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Biden Turns 79 Today; Critics of Campus Cancel Culture Launch New University; Admiral William McRaven on the State of Politics 2021; Rittenhouse Found Not Guilty on All Charges. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired November 20, 2021 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Happy birthday, Mr. President. For real. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia.

Like so many of us, President Joe Biden marked the turn of another year with an annual physical which for him took place yesterday at Walter Reed Hospital. But his had historical significance. Remember, Biden ran by promising transparency on the health issue. And this was his first physical in office as the oldest first term president in U.S. history.

Now, we have a report on the results, the first extensive update that we've received on his medical health since December of 2019. Dr. Kevin O'Connor has been working with Biden since he was vice president.

And says of his patient, quote, "President Biden remains a healthy, vigorous, 78-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency."

Of course, today, the president is turning 79. The White House, and his party probably breathes sighs of relief because of recent polling on this issue that I'll get into in a moment. In the report, the doctor noted that Biden, quote, "has experienced increasing frequency and severity of 'throat clearing' and coughing during speaking engagements," which the doctor says was, "possibly worsened by a mild hiatal hernia."

And that the president, quote, his "ambulatory gait is perceptibly stiffer and less fluid than it was a year or so ago," which the doctor attributes in part to arthritis of his spine and normal wear and tear damage of someone his age.

"The New York Times" coverage of Biden's physical this morning includes this sentence. "Dr. O'Connor did not say in his report whether Mr. Biden underwent cognitive testing, which many doctors recommend for older adults."

The report is a return to the norm of what we used to learn from presidential physicals, before his predecessor that is. You may remember when then-candidate Trump was running against Hillary Clinton in December of 2015, his campaign released a most unusual doctor's letter from this individual, physician Harold Bornstein which claimed, "If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."

Years later, Bornstein revealed the letter had been dictated by Trump. Who knew?

We have only recently learned that President Trump's November 2019 trip to Walter Reed which then-White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said was, quote, "to begin portions of a routine physical exam" was actually for a colonoscopy.

Biden had a colonoscopy yesterday, temporarily and historically transferring power to Vice President Kamala Harris for 85 minutes. Trump's colonoscopy only came to light recently in Grisham's tell-all book in which she writes that Trump kept the visit private because he did not want then-Vice President Mike Pence to be in power while he was sedated and quote, "did not want to be the butt of a joke on late- night television."

Well, President Biden has recently been the butt of late-night television joking about his advancing age. Here's a skit from a "Saturday Night Live" a few weeks ago with multiple Bidens at different ages.


SMERCONISH: Kidding aside, the White House must be hoping, the new physical results halt and reverse a trend identified by a new "Politico" morning consult poll. It found a huge leap in concern around the issue of the president's physical and mental capacities. Only 40 percent of voters surveyed agreed with the statement that Biden is in good health. While 50 percent disagreed. That represents a massive 29-point swing since that question was asked in October of 2020 when voters believe that Biden was in good health, 53/34 percent.

Asked if he is mentally fit for the job, 46 percent say yes, 48 percent say no. But again, that's a big change from last October when those numbers were 56/35 percent. And perhaps most concerning to the administration results among independents.

We'd expect Trump voters to be inclined to find Biden lacking and Democrats inclined to support him. But among independents asked if he's in good health, 31 percent they say they strongly or somewhat agree, 54 percent say they somewhat or strongly disagree. That's a gap of 23 percentage points.

And this survey is not an outlier. A recent Harvard/Harris poll found that only 47 percent of all voters thought Biden mentally fit enough for the job, 58 percent felt that he's too old to be president.

I should also say this. To those who find such conversation today to be in poor taste, need I remind you that in October of the first year of Donald Trump's presidency, 27 psychiatrists and mental health experts who had never examined Trump nevertheless wrote a book called "The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump" warning that his mental state quote, "presents a clear and present danger to our nation and individual well-being."


And throughout his term, there were many discussions in the media about his unfitness for office as well as countless petitions including one signed in December of 2019 by 350 psychiatrists and other mental health professionals claiming that his mental health was deteriorating rapidly amid impeachment proceedings.

So, sometimes analysis of a president's health is warranted. The headline of a brand new "Wall Street Journal" editorial this morning puts the political situation in stark terms. It says, "As Joe Biden Turns 79, a Panic Over Kamala Harris. He's unlikely to run in 2024, and his VP is deeply unpopular."

