Governor Jindal was my guest in the first hour today:
HH: Pleased to welcome back one of America’s most interesting governors, Bobby Jindal of the great state of Louisiana. Governor Jindal, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
BJ: Hugh, it’s always great to be on the air with you. Thank you for having me back on your show.
HH: Well, I want to cover three things, and I want to go in reverse order of least serious to most serious. The first, the least serious, I was just reading a story about CNN five minutes ago. Their ratings are horrible. Governor Jindal, you’ve watched the news for a long time. Do you think their ratings would get better if they had any conservatives on that network? I love Jake Tapper and Wolf, but those are the only two guys, I watch Anderson Cooper a little bit, but honestly, it’s a left wing network.
BJ: Hugh, look, you’re exactly right. They’ve tried everything else. Why not, just for sheer survival, forget fairness, forget trying to be objective, at some point, you should try to give your customers what they want to see. Why not try a conservative voice? They’ve tried just about everything. They’ve tried new graphics, new executives. Nothing seems to work. They lose more and more viewers every year. Why not try a conservative voice?
HH: That’s, okay, we agree on that. Number two, you are a very experienced health care government official. You’ve run the Louisiana health care system, you were at HHS, you’ve studied it in Congress, now you’re the governor. Do you believe we are doing enough to stop Ebola in Africa? And should we have a travel ban from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia?
BJ: No, we’re not doing enough. Absolutely, we should have a travel ban. I said that several days ago, and the administration strongly disagreed with me. They then said they were going to step up their screening. That’s not enough. It’s just common sense. With a 21 day incubation period, you see the consternation this has caused in Dallas as they scramble to try to quarantine folks that may have had contact with a patient that came over here. Why wouldn’t we have that travel ban? That’s just common sense. The reason I don’t think we’re doing enough is even the mainstream media has reported on this, that the Washington Post reported, for example, that the WHO in recent years has turned its priority, turned its attention away from containing contagious epidemic diseases to things like cardiovascular disease. The USA Today was reporting, there was an opinion piece there about CDC now not just focused on containing these epidemics, but rather also now looking at thing like playground safety. And so some of our premiere health care agencies are, they’re trying, under this administration, trying to do too many things, therefore not doing their core functions well. Why wouldn’t the WHO absolutely prioritize, and say we’re going to be laser focused on fighting these contagious epidemic diseases that can bring death. We don’t have a cure. You know, we don’t have a vaccine, yet, that’s been proven. Why in the world wouldn’t they prioritize that? So I think you’ve got, even the WHO has admitted they didn’t act quickly enough and aggressively enough. They underestimated this threat early on, and I think it’s one of the reasons that it was allowed to spread as far as it has already. So no, I don’t think we’re doing enough. And to me, banning the flights is a very simple common sense step. It’s amazing this administration wouldn’t do that.
HH: The most troubling aspect of the follow up in Texas was that there were not on standby crews to clean and sanitize the apartment complex in which Mr. Duncan became ill. Now it’s in Spain. It will almost certainly come back to the United States. As a governor, have you sat down with your health care bureaucracy and said get contractors in place, be ready to respond instantly the moment…we can’t stop people who are infected from getting here, but we can respond. Have you don’t that, yet, Governor?
BJ: We have, and we have what we call the UCG, Unified Command Group. Unfortunately, Louisiana has been through hurricanes, oil spills, so we pull in together our lead cabinet agencies as well as private sector, faith-based, federal partners, others, in a command center. We did that several days ago, and with the first sign of Ebola coming into the States, and for example, have contacted all of the 911 operators, contacted the EMS folks, contacted private and public hospitals throughout the state, health care providers in the schools. In our state, for example, the folks that are most likely to have had any contact with folks from those countries, and they’re in a few certain areas, for example, students in higher educational institutions, we’ve got some faith-based groups that have sent missionaries over there, and some folks in the energy industry. And so we’ve targeted some of the kind of high priority areas where they’re most likely to have had contact. But absolutely, we have inventoried our resources, educated folks, put them on alert, told people what to do should, God forbid, this comes to our state, and gotten our folks as prepared as they can be. It’s just like in a hurricane. You hope for the best, you prepare for the worst. This administration does the opposite. They always just hope these problems will go away, and we’ve seen that time and time again. You know, the President told us that Ebola wasn’t likely to come to our shores. Now that it’s here, again, they’re resisting just common sense steps. And they aren’t really adequately explaining why they wouldn’t stop the flights. And again, why wouldn’t we just take common sense steps to protect ourselves.
