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Will There Be An October Surprise From The DNC-Hacked Info?; Do Debates Have Any Actual Debating?; Most Important Moments of the Conventions. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired July 30, 2016 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:32] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish. The Democrats have left town but I'm still in Philly.
The conventions are over and now, just 100 days remain, including three presidential debates. That's all that stands between now and Election Day.
In an election cycle already full of surprises, like DNC hacked information produced by WikiLeaks, might there be an October surprise that changes everything?
Plus, she introduced her mother at the convention just five weeks after giving birth. Now, will Chelsea Clinton become the first, first daughter to serve in that role a second time? I'll talk to her mother- in-law.
And is the real story of this election the fact that we in the media and the establishment politicians don't understand what it's like to be working class?
But first, might there be a real October surprise in this presidential race? You know, back in 1972, right before the election, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger promised peace is at hand in Vietnam, which wasn't true. But it helped President Nixon vanquish his antiwar opponent, George McGovern. And since then, virtually every presidential election has raised the prospect of another October surprise, but this time, it might actually happen.
We got a possible preview this week with the WikiLeaks release of DNC e-mails and voice mails. WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange has well documented antipathy toward Hillary Clinton and has promised more releases of embarrassing information.
Remember, FBI Director James Comey said he couldn't be sure whether Hillary Clinton's private e-mail servers were hacked. But he did conclude that those with whom she regularly communicated were compromised.
So imagine this scenario. In the weeks before the election, e-mails surface that originated on Clinton's private e-mail servers, that they're of a public nature but were not among the thousands handed over to the FBI for its investigation. Their content need not be particularly damaging. The only thing needed to harm Clinton would be that they were e-mails that should have been shared with the FBI, but instead were deleted and nevertheless ended up in hostile hands. That would confirm Republicans' worst charges about how Clinton jeopardized national security in a manner that James Comey himself characterized as extremely careless. Unless of course, Donald Trump bubbles the potential gift before it falls in his lap. And that's entirely possible since Trump has no filter and just can't help himself.
On Wednesday, he encouraged Russia to find the e-mails and then later Trump and his team tried to say, well, he was just joking. But it was a missed opportunity. What Trump should have done was condemn all hacking by actors foreign and domestic and then lay low.
Instead, he provided Democrats with an opportunity to cast him as siding with Vladimir Putin against America, which if successful, could obscure Clinton's negligent behavior. If this whole escapade were a political paperback pot boiler by, say, Nelson DeMille, his chief protagonist, former NYPD cop John Corey would muzzle Trump, condemn Clinton, depose Putin and maybe ensure that Kazir Khan, the father of the slain Muslim U.S. soldier, who was the breakout star of the final night of the DNC, that he would be the next American president.
I know, it all sounds farfetched. But given everything else that's happened this cycle, I'm not counting anything out.
David Sanger has been covering the hack for The New York Times. He's their Chief Washington correspondent. David Sanger joins me right now from the Aspen Security Forum.
Here's the front page of The New York Times today, you contributed to this story. The headline says, "Russian spies, said to hack Clinton's bid."
What's the latest, David?
DAVID SANGER, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, the latest out of that story is that the Clinton campaign said that a database that they shared with the DNC appeared to have been compromised.
That doesn't mean that the Russians got into the Clinton campaign's own networks. We know, of course, that somebody, and it's believed to be Russia and U.S. intelligence officials certainly seem to believe its two Russian spy agencies did get into the DNC. That's a different thing when getting into the campaign's own computer networks.
[09:05:02] But the broader question, which you raised, Michael, and raised rightly is we don't know where the bottom of this is. Because we don't know what additional material, the Russian hackers, if the intelligence agencies are right, might have. We don't know how much of it, if any, has been passed on to WikiLeaks or other publications. It's not just WikiLeaks that turned this out. There were others as well. And we don't know what the impact is going to be.
