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Why Is Trump Against Mail-in Ballots?; Is Trump's Stance Against Mail-in Ballots Hurting His Own Base?; Is Tesla Latest Victim Of The Political Divide?; University Of California Phasing Out Standardized Tests; University Of California Phasing Out Standardized Tests; Is It To Trump's Political Advantage To Take On Obama?; Commencement Messages For The COVID Generation. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 23, 2020 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Is the president concerned about democracy or defeat? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. All right. Imagine it's election night, November 3rd, 2020. You're tuned in to CNN and it's very late, maybe even into the next morning.

Wolf Blitzer has just called another state, tosses to John King in front of his magic wall. King, with that encyclopedic command of the electoral map, gives the very latest breakdown which shows that President Trump has a slight lead based on votes cast in person.

King then throws it back to Anderson Cooper who has an announcement -- that the race is too close to call and will remain so for days due to the unprecedented receipt of mail-in or absentee ballots in several swing states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania. And then a week later when all the votes have been counted, Trump's lead has vanished and Joe Biden is declared the winner.

Here's my question. Would that outcome be accepted by partisans who'd been conditioned for months to equate mail-in voting with voter fraud? After all, just this past week, President Trump threatened to withhold aid from Michigan and Nevada because of alleged illegal activity related to absentee ballots. And on Thursday, night he was quick to assert, quote, "fraud" while embracing a Laura Ingraham tweet that compared grocery shopping to voting.

In March, the president said that efforts to expand voting would guarantee, quote, "You'd never have a Republican elected again," but his antipathy is not data-driven. Five states currently vote entirely by mail and studies of those states don't show either party benefiting.

Writing for FiveThirtyEight blog, Lee Drutman recently noted, "In a recent study, a team of Stanford University political scientists looked at county-level implementation of vote-by-mail in California, Utah and Washington. They found no statistically significant partisan difference between counties that had transitioned to voting fully by mail and those that had not, along with a slight increase in voter turnout. Another research team recently analyzed the effects of voting by mail in Colorado and although they found a much higher effect on overall voter turnout than previous studies, they also had a similar null partisan finding. More voters turned out to support Democratic candidates, but more voters also turned out to support Republican candidates."

So why is President Trump so against postal ballots? Is it a concern for democracy or a concern over his defeat? My next guest convened a conference and ad hoc committee of legal scholars to study concerns about the fairness and legitimacy of the coming election and to make recommendations to protect the sanctity of the vote. Those recommendations included that, quote, "States should adopt reforms to improve the absentee ballot and provisional ballot processes, both in terms of access and security."

Plus there were recommendations for the media such as this one, "It's especially important for the media to convey to the public the idea that, given an expected increase in absentee ballot voting in the November 2020 elections, delays in election reporting are to be expected, not evidence of fraud, and that the 2020 presidential election may be 'too early to call' until days after the election."

Richard Hasen is the chancellor's professor of law and political science at the University of California at Irvine. He's the author of "Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy." OK, Professor. You know this subject area well. We have five states that are entirely by mail. What is the record of fraud in those states?

RICHARD HASEN, CHANCELLOR'S PROFESSOR OF LAW AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE: The record of fraud in those states is quite low and overall in the United States, the record is that election fraud is rare. It does occasionally happen with absentee ballots, but if you look at the scale of voting by mail, it's very, very small.

SMERCONISH: What about the shenanigans I keep hearing bandied about that took place in North Carolina's Ninth Congressional District?

HASEN: Right. So even though it's rare, it's not non-existent. What happened in 2018 is that an operative working for a Republican congressional candidate allegedly went around, collected absentee ballots against North Carolina law and either tampered with them by changing votes or destroyed some ballots. It was so bad that the bipartisan North Carolina State Board of Elections decided they needed to redo the election. I think the point is that the fraud was caught.


