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Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Explains Why He Is Running For President; Concerns About Biden's Age Increase Focus On VP Harris; CDC: One-Third Of U.S. Teen Girls Considered Suicide In 2021. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired April 29, 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 HOST: He's challenging Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination for president and a new poll has him at 19 percent. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Here's my conversation with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Robert, thank you so much for being here. President Biden has a bust of your father in the Oval Office, when you see that what do you think?
ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm honored by it. And you know, I have a lot of admiration for President Biden for the service that he is given to our country. I've known him. He's been my friend, my close family friend for 40 years.
And you know, there's nothing personal about this campaign. I am not going to run a mean spirited campaign or a personal campaign against President Biden. He and I just for really dramatically on issues like the war, like censorship. I like the control of Wall Street, and that big corporations of our federal government and the pharmaceutical companies and also the use of fear as a governing tool.
And I think our country is headed in a bad direction. And that's why I'm running but not because I don't have a lack of personal affection for President Biden.
SMERCONISH: Is he too old to have a second term?
KENNEDY: I don't, you know, there's -- I don't think age is should be a metric for us limiting presidential power. I mean, Bernie Sanders is 81. And you know, a lot of people would support him. So, I think it really, you know, the only question that we have when you get to a certain age is do you have the mental acuity and I am not going to judge, President Biden's medical acuity. I'll leave that to other people.
SMERCONISH: I've just seen a poll that says you're at 19 percent among Democrats in a race against President Biden. At what point do you think he's obligated to debate you? I'm mindful of the fact that if it were a general election, the Commission on Presidential Debates has a threshold of 15 percent.
KENNEDY: I mean, I think there should be debates. I think, you know, particularly Michael, at this time in history, there's so many Americans who are worried about election integrity, who have lost faith in election integrity and feel like the whole system, including the election system is rigged against them. I mean, there was riots by people on Capitol Hill because of that, you know, that driving conviction.
So, I think the political parties, both parties ought to be doing everything that they can to convince the American public that we really have a democracy in this country. And that, you know, our politicians are running or talking to people or doing retail politics or engaging in debates and town halls.
And it's not just a rigged system where the candidates are chosen, either political party the way that was done in the Soviet Union. So I'm hoping, you know, even if I had 5 percent, I think it's important to do debates, but you know, that's --
SMERCONISH: OK. But do you --
KENNEDY: As a choice --
SMERCONISH: Understood, but would you go so far as to say that he has an obligation to debate you if you have a respectable showing in the polls, and 19 percent is respectable?
KENNEDY: I think he has an obligation to democracy to debate anyway. I mean, I would hope that he does that. But I mean, you're a lawyer, and I'm a lawyer. There's no legal obligation that the President has. I can't assume for it, it's a decision by the party.
And I would have hoped that the party would put democracy with, you know, with treasure and value our democracy and at least, I think a lot of people are feeling like the shroud has been lifted off of democracy now that you know, it's all kind of fake and it was all rigged and I think we need to be doing everything that we can to persuade Americans that democracy in this country is real.
SMERCONISH: I watched your announcement speech from Boston all two hours of it. At about the 48 and 49 minutes --
KENNEDY: I apologize.
SMERCONISH: At about the 48 or 49 minute mark, you said --
KENNEDY: This is what happens when you censor somebody for 18 years. I got a lot to talk to about.
SMERCONISH: Who censored you and why?
KENNEDY: Almost recently the, you know, the network's all censored me including this network. Most recently and I think most offensively the White House was asking the social media sites to censor me, they're also attorney generals, I think 18 or 13 democratic attorney generals who contacted the social media sites and asked them specifically to censor me, but you know, we now have because of the Twitter files, and because of these email dumps.
We now have clear evidence that there were White House personnel who are ordering the social media companies to censor me and it had nothing to do with misinformation.
In fact, nobody's been able to show a single statement that I've ever met made on my Twitter, any social media, that is factually inaccurate. It was because I was dissenting from government policies. And you know, in this country, we built this country so that to allow our citizens to complain about our public officials, and to me a clear violation of that first amendment.
