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Basket of Deplorables; Why Is Trump Rising?; Moderators In The Spotlight; 9/11 Victims Can Now Sue Saudis; Debates Should Include Libertarian Candidates; Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson's "Aleppo Gaffe"; Clinton: No Ground Troops To Iraq Or Syria; Debate Moderators In The Hot Seat; Interview with Gary Johnson and Bill Weld; Clinton: Half of Trump Supporters "Deplorables". Aired 9-10a ET
Aired September 10, 2016 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Walk into this arena right now, and shoot somebody with 20,000 people watching right smack in the middle of the heart, and she wouldn't be prosecuted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[09:00:14] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Meanwhile, the pundits keep critiquing Donald Trump, but he is gaining ground, both nationally and in swing states, leading Democrats to wonder, why isn't she doing better?
Also, in the closest thing to a debate that we've had so far, the big loser was the moderator, Matt Lauer. Will the media's rough treatment of Lauer impact moderators of the real debates? And as we mark the 15th anniversary of 9/11, congress has just approved letting victims sue Saudi Arabia. But will the president stop that with a veto? I will ask the nation's first Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge.
But first, both candidates said shocking things last night that will only perpetuate their high negatives. Well, there's a third party in the race fighting its way to the debate stage. And the Libertarian ticket Gary Johnson and Bill Weld will be joining me later in the program. This week, Johnson finally became a national name in the presidential race, but not for any reason he had hoped. The presidential candidate flubbed a question on Aleppo, Syria, which he should have nailed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What would you do if you were elected about Aleppo?
GARY JOHNSON, LIBERTARIAN PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: About?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aleppo.
JOHNSON: And what is Aleppo?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Some have called his brain freeze a disqualifier. Really? In comparison to his opponents? I don't agree. And I can't help but notice that in The New York Times coverage of this error, The Times had to make two corrections to its own reporting, because the newspaper misidentified Aleppo. I know, we ask more from our presidents, but Gary Johnson's in good company. That's my point. Look, it's doubtful that Johnson will be the nation's 45th president or that Bill Weld will replace Joe Biden. But I think that Americans would benefit from hearing their message of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism. They deserve to be on that debate stage. Neither the Republican nor Democratic ticket can match their executive governing experience. In fact, we haven't had a third-party ticket disqualified in modern history.
Johnson is a successful entrepreneur turned public servant, twice elected Republican in the very Democratic State of New Mexico. He eliminated the state deficit, created a surplus all while reducing the size of the state's government. And he governed without an ethical blemish, quite a credential when viewed against his competition. Weld was also elected twice as a Republican in a Democratic state, Massachusetts. His bio, straight out of central casting. Unfortunately, credentials don't determine debate participation. Polls do. And even though Johnson and Weld will be on all 50 state ballots, in order to get to debate, they need to quickly reach 15 percent in an average of five national polls. While they meet that threshold in several states, they're not there nationally yet. Despite the Aleppo flap, I hope they make it.
Johnson and Weld have offered a nuance view of independence and thoughtfulness. They refuse to campaign dirty. They are even willing to utter the "C-word," compromise. Putting them on the debate stage would also force their opponents to defend their views against independent thinking. They just got their first endorsement from a major daily newspaper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch. So, here's my idea, if a pollster calls you, tell them you're for Johnson-Weld. You can always change your mind after the debates.
Time for you to get involved and not just on Twitter. I do a poll on my daily Sirius XM radio program. We're going to try it out here. Go to cnn.com/vote, and answer this question. Before the Gary Johnson controversy this week, would you have known the answer to, "What is Aleppo?" Be honest, cnn.com/vote. I'll announce the results later in the program.
Now, to mark tomorrow's 15th anniversary of 9/11, I had long ago invited the nation's first Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, glad I did, because now there is so much more to ask him about from today's headlines.
Mr. Secretary, great to see you. I want to begin with congress yesterday voting to allow 9/11 victim families to sue Saudi Arabia for the 9/11 plot. What should President Obama do?
