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Sterling's Lame Excuse; Shelly's Wife's Claim on Clippers; Interview with Naomi Wolf; Public Prayer Rights Upheld; North Carolina GOP Primary; Republicans on Climate Change
Aired May 10, 2014 - 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: Hey, good morning. I'm Michael Smerconish. As you get up this morning, as we all do, you like to check the local headlines and see what is going on. This morning, I'll be taking those headlines and redefining them for you to bring you the story as I see it behind the headlines.
So here is our lead headline. Donald Sterling's pathetic racism excuse revealed in second secret recording. That headline on Radar Online opens to a tale of jealousy and desire according to the disgraced billionaire. So what is Sterling's excuse. Here is some of that secret recording, allegedly, of Donald Sterling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD STERLING: But I'm talking to a girl. I'm trying to have sex with her. I'm trying to play with her. What - you know - if you were trying to have sex with a girl and you are talking to her privately, you don't think anybody is there. You may say anything in the world. What difference does it make. If the girl tapes it and releases it, my god, it's awful. Who thinks anybody's going to tape something? What the hell? I'm talking to a girl.
The girl's black. I like her. I'm jealous that she is with other black guys. I want her. So, what the hell can - in private tell her? You know, I don't want you to be with anybody. I mean, do I have - am I a person? Do I have freedom of speech?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: As far as excuses go, that one was kind of lame. I was trying to impress a girl and didn't think my racist heart would be exposed? The NBA wants no part of Sterling. He is suspended for life and soon could be force to sell the team. But it is not that simple.
Enter Sterling's wife, Shelly. She says she owns 50 percent and has no intention of selling. Here is her attorney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her desire is to retain her 50 percent ownership of the team. And whatever happens to Donald's interests. She has been an owner for 33 years. She helped build the family fortune. She wants to retain her ownership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was asked about Shelly Sterling remaining as owner. He said it would be difficult for the team. Joining me now to talk about where this is going, journalist, Diane Dimond and attorney, Tanya Miller.
Hi, Diane. Now I get it. He was just trying to talk her into the sack. That's all. What's the big deal?
DIANE DIMOND, JOURNALIST: Yes. It is sort of like the Hugh Grant excuse gone terribly awry. This has got to be the oldest mid life crisis I have ever seen. You know, this guy is a billionaire. He is a smart man. He is an older man. Before he brings somebody like this into his organization, you would think that he would check out her background.
She's got a rap sheet this long. She's got six different aliases. She's got a sketchy background at best. And this is the one that he wants to impress and get in the sack?
SMERCONISH: You know, I love you through your streetsmarts, you do such a great job. Michael Jackson. All these different cases, you've covered. What are the odds that now twice in a row there is going to be this recording that is revealed? I think that this second tape is pure set-up. That you know, he called a buddy of his and said roll tape on me. Because I want to tell my side of it and then let's just release that.
DIMOND: Oh, you really are cynical.
SMERCONISH: I pick it up, your gene (ph).
DIMOND: Well, maybe that's true. Maybe that's true. Because I thought to myself, how stupid is this man, that he would call somebody and say these things, run the risk of being recorded again. Well, maybe it was deliberate, maybe this is his way of explaining I hadn't thought of that. Maybe that is true. Maybe that is true. I thought to myself, how stupid is this man? He would call somebody and say these things, run the risk of being recorded again.
Maybe it was deliberate. Maybe this is his way of explaining himself. The problem is, Michael, he did not say there I liked her. She is black. I didn't want her to be with anybody else. What he really said was, I don't want you to be around any black people and post it online and embarrass me.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Tanya, are we to feel sympathy for the wife, given that she's not the one who said these racist things and by virtue of community property, maybe now she is about to forego 50 percent controlling interest in the Clippers?
TANYA MILLER, ATTORNEY: No, I mean, I don't think we should feel sympathy for the wife. Look, I think that you're going to have a difficult time divorcing Shelly from her husband. It's interesting because although she came out through her lawyer through her mouthpiece saying basically "I want to distance myself from these comments. I think they are disgusting. There is no place in the NBA for someone like my husband."
