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MOAB a Message to North Korea?; Should American Foreign Policy Be Consistent?; Is It Good or Bad That the Trump White House is Run Like A Family Business?; Should United CEO Lose His Job?; PR Nightmares for United, Spicer, O'Reilly. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired April 15, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:00] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN HOST: This calf is expected to weigh 150 pounds and be 6 feet tall at birth.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: It's already got hooves hanging out.
PAUL: Yes. She's been pregnant from nearly 15 months. Could be about another hour, we suspect. And Victor is watching it and saying, this is why men don't do this.
BLACKWELL: Yes, all right. We'll see you back here at 10 o' clock for "NEWSROOM."
PAUL: SMERCONISH starts now.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Happy Easter, everybody. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
In a military parade today, North Korea displayed two canisters that could hold two intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States. Then again, they could just be empty painted cans. Gen. Michael Hayden is here to analyze.
Plus, President Trump conferred with CEOs this week at the White House. The legendary Jack Welch was there. Now, he's here to discuss the president's impact so far on American business in his first three months.
And palace intrigue, with Steve Bannon's power on the wane and Jared and Ivanka's spheres of influence rising, should the White House be run like a family business? The answer from Yale Dean and Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld might surprise you.
And sorry seems to be the hardest word. It's been a banner week in crisis management as Bill O'Reilly takes a vacation from Fox News, Sean Spicer stumbles with reference to the Holocaust, and United Airlines has the worst in-flight video ever. Damage control expert Lanny Davis will tell us what should've happened.
But first, Americans know Tax Day as April 15 today. But in North Korea, today is a national holiday, which marks the birthday of Kim Il-Sung, the nation's founder. There had been great concern that Pyongyang would mark the occasion with its sixth nuclear missile test.
Thankfully that didn't happen. Instead Kim Jong-un showed off two new intercontinental ballistic missile size canisters as well as displaying its submarine-launched ballistic missile and a land-based version of the same for the first time according to analysts.
If North Korea indeed has operational ICBMs, it could give it the ability to strike targets in the mainland US and Europe. The shorter range missiles displayed Saturday meanwhile are a threat to countries in the Asian region.
But North Korea did not carry out another nuclear or ballistic missile test. And here's my question. Might that be, because on Thursday, the United States had dropped the mother of all bombs on an Islamic State cave complex in eastern Afghanistan.
The 21,000-pound bomb costs $16 million, and is so big that it needs to be deployed from the rear of a cargo plane. Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said the dropping of that bomb was solely related to Afghanistan.
But I think it would have been impossible for Kim Jong-un to ignore. On Friday, China warned the United States and North Korea against engaging in tit-for-tat and urged both parties to refrain from inflammatory or threatening statements or deeds to prevent irreversible damage to the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
The aircraft carrier Carl Vinson is in the Korean Peninsula region and Vice President Mike Pence will arrive in Seoul on Sunday.
It's a lot to discuss with the perfect guest. Gen. Michael Hayden is the former head of both the NSA and CIA. His memoir, Playing to the Edge: American Intelligence in the Age of Terror now available in paperback.
Gen. Hayden, what's in those cans and how do we know?
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, Michael, we don't know. And I think we're going to have an awful lot of American intelligence analysts looking over parade footage for a very long time to try to determine what may or may not be the status of these missile programs in North Korea.
Frankly, Michael, I think the smart estimate is that there is an inevitability about the North Koreans getting to the point that we both fear and that you mentioned. But I don't think they're there yet. I think they're several years away.
This is a complex problem, but they are solving it one piece at a time even with their unsuccessful missile tests. So, again, an inevitability, but they are not there yet.
SMERCONISH: The MOAB is a bomb that you're well familiar with given your air force background. Talk to me about that weapon. A lot of hype here in the United States this week about its utilization. HAYDEN: Yes. And I get the drama, Michael, about the use of such a weapon. But it's a tactical weapon. It was the best tactical solution to a tactical problem in Afghanistan. And so, we note that it's been used for the first time in combat, but it's been in the arsenal for a very long time.
