Return to Transcripts main page
Report: Putin Thinks West Will Get Exhausted With Ukraine; Musk: Tesla Employees Must Work 40 Hours In-Person Per Week; Why Does The Pentagon Help Films Like "Top Gun: Maverick"?; Biden To Meet Saudi Crown Prince Next Month. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired June 04, 2022 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: War of attrition? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Is Vladimir Putin correct to believe that the West will lose its resolve with regard to the war in Ukraine?
This week, the Washington Post reported that a well-connected Russian billionaire said Putin didn't expect the West's strong unified response to the conflict. But now, he's tried to reshape the situation and he believes that in the longer term, he will win, adding the Putin is a very patient guy.
He can afford to wait six to nine months. He controls Russian society much more tightly than the West can control its society.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has estimated that he needs 7 billion in aid a month just to keep the country running.
This news coming on the heels of a political report that says concerns are mounting on Capitol Hill about the administration's ability to properly account for all the money and weapons heading to Ukraine.
It's coming under increased scrutiny from members of both parties from progressive Elizabeth Warren to libertarian Rand Paul.
Some lawmakers warning the administration that a future aid package for Ukraine could lose the overwhelming support past efforts of had if the Pentagon doesn't step up its oversight on previously allocated funds.
And with no ceasefire or peace agreement in sight, the fight between Ukrainian and Russian forces slogs on.
Zelenskyy this week told lawmakers in Luxembourg that nearly 12 million people have been internally displaced since the Russian invasion started.
He also conceded that Russian forces are advancing in the eastern part of Ukraine, and now control a greater amount of territory than they did before the war started. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translation): As of now, nearly 20 percent of our territory is under the control of occupiers, almost 125,000 square kilometers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: It's a blunt acknowledgement of the slow but substantial gains the Kremlin has made since the war began. This is how NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described the current state of the conflict after meeting with President Biden this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Wars are by nature unpredictable. And therefore, we just have to be prepared for the long haul because what we see is that this war has now become a war of attrition where the Ukrainians are paying a high price for defending their own country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: But the delivery of 700 million worth of new sophisticated weaponry by the U.S. which would have been unthinkable in the wars earliest days, could change the dynamics on the battlefield.
This week in The New York Times, President Biden penned an essay explaining that, "We will provide Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine."
Further along, the President attempted to dispel any fears of a nuclear conflict, breaking out calling Russia's rhetoric throughout the conflict dangerous and extremely irresponsible.
"Let me be clear, any use of nuclear weapons in this conflict on any scale would be completely unacceptable to us as well as the rest of the world and would entail severe consequences."
With me now to discuss is Admiral James Stavridis. He spent more than 30 years in the Navy rising to become the supreme allied commander of NATO.
He's also the author of the brand new book, "To Risk It All: Nine Conflicts and the Crucible of Decision." Admiral, is time on Vladimir Putin's side?
ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: I don't think so, Michael. And, you know, we got to begin by saying Putin has been the master of miscalculation since this thing began.
He underestimated Volodymyr Zelenskyy, thought he was a former comedian. Turns out the guys like Winston Churchill. He underestimated the fighting spirit of the Ukrainian people. Putin told his troops, you'll be greeted with bottles of vodka when you invade, while they were greeted with bottles of flammable liquid called Molotov cocktails. He underestimated the will and the capability of the West to hang together and put, I think, very serious sanctions on him.
So point one, Putin is the miscalculator here. And point two is before we decide that Putin is really succeeding here, let's put that in perspective. And you know this Michael, his objective was to conquer the entire country to take 100 percent of it.
He's taken an additional 5 percent. In other words, he was in control of 15 percent of the country before this thing started. He's now in controlled of about 20 percent.
I'd say even giving him the benefit of the doubt of, OK, he now controls 20 percent of the country on an objective of 100 percent, that's a failing grade.
Having said all that, sure, we ought to worry about the will and the ability of the West to hang together over time. And some would say, oh, look at Afghanistan, we folded our cards.
We hung in there for 20 years. And oh, by the way, we didn't fold in World War I, we didn't fold in World War II, we didn't fold in Colombia, we didn't fold in the Balkans.
I wouldn't bet against the West holding together. So bottom line, no, I don't think time is on Vladimir Putin's side.
