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Expel Guns not Legislators; Tennessee House Expels 2 Dem Lawmakers for Gun Protest; Vote at Smerconish.com; Will Fox News Settle Dominion's $1.6 Billion Lawsuit?; Admiral McRaven On What Makes A Good Leader. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired April 08, 2023 - 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: Expel guns, not legislators. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. It's hard not to jump to conclusions about the Tennessee State House. The R word it needs to be reserved for clear and convincing cases of prejudice discrimination or antagonism against a person or people based on their membership in a racial or ethnic group.
After all, there's an appropriate permanence to labeling conduct as racist, but from the outside looking in this short does seem to be such a case. Three Tennessee State legislators who engage in roughly the same behavior were meted out disparate treatment.
Just days after three nine-year-olds and three adults were murdered in a mass shooting at the Covenant school in Nashville. These legislators led what was described as a disorderly gun reform chant that interrupted house proceedings. There seems to be no debate as to whether they broke the rules.
Justin Jones of Nashville, Justin Pierson of Memphis, and Gloria Johnson of Knoxville the only difference between the behavior of the three is that Jones and Pierson used a bullhorn, and Johnson did not the men, freshman legislators and black, Johnson, a white woman in her third term.
The supermajority of 75 Republicans in the Tennessee legislature initiated expulsion for all three on the grounds that they'd broken the rules of decorum. Those votes came on Thursday; 10 days after the shooter emptied 152 rounds into the Covenant school. 66 votes were required to expel.
The first vote it pertained to Representative Jones and the vote were 72 to 25 for expulsion. The second vote pertained to Johnson only 65 voted to expel her one vote shy. Then representative Pierson, the vote was 69-26 for expulsion, three less than for Jones, but three more than the 66 required.
So the two black men were expelled not the white woman. You have to believe that the Republicans first counted noses that within their caucus, they knew who'd vote which way. They'd anticipated I imagine that they fall short and expelling the white woman while expelling the black men.
The resulting racist perception was therefore entirely predictable, but they did it anyway. Also foreseeable was that the votes would turn Jones and Pierson into - national names, fundraising magnets, and near certainties to be returned to office in a future election.
Indeed, speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper on Friday, GOP Representative Bryan Richey, who only voted to expel Jones, said he did so because Jones wanted to be expelled.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. BRYAN RICHEY (R-TN): Representative Jones his office is right next door to mine. I had multiple conversations with him this week, letting him know that I wasn't in favor. And essentially he told me that he wanted to be kicked out because his following was growing.
He's getting all this national exposure, and that the Metro City Council had already said that they're going to reappoint him back to the General Assembly. So I was honoring his wishes and voting for him. I respect all three of them and their constituents that voted for them, I felt that they should stay. I honored a Representative Jones, but I had nothing to do with race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: And as for the other Republicans who voted to expel their action will probably be welcomed by red district constituents who will see the votes as a necessary reprimand of bad behavior as Representative Ritchie told Jake, that of two energetic youthful males who were animated and upholding of the rule of law.
Notwithstanding that they probably found otherwise about the breach on the Capitol on January 6. All involved pleased their respective constituencies but energy that should have been directed toward resolving gun violence. Maybe ensuring the Tennessee passes a Red Flag Law will now have been diverted into theatrics used for political self-interest.
It was all great theater, but nothing changes. I want to know what you think go to my website is smerconish.com. Answer this week's poll question that was more undemocratic in Tennessee? Lawmakers with a bullhorn are those who voted to expel them? Here to discuss is Jeff Greenfield, the five time Emmy-winning network television analyst who's been at CNN, CBS and ABC News.
He's also an author. He just published this piece for POLITICO; the Tennessee expulsion is a glimpse of the future. Jeff, welcome back. You say the key to understand here is the power of a supermajority. Please explain.
JEFF GREENFIELD, EMMY-WINNING NETWORK ANALYST & AUTHOR: We are seeing across the state legislature.
