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Hot, New Literary Hangout; Has The Job Left The President? The Hunt For Anonymous Anti-Trump Op-Ed Writer; Sorkin: Trump's Election Rebuke Of Elites Who Caused Crash; Is Wall Street "Too Big To Fail" Again?; Sen. Warren Breaks Silence On Native American Controversy; Boston Globe: Sen. Warren's Ethnicity Not Factor In Career; ; "New Yorker" Disinvites Steve Bannon; Have We Forgotten About Al-Zawahiri?. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired September 08, 2018 - 09:00   ET


JAVIER GARCIA DEL MORAL, THE WILD DETECTIVES: -- music, shows and then, as well, we provide drinks, a coffee or cocktails that will make people talk freely. I know there's been a lot of talk about not doing business with friends. Turk and I are from (ph) Spain. We met in Dublin out of both places. I can't concede (ph) that that's just a random encounter and I think it's beautiful the way that life is just a succession of accidental, happy encounters, but we value our friendship more than the business.



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Well, we've all read it and tried to guess who wrote it. The President has even tasked Jeff Sessions to find out the author of that "New York Times" op-ed criticizing Trump from inside the White House. The list of "not-mes" keeps growing, but in claiming to be keeping democracy alive, did the writer actually prove the opposite?

And the Dow Jones is almost double what it was 10 years ago right before the big stock market crash of 2008. I'll ask Andrew Ross Sorkin, author of "Too Big to Fail", whether it could happen again.

Plus, this week Elizabeth Warren called for the 25th amendment to oust the President, likely gearing up for her presidential run, but many missed a bigger story about her. An in-depth "Boston Globe" investigation into whether Warren parlayed her claims to a Native American heritage to advance her career. I'll ask the reporter what she found.

And after four famous comedians tweeted they'd boycott "The New Yorker" Festival because Steve Bannon was invited. He was abruptly disinvited. What does this say about the state of free speech?

And we said we'd never forget, but with Tuesday bringing the 17th anniversary of 9/11 in one respect we clearly have. But first, just what kind of a week was it? It was one so packed with news that when explosive excerpts leaked from the new book on the President by our foremost journalists, it was only a one-day story. Bob Woodward revealed that the President called his Attorney General mentally retarded, that his Chief of Staff called him an idiot and that his former Chief Economic Advisor had to swipe ill conceived plans from his deck.

But all that was relegated to page two after a senior administration official published a critique of the President in the "New York Times" under an anonymous by-line. That ignited a debate about the President's fitness for office and the propriety of a staffer choosing to write instead of resign.

While the nation's journalists and pundits and even some bookies became engrossed in trying to identify the author, I think the biggest reveal of the esssay was largely overlooked. According to this source who "The Times" found credible, there's been talk, quote, "whispers" of invoking the 25th amendment among some Trump cabinet members. If true, that's a huge develop.

Plus, "The Times" essay suggests that we've been asking the wrong question. To-date, it's been will the President be forced to leave his job? The better question might be has the job left the President? Has his ability to function been limited by subordinates?

The President so angry at that prospect that Friday he said he wants his Attorney General to investigation the source. He's labelled the article an act of treason, even though it doesn't meet the definition. He also says he views the situation as a matter of national security. Some have made the argument that he's right to be angry, where there's no accountably or transparency for the leaker.

It all raises this interesting survey question today at Should the Justice Department investigate the identity of the anonymous "New York Times" author? Go cast a ballot. I'll give you results at the end of the hour.

Now, asked to the infamous op-ed writer, are reporters at "The Times" restricted from trying to uncover who wrote it? What are the ethics of running an op-ed by an anonymous source? It appears the "The Times" has never previously done so. And is the op-ed writer, him or herself, the one who's actually behaving undemocratically by claiming to take the running of the country into their own hands?

Joining me now, "New York Times" White House reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis. Hey, Julie, thanks for being here. Do you know who wrote it?

