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Biden Agenda Stalls: Should Democrats be Worried?; Biden Administration Proposes IRS Access To Bank Accounts; Stevie Van Zandt On Serving Two Bosses: Springsteen And Soprano. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired October 16, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jeremy Diamond at the White House and this is CNN.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: The art of the steal? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Democrats are worried about the prospect of Donald Trump running again and stealing the 2024 election. No wonder. We've recently learned a number of things about the 2020 cycle that suggests there was more afoot than just those who broke into the Capitol building on January 6, the day that Congress was to certify the Electoral College.
That violence cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Disabuse yourself of any idea that the word "insurrection" doesn't really apply because those who got into the Capitol, like the QAnon guy with the horns, were clueless and had no idea what to do next other than put their feet up on Nancy Pelosi's desk. Whether by design or by happenstance, this was just one piece of the puzzle, as evidenced by the Senate Judiciary Committee's interim report.
There were at least five moving parts. First, you had efforts on the ground in various states including Georgia, Michigan, Arizona and Pennsylvania to challenge the election results. At the same time, you had President Trump getting advice from a lawyer that he'd first seen on TV as to how he could block certification of the election. Additionally, Trump was leaning on the Justice Department to release a letter which would have lent credibility to the efforts to overturn the Georgia election, kind of like Nixon once using the CIA to get the FBI to back off its Watergate investigation.
From the new book "Peril" by Costa and Woodward, we now also know that Trump was seeking to rely on lawyer John Eastman's legal justification for Vice President Pence to reject votes from specific states. This changes the way that we should look at the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6. Their role, whether they explicitly understood it or not, was to intimidate Pence while Pence was being pressured to follow Eastman's legal advice that he could break with tradition and simply reject electoral votes from specific states.
And then the final step which never came to pass to have the House decide the outcome where the GOP, despite having fewer members, had an edge because the process would be one vote per delegation, 26/24 advantage GOP.
In other words, Pence would reject the Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania votes or some combination thereof where they were contested on the ground and where the Justice Department had emboldened these states and relying on Eastman's advice that he had the power, Pence would now reject certain states while ordering the House to determine the election as it's supposed to do only where a candidate -- where no candidate gets a majority of electoral votes.
It could have worked and now with Trump and his allies endorsing secretaries of state in crucial battlegrounds, concerns that it could happen again, they are warranted, but here's another scenario for 2024 that should concern Democrats. Donald Trump might just legitimately win.
Last Saturday night, I watched the latest Trump rally. It was his return to first in the nation Iowa for an event that attracted thousands on a balmy fall night at the state fairgrounds and for Trump, it was Festivus, another night for the airing of grievances, most notably about how he argues the 2020 election was stolen from him.
Nothing new there, but what was noteworthy was the presence of Senator Chuck Grassley. The 88-year-old is running again. Back when Grassley voted against Trump's second impeachment, he had this to say, quote, "Undoubtedly, then-President Trump displayed poor leadership in his words and actions. I do not defend those actions and my vote should not be read as a defense of those actions. The reality is he lost. He brought over 60 lawsuits and lost all but one of them.
He was not able to challenge enough votes to overcome President Biden's significant margins in key states. He belittled and harassed elected officials across the country to get his way. He encouraged his own loyal vice president, Mike Pence, to take extraordinary and unconstitutional actions during the Electoral College count."
Apparently, Senator Grassley, he forgot all that because last Saturday, there Grassley stood by Trump's side acknowledging that Trump has the support of 91 percent of Iowa Republican voters. It was a sign that no number of revelations from tell-all books by Stephanie Grisham and others have put a dent in Trump's standing in the GOP. And a survey released this week by Morning Consult and Politico showed that Trump dwarfs all of his would-be competitors.
More than two-thirds, 67 percent, of GOP voters say Mr. Trump should run again. I have long said that so long as his health allows and he's solvent and unindicted, if he wants the nomination, he'll have it.