There is a partisan supermajority and what that has meant is that this one branch of the government with a supermajority has been able to undercut the power of other branches of government in Wisconsin in 2018, when the voters elected a Democratic Governor and Attorney General.
The outgoing - Republican Governor and the legislature vastly decreased the power of the Governor and Attorney General. We've seen this kind of behavior happening in places like North Carolina, when you have a Governor of one party and a super legislative majority of another.
It means that the normal checks and balances can be overwritten. But we're seeing now some talk of a lot of I can't believe it, that the newly elected justice in Wisconsin, the liberal, may be threatened with impeachment by the Republican State Senate now has a supermajority.
If she votes in a way that they feel is the right to carry on abortion. So more than what happened in Tennessee, which is interesting enough, this political event, the growth of partisan supermajorities is I think, one of the most significant events of the last decade or so.
SMERCONISH: There's a tendency that I see among those within the - quarter, I'm certainly one of them to take a look at what just transpired in Tennessee and say, well, surely there'll be retribution for those Republican lawmakers who voted to expel the two black members not recognizing.
I think that they'll probably be well received those legislators who did cast those ballots when they go back to red districts.
GREENFIELD: That's the key to these phenomena. Even if statewide, Tennessee voters had this was excessive. This had real racial animus, these individual legislators are elected from districts that are so red or in other cases, so blue, that their only threat is on the primary.
And so there is no political way for voters to say we didn't like what you did, because of the voters that you're talking about. In those districts where these legislators run are probably all for this. And you know, in Wisconsin, I keep coming back to that because it would have made all the headlines last week.
You know, the voters statewide may choose Democrats, but district by district, in part, thanks to gerrymandering. There's no way for Democrats to get control of the state assembly, even if statewide, a majority of voters want that to happen. It's just not the way the situation is laid out.
SMERCONISH: Jeff, what are the national implications of this? I asked because Vice President Kamala Harris has already made a visit to Tennessee, it seems and the White House has already spoken about what just transpired. It doesn't seem like there's a national Republican response, at least not yet.
GREENFIELD: Yes, I don't think they're going to very hard to imagine that. Mitch McConnell say wants to weigh in on this. But what I think you're seeing and we'll make an analogy here. One of the things we learned from the 2022 midterms and from this vote in Wisconsin, is it the abortion issue did have and continues to have a motivating effect among voters?
I think the fact that the President spoke to the ousted legislators and the Kamala Harris was down in Tennessee means two things. They want to have the conversation about gun violence, because after all, this all started with this, yet another horrific series of shootings.
And if they can say to their black constituents all over the country, look what Republicans have done, they have to provide a voice to 2 legislators who represent predominantly black districts. I think for Democrats they want to see this as a motivating factor as we move into the political season.
SMERCONISH: Jeff, nice to have you back. Wish you good things.
GREENFIELD: Alright. Thanks for having me.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts hit me up on social media? I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. What do we have? This comes from the world of Twitter. I normally love your poll questions but this one is just too obvious. Of course, the Tennessee legislature was wrong. No issue to debate.
You know, I have to confess, I'm kind of cribbing from the Wall Street Journal today, because I had three other proposed poll questions and when I saw the headline on the Journal editorial on this, which is undemocratic in Tennessee, the lawmakers with the bullhorn or those who voted to expel them.
I said to myself, because I was inclined to agree with you. Maybe there is a legitimate debate here and maybe a significant portion of the audience is going to say, you know, shame on what the youthful energetic men are about that legislator told Jake Tapper.
So go vote at don't be a buzz-kill, go email@example.com. This is the poll question of the week you ready put it up on the screen. Who was more undemocratic in Tennessee lawmakers with a bullhorn or those who voted to expel them?
Up ahead, two dueling decisions by federal judges in Texas and Washington State on Friday set up and likely Supreme Court showdown over access to an abortion pill. How might the conservative court that overturned Roe vs. Wade rule?
