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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Hugh and the Hill’s Amie Parnes Talk About Norms For the White House Press Corps

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The transcript:

HH: Joined now by Amie Parnes, co-author with Jon Allen of the best book thus far on the 2016 campaign. But she recognized in her work on the Hill that Hillary Clinton’s book is going to be even more revealing. What do you hear about that, Amie Parnes? Welcome, good to talk to you.

AP: Good to talk to you, Hugh, thanks for having me. So I’m hearing that her book is, I mean, the people who have seen it, who have talked to me, have said that it’s unlike any book that she’s ever written before. She feels like this book has been her time to be a bit, you know, she can let her hair down a bit, and she’s a bit liberated, and that’s why she’s writing her heart out and telling everyone what happened, or what she says happened in 2016.

HH: It’s going to be wild. But you’ve also been writing about the person I think is going to be the 2020 Democratic nominee, Senator Kamala Harris. In fact, Amie, I have to tell you a story. Ten days ago, I went up to New York to Manhattan at the request of Ozzyfest to do a half hour in the heat with Van Jones. I mean, it’s thousands of hip progressives get together, all ages, all colors, all sizes and shapes. But they’re all left, to the left, way left, and then me. And then I get asked at the end of this panel you know, anything you’ve got on your mind that you haven’t said, yet, and I said well, Senator Kamala Harris is a unique political talent. And before I got the T in talent out, the room erupted in a standing O, hooting and hollering for her. I bet you they wouldn’t recognize her if they ran into her on the subway. But they like the idea of her. And I think she’s going to march through this field like Sherman to the sea.

AP: That’s what a lot of people think. In fact, when she went to the Hamptons a couple of weekends ago, and my phone lit up from donors like this is it, she’s running. And people in the room were calling me saying you know, this was the biggest sign that she is running for president, and she’s making the rounds to kind of, you know, build that narrative and to make, to actually get to know these guys who might fund her campaign. But I think she’s always kind of wanted it, and I think a lot of people feel, think she is the female Barack Obama. And I think that’s why a lot of people are kind of rooting for her to run for president. Now the party’s in a…

HH: Well, the Democrats do saviors, they do saviors a lot better than the Republicans do. I do see one potential block – one. His name is Biden. He lives up in Delaware. But the worst that can happen to her if she runs a good campaign is the vice presidential nomination. That’s the worst that can happen to her, so I don’t see any downside. So having just finished Shattered, and you and Jon having two huge bestsellers in a row, are you trying to get an early pass into Team Harris so that you can write the winning story from the beginning?

AP: Well, you know that Jon and I just signed a third book contract, so we are writing about 2020, and I definitely think that we will be writing a lot about Kamala Harris in the pages of…

HH: Yeah, would you note for your notes that on August the 3rd, Hugh Hewitt predicted like Sherman to the sea, she’s going to cut through this group. That’s what I predict.

AP: I’m going to quote you.

HH: I want to talk to you about a story that’s in the Times of London.

AP: Sure.

HH: It just broke. Dmitri Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, has mocked President Trump over his signing into law of a bill imposing tough new economic sanctions on Moscow. Although Mr. Trump called the bill significantly flawed, it sailed through the Congress with a veto-proof majority. “The Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way. This changes the balance of power in U.S. political circles. It ends our hopes for improving relations with the new administration.” That’s huge news, Amie Parnes.

AP: Oh, yeah. It’s huge news, and you know, I’ve been talking to a lot of Republicans over the last few months, and they really wanted this to happen. I think Trump kind of stands alone in this, in his feelings about this. I think that you know, a lot of people are saying we have to put our country first, and the Russians tried to undermine the election, and we have to kind of be firm with them. And I think that’s a stance across party lines. So I think yeah, but it’s interesting what we’re hearing from over there. I think the Russia cloud has kind of loomed over the White House, obviously, and you know, what we heard from President Trump yesterday is kind of him kind of trying to say yes, we did this, but… And I don’t think that’s largely helpful to him.

HH: In fact, President Trump was tweeting this morning, and have you seen this, yet, Amie, about what he said?

AP: Yes, I did.

HH: It is, it’s not the way I expected him to react. It’s Russia that’s mocking him, not the Congress, but the President tweeted out, I want to make sure I read this correctly. US-Russia ties poor not because of Congress, but owing to Russia…oh, that’s Richard Haass, excuse me. That made too much sense. That was Richard Haass responding to the President. The President wrote our relations with Russia is at an all-time and very dangerous low. That’s true. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us H-Car. I don’t believe that’s correct. I believe it’s because Putin is a sinister son of a gun.

AP: Yeah, I think that’s right, and I think most people are in agreement, like I said, across party lines that this was the right thing to do. And they don’t have any qualms about it. You know, they think that he, President Trump feels alone, and is alone in his views on this. And I think so, too.

HH: Now I interviewed H.R. McMaster yesterday, exclusive 40 minute conversation. It airs Saturday morning at 8am. He talks very candidly about Russia. He is very clear-eyed about it, and he tells me the President is very clear-eyed about it. so let’s take the President’s point of view for a moment and try to put ourselves in his place. I think what he’s saying here, again, it’s a tweet and you can’t unpack it, is that if we did not have this Russia obsession, I could have begun a pivot towards, as Nixon did China, in an effort to rebalance the world. Isn’t that his best argument?

