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GOP Pres. Candidate John Kasich on CNBC Debate Controversy; GOP Candidates Bash Liberal Media; Political Battle Over Not Prosecuting Cosby; Surviving Politics, TV, and Addiction. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired October 31, 2015 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:01] VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: "SMERCONISH" starts right now.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish, the GOP is at war against the media and why not? Can you believe these outrageous questions that we're asked at the Republican debate. To Donald Trump, you once told a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice" it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Or this one to another candidate, would you really let a mother die rather than having an abortion? And even worse, to Jeb Bush, to the families of those who died in that war, how do you look at them now and say your brother's war was a mistake?

Wait a minute, those questions from the debate hosted from Fox News back in August and nobody complained. At CNBC's debate this week, there was some snark, but the questions weren't that different. I'm not alone in noticing this. Eric Wimple at "The Washington Post" had the same observation.

Now the RNC has cut ties with NBC News for a future debate. I've got three experts ready to weigh in. Former CNBC anchor Ted David, journalism school head and former CNN anchor Frank Sesno and senior editor at the Federalist, Mollie Hemingway. But first, representatives of the GOP presidential campaigns will meet tomorrow night and decide how to proceed, one won't be there.

The one candidate on the stage who this week claimed to enjoy the questions. Ohio Governor John Kasich who some described as the only grown-up in the sand box. He joins me from Beverly Hills, California.

Governor, on Friday, Reince Priebus, the head of the RNC, sent a letter to NBC ending the relationship for the upcoming February debate. He said the CNBC debate was conducted in bad faith. It seems like you're the only one among the Republican candidates not beefing about the way in which that debate was moderated. Explain that to me.

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, look, you play the cards that you're dealt, Michael. I don't like this format. Harry Truman could never have been elected president of the United States with a 30-second or a 60-second kind of response. Who can rev people up the most in all that. It's just the way it works right now. Look, if I had my way, I would break this down into smaller groups. And I would give everybody more time to talk about who they are and what they believe. So I'm not satisfied with the way this works. I love these kind of interviews where I can talk on somewhat of an extended basis to you so people can get to know who I am.

But you know what? I got to tell you, Michael, at the end of the day, think about this, my dad carried mail on his back. My mother had her mother live with us, could barely speak English. I'm running for president of the United States, I'm standing on the stage with all these folks, god bless America, you know, I'm pretty happy about all of this at the end of the day.

SMERCONISH: Governor, I've taken the time to compare the transcripts of each of the debates thus far. I don't notice much of a difference. Perhaps in tonality. But then again, I'm not the guy standing on the stage, you are. Do you think there's been a discernible difference in the type of questions put to the candidates?

KASICH: You know, I've never really thought about it, Michael. I mean I never saw the democratic debate so I can't compare that. I can say that in the first debate, I felt, you know, the questions were fair. They asked me some questions that were interesting. In the third debate, you know, they asked me a lot of questions, and I didn't feel anything was below the belt.

The second debate was like demolition derby. I didn't get asked any questions. I don't want to spend my time talking about the process of the debate. However they set it up, I'll show up and do the best I can to let people know who I am. It's not just something I'm focused on.

SMERCONISH: Governor, was there a particular moment on the campaign trail that caused you to say, enough, I've got to deliver this message?

KASICH: So I want you to know, I'm fed up, I'm sick and tired of listening to this nonsense. And I'm going to have to call it like it is, as long as I'm in this race.

Well, look, when I started hearing talk about not continuing to have a strong Medicare and Medicaid program, that we can either do away with it or we can, you know, kind of choose if we want to be part of it or not, that was alarming to me because our Republican party and the conservative movement is important to me. But ideas like that are just out in left field. And they tend to scare people.

I saw these things continue to be put out. I just got to a tipping point. Look, this is not unusual to me. A lot of times I've spoken out on what is conventional wisdom in my party. I believe the Republican party is a conservative party that puts government as a last resort, not as a first resort and we need dramatic change. We can't throw things on the wall and hope it sticks.

Or to think that, somehow, putting a chicken in every pot is going to work for us. Because I don't think it does in a general election and I don't think it's good public policy.


