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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Frank Gaffney shares national security concerns about John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama.

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HH: Joined now by the Center For Security Policy’s leader, and our friend, Frank Gaffney. Frank, a Happy New Year to you.

FG: Happy New Year to you, Hugh.

HH: Frank, yesterday’s results, what do you make of the foreign policies of Barack Obama and of Mike Huckabee, as you understand them at this stage in the campaign?

FG: Barack Obama seems absolutely clueless, which is something of a disqualifier in my book for Commander-In-Chief of the United States. Huckabee’s is uneven. There are some aspects of it that I think are sensible and I would applaud, and there are some parts of it that, notably, his views on Guantanamo and aggressive interrogation techniques, and Iran, I think, that I must say, I don’t think are well founded.

HH: Now Frank, you’re an honest broker of this stuff, and you followed John McCain’s career for a long time. He’s back in the lead, probably double digits in New Hampshire now. What do you think of John McCain’s foreign policy approach? Of course, Iraq he’s good on, but what about the other stuff like missile defense, ABM Treaty, Law of the Sea, et cetera?

FG: It’s been uneven again, Hugh. For example, on the Law of the Sea Treaty, John McCain indicated earlier in the campaign that he was opposed to it, had serious questions about it, had problems. I’m told that he’s backsliding a bit on that, and that would be very worrying indeed. On missile defense, I think he’s largely been not a featured figure in it. You know, he makes a point at every turn of saying how he’s been at the center of every national security debate for the past twenty years. I think he’s been largely AWOL on missile defense, and if not actually unhelpful. And more generally, you know, Andy McCarthy has a good piece in National Review Online today dissecting whether John McCain would have taken action against Saddam Hussein as George Bush did under the same set of circumstances, and concludes that he wouldn’t. And again, I tend to think that’s a bit of a disqualifier. I’ve known John for a long time, personally had a fondness for him, but I’m not sure that he’s the right guy for this job at this time, on national security grounds.

HH: And if a voter comes up to you and says wait a minute, I’m supporting him on national security grounds, what’s the specific brief? What do you say first, second, and third as to why he’s suspect on those grounds?

FG: Look, I think he’s been very strong, particularly in the months since the surge in Iraq, and that’s applaudable. I think those of us who believe this is a central front in this larger war, applaud that. It would be a mistake to confuse that with a larger track record on national security. For example, I’m told he’s now in favor of the International Criminal Court, one of those litmus tests like the Law of the Sea Treaty, on whether you understand that the United States simply cannot entrust its sovereignty to these international bodies. You get that wrong, that’s a big dock as far as I’m concerned in anybody’s national security agenda. And on the other things, I think a lot of them, he’s been uneven. The jihad that he waged against the Air Force acquiring tankers, a lot of issues like this, some of which he wraps up in opposing waste, fraud and abuse. I think there’s somewhat, and at least in some cases, simply wrong. In short, I have questions about his judgment, and I’m not confident that he’s a reliable figure on national security, much as he has certainly been a prominent figure in a lot of these debates over the years.

HH: Now I want to switch over, Frank Gaffney, to a very disturbing story in the Washington Times today, Bill Gertz from Inside The Ring. The Pentagon has fired Stephen Coughlin, or at least given him notice, who is one of their experts on radical Islam. What is going on here?

FG: One of the very few experts, I have to say, certainly in the Pentagon, but frankly, I think, in the United States government or at large. I know Steve, I think he’s a very, very impressive analyst of radical Islam, and understands probably as well as anybody in the executive branch the nature of the various political influence operations that are being run against our government, including its penetration. Steve Coughlin apparently got into a fight, according to Bill Gertz, with a fellow by the name of Hasham Islam, who is a, I guess, Muslim outreach coordinator for the deputy secretary of defense, Gordon England. And this fellow, Islam, denounced Coughlin as a Christian zealot with a pen, which as far as I can tell is, if as they say, if he’s anything, he’s a lapsed Catholic, I’m told, but it doesn’t really matter. The point is this fellow, whose judgment about which kinds of groups the Pentagon should be reaching out to, includes an organization that I consider to be a notorious Islamist front organization, the Islamic Society of North America, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, by the way. He thinks these are the kind of people that the Pentagon ought to be reaching out to, relying upon. Steve Coughlin called him on it, and now Islam apparently has played a role in getting Coughlin let go. It’s a very worrying, further indication to my way of thinking that the Bush administration has not got a clue of the nature of the enemy we’re up against, let alone the kinds of people we should be relying upon here in the United States, as well as overseas.

HH: Let me ask you, Frank, have you had a chance to read the Doug Frantz and Catherine Collins new book, Nuclear Jihadists?

FG: I’ve not.

HH: When you do, you already know this, Iran’s got the bomb, or they’re just waiting to assemble it. It’s not even debatable in my view. Why are we in such a hurry to embrace the other side, and to pull the wool over our own eyes?

FG: On Iran?

HH: On Iran and on Islamic extremism, and on people who speak truth to the country.

FG: Well, boy, that’s a segment or two’s question. Let me just give you my short form answer.

HH: Yup.

FG: There’s a phenomenon psychologists call cognitive dissonance. You don’t see what you don’t want to see, what you don’t think you can afford to see. I think there’s a willing blindness, a willing self-imposed blindness to problems, and unfortunately, a lot of this seems to me to be emanating from people who should know better, and certainly being acquiesced in by people who should know better, starting, I’m sorry to say, with the President of the United States.

HH: More on that next week, Frank Gaffney, from the Center For Security Policy,

End of interview.


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