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Trump vs. Cruz Goes Tabloid; Brothers In Arms; Surge in Party Switching in Pennsylvania. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired March 26, 2016 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:02] (MUSIC PLAYING)


Were Americans like this 19-year-old missionary the intended targets of this week's terror attacks in Belgium. I'll ask the former head of both the NSA and CIA.

And Ted Cruz says claims of marital infidelity are garbage and he blames Donald Trump.

Plus can the phrase vote for Trump be considered hate speech? Yes is the answer according to students that you'll meet from Emory University.

But first, just when you thought it couldn't get any uglier, a presidential race that has already included references to the size of a candidate's manhood, it devolved even further, literally to the tabloid section of the newsstand with unsubstantiated claims of a candidate's marital infidelity, and rather than ignore it, Ted Cruz went on the offensive blaming Donald Trump for dirty tricks.


TED CRUZ, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let me be clear, this "National Enquirer" story is garbage. Complete and utter lies and a tabloid smear and a smear that's come from Donald Trump and his henchmen.


SMERCONISH: Trump then issued a denial which read in part "I have no idea whether or not the cover story about Ted Cruz in this week's issue of "National Enquirer" is true or not, but I had absolutely nothing to do with it, did not know about it and have not, as of yet, read it, unlike lying Ted Cruz, I do not surround myself with political hacks and henchmen and then pretend total innocence."

How did we get here? Well, in a word, Twitter. Earlier in the week after threatening to quote spill the beans about something having to do with Cruz' wife, Heidi, Trump retweeted this pairing of photos of Heidi and his own wife, Melania, with the nasty headline no need to spill the beans, the images are worth a thousand words. This was too much for Cruz during the debates had mostly taken the high road when Rubio got stuck in the mudslinging, Cruz came out swinging.


CRUZ: Donald does seem to have an issue with women. Donald doesn't like strong women. Strong women scare Donald. Real men don't try to bully women. Donald, you're a sniveling coward, and leave Heidi the hell alone.


SMERCONISH: And so sadly in a week where 31 lost their lives to ISIS, much of the debate on the GOP side of the aisle has been consumed with personal attacks among the frontrunners.

Joining me now, three conservative women, senior writer from the "Federalist," CNN's Mary Katherine Ham, conservative blogger Crystal Wright and conservative opinion writer for "The Washington Post," Jennifer Rubin.

Mary Katherine, there is nothing in this piece of substance, nothing that is substantiated, should Ted Cruz have even responded to it?

MARY KATHERINE HAM, SENIOR WRITER, "THE FEDERALIST": Well, I think Ted Cruz partly responded because he's angry about it, and secondly, he responded because rumors float around in politics, right, but only one candidate is besties with the guy who owns the "National Enquirer" which is willing to print said rumors and then a Trump supporter came on air and dropped it live on TV so that everybody feels licensed to talk about something that's completely unsubstantiated. So Ted goes "hey, I'm not really down with that, I'd like to talk about this."

SMERCONISH: Jennifer, haven't we learned from this cycle? You can ask President Marco Rubio about what I'm about to say that Donald Trump is the one who benefits any time the conversation is on something other than issues.

JENNIFER RUBIN, RIGHT TURN BLOG, "WASHINGTON POST': Absolutely. I think what happened this week was that Donald Trump saw some polls he didn't like. Ted Cruz is clearly making some progress in Wisconsin. His comments on foreign policy, I think, by Donald Trump were not very effective. Ted Cruz cut into those talking about surveillance in Muslim communities but also talking about the problems that Ted Cruz that Donald Trump would have, for example, withdrawing from NATO, nice substantive issues.

So suddenly, the conversation turned to something that Donald Trump wasn't very good at which was substance or the polls going in the wrong direction, so what does he do? He throws a lot of dirt up in the air. Does his gorilla dance, the press plays along, picks up on this and as a result, we're off to the races talking about this sort of thing rather than serious issues.

I also think that Ted Cruz is actually telegraphing to two sets of audiences. One is the general public but also are those delegates and those delegates are probably going to decide the nomination of the Republican Party and he is talking directly to those delegates saying "this guy is going to be horrible for the party. He's going to lose by a landslide. He has a woman problem." The Republican Party is going to be on defensive and he's also talking to them. I think that's what he has to do as he proceeds down this two-track process.


