This is a rush transcript from "The Story," May 15, 2019. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: That's a nice moment. Thanks, Bret. Coming up, right now, the president and first lady at the White House on an absolutely beautiful evening. They're about to head into the historical association dinner of the White House. Watch there for any news-making statements that the president may make because there's a lot of news today that we could hear from him on.
And meanwhile, the man who hopes to make history by becoming the 46th president, Joe Biden keeps climbing in these polls, folks. But he knows that it is a long road ahead. Anything can happen that could flip this whole race on its head. And if history is any guide, if probably will.
Good evening, everybody. I'm Martha MacCallum, and this is “The Story.” Look at this snapshot exactly four years ago. Donald Trump was in eighth place. Only 21 percent of Republicans said there was no way they would ever vote for him. He had Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker. All polling ahead of the outsider Donald Trump.
As the country at that time was reeling from a church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, and same-sex marriage became law of the land.
What about this? Let's go back to '07, around this same time in the whole process. Clinton was 11 points ahead of Obama. And her fellow New Yorker, Rudy Giuliani on the other side, they appeared to be the unbeatable ones in that race. That year, the President Bush authorized the surge in Iraq. It was very much about Iraq that election. And Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House.
But looking today, at Biden on top of this very crowded Democrat field, billionaire businessman Mark Cuban says he sees what Donald Trump saw when he looked at a stage of seasoned Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK CUBAN, OWNER, NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION'S DALLAS MAVERICKS: I don't think there's a real -- there's a real opportunity for somebody who is in the middle but has some charisma, has the ability to relate to both sides but it's not a politician. The reality is people don't trust politicians. Period. End of story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Here we go. Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President George H. -- George W. Bush. Byron York, chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner, and Robert Wolf, former economic adviser to President Obama who has been supporting some of these Democratic candidates.
We're going to talk to all three who are all Fox News contributors. Byron, I want to start with you. You wrote a piece about this today, and you gave a look at what it is that you think has been driving these numbers for Joe Biden right now.
BYRON YORK, CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we've seen a really unusual thing happened. Because we were told that the Democratic electorate had moved far, far to the left. They were just crazy about Medicare for all, and the Green New Deal, and then, skyrocketing taxes, and all that kind of stuff.
YORK: And then, the most centrist candidate in the field jumps in the race and he zooms up in the polls. When Biden announced on April 25th, he had a six percentage point lead over Bernie Sanders and the RealClearPolitics average of polls. That is now 23 points. So, he is doing something right.
So, I think if you listen to him, what he is selling is a restoration. He knows that Democrats just cannot stand Donald Trump. And he doesn't want to go back to some far ago era. He just wants to go back to before '17, the 2017, and the world before Donald Trump.
MACCALLUM: Karl, you also wrote about this. What do you think is driving the Biden surge right now? And you know, I guess more importantly, given the introduction that we just said, do you think it can last?
KARL ROVE, CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think he had a better start. He had a better message than we probably anticipated. He showed a lot more discipline and focused than people expected him to have. He blew away everybody with a record number for the first 24 hours of fundraising.
But I think Byron, put his finger on it. Our view of the Democratic Party over the last year or so has been that is dominated by these new Democratic socialists. AOC and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
But maybe Joe Biden is a reminder that there are a lot of traditional Democrats out there who don't share the enthusiasm to the hard left for all of these big ambitious prescriptions to turn the country upside down and utterly transform it. Now, whether or not it's durable, we don't know.
ROVE: But he is off to a good start. This has started much earlier than we started in 2016. At this point, Donald Trump had not even entered the race.
MACCALLUM: That's right.
ROVE: This is the earliest starting presidential campaign that I've ever seen. First, debate will be in June. First, debate four years ago for the Republicans was in August. And so, there, they're at it hard, I've been surprised by him growing as Byron said, from the lead of about 6.3 to 23.5.
ROVE: And it -- and it's a strong lead, and whether it lasts or not, we don't know. But how these candidates perform each and every month between now, and the beginning of the process, next year is going to matter a lot.
MACCALLUM: Yes, and they are all very much aware of that, and they're trying to stand out. I want to play this for Robert Wolf, because this is a candidate that he has given some money to, and he has said, do not count him out. He was getting his hair cut today in a barber shop and FaceTiming that. But this was what he said on "The View". Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O'ROURKE, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That headline that said I was -- I was born to be in this. And the article is attempting to say that then I felt that my calling was in public service, no one is born to be president of the United States of America. Least of all me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Least of all me. Does that make you want to send him more money, Robert?
