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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

“Immoral,” “Cruel” and Message Discipline

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Did you follow the news on Budget Director Mulvaney’s testimony before Congress yesterday?  You’d have thought he committed murder before Democrats very eyes.  Words were thrown around willy-nilly; words like “betrayal,” “inhumane,” “cruel” and “immoral.”  Response to such rhetoric really deserves essay length discussion, but I just want to make two quick points.

Point One – those are powerful words, very powerful.  That’s why they are being used.  But in point of fact using them in this context only weakens them.  For one thing those words are absolutes and at best the budget debate is one of degree, and I think it is safe to say that about any budget proposal any president has ever made.  Thus the words are cheapened simply by context.  This is also an attempt to more-or-less redefine those words.  This is about money which is a morally neutral thing.  The use of money has moral consequences, but not money itself.  When you add or expand the meaning of words they become less powerful simply by virtue of the confusion related to the broad application of the word.  A bullet to the heart is very powerful and generally deadly, but a shotgun loaded with bird shot is often survivable.  Words like these should be reserved for bullet-like use, but they are trying to turn them into shotgun blasts.

Finally on this point when you apply words that have been applied to some of the most heinous acts in human history to a budget debate, not only do you cheapen the words, you evidence a moral confusion that is actually frightening.  Is a federal government budget really anything like chattel slavery or genocide?  I mean seriously.  This is the argumentation of children, “Mommy, brother tried to KILL me when he threw the basketball at me sooo hard.” PUH-LEAZE!

Which brings me to my second point.  The pervasive use of such language over the last 36 hours from multiple sources evidences amazing message discipline on the part of the administration’s opponents.  Clearly the talking points memo was widely distributed, thoroughly read, and slavishly followed.  This is both a good and a bad thing.

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House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady on the Status of Tax Reform

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The audio:

05-24hhs-brady

The Transcript:

HH: I’m joined by Chairman Kevin Brady, representative, a member of Congress from Texas, who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Good morning, Chairman Brady, good to have you as always.

KB: Hey, good morning, Hugh, thanks for having me.

HH: Good to have you. I want to run down the five major promises of the Trump campaign

JB: Yeah.

HH: A Supreme Court nominee from his list – check. Repeal and replace Obamacare – half check. It’s out of the House. It’s on its way to the Senate.

KB: Yes, sir.

HH: Building the wall – quarter check. Some planning, not much money. 350 ship Navy, completely broken, breached by the Mulvaney budget, a disaster for the President. I want to talk to you about that. And then a corporate tax cut from the ridiculous rate. That one’s in your court, so let’s start there, and we’ll come back to the Navy. How fares the progress of the corporate tax cut rate?

KB: Look, it’s moving along. We’re laser focused on it. Look, I recognize, I think everyone does, tax reform is the fight of a lifetime in Washington. But with President Trump’s leadership, we’re going to deliver it this year. We do have, Hugh, a lot of work ahead on this, because here’s what we’re seeing. Look, we just can’t compete around the world. My view is you can’t make a few tweaks in the corporate income tax and call it a day. It just won’t bring those jobs back. So we’ve got a lot of work to do with President Trump and his team and the Senate to get this done. But we are not, I know the narrative in Washington is everyone’s distracted from all these other issues, we can’t get this done. I think that’s absolutely baloney. We are going to get it done.

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Rep. Mike Gallagher on the Lack of Shipbuilding in the President’s New Budget

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The Audio:

05-24hhs-gallagher

The Transcript:

HH: I’m joined by Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin. He replaces the estimable Mike Pompeo as my Congressman to go to, and Pompeo replaced Cotton, who replaced Campbell who replaced Dreier. It’s a long, storied history of short-termers here. Representative Gallaher, I hope you last longer than your predecessors did. But Pompeo’s off doing great work, as is Cotton. Good morning to you.

MG: Good morning, sir. That’s a lot of Mike Gallagher’s you’re dealing with today. So it’s pretty confusing.

HH: It is. Very confusing. Let me talk to you about United States Naval Institute story yesterday. Department of the Navy, $180 billion dollars budget request emphasizes readiness. It reduces spending on ships and aircraft. President Trump ran on a promise of a 350 ship fleet. What does, this budget, I think, goes backwards, Representative Gallagher. You’re on the Armed Services Committee. Am I right about that?

