De-Radicalizing America


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So there’s an enormous amount of opportunity there. We’re going to pick up some interesting house seats. If any of you are looking for a candidate to really support, who I think we ought to support, his name is Tom Cotton and he is running for congress in Arkansas. He is a decorated veteran of the 101st who enlisted when he was at Harvard Law School, finished his clerkship, finished his time with Gibson Dunn, paid off his loans and they offered him a JAG appointment and he said, “No. I’m going to go fight the war with real guns and with real combat troops.” He’s an amazing guy. He’s a farmer. It’s now illegal for him to grow up the way that he did. He loves to tell that story. We’ve outlawed kids on machines on family farms and Tom says, “Everything my dad did was illegal now.” So it’s remarkable what we could get accomplished in this.

So what about — but it’s hard to win those senate seats if you don’t win the top of the ticket. So what about Romney? I am a big Romney fan. Now, I have tried to be fair through the primaries because I’m a big Rick Santorum fan. I campaigned in Pennsylvania in 2006 with Dennis Prager for Rick and I think he’s an extraordinarily dedicated, devoted patriot. I think he’s very smart and I hope he has a role in the Romney administration. That’s a little bit of projection, isn’t it? (Laughter).

When I wrote the book about Romney though in 2006 — it came out in 2007 — I didn’t begin it with the intention of being impressed by Romney. I began it because I had covered the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints for PBS and had gotten to know Neal Maxwell by doing a television show on him. Any Mormons with us today, any LDS? Now, that’s interesting. Huh. Okay. So I went over there and spent some time and it’s a unique American theology. It’s not — I began my conversation with the late Neal Maxwell, who’s one of their apostles, by saying “You and I are never going to agree on theological matters, but now tell me about your church,” and it’s a very, very interesting story and it produces a very interesting culture of achievement and a very, very patriotic, hyper-patriotic, culture from which George Romney came and from which he shaped Mitt Romney.

And I’ve seen it written somewhere — I hope it wasn’t you, Dan; it could have been you; it’s probably in the Journal — that like Eisenhower, Mitt Romney is a man of ambiguous positions and deeply held values, meaning that he doesn’t really articulate a Reagan-esque supply-side economic theory until relatively recent in the campaign, but I have no doubt about his values — none — so intensely patriotic.

And I will say about him this, and then I would encourage all of you to get involved who haven’t yet gotten involved on behalf of him, that I look for four Cs plus one additionally. The first is capacity, the second is character, the third is courage, the fourth is commitment to the Constitution and the last is campaign ability. And about those, if you can get four out of five, you’re in great shape and if you can get the last one, tremendous.

Capacity, that means the ability to manage information flow and make decisions. I think President Bush was vastly underrated in this regard, that he was, in fact, yeah, the decision-maker and chief and [Morali] said the “Decider-in-Chief.” He was very good at being an executive and I think that’s very important in the modern presidency which is really just a series of memos that come to you and ask for decisions plus rhetoric. And that’s what you’ve got to have is someone who can organize, hire, manage and decide, the capacity for that. Our current president does not have that. I think he’s overwhelmed by this job. I sometimes wonder if he doesn’t put things into piles from one inbox to the outbox and just guess sometimes because I don’t think knows how to organize information flow.

Character, I don’t think anyone will disagree with me. Mitt Romney’s family attests to it, where he comes from attests to it, the way that he simply celebrates and he’s lived his life, and we all know the story now about launching the search for his partner’s daughter in New York. That was indicative. Rescuing the family that was adrift on the lake, that’s indicative. He has great character.

Does he have the courage to take on the entitlement state and this is the thing that I think most Conservatives have pause about Romney is that they are afraid he will trim, that he will get there and that like Nixon, he won’t give a lick about domestic policy. And I know Nixon’s record well; I built the library. I actually asked him in 1989 a few months before we opened. “There’s an exhibit, Mr. President, that has the Endangered Species Act in it and the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. What were you thinking about?” (Laughter). And he said, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” (Laughter).

When I practice law, I practice in those areas, especially the Endangered Species Act, and so I know they’re just horrific statutes. They’re tremendous transfers of — he didn’t care, whatever they brought to him — and he had John Whitaker over at Interior, he had some wonderful lefties. They thought they’d — they did some pretty good stuff, but they launched an administrative state that’s metastasized. People are afraid that that’s what Romney will do. I don’t think so. I think he’s way too smart for that and I believe this campaign has been profitable in forcing him into positions that he has articulated again and again and again, and been obliged to learn, so that he is on record and will not depart.

