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Russian Probe: Listen To Facts, Not Noise; "Dilbert" Creator On Trump's Power Of Persuasion; Why Trump Thrives In Accelerated News Cycle; Why Is Democratic Party In Decline?; What Can Trump Accomplish In Asia?; Are Trump's Hostile Tweets To North Korea Good Or Bad?; Is Trump Running Government Like His Company?; Trump In Asia: What Can Possibly Go Wrong?. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired November 4, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
A big week is just winding down, one in which I think we moved from the political to the legal realm. But my first guest Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams who famously predicted a Trump victory, he says facts are overrated. I'm about to try to convince him otherwise.
Plus, the president on a 12-day trip to Asia, refusing to tone down his nuclear rhetoric. What could possibly go wrong? And I'll ask "New York Times" thrice -winning, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Thomas Friedman, as well as two veteran advance men who have their own tales from travels with Presidents Clinton and Bush.
And is Trump running the US government like it's his own private company? "Moneyball" author Michael Lewis investigated and found many unqualified friends of Trump with positions in the administration. He, too, is here.
It is a primetime lineup on a Saturday.
But, first, what we learned this week and why it matters. Monday was a huge day. Paul Manafort and his associate Rick Gates surrendered to federal authorities to face charges for tax fraud and money laundering and we learned of the guilty plea of former Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos of lying to federal authorities.
That day, the president spoke with former adviser Steve Bannon, who reportedly encouraged Trump to take a harder public line with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
That might have been good political advice, a means of salving the president's base, but this was the week that the story became more legal than political.
And while the noise will certainly continue, the outcome of the special counsel's probe will now be determined by critical thinking and the rules of evidence. Not the nightly exchange of competing cable TV narratives. Much has now come into focus. We now know that George Papadopoulos had conversations about the e-mails of Clinton two months before there had been any WikiLeaks release of John Podesta's e-mail and long before any report of the DNC having been hacked.
Here's the timeline. Podesta's e-mail was hacked on March 19. On April 26, Papadopoulos met with a professor of international relations who claimed to have substantial connections with the Russian government officials, at which time he was told the Russian government had collected dirt on Hillary Clinton in thousands of e-mails.
On June 3, Donald, Jr. was similarly told in an e-mail that Russian representatives wished to provide dirt on Hillary. He then took a meeting on June 9 along with Manafort and Jared Kushner. On June 14th, CrowdSource detected the DNC hack. On July 22nd, WikiLeaks dumped 20,000 DNC e-mails.
Then came October 7th, when within hours of Trump's "Access Hollywood" tape exposed, WikiLeaks dropped Podesta's hacked e-mails.
And now, "The New York Times" is reporting that Trump adviser Carter Page, in contradiction of many previous statements, told the House Intel Committee that he met with a Russian government official during a July 2016 trip to Moscow and sent an e-mail to the campaign.
Altogether, that timeline substantiates lots of interaction between Trump campaign representatives and Russians just as the hacking was taking place and its results rolled out to the benefit of the Trump campaign.
The unanswered question is whether anybody from the Trump campaign aided the hacking, whether there was actual coordination within that chronology. Recent developments do call into question the president's assertion made on February 16 that he knew of nobody from his campaign who had had contacts with the Russians.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said likewise in a January hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
What exactly the president was told at a March 31st meeting, where Papadopoulos was present with Trump and Sessions. That's going to be critical.
Meanwhile, the president is clearly continuing his public campaign against the probe. That was reinforced with his tweet storm as he left for Asia yesterday, but the only way that any of that matters is if the prosecution is derailed or if the Congress ignores it.
Throughout the campaign and in the first nine months of President Trump's administration, his base has supported him regardless of what he says or does. With the Russian probe, it seems there will again be no impact of his words or actions, but for the opposite reason.
Because no matter the president's bluster or tweets or capital letters or threats, Mueller's not listening to any of that. Now, it's all about the rule of law. That's how I see it. [09:05:05] But what about a soothsayer who claims that, well, facts are overrated. Back in March of 2016, when all this was happening behind the scenes, experts like Nate Silver were giving trump a 2 percent chance.
