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ISIS Propaganda Campaign; Partyism Now Trumps Racism; Peering Into Gary Hart's Life Hurt American Politics; Politics of Fear Could Impact Midterm Elections

Aired September 27, 2014 - 09:00   ET


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish. Welcome to the program, and thanks for joining me.

ISIS propaganda, successful? It sure looks like it. Using social media, posting videos, forcing western hostages to spout their party line. We'll get into it.

Racism, on the decline, that's a good thing, but partyism is on the rise. What's that? It's discrimination based on party affiliation, a fascinating topic, and the politics of fear could sway the midterm elections. Congress won't vote on going after ISIS, but with the launch of air strikes candidates are using political ads to scare voters. Let's get started.

ISIS has impressed people the world over not only with its lightning fast military gains in Iraq and Syria, but also with its use of social media to spread its propaganda mission. This week on Twitter it released a second video from British hostage John Cantley. The scripted six-minute presentation opens with a title "Lend me your ears." With Cantley introducing himself as a long-time prisoner of the Islamic state who has been abandoned by his government.

He then proceeds to rail against the military campaign against ISIS. And then taking a page out of a PR manual, ISIS through Cantley moves to support its arguments using selected quotes from noted Americans including former New Jersey Governor Tom Cane who chaired the 9/11 Commission. But he begins the video by quoting liberally from my first guest, Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's Bin Laden desk.

Now at this time CNN is not comfortable showing this propaganda video because the network believes Cantley was filmed under duress. But I want to show a quote of what he said. He said, "So let's get straight to the point with a quote from former CIA chief turned vigorous anti- intervention campaigner Michael Scheuer. President Obama does not have the slightest intention of defeating the Islamic state," he says, "which would require the aerial slaughter and boots on the ground demolishing of the mujahadin."

"Michael Scheuer whose knowledge of the Muslim nations and the complexities of their society is considerable ads 18 years into our war with the islamists the U.S. government has given no public sign that it has the slightest awareness of what its enemies are fighting for." And Cantley ends the video with yet another quote from Michael Scheuer who joins me now. Michael, you ran the Bin Laden unit at the CIA, the so-called Alex Station. I saw a tabulation in "Time" magazine this week. They said that since 2007, you have been quoted in propaganda videos and the like from ISIS and other splinter groups from Al Qaeda, no less than 16 times. Why do they keep quoting you?

MICHAEL SCHEUER, AUTHOR, "IMPERIAL HUBRIS": It appears, Michael, I'm the only one in the west that is willing to take people who match words and deeds seriously. I'm not a rocket scientist and my foes will tell you that. They rather think I'm an idiot. But we're fighting an enemy who tells us exactly what he's going to do and then he does it. And he does it for the motivations that he describes.

And yet we have the third American president now, Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush, and Mr. Obama, repeating the same sort of nonsense that they have talked about for the last 18 years.

SMERCONISH: In other words, you believe there is a misperception. You think that the American people, you know I read all of your books so I read this and heard from you before. But you think that to the extent we've been told that this is about our lap dances or our lattes or our Gap jeans or our, "freedoms," that's not what drives the jihadists.

SCHEUER: It's a deliberate lie on the part of the ruling establishment in this country on the political elites, sir. Because they don't want to face the fact that what motivates these people to attack us maybe not to attack the Israelis, maybe not to attack the Saudis but to attack us, is our intervention in their world. And right now ISIS could not ask for any greater gift than the one Obama is giving them right at the moment.

SMERCONISH: So, when they quote Michael Scheuer, your interpretation is to say because I understand them, I understand them to be evil SOBs but people who say what they mean and transmit their intentions, and their message has been mischaracterized by the American political leadership, both Democrats and Republicans.

SCHEUER: Every one, Michael. There is not an honest man on Capitol Hill as far as I know in terms of this since Ron Paul left. This is a problem that is ours and will keep growing and it will occur in this country until we come to grips with the fact that we have a choice. We keep our foreign policy constant, we fight this war forever.

