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Is The World Falling Apart Or Does It Just Feel That Way?; Twitter Sues Elon Musk To Force $44B Purchase; What Constitutes Self- Defense?; James Patterson Writes His Own Amazing Story. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired July 16, 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: A national nervous breakdown? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. I've been off two weeks on account of a family visit to Italy. It was a time to relax and also to reflect. The trip was one part pure vacation, the other are routes tour.
We visited the tiny mountain village where my wife's father was born and raised it's called Camporaghena, located in the region of Tuscany, very near Liguria, the province of Massa-Carrara, the community de (ph) Comano. Current population, just 15, it was about 300 in the 1950s. No electric, no indoor plumbing when Renato John Nardine (ph) was born. They lived simply. He had four siblings. One was a shepherd. He was nevertheless able to emigrate to the United States where he became an orthopedist, one of countless American rags to riches stories, so many of you have your own.
When I travel abroad, I often come home mindful of two things. First, how insular we Americans can be inwardly focused and disconnected from global affairs, despite as Tom Friedman would say, the world being flat. And second, I'm always grateful to have been born here.
This time, I had a third thought. For the first time in my life, I worry about our ability to stay intact. Leadership, incivility, polarization, immigration, violence, all very much on my mind. And recent data suggests I'm not alone in my concerns, many of us have more fear than optimism about the United States. Of course, I'm concerned about the economy with the price of everything from gas to coffee exploding, inflation now 9.1 percent, stocks and 401 K's crashing. But those metrics feel transitory.
The headlines from home while I was abroad put bigger worries in my head. I departed two weeks ago on the day that Cassidy Hutchinson was testifying before the January 6 committee. The 26-year-old former aide to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows delivered credible testimony about the unhinged behavior of then President Donald Trump. Even if it turns out that her testimony overreached by offering hearsay about what actually went on inside the presidential SUV, she was yet another witness who painted a compelling picture of Trump's lack of fitness to serve then or in the future. And yet, as of today, survey say he remains the most likely Republican candidate for 2024 with his announcement possibly coming soon.
And meanwhile, the most likely Democratic candidate is the incumbent president, himself too old to serve a second term. I don't say that in any gloating sense, Joe Biden's a decent man. When in May, I said here that President Biden should announce before the midterms that he would not seek a second term for his own sake and that of the country, many of you how? How can I suggest such a thing? And on CNN of all places, but I was only saying what others were thinking. And now the conversation is openly discussed.
Peter Baker in the "New York Times" just wrote about insights from multiple current and former senior officials. He said, "They acknowledged Mr. Biden looks older than just a few years ago, a political liability that cannot be solved by traditional White House stratagems like staff shakeups or new communication plans. His energy level, while impressive for a man of his age is not what it was, and some aides quietly watch out for him. He often shuffles when he walks and aides worry, they he'll trip on a wire. He stumbles over words during public events, and they hold their breath to see if he makes it to the end without a gaffe."
And then came a "Washington Post" three-person byline piece that revealed the administration's flat footedness for 14 days after the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, an opinion we all knew was coming because the draft was leaked five months ago. No wonder then that a Yahoo YouGov poll found only 18 percent of Americans overall think he should run for re-election (ph). And yet in a Time/Siena College poll, he nevertheless beats Trump. For entirely different reasons, these are not the best two among us, ones unfit and the other is too old.
Putting aside the personalities that same Times/Siena College poll also found that a majority of American voters across nearly all demographics and ideologies believe their system of government does not work.
What else distressed me from abroad? That San Antonio migrant tragedy. Fifty-three dead in a tractor trailer that had passed through a Federal Inspection checkpoint. An example of the immigration can kick down the road because neither side wants to offend their base. Immigration is a problem that can be solved if only Congress would exhibit missing courage, set some rules that close porous borders, but allow for a continued stream of freedom seekers.