It's very hard to have a conspiracy like this and not get caught and as long as there are safeguards like prosecuting someone who engages in this kind of activity, I think it's a risk worth taking given the kind of disenfranchisement we could face if people can't safely go to the polling places in November. SMERCONISH: Here's another critique that I hear and as a matter of fact, this one made "The Wall Street Journal"'s editorial page today. The subject is ballot harvesting. "The Journal" wrote in part, "As states extend mail voting, they should tighten deadlines and ban ballot harvesting.

The push for all-mail voting is relentlessly focused on ballot access, which is important, but ensuring ballot integrity is crucial for public confidence in election outcomes and ultimately for democratic legitimacy." Do they have a point?

HASEN: I think they do have a point, but you know what's ironic about that editorial is that they point out that voters of color are more likely to have their ballots rejected because of finding some kind of technical flaw on how the ballot is cast and so we really need to work on that, including making sure that voters can cure their ballots if they're tossed, for example, because of a purported signature mismatch, but I think reasonable limits on the number of ballots that could be collected is a -- is a smart thing.

There has been no proof of fraud. Even though California has unlimited collection of absentee ballots by third parties and despite what some Republicans are saying, there's no proof of any fraud whatsoever related to the 2018 elections. That's where, as the vote count continued, we saw the numbers go from a Republican lead to a Democratic lead.

But I do think that "The Journal" is right that when you have so many people out there collecting ballots, it does raise questions about voter confidence, especially in this polarized atmosphere and putting reasonable limits like Colorado has where you can collect up to 10 absentee ballots from votes (ph) seems like a smart compromise.

SMERCONISH: How concerned are you about the scenario that I laid out in my opening commentary?

HASEN: I'm very concerned. I think that it's certainly possible in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania which didn't have no-fault absentee balloting before, it's quite possible that President Trump could be ahead in the count on election night, but as millions of additional ballots are counted over the next few days, the lead could shift to Biden and Trump, who's been making unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud for years, has now started shifting to making these claims about mail-in balloting and he could certainly claim that there is something wrong with how the vote count was done.

It's going to be very important to stick with the facts and very important for the media to educate the public that just because it's going to take time to count the votes, that doesn't mean something nefarious is going on behind the scenes. In fact, that should be a good sign that election workers are acting carefully to make sure that the results are accurate and fair.

SMERCONISH: It's very hard to get into his head and know what his rationale might be in making the claims that he's making about mail-in voting, but here's a question that I think we can answer with science and with data. Is he making an argument against his own interest? In other words, is it so clear that a Republican candidate, that he would be the loser for a system that relies more on postal ballots?

HASEN: Oh, I think absolutely he's shooting himself in his own foot because Republicans are -- if we have the pandemic raging in the fall, Republicans going to have to depend on vote-by-mail and in lots of places the Republican Party has engaged in extensive vote-by-mail efforts. They're now trying to thread a thin needle saying don't vote by absentee, but vote by mail if you need to. You know, some kind of strange way of trying to distinguish what the president is saying.

As a point of fact, if Republican voters don't want to be disenfranchised, they need to vote by mail in places where it's not safe to go to the polling place and we saw in the April 7th Wisconsin primary that Republicans, because they were not getting assistance from the Republican Party, had more trouble navigating the system to sign up to get an absentee ballot and voted in lower numbers than Democrats, letting Democrats elect their preferred choice for the state Supreme Court.

I think Republicans really need to turn this around and ensure that their voters too are not disenfranchised and have reasonable ways to be able to cast a ballot in November.

SMERCONISH: I'm going to do my part with the multiple platforms that I have access to, as you've recommended, to educate the public that it's possible we might not have a victor on election night and that doesn't mean, by definition, that something nefarious is taking place. Professor Hasen, thank you so much.

HASEN: Thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. "Vote by mail and spend the next year checking dumpsters for the ballots." But Louis, that's just -- I mean, it's a good sound bite, right?

And you got mentioned on CNN in front of an international audience. I guess that's cool, but the data just doesn't support that. You know, it's not as if this is some foreign concept that we're all of a sudden going to give a ride for the first time. Five states do it entirely by mail.


They don't have a record of fraud in those states. So many assertions that get made online are just not backed up by evidence and information.