We change our foreign policy to the extent we can especially in regard to energy and support for the Saudi police state and the Israelis, we have a chance to split the unity of the mujahedin and have them fight among themselves rather than us.

SMERCONISH: In that hostage video, Mr. Cantley quotes you as having said "Obama doesn't have the slightest intention of defeating the islamic state." Square that with the fact that we're all looking at footage of air strikes that have been now launched against that Islamic state, both in Iraq and now in Syria.

SCHEUER: Michael, we watched it in Iraq the first time in 2003, we watched it for 14 years. In Afghanistan. Air power wins nothing. Except with an atomic weapon aboard. And that's not going to happen. It is Obama said yesterday, there is no military solution to this. And what that means is he's ashamed as Bush was, as Clinton was, to apply American military power that the American people have paid for, to protect their country and their families.

And what they will do is they will talk their way out of this war, we'll run again, and we'll be 0-3 against the mujahadin which in the Muslim world means they have beaten both superpowers, both the Soviets and the United States.

SMERCONISH: The Soviets in the '79 invasion of Afghanistan is what you're referring to.

SCHEUER: Yes, correct sir.

SMERCONISH: I'm going to ask you for the Michael Scheuer solution in a moment. But first, I want to ask you to square what you just offered in terms of what the real motivation of ISIS is, with what we're seeing in those videos and here's what I mean by that, Michael. They are beheading journalists as they are threatening the president against further incursion into the Muslim world.

Surely they know that the reaction here in America is going to be for people to get fired up and be supportive of those bombing missions. So I guess my question for Michael Scheuer is, do they really want us to come over there, or, do they really want us as they say in the video to stay home?

SCHEUER: They want us to come over so we'll stay home, Michael. They want to beat us again. It's a lure. Osama Bin Laden and other of the Islamist leaders have explained very clearly that running an operation across the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific into America is expensive and it will cause only minimal damage. If they can get an American field army, on the ground they have found twice now, in Iraq and Afghanistan, that they can defeat it. It costs us enormous amounts of money, many dead, lots of maimed kids hobbling around for the rest of their life but most important, they defeat the greatest power the world has ever seen as is said, with arms from the Korean war. They certainly - they know what war is about, sir. And we don't.

SMERCONISH: So when they say this is what you'll get more of Obama if you continue, they are really saying, continue your quest on the so- called their words not mine, Arabian Peninsula so that they can use it as a recruitment device. That's the world according to Michael Scheuer.

SCHEUER: I think it's reality. At least, that's the way I see reality, yes, according to Scheuer, that's correct. The more we intervene the more they win.

SMERCONISH: Before you leave me, give me the plan. So if Michael Scheuer were dictating that which the United States should be doing, it would be what?

SCHEUER: Close the southern border so we don't end up fighting using the U.S. military inside the United States. Begin to put together the excel pipeline, build it, drill offshore, get us energy sufficient so we can dump those tyrants that are part of our coalition now. The Saudis, the Kuwaitis, the Emiratis. They are the people that should be getting killed in this, not Americans. And finally, we need to separate ourselves from Israel. It's an enormous drag on American - it's a cancer on American foreign policy.

SMERCONISH: You know that people will hear this and find those words objectionable and say they are our only friend in the Middle East, the only democracy, the only people we can trust in that part, why would we ever turn our backs on the Israelis?

SCHEUER: I find it objectionable to send my college age kids to fight and die so Mrs. Mohammed can vote in an Afghan election and then after all of those kids died to run away and leave the country t go back to the Taliban. I'll take the abuse if people can explain what in the world this political elite is doing to our young people.

SMERCONISH: Michael Scheuer, thank you as always for being here.

SCHEUER: Pleasure, sir.

SMERCONISH: Let's take a break. I've got a lot more ahead. Up next this question. Where are you? Jane Fonda, where are you Susan Sarandon and the thousands of others who protested American wars in the past. America, is at war again? But why are the streets silent this time? I'll talk with veteran activist, Tom Hayden.

Also ahead, the domestic politics of ISIS. No one on Capitol Hill will go on record with a vote to authorize force against ISIS but plenty of political ads are using video of the terrorists to stoke fears in the hearts and minds of voters this November. And we'll talk about that.