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Thanks for having me. No, I do not know who wrote it. We would all love to know who wrote it and as a reporter it's frustrating to have to be speculating about the author of such a significant piece which confirms a lot of the whispers that we've heard in our reporting over many, many months.

So we're all trying to figure it out and, you know, we join all other reporters who are covering this White House in that. But I think it's really - you know it's been interesting to see what the reaction has been by senior administration officials.

[09:05:01] The fact that they have all felt obligated to put out these statements, not just through spokespeople saying, no, it wasn't my boss, no, it wasn't my boss, but on the record statements saying, I didn't write it and the person who did should resign. That really tells you something about what the President wants to see out of his own top leadership, given the fact that he knows there is somebody below him who has authored this thing.

SMERCONISH: When the story first broke, I tweeted that in a case like this, I would typically be relying on "The Times". I gave you a shout- out to tell us ...


SMERCONISH: Well, who was it? If you knew, let me just ask for the record, if you knew, would you write it?

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: If I knew, I would write it. If we - when we can cover news, we write it, but this is a - this is a very unusual circumstance, as you pointed out in your intro, where the editorial side of the newspaper, which is completely separate from the newsroom, made a decision after being approached by a person who was connected with the author to publish this editorial or this op-ed piece anonymously. And so it makes it difficult as reporters, not for us, but for all our colleagues at other publications to try to figure out who did write it.

And it - and it no question it raises ethical questions and not just for us, but, of course, for everyone at the White House who, if the person who wrote this is being truthful, there are many people around the President who are experiencing these same thoughts and doing what this person is saying he or she is doing in terms of trying to limit the damage from what they see as the President's reckless and impulsive decisions and conversations.

And so the question really becomes, why would you write an anonymous piece rather than speak up and say something directly to the President or leave the administration if, indeed, you thought that the commander in chief was so badly suited for the - for the office?

SMERCONISH: On a Saturday, I try, in this position, to take a look at the week that's now ending and to say, OK, what have others missed? I think I have something here, insofar as we all got caught up, even bookies, getting caught up in, well, who is it? Who is it? But that one paragraph that says there have been whispers among cabinet members relative to the 25th amendment, I think, is huge and didn't get enough attention. First of all, have you heard that? Have you independently been able to confirm any of that?

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: It is huge and I mean this is something that we have all been hearing rumors about almost since the very beginning. Certainly since last year after the firing of Jim Comey, after some of the President's outbursts on issues like did President Obama tap his phones in Trump Tower? There's been discussion about just how high up this speculation may go in his own administration about him not being fit for the office.

I have never been able to confirm. We certainly would have done a story saying that had been considered if we had been able to confirm that, but certainly our colleagues on the editorial side of the paper who, again, don't have any connection to the newsroom, but they consider the author of this op-ed to be sufficiently high up and sufficiently looped into what's going on in this administration to consider them authentic. And so if this person says it was considered, I mean that is an incredibly significant thing.

And I do think it's been a bit underplayed given all the speculation about who the author is and that, we should note, is also by design by the President and his staff themselves. The President has fixated on who did this to me? Who underneath me is seeking to undermine me from within and that's gotten all of us paying attention to this kind of who done it aspect rather than the substance of the op-ed, which is in and of itself, is quite striking.

SMERCONISH: Right. My suggestion would be in addition to asking, well, was it you? That journalists say, have you ever been a participant in any conversation relative to the 25th amendment? Julie, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate the work you do.

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Thanks for having me.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. Joe Ferraro says, "If you can't put your name to something it's not news fit to print." Hey, Joe, I think there are legitimate questions here about transparency and accountability, right?

And I caution folks who are antagonistic toward the President who are applauding this to think about how they'd feel if there were a progressive, a liberal president, and someone similarly stepped out anonymously and countermanded what the chief executive was trying to do. In other words, I think there is - there is really an ethical argument and issue that transcends the Trump presidency that needs to be thought through which I think is partly your point.

One more if I have time. A tweet I think. "Smerconish, the Justice Department's suggestion that DOJ open an investigation is ridiculous. Resources are needed to protect our elections, not track down someone "The New York Times" already knows." Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Hey, Kate, I don't know where the crime is.