Now that I'm home, I've decided I'm going to eat at Morton's soon. Because while I was away, the steak house became the victim of an avalanche of bogus reservations after its handling of protesters who showed up to confront Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was dining inside. This as a liberal advocacy group said that it will offer $250 to D.C. service industry workers who dropped the dime upon seeing any justices who voted to overturn Roe.
I get it, sure, people have the right to stand in a public space near where a justice is engaged in their personal life. But I think it's gross nonetheless. I think AOC disagreed with me, until some internet a-hole confronted her in a misogynistic way right on the Capitol steps. Have you no decency, sir?
Take a look at the way those who serve are treated and you'll better understand why some of the best among us remain on the sidelines. Mostly, mostly what distressed me about America when I was overseas, was reading about violence. After Buffalo, post-Uvalde the shooting in Highland Park, Illinois that killed seven, and this by the way, overshadowed multiple other shootings that same holiday weekend, at least 62 were shot, 10 killed in Chicago.
And with a surge in crime across big cities nationwide, Starbucks now plans on closing 16 stores citing personal safety concerns. The coffee giant also said that they're going to provide their baristas with active shooter training.
Yes, other countries have their troubles, too. Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated while I was on vacation, Boris Johnson finally succumb to scandal, Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, there's complete political turmoil in Sri Lanka, but I'm most worried about America. And it's not just me. Nearly every American has a foreboding the country they love is losing its way. That was the recent headline from a "Washington Post" article by David Ignatius, which discusses that there's actual data behind my post travel feelings.
Ignatius highlights the work of Rand Corporations, Dr. Michael Mazur (ph), who spent a year analyzing the characteristics of national competitive success. His data clearly reflects that morale in America is low. There's actual evidence that we have declining national ambition and that younger Americans increasingly do not believe the nation is exceptional or that the country is not on the right track toward greatness. The evidence shows our country is fearful and pessimistic. And still there is hope.
"Is the world really falling apart or does it just feel that way?" That was Max Fisher channeling Harvard's Steven Pinker, who's going to join me in a moment, he addressed that question in his "New York Times" front page story noting, war is less common. Globally, we've had less genocides and overall quality of life has improved in recent decades. Max Fisher argues that improvements aren't things that we don't see. We don't see wars that never happened or deaths that were prevented by modern medicine.
And the data suggests that stories like that of my father-in-law, coming from dirt villages and distant lands, and making a better life in America, they still occur. In fact, the children of immigrants still have a better income trajectory than those of people who were born in the United States. That's according to two economic historians, Ran Abramitzky, a permit ski from Stanford and Leah Boustan from Princeton.
After analyzing census records and big data about immigration, they just published their new book called "Streets of Gold, America's Untold Story of Immigrant success. And in it, they argue that while today the journey might begin as as it did for so many families in Italy or Poland or Ireland or elsewhere in Europe, today it might be China or India or Mexico or the Dominican Republic. But the American dream continues to be fulfilled, the children of immigrants are still exceptionally good at moving up the economic ladder.
Something is true today as it was in the LS (ph) Ireland era for so many of our families. They're twice as likely the children of immigrants to become rich as the children of those born in the United States today. So, is our national nervous breakdown warranted? Those, by the way, were words used by the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg to my colleague Brian Stelter in his reliable sources podcast. The answer I say is mixed.
Yes, our nation still offers hope to millions and we're lucky to be here. But we're off course, in too many ways. Our republic is being tested, and sadly, largely failing.
I want to know what you think. Go to my website @smerconish.com and answer this week's survey question, are concerns about America's unraveling overblown. So, are we in a downward spiral or am I missing something? Joining me now to discuss, the first person that I thought to ask, Steven Pinker is a professor of psychology at Harvard University. His most recent book is "Rationality, What It Is, Why it Seems Scarce, and Why it Matters. Thank you so much, Dr. Pinker for being here.
Are the beneficial trends that you document still continuing?
