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Should Media Outlets Ensure A MAGA Perspective Is Represented?; Cost To Attend Some Colleges Will Top $90,000 This Fall; Will RFK Jr. Get Nationwide Ballot Access Before November?; Should Sotomayor Retire To Help Dems Hold SCOTUS Seat?. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired March 30, 2024 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Everybody's had their say about Ronna McDaniel, except me.

I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia and now it's my turn.

When MSNBC didn't take Donald Trump's victory speech the night that he won the Iowa caucus, I said on radio that it was a mistake and that it's set a bad precedent.

If you're a media outlet, you can't talk about the 2024 election a year in advance, hype the Iowa caucus, interrupt programming for the night, engage a panel, show the votes coming in on a big map, and then not give the victor his just due. It's like carrying the Super Bowl and then deciding to dip out of the presentation of the Lombardi trophy because you don't like who won the game.

And carry to its logical conclusion, I said, this censorship would mean not taking his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention or his inaugural address, should he win the election?

Ironically, it's now the RNC saying they might limit NBC's access to cover their convention, even though it's doubtful it could exercise that control.

And now, Trump is getting the political benefit of the brouhaha, notwithstanding that he instigated McDaniel's firing from the RNC.

The hard question remains, how to cover Donald Trump and his supporters. Ignoring or disrespecting the presumptive GOP candidate and his base I think is a mistake.

It won't diminish their cause nor make them go away. The grievances that gave rise to Trumps election in 2016 will still be with us when he's gone. Global migratory shifts, immigration battles, changing demographics and the corresponding belief of some that they've been forgotten amidst all this change will outlive Trump's political career.

Remember Brexit preceded his election. Better to engage the beliefs of the 45 or so percent who stand ready to vote for Trump again, they deserve a seat at the table.

Of course, no ones views should be aired without challenge. That's a journalist's responsibility. And I said much the same a year ago when many objected to CNN hosting Trump for a town hall. "How could every other candidate but the leader be offered a town hall?" I asked and Kaitlan Collins did a terrific job in peppering the former president with questions.

Giving this constituency the cold shoulder only strengthens them. It emboldens claims of bias and gives other networks something that they can run a loop. It reminds me of the fallout after "The New York Times" published a controversial essay by Republican Senator Tom Cotton and the aftermath of the George Floyd riots.

Two days later, the paper said that it should never have been published. Editor James Bennett lost his job as a result. I don't agree with Cotton, but I defended his right to be heard. Same with Ronna McDaniel, who wasn't just any Republican. She was the head of the RNC.

I'm not advocating for her personally. I'm advocating for balance and I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't say so today. After all, I'm the guy who time and again has responded to your social media complaints in real time after any number of guests that I've hosted, that some of you don't like.

You remember Matt Gaetz, the very week that he played a pivotal role fighting the election of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy or RFK Jr., Vivek Ramaswamy, and Dean Phillips right after each announced their candidacies. John Eastman, the former Trump lawyer, now facing disbarment has been my guest here discussing his role in the January 6 rally. Doctors Scott Atlas and Jay Bhattacharya from Stanford both spoke to me here about herd immunity in the context of COVID.

Even January 6's QAnon shaman, after he got out of jail and announced he was running for Congress. I could continue -- Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, Kari Lake, Roger Waters. They've all been my guest.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Congress said drain the swamp --

SMERCONISH: I've read, I've read all the texts. The texts make it very clear that we weren't even going to give the guy a meeting unless he was first prepared to investigate the Bidens.

JOHN EASTMAN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: An ability to do something about it.

SMERCONISH: That didn't happen.

Why not take the win? Because if you don't, it looks like Trump is now acting like Nixon or John Connally on Reagan's behalf to just try and save the win for himself?

[09:05:00] Well, why don't you say that? And why didn't Trump say that?


SMERCONISH: It sounds like you're not even taking ownership that you never should have walked through that door.