AP: I think so, yeah, definitely. But you know, he hasn’t been able to get anything done because this Russia storyline has been hanging over his administration, and I think with good reason. I mean, when 17 intelligence agencies come out before the election to say that they are, you know, involved in our election, and they’re doing things to undermine the country, I think you know, Democrats and Republicans have good reason to kind of, you know, hold a tough stance against Russia. And I think that’s exactly what’s happened.

HH: Well, again, I don’t think it’s because of the tough stance on “Russia. I just think he believes that but for the obsession with Russia in the media and the Democrats, and Al Franken asking Jeff Sessions about meetings that led to Jeff Sessions getting recused, I mean, in his world, in his point of view, we would have begun a real reset like Hillary tried to accomplish with Medvedev in that ill-fated red button episode years ago.

AP: Right, but how could you, knowing what we know, is the question.

HH: Yeah, yeah, now it’s just they’re an enemy of us. They are just a full-throated, aggressive international actor that took Crimea, is waging war in Ukraine, and that’s the reality of it. McMaster gets that, and I believe he says, I can’t remember the interview exactly, the President’s very clear-eyed about it. Amie, I want to talk to you about the White House Press Room.

AP: Sure.

HH: Yesterday was remarkable. And Jim Acosta’s a friend of show, Glenn Thrush is a friend of the show. They’re both actually friends.

AP: Right.

HH: I don’t think that’s the job of the media. What do you think?

AP: You know, that’s a very good question. I think the job of the press, particularly in that room, is to ask the hard questions. And I did think that it got a little carried away on both sides after a little while. And you know, and I do agree that we have to hold the person at the podium accountable. So I saw what Jim Acosta was trying to do, and I agree with it. But I think it did get a little carried away and created its own storyline.

HH: Well, when Jim starts talking about the Statue of Liberty, and he is the son of a refugee, and I get that.

AP: Yeah.

HH: And his very moving piece when he went back to Cuba with his dad, we talked about it on the air. But I don’t think it’s the job, and increasingly, the whole media is doing this. Now my interview with McMaster is not an advocacy piece for a 355 ship Navy in which I deeply believe. I left it alone, because you know, it’s an interview, not a debate. And I always say that to my guests. This is an interview, not a debate. Sometimes, it becomes a debate with David Corn, accidentally. In 17 years, I think I’ve had four or five of those. But every day is becoming a debate in the press room, and I don’t think it’s good for the press room.

AP: No, no. I mean, I think we need to all stick to the questions, you know, hold the White House, any White House accountable. I think that’s our job. And so yeah, I agree. I agree with you. I think you know, I could see where, like I said, where Jim was going with it. And so it’s hard to kind of fault him for it. But particularly because I didn’t think the poem storyline was neither here nor there.

HH: No, that’s it. And so my view of it is you ask a question, you wait until the answer is finished, then you ask a follow up. That’s, I think I interrupted McMaster two or three times in the course of 40 minutes.

AP: Right.

HH: Because I thought he was wandering off into something that was not my point, and I wanted to make sure he understood my question. But generally in an interview, or in that setting, you let the subject answer. It’s my problem with congressmen, by the way, in hearings, with Maxine Waters with Republicans. They never let anyone answer the question.

AP: Yeah, yeah.

HH: It’s crazy. All right, let me talk to you about the crowded field, because you’ve written about that. I’ve already told you what I think about Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. Does Bernie Sanders really get back on this horse again, even with the investigation and all that other stuff?

AP: He really is. Yeah, he’s trying. He’s talking to people already about it. This is real. I mean, he’s talked to, I’ve interviewed countless people around him. He has begun conversations. They are advising him, I have a story out today that talks about how they want him to spend more time in the South, because obviously the black vote hurt him last time. And so they’re anxious for him to kind of not repeat the same mistakes as he did in 2016, and they’re already trying to fix that.

HH: I just, it’ll be interesting having participated in the thunderdome of Republican debates throughout. If they have this many people debating, the Democrats have to resolve early, Amie, and I wonder if you have any reporting on this, they’re not going to let anyone who puts their hand up get on the stage. They’ve got to have some kind of a filter, maybe a supercommittee, or they’ll have the same problems that happened with our debates.

AP: Yeah, well that’s the thing. And they’re predicting as many as two dozen people are going to enter, maybe even more. And so I think yeah, but I think the biggest thing that they learned from last time is that they have to find a candidate that fits with the time. You know, Hillary Clinton was not an outsider. Last year was an outsider kind of year. And so I think they’re looking for the right person, and that’s why so many people are emerging. But it’ll be interesting. You know, I think that Mitchell Andrew might have a good shot. He definitely caught some eyes late recently with a couple of speeches that he gave. He comes from a red state. I think they’re looking for new and fresh blood, and that’s why Joe Biden may have a hard time, I think, in this cycle.

HH: Amie Parnes, always great to talk to you from The Hill. Book number three is due when?

AP: It’s coming out in 2021.

HH: Oh, my gosh. You’ve got all the time in the world.

AP: I know.

HH: Oh, my gosh. That’s not even fair. Some of us who write on deadline are just…

AP: I’m thankful for it after two back to back books.

HH: I’ll be you are. Well, congratulations. Shattered still the must go-to book on what just happened until Hillary’s arrived, what happened. Thank you, Amie Parnes.

AP: Thank you, Hugh.

End of interview.


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