The fact of the matter is, he is your husband. You have been married to him for a lot of years. Right after this happened, we saw them together out having dinner. They did not look estranged to me. So I think that this is essentially a ploy, a back-doorway for the Sterlings to maintain control of this NBA team notwithstanding everybody else wanting them both gone.
SMERCONISH: Tanya, what about Donald Sterling saying you can't force someone to sell private property in America?
MILLER: Well, you know, I think that is an interesting thing to say. I think most Americans would agree with that in a very general sense of the word. I think that is true. However, when you own an NBA franchise, it is not just like owning a corner bodega or a car or even a house for that matter.
This is a very different kind of ownership. This is an ownership that is governed very heavily by contract, very heavily by his relationship with the league. The league maintains a good deal of control of how he can manage that property and whether he can keep that property. He agreed to that when he signed on to be a member of the very exclusive club of NBA owners.
SMERCONISH: You are shaking your head yes. You are agreeing he has got no choice when all is said and done in this regard.
DIMOND: Well, this is like owning a McDonald's. You agree to the franchise rules. You know, Ronald McDonald will be on the wall. You have certain chairs that people sit in. And rules governed a franchise owner.
Now this team is in the name of the Sterling family. So I would say the whole family has to go by those rules. Here's the bottom line for me, this thing is not going to go away. She is going to fight and she wants 50 percent. He's going to fight because he's a lawyer and by gosh in America, you can't force me to sell. This is going to go on longer than the Malaysia Air plane search, you know.
SMERCONISH: No offense taken.
DIMOND: It's going to be a long while.
SMERCONISH: But Tanya, let me ask you this question, won't the value of the franchise diminish if they fight? Isn't it against their economic interests to pursue the strategy that each of them seems intent on.
MILLER: I agree with you, Michael. Absolutely. You know, the irony of the whole thing is that they bought this franchise for dirt cheap back in 1981. It has increased in value tremendously. Right now, would optimally be the best time for them to sell this franchise because, I think, you are right. If they continue to try to force this issue and force themselves on the league and force themselves on America when they are not wanted, they're going to bring down the price of that franchise. It is going to be actually against their economic interests.
But I agree with you, I don't know they really care about money right now. I think it's more about the principle.
SMERCONISH: Tanya Miller, Diane Dimond, thank you both so much. All right. So we started the segment with this headline, Donald Sterling's pathetic racism excuse revealed in second secret recording.
Here's how I would re-word it. Billionaire's wife could lose prize possession because of husband's stupidity.
Will Democrats even show up to the table in the Benghazi discussion? Well, that might just be up to this guy. Why Democrats say the panel set up to investigate the deaths of four Americans is nothing more than a political stunt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In an opposition research, the team on the campaign finds the bombshell or knows the bombshell and holds on to the bombshell strategically to deploy it at critical points in the election narrative.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So that Monica Lewinsky article, you think it was politically planned? If so, which side planned it?
SMERCONISH: Hey, did you see this "Wall Street Journal" headline this week? House votes to create special Benghazi panel. Pretty straight forward. But there is something missing.
Missing are the four men who died on September 11th of 2012. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Dougherty and Tyrone Woods. These are the men who were killed during the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. They are becoming a footnote in the fight on Capitol Hill as Republicans push the idea that the White House lied to the American people while Democrats say there was no plan to deceive.
But the headline talks about a House committee approved to look into the attack and the aftermath. Now since the GOP runs the house, they get to make the rules and one of them is dividing the panel up unevenly with seven Republicans and five Democrats. Democrats fearing that they will be a little more than window dressing in this drama, may decide just to sit this one out. Here is Nancy Pelosi's take.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The fact is this is a stunt. This is a political stunt and the fact that - Issa just is damaged good. They had to move from him with another venue with another chairman. That's what this is. We have been there and done this over and over again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: My next guest is the former White House counsel in the Clinton administration and author of the book "Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crisis in Business Politics and Life," Lanny Davis is here. Lanny, I think the administration needs to acquire a copy of your book. Because it in one crisis situation after another, they are not telling it early, they are not telling at all and they're not telling it themselves.
