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U.S. Hits China With Higher Tariffs, China Says It Will Retaliate; Giuliani Reverses Course, Says He's No Longer Going To Ukraine To Press Biden Investigation; Three Tragedies, Three Acts Of Heroism; Florida Governor To Sign Bill Making It Harder For Ex-Felons To Vote; Do Ex-Cons Ever Get A Clean Slate?; Where Have The Teen Summer Jobs Gone?; Are Female Candidates Judged Differently? Aired 9- 10a ET

Aired May 11, 2019 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. You know I like to begin the program with a commentary on the week's biggest headline. This week there wasn't just one. On Monday in the Rose Garden, Tiger Woods was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Tiger was, of course, recently bathed in green after winning the Masters.

Meanwhile, according to "The New York Times," the president was once drowning in red. They released a report on Donald Trump's taxes showing a decade of over $1 billion in business losses. Turns out in 2016 we elected a man touting his business acumen who, on paper, once lost more than any other American.

Sadness came again to the Denver area with a school shooting that killed one and injured eight. For the third time in recent weeks, it wasn't Congress or a SWAT team that stopped a mass killer, but rather in a style reminiscent of Flight 93, it was an American hero, this time a student who fatally intervened to end the madness.

Kellyanne Conway was accused of violating the Hatch Act again. One of the TV appearances noted in the ethics complaint was right here on this program. I remember I was told to avoid partisan politics in my questioning of her and I did. She then went there.

Joe Biden continues to lead the Democratic field. In a new poll, he has a commanding 32 point lead over his nearest competitor Bernie Sanders. The prominence of the former Veep's campaign caused President Trump to give him a new moniker and Rudy Giuliani to pack his bags for Ukraine in search of dirt on Hunter Biden's past business dealings.

Meanwhile, Starbucks getting more attention from the "Game of Thrones" than Howard Schultz' presidential campaign. While a misplaced latte a captivated fans of the Khaleesi, the would be presidential Independent has been off the campaign trail reportedly recovering from back issues. The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold AG Bill Barr in contempt. Many Democrats are upset about the lack of the release of the fully redacted Mueller report, notwithstanding that none have taken the opportunity to read the less redacted version that's been made available for their inspection. Five Republicans have done so.

And it was a Republican senator from North Carolina, Richard Burr, who subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to appear in front of a Senate committee. If that happens, it would mean the Senate will again do something that Robert Mueller did not do and that is hear sworn testimony from the president's namesake. Mueller never interviewed Don Jr. about the infamous Trump Tower meeting. House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler also announced that Bob Mueller won't testify next week.

I say forget Don Jr. or Don McGahn. When the Special Counsel finally breaks his silence, we will learn more about his fundamental decision not to decide on obstruction due to Mueller's concern that the president would not be able to defend himself for charges that cannot be brought while he's in office.

The president doubled tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports. The move does not impact goods already close to our shores and so there's still time to put a deal together. Whether this is for real or part of the "Art of the Deal" remains to be seen.

Yesterday brought news that the president is taking control of the 4th of July, moving the site of the Washington fireworks and planning to address the nation. No word on whether Sean Spicer will return to the White House to estimate crowd size.

And finally, late last night word that Giuliani's trip to Ukraine will not take place which is good news for Robert Mueller. It means he won't have to investigate Ukrainian meddling post-2020.

I want to know what you think on this issue at right now. The week's survey question is as follows. Is the president's trade war with China a winning political issue for him?

Joining me now to discuss it all, investigative reporter at the "L.A. Times" Del Quentin Wilber, "New York Times" congressional correspondent Julie Hirschfeld Davis. Julie, start with the trade war. Politically speaking, assess the dynamics.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean so far we have not seen Donald Trump take a political hit from this trade war. In fact, what we see is that, you know, it's quite popular with American voters to be seen as taking it to China, being tough on China. The big question really though is these tariffs are starting to really hurt, notwithstanding the president's enthusiasm for them and saying he loves tariffs. Farmers don't love tariffs. Consumers, when they start to pay higher prices for products, they're not going to love the tariffs.

And I think, you know, it all may start to hit in very -- at a very inopportune time in the -- in the election cycle and so the big question is can the president maintain his popularity with his base as the effects on consumers of these tariffs really kick in and that's a really big unknown. It's not something I think the president is really worrying about, but I think it's something in his popularity with his base as the effects on consumers of these tariffs really kick in and that's a really big unknown.

