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Suspect Arrested In Package Bomb Mailings; The Bomber And The Political Divide; Serial Bomber Arrested, FBI Says "Not Hoax Devices"; What's Next In Serial Bomber Investigation?; Megyn Falls On Her Face; Was Megyn Kelly Always Doomed At "NBC"?; Report From Key Swing County As Midterms Loom; Interview With Author Ben Bradlee Jr.; Interview With General Stanley McChrystal. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired October 27, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. The good news in the mail bomb case, a suspect now in custody. The Florida resident who attended Trump campaign rallies and drove a van that looks like exhibit A for see something, say something. We'll have the latest on the arrest and my thoughts as to how the climate surrounding the manhunt represented a new partisan low.
Plus, did one, single American county determine the outcome of the 2016 presidential election? Ben Bradlee Jr. thinks so and if he's right, what might that county tell us about the midterms?
And former "Fox" star Megyn Kelly's "NBC" rebranding has officially ended thanks to an unfortunate comment about wearing blackface for Halloween, but was the demographic deck stacked against her from the get-go?
Plus, retired four-star general Stanley McChrystal is here with a message about leadership that could not be more timely.
But first, the suspect was arrested in Florida Friday and charged with five federal crimes facing now up to 48 years in prison in connection with at least 14 explosive devices sent to prominent Democratic politicians, donors and "CNN" offices in New York. FBI Director Christopher Wray said these are not hoax devices.
Still to be determined is whether those devices were viable. The suspect was charged with illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former presidents and others and assaulting current and former federal officers. That's the good news and we all owe a debt of gratitude to law enforcement for solving this case so quickly.
But there's an aspect of the climate surrounds the manhunt for the pipe bombing perpetrator that presents represents yet another low in our political discourse. I refer to the speculation before his capture of this case as a potential false flag operation. Before there was a suspect. Where almost all of these packages were addressed to prominent Democrats, that evidence suggested that the intent was to do harm to members of that party, but some suggested that was a bit too clean, too easy. Where none of the bombs exploded, maybe somebody wanted us to stereotype Republicans while really seeking a sympathetic advantage for the Democrats without causing any physical injury. That, by definition, would be a false flag operation. The mere mention of that possibility was greeted as heresy by some, but that wasn't what I found offensive. After all, the very idea that somebody would send over a dozen packages through the mail with explosives is itself not logical.
So there's really no such thing as an implausible explanation. No. What I found vile was the idea that some seemed to be hoping, rooting for a particular political outcome, namely the party affiliation of the perpetrator. That's sad that some would wish for a domestic terrorist to be playing for the other team. No one guy with a screw loose sums up an entire political party.
And here's another takeaway, very important. Those of us who are privileged to have a platform need always to remember that people like him are out there and that our words may cause their actions.
Last night, the President missed a potential John McCain moment. You'll remember when, in 2008, a woman at a town hall told Senator McCain she distrusted Senator Obama because he was a Muslim and McCain immediately shut her down. Too bad last night in Charlotte, just hours after the arrest in the pipe bomb case, the President didn't do likewise when the crowd began a familiar chant at his rally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AUDIENCE: "CNN" sucks (ph)!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: And that brings me to this week's survey question. Go to my website at smerconish.com and vote on the following issue. Does President Trump have an obligation to rein in those hostile chants at his rallies? Mine's a yes vote.
Joining me now for the latest, Francey Hakes has prosecuted pipe bomb cases. She was a state and federal prosecutor, worked at the Department of Justice. And two FBI veterans, Former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes and James Gagliano, a retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent.
Francey, the bombs didn't go off, thank God. Speak to me on the issue of intent. What does it matter whether he intended to kill or to frighten?
FRANCEY HAKES, CEO FRANCEY HAKES CONSULTING: Well, the charges will make a difference there. I mean, what his intent was will inform the charges that they bring against him and I think the complaint so far is really kind of a holding document. I don't think that this complaint will be the end of the charges that we see because they are still investigating the case. They're still trying to figure out what his motivation was. In spite of what he might have told them about not wanting to hurt someone, you don't send pipe bombs through the mail without intending to hurt people.
[09:05:00] So I think intent is important, but we don't know enough yet to know really what his intent was.
SMERCONISH: Tom Fuentes, have you seen this type before, now that we get a look at the suspect?