Up ahead, the University of California announced that it will be suspending major standardized tests as admissions requirements until 2024 and then eliminate them entirely by 2025. I'll tell you why I think it's a good move and by the way, my rationale is not the same as University of California, but it leads me to this week's survey question at I want you to go and cast a ballot. Do you agree with the University

of California system plan to eliminate the SAT and the ACT as requirements for applying to its 10 schools?

Plus, after the break, do you think that the car you drive, for example an F-150 versus a Subaru, does that reveal your political leanings and if so, what if you drive a Tesla? Tesla CEO Elon Musk's latest foray into politics may be bringing his brand into the divide over the pandemic. His tweet referencing "The Matrix" elicited a nod from Ivanka Trump.


MORPHEUS, FICTIONAL CHARACTER, THE MATRIX: Remember, all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.





SMERCONISH: My new car is transitioning. Let me explain. Elon Musk, the famous, often infamous, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is not exactly a shrinking violet. Like the president, Twitter is often his preferred method of communication.

There he's authored many bold predictions including, but not limited to "Tesla stock price too high in my opinion," calling a British diver who was sent in to save the young Thai soccer players in 2018 a pedophile, a tweet he later deleted and of course, "Nuke Mars," or maybe land there. After all, we're just four days away from SpaceX sending two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, to the International Space Station.

But Musk has been making headlines for other reasons lately. He's been criticized and lauded for his recent takes on the coronavirus pandemic, beginning with his downplaying of the risks of COVID-19, claiming that children are essentially immune and culminating in a standoff between the CEO and public health officials in California's Alameda County over the stay-at-home orders which led to prolonged closure of the Tesla plant. "Free America now," he tweeted back in April.

In the past, Musk's brashness has further ingratiated himself with his cult of loyal followers. Like many, including the president, Musk is being forced to face a harsh reality -- the response to the coronavirus pandemic is now wildly polarized and taking a firm stance on reopening is a political act.

For my radio listeners, my fascination with Musk is no secret. I've been discussing my recent experience as the owner of a brand new Model Y which rolled off the Alameda manufacturing line five days before it was forced to close. I have to say, the man makes an incredible car. It's like driving an iPhone. When some of my close friends learned I had purchased a Tesla, I was interrogated about my choice. One friend accused me of buying a blue state car. He said your CNN conversion is now complete.

That reminded me of when "U.S. News" published a list of cars by political party. If you're driving a Ford, Chevy, Porsche, sports car or pickup, you're probably voting red, they say. Volkswagen, Subaru, Acura, Mercedes or -- I love this -- any hatchback, likely has a Democrat behind the wheel. I never personally saw my purchase as political. My friend may have a point about other Tesla drivers.

This week, Nellie Bowles writes for "The New York Times," "Owning a Tesla, the luxurious electric car, is a major liberal status symbol. It signals nothing more than good taste, the perfect balance of wealth with care for fossil fuels. But the man behind the brand is crafting a very different persona online that may now prove to be a challenge for his fans."

Despite Bowles and other's perception that Tesla is a liberal brand, Musk has never claimed to be. When asked about his politics several years ago, he had this to say.


ELON MUSK, CEO, TESLA MOTORS & SPACEX: And I'm sort of moderate, sort of half Republican, half Democrat, if you will, but I'm somewhere in the middle. I guess I'm sort of socially liberal and fiscally conservative, as I think a lot of the country is actually.


SMERCONISH: If Musk's recent red takes on reopening weren't painful enough for his base to endure, his recent Twitter exchange with first daughter and advisor to the president Ivanka Trump may have sent them over the edge. On Sunday, Musk tweeted, "Take the red pill." Ivanka responded, "Taken."

The red pill is a reference from the 1999 science fiction action film "The Matrix." By all accounts, it's supposed to be a key to unlocking the truth. "Matrix" co-director Lilly Wachowski not impressed by the exchange and fired back at both of them with this tweet, "F both of you."