SMERCONISH: So let's go there. The New York Times, then reporting on your announcement said this, Mr. Kennedy, is the latest in a history of fringe presidential aspirants from both parties who run to bring attention to a cause or to themselves. Do you embrace that label fringe? And if not, what does fringe mean to you?
KENNEDY: Well, I'm not running to bring attention to a particular cause. I'm running because I believe I'm going to win. I have a good chance at winning, a good enough chance of winning, to endure all the hardships that, you know, a campaign imposes on me and my family.
And I can tell you this, Michael, because I know that you're a big fan of my wife's, but if she did not think if I had not convinced her that I can win this race. I would not be in it because she's the ultimate boss.
SMERCONISH: OK, listen, I do love your wife. I'm Team Shirl. Having said that, she called you out on that Anne Frank reference.
KENNEDY: Even in Hitler's Germany, you could cross the Alps to Switzerland, you can hide in an attic, like Anne Frank did. I exit to East Germany with my father, and met people who had climbed the wall and escaped. So what was possible. Many I drove him, but it was possible. Today, the mechanisms are being put in place, I will make it a none of us can run and none of us can hide.
SMERCONISH: You then apologized? Can you and I agree that Nazi or Holocaust references are never appropriate? Because then they diminish what truly transpired in the Holocaust.
KENNEDY: Well, first of all, Michael, in that case, I was -- first of all, let me say, I agree that we have to be careful about how we invoke the Holocaust. But you know, it's a difficult it's -- it's a -- just on a theoretical or hypothetical basis.
I don't know if you can have kind of hard and fast rules about that because, you know, I grew up in a generation where, you know, right after World War II, where everybody was saying, Never again, and the only way that we make sure that that kind of barbarism doesn't happen again, is if we're allowed to talk about it. And if we're allowed to, right, if we are able to recognize all the milestones of tyranny, and that exercise may require us at some point, it may be useful to invoke historical wrongs, including the Holocaust, that you know, the American Native genocide, Black slavery and the many atrocities in history.
But I want to say something about that case. In that case, and that's a good example of censorship. I never compared the COVID mandates or the COVID response to the Holocaust. That was a media canard, something that the media made up and charged me with.
And what I was making a completely different point about the rise of the emerging rise of AI, artificial intelligence, and surveillance technology, which was creating an infrastructure added in the future totalitarian systems would be able to surveil us and a truth and control our lives in ways that had never happened in the past.
And so because of that --
SMERCONISH: I know but you invoke -- but you invoke --
KENNEDY: Let me just finish.
SMERCONISH: You invoked Anne Frank.
KENNEDY: Let me just -- well I invoked Anne Frank comparing a holocaust to the COVID, to the COVID mandate.
I wasn't doing it. That's what the media reported. That was not true. And I ultimately because of the damage that was happening to my family, and because I was living in a world where nothing I said was reported. So I was not allowed to defend myself. In fact, this is the first time I've ever been allowed to talk about it on TV, nobody would talk to me, nobody would allow me and nobody would invite me on say, why did you say that? And ultimately, I had to apologize for something I never said.
Now, if you're saying --
SMERCONISH: OK. I'm happy to have you here, because I want to have conversation, I can tell already, you'll have to come back so that we can continue this, but I need to get to this. This week, a COVID crisis group released a big report it cited our collective national incompetence, I'm sure you're familiar with it.
I worry about our scientific preparedness for the next COVID whatever it might look like. I also worry though about a diminished faith in institutions. In your case, you're so suspect disbelieving of the FDA, the CDC, where will you go if you were president for scientific information on whom will you rely?
KENNEDY: I'll rely what are the same sources that I rely on now, which is PubMed, which is, you know, the repository in the archives for peer reviewed publication. And I will, you know, listen to CDC and FDA, these are the same agencies that brought us the opioid crisis. They told us that opioids were safe and effective, and were good for us.
And now we have 56,000 American young people dying every year more than more every year. And the 20 year Vietnam War because these agencies got their science wrong, and they got it wrong because they're controlled by pharmaceutical companies.