But my next guest was one of the earliest public figures to predict that Donald Trump would win. Scott Adams, the creator of the beloved office worker cartoon "Dilbert", saw what others, including myself, couldn't see. Trump's remarkable talent for persuasion.
He's now written a book about it. It's called "Win Bigley: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don't Matter."
All right, Scott Adams. I will put it in your terms. How were my persuasion skills? I guess, not quite master persuader level.
SCOTT ADAMS, CREATOR, "DILBERT": Well, I won't judge your master persuasion skills, but if you're looking at President Trump's skills, I have a background as a trained hypnotist and I've been studying the ways of persuasion for decades as part of what I do.
And I noticed early on that he had the full arsenal of persuasion like I've never seen. Probably the strongest talent stack I would call it, a grouping of talents that put together are extra strong. And it really was something that I thought was extraordinary.
And for me, it was easy to predict that someone with that much firepower would win over 18 months, when all you're trying to do is move maybe 2 percent of the public during that entire time.
SMERCONISH: And you make a very compelling case in the book, but aren't we now entering a new realm where no amount of persuasion on his part through the Twitter feed or the public statements, the speeches, all of the social media efforts on his behalf, they're just not going to matter to all?
ADAMS: Well, it depends. If your lawyer is Johnnie Cochran and you're saying that if the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit, which, by the way, if the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit is pure hypnosis, and it worked. Well, assuming that OJ was guilty, it worked.
You also noticed that during the Judge Curiel episode, candidate Trump was roundly criticized for saying, hey, there might be bias from his heritage. He worded it wrong, of course, but there might be some bias there.
Now, what happened when Judge Curiel needed to rule on when the trial would be held, either before the election, which would have been terrible, or after the election. Well, once candidate Trump had raised the issue of bias, it became kind of hard for Judge Curiel to say, let's do it before the election and change the result.
So, I think that persuasion has very much a role in the legal system.
SMERCONISH: You identified what you regard as a persuasion gem in your Twitter feed. Let's put it up. It's actually from President Trump. Here's what it says.
"The real story on collusion is in Donna B's" - Donna Brazile's - "new book. Crooked Hillary bought the DNC and then stole the Democratic primary from Crazy Bernie."
Break it down, Scott. Why is that a persuasion gem?
ADAMS: So, the first thing you want to do if you want to persuade is you want to move people's attention and energy to where you want it. And that maybe also because you're moving it away from something you don't want them to be talking about.
So, his linguistic kill shots or his nicknames for these characters he's mocking are so incredibly wrong in the context of things a president shouldn't be saying, but they're just wrong enough that you can't look away, but they're not so wrong that you'd want to impeach him for that or it doesn't start a nuclear war.
So, he has the technique of having just enough wrongness to grab your energy and put it where he wants it.
SMERCONISH: Here's another of what you regard as a linguistic kill shot. It's the Pocahontas reference that he's prone to make relative to Elizabeth Warren. Why is that so effective in your mind?
ADAMS: I would say that's his weakest of his various nicknames. But it does - it gives you a silly image of someone who's a sitting senator. So, if you said Sen. Blah Blah says this, you're thinking, well, that's a senator. I'm going to give that a lot of credibility.
If you say Pocahontas said something, just automatically your brain goes to, well, how seriously can I take that?
SMERCONISH: So, here's the question. Is he vulnerable to what you regard as a linguistic kill shot? And if so, what is it?
ADAMS: I've thought about what you could do in this case. And the trouble is that he's so good at this persuasion game that I think he could get out of almost anything.
Do you remember when somebody tried to call him Dangerous Donald? And it was the worst attempt ever because danger is actually why he was elected. They wanted him to be a little dangerous to ISIS. Maybe be a little dangerous to the swamp, as they say.
[09:10:03] So, if you have a nickname that can be turned into a positive, that's a fail. And so, it's really hard.
