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A Game Of Inches; Could Trump Be Vulnerable On Economy?; Warren Inspiring Both Enthusiasm And Worry; U.K. Ads Banned For Gender Stereotyping; After Fighting To Visit Israel, Rep. Tlaib Rejects Invitation; The Politics Behind Rep. Tlaib's Fight To Visit Israel; Should You Boycott A Business Based On Politics?. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired August 17, 2019 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. The Rocket Man had a hell of a week. Frenzy, chaotic, turbulent. All words used to describe the last two weeks in the life of President Donald Trump and for good reason. You know the laundry list.

He retweeted a guy who implied that Jeffrey Epstein didn't die by suicide, but was actually killed by the Clintons, retweeted that the FBI ignored investigating the Parkland shooter and the convicted sex abuser Larry Nassar because they were too busy investigating him.

He posed for what seemed like an intemperate photo in the aftermath of the El Paso shooting with an infant who was orphaned in the attack. Meanwhile, his new Citizenship and Immigration Services director Ken Cuccinelli was mocked for modifying the Statute of Liberty poem. The Mooch abandoned him, suggesting that his former boss is not playing with a full deck and that's just at home.

Internationally speaking, the president has laid low on unrest in Hong Kong, has largely ignored missile launches in North Korea and of course urged Israel to deny admission to two sitting U.S. members of Congress. His trade war with China has caused shockwaves in international markets. The Dow dropped 800 points spurring speculation that we are at the beginning of a recession.

Undeterred, the president raised the possibility of purchasing Greenland. Like I said frenzy, chaotic, turbulent. And by the way, he's been on vacation this past week, but there's something else that happened that provides some necessary context to the president's prognosticators of political doom. Thursday night, he spoke in New Hampshire and as he tweeted, he set an attendance record claiming that he bested an attendance record previously set by Elton John, not the first time that he's compared himself to Sir Elton.

According to the Manchester Fire Department, we checked, 11,500 Trump loyalists packed the SNHU arena to capacity and 8,000 or 9,000 more watched on the jumbotron outside. So what does that tell us? It tells us that maybe none of the laundry list items from the seemingly S-show (ph) week that the president has had have harmed his standing with the base. To them, the items that worked Trump critics into a lather continue be noise, fake news and their continued support is confirmation of what the president once said about shooting somebody on Fifth Avenue.

But is there something that really could jeopardize his standing with supporters? Some data now suggests the answer is yes and that his Achilles heel is the economy. Remember the president's approval number has never been above water. Unlike his predecessors, he's never moved the needle above the 50 percent threshold, this despite the fact that he's enjoyed a robust economy. He seems to be tapped out in the mid- 40s which makes his re-election a game of inches.

And what would happen to his standing if the economy were to take a tumble? My hunch is that he'd be back to playing second fiddle to the real Rocket Man.

I want to know what you think. Go to my website this hour at and answer the question. Would an economic downturn cause President Trump's base to abandon him?

The economy is also a key subject raised in a new swing voter focus group. It was conducted in Minnesota comprised of people who flipped from Obama to Trump and who switched from Romney to Hillary Clinton. Joining me now is Rich Thau. He's the CEO of Engagious. Rich, set the stage. Who are these people and how do you approach this?

RICH THAU, CEO, ENGAGIOUS: Michael, these are people who voted for Obama and then Trump and then Romney and then Clinton. So they moved either from right to left or left to right between the last two presidential elections and what we did was we recruited them through a random process. They are people who lived in a Edina, Minnesota outside the Twin Cities and they agreed to spend two hours with us sharing their opinions about the candidates and the campaign.

SMERCONISH: And Minnesota much in the news for a whole variety of reasons, not the least of which is that Ilhan Omar is from Minnesota, getting a lot of headlines this week, but Minnesota is also a state that Republicans haven't won since 1972 and Donald Trump has it on his wish list. So what's the big takeaway from swing voters in Minnesota?

THAU: Well, the big takeaway from swing voters is that when it comes to the economy, they think that the president is basically going to ride the wave of how the economy is performing. So if the economy does well, then he'll do well. If the economy doesn't do well, then he's not going to do well and that's a real vulnerability that he faces.

