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According To New Study, The Rate Of Suicide And Drug Overdoses May Increase Due To COVID-19; Thomas Friedman: Make America Immune Again; Is Sweden's Partial Lockdown Workable For The U.S.?; San Francisco Sued Over Nightmare Neighborhood Conditions As COVID-19 Causes Homeless Population To Grow By Nearly 300 Percent; Can Biden Win By Just Letting Trump Be Trump? Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 09, 2020 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: What does the data show? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. As of this moment, the U.S. fatality total due to COVID-19 has passed 77,000. And we are nowhere near the end point.

Plus the indirect total might be twice that. An analysis conducted by the national public health group Well Being Trust is estimating that as many as 75,000 could die because of drug or alcohol misuse and suicide as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a report released yesterday, the group said that the growing unemployment crisis, economic downturns and stress caused by isolation and lack of a definitive end date for the pandemic could significantly increase the so-called deaths of despair.

Well Being Trust's chief strategy officer, Dr. Benjamin Miller, telling CNN, "Unless we get comprehensive federal, state and local resources behind improving access to high-quality mental health treatments and community supports, I worry we're likely to see things get far worse when it comes to substance misuse and suicide."

The group noted an association between suicide and drug overdoses and the unemployment rate. In the 2008 recession, deaths from both suicide and drug overdoses rose along with unemployment and in that instance, unemployment only went from 4.6 percent in 2007 to a peak of 10 percent in October of 2009.

Today's unemployment rate? Fourteen point seven and the Labor Department said the rate would have been about 20 percent if workers who had said they were absent from work for other reasons had been classified as unemployed or furloughed.

The Labor Department reported that we lost 20.5 million jobs in April in what was the worst jobs report since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping such data in 1948. We're talking levels not seen since the Great Depression. No wonder then that people's patience is fraying. They're understandably eager to get out of their homes and get back to work and there's a question of whether the goal posts are being moved. Initially, the idea was to bend or flatten the curve so as to prevent our healthcare system from being overrun. We seem to have done that successfully, but if the goal remains the same, there's data suggesting our need for what Dr. David Katz, long associated at Yale, has described as vertical interdiction. The means sheltering the vulnerable while allowing those who can return to the world to do so.

In my home state of Pennsylvania where Governor Tom Wolf just announced that the city of Philadelphia and the surrounding counties will remain under a stay-at-home order until June 4, the state Speaker of the House released a letter this week revealing that statewide, the average age of decedents is 79 and two-thirds of them were in nursing homes or similar facilities.

The vast majority had comorbidities and, quote, "Of the 3,106 persons who have died, 61 percent had hypertension, 54 percent had heart disease, 37 percent had diabetes and 30 percent had chronic pulmonary disease."

That, according to the letter from the speaker Mike Turzai. The letter also says that 6.95 percent of the state's 37,000 hospital beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients with 539 patients on ventilators, which amounts to only 1.46 percent of all the state hospital beds.

In New York, Governor Cuomo reporting this week that 66 percent of those admitted to his state's hospitals are people who had been staying at home. A majority of the hospitalized people were not working or taking public transportation, 46 percent were unemployed, 37 percent retired and the 96 percent of those hospitalized have underlying health conditions.

So that's the data. Now here are some of the possible takeaways. First and foremost that we need to protect the most vulnerable. They are seniors living in nursing homes and similar facilities.

Second that heightened concern needs to also extend to those hired to care for loved ones. Disproportionately they are people of color who are bearing more than their share of bad outcomes. Third that our goal must continue to be one of protecting against the overwhelming of our hospitals.

Fourth that we must recognize that as the unemployment rate grows due to the lockdown, we are indirectly adding to the fatality total. Fifth that deaths from economic ramifications of the pandemic be valued no less than those that come from a formal diagnosis and finally that absent a vaccine, many, if not most of us, are going to get the virus. Managing that spread in a way that doesn't overwhelm hospitals and doesn't ruin the economy must be the goal of governors.

So what does a sustainable long-term plan for the U.S. look like? Joining me now is three-time Pulitzer Prize winning "New York Times" columnist Thomas Friedman. His most recent piece is "Make America Immune Again" and his most recent book is "Thank You for Being Late."

