Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

New Bill Would Ban Social Media For Kids Under 13 Without Consent; Schwarzenegger Says Father Was "Sucked Into A Hate System" By Lies; Biden: I've Taken "Hard Look" At Age & Number Doesn't Register. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 26, 2023 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: An engineer on a train moving 70 miles an hour spotted the boy first, slammed on the brakes, before he radioed others.

A conductor on a train heading the opposite direction saw the child jumped out of his car and grabbed him, brought him onto the train.

The boy, who has autism, is non-verbal. He was uninjured, thankfully. He only had a splinter in his hand. His mother called his rescue, a, quote, "Miracle from God."

The MTA President honored the conductor, engineer, and three other employees, with commendations, in a ceremony held yesterday.

That's it for us. The news continues. CNN PRIMETIME with Michael Smerconish, starts now.


21, to drink. 18, to vote. How about 13, before you get access to social media?

I'm Michael Smerconish.

And tonight, Congress, taking action, in the midst of the largest epidemic of teen mental illness, on record.

Lawmakers, they argue that they know what's driving the deadly crisis, and that it's social media. So, today, a group of bipartisan senators, Cotton, Schatz, Murphy, Britt, they unveiled a bill that would establish a national minimum age of 13, for social media use, calling it a commonsense bipartisan approach, to stop this suffering.

The legislation would also require tech companies, to get parents' consent, before creating accounts, for users, under the age of 18.

This federal move follows Utah, last month, becoming the first state to require consent from parents, before minors joined any social media platform. That's the most aggressive step taken yet, to shield kids, from potential dangers, online.

And it's not just legislators, who've been active.

In January, the Seattle Public School District filed suit, against the parent companies, of TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat, alleging all had intentionally contributed, to the youth mental health crisis, in the State of Washington.

And last month, the county in which I was born and raised, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, became the first county, in America, to file suit, against social media companies. At the time, D.A. Matt Weintraub told CNN, "It's no different than opioid manufacturers and distributors causing havoc among young people in our communities."

These developments, they coincide with U.S. Senator, John Fetterman, admitting himself, recently, for clinical depression, at Walter Reed. His public candor about his struggles, have sparked a very necessary conversation.

Well, his hospital admission, it came the same week the CDC released a report, documenting a mental health crisis, among American adolescents, particularly our girls.

They surveyed more than 17,000 teens, across all 50 States, and Washington D.C. And they found that in 2021, the percentage of high school students, who experienced, quote, "Persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness" was 42 percent, up 28 percent, from a decade earlier. When you break it all down by gender, it's 57 percent, female, 29 percent, male.

In 2011, the share of high school students, who seriously considered attempting suicide, was 16 percent. By 2021, it was now 22 percent. Just stop and contemplate that. More than one in five American teens has seriously considered attempting suicide. And among girls, that number is 30 percent. Ready for this? 24 percent of our girls have actually made a suicide plan.

The numbers, on depression, and suicidal thoughts, are even higher in the LGBTQ+ community.

So, what might account for the stunning spike in this data? Youth use of technology.

Psychologist Jean Twenge raised a giant red flag, about this, in 2017, after studying the mental health metrics of teens. She published her findings, in a much-talked about book called "iGen." It's the term the PhD at San Diego State University uses, to refer to those born between 1995 and 2012.

She also wrote a provocative article, in "The Atlantic," back then, saying this. "Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states... In all my analysis of generational data... I had never seen anything like it. It's not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones."

Twenge warned of what was on the horizon. And she was right. Six years later, she's just published a follow-up, a new book, with more data, backing up her hypothesis, connecting social media to teen depression. It's called "Generations."

She points out the 2012 marked the year, when more than half of America now had cell phones. It was also the year that Facebook acquired Instagram.


It was the beginning of the selfie era, which all coincided with steep declines, in teens, hanging out with friends, dating, having sex. That might sound like good news, for parents. But it's actually tied to steep rises, in teen depression, and suicide. And much of it can be traced to changes, in their interaction, due to technology.

Ironically, connectivity, it's made us more disconnected. Look, it's not complicated. Good things happen, for us, when we socialize, in- person, and have common experiences, regardless of party affiliation, income or race. The alternative is perilous.

All of this separation is harming our kids, leaving all of us, scared, and distorting the depth of our political divide. And it's all made worse, by the fact that society still doesn't treat brain and physical health, the same.

There remains a stigma, to the former, which causes those, afflicted, to remain in the shadows, schools, workplaces, health care plans. And American society, in general, still doesn't treat those, with a mental illness, the same way it treats those, with a physical affliction.

