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SMERCONISH

Analysts Examine President Trump's Management Style; Reince Priebus Resigns as White House Chief of Staff; President Trump Announces U.S. Military Will Not Accept Transgender Recruits; Psychologists Debate Application of Goldwater Rule to President Trump; President Trump's Poll Numbers among Conservative Base Hold Steady. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired July 29, 2017 - 10:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:00:00] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: -- the Trump administration, in any other White House or workplace, Anthony Scaramucci would be ousted for his uncensored trashing of his White House colleagues. Instead one of his targets, Reince Priebus, is out as chief of staff, replaced by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. What does this say about President Trump's management style?

And the president is on a Twitter tear, trying to make Republicans and the filibuster rule, do they have to listen? Or is he starting to lose his sway? It's called the Goldwater rule, and since 1973 it has prevented psychiatrists from diagnosing or commenting on public figures they haven't examined. But a group of doctors is saying that's infringing on their free speech. Who's right?

And this week, the president tweeted that transgender people cannot serve in the armed forces. I'll talk to a former Navy surgeon who routinely performs gender confirmation surgery and who herself is transgender.

But first, what a week of intrigue and drama behind the scenes at the White House. The latest being the ouster of the chief of staff, Reince Priebus. Who would have thought that one week after Sean Spicer quit, he would look like a soothsayer. Spicer refused to continue to serve as press secretary once President Trump named Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. Spicer reportedly thought that Scaramucci's appointment would add to the confusion and uncertainty in the White House.

Well, things got heated pretty fast after "Politico" ran a story revealing the contents of Scaramucci's public financial disclosure report. He then tweeted Wednesday night a blistering attack on leakers, pointing the finger at former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Only there was no leak. The next morning I interviewed Lorraine Woellert, who wrote the "Politico" story, on my Serious XM radio program. And when I asked her if Priebus had leaked it to her, here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Did Reince Priebus give you Anthony Scaramucci's financial disclosure form? (LAUGHTER)

LORRAINE WOELLERT: The Ex-Im bank gave me the financial disclosure form.

SMERCONISH: Because you requested it?

WOELLERT: Because I asked for it.

SMERCONISH: OK. So --

WOELLERT: There was no leak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: So she said she got Scaramucci's data the old-fashioned way, by asking for it. He later deleted that tweet. Then Ryan Lizza of "The New Yorker" reported that Scaramucci was having dinner with Trump and FOX News Sean Hannity. Wednesday night Scaramucci called Lizza and let loose. As Lizza revealed the next day, the new communications director blasted boht Priebus and Steve Bannon in language not suitable even for cable television, although I did notice they printed the exact words in the "New York Times," first time that I had seen some of those in the gray lady.

Anywhere else in the workplace Scaramucci's comments would be an immediate fire-able offense. Instead they are exhibit A to exactly how numb we have become to the new normal at the Trump White House. President Trump ran for office touting his skills as a businessman. Well, here's my question. In what business environment would Scaramucci's words about coworkers be permitted? And now that Priebus has resigned what about Scaramucci's emasculation of Steve Bannon? Will he follow Spicer and Priebus out the West Wing door?

Let's drill down on the president's management style. Joining me now is Robert Kiyosaki. He co-wrote two books with Donald Trump, "Midas Touch, Why Some Entrepreneurs Get Rich and Why Most Don't," and "Why We Want You to be Rich." He's famous for the series "Rich Dad, Poor Dad," and Vivek Wadwa, distinguished fellow at Carnegie Mellon University's College of Engineering. He's a syndicated columnist for the "Washington Post."

Robert, let me begin with you. By not reprimanding Scaramucci, isn't the president owning his words? Isn't he embracing what he said about then White House colleagues both Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon?

ROBERT KIYOSAKI, CO-AUTHOR OF TWO BOOKS WITH DONALD TRUMP: That's a tough call because Trump is Trump, as you know. I've worked with him for about 12 years now. And I'm sometimes shocked at what he does. But the reason I still support my friend is because Trump is a unique character that what you see is what you get. I, you know, he's not politically correct, which causes some people to love him and some people to hate him. But what he does with his personnel is an open book right now. And I think in some areas that's refreshing. In other people it's very disappointing. SMERCONISH: Is this the way that he ran the Trump Organization? And

is there some thought process behind pitting personalities who work for you against one another, Robert?

KIYOSAKI: Let me just say this again. I worked with him for 12 years and he's always been a perfect gentleman.