[09:05:02] Tom, thank you for being on time. Why don't you begin with a critique or response to what you just heard me say? THOMAS FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, Michael, I think you described, and I'm not just saying this for your sake, you said (ph) perfectly how I describe this dilemma, which is that when you are up against Mother Nature, she is merciless and she doesn't give you any easy choice and the choice she's given us here is a choice between locking down, suppressing the virus as much as we can, breaking the trains of transmission, but also killing the economy and potentially creating deaths of despair on the other side.

And the job of a president and a governor now is to find a sustainable path through those two extremes, those brutal choices that will maximize lives and livelihoods. That's what I think a real president would be doing here. My critique of Trump is not that he shouldn't be concerned about jobs.

As you know, I've been concerned about that from the very beginning. Trump is basically telling the country right now, Michael, our greatest generation, preserve democracy and capitalism by taking Omaha Beach on D-day. I'm asking your generation to preserve democracy and capitalism by taking the malls of Omaha on P-Day, OK? This is like P- day.

So in one sense, Trump is just like FDR, but absolutely not like FDR because FDR sent our troops to D-day with armor, with maps, with leadership, with guns to minimize the casualties and what Trump is doing is talking out of both sides of his mouth, pointing to the maps and guns and armor that the CDC is urging people to do today as they open up from lockdown and at the same time just telling people to go out and ignore the CDC and their governor's directives and that is what is so irresponsible about this.

SMERCONISH: For all the criticism that you've offered of the president, is there a country you can point to and say now there's the model that we should emulate and if so, what is it?

FRIEDMAN: You know, I would say, you know, there's basically two basic models out there, Michael. One is Sweden which says we're going to keep the economy more open than not, but we're also going to close down colleges and keep high schools and K-9, K through nine open, encourage social distancing, but we're actually going to let our least vulnerable go out, acquire the infection, acquire the immunity for it and get herd immunity that way. That's their strategy.

The other strategy is the China lockdown, but then test, trace and track everybody so you prevent the virus to come back while we wait for a vaccine to get herd immunity. Then there are democratic versions of the China model in-between and the best obviously is Germany which is doing through Democratic means what China is doing by using its state surveillance system.

We are doing neither Sweden nor Germany. We're sort of talking like Germany, but being Sweden by default because we aren't putting in place all of the framework that would actually maximize our ability to get back to work while protecting our most vulnerable. That's the strategy and that's what's missing here from Trump's approach, I would argue. SMERCONISH: There's nothing funny about this situation, but to coin a phrase, might Sweden have the last laugh? I know that right now we look from afar and we say, well, their death rate is four times that of Denmark.

I'm pretty convinced of these statistics being accurate and I think 11 times that of Norway, but in the end, might that data level out and we look at Sweden and say by embracing herd immunity, even if they don't use those words, they had the right idea?

FRIEDMAN: Well, you're asking the right question. I'm amazed watching the commentary about Sweden. All these people out there, they're basically rooting for them to fail and yes ...


FRIEDMAN: ... they compare their death rate to the -- to Denmark, but they ignore the fact that Sweden per capita has fewer cases of COVID- 19, of coronavirus than we do and they have fewer deaths than France. So first of all, it all depends what you compare -- who you compare them to and it all depends the timeframe and they admit they didn't protect their elderly well.

Neither did we. Neither did many people and I don't know how it's going to come out in Sweden. I'm not predicting how it's going to come out, but I am -- I am certainly rooting for them to find a way to sustainably preserve lives and livelihood through this method of getting herd immunity if they can.


And I'm rooting for that and I'm just struck at how many people are dealing with them as immoral deviants for trying a path that, you know, has a possibility, in the long-term, to succeed and I'm talking about in the next few months. I hope it does. I don't predict it will. I don't know. I'm not an epidemiologist, but I'm not rooting against them.

SMERCONISH: Your writing turned me and a whole host of other folks on to the work of David Katz with a long-term association at Yale and this notion of a vertical interdiction. I want to put on the screen a comment to your column from a "Times" reader. I think he called himself The Dude, but we'll put it up on the screen and I'll read it aloud. I've been hit with this criticism as well, so let's see what Tom Friedman says.

