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Tina Brown Discusses Her New Book and Weighs in on the Lack of Women in Higher Management Positions; Emily Dufton Discusses Her Book, "Grass Roots, the Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana"; Robert McDowell Explains the Net Neutrality Law. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired December 16, 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] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I am Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. President Trump still bashing the FBI just before speaking at its training academy, what should we think of not only the President's words to the Quantico audience but also the response he received?
I'll ask former Assistant FBI Director Tom Fuentes and is net neutrality is the end of civilization as we know it as some worry or just a return to the free market. I'll ask former Commissioner of the FCC Robert McDowell.
Plus the "Me Too Movement" inspired a new website that classifies whether movies and TV shows are tarnished as rotten apples. Will this end well?
I will ask legendary editor Tina Brown who says we are living in the Arab spring for women. And with California legalizing recreational marijuana and New Jersey maybe on deck, has the tide finally turn for legal pot, or Mike Jeff sessions' opposition be a big bummer, man?
But first the President drew laughter and applauds yesterday when going after what he regards as fake news. That's not new, what made it no worthy where he said it and how well it was received.
He was speaking to graduates of the FBI Academy's executive course these are individuals these are individuals graduating from a ten week program famous around the world which is an accredited semester of study of UVA. The episode reminded me of an appearance he made the day after his inauguration at CIA Headquarters in Langley.
He said then visiting the CIA was his first official stop and he thanked the men and women for their service, that was appropriate. But As the President stood in front of the wall memorializing CIA Officers killed in the line of duty, the more he spoke, the more political he sounded speaking like a solemn setting was a campaign rally he defended his inaugural crowd size and even bragged about of the number of times he's been on the "Time" magazine cover and he went after the media.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth.
SMERCONISH: Many commentators noted the inappropriateness of the remarks in this context as well as the favorable way in which they were received.
TRUMP: I always call them the dishonest media but they treated me nicely.
SMERCONISH : Follow up reporting revealed because the event happened on a weekend the audience was comprised of agents willing to come in on Saturday and that the first few rows were filled with non CIA personnel brought by the President and his staff. CBS reported at the time the makeup of the crowd included 40 people who'd been invited by Trump, Mike Pence and then Representative Pompeo.
Yesterday, the President went to Quantico, again, wonderful that the President would offer his praise to those in law enforcement, even when leaving in the White House, he said this.
TRUMP: It's a shame what's happened with the FBI.
SMERCONISH: He also used the word disgraceful referring to Senior FBI Officials who exchanged anti Trump and pro Hillary Clinton text messages and did so working on last year's probe Clinton use of a private e-mail server and again during special counsel, Robert Mueller investigation into possible collusion with Russia.
The President I think is justified in his anger about an agent apparently swapping texts with his mistress while both played important roles in federal investigations. But when the President got to the FBI, just as he done it at the CIA, he treated the crowd like it was a campaign event, like at the CIA is a mistake and equally reprehensible was their response.
TRUMP: But as I look out in the audience and see many young bright faces. To them and too many other young Americans watching at home, of which there are many. You see there's the fake news back there, look.
SMERCONISH : When he heard how well that comment was received in the room, he doubled down.
TRUMP: Now, actually some of them are fun people. About let's see whose back there? Yes about 30 percent.
SMERCONISH: Here's my point, the President again violated the time and place rule that many of our parents instilled in us. We come to expect this from him. Equally troubling is the laughter and the applause. This cannot be the new normal. These were not kids. The folks in that room are adults in their 40s and 50s. The Intel and law enforcement communities need to remain above politics and to be perceived as beyond reproach.
When they feed over the President's overly political lines, they cause a lack of confidence in their own non partisanship. Joining me now is Tom Fuentes. He spent 30 years at the FBI including five as an assistant director and was a member of the Interpol executive committee. He also ran the FBI's international program. Tom is my concern warranted in your view?