ROBERT WOLF, CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first I would like to say that I don't think the party is been pushed so far to the left because we won the midterms by flipping red to blue in all moderate areas.
MACCALLUM: That's right.
WOLF: I think including the governorship of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. I think all of the candidates are checking what they need to do to get the excitement. Gun reform, immigration, health care. So, I think that right now, we have to look to win.
I think Beto is absolutely someone who's intriguing. He has great grassroots, right now, and I think he has to work on his national message. And I think it's something he's doing. But I certainly think Joe Biden has gained an incredible amount of traction because he is viewed as the most electable today because what he did in the midterms, he was our number one surrogate.
He could go both in the coasts as well as rural and industrial America. It's and you know, and we got a bunch of new polls in today. And I want to go back to this one which shows most responsible for the current economy.
Trump and Republicans 44 percent, Byron. Obama and Democrats, 15 percent. That's a number that is not going to be attractive to Democrats who have been trying to convince people that all of this has nothing to do with President Trump, and it all started under Obama.
YORK: Well, that gets to be a much harder case to make. The longer the president is the president. And you know, in the first year, you could say that. But, you know, in next year's campaign, he'll have been president for more than three years. And so, I think that he will get the credit for that.
Now, on this Beto O'Rourke thing, I agree that you shouldn't just write these candidates off. Because think back to 2012, the Republican race, that was the one that Mitt Romney eventually won. But there was a big field and the lead just seemed to alternate. You know, Rick Perry was leading, and then Rick Santorum was leading. And then Herman Cain was leading, and the Newt Gingrich was leading. This thing could bobble around between people. That -- that's easily a possible model for what could happen. MACCALLUM: Yes. Karl, I want to play this from Kamala Harris, because they're all trying to stand out. And here she is in Nashua, New Hampshire talking about assault weapons. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, D-CALIF., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am also prepared and I'm announcing it for the first time today here with you to take executive action to ban the import of assault weapons into our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Karl, is that politically smart for her?
ROVE: Well, it is inside the Democratic primary. Yes, it doesn't really mean a lot because as my suspicion is most so-called assault weapons are manufactured inside the United States. But it sounds good. And this goes back to the thing that we're talking about. Everybody is trying to differentiate themselves.
You have the traditional Democrat lane, in which you have Joe Biden is the dominant figure. Amy Klobuchar, as the -- as a not so dominant figure. You've got the hard left with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
You got the new kind of -- more traditional but nonetheless do a different kind of Democrat in Mayor Pete. And then, you've got everybody else trying to figure out where they are. Robert Francis O'Rourke had a great opportunity to launch himself onto the scene. He blew it very rarely in politics. Do you get a second time -- being a second first time to introduce yourself?
I think it's going to be hard for him to re-enter the race in the kind of format that, that he wanted to be. He's underneath five percent. Warren, Harris, Sanders, Mayor Pete.
ROVE: Joe Biden, they're all above -- they're all above five present, all the way from five to nearly 40.
MACCALLUM: And that can change as we've seen. Mark Cuban looking at this whole thing from the outside. You've got another billionaire, reality T.V. star, a name that a lot of people know in this country. Robert, when you hear him talking like Donald Trump talked at that point in the process, does that make you nervous for your party?
WOLF: No, no, because I think Mark has been flirting with running for years now. And if he joined the race, that would be exciting. But I don't see him to be our next president, nor our Democratic nominee. My guess is he probably run as an Independent, and I don't think that would be going anywhere.
MACCALLUM: That's what he said.
WOLF: I think it's very tough right now. And I agree with Byron. I think that we have to become making sure that our message being a pro-growth Democrats key. I would say that we've had 103 straight months of private sector job growth. 77-1 to President Obama. I think 26 under President Trump.
So, you know, I would say that we shouldn't discount what the economy did beforehand. Thanks, guys. Good to see you all. Thanks for being here tonight.
ROVE: Thank you.
YORK: Thanks for having us.
MACCALLUM: We have breaking news this evening on a very big story in America. The update on the abortion bill that just passed, just signed by the governor in Alabama, when we come back.
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MACCALLUM: So, this is a very big story tonight. And just moments ago, the Alabama governor, Kay Ivey, announced that she has just signed the controversial Human Life Protection Act, which is a near total ban on abortion in the state of Alabama. The bill many say was really specifically engineered as a challenge to the Supreme Court precedent established by Roe v. Wade.