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: I think we've seen other cases of extremists that have carried out attacks for one idology or another in history, but I -- being an old man, I go back to the '60s when we had so much violence and it involved the bombings that were occurring all over the country, many directed against police officers.
So we've kind of seen what happens with extremism in the past. It's yet to be seen, as mentioned, what specifically his motive may have been and we may never know. If he doesn't talk, doesn't explain it and we don't find other specific statements by him indicated what he intended to do, especially made before the event, we may not know.
SMERCONISH: OK. But just looking at that van, Tom, isn't it pretty clear what he was seeking to do? I mean, I was willing to entertain that it was all a distraction, but, my God, look at the messaging of that.
FUENTES: No, I -- no, I understand -- I understand that, Michael. I meant that we might not know specifically that he devised these devices to absolutely harm the individuals in a serious way.
SMERCONISH: I understand.
FUENTES: We think so, but the part about the explosives containing harmful material, that we know. How it was wired or if it was wired correctly, that we don't know and was he just trying to make a political statement. Anybody would know if they're sending mail to a former president, much less two former presidents, that it's going to be screened by the secret service. It's not going to get there and then once these devices are discovered, then postal inspectors and the rest of the country will be on a heightened alert for the additional packages.
SMERCONISH: James, I'm feeling like I felt in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting where 17 perished. In so far as, as details are coming forward, I'm saying, why wasn't there data integration? Surely someone knew this was a guy who was going to be a problem. Are you sensing any of that?
JAMES GAGLIANO, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Well, you know, Michael, I'll tell you what, as somebody who's been down here in Manhattan the past week, it's been a sobering week and I just firstly want to say that hats off to law enforcement. The FBI, the postal inspectors, the NYPD, all the local and state, federal folks down in Florida did an amazing job, a Herculean task.
Just to put this in perspective, the longest and costliest investigation in FBI history was the Unabomber case. That took 17 years to solve. You even flash-forward, in 1996, the Centennial Park in Atlanta bomber, Eric Rudolph, that took seven years. And even just last March, it took 18 days before law enforcement was able to track down the perpetrator in the Austin serial bombing case. So an unbelievable job here.
And to your question, it's a difficult one, Mike, and I'm sure -- I'm sure that my fellow colleagues in the panel will agree. We live in a country where we cherish our freedoms, we cherish civil liberties, we cherish the ability to speak our minds. Unfortunately, some of the wild hyperbole and rhetoric that we see on Twitter, we see on social media platforms, if the FBI was to respond and knock on every door of people that say incendiary things, we wouldn't have time to do anything else.
So yes, in hindsight, we look back. Parkland, there was a missed lead that the FBI stood up and said we missed this one. In this instance, just look at my Twitter feed and trust me, you can see tons of just harsh, incendiary things there.
I agree we need to tone down the rhetoric. I agree we need to police these people that are making over threats like this gentleman did back in 2002 when he was accused and arrested and went to jail for talking about bombing a Florida utility company, but there's a fine line between free speech where we're allowed hyperbole and actual threats, implied or obvious, and that's where we've got to kind of draw the line and it's going to be difficult, I think.
SMERCONISH: Francey, I was watching in real-time when the tarp was being put over that van yesterday. I was watching "CNN" and I said to myself, uh-oh, I can only imagine the conspiracy theorists when they now view that image. Why would law enforcement very quickly move to cover that van with a tarp?
HAKES: Well, it's not really what the conspiracy theorists say. It's in fact, preserving evidence. They are trying to make sure that they collect the evidence and that they get all the information they need so that they can formulate an interrogation plan, for one. They want to make sure they understand the kind of evidence that the van contains when they talk to the suspect. I don't think it has anything to do with hiding evidence from the public so much as preserving evidence. Remember, they're going to want to take things like fingerprints, DNA, all from the interior and the exterior of that van because law enforcement, at this point, has no idea if this suspect was acting alone.
Now, we know that bombers generally do act alone, like arsonists. They tend to be a bit kooky and loners, but that doesn't mean, in this case, that's the -- that's true. They want to make sure if there are any other co-conspirators.
[09:15:02] The evidence of that, through physical evidence like fingerprints and DNA, is preserved.
SMERCONISH: Tom Fuentes, cliche, but true, right? Good, old-fashioned police work made this happen.
