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CNN Reality Check: How America's "Primary Problem" Feeds Extremes; New York And Massachusetts Close Some Beaches After Shark Attacks And Sightings; Daniel Silva's New Novel Tells Story Of Elite Art Forger. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 19, 2022 - 07:30   ET



DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Nearly seven in 10 -- 68% of Americans in this poll say no. Only 31% say yes. This is a low point compared to Joe Biden's modern-day predecessors on this question.

And you noted this is all about one thing driving these numbers. Seventy-five percent of Americans in this poll say that inflation or the cost of living is their family's top economic problem. And if that's the top economic problem and you're at 25% approval, as Joe Biden is on how he's handling inflation, that is a massive disconnect between the administration and the country right now. And how much impact that has on Democrats down-ballot remains to be seen, but history suggests these numbers that are bad for Biden could potentially be bad for the Democrats on the ballot this fall.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. If voters don't like the way you are handling the thing that they care about the most, that's a problem, David Chalian.


BERMAN: Thank you very much.


BERMAN: This polling, much more in there.

CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: Appreciate it.

COLLINS: Turning now to Maryland. Voters there are going to head to the polls to cast their ballot in today's primaries despite some calling it the state's most consequential election in years. Early voting has been pretty slow, raising questions of whether or not it's a sign of America's primary problem.

John Avlon has our reality check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's time for America to admit that we have a primary problem. I'm talking about those low turnout, sometimes partisan primaries that too often end up determining who will head to Congress months before most folks actually vote. Now, the reduction in competitive general elections is by design. It's a prime driver of our polarization and hyperpartisanship, and it breeds a lot of cynicism on the side.

The data is downright depressing. But to date, this year, there have been House primary elections for 274 seats in 29 states. When Maryland votes today it will be the 30th primary state in the cycle.

Now, according to the Cook Political Report, most of those House seats are rated not competitive, meaning that there's no meaningful election in the fall. The primary is effectively the whole ballgame. And many of those states' congressional seats didn't even have a primary challenge. The incumbent sailed to reelection without any voter accountability.

But wait, there's more. According to the organization Unite America, which has been tracking this date, just 5.2% of the electorate decided the outcome of 236 of this year's House races to date. That's more than half the House of Representatives. And you thought reelections were in November, right?

But hey, it could be worse. If you're one of millions of registered Independent voters in one of nine states with close partisan primaries, you've been totally locked out of this election process altogether. And all this is part of our broken business as usual.

In 2020, just 10% percent of eligible voters effectively decided 83% of House elections in the primaries. That's, again, according to Unite America. So if you want to understand how our politics have gotten so twisted towards the extremes, this is a huge part of the problem.

Now, you might have seen the head-smacking stat from folks at FiveThirtyEight that at least 120 Republican nominees for offices like U.S. House, Senate, governor, A.G., and Secretary of State say they still believe Donald Trump's baseless election lies. Pretty depressing.

But do the math, right? If all you have to do is win the primary and you're being judged by a fraction of the most intense partisans -- well, that's what would happen. But if you had to actually face voters in a competitive general election those folks might be a little more reluctant to deny reality.

It's also encouraging reckless behavior among people who should know better. According to analysis published at Open Secrets, Democratic groups have spent nearly $44 million in Republican primaries across five states this year trying to promote the most far-right candidates under the belief that they'll be the easiest to beat. Maybe, but that's a dangerous game to play.

If you really care about putting country over party then you should be doing everything possible to ensure that election deniers don't come anywhere near a governor's mansion or a Secretary of State's office.

Now, I mentioned earlier that Maryland is the sole state with a primary election today -- a welcomed competitive contest among Democrats for the governor's chair, with Peter Franchot, Tom Perez, and Wes Moore leading the pack. Now, they're competing to take the place of outgoing Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who is one of the most popular governors in the country. Now, that's a reflection of who we really are as a nation where even in a Democratic-dominated state they respect a centrist Republican governor.

If we want more of this, especially on the congressional level, the solution is redistricting reform, open primaries, and some form of rank-choice voting, and we've got the data to prove it. A 2020 study by USC found that open primaries and top-two elections lead to less extreme lawmakers.

So go out and vote. Make your voice heard. But don't get fooled again about how much is being decided in these lowest-turnout elections. And that's what's keeping our politicians playing to the extremes instead of working to find common ground.


And that's your reality check.

COLLINS: John Avlon, thank you, as always.

Meanwhile, multiple shark sightings have caused beach closures in the northeast. Our next guest is going to explain the uptick in shark activity and you are going to want to hear what he has to say.

BERMAN: A tense and emotional school board meeting held in Uvalde as parents continue to demand accountability.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to clean house. You need to start from zero. Hire experienced, trained offices who are prepared to take on the responsibility to protect our children.



COLLINS: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul says the state is expanding its shark monitoring after several sightings forced beaches to close to the public over the weekend. There have been at least four suspected shark attacks at Long Island beaches so far this month, and beaches in Massachusetts have also had to close after more than a dozen shark sightings off the coast of Cape Cod.