[09:05:09] Now, interesting point you raised earlier. The relationship of the MOAB to North Korea, frankly, it may have had a bit of an influence, so did the strike in Syria 10 days ago, so did the Vinson out there in what the Koreans call the EC.
But, frankly, Michael, I think the influence they had was most on the Chinese, not on the North Koreans. And as you pointed out in your lead-in, the Chinese are out there now trying to get both sides - ourselves and the North Koreans - and they treated fairly equally in
their commentary, to settle down and not do anything that would let this spin out of control.
SMERCONISH: General, to my untrained eye, it seemed like President Trump was tossing a hot potato to the Chinese and then at the end of the week they handed it right back. And they said, oh, no, you two sort this out. We're not going to do it. Am I right?
HAYDEN: Well, the Chinese have taken some steps. Number one, the fairly equally worded statement against both ourselves and the North Koreans; second, turning back some North Korean exports of coal; and then finally, Michael, quite interesting to me, a Chinese paper associated with the regime in Beijing pointed out that a non-nuclear North Korea would enjoy the strategic protection of the People's Republic of China.
So, I do think the Chinese might be edging closer to a place where we want them to be, which is a more active role in this. But, fundamentally, of course, they can't take the lead role, perhaps more active, but not definitive.
President Trump said something interesting after his meeting with Xi Jinping. He said that Xi explained to him that they don't have direct control over the North Koreans. The president accepted that, acted a little surprised, but I think most of us knew that for a very long time.
So, again, we're in a very unsure place here. We've departed from the Obama administration's philosophy, approach of strategic patience, which was frankly to ignore the three-year-old throwing the porridge on the floor.
But now the three-year-old seems to be going for the flat screen to throw it on the floor and I think we quite appropriately now are beginning to respond - dare I use the word, Michael - a bit more aggressively to these North Korean provocations, and that's got the Chinese into the game. That's probably good.
SMERCONISH: You reference President Trump. President Trump was hammered in certain quarters this week for inconsistencies. I want to know from Gen. Hayden if consistency, when it comes to foreign affairs and national security, is overrated as a virtue.
I want to show you a short clip that he appeared with Maria Bartiromo on FOX Business and then I'll ask that question. Play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX BUSINESS HOST, MORNINGS WITH MARIA: What are we doing right now in terms of North Korea?
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You never know, do you? You never know.
BARTIROMO: That's all you're going to say?
TRUMP: You know I don't talk about the military.
TRUMP: I'm not like Obama where they talk about, in four months, we're raiding - we're going to hit Mosul. And in the meantime, they get ready, like you never - so, look, they're still fighting. Mosul was supposed to last for a week and now they've been fighting it for many months, and so many more people died. I don't want to talk about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Is his unpredictability actually a virtue, general?
HAYDEN: Well, unpredictability is a virtue at the tactical level. So, you don't want to telegraph that you're going to have TLAMs going after a Syrian airfield. But you do want strategic consistency, Michael.
Your friends and your enemies need to have a fairly good idea of what your intent is and where your redlines are. And so, I think it's a bit overstated in what he said in that particular broadcast.
SMERCONISH: I want to show you an additional clip of Secretary Mattis and General Votel that didn't get a lot of attention this week.
The context is, there was a question posed relative to Iraq and our future military posture. We'll roll the tape and you'll parse these words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The short answer is we are in consultations with the Iraqi government about what the stabilization phase looks like. There have been no decisions. There have been no offers made either way. We're in consultation. We're talking about what the tactical situation will probably look like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: General, what exactly is the stabilization phase. That didn't make sense to me.
HAYDEN: Michael, good catch. I thought that was the most fascinating part of what was a very fascinating press conference by the secretary and General Votel.
