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Wellness on Wall Street; Welcome back, Eddie; America's Forgotten White Working Class; Prominent Evangelical Magazine Calls For Trump's Removal; SCOTUS Refuses To Hear Case About Where Homeless Can Sleep; Bob Costas On Olympic Bombing Hero Richard Jewell; Costas On China's "Playbook" Rebukes Of Criticism; Brady Or Kaepernick: Who's More Likely To Play Next Year?. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 21, 2019 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. This week, history was made when Donald Trump became just the third U.S. president to be impeached, joining an unenviably exclusive club. But where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is delaying delivering the articles of impeachment over to the Senate, there's now an academic debate as to whether the president was actually impeached.

Constitutional scholar Noah Feldman, he was one of the Democratic witnesses in the House impeachment proceedings, has written this, "If the House does not communicate its impeachment to the Senate, it hasn't actually impeached the president. If the articles are not transmitted, Trump could legitimately say that he wasn't truly impeached at all." Now, one of those who disagrees with Feldman is law professor Jonathan Turley. You'll remember he was the sole scholar invited by the Republicans to testify against impeachment.

Meanwhile, a standoff continues between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This standoff is the latest example of dysfunction in D.C., but none of that dysfunction is upsetting wellness on Wall Street, raising an interesting question of what the markets know that the politicians don't or vice versa. The night the House put Trump in the history books, this was the president's reaction at a campaign rally in Michigan.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't really feel like we're being impeached.


SMERCONISH: That somewhat nonchalant, public reaction from the president could be due in part to the fact that the impeachment chaos currently erupting in Washington is not impacting the economy. On Thursday, the Dow Jones closed at record highs, ending the day at 28,376 points. That amount reflects that in the three years since Trump has been elected, the Dow has gained more than 10,000 points.

Also on Thursday, the House passed the president's much touted United States Mexico Canada agreement that would replace NAFTA with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 385 to 41. Economic numbers released on Friday solidify a strong performance with growth of GDP at 2.1 percent, bolstered by a strong job market. The unemployment rate? That sits at 3.5 percent, tied with a 49-year low. Third quarter growth in consumer spending was stronger than expected at 3.2 percent and voters are paying attention to the current strong economic numbers.

According to the latest CNN poll, 76 percent rated economic conditions as very or somewhat good, 9 points higher than this same time last year. That economic approval rating is the highest in nearly 20 years, even if the president's overall job approval rate remains underwater. The latest Gallup polling found that the president's approval rating is inching up, while support for impeachment is inching down.

Bottom line, disorder in D.C., wellness on Wall Street. So how can both be true? What explains the confidence exhibited in so many economic metrics against a backdrop of an impeached president? Joining me now is the chief economist at Moody's Analytics, Mark Zandi. Mark, explain this disconnect between me because I really can't follow it.

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S ANALYTICS: Well, Michael, I think investors, global investors understand that the president's going to keep his job. I mean, he's going to be impeached, but he won't be convicted by the Senate. So nothing changes the status quo and I think investors are pretty OK with the status quo, particularly after the president called a truce on his trade war. That would have been a problem if he escalated the war, but he didn't do it. He stood down and so I think investors are comfortable with how things are going and nothing's going to change because of this impeachment.

SMERCONISH: When I reference wellness on Wall Street, I'm really using Wall Street as a metaphor for the economy at large and as one who follows day to day everything that's going on in D.C., I just find it remarkable that there is this dysfunctional or chaotic picture that emerges from the nation's capital in contrast to all these metrics seemingly doing very, very well. Why is one not tied to the other?

ZANDI: Well, I mean, it may appear chaotic, but as you pointed out, Congress and the administration seem to be getting stuff done, I mean, things that need to get done. You mentioned the USMCA. That's the update to the NAFTA agreement. You know, they agreed to that. It's going to become law. More importantly probably for the economy is the budget. They passed a big spending bill, $1.4 trillion. A lot of things could have gone off the rails there and it didn't. They passed it, they kept the government open and it's going to stay open now through next September.

So, you know, when push comes to shove, if they -- if these guys need to get something done, they get it done. So it feels very chaotic, you know, obviously a lot going on on CNN, but, you know, in the bowels of government, the wheels are still turning.

