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Trump's New U.S. Citizenship Test Is More Difficult; Will Trump's Vote Fraud Claims Cost The GOP The Senate?; First U.S. Doses Of COVID-19 Vaccine Arriving, But Not Enough; Trump Hints At A 2024 Run. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired December 05, 2020 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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SAM COOKE, SINGER: Don't know much about history. Don't know much biology. Don't know much about --
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MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: The great Sam Cooke singing in a movie that never gets old. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. This week, the Trump administration rolled out sweeping changes to the test that immigrants must take to become naturalized United States citizens. The test is longer and harder.
In the previous exam, hopeful American citizens were asked up to 10 questions during an interview and had to answer six correctly to pass. Now the passing score has changed to 12 out of 20. According to "The New York Times," "It's also more complex, eliminating simple geography and adding dozens of possible questions, some nuanced, and involving complex phrasing that could trip up applicants who do not consider them carefully."
Here are three examples of the new questions. Who does a U.S. senator represent? The previous answer was all people of the state. The new test answer is citizens of the state. Second question, why does each state have two senators? Acceptable answers are equal representation, meaning for small states, or The Great Compromise, meaning the Connecticut Compromise.
How about this one? What are three rights of everyone living in the United States? Some of the accepted answers include freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion. Interestingly not listed, the rights to counsel, due process, equal protection and freedom from cruel and unusual punishment or unreasonable search and seizure.
The test changes could be overturned by incoming president-elect Joe Biden, but it would take months. Immigration organizations are warning that this is too much and will make it harder for poor immigrants from non-English speaking countries and suppress the number of citizens who vote.
Speaking to "The Times," the executive director of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco said this, "It's a last-ditch effort on their way out the door for the administration to keep people from realizing their dreams of becoming citizens. There's no legal reason, no regulatory reason to do this."
The U.S. citizenship and immigration services says the current pass rate for the exam is 91 percent. Last year when the agency announced the exam, Ken Cuccinelli, serving as the acting director, defended the move, saying, "Updating, maintaining and improving a test that is current and relevant is our responsibility as an agency in order to help potential new citizens fully understand the meaning of U.S. citizenship and the values that unite all Americans."
It reminds me that two years ago, I delivered a commencement address at Delaware Valley University and my focus was on civics education. In fact, I opened the address by telling the graduates that I had one last test for them before they went out into the real world. No grading, only four questions and each was a question on the old version of the naturalization test.
First, the House of Representatives has how many voting members? Four- thirty-five. Second, what do we call the first 10 amendments to the constitution? That would be the Bill of Rights. Third, how many justices are on the Supreme Court of the United States? Always remember, switch in time, save nine. And fourth, on what day was the Declaration of Independence adopted? July 4, 1776.
In fiscal year 2019, 834,000 people became new citizens by answering questions like those. So I asked the grads for a show of hands, how many had gotten all correct and many did. My point was that most of us bypassed this process because our citizenship was conferred with birth in this country, but if your citizenship were dependent upon your knowledge of our government, would you make the cut? If not, you've got a lot of company.
According to an August survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, Americans' knowledge of civics has improved this year during the pandemic, but that's still not saying much. Only 51 percent of Americans could name all three branches of government, up from 39 percent last year.
More than half of Americans, 54 percent, know that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision holds the same weight as a 9-0 decision and remember how that new question on the naturalization test asks hopeful citizens to name three rights given to U.S. citizens? Well, 19 percent of Americans couldn't name a single first amendment right.
It's easy to strengthen a test for newcomers. The real question is not how we quiz the understanding of those seeking naturalization, but how do we raise the civic knowledge of those who are citizens by virtue of their birth?
In June, I moderated a virtual fireside chat with secretary Leon Panetta and ambassador Susan Rice for the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service. The commission had just released its final report, "Inspired to Serve," to Congress, to the president and the American public with 164 specific recommendations to build a culture of service in America.
They did great work. In the executive summary, they made this point, "In the course of its work, the Commission identified a major flaw in the American educational system: the lack of exposure to high-quality civic education for students throughout much of the nation."
Fixing that, that's the hard part. I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com this hour and answer this week's survey question. Do you believe the U.S. citizenship test should be increased in length and difficulty?