TOM FUENTES, FORMER ASSISTANT FBI DIRECTOR: Well in a way Michael I think it is warranted however I would like to maybe clarify the audience makeup here that was doing the laughter. You know in that room there's probably maybe 800, 900 people including family members of the police officers attending that course very, very few FBI agents at all in that ceremony.
It's a graduation for the State, Locals and Foreign Police Officers who attended the semester of education from the University of Virginia, but their families are also in the room. What we forget is when the media seems to constantly criticize law enforcement officers or immediately take the negative view of a law enforcement action including police officer involved in shootings. That affects the families.
Most families were in the room and they feel very strongly about the negative coverage that police in general and in some cases members of their own department specifically get. The children go to school and they get harassed, people know that their father or mother is a police officer, they take abuse. The parents the cousins everybody that's close to that officer in their family is affected.
Because being a police officer is not a job, it is a way of life. That's true for all of them. And at this point, the attendees of that course are senior executives of State, Local, Foreign police agencies as well as a couple of Federal agencies and even the U.S. Military. And they really do resent what they think of a media bias against law enforcement.
SMERCONISH: I hear you; I understand that, I guess you're saying that I am asking too much if I wish for them to disassociate the President's comment of fake news from the bias they see in some of the reporting. They've got to be perceived beyond reproach, that's my point.
In the same way that at CIA , I was uncomfortable of the reaction of that audience. I was uncomfortable yesterday. The President, Tom often says put the cameras on the crowd, your making me wish the cameras were on the crowd yesterday so that we can see who was providing the laughter and the applause.
I'm worried about the diminution of the reputation of those in law enforcement if they're perceived as picking sides. Your response?
FUENTES: Well I think your right but we don't know about the CIA rally whether other family members were there or only employees of the CIA. And really the audience is predominantly family members or friends and other extended relatives of the graduates of that course. So for them to spontaneously feel that the President is agreeing with them that the coverage is often negative and in an unwarranted way, they do feel that they would be sympathetic to the President calling the news fake news.
And it may not be appropriate for him to say it or for them to laugh but I think that does express how they really feel about the reporting that often, you know, is done in connection with law enforcement activity.
SMERCONISH: I get your point that the composition of that room was largely not FBI personnel. But now let me ask you distinctly FBI question. When the President uses words like "disgraceful" and I think we know he is referring to the texts interplay between those two agents. But when uses it in a broad sense, what kind of harm and does that cause to the moral of FBI personnel?
FUENTES: Well it is harmful. And I think that for the President as I've said before he needs to be specific. What occurred on the 7th floor at FBI Headquarters regarding the former Director Comey, Deputy Director McCabe, agents Strzok absolutely disgusting and reprehensible? And he has a right to be absolutely disgusted with that.
But that's not the majority. And even, I'm talking about almost all other FBI personnel worldwide are doing an incredible job. Unfortunately, they've also have been tarnished and not just by the reporting that's coming out about the Comey and others in their investigations, which that reporting is true, of the damage that they've done. But I think that the President should just - what I would like to see distinguish more of who's at fault here.
The FBI at - one of his comments on the White House lawn I believe was we're going to rebuild the FBI. They don't need rebuilding. They need somebody to exert leadership at the top of that organization and I'll go all the way to Attorney General.
I think Attorney General Sessions has an absentee landlord with the department of justice and with the FBI. And don't forget he wasn't recusing himself from the Russian collusion case and a couple of specific investigations at any given time, the FBI has more than 20 or 30 thousand investigations worldwide. Where is he in leading that situation?
Where is he on leading the executive management that does needs to be straightened out? That's what's missing here. From the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, and we - were yet to see what Director Ray is going to do now that he's in charge.
SMERCONISH: I think - I think when it's a shotgun blast 'approach, using the words tatters or disgraceful he's impugning the reputation of the entire bureau instead of speaking with specificity about the incidents that you've just made reference to. Tom thank you as always I appreciate your analysis.