Earlier this year, writing for "Vulture," Max Read analyzed the red pill metaphor and its influence on the internet, saying, quote, "Online, 'to red pill' is to learn that you've been defrauded and misled, that you've bought into a false and diabolical lie and that your only way out is to obtain true knowledge about the way the world works."


MORPHEUS: You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.

[09:20:04] You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. Remember, all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.


SMERCONISH: So what are the consequences of Musk straddling the political fence? Maybe that my new car is really purple despite the exterior shade of grey, which suits me just fine. Let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. What do we have from Facebook? "What cars are us Independents supposed to drive? Please help!" Hey, Rick, I may have just given you the answer. Maybe it's a Tesla.

Up ahead, those dreaded staples of high school Saturday mornings, the SAT, the ACT, now on life support, where one of the nation's largest public university systems says they'll be discontinued and that is this week's survey question at Do you agree with the University of California system plan to eliminate the SAT and ACT as requirements for applying to its 10 schools?




SMERCONISH: True confession, I have long harbored a bias against the SAT, the Scholastic Aptitude Test. That staple of the high school experience was not an accurate predictor of how I would do in college or in life. I bombed it and I then watched our four children commit such time to the SAT preparation that I think would have been much better spent elsewhere. Lucky for them, they pulled their mother's gene for standardized tests and not my own.

Still, had they spent that time learning to paint or play a musical instrument, at least then they would have walked away with a life skill or a new passion, which is why I'm cheering the decision by one of the largest university systems in America, the University of California, as it phases out the SAT and ACT as a requirement for college admissions.

Me? I'd go one step further. We should end the common app too. The common app makes it too easy to apply to many schools which is one reason why Harvard had 43,330 applicants in 2019 for fewer than 2,000 spots. Other schools tell a similar story. The common app serves as a hub for students to apply to nearly 800 of America's top colleges and universities. Each student can apply to as many as 20 schools.

A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that those institutions that began accepting the common app saw a 12 percent increase in their numbers of applications in the first year. After a decade of accepting the common app, this number rises to 25 percent. To add insult to injury, those schools on the common app tend to be name brands, worsening the stratification between selective and less selective schools.

Perhaps the high number of applications fostered by the common app forces schools to utilize a common barometer immediately to separate the pile and quite naturally, that measurement is the SAT. Better that applicants use a sniper approach instead of a shotgun blast, that they put more time into their selection process and have to adapt themselves to nuanced applications. That would take pressure off the schools to rely on a standardized test and force students to figure out which school they actually want to attend.

Please go to and answer this week's survey question. Do you agree with the University of California system plan to eliminate the SAT and ACT requirements for applying to its 10 schools?

Joining me now to discuss is Bob Schaeffer, the interim executive director of FairTest, the national center for fair and open testing. Are you singing "Ding Dong the Witch is dead?"

BOB SCHAEFFER, INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, FAIRTEST: Oh, the witch is not completely dead, but the University of California's decision to phase out the SAT and ACT is a major victory for the Test Optional Admissions Movement and those who recognize that standardized test scores are neither fair nor accurate predictors of undergraduate success.

SMERCONISH: So you know I'm on your side, but let me raise the critique.


SMERCONISH: The critique is you must have a yardstick, some common form of measurement, otherwise it puts the schools in an untenable position. What's your response?

SCHAEFFER: Well, there are now 1,230 accredited bachelor degree- granting colleges, including 85 percent of the top tier of liberal arts colleges that are test optional. The schools are listed on our website,, and they don't use the SAT or ACT to make admissions decisions and they do just fine. Independent studies show that eliminating the standardized testing requirement results in better, academically-qualified applicants and more diversity of all sort.

So it's a win-win both for colleges who get better, more diverse applicants and for high school students who get to be evaluated as more than a score, which is especially important for teenagers growing up in the No Child Left Behind era who've literally been tested to death.

SMERCONISH: OK. Here's another criticism of your position, which happens to be my position, that it represents give everybody a trophy mentality, right? That these kids, they can't hack competition, life's not fair, you better get used to it and you need to be able to sit down and take a test, so stop your complaining.

SCHAEFFER: Well, maybe we should have a free-throw shooting contest for basketball to determine who should play in the NBA.

