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Will This Year's Union Strikes Win Big Gains For Workers?; What Determines Our Views, Age Or Generation?; Should Police Have Posed with Captured Prisoner?; Secret Service at JFK's Shooting Raises New Questions. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired September 16, 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: Labor pains. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Just 12 days removed from Labor Day, there is workplace tumult in a variety of industries all across the country. First, negotiations are expected to resume today in the strike by the 145,000 member United Auto Workers against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis. Only 13,000 of stop work so far, they staged select walkouts and plants in Missouri, Michigan, and Ohio with threats of more to follow.
It's the first time in UAW history that it has struck all three of America's unionized automakers at once. As CNN reports, the company has offered to raise hourly wages as much as 20 percent over the four- year contracts, which would have taken the senior most workers to a base pay of more than $80,000 a year not including overtime or profit- sharing bonuses. But the union is demanding 40 percent during the life of the contract and seeks to reverse concessions that it made back when GM and Chrysler faced bankruptcy and needed federal bailouts in order to survive.
The highest paid of the big three CEOs GM Mary Barra made 29 million last year, that's 362 times the median worker's paycheck. The other two had similarly proportion compensation. By comparison, in 1965, CEOs typically earn just 20 times the typical workers pay in their industries according to the Economic Policy Institute. President Biden has voiced his support for the union.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Record profits have not been shared fairly in my view with those workers. Workers deserve a fair share of the benefits they helped create for an enterprise. Bottom line is, that auto workers helped create America's middle class. They deserve a contract that sustains them in the middle class.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Meanwhile, the Writers Guild of America has been on strike since May joined in July by the Actors Guild, it's the first time that they've joined forces on the picket line since 1960. Both unions contend that their pay has gone down dramatically while corporate profits and CEO compensation have boomed. The strikes have brought production of film and T.V. in America to a near standstill. But a poll last month showed that 67 percent of Americans supported the strikes. This week, T.V. host Drew Barrymore and Bill Maher announced they're going to start making shows without writers.
In other fields, more than 60,000 healthcare workers in California, Oregon and Washington just voted to authorize strikes against Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest nonprofit health plans in America if no agreement is reached by the end of the month. The workers say that pay has not kept pace with inflation, and that understaffing has led to long wait times and neglect of patients. Last month, the 24,000 American Airlines flight attendants voted almost unanimously to authorize a strike if their contract demands are not met. And in August, 340,000 UPS drivers who had threatened to walk out scored a big contract game.
Labor unions are enjoying a resurgence in popularity with the public. Gallup recently found that 68 percent of Americans approve of labor unions. That's the highest number since 1965. But with income inequality growing, there's a question as to their effectiveness. And while all this activity has increased awareness of union activity, the number of unionized workers in America has been on the decline for decades.
Joining me now to talk about this is Scott Galloway, Professor G, the host of a great podcast, and someone who has strong opinions about this subject.
Scott, so you heard me sketch out the fine points of this, union membership is in decline at a time when their population their popularity is growing. How do you see it? Are they the most effective means of dealing with these crises?
SCOTT GALLOWAY, PROFESSOR OF MARKETING, NYU STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: Good to be with you, Michael. You know, something I think every young professional needs to understand and that is the distinction between being right and being effective. And I think it would be hard to argue that the union's intentions to restore dignity to the American worker and have a fair living wage, it'd be hard to argue that they aren't right. But the bottom line is they haven't been effective. Union membership has been cut in half of the 47 western nations that have unions, 46 have seen union membership decline.
It used to be one to three workers in the U.S., now it's one in 10. In the auto industry, it's gone from 60 percent to 16 percent. So there's just no getting around it. The unions had been an ineffective construct. And despite the headlines of 330 Starbucks stores unionizing, not one of those 330 unionized stores has resulted in a collective bargaining agreement.