Think about it, God forbid, someone in your orbit gets cancer, what happens? People rush to raise GoFundMe money, bake cakes, and help take care of the kids. But if the affliction is anxiety, or depression, many will shun even those they know. And that's if the illness is made public at all.

Insurance coverage, often not equitable. Many mental health providers, they refuse the paperwork of participation, leaving people, in need, to scramble for scarce treatment resources. And too many go untreated. And that's why this crisis has become such a deadly one.

But with this new legislation, finally, there's some hope. There could be help on the horizon. There might be solutions.

I want to talk about this, now, with a friend of my Saturday program, NYU professor, Scott Galloway. He's the Author of the book, "Adrift," and host of the "Professor G" podcast.

Scott, thanks so much for being here.

What do you make of the fact that there's now this bipartisan bill, seeking to impose an age requirement, for access to social media?

SCOTT GALLOWAY, MARKETING PROFESSOR, NYU STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS, HOST, "PROF G" PODCAST, AUTHOR, "ADRIFT": Well, I think it's good news. Governments are supposed to prevent a tragedy of the commons, and bring us together, and represent the public.

And it's, I think, it's heartening, to see this. Quite frankly, it's overdue. This has been, as you mentioned, going on, since 2011.

And my colleague, at NYU, Jonathan Haidt, has basically found that it's no longer just correlational, that it's causational, that he controlled, for the other causes of depression, and found that social media was, in fact, had a big R coefficient, in terms of correlation.

What was most stunning, in his research, Michael, was that he found that the levels of depression would sort of increase, naturally, or hit natural levels, even, through COVID. And that is the ultimate catalyst, for social distancing, was social media, not COVID.

So, I think it's heartening. It's, I hope it happens. It'll be the first legislation against Big Tech. Think about this. We have the SEC, for the finance industry. We have the FDA, for the food and pharmaceutical industry.

We literally have no regulation, across an industry, where now one in five 10th graders are spending seven hours a day, and, as you referenced, appears to be the increasing cause of harm, and depression, among our most valuable resource. Our teens.

SMERCONISH: I heard Bill Maher address this subject, recently. It might have been the night that you were on, most recently. And in a word, he referred to it as, mingling.

We got to mingle. Our kids need to mingle, because they are growing up, now, devoid of the social interaction that was part and parcel of you and I, when, we were being mentored, by older folks that we wish to follow in their footsteps.

GALLOWAY: Well, there's a very dangerous trend. And that is most social activity, now, amongst young people, is asynchronous. And when you take out the synchronicity, and the in-person dynamic, of social interaction, our discourse becomes more coarse. People become less thoughtful.

People don't learn, in real-time, what is appropriate behavior, what isn't. People have an opportunity, to misinterpret people's intentions. They're just generally -- think about -- think about your Twitter feed, Michael. You'd never say these -- people would never say these things, to you, in-person.

And I don't care if it's orcas, or dogs, or humans. We're mammals. When we are isolated, from each other? What is the most severe punishment other than capital punishment, in America? It's isolation, in our prisons.

We are mammals. We're meant to see, touch and feel each other. And when we don't, we literally go crazy. Or, in this instance, when the number of teens, who sees their friends, every year -- every day, has been cut in half, you have skyrocketing mental illness.

[21:10:00] And what's even more -- the most disturbing thing, about Professor Haidt's study, is that there's a cohort effect, because the natural solution would be to reduce the amount of time, kids are spending, on social media.

But what he's found is that when kids are spending so much time, on social media, when one person gives it up, or their parents take it away? They too become depressed, because they are ostracized, or isolated.

So, we're talking about a generational impact, on social media, or the depression, of social media, not just amongst those who are using it, but everyone in that cohort.

SMERCONISH: Scott, I know business leaders, including those, in Silicon Valley, pay close attention, to what you have to say. You're so good at seeing around corners. What do you think their response will be, to all of this?

Because, it's multifaceted, right? It's now federal legislators. There's the action, on a state level. There's the county that I was born and raised in. There's the school district, in Seattle, all now saying the same thing. How do you think they'll respond, in Silicon Valley?

GALLOWAY: They'll act very concerned, say that this is a huge problem. They will welcome, at least publicly, regulation. And then, they will deploy an army of capital and lobbyists, to slowly kill any regulation.

They will be totally disingenuous. And they will attempt to fight this, and claim that they are "Concerned, but this isn't the right regulation," and will make just incredibly cynical statements, like they're concerned, with the First Amendment constitutional rights of teens.