[09:30:01] The problem is the standardized tests are not a good measure. High school records with all their variability in grades and coursework are a better predictor of who is going to graduate than either tests can be.

It shows really how poor a tool the ACT and SAT are. And there are fact sheets on our Web site,, that go into the data. There's just little value in requiring the tests. And that's why, already this year, 160 more colleges and universities including other states systems like the University of Oregon, the University of Indiana, the University of Wisconsin have dropped their standardized test requirements for students applying for fall 2021 admissions.

SMERCONISH: All right. Here's a third criticism of our position. Catherine, but on the screen, the College Board and what they've had to say about this.

The College Board released a statement saying, "Regardless of what happens with such policies, our mission remains the same to give all students, and especially low-income and first generation students, opportunities to show their strength." Here's the key part. "We must also address the disparities in coursework and classrooms that the evidence shows most drive inequity in California."

In other words they say, look, it's not the fault of the test. There are inequities in terms of the curriculum that's being offered to different students and now you're simply seeing the end result of it.

SCHAEFFER: No question that there are many inequities in the public education system in the U.S., as in the entire society, but standardized tests doesn't address those inequities it makes them worse. Standardized tests scores, the SAT and ACT, are very strongly correlated with family income. So, it's a measure of socioeconomic status not the ability to succeed in college.

And when you end up -- when you rely heavily on test scores, this is what the University of California regents concluded just this week, relying heavily on test scores results in screening out otherwise qualified students, particularly from low-income, first generation, second language, and historically disenfranchised minority groups. It's simply not needed.

Again, 1,230 colleges and universities listed on are test optional right now. They include some of the biggest names the University of Chicago, Wake Forest University, Brandeis, many, many top liberal arts colleges. You don't need the tests to do high-quality selection and determine who will be successful in college.

SMERCONISH: And to go back to where I began, imagine if, therefore, you could apply all of that prep time. It has spawned an entire cottage industry instead to learning to paint, be a photographer, be proficient in a musical instrument.

Hey, Bob, thank you so much. It will be interesting to see the result of today's survey question. We'll see if the audience agrees with the two of us. SCHAEFFER: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have from Twitter?

There are prerequisites for college. Some testing should be there because college shouldn't be remedial education.

I don't think that anybody is advocating that it be remedial education. It seems as if there are great disparities in applying this test to different sections of the population.

Here's the irony. The irony is that my kids are able to take advantage of the preparation that's necessary to take a test like this. I'm not the intended beneficiary of the U.C. saying we're going to discontinue it. I see it for the opposite end of the spectrum. I just think that it's an enormous waste of resources and puts undue pressure on these kids.

I want to remind you to answer this week's survey question at my Web site at Tell me what you think.

"Do you agree with the University of California system plan to eliminate the SAT and ACT as requirements for applying to its 10 schools?"

Still to come, from all of the attacks President Trump has been making on President Obama you might think that's who he's facing in November. But will the tactic help or hurt him politically?



SMERCONISH: Is it to President Trump's political advantage to take on President Obama? In recent weeks he has blamed his predecessor as one of the villains of the pandemic and repeatedly wielded the ominous term "Obamagate."

Historically presidents have been pretty respectful of their predecessors honoring their experience, even seeking their counsel. So, what's President Trump's strategy here and will it work?

Joining me now, the perfect person to discuss, Kate Andersen Brower, whose book just dropped, "Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump." Is there genuine hostility between the two of them or is this all about seeking some partisan advantage?

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, AUTHOR, "TEAM OF FIVE": I think there's genuine hostility between the two of them. It goes back to 2016. Never before have we had a president who got elected by running against these three political dynasties, the Bushes, the Clintons, and the Obamas. So, it makes sense for him now to really try to get it base -- turn out his base. This worked for him in 2016, and I think it's probably a smart political move, like it or not, for him to do it. SMERCONISH: In the book, you speak of the unwritten rules that govern, you know, the ex-presidents. And one is that you come together in time of celebration. This week, there was the story about whether President Trump would invite President Obama back to the White House for the unveiling of an official portrait.