The stabilization phase is what takes place after you've achieved battlefield success. After you've taken Mosul, after you've taken Raqqa, what do you then do to make it less likely that you've got to go back and do it again.
[09:10:08] It's a wonderful marker that the secretary of defense has put down. On a day, you could call the stabilization phase nation- building. I'm sure the secretary wasn't referring to that. But what he was trying to say, trying to prepare the department, the administration, and frankly, I think the American people for, was that you just can't roll through Raqqa with armor and go home.
You've got to change the facts on the ground. Otherwise, you've got to go do this again. So, I thought it was just a magnificent statement.
SMERCONISH: Finally, you lost an old football coach this week. Americans know him as an ambassador. Americans knew him, Dan Rooney, as the chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But he was actually your coach in, what, sixth, seventh grade?
HAYDEN: Sixth, seventh and eighth grade. In the Catholic Grade School Football League in Pittsburgh, I was Dan's quarterback in eighth grade. He gave me my first job with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
I stayed in contact with Dan throughout my military career. And, Michael, whenever it looked like I was hitting whitewater in terms of what I was doing in the intelligence field, Dan always called me up and gave me a good word of encouragement. A great American, a great Pittsburgher.
SMERCONISH: The question is, could Gen. Hayden in the backyard on Easter Sunday still throw a spiral?
HAYDEN: He could, but not for a long distance.
SMERCONISH: Have a good Easter. Thank you, general. Appreciate it.
HAYDEN: Thank you. Happy Easter, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Tweet me your thoughts @smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. Katherine, what have you got? Hit me with something.
"Time for Kim Jong-un to visit Mar-A-Lago. Little golf, big steak, some wine. What happens to the big negotiation King?
I don't know that he's a guy, Carole, that anyone could negotiate with, but that's a good suggestion.
Coming up, the balance of power in the White House seems to be shifting away from Steve Bannon and toward son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump. Now, critics say Trump is running the presidency as a family business.
My next guest Yale professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld says that's not necessarily a bad thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": It's been a busy few weeks for the president. Every day, he gets to work, rolls up his sleeves, and gives a new job to Jared Kushner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[09:16:51] SMERCONISH: There's no doubt that Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, wield tremendous power in the White House, leading many to skeptically ask if the administration is being run like a family business.
My next guest says there needs to be an important follow-up question. Is that necessarily a bad thing? This is an even more important conversation given reports that Steve Bannon's job could now be in jeopardy.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is a dean and professor at the Yale School of Management. He wrote a provocative and popular essay on this subject for Politico titled, "Trump's White House is a family business. That's not a bad thing." And he joins me now.
Jeffrey, thanks for being back on the program. Why is this not necessarily a bad thing?
JEFFREY SONNENFELD, SENIOR ASSOCIATE DEAN, YALE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT: Thanks, Michael. Good to be back with you. The bumper - the clip that you had just coming in to this segment, I thought, really raised the issue satirically.
Stephen Colbert complaining that it's been a busy few weeks. Every morning President Trump wakes up, goes to work, rolls up his sleeves and gives Jared Kushner a new job. And the complaints there are, one of them, the family role conflict you raise.
Another one - they're calling him basically a shadow secretary of state with really broad duties and people don't understand the range of duties.
And the third is the age and experience.
On family conflict, the big thing there is, there are some maybe commercial and financial conflicts. He sold off 60 businesses, but he and Ivanka have almost $1 billion between them and there still will be perhaps some role issues that come into dealing with China or some trade matters. But they have Jamie Gorelick in there, who is a of former deputy attorney general under Clinton advising them on these conflicts, and I think they're working through that pretty well.
The age and the experience issues, though, you remember Jimmy Carter's Georgia Mafia with Rahm Emanuel and George - rather that was, of course, Clinton's. Rahm Emanuel and George Stephanopoulos are 32 and 31 respectively.