SMERCONISH: Without saying their names you are, of course, making specific reference to specific proposals from Donald Trump and from Ben Carson. As I heard you in the debate, here's what occurred to me, it seems that on the democratic side of the aisle, right now, they are rewarding experience. On the Republican side of the aisle which seems to be selling, I'll use your word, is fantasy. Why the disconnect?

KASICH: Well, look, I think people are very frustrated. Republicans are very frustrated, they elect a majority in the House and the Senate and they feel like they're not getting anything. I understand that. We worry about the middle class family. I come from middle class. People feel though the system is not working. Politicians are not telling the truth.

You know, Michael, for me, I play sort of both positions, I've worked with the establishments but I've been also an outside-the- establishment guy. I've been a reformer all of my life. I've shaken a lot of things up and stepped on a lot of toes. But at the end, it's not about pontification, it's about reform and it's about enactment. You have to achieve things and your aims have to be exciting, innovating but achievable.

SMERCONISH: Governor, it has to be frustrating for you, you were chairman of the House budget committee at the time when we had a balanced budget. So you paid your dues, and you had success as a legislator. Then you see individuals enter the political arena who have never been elected to anything. I'm referencing Donald Trump, I'm referencing Ben Carson, I'm referencing Carly Fiorina who then rocketed to the top of the polls by saying things that are off the rails.

KASICH: Well, look, I don't mean to have any personal attacks on anybody. But what I can say is that you imagine calling your mother and saying she's going to lose her Medicare. And could you imagine again what it would be like in a family of somebody who came here illegally but has been law abiding when they get the notice that they're going to have to leave and maybe leave their children here?

When you hear those things, I think somebody's got to stand up and call it out. I do think we need a fence. I think we need to control our border for sure. But if you're a law-abiding person that has lived here, we'll give you a path to legalization, not a path to citizenship. It is important that we control our border. We lock our doors so people don't wander into our homes.

The country has a right to control its border, too. To say we're going to pick 10 or 11 million people out and shove them out of here, do you remember after World War II when they imprisoned Japanese and what a dark spot, a dark stain on our history. The idea that we're just going to deport all of these people is not going to happen. And it's just not right.

So it may be appealing right off the bat for people who are frustrated about illegal immigration. And I am, too. And, Michael, the thing I want people to know is, look, I'll take a team to Washington to get our budget balanced and grow our economy. But what's equally important is that people realize that we have to strengthen the family in this country. We know it's been weakened. We have to strengthen our neighborhoods. You and I grew up in ethnic neighborhood where people cared about one another, where our families were strong. We need to bring that back as well. A leader can set the tone. But really, at the end, it's families and neighborhoods that make America strong. When that weakens, we're all weak.

SMERCONISH: Governor Kasich, thank you for being here.

KASICH: God bless.

SMERCONISH: So was this week's GOP debate unfair? I just heard John Kasich say that you've got to plate cards that you're dealt.

Joining me now former CNBC anchor Ted David, Frank Sesno, the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University and Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at the conservative website The Federalist.

Let me begin, Frank, with you. That was the man you say won the debate. But you also say the debate was a mess, why?

FRANK SESNO, DIRECTOR OF MEDICA AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Because it was. Because I think - it suffered from a number of things. First of all, expectations. People saw CNBC doing the debate. This is the business channel, the economy channel, this is the jobs channel. They promised a real focus. There was an opportunity to focus and it did not happen.

Second of all, a number of the questions that were asked lacked follow-ups. I, too, went back and look at the previous transcripts, Michael, of the earlier debates. If you look at how Anderson Cooper ran the democrat debate. First, two things come to mind. One, this is no free pass for liberals. They've been asked just as tough questions as conservatives.

And secondly, he fold up. When one candidate teed something up, another candidate disagreed with, he asked that candidate to comment. He tried to generate a real discussion and debate. That didn't happen in the CNBC debate. Finally, the whole kind of spectacle of trying to ask clever question, snarky questions with a screaming audience behind them. Ten candidates, six different people asking debates led to what I would call a format meltdown. There simply wasn't the structure to the debate that could have, should have happened there.


There were real issues, differences among the candidates to have debated. Just what Kasich said, does Medicare get ended, do we ban the IRS? Do we raise the retirement age? There was a moment here to draw the candidates out and that is what I think was missed.