And then I started to carry it one step further on radio, thinking about the next inauguration. Regardless of who wins, can we count on the former living presidents to come together?

ANDERSEN BROWER: I think we absolutely can count on them. I think it's more important now than ever that they show up if he's re-elected to his inauguration.

I think that one of the things during this pandemic that has really come to the forefront is that President Trump feels more comfortable calling Putin, Erdogan, these strong men autocrats than he does in calling Bush, Clinton, Obama. And I think that's a bad thing for our country.

Harry Truman said, once you become president you have to remember that the 21-gun salute and all of the accolades are not about you. And I think President Trump has forgotten some of that. And I interviewed him in the Oval Office about it. And he says he has no sense of empathy for the men who came before him.

SMERCONISH: Listen, I love the anecdotes in the book about the relationship between these individuals, between these men, up until now, they are male. But in particular -- hopefully you'll quickly tell the story -- the last ex-president to visit Bush 41 was not who you'd think, you'd think 43?

ANDERSEN BROWER: Absolutely. I was surprised to learn that three days before Bush 41 passed away President Obama was in Houston and visited him. They spent more than an hour together, several minutes just alone. Obama asked -- have Neil Bush and Jon Meacham who are also there to leave the room. And Bush was very sick at that time, really not doing well.

His chief of staff told me that if it was anyone else but Barack Obama, this meeting would have been cancelled. But Obama respected Bush, the last of the greatest generation, and he wanted to pay his respects. He used to call him my buddy 41. And I think that camaraderie among the former presidents is something important and it's something I really delved into in the book.

SMERCONISH: Well, and I think it's something that most Americans would like to see, regardless of party affiliation you would like -- to me, it would be the ultimate poker game. If I were in that position, I'd bring them all back and want to solicit their advice.


(CROSSTALK) SMERCONISH: Great job on the book.

ANDERSEN BROWER: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Thanks, Kate.

Let's check in on tweets and Facebook comments. From Facebook, I think. What do we have?

I agree about hands off approach, but current presidents don't usually mention the last president by name as often as Trump has.

Here's my prediction, Michael, I think that -- I mean, I rely on Kate. She knows better than I do as to whether there's genuine hostility there. I think that the president probably sees political advantage in going after President Obama and Obama probably thinks he helps Democrats by going after Trump.

I'm convinced there will be another name that will get thrown into the mix. Somehow, Trump is going to make Hillary an issue. She could go to Barbados from now until November 3rd, but somehow, he'll figure out a way to put her front and center. What it might be? I have no idea.

Hey, it's commencement season but this year because of the pandemic most of the speakers' words of wisdom for 2020 for graduates are being transmitted virtually, including my own. Hear what we all wanted to convey to the first COVID class.



SMERCONISH: The class of 2020's commencement season has been like few other, thanks to the pandemic lockdown ceremonies have been cancelled or pushed back a year. Speeches given remotely including one by me that I'll get to in a second.

My heart breaks for all seniors. We've got one of our own. But even without the joy of the in person experience of your last time together with family in attendance, the diploma processional, throwing caps in the air, this year's graduates they earned their sheepskins and then some. And the words imparted to them by a wide range of voices are applicable not just to their class but to all of us in moving forward. So what are this year's messages?


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Doing what feels good, what's convenient, what's easy, that's how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-up, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way, which is why things are so screwed up.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In this time of trial and testing for you and for our nation, you have demonstrated courage. And you're an inspiration to every American. SERENA WILLIAMS, 23-TIME GRAND SLAM CHAMPION AND ENTREPRENEUR: Over the course of your lifetime, there's going to be so many setbacks and challenges that force you to pause, to look inward, and to listen to the voice that says, you can do it. It's your job to keep your feet on the ground in those times of self-doubt, because in those moments they teach you how to fly.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: Please, hang in there. We need you to be smart, strong and resilient. With discipline and empathy, we will all get through this together. And now is the time, if ever there was one, for us to cast selflessly about one another.

