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Iraq wants America back to fight insurgents with Air Strikes; Hillary Clinton Slams Maliki,'Dysfunctional" Iraq Government; Bergdahl: "Fragile Young Man"

Aired June 14, 2014 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: You break it, you own it. Those are the words from U.S. secretary of State Colin Powell regarding Iraq in a Bob Woodward book 10 years ago. Well, Iraq is clearly broken today. Among the questions in 2014 is whether we own it.

Good morning. I'm Michael Smerconish. Let's get started.

Our first headline comes from "The Daily Beast." "Iraq wants America back to fight insurgents with Air Strikes." The crisis engulfing Iraq went from simmer to boil with lightning speed. Hard core militants swept across from Syria a week ago today. Iraqi troops they turn tail leaving Iraq's Sunni heartland pretty much for the taking and setting the stage for a possible war for Baghdad.

President Obama says that he won't send troops. He always says America can't solve Iraq's problems. Even so Pentagon planners are drawing up targets for possible U.S. air strikes. It turns out with Iraq, we only thought we were done. Congressman Peter King is a member of the House Homeland Security committee also the select committee on intelligence. And Phil Mudd was second in charge of the counterterrorism analysis in the CIA's counterintelligence center during the Bush administration.

Congressman King, let me start with you. Do you agree with President Obama relative to the decision not to send U.S. ground troops?

REP. PETER KING: As a fact of the matter, I don't see us putting ground troops. I do think if possible air strikes should be taken. Again, I'm concerned as to why this was not known before. From the time the president withdrew the troops back in 2011 and certainly over the last year and several months we have known how powerful Isis has become and it should not be a shock to anyone.

I would have thought we would have done intelligence or at least to know which sites could be hit, what could be done. I would think that again there should be air strikes that should be done. It should be done if nothing else, to stop this assault and to give the Iraqi army the chance to consolidate and at least defend Baghdad. And also if it is possible, that Isis is moving too quickly and they could outrun their supply lines. So they can be stopped. This could turnaround but this is going to be very difficult. SMERCONISH: It sounds like you are on board with the president's decision relative to no ground troops. So let me ask a follow-up in that regard. Should he have publicly announced that that was the plan? Are you worried that may have emboldened Isis knowing American ground troops are not coming?

KING: To me, you should never tell the enemy what you will do and not do. I don't want to make it sound like I'm fully agreeing with the president here, because I would have thought that with a crisis like this, that he should not call the conference to announce that's he's going to look at it. This is something we should have been ready for even though they moved at lightning speed this week.

We have known since Fallujah fell that something like this could very well happen. We knew how powerful Isis is, how battle harden they are especially with the situation in Syria. So I can be critical of the president, but I'm not anxious to do it today because of a time of crisis. There is a lot to be critical over the last several months.

SMERCONISH: Let me show you congressman, if I might, an exchange yesterday with Senator McCain and our own Wolf Blitzer. And see if you agree with what Senator McCain had to say. Roll that tape.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Name names. You said the president should fire his national security team. Who specifically should the president fire?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, number one. The national security advisor, number two. He should spend time with their family on Sundays. I would certainly have all of her deputies, national security advisors gone as well. (INAUDIBLE) Hagel were not there when some of these crucial decisions were taken. I don't have a lot of confidence in their performance either.


SMERCONISH: Congressman King, do you agree with that assessment from Senator McCain?

KING: Well, I certainly agree with Senator McCain's overall criticism. I'm not sure who was doing what behind closed doors. To me though, the president's team did fail him. I do know the intelligence community were aware of what was happening in Iraq. Maybe not to this extent but certainly the potential for this to happen. It is inexcusable to me how we have been caught short on this. I don't want to name the names. John McCain - he has a good estimate on that than I do. There is no doubt the president's team has failed him.

SMERCONISH: Well, I have to ask a follow-up in that regard. Because I know you are the chairman of the sub-committee on counterterrorism and intelligence. Where was that committee in this regard? Because I'm unaware of anyone within the last couple of weeks from that committee or any other committee saying "Hey, we got a real threat here from Isis taking control of Iraq."