And in Admiral William McRaven illustrious career has many titles included commander of special ops and overseeing the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. There is a lesser known honorific that he's equally proud of bullfrog. I'll ask him to explain. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SMERCONISH: To opposing rulings on abortion pills are pushing the issue back toward the Supreme Court after the overturn of Roe vs. Wade. Within less than an hour last night a judge in Texas ruled that the FDA approval of an abortion pill should be halted and another judge in Washington State ordered the federal government to keep the same drug available in 17 democratic led states and the District of Columbia who had sued to keep access.
Both the DOJ and the FDA have already appealed the ruling in Texas as the judge gave his seven-day pause to his ruling so that the federal government could respond. These cases are destined for the Supreme Court.
Joining me now is Joan Biskupic, CNN's Senior Supreme Court Analyst and Author of the brand new book called nine robes inside the Supreme Court's drive to the right, and its historic consequences. Joan, thank you so much for being here. Does the court want to have to wade back into abortion so soon after the overturning of Roe vs. Wade?
JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Good morning, Michael. It's nice to be with you. Based on what the slim majority said back on June 24, when they struck down abortion rights. The answer is no. They do not want this still at their court.
Just consider what Justice Samuel Alito who wrote for the majority said it's time to return this issue to the states to elected legislators. Hardly, it's still with judges, frankly. And then Brett Kavanaugh, the key fifth vote in this case added this is a moral issue. It's a policy issue. It should be with the states.
And one of the thing that Brett Kavanaugh said back in June when they struck down constitutional abortion rights nationwide was we are not outlawing abortion nationwide. You wanted to make sure that was clear. But if that Texas ruling becomes actually the law of the land, effectively, much of abortion will be outlawed nationwide.
SMERCONISH: I have Golf I have the Masters on the brain this weekend. I take it therefore that nobody wants a mulligan. Nobody wants a do over. You think that if and when it gets to the Supreme Court, the lineup will pretty much be the same as it was in the Hobbs case.
BISKUPIC: In the Dobbs case, Michael Yes, no, it'll be--
SMERCONISH: Dobbs case, pardon me.
BISKUPIC: Yes, I think that it, look; you know what I used to say. I used to say they will never overturn Roe V. Wade. And then, you know, once Donald Trump got his third appointee on the court, I had to recalibrate on that. So it's a little difficult to make predictions.
But I would say there were five justices who went all the way on Roe V. Wade, with the idea that they were done with it. And that as Brett Kavanaugh said they weren't actually outlined at Nationwide if they get if and when and they will Michael get this medication abortion case up there soon the one from Texas.
I think the votes might be slightly different because it's a different question. Consider what's at issue here. It's the authority of the Food and Drug Administration to use its expertise to decide what kind of drugs are on the market; it is not the kind of fundamental question that they wrestled with last time.
And I do think there is a chance that you will see a slightly different ruling here that would allow these pills to still be available for medication abortion, we're within 15 hours of when the ruling came out last night. So I hate to say too much more. But I think the federal government has a much stronger case here, where we're at today, Michael.
SMERCONISH: OK. I'm intrigued. Who might not line up in their usual spot if that's the case?
BISKUPIC: OK. So well, this is actually this is easy to game out in some ways. But you know, I just want to say we are gaming it out very early, having not seen anything yet of what's going to happen at the first appellate stage, which would be at the Fifth Circuit, a regional, very conservative appellate court to see what it does, and then we'll get the filings at the Supreme Court but that all said, OK.
I think that someone like Brett Kavanaugh, who provided the fifth vote to overturn constitutional right to abortion that has existed for nearly 50 years, could allow the federal government to approve, you know, this crucial medication abortion drug, which is an issue in the ruling out of Texas last night, based on what he said, I'm not flying blind here.
I'm basing it on what he said, when he said outright, we are not outlawing abortion nationwide. We are leaving it to the states. This is an issue that should now be in the hands of others. And I don't you know, even though Justice Samuel Alito said things like that also, you didn't go as far but he said some things like that.