I think there was also Cheeto Jesus that they used against him, which was hilarious, and that part was good, but people like Cheetos and they like their Jesus. So, it didn't work on that level.
SMERCONISH: It was your blog on August 13, 2015 when you said at a time when Nate Silver and others were saying, he's got a 2 percent shot, you were saying it's a 98 percent shot. I should also point out, in terms of your abilities to see his skills of persuasion as far back as 1990 via "Dilbert." You were drawing about the persuasive powers of Donald Trump. So, what is, in short order, the skillset that he brings to the table?
ADAMS: Well, a lot of people don't know that his pastor was Norman Vincent Peale, when he was a kid.
ADAMS: And Norman Vincent Peale wrote "The Power of Positive Thinking" and we see that mindset in everything he does.
For example, when he's talking about the economy recently, the GDP, he said, well, it was 3 percent, but I think it could have been 4 percent except for the hurricanes, probably it would be 4 percent later.
In other words, he's actually thinking the economy into that state. Because the economy, if you don't have a resource constraint, is really driven entirely by psychology. If you think next year is better, you say, well, I better invest this year. And that actually makes next year better.
So, he's actually using persuasion from all the way back to his church days as a kid. And now we see him as a brander, a salesperson. We see him as someone who wrote a book on negotiating. And these are all in the same field of persuasion.
SMERCONISH: Scott, I thoroughly enjoyed "Win Bigley". Thank you for being here.
ADAMS: Thank you so much.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some during - I know, I know. I'm dope. I'm a dope.
Listen, put that camera back on me. Look at this. I can't say it. Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos. And if you watch my Facebook Live this morning, you know that I was fearful of my ability to not be able to say it correctly and I blew it. And I knew it as soon as it left my lips. Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos.
Smerconish, you practiced yesterday. I know. I know. On Sirius XM. On POTUS yesterday, I said I just can't say this guy's name. Papadopoulos.
No more tweets. All right, all right. Enough. Come on.
Up ahead, President Trump is visiting five countries in Asia, including China and South Korea. And if he follows the advice of H.R. McMaster, will not tone down his rhetoric. I'm about to ask Thomas L. Friedman of "The New York Times", what could possibly go wrong?
And is Trump running the government like his private company? I'll ask "Moneyball" author Michael Lewis what he found when he reported inside the Departments of Energy and Agriculture.
[09:16:54] SMERCONISH: Since Trump became president, the news cycle has accelerated beyond anything we could have imagined. Well, except my guest called it. He's the nation's explainer-in-chief, a three- time Pulitzer Prize winner, the man who told us the world is flat.
And now, "The New York Times" columnist Thomas L. Friedman has his latest book in paperback - "Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations."
Tom, I don't think that you set out to explain the rise of populism, but you did. You say that technology creates uncertainty, and Donald Trump clearly capitalized on that uncertainty in the election.
Here's my question. Now, we're ten months in without him having much to show for it. So, why is he still able to harness the angst that you wrote about?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: Very good question, Michael. So, let's think about the accelerations we're in the middle of.
First of all, there's been an acceleration in the movement of people. There's more refugees, migrants around the world than ever before. So, now you go to the grocery store and the woman at the cash register may not be wearing a baseball cap. That has some people unsettled.
Then you go, there's been a huge acceleration in the flow of ideas. Ideas now flow and change. And social norms change faster than ever. So, then you go into the restroom and there's someone of a different sex there.
The flow of technology change has, as we all know, accelerated. Now, you're at the office and your boss just rolled up a robot next to your desk and it seems to be studying your job.
At that means the flow of education has to change. It means the day when you can get a four-year degree and expect to dine out on that for 30 years of your career is gone. It means a lifelong learning becomes the single-most important competitive advantage.
When you put all four of those together, Michael, and it's not surprising that a lot of people were susceptible to a guy who says, I can stop the wind, I can stop the pace of change.
And the reason he's failed is, of course, you can't actually stop the pace of change. What we need to be doing is not building walls, but building floors. Creating floors under people, so they can actually thrive in this age of acceleration.
