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Who Should Moderate Presidential Debates?; Clinton's SoS Schedule Won't be Available Until after Election; New Trump Bio Looks at Biz Record; The Real Art of Trump's Deals; College Pushes Back Versus Political Correctness. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired August 27, 2016 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish coming to you live from the "City of Brotherly Love."
Seventy-two days until the election, and the first debate is just 30 days away. So by now the Commission on Presidential Debates should cast its ballots about who will be moderating. But the decision is delayed until after Labor Day. What is going on behind the scenes?
And the Clinton Foundation again under fire for helping donors get access to Hillary's State Department. And now we won't see her complete schedule until after Election Day.
Plus, the real art of Donald's dealings. A new Trump biography drills down on his character and his business record.
And the latest campus controversy as the University of Chicago draws a line in the sand about safe spaces and trigger warnings. Did it go too far?
But first, they're most important events between now and Election Day, the debates. And yet with just a month until the first presidential showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, maybe Gary Johnson and Jill Stein if they get to 15 percent in the polls, there remains a great mystery. Who will moderate?
In 2012 the moderators for the presidential and vice presidential debates were announced on August 13th. We're two weeks past that date. CNN is reporting we won't learn until after Labor Day for sure on the Commission on Presidential Debates.
They've got a tall order on their hands, selecting someone perceived to be free of bias. And keep this in mind, the candidates do not have a veto over whomever is chosen. It's a tough and important job and one that will be scrutinized by partisans on both sides.
Anybody who doesn't think a moderator makes a difference must not remember CNN's Bernard Shaw asking candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988 what he would do if Kitty Dukakis were raped.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BERNARD SHAW, THEN-CNN ANCHOR: Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Joining me now, Frank Sesno. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who spent two decades here at CNN and is now the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University; and CNN senior media correspondent, the host of Sunday morning's media show "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter.
Brian, what is going on? Why the delay, I know you're knee-deep in this story?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's veto power among the candidates, but behind the scenes there are conversations, there are informal conversations that are happening. And this year it's especially tricky because of the Donald Trump factor.
Obviously a moderator like Megyn Kelly would be a non-starter for Donald Trump. So the commission is having a very hard time getting to the place where they can actually confirm the four moderators.
I think after Labor Day we will hear the names. There are a number of journalists who are acceptable to both sides. But it's awfully tricky this year because of Trump.
SMERCONISH: Frank Sesno, what is the job description?
FRANK SESNO, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Well, this year the job description is to be both a journalist, a moderator, and a circus navigator, I think. The job involves doing many things, which is why this is so difficult.
You have to ask good questions, you have to listen fast and listen hard, you have to know what you're talking about so you can refer to information. We hope there's actually going to be substance in these debates.
A good moderator gets the candidates to engage with one another, it's not just, you know, sort of parallel news conferences where sound bites are generated. And this year because we've got a reality show going on, the moderator has got to be a reality show host.
They have got to not be intimidated by cameras and knowing that 60, 70 million people, people around the world, maybe a billion people, are watching this thing. So there's a great deal of pressure and a great deal of sort of real-time thinking that goes into this job. Not everybody can do it. Very few can, really.
SMERCONISH: Brian, can we drill down on some of the personalities? Do you think by definition, some of the more partisan types, you made reference to Megyn Kelly, are out as a matter of course because that would eliminate a number of individuals at FOX news, that would also eliminate a number of individuals over at MSNBC.
I think of the FOX team of Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace. If Megyn's out, maybe Chris Wallace still has a shot, would you agree with that?
STELTER: Yes, I mean, I think someone like Bret Baier or Chris Wallace is a possibility. But let's think about who -- first of all, who is not in the running. Someone like George Stephanopoulos, for example, because of Stephanopoulos's long ties to the Clintons back in the '90s, even though he has been a journalist now for many, many years, he would be out. He wouldn't be an option.
I think there are many people though at ABC and CNN and CBS and other networks that are options. Look at Anderson Cooper this week, having Trump and Clinton back-to-back -- Clinton and Trump, actually on consecutive nights. Look at Charlie Rose, look at Martha Raddatz at ABC, Lester Holt at NBC.