[09:05:01] It's not something I think the president is really worrying about, but I think it's something that some of his political advisors are worried about and certainly Democrats see it as an opportunity to really, you know, draw a distinction between themselves and the president where it comes to their approach on trade and they are going to really point out, I think, some of the pain that people are feeling from the tariffs as the -- as the election approaches if that continues to be the approach that the president takes.

SMERCONISH: Del, we have a graphic that shows some of the products that will be impacted. Julie's newspaper, in a lead editorial today, says, hey, in the end, Americans, you're the ones who are going to pay for this. speak to the trade war.

DEL QUENTIN WILBER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, LA TIMES: Well, you know, Julie makes a really good point about how we don't -- you know, we don't pay -- the Chinese don't pay the tariffs, right? This has -- Trump has consistently gone out and said China is going to pay the tariffs. They're going to add all this money into our coffers, but it's American consumers who are going to end up paying more and that's going to be interesting politically down the line, how that affects things.

Eli Stokols of the "LA Times" did a fascinating story where he went down, interviewed a bunch of farmers who, despite being crimped by the tariffs and the trade war, actually are like still really supportive of Trump and it's an issue that Democrats aligned with him on. So it's really going to be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next few months and into the critical election period.

SMERCONISH: Julie, the president was on a Twitter tirade as I was coming on air today. I think 42 retweets at last count. Many of them focused on Don Jr. and I'll call the Mueller residual issues. Will you speak to the prospect of Donald Trump Jr. being hauled before a Senate committee? And by the way, as I noted in my opening, offering sworn testimony which is something that he didn't do at the request of Bob Mueller.

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Right. Well, I mean I think we may be up to more like 60 retweets at this point, but he's definitely -- he's definitely on a tear. I mean, it's very clear to see, both from the sort of tweet storm this morning and from his reaction earlier in the week, that this prospect that his son might be subpoenaed and forced to appear before the Congress and, you know, to add insult to injury that the person issuing the subpoena was a Republican senator really bothers President Trump and there are a few reasons why.

One is we already know that anything that affects him personally or his family, those tend to be the things that, you know, stick in his craw the worst, more so than any political liability that he might face. The idea of sort of a member of his family having to endure this to him is very offensive.

But secondly, to your point, it could be very substantial. I mean we know that Donald Trump Jr. was involved in this Trump Tower meeting, was involved in some of these campaign conversations that Mueller looked at that, you know, the congressional committees investigating Russia's interference have been, you know, probing pretty deeply and he has a lot that he could say that might be significant if he is forced to appear under oath.

So I think there's, you know, there's the family sensitivity that the president has, but also a real worry about, if he is compelled to appear, what Donald Trump Jr. might be forced to admit to.

SMERCONISH: Del, Rudy Giuliani has apparently unpacked his bags, will not be headed to the Ukraine, at least not at this moment, but it's a sign I think of a -- of a growing concern perhaps on the part of the White House about a Joe Biden candidacy. I've got any number of surveys that I could put on the screen that show Biden far ahead of the pack. Assess that issue if you would.

WILBER: Well, you know, many reporters have dug into this and my (ph) White House sources who say that Biden is like Trump's biggest concern right now. He's very nervous about Biden's political strength that maybe hurt -- you know, stealing some voters from him in the Midwest, the working class voters that were so instrumental to Trump's win. And so they're going to try to do everything they can to knock him off his block a little bit to try to weaken Biden going into the primaries and then the general election and this is part of it.

Like they want to -- I mean this story in Ukraine has been -- was largely debunked by "Bloomberg News" in a fascinating story just a couple days ago where they went and interviewed these prosecutors and Giuliani wants to go over and spark more investigation of this company that Joe Biden's son Hunter was on the board of, but the timelines don't work out. And so a lot of it's like throwing up chaff, right?

Like to try to distract and, you know, to weaken a candidate and that really does speak to Trump's kind of concern, but it also speaks to Trump's, you know, political savvy in that he's already gaming out the system well before Democratic voters have even cast a ballot in the primaries.

SMERCONISH: Julie, final word on the Ukraine issue if you would.

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Well, I mean, again, this is an instance where the president and his -- in this case his personal lawyers seem pretty willing to use their influence to try to, you know, either start an investigation or make sure that an investigation doesn't end into one of the president's political opponents.