SMERCONISH: OK. So I agree with everything you've said. It's accurate up until now. Some of the conflicts that you identified were not conflicts where we were direct participants like the Balkans.
But you know we're fickle and we have midterms coming and people are paying at the pump.
And while Americans are supportive of Ukraine, I've seen polling data, you've seen polling data, that what matters more to voters is inflation, and then throw in the food situation.
I'm going to read to you something, it comes from the head of the Russian Security Council, so maybe you'll take it with a grain of salt. His name is Gazeta. He says -- pardon me -- his name is Patrushev, you probably are aware of him.
STAVRIDIS: Oh yes, yes.
SMERCONISH: "The world is gradually falling into an unprecedented food crisis. Tens of millions of people in Africa or in the Middle East will turn out to be on the brink of starvation, because of the West.
In order to survive, they will flee to Europe. I'm not sure Europe will survive the crisis." The combination of gas prices at home, a food crisis overseas, might that put time on the side of Putin?
STAVRIDIS: Certainly it is worth worrying about and addressing. And so let's take energy first critical that the West begin the process of the great rewiring, which is what I would call what needs to happen to the energy systems and delivery around the world.
And it's everything from gas in Europe, to fuel in Sub-Saharan Africa. That's happening, Michael, and it's happening by market forces, frankly.
So that's going to create some discontinuities, and there'll be continued upward pressure on energy prices. And yes, it's a concern, but that can be addressed over time. And I think it will be reasonably well on food.
I think this is a Looming Tower. I agree in the sense of the Russians comment that there could be a global food crisis. And there is a solution to that.
And by the way, that would be opening up the grain of Ukraine which is bottled up in Ukraine right now. And considering creating humanitarian maritime operations, escorting grain tankers and the grain comes out.
You do it through international waters, Ukrainian waters. Is it confrontational? Maybe. Does it create some risk? Sure. But that would be a way to approach solving that end of the problem.
Again, bottom line, yes, there will be discontinuities. I, for one, do not see the West simply cracking in the face of Russian claims of difficulties ahead.
SMERCONISH: All right. I know how you are voting then today on the daily survey question. Good luck with the book. It's terrific. I really appreciate you're being here.
STAVRIDIS: Thanks, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Admiral.
What are your thoughts at home? Tweet me at Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. Catherine, what do we have from the world of Twitter?
"Wait a minute, thought Russia was facing massive economic sanctions and seaborne oil export embargos, not to mention this war is about preserving democracy in the face of autocracy. So why in the world would the West blink first?"
The West would blink first, I'll speak with regard to domestic politics because we've got midterms on the horizon.
And American voters, although I believe we're supportive of Ukraine, and I hope that remains the case, I think with looming inflation and gas prices and other concerns, it might not be the priority. That's why I'm asking the question today. You heard the admiral rattle off a whole host of examples where we did not weaken in our resolve and he's optimistic and thinking this won't be any different. Go to my website at smerconish.com and answer this week's survey question.
Here it is. Is Vladimir Putin correct in believing the West will lose its resolve with regard to the war in Ukraine?
Up ahead, when it comes to electric vehicles, Elon Musk is clearly a trendsetter. But what about his plans for a return to work? He's demanding that Tesla workers come back into the office for at least 40 hours per week or face firing. What will that mean? Maybe an end to work day activities like this. Scott Galloway is here to discuss.
Plus, "Top Gun: Maverick" has driven movie watchers back into the theaters, but what did movie producers have to give up in return for Pentagon cooperation?
SMERCONISH: Post-pandemic. Is everybody headed back to the workplace? That question arose this week with the news that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has given office workers an ultimatum -- return to 40 in-person office hours a week or leave the company.
Musk call the requirement disclosed in leaked e-mails that he sent to Tesla's executive staff, quote, less than we asked of factory workers. And that with few exceptions, if you don't show up, we will assume you've resigned.
This is at Loggerheads with the policy at Twitter which Musk of course is negotiating to buy which has said that employees can continue to work from home forever if they prefer.
Musk followed up two days later with an e-mail to executive saying that he has a, quote, super bad feeling about the economy and that he wants to cut about 10 percent of Tesla's workforce, which numbered 100,000 at the start of the year.
Joining me now is Scott Galloway. He's a professor at New York University's Stern School of Business. He's a serial entrepreneur who founded nine companies. He's the author of multiple books, most recently, "Post Corona from Crisis to Opportunity."
