Michael Smerconish

An interview with Smerconish / Posted May 15, 2002

Gary - What did you miss the most about hosting a talk show while you were away?
MAS - I am really pleased to be back on the air, but in all candor, I did not miss it, save for a night or two when there was a news item that I really wanted to address. You keep posting that I have a larger than life ego, well that big head of mine was satisfied by a string of appearances on CNN and the column every Thursday in the Daily News. The radio break was not by design, but in retrospect, it was much needed.

Scott - If you were the Program Director of a Philadelphia talk radio station, what would be your "dream team" on-air line-up, taking into consideration your favorite local, regional and national talent?
MAS - Let me start by saying that I am proud to be associated with everyone on 1210 at the present time. I don't want the conspiracy nuts of the talk radio world - yes, we have a few- to start reading tea leaves that don't exist. As a matter of fact, I am uncomfortable giving you a dream line-up, but I will say that in the decade or so that I have been around this, I have been drawn to Dominic Quinn, who had an unbelievable vocabulary, and Tom Marr, who I regard as the benchmark for a terrific host. Sometime I'll have to tell you about the time I called Irv Homer as a kid. I got thru the screener, made my point, and had the Evil One hang up on me. I also remember the day I was driving around listening to Frank Ford, for whom I had filled in the week before. He opened his show by saying that he was embarrassed by something I had said on the program the week previous. I was so steamed I pulled over (this was pre-cell phone) and used a pay phone to call the inside number where we had quite a conversation. So Frank goes on the list, not because I agreed with anything he ever said, mind you. What was your question?

Gary - Is it possible you will return to Channel 6 on Sundays?
MAS - Doubtful. I expect to do more with channel 3, a CBS affiliate, where I will appear election night with Larry Kane.

Scott - Would you ever consider putting your wife, Lavinia, on the air as a guest? As your co-host?
MAS - No and no. She has no desire, and as a matter of fact, when I have specifically asked her to call the show, she has refused. She does not, however, stand in the way of my being on the air and has always been supportive of my radio endeavors. My kids could be the source of great material, but I think she would veto that too.

Gary - Come on, fess up. Who really wears the pants in your family?
MAS - Let me ask my wife if I can answer that. I'll get back to you.

Scott - You're a declared cigar aficionado. What's your favorite cognac?
MAS - Vintage ports are my thing.

Scott - If you were Fidel Castro's best buddy and you knew he would listen to your counsel, what advice would you give him?
MAS - Lose the military fatigues, put on a suit, and cut the beard. Americans will find you less alarming and actually listen to what you have to say. They may not agree, but they will lend you an ear.

Gary - How were the cigars in Cuba? Did you manage to bring any home?
Mas - They were extraordinary. The communists can screw up a great deal but they still roll a fine cigar......I brought home the two boxes I was legally permitted ... By the way, the Walt Whitman Bridge is for sale, and I have the listing contract in case you're interested.

Scott - You studied Government and Journalism as an undergraduate at Lehigh, yet you still managed to emerge a conservative. Do you think that's possible today, given that many universities, even relatively conservative schools like Lehigh, have been co-opted by PC-think??
MAS - Lehigh was not a liberal place. On the other hand, Penn, where I attended law school, was off the reservation. At Lehigh, I had a professor in my first semester named Dave Amidon who required that I read William F. Buckley's God and Man at Yale and George Gilder's Wealth and Poverty. These were my most formative years.

Scott - You've represented clients involved in some high-profile cases in the Philadelphia region. Are you drawn to these types of cases or is it inevitable that a Center City lawyer will be involved in notorious cases now and then?
MAS - No, they seem to be drawn to me. I have been fortunate in life generally to
be in the right place at the right time.

Scott - Your last day on the air at WPHT, before your triumphant return, was Wednesday, November 27th, 2001. On that day you predicted that Osama Bin Laden would be captured or dead by the following Monday (December 2, 2001). So, has he been captured or killed and we've just been kept in the dark about it all this time?
MAS - Did I say that next Monday, or just "on a Monday". Can we check the tape?

Gary - Is there going to be a Killer Tomato Contest 3? Any potential target in mind yet?
MAS - If listeners want it, it will happen. I have no idea as to the target. There is plenty of time for more bad seeds to emerge.

Scott - It makes me shudder just to think about it, but you served as a Philadelphia HUD administrator in the first Bush administration, and apparently you survived the experience! Is there any hope for that controversy-riddled agency, should it be totally gutted and rebuilt from the ground up or should it be abolished entirely?
MAS - No is the short answer. We have a mindset of answering complex social problems by writing a check. Money alone cannot address what plagues public housing. Figure out how to keep the man in those low income houses to kick butt and take names and you will be on the road to real change.

Scott - Should the Pennsylvania State Liquor Control Board be dissolved and turned over to the private sector as in New Jersey, or should it be reformed, but remain under state government control?
MAS - I would love to see it in private hands but because of an unusual alliance between unions and religious forces in Central Pennsylvania, it won't happen. So the best we can hope for is a more consumer friendly LCB, and Jonathan Newman, a young turk who is running the LCB, is trying to make that happen.

Scott - You're a friend of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector's son, Shanin. You're also known as a "moderate" Republican, as is Arlen Spector, and you were Arlen's guest on a trip to Cuba to meet Fidel Castro this past January. Who do you think is more liberal, you, or Arlen Spector? Why?
MAS - What is this, some kind of joke? Notice you didn't say, hey Michael, you were against Bork (I wasn't), you were against Clarence Thomas (I wasn't) and you were against indicting Clinton( I wasn't) and so was Specter, so which is more liberal? I have disagreed with him on many, many issues. My politics and his politics are very different. But friendship transcends politics.

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