SMERCONISH: The Democratic Party arguably in the worst state since reconstruction. Is it because they have failed to seize upon what Thomas Friedman is writing about? FRIEDMAN: My view, Michael, is both our political parties are dead. Just one of them thinks it's alive because it's in power, but they're actually blowing up because they were actually designed to answer questions of the New Deal, the Industrial Revolution, the early IT revolution and civil rights, both race and gender.
And I think what a party has to actually respond to today is how do you enable people to get the most and cushion the worst of these three giant accelerations in the climate, in globalization and technology, and the parties have not made the shift.
But because they have money, they can sort of thrive or survive on their fumes for a while, but they're all blowing up. I think our 2020 election will be unlike any election we've ever seen.
SMERCONISH: So, like many, I always take note of your dispatches from around the globe literally. What stop interests you the most on the President's Asian trip?
FRIEDMAN: Well, I think the china one really is so interesting to me and it's just the contrast. Again, so what my book argues is that we are in the middle of a change of the climate.
[09:20:10] So, what is China doing? It's investing massively in clean energy and green power. We're in the middle of the change of the climate of globalization.
The world's going from interconnected to interdependent. What's China doing? It's massively investing in globalization, its project One Belt, One Road, the Asian Development Bank.
And lastly, we're in a change in the climate of technology. So, what is China doing? It's got a Made in China 2025 Project to massively invest in all the new technology of the 21st century from new materials to AI to all kinds of cyber, et cetera.
What are we doing by contrast? Our president is denying climate change. On globalization, he actually pulled us out of the Asian free trade agreement and may pull us out of NAFTA. And at home, we have a tax bill that's based on no theory of change whatsoever. It's just based on the idea of cutting taxes for corporations, without reference to where we are technologically, what do we want to invest in, what do we don't.
So, that's frankly - that's just stupid. When you look at how they're responding to the accelerations and how we're responding, there's a shocking gap.
SMERCONISH: I made reference earlier in the program to H.R. McMaster saying, don't expect that he's going to tone down the rhetoric. I was interested to see, and I'm paraphrasing, but you said recently that a little crazy is maybe not a bad thing when you're dealing with China and North Korea. What did you mean?
FRIEDMAN: What I meant is, these people do take us for granted. And so, I think keeping them off balance is fine. It's good. It can be very helpful.
But you have to have an underlying strategy behind it. And that's what's been missing here. You were talking with the "Dilbert" creator. I thought that it was a very interesting conversation, what is the way to sort of get to Trump?
And I think Trump is a chump. I think that that's what the Chinese believe. Because think about it. He's going to go there and negotiate trade with them now. He's hoping to.
And what did he do before he went over there? He tore up the Trans- Pacific trade partnership, which was basically an alliance of 12 nations that control 40 percent of global GDP. The alliance was based on our interests and our values.
He could have been sitting across from Xi Jinping next week saying, hi, Mr. Xi, I represent 40 percent of the global economy. Instead, he tore this up for nothing actually. He got nothing from China.
Now, he's going to go there, the Chinese will sell him old carpets that they've sold us before. And they use North Korea, Michael, I believe, as a way of - as a shiny object to distract Trump. I think Xi has his number.
They think Trump is a chump. And the reason he's a chump, Michael, is because he doesn't know anything. He doesn't do his homework. He's just out there tweeting. And if you don't do your homework and you don't build real leverage up with the Chinese who can smell your power from 100 paces, they know exactly how much power you have, they will play you. And they will play him.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Thomas, the book, "Thank You for Being Late" now in paperback. It's a terrific read, as always from you. Thank you for being here.
FRIEDMAN: Real pleasure. Thank you, Michael. Still ahead, the president en route to Asia. So, how exactly do you structure a trip abroad and avoid any pitfalls for a commander-in-chief? I have two men with me. One who did it for Bush 41 and 43 and another who served Bill Clinton.