In other words, it makes for a great headline, but the people on the frontline hands haven't seen their compensation moves. So I would argue that unions quite frankly are a failed construct. Their intentions are noble and people support their intentions, but as a vehicle for registering or recognizing that those intentions, they just haven't worked.
SMERCONISH: So what's the alternative? I have a poll question today that asks, what's the best mechanism for protecting the working class? And the choices that I offer are the federal government, the free market, and labor unions.
GALLOWAY: Well, the free market, I mean, market dynamics will always trump individual performance. But when you just let the market take over, which the entrenched incumbents and corporations will urge, you end up with households where one in five households with children are in poverty, you end up with people living in their cars, you end up with child labor. So the marketplace is a key force here. But it's not enough. There are two former UAW presidents in prison because of corruption.
There are 1000s of unions that don't coordinate, they're not effective. There should be one union in the United States, and it should be the federal government. And we should take minimum wage, and I'll propose this from $7.25 to where it would be if it had just been scaling or tracking productivity, somewhere around $23 or $25.
Michael, can you think of any one move that federal government could make that would reduce childhood poverty, obesity, blood pressure, suicide, male abandonment, diabetes, poverty, homelessness, than raising the minimum wage? And the incumbents will argue that this would damage the economy. And what we've seen in studies out of Berkeley and UC Riverside is that when you raise the minimum wage, as they did in California, New York and Washington, you not only don't lose jobs, you gain employment and the economy grows, because the wonderful thing about lower middle income households is that when you give them additional money, they spend it. So since 2009, the NASDAQ is up six fold CEO pay is up threefold, and minimum wage is stuck at $7.25 an hour. There should be one union, the head of that union is Biden, $20 To $25 federally mandated minimum wage.
SMERCONISH: You know that there are some businesses that are on the margin. And they say that if there were a federally mandated minimum wage, we wouldn't survive. Would it be worth it if some washed out in the long term?
GALLOWAY: That's exactly the right question. So there's no free lunch, McDonald's stock would go down. Walmart stock would be pressured. A lot of restaurants would go out of business. And you know what, Michael, it'd be worth it.
It'd be worth it. And I think that the additional income -- the thing that is creating a soft landing in our economy is the additional or the remnant stimulant payments being spent by lower middle income households. These are the engines of the economy. And it comes down to this, what kind of nation do we want to live in? Do we want to live in a nation where the child income tax credit gets stripped out of the infrastructure bill where the average 70 year old is 72 percent wealthier than he or she was 40 years ago, and the person under the age of 40 is 24 percent less wealthy? Minimum wage impacts lower and middle class households and younger people who have all been on the wrong side of the economy. Of the 100 -- with every $100 increase in wealth over the last 10 years, 50 cents of that $100 has gone to the bottom half of Americans. There's always a tension between capital and labor, but over the last 40 years capital has beating the crap out of labor and it has resulted in deaths of despair skyrocketing. There is -- this is the most -- the wealthiest nation in the world should be paying people a living wage.
The intentions here are correct. The construct is ineffective unions. One union, the federal government, a massive increase in minimum wage.
SMERCONISH: OK. I know how you're voting on today's poll question. A final subject, I tried to give the lay of the land during the introduction of the segment, would you compare and contrast what's going on with the writers and the actors with this situation involving the UAW?
GALLOWAY: The strikes come down to the effectiveness and when they're going to come down to one of three things. One, the health of the industry to the leverage the workers have and their demands. So let's go by each, UPS, 20 percent increase in package delivery. The auto industry is very healthy, record profits at GM and Stellantis. And then the media industry, talking about the writer strike, Disney's at a 10 year low their stock price, Viacom's off 75 percent, the number of households with cable have gone from 87 percent to 47 percent. So they struck at absolutely the wrong time.
And now let's talk about the demands. The UAW just wants to restore their starting wage to where it would be with inflation. The teamsters demanded a raise of $2.75 and air conditioning for their drivers. And then the Writers Guild is asking for a pause on technology and minimum writers. That would be tantamount to the teamsters asking UPS to not do any research on automated driving or demand two drivers prevent.