And Gary Hart never got to the White House. Nearly 30 years ago he was caught in an affair with Donna Rice ending his bid. A new book sets the record straight on what happened and I pose this question to the man who broke the Hart story. Have we as a nation suffered because tabloid journalists now peer through the bushes when covering political candidates. I'll be right back.


SMERCONISH: Welcome back. Have you noticed what's missing this week on the streets of America while U.S. and coalition jets began pounding ISIS and Khorasan group targets in Syria? You can call it the sound of silence. Where are the anti-war protests? And the anti-war celebrities who usually lead those protests?

In the last decade there were notable demonstrations against the Iraq war such as this large protest on the National Mall in 2007, led by actors Jane Fonda and Susan Sarandon. Of course demonstrations protesting U.S. military action abroad were familiar sight on America's streets during the long Vietnam war in the 60s and early '70s.

My next guest is a veteran of those protests. I'm joined by Tom Hayden. Tom good to have you. TOM HAYDEN, DIRECTOR, PEACE & JUSTICE RESOURCE CENTER: Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: The issue is with no draft there's no skin in the game for so many people. Right? I mean, the fact is that the burden is being borne by so few among us.

HAYDEN: Well, there were big demonstrations against Iraq and there was no draft. There were 600,000 as just you showed on your screen, 10 seconds ago. There was a big anti-war -

SMERCONISH: But not in comparison to the 60s.

HAYDEN: Well, we can make these comparisons, but look, we have to use our brains. It's obvious that this war is rapidly developing. People have to think about it. If the president says there's no military solution and he also says it's going to be a war that lasts beyond his presidency, I can guarantee you there will be a big anti-war movement.

SMERCONISH: Is part of the problem, problem meaning a lack of protest standpoint, that there is not access, say, in Syria. Journalists today need to be rightfully concerned that they be beheaded if they were on the front lines of this conflict and so perhaps Americans at home are not seeing it the way that it's playing out.

HAYDEN: That's a big problem. I know a lot about the James Foley case, but I do think you can start an anti-war movement without television. It will be when people adjust to the madness that seems to be going on, and start to ask questions how long will it last, what will it cost. Is there really a strategy if the president says there's no military solution? I think it will take till a little past the election, and you'll start to see a lot of action.

SMERCONISH: I get the sense that you're painting your sign and you're getting ready. Tom Hayden.

HAYDEN: Thanks a lot. I am.

SMERCONISH: Let me take a quick break. Up next, I'm fascinated by this topic. Would you be upset if your son said he was dating a Republican or maybe your daughter said I'm dating a Democrat? Discrimination based on party affiliation.

And when should crimes be classified as hate crimes? Should they ever? I'll talk with a district attorney who is dealing with an explosive case close to my home that many of calling gay bashing. But the suspects have not been charged with a hate crime. Stick with me.


SMERCONISH: It used to be that many parents disapproved of their children marrying someone of a different race, ethnicity, maybe religion. But new research just published suggest that nowadays party prejudice meaning political party prejudice, even exceeds racial prejudice. Cass Sunstine wrote about that data from under the headline "Partyism Now Trumps Racism." The actual research was done by academics at Stanford and Princeton Universities. Take a look at these numbers. The articles states that in 1960, only five percent of Republicans and four percent of Democrats said they would not like their children to marry outside of their political party. But by 2010 those numbers jumped to 49 percent and 33 percent. Quite a distressing sign of the times. But perhaps not so surprising to my next guest.

I'm joined by Lilliana Mason, a visiting scholar at Rutgers University's political science department. What do you make of that data?

LILLIANA MASON, VISITING SCHOLAR RUTGERS POLITICAL SCIENCE DEPARTMENT: It's actually not that surprising to me. I think that saying that partyism and racism are different things is actually a little bit misleading. I think what we're seeing is that the two political parties have divided on race so that we have a racial division between Republicans and Democrats, we also have a religious division between Republicans and Democrats, we have a cultural division, we watch different TV shows, we live in different places, north and south and also urban and rural, so we're becoming these sort of mega teams, the Democrats and Republicans, and it's becoming easier and easier to dehumanize the people who are our political opponents.