SMERCONISH: Ted, is this your former employer. I want to show everybody a clip that I think sums up, at least to my eyes and ears, CNBC. It's not exactly MSNBC. Let's all watch this and remember the origin of the tea party.


RICK SANTELLI, CNBC COMMENTATOR: This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise their hand. All right. President Obama, are you listening?


SMERCONISH: I mean, to the extent that there's any ideology attached to CNBC, I don't know that there is, I would view it as a pro-business republican more than democratic oracle, you work there, tell me.

TED DAVID, FORMER CNBC ANCHOR: I would tell you that what I just saw there, I'm not there to trash my former colleagues or the network because I love the place. I was the first anchor on the air there.

However, that kind of behaviour is totally unfitting for a news person. This is what I find troublesome in the media these days is that media characters are now becoming the news. They are supposed to cover the news. This is not Howard Beales screaming if you're mad as hell youb can't take it anymore, open your windows and scream? Why is he doing that? He's a bond reporter in the pit supposed to tell me why interest rates are headed higher or lower.

SMERCONISH: Did they pick the wrong team. I mean there's a deep bench -- Ron Insomna -

DAVID: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: ... is a guy whom I have tremendous respect why was not (INAUDIBLE).

DAVID: I brought some notes and there it is. My feeling is this, first of all, these are all good people, I worked with Becky, I worked with Carl, I worked with John Harwood. They're good people. However, if you're invited to play Carnegie Hall and you're the conductor, you send your virtuosi.

It doesn't mean that your second chair or third chair is bad but you want to send your first chair.

SMERCONISH: You threw a flag on John Harwood long before the debate even took place. What was it that caused you concern about him even going into it?

MOLLIE HEMINGWAY, SENIOR EDITOR, THE FEDERALIST: I was just so surprised when I found out he would be moderating the debate because the RNC has said they were going to take control of the debate process. Not have people who were too biased against Republicans. I follow Harwood's work. He's a fine journalist. But it's totally obvious that he supports democratic candidates and he's very hostile to Republican candidates. You see this on his work on CNBC, at "The New York Times" and

particularly on twitter. He loves what Hillary Clinton is doing. He will defend any aspect of her controversial scandal. Benghazi, email, whatnot. There's nothing Republicans can do that is good enough for him. It was a very weird choice. I don't understand why the RNC which should have seen this coming allowed it to happen.

SMERCONISH: Let me assume for the purpose of this discussion that everything you've just said is correct. What's wrong nevertheless with having - I'll use the word "antagonist" be a questioner? Doesn't that make the candidates be more on top of their game? Because after all, come the general election, somebody is going to have to stand on the stage with Hillary Clinton? Maybe that's actually good prep.

HEMINGWAY: It actually is. And you saw that the candidates did very well, all of them, except for Jeb Bush did a very good job. In fact, they may be even able to get away with not having more substantive answers because of the way the moderators were acting.

There are two problems, one is that democrats don't get that same level of hostility and condescension and disdain that you see from moderators who are asking conservatives or Republicans questions. So I think you'd see much less anger about the treatment of conservative candidates or Republicans if you were seeing just that same level of anger and hostility between the democratic candidates.

SMERCONISH: Right. And I 'm not here to defend any hostility or any of the snark because I want to make it clear, there was snark. But when I looked at the transcript, I do see a lot of substance. I mean that opening question to Trump was a substantive question until the cartoon reference.

Frank Sesno, I want to show you something because I'm wondering what's to come in the debates that are still to unfold. There's a Ted Cruz great one-liner that played out.

Let's all watch.


TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The questions that have asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media.

This is not a cage match. And if you look at the questions, Donald Trump are you a comic book villain, Ben Carson, you can do math. John Kasich, will you insult two people over here, Marco Rubio, why don't you resign, Jeb Bush, why are your numbers falling? How about talking about the substantive issues?


SMERCONISH: Frank Sesno, is that going to put future questioners in short pants before the debates even begin? What will be the ripple effect? SESNO: Oh, I don't think there's going to be much ripple effect except to note if you're there and you're a moderator, you're likely to be attacked if the candidates don't like your question.


I think there's something really important to note here. You know, to some extent, Cruz is right, there was a degree of snark, as he said, you know, asking Trump about being a comic book character. But the fact of the matter is all those candidates could have and should have been pressed on those issues at some point whether it was appropriate at that particular moment, in that particular debate. Let's leave that to the side.