There's a number of journalists who I believe both candidates or all the candidates would find acceptable, would find fair and tough on that stage.
SMERCONISH: So with regard to MSNBC, you can't see Rachel Maddow, right? You can't see Chris Matthews, right?
STELTER: Well, that's the thing, right? That would be my dream. I would love to see Maddow and Amy Goodman and Bill O'Reilly and, I don't know, Megyn Kelly all on the same stage challenging these candidates from all sides. But no, I just don't think that's going to happen because the commission really prizes journalistic neutrality.
SESNO: Do I get to disagree with my...
SMERCONISH: You know, Frank, this reminds of the Supreme Court of the United States insofar as to be on the Supreme Court of the United States, one need not be a lawyer. Must someone necessarily come from the media realm to be a moderator of a presidential debate?
SESNO: No, they don't.
STELTER: Well, now it's getting interesting.
SESNO: No, they don't. And they shouldn't only be looking at journalists, and I know that they are not. However, and I think this is an important point, and I'm going to in just a brief moment disagree slightly with my good friend Brian Stelter on this.
There is so much that you're dealing with out there, OK? You've got cameras, you've got clocks, you've got people talking to you in your ears, you've got two presidential candidates who are loud and maybe angry and maybe engaging one another.
Juggling all of that is hard to do if this is the first time you're stepping in front of a camera or in front of a crowd like this. I can be a great professor and talk to 250 people in a lecture hall and be a presidential historian. Can I manage that kind of real-time juggling?
And maybe the answer is yes. Brian, the one thing I would say about Rachel Maddow and the others, I agree that's sort of the dream scenario in one way, but the other thing that's very important and the commission should be thinking about, and the public should, the moderators should not be such overarching characters themselves that they overshadow the candidates.
They should be there to ask the questions, get the candidates to engage and then step back to let it happen so maybe, God forbid, the public actually sees an extemporaneous engagement of these two candidates and gets a little bit of light with all of the heat that we have been seeing so far.
STELTER: I mostly...
SMERCONISH: Go ahead and respond, Brian.
STELTER: ... agree with you. Let me just say that even if the candidates, even if the moderators try not to be players on stage, they are still players, because you're right, it is all about this performance.
It's about having to be able to manage this television stage that is being set up. And in some ways these debates are so artificial. So you need that moderator to have television expertise, decades of it in order to know how to manage it.
You know, I think that makes sense.
SESNO: It does. And this year it's going to be even more so with Donald Trump because he brings his reality show showmanship to it. And when do you step in? When do you interrupt? When do you stop? When is that appropriate? When is that disrespectful? That's a juggle, that's hard.
STELTER: And this year I think they are going to have to be more assertive. They should not be the story and they should not get in the way, but we're going to need some real-time fact-checking if these candidates say the things on stage that they have been saying on Twitter and at rallies.
SESNO: That's right.
SMERCONISH: You know, Frank, when I asked you for the job description and in a further answer you said to me, it has got to be someone with experience because this is no easy task. It would seem by definition that would preclude a number of millennials.
I know online there's a lot of chatter among voters who say, hey, I hope it is someone representative of our generation. But, Frank, to your point, if it is, it means it's going to be a first go-around for somebody.
SESNO: Yes, and that is tough. Again, you know, it is very intimidating. Look, I have interviewed presidents of the United States with lots of years of experience, it doesn't mean that when you walk in the room that isn't very -- you know, that is a scary thing a little bit. For this book that I'm working on, I interviewed Bob Schieffer about
preparing for the presidential debates. And he talked about how nervous he was before he went out. Here's a guy with years and years of experience in front of a camera interviewing presidents and senators and all the rest, and doing a weekly talk show.
So you do feel the burden there. I think the point that you mentioned, though, is very important about millennials and others. One thing the commission absolutely needs to do is make sure that there is diversity among their moderators.
It can't be a bunch of old white guys, sorry old white guys out there, that's not going to work. That's not the country. That's not where this debate is going or coming from.
STELTER: I did ask Jorge Ramos, the Univision anchor who has been fighting with...
SMERCONISH: OK, bottom line, guys, each of you...