STEVEN PINKER, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGIST, HARVARD UNIVERSITY AUTHOR, "RATIONALITY": Mostly they are and they have suffered a setback because of the COVID pandemic and pandemics, visit human civilizations every once in a while and tremendous damage. As far as pandemics have go, we've done not bad with with this one compared, to say, the Spanish flu or even HIV AIDS in its early days.
We are facing serious problems that are visible in the data, an increase in crime, inflation, obviously, first war in Europe in more than 75 years. But we have to keep in mind that the -- there are always crises, there are always things that go wrong. When we get a picture of the world from the news, we are getting a sample of the worst things happening on Earth at any given moment. And in a world of almost eight billion people, there will always be terrible things, and that's what we see in the news.
The beneficial trends in the world are below the radar of news. They're things like every day 137,000 people escaped from extreme poverty, lives get longer, fewer children die. Horrible diseases like malaria and sleeping sickness and guinea worm get reduced, and in many countries eliminated. Even in this country, more people have health insurance they did before. the poverty rate declined of all things during the pandemic.
People are more likely to survive cancer and heart disease. Racism is going down both explicit and implicit. So we -- these are all either things that don't happen. I'll give another example, and that is jihadist terrorist attacks, that -- they were an obsession 15, 20 years ago, and they have drastically declined. You tend not to read a story, but the fact that the last past year they've been virtually no jihadist terrorist attacks on American soil, and that was used to be an obsession.
We forget about all the terrible things that we live through in past years. And of course, our attention is an ought to be focused on the challenges that face us right now.
SMERCONISH: I feel like you're talking me off the ledge. And I appreciate that, because you're doing it with data. Have we been through similar periods in the recent past? Is there any historical antidote or measuring stick that you will compare this to?
PINKER: Well, absolutely. In terms -- of course, in terms of the economy, I lived through the great stagflation of the late '70s and early '80s when interest rates top 20 percent, inflation was 14 percent, unemployment was much higher than it is now. We could return to that, but we haven't yet. And we are taking steps to prevent that.
And as with all of the problems, I think the key is, of course, not to deny them, not to say, oh yes, we have always had problems in the past. It's -- let's focus on how we get out of the problems that are facing us today. So other examples, there were wars like Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, which killed far more people than the total of the wars that are ongoing today, civil wars in Latin America and in Africa and South Asia that Americans are less concerned with than Russia and Ukraine, but they've killed people by the 100s of 1000s, sometimes even millions, genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia, the Arab Israeli War of 1973, which led the United States to put its nuclear forces on high alert. Fears that I remember as a child of an -- a surprise attack by nuclear tipped ICBMs, where we had to duck and cover and listen to air raid sirens as a test. So yes, there were terrible things that happened.
We do remember them when we study them in the history books, but it's a fact of human psychology that we tend to forget how bad they were at the time.
SMERCONISH: Well --
PINKER: So, our memories --
SMERCONISH: -- I'm glad that --
PINKER: -- are built for nostalgia.
SMERCONISH: Yes, I'm glad that you are here from Cape Cod to remind us that the glass can still be half full.
Professor, thank you so much. I really appreciate your insights.
PINKER: Thank you for having me. SMERCONISH: I think I know how Steven Pinker is voting on today's survey question. So, we'll make sure that all of you are voting on today's survey question. And make sure that you're hitting move through social media reaction.
From the world of Twitter, what do we have Catherine (ph)? There is this, "It's the media that's unraveling. You guys persistently focused and rehash the negatives of the country. Tone down the negativity, and the nation stress level will go down as well."
Garth, I agree with you that the media plays a role. I don't think with any malice of forethought. I don't think that it's deliberate. I think as Dr. Pinker just said, you know, what tends to get covered, not that that a country didn't disintegrate, but that a country faces threats that gets covered, violence gets covered, not safe neighborhoods. It also, your comment, presupposes that you want to watch positive news stories. I don't know that that model works.