FUENTES: Thank you Michael.
SMERCONISH: Tweet me at Smerconish go to my Facebook page I'll read some responses live during the course of the program. Catherine what do we got?
Investigate who laughed and discipline the way the agents who sent the text messages were demoted and taken off Molars investigation of collusion. Their clearly not fit to be FBI agents.
Lori to Tom Fuentes point that room is comprised of far more than FBI personal, I just had a visceral negative reaction in watching that live on television. And I thought who are these people to be laughing and joking along with that criticism, and I was offering it in defense of my network although I am willing to do so. I was officering it as an American that does not want to see this is the hard word for me to pronounce, the politicization; I did it, of law enforcement and the Intel committee.
That's where I am coming from. One more, quickly, Smerconish a nice spin on the applause, it was amazing how many people clapped out loud and yelled when he said your all lairs and fake news, that's what America believes. Michael get it through your head.
Well Richard why don't you say my thick head. Are you not unsettled Richard, by the prospect of the Intel community at the CIA, even if there were ringers in that room? Or law enforcement who are the thin blue line out there protecting all of us being perceived like everything else in this world along partisan lines.
It used to be that our partisan ship ended at our borders and we could unite on certain things. I am nervous when law enforcement is perceived as being on one side. They should be on all of our side. That's my point.
Up ahead, are the chicken little's about net neutrality going overboard with their sky is falling scenarios? I'll ask former SCC Commissioner Robert McDowell. And later does a recipe for a cinnamon roll makes a sexual harassment apology any more palatable. I'll ask former "Vanity Fair" ledged Tina Brown what she makes of Mario Batali's recipe for "I'm sorry".
SMERCONISH: Mind all the worries about the death of the net of neutrality be over blown, the GOP toppled another Obama era regulation this week when the FCC voted to end the neutrality rules for internet providers, which had only been put in place since 2015 the FCC's three two party line vote opens up to the internet providers to the free market. Marking a major victory for the telecommunications companies so if the ruling stands is this the dire situation most have painted it to be?
Joining me now is Robert McDowell. He served as a commissioner of the FCC from 2006-2013 he was nominated by both Presidents Bush and Obama. Robert, I want to briefly talk about the three seas. Content, cost, and competition and I need you to dumb it down for me. I got the stove pipe; it comes to my house and delivers my internet. If my internet service provider also controls content, won't they seek advantage over other content providers and impact my bandwidth?
ROBERT MCDOWELL, FORMER FCC COMMISIONER: Excellent question, first of all thank you for having me on, it's my first time on CNN so thank you for this inaugural moment.
But it's at the heart of the debate and the question really is what laws best apply here? Whether it is the 20 years of the Clinton Gore administration policy of using three Federal statues verses a fourth statue that the Obama administration tried in its last two years.
So when you have more competition in the broadband space and the fastest growing segment of the broadband market is mobile broadband. We're seeing people cut the cord or shave the cord or never corners going straight to mobile broadband. And going to over the top video, so downloading preloaded video or sometime live streaming, on their mobile devices that's actually shaking up this whole ecosystem, in a wonderful way.
A way that's very good for consumers. And so that's part of the competitive counter balance to the monopoly argument, which if you only look at the market as a cable pipe into your TV that's bolted into your wall in your living room and your sitting down for appointment television and all that. If that's the only way you're looking at, not you but I'm saying people.
Then that's not the complete picture. What's in the denominator of what's competition here is wireless and unlicensed wireless here as well. Nine out ten Americans have a choice of four mobile broadband providers. Plus there's unlicensed spectrum, plus there's cable, and fiber, and over builders like Fios and all the rest.
So it's actually a great to be a consumer broadband and content, so I'm optimistic.
SMERCONISH: I mean maybe the original sin for the - in the view of the detractors was when the internet service providers were also allowed to control content.