[09:04:34] TOM RIDGE, FIRST SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Well, first of all, I think the executive branch has an entirely different perspective on the relationship with Saudi Arabia, so I don't think anyone should be surprised given the complicated and important relationship we have with the Saudis if the president vetoes it -- excuse me, the president vetoes it, and I wouldn't be surprised if it -- the veto was overridden. I guess I take a look at this story 15 years later after 9/11, and 9/11 certainly is a new chapter in the American history. And certainly, a new chapter in American security. And one, to think it took them 15 years to make a decision in this regard. It's rather remarkable. And two, there are so many other pressing challenges associated with what transpired in 9/11 is disappointing that they still haven't addressed many of those in the past 15 years either.
SMERCONISH: The more passage of time, the more I wonder, are they friend or are they foe? What's Tom Ridge's answer to that question?
RIDGE: I think it depends on how they view their relationship with our country and their own sovereign interest at the time. I mean, let's face it, the sovereign countries operate exclusively when it's in their best interest. If it's in their best interest to side with us to deal with Iran, which is a -- certainly, a challenge to their relationship in the region. And they'll be -- they will be supportive of us if it's in their best interest to work in contrary to our interests, they'll do that. Sovereigns do that. We just need to understand that there are no permanent allegiances in the global community. There are a lot closer allegiances among democracies than other parts of the world, as sovereigns do as is in their best interest. And we can align our interests with theirs, they're our friend. When our interest is not aligned with theirs, from time to time, they necessarily can be a foe.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Secretary, we will soon have a brand new commander- in-chief, intelligence briefings are now in earnest for both Secretary Clinton and for Donald Trump. I want to show you something that Donald Trump said relative to one of his intel briefings. Roll the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: What I did learn is that our leadership, Barack Obama, did not follow what our experts and our -- truly, when they call it intelligence, it's there for a reason, what our experts said to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How?
TRUMP: And I was very, very surprised. In almost every instance, and I could tell -- I am pretty good with the body language, I could tell they were not happy. Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So, he says, "I can read the body language of those giving me an intel briefing, and it tells me that Obama and Clinton did not follow their recommendations." Now, you're a guy in the loop, do intelligence briefers make recommendations or present facts? RIDGE: In my experience, the professionalism of our intelligence community is undisputed. It's not their position or their responsibility to make recommendations. Every intelligence briefing I had, and obviously, I've had multiple briefings, was strictly to the facts. And the notion that people are reading other people's body language and pulling from that conclusions, I think, is -- it's not only inappropriate, it's not terribly presidential.
SMERCONISH: Tom Ridge grew up in public housing, went to Harvard and wore the uniform of his country in Vietnam. I want to show you something else that Donald Trump said the other night. This, pertaining to the generals in our military command. Roll that tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it's embarrassing for our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Governor, he also said that he might replace generals. Is that the way the chain of command operates? Can he just replace generals?
RIDGE: Well, he certainly can't. Let's be very, very clear about this. Whenever Donald Trump has something to say, he says it regardless whether it's based in fact, based on reality or anything of that sort. I mean, this whole notion that you can -- regardless of outcome, regardless of circumstances, singlehandedly wipe the slate clean, start replacing generals is -- it just -- it's troubling to me that someone who aspires to be the President of the United States and the commander-in-chief would think so ill of those who have served this country for hundreds of years, and be so dismissive of those who have given recommendations and so dismissive of their service.
SMERCONISH: In that same candidate forum pertaining to national security, Secretary Clinton made a statement relative to both Syria and Iraq. I want to show you that tape as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They are not going to get ground troops. We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again. And we're not putting ground troops into Syria. We're going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops.
SMERCONISH: Mr. Secretary, I hope there are no ground troops placed in Iraq or in Syria, but I think there's a separate question as to whether she should have said that. Your view?