SMERCONISH: You know, there were so many others that I invited who you probably wouldn't have liked. But many don't accept the invitation.

And you know why they turned me down? In part because they do a calculus as to how many primary voters will be watching a particular network. And if there are Republican, they think their time is better spent on Fox.

And it's a vicious cycle. If more would accept an invitation like mine than their base audience might feel more welcome and tuning in. I've said since my first show here on CNN 10 years ago, this tribalism among elected officials and polarization in the media. It's killed civility and made compromise the new C-word.

And you know what else? It's boring.

Why would anybody want to watch a discussion of the news that only reinforces their beliefs and doesn't challenge people to think? Instead, invite all sides, confront the false hoods from the right and the left, and if something slips by and we've got to do a fact check later, then so be it.

That get over the idea that the risk of metastasis from one falsehood getting through warrants, total censorship. There are responsible people at both ends of the political spectrum. You just have to find them.

Joining me now is one such individual, David Urban, the GOP strategist and CNN senior political commentator, who advised the Trump campaigns of 2016 and 2020.

David, should they have hired her? Should they have fired her?

DAVID URBAN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Wow. So, Michael, thanks. I'm glad I didn't make it on the wall on those -- on all those previous images you were showing --

SMERCONISH: My rogues -- my rogues gallery.

URBAN: Glad I didn't appear in any of that -- I'm glad I didn't appear in any of those, okay?

So, listen, your point is well taken and not to blow sunshine here, but, you know, this is the best show on television, because of what you do, of the people you have, the various, divergent viewpoints you have on and look, you challenged people. When Ronna McDaniel showed up on "Meet the Press", I thought Kristen Welker did a good job of kind of challenging and pushing back on some of the things she believed in or she has spouse previous. I don't know if she believed in or she espoused previously. I don't know if she believed in it, but she espoused previously.

So, to your first question, should they have hired her? Well, listen, hit it depends on what their goal was. If their goal was to have a divergent viewpoint on their, otherwise, left-leaning network then yes, they should have hired her, and they should be big enough, men and women to understand that her -- she's not going to agree with them. They're not going to agree with her and push-back, push-back on the January 6 things, push back on the election denial that the things you don't agree with, you push back on and you challenge that you have this is a marketplace of ideas.

If that's what NBC wanted to be, then sure have her on. If they want to have just one viewpoint, a viewpoint from the far left progressives, so that people don't get triggered when they're watching their network, then no, don't have her on. But I think it's -- I think America is the worst for not having that kind of robust discussion.

SMERCONISH: So, some say election denialism is the line. And by the way, I can put on the screen of a Fox poll very recent that shows 67 percent. I think it is a Republicans don't think that Biden is legitimate chemically elected.

So if you say, well, you can come on and be a Republican, but you can't advance the idea that Biden is illegitimate from his election of 2020. Now, you've excluded two-thirds of Republicans. How do you wrestle with that, David?

URBAN: Yeah, that's tough. Look, I mean, do I think that Joe Biden won the election? Absolutely. Do I think that -- you know, there's gradations of that, right? Do I think that Democrats had changed the law in lots of states to -- because of COVID and they played the game better. They're better at absentee ballots. They're better at mail-in. They're better at, you know, lots of things like that, sure, and Republicans were flat-footed, and we lost.

And so, do they believe that do Democrats -- excuse me, do some Republicans believe the Democrats can game the system? Yeah, that's something different. I think than saying he was not fairly -- he was not duly elected.

Let's -- we heard that, Michael, you go play the tape. The RNC's got like a half-hour tape of -- after 2016 of Hillary Clinton, others saying that Donald Trump was not legitimate president so there's a little bit about both sides having some of that in their background, so you can pick and choose the vignette as you'd like.

But again, push back if you don't like what Ronna McDaniel it says pushback or done just don't have her at all and have this monolithic progressive network where its just group think, and you just get an echo chamber of the MAGA-hating crowd 24/7.