LANNY DAVIS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It is very strange when you have facts on your side that are positive facts in answer to the central partisan political charge which is what this is about as you correctly say. Charging the White House with deception and cover up. From the very beginning, they had the answer in their possession which are 14 drafts of the talking points where the controversial phrase of the horrible tragedy began with a "spontaneous demonstration triggered by protest in Cairo" which we all know was part of the general reaction throughout the Middle East to the anti-Muslim video.
Republicans are on record from the very beginning accusing the Obama White House of inventing that phrase "spontaneous demonstration" in order to minimize their not seeing that it was a terrorist attack and trying in the middle of a presidential campaign to cover that up. We now know that the CIA wrote that phrase from the very first draft of the talking points to the 14th draft.
The White House had those 14 drafts, could have put that out immediately. Susan Rice might be secretary of state rather than letting her twist in the wind. But the White House sat on that for nine months. That's an example where you have the facts, you don't put them out and you sit on them and it looks like you are covering something up.
With all due respect, I would say to the Obama White House, let's learn that lesson. To my friend Nancy Pelosi, who I have known for years, let's learn that lesson about how we react to the circus-like hearings that this new committee will be holding.
SMERCONISH: And now the Ben Rhodes e-mail. And you and I are agreeing, I'm sure, on the fact that it should have been produced. It is not significant, as I read it, Lanny -- it's not significant as I read it, Lanny. It's not significant for what it says, but rather for the fact that it wasn't produced sooner. Do you agree with that characterization?
DAVIS: Absolutely. It reminds me without criticizing anyone in the White House, sometimes you don't produce things because some lawyer says well it is not quite about Benghazi and the lawyers get cute. That has been one issue in every White House. Not just this White House.
It was the reason I criticized the White House counsel for not telling Barack Obama about the IRS scandal until after it broke. It's legal thinking. Here you have an e-mail that is general about the widespread reaction to the protests relating to the video. It was put out in the context of trying to brief someone for a talk show on the Sunday morning talk shows.
Of course it related to Benghazi, but it wasn't about when Benghazi was about the broad reaction to the video. Why hold that back? I would even make the argument even if it is not quite about Benghazi and you are legalistically say you don't need to produce it. For goodness sake, it looks like you are holding it back. It is a good document. Put it out.
SMERCONISH: Three quick things, if I can run through them. Yes or no, should the Democrats now participate in this new committee process on Benghazi?
DAVIS: Absolutely yes. And I ask you back a question. Does it ever make sense to let the other guy have a one-sided argument while you have all the facts? It makes no sense whatsoever. I would be in their face challenging them every time. Who wrote the phrase spontaneous demonstration? The White House covering up or the CIA and a 30-year professional, Mike Moore saying we wrote that because we genuinely thought in the early stages we were wrong that that was the message.
SMERCONISH: Thirty seconds on two other matters. The V.A. hospital scandal. From a crisis management standpoint, what needs to happen?
DAVIS: The secretary should be in front of Congress and every document and every e-mail relating to this problem of not taking care of our veterans should be put out in a full scale document reduction.
SMERCONISH: Finally, I would be derelict in my duty, I know you don't like talking about it in not asking for a response about Ms. Lewinsky's essay in "Vanity Fair." Where do you think that comes from, why now?
DAVIS: I don't know. I don't want to talk about this subject because of respect for the private life of the Clintons. Certainly, this has been dealt with over and over again. I never had anything but sympathy for Ms. Lewinsky from the very first day. But I also believe that this is a subject that in her private life that she should get on with and I don't want to get into it any longer. It has been fully litigated. Judgments have been made by the American people to forgive weaknesses in private life in all stages. That is really all I would like to say.
SMERCONISH: Lanny, good to see you, as always. Thank you.
DAVIS: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: You remember the headline we started, House Votes to Create Special Benghazi Panel. You know, how I would have written it, Benghazi is the New Abortion. Meaning it's being used to drive the base.
It's called a prom draft. That is right. High school girls told to wear their best on prom draft day to see if they'll get picked. All in good fun or objectifying teen girls.
Plus, you have seen the new Lewinsky article in "Vanity Fair." My guest says don't be fooled, this article was politically planned and meticulously orchestrated.
