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What Are The Impacts Of Trump's Election Fight?; Oregon Decriminalizes Small Amounts Of Hard Drugs; "Squad" Member, Ilhan Omar On The Lessons Of 2020; Could Vaccine Distribution Be A Logistical Nightmare? Aired 9-10a ET
Aired November 14, 2020 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Which will pose a bigger challenge to accomplishing his agenda? Will it be Mitch McConnell, the notoriously obstructionist Senate Majority Leader, or the more progressive wing of Biden's own party? Think Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and The Squad.
In the absence of an anticipated blue wave in both the Senate and House, several more moderate Democrats have been blaming the extremism of certain party mates, among them Virginia Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger. After barely eking out re-election, Spanberger spoke bluntly on a post-election Democratic caucus call.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D-VA): We need to not ever use the word socialist or socialism ever again. We lost good members because of that. If we are classifying Tuesday as a success, we will get f---ing torn apart in 2022.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn seconded this on "Meet the Press," citing his party's failure to unseat Senator Lindsey Graham.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Jamie Harrison started to plateau when defund the police showed up with a caption on TV right across his head. That stuff hurt Jamie and that's why I spoke out against it a long time ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
CLYBURN: I've always said that these headlines can kill a political election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Then there's Senator Joe Manchin. He tweeted this, "Defund the police? Defund my butt. I'm a proud West Virginia Democrat. We are the party of working men and women. We want to protect Americans' jobs in healthcare. We do not have some crazy socialist agenda and we do not believe in defunding the police."
Manchin drew the ire of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who tweeted a visual response. It was this photo of her throwing apparent shade on Manchin during a State of the Union Address. Of course should Democrats win both Georgia Senate runoffs on January 5th, it could be Manchin who will be a swing voter and a deciding vote in a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans. Manchin is already on record opposing any expansion of the Supreme Court or in ending the filibuster.
Meanwhile, the four progressive freshmen known as The Squad who'd been targeted by conservatives, they all won re-election. "Our sisterhood is resilient," tweeted Ilhan Omar and in an election post-mortem in "The New York Times," AOC remained resolute , saying candidates who'd lost had made themselves, quote, "sitting ducks" by not, for instance, running savvy online campaigns or accepting her help and then she added this.
"Progressive policies do not hurt candidates. Every single candidate that co-sponsored Medicare for All in a swing district kept their seat. We also know that co-sponsoring the Green New Deal was not a sinker. Mike Levin was an original co-sponsor of the legislation. He kept his seat."
So while they're praising Joe Biden's choice of Ron Klain for Chief of Staff, will the progressives go along with, say, Biden's rumored pick of a moderate Republican for his cabinet? Will they, for instance, push to reconfigure the Supreme Court, not compromise on divisive issues like the Green New Deal? Can Joe Biden please them as well as moderates and the few Republican senators he'll need on board to pass any meaningful legislation?
All of this leads me to this week's survey question. Please go to my website, Smerconish.com, and cast your vote. Which will present more of a challenge to President Joe Biden? Progressives in his own party or Mitch McConnell?
Joining me now is Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, representing Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District. Congresswoman, thank you so much for being here.
REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): Good morning to you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: So in the end, Joe Biden, he won a substantial victory, 306 electoral votes, the same as Donald Trump four years ago. He's over 5 million in terms of the margin, but my first question is to what do you attribute Republicans gaining House seats, Republicans seemingly holding control of the Senate, picking up a gubernatorial mansion and more state legislatures than Democrats?
OMAR: Well, let me just say this. I mean, the victory on November 3rd wasn't just a victory for Biden, right? it wasn't just a victory for Democrats. It was a victory for Democratic ideas. We know that even in places where we didn't win, like Florida, the minimum wage fight was won. We know places like South Dakota and Montana had referendums to legalize marijuana and so we know that this election came about because the base was energized and people want policies that are going to create positive outcomes in their lives.
