December 27, 2013
Guests: Rick Tyler, Jonathan Allen, Jennifer Hecht, Stanton Glantz, Norman Siegel, Michelle Goldberg, Dean Obeidallah
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST: The ACA is here to stay, and
Republicans don`t know what to do about it.
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Matthews.
Leading off tonight, the Republican vision to kill the Affordable Care
Act is itself on life support. After a bruising political defeat in
October, when Republicans followed the Cruz wing into a kamikaze mission to
shut down the government, there appears little appetite to try anything as
brash as full repeal again, at least for now.
On top of that, the chaos of the law`s initial rollout is now dying
down. Healthcare.gov is functioning much better. Millions of people are
signing up, including some who previously could not get coverage under the
old, broken system.
Success stories are starting to reverse what first looked like an
unstoppable flood of bad news. Even Senator Ron Johnson, a Tea Partier
from Wisconsin, is warning his party. He told "The New York Times" that
the Affordable Care Act is, quote, "no longer just a piece of paper that
you can repeal and it goes away. There`s something there. We have to
recognize that reality."
Before today, it was far easier for the far right to use the battle
cry of repeal to drown out the fact that they didn`t have any vision to
replace it. But now they`re faced with actually having to come up with
some real ideas. And that`s a daunting task, especially far party in the
midst of a civil war.
Why do you think they`ve avoided the issue all this time? As Warren
Buffett is fond of saying, you never know who`s swimming naked until the
tide goes out. So now the party faces a critically important internal
battle, how to position itself via message, argument and tactics for the
most important issue in 2014, health care.
Rick Tyler is a Republican strategist. Jonathan Allen is Politico`s
White House bureau chief.
Rick, if I were to come to you as a prospective Republican candidate,
now that the Affordable Care Act has been put into effect and people are
getting insurance who heretofore couldn`t get insurance, would your advice
as a strategist to me be to be argue for repeal or reform?
RICK TYLER, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, what I`ve been saying to all
my candidates is that the Affordable Care Act -- it can`t work. It`s a
lead airplane. And though some people claim it has certain things in it,
we never get to those good things. I don`t think it needs -- I don`t think
it can be reformed. I think ultimately it has to be repealed.
But what`s going to happen is -- the Republicans got ahead of
themselves. The country needs to want to repeal it first, and we`re
getting closer and closer to that. The Affordable Care Act, despite the
cold open here, is as unpopular as ever. The -- President Obama is as
unpopular as ever because of the Affordable Care Act. And the Democrats
lost their majority in the House in 2010 because of the Affordable Care
I`m advising my clients, Run on the Affordable Care Act and hope your
opponent does, too.
SMERCONISH: But I`m -- but I`m confused. Am I -- as your candidate,
am I arguing for repeal, get rid of the whole thing, or am I saying there
are elements here that we should be reforming?
TYLER: Well, there`s two parts. The -- you can`t get to the nice
elements people like, which is portability, which is so-called
affordability, but it`s not affordable. People like to be able to keep
their doctor and not going to be able to do that. And they said they could
keep -- you could keep a plan if (ph) you didn`t keep it. So anything this
administration tells you about this plan I think you have to look at with a
great deal of suspicion.
But what I`ve been saying on this network and others for three years
now is the Republicans have got to have an alternative plan to "Obama care"
so people know what they`re moving toward. Yes, they want to repeal "Obama
care," but they also want to know what they want to replace it with. And
SMERCONISH: Jonathan Allen, even if we concede that Republicans
really are interested in reforming the Affordable Care Act, what on earth
would reform look like? And to questioning that I was -- I was asking of
Rick, there are a handful of proposals floating around that "The New York
Times" looks at in a great article by Jonathan Weissman (ph) called "With
health law cemented, GOP debates next move."
But here`s the thing. If you add them all up, you get a health care
law that looks strangely familiar. Here are the examples. Senator Ron
Johnson, a Tea Party Republican from Wisconsin, wants to keep the insurance
exchanges. Congressman Tom Price`s plan wants to keep the provision that
prevents health insurers from denying patients who have preexisting
conditions. A version of Paul Ryan`s plan basically has a mandate by
another name. It`s called automatic enrollments. And then there are
various proposals that would extend tax credits to help people subsidize
their insurance costs.
So together, they basically form the foundation of the Affordable Care
Act. Hence my question to Rick, as a Republican strategist, of, Are they
arguing for repeal or are they arguing for reform?
hat`s your assessment, Jonathan?
JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO: Look, there are two huge problems for the
Republicans here in forming a battle plan to create an alternative. One is
that the Democrats took the big Republican ideas and put them into "Obama
care," as you just noted.
