Bill Kristol On The Iran Deal
HH: I begin this show with Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and soon, along with Fred Barnes, Steve Hayes and myself, to be cruising together in the Caribbean March 22-29th. Hello, Bill Kristol, how are you?
BK: I’m fine, Hugh. How are you? Looking forward to the cruise, I trust?
HH: I know. Does anyone get off and not ever get back on? Do they stay like in the Grand Caymans?
BK: One or two sort of people are disappeared each cruise. Well, we probably shouldn’t talk about that here on the radio.
HH: No, people get in a big argument with us, things will go badly.
HH: But I’ve never actually done a Weekly Standard cruise, so I’m looking forward to this. And I have linked the cruise over at www.hughhewitt.com, and it does leave on March 22nd. How many people go on these things?
BK: Well, this one, we’ve got the whole boat, which takes up to 300 people. So I think it’ll be run and a little different from our typical ones where we take a bunch, a few hundred people, but they’re part of a much bigger scene on a much larger ship. This is really, we’ve got the whole ship, and it’s quite, apparently, quite a nice one. So we’re looking forward to it, and you’ll enjoy your room. It’s right by the engine, you know. It’s really kind of, you don’t want to have, you didn’t want an outside view, did you?
BK: Yeah, it’s kind of annoying to watch the ocean, you know?
HH: I understood from Fred Barnes that I get to drive the boat at some point. Is that true?
BK: Yeah, right.
BK: Yeah, we’ll be off. We’ll be off at that point.
HH: Well, it’s going to be fun, and I encourage everyone. It’s linked over at www.hughhewitt.com, or simply Google Weekly Standard cruise March 22nd. Now Bill, last week was a pretty weird week, and today is a terrible day. And I’m going to spend time talking with Charles about this later, but this deal with Iran, the turning point it represents, and it’s a bad turning point, cannot be overstated. What do you make of today?
BK: Well, I think we, the broader we here, concerned citizens, members of Congress and so forth, have to not let it be a turning point, because if it is a turning point, an inflection point at which we, the U.S., concede to Iran the right to a nuclear weapon, or the right to a nuclear weapon capability and to be two minutes away, in effect, from a nuclear moment, that is a terrible moment. That is really, you know, a genie out of the bottle that you just can’t get back in. And you and I have discussed this before. Obama’s domestic policies, most of them can be reversed. The price will be paid by people who didn’t have jobs, and who had crummy health insurance over these years, but at the end of the day, one could restore the U.S. economy. One could restore and improve the U.S. health care system, et cetera. In foreign policy, it’s not so easy, you know? You could have a great guy, elect a president in January, sorry, become president in January, 2017, and if Iran has nuclear weapons, or the Saudis have gotten some in the meantime, and terror groups are operating under Iranian sponsorship with a nuclear umbrella, and the whole, all of our friends around the world have lost confidence in us, the best president in the world, it’s going to take time to reverse that, and maybe some of it’s not going to be reversible. So I agree very much this is a moment where people need to rally against this deal and say fine, I mean, not fine, but we can’t stop President Obama from pursuing this ban, I suppose, for six months, but Congress can limit the damage by insisting on a six month deadline and putting on sanctions, and the rest of us can say it’s unacceptable to let Iran have nuclear weapons capability.
HH: The New York Times today reports that thousands of people are lining up to do business with the mullahs. Austrian Airlines are starting their airplanes today, the petro chemical industry of Iran is exporting again today for the first time without subterfuge in many, many years. There are some inevitabilities conducted with this. If you’re Netanyahu, do you really have a choice at this point other than I will concede that we will have an Islamist radical regime with nukes, or I have to strike them?
BK: I tend to think he won’t have a choice in a short period of time, because for exactly what you say. And this is the great irony. This peace deal makes war, or makes military action at least much more likely, because the one real chance to avoid it was to keep on tightening the sanctions in such a way that the Iranian regime would defy just out of self-interest, out of self-preservation, they could forgo the nuclear program at least for a while. To let sanctions up now, and to let them up in a way that it’s just going to be impossible, really, to sort of resume the tightening once everyone’s found again, even if we could do it as a U.S. matter, we’re not going to be able to prevail upon our allies to do it. So I agree with you, this is really, that part of it is pretty disastrous. I think, you know, the best thing we can do is say well, maybe if Congress passed legislation in a couple of weeks that puts the sanctions, you know, a guillotine right there if Iran refuses to give up its nuclear program, maybe you could sort of stop the hemorrhaging. But Obama’s done a lot of damage. Bad presidents, weak presidents and presidents who have policies that weaken us can do a lot of damage in foreign policy. They can have low approval ratings they can be stopped on domestic policy by Congress, but it’s really unfortunate how much they can do.
HH: Now there is no pinprick strategy here available to Netanyahu, is there?
BK: Well, there presumably are things he could do, you know, that would slow them down, slow the Iranians down. They presumably have done some of these things already. And I don’t know, you know, it may not be that the massive air attack is needed. Maybe there are other ways to destroy centrifuges and stop some of the research and so forth. But I think we’re going to get to a moment of truth. I think, well, I’ve been saying 2014 could be a very big year in a lot of different areas. I think by the end of this year, we’ll have a sense of whether Obamacare is here to stay or whether Obamacare’s on the way out. I think that would depend on the November election there. But I also think 2014 could be a year where Israel feels it has to hit Iran, and then it will be incumbent upon friends of Israel, and I would say not just friends of Israel, but supporters of a world in which Iran shouldn’t have nuclear weapons need to rally to Israel’s support here in the U.S., because I’m not sure the Obama administration is going to be as supportive of Israel as it should be.