MCDOWELL: Right. So what's an interesting argument there too, which this one doesn't get talked about a whole lot is some internet source providers are vertically integrated. Obviously your company is trying to get bought by AT&T. You have Comcast, NBC Universal, you have Verizon owning Yahoo and AOL, that has content. So the question is, is there an incentive for them to have their content viewed by fewer eyeball, fewer people, or more eyeballs and more people. Well the easy answer is that your content is more valuable if more people are looking at it right? And, so you want your content to be on more platforms.
You want people watching your show on this, wherever they are, right? And so that your ratings go up and that makes you more valuable in the marketplace. So there's actually an economic distance in there for them to start shutting out other, you know ISP's content because it becomes sort of a war of attrition. It's sort of mutual assured destruction to do that. But what the safety valve for that is, is wireless and also unlicensed wireless whether it's the TV whitespaces or new super wi-fi that's coming in and other things that will be coming over the horizon in the next three to five years. It's going to be a wonderful time to be a consumer.
SMERCONISH: All right, as a consumer, am I going to pay more?
MCDOWELL: So per bit per second you've been paying less in especially the wireless space you've been seeing broadband prices drop precipitously. Just a year ago, you know, we didn't have all the major wireless carriers offering unlimited data plans, and as of the first quarter this year, they all offer unlimited data plans. You know T-Mobile and Sprint sort of leading the price war there and the other two had to catch up as well as others. So per bit per second, I know there's the volume of data you get and how fast that you get it. That price for that has actually been going down per bit per second. Obviously, overall net prices rise, the fed likes to see an inflation rate of 2 percent across the board for the economy, but you're getting more for your dollar than you did last year and certainly five years ago, or when the iPhone debuted, 10 years ago. You didn't even have global broadband at that point.
SMERCONISH: The third C-competition. You, you know the criticism is that in this new era now, no one who's entrepreneurial and a start up will be able to compete with the giants. Your response is what to that?
MCDOWELL: Right, so the response there is, what the FCC reversed yesterday, was an order that went in place in February of 2015. So before February of 2015, you had a legal construct that I don't want to get into the weeds unless you want me to on the laws, but, you know, the legal construct that was adopted in the Clinton-Gore Administration that worked quite well because it was flexible and nimble enough for the lightening fast innovation and experimentation that happens in the internet marketplace. And that used three federal statutes. The Federal Trade Commission Act, the Clayton Act, and the Sherman Act.
And yet the FTC, by the way is a great op ad by Obama's first chairman of the FTC, John Leibowitz.
SMERCONISH: John Leibowitz, I wrote it, I read it. I read it, I didn't write it.
MCDOWELL: He's a good guy. But anyway, I'm sure he wrote it himself, a very smart guy. And it actually outlined why the FTC is going to do, continue to do a great job. It was actually kind of kicked off the beat because of a legal quark in February of 2015. And so now it's going to be back on the beat and it manages competition in all sorts of high tech and complex areas of our economy and they have a budget of $350 million. They have 640 lawyers, 70 page (inaudible), and what they do is they rove around the economy looking for bottlenecks and anticompetitive behavior and sue, sue companies. And they have sued an ATT&T and a Comcast. And they've had 500 privacy proceedings-violations of privacy law against ISPs as well as other types of companies as providers too. So it is a big, huge public interest law firm, plus DOJ might be a sensitive topic on this show. But, obviously, DOJ is involved in this space as well. There's a lawsuit involving your parent company and the merger with AT&T.
So they are looking at these things as well. And that's what works so well. That's what gave us this beautifully blossomed internet marketplace that for 20 years before February 2015.
SMERCONISH: It's a difficult subject to follow. I'm happy-
MCDOWELL: It is.
SMERCONISH: -- to have you here because I thought a guy who was appointed by both W and Obama, hopefully can present it in a nonpartisan way. It's become a very partisan issue. Robert, thank you so much for your time.
MCDOWELL: Thank you so much for covering it.