But the credibility of Trump's candidacy, whether Marco Rubio missing all the votes he's missing should prompt the resignation. That's fair game just as Anderson Cooper - let me come back to this, asked Bernie Sanders if a socialist could be elected in our country. Or asked Hillary Clinton if her flip-flops on an array of issues really deserve the kind of support or could win her the kind of support that she's asking for. They should be asked tough questions to defend their positions and then engage with one another so that the public can figure these people out.

SMERCONISH: Go ahead, Ted.

DAVID: But when CNBC is the host of the debate should the questions have not been more targeted, what do you think the future of the European Union is? Is the euro still viable? What about interest rates? Who would you appoint as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve? Is Janet Yellen doing her job? What about commodities? How would you help the farmers? None of that was asked.

SMERCONISH: You're right. Mollie. I have Mollie - I have to say this, if the questions were about the Euro and Ted is

right, there should be questions about the euro, are 15 million people really going to watch?

HEMINGWAY: Absolutely. I think the people are interested in any number of questions dealing with the economy. I think that's what the candidates are prepared for.

But I just want to say also I don't think we should be so defensive about the criticisms and say there will be no changes in the future. The media landscape is changing and the ability of mainstream media to be that gate keeper between politicians and the people is going away. I mean Yahoo! just streamed an NFL game to how many millions of people. And conservatives and Republicans are fed up. The time to debate whether there's a bias among conservatives is over. The question is whether journalists will do a good job of reflecting on this and thinking about how they can improve the relationship or whether they're going to lose their role as gate keeper.

SESNO: Michael, may I (INAUDIBLE).

SMERCONISH: A quick comment (INAUDIBLE) you can respond. SESNO: Yes.

SMERCONISH: It's in the party's best interest candidly that they scale back the debates. It might not be in CNN's best interest and all the other networks, but I think the party gets wounded if there are eight more debates. The democrats probably have a wiser idea in limiting the number because it doesn't have to brand long term. Take the final word.

SESNO: I think that's probably right. So they've got to manage their profile and what's going to be effective. I totally agree that this debate should have been issues of the economy. And that again is what the public is expecting. That's why I think CNBC has taken so many knocks. Where are the jobs? What about income and equality? What about the markets? What about - all of that. That's part of it.

None of this, though, excuses those who want to say for some reason the candidates shouldn't be pressed on the tough questions as well. That goes with the territory. Put them together, ask the tough questions about the economy in this debate, you would have had a winning formula.

SMERCONISH: I agree, you're running for president of the United States. I agree. Frank Sesno, Mollie Hemingway, Ted David, three pros. Thank you for being here. I neglected to mention, on my website, 1411 people have voted. It's a 50/50 deadlock as to whether the questions were fair. Tweet me @smerconish, I'll share some e- mails later in the program.

And breaking today, the man who gave more money last year than any donor in the country to Republican presidential candidates has now made his pick. And I'm about to tell you who it is, in a moment.



SMERCONISH: Jeb Bush had a tough week. He swung at Marco Rubio in the debate and took a tough counterpunch in the process. Now comes news that Paul Singer, a much sought-after wealthy Republican donor is casting his lot with Rubio.

Joining me to talk about that and much more, Matt Welsh, editor in chief of "Reason," the libertarian magazine, SE Cupp, nationally syndicated columnist, author and political commentator and Bob Beckel, he managed Walter Mondale's presidential campaign in 19834. SE, what's the significance of the this front page story about Marco Rubio landing the big donor?

SE CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Paul Singer is the big donor. He was the biggest donor for the last cycle for Republicans. He's a really interesting guy. One of - a number of Republicans now decided they're in favor of same-sex marriage. But he's very, very influential. And to pick Marco Rubio at this early stage in the game I think signals that he thinks Jeb Bush, for all of his other donors and infrastructure is not going to go the long road. The long haul. And he thinks that Marco Rubio is the most electable, in a general election.

I happen to think he's probably right. I think he's looking at a matchup with Hillary Clinton. And sees Marco Rubio as the best contrast to her message.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Bob, let's address this conjecture that Jeb could get out. Nobody gets out with $100 million in their super pac bank, right?

