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Is Media Too Tough on Ben Carson?; Interview with Ray LaHood. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired November 7, 2015 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish. Here is the question today - are we in the media being fair to Dr. Ben Carson? Is CNN being fair to Carson?
He's now the Republican frontrunner, according to "The Wall Street Journal" and NBC News. I have long admired his personal story and respected his reputation as a physician. In fact, I remember first hearing his name years ago when practicing law. And he performed a complicated surgery on a young boy from Pittsburgh who was my client.
The parents of that young man regarded Dr. Carson as a godsend. The story of his rise from a small home in Detroit to world class pediatric neurosurgeon is the type that makes all of us proud of our country. But some of what he himself has written and said about his background is eyebrow raising.
That he once punched a classmate with his face in his hand wrapped around a lock leaving a bloody three-inch gash on the boy's forehead. Or that he attempted to attack his own mother with a hammer. Or that he tried to stab a young friend who was spared only by a belt buckle that snapped the blade. These stories are important to Carson's narrative of personal redemption. After trying to kill his friend with a knife, he said he found the lord.
When you rise in the polls you get more scrutiny. But when CNN tried to learn more about the incidents that Carson himself has described. He cried biased. He told Alisyn Camarota that CNN's reporting on his past was a bunch of lies, garbage and an attempt at distraction. And just last night Carson said this is a witch hunt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. BEN CARSON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All you guys are trying to pile on is actually going to help me. Because when I go out to these book signings to thousands of people, they say don't let the media get you down. Don't let them disturb you. Please continue to fight for us. See, they understand that this is a witch hunt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: No, Dr. Carson, running for president while telling your life story in a way that raises curiosity. And then not answering questions, that's the distraction. We wouldn't know these things unless Carson himself had written and said them. And here's the irony. The net effect of the last few days probably helps him among conservative caucus goers in Iowa. Who will both respond to his religious epiphany and his criticism of the media.
By the way, I believe legitimate cases of media bias should be called out. But if Carson or any other candidate tries to cloak himself or herself from reasonable scrutiny, on matters raised by their own words, that, too, needs to be exposed. We are picking a president of the United States here.
Now to tackle these questions, I've invited no liberals instead three conservatives - radio host Larry Elder, blogger Crystal Wright and "Daily Caller" editor, Matt Lewis. I'll get to them in just a moment.
But first joining me now, Sean Spicer, the chief strategist for the Republican National Committee.
SMERCONISH: Sean, Tuesday night is the next Republican debate. According to NBC News and "The Wall Street Journal," the frontrunner of your party now is Dr. Ben Carson. He was on this network on Friday morning. Here's what unfolded.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARSON: It's a bunch of lies. That's what it is, a bunch of lies. Attempting to say that I'm lying about my history. I think it's pathetic, and basically, what the media does is they try to get you distracted with all of this stuff, so that you don't talk about the things that are important.
Because we have so many important things. And I'm not proud of the fact that I had these rage episodes. But I am proud of the fact that I was able to get over them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I don't know if you saw it in "Realtime," I'm sure you've heard about it, you have now seen a piece of it. What do you make of that relationship between Ben Carson, Dr. Carson and this network?
SEAN SPICER, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHIEF STRATEGIST: A lot of times as conservatives, we feel like members of the media want to attack or destroy us. I think he feels that way now. Now as far as the accuracy of the reporting of CNN and his story, I really haven't kept track of the tic toc and that's really up to his campaign and CNN to go through. But I think that a lot of times conservatives feel like there's an attack mode from the media when it comes to conservative and Republican candidates.
SMERCONISH: Let me tell you something, face to face, that I've said relative to the RNC and see if you differ.
I have said that this type of take-on-the-media mentality plays very well with the base. It could help you win the Iowa caucus. But it bodes poorly when you're trying to win over voter independents in a general election. So that when Ben Carson won't answer some of the questions put to him by CNN and says this garbage or a pack of lies. He's only delaying the inevitable. It helps him in Iowa but I don't see someone like that being able to defeat Hillary Clinton, am I wrong?