I mean, elections are nuanced, democracy is messy and, you know, I think to us, we know that when George Floyd was murdered, people on the Democratic side went out and registered to vote and came out in mass numbers.
I mean, if you look at what happened in places like Detroit, in Philadelphia, in Minneapolis, in Milwaukee, we have seen a huge surge in the number of people that came out. Just in my own district, 88 percent of the electorate came out to vote. So this is a victory for our democracy and that is what Biden called us to do. He asked people to fight for the soul of our nation, for the soul of our democracy and people did that in mass numbers.
SMERCONISH: Congresswoman, the the "LA Times" today makes reference to your congressional district. I'll read you a short paragraph if we put it up on the screen.
They said this, "The left points to California representative Katie Porter of Irvine as an example of an unabashed progressive succeeding in a swing district, but moderate skeptics argue she's an outlier. They cite the fact that Biden's vote in liberal Omar's Minnesota district exceeded Omar's by more than 70,000 and that Biden carried a Nebraska congressional district where a more liberal Democrat running for the House lost."
To what do you attribute the distance between the president-elect's margin in your own congressional district and your victory margin?
OMAR: So I had a very contentious primary. A lot of people in my district knew that I won my primary handily. When we went out and campaigned and put everything into the general, a lot of people were like, Ilhan is a shoo-in and when they had the opportunity to vote for legalize marijuana now candidate, even some of my friends and my own neighbors decided to take that opportunity and I joked I might have even done that if I wasn't on the ballot myself.
Look, we have -- we know that every single sponsor of Medicare for All has won their re-election in a swing seat. We know that members of the progressive caucus who are in swing seats like Angie Craig and Katie Porter won their elections. We know that no one was sponsored the Green New Deal lost their re-election.
This idea that we are supposed to listen to Republicans who benefit from us, you know, fighting amongst ourselves as Democrats is one that is not going to bode well with me and it's not one that's going to end well for the policies that we are fighting for as Democrats. We're going to have a big challenge.
SMERCONISH: You heard ...
OMAR: The country right now is dealing with a pandemic, we are seeing a financial crisis, we currently have a president who refuses to concede and allow for a peaceful transition to happen, the Biden/Harris administration doesn't have the opportunity even to try to start that transition and so Republicans really are part of a party that is enabling this president who's not only humiliating himself, but humiliating our country.
They have, you know, QAnon conspiracy theorists part of their caucus. For them to lecture us on what it takes for us to win, to sustain the House, to gain the Senate and to govern is something that should not be taken seriously.
SMERCONISH: Would you agree with Jim Clyburn, would you agree with Joe Manchin that in the end, the defund the police movement or at least those words were an albatross around certain Democratic candidates? And I know, Congresswoman -- I just read the "Star Tribune" this morning and I see that in Minneapolis in your home state, yesterday, $500,000 was appropriated to hire more police in Minneapolis this year. What thoughts do you have on that issue in political terms?
OMAR: Yes. So I mean, if you think about some of the races some of the Democrats are pointing to, I mean, if we -- if we think about South Carolina, the surge for the Democratic challenger came in October. He was surging in the polls in October. That is not when that movement really was gaining momentum. It was sort of plateauing. So we know that that's not the reason this candidate lost.
And so there is really a serious post-mortem that we have to do. We have to analyze what went wrong, where our chances actually existed, where we overreached and how can we duplicate what happened in Georgia and use that as a model, have conversations with people, you know, expand our grand game.
We are now working with some of the grassroots progressive organizations in Georgia trying to get them resources, trying to utilize some of the skills that we have as organizers who have increased turnout in their own districts and trying to see if we can implement some of that there. So, you know, there's really an honest opportunity for us to win those two seats, but we're not going to get there without unity and we're not going to get there by pointing fingers at each other.
SMERCONISH: Final question. So your candidate, your party's candidate won the White House. How likely is it that he buys into, that his administration buys into Medicare for All, the end of fracking, defunding the police or the Green New Deal where he didn't buy into any of that during the campaign?