Quote, "So my question to these people who promise to protect the most vulnerable is what exactly are you proposing to protect people like my wife? She's older and has a pre-existing condition.

Is it just more home quarantine time while you and your families visit restaurants, go shopping, get your hair cut at salons, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera? Is that your solution for older adults and those with compromised immune systems?" What would Tom Friedman say to that reader of your column? FRIEDMAN: This is unfair. This is an unfair moment. We have to do everything we can to protect his wife and my wife or yours, Michael, who may be vulnerable or our grandparents. We've done a terrible job at that.

If it were me, I'd be calling out the National Guard in all 50 states to protect nursing homes in partnership with local public health officials to make sure both the workers there and the residents there are protected from this.

But you're dealing with Mother Nature. She's not fair. She didn't give you this virus in a way that it falls on everyone equally, all right? Mother Nature's just chemistry, biology and physics. You can't talk her up, you can't talk her down.

All you can do is adapt as best you can and that's what we have to enable every single person in our society to do, to maximize their ability to both protect the vulnerable to, on a risk stratified basis, feed into the workforce those who are least vulnerable and maximize our ability to save lives and livelihood.

But this isn't fair. This is not -- you're up against Mother Nature. You're not up against some political party. She doesn't care about you or me. All she cares about is who will adapt and who doesn't adapt in her world, they get returned to the manufacturer. That's the brutal logic of our situation.

SMERCONISH: Well, the pandemic has proven to quote the book title that the world is flat. Thank you, Tom. I really appreciate it.

FRIEDMAN: Good to be with you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish, go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. Catherine, what do we have? "Smerconish, ah, going all Trump today already. All in for end the lockdown now. I'm surprised you were not at the astroturf protests."

Really, Ducky? That's the lesson that you take away from me laying out the data, the data that says we need to have two objectives which is to prevent those like my two aunts who are each in their 90s, ones with her husband of 69 years living in an assisted care nursing home type facility, you know, I'm all for protecting them that's my objective.

At the same time, recognizing that people will die from economic ruin, literally die. I hit you with all the data, then presented you with Tom Friedman, one of the foremost thinkers, right? In the country who's a critic of the president and your takeaway is that I'm here to carry the president's water. Come on.

In San Francisco's Tent-erloin neighborhood, since January, the number of homeless tents has gone up by nearly 300 percent. I'll talk to the dean of the nearby law school who's leading a lawsuit to force the city to clean it up. And during COVID -- oh, you're going to love this -- if your local government asks you to report on businesses violating the lockdown and you do, does that make you a patriotic whistleblower or a snitch? That's this week's survey question. Please go right now to and vote. Those reporting on non-essential businesses that remain open, whistleblowers or snitches?




SMERCONISH: The pandemic is contributing to a major homeless crisis in one area of San Francisco. Since January, the number of tents and makeshift structures has exploded by nearly 300 percent in the Tent- erloin neighborhood. By the way, take a look at that footage and know that we shot it just yesterday.

The University of California Hastings College of the Law and a group of Tent-erloin residents and businesses have filed a lawsuit not to seek financial damages, but to force the city to clean it up. They say the city left them to deal with blocked sidewalks and roads with no wheelchair access, garbage, drug activity and even human waste, not to mention the fear of infection based on a lack of social distancing.

Now the San Francisco mayor has rolled out a plan to help address the problem. The plan includes moving some people to a designated area that already contains dozens of tents and forcing social distancing by closing streets and leaving six feet between tents on sidewalks, increasing access to wash stations, restrooms, food access and health services. Is that enough?

Joining me now is David Faigman, the chancellor and dean of UC Hastings College of the Law. He's leading the charge in the lawsuit against the city and the county of San Francisco.


Dean, thank you for being here. Why are you suing?

DAVID FAIGMAN, CHANCELLOR AND DEAN, U.C. HASTINGS COLLEGE OF THE LAW: Well, good morning, Michael We are suing because our neighborhood has become a pandemic containment zone. We have basically or the city has basically cordoned off our area.