[09:10:00] I mean I'll shorten what you're saying in 140 characters. If this were a Snowden case, if there were state secrets that were revealed, then I'd say, Mr. President, you're right. Jeff Sessions, get to it. But I don't see that thus far.

Please make sure you're going to and casting a ballot on this poll question during the course of this program. Should the Justice Department investigate the identity of the anonymous "New York Times" author? I'll give you the results at the end of the hour.

Up ahead, the President nicknamed Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas" because critics claim she utilized her purported Native American heritage to advance her academic career. Well, "The Boston Globe" has finished an exhaustive analysis of Warren's personnel records. I'll ask the reporter what she found.

And the author of "Too Big to Fail", Andrew Ross Sorkin is here. I want to ask him on the 10th anniversary of the 2008 crash, could it happen again?


SMERCONISH: The economy is booming. Can it last? This week, claims for state unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest levels since December of 1969. The Dow Jones closed Friday at nearly 26,000. It's worth remembering that we're nearing the 10-year anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis fueled by the housing bubble and subprime mortgages.

[09:15:05] Back then, the Dow Jones peaked in October of 2007 at around 14,000. By march of '09, it had bottomed out at 6,600. Yet today, it's nearly double that 2007 peak and nobody is batting an eye.

Joining me now is Andrew Ross Sorkin, the financial reporter for "The New York Times" and CNBC anchor who "Adweek" recently identified as the journalist most followed on Twitter by CEOs. He just added an afterward to the new edition of his best seller "Too Big to Fail", the inside story of Wall Street and Washington fought to save the financial system and themselves.

Hey, Andrew, I want to quote from the afterward. I've got my highlighted copy in front of me. You write this with regard to President Trump, "His victory was a rebuke of the elites that the public trusted to prevent such an economic calamity and it was a rebuke of the same elites that tried to help the country recover from it." You see a causal connection between the '08 collapse and rise of Donald Trump. How?

ANDREW ROSS SORKIN, AUTHOR: I think we're living through it right now. I think 10 years later, the populism in the United States, the deep divide, is a function of the crisis. When you really look at when the country started to calve, if you will, it happened as a function of the crisis. It happened at a time when all of a sudden you had the Occupy Wall Street movement on one side. You had the Tea Party movement on the other. So you had these political parties moving in different directions.

You had the end of a trust of institutions, of government, of experts, by the way. This idea of fake news, you don't - this idea that we would actually now look at experts and say, no, they're not experts, we don't want experts. All of that happened, in my mind, in large part as a function of the crisis and when you look at history, after deep financial crises, there is invariably a rise in populism that happens over the next decade, if not 20 years and I think we're living through it right now. SMERCONISH: You say that the rise of Bitcoin is an embodiment of the lack of trust that you're describing.

ROSS SORKIN: Absolutely. There clearly has been a distrust. Just the idea that the government, the idea that elites, the idea that those with privilege who ostensibly understood what was going on. And I think there was a compact, to some degree, between the haves and the have nots, in that there was a view that somehow the haves, even if they were going to get more, that they were going to be able to protect everybody else. And once that unravelled, it changed everything.

Bitcoin's a great sample of that. All of a sudden there is a whole group of people in the world, across the world, that don't trust central banks. They don't trust the Federal Reserve anymore and so they're saying to themselves, I'm going to take this thing, this digital currency which has nobody in control of it whatsoever, and I trust that more than I trust these people at the top.

SMERCONISH: So another subject. I love the fact that, you know, 10 years on, you go back and you do you deal with all the lingering issues.


SMERCONISH: Here's the question people still ask.


SMERCONISH: Why did nobody go to jail? You address that in the afterward. What's your explanation?

ROSS SORKIN: I have a very unsatisfying answer, unfortunately, in the end. And as a journalist, I wish I could have found those and really found the crime. I think there were a lot of people out there that prosecutors would have loved to make a name for themselves by finding the crime. And the whole crisis felt like a crime and I don't want to suggest it wasn't in the overall macro context.