KING: Well, I'm on the intelligence committee. We get briefings. You don't go public with them. It is no secret what was happening here. I mean many of us have been saying for several years, ever since the president failed to get the status of forces agreement and we saw what was happening in Syria where the president was not providing assistance he said he was going to. So Isis has become more powerful in Syria. This is the type of thing that a number of us have been talking about over the last several years.

As far as the last several weeks, actually the last several months. Once Fallujah fell and briefings were being given on the impact of Isis. Again there is only so much you can say publicly. It is no secret. I mean, you had a number of people saying that action should be taken to stop Isis.

SMERCONISH: Phil Mudd, get in on this please to the extent the American intelligence community was caught flat footed. Because the records seem to suggest that within the community there was an awareness of the threat of Isis, but only now is it publicly revealed because of the success that they've had.

PHIL MUDD, FMR. CIA COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Well, I mean, I don't see what the issue is here in terms of the intelligence committee's performance. The question here is what the United States government does in response. When I look at the criticisms of what the U.S. government has done, and I'm not coming from the Democrat side or the Republican side - here is the question I have.

Two words. Mission creep. We went in for WMD, it wasn't there. We try to build a democracy, it failed. And now we want to intervene because of this semi-dictator, Nuri Al Maliki, who represents only Shi'a is engaged in a civil war against Sunnis whom he doesn't represent. When do we get out of the game? We have a modest interest there. I don't think Isis is a threat to Baghdad. When are we going to get out of this game?

SMERCONISH: Congressman King, to Phil Mudd's point, is there a vital U.S. interest in what's going on. I hear from radio listeners day in and day out who say we should stay the hell out of this.

KING: There's no doubt a lot of aggressive feelings (INAUDIBLE). But I do disagree with Phil Mudd. I believe there is an interest. We don't want groups such as Isis to have that large a foot hold in the Middle East. The combination of what's happening in Syria, the combination of what's happening in Iraq that would put countries such as Jordan, obviously Israel and the entire Middle East in a very, very dangerous situation.

I think that we do have a role to play. I think that if the U.S. had been there, maybe in Bosnia having a role where we could have kept Maliki, pressured Maliki to be more open. I agree I think Maliki is terrible. I think Maliki should go. I have no great desire for the U.S. to ever be in Iraq. But the fact is that if Isis is able to take over large parts of Iraq, combining that with the gains that they have made in Syria and also you combine that with what's going on in Syria, you are really going toward that Islamic fate.

And I believe, not just in the long run but the short run, it is going to be damaging to U.S. interests. As far us running Iraq, for us turning into a democracy, keeping democracy - I'm not even talking about that at all. I'm just saying, to me, very strategic importance of not allowing Isis to gain that strong a foot hold.

SMERCONISH: Phil Mudd, has Joe Biden been vindicated? It was Joe Biden who a decade ago spoke about a three-state solution, of divvying up Iraq according to ethnic lines. Did he have the right answer?

MUDD: I think broadly when you look at fundamental change across the Middle East in societies that have autocratic leaders, places like Egypt, places like Iraq, places like Ian and that have ethnic or religious difference, I'd add Syria in there, I'd add Lebanon in there.

We as Americans think democracy is inherently good. When you introduce democracy into a place that is used to a strong man, the winners, Shi'a, for example in Iraq, say we won. We don't represent the minority. The minority says we lost. And we don't have a stake in this, so let's turn to terrorism. We think that democracy is a solution and what we're realizing is in Egypt, in Libya, in Lebanon, in Iraq, sometimes it's not.

SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, thank you. Congressman Peter King, we'll see you soon again. Phillip Mudd, thank you, as always.

You remember that old headline, "Iraq Wants America to Fight Insurgents with Air Strikes." What I would have written, "They Broke It. They Own It."

Are the violence and explosions in Iraq strong enough to rattle the curtain at voting booths here in the states? We'll look at how candidates and incumbents need to tackle the issue that may yet again define an election.

Also, we can't ignore the elephant in the room. The Republican Party is scrambling to figure out its own message following a crushing blow to its ranks.


SMERCONISH: Here is a headline ripped from "Politico." "Hillary Clinton Slams Maliki, 'Dysfunctional" Iraq Government." Here we are in the midst of mid-term elections thinking they'd be all about the economy and Obamacare.