Here is a statement from the governor just moments ago. She says, "Many Americans, myself included, disagreed when Roe v. Wade was handed down in 1973. The sponsors of this bill believe that it is time once again, for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit this important matter, and they believe this act may bring about the best opportunity for this to occur."
Now, this debate is going to get extremely heated. There are already protests that are generating. This is what happened on the Alabama Senate floor and we're going to see more of this. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. VIVIAN FIGURES, D-ALA.: Do you know what it's like to be raped?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No ma'am, I don't.
FIGURES: Do you know what it's like to have a relative commit incest on you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On me, no ma'am.
FIGURES: Yes, on you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Joining me now Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America and Rochelle Ritchie Democratic Strategist and former Press Secretary for the House Democrats. Welcome to both of you. We're going to in a moment have Eric Johnson who was one of the authors of this bill. He's going to join us as well.
So Kristan, let me start with you. I mean, you know, clearly, there has been a lot of activity at the state level with regard to this. Do you think that this bill is right? Do you back it? It bans abortions even in the case of rape or incest so it's really the most controversial version of this that we've seen. Do you think this is a good move and do you think it'll be supported?
KRISTAN HAWKINS, PRESIDENT, STUDENTS FOR LIFE OF AMERICA: I absolutely do you think this is a good move. Look, Roe versus Wade is going to become a historical footnote in our country, just another tragedy that we silently sat by and allowed happened when we allowed the courts once again to rule that a group of persons were less deserving of equal protection under the law.
And while I know this is a difficult subject to talk about when we speak about rape and the women who've endured this you know, who've suffered you know, horrifically from rape. But the reality is that your humanity doesn't change based on the circumstances of your conception.
MACCALLUM: All right, I want to put up on the screen a quote from Justice Blackmun who wrote in the opinion of Roe v Wade. He said, if this suggestion of personhood is established, Roe's case, of course, collapses for the fetus's right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the 14th Amendment.
So that's what this comes down to Rochelle. When does life begin and whether or not if life is -- if life begins in the womb, this could potentially be the end for Roe v Wade.
ROCHELLE RITCHIE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Martha, you know, it was on your show that I actually talked about my own experience as a rape victim. And so when I hear people say that it's difficult, they understand that it's difficult. No, you don't understand. It seems like just yesterday at 19 years old, I was walking into my dorm room taking off my ripped jeans, and my sweatshirt, and scrubbing down myself inside of a communal shower in an attempt to wash away the violation that happened to me.
And for the years of mental trauma that I and other rape victims have suffered, to understand -- the fact that we did not get pregnant. So for someone to come and say you know what, if this man, this monster rapes you, you have to have his child is barbaric in itself.
MACCALLUM: Kristan, what do you say to that?
HAWKINS: Well, Rochelle, what happened to you is horrific. And no one would ever wish that upon their worst enemy. But the reality is, your humanity isn't determined by the circumstances of your conception.
And quite honestly, it's disingenuous for the abortion industry for the past 40 years to use this horrificness of rape to justify the extremist abortion laws we have in our country today because we know only one percent of abortions committed in cases of rape.
MACCALLUM: Bur Kristan, let me -- Kristan, let me just say, there's a reason --
HAWKINS: But yet, if there's a rape exception on this --
MACCALLUM: Kristan, hold on. I have a question for you. You know, there's a reason why many of these laws have exceptions for rape and incest. So you know, that is something that has been discussed and debated in this country. And Rochelle's experience is the reason that there has been that exception.
And we also know that when it comes to abortion, those cases, thank God, are very rare. But that is -- you know, you have to understand the fact that there are people who believe that there should be exceptions for rape and incest. Rochelle, I'm going to let you respond to that.
RITCHIE: You know, Pat Robertson actually from the 700 Club came out and made a statement about this and said that he actually thinks that it did -- it went too far by not including --
HAWKINS: Well, Pat Robertson doesn't represent --
MACCALLUM: Let her finish, let her finish, Kristan.
RITCHIE: Let me finish, Kristan. Because basically, he saying that it just does not go far enough. I'm sorry, I think that rape and incest should be included. I don't believe in necessarily aborting a child. But when it comes to rape and incest, I mean think about this. A twelve-year- old girl can get pregnant.
What if her uncle rapes her? You're going to make this 12-year-old girl have her uncle's child? That sounds insane to me.
HAWKINS: Rochelle, would you support the Alabama law if it included exceptions for rape in it?
RITCHIE: Absolutely, I would.
HAWKINS: You would support total ban on abortion.