And then, of course, you had the remarkable scene that you mentioned earlier this week, when Mr. Trump went out and basically invited, whether it was sarcastically or not, the Russians to go commit what would be a felony under U.S. law, which is to go into computer systems and pull out confidential data.
Now, he says that he was being sarcastic and I think you have to allow that this is a campaign and people say all kinds of odd things at odd moments.
But we're in a very different place here because we've never before seen a moment where a foreign power, at least that I can find, where a foreign power appears and the typical word here is "appears" to be stepping in to try to manipulate some kind of electoral result. That creates a lot of different issues for the Obama administration.
SMERCONISH: And that was my next question. Is this routine espionage, if there is such a thing, or does it appear to be intended to influence the outcome of the American election?
SANGER: Well, Michael, it's entirely possible that it began as routine espionage. The first attack on the DNC dates back to June of 2015, when no one could have foreseen that Donald Trump was going to emerge as the Republican candidate. But it was a pretty good bet that you -- that Hillary Clinton would emerge as the Democratic candidate.
And we know that Vladimir Putin believes that Hillary Clinton was meddling in the 2011 parliamentary election in Russia and if the U.S. has meddled in his mind in Ukraine, where, of course, the Russians seized Crimea and have been active in guerilla movements that have been going on elsewhere in Ukraine, low level stuff. And of course, he resents the American activity in Georgia as well.
So, it's very possible that in the minds of Russians, this is simply pay back for something the Americans started.
SMRCONISH: A final question, David, it seems to defy logic that the Russians, if it in fact is the Russians, would only be interested on the Democratic side of the aisle. What do we know, if anything, about their efforts to get to the Republicans?
SANGER: So far, we haven't seen much and we've been asking that question. And that is one of the reasons that many people in the intelligence world and law enforcement world believe that this may have been an effort by the Russians to put their finger on the scale.
But it's very possible that we could see efforts to get at material from the Russians as well. If you go back a few election cycles, in 2008, the Chinese were in both the Democratic and Republican campaigns, Barack Obama's and John McCain's. There was evidence of foreign intelligence gathering in 2012.
The difference here is not intelligence gathering. We do that to the Russians, including the political institutions. They do that to us. It's the selected release of information that appears to be intended to alter the election.
Now, to those who are highly suspicious of Hillary Clinton and her e- mail practices, which as you point out, were criticized very severely by James Comey, this is a side show. And the real issue is what's in the e-mails. To a lot of other people, the Russians getting into the system is the main story.
SMERCONISH: David Sanger, thank you so much for your reportage and being here today. We appreciate it.
When looking to blame someone for the cyber attack, Russia was more than convenient. But is this a new Cold War or a political pot stirring? Does this accusation have any basis in fact and if not, could it harm -- could it cause real harm?
Here to discuss is Stephen Cohen, an American scholar of Russian Studies at both Princeton and New York Universities. Professor Cohen, does Vladimir Putin indeed have a dog in our U.S. fight?
STEPHEN COHEN, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF RUSSIAN STUDIES: Vladimir Putin wants to end the new Cold War and so do I. Let me say, I have no ties to the Trump campaign or the Clinton campaign.
But if I were to write your headline for you today, I tried on the way down here, I couldn't fit it on the front page. But it would go like this, we're in a new and more dangerous Cold War with Russia. We're approaching a Cuban missile crisis nuclear confrontation with Russia, both along Russia's borders and possibly over Syria. There is absolutely no discussion, no debate about this in the American media, including, forgive me, on CNN.
[09:10:14] Then along comes unexpectedly Donald Trump, who says something that suggests he wants to end the new Cold War, cooperate with Russia in various places, what we used to call detente (ph). And now, astonishingly, the media is full of what only could be called Neil McCarthy had a charges that he's a Russian agent, that he's a Manchurian candidate, that he's Putin's client.
So the real danger is what's being done to our own political process. This is a moment when there should be, in a presidential year, a debate. Because Mrs. Clinton's position on Russia seems to be very different, has been a long time. Trump speaks elliptically, you got to piece together what he says, but he seems to want a new American policy toward Russia.