RIDGE: I don't think it's ever appropriate for those who would be a commander-in-chief or those frankly are in charge to be announcing in advance what our plans are. One of the challenges and one of the problems I've had sometimes with this administration is that tactics were divulged publicly. And I think it's really inappropriate. Again, you aspire to be, not only the president, the commander-in- chief, the leader of the free world. And the notion that you would tell your foes in advance of certain things that you would do or not do, I think, is just -- again, I don't think it's terrible presidential. This --
SMERCONISH: The final question --
RIDGE: This kind of transparency is not always in our best interest as a country. And I think both of these candidates need to understand that.
SMERCONISH: A quick final question. You and I come from opposite corners of the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Is the state really in play?
RIDGE: I think it'll be -- do I? No, I don't. But again, I haven't seen any polls. But my gut tells me that because of demographics, because of the extraordinary work the Democrats have done in terms of registering voters, they have this massive majority. And I think Donald -- Mr. Trump has to do better in the suburban counties outside of Philadelphia, and right now, as I read the TV, he's not doing very well there.
SMERCONISH: Governor, thanks so much for coming back to the program. I always appreciate your commentary.
RIDGE: Well, let me just thank you, Michael, and your friend Steve Singer, who on this particular day worked really hard and raised hundreds of thousands dollars for the flight 93 memorial. So, I tip my hat, and I thank you for that.
SMERCONISH: $10 at a time ihatestephensinger.com. Thanks for that.
RIDGE: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: What do you think? Tweet me @smerconish, and I will read some later in the program. Still to come, Matt Lauer under fire for how he conducted back-to-back interviews with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Will that criticism change the way the upcoming debate moderators conduct themselves? Of course, Donald Trump had no problem with Matt Lauer.
TRUMP: She was blaming Matt Lauer. I thought Matt Lauer did a very good job. I mean, his questions to me were very tough. But the gentleman who stood up and said, "Honestly, you should be in prison for what you did." To me, that was the tough one.
[09:15:56] SMERCONISH: This week, America finally got to see the major party presidential candidates interviewed back-to-back on live TV. But the reviews were all about the conduct of the interviewer. NBC's Matt Lauer was attacked for not challenging Trump while seeming to be very tough on Clinton. With the upcoming presidential debates looming large, the role of the moderators now in the spotlight. Lester Holt of NBC is doing the first one. Will he feel pressure to even things out? My next guest has a lot to say about that. David Brock, a Clinton supporter who founded Media Matters just wrote this letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates asking that they remove Fox's Chris Wallace from the first -- or from the debate that he'll moderate. Among his reasons, Roger Ailes who until recently was Wallace's boss, has been advising Donald Trump. And that Wallace has said this about his role.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, what do you do if the -- they make assertions that you know to be untrue?
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: That's not my job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not your job?
WALLACE: I do not believe that it's my job to be a truth squad. It's up to the other person to catch them on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: David Brock is joining me now. Hey, David, let me get this out of the way. I think that Matt Lauer made a mistake. By the way, I've got immense respect for him, but I think he made a mistake when not confronting Donald Trump relative to Iraq. He absolutely should have made reference to the Howard Stern interview on Iraq, and said to Donald Trump, "That's just not true."
But in a debate scenario, is that really Lauer's job or Chris Wallace's job rather than the opponent? Isn't that why the opponent is there? A debate is a joust, it will be up to Hillary Clinton to correct that record.
[09:17:43] DAVID BROCK, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I don't think you need a constant fact-checking operation going on inside the debate. But I do think where there are clear falsehoods that have been said before by these candidates, adequate preparation would be to challenge -- to challenge them on that. I mean, you know, you're a host, you're going to challenge me in this interview. I can't see just sitting there and reading off a list of questions and not listening, not having a real conversation and not challenging. As I said, you know, it is certainly the role of the opponent as well to get in it. But I think you can't just lay down there in the face of these falsehoods. And as we know, every independent fact-checking operation shows that Donald Trump, his lies are off the charts. Hillary was rated as the most truthful of the entire field, republican, democrats. So, the point here is if he lays down, it's going to advantage Trump, disadvantage Hillary.
