Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal joined me today to talk about “the two Ds and the two Cs” -defense spending, dope (in Colorado, D.C. and Washington State), and Common Core. The latter two issues are the new “social issues” of 2016 (along with the protection of religious freedom) and Jindal was clear on all of them:
HH: I want to begin on this St. Patrick’s Day eve with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Governor Jindal, happy St. Patrick’s Day eve to you.
BJ: Hugh, happy St. Patrick’s Day eve to you as well.
HH: Now I want to talk, Governor, you haven’t declared for president, yet, but if you do, because of your Rhodes scholar credentials, because of your two terms as governor, your time in the Congress, your time in the executive branch, people are going to look at you for detailed, data-driven solutions. So I want to you ask you specifically about the two D’s and the two C’s – Defense and dope, and Common Core. And I want to start with Defense, Tom Cotton giving his initial speech today, blasting the decline in Defense spending. Where does Bobby Jindal think Defense spending has to get this year, and how do we get there?
BJ: Hugh, I agree with Senator Cotton, and I agree with you. Look, this president is hollowing out the military. I did a detailed paper on Defense spending. We need to get back to 4% of GDP. We need to be the strongest, not only, we do have the best military in the world, but we need to be able to dominate any potential adversary. And right now, we’re going to have fewer ships, fewer planes, fewer troops than in decades at a time when we’re spending a record amount of our economy on the government. We’re spending a record low on Defense, post-World War II. This is unconscionable. And so the reality is Republicans in Congress, I think, made a mistake when they applied the sequestration caps to Defense. I think the increased Defense spending needs to be offset by cuts in other parts of the government. But the Constitution tells Congress to do, tells the federal government to one thing, which is to defend our country. Instead, we’ve got a federal government that’s doing all kinds of other things it never should be doing. They’re not investing in our military, and I think this is a mistake. This is going to set us up for a much more expensive, in terms of both blood and treasure, when it comes to defending our interests, our allies, and defending ourselves in the future. We’ve seen this movie before. We saw Carter hollow out the military post-Vietnam. We don’t need to be making this mistake again. I would challenge not only Republican leaders in Congress. Anybody thinking about running for president needs to today say we need a significant increase in Defense spending in this budget, along with cuts in non-Defense spending. But let’s go ahead and invest in our military.
HH: Now Governor, I spoke off the record today with both a Senator and a Congressman senior in this process. And they’ve said the budget resolution is the first step in a complicated dance. Don’t pay attention to that number, because we have to get reconciliation. And you’re a legislator. You get this. You were in the Congress. We have to get the reconciliation language, then we can blow the cap on Defense, and then we can do a deal with the President. Are you willing to wait until October? Or do you want to see the Defense number blown up in the budget that passes as a resolution?
BJ: Hugh, here’s my concern. I’ve got two concerns. One, I wish I had more confidence and trust in our Congressional leadership. I’m glad that we got the majority, but they waved the white flag of retreat and surrender on amnesty. I worry they’re going to do the same thing on Obamacare when the Supreme Court rules. So I wish I had more confidence and faith they’ll show a backbone later this year. Secondly, I worry about planning purposes. We need to give our military leaders the confidence that we are going to be investing. It takes time to build ships, and build and buy these planes. It takes time to train our troops. And we don’t need to be inflicting these kinds of deep, deep cuts. I want them to have more predictability. Look, I don’t mind, I know that we’re not going to get to 4% overnight. It may take three to five years and will involve tens of billions of dollars in increases every year. It’ll take time for the Pentagon. And by the way, I’m all for reforming the Pentagon, and I’ve got specific ideas on acquisition reform and reducing the number of contractors and civilians, and some of the other areas where there’s an explosive growth. I think we need to signal sooner than later to the military that help is coming, we’re not going to hollow out our military, but even more importantly, we signal to our adversaries that in America, we believe in a stronger America. That is, you know, here’s the ironic thing. The best way to avoid war is to prepare for it. And peace through strength is not just a cliché or a bumper sticker or a slogan. It actually works. And I worry…
HH: Would you counsel a Republican, though, to vote against a budget resolution that maintains the sequester cap right now?
BJ: I’d counsel them to go to their leadership, because they’re going to need Republicans. Look, the Democrats aren’t going to vote for the budget. We know that. And so I would counsel Republicans to go to their leadership now before it’s too late and say let’s take a principled stand. We’ve got the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate. This is our chance to show that we’re ready to govern. Let’s pass a principled budget resolution that restores some of this spending in the Defense area and cuts in other areas. This is our chance to show the American people we deserve to be in the majority. So instead of waiting until the train wrecks and where they have no backup plan, now’s the time for leadership to listen. And I think if enough members go to them and say we need to draw a principled stand here, and don’t get me wrong, I share the concern about $18 trillion dollars in debt. We can’t afford this president’s free phones, his free community college, Obamacare, this new entitlement program. We can’t afford this president. But Hugh, we can’t afford to not increase Defense spending. It is literally the most crucial spending decision for our country. It’s not optional. We really shouldn’t even be having this discussion. You look at what Iran is doing, you look at where Putin is in Russia, you look at what’s going on with Hamas next door to Israel, you look all over the world, you look at what China’s doing to invest in their navy and their military, it really, this should be beyond debate. There used to be a bipartisan consensus in this country that we needed to have a strong military post-Cold War, during the Cold War, I’m sorry, post-World War II, during the Cold War, that didn’t use to be just a Republican issue. This used to be a bipartisan issue.