And considering the danger, I think we, as American citizens, deserve that debate and not what will be given in the media today, including on the front page of The New York Times.
I end by saying that these reckless branding of Trump as a Russian agent, most of it is coming from the Clinton campaign and they really need to stop.
SMERCONISH: OK, I don't know where to begin in unpacking all that you just offered to us. But I guess I'll start as follows.
As one who can't match your credentials, here's what I see from the outside looking in. I see Donald Trump having said to The New York Times just within the last 10 days that he's not so sure he would stand with NATO allies. And I'm paraphrasing, he'd want to know whether they have been pulling their own weight.
The impart of his comments seems to suggest that he could provide Putin with unfettered, undeterred access to the Baltic States, whose independence he resents. And so, it all seems to fit therefore that Putin would have a dog in this fight, would want to see Donald Trump win this election so that he, Putin, could do as he pleases in that part of the world.
CNN is covering that. I mean, I have to defend the network in that regard but why does that not all fit? And why does it not all fit with the headline today's New York Times, which says, "Russian spies, said to hack Clinton's bid"?
SANGER: Said to have, said to have, that's not news. That's an allegation. James Clapper, I don't know who hacked. Everybody hacks everybody.
I mean, we hacked into Chancellor Merkel's cellphone. We learned that from Snowden. The Israelis hack. The Americans hack. The Chinese hack. Everybody hacks.
The point is, is that -- and I know you said it, not to defend it but as a provocation, but let's take the position you just set out, that Putin wants to end the independence of Baltic States. There's no evidence for that, none whatsoever.
The point is, is that on the networks, and I'm not blaming CNN and there's no -- none on any network, there's none in The New York Times. I'm old enough to remember that during the last Cold War, all these issues were debated and that you had a proponent of two -- each point of view. But you've now got accusations both against Putin, both against Trump, which needed to be debated.
The most -- let's go back to what you said that Trump said about NATO. Trump said early on, he wanted to know 60 years after its foundation, what was NATO's mission today?
A hundred policy walks in Washington. Since the end of the Soviet Union, 25 years ago, have asked the same question. Is NATO an organization in search of a mission?
For example, its mission for the last 20 years is to expand ever closer to Russia. So people have now asked, why isn't it fighting international terrorism? That's a legitimate question. But we don't debate it. We don't ask it. We just say, "Oh, Trump wants to abandon NATO."
I don't defend Trump. Trump raises questions. And instead of giving an answer to the substance of a question, we denounce him as some kind of criminal agent. That's bad for our politics, but still works. Given the danger, we're not addressing it.
SMERCONISH: I love this conversation and I could go on for hours with you on this subject. I wish time afforded that.
I've not regarded him in that respect. And I think that we just had this conversation, the conversation that you say is so desperately lacking.
Thank you for being here, I appreciate your time.
Tweet me your thoughts @smerconish. I will get to the best of them later on in the program.
Still to come, Donald Trump's biggest constituency, poor white voters, why have they made him their candidate? I'll talk to someone who knows he grew up a self-described hillbilly in Appalachia and then ended up at the Yale Law School.
Plus, she was a freshman Democratic congresswoman representing a Republican leaning district. But when President Clinton, Bill Clinton, got her to switch her budget vote, she was ousted. Now, she's Chelsea Clinton's mother-in-law.
[09:15:09] Marjorie Margolies is here.
CHELSEA CLINTON, HILLARY CLINTON'S DAUGHTER: I am so grateful to be her daughter. I'm so grateful that she is Charlotte and Aidan's grandmother. She makes me proud every single day.
SMERCONISH: That was Chelsea Clinton introducing her mother, the last of the Democratic Convention.
Now, I've got a story for you about her mother-in-law. In 1993, President Bill Clinton's budget was deadlocked in the House. He asked a freshman Democratic congresswoman from Pennsylvania named Marjorie Margolies to cast the tiebreaker vote. She did. Her GOP colleagues waved bye-bye and she did end up losing her seat in the next election.