SMERCONISH: Time now for Headlines Redefined. The headlines that got the story half right.
Number one comes from the "Wall Street Journal." Obama's climate bomb. A neutral government report was released this week. The proper title is the national climate assessment essentially it argues that climate change it's here and now. It is not in the distant future.
Scientists from academia, from the government and from the private sector were all involved in the preparation of this report. Think of it this way. You know that scorcher in the summer. That hottest day of the summer season. That will become the norm in the not too distant future. That is what they argue in this report. Not buying it is the "Wall Street Journal" editorial page.
The pro-business "Wall Street Journal" says this 829-page report is all propaganda from the Obama administration. I'm trying to be open minded as I'm reading the editorial. I'm saying to myself, OK. If that is the viewpoint, where is the contrarian research? Where are those reputable scientists able to rebut this document? There's no mention made of them.
So here is the headline I would put on this. Obama's Climate Bomb. What I would have written, Show Me the Data. Show me the Data!
Number two is from "Reuters." Obama says kidnapping of Nigerian girls shows man's deadliest impulses. You know the story now of Boko Haram and the abduction of these 276 Nigerian school girls.
Today's news, by the way, from Amnesty International. Amnesty International is saying that the Nigerian government had a four hour lead advance on this but was incapable of taking action. The Nigerians are disputing that.
For many, the case symbolizes the power of social media to give voice, to give rise and attention to a matter of worldwide concern. To others, like the president, this is all about man's worst impulses. Me, I see it a little differently, I think this is really about the jihadist treatment of women whether abducting them and forcing them into marriage, whether not allowing them to be educated, not allowing them to have any voting rights, not giving them any mobility, even mandating their dress.
And Boko Haram is only one example of this worldwide phenomenon that we need to be knowledgeable about. Remember the headline? The headline where the president said the kidnapping of Nigerian girls shows man's deadliest impulses. What I would have written, social media highlights jihadist subjugation of women. And finally, number three comes from the "Orange County Register" where the headline is "High School Boys Hold Draft to Pick Prom Dates." This is the Corona Del Mar High School. It's in Newport Beach in Orange County, California. Apparently this selection process has been going on for a period of years. The principal has now condemned it. It sure does sound borish. But I have been paying attention to the comments from the students themselves and they say, you know, it may sound awful, but it actually reduces the drama of our need to pair up during prom season.
They also point out that no one is forced to go. You have the ability to say no if you choose not to go with whomever selected you. More than anything else, it seems to me that it's a formalization of a process that has taken place ad hoc for generations. Look, I'm not going to defend it but I am going to cut some slack to these high schoolers.
Remember the headline, the headline which said, High School Boys Hold Draft to Pick Prom Dates. Mine, A Truly Sophomoric Approach to the Prom.
Monica Lewinsky breaks here silence but was the article and its timing purely innocent?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't believe the Monica Lewinsky suddenly have a revelation (INAUDIBLE), you know, that emotional breakthrough. I have to go public right now. That's not what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Why my next guest thinks the Lewinsky article has a lot to do with a little something nefarious called opposition research.
And why the Supreme Court says do you want to pray in public meetings, go ahead. If you don't like it, well, there's the door.
SMERCONISH: This next headline was really the talk of the town this week. From "Vanity Fair" "Shame and Survival." Of course, this was the headline for the essay written by Monica Lewinsky as she burst back into the national spotlight. Answering once and for all the question whatever happened to - the essay itself is a pretty good read.
She said that she is breaking her silence, "because it's time." In the piece, Lewinsky talks about everything, from the affair to current dating and job status as well as her feelings on feminism. Now earlier, I had a chance to sit down with Naomi Wolf, author, activist, former adviser to Al Gore and I asked her what do make of the timing. The fact that it is now 2014 and Lewinsky has come out to tell her story. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NAOMI WOLF, CO-FOUNDER, DAILYCLOUD.COM: This is not a personality story. I don't believe that Monica Lewinsky suddenly had a revelation with her therapist and felt, you know, this emotional breakthrough, I have to go public right now. That's not what happened. There is something in every campaign called opposition research. And in opposition research, the team on the campaign finds the bombshell or knows the bombshell and holds on to the bombshell strategically to deploy it at critical points in the election narrative.