[10:05:02] I know his staff very well, and they love him, and these are women as well as men. And I know his two sons very well, Don Junior and Eric, and they're great guys. So, you know, a year ago, when he stood on the stage and he started calling Jeb Bush low energy and all those names, I was as surprised as anybody else. At the same time, that's kind of what he is like in real life behind closed doors. So that's what he is.

SMERCONISH: Vivek, is this any way to run a railroad?

VIVEK WADHWA, DISTINGUISHED FELLOW, CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY: No it isn't.

KIYOSAKI: I would not, obviously. But that's --

WADHWA: If he had run his company this way, he would be bankrupt. This is not the way you can do it. Silicon Valley, which is a poster child for sexism, look at Uber, as an example, what happened when Travis Kalanick did 10 percent of what Scaramucci did? The board got together and fired him. This is what any sensible board would have done. And because you can't tolerate this. If this happens at any company, the company would literally go bankrupt. CEOs, they're paid to motivate, inspire, and to get their people working as teams. You don't do that by getting them to backstab each other.

SMERCONISH: Vivek, it also has to, you would think, impact recruitment. If I'm looking at this in company terms, who is coming to work for this firm if in fact they realize there's no job stability and that the president won't reprimand someone who publicly trashes you with whom you worked?

WADHWA: Michael, imagine if you were in the White House today. You would be worried about your own job. You would be getting your resume together and you would be looking for another job. You would be worried about getting stabbed in the back yourself, because when you see it happening to your peers, you worry about your own job. This is what happens. When there are layoffs in any company morale goes down dramatically because people start worrying about their own jobs. So this is what's happening now. People are not only worry about their jobs, they're worried about their representations and they're worried about being fired by a tweet in the middle of the night. So this is the atmosphere you have there. You can't run a business like this. You can't run a government like this. You can't run an organization like this.

SMERCONISH: Robert, is this the way he ran the Trump organization? You wrote two books with him. I'm trying to figure out if what worked in Manhattan in building a global real estate empire just doesn't translate to the White House. KIYOSAKI: It seems to be, Michael. I'm not here to defend my friend,

you know. But I'm -- I'll say it again. I was as surprised as anybody else to see him on that stage when there was nine million candidates. And in many ways the real Donald Trump comes out. But he is that way in, you know, to his peers behind closed doors.

So in some ways it's refreshing. A lot of people love it that he is what you see. He is what you get. He is not politically correct. If you want a politically correct person, he's obviously not your guy. And I agree, if you did this in a public company, you would get hammered. And I've never seen him do that. So I'm not here to defend my friend, I'm just saying what you see is what you get. And it's his style right now.

SMERCONISH: Vivek, what advice would you give from a management perspective to General Kelly who has now inherited this situation and has accepted the job of White House chief of staff?

WADHWA: He will need to sit down with his boss and make it clear that we can't run an organization this way, that we must inspire and motivate our employees, which means giving them a vision for what they're doing and why they're doing it. Why should they work so hard? Why should they come to work? What can they do for this nation?

And then we must follow the rules, including the president, he must, you know, work hand in hand with his executives to build a great country. So, you know, Kelly really has to lay down the law for his boss and for his subordinates and get professionals back into the White House because that's the only way we're going to have a great nation.

SMERCONISH: Robert, I'm willing to entertain some political incorrectness if it yields some effectiveness, but where's the effectiveness on the part of your friend in these last six months? I can read the litany of what's gone wrong, but everybody has already heard it.

KIYOSAKI: I understand, Michael, I understand. He is not a stupid man. He's a very bright man. I think he's very courageous. There's many people who agree with him that he needs to drain the swamp and get rid of these people as soon as possible. Our other guest is talking about, you know, people are afraid of losing their jobs, and I think that's really important for people to understand. Trump, I don't have to lose a job, Trump is not afraid of losing a job because we're business people. I think he hires generals because generals understand that political correctness and personal feelings do not get in the way of what the job needs to be done.

[10:10:05] And so I'm just trusting that my friend, the president, is going to get the job done by draining the swamp. And as you know, there's been a lot of political correctness backstabbing B.S. going on that really needs to be shaken up for a while, and maybe this is his method of doing it. Again, I don't agree with it, and he's not the man I know. But I think he's doing the best job he can do right now, agree with him or not.

SMERCONISH: Vivek Wadhwa, take the final 15 seconds. Go.