RITCHIE: I would -- no, that's not a total ban. That's not a total ban. I would support a law that says that if you are a victim of rape or incest, that you are exempt from that. Yes, I would support that. And I think that there are many people out here that already do. There's already laws on the book that support that very same thing.
You know, I don't believe in aborting a child at 20 weeks or 20 -- I don't believe in that. But being a rape victim, that is something -- I'm sorry, that is such a personal crime. And then to have to carry this child -- and imagine the guilt that the mother might end up placing on that child as well or the guilt that child might feel.
HAWKINS: Rochelle, what about the children who are born -- who are conceived and rape, their mothers courageously choose to --
RITCHIE: That's right. They chose.
HAWKINS: Do they have value?
MACCALLUM: You know what, Kristan and Rochelle --
RITCHIE: They keyword, chose.
HAWKINS: Do these children have value?
MACCALLUM: Hold on, ladies. Hold on. Let's listen --
RITCHIE: They chose. The keyword chose. You said it right there, Kristan, they chose.
MACCALLUM: OK, I want to thank both of you. This is obviously a very sensitive topic and Rochelle I want to thank you for what you have shared.
RITCHIE: Thanks, Martha.
MACCALLUM: And I know there are a lot of people who you know, obviously, feel a lot of sympathy for your position here. And Kristan, there are a lot of people who feel sympathy for your position as well. So I thank you both. This is going to be a very, very hot debate and it is not ending, it is simply beginning this evening. So ladies, thank you both for being here tonight.
HAWKINS: Thank you.
RITCHIE: Thanks, Martha.
MACCALLUM: I want to bring in now Eric Johnston, Founder of the Alabama Pro-Life Coalition and drafter of the Alabama bill. Eric, thank you for being here. I mean, as you -- if you caught some of that, I know you just sat down a moment ago, you have a glimpse of what is going to be coming at Alabama and what this debate is going to look like in the rest of the country.
Is this -- did you design this bill so that it would be so strong for pro- lifers that it would push this question to the Supreme Court of personhood?
I thank you, Martha, for having me and give me this opportunity. Yes, the bill is a very pure bill. It speaks with the personhood of the unborn child which makes it a direct confrontation of the ruling in Roe, the unborn child is not a person within the meaning of the U.S. Constitution.
The issue has been hot for 46 years. The thing about the pro-life debate over abortion as it's never gone away and it's gotten more intense as time goes on. And we knew that someday there may come an opportunity to once again review Roe. 1992 was the Casey decision. That was the last time there was a chance for a meaningful review and we think now there's another chance.
MACCALLUM: You know, in terms of the issue of personhood, because that is what you are trying to establish here, correct me if I'm wrong, by including rape and incest victims because you're saying it no matter what, life begins at conception, and that becomes a human being, it's a person, and therefore it is murder, correct?
JOHNSTON: That is correct. We use the definition out of our homicide code that the woman must be known to be pregnant. We're not trying to make a conception argument or philosophical argument whether we agree with that or not. We want to be able to have a prosecuting attorney to prove that some woman was pregnant when an abortion was performed, that means personhood.
And when you have rape or incest, it doesn't matter how you were conceived, whether about consent, by accident, rape incest, or artificial insemination, you're still a person. It would be disingenuous and very difficult for us to argue in court that you're a person on one hand but not the other. Now, we don't know what --
MACCALLUM: So let me ask you this. You know, with regard to you know, it's an election year next year, you have a newly -- couple of new members on the court Judge Gorsuch courses, you have Judge Kavanaugh who spoke to this issue during his very contentious hearing. Do you think that the court has the desire at this point to take up this volatile issue?
JOHNSTON: I can't speak for the court. My hope is that they do have that desire. We saw them reverse a long-standing precedent just this week, the court versus itself all the time. We hope that there -- with a lot of other factors that this is an appropriate time.
MACCALLUM: Well, you have a heartbeat bill in six states and about another 16 -- 13 that are probably going to pass it, so it's a very interesting time on this issue, Sir, thank you for being here. Eric Johnston, good to talk to you tonight, sir.
JOHNSTON: Thank you. Thank you very much.
MACCALLUM: Senator Martha McSally on her plans to protect young women who want to be in the military and follow in her footsteps from having a horrific experience like she did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY, R-ARIZ.: Like you, I am also a military sexual assault survivor. The perpetrators abused their position of power in profound ways. And in one case, I was preyed upon and then raped by a superior officer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Tonight, tensions continuing to ramp up between the United States and Iran. Iranian Defense Minister -- Iran's Defense Minister vowing to "defeat the American Zionist Front" as the State Department has now ordered non-emergency government employees to get out of Iraq, setting a "imminent threat to our personnel there."