STELTER: Oh, sorry, I was mentioning Jorge Ramos because, you know, the best-known Spanish-speaking anchorman in the country, he said he probably knows he's not going to be in contention because of his battles with Donald Trump. But he wants to see a Hispanic anchorman on that stage.
SMERCONISH: Brian Stelter, before you leave me, give me a name, someone who will be on that stage in one of the debates.
STELTER: Huh. Well, I think diversity is crucial. They are going to look for someone like Lester Holt or Martha Raddatz. I think Anderson Cooper is probably going to be in the mix. But I don't want to get ahead of ourselves. I think even the commission doesn't quite know yet.
SMERCONISH: Frank Sesno, give me a name.
SESNO: Those are exactly the names that I would give you.
SMERCONISH: Oh, really?
SESNO: And I think that -- yes, yes, and I think those are very likely names and those are almost certainly the finalists among those that the commission is considering.
SMERCONISH: All right. I'm throwing Wolf into the list. Thank you, gentlemen, Frank and Brian. And be sure to watch "RELIABLE SOURCES" tomorrow morning, 11:00 Eastern.
What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish. I'll read some later in the program.
Still to come, new accusations about this week about then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking meetings with donors to the Clinton Foundation. Do those criticisms have merit?
And a college dean sends a letter to incoming students that pushes back against political correctness and sets off a firestorm.
SMERCONISH: We just learned that we will not see Hillary Clinton's full schedule at the State Department until after the election. And here's why that's potentially important. On Wednesday the AP published what it called the first systemic effort to calculate the scope of intersecting interests of the Clinton Foundation donors and people who met with or spoke to Secretary Clinton about their needs.
The AP concluded that more than half, at least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met with Clinton, were donors who contributed as much as $185 million to the foundation.
The AP story called this an extraordinary proportion, indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president. And that sure sounded nefarious. But the Clinton campaign cried foul and they said the report was a distortion, noting that the AP did not include in its calculations foreign diplomats or U.S. government officials.
Had they been included, the report would not have been that more than half of her interactions were with donors, but that a tiny fraction fit the description.
And now we hear, we won't be getting Hillary's full schedule until after Election Day. So what, if anything, did we just learn? Joining me now, Democratic strategist Julian Epstein, he was Democratic chief counsel of the House Judiciary Committee during Bill Clinton's impeachment hearings. And he is a close associate and legal adviser to the Clintons.
And Peter Schweizer, he's the author of the book "Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich."
Peter, let me start with you. What is the significance in your eyes to this week's revelations?
PETER SCHWEIZER, AUTHOR, "CLINTON CASH": Well, I think the AP story is hugely important. And I find the Clinton defense kind of bizarre. The question is not who she meets with when the German foreign minister requests a meeting. That's part of her official duty.
The question is, who does she choose to give access to? Who does she choose to allow to have access to her ear? And it's pretty clear based on the AP evidence that when she has choices, she's choosing a high proportion of Clinton Foundation donors.
The emails that have come out also reveal that we have now gone from the point where we had this strange pattern of behavior where people were donating money to the Clintons and then they seemed to get favorable action.
We now have emails that show the Clinton Foundation as the conduit. If you're a crown prince, if you are a billionaire in Nigeria and you want to get access to the highest levels of the State Department, you don't need to go through or can go through official channels, you simply go through the Clinton Foundation.
And that is hugely troubling because it shows that money provides access. And I think further evidence is going to show that it equated with favors.
Peter Schweizer If the Associated Press did this type of analysis, this type of drill-down on any of the 435 members of Congress or 100 members of the U.S. Senate, would we not find the exact same thing?
SCHWEIZER: Well, I think we would. And I think money in politics is the troubling issue. But here's the huge massive difference, federal law prevents a crown prince or a Nigerian billionaire from donating to a political campaign or a super PAC.
The Clinton Foundation provides access for foreign entities, foreign interests, corporations, governments, and oligarchs. So it's no longer money pay-to-play involving Americans, involving Wall Street or oil companies or big labor, we're now talking about foreign interests influencing our national politics.
And precisely the reason that we have financial restrictions on foreign access to campaign donations, the Clinton Foundation is a way around that. And that is what is so troubling. The people that now have the ear of our...