But in truth, on a very individual basis, I think that these individuals at the top of these institutions made some very terrible, terrible decisions, but it's very hard to decide that they're crimes because you have to believe that they were defrauding the public at the very top. I think there were lots of people at the bottom that were. I think, unfortunately, one of the things I learned was that the people at the top didn't understand what was going on two floors below them and so it's very hard to convict under that scenario.

SMERCONISH: Finally, everybody wants to know, could it happen again? And Andrew Ross Sorkin says, hey, something bigger, more cataclysmic could actually occur. What are you referring to?

ROSS SORKIN: I'll tell you, when I started - when I wrote that book, "Too Big to Fail", that phrase, "Too Big to Fail" was only used in the context of banks, of financial institutions. Today, we talk about it in the context of cities, municipalities, states and countries. And one of the things you learn is that debt is the - debt is the match that lights the fire of every crisis. If you look at what's happening in the United States, the debt load in our country, the deficit, has gone up remarkably. Even under - even under President Trump it's now going to go up an additional trillion dollars.

[09:20:01] This is a trust world and you have to decide you're going to trust this country to pay everybody back and at some point I worry that is going to unravel and that'll be the next crisis, but I don't want to really speculate (ph).

SMERCONISH: Can I just make one observation having reread the book in anticipation of welcoming you? We have all of these philosophical, ideological debates and discussions about the economy.


SMERCONISH: When the house was on fire 10 years ago, ideology went out the window.


SMERCONISH: It was like grab me a hose and don't talk about socialism. Is that a fair statement?

ROSS SORKIN: Yes, and I will tell you people also forget it was during the middle of a presidential election. And, by the way, one of - probably one of the last bipartisan things that anybody in Washington ever did was pass TARP, oddly enough, and passed the bailouts, which polled worse than torture at the time. So yes, the world has changed very, very much.

SMERCONISH: Andrew Ross Sorkin, thank you so much for being here.

ROSS SORKIN: Great to see you, Michael. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, Steve Bannon, the latest road kill in the culture wars uninvited from "The New Yorker" magazine's festival after several celebrities refused to participate. Are liberals hurting their own cause?

And Senator Elizabeth Warren calling for the 25th amendment to be invoked to remove President Trump. But to me, this week's bigger story about her was the investigation as to whether she advanced her career thanks to her claim of being part Native American. I'll talk to the reporter.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pocahontas, that's this Elizabeth Warren and Massachusetts is represented by Pocahontas, right? I call her Pocahontas and that's an insult to Pocahontas.





SMERCONISH: Senator Elizabeth Warren made headlines this week calling for the 25th amendment to remove the President from office. It seems she's getting ready to make a run for the Oval Office in 2020. Another sign she may be getting ready? A story that was lost in the news this week. She's finally cooperated with an exhaustive look at a big issue that's been dogging her. It's the reason Donald Trump has long been taunting her with the nickname "Pocahontas".

Did Warren use her claim of Native American heritage to gain an undeserved edge in her career, as critics charge, getting on the faculties of two prestigious law schools based on a flimsy claim to minority status.

The question got a pretty definitive answer in this exhaustive review by "The Boston Globe" under the headline, "Ethnicity not a factor in Elizabeth Earren's rise in law. And joining me now is the author of the piece, Annie Linskey, who's "The Globe's" Chief National Correspondent. Hey, Annie, it sure would seem that the reason she finally decided to deal with this is because she wants to run in 2020. Is that what you were thinking while you were doing all the research?

ANNIE LINSKEY, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Yes. That is exactly what I was thinking. I mean, she could have done this in 2012 when it first came up in her senate campaign and she didn't. She is running for senate again in Massachusetts, but I think her eye is on a much bigger office in terms of the release of this.

SMERCONISH: You did - you did 100 plus interviews. You had access to the Senator and, most importantly, correct me if I'm wrong, you saw the personnel files for both Penn Law and for Harvard, true?

LINSKEY: That's right. I did.