HH: I don’t know. And I think the pressure’s going to grow on the President, and I think he’s going to feel this in the election if the American people agree with you, Governor Jindal, and not with him on Ebola, on ISIS, on a number of things. That said, let’s turn to the centerpiece of the conversation, your Defense speech at AEI. In fact, you’ve given two speeches, issued a 28 page paper on Defense policy. You are now a hawk. I think you’ve always been a hawk, haven’t you been?
BJ: Well you know, I love how, folks try to put labels on each of us. I’ll tell you what I believe, and then people can call me whatever they want. I believe a stronger American defense leads to a safer country and leads to more global stability. I think this president has proved that leading from behind doesn’t work, that simply hoping for peace doesn’t work. The best way to avoid war is to actually, ironically enough, prepare for it. President Reagan deployed the troops less frequently than the folks before him and after him. We need American strength. This president doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, and now we see what’s happened in the world. The world’s a more dangerous place everywhere you look. It’s not just ISIS. It’s Iran, it’s Russia in Ukraine, it’s the Middle East at large, it’s China. This world’s a much more dangerous place because this president does not understand that leading from behind is not leading at all.
HH: Okay, let’s, at that point, go to the specifics, because in your speech at AEI, you did something I didn’t think I’d see any Republican do. You name checked Donald Rumsfeld. Now Ambassador Bolton is still very popular in the conservative movement. I still admire Secretary Rumsfeld a lot. But a lot of people were surprised that you dared speak the name that everybody likes to kick around with Dick Cheney. Were you sending a signal with that, Bobby Jindal?
BJ: Well look, I think it’s become very politically popular to look back at both Republicans and Democrats, but especially this President blames President Bush for everything, to look back and say they got nothing right, everything they did was wrong. And I think that’s wrong and unfair. Rumsfeld, I don’t agree with every decision they made, but Secretary Rumsfeld, Ambassador Bolton, we had an array of leaders who understood that a stronger America was a safer world. And I think that they were, I think they thought they had an opportunity for transforming the military. It turned out we didn’t have that window, thanks to 9/11. We ended up fighting a ground world that planners said was not likely to happen again in our lifetimes. I don’t think they planned carefully enough for what was going to happen in Iraq. But the reality is the reason I mentioned Rumsfeld in particular, Bolton and others is what they did get right, and what they did understand, which is so important. And what this administration has forgotten, or never knew, or just doesn’t believe in, is that we have to invest in our military. We are now, listen to this, Hugh, and this is shocking to me, and as somebody who studies politics and government. We are spending now more on economy on government than we’ve had ever since World War II, really in peace time, this is the most we’ve spent on our government. And yet we’re spending the least on defending our country than we’ve had in the last 70 years since World War II, since, you know, when you go back 70 years, this is the least we’ve spent on defending our country, and we’re reaping the rewards of that. That is why ISIS is on the move. That is why Iran is looking to move to become a nuclear power. That’s why Russia is reasserting itself, not only in Ukraine. That’s why China’s threatening its neighbors. When you look at what this president is doing, we’re going to have a hundred fewer ships in our Navy than China. He basically gave a political number for the budget ignoring Secretary Gates. Now you’re even hearing Secretary Panetta come out and talk about the weakness of this president. So absolutely, I think it’s appropriate to look back and say you know what? It wasn’t that long ago we had leaders that understood a stronger American leads to a more peaceful and a safer world.
HH: Let’s focus on the Navy. We are a naval power first, and I know my friends in big Army hate when I do this, but we’re down to 282 ships, and that is not, our shipbuilding pattern will bring us even lower, probably to 260. We haven’t even budgeted for the replacement of the Ohio Class submarine. It will eat up all of the Navy’s shipbuilding budget, which is about $14-15 billion dollars a year right now if we replace the Ohio Class submarine. What’s the Jindal plan for naval shipbuilding, because it needs a huge plus up, Bobby Jindal.