SMERCONISH: David Urban, thank you. Appreciate your thoughts.

URBAN: Yeah, Michael, thanks for having me. Hopefully, I don't show up on that wall anytime soon

SMERCONISH: Joining me now is Frank Sesno. He's the Emmy Award-winning journalist who served as Washington bureau chief, White House correspondent and anchor here at CNN.


And for more than a decade was the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University.

Frank is also the author of "Ask More: The Power of Questions to Open Doors, Uncover Solutions, and Spark Change".

Frank, welcome back the big picture issue seems to be, how do you cover Trump? How do you give voice to his supporters? Your thoughts

FRANK SESNO, AUTHOR, "ASK MORE": The question it is the most difficult question, but you do it just as you say, you asked the questions you ask the tough questions and you don't need to relitigate every time you interview everybody, whether the election was stolen or not last time. There are a ton of other issues that are motivating voters motivating the Trump base, and the Donald Trump and people candidates on in both parties are out talking about. There are ways of focusing on those things, too.

And to your point, the fundamental point, you can't ignore half of the country away. That's not responsible, it certainly isn't journalism.

So engaging them, engaging the questions, engaging the toughest issues, and asking tough questions for credible responses, pushing back when people spin or if they lie during the fact checks, these are the things that we do as journalists and other things that citizens have a responsibility to understand

SMERCONISH: How could NBC have handled this differently?

SESNO: They could have shopped around the Ronna McDaniel hire before they did it much more internally. Some of the people who spoke out publicly were blindsided when she was hired. And so they had an on-air insurrection. That's unbelievable. Okay?

It's also a huge failure of management and leadership within the organization. You don't do something like that in spring that on people. Secondly, they could have had a whole sort of series of questions for her when she was coming on the air.

The standard, Michael, for putting experts on the year and paying them should be are you going to provide real analysis? Are you going to give us insight? Are you going to be doing spin and talking points and if they don't check the right boxes there, meaning they're going to be honest and straightforward and actually take you behind the scenes. They shouldn't be hired.

This was a question of she was on the payroll, not whether she was on the air.

SMERCONISH: So I thought -- I have to say this. I thought that Kristen Welker did a terrific job in the way that she handled that initial interview, which I guess Frank is going to be the one and only interview.

Wasn't that kind of textbook for what you should do?

SESNO: Yeah, could it be maybe even -- even clearer. You know, I remember the interview that Oprah Winfrey did with Lance Armstrong, first interview after doping. It was a series of yes-no questions right off the top basically where he acknowledged that he had doped that he had done this over time, that he had done this to win? Yes. No questions, not explanation.

Ronna McDaniel, are you -- are you prepared to speak the truth? Do you believe that Donald Trump was cheated out of the election in 2020? Series of yes-no just for her to say, look, I'm here, I'm here to be straightforward and honest. I'm going to stand up for what I believe in. I'm going to speak from my party. That's what I'm here to do.

But I want to establish that I'm here on a credible based, based on facts and information that we have. The fact is there is no evidence anywhere that the election was demonstrably or are meaningfully swayed illegitimately based on what numerous investigations of court cases are found.

So I think establishing her credibility, but yes, Kristen Welker light it out.

SMERCONISH: Final thought. It sure does put pressure on who, if anyone, they'll now have to fill that seat.

SESNO: Puts pressure on who, if anyone, they'll have to fill that seat and who, if anyone will take that, because now there's the whole Republican pushback against NBC.

It is a mess and a disaster in every way, Michael, and they're going to have a lot of digging to get themselves out of this hole.

SMERCONISH: Frank Sesno, thank you. We appreciate you.

SESNO: My pleasure.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Hit me up on social media. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program from the world of the view, the blowback on Ronna herself was warranted given her actions, says Robert Britchkow. Ronna McDaniel, I get it, facilitated the spreading of some of the false information pertaining to 2020.