Meanwhile, we're nine months into the Biden administration and by any fair assessment, things are not going well. The withdrawal from Afghanistan, although overdue, was haphazard. The border is in crisis. The surge of illegal immigrants crossing the southwest border has reached its highest level in more than a decade, more than 1.5 million. No wonder, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll, 67 percent disapprove of Biden's border approach.
Inflation now on the rise. In the last year, gas has increased 42 percent, eggs 35 percent, bacon 28 percent, children's shoes are up 12 percent, a record high gain dating back to the '50s, furniture costs have soared 11 percent, the most since 1951. These price spikes come at a time of or maybe as a result of significant supply chain problems. And yet here was Chief of Staff Ron Klain revealing a tone deafness when he retweeted a Harvard economist's claim that inflation and supply chain shortages are, quote, "high-class problems to have."
And of course, COVID is still not under control, notwithstanding that President Biden is correct in mandating vaccination. And finally, despite collecting 19 Republican votes in the Senate, Biden still can't claim credit for a $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal because he has not yet resolved differences between his party's most progressive and moderate members.
Frankly, he has not projected strength on any of these issues. No wonder then that in this national climate, Terry Mcauliffe is struggling to regain the Virginia gubernatorial mansion and if history repeats itself, next year Democrats will lose control of the House and maybe the Senate too.
Yes, undeterred, Donald Trump might steal the 2024 election. Then again, he might just win it. Quite simply, for Joe Biden and Democrats, it's no longer enough to just be an alternative to Donald Trump, which leads me to this week's survey question at Smerconish.com. Which should worry Democrats more -- that Trump will run and steal it or win it outright?
In their current hit book "Peril," Bob Woodward and Robert Costa tell a story about President Joe Biden's inauguration. Two former American presidents went out of their way to greet and praise my next guest whom each called a savior. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush reportedly used the same word to describe Congressman James Clyburn, the third ranking member of the House of Representatives who is the House majority whip.
They used the descriptor in recognition of their view that without Clyburn's endorsement of Biden before the 2020 South Carolina primary, Trump would have been re-elected. Given the myriad of issues I've just discussed confronting the Biden administration -- inflation, border, the sudden withdrawal from Afghanistan -- I thought it was great to be able to have Congressman Clyburn here and see whether he has any buyer's remorse.
Congressman, thank you so much for joining me. First, with regard to my commentary, which worries you more -- that Trump could run again and steal it or that he might win?
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): Well, first of all, thank you very much for having me. I suspect that the former. If I were in the worrying business, which I'm not, I would much rather a contest to be won outright than for a contest to be stolen. So, I would be worried about the former rather than the latter. SMERCONISH: Something tells me that you have a response to my critique of where things stand with the Biden administration, so by all means take the floor and let me have it.
CLYBURN: Well, thank you very much for offering me the opportunity. I do have a response. Look, when you don't have an epidemic which could be limited to your own borders, you've got a pandemic. We've got the worst in 100 years. Now, we have got to come to grips with the fact that we're have a global phenomenon here, an international or a worldwide pandemic, that's affecting everything.
If you are on the Pacific coast, you have ships sitting out in the waters. We don't have that on the Atlantic coast and there's a reason for that.
In fact, I represent the Charleston Navy -- well, I'm saying Navy. The Navy's not there anymore, but the ports there on the east coast here in South Carolina, we're having record years and our people are working and things are happening. So we have to look at exactly where the goods are coming from and what's happening over in China where plants are closed and other places where we can't get the toys and can't get the other things that are necessary.
They can't get here, so naturally the prices go up and I wish that we would spend a little more time, all of us, educating people as to what the real problems are. These are not Joe Biden problems. These are global problems that we should all address and not try to put the blame on the sitting president. I don't care who's in the White House. They could not possibly do anything about these issues that you and I are now talking about.
SMERCONISH: Congressman, let me ask you this in your capacity as House majority whip. Why not give the man a win? Take the $1.2 trillion and call it a day and then move on and fight for the issues that are involved in that larger bill.
CLYBURN: Well, Michael, you know, I used to teach history. I study it every day and I know that what we have -- the problem we have here is that President Biden did get a big win with the American Rescue Act. We immediately moved -- more than half of the children living in poverty came out of poverty. Around the 15th of every month, we've got families with children getting checks in the mail and they are now able to get their kids back in school, pay for the things that are necessary.