SMERCONISH: Let's see some of your reaction via my Smerconish twitter and Facebook pages. What do we have? Smerconish, how is net neutrality a partisan issue when more than 80 percent of people want to keep it? I'm not sure, I mean look it was a 3-2 vote at the FCC. So that, in and of itself, it tells you it's become a partisan issue. I had a poll on my website where it was like 91 to 9 percent said they did not want, there it is, OK, 93 to 7. I was close. Should the FCC end net neutrality? Thank you Katheryn.
So I mean, I, I, get it. Overwhelmingly the polls say, this is what people want. But, it was partisan at the FCC, that was my point. Time for one more or do I have to move on? Move on. Up next, inspired by the hashtag Me Too movement, a new website. Check this out, a new website sorts movies and TV shows by whether they have any rotten apples in the basket. But is that fair? I'll talk about this and more with legendary editor Tina Brown.
SMERCONISH: After a string of Hollywood downfalls for sexual harassment, now there's even a new website called "Rotten Apples" rating whether shows and movies are rotten or fresh. I want to discuss this and much more with one of the premier cultural observes and taste-makers of the past quarter century, Tina Brown. She brought the magazine "Vanity Fair" back to life in 1986, and then revived "The New Yorker" then founded "Talk" then started "The Daily Beast". Her new book is the Vanity Fair Diaries, which is full of juicy observations of New York in the 1980's. She's the founder of the Women in the World Summit.
So Tina, I did the Hollywood read on your book. I went to the index. I looked up Donald Trump. And, oh man, what I found. Put up on the screen what I thought was absolutely prescient from 1987. This is what Tina Brown wrote in her diary, "The Art of the Deal, which has a crassness I like in the end, the only thing about self-serving books like this is, do they capture the true voice? There's something authentic about Trump's bullshit. Anyway, it feels, when you have finished it, as if you've been nose to nose for four hours with an entertaining con man and I suspect the American public will like nothing better."
I mean, I love, I love the assessment. I wondered as I read it, what do you think he'd think of that?
TINA BROWN, JOURNALIST, MAGAZINE EDITOR, COLUMNIST, TALK-SHOW HOST, AND AUTHOR: Well he might well think it's right actually. I MEAN THE Trump of the 80's would have probably agreed. You know? The Trump of now, oh my God, he's way more serious about himself. But at the time I met him, you know, he was just a great salesman and, and, he was funny about it actually at the time-for awhile. Not as you see in the later, later part of the diaries, I start to have a very different point of view about him. But then, he was fun.
SMERCONISH: Well, and, and would there be a President Donald Trump, and I don't want to, I don't want to put it all on your shoulders for better or worse, but without the celebrity culture that you chronicled through "Vanity Fair" and the other publications, would he be where he is today?
BROWN: Well, you know we really mirrored and, and, and kind of developed and turned into something sort of iconic I guess, the rise of celebrity culture, but I can't say we were responsible for it. We had an actor in the White House as I took over. But, I mean it is the obvious offshoot of that time. The rise of celebrity culture led to reality television, led to "The Apprentice", led to the White House. There's no question that that arc begins in those period years, in the 80's.
SMERCONISH: You, you have him in 1991, taking umbridge. That's a soft way of explaining it. At something published in "Vanity Fair" I think over a year prior and dumping a drink down the-tell it.
BROWN: Well what happened was that we published a very, kind of, skeptical, you know critical, deep dive into his financial chicanery as, as we saw it, and of course his crazy tawdry divorce. And we basically kind of did a piece that took that whole thing apart. And the author of the piece, Marie Brenner, was sitting there at a, at a benefit, at you know at the Tavern on the Green, about eight or nine months later and she felt something cold, and wet, and slimy down the back of her dress and she looks around thinking it's the waiter and sees Donald Trump just having emptied a glass of wine down her back scooting back across the room without daring in a sense to confront her. Very interesting because it shows that a, that he kept this great grievance burning all of that time. Secondly, that he doesn't really like conformation either, which I think is true today as well.
