Former Clinton White House Counsel Lanny Davis Struggles To List Hillary’s Achievements At State
HH: If I ever get in serious, serious trouble, I think I’m going to try and find Lanny Davis. Now only is he a friend of my friend, Michael Medved, and a friend of my friend, Mark Gearan. He is widely regarded as one of the great spin masters of Washington, D.C. He has brand new book out called Crisis Tales: Five Rules For Coping With Crises In Business, Politics And Life. Lanny Davis, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to talk to you.
LD: I love being on your show, Hugh. And I hope you never need my services, but thank you.
HH: Well, there are a couple of things in here. First of all, selling the planes to Pakistan when you came up with the nine words, the money or the planes, what’s fair is fair, that’s a beautiful chapter, but I still don’t want to sell planes to Pakistan. I mean, that was, I kept saying Lanny, you’re selling me. I don’t want them. It’s not fair. They’re running the Taliban, so what’s fair? Did that work?
LD: Well, first of all, this is way back when, so you’re dating me, and I have to date myself. So this is when Benazir Bhutto was the small d democrat, and elected by a popular landslide and ran a small d democracy with secular Islamic views. That was the ideal Islamic democracy in the world, Turkey being at the time another example. So this is when Pakistan was truly our friend and Benazir Bhutto was an inspirational leader. And we owed Pakistan, literally owed Pakistan $600 million dollars. We had their money, we had their planes, and they wanted one or the other back, and we were stuck and couldn’t give either one back. And that’s when I helped Prime Minister Bhutto with President Clinton.
HH: It’s a fascinating story. We didn’t know at the time that the ISI was helping the Taliban become our nightmare, so your hands are clean on that. But it’s a fascinating story. I also loved your mix up with Garry Trudeau, your fellow Yalie, over the misapplication of facts with regards to the Ivory Coast incident, covered in great detail. But I love your takeaway. Don’t represent yourself.
LD: My punch line is that Garry Trudeau had very good company in ignoring the facts that ultimately came out, which is that I was helping the State Department and the President of the United States get this thug out of the trenches in the Ivory Coast, and save lives. But I couldn’t tell everybody what I was doing, because it was covert. So I violated my transparency rule. I paid the penalty and I had a fool for a client, namely me.
HH: Well, Crisis Tales is full of good stuff, and I recommend it to anyone. But now I want your crisis advice for an old client of yours. Former Secretary of State Clinton brought up Benghazi sua sponte yesterday. That means on her own, for the benefit of the Steelers fans. And it raised more questions than it answered. When does she need to sit down and give us the specifics of what she was doing that night, where she went, and why she never called back Mr. Hicks?
LD: Well, first of all, I’m not sure Mr. Hicks ever called her. That’s not a fact. It’s actually not true that he ever called her. And secondly, she’s done that. She’s testified in front of two Congressional committees, and I’m sure she’d be willing to do it again and again and again, because the most decisive comment she made is when she was accused of a systemic failure in her own department by a panel that she appointed. Ambassador Pickering, a Republican administration senior official at the State Department and ambassador for a Republican president, Bush I, and Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, neither one of them exactly partisans, investigated what happened in Benghazi, and found that the State Department had a systemic failure of leadership at the mid-levels, that communications did not occur very well, and she accepted personal responsibility in all 64 recommendations for change. So…
HH: But Lanny, neither the Ambassador nor the Admiral spoke to her personally under oath, and she did in fact talk with Mr. Hicks. That’s under oath and testified to. She talked to him at 2am in the morning on a conference call, and she never called him back. I’m curious if you would recommend to her that she sit down for a one hour with Jake Tapper, or with Bret Baier, or with a serious journalist, not Andrea Mitchell, not someone who will lie down and sweep the ground before she walks on it, but a serious, probing question about why she ran away, because she ran away that night.
LD: Well, I don’t believe she ran away, but we shouldn’t debate things we are both uncertain of. Let’s both agree that this is an issue she has to address, will address. My philosophy is the more information out, the better for her. And at some point, I certainly agree with you she’ll have to retell the story. I think we have a difference of opinion whether she already has, but I certainly agree with your premise that as long as these questions are nagging, the ultimate solution, as I always say in my book, is tell it all, tell it early, tell it yourself. She’s very, very sorry about the loss of her friend. She’s taken responsibility, and I think she ultimately will follow even your advice, Hugh.
HH: Well, I like your advice. Tell it all, tell it early, tell it yourself. She has not told it all. She hasn’t told it early. What she has said, she’s used other people to do so. But what about, who would you recommend she sit down with for like a Chris Christie longest day press conference? He did two hours. Should she do the same sort of thing, Lanny Davis?
LD: Well, first of all, we’re just going to have to disagree in respect to have differences of opinion with being as to whether she already has answered all the questions. But I think she ultimately will have to do it again if she decides to run for president, and I have no idea who she should sit down with. I kind of laughed in the middle of your mentioning Andrea Mitchell, because the last time I saw Andrea Mitchell, she was extremely tough on the Clinton White House. But she’s got to sit down with a credible journalist and answer all questions if she wants to run for president. Not just Benghazi, but your life is transparent. It’s pretty tough out there as Chris Christie has discovered. I’m not satisfied with Chris Christie’s explanation. He could have spent four more hours, and he still hasn’t answered the basic question why did you sit and watch that traffic jam and didn’t pick up the phone and call your buddy at the Port Authority and say what the heck is going on here?
HH: And that, by the way, America, that was…
LD: He’s never answered that question.
HH: That was a perfect bit of Lanny Davis diversion. That was eloquent, actually. He knows I’m burrowing in on Hillary, and so he brings up Chris Christie and thinks it’s like shouting squirrel. But Lanny, I’ve got to go back. Jake Tapper said ten minutes ago we don’t know what she did that night. Nobody knows what she did after the 2am call with Hicks. Don’t we need a timeline? Don’t we deserve to know what the woman in charge of the State Department under siege actually did, because I think she ran away, and she has never answered with specificity and particularity what she did that night.
LD: So it looks like you just changed the topic from my Chris Christie point, but the answer is I’ve already given, I already gave you the answer, Hugh. So I don’t know if I can…
HH: All right. Let me ask…
LD: …more time, which is at some point, at some point, if she runs for president, Benghazi and every other issue she’s being criticized for, and I happen to believe that there are only a handful of people that hold Benghazi against her. I don’t think that that’s a serious political issue for her.
HH: Okay, then give me one more thing.
LD: But she’s got to do it. She’s got to do it if she runs for president. And she knows that.
HH: All right, one question, you’ve got a minute. Summarize for me what she accomplished as Secretary of State.
LD: Well, the biggest thing of all is goodwill around the world, which is what secretaries of State do.
HH: Like in Syria…
LD: I don’t know what any secretary of State…
HH: …and Egypt and Libya?
LD: I don’t know, well, Libya and certainly the intervention in Libya and getting rid of Qaddafi, you would say that’s a pretty good achievement for the President. But these are presidential achievements with a partnership of the secretary of State. What do secretaries of State do? For example, she was very instrumental in the details of the Iranian sanctions program, which has produced, apparently, some results. I’m very skeptical about this deal in Iran on the nuclear weaponry. But the credit she deserves on this sanctions program, which literally was her program in the State Department to enforce, but in partnership with Barack Obama.
HH: So her achievement is that…
LD: But this doesn’t change the question about the secretary of State having achievement. This is a secretary of State is the most popular woman in the world and restored relations with everyone in the world.
HH: All right, Lanny, we’re out of time, but your achievement is one that’s been swept away by the President.
End of interview.