SMERCONISH: If there were to be a Senate trial, I say were because that's now in doubt, that included new testimony, might that disrupt some of the indicators that I spelled out at the outset? [09:05:06] ZANDI: Yes. Sure. I mean, it depends on, you know, what's going on and, you know, what kind of testimony we're getting, how long it's delayed, why it's delayed. I mean, if investors start to think, if they attach any probability whatsoever to the fact that the president may actually lose his job, that he gets convicted by the Senate and will leave, then I think you'll see it show up in the stock market because at that point, stock investors are going to be asking lots of questions about, well, what's next and what does that mean for economic policy?

And so that will be a problem for investors, but barring that, no, I don't think the impeachment's going to have an impact.

SMERCONISH: Mark, I want to make sure that I'm presenting it straight. Are there signs of trouble relative to the economy that you see that I've not articulated?

ZANDI: No. The only thing I'd point out is the economy is growing very slowly. You know, it's growing around 2 percent. That's the bare minimum growth you need to generate enough jobs to keep unemployment low. So if anything else goes off-script, and of course, you know, I can come up with lots of things that could go off script here, and growth slows even a little bit, unemployment will start to rise.

Once unemployment starts to rise, then recession risks will rise with it quite considerably. So, you know, there's no cushion here. So everything has got to stick to script, otherwise I think we're going to be back worrying about recession pretty soon.

SMERCONISH: And final question. Is there anything to be read into this data as to how these economic indicators look at the 2020 outcome?

ZANDI: Well, you know, I don't think it's going to be much of a tailwind or a headwind for the president. I think what really matters, Michael, is what the economy is doing in three or four key swing states. You know, Pennsylvania where you and I are from, Michigan, Wisconsin, maybe Minnesota, Virginia, that's where the election's going to be determined and how the economy is performing in those states matters.

And by the way, the economy isn't performing as well in those states as it is in the rest of the nation. You know, the trade war has done damage to manufacturing in those states, agriculture and so I don't think the economy is going to be the tailwind to the president's re- election that I think he thinks it will be.

SMERCONISH: Mark Zandi, thank you. We appreciate your expertise.

ZANDI: Any time. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. This, I think, comes from Facebook. "In the mind of the public, he's been impeached. Still think Nixon -- people still think Nixon was impeached." That's true. Nixon really wasn't impeached and you know what's interesting is that the aforementioned law professors, Turley and Noah Feldman, they disagree as to whether Richard Nixon would have been regarded as impeached if the House had taken a vote in that circumstance and he immediately left office before the articles were transmitted to the Senate. It's literally an academic debate, but one with some real significance this time.

Up ahead, in this age of identity politics, there are staunch advocates for every conceivable demographic group except for the white working-class. Find out why it's in the best interest of progressives to be the champions of the white working-class.

Plus, a prominent Evangelical magazine demanded President Trump be removed from office, leading the president to tweet, "No president has ever done what I have done for Evangelicals or religion itself." Will any of this undermine Evangelical support for Trump? That is today's survey question at I hope you'll go vote right now. Will Evangelicals abandon President Trump?

And just wanted to tip my hat to the long overdue return of Eddie Murphy tonight to "SNL." We're hoping he's going to bring back Mr. Rogers.


EDDIE MURPHY, ACTOR: Christmas. Do you know any other words that begin with X, boys and girls? How about it X-con?





SMERCONISH: Why might it be in the best interest of progressives to champion the cause of working-class whites? On the night that Donald Trump was elected, my next guest began writing an essay on that subject that would eventually be published in the "Harvard Business Review," then it morphed into a book called "White

Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America" for which the latest version has a foreword by Mark Cuban. Its author, Joan Williams, is a professor at the University of California's Hastings College of Law and joined me earlier.


SMERCONISH: Professor, why does a self-described silver-spooner care about working-class whites?

JOAN C. WILLIAMS, AUTHOR, "WHITE WORKING CLASS: OVERCOMING CLASS CLUELESSNESS IN AMERICA": Yes. Well, really for two reasons. I have studied social inequality and thought about it my entire life and social inequality just offends me, all types, race, gender, class, you name it, but the other thing is really two words, the electoral college. Working-class whites have outsized power in the electoral college and therefore outsized power to choose our next president.

SMERCONISH: You really seem to be arguing it's a wake up call of sorts for progressives to say, look, unless we address the plight, if that's the right word, of working-class whites, we will continue to have a racialized economic populism in this country. Explain.