BJ: Absolutely, and when you look, there were two national bipartisan Defense panels, and don’t just take Hugh Hewitt and Bobby Jindal’s word for it. Two bipartisan national defense panels looked this, unanimous reports, said we need to substantially reinvest in our military, the Navy being in a, and they specifically mentioned the Navy, by the way. I think we’ve got to get back closer to 4% of GDP. I think the last time we did a serious threat analysis looking at what we really needed to invest in, in terms of equipment and readiness, was when Secretary Gates did this in 2011. Unfortunately, the President threw that away. We have not done a serious threat analysis, a systematic approach, since then. At the very least, let’s go back to the Gates budget as a starting point. Let’s get closer to 4% of GDP. We can’t do it overnight. In 2012 dollars, that was about 80% billion dollars more per year. The Pentagon could spend that money responsibly today if you gave it to them. But over three to five years, let’s get back to building a global Navy. And you’re right. It’s the Navy, but it’s not just the Navy. In our Army, we’re going to be down to pre-World War II levels in terms of strength and numbers. If you look at the Air Force, they’re going to be flying the KC-135. It’s already 50 years old. They’re going to be flying it for another 20 years. You look at the B-52 bombers are already 50 years old, flying them for another 20 years. We’re talking about 70 year old planes, core components of our airlift capabilities. As we shrink our bases overseas, we’ve got to have airlift cancelling the modernization programs. You know, some of the cuts this president’s already made, we’re cutting back on our transport planes. We’re cutting back on our shipbuilding. And we’re losing, when you think about it, you look at what’s going on, so A) the President was right to say we’ve got to pivot there, but it’s hollow if we don’t have the resources to back it up. We had a couple of brigades with NATO in Eastern Europe. We could deter Russia without firing a shot from their expansionist concerns and ambitions, but we don’t have the brigades. We don’t have the troops to put there. So I’m very, very worried this President’s going to leave for the future, the next Congress, the next president, a much weaker America, weakened domestically with more debt and a slower growing economy, but overseas, a much weaker foreign policy and without the military to back up and defend our national interest. The Constitution gives one responsibility it says Congress has to do, and they have to protect our country. it’s the first, most important responsibility. This President has expanded the government to do all kinds of things the founding fathers never intended in doing so, is ignoring our core responsibilities.
HH: Now one of the reporters who covered you for the Washington Times noted that you took a swing at Hillary Clinton by saying today we are living with the consequences of the Obama-Clinton ideas when it comes to foreign, domestic and Defense policy. So Bobby Jindal, if you’re the nominee of the Republican Party, and you’re across the stage from Secretary Clinton, can you make her own the fiasco that is American foreign policy and the hollowed-out military? Is that something you can pin on her?
BJ: Absolutely. She’s Secretary of State. She was famously the one behind the reset with Russia that involved us unilaterally withdrawing the Interceptors from Poland, absolutely involved in us not allowing Georgia to join NATO, resulted in Russia getting into the Crimea and into Ukraine and causing unrest across other areas as well, and with our eyes on former satellites. She has been part and parcel. She’s been the center of the strategy these four years, the politically mandated and driven withdrawal from Iraq without following the lead of commanders on the ground. She was there at the State Department when all of these parts of the world have fallen apart. This is an administration that refused to stand with Israel against Hamas unambiguously. This is an administration that has abandoned allies left and right. You know, Joe Biden got into trouble on Friday for alienating our allies that are fighting with us on ISIS, but that’s nothing new. Under Secretary Clinton, with President Obama’s leadership, they’ve alienated the British, the Israelis, and others. NATO is adrift. You look at time and time again, they’ve just made a disaster out of foreign policy. She was at the center of all of that. But not only that, look, everybody, you know, the Democratic Party thinks that she is going to be their savior. I don’t think the American people are wanting to look backwards. I think they want to look forward. I think they want a big change. I think they’re ready for a hostile takeover of D.C. I don’t know how she sells to the American people that more of the same is going to lead this country. I think they’re tired after now six years, then it will be eight years of President Obama.