So Professor, what is going on here? Does he really want to shed part of his workforce? Is he going to have trouble holding on to employees?
SCOTT GALLOWAY, PROFESSOR OF MARKETING, NYU STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: Yes, good to be with you, Michael. Yes, you summed it up. This isn't as much cultural societal statement as it is an attempt to reduce his severance payment. He has stated that he wants to lay off 10 percent Tesla's employees
that keep in mind they've grown, which isn't shocking. They've grown from 50,000 employees to 100,000 just in the last three years. So wanting to tighten the belt a little bit is entirely understandable.
And if you think about severance payments, plus extended benefits, if that's 10,000 people 50,000 bucks a pop, you're talking about $0.5 billion. So I think this is just an attempt to reduce the severance costs by letting people opt up.
It's sort of like, I have high school students at home now. And when they want to break up with someone, they're mean to them, hoping that person will break up with them. This is hoping a decent amount of his workforce breaks up with Tesla and reduces his severance cost.
SMERCONISH: What happened to the old, it's not you it's me routine?
GALLOWAY: That's right. That's right.
SMERCONISH: That's just a little levity. So what is the trend? Because you ingrained in me when I read your most recent book, that the pandemic is best thought of as an accelerant, right? It's going to fuel things that were already in motion. Are we ever going back to work in the workplace as it existed?
GALLOWAY: Oh, we're definitely going back. We're just not going back as often. And if you look at the people, whether it's Jamie Dimon or David Solomon, or Elon Musk, who are saying get back to the office, these are people who grew up and became very successful as evidenced by their position to make these statements in the before times, when showing up to an office and putting on a tie was the way you became successful.
We're probably going to end up somewhere in the middle. We have an easier time processing information in either zero. We're not going back at all like an Atlassian or an Airbnb or a Twitter, or we're going back full time just like before, like JPMorgan or Goldman. In reality, is the majority of companies will be somewhere in the middle like an apple.
The one thing I would say, Michael, and whenever we're together, we talk about how does this impact young people? My advice to young people starting their careers is absolutely to get back into the office.
Your career trajectory is a function of proximity. For every promotion, there are two or three qualified people. And that promotion will go to the person who has the best relationship with the decider. And relationships are a function of proximity.
So before you start collecting dogs and kids, get back into the office. But the office place will never be the same again. The office I worked at on Sixth Avenue in Morgan Stanley, pre-COVID had at 500 people a day in the building, now it's running more like 500 or 1,000. Things have permanently shifted here. SMERCONISH: Right, which speaks to the ripple effect that this will have on among other things, the real estate market. Do you share Elon Musk's gut feeling as to the general health of the economy?
GALLOWAY: Yes, but I've been waiting for a recession for five years. What's interesting, if you look at Jamie Dimon again, David Solomon and Elon Musk, they're like weatherman saying a storm is coming but you look outside and it's sunny. The data doesn't reflect yet, a recession.
I think what you are definitely seeing as among the unicorn class of growth companies who have seen their stocks off anywhere between a third if you're Amazon or Tesla to 80 or 90 percent, if you're SNAP or Coinbase, you're seeing an exceptional markdown and the valuation of some of these stocks.
Now whether -- I think most people would agree we're headed towards rougher economic times.
Whether or not it's a hard landing or a soft landing, you know, my guess is as good as yours. But so far, the data doesn't foot to the doom and gloom these individuals are speculating or projecting.
SMERCONISH: Do you watch, Professor Galloway, as Musk becomes an increasingly partisan or at least perception of him as a partisan person, where up until now the guy has been staunchly independent with how he's conducted himself?
The candidates that he supported, you know, all of a sudden, like so much else around us, he becomes fodder for the left and the right?
GALLOWAY: It's a really interesting point, Michael, and I don't understand it. Remember when Michael Jordan got a certain amount of grief for not taking stands on social issues, and he responded the Republicans buy shoes too?
I don't understand why Elon Musk would purposely cement himself one political direction or another. Because if you look at the majority of people who buy Tesla's, it's not Republicans and Mitch -- you know, Mitch McConnell's Kentucky, it's people in San Francisco, it's people in New York who probably lean left.
So I would argue that positioning himself as a far-right or not even far-right, but his right is going to turn off a lot of potential customers. I don't understand it. I -- it makes no sense to me that he would decide to cement his political leanings.