Meanwhile, President Trump downplaying this today, claims that his administration is at odds over how to respond to that situation. He says they are not as critics attempt to pin blame on the National Security Advisor John Bolton for stoking the flames of war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, I-VT, D-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What worries me is that the architect of the efforts right now to get us into a war in Iran is the guy who was the architect to getting us into the war in Iraq and that is John Bolton. So you know, I worry about provocations on the part of the United States against Iran.
And I worry very much that this thing could flare up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Moments ago, I spoke with Senator Martha McSally, Republican of Arizona, member of the Armed Service Committee and an Iraq war combat veteran.
MACCALLUM: Senator McSally, good to see you this evening. Thank you very much being here.
SEN. MARTHA MCSALLY, R-ARIZ.: How are you doing, Martha?
MACCALLUM: I'm doing well. I mean, I'm sure as a member of the armed services and a combat, a fighter combat pilot --
MACCALLUM: -- you take the idea of getting into any war very seriously.
MACCALLUM: Do you believe that John Bolton is a warmonger or would you call him a realist?
MCSALLY: Well, I served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Martha, and I can tell you that we have received information and at the unclassified level, when there is a credible threat to Americans, we take action and we do this in other places.
When I served for 26 years, often we take these types of steps to evacuate nonessential personnel to start providing courses of action for decision. I've been a part of a lot of these planning efforts in my time in the military. Sometimes tensions ramp down, sometimes we have to use other options to crank up pressure to de-escalate and deter.
And so, this is a part of that process that is ongoing dealing with this very dangerous country of Iran, the largest state sponsor of terror who is a threat in the region. But there is a very specific and credible threat here that is being responded too.
MACCALLUM: All right. So, you know, with regard to your fellow Senator Sanders accusation about John Bolton.
MACCALLUM: My question is, do you think he is, you know, a war hawk or even a warmonger as some people accused him of being? Or do you think he is a realist in this situation?
MCSALLY: I think he is a realist. You know, I know John Bolton and I know he cares about protecting Americans and America's interests. And so, I just think this type of infighting is not helpful right now. I'd encourage any senators to go in and get the classified information on what we are dealing with.
And in any situation where there are threats like this, we present courses of action to be able to protect America. And that's what we're going through right now and I think that's what Americans want us to do.
Stop playing politics with this.
MCSALLY: And let's make sure that we present all the options available to keep us safe and keep our troops safe and Americans safe.
MACCALLUM: I want to put up on the screen a brand-new Fox poll tonight, President Trump -- President Trump on Iran. Do you think he is too tough? Eighteen percent say too tough. That number has risen since April 2018. Not tough enough, 29 percent. Thirty-three percent say that his actions are about right.
You know, what would your caution before for the president when it comes to the possibility of war with Iran having been on the front lines yourself?
MCSALLY: Yes. Well, what I would say is, Iran has, again, they've chanted death to America. Just listen to what they said before. Their existential threat to Israel. Their maligned activities supporting proxy forces like Hamas, Hezbollah and others.
They have been a maligned interest for a long time and we need to use all elements of national power to protect our interests. Economically, we are now cranking up sanctions. We pulled out of the Iran deal which I supported, and our military presence and deterrence options are available, as well as diplomatic action in order to keep us safe.
So, as someone who has been to war, you know, that's something we certainly don't want. We want to be able to protect our interests. Iran is very complex and militarized state so we've got to try and de-escalate this using the elements of power that we have, but also be ready to protect Americans.
MACCALLUM: I do want to ask you about a different topic and that's the work that you're doing in military sexual reform.
MACCALLUM: And I want to play a sound bite from some very moving testimony that you gave about your own experience and you gave this a testimony back in March 6.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCSALLY: I was horrified at how my attempt to share generally my experiences were handled.
Like many victims, I felt the system was raping me all over again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: That is a very powerful statement. And Senator Gillibrand is calling for commanders to be taken out of the equation when it comes to discipline --
MACCALLUM: -- in this situation. Why do you think that's wrong given what you said about how you felt that the system was raping you all over again within the military?
MCSALLY: So, in context, I share that I also I'm a survivor of military sexual assault, and I try to share this many years later, as part of the leadership to address this issue.
I've also been a commander and that's a responsibility like many people can't understand. Responsible for the mission, responsible for the people, the good order and discipline, the unit cohesion, everything about honor and respect of how our teammates treat each other.