So, you know, Mrs. Clinton is about to announce her run for the next president of the United States of America. She, you know, I think was involved with this totally laudatory, ridiculously laudatory campaign biography, which is not identified as a campaign biography and HRC. She is clearly -- her team is trying to position her as, you know, head of state, secretary of state, finder of solutions for New York, finder of solutions for conflict areas around the world.
So of course, the Republican national committee wants to change the subject right now to those messy years where we were dragged through the emotional mud.
SMERCONISH: I think she comes out as a sympathetic figure. I was waiting for you to get to the end of that --
WOLF: She -- Mrs. Clinton or --
SMERCONISH: Absolutely. Secretary Clinton. In other words, I was interested to see at the end of your last thought, where you're going to say and therefore, here's who dropped the dime or here's who caused this to be back in the public domain because I happen to think it's Secretary Clinton's benefit that we're having this conversation because what are we doing? At least in my case, I'm reflecting on all that took place back in the '90s and I'm saying yes, that was really not fair that she had to go through that.
WOLF: Yes, but that's not necessarily thinking about her as the next president of the United States of America. Thinking of her as a nice wronged wife. You're not thinking about the Clinton years where they solved welfare or where they, you know, created partnerships for protecting the environment or, you know, the whole roster of accomplishments. You know, eight years of peace and prosperity.
And you're not thinking about her for the last four years as secretary of state and, you know, conflict areas around the world. You're thinking of her as a wife, as a wronged woman. Very nice wronged woman but it's just definitely changing the frame. And so it's for that reason that I'm certain it's a strategic decision by the Republicans.
SMERCONISH: OK. But that --
WOLF: And not an emotional decision.
SMERCONISH: But that presupposes that Monica Lewinsky is a participant in that -- the bomb.
WOLF: Duh? Hello? I mean, yes. I mean --
SMERCONISH: Do you believe that?
WOLF: Look, I don't think she is sitting in a smoke-filled room with Republican strategists. But there are a lot of ways. Look, I worked on two presidential campaigns informally for the reelection of President Clinton and formally as an adviser on women's issues in Gore 2000. And there are a lot of ways that are not about direct that are especially not about because you want deniability.
You want no paper trail about direct affiliation with a campaign or, you know, or you know, campaign figures, of election officials to be enlisted. And it can be -- here's a consultancy or a here's, you know, a non-profit that needs, you know , some advice or some PR work or -- you know, there is a job in the future that I'm sure you might be interested in. And these are -- and you know, Miss Lewinsky might not even know who the people are.
SMERCONISH: That she is being manipulated.
WOLF: I don't want to treat her reductively like that. I mean, you know, that there is a larger strategic agenda. That there is a strategic idea. I mean my -- to me, my question is why now? You know, why not five years ago, four years ago?
SMERCONISH: Or a year. A year or a year from now.
WOLF: A year from now. And it's just so obviously campaign timing.
SMERCONISH: Monica Lewinsky said that the tragedy surrounding Tyler Clemente, the young man from Rutgers who jumped off the GW Bridge, ended his own life, that that precipitated this desire on her part. You are shaking your head.
WOLF: I mean, really?
You know, really? What -- I'm not saying really to you, really to --
WOLF: Look, the new area --
SMERCONISH: I'm so glad to have this conversation with you because we both read the same piece and we came to completely opposite conclusions.
SMERCONISH: I was accepting of what she said. The way I read it is that she is taking a look at the political landscape. She is seeing Secretary Clinton as the presumptive nominee. And she's saying oh, my god. I'm now going to have to live with this for the campaign, then for the first term, then for the second term.
WOLF: Live with --
SMERCONISH: I've got to move on with my life.
WOLF: Live with what?
SMERCONISH: Well, she's not --
WOLF: No one even mentions her anymore. She is not facing years of being raked over the coals if Mrs. Clinton became the president.
SMERCONISH: She says -- she says that she's -- I don't think I would recognize her. She says that she's recognized day in and day out. And that she's virtually been unemployable.
