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SMERCONISH

Are Democrats moving too far to the left?; Dems at war: Pragmatism vs. passion; Study finds hateful posts on some police officers' social media; Trump to award Medal of Freedom to supply-side economist. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired June 8, 2019 - 09:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Are Democrats snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by moving too far to the left? That's today's survey question at Smerconish.com. In an effort to appease the most vocal activists within the party, are its presidential candidates moving too far to the left to win in the general election against President Trump?

You know it's an old adage. To get nominated, you move to the edge. To win, you move to the center, but early in this cycle, there are signs that Democrats might be moving too far.

Consider that on Thursday night, Joe Biden changed a position that he's held for four decades. Biden said that he would no longer support the Hyde Amendment which bans the use of federal funds for abortion. Now, his logic makes sense. He said that where he views health care as a right, he could no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's zip code.

His change came after his prior view was hammered by his opponents who painted his prior position in extreme terms. Cory Booker said that he regarded the Hyde Amendment as an assault on African American women and maybe that gave Biden a push. Maybe he thought he could not risk alienating voters of color with the trifecta of Anita Hill, the 1994 crime bill and the Hyde Amendment. While the new Biden position will play well in primary season, the most recent polling we have on this from 2016 shows that most Americans, 58 percent, they liked his prior view.

And abortion is not the only example of where the party risks running too far to the left. Impeachment. It's the buzzword of the day for many Democratic activists and House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler has been pushing Speaker Nancy Pelosi to facilitate the launch of proceedings. But as Axios pointed out yesterday, 75 percent of the Democratic House caucus has yet to publicly support impeachment and where it takes 21 of 24 House Judiciary Dems to refer impeachment to the floor, only 13 are so far publicly on board.

Still, 11 Democratic presidential candidates have called for the impeachment of President Trump including Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Beto O'Rourke, but the polling suggests this is not where a majority of Americans stand. A recent CNN poll found that 41 percent of Americans believe President Trump should be impeached or removed from office, but 54 percent say he should not, 5 percent had no opinion.

Last weekend at a gathering of California Democrats, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper was booed after warning attendees that the party should not embrace socialism.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HICKENLOOPER, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big, progressive goals, socialism is not the answer. I was reelected ...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Here again, socialism might no longer be taboo at the DNC, but among all Americans, a majority remain opposed. A Gallup poll from April showed that while four in 10 Americans embrace some form of socialism and that's a marked increase over the last century, still 51 percent believe socialism would be a bad thing for the country.

And then there's health care. Uou can add Medicare for All to the list of issues that are gaining currency among Democratic candidates. Impeachment, repealing the Hyde Amendment, socialism and the Green New Deal, but are Americans ready to replace all of private insurance? When former Congressman John Delaney tried to distinguish Medicare for All from universal coverage when speaking to California Democrats, he too was booed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN DELANEY, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Medicare for All may sound good, but it's actually not good policy nor is it good politics. I'm telling you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Hearing that, rising Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez told Delaney via Twitter that it was time for him to, quote, "Sashay away." Congressman Delaney will join me in just a moment, but go to my website now at Smerconish.com and answer today's survey question. Are Democrats snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by moving too far to the left? Are the loudest voices drowning out the more reasonable ones?

Joining me now, former Maryland Congressman John Delaney. Congressman, thanks for being here. What's your answer to my survey question? Is the party shifting too far to the left to win a general against Donald Trump?

DELANEY: I think if we embrace some of these policies, the answer is yes. I think if we're the party that's embracing Medicare for All, the single-payer Medicare for All bill for example, the answer is yes. I think what we should be striving to do as Democrats is to build a big 10 party and make sure we stand for policies that progressives, moderates, Independents and even these disaffected Republicans can get behind. That's the way we win in 2020 and that's the way we govern.

SMERCONISH: You had to know going into that California gathering last weekend, much like Governor Hickenlooper had to know, you were about to say something that would be very unpopular in that room.

[09:05:07] What was your mindset? What were you trying to do?

DELANEY: Well, I was just trying to tell the truth which is what I've been doing this whole campaign. I believe Medicare for All in a single-payer form is bad policy and it's bad politics and someone has to have the guts to step forward and say that because if we continue down this path and put forth a nominee who's running on forcing 150 million Americans to change their health insurance and go to a new government plan, we know that's not popular, right?