And the rest of Corporate America, specifically one cohort will be exceptionally concerned. And that is a cohort called parents.

Michael, of all the things we're going to look back, in terms of this era of technology that we will regret? We'll regret election misinformation. We'll regret monopoly abuse. The thing we will regret the most, hands-down, is we will ask ourselves, over and over, in the full light of hindsight, how on earth did we let this happen, to our children?

SMERCONISH: Scott Galloway, as always, I really appreciate your insight. I think you're right.

GALLOWAY: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Hit me up on social media. Let me know your thoughts. I'll respond, later in the program, to some of them.

Next, taking on Big Business, usually a mantra of the Left. But Florida governor, Ron DeSantis' battle, with Disney, just went to the next level. Why Disney is now suing DeSantis, and how his rivals are pouncing?

Plus, just in, new reporting that says Fox News made a startling discovery, about Tucker Carlson, on the eve of the Dominion trial.

All that when we return.



SMERCONISH: For decades, the Republican Party has been a friend to Big Business, expanding speech rights, expanding bottom lines.

But now, a Republican governor, who's a potential Republican presidential candidate, is officially at war with Big Business. And his nemesis is one of the biggest companies, in America.

Disney today, suing Florida's Ron DeSantis, accusing the State, of retaliating against the Empire, for speaking out against legislation that bans schools, from teaching about sexual orientation, and gender identity.

DeSantis and his office say there's no legal right, for a company, to operate its own government, or get special privileges. Speaking, of course, about the benefits and the breaks that Disney gets, for its monumental presence, in Florida. But is it a war worth taking on, politically?

Peter Thiel is a tech billionaire, and a Republican megadonor. He's donated $35 million, to 16 candidates, in the last election, 12 of whom won. He was an early supporter, of Donald Trump.

But Thiel says he's not giving a dime, to Republican candidates, this election cycle. Why? Because he says the party is now too obsessed, with culture wars, issues, like abortion, transgender bathrooms, book- banning, critical race theory, and now Disney.

Potential 2024 rivals, of DeSantis, if he chooses to jump in, don't think it's a good fight for him.

Take Nikki Haley, today, for instance.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If Disney would like to move their hundreds of thousands of jobs, to South Carolina, and bring the billions of dollars with them, I'll let them know, I'll be happy to meet them, in South Carolina, and introduce them, to the Governor, and the Legislature that would welcome it.


SMERCONISH: Message being, "We're like old Republicans, in this State, pro-business."

But DeSantis sees this as a win, convincing corporations to make like frozen, on political stances, and let it go.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): When we had the kerfuffle, with Disney, that actually helped a lot of CEOs, around the country, because they could go to their Board, they could say, "Look, we don't want to be the next Disney. We've got to stay out of this stuff. And we've got to focus on the task at hand."


SMERCONISH: But at least for tonight, it seems Disney's had enough, telling DeSantis that if he wants to fight, "Be our guest."

I'm joined now by CNN Economics and Political Commentator, Catherine Rampell.

I read the Disney complaint. It makes, I think, a pretty convincing argument, when you go through the tick-tock that it was all retaliatory, meaning DeSantis, and that which he did to Disney, never before had he been questioning Reedy Creek, and the whole composition.

What do you make of it?


If the Republican Party was, once, about condemning Democrats, for choosing winners and losers?

This is about the Republican Party, now deciding they are entitled, or at least certain members of the Republican Party, they are entitled to choose winners and losers, the winners being friends, and the losers being perceived political enemies. I think DeSantis has been quite clear, about his motivations, here.

SMERCONISH: It doesn't seem to have cost him, in Florida, for reasons I'm not quite certain. But I don't know how it would play, across the country. I saw some polling data that suggested Republicans don't want government to be retaliatory.

What do you think the stakes are?

RAMPELL: I do think that DeSantis' actions should be viewed in the context of a lot of these kinds of punitive measures, retaliatory -- excuse me, regulatory tax-related measures, to try to exact revenge against, again, perceived political enemies.

It's interesting that Peter Thiel is now pulling out, and you connected that to DeSantis' actions.

Remember, Trump was quite the innovator, on this front. He used tax policy, tariff policy, anti-trust policy, government procurement, to try to use the power of the State, to crush his political enemies.

[21:20:00] Whether it was, in some cases, CNN, right? He supposedly intervened, to try to block a merger that involved a parent company of CNN, or other media companies, or any other companies that had crossed him.

So, this is not particularly original to DeSantis. In some ways, I think this is sort of a facsimile version of the Trump policy. And it does seem like there are members of the GOP base, who like it, who like this sort of grievance politics, not governing in the interests of what's most economically efficient, or what promotes public welfare. It's about using the power, of the State, to crush your enemies.