Well, funny how things work out sometimes. Seventeen years later, her youngest son, Mark Mezvinsky, married Chelsea Clinton.
[09:20:05] And this week Marjorie Margolies found herself in the cat- bird seat for the Democratic convention. Marjorie Margolies joins me now, congresswoman. How did Mark and Chelsea meet?
MARJORIE MARGOLIES, CHEALSEA CLINTON'S MOTHER-IN-LAW: Well, we were invited to go to Renaissance Weekend. And that was in '93. And Mark has a lot of brothers and sisters. I think we took nine kids or something, and Marc and Chelsea met there. So, he was 15 and she was 13. And they just remained friends. They've became best friends. They went to the same college a year apart. They went to the same graduate school a year apart. And they became really dear friends, talking all the time. It was such a nice relationship. And she's a gem.
SMERCONISH: So, you grandparent the same children as the Clintons. How do you divide those responsibilities? You know, all of us in our own families know that when the holidays come, you have to decide, are you going to be with them or them? How does it work in this unit?
MARGOLIES: I say anything you want. It is fine. I say, just anything you want. Sometimes we all - because we have so many people, sometimes we'll say, OK, Thanksgiving, you do Thursday, Friday, we'll do Saturday, who cares. My response is, that's a good idea.
SMERCONISH: Chelsea is friendly with Ivanka Trump. Is Marc friendly with the Trump clan?
MARGOLIES: He was friendly with Jared, yes. He's known him for a while.
SMERCONISH: It's amazing that they can maintain those kinds of relationships given the tone of this that they playing itself out around us. Chelsea wanted to humanize her mother and she did in that final night at the DNC by sharing with those things we didn't know about Hillary. Tell us something we don't know about Chelsea.
MARGOLIES: You know, I think she's been under the spotlight for a really long time. She has got a great sense of humor. She's very, very patient, as you can well imagine. She is so smart and endlessly energetic, endlessly. She's always -- you can tell, she exercises and she's very, very responsive. She's a gem. And I think you saw a bit of that when she introduced her mother. She's just a terrific person.
SMERCONISH: You know that the wedding planning, the wedding planning gets discussed with regard to those, "Damn e-mails". Every time I heard reference to the private server and the e-mails that dealt with yoga or the wedding I thought of you. Did you share wedding planning responsibilities with the secretary of state?
MARGOLIES: I was very, very careful about -- I've had daughters getting married, so I know what that responsibility is. But as the mother of the son getting married, basically I stepped back and said, this -- well, I love it. It's perfect, anything you want. It just -- and we had had so many weddings, we knew that this was going to be a tad bit different. But no, I tried really hard not to put my $0.02 in because everyone was putting his or her $0.02 in.
SMERCONISH: Final question, Bill Clinton still owes you one for that 93 vote. Do you rule out serving in a Hillary administration?
MARGOLIES: I don't rule out anything. But I think it's - I think that kind of thing has to be completely up to them.
SMERCONISH: All right, Congresswoman, thanks for being here.
MARGOLIES: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Up next, Donald Trump's most loyal voters are non-college educated whites. What is his appeal to them? A new best selling book by J.D. Vance has the answer. Here's one of your tweet, lets check this out. This election will be decided by e-mail revelations period.
[09:24:33] That's my take. Well, it could be the ultimate October surprise. We'll find out. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONAL TRUMP: Some of the richest people in this country are people that can't even read or write, they are called friends of mine, contractors. They might not read or write but they are a lot smarter than the guys coming out of Harvard, I want to tell you. They can take them and wrap them around their finger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: That was Donald Trump on Friday complimenting construction workers that he deals with. He's actually appealing to one of his strongest affinity groups. According to the CNN/ORC poll from after the RNC, Donald Trump enjoys the support of 62 percent of white voters who lack a college degree.