That's half the country that Medicare for All is going to make their health insurance illegal, right? And almost 70 percent of those people like their health insurance and we're forcing them to go on a new government plan. They're not going to like that. We're not going to win any elections.

It's also really bad policy. Medicare doesn't pay enough. Study after study shows that if Medicare paid all the bills in this country, hospitals would close everywhere and all this progress we're about to make with innovation, you know, and potentially cure cancer and Alzheimer's and things like this in a couple decades, which I think we can do based on all the amazing progress that's happening in health care innovation, I think that'll all stop.

So I think this Medicare for All bill is a disaster and we should drop it and we should embrace a form of universal health care like I've proposed called Better Care which gives every single American health care as a right. It's the biggest expansion of government health care since the creation of Medicare, but what it doesn't do is make private insurance illegal. So it allows the American people to do what they like, which is to have choices. So that's where I think we should go and someone had to step forward and tell the Democratic Party the truth and that's really what my campaign is about.

SMERCONISH: I'll bet that there are people who are watching this right now and and saying, maybe favorably saying, that they like what John Delaney has to offer, but question are you running in the right party.

DELANEY: Oh, I'm definitely running in the right party. Listen, I believe, like most Democrats, that health care should be a right for every American, right? In a civilized society as wealthy as we are with all the money we spend on health care, we can absolutely afford to end the tragedy of uninsured Americans and that's what I believe the Democratic Party should stand for, but we should be the party of addition. Meaning we have a problem with a bunch of Americans uninsured and we should solve that problem.

This Medicare for All bill is the politics of subtraction. It's forcing half the country to give up their health insurance and a lot of them like it. That doesn't make any sense. I mean, I served in the Congress and I watched the Republicans try to repeal the Affordable Care Act 60 times. The Affordable Care As compared to, in my judgment, was an incredibly important step forward. So Republicans actually don't support this notion of people having health care. I do. Democrats do. I'm in the right party, but my party, if it goes down this path of single-payer Medicare for All, I just think that's a disaster.

SMERCONISH: Let me ask you about a related subject. I have video of Vice President Biden from Thursday night. Roll it and then I'll ask for a reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I believe health care is a right as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's zip code.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Plays well among Democrats and activists, but the polling I've looked at says that is out of position, out of step with a majority of Americans. Is that an example of what we're talking about and how do you feel about that issue?

DELANEY: Now, listen, I think the majority of Americans are pro-choice and they support Roe v. Wade as the law of the land, as do I. We support a woman's right to make these decisions about her own body consistent with Roe v. Wade. That's where a majority of the American people are. The Hyde Amendment is something that has gotten in the way of that as it relates to certain women and their ability to get health care. So I think this Hyde Amendment issue lines up with where people are ultimately around the question of choice and Roe v. Wade. So I think the vice president, you know, finally moved to the right spot on this.

SMERCONISH: OK. So you're in the same -- you're of the same mindset. Final question, what do you say to a person who might be pro-choice, but recognizes that there's some fundamental unfairness to forcing a taxpayer dollar from a pro-life person pay for an abortion?

DELANEY: You know, look, I think there's a lot of things that the federal government does and not every single citizen agrees with everything the federal government does in every respect. So I just think we've got to go back to this notion that Roe v. Wade is the law of the land and in my opinion, it should be defended and supported. The majority of the American people, and a comfortable majority actually, support that.

[09:10:03] And so I just think we should have policies that reflect that position which is where a majority of the American people are.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Congressman. Appreciate you being here.

DELANEY: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me at Smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. I will read some during the course of the program. Catherine, what do we have from Twitter? "Smerconish, I would prefer a moderate Democratic Party, but given how Trump was able to gin up a rabid base on the right, could someone do the same on the left?"

Michael, you've put your finger on the real issue. It is passion. Passion especially drives the nomination process. So these 23 Democrats are seeking to draw on the passion of the base of the party and that is probably why you see a shift on a number of positions by Biden and others, but if they shift too far, they won't be able to come back and win a general election perhaps.

Go to my website. Cast a ballot on this survey question. Are Democrats snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by moving too far to the left? I'll have answers at the end of the program.

Up ahead, President Trump about to award him the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor any civilian can get. Economist Arthur Laffer is here to discuss how his supply-side theory jibes with our current national debt of $22 trillion.

And a new study of 3,500 police officers' accounts in eight jurisdictions found a lot of hate-filled social media posts. How has the internet impacted the concept of freedom of speech?

