De-Radicalizing America

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Editor’s note: The following talk by radio host Hugh Hewitt was delivered at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 2012 West Coast Retreat, held March 30th-April 1st at the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes, California. The transcript follows.



Part I

Part II

Hugh Hewitt: I want to begin with — this is happy talk time. After the last panel, I thought I should be like the penguin at the zoo and make you all smile a little bit because, golly, cut our wrists and stuff like that. That was horrible, but I want to begin with — really, Mike Walsh, come on, Romney is going to win, Mike. They’re going to win. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.

My preface is if anything I say has been contradicted this morning by Jay Cost, this afternoon by Dan or this evening by Karl, I’m wrong, they’re right. So just put that down and don’t hold it against me. Is Pat Caddell still here? I didn’t see him. Pat and I were on “Hannity” together in a rather memorable exchange a few weeks back and so for an additional donation, we’re be wrestling in the garden later tonight. (Laughter). It was live television. I’m used to live television. As Barry mentioned, I did it for a dozen years for PBS here in town and stuff just happens on live television. I actually was on the air when OJ took off in the white Bronco and for three hours, I covered the first and only PBS car chase in history. (Laughter). It was very refined, a very high-end car chase.

The worst moment in live television — and I was thinking about this when I knew that Pat was going to be here, not evenly remotely close to when Pat and I mixed it up on the great American panel, but it actually goes back to another PBS night when I was set to interview Big Bird and it was Big Bird in his Big Bird uniform standing right next to me. And right before the green light went on — and Dan, you’ll appreciate the green light going on — in my ear says, “Just in over the wires, Richard Nixon is dead.” Now, I’m fairly close to President Nixon, as many of you know. So the green light went on and I said “Richard Nixon is dead — coming up, an interview with Big Bird.” (Laughter). They cut to the roll-in thing. It sounded so stupid and it’s immortalized on tape that I’ve had no success in destroying. (Laughter).

I did work for Richard Nixon right out of college. I drove across the country from Ohio down to San Clemente, the Elba of America, and began to spend two years with President Nixon right before the 1980 election. We worked on a book called “The Real War” and I am reminded of those years because they feel so much like these years and I think the results are going to be very much the same thing and I believe it’s going to be as shocking and as surprising to Washington, D.C., as 1980 was shocking and surprising to Washington, D.C., and to the country. That’s why I’m an optimist.

I think the Beltway tends to be out of touch and indeed, Manhattan Beltway media leaks tend to be very out of touch with what the rest of the country is thinking. One of the reasons I like to broadcast from Orange County is that it keeps me very far away from whatever is the common wisdom among those who are making the media or making the general noise.

When I came — and I got a glimpse of what happens when you get isolated a little bit from my time with president Nixon in San Clemente. I’ll tell you one quick story from those years. President Nixon was moving to New York in the spring of 1980 and we all went back to the great metropolis, but before he left, he wanted to see the Grand Canyon, which he had never seen as a tourist. So he borrowed George [Argus]’s RV and he set out with Bebe Rebozo to go to the Grand Canyon and the young staff — there were three of us, Ray Price and two young guys. We were back packing up the books and getting ready to move to New York and he was supposed to be gone for four or five days. He was back that afternoon.

And after Bebe went over to the Casa Pacifica and they were parking the RV, I went over to talk to the head of the Secret Service detail and I said, “What are you doing back here the 23rd, 24th time?” He said, “Well, Bebe and he just decided it wasn’t right for them.” They decided this wasn’t going to work and it sort of started going south when they got to lunchtime and they pulled out a very fine bottle of wine and they didn’t have a corkscrew, and the Secret Service are not valets. They don’t come equipped to take care of you, so they have to pull over to get a corkscrew. (Laughter). So they pulled over to the closest place they thought they could get into and the head of the detail was retailing (sic) me with this. He said, “It was a K-Mart.”