[09:05:01] SMERCONISH: I've got a short clip from a woman speaking to you, Rich. I'm going to roll it and then you can comment. Play it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that we were already getting better with Obama and Trump came in and it stayed pretty much status quo. I think it stayed the same for us. So it hasn't gone down, which is good, but he hasn't done anything to increase my wage. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: The president won't want to hear that. I mean, that woman is saying, hey, she's riding on Obama's coattails.

THAU: Well, that's the challenge actually that the president faces. I asked people in this focus group straight up how many of you have seen an increase in your wages since Trump became president and only one person out of 11 said that he had and that's a real challenge that he faces. Also, there were a couple other things. Basically the respondents said to us if the economy turns before the election, they're going to blame the president. If their prices go up because of tariffs, they're going to blame the president.

Because there's no health care plan they see coming from the president, he's vulnerable on that and also they don't see him securing Social Security before the election and that's a concern for them as well. So there are all sorts of economy slash financial issues that the president faces as challenges going into this election.

SMERCONISH: OK. I'm hearing about wages. I'm hearing about health care. I'm hearing about concerns over Social Security. What about the impact of this trade war that's now playing itself out?

THAU: Well, the really interesting thing here is that a lot of these respondents in Edina, Minnesota didn't think that trade necessarily affected them. I asked them on a zero to 10 scale, how much does does trade policy affect you and the scores were like in the threes. They were -- it was very low, but the thing is they are vulnerable and they know they're vulnerable to increasing prices and that's what the president has to watch out for. If prices rise for consumer products before the election and those are pegged to the tariffs, then he's got a real challenge on his hands.

SMERCONISH: OK. So I'm hearing that the president is vulnerable relative to the economy. There's an old political adage, at least in Philly, that you can't beat somebody with nobody, so let's talk about who's on the other side of the aisle. You had some interesting findings in Minnesota about the perception of this split in the Democratic Party between the most progressive and the more moderate forces. Speak to that.

THAU: Well, so we showed snippets from the last presidential debate to our 11 swing voters in the Edina and they heard a lot of commentary from the more progressive people who were running and the proposals that they put forward and when I asked them their reaction to these comments from the candidates they said to us that it sounded unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky, a pipedream.

These are actual comments that these respondents said to us. They think it's just completely unrealistic that you're going to just wipe away student debt or that you're going to make health care free or just going to give it to (ph) immigrants. These are things that people just cannot abide and it's unrealistic.

Then what we did is we showed them snippets from the candidates who were criticizing the progressives and those comments were much more in line with what these respondents in the focus group believed. The challenge, though, is that those moderates were not particularly well known. So they weren't able really to think that those candidates were all that viable. So you have this yin and yang thing going on between progressives who are known, but not necessarily believed and then moderates who are believed, but they're not terribly well known.

SMERCONISH: You remind me that I was -- I was sitting at the CNN debates in Detroit for back-to-back nights and I think in my Twitter feed at one point I said, well, these are a number of comments playing very well in this hall among partisans. I'm not so sure they play well in a general election and I was thinking of people like those in Edina. Hey, Rich, thank you so much for coming back. I'm fascinated with your work and I appreciate it.

THAU: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: 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? "Just because you are promoting an economic downturn doesn't make it real. Horrified that any person would wish this on America."

Hey, Tanya, who are you talking about? I'm not wishing an economic downturn on America. I'm sitting here as an analyst asking the question of whether the president's Achilles heel because thus far nothing has impacted his standing with his base. That's why I went through the whole litany of these supposed S-show (ph) incidents of the last 10 days, but I'm asking would the economy be different than all of this? Greenland, in the end, it's a joke. Who cares? But the economy, that could change his political fortune. That's the thesis.

I want to know what you think. Got to my website at and answer this question. Would -- notice how I said would -- an economic downturn cause President Trump's base to abandon him?

[09:10:03] Up ahead, her poll numbers are booming, her fundraising is healthy, her catchphrases are catching on. So why is Elizabeth Warren also making Democratic voters anxious?

And why was this car ad pulled for this seemingly innocuous shot of a woman on a bench with a baby? I'll explain.


