Questions For. . . Shepard Smith
The Super Bowl isn’t the only mega event we have to look forward to this week. Super Tuesday, the delegate-rich mother of all primary days will be taking place two days after the Patriots and Giants wrap up the NFL season.
To coincide with their Super Bowl coverage, FOX will devote three hours of political coverage as a lead-in to their football pregame show. Chris Wallace will kick things off at 9 a.m. with Fox News Sunday, and then Shepard Smith will host a 2-hour Super Tuesday Special from Glendale, Ariz. featuring reports on all the candidates including FOX-25’s Joe Battenfield with Mitt Romney.
We talked to Smith, an enthusiastic fan of both football and politics, about the show, the historic nature of the primaries, and his love of Ole Miss and Eli Manning.
Boston Daily: Tell us about the show. What do you have planned for us?
Shepard Smith: Oh, man, we’re going to mix America’s two favorite things: politics and football. I’m really excited about it. We’re going to have the best players in politics and the best players in football. It’s a perfect mix for me.
BD: We know politicians love to rub elbows with football players, but will football fans tune in for the politics?
SS: It’s two days before Super Tuesday, maybe the biggest Super Tuesday in the history of the country, and it’s only going to decide what’s going to happen to the nation over the next four years. It’s a brilliant move on the part of this company. On a day when you have a natural audience already there, to put on a something that really matters to this nation. My guess is there are easier ways to make money, but I don’t know if there’s a better public service.
BD: There is the perception that FOX News is the cable channel for Republicans, and Democrats go elsewhere. How can you break through that for this show?
SS: I like to think of this as one America. Sean Hannity is probably a Republican. We probably have a lot of conservatives who watch our opinion shows, but our news organization, I’ll stack up against anybody. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I was trying to skew the way people think. I’m guessing that’s not something everyone believes, but I’m also guessing that those people aren’t watching our newscast either.
BD: Probably not. What I’m getting at is the perception…
SS: That’s what I’m saying. Most football fans who don’t tune in to FOX or CNN or wherever, will tune in and see that we don’t have a horse in this race. I just want people to know what’s going on. The worst thing I could do is try to convince someone to vote for one person or another. That would be against everything I believe in, and everything I’ve worked for over two decades.
BD: Let’s talk Mitt Romney. It seems he’s made a ton of tactical errors, and as we talk before the Florida primary, he’s still standing.
SS: As a presidential observer, he seems to be the establishment candidate of the Republican party, and John McCain is the anti-establishment candidate. I guess that those who control the Republican party like Mitt, and those who don’t like McCain, and there’s your battle. It’s more complex than that, of course, but there’s the easy analysis.
BD: It’s a fascinating election for both parties.
SS: It really is. It’s like that last game of the year between Eli and Brady. You don’t really know what’s going to happen. All the geniuses in politics have been 100 percent sure that Hillary Clinton is the anointed one or Rudy Giuliani can’t lose, and all of a sudden it’s John McCain. Nobody know what they’re talking about.
BD: It changes every day.
SS: I love it. What the geniuses refuse to admit is that it’s the people who will decide this. Maybe it’s a new America. I don’t know who the next president is going to be, but I’m fascinated by the process.
BD: Let’s go back to Romney. He’s an interesting character in that when he announced, he decided to shift way to the right. And now, people are saying they want change and a Washington outsider with a good economic policy. That should have played right to his strengths, but he seems to be a step behind whenever the political winds change.
SS: I’ve heard a lot of people say that. John McCain would say that Mitt Romney has had every position on every position. The vision of Mitt Romney as a proper New Englander running around in his denims…
BD: Hunting varmints.
SS: (Laughs) Hunting varmints. Exactly. Maybe some of the candidates should have learned from Al Gore when his handlers had him going from suits to polo shirts and then we had John Kerry windsurfing. It seems to me that the candidates would have been better off on their own, without all those handlers.
BD: On the other side, there also seems to be struggle for control of the party.
SS: What Ted Kennedy did Monday (in endorsing Barack Obama) is a moment in political history that I will always remember: seeing Caroline Kennedy, the congressman and the senator, as deans of the party, swinging support to a man who, until four years ago, no one had ever heard of. Seeing Senator Kennedy excited in a way I haven’t seen in years. He’s fired up and ready to go, to steal a quote from Barack Obama. At the State of the Union, to see Hillary Clinton almost alone and Barack Obama sitting there with Ted Kennedy in a, what are they calling it, an Obamalot moment.
BD: Speaking of Obama, I’m too young to know JFK in any real sense. Has there been a national political figure since then who has the power to turn people on with his speeches like Obama?
SS: That’s what Caroline Kennedy said. Let’s face it. (The image of) Caroline Kennedy is the 6-year-old at her father’s funeral. That’s the kind of weight she brings. It doesn’t matter if you are so far right you can’t even see the Kennedys, that she said it is a historic moment in this nation.
To see what has happened in Iowa and again in South Carolina and to realize that, in many ways, one political dynasty is pitted against another is as good as any football game you’ll see in Foxboro. This is fun to watch. The future of the nation rests on all this. That should make people learn more about their positions.
All we hear is rhetoric. The Republicans say, ‘You’re liberal. No, you’re liberal.’ The Democrats say, ‘You’re an attacker,’ or ‘You won’t talk about issues.’ It’s up to us, and it is incumbent upon Americans to sit down and read this stuff and find out who these people are, and make an informed decision.
BD: Can the Republicans capture that enthusiasm?
SS: I do not have any idea if they can or not, but as an observer of the process who was in New Hampshire and Iowa and South Carolina, I’m telling you the enthusiasm pendulum has swung to the Democratic side. If The Republicans are able to recapture it, then they’ve done a fine bit of politicking. I don’t think they have it right now.
BD: I know you’re an Ole Miss guy, so is Eli Manning your boy?
SS: Eli is my man. I’ve been watching him since he was a kid. I watched him beat Auburn, at Auburn, which was a turning point for him. I see him in a post-Shockey world as the leader of this team.
BD: So you’re pinning Eli’s resurgence on Shockey being out?
SS: As a simple observer of the process, that’s what it seems like to me. You know Shockey’s a chirper in the huddle. He’s got to have all the attention. Easy-E, man, he’s kind of laid back. I don’t know how Tiki fits in all this because Tiki and I are buddies and I would never talk about that, but I think this Shockey thing has made a difference.
We’ll see. You’ve got to line up and play. If you go 19-0, well, hats off to you.
FOX’s Super Tuesday Special begins at 9 a.m. with FOX News Sunday and continues with Shepard Smith hosting two hours of Super Tuesday coverage. It can be seen locally on FOX-25.