SMERCONISH: OK, but that...
SMERCONISH: But that is only if there's a quid pro quo. And I don't think that you can establish by virtue of what the AP revealed any such finding?
SCHWEIZER: No, but the AP is just one part of the larger pattern. Look, it is very, very clear. If you look at the former governor down in Alabama, Siegelman, if you look at Senator Menendez, there are people in jail or being prosecuted based on far less evidence.
This notion that, you know, circumstantial evidence doesn't apply, it's not relevant, that is ridiculous. So I think the AP story is part of the larger pattern that exists. And that is why this demands an independent counsel to investigate these matters.
Someone appointed by President Obama who could assess these issues and evaluate them fully and take them out of the political realm.
SMERCONISH: A final question for you and one that I've asked you on numerous occasions. Is there a smoking gun here? And if so, what is it?
SCHWEIZER: I think the smoking gun is here. You see the flow of money, you see favors done, and you now see the communication taking place. I think if you put this in front of a jury, as is done in political corruption cases elsewhere, I this think the Clintons would face serious legal jeopardy. I'm not necessarily calling for a trial, but I am saying there should
be an independent counsel to evaluate these things that can put people under subpoena.
SMERCONISH: Peter Schweizer, thank you, as always.
Let's get the flip side, Julian Epstein, former Democratic chief counsel of the House Judiciary Committee during Bill Clinton's impeachment hearings, and a close associate and legal adviser to the Clintons.
Julian, if we add in the number of meetings that she had as part of her formal duties, with foreign dignitaries and government officials, and if, in fact, the number of meetings is now a universe of 1,700, the fact remains that 85 people who were big donors to the Clinton Foundation had their access to her facilitated by virtue of that relationship. Isn't that in and of itself a problem?
JULIAN EPSTEIN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I don't think any of the facts show that, Michael. I think that there -- in all of AP reporting, there is no suggestion whatsoever that any of the meetings that Secretary Clinton had with private interests, whether they were donors or not donors, were somehow inappropriate.
And I think your previous guest, Mr. Schweizer, he is clearly interested in selling a lot of books. But like a lot of critics of Hillary Clinton, his kind of arguments are very, very half-baked and he's unable to back any of them up with any serious legal analysis whatsoever.
He calls for independent counsels, and he says ethics violations, you know in all of your discussion with him he was unable to cite a single example in which any particular favor was provided in exchange for a donation to the Clinton Foundation.
He was unable to provide any kind of legal analysis. The fact of the matter is the AP reporting, regardless of what the data shows, and I think the data in the AP story is very, very incomplete.
The amount of contributors that she met with, the Clinton Foundation contributors that she met with were probably less than 5 percent of her overall meetings.
But regardless of those stats, even as you say, the 85 or so Clinton Foundation contributors that she did meet with, there's no suggestion whatsoever that any of those meetings were in any way inappropriate, that any special favors were given.
She was meeting with people like the Melinda Gates and her foundation, people that were doing -- trying to find economic capital for underprivileged areas around the world. Just no suggestion whatsoever there was any wrongdoing.
And Mr. Schweizer comes on and makes lots of reckless allegations because he wants to sell books. But his legal analysis is really kind of very, very amateurish. And it's much like the email controversy where critics like Mr.
Schweizer spent months, years making allegations that Hillary Clinton had violated criminal laws. And then you have the head of a Republican -- the Republican head of the FBI , Mr. Comey, who came out and said there was no basis for making the claim that she had violated criminal laws in the use of emails.
Again, here, there's just no there there.
EPSTEIN: And you compare the attention that's being given...
SMERCONISH: Let me get in here.
EPSTEIN: ... to this -- sure.
SMERCONISH: So many of these are in the eye of the beholder. So, and I don't want to lose CNN viewers in the weeds, but Muhammad Yunus. So to the Hillary supporters, you say, well, here is a guy who is a 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, of course our secretary of state would meet with such an individual.
But you delve a little deeper and you find out that he's a Bangladeshi businessman who was then being scrutinized by their government at a time when he's getting access to our secretary of state.
And you say, geez, I wonder if that's connected? He writes a big check or has a big check written to the Clinton Foundation. And when he's jammed up in Bangladesh, he has got the ear of our secretary of state. That sounds on the surface like it's deserving of more scrutiny.