FUENTES: Absolutely, Michael. You know, in this case, you have -- I think, the key piece was the fingerprint and -- the fingerprint because this individual had been arrested before, his fingerprints were in the file. And then you, of course, have record checks and everything indicating someone who had been threatening violence or previously charged with attempting to do bombings.
So I think without the fingerprint, without any DNA evidence in the packaging, they still would have gotten him. It just might have taken a few days longer, really, to go through the databases and see who else was doing this, particularly from the south Florida area, that had been involved in possible threats of bombings and violence and convictions in the past.
SMERCONISH: Listen, I don't wish to drag any of you, three law enforcement professionals, into my commentary, but I'll give you the chance if you want to respond or offer some insight. To me, it's a reminder that folks like us, we have a responsibility. We have microphones, we have platforms and that there are people out there watching, some of them may have some issues. And a responsibility comes with it, if you're in the media or if you're an elected official. Anybody want a piece of that? It's OK if the answer is no. Go ahead.
GAGLIANO: Sure. I will (ph). Michael, I think you're right. I think we all need to be careful about what we say. Words do matter. Just understand, I think, for the public to understand, in New York, we've got a law enforcement jargon for this in the police realm and it's called we're dealing with folks out there that are emotionally disturbed people, EDPs.
And in this instance, you had a guy that was expressing his affinity for white supremacists and Neo-Nazis. And at the same time, also claim affiliation with the Seminole Tribe. Those two things are mutually exclusive. We're not dealing with a stable person here.
Now, again, I understand that political ideology plays a piece in this, but I think, to your point, those of us that do have a platform, whether we're politicians or senior officials in the Department of Justice or the FBI or analysts on TV, absolutely have a responsibility to make sure that we're careful with the words that we choose.
FUENTES: Also, Michael, you know, in the first ...
SMERCONISH: Quick, final comment. Go ahead, Tom. Yes.
FUENTES: In the first couple days of this, I know James and I were on the air frequently saying, you know, don't draw an immediate conclusion until the facts are collected. Now, people were saying, well, it had to be a Republican who is doing this because all the targets were Democrats or Progressives and all we said was don't jump to that conclusion and investigators have to not jump to it until the facts lead them to a more appropriate theory.
And I think some have been reporting since then that, well, you know, pundits were on the air saying -- you know, making excuses. We weren't. We were saying that when you're running an investigation like this, don't jump to an immediate conclusion just because it's obvious, even if it turns out that was the obvious ...
FUENTES: ... that this guy was a registered Republican, but don't come to that theory until you actually know who the guy is and verify that fact.
SMERCONISH: Francey, final thought quickly.
HAKES: Yes. Words matter ...
HAKES: ... but kooks don't need words in order to act like kooks.
SMERCONISH: And on that note, thank you, all three of you. I appreciate your being here. What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish, go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. What do we have, Catherine?
"Trump just lost his chance to be presidential and capitalize on the support and sympathy of the 67 percent who feel he may indeed be treated unfairly by the press."
John, last night was a golden opportunity for him to be the bigger person, the John McCain in the room. And when that chant broke out to say, hold on. We're not going to engage in that kind of hyperbole and inciteful rhetoric, and he missed it. He missed it, unfortunately for the rest of us. Another one quickly.
"Trump needs to rein in his rhetoric, as do his critics. Factually based criticism and ribbing are fine, but the hatred toward the GOP by those in the media is as vile as --"
You know, I don't want to play the relativity game. I will simple say that the rhetoric of this country and the seeding of so much ground to the loudest voices in the political room has done us all a disservice. So everybody needs to up their game. Go to my website, smerconish.com, answer today's survey question which asks does President Trump have any obligation to rein in hostile chants at his rallies?
Up ahead, after a big faux pas, "NBC" has cancelled Megyn Kelly's "TODAY" show and is negotiating her departure from the network. In today's divided political landscape, would it have ever been possible for the former "Fox News" icon to change her image. Here's part of what last night's Bill Maher take on the Halloween costume correctness was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Pirates offend one-eyed people and you can't dress as a hobo because it makes light of the homeless.
[09:15:04] You can't dress as Quasimodo because it offends hunchbacks. You can't dress as an escaped mental patient. It offends Kanye. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: It's official now. Megyn Kelly's morning program at "NBC" has been cancelled. She seems to be en route to exiting from "NBC News" altogether. The former "Fox News" star had been struggling in the ratings, but her fate was sealed when she made a racial comment during a panel discussion on Tuesday. The push-back from even colleagues at "NBC" was swift and it seems decisive, but did she ever have a chance in trying to change her on-air persona in today's stratified media climate?
