GLENN: Let me go to Michael. Where is Michael? Do you have him up? Michael, how are you, sir?
SMERCONISH: Hi, Glenn, I'm well.
GLENN: Kind of a sad did I for you.
SMERCONISH: Oh, come on.
GLENN: No, seriously.
SMERCONISH: It's a sad day for me because I'll be turning my head and coughing. I've got a physical today.
GLENN: That's right, double whammy. Castro steps down and you've got to have somebody's finger in places where fingers shouldn't be.
SMERCONISH: Oh, man. So I'd be thrilled to talk about Fidel Castro. In fact, keep me on three hours.
GLENN: Yeah. You actually were -- you met Fidel Castro, did an interview with him.
SMERCONISH: Yeah, actually spent six and a half hours in his house with him a couple of years ago and among the many things that stand out in my mind is that the Cubans assigned me to a particular hotel where I was put in Room 646. I was traveling with two other guys. One of them was in 346 and the other was in 746 and I was convinced that they must have run, like, the bugging cable in the 46 suites.
GLENN: How, may I just ask, how does one get an invitation, unless you are Oliver Stone or Michael Moore, how does one get an invitation?
SMERCONISH: Theoretically I was a journalist. I mean, you know me. I don't consider myself as such. I'm based in Philly on your station. But Senator Arlen Specter was going down to meet with Fidel Castro to talk about joint terrorist initiatives in the aftermath of September 11th and he invited me to go along. He said, you know, pay your own way, get credentialed as a journalist and if the meeting happens, I'll get you in the room, and the meeting happened for, as I say, six and a half hours at the Flogao De La Revolucion. Believe me, I'm not hear to sing his virtues. I would never do that.
GLENN: Which one? Arlen Specter or Fidel Castro?
SMERCONISH: It was really quite an encounter. I mean, among the surprises, you think that communism is an old man's game and yet he was surrounded by guys in their 30s much like you would see a member of the Senate or the House. So I'm watching these events going on down there where his brother Raul is going to get stuck in that position and many people are saying, well, then at least Raul will be the last of them. Not from what I saw. There are a lot of eager communists on the make down there in Cuba.
GLENN: I have to tell you, Michael, I heard somebody say -- maybe it was President Bush -- what will this mean for the Cuban people? And maybe democracy will take root. And I thought, no. What's going to happen is they're going to turn to a Chinese style economy. They're going to stay communist and they will open it up. I mean, that's the new model. Russia is doing it now, China is doing it now. It's the new model.
SMERCONISH: Glenn, I believe that the embargo has been a total failure and quite the contrary of taking down Castro or his brother. It has absolutely kept him in power. A lot of your listeners, particularly in Florida, are not going to like hearing me say this, but the reality is that their society on a day-to-day basis, their standard of living is crap. And he gets to blame every problem that exists on the Americans and the American embargo. We've created a boogeyman for him.
GLENN: I'm sorry. I thought the boogieman we send down named Michael Moore. I thought he was the one and they were like, oh, he's the actual boogeyman. No, he's a filmmaker, believe it or not. Why do you suppose, Michael, that all of the people in Hollywood go down there like you and --
SMERCONISH: Come on.
GLENN: Just hang out with him. Hey. You can call him Fi or Fidel or Del. What did you call him?
SMERCONISH: I wish you hadn't brought this up. When I came home, I wrote about my experience and I talked about a particular exchange that I had with him where I called him Mr. President, and I got hate letters for the next six to nine months from Cubans in Florida who said, how dare you call him Mr. President. I mean, forget that my question asked him to condemn terrorism. They said I had no place, you know, in his own house calling him Mr. President.
GLENN: What were you supposed to call --
SMERCONISH: This guy wrote to me and he said, I will always remember your name. So every time I'm on a program like Glenn Beck's nationwide, I'm thinking, I get that guy's out there right now.
GLENN: Oh, yeah, and right now he is cursing.
SMERCONISH: He is driving toward Philly.
GLENN: He is. He is eating Cuban sandwich which I never understood and he's cursing your name. What were you supposed to call him?
SMERCONISH: Mr. Dictator.
GLENN: Yeah, that would be the polite -- seriously, when I'm with dictators, you know, in their country where I could just disappear for all time, that's what I like to do, kick rocks in their eyes.
SMERCONISH: Hey, I tell you something else about Castro. Very Internet savvy. I remember that in his personal office he had two computer terminals on the desk and he pulled out this sheath of documents, 309 pages on the day that I was there and it represented the clip service of the Americans. In other words, like he would Google every time he was referenced in the American press and it would be printed out for him. And that's how closely he would try to stay abreast of the political scene in America as it related to his leadership.
GLENN: These people are egomaniacs, though. I mean, they're total and complete egomaniacs. Have you ever heard of the guy -- what is the prince from Saudi Arabia that owns, like, 5% of CitiBank? He's really, really wealthy? He's a guy who keeps bailing us out. Didn't, not crazy enough to bail us out this time but he continues to bail us out. This guy is one of the biggest egomaniacs. When you meet with him -- first of all, he has a nervous twitch in his eyes and -- remember he owns, you know, parts of our banks. He has a nervous twitch in his eye. So he has someone bring a golden tray, no matter where he is, a golden tray of about 30 different pairs of sunglasses every 15 minutes and he picks another pair of sunglasses and replaces the one he's wearing because he always, he can be in a movie theater, he's always wearing sunglasses because it's dark -- I mean, because of his eye twitch and he doesn't want anybody to see it. And if you ever meet him, he will give you a portfolio of him that talks about all of the wives that he had and why he divorced all of those wives and why they were wrong and he was right. One guy that I know that actually sat down and met with him, the portfolio included him on the cover of Fortune magazine, except it wasn't him on Fortune. They had superimposed, cut and pasted his head on somebody else's body. It was -- he said it was the strangest thing they have ever gone through I sitting down and meeting with this guy and you're like, oh, man, this guy is crazy out of his mind.
Did you get a feeling at all that Castro was crazy?
SMERCONISH: Crazy like a fox. I'll tell you what his trick was. He had an interpreter, a woman who, she was so close to him, it's like she was in his left pocket and as the night wore on, I became convinced that he did not need her, that he relied on her as a crutch to give him an extra 30 to 60 seconds to formulate his thought process. I'm convinced that he speaks perfectly fine or understands perfectly fine English but that it's a device that he uses to try and get his head together.
GLENN: I know this is a really weird question but I have to know. Did you get your picture taken with him?
SMERCONISH: I didn't pose, but absolutely tons of pictures were taken that night including a picture where we gave to him an FDNY hat. Again this was closer in time to the events of September 11 and we asked him to put it on as a sign of solidarity on America's war on terror. We thought it would be interesting to see whether he would do it. And he did it, and that also brought a whole slew of hate mail from firefighters who thought that he had somehow been derisive toward the badge.
GLENN: Holy cow, I have to tell you, Michael Smerconish, giving him a hat, having a picture. I will always remember your name.
Okay, thanks, Mike. Thanks, Michael Smerconish.