SMERCONISH: It's just kind of amazing. I mean, Apple pie, mom, Disney.


SMERCONISH: I'm surprised!

RAMPELL: Why are you picking a fight with Mickey Mouse?

SMERCONISH: Right, who fights Mickey Mouse?

I have to take advantage of the fact that you're here, and ask you about this breaking story. So, information coming to light that the Fox executives and the Board of Directors did not know, about what had been redacted emails, texts, communications, private communications, from Tucker Carlson, came to light, on the eve of trial, and apparently precipitated the settlement.

Your thoughts?

RAMPELL: I think it's possible that's what happened here. I'm a little bit incredulous, in that, are we really shocked that there was gambling, in Casablanca?


RAMPELL: Are we really shocked that Tucker Carlson was maybe saying some misogynistic and vulgar comments, behind-the-scenes? I'm not. So, if his bosses were suddenly deciding that's beyond the pale? I find that -- I'm just a little bit skeptical of that version of events.

SMERCONISH: Fox -- just an observation, as an attorney, Fox ends up getting the worst of all worlds, because typically, you pay money, you settle a case, because you don't want there to be a public airing, of your dirty laundry. In this case, like it all got out. And I'm sure now, even worse--

RAMPELL: Well we don't know that all of it got out.

SMERCONISH: Right, more will come.

And yet, they wrote the enormous check as well. They should have settled sooner, as a business proposition.

RAMPELL: That does seem like it would have been a better course of action that they got, at least some of the dirty laundry aired. Again, we don't know what else was suppressed, as a result of this getting settled.


RAMPELL: Or not suppressed. But what else wasn't--

SMERCONISH: Disclosed.

RAMPELL: --disclosed, and released in discovery.

So, it doesn't seem like they came out particularly well, from this episode. But, again, they should have known what they were getting into, right?

It's not like they should be surprised that one of their on-air talent members, who is known for making misogynistic and racist comments, on air, was making similar comments, behind-the-scenes.

They shouldn't be surprised, perhaps, that they were saying things that turned out to be, allegedly defamatory, of a major company that was suing them. That was happening, in plain view.

SMERCONISH: To be continued.

Catherine Rampell, thank you. We appreciate your being here.

Once again, Republican State lawmakers moved to silence a Democratic lawmaker. This time, the State is Montana. The issue, transgender rights. I'll speak to a legislator, who voted to ban a fellow Representative, from speaking, on the House floor.

And later, actor, and former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, joins us, via my colleague, Dana Bash, as he fights against hate, in America.



SMERCONISH: The first openly transgender member, of the Montana House of Representatives, now banned, from speaking on the floor. Zooey Zephyr, being punished, for saying this, in a debate, about a bill, restricting transgender rights.


ZOOEY ZEPHYR, (D) MONTANA STATE HOUSE: If you vote yes, on this bill, and yes, on these amendments, I hope the next time there's an invocation, when you bow your heads in prayer, you see the blood on your hands.


SMERCONISH: My next guest is one of the Republicans, who voted in favor of the ban. Mike Hopkins, thank you so much for joining me.

Is there more to this story? Or is that it?


Now, there's not too much more, though. On the House floor, like in Congress, we have rules for decorum. And when you violate those rules, you have to apologize, for violating those rules, or you're not going to be recognized, until you do.

SMERCONISH: I took a look at your State Constitution. I think it's Article V, which speaks of the ability to expel or punish a member, for good cause.

Is that what triggered this vote? Good cause?

HOPKINS: Well, specifically, what triggered -- well, so there's two different stages to it. The first thing was Representative Zephyr wanted to say, on the House floor, like you had played, that individuals that had voted for the bill had blood on their hands, et cetera. That's what led to the lack of recognition, on the House floor.

The vote that was experienced, today, was based off of the fact that in addition to obviously not apologizing, for saying that on the House floor, there was then an organization, of bringing a bunch of individuals that agreed with her, to the House floor, to yell at members, and throw stuff over the gallery, and prevent us from actually being able to do our business, which is--

SMERCONISH: Representative Hopkins?

HOPKINS: --another violation of decorum.

SMERCONISH: Representative Hopkins, haven't you just made her stronger? I mean, to me, it's akin to the case, we all just watched, in Tennessee, with the three legislators, two of whom were expelled, then, by the way, very quickly restored.

I mean, I would love to see Zooey Zephyr's fundraising, today. I got to believe it's through the roof, because of this. And all of a sudden, people who never heard of her, are saying her name, and in many cases, probably rallying, to support her.