Joining me now, "Entertainment Tonight" host Nischelle Turner. Nischelle ...
NISCHELLE TURNER, HOST, "ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT": Hi.
SMERCONISH: ... this will be remembered as her being given her walking papers as a result of a racially insensitive comment. Was it that simple?
TURNER: You know what? I don't think so and that's a good question. I love the question that you led into it. Did she ever have a shot? Because if you remember when the big announcement came that Megyn Kelly was coming over to "NBC" from "Fox", there was immediate and widespread skepticism because what we knew of her at "Fox" was that she was sort of the prosecutorial interviewer.
[09:20:05] She went toe-to-toe, point-for-point. She was very strong and tough in her approach. So to get this announcement and know now she's going to be a morning show host and she should be very sweet and lovable and likeable and girl-next-door because that's what we love in our morning show hosts, right? That was already a, mmm, I don't know.
So I think that she went in kind of behind the eight ball a little bit, but then when all of these kind of snowball things started happening, whether it was the cast of "Will and Grace", Debra Messing, saying, oh God, I regret going on now that I know it's her, or her getting into it with Jane Fonda and then the blackface comment, I just think that she had a struggle going into it.
And people were looking at her with a really pointed eye because we also knew the payday she got, which, by the way, I don't begrudge anybody getting their money. So I'm not -- I don't even really want to talk about money.
SMERCONISH: No. I agree with you on that. Hey, I can illustrate your point. Let me first show a clip of Megyn as she hosted in primetime at "Fox" followed by Megyn as she introduced herself at "NBC".
SMERCONISH: Roll them both.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Congressman should have said ...
MEGYN KELLY, HOST, "NBC NEWS": With respect, let me stop you on your first point. With respect, you don't seem to know what you're talking about because ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think I do Megyn and the other thing is the Department of Justice ...
KELLY: Well, I don't think you do because unlike you apparently, Kirsten (ph), I have read the testimony that was given before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Department ...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: I'm also a little nervous. Bear with me, please. I am so grateful to all of you, that you're here as part of our first audience, you in the studio and you at home as well. As you've heard, we have the entire cast of "Will and Grace" here live, along with the show creator. I know. That's how I feel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Nischelle, the demographics for those two programs, dramatically different, right? It's an ageing white male population ...
SMERCONISH: ... that tunes in in primetime at "Fox". You've got to reach a lot of women mid-morning, many of them of color.
TURNER: Yes. Absolutely. And let me just say, I actually thought she did a really good job when she was at "Fox". I thought she was strong. I've sat down with her and spent a little bit of time, interviewed her as well.
I came away from that even liking her more as a person after interviewing her, but when I heard that she was going to mornings, I automatically said, "I don't think this is going to work," because I didn't look at her as a personality that had a huge following, like you said, women and especially women of color who watch morning television, I didn't think she had that type of following that would translate over to "NBC".
So I already thought that was a huge gamble and that "NBC" was going to take. And if you think about even some of the comments she made while she was at "Fox" saying, you know, Santa Claus and Jesus were white, that automatically had folks turned off. Then, she was coming over and replacing two African American journalists and hosts who hosted that show. I think it was just bad choice after bad choice after mistake after mistake and she certainly didn't help herself with the blackface comments at all.
SMERCONISH: What occurs to me is that -- what occurs to me is that the age of all of America watching one particular show are largely over. You know, I don't think since "Seinfeld" signed off did we all watch one particular show.
SMERCONISH: Time and again, friends will say to me today, "Hey, are you watching such-and-such?" And I've never even heard of it because there's so much out there and we're all in our individual silos.
SMERCONISH: I have an important final question for you though.
SMERCONISH: We love a comeback story. Is she done?
TURNER: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I definitely think that she will show up again. Where, I'm not sure. You know, "Fox" is starting their digital channel. I think it's called "Fox Nation". You know, who knows if she could show up there. There are so many different outlets right now, media outlets, and place to go to have a platform and a voice.
TURNER: She most definitely will be OK and show up again, but in the meantime, she has a good little cushion to sit on while she figures out what's going -- what's going on. I said I wasn't going to talk about money, didn't I? But you know I had to get that in.
SMERCONISH: Nischelle, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it.
TURNER: Absolutely. Thanks, Mike.