MG: You’re absolutely right. I’ll confess I was confused and a bit disappointed when the budget came out yesterday. I think the President was elected for many reasons, but foremost among them, in my view, was the pledge to keep the country safe. And the reality is you can’t do that unless we rebuild the military. He even called it the foremost challenge that we face, this reversing Defense cuts under Obama. And not only is this 2018 request for $603 billion $37 billion below what Chairman Thornberry and Chairman McCain have called for, and the Gates baseline, but it’s below the pre-sequestration Obama levels in 2013. It’s not actually a modest increase over Obama. That’s relative to the BCA level. What Obama called for in FY 2013, it’s actually below that. So that means there are no additional ships constructed compared to Obama’s plan for this year. As you point out, it requests cuts to the Navy’s shipbuilding and conversion by more than $1 billion compared to FY 2017 Omnibus. So this means any progress towards a 350 ship Navy is delayed, or we actually go back for at least a year, perhaps more. And I think it’s fair to say, as Chairman Thornberry pointed out yesterday or the day before, that it’s basically the Obama approach. And that, in my mind, given the threats we face, I mean, you just look at the world in 2013 when Obama made these projections. Can anyone argue in good conscience that the world has grown less dangerous, that the world has grown more calm? Indeed, the opposite has happened. And so it’s not acceptable. We have to keep our promise to the American people. This idea that we have a placeholder budget, and then we’re going to wait for a strategic review to take place in the Department, I’m highly skeptical of that, because does anyone think that political capital or courage is going to be higher a year from now or six months from now when the review, or even three months from now when the review is over? Now is the time to lay in place the foundation for a 350 ship Navy, which as I always point out on the show, is the minimum the Navy says it needs in order to satisfy ongoing requirements, let alone deal with the crises that we cannot foresee at the current moment.

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Former NY Times London Bureau Chief, John Fisher Burns, on the Manchester Bombing

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The Audio:

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The Transcript:

HH: I am joined from England by John Fisher Burns, one of the world’s greatest foreign correspondents, long with the New York Times, a bureau chief practically everywhere, the winner of two Pulitzers. John, good morning, and our condolences, our sympathies from all in the United States, I’m sure you’ve heard that, but it really is about as awful a terror attack as I’ve seen since 9/11, given the nature of the victims.

JFB: It is. It is. It’s absolutely shocking and totally appalling, and it makes you wonder how much more evil can these people be?

HH: Hard to imagine. Let me ask you, John, many Americans don’t know much about Manchester. They know it’s there. They root for Manchester United, but they don’t know much about it. Can you give us a little sense of the community that was so badly devastated?

JFB: Yes, Manchester has an interesting history. It’s the second city of the country. It was in the 19th and for much of the period of the 20th Century a great industrial powerhouse. It is still, to some extent. But it has suffered, as has so much of European and indeed, American industry over the last 15 or 20 years. It has, you know, two world-renowned football clubs, and it has, like its neighbor city, Liverpool, and for many of the same reasons, tremendously strong sense of community spirit which we’ve seen very much in evidence over the last 36 hours since the attack took place.

HH: Now I am not familiar with the demographics of Manchester, but while I am aware, because I read the MI5 reports, that there is a jihadist threat throughout England. I’d never thought of it in connection with Manchester. Were you surprised by the location of this attack in the way that you were perhaps not surprised by the truck attack near Big Ben?

JFB: Well, it was a point that Mrs. May, the Prime Minister, made yesterday, and it immediately caught my attention. She said, and I forget the exact words, but she made reference to the fact that this was the first major attack of its kind in the north of England. And on the one hand, of course, that’s to reflect that the capital is London, that that by its very nature is going to attract a lot of the attention of these people, these attackers. On the other hand, since these attacks come out of Islam, even if they’re not themselves anything to do with mainstream Islam, the attacker in this case was once again a Muslim of Libyan origin. And there are very large Muslim communities in the north of England. We’ve seen Muslim communities in the midlands, as they call it in England, which is to the south of Manchester, between Manchester and London, before. Some of the people involved in the 2005 attacks on public transport in London which killed more than 50 people, which was the last attack of this sort of scale in the U.K., had origins in the midlands and the northern midlands. But this is the first time that an attack of this kind has occurred in the north. It could have political repercussions in the sense that of course, there is a general election underway, suspended at the moment, understandably, and the outcome of that general election is likely to turn in substantial measure on what happens in traditionally Labour voting constituencies in the north of England. And there is a possibility, although this is yet to be unclear, but it’s a possibility that this attack will drive more Labour voters into the hands of the Conservatives. But that’s highly speculative at this point.

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