OMAR: So we know that these policies that we advocate for has allowed us to win the generational debate. We've seen even in the "Fox" exit poll that 70 percent of Americans believe that a government run like Medicare for All is the way to go and, you know, it's going to be an honor for us to lobby and champion these policies under a Democratic president.
Look, we might not agree on everything, but we know these are Democratic policies that our base and the American people will benefit from and we are going to continue to advocate for them.
SMERCONISH: What is -- what is Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's answer to my survey question today? which is a bigger challenge for President Joe Biden? Dealing with the progressives in his own party or dealing with Mitch McConnell?
OMAR: The progressives in his own party are an asset. Mitch McConnell is the green breather (ph) and, you know, I think it is going to be important for the upcoming administration to recognize that this is someone who has stifled progress in our country and to figure out a strategy to sidestep him and get things that need to get done for the American people.
SMERCONISH: Congresswoman, thank you so much for your time.
OMAR: 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. Now we know how she's voting on the survey question. "Smerconish, why are you starting out your show with now that the election is over, when, in fact, it's not? It hasn't been certified yet." Come on. Trust the process. You know, that statement was the mantra for the 76ers for a long time. It might not be official. There is a process underway and I respect the process.
As a matter of fact, earlier this week, I defended on radio the President's right to litigate whatever legitimate issues there might be, but there's a process and it goes from tabulation to certification, then the Electoral College and then congressional acceptance. I'm going to talk about it in five minutes as a matter of fact and I think you're fooling yourself if you don't think that the handwriting is on the wall. So I respect the process, but it's over.
I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com and answer the question this hour. Which will present more of a challenge to President Joe Biden? Progressives in his own party or Mitch McConnell? Ilhan Omar, Congresswoman Omar, just said it's McConnell, not us.
Up ahead, President Trump still refusing to concede the election. How long will this drag on? What are the consequences? Election law analyst Richard Hasen will explore some of the possible outcomes.
Plus, good news in the fight against COVID. Pfizer says early analysis has found its vaccine to be 90 percent effective, but distributing the vaccine, that's going to take a major effort because the temperature required for storage is cold, think South Pole on a winter day cold. We've got the doctor who's heading up the clinical trials here today.
And on Election Day, in an extraordinary move, Oregon voted to decriminalize possession of small amounts of heroin and other street drugs. Could this be the beginning of the end of America's decades- long war on drugs?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:15:00]
SMERCONISH: Pfizer this week announced its vaccine candidate would be 90 percent effective and yesterday, President Trump said FDA authorization is expected soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will work to secure an emergency-use authorization which should be coming down extremely soon and my administration will then coordinate the distribution of the vaccine and it will be approved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: In theory, 13 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of the year. The overall game plan? It's complicated to say the least.
Joining me now to discuss is Dr. Robert Salata, an infectious disease specialist who is heading up the clinical trials of COVID vaccines at university hospitals. He's the Department of Medicine Chair at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. Doctor, thanks so much for being here. So explain to me the Pfizer vaccine. I've got a number of basic questions. It's actually two injections separated by three weeks. Might that change?
ROBERT SALATA, HEADING CLINICAL TRIALS OF COVID VACCINE AT UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS: So thank you very much for having me on. It might change in that Pfizer is doing an analysis at day 14 instead of day 28 which captured both injections.
Day 14, that will be two weeks after the initial vaccine was given and in that regard, they'll look at the same comparison of COVID-19 cases in the vaccine versus placebo recipients and we'll see if that holds up. That's a possibility, but right now ...
SMERCONISH: What kind of ...
SALATA: ... most of the data maximizing the immune response has been done with two vaccine -- two injections.
SMERCONISH: What kind of challenges are presented by the storage and distribution because of the temperature requirement?
SALATA: Yes. So of the vaccines being studied in the United States, and there are four of them with a fifth to come, this is the one that requires the coldest temperatures, as you mentioned before. That is minus 70 degrees Celsius. Very, very cold and this vaccine, which is not a live vaccine -- virus, it requires that for stability.