HOPKINS: I think that's true. And look, I like Representatives Zephyr. So, I think that's all through the better for her.

But, I guess, I would say, Mike, you've been around for a while. And, in D.C., about a week ago, two weeks ago, there was a congressional hearing, during which the Congresswoman, for the Georgia 14th said some comments that were in violation of the Committee's decorum, in violation of the Committee's rules. Somebody else on the committee called that out, and used the rules, to prevent her, from participating in the rest of the hearing. Now, that may have made MTG a little bit more popular, with her constituents.

But, at the end of the day, I guess, is the question, do you want to violate the decorum of the body, and the ability, to actually--

SMERCONISH: Yes. I -- did we lose the feed? Have we lost the feed? Oh, son of a gun! I was enjoying that conversation as well.

I was going to say -- and I'll finish my thought. And I'm so appreciative of Representative Hopkins, coming on the program, to voice his thoughts.

Oh, he's back.


SMERCONISH: OK. We lost you there, for a second. I'm thrilled you're back.

What I was going to say is I'm all about decorum and civility. I enjoy having this conversation with you.

I found it objectionable, do you remember when one of the representatives yelled out at Obama, when he was speaking, to a Joint Session, "You lie!"


SMERCONISH: I think that stuff is terrible.


But, in this case, I just think that the punishment so outweighed the quote-unquote "Crime," and will have the opposite impact of what perhaps you were looking for.

HOPKINS: Hey, I think that's fair. I think that our purpose isn't to worry about whether somebody's fundraising money. Our purpose isn't to worry about whether or not somebody's popular, with their constituency.

$16 billion might not be all that much, to other States, like New York and California. But it's a lot of money, here in Montana. And we got a $16 billion budget, we've got to put together. We have conversations about, in what situations individuals lose their fundamental freedoms, and spend the rest of their lives, in cells.

And so, I think, our worry is making sure that we're able to have those conversations without them being interrupted for political purposes.

SMERCONISH: Final thought. Am I right that this was given priority, over resolving the budget, like you still have to address that, and you have very little time left on your calendar? HOPKINS: No, no. The budget's moving along regularly in process.

The only thing that did upset the momentum, of the budget, was the fact that the House was unable to actually conduct any business, for a significant amount of time, because we had a gallery full of energetic individuals looking, to have their voices heard, as it were, which is fine, except it manifested itself in yelling, cuss words, at members--


HOPKINS: --throwing stuff into the gallery, which--

SMERCONISH: All right. Final thought, I--

HOPKINS: --for business purposes, you just can't allow.

SMERCONISH: I can't imagine this sits well with Governor Dutton!

But thank you. Appreciate you being here.

You watch the show?

HOPKINS: Absolutely. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: You watch the show?

HOPKINS: Yes, indeed.

SMERCONISH: OK. Thank you, sir. I appreciate your time.

HOPKINS: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: I got some laughter, here, in the studio. You guys appreciated that right? I'm here all week!

Arnold Schwarzenegger taking aim at conspiracy theorists, and anti- Semites, the former California governor warning that those on a path of hate could end up, quote, "Losers," like his own Nazi father.

His powerful interview, with Dana Bash, that's next.



SMERCONISH: Tonight, a special treat. Former California governor, and action star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, sat down, with CNN's Dana Bash, to talk about how he's combating rising anti-Semitism, and hate crimes, in America.

Dana, I'm envious. What a privilege you just had! I've been in his company before. And he is really interesting.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CO-ANCHOR, CNN STATE OF THE UNION: No question about it, and especially, on this topic. He invited me here, to Los Angeles, to USC. He has the Schwarzenegger Institute set up, there, to focus on public policy. And broadly, about bringing people together. His focus, lately, has been about combating hate.

He called this forum, today, a "Terminating Hate." I'm sure you get that. And the whole idea was to bring people together, like a former skinhead, which he did, and a rabbi was there, to have a conversation, across lines, among people that don't normally have these conversations. And his personal connection to this was fascinating.


BASH: You have worn so many hats, in your lifetime. A bodybuilder, a movie star, Governor of California. You're using this chapter of your life, to speak out against hate, against anti-Semitism, in particular. Why?


It's like anything that I see, that really bothers me, I get involved with it. If it is the fight against the fossil fuels, and to create a clean environment? If it is motivating people, to get up, and to go and become successful? Or if it is prejudice and then hatred that I have seen over the years arise.