JON STEWART, COMEDIAN: You have no idea what's about to come at you. And, man, isn't that the beautiful part of it. The one piece of advice I would give you is embrace that.



SMERCONISH: This was the third time that I was asked to give a college commencement. I take it quite seriously. It's a tough assignment. You get only 12 minutes to share life lessons or as I told this year's audience somewhere between "Stairway to Heaven" and "Free Bird." Or in more contemporary terms it's like trying to cram all of Two Friends' "Big Bootie" mix volume 17 into a three-minute track to be played on the radio, not easy.

In the midst of a pandemic, I felt privileged to speak to future leaders and practitioners in the health care and science fields graduating from the University of the Sciences. The school was founded in 1821 as Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, the first such college in all of North America. You can watch my entire speech online. Here's a clip.


SMERCONISH: Armed with the skill set that comes from studies at the Universities of the Sciences, many of you will become involved on the front line in this and future threats to public health. It's not enough that this be some of your vocational pursuit. It must also be all of your civic duty.

Even before the pandemic, we were experiencing an ignorance and debasement of science. The most pressing questions of our time, think climate change, food, water security, matters of health care were too often being solved with ideology and not evidence.

Society needs your knowledge. The public requires your contribution. As President John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural address, "Only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hours of maximum danger. I do not believe any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation."

He was right. Please be vocal. Be active. Stand up for science. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: I'm already at work for an address next year in case invited. I've got a John Lennon lyric stuck in my head these past couple of weeks, life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans.

Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we'll give you the final result of this week's survey question at

Do you agree with the University of California? They are ditching the SAT and ACT. Go vote.



SMERCONISH: Happy Memorial Day, everybody. Remember those who paid with their lives so that we can enjoy it this weekend.

Time now to see how you responded to this week's survey question at

Do you agree with the University of California system, their plan to eliminate the SAT and ACT as requirements for applying to its 10 schools?

Survey says -- the yeses have it -- wow, I'm kind of surprised. A lot of voting, more than 14,000, three-quarters. I had predicted it would be much more divided than that. But three-quarters are of our mindset, my mindset and that of my guests. Even though I gave deference to the opposing points of view.

All right. What else came in during the course of this program? What do we got?

Smerconish, I'd love to see the SAT and ACT abolished. But first I'd like to see @realDonaldTrump's score. I bet it was a perfect, huge -- Lauren, it was the best -- no, you know what it was? It was a beautiful score. It was beautiful -- the best, it was beautiful.

Look, I'm not one to joke. Whatever his was, it was probably higher than mine.

What else came in?


This is so important. Get analysis just now on @Smerconish CNN -- kids should be spending their time doing something else instead of studying for a test that will never make them better people.

Gretchen Carlson, thank you for that. Yes. Thank you, Gretchen. Appreciate your shout out. Gretchen, if I invested the time that I spent preparing for that test or if my kids did, they could play the viola right now. They could paint a hell of a picture. Instead it's just a total time drain as I see it.

One more if we have time. What do we have?

Smerconish, watching your segment on cars and party affiliations. You keep saying "Tezla" not Tesla. Why? You own one.

I shall answer that question. I used to say Tesla but then I listened to both of Joe Rogan's, free shout out, podcast with Elon Musk and when I heard Musk say "Tezla" I figured, OK, I'm going to start saying it that way as well. I'm not trying to be cute.

One more. Hustle if we can do it. Can we do it? Yes, we have time.

I drive a used Lexus, used Acura, admire and think Elon Musk is a genius, have made lots of money playing his stock, and I'm a conservative.

The guy is brilliant. I listened to some of his conversation about what he's working on with Neuralink and I think, if I weren't driving the car I'd think he's stone cold crazy but because I am I understand there's a method to his madness.

And, by the way, we're just a couple days away from the SpaceX launch. I wanted to discuss it because I find it fascinating that everything today is viewed through a partisan lens, which is a shame, including the car I'm now driving.


Happy Memorial Day weekend, everybody. Stay safe, socially distanced. I'll see you here next week same time, same bat station.