And in that regard, there are plans to package these in these coolers, special coolers and the vials within them, which contain five doses per, and also using dry ice for transport to places where the vaccine will become available. So those will include healthcare centers, hospitals and even retail pharmacies as this moves along. This can be stored in these coolers for up to 15 days and the regular freezer as long as the dry ice is replenished.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Salata, who will determine who among us gets it first?
SALATA: So there's a playbook that's already been put out by the feds and each state has done the same and the priority with which people will get vaccinated is according to their risks in part. So the first line or the Phase 1A, which it's been called, will vaccinate frontline healthcare workers and first responders, followed shortly by the elderly and others with vulnerable conditions, including underrepresented minorities who have had disproportionate complications and death related to COVID-19.
And the general public will probably have vaccine available to them by the spring, as said by Dr. Fauci yesterday in a very optimistic tone, or at least the early parts of the summer.
SMERCONISH: Yesterday in his Rose Garden press conference, the President made reference to Operation Warp Speed and its applicability to Pfizer. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Our investment will make it possible for the vaccine to be provided by Pfizer free of charge. Pfizer said it wasn't part of Warp Speed, but that turned out to be a unfortunate misrepresentation. They are part. That's why we gave them the $1.95 billion and it was an unfortunate mistake that they made when they said that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Is he right? Is this all a product of, in some way, Operation Warp Speed?
SALATA: Well, certainly that's been part of the support, but it's not the only. Pfizer and the other manufacturers of these vaccines really have undertaken an incredible journey here to get to this point seven to eight months into the pandemic and I've never been involved in a study that's been so carefully scrutinized.
So nothing is being cut corner wise and I think I was incredibly excited, as many are, about the 90 percent plus efficacy rate and the safety data coming from Pfizer so far.
The next step is to look at 168 individuals who have had COVID and to redo the analysis at that point and if it holds up like it did in the preliminary analysis, then they will be proceeding to present this to the FDA and other independent monitoring groups and hoping to get the early-use authorization, as was said, and I do think we're going to have some vaccine. It was announced this morning by Operation Warp Speed that we could have as many as 20 million doses ready for administration in December. SMERCONISH: What wonderful news. Dr. Salata, thank you so much for being here.
SALATA: Thank you so much, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Up ahead, President Trump continues to refuse any of the customary courtesies of a transition period between presidencies. So how's this going to end?
And I want to remind you, go to my website this hour, Smerconish.com, answer this week's question. Which will present more of a challenge to President Joe Biden? Progressives in his own party or Senator Mitch McConnell?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some folks still don't think I spend enough time with Congress. "Why don't you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?," they ask. Really? Why don't you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: President Trump refuses to concede the 2020 election. People close to the President say to CNN he may never truly concede, but it's only a matter of time before he'll have to acknowledge that he won't be the president come January 20. For now, most GOP elected officials are playing along with the President, not directly addressing a Biden win.
One result of this gridlock is that the incoming president is blocked from a smooth transition that is customary. So what could the next 30 days look like?
SMERCONISH: Let's look at the calendar for states where the president is waging legal battles challenging election results. The first important date to circle, November 20. The election certification deadline in Georgia where a hand recount has been ordered. People close to the president point to this as a possible date whereby he might have to pull the plug.
Then there's November 23rd, the county certification deadline in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Nevada certifies their election results on the 24th, Arizona on the 30th. The president, of course, has every right to pursue these lawsuits even though the odds of changing the election seem minuscule, if that.
Many of his supporters still holding out hope. Several conservative groups will gather today in Washington, D.C., to protest the election results. How much longer will the president continue to drag this out, and how will it end?
Joining me now to discuss is CNN election law analyst Richard Hasen, a professor of law and political science at U.C. Irvine. He's the author of "Election Meltdown: Dirty Tricks, Distrust, and the Threat to American Democracy." So, professor, there's a process in place right now. What are the steps in broad terms?