SMERCONISH: Crystal, I asked on my website this week whether spouses are ever fair game. Nearly 2,000 people cast a ballot and 73 percent of them said no. Now here is my question to you, it's easy for us to say leave the spouse alone. Do you think we mean it or do you think that it does have an impact when there is, not in this instance apparently but when in fact there is an issue pertaining to a spouse.

CRYSTAL WRIGHT, EDITOR BLOOGER, CONSERVATIVEBLACKCHICK.COM: I think spouses, wives should be off limits but let's remember who started this. It was the dump Trump pack, right? That ran an unflattering ad featuring Melania when she posed nude. And that really started this. And so what bothers me about the whole lets attack Trump is when Trump's opponents attack him, he's somehow to blame.

I think it's just as plausible that Donald Trump didn't have anything to do with the "National Enquirer" alleged story as it's just possible that Ted Cruz din't know about the ad featuring Melania.


WRIGHT: Hold on, the only name -


WRIGHT: Roger Stone, he's best friends with the guy that owns --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm happy to mention --



SMERCONISH: Ladies, wait, wait, I want Crystal to finish and then Mary Katherine, I do want to hear what you have to say. Go ahead. Please.

WRIGHT: A, Roger Stone was fired from the Trump campaign. Last year they parted ways acromoniously. B, Katrina Pierson who is Donald Trump's blacks conservative spokeswoman was allegedly featured in the "National Enquirer" smear piece. I don't know why Donald Trump would leak a story about, that would involve his spokeswoman.

So I don't think Donald Trump had anything to do about this. I think what everybody is really upset about, when you call Donald Trump voters and supporters stupid, this is what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nobody is calling -

WRIGHT: Every day - SMERCONISH: Mary Katherine. You respond -

WRIGHT: In the establishment calling Donald Trump voters stupid, Mary Katherine. You know that.

SMERCONISH: Go ahead, Mary Katherine.

HAM: And no one in this segment has done that, Crystal, so if you would stop talking about it, we can move on to what you're actually talking about which is this Melania Trump ad that came out which is a real thing and was like on the sleazy side of politics, right? But here's what Donald Trump does. Donald Trump doesn't both to look up who put out that tiny Facebook ad about his wife. He goes straight to nasty direct attacks on Heidi Cruz and then he starts retweeting -

WRIGHT: Defended his wife.

HAM: Saying ha, ha, Heidi is ugly.

WRIGHT: Mary Katherine, you're right. I don't agree with the retweet of putting Heidi next to Melania but when you attack his wife, he's going to defend himself. Do I agree with that?

RUBIN: He is not -

HAM: Here is the -

WRIGHT Gutter -

Get out of the gutter --


HAM: People that support Donald Trump allow him to attack and counter attack with any rules that he -

WRIGHT: Here is just what you said. No -

HAM: No, he observes most standards -

WRIGHT: Of Donald trump.

HAM: He observes --

SMERCONISH: Jennifer, take the floor. I want to hear your thoughts.

RUBIN: All right. If everybody would stop crosstalking then we would be able to hear one another. Listen, Donald Trump attacks Ted Cruz because he wants to attack Cruz. He isn't hurt that his wife has been attacked. He uses these incidents as excuses to redirect attention away from his opponents and towards himself. This mayor who put the ad has nothing to do with the Trump campaign, has nothing to do with the Cruz campaign, is an independent broker running around on her own.

We can debate the merits of what she did or not. But it's clear and not even the Trump campaign I think when pressed would think Liz Maer (ph) is working for Ted Cruz -

WRIGHT: What's clear, Jennifer, I'm not sure it's clear that Ted Cruz didn't know about that ad.

RUBIN: That's ridiculous. You have know -

SMERCONISH: I want to show all three of you some poll results about Donald Trump's standing among females regardless of who shot John, these numbers tell a story and the story they tell is that 73 percent of all female voters have an unfavorable image of Donald Trump. If you then look at the internals on Republican women, it's a pretty staggering nearly 40 percent.

