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Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal Debates Ex-Im Bank

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HH: The biggest news of the day is not Deflate-gate. It is in fact the threat by the Islamic State against Pamela Geller. Joining me to discuss that and other issues of American power is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Governor Jindal, welcome back, it’s always great to talk to you.

BJ: Hugh, it’s great to talk to you as well. I hope you got all your shots before you went to Washington, D.C.

HH: I did. I’m immune. I left years ago and I am immune. Governor, I’ve got to begin with this very troubling story. The Islamic State posted an anonymous message today threatening Pamela Geller, stating that there are 71 trained soldiers in 15 states. Mike McCaul, who is the chairman of the House Homeland Security says this is the textbook case of what we’re most concerned about, very serious. Are we doing enough surveillance?

BJ: Well Hugh, we’re not doing enough nearly at all to take this threat seriously. It starts first of all with a president who seemly won’t even identify the threat for what it is, radical Islamic terrorism. And so even before we get to surveillance, we need a president who will define the problem and say honestly Islam’s got a problem, and it’s called radical Islam. Their proponents want to, they hate our 1st Amendment, they hate freedom of speech. They want to destroy that, they want to destroy us. We’re not going to win this battle, we’re not going to deal with this problem unless we admit that it exists. It’s time for the President to say clearly to Muslim leaders that they need to step, declare that the perpetrators of such violence are the enemy, they are wrong, they are not martyrs that are going to be rewarded in the afterlife. These Muslim leaders also need to say that they are tolerant of every person in the world who doesn’t share their religious views, they condemn anybody who commits violence in the name of Islam. I’m not just saying condemning specific acts of violence, but I’m saying specific condemnation of these individuals and their acts, and saying specifically they tolerate people with different religious views. No excuse for our president not to ask for that. There’s no reason for us not to be demanding that right now, none. And look, you saw the attack in Texas. You saw the attack in Paris. You saw the attack in Australia. Clearly, ISIS wants to bring this fight to us, which is why it’s so important we need to hunt them down and kill them wherever they exist, especially in Syria and Iraq. When it comes to the threat here at home, look, until the President is willing to at least honestly define the threat we face, we don’t have a chance of beating this enemy until he’s willing to do that.

HH: The second major issue has to deal with the Iran deal, which is evolving. And at this point, I am of two minds as to whether or not the United States Senate ought to approve the deal that Corker and Cardin, Senators Corker and Cardin have put together. I know there’s an argument for it, but what do you think, Bobby Jindal? Are we better off with clarity about the fact that this is a terrible deal, or with some participation of the United States Congress, however limited?

BJ: I think Mitch McConnell needs to open up the floor for amendments. I think it is ridiculous we are not going to have votes on amendments, simple things to improve this deal. So for example, what’s so wrong with saying that Iran needs to recognize the right of Israel to exist? What’s so wrong with actually putting some amendments on there that would actually do what this deal was supposed to do? Remember, when we started, I think no deal is better than a bad deal. Where we started was Iran was supposed to get rid of their enrichment capacity, export their enriched uranium, shut off the path to a plutonium device, have anywhere, anytime inspections, including military facilities, also renounce and cut off any connections to terrorism as well as recognize the right of Israel to exist. To me, those are the components of what a good deal looks like, and then and only after they’ve met these conditions could we even begin to think about lifting sanctions. And I think unfortunately, the President is so determined to let, to get a bad deal over no deal, he is willing to allow us to come to the brink of a nuclear-armed Iran. And the problem with that is it starts, first of all, that’s an existential threat to Israel, our European allies, the United States. But I fear it starts a nuclear arms race in the Middle East where the Sunni countries, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt very eager to get their own nuclear devices in response, maybe buying it from Pakistan. And so what I think the Senate needs to do, Mitch McConnell needs to, instead of filing for cloture, instead of trying to cut off debate and amendments, he needs to have an open debate. This is one of the most important legacies of this President, one of the most dangerous legacies of this President, is leaving behind is the potential for a nuclear-armed Iran. I think the senators across party lines need to insist on a chance to debate these amendments. This is important. They can make the time to have this debate. Let Democrats and Republicans tell, Senators tell us where they stand. Why in the world would we sign a deal with a country that’s chanting death to America, death to Israel? These are simple conditions to put in the deal. To me, these aren’t, and you know…

HH: All right…

BJ: …I know that folks are going to keep saying he’s going to veto everything. Let’s challenge him to do the right thing. Let’s go and tell him, Mr. President, explain to the American people why this deal without these amendments really makes sense for us, because it doesn’t.