So, all things in moderation is what I'm taking away from him and viewed through a big picture lens. Perhaps they're not as bad as many of us, yours truly, are walking around thinking. Go to the website, @smerconish.com this hour and answer this question, are concerns about America's unraveling? Are they overblown? I think Steven Pinker would say yes.
Up ahead, Twitter initially fought being taken over by Elon Musk. But now that the billionaire has backed out of the deal, the social media platform is suing to force him to go through with it. How's this going to end? Scott Galloway is here.
Plus, in New York City, a bodega had a violent incident when a boyfriend of an angry female customer went behind the counter, the worker stabbed him and has been charged with murder. But the girlfriend who stabbed the cashier has not been charged. Isn't this backwards? We'll discuss.
SMERCONISH: Can Twitter now force Elon Musk to buy the social media platform? That's the question raised by a new lawsuit.
You'll recall that back in April when the billionaire Tesla CEO first revealed that he'd become Twitter's largest shareholder, he proposed a $44 billion takeover and Twitter tried to fight him. Now the tables have turned, last week Musk announced that he was pulling out of the deal even though that move will contractually cost him at least a billion dollars. Friday, Musk accused Twitter of deceiving him about its service, obfuscating facts and not notifying him of executive changes.
But a key factor not mentioned the plummeting of tech stock value since Musk made his so called best and final offer of 54, 20 per share. It closed Friday at 37, 74, about 30 percent lower than his offer. Twitter's legal team filed a brief claiming that Musk himself had violated the agreement demanding that the deal be consummated.
Twitter said in its complaint that quote, "Having mounted a public spectacle to put Twitter in play, and having proposed and then signed a seller friendly merger agreement, Musk apparently believes that he, unlike every other party, subject to Delaware contract law, is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operates, destroy stockholder value, and walk away."
Joining me now to discuss is Scott Galloway. He's a professor at New York University Stern School of Business. He's a serial entrepreneur who's founded nine companies. He's also the author of multiple books, most recently, "Post Corona, From Crisis to Opportunity," and his latest blog at no mercy no malice is titled "Enablers" and he drills down on the Musk-Twitter war.
Hey, Scott, at least I did not put in your intro that you are an insufferable numbskull, which is what Elon Musk has called you. Like, what's the history with you two?
SCOTT GALLOWAY, PROFESSOR OF MARKETING, NYU STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: So thanks for that. And by the way, that's only half right. I'm actually quite separable.
Welcome back. Michael, I enjoyed your opening remarks.
Look, I think I've just called balls and strikes around this. And you'd have -- sometimes the most obvious explanation is the best explanation. You have someone who entered into a contractual agreement to pay $54.20 a share when he was wealthier, his wealth has declined by 30 percent and the market is substantially deteriorated and he's decided he wants out of a deal, which he's now paying a ridiculous premium for. And I think he's basically essentially discharged his legal team with finding any way to get him off the hook of this deal. But yes, he has called me names and a lot of other people on Twitter.
SMERCONISH: So, this is not a negotiation. You think he wants out? He's not just looking for a better price.
GALLOWAY: Oh, no, Michael, he's -- quite frankly, even the wealthiest man in the world runs into limits around what he can afford. Forty- five billion dollars is a lot of money and it would require him to sell a substantial amount of Tesla shares, which have declined in value, which could create a run on kind of the golden goose for his personal wealth, and that is Tesla shares. So, he wants absolutely out of dodge here.
And at some point about 30, 45 days you realize that he wasn't paying a 20 percent premium but kind of 120 percent premium to where stock would be at a natural level right now and he wants out. I don't think he's trying to negotiate reduced price here, he wants out of dodge. He made a mistake here, I don't know why. He decided to do this, but this has clearly gone from sort of an irrational deal to an insane deal and he's looking for any reason to hit the exit.
[09:25:19] SMERCONISH: I know how well you are connected among boards in the country, including the Tesla board and the Twitter board. What's the perspective from their vantage point?