She was not, however, in the scheme of things. I mean, she was not some random Republican. She was the head of the Republican National Committee. I think that's got to bring value to a network at apparently, she wanted to limit her commentary only to NBC, was offered a sweetener according to the published reports, if she'd also expand her focus to MSNBC where she never got to make an appearance.

Still to come, how much would you pay for one year of college? Ninety grand? Wow, that's the latest price tag at several prestigious universities. Is it worth it?

And RFK Jr. named his running mate this week, clearing the way to get on more state ballots. Both major parties have been attacking him, but one side has gone so far as to build an entire operation geared toward knocking him off ballots.

Plus, it's a tricky question to be sure.


Should Justice Sonia Sotomayor consider stepping down so that President Biden can be certain to name her replacement? With a close presidential election looming and control of the Senate also in doubt, something it might be the only way to save her seat for the Democrats for the next generation.

I want to know what you think. Go to my website, at Answer today's polling question, should a Supreme Court justice ever time their retirement so as to influence the selection of their successor? While you're there, sign up for the newsletter. Take a look at the latest exclusive cartoon. You'll get the work of people like Jack Ohman, the Pulitzer Prize winner. There it is, right on point.



SMERCONISH: The cost of attending several elite colleges, this coming academic year will top $90,000. Yeah, you heard that, right? Ninety grand. That's the combined cost for tuition, housing, and other expenses at several New England schools with others likely to follow suit.

According to preliminary estimates, the cost of attendance for 2024, 2025 will be at Wellesley College, $92,000 and change, at Tuffs, just under $92,000. Yale, $91,000. B.U., $90,000 and change.

Now to be fair, those totals don't take into account the financial aid that helps defray the cost for many students. For instance, about 56 percent of B.U. students receive some form of assistance. At Wellesley, its nearly 60 percent.

But still just six years ago, people were flipping out when the number of top $70,000 for the first time. So where will it end? And how can it possibly be worth it?

Joining me now is Frederick Wherry, professor of sociology at Princeton University and director of the debt collection lab, which tracks long-term consumer debt.

Professor, thank you for being here.

The wealthy can afford it. The poor gets subsidized and the middle- class, the middle-class gets screwed, isn't that pretty much it?

FREDERICK WHERRY, PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Sadly, that is it a particularly at schools that are not high wealth in terms of their endowments. And so what we've seen is that it used to be about 25 percent of college students came for middle-class families and that's gone down to 18 percent. And it seems to be sliding still.

And as you can imagine, if you are an average family and you're earning about $75,000 a year, the idea of applying to a place that's that expensive. It's just beyond your imagination.

The other problem too is that you may have parents who are still paying on their student loans. And so, if they went to college, they're still paying. And so here again, the middle-class is losing ground.

SMERCONISH: We tend to focus on the so-called elite institutions like your own, when it comes to admissions, numbers, and also the cost. But how typical are those that get the most attention of the rest of the landscape?

WHERRY: What most people don't realize this, that 6 percent of our college students are attending schools that have admissions acceptance rates of 25 percent or lower. And so for the most part, the vast majority of people are at other schools and they are at schools that don't have the kinds of endowments that allow places like Princeton to essentially say, if you're making $200,000 and you've got two kids in college. You're not paying anything, or you're making $100,000, you're not paying anything, most schools can't do that. They can't afford it.

And so one of the problems here is that on the one hand, all of the news goes to the high-end wealthy schools where the problem does not exist and they, ms out on where most people are going to college.

SMERCONISH: Professor Wherry, why so expensive at those that we've identified?

WHERRY: So two things have happened. On the one hand, they know that you don't have much of a choice the demand is going to be high, in part because for whatever profession you want to go into, you're going to need a B.A. or an associates degree and you're going to college and you're going to pay for it.

When you see these high sticker prices, your tolerance for high prices, even though they're not quite that high your tolerance is also going to be higher. So demand is up and the supply has also gotten expensive.