So, it became kind of alarming to me. Anti-Semitism (ph), if you note, you don't have to just sit there, and watch this whole thing. I think that you can get involved, and use your platform, to kind of speak out, about that, and how wrong it is, because of my history.

I come from a country that was part of the Second World War, Austria. I mean, Hitler himself was part Austrian. And it's all because we let this grow, this anti-Semitism, and this hatred, during that time. And so, anti-Semitism, where I come from a place that this has been done, once, before. And I don't want that to happen again.

BASH: You stood up, at this forum, and you said?


SCHWARZENEGGER: And I was born with a father that was a Nazi. Think about that!


BASH: The air went out of the room.

I've heard you talk about your father, but not like that. What made you say it that way?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, first of all, you have to understand, when I improvise a speech, I don't think about how I say something, or what I say. BASH: You used the story, of your father, to try to reach people, who are getting sucked into groups that propagate hate. Talk about making that connection.

SCHWARZENEGGER: My father was, and so many other millions of men, was sucked into a hate system, through lies, and deceits. And so, we have seen where that leads.

And so, I've seen it firsthand how broken this man is with -- this man, where the kinds of atrocities that happened, how many millions of people had to die, and then they ended up losers. In the Confederacy, losers, is they all of this just doesn't work. I mean, let's just go and get along. And love is more powerful than hate.

BASH: But in this video that you did last month?


SCHWARZENEGGER: I want to talk to you today about the rising hate and anti-Semitism we have seen all over the world.


BASH: Which was incredibly powerful, and has been seen how many times now?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, apparently--

BASH: Millions?

SCHWARZENEGGER: --almost 100 million people saw it, and there's billions of impressions. That's really fantastic.


BASH: You drew this parallel between participating, in Nazi hate, during World War II, and hateful ideology that is growing, in the U.S., now. Is that the path America is on, right now?

SCHWARZENEGGER: I don't know if it is the path that we're on. But I noticed the danger there'll be, going that direction.

BASH: You put out another video, after January 6, 2021. And you compared the storming of the Capitol, to Kristallnacht. In Germany, and in Austria, in 1938, when Nazis burned synagogues, Jewish businesses and homes, about 30,000 Jewish men were taken. That was the beginning of it.

What did you mean by that? I've wanted to ask you that. What did you see on January 6 that reminded you of the beginning of years of hatred, and killing, in Germany and Austria?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, it's the first thing that came to my mind, when I saw the Insurrection that this is very dangerous. It's a wake-up call, to let people know that you have to take this seriously, not just like, "Oh, let's get those right-wingers. Let's put them to jail," and all of this stuff. No, this is much more than that, what creates something like that.

And, sadly, I have to say that no one really has covered it well, the Insurrection, because they only said, "Look, they were wrong. And they have to go to jail, and we have to punish them," and all this stuff. But no one really has gotten into why was it that way? What powers do people have that they're really upset and angry at government?

BASH: Well, part of it--


BASH: --part of it was that they were told that the election in 2020 was stolen.

SCHWARZENEGGER: No. But remember that it's always kind of the straw that breaks the camel's back.

BASH: Absolutely.

SCHWARZENEGGER: So, it's not that alone would not drive anyone, to Washington. I think that it was just such an unbelievable dissatisfaction. There's so much anger.

BASH: You said history shouldn't repeat itself. Donald Trump is now the front-runner, to be the nominee, of your party, of the Republican Party. Given everything you said, does that, concern you?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Absolutely not. Because being a front-runner of one party, and letting them dig this hole deeper, and deeper, is going to make it easier, for the Democrats, and aim to win.

It's sad to see that that they couldn't come up with a new talent, with a new face that is a reasonable, smart, intelligent person that can lead this country, in a Republican way.

BASH: You think there's no way he would win, again?


BASH: What if he did?

SCHWARZENEGGER: What is if it does happen? That's a good question. But I can get an idea that there -- he is going to go, maybe get the Republican nomination. Then, when it comes down to the actual election, there is too many people now that have seen what he did, as President, that I think when it comes to the majority, on Election Day, I think they will see the difference, between one or the other.

And believe me, I'm not the first one, to say, "Hey, this is really great to have Biden back as president." No. But there's just no better option, to the way this looks, right now.

BASH: Connecting this back, to January 6, you say the country hasn't really learned from it. How do you -- I mean, you're a leader. You were governor, of a very big state. How do you reach those people, when they are listening still, to lies, about the 2020 election, and a leader, who is perpetuating that still?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well they will be buying into it because they want to buy in.