I think most CEOs decide that Republicans or Democrats buy shoes too and try and stay out of it. So I think it was a strategic error on his part to kind of bear hug the right.
SMERCONISH: OK. And bottom line is, we're not going back to work the way that we used to, although some among us, the younger ones ought to, it's probably going to be a hybrid model going forward. GALLOWAY: 100 percent. We're going to see. I think it's going to be more like the Apple model. And also, there's opportunity here. If you look at the amount of time to put on a pantsuit or a suit, blow dry your hair, commute into work, you might be unlocking 10 hours of additional time to make more money, be more productive, self-care, care for your children, care for the elderly.
So there's a dramatic unlock for people here, especially caregivers who we want to keep in the workforce to better have more mental health, better self-care, but it'll probably be a mix of the two. It's not going to be 0-1 here, it's going to be somewhere in between.
But we're seeing a dramatic acceleration of a trend that was already in place, and that is people are spending more time at home, and they can be productive at home.
SMERCONISH: Scott Galloway, thank you as always.
GALLOWAY: Thanks, Michael. Good to see you.
SMERCONISH: You too.
More social media reaction now from Smerconish Twitter and Facebook and YouTube. What do we have? "He's correct. Being in the same room promotes the sharing of ideas and solutions better than any remote approach." You're saying he's correct, meaning Elon Musk, I'm sure.
I think Scott makes a hell of a point when he says -- and I just think about my own early life work experiences being mentored by so many individuals who were willing to take me under their wing. You just can't do that remotely with the same ease. So if you're in your 20s and there's an office to go to, I'm with Scott, get to the office.
I want to remind you, go to my website, it's smerconish.com. Answer this week's survey question, please. Is Vladimir Putin correct? He believes that the West is going to lose its resolve with regard to the war in Ukraine.
And up ahead, "Top Gun: Maverick", huge opening, made Hollywood very happy, as well as the Pentagon which cooperated with the filmmakers and hopes that it ups Navy recruitment. Some like my next guests say, be careful, could be propaganda.
And candidate Joe Biden wants vowed to make Saudi Arabia a pariah. Now, he's contemplating a visit where he might meet with the man responsible for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
SMERCONISH: This week brought good news for a struggling Hollywood. Tom Cruise's sequel "Top Gun: Maverick" earned a record $160 million domestically, it its four-day opening weekend.
But that was also good news for the U.S. Navy, which granted access to military assets for the film's producers in return for an unspecified amount of input about the script. What role does the Pentagon play in America's military themed movies and TV shows that doesn't rise to the level of propaganda?
Paramount Pictures reportedly paid $11,000 and change per hour to use the advanced fighter planes known as F/A-18 Super Hornets, and footed all the fuel bills even though per Pentagon regulations crews couldn't actually touch the controls.
The Navy's military supervisor on the film told the New York Post, "This didn't cost us a thing. Paramount reimburse the taxpayers and every penny was sent back to the Treasury. But we did it for recruiting and retention."
How important is that? Well, according to a recent piece from the U.S. Naval Institute, "The service could struggle to meet its Fiscal Year 2022 goal of bringing in 40,000 enlisted sailors and 3,800 officers." Of course, there are many anti-war, anti-military movies that the Pentagon does not cooperate with.
For example, "Deer Hunter," "Apocalypse Now", "Platoon," and another Tom Cruise vehicle "Born on the Fourth of July." But in the quest for good PR, what kinds of controls does the military exert over the movies and TV shows that it helps? And has its refusal to cooperate kept other projects from ever getting off the ground.
Trying to find out, my next guest, Roger Stahl, working with a team of researchers acquired 30,000 pages of internal DOD documents, which show that the Pentagon and CIA have exercise direct editorial control over more than 2,500 films and television shows. The findings are in the documentary he directed "Theaters of war: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OLIVER STONE, FILMMAKER: You can call it censorship. You can call it propaganda. It's all of these things.
PHL STIUB: We've worked with Mr. Bay here since "Armageddon," if I'm not mistaken. And hope to do more of the same.
MICHAEL BAY, FILM DIRECTOR: I got direct line to the Pentagon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Roger Stahl joins me now. He's also a Communication Studies Professor at the University of Georgia. He recently published this piece of the L.A. Times, "Why does the Pentagon give a helping hand to films like 'Top Gun'?"