SMERCONISH: Let us see what you are saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. What do we have? "You do not get fired over just one thing." Yes. I think you -- you know, I'm looking -- like the headline today of "The Times". Just show me what -- there you go. "Racial Remark Sinks 'NBC' Star Lured From 'Fox'," implying that, uh- oh, because of this incident, it's over. This was in the works, I think, for a long, long time and probably would be better characterized as the straw that broke the camel's back.
Still to come, did a single American county determine the outcome of the 2016 presidential race? And if so, what can we learn from that area as we approach the midterms?
SMERCONISH: So did a single American county determine the outcome of the 2016 presidential election? And if so, what can we learn with the midterms now just 10 days away? I speak of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, where, by the way, both of my parents were born and raised, which had voted Democratic for decades.
In 2016, Trump didn't just flip the county. He won it by more than 26,000 votes. That number provided nearly 60 percent of his winning margin in the entire state. Recall that his electoral college victory hinged on slim margins, totalling just 77,000 and change votes in three swing states: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
So in understanding disaffected residents of Luzerne County, do we unlock the key to Donald Trump's victory? That's the provocative thesis of a new book, "The Forgotten: How the People of One Pennsylvania County Elected Donald Trump and Changed America."
Joining me now is its author, Ben Bradlee Jr. He's a former reporter and editor for "The Boston Globe" who supervised the famous "Spotlight" expose on the Catholic Church.
Ben, are you saying it literally or figuratively that it all came down to Luzerne County?
BEN BRADLEE JR., AUTHOR, "THE FORGOTTEN": Well, good morning, Michael. I think perhaps more figuratively. This is going micro to get macro, if you will.
I, like so many was shocked that a candidate as unusual as Donald Trump got elected president and looking for a different way to write about the story, I found Luzerne County which as you said was traditionally Democratic but surged for Trump in 2016 and created this 60 percent victory margin. And I thought this would be a different way to look at the Trump phenomenon which the mainstream media, let's face it, mostly missed.
SMERCONISH: The title, I think having read the book is very deliberate on your part. In other words it speaks to a state of mind. They feel they've been forgotten. Speak to that.
BRADLEE JR.: Well, and Trump called his constituency, the forgotten people, and I think that struck a chord and resonated with these folks.
They do feel as if they've been isolated. They feel as if they've been marginalized by flat or falling wages. They felt that a dominant liberal culture as personified by Hollywood and network television condescended to them even mocked them.
And they just related to Trump in ways that they did not to Hillary Clinton. They felt listened to. And he just -- he just spoke to them in which -- in ways Hillary did not and many of these were Democrats who crossed over to vote for Trump in the primary in the Republican primary and stayed with them in the general. And they've told me that they didn't leave the party, the Democratic Party left them.
SMERCONISH: Based upon a lot of that what you write about in the forgotten Lou Barletta was elected to Congress. He's now running for the U.S. Senate against Bob Casey in my home state of Pennsylvania. So what can we read into the midterms based on your data and analysis about Barletta and Luzerne County?
BRADLEE JR.: Well, it's interesting Barletta is one of the main characters in my book because in some ways he was Trump before Trump.
Having risen to prominence in 2006 as mayor of Hazleton, where your parents grew up, by spotlight the illegal immigration issue 10 years before Trump did the same thing. So they came together as kindred spirits and Trump recruited Barletta to run against Bob Casey and it looks like he's having a difficult time getting traction, at least if you believe the polls which have him down about 15 points right now.
So there's also redistricting going on in Pennsylvania thanks to the state Supreme Court there, having found that Republicans gerrymandered the congressional districts. So as a result of redistricting it appears that the Democrats are going to pick up four house seats, maybe five. And Barletta looks like he's having a tough slug because he didn't have state wide name recognition being a congressman from Luzerne County. Trump has been in there twice to help him. May come back a third time. But right now it appears that his coat tails aren't going to be long enough.
SMERCONISH: Right but folks would be incorrect to then judge that the Trump constituency has turned its back on the president by virtue of where the Barletta race seems to stand because I don't want to give it all away, Ben, but in the end of the book you go back and revisit this subject with the folks in Luzerne County. They're still standing with their man.
BRADLEE JR.: They are. At least my microcosm of 12 are. Of my -- of my group, 11 of the 12 say that if the 2020 election were to be held tomorrow, they would enthusiastically vote for Trump again. And only one has slipped into the undecided category.