GALLOWAY: Do you have an individual whose antics and disdain for the company have really damaged the company's reputation, put a chill on advertising and bad for employee morale, but he has signed a contract as you reference it by standards of legal review or legal scholars say if they look at the 1200 most recent purchase agreements for companies, this is more seller friendly than 93 percent of them, meaning that it's airtight. In other words, he's kind of up a river without a paddle here, once it gets to court, as evidenced by the fact that yesterday they're trying to delay the court date because he wants to move it to a hostage situation where he holds the company and continued limbo hoping that they will acquiesce and say we give up and let them out for a minor break up fee.
But here's the thing, Michael, the shares are up. And the reason the shares are up is the market recognizes that each shareholder not only represents ownership in Twitter, it represents ownership in a claim that is legally airtight against the wealthiest man in the world who likely is going to be obligated to pay $54.20 a share here. Twitter was a bridge too far for Elon Musk. He is on the hook, not for 1 billion here, I believe, but for 45 billion.
SMERCONISH: Wow. So, how does it end, Scott?
GALLOWAY:I think we're off to Delaware Chancery Court, which is built for speed. They don't even have opening arguments, they don't have a jury. I think they will compel him to close.
I then think it goes to a settlement because both the Twitter board and Mr. Musk will say, you don't want me to own this, we don't want you to own it, and they will come to a settlement. But I think the settlement is going to be legendary here. Because here's the thing, Michael, the characters here and the size is novel, but the actual legal disagreement here is pretty plain vanilla. And there's a lot of precedent for this sort of contractual case.
And everyone says that when an individual lies like this, as he is doing to try and get out of this case, the Delaware Chancery Court will uphold it. So -- but I think it ends up in a negotiated settlement.
SMERCONISH: Oh, you do? OK. Sufferable. Sufferable is the way that we'll address you next time.
GALLOWAY: There you go.
SMERCONISH: That was excellent. And I really appreciate it.
GALLOWAY: Thanks. Welcome back, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Scott Galloway.
Let's see what you're all saying via my social media feeds, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. What do we have? "I think Elon wanted to manipulate the stock prices, create some memes and then back out of the deal to blame liberal Twitter. He's a weird dude."
He might be a weird dude. I can see that he's a weird dude, but he's, he's a brilliant dude. And our lives are enhanced by having the -- here comes my bias. I guess, the Elon Musk's among us.
I'm naive to many of these issues. Scott's the expert, and I was interested in knowing from him. Is this all just a giant negotiation, because that's the way that it felt to me. But I trust Scott Galloway when he says, no, the guy wants out. We'll see.
I want to remind you go to the website, @smerconish.com. I think we've got a great survey question today. I want to know if concerns like those that I expressed at the outset of today's program, concerns about America's unraveling, are they overblown? While you're there, register for the daily newsletter.
Up ahead, I'm sure you're watching this case, a New York City bodega clerk has been charged with murder for stabbing an irate customer who came behind the counter to confront him. But the customer's girlfriend who stabbed the clerk hasn't been charged. What's wrong with this picture?
Plus, he sold 400 million books across all sorts of genres and has collaborated with everybody from Bill Clinton to Dolly Parton, now, James Patterson has written what might be his most amazing story, it's his own memoir, and he'll be here to discuss.
SMERCONISH: So what constitutes self-defense? That debate has been renewed after a growing number of people are urging the Manhattan district attorney to drop a murder charge against a bodega clerk who police say fatally stabbed a man who confronted him at work earlier this month.
It was July 1, 61-year-old Jose Alba, who emigrated to New York City from the Dominican Republic more than 30 years ago, was working at an Upper Manhattan bodega when according to a criminal complaint, a woman tried to buy a snack for her daughter. Her PIN and card was declined. She told police that Alba reached over the counter and grabbed her daughter's hand to get the item back.