You know, what we have to do as peoples. In a democracy, unfortunately, we are required not to listen to not to simply take on blind faith, statements of authorities, whether they're military authorities or public health authorities, we have to do our own homework.
KENNEDY: Blinds (INAUDIBLE) 40 is a feature of religion is not of science. We are obligated to look at the science ourselves and make up our own mind. My uncle understood that and that's why he didn't bomb Cuba during the Bay of Pigs. You didn't trust the expert --
SMERCONISH: I need to do --
KENNEDY: -- and I like you.
SMERCONISH: Robert, I want to do a lightning round. You got to give me a soundbite on three quick subjects. I hope you're ready. Disney versus the state of Florida. Pick a side.
KENNEDY: I have no comment on that. Because I just don't know enough about it, Michael. I've been totally on the sidelines on that. I'm not delving into it.
SMERCONISH: OK, subject two. Trans sports participation.
KENNEDY: I would -- I think that -- i am against people participating in women's sports who have -- who are, you know, biologically male. I think women have worked too hard to develop a sporting, you know, to develop women's sports over the past 30 years. I watched it happen and I don't think that's fair.
SMERCONISH: I'm worried this is subject three, final issue. I'm worried about our adolescents. I'm worried about our youth. I'm worried about the impact of social media. I take note of the fact that the CDC I know you often question the CDC, but the CDC just released that the percentage of high school female students who seriously considered attempting suicide rose from 24.1 percent to about a third, 30 percent between 2019 and 2021. Do you see a causal connection between big tech and usage by our adolescents and the spike in mental health?
KENNEDY: I think there's a spike in mental health has something to do clearly with social media. I think that there is causal relationships clearly between the chemical exposures to children today. We have a chronic disease epidemic in this country.
Out of fact, we've gone from 6 percent of our kids, I think chronic disease to 54 percent as of 2006, among those chronic disease, and we know that they're related in our chemical exposures and pharmaceutical drug exposures, and issues like depression, anorexia, OCD, ATD, ADHD, and all these different neurological injuries.
And I think that is the main thing that we need to talk about and that I will deal with this president ending the chronic disease epidemic in this country.
SMERCONISH: And to the people who say, why did you let him say that, why didn't you confront him with all the data you would say what?
KENNEDY: Show me the data. That's what I love. Show me some data. Show me where I got it wrong. Show me where I made a statement that is inaccurate. Show me a scientific study.
SMERCONISH: Robert Kennedy, thank you for being here.
KENNEDY: Thanks for having me, Michael.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I want to set up this week's poll question by quoting what Peggy Noonan wrote about RFK Jr. in the Wall Street Journal, quote, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. who announced last week, this week he hit 19 percent support among Democratic voters. That's a lot, especially for a guy who's been labeled a nut. He's been a leader of the idea that childhood vaccines are connected to autism.
But his larger general message would appeal to the edges of the left and right and blends into the general populace mood. Corporations and the government are lying to you playing you for a fool. I say watch him. He's going to be a force this year.
OK, well, I want to know what you think. Go to my website it's smerconish.com right now and answer this week's poll question. Does Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pose a threat to President Biden's reelection? What are your thoughts? Hit me up on social media. I'll respond to some during the course of the program.
Catherine, what do we have? Oh, god, you're giving him a huge platform to spread his anti-vaxx nonsense. Don't do it, Michael. Jeff, that was a very little part, if any of what he just said. Watch his two -- if you're into this, and I think we all should be because I want to have the conversation. The stakes are high. Go watch his two-hour announcement from Boston two weeks ago, you can easily find it online.
I'm not embracing. I'm not endorsing. I just want to know more. And he's got a much larger message than that which he's been characterized for. I think that's how I would respond.
Up ahead, in President Biden's reelection announcement. There was a video and Vice President Kamala Harris figured quite prominently. My guest says this is Thomas Friedman, that with age now a bigger question for Biden, Kamala Harris's 2024 role is key. As I discussed with RFK, Jr., the CDC's latest numbers they show rates of teen depression and suicide are getting even worse. Legislators are finally recognizing the negative impact of social media and trying to constrain it. But Dr. Jean Twenge was warning about it years ago. She's back with me today to discuss her brand new book and what can be done.