That was a big, big win for this president. Now we are in the business of trying to sustain that victory and, you know, sustain it by doing great for the people at the top and not doing enough for the people at the bottom. History tells us that we had a great comeback for our economy from the so-called Great Depression. The New Deal was great. Began (ph) with Social Security as a response to that, but Social Security did not cover domestic workers, did not cover farm workers.
Sixty-five percent of the black people in this country during that time worked either domestic or farm workers and none of them were covered by Social Security. So I am in the business of making sure that with this comeback, we don't do the same thing and that's what we're lining up to do. So I'm trying to educate the people in my caucus, the people around the country. We must build back better for everybody, not just the people at the top.
So that's what's going on here. You see the big debate going on. Should we expand Medicare? Medicare is for everybody, the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy. Medicaid is for low income and people don't want to argue about expanding Medicaid, closing the coverage gap for the American -- the bill, what we call Obamacare. I've tried not to call it that, but bringing it back. We need to cover that coverage gap.
So that's what's going on here so I'm not against ...
SMERCONISH: Congressman ...
CLYBURN: ... giving the president a win. I want him to have a win for everybody.
SMERCONISH: When you come back, and I hope you do, don't hold back. Tell me what you're really thinking; OK?
CLYBURN: I will. You know I will.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Congressman. Appreciate it.
CLYBURN: Thank you so much for having me.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some throughout the course of the program. I think this actually comes from YouTube, "The Democrats should most fear a Republican other than Trump winning in 2024." Eric, very interesting assessment. That was not one of my choices, but the question I guess I would ask is could that other candidate, whomever she or he might be, engender the same level of passion that causes Trump to bring out 74 or 75 million people in a losing effort in 2020?
Please make sure you're going to the website at Smerconish.com. Congressman Clyburn just answered this week's survey question right here on air. Which should worry Democrats more -- that Donald Trump will steal the election or win it outright? Clyburn says it's the former, not the latter.
Up ahead, to help fund its social spending bill, the Biden administration wants banks to give the IRS data on accounts worth more than $600. Is that really going to help catch wealthy scofflaws or does this just amount to government spying on middle Americans?
And a firestorm at Yale Law School over a student's invitation to a party serving Popeyes chicken and apple pie.
Administrators told the host that he should apologize because his words, coupled with his membership in a conservative group, had triggered several of his classmates. When he didn't, the administrators sent out an email condemning his racist and pejorative language and warned him it could affect his future in the profession. Trent Colbert, who sent the invitation, is here to tell his story.
SMERCONISH: It was just an invitation to a Constitution Day party, but it evoked such reactions from students and administrators at Yale Law School that the host says he felt his future as a lawyer might suddenly be in jeopardy. How did it happen? Here's the story. The second-year Yale law student is Trent Colbert. He's Cherokee and a member of the Federalist Society, the influential conservative group that has had a strong hand in recommending Supreme Court justices.
On September 15, he posted an invitation on the Native American Law Student Association listserv which read, "We will be christening our very own soon-to-be world-renowned NALSA Trap House by throwing a Constitution Day bash in collaboration with FedSoc. Planned attractions include Popeyes' chicken, basic-bitch American-themed snacks like apple pie, et cetera."
Trap house is, I now know, slang for a place to obtain drugs. Within minutes, the invite had been uploaded to a group chat where the president of the Black Law Students Association opined, quote, "I guess celebrating whiteness wasn't enough. Y'all had to upgrade to cosplay/blackface."
Colbert was soon summoned to a meeting with the school's associate dean of student affairs and the director of diversity, equity and inclusion which he surreptitiously recorded on his cell phone.
He was told his invite had already garnered nine discrimination and harassment complaints and per the summary in "The Washington Free Beacon," the director of diversity said that, "The word 'trap' connotes crack use, hip hop and blackface. Those 'triggering associations' were," quote, "compounded by the fried chicken reference which is often used to undermine arguments that structural and systemic racism has contributed to racial health disparities in the U.S."