So Professor, how does this work? If I'm a filmmaker, I've got a script. I'd love to use a battleship. I'd love to use an airplane. What do I do and where do I do it?
[09:30:00] ROGER STAHL, PROFESSOR OF COMMUNICATION STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA: Well, you go into one of the have offices in Wiltshire Boulevard that the Navy, Air Force or Army keeps for outreach purposes. And you ask them, you know, do you want to give us access to installations, equipment or personnel in exchange for, in this case, access to editorial rights over the script? So you hand over your script in order to get the goods.
SMERCONISH: Well, it sounds to me like there's a lurking First Amendment issue there, right? I mean, if I'm making -- if I'm Coppola and I'm making "Apocalypse Now," don't I have the same right as Bruckheimer making "Maverick"?
STAHL: You do. And the Pentagon will say quite openly in public that, you know, we're not censors. We allow you to make your movie in the way that you want to do it. But, you know, it tilts the playing field because we're talking about an economic advantage that is given to some filmmakers and not to others.
SMERCONISH: What's a showstopper?
STAHL: A showstopper is anything that the military flags as being sort of nonstarter in terms of what's in their script. So if they find something like war crimes, torture, disparaging the military in any way, not showing the military in a competent capacity, not depicting the military as, you know, being ultimately the first kind of -- not showing the military as, you know, a noble enterprise that would be a showstopper for the military. It's a way of --
SMERCONISH: All right, listen, you're struggling -- you're struggling for your words. I'm going to help you. Give me an example. Give me an example of something that they wanted to put the kibosh on.
STAHL: I'll give you an example from the 1990s. This was a film that most people who have not seen the documents don't know about because it was never made. It was called "Countermeasures." And the military objected to this film because it was an allegory for the Iran-Contra affair. They wanted to show corruption on an U.S. aircraft carrier. The smuggling of U.S. weapons to Iran.
And the military looked at the script and I'm quoting directly, they didn't want -- not want to denigrate the White House or remind the public of the Iran-Contra affair. And so, they rejected this film. And this film was ultimately never made, even though it had the support of Touchstone Pictures and also it had several big name actors onboard, including Sigourney Weaver.
SMERCONISH: Wow. So if I'm making Marcus Luttrell's "Lone Survivor" -- hell of a book, hell of a movie, heroic guy, I assume the Pentagon is all in with me. But listening to what you said, professor, if I want to do a movie about what went on in black sites and show water boarding, I suspect I'm not getting a lot of cooperation.
STAHL: Well, it's strange because in the past the CIA and the Pentagon have objected to films that have depicted torture but, you know, "Zero Dark Thirty" came around and the conversation was already happening about torture. And the CIA decided to support this film even though it depicted torture. And you know, it turned out to be a film that essentially justified and legitimize torture as a technique that helped us find Osama bin Laden.
So there are showstoppers that the Pentagon will object to that will stop a production from being assisted. But, you know, the field of play is constantly changing, too.
SMERCONISH: Quick final question. For the military, is it all about recruitment? Is that their angle?
STAHL: That's a big consideration. But it's not all about recruitment. It's about showing the military in the best positive light.
So you have something like "Top Gun: Maverick" and that obviously is about getting people into a situation where they're getting assigned on the bottom line. But it's also about portraying U.S. foreign policy. I mean, you've noticed probably that the allegory -- the story of "Top Gun" attracts pretty well with Iran and exactly how we're going to deal militarily through foreign policy with their nuclear program.
SMERCONISH: Fascinating subject. Thank you so much for being here to enlighten us.
STAHL: Thank you for having me on the show.
SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying via Smerconish Twitter and Facebook and YouTube.
What do we have from Twitter? It's a great recruiting tool for the military. Who knows maybe it might help steer and guide someone needing direction?
Yes. I'm not -- I'm not necessarily negative toward this whole subject. I'm more just keenly interested in it. I never stopped to think that there's an office on Wiltshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, you know, in Hollywood, and you got to go make a stop there if you want to make a movie that's going to rely on military assets. And in response for that level of cooperation, they're going to want to know, "Well, what's this movie all about?"
At what point does it become a propaganda tool if I go in and I'm Oliver Stone and I want to do, you know, a Stone-like movie? That's the issue.