Clinton had Mack McLarty, quite young and inexperienced in there. He is basically the Chief of Staff in the White House and he knew Clinton since kindergarten, but no special experience in managing national office. He was an auto leasing guy.
And the Georgia Mafia that Carter had was Jody Powell who was quite young and inexperienced, Hamilton Jordan. They didn't know. They had more power than any securities of state.
And Nixon had his Berlin wall with John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman that were blocking him. These people were not new in history.
In fact, whoever elected Benjamin Franklin to anything. And we know that Alexander Hamilton's great contributions came without formal titles. Henry Kissinger, some of the magnificent things that he did, most of what he did, like it or not, were not as a formal titled way. He had sweeping powers, but he was a security advisor -
SMERCONISH: Can I sum it up?
SMERCONISH: Can I sum it up? Blood is thicker than water. Blood is thicker than water. You met with the President-elect in December. Correct me if I'm wrong. And you said to him, be careful of these people around you because they're for themselves, but not the son-in- law and the daughter.
[09:20:04] SONNENFELD: Exactly. They all came in with strong agendas and they weren't necessarily his mission. Blood is thicker than water. As JFK said in explaining his appointment of his brother as Attorney General is there's nothing wrong with nepotism as you keep it in the family.
There are some conflicts and I believe they're on top of them. But the courage he has to speak truth to power and that Ivanka has, both Jared and Ivanka can tell him the truth in some important ways.
And we have seen - anybody who can restore chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CIA director and national director of intelligence back into the National Security Council is doing a very good thing for the country. And these kinds of things -
SMERCONISH: Well, here's the reason. This is the reason why it's a very important issue today. I think - and you correct me if you feel differently. I think Corey Lewandowski is probably out because of Jared and/or Ivanka. I think that Paul Manafort is out because of the duo. I think that Lieutenant General Flynn is out because of the duo. Now, palace intrigue suggests that Steve Bannon could be on the ropes, although, Jeffrey, you've got to be careful. If you're President Trump and you cut him loose because who knows how he would react. Comment on that.
SONNENFELD: Well, LBJ was famous for saying that he liked to have certain critics inside the tent, urinating outward - from the outside, urinating inward. And there's some way that you perhaps try to keep them into the tent. But I'm sure if he cuts them free - I think he can still manage him.
He now has a national following he didn't have before, but Trump is broadening his base. We've seen his polls go up a little because of some of these moves. And it's important to get the truth coming to him. Do not be insulated.
Thomas Moore, the famous special advisor to the throne - Henry VIII was his client - warned us that trust is so vital and so fragile that once you separate your fingers it's forever gone. This trust is what really matters. The list you just ran through are people that lost the confidence and trust of the president.
SMERCONISH: But you know there's something else that occurs to me and that is that a liability of sorts is that if he's overly dependent on Jared and Ivanka, if they're not around, he gets himself into trouble.
I remember being here Saturday, March 4 when he unleashed that Twitter storm where, I think unfounded, said that Barack Obama had tapped him at the Trump Tower. That was a Saturday. They're observing.
So, who's going to mind the store from sundown Friday until sundown on Saturday?
SONNENFELD: Well, even Orthodox Jews can break the Sabbath for something of great importance, but still there are other people. As advisors return to their critical roles, such as perhaps the best American in uniform today, in terms of the smartest person returned to power, Joe Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is people like that back in the fold that Kushner has accomplished this. Well, they will be there.
During the healthcare debate too, Michael, there was some worry that maybe some of these things went awry because Jared was off of the ski slope with his family and that perhaps the president wasn't pleased.
Well, you can't just rely on a single person for all these things, but what he's doing is making with Jared - his biggest accomplishment isn't that he's going to be the expert on opiate abuse or the reforming - the management of the White House or relations with China, Mexico and things that he has under his charge, but he's getting the right people to the table. That's what he's doing.