He was also told that his peers were triggered by his very association with the Federalist Society which they feel, quote, "Belongs to political affiliations that are oppressive to certain minorities including LGBTQIA, blacks and immigrants." Colbert says that when he resisted their request to send out an email apology that they had drafted, preferring to discuss the issue with anybody offended in person, the school sent one saying that his invitation had, quote, "Pejorative and racist language. We condemn this in the strongest possible terms."
Colbert was called in for a second meeting the next day, at which he was reminded he'd be taking the bar exam which would include character and fitness investigations. Yale Law School issued this statement to CNN, quote, "Yale University and Yale Law School have strong free speech protections and no student is investigated or sanctioned for protected speech. When the Law School receives complaints about offensive communications, the dean of students routinely tries to help students talk to one another and resolve their disagreements within the community.
At no time was any disciplinary investigation launched or disciplinary action taken in this matter. While any person may report concerns about a lawyer's character and fitness to the bar, the Law School has a long-standing policy of reporting only formal disciplinary action to the Bar Association. Any media reporting to the contrary is false."
Trent Colbert joins me now. Trent, first, react to that statement that Yale Law School gave to us at CNN.
TRENT COLBERT, YALE LAW SCHOOL STUDENT: Yes. To me, it felt like it didn't really even discuss what I was going through. They said protective speech isn't something they persecute, but the allegations weren't that I was making protected speech, they were saying that my speech was harassment, it was discrimination of some sort. And then to say, OK, we actually don't do anything with the bar exam, but only for formal stuff.
If only they had told me that four weeks earlier because the implication this would somehow affect my ability to take a bar is really scary. They've walked it back thank heavens, but ...
SMERCONISH: Your invitation -- your invitation, and I'll put it back up on the screen, the reference to trap house, the reference to Popeyes, explain each of those to me.
COLBERT: Sure. So for me, trap house, it just means party house. Some of the Urban Dictionary things say it's where high school students drink together in a mother's basement. That's the impression that I kind of had on it. It's kind of like a frat house, but without a fraternity. I'm on a lot of student groups. I throw -- I intended to throw a lot of parties, so that's just kind of what I was calling my house. I didn't see it as a racial thing. I saw it more as a bachelor pad that would have parties.
And for Popeyes chicken, that wasn't even my decision. I didn't pick the catering. The catering was picked by other people because we cater from a lot of different places. We've done Chick-fil-A, we've done Chipotle, we've done bagels. It just so happened that Popeyes is pretty much right around the corner from where I live and I heard they had a discount.
SMERCONISH: OK. So now here comes the response from Yale because you won't go along with the apology. Put it on the screen. Here's what they sent out. They sent out that with regard to that which you circulated, it contained, "Pejorative and racist language. We condemn this in the strongest possible terms." Your response is what?
COLBERT: I disagree. I don't think I used racist language. I don't stand by being condemned in the strongest possible terms. I don't even think that that fits the meetings I was having with the administrators. They were telling me there's no judgment, there's no condemnation, but while I'm on the phone with them, they send the email.
While I'm on the phone with them and they're telling me that they're not judging, they're just going to send an email to acknowledge that someone had complaints.
SMERCONISH: Why did you surreptitiously record a conversation and were you breaking the law when you did so?
COLBERT: I was -- well, first I'll say I was not breaking the law when I did so and I did that because I've heard a lot of these kind of stories go down where people have meetings with different offices and the offices are very dishonest. They'll say something to the student and then they'll say something completely different happened if some kind of tribunal happens. So I wanted to make sure it wasn't my word against theirs. I wanted to have a witness there to show everyone what's actually happening.
SMERCONISH: What is life like for you now in the Yale Law School? How are your classmates reacting to you?
COLBERT: I haven't seen too many of the reactions in person yet. I've seen a lot of discussions behind my back. I've heard -- but I've only heard like references to them. I haven't been confronted all that much. People have come up to me and talked on both sides of it actually, but so far, things have been rather quiet. I'm not sure if that's going to be how things are going forward now that we're in the media, but let's see ...