SMERCONISH: In the crowded Democratic field, Elizabeth Warren is the candidate on the rise, but she's also making some Democrats anxious. Why? She's built an impressive campaign organization, raised $25 million without big buck donors and is rising steadily in the polls in the crucial first states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Meanwhile, her most similar rival politically speaking, Bernie Sanders, has been steadily dropping, but according to reporting by Jonathan Martin in "The New York Times," even many of her admirers are expressing concern about her electability.

It's a fight between head and heart. Are they better off taking Joe Biden who is not lockstep on the issues with progressives, but supposedly has a better shot of winning? I spoke with Jonathan Martin recently.


[09:15:01] SMERCONISH: Jonathan, is there an election analogy that you hear from Elizabeth Warren skeptics?

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes. It's 2016. It's the -- it's the last election. And by the way, it isn't a skeptic. It's people who like her, but are just worried about, you know, committing and then winding up having a repeat of the last campaign where their hearts were broken and it's a collection, by the way, of men and women who are uncertain about Warren for a variety of reasons.

It's partly the Hillary PTSD, but it's not just that, Michael. It's also questions about, you know, has she veered too far to the left to appeal to voters in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania? And it's also, you know, well, what is she going to say when the president hurls his Pocahontas slur at her? and when I talked to her, she didn't really have an answer on what it -- what she is going to do when he does that.

SMERCONISH: So they're not looking at McGovern, they're not looking at Dukakis, they're not looking at Mondale?

MARTIN: No, I think in a polarized country, the idea of that kind of a landslide is probably out of the question. There's a lot of Blue America out there that is going to vote against Trump regardless. I don't think that's the issue. I don't think it's a fear of being skunked and only winning, you know, 150 electoral votes or less.

I think the fear is that you run into the same challenges in the three critical states that you had in 2016, that she couldn't get over the top in Michigan, Wisconsin in Pennsylvania and would still struggle to win Florida and there goes the election. I think that's more the concern than, you know, losing Blue America. I think that's not the issue.

SMERCONISH: You wrote the following, "These Democrats worried that her uncompromising liberalism would alienate moderates in battleground states who are otherwise willing to oppose the president. Many fear Ms. Warren's past claims of Native American ancestry would allow Mr. Trump to drown out her policy message with his attacks and slurs against her. They cite her professorial style and Harvard background to argue that she might struggle to connect with voters from more modest circumstances than hers, even though she grew up in a financially strained home in Oklahoma." So how does she combat all of that?

MARTIN: I think that she has got to show that she is a formidable candidate and can confront Trump and can, you know, duel with him effectively and I think, by the way, there's a way to do that. I think she had two good debate performances that have helped start to dispel some of these concerns, although they're obviously still out there, and I think more strong, sure-footed debate, you know, turns will help her.

And frankly, there's nothing that succeeds like success, Michael, and if she wins Iowa and New Hampshire, that's going to brand her as a winner and she'll be on her way at that point. So look, some people you're never going convinced, right? The ideological concerns are going to gnaw at people, especially the kind of moderate wing of the party, but I think there are people who are concerned for performative reasons whose unease you can allay, you can assuage those concerns. Some people of the party are never going to be anything but uneasy about her candidacy, but I think there are people who are willing to be converted.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Jonathan.


SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. What do we have? "The left moved so far left that Obama would now be considered a conservative." I must say I had that same question in my head sitting in Detroit watching the debate, but the conversation with Jonathan Martin dovetails nicely on the conversation that I had previously with Rich Thau. You know, the issue is can you sell Elizabeth Warren to those people who gathered in Edina, Minnesota recently who are sway voters, who really are not partisans, but are in play?

You know, Medicare for all, the Green New Deal, decriminalization of illegal immigration, can that sort of thing wash in a general election if it's Trump versus Elizabeth Warren?

Don't forget the survey question at this hour asks the following. Would an economic downturn -- would an economic downturn cause President Trump's base to abandon him?

Up ahead, question, does this TV commercial for cream cheese seem cute or offensive? It's one of two that have been banned in England because of gender stereotyping. Is this valid?