Tents are blocking the streets, tents are blocking doorways. There are needles in the street. There's open air drug dealing. There is no other neighborhood in San Francisco that would tolerate that and they would stand up and they would be counted and the Tent-erloin needs to stand up and be counted.

SMERCONISH: What do you want?

FAIGMAN: What we want is to clear the streets. The disabled, those that need to get food, need to get medicine have to struggle around tents, they have to step over waste and we need the tents to be removed and we need the drug dealers to be stopped. There are open areas that the city controls. They can create safe encampments, they can provide supervision, they can provide sanitary facilities, they can provide testing.

There's no COVID-19 testing going on right now in our neighborhood. We fear that the virus is raging in the neighborhood and our neighborhood has more children per capita than any other neighborhood in San Francisco. We have elderly, we have vulnerable populations that are in danger and so leaving them on the streets is no solution and it's not a near-team solution and it's not a long-term solution. We have to get them off the streets now.

SMERCONISH: We invited the mayor to come on this morning and she declined. Her office did, this week, as I referenced, issue a new plan probably in response to your lawsuit. What do you think of that plan?

FAIGMAN: I think the plan is entirely inadequate. It essentially institutionalizes the status quo. It simply leaves everybody in place. It is a BAND-AID when a bandage is needed and is simply inadequate. It was thrown together. We anticipate that it was thrown together in response because they knew the lawsuit was coming, but it really does not provide a real solution in the immediate term and it has absolutely nothing to say about the intermediate and long-term.

Moreover, it says almost nothing about the open-air drug dealing that's going on in the neighborhood. The city seems to have simply taken a hands-off approach and this is the vulnerable population that otherwise has no voice and the voice now is going to be in the federal courts.

And I think with federal oversight, the solution is good for the city. I think that the city ought to welcome this lawsuit as an opportunity to break through political barriers and to accomplish what they want to accomplish as well, which is to clear the streets and protect the residents of San Francisco.

SMERCONISH: I can understand why your lawsuit would be in the best interest of Hastings. I can also understand, as one who's been to law school and has a son in law school, the reluctance that I or for one of my kids would be to come to your school if that's the situation, but I need to ask this question. Do you think that you're also acting not only in the best interest of the law school, but in the best interest of those literally living on sidewalks in front of the law school?

FAIGMAN: Absolutely. The reality is that they're not welcoming this situation either. They are in tents one on top of one another. They are congregating even when the tents are moved to six feet away in large groups. They are not being given the sanitary and health facilities that they need, they're not given the testing that they need.

What we are proposing is an immediate solution which is to move the encampment to an area that would be safe and provide all the needs that they have, but then also build on that, build on that to create a long-term solution for affordable housing, for mental illness and for food insecurity and then also to stop the drug dealing that's going on in the area.

So I think that in the end, if you look at what our suit would create in San Francisco, I think that the mayor and I are on the same page. I think that if she were to write down what she wants the neighborhood to look like a year from now and if I were to write down what I want the neighborhood to look like a year from now, that it would look a lot alike and I think if you ask the unhoused population what they want, it would also look a lot like what the mayor and what I had written down.

SMERCONISH: Quick final question. Are you regarded in the community as hero or villain for having filed this lawsuit?


FAIGMAN: So I have received close to 200 e-mails, phone calls and other communications and they're running 100 to one in favor of the lawsuit. My alumni community is thrilled. The average e-mail says something to the effect of thank you, thank you, thank you. There's been a pent up demand for this kind of action and I think that they hope, like I do, that the federal courts can do something and have some long-lasting change here.

SMERCONISH: Dean David Faigman, thanks for being here to explain this. We're going to follow it.

FAIGMAN: Thank you very much. I appreciate you having me.

SMERCONISH: What are you saying via Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages? What do we got, Catherine? From Twitter, "Why not just move the homeless to cruise ships which are idle right now? Helps them and the cruise line." Listen, I don't know the San Francisco lay of the land all that well.

I do remember watching the movie "Pacific Heights." I can't imagine that the creation of a de facto containment zone, which is what the lawsuit alleges and what seems, from a distance, to be the case, would be permitted in, you know, Pacific Heights or some of the other more highbrow neighborhoods in that city. It's got to -- got to change.