WILLIAMS: I mean, we will indeed. We all know about the hollowing out of the middle class and people in the middle class know as well. They are extremely angry about it and right now, many of them are interpreting this through the lens of race, it's because they're white people. I think it's because of the lens of class. It's because they're working-class people and working-class people of all races are not being well served by this economy and they're understandably furious.

SMERCONISH: It seems like every other demographic group has individuals rooting them on and yet that's not the case for working- class whites per se.

[09:15:07] Is that a matter of political incorrectness?

WILLIAMS: You know, people say isn't this too much political correctness? And I always say I think it's too little. You know, I would never be sitting before you if it weren't for the political correctness of creating opportunities for women, but you can't really focus on every, every disenfranchised group except for working-class whites and expect them not to notice. They also are suffering from very concrete forms of social disadvantage, many of them shared, by the way, by working-class people of color. This should be at the center of the presidential debate.

SMERCONISH: I think this is going to shock people. Expressed as a fraction, what part of America lacks a college degree?

WILLIAMS: Three-fourths. Now, some of them, those people have some college, some of those people went to college and didn't finish so now they're paying back college loans on a high school graduate's salary, but we need to make this economy work not only for people to go -- who go to college, but also, very importantly, for people who are not college grads.

SMERCONISH: This really is an explanation. I mentioned at the outset that you began this essay, it's now morphed into a very successful book, but it is an explanation as to why President Trump was successful in being elected in 2016 and maybe reelected in 2020.

WILLIAMS: You know, if people don't start focusing on -- you know, people are very focused on the mind-meld of like who makes me feel like I'm my best version of myself? I'm actually focused on the math because that's what it takes to win an election and the problem with a mind meld is that there's a real culture gap between kind of the top 16 percent and the broad middle classes. They just don't share a lot of the same cultural values and so what may make me feel like my best self, may be really alienating to many of the people who progressives need to have voting for their candidate in order to win.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, professor.

WILLIAMS: Thanks, Michael. Always a pleasure.


SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. This, I think, comes from Facebook. "The tragedy is that we cannot address the problems of all working-class people regardless of race."

William, I recommend you read the book because she explains, with more time afforded better than I can here, exactly why it's the white working-class that need to be paid attention to by progressives and the pitch that she makes as a progressive is, hey, unless you want to continue to have racialized populism, economic populism, we better get these folks on our side and address their plight or we'll never advance our progressive agenda. That's her argument in a nutshell.

Up ahead, I talked to sports casting legend Bob Costas about the fight between the NBA in China, whether Tom Brady or Colin Kaepernick will be playing next year and why Olympic bombing hero Richard Jewell once sought out Costas.

Plus, this Christmas, from New York to Boise, more and more homeless are sleeping in America's streets and thanks to a new court decision, cities can't ban them if they have no place else to go. So what's the future of America's Skid Rows?

And an Evangelical magazine has come out in favor of removing President Trump. How will this affect the 80 percent plus of white Evangelicals who voted for him in 2016? My hunch is not so much. That is this week's survey question at Will Evangelicals abandon President Trump?


TRUMP: Two Corinthians, right? Two Corinthians, 3:17, that's the whole ballgame. Somebody had to do it. I am the chosen one. Somebody had to do it.





SMERCONISH: It's not often that an Evangelical publication makes national headlines, but that's what happened this week when "Christianity Today" published this editorial, quote, "Trump Should Be Removed from Office, it's time to say what we said 20 years ago when a president's character was revealed for what it was." Joining now is Peter Wehner. He's a lifelong Christian Evangelical, a never-Trumper, he served in the administrations of Presidents Reagan and both Bushes, he's a contributing writer for "The Atlantic" and author of this book, "The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump."

Peter, you were the first person that I thought of when I read this because I remember you being here with me on CNN and saying, look, Evangelicals love Donald Trump --


SMERCONISH: -- because they regard him as a guy who will bring a gun to a cultural knife fight. Is this going to change anything?

WEHNER: Well, yes and no. I don't think it's going to change many votes because the white Evangelical community is pretty much aligned with Donald Trump. On the other hand, there are millions of Evangelicals who are very queasy and uneasy with him as president, even people who'd vote for him, but have moral qualms about him and this is an institutional response. "Christianity Today" is the flagship publication of the Evangelical world and I think that they view their role here as speaking truth to power.