SMERCONISH: But I'm concerned about the debate, therefore becoming all about the moderator. And, you know, sometimes facts are fungible. People are still debating whether Candy Crowley was correct in the Obama/Romney debate by talking about what it was the president said pertaining to Benghazi, and did he use the word terror the day after. I know you know of what I'm speaking.
SMERCONISH: So, you know, it's not always so clear-cut. I mean, given --
SMERCONISH: -- what the Howard Stern interview revealed about Donald Trump, that was a clear instance. So, Matt Lauer should have said something. I just don't want to open Pandora's Box.
BROCK: Right. No, I don't disagree with you. I know you said, I don't think every time somebody says something, it's up to the moderator to fact-check it, but I think that was a very glaring instance, we're in an agreement on that. And so -- and then the other part of my objection to Chris Wallace has to do with a conflict of interest on its face. Which you've already -- you've already referenced my letter. Roger Ailes is advising Donald Trump. He's also paid adviser to Rupert Murdoch who is Chris Wallace's employer. And look, if Jeff
Zucker was advising Hillary Clinton and also being paid by CNN. CNN's critiques would be squealing like stock pigs, and they'd be right to do it. This is wrong on its face. Optically, it stinks. And so, I think the Debate Commission has a particular Chris Wallace problem that they need to address.
SMERCONISH: Let me do something that Matt Lauer didn't do the other night. Let me challenge you on that assertion for a moment. OK?
SMERCONISH: Because you pre-suppose that Ailes has some leverage of control over Wallace at this stage, which I think is entirely absent. And to the extent that he's being given any money by Murdoch at this point, it was only to show them the door. So, I don't think that holds water.
BROCK: OK. I'm not pre-supposing what's going on inside Fox News. I don't know, I'll give you that. But just on its face, the arrangement is a conflict of interest arrangement. Journalist are constantly hitting politicians for optical problems. So, why can't we hold journalists to the same standard? The point is we actually don't know what's going on inside Fox News, but we do know on its face that Ailes is playing this dual role, and it's just a matter of public confidence in these debates. Both sides, Trump and Clinton, are going to be in agreement that the stakes in this election are extraordinarily high. So, I think we need to go the extra step there, and it's on the commission to make that decision, but I think the extra step there to ensure public confidence. And at least have Wallace acknowledge all these, so, you know, in the debate, so that people can make up their own minds.
SMERCONISH: Final comment or question for David Brock. You're a pretty sophisticated guy when it comes to these political matters. Are -- is what you're really doing here setting the bar for Wallace and you're planting a seed, so that when people are watching this debate, they'll have in the back of their minds that David Brock and others said, "Well, he shouldn't be there moderating it," and therefore you will have lessened what Hillary needs to achieve that night when we get to that debate?
BROCK: Well, yes, in part. Let me explain what we're going to do hear.
BROCK: First of all, we want to shine a light on this so the public does know. So, am I trying to communicate to the public that there is an issue here that they should be aware of when they're seeing the debate. We need a -- we need a real, fair, and balanced debate, not a Fox debate. Yes, I am trying to do that. Secondly, I'm trying to get the commissions to take responsibility and actually do the right thing here. I -- you know, I don't know that that's going to happen. And third, I want Chris Wallace to go the extra mile and, you know, whatever pressures he may be under, forego those and do a good job.
SMERCONISH: David Brock, I appreciate your thoughts, thank you.
SMERCONISH: Tough job to be a debate moderator. I don't -- I don't envy any of them. Tweet me your thoughts @smerconish. Speaking of debates, here next, the Libertarian ticket, Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, who I think ought to be on that debate stage. Which reminds me, don't forget to vote at cnn.com/vote. Before Johnson's controversy this week, would you have known the answer to "What is Aleppo?" Check out the early returns, influx but pretty close.