BOB BECKEL, MANAGED WALTER MONDALE'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Oh, no, that's right. I mean, look, what gets people out of presidential politics is when their treasury comes and says, you're burning $1 million a day you don't have. That gets you out. It's not that you don't think you can win or you hit something right down the road.

But, at what the debate the other night for Bush particularly was a donor debate. His donors were watching this thing very closely. They looked at a time, expecting him to do better and he didn't. I think you're going to start to see more erosion on his donor base. Nonetheless, he's still got a lot of money in the bank.

SMERCONISH: You, libertarians like to think outside the box sometimes, so let me think outside the box with you, relative to Jeb. Is it possible his strategy was successful? Marco Rubio went back to Washington and voted at 3:00 a.m. Friday morning. So he pulled him off the campaign trail and Rubio now is going to face scrutiny on his voting issues in a way that he otherwise would not have, maybe Jeb was right.

MATT WELCH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REASON MAGAZINE: I think that's more like Rand Paul being right than Jeb being right because Rand Paul has a voting record that's like 98 or 99 percent. He's the only one who can make that critique. I don't anyone cares at the end of the day about Marco Rubio's voting record. I think everything Jeb has done so far in this campaign has been terrible about winning elections.

I disagree with Bob, I think it's more than just a burn rate which has been terrible already but humiliation can get you out of a race. Jeb Bush has humiliated himself so far and Marco Rubio really humiliate him during that debate by saying hey, look, I know your advisers told you to do this, there was a mistake.


SMERCONISH: I think that his problem, SE, I'm going to show you a clip on this, is that he just doesn't transmit having fire in the belly. Roll this audio.


JEB BUSH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I got a lot of really cool things that I can do other than sit around being miserable, listening to people, demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SMERCONISH: I mean, I get, SE, the point that he was making. But does that sound to you someone who really desires to be the president?

CUPP: No, I think, to put it another way, I wrote about this this week in my column, he doesn't show that he can win. And what we like, what voters are liking about the candidates, whether it's Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio at that debate, Trump, Carson, they show that they can win. And Jeb Bush has constantly either been unprepared for even predictable attacks that would come at him. Or unable to land the punch.

He went after Marco in that debate. He was unable to win the point. Marco did it. I think he's misread most political opportunities that have come up. Another good example, he's been calling Marco Rubio the GOP Obama. You know, Obama won twice. One time against Hillary Clinton. So actually, I think that sort of missed the mark. And gave Marco Rubio, gave voters a vision of someone who can come out of the Republican field and win in a general election.

SMERCONISH: I think you make a great point. I don't know if you caught my interview with Governor Kasich at the outset, but what Kasich said to begin the debate is the kind of thing I expected Jeb was going to say - he's a guy who two years ago said you've got to be prepared to lose primaries to win the general.

Bob, I want to ask you about one of the other supposed front-runners. And that's Ben Carson. Because there was some controversy raised in the debate about his association with Manitech (ph). Here's the question that was asked.


UNIDENTIFED MALE: This is a company called Manitech (ph), a maker of nutritional supplements with which you had a 10-year relationship. They offered claims that they could cure autism, cancer. They paid $7 million to settle a deceptive marketing lawsuit in Texas and yet your involvement continue, why?

BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, that's easy to answer. I didn't have an involvement with them. That is total propaganda, and this is what happens in our society. Total propaganda, I did a couple speeches for them. I did speeches for other people. They were paid speeches. It's absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of a relationship with them. Do I take the product? Yes. I think it's a good product.


SMERCONISH: He said "absurd that I had any relationship with Menatech," OK, let's watch this.


CARSON: A wonderful thing about a company like Menatech is that they recognize when god made us, he gave us the right fuel. And that fuel was the right kind of healthy food. And that's why I was drawn toward Menatech. Because it recognized, you know, the influence on health of natural foods.


SMERCONISH: Beckel, Politifact, the Pulitzer-prize winning website said that Carson was false in what he said at the debate. Does that something like this stick?

BECKEL: Well, it can stick and it should stick. By the way, what I was saying before about burn rate was it's not necessarily about Jeb Bush, it was about everybody in this thing. Listen, Carson lied. He just flat lied. I mean there's enough evidence out there now that the "Wall Street Journal" (INAUDIBLE) and a lot other people, he was with them and involved with them for a number of years even after they paid the fine for false advertising. So I think he's now going to be asked, wherever he goes to please explain what he meant. Because what he said just was not right. It was a flat-out lie.