Joining me now to discuss is American historian Kenneth C. Davis. It's been 30 years since he wrote the best-selling book "Don't Know Much About History," which just came out with an updated edition. He's the author of several other books including the most recent, "Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy." Mr. Davis, love your books. Do you think that most Americans could pass the new citizenship test?
KENNETH C. DAVIS, AMERICAN HISTORIAN: Thank you, Michael. Thank you for having me. It's a great pleasure and the answer is no if we go according to most surveys, most studies, but this is not a new problem either. It's not that what the schools have been doing wrong in the last few years.
When I wrote "Don't Know Much About History" 30 years ago, it was already a problem and I said that teenagers who couldn't answer questions is one thing, but their parents probably couldn't answer the same questions. So this is an old problem that's been around for a long time and I believe it specifically relates to our inability to turn out indecent numbers in an -- in an election.
We're celebrating the fact that we got into the 60 percentile this year in this election, but typically 50 percent in a presidential election, 40 percent in a midterm. That's woefully dangerous.
SMERCONISH: So I understand that it's not a new problem. I worry that it's a problem that's getting worse. I'm of the age that I'm a product of an era when civics was still a part of a public school education and as a parent, I wonder has all the emphasis on STEM-related, standardized testing by which we hold schools and educators accountable, has it driven this further out of the curriculum?
DAVIS: STEM certainly. The emphasis on coding has been part of it. Also, as you've mentioned earlier, the move towards standardized testing so that social studies teachers, history teachers are being pulled away from teaching their subjects to prepare and drill kids to fill in bubbles on tests. That's not only sad, it's also dangerous.
So that's certainly part of this, but again, this goes back a long time. It's more than 10 years ago, in fact, that Justice O'Connor, Sandra Day O'Connor, thought that this was a serious problem and she began a program called iCivics to address this. Now, I also want to say that I have been talking to teachers about this for a long time, social studies teachers primarily. They are more concerned perhaps than you are. They know that social studies has been taken off the front burner of the stove, in some places not just moved to the back burner, but taken off the stove entirely. There is a movement afoot to restore civics education. Of course we're on state- by-state level and sometimes within states, it's different from district to district. I believe that Congress is appropriating money for improving civics education.
The problem is that this is not just a problem of schools, it's a problem in the general society. Because we didn't learn this for so long, it's really transferred down over decades and there's a related subject that we have to raise here, too, which is that we've always made it difficult for immigrants. It's a -- there's a tradition of raising the hurdles in this country.
Even though we like to call it a melting pot and a nation of immigrants, from the very beginning of the republic, we've made it difficult for people to become citizens largely because we've always had a tradition of thinking that the others, the immigrants, are the dirty, dangerous, diseased people we don't want here.
SMERCONISH: Quick final comment. I'm encouraged by the fact that you have built an entire cottage industry from people's desire to know much. Isn't that encouraging?
DAVIS: It is encouraging to me and it's encouraging that people read my books and say, oh, I hated history when it was school. It was all those dates and battles and ...
DAVIS: ... speeches. When we talk about history as the story of real people doing real things, it becomes a lot more compelling. And I would just add one thing about the new test because it's stuck in my craw, this question about senators being representing citizens. If we are going to be originalists, my copy of the Constitution says that the Senate is -- the senators are elected by the people of their state and so are the House of Representatives.
So we either stick to what the Constitution says or make something up for an exam. I think that's an important idea that we have to talk about.
SMERCONISH: And you well know that within the last two weeks, the Supreme Court of the United States has heard argument on exactly that issue as it results to the census count. So we'll see -- we'll soon see what they say. Mr. Davis, thanks so much. I appreciate your time.
DAVIS: Great pleasure. Thank you for having me, Michael. It's a very important subject.
SMERCONISH: I agree. What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I will read some throughout the course of the program. What do we have, Catherine? From Facebook I think, "I feel all citizens should pass the civics test before they are allowed to vote. They definitely should not be president if they can't answer these questions. They should all get the questions right because they are American citizens."
Sonja, my whole point is to say that I am sure, across the country, hearing this story today, there'll be many who will beat their chests and say yes, damn right, they ought to have to be able to answer those questions and my question to them and to all of us, and I'm in the category too, could you pass it? I mean, frankly, if you sat and you studied it, it wouldn't be all that difficult, but off the cuff, a little bar room conversation? I'll bet most Americans could not.
