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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Lessons from a trip to Washington

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A few days broadcasting from frozen D.C. makes me eager to get back to sunny California, but it also impresses on the visitor many lessons.

The first is that the revolution in journalism is accelerating. Hosting panels of young and extraordinarily talented scribes from the Washington Free Beacon and the Daily Caller produces a kind of awe at the amount of talent flooding into the suddenly hierarchy-free world of Beltway reporters.

The Washington Examiner and Politico have a lead, but must stay nimble to keep it. The older brands like the Washington Post and The Weekly Standard will survive the tumult on the strength of their byline bench, but the 1776 and 1789 eras are over, and 1848 arrived much more quickly than anyone could have imagined. Good luck Mr. Jeff Bezos.

Reince Priebus is the best thing to happen to the GOP as an institution in a quarter century. Playing a long game has kept him focused on not merely catching but surpassing the Democratic information edge, and his team is first rate and incredibly focused on the tools of electoral victory, not particular candidates. It will help in the fall and 2016, of course, but far beyond the next two cycles.

Eli Lake of the Daily Beast is a national security asset. Few reporters of national security matters are as fair or as careful but also as relentless as Lake. We need many more of his ilk, with a view on the whole field, not just the day’s headlines. My hour with him on air gave the audience the NSA overview sorely needed after the dizzying avalanche of stories.

Guy P. Benson, Robert Costa, David Drucker and James Hohmann are Lake’s counterpart on domestic politics. The swirl of stories around New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and the House GOP leadership, to cite just two of a hundred examples, require sustained attention and nuance, and of course long, long hours of reporting. This quartet never stops working and if you aren’t following them and Lake on Twitter you are missing the key stories as they occur.

Meetings with lawyers from two of the Beltway powerhouse legal shops produced shocks on the growing centrality of D.C. law. To every business in the land. Regional firms just cannot provide the depth needed in a hyper-regulatory world. New York and L.A. firms used to live in quiet complacency that they could never be surpassed within their realms. One fellow, perhaps the best of the data-breach first legal responders, provided me a glimpse of vulnerabilities and liabilities that few American businesses have yet to consider, much less prepare for. Across every part of business, the Beltway’s agencies loom.

Finally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., with whom I have often and loudly quarreled on many issues, is the real deal on military readiness, Benghazi and protecting the career military. His instincts on domestic issues are usually wrong, but his deep commitment to the country’s preparedness and to its troops is admirable. If the astonishing assault of the retirement benefits of career military is reversed, it will in no small part be because of Graham’s genuine outrage at the cuts, and that should in my view guarantee his easy primary win in the Palmetto State.

Sometimes getting the very biggest issues right is enough. In a party suddenly thinning in its commitment to the basics of a freedom-protecting deterrence and the men and women who provide it, Graham is leading the effort to keep the military funded and fully staffed by the career professionals it must have to do its work: the common defense, the provision of which is a specific charge in the Constitution’s preamble. Too many in the GOP have forgotten that.


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