And so, commanders need to be responsible for stopping military sexual assault. If you remove them from that decision-making process then you take your eye off the ball.
So, my legislation which I just introduced actually provides more resources and more support to commanders. That once brave victims come forward that we have the best trained investigators with the best equipment for the forensics teamed up with the prosecutors so that they can do a timely and thorough investigation and also duo process for the accused.
Because this is the way, our way of life, you know, we protect that and we wear the uniform for that. And so, let's make sure that we have the best opportunity to have justice in these cases that are very difficult to prosecute and that's what my legislation is about and I really look forward to getting it passed.
MACCALLUM: Well, I know that a lot of young women in the military are going into the military look up to you and other women like you to make this environment safe for them because we have more and more really outstanding young women who are making this their life choice.
And we all want to know that they are going to be safe, and in an environment where they can -- where they can thrive and they won't have to worry about this. So, hats off to you --
MACCALLUM: -- for working so hard on this. Senator McSally, thank you very much.
MCSALLY: Thanks, Martha.
MACCALLUM: Good to see you tonight.
MACCALLUM: And in keeping with that idea, next, a stunning Pentagon report that says that a vast majority of young Americans are ineligible for the military. The shocking reasons why, next.
MACCALLUM: So, get ready, these are staggering numbers about our nation's young people and it could present a dangerous threat to the security of our country.
Take a look at this. Seventy-one percent of young adults age 17 to 24 are ineligible to serve in the military. Let's put another way. Out of all the young people in this country less than one-third are eligible to serve.
So why is that? Why so many? These three reasons, obesity, lack of a high school diploma or an existing criminal record. Seventy-one percent of 17 to 24-year-olds according to the Pentagon. I mean, I just think that number is absolutely incredible.
Joining me now is Charlie LeDuff, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of "S Show" You fill in the blanks. "The Country's Collapsing And the Ratings Are Great" is the subtitle. Charlie, good to see you back on the show. Thanks for being here tonight. What's your reaction to these numbers?
CHARLIE LEDUFF, JOURNALIST: Thanks for having me, Martha.
MACCALLUM: I was floored when I saw that number this morning.
LEDUFF: Well, I'm from a military family, so remember the movie "Animal House?"
LEDUFF: Remember Dean Wormer?
LEDUFF: Fat, drunk, stupid there's no way to go through life young man. That's pretty much what it is. Much of that has to do with health, which is also asthma and bad eyes, and all of that.
LEDUFF: But it's being fat. We don't -- we don't eat right, we don't exercise, our kids stare at screens. We commit crimes, about 10 percent of that, one-tenth is because people commit serious felonies or serious misdemeanors.
And then what's not in there is drug use. Military won't take you if you're a drug user. So, you have opioids, marijuana. So, it's probably less than 29 percent. So, this creates a huge problem for the well-being and security of the country.
MACCALLUM: Yes. I mean, you know, the Pentagon says, you know, that number is so small, that 29 percent of eligible young people. So, they are battling with business, you know, and the other options that these young people can do to get people to join the military.
I mean, that -- I mean, I guess in some ways it's good news for the 29 percent because they're definitely going to get a job and they're in a very high demand, but you know, what choices are they going to make and which way do they want to go and what does that mean for our security?
LEDUFF: Well, what does it mean for the country? I mean, look, machines are taking over. You know, what kind of warriors we're raising are the joystick warriors with a bag of Doritos.
MACCALLUM: So pathetic.
LEDUFF: That's about young people are. It is. It is. But think about this, about 300,000 people will actually -- of the group that's eligible, right, the 29 will actually talk to the military. So, the pool you've got each year for recruiting is 300,000?
LEDUFF: Think about --
MACCALLUM: You know what struck -- go ahead.
LEDUFF: Go ahead.
MACCALLUM: I'm sorry. What strikes me, we've been doing a lot of segments on World War II leading up to the 75th anniversary of D-Day. And you think about out for so many of those young men they will tell you, look, this was my way up and out, you know. I wanted to get an education. They got education afterwards. And this was the way that I could sort of make my mark in the world. They had that ambition to do that no matter what their circumstances were.
LEDUFF: Well, you know, my stepdad was a World War II vet and it was just a matter of pride to serve his country.
LEDUFF: My father was a non-vet and it straighten his life out. You know what I mean? The military did that for him. So that's where I'm coming from.