SMERCONISH: Do you think, you have just given me a thought that maybe we're able publicly to criticize the other party, we would never criticize, we hope, we would never criticize the other race. Is this all cover? In other words, instead today of somehow acknowledging to a pollster that you're a racist, you're not going to do that instead you lay it off on the Democrats. You lay it off on the Republicans.

MASON: You could. You could. I think part of it is that, and then but then there are all of these other identities you have and you have gotten biases that you can also put in there. If you are biased against a religious group you could put that in there under party too. If you are biased against southerners, you can put that under a political party too. And so the difference between racism and partyism is that we've got this one prejudice that it's totally OK to talk about, and racism which is really you know, publicly we're not supposed to be talking about that. We all know that. That's the rule.

SMERCONISH: Maybe a solution is to ostracize partyism if that's the proper word, in the same way that we've ostracized those who are bigots.

MASON: That would be a wonderful thing to do but that's actually not happening at all. What we're seeing is that partisans from both sides seem to find it totally acceptable to throw insults at each other, to call each other names like stupid or liars.

SMERCONISH: We reward them in the media.

MASON: Right.

SMERCONISH: We reward them by writing our checks, we reward them by allowing them to get nominated in hyper partisan districts. MASON: And if they were to say those same things about a racial group they would disappear from the public scene in an instant.

SMERCONISH: Makes sense to me the way you've explained it. Lilliana, thank you for joining me.

MASON: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Joining me now a couple who married outside of their political party, John Avalon is a CNN political analyst, and editor- in-chief of the "Daily Beast." Margaret Hoover is a CNN political commentator and Republican consultant. All right.

Margaret, when you brought him home and they found out that he was an independent, albeit one who had worked for Mayor Giuliani, what was the reaction?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: They were duly warned that he had also worked for Bill Clinton. We had plenty of sessions over it. They were prepared, but again, to your point, there was preparation necessary. It's true, I mean, in the case of my family I got to give them credit they came by their biases really innocently.

If your great-grandfather is Herbert Hoover and your entire growing up has been being hilaried by Democrats for the last 70 years, you know, you can understand why you have a little bit of a bias against Democrats. You know, John is not a Democrat, he's an independent, so that helped a little bit. I can't say it didn't change the content of the toasts at our wedding. I think that was probably the most common point reiterated over and over that I was marrying outside of the Republican Party.

SMERCONISH: John, was she a hard sell on the home front initially because of her party affiliation?

JOHN AVALON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, god no. Not at all. The exact opposite. My dad was thrilled.

HOOVER: Your dad's a Republican. Let's full disclosure. Your father is a Republican.

AVALON: He is very conservative longstanding. It was not an issue in my family at all. I think the point Margaret's making is her family comes by it honestly. But they may be a leading indicator in the kind of personal hurt feelings that drive partisanship today. I mean, you know, again, it wasn't that I was a Democrat, it was that I wasn't a Republican. It really was like marrying outside your faith to some extent. There was education involved. There was explaining positions.

And you know, I loved that Margaret and I think try to set an example of how you can disagree agreeably and that people who comes from different perspectives don't always end up in a totally different place. But the fact that poll shows the huge cultural shift, Michael, from 1960 when it's four or five percent, to a 10-fold increase today. That's an area which we deeply regressed. It is shocking. It should be shocking. It's a really, really sad sign of the times. SMERCONISH: Margaret, what is troubling to me is not only that figure but also the practical impact of this. I read the data myself and in one episode, one experiment I should say, 1,000 people were shown resumes, resumes that tipped the hand as to whether you were looking at a Republican or a Democrat and even when the candidates from opposing parts had better credentials they didn't get the job.

HOOVER: Right.

SMERCONISH: It scares me to think that people are acting this way around us.

Your thoughts, Margaret?