His advisors turn out to be people like Dunford and Henry Kissinger and others and getting the right expertise there, is what Jared is providing. And I think that's an important difference. And not having this dark government, evil worldview where we're cutting out expertise from getting to the president.
And those Saturday morning tweets, here we are, it looks like we've perhaps dodged another bullet. Maybe we're going to have fewer of them going forward.
SMERCONISH: Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, thank you so much for being back.
SONNENFELD: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: What do you think? Tweet me at @smerconish or keep posting on my Facebook page. Katherine?
Nepotism is nepotism. It is wrong on so many levels. But Kal-Ali H. Jesse, I think Professor Sonnenfeld makes an interesting point, right? Who can speak truth to power? One of the problems that I think this president has, and other presidents have had, is that nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news.
And I think that Professor Sonnenfeld's argument, among other things, is to say the kids will tell the old man when something needs correcting, whether that's getting rid of Michael Flynn or potentially getting rid of Steve Bannon.
Up ahead, President Trump met with a group of CEOs this week. The legendary Jack Welch was there and he'll join us to discuss the president's impact on American business. And I have to ask Jack - I've got to ask Jack, how would he as a CEO have handled the United Airlines crisis over the forced removal of a passenger.
Plus, that United fiasco is just one of several high-profile damage control stories this week. There was also Sean Spicer's unfortunate botch of world history. Did you see Jimmy Kimmel's take?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[09:25:11] SEAN SPICER, WHITE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, you had a - someone who is despicable as Hitler, who didn't even sink to the - to using chemical weapons. So, you have to -
JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": No, no, no. Did I just defend Hitler? Hitler? I think I did. Why did I even do that? Why even bring up the holocaust? In press secretaries' rule, the one rule was never defend Hitler.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: The CEO of United Airlines Oscar Munoz on the ropes this week, all because of how one passenger was treated.
[09:30:06] David Dao now infamously forced to give up his seat was dragged off the plane, and the company's responses seem a textbook case in how not to handle a corporate crisis. Munoz who was due to earn $14 million this year might lose a half million dollar bonus based on, quote/unquote, "customer satisfaction". But is that enough?
Joining me now, one of the CEOs who met with President Trump at a White House summit this week, America's -- well, I would have said America's best-known CEO, Jack Welch, the legendary former CEO of GE.
Jack, you've been dethroned. You were the best known CEO for all the right reasons. Unfortunately, Mr. Munoz is now the best-known CEO for all the wrong reasons.
JACK WELCH, FORMER CHAIRMAN AND CEO, GE: Well, he had a tough break this week. He had a cause (ph) for breakdown and they had a problem, and he got out there and apologized as quickly as he could. He maybe didn't grab it the first hour, but he's all over it now.
The trick is, Michael, on these things, they won't have another problem of dragging passengers off the plane. The trick is to get a culture where the customer is centric. They're the number one issues and now, they look, they've got a scenario play, on everything that possibly could happen going forward.
We always fix the problem we had, but we didn't anticipate with 400,000 people some of the things that would pop up in the future. And with social media today, you have to be scenario playing on every level of every possibility because your reputation is a camera shot away.
SMERCONISH: Is there a political analogy here in that there's a danger when you become the CEO that you're just too far removed from some of what goes on on a day-to-day basis like a person who becomes a member of the Senate or president of the United States? You lose touch with the electorate or customer base that you're serving?
WELCH: That's why I'm so impressed with President Trump, bringing all kinds of people in, listening, attentively, asking questions, he's trying desperately to keep his finger on the pulse. You got to be all over it. You got to be all --
SMERCONISH: You were there this week --
WELCH: Yes, I was.
SMERCONISH: You were there this week with a group of CEOs, so talk to me about that meeting. There's something else I want to ask you, Jack, is he enjoying this job? You've known him for a long, long time. He, obviously, regards on you for your counsel.
Do you think almost 100 days in, this is what he anticipated the role of the U.S. president to be?