So if we look in books like bankers in the ivory tower, we see that over 30-year period, you have big reductions in state funding for public colleges at the same time that the federal government is cutting back on Pell Grants and during that top period of time, you get a 200 percent increase and the tuition at public colleges and universities.

And so you have both the demand problem and a supply problem. SMERCONISH: Professor Frederick Wherry, thank you so much for your


WHERRY: Thank you

SMERCONISH: Complicated subject. Let's see what you're all saying via social media. I think from the world of YouTube.

It's not just college. The middle-class is getting screwed all over the place.

Yeah, I get it. In this instance it's just particularly pronounced, right? I mean, those numbers are crazy. The very well-to-do can afford it. The very poor, not even the very poor, are going to get subsidized, 56 percent.

Did I say, I think at B.U., but everybody who's in-between, there's just no way you can meet the demand, maybe the silver lining, I've been thinking about this, maybe the silver lining just for community colleges and associate degrees, And trade schools.


I mean, maybe this was just not a path that was for all to begin with. And let's not forget what Professor Wherry just said, which is we're talking about like 6 percent of the schools. And the other 94 percent don't have these same issues are not to that extent.

Up ahead, these days, Supreme Court justices have been staying on the bench into their 80s. Some Democrats lobbying for 69-year-old Sonia Sotomayor to step aside. The idea for President Biden and his slim Senate majority to confirm a younger progressive to keep a toehold on the increasingly conservative court.

Given what happened with RBG, see, does the idea deserves serious consideration? That is the basis for today's poll question at I'm asking it in the abstract because I think it makes for a better question. Should a Supreme Court justice ever time their retirement so as to influence the selection of their successor?

Plus, this week, RFK Jr. named his running mate Nicole Shanahan, which will help him get on the ballot in states that first require the naming of a VP. But can they get the access needed to win 270 Electoral College votes?

And which party is more afraid of their ticket? That's the topic of this editorial cartoon by the legendary Rob Rogers from my daily newsletter at Subscribe, you'll get these sort of things.



SMERCONISH: Can Bobby make the ballot? Two new polls released this week have Robert F. Kennedy Jr. polling at 13 percent in a five-way race, at Fox at 12 percent. It's worth noting, Kennedy is polling better than any independent presidential candidate since Ross Perot in 1992. And candidates that hold a 15 percent average across five national public polls and appear on enough state ballots to reach 270 Electoral College votes can qualify for the debate stage, assuming there are debates. Axios reports that the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee have dedicated a team of staffers and consultants were trying to knock him off state ballots should he get on.

While on Truth Social, Trump appeared to welcome, kind of, RFK Junior's quest for ballot access. He wrote, RFK Jr. is the most radical left candidate. It's great for MAGA. He is crooked Joe Biden's political opponent, not mine. I love that he's running.

However, Democratic strategist James Carville appears to think the opposite.


JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I actually think Bobby Kennedy might hurt Trump more. I think there's a certain percent of people in our country that are just like, just F the whole thing.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: F it all, yes.

CARVILLE: And Biden is not going to get any of the F it all vote, OK? And so, I think that -- now what worries me is Cornel West and Jill Stein.


CARVILLE: Because they're going to get some of the F it all vote, too.


SMERCONISH: A recent Fox News poll with a 3 percent margin of error finds RFK Jr. pulling votes from both parties, 10 percent from Democrats, 8 percent from Republicans. Twenty-three states require a candidate to pick a vice presidential candidate before getting on their state's ballot. Now that RFK Jr. chose wealthy attorney Nicole Shanahan as his running mate, his campaign is better able to cast a much wider net for ballot access. Kennedy is only on Utah's presidential ballot so that his team has a lot of ground still to cover.