SMERCONISH: Two TV commercials have been banned in the U.K. for perpetuating, quote, "harmful gender stereotypes." In this ad for Philadelphia Cream Cheese, new dads start enjoying the product so much that they forget all about the kids that they are tending.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's good. That's really good. Oh, that's the Philadelphia. Let's not tell mom.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SMERCONISH: The other ad for Volkswagen. It shows men doing adventurous things while the only women are seen sleeping in a tent and sitting with a baby carriage. The U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority said that the ads violated a rule new this year which bans the depiction of men and women engaged in gender stereotypical activities. The rule aims to stop, quote, "limiting how people see themselves and how others see them and the life decisions they take." Did the watchdog overreach?

Joining me now to discuss is Jessica Tye, the Investigations Manager for the Advertising Standards Authority in the U.K.

Jessica, thank you for being here. Wherein lies the harm?

JESSICA TYE, INVESTIGATIONS MANAGER, ADVERTISING STANDARDS AUTHORITY (UK): Well, we brought in a new rule two months ago that bans ads in the U.K. from featuring gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence and that new rule followed on the back of some really long-standing work that we'd been carrying out, so research, looking at academic research, speaking to the public about how they felt about gender portrayals in ads and also some really extensive consultation with the industry.

And the work that we did showed that actually there was potential for ads to contribute to real-world harms.

[09:25:02] You know, for example, we know ads affect people's behavior and for example, they could affect how people feel they should act or behave or perhaps their career aspirations. So that was why we brought in this new rule to ensure that ads weren't ...

SMERCONISH: Right. But ...

TYE: ... contributing to those real-world harms.

SMERCONISH: But apply it to the conveyor belt, the cream cheese commercial, and tell me wherein lies the harm? If I'm an advertiser, I would be struggling trying to understand what's permissible and what's impermissible. What's wrong with this ad?

TYE: Well, we received about 130 complaints about this ad and members of the public were concerned that it was portraying men as essentially incapable of looking after their children and the guidance that we produced which accompanied the rule said that it was not -- it was unlikely to be acceptable for ads to suggest that men or women would fail at a task because of their gender.

So for example, not suggesting a man can't change a nappy and our view was that this ad really featured a kind of classic daddy doofus stereotype and basically suggests that men are less capable of looking after their children than women and that is harmful. You know, it's harmful to some men who are very capable of looking after children and it's also harmful to women ...


TYE: ... because it suggests that they need to be the primary caregivers.

SMERCONISH: To quote another great Brit, Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin, does anyone remember laughter?

TYE: Well, you know, we're not here to stop advertisers from being creative, but at the end of the day, if ads are contributing to harm to society and to individuals then humor isn't much of a defense in that situation and, you know, we think, you know, advertisers are very used to being creative. We don't think that saying to them don't use harmful gender stereotypes is going to stop them from being creative.

SMERCONISH: But I'm -- my reaction is in this case that, you know, the advertisers are damned if they do and damned if they don't. If they put men in that role, they can't do it because they're poking fun at men doing parenting, but if they put women in that role, then I imagine your group could say, ah, you're reinforcing the stereotype that it's always the woman who's taking care of the kids.

Hey, by the way, you may not know this. Last month here in the states there was an incident where a child got caught on a conveyor belt in an airport. It was in Atlanta I think and it happened to be the mom who was printing a boarding pass at the time. So I was reflecting on this thinking if they put a commercial on the air in the U.K. and it were a mom who lost sight of a child on a conveyor belt of some kind, there'd be similar criticism like, oh, you're bashing mothers as parents. You get the final word.

TYE: Well, I think we know that there is a very long-standing stereotype that men are less capable of looking after their children. There is not the same stereotype for women and, you know, we're not here to stop advertisers being creative, but we want them to be responsible and that's what we think the message is from these rulings.

SMERCONISH: If there were a commercial of a man on a John Deere tractor doing yard work, would that on its face be problematic? If there were a commercial for a woman in the kitchen cooking, would that be problematic because you could say, ah, you're reinforcing gender stereotypes that the man does the yard work and the woman does the cooking?

TYE: Well, when we -- when this rule came into place it was accompanied by some really clear guidance and that makes very clear that we are not setting out to stop any portrayal of gender stereotypes in ads. So we're explicitly not banning ads from showing women doing cleaning or men doing yard work as you say. What it's about is particularly harmful portrayals.

So when ads contrast men and women or when they suggest that they can't complete a task because of their gender. So this is about being proportionate. It's not about suggesting that, you know, all cleaning ads have to feature men for example.

