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Frank Gaffney’s conservative canary in the coal mine about the importance of national security

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

HH: Whenever I’ve been out of the country for a week, I like to get back to terra firma and check in with Frank Gaffney, president of the Center For Security Policy,, to find out if I missed any wars, any revolutions, any set backs to national security. Frank, did I?

FG: Quite possibly, Hugh. There’s one that’s going on that most folks, even people who have been in this country at their duty stations for the past six days are missing, and that is an effort that’s underway, I believe, to debase, or certainly devalue, the priority conservatives attach to national security. I’ve seen this in a number of different ways over the past couple of weeks, and I think it’s certainly now emerging that there’s a trend at work here. And here’s what it means, that the sort of traditions of Ronald Reagan, which he described as the philosophy of peace through strength, and the importance that he attached to insuring that our men and women in uniform had the equipment that they needed, that they had the support of the American people, at least conservative Americans, the Republicans, when they went to war, that when we faced an enemy, we tried, at the very least, to be clear about the nature of it, and we tried to adopt and practice a strategy for defeating it. At the moment, as you know I call it, what authoritative Islam calls it, Sharia, and its adherents. All of that seems now to being deemphasized by influential forces in the conservative movement. And I fear, Hugh, at the very moment that new polls are showing that Republicans are being considered more favorably by the American people precisely because they’re seen as more reliable than Democrats on national security, we are about to squander an important advantage, and thereby, perhaps, be unworthy of the support we hope the American people might give to those of us who stand for these things, like freedom, like Ronald Reagan.

HH: Now you know, Frank Gaffney, this morning’s Washington Post had a story by Chris Cillizza citing a poll showing that the national security gap has reopened between the parties. I think that’s what you’re referencing, that Republicans have now like a 50-34% preference when it comes to seriousness on terror because of the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial being moved to New York, the decision to close Gitmo, the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day/underpants bomber, all these things. What are you referring to when you say an effort to deemphasize national security among the party?

FG: Well, let me give you a couple of example, Hugh, because they’re myriad. The so-called Mount Vernon statement that was issued with much fanfare a week or two ago by the so-called conservative leadership, hardly mentioned national security at all, certainly in the most euphemistic ways imaginable, in contrast to the way Bill Buckley and framers of the American conservative movement fifty years ago talked about defeating, not coexisting with international communism, the totalitarian threat of that time. I’ve received fundraising letters from Republican leaders in the Senate that make no mention of national security. The Conservative Political Action Conference hardly touched on it, certainly not in the main agenda other than, you know, a few good speeches by individuals like John Bolton. And most recently, Hugh, there is now, as you probably are aware, this effort to forge a new contract from America for the Tea Party movement, and conservatives more generally. And guess what? In the 20 different items on the website offered as candidates for the principles to be promoted by that contract from America, there isn’t a single one that involves national security. Not terrorism, not homeland security, not Sharia, not, you know, defending our country in time of war. What’s up with that?

HH: Well, I have not idea. We have some friends…

FG: I am suspicious, Hugh, that this is the direct result of an effort made to reduce the importance of all this stuff in the sort of libertarian, it’s all about taxes and red ink kind of mode.

HH: You know, we have some friends with the contract from America, and we’ll have to talk to them about that, because it is, that’s got to be an oversight on their part. Frank, I do not believe, however, there’s any doubt of the importance of these issues among the rank and file. I just saw, coming back, Mitt Romney’s new book in the airport, No Apologies. That’s primarily a foreign policy book as I went through it. It’s got the domestic agenda out there as well, but it’s a hard-nosed attack on President Obama’s weakness, vacillation, and indecision over the first year plus of his presidency. So I assume that the folks who are running, thinking about running for president, are realizing that this remains at the top of our agenda. Don’t you?

FG: I trust so. I pray so, because this has to be, Hugh. But I will tell you, and we’ve talked about this at length in the past. We’ve had a debate, in fact, that you sponsored on your program in the past. One of the people who I believe is responsible for this kind of deviation from that obvious, necessary, essential course is Grover Norquist, the Americans For Tax Reform president who is primarily preoccupied with this fiscal program, and you know, eschews most of the social agenda for that matter, but also the national security agenda, except when he gets it wrong, for example, in supporting the closure of Guantanamo Bay, for example, in supporting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed being brought to civilian trial in New York City, for example, in supporting the movement of terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to Thompson, Illinois, for example, in supporting open borders and amnesty for illegal aliens, and for example, opposing the Patriot Act. I mean, this is the kind of stuff that I believe is now present in certain leadership circles of the conservative movement. And I think it’s both wrong-headed in the extreme, and it will condemn this movement, this party if you will, to perdition if it is actually followed as a course of action. So I hope what you’ve said about Mitt and Rick Santorum and others who are quite clear on the nature of the enemy we face and the need to defeat it will prevail. But I think we have to have a debate, and I’ve challenged Grover Norquist to a debate on this very question – what is the right policy direction for conservatives on national security? Is it his, you know, low-balling of the whole thing, or worse, his very bad policy recommendations? Or is it the kind of thing that, you know, I believe the rest of us believe in, which is that national security must be job one for conservatives in the Republican Party?

HH: Well, I hope we can host that. I’d love to host that debate. We’ll work towards seeing if we can organize that.

FG: Thank you.

HH: Now Frank, in terms of the sanctions on Iran, and what you see happening in Iran in this segment that we’re catching up, it has been an eventful week. At least we’re talking a better game than we’ve talked for a while. But is it all talk?

FG: It is all talk. Yeah, unfortunately. You know, while you were gone, perhaps, Hugh, you may have missed the front page story above the fold in the New York Times about $107 billion dollars having flowed from the United States government to companies that are violating the sanctions we’ve imposed to date, let alone future sanctions. Some of them U.S.-owned subsidiaries off shore, but many of them foreign companies, we are nonetheless putting American tax dollars into, in ways that are simply, you know, encouraging the kind of life support that these companies provide the Iranian regime. It’s madness. We are certainly not serious, and you can bet that the Iranians are calculating enough to understand that, and they are running for daylight as they pursue their nuclear weapons program.

HH: All right, thank you, Frank Gaffney from the Center For Security Policy,

End of interview.

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