And now it is foreign policy that is front and center. With me now from Washington, democratic strategist, Donna Brazil. She is a CNN contributor and from San Francisco, Michelle Bernard, founder and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women.

Michelle, I'll start with you. Are we now in the midst of an election that is going to be dictated by foreign policy events, not domestic events? MICHELLE BERNARD, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN CEO: Absolutely. Definitely for the mid terms and I think going into 2016, foreign policy is going to be the number one issue again. What I find absolutely fascinating about this is that this is the issue that haunted Hillary Clinton in 2008. And if she runs for president, and it looks she is it could be the issue that is going to define her candidacy in 2016.

SMERCONISH: Donna Brazile, I think conventional wisdom is that the stage is set for a strong year for Republicans vis a vis these congressional, senatorial elections. Does this change that dynamic?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, I don't think foreign policy will necessarily dominate the debate this fall. As you know, there are so many unknowns as you come into the 2014 campaign. The economy is still an issue that most Americans care about. The shooting violence that has taken place across our country and impacting our kids and immigration reform. Jobs, jobs, jobs.

So this may be one of many issues. But right now, it is center stage because of the sectarian strife that we are seeing in Iraq. And so I think we still have to wait a few months to see what issue might ultimately dominate the discussion as we go into the final days of the election day.

SMERCONISH: I'm not sure which way this cuts, Michelle Bernard, in terms of helping ours or helping these, if it now moves to a conversation about Iraq. Nora, would you put up the screen the Frank Rich quote. Frank Rich said this in "New York Magazine."

"What tends to be swept under history's rug is the leading role that the liberal establishment played in this calamity. A majority of Senate Democrats voted to authorize the war, including the presidential aspirants Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Kerry, John Edwards. Most of the liberal pundits and public intellectuals might have challenged the rationale for the invasion, enlisted in the stampede instead giving politicians cover." How does it cut politically, Michelle Bernard, if this becomes a dominant part of the election?

BERNARD: You know, I think that it's going to cut quite frankly for Republicans at least if we go back in time and we look at how people have voted and quite frankly, not just Democrats, but Republicans as well. In times where people feel any sort of national security threat and right now, let's face it, we are dealing with Iraq, we are dealing with Iran, we are dealing with Afghanistan.

Syria is basically running all of our policy in the Middle East. Democrats, you know, we have seen Hillary Clinton come out and she in the same camp as President Obama with regard to what we should do in Iraq, which is basically the administration and presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton saying let's back off.

That is what the base of the Democratic Party wants. They do not want us involved in Iraq. They are happy that we are out. Many Democrats feel at least the democratic political base feel like this is their problem. They need to deal with it. If the country feels threatened, in any way, I believe that on issues of national security, it always errs to the benefit of the republican party.

BRAZILE: You know, Michelle -

SMERCONISH: Donna, respond to that.

BRAZILE: Michelle, first of all, President Maliki must get his act together. I have to say this.

BERNARD: I agree with you on that, Donna.

BRAZILE: There's nothing we can do, I mean, short of going in and getting on the side of Maliki who has shown no willingness to form an inclusive government. He has alienated the Sunni population. He has basically destroyed whatever unity and peace that could be had by simply not working to even foster a government that is of the people by the people.

So in many ways, he has created this mess and yes, there is no question that this terrorist organization that has taken advantage of the chaos and now you have a leading cleric saying they should take up arms against these terrorists. So this is something that President Maliki must figure out and before we get involved, we need to understand what is the long-term goal right now.

I don't think we don't need to use our resources, U.S. resources behind this government in Iraq until we understand exactly if he is going to bring all of the people to the table and not just his "thuggish friends."

SMERCONISH: Donna Brazile, Michelle Bernard, hang on, just stick with me. Because I want to continue to talk politics and of course, you both know, another very big political story this week closer to home.

First, let's get back to that original headline. You remember the headline which said "Hillary Clinton Slams Maliki Dysfunctional Iraq Government." What I would have written "Accountability in 2014 and 2016 for Iraq Votes Taken in 2002."

As discussed among those who voted to go into Iraq, Hillary Clinton, she made news of her own this week and not everyone thought it was great.

And Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is waking up this morning on American soil but there is something peculiar about that happened to him before he left that I'd like answers to.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So that's one for you changed your mind. Is that it?

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I have to say, I think you are very persistent, but you are playing with my words and playing with what is such an important issue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm just trying to clarify so I can understand.

CLINTON: No, I don't think you are trying to clarify. I think you are trying to say I used to be opposed and now I'm in favor and I did it for political reasons and that is just flat wrong.


SMERCONISH: Some would call that Hillary Clinton being testy. Others, myself included would say she was actually spot on. Let's bring back the brains, democratic strategist and CNN contributor Donna Brazile and Michelle Bernard, the founder and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women.

Michelle, I listened to the full eight minutes. At the very end of the eight minutes, you get that exchange. Frankly, I like and I'm not partisan for Secretary Clinton. I like the way that she handled it. She said look, I'm going to restate what you were saying about my position and then I'm going to repudiate it. Is this a mountain being made out of a mole hill? Or do you see it differently than I?

BERNARD: You know what? Actually, I listened to it also. I liked the way Hillary Clinton responded. She was clear. She was concise. The problem for the secretary is that for people who do not like Hillary Clinton and who are unaccustomed to hearing a woman at this level of national politics being direct and frank and concise and saying you got it wrong, I'm not going to allow you to define my position on a certain issue. The "haters" out there are going to say, I told you, "Hillary Clinton is shrill. She is difficult. We are not ready for a woman president." That is the (INAUDIBLE) she's going to have to deal with.

SMERCONISH: Donna Brazile, the other headline released this week was the interview with Diane Sawyer where she talked about being broke when they left the White House. I think that's a far more less sympathetic, far less sympathetic thing for her to (INAUDIBLE), react to the criticism on that point.

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I don't think anyone should ever apologize for trying to earn a living and make money. Here is one thing I know about Hillary Clinton. That is she gives back. She believes in that old scripture, to whom much is given, much is required.

So you know, regardless of what people might think about how much debt they may have been in after they left the White House, the fact that for eight years they were under attack and they had legal bills. And yes, they wanted to restructure their lives and earn a living. There's nothing wrong with that.

As to the Terry Gross interview, I thought she was compelling and concise, consistent with her strong support for human rights and the dignity of all people. You know, I don't know if she is going to run or not, but I tell you one thing, she is going to be formidable. Because she has a true passion for the future. SMERCONISH: Let me show you another headline from this week. "USA Today," "GOP Leader Eric Cantor Loses in Shock Tea Party Upset." Michelle Bernard, I think the Tea Party has been winning all along. They've been pushing all the Republican candidates to the right. So it's not just that they were victorious this week, they've been victorious in the last couple of cycles. Your response.

BERNARD: Absolutely. One thing - I agree with you. One thing I would point out is I spoke with somebody very close to the Cantor campaign earlier this week. The one statement that they made and I think is important for people to understand is that the national tea party groups had absolutely nothing to do with Eric cantor's loss, at least if you look at where they put their money.

They did not support the person who ran against him and he won. But that being said, if you want to look at the Tea Party being successful in terms of destroying the Republican Party and pushing candidates to the right and marginalizing the party, in a sense, in a way that we will never - I don't believe we are going to see the Republican Party win at the presidential level ever again or at least, not in the foreseeable future with the Tea Party pushing candidates as far right as possible, then yes, the Tea Party is absolutely winning. They have destroyed the center of the country. And that is where most Americans are.

SMERCONISH: Donna Brazile, is it possible that the pundit class is making far too much of what went on in the Cantor race and that the bottom line is he just wasn't that likable and frankly, had not had an opponent up until now.

BRAZILE: Well, yes, he might have been rusty, you know, because a lot of these incumbents they haven't had real competition. But you know what there is an old saying "All politics is local." On the morning of the election, he was in Washington, D.C. holding a fundraiser. He forgot that his constituents reside 100 miles from here and not, you know, one block away from the United States Capital.

I think his staff took their eye out of the ball and as a result, Mr. Cantor took his eye off the ball. He can't blame it on the Tea Party or the little bit of Democrats that might have participated. He needs to look at himself and say "I lost because I forgot I represent the people of the seventh congressional district of Virginia." That is it. Good-bye and thank you, Mr. Cantor, for your service.