[09:10:08] And Rudy Giuliani was pretty upfront about what his object of this trip was going to be. Now, that is off for now, but I definitely think that Del's right. This is about trying to define Biden before he can be defined by the voters themselves. This is about trying to cut him down and I think, not incidentally, this is about the president saying you're going to involve my kids, you're going to involve my family in this whole massive investigations that he portrays as a political hoax, OK, I'm going to go after your family too.

SMERCONISH: Julie, well done. Del, thank you as always. Appreciate both of you being here.

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Thanks, Michael.

WILBER: Thanks for having us.

SMERCONISH: Want to know what you think. Go to Answer this week's survey question. Is the president's trade war with China a winning political issue for him? Results at the end of the hour. Here's some of what you're thinking via Facebook. What do we have?

"How about those 25 percent tariffs on everything? Will Make America Great Again nation be mad at Donald J. Trump for increasing the price on everything at Walmart?" Hey, Keri, you know, an observation from Del Wilber was that there are farmers who, even though they're the ones being adversely impacted already, are still standing firm with the president. He uses it, the president, as an issue to portray his Democratic opponents as being weak where he's standing up to China.

My take? It's all dependent on the economy. If the economy takes a turn as a result of this, then all of a sudden it will have been a great political liability. Go vote at

Up ahead, three recent shootings prevented from being more deadly by three fatal acts of bravery. When a gunman attacks, is it best to fight back? What's the best plan?

And he was the champ of the WWE. He also spent nine years in prison. I'll talk to Hassan "MVP" Assad about the current battle over ex-felon voting rights in his home state of Florida and whether ex-cons ever get a clean slate.




SMERCONISH: Just in the past two weeks, a 60 year old woman put herself in between a gunman and her rabbi in a California synagogue, a 21 year old student rushed a shooter at a Charlotte University and a high school student lunged at one of the gunmen in Colorado. Three shootings, three fatal acts of bravery. More and more, this threat of heroism is tying together mass shootings, the people who make split- second decisions to thwart the gunman often giving their lives in the process.

Historically, the emphasis for limiting deaths has been on drills, more security, arming teachers even, but should there also be more training in teaching people how to fight back

Joining me now is John Curnutt. He's the Assistant Director of ALERRT Center, which stands for Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training. Mr. Curnutt, not do we need to teach more about confrontation?

JOHN CURNUTT, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, ALERRT: Well, I think we need to lay out people's options so that they can make the choice given that everyone's situation is going to be a little bit different given their proximity to a threat once that threat is made known to them. So we provide these options. The farther away you are, yes, try to get away. Try to avoid being involved in the problem, but when you can't, what are the steps that you can take? If you can barricade yourself, if you can deny the attacker access to you, that's great, but unfortunately there are people that are put in the seemingly unwinnable situation of they have no other options.

So in those cases, we tell people, we remind them, you have a right to defend yourself. You absolutely have that right. It's not something that I give to you or somebody else gives to you. It's yours already, but that doesn't automatically mean that you have the ability and that's something that probably some people need to work on more. But as we've seen in these last string of shootings, people are put in these uncomfortable situations and doing something -- you're not helpless. Doing something can matter and did matter to many, many people that benefited from these brave acts.

SMERCONISH: Do you think we can all be taught to fight back or is there some innate aspect that you are either a fight or a flight person?

CURNUTT: Well, I think it's both. So I think there are some people that are predisposed to do one or the other. I also know that with a proper amount of training that there are some people that can be created more capable, you know, become more capable to do the things that they know they need to do or want to do, but these are incredibly difficult decisions to make under that type of pressure. But I do believe that there are a few people among us, no matter where we go, there's always one or two and sometimes, oftentimes that's all it takes.

So I like to share the message with everybody, but I accept that they're not all going to see it the same way and they're not going to react the same way as everybody else and they don't have to. We just want them to know what their options are and let them know they need to choose something and they need to do something. What they do will matter in a very profound way in these last few shootings.

SMERCONISH: My colleague, Brooke Baldwin, had a remarkable interview with a 12 year old. His name is Nate Holley. Can we run that clip? I want to pose a question.


NATE HOLLEY, 6TH GRADER WHO SURVIVED SCHOOL SHOOTING: I was hiding in the corner and they were right outside the door. I had my hand on a metal baseball bat just in case because I was going to go down fighting if I was going to go down.


SMERCONISH: I wondered, as I watched that interview in real-time, if there's a perception that's taken hold among us, even a 12 year old that, hey, I need to be in the game myself because so many have died in these mass shootings so this is what I'm going to have to do. Quick reaction from you.