And is Trump running the government like he ran his company? Is that a good thing? Michael Lewis, the author of "Moneyball", "The Big Short" and so many others investigated the Department of Energy and Agriculture. His findings are next.
[09:27:57] SMERCONISH: Chances are you've read a book by Michael Lewis or seen a movie based on one of them. His books including "Liar's Poker", "Moneyball", "The Big Short", "The Blind Side", they've sold over 9 million copies in the US alone. These three became hit movies.
His latest just out in paperback is "The Undoing Project: Analyses of Two Israeli Psychologists and Their Research into Decision-Making". His latest project is a series of articles for "Vanity Fair" about how departments of the federal government are faring post-Trump transition. Lewis reveals there was no transition.
In September, he wrote about the Department of Energy. In the latest issue, he delves into the Department of Agriculture for a piece called "Made in the USDA."
The timing could not be better. This week, Trump's nominee to USDA Chief Scientist Sam Clovis withdrew his nomination amidst news that, during the campaign, he was aware that campaign adviser George - uh-oh - Papadopoulos - I got it right - was talking to Russians.
I recently spoke to Michael Lewis.
SMERCONISH: Michael, Sam Clovis was always an odd choice for, not the least of which reason, he wasn't a scientist.
MICHAEL LEWIS, AUTHOR, "LIAR'S POKER", "MONEYBALL", "THE BIG SHORT", "THE BLIND SIDE": Well, as I've wandered around the Trump administration, there are like two categories of appointees.
They're the people like Rick Perry at the Department of Energy and Sam Clovis, who when they were offered the job should have said, no, because I'm not qualified for it.
And the idea that you're putting in charge of a $3 billion a year science budget that is trying to figure out how to direct money, so that we can grow things in a changing climate 50 years from now, a guy who has absolutely no science background at all, his chief job qualification was he was a right-wing radio talk show host in Iowa who helped Trump, and he put that guy in charge of that office is insane.
And you just look at the thing I've written, profiles the person he replaced. A woman named Cathie Woteki who for 50 years devoted herself to agricultural science and knows everything about it.
[09:30:14] So, it's quixotic and it makes you wonder, like you've got to give your political friends jobs in the administration, put them somewhere where you don't need to know something, and this was a place where they needed to know something.
SMERCONISH: And not an outlier because here's what you write in "Vanity Fair." "Into USDA jobs, some of which pay nearly $80,000 a year, the Trump team inserted a long-haul truck driver, a clerk at AT&T, a gas company meter reader, a country club cabana attendant, a Republican National Committee intern, and the owner of a scented candle company with skills like pleasant demeanor listed on their resumes.
LEWIS: To give credit where it's due, it was a "POLITICO" scoop. A reporter of "POLITICO" got her hands on the resumes of the people who piled into the Department of Agriculture on the day of the inauguration after the administration had basically skipped the transition period.
I mean, they'd sent in - made a very half-hearted attempt to send in one or two people between the election day and the day of the inauguration to learn how this place functioned. And they basically hadn't.
And then, on top of that, they seem to think it's a place to, like, "stuff" people they owe favors to. And in addition to that, failed to even nominate people from most of the senate-confirmed jobs of running the place.
So, I think that - like, one of the things that gets neglected in the day-to-day discussion of Trump is that underneath the noise of what he does, he's supposed to be running a 2-million-person operation called the federal government. And we take for granted what this government does. We demonize it for a long time.
But if he disables it, it's going to be very hard to get it back. And the things it does are critical and we take them for granted.
SMERCONISH: Well, the big picture view from what you wrote about the Department of Agriculture, much like you wrote about the Department of Energy in September, is that there never was a transition. Is the reason that there never was a transition, perhaps, because the Trump campaign never expected to win?
LEWIS: I'm sure that's part of it, but it's even a little more odd than that, in that he did have a transition team, and it was run by Chris Christie, and he fired him the minute he was elected.
So, it just seems - it's so funny that we have this situation where a business guy has been elected president; and presumably underneath that is a sort of subliminal message that I know how to run things. Finally, we've got someone who knows how to run things here. And the degree of management ineptitude is like nothing the federal government has ever seen.