WOLF: I believe that that is true. I believe that that's true. I mean, what's your point about that? That's been true for the last -- tell everyone it's been 20 years.
SMERCONISH: Hey, I love that conversation. And there is more to it. And we're going to put it up at CNN.com/smerconish.
Thank you, Naomi Wolf, for stopping by earlier.
So you remember the headline that we started with? The title of the Lewinsky essay, "Shame and Survival"? Here's a different take. They moved on. Why can't I?
Court mandated prayer at government meetings. If you don't like it, you can leave the room. What my next guest has to say about that and why he says you shouldn't call anyone on the Supreme Court a judge.
And do you know this guy? You should. His victory just changed the way the Republicans plan to attack the midterm elections.
SMERCONISH: Our next headline raised a lot of eyebrows when it happened. This one from the "Washington Post." "Supreme Court Upholds Legislative Prayer at Council Meetings."
There's so much more behind the headline, though. First, the story. The Supreme Court ruled in a case involving the city council of Greece, New York. The council starts their meetings with the prayer. That practice was challenged. The court sided with the city council saying basically that prayer is protected.
Justice Anthony Kennedy said in essence if you don't want to hear the prayer, you can leave the room. But they were split when it came to the issue of prayer content, the dissenters, four of the nine justices said those prayers should be more inclusive and non-denominational. Georgia State University law professor Eric Segall is fired up about the decision. He is also the author of a book "Supreme Court Myths: Why the Supreme Court is Not a Court and Its Justices are Not Judges." And he joins me now.
Literally did take place at these meetings?
ERIC SEGALL, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY: Good morning, Michael. Thanks for having me on. Starting -- prior to 1999, the Greece town council had a moment of silence before every single session and I think that is a wonderful way to begin a government session. Beginning in 1999, they began having Christian prayers. And for eight years, they had exclusively Christian prayers. Two-thirds of which referred to Jesus or some explicitly Christian symbol.
And this is very serious for people who have to go to the town council and ask for zoning permit or a variance or debate some other local issue. And it's a pretty small place so if -- and they were asked to bow their heads to Jesus. So if you don't want to do that, it's a fairly coercive thing. The lower court struck it down and said it was unconstitutional because of the lack of inclusiveness of having eight years of only Christian prayers.
SMERCONISH: I get what you're saying. So I'm Muslim, I'm Jewish, I'm Buddhist, I'm agnostic and I'm there because I need a variance to build in addition to my house and holy smokes, now everybody is vowing their head. What am I to do? But does it run afoul with the Constitution? I have my pocket copy with me.
SMERCONISH: And of course it reads in the First Amendment, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Does this run afoul with the Constitution?
SEGALL: It does. And there are two provisions in the First Amendment. The Free Exercise clause says government can't punish you for your religion. They can't tax you unequally. They can't put you in prison for your beliefs.
The Establishment Clause is to stop the government from rewarding religion too much. And even the most conservative justices, at least prior to this case, took the position that the government is not allowed to favor one religion over another.
But in this case, that's exactly what happened. And what Justice Kennedy did on behalf of the other four conservatives was read the Establishment Clause out of the Constitution for purposes of legislative prayer.
And, Michael, this is such a tough -- it's a tough and easy issue all at the same time. If we were talking about abortion, affirmative action, guns or campaign finance reform, I would say this is complicated. This is hard stuff and there's no easy solution. In this case, there is an easy solution. And it's worked in public schools. Have a moment of silence.
SMERCONISH: OK. Let me play devil's advocate and ask you this. What of the argument that says this is a Christian community and therefore it reflected the views of the community that it was serving?
SEGALL: It is not a Christian community under the United States Constitution. Under the --
SMERCONISH: In other words, there is no such thing as a Christian community under the Constitution.
SEGALL: And all eight -- eight of the nine justices believe that. We're not sure about Justice Thomas who said some outrageous things in his concurring opinion which nobody else joined on that point. But the point is in the eyes of the Constitution, there is no Christian state, there is no Christian country. We are the United States of America where Christians and Jews and Muslims and agnostics and atheists all have the right to go to their town council and be treated equally.