So, we saw the teamsters strike, it settled. I believe the UAW will settle. I think their demands are reasonable and the auto industry has huge, huge incentive.
And that the key question, the reason why the writers strike, the Writers Guild will probably be broken, and we're seeing the beginning of the end already, we're seeing cracks in that strike, there's one question and I'll pose it to you, Michael, you got one auto lot in a month, you're not going to have cars, you feel it the next day when UPS isn't delivering things. If you didn't know there was a writer strike, would you know there's a writer strike? They have no leverage.
SMERCONISH: It's a great point. Hey, Scott, 30 seconds left, you kind of bummed me out when you say, and you've written this, America is no longer the best place to get rich, but rather to stay rich. Final thought.
GALLOWAY: If you're a child coming from a top 1 percent income earning household, you're 77 times more likely to get into an elite university. You can look at college attendance still the biggest on ramp into the middle class. And it scales perfectly to income a kid from a 1 percent income earning household has a one in 100 chance of going to college. Kids from 90 percentile income earning households have a 90 percent chance of going to college.
Do we want a caste system? Do we want -- we like to think that America is falling in love with the unremarkables and giving everyone a shot. And increasingly, we're about one or two things, being born to rich parents and being freakishly remarkable. And Michael, I can prove to every one of us that 99 percent of our children are not in the top 1 percent. America used to be about the bottom 99 percent it's morphed into trying to turn the top 1 percent into billionaires.
That is not what America is about. We have lost the script.
SMERCONISH: And by the way, Scott Galloway, still a capitalist to his core, a serial entrepreneur, less anybody misunderstand what you're saying and think that you're making the case for socialism.
GALLOWAY: I think capitalism is the least bad system of its kind. We need billionaires. This is -- the basis of capitalism is unfettered, full body contact, no competition, let companies go out of business, aspire to be wealthy, there's nothing wrong with that, it's wonderful. But at the same time, we need a certain level of empathy to rest on top of that with a progressive tax structure.
At the end of World War II the top tax rate was 92 percent. When Reagan came into office, it was 77 percent. By the time he left, it was 27 percent. We have decided to transfer wealth, crowd wealth and the top 1 percent. That is not what America is about.
And yes, more capitalism works. I'm not suggesting anything different but capitalism doesn't work. If the bottom 90 percent don't feel like they have a fair shake, you end up with people on the steps of the capital, you end up with deaths of despair. That is not what America is about.
SMERCONISH: To be continued. Thank you, as always Scott Galloway.
GALLOWAY: Thanks, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Social media reaction, I think from the world of YouTube. Catherine (ph), what do we have? It is not a free market when the CEOs are government subsidized. Scott was just, Joethenerd, was just making the point.
By the way, here's today's poll question. Can we put this up? I want to know what you think on today's poll question of the day, go to smerconish.com, which is most effective in protecting and promoting the rights of the working class? Is it labor unions? Scott's taking the choice number two, the federal government.
Or the free market? Go vote. I'll give you the result as it stands at the end of the program. Up ahead. What if I told you that there's an end in sight for the country's political polarization? The answer is generational and I'll explain. Plus everybody rejoice at the capture of convicted murderer Danelo Cavalcante after a massive 14-day manhunt in southeastern Pennsylvania. But some have questioned the propriety of police posing for a trophy pic after his apprehension. I've got an opinion on that.
And political cartoonists like two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Breen now drawing cartoons, look, check that one out, exclusively for my newsletter. Sign up for it when you go to smerconish.com.
SMERCONISH: Question, will a coming generational shift finally get us out of our polarized ditch? The person who gave me hope is Doug Sosnik, whose fame strategy members are considered essential reading among the Washington elite. He's a former Clinton administration adviser whose titles have included senior advisor for policy and strategy, White House political director and deputy legislative director. He's advised over 50 U.S. senators and governors. And in his most recent missive, he addressed what he called the approach of the political tipping point.