SMERCONISH: President Biden launched his 2024 campaign this week and in his pre-taped highly produced video announcement, Vice President Kamala Harris had a very prominent role. Of course, he wants to remind us of the historic diverse choice that he made, but he also may be hoping to calm the worry voiced by many Americans about his age.
In a recent NBC News poll 70 percent of adults said that Biden should not run again and asked if age was a factor in saying he shouldn't run a total of 69 percent said yes. You'll remember in 1984 concern was voiced about Ronald Reagan running for reelection at age 73. At 80, Biden is already the oldest president in history. If reelected, he'd be sworn in at age 82. At the end of a second term, he'd be 86.
And concerns about that means increased focus on Vice President Kamala Harris. Right now, her aggregate disapproval rating is currently at 54 percent according to 538. And to date, she has not had much traction in the areas with which she's been tasked as the number two, like the border and voting rights.
She recently has been making appearances around other popular democratic causes such as infrastructure, and abortion rights, asked by Kara Swisher on her podcast about Harris, former White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KARA SWISHER, CONTRIBUTING OPINION WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Why hasn't she been able to shake the perception that she's bad at her job? And give me a little more of a nuanced answer. I know sexism and racism are huge problems, but that doesn't explain all the bad press.
RON KLAIN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, I do think sexism and racism are part of the problem, no question about it. I think that, you know, I think she was not as well known in national politics before she became vice-president. You know, I think that she hasn't the right -- she hasn't gotten the credit for all that she's done. She's done a lot of very hard work and been very successful as vice president. And I think hopefully during the campaign season, the American people will get more of a chance to see her on the stump and get to know her a little better.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: My next guest, Thomas Friedman recently wrote this column in the New York Times, why Kamala Harris matters so much in 2024 Thomas Friedman joins me now he is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist. He's the author of seven best-selling books, including "The World is Flat" and most recently, "Thank You for Being Late."
Tom, thank you for coming back. Context matters. You are very much for the reelection of President Joe Biden. In fact, that's what prompted you to write this piece in part.
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, Michael, first of all, thanks for having me. Yes, the real point of my piece was that there are in my view, we're at a critical juncture and three things cannot happen. Israel cannot turn into Hungary and authoritarian democracy. Putin cannot win in Ukraine. Ukraine cannot go Putin and Donald J. Trump must never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever be back in the White House. So that is my priority. And that is my focus.
And so what I'm asking is what is the best Democratic ticket to win that election? And to me, the ticket you need is one that appeals to the very forces that enabled Democrats to do so well in the midterms, which are moderates, independents, who looked at Trump looked at his agenda, and particularly the election denialism and voted against virtually every election denier in that election.
This is going to be a close election if it's Trump versus Biden, and we need the center. We need the moderate and independents and white working class to come out for Biden in enough numbers that he can win. This is code read.
SMERCONISH: Here's a paragraph in the piece that I circled. I'll read it aloud and put it on the screen so that folks at home can read it. It's no secret that Vice President Harris has not elevated her stature in the last two plus years. I don't know what the problem is whether she was dealt an impossible set of issues to deal with, or is in over her head, or is contending with a mix of sexism and racism as the first woman of color to serve as Vice President.
All I know, is that doubts among voters about her abilities to serve as president, which were significant enough for her to quit as a presidential candidate, even before the Iowa caucuses in 2020 have not gone away.
I played the clip from the intro of Kara Swisher asking Ron Klain about this, his opinions seem to be buying into the idea that it's the sexism and racism. You don't seem to have a choice as among these causes of what it would be?
FRIEDMAN: Well, I don't know, I'm not an expert. I think for some voters, she comes off as authentic. And she hasn't been able to overcome that. I'm sure the border issue and some of the things she's had to deal with. I don't know what the problem is.
All I know, Michael, is that when you have a president that's going to be 86 years old, at the end of his second term, the question of succession becomes much, much more important. And it will normally people don't choose, they don't vote around the Vice President, they vote around the president.