And then the second one is there`s no agreement among Republicans as
to what replace would look like. What would you stand up in the place of
"Obama care"? And if you, in fact, got to that point where you started to
detail it, I think you`d see a huge fracture in the Republican Party.
Right now, from a political standpoint, the GOP is doing pretty well
to stay together in terms of being in opposition to "Obama care." However,
if it gets to the point where they have to be for something, I think you`ll
see those tensions and you`ll see those fractures come into the open.
SMERCONISH: Rick Tyler, I`m again your candidate. And by the way, so
far, I don`t feel like I`m getting elected. Which of those proposals that
we put on the screen would you advise me that I should be supportive of?
TYLER: Look, I`m not sure you have to pick any one particular
proposal. You have to articulate an alternative that people like. And so
"Obama care" -- look, "Obama care" is not working. It`s like designing
(ph) a lead airplane because the problem is, even though you have millions
of people, they`re all the people who are going to draw more out of the
system than they`re going to put in.
The reason -- the whole way that "Obama care" was supposed to work in
the first place is that all these people didn`t need health care -- in
other words, they wouldn`t draw out of the system as much as the others --
they would put money in and then it would be sustainable.
That hasn`t happened. And the president has removed all the
requirements that would require them to be in the plan in the first place.
So the whole thing is going to fail.
Look, there are lots of things you can do. You could put tax credits
so people could buy affordable insurance on the market. You can make sure
that people can buy insurance from cross-state purchases. Why should the
people in New Jersey, who pay the most, not buy an insurance policy in
Iowa, where they pay the least?
There are lots of things that you can do to make health care -- bring
downward pressure on costs on health care, but it has to be in the open
SMERCONISH: I guess the point I want to make is -- and I personally,
having enrolled through the Affordable Care Act, by the way, within the
last 10 days -- I have concerns as to where the costs all end up because if
the young invincibles don`t get into the pool, if that pool doesn`t have a
good mix of people -- people are, I think, misunderstanding and thinking
it`s the raw count that matters. It`s the mix of people in the pool...
TYLER: That`s right.
SMERCONISH: ... matters the most. So I -- yes, I have concerns about
where this thing heads on a cost basis. That`s why I`d like to see as many
get in as possible.
But the criticism, I think, is a valid one of the GOP plans because
when you get beyond the sound bite and you say, OK, well, what have you
got, what they say most often sounds like elements of the Affordable Care
Act. Rick, you can respond to that.
TYLER: But here`s the problem. Look, the Affordable Care Act tries
to put people in four different plans. I think they`re iron, aluminum, tin
and rust. And you can`t put 300 million people into four plans. That
would be like saying people can only live in four kinds of houses. They
can drive four kinds of cars. They can eat at four kinds of restaurants.
We can only have four types of potato chips in the potato chip (INAUDIBLE)
four different kinds of -- look, that`s never going to work! Why not
SMERCONISH: I don`t think that`s -- I don`t think that`s fair. I
TYLER: Well, I do.
SMERCONISH: ... that`s fair because my four categories -- my four
categories actually entailed 24 different plans. I have a 25-year-old
daughter who enrolled through New York. She had 77 different options.
TYLER: OK, and if you live -- in New Hampshire, you have one.
SMERCONISH: Jonathan, let me ask you a question...
TYLER: And if you live in New Hampshire, you have one.
SMERCONISH: Jonathan, I want to ask you this question. The question
is, is there credibility -- is there a credibility problem here on the part
of the GOP? You know, Lindsey Graham told "The New York Times" that this
is the raging policy debate going on behind closed doors.
Is there a credibility issue here, where they can`t coalesce around a
single plan and say this is the GOP alternative?
ALLEN: Yes, and I`ll tell you how they may be able to get around that
credibility problem. The first part of that is there`s a credibility issue
because all the Republicans voted against "Obama care." So if they try to
say that there`s another health care plan that they want, they will be
saying that they`re for some things that they were against previously.
And the way you get around that is you try to find some folks who have
credibility on reform in general to come out and say, Look, I`ve got a
background on reforming government programs. Let me come out here and give
you suggestions for how to make this law better.
But what we haven`t heard from the Republican Party at all is how do
we make it better. What we`ve heard is how do we repeal it, how do we
replace it. It`s a lead airplane, as Rick said before.
So I think Republicans are going to have to figure out what they can
coalesce around as a plan, and then pick some leaders who can help bridge
the gap between having voted against it and now saying there`s a better way
to do this. We don`t like what the Democrats have done in areas X, Y and
Z. But the idea that, suddenly, after you`ve put this law into place that
you`re going to repeal it and before, as Rick says, it`s gotten to the
place where the public is ready to repeal it -- that`s just not going to
Now, if 80 percent of the American wants to repeal it at some point,
it`ll happen very quickly. I just don`t see that happening overnight.