He wrote these words, "The country is in the final chapter of the political dominance of the greatest generation and the baby boomers. By the end of the decade their influence will give way to millennials, Gen Z voters and subsequent generations who will make up the majority of voters. What is clear is that the generational changing of the guard and continued political reform will act as circuit breakers on the tribal politics that have dominated the last several election cycles."
When I asked Sosnik on my Sirius XM radio program, when the climate of polarization will improve, he had a provocative reply.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG SOSNIK, FORMER CLINTON ADMIN ADVISOR: It's when the baby boomers die off. And the --
SOSNIK: -- largest population group in America now are millennials and Gen Z's, and the emerging generations. You can see the current generation of politicians, you know, clinging to power, for every last, you know, opportunity to govern as they're well into their 80s, and the country is -- will be in a completely different place when the baby boomers who I think by the way, history will look back and say, drove America kind of the road.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: You know, who agrees is Utah senator and former GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney when Romney announced this week that he would not be running for re-election in 2024. He explained that it was time for his generation to hand over the power to the next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Just having a bunch of guys that were around the blip baby boomers who around in the post war era we're not the right ones to be making the decisions for tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Something else, Sosnik reference the work of John Della Volpe, the director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy Institute, a poster an advisor to President Biden. Della Volpe is the author of the book "Fight, How Gen Z is channeling their fear and passion to save America." And this past June, he wrote a Substack post about the findings of a recent poll under the headline, Ring the Alarm.
Della Volpe analyzed 18 to 29 year olds, a cohort that would be mostly Gen Z. Among his findings, this group is principally driven by their values, rather than transactional politics, and they are out voting the generations that preceded them at a similar age, and it is even close, he found that the group as a group is becoming increasingly progressive, and that they've got an antipathy for the modern MAGA Republican Party. Quote, "In 2020, President Biden flipped five battleground states in large part due to the combination of record level turnout and youth support. Voters aged 45 and older they chose Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, President Biden won the under-30 cohort by roughly a 20 point margin, and millennial voters in their 30s by high single digits."
He was also clear that this is no guarantee for Democrats that the same pattern will repeat in 2024, writing, "Nearly every sign that made me confident in historic levels of youth participation in 2018, 2020 and 2022 now flashing red. Twenty plus years of directing the Harvard youth poll taught me that the ground is more fertile for voting when you believe voting makes a tangible difference."
And he cites data that shows the following, young African Americans are turning away from the Democrats. The GOP is succeeding in wooing young Hispanics. And young white Americans are least likely to be Democrats, and most likely to vote.
Both parties will have to reconfigure as the torch gets passed to that next generation. Joining me now is Jean Twenge, professor of Psychology at San Diego State University. You'll remember she's the author of both "iGen" and the new "Generations." The real differences between Gen Z, millennials, Gen X, Boomers and Silence and What They Mean for America's Future."
Dr. Twenge, nice to see you again. Question, what determines our views? Is it age or the generation to which we belong?
JEAN TWENGE, AUTHOR, "GENERATIONS" & "IGEN": Well, it's both. People do tend to become more conservative as they get older. But there is also a generational influence. There some interesting research to suggest that a generation tends to lean in the direction of a, whatever popular president there was when they were adolescents or young adults.
So, for millennials, that's going to be Obama. So millennials tend to lean a little democratic. But there's another generation that was almost completely left out in that discussion that you mentioned, and that's Gen X. So Gen X tends to lean Republican because they came of age in the Reagan era.
SMERCONISH: I was asking Doug Sosnik, not so much, who wins in the long term as between Rs and Ds or maybe Is, but rather when the climate of incivility is over? And to that he said, when the boomers die off. Respond to that.
TWENGE: Well, again, he's pretty much completely forgotten about Gen X. And Gen X is, unfortunately, just as polarized as all of the other generations. So, when you consider some of the politicians in this category say, just one example Ron DeSantis, and other Ted Cruz, plenty of polarization to go around with Gen X.