But if Trump is the Republican candidate, and say he decides to ask Nikki Haley, or Tim Scott, to run with him, that could be a very formidable ticket that a lot of moderate and independent voters who do not want Trump to be president could look at that ticket and plug their nose and vote for him again.
And so that's my whole focus here. I have nothing against the vice president. I wish you well, this is. But this is a really important moment. And we need people who believe that Trump has never be in the White House again. The Democrats have to have the best ticket possible and one that will definitely appeal to moderates and independents who showed up for Biden, in enough numbers to really tip the midterm the right way.
SMERCONISH: OK, so in the piece, you also argue that the President needs to deal with this head on he needs to address it. Have you thought about what does that actually look like?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, some people tell you that maybe he should consider a different vice president, somebody like Hakeem Jeffries, who I think plays very well, to the center. And I'm always impressed every time I hear him speak.
Biden clearly does not want to go down that road, you pair it -- you aired his announcement video. Maybe there's ways to, you know, help Vice President Harris establish yourself more with centrists and independents. But just to bet, Michael, that the abortion issue will bring enough voters around. And that there isn't a question of succession, I think is a very dangerous and reckless way to go into this next election.
SMERCONISH: Tom, I looked at the reader picks among the New York Times reader responses, there's a consistent theme to a number of them, which is to say that the out here is the Supreme Court of the United States.
FRIEDMAN: Well, for that you would need a Supreme Court justice to retire, or --
FRIEDMAN: -- you know, somebody has to happen, you have to have an opening. I would certainly be -- if that were to happen. I think that's a very legitimate possibility.
SMERCONISH: I think that there's some political malpractice being committed on the part of the White House that relates to this. No doubt you saw the story this week about the President at the presser with the Korean president reaching into his pocket pulling out a question, calling on a reporter from the LA Times, I need to make very clear that there was not an apples to apples of what was in his pocket. And what she then asked of him, but nevertheless, it fosters this perception that he requires that level of assistance.
FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, one of the few reporters who have had a chance to have lunch with the President, by ourselves, the two of us, and I was very impressed with his cognitive ability is awareness on issues, you know, he could go deep on and we were talking mostly foreign policy.
I'm not worried about that now, frankly, Michael, but I am concerned that six years from now, five years from now, that that could be an issue just actuarially, and therefore my point is the vice presidential choice in this election will matter more than ever.
And Democrats have to have the right vice president going into this election. Because, Michael, this election will matter more than ever. Four more years of Trump in the White House, Putin in Ukraine, or Israel going autocratic, and the whole world as you know it will be changed in a very bad way. Donald Trump must never, ever, ever, ever, ever be in the White House again.
SMERCONISH: Final thought, quickly, if you don't mind. This is a sensitive subject. I've tried to handle it in an adult fashion in the same way that you've written about it. What kind of reaction did you get personally to addressing this matter?
FRIEDMAN: Read the comments on the column. They were overwhelmingly supportive of the point I was raising.
SMERCONISH: They were. It's true. Yes, it's true. Stick around. I want to lean on a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner to respond to social media. I'll read it aloud. Catherine, put it up and I'll share it with Tom. What does it say?
If anyone ever watched Kamala Harris question a witness in a Senate hearing, you would see why I think she is talented. Sorry, some have a biased impression of her. She may not be popular but so what?
You would say what to Robert on that, Tom?
FRIEDMAN: You know, the polls are the polls. I'm not saying she's a -- you know, not a competent and skilled person. The question is, does she connect with enough voters in the way that will be really decisive in this election? That's the point.
SMERCONISH: Thomas Friedman, thank you for being here.
FRIEDMAN: My pleasure, Michael. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Up ahead, back in 2017, psychologist Jean Twenge raised the alarm in her book "iGen" that smartphones and social media were ruining a generation's mental health. All these years later legislators and school districts finally are realizing Jean Twenge was right. She's back with me to discuss whether it will ever be possible to put that horse back in the barn.