SMERCONISH: But there's a move afoot -- but there's a move afoot to remove you ...
SMERCONISH: ... from a leadership position; true? COLBERT: That is true. There's very recently been a move to have me removed from my position as a student representative. When I was elected in the spring, I was supposed to be a student representative for the whole school year, but they're trying to remove me almost a year early.
SMERCONISH: Trent Colbert, thanks for your willingness to come on and discuss this. I wish you good things. I worry that, in the internet world in which we live, this is the sort of story that could follow you for a long, long time, although, from the way you've explained it to me, I don't think that it should, but I appreciate your willingness to come and talk with us; OK?
COLBERT: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're all saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook and YouTube pages, all the social media. "I'm a left- leaning, free-thinking centrist. From my seat, it appears that conservatives are a persecuted minority on most college campuses." OK. You had me up until that point because I'm agreeing with that statement and then the, "So what," at the end. So what? So to browbeat the young man that you just saw about how this could jeopardize his ability because of his character to sit for the bar? That is so far over the line. It's horrific and should frighten anybody of any ideological perspective.
And why, for all the intelligence in New Haven, that they would fall into this routine? I can't understand it. I just cannot understand it. You would -- you would think that, you know, while this is all playing itself out on campus, someone would say, "My God, if we bring this guy in and browbeat him, they'll be talking about us on CNN."
I want to remind you to go to my website at Smerconish.com and answer this week's survey question. Which should worry Democrats more -- that Donald Trump will steal the election in 2024 or win it outright?
Up ahead, one way the Biden administration hopes to pay for its ambitious social agenda is recovering an estimated $7 trillion in unpaid taxes. Does that justify its proposal granting the IRS access to annual gross bank transactions of accounts over $600?
And are you ready? Stevie Van Zandt is everyone's favorite trusted underboss, a role that he's played for both rocker Bruce Springsteen and TV mob boss Tony Soprano. He is here and I hope that he will, as the saying goes, be singing like a canary.
SMERCONISH: Should the IRS be apprised of the annual gross deposits and withdrawals of any bank account worth more than $600? That's a proposal the Biden administration has floated to help find funds to pay for its proposed social policy bill. The idea is to uncover a projected $7 trillion of unpaid taxes over the next decade. Here's how Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen explained it to "CBS News" this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I think this proposal has been seriously mischaracterized. The proposal involves no reporting of individual transactions of any individual.
All that's involved in this proposal is a few aggregate numbers about bank accounts. The amount that was received in the course of the year, the amount that went out in the course of the year. If somebody reports an income of $10,000, and they had $3 million go out of their checking account, that tells the IRS that's an individual you might audit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: My next guest, however, is one of two dozen state financial officers who signed a letter of protest to Yellen and President Biden. [09:35:06]
The letter says the proposal would give the IRS -- quote -- "unprecedented and unconstitutional power to peer into law abiding citizens' private financial accounts and would be one of the largest infringements of data privacy in our nation's history."
Joining me now is the Nebraska State treasurer John Murante who is also the chair of the nationwide State Financial Officers Foundation. Mr. Treasurer, you just heard from the treasury secretary. What do you say in response to her argument?
JOHN MURANTE, NEBRASKA STATE TREASURER/CHAIR, STATE FINANCIAL OFFICERS FOUNDATION: Well, part of the problem that we have right now is the language isn't in the bill. What we're hearing is politicians in Washington, D.C. discussing amongst themselves and through the media what they're planning on proposing.
So, the term transaction has been used. The current federal law deals with $10,000 cash transactions. That's -- that was what we were told was the basis and the genesis of this idea. But all around it's just a terrible process. It lacks any transparency and it needs to be stopped.
SMERCONISH: Why if already there's this automatic reporting of accrued interest? Is it such a leap in your opinion, if now we're talking balance information?
MURANTE: Sure. Well, there is a wild difference between banks reporting 1099 interest income and banks reporting every time there's a $600 transaction, inflow or outflow. The two -- it's a false equivalency. And the fact that Janet Yellen, who is an extremely intelligent individual, would make a claim like that to me is preposterous.
