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Charles Krauthammer On The Lack of Wisdom of Early GOP debates

Monday, November 15, 2010
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HH: Joined now by Washington Post columnist and Fox News all-star, Charles Krauthammer. Charles, how are you today?

CK :Great, how are you?

HH: Good. I’ve got to know, I’ve just got to find out. Are you going to watch Sarah Palin’s Alaska on Sunday night?

CK: No, I don’t think so. I think there’s a football game on.

HH: Well, if it’s over, will you tune in just for a peek?

CK: I don’t know, maybe for the grizzlies.

HH: I am actually fascinated by this, because it’s driving the left so crazy, Charles. I don’t think I’ve ever talked with you about who Sarah Palin in and what she represents in America. But what do you think are the answers to those questions?

CK: I think she’s a phenomenon. I think she’s an unbelievably politically attractive person. She has had an incredibly strong constituency. She’s very persuasive. And she obviously has a future. The only question is where it’s going to be. And if it’s going to be in the Oval Office, I think that’s a problematic proposition. I think if it’s anything else, I think it would be very beneficial for the Republican Party.

HH: I’ve described her as our Al Gore, and as the anti-anti-American. But boy does she drive the left crazy. I think the TLC program on Sunday night will have enormous ratings just because the left will tune in to hate her, and the right will tune in to love her.

CK: Well, I’m not sure that the people are going to hate her after that. And there’s a way in which, you know, I’ve seen the previews and all that, and it really humanizes her. When you take her out of the context of a person who is delivering speeches with the barbs against the Democrats that she is so practiced at doing, and you get her out there hiking with her kids, I think it’ll make her, it’ll sort of soften that image, the hard edge…well, the bitterest opponents of course aren’t going to be persuaded, but people who might have just followed her peripherally through the press might actually have a softer image of her. I think it’s going to help her a lot. There’s no way it cannot.

HH: Now let’s talk about whether or not President Obama’s been helped by this trip. I agree completely with your column this morning defending the expense of sending the President first class and well protected abroad.

CK: Yeah.

HH: But this afternoon, Bill Kristol wrote over at the Weekly Standard, that the press conference in Seoul today began with CBS’ Chip Reid asking what was the number one complaint, concern or piece of advice that you got from foreign leaders about the U.S. economy and your stewardship of the economy, where upon the President began his response, according to Bill, with a complaint. What about compliments, he asked. You didn’t put that on the list. Bill goes on to talk about his incredible thin skin, Charles. It just isn’t getting any better.

CK: No, I think not. There’s something…I mean his narcissism and his sense of self, I mean, the sort of messianic image of himself which we saw on display in 2008, and sort of in the mood of 2008, actually worked, you know? Coeds swooning in the aisle, MSNBC anchors getting thrills up their leg, I mean, it sort of had an effect and had its moment. Here we are two years later, the man has become utterly ordinary. And the foreign policy trip after India was a disaster. The meeting with the South Korean president…a U.S. president does not go into a room to conclude a treaty and come out empty-handed, which he did. He was a disaster at the G20 meeting. If you want to berate China for devaluing its currency, and you want to get your allies to support you in that, you don’t do it three weeks after your central bank has just devalued the U.S. dollar radically. I mean, it sort of makes no sense at all, and the U.S., the way that the U.S. is being ignored, treated and sort of brushed off everywhere by Iran, by Russia, by China, by even the Venezuelans as a sort of constant devaluing of the American position in the world, which Obama has contributed to in large part, has become a staple of his foreign policy. And he doesn’t get it in the same way he doesn’t get the election results. And he actually thinks that he’s sort of doing well. And as he said, he was going to make the world like us. The world doesn’t like us any more than it did before. But it has infinitely less respect for us.

HH: Charles, I think this has implications for 2012. I argued today at length on Fox that the Republicans ought not to be quick to compromise on Obamacare, because it’s a malignancy. It’s bad policy. It’s destroying health care plan as it spreads out. And they ought to stand there and make him defend it day in and day out or repeal it. And I don’t think he will ever admit there’s a flaw in this program, much less that it’s metastasizing.

CK: You’re exactly right, and that’s why there’s a huge difference between the freedom of action that Obama has, and the freedom of action that Clinton had after his debacle in 1994. Clinton was very lucky in the fact that Hillarcare failed. So he could leave it behind and never refer to it, and not have to worry about it or defend it. Obama’s curse is that it passed, Obamacare. There’s no way he’ll disown it. He’s going to have to fight tooth and nail. Remember, the last thing the Democrats want is even to talk about Obamacare. They felt that way in 2009 when they tried to get it wrapped up by the summer and they couldn’t. So they had another deadline in November of 2009 to get it wrapped up and behind them. Ultimately, it lasted all the way into March, and they couldn’t stop discussing it, because they had to defend it in this election. It will not go away. And for the Democrats, it’s a very losing issue. And for Obama, it will be. He’s stuck with it. And it’s the centerpiece of his social Democratic vision of America to make it more like Europe. And that’s why the ideological issue, which was at the center of the election in 2010, is going to be at the center of the election in 2012, even if he doesn’t do any new radically steps, because he’s stuck with Obamacare.

HH: I agree with that. Now I want to switch to the Republican side. Two question, I’m starting a campaign to get Bill Bennett to be the new RNC chairman. What do you think the Republicans need in that job? And is it Michael Steele or is it someone more with Bennett’s skill sets?

CK: You need somebody who doesn’t need to be on television, who doesn’t have to make a name for himself, who will stay in the background and raise money, and not waste it. And that’s not a high bar. And I think that there are a lot of people, faceless people, people who are on the RNC themselves and nobody knows about who can do a very good job at that. And I hope they end up doing that, because that’s what the party needs. It’s going to need it at crunch time when election day happens in 2012. And the Democrats in a terrible Democratic year did better in terms of that in 2010, where they had no right to do better than that in 2010. I think it’s because of the weakness of the RNC.

HH: I think you’re right, especially on the 72 hour effort.

CK: Exactly.

HH: Charles, I want to close by talking about Politico announced with NBC and with Nancy Reagan this week, and we love Nancy Reagan, but I hate this idea that they want to host the first presidential debate among the Republicans at the Reagan Library in early 2011. Not only is that too early, but I do not believe that Republican candidates ought to begin this campaign being peppered by questions by Beltway center-left journalists who are not going to ask the questions that need to be asked, or even from the perspective that’s remotely in touch with what happened in 2010. What do you think about when it should start and who should be asking the questions at the start?

CK: You know, here’s where I think you really need some kind of leadership. Either it’s the RNC chairman or some other Democrat, the Republican candidates themselves, or maybe some of the old, wise men in the Congress who should say there should be no debates until, say, the first of September or the first of August. Why should Republicans start launching missiles at each other before having, say, half a year to develop their own arguments, to present themselves, and to obey the Reagan law, the 11th commandment, about not attacking each other. Of course, inevitably, you’re going to have to go to them, but I think it’s much too early to have fights. We don’t even know how many of these guys and gals are. Let’s find out who they are, let’s watch them, let’s observe them, let’s hear from them, let’s read their programs, and then let them have at it. It’s a terrible mistake to get in the mud, to start, you know, a month or two into the year. I think it can only hurt the party.

HH: Well said, well said. From your lips to all of their ears. Charles Krauthammer, thank you, always a pleasure.

End of interview.

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