I believe it’s a lock; it’s a mortal lock that Paul Clement will be our first nominee for the Supreme Court if Mitt Romney is the president. I think that on the basis of what happened this week and prior. Of course, the Solicitor Generalship and all that sort of thing, he’s the guy. There’s not going to be any doubt in my mind and we’re not going to get [Sutarized] because Romney is too smart for that and his staff is too good for that.

The Constitution, a commitment to that — I think this is important. There’s a new book out by a professor at the War College called the — it’s about George W. Bush’s presidency and about the expansion of the executive power. President Obama has gone crazy on the executive power. He’s made recess appointments when the senate is not in recess. He’s decided not to defend the defense of Mary Jack when not even a single circuit court in the United States has ruled it unconstitutional.  He’s done a lot of radical things for presidential authority.

And the question is whether or not our side will respect that limit in a way that is very important for long-term constitutional government and I believe that Romney is a Constitutionalist. I’ve talked to him enough about it. That’s very important to me. It doesn’t mean you don’t kill bin Laden. That’s part of the healthy executive power, but it does mean that you are very careful. If you can’t get your way, you just don’t take the power to do it the way this president is doing recently.

And then finally, campaign ability, and I’ll close with this and take questions. He is not the world’s most highly developed communicator and it was probably not a good idea to build a car elevator in the La Jolla house. (Laughter). I do not think, however, any of that matters to the reasons I’ve articulated. What matters is in the fall when that increasingly small sliver of America that might be on the fence about whether or not they’ll trust him, looks at him in the way that America looked at Reagan in October of 1980 and decided, I’m not going to believe the narrative about Reagan. Now, most of you are old enough in this room to remember the narrative about Reagan, which was he couldn’t be trusted with nukes. That was the whole deal. You couldn’t possibly let this actor from California, this cowboy, run the Cold War, and the debates demolished that, and in fact, there was a pretty decided swing towards Reagan in the last 10 days of the election.

So if they’re constructing a media myth that Mitt Romney is the 1% that he’s Uriah Heep waiting to throw the poor into the street and to turn the heat off in the Northeast and repossess every house, they’re going to look at him in that last bit of time, and if he’s got the ability to stay on message and be who he is, not clench up and not cinch up, he won’t lose the election and we’ll have a 1980-like night.

Now, I know that doesn’t comport with what some of you think, but that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. (Applause). Thank you.

Mike:  First question? Here, Manny.

Manny:  Thank you, Mike. That was a great, great speech and I think that if we could inject a little of your passion and your ability to communicate effectively with an audience in front of him into the candidate, Romney would be a lot better. (Laughter).

Hugh Hewitt:  Manny, have you been in a room with him yet?

Manny:  He’s bright. I never lost the [draw]. I mean –

Hugh Hewitt:  Okay. He’s great. How many of you have been in a room with Romney? Keep your hand up if you think he’s good in a room. He’s very good in a room. He’s got a TV problem.

Manny:  They used to say, I don’t know, Harry was good in a room, the –

Hugh Hewitt:  No, they never said that, never, no. Harry was never good in a room.

Manny:  Listen, I like your five Cs. There’s a PCV aspect that bothers me — passion, charisma and vision. I think he’s weak on those; those are good to have. I think the fundamentals are here because the landscape, the economy, Obama, all these things are mouse-trapping him that he thought he’d get the class war, the culture war and the religious war. So I think the fundamentals are good. And I agree with you, by the way, that Romney has gotten a lot better through the campaign. He looks — the last couple of times I’ve seen him on television, he looks presidential and he sounds presidential.

I still wonder how good [he] could be at this stage of the campaign. He has not been able to give a coherent answer that is satisfying to the question about RomneyCare. Why can’t he say, “It looked good then. I followed the best Conservative advisors and we were really trying to do a market-oriented solution to a great problem and we did it and we tried it and it didn’t work, and if I did it again with what I knew now — know now — I wouldn’t do it again.” Why can’t he say that?

Hugh Hewitt:  He doesn’t believe it.

Unidentified Audience Member:  That’s my problem with him.