SMERCONISH: The concern that I have is that I have an aunt whose bank has always, literally, been her mattress. And I feel like there are a lot of folks among us who are going to go back to the mattresses if in fact this is where we go.
MURANTE: And unfortunately, we're already seeing it. Just yesterday, I talked with a banker from western Nebraska who told me that they are so fearful of the federal government being able to peer into bank accounts that two individuals had already withdrawn $300,000 in cash and kept it at their house. As you know, that is extraordinarily dangerous. And anything we can do to prevent people from becoming unbanked we need to do it.
SMERCONISH: OK. Well, so you can tell, I share your privacy concerns. However, I also believe the president when he says essentially there's a lot of money out on the street and people aren't paying their fair share. So if not this, what should be done?
MURANTE: Well, there are proposals that can be narrowly tailored to go after wealthy individual who are not paying their taxes. But the idea that $600 purchases will somehow be limited to wealthy people, that's just not true. There are plenty of people on minimum wage, Social Security recipients who have $600 transactions on a regular basis.
This proposal, as it's currently been articulated, will apply to virtually every American at any income level. It's way overbroad. It's likely unconstitutional and it's something we're going to fight.
SMERCONISH: John Murante, thank you for being here. I appreciate your time.
MURANTE: Thanks so much for having me.
SMERCONISH: Checking in on your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have, Catherine? From the world of Twitter, I think.
Why $600? Easy, the IRS wants to go after the small fish that can't hire lawyers that know tax laws better than the IRS.
Yes, I would have to say that the people who probably have the most money in their accounts, if they have money in an account, they probably have a certain level of sophistication where they are paying tax experts and they are shielding their income in a way that, you're right, the small fish probably can't.
Make sure you're answering this week's survey question at my Web site at Smerconish.com. Have you been there yet? Which should worry Democrats more, that Donald Trump will steal the election in 2024, or that he will win it outright?
Still to come, can't wait for this, he helped start Bruce Springsteen's "E Street Band," went off on his own musical path, wound up playing Tony Soprano's consigliere on the iconic HBO series. Now he's got a new memoire about it all. Stevie Van Zandt is here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, SINGER-SONGWRITER (singing): Prove it all night. Prove it all night. Girl, there's nothing else that we can do. So prove it all night. Prove it all night. And girl I'll prove it all night for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: My next guest is the sort who the late Tom Wolfe would have described as "A Man in Full." He's distinguished himself as a musician, an actor, a SiriusXM programmer, a political activist, and now author. He also happened to be everybody's favorite underboss, just ask Bruce Springsteen or Tony Soprano.
Stevie Van Zandt has just released a memoir. It's called "Unrequited Infatuations" and he joins me now.
Stevie, so great to have you here. I'm thinking that Kamala Harris could learn a thing or two from you. What does it take to be an effective underboss or number two to a chief executive?
STEVIE VAN ZANDT, ACTOR/MUSICIAN/AUTHOR, "UNREQUITED INFATUATIONS": Well, I think Kamala is quite good at what she does actually.
And I'd like to see -- I'd like to see her more often, to tell you the truth. I think it helps being a boss yourself at some point in your life, which I was. I started off as a boss in my own world. I think being a boss helps make you be a good soldier, you know. It helps you become a good soldier.
And, you know, we were friends so long that, you know, I just naturally fell into that role of the underboss, consigliere, as -- you know, you give advice to your friends. It's just a -- it's an unofficial sort of thing you do for your friends and that continued right into -- right into the band and right into our business world, if you will.
But, yes, it helps. I think it helps to know when the advice is necessary and when to keep your mouth shut, you know.
SMERCONISH: Do you think that that's something that David Chase saw in you, because of your relationship with Bruce? In the book, you say, "I realized I could use my relationship with Bruce as an emotional basis of Silvio's relationship with Tony, because I knew exactly what the job entailed."