HOOVER: Look, I agree with you. I think you know, I'm going to disagree a little bit about how we're framing partisanship. And just beg for a characterization a little bit of definition on this. Hyperpartisanship, the kind you're talking about I think is really debilitating and it is bad for our democracy.

But there is a kind of healthy partisanship that is part of our tradition going back to Madison and Jefferson. This is going back to the founding fathers. We could - we can search for this elusive consensus. You know where we're going to find. We're going to find it in authoritarian Russia. We're going to find in Marx and Lenin as China. We're going to find it in the theocracies of the Middle East, of ISIS. So you know, hyperpartisanship is awful but a robust healthy and wonderful debate in our culture about our policies, is part of the democratic tradition of this country. So I think striking that balance is important.

SMERCONISH: John, go sort this out over dinner tonight, OK? John Avalon, Margaret Hoover, married but now you see why we got them in separate studios.

When I come back the affair that brought down Gary Hart's presidential ambitions nearly 30 years ago. A new book sets some of the record straight. I think the reporting on that story tainted American journalism and had a negative impact in American politics. And I will explain why.


SMERCONISH: On Monday, a new book comes out written by Matt Bai who now writes for Yahoo News and was a political correspondent for "The New York Times" magazine.

The book is called, "The Truth is Out: The Week that Politics Went Tabloid." And the focus is Gary Hart's withdrawal from the race for the White House which came after it was discovered that he was having an affair with Donna Rice. Bai argues that the event was an important milestone in journalistic changes taking place since Watergate, where the surest path to media success had been to gain the trust of politicians and infiltrate their world. Now, it was to take down a public servant through scandal. Do you remember the photograph of Donna Rice sitting on Hart's lap?

Chances are, you think the photo was the smoking gun that killed this political career. Actually, the picture didn't come to light until nearly three weeks after he suspended his candidacy.

In the ensuing 30 years there has been no such thing as out of bounds when it comes to media interest in candidates for high office, and not just big media outlets. Take a look at what happened this week in Kansas. Paul Davis, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate has been locked in a tight race against Republican incumbent Sam Brownback.

One week ago today, a twice weekly local newspaper with no Web site called the "Coffeyville Journal" revealed in 1998, a then unmarried 26-year-old Paul Davis was in a strip club getting a lap dance when the place was raided as part of a drug sting.

Davis was charged with no crime. He said that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Davis was traveling with a partner at the law firm where he worked, the firm represented the club. Nothing in the record suggests that either man violated the law but you know that's not going to stop the story circulation so close to election day.

I worry not only about those who have entered the arena and now have their behavior under a microscope but also those who are watching from the sidelines maybe contemplating a willingness to serve but seeing the treatment of others at the hands of the media they decide that the scrutiny is not worth it. This drains the pool of potential public servants and in many cases unnecessarily destroys the lives of those who submit to the 24/7 gauntlet.

Four years ago, I interviewed Gary Hart about a book he was then releasing and I asked him where reporters and observers should draw the line today on covering politicians' personal lives. Here's what he told me. He said, "The standard that got changed I think 20 or 25 years ago was that a public person's private life was of importance, only if it affected their ability to do their job. I think that was a pretty good standard and it permitted some people who are flawed human beings as we all are to continue to serve their country."

Oh, I think he's right. And he also correctly pointed out that if today's wrecking ball standard had been applied in the past, the country would have been denied the service of FDR, Dwight Eisenhower and JFK among others. It wasn't for us to condemn Hart. That was a job for his wife. And how ironic that while we rejected him, Lee Hart has stayed with them more than 50 years -- at least that's how I see it.

But let me get another opinion from Tom Fiedler, who today is dean of the College of Communication at Boston University and 30 years ago, he was a political reporter for "The Miami Herald," in fact, April 27, 1987, at 8:00 at night, his phone rang with the tip that would eventually sink Gary Hart.

Hey, Tom Fiedler, thank you so much for being here. Was there any discussion at "The Herald" about whether this was a path "The Herald" should pursue or whether this should remain out of bounds because it was his private life?

