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Does Crowd Size Matter?; Cat 4 Storm Intensifying; FL, GA, SC In Potential Strike Zone; Biden's "False War Story": Deceit Or Faulty Memory?; Biden On Conflated War Hero Story: I Was Making The Point How Courageous These People Are.; Should Homeless Be Allowed To Sleep In Public Spaces?; Will News Overload Dampen Trump's Re-Election In 2020?; Ring Partners With 400 Police Departments For Access To Doorbell Videos. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired August 31, 2019 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: True to her campaign theme song, Elizabeth Warren has been working 9:00 to 5:00 and getting bigger and bigger turnout and a rise in the polls. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia wondering, for politicians, does crowd size matter? And what I mean is does the number of people you get to show up at your events tell us anything more about your support than other indicators like polling or fundraising numbers that the DNC use to winnow the field for the next debate?

The issue is again in the news after Elizabeth Warren's recent appearance in a Seattle park before a crowd her campaign estimated to be 15,000, larger than all, but a couple of audiences Hillary Clinton commanded even after winning the nomination. Warren herself called attention to the significance of the turnout.


ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a lot a president can do by herself and then the rest of it we got to pull Congress in and to make that happen, you need crowds like this.


SMERCONISH: The president, who has long shown a keen interest in the topic of crowd size, took exception to Warren's headcount in an interview with "Fox News Radio."


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have crowds that are many times what her crowds are. Nobody ever talks about them. Nobody wants to talk about them. With her the other day, they say she had 15. If you really count them up, it looked like about eight or nine and the biggest story was her crowds. That's like a small crowd for me. I'm like at a Madison Square Garden-type arena. I'm always full. I haven't had an empty seat ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, let's (ph) ... TRUMP: ... but they never talk about that, but Elizabeth Warren has a crowd that's big and it's like how big is her -- no, there's a total double standard.


SMERCONISH: Meanwhile, at Joe Biden's Thursday student outreach visit to a historically black college in South Carolina, out of an audience of 500 mostly white people, only a dozen young people showed up. We've been hearing a lot this election cycle about crowd size, starting with the launch announcements.

Kamala Harris had 20,000 at her Oakland event. Bernie Sanders had 13,000 at his in Brooklyn. Amy Klobuchar got 9,000 to show up in a freezing Minnesota snowstorm. Beto O'Rourke, 6,000 in El Paso, the same number as Pete Buttigieg, in the rain by the way in the much smaller South Bend. Remarkably, 6,000 is also the number that front- runner Joe Biden could barely muster in Philadelphia on a warm day.

So what does this tell us about their candidacies, if anything? Let's look at their record, remembering this of course is an inexact science at best. Back before they were nominees, Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama both were able to attract large, excited audiences. Obama drew 75,000 in Portland, Oregon in May of 2008. Trump often had more than 20,000, like this event in Cleveland in March of 2016.

But don't forget so did Bernie Sanders who still lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton despite the fact that she rarely drew crowds that size and she didn't top 20,000 until enlisting President Obama, Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen for a last push event on election eve.

Sanders is not alone. Many candidates have come up short despite drawing thousands to rallies. Think Jesse Jackson, 1988, Howard Dean, 2004, Ron Paul in 2012. And even after a candidate gets the nomination, historically plenty of huge crowds have shown up for losing causes all the way up until Election Day. 1972, George McGovern drew enthusiastic crowds, including 25,000 people on Election Eve in Long Beach, California. The next day, he lost every state to Richard Nixon except Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, proving the silent majority did exist.

November 1st, 1984, Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro had 100,000 people in New York's garment district. Reagan-Bush beat them in the Electoral College 525 to 13. Election week 1988, Michael Dukakis had 15,000 in Philadelphia, 10,500 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Poppy Bush beat him by 7 million votes and 315 electoral votes.

October 2004, John Kerry was joined by Bill Clinton on stage in Philadelphia before as many as 100,000 people, but Bush-Cheney prevailed. 2008, after John McCain chose Sarah Palin, they drew arena- sized audiences, but couldn't match Obama's star power. And two days before the 2012 election, Mitt Romney whipped up a throng of 30,000 supporters in my native, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but didn't even win the state.

So crowd size alone is not sufficient to win the White House. Is it nevertheless a good yardstick?

[09:05:01] Joining me now to discuss is Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, professor of history at Rice University, author most recently of "American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race."