SMERCONISH: So what's the conclusion?

LINSKEY: Look, I mean, as you point out, conservatives and republicans have long looked at her career and said that it started to skyrocket and she got into - got prestigious jobs at Penn Law School and Harvard because she, quote/unquote, "checked the box" and said that she was Native American and these law schools at the time were desperate to diversify.

But when you look at those personnel files and talk to the people who were involved in the hiring process the answer is unambiguous which is in each of those instances, the law school faculty saw her as a white woman. So to the extent that there was affirmative action at work, perhaps it was because she was a woman and they were also looking for female law professors. But they did not see her as a Native American. They saw her as a white woman.

SMERCONISH: I mean, at my alma mater, which is the University of Pennsylvania Law School, which is why I've always had such a keen interest in this story, after the hiring process has ended they lamented the fact that they couldn't find a minority.

LINSKEY: They did.

SMERCONISH: And I don't mean a female. I mean a person of color or someone who was Asian or Native American. They were almost disappointed like, well, we took Elizabeth Warren.

LINSKEY: Well, that's right. I mean that was one of the key documents, is when you get to the University of Pennsylvania where she is hired from the University of Texas, they - and I was able to review a form that had never been - never before been reported in the personnel file, which was a equal opportunity employment form where the Penn's dean and affirmative action officer had to fill out this 10-page form that said, look, we looked at 400 candidates for this job. Sixty of them were minorities, but we ended up hiring Elizabeth Warren because we couldn't find a better or equal minority candidate for the job, but gosh, we really did look hard.

And you don't have to fill out that form if she's Native American. Native American was one of the options that they - that they looked at and they had to say, look, we saw - we considered zero Native American candidates for the job. So when Penn hired her, they absolutely thought that she was a white woman.

SMERCONISH: So let's quickly run through some of the evidence.


SMERCONISH: When she, herself, applied to law school at Rutgers ...


SMERCONISH: What'd she say in the box? Put it up on the screen.


SMERCONISH: Are you - are you a minority? No. Presumably, that's her handwriting. Do you want to say anything about that document?


LINSKEY: Yes. I mean, that's - that's the basis for her law careers starts with Penn and -- excuse me. It starts with going to Rutgers and she is saying she is not a minority there. She's saying she's white.

SMERCONISH: OK. This is -- this is curious. At the University of Houston the box that she checks is one of other.

Now I'm looking at the choices. I don't quite get this. Black, Oriental, Mexican-American or other. Where's the white box?

LINSKEY: I know. Or the Native American box for that matter. I mean, I don't know. If I looked at that, if I had those choices I would have to pick other as well.

SMERCONISH: Penn, Penn law school. This is interesting. My alma mater put it up on the screen, initially when she's hired you could see the word previous content, C, Caucasian, current content. Then this is a payroll receipt, A, for Native American.

Explain the significance of that document.

LINSKEY: Right. So in that case, she's already working at Penn. She already has her job there.


LINSKEY: It's about more than two years after she's hired. And she goes in and has her ethnicity changed from white to Native American.

And this is one of the curious things about her career. Why did she do it if it wasn't to get in, if it wasn't to get ahead or have some edge? Because in this case, she had already been hired by Penn.

I mean, so Warren opened up to me for the first time about what she was thinking and feeling at that time that, you know, prompted this decision. Because it is quite unusual to do something like this. But again --

SMERCONISH: Right. So she -- I mean, she clearly held herself out as being Native American. She was registered in academic publications as such. And her name was bold faced, which was an indication that she was a minority employee, when she won recognition as a distinction as a faculty member. But your takeaway is she didn't play the card to get hired.

I have one final question for you --


SMERCONISH: -- really important and I want people to read everything that you wrote because a lot went into it.


SMERCONISH: Is your reporting going to matter?

LINSKEY: I hope so. I hope it matters.

I mean, I think what we are all looking to do at the "Globe" is get to the truth. And I had realized that it's not as sexy of a story as just to be able to call out a politician and say they did something wrong.

