HH: The biggest story of the afternoon in my view is the one that the New York Daily News brought to us, I told you about last hour, ISIS appearing to declare war on Pamela Geller, threatening that there are 71 trained ISIS killers in 15 different states ready at our word to attack, and it specifically names Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, Michigan and California. Joining me now, former United States Senator Jim Talent, who just knows this area of national security so well. Senator Talent, welcome, it’s always good to talk to you.
JT: Thanks, Hugh, it’s always good to be on.
HH: What do you make of this internet war that’s now broken out? Obviously, jihadists tried to kill Pam Geller and the people at her exhibition. Now, ISIS is posting anonymous threats. Ought we to publicize them? And my first question is should we cover threats like this when ISIS makes them?
JT: Well, yeah, I think without trying to overstate the danger, the public needs to know that one of their tactics is to radicalize people in country. So there’s a sense in which these individuals act alone in that they’re most often, you know, they’re not, it’s not part of a plan that they conspired to do with ISIS. But it is part of ISIS’ plans to radicalize people and then to claim credit afterward. So while we don’t know the details, yet, this is consistent with their operation.
HH: Now I’ve used the malignancy analogy often, and the metastasis going on, and this is going to continue to accelerate until, actually, the Obama administration leads the West and our Middle Eastern allies to not only contain Iran but to snuff out the Islamic State. But do you sense that anyone at the White House understands that?
JT: Well, considering he won’t call them Islamic terrorists, no. I don’t think he understands the depth of this challenge that has to be confronted on an ideological basis, without fear, with purpose, over time. I just don’t think he gets that and the breadth of what we have to do. And if our leaders don’t get it, I’m concerned that our people won’t, either, although I think they’re ahead of the White House.
HH: Well, I must admit I am shocked that Pamela Geller seems to be getting more pushback and blowback and criticism than the Islamic State is. I mean, whether or not people approve of what she did, Americans ought not to be afraid of exercising whatever their speech is.
JT: Well, that’s right. And part of the game here for them, and game is of course, you know, I don’t want to trivialize it, but part of their plan is to intimidate people so that they self-censor. They don’t say what they would otherwise say. Look, as a matter of manners, you and I try and be respectful of other people’s beliefs. But we have to stand up here for the right of people to say what they want to say without fear of violence. And if you don’t like what somebody is saying, the way to do that is to show where they’re wrong and fight them in the marketplace of ideas. It’s a very clear line, and we have to draw that line very clearly, whether it’s Pam Geller or Charlie Hebdo or whoever it is.
HH: Now Congressman Michael McCaul, who is the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee said to the Associated Press today regarding the Islamic State post saying we’ve got 71 trained soldiers in 15 states, this is the textbook case of what we’re most concerned about. So Jim Talent, they had both the micro-copper chopper guy on their radar, and he managed to land his helicopter on the Mall. They had at least one of the jihadis that attacked the Geller event on their radar. Are our domestic security people holding back too much? Or are they overwhelmed?
JT: I think it’s probably a little bit of both. But they will be overwhelmed if we don’t stop this growing radicalization. As you know, Hugh, there are hundreds of people, if not thousands, not thousands from the United States, but people have gone over to fight in the Levant for ISIS, and a number of them are going to be able to return to their home countries. And they’re not all of a sudden going to stop being energized for this movement. And they’ve been taught to be completely unscrupulous in the tactics they use. So this is going to be a growing problem if we don’t fight it across broad fronts. Some of that is military, some of that is building capacity of partners and other governments so they can fight it. And a lot of it is taking them on. I mean, we need to make clear what we stand for, and what we believe in, and that we’re willing to sacrifice for what we believe in just as they are, and that what we believe in is right, and that we’re going to win. And we need to be clear about that and persistent, and purposeful over time. And that’s going to require leadership, new leadership.
HH: Let me talk about the good news of the day as well with you, Joe Dunford named as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, almost universal applause that what so-called Fighting Joe Dunford, not so-called, that’s what he is called, Fighting Joe Dunford is the new chairman. Any reaction to that from you, Jim Talent?
JT: Yeah, I agree with what John McCain said. I think he’s going to be very strong. And I hope in these last two years of the Obama administration, he makes plain that we have to revitalize the tools of power, beginning with the military. That’s certainly not the end of it, but beginning with that. And I think this was the best possible choice that we were going to get out of this administration, so I’m very pleased.
HH: You know, when you say revitalize the tools of power, I want to come back to that in a second. I have been carrying on a debate about the Export-Import Bank, Jim Talent, which a lot of people. Rick Perry in today’s Wall Street Journal reversed 14 years of support for Ex-Im, saying why he’s changing his mind. I’m stunned by this, because Ex-Im is a tool of American power that we appear to be poised to throw away. It’s more unilateral disarmament.
JT: Yeah, and without anything prepared to replace it. Look, as I said before, Hugh, I get both sides of this. This is not the ideal way of dealing with the fact that foreign governments subsidize their competitors and put us at an unfair disadvantage. There are probably better ways of dealing with it. I always felt like in part, because I was very sensitive to Boeing, I mean, Boeing was headquartered in my old Congressional district, and in part because if industrial base issues, that I wanted to reauthorize Ex-Im at least until we came up with something different. I understand the other view. But we ought to be able to talk about this in a little bit more nuanced way than we have, I mean, particularly with the critics.
HH: I’m really surprised people, you mentioned Boeing, and I know about Boeing and GE and the bigs, but there are also a lot of smalls. And when you talk about Boeing, you talk about all the restaurants that serve Boeing people.
HH: It’s 165,000 jobs, but mostly I think about the Chinese and the Russians are just not going to stop using export credits.
JT: That’s right, and that’s the problem. I mean, in a world where nobody was doing this, you couldn’t justify Ex-Im. But in a world where everybody is doing it, it’s a much more difficult issue. And as I said, I always resolved it in favor in part because of my industrial base concerns, you know, regarding the department. And we only have a couple of contractors who can produce tactical aircraft now. And we lose one of them, I’m not saying we will if Ex-Im goes down, then we lose the competition that we need to keep costs down. So you know, to me, it’s, I understand both sides of it. Probably the best thing to do would be to reauthorize it while we’re working on a reform, at least on a short term basis.
HH: I agree, and the reform package that have been brought forward by Fincher in Tennessee is fine by me. But in this, and we’re going to come back after the break and talk about the new Defense budget. Even as we rebuild the military, I just don’t see us doing things like this in a smart, comprehensive way, even as we look at ISIS metastasizing. We shouldn’t put down any tool in our toolbox right now.
End of interview.