Remember, I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com and answer this survey question this hour. Do you believe the U.S. citizenship test should be increased in length and difficulty?
Up ahead, although the first COVID vaccines will be distributed this month, many states are already saying their share will fall short of what's needed just for healthcare workers. I'll ask a physician and CEO of a major healthcare system, more than 8,000 employees, who gets the first shots.
And after not getting the proverbial four more years, President Trump raising money for a possible bid in 2024. Only one American president, Grover Cleveland, has ever made that kind of comeback after such a hiatus. Can Trump pull it off?
Plus, President Trump has a rally tonight in Georgia with his supporters threatening to boycott the Georgia Senate runoff. What message will he convey? Will it be about the Grand Old Party or will it be about himself?
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the Republican establishment stands back and stands by and allows this steal to go through, we will do whatever it takes to completely destroy the Republican party.
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SMERCONISH: President Trump has beaten the drum of voter fraud over losses in key states, essentially claiming the deep state went down to Georgia looking for an election to steal. In the process, he's even thrown Republican governor Brian Kemp under the bus after he certified the election results for Joe Biden, but these unfounded claims could backfire. There are indications that some Trump supporters are looking to boycott the January 5th Georgia Senate runoff elections and the outcome is crucial. It could change the balance of power in the Senate as incumbent Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue try to hang on to their seats.
Some of the logic behind skipping the runoff elections has gained steam on Parler, a right-leaning social network site that's beyond the reach of Facebook and Twitter's fact check labels. For one, there's a conspiracy theory about rigged voting machines saying the election is decided and the GOP vote is meaningless. Last week, GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel implored a Trump voter not to stay home.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are we going to use money and work when it's already decided?
RONNA MCDANIEL, RNC CHAIRWOMAN: It's not decided. This is the key.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do we know?
MCDANIEL: It's not decided. If you lose your faith and you don't vote and people walk away, that will decide it. So we have to work hard. Trust us, we're fighting. We're looking at every legal avenue.
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SMERCONISH: And then there's the idea that Republicans shouldn't support any candidate who won't echo Trump's claims of voter fraud and demand action. At a Stop the Steel rally in Alpharetta on Wednesday with attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, the latter implied that Loeffler and Perdue hadn't done enough to try and overturn Biden's win in the state.
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LIN WOOD, CONSERVATIVE ATTORNEY: They've got to demand publicly, repeatedly, consistently, Brian Kemp call a special session of the Georgia legislature and if they do not do it, if Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue do not do it, they have not earned your vote. Don't you give it to them.
Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election?
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SMERCONISH: Georgia's voting system implementation manager Gabriel Sterling told CNN that's, quote, "Looney Tunes" and everyone's vote is secure, but what message will voters hear from the president himself when he visits Valdosta, Georgia for a runoff rally tonight? This is a monster of his own making and he may be the only person who can convince his supporters to show up for Loeffler and Perdue. Joining me now to discuss, Patricia Murphy and Greg Bluestein, political reporters at "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution." Thank you both for being here. By the way, I start every day by looking at the "AJC" website because I, like so many others, want to know what you're writing about this race. Greg, I'll begin with you. What is tonight? Is it a Trump rally or is it a Loeffler/Perdue rally?
GREG BLUESTEIN, POLITICAL REPORTER, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Well, it should be a Loeffler/Perdue rally, but even the president on Twitter has called it a Trump rally and that's the big question. Does he spend more of his time talking about the January 5th runoffs to decide control of the U.S. Senate or does he spend more of his time looking backward at the November elections and focusing more about his grievances, his false narrative of a -- of a stolen election? That's why Republicans are so antsy about what will happen tonight in Valdosta.
SMERCONISH: Patricia, in a piece that the two of you co-authored, you note how Perdue and Loeffler thus far have been threading a needle. Here's what you wrote. "The two senators have been wary of antagonizing the president by refusing to explicitly say that Biden won and promising to promote Trump's agenda. They've also been silent on Trump's criticism of Kemp, who picked Loeffler for the seat last year and is her chief political ally." Explain.