Douglas, put this all in some historical context.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, RICE UNIVERSITY: Well, at the beginning of the 20th century, William McKinley, who was a two-term president, he had what he called his front porch campaign. He would just sit in, Canton Ohio and let people come to him and he would be like an oracle in his own backyard, but Theodore Roosevelt who followed him believed that crowd size mattered and he would try to get 50,000, 60,000 wherever he went.

I think crowds are important. It's called the enthusiasm factor and it often, as it comes, however, from a candidate who's offering something new and revolutionary, like Barry Goldwater getting big crowds in 1964, George McGovern in 1972 or Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren playing in Oakland and Seattle, a progressive market are going to get huge crowds.

But it does account for a lot because in crowds is momentum and in crowd size are people that are going to vote. If you're willing to get up and do the hassle of go to an arena or a stadium for a candidate and cheer, you're very likely to vote and polling doesn't always do that. You answer the telephone and you could say, well, I'm for this person or that person, that's different than getting up and going out early for a candidate. So this is good news for Elizabeth Warren that she's generating this kind of enthusiasm.

SMERCONISH: Listening to your analysis, I think there's a parallel here, tell me if you agree, with yard signs.

BRINKLEY: You know, big time. You know, I was up in your neck of the woods when Donald Trump was running. I was in Scranton to give a talk and I was stunned at how many Trump signs there were even though people were saying Donald Trump's not going to win Pennsylvania. If you travel the country, you can feel momentum in politics and who has it and who doesn't. The key now for Warren is to keep it up because if she starts getting smaller crowd sizes, media's going to comment on it.

And can she draw crowds, or Bernie, in places like South Carolina, which are crucial? I mean, can a Massachusetts senator like Warren go into, you know, Charleston and draw 20,000 people yet to be seen.

SMERCONISH: To steal one of your thought processes, the Rolling Stones are on tour right now. They're able to sell out stadiums everywhere, not in just one particular location.

BRINKLEY: Exactly. The big-time acts can sell anywhere. You got to play big in Topeka. They used to say Peoria. Otherwise you can cherry- pick crowds. I mean, if you're -- you had Amy Klobuchar with, I thought, a great launch up in Minnesota, but she's loved. That's her home state and she's drawing a crowd.


BRINKLEY: That's to be expected and Seattle tends to be generating big crowds for progressives in recent years. So let's see how Warren does in a crowd size in Des Moines or if she goes to Houston before the debates coming up, whether she can draw a big crowd in Texas and then we'll be talking about the momentum factor.

But Biden needs to work on getting bigger crowds. His campaign's trying to contain them into these sort of 500-person set pieces where I think there's, you know, less chance for things to go wrong. I would try, if I were Biden, to get out there and draw as big as crowds as he can and give speeches. Everybody likes good oratory. The big crowds in American history have been people like William Jennings Bryan who can just fill up a place because he's a silver-tongued orator and ...


BRINKLEY: ... Obama was a great orator and many of the other people you said or a freak factor. Sarah Palin entering the McCain race, people wanted to see Sarah Palin. She was a new product being introduced in a very high octane way.

SMERCONISH: Douglas, that was excellent. Thank you as always.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. This comes from Facebook I think. What do we have? "Crowd size was in Trump's favor in the last go around."

I don't know that it's that clear. Kathleen, it certainly was versus the primary field. He was able to out draw everybody running against him in the Republican primary, but, you know, you compare to what Trump was drawing in 2016 to what Bernie was drawing in 2016, I think there are a lot of parallels. It speaks to passion, right? But not necessarily the depth of support that you have.

Up ahead, I will bring you the latest on the path and forecast of major Hurricane Dorian, the category four storm bearing down on the Carolinas later this week.

[09:10:01] And is it cruel and unusual punishment to not allow the homeless to sleep in public spaces? I'll talk to the lead lawyer about the case she hopes to bring to the Supreme Court.

Plus, Joe Biden did indeed pin a medal on an upset soldier who said he didn't deserve it, but Biden's been telling the story many different ways, often getting most of the facts wrong. Is that a problem? I want to know what you think. Go to my website right now and answer this question. Examination of Joe Biden's shifting war story, a benign misstatement of facts or evidence of decline and/or deceit?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He died, Mr. Vice President. I don't want the medal. How many nights does that kid go to sleep seeing that image in his head, dealing with it?



SMERCONISH: The southeastern United States bracing for impact from Hurricane Dorian that is still strengthening as a category four hurricane and is still currently churning in the Atlantic Ocean. The hurricane now has winds of up to 145 miles per hour.