SPICER: Wait a second, look, you look at Hillary Clinton with the e- mail scandal, with Benghazi, the level of evasion that they've had, the attacks that they've had had on the media. That's what I think is the problem, Michale is that when it comes to Republicans every one says "oh, you guys are so dismissive. It's always the media's fault, da, da, da."
When Hillary Clinton makes the same claims, everyone rushes to her defense and says, "you know what, you Republicans have been too tough on her," and she's answered that question. I mean, there is such a huge double standard when it comes to how the media treats Republicans and how the media treats Democrats. That's just - it's a fact.
SMERCONISH: I don't know if it's a fact -
SMERCONISH: Can I say, it may have been a fact 30 years ago when really there were very few outlets. And I would concede to you, generally speaking they were left of center. But Hillary Clinton, like the first question put to her in the only debate thus far was by Anderson Cooper. And the gist of it was, how in the world are you going to get elected when so many Americans find you untrustworthy? I mean not exactly softball.
SPICER: No, it's not.
But it was one question. I think when you look at - again, as I pointed to you this idea that we're getting softball questions is nuts. That first debate on Fox was serious, hard-hitting tough questions. There's no one. In fact, the moderators in that thing got praised by the liberal media by saying, you know what? They did ask tough questions.
I think the problem with the mainstream media is that they don't understand the toughness, intensity, scrutiny and intelligence that conservative media brings to the table.
SMERCONISH: Well, what I'm arguing is that a Fox-only constituency cannot get your man or your woman elected. Here's one more clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARSON: I can't believe that you used to work on Fox and you've turned into that. I can't believe that. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm glad that you brought that up, Dr. Carson, because you also said something about Fox News that I'd like to play from that very same speech. Let's play that clip about your thoughts on Fox News.
CARSON: Even if all the media tries to shut you down, which they have tried very much to do with me. But they can't. Because the good lord has provided me with mechanisms like my syndicated column and like Fox News, we'd be Cuba if there were no Fox News.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, as you point out, I did work at Fox for many years. And I do have many friends there still who are excellent journalists. But I'm not sure even they think that without their reporting that we would be Cuba. You mean that if Fox News didn't exists, we would be a communist country?
CARSON: No, again, there you go with sensationalism. That's what you try to do. And you hope that somehow that will resonate with people who don't think for themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Carson, you said it. I'm actually moving you.
CARSON: People are a lot smarter than you think they are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I show you that, because the question I'm asking is whether a Republican presidential candidate can get elected playing only in the Fox sand box during the nomination process?
SPICER: Well, I don't think any one is suggesting that they do. I think the reason that Fox - just as a side note, the reason that Fox News is so successful is because they're covering stories, talking to people that the mainstream media ignores. And I think the American people, the reason that they're drawn to Fox is because of that.
No one's suggesting by any means that there be Fox only. But I think it would behoove many members of the media to understand that part of the reason that Fox and places like (INAUDIBLE) and the "Daily Caller" and others have grown to be successful is because the mainstream media, quite frankly, is not understanding what a lot of Americans are actually dealing with. People who they respect, issues that they want covered.
SMERCONISH: Do you think that Dr. Carson has been treated fairly here at CNN?
SPICER: Look, I'm not trying to evade the question. It's not - I don't follow the back and forth between CNN and Dr. Carson. I've had a great relationship with a lot of folks at CNN. I think by and large, CNN does a great job of covering the news. I can't speak to Dr. Carson's relationship with CNN, nor do I want to speak with any of our candidates' relationship with your organization or any others. That's up to them to tell you how they feel they've been treated. SMERCONISH: You're a media strategist. This is your stock and trade.
In a week like this, when there's been a contentious situation with CNN or any other outlet and Dr. Carson, do you have direct communication with the candidate. I guess I'm asking specifically - did you speak to Dr. Carson or the Carson campaign this week, as the media head of the RNC, given that he's the front-runner?
SPICER: No, at this point in the game, our job at the RNC is not to be involved in campaigns making decisions, or strategy, or sound bites or anything like that.