PATRICIA MURPHY, POLITICAL REPORTER, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Yes. Well, as you said, this is a monster of Donald Trump's making. We have two Republican senators who need to get re-elected, obviously, on January 5th. They need the Donald Trump voters to come back out for them and these are people who once were Republicans, maybe some were once Democrats and now they're there for Donald Trump.
Loeffler and Perdue cannot get elected without them. They need to toe the line with Donald Trump and yet he's saying that the election that has put these two in a runoff was rigged and you can't have both at the same time. You cannot have a successful, united get out the vote effort here in Georgia and also say that the election apparatus cannot be trusted and it's completely damaged.
And one quick thing to point out. You had some video from that Lin Wood rally. That was the biggest Republican rally in Georgia other than a Donald Trump rally that we've seen this cycle.
MURPHY: So we see where the energy is and it's really not with Perdue and Loeffler, it's with Donald Trump.
SMERCONISH: Greg, it would seem to me that the best argument for Republicans to fire up their base is to say we, Loeffler and Perdue, are the only things standing in the way of total Democratic control, White House, House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, but because of this dance, you know, the emperor has no clothes dance that they're going through about what happened at the top of the ticket, they can't expressly say that. Am I right? BLUESTEIN: You're exactly right. I mean, it's robbed them of one of their best arguments which is exactly that, that Republican control of the Senate is a check on President Biden, but because they haven't acknowledged that President-elect Biden has won this election, they can't make that case.
And just real quick too, this stolen election narrative has seeped so far -- has seeped into the base. I had interviews with more than a dozen Republicans at various events over the last week and while many still say they're planning to vote, I talked with many also who are openly wrestling with whether or not to, in their words, waste a vote on an election they feel is rigged.
SMERCONISH: Patricia, will Governor Kemp be there tonight?
MURPHY: We don't know. Actually Governor Kemp had recently a death of a young man very, very close to him yesterday, very close to his family. It was actually a gentleman who was on Senator Loeffler's staff. So even as all of this chaos is going on in the Republican party, there really is a tragedy that's cast a pall over a lot of these players, including Senator Loeffler and Governor Kemp. We don't know if he'll be there tonight.
SMERCONISH: I read the story. Twenty-year-old young man who was working for Senator Loeffler. Very, very sad. Another observation of yours. Catherine, I'm going to go to the third cut, not the second. This has to do with rigging and the two of you, on a story, wrote this, "In other words, there were 28,559 Trump-fatigued voters in Georgia who refused to endorse the president's re-election, but were willing to send a Republican to Congress. If Georgia's election machine was rigged, this is very significant bragging point that goes out the window, too."
Greg, will you explain the significance of that observation?
BLUESTEIN: Yes. I mean, essentially you've got -- you've got Republicans who are willing to vote down ticket for non-Trump candidates who didn't vote for President Trump.
And it's really emblematic of what's been happening around the nation, too, where down ticket Republicans did much better than President Trump did in some of these elections and that's what David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are banking on. They're banking on some of the Trump skeptics who bypassed him in November to come back and vote. Maybe if it's a -- to be a check, maybe it's to be a firewall, maybe it's to support conservative values, but again, President Trump's narrative here is complicating their message.
SMERCONISH: Right. But Patricia, I read that, you know, from 1,000 miles away, a little differently. I also read that as sort of belying the argument that the president, President Trump, makes about this having been rigged because Republicans did so well down ballot as if he alone were the victim of the so-called rig. MURPHY: Right. I actually talked to Republicans shortly after the election thinking they would say, oh, what a terrible night. They were disappointed that the president didn't win, but they were very pleased with how Republicans did here in the state legislature. Republicans still control both houses of the state legislature. They did not have the sort of bloodbath that Democrats were threatening was going to come.
And I think what we have also now are these two Republican senators who are acceptable to those Joe Biden voters, maybe country club, sort of chamber of commerce Republicans and their own leadership, I think, is coming into question among those more moderate voters as Perdue and Loeffler refuse to distance themselves from this notion that it's a rigged election.
It's frankly, on its face, crazy and ridiculous, but we have these two senators who are perceived as being responsible, good, kind of down the line Republicans also making these wild claims or not distancing themselves from them. So I think that hurts them among these moderate people who voted for Joe Biden and would have and did vote for Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and will they do it again? We just don't know.