SMERCONISH: Are you telling me that if I'm an employee of the Department of Agriculture, I'm not permitted to utter or print the words climate change? And if so, why not?
LEWIS: So, they never explained why not. I will offer a guess why not. But when the first person a month after the election who rolls into the Department of Agriculture, he has apparently one real interest, I was told by people inside the Department of Agriculture. It's rooting out people who had worked on the climate change.
And the same thing happened at the Department of Energy, where the one guy who rolled in there, asked for a list of anybody associated with climate change things. And then, they sent out a memo saying, don't use the phrase "climate change." You've got to use other things.
Why are they so obsessed about this one thing? I mean, I think it's just that they were behind them, fossil fuel economic interests, businesses, that don't want the climate change agenda to be messing with their business. But I'm guessing about that. SMERCONISH: I'd be derelict in my duty if I didn't ask a "Moneyball" question. The Houston Astros, a victory for analytics or instinct?
LEWIS: Oh, my God. Either team that won, the Dodgers or the Astros, we're well beyond instinct versus analytics. It's analytics up the wazoo at both sides.
Both are general managers who are in the game because of Billy Beane. They wouldn't have been in the game if Billy Beane had not - they were both analytics people.
And you could see that on the field, right? You saw that every - where the players were, how they approached their bats, how the pitchers approaches the hitters, underneath it all was a lot of study.
And the point I would make about it is that when I wrote "Moneyball", everybody says, the analytics is going to take the fun out of the game. And that was a thrilling world series. The analytics have not taken the fun of the game. They just kind of added a layer of interest by intellectualizing it.
[09:35:04] SMERCONISH: Yes. A game seven, it could not have been better even if I think some of the MLB forces would have liked to have seen the Yankees and the Dodgers, you couldn't have asked for more than we just received.
LEWIS: I agree. It was wonderful. And it's fun to watch people - I mean, not just at the level of a player, but the level of the general manager, people who really know what they're doing. It's now an actual skill running one of these teams.
And the value of that job - I mean, one of the big things that's happened in the last 15 years in sports, but especially baseball, is that if you look at the relative pay of the manager in the dugout versus the general manager, it's flipped.
It used to be the manager who got paid all this money and the general manager was an afterthought. And now, the general manager is the prized because everybody understands the talent decisions and the big strategic decisions are - that's where the leverage is. That's what's important.
SMERCONISH: Michael Lewis, thank you so much.
LEWIS: Thanks for having me.
SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have, Katherine? Smerconish, I hope Donald Trump isn't running US like his company. Can't declare bankruptcy for the entire country when he messes up.
Christopher, read that piece by my guest Michael Lewis because it really speaks to the lack of transition that ever took place in the departments that he's analyzed between the outgoing Obama administration and the incoming Trump administration, which I think can be explained by, even the Trump campaign was shocked by their victory.
One more, if we have time for it. Smerconish, not sure why someone of your talent would fib/lie. We all know Trump has done more in ten months than Obama in eight years.
Brad, please use that same Twitter feed or my Facebook page and lay out that record because I'd like to know it. And if you convince me, I'd be thrilled to broadcast it because I'm not seeing it.
We've got a chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. Zero legislative achievement. Maybe a change in a lot of regulation, but not a strong record. And I'm just being objective.
Still to come. Nuclear policy discussions and a game of golf both on President Trump's itinerary for his current 12-day trip through five Asian countries.
Presidents in Asia have experienced some awkward moments in the past. Their former advance men are here to give Trump some helpful tips.
[09:41:45] SMERCONISH: With President Trump heading to Asia for a 12- day trip of five countries, some had hoped he would moderate his fiery rhetoric about North Korea. This week, Gen. H.R. McMaster said that's not going to happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I don't think the president really modulates his language. Have you noticed him do that? I mean, he's been very clear about it. I've been aware of the discussions about his inflammatory - what's inflammatory is the North Korean regime and what they're doing to threaten the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I wondered what advice former presidential advance men might have for Trump's trip. Joining me now, Spencer Geisinger. He worked for Bush 41 as special assistant to the president and director of press advance. And then for Bush 43 as director of presidential advance.