So President Nixon, Bebe Rebozo and two members of his Secret Service detail go into the K-Mart. (Laughter). And they’re in there for an hour. I said, “What happened?” He said, “When he came out, he couldn’t stop talking about it. He said ‘Have you ever been in one of these things? They’ve got everything in there.’” (Laughter). “They’ve got furniture and clothing,” and he had gone up and down the aisle of every row in the K-Mart because, of course, Richard Nixon had never been in a K-Mart. He had been in 1962, after losing the gubernatorial election out here, he’d gone back to New York and he’d lived in New York City. They didn’t have K-Marts on Park Avenue where he practiced and of course, he ran for president. Everyone drove him around and after the resignation, he went into isolation and he very rarely left the compound until the Frost interviews — a terrific movie.

Then he was finally getting out and this is the first time. That is a parable which I think is instructive about most people in Washington, D.C., who generally do not understand what is going on in the country except by relayed reports from their correspondents who parachute in and occasionally visit. Now, I’m not going to hold myself out as a great expert on everything. I’d leave it to Victor to tell you about farming, for example, and I would leave it to others to tell you about other things, but I do try and get around and stay outside of the Beltway.

And I believe that they will be absolutely amazed by the election results because unlike any other election, I think everybody knows everything that’s going on in this country. They may not be telling pollsters the truth about how they’re going to vote, but I think the score is as well known as any nationally broadcast world Series game. I think it’s Super-Bowl-obvious what is going on in the choice in front of us, and as a result, I think it’s going to go very well for our side. That’s why I think Romney is going to win and I’ll be back to that. (Applause).

Let me give you two illustrations of that. How many of you are aware of what President Obama said to President Medvedev on Monday? How many of you think that’s significant? Now, Victor was on with me yesterday to talk about that because it is nowhere being discussed in great length and I will be fascinated if on the Sunday shows tomorrow morning, anyone talks about it at great length. It’s an enormously significant moment. As Victor said, it’s very revealing about the inner Obama. It was a total moment of transparency. It didn’t surprise me; I doubt it surprised any of you. And I think it was heard and noted all across the country.

Governor Romney came on the show instantly to say, “This is very, very disturbing. This is very, very unnerving, disconcerting.” He used every word he could come up with to convey the fact that this is not what the President of the United States ought to be doing with the president of Russia. And I think the country knows that and the MSM does not want to dwell on this at all because they realize that unlike the Etch-A-Sketch, it is a profoundly difficult moment for the president through the next nine months — seven months.

Secondly, I’ve been doing the radio thing for 22 years, been on the radio in one form or another since late 1989 and I can count on my hand events that I know are tidal-wave-like when they occur and I’ve experienced them — for example, I was broadcasting the morning of 9/11, spent six hours on the radio and of course, the whole country knew that, so that’s not hard to see. But when Florida happened, when people were intensely interested in every development of the Florida fiasco that followed — they were following the Florida Supreme Court’s back and forth with the United States Supreme Court. People wanted to know the details. I was sad to say I was on the air when Michael Jackson died and overwhelming interest immediately in the cultural phenomenon of that, and then election nights, people tune in.

One of those events happened this week in the Supreme Court arguments that Barry referenced and the Court did us a great favor. They released the audio in real time, so I was able to take the audio and I was able to play it almost — I skipped a lot of the Anti-Injunction Act stuff because no one who doesn’t have to do penance should have to listen to Anti-Injunction Act stuff, but everything that wasn’t jurisdictional was intensely interesting to the audience. And I could have just sat back and done nothing, a little commentary. I said I felt like Vin Scully doing a seventh game of the World Series because it was this epic moment and I got my friend Guy Benson on the show yesterday,, a tremendously talented young writer.

I said, “It’s a sad day for you.” He said, “Why is it a sad day?” I said, “Well, you’re 27 years old and you have just experienced probably the most interesting week of covering the Supreme Court you will ever have. It will never get this interesting. Bush v. Gore was pretty interesting; this was more interesting because it was actually more accessible.” We all knew what was at stake; we all understood those issues. We’ve been debating them for two years and when Paul Clement got up and delivered a four-minute opening and a four-minute — reserved his time on the second day, requests flowed in. “Play that again, play that again, play that again.”