Plus, shared e-scooters, the latest rage in getting around America's crowded cities. They're also dangerous and often abandoned in huge heaps. I will talk to one mayor looking to ban them all together.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00]

SMERCONISH: Check out these social media posts. "It's a good day for a choke hold," or "Hope that this piece of S is dealt with by street justice or just plain karma quickly, hopefully by police gunfire," or "F these Muslim" -- well, you can read it. Bad in any situation, right? But what if I told you that all those inflammatory words were posted by current or former police officers in Phoenix and Philadelphia and in St. Louis?

They're just a sampling found by a new study called the Plain View Project of officers around the country using social media to endorse violence against criminals, defendants, blacks, Muslims, women. The study canvassed the postings of more than 3,500 current or former officers in eight jurisdictions of various sizes and geographic areas. It found posts that appear to endorse violence by officers or members of the public, show bias against minority groups, use dehumanizing language calling protesters or people of color "animal" or "savages."

And the attitude went beyond mere words. A deeper dive into the records of officers here in Philly where posts were flagged, found that almost one-third of those individuals have been subjects of civil rights and brutality complaints, many ending in settlements or verdicts for the plaintiffs. Here in Philadelphia, 10 police officers who, quote, "appear to have engaged in explicit bias" have been placed on desk duty as the department continues to investigate. Well, I'm wondering what are the First Amendment rights of the affected police officers? Joining me now is David Hudson. He's a First Amendment scholar and law professor at Belmont University. Professor, those who did the investigation, their standard was to try and determine does the post erode public trust in policing and I noticed that the police commissioner here in Philly -- in fact we'll put it up on the screen.

Here's what he said he's wondering. You know, when does a police officers' expression of his opinion erode the police department's ability to do its job and maintain the public's trust? In those circumstances, the department is permitted to ask -- act, pardon me. Is that an articulation of the law? In other words, at what point can a police officer be disciplined for his or her speech?

DAVID HUDSON, LAW PROFESSOR, BELMONT UNIVERSITY, FIRST AMENDMENT SCHOLAR: Well, the standard developed by the United States Supreme Court is to balance the public employees' right to speak on matters of public concern against the public employers' right to an efficient, disruptive free workplace. It's important to realize ...

SMERCONISH: What's that mean?

HUDSON: Well, what it means is that public employees do not lose all of their free speech rights simply because they accept public employment and they do have the right to speak out on matters of political speech and they do have the right to offer their opinion. Where it crosses the line is when the police department can show that it has a tangible, negative impact and disrupts close working relationships and harms community relationships with the police.

SMERCONISH: Let me click through a couple of examples and have you react. Catherine, put up the first one. How many cops does it take to throw a pedophile down the stairs? None. He fell. Is that a joke? Is that something that we should worry about as a society? Is that protected speech?

HUDSON: I think it depends on the context, right? One random post read in context, it may be simply rhetorical hyperbole. It may be a jest. I'd obviously look into it and I would be concerned about it, but I'm not going to go so far as to say that the officer doesn't have any free speech rights in that circumstance.

SMERCONISH: How about this, "It's a good day for a chokehold?"

HUDSON: Again, I would speak to the officer. I would want to determine whether that's just one isolated post or does that officer have a history of excessive force complaints or has that officer been accused of police brutality? I'm not going to go so far ...

SMERCONISH: Hope that this ...

HUDSON: ... as to say that's not protected speech.

SMERCONISH: "Hope that this piece of S is dealt with with street justice or just plain karma quickly, hopefully dead by police gunfire?" Are they getting progressively worse as I'm showing them to you now?

HUDSON: They're definitely getting progressively worse. That one, where you're advocating police violence against a suspect, it would be very hard to justify that and even under the Pickering Balancing Test, I would think the police department would have a good argument that that would not be constitutionally protected.

[09:20:06] SMERCONISH: "If the Confederate flag is racist, then so is Black History Month."

HUDSON: Well, at the very least, that officer should be sent to diversity training and sensitivity training. Again, I think a lot of this also depends upon whether the officer is posting on his private Facebook page and is there any indication that the officer indicates that he is -- that he or she is a police officer or not. That does make a difference in the calculus.

HUDSON: One more. So it's a slide pertaining to Islam and it sort of mocks Islam as a religion of peace because I know the print is small, professor, but on the left side are all instances of terror perpetrated by Muslims. So what is your thought on that?