So when I was in Iraq and I was fortunate enough to be able to leave. Think about this. Since 9/11, each soldier has done on average two tours in Afghanistan or Iraq or both, 20 percent have done three tours. Fifty thousand soldiers have done four tours or more so who is carrying the burden?
Since nobody wants to get off the couch, crack the books, or, you know, keep your finger out of other people's cars, what does this leave us? It's a really serious problem. So, we're going to have to build robots, artificial intelligence to do our fighting.
And now look at the news. Look at Iran. Look out what's going on in straits. What are we going to do? Send the same people over? See, young people, you go to wipe your nose, do a couple of push-ups, read a book. It's good for you. I like young people but it's --
MACCALLUM: I know. Charlie, I hear you.
LEDUFF: Just like the book says.
MACCALLUM: And you know, it's very dark news but I hope somebody out there listens to this and they look at their child and they say, you know, let's turn your life around. Not that everyone has to go in the military, but let's, you know, get off the couch, let's try to keep, you know, ourselves out of jail and let's finish high school and let's make a good life for ourselves.
And for some of them they will also choose to serve their country. These numbers are shocking.
Charlie, thank you very much.
LEDUFF: They have a purpose.
MACCALLUM: You are a great sociologist and journalist. It's great to see you tonight. Thank you for being here.
LEDUFF: Thanks for having me, Martha.
MACCALLUM: You bet. Coming up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY: What I'm saying the planet is on (muted) fire. Grow the (muted) up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: Here's Jesse coming up.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT: The Green New Deal is --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: OK. So, Bill Nye, the science guy is fed up with arguments like that. You have to fill in the blanks. The president was going after the Green New Deal and he's not going to take it anymore. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NYE: By the end of the century if the emissions keep rising the average temperature on earth could go up another four to eight degrees.
What I'm saying is the planet is on (muted) fire. Grow the (muted) up. You are not children anymore. I didn't mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12 but you are adults now and this is an actual crisis. Got it? Safety glasses on (muted).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: That was pretty funny. That was definitely pretty funny. Here now, Wednesdays with Watters, global warming edition, Jesse Watters, the cohost of The Five and host of Watters World.
You know, climate change is a serious thing. Bill Nye was actually being -- he was trying to be funny there. But he was, you know, dropping f-bombs, about how this is going.
JESSE WATTERS, HOST: Yes.
MACCALLUM: What do you think?
WATTERS: He is shock jock scientist. He is trying to make a buck, doesn't even have a Ph.D. He --
MACCALLUM: Really? He doesn't have a Ph.D.?
WATTERS: No. He has a bachelors.
MACCALLUM: Well, that's why he --
WATTERS: I have a bachelors --
MACCALLUM: He's not called -- he's not t called Dr. Bill Nye.
WATTERS: No, he is not doctor.
MACCALLUM: You just call the science guy.
WATTERS: No. I mean, he is a sketch comedy artist and he's an entertainer and he's been doing this for a long time. He has a Netflix special out, Bill Nye saves the worlds so he's got a very healthy ego. May be even healthier than mine. But all these predictions about --
MACCALLUM: No, that couldn't be.
WATTERS: That's a close call. Everyone has been wrong. They've said mass extinction, we're all going to be underwater, ice age, heat wave. No one has ever been right. So --
MACCALLUM: So, it doesn't bother you when we saw that report last week that said that they are all of the species that are in danger of extinction. You don't want that?
WATTERS: No, I'm for animals. I have a puppy. I don't want him going extinct. But you know, the planet renews itself and I just I'm doubtful that man is causing the warming because these experts have been saying this for years.
The experts said there was going to be a Y2k meltdown, it didn't happen. Experts said there was Russian collusion, didn't happen. Experts said there was going to be President Hillary Clinton. It didn't happen. So, when someone tells me who was an expert, I need to give them all of my money or else the world is going to end, I'm just a little suspicious.
MACCALLUM: All right. So, you are on record as being a little suspicious about it. It is interesting, though, when you look at polls more and more people seem to feel that there is a big issue with climate change and it's something that should be done about it.
And it's going to clearly be a big issue in the 2020 campaign. Here is a headline from Elizabeth Warren. She says that our military can help lead the fight in combating climate change. How exactly would that work?
WATTERS: Well, I mean, we finally found an enemy Democrats want to fight. I mean, Democrats very soft on ISIS but they want to knock the hell out of global warming. That's good.
Maybe we know now how we can get Democrats to fund the military. Just tell the military is going to fight global warming. But we have to make sure we have the U.N. approval, Martha. We can't be fighting global warming unilaterally.