SMERCONISH: OK, this is a pretty morbid conversation. So now, and I'm not rooting for an ideology here. I just want people to compromise, right? Is it when X and boomers are no longer gone and now it's Z and millennials, I hope I'm keeping all this straight, they're finally in control now, we have a return to civility and compromise.
TWENGE: Oh, I wish. But we now -- I mean, let's take the youngest group we have good data on. So one of the big national surveys of high school seniors, so that's going to be 18 year old 17 year olds, right, as they start voting. So high school seniors have increasingly said that they are very conservative or very liberal so there's more at the extremes of political belief as the time -- as time has gone on. So the latest data that we've got from 2021, those numbers were at all- time highs.
So Gen Z is also polarized just like the rest of the electorate.
SMERCONISH: I mean, the concern that I have as a father of four is that our four have grown up, and they're older now, 20s and 30s, this climate is all they know. I mean, we can tell them and they can read and they can learn about a period in the 80s when Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill could have a cocktail with one another, but all they've experienced is the climate in which we're living. So, that's what holds me back from the optimism of thinking they're better than we are and things will get better for society.
TWENGE: Yes, I think that's exactly it. This is the only world that they've ever known. And, you know, as I've learned in, you know, decades reaching -- researching generational differences, you know, generations don't just wake up one day and go, hey, I'm going to be this way or that way.
SMERCONISH: Right. TWENGE: Those changes reflect the changes in the rest of the culture. Generations happen because cultures change. And one of the ways that our culture in our country has changed is in that direction of greater polarization. So not only that there's more people at the extremes that more disagree. But in surveys, you know, Democrats are now more likely to say that they feel cold and even hate toward Republicans and Republicans are more likely to say the same about Democrats. So, there's big levels of not just polarization, but that kind of underlying emotion around politics in the last, especially five to 10 years.
SMERCONISH: Quick final thought, I think you made reference to this earlier on when you said that some tend to get more conservative as they age. It's great to be young and idealistic, but when you start earning money, you want to hold on to as much of it as you can. I think that's one of the driving factors in at least making more folks fiscally conservative. Final thought is yours.
TWENGE: Well, you know, my final thought is this that one thing that might help on some issues is that young adult Republicans are fairly progressive, much more progressive than older adult Republicans on a lot of issues and a lot of social issues. Same sex marriage comes to mind. They're also more progressive on abortion, on legalizing marijuana, on maternity leave, on transgender people being able to serve in the military. So there may be less polarization around some of those issues as time goes on, because among younger people, Democrats and Republicans, are not as far apart.
SMERCONISH: Yes, and I would add guns to that list.
Dr. Twenge, thank you, as always. Appreciate you.
TWENGE: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Via social media, what do we have? From the world of YouTube on this generational question. I am more liberal as I get older, says Mary Coyle.
I think we do change over time, right? And I think that most of the nation, I say this repeatedly, you'd never know this from just listening to the politicians, I think most of the nation tends to be more fiscally conservative and socially progressive, rather than the very, you know, strict ideological boundaries that we see replicated on T.V.
Please make sure you're going to smerconish.com and voting on this week's poll question, which is most effective in protecting and promoting the rights of the working class? Is that the labor unions? Is it the federal government? Is it the free market?
Up ahead. While everyone is thrilled that Pennsylvania State Police captured a convicted killer, some are questioning the propriety of officers posing for this picture. You'll get my take on that next.
And please be sure to sign up for the daily newsletter @smerconish.com when you're casting your ballot, where you will get exclusive political cartoons from today's headlines like this no label sketch by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Jack Ohman.
SMERCONISH: Is law enforcement posing for a victory photo with a captured fugitive in poor taste? In the case of Pennsylvania State Police who put their lives at risk to capture a convicted killer, I don't think so. People around me are sleeping easier now that murderer Danelo Cavalcante, who escaped from prison and was on the lam for 14 days, was finally apprehended in the Philly burbs.