CURNUTT: Yes, sir. I agree with that and that's not something that we have to tell somebody or we're making him come to that conclusion. He arrived at that conclusion himself because he's in that situation and he's sizing it up and even at 12 years old, bless his heart, he's already figuring out that something's going to happen to me or I'm going to take charge and make something happen to the situation.

[09:20:02] It's going to own me or I'm going to own it. And that sense of ownership that people -- that he's kind of describing here is I'm going to do everything I can to shape this outcome better for myself and those around me because everything is at stake at that point and that's unfortunate. Telling somebody they have a right to defend themselves is not putting them in a worse situation than they're already in. It's actually taking steps towards improving a really bad situation. The worst thing you could do is do nothing.

SMERCONISH: That's a good -- a good message on which to end. Mr. Curnutt, thank you so much for your expertise.

CURNUTT: Thank you for having me on your show. Take care.

SMERCONISH: Up ahead, to wrestling fans, he's former WWE champ MVP, but as a youth, he served nine years in prison after robbing a cruise ship. MVP, also known as Hassan Assad, joins me live to discuss whether ex-cons can ever get a clean slate.


SMERCONISH: Do ex-cons ever get a clean slate? Consider voting. More than 6 million Americans have been disenfranchised because of their criminal records and the state with the biggest number, 1.4 million? Florida. Last November, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment to reverse that policy. They did it across party lines with 64 percent support.

But the state's GOP-led legislature has now passed a bill that will first require ex-felons to pay all financial obligations like court mandated fines, fees and restitution. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis says he'll sign it.

[09:25:01] Opponents liken it to a poll tax because of prisoners' financial hardships and estimate that it will block a half million from being able to vote.

My next guest brings a unique perspective to this topic having spent nearly a decade in prison. As a teenager known as Alvin Burke Jr., he committed grand theft auto, armed robbery, sold drugs. At age 16, he robbed a cruise ship casino of $81,000 with two gun-toting cohorts. When Burke was caught, he was sentenced to 18.5 years, served nine. While there was influenced by Muslim inmates, changed his name to Hassan Assad. Got out in 1999 and found a new career. WWE wrestling fans know him as Montel Vontavious Porter, MVP. He was U.S. Champion in 2007 and 2009. Hassan Assad joins me now.

Hassan, am I right that up until now, you've never been permitted to vote and will you exercise the franchise?

HASSAN "MVP" ASSAD, PRO WRESTLER: I lost my right to vote because I was convicted of a felony at the age of 16 before I ever had a chance to exercise it and I absolutely intend to exercise my right to vote to participate in the democratic process.

SMERCONISH: You say that voting disenfranchisement is just one area of, quote, "discrimination" against those who've paid their debt to society. Explain.

ASSAD: Well, you have approximately 20 million unincarcerated convicted felons in the United States, give or take, and when you're released from prison, you want to gain access to society, you want to work, you want to find a place to live, but if you're a convicted felon, we have a segment of our society where you are legally discriminated against. Job application, have you been convicted of a felony. If you answer yes, you could be excluded, as I was, from gaining employment because of a bad decision that you made.

And our society says that when you go to prison, you pay your debt to society. However, once you're released from prison, you never seem to ever pay that debt completely because society looks at you as a convicted felon.

SMERCONISH: I know from your TED talk, which by the way I highly recommend ...

ASSAD: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: ... that when you got out, you applied for employment at a call center. You thought you were going to get the gig, but it didn't come to pass.

ASSAD: Right. And it's funny because I scored -- the administrator said that I scored higher than anyone she had ever seen and she was talking to me about potentially a managerial position and a future with the company and shortly thereafter, a couple of men took me to a separate room and explained to me that in spite of my score in the aptitude test that because I was a convicted felon that that company wouldn't be hiring me. And the woman went from praising me and adoring me to not speaking to me at all and I was escorted off the property shortly thereafter because I convict -- I was convicted of a felony.

So there I was trying to reenter society, to get gainful employment, to pay taxes, to do the things that someone who has paid their debt to society does, but I wasn't allowed to because of a crime I committed, because of a bad decision I made when I was a teenager.

SMERCONISH: I think viewers will be interested, those who don't already know MVP's persona, will be interested to know that the person who took a -- took a shot on you, who gave you that opportunity, was Vince McMahon.