VAN ZANDT: It was fascinating because David Chase who is a very thorough guy, a very detailed guy, very big on authenticity hadn't written into the script the role of -- you know, either underboss or consigliere. Sometimes, it's two different people in a mob family. Sometimes, it's one person.
For some reason that destiny obviously intended, he didn't write that part in. And when I got the gig, you know, at first, it was Tony Soprano. Then HBO said, are you out of your mind? We can't cast him. This is too big an investment to cast him, but he was -- never acted before.
And I said to David, "Listen, I'm feeling guilty taking an actor's job." He said, all right. Then you won't have to. You know, just let me write you in a part that doesn't exist.
So, I started off as just the -- just the strip club owner, you know, the -- running it for the family. But it was very unclear as to what the role would be after that. And so I think -- I think what me and Jimmy bonded off the set, I think, on the basis of Jimmy being a character actor first and foremost, and me being a side man first and foremost, I think, we had something in common there, neither one of us particularly craving the spotlight.
And I think David picked up on that. You know, me and Jimmy kind of hanging out together. And slowly, over the first season, you know, I kind of filled that vacuum that existed in the family as the underboss/consigliere. And it was funny because it wasn't really written that way, but it just happened very, very organically.
SMERCONISH: Stevie, you beat yourself up in the book for leaving "E Street," leaving Bruce at the time when "Born in the USA" is about to pop, right? But if you hadn't left the band, arguably there would have been no "Sopranos," there would have been no "Lilyhammer," there would have been no Mandela, arguably, getting freed when he freed.
Do you regret in retrospect leaving the band when you do, or do you look at it as a blessing?
VAN ZANDT: You know, it's funny because all my life I've looked back on it like, you know, the biggest mistake of my life. And when you go back and really relive it, as you're forced to do when you write a book like this, you really have to go back and see what you were thinking and -- as you say, everything I have accomplished, I have accomplished since I left.
So -- I mean, in your mind you think, well, I just -- I wish I could have done both. You know, I wish I could have stayed and, you know, become an artist and done those seven albums and done "Sopranos" and "Lilyhammer" and busted Mandela out of jail. I wish I could have done both.
Realistically, though, Michael, let's face it. It couldn't have happened. It would not have happened. I mean, you're dedicated to the band -- you're not going to get six months off to go -- do a TV show. You know?
SMERCONISH: I know. But, Stevie -- Stevie, you're the embodiment of what other mothers told us when we were growing up that when one door closes, another one opens. And as the book details it happened for you, my friend. It's a great read. Look at all the tabs in my copy.
Thank you for being here. I really appreciate it.
VAN ZANDT: Thank you, Michael. Thank you very much. Good to be with you.
SMERCONISH: 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. Did you vote yet? Go to Smerconish.com right now. Which should worry Democrats more, that Donald Trump will steal the election in 2024, or that he'll win it outright?
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at Smerconish.com this week. Which should worry Democrats more, that Donald Trump will steal the election in 2024, or win it outright?
Here's my prediction. I think more will be worried that he'll steal it. I'll be interested in the margin.
OK. Right. So 56 percent, like Congressman Clyburn, say I'm more worried that he'll steal it because then, you know, democracy is imperiled. What I find significant is that 44 percent say, hey, that he'll win it outright.
Here's more of what came in during the course of the program. What do we have, Catherine? Real quick.
Michael, you have gone over the deep end with all the GOP talking points. You praise Trump.
Didn't praise Trump at all.
What show were you watching, Jim. I spent half of the commentary laying out how I think he tried to steal the election, and that's praising him? No, it's because you didn't like what came next which was a candid assessment saying, hey, you know what? We're nine months into the Biden administration. It's not going so well.
I knew the commentary would piss off everybody. Frankly, that has made me -- that made me want to deliver it even more. But I think I'm right.
No, Trump tried to steal it. Trump will try and steal it again. But Joe Biden is not off to a good start. And Trump could win it outright if Biden doesn't get the White House in shape.
Wish I had more time. Anyway, see you next week.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now in the NEWSROOM --
KATHLEEN HAYES, FDA OFFICER: We do have 19 out of 19 unanimous yes votes.