[09:15:02] The latest model shows the storm's path shifting to the east, now making landfall in the Carolinas later in the week. However, meteorologists say the storm's path is still very uncertain. Landfall along Florida's eastern coast is still a possibility.

President Trump has approved a state of emergency declaration for Florida which allocates extra resources to the state. Experts are warning that even if the storm does not make landfall as a major hurricane, it's expected to be close enough to the coast to cause life-threatening conditions of strong winds, storm surge and dangerous flooding rains. We'll continue to bring you updates throughout the course of the hour.

Now, was Joe Biden's, quote/unquote, "false war story" an act of decline and/or deceit or faulty memory? I can attest personally, people misremember things. It's the reason why eyewitness identification isn't seen as ironclad in courtrooms anymore. Biden has been telling a story for years about a very emotional encounter that he had with a soldier that culminates with him pinning a medal on the man's chest and the man saying, "I don't want it, sir. I don't deserve it because he died," meaning his comrade.

This week, "The Washington Post" assembled different video versions of the story told between February of 2008 and August 23rd at a recent New Hampshire town hall showing multiple discrepancies and conflated details.


BIDEN: This guy climbed down a ravine, carried this guy up on his back under fire and the general wanted me to pin the Silver Star on him. I got up there and standing there, this is the (ph) God's truth, my word as a Biden, he stood at attention. I went to pin it on him. He said, sir, I don't want the damn thing. Do not pin it on me, sir. Please, sir. Do not do that. He died. He died.


SMERCONISH: The story morphed in these four tellings from a two-star general awarding a Bronze Star to a corporal in Iraq to Biden himself pinning a Silver Star to a Navy captain. As "The Post" reported based on numerous interviews, "In the space of three minutes, Biden got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the time of the medal, the military branch and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony." When asked about it, Biden didn't get why this is even an issue.


BIDEN: I was making the point how courageous these people are, how incredible they are, this generation of warriors, these fallen angels we've lost and so I don't know what the problem is. I mean, what is it that I said wrong?


SMERCONISH: Biden's story is rooted in an actual and worthy event. January 2011, the Vice President did pin a medal on a heartbroken Army Staff Sergeant, Chad Workman, who told Biden he didn't want the award. Workman had run into a burning vehicle trying to save his dying friend, but it was too late. "The Post" reached Workman who corroborated that he told Biden he didn't want the award and added that Biden told him I know you don't, quote, "He has that look where his eyes can see into your eyes," Workman said, "I felt like he really understood."

So benign misstatement of facts or evidence of decline and/or deceit? Go to and answer that question. It's the survey question of the week.

Joining me now is Julia Shaw, a criminal psychologist at University College London and the author of "The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting and the Science of False Memory." Dr. Shaw, I enjoyed your TED Talk. You said think of memory as stories. Explain.

JULIA SHAW, AUTHOR, "THE MEMORY ILLUSION": Yes. So memories are incredibly fallible, they're incredibly slippery and that's because we create these narratives, these stories that we want to share and there's that classic saying that a story gets better every time it's told and that's true for your memory as well and that's because the networks that actually comprise a memory in the brain are quite flexible and they can quite readily also incorporate details from other bits of memories and experiences we've had and create sort of a patchwork version of a memory that didn't actually happen even though it feels incredibly real to us.

SMERCONISH: You tell an interesting story about your mother unfortunately being the victim of a -- of a physical attack, repeating that story to your aunt and by a year later when your aunt tells the story, she places herself in the back seat of the car as an eyewitness, which just wasn't the case.

SHAW: Yes. It's an interesting phenomena that happens and we see it in families quite often where you'll see someone tell a story and you'll say that didn't happen to you, that happened to me and the term for this is actually being a memory thief. You've stolen that memory from somebody else and it can seem like the person is self-aggrandizing, like they're making themselves seem more importance or more involved in an important family situation than they actually were. But what's probably happening instead is that that person has had so many multi-sensory details, so they've had it described to them what it feels like, what it -- what it -- what it, you know, smelled like, almost, even to be there.

[09:20:00] And once you have that level of sensation, you can adopt that memory and the next time you talk about it feel like you were actually there. So in my aunt's case, she thought she was in the backseat even though she wasn't even in the country and it's really hard to disabuse people of these ideas as well. So when you confront people and say, to my aunt for example, this couldn't have happened, she goes, no, but it feels so real.