What does yesterday's physical and the polling mean for Biden's presidency and the chances that he'll run again in 2024? You might remember in his first news conference the president confirmed his plans to run for re-election in 2024.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you decided whether you are going to run for re-election in 2024?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My answer is yes. My plan is to run for re-election. That's my expectation.


SMERCONISH: So, that was a while ago. I want to know what you think today. Go to my website at Answer this week's survey question, "Will Joe Biden seek re-election in 2024?"

Joining me now is Marc Caputo, national political reporter and senior writer for "Politico." He wrote the piece that I have been discussing.

Marc, thank you so much for being here.

Do you think that the decline in Biden's numbers that I've just referenced is the result over the public's cumulative assessment or based on one particular event that has transpired in the last year?

MARC CAPUTO, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER AND SENIOR WRITER, "POLITICO": It might be a little bit of both. And also, might reflect the fact that you know if a president is unpopular, or if some is unpopular on polling, people give them negative ratings across the board on everything, right?

So, there's also just that possibility as, folks are a little upset. They don't approve of the job that Joe Biden is doing. And therefore, on other metrics when asked they're liable to give him a negative rating. Of course, the opposite could be true, they could be disapproving of his job because they don't think he's up to it.

Now, when you talk to pollsters and consultants who have sort of studied what happened to Joe Biden's numbers, you look at approval ratings. They basically collapsed with Afghanistan. Now, there are those who believe that one of the reasons they collapsed with Afghanistan is that Joe Biden up until that point had been kind of racking up relatively easy low-hanging fruit victories in Congress. And had been sort of smooth sailing. You know, vaccinations had been increasing. The rate of COVID infections had been declining.

And then, you have this big international crisis over America's longest war. And people really started to focus and pay attention to it. And when they started to zero in and pay attention to president, this theory goes, they didn't necessarily like what they saw.

There's a little bit of a correlation possibly in the Democratic primary. I covered Joe Biden's campaign from the start. And it's notable that the two states where Joe Biden did the worst in early on when there was a big competitive Democratic primary, for Iowa and New Hampshire, and those are the two states he spent the most amount of time meeting people individually and doing retail politics.

So, the question is this. Do people like Joe Biden less or approve of him less the more they see of him? I don't know.

SMERCONISH: So, here's my theory. Here's my theory that I will run past you. First of all, the predicate, where there is such decline among independents tells you, this is an issue that now transcends Fox News where they love talking about it on a loop.

My theory is you no longer have the daily contrast with Donald Trump.

CAPUTO: Right.

SMERCONISH: And so now, the analysis is solely on Biden. And you're not seeing him on a split screen where you're saying this guy or that guy. Your thought?

CAPUTO: Yeah. To that point, there was something I posted on Twitter and my - our editor John Harrison had written about this during the campaign. Prior to COVID in 2019, a Democratic strategist with a rival campaign from Biden's had lamented that he believed Biden was going to be the nominee and that the choice was going to be between Biden and Trump. Again, this is before COVID. And this is his words, the nice old guy with Alzheimer's, against the mean old man with dementia.

In fact, if you look at our October 2020 polling, Biden was doing relatively well all on the metrics of mental fitness and physical fitness. And Donald Trump wasn't. So, Biden kind of beat him at that game.

And the question now going forward is if you have Donald Trump run again, is the electorate still going to hold those opinions of Donald Trump and see him as less physically and mentally fit than Joe Biden.

Remember this about Joe Biden. You know among the many great sayings he has is this, is compare me to the alternative not to the almighty. Which is to say, elections are choices. If we wind up with a Biden/Trump -

[09:10:07] SMERCONISH: Absolutely.

CAPUTO: -- people are going to ask these questions again and we're going to have to do more polling to find out just what they think.

SMERCONISH: Mark, thanks for the analysis. People should read it and judge for themselves. And thank you for being here.

CAPUTO: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I will read some during the course of the program. What do we have, Catherine?

From the world of Twitter. "Really? Less than a year on the job? And you're talking about this?"

Stan, you're blanking me. Right, Stan? With the whole predicate that I just laid out. Went through all the polling data. There's been massive erosion in his - the perception of independence as well as our in these, on these issues. And I'm what? Supposed to ignore it? No.

What do you think?

Go to my website at this hour. And please answer this week's survey question. "Will Joe Biden seek the re-election in 2024?"