This was before yesterday's events of the Trump zealot being arrested in the bombings case and this may throw a wild card into the midterms.
SMERCONISH: I'm giving your book to my mom. She's a former Miss Hazleton high school.
SMERCONISH: I think she'll love it. Thank you, Ben.
BRADLEE JR.: God bless her. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Let me check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have? "The midterms are shaping up to be closer than previously thought. This is turning out to be a national referendum on Trump. Every vote is crucial."
Danielle, I don't know. Hard to say and so much prognostication in 2016 including mine was wrong. That my message, relative to where it's all headed is simply vote, get out, vote, participate.
I want to remind you to answer the survey question at Smerconish.com today. "Does the president have any obligation to rein in hostile chants at his rallies?"
The results of that at the end of this hour. And still to come, Four Star General Stanley McChrystal is here with the timely message about leadership.
SMERCONISH: What makes a great leader and how do they get to become great leaders? Those are the questions pondered by retired Four Star General Stanley McChrystal who led the U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and the anti-terrorism campaign in Iraq. In the new book that he co-authored "Leaders: Myth and Reality." Profiles of historical leaders from Robert E. Lee to Martin Luther King to Margaret Thatcher.
General McChrystal, thank you so much for being here.
Here's what I thinking as I was reading the book. I'm going to put up on the screen those 13 leaders, those 13 disparate personalities that you profiled. What I wondered is could they switch jobs?
I get that Martin Luther might not understand Einstein's theory of relativity but is the skill set transferable to different areas of responsibility?
GEN. STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. & ISAF FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: Mike, I would say the short answer on our research is no. Leadership is extraordinarily contextual. Of the time of the followers of the skills of the leader at the period in their lives. In fact most leaders can't even pick up from one job, go on to a different one. Like a CEO in one country -- company and be effective in the next.
SMERCONISH: Is the skill set innate or can it be taught, can be it be acquired?
MCCHRYSTAL: Well, that's an interesting question. I think there are traits a person can have that give them advantages but much of leadership must be learned. And the real core of that is the ability to be adaptable to be -- to do what's needed in a given situation.
It's interesting when I was a young soldier I was taught how to lead people into battle but in combat you quickly learn if it's stupid but it works it's not stupid. If you take that to leadership, then the question is sometimes if it's bad leadership but it works, is it bad? And that's what I think the United States and the world is wrestling with right now.
SMERCONISH: Words matter. When we're talking about leaders and qualities of leadership.
MCCHRYSTAL: Words are extraordinarily important. I we see what's happening in the world today. I go back to Maximilien Robespierre. He rose after the French revolution began when the elites had failed French society. There was famine, there was a revolution and this quiet lawyer from Arras who's really introverted and writes most of his statements and speeches out, distributes them. He whips the population into this frenzy towards virtue.
It's all about building a virtuous state. But as he pushes towards it begins to operate for virtue but using terror.
In one five-week period in the summer of 19 -- or 1794 they guillotined 900 people. Sometimes for slanderous news or slandering patriotism. And so what happened was the words whipped people away from the actual beliefs or objectives that they have, towards something that in many cases many short sided and based more on emotion than reason.
SMERCONISH: Is there a modern parallel to what you're saying?
MCCHRYSTAL: Well, I think we -- I think we all have to draw our parallels. I think any of us, enemy leader now, particularly given the capability of information technology, things like Twitter, things like all the other social media can go around what used to be a filter or a buffer of traditional media where people sort of would put a little bit of thought and filter on it. Now you can get it out.
What that gives is a possibility of in very real time inflaming people and as we get inflamed we're all subject to that. We get inflamed about things. Sometimes we communicate faster than we can think and we can do some pretty difficult or pretty terrible things.
SMERCONISH: Well, leadership can be used for ill purpose, right, General?
MCCHRYSTAL: In fact -- in fact that's exactly right.
We talk about good leadership or bad leadership. Good or bad I would say is whether it's intrinsically good it's really effective or not.
There have been some -- the most effective leaders in history have been for negative causes. Abu Musab al Zarqawi we profile in the book he was the terrorist leader of al Qaeda in Iraq that I fought for two and a half years and we killed. But the reality was I left that experience and writing about him since with a deep respect for his ability as a leader, his self discipline, his commitment. It was really world class. And just if we just -- because we disagree with someone's objectives, doesn't mean we should assume they're not going to be pretty effective in motivating people.