TOM FIEDLER, DEAN, COLLEGE OF COMMUNICATION, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: There was extensive discussion about it, Michael. What really drove that story was the tip which turned out to be verifiable and turned out to be accurate. Is that Senator Hart at a time while he was running for president, and, by the way, while he also publicly was denying that he was engaged in what was kind of quaintly called "womanizing" back then, he was actually running around in a place, Turnberry Isle, in Miami which if they had done a reality TV show about "Miami Vice", it would have been filmed probably in Turnberry Isle.

So, the question for us is first of all what is a presidential candidate doing running around in a place known to be awash in drugs, fast boats, fast girls and so forth. And also, at a time when he was denying that this was a problem for him.

And, by the way, as much as I admire Matt Bai and what he did, the fact that E.J. Dionne's quote became somewhat iconic, Gary Hart had said many times before the E.J. Dionne interview, words to those very same effect. So, when you say that there was a myth that he had set his own trap, that's really not collect. I wouldn't use the word trap.

But Senator Hart himself weighs that issue as really a measure of who he was of his own authenticity.


SMERCONISH: But "The Herald" wasn't -- "The Herald" wasn't responding to the challenge. You got a tip at 8:00 on that April night.

FIEDLER: Absolutely not.

SMERCONISH: But to have four reporters staked out in an alley, yourself included, trying to catch someone for infidelity who was a presidential candidate, that was unprecedented. And that's the point that I've tried to make.

You get the quick final word.

FIEDLER: What we were doing there was actually verifying -- what we were doing there, Michael, was verifying the tip that he, in fact, that he, in fact --

SMERCONISH: A tip about infidelity.

FIEDLER: -- was going to spend the weekend with Donna Rice, which we verified. And you can only do that by actually being there. So, you know, you somehow make it sound like what we were doing was out of the bounds of journalism. It's very much in bounds of what journalists do.

SMERCONISH: Right. The tip, however, was about infidelity. You make it sound like you could track down any tip. What was that tip about is about infidelity. FIEDLER: No. The tip -- the tip was about lying. The tip was about


He had lied to everyone, the public included, that he was -- he claimed he was not engaged in this kind of behavior. That was the tip that he was indeed engaged in that behavior and we checked out the tip.

We felt that it's important that voters be able to consider when they are looking at a person's fitness for officials, they should be able to take into account what his character included --

SMERCONISH: Tom Fiedler --

FIEDLER: -- and it included lying about as it happened, infidelity.

SMERCONISH: Thank you so much for being here. We appreciate your time.

FIEDLER: But it was really lying is the heart of the issue.

SMERCONISH: After the break, scaring the public into the voting booth. Let's call it for what it is -- the politics of fear. We'll examine how politicians are using acts of terror and the air strikes against ISIS to influence voters.

We're back in a moment.


SMERCONISH: The midterm elections are on the horizon. Now that the U.S. has launched airstrikes against ISIS, one top Republican pollster tells CNN security is now top tier issue that no one saw coming.

So, how will the candidates campaign on the change?

Here's one extreme example. In the New Mexico Senate race, Republican challenger Allen Weh has been trailing badly in the polls behind the incumbent Democrat Tom Udall. So, Weh is now running an ad not telling New Mexicans how he would vote on the battle against ISIS, but showing scary terrorists and burning buildings and oh, yes, a president who likes to golf.

Here it is.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You give me this office and in turn my fears, doubts, insecurities, foibles, need for sleep, vacations, leisure, is gone.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Democratic Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico --

SEN. TOM UDALL (D), NEW MEXICO: I know as far as I feel, this diplomatic path that we're on right now is a good one. OBAMA: I am giving myself to you and the American people should have

no patience for whatever's going through your head because you've got a job to do.

UDALL: I know as far as I feel, this diplomatic path that we're on right now is a good one.


SMERCONISH: You just got a freebie on us, right?

Scott Brown, the New Hampshire Republican challenging Senator Jean Shaheen, the Democrat, is running an ad claiming the terrorists are threatening to cause the collapse of our country. In the midst of that hyperbole, Brown also fails to tell voters how he would vote to stop them.