Here is another issue, the survey right now at Smerconish.com, I'm asking this week, "Is Vladimir Putin correct in believing the West will lose its resolve with the war in Ukraine?" Go vote. Register for the daily newsletter when you're there.
Still to come, faced with rising oil prices here at home, President Biden is leaning toward making a visit to Saudi Arabia. Hear why one group is calling him out and what they want the president to tell the Saudi crown prince. That's next.
SMERCONISH: This week with President Joe Biden considering a controversial trip to Saudi Arabia the game of golf finds itself in the middle of a geopolitical fight. One of the most controversial countries on the globe has been attempting to create a competitor to the PGA. Saudi's LIV Golf Invitational Series promises to dish out 255 million purse money across eight events. And some of the world's best- known golfers who have contemplated or committed to participating in the Saudi-based event are now finding themselves on the outs with both the PGA and sponsors.
Former PGA champion Phil Mickelson, for example, got in hot water when he admitted that he had chosen to look past the Saudi's crimes and track record on human rights to have leverage over the PGA. He lost sponsorships. And this week after it was revealed that the 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson was taking as much as $150 million to be one of the 42 golfers competing in the LIV inaugural event, he lost his sponsorship from the Royal Bank of Canada and has jeopardized his standing with the PGA.
Now the president of the United States is the person who once had this to say about the kingdom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered, and I believe in the order of the crown prince. And I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them. We were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Although Biden said Friday, he had no direct plans to visit Saudi Arabia, CNN is reporting this hour that the president is expected to meet the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman next month. The reason the president has a massive domestic political liability in high gas prices that Saudi Arabia is in a position to assist.
But there are moral costs to cozying up to MBS and the Saudi kingdom. Consider the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. A U.S. intel report says MBS, as he's known, approved an operation to capture or kill the "Washington Post" journalist but the crown prince has denied any role. And the country's plethora of human rights abuses, torture, discrimination against women, detention of government critics and political activists. And then, of course, there's the role that 15 Saudi nationals played as hijackers in the September 11 attacks.
My next guest whose husband died in the north tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11 sent a letter to the president this week. The letter, which was obtained by "Politico" reads in part, "Mr. President, if you were to omit September 11 from your discussions with the Saudi leaders, it would signal to the world that you are willing to indulge years more of Saudi obfuscation and obstruction, and that America prioritizes the interests of foreign powers and economics more than the lives of its citizenry."
Joining me now is the national chair of 9/11 Families United, Terry Strada. Terry, thank you so much for being here. What you didn't say in the letter is, Mr. President, stay home. How come?
TERRY STRADA, NATIONAL CHAIR, 9/11 FAMILIES UNITED: Exactly. I understand the need to go over there and to discuss our need for oil, although I may not agree with it. But he needs to now bring up the hard subject of 9/11 and deal with this prince on a very stern level that they take responsibility for the role that they played in sending their agents here to set up the support network in our country that met and greeted the hijackers and did everything that they needed to give them the support they needed to carry out the attacks. He needs to take this -- rip this band aid off and deal with the truth and let's have a different relationship going forward with the kingdom.
SMERCONISH: Right. In other words, your premise is that it's not just that 15 of the 19 happened to be Saudis, based on information that you gleaned from among other things the so-called "28 Pages," you think there's a direct connection there and MBS needs to be held accountable for it?
STRADA: I know there's a direct connection there. I have seen the evidence. So, the president did an executive order last September that demanded that the DOJ do a declassification review of all the CIA and FBI documents that have been hidden from the American public for two decades.
And what we are finding in these documents is that there was this hideous anti-American pro-jihadist program going on inside the United States within the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. and that Prince Bandar, who was the ambassador, was directly paying some of these handlers that were helping the hijackers. So they are not only financially responsible for al Qaeda and the attacks, they gave the logistical support and they gave the ideology, the evil ideology that spawned, you know, the hatred that these jihadists have for Americans. And they will not stop unless we deal with the truth and denounce terrorism in that country and do what they need to do here in America, take responsibility.
SMERCONISH: Terry, let's also give the president his just due. I know that it's your view -- from our prior conversations it's your view that this president, President Biden, has done more on this issue, this cause of yours, than any of his predecessors. Explain.