SMERCONISH: Well -- and one final observation having read the book power and leadership are not interchangeable. They're separate items.
MCCHRYSTAL: They are. Someone like Boss Tweed in New York City amasses amazing amount of power for extraordinary corrupt purposes and that power was a transaction between people who were also benefitting but real leadership makes us better than we would otherwise be.
Real leadership inspires us. Real leadership doesn't go to the petty parts that exist in all of us. Real leadership makes us stand a little straighter, walk a little further, be a little more generous, and that's what I think we should be talking about right now.
SMERCONISH: General McChrystal, thanks so much for being here.
MCCHRYSTAL: Michael, it's my honor.
SMERCONISH: Still to come your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments like this one.
"Smerconish, usually I can't stand listening. I always thought you were just a liberal trying to be moderate but lately I think I see things the way you do more and more. You haven't changed" -- I was going to say which of the two of us do you think has changed?
Over the course of a program, MARKB, I seem to offend most everybody. All that I ask is that you watch the totality and then make your determinations.
"Does the president have any obligation to rein in hostile chants at his rallies?"
At Smerconish.com this is the final call. Go cast a ballot. I have no idea how this one will turn out but I'm told there's a lot of voting.
Back in a second.
SMERCONISH: So every week we have a different survey question at my Web site at Smerconish.com. During the course of the hour that I'm on, people cast their ballot. I don't see the result until you do.
Here is the question I'm asking today. "Does the president have any obligation to rein in those hostile chants at his rallies?"
Whoa! OK. Look at that result, 15,631 votes cast, that's pretty darn big survey sample size, nothing scientific about it but pretty large. Ninety-six percent of us, I'll say us, say yes. That's the right answer. Take a look at what happened. Yesterday was the day that the pipe bomb suspect is apprehended and that very night he's in Charlotte and this is what transpires.
SMERCONISH: I'm not saying it because it is my network. If they were -- in a different context, they were chanting, you know, FOX sucks or MSNBC sucks, I would saying the same thing. That that moment called I will take General McChrystal's word, for leadership.
And the president blew an opportunity last night for a John McCain moment. No man (ph). Senator Obama is a good man, a family man, trying to do what he thinks is right for the country.
So Mr. President, you can't just read from the prompter and mouth those words. You have got to show us that you mean it and take action. Very easily you could have reined in the crowd, they would have followed his lead, but he is trying to have it both ways to gin up the base in time for the midterm elections. That's what I think.
What else, Catherine (ph), what do we got? Hot show today.
"Smerconish, it is more likely Trump will have a Bill Clinton moment and play the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall Show."
Jeremy, I am old enough to remember the Clinton moment that you are referring to.
What else? Give me another one. Come on, guys. Chop, chop.
"You were wrong once again this week. You try so hard hoping Trump is good. Time to turn your back on him. Everyone must for the good of this country."
Hey, Craig, what are you watching, man? I just said to you as I said in the outset of the program that the Trump -- that the president missed an opportunity. He should have reined in that crowd, but he has spent too much time stoking that audience.
I don't know what more you want from me than to lay it out with that simplicity. What's next?
"What Trump is doing is like yelling fire in a theater."
Dick, I can't argue with that. I mean, to the extent that the president is responsible for having -- look, when I'm -- when I'm on radio or television or writing in print, I'm always thinking that there's a guy like this who's out there. And I have a responsibility to use the privilege of the microphone in a way that's not going to incite someone like this among us.
There's frankly in retrospect no surprise here as to which way this whole thing turned out, and there are many, not just the president, but certainly him, who are not exercising that responsibility with their word choice and they need to. One more if I've got time for it.
It's my favorite part of the show.
"You cannot put a Fox News mentality into a mainstream show. Megyn Kelly was always a disaster waiting to happen."
I can remember when all in the family signed off. I can remember when my parents were excited to watch the final episode of "Mash." I remember "Seinfeld" having its last episode and me being similarly excited about it.
Those days are over. We don't all watch the same television programs today because there's so much choice that's out there, and that was a large part of Megyn Kelly's problem. Don't get me wrong, I think she's a gifted broadcaster.
She said something indefensible this week, I don't know that it was a fireable offense, but my real observation is that people are stratified in what they watch. And so the audience didn't transfer from FOX over to NBC in the mornings.
I'll see you next week.