HH: Now in the 70s when the Soviet Union was everywhere, and Cubans were their spearhead, there was the Committee on the Present Danger, and then you and Kemp and a bunch of other people put together some efforts in the 90s when Clinton was there. But is Project 2017 the place that that coalesces? Where is that now?
BK: That’s a little more focused on Obamacare repeal and other kind of, the conservative reform agenda. The Emergency Committee for Israel is doing some stuff. I think we’ve been talking with John Bolton who is doing some good work, Alan West. There isn’t any one place, but I think actually together, we can push ahead, and I think we certainly will be doing a lot in the Weekly Standard. You’ve been doing a lot on your show. I wish a lot more of our colleagues would focus more on foreign or defense policy. They’re, they get told that gee, it’s not what voters care about, and I think that’s not quite right. But even if it isn’t right for now, we’ve got to help them understand what’s at stake. And I do think elected officials need to be encouraged to say more about this, and to be more outspoken about this. The Committee on the Present Danger was nice, it was great, they were all friends and people, you know, my parents, people I admire very much from an earlier generation, but it was also the fact that Scoop Jackson was willing to take this on as the Senator from Washington, and John Tower as the Senator from Texas, and serious members of Congress were willing to stand up on this, even Pay Moynihan back then, that you know, that gave it real punch. And I do think we need our elected, some elected officials to really step up on this, including governors. You know, if they don’t have a direct role, if some of them want to be president, I gather, and it wouldn’t be bad for a few of them to educate themselves and speak out on this.
HH: In the Senate, there’s Kelly Ayotte, who’s a new voice. In the House, there’s this caucus of three – Mike Pompeo, West Point graduate, Harvard Law, Ron DeSantis, who is a veteran with the SEALs in Iraq and Harvard Law, Tom Cotton, of course, Harvard Law and a Ranger. These three all voted against last week’s bad omnibus deal. And in the Senate, there’s Ayotte and of course, the old standby’s, McCain and Graham. But is there a critical mass, yet, of those sorts…Kelly Ayotte’s still a little bit green, and Graham and McCain are a little bit long in the tooth to lead this. Is there someone in between?
BK: Well, I think you’re right. The younger people are good. There are good candidates, though. I mean, as you say, our friend, Tom Cotton, is running for the Senate in Arkansas, Dan Sullivan, a vet, is running in Alaska. I think he could win the primary there, and then I think could knock off Begich in the general election. And any other candidates, they don’t have to be veterans, it’s not a bad thing if they are, obviously, who are willing to make, put this issue a little bit front and center, and I think some of them are. I was talking with Ben Sasse in Nebraska, very concerned about, you know, he’s a domestic policy guy, a health care expert, really, but very concerned about what’s happening in foreign policy. So we need to encourage people so that in campaigns, and that’s what, you know, what are people going to be listening to between, I don’t know, June and November of 2014? They’ll be listening to a lot of candidates talking about a lot of issues. Obviously, Obamacare, but some of the others are going to be dominant, I suppose. But it really should be partly a referendum on Obama’s foreign policy and on Iran. And here, I think the Democrats are in a tough position, and a vulnerable position. Some of them are pretending to want to go ahead with the sanctions, to be tougher than Obama, but they’re not willing to call Harry Reid’s bluff. They’re not willing to insist that the bill be brought to the floor in the Senate. In the House, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the Democratic chairman who claims to be a great supporter of Israel, is quietly lobbying to prevent a bipartisan resolution in the House that would say Iran needs to be deprived of enrichment capability. So I think being willing to make the case that the Democrats in Congress, and I say this, this is unfortunate. I wish it weren’t this way. They are more concerned with defending Obama at this point than with preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.
HH: Now last week, as you know, my concern about the cut to the military, career military COLA, it had the effect of unifying our opponents and dividing our base. And I posted a map of where veterans live. Lots of veterans in North Carolina and Virginia, where we need to win Senate races, in Arkansas, in Alaska. And to an individual, they know about this. It hits them in the pocketbook. I had a caller, Shannon, wife of a retired E-7 who just lost $70 bucks a month in her paycheck, and it will grow over the course of the next two decades. Do the Republicans have to reverse this and quickly?
BK: I think they at least have to modify it to make sure that, I mean, I don’t, maybe if they means test it. Look, if someone gets out as a lieutenant colonel and gets a very good job here with Northrop Grumman, you know, the fact that he’s going to get a $51,000 dollar instead of $52,000 dollar pension isn’t going to hurt him a whole lot. But there are a lot of enlisted guys, as you say, and a lot of other people for who are counting on this. It might be better just to, you know, so as a policy matter, I could say there might be ways to split the baby, so to speak. But maybe as a political matter at this point, it’s better just to reverse it, find the $6 billion dollars elsewhere. If you’re going to reform military compensation, do it, but don’t do it in this one shot way.
HH: Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, look forward to sailing with you in about six weeks. And if you want any information about that, America, it’s linked over at www.hughhewitt.com. Or at www.twscruise.com.
End of interview.