I would expect that Samuel Alito might frankly, dig in a little bit more and not want to defer to the FTAs expertise. But I think that someone like Kavanaugh might shift over, just think of what would happen the consequences here. I'll say two things about the consequences that I think would be important to these justices.
They would effectively be ensuring that even states that allow abortion were state legislatures have said we want the women in our state to be able to end an unwanted pregnancy in early stages.
SMERCONISH: They could get it.
BISKUPIC: They wouldn't be able to through a key part of medication abortion.
BISKUPIC: But the other thing that's happened and this goes to the first segment you had on here. Just think of what these justices have observed in terms of the fallout from their ruling. They've certainly seen legal fallout, but they've also seen political fallout.
And one of the reasons I used to predict that Roe V. Wade wouldn't be overturned is that I thought that some justices would be sensitive to what they were doing, the way they were shattering the political landscape, as well as the legal landscape. Now, again, we're very early on but if this single judge in Texas is able to--
SMERCONISH: It'll be interesting.
BISKUPIC: --way that changes everything nationwide. I think we just have a different kind of rule of law in America.
SMERCONISH: Hey, I never thought Roe would be overturned in my lifetime and I was wrong. I'm going to stop saying that Heller. My fingers are actually crossed for this one. I'm going to stop saying that Heller won't be overturned, because in the aftermath of our first conversation about what just went on in Nashville, obviously it's something I'd like to see. Joan, that was excellent. Thank you so much.
BISKUPIC: Great, thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Make sure you're firstname.lastname@example.org and this week's poll question, let's prove wrong. That first tweet that said why you are even asking, it's going to be so lopsided. Who was more undemocratic in Tennessee lawmakers with a bullhorn or those who voted to expel them?
Still to come, we've learned that after a Former President Trump was subpoenaed for the documents at Mar-a-Lago. He allegedly looked through the boxes to choose what he wanted to keep. If Special Counsel Jack Smith recommends to indict over this. Is his boss AG Merrick Garland required to follow Smith's guidance?
SMERCONISH: That's the conclusion of Last Tuesday's arraignment after a Former President Trump was formally charged by the Manhattan District Attorney. The judge said he'd see the parties on December 4, but that doesn't mean that things will now turn quiet for the Former President's legal troubles.
Many signs suggest that special counsel Jack Smith is aggressively investigating Former President Trump for the handling of government documents at Mar-a-Lago and might be working toward recommending a federal charge for obstruction of justice.
The Washington Post recently reported that the DOJ and FBI have amassed fresh evidence pointing to possible obstruction by Trump noting "In the classified documents case, federal investigators have gathered new and significant evidence that after the subpoena was delivered, Trump looked through the contents of some of the boxes of documents in his home, apparently out of a desire to keep certain things in his possession, the people familiar with the investigation said."
Smith's task seems rather binary. Did Trump break the law and can it be proven? But in the end, it'll be left to the man who appointed Jack Smith. That would be Merrick Garland to act upon any recommendation, and Garland will have at his disposal prosecutorial discretion.
When AG Garland appointed Jack Smith, he said that Smith would not be subject to the day to day supervision of any official at DOJ. But will Merrick Garland feel obligated to follow Smith's recommendation? Here's what the Code of Federal Regulations says about the powers of a Special Counsel.
The Special Counsel shall not be the subject to day to day supervision of any official of the Department. However, the Attorney General may request that the Special Counsel provide an explanation for any investigative or prosecutorial step, and may after review conclude that the action is so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.
In conducting that review, the Attorney General will give great way to the views of the Special Counsel well, what exactly does that mean? Perhaps that the AG will go along with the Special Counsel unless he finds such a prosecutorial step to be so inappropriate, or unwarranted under established departmental practices.
Then again, it says the AG will give great weight to the Special Counsel, it does not say the AG is obligated to follow the recommendation. So let's game this out. Joining me now is Anthony Coley, who formerly served as Chief Spokesman for the DOJ and Merrick Garland. Anthony, welcome back. How do you read that Code of Regulations citation that I just referenced?