SMERCONISH: Thank you so much, the A-team, Donna Brazile, Michelle Bernard. I appreciate you being here.

And you remember that old headline - the headline that said "GOP Leader Eric Cantor Loses in Shock Tea Party Upset." What I would have written, "Passion Wins Primaries."

Hey, speaking of Cantor, catch Dana Bash's interview with outgoing majority leader Eric Cantor tomorrow morning on "State of the Union" starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

For the first time following his years in captivity, Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is waking up on American soil this morning. But is there something in his past that proves he never should have left America in the first place.


SMERCONISH: America's only captive from the Afghan war is back on American soil. And if Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is remotely aware of the firestorm surrounding the trade for his freedom, then his so-called reintegration is going to be that much difficult.

"Writings reveal a fragile young man", that's the headline taken from "The Washington Post," which reported this week that Bergdahl was drummed out of the Coast Guard, in 2006, for psychological reasons.

Then in 2008, Bergdahl enlisted in the U.S. Army. If the Army checked his record, it took him anyway.

Back again with me is, Congressman Peter King, Republican of New York, and from Washington, Kimberly Dozier, contributing writer for "The Daily Beast". She scooped the rest of the media with her reporting this week on letters Bergdahl wrote to his parents from captivity.

Kim, what I -- what jumped off the page at me as I read those letters that you discussed. There was a line -- there are most sides to this situation. Situation spelled I noted with a "C." What's the cliffs notes version of the letters and what you took away from them?

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CONTRIBUTOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, there were two letters. One written in 2012, which is much more general talking about his health and welfare, and then going off into sort of a long rant about God, faith, the universe. The kind of things you might write in captivity if you are seeking any reason to keep writing instead of being put back in your cell.

The second one, however, it's as if he is worried he might never make it out of there and he wanted to explain to his parents that he was aware that there was probably an investigation into why he left the base. And he wanted to tell them he thought the conditions were unsafe, that his leadership wasn't looking out for the troops on the ground, Afghan or American. He doesn't say and I walked off, but he urges those in D.C. to wait until they have all of the evidence.

SMERCONISH: Congressman King, I know --

DOZIER: Go on.

SMERCONISH: I know there are a lot of the focus thus far has been on his point of departure for him. The more that I read and the more that I learn, and you're the one who's received the briefings, but I'm questioning why was he in the army to begin with?

There are reports he walked off in training, that he walked off in Afghanistan prior to his ultimate departure. Now, we learned that he was drummed out of the Coast Guard after a couple of weeks.

Are you, too, raising questions of why he was still in the military? REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: There has to be a full examination of

the personnel file of why this happened. People in the army, throughout history, had people with troubled past. We got people with criminal records going into the Army, or the Army straightens people out.

So, I think we have to see the extent to which the Army looked at his Coast Guard record, what the reasons were for that discharge. We know it had a psychological component to it. But again, it could have been something he went through in his youth and he overcame it. We just don't know what the Army was looking at when they made that decision.

As far as writings in captivity, I think all of us should withhold judgment on that. I mean, the fact is he did walk away from his post. Yes, that was wrong. I think there has to be an investigation of that and proper action taken.

Other than that, I don't believe we should be piling on. Let's wait and see all the facts to that. I really wouldn't hold against someone what they wrote in captivity on the face of it -- unless there's more to it. But, again, you know, if you were confined the way he was, apparently, what was happening, I think we should stand back on that. Having said, I do believe the fact that he abandoned his post, whatever the reason was, that does definitely cloud what happened.

SMERCONISH: But there's been so much focus on him perhaps having put men who served with him in harm's way by leaving his position and they then had to go out in search of him. I'm backing up the clock, and I'm saying, if he got washed out of the Coast Guard and he'd walked off his post in basic training in the Mojave Desert in southern California, then, you know, what did the Army know and when did they know it? And maybe the Army should have taken this guy out of circulation.

Do you know anything on that issue, Congressman?

KING: Michael, let me just say, there have been many soldiers who have gone AWOL. And they go AWOL in basic training, they go AWOL on AIT. That is not that uncommon and I understand that happens every day. But that wouldn't disqualify somebody from going into combat. It is not unusual for soldiers to go AWOL.