In this case my reporting said she did something right. And whether -- no matter what you think of her politics, her story is one that's incredible. She comes from -- she graduates from the University of Houston, that's where her under grad degree is from.

It's not exactly one of the nation's best universities. It's just not. And she ends up as a Harvard law professor, the top of her career. And that story, no matter what you think of her politics is an inspirational one and you know it's one that perhaps she'll be able tell with a little -- without that cloud that has been over it.

SMERCONISH: Annie, thank you so much from being here. Nice job. That was a lot of -- a lot of good work that went into that piece.

LINSKEY: Thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and your Facebook comments. What do you have?

"Smerconish, sometimes it's not about getting or not getting an advantage. When does honor and integrity enter into this discussion?"

Peter, read the piece, you know, you are free not to expect it but the explanation is that when certain of her relatives were dying, she had an epiphany and wanted to return to her own roots, which she regards as being Native American.

Listen, I'm going to tell you something. I have always believed because it -- it just fit the cleaner explanation that the way in which she goes to Rutgers for law school and the University of Houston, with no disrespect for either, and then ends up on the faculty at Harvard is because they wanted minority faculty members. And she told them she was Native American.

That has long been my belief. That's apparently not what happened and so in buying into that narrative it seems I was wrong.

I want to remind you to answer the survey question at "Should the Justice Department investigate the identity of the anonymous "New York Times" author?" Go (ph) cast (ph).

By the way, so many of you have voted, you crashed my Web site but it's back up and running. All right. So go do it now.

Still to come, America's divide continues to deepen as opposite sides refuse to hear each other out. This week "The New Yorker" magazine festival disinvited Steve Bannon after other celebrities threatened boycott. Is that anyway to broaden horizons?



SMERCONISH: So there's this ongoing problem in the country of intolerance of opposing viewpoints. We see it on college campuses and pop culture, the news business, this week it made headlines within it erupted at "The New Yorker" magazine's festival of ideas.

The magazine announced that among this year's invitees to be interviewed in front of a live paying audience was Steve Bannon, the former head of the "Breitbart News" and former Trump adviser, who would be quizzed by the magazine's editor David Remnick. But then came the outcries, several other guests, including comedian Jim Carrey and Judd Apatow said they wouldn't participate if Bannon were on the stage.

By the end of the day, Bannon had been disinvited. He responded by calling Remnick -- quote -- "gutless when confronted by howling mob."

What does this episode say about America right now? I've got the perfect guest in Greg Lukianoff. He's the co-author of a brand new book titled "The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure."


He tracks the cultural shift trend in America's colleges toward political correctness. He's also the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

This is an extension, Greg, of what you see taking place on college campuses, no?

GREG LUKIANOFF, CO-AUTHOR, "THE CODDLING OF THE AMERICAN MIND": Absolutely. And one of the things I call my iron laws of freedom of speech is it's really important to know what people actually think not even if it troubles you but especially when it troubles you.

SMERCONISH: I'm not endorsing you by putting you on CNN right now.


SMERCONISH: I'm not embracing your ideas. I want to hear what you have to say and my job is to ask probing questions. Isn't that what David Remnick should have done with Steve Bannon?

LUKIANOFF: Exactly. Interviews are not endorsements. Now to be clear we both agree that of course "The New Yorker" can do this, but is this supposed to be a festival of ideas? Or as, you know, mock and gabble (ph)? Or is this supposed to be a dinner party?

SMERCONISH: So as you look at the mile stones of when things went array, we'll put it in the college context. Give me the critical year, the critical event.

When did it all turn? I thought that college was the one place you could go and really have free expression and trade ideas?

LUKIANOFF: In my book with Jon Haidt, "Coddling the American Mind," we -- it's kind of a social sciences detective story. And we look at at what happened around 2013, 2014, because prior to that when it came to free speech on campus the best constituency for free speech on campus were the students themselves.

If you were going to get in trouble for what you said on campus it was almost always administrators who got in trouble. But attitudes toward free speech really shifted sometime around 2013, 2014 and the whole book is about trying to get to the bottom of why.