ANTHONY COLEY, FORMER CHIEF SPOKESMAN FOR DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Thank you, Michael, for having me. It's good to be with you again. The way I see it, Merrick Garland is not going to play judge or jury with either of Smith's investigations and don't just take my word for it. The Attorney General himself back in November of last year said that the Special Counsel shall exercise his own independent prosecutorial judgment to decide whether charges should be brought.
And I think that's important, Michael, back in November of last year, like I said, I was at DOJ at the time; the Attorney General cited both independence and accountability in making this appointment. And I'm really glad that you read from the rigs because I think what he was ultimately trying to do was to reassure the American people that both of these two politically sensitive investigations were being conducted free from political interference.
You are absolutely right, that Smith is not subject to the day to day supervision of any one, any political appointee or career appointee for that matter at DOJ. That includes the Heads of the Criminal Division, the National Security Division and even includes the Deputy Attorney General and the Attorney General.
So there's a lot there in those rigs, but at the end of the day, based on the rigs and based on what the Attorney General himself has said. This Special Counsel will exercise his own independent discretion as to whether charges are brought.
SMERCONISH: Bottom line if Jack Smith recommends indictment of Donald Trump for obstruction of justice, you expect Merrick Garland to carry that out.
COLEY: So long as his actions are consistent with the norms and practices of the department, I think, the regs say that the attorney general would do that.
SMERCONISH: Doesn't Merrick Garland have to take into consideration that the presidential race of 2024 has begun the issue of President Biden? Similarly, I get it. It's not apples to apples but --
SMERCONISH: -- had classified information in his possession that he should not have. Mike Pence, former vice president, a similar issue, not exact same issue. Doesn't Merrick Garland have to take all that into consideration?
COLEY: So, I spent two years at the Justice Department and what I saw prosecutors there do there was to examine facts independently based on the facts and the law. So, I don't -- and I think if we want a Justice Department that is guided by the rule of law, they should be guided by those two things and those two things alone, the facts and the law. And in these other extraneous factors as important as they appear to be, I think, we want a Justice Department that follows two things, the facts and the law, and that's what we've got here based on my experience.
SMERCONISH: What do you think your old colleagues at DOJ thought about the whole proceeding on Tuesday, the arraignment, the coverage, all of the attention of the nation on the arrest of Donald Trump, the arraignment of Donald Trump in connection with the Stormy Daniels case?
COLEY: I think they've got their hands full, Michael. You just mentioned -- you just did an incredible segment on what's happening over -- across the country in Texas with regard to this abortion medication. The attorney general last night said that -- as you noted, that they would appeal that decision. They've got a lot going on. So, I don't know that they -- that they pay too much attention to what happened up in New York.
I will say -- I would like to use this one moment, Michael, to make a final point, because I'm not a spokesman for the DOJ anymore. And I think -- I think there is a misconception, if you will, about some of these special counsel regs. And I do think it would be appropriate for the attorney general to make his case, to explain in a little more detail his approach to the evenhanded administration of justice.
He hasn't given a television interview in the last nine months. I think he's overdue for that. He hasn't sat with CBS or CNN, and it's time for him to talk more directly to the American people about these two investigations, to the extent that he can.
SMERCONISH: I agree. Hey, yes. You have my phone number. Why don't you pass it on to him? I would welcome him here on a on a Saturday morning of his choosing. Thank you, Anthony. I appreciate it.
COLEY: Thanks, Michael. It's good to be with you.
SMERCONISH: I want to remind everybody, go answer the poll question at Smerconish.com. I know, to many of you it's like, it's a layup. What do you mean? There's an issue there, at least for some. Who was more undemocratic in Tennessee, the lawmakers with a bullhorn or those who voted to expel them?
Still to come, jury selection scheduled to begin on Thursday. Yes, Thursday in the blockbuster defamation lawsuit alleging FOX News knowingly lied about voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. And some familiar FOX faces are set to take the stand. Will the case really go to trial or is it about to settle?