Joining us now is Chris Coco, senior director of aquatic sustainability at the Georgia Aquarium. He is joining us live from the shark exhibit there, as you can see behind him.

Chris, I think I speak for everyone with a beach trip on the horizon when I ask what is going on with all of these shark sightings? CHRIS COCO, SENIOR DIRECTOR, AQUATIC SUSTAINABILITY AT GEORGIA AQUARIUM: Hey, I'd like to know, too. I got to the beach with my family and we all love jumping in the surf and then using our boogie boards and so forth. But I think unless you're someone who is bitten by a shark there are some positive signs about what's going on here.

So I think I should start out by saying that they are probably some really good ideas and choices to make when you go to the beach, and that's to go to a place that has lifeguard protection and that has some known flag posts and boundaries for the safe beach area. So that's the first thing to start with.

COLLINS: And one question I think people have when they see the numbers going up like this is do you think we're going to see more of this as the summer goes on?

COCO: Possibly so, and I think it's really a function of what the sharks -- the juvenile sharks are eating. Typically, the sharks that bite people by mistake -- what we call shark attacks -- are the result of mistaken identity.

Those sharks are in shore -- in very shallow waters and so forth in beach areas in the surf eating small forage fish. Typically, menhaden is one of the big ones, known locally as bunker. The bunker have come back in great numbers after a lot of protection and conservation of those -- of those animals for a number of years now after they had been overharvested for cat food production and so forth.

But it's a -- it's a positive sign for the sharks that local waters are pretty healthy and that these forage fish are back. But the downside, of course, is our interactions -- our human interactions with sharks through mistaken identity and just bad luck, perhaps.

COLLINS: Yes. And Chris, it's clear what threats sharks post to humans, obviously. The food source, you say, is what's driving this for them to come there. And obviously, humans being in the water interacting with them is what raises concerns from that.

But I do wonder on the flip side of this what is the threat that humans pose to these sharks that are coming over here for the food source and interacting with people who are swimming and hanging out in the water?

COCO: Well, I think it's a very emotional topic, right? So for many years, we've been -- we've been taught to fear sharks and so forth. But the true threat to sharks globally is overfishing. The commercial overfishing and industrial-scale harvest of sharks really is the greatest threat to them.

Now, as far as reactions locally during the summertime when we're all trying to have fun at the beach, we have to give the sharks a little bit of grace, perhaps. Again, if you're -- if you're someone who has been bitten by a shark, and I have had interaction with a shark in the past -- I understand.

But the reality of it is these are very few in frequency overall. And you think about tens of millions of people recreating at the beach in the surf and relatively few numbers of shark attacks or shark bites occur. I certainly don't want to be that next person, of course, and I understand if someone is hurt.

So I think we have to try to find a balance between good monitoring, good public messaging, smart choices when we're at the beach vacationing, and I think we'll see relatively low numbers overall. But I think, again, the good news about sharks along our coast of Long Island and the eastern coast of the United States, in general, is that there's good food base this year, apparently, and the sharks are taking advantage of it.

COLLINS: OK, Chris, before I let you go you've got to fill me in on this shark interaction that you had.

COCO: No, I just -- you know, when you -- when you work with animals over the course of time, once in a while, you have your hand in the wrong place. So I understand -- I understand the concern and I can certainly relate to it.

COLLINS: Well, Chris, please be careful. I see the sharks behind you. I saw a hammerhead there doing some flips behind you, Chris.

But thank you so much. This is a really important topic. It's obviously a big concern for families and so we do appreciate you joining us live from in front of the shark tank this morning.

COCO: Thanks for having me.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, the price of gas has just fallen for the 35th day in a row, down nearly 50 cents from a month ago. That is huge and welcomed news from people who are filling up their tanks this morning. We'll tell you how low prices are expected to go, next.

BERMAN: And as George Costanza can tell you, no one likes shrinkage. You may be getting less bang for your buck at the grocery store. The facts behind shrink-flation ahead.



BERMAN: In author Daniel Silva's new novel, an Israeli spy decides to quietly settle down with his family in Venice and resume his former career as an art restorer. But soon, he's drawn into the search for the greatest art forger in the world. "Portrait of an Unknown Woman" is out today. It's the 25th book by Daniel Silva, and he joins me now. It's the 22nd Gabriel Allon book, all of which I have read in the last 12 months.


BERMAN: It was --

SILVA: I'm -- my condolences. BERMAN: No. I spent the last 20 -- you know, I spent the last 12 months with you and I love this book. And it's about forgery. It's about art forgery.

SILVA: Right.

BERMAN: And you opened my mind to something I'm not sure I wanted to know, which is that we may be looking at a lot of forgeries when we're in our favorite museums.