SMERCONISH: Do you attribute it to any particular event? LUKIANOFF: We think it's the entry of a new generation, iGen, as they're called, people born after 1995. And we also, not incidentally found some really troubling stats about mental health outcomes for people from that generation that are dramatically different from millennials.

SMERCONISH: Yes. Well, Dr. Jean Twenge, he has written an excellent book on exactly that phenomenon.

LUKIANOFF: Absolutely (ph).

SMERCONISH: Let me ask you this question, how much of it in terms of what you see on college campuses with students now back to school --


SMERCONISH: -- is the fault of those students? Because I take note of the title of your book.


SMERCONISH: It doesn't sound like you are blaming them.

LUKIANOFF: Yes. It's not those students' fault. It's our fault, it's Gen X's, it's baby boomer's, it's millennials. We created this environment.

And when people asked me, kind of -- to really sum up what the book is about were wondering, why is this generation so polarized and anxious and why have depression rates gone up so much? And my answer is because we have been teaching them the intellectual habits of anxious, depressed and polarized people.

SMERCONISH: Isn't part of what has taken place that now you've got the rise of social media, and so that you have these interlopers?


SMERCONISH: You've got outsider to these campuses who are trying to fill their own political narrative and we almost lose track of what the dispute is on the campus itself.

LUKIANOFF: Yes. Social media has sped everything up. And so we talk about polarization in the book and definitely polarization has gone up due to social media.

But social media essentially rewards you for being in an echo chamber. It makes you feel good about being in an echo chamber.

But also when it comes to mental health issues. Jean Twenge wrote some great stuff about this. And when I'm trying to explain it really simply I'm like, imagine the worst things about junior high school, 24 hours a day forever and that's why you shouldn't be surprised to see people who use particularly young women who use social media more, experience more depression and anxiety. SMERCONISH: So let me go back to Bannon. In this particular case, it's a conservative who is -- who is being thwarted in his ability to speak.

Does the issue that we're discussing does it -- is there parody -- is there parody between conservatives getting shut down and liberals getting shut down? I'm sure when this segment ends --


SMERCONISH: -- I'm going to hear from one group or the other --

LUKIANOFF: Of course.

SMERCONISH: -- and they're going to say it's them.

LUKIANOFF: Well, interestingly the latest trend we talked about area actually conservative outrage mobs coming after liberal meaning professors and it's been really bad over the last year. So now professors are in kind of a rough spot because they have to worry about, one, what their -- their least tolerant student in class might think about what they say. And then they also have to think about the conservative -- the internet mob.

So it's not an enviable position.

SMERCONISH: I'm not giving it all away, but you recommend that students adopt a position of charity.


SMERCONISH: You know, cut one another some slack and don't always be playing got you. And I think that's a great message for adults as well. Thank you for being here.

LUKIANOFF: Thank you so much, Michael.

SMERCONISH: It's Greg Lukianoff.

Checking on your tweets and Facebook comments.

"Smerconish, CNN, disinviting is a form of free speech. One can invite whom wants, Bannon, bye."

I'm sure if the shoe were on the other foot, I can't really decide for your handle. You would be saying something different.

What's wrong with giving people a platform, it then becomes incumbent upon the host to ask provocative questions.


I mean, if you have Steve Bannon -- by the way, Bannon is invited to be here, and then you can criticize me, not for having him but for giving him a hall pass, right?

I mean, the responsibility is on the interviewer to make sure that you're doing the job of the audience. That's it.

Still to come this week marks the 17th anniversary of 9/11, despite all of our pledges to never forget in one respect, we have. And that's next.


SMERCONISH: Question. Where the hell is Ayman al Zawahiri, and why don't we talk about him anymore?


Seventeen years ago in the wake of the devastating attacks of September 11, there were two names on the tips of American tongues, Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri. The former founded al Qaeda and planned the attacks of 9/11 while his deputy was responsible for the bombings of three U.S. embassies in 1998.