I want to bring in Marc Lamont Hill, CNN political commentator, and Tara Setmayer, co-host of "Real News" on the Blaze TV and a Republican strategist.

Tara, will voters vote on this issue or will it still be the economy, stupid?

TARA SETMAYER, BLAZE TV: Well, interestingly enough, this is mirroring what happened in 2002. "The Atlantic" just did a piece not long ago showing the parallels between 2002 when security moms were an important part of that election, and after 9/11 and not saying there is anything at the level of 9/11 but it's showing that polling, "Wall Street Journal" showed that in August, 14 percent of women favored Obama's foreign policy. Now, it sunk into 2.

You know, women now, they are doing polling, focus grouping in Iowa -- it's an important place -- where they showed that security issues are now replacing the economy. And don't tell me that Democrats aren't paying attention to that, they are. And Republicans are too.

That ad that we saw in New Mexico that's a pretty powerful ad. The reception of how you feel Obama is doing, whether you it's the right thing or not to bomb Syria and Iraq, the perception is Republicans are stronger on national security and Democrat are doves.

SMERCONISH: But does that hold water, Marc, where this president is launching airstrikes against the Islamic State? I mean, you can't kick son in his face, can you?

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's exactly the problem. I agree, everyone is looking at security issues right now. It's a big campaign issue, to the extent that people need to say something about it. But the problem is, there's no clear war hawk or war dove here.

The president has waged strikes. Republicans have uniformly said the last week, we like what the president's doing with regard to the scope and nature of the strikes. So, it's hard to get mad at the president for that. And there are people who oppose arming rebels in Syria. There are

people who oppose arming Kurds in the north. But the problem is, it's not along partisan lines. There are people on the right who are saying, wait, we don't know who the moderates are, people on the left saying the same thing. So, it's tough to make this a partisan issue.


SETMAYER: But the reason why it's partisan is because of what I just said, it's perception.

Over time, you know, people, they associate tougher security with Republicans, and that Democrats because the president has dithered about for so long, strikes are way overdo, most people are talking about especially in the military, that this is not enough.

So, the idea of a terrorist attack here happening in the United States, that we're not safe, that perception is now burning into people's mind.

HILL: What about the Republicans who say we shouldn't intervene? Will they still be considered tough on terrorism?

SETMAYER: I think -- well, no, the fact that Republicans, we shouldn't intervene in Syria or Iraq?

HILL: Yes.

SETMAYER: Well, I don't know if they say we shouldn't. I think what they are saying that --

HILL: Some are. Some say we shouldn't intervene at all.

SETMAYER: That's not the overarching issue here.

SMERCONISH: Here's something about which I know you're going to agree. Eric Holder is moving on.

HILL: Yes.

SMERCONISH: What's his legacy, Tara?

SETMAYER: His legacy is one of being a sycophant for the president, one who has made a disgrace of the office of attorney general, over- politicized it. He claimed -- he proudly claimed himself as an activist. He didn't investigate Fast and Furious. He's been held in contempt of Congress, Benghazi, the IRS, and a race agitator.

I say good riddance to Eric Holder, thank God.

SMERCONISH: Do you need the floor, or do you agree?

HILL: We were doing so well.

(LAUGHTER) HILL: I mean, I think Eric Holder's legacy is one of an unprecedented role for the attorney general. You're saying to that extent. You're saying --


SETMAYER: Unprecedented in a bad way.

HILL: Yes, we should disagree whether it's good or bad or not.


HILL: When you're looking at him going down to Ferguson, for example. I think it's great thing to do. He said, look, we're going to try to create justice. We're not going to choose sides here, but we are going to look for justice here. Making a priority of not deporting particular people over others, cracking down on major multinational corporations, cracking down on corporate greed. These are big deals, these are good things.

Again, is he a sycophant for the president, is he politicizing the office?

SETMAYER: Absolutely.

HILL: I haven't met an attorney general yet that isn't sycophant to the president.


SETMAYER: Not to go after illegal aliens. That's not a good thing. Trying to prosecute terrorists as criminals in the United States, that wasn't a good thing.