SMERCONISH: So to bring this full circle in this era of the wrenching in which we live today, what if an event like that as you wrote were to take place in 2017 going into 2018, would that individual be hoisted by their own petard?
BROWN: Well, of course, this was pre-viral, this was pre social media. SMERCONISH: Right.
BROWN: So I think, you, you know, this, this write up appeared in Liz Smith's column and was certainly taken up everywhere on TV and such, but it didn't have that kind of huge national wild social impact that happens today in the internet age. Undoubtedly it would have been a huge explosion. But also that piece did say, and this is why he was so furious actually, that he kept the speeches of Hitler on his desk and that was what made him crazy because it was a very, very interesting that Marie Brenner had observed which is that, you know, he had this volume right there on his desk at Trump Towers.
SMERCONISH: Tina, let's talk about that website I made reference to a moment ago. How, how do you feel about being able to go to a place and have aspersions cast on an entire TV show or an entire movie project when there were a couple of bad apples, and are they worthy of professional death sentences? That's really my question.
BROWN: I do not think the shows are worthy of professional death sentences. I mean quite honestly, if you start to take that view of all the creative artists, actors, directors, et cetera, who have been involved with a project that you wouldn't see anything on the air. There would be nothing on Netflix if you took that view. And I don't think it's very fair to the people working there, you know? I mean there are a lot of people who are going to go down as collateral damage which I don't think is, is correct. I think that's wrong. I think the that the individuals can be called out but not the shows, that's too far.
SMERCONISH: Mario Batali, one of the names that recently enters the mix and via social media he posted an apology. Interesting he says, "As many of you know this week there's been some news coverage about some of my past behavior. I've made my many mistakes, I am so very sorry, et cetera, et cetera." And then, "P.S. in case you're searching for a holiday-inspired breakfast, these pizza dough cinnamon rolls
are a fan favorite." Your reaction.
BROWN: I would say how about pigs in a blanket, Mario. How about that delicious British suet and raisin dessert, Spotted Dick? Sorry, but you know Mario, this ain't the right kind of apology. I don't think this is where it's at. Pigs in a blanket, Mario.
SMERCONISH: You were a boss in the industry at age 25 and beyond. Did that position of authority at an early age spare you from being on the receiving end of sexual harassment?
BROWN: Well quite honestly, it is true that the best way to keep sexual harassment at bay is to wind up being the one in charge, right? So it's true that I had all kinds of other frustrations and other senses of being demeaned, but sexual harassment wasn't one of them because I was able to define my world from 25 years old. I was a boss lady. You know I was an Editor-in-Chief. So the more women we have in positions of authority, doesn't have to be the boss itself but in middle management and across the board on boards of companies, et cetera, the more you're going to see that that atmosphere of bro culture if you like, gets blown up. I mean it isn't an accident that there were 10 men on the Weinstein Company board, I mean no women at all. So it's like, there isn't any kind of sense of how women are thinking or reacting to things in so many positions of authority in so many places, and that's when it all goes wrong-when women are just sort of an add on or, you know, a sort of borrowed interest. That's when it really goes awry.
SMERCONISH: Is there any risk of reaching a point that you desire, I think that we all desire, when there are more women in those management positions that it continues except it is now the women who are the perpetrators.
BROWN: Well, that can happen too. I mean there's no doubt that power can corrupt anybody, and this is about power and there's no doubt that, you know, it's about inequity and power that create situations where one kind of victim is created. And I'm sure that there are, obviously, as power changes. But let's put it this way, it's pretty unlikely, or somehow outlandish, to think of, I don't know, Senator Lisa Murkowski putting her hand down somebody's pants. I mean there is something different perhaps about the way women are, why or take their positions of authority that is not going to lead to this mass kind of abuse of it. Obviously there are going to be women who do abuse it and we, we have seen women who do that-I mean horrible stuff with peaches and so on abusing it with young men.
