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Charles Krauthammer on the delayed reaction by the Obama administration on the Gulf oil spill, the Arizona statute, and the UK election

Sunday, May 2, 2010
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HH: It’s Friday, and we’re joined by Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post columnist and Fox News All Star. Charles, I want to begin with this, what could be an epic disaster on the Louisiana coast. I know you were talking about it just now with Bret Baier at Fox News. Do you think that the Obama administration has done all that could have been done to this point?

CK: You know, we always expect the president to be a superhero as in Katrina, as in any disaster. He’s supposed to…or 3 Mile Island, he’s supposed to be there controlling the universe. There’s some things that even presidents can control. I don’t think it affects how people think about it politically. He’ll get the blame if a disaster happens, and they’ll say, and I think in part, you can fault them for saying look, we’re nine days in here. It’s as if he didn’t know this thing had happened and what the potential was. So they’re a little bit late. On the other hand, even if they were right on it, if BP doesn’t know how to cap the well, then that’s the problem. There’s no particular way, once the oil starts going, that we can control it. We never have had a good means of doing that.

HH: Let me play for you a little bit of Janet Napolitano today, one key line. I was watching it on JetBlue, so I got to watch the whole thing. And here’s one line that struck in my ear.

JN: The Secretary of Defense has approved a request for two C-130 aircraft to dispense oil-dispersing chemicals capable of covering up to 250 acres per flights, with three flights per aircraft per day. They are currently en route to the affected areas. The Coast Guard has requested additional assistance from the Department of Defense.

HH: Now Charles, if we assume that this matters, that it is an important thing that these C-130s are dropping oil-dispersing chemicals at a rate of three flights per days, and each one covering 250 acres, the second question is, well, where have they been until now?

CK: Right, and why only two?

HH: That’s the other question.

CK: I mean, only two. This is the disaster that’s going to be. And if you look at what the Exxon Valdez did, how it devastated the economy and the ecology at least for a decade or so in Alaska, and where they still find oil under the surface of the ground, this is going to be, if this goes along the Gulf Coast from the Mississippi to Florida, it’s going to devastate all those wetlands and all the economies, the fishermen, the tourism and all that, that depends on it. You’d want to get everything out there. I mean, you’d want to really deploy, and again, I think that is probably where the criticism is going to be. But here’s what’s going to happen. Both parties are going to make the scapegoat the big oil companies. Normally, the Democrats would attack the Republicans for being the drilling enthusiasts. But because Obama made his one single feint to the right in a very left wing administration a month ago, in which he authorized, I thought totally inadequately, but authorized some possible drilling on the East Coast, they gave up the issue. So ordinarily, you’d have Obama raving against how Republicans have encouraged this for years. But now, he’s lost that issue because of this one, minor feint to the right he did as a way to get some kind of movement on the cap and trade energy bill. So they can’t attack each other. Republicans are hiding under their desk, you know, who wants to be a big drilling enthusiast today. So they’re going to have to find a scapegoat. It will be the oil companies.

HH: You know, Charles, I remain a big drilling enthusiast.

CK: So do I.

HH: Every Saturday, I run past rig after rig between Newport Beach and Huntington Beach…

CK: Yeah.

HH: And twenty years, every twenty years, something like this happens, Santa Barbara in ’69…

CK: Exactly.

HH: And it’s a cost of energy independence. On the other hand, if there’s an obvious breakdown as the Wall Street Journal said today in the control technology, you can fix that…

CK: Right.

HH: But I also wonder if they had stopped this at the time it had happened, if they’d got in there with the oil dispersing chemicals and the boons, et cetera, if we wouldn’t have this kind of a backlash. But the backlash, I guess, is inevitable now.

CK: Look, if the well isn’t capped, you can do all the dispersing you want. If it’s spilling all that oil every day continuously, you can’t disperse everything, and so a lot of it’s going to end up on shore. So I mean, I think this may, I think the dispersing may have a marginal effect, and we probably ought to be doing more of it, but it doesn’t cure the problem, and that is that…look, but part of the problem, Hugh, is this. Because of our concerns about the environment, and because nobody wanted this in his backyard, you end up pushing drilling to these absurd depths. This well is a mile down. Now the reason that we have to drill a mile down, where you need high tech, and we’re not exactly sure about the technology for capping a disaster, is because you’re not allowed to drill in shallower waters too close to the shore. And you can drill on land, for example, in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge. If we were going to have a disaster, and you always will have something, this is an imperfect world and technology’s imperfect, I’d sure rather have it in the Arctic, a thousand miles from any human habitation, than have it off the coast of Louisiana. However, you shut off Alaska, you shut off the near in drilling. You wind up with this way, way offshore stuff, which is inherently dangerous, and you increase the chances of a disaster, as we have now.