Hugh Hewitt:  And I’ll tell you why he doesn’t believe it. I’ve asked him. I talked to him extensively about RomneyCare in ’07. When the entire campaign unfolded prior to ObamaCare, not one Republican objected to RomneyCare in ’07. It wasn’t an issue. I’ve got pages in my 2007 book about it and what a great advantage it would be. He doesn’t believe it because it’s rooted in what Massachusetts is and he always said that five years ago, which is Massachusetts is not a high illegal state. It is not a state with a fractured healthcare delivery system, but in fact, with a very advanced delivery system of healthcare and it’s a state run by and for Democrats. So the art of the possible in Massachusetts when it comes to healthcare reform is what he accomplished and he — go ahead, Manny.

Manny:  The question really is since Romney [gave us a pass], they moved up nearer the low 90s insured to the higher 90s insured (inaudible). Emergency room business is a big criteria of success. They’ve gone up, not down. The costs have gone up and the cost of medical care is supposed to go down and it’s gone up. The carriers have left the state. Things are worse now than they were and the state is losing a bundle of money.

Hugh Hewitt:  Well, that’s where you’ll get an argument and you’ll get an argument — what’s the name of the guy who writes for The New Yorker, the doctor from Harvard Medical School? Does anyone know offhand? He’s written extensive reviews of the Massachusetts healthcare system and he believes by any objective indicia, it’s better than it was four years ago. It has gone up 1% over what it cost total when it was passed and it could go much higher.

But part of that is laid down to the fact that they looted the set-aside that was supposed to go back into the healthcare system and spent it on other things, instead of on bringing down the cost of care. I don’t know about insurers leaving the state, but my roundabout way of saying — I’m just parroting what Romney says. He doesn’t believe it, and so it would be actually politically advantageous for him to say what you want him to say and he will not say it.

Manny:  What if it turns out that it were true that RomneyCare is the new failure? Why doesn’t he (inaudible)?

Hugh Hewitt:  Well, again, you’ve got a debate here and failure is not what Manny would put into place, but what the Democratic legislature in Massachusetts would put into place. So I think what’s going to be hardest for him is not to be defensive about it and to be open to the idea that as ObamaCare is replaced, that they not big-foot the states into it. And I think he has said repeatedly — at least he said it to me and I think he said it repeatedly in other situations — it would never work in California or Texas or in any state where you have a high uncovered, undocumented population. It’s like the first thing he’ll admit.

And that is, I think, what you’re looking for, which is a recognition that unlike welfare reform, which sprang fully formed out of Wisconsin and a couple of other states and spread rapidly, MassCare is not for spreading. It will not work in other situations, but I don’t think you’ll get from him the mea culpa. He doesn’t believe it.

Manny:  (Inaudible).

Mike:  Okay. We’re going to go from Jay Cost to Jim [Borachs] to Jerry Hayden — Jay Cost first.

Hugh Hewitt:  Uh-oh, Jay Cost. Oh, now I’m in trouble.

Jay Cost:  Thank you. On a personal note, I just want to say it’s such a pleasure to listen to you speak today. As a native Pittsburgher and current resident of the Steel City, it’s so rare to find an unabashed Browns’ fan. So I really — they don’t really come out of the woodwork on Sunday afternoon in Heinz Field. So –

Hugh Hewitt:  Who typed your book for you if you’re a Steelers’ fan? (Laughter).

Jay Cost:  But the question I want to ask you is the premise of which I don’t accept it, but I’m really curious to hear your response to it as a Romney supporter. The Quinnipiac polls came out this week and showed him down by nine in Florida, eight in Ohio. He’s not leading in the RCP average nationwide. Some of the polls show him down by 10 points. Do you think the election is a slam-dunk for Romney? When you see those polls, how do you react to them?

Hugh Hewitt:  When I saw Quinnipiac this week, I stepped back and I said, “What is” — they could be outliers, right, Jay?

Jay Cost:  They could be.

Hugh Hewitt:  They could be because they were so far off of the norm and the Rasmussen, Iowa, numbers were what I was referring to in the course of the remarks and they were troubling, but I also thought that is the end stage of a primary campaign and that talk to me in six or eight weeks after Wisconsin, after Rubio, after Ryan, and after the Conservatives. So I kind of viewed that as people who were mad at the fact that their guy didn’t win — in this case, either Newt or Santorum — in the way that I assume that Ford’s numbers in late May of ‘76 were bad, and that they will rebound from our side rather rapidly. Now, do you agree with that? I’m fascinated what you think and –

Jay Cost:  I personally would agree with that and I also think it’s just (inaudible) because it’s all on one side of the aisle and it’s very difficult to have a real ideological (inaudible). They tend to be very ad hominum, very mean spirited and (inaudible).

