a doer. There's no question about it. He gets things done.
SMERCONISH: Let me ask you about another CEO on that stage and getting a lot of attention. Carly Fiorina, of course, was the CEO of HP. Your stock value increased 4,000 percent. Hers went down 52 percent.
Is that a fair metric on which to judge her tenure at HP?
WELCH: Well, I had a longer tenure. I had more time to build my team. (INAUDIBLE) was hired away from a dysfunctional board at HP. And she may not have had the right chance or opportunity.
I'm not here to judge her. Her tenure in high tech at a very difficult time, I'm not that close to judge. And she got there, she fought through a maze of jobs in life to get there. And she's been very impressive, surprisingly so to me on the interviewing circuit, on the debate stage, she's been impressive.
SMERCONISH: I know that it's important to Jack Welch that Republicans take the White House in 2016. So, who else on the stage is catching your eye thus far? Give me another name.
WELCH: Rubio, Cruz, Kasich.
SMERCONISH: Why does Jeb Bush's name not roll off of Jack Welch's lips?
WELCH: You know, not to quote Donald Trump, but he hasn't inspired me with his energy and his commitment to making this country grow again, to make this country -- he's got a great record in Florida. He's certainly a very attractive man.
But does he have the fire in the belly today to change the direction of this country?
[18:40:03] SMERCONISH: One question about the other side of the aisle. You want to see Joe Biden get into this?
WELCH: Well, I -- my view is, the Republicans ought to be careful for what they would wish for. They were happy to have Hillary lose the last time. And they got President Obama. If they keep pushing on this on this thing too far, and Joe comes in, I think he'll be a tougher competitor than Hillary to beat.
SMERCONISH: Jack Welch, don't put it all on red before you leave that town.
WELCH: I won't, Michael. Thank you so much for having me.
SMERCONISH: Thanks for being here.
SMERCONISH: Up next -- Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, big time historian David Maraniss, on Obama's gun policy, and what it means and the fascinating new book on one of the great cities, which gave us cars, music and so much more. How Detroit fell so far. Can it ever come back?
[18:45:15] SMERCONISH: It's become all too common for President Obama to play consoler-in-chief. Fifteen times he sought to comfort us after mass shootings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've had to make statements like this too many times.
We must insist here today, there's nothing normal about innocent men and women being gunned down where they work.
This is becoming the norm. And we take it for granted.
We can't tolerate this anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: The president's been pushing for tougher gun legislation to no avail. David Maraniss is a Pulitzer Prize winner, noted historian. He joins me now from Detroit. His latest book "Once in a Great City" is all about Detroit's fall from an American success story to a symbol of urban decay. We'll get to that.
But, David -- let me tap David Maraniss the historian and ask, because you wrote a book about Barack Obama titled "The Story", how tied is his legacy to the mass shootings that have occurred on his watch?
DAVID MARANISS, PULITZER PRIZE WINNING JOURNALIST: Thank you, Michael.
You know, I also wrote a biography of Bill Clinton. And I'd like to start by saying after Clinton's presidency, when he asked what his greatest regret was, he said it was his failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda.
I think that with all of the problems that President Obama has faced that after his presidency, he might say it's his failure to stop the issue of mass shootings in United States of America.
He has given many eloquent speeches and now finally he's expressing this frustration and anger. But I think his regret might be that after Sandy Hook, he didn't everyday keep pounding away and talking about this, instead of just waiting for the mass shootings and giving those eloquent speeches.
SMERCONISH: Yesterday, he said the main thing he intends to do is talk about it. You've chronicled the '60s like no one else, and I was thinking to the myself, if it were LBJ, he would have been horse collaring people up on Capitol Hill and try to cut some kind of a deal. Is President Obama just too polarizing figure to ever to be able to get the Republican votes that would be needed?
MARANISS: Well, I think that's half of the equation. I think that the politics in the United States are too polarized. I wouldn't put all of the blame on President Obama.
SMERCONISH: Right, and I didn't mean to. It's a pox on both of their houses, I think.
SMERCONISH: Hey, David, Detroit, like so many of other big cities, has been plagued by gun violence. Like many Americans, 2011, you're watching the Super Bowl when that Eminem Chrysler commercial comes on and it really impacted you. How? Why?
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MARANISS: Well, it brought all the iconic images of Detroit. The Joe Lewis fist, the Diego Rivera mural of Detroit industry, and it hit me in a deep way because I was born in Detroit. And that got me thinking about what I could to do to write about Detroit in its magical moment, what it gave America. Cars, Motown, strong labor under United Autoworkers, Walter Reuther, the strong civil rights support during that deep period of the '60s.
So, I wanted to write about that moment of magic and incandescence in Detroit, but also the shadows of what was to come.
SMERCONISH: Life can be luminescent when most vulnerable. What does that mean?
MARANISS: That means at that point, 1963, everything seemed to be shining in Detroit. And yet, all of the shadows of what was to come were there. The structural problems of it being a one-company town and the auto industry especially abandoning Detroit, emotionally if not financially, the rational tensions that have been building in Detroit.
Ever since World War II, really, when there was a major race riot there over housing and jobs, the same frustrations that played out again in 1967 after -- just after my book, the difficulties that so many urban places were facing, in terms of a declining population. Sociologists in 1963 predicted that the city would lose a half million people a decade from then on. And sadly, they were correct.
SMERCONISH: They were right. I loved your treatment of Lee Iacocca, a good Lehigh man, and the rollout of the Mustang. And it occurred to me as I read the book, ironically, Detroit, while making those cars, was taking itself down because dares gave mobility to individuals who were living in Detroit and other cities escape to suburbia.
MARANISS: That is so much the effect of unintended consequences. In two ways, in Detroit, those freeways and the cars were just -- were sort of tearing apart the traditional African-American communities in Detroit, making it easier, for the same time, whites to get out of the city and making it harder for blacks to keep their communities intact.
SMECONISH: David, only you could watch an Eminem Chrysler commercial and then write a stellar book as a result.
[18:50:03] Thank you so much for being here and paying homage to your hometown.
MARANISS: It's always great to talk with you, Michael. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: That's David Maraniss.
Your tweets today are very revealing and the best are coming up.
SMERCONISH: I always say, you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish. A lot of interesting tweets this hour. Put this one up.
Dan The Man, writes to me. This is because we had Larry Pratt on the program saying it is all about gun-free zones. Dan the Man says, "Blaming gun-free zones for gun violence is like blaming drug-free zones for drug abuse." Point well-taken.
[18:55:00] Then there was Kristin on the subject of gun violence who tweeted at both myself and Dr. Saltz. "A lot of these parents are asleep at the wheel. How did this mom not see a need to take guns away? Unreal."
I raise the point with Dr. Saltz saying, geez, my kids have some of these characteristics. At what point am I supposed to report or do something? That's the tough call.
But my favorite tweet of the week has to be from Jacob Adler who says, "@smerconish, Trump and Fiorina created jobs. What have you done besides sitting there like a star-spangled kid in your herringbone jacket?" Mr. Adler, do you know how many jobs were created by making this coat?
Thank you for your tweets. I will see you back here next week.