And so this is where we're also our own favorite experts on these things and we trust our own memories. Even when confronted with evidence that shows it's impossible, we trust our memories generally better than anyone else's.

SMERCONISH: So lacking your expertise, lacking your credentials, here's my assessment of Biden. There was no puffery here to make himself better. If he'd conflated the story so that we thought he was more heroic, I'd feel it was deceitful, but that's not what I see taking place. What's your bottom line about this?

SHAW: I think to me this has the classic signs of a false memory that's developed over time, that you can see pieces of real events that he's been a part of or learned about and he's put them together in a way that just never happened, which is something we see all the time. It's just that when it happens to us as individuals, usually we don't have a fact-checker ready to look it up to say, oh, this is how your story's changed over time, but I think it's a valuable lesson to show how flexible our memories are even of incredibly important emotional events.

SMERCONISH: Final question, how are we in the public, especially in a -- in a political context, to discern between deceit and misremembering?

SHAW: That's a great question. So lies and false memories unfortunately can look the same to other individuals, but to the person themselves, one feels real, one feels like the truth and one doesn't. So one is intentional manipulation.

I guess one final thing that I want to add to that is that there's sometimes this assumption that things like dementia or aging are responsible for more memory errors, but actually false memories can happen at any age to healthy brains and we see it all the time and so we need to be careful not to conflate both lying and false memories because they're two distinct things and to not conflate aging with just healthy brains.

And ultimately false memories are the same process that allows us to have creativity and flexibility and problem-solving for our networks in the brain to recombine in new ways and to really allow us to be human.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Shaw, nicely done. Thank you.

SHAW: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my SMERCONISH Twitter and Facebook pages. This comes from Twitter. "Let's face it. Another man lying, like Trump, to make himself look better to those voters. He totally made up the story and nobody died. Totally deceitful."

Valerie, that's the -- that's the exact opposite of what I take away from it. This is not him saying I was in a Humvee or a helicopter and we were under fire. You know, the underlying story is accurate. He pinned a medal on the chest of a guy who thought himself undeserving. That was the point of the story. And I've got to say something else, you know, to the former veep's advantage, whether the number was 26, 28, 30, you know, or 52 visits to that war zone, to me, the point was guy's been over there a hell of a lot.

I want to remind you to go to my website at and answer the survey question of the week. I think it's a really interesting one. Examination of Joe Biden's shifting war story, a benign misstatement of facts or evidence of decline and/or deceit?

Up ahead, Donald Trump's approach to the presidency has been a non- stop sensory overload. Is he in danger of causing fatigue even among his most ardent supporters?

And with homeless living in tents on city streets all across America, their legal right to do so could soon be heard by the Supreme Court and I will speak to a lead lawyer.




SMERCONISH: Question, should the homeless be allowed to live on public streets? That's the crux of a case that could be heard by the United States Supreme Court. Last week, you'll remember I was in Los Angeles and visited L.A.'s Skid Row to see in person the massive tent city that I'd been reading so much about. I was even welcomed into the tent of one of the residents, Christopher Lewis, heard his story. I also spoke with a Claremont professor about the situation.

The list of actual solutions to this huge public health and safety crisis remains debatable, but the Supreme Court could hear a case from Boise, Idaho that would determine the future of Skid Row and other tent cities in America. Boise, a town of 250,000, has also been dealing with its own growing number of homeless sleeping in public spaces. Last September, in Martin V. Boise, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that under the Eighth Amendment which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, Boise cannot prevent the homeless from sleeping in public spaces if there aren't enough available shelters.

Now Boise has asked the Supreme Court to review that decision and joining me now is the lead counsel working to get SCOTUS to hear the case. Theane Evangelis is a partner in the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

Counsel, thanks for being here. Is this more about the privatization of public property or the Eighth Amendment, cruel and unusual punishment?

THEANE EVANGELIS, LEAD COUNSEL, MARTIN V. BOISE: This case is about ensuring that cities have the tools they need to protect public health and safety. We're seeing a growing crisis in our cities from Los Angeles to Boise and across the nine states of the Ninth Circuit as well as the rest of the country and cities need to have the tools available to deal with the health and safety consequences of this problem.

SMERCONISH: So let me play devil's advocate. If they -- if they are homeless and the only place they have to go is to sleep on a city street and now you say, well, you can't do that either, why is that not cruel and unusual punishment?