SMERCONISH: Rick Tyler, is this debate going to be heightened or
focused upon those high-profile races where a Tea Party type opposes one of
the more pragmatic Republicans in a primary process, just like has happened
in the last couple of cycles, but this time focused on this issue of repeal
TYLER: I think "Obama care" will dictate the 2014 elections moreso
than consultants advising candidates will. I think "Obama care" is so bad
and so catastrophic, I think it actually effectively ended the president`s
presidency, that he can -- he will never be able to get anything done in
Congress because he`ll have no -- he`ll have no ability to move the
I think that people will demand the repeal of "Obama care." It
remains to be seen -- it could be 50 different state plans. We don`t know.
It remains to see what the alternative is. But I think "Obama care" is the
defining issue of the 2013 (sic) election, and I think it`ll be cataclysmic
and catastrophic for the Democratic Party.
SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, we appreciate both of you being here.
Jonathan Allen, Rick Tyler, thanks very much.
Coming up: Call it the last taboo, why it may be harder in America to
come out as an atheist politician than as a gay one.
Plus, the debate over e-cigarettes. They`re increasingly popular, and
many users say they`re less harmful than regular cigarettes. But with e-
cigarette companies now selling their products on television, are we about
to see a new generation of nicotine users?
And remember this guy? That`s "cubicle guy," the guy who photobombed
an Anthony Weiner campaign event. He`s just one of those who are on our
list of people who earned their 15 minutes of fame in 2013.
And what could these two men possibly have in common? Yes, that`s
Snoop Dogg and John Kerry at the White House, no less. And we`ll have some
answers in the "Sideshow."
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
SMERCONISH: Well, that was fast. A&E network says that "Duck
Dynasty`s" patriarch, Phil Robertson, is coming back to the show. Filming
of the popular reality program was put on hiatus after Robertson made anti-
gay remarks in an interview with "GQ" magazine. Conservatives like Sarah
Palin and Ted Cruz then rallied around him.
Well, in a statement today, A&E network said that, quote, "After
discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous
advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming `Duck Dynasty` later
this spring with the entire Robertson family."
A&E also plans to launch a public service announcement campaign this
spring about tolerance.
We`ll be right back.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. Barack Obama made history in
2008 when he was elected this country`s the first African-American
president. Looking ahead to 2016, it`s undeniable that the presumptive
Democratic favorite and front-runner is a woman now, former secretary of
state Hillary Clinton, who could very well make history as the first female
nominee or first female president. We also have a record number of
Hispanics and openly gay members of Congress.
But out of 535 members of Congress, not a single one is a self-
described atheist. A 2012 Pew report revealed 7 percent of Americans don`t
believe in a higher power, which leaves 15 million Americans
underrepresented in government.
A Gallup poll found that while 68 percent of Americans would vote for
a well-qualified openly gay candidate, only 54 percent said they would vote
for a well-qualified atheist. Indeed, atheism appears to be a poison pill
in electoral politics. In 2007, Congressman Pete Stark, a Democrat from
California, was the first member of Congress to admit to being atheist.
But even he softened his language to officially identify himself as, quote,
"a Unitarian who does not believe in a supreme being.
And listen carefully to this clip from HBO`s "Real Time With Bill
Maher." It was last August with retired congressman Barney Frank on this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL MAHER, HOST: OK, Barney Frank, do you feel more liberated being
out of Congress? Oh, you must.
BARNEY FRANK (D-MA), FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Oh, absolutely. I don`t
have to worry that when the phone rings, it`s somebody who`s screwed
something up and says it`s my responsibility to unscrew it.
MAHER: Although you -- you know, you were in a fairly safe district.
You were not one of those Congress people who have to worry about every
little thing. You could come on this show and sit next to a pot-smoking
atheist and it wouldn`t bother you and...
FRANK: Which pot-smoking atheist are you talking about here?
(LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
MAHER: Boy, you are liberated!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Ron Reagan is an MSNBC political analyst. Jennifer
Michael Hecht is an author and professor at the New School, and she just
wrote a big article in Politico magazine about atheism called "The last
OK, Jennifer, you are on your sofa. You are watching Bill Maher that
night. You saw that exchange, and you said what to yourself?
JENNIFER HECHT, THE NEW SCHOOL: Well, I was glad, but I was
disappointed that he hadn`t done it while he was still in office. I think
it makes a big difference if you just imagine a room full of 100 white men
and imagine one black or Latino woman walking in the room, the conversation
changes ever so much. It matters if people know who you are and you stand
up for what you believe.
SMERCONISH: And the point is that, you know, Barney Frank had no
problem coming out as a gay man, and people were accepting of that. But
the atheism he saved until he was already out the door.