RICHARD HASEN, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, you know, the -- unless the Trump campaign is able to get a court to change something, we're going to proceed along the normal course, which is that ballots -- we're just about done counting the ballots. There are procedures in place to double check everything.
At some point when everything's been double checked as you mentioned, there will be certification. Eventually that will lead to some paperwork, which will lead to the appointment of electors in each state, the states that Biden won the Biden electors. Those electors will eventually meet. The governors will send a piece of paper to Congress with the results of those Electoral College meetings, and on January 6th, Congress will count those votes, and there's every reason to believe that Joe Biden will come in at 306 Electoral College votes, which is 36 more than he needs to be declared president.
SMERCONISH: So in that process, at what stage is it most I'll say susceptible to attack by President Trump? Is it the tabulation? Is it the certification? Is it the Electoral College? Is it the congressional approval? Wherein lies vulnerability if any?
HASEN: I think we've just now passed the biggest moment of vulnerability. When an election is done, if it's very close, sometimes that leads to a recount, and when I say very close I mean usually within hundreds of votes. Because it's very hard to change more than a few hundred votes in a statewide recount.
If you don't have a really close election in any state that matters for the Electoral College, and we don't, then you'd have to point to some broad kind of constitutional problem or infirmity with how the election was run. We don't see any of that.
The Trump campaign has now had a week and a half. Their lawsuits are not producing anything that's showing a major problem. And so I think the greatest moment of danger to, you know, some kind of upsetting of the normal electoral process has already passed.
SMERCONISH: What of the speculation that certain states could have dual sets of electors at the Electoral College? Is there any real prospect to that happening?
HASEN: So we do have this really odd system where, you know, we don't just have a popular vote, and we don't just assign points for Electoral College. We actually have a process where there are people and they're appointed and all of this.
I think the idea that you would have state legislatures come in and come up with an alternative slate of electors by relying on an arcane federal statute that says that legislatures can do that only when there's been a failure to make a choice. You would have rioting in the streets if something like that happened, and there's no factual basis for it.
We had fortunately despite the pandemic a very successful election across the United States. And so for state legislatures to come in and say it's failed and trying to point alternative electors which are going to be counted by a Democratic House, and you're going to have governors in most of these states, Democratic governors that are going to be sending in their own slates, and those get preference under these arcane rules, I just don't see how that kind of play is actually going to work, and it would be a huge risk for these legislatures to try to do something like this.
SMERCONISH: And finally, professor, for those perhaps who have not paid close attention or need a civics lesson, apart from this being disruptive for the president-elect not being provided the typical courtesies, the intelligence briefings, et cetera, it matters not what President Trump says, concedes, doesn't concede, right?
I mean, there's a process. We follow it. Joe Biden by all accounts will be sworn in on January 20 regardless of anything that Donald Trump, President Trump has to say now.
HASEN: Right. So the concession has no legal effect. It would make things much easier and I think it would help protect our national security and help protect dealing with the coronavirus and all of those things, but Trump deciding to insist that he's won, that's not going to prevent the transfer of power.
SMERCONISH: Just wanted to make that clear. Professor, thanks so much for being here.
HASEN: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: From social media, what do we have, Catherine? I think from the world of Facebook.
It's a shame after all that Trump accomplished he can't go out on a high note.
You know, Chris, I made that point on SiriusXM this week. I made the point before the debates that -- and many of you who are listening to the words that I am about to say may not agree with that list of accomplishments, but he absolutely has a long list of accomplishments meaning things that he could say this is what I told you I was going to do. I was elected. I did them. And he could begin with the courts and the Supreme Court and work from there.