Immediately after being taken into custody aerial footage shot by "CBS News Philadelphia" showed state police and border patrol agents posing with their captured target. Controversial? Yes, but they endured quite an ordeal in getting there.
Cavalcante had famously escaped county prison by crab walking up a wall. He alluded about 500 law enforcement officers who were using both the most sophisticated and the most rudimentary means of tracking him down.
He was ultimately tracked by a DEA plane using thermal imaging. Officers then secured the area and released a border patrol dog named Yoda who subdued him.
Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Clark told "USA Today" that Cavalcante revealed he had moved only under the cover of night, that he had hunkered around thick vegetation, traveled along tree lines and had gone so far as to bury his own fecal matter. He survived by drinking stream water and eating watermelon that he found growing in the brush.
So, what about the victory lap photograph that the cops took with Cavalcante? The U.S. marshals and ATF who participated in the hunt said that none of their agents are in the picture. The "Philadelphia Inquirer" reported that a journalist and community organizer called the picture "reminiscent of the notorious photos to come out of Abu Ghraib where soldiers posed with Iraqi detainees being tortured."
And Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School, compared it to a trophy photo the hunters take after they've captured their prey. Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey also called it a trophy photo. He told this to CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I'm not a fan of that sort of thing. You know, be professional. You know, you got him in custody. Do your job, and the rest of that stuff, you know, save for some other place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: But at the post capture presser Pennsylvania State Police Lieutenant Colonel George Bivens was dismissive of the criticism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. COLONEL GEORGE BIVENS, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: I'm aware that there was a photo-op that was taken out there. Those men and women worked amazingly hard through some very trying circumstances. They are proud of their work.
I'm not bothered at all by the fact that they took a photograph with him in custody. Again, they are proud of their work. They kept the community safe. I say thanks to them and good job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I'm with Colonel Bivens on this willing to give these officers a pass. I don't want to set a precedent with it. It would be wrong if the norm were to become celebrating police work with trophy photos.
But in this case where law enforcement endured 90-degree temperatures in full gear while working around the clock to capture a man who had armed himself and had already been convicted of stabbing his girlfriend nearly 40 times in front of her kids, I think, these officers' choice to make a somber photographic remembrance can be overlooked.
Up next, this Secret Service agent who was with president and Jacqueline Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas 60 years ago at age 88 has now published a book that makes a new claim pertaining to the so called single or magic bullet theory. So, what really happened? I'll ask Gerald Posner. He literally wrote the book on the Kennedy assassination.
And I want to remind you, make sure you're going to Smerconish.com and voting on this week's poll question. Which is most effective in protecting and promoting the rights of the working class? Labor unions, the federal government or the free market?
SMERCONISH: Could a new account of the assassination of John F. Kennedy 60 years later change our understanding of what happened that day in Dealey Plaza? Paul Landis, a Secret Service agent assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy, who was just a feet away from the president that day, has broken his silence. In an excerpt from his upcoming book "The Final Witness" to be publish next month, Landis, who is now 88, shares a new account of that day that some say upends the long-held single bullet theory.
In its final report, the Warren Commission decided that a single bullet fired that day, recovered nearly intact, had struck the president from behind, exited from the front of his throat and went on to hit Texas then Governor John Connally in multiple places. Skeptics who thought it unlikely that a single bullet could do all of that and still be in such good condition called it the magic bullet theory.
Part of the reason investigators came to that conclusion was a bullet found on a stretcher believed to have been held or holding John Connally at the Parkland Memorial Hospital. It was assumed that it had exited Connally's body during efforts to save his life. Landis now disputes that.