And I want to remind you to answer this week's poll question at Smerconish.com. Does Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pose a threat to President Biden's reelection? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
SMERCONISH: Jean Twenge called it and called it early. And now everybody else is playing catch-up. This week a group of bipartisan senators unveiled a bill that would establish a national minimum age of 13 for social media use, calling it a commonsense bipartisan approach to stop the suffering.
Well, back in 2017, it was Twenge, a psychologist who teaches at San Diego State, who warned the world of how social media had created a mental health crisis for young people. Though at the time, she was greeted with skepticism.
In a provocative "Atlantic" article called "Have Smartphones Destroyed A Generation" and then a book called "iGen" she made a revelatory connection that 2012 is when smartphones had hit the threshold of being used by the majority of Americans and the year that Facebook acquired Instagram. At that same time, at that same year it began a skyrocketing of rates of teen depression and suicide.
She warned that iGen, as she called them, was "on the brink of the worst mental health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones." And the pandemic only made things worse.
The latest of many alarming statistics, according to the CDC's Youth Risk Behavior Survey the percentage of high school female students who seriously considered attempting suicide rose from 24.1 percent in 2019 to 30 percent in 2021. Those who made a suicide plan increased from 19.9 percent to 23.6 percent. And suicide attempts rose from 11 percent to 13.3 percent.
And now, six years after Twenge's initial findings alarmed legislators and school districts are trying to curb the dangers of teens going online. Besides the bill in the Senate, Utah requiring consent from parents before minors join any social media platform. Seattle public schools and the county in which I was born and raised, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, have both filed suit against the platform parent companies. The Bucks County DA compared the effect of social media on kids to opioid manufacturers and distributors.
And now Twenge has a new book which charts the change since 2012 in how teens spend their time outside of school. It's called "Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and Silents and What They Mean for America's Future." Jean Twenge joins me now.
Dr. Twenge, nice to have you back. Congrats on the book. You know I'm a big fan of your work. Let's remind people what you do. You have for 30 years studied generational differences, right?
JEAN TWENGE, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY: Yes, that's right. Since I was an undergraduate. And I'm a Gen Xer. And everybody was trying to figure out Gen X and how we were different. But there was very, very little actual data comparing, say, surveys. And so, that's what I've done with this new book across all the generations, across all of these enormous national surveys trying to figure out what's set aside, the stereotypes and the mess. What are the actual differences between the generations when we go to them and ask?
SMERCONISH: I remember when "iGen" came out you appeared here with me a couple of times. And I would -- I would push you, are we talking about correlation? Are we talking about causation? You were always very reluctant to speak in terms of causation. In the new book -- quote -- "in the years since, no other plausible culprit has emerged." So where are you now?
TWENGE: Yes. We have so much more data now on the links between social media and depression than we did six years ago. So, for one thing, it's not just in the U.S. where we have these enormous increases in teen depression and anxiety and self-harm.
It's around the world. So that helps us rule out U.S.-based explanations like school shootings, for example. We also have a lot more experimental data and that's where we can really show causation.
So some, you know, amazing studies have come out over the last six years showing, for example, when people cut back on their social media use, they're happier, they're less depressed. There was a study showing that as Facebook rolled out across college campuses, the mental health of college students suffered right after social media was introduced. So, we really do have more of that evidence now for causation.
SMERCONISH: Is it possible that those most likely to be anxiety ridden or depressed are also the ones most eager to go online and it becomes self-perpetuating?
TWENGE: That's probably playing somewhat of a role. It can be cyclical and both things are going on. But that explanation doesn't work very well for explaining the generational trends, for explaining why teen depression doubled between 2011 and 2019 even before the pandemic. But not a coincidence that that was the time when smartphones became common, social media became ubiquitous, the algorithms on social media became so much more sophisticated and kept teens on them for longer. That was by far the biggest change in teens' lives over that time period.
It's not just that they started spending more time online, they also started spending less time with each other face to face and less time sleeping. So, technology was interfering with those things that are good for mental health as well. And there you really can't say, OK, it's depression that's causing this. Because then you'd have to say, OK, teens became depressed for some completely unknown reason and that's why they bought smartphones. And that's why they went on social media. So, that explanation doesn't really work for the generational trends. SMERCONISH: So, I made reference to the fact that there is the Seattle litigation and more. The county where I was born and raised more litigation. Utah taking a bold step in this regard. I had the state senator who sponsored that here a few weeks ago. This week bipartisan senators stepping forward and saying 13 has got to be the age. Is it enough or is there something else that needs to be done?