So the question, Mary Katherine, is how can he overcome this if he should become the standard bearer and compete with Hillary Clinton.

HAM: Look, I think Donald Trump has shown an ability to overcome all sorts of bad polling during this part of the race, so I don't put much past him. But look, this is a serious obstacle and it becomes more serious when he shows that every time a woman confronts him, he's happy to go after them on twitter or go off half-cocked in a press conference and it gets worse and worse all the time.

SMERCONISH: Crystal, Hillary Clinton must be loving this. I mean I have a montage. I'm not even going to take the time to show it to you. I'm sure you've seen all the different statements that he's made and if you string them together, it's an ad against Trump that writes itself. Explain to me the scenario in the fall where he could win.


WRIGHT: I agree with Mary Katherine. I don't agree with everything she's saying about Donald Trump but the party and Donald Trump has a problem with women. That said, what I would like to see the Republican Party do and the candidates who are still left in the game, where are all these great conservative women as se surrogates. You've seen Hillary built a similar coalition of what Obama did in 2012 -

RUBIN: Carly Fiorina is one.

WRIGHT: Wait. Hold on, Jennifer.

RUBIN: Carly Fiorina is one.

WRIGHT: I know. Hold on, Jennifer, I'm agreeing. I think all of us right now in the panel could be great surrogates in some form or another for the various candidates.

RUBIN: We're not surrogates, we're independent journalists.

WRIGHT: Jennifer -

RUBIN: We're independent surrogates, we're not surrogates for the campaign.

WRIGHT: You want to start crossing over me, I'm actually trying to make a point where I think we can all agree. Our party, whether you're talking about the halls of Congress, the RNC or all these other groups, our party is really good at having white older men talk about pro-life issues, talk about women's issues and that is why Mitt Tomney lost the woman vote in 2012.

We need to do better whether it's Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich. Carly Fiorina is one woman. I think we all agree, we got to do better. All of us should be talking about -

RUBIN: I think you're in a time warp. I think you're in a time warp.


RUBIN: We have a very diverse candidate pool that we started off with. We have women like -

WRIGHT: Well, I don't name call, Jennifer. I don't name call -

RUBIN: All right.

HAM: One last thing --

SMERCONISH: I'm glad we solved this.

HAM: We do have a problem when Donald Trump supporters on air make excuses for his behavior and when some of them, women themselves bring up substantiated stories on air so this gets into the main stream.

That's a problem for women vote.

SMERCONISH: Thank you all three for being here.

WRIGHT: I don't think all women should be put in a box.

SMERCONISH: Mary Katherine Ham, Crystal Wright, Jennifer Rubin, to be continued. I should point out that none of this has been substantiated and the women who had been referenced, they all say it is garbage.

Tell me what you think. Tweet me @smerconish and I will air some throughout today's program. Also, tune in this Tuesday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, when Anderson Cooper moderates a town hall with the three Republican presidential hopefuls. They'll be live from Milwaukee, one week before the crucial Wisconsin primary.

Still to come, were the ISIS bombs in Belgium targeting American victims? And what's being done to prevent future attacks? Also, why are so many of these terror attacks in Brussels, the Boston marathon, even September 11 committed by teams of brothers.

And Trump's inspiring a huge surge in voter registration this year especially in my home state of Pennsylvania, but are voters for him, against him or gaming the system?


[09:16:40] SMERCONISH: This week in Brussels, ISIS hit soft targets, airport ticket counters and a subway train and 31 people were killed including two Americans and at least 14 Americans were injured, one of them this young Mormon missionary from Utah recovering from burns.

At the airport, three bombs exploded near the check in areas U.S. Airlines raising the question were Americans targeted? Michael Hayden is a retired Air Force four-star general, the only person ever to have headed both the CIA and NSA and his new book is "Playing to the Edge, American Intelligence in the Age of Terror."

General, is it possible that America was targeted in this attack, that this is as close as they can get to us right now overseas?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, AUTHOR "PLAYING ON THE EDGE": It's possible, Michael. But I think at the strategic level, when they were laying this out, killing Americans would have been viewed as an added good but what they wanted was maximum impact. They wanted the largest number of casualties and they did it in a place, Michael, in an airport in this particular airport in which so many people have been. So this is an attack that get felt by a whole lot of people. That's the impact they were looking for.