SMERCONISH: Well, he might be asked that, Mr. Beckel, but I'm convinced, Matt, when tough questions now come up, the rogue response of the Republicans will be this is more media bias. I mean, then there's Carly Fiorina this week with Allison Camarada (ph) on CNN, was asked about planned parenthood and her response, I can't believe that I'm being asked about this.

WELCH: One of the problems that Ben Carson would have with that defense is that the people who have been writing about this are the "Wall Street Journal" and "National Review" and people that are not exactly card-carrying members of the liberal media elite necessarily, but I'm not sure this is going to stick.

Because we've seen an entire primary season in which the two leading candidates, total outsiders, recent converts to the Republican party have said consistently things that are approvable untrue. Donald Trump cannot talk for five consecutive minutes without saying something that is laughably true. Oh Mexico doesn't have first rate citizenship. Oh, we don't accept Syrian Christian refugees.

[09:30:02] He says nonsense all the time. But he can say, in response, like, look, that's just the politically correct, you know, establishments trying to tell -- make people act in a certain way. So, I'm not sure when this stuff is going to stick, if ever, especially if it's on a more tangential issue like your relationship with some weirdo drug company.


SMERCONISH: I want go around the horn.

Go ahead, Bob. Quick response.

BECKEL: I was going to say quickly, those days of getting away with that and getting fast are behind them. They're about ready to face voters. And the voters get very serious about these things. And these questions are not able to be kissed off like by this for either Trump or for Carson.

SMERCONISH: I'm not sure about that.

S.E., do you buy into that, because I think that now, the defense against, quote/unquote, "media bias" is so is strong that those hardcore GOP voters, they don't care?

CUPP: Certainly, when it comes to Trump and Carson, it seems -- that seems to be the case. I mean, not only is Carson's defense I was never involved with that company provably wrong, in the next breath, he says, but I use the product.

So, you know, ostensibly, he's distancing himself from a company because he has been discredited. But also as a doctor says, but I still believe in the product. That is -- that is something that deserves some scrutiny. I'm not sure like Matt says that his supporters, his voters are going to care that much that he either is lying or has pretty questionable judgment as a doctor. They just don't seem to care about that right now.

SMERCONISH: One word --

BECKEL: S.E., you and I -- you and I could do an ad right now and absolutely crush Carson on that.


SMERCONISH: One-word answer from each of you. Who won the debate?

S.E., you first.

CUPP: Marco Rubio, 100 percent, as well as the party. I mean, the CNBC debate shambles really made the party look very, very good.


BECKEL: Rubio and Kasich because that's going to be the ticket.

WELCH: Rubio, without question.

BECKEL: As McLaughlin would say, Rubio, Kasich and Cruz is the correct answer.

Thank you, Matt Welch, S.E. Cupp, and Bob Beckel.

Hey, Bob, stick around, because I want to ask you about this unbelievable memoir that you have penned "I Should Be Dead: My Life Surviving Politics, TV and Addiction." I have read it. It is not a typical book by a pol.

And something you don't want to miss. CNN special report, "BUSH V. GORE: THE ENDLESS ELECTION." It's Monday night 9:00 p.m. East, with CNN's chief political analyst Gloria Borger taking a look at one of the craziest, most controversial elections in U.S. history. George W. Bush's victory in 2000.

Also coming up, Tuesday is Election Day. And in my home county, the top election issue is Bill Cosby. And I'm about to explain why. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:36:53] SMERCONISH: Election Day is Tuesday.

It's a state and municipal cycle, and yet, the biggest issue in my home county is Bill Cosby.

Here's the story, Bruce Castor is the former D.A. now the commissioner of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. And he wants his old job back. When he had it, he earned a reputation as a tough prosecutor. But it was on his watch in 2005, a Temple University employee reported that she'd been drugged and molested in the county by Cosby. Castor determined there was not enough evidence to criminally charge Cosby.

The woman then filed a civil suit which was settled out of court. And in that deposition for that civil suit, Cosby made incriminating statements. That new information came to light only after Castor left his office. But it hasn't stopped his opponent, Kevin Steele from going after Castor in a campaign commercial. Take a look at this.