You know, Martin Luther King Jr. said the purpose of the church wasn't to be the servant or the master of the state, but to be the conscience of the state and I think that this is "Christianity Today" effort to try and be a conscience of the state.

SMERCONISH: Here's part of the editorial, "Trump's Evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty and his stewardship of the economy among other things as achievements that justify their support of the president. None of the president's positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character." Peter, I've often made the argument here that I think more than perhaps anything else, it's the impact that the president is having on the Judiciary, the pace of his appointments --

WEHNER: Right.

[09:25:00] SMERCONISH: -- the fact that he is appointing conservatives with good credentials in most instances to those lifelong positions.

WEHNER: Yes. Look, that's true and I actually support his judicial appointments. You can hold two concepts at the same time. You can believe that Donald Trump's policies advance causes that you care about and you can also say that the man is an utter moral wreck and that he's corrupt. That happens to be the case if you're a conservative Christian.

I would say the indictment of the Evangelical world, at least much of the Evangelical world and its political leadership, is they can't say the latter. They aren't willing to speak truth to power. They go sotto voce. They go quiet when he does moral transgressions. Indeed it's the opposite. They will defend him regardless of what he does and they will attack those who call him out. So I think that really is the indictment. The other thing I wanted to say is in that tweet that Donald Trump sent out, he said no president has ever done as much for the Evangelical community --

SMERCONISH: Yes. Put that on the screen. Sure.

WEHNER: Yes. First, I don't agree with it on the grounds that Donald Trump means it. There's George W. Bush, there's Ronald Reagan and he says it's not even close, but even if you set that aside, think about the premise of that, which is Donald Trump sees this only through the prism of power and that is not what Christianity fundamentally is about. And it's also about a certain biblical ethic, a Christian ethic and I would argue that there's no president we've ever had who embodies more of an anti-Christian ethic, a kind of Nietzschean ethic than Donald Trump.

If you read through what the fruits of the spirit are in Galatians that Paul talks about, love, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, those are not qualities you associate with Donald Trump. I understand political leaders have a different role and a different task, but if that person embodies certain qualities, certain ethic that is at odds with a biblical ethic, then this idea that because you're going to challenge the Johnson Amendment that somehow advances the conservative cause, that's wrong.

The damage that's being done to the Christian witness in America because of this unholy alliance between white Evangelicals and Donald Trump is enormous and it's going to take a lot to undo the damage. I think what "Christianity Today" did is to begin to undo some of that damage --

SMERCONISH: But he -- a final --

WEHNER: -- and repair some of that damage.

SMERCONISH: But a final --


SMERCONISH: -- a final thought. But there's this cognitive dissonance because --

WEHNER: That's right.

SMERCONISH: -- whatever his personal failings might be, he's the hired gun. He's like --

WEHNER: Right.

SMERCONISH: -- getting the job done for the Evangelical community. Bottom line, is that going to change?

WEHNER: No, for most of them, it won't. Most people can't live easily with cognitive dissonance and when it happens, the things that essentially make you feel that you are at odds with your own convictions, with your own integrity, you have to push those aside, you have to bury those, you have to pretend that what's causing the cognitive dissonance is -- you have to mitigate those feelings and you have to convince yourself that you're pushing causes that are vastly more important.

So no, I don't -- I don't think it's going to change. I do think what's going to happen is when this eventually plays out and with time and distance, people are going to see the enormous damage, the enormous wreckage that this has all caused. I don't think, Michael, that any of the so-called new atheists could have done as much to damage the Christian witness as many people in the white Evangelical world have done because what they've done is they've shown a degree of hypocrisy, lack of moral seriousness and they've embraced a person of enormous cruelty and when you do that, there is a cost to a watching world.

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

WEHNER: You bet.

SMERCONISH: More social media reaction. This comes from Facebook I think. "I most certainly am reading a different Bible than those Evangelicals. Can anyone name even one of Jesus' teachings that Trump follows?" But Jennifer, I don't know that the -- look, the numbers are staggering, by the way. Twenty-five percent of the country, Evangelical Christia,n they supported the president 80 plus percent in 2016. His approval rating is like 75 percent right now as compared to 42 percent for the rest of the country.