Up ahead, while President Trump is out and about wrestling with the pandemic, Joe Biden has been trapped in his basement and yet he's surged ahead in the polls. I'll ask David Axelrod to win, does Biden need to do anything more than just stay put?

Plus, when people in St. Louis responded to the government's request to report on COVID lockdown violations, they didn't realize they were putting themselves in danger of being outed. I'll explain. Make sure you're answering today's survey question over at Those reporting on non-essential businesses that remain open, are they whistleblowers or snitches?



SMERCONISH: If you report on your neighbors defying COVID lockdown orders, are you a whistleblowing patriot or a snitch? There have been reports of concerned citizens aiding the shutdown all over the country.

Back in late March, a resident of Naugatuck, Connecticut shot a video of people congregating at a local golf course and posted it online. When the mayor saw the video he decided to temporarily shut down the course.

In Chicago, several people complained online and to their alderman that a yoga studio was continuing to offer classes despite the stay- at-home order. On March 27th it was issued a citation.

Tulsa, Oklahoma, March 28, citizens who saw a live stream of a drag queen party at a bar, they called the cops who came and shut it down.

According to the Vermont publication "Seven Days" in the first two weeks of April 270 Vermont residents used this executive order reporting tool about violations to the governor's stay home, stay safe executive order which were then directed to the police. So, if your local authorities ask you to report non-essential businesses defying orders to say shut down during COVID would you feel OK about doing so?

Now before you answer, you better listen to what happened in St. Louis. In the last week of March, the St. Louis County government asked its citizens to report any noncompliant businesses via a dedicated email address or online form. The COVID-19 stay-at-home report of abuse and wrongdoing which says, "By reporting violations you play a critical role in helping us make sure that everybody is doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by following the Stay at Home order."

As reported by local station KSDK within little more than a week, the site received more than 900 such tips from concerned people wanting to keep their community safe. Ultimately warning letters were sent to 42 local businesses including craft stores, tanning salons, a restaurant. In the letter county executive Sam Page wrote -- quote -- "Those who are not designated as an essential business must follow this public health order. It has the force of law."

He warned that those who do not comply risk losing their designation as a business in good standing and access to potential grants from the CARES Act, the $2 trillion congressional relief package. But the concerned tipsters perhaps didn't read the fine print on their complaint forms.

Before you could submit the online claim you had to fill out personal information, including whether you work at the business in question, and then check a bunch of disclaimers. You know, the things that we're always checking without bothering to read. Well, they included this one.

I have been advised that this form and any other communication may be considered an open record pursuant to the Sunshine Law. St. Louis County may be required to release this form as well as other communications as a matter of law upon request by any member of the public, including the media.

Well, you can guess what happened next, right? Somebody utilized that law to obtain the names and someone else posted all of them online. With the headline, "Here ya go. The gallery of snitches, busybodies, and employees who rat out their own neighbors and employers over the Panic-demic."

In a written interview with KSDK TV Jared, the person who posted it, explained -- quote -- "I released the info in an attempt to discourage such behavior in the future. They are now experiencing the same pain that they themselves helped to inflict on those they filed complaints against."

And some were threatening to get the employees fired or other retaliation. His post has since been taken down. One of the concerned citizens told KSDK that she has lupus and lives with two other people who are compromised in their immune systems.


She said that she has been extra careful and when she saw something, she said something. But she concluded, "We're in a society where doing what's right doesn't always get rewarded."

OK. So, how do you feel about it? This has always been the whistleblower's dilemma. If your identity isn't safe is it worth it?

Go to and answer this week's survey question.

Those reporting on non-essential businesses that remain open, whistleblowers or snitches?

From social media, we've got this.

Asking this question is disgusting. They are trying to protect people from dying.

Well, OK, then, clearly, you put them in the category of whistleblower. Why is it disgusting? Just cast your ballot and move on.

Still to come, the president hit the road this week touring a mask factory in Arizona and wresting with the pandemic while his component campaigning from the basement is surging ahead of him in the polls. Will this be all Joe Biden needs to do to win? Well, no, says David Axelrod who steered both of President Obama's winning campaigns. I'll ask him why, next.