SMERCONISH: Greg Bluestein, Patricia Murphy, keep up the good work. People who watch a show like mine, I know, are very interested in what's going on in Georgia and "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" has been exemplary in the coverage, so thank you.
MURPHY: Thanks (ph).
BLUESTEIN: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're all saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. From the world of Twitter, "Smerconish, tonight's rally will be all about Trump and voter fraud. Then after ranting, he will introduce the Senate candidates." Jay, the issue, as I just explained to my guests, as I confirmed with my guests, is everybody's kind of backed into a corner until the president -- and, you know, very soon, he'll have no choice, but to acknowledge this when the -- actually December 8 is a key day.
This coming Tuesday is a key day relative to the Electoral College because it's then somewhat inoculated from legal challenge and then December 16 is the -- is the date that it becomes final, but up until that time, he's denying -- he, Trump, is denying Perdue and Loeffler the ability to stand up on a night like tonight and say you need us as a bulwark against, you know, Biden in the White House and Schumer in the Senate and Pelosi in the House that would energize their base.
Instead, everybody's like, oh, the emperor has no clothes. We better not say that Donald Trump lost the election because that'll piss him off, right? And therefore it hinders them. Wild. It is wild.
Make sure that you're going to my website, Smerconish.com, and answering this week's survey question. Do you believe the U.S. citizenship test should be increased in length and difficulty? Up ahead, the day that President Grover Cleveland left the White House after losing his re-election bid, his wife Francis told the staff to take care of the mansion, saying, quote, "I want to find everything just as it is now when we come back again and we're coming back just four years from today," and so they did. Might President Trump also return?
And next week, the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will start shipping to several hospitals as part of Operation Warp Speed, but supplies are limited. I'll ask a physician who runs a major hospital system who gets the first shot.
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GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): This literally is a light at the end of the tunnel only a few months away.
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SMERCONISH: Some Americans will start getting a COVID vaccine much sooner than expected, but states are already reporting that their allotments won't cover the amount needed for first in line health care workers. So, who gets them first? At an event Thursday, Vice President and Coronavirus Task Force leader Mike Pence said this.
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MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Help is on the way. We are just a matter, we believe, of days away from when we will begin to distribute tens of millions of doses of a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine to the American people.
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SMERCONISH: What might this mean practically at the local level? Joining me now to discuss is Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli. He's an emergency medicine physician who's the co-president and CEO of Cooper University Health Care in Camden, New Jersey. He's also the co-author of the book "Compassionomics."
Dr. Mazz, so great to have you here. You are running a multibillion dollar health care system more than 8,000 employees. And I'm interested in the practical implementation issues. Here's what the president-elect said yesterday. Watch.
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JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no detailed plan, that we've seen anywhere, as to how you get the vaccine out of a container, into an injection syringe, into somebody's arm. And it's going to be very difficult for that to be done and it's a very expensive proposition.
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SMERCONISH: Respond to that observation. What are your practical challenges?
DR. ANTHONY MAZZARELLI, CO-PRESIDENT AND CEO, COOPER UNIVERSITY HEALTH CARE/CO-AUTHOR, "COMPASSIONOMICS": Sure. Michael, thanks for having me.
Most importantly, we're going to talk about the challenges, the positive aspect of having a vaccine very much outweighs the downside of any challenges. Then there are certainly are challenges.
The first two vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna are easier to make but the tradeoff is much harder to distribute. They require cold storage, that's number one. For instance Pfizer requires what's called ultra- cold storage at 103 degrees below zero. Second, they're not prepackaged syringes. They have to be drawn up from preservative free multi dose vials. Third, each of these first vaccines requires two doses.
For Pfizer you need the second dose in 21 days. For Moderna in 28 days. That means if you don't get the second dose in the right timeframe you've wasted the first dose. Therefore, you really need to schedule people for both doses at the same time, which further means once you get to day 21 your capacity to give out the second -- the first dose to people dramatically drops or you need more staff, because by the way, all of this planning and execution is happening with the backdrop of rising COVID admissions and staffing challenges that are facing every health care institution.
SMERCONISH: I've looked at data, not of health care workers. In fact, Catherine, put it up on the screen, of the percentage of Americans who say they're ready to get this vaccination.