STRADA: Yes, that's true. Like I just mentioned, the executive order that -- so first of all, I would say Senator Menendez and his staff deserve as awful lot of credit for this. They wrote a transparency act, 2021 Transparency Act, and the president turned that into an executive order that demanded the DOJ go back and to look at all of these documents that they have refused to give us over the years -- to the families for our case against the kingdom.
So the president, yes, in doing that executive order has released documents we have never seen before and are helping the 9/11 families, you know, get to the truth. But now we need him to take the next step. Because now our government knows without a doubt how involved the kingdom was in the attacks of 9/11. So now they need to help us deal with the kingdom and the truth.
SMERCONISH: OK. Final question, so, what does this look like? Have you sort of game, theoried it out? You're saying, Mr. President, you got to go in July because of gas prices. I get it. But when you're over there and when you're in the palace and when you're meeting with MBS, you're going to say to him, what?
STRADA: You're going -- well, MBS is -- always wants to talk about this 9/11 lawsuit because he wants it to go away. And prior to this executive order and all of this information, you know, he was denying it. But now the truth is there. You can't deny it any longer. The facts are your country is responsible, 100 percent without a doubt, the murder of thousands of Americans on American soil including my husband.
So, we need this president to say to him, "No more lying. No more denying it. You have to get tough on terrorism financing and your country is the number one financer of terrorism and it needs to end."
SMERCONISH: This time I mean it when I say it's my final question. What do you say to the golfers tempted by the money to go play in this new process that the Saudis are establishing as a competitor to the PGA?
STRADA: Well, I would implore them to say, "No. Do not do it. Do not engage with the kingdom as long as they are still denying the role that they played in 9/11." I would say to them, "Do not take their money. You know, stand strong. It's a wonderful sport that has a lot of class. And if you get in bed with the Saudis, you're getting in bed with the dirt. You're going -- you know, it's not a good thing. I wouldn't do it."
SMERCONISH: Terry Strada, thank you so much for coming back to the program.
STRADA: Thank you for having me, Michael.
SMERCONISH: More social media reaction now from the world of Twitter, I believe. What do we have?
Midterm on the horizon? Really? That's how major decisions should be made. Disgusting.
Fran Peters, I think you're -- I think you're making a reference to a prior segment. But instead, I'll take you at face value. In other words, you think that the president is going just because there's a midterm. I think that the president would be concerned about high gas prices were there an election or not. Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we'll give you the final result of today's survey question. Have you voted yet? Go to Smerconish.com. Here it is.
Vladimir Putin, is he correct? He thinks that the West is going to lose its resolve with regard to the war in Ukraine. Go vote.
SMERCONISH: This is going to be interesting. Time to see how you responded to the survey question at Smerconish.com.
This week I'm asking the following. Is Vladimir Putin correct in believing the West will lose its resolve with regard to the war in Ukraine?
Here are the survey results. Let's call it nearly 20,000 -- wow, 74 percent, three-quarters say no, he's not correct, he's incorrect, out of more than 19,000 who voted.
I'm not sure myself. I'm concerned about where we are long term with midterms on the horizon, with inflation at a 40-year high, where there are concerns about crime, where there are concerns about the border and Title 42 and so forth and taking into consideration the fact that 11 Republican senators did not vote for the recent 40 bill. So in terms of him thinking he can just wait us out, I think it's a reason for concern, I really do. But that's what you thought.
OK. Social media reaction. What do we have? The West is easily distracted when conflict isn't right under their noses.
Well, that's my point. We do -- we do notoriously have short attention spans.
And that's why I share the concern of many that we're going to lose our focus. And I'm doing my part with my platforms to make sure that we're talking a lot about Ukraine.
Here's another social media reaction. What does it say?
I've been working since 1974. A 40-hour work week at the office or factory or restaurant is normal. Why does Elon Musk demand 40 hours -- 40 hours pay surprise everybody? This is the laziest generation I have ever seen.
Well, is it the laziest or are they just smarter? Are they just -- are they working hard but also working smart, right? You know that old adage about which are you going to be, working hard -- -- maybe you can work hard but do it from home.
One more. I think I've got time. Real quick.
Smerconish Michael, with regards to Biden meeting with the Saudis, sometimes you just have to hold your nose and get what you want.
I would have said, "Don't take the meeting." But if Terry Strada, who lost her husband, is cool with it, I yield to her. I'll see you next week.