ASSAD: Yes. I always say I have a huge level of respect for Vince McMahon because when society wouldn't give me an opportunity to earn the minimum wage, Vince McMahon took an opportunity, took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity to become known to millions of people throughout the world in his wrestling empire, "World Wrestling Entertainment." And during my time there, I used that platform to speak to juvenile delinquents, to speak to -- I was actually, at one point, the spokesperson for the National Guard Youth Foundation and I used that platform to show people that convicted felons aren't always going to be bad.

I did everything I could to show that I was socially redeemed. I did everything I could, volunteered my time as often as I could, to show that, you know, if you are a convicted felon and you work hard enough that you can overcome that, but I just think that we need to have a conversation in our society that changes the way that we look at people who have been to prison.

It seems to be politicized right away. When Bernie Sanders recently talked about people in prison having the right to vote, immediately that was equated to rapists and murderers. Well, everybody who's in prison isn't a rapist or a murderer. You have people who committed crimes that are nonviolent. You have people who -- you know, if you've been at a cocktail party and you had one drink too many, that could change your life forever. You could become a convicted felon. So everyone isn't a violent offender and I think that's not fair that once you've been to prison and you've served your time, you should be able to participate.

It's my take that your right to vote should be an inalienable right.


If you get sent to prison, you've lost your right to participate in society. So you lose your ability to vote but not your right. As soon as you're released and you're back in society, you should be able to continue voting.

Part of the problem -- what's wrong with Florida, specifically is that by two to one margin, Florida voters voted to restore the rights of felons. And as you described along party lines, legislation was added so that if you don't pay your court costs then you effectively are still excluded from voting.

What a lot of people don't know is that in the state of Florida, in '98 there was a constitutional amendment that mandated that all Florida courts are funded by fines and fees. So, in many cases, judges aren't even imposing these, county clerks are. So, you essentially are excluded from being able to participate in the process, because you can't afford to.

The amendment was very clear. Once you finish serving your time in prison, parole or probation, your right to vote would be restored. But now, if you're a low level cocaine trafficker, you can be sentenced -- you can have fines imposed on you to the tens -- from the tens to the hundreds of thousands of dollars per count which would mean that potentially you could never afford to vote again.

And when you take into consideration in the state of Florida that there are dead collectors who are allowed to add up to 20 percent fees to these costs, it's exorbitant. Whereas the idea was to help convicted felons be able to participate in the Democratic process, this legislation goes out of its way to exclude those people.

SMERCONISH: Hassan, I really appreciate your perspective. The Ted Talk is an eye-opener. I hope people will Google it. Watch it. I'll put it in my Twitter feed.

ASSAD: Thank you very much, Michael. Thank you for having me on. I'm a big fan. Keep doing what you do.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, sir.

I want to remind everybody to answer the survey question at this hour.

Is the president's trade war with China a winning political issue for him?

Still to come, growing up I worked countless summer jobs as did many of my fellow teenagers. So why is the number of those who do down nearly 50 percent from those days?

And are the female presidential contenders encountering a different kind of scrutiny than their male counterparts when it comes to being -- quote -- unquote -- "likeable"?

Plus, I was as nervous as hell. I want to show you my acting debut for charity last night playing Howard Beale in the famous scene from the 1976 film "Network."


PETER FINCH AS HOWARD BEALE: I was mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!

SMERCONISH AS HOWARD BEALE: I'm mad as hell and I'm not --




SMERCONISH: Where have all of the summer jobs for teens gone? When I was in high school, I worked a wide range of jobs, dishwasher at an ice cream parlor.

It was called Phillip (ph) Arthur's. Newspaper delivery man, that was for the old bulletin. McDonald's maintenance man. Pool and patio furniture delivery person. It was for Mt. Lake Pool and Patio. There it is with my buddy Mike (INAUDIBLE) Jr.

I was a mower of lawns. Heck, when I was younger, I did magic shows at five bucks a pop. I had every conceivable summer job.

One summer when I was in college, a buddy and I, Dave McFarland (ph), we painted street address numbers on curbs in local municipalities. We then solicited $1.00 donations using a flyer that we hung on the doorknob.

So I was surprised, disappointed, actually that my high school years were the heyday of teen summer jobs. In the summer of '78, 60 percent of teens were working or looking for work. Last summer, 35 percent.