You're talking about a day or two on pass and not coming back after a weekend, maybe having a bad night.

That's different from abandoning your post in time of war. It's really two different situations. I think we do rely on commanders, both at the platoon level and company level also, to keep an eye on that. The fact is not everyone in the Army is a saint. Not everyone in any profession is a saint, and there have been people who over the years have gone AWOL and have done outstanding record in combat.


SMERCONISH: Kim Dozier, the reports this morning are that he still has not spoken with his parents. Are there any insights in the letters you reported on as to why that might be the case? Can you read those tea leaves for us?

DOZIER: Well, think about it this way -- when he was held in captivity the last two years he is telling his debriefers, he was held in a cage or basements in the dark, sometimes hooded much of the time. He is coming off of an incredibly psychologically traumatic experience, and reintegrating slowly. Maybe seeing mom and dad is something that is going to reopen all that time when he was in prison just thinking about maybe I'll be free again. Maybe I'll never get out again.

Psychologists briefed reporters and told us that they go over with a captive afterwards, what were you thinking about when you were in captivity? Were you playing out how a meeting with your family might go? Let's practice. Let's war-games some of the things that are going to come up and how you will tell your story.

That also leads to the wider question of how he's going to tell his story to the wider public. The Army officials have not told him yet about the controversy surrounding his release or captivity. And that is eventually when he learns of it. It's going to make his recovery.

SMERCONISH: Congressman King, final question, based on your positions, your committee assignments, did we get out negotiated in the five for one swap?

KING: Yes, I believe we did. We should not have given up those five very dangerous, extremely talented, unfortunately, terrorists. It puts American lives at risk. It puts our allies in Afghanistan at risk.

Go back to the point you made before. You find some of our greatest military leaders had very bad disciplinary records at Annapolis and West Point, but doesn't make you a bad soldier. The fact that you abandon time of war, that's entirely different story.

SMERCONISH: Kimberly Dozier, Congressman Peter King, thank you both so much.

You remember that old headline, writings reveal a fragile young man. What I would have written -- what did the Army know and when did they know it. Does lack of access to a quality education violate the Constitution? A California judge says yes.

And actor Tracy Morgan still recovering in the hospital after his car wreck. In the public debate surrounding the crash, are truckers being thrown under the bus?


SMERCONISH: Time now for headlines redefined. Remember, these are the headlines that got the story half right.

The first one comes from the "Sacramento Bee." California teacher tenure, firing laws ruled unconstitutional. This is a big setback for teacher unions in California and maybe across the country. It's the first time that the court said the quality of the education is as important as the access or funding of that education. The issue here was whether tenure laws in California cause exposure to bad teachers in particular by low income and minority students, teachers who then can't be fired because of tenure laws.

And the court said, yes, in fact, that is absolutely the case. Listen to this evidence that was presented into trial. Evidence showed that in a singular year, in a classroom with a bad teacher, it costs students $1.4 million over the course of the lifetime earnings of those in the classroom. That's the statistic that caused the judge to say this really, quote/unquote, "shocks the conscious."

Bottom line, look for this case to now be replicated all across the country. You remember the headline. The headline that said California teacher tenure firing laws unconstitutional. What I would have written -- equal protection from bad teachers.

Our next headlines comes from NBC News. Cops say trucker in Tracy Morgan crash was awake for over 24 hours. The tragedy surrounding that accident on the New Jersey turnpike has really spurred a conversation about the rules on the road.

I can tell you -- this was a big talker on my radio program throughout the course of the week. I heard from truckers who say they are getting thrown under the bus in this case and they say, people don't understand. There are tons of regulations that already surround our work, and, frankly, they are too rigid. I'll give you one example, federal regulations limit truckers to 11 hours of driving during a 14- hour day and no more than 70 hours in a course of a week. They say that sounds good in the abstract, but we used to be governed by driving time and not this rigid 14-hour window.

And stuff happens once that 14-hour clock begins -- bad weather, traffic, taking a long time to unload from truck. All that gets in the way. And then we've got to hustle to make up for the lost time.

I think I've got a solution. The trucker suggested it to me. You remember the headline. The headline that said, cops say truck driver in the Tracy Morgan crash was awake for more than 24 hours. What I would have written, that 14-hour clock needs a pause button.