WADHWA: It has to be about ethics, integrity, trust, teamwork, not bringing in people who are worse than the people who left. We're not draining the swamp here. We're polluting it with, with, you know, more horrible creatures. We need to really bring professionals in because our nation is at stake over here. This is our lives. This affects all of us. Let's have ethics and integrity, please.

SMERCONISH: Vivek Wadhwa, Robert Kiyosaki, thank you so much both of you.

KIYOSAKI: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program.

What do we have, a couple of tweets, maybe? "Smerconish, for a guy who boasts about firing people, Trump can't seem to fire anyone face to face. So much for leadership." Braxton, look at the way Jeff Sessions has been twisting, to your point, in the wind for the last week, 10 days, the beleaguered attorney general. It seems clear he wants him to quit rather than have to fire him. Give me another one.

"Smerconish, 28 years in HR, 18 as VP in private sector, Mooch is fired, no debate." Sandbag, I love your name. Not only wasn't he fired, but there wasn't even a public reprimand. As far as I know no statements on the record from the president saying, wow, that was inappropriate.

Facebook page says what? "Next White House casualty, Bannon or Scaramucci? What's the over/under on each in terms of who lasts longer in their job?" I can't believe that Bannon, knowing what Scaramucci said to Ryan Lizza, I won't repeat it, but that he wouldn't say to the president, hey, it's one of us or the other.

What's a 40-year-old rule named after another presidential candidate have to do with President Trump? And a former naval flight surgeon who is herself transgender and specializes in gender confirmation surgery on the president's attack on trans military members.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: In a surprise move this week, President Trump announced via Twitter a ban on transgender people serving in the military. The president tweeted the military, quote, "cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail," unquote. Dr. Christine McGinn is uniquely suited to respond. Dr. McGinn is a plastic surgeon whose formal training was tailored specifically to transgender surgery in addition to all aspects of both general and plastic surgery. Today she routinely performs gender confirmation surgery.

Her own transition began in the year 2000, the same year that she was named senior flight surgeon at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station, then the largest reserve base in the country. She was nominated for flight surgeon of the year for the entire U.S. Navy. And she joins me now. Dr. McGinn, could you have performed your responsibilities as a naval flight surgeon had you completed your transition?

DR. CHRISTINE MCGINN, PLASTIC SURGEON SPECIALIZING IN TRANSGENDER SURGERY: Yes, absolutely. I think there's a lot of misconception about the downtime required for transitions. It's difficult to talk about because, depending if you're -- what surgeries you're having or what treatments you're having. Some people opt to have no surgeries, but in general, most of my patients are back to work in six weeks, sometimes two weeks. I think that this is getting inflated to make it a little more political.

SMERCONISH: The president cited in that tweet both cost issues as well as disruption issues. Address each of those briefly, if you would.

MCGINN: Sure. So the estimated costs per year, per the Rand study, is $2.4 million to $ 8.4 million per year. And if you think about that in comparison to what is spent on health care for the entire military is $49 billion. So that, by the way that estimate is about the same price as one trip to Mar-a-Lago. And I think it's being twisted and spun to make it seem like it would be more than it is.

You know, I think the cost of getting rid of very well specialized, trained military service people is exponentially larger than just taking care of them. I know when I was in flight surgery school the cost to put me through school was $1.5 million just for one person. And so if you, you think about that as compared to the number given to take care of our trans service members, it doesn't even compare. As far as --

SMERCONISH: If I could just say this, it's hard to nail down exactly how many transgendered members of the service there are today. And you and I both looked at that Rand data. But whatever the number might be, your point is, we've invested as a society and a government heavily in their training, and if now they're drummed out of military service, that's a lost cost.

MCGINN: Yes. I mean, look at what's happening in the world today. I feel like we need all hands on deck given the news in the last week, even. It would be a mistake to get rid of these people, sometimes serving for 19 years. That's a valuable asset for the military.

[10:20:00] SMERCONISH: So speak to the readiness issue.

MCGINN: Well, you know, I think when people hear the story, they assume everyone is going to have surgery. But not everyone will opt for surgery. Some people -- most of them will either have had surgery already or maybe won't be ready for surgery. And like I said, the down time can be as little as two weeks to six weeks. So I don't see that as a major readiness issue given my experience as a flight surgeon in the Navy. There are many other conditions that other service members may have that may keep them down even more. If you compare, like just in one year, the army has 14 percent that are not deployable due to medical or legal reasons. And what we're talking about here is a 0.1 percent undeployability if you talk about transgender folks.