SMERCONISH: Sean, thank you so much for being here.
SPICER: You bet, Michael, thank you for having me.
SMERCONISH: So, are we being too tough on Ben Carson? Is the media biased against him? Last night, he said the media is getting desperate, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARSON: Because they have been looking through everything. They've been talking to everybody I've ever known, everybody I've ever seen. There's got to be a scandal. There's got to be (INAUDIBLE) an affair with. There's got to be something, they are getting desperate. So next week it will be my kindergarten teacher who said I peed in my pants. I mean, it's ridiculous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So let's start now with our three conservatives - radio show host Larry Elder, blogger Crystal Wright of conservativeblackchick.com and Matt Lewis, senior contributor of "The Daily Caller."
Larry, let's begin with you. Is this all a hit job against Dr. Carson or is he crying bias where there is none?
LARRY ELDER, TALK RADIO HOST: I don't consider it to be a hit job, what I consider to be is another example of media inconsistency. Take the Clintons there's no a no-fly zone over certain aspect of the Clintons' lives.
A woman named (INAUDIBLE) goes on "Dateline NBC" and makes a credible allegation of rape against Bill Clinton. As far as I know, only one national journalist ever even asked him about it, that was Sam Donaldson and Bill Clinton said, "I'll refer you to my lawyer," end of story.
(INAUDIBLE) also said that two weeks after the alleged rape, she was verbally intimidated by Hillary Clinton. To my knowledge, no one has even asked her about that. Now I asked you if these were allegations against fill in the blank your favorite Republican. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney. Donald Trump. I dare say there be a question or two.
SMERCONISH: Crystal Wright, do you agree with Larry Elder? CRYSTAL WRIGHT, EDITOR BLOOGER, CONSERVATIVEBLACKCHICK.COM: I
absolutely do not agree with my friend, Larry Elder.
SMERCONISH: Why not?
WRIGHT: I think CNN and the other media outlets are being fair to Ben Carson. There are times fair they haven't fair to our candidates and or our party but here's the thing, Ben Carson is the front-runner of the Republican Party. I think what this really boils down to is Ben Carson should never have run for president, to begin with.
He was the darling of Fox News. He became a Fox News contributor and he let that go to his head. Frankly, there's way too many inconsistencies and story after story. When he was a student at Yale, he claims a psychology professor made all the students retake an exam because his room caught on fire. The exams burned, right? He said the "Yale Daily News" even took a picture of him with the professor. There's no record of that.
There's no record of him being attacked at Popeye's. I mean, it goes on and on. Frankly, well, Michael, really quick - I think he's appealing like you said to the friends of our party, evangelicals who will not get him in the White House or any of our nominees in the White House. I predict Ben Carson is going to fall, fall, fall like Herman Cain did for a different reason.
SMERCONISH: Crystal, I need to underscore what you just said, that comes from today's "Wall Street Journal," not exactly a liberal oracle. So Matt, you're the tiebreaker because Larry says there is media bias and Crystal says there isn't in this case, she made clear. What do you say?
MATT LEWIS SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, "THE DAILY CALLER': Yes, there is liberal media bias. Yes, the media should be vetting Ben Carson. He's in first place right now. And there are lots of questions about his memoir. Look, this is a guy who has built his entire campaign not on his background or experience as an elected official. Or a governing experience. But really on this very interesting memoir and narrative. And if it turns out, and I don't know, for all I know, he could be telling the truth about everything, but there are a lot of questions. And if it turns out that he fabricated it, Republicans might want to find out before they nominate him to take on Hillary Clinton.
SMERCONISH: Larry, the thing that baffles me - you can have the next word - but let me say this, the thing that baffles me is, and I have to ask, does he have a Brian Williams' issue?
LEWIS: Yes. SMERCONISH: It seems like the core elements of his story are
undisputable. And it's a hell of a story. Why the need to embellish or why the need to put in elements like the journalists say, "hey, it's a question of whether it really happened"?