He says that after the motorcade arrived at the hospital, he had found that bullet lodged in the back of the seat behind where Jacqueline Kennedy was sitting in the presidential limousine. He says in an impetuous moment, he grabbed it to thwart the press and souvenir hunters. In the chaos after he entered the hospital, he says that he ended up putting it on the president's stretcher next to his feet. He told this to Jake Tapper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL LANDIS, SECRET SERVICE AGENT WHO WITNESSED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ASSASSINATION IN 1963: I thought this is the perfect place to leave the bullet. It should be with the president's body. It's an important piece of evidence. And this was the opportunity to leave it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: He believes that in the confusion, somehow that bullet wound up on Connally's nearby stretcher. Joining me now to discuss is Gerald Posner, who literally wrote the book on the subject, the bestseller "Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK."
So, Gerald, a Parkland Hospital building engineer named Darrell Tomlinson actually found the bullet on the stretcher amid all this chaos. And, you know, trivia buff that I tend to be, he is interviewed by Warren Commission staff attorney Arlen Specter, who goes on, of course, to an illustrious Senate career.
But here's the important part. He was asked, was it stretcher A or was it stretcher B? And he testified he couldn't be positive. So how much does this new account really change our understanding?
GERALD POSNER, AUTHOR, "CASE CLOSED: LEE HARVEY OSWALD AND THE ASSASSINATION OF JFK": You know, it doesn't. You know, I have been looking at this. I gave Paul Landis the benefit of the doubt. Originally, I said his account has to be taken, Michael, seriously. And it does. He was there.
But the more you look at it in his statements, in his interviews, like the one with Jake Tapper, you realize that he put that bullet on a stretcher and then 90 minutes after the assassination, you have this chief engineer walking down the hallway in Parkland bumping into one of two stretchers. One belonged to Governor Connally and one belonged to a young boy who had been rushed into the hospital for emergency treatment around the same time.
That bullet is the single bullet and it is the one -- if Landis did pick up one that day that he picked up. So, I think the key here is that Landis picked up a bullet, put it on a stretcher. Now, he's trying to make it sound a little bit more important by saying he put it on Kennedy's stretcher. We're dealing with 60-year-old memories in that case.
SMERCONISH: Does it really -- regardless of which stretcher he found it on, does it really alter what happened with the trajectory, the path, the damage done by that one bullet?
POSNER: No, not at all. As a matter of fact, the single bullet remains, you know, intact completely. The ballistics has proven that in 1993 and '94. It's been studied repeatedly. Arlen Specter and the Warren Commission when they came up with the idea it was a theory.
They couldn't prove it ballistically. But later science evolves and now we know that bullet happened.
What Landis' account does, if he was right, is opens up the possibility there was another bullet that somebody fired a bullet at the presidential limo. And instead of going into anybody, it just sort of plopped there on the back for him to find.
The amazing thing here is I think what exposes his story is that another Secret Service agent, Clint Hill, we all remember throwing himself on the back of the car, as the car is zooming out of Dealey Plaza. He is now on the record saying that in 2014, nine years ago, Paul Landis came to him and said, I picked up the bullet. I put it in my pocket. And I later put it on a gurney as we were leaving Parkland Hospital.
That story from Landis grew in scope, size and drama as he was trying to sell a book deal, which he now has coming out in October. I believe the original story of anything that he told Clint Hill and that's the one that we should focus on.
SMERCONISH: Well -- and he also provided an account, right, closer in time to the incident that is contradicted by the version that he is sharing today. I'm not casting -- I hope I'm not casting aspersions on his account. I believe having watched him that he believes what he's now saying. Take me off the hook here, Gerald, and react to what I'm offering.
POSNER: No question. He's absolutely sincere and he believes it. But, Michael, we have many instances not just in the Kennedy assassination but in others in which individuals were witnesses to traumatic events later read accounts or they talk to other people, they see documentaries, and their new memories become part of their old memories. They could pass a lie detector test about their sincerity. They just happen to be wrong.
And here we're dealing with somebody who never kept a diary. He never kept a journal. He didn't have details that he says I can refer back to that. Instead, what he has done is he made these two statements a week after the case happened, after the assassination. And then 60 years later, he's now telling us how his memory got better. And we all know, unfortunately, that's just not how it happens.