[09:27:06] SMERCONISH: They have more government experience than either the Republican or Democratic ticket. Gary Johnson, the former two-term Governor of New Mexico, and Bill Weld, the former two-term Governor of Massachusetts. They comprise the Libertarian ticket. They need to quickly get to 15 percent in the average of five national polls in order to make the debate stage. How can that happen? I'm about to ask. Joining me now, governors Johnson and Weld. I really appreciate you being here. Governor Johnson, I don't want to beat you up on the whole Aleppo thing. You've been beat up enough on it, but I want to raise this question. I know that you said that you were thinking acronym when you heard Aleppo. I'm wondering, is it also a reflection of those issues that do have your focus, and those that do not? Because a hallmark of your candidacy is that you believe in less foreign entanglements. Might that be an explanation as to why you didn't identify Aleppo?
[09:23:03] JOHNSON: No, Michael. No, no excuse whatsoever. And I know you're doing a poll right now, but most -- not -- the person on the street is not running for President of the United States, but understanding what is happening in Syria, that it is very serious. That I've been saying now for quite some time, that the key to Syria is bringing Russia to the table. Believing that Kerry was actually involved in those negotiations, and then seeing, you know, just last night, that, in fact, we do have what hopefully will be a lasting ceasefire.
SMERCONISH: But you don't want us there is my point. I mean, you don't want us over there, wherever over there might be. Is it fair to say that Gary Johnson believes that every time we open a base overseas, we put more American lives in jeopardy, and not make us more safe?
JOHNSON: Well, you know, we are there right now. We're going to honor all treaties and obligations. And you can't -- you can't wave a magic wand and not recognize that we are there. But we're there in the first place because we do support regime change, which I think has resulted in what is happening right now in Syria. And that started with Iraq and Rakka, and the fleeing of Saddam Hussein's loyalists that fled to Rakka.
SMERCONISH: Governor Weld, talk to me on this issue. What distinguish your ticket from the Republican and Democratic ticket as we talk about the events of the Middle East, in particular?
BILL WELD, LIBERTARIAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, I do think our first inclination is not to support regime change every time we see something we don't like going on in another country. The United States has been at war in one place or another in the world for most of the last 40 years. And it's just too much of a presumption in terms of intervention.
[09:30:02] We think that Iraq, Syria and Libya have proven that you don't necessarily effectuate good by going in with military power. In both Libya and Syria, we armed the rebels. The rebels lost and the arms wound up in the hands of ISIS. That's not helping anything.
I think Governor Johnson in addition to calling for the cease-fire yesterday, which is very timely advice, has been spot-on on Syria in saying that the solution has to lie through Russia. That's not to say it's going to be easy, but I really commend Secretary Kerry. He's had one heck of a year between Iran and Syria.
SMERCONISH: Why can't you two fellas close. I'm going to put up on the screen where you stand in a couple states relative to your bid for making the debate stage. Put up those numbers from the swing states.
It seems to me that your message of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism matches the country. You've got two of the least popular major party candidates who have ever run for the presidency. There you are in North Carolina at 15, Ohio at 14. My home state of Pennsylvania 9. Florida, 8.
Governor Johnson, wherein lies the deficit of closing the deal?
JOHNSON: Well, we are closing the deal. You know, we up nationally, spending a couple of million dollars in 21 states. Nationally, we are up doing advertising. You know, this "Washington Post" poll this last week that has us at plus 10 percent in 42 states, plus 15 percent in 15 state, plus 19 percent in five states.
We're now reaching over 50 million on social media. So, all of the analytics are ratcheting up. And in my opinion, there's just no question that we are going to get to that 15 percent. Will that be for the first debate? Maybe, maybe not.
But 15 percent is not something that's a law. The presidential debate commission made up of Democrats and Republicans and they have arbitrarily set this number. Really, we're supposed to have 21 million supporters as opposed to 18 million. You know, that's a tough call. And it's a tough call that I think falls on 50 percent of Americans right now that are declaring themselves as independents.
WELD: You know, Michael, the pollsters asked, who do you like, Trump or Johnson or Clinton? We'd be at 20 percent. We'd be between 20 and 30 percent. But the way they asked the question, they say Trump or Clinton, they say, oh, one more thing. If you can vote for a third- party, would you? So, that skews the results massively.