EPSTEIN: Well, perhaps more deserving of a little more scrutiny, as you point out, he's a Nobel Prize winner attempting to get financing into -- and did hugely important work in terms of finding micro- financing into underprivileged areas in Bangladesh and elsewhere.
So the fact that he wouldn't have a legitimate business to discuss with the State Department I think on its face is just wrong. Can somebody -- can a skeptic come out and say, well, there was -- there may be some reason to explore this further? Sure. They could make the point that you made.
But let me just say that between the email controversy and this schedule controversy, Michael, the amount of attention that has been given to Hillary Clinton on her schedules or emails or meetings is unprecedented for a presidential candidate.
And you compare this with Donald Trump. Donald Trump won't release his tax returns, won't release any of his personal information. And why is that relevant? Well, because according to numerous reports, he has gone from $300 million in debt, Donald Trump that is, to $650 million in debt. Much of which is controlled, the debt, that is, controlled by interests sympathetic to the Russians, and direct Russian interests as well. SMERCONISH: I'm about to get to that. I'm getting to that in my next
EPSTEIN: Fair enough.
SMERCONISH: Let me just say, because we are short on time, sometimes I believe that she is her own worst enemy. I mean, why should the public not have before the election access to her calendar as she was secretary of state? I don't think she's well served by recent events where the government says we can't turn it around quickly enough.
That entire Brooklyn operation right now ought to be pitching in, going through a page at a time, and putting it out for public inspection. You get the final quick word.
EPSTEIN: Well, that's a fair question, Michael, but it's not the Brooklyn operation's decision. This is a decision by the State Department. And it's a negotiation with the judge and a negotiation with AP. The judge has ordered 600 pages per month to be released. The State Department has been doing that.
The question now is whether the judge will speed up that schedule, and if the judge wants to speed up the schedule, it may.
But the bottom line here again that your viewers must understand, contrary to what Mr. Schweizer said, nobody, nobody, nobody has made a persuasive case whatsoever that any of Hillary Clinton's meetings, whether they were with public officials or private officials, were in any way inappropriate, that any wrongdoing occurred, that any quid pro quo occurred...
SMERCONISH: OK, Julian...
EPSTEIN: ... that there was any pay-to-play. anything that was even close to an ethical violation.
SMERCONISH: Thank you for...
EPSTEIN: I mean, the critics are so far away from...
SMERCONISH: Thank you for that.
EPSTEIN: ... a serious analysis here it's not funny.
SMERCONISH: I've got to move.
Up ahead, the reporter -- thank you, Julian.
EPSTEIN: Thanks, Mike.
SMERCONISH: The reporter who literally wrote the book on Donald Trump after covering his business dealings for 30 years is here with amazing details of how Trump operates.
And a letter to the freshmen at the University of Chicago from the dean of students criticizing safe spaces and trigger warnings sparks a national debate.
[09:30:43] SMERCONISH: OK. Just talked about Hillary's email and the issues at the State Department and the schedule and so forth. Now, I want to focus on Donald Trump, the Donald Trump the businessman.
This week, Donald Trump softened his hard-line, anti-immigrant stance and responded to charges of racism by labeling his opponent a bigot. He still hasn't released his tax returns. It feels like we're often distracted from the fundamental question: does Donald Trump's business background make him qualified to be president?
Joining ne now, David Cay Johnston. He's a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He's covered Donald Trump for 28 years. He's the author of a brand new book called, "The Making of Donald Trump". He also teaches at Syracuse University's College of Law.
And Betsy McCaughey, a constitutional scholar with a PhD from Columbia, former lieutenant governor of the great state of New York. She was invited to be part of Donald Trump's economic advisors.
I've read your book, David. In the book, you say if I landed in Arkansas, I would have written about Hillary, but I landed in Atlantic City, so I wrote about Donald.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW: Right.
SMERCONISH: And you say, "I wrote this book to tell people things about his background that he won't tell them himself." Take your best shot.