My next guest showed his -- all of this in his latest piece. Historically he shows that third-party candidates have been successful in getting on ballots. Joining me now, senior elections analyst and ABC News FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley. Geoffrey, so you say most major third-party candidates get on most ballots. Explain.

GEOFFREY SKELLEY, SENIOR ELECTIONS ANALYST, 538: That's right, Michael, about -- you know, in 2016 and 2020, the libertarian nominee, for instance, got on all 51 ballots, 50 states plus Washington D.C. Major third-party ballot candidates like -- independents like John Anderson in 1980, Ross Perot in 1992.

Ross Perot as the Reform Party nominee in 1996 and these very notable individuals, they got on all 51 ballots. And so, looking at someone like RFK Jr., his campaign actually has raised a fair amount of money for an independent or a third-party campaign. Actually, more than twice what Gary Johnson raised in the entire 2016 cycle so far.

And now with Nicole Shanahan's personal wealth, you know, he should have the means to pay for the signature gatherers in various states and the other important infrastructure for getting on the ballot.

SMERCONISH: So, the Libertarian party, one way of getting there is by party, one way of getting there is as an individual. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is kind of a hybrid. But correct me if I'm wrong, the Libertarians kind of start out with 36 or 37 states under their belt. And for the Greens, the number is about 20?

SKELLEY: That's right. Look, an important way of making the ballot as a party is to just maintain a certain percent support, either in the most recent elections. So, say you've got 2 percent in the most recent gubernatorial election in 2022 in a state that might be enough to maintain ballot access as a party. Or to have a certain percentage of registered voters who registered under your party label. So, the Libertarian sort of start out in a better position because they are actually the most supported third-party or third-party establishment in the United States.


So, they start out with this higher edge. The Green is a bit lower. And, you know, in 2020 the Greens only got on 30 state ballots in the end so I think they're hoping to do better this time around.

SMERCONISH: It sounds like a lot of the action is going to be between Kennedy's campaign getting on ballots and then the Biden campaign in some form challenging that ballot access. What do you anticipate, Geoffrey?

SKELLEY: Well, you know, for instance, actually in Hawaii, a state where it looks like Kennedy's party -- in a few states his supporters have been trying to have a party label for him to run under because in some states it's easier to qualify for a ballot as a party candidate than as an independent.

In Hawaii, for instance, Democrats actually objected to the establishment of that party. And so, there's going to be a hearing and some appeal about that. And, you know, in the end, Kennedy will probably get on the ballot there, but at least shows sort of what's happening from state to state.

In Nevada, for instance, there's been a bit of a snafu. This isn't necessarily because of the Biden campaign or Democrats, but it sounds like Kennedy may have needed to name a vice presidential candidate on his petition papers in Nevada but didn't do so because he didn't have one yet. And so, now there's maybe an appeal process about getting on the ballot in Nevada. So, there's just a lot more of that kind of litigation to come.

SMERCONISH: Quick final thought, which is why it's so darn expensive because you've got to be represented -- if you're the Kennedy campaign or the Biden campaign, you've got to be represented in courtrooms in every state where you're making these challenges or defending against them. Final thought from you?

SKELLEY: Just that this entire process is important, not so much because there's much of a chance of an independent or a third-party candidate winning the presidency -- that's extremely difficult to do. But if in the end those candidates tend to take more of the vote and not -- to be clear, not every voter would have voted for a Democrat or Republican who votes for those candidates. But if they would tend to be more likely to vote for one of those major party candidates, they could influence important results in the swing states that are most likely to decide the election.

SMERCONISH: Geoffrey Skelley, thank you for your expertise. Appreciate it.

SKELLEY: Thanks for having me.

SMERCONISH: From the world of X. Put it on the screen. What do we have?

Let's stop the man in the middle BS, and just admit, Michael, that RFK Jr. is your pick.