ANNOUNCER: Bruce Castor, a former D.A. who refused to prosecute Bill Cosby. Caster said we don't charge people for making a mistake or doing something foolish. Many more victims came forward and Castor admitted he could have used their testimony against Cosby.

But Castor didn't even try.

Bruce Castor was not looking out for the victims.


SMERCONISH: So, now, Castor has responded in kind. He's aired his own commercial, and he claims that Steele, now the county's first assistant district attorney, should have himself prosecuted Cosby when the new information came to light.


BRUCE CASTOR, FORMER D.A.: By now, you've heard my opponent's ad saying I did nothing to protect the other victims of Bill Cosby. These women's identities become available only after I left the D.A.'s office and lost the power to enforce the law.

But, Kevin Steele could have done something because he's still a prosecutor who chose to do nothing at all. Now, he's trying to blame me for his mistake and incompetence.

Despicable, desperation politics, disgusting lies, Kevin Steele had the power to help victims of Cosby, but he sat on his hands.


SMERCONISH: Reportedly, the current D.A. who is about to retire and herself will probably be elected judge on Tuesday, is considering filing charges against Cosby before she leaves office. Pennsylvania's 12-year statute of limitations on felony sex crimes will run out in January. And that's the same month that either Castor or Steele will take office.

So, here's the thing, don't be surprised if one of these two men who are right now arguing over who should have charged Bill Cosby is actually prosecuting Cosby in 2016.

Before Bob Beckel became a star on FOX News and now a regular contributor to this program, he lived in a brothel and woke up on George W. Bush's inauguration day in a psych ward on suicide watch. I'm about to join Bob about his amazing journey from addiction to redemption.


[09:44:04] SMERCONISH: This is a hell of a book. Bob Beckel just wrote it. "I Should Be Dead: My Life Surviving, Politics, TV and Addiction."

I have to tell you, Beckel, I thought I knew what I was getting when I cracked the cover, you know, another pol with a memoir. I had no idea. Why should you be dead?

BECKEL: Well, a number of reasons. Mike, I was -- you know, I've been shot. I've been stabbed. I've been in car wrecks that everybody else died, and I didn't.

It really was, during that period in my life, when I lived in the dark world, where I was -- during the day, I was playing a political consultant and working in the White House and State Department. And at night, I lived in a dark world where every con artists had a con. And where there was a lot of very dangerous things that went on. And I participated in a lot of them. And I survived.

And it was only by the grace of God I'm now convinced I survived.

[09:45:00] I thought I survived because I was lucky. But you don't get that lucky that many times.

SMERCONISH: W. gets sworn in, you're in Washington, you're nearby, but you're at the capitol. Where are you?

BECKEL: I was down in a biker bar in southern Maryland. And I was trying to pick a woman up at a bar in 2001. And I sort of felt something behind me. I turned around and her husband had a .45- caliber stuck right in my face. And he pulled the trigger. He had not chambered the bullet. And the second shot, somebody grabbed him from behind, blew a three-foot hole in the ceiling.

So, when I was thrown in the parking lot before I passed out, I said, "God, if you exist, and I didn't believe in God at that point, if you exist, I won't ever drink again." And I haven't. It's been 14 1/2 years.

SMERCONISH: You ended up in a psych ward at G.W., am I right? BECKEL: Yes, I did. I ended up in a psych ward and in suicide watch.

They thought I was going to kill myself which -- and I woke up and saw the largest person I've seen in my life. It was a black woman, about 6'7", 400 pounds.

I said, "Why don't you take a walk?" And she said, "If I walk and you jump out that window, I'll lose my job." I said, "What's your job?" She said, "Suicide watch". I said, "Who's going to kill themselves?" She said, "You are."

Well, I'll tell you, by the time that woman left, she would much prefer being in the dementia than with me, I can tell you.

SMERCONISH: I got to say that, having read the book, I now appreciate and understand that a lot of what you've been through is the way in which you were raised and that's not excuse or crutch, but it's a reality. My heart breaks when thinking of your father coming into your tenth grade history class. What happened?

