For the duration of the war, the producers have replaced Shaquille O’Neal on the panel with James McPherson, the legendary historian of the First American Civil War. McPherson himself is substituted by NBA Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade on alternating Thursdays. This is not one of those Thursdays.

We join the action midsegment as Chuck and Kenny spiritedly debate the strategic and tactical wisdom of the Secessionist attack on Shaker Heights, Ohio.

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SMITH: Chuck—

BARKLEY: I’m saying—

SMITH: No, Chuck—

BARKLEY: Let me say—

ERNIE JOHNSON: Let him, let him say it—

BARKLEY: Let me say what I’m going to say—

JOHNSON: Let him finish, Kenny—

SMITH: Okay.

JOHNSON: You got to talk about the failed attack on Manhattan and the successful attack on Manhattan, Kansas…

SMITH: I’m letting him!


SMITH: Okay.


SMITH: Well, what are you gonna say!?

JOHNSON: People are dying, Chuck.

BARKLEY: What I’m saying is… Shaker Heights, then Cleveland. The Secessionists—they’re trying to cut off the lane, trying to cut off the lane for reinforcements and for supplies to move right to left. Right to left.

SMITH: Right to left? What do you mean right to left?

BARKLEY: I mean, you know…

JOHNSON: I think he means east to west—


SMITH: Oh, okay.

JOHNSON: You know, east to west, right to left.

BARKLEY: Thank you, thank you, Ernie.

JOHNSON: You’re welcome.

SMITH: The question, though, Chuck, isn’t why the attack, you know, in general. The question is, why attack there?

BARKLEY: Why where?

SMITH: Why there? Why Cleveland?

BARKLEY: Well, there’s no depth in Cleveland, Kenny. No defensive depth. They’re like the Cavs—like one of Lebron’s Cavaliers teams.

SMITH: Lebron!? You’re talking about basketball?

JOHNSON: We’re talking about war here, Chuck.

SMITH: Let’s consider this. Consider how—actually, you know what? I’m going to the board.

(Smith rises and begins briskly walking to the wall-sized video display board at the back of the studio. He checks over his shoulder to confirm that James McPherson is not racing him to it. McPherson is eighty-seven. He remains seated.)

SMITH: Let’s consider why this could be a mistake. Let’s look at the pattern of failed Secessionist attacks when they run into local, grassroots paramilitaries that emerge under threat. Start in California. The attacks in San Pasqual. What stopped them? The Guadalupe Volunteers.

JOHNSON: —and the 1st Marines, Jet.

SMITH: Then Utah—Bryce Canyon. What happened there? The Secessionists were driven back almost to the Grand Canyon by the Mormon Militia!

JOHNSON: —and the 4th Infantry Division.

SMITH: The pincer movement around the north side of Chicago, the twin battles in Skokie and Lakeview? Halted by the Shield of David and the Gay Blade, respectively.

JOHNSON: —also the 101st Airborne.

SMITH: So, there is the pattern. Secessionist attacks fail at places of religious or cultural significance.

(Smith begins walking back to the main studio desk.)

SMITH: So hence why, not just in Ohio—you know—not just at Cleveland, but at Shaker Heights, specifically.

BARKLEY: Well, so, first of all… Kenny… That’s a stupid pattern.

SMITH: Chuck—

BARKLEY: And second—second of all. The Shakers are pacifists.

SMITH: No, but Chuck—

BARKLEY: And third of all. I should say were pacifists, ’cause the Shakers have been dead for a hundred years.

JOHNSON: Well, to be fair, I think there may be a couple left in Maine.

SMITH: You hear that, Chuck!?

JOHNSON: Though I think there are literally only two of them.

SMITH: It’s a pattern, though. One being borne out repeatedly. These places mean something to the defenders. The Secessionists attacking Shaker Heights—I think they’re gonna run into it.

JOHNSON: As well as the 10th Mountain Division. But let me ask you then, Kenny. Chuck makes a good point. The Feds are vulnerable in Ohio, with very little depth. So where should the attack have been? Where would this pattern not hold?

BARKLEY: Nothing holy about Cincinnati.

SMITH: I—ignore Chuck—if it were me? I would’ve attacked Toledo.

BARKLEY: Toledo? Toledo, Kenny?

SMITH: Yes, Chuck. Toledo.

JOHNSON: The Reconquista isn’t of religious significance?

SMITH: Ohio, Ernie. Not Spain, Ohio. The Kenosha Kid, not El Cid.

JOHNSON: Didn’t realize you read Pynchon, Kenny.

BARKLEY: Kenosha? Kenosha is in Wisconsin.

SMITH: Well… it should be in Ohio.

BARKLEY: It sure is boring enough for it.

(Barkley and Smith laugh.)

JOHNSON: Well then, Kenny—why Toledo?

SMITH: Because it gives them options. It gives them options, Ernie! You think they’re gonna push New York? Kick out towards Philly? No. So—drive hard to the heart of things. Detroit. Chicago. They almost took Chicago already! The west is wide open, Ernie. Wide open. Cause the Feds aren’t holding it shut.

BARKLEY: Not yet, but Kenny, you’ve been saying you’re disappointed with the start from the Feds. And I’d say, you know, it took a few years for the Union to get going under Grant too, took uh… Bull, Bull Run, and the Peninsular Campaign.

JOHNSON: Well, wasn’t that—

JAMES McPHERSON: That was McClellan.

SMITH: Yeah, you forgot about him.

BARKLEY: I try, I try to forget about him. He’s…

SMITH: The worst.

BARKLEY: Lame, I was gonna say lame. Like Kenny’s career.

SMITH: Tell me again how many rings you got, Chuck?

BARKLEY: Well, how many MVPs you got, Kenny?

SMITH: More than McClellan. He got negative MVPs.

BARKLEY: That’s your competition? A short white dude who’s been dead for 150 years?

JOHNSON: If I can interject here, maybe ask a question.

BARKLEY: I beat MJ, and I beat Hakeem, and Ewing, and both Brigadier General Stockton and Colonel Malone.

SMITH: And MJ still beat you in the finals. Chased your ass back to Phoenix—just like the Feds just did to Stockton and Malone!

JOHNSON: But if I may. How concerned should the Feds be about their slow start?

SMITH: Very.

JOHNSON: You agree, Chuck?

BARKLEY: Ernie, let me tell you—no. No, I don’t agree. Cause Ernie, it’s like I said. The same thing happened too, happened, you know, historically. The Feds have the manpower, the industrial base, the financial base, and all of the other… the other structural, you know—structural advantages to win. In the long term.

JOHNSON: So these early setbacks in the Midwest—in Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado…

BARKLEY: They’re just setbacks, Ernie. No need to panic.

SMITH: I think they’re gonna collapse, Ernie. Even if they start riding high, it’s all gonna come back to earth like Gravity’s Rainbow.

JOHNSON: Well, we will see. And with that, we’ll take a break. You’re watching Inside the Second American Civil War, presented by Target. In this time of conflict and disruption to the very fabric of American life—as well as to its logistical infrastructure—those on both sides can count on Target to still provide the necessities of our way of being. From old standards like groceries, clothes, and home essentials to the new necessities of body armor, sandbags, and MREs, Target has the inventory and prices to get your family through sieges and the holiday season. Target: even in war, expect more, pay less.