SMERCONISH: Jessica, thank you so much for being here.

TYE: No problem. Thank you. SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have? I think this is from Facebook. "We've been using incompetence as a way to make people laugh in commercials forever. Banning in the name of political correctness is simply an attempt to look accepting without actually having to do anything." Laurie, I think, by this standard, as I understand it, virtually every commercial would be objectionable on some grounds at some level and it is, to me, PC run amok.

The cream cheese commercial, the Volkswagen commercial, you're going to say, oh, it's because you're a guy. No, I'm in the class that should be offended, right? Lighten up. And by the way, I've always wanted to quote Robert Plant. I worked that into the program today.

[09:30:00] Still to come, after the president told Israel not to let Muslim Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib visit and it banned her and then reversed its decision, she decided not to go. Was the whole episode just political shadowboxing?


SMERCONISH: Was this week's showdown over whether to allow America's first two Muslim congresswomen to visit Israel ultimately just an act of provocation to embarrass Israel? Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, both vocal critics of Israel and supporters of the boycott movement known as BDS had initially been granted permission to visit. Then president Trump tweeted that Israel allowing them to visit would -- quote -- "show great weakness" claiming "they hate Israel and all Jewish people."

Soon after, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government decided to ban them. Netanyahu sided in Israeli law prohibiting entry into Israel of anybody working to oppose boycotts and called their itinerary -- quote -- unquote -- "one sided" because they were planning to visit only Palestinian sites.

Tlaib reapplied citing the humanitarian grounds of visiting her family in the West Bank including what might be her last chance to visit a 90-year-old grandmother. But when Israel reversed its position and said that Tlaib could visit, she pledged in writing if -- she pledged in writing not to promote boycotts against Israel while there she turned down that invitation and called it humiliating.


Quote -- "Visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in, fighting against racism and oppression and injustice."

Israel's interior minister Aryeh Deri who had approved the visit called her actions a provocation saying -- quote -- "I approved her request as a gesture of goodwill on a humanitarian basis. But it was just a provocative request aimed at bashing the state of Israel. Apparently her hate for Israel overcomes her love for her grandmother."

Joining me now to discuss is journalist and foreign policy analyst Rula Jebreal.

Rula, there are some who look at this and say, aha, if it were really about visiting the grandmother, she'd be making the trip. What are your thoughts?

RULA JEBREAL, FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: Look, it's the conditionality of that visit. I think if you're a liberal Democratic state you would allow a duly elected representative of Congress to visit regardless. I mean, what are you trying to hide?

The fact that the visit was banned in the first place it reflects on this trajectory where Israel is heading where it looked like South Africa or it looks like the Soviet Union where you have to ban people because you're hiding the violence of the occupation. For a country that received billions of dollars, I think they should -- they owe more respect to Congress. They've been very supportive of them.

And this is an extension of the globalization of the Muslim ban. It's really a disgrace that the president of the United States is lobbying a foreign country against a sitting member -- two sitting members of Congress simply because they are black and Muslim. I find it really outrageous.

I'm speaking now, Michael, as an Israeli citizen. We want an Israel -- a Democratic Israeli state that doesn't look and judge people and define them by their ethnicity or what they say, their criticisms, or their gender, or even their color. Because this is what's happening in Israel today.

We have a government that has been promoting racist policy against anybody that is not Jewish. This is the opposite of the founding father of Israel envisioned for the Israeli state. I mean, the founding father in the declaration of independence talk about equal rights for all inhabitants regardless of religion, their ethnicity and their skin tone. And this promise is being betrayed by the president of the United States and above all by the prime minister -- sitting prime minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu.

SMERCONISH: Rula, a large part of this conversation is about the BDS movement. It's a subject that came up last night on Bill Maher's program. Here's part of what he had to say --


BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": BDS is a bull shit purity test by people who want to appear woke but actually slept through history class. I think it's very shallow thinking that the Jews are in Israel, mostly white, and the Palestinians are browner, so they must be innocent and correct and the Jews must be wrong.


SMERCONISH: Does Bill Maher have a point?