SMERCONISH: Professor, one other aspect to this because the American people are accustomed to 5-4 decisions. Liberals on one side, conservatives on the other. The question is, which way is Kennedy going to swing? There's a different way of looking at this outcome which is to say they broke along religious lines. Explain.
SEGALL: So a lot of people and new poll just came out showing Americans think that the Supreme Court is more political than legal. And my answer to that is, it's not more political, but it is all about values. It's not about law. So five white Catholic men who practice their religion aren't used to being in a room where they are in the minority. Three Jewish justices and Justice Sotomayor who, my understanding is a non-practicing Catholic, they know what it feels like to be an outsider.
That's what decides Supreme Court cases. Experience, values, personalities, not the law. And that's exactly what happened in this case.
SMERCONISH: They broke -- to say it differently. They broke along religious lines, perhaps in addition to ideological lines.
Eric Segall, thanks so much being here.
SEGALL: Thank you, Mike.
SMERCONISH: So that headline again from the "Washington Post," "Supreme Court Upholds Religious Prayer at Council Meetings."
What I would have written, Supreme Court relegates atheists to non- constitutional status.
In order to battle their way to the White House does the GOP first need to do battle with itself. And just who needs to come out on top?
And if I told you there are facts to support a rapidly worsening climate change, would you laugh or would you agree? Wait until you see who was laughing out loud.
SMERCONISH: Our next headline comes from the "Charlotte Observer" check this out. "Tillis Wins North Carolina Senate GOP Primary, Faces Hagan." This of course is the recap of Tuesday's vote in North Carolina. Tillis is Tom Tillis, the state House speaker who easily won the GOP primary. Hagan is of course Senator Kay Hagan targeted as one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the U.S. Senate.
But the Republican primary was not a race to see who could win this week. It's about who's best suited to beat Hagan in November. And that question led to an interesting battle of endorsements. Tillis had the Republican establishment on his side. Names like Romney and Bush, while his Tea Party opponent had Rand Paul as his celebrity guest.
In the end, the establishment won. But as Lynn Cheney told our Gloria Borger, there's room under that big tent for the GOP Tea Party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNNE CHENEY, WIFE OF FORMER VICE PRESIDENT RICHARD CHENEY: You can't say just because someone is really conservative, they shouldn't be part of this party. We have to be ideologically inclusive as well in all other source of ways.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Kirsten Kukowski is the national press secretary for the Republican National Committee.
Kristen, thanks so much for being here. This is a victory, right, for the national party because if I were to rattle off the names O'Donnell, Akin, Murdock, Miller, they're all individuals who won the battle but lost the war. They're able to capture a nomination but not become U.S. senators and arguably the Republican Party doesn't control the Senate because of those past contests.
KRISTEN KUKOWSKI, RNC NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY: You know what, I think we're looking forward to what now is in store for Kay Hagan. And just last week she -- the "Washington Post" said that she had the worst week in Washington, and she did. We're just excited. And, you know, we don't get involved in primaries at the Republican National Committee. It's very important to us that the grassroots voters, you know, get to make those decisions on their own.
We've been holding, you know, Kay Hagan accountable this whole time, working on the ground, contacting voters and talking about what it is to be a Republican. And we've been having a lot of -- a lot of good conversations with people on the ground there. And we're just excited, now we can take the gloves off, and Tom Tillis can take it right to Kay Hagan, and she's vulnerable, and she's one of those Democrats that's going to likely fall, and that means it's going to come to the Republicans. And we're very excited about it. SMERCONISH: I referenced -- I referenced Senator Paul at the outset. Here's today's front-page story. Rand Paul diverges from his party on voter I.D. Senator Paul says everybody's gone completely crazy on this voter I.D. thing. Does he have a point?
KUKOWSKI: You know what, he made those remarks here in Memphis where we came together this week and heard from Marco Rubio, we heard from Rand Paul, we have a lot of good candidates that are looking at that White House run in 2016. We're going to let them have these discussions. It's very important that we do. And it's really good for our party that we're having these discussions right now.
So, you know what, I'm going to let Rand Paul speak for Rand Paul and what he means on that. But I'm just excited as a person who, you know, is dealing with Republican politics all day long. It's really an exciting time for us and we look forward to November. But also the opportunities we have in 2016 with our candidates.