HUDSON: I would be troubled by it because there are a certain number of Muslims that would be in the community and the police officer would be responsive to serve and protect all members of the community. If I was defending the officer, I would try to argue that that was a form of political speech and that should be protected.

SMERCONISH: You know that there's a -- I've read in on this and I paid particular attention to the comments, including those supportive of law enforcement and there's a mindset that says, look, these are jokes. These are cops being cops. This is them essentially conveying through their social media feeds that they've got one another's back and society need not be concerned by the speech, even if at first blush it seems provocative, offensive or even racist.

HUDSON: I think it's important to recognize this. I mean, there have been many instances of allegations of bias by police officers and it's important for society to care about this. I just hope in the push to care about this that we do not reach a point where officers lose all of their free speech protections.

SMERCONISH: I think that's the right balancing act. Let me just say in closing, I interviewed the woman who was the catalyst for doing this work on my radio program and something that she told me -- I thought maybe, OK, so they pulled out a half-dozen, they pulled out an unrepresentative sample, but she told me that in Philadelphia, they looked at the Facebook pages of 1,000 cops and found 330 that had troublesome messages. That's a pretty high ratio. You get the final thought.

HUDSON: Well, I think we need more training for police officers. They certainly need to recognize that whenever they post something on Facebook that the world is watching and when you are in the public eye and when you make statements that might be perceived as biased or discriminatory, that's a real problem because your job is to serve and protect the entire community.

SMERCONISH: Professor Hudson, I appreciate your time.

HUDSON: Thanks so much for having me.

SMERCONISH: More from social media, tweets and Facebook comments. This came from Facebook. Let's see. "People in positions of authority ought not to have such views, but we can't keep them from expressing them. Luckily, free speech is not free of consequences. Kind of lets us know who needs to find a new line of work."

Hey, Katie. My reaction is to say that while others are debating the relative merit, provocative nature, racist content of these things, I look at it and I say this person doesn't strike me as being smart enough to hold that job if they think it's appropriate to put that viewpoint out into the public domain when they wear a uniform for a living. That's what troubles me.

Up ahead, he made history with an economic idea scribbled on the back of a napkin. Now, Arthur Laffer is being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but why, if the president is following Laffer's supply-side economics, is our country $22 trillion in debt?

Plus, this looks like fun. A good way to get around, right? But e- scooters are tricky to navigate and have caused at least eight deaths. Plus, as people just discard them when done, they become a huge urban blight. Will this craze quickly scoot off into the sunset?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:25:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: This month, President Trump will bestow my next guest with the highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, saying economist Arthur Laffer, quote, "Helped spur prosperity for our nation." As lore has it, Laffer famously argued, first on a cocktail napkin back in the 1970s, that tax cuts would pay for themselves by stimulating growth. Laffer co-wrote with Stephen Moore a book called, "Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive Our Economy," which the president reviewed as, quote-unquote, "Incredible," on Twitter, but America's debt has ballooned to $22 trillion dollars.

Art Laffer joins me now. So professor, Elvis, Tiger Woods and now you?

ARTHUR LAFFER, FORMER ECONOMIC ADVISER TO REAGAN: I guess so. It's amazing, isn't it?

SMERCONISH: So look, this is the most anticipated question. Uou must have an answer ready for it. Why, if the tax cuts will pay for themself, are we having such problems with the debt and deficit? "The Washington Post" -- put it up on the screen. The deficit grew 77 percent in the first four months of fiscal 2019 compared with the same period one year before. It doesn't seem to be working out according to the napkin. LAFFER: You know, that's just not true. I mean, what they're maybe looking at is (ph) cash flow cash payments, but if you look at the national income and product accounts since the tax bill was passed on December 22nd, 2017, revenues are way up. I mean, that's what the Laffer Curve talks to. We've had very strong economic growth, good employment growth way above what people expected and the revenues are doing just fine. I don't know what "The Washington Post" is talking about, but I wish they'd call me. I could take them through the actual numbers and straighten them out.

SMERCONISH: Well, but they're not alone. The Congressional Research Service ...

LAFFER: No, they're not.

SMERCONISH: ... this is from the "LA Times."

LAFFER: Yes.

SMERCONISH: The CRS finds that the cuts have had virtually no effect on wages, that's one, haven't contributed to a surge in investment, two, and haven't even come close to paying for themselves nor have they delivered a cut to the average taxpayer. Does the Congressional Research Service have it wrong?

