Radio host Hugh Hewitt's keynote address at the Freedom Center's West Coast Retreat.
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.
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, TownHall.com, 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.
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.
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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