SMERCONISH: Are the Belgians up to the task, or does the United States need to step in and coordinate intelligence gathering in that part of the world?

HAYDEN: The Belgians apparently are not up to the task, certainly not up to the task at the moment. I don't know that that reality drives the second point that you made, Michael. We need to help, we need to offer. You have European institutions that might also put their shoulder to the wheel here but clearly, Michael, clearly, we need better intelligence when it comes to what is now not one off, not lone wolves, not self-radicalized but a fairly mature terrorist network in the heart of Europe.

SMERCONISH: Abdesalam was captured four days before this attack. He was captured in the same neighborhood where he grew up. Does that speak to a lack of will, on the part of the Belgians, or the lack of resources, lack of intelligence? Where is the failure as you see it?

HAYDEN: Several elements come to my mind. Number one, a lack of confidence, number two, a lack of resources. No question about that and then third, Michael, and this is probably very important. He was in a neighbourhood, in a neighbourhood, in a community that by in large was radicalized. We got radicalized individuals here in the United States but we don't yet have radicalized communities. This is a community in general felt hostile to the host nation and the host nation government.

SMERCONISH: Well, general, to that point, Senator Cruz, this week, used the word choice, patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods and you know, he was criticized. I think I understand what he was saying. I think he was making reference to Ray Kelly's work at the NYPD and the so-called demographic unit. Do the Belgians, do the Americans need to institute that type of measure? HAYDEN: Look, I was fully in support of what Commissioner Kelly did

in New York and in the book, Michale, I talked about the liaison relationship CIA had with NYPD but I also make the point that New York was a special case. It was a one off. It was a city in America but in many ways not of America.


One-third of that city's population was not born in the United States and I make the point, I would not transfer the New York lessons to Cleveland or to Chicago or to other cities. The danger we have here, Michael, if we do this badly, will create something that doesn't yet exist, radicalized communities.

SMERCONISH: General, water boarding did not take place on your watch. I appreciate from having read your book and thoroughly enjoyed it.

You were at the NSA, you weren't even at the CIA but when you get to the CIA, you nevertheless become quite a defender of enhanced interrogation techniques generally. Is this guy not the ticking time bomb case if there were ever an instance where enhanced interrogation is necessary, isn't it this attacker who is in custody for four days before what occurred and even now?

HAYDEN: Well, Michael, let's start with basics. Let's start with the premise he should have been interrogated. According to the public record, it appears as if the Belgian police only spoke to him about an hour or two in the four days they had him in custody and even then, they were asking him to look backwards towards the Paris attack rather than trying to gain information forward about potential dangers in Belgium.

Michael, right now, American military forces, CIA, are confined to the 19 techniques in the army field manual. Without making any argument for or against waterboarding which is quite an extreme technique and is currently illegal in the United States, no one, no same person can claim that the 19 techniques in the Army Field Manual exhaust all of the legitimate techniques that people could use to keep itself safe. And so yes, I for one would be willing to explore what more could we do in order to get a terrorist, this guy was a known terrorist out of a zone of defiance more into a zone of cooperation.

SMERCONISH: Including water boarding?

HAYDEN: I don't know that, Michael. Because it's off the board. Let me be very candid with you, Michael, as I point out in the book. If a future president wants to water board, somebody is going to have to do it himself because the people at CIA who did this in good faith consistent with the legal judgment they had been given, did it in order to protect America, they frankly have been hung out to dry for the last six or seven years.

SMERCONISH: General Hayden, thanks so much for being here.

HAYDEN: Thank you, Michael. SMERCONISH: It seems more and more that we're seeing brothers in arms in terror attacks, literally brothers. Look at this picture. These are men who attacked the airport in Brussels. The man in the middle is Ibrahim Bakrawi. He blew himself up. So did his brother Khalid at the mtro stop near the center of the city. Salah Abdeslam and his brother Ibrahim were two of the attackers in Paris in November. The (INAUDIBLE) brothers attacked Charlie Hebdo also in Paris, the Tsarnaev brothers bombed the Boston marathon and three sets of brothers were among the 19 hijackers on September 11.

