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Jake Tapper On The Arctic Polar Vortex, Hillary And Benghazi, and De Blasio’s Horse-Drawn Carriage Ban

Monday, January 6, 2014

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HH: It’s Hugh Hewitt on Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year even as the Arctic Polar Vortex sweeps all before it and freezes you out. I will warm you up with a great, great show, which begins with Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s The Lead. Jake, Happy New Year to you.

JT: To you as well, sir. I know you have Congressman Tom Cotton on later, and you need to tell that guy he owes me a call.

HH: I will do that. I will absolutely do that. I’m going to talk to him about the Arctic Polar Vortex when he served in Afghanistan. Now Jake, I’ve got to, you’re a Philadelphia guy. My law partner, Gary Wolensky, and one of my favorite clients, Mark diGiovanni are both Philly guys, and they have been sobbing quietly in their rooms all day, and for 36 hours. I watched you on The Lead. You’re bearing up nobly under yet another Eagles disappointment.

JT: Yeah, it was a tough game, but look, I mean, at the end of the day, the Saints are a good team. They’re not like a team that I hate to lose to. I mean, they’re respectable. That city has seen some tough times. And I mean, there’s a lot to feel good about when it comes to the Eagles. They’re really good, and Foles is great, and the coach is great, and the offensive line is great, and I mean, it’s you know, they got pretty far.

HH: I thought maybe you covered Philomena, the movie, today as a sort of subliminal way to deal with your Philly grief.

JT: (laughing) You know, I really, have you seen it?

HH: Yeah, I loved it.

JT: I’m really interested in what you think.

HH: I did not know the lawyer, even though I was in the White House Counsel’s office when he was at the RNC, so I did not know that story. But I love anything Judi Dench does, and it’s a very touching movie about a time that has long passed. And I don’t think it’s an anti-Catholic movie at all. It’s a realistic movie, and I thought very touching, and she did an extraordinary job.

JT: It’s just, I did not know anything, really, about that era in Ireland when the country basically just ceded adoptions to the Catholic Church because the country, the government was not capable of dealing with it. And you know, there was a lot of good done because of that, and then there are also some questions about baby selling, as it was put in the British newspapers at the time, and then later. And it’s just a very beautiful story if you look at it through the lens of Philomena.

HH: Yeah.

JT: She never loses her faith. She personifies what is beautiful about religion – forgiveness and faith and trust. And I don’t know, I found it very touching. I can understand why some people criticize it, or people found a line or two gratuitous, but when I look back after seeing the movie and researched how much of it was real, I couldn’t even believe it.

HH: I am a practicing Catholic, and I don’t know any Catholic who found Philomena to be anti-Catholic. It was just a different time and a different era of dealing with things. And many things that look in retrospect to have been horrible then were in fact just the way it worked out. And I’m glad that that story was told. Now that was the happiest part of your show today. I want to get, you’re always show prep for me, Jake. You’re on in the background here, and so you had A.B. Stoddard, Van Jones, and Kevin Madden on today. And you were talking about Hillary. And I think that whenever Hillary comes up, and a partisan like Van, and I’m a partisan for the Republicans, so it’s okay to be a partisan, is sitting there, the question has to be answered by them. Where was Hillary on the night of Benghazi? And what was she doing? Because the Kirkpatrick piece on Benghazi from last week that stirred up everything didn’t even talk about Hillary. How in the world does she run with the Benghazi timeline on the Etch-a-Sketch that’s been shaken?

JT: Well, I don’t, obviously, she can’t. I mean, if she makes the decision to run, there will have to be, and I’m sure her advisors know this. They are smart people. There will have to be some questions answered about it, if not in one big, long, meaty piece, then over and over and over again. I think it is something that there are a lot of questions that remain about it. For me, specifically, you know my coverage of Benghazi has been focused on the State Department’s refusal to take seriously enough the requests for added security from diplomatic and security experts on the ground in Libya throughout the year leading up to the Benghazi attack. So there are a lot of questions, and I’m sure if she runs, she’ll have to answer them.

HH: Yeah, my argument is…

JT: But obviously, a guy like Van Jones isn’t going to bring it up. But you know, what was interesting, I thought, is that Van Jones is salivating over the idea of Hillary being challenged on the left.

HH: Yeah, I saw that.

JT: He’s for Brian Schweitzer to run against her.

HH: I thought to myself…

JT: He’s excited about a more populist Democratic Party, and he does not see her as part of that.