A new best selling book might hold the answer as to why that's the case. "Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis" was written by J.D. Vance, a marine who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Aplasia before attending Yale Law School.
J.D. joins me now. J.D. loved the book, have pored right through it. Explain this appeal because I think you have a finger on it.
J.D. VANCE, AUTHOR HILLBILLY ELEGY, A MEMOIR OF A FAMILY AND CULTURE IN CRISIS: Yeah. Well, let me just paint a picture of the areas where a lot of these folks live, right? So, in the one hand, you find that industrial job losses mean that it's hard to find a good job, a job you're proud of.
[09:30:02] On the other hand, just to give you a sense in the Ohio County where I grew up last year heroin overdose deaths outnumbered natural cause deaths. And so, you have in combination with these two things, what you eventually have is just a feeling, I think, of hopelessness and feeling frankly that the political elites aren't listening, don't appreciate the scale and challenges that you face.
And as you just mentioned, Donald Trump talking to those construction workers, no one else is really talking to construction workers anymore and talking about their concerns and the places that they live. So, it's not surprising that they support him.
SMERCONISH: What I took away from the book was not so much an explanation of this portrait that you paint based on say income inequality, but rather more looking toward cultural influences. And chief among them, the role of religion. Speak to that.
VANCE: Yes, absolutely. One of the things I write about is we think of these areas as the Bible Belt, but actually church attendance rates in Appalachia and Southern Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, have actually fallen out. And so, what that means is that, you know, church provides I think a sense of community, a sense of belonging, but it also provides a big moral pressure. It provides a group of people who can lift you up when you're feeling down. And so, what has happened is people have gone to church less and less.
They still identify as evangelicals, of course, but they're not quite as happy and I think they don't have quite the same sense of community. So, I do think it's a critical part to understand what's going on in these folk lives.
Why in some ways they are so culturally depressed to ask, why aren't they going to churches much and how has that affected the rest of their lives?
SMERCONISH: J.D. as I was reading the book in the back of my mind, I was thinking about a controversial -- it turned out to be controversial at the time -- statement that President Obama midst of the '08 cycle.
Let me put it on the screen and remind everybody of what I'm talking about, because the quote was this, "You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not."
Here's the key part, "and it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Was he ahead of his time in '08 when he said that?
VANCE: Well, I think he was definitely ahead of his time in appreciating that these folks are frustrated. But I think, unfortunately, that honestly reveals an attitude that turns a lot of people away from the Democratic Party and turns them toward someone like Donald Trump. There's a sense when you grow up like I did, when you grow up among the people that I grow up among, you know, we're proud and we love our communities and we love the people we're around, and we don't like to be judged.
And there's a sense that folks like President Obama and frankly a lot of folks in the Republican Party, too, they look down on people like me. And if you want to understand, I think, why folks are really frustrated at political elites, you have to talk about the policy in the substance but you also have to talk about that sense of what I call smug condescension. And don't be surprised that people who feel looked down upon don't appreciate the people who are looking down on them.
SMERCONISH: Well, I guess to your point, there was blowback from the Rust Belt states, my own Pennsylvania because he specifically cited Pennsylvania. And I think that the climate, I'm looking at the Golden Gate Bridge behind you and reminded that the climate in which he offered those comments was a wine and cheese, I think in Marin County. But the fact remains, there was some truth in what he was offering.
I don't read the judgmental nature into it that you do, but then again I didn't grow up the way that you did.
VANCE: Yes, I think that -- I do think his comments were definitely directed. I think they were well-intentioned, and I'll say that. But I think they came across wrong.
I don't think that there's anything that any politician has said in the past five to ten years that rises quite to that level and still being able to fire people up. I think maybe what Hillary Clinton said a few weeks ago when she said she wanted to put a lot of coal miners in a lot of coal businesses out of business.
But to your point, I think that the problems that he's bringing up are very legitimate. These places have lost a lot of jobs. These places are struggling. And I think because of that they have become frustrated and in some ways they have become resentful. But I think the answer is to ask really tough questions about why they are resentful and what we can do to turn things around.