Ron Reagan, let me ask you this. If people tell a pollster -- and the
totality is that 7 percent are atheist, I say there`s a hidden vote there.
If they admit to it, it`s probably in double digits. What`s your hunch?
RON REAGAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I would guess that that`s
probably true. I think there are probably many atheist members of Congress
who simply can`t admit to that. And let`s be honest, Michael. We`re all
atheists in a way. You don`t believe in the divinity of Zeus, do you?
Well, I guess you`re an atheist then. Gods come and go. It`s just a
question of which God you don`t believe in. So yes, I would -- I imagine
there are a lot of atheists in Congress right now.
SMERCONISH: So out of 535 -- it`s not that they aren`t there, it`s
that they don`t feel comfortable in admitting it. And I`m wondering if
it`s because no one has challenged the hypothesis. I mean, the hypothesis
is, Oh, you can`t get elected to Congress if you say you`re an agnostic on
an atheist. Maybe it`s because no one who`s otherwise credible stands up
and says, These are my beliefs. I do indeed have a moral compass, and I`m
running. And then we would see once and for all what would happen.
Ron, what do you think the outcome would be?
REAGAN: Yes, I think that would be very helpful. I agree with
Jennifer. I read her excellent article, and I know that she feels that
members of Congress who are atheist should come out. I agree with that.
There are two things here when you talk about atheism in politics.
One is the idea of the moral compass that you brought up. There are people
who are religionists who believe that without reference to some theology,
you can`t tell right from wrong. How does an atheist know what`s the good
and the evil thing to do, if you will?
Beyond that, though, there`s an implicit threat to the religionist in
the very existence of an atheism. If you organize your -- your entire life
around the idea of some -- some man`s divinity, like, say, 2,000 years ago,
and there`s somebody who`s looking at you as if you`re crazy to think that,
that`s a real rebuke to what is, in a sense, the core of your life and your
beliefs. And that`s very threatening to people.
SMERCONISH: Jennifer, in your piece in Politico magazine, you said
that there`s a much richer tradition in American atheism among our past
presidents than people realize. And here are a few of the presidents that
you mentioned as having atheistic tendencies. John Adams, Thomas
Jefferson, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln, William Howard Taft. Which leads
me to the question, is America ready today for an official atheist to be
Pick out your favorite on that list, Jennifer, and tell me what
justifies you to say that they had atheistic tendencies.
HECHT: Well, we have a wonderful letter from Jefferson to his nephew,
a favorite nephew, in which he says, Question everything, even the
existence of God. And if you come to not believe in him, you will do
virtuous things for the good feelings it gives you and for the affection
that you get from other people.
Taft was called an atheist right at the turn of the 20th century, and
he didn`t deny it. He just kept going to Unitarian Church, which was a
pretty agnostic place. Lincoln, after he died, several of his closest
companions, including his wife, said that he had no faith or hope in any of
the meanings that we think of today, that he never let it pass his lips
that he believed in anything about the Christian theology.
So, really, overall -- I wrote a book called "Doubt a History," which
tells about irreligion all over the world throughout history. And it
shocked me how much this stuff comes and goes. There are periods of time
where it seems impossible for atheists to coexist easily with religionists.
But there have been many times when it`s not. And for us, we were
just getting out of the Cold War. It was much easier to be an American
atheist out loud and proud in the first part of the 20th century. But with
communist atheism, there began to be a treasonous sense to the idea of
And everything got kind of shut down, and that`s when in the `50s God
went on the money and God went in the pledge. But ever since the Soviet
Union fell and then 9/11 and now our most murderous tensions are with
people who consider us secular and themselves much more rabidly religious,
it`s time for a change. Clearly, the politics and the mood of the country
is changing because of these political differences.
SMERCONISH: Well, I agree with you. I`m anxious to see someone test
the hypothesis. For what it`s with, I aired this with you, Jennifer, on
the radio, and I was overwhelmed with callers who said, I want to know that
a politician can distinguish right from wrong. It`s not important to me
that they`re pointing at a particular book in order to come to that
Anyway, thank you, both, Ron Reagan and, thank you, Jennifer Hecht.
HECHT: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Up next: What brought together Snoop Dogg and John
Kerry? That`s next in the "Sideshow."
And please don`t forget, you can follow me on Twitter, so long as you
can spell Smerconish.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
SMERCONISH: Back to HARDBALL. Time now for the "Sideshow."
First up: an odd meeting between a very odd couple. That`s rapper
Snoop Dogg with Secretary of State John Kerry at the White House. Snoop
posted the picture to his Instagram feed, along with the tweet "Boss life,
me and John Kerry at the White House."