Up ahead, fed up with campus correctness and group think. A handful of academics and scholars have started a new university. Hoping to explore subjects they say are currently quote-unquote "forbidden." Can the system be fixed?

And the verdict as you know is in. Teen gunman Kyle Rittenhouse has been acquitted on all charges to that fateful night in Kenosha, Wisconsin when he killed two and wounded a third. What have we learned from this trial? Joey Jackson will be here.



SMERCONISH: With academic freedoms and discourse under siege at colleges and universities, a new kind of institution is needed to fix the situation. That's the provocative claim of a group of scholars and activists who are launching the new University of Austin which they say is quote, "dedicated to the fearless pursuit of truth."

The university's first president, Pano Kanelos, who served in that role at St. John's College in Annapolis. Founding trustees include former "New York Times" opinion editor Bari Weiss. And my next guest, historian Niall Ferguson.

Among those who have signed up for the board of advisors, the list is long, but they include Larry Summers, Arthur Brooks, Dorian Abbot, Andrew Sullivan and Geoffrey Stone. This week, Kanelos posted a statement of purpose on Weiss's Substack which was titled "We Can't Wait for the Universities to Fix Themselves. So We're Starting a New One."

Kanelos cited statistics, including that nearly a quarter of American academics in social sciences or humanities endorse ousting a colleague for having an opinion they disagree with on hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences.

"Over a third of conservative academics and PhD students say they had been threatened with disciplinary action for their views."

"62 percent of sampled college students agreed that the climate on their campus prevented students from saying things they believe."

And "Nearly 70 percent of students favor reporting professors if the professor says something students find offensive."

They plan to launch next summer with a non-credit program called "forbidden courses" that according to its founders will tackle, quote, "The most provocative questions that often lead to censorship or self- censorship in many universities."

They're seeking to raise $250 million. Expand then to masters programs and eventually undergraduate courses.

Now, two have already withdrawn from the board of advisers, Steven Pinker, a cognitive scientist at Harvard University. Frequent guest on my program. He tweeted that he was leaving, quote, "by mutual and amicable agreement."

Robert Zimmer, the chancellor of the University of Chicago released a statement saying, quote, "The new university made a number of statements about higher education in general, largely quite critical, that diverged very significantly from my own views."

Niall Ferguson joins me now. He is the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the author of 16 books, most recently "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe." He's also a columnist for "Bloomberg" where he wrote this piece "I'm Helping to Start a New College Because Higher Ed is Broken."

Doctor Ferguson, thank you so much for being here.

At the University of Austin, will critical race theory be taught?

NIALL FERGUSON, HISTORIAN, THE HOOVER INSTITUTION AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Well, it's one of the many things that students should be able to study. I think it's extremely important to emphasize that we're not trying to create an institution that indoctrinates. We're not trying to create an institution that is committed to one ideology rather. We are concerned with the pursuit of truth and unfair to the academic freedom. And that means we should be able to study everything from critical race theory to the most conservative thinkers of the last centuries. I don't see the need to exclude anything eccentric (ph) before we start. SMERCONISH: Why the need? I cited statistics but I would rather hear your summation.

FERGUSON: I don't want to accentuate the negative too much. But let's put it this way. College is the thing that's gone up in price just about more than anything in the U.S. Since 1980, 1400 percent increase in tuition. That's just for public institutions.

If you asked students as heterodox academy and others do, it's clear they're not happy. I think the telling fact is that 62 percent of students feel they can't speak their minds on campus. Now, that can't be healthy.

Universities should be places where young adults can think freely, and speak freely, make mistakes, experiment. That's how you learn. And I'm afraid that I think it's impossible to deny that the atmosphere in most American campuses has really chilled in recent years.

We've had cancellations. We've had disinvitations. And all kinds of disciplinary procedures against professors and students who say the wrong thing.

Anybody who claims this is OK seems to me to be completely delusional. But what we want to do something quite modest. We just want to create a new institution and trying to do things in a different way in the hope that it will raise the game of the other institutions.


Start modestly, start small. We're a startup. And try to do something which just I think clears the atmosphere. That's the aim. And I think it's a modest and reasonable aim. We can't stop founding new colleges. I think there had been only three founded in all of the United States this century which by American standards is a pretty low rate of innovation, wouldn't you say?