I don't know that they need to regard him as one of them and to -- and to lead the kind of life they'd like him to lead as long as he's getting the job done on things like the court's support for the annexation of the West Bank, moving the embassy in Israel, that's what matters most.

One more from Twitter if I have time. Here it is. "Evangelicals' unflinching support of Trump is the best recruitment tool atheism has had in many decades." Love your handle, No One is Above the Law.


OK. Enough said. I want to remind you to answer the survey question. All of you go to "Will Evangelicals abandon President Trump?" I think Peter Wehner was suggesting not.

Still to come, homeless people can still sleep on the streets because the Supreme Court chose not to hear a case on that matter. So what does this mean for places like Los Angeles where I visited Skid Row earlier this year?

And after a bomb went off at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta killing one and injuring over 100, a security guard was wrongly accused of the crime it ruined his life. Now there's a new movie out about the controversy. I'll talk to Bob Costas about his memorable encounter with the real Richard Jewell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have 30 minutes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Richard Jewell is an innocent man. He's a hero.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a bomb in Centennial Park. You have 30 minutes.



SMERCONISH: While the nation was fixated on impeachment this week, the Supreme Court made a decision that will directly impact cities in the western United States.

On Monday, the nation's highest court declined to review city of Boise versus Martin. That's a case that dealt with whether cities could issue citations for sleeping and camping in public in an attempt to cut down on homeless encampments. This means the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' decision will stand.


That ruling in September of last year said -- quote -- "the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause of Eighth Amendment precluded the enforcement of a statute prohibiting sleeping outside against homeless individuals with no access to alternative shelter."

In October I spoke with the mayor of Boise where this entire case began. He stressed the need for city governments to be able to issue citations.


MAYOR DAVE BIETER (D-ID): We have to be able to cite people that are camping so that we don't have camps forming that are unsafe, unsanitary. We have to have that tool to keep the camps from forming.

We have -- this is not an academic exercise. We had a camp form about five years ago, about 120 people. It was unsafe. We actually had a homicide in the camp.

We know what happens if we are not allowed to do this. We simply want to maintain the status quo, which is working quite well while we go to work on building more housing and more services for the homeless.


SMERCONISH: On Monday, outgoing Mayor Dave Bieter released a statement saying the decision by the Supreme Court to not review the case was disappointing adding -- "Without the ability to enforce this ordinance much of what we've accomplished in providing permanent supportive housing for other services for those experiencing homelessness could be jeopardized."

Homeless encampment is an issue plaguing many cities. I saw it firsthand when I went to Skid Row in Los Angeles where almost 8,000 homeless people live. In fact, both the city and county of Los Angeles had submitted briefs in support of the Supreme Court taking up the appeal of the Ninth Circuit decision. They were among about 20 briefs submitted. But with this decision by the court to not review the appeal, officials in those cities say they're now looking for different ways to combat the risks and dangers that come with homeless encampments.

So, while the nation was fixated on impeachment, this development is part of what I've said is the president's more lasting impact -- his judicial appointments. In the Ninth Circuit alone of the 29 active seats on that court the president has appointed 10 of them, changing what has been famously liberal, albeit not in time to impact the homeless case. The three Ninth Circuit judges that heard the case were all nominated by Democratic presidents. But what Boise illustrates is the power that appellate courts have as the final word on a majority of federal matters.

President Trump is on pace to far surpass the number of appointments made by President Obama and Trump's picks on average are 10 years younger than those appointed by his predecessor. So they'll be making law for a lot longer than Donald Trump will be president regardless of who wins in 2020.

Still to come, at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, a security guard saw something, a backpack with three pipe bombs, and said something, saving hundreds of lives. But as director Clint Eastwood's new movie reminds us, Richard Jewell then became a suspect and it ruined his life. I'm about to talk to Bob Costas about his role in this story.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have any way of knowing why they would consider you a suspect?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I have no idea.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir, I didn't do it.




SMERCONISH: Clint Eastwood's new movie, Richard Jewell, tells the story of the Atlanta security guard, who went from hero to suspect, in connection with an explosion that killed one, injured 111 at the time of the 1996 Summer Olympics. Jewell was never arrested, and in 2005, another man pled guilty to the bombing. Bob Costas was NBC's Olympics host in 1996. One year later, he was calling the national league baseball playoffs in Atlanta, when he was told he had a visitor outside the booth -- Richard Jewell.