The pair bonded over their love of jazz and were caught on camera
talking about Herbie Hancock.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SNOOP DOGG, MUSICIAN: He invented hip-hop. That`s why it only makes
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You gave me a good pound.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: For his part, Kerry tweeted back at Snoop, "Between us,
we have sold 30 million."
From dogs to horses and what Politico is calling a strange political
brawl over New York City`s famous carriage horses. They`re the ones that
carry tourists through Central Park. Well, animal rights activists have
wanted them banned for years, citing the welfare of the horses. And they
have a powerful ally in incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio.
But the carriage drivers are fighting back, and they`re doing so with
the help of the Teamsters. It has the makings of a real battle royal,
though it`s not clear whether de Blasio will push for an all-out ban once
he takes office next week.
Finally, as the year winds down, it`s worth looking back at some of
the big events and wacky characters of 2013.
Luckily for us, the animators at JibJab have put together a highlight
video. Here`s a clip from their year in review.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): So long, 2013. It`s time to send you on
your way, to chaos in Egypt, drones in Pakistan, the spying NSA, a
sequester, and then a shutdown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obamacare was finally here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Crack-smoking mayors, Carlos Danger,
2013, what a year. We decided it`s OK for gays to wed. There was way more
than we can even. 2013, what a year.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Up next: Should e-cigarettes be allowed to be advertised
on television, when regular cigarettes are not?
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KRISTEN WELKER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Kristen Welker, and here`s
Connecticut authorities have released the full police report on the
Sandy Hook shooting. The report spans thousands of pages and fails to
identify any clear motive for the rampage.
A car bombing in Beirut has taken the life of Mohamad Chatah, a former
finance minister and Lebanese ambassador to the U.S. The U.S. has
condemned the killing.
And stocks take a breather a day after the Dow surged to its 50th
record close. For the week, the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P are up more than 1
percent -- now back to HARDBALL.
SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
It`s been more than 40 years since cigarettes have been advertised on
television, ads that more often than not featured a celebrity promoting the
pleasures of smoking.
Here`s the Duke, John Wayne.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN WAYNE, ACTOR: And that`s just what Camels are, mild and good-
tasting pack after pack. I know. I have been smoking them from 20 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Fast-forward to 2013, and a whole new product, e-
cigarettes, are being advertised on television, often featuring
Here`s Jenny McCarthy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENNY MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: You know, I love being single. But here`s
what I don`t love, a kiss that tastes like an ashtray. I`m Jenny McCarthy.
And I finally found a smarter alternative to cigarettes, blu eCigs. Blu
satisfies me. I get to have a blu without the guilt because there`s only
paper, not tobacco smoke. That means no ash, no odor, which also means I
don`t get the stink-eye from others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Advertising has for e-cigarettes has been skyrocketing.
This chart published in "The Wall Street Journal" shows that for two of the
most popular brands of e-cigarettes, spending in just the first nine months
of this year dwarves ad spending for the entirety of 2012.
And ad spending for e-cigarettes is expected to grow even more in 2014
if the FDA doesn`t propose curbs to the e-cigarette devices and their
Stanton Glantz is a professor of medicine at U.C. San Francisco and
the director the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education. Norman
Siegel is a civil rights attorney who headed up the New York branch of the
ACLU for 15 years.
Dr. Glantz, if they advertise the ability to vape, and if smokers view
those ads and turn from cigarettes to e-cigarettes, wouldn`t that be a good
DR. STANTON GLANTZ, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR TOBACCO CONTROL RESEARCH AND
EDUCATION: Well, that would be a good thing if that`s what was actually
But that`s not what`s been happening. What`s been happening is people
are using e-cigarettes in addition to regular cigarettes, basically the way
Jenny McCarthy suggested, which is to use them in places that you can`t
smoke cigarettes. So the net effect that they`re having at a population
level is to actually keep people smoking, which is increasing the amount of
disease caused by smoking.
SMERCONISH: Well, anecdotally, I have two people who are in my family
or social circle, both of whom have at least toned down the amount of
tobacco smoking that they do and have become vapors instead.
And I think an increasing number of us know people who are in that
position. That`s progress, is it not, Doctor?
GLANTZ: Well, the key word of what you said was anecdotally.
And there is no doubt that some people have successfully quit smoking
with e-cigarettes and that some people using e-cigarettes are smoking fewer
cigarettes. But when you look at the population-level data, people who use
e-cigarettes are actually less likely to quit smoking than people who
And if you just cut down a little bit -- the point you made is exactly
the problem. If all you do is cut down your cigarettes a little bit,
without stopping completely, you still suffer essentially the entire heart
disease risk and almost all of the cancer risk.
SMERCONISH: Norman Siegel, go ahead. I know you`re champing at the
bit to get here.