ELDER: One more time, these are perfectly legitimate questions that CNN is asking. All I 'm asking for is consistency. Joe Biden when he was running said he was a coal miner. Joe Biden never worked in a coal mine. Hillary Rodham Clinton said her mom named her after Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man who climbed Mt. Everett. That's why she has two Ls in her name. Everest was climbed after Hillary was born, not before. Barack Obama said his mother and father, a black man, a white woman were inspired to get married and have a child because of the Selma march in '65. Obama was born four years before the Selma march.
WRIGHT: But Larry -
ELDER: Let me finish, let me finish please. Those kind of discrepancies didn't kill their candidacy, any more than these discrepancies ought to kill Ben Carson's candidacy. They're legitimate things to ask about, people enhance their resume. I don't know why they do it. But these things are hardly dealbreakers.
SMERCONISH: Crystal, go ahead.
WRIGHT: But here's the thing, Larry, here's the problem that we have as Republicans. This isn't about Hillary, this isn't about Obama or Biden. This is about Ben Carson who hasn't just embellished, he seemed to have fabricated core points of his life from rags to riches. I think it's a problem, like Matt said, do we really want this guy to face off against Hillary Clinton? No, we don't.
I don't predict he will be our nominee. I think we have to stop passing the buck on legitimate objectivity when the liberal media tries to be objective. We have to stop passing the buck. It's not about Hillary Clinton. It's not about Obama.
ELDER: These are legitimate questions. I said these are legitimate questions. The issue is media consistency. And there are no fly zones over certain aspects of Democrats versus Republicans. We ought to call the media out on that. That's all I'm saying. I have no problem with CNN asking these questions about Ben Carson. If he's exaggerating, he should be called out.
WRIGHT: Yes, we agree on that.
SMERCONISH: Matt, I want to show you that latest "Wall Street Journal" NBC News poll because I want to make an observation and if we could put that up on the screen.
I maintain that the tiger in the tall grass is the individual who now sits at number four. I'm talking about Ted Cruz. Isn't this exactly the way that he hoped it would game out. There's been scrutiny on Carson, there would be scrutiny on Trump. And that he, Cruz, would be there to parse and take all of those very conservative maverick-type voters?
LEWIS: I think you're exactly right. I think Ted Cruz has run a very smart, stealth campaign. Making the assumption that these guys, the outsiders who have no political experience would eventually implode. He would be there the natural inheritor of their support. I think it's been very shrewd. I do want to say something real quick though that has not been brought up during the segment about Dr. Carson, that's the "Politico" story.
Which I think it's important to put it in the context. They had a story yesterday raising questions about Dr. Carson getting a full scholarship to West Point. I think they did a disservice to CNN and other outlets who have asked legitimate questions because their reporting was very sloppy. I think it really opens the door to Dr. Carson saying, a pox on all of our houses, this is just liberal media bias. It muddies the waters and it really reinforces Carson's argument that these are not legitimate inquiries.
SMERCONISH: To your point, they do stand by it, although they changed the headline. Larry, I want to ask you a question, because Tuesday night is the next debate. I got to tell you, if I were a moderator for that debate, now, I've got all of these scrutiny, and all of these attention, is the question fair? Is it a gotcha question? Do you worry that the Republican field now gets a free ride in some of these debates because of all the criticism these types of issues?
ELDER: Believe me, Republicans are not going to be a free ride from the media. I will say again when Barack Obama was running in 2008, it was a long time before the media gave a rip about his relationship with Reverend Jeremiah Wright and I think the media still doesn't fear about his relationship with Bill Ayers. These are legitimate questions. If these were the same kind of questions about Republican candidates, Michael, I dare say that a question or two would be raised about it. It's still about media bias. I'm not saying that you have no right to ask these questions. You have every right to ask the question. I just want consistency. That's all I'm asking.
SMERCONISH: I think that's fair. I think that's entirely fair. Although I would say that there's so much media out there when you talk about conservative bias, or liberal bias, whatever you want in the marketplace, with radio, satellite radio, cable television, you can find what you are looking for.