EVANGELIS: This is a complex problem and cities need to debate solutions by hearing from mental health experts, substance abuse experts, housing experts. There's no one-size-fits-all solution, but the Ninth Circuit has taken that debate off the table. It has ruled that cities can't prevent anyone from camping until they have enough beds for everyone.

That ties city's hands. It's unworkable and we're seeing the consequences of this problem and right now, we have the spread of diseases like hepatitis, typhus and tuberculosis.


And cities need to be able to address that. There is growing crime and violence. And people who are living on the streets are being targeted and they are victims of crimes. In Los Angeles alone last year, nearly 1,000 homeless people died on the streets.

SMERCONISH: What if you're unsuccessful in getting SCOTUS to take up the case? Frankly, I'm an attorney, and I had to be reminded that Idaho is in the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit is enormous. So what would that mean for all of the states that comprise the Ninth Circuit?

EVANGELIS: It would be unworkable. If cities aren't allowed to deal with the consequences of growing encampments then we're only going to see the problem worsen.

It's a tragic situation. And the Ninth Circuit's decision actually harms those that it purports to protect. No other appellate court in the country has ever held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits cities from protecting public spaces and protecting the health and safety of everyone. And by creating a constitutional right to camp on the streets, the decision is only going to make things so much worse.

SMERCONISH: I hope that there are solutions. When I was in Los Angeles, when I was last week, where you are now, I was distressed at some of the comments portraying this as a red state/blue state ideological battle, to the extent there's conservative solutions that are available, I didn't hear them.

I just know it's heartbreaking and third worldish. You get the final word.

EVANGELIS: Absolutely. This is not a political issue. This is a humanitarian crisis.

And cities need to have the ability to deal with it. And we hope that the Supreme Court will take this case to address this issue.

SMERCONISH: Theane, thank you so much.

EVANGELIS: Thank you so much for having me, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. I think this one comes from Facebook. What do we have?

"I keep wondering with these homeless, do they realize there are parts of this country where you could go live comfortably on minimum wage?"

They're gravitating toward the coast. And, you know, it's complicated. But part of the reason is climate. And then once they're there, there's such a lack of housing on the West Coast that there's nowhere for them to go.

But don't -- here's another observation I have having been on Skid Row last week, not that I'm fashioning myself as an expert. But you're assuming with that Facebook comment that if you could only tee up a job opportunity for these folks that they would be able to function. And many that I saw are incapable of functioning. What I'm trying to say nicely is that I think we have a mental health crisis that is a large part of this problem.

Still to come, President Trump has compared his presidency to a daily TV show. But after so many outrageous plot twists, Twitter battles and personal melodrama, are even his supporters starting to think about changing channels?



SMERCONISH: If you try to keep up with all of the news coming out of the Trump White House and find yourself immediately feeling exhausted, you're not alone.

Joining me now is Rich Lowry, the editor of the "National Review," a contributing editor for "Politico" where he wrote this piece "Will Trump Fatigue Bite Him in 2020?" He's also the author of the upcoming book "The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free."

Rich, I want to put on the screen a paragraph from that which you recently wrote on this subject because I found it interesting. "Trump reportedly told aides before taking office that they should think of each presidential day as an episode in a TV show, a goal that turns out to have been too modest. Trump acts like he needs to produce enough programming to fill a 24-hour news network with outrages, internal melodrama, and legal fights and endless plot twists that are indisputably ratings gold."

If they're still ratings gold how can there be fatigue?

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, the media loves it. We -- all of us how follow it every day eat it up. It's what we talk about, what we debate about, what we read columns about, what we talk on TV about. The question is -- and what I say in this column is I think Trump derangement syndrome which is a real thing which mostly just afflicts his opposition can't really hurt him, right?

You had a host on a rival network this week going to loosely source, single source, a Russian conspiracy story had to retract. To me that's Trump derangement. That didn't hurt Trump, it actually helps him. It creates a sense that he's being -- he's a martyr for the cause and he's being unfairly treated.

I think the threat is Trump fatigue. And I don't mean fatigue on the part of those of us who follow this intensely every single minute. It's there are swing voters out there and the question is when they get this choice in November 2020, do they want the show to go on? Have they gotten used to it? Are they entertained by it, despite what they might tell pollsters? Or are they tired of it and want to go into another gear?

And another big question is, do they want return to relative normalcy and relative boredom which is what Joe Biden would be offering if he's a Democratic nominee.