JOHNSTON: Well, Donald got his helicopter, his personal helicopters and the ones for his casinos from a convicted felon who turned out to be a major drug trafficker. And instead of cutting ties with this guy, he kept him on, he rented him an apartment under very unusual circumstances, I've described in the book. He wrote a letter pleading for mercy for him, saying he was a stand-up guy. The guy got 18 months while the people who delivered the drugs for him got 20 years.
And, by the way, the case came before, one point, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, Donald's older sister.
So, here we are worried about the e-mails and connections and we should investigate that and write about it, but there's been virtually nothing outside of my book about Donald's life-long business dealings with Russian mobsters, con artists, violent felons, and swindlers, and this big-time cocaine trafficker.
SMERCONISH: Lieutenant Governor McCaughey, respond, please. I know you're eager to.
BETSY MCCAUGHEY (R), FORMER LT. GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: Yes, I would like to. Voters have a choice. On the one hand, racial demagoguery and class warfare from Hillary Clinton. Or on the other hand, real economic growth and higher take-home pay offered by Donald Trump. Right now, our economy is limping along, at 1.2 percent growth. And
the reason, declining business investment. Three quarters of declining business investment.
Donald Trump's program to lower corporate tax rates and produce unfettered energy development and release the economy from the burdensome regulations imposed by Barack Obama will mean 4 percent growth. And that means higher take-home pay for Americans. That is the key here.
Hillary Clinton is telling Americans that she's going to force corporations -- and she is wagging her finger -- force corporations to pay their fair share. What she's not telling them is that corporations in this country already pay the highest tax rates in the world even after all the loopholes and deductions.
And her program to force corporations to pay more and to slap with them with an exit tax when they leave this country will mean even lower growth, no growth at all, more people laid off, ad lower wages. Americans can't afford that. They need more money in their pockets.
SMERCONISH: Let me put this -- let me put this question to David, because David, she's responding with substance and substance is a good thing.
SMERCONISH: But your book talks about Donald Trump the man, Donald Trump the businessman. And you raise questions about the way in which he's run his own business that you say are reflective of the type of leader he would be. Did I get it right according to your book?
JOHNSTON: That's exactly correct. And Donald's business record is very clear. There are profitable casinos today in Atlantic City. Donald's were among the first to fold because they were badly managed. I wrote about it in my book now, "The Making of Donald Trump", and my 1992 book, "Temples of Chance."
He was a terrible manager. "Fortune Magazine" compared 496 publicly traded companies.
[09:35:04] Donald Trump's casino company when he was in charge came in either dead last or almost last in every category "Fortune Magazine" measured. Donald has over 4,000 lawsuits against him by people who say they were swindled. He cheated workers, illegal immigrant workers out of $4 an hour pay. And a federal judge found that he engaged in a conspiracy to cheat these workers out of their pay.
Donald says wages are too high which totally undercuts Betsy's argument. And, by the way, Betsy seems to be unaware of the fact that, as I have shown and nobody disputed who is a tax expert, that many American corporations literally turn a profit off the income tax. When I first reported that Congress, did an 1800-page study to show everything I had written was exactly correct and it was worse than I said.
SMERCONISH: Let me ask her to respond. Lieutenant governor, you wish to respond.
MCCAUGHEY: I would like to respond. Americans have a chance to look at much more about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump than what has been revealed so far here. Both of these candidates have submitted financial disclosure forms. Donald Trump's 104 pages long for listing 185 profit-producing ventures, golf courses, commercial buildings, residential buildings, and huge management fees paid to him by owners of other properties who want him to manage them because he does such a good job.
Now, compare that with Hillary Clinton's little 11-page financial disclosure form. It's all speaking fees and royalties --
SMERCONISH: Governor, wait a minute. Hold on, come on, time-out.
MCCAUGHEY: Just let me finish.
MCCAUGHEY: No, no, no time-out. Let me finish what I'm saying.
SMERCONISH: We have seen all of the Clinton --
MCCAUGHEY: You have a choice between a builder and the blabber.
SMERCONISH: Governor, come on. You're giving me sound bites. I must jump into this. Hold it.
We have seen all of the Clinton's tax returns, decades of the Clinton tax returns.
MCCAUGHEY: That's right.