HILL: Due process for everybody. Oh, shudder the thought.


SMERCONISH: Marc Lamont Hill, Tara Setmayer, thank you both so much for being here.

Let's pause for a break. When I come back, an explosive case in Philadelphia, my hometown, alleged gay bashing. Three suspects have been charged, but not with a hate crime. Should they be? I'll talk with the Philadelphia district attorney in just a moment. Stick with me.


SMERCONISH: On September 11th, a couple walking in Center City, Philadelphia, was allegedly accosted and beaten by members of the group of more than a dozen, and such were the injuries that one of the victims needed to have his jaw wired shut for healing. Three individuals have now been charged in connection with that beating -- two men, one woman who happens to be the daughter of a local police chief. The three have each been charged with two counts of the aggravated and simple assault, two counts of recklessly endangering another person, and one of the criminal conspiracy.

But for some, those charges are not to be enough. See, the men who were beaten are gay. If they were beaten because they were gay, and this would seem to be a context book hate crime, only Pennsylvania does not give hate crime protection to the LGBT community.

Seth Williams is the district attorney of Philadelphia and joins me now.

Seth, why doesn't Pennsylvania law, where it protects other groups, protect this group?

SETH WILLIAMS, PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: You are actually right, how are you Michael. Pennsylvania used to protect members of the LGBT community, sexual orientation was a part of the hate crime legislation. But the Supreme Court struck it down on a technicality, on the manner in which it became a law. It was actually tied to an agricultural bill and the state constitution doesn't really allow to it become a law unless it had gone through the judiciary committee. And so, because of that technically it was struck down.

And so, currently, in Pennsylvania, people of the protected class of LGBT are not protected. And so, that is why we are hoping to change that so that people that are homosexual will not be targeted and beaten.

SMERCONISH: Seth, here is my issue. First of all, I believe that if there are hate crimes on the books, then the LGBT community should be provided that level of protection. But what occurs to me is that if my wife and I were on that same block and we were beaten, God forbid, the punishment that would be meted out to those individuals would then be less than if those individuals had attacked a gay couple. So, why should I in that sense be deserving of less protection under the law?

WILLIAMS: And that is an interesting question that many people pose but it is actually incorrect. If someone were to target you Michael because think knew of your ethnicity and they targeted you for that, they knew where your family came from in Europe and they targeted you and they said derogatory slurs that were tied to that that ethnicity, we could prosecute them and charge them with a hate crime, under the ethnic intimidation laws as they currently stand.

And so, we don't have that in this situation. It is unfortunate that it occurred. One case like this is too many. It doesn't happen as often as many people think that people are targeted because of their sexual orientation. And I'm glad at that. But one case is too many.


SMERCONISH: Doesn't every crime of violence involve some level of hatred? See, I'm trouble by the idea that we are now going after you because of what's in your mind.

WILLIAMS: I understand that. Part of our democracy is to protect minority groups. For the majority to protect those that people often target. And so, that is why there was a need, people thought, to protect people if they were going after them because they were African-American or because they were Korean, if you will.

So, I understand what you are saying but we do not have the First Amendment right to express yourself by beating someone because of their ethnicity, and hopefully not because of their sexual orientation.

SMERCONISH: A final quick question: do you anticipate more arrests in this case, which is getting national attention?

WILLIAMS: I think -- and I'm very happy that the police did a very thorough investigation and collaboration with the district attorney's office. We got an outpouring of cooperation from public who searched social media, saw what many of these people have put on Facebook, and brought in the entire group of people. There was a large group that was a witness and somewhat of a party to what happened and I this I the police got it right.

But if we find additional information and other people deserve to be charged, they will be.

SMERCONISH: Seth Williams, the Philadelphia district attorney, thanks for being with us.

WILLIAMS: Thank you very much, Michael.

SMERCONISH: I'll be right back.


SMERCONISH: Thanks so much for joining me.

Do you know that 50 years ago today it was release of the Warren Commission report on the Kennedy assassination?

And don't forget, you can follow me on Twitter so long as you can spell Smerconish. See you next week.