SMERCONISH: Would you respond to this critique? It's from Derek Robertson and it was published in "Politico." I'll read it to you. And for everyone else, I'll put it on the screen.

"The University of Austin's explicitly stated ideological commitment is to a pluralistic, classically liberal freedom of expression. But as Zimmer and others have pointed out, the university's project as constituted today rests on an inherently political critique of schools as they are. And for an intellectual vehicle so committed to diversity of thought that it can't even exist in the current academic landscape, its affiliated thinkers comprise a near-monoculture in their own right: They're nearly all icons of the same confrontational, non- 'progressive' liberal rationalism."

Will the University of Austin be such a monoculture as he describes?

FERGUSON: Well, I'm certainly sure all of the founders are trying their best to avoid that which is precisely why we reached out to a very broad range of different people for advice including Robert Zimmer. I mean it's very difficult in this very polarized country of ours with our feelings running so high on campuses to do this kind of thing. But I don't think anybody could claim that we've set out to establish a monoculture. Quite the opposite. We've really sought advice from a very wide range of people. From confirmed Democrats, liberals, all the way to outright conservatives with whom I have many issues.

And my message is simple, we don't need to agree on everything. In fact, we only need to agree on one thing. And that is that college can be a better experience. That there can be greater freedom for academics. That there can be greater freedom for students.

And it can't be healthy for professors to be effectively run off campus in the way that, for example, Peter Boghossian was harassed out of his position in Portland State because he dared to point out that there were bogus journals publishing bogus scholarship. For that, he was - he was disciplined.

SMERCONISH: I have a -

FERGUSON: I mean, I wouldn't be in a such rush to do this. If I didn't see people losing their jobs for speaking their minds, that's not academia as I remember when I was an undergraduate in Oxford back in the 1980s. We can do better.

And I think anybody who denies that there are problems in higher education is dreaming. There are problems -- ask any undergraduate, ask any professor. The atmosphere on campuses is not healthy. And that's why we're doing this. If everything were fine, why would we bother?

SMERCONISH: OK. A quick final question. I'm limited on time. I've just heard what you said, Nikole Hannah-Jones, the 1619 project. You know the controversy recently at UNC. Would she be welcome at the University of Austin?

FERGUSON: I'd certainly love to bring her and have a debate about whether this country originated in 1619 or 1776 with the Declaration of Independence. That's the kind of debate that we want to have. Note that there will be invitations and no disinvitations for her and other people who doubt and will criticize us as she has criticized us already on social media. We're still open to their ideas even we disagree. That's the whole point of the university.

SMERCONISH: OK. That - that - I would - that is a debate I would love to watch.

Dr. Niall Ferguson, thank you for your time.

FERGUSON: Thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. What do we have, Catherine?

From Twitter. "Higher ed is not broken. You are supporting indoctrination centers." Really, DMC? You just heard him explain exactly the type of environment. I think they run the risk of a perception that they're all on the right and representing to use the critique from Derek Robertson of a monoculture. But as long as they are welcoming in of all perspectives, I think there's a need for it and it would be healthy. That's the kind of campus environment I would love to be a part of.

Do you remember back in March during President Biden's first news conference, he said he plans to run for re-election in 2024?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you decided whether you are going to run for re-election in 2024?

BIDEN: My answer is yes. My plan is to run for re-election. That's my expectation.


SMERCONISH: Well, go to and answer this week's survey question, will he, "Will Joe Biden seek re-election in 2024?"

Up ahead this week, Congressman Paul Gosar was censured by Congress and Steve Bannon was indicted by the DOJ. And yet both seemed - they seemed thrilled. I think I can tell you why in just a sec.



SMERCONISH: By now, you know that Republican Congressman Paul Gosar was censured this week in Congress in response to his having shared a 90-second anime clip slashing Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the back of the neck and swinging two swords at President Biden. The cartoon is sophomoric and appalling.

On Wednesday, the House then voted along party lines with just two Republicans, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger joining Democrats to censure Gosar and strip him of committee assignments. Censure is not as severe as expulsion but it's a stronger punishment than a reprimand.

Relatively, recent examples of censure include when in 1983, Representatives Gerry Studds and Daniel Crane were both censured for having sex with 17-year-old congressional pages.


Or in 2010 Representative Charlie Rangel, then the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, was censured after having been found guilty of 11 counts of violating ethics rules.