The grisly altercation was captured on surveillance video obtained by "The New York Post." They reported the woman was heard saying, "My N is going to come down here right now and F you up." The woman left the store, later returned with her boyfriend, 35-year-old Austin Simon. A criminal complaint says that Simon went behind the counter and pushed Alba, the bodega clerk.
Alba told investigators Simon wanted him to apologize to the girl. In the recording we see Simon putting his hands on Alba in what appears to be an attempt to stir him outside the area behind the counter. The complaint says that Alba picked up a knife that was stashed behind the counter and stabbed Simon in the neck and chest at least five times.
It goes on to say that, "Simon's girlfriend took a knife from her purse and stabbed Alba," who suffered a wound to his arm. Simon died from the stab wounds to his neck and torso.
The case is noteworthy for the charges that both have and have not been filed. Alba, the bodega owner, who I see and say was protecting himself in his property was arrested on July 2, charged with one count of second-degree murder. He's been released on $50,000 bond. The girlfriend, meanwhile, charged with nothing.
Here now to discuss is Jeffrey Lichtman. He's a criminal defense attorney who, by the way, represented El Chapo and John Gotti Jr. So, Counselor, talk to me about the respective rights of these individuals. When Simon goes behind the counter and confronts Alba, what is Alba allowed to do under the law?
JEFFREY LICHTMAN, NEW YORK CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY/REPRESENTED EL CHAPO AND JOHN GOTTI JR.: Well, he's only allowed to use proportional force that's being used against him. And in this case, he used deadly force. And the reason why he was charged with murder is because it was believed by the D.A.'s office that Simon was not using the same deadly force that Alba was about to use.
He didn't have a bat. He didn't have a gun. He didn't have a knife. He wasn't punching him. He just went around to his area and pulled him out.
Now, it's clear that he was probably about to get a beating, but the D.A.'s office felt, well, if the guy is not beating you half to death, stabbing you, punching you, shooting you, you have no right to use deadly force in response.
SMERCONISH: Does it matter that, to what I see in those videos, there was nowhere for Alba to retreat?
LICHTMAN: Well, you have to retreat. There is a duty to retreat with regard to the use of deadly force in New York. There was no place for him to retreat. And so he -- the choice was was either possibly catch a beating or grab the only weapon that was at his finger tips which just happened to be a knife.
Now, the reason why they charged him is, as I explained, the reason why he's never going to be convicted is because there's more of like a heart strings pull situation that's happening here. You've got a legal immigrant who worked six or seven days, works his butt off, and you've got this thug with a very long rap sheet who's three times the size of him, half of his age, and it's clear he's about to give him a beating.
However, with regard to the use of deadly force Alba had no knowledge that this guy had any kind of a legal rap sheet. All he knew is what was in front of him. So I understand why he was charged, but I also can tell you there's a zero percent chance he's going to be convicted because people in New York are just sick and tired of being victims of crime and they felt that this guy was allowed to defend himself. But legally, if you actually parse it out, it's not such a weak case for the district attorney.
SMERCONISH: OK. Now shift your focus to the girlfriend, tell me what you see.
LICHTMAN: Well, the reason why she wasn't charged is pretty clear. She doesn't use the knife on Alba until her boyfriend is laying on the ground, after he's been stabbed, so you're allowed to use deadly force to protect a third person if you're meeting deadly force, and that's why the D.A. didn't charge her. They felt that she was permitted to use the knife to stop Alba from killing Simon.
Now, what also is a fact, and which I think should have caused her to be charged, is the fact that she started this whole situation. She's the one that said --
LICHTMAN: -- I'm going to get my N and he's going to come back here and he's going to F you up. So you can't create a situation in which deadly force may need to be used and then say, hey, you know, I killed a guy even though I'm the one that did it.
She started it. It never would have happened if she didn't start it. She should have been charged because she's the one who stabbed the guy, used deadly force for a situation that she initiated.
SMERCONISH: It makes sense the way that you explained it. Bottom line, the net net of this is that Alba is going to get off but he's going to have to go through the process, and she remains scot-free, and she shouldn't, true?