Bob Costas joins me now. So why had Richard Jewell come to see you one year later?

BOB COSTAS, VETERAN SPORTS COMMENTATOR: Well, Michael, as you recall, and some others may, and as the movie lays out, at the time the FBI felt that Richard Jewell fit the profile of someone who might have been the bomber, and that was reported by much of the media. They weren't, necessarily, taking the initiative to indict Richard Jewell, they were reporting what the FBI was putting out there.

And it turns out that he was completely innocent, that he was a hero. There was a fatality, and there were hundreds of injuries, but it would have been worse without his action. But since this took place during the Olympics, with the entire country and much of the world watching -- this wasn't an isolated thing that happened in the hinterlands somewhere outside the spotlight, this was a big, big deal.

And much of the country assumed that Richard Jewell was the bomber. His reputation was harmed forever. There are still people who, when you mention Richard Jewell's name, they don't make the distinction. Oh, he's the guy, the bombing in Atlanta.

So, while all this was going on, I raised -- I didn't think I did anything terribly spectacular, I just simply said, what if he isn't the guy? What if they don't charge him? What if they don't arrest him? Where does he go to get his reputation back? If they're not right about this, and if they're not willing to stand behind it and prove it, something terribly wrong has happened here. That's all I said. I didn't think it was that out of the ordinary, but apparently there weren't that many people who took that stance at that time.

SMERCONISH: So was he watching? Had he heard that?

COSTAS: Yeas, either he was watching, or he heard about it, and obviously, the audience for the Olympics is very large. So now fast forward a year, and I'm doing the game in Atlanta during the playoffs. And the stage manager taps me on the shoulder and says, Bob, Richard Jewell is outside the broadcast booth. He wants to come in and speak with you. And I had no idea exactly what he wanted to say. I said, sure, bring him in at the next half inning.

He comes in, and he was exactly as you would think. Unassuming, shy, kind of looking at the floor, very differential. Kept calling me Mr. Costas.


And he said, I just came to say, thank you for being fair to me, and my mother wants to thank you, as well.


COSTAS: And if you see the film, or you recall what the relationship was -- he lived at home with his mom, a man in his early 30s living at home with his mom. There was something I found touching and poignant and genuine about this. He was guileless and sincere.

And then I said to him -- not being able to think of anything else in the moment -- would you like to stay and watch the rest of the game from the broadcast booth? And most baseball fans would say, sure. And he - Oh, no, no, Mr. Costas, I'd just be in the way. I just wanted to say, thank you. We shook hands. He left. That was the one and only time I saw and spoke to him.

SMERCONISH: The '96 Olympics, you correct me if I'm wrong, that's the same year that, during the opening ceremonies, China comes in, you make a comment about human rights, or lack of human rights, you draw this really strong rebuke from Beijing. Now fast forward to the year about to end, where Daryl Morey, from the Houston Rockets, he sends out a tweet that's supportive of the Hong Kong protesters, and all hell breaks loose again. Not that much has changed.

COSTAS: Yes, I couldn't help but flash back to '96, because it's the same China playbook. They do not recognize the prerogatives of a free society, where free speech is respected, and they expect that you will apologize. They threaten to take actions that will hurt you commercially, which is much more possible now, because we're much more fully invested in that economy.

What I said, as the Chinese came in during the opening ceremony - and I want to emphasize, impressions to the contrary, I have never talked about issues like this unless they were pertinent to something that was happening in sports, and during something like an opening ceremony.

SMERCONISH: As you know, people say, stick to sports, Costas.

COSTAS: Yes. When I'm doing play by play of a baseball game, it's the game.


COSTAS: I was always on pregame, halftime, or in interstitial portions when anchoring the Olympics, or on the opening ceremony. It was never during an event, or during a game, and it was only if it was pertinent. If this was Bulgaria, this doesn't have as much pertinence. But it was China.

And what I said was, here is China, more than a billion people, an economy growing at some 10 percent a year. Every nation, including the United States, wants in on that market, but of course, there are overarching concerns about human rights and other issues. And then I also noted that they wanted to host an Olympics -- they were in the mix for 2000, which went to Sydney, Australia. They had not yet been given, or granted, the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. And there'll be another one, a Winter Olympics in 2022 in Beijing. And I noted that the IOC had some of the same concerns.