LAFFER: Yes, they do. I mean, they say that the economic growth was going to be 3 plus percent in spite of the tax cuts which is just plain not true. I had a debate with Jason Furman in New York where he laid out what their view of growth would be and it would be 1.5 percent to maybe 2 percent growth. This was in 2017 when the tax bills were passed and when we looked at what happened, I thought it'd be more like 3 percent, 3 percent's come in. Three percent is a lot of growth, Michael.

If you take the GDP as about $20 trillion, every 1 percent adds 200 billion per year. So when you have 3 percent growth that's 200 billion higher. If you have another 3 percent it's in 400 billion higher.

You take the average tax rates on that, Michael, and you get very nice numbers. And plus, you get people taking off the unemployment rolls, you get the minorities, the poor, the disenfranchised, who happened to had a job in a long, long time, all of the sudden they're getting jobs that they otherwise wouldn't have had.

Michael, this tax bill has been extremely good for the economy and it has been good especially for the poor, the minorities and the disenfranchised. I just don't know where these guys are getting off. It's nothing like what they said before the tax bill passed.

SMERCONISH: How about the high school educated white guys who are in those Midwestern Rust Beltish states that were largely responsible for the president's victory in the last cycle? They haven't seen wages increased. They haven't gotten a piece of the tax cut, have they?

Won't that be a problem for the president next cycle when they're looking for their piece?

LAFFER: It may be. And I can't judge the politics of it. That's not my gig.

But if I can tell you when you're adding lots and lots of people at the bottom end of the thing the median wage doesn't grow very much because you have all these low income people coming back into the labor force, which is wonderful for them, wonderful for us. But what it does do is it puts a damper on the median wage growth.

These growth rates of wages are just fine especially when you realize that we're having no inflation whatsoever. Interest rates, our 10 year yield is down a little above 2 percent. I mean, this is just an amazing economy.

The stock market, I mean when you showed that $22 trillion debt number, I mean, that's such a phony number. You've got to net out intragovernmental debt, that gives you $16 trillion which is still a big number. But then you've got to compare it.

What you want to compare it to is that debt compared to wealth or that debt service compared to GDP. Debt service compared to GDP which is the right way of doing it is the lowest it has been since the early 1980's. I mean, when you look at debt to wealth, we've had an increase in wealth in this country.

The Federal Reserve numbers, an increase in wealth in the first quarter of over 4.5 percent, almost $5 trillion increase and swamping any increase in debt that you could look at. You know, from my standpoint I'm much happier when an economy goes pro-growth and the wealth of the country rises rather than lowering debt on the backs of the poor, the unemployed and the disenfranchised.

SMERCONISH: OK --

LAFFER: That makes no sense yet. They talk about it all the time. Sorry.

SMERCONISH: Final question, I asked you on a previous visit here how long would it take for the tax cuts to pay for themselves and you told me three to four years. Is that still your answer and do you believe we're on track?

LAFFER: I think we're not only on track but we're far faster on track. I mean, just in the last quarter of 2017 the bill passed December 22nd, they recalled because of the tax bill so much profits were repatriated to the U.S. that they recorded on national income and product account spaces now, that's the right way to do it. $250 billion in additional revenue from repatriated profits from abroad. And since then you've had very nice growth as well.

I think the revenue numbers have pretty much paid for themselves already. Now I'm glad to go through this with anyone in detailed analysis, but they have. And we've gotten a much faster growth than we expected. And I'm very proud of the tax bill. I think it's done a great job. And, you know, I've got to tell you I think this administration, this Congress that passed is just phenomenal. And I think that will anear (ph) their benefits for a long time to come.

SMERCONISH: Tiger Woods, Elvis Presley --

LAFFER: Yes.

SMERCONISH: -- Arthur Laffer. Thanks, Dr. Laffer.

LAFFER: Oh, my God. You're embarrassing me. Michael, you're very, very kind and thank you for having me. I love being on the show.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

I want to remind you to answer the survey question at Smerconish.com today.

Are Democrats snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by moving too far to the left?

Hey, still to come, guess who just quit the NRA. That's what the subject line said in an e-mail I received. I opened it and the answer was me. I was surprised and I will explain.

And scooters they can be a lot of fun. I recently took a spin on one in Washington. Some say they're also wreaking havoc on several American cities. Should they be banned?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:38:26]

SMERCONISH: So I was on my SiriusXM radio show on Friday and a friend forwards me an e- mail with a provocative subject line. I don't usually look at e-mail while I'm on air. They are destructing but I got sucked in by this one.