WATTERS: We have to get our allies involved.
MACCALLUM: And she's very much against putting the military on the border.
WATTERS: That's right.
MACCALLUM: Which I think both sides have pretty much acknowledged it's a crisis situation.
MACCALLUM: You've been down there; I've been down there.
MACCALLUM: But she definitely wants them to work on climate change. Bill de Blasio said this.
WATTERS: My God.
MACCALLUM: "At real Donald Trump is running scared from NYC's Green New Deal. The temper tantrum his organization threw at Trump tower is proof. You're on notice, Donald, we won't let you mortgage our future for your real estate. Fix your buildings or pay a price. We will collect."
So, Bill de Blasio went over to the Trump tower to make, do a big protest. He ended up getting shouted down a bunch of people who were pro-Trump who were outside the building. Trump in 2020 on the escalator there.
He is also running -- he is running for president because everyone is so happy in New York with the job that he has been doing. Bill de Blasio thinks, you know what, New York is too small for me. I think I should actually be president of the United States.
WATTERS: Yes. Not a great record to run on. I mean, I want homeless not just in New York.
WATTERS: But all over the country. That's his platform. Listen, Trump is not running away from the Green New Deal, he is running against it. If anybody, Democrats are running away from it. Remember, Mitch McConnell put it on the floor for a vote in the Senate --
WATTERS: -- and not one Senate Democrat voted for it, or at all.
MACCALLUM: Which is ludicrous. They should absolutely show up and vote for it. Just clarification, Bill de Blasio has not yet announced, he is apparently going to announce tomorrow morning --
WATTERS: Was that secret? I'm sorry.
MACCALLUM: -- on GMA. So, I hope I didn't let the cat out of the bell.
WATTERS: Yes. Everyone has been waiting on the edge of their seats.
MACCALLUM: He's been teasing everyone with this exciting possibility --
WATTERS: Yes, I'm going to say it then.
MACCALLUM: -- that he might be the leader of the free world. So, we'll see. You know, I mean, obviously anybody can run. And we see that there's at least -- I don't know, he'll be number 24, I guess.
Here is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling out, she doesn't name him but, you know, you don't have to be a genius to figure out who she is talking about here on climate change. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, D-N.Y.: I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act and then are going to try to come back today and say we need a middle of -- the middle-of-the-road approach to save our lives. That is too much for me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATTERS: I like the fingers.
MACCALLUM: That is too much for her.
WATTERS: I like that little charisma.
MACCALLUM: She have a lot of charisma.
WATTERS: Listen, if you -- I think this helps Joe Biden when AOC says you are middle-of-the-road, that helps Joe Biden in a primary especially in a general. You know, when someone says they want to abolish air travel and they call you the middle-of-the-road you say thank you. I'll stay right on the middle-of-the-road and you just drive yourself over a cliff.
MACCALLUM: But, you know, a lot of the candidates are tripping over themselves for her endorsement. Bernie Sanders wants it. Elizabeth Warren wants her endorsement. She is charismatic as you say and she knows how to do this.
WATTERS: Yes. Leg that finger. I'm scared.
MACCALLUM: Thank you, Jesse.
MACCALLUM: Always good to see you.
WATTERS: You, too.
MACCALLUM: So, it's your world and we're just living in it.
WATTERS: Yes. You got that right.
MACCALLUM: Is that the situation?
WATTERS: You got the memo.
MACCALLUM: OK. More of “The Story” coming up next. Stay with us.
MACCALLUM: A final farewell tonight to the Colorado student and hero who sacrificed his life and saved many of his friends to stop a school shooter. Eighteen-year-old Kendrick Castillo was celebrated today at a church memorial service. He love jeeps. Even saved up his money to buy his own. So, hundreds showed up for a procession to pay tribute to Kendrick.
He was killed last week when he bravely threw himself in front of a gunman who he pinned against the wall. Friends say that he died a legend. Here is his dad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN CASTILLO, KENDRICK CASTILLO'S FATHER: So, I love all of you. I will be praying for all of you. And walk your faith like Kendrick did. You know, going to Taco bell and taking his hat off and doing the sign of the cross and praying over his food. Never waiver in what people would think.
We all grew up as children and we're all filled up with the good stuff. What you choose to do with it is really up to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACCALLUM: His father is absolutely remarkable to be able to stand there and give that message and our heart goes out to his family. That's “The Story” on this Wednesday night. We'll see you tomorrow night. Tucker is up next.
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