And, unfortunately, I think the political class has not done a good job at showing sympathy to these places. That's really all you need to do. That's one of the things I've realized in writing this book, so many people come up and say, "Thank you for being honest about the problems but thank you for being sympathetic." I really think that's what folks need, they need sympathy and they need understanding.
SMERCONISH: The book is a bestseller. I wish you continued good fortune.
J.D. Vance, thank you for being here.
VANCE: Thank you.
[09:35:00] SMERCONISH: Up next, for the past several decades, presidential debates have devolved into canned stump speeches and talking points with no risk, no spontaneity and no actual debating. Can they be fixed?
John Donvan from Intelligence Squared wants to introduce Oxford-style debating and he's here to explain.
Plus, here's one of your tweets. Let's see what Tim McGuire says, "The folks that make this country work are not the technocrats and bean-counters who sit in high back leather chairs and go home at 5:00." Amen to that. Thank you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He hit my hands. Nobody has ever hit my hands. I've never heard of this. Look at those hands.
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. President, have you looked your pension? Have you looked at your pension?
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've got to say -- ROMNEY: Mr. President, have you looked at your pension?
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Let's dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing. This notion that Barack Obama doesn't know what he's doing is just not true. He knows exactly what he --
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: There it is. There it is, the memorized 25-second speech.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's not going to happen. I'm not even answering that question.
ROMNEY: You know, you get to ask the questions I want, I get to give the answer I want.
MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS MODERATOR: Let me just set the record and then you guys can have at it.
[09:40:02] RUBIO: A fake university.
CLINTON: If we can raise this in New York or Los Angeles or Seattle --
TRUMP: Don't worry about it, Little Marco.
MODERATOR: Gentlemen, you got to do better than those.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
SMERCONISH: Even though all the clips were from events called debates, you can see that a lot of time they rarely resembled anything like a debate. But post-convention, the three scheduled presidential debates will be the biggest showcases for the major candidates. Will we really learn anything from them?
John Donvan thinks he's got a better idea and he's a practitioner of what he preaches. He's the moderator of Intelligence Squared, which started a petition to change.org to lobby those in charge and he joins me now to explain.
Hey, John. I am a patron. I have several times been out in the crowd watching you and I've listened to all of them on podcasts. So I get it.
But explain to my audience what is Oxford-style debating of the type you practice?
JOHN DONVAN, DEBATE MODERATOR, INTELLIGENCE SQUARED U.S. DEBATES: The Oxford-style debate comes down to this. The debater has to prove something. It's not slogans, it's not assertions, it's not zingers, it's not put-downs of the other guy.
You have to prove something. So, you have a resolution, a motion we call it that's put before the audience and the debaters.
For example, it could be something like give undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. Yes or no, for or against? Or it could be, the U.S. intervenes abroad too often? Yes or no, for or against?
The debaters get up on our stage and they have to prove that their argument is right while at the same time disproving their opponent's argument. As a result, they really have to go into depth, they have to marshal facts, they have to present logic, they have to be persuasive.
And the ideal thing about this is that the audience actually gets to hear two sides of a very good argument.
SMERCONISH: So, how would it apply to the presidential race where there are three dates that are on the calendar?
DONVAN: Well, what we see with the presidential debates, and we really haven't been doing it that long, they only go back to 1960 with a lot of years skipped in between, these are debates where the candidates get up there and they don't really come in intending to debate. They come in with speeches that they have memorized and they look for opportunities to unfold their speeches, really basically ignoring the questions in most of their speeches are about putting down the other guy.
They move along from topic to topic. The moderator is in there trying to play gotcha. And that puts the candidates on the defensive.
If we could ahead with the debate program that actually introduces the Oxford model, we would see candidates having to prove themselves, prove what they believe. Their core beliefs will come out if they actually have to argue for or against a motion in a way that we have never seen before.