Gosar was the first member censured since Rangel, but punishment hardly defines how this was received by Gosar or by his colleagues to the extent that he apologized, according to "Politico," only behind closed doors and only to his party colleagues. Instead, the House proceeding he compared himself to Alexander Hamilton.


REP. PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): I voluntarily took the cartoon down not because it was itself a threat but because some thought it was. If I must join Alexander Hamilton, the first person attempted to be censured by this House, so be it. It is done.


SMERCONISH: Watching him I hadn't seen someone on the receiving end of punishment so happy since, well, Steve Bannon was hauled into court on Monday to face indictment for being held in contempt of Congress. And Gosar's colleagues seemed unperturbed. Instead of focusing on Gosar's infraction they spent time talking about the hypocrisy of Democrats who ignored similarly bad behavior.

Potential future House speaker Kevin McCarthy repeated said, rules for thee but not for me. He called out specific Democrats for their prior acts. And guess what? First, he referred to this comment by Congresswoman Maxine Waters where she encouraged protesters to keep demonstrating in case Derek Chauvin was acquitted for the murder of George Floyd.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): We got to stay on the street, and we've got to get more active. We've got to get more confrontational. We've got to make sure that they know we mean business.


SMERCONISH: McCarthy also discussed how House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended her. Hoyer called her passionate. And Pelosi likened her remarks to confrontations made during the civil rights movement.

McCarthy said more but you get the point I'm sure. And I happen to think that McCarthy is right to single out bad behavior across the aisle, but it's hypocrisy for both sides not to apply the same mirror to their own.

"The Wall Street Journal" channeled, in part, my thinking with an editorial on this entire mess when they said this this week, "The episode reveals that many members of Congress now behave as if their job is to become social media influencers or cable TV stars, as opposed to accomplishing something. Healthcare and tax policy are so establishment. Tweeting a cartoon is a perfect metaphor for today's House of Representatives."

"The Journal" said that Gosar is a 62-year-old man who acts like a teenager on TikTok. And that he deserves ridicule more than censure which should be reserved for more serious offenses. This reminds me in September, two months before "The Wall Street Journal" observation, I spoke at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, which was a greater honor for me because I came of age in Ronald Reagan's Republican Party. On this instance, my topic was political polarization. I said this.


SMERCONISH: It used to be that the way you'd get ahead in Washington was to get elected and bide your time, establish seniority, get re- elected, get a choice committee assignment and most importantly get something done. Today, it's a lot easier and potentially quicker. You say something provocative, you get on cable television, you become a fundraising magnet. In short, you act like a talk show host.

It doesn't matter if you're AOC on the left or Matt Gaetz on the right. Why spend time trying to pass some complex piece of legislation when instead you can be a verbal or social media bomb thrower?


SMERCONISH: Anybody disagree with that? After the Gosar censure I tweeted this, "Removing Gosar or Marjorie Taylor Greene from committee assignment is meaningless punishment. That would only matter to members who wish to accomplish things."

I was referencing the fact that back in February as punishment for her spread of conspiracy theories Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene was stripped of her committee assignments, a move supported by only 11 Republicans. But like I said at the Reagan Library in September, that punishment presumes that making it harder for Greene to legislate will have some prescriptive value.

But like Gosar, she's not in Washington to get something done. She's there primarily to do the things that will keep her in Washington which today sadly mean do something incendiary. Invoke passion and raise money.

Speaking of the need for grown-ups and civility in Washington, my next guest has always been respected and admired. Admiral William McRaven was a Navy SEAL for 37 years, rising to the commander of all U.S. Special Operations Force which, of course, included SEAL Team 6 and the raid that killing Osama bin Laden.


He has combined his experience as a SEAL with his most famous public address about the importance of making your bed. He has now written a new children's book called "Make Your Bed with Skipper the Seal."

Admiral, so great to see you again. I began by making my bed this morning. Scout's honor. You've just written a book that seeks to instill lessons of character in children. And I don't want to drag in anything partisan like I've just been talking about. But how do we likewise reach adults?


You know, my hope would be that some of these people you were referring to would, frankly, go back to reread the books that their parents read to them when they were children. And I'm sure all of these books talked about the golden rule, talked about respect, talked about being kind to people, and caring for people.

And their parents were reading them those books not just to make them better children but to make them better adults. And somewhere along the way, I think, they have forgotten some of those very, very basic lessons. And so, I think they need to go back and get a little bit more child-like first before they grow up into the individuals that are trying to govern the country for us.