And then I also said something to the effect, if there's any nation that has the means and the motivation to replicate the old Soviet Union Eastern Bloc sports machine, you're looking at that nation.

SMERCONISH: Was it extemporaneous, or had you mapped out what you intended to say when they came in.

COSTAS: I never script it out, but you have bullet points, things that you think you might want to mention. A lot of what you do during a play by play situation is spontaneous. But something like that, you have time to prepare. So I thought that I wanted to make those points, but I didn't have the exact words scripted.

So now what happens - this was the early days of the Internet, but the word gets out. And in Chinese language newspapers in the United States, I'm being, you know, harshly criticized, to put it mildly. And they're demanding an apology. And there were demonstrations outside 30 Rock.

Now the Olympics are over, and it's mid-August, and I'm on vacation someplace. And I get a call, and they say, they want you to apologize. They're demanding a sincere public apology in prime time. And I say, well, I'm not going to do that, and you can't quote me. Do whatever you want.

And NBC put out some sort of, one of those boiler plate statements -- I don't think it was from the hierarchy of NBC, it was from someone at a lower level, in the PR department -- put out one of those, we're sorry if anyone was offended, statements.

SMERCONISH: Sure. A non-apology apology?

COSTAS: Yes. And social media wasn't then what it is now, and the thing died down. But it was the exactly same playbook from China.

SMERCONISH: End of year-ish final question: Who is more likely to be playing in the NFL next season as a quarterback? Tom Brady or Colin Kaepernick?

COSTAS: Tom Brady. It's possible that Tom Brady retires after this season. It's possible.

SMERCONISH: You told me once that you thought Kaepernick was being black balled.


SMERCONISH: It would seem like that was confirmed in the last couple of months.

COSTAS: When I was on your show in 2017, he had played the preceding season. And it was clear that he was good enough to start for some team,s and certainly be a backup for many teams. So it was clear he was being black balled.

But now, more time has gone by. It's unclear how he measures up in the eyes of scouts. But it's also clear, even if you completely support his position - and I recognize his issue, and I recognize that his intentions are good with regard to that issue.


I don't think he's a perfect messenger, we've talked about that before.

But without getting into that, even if you're a 100 percent Kaepernick supporter, I think you can understand, based on what he said after the makeshift workout that he did several weeks ago, it's clear that he would intend to use this as an ongoing political platform.


COSTAS: And it's also clear that his value as a player is not worth it to NFL teams any longer, if it ever was, to put up with the, quote, distraction. We know that football people hate distractions. And in their eyes, he would be one.

SMERCONISH: Okay. Recording you as a Brady vote.

COSTAS: Yes. Could Tom retire after this year? He could. But if I were to guess, I'd say, he plays on.

SMERCONISH: Merry Christmas, happy holidays. Thanks for coming back.

COSTAS: Always great to see you.

SMERCONISH: Thank you._

Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments, and we'll give you the final results of the survey question. Go vote now if you haven't,

"Will Evangelicals abandon President Trump?"


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

"Will Evangelicals abandon President Trump?" Here's the result. No, say 72 percent with more than 8,000 votes having been cast.


I'll leave it up, so keep voting.

Here's some more of what you thought this week. What do we have, Catherine (ph)?

Smerconish, why after all that you just said about the economy and unemployment do you not support Trump?

Greenguy, who said that I'm here to support Trump or not to support Trump? Confusion reigns as to whether I'm here to carry his water or to do him in. I'm not here to think for you. I'm here to present all the data so that you make up your own mind but to present it fairly. And that's what I seek to do every Saturday that I'm here.

Here's some more from social media. What do we got?

Disorder in D.C., wellness on Wall Street, euphoria on Main Street.

I'm just totally taken with the disconnect between the two. You know, the images that come out of Washington in the context of an impeachment battle and then each of these economic metrics. When I say Wall Street, I'm using that in a global sense to talk about the economy. And it's like one and the other are not intersecting, which I find fascinating.

Hey, join me for my "American Life in Columns" tour, Pittsburgh, Manchester, sold-out shows in St. Louis and Raleigh. I'll be all over in 2020.

Thank you for watching. Have a very merry Christmas, a happy new year. I'll see you back here next year.