SMERCONISH: Jury selection begins on Thursday in Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against FOX News. Will FOX settle before it goes to trial on April 17? And either way will their viewers ever hear anything about the emails and texts revealed by those in charge that the network didn't believe what it was actually airing?
Dominion is accusing the network of knowingly and repeatedly airing falsehoods about its voting machines rigging the 2020 election in favor of Joe Biden. Among those who are set to take the stand the network's most prominent hosts like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, and high ranking executives, including 92-year-old chairman Rupert Murdoch, himself.
Joining me now is Lee Levine. He's a veteran First Amendment lawyer who in his long career represented both FOX and CNN. He's argued before the Supreme Court. CNN still uses his former firm, and he once represented me years ago.
Lee, nice to see you again. Actual malice, that's an awfully high bar. Knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard for the truth, but this case seems to be capable of meeting it. Do you agree?
LEE LEVINE, 1ST AMENDMENT LAWYER, LITIGATED CASES FOR 40 YEARS: Absolutely. I've said this from the very beginning (INAUDIBLE) longer case of actual malice than this one against the media entity (ph).
SMERCONISH: A lot of the deposition testimony, the texts and the emails behind the scenes has come to light in media coverage of the pleadings. Can that be imputed to the company at large? Can the company be held accountable for what Tucker Carlson may have said to a colleague?
LEVINE: Well, you know, that's the very interesting thing, Michael, about the judge's decision last week, allowing the case to go to trial. The judge basically said that that's an issue for the jury, which means that Dominion can put into evidence all of that stuff about all of those people and will be up to the jury to decide whether or not any of it is relevant to FOX as an entity, state of mind, with respect to knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard of the truth.
You know this as well as I do. That is a tremendous boon for Dominion.
SMERCONISH: Can the defendant in this case, FOX News, wrap themselves in opinion? Can they sell, we were just -- this was an item of news interest and we were putting someone on air to express their opinion, we didn't necessarily buy into it?
LEVINE: They cannot. The judge took that argument by FOX off the table in his decision that was released last week. So, the jury is going to be instructed that FOX broadcast false statements of fact about Dominion that were defamatory.
The only issue in this regard before the jury is whether or not FOX published it with knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard of the truth and who at FOX -- whose state of mind with respect to truth or falsity is relevant. Those are really the only issues other than damages that the jury is going to be asked to decide.
SMERCONISH: If you were defending the case, what would you be leading with?
LEVINE: That's really tough. I think that I would be leading with trying to blow holes in the connecting dots between the various people who said things about Sidney Powell being nuts or Rudy Giuliani being crazy or not believing the truth, and what the line producers and the hosts knew at the time. But given the evidence that's in the case, it's going to be hard to blow holes in that line. So, if I were the defense lawyer handling this case, I wouldn't -- I would be really worrying about what I could do by way of defense.
SMERCONISH: It sounds to me like you'd be recommending -- you'd be laying out the pluses and minuses but perhaps recommending that they settle.
LEVINE: Yes, I would. If I were asked for a recommendation I would recommend settlement.
I'm surprised that the case has not settled so far. I'm surprised it didn't settle before FOX had to produce all of these emails and texts that have now become public. I'm surprised they didn't settle after the briefing when all of this was played out to the public. My only thought now is that they're waiting for jury selection to see what kind of jury they draw and whether they feel comfortable that there are -- at least a person or two on that jury who might not be interested in ruling against FOX. That's the only thing I can think of.
SMERCONISH: That process scheduled to begin on Thursday. Lee Levine, thank you so much. Nice to see you.
LEVINE: Great to see you, too, Michael. Take care.
SMERCONISH: Checking in on social media reaction. What do we have?
FOX should be required by the jury to admit to their viewers how FOX deceived them. This requirement should preface the beginning of every TV segment that airs on FOX hour by hour, day -- you raised -- Citizen Jenn, you raised a very interesting question, which is, you know, if a tree falls in the forest is the FOX viewer even going to know about this?
