Ten Questions: Michael Smerconish
What an interesting time to be a political commentator
By Terri Akman

For Michael Smerconish, life just got really hectic – and it was pretty busy before. As the presidential election heads into high gear, the CNN anchor, Inquirer columnist, Sirius radio host and book author will spend much of his time on the road – and on the air – covering the candidates, dissecting the issues and addressing the voters.

You started as a conservative, but then shifted more to the left. Where do you stand today, and why do you think you’ve changed?
Unknown-1Most of us change with maturity. You live a life. You see things, and your perspective gets altered. That certainly has happened with me. For 30 years I was a registered Republican and involved in the Republican party on a local, state and national level. But I maintain the party changed more than I did. There are no Republican moderates left in the Senate today. Did I leave the party? I did. Did the party leave me before I got out? I think it did. According to Gallup, 42 percent of the country today are Independents – not Democrats and not Republicans – and I consider myself one of them.

What scares you about the current presidential election?
Everything. That one of them might win. There’s not one candidate that I look at and I say I’m for her or him. Every one of them has warts.

Do people stop you on the street and want to talk politics?
Yes. I’m living a real life in the community. I’m pumping gas, I’m on driving detail from school, I grocery shop. People will engage me because now they see me on television. I used to be able to lead more of an anonymous life.

People will engage me in conversation and they’re pleasant about it, which I really appreciate. I don’t meet people who see the world only through liberal or conservative lenses. The only people I know who see the world that way have talk radio programs or are on cable television news. I meet people who are liberal on some things, conservative on some things, and there’s a hell of a lot they just haven’t figured out. And yet, to turn on television, you would think you need to be all liberal or all conservative, and if you’re not, you’re the oddball. That’s just not true.

obamaWho was your favorite interview of all time?
It’s not someone you would know. I’ve been very privileged that Barack Obama has been on this program seven different times, and I interviewed George W. Bush on the night he was elected. Yet so many of my celebrity guests and politician guests have been a disappointment. The best guests are normal people who find themselves all of a sudden in the eye of some kind of political storm or a news event. They tell a great story. In the end, all I’m looking for is good, compelling content.

Who would you love to interview?
Larry David. I am a huge “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fan. I love Larry David and think there is so much truth in everything he does. Year after year I come in on my birthday and secretly think, “Today’s the day Larry David will be my guest,” but we haven’t been able to make that happen.

Besides the political campaign, what is your favorite story you’re currently discussing?
Cosby. I believe I understand the issues. I know many of the players, the county is my home county and if the case is allowed to go forward – which I have my doubts about – it will be, to quote Donald Trump, “Huge.” It’s going to be OJ-like although there are no cameras in the courtroom, and it’s going to play out right in my backyard.

You interviewed Kenneth Kratz, the prosecutor in the case featured on Netflix’s “Making a Murderer.” What did you take away from that interview?
Kratz is being heavily criticized right now. I hadn’t seen all 10 episodes and probably wasn’t at the top of my game in terms of the questions I asked him. I gave him an opportunity to answer most of the questions people seem to have about the case, and he seemed eager to answer whatever I would ask. Then I watched the additional episodes, and my hunch is the two guys who are behind bars serving life for the murder of Teresa Halbach did it. But I don’t think that one of them, the mentally deficient nephew, was done right by the system. He probably should have a new trial.

You have four kids: three teenagers and a daughter in her 20s. What is your dinner conversation like?
We do make it a point to have dinner together whenever we’re able, but it’s like any other family. Everybody might not be agreeing at one time, and somebody might be tossing a tantrum – and frankly it could be me. We try to get caught up on what’s going on in everybody’s world and get caught up on the world.

We had a really interesting dinner conversation a few months ago because son number two turned 18. Among other things, for his birthday present I gave him a voter’s registration form, and that night’s conversation was dominated by how he would register. Son number three is 15, and he’s the only unregistered one in the house. According to him, when he registers in three years, our family of six will have two I’s, two D’s and two R’s. So if you can win my house, you can be elected president.

Why do you think our politically correct world is hurting America?
I wrote a book probably 10 years ago, called “Muzzled,” long before Donald Trump seized this issue. There were a lot of examples of political correctness. For example, one chapter was about youth athletics and how every kid was getting a trophy for T-ball. It was post 9/11, and I said at the time this type of going soft is going to hinder our ability to win the war on terror. Donald Trump has seized that issue and there is some truth to what he says, but he is so cantankerous and objectionable in the way he alienates people that I can’t buy into what he’s offering.

What’s a typical week like during the political season?
In the next 30 days I’ll be in Philly as home base, I’ll be in Washington one day every week and New York at the end of the week for one overnight for CNN. In addition, I will be in Houston, Milwaukee, L.A. and somewhere I can’t remember. I’ve never had a travel schedule like this in my life. I feel like I’m the one running for president. It’s truly a case of “be careful what you wish for,” because I wanted these things to happen but frankly, there’s too much on my plate right now. We still have two of the kids under our roof and I relish every one of these days, and every night that I’m not sleeping at home I’m not happy.

June 2016
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