HH: Now let me turn to some other issues. The President gave an interview to the Vice news network, and he was talking about issues in importance to kids. And here’s what the President said, cut number six:
BO: But right now, on a lot of the issues that young people care about, it’s not both sides arguing and creating gridlock. You’ve got one side that is denying the facts who are often motivated principally by opposing whatever it is that I propose. Well, that’s not inevitable to our democracy. That’s something, that’s a phase that the Republican Party is going through right now.
HH: And after that, he went and went specifically to cut number eight about kids.
BO: So we get the same, so let’s put it in perspective. Young people, you know, I understand this is important to you, but you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace. Maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana.
HH: Now, way at the bottom is not where Bill Bennett in his new book has it, Governor Jindal, Going To Pot. And with his co-author, they’ve made the argument that this experiment in Colorado and Washington State and D.C. is a disaster for the public, and it’s got enormous negative side effects. If you’re the president of the United States, are you going to enforce the federal drug laws in Colorado, Washington State and every other state that flouts them?
BJ: Sure, and Hugh, unlike our current president, I actually think it means something when you take an oath to uphold the Constitution and the laws of our nation, and you don’t get to pick and choose which laws you want to enforce. And despite what this president has done with Obamacare and amnesty, when it comes to marijuana, I’m not for legalization. In Louisiana, we’ve certainly supported efforts towards smarter sentencing. You know, if there are folks we can rehabilitate and it would be more cost effective for taxpayers and better for them, I’m for that. I have said if it was tightly controlled with a doctor’s supervision, I could even be okay with medical marijuana. But I’m not for legalization. I’m certainly not for the president of the United States being able to pick and choose which laws he wants to follow. And I think this is a very dangerous precedent this president has started.
HH: Would you bring the federal hammer down, though, on all these dope stores that have opened in these states?
BJ: Yeah, look, Hugh, I don’t think you can ignore federal law. Federal law is still the law of the land. It still needs to be enforced. And again, I’m not for legalization of marijuana. I think that would be a mistake. On sentencing reforms, I certainly support that. I think there are better ways to rehabilitate. You’ve got non-violent drug offenders, and a lot of those can be rehabilitated. They don’t have to be locked up for long sentences at great cost to the taxpayers. But I don’t think the president gets to pick and choose. And if people don’t like the law, they should try to change the law. They shouldn’t just say we’re going to stop, start ignoring these laws.
HH: Now you and I have talked in the past about the last issue, Common Core. And I am wondering, because I serve on a local commission on this, and most people seem to be okay with the English Common Core standards, and reading more non-fiction, etc. But the new math is driving mom and dad crazy. And people need to know how to get out of this trap that they’re in. How do they get out of it, Bobby Jindal?
BJ: Well, two things. You’re absolutely right. Well first of all, it’s just wrong on process. The fact that the federal government is going to force local schools to adopt this curriculum, and second, that the standards really aren’t good when you look at math in particular. I would even argue, though, the ELA, moving away from those classic texts, I’m not sure that that’s the right approach. A couple of things, we’re in federal court against Arne Duncan. They tried to get us thrown out. But we survived that, saying they broke the 10th Amendment to the Constitution as well as federal law. The federal government should never be trying to force curriculum and making those decisions for local classrooms. Secondly, the state levels, we need to be passing laws to give parents the real power and real choice. Hugh, here’s the real concern I’ve got. After Common Core, there’ll be another version of this. Make no mistake about it. This didn’t start with Common Core. The federal government before Common Core and after Common Core is going to want to get involved in local classrooms. We need to shrink the federal Department of Education under bloc grant or get of many of their programs. They should focus on deregulation, civil rights and transparency. Beyond that, let the dollars follow the kids. Don’t make the kids follow the dollars. That’s what we’re doing in Louisiana. And then let’s give parents the real power. I trust parents more than the bureaucrats. The reality is even after we defeat Common Core, I predict to you there’ll be another version of this coming soon. That’s why we’ve got to trust parents with this…
HH: But we’ve got about a minute left, Governor. How specifically do parents who are dealing with this right now get their district or their state to roll back the clock two years or freeze?
BJ: Well, three things. One, you pass laws at the state level saying that you can’t force this curriculum, and these need to be decided at the local level. Second, I think they should pass, we’re proposing comprehensive bills like that. I think they can also do in additional to that narrowly-tailored bills, for example, on student privacy and data collection, secondly saying that no child should be prevented from discussing their schoolwork with their parents as is sometimes happening. Third, they can pass specific bills saying that you should teach math in a way that emphasizes on getting the correct answers. I’d love to see the Common Core proponents oppose that. So I think there are rifle shot bills you can do. But I think the most important bill is saying the federal government does not have the power to coerce curriculum decisions on local school districts, on local parents.
HH: Governor Bobby Jindal, it is always a pleasure. Thank you, Governor.
End of interview..