The case has gotten extensive publication in the media, but it doesn't get discussed at all on FOX News. Even if the case is to resolve with a big check being written, which I anticipate, will their viewers be any the wiser?
And, by the way, in some far right media quarters, they have not even taken the lesson from the judge who used all caps in explaining that there is absolutely no basis for any of that, which was said about Dominion. In other words, people are not learning the lesson at least yet from what has come out in this case.
Still to come, speaking of lessons, what are the lessons in leadership that we can all learn from a retired Navy SEAL bullfrog who also oversaw the raid on Osama bin Laden? Admiral William McRaven joins me to discuss his latest book. He's here next.
SMERCONISH: What separates a good leader from the rest of the pack? My next guest, no stranger to the risks and challenges good leaders face every day. Retired Admiral William McRaven served nearly 40 years as a Navy SEAL. He advised Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and oversaw the most elite combat operations, including the raid of Osama bin Laden.
He's also a "New York Times" bestselling author. He's got a brand new book. It's called "The Wisdom of the Bullfrog: Leadership Made Simple But Not Easy." His book is already on the best seller listed at Amazon.
Admiral McRaven, great to have you back on the program. Bullfrog is not only the title of your book, but a title you once held. What is that? ADMIRAL WILLIAM MCRAVEN (RET.), AUTHOR, "WISDOM OF THE BULLFROG": Yes. Thanks, Michael. Good to be with you. Yes, the bullfrog is the title given to the longest serving Navy SEAL on active duty. Remember, first and foremost as Navy SEALs we are Navy frogman from our World War II frogman roots. So, when you are the senior frogman, you are the bullfrog.
SMERCONISH: Do you get anything more than bragging rights? I imagine you never have to buy a beer for yourself if everybody knows like you're the frogman.
MCRAVEN: I think the hard part of it is when you're the bullfrog you've got to buy all the beers.
SMERCONISH: The book is broken down -- comprised of 18 different short chapters. They are mottos. They are creeds. They are parables. Which one most guides your life?
MCRAVEN: You know the very first chapter is entitled "Death Before Dishonor," and it sounds a little course maybe, but this really goes back to the days of Caesar and, of course, the United States Marine Corps has kind of informally adopted this. But the idea being that honor is important. Integrity is important. Duty is important.
The things that we want out of our leaders are things that we should expect. We should expect them to be men and women of integrity.
We should expect them to be honorable. We should expect them to be respectful. I don't think that's too much to ask from our leaders.
And the fact of the matter is when you have leaders that don't display these qualities they may build, you know, billion dollar industries, but sooner or later, that's going to be a house of cards, and it may tumble if you don't have leaders with great character and great integrity. So, I think this is the single most important quality.
SMERCONISH: You were the commander of the raid that took out Osama bin Laden as I mentioned in your introduction, that was May 1 of 2011. Maybe that's why I was drawn to the chapter, which is titled "Who Dares Wins." Tell me about Chris Faris. And please paint that picture.
MCRAVEN: Yes. So my senior enlisted when I was the commander of this special operations unit was Command Sergeant Major Chris Faris. And Chris had been in combat since he was about 18 years old as an army special operator. And so, as we were preparing to go on the mission -- as the SEALs were preparing to go on the mission, myself and Sergeant Major Faris went out to meet them right before they boarded the helicopter.
So, if you can imagine, you know, 24 SEALs kind of all jacked up, ready to go. They're around the fire pit. They've got their game face on. And it was time for me and Sergeant Major Faris to say a few words and I asked Chris to speak first. And, of course, the SEALs around the fire pit had tremendous respect for Chris because they knew his military heritage, if you will. And he got up there and he said, gentlemen, he said, you know, we're about to go on this incredibly important mission. Remember the saying of our British counterparts, who dares wins. And the implication is, if you are going to dare greatly, if you have an important mission, you are going to have to take great risks, and this was the time to take great risk.