SMERCONISH: Are you not troubled by the idea of lending -- ma'am, let me finish and I'll give you the final word. Are you not troubled by the prospect of laying whatever credibility you have on the line for a candidate whose tax returns you and the public have not seen?
MCCAUGHEY: Well, first of all, tax shaming is the Democratic way of suggesting that somebody who doesn't pay the highest rate is morally deficient.
As long as Donald Trump is following the law --
SMERCONISH: Answer my question.
MCCAUGHEY: I assume he is, right?
JOHNSTON: Michael, can I jump in here?
MCCAUGHEY: I answered your question. (CROSSTALK)
SMERCONISH: Answer my question, Governor. Then David, you'll get a word. Quickly answer my question, are you not troubled that you have not seen the man's tax returns?
MCCAUGHEY: No, no. I'm far more troubled that I haven't seen what Hillary Clinton told her private audiences to earn speaking fees.
SMERCONISH: I want to see that, too! That not an answer! We should see everything!
MCCAUGHEY: Everybody knows what could she have possibly said to people to get half a million dollars per hour.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, I'm getting nowhere. Thank you, both. Thank you, both.
Let me say something, we ought to see everything she said to Goldman Sachs and we ought to see all of his tax returns. That's the right answer.
More campus correctness in the news. A dean's letter to students at the University of -- sorry about that, but every once in a while I'm entitled to my own opinion, too, right?
Where was I? Oh, yes, the University of Chicago. A dean's letter criticizing safe spaces and trigger warnings and protests against controversial speakers has itself proved to be controversial. I'll talk to the professor who chaired the committee on whose work that letter was based.
[09:42:58] SMERCONISH: Hey, it's back to college season. We just dropped off our son for his freshman year. And given what happened on campuses last year, I felt obliged to have a chat with him about the political environment. Already, it looks it's going to be another year of campus controversies.
To recap just a few of last year's dust-ups, some Emory students claimed they felt threatened by chalk graffiti supporting Donald Trump. At Yale, students lobbied against Halloween costumes that they deemed offensive and the teacher who criticized ended up resigning.
At Elon, students tried to get newspaper columnist Kathleen Parker removed as a speaker because of her, quote, "radically conservative politics".
The latest controversy involves a letter sent to incoming freshman by the dean of students at University of Chicago. The letter warns that the university supports academic freedom and thus does not support, quote, "so-called trigger warnings, canceling speakers based on their controversial views, nor safe spaces that would allow students to, quote, 'retreat from perspectives at odds with their own'."
This has created heated debate on and off campus. And joining me now is University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone. He chaired the faculty committee whose work led to the dean's letter.
Professor, this is big news. Front page today, page one of "The New York Times." Is the message being communicated from the University of Chicago the way you would like? You have the opportunity now to speak for your committee's work.
GEOFFREY R. STONE, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: No. To be perfectly honest, the University of Chicago is deeply committed to academic freedom and to a robust and wide open freedom of expression.
But the letter which was sent out by the dean of students in one sentence is basically, I think, been misconstrued. The letter says that the university doesn't approve trigger warnings and that's been interpreted as meaning that the university forbids trigger warnings and that's not true. All it means is that the university doesn't require individual faculty members to do that, but faculty members in their academic freedom are perfectly free when they think it's appropriate to warn students in advance if there's material that they think individual students would find particularly sensitive.
[09:45:13] And similarly on the language about safe spaces, what the dean of students meant to say is that the University of Chicago itself is not a safe space. It is a place where people are expected to confront difficult challenging ideas. Not to say that students could not get together themselves and form organizations where they speak with other students with similar backgrounds and experiences, that's not what the university's policy is.
So, I think the problem here is largely one of misinterpretation.
SMERCONISH: So, quickly, we suit up in this country in our usual jerseys, liberal and conservative, you know that this gets put into the confines of that kind of a debate.
Is it a liberal versus conservative issue?
STONE: Well, it poses the kind of interesting division. Traditionally in the United States, it has been political conservatives who have been advocates for restricting free speech on campus, whether that be opposing Darwinism or whether that'd be opposing the speech that criticizes wealthy donors and benefactors or during World War I and the McCarthy era, the Vietnam era, calling on suppression of various kinds of speech. And it's traditionally been liberals who've been the advocates of free speech.