It said, "Guess who just quit the NRA," so of course I wanted to know and I opened it up. I saw that the answer was me. I was caught unaware, I hadn't been consulted.

It said, "Wow. This is incredible. Thank CNN's Michael Smerconish for quitting the NRA." I knew right away there was a fund-raising pitch and one for a group whose goals I happen to share. Brady PAC, they're a non-profit political action committee that champions gun laws.

Still, they hadn't asked but I read on. It said, "The NRA has demonstrated time and again just how out of step it is with the American public and even gun owners. So we are thrilled to see that CNN's Michael Smerconish is quitting the NRA and setting an example for the rest of America."

And then you're encouraged to show gratitude to me which is hysterical by sending me a thank you card. And then eventually after you click through the survey you're asked to become one of 47 contributors by midnight to meet an end of quarter deadline.

Look, I like the Brady PAC and I think they're doing good work, but there was a timing issue with the pitch. I didn't just quit the NRA. As I explained here last weekend post-Virginia Beach as a firearm owner I did that long ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: We have a disproportionate number of weapons in this country and not surprisingly an outsized amount of gun violence.

[09:40:01]

And by the way, I offer these thoughts as a firearm owner but someone who decades ago quit the NRA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Right, I quit on Bush 41's watch. In 1995 Poppy Bush dropped his lifetime membership because in the wake of Oklahoma City its then executive V.P. Wayne LaPierre called federal agents jackbooted thugs. Do you remember that?

Well, Bush was right and I to decided I'd had enough. Which is why I told the folks at the Brady PAC that I would be one of their 47 donors after all.

Still to come, e-scooters are taking over cities across the country. I even put my life in the hands of fate by taking a spin on one. That's me outside of Union Station in Washington. But are e-scooters doing more harm than good?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: There's a new craze in urban traveling, electric scooters. I was recently in Nashville and Atlanta. They were everywhere.

This week I even took a spin on one in Washington.

(VIDEO PLAYING)

[09:45:05]

SMERCONISH: Some say e-scooters have also become a headache for many cities across the country. Critics say the discarded scooters are an eyesore on city streets while also pointing to safety concerns.

According to consumer reports at least eight deaths and more than 1,500 injuries have been tied to e-scooters since the fall of 2017. In some cities the e-scooter craze has been met with a swift backlash. Here in Philly you wouldn't find any. None in New York City either but most big cities have them. And other cities like Nashville now considering banning them. The mayor of Nashville sent a letter to e-scooter companies demanding that they address safety concerns after a 26-year-old rider died from making an improper turn being struck by a vehicle in May. Nashville mayor, David Briley, joins me now.

Mayor, I was just in your town. By the way, love Nashville. I saw them all over the place. What has been your experience?

MAYOR DAVID BRILEY (D), NASHVILLE: Well, like many cities around the country somebody comes up with a platform or an app that changes life in our city. We had it with short-term rentals and ride sharing and now with scooters we've really seen the same thing happen. And so we have over 4,000 here in Nashville and they are clogging our sidewalks and making life for people who live and work downtown difficult.

They are fun. I think people enjoy them. We have a lot of tourists coming to Nashville. But on balance I think what we're seeing here in Nashville is the risks and consequences of having scooters far outweigh the benefits.

We have lots of folks falling and having traumatic brain injuries. We've had one death here in Nashville. And we get a lot of complaints from people who have to use a sidewalk to get around. And if you've got 50 of them blocking your path every morning and using a wheelchair, that is really an imposition that we can't tolerate here in Nashville.

So I think --

SMERCONISH: OK. But by the same -- by the same token they are so convenient and they're energy efficient. I was going to the same location as my son recently. I took an Uber, it took me 26 minutes and it cost me $20. My son took a scooter and it cost him $4.00.

BRILEY: Yes. That's true. They are very convenient. That convenience has some risks associated with it too though.

So what we're seeing is that a lot of people leaving bars here in our tourist area are hopping on them when they're judgment is not great. Very convenient for them to do it and the consequences have been deadly in our town as a result of that convenience.

I don't think that in the end we will be without scooters, electric scooters. But I think the companies are going to have to come up with a regulatory scheme that works. We probably need a way for everybody to have access to a helmet before they hop on and probably need to have a physical location where you pick them up and drop them off.