Anyway, excellent job. Thank you so much. Larry Elder, Crystal Wright and Matt Lewis, appreciate you being here.
SMERCONISH: So what do you think? Is the media being fair to Ben Carson? Tweet me @smerconish. Many of you already are. I will read some of them later in the program. Coming up, we've had democratic consultant Bob Beckel on this show. This week we're doubling down, two Beckels face off. Bob and his brother, Graham, an accomplished veteran movie and TV actor who you've seen in "L.A. Confidential," "Brokeback Mountain" and "Leaving Las Vegas." He's also a conservative who likes Donald Trump.
And he may have been kicked off the debate stage. But he's neither down nor out. Senator Lindsey Graham is here. I will ask him where will he be Tuesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MAHER, HOST "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Now, if you're following the presidential race, you know that 2015 has been the year of the amateur. If there's one thing Republican voters can agree on, it's that the less the head of our government knows about government, the better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: That was Bill Maher last night. And to his point. Imagine that you served in your state legislature. Then you were elected to Congress. You served four terms and received at least 60 percent of the vote in each election. Then you were elected to the U.S. Senate where you've recently been elected to your third term. So you decide to run for president but you're eclipsed in all the polls by individuals who have never been elected to anything.
And now, you're disinvited from the debate stage from a showing in the poll where your name was never included. Welcome to Lindsey Graham's world.
Senator Graham joins me now. Senator, how bummed are you that you won't be debating on Tuesday night?
LINDSEY GRAHAM, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, all I can tell you is that if you don't put my name in a poll, I don't think I'll ever do well. The last poll they used to knock me out of the debate, my name wasn't on the ballot. If you look at the four polls where my name was on the ballot. I was at two percent. So I got to soldier on. Soldiers don't quit. They don't give up on America. I'm not going to give up on the soldiers. So, I'm going to New Hampshire, I've got John McCain on my side. We're going to work hard and keep fighting and make the argument that I'm best qualified to be commander in chief but it shows you how absurd this process has become.
SMERCONISH: I remember the straight talk express. Senator McCain's bus. I've got to believe if the two were you on were the straight talk express, and I were a fly on the wall, I would hear one or the other of you say to the other, what the hell is going on here? I've got a distinguished career in the Senate in progress, and Donald Trump and Ben Carson who have never held an elected office are winning this thing? Come on, is that the conversation you have with McCain?
GRAHAM: Well, have a little more earthy than. Actually. The bottom line is, people are frustrated with Washington. Here's the question, Michael, am I the problem or solution? I've tried to find a way forward on immigration. I'm trying to find a way to get aside of debt. I realized that Democrats exists. It is their country too.
John and I were together on the Straight Talk Express, when it ran out of gas, all the tires were flat. He was fit in a four person race. He took his bag and we went from VFW Hall to VFW Hall, that's exactly what I'm doing. I'm going to weddings, bar mitzvahs, friendly divorces, if you're in New Hampshire, I'll be coming to see you, talking about getting the side of debt and destroying ISIL. So I look forward to meeting people in New Hampshire.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Carson wrote a book. In the book he said, when he was 14, he attempted to stab, he initially said it was a friend now he says it was a family member. There but for the grace of the belt buckle went the life of that other individual. Now, CNN has said we'd like to talk to that person, it's an unbelievable story, and he's crying media bias. Here's the question, is that fair Tuesday night, is it fair that he would be asked about a portion of his personal narrative that he has put forth?
GRAHAM: Well, when you run for president, people are going to question who you are, where you come from, what you believe, what's your background. Here's the good news about Ben Carson, it's one heluva story by any standard. Where he came from, what he's achieved in his life. There's a period of time, according to him, he was a troubled young man. His faith saved him.
I think the purpose of the story is to say that I was going down the wrong path and it was my faith, my belief in god that turned me around. But I think this is just an odd election where the candidate for president of the United States said "I tried to stab somebody" and themedia says, we don't believe you.