In this situation, it's a bit more complicated. Conservatives have taken on the mantle of defending free speech and liberals, traditional liberals are kind of divided. Some liberals like myself believe strongly in free speech and are committed to the principle that even with respect to ideas that people find offensive, universities have to guarantee the freedom to advocate those ideas and to encourage students to address those ideas and to combat them intellectually. But other liberals have taken the view that, well, certain types of
speech that is seen as demeaning and humiliating to racial groups, religious groups, women, gays, lesbians, immigrants and so on, should be cabined, and students shouldn't be subjected to that. And those are both sort of come out of liberal traditions.
So, what you see here is basically a division among liberals on this question, and most conservatives are aligned with the free speech liberals in this context.
SMERCONISH: You know that you're earning cheers. The University of Chicago is earning cheers from some corners where people say at last someone stood up to coddled millennials. If that is their interpretation, Professor Stone would say what?
STONE: Well, I would say there are lots of -- one of the questions is it that in the last several years, we have seen this demand across the university -- across the nation in colleges and universities for restrictions on speech, that previously were not subject to any restrictions. And it's coming from students.
And what's interesting about that is throughout American history, there's been no real serious movements in which students have been the moving force in an effort to create censorship on campuses. So, this is unique in that sense. And the interesting question is, why?
And the truth is, there are lots of different possible explanations. One of them that you just mentioned is the notion that some members of this generation were raised by parents who were so-called "helicopter parents" who shielded them and protected them from controversy, from challenge, from defeat, in a way that their predecessors were not shielded therefore kind of thin-skinned and were sensitive to being criticized and hearing ideas they don't like.
A more positive view of it is that this generation of students is more sensitive in a positive way to injustice and they're determined to take a strong stance against what they see as actions and speech that are unfair to and damaging to various minority groups in the community.
So, there are different theories about what's going on here.
SMERCONISH: Professor Stone, we dropped ours off this past Wednesday, I'm hoping he'll have a robust discussion and debate on a whole variety of different issues. That's what we're looking for in his education. And I like what I hear from the University of Chicago for what it's worth.
Thank you, sir, for being here.
STONE: Well, I --
SMERCONISH: Up next, political discourse on social media has gotten ugly and divisive, some likened to a shark feeding frenzy. And NPR has decided not to have comments on its website anymore. My thoughts on that and some of your tweets, which are hopefully not ugly or divisive, like this one.
Was I? Geez, I hope not.
[09:53:56] SMERCONISH: This election cycle has turned a lot of social media into anti-social media. People's Facebook feeds are increasingly fractious reflecting our course and polarized national political dialogue. A matter of fact, a piece in tomorrow's "New York Times" magazine about Facebook's political pages quotes page operators likening comments to "torch-wielding mobs and sharks in a feeding frenzy."
That's a part of why NPR recently discontinued comments on any of its news stories at npr.org. The other reason? NPR discovered what I have expected about such forums. Only a tiny percentage of their users were doing most of the posting -- 0.06 percent of their 33 million viewers.
I applaud NPR. It's been years since I read a of the comments on my own Sunday column in "The Philadelphia Inquirer". I found them to be angry, uncivil and certainly unresponsive to the merits of whatever I was arguing and not worthy of the response especially when commenters hide behind pseudonyms.
[09:55:03] Well, the Internet has made our life easier, the use of technology is not without its drawbacks. And one liability, the beer muscles some grow when given the opportunity to express themselves anonymously. Just like the drunk who has an inflated measure of his power by closing time, many bloggers adopt a tone and they say things online that they would never offer if their faces were seen and their identities.
Our political dialogue is far too course. Nasty anonymous comments are a significant part of a much bigger problem. But it's one aspect we can easily control. Just like NPR just did.
Having said that, what tweets have just come in on this program? "Smerconish, you should wear a referee jersey instead of a suit. My goodness."
You know, Paul, I have felt that way this entire election season. You're right.
Hit me with another one. That was civil. That was nice. That was okay. We don't have it?
What happened if I say this, keep your tweets coming @Smerconish. I read them all week long. I appreciate your watching and I'll see you the week after next.