Why because -- let me get this right. Because I'm willing to have a conversation as to whether he makes the ballot, then he is my guy, right? And I guess -- by the way, you're probably, respectfully, someone who three weeks ago or a month ago said to me, why don't you just admit that No Labels is your party? It's like for discussing a subject, to having the temerity of bringing it up like, aha, that's what his agenda is.

Michael has no agenda. Michael is right here just to bring you all sides. We went over this at the beginning of the program.

Still to come, should Justice Sonia Sotomayor consider stepping down while Biden is president and the Democrats hold control of the Senate by a thin margin? It's a radical idea, but given what happened been two RBG's Supreme Court seat, does it make some kind of sense? That's what I'm driving at with today is poll question at

Go there and vote on this. Should a Supreme Court justice ever time their retirement so as to influence the selection of their successor?

Hey, by the way, I'm going to present what I call "The Mingle Project," Monday, June 17 on the island, on Long Island, the John Engeman Theater. In my social media are all the details. I'd love to see you there.


[09:43:09] SMERCONISH: It's a dicey question that few are saying out loud, but it has got long-term political implications. Some Democrats quietly wondering if Justice Sonia Sotomayor should step down to help ensure a progressive voice in her Supreme Court seat.

Sotomayor is only 69, but is the oldest justice picked by a Democrat, Barack Obama, in 2009. She's the courts third female justice, its first non-white woman, and first and only Hispanic.

She's only been on the court for 15 years, but the reasoning goes like this. There's an election coming think up in which Democrats could conceivably lose both the presidency and control the Senate, which controls the confirmation process. Even if President Biden wins reelection, the odds of Democrats holding onto the Senate are more narrow. So, Biden might have to get a new justice through a GOP Senate if he wins. And there's PTSD around what happened with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat in 2020.

You'll recall that Ginsburg stayed on the bench throughout Trump's presidency, but died at 87 of pancreatic cancer just weeks before Joe Biden won the 2020 election. Many Democrats had hoped that she might voluntarily retire while President Obama was still in office to ensure another justice chosen by a Democrat, but she didn't.

When RBG died on September 18, 2020, Trump waited only eight days to nominate her replacement, Justice Amy Coney Barrett. Barrett was sworn in a month later, October 26, only eight days before the election that Trump lost. And this created the six to three conservative majority that in less than two years has overturned Roe versus Wade and made other momentous decisions.

The ages of the three Trump justices when sworn in, Neil Gorsuch, 49, Brett Kavanaugh, 53, Amy Coney Barrett, 48, all young by these standards. But considering the ages of our presidential candidates, why would a 69-year-old justice nearly two decades younger than RBG lived to be decided that she's retirement age?


Joining me now is Paul Campos, professor of law at the University of Colorado Boulder. Professor, thank you for being here. What do you think she should do and why?

PAUL CAMPOS, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO, BOULDER: I think Sonia Sotomayor has been a great Supreme Court justice, but I definitely think she ought to announce that she is stepping down from the court this summer after the end of the current Supreme Court term. Because the fact is that, for the reasons that you gave, there is a very significant possibility that Joe Biden will not be able to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court during his second term because of Republican control of the Senate. And there's also a significant possibility that Donald Trump will be able to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court if he were to be reelected president and the GOP controls the Senate.

The chance that one or both of those things will happen is so high that it's just simply isn't worth it to take that kind of a risk, given that as good as justice as Sotomayor has been, there are many excellent, very well qualified people out there who can who can fill the role that she has filled on the court, and it would really be in the public interest for her to do a very, very statesman like thing and step down from the court rather than running this risk which would be just a completely catastrophic development from the perspective of progressives and liberals in regard to the composition of the court.

SMERCONISH: So, this is, I think, both important and unfortunately morbid conversation, but we're having it. I think according to the actuarial tables, she would outlive and probably out work a Trump second term, if there has to be one.