Joining me now, Mia Bloom. She is the co-author of "All in the Family, A Primer on Terrorist Siblings" and a professor of communications at Georgia State University. What other familial relationships do you see repeating themselves? I know that you noted that 30 percent of terrorists seem to have a familial connection.

MIA BLOOM, PROFESSOR, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: Actually, the study that was originally conducted by the New America Foundation found that in excess of one third of foreign fighters were connected by some sort of family connection. But we noticed this originally, Dr. John Horgan and I when we wrote the piece in 2013 after the Boston Marathon bombing, we went back into the files and we were able to go back to the 1980s to the provisional IRA and the Price sisters and there were numbers of brothers and sisters that were in terrorist groups across a variety of groups.

So it's not just recently and it's certainly not just the jihadi groups. The jihadi groups, however, have perfected this and part of the reason is that these high-risk missions require trust and commitment and when you're working with a family member, that's an automatic given. You trust that person and you're committed to them. You don't want to let them down, and you don't want to let the group down.

SMERCONISH: Professor, do they typically stick together at the time of an attack or do they go in separate directions and involve themselves in different aspects of the operation?

BLOOM: I think except for Tsarnaev, one of the things that I've began to notice is that they will send one sibling to the airport and one to the metro. We saw this with the Barkawi. We also saw this in 2005 with the (INAUDIBLE) sisters who were Chechen terrorist. One went to the airport, one went to the subway.

I think part of the idea is that there might be a concern at the very last minute, two brothers will have such great affection for each other that they may at the last-minute change their mind together, whereas if your brother is at another location, you're assuming that he's going to carry it out or your sister will carry out the operation and now you have to. It's kind of pressure.


SMERCONISH: Right. In other words, you don't want to let down your sibling because you're in charge of the airport, they are in charge of the metro station, you presume they are carrying out their "responsibility" and therefore you have added incentive to do likewise.

BLOOM: Precisely. And in fact, at Bataclan, one brother went to a cafe, the other brother dropped off at the stadium. So we also saw at Bataclan but because Abdesalam got away, we don't have that example until now.

SMERCONISH: And with regard to September 11, am I right that one of the three pairs of brothers, one had to plead with Bin Laden himself to allow him to carry out the "mission with his sibling."

BLOOM: You know, this is again, one of these things where we very often seeing an older and a younger sibling where the older sibling gets involved first and pulls the younger in. This is very likely to have been the case. We also saw in places like Pakistan where we've been studying children who are involved, that children get involved as brothers or as cousins where the older one pulls the younger one in.

So this dynamic is happening with regularity and we're increasingly seeing it more and more.

SMERCONISH: And to state the obvious, professor, it's harder to impregnate from a law enforcement standpoint and yet now they can carry out double the damage, that's the issue.

BLOOM: Absolutely. Because if you're calling your brother or you're calling your sister 10 times a week, it's not going to look suspicious whereas if you're calling a stranger in Pakistan 10 times a week, you will be suspicious. That's the kind of behavior that falls under the radar screen when it's siblings and not when it's collaborators.

SMERCONISH: That's really some fascinating analysis. Mia Bloom, thank you so much for being here.

BLOOM: Thank you for having me, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Just ahead, record numbers of voters in Pennsylvania are changing parties for the primary. Now, is that good or bad news for Donald Trump.

And guess which candidate's name scribbled in chalk on a college sidewalk and buildings caused a campus protest and what does that mean for free speech rights?


[09:31:43] SMERCONISH: On my XM Radio program, I'm hearing from callers across the country who are involved in strategy voting, that's switching parties to help or hinder a particular candidate. Some callers, they tell me they've registered Republican to vote for Donald Trump, some to vote against him and others to boost his candidacy because they think he's the weakest Republican and they really want to help Hillary or Bernie.

I myself changed from independent to Republican so that I could have a say in Pennsylvania's primary, and I'm not alone. Pennsylvania is a case in point, record numbers are switching, more than 170,000 so far, more than 100,000 to GOP, more than 70,000 to the Dems.