SMERCONISH: Gerald, some social media on this subject. Stick around. I might ask for your assistance in responding to it. Catherine, what do we have? OK.
Doesn't make sense, says Michael. Why would you lay a bullet down on the table next to the president? As a Secret Service officer, you should at least have the decency to report it to the proper authorities.
Gerald Posner, you say what to that X response?
POSNER: That's the one part of the story we're not talking about. Imagine if there was an assassination of a president today, Obama, Trump, Biden, and we found out that a Secret Service agent found a whole bullet where the president's body was and then took the bullet, put it in their pocket and later put it down on a gurney and didn't tell any of their superiors or anyone else investigating the case. The shame of this story, Michael, is that Paul Landis didn't come out with this story decades ago when it could have been investigated, when everyone was alive.
We could have found out the final truth. Now, we'll be left with a bit of mystery forever because he's telling it so late.
SMERCONISH: Right, that's the one thing I know for sure is that this will now keep alive forever the cottage industry of conspiracy about the Kennedy assassination.
POSNER: That's true. You know, we have been waiting for documents to come out of the National Archives. The last 4,000 documents are still sealed. We thought that would be the big story. It turns out instead to be an eyewitness account from an 88-year-old ex-Secret Service agent with his new recollections. And that will keep the case coming in terms of the debate for decades to come.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Gerald Posner, as always.
POSNER: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, more of your best and worst social comments and the result of today's poll question at Smerconish.com. We have a poll question every single day, by the way. I always say this week but every day there's a different poll question.
Which is most effective in protecting and promoting the rights of the working class? Is it the labor unions? Is it the federal government. Might it be the free market?
When you vote, subscribe to the free daily newsletter. You'll get editorial cartoons from legends like this Ukraine commentary by Rob Rogers. Check that out.
SMERCONISH: Hey, there's the result of today's poll question at Smerconish.com. Pretty decisive. Wow. Which is most effective in protective and promoting the rights of the working class? Fifty-eight percent of -- we're approaching 30,000 votes are saying labor unions.
Scott Galloway was my guest in the first portion of the program and he said, there's only one union that can benefit the working class and that's the federal government. Keep voting on that, maybe the results will change.
Here is some of the social media reaction that came in during the course of today's program. All three options serve their purpose and are not mutually exclusive. OK I agree with that.
The free market creates the jobs. The government ensures reasonable work days and controls the abuse of workers. And unions where membership has dropped over the years protect those in specific industries.
Jack Hoffman, maybe I should have had an additional choice which was all of the above. Then I would have had to have had yet another choice, which would have been, none of the above.
Here is more social media reaction from today's program. Thank you. What do we have?
Thank you, Jean Twenge, for mentioning Gen X. We are often left out of this conversation. But then again, we're used to it. #latchkeykids
Well, right, Gen Z and millennials are what captured the attention of the academics that I was making reference to, who were saying, hey, when these folks get in charge, then things are going to change, and it will be interesting to see whether that is the case. But you're right in saying that you have got Gen X between the boomers and the younkers, the millennials and the Zs.
That's a lot to keep track, isn't it? One more social media reaction. What do we have? Love looking at all of these.
Smerconish, the trophy pic in PA was absurd. Fifty heavily armed paramilitary posing with a haggard 120 pound exhausted -- oh, come on. You're making -- you're making him out to be like a sympathetic figure. The guy is a murderer.
In fact, I think he's a two-time murderer. I think he murdered somebody in Brazil and then murdered someone here. His girlfriend, in front of her kids, in Pennsylvania and -- do you know how long the jury was out in that case? The jury was out in that case 15 minutes. I think it's like a Chester County record.
So, screw him. No sympathy. And if the cops want to take a pic in this instance, God bless them.
See you next week. Happy and healthy new year if you're celebrating.