JEBREAL: Well, Bill Maher has been banning Muslims from his show for a while especially Muslim who are critical of his views. As an atheist who claimed to profess to be an atheist himself, to be endorsing some kind of -- some kind of a racist government that view people and define people based on their skin tone and color, for me it's not shocking because it's -- I think Bill Maher and any other hypocrites don't understand that if you advocate for freedom, equality, morality, and legality, you cannot say, oh, we're fine that Palestinians can live under military occupation, but we are not fine that in America we have Donald Trump who is trying to import that kind of system to the United States.

SMERCONISH: But part of the problem -- part of the problem is that --

JEBREAL: If Bill Maher is not fine with --

SMERCONISH: Part of the problem is that each side is claiming the moral high ground. In fact, Catherine (ph), put on the screen the Netanyahu quote. Because, you know, each side claims that they're on the righteous side. And what Netanyahu said in this quote is --

JEBREAL: There's no both sides, Michael. There's no both sides --

SMERCONISH: Just -- you can respond. But here it is. "Israel is open to all critics and any criticism with one exception, the law in Israel that prohibits entry to people calling and advocating for boycotting the country, just like in other democracies that bar entry to those who they believe will do harm to their nation."

You get the final word. But respond to that, and then I have to leave you.

JEBREAL: Well, let's put it this way, Bibi Netanyahu is a liar. And another thing that I want to say, when you have Richard Spencer who was a white nationalist say that he's a white Zionist and you are standing with that and he views Israel as -- as the kind of state that he wants to import elsewhere where you have a master race and everybody else is treated as subhuman, if you subscribe to that in Israel or in Iraq or in South Africa, then you shouldn't be surprised that we elect people like Donald Trump and his ilks.


Either you -- there's no both sides. It's like saying the neo-Nazis are -- there's fine people on both sides. There's no both sides. Either you stand with democracy, equality, and legality and human rights, or against it. So you have to choose.

I stand with the government


JEBREAL: Any government that stands for equality, morality, and legality. Anything else, it's really a joke.

SMERCONISH: Rula, thank you. Appreciate your being here. I was simply trying to make the point that both sides claims --

JEBREAL: Thank you, Michael. SMERCONISH: -- the other that seeks their destruction. Thank you.

I want to remind you, answer the survey question at

"Would an economic downturn cause President Trump's base to abandon him?"

Still to come, should consumers not patronize a company if they disagree with the owner's politics? And if so, where will that kind of thinking lead us?


SMERCONISH: Question, should you refuse to patronize a company based on the political views of its management or ownership?


My next guest was working out at an Equinox gym recently when a story came on the news about a boycott being organized against Equinox. The reason -- because of a Trump fundraiser being hosted by Steven (ph) Ross, the billionaire real estate developer, owner of Miami Dolphins, and majority owners of related companies. They own Equinox and SoulCycle as well as full disclosure the developer of Hudson Yards, home to CNN's New York offices.

Well, my guest had a particular reason to feel conflicted. Carla Hall is an editorial member of the "Los Angeles Times" and had contributed to its collection of editorials titled "Our Dishonest President."

After she finished her workout, she wrote this piece, "Do I have to dump my equinox membership just because I don't like Trump?" Carla, what's the answer to the question? What decision have you reached?

CARLA HALL, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: I'm still a member. I was there last night. And I've decided to stay with the gym.

My feeling is even though I'm also a strong critic of Trump and have been as a member of the editorial board of the "L.A. Times," my feeling is that the connection between the gym and related companies and Steve (ph) Ross is attenuated.

This is not a gym that Trump owns. This is a gym that related companies has a minority stake in. Yes, the money that I spend there ultimately does go in part to him. And then he has held this big fundraiser. But my feeling is that he's a fundraiser, and it's not like Trump owns this gym.

SMERCONISH: My radio producer has a window washer. She doesn't agree with his politics. I think because of the -- the bumper stickers there are displayed on his vehicle. But she says he really does a great job on the windows.

So these dilemmas, you know, they impact all of us. And I guess developing a litmus test for us, a standard by which to judge them is really difficult.

HALL: I think it is difficult. And I -- I completely support economic boycotts. I support boycotts of things that are related to social justice.

I would not go to Trump's golf course where he has a big fancy restaurant here in Rancho Palos Verdes just outside of L.A. but I do think at the end of the day I -- it's difficult to disentangle your life and what you do with your life from people who own businesses that you patronize because you don't like their politics. And I just decided that in this case I could stay at this gym.