BROWN: But, I mean, I really feel that, you know, in terms of management, the problem we've had is it's been so glacial. I mean, you know, it's all very well. There's all of this talk and all of these men CEOs go to Davos, for instance, the big world economic forum in Switzerland that's coming up in January. And they all make these speeches about we have women in the pipeline. Well frankly that pipeline is exploding right now. Women are sick of being stuck in that quote pipeline. They've been in that pipeline now for years and years and you know we've seen changes. We have women taking up these top jobs and we definitely had a huge improvement. But, it's still too slow, you know? I mean, only one percent more women are in American newsrooms since 2001. It's, it's staggering to me how slow things are.
SMERCONISH: Hey Tina, come back. I love the book and I love when you write about Dominic Dunn. I was such a fan of his work.
BROWN: What a wonderful writer. Yes, I discovered him when he was a film producer, you know, before he'd even written anything and he was sort of on his way down and down on his luck and I had this wonderful connection with him, then he became a magazine journalist, and the rest is history.
SMERCONISH: Yes, good for you that you did. Thank you Tina Brown.
BROWN: Thank you. SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have Katheryn? This is fun stuff. Smerconish, I'm unclear to where exactly is due process in the Me Too movement? Brandon, it's something I talk about each and every day on my radio program on Sirius XM. I'm looking for that case where I can say, "OK, the Due Process rights of this individual have been violated." The closest I've come, and I said this here on CNN, "I'm not convinced that Glenn Thrush deserved the, the, to go to the penalty box at "The New York Times" but where so many of these guys quickly put their tail between their legs and admit fault, it, it's hard to say he was denied Due Process.
Still to come, when California legalizes recreational pot next month, does it signify a game change in the movement to make it legal nationally, or will Jeff Sessions Bogart that momentum?
SMERCONISH: Is the legalization of recreational pot finally here to stay? It's been an endless debate in America while marijuana remains illegal on the federal level unlike other grades, there's leeway for state and local authorities to decide. Next month California joins the list of states where recreational marijuana is legal and in New Jersey, the incoming Democratic Governor Phil Murphy who promised to legalize marijuana takes office on January 16, so keep an eye on the Garden State.
On the other hand U. S. Attorney Jeff Sessions has a long-standing opposition to pot. He said that marijuana's effect is "only slightly less harmful than heroin's even though nobody's ever been recorded as fatally overdosing on marijuana. So, is it going to go nationwide or be nipped in the bud?
Joining me now is somebody who's tracked all the ups and downs, Emily Dufton, author of the brand new book, "Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America." Emily, it's hard for me to see the clock getting turned back and yet I read the book and appreciated the up and down topsy turvy nation of, nature of the history of pot.
EMILY DUFTON, AUTHOR OF "GRASS ROOTS: THE RISE AND FALL AND RISE OF MARIJUANA IN AMERICA: Well thank you so much. I'm glad that I have the opportunity to be here to talk about this. I do believe that there's not a definite clear path toward full legalization, recreational legalization just yet. As you said New Jersey is probably going to be the first state to legalize recreational legalization via a state-based legalization initiative through the legislature, which is hugely important. All other states have legalized via ballot initiatives and that really changes things because ballot initiatives are only available in about half of the states. New Jersey being the first to push it through the legislature marks a rather new form of territory for these initiatives to take place. Of course ballot initiatives are not foolproof either as we've see happening in Maine. That was a ballot initiative that was passed in 2016 but Governor LePage has vetoed it and has no interest in passing it. So we see a lot of things happening as far as these laws are being pushed through on a state level. But there are several roadblocks that might prevent them from being taken, you know, too full action.
SMERCONISH: And is Jeff Sessions, X the Unknown?