Attorney General Cuccinelli of Virginia came on the program on Thursday and told me something that was remarkable about that. Paul Clement didn’t use a note. Isn’t that amazing? He did not have a yellow pad in front of him; he did not — Manny would be amazed by this, as no mean advocate himself. To be able to do that means he was so deeply immersed in it and to hear the justices go back and forth and to hear Justice Scalia bring up the cornhusker kickback or for Justice Scalia to say quite candidly, “2,700 pages, I’m not going to read 2,700 pages. I’m not going to make my clerks read 2,700 pages which sums it up.” That argument did so much to revive my confidence in the jurisprudence of the United States because it was so candid and so many people understood it in the audience, so many people.

We were at a Hillsdale College event on Thursday night and Arn and I were talking about the college and what it did, but we had a reception beforehand, a few hundred people. Over and over again, people came up and said, “Thank you for playing the audio.” It’s like I had anything to do with it. It was like being — as I said at the table — Bob Feller’s catcher in a no-hitter. You really don’t have much to do with it, but you’ll be happy to take a bow, and that was the way it was and that’s great if we all know this.

Now, I think this has been evolving over the last three years. I think since the president got there, I was not one of the first ones to recognize this. A lot of people were ahead of me in this game. Rush was ahead of me on this side, David was ahead of me on this side. Mark Levin was ahead of me on this side. I bought the rhetoric. I thought this was going to be a moment where the Democratic party seized the center led by President Obama and would effectively block the Republicans from a return to power by effectively governing from the center. And I thought the appointment of Robert Gates, the carry-over appointment, I was totally taken in and so were a lot of smart people on the center left.

And if you read Peggy Noonan’s piece yesterday, I think you read in Peggy’s last couple of paragraphs a deep and obvious sense of betrayal that is not limited to Wall Street Journal writers or to people in this room, but is very much centered across the country and what has happened over the last three years with this steady, lurch-like march to the left. And I believe that that’s evidenced itself in a number of ways, including the rise of bestsellers like “Ameritopia.” Mark was on the show yesterday. It’s very interesting. Mark and I go back to the Meese Attorney general’s Department together. We compete head-to-head. If I’m on one station, Mark’s on another station, but we are very good friends and I’ll pretape things with Mark and he with me, so that we can share our collective view. We’re not competing with — we’re on the same side.

And “Ameritopia” is a very — how many of you have read “Ameritopia?” It’s a difficult book. It takes eight books beginning with “The Republic” and ending up with “The Manifesto” and including Moore’s “Utopia” and some — and “The Leviathan” and Montescue and Locke and he tries to summarize it and make an argument about what’s going on in the American psyche right now. It’s a very challenging book, but it’s a very rewarding book. And as I walked through the airport yesterday in Phoenix, it is everywhere in every bookstore. It’s flying off the shelves. He’s managed to accomplish what hundreds of liberal arts colleges have not accomplished over 50 years, which is to get people to take seriously political theory and what is developing in the country.

So Levin and I were talking about this argument that happened at the court and we believe that that was — we agreed 100% — a most significant moment of recognition that we are at a turning point about which there will be no returning, that you cannot make a U-turn off of these highways, the two of which are right in front of us. And the great news is everybody knows it. David Horowitz has always reminded me of the character — how many of you read “Winds of War” or saw that horrible miniseries? Pug Henry met everybody. He managed to show up at Stalin’s backyard and he was there with Churchill.

And David’s reminded me of Pug Henry. From the beginning, he’s been on both sides of this battle. He knows both of the major players and it was — was it Michael who said in the last panel that this was begun 1968 and continues on to this point? I thought it was over in 2004. I thought that was the last boomer election. I thought that finally, we had worked 1968 out through the system. I’m the tail end of the baby-boom. I’m 56 years old and so I’ve never really been caught up with that. College was rather dull and full of beer for me. It wasn’t — we had no revolutionaries or anything like that going on, but it’s back and it’s back in a virulent, nightmarish kind of way, but I’m very comfortable predicting it’s going to go our way.