SMERCONISH: Do we have Steve (ph) Ross' statement, Catherine (ph)? Could you put that up on the screen?

This is the response from the owner of both Equinox and SoulCycle. Much higher up on the food chain. I want to take a look and react.

"I have been and will continue to be an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education, and environmental sustainability. And I have and will continue to support leaders both sides of the aisle."

Is that enough for you?

HALL: Well, no. That doesn't make me like Steven (ph) Ross any more. And in fact if he believes in all those things, I'm not quite sure how he can be a big fundraiser for Donald Trump.

But again, I think it's OK that I can stay at this gym which he's getting some profits from. At the end of the day, the way that we change the government is that the way that we change the presidency is that we put up a viable candidate that people will vote for against Trump. And whether or not Steven (ph) Ross, whether or not I deprive Steven (ph) Ross of some money, there's still going to be fundraisers for Donald Trump. And in fact, Steven (ph) Ross will probably still continue to be a fundraiser for Donald Trump.

So I think, again, we should concentrate on how do we elect somebody who can beat Donald Trump and not just figure out how to take out the fundraisers.

SMERCONISH: I think you're right. And my -- my standard is as follows -- are the windows clean? If the windows are clean and if that tread -- if that treadmill is working, then I'm fine with you continuing your workout. Thank you so much for being here.

HALL: Thank you. My pleasure

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst -- your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments like this one.

You don't have to, but it helps to know that you're not supporting a creep in any way. Imagine people still bought jello pudding pops after Bill Cosby, and Subway sandwiches after Jared. Yes. Like where does it end? And by the way it's not just in how you spend your money. If all of a sudden you're going to view everything through a political prism then, you know, here we are as summer winds down. Before you know it we'll be gathering around thanksgiving tables. Are you going to determine who gets an invite based on the politics heading into this election?


Man, I hope not.

The results of the survey question are coming up in just a moment. And it is this -- you can still vote at

Would an economic downturn, would that be the thing that would cause President Trump's base to abandon him?


SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at this hour.

"Would an economic downturn cause President Trump's base to abandon him?"

Survey says, 7,559 votes cast, the nos, 61 percent, would it cause -- no, it would not. I don't agree with that. I don't agree with it for the following -- well, it depends who his opponent would be, for sure, but on the issue of would this be the exception to the Fifth Avenue Rule, you know, the one thing that President Trump would be held accountable for?

I think he would be held accountable for it. I tell you why, the blame game wouldn't work. He couldn't lay it off. If the economy tumbles he couldn't lay it off on Obama, he couldn't lay it off on Hillary, he couldn't lay it off on Strzok and Page or the dossier or Christopher Steele or, you know, all the usual suspects.

I mean, he could try and pass the buck to the Federal Reserve, but I just don't think so. I think it will all be about him. He's taken full credit for the economy, great, but if it should turn -- and by the way, I sure hope it doesn't -- but if it should turn I think he'll be held accountable for it. I think that will be the exception to everything we've discussed.

Catherine (ph), what else do we have?


"You are a Trump supporter, you hope like hell that he is reelected. Yet you claim" -- Gator Boy, always -- what that I have possible said this hour could cause you to come to that conclusion?

People hear what they want to hear about me, and you know what it is, you're so preconditioned to believe that every host must have a bias that's far to the right or far to the left that you just can't understand a guy like me who's a mixed bag, but that's the case.

So next, what do we have?

"I love you even more after you referenced Robert Plant. Does anybody remember laughter? Pretty sure it pertains to the country in general right now."

Jesch (ph), come on, I don't understand. The epitome to me of political correctness run amok are the Brits (ph) through that council that governs their air waves saying you can't show fathers parenting losing their attention span and the kids end up on the conveyor belt. It's meant to be funny. It's not meant to be harmful to a stereotype or perpetuate a stereotype of any kind. I don't think it does that.

What's next? Real quick. One more.

"My dog is offended when ads for pet care only" -- OK. I mean, come on. There you go. Why am I even needed here? That's better than anything I could come up with.

Hey, gang, join me for my "American Life in Columns" tour. I'll next be in Sunnyvale California on September 30, the October 1st show is sold out.

Thanks for watching. See you here next week.