What the heck happened? No, they're not lazier. They're not a generation of malingerers. An article awhile back in "The Atlantic" disproves that hypothesis and found several other factors in play.

More emphasis on education. Teens are spending more time in school and taking more summer classes.

Competition for jobs. There are more low-skilled immigrant workers and older retirees who are now competing for the kinds of jobs that teenagers used to do. And with minimum wage on the rise, employers are disincentivized from hiring the teens.

They are instead going by the wayside. There's also been a cultural shift of the past few decades in the increased competition to get into college the cultural norm is shifting away from things like life guarding and retail toward not just classes but unpaid internships and volunteerism. Maybe I'm just nostalgic, but I feel like a crucial part of American teenage life has now gone missing.

Social media reaction continues to come in. Make sure that you're going to my Twitter page and my Facebook page. Katherine, what do we got?

Smerconish, you worked at the Golden Arches. I was in the French frying legion at Burger King. I couldn't wait to work and make money, had an afternoon paper route at 13. Kids today look down at these jobs. There are jobs for teens, but it starts with desire and motivation.

Hey, Hammer, yes, I did. Maintenance man at McDonald's and proud of it. But the data says that maybe a factor but it's that they're destructed with requirements, educational requirements, what's going to look good on their resume, solving world hunger instead of flipping burgers like we did.

Still to come, an unprecedented number of women are running for president but are they getting judged differently than their male counterparts? What's up with the likability factor?



SMERCONISH: So, what do you notice about these descriptions from media outlets, Joe Biden said to have crossover appeal. Bernie Sanders, immune to intimidation. Pete Buttigieg, very authentic. Meanwhile, Kamala Harris has been described as hard to define. Amy Klobuchar, mean. Elizabeth Warren, wonky.

Are women harmed by so called likability standards? My next guest thinks so. She wrote this provocative essay for "The New York Times." "Men Invented Likability. Guess Who Benefits."

Joining me now is its author Claire Bond Potter. She's a professor of history at the New School. Professor, thanks for being here.

I paid close attention to the reaction of your "Times" essay. Diogenes posting a comment and I'll just summarize it. It says, wait a minute, Bill Clinton was more likable and successful than Hillary because when he spoke, he focused on you. He smiled. You began to think he was talking to you and nobody else in the room.

Is it more than just sexism? Or are some people just better retail politicians?

CLAIRE BOND POTTER, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, THE NEW SCHOOL: Well, obviously, some people are better retail politicians, Michael. But in the name, women find it almost impossible to break into the category of likability.

In fact, I would challenge anyone in the audience to find one female candidate in this election cycle who has been defined as likable, whereas numerous male candidates are defined as likable.

SMERCONISH: The beer test. Is that inherently synonymous with likability? When we refer to, which one would you like to have a beer with? Is that code for what you and I are discussing?

POTTER: Oh, absolutely. And I think we have to think about it in terms of, you know, who traditionally hangs out in bars, right? Blue collar men. I mean, that's -- that's really the target audience for a certain candidate like Joe Biden that the Democratic Party is trying to woo right now.


But I also think it goes a little further which is gender in general becomes a way of describing candidates. So if you look at, for example, Matt Stevens' article in "The New York Times" yesterday about Andrew Yang -- Andrew Yang is being described as too nice. OK? So he's a man.

Why is being too nice not very likable? And you don't have to get too deep in the article for one of his Asian-American supporters to say, well, actually Asian-American men are often seen as very feminine. So there's something about the feminine that really excludes candidates from the circle of likability.

SMERCONISH: There's a part of this that reminds me as my days as a trial lawyer, when if I had a female client, if I had a female witness, sometimes, I was loathe to have a jury stacked with women, because women can be very harsh judges of females. President Trump won more than half of white females in the last election against Hillary Clinton. Will you speak to that?

POTTER: Yes, I certainly will. I think women can be very hard on other women. I would like to note that over 90 percent of black women, actually, did vote for Hillary Clinton. So something in particular about white women who are measuring women against the criteria that is almost exclusively male.

But I would sort of add to that, I think women, in general, whether they are sort of voting for a women candidate or whether they're voting exclusively against a woman candidate, are very much on the defensive in society. I mean, one of the things I've seen as people have responded to my article is a great many women being very defensive about how they themselves are positioned in society. I think that's why it hit such a nerve.

SMERCONISH: Should likability matter at all? When you and I spoke on my Sirius XM radio program, more than one caller said, boy, when I need a surgeon, I could care less if they're likable. I just want to make sure they're competent and know what they're doing.