In the months after 9/11, Zawahiri was terror group's most visible face posting audio and video messages. Bin laden was of course killed by SEAL Team Six in 2011. But ever since, there's been nary a mention of his number two who succeeded him yet who is seemingly alive and communicating though without much media coverage.

Last month, al Qaeda released a half hour audio message in which he Zawahiri criticized Hamas. And on August 23rd, this video of a five minute lecture by Zawahiri was posted online. He looks older than we remember, white beard, pasty skin. Zawahiri now 67 remains on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list where his aliases include "The Doctor" and "The Teacher."

The reward is listed as up to 25 million. But on Interpol's most wanted list, he is nowhere to be found.

The U.S. has made several unsuccessful assassination attempts on Zawahiri. Back in 2009, there was also that tragedy in coast in which a Jordanian physician duped his handlers into thinking he would deliver Zawahiri before detonating a bomb that killed five CIA officers and two contractors.

As recently as 2016, the Obama administration initiated a drone attack in Pakistan's Swat Valley that "Newsweek" reported did little more than break Zawahiri's glasses. So where is he?

I asked CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen, one of the few western journalists to ever interview bin Laden and the first journalist to gain access to the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden was killed.

In Bergen's 2012 book "Manhunt", the 10 year search for bin Laden he correctly predicted -- quote -- "Zawahiri is unlikely to turn things around for al Qaeda. Far from being the inspiring orator that bin Laden was, Zawahiri is more like the pedantic, long-winded uncle who insists on regaling the family at Thanksgiving dinner with accounts of his arcane disputes with obscure enemies." Bergen emailed me that Zawahiri is likely hiding out in Pakistan like bin Laden was, adding -- quote -- "We never hear about the hunt for him because it is conducted in secret but that doesn't mean that the CIA isn't looking for him."

But numerous logistical and diplomatic issues preclude launching an operation similar to SEAL Team Six against bin Laden in 2011. And Bergen said that Zawahiri has been such an ineffective leader that the west might be better served leaving him in place and that al Qaeda is now grooming Hamza bin Laden for a leadership role.

The U.S. Navy SEAL who killed bin Laden Robert O'Neill told me that although ISIS gets more play in the news -- quote -- "al Qaeda would prefer to stay out of the headlines until they conduct and attack that is successful enough to grab headlines. ISIS will stab us in the front but al Qaeda wants to stab us in the back."

O'Neill also told me, "My time serving is over but I assure you there are other others out there who'll go and get him." Let's hope so.

We said we never forget. That's what my pin says. Tuesday is the 17th anniversary of 9/11.

For more of my thoughts on this issue please check out my piece right now at

Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. This is last chance to vote before we give you the final results on the survey question of the day at "Should the Justice Department investigate the identity of the anonymous "New York Times" author?"



SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at I asked this, "Should the Justice Department investigate the identity of the anonymous "New York Times" author?

Survey says, having crashed the Web site twice, 8,800 -- that's a pretty decisive outcome, is it not? No, 95 percent. Look, it's being regarded in many households I am sure as just a referendum.

Oh, if that's what the president wants then I either agree or disagree with him. I just want to repeat what I said earlier in the program and that is there are legitimate issues of lack of transparency and accountability that we don't have when somebody steps out and takes on their boss in a circumstance like this.

I'm just saying that we need to think about the precedent that we're setting in this instance. What else do we have, Catherine (ph)? What do you got from social media today?

"Smerconish, Trump administration is too busy looking for the author of "The Times" op-ed. Al Zawahiri is not a priority." It really frustrates me. And think about it. Right it always used to be 17 years ago, bin Laden and Zawahiri, bin Laden and Zawahiri, bin Laden and Zawahiri -- SEAL Team Six, God bless them, they go out and they kill bin Laden, and we all forget about Zawahiri.

No, 17 years on, he is still out there. Give me another one. Real quick.

"If it wasn't for language, I would have suspected John Barron as the writer.


Is that a possibility?"


SMERCONISH: Yes, that is a possibility. See you next week. Thanks.