Even though when they hear the evidence, and when they see like, for instance, Fox, with Tucker Carlson, though is being fired, by spreading the wrong news, and Fox going to court, because they have lied, intentionally, not mistakenly, intentionally, over and over again, about this?

I mean, it's like, people hear that, but it doesn't mean anything, because they just want to believe the election was stolen, because Trump is their man. And it's--

BASH: But as that relates to the hate that you're trying to stop, and the kind of the temperature that you're trying to help bring down, in this country, how do you do that?

SCHWARZENEGGER: Well, it's not just that. Prejudice, and hate, goes into so many different directions. It's not about do you believe that Trump's election was stolen or not. It's not -- that has nothing to do with Trump.

It has to do with just in general, all over the world, we have this problem now that there's this hate, and there's this prejudice.


And we're talking about men against women, women against men, black against white, white against black, Americans against immigrants, immigrants against Americans. This is like this is just, "He's from over there, and he's a Muslim, and he's a Jew, and he's Black, and he's this." I just think that this, we have to just diffuse that.


SMERCONISH: Dana, one of the things that's so interesting, about his approach, is how he's trying to communicate, directly, with people, engaging in hate. What did he say about that?

BASH: When he started putting these videos out? They're very long videos. He puts that on YouTube. It was after Charlottesville, in 2017. And he was very hard, on those, who were propagating all of the hate, in those protests, that turned deadly, calling them, losers, and worse.

And, as he has gone on, and as he has talked to people, who are reformed, who have come out of this horrible cycle, of whether it's white supremacy, or other kinds of groups, like that, he has intentionally tried to learn language that better communicates, and relates, to those people, in order to reach them, so they don't just tune him out, like they tune other people out.

So, that's one thing that I found very interesting, because he says, "Look, I was trained as a salesman, in Austria. That's what I first learned how to do." And he still used those skills, when he was bodybuilding, and when he was an actor becoming a movie star, of course, when he was a politician.

He's trying to use that again now, and also being able to relate, by saying, "I saw what happened, because I saw how broken my father was," even though he never really knew what his father actually was.

He didn't know that his father was a member of the Nazi party, until he came to this country, and sent somebody, to investigate, because his father never talked about -- he said nobody talked about it, when he was growing up, in Austria.

SMERCONISH: On a much lighter note, did he seek to engage you, in filling any potholes, while you were out there?

BASH: Oddly, no. But it looked like the roads were pretty smooth, around USC.


BASH: But my guess is, as soon as tomorrow, he'll be out, doing that, again, like that.

SMERCONISH: I'd like him to come to my neighborhood.

BASH: Me too!

SMERCONISH: The Philadelphia area roadways could use the Governator, please!

Dana, love seeing this.

And of course, we will see more of the interview--

BASH: Thank you.


Nice to see you.

BASH: Thanks. Great to see you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: President Biden addresses the elephant in the room, admitting he considered his age, when thinking about running for office, again.

Van Jones is here live.



SMERCONISH: Today, President Biden dismissed concerns, over what may be the biggest obstacle, in his 2024 campaign. His age.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: With regard to age, I can't even say -- if I guess how old I am, I can't even say the number. It doesn't -- it doesn't register with me.

One of the things that people are going to find out -- they're going to see a race, and they're going to judge whether or not I have it or don't have it. I respect them taking a hard look at it. I'd take a hard look at it as well. I took a hard look at it before I decided to run.


SMERCONISH: He's 80-years-old, and already the oldest president, in American history. If reelected, he'd be 86, at the end of his second term, which means there's a brighter and more intense spotlight, on his number two, Vice President, Kamala Harris.

Joining me now is Van Jones, CNN Political Commentator, and a former Obama administration official.

I'm sure you saw Tom Friedman's column, in "The New York Times." I'm going to put a portion of it, up on the screen, and read it aloud, and ask you to dissect.

"It's no secret," writes Tom Friedman "that Vice President Harris has not elevated her stature in the last two-plus years. I don't know what the problem is -- whether she was dealt an impossible set of issues to deal with, or is in over her head, or is contending with a mix of sexism and racism as the first woman of color to serve as Vice President.

All I know is that doubts among voters about her abilities to serve as president, which were significant enough for her to quit as a presidential candidate even before the Iowa caucuses in 2020, have not gone away."

What is it? Which of those explanations, do you buy into?


But I'll tell you this. I've known Kamala Harris, a very long time. When I was a young activist, in San Francisco, she was a young politician. And she did an extraordinary job, as a D.A., in San Francisco, as the Attorney General, and as a Senator.

And I just think, sometimes, that if the team never really gives you the ball, and lets you shoot your shot, you might underestimate that player.