So, what's it all about?

Joining me now, Dr. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College, and Republican Congressman Lou Barletta. He's a GOP member from Pennsylvania's coal country and he is a Trump supporter.

Terry, let me begin with you. The numbers -- they seem startling. Are they unprecedented?

PROF. TERRY MADONNA, FRANKLIN & MARSHALL COLLEGE: Yes, it looks like they are. I mean, we had an uptick of course in Republicans registering Democratic to vote in the big 2008 Democratic primary in this state. A primary in which then-Senator Obama lost to then- Senator Clinton by 10 percent take points when the Democratic turnout gone up -- went up.

All the indications are, we're going to see a huge Republican turnout in the primary on April 26th in this state, just as we have seen large turnouts in Republican events and primaries and caucuses.

And the other point I would make is you're absolutely right -- there is strategic voting going on. There's people changing their registration to vote for Trump, to vote against Trump. It's very complicated. But these numbers are huge and they're little scattered throughout the entire state.

SMERCONISH: Well, Terry, you know Donald Trump would say look, they are all joining the GOP to vote for me. But a poll that you commissioned has an interesting result. We'll put it up on the screen. It shows John Kasich in the commonwealth within three points of Donald Trump. Maybe John Kasich is the one who's the beneficiary.

MADONNA: Well, I don't think there is any doubt some are registering to Republican to vote for Kasich. What basically happened after Rubio -- Marco Rubio dropped out of the race, Michael, Kasich was in a sense the beneficiary of that change. He picked up a fair number of that vote and there has been a Kasich surge down in the voter rich suburbs in Philadelphia where the voters there tend to be more -- the Republicans more moderately conservative.


MADONNA: He's picked up votes in a variety of other counties. Trump is doing very well out in the southwestern part of the state, in the old mining and mill towns, among the demographics we've seen in Michigan and other states.

SMERCONISH: Well, let me ask --

MADONNA: White, blue collar income --

SMERCONISH: Let me ask Congressman Barletta, whose district I know well because my parents were born and raised in your hometown. You've endorsed Donald Trump, and as I understand it, Congressman, he

didn't court you. You just stepped forward and said, look, I'm for this guy.

REP. LOU BARLETTA (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, that's right. As you know, Michael, you know, I've been battling the problem of legal immigration since I was mayor of Hazleton. I went to Washington and I'm just as frustrated as most people around the country of the inaction of politicians in Washington.

But I think what really pushed them over the line is the establishment trying to hijack this election process from the people who are speaking out against Washington. I could tell you, this endorsement didn't help me in Washington, but I could sleep at night knowing that I didn't drink the Kool-Aid. So, I'm happy --

SMERCONISH: But, Congressman, are you jumping on board with a winner? I want to put on the screen, results of a Clinton versus Trump matchup. And as of now, you know, she hammers him, 46 to 33 percent. Now, as you know, Congressman, she, too, has roots a little bit north of where you are.

BARLETTA: She does. But, you know, what I've seen, Michael, and I've never seen this at least in my lifetime, is I'm talking the blue collar hard working people here in northeastern Pennsylvania. Labor union members that told me there is no question they are switching parties or they're just going to go in November and vote for Donald Trump.

I haven't seen this type of organic grass roots from Democrats and Republicans, at least here in my part of the state ever in my lifetime.

SMERCONISH: And yet, Dr. Madonna, it's John Kasich who not only does well in Pennsylvania, which theory could be a swing state. But let me show you a national survey of different Republican candidates against Hillary Clinton. She beats Trump. She beats Cruz. She loses to Kasich.

Kasich is the only one. And that's a national survey from Monmouth University. Kasich is the only one who beats her.

MADONNA: Yes, and these polls will vary. The national polls now and, you know, I've done them in the past are not predictive of what will happen in the fall.

One of the problems that this campaign is producing is the high negatives. For example, Trump's negatives nationally are well above 50 percent. Clinton's negatives are above 50 percent in the poll that we just did. This is a mean, ugly campaign and it's going to drive the negatives up for both candidates.