SMERCONISH: I want the tough questions asked of Lindsey Graham, of Ben Carson and of Hillary Clinton. I do not remember you whining about any of the debates so far in terms of what you've been asked. But some of your colleagues, some of your competitors are complaining. And I'm wondering what's going to happen Tuesday night. Because this cry of media bias may now shield some of them from appropriate vetting. React to that.
GRAHAM: At the end of the day, you can't complain about being challenged for the office of presidency of the United States, when people are challenging what you said. Now, you can push back when people are lying what about you did, you know, put you in a bad light that's unfair, but when they challenged something you said that's part of the game, in this debate, you know, I really do believe that the process does work. If you're going to take on Putin, you're going to take on ISIL, you need to be ready to answer hard questions. I don't mind asking anything you want to ask, Michael. I'll try to give you the best answer I can.
SMERCONISH: So where will you be Tuesday night, and with whom will you be watching the debate?
GRAHAM: I'll be in New Hampshire. I wish I were on the stage. I think quite frankly, the polls where my name was used, I would be on the stage. I think the process is broken. But I am not going to give up because simply people fighting this war don't give up. And I'm going to be their voice. And I'll be in New Hampshire. And we'll think about a clever way to watch the debate.
SMERCONISH: Senator Graham, thanks so much for being here.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Tweet me @smerconish. I'll read some of your thoughts later in the program.
Up next, Donald Trump is hosting "Saturday Night Live" tonight. He's promising to stay G-rated. Of course he is, his favorite book is the bible, right?
But it's an unusual platform for a candidate to be given. Here's a promo that NBC ended up pulling off the air.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald Trump is hosting "Saturday Night Live" this week with musical guest, (INAUDIBLE) and because of equal time rules for television, Mr. Trump can only speak for four seconds in this promo.
TRUMP: So let me say this, Ben Carson is a complete and total loser.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: To discuss this and more, I will turn to accomplished media figures on opposite sides of the aisle. They happen to be brothers, democratic consultant, Bob Beckel and his veteran actor, brother Graham who calls himself a guarded Donald Trump supporter. They'll square off on this and more when we come back.
[09:34:09] SMERCONISH: Thanksgiving is just three weeks away. And if you're like me, you'll have a relative at your table, just a butter knife away with whom you disagree politically.
Well, it's the same in the Beckel household. Bob is the noted political commentator, a liberal, who just published a fabulous memoir, it's titled "I Should Be Dead."
Graham Beckel is a conservative Hollywood actor who supports Donald Trump. You've seen him in movies like "Brokeback Mountain" and "Leaving Las Vegas" and TV's "Aquarius." It's Beckel versus Beckel.
Graham, let me ask you, did you used to see eye to eye, politically? And if so, when was the break point?
GRAHAM BECKEL, ACTOR: I used to be further to the left of him. And he was kind of a crotchety conservative kind of guy. He liked Hubert Humphrey who I thought was -- but, go ahead.
[09:35:02] SMERCONISH: He's still crotchety. He's still crotchety. He hasn't lost that, has he?
G. BECKEL: No, he hasn't.
SMERCONISH: What's the appeal you see in Donald -- what's the appeal you see in Donald Trump?
G. BECKEL: Let me tell you, I go to events out here in Hollywood. I go to events out here in Hollywood put on by an organization formed by conservatives in Hollywood. And I heard Trump was going to speak. This is before he announced for the presidency.
I bought a ticket, because I just wanted to see the guy live because he's been a part of the landscape for so long. And he's an interesting character. Anyway, he walked into this room about a week after he announced this. A tremendous amount of theater out front. People jumping up and down, a lot of protests and so on.
And he just captured that room. He wasn't working on any notes. He had great kinetic timing.
But here's the thing that he did that made me think he may be OK. He started talking about power structures on Wall Street. Oh, he knew everybody. He had all of that bluster going on. But he said the people who really make Wall Street work, the smartest ones, the ones that don't always make the most money, but the ones who make it work, the people you never see, those are the people I know.
And he looked out in the audience. He said, you, would you stand up for me? It was some slob actor. He said, what's your name? Gave him his name.