They are also doing telephone landline polling that doesn't pick up millennials, which is now the largest voting bloc and Gary is number one among millennials 18 to 24. He's number 2 among millennials 18 to 34. Those are our people. They are not being reached. They don't answer any telephone, much less a landline.
JOHNSON: Of course, we're talking about --
SMERCONISH: Mitt Romney this week sent out a tweet this week and said he wants you on that debate stage. And it begs the question, do you have a shot at his endorsement? Are there any other big names you can bring aboard within the span of the next week?
WELD: Well, the Governor Schwarzenegger of California came out yesterday with a strong statement saying we, by name, should be included in the debates. And I wouldn't be surprised to see a few more governors hop on. It's very easy to say we should be included in the debates when 76 percent of the people in the United States say they want us in the debates.
And the truth is, the commission can do anything it wants to do. It's not driven in stone this 15 percent figure. If they put us in the debates, nobody could complain. Nobody would have standing to complain. So they shouldn't be fearful.
JOHNSON: We are the only two candidates on the ballot. And only two third-party candidates on the ballot in all 50 states, which I think speaks volumes to what it is that we're doing.
SMERCONISH: Governors, before you go, let's check in on this poll among my viewers to see what they're saying about whether they would have known, this is -- it demands the honesty test here. The answer to the Aleppo question, where are we right now? Put it up on the screen.
Fifty -- well, look at the flux. It's roughly 55/45. But it's an intelligence audience, what can I tell you?
Gentlemen, thank you for being here. I appreciate it.
JOHNSON: Thank you, Michael.
WELD: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Governors Johnson and Weld. I hope they make it. I think they would add an independent perspective to that debate stage.
Still to come, a GOP candidate has released his tax returns. It's Mike Pence, not Donald Trump.
And last night, Hillary Clinton besmirched half of Trump's supporters. What's the fallout going to be? Trump tweeted this morning.
[09:35:01] Put that up on the screen.
"Wow, Hillary Clinton was so insulting to my supporters, millions of amazing, hard-working people. I think it will cost her at the polls." We'll talk about that in a moment.
SMERCONISH: With Election Day 58 days away, the national polls are surprisingly close, but what really matters are the swing states results, the votes needed to take the election. And those are closer than you might think.
The latest Quinnipiac polls show Clinton ahead in Pennsylvania. Her lead is narrower in North Carolina. Florida currently a dead heat at 43 each. And Trump is ahead in Ohio.
Last night, Hillary Clinton bad-mouthed half of Trump's supporters calling them deplorable. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To just be grossly generalistic, you can put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.
[09:40:03] Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, you name it. $,
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: She was more kind to the other half saying they were disenfranchised.
Joining me now on the state of the 2016 race, Democratic strategist Bob Beckel and conservative analyst E.D. Hill.
E.D., is that going to hurt her or the people going to be divided in this race? E.D. HILL, FORMER FNC ANCHOR/CONSERVATIVE ANALYST: No, what she --
what she really doesn't like are people who are poor and don't have a college education. She likes the intelligentsia. She likes the rich liberals, because that's who supports her. That's her real problem.
SMERCONISH: Bob Beckel, does she lose any support that she otherwise would have garnered by what she said last night?
BECKEL: Well, it reminds me a little bit of when Barack Obama said, you know, they grab hold of their flags and their guns in their churches. You remember that back --
SMERCONISH: Absolutely. 2008.
BECKEL: Yes, 2008. That hung around for a while. Guess is, it's the wrong thing to say.
But let me say one other thing about this race. You know, Trump, as much as I don't like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton's campaign manager made a statement last week, which he said that the question is, is Donald Trump an apparatchik of the Russians? Now, that's way over the line. I mean, that's treasonous, you know, basically, if he is, it's a treason.
The language here on both sides is getting way out of hand, and that's what happens when you have two people in the negatives in the mid-50s and 60s. The only way they can win is to make sure the other person's negatives stay up.