And we have done 120 of these debates so far all over the country. And I have to say, it may sound like it might be hard going to listen to, it's the opposite. You have been there. Audiences come out electrified by being witness to a real intellectual jousting match. They are gladiators.
SMERCONISH: I know. But you and I are a couple policy wonks, maybe a little nerdish, do you think the American people want the substance that you would be offering in this type of a format?
DONVAN: Look, the fireworks are fun, there's no question about it. And you and I are wonks, no question about it. But we fill halls all around the country. A lot of times with people saying they were dragged along by their date coming out saying, I never knew a real debate, a real debate, which is not what we're seeing from the presidential debates, a real debate could be so exciting.
My answer to that is yes. And we have had on our petition change.org/fixthedebates, 50,000 have signed the petition in just the last few weeks. Millions have looked at the video that goes with it. We have hundreds of thousands of shares.
So, once people sort of get the idea, my answer to that is, yes, we all have a hidden wonk in us but it doesn't have to feel wonky. It's actually exciting to see it happen once it happens.
SMERCONISH: Two final observations. One, I'm just wondering aloud, would the candidates go for this if the public demanded it? And secondly, I just want to congratulate you on the publication of "In A Different Key: The Story of Autism." "I'm John Donvan" I have so often heard you say.
Thank you, John. I appreciate it.
DONVAN: It's a pleasure.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, the convention circuses have packed their tents in both Cleveland and Philly. In their wake, what kind of bump did the candidates get? Keep tweeting me your thoughts @Smerconish.
[09:48:44] SMERCONISH: We're now just 100 days until the election and just passed a significant milestone. What have we learned from those conventions?
Joining me now, Mary Katharine Ham, senior writer of "The Federalist", and Ellis Henican, author of "The Party's Over: How the Extreme Right Hijacked the GOP, and I Became a Democrat".
Mary Katharine, I was there for all eight nights. I want to just take you inside my cynical mind. Because on the final night of the DNC, I looked at the roster of speakers, and I saw someone was listed named Khizr Khan and I said, well, I've never heard of Khizr Khan, they must be bringing in a nobody to lower the bar so that when Hillary Clinton speaks, she can knock it out of the park.
And then he got up at a roster and here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KHIZR KHAN, FATHER OF FALLEN MUSLIM AMERICAN SOLDIER: Donald Trump, you're asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
I will -- I will gladly lend you my copy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[09:50:00] SMERCONISH: It was the most stunning moment of all eight nights in my view. And, Mary Katharine, now I'm reading the back story and I'm finding out that he did it without notes.
Will you react to that gentleman?
MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It was a great moment. Here's the interesting thing to me about it, this is a Muslim couple with a son who is a combat vet who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq fighting for his country. They have a pocket Constitution.
This seems like a couple that maybe in a world of peril not too far from here, George W. Bush would have cultivated a relationship with this family because he honored that sacrifice and thought it was notable, particularly because of their faith and would have perhaps ended up on an RNC stage, he except he was on the DNC stage. And I think that is a moment that crystallizes the lane that the Trump campaign left open for Democrats to have that kind of message on their stage, not on the other stage.
SMERCONISH: Ellis, I know you probably didn't even get to see it because I'm sure you were watching FOX, I say tongue and cheek, and they didn't show that speech live. Neither did they show General John Allen, neither did they show the mothers movement, which is interesting because it's now a post-Roger Ailes world and I guess their branding and their approach is not going to change.
ELLIS HENICAN, COLUMNIST, NEWSDAY: Well, they missed some good stuff there. And what made it powerful, honestly, was the authenticity of it, right? I mean, he was a guy talking from his heart about something that had affected deeply, deeply his own family. Oh, by the way, the other party wouldn't allow his relatives to come into the United States today because they're not fit to be here. It's just an eloquent, simple powerful moment. Yes, really good television, no doubt about it.