SMERCONISH: You know what worries me, admiral, the most is that individuals who could be -- you know, would be Admiral McRavens are looking at this climate -- and maybe it's on a local level with the school board or maybe it's on a congressional level. And perhaps they themselves are contemplating a career in public service but it becomes so nasty that they just say, it's not worth it, I'm going to stay out of the fray. What would -- what would, you know, Skipper the Seal say to them in that context?

MCRAVEN: Well, yes, I think Skipper would again reinforce the values that, you know, our parents, our guardians, our teachers, our coaches taught us when we were young. But let me offer something else, Michael. You know, I have been around some of the toughest men in the world. And there is this kind of belief today that in order to be tough, you know, we somehow have to be mean-spirited, we have to belittle people, and we have to be disrespectful.

And let me tell you, the tough men and the tough women that I've grown up around in my time in the SEAL teams, the military were anything but -- they were respectful. They understood the value of honesty, and integrity and character.

And so, yes, this belief that somehow in order to be tough in Congress or tough on the school boards or tough anywhere we've got to be, you know, again, mean-spirited or disrespectful I think is a false narrative. And we need to try to change that.

SMERCONISH: Admiral, I read all the 2020 books, all the post-Trump books that came out, I haven't seen you since one came out with a revelation of sorts. It was Edward-Isaac Dovere's book "Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats' Campaigns to Defeat Trump."

I will put on the screen something that he reported because I wanted to ask you about this and whether you're aware of it. He's talking about President Obama. "Obama started the latest round of his favorite game, Who Do You Want to Be the Democratic Nominee? This time he had a new format: Who do you want in your head? Who do you want in your heart? Who could win? Obama's head choice was Bill McRaven, the commander of the Navy SEAL raid that had killed bin Laden and at that time, the chancellor of the University of Texas who kept putting himself out, defending the media and talking about keeping democracy together. From his heart, Obama picked Biden, but of course. He loved Biden."

Did you know that were President Obama's choice in his head to be a Democratic nominee for president? And did you ever have a conversation with him about it?

MCRAVEN: No, I didn't know that, and he and I never had a conversation about me running for president. I'm flattered by it. I'm appreciative, but, no, that's the first time I've heard that.

SMERCONISH: Hey, two months ago, I became a grandparent. The book goes home for that purpose. Thank you for being back.

MCRAVEN: Hey, my pleasure, Michael. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, Friday the jury in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse acquitted him on all counts. Joey Jackson is here to analyze.

Remember, when Vice President Harris was asked by "Good Morning America's" host George Stephanopoulos recently whether she and Biden have discussed the next election she had this to say.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: So, you're not discussing 2024 yet?



SMERCONISH: So, they may not be discussing re-election yet but what do you think? Go to my Web site at this hour and tell me, will Joe Biden seek re-election in 2024?



SMERCONISH: Friday, Kyle Rittenhouse found not guilty on all charges. Now the 18-year-old who killed two people and shot another during unrest last summer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, he began to cry as the verdict was read. Hugged his attorney as he was breaking down. The jury of five men, seven women deliberated more than 25 hours over the past four days in a closely watched case.

Joining me now, CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson. He's a criminal defense attorney and former New York State prosecutor. Joey, I'm going to begin by blowing smoke at you. I watched you all week on CNN and headline news, spot-on because of your knowledge of the courtroom and your ability to communicate. So, I'm really glad that you're here. What's your takeaway from this case?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Look, my takeaway is -- good to be with you and good morning -- is that these are times that which obviously you have to tell a story to a jury that needs to be compelling. And in any case, you have two professors. [09:45:00]

One professor being the prosecutor. And that prosecutor is advancing one narrative. And you have the defense who is advancing another.

I think in this particular case there couldn't be more divergent really stories that were told to that jury. From a prosecution perspective they were trying to paint Rittenhouse as an active shooter. Well, in order to do that you would have to demonstrate that he was indiscriminately shooting at various people for no basis or purpose.

They were also really trying to frame the issue as he -- that Rittenhouse as a person who shouldn't be there, an interloper, a person who is fancying himself a police officer, an emergency medical technician, and as result of him coming for no reason, right, he should have stayed home, he set off a chain of circumstances.