And I will caveat that by saying, every time you have a have to take a great risk you need to make sure it is a calculated risk that you are working all of the risk out of it as much as possible, so the men or the women can do their job. But this saying, who dares wins, is important, I think, for every commando and for frankly every person trying to achieve something great.
SMERCONISH: I'm going to bring you from the pinnacle of your career to the beginning of your career. Ensign McRaven, I need you to build a frog float. What am I referring to?
MCRAVEN: Yes, when I was brand new in underwater demolition team 11, it was the first team I was at, I had -- I was out on a training exercise and somebody comes and grabs me and says, the commanding officer wants to speak with you. Well, the commanding officer was the guy in charge. I'm the new guy at the team, and I'm excited. OK, he obviously wants me to go on some special mission. You know, maybe I'm going to save the world.
So, I go back over. I get into his office and he starts off by saying, well, Mr. McRaven, I've been hearing good things about you.
So I kind of swell with pride, you know. And he says, you know, the chief petty officers think you're a terrific ensign. I'm thinking, great. Here it comes.
He says, so we've got an important operation for you to do. He says, the fourth of July is coming up and I need someone to build the frog float. And of course, I pause for a second. I didn't quite understand. And he said, you know, a frog float. You know, a float in the parade.
And of course I said, yes, sir. And I left the commanding officer's office and I went back to the locker room. And, you know, I'm kind of feeling sorry for myself. I expected to go on some big mission and he wants me to build this frog float.
And there was an old master chief, a master chief petty officer nearby and he kind of saw me sulking and he said, what's wrong, ensign? And I said, well, master chief, you know, the commanding officer wants me to build a frog float.
And the master chief said, well, ensign, I've been in this business a long time. And let me tell you something. A lot of times you're going to be asked to do things that you think aren't important but that are important for the unit. So, you go out there and build the best damn frog float you can.
And it was a great lesson to me. It was about --
SMERCONISH: And you did. And we have the picture. We have the -- admiral, I'm showing --I'm showing the picture of the frog float in Coronado there -- it's a hell of a frog float.
MCRAVEN: It was a -- it was a big frog float. But the lesson was sometimes even as a leader you've got to do things that you think are beneath your stature. Do them and do them well.
SMERCONISH: The book is great, "The Wisdom of the Bullfrog." Nice to have you back.
MCRAVEN: Always good to be with you, Michael. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, more of your best and worst social media comments, and the final result of this week's poll question at Smerconish.com. You've still got a chance to go vote.
Who was more undemocratic in Tennessee, lawmakers with a bullhorn or those who voted to expel them?
SMERCONISH: Hey, there's the result of this week's poll question at Smerconish -- oh, my God, 91 to -- I guess, the first tweet that I responded to was right. Who was more undemocratic in Tennessee? Nearly 40,000 votes, those who voted to expel as compared to lawmakers with a bullhorn.
Quick social media reaction. We don't have time for much. By the way, keep voting. I'll leave the question up all day.
How is fighting to keep children alive in their classrooms undemocratic? Without protest, I wouldn't be able to vote, says Overeducatedaf.
Look, everybody played a role is what I'm trying to say. I'm not equating the two. Don't misunderstand. I'm just framing the issue. I'm not equating the two, but I am acknowledging that everybody played a role here.
I mean, Representative Richey said he voted to oust Representative Jones, he said this in his interview with Jake Tapper, because Representative Jones wanted to be thrown out, recognizing the value, politically speaking, that would come from being expelled. So, each was serving their respective constituency.
One more, real quick. Here it comes. This is such a lawless -- such a lawlessness in this country. When our elected representatives think they can take over any proceeding just by being the loudest because they should be chastised and removed. Oh, OK. Rawhide, my God, you're part of the nine percent. There's someone speaking for those who wanted ouster. Keep voting, subscribe to the newsletter when you're there. I'll see you next week. Happy Easter.