Hugh Hewitt:  And I know from the radio show, no matter what you say about any of them, their supporters think you’re on the other side and that you’ve said something bad about their people, and they’re very angry. Oh, my gosh, the radio audience is very angry right now no matter who you’re for or against because they don’t — they hear what they want to hear and if they haven’t won their man — but those Quinnipiac numbers out of Florida, they stunned me a little bit. The other ones I didn’t believe at all, but Florida is — I just don’t know Florida. I don’t know anyone who knows Florida.

And one of the things I was going to say, but now I will step in it and put it forward — I don’t think Rubio is our nominee because I kind of view Florida as — if we don’t get Florida, we’re screwed. We’ll know by 8:00 o’clock at night on the East Coast if we’ve lost the election. We have to win my home state, home of the Browns, and Fred Barnes, your colleague at The Weekly Standard keeps saying “Watch Rob Cortman. He is a tremendous vote-getter.” He’s very popular in the southern part of the state, well known enough in the middle and [somewhat] in the Northeast.

And Romney keeps saying he will pick someone who’s ready to be president. The guy’s run the O&B; the guy has been in the senate. He’s been a man in the house. He’s tremendously respected for his integrity and I think he brings Ohio into the red column. And so they didn’t test Ohio, but if we lose Florida — if we’re really 10 points or 8 points down in Florida, we’re in — I’ve been doing hallucinogenic drugs today because that — I totally don’t get what’s going on in the country, which is possible.

Mike:  Okay. Next question, back here?

Jim Borachs:  Hugh, my question is what kind of support can Israel expect from a President Romney?

Hugh Hewitt:  That is — I wrote a piece for The Examiner that I hope in this interregnum between the Wisconsin — the end game of the primary and the opening of the convention that he’ll take a trip abroad that will mimic exactly the trip that he’ll take — he has promised to take — which begins in Jerusalem. So if I’m Governor Romney and I go straight to Jerusalem and start my foreign — my three [I]’s trip with Israel immediately as soon as he gets done. And I think he will be resolute and I do believe John Bolton, if not his secretary of state, will be senior in the council and — (Applause).

When Romney reacted, I ordinarily have to call their campaign to book him and then I have to beg — everyone has to beg because Kristen — Karen, who is his radio operative, has got a million people trying to get on and you can’t appear on the same show too much. I did not have to call. They called me on the day of the Medvedev thing. He really deeply distrusts Russia. It’s in his book. I don’t know if you’ve actually read his book. I know for a fact he wrote his book, unlike most campaign books. He wrote it, sat down, did the typing thing and really distrusts Russia and one of those reasons is because Russia is cooperating with the Iranians on their missile defense and on the export of their oil. So I think 100% better, that’s not saying much. That’s like two times zero is zero, but very, very strong, I believe.

Mike:  The next question here is Jerry Hayden.

Hugh Hewitt:  Jerry.

Mike:  And then we’ll do one more and (inaudible).

Hugh Hewitt:  Great.

Jerry Hayden:  Hugh, you have a great radio show. We listen to it regularly out in Phoenix.

Hugh Hewitt:  Thank you, sir.

Jerry Hayden:  And one of the best things about your show is you have many Conservative politicians which I like to say there are statesmen or stateswomen, and you have great conversations with them. Now, several things that we have in our communication that don’t quite match up to the Democrats in order to get points across with potential voters. Number one is payroll tax and that is a tax, so-called tax, that goes to support us old people and I suggest we use the term “Social Security investment.” That determines what it’s used for and people aren’t going to get it confused.

The second thing is we have an unemployment rate which is false. A lot of the people who do not look for jobs anymore are taken off the unemployment figures and the real unemployment figure is closer to 12%, 14%, 15%. Why don’t we start using that instead of the official, which is really misleading?

The third thing I’ll bring up is that we’ve got the same thing happening with the inflation rate. The inflation rate officially leaves out all the food commodities and all of energy, which if those were included, our inflation rate would be up closer to 12%. So there’s three areas right there where we could improve ourselves with the electorate just by using the right terminology. Thank you.

Hugh Hewitt:  Jerry, a quick response — messaging as to your first point as to how to call the payroll tax or deliver the message about it, that’s up to the candidate. I think it’s a good suggestion, but it’s very hard to change that term with seven months to go. On the unemployment, I think that’s a dangerous argument. Brian Westbury is an economist I bring on every week, First Trust Portfolio in Chicago. He’s a member of The Journal’s Board of Economic Forecasters, for example.