I have to correct you on one thing, Michael, smart as you are in politics, this race is not tightening. Donald Trump is not increasing. I did -- I looked at 14 polls in the key states, and take Ohio, for example, Donald Trump has 40, 41, 39, 40, 41, 42. It's Hillary Clinton that's backing down. She goes from 49 to 48 to 47 to 46.
So, yes, this race is tightening, but not because Trump is getting stronger, but she's getting weaker.
SMERCONISH: Well, you know, E.D., at the outset of the week, coming out of the Labor Day weekend, CNN/ORC had a poll with Trump up two. And, frankly, I was dubious of the significance, I love the beauty contest but said, tell me what is going on in the swing states? Here's Quinnipiac with those five states.
I get Beckel's point to say she's coming down, he's kind of fixed. But nevertheless, it's a close race, E.D.
HILL: It really is. And I think at this point it's still a toss-up. And it is who has probably doesn't damage themselves the most. Hillary Clinton should not have made that statement last night.
Donald Trump I think has been moving up, and the reason why is he's much more controlled, he's been sticking to message. And I think he's been, with the exception of some things, much less personal. They -- and I agree with Bob entirely. Enough with the negatives, start talking to us as Americans. What you're going to do for us. And I mean for all of us.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Bob, I want to go back to your Russian comment, because I did intend to discuss Putin in this conversation. Is it what's going on here, that Donald Trump says kind things about Vladimir Putin because to the extent Putin, through hacking Hillary's private servers, has something that could embarrass her? He wants to be sure that Putin drops it in the waning days of the campaign?
BECKEL: I think that's probably part of it. But also keep in mind it was Trump's son who said that most of their ongoing business interest now in the construction world are with Soviets, with Russians. And nothing wrong with that, but they have very close relationships to their business side of things.
So, I don't know, you know, I think if I were Trump, I would not talk about Putin anymore. I mean, I don't think it does him any good. And the people who reacted to it by the way are Republicans, not Democrats that much. So, I think it is a net negative for him.
But when you're on script as E.D. said about Trump, he's done better on script. Look, last night in the crowd saying Hillary Clinton can come here and shoot somebody down. Then what he said about the Iranians, if they came and flipped the bird to an American ship, they would be blown out of the water. I mean, those are the kinds of things -- you know, it's hyperbole, you don't need it, and all it does is set you up for another commercial.
SMERCONISH: E.D., let me show the audio of what Bob just referenced, because I do want to get to it. This is what he said relative to Hillary last night. Then you can comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Because she is being so protected, she could walk into this arena right now and shoot somebody with 20,000 people watching right smack in the middle of the heart and she wouldn't be prosecuted, OK?
[09:45:07] That's what's happened. That is what's happened to our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: E.D., react to what you just watched.
HILL: Well, I think he tapped into the belief that Hillary Clinton is somehow able to get away with a lot. Can he go in there and shoot a person and get away with that? I'm not so positive about that.
But it was the idea. And it's the sentiment. And that sentiment really is what hurts her a lot. It's why people don't trust her.
They think that shady things happened. The she gets involved and somehow stuff disappears. It's smoothed over and that is really what gets to folks. But the whole talk about Russia, I want to get back to real quickly,
is that is not what America is talking about. They are talking about North Korea this morning. And I think that pundits and the news networks miss out on what real Americans care about. That is affecting them. That is what scares them right now. Not Putin.
BECKEL: Yes, but, E.D., that's a good point.
SMERCONISH: Go ahead, Bob.
BECKEL: What I was going to say is that when Donald Trump say that is the reason the North Koreans have successfully launched five times is because of Obama and Clinton is way overboard. I mean, first of all, the first one was under the Bush administration.
HILL: And the majority were under his watch and her watch. And he comes out after this one and says, now I'm really upset about it.
BECKEL: Here's a simple question for you that should be asked about Trump. OK, Mr. Trump, what would you do about it?