SMERCONISH: Can Joe Biden win the White House by just letting Trump be Trump? If you look at recent polling, he's been gaining ground just sitting in his basement while the president has been wrestling with the pandemic.

Nationally, Biden leads the president by nine points and he's moved into the lead in several key battleground states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin. There is the data. But without the usual candidate tools even this summer's convention may be virtual, will he have to rethink his campaign?

My next guest says, yes, David Axelrod. You know the former senior adviser to President Obama, who was the senior strategist for both his campaigns. He co-wrote this piece in "The New York Times" with Obama's 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe, "What Joe Biden Needs to Do to Beat Trump."

David, thanks so much for being here. This essay was great radio fodder for me and my listeners this week on two or three different days. And here's a question that came up.


SMERCONISH: Yes. Thank you. By the way, give me something for next week too, would you?

But one of the questions that came up is, why would the two Davids, Axelrod and Plouffe put this in "The New York Times" instead of picking up the phone and calling the former veep or his campaign apparatus? What, if anything, can we read into how you delivered the message?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, the piece was assigned to us by "The New York Times." They were interested in how Biden adjusts to the new reality of campaigning in the COVID-19 era. So, we were responding to that request. It wasn't meant as a message to the Biden campaign.

You know, the Biden campaign has a new campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon who was the deputy manager of the Obama campaign in 2012. Probably as skilled a manager and organizer as there is in the country. So, she could have written this piece if they asked her to.

So it wasn't meant as a message. I know it was interpreted as that. But it does raise an important challenge that they're having to deal with which is that, robbed of the tools that you usually have to campaign, traditional tools and being stuck at least for the time being in your home, how do you campaign against the president who is a ubiquitous presence, a man who looks to be in action even if the action sometimes is chaotic and self-defeating?

And without the video -- and also without a position, so that the president has a position here that gives him a platform in an era when COVID-19 is of great interest, and so do governors and mayors. Biden doesn't have that.

So, that was where we -- that was what prompted us to write the piece. And the answer is, you have to really hone these virtual tools. You have to be very aggressive in and on the balls of your feet, both offensively and defensively. He could win, Michael. Joe Biden might win just by dint of how the president is handling this crisis which is all encompassing for the American people. But in campaigns you never want to leave it to chance. You don't back into the presidency. You don't want campaigns to happen to you. So, quickly upgrading all of these techniques online are going to be -- is going to be very, very important for the vice president.

SMERCONISH: You wrote among other things, online speeches from his basement won't cut it. Written pronouncements on this issue or that may have won attention during his many years in office, but will get little pickup now. Broadcast interviews are fine, but most valuable only if they generate a great and memorable line that becomes widely shared and consumed as a video moment.

So if the status quo is inadequate, talk specifics, what exactly should he be doing?

AXELROD: Well, if you look at his social media footprint, Donald Trump's following and his campaign following dwarfs the Biden following by a factor of 15 to 1. So, you want to quickly build that out. You're never going to catch up. But we discussed various techniques you can use to expand your footprint.

You have to become active on YouTube, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, and TikTok, and you need to develop constantly -- be developing content for all of these and that are unique to them. And so you need to create a content studio. And really be in the production business all the time. Not necessarily using Biden, but his army of surrogates who are interesting and compelling to people and can do fun things that will get their attention.


The goal being to get people to share this material with their friends and expand your universe. You have to organize that way. Remember, you can't even knock on doors these days because people aren't going to answer and you're not allowed in many places.

So how are you going to reach people? Well, you have to do it virtually. And you have to have this relational organizing.

So, all of these things, there's a piece in the "Post" this morning about the Biden campaign being about the business of trying to do all of these things. But they're having to retrofit a campaign that, frankly, was wanting in the primaries and didn't have the resources or wherewithal to do those kinds of things. Most of the other leading campaigns were far ahead of them in this virtual campaigning. They don't have an option now.

SMERCONISH: Well, David, there's a headline from the "Post" as well this morning that says that the Biden campaign has gone on a hiring spree --


SMERCONISH: -- maybe in response to what you published with David Plouffe.