And Brian tells me if you use the same data sets for Bush and for Obama, that that hidden unemployment rate is not true, and I believe him, that we’re overstating the idea that they’re manipulating the numbers and people have left the workforce, that you can go back over time and that that is actually not a good argument for conservatives to make because the 8.3 is genuinely reflective of the difference in unemployment from the Bush up to the last year of it. So I’m leery of it and I trust Brian on that.

And on the last issue on inflation, it feels like a lot more than it is. I don’t know what it is, but I think that’s one of those issues about which voters are generally deeply concerned. They understand interest rates; they understand adjustable mortgages. They understand the price of gold and the inflationary impact that is brewing out there and they have that concern. I don’t know if it’s 12% or 14%, but I think they intuit that and I believe that our candidates would be well served to warn about the coming inflationary burden.

Did you say we were going to Al?

Mike:  Yeah, Al (inaudible).

Hugh Hewitt:  I’ve got to tell people, Al was my first publisher. When I was a young lawyer in the White House, I didn’t have anything to do because I shared an office with a pretty smart guy by the name of Roberts and they gave John all of the stuff to do and I had nothing to do. So I wrote a book and Al published it. So it’s very nice of Al to be here today.

Al:  Well, thank you, Hugh, and it’s — let me just thank you for your optimism particularly. I think it’s really a welcome thing to have somebody who’s so optimistic. My question involves the slow trend to the left that this country has experienced over the last 30 or 40 years. I sort of equate it to a ratchet, a socket wrench. You can move it forward, but you’ll never move it back and certainly, during the Reagan administration, I was there too. There were a few things that moved the — that went back our way, but many fewer, I guess, than Ronald Reagan thought he was going to be able to do and the rest of us as well.

In the event that Romney is elected and we have two houses of congress, do you suppose that they will actually be able to turn some of these things back to a few of the things that we’ve been talking about what we believe?

Hugh Hewitt:  Yes, Al, and I’ll close with this. I have two great reasons for optimism — two. Number one, I call myself an evangelical Roman Catholic Presbyterian because I go to mass on Saturday night and I go with the Presbyterian wife on Sunday morning, so I’m kind of confused. Some people think that makes me a Lutheran, but whatever it is — (Laughter).

I know though from my friend Archbishop [Jeff Hugh] and his friends, Cardinal Dolan and others, the Roman Catholic Church has moved decidedly in this country back to its traditional, conservative mores and it is in advance of the country’s culture. So if you take an enormously influential institution and you move it significantly to the right, that moves the country significantly to the right. And I think we will see the evidence of that culturally over the next few years in a number of profound ways.

Secondly, it has been very hard to be at war for 10 years and I’m sure many of you know members of the military. I have a son-in-law who’s a Navy guy and so I follow this pretty closely. I’m very deeply invested in seeing how the war goes and Victor always makes me (inaudible) for him and glum whenever I talk to him on the air. There is one undeniable good thing about the war. For 10 years — in fact, I think I remember the column you wrote this in, Victor — the most astonishing feat of arms ever in modern times is to march from Kuwait to Baghdad in three weeks and to do it under the control of 26-to-18-year-olds who occasionally are parachuted in a colonel or a general.

All those 18-tol-26-year-olds are now 28 to 36 years old and Tom Cotton and Duncan Hunter are the first wave of a generation of leaders who are every bit as great as the Eisenhower generation and they are going to come back and seize politics. They are going to come back and seize business and they are so competent. It was mentioned earlier about “Act of Valor.” Lieutenant Rourke in “Act of Valor” is a friend of mine. He’s a friend of my son-in-law’s and I’ve gotten to know Rourke pretty well. Rourke is not unique. He’s unique because the Navy made him do this movie, but the 2,500 active duty Seals who were preceded by 2,500 more — they’ve had at least 100% turnover and they were mirrored in the Special Forces and in the Air Fleet and these incredible young people have gone off and done this amazing force of arms and extraordinary service.

And 4,000 or 5,000 of them are not back and 10,000 to 20,000 of them are back and are wounded in terrible ways, but hundreds of thousands of them are just in the culture. Combine that with the change in Catholic culture. I believe Medved and Prager when they tell me in Jewish culture as well, and I know it to be true about the military culture, and if we can just hang on, things will be great.

Thank you for having me.

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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.