WELCH: He loves it. He's thriving in it. He's learning every day.
Let me describe the meeting for a minute if I could, Michael. We go to Washington, 15 of us, monthly meetings on policy, this time, we break out into working groups of five people. He has three cabinet secretaries, Wilbur Ross, Betty DeVos, and Elaine Chao, and he has Mike Mulvaney, the OMB director, and he has -- excuse me, another individual there, Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator.
SMERCONISH: From the EPA.
WELCH: We broke into five groups, three with each one, the secretaries and the directors outlined their plans. We all commented on them for an hour and 15 minutes or so. We had a spokesperson for the group and the secretary, then met with the president for an hour and a half.
And we laid out -- the secretary laid out her view of the meeting and our secretary of the meeting laid out their view of the meeting, five report out, three players, and the administration, and they laid it out to the president and his staff. I'll tell you, he was deeply into everyone, let's do this, let's do that. I agree with that, don't agree with that.
An engaged staff meeting. I mean, a thousand of them and he was in there like a real player. I was overly impressed.
SMERCONISH: Do you think it was a mistake for them to make the move on health care before taxes, and now, will they be able to get taxes done given that health care was a nonstarter?
[09:35:06] WELCH: Well, he went for health care for some administrative reasons, et cetera, et cetera, and he also needed the savings from health care, the $900 billion, to make the tax cut more meaningful. Now, he's going to try to get health care again. He committed to that. And if he gets it, he will have $900 million to put into the tax bill.
Now, if he doesn't get it, he's not going to wait forever if they delay, and he will have a smaller tax bill which won't be as effective.
SMERCONISH: Jack, thus far, Wall Street individuals with backgrounds such as yours seem enthusiastic. The market simmered a bit this week for a variety of different reasons. But I don't need to tell you there has to be some enthusiasm felt by the blue collar guys who often voted Democratic but went for him this time or they won't stick with him next time?
WELCH: Michael, all these things he's done, remember, his platform was jobs, jobs, jobs, America, jobs. If you look at Ex-Im Bank, the things the media is beating him up for flip flopping, that's doing a smart thing, that's jobs. All these flip flops, quote, "Janet Yellen, she's for easier money," that's jobs, jobs, jobs. So all the things he's doing are consistent, totally consistent with jobs, jobs, jobs.
And this flip flop nonsense is ridiculous media blowback.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Jack, thank you so much for being here.
WELCH: Thanks, Michael. Nice to talk to you again.
SMERCONISH: You too. It was a week of high-profile damage control, much of it botched. Bill O'Reilly took a vacation from FOX News after sexual harassment lawsuits drove away advertisers, there were calls for Sean Spicer's resignation after he downplayed the history of the Holocaust and, of course, United Airlines booting the passenger out of his paid seat. How should each have been handled? I will ask damage control expert Lanny Davis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're United Airlines, you do what we say when we say and there won't be a problem. Capiche? If we say you fly, you fly. If not tough (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god, look at what you did to him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Give us a problem and we'll drag your (EXPLETIVE DELETED) off the plane. And if you resist, we'll beat you so badly you'll be using your own face as a flotation device. United airlines, (EXPLETIVE DELETE) you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[09:42:01] SMERCONISH: This was a week of public crisis management and mismanagement. The video of a passenger being dragged off that United Airlines flight went viral and the CEO's inadequate response cost the company millions in market value and might ultimately cost him his job. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer violated the cardinal rule that absolutely nothing compares to Hitler and the Holocaust. And then, Bill O'Reilly fled the country after advertisers continued to flee his program, raising the question of whether his absence will be permanent?
How should each of these crises have been handled and what can we learn from them?
I gave my two cents this week about United on Facebook. Nearly 100,000 people have viewed it. Here's an excerpt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: This thing is now a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) show. And they should be following Lanny Davis' edict of telling it early, telling it all, and telling it yourself. Hey, CEO of United, Mr. Munoz, don't use words like re-accommodate and don't send out an e-mail to your staff as recently as last night saying, the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago aviation security officers.