POTTER: Yes, well, likability came into politics really in 1952 in the Eisenhower campaign. And Dwight Eisenhower was the first presidential candidate to hire an advertising agency to promote him as likable. And you really see likability becoming a criteria when television begins to take over as the medium where candidates are promoting themselves.

So likability is important in terms of how you're shopping your narrative. And you really see campaign managers saying by the 1960s nobody is go together vote for somebody they don't like. So likability is absolutely important. The question is, how do we expand the category to include women?

SMERCONISH: Professor, well done. Thank you for being here.

POTTER: Thank you very much for having me, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. What do we got, from Facebook?

Absolutely sexist. When will we ever get past this way of judging women. Yet people who voted for Trump. Who could have more flaws than Trump.

How about my last point with Professor Potter which is maybe likability shouldn't come into it at all because the most competent among us who could be great chief executives including of the nation get bypassed in the process. Actually perhaps that was your point.

We'll give you the results of the survey questions. I hope you voted at

Is the president's trade war with China a winning political issue for him? Still ahead, wait till you see this, last night at a charter benefit, I did my best to re-create the classic news anchor movie scene from "Network." How did I do? Well, here's how rehearsal went.


SMERCONISH: I want all of you to get up out of your chairs right now. Go to the window, stick it outside -- stick it outside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So even if you skipped half of it because you got lost, no one's going to know as long as you get that line out at the end.

SMERCONISH: OK. Just tell them to thank the Academy. I don't think there'll be any awards (INAUDIBLE) have to take place.




SMERCONISH: I certainly don't consider myself to be an actor, but to benefit charity, OK, I'll go outside my comfort zone. That's what I did last night to support the Philadelphia Theatre Company competing with other local luminaries and leaders and professional actors here in Philly, re-creating iconic scenes from pop culture. I, of course, chose the famous speech by Howard Beale from the 1976 film "Network" delivered by actor Peter Finch who won an Oscar posthumously for this role.


FINCH: I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore.


SMERCONISH: All right. Brace yourself. Here's my effort. Roll it.


SMERCONISH: You've got to say I'm a human being, god damn it. My life has value. And so I want you -- no. I want you to get up now out of your seat. Now, get up, please, out of your seat. In fact, I want all of you to get up out of your seats now!

And I -- I want you to repeat after me and say, I'm mad as hell and I'm not going take it anymore!

CROWD: I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!



SMERCONISH: Bryan Cranston has nothing to worry about on Broadway, right? Thank you, Paige Price and the Philadelphia Theatre Company. That was great fun, but I was scared to death. Drained of all my energy backstage. I was so darn nervous.

Time to see how you responded to the survey question at

Is the president's trade war with China a winning political issue for him?

Survey says, 9,239 votes and counting. The yeses, 28 percent, the nos, 72 percent. I wonder if he's watching this morning.

Here are some of what you thought during the course of the broadcast. What do we have?

Smerconish, it's a huge winning issue. The confrontation of China and the defense of the southern border are issues every Democrat loses a great deal of ground on.


More importantly though this isn't about politics, this is about America. If China wins, kiss liberty goodbye.

Honorary American, I think it's all depended upon about the economy. I get the perception of the president -- by the way, probably doing what others have not done in his role, which is stand up to the theft of intellectual property. But if the economy should take a turn, it will become a big negative.

It remains to be seen. The jury is still out.

What else do we have? Well, Michael, you've done it again. I was among those who laughed at the prospect of restoring voting rights to ex-felons. Now I'm completely open to the conversation.

Hey, Mac, I feel the same way that you do and here's my thought. If they're all like MVP, if they're all like Hassan Assad, give them the right to vote. I also am mindful of his point that we warehouse inmates, we don't rehabilitate. And then we're surprised by the rate of recidivism.

One more, quickly, if I've got time.

Ex-cons need a clean record for a long time before they should expect folks to trust them again. It is part of the cross they must bear to fully understand the need to change for the better.

But how long, Ann? How much time needs to go off the clock? I mean I think he raises legitimate issues in terms of the way in which they're discriminated against in housing, employment, and credit, and voting.

Join me for my American Life in Columns tour. I will not be acting. Washington, D.C., June 3rd, Denver, Colorado, June 23rd, see you in Sunnyvale, October 1.

You can catch up with us any time at CNN Go and On Demand. I'll see you next week.