But we're going to have to wait and see. It will depend on the enthusiasm. This is going to be a turn-out-the-base/energized-voters election. It's going to be very, very unusual. At the moment, it looks like we could have a very substantial turnout next fall on November 8th.

SMERCONISH: Congressman, you are dismissed to go over and get a hot dog at Jimmy's Lunch.


SMERCONISH: Thank you, Terry Madonna --

BARLETTA: I'll get one for you.

SMERCONISH: Thank you. Thank you, Lou Barletta.

So, what do you think of this party switching? Tweet me your thoughts @Smerconish.

Still to come, how did some writing on a Georgia campus in chalk fuel student protest? Why some students are claiming Trump 2016 is a trigger face.


[09:42:14] SMERCONISH: Listen to this quote, "I thought we were having a KKK rally on campus. I legitimately feared for my life. That's what one freshman from Emory University in Atlanta said this past week.

Why? It was the sudden appearance of chalk writings all over campus walkways and buildings. And what did these inflammatory words say? They said, "vote Trump" or "Trump 2016".

Dozens of students found this cause to protest and several paid a call on college president James Wagner. Afterwards, Wagner released a statement which in part said this, "The students voiced genuine concern and pain in the face of perceived intimidation. I cannot dismiss their expression of feelings and concern as motivated only by political preference or over sensitivity."

There's been a lot of campus activism recently about trigger words, sensitivity on ethnic issues, even in the cafeteria menus. But I think this is the first time that simply touting a political candidate has become a flash point. Is it valid?

Joining me now, three Emory students, Lolade Oshin, who took part in the protests, and Sophen Joseph, who helped organize the protest, and Zak Hudak, who's the editor of the campus newspaper "The Emory Wheel." He wrote a piece warning the student protesters may be endangering freedom of speech, including their own.

They are joining me now.

Lolade, let me start with you. Help the rest of us understand the fear that this caused.

LOLADE OSHIN, EMORY UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Right. I just want to first start off by saying thank you for having us on the show and having the opportunity to clear the air about what is being said in the media today.

First, I want to make it known that this is not about chalk. And that is the media saying it's about but it's not about chalk.

Secondly, I want to make it clear that we are in no way advocating for censorship. We are not trying to strip people of their First Amendment right. We actually are in favor of freedom of speech and we're actively participating in.

SMERCONISH: Let me ask a question that of Sophen, if I might. Sophen, I understand that there is a procedure for chalking on college campuses including Emory. You've got to get permission in advance. In this case, they didn't, whoever did it.

Let me ask you this question. What if a Trump supporter on campus approached the university and said I would like to draw on sidewalks, Trump 2016. Should they have been given permission?

SOPHEN JOSEPH, EMORY UNIVERSITY STUDENT: OK. So, here's the thing -- to address your question specifically, right? Yes, student organizations where you are able to be held accountable, that is the way in which this usually happens.

However, what we're talking about is not one incident, right? This is a really easy way to pigeonhole students and to pigeonhole like marginalize communities on Emory's campus.

[09:45:05] However, we're talking about an entire history. Our #1969not1836 refers to the fact that in 1969, black students at Emory made a similar list of demands to Emory to try to truly bring community and this point of pride for Emory as a community of care and somewhere where we can embrace diversity and embrace difference and have conversations about that. And since then, you know, we have not seen a lot of change and furthermore, we have seen a lot of specific visually racially charged things that have happened to students at Emory.

So, we're talking about instances where a historically black fraternity has a house on Emory's campus and cotton is thrown on their lawn in reminiscent of slavery, right? Like that was a directly racially charged incident.

We're also talking about consistently having cannons from other fraternities pointed at this historically black fraternity house. We're talking about when the N-word shows up on the library and on the tennis courts and it's engraved, right? This isn't just one isolated incident.

SMERCONISH: I understand, right. I understand. But in this case, the N-word wasn't involved.

Zak, let me say to you. First of all, congratulations. You're the brand-new editor of the campus newspaper. And here's part of what you wrote on this. "Institutionally prohibiting an ignorant, hurtful or violent idea does not destroy it; it allows the idea to grow and worsen in the shadows, far from the moderating effects of public scrutiny. The best way to destroy an idea is to confront it."