DUFTON: He is. The, the power that Jeff Sessions has is that he doesn't have to do anything. Even in states where marijuana is recreationally legal, that doesn't change it's federal standing. It remains a Schedule I drug. And in doing so, there's still a lot of limitations against it. As you said California is going to be enacting it's legalization laws on January 1. It's huge. California is the most populous state in America but there's still a lot of problems it's facing. Most recently the fires in Northern California burned millions of acre-millions of dollars worth of marijuana. Because marijuana remains a Scheudle I drug, there's no crop insurance for those farmers.
DUFTON: Additionally because, yes, so they're losing out on a lot of money. It's still very much a gamble to grow marijuana when you can't insure your crop. The other thing is that, of course, marijuana being a federally illegal substance, it means that it can't be trafficked across state borders. So all the marijuana grown in California should, according to state law, remain in California which means that there's potential for a flooding of the market in the lowering prices overall. So legalization as a whole is not, is not like a golden road. There's still a lot of problems with it and I think states are trying to figure that out as they go through these piecemeal measures.
SMERCONISH: A final point. I think that what, what differentiates the current climate from where we've been in the past on this issue, are the number of Americans receiving relief meaning for medicinal purposes and how, and I recognize that's not recreational, this is the medicinal area, but how we'd ever turn back the clock on them and say no you can't for the side effects of chemo therapy smoke pot or ingestibles, whatever it might be. Your word on that is what?
DUFTON: Marijuana as a medical substance, I do believe is here to stay. It's been legal-
DUFTON: --in states for 21, almost 22 years starting again in California and spreading now to 29 states. And I think the evidence of the relief that it can provide is so obvious. You see children's seizures being relieved from it. You see people getting relief from chemo therapy from it. It's, the medical marijuana substance I think is, it would be very difficult to turn the clock back on that.
SMERCONISH: Emily, the book is well done. Thanks for being here.
DUFTON: Thank you so much. SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments, what do we got? Do we have one? Smerconish, I'm saying it now, we have to legalize pot nationwide to pay for the GOP tax bill. Neil Leslie, it's interesting. Yes, maybe come Tuesday, this is, this is how we bail out of the 1.whatever trillion dollar debt that we incur as a result of it. I'm back in just a sec.
SMERCONISH: If you ever miss any of the program, you can catch us at any time on CNNgo online and through your connected devices and apps, follow me on twitter, hit my Facebook page. Here's what's come in during the course of this program. Smerconish, last November you said you'd give Trump a chance, give us an update on your current status.
Will, I believe I've been giving him a chance each and every day. For example, Will, at the outset of this program I had a good conversation with Tom Fuentes and Tom and I presented you the text messages from those FBI agents who were having a relationship. I told you it was totally inappropriate. Tom Fuentes said that it was totally inappropriate. At the same time, I don't want him getting political in front of cops and the intel community, and I don't want them applauding. You know, is that biased or is that nuanced?
Next. What's up? Smerconish, the President is uncomfortable with a free and uncensored press. He would much rather be king with a private police force. I think we see how that has worked out in the past. Gary, I think we are living. There have been mistakes made. There have been mistakes made by journalists, this 24/7 cycle sometimes makes people move too quickly and they screw up and that's unfortunate. But we're living in a golden age of journalism. We wouldn't know what we know today about so much going on in the White House but for CNN, "The New York Times," the "Washington Post," you know all those dreaded liberal outlets and so forth.
Next, the President gets no credit when he deserves for a booming economy. William Lancaster, the economy is doing very well and I believe that he is deserving of credit for aspects of that. By the same token, fairness demands that you also say the table was set for him by President Obama, was it not? So I'm, I'm thrilled to give him credit. I'm thrilled with the Dow, thrilled with 4.1 unemployment, et cetera, et cetera.
One more if we've got time. Smerconish, your use of big words is on point this morning. Keep up the multi-syllable words coming. Papadopoulous, Papadopoulous, Papadopoulous. I will see you next week.