SMERCONISH: But to the president's calculation, he only cares if the base is fatigued. And the sort of things that give others fatigue, Greenland, fighting --

LOWRY: Right.

SMERCONISH: -- with the Fed chief. Or fighting with one half of the squad over Israel. His base eats that stuff up.

LOWRY: No doubt.

SMERCONISH: It's the consternation of his opponents but -- you know, I think it kind of helps him.

LOWRY: No doubt. Well, there's this balance. The base loves it. They're entertained by it. They're convinced that Trump is fighting every day. They're convinced this is what makes him different and shows how anti-establishment he.

But there are still swing voters out there, Michael. They are the famous Obama to Trump voters. Mostly working class voters. They're by definition swing voters. They're with a Democrat, and then they went to a Republican. And then there are suburban Republicans, especially women. And just enough of them came back to Trump, came home at the end of the 2016 to help put him off the top. They swung radically the other way in 2018, went with the Republicans. One reason the Republicans took such a bath in the congressional races. And the question is how do they regard this? Clearly at some level, they're repulsed by it but are they repulsed by it enough to go with a Democrat in 2020.


And, look, I don't think Trump should be anyone else besides who he is. His persona is a big reason that it is where he is now. But I do think it would help him, tone it down 20, 30 percent. Make sure the tweets are actually serving his political purposes and he's not just tweeting impulsively because he's irritated about something. But I don't think he's going to change.

SMERCONISH: That is not going to happen. That is just not going to happen. I'm one of those who has wondered many, many times in the past when does it change? I get the answer now, never.

LOWRY: Never.

SMERCONISH: Rich, thank you.

LOWRY: No, that's absolutely right. Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Appreciate you being here.

Let us check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have, Catherine (ph)? I think from Facebook.

Forty-five fatigue is real. He has worn me down so that I cannot even watch the evening news any longer.

Well, Paul, thank you for watching here. And the question that I would ask is, did you vote for him in the first go round?

And Rich makes a good point that independents have to be a concern to the president. I just don't -- what was the last event that he had, we covered it? Was it New Hampshire? After like what was presumably a disastrous two weeks and he set an attendance record. I look at that and I say the base is not exhausted. They don't -- they don't have fatigue.

I hope you're answering the survey question at this hour. Here it is, "Examination of Joe Biden's shifting war story: a benign misstatement of facts or evidence of decline and/or deceit?"

Still to come, I love this story. Thousands of homes now have video doorbells for added security. But with 400 police departments now partnering with Ring, might customers be used to spy on their neighbors?


[09:45:40] SMERCONISH: Ring doorbells, the smart doorbells that record video and audio of what's happening outside your house. Thousands of homes have them. Now hundreds of police departments have entered into a partnership with the company to streamline access to users' videos raising a lot of red flags for privacy advocates.

Ring which is owned by Amazon will now partner with 405 police departments across the country by using what they are calling the neighbors portal which is an extension of the Ring Neighbors app for police.

The Neighbors app allows police to post safety information and view and comment on public posts. Users can also upload videos from their Ring doorbells anonymously to the app. The Neighbors portal will allow police to submit requests for video recordings for certain locations to help with active investigations.

Ring will then send an automated email to all users within that area. The company says customers can decline the request or even opt out from receiving such requests. Ring emphasized that the program does not give officials access to the devices, account information or device location. But privacy advocates say that this could amount to surveillance program on private citizens.

With me now is the editor at large for "Reason" magazine and Nick Gillespie. Nick, are any concerns on your part, as a libertarian, assuaged by the idea that it's opt-in?

NICK GILLESPIE, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, REASON MAGAZINE: Yes, I mean, that actually -- it is helpful. And the kind of early reports or early discussions of this talked about it more as if the police had access to live streams of everything that was going on. It's not that.

That's a good thing. But it's also important to think about it's not just Ring, it's an entire kind of a cavalcade of internet of things where we're leaving more digital traces all over the place in a way that show everything that we do.

And the police -- there's a digital record now, something globally, only 8 percent of transactions are done with cash. The rest are done with electronic payment systems that also leave a trail.

We need to have a serious conversation about the implications of this, especially for privacy. Because we tend to think of privacy as something -- I like to talk about it, we think of it as the Grand Canyon, it's something that is discovered in part of nature. But in fact, it's more like a city. It's a work in progress.