LICHTMAN : A hundred percent, and I can tell you this, as a criminal defense lawyer, this is the kind of case twice in 31 years of practice have I ever said to a client, it's 100 percent guarantee we're winning the trial. There is no way a lawyer with a pulse in New York, if he's even remotely competent could lose this case. The jury, which is the people of New York, have already spoken. There's no way 12 people will convict him. No chance.
SMERCONISH: Jeffrey Lichtman, thank you so much for the analysis. We appreciate it.
LICHTMAN: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: More social media now from Twitter and Facebook and YouTube. What do we have?
It's bad enough that these D.A.s are going soft of these violent -- I think that should be on this -- violent offenders, but to now take away your own right to self-defense? What's the end game? I sincerely don't get it.
Joseph, I understand it better having heard from Jeffrey Lichtman as to whether it was proper for Alvin Bragg to bring this, but I totally agree with him. There's no way that Alba will be convicted nor should be convicted. And I also agree that the instigator in all of this was the girlfriend.
I mean, when I look at the video tape or when I look at those still images, you know, I see a guy just working hard in a very tight confined space, and someone who wished to take something from him that they didn't pay for, for whatever reason, and he asserted his rights.
And then all of a sudden he has a guy in his face, in his space, and what he's supposed to sit there and take an ass kicking for how long before he defends himself? No, I hope in the end Alba is free and that Bragg reconsiders charging the girlfriend.
I want to remind you, make sure you're answering today's survey question at Smerconish.com. Are concerns about America's unraveling overblown?
Still to come, after selling 400 million books, the world's most successful author has finally told his own story. James Patterson is in the on-deck circle.
SMERCONISH: James Patterson has sold more books than any other person alive on the planet. More than 400 million across several genres, thrillers, true crime books, romance novels, teen dramas.
His collaborators have included Bill Clinton and Dolly Parton. But his most amazing tale to tell may be his own, and now he has told it. "James Patterson: The Stories of My Life" debuted number one on the "New York Times Best Seller" list for nonfiction, and he joins me now.
By the way, check out the array of folks who are praising the book on the jacket, Admiral William McRaven, Bob Woodward -- what a carpool -- Hillary Clinton, Ron Howard, Patricia Cornwall. James, it's great to see you. If I had written the introduction it would have been, here's a guy who went to Woodstock, has had nine holes in one, and walks around with --
JAMES PATTERSON, BESTSELLING AUTHOR: Yes.
SMERCONISH: -- Tom Cruise's phone number in his wallet. All true, right?
PATTERSON: Yes, that is accurate. It's nonfiction.
SMERCONISH: So it all begins in a --
PATTERSON: Yes. You know, I think it's really good in this particular -- Yes.
SMERCONISH: Yes, tell me, tell me. PATTERSON: Go ahead. I'm sorry.
SMERCONISH: I'd say it all begins --
PATTERSON: It's good on this show because there's so much bad news out there that -- and this is the good news, the same way that people all of a sudden wanted to watch "Top Gun," I think this book is -- it's like, give me a break -- give me a break this weekend. Let me have -- let me read a good story. Let me have some laughs. Let me remember kind of the way it was in this country a little bit, you know, and I think that's what this book is about.
SMERCONISH: Well, what I love about the book is that it's all delivered in bite-sized pieces. The stories are great, and there are a couple of pages long, and you pick it up and put it down, and you enjoy another one. This is important, though, it all begins in a psychiatric hospital where you're a young guy working an overnight shift, and you've got a lot of time on your hands, and what do you do with the time, you read.
PATTERSON: Yes. Yes, I read a lot, and then I started writing. And somebody says, you're lucky if you find something in life that you like to do, really, you're lucky, and then it's a miracle if somebody will pay you to do it, and that's been my good fortune.