But you know, he's choosing not to go that route. And one theory that I have -- brace yourselves for this as to why he's choosing not to go that route -- is because any 2024 plan that he might be harboring he might think is better predicated on this race having been stolen from him rather than him having lost to Joe Biden. So it sets up, you know, the vindication for that which was taken from him perhaps in his mind. I want to remind you to answer this week's survey question, kindly go to Smerconish.com and tell me which will present more of a challenge to President Joe Biden? Will it be progressives in his own party or Senator Mitch McConnell?
Still to come, for the first time, a state, Oregon, has decriminalized possession of small amounts of hard drugs including cocaine, heroin, oxycodone and methamphetamines. I'll talk to a woman who spent years in jail for selling her friend heroin on which he overdosed. Now she's one of the state's alcohol and drug commissioners.
SMERCONISH: In the flurry of other 2020 election headlines, you may have missed that Oregon voters passed a ground breaking drug law reform, one that may herald a national shift away from the so-called war on drugs approach. It's a ballot measure 110 which garnered 58.5 percent of the vote, first in the nation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of so-called hard drugs including cocaine, heroin, oxycodone, and methamphetamines.
The measure will apply sales taxes on legal marijuana to help pay for addiction treatments. Proponents of decriminalization contend that harsh sentencing has done little to improve society while populating jails with nonviolent offenders who need treatment instead of incarceration and has disproportionately affected generations of minority communities.
Among backers of the initiative, Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan who donated a half a million dollars to the cause. Critics see the measure as a troubling slippery slope to outright decriminalization that downplays the drug's deadly consequences. Nevertheless, the measure passed even in Republican strongholds that went for President Trump.
My next guest was one of the advocates and knows the impact all too personally. By the age of 21 Morgan Godvin was addicted to heroin. When she was 24 her mother died of a prescription drug overdose. The next year she sold a gram of heroin to one of her best friends Justin Delong who then died of an overdose.
She was charged with delivery resulting in death which has a mandatory 20-year sentence. She pled guilty to the lesser charge of conspiracy to distribute heroin and served four and a half years in prison.
Morgan caught my eye with this line in a piece that she wrote for "The Washington Post." "The archetypal predatory drug dealer is a myth. For many, a sale is not about ruthless profit; it is about survival." The piece was called "My friend and I both took heroin. He overdosed. Why was I charged with his death?"
Morgan Godvin joins me now. She's a commissioner of the Oregon Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission and currently a community health education major at OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. So, Morgan, why is the idea of what we think we know about the drug dealer a myth?
MORGAN GODVIN, COMMISSIONER, OREGON ALCOHOL AND DRUG POLICY COMMISSION/FORMERLY ADDICTED TO HEROIN: Because every heroin dealer that I ever met was someone who was addicted to heroin first and foremost. They turned to that out of desperation, sometimes they were locked out of the legal economy because they've got felony convictions, and when you're in active addiction, you can only see towards that day.
You know, you're very shortsighted, and so often this is people who didn't want to turn to theft or robbery or -- quote -- you know, "crimes that have victims," and so if they were able to just buy three grams of heroin instead of a half gram and sell it into small little bits to their friends because we have to develop a social circle. It's not like we can buy heroin from the pharmacy, so it's all contingent upon that social network. And it's not profitable at all. Low level drug dealers make less than minimum wage.
SMERCONISH: Well, your path, it's a familiar story. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it began with OxyContin and then because of the cost, you made the shift to heroin?
GODVIN: Yes, that's correct. I was recreationally using OxyContin, and this is back in the late (INAUDIBLE) when that was really booming and because it was prescribed to someone, maybe not always me, it seemed safer, and so it was sort of a stepping-stone into heroin. But back then, very few people used heroin. Now heroin has proliferated to the point that even as the government reduces opioid prescriptions, heroin overdoses are not reducing.
The connection has been broken because there's just so much addiction prevalent in our society right now, but me and my story, yes, I started with OxyContin, and when that became prohibitively expensive, I switched to heroin.
SMERCONISH: So tell me about what happened with you and Justin and how the law regarded your conduct.