And what we define as privacy and interaction with law enforcement changes over time because of technology, because of political considerations and cultural changes. So, I'm glad we're having this conversation. And as a civil libertarian, it does freak me out to a certain degree that there is a soft pressure to share more and more information willingly with the police. Because police have a bad track record of abusing their access to people's private records. SMERCONISH: Well, I get what you're saying, in so far as if I'm now somebody who has a Ring video doorbell and maybe I don't feel like participating. But now, I have to say to myself, oh, geez, I don't want the local police to think that I'm not a good citizen.

GILLESPIE: Exactly. And also, you know, Ring is an incredible technology. And this is -- you know, this kind of stuff is only going to keep growing because it really does add to the convenience and kind of the productivity and the efficiency and the comfort of everyday life. But those Ring doorbells they can see pretty far away and it's not even clear -- you know, the idea is that it's protecting your own property, but there are reports that you can see across the street.


GILLESPIE: You can -- you can actually be kind of putting a surveillance camera not only on your own property, but your neighbor's property. And again --

SMERCONISH: Right. I was thinking if the Gillespie house decides you're going to do it but I come out -- I'm your neighbor and I come out for the newspaper in the morning in my boxer shorts, all of a sudden, I'm captured in that frame. Although I should have no expectation of privacy when in the public domain.

GILLESPIE: Well, this is the crux of the matter and even talking about, you know, the expectation of privacy is under most aspects of federal law now is what governs whether or not police need certain types of court orders or subpoena or preferably a warrant in order to get information. That expectation of privacy changes.

You know, the classic cases, that for a long time, telephone calls were considered -- you had no expectation of privacy while making a telephone call for a variety of reasons. That changed. And now you have an expectation of privacy while you're making a phone call.


So, the police have to get a warrant, you know, to tap your phone and things like that. That might change again in the future. And that's also true about Fourth Amendment. The idea of being secure in your papers and property and your house.

Now that we have cellphones that carry more information with us and also leave a digital trace because every time you walk around a city with your cellphone you're pinging off of different cellphone towers where police can get records and basically figure out everywhere you've been. They may not know who you talked to or whether you went into a building or not, but they can get this information, and that changes the way that we need to be talking and thinking about privacy and safeguarding things.

Justice Roberts last year --

SMERCONISH: It sounds -- GILLESPIE: -- in an important case said that we do not lose Fourth Amendment rights or an expectation to be safe and secure for -- you know, we don't give up our Fourth Amendment rights when we enter the public sphere. That also includes going out on our porch in our boxer shorts to get a paper if our cam -- if our neighbor across the street has a camera that can pick us up.

So -- you know, I don't think there's a hard and fast rule here yet that can be articulated because we're at the beginning of this phase of a whole new suite of technologies, but we need to be talking about it, and we need to, again, from a civil libertarian point of view, from a libertarian point of view, the police and law enforcement in general have a terrible track record of abusing their ability to surveil people.

We wouldn't like it if police, you know, every time you got out of your house and you drove down the street and a cop car just follows behind you. You know, they are just waiting -- you know, they're not doing anything, but you know, you get nervous -- you -- are you going to make a traffic violation, and then that gives the police the right to ask a lot of other questions and invade your privacy. These are the kinds of concerns and analogies we need to be working through.

SMERCONISH: Understood. By the same token, we want to give them the tools to do the job to the best of their ability. I'm sure this conversation will continue at


SMERCONISH: Thank you for being here, Nick.

GILLESPIE: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments and the result, final result of the survey question, you can quickly go vote at Answer this question, "Examination of Joe Biden's shifting war story: a benign misstatement of facts or evidence of decline and/or deceit."



SMERCONISH: Results now from today's survey question at "Examination of Joe Biden's shifting war story: a benign misstatement of facts or evidence of decline and/or deceit?"

Survey says 83 percent a benign misstatement of facts with more than 8,000 votes tallied. I think that's the right answer. There was no puffery on his part to make himself look better.

Quickly, Catherine (ph), from social media what do we have?

"Smerconish you criticize Trump for every misstatement but then have a so-called expert on the make excuses for Biden. You're an ass." Well, I am an ass but not for the reasons you're thinking. There's a difference between willful deceit in certain instances, I'm not saying a blanket statement. And this particular case which I think was benign. He wasn't -- he wasn't saying I won the medal when in fact he didn't.

We're out of time. Make sure you join me for my "American Life in Columns" tour. I'll next be in Sunnyvale, California, September 30. The October 1 show is sold out.

Have a great holiday weekend.