Josh King was director of production for presidential events in Bill Clinton's White House. He helped plan seven trips to Asia and is the author of the book "Off Script: An Advanced Man's Guide to White House Stagecraft Campaign Spectacle and Political Suicide."
Spencer, as you look at the itinerary, what's the hardest stop to advance?
SPENCER GEISSINGER, FORMER SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR PRESIDENTIAL PRESS ADVANCE: I would say probably China. One, because they're an adversary and they're tougher negotiators. On my trips to China, versus to Japan or Korea, I always found it was tougher to negotiate with the Chinese.
SMERCONISH: Well, and you tell a story about being in flight on Air Force One to Beijing for the Olympics and you still didn't have credentials. How did that pan out?
GEISSINGER: Well, that's exactly right. We had - I had made several trips to Beijing. I think three trips prior to the actual trip itself to negotiate everything from hotel rooms to vehicle placards to credentials to the events.
And we had - at the time of the departure from Andrews, we still had not received any credentials or any passes to any of the events. And we weren't exactly sure what the schedule was going to entail.
And President Bush called me up to the conference room on Air Force One as we were flying and asked me what events he could go to. I had already talked to my lead advance on the ground and the Secret Service and we had decided that we were going to just go to whatever events we wanted to go to and we figured the Chinese would not stop us.
So, when the president called me up to the conference room, he asked where he could go to. And I said, sir, you can go to any events you want to go to. And I said just give me a heads up of what you want to go see and we'll make it happen. And that's exactly what we did.
We just ordered up the motorcade, told the Chinese security where we were going and we drove off and went there. And we were never stopped. We went to the swimming events with Michael Phelps and we went to beach volleyball and we even had a baseball game between the US team and the Chinese team.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Josh, a trip of this magnitude requires deep reading. On the flight there, do you read or do you sleep?
JOSH KING, FORMER DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION FOR PRESIDENTIAL EVENTS UNDER BILL CLINTON: Well, it's a ten-hour flight from Andrews to Hawaii, that first leg that President Trump has already taken, Michael.
He emerged to get his lace on the tarmac in Honolulu, looked very spritely and had a lot of energy for his visit to Pearl Harbor. My sense is that he probably - he and the First Lady Melania Trump probably got a lot of sleep on that first leg.
[09:45:03] Now, it's another ten hours over to his first stop in Tokyo. And I hope that, on that leg - they're taking off in the morning from Honolulu, that they'll spend a lot of time in the conference room, with H.R. McMaster, with John Kelly, with Dina Powell, pouring over the briefing books, because from this point forward, every trip, every stop, has diplomatic pitfalls that need to be avoided.
There is a slow ramp on this trip. On Sunday, he's playing golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. That should be a pretty easy layup. They've spoken 14 times on the phone. Also shared a round of golf when the prime minister visited the United States.
Things get a little trickier on Monday, as spencer said, once you get into Beijing. But what I have seen about this White House, unlike going to Michael Phelps' swimming meets of the Olympics is this White House doesn't have a lot of creativity or a lot of people to put on a lot of bells and whistles on these trips.
So, they're staying very much in a narrow diplomatic protocol lane, almost giving yourself over to your host. Go where the host asks you to go. Show up to the meetings that they ask you to show up. Don't take a lot of risks. Don't do a lot yourself, because, frankly, they don't have the personnel or expertise to do it.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Spencer, is there a rock band quality to this, when you're doing five nations back-to-back, that you almost forget where you are and it's, hello, Cleveland, even if you're not in Cleveland?
GEISSINGER: No. Not so much. I mean - throughout the - yes, throughout the whole advance, you're talking to your teams on the ground. And so, you have a really good understanding and feel for what's going to happen.