GODVIN: Yes, so Justin was one of my best friends for almost a decade. We had gone to the same high school for a period of time and both got pulled into the party scene, the recreational drug scene. He was the one who -- you know, he was my original like OxyContin connect, and then when he saw how much I was spending on that because we were friends and very few people deal drugs with a profit motive, he showed me that you could smoke the heroin on tinfoil and it was the same compound, and so my fear was abated.
And so for years we were friends in addiction because I could be my full self with him. I didn't have to lie about the fact that I used drugs when I was with him, and that's why I loved being around him. But Justin went to jail so many times. He was prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for his addiction, tossed in jail cell after jail cell. He was even sent to prison for his addiction, and a few months after that he texted me for a gram of heroin, and I sold it to him, and he went home and he overdosed and he died. And the next day my apartment was raided. I was placed in handcuffs and told I was facing delivery resulting in death for the overdose death of one of my best friends and that I would face a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence.
Only then did the government indicate they valued his life. They spent hundreds of man-hours and over a million dollars prosecuting and incarcerating my co-defendants and I. Where were those resources when Justin was alive? All they gave him was a jail cell.
SMERCONISH: OK. So respond to people watching -- and I know because we talked on radio and I had some of these calls after my interview concluded. Speak to the person who's watching this now and saying, well, you should have been punished for that because you provided the agent of his death or to the CNN viewer who says this is horrible what Oregon is doing. My kids are now going to be imperiled.
You know that argument, you know that mind-set. Respond to it.
GODVIN: Yes, so human beings, we fear the unknown, and we've been sold this belief that incarceration protects us and incarceration deters drug use. Well, that belief is a lie, and this is clear because we're in the midst of an overdose crisis because for decades all we've been doing is punishing people, and the data shows that is making us worse.
We have skyrocketing rates of addiction. If we look towards Portugal when they decriminalized drugs, their addiction rates plummeted. Now, I know that may seem counterintuitive, but even the best public health messaging does not reach people who have been pushed into the shadows. When Portugal took drug use out of the criminal sphere and moved it into the medical establishment, addiction rates plummeted across society including in youth.
And if COVID has taught us nothing, it is that we are all interconnected to each other. So if we really want to address addiction, incarceration is not the answer. And in fact, it often makes people worse. Saddling someone with a felony conviction can make it hard for them to find a job and housing for decades, and it is hope for your future and economic opportunity that are needed for recovery.
SMERCONISH: Morgan, I'm glad you're healthy. You know, so often things begin on the West Coast and the rest of the nation has sort of a snickering reaction, and then a couple of years later whatever it is that began in California or Washington or Oregon all of a sudden has migrated eastward. We'll wait and see.
I mean, I view Oregon as a very important and I'll say necessary lab experiment. So let's all watch. Thank you so much for being here.
GODVIN: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments and we'll give you the final result of the survey question at Smerconish.com. Which will present more of a challenge to President Joe Biden, progressives in his own party or Senator Mitch McConnell?
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at Smerconish.com. Which will present more of a challenge to President Joe Biden, progressives in his own party or Senator Mitch McConnell?
Let's see the result. Seventy-nine -- oh, 79 -- 30,000. I think that's an all-time high, 30,289 say Senator Mitch McConnell. You know who agrees with that? Congresswoman Ilhan Omar who was my guest in the opening portion of the program. And when I asked her she said, I'm paraphrasing, you know it will be Mitch, it won't be us.
Here's some of what you thought during the course of the program. What do we have, Catherine?
Biden's biggest problem is 72 million Trump voters. Placating the squad will cost him the House.
We saw a red wave with a blue cap.
James Owen, very interesting observation. What I think we saw and the dust is obviously still settling, but what I think we saw in the end was a referendum and not a choice. It was a referendum on Donald Trump.
He lost that referendum, but at the same time I think voters were saying while we'd rather have Biden than Trump, we don't want the agenda that includes Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, defunding the police and the end of -- and the end of fracking. That's how I interpret the result.
Thanks so much for watching. See you next week.