SILVA: Unfortunately, that is the case. One of the things that I explored in the novel is something people in the art world don't like to talk about -- you know, how many of those beautiful paintings that you see in an art gallery or in a museum are actually fakes, forgeries, or misattributed or fraudulently attributed works? And I spent a lot of time trying to answer that question, talking to people in the -- in the -- in the -- in the art world.


A few years ago, a noted Swiss authentication expert raised eyebrows and he said 50% of the paintings circulated in the art world were bad.

Interestingly enough, it's the exact same number that Thomas Hoving, the legendary former director of the Met -- the late Thomas Hoving said 50%. I think it's lower than that and the figure that I arrived at with an expert who is -- who is working in this field is probably in the upper teens to the mid-20s. Because maybe one in five paintings in the art world right now are fakes and they are -- because there's so much money to be made, OK? Art is now a $60 billion industry a year.

A famous line from Willie Sutton -- why do you rob banks? "Because that's where the money is." There are forgers right now that are pumping out forgeries into the market.

BERMAN: So, Gabriel Allon, one of the great characters I find in any of the books that I read -- how hard is it for him to be out of the full-time spy business, and how hard was it for you to not have him in the full-time spy business?

SILVA: Gabriel has been a full-time spy on and off since he was about 20 years old. I mean, he was an art student during -- when the Munich Olympics massacre happened. He happened to speak fluent German. He was a perfect -- he's a lousy soldier but he was pretty good with a gun. And he was drafted by the Israeli intelligence to be part of the team that went and hunted down the perpetrators of the Munich Olympics massacre.

So he's been at this since he was a kid. He is ready to step back. So he -- when he retires -- he retires at the beginning of this book. This first book -- I just wanted him to not get drawn back in right away. I wanted him to have a little space.

And I wanted -- I've always wanted to write a book that began in the art world and stayed in the art world with him. Most of the books pass through the art world. This one actually stays in the art world for the most part.

I have a feeling he's going to get drawn back into Israeli intelligence now and again in the future.

BERMAN: For lovers of your work, they will know that you more or less predicted Vladimir Putin turning into the Vladimir Putin he turned into. You were ahead of ISIS being an awful phenomenon that overtook Europe in different ways in the Middle East.

SILVA: Right.

BERMAN: You were even ahead of Mohammed bin Salman -- some of the things that he ended up being involved with.

What's next? What do you -- what do you see as something that's worth looking at going forward?

SILVA: Oh, how many different problems do we face right now. We have -- we face a rapidly changing economy that I think that the globe is going to splinter into regional powers. We're going to enter very unstable periods of our history.

And by the way, we've gone from climate change to flat-out climate emergency right now. We're going to have hoards and hoards -- millions of people on the move as the weather worsens.

These are going to be some interesting times to be, in your business, for the next --

BERMAN: And you know a little bit about our business being married to Jamie Gangel, one of our personal favorites. So --

SILVA: A superstar reporter covering the J. 6 committee. She's been -- it's been a privilege to watch her cover that story.

BERMAN: You guys are breaking news in your house and turning out wonderful new books.

SILVA: Thank you for that.

BERMAN: Daniel Silva --

SILVA: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: -- Portrait of an Unknown Woman." It is wonderful. I loved it.

SILVA: Thank you so much.

BERMAN: Thank you so much.

We are talking about climate change. A record-shattering temperature just reported in the United Kingdom moments ago. CNN is live in London with how they are dealing with this heat wave.

COLLINS: And tensions running high, understandably, at a Uvalde school board meeting, with parents -- some of them threatening to not send their kids back to school until the security situation has been fixed. We'll be joined live by the family of Amerie Jo Garza, one of the young victims of the shooting, up next.



BERMAN: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Tuesday, July 19. I'm John Berman. Brianna is off. Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins with us this morning.

COLLINS: It's nice being inside every now and then --

BERMAN: Yes, especially --

COLLINS: -- especially in the summer.

BERMAN: Outside is so hot right now.

COLLINS: Don't tell our friends at the White House but there is air conditioning in the studio.

BERMAN: We're going to get to the heat outside in just a moment.

Enraged parents and residents in Uvalde, Texas confronting school board members, demanding the school district police chief be fired, calling for the superintendent to resign, and threatening to keep their kids out of school until security is improved.

COLLINS: It comes on the heels of a scathing 77-page report detailing the 77 minutes that officers waited to confront the gunman at Robb Elementary School where 19 children and two teachers were killed.

CNN obtained body camera footage from outside and inside the school as the massacre unfolded, and it really just goes to underscore the chaos, confusion, and delays by law enforcement -- nearly 400 of them who were on the scene.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live in San Antonio. And Rosa, you could almost feel the pain of these families during this 3-hour meeting in front of the school board, having a moment to actually vent their frustrations to them.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Kaitlan, you could feel the pain. I was in that room as well. The pain was palpable. The pain is palpable in that community, and so is the outrage, and so is the pain and the grief.

And most of the attention has been on law enforcement and its inaction on that ill-fated day on May 24, but there's just as much rage and there's just as much outrage against the school district.