These trips are highly scripted. They're thought out months in advance. Every step that the president's going to take has been walked by the advance teams and security. Every route that the motorcade will travel has been traveled previously and practiced. So, there's a lot that goes into this thing.
What you have to avoid is a self-inflicted distraction. You want to stick to the script, go to the event - as Josh said, go to the events that they want you to go to, be prepared when you're there and then execute the trip that you have planned, and not try and do things on a whim or sort of ad hoc.
You want to stick to the script as best as possible because things will happen. And you will have to react to them. On any trip, there's always something that comes out of left field that you have to deal with.
SMERCONISH: And, Josh, you're going to have to wear the native dress. We were showing some images of Bill Clinton, your former boss. If you're with the Saudis, you might be expected to hold hands. There are always those wrinkles at every location. True?
KING: Yes. This is a shot of the APEC conference. This is Bogor Palace in Indonesia. I think it was probably the second or third APEC conference. The first one we hosted in Seattle. And our dress code was just, come casually to the island where the leaders were meeting.
Once we started going to these Asian conferences, they said, please wear the native garb. And these were the batik shirt that the Indonesians ask us to wear. President Clinton was already about 12 inches taller than all of his counterparts of the APEC leaders. So, he stood out to begin with. And that guy, with his pale complexion, didn't look great in a batik shirt either.
But you go along to get along. And that's a rule of requirement when you go to these APEC conferences.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Spencer, just 30 seconds left.
GEISSINGER: I can tell you -
SMERCONISH: Any fun for a president on it? I know he's going to golf with Abe. But is any of this fun?
GEISSINGER: Oh, yes. Absolutely. There's so much history in Asia.
GEISSINGER: On these trips. And so, you really get an opportunity to learn so much about their culture. So, yes, there are fun times, and there's times to relax as well.
Those APEC shirts, there's not a president that has served in our country that likes wearing those APEC shirts. I can tell you.
SMERCONISH: OK. So, there's one thing that can bridge the partisan divide, not liking those shirts. It's like the ridiculous sweater at Christmas.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for being here.
KING: Thank you, Michael.
GEISSINGER: Thank you, Michael. Good to be with you.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments, like this one.
Smerconish, "what the reason for POTUS to go around North Korea. I don't think that area is safe for him because of Kim."
Well, he's not going around North Korea. I guess, you mean in close proximity. But, listen, we talked about this here. He will not be going to the DMZ. We talked about it here two weeks ago. Should he go? He's not going. Back in a sec.
[09:54:04] SMERCONISH: Hey, follow me on Twitter and Facebook and maybe your comment will make it to the air. What do we have?
"As an independent, I hope @TomFriedman is right about 2020 elections, but hard to see how we wrest power from the two parties."
Alvin, Dr. Plexico, I too was thinking when Tom Friedman said that. Yes, there's great opportunity there. Forty-five percent of us regard ourselves as independents according to Gallup. That's an all-time high.
Hit me with another one. Smerconish, "Every Saturday AM my wife has to watch Smerconovich. I say Smerconish, she says whatever."
Yes. Papadolous. Papadopoulos. See, I said it again. One more, do we have time for it. Papadopoulos, Papadopoulos.
Smerconish, as a viewer recommended, I took a drink each time you said P's name wrong. I'm definitely buzzed by 9:15 a.m. I'm never going to live it down. I'm never going to live it down.
Thank you so much for watching. I'll see you next week.
[9:54:31] CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR, "NEWSROOM": Good morning. So grateful for your company. I'm Christi Paul.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR, "NEWSROOM": I'm Martin Savidge in for Victor Blackwell. CNN "Newsroom" begins now.
This morning, President Trump starts his longest international trip since taking office. And arguably, his most crucial.
PAUL: Twelve days, five countries and multiple high-level meetings with world leaders. In just hours, he's leaving Hawaii to get to japan, where he'll meet with one of the United States' top allies in that region.
And on the agenda, of course, confronting growing nuclear fears in North Korea and re-establishing US power in that region.