It sounds to me like you're worried there is an over reaction here, Zak?

ZAK HUDAK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE EMORY WHEEL: It's not so much an overreaction. What I've seen over the past few days over this week as the stories unfolded is that -- I can say with confidence that the fears and the pain that these students and specifically these protesters have been feeling is completely genuine. There's no overblowing. These are genuine concerns.

The name Trump has come to mean something that in my lifetime is presidential candidate's name is never meant and we have to acknowledge that. I nonetheless must maintain that freedom of speech has to remain paramount throughout this.

SMERCONISH: But, Zak, this is the writing of a person's name running for president, not in a hateful way and written in chalk that's going to wash off with the next rainstorm that you have in Atlanta.

UNIDENTIIFED FEMALE: Can I make something clear?

SMERCONISH: Zak, can you respond to that?

HUDAK: Yes, I honestly think this entire thing has been good. Without the chalk, we wouldn't now have this conversation and we have to remember that there is a chance that Donald Trump is going to be president, and we can't say that students can't support him, let alone that they can't chalk his name.

SMERCONISH: I appreciate all three of you being here and I wish you all good things at Emory.

Lolade Oshin, Sophen Joseph and Zak Hudak, appreciate it.

HUDAK: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Coming up next, you want to hear my personal theory of where Donald Trump gets his whole campaign strategy from. Yes, "Seinfeld."

And you're best and worst tweets like this one.


[09:52:34] SMERCONISH: Many marvel at Donald Trump's ability to succeed while doing the opposite of what we've come to expect of a presidential candidate. While watching Trump insult everybody from Heidi Cruz to the pope, it hit me -- Trump is the George Costanza of the 2016 field.

"Seinfeld" fans will surely recall this classic episode from season five.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE COSTANZA, SEINFELD: Every decision I've ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be.

ELAINE BENES, SEINFELD: George, you know, that woman just looked at you.

COSTANZA: What am I supposed to do?

BENES: Go talk to her.

COSTANZA: Elaine, bald men with no jobs and no money who live with their parents --


COSTANZA: -- don't approach strange women.

JERRY SEINFELD, SEINFELD: Well, here's your chance to try the opposite. If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

COSTANZA: My name is George. I'm unemployed and I live with my parents.





SMERCONISH: Think about it. Trump's campaign style is all Costanza- like, opposite behavior.

He's questioned the heroism of a former POW and standard bearer of his own party, fought FOX News and its most ascendant star, Megyn Kelly, including questioning her menstrual cycle, picked a fight over immigration with the pope himself, mocked a disabled reporter, incorrectly cited a bible verse while courting evangelical Christians, promised to be an honest broker in the Middle East, instead of reflexively siding with Israel, refused to release his tax returns, conducted press conferences while accepting victory on primary election nights, and he has assured us of the size of his manhood.

The "Seinfeld" episode was the brainchild of writer Andy Cowen. He told me that he, too, sees the parallels between George Costanza's willingness to criticize George Steinbrenner while applying to work for the Yankees and Trump's battles with Roger Ailes, the head of the GOP's primary oracle, FOX News.

So, what's the end game here? Well, unless there's some shrinkage in his numbers, Trump could soon be celebrating Festivus at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and any talk of his being the master of his domain might be a reference to the White House. As I like to say, you can tweet me @Smerconish, if you can spell my

last name.

[09:50:01] Here's some of what has come in during the course of this program.

Thomas says, "Smerconish, I was raised by two moms and an older sister. Laugh out loud, your last segment was like a flashback of a family road trip." I think it reminded us of a lot of people's road trips.

There was also this from Shane, "Smerconish, 'The National Enquirer' paper is what you find in the bottom of the cage for the feathered guest at Bernie Sanders rally." Great comment. I imagine we've all seen the image of the bird landing on the podium of the Sanders rally last night.

And Abu Nasir, obviously not his right name, says, "In World War II, our young men stormed the beaches of Normandy. Today, our kids are afraid of chalk. Problems of Common Core." I thought it was a great segment, good conversation among those three promising students.

Hey, Happy Easter, everybody, to those who are celebrating. I will see you back here next week.