HH: Yeah, Brian Schweitzer is just, I’m happy. I’m with him on that. Kevin Madden said the same thing. Hoorah. Bring it on. But I do see that as a useful way for the left, who realize that she is the inevitable nominee to deflect away this. To me, if you want to be the commander-in-chief, and the one night that you’re in charge in an international crisis in Benghazi and you won’t answer questions about it, I’m just going to keep coming back to that. But let me ask you about De Blasio. I was in New York last week for the launch of The Happiest Life, and I was watching the inaugural address. And in fact, the new Mayor’s number one deputy is an old pal of mine from college days. And he’s a lefty. I mean, they’re all lefties. How smart is it for De Blasio’s first action to ban horse-drawn carriages in Central Park? The Fetching Mrs. Hewitt, who is not that political, looks at me with amazement and says really? That’s what he wants to do as his number one thing, Jake Tapper? Does it make sense to you?

JT: No, but I’m not a New Yorker. And my understanding is that New Yorkers hate them because they tie up traffic, and they leave, shall we say, litter all over the place. So I had the same reaction you did, like who cares? What…that’s not…

HH: He says it’s because of animal cruelty.

JT: I mean, we’re talking about a tale of two cities. He wasn’t talking about people and then horses. He was talking about haves and have nots. But friends of mine in New York say I hate those things. They pollute the city, and they tie up traffic, and they’re a nuisance. And that’s not even getting into the animal rights side of it.

HH: Well, that, but he made it a centerpiece because of cruelty. And there have been horse-drawn carriages in the world since there were wheels, and horses with harnesses. So I just thought it was an amazing choice, or an indication of the unseriousness of De Blasio. And I also thought the stuff about the far right and the trickle-down economics was a sideswipe. Has he agreed to come on The Lead, yet, because I think he’s going to be a fascinating force in American politics, not to the Democrats’ advantage?

JT: We haven’t reached out, yet. We’re, as far as I know, I mean, maybe we reached out during some of the blizzard coverage or something, but I don’t think we’ve reached out. I think we want to wait for a moment that he’s in the sun where he’s trying to do something, and then we’ll reach out.

HH: Well, he is. He’s trying to get rid of those carriages.

JT: I agree with you. It’s fascinating, it’s just interesting. After two terms of Giuliani and three terms of Bloomberg, it’s going to be a real departure, I think.

HH: Have you ever lived in New York?

JT: I was born in New York, and I lived in New York for one year, from 2002-2003 when I was learning how to do TV, and I worked at VH1 and the Sundance Channel. So yeah, I was in Brooklyn.

HH: Okay, I lived there in 1980 when I moved there with Richard Nixon as his young editorial assistant for, I guess, seven or eight months. And that was the bad old days. And I think New York is playing with fire. I think the bad old days could be back in a blink, Jake Tapper, that right now, they’ve got the greatest city in the world, and the most interesting, exciting place to live, but that it could all be gone in two years if they cause capital to flee. But I don’t think, do you hear any of your friends on the left worried about that?

JT: No, and I have two very close friends in New York City. And one I would describe as like, you know, to the left of Ho Chi Minh. And the other one is more like a Bloomberg kind of Democrat, or just, he probably even voted for Giuliani, I would guess, although who knows? And I don’t think they’re concerned. I have asked both of them about it a lot, just because I thought it was such a departure. And but he appointed Bratton to be his police chief. That doesn’t send a signal to me that there’s going to be really that much of a departure from what’s going on now.

HH: But trying to do the first thing of raising taxes on everyone who makes more than $200,000 dollars, and he says it’s a thousand dollars a year, well, it is if you’re a $200,000 dollar person, but it’s a lot more if you’re one of the Goldman-Sachs types. Capital…

JT: True, but didn’t Cuomo get ahead of it? Cuomo is going to be announcing a big statewide K-12 initiative that might make what De Blasio’s proposing moot?

HH: I hope so.

JT: They won’t pass De Blasio’s taxes, because Cuomo’s going to fund it some other way?

HH: I hope so, although pre-K, that’s been a big California issue for years, and it’s never been proven that it’s the all-pervasive solution that it promises. But if he does go through with an income tax hike, I think that’s the beginning of the end of the glory years for Manhattan. Jake Tapper, very quickly, are you an Auburn or a Florida State fan tonight?

JT: Oh, Florida State, I think, don’t you?

HH: What??? No. I can’t possibly root against Fred Barnes. He’s an Auburn man, so that’s what’s going on out here. Jake Tapper, Happy New Year to you, and thank you so much for joining us.

End of interview.

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