The prosecution doing that though really didn't carry the day. The defense's narrative was one that they advanced upon the jury is far different. Describing the circumstances. Describing a mob. Their words not mine. Rioters, their words, not mine. A combustible -- just really chain of events, fires going on et cetera. Their client being in immediate fear of attack, what else could he do?

And I think in explaining it that way they really brought home the notion that he did what he did for a legitimate legal purpose because he was in fear for his life and otherwise acted reasonably. That's what the jury bought. As a result of that, that's why we have a not guilty verdict.

SMERCONISH: What surprised me was not that he was acquitted on homicide. But I did expect that they'd get him for reckless endangerment. Just so there was some punishment associated with this away of the jury saying, hey, you really shouldn't have gone there to begin with. Did that surprise you?

JACKSON: You know, Michael, many people thought what you thought. And so, you're not alone in thinking that at least reckless endangerment. If you're discharging a firearm, then you're putting people at risk. What are you doing in doing that?

But I think that the jury had a choice. And that choice was to choose one side or the other, not with respect to people. They're not doing that. They're choosing a choice in terms of what happened.

Remember the process. The judge is really a person who is really the referee. The judge is about the law. The jury is about the facts.

And factually, I think, they brought the notion that he acted in a way that was legally justified. In doing so, I think what they did, right, was say if he acted in self-defense, he had a purpose, a basis, a reason to discharge his firearm because he was in intentional and immediate fear of death or serious bodily harm. They also felt, the jury, that is, that his acts were in proportionate to the threats that were posed, and they felt he acted reasonably. Under those circumstances it would have been difficult for them to say, OK, he acted reasonably. But he subjected other people to unnecessary harm. They bought that narrative and as a result of that they rejected the notion that he was reckless.

SMERCONISH: I think you're absolutely right. Joey Jackson, thank you. Great job. Really appreciate it.

JACKSON: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Checking in on your tweets and Facebook comments. This comes from Twitter as well. What do we have?

Legally correct verdict. Morally, questionable behavior. And that's where our society is now.

You know, my favorite of the week -- I hope I have time to do this. David French wrote for "The Atlantic" -- Catherine, can you put that up on the screen? This sums it all up for me and he wrote this before the acquittal.

"If the jury acquits Rittenhouse, it will not be" -- not be -- "a miscarriage of justice. The law gives even foolish men the right to defend their lives. But an acquittal does not make a foolish man a hero. A political movement that turns a deadly and ineffective vigilante into a role model is a movement that is courting more violence and encouraging more young men to recklessly brandish weapons in dangerous places, and that will spill more blood in America's streets." The words of David French and he nailed it.

Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments as well as the result of this week's survey question. Go vote right now at Is Biden seeking re-election in 2024?



SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question this week at Will Joe Biden seek re-election in 2024?

He says, yes. What do you say? Survey says 69 percent of 15,000 and change. Let's call it 70-30 do not expect that he will run for re- election in 2024. Interesting.

Social media. There's a ton this week. Let's see what we've got.

Why -- pardon me. You are not getting any younger either, dude. Why are you picking on Joe?

I know. When I started this gig eight years ago on CNN, I think, I had some hair. I'm not sure. It's true.

The answer to your question though is, I'm not picking on Joe. I pray for Joe's health, well-being and success. But got to talk about the facts of the day and the facts of the day are that he had a physical yesterday amidst poor polling and a huge swing in the perception of Americans in terms of his physical and mental capacities.

How can I ignore that issue? If Donald Trump were the president, you'd be saying, why aren't you talking about Trump?

Next. What do you have?

When 20 percent of the House -- when 20 percent of the House of Senate is over 70, why is Biden's age an issue for voters?


Shouldn't they vote in younger Senate/House members as well then?

Oh. Dee, yes. Yes, absolutely. I think that the entire system could use an injection of youth. Don't you?

But mine is not to be a practitioner of ageism, but rather to take a look at information that suggests a 29-point swing since October of 2020 on the issue of whether he's in good health. It happens to be his birthday today, which is all the more reason, I think, to address the issue.

So, don't misinterpret what I'm saying. I want good things for him. But my task here each and every week is to talk about the issues that I think people are discussing. And I don't know about in your circles, but this is an issue that people buzz about, and not just on Fox News or there wouldn't have been an 18-point swing among independents.

So, I mean it when I say it, happy birthday, Mr. President. But in certain circumstances, yes, this is a conversation that requires discussion.

I'll see you next week.