Let me give you some examples of why. Two weeks ago at the Supreme Court in a case called EPA versus Sackett, which is not well known except to those of us who toil in the fields of land use and due process law, the Supreme Court said by the rule of nine to nothing — we got Kagan and Sotomayor to go along with this. They said that the EPA cannot deny hearing the landowners who wanted to build a little house on a little piece of property three rows up from the lake that wasn’t a wetland and who may have threatened (sic) with $32,500 a day in fines. Now, to anyone in this room, that is an absurd and deeply inimical proposition, that it had not struck the EPA, the District Court or the Ninth Circuit as profoundly wrong.

Understand that nine members of the Supreme Court understood they had to get that right even though the Ninth Circuit and the District Court and the EPA had clung to their righteousness through that whole process. They were that out of step. They are liberal elites on the Ninth Circuit. I know I’ve argued in front of Reinhardt; I know the District Court judge in which it was argued in front of and I know the EPA intimately under this regime. And they are liberal elites who do not believe that they ought to be challenged in their world view and as a result, they’re out of touch.

Go back a month earlier — Hosanna Tabor versus EEOC, another 9-0 decision where the Employment Opportunity Commission had attempted to dictate to churches who would be their ministers and who would be their teachers. And the Supreme Court is back again. Again, we get Kagan and Sotomayor and said, “That’s not American. We can’t do that.” I suggest to you that the contraception regulation — not just contraception, but morning-after pill and sterilization services, etc., is as profoundly opposite of the common understanding of the law as those two decisions. And that’s three in a row and when you get three in a row that reflect not just liberal elites, but this administration specifically.

It was this administration’s EEOC; it was this administration’s EPA; it is this administration’s HHS that are coming out with far outside of the mainstream arguments that people have turned. They have turned and they have set their face against this administration because it is radical and this examples — some examples of this that help us in this election, and I’m going to get to the specifics of the election and take some questions.

I think you win when you don’t have to explain your narrative. I know from advertising. In my business, I do a lot of advertising. I know a lot of people are (inaudible) the message and the people who have won in the messaging wars, as those of you in business know, is if you hear the jingle come on and you know how it ends before it ends, right? If you do the mattress, “You’re killing me, Larry,” is common out there. All right. How many of you know what “You’re killing me, Larry” means? All right. It’s a common, beaten into us over and over again — he owns the narrative of that mattress. He’s got you.

The narrative for this election is now a series of phrases that I don’t have to explain. I merely have to say them and you will know what they communicate whether or not you agree with them. If I say ObamaCare, you know what I’m talking about and our candidates from the bottom of the ticket up to the presidency only need say ObamaCare. If I say to you “stimulus,” you know what I’m talking about. You also know I had Jonathan Alter — I like to bring lefties on. Alter is a buddy; E.J. Dionne is a buddy; Jonathan Chait is a buddy. I love to bring them on. Dan is on, Victor is on, Michael is — but I just love having everyone on and talking to them and I love it when lefties will come back again and again.

I have them on because they’re not hard to argue with. (Laughter). It really is batting practice and I’m not like a sleeper cell on the radio. I’m not sneaking them in, but Jonathan came on and he’d written this book “The Promise” about Obama’s first year and said what a success it was. (Laughter). I said, “Okay. Give me this, Jonathan. Point me to something. When I was a kid in Ohio and I was a lifeguard for the summers — there were four summers — I life-guarded at Niles, Ohio, [Waddell] Pool, which was a WPA building, a gorgeous building. It’s still standing; it’s still there. And I said, “Okay. So that’s what the WPA built. Show me what the stimulus built.” He said, “Well, they did some improvements on Route 1 in New Jersey.” (Laughter).

He said this. I said, “Jonathan, is that it?” He said, “Well, there’s signs all over the place that say improvements.” And I said “Sure, they’re putting signs, but what is left behind?” He said, “I’ll tell you what’s left behind. Solyndra is left behind and it’s a toxic waste site to the north of us. It has actually got a cleanup order on it. That’s about it.” And we argued back and forth, but you ask yourself, what could you point to?