HH: Oh, that’s very interesting, and an interesting perspective people should be pondering as we go forward. Two other stories I want to cover with you, Charles – the Arizona statute and the British prime minister debate and the election. I had John Burns on the program yesterday following, the day before, Christopher Hitchens. And Hitchens tells me that Nick Clegg was his intern at The Nation. I don’t know if you knew that, but I think that may be potentially disqualifying for a British prime minister.

CK: It should be. I think absolutely, he should be taken off the ballot.

HH: (laughing) But what did you, what do you make of that? John Burns declared, and I think he’s a tremendous observer of these things, that you know, Cameron won last night, and it looks like Cameron’s got the wind at his back. What do you think?

CK: I think he does. The Clegg thing can be one of these…you know how Perot had a great showing once, and his numbers spiked, and then people sort of thought about it and decided this was not a good idea?

HH: Yup.

CK: Clegg is a total Euro-wienie. He’s a Euro, I mean, he’s into the Euro, he’s into the U, he’s into their soft foreign policy, he’s into giving up special relationship, he’s terrible, the party has on allies like Israel. I mean, he’s basically a guy who wants to become like France. I’m not sure that the Brits like that. He had a good showing in the first debate, but once you start looking at the platform of this party, which is a Euro party, I think especially with what’s happening in Greece and the rest of the Euro zone, I think he gets hurt on substance. So he gets this initial push from one great show in the original debate, and then people actually pay attention to what he believes, and I think he’s going to be undercut by his views. The problem is that Labour is so weak that Liberal Democrats could actually end up as the second party because of the terrible showing of Brown, and the gaffe he made earlier this week.

HH: Yeah, it’s going to be a wild one. But I think Cameron emerges. Do you think he has enough to govern without a coalition?

CK: No, probably, well, I don’t know. It’s very hard to say. I grew up in Canada where you always would end up with minority governments, and they have to go scramble, and they always would go to the left, to the NDP in Canada. Here, you wouldn’t have a coalition of the Conservatives and Labour, so it looks as if, because the Conservatives are just under the wire, they’re going to have to take on the Lib Democrats, and then you’re going to get, the price will be proportional representation, which means the Lib Democrats are going to be strong, very strong into the future. So it’s a hell of a price the Brits will pay.

HH: All right, now I want to turn to the Arizona statute. I had your colleague, E.J. on this week, and I asked him point black whether or not the federal government had failed Arizona in securing that border. And E.J. responded, and I quote, “The federal government has failed Arizona and Mexico by caving to the National Rifle Association, where we are helping, guns are helping to arm the drug dealers and their folks below the border. So if there’s a failure here, it’s a failure to pass decent gun laws.” What do you make of that, Charles?

CK: I make of that, that I know E.J. and I respect E.J., but that is about the weakest argument I’ve ever heard. And I would suspect that even he is embarrassed in making it. Come on, give me a break.

HH: So…

CK: The gangsters in Mexico would be unarmed if it weren’t for our gun laws?

HH: And so that brings us back to whether or not the federal government has failed Arizona…

CK: Of course it has. They’ve got to build a fence. That’s the way to stop people from coming it. It works in the DMZ in Korea. I can assure you, there is not a wave of immigration from the North into the South. It works in Israel, where the people trying to get into Israel are not immigrants, but terrorists. And the fence works. The terrorists are quite determined. You haven’t had an attack, I think, in over a year in Israel. That’s because of the fence. They work. Why don’t we build a fence? That, I cannot understand. I’ve never heard a coherent argument against it. The feds refused to do it, and in the absence of that, you’re going to have unlimited immigration eternally. At some point, we’re going to build a fence, we’re going to seal the border, and then I and others will join in favoring amnesty. If the people here illegally are the last cohort, I think America will be generous and say okay, let’s end this. But if it’s going to be endless immigration, and legalization every ten or twenty years, Americans are going to say no.

HH: That is exactly my position, as it has been for five years. I’d call it regularization, not amnesty, and we may separate on this, Charles. I would never allow anyone who entered the country illegally and did not return to come in, to become a citizen. I wouldn’t allow them to vote. But to stay in place and regularize their status and Green Card them? Yes.

CK: Yeah. Sure. I mean, I think once…if people had a sense that we closed the border, and we can do it, then I think the mood of the country would change, and we would work out details on how, as you know, regularize…you know, we could work out a system, and we’d get a national consensus on this, and people would say okay, that’s fine, a one shot deal. But not endless, and that’s the problem.

HH: I think 90% of the country is there. I really do.

CK: Absolutely.

HH: I think so. Charles Krauthammer from the Washington Post, always a pleasure, Charles.

End of interview.

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