SMERCONISH: Am I right that to the extent cost really is driving this, you're prepared to do the gender confirmation surgery for free?

MCGINN: Well, you know if the commander-in-chief won't take care of our veterans, our veterans will. Yes, I will do surgery for free on the number of people that I have already lined up for surgery. The government has -- the Pentagon already has its program in place through the Obama administration and it has been working fine for the past year. I just had two people who are scheduled for surgery very shortly who are now denied the funding, and I'll be more than happy to do surgery for free and to train Navy members.

SMERCONISH: Dr. McGinn, I wonder if it's really not about money. I want to put a quote up from Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council that I saw in the "New York Times" where he said "Grant repentance to President Trump and Secretary Mattis for even considering to keep this wicked policy in place. Grant them understanding, courage, and willpower to stand up to the forces of darkness that gave birth to it and wholly to repeal it." React to that.

MCGINN: Well I think, I think that this sounds a lot like when we had people of color who wanted to serve, women, or gays and lesbians who wanted to serve. It's obvious discrimination. I think any fifth grader could see that.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Christine McGinn, thanks for your service.

MCGINN: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Twitter and Facebook pages. "Why would we reject anyone who wants to serve? We need people for the troops, and there's not exactly a rush on sign-ups, hash-tag #everypersoncounts." Rachel, I agree with you and obviously Dr. McGinn agrees with you, especially in the climate in which we're living, and I mean relative to radical Islam and the nation being under siege it seems like the wrong time to tell anybody no, you're not fit to serve.

The president has no problem tweeting that certain of his enemies are, quote-unquote, crazy. But when it comes to diagnosing public figures, psychiatrists are limited by a 40-year-old rule, and some of them are fighting this.

Plus, does President Trump hold sway over his party? He's been threatening GOP lawmakers, but are they learning they don't have to fear him?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This was the one we were worried about. You weren't there, but you're going to be, you're going to be.

(LAUGHTER) TRUMP: Look, he wants to remain a senator, doesn't he? OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[10:27:48] SMERCONISH: A new debate erupted this week over whether mental health professionals can weigh in about the president's mental state. It all started with a story on the website Stat headlined "Psychiatry group tells members they can ignore Goldwater rule and comment on Trump's mental health."

Now some history. The Goldwater rule was named after Arizona senator and 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Back then a magazine sent out a survey to 1,200 psychiatrists who labeled Goldwater psychiatrically unfit for office. After losing the election badly, Barry Goldwater successfully sued the publisher, and in 1973 the American Psychiatric Association instituted the rule prohibiting psychiatrists from commenting on the mental health of a public figure they have not personally evaluated.

What Stat was referring to was the smaller American Psychoanalytic Association which did email members this month saying, quote, "Members are free to comment about political figures as individuals," unquote. The group, which represents a broad range of mental health experts, later clarified, saying that doctors can comment, but still not diagnose. To keep things clear, the American Psychiatric Association sent us an email stating that the group stands firmly behind the Goldwater rule, our position has not changed.

Adding fuel to the discussion is the upcoming book "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President." Joining me now is one of those 27, psychologist John Gartner, and Chicago psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Prudence Gourguechon. She's a former president of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Dr. Gourguechon, what purpose is served by the Goldwater rule?

DR. PRUDENCE GOURGUECHON, PSYCHIATRIST: Well, thanks for having me here. The purpose of the Goldwater rule, which I have personally always supported for the 35 years of my practice until the March reinterpretation, interpretation by the American Psychiatric, the purpose is to articulate a professional standard that says don't go out of your field of expertise, don't say things you can't really know for sure as a professional.

[10:30:12] Every profession has that. So as we understood the Goldwater rule for 35 years, that meant don't diagnose a public figure and don't talk about his or her internal state of mind because we don't have x-ray vision, we don't know what it is.

SMERCONISH: And you continue to believe in the value of the Goldwater rule, am I right?

GOURGUECHON: I do as I understood it and advocated for it for my whole career. Don't diagnose a public figure and don't talk about things you really can't know. However, the American Psychiatric Association issued a statement in

March that I don't agree with because they added don't comment on the behavior of public figures as a psychiatrist. And I really disagree with that. I think if the only thing you have to say is a diagnosis, don't say it. But I think that if you have something useful to say to help the public understand observed behavior, observed phenomenon of public figures and the people they affect, I think that's important to do.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Gartner, I know you disagree. I'm going to give you the floor. Let me tell you why I'm uneasy about this among other reasons. I've never met either of you, and to do other than the Goldwater rule would allow you to say, well, we watched this guy on CNN every week, we think we've got a good measure of the man, so let me tell you according to the DSM what ails him. Am I wrong?