There it is, a total of 60 percent Americans willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine. My question for you with those 8,000-plus health care employees do you think you're going to have to convince any of them to get it? And what will you do if they refuse?
MAZZARELLI: Well, we know the majority of health care workers are excited to get this vaccine, but there will certainly be folks that we have to convince as well. We've been planning and so is the Department of Health of New Jersey and all the health systems in New Jersey and we'll intensify that education campaign. It is completely reasonable that even health care workers want to know more about a vaccine that was made through a process called Operation Warp Speed before they put it in their body.
However, when you learn more about it it becomes more reassuring. Remember, the vaccine process was sped up in quite a clever fashion. Generally, anyone in the process that wears a white coat and uses beakers and flasks and Bunsen burners, the scientists, their role in the vaccine process was not shortened. So the safety and experimental process did not have to cut corners. It's the suits. The people wearing suits. Marketing, business planning, business development, production planning, those were the processes that were cut short. The government eliminated the business risk and a need for those steps by agreeing to buy a certain number at a certain price from Pfizer and by directly investing in Moderna.
Now, what if people refuse? We're not planning to force people to take the vaccine. It's still a new vaccine. So while the process didn't have any scientific corners cut there's still a chance once something is given out in wide distribution like any vaccine before that the FDA process that people go through the vaccine process still could have some side effects.
And so that's not unreasonable. But we believe health care workers, we know they want to get it, they will be influencers in signaling the rest of the population to get vaccinated so that everyone is doing their part so that we can get a critical mass of people who need to get vaccinated so we can protect everyone.
SMERCONISH: These are good problems to have. And by that, I mean, it's good that we're talking about how best to distribute and administer a vaccine rather than still waiting for the vaccine. Dr. Anthony Mazzarelli, thank you so much.
MAZZARELLI: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments from the Twitter-verse. The COVID vaccines are very encouraging. However, I worry about how many will voluntarily get the vaccine as confidence is waning and anti-vaxxers are increasing in general. Should we make it a law to be vaccinated against Coronavirus?
President-elect said that he's not supportive of that this week. I found it to be encouraging, you know, the view of President Obama and W. And President Clinton, and President-elect Biden. You know, we're missing one, wouldn't it be great -- and I don't mean Jimmy Carter, bless him, but I mean President Trump. Wouldn't it be great to have them all on camera rolling up their sleeves at once to instill a little bit of confidence? That would be great.
I want to remind you to answer this week's survey question at Smerconish.com. "Do you believe the U.S. citizenship test should be increased in length and difficulty?"
Still to come, President Trump is signaling that he may try to become only the second president in American history to win another term after being defeated. The last time this was done was in 19th century. I'll talk to a constitutional law professor, the author of "The Forgotten Presidents" Michael Gerhardt about the comeback campaign president.
SMERCONISH: The 2020 election has come and gone, and President Trump has been hinting he could be back in 2024, even as he insists he did not lose the 2020 election and refuses to concede to President-elect Joe Biden. President Trump has hinted at his intention and did so to a group of Republicans at a White House Christmas event this week.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's been an amazing four years. We're trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I'll see you in four years.
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SMERCONISH: Typically, when an incumbent loses voters become disinterested and shift support to candidates who have a better chance, but Trump has proven repeatedly that he always finds a way to stay in the spotlight, enabling him to raise funds in this case. So can a comeback campaign be done? It turns it out that it has been done successfully once nearly 128 years ago with President Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th president. He, too, after he lost his own reelection bid in 1889, left the White House already with aspirations to be back in four years.
Joining me now to discuss is Professor Michael Gerhardt, distinguished professor of constitutional law at the University of North Carolina. He wrote about Cleveland and other one term commanders-in-chief in his book "The Forgotten Presidents." You'll remember he also testified a year ago before the House in favor of President Trump's impeachment.
So, professor, is the model here closer to Grover Cleveland or closer to, you correct me, Van Buren, Fillmore and Grant.
MICHAEL GERHARDT, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, UNC SCHOOL OF LAW: That's a great question, and I think that we don't know the answer yet. With Van Buren, for example, he was a one-term president only -- who tried several times to come back, but he only was able to come back as a third party candidate. He never came anywhere close.