NORMAN SIEGEL, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Right.
I respect Dr. Glantz, but I don`t agree with him.
You begin with anecdotal information, and then the studies come after.
With regard to the advertising issue, there is serious and substantial
First Amendment issues. In the smoking situation and the problem with e-
cigarettes, whoever called it e-cigarettes, has the name associated with
cigarettes, but it`s very different.
There`s no dispute. We don`t know what the benefits and risks of e-
cigarettes are, but there`s no dispute out there, as far as I can tell,
that it`s less dangerous than a traditional cigarette. And the reason why
the FDA was able to ban the smoking commercials is because it was clear
that the scientific evidence said the user was harmful and the secondhand
smoke was harmful to others.
You do not have that. The United States District Court and the United
States Court of Appeals in D.C., the second most prestigious court in the
United States, in 2011, on an e-cigarette case, said that the FDA produced
no evidence that e-cigarettes were harmful to anyone, and moreover that the
FDA under the Tobacco Act could, in fact, by regulation, mitigate and even
extinguish any public health concerns.
The problem, for example, in New York on the legislation, what they
did is wherever in the Smoke Free Air Act the word cigarette appeared, they
inserted the word "and e-cigarettes."
The bottom line is and where the floor is, you cannot equate e-
cigarettes with cigarettes. It`s something different. And finally the
Constitution says in the 14th Amendment that the government cannot deprive
citizens of liberty. And these legislations...
SMERCONISH: Dr. Glantz, he`s offered you a lot there. Go ahead and
take the floor, sir, and respond to that which you choose.
GLANTZ: Well -- well, OK.
The first thing is, is that the scientific evidence on e-cigarettes is
accumulating very, very quickly. None of the research I was alluding to
was available two years ago. But now there are four different studies
looking at a population level, scientific studies, showing that people who
use e-cigarettes are actually a little bit less likely to quit cigarettes
than non-e-cigarette users.
We published a paper two months ago that looked at 76,000 adolescents
and found that kids who use e-cigarettes are way less likely to quit
smoking than kids who are not using e-cigarettes.
And while I agree that a puff of an e-cigarette is less dangerous than
a puff of a cigarette, the fact is they`re still giving -- exposing people
to ultrafine particles, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and
nicotine. And they`re putting all of that stuff into the air too, not as
much as a cigarette, but still enough to be of concern.
SMERCONISH: No, Mr. Siegel, hang on. Let me frame it for you this
way, Mr. Siegel. It seems to me that Dr. Glantz is saying, if it were an
either/or, one or the other, that he would much rather society is vaping
than smoking, but he`s it`s not an either-or; it`s in addition to.
Take that on, if you would.
SIEGEL: Well, the abstinence rigidity doesn`t work here.
It`s all about harm reduction. And there are people in the health
world who are saying, look, we cannot eradicate certain risks such as
smoking. But what we can do and spend our time is reducing the risk as a
result of that. The question becomes for government, educate me, inform
me, persuade me, but respect the right of citizens to decide what`s in
their best interest.
Put out the information. Let us then make our own decisions. Make
sure the FDA is involved on the Tobacco Act in making sure the labeling and
the advertising is correct, but basically until the scientific evidence
comes and says that, A., it`s harmful to the user, or, B., it`s harmful for
the person who is standing next to the user when the vapor is there, I
think the government should stay out of banning the stuff and trying to
equate e-cigarettes with cigarettes.
SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, thank you both very much.
Dr. Glantz, thank you.
Norman Siegel, we appreciate you time.
I will have more to say on this subject at the end of the program.
Up next, the people who won their 15 minutes of fame in 2013.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
SMERCONISH: We`ve got some new poll numbers in on the 2016
On the Democratic side, it`s just what you`d expect. Hillary Clinton
hasn`t lost her mammoth lead over Vice President Joe Biden. That`s
according to a new FOX News poll.
But it`s a tighter field among the Republicans. Chris Christie
remains in the lead with 16 percent support. And that`s a three-way tie
for second among Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, and Jeb Bush. Rand Paul is right
behind them, and Marco Rubio is further back.
So, the favorites are Clinton and Christie.
And a new CNN poll shows that the matchup would be very close.
They`ve got Christie up two, 48 percent to 46 percent. It`s also worth
noting that Clinton leads eight other Republicans in hypothetical matchups.
HARDBALL, back after this.
SMERCONISH: We`re back.
Aside from the politicians and the policy wonks that we cover day to
day, there`s another kind of political celebrity and every year brings us a
new crop. Call them what`d you like, instant celebrities, the accidentally
famous. They`re the people sometimes literally behind the politicians.
They`re the men and women who gain a bit of fame for a news cycle or two.