SMERCONISH: I think, Mary Katharine, that both parties had good conventions in so far as they were able to stoke their base. The one difference I would note is that I thought there was more of an effort. And in particular, I'm thinking of Michael Bloomberg, but I thought there was more outreach from the D's than the R's toward independents.
I mean, the R's was all about going after their hardcore constituency. Is that how you saw it?
HAM: Well, I think there's just more of a strategy with the DNC. I think both situations, you've got some chaos. You've got some chaos, you've got some lack of unity in the party, and you've got two candidates who frankly are not terribly likable or popular with the American people.
What you surround them with is the question. I think the DNC showed it had a lot of stage craft, a lot of pageantry that went off well, at least on TV. I have heard in the room it was more uncomfortable.
And at the RNC, there was just less of a strategy. And that is the difference you're going to see between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the next 100 days, is that he does Donald Trump, that's what he does. That's what he did during the convention.
She's going to have a lot more strategy and machinery built around her to make up for her deficiencies. And both of them have them.
SMERCONISH: Ellis, here's a little Michael Bloomberg from the final night of the DNC. Roll that clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I'm a New Yorker. And I know a con when I see one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Look, 42 percent of Americans are I's. They're not R's. They're not D's. I think it was smart to bring him out, Ellis, and put him on that stage in primetime.
HENICAN: It was and for the reasons you say. I would not call him one of the most eloquent speakers of the week. I mean, he was far down that list, but yes, reaching into the middle is right. Michael, I don't buy the parody argument between these two conventions. Truly, one of them was an effective delivery of a message. The other was pretty much of a train wreck, wasn't it?
SMERCONISH: Well, it was a train wreck to Democrats watching it. But I was in the hall, Mary Katharine, and I'm telling you, among the Republicans who were there, it had its rough patches, but in the end, Donald Trump vanquished Ted Cruz. Cruz went home with his tail between his legs and the people who came out of Cleveland, whether you agree with them or not, I think they had their heads on with regard to what they want to do for Trump. Mary Katharine?
HAM: Well, Cleveland was great but I don't think the convention went off as everybody had hoped it would in their fondest dreams. No, I think I'll give Ellis that. It was not a great moment.
But here's the thing, when it comes down to it, this is 2016. He got a five-point bump out of it. Who knows what happens for Clinton? She puts together this thing that goes off very well. she may get no bump. This is how this year works.
SMERCONISH: Ellis, take 15 seconds. Give me the final word.
HENICAN: Well, that's true, the conventions do not have the impact they do. We are not going to get a Dukakis level, double-digit bump for any of these people. It was such a divided nation. Views are so hardened. I don't know. I just think it's going to be a mud wrestle until November.
HAM: Let me say this also, Michael, in the end, Clinton is walking a really tough line. Many of the independents and Republicans who liked the message of the convention, the pageantry and the patriotism, when she started giving out those liberal policies, they were like, no, I'm back on board. I'm back on the right. So, that's the problem you face.
SMERCONISH: Yes. Well, in the end, the I's will have it. Guys, thank you for being here, appreciate it. HAM: Thank you.
HENICAN: Great to see you.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets like this one from Susan.
[09:55:03] "Don't denigrate intelligence of the American people. We're interested in facts and positions, too. Imagine."
I know you are, Susan, because you are watching this program.
SMERCONISH: Can I start with one of my own tweets? Take a look at this one. This is my eldest son with me working at both conventions. I am there testing that old adage about which candidate you'd like to share a beer with. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson at the DNC passed my test.
Now, here are some of your tweets. What do we have? Maureen, "The interview with the professor was one of the most honest points of view I have heard and you cut him off. Dishonest media." Maureen, I don't think I cut him off. I tell you what, we'll put that interview online and we can all judge. I would have liked to have gone all day with him because he had a unique perspective, but there are time constraints.
What else? Joseph who says, "The debates will be the highest rated show since Seinfeld or Friends finales, excluding Super Bowl. Advertisers are doing backflips."
Yes, I'm doing a backflip as well. I'm going away on vacation. I'll see you back here in two weeks.