SMERCONISH: There's something else that I've read recently that you're reminding me of and it's this, Robert Draper for the "Times" magazine a week ago, he profiled Brad Parscale and I interviewed him on SiriusXM about this. I want to on the screen and read to you something that he wrote. This is what Parscale told him that his staff, the Trump campaign, had identified 110 million likely Trump voters in the U.S., and he added according to the polls he had seen, "We could win this just by getting about 72 million of them to show up."

The point being there's a side of the campaign out of the public view that the Trump folks are very adept at.


SMERCONISH: And I think that's what you were commenting on where the former vice president really needs to up his game.

AXELROD: Yes, there's no doubt. For all of the president's infatuation with television, they've been a digital first campaign from the very beginning. And they have been very, very aggressive in developing and testing content constantly that will provoke their supporters to act. That will expand their circle.

And there was another piece yesterday in the "Post" by David Weigel who signed to up for both campaigns and he described the experience of being both a Trump and Biden supporter.


AXELROD: That was very, very telling because the Trump experience was much more enveloping and motivational than the Biden experience. So there is a gap.

And I don't believe that the Biden campaign is staffing up as a result of our piece. I think they've been doing that for weeks. I think what happened was that they decided to pull the curtain up on what they were doing, perhaps, because of questions about the piece. But they just have -- it's a very difficult task to do this quickly.

We're going to start voting in, what, 170 days or something, early voting. So there's a short period of time. And they can't even be in the same room to talk about it. So, they're trying to retrofit a campaign that wasn't really set up for this. They're doing it virtually. And they're doing it at warp speed. It's a real task.

SMERCONISH: David, thank you. I know you're on the west coast. I really appreciate you getting up early on a Saturday for us.

AXELROD: Always good to be with you. Always good to get up for you. Good to see you. Bye.

SMERCONISH: Thanks for saying that.

All right. From Twitter and Facebook. Catherine, what do we got? I think from Facebook this time around.

"Biden just needs to sit back and let Trump continue to implode. No POTUS can survive 14.7 percent unemployment."

You know, Rey, what's interesting is I had a sound piece there and I ran out of time with David that I wanted to share. Actually, Catherine, can we quickly run that? Do you mind, the Trump sounder? Go ahead. Play this Trump sounder.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd love to see him get out of the basement so he can speak, because he's locked in a basement somewhere, and every time he talks, it's like a good thing.


SMERCONISH: Thank you for playing that. Yes. So the president's mind- set seems to be one of, hey, I need Joe out there because Joe may step on his words. And if he's only in the basement and he's contained I'm not getting some of the fodder that I, Donald Trump, need to run this race.

So, still to come your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we'll give you the final result of the survey question. Go vote right now at my Web site

Those reporting on non-essential businesses that remain open, whistleblowers or snitches?



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

Those reporting on non-essential businesses that remain open, whistleblowers or snitches?

Let's see how this turns out. Seventy-seven percent say whistleblowers. Twenty-three percent say snitches with nearly 15,000 having voted. I'm not surprised.

By the way, for the record, I guessed 67 percent. That was my guess in terms of -- I have no idea which way these things come out but I thought 67.

Here's some of what came in during the course of the program. What else do we have?

"Whistleblower or snitch? Depends on your political affiliation and what your intentions are."

Yes. You know what? Does it really depend on your political affiliation? Because I think there's a tendency to see this red state/blue state. Or is it really geography dependent and geography largely is a marker of what your politics may be? It's kind of a chicken or egg scenario.

I think that the market is going to handle a lot of these things. Government can open up businesses but if you're not ready to go back to a restaurant then you're not going to go. And likely if you see a business in your community that's open and it shouldn't be my hunch is you're not going to patronize them in the future.


Give me another one if we have time.

Excellent assessment on where we are. We need to open up in a smart and responsible way. Protect the most vulnerable.

How did that get in there, that's complimentary? Give me one more, please.

I know you don't want to read that. Only I want to read that.

Smerconish, stop saying Biden in the basement. Instead say Biden bravely abides by COVID-19 barriers.

I don't mean it in a negative sense. I just mean that he's contained. And, by the way, a containment strategy might be all he needs to win. Who knows?

Have a great weekend. Happy Mother's Day. Stay safe. See you next week.