HH: Now Governor Jindal, last question, ISIL is on everyone’s mind. They’re about to slaughter the residents of Kobani. And I have a two-part question. Would you commit ground troops? And is ISIL inextricably connected to the withdrawal from Iraq in 2011? In other words, are you going to argue that had we not cut and run on Iraq in 2011 when the peace was won, that ISIL would not be there today?
BJ: Let me answer the second question first. Absolutely, I agree with Secretary Panetta that if the President listened to his commanders on the ground, maintained a presence, pressured Maliki, no doubt we could have curtailed ISIS much earlier before they gathered the land, the strength, before they crossed the border. It would have been much easier to deal with this threat if he had done, if he’d listened to his military commanders and not done the political thing. I understand it was politically popular to bring the troops home as quickly as possible. He should have listened to the commanders on the ground, and by the way, should have attacked ISIS much, even after we withdrew, much before. Back when he was calling them the jayvee team, back when he was saying he didn’t have a strategy, he could have preempted this much, much earlier.
HH: So that means President Obama and Hillary Clinton are responsible for ISIS?
BJ: I think that the President’s failure to act absolutely is, has contributed to their growing strength. They wouldn’t be the menace they were today if he had acted earlier, more aggressively, more responsibly.
HH: Does that go for Hillary as well, Governor?
BJ: Absolutely. She was part of this administration, part of the decision process. I think they’re trying to revise history in retrospect and say well, you know, Secretary Clinton actually won’t, thinks this or thinks that. She was a part of the administration. She could have spoken up. She didn’t. Now that it’s falling apart, she’s trying to distance herself for political reasons. But she was a part of that decision making process.
BJ: In terms of ground troops, look, nobody…
HH: Pause for a moment. I’m talking very, very specific. Senator Grahams’ coming up, and I know he wants ground troops in the forward elements. But when we look at ISIS, it’s in Syria and Iraq, and we’ve got about two minutes left. Just specifically, what would you do with ground troops in both of those regions?
BJ: Look, I think the President made a mistake in unilaterally taking things off of the table. I don’t think any commander-in-chief, he seems to love to do this, setting artificial deadlines, saying we’re not going to do this. I don’t think folks are calling for ground troops today, but I don’t think you should take options off the table. I do think we should be working with the Kurds more effectively, with the Turkish government who’s now voted to say they would approve putting ground troops in there. We have got to defeat, we’ve got to eliminate ISIS. I’m not calling for that today, but I am saying that he should not be taking options off the table. Whatever it takes to eradicate ISIS, we need to do. Now that we’ve gotten into this conflict, we need to win convincingly. And clearly, they’re on the march. Clearly, we need to be doing more and more effectively working with the Kurdish allies, the allies in the Iraqi government, as well as the Turkish government and other regional governments to defeat and eliminate this threat, not contain them, not expel them, but eliminate and eradicate this threat.
HH: So you’re the president-elect, and you get your first briefing, and the chairman of the joint chiefs says ISIS is never going to be pried out of there unless we use United States Marines, United States Army. Are you going to say start planning on it for January, 2017?
BJ: I’d say look, I’m going to work with my commanders on the ground. I’m not taking any option off the table. When America’s interests are threatened, we’ve got to eliminate. This is a radical group that hates us, will bring the war to our homeland if we don’t defeat, eliminate, eradicate them. Again, I don’t think folks are yet calling for that. Some folks are saying maybe we need Special Ops, maybe we need a guide to air strikes. At this point, don’t take anything off the table. At the very least, let’s work more effectively with our Kurdish, Turkish, Iraqi and other partners in the region. But we have to eliminate this threat. And simply containing and expelling them is not enough. They’re only going to gather strength the longer we wait. Let’s be clear. The President’s failure to act has given us fewer good options. The longer he has dithered and dragged his feet, the worse the situation has become. And let’s hope that he takes more, his rhetoric has finally gotten better. Let’s hope his actions match his rhetoric, because if for two years he continues to wring his hands and dither, this group will only get stronger and pose a greater threat to our allies in the region.
HH: Governor Bobby Jindal, thank you so much. It’s always a pleasure to talk with you.
BJ: Hugh, great talking with you, thanks.
End of interview.