JOHN GARTNER, PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes, you are. The diagnostic criteria that we use in our field are based on observable behavior, not intra- psychic processes. And unfortunately we can't go through a news cycle without observing abnormal behavior by Donald Trump. The fact that he's an unstable, paranoid, grandiose liar cut from the same cloth as every megalomaniacal dictator has really been obscured by this debate about, this inside baseball debate about whether we can or should comment on the mental health of the president.

The bottom line is I have yet to meet a mental health professional who believes that Donald Trump is competent to be president. You're about as likely to find one of those as an earth scientist who believes that there's no global warming.

SMERCONISH: Right, but none of whom probably have met the man, much less evaluated him. Hence my example, you could be saying the same thing about me or anybody else who is on television. And the worry that I have is when words like the diagnoses you just offered start getting tossed around freely, individuals who are dealing with their own mental health issues I think get stigmatized.

GARTNER: Well, actually what I'm talking about are behaviors that we can observe. I haven't even offered a diagnosis on our meeting today, although I have diagnosed him as a malignant narcissist. But let's be clear. There's mental illness and there's mental illness. What Donald Trump is a psychiatric equivalent of Stage IV malignant brain cancer. It would be impossible to put together a more dangerous set of traits in a leader than we find in Donald Trump. And because of this gag rule, our silence has enabled his rise.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Gourgachon respond to what Dr. Gartner just said. I'm completely unsettled by it, but I want to give you're the floor. You've got the credentials.

GOURGUECHON: I don't agree with his tactics. I understand the passion. I think everyone in the country is upset about our current political situation. For every person who thinks Donald Trump is crazy, there's some who think he's a hero. And I think we have to use our expertise to help people understand what's going on. I have focused in some of my public writing on issues of competence

and ability to carry out the duties of office. That has nothing to do with a mental health diagnosis. There have been many political leaders who have -- who could be described as having a mental health diagnosis. I don't think it adds to the conversation. I think we should focus on behavior, both of Mr. Trump, his staff, the Republican Party, and try to understand why people are doing what they're doing. I don't think --

SMERCONISH: I would say to both of you, be careful what you wish for, because to cast aside the Goldwater rule on this president's watch is to mean that that rule doesn't exist on the next president's watch. I'm sitting here and I'm reminding myself of when Secretary Clinton took a stumble on a September 11th anniversary during the course of the campaign and there were individuals wishing to weigh in on what ailed her. I thought that was wholly inappropriate.

[10:35:05] So I don't distinguish between physical and mental health issues. I just think it would set a terrible precedent if all of a sudden people were coming on television and saying, here's what I see in him. Here's what I see in her, when they haven't evaluated the person. Dr. Gartner, the floor is yours.

GARTNER: Well, what do we want to talk about, as Dr. Gourguechon has done I think in a very brilliant way, actually, in her article looking at psychological capacity, whether we want to look at symptoms or whether we want to look at diagnosis, the point is in this era of alternate facts and gas-lighting, the public is defending on us to validate what most of them can see with their own eyes, that there is something dangerously abnormal about this man. But we have basically abdicated our responsibility to validate their reality testing and to help them understand and explain the genuine danger we are in because of this gag order.

SMERCONISH: If you wanted to put forth the rule that said, a requirement, I'm going give you the final record, Dr. Gourguechon, but let me just respond to that. If you wanted to say as a matter of public policy we are going to demand that individuals running for the highest office in the land undergo a physical and mental health examination and make it impersonal to any person, that's a conversation that I think is reasonable. But to say I'm on my barcalounger and here's what I think I see in this person that I've never met, I think is really afoul. Dr. Gourguechon, go ahead, take the final word.

GOURGUECHON: I think we should speak up about things that we can help the public understand. I don't want to get rid of the Goldwater rule, I never have. But I do think that if I have something useful to say about public behavior, I should try to say it. And it's not going to do any damage even if somebody disagrees with me. I'd like to speak to moderate Republicans and help them understand their president and what they need to do about it.