TWENGE: Yes. Social media is so unregulated right now. And these platforms were not designed for children. They weren't even designed for teens. They were designed for adults.
So, we know from a lot of data that that link between social media use and depression is larger for children and younger teens. The younger you are, the bigger that link is between spending a lot of time on social media and being depressed. So, that's where we need to think about regulation first.
So, that bill is 13. Well, even better, how about 16? Let's get social media out of middle schools. That is such a difficult time for kids already. And then putting social media on top of that -- I mean, think about as an adult how hard it is to put down the phone, how hard it is to put down social media, how difficult it is when you don't get the likes or you get the negative comments. Then imagine being 12, even imagine being 14 or 15 and dealing with that.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Twenge, quick final thought. You with Jonathan Haidt and others, like you're putting together a hell of a databank on this. It's totally transparent. Explain that very quickly. People can go and get this information themselves.
TWENGE: Yes. So, Jonathan Haidt and I put together several Google docs on this. You can read the abstracts of the studies, see some of the graphs. It's open to commentary for academics. And it's all there. And then, of course, a lot of it's in the new book as well. Check it out. See for yourself.
SMERCONISH: The book is called "Generations." Good luck. Thank you for being here. I can't think of a more important subject than that.
TWENGE: Thank you very much.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst social media comments. I want to remind you, go to Smerconish.com. By the way, when you get there, register for the free daily newsletter. You'll love it.
I'm asking this provocative question, does Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pose a threat to President Biden's reelection?
SMERCONISH: Social media pouring in on today's program including this. I went to the RFK2 interview saying nope. I came out saying, now, wait a second, that rings true to me. Please have him back soon. Oh, you're the one who said bring him back soon. Catherine's laughing in the control room. Like this is the one who agrees, yes, bring him back and put him on.
I want to have the conversation. I went down that rabbit hole too. I watched the two-hour presentation having heard only, oh, yes, he's the anti-vaxxer. And I came away saying, you know what? I think he's going to strike a Bernie-like chord among Democrats.
And it's seemingly ripe for the taking that there'd be some competition on the Democratic side where half of Democrats say they want there to be competition for the commander in chief. I happen to think competition is good. Good for the Republicans, good for the Democrats. Fine tune the choices that we'll eventually face.
Still to come, the final results of the poll question at Smerconish.com. Have you voted yet? Does Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pose a threat to President Biden's reelection? Go vote, register for the newsletter. Back with the results in a moment.
SMERCONISH: So, there's the result of this week's poll question at least so far on the question of, does Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pose a threat to President Biden's reelection? Heavy voting, more than 32,000, 75 percent say no, 25 percent, a little bit more, according to that Fox poll than where he's running right now in the results against Joe Biden, say, yes. So, we'll keep watching it.
Social media reaction, what else has come in during the course of the program? I know a ton.
He'll get plenty more interviews in conservative media but an anti- vaxxer is a no go for the Democratic Party.
Charity, I'm not here to make the case for him. I'm simply suggesting that, yes, you can dismiss him with that one line.
And by the way, as someone fully vaccinated I have a problem with his stance on that issue. But there's much more to his candidacy as Peggy Noonan pointed out today in her column and as Mark Halperin talked about in his newsletter today. Others are seeing what I'm seeing that he might have a moment, he might have a moment and whether he gets on that debate stage will be very interesting.
One more quickly, if I have time and I think that I do. What do we have?
I want someone better than Biden, Trump, DeSantis. And RFK Jr. is that the best they can come up with?
Well, Sean Nichols, you have to believe that other Democrats are looking at his standing if that poll is accurate and saying, wow, Gavin Newsom, like where are you?
Thank you so much for watching. Keep voting at Smerconish.com. Register for the daily newsletter. I'm off next week for the coronation.