HILL: And I agree. That is exactly what question we should be talking about. And they should both be answering. But that is not what happened. We get distracted. We start talking about who Putin likes more or less. We start talking about whether or not you can point out someplace on a map in Syria.
That's what we get off on. That's not what people are caring about.
SMERCONISH: Final question, Beckel, if I might. Beckel, if I hit you cold a couple of days ago with Aleppo, would you have known what I was talking about?
BECKEL: No. But not only that, I think it's -- these guys, normally after Labor Day, third-party candidates tend to get lower and lower in the polls. These guys are growing.
And one of the things we didn't mention about these debates, they won't make the first debate. He won't. But he could make the second debate. And I'm waiting, it's not a question of Arnold Schwarzenegger or somebody else, some mega millionaire is going to come in to drop $20 million in his lap who is tired of both Clinton and Trump and you watch what $20 million in his hands can do in terms of moving the dial. I think a lot.
SMERCONISH: Hey, wait a minute, $20 million. Maybe it will be Gretchen Carlson.
BECKEL: Maybe. It may be.
HILL: We are in agreement on that.
SMERCONISH: Come on, guys.
HILL: I would like to see them in those debates. Right and just.
SMERCONISH: Amen. And by the way, I'm here all week. Thank you, Bob. Thank you, E.D., as always. Appreciate you being here.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, the final tally. Keep voting at CNN.com/vote. Answer the question, could you answer what is Aleppo before this week's Gary Johnson gaffe? And your best and worst tweets, like this one.
"I've been smoking pot every day since 1970. Libertarians don't think foreign policy because they don't want any foreign policy." Well, they want us less involved in foreign entanglements. There's no doubt about that. What that has to do with pot, I'm not sure.
[09:52:50] SMERCONISH: Welcome back.
So, here are the results of our first live vote question. The question was, before Gary Johnson got stumped on "Morning Joe", could you have answered, what is Aleppo?
Let's see the result. I don't know what it is. I want to check it out.
Fifty-eight percent say yes, 42 percent say no, perhaps attributable to the fact that among Mensa Society members, 25 to 34, number one program on Saturdays. I like this. Let's do this again.
Here are some other things you are thinking, things you've been tweeting me @smerconish. I haven't seen what's coming. Let's put them up.
"You are advising voters to commit fraud by responding to pollsters favoring Johnson. You're trying to rig the system."
No, I'm not. If you tell a pollster you're for Johnson and Weld today to get them on the debate stage, you're not locked in to anything pertaining to the way you go and cast your ballots. I think they would independents. They would force the left and the right to defend their views against where 42 percent of Americans reside and that my friend is the center. That's my only objective.
Hit me with another tweet. What do we got?
"I thought I was crazy for thinking Johnson made a minor slip compared to Trump and Clinton. Glad I'm in good company."
Well, the good company, Trevor, that you are in is the company of yours truly because I didn't think it was that big of a deal. Frankly, I think among the chattering class, it was the equivalent of a private e-mail server or some of the gaffes that Trump has made. I don't know that it resonated in the rest of the country, we're going to find out.
And I have to say, I love the fact that Beckel on this show when I said, hey, Bob, did you know what Aleppo was a week ago? It's subject to embarrassment. He knows now. He said no, I didn't know.
Do I have time for one more time @Smerconish? Hit me with it if you do.
"Moderators can't know everything. They need 60 experts on phones live to call BS realtime at any time."
Look, here's my bottom line, I think the world of Matt Lauer. Sure, he should have called out Trump on the Iraq thing. Lauer listens to Howard Stern, I know. So, he knew the answer to that issue, but I don't want moderators overstepping their bounds. Leave that to their political opponents in the debates.
[09:55:02] Follow me @smerconish and I'll see you here in a week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: You can put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.
TRUMP: Her tenure has brought us only war and destruction and death.
REPORTER: The equivalent of at least 10,000 tons of TNT. That's the explosive power of Kim Jong-un's latest nuclear bomb test.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they launch against us or our allies, we will launch against them.