SMERCONISH: I'm a trial lawyer, and neither of your testimony would be permitted in any court of law in the United States based on someone you've never evaluated. And to open the floodgates on television, I apologize, with respect, I think that's dangerous. But I appreciate each of you being here. Dr. Gourguechon and Dr. Gartner, appreciate it very much.

GARTNER: Thank you.

So what's happening in the social media world? By the way, what do you think they just diagnosed me as? Probably a pain in the ass. "I always wondered why we don't see psychiatrists commenting on TV on Trump's mental state. Now I see. Thank you, Smerconish." Well, I'm here to educate. Is that it, Katherine? Yes? OK.

Trump's threats and tirades against members of his own party, should they be worried about voters back home? Some surprising numbers they should be studying.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: For the first six months of his administration, President Trump demanded loyalty from his party and didn't get much pushback. In recent days he's replaced his chief of staff and press secretary and has been relentlessly criticizing his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, one of his earliest backers, and venting against members of Congress who voted against him, claiming it's very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their president.

His base seems to be holding. The latest Gallup poll shows his approval support among Republicans is still a strong 86 percent, independents at 31 percent, eight percent of Democrats approving. If his poll numbers among Republicans are strong, should the senators that he is threatening get in line?

Joining me now to discuss, CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN political commentator Margaret Hoover. John, time for a little reality check. Must those Republicans in the Senate be afraid of countermanding the president because he's so strong with the base?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, don't be afraid, senators, stand up for what you think is right. And here's why. Conventional wisdom in Washington is almost always wrong. These folks feel like Trump's got enormous power and their conservative base will turn on them if they stand up. But here's the deal. Let's look at the actual data, because everyone is entitled to their own opinion, not their own facts.

In 2016, 17 senators in red states outpaced the president. And here's why that's weird. Normally Republican presidential candidates and Democratic presidential nominees, they've got coattails. They carry the party with them. Not true with Donald Trump, particularly in a couple of key states that won him the election.

Let's take a look, Senator Grassley in Iowa. Trump did well, Grassley did eight points better. Ohio, always critical in an election, Rob Portman, six points better. Ron Johnson given up for dead in Wisconsin. Trump pulled it out narrowly. Ron Johnson won by almost two-and-a-half points. Even in deep south states like South Carolina, Senator Tim Scott won over five points, McCain, Rubio. We could go on and on. The point is these folks don't need to live in fear of doing what they think is right. They shouldn't live in Stockholm syndrome when it comes to the president or the conservative populist base.

SMERCONISH: Margaret, your lesser half is saying let your freak flag fly if you're a Senate Republican. What's your response?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I -- like most Americans, we disagree. But we try, we tend to get there in a way that we disagree a lot, but then we're able to get there, I think, and agree on something.

AVLON: Dinner conversations.

HOOVER: What I disagree with here is the characterization that Republicans have Stockholm syndrome. That suggests that any Republican who is elected in Congress has no agency. They haven't made their own decisions. And the truth is most Republicans, if you look at crosstabs of any of those polls, Michael, that show how much they still support the president, it's something that is an offensive fact to my husband, the truth is they don't approve of his behavior in the Oval Office. They don't think his tweeting is necessarily presidential. They don't necessarily think that his behavior in the Oval Office is fitting and proper.

[10:45:06] You can see 45 percent approve of his tweeting, 44 percent disapprove. Those are Republicans, OK? This is not a full-throated support for his behavior as a president. But what they do and have decided is that the policies that they hope to get past and that they have promised the American people and that they deeply believe in will only happen through a Republican president. And so the truth is --

AVLON: They're willing to accept the unacceptable.

HOOVER: It's not that they're willing to accept the unacceptable. It's that it's actually harder for them to continue to support him. And they're doing it for their own principles. It is actually a principled stand.

SMERCONISH: Let me give you something tangible that I think will allow each of you to make your points. It's a tweet from this morning, President Trump saying "Republican Senate must get rid of 60- vote now. It is killing the Republican Party, allows eight Democrats to control country, 200 bills sit in Senate, a joke." So John Avlon, if I'm a Republican senator, must I now toe the line because he's tweeted in that fashion?

AVLON: No. First of all, governing by tweet is not necessarily a best practice. And President Trump sort of Saturday morning tweet storms should not set policy for the party particularly in a time when I think we all recognize, those of us who are independents, the checks and balances and separation of powers are more important than ever before. Clearly President Trump wants a win, and they're going to be folks who embrace the situational ethics of it to say let's discard the filibuster standard when we're in power. People on both sides do it, but they would be fools to listen to the president's latest tweet- storm.