The only thing you should be doing right now is saying, boy, did we (EXPLETIVE DELETED) up. Man, are we sorry about this. And you know what, we're going to reconsider, we're going be to be the first airline to reconsider whether we will exercise our right to overbook flights. We're going to take the lead in that respect and restore the friendly skies.
That's my advice, United. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I invoked Lanny Davis' name and now, he's here. He's a lawyer, crisis management specialist and author. His books include "Truth to Tell: Tell It Early, Tell It All, Tell It Yourself, Notes from My White House Education".
He knows where he speaks. His clients include Martha Stewart, Penn State, former Senator Trent Lott, the Washington Redskins and a slew of others.
Lanny, how did I do? I invoked your names and said this is not out of Lanny's playbook.
LANNY DAVIS, ATTORNEY AND CRISIS MANAGEMENT SPECIALIST: Well, thanks for the plug, first of all. And secondly, I would like to make full disclosure that Michael Smerconish has never called me for advice, so he's doing well so far.
SMERCONISH: Not yet. Not yet.
DAVIS: Well, I'd like to start --
SMERCONISH: Talk to me about United. Go ahead.
DAVIS: I'd like to start with United and another full disclosure, I reached out to the PR department at United and asked them for some advice and perspective so that I could figures out whether or not they should be the textbook case of how to do everything wrong. I knew there was something that I should know from them to explain. And I was unfortunately unable to connect.
But let me at least start with the rule is a little differently than my mantra, that you were nice to quote. Number one, Mr. Munoz did not tell all the facts and did not tell the truth. Now, let's assume I do assume as an honest mistake, but he didn't start with the facts.
[09:45:00] There was no overbooking problem. And what they did is replace people who were already paid in their seats with crew members. And that wasn't their first factual accurate explanation. So they didn't tell the truth. Honest mistake, let's assume.
Secondly, now that we know they didn't tell the truth and we all know it, where are they? They should have put all the facts out.
And the final thing is when you apologize, as Mr. Munoz tried to do, on "Good Morning America", there is no "but" after the words I'm sorry. You say I'm sorry. We will fix the problem. And here are all the facts. And they've done none of those.
So, I'm sorry I don't have their perspective, I tried. But this is one of the textbook cases that now replaces Exxon in the spill in Alaska that was always my textbook example of how to get everything wrong. Now, United has replaced that one.
SMERCONISH: Sean Spicer at the White House, he violated the cardinal rule of trying to compare something, anything, to Hitler. There are no comparison to Hitler or the Holocaust. I thought that when he was given a mulligan, he had an opportunity to stop it in his tracks but he mishandled that as well. Roll the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CECILIA VEGA, ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hitler didn't even sink to the level of using chemical weapons. What did you mean by that?
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no -- he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. There was clearly -- I understand. Thank you. I appreciate that.
There was not, in the -- he brought him in to -- to the Holocaust center, I understand that, but in the way that Assad used them where he went into towns, dropped them down to innocent, into the middle of towns. It was brought -- so the use of it. I appreciate the clarification. That was not the intent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I watched that in real time and just wanted to say stop the fight. You're doing yourself more harm.
To his credit, unlike United, it didn't go on for a period of days. That afternoon, he came on with Wolf, here on CNN, and completely fessed up. Analyze that.
DAVIS: Look, Spicer is a special case. When you are so nasty for so long to so many people, and when I mean nasty, I don't care about political differences. I don't even care about politics, he works with President Trump, he's got to do his best as press secretary.
Mike McCurry, who was the press secretary to President Clinton, I think the best press secretary in American history, but I'm biased because he taught me everything I know was a nice guy. He didn't insult reporters. He didn't shake his head and speak nasty to reporters. Much less about political opponents.