If you gave FDR $850 billion, do you think he would have left something behind? Do you think we’d have some more F22s? Do you think we’d have a 313-ship Navy as opposed to a 282-ship Navy? Do you think we’d have some buildings? Do you think we might have bought another country or bailed someone out or anything? (Laughter). Nothing; it’s stimulus. If I say to you “unemployment,” you know — you know — I don’t even have to tell you that his administration made a promise that it would not go above 8% and in fact, it has not been below 8%. The president himself is trying to distance himself from that promise, but he put his arms around that early on in the administration by reference and implication and it was the head of his Economic Advisors Council that put that number out in the selling of the stimulus.

And it’s very hard to say we’re moving in the right direction when you’re at 8.3. I don’t care if we’re at 8.0 or 7.8. It is not moving in the right direction fast enough for people not to understand it’s been an epic fail. If I say to you Boeing, how many of you get an immediate picture of a plant in Charleston, South Carolina that was told it could not open because of a union complaint in Washington State? All right. That’s not hard. If I tell you Gibson Guitars, you will know immediately that this is an endangered wood allegedly that had been imported illegally from India that led to the shutdown and seizure of all that. If I say Sotomayor and Kagan versus Roberts and Alito, I don’t have to explain anything to you.

So I think the narrative is set.  I don’t think anything that’s going to happen between now and top line end of the year is going to change it. I think that our friends in mainstream media are going to tell us again and again and again that every tick-down in employment represents an enormous step up for the president’s re-election chances, but if you do not have open to you the opportunity to kidnap either Michael Barone or Jay Cost and put them in your basement, then I’m going to suggest the next best thing for understanding what’s going to happen in the election.

And that is a book by Sean Trendy called “The Lost Majority.” Maybe you’ve heard this. He’s a Yalie and we’re going to have to forgive him for that, but it is nevertheless a fine bit of political analysis. It examines in great detail the Obama majority and it talks about why, one, it has been lost and two, why there are no permanent majorities. You have to ask Karl tonight about it because he also takes his swings at Karl’s great Republican majority, but I think Karl was this close with the president to pulling it off. And I don’t think President Obama — if Sean is correct — is remotely close to re-election and here is why.

The Obama coalition was very, very deep, but it was also relatively narrow. It was built on enormous majorities in the African American community and significant majorities among young voters, Hispanic voters and suburban affluence. He has lost those significant majorities in the latter three categories according to Sean’s analysis, and I believe it is correct, and he has lost the enthusiasm, though not the overall majority in the African American community. And what that means is a very brittle coalition that was very wide across many traditionally red states has now reduced itself in size, and shattered in some places, which is why if you look at the Iowa numbers, even Ron Paul beat in a head-to-head President Obama in Iowa.

Step back and ask yourself, “What is that about?” That’s about the Iowa demographics setting up to reject the president in the fall. They know, they have seen, they have taken his measure and they have added it up and they will not vote for him, and they won’t change their minds. And as a result, we have a 12-state election coming at us and it’s one about which — Michael, I know you said Romney is going to win. I think he could actually take all 12 of the states I’m about to say to you — Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado and Arizona and maybe Nevada.

So I’ll go back through that but so you understand, that’s what all the money will go to. Every single volunteer that leaves their home and town to go abroad to work in some other place will go to either Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado and Arizona and perhaps Nevada. And the reason — and everything else is decided. We are not in a swing state. We are in the land of the living dead. (Laughter). We are finished. Jerry Brown actually wants to raise our income taxes, which is exactly the recipe to have everyone in this room move from California and go somewhere else. We’ll visit occasionally.

Even Michigan be in play and the numbers that are coming in now, it was remarkable how they’ll bend over. CNN did a poll this week that was of adult Americans. It wasn’t even registered voters screened for, much less likely voters screened for. It was just adult Americans and that has absolutely no utility to us whatsoever. You start digging down, as Sean has done, into those 12 states, we know that we are poised to win not just a good election, but a decisive election. And by decisive, I mean 1980-like big.

I was a first-year law student at Michigan. I had finished my time with president Nixon. I had left the Manhattan office, had one to Michigan and I sat down in a law school room with John Roman — his dad ran the Journal of American Medical Association, a big leftie — on the night of 1980. Roman is still a big leftie. He works for the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights and he was expecting to win on the night of November 1980, and I was expecting it would be a late night. And as those things rolled on, I started drinking the 30-year scotch because this was a 30-year event, and John Culver went down. People went — Fred Harris got defeated. People you haven’t heard of in years were wiped away. They didn’t think they were in any danger whatsoever because the country had taken the measure of Jimmy Carter and they knew we could not afford another four years.