BECKEL: Well, he came in -- my father was a great teacher when he was sober. But my father was a lifetime drunk, and he came into the class, he was totally drunk. He couldn't get a sentence out right. And eventually, the teacher took him out of the classroom. That was the end of it.

It was the most embarrassing moment of my life. I remember it as if it were yesterday. That was something that happened again and again and again.

And those of us who come from abusive families, you know, they always say about us, that we don't have a chance to succeed. Well, the fact is, we're survivor. We learn how to succeed. We learn how to duck. We learn how to lie when we have to. Great training to be a politician, I might add.

And so, I went into politics. But a lot of people in Capitol Hill, particularly, you go down the list, Ted Kennedy, others, come from abusive families. Whether -- in my case, it was physical and verbal. In Ted's case, it was verbal. But you tend to be successful until the demons catch up with you, and then eventually, you become addicted.

SMERCONISH: You come to Washington when you're 24 years old. Your first residence, I'll use your word, is a whore house, and it's not the final time. Talk to me about that chapter.

BECKEL: Well, I was trying to find work as a political consultant and I came to Washington two weeks after the elections, and somebody finally took some pity on me and said, you know, the elections were over, they're not hiring political consultants.

So, I happened to be in a bar, and a guy came down to the bar, offered me a drink. He had a hard hat on. He said, "What you're going to do?" I said, "I'm going to go back to Connecticut. I can't make it here."

And he said, "You know, I came here 30 years ago and tried to get a job as a carpenter, I couldn't find one for three months. Finally, I did and I stayed." And this guy left and I said to the bartender, "Is that guy for real? He offered me a job down in the metro, building in the metro in Washington." And the guy said, "You know Bob, that's the new president of the Carpenter and Joiners Union."

So, I went down and work to the metro, carrying boards at the deepest subway spot, at DuPont Circle, in the entire system. It was hard work and it also caused me some difficulty with some people.

SMERCONISH: All right. And just so you don't think I made it up, and you slept in a brothel that night and for many nights thereafter. I must ask you this -- you go on, of course, to be a superstar in the political consulting realm. '76 is a huge year for you. And then at '84, you manage Walter Mondale's campaign.

And then you go on to superstardom over at FOX. What happened at "The Five"? Because when you left, they said that you took tremendous advantage of their generosity and empathy and goodwill, you don't address discuss the circumstances around your departure. What's your explanation?

BECKEL: Well, Mike, you know, we had an agreement that we wouldn't talk about this publicly, but regrettably, somebody at FOX broke that already and said something about, we're not going to hold the show hostage.

The fact of the matter was I was addicted from pain medication from a back operation that lasted ten months. I could not sit for an hour to do a show. We had it back and forth, we argued with each other, and finally, it was just decided that it was time for me to move on.

So, yes, I have no regrets about the years at FOX, and I -- particularly Roger Ailes who was good to me. But I'll tell you, that I'll never understand, ever understand why it ended up the way it did -- although now that I'm with CNN and with you all, I'm very pleased.

SMERCONISH: Can I tell you? I love the book, I would not say it if I didn't mean it, and I'm just thrilled that we're associated with one another at this network.

[09:50:04] So, congratulations on "I Should Be Dead". We're all glad that you're not dead.

BECKEL: Thank you very much. I don't think I've got many more left in me, so I'll --every day is a free pass for me, Mike. And I'll take advantage of it.


Coming up, your best and worst tweets to me and more.


SMERCONISH: Remember, now, you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish.

Here's some of what came in this hour:

Tony says, "@JohnKasich sounds like the voice of reason within the GOP field. Too bad that doesn't matter these days."

I made the point to Governor Kasich at the outset of the hour.

[09:55:01] I said, the D's seem to be looking for experience and R's seem to be looking for something more incendiary. Maybe that will change.

Marcio says, "Smerconish, 50/50, laugh out loud. It is the ultimate bias. When will you guys learn we are not idiots?"

This is in response to a current poll at my Web site as to whether the CNBC questions were fair. And I tell the truth, it's running at 50/50. And 1,500 people have voted thus far.

Finally, from Uncle Johnny, he says, "Just look into the eyes of @smerconish and tell me you don't see crazed madness."

Uncle Johnny, it is Halloween.

Have a great Halloween, everybody, and I will see you back here next weekend. Follow me at Twitter if you can spell Smerconish.