CAMPOS: Well, the actuarial tables are one thing, but there are two other considerations here. One is actuarial tables are based on averages. Unfortunately, Justice Sotomayor had some significant health problems over the years and she's also a very heavy former smoker. Those are the kinds of things that have to be taken into account in terms of an individualized risk assessment. Secondly, even a small risk here would have -- would have really, really catastrophic consequences if it should come to bear.

And so, that's -- you have to take into account a 10 percent chance of something really terrible happening is a much worse risk than say an 80 percent chance of something only moderately bad happening. So, the risks here are so high that I think Democrats and progressives, in general, need to learn from the example of the RBG fiasco, and I hope that Justice Sotomayor is really taking this to heart.

SMERCONISH: So quick final response from you. It would be such an admission of just how political this is, right, that she needs to leave because if Trump wins, he surely going to take somebody else at the end of the political spectrum, and therefore, we've got to play this shell game. Final thought from you.

CAMPOS: Well, that's the world we live in. Strategic retirements have been part of the Supreme Court for a long time, but they're much more so in the current era as divided as it is. And I think we need to be realistic. Democrats, in particular, need to be realistic about. This is the world that we live in. And I think Justice Sotomayor would be -- would be doing a very, very important public service if she were to take all of this into account in terms of her own decision.

SMERCONISH: Professor Campos, thank you for your time and opinion. We appreciate it.

CAMPOS: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Social media reaction, Catherine? From the world of YouTube. The YouTubers are active today.

So, what you're saying you can -- right. I mean, there it is. You can elect an 81-year-old president but you should retire at 61 -- and by the way, Jeffrey Wood, you may as well throw into that mix. What does it say about an 81-year-old president and his 77-year-old opponent if now we're saying that the 69-year-old justice has to step aside so that someone younger can take her place? I know it's nutty by that standard.

Still to come, more of your best and worst social media comments. And don't forget to vote on today's poll question at Smerconish -- I love this question. I'm asking it in the abstract. I don't want to make it only about Justice Sotomayor because it's -- it's more broad-based than her. Should a Supreme Court justice ever time their retirement so as to influence the selection of their successor?

While you're there, sign up for the free and worthy daily newsletter. You're going to get exclusive -- oh, OK. Check this out. This was drawn by Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Breen.

I didn't get it at first. I know. I'm a knucklehead, but take a good look. Is it obvious? Check that out? It's not -- it's not what's on the screen.



SMERCONISH: So, there's the result so far, that's pretty close, of the poll question of the day. Should a Supreme Court justice ever time their retirement so as to influence the selection of their successor? Twenty-seven thousand and change have already voted. And the yeses are 53 percent, very interesting. Remember, you know, it's not just this case. In 10 years, there'll be a different set of circumstance and you might not be thinking the same thing.

Here are some of the social media reactions from today's program. Catherine, what came in? Tons of stuff, I am told.

I totally disagree with your view on carrying Trump's speeches. His speeches are full of lies and his followers mistrust the journalists and only trust him.


What good does it do anyone to listen to 20 minutes of narcissist lies?

What good does it do, Jennifer, if you totally -- I'm not saying carry the whole thing and do it without any commentary. You got to take some of it. I mean, otherwise you're -- you're shunning 45 -- 46 percent of the country and carry it to its logical conclusion.

If Trump wins the election, are you now saying we're not going to take his inaugural address on January 20, 2025? You know, remember W said that was some dark stuff about Trump's speech. Are you not taking that? No, combat it is the answer. That's what I think.

More social media reaction. What do we have?

Keep having folks from all sides on. It's informative and necessary. Odd that those who scream DEI the loudest are always against diversity in thought. How did that get in there? That seems like a kind comment. One more, real quick. Do we have another comment? Put it up there so I can quickly respond to it. Chop, chop, chop.

The system is set up in a way that favors the two-party system. Voting for anybody third-party is literally throwing away your vote.

Well, David Conte, let me say that if that is your mindset and that's the way you continue to approach elections then you will forever be saddled with just two choices.

Thank you for watching. Happy Easter.