From top model to top chef, who would have believed it could be traced to a Ford Bronco on the run in the real world?

And the politics of combating domestic terrorism.



LARRY KING, CNN HOST: I'm going to have to interrupt this call. We will go to a live picture in Los Angeles.

This is Interstate 5 and this is courtesy of KCAL, one of our affiliates. Police believe that O.J. Simpson is in that car. Now, police radio is saying that Simpson has a gun at its head. "Reuters" is reporting that the police tracked O.J. Simpson through his cellular phone.

Look at all those cars on that bridge looking down. This is living drama. There is nothing else you can say, but we're going to stay with it.


SMERCONISH: You bet we stayed with it. But more telling is how the story has stayed with us. This headline pretty much says it all from "Vanity Fair". It all began with O.J. And it's true, June 17th, 1994, was just the birth of O.J. nation. Later, came the trial aired wall-to-wall in its byzantine glory by a younger CNN, and then the not guilty verdict reaction which hammered home our intractable racial divide.

Monumental as it all seem then, it was all just a prelude to O.J. Simpson implausibly far-flung with his legacy. As Kent Babb of "The Washington Post" wrote this week about the legendary Bronco chase, no one then could have imagined the two decades into the future, televising the trivialities of daily life would captivate the public.

Put more plainly, no Bronco chase, no "Duck Dynasty", and probably no Kardashians.

Diane Dimond of "The Daily Beast" had a front row seat to the O.J. Simpson drama. She covered the Simpson case beginning to end as a reporter for the syndicated television program, "Hard Copy." That's where I first started watching you.

So, 20 years ago, last Thursday, the day of the murder, I don't know where I was. I know where I was 20 years ago this coming Tuesday, the white Ford Bronco. What was your first brush with this case? What do you first remember?

DIANE DIMOND, THE DAILY BEAST: I remember getting a call on a Sunday morning from my desk at "Hard Copy", and them saying there's been a murder. Nicole Brown Simpson, I said who? O.J.'s wife. And I went immediately to the location, that's my first memory of this.

SMERCONISH: You got to the location and is it true that candles were still burning?

DIMOND: Well, I'll tell you, when I pulled up with my cameraman, Chad Molanicks (ph) was his name. The coroner's wagon was there. And they were just putting a body in the bag and they drove away.

SMERCONISH: You don't know who?

DIMOND: Don't know which body.

But they drove away and we looked at each other. And there was police tape up everywhere and we went to the front of the house. And the blood was still on the sidewalk. And you could see the mark from the leash where the dog had wandered through all the way down to the corner. Went in, opened up the outside gate and you could see right into her

condo. And the candles were still burning on the fireplace next to her picture with O.J.

SMERCONISH: Lily Anolik's piece in "Vanity Fair". So, I'm reading it and I'm reading names like Kato Kaelin, and Lance Ito, and Faye Resnick, and Robert Kardashian, and Marsha Clark. And like you, I'm kind of smiling. And it's bringing back -- it's horrible of me to say, memories of being a newlywed, coming home from practicing law and watching you, watching TV, in the same way that, you know, I remember getting hooked on a soap opera in college.

I mean, there's something kind of twisted about this that people died, two people were murdered, and this is how I remember it, or at least how I remember it fondly, and paying attention.

DIMOND: Right. And it really did change the way the media operates and the way people watch the media, I think. Because remember 1994, there was "Hard Copy", there was current affair, Geraldo had a show on five days a week dedicated to the trial.

And our ratings were crazy news. So, the networks noticed, ABC, NBC, CBS, and they said, we have to get a reporter in there. So then everybody started watching it and we actually took people inside the courtroom to watch the trial, which was sort of unheard of at that point, and Court TV was born from that.

SMERCONISH: And, of course, you would cap off your day with "LARRY KING LIVE" --

DIMOND: Yes, absolutely.

SMERCONISH: And all the A-listers would be here at CNN, and a younger incarnation, and everyone availed themselves to his interviews.

DIMOND: There was even if I'm remembering correctly, an ETV or one of the lesser networks, you know, cable networks did a parody every night. They had like little puppets doing, this is Lance Ito and --

SMERCONISH: I forgot, the dancing Itos.