They get lambasted on Twitter and Facebook. The late-night comedians rely
on them to fill the monologues.
Their all star ranks, well, they include Obama Girl, Joe the Plumber,
the "don`t tase me bro" guy, and Herman Cain`s smoking chief of staff.
It turns out 2013 was a bumper crop year. That`s what it was for
them. "Politico" recently compiled a list of the top 10 fleeting political
celebrities of this past year.
And number one was pajama boy. The unfortunate poster child for the
president`s new health care law.
Joining me to comb through some of the others are Michelle Goldberg, a
senior contributing writer at "The Nation", and comedian Dean Obeidallah,
also a columnist at "The Daily Beast."
All right, guys. Another "Politico" pick was the woman, the early
face of the Affordable Care Act Web site.
You remember her smiling face that provided much fodder for late-night
comedians as the Web site`s troubles grew worse. "The Onion" newspaper
spoofed her with this doctored image and the headline people in
healthcare.gov stock photos now visibly panicking.
Eventually, the White House took down her photo. Here was "The Daily
Show`s" Jon Stewart lampooning that decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: The latest change is strictly cosmetic. That smiling woman
on the home page is gone.
JON STEWART, THE DAILY SHOW: Gone! Get out! Got rid of that smiling
lady. Although I`m not sure the new home page is an improvement. I think
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: In reality, the woman`s name was Adriana. She went
public in November telling ABC she`d become the victim of cyber bullying.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a kid I never went through that. But now I
am. It`s bullying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is bullying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But at the same time, you know, I thought I had
to do this for my child. I`m here to stand up for myself and defend
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Dean, what was the back story here? She posed in
exchange for free photographs or something?
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, THE DAILY BEAST: For nothing. They paid her
nothing. And look what she got in exchange. They said we`re going to use
your photo on some of the rollout. I bet you under their hushed breath,
they were like you`re going to be the home page. But they didn`t want to
say that to her, because no one would want to be on the home page of this
And then she was demonized. First, comics made fun of her. Then,
some bloggers on the right called her the most despised person in America
which is a high bar because conservatives hate a lot of women.
But the flip side is she got really well known. I wish for that
reason they would have used me. I would have been happy to be the face of
Obamacare Web site. Maybe I could have guest hosted HARDBALL one night,
Michael. You never know.
SMERCONISH: Michelle, I know there`s a serious takeaway here. I`m
just not sure what it is. Help me out.
MICHELLE GOLDBERG, THE NATION: Well, I think the serious takeaway and
it`s similar to the takeaway with pajama boy, which is that the Internet
has vastly lowered the bar on what we consider a public person. So, we`re
now in the age of taking these fairly random and obscure people who have
only the most tenuous connection to actually politics and then kind of
holding them up for these orgies of Internet flagellation. It`s really,
really ugly. These people have done nothing to bring on this kind of
And yet, again, we`re not just talking about kind of being fodder for
late night comedians. We`re talking about people doing these pseudo
investigations into their pasts. In the case of pajama boy, publishing
what some blogger thought was his parents` address. And again, pajama boy,
like the woman on the Obamacare Web site, these are not, you know -- these
are not people who have any connection to the policies. These are people
who posed for photographs.
SMERCONISH: All right. I did ask for it. I did ask for it.
But don`t ruin all our fun yet, because another pick from "Politico"
was cubicle guy. And here`s an example of an already crazy press
conference getting an added layer of absurdity as Anthony Weiner stepped
before the press this summer admitting that his online activities didn`t
end when he resigned from Congress.
And this guy seemed to get as much instant attention on Twitter and
then from late night comics as Weiner did. The man, it turns out, was a
radio reporter. He`ll forever be known as cubicle guy in some circles.
"The Daily Beast" quickly remixed the press conference featuring him.
Here`s how it looked.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY WEINER (D-NY), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Some of the things
posted today --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: And here was Conan O`Brien`s take on the matter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONAN O`BRIEN, COMEDIAN: It was hilarious. I couldn`t -- I was like
who is that guy? Did you see it, Andy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It was so unprofessional. It`s a news
conference, r god`s sake. You got god`s sake. You`ve got 30 cameras and
Anthony Weiner on the other side.
Just lay low. How hard is that?
O`BRIEN: Well, any way, I guess the guy got his 15 minutes of fame
because everybody was talking about it today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, yes, sure, but at what cost? I mean, you
may be a grown man, but you look like a high school Doofus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: You know, Dean, I have to tell you, given the subject
matter, when he popped up, everything`s got a double entendre now. But
when popped behind Weiner, all I could wonder is, is he wearing pants?
OBEIDALLAH: That`s very funny.
I mean, this guy was the cherry on the Weiner sundae. Anthony Weiner
in this press event actually saying, I apologize to any woman who may have
gotten a text message from me because he was spamming women at this point
with text messages and half naked selfies.