SMERCONISH: You joined J. Walter Thompson, you know, truly one of the giants of the advertising industry in the Mad Men era as a junior copy writer, and by age 38 you're the CEO. You're the one responsible for I'm a Toys "R" Us kid, and all the while that you were pursuing that career, you were writing and writing and writing. I guess my point is it didn't just fall in your lap.
PATTERSON: No, it didn't. And I was in advertising but I've been clean for over 20 years now, so, you know, it's time to forget about the past. That past.
SMERCONISH: I mentioned that you've collaborated with Bill Clinton. You're a friend of the Clintons. You're a friend of the Bushes. You know I talk a lot of politics here. There's a story in the book that I particularly love where oftentimes people will say to you derogatory things about the Clintons, and you have a way of addressing that. What is it?
PATTERSON: Well, you know, people who -- everybody likes the Bushes pretty much, and the Bushes like the Clintons. I'd tell you -- here's the interesting story about the Clintons for me. The first time Sue and I went out to dinner with them, with Hillary and Bill, and people don't think of them this way. We were -- about a three-hour dinner, just the four of us, and three or four times during the dinner, they were holding hands under the table, and that's not -- that's not how people see them. And I have similar stories about the Bushes, and I even have stories about Trump. Just as human beings. That piece of it, you know.
SMERCONISH: Right, but what seems to stop the folks cold is you say, do you like the Bushes? Yes, I like the Bushes. Well, the Bushes like the Clintons, isn't that good enough for you?
PATTERSON: Yes, uh-huh. Yes. We just have to get more perspective. You know that you're in the middle and I'm in the middle, and I think sanity is in the middle, and sanity means you can see both sides of the equation, I think.
SMERCONISH: Everybody says they were at Woodstock, were you really at Woodstock?
PATTERSON: Yes, I really was. And I looked around and a lot of those -- everybody my age says they've been there, and I looked around and a lot of them weren't there. Yes. It was great until it -- you know, there was so much rain and I do -- I remember this, totally remember, at a certain point the first night, I woke up and I'm sliding down this hill of mud, and I just woke up and I said, wow, this is kind of cool, but it's very muddy and very rainy. And about a day later --
SMERCONISH: I'm going home.
PATTERSON: -- we left and said, it will be a -- it will be a story some day, yes, and it was.
SMERCONISH: James, the book is great. You're having a hell of a life, and I really appreciated reading it. So thank you for being here.
PATTERSON: Oh, thank you so much. Yes, I know you enjoyed it, and that means a lot. More people have said nice things to me about this book than anything I've ever done, which is -- which is -- which is sweet.
SMERCONISH: Continued success. Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments, and we'll get to the results of this week's survey question.
Have you voted yet at Smerconish.com? Are concerns about America's unraveling overblown?
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at Smerconish.com this week. Here it is. Are concerns about America's unraveling overblown?
Wow. Distressing. More than 22,000 have cast their ballots, even more than that now. Seventy-eight percent say, no, they're not overblown. Said differently, the concerns are legit.
From the world of social media, what do we have? This has come in during the course of the program.
Smerconish, the moral of the story of your opening segment, don't take any more vacations. Too much happened when you were gone.
Right. Yes, lay it all on me. If only I had stayed home, none of these things would have occurred.
Here's something else from social media. What do we have? Funny.
America is no longer the shining city on a hill, us/them ethics and priorities have supplanted "ask not" attitudes. That's so true. No one wants to emulate America anymore.
Well, I disagree, Dr. Langer, with the last part. I think people still do want to emulate the United States. I mean, one of the data sets that I relied was that which says that the American dream continues and that the children of immigrants are outpacing the children of those who were born here.
One more, real quickly, Catherine, if I can. I think I can squeeze it in. Musk buys Twitter then sells it to Trump.
The problem with that is that I don't think Trump could afford it. But I appreciated Scott Galloway being here to explain that this is not all a negotiation, that Musk wants out and doesn't want to own it. So if that's the truth, what becomes of Twitter? I don't know. I'll see you next week.