So all we have to do — and I thought it was so remarkable that Peggy wrote this yesterday — is not lose the election. He has lost it. Now, the Republicans must not lose it back. That’s what it comes down to and it’s very easy not to lose an election when you’ve got the example of Reagan sitting in front of you. All you have to do is to speak clearly to those very issues that I’ve been talking about, that list. You just have to run through it again and again and again and say, “We’re not going to do ObamaCare, I’m not going to repeat the stimulus, I am going to attack the deficit and the debt, I am going to reform Medicare” — and everyone in this room knows we have to do that — “I’m not going to abandon Afghanistan in the way the president has abandoned Iraq. I’m going to build 313 ships and I’m not going to cut 20,000 Marines and 100,000 Army troops out of the budget. I’m not going to do any of those things.”

“Instead, we’re going to do what Reagan did,” and we’ll win. Not only will we win — it is true and Sean makes this argument and as do most of the other electoral analysts that come on. It’s hard to imagine taking the senate if Romney doesn’t win the presidency. It’s very easy to imagine taking seven or eight or even nine seats if he does and there are remarkably good opportunities out there — Josh Mandel. I don’t know if Josh has made the acquaintance of many people in this room, but — (Applause) — incredible talent.

Even I don’t believe he shaves. Am I right, Jay? Does he shave? I don’t think he shaves and he doesn’t. Twice a combat veteran of Iraq, extraordinary — the highest vote-getter in Ohio on the ticket with Rod Portman and John Kasich. He still got more votes. He’s from Cuyahoga County. He’s from Shaker Heights. No one — no Republican lives in Shaker Heights. (Laughter). I know Cleveland. They go to the Browns’ games. They aren’t even comfortable there, they’re so Democratic — and so Josh Mandel.

George Allen in Virginia, our once and future senate, Connie Mack in Florida, Denny Rehberg in Montana, Jon Bruning in Nebraska, Ted Cruz in Texas — talk about an extraordinary talent. (Applause). And I know there are other Republicans running in some of these races, but Ted Cruz would instantly bring an originalist on the caliber of Paul Clement to the Judiciary Committee, someone who you would have up there who would carry on the fight not occasionally, not sporadically, not with a little bit of an understanding, but it would be the idea of replacing over a period of two years Joe Biden with Ted Cruz on the Judiciary Committee. It’s like replacing me with Scott Verlander in the lineup and throwing fast balls. That’s how much of a talent gap we’ve got.

Pete Hegseth in Minnesota is a reach, but it’s possible; it’s possible. It would be possible in a 1980-like swing. Pete Hoekstra in Michigan — another one, very difficult, but possible. It would be like a 1980 swing. And then of course, we have to hold Scott Brown in Massachusetts. We’re going to lose Maine. Angus King is a phenomenon. How many of you are Mainers? Any of you Mainers? Angus King is the real deal. He’s a Mainer and I don’t think anyone could beat him ever so I think we lose that and he’ll caucus with the Democrats. So we’ve got to keep Scott Brown and we’ve got to pick up at least half of these seats to get there. We’re also going to win North Dakota. Thai’s a gimme.

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  • truthseeker

    Hewitt is a hack, plain and simple

  • MMinCanonCity

    Generally I don't care for HH but this was a good talk.

    He can still take his REgressive buds and stick 'em though

  • Daniel

    Where did they get this goofball?

    He looks like that Al Franken character Stuart Smalley…..but with less insight.

    Maybe someone should inform him that history flows in ONE direction. He'll de-radicalize America right after he invents that time machine.

  • Lady_Dr

    Not a big HH fan, nor Romney fan, but this has opened my eyes to some things. And, like the late, great Andrew Breitbart I willing to support ANY GOP CANDIDATE because the problem is Obama and this regime. It must go.

    AND I truely believe that Romney is a smart guy and if he doesn't already know it he will soon realize that America really is conservative and he will govern accordingly.