And if the business is as lucrative as it seems I think the companies are going to find a way to come up with a better sense of regulation here in Nashville so that they can stay but not have the big negative impact that they're having on our city. I think that's the sense of where we want to go Nashville. We want to be open to innovation, but we also want to make sure that innovation that is through the result of an app developed somewhere else in the world that infiltrates our city doesn't have such a bad consequence for folks who are trying to get around our city.

SMERCONISH: Have you been on one, and what has been your own experience?

BRILEY: Well, my nickname as a child was Grace, so I'm not the right person to be on an electric scooter. So, no, I have not gotten on one. I do not intend to.

SMERCONISH: But my wife does not allow me to use power tools at home, so I was out of town when I finally got on one in Washington, not in your great city.

BRILEY: Right.

SMERCONISH: Mayor, we have a lot of reaction by social media coming into this. This is real hot button subject. Katherine (ph), can we put something up on the screen while the mayor is still with me? So -- OK, scooter equals Darwinism at its best says Michael. Your reaction, Mayor Briley?

BRILEY: Well, people are responsible for their own decisions to hop on one. But government has some obligation, I think, to set parameters for using these new instrumentalities in our city. And so we have tons -- we have millions of tourists coming to Nashville and we do not want to have an environment where tourists coming in Nashville having a good time are exposed to a risk they don't need to have.

SMERCONISH: I love to have them here in Philly but I candidly don't know how you could ride a scooter with the potholes that we have in this town and in this part of -- I mean, you don't have to deal with that Nashville the way that we do, but they will eat up a scooter.

BRILEY: Well, they are dangerous in the sense they have a pretty small front wheel, and I have a friend who hit a little divot in the pavement and went across the handlebars and lost his two front teeth. So even in Nashville we have instances where people using them have been injured pretty quickly as a result of just a normal street that you're riding on.

[09:50:04]

So, you know, I'd love to see them fit into Nashville because I do think that I live about a mile from my office and I've got a lot of neighbors who like to use them to get to and from downtown to work every day. And it can fit in --

SMERCONISH: Yes.

BRILEY: -- I think, as part of the overall transportation network we have but the way it is operating in Nashville right now we just have too much risk associated with it.

We're a city that was built around the car and so we still don't have the biking infrastructure that would help us with e-scooters. We still don't have enough greenways where they could -- where folks can get around. We have work to do in the core of our city to make it more pedestrian and bike friendly. And in that context maybe they can come back and grow.

But as it stands we have a lot of folks using these e-scooters on streets where folks are driving 35 to 40 miles an hour. And the risks associated with that are just really high. The young man who died was on such a street where he made a snap judgment and the driver of the car that hit him just didn't have a chance to react quickly enough, I believe. So --

SMERCONISH: I hope --

BRILEY: Yes, sir.

SMERCONISH: I hope that there's a middle road here that you will pursue. I would hate to see them completely banned. I do understand the concerns that you have raised.

Mayor, thanks so much for being here.

BRILEY: Thank you, thank you.

SMERCONISH: Mayor Briley from Nashville. This is Nashville day on the program. I think three guests, Katherine (ph) -- right -- from Nashville in the span of an hour.

Coming up, more social media reaction and we'll give you the final results of the survey question. Please go vote at Smerconish.com.

Are Democrats snatching defeat from the feet of the jaws of victory by moving too far to the left?

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[09:55:16]

SMERCONISH: OK, how did you vote? The survey question at Smerconish.com today, "Are Democrats snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by moving too far to the left?"

Survey says with 8,139 votes cast, yes, 67 percent, 33 percent say no. I'll leave the survey question up during the course of the day.

What else came in? Let's see some social media reaction. Very interesting result.

Jaws of victory, seriously, Donald Trump will win by larger margins than in 2016. The coasts don't elect presidents, Middle America, middle voters will elect financial security, homeland security, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Mr. Patriot Vet, you may or may not be right. I'm just trying to call attention to the fact that where we always see this tethering to the left or in the Republican side, the tethering to the right in primary season they all come back to the middle as we head toward a general. But this time I think Ds need to be concerned that they're not staking out ground that's too far over to come back and win Middle America.

One more if I have got time for it. Real quick.

Smerconish, there are hard core Trumpers and hardcore anti-Trumpers. The election will be won by the candidate who wins the middle. Larry, that is always the case. That's why I pay so much attention to it here every week on CNN.

In two weeks I'll be in Denver for the American Life in Columns tour, that's June 23rd. Remember you can catch up on us anytime at CNN Go and On Demand. See you next week.

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