SMERCONISH: Do you agree with his characterization that the party's position thus far has offended people? I mean, truly, you have to acknowledge this. The party is incapable of going after minority voters if they continue to persist with these voter I.D. maneuvers.
KUKOWSKI: We have been very clear at the Republican National Committee. Our chairman has been very clear for the last year that we need to really think about how we are talking about these issues and the tone with what -- with how we're talking about them, and be careful about how we're talking about it.
It's very important that we make sure that when somebody goes to the polls that their vote is counted, and it's one vote for one person. But we need to be able to articulate that to people without offending them. So I do agree that we have to have that conversation internally and, you know, be -- you know, choosey with our words.
SMERCONISH: Kirsten, real quick, final answer, if I can. You're cutting the number of debates. Wasn't the problem in the debate season not the number of debates but the crowd reaction? Quick response, if you can.
KUKOWSKI: You know, I don't know about that. I think that it's really important that the Republican Party and our grassroots take back ownership of our primary debates. That is ultimately who is making the decision of who our nominee is going to be. And I think that what we did with the debates this last week here in Memphis is really good for our party, and we're looking forward to what lies -- what lies ahead for us.
SMERCONISH: Thanks so much for being here. Kirsten, Kukowski, we appreciate your time.
KUKOWSKI: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Let's take a look at that original headline again. Tillis wins North Carolina Senate GOP primary, faces Hagan. This may be a better one. GOP realizes the role of a political party is to win.
You believed in the Tooth Fairy until you learned the facts, but as it turns out, facts don't seem to faze many of those in one of the prominent parties. We'll get to that.
SMERCONISH: Hey, one last thing. Here's my final headline. Report, climate change is here and getting worse. The National Climate Assessment was released on Tuesday and presented analysis suggesting that the perils of carbon emissions are not in the distant future, but far more immediate than initially feared, and no corner of the country is being spared.
Said the report, "Summers are longer and hotter, and extended periods of unusual heat last longer than any living American has ever experienced. Winters are generally shorter and warmer. Rain comes in heavier downpours."
Now one day after the release, former Utah governor, Republican, Jon Huntsman, published an op-ed in the "New York Times" imploring his party to no longer ignore the realities of climate change. Huntsman noted something curious. That while evidence of climate change mounts, Republican disbelief is rising. He pointed out that according to a Pew Research poll, whereas in 2006 59 percent of Republicans said there was solid evidence of rising temperatures on earth, that number has now decreased to 50 percent.
Huntsman also recounted how when the issue was raised at a North Carolina congressional debate last month, well, here's the brief clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is climate change a fact, Mr. Harris?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miss Grant?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Brandon?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Tillis?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Huntsman noted that all the Republican candidates chuckled about a question about climate change as if they'd been asked about their belief in the Tooth Fairy. What drives that disbelief?
Well, first consider this. Last spring, Pew Research noted something else. That while only 40 percent of Americans said that global climate change was a major threat to their country, more than 50 percent of Canadians, Australians, French, and Germans gave that answer. More than 60 percent of Italians and Spaniards. And more than 70 percent of Japanese.
What accounts for the difference in concern? As I tweeted this week, fewer Americans worry about climate change than Canadians, Aussies, French, or Germans? Hey, do they have talk radio there?
In other words, this all-important matter of global survival has been relegated to the trash heap of our partisan divide fuelled not by scientific debate but by bluster generated by men with microphones.
How do we change things? Here's a terrific suggestion that came from a letter to the editor of "The New York Times." Reacting to Governor Huntsman's anecdote about the North Carolina debate where the candidates chuckled about climate change, Mr. Douglas Shepherd wrote that a better question need be asked of candidates. Namely, on what climate studies or data is your belief based?
What a great idea. But I'd go a step better. Let's apply that same standard to those in the media who weigh in. So you remember that headline, report, climate change is here and getting worse, here's what I would have written. Show me the science on the Tooth Fairy.
That's it for me. Thanks so much for watching. I'll see you back here next Saturday. Have a great weekend and a Happy Mother's Day.