Then you have a man who works for WOR Radio, he`s in the media. He
has to be aware.
You look over and your eyes can see the other media outlets, they can
see you. That made it even more bizarre, that he was not that aware, as
someone in the media that he`s probably going to be on camera.
SMERCONISH: Michelle Goldberg, your thoughts?
GOLDBERG: You know, I think this is the kind of lighter version of
the more sinister instant notoriety that we have seen in other cases. And,
you know, in part because this isn`t really a polarized issue, right? The
one thing that all Americans can agree on in a deeply polarized nation is
the absurdity and preposterousness of Anthony Weiner`s press conference.
SMERCONISH: No doubt. Hey, I have to tell you both and everybody
else, I`m really surprised "Politico" didn`t include him, but I have to
give my pick for the instant celebrity, royalty or whatever they`re calling
it, for the year, to the sign language interpreter at the Nelson Mandela
memorial, who, you know, set the media world on fire. Those dramatic
moves, standing just a few feet behind world dignitaries and apparently all
made up. And later, he blames it on a schizophrenic episode. Maybe I
shouldn`t chuckle at that.
Twitter, the web instantly made him a star and, of course, "Saturday
Night Live" had a field day with that story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been listening to what -- to what Americans
are saying. And some very valid concerns are being raised. But this is
not a battle that will be won overnight.
While I can`t say that I`ve been entirely thrilled with the results --
I`m just relieved that the Web site has been turned on again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Dean Obeidallah, you know, in retrospect, you go back and
look at the footage, how did the guy keep it up that whole time? How did
he not burst out laughing with the knowledge that the whole thing was just
OBEIDALLAH: Well, he should get best acting. He was committed from
beginning to end. You know, at first when I was watching him, well,
apparently, I know sign language, but that`s not the case. He was
literally making things up.
OBEIDALLAH: And you wonder, this is a huge event in South Africa`s
history, the memorial for Nelson Mandela. Did they plan everything? They
go, you know, we needed a sign language guy, anyone know sign language, you
get a great --
SMERCONISH: This was unbelievable.
OBEIDALLAH: There`s more vetting to come on this show than there was
to be the sign language guy next to President Obama and world leaders.
SMERCONISH: I know. Could have been a lot different outcome. Thank
God we`re laughing about it.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Dean Obeidallah. Thank you, Michelle
SMERCONISH: When we return, allow me to finish with my take on the e-
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
SMERCONISH: Let me finish tonight with this.
Earlier, we had a good debate about the electronic cigarette industry
and now, I`d like to weigh in.
According to "The Wall Street Journal", the e-cig industry has big
television advertising plans for 2014 if they`re not snuffed out first.
And that`s because the FDA will soon announce its regulations for the
devices that allow people to vape instead of smoke.
One question soon to be answered is whether e-cigs will be permitted
to continue to advertise on television, something regular cigarettes
haven`t been able to do since 1971. Rather than wait for the outcome, the
e-cigarette manufacturers are moving quickly to advertise their products,
to instill their brands and try to win long-term customers.
The advertising debate is but one facet of the big conundrum over e-
cigs. While "The Journal" notes there`s growing scientific consensus that
e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, which released
thousands of toxins through combustion, critics say e-cigarette ads re-
glamorize cigarettes and could trigger a new generation of smokers.
Well, I`m hoping that the FDA will address the need for good
manufacturing practices and quality control standards for ingredients used
in the e-liquid, but I hope the regulations don`t go too far.
Joe Nocera (ph) wrote persuasively in my view on this subject in "The
New York Times" earlier this month under the headline two cheers for e-
cigarettes. Here`s what he wrote, "Imagine a product, a legal but lethal
one, that kills 400,000 Americans a year. Public health advocates have
been trying for decades to persuade Americans not to use it, the industry
has been sued and sued again, but it`s still operating profitably. One out
of every five Americans is addicted to the product.
Now, imagine an alternative comes to the market, an innovative device
that can help people wean themselves from the deadly product. It has the
same look and feel as the deadly product. Indeed, that`s a large part of
its appeal. It, too, is addictive, but the ingredients that kill people
He went on to note that the public health community is nevertheless
not cheering the e-cig. To the contrary, they want them stigmatized, just
like cigarettes. But they are not cigarettes. To the contrary, they
represent an opportunity to wean many away from conventional cigarettes.
So let`s agree that best of all no one smoke a cigarette or vape from
an e-cig. But the moral crusade being waged against e-cigs seems to be
overlooking the science that differentiates the vaping from the smoking.
And that`s a real case of smoke and mirrors.
That`s HARDBALL for now. Thank you for being with us.
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