He's a hatchet man from the Republican National Committee. He did a good job being a hatchet man but when you're press secretary and you make as mistake like that you say, "I'm sorry," it's in the context of a nasty guy. So, crisis management is about having credibility, likability, people give you some slack when you say "I'm sorry", not just because you say the words as he did on Wolf Blitzer, but there's a context you believe the words.
Because of his history of the way he is disrespectful to reporters, much less anybody that disagrees with him like a Democrat, you don't give him any slack and I don't give him any slack. He's just in the wrong job and should go somewhere else.
SMERCONISH: You know what? Lanny -- Lanny, I think it is one of -- it's probably as difficult, if not more difficult than the presidency itself, I have to say, and now all of a sudden, I'm going to defend him. He doesn't return my calls anymore.
But I dealt with him during the course of the campaign. I thought he was always a decent and amiable guy. I have to push back on the idea that he doesn't get a chance for corrective action because he's a nasty guy. I don't find him to be that way. That's what I want to say.
DAVIS: I heard -- I heard that about him. I've never met him. I've heard that about him.
But when he's on camera in the press room and during the campaign, there's no way to describe him. It's not about political differences, I don't care if he's a Republican or conservative --
SMERCONISH: All right.
DAVIS: -- or working for Donald Trump, he comes across nasty. There have been so many times in that press room where I think of Michael McCurry, who was always firm, tough, disagreement, but respectful. This guy is not respectful. So there's no reason to give him slack.
SMERCONISH: Come on, all right.
I promoted this as all three issues. Very quick, give me the bottom line on O'Reilly, his audience isn't abandoning him. So, what's the metric by which this thing ought to be judged?
DAVIS: His own self-dignity. I helped bill with personal advice because I've been on his show, he's been very respectful towards me when I've been on his show. I do consider him to be a friend.
And when he went through one of his early crises, and asked for my advice, he took it. I said to him, you can be angry and disregard what has happened or you can tell the audience "I get that I did something wrong and I'm moving on and focusing on my family."
[09:50:09] Now, the person that's representing him right now is the best in the business, taught me everything I know. I believe it's Mark Fabiani. But for some reason, the angry Bill O'Reilly is trying to solve a crisis that's a lot more important than his audience and his show. The crisis is himself and his family.
And that's where I would advise him go back to basics. Whatever happened, you have hurt people. You need to just simply address that you've hurt people. You don't want to hurt people. You're sorry for that, and you want to move on.
If he did that, rather than the angry Bill O'Reilly which we're seeing, he might have a chance to recover.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Lanny. Appreciate you being here.
DAVIS: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments like this one. "Smerconish, it's not Spicer's fault his boss is horrible and dropped sandbags on him. I do fault him for not standing up to POTUS and spreading his BS."
Well, I think that was Lanny's point, that Lanny was making just a moment ago, and I didn't want this to be a partisan conversation. I think on a human level, he's a decent guy with an awfully tough job.
Hey, Sean, I don't think you deserve the defense I'm providing you. You better return some phone calls. Back in a sec.
[09:55:36] SMERCONISH: Thank you so much for watching and for following me on Facebook and Twitter.
This is a Facebook comment, "At what point is everyone going to realize Michael Smerconish is in bed with Trumpy? Clearly he's being paid by Trumpy. Nobody can be this blind to reality and corruption."
Hey, Dean, just trying to offer some parody. That's all, just trying to keep it all fair. It's funny, some weeks I get blasted from the left, and some weeks, I get blasted from the right. That's know how I know I'm doing my job.
Hit me with another one, Catherine (ph).
"I wish Smerconish would stop pretending he's not fully committed to the Republican" -- well, I guess this is -- I guess this is the week that I blasted from the left, Mr. Ross or Ms. Ross.
Hit me with one more quickly.
"Don't defend Spicer, Michael. No, no, no." Well, you are uniform in your criticisms this week, ladies and gentlemen. I'll see you here again next weekend.