I think what you're going to see going forward is Joe Biden, if he's smart, he will run a Jimmy Carter 1980 Rose Garden campaign. He'll stay in the White House. He'll deal with all these crises. And he'll let Kamala Harris, go out there, and do the blocking and tackling, on the campaign trail.

And I expect that people are going to become more and more impressed with her, as she gets more and more opportunity. I don't think she's been given the opportunity, in this last two years, to really shoot her shots.

SMERCONISH: But Van, she did get the ball, on a number of high-profile issues, not the least of which border-related--

JONES: Sure.

SMERCONISH: --immigration issues.

JONES: Sure. Listen, border issues, voting rights issues? These are very, very tough issues. And not only did she not get them done, no president has gotten them done, in your lifetime, well since Reagan. So, you got it -- you got a generation and a half, of Executive failure, on that issue. She did the best that she could on that. Voting rights was a disappointment, et cetera.

But there were other things that the Administration got done. And her job, going forward, since now you got divided government, and we're not (ph) passing more bills, her job is going to be able to make -- go out and make the case for what the Administration, as a whole, has gotten done. And it's a lot.

She's got a great case that she can make for the Administration. And I think she will rise to the occasion. Now is the time that she's going to get that ball, and get that opportunity.

SMERCONISH: So, how should this be handled by the President? Should this be a -- should her -- the question of her competency that Tom Friedman raises, should it be dealt with straight on by Joe Biden?

JONES: Well, listen, I think Joe Biden should deal with -- as you saw, he's dealing with the issue of his age. I think, there, he should take a page, from Reagan, in '84, against Walter Mondale, and raise it, and make jokes about it, and deal with it.

Reagan famously, would crack jokes about his age. He said, "George Washington said this, but I wasn't there to hear it guys, just in case," he would -- he took it on. He made it his own issue.


I think Biden is still defensive, on the issue of his age. He needs to get past that.

And I think that these questions, around Kamala Harris? I think, you're going to see her grow now that she's going to have the opportunity. Everybody understands this is the oldest guy ever to run. So, the VP matters a ton. She's going to be under more scrutiny. But I think she's also going to have more opportunity, to prove herself.

SMERCONISH: I know that every four years we talk about the significance of a Vice Presidential pick.


SMERCONISH: You and I have probably shared a CNN set--


SMERCONISH: --on like a Vice Presidential debate night, talking about how important it was.


SMERCONISH: This time, it is going to be important.

JONES: It's very on point.

SMERCONISH: Like, this time, we're going to mean it.

JONES: Yes, absolutely.

It's -- listen, she is in such an unusual position. She's a woman. She's Black. She's Asian. And she's running alongside the oldest person to ever do it. So, she's essentially running for president. That's what she's doing. And I think people understand that. But I think she understands that. And I think that she's going to rise to the occasion.

I agree with you. They gave her tough assignments that literally no president has been able to solve. I think it was unfair to her. But now, her job is to make the case, for what this Administration has been able to do. She's got a great case to make, and a great opportunity to make it.

SMERCONISH: Going to be fun to watch.

Van Jones, thanks for being here. Appreciate it very much.

Next, on "CNN TONIGHT," what's appropriate, for students, to wear, should they be allowed to express political opinions, through their clothing? Alisyn Camerota takes that up, with her panel.

But first, your thoughts on tonight's program, some social media, coming at you.


SMERCONISH: My favorite part, social media reaction, to tonight's program.

What do we have?

"Love it! Kids are vulnerable, especially young girls. This will hopefully help children develop via a village instead of an algorithm."

Look, I'm not a Luddite. I love Waze and OpenTable and Uber. But we have a problem. And the idea that Senators stood up, today, and said "You know what? You ought to be 13, before you get access to social media?" And I know some of you are saying, "Let their parents handle it." I think it's a step in the right direction.

We also talked about Disney, tonight, and Governor DeSantis. What do we have?

"DeSantis is messing with the wrong mouse!!" I like it. "He's already made some rookie mistakes in this war, and hasn't won any battles."

The idea, like go back five years, imagine that I said to you, "A presidential candidate is going to take on Disney, and sees political advantage in it," doesn't make any sense.


Quickly, on Kamala Harris, and Joe Biden's age.

"Let's be honest, VP Harris is a decent person, but she's a drag on the ticket."

I just had that conversation with Van Jones. I think she's got to up her game, or that'll end up being the case.

Thanks for joining us. I'll be back here, tomorrow.

"CNN TONIGHT" with Alisyn Camerota starts, right now.