With regard to Grant, he was thinking of going for a third term, hesitated, didn't try to come back. And by then, he was too late. And his administration was associated with a great deal of corruption.
As far as Grover Cleveland is concerned, I don't know that we know enough yet to say that President Trump could be like Cleveland. Cleveland had won the plurality or majority of the popular vote three straight times. That's not something a president has done -- President Trump has done once. And beyond that, President Cleveland maintained very tight control of the Democratic Party between his two terms. And we've yet to see whether or not President Trump can do that.
And then last, but not least, Cleveland had a reputation for great honesty and integrity. And that was one of the things voters liked in him. And I guess, I would say most Americans don't find that same trait in the current president. SMERCONISH: It's interesting that in the more modern era, the expectation is that if you lose the election, even when you've won the popular vote, there's not an expectation that you come back. Al Gore in the year 2000. Secretary Clinton in the last cycle, both win the popular vote, and yet -- and maybe for personal reasons in each instance, don't come back four years later.
GERHARDT: That's right. And I think that tells us something. They don't come back, in part, because they don't have the wherewithal or the support within the party to be able to continue as a presidential candidate. It's very difficult to be nominated by a party more than once. Typically speaking, only presidents who are seeking re-election might be the ones who get renominated. And beyond that, the difficulty is that you get tagged with the reputation of being a loser.
Gore came close. He might have come back, but he wasn't really able to maintain party control after that election. And I think the tag of loser stuck with him. Hillary Clinton -- yes.
SMERCONISH: One final thought if I may.
SMERCONISH: I want to make sure I show this you and the audience. Yascha Mounk wrote on this subject for "The Atlantic." A really interesting essay that concluded this way. "The odds that Americans will grow bored with the ever more histrionic antics of the sore loser they just kicked out of office are pretty good."
I'm not so sure. He's got a hold on his base unlike anything I've seen paying attention for the last 30 years. You get the final word.
GERHARDT: Well, that's a great point that you make and it's a great point that Yascha makes. I guess I would just suggest some counterevidence. I think that one reason why President Trump lost this time is because I think people were already tired of his shtick. And we're already tired of the combativeness, the divisiveness, the lack of truth. And it's hard to see that Trump would get any better over the next four years, in so far as his truth-telling would be concerned.
And so, I think people have already signaled they're tired of him. Therefore, I think actually, I've come around the other way that I think Yascha does make a point that people are not likely to come back and support him. I think that he's unable, in all likelihood, to change people's perception of him, to maintain the base, that it's going to be hard, if not impossible, to expand.
SMERCONISH: Is the glass -- you know, is the glass half empty or half full? Because it is the way he is that he is arguably -- that drove 75 million to go out and vote for him. To be continued. Thank you so much, professor. I appreciate your time.
GERHARDT: Thanks. I really appreciate it.
SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. From Twitter, what do we have? Smerconish, Melania will divorce him if he tries to run in 2024.
I hate to see that happen. That wouldn't be a good thing. I have no further comment on that. I'm suddenly at a loss for words.
Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we'll give you the final results of the survey question from Smerconish.com.
"Do you believe the U.S. citizenship test should be increased in length and difficulty?"
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question this week at Smerconish.com.
"Do you believe the U.S. citizenship test should be increased in length and difficulty?" Survey says -- 86 percent say no. Wow. I'm in the 14 percent -- 26,000 votes. Well, thank you for that. I am totally cool with making it more difficult. I just want to make sure that the rest of us who simply, by virtue of our birth, aren't off the hook. That's the -- that's the sort of the dichotomy that I tried to point out.
What came in from social media? Let's see what we've got.
I actually agree with Smerconish about something. 2020 sure is weird.
OK, Tim. One more, if I've got time. Quickly, what do we have?
Forget about taking the vaccine. I want to see Trump take the citizenship test live on TV.
Touche, Wyll. I appreciate -- look, I'd like them all too. I'd like them all too. I think a lot of people would be stumped, including elected representatives.
Hey, finally, this Tuesday my full-length film called "Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Talking" will be released by Virgil Films and available on all digital platforms. I'm talking Amazon, iTunes, or wherever you watch movies. I hope you'll check it out.
That does it for me. Enjoy your weekend and see you next week.