He said, this guy, I don't know who he is, I don't know who his name is, but every time I see him in a movie, doing a small part, it makes the movie better. That's what I'm talking about. People like that who are gifted, who are talented, and they make things happen, but you have no idea who they are.
Now, come on, that's fantastic.
SMERCONISH: Bob Beckel, Graham is making the case, effectively, I think, that the Donald is actually for the working man. Address that.
BOB BECKEL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, my brother went right and got so very wrong. But I love him very much. But he called me right after he went to that trump thing. And he was very enthusiastic about it.
I'll say one thing when he gets into something, he gets into it. You know, Trump is playing here. And it's smart. I mean, he's playing to the working plan because the disaffected, blue collar Reagan Democrat that now votes Republican are ling up behind Donald Trump.
The irony of it is, of course, is that Trump very wealthy, and doesn't have anything -- you know, in common with these people. But he speaks out for them. And it's smart.
G. BECKEL: Bob, come on, come on.
B. BECKEL: Come on, what?
G. BECKEL: He's an oligarch but he's our oligarch, right? He's the working man's oligarch.
B. BECKEL: I see, OK.
G. BECKEL: Case in point -- he can pull back the curtain and show you the Wizard of Oz. People love that. They know that their entire process has been co-opted by these people out in the air somewhere, we don't know who they are. You know, let's face it -- I'm an alienated suburban white guy who is frightened that my historical, you know, prerogatives are being taken away from them. It's simple.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Bob Beckel --
B. BECKEL: Yes?
SMERCONISH: You've written this very personal memoir about confronting your demons. Of all things, the subject came up this week on the campaign trail in a video, the last count I saw, 6 million people watched. Here's a little taste of how Chris Christie has struck a chord.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: But no one came and said, listen your mom was dumb, she started smoking when he was 16, then after we told her it was bad for her but she kept doing it, so we're not going to give her chemo therapy, we're not going to give her radiation, we're not going to give her any of stuff, you know why? Because she's getting what she deserves.
No one said that. No one said that about someone who had cancer. Yet, somehow if it's heroin or cocaine or alcohol, we say, oh, they decided they're getting what they deserved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Bob Beckel, why did that strike such a chord?
B. BECKEL: Because there are so many millions of people in this country affected by drugs and alcohol, now the expanse of heroin, and most particularly, pain medication, and I think what -- it's been the hidden issue in this country for a long time. "TIME" magazine said it's the greatest epidemic we've had in this country in a long, long time. And it is. And politicians are finally catching up to it. I give Christie a lot of credit.
And, by the way, there's one of those things that's a few bipartisan things that you can come up with here where both Democrats and Republicans agree this is something getting out of the control. They're late to the table, as some of us have been doing on this for a decade.
[09:40:06] But nonetheless, it's out there, and I think it's important.
SMERCONISH: You know, Graham, as Bob makes reference, I mean, it is bipartisan. But I take note about the fact that Carly Fiorina has spoken openly about this, Jeb Bush has spoken openly about this, and now, so, too, Chris Christie. Take the final word on this issue.
G. BECKEL: On this issue, I think they're all crazy.
Look, the drug thing is so crooked. It's such a moneymaker for so many people. The rehab industrial complex, getting people addicted.
And aside from that, why doesn't anybody really deal with it? The federal government should be buying all of the drugs at the wellhead. They should be outbidding the cartels. Buy the drugs, establish farms across the country. People can go get loaded. They can kill themselves if they want. Use that money to help rehab people. And maybe we can begin to do something about restitution to the African- Americans. OK?
SMERCONISH: Your table -- your table is one I'd love to have a seat at for Thanksgiving or every other family get-together.
Thank you, Misters Beckel. I appreciate you being here.
B. BECKEL: My pleasure, thank you.
G. BECKEL: Thank you very much.
SMERCONISH: Up next, the Beckels is just one that is an example of the polarization that has gripped American politics. Is anybody capable of bipartisan cooperation these days? Is the media feeding the issue? I'm going to talk to one of the last surviving advocates of surviving bipartisan. Former congressman and transportation secretary, Ray LaHood.