DIMOND: The dancing Itos, yes.

SMERCONISH: OK, I have a serious question for you.


SMERCONISH: Was a guilty man framed by the LAPD? Was a guilty man framed?

DIMOND: No. No. And I'll tell you why, quickly. On Ron Goldman's boot, on the tip of his boot was one drop of blood, it was O.J. Simpson's blood.

Now, why the trial got so convoluted and so bogged down in what is DNA, because it was kind of new at the time. That one piece of evidence spoke volumes. What was O.J. Simpson's drop of blood doing on the boot toe of Ron Goldman?

SMERCONISH: But you don't buy into invite arguments that the guy did it, but the LAPD, they played loose with the blood?

DIMON: No, no. And Furman was a great cop as far as I was concerned, but he lied about having used the N-word in the past.

SMERCONISH: Thirty seconds left with Diane Dimond, if they had a videotape showing him killing his ex-wife and Ron Goldman, would they then have convicted? Because I'm convinced they would not have.

DIMOND: Well, maybe, but yes. No, I think the deck was stacked. With that jury being in downtown Los Angeles, not in fancy Brentwood where the crime occurred, I think the deck was stacked. He was going to be not guilty.

SMERCONISH: And the legacy we now have, all these reality television programs, all springing from the loins of the Simpson case.

DIMOND: It was at born from that. The Casey Anthony, the Jodi Arias, the George Zimmerman case -- it all started right there.

SMERCONISH: Diane Dimond, I guess for this, we have to thank that you're here. It's one silver lining.

DIMOND: I'm still here.

SMERCONISH: It doesn't make up for this, the double murder.

You remember that old original headline, the "Vanity Fair" one that said it all began with O.J.? What I would have written -- America's first reality show.

Speaking of reality, we have a grim one in front of us.

From Wisconsin to Wal-Mart, these deadly sprees are, believe it or not, pushing our limits on being too far too P.C.


SMERCONISH: Hey, one last thing. There was something I kept thinking this week in the aftermath of a revolutionary married couple's cold blooded execution of two Las Vegas police officers and an innocent Wal-Mart bystander, namely that Janet Napolitano was right.

Five years ago, the office of the then secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, DHS, released an assessment that was titled right- wing extremism, current economic and political climate fueling resurgence in radicalization and recruitment. Now, a key finding of the assessment said that the economic downturn and election of the nation's first African-American president were unique drivers for right wing radicalization and recruitment. You might remember that critics pounced when they read a footnote that defined right wing extremism as including not only those that are primary hate-oriented based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups, but may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.

Also controversial was a warning that veterans returning from Iraq in Afghanistan were at risk of terror recruitment. Timothy McVeigh, the Gulf War veteran who was convicted of killing 168 people in that 1995 attack on a federal building in Oklahoma City, was cited as an example of that concern.

Well, sadly the assessment was prescient.

In 2012, a white supremacist who served in the military killed six at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. This past April, a white supremacist killed three people outside two Jewish facilities near Kansas City. And now, we have the married couple that assassinated two cops and a Wal-Mart bystander in Las Vegas last weekend. The two killed the officers and then left behind a Gadsden "don't tread on me flag", also a Nazi swastika.

Five years ago, partisans torpedoed consideration of the DHS assessment on right wing extremism, notwithstanding that just three months prior, a similar warning was published by the same authors pertaining to left-win extremists.

Now, just two weeks ago, before the events in Las Vegas, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that he was reassembling a task force on domestic terrorism that had been defunct since 9/11. Holder noted the need to, quote, "concern ourselves with the continued danger that we face from individuals within our own borders, who may be motivated by a variety of other causes from antigovernment animus, to racial prejudice."

Well, I think that Holder is properly following in Napolitano's footsteps. And anything less would be a victory for political correctness. While the P.C. label is usually hurled from the right, it fits any time otherwise appropriate behavior is curtailed out of a fear of contemporary reaction. With regard to political extremism, when we failed for investigate risk because of unfounded public response, we are yielding to P.C. forces and we're jeopardizing lives.

That's it for me. I'll be back here next Saturday. Until then, have a great weekend and a happy Father's Day.