HOOVER: And it's not even just a tweet-storm. What you're starting to see is ultimately where we end up agreeing is that the Republicans in the Senate and Republicans in Congress are starting to differentiate themselves from the president because they don't think they need him in order to pass their policies. There is the chief of staff, the former chief of staff of Mitch McConnell this morning, who tweeted back at the president and said something to the effect of, why are you encouraging people? Instead of searching for the leaker, search for the idiot who keeps putting the president on irrelevant and counterproductive crusade. That is a former chief of staff to the Senate majority leader.

So I think through that, though the actions we've seen this week with health care going down, with the differentiation on LGBT health funding and, frankly, activity in the military, I think you're starting to see real cracks in the pillar for the support for the president among Republicans.

SMERCONISH: One final thought, won't it be safe to jump into the waters as a Republican and be critical of the president when the conservative media tells you it's safe?

(LAUGHTER)

AVLON: Well you're catching at the core of this is that there's also Stockholm syndrome with conservative media that keeps amplifying extreme voices and ripping the civic backbone out of senators who ought to know better. My bride and I disagree a lot, particularly when it comes to the role of partisanship. But I think this is the macro point. John McCain and others need to more consistently put country over party, and here's a really radical idea. Rather than gutting rules about filibuster, let's try to form bipartisan coalitions again. I know it sounds crazy, people, but that's how we governed pretty effectively for decades if not centuries.

HOOVER: I hate it when he's right.

SMERCONISH: Margaret, you get the final word.

HOOVER: I hate it when he's right. But when you look at the real challenges that are facing Americans right now, especially with health care that is going to collapse, the only way forward may end up being Republicans and Democrats coming together to actually help Americans in the face of a real failure?

AVLON: Reality check.

SMERCONISH: John Avlon, Margaret Hoover, thank you so much, we appreciate you being here.

AVLON: Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments.

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[10:52:58] SMERCONISH: You know that if you miss any of the program, you can catch us any time on CNN Go, online and through your connected devices and apps. Thank you for following me on Twitter and Facebook.

Here's some more of what you thought during the course of the program. "Smerconish, what you see is what you get is unacceptable over past two weeks. I was a staunch supporter, but Trump is losing credibility." Well, Sutton M. Gates III, the base has been holding firm thus far, and I made that observation to John Avlon and Margaret Hoover a moment ago where I said I think you'll if you get to this point some real cracks in the armor of the base is when the conservative media, the men with microphones, the keyboard commandos start to turn on him. Then I think the base will turn, because I am convinced it's not the Republican leadership that holds sway over the electorate, the red electorate. It's the conservative media. And that's developed over the span of the last 30 years.

Hit me with another one. "No one will state the obvious, Scaramucci drunk dialed @RyanLizza. There." You know, I'm momentarily speechless. I cannot fathom calling a reporter and using the kind -- and I am not holier than thou. You should hear me during commercial breaks. But to call a reporter, one that the right would be quick to tell you is associated with a liberal New York publication, and to use the kind of language with that individual without some clear understanding that it's off the record about your coworkers?

I just think that the bigger story from the whole Scaramucci situation is the fact that there was no public reprimanding of Scaramucci and that the guy, one of the two guys he hammered with the expletives is gone. And the second guy, Bannon, is still in the White House. I mean, if I'm Steve Bannon, aren't I saying, hey, Mr. President, it's me or it's him. One of us has got to go. You cannot speak of me in that fashion if you're Scaramucci and then expect that I'm going to work a couple of doors down the hall.

[10:55:07] What else. This is the fun part. "Smerconish, you asked in what business would Scaramucci's language be allowed? You guessed it, the Trump Organization." Carol, I don't know. The president was immensely successful in business. And I'm just wondering if the management style that he's showing us today, because don't forget, part of the appeal was we're going to elect a businessman president. Is this the way that he ran his business? I don't -- I don't know where loyalty comes from if a guy like Jeff Sessions, who is your first Senate supporter is getting thrown under the bus like has happened in the last week to 10 days. What motivation do I have if I'm already in the White House to be loyal to the president as Sessions has been? All of this I don't think makes for getting things done.

Anyway, thanks for watching, we really appreciate it. This was fun to do this for three weeks, and the folks in New York and in Atlanta put a lot of work into it, and I am appreciative. See you next week.

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