Also, I'll ask him if he thinks this week's bombing of a Russian passenger jet could happen here.
[09:46:13] SMERCONISH: You know, we've been talking all about polarization. You want to know the biggest problem in American politics -- at least according to me -- is the death of bipartisan cooperation.
My next guest is one of the last fighting the good fight to keep that spirit alive. In fact, his hometown newspaper once wrote this about him, "Unlike those who see the government as an enemy, he looks for ways to make it work. He lacks that hard edge that so bothers suburban soccer moms. He gives the appearance being driven by reason rather than ideology. Early in his congressional career he organized bipartisan retreats to promote civility."
They were speaking about former secretary of transportation, Ray LaHood, who just published a memoir titled "Seeking Bipartisanship: My Life in Politics."
I look in the last 30 years and see that as the world of talk radio and cable television news, I don't mean CNN, as it divided so did Washington. Do you see a causal connection?
RAY LAHOOD, FORMER SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: I do think there's not enough news for all of the cable news channels 24/7, Michael. And I do think that there are so many of these channels that repeat over and over again the negativity that exists in some of our institutions and in government and in Washington, D.C. And you know as well as I do, that if you say something often enough, people begin to believe it.
So, I think there is a contribution on the part of the media, particularly, you know, all of the cable news channels. But let's face it, the internet, too, the access to the Internet. The access too all of this -- the idea that you can say whatever you want. There doesn't have to be an ounce of truth in it, people see it and they believe it because of people that are saying it.
SMERCONISH: I want to ask you a question that pertains to your old job, the gas tax. I drove from Philly to New York on horrific roadways. It seems so obvious to me with gas at a significant low right now, that we ought to be increasing the gas tax and paying for infrastructure. Is this an example of the lack of bipartisanship?
LAHOOD: It really is, Michael. America's is one big pothole. We've had brutal winters for the last two or three winters. Our roads are crumbling.
Right now at DOT, U.S. DOT, there's a list of 61,000 deficient bridges that need repaired. And the gas tax has not been raised, the big pot of money that helped us create the interstate, the Golden Gate Bridge, all of these magnificent structures, that's funded by the gas tax which hasn't been raised since 1993. The largest segment of unemployment in America is in building trades, people who build roads and bridges. Let's get them working again.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Secretary, details are for coming about the crash of the MetroJet in Egypt. Given what we know, how concerned are you about our vulnerability, our transportation system's vulnerability to ISIS?
LAHOOD: Well, look, thank God, Michael, since 9/11 none of our planes have been brought down. And I think people really feel safe flying today.
But we have to be vigilant. And I believe that DHS, and the FBI and our law enforcement and the CIA are very vigilant, and they take their work very seriously. I believe flying is safe. I would not be afraid to board an airplane, certainly in America or to fly internationally, but and it's because I think we have many, many good people who are watching out for our safety.
[09:50:04] SMERCONISH: Mr. Secretary, best of luck with "Seeking Bipartisanship". I hope it's a best seller
LAHOOD: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Coming up, your best and worst tweets from this broadcast that I'll anxiously respond to.
SMERCONISH: As I like to say, you can follow me on Twitter, if you can spell Smerconish.
Here are some of what just came in. EddyTree says, "You are part of the media bias, and that is why you can't see it."
[09:55:05] Eddy, first of all, I'm reading your tweet. Second of all, at the outset of the program, I put on three conservatives, and the head of the RNC, the spokesman for the RNC and gave them the floor to criticize CNN. That's media bias?
Peter Kohan says, "Maybe it should be asked if Carson is biased against CNN."
Interesting observation. Look, it helps him with the base, particularly the evangelical base if his story of his religious epiphany is questioned and he fights back. So, there's a political advantage in all of this for Ben Carson.
And then I like this one, Jim Kilby, who says, "Liberal media? Ever listen to AM/FM radio? Limbaugh, Levin, Ingraham, Savage, on every channel? Same hymn book."
Makes a good observation. There's a lot of choice out there, yet so few people exercise it.
See you next week.