HH: All right, the third major issue, I was astonished this morning to pick up the Wall Street Journal and read your former colleague in the governor’s house, Rick Perry, coming out against the Ex-Im Bank, because for 14 years, he supported it. Almost every governor I know knows that the United States, there are 60 ex-im banks around the world. If we unilaterally disarm, we will get killed. And I looked up the Louisiana statistics. There are 179 businesses in Louisiana that use Ex-Im, thousands and thousands of jobs use Ex-Im. What is your response, Governor, to the idea that we should just walk away from supporting people that export stuff across the globe, and let the Chinese do it?

BJ: I do, Hugh, look, I agree with you on a lot of things. This is one of the areas where we happen to disagree. I read your editorial in the Washington Examiner, and as always, you’re eloquent in making your side of the case. We just disagree on this. I do think, I’m one of those that thinks that the bank needs to be phased out.

HH: Wow.

BJ: I think we at the same time need to be also lowering our corporate tax rates. I think that’s what really puts at a disadvantage. I think that is the best way for us to compete internationally, not having, I don’t think this bank is critical for our companies to be able to compete internationally. And you’re right, most of the, even though they serve a lot of different folks, most of the benefits, I think, a disproportionate share go the biggest companies. And I think they will continue to do business around the world.

HH: Governor, I went over to before you came on today, because I thought you were an Ex-Im guy. Louisiana-based custom dredge manufacturer ships to emerging markets with Ex-Im support, and there are lots of these stories. This is not a big business. But they employ 140 people, they make dredges they sell all over the world, and they talk in great specifics that they won’t get these deals if we give the Chinese, the Russians, the Koreans and advantage. Aren’t we shooting ourselves in our foot with power projection and the ability to influence the world by disarming in this area?

BJ: Well, a couple of things, and look, again, I thought it was, even though we’re on the opposite side, I thought it was a clever argument talking in terms of soft power. I really do. I think two things. One, I think we’re really shooting ourselves in the foot by having the world’s, the developed world’s highest corporate tax rate. I think we shoot ourselves in the foot by having ridiculous federal regulations on energy, the EPA trying to make it more expensive to manufacture in the country instead of exporting jobs, and I think we’d rather those good-paying jobs be in America. So I think we’d be better focused on getting the EPA off the backs of our job creators, cutting tax rates, making our companies even more competitive. I think these businesses will continue to be able to sell internationally, even without the help of the Export-Import Bank. I think the reality is that government does too much, and to be consistent, if I want to say that government shouldn’t be out there doing a lot of things that really, I think the government’s grown in terms of its spending and its responsibility. This is one area where I think we need to scale back. I actually think we need to phase it out.

HH: Governor, but for consistency purposes, though, phase it out, if they want to say five years and reform and do all these different things, that’s fine. Rick Perry was arguing about one corrupt guy there today. But you’re a very smart guy. You know how this works. If we don’t do this, France will sell Airbus. We’ll all be flying Airbus, not Boeing. If we don’t do this, GE is going to move jobs offshore. If we don’t do this, people like all these, 180 companies in Louisiana, the Port of New Orleans, if we don’t do this, we just take America out of the game. Isn’t that what conservatives are upset about the Obama administration doing for the last six and a half years, unilaterally withdrawing from the world?

BJ: Well Hugh, you know, the defenders of the Export-Import Bank will try, they try to have it both ways. They’ll try to say well look, the bank makes a profit, doesn’t cost taxpayers anything. If that’s really true, as a conservative, I believe that the bank, I do believe the market will step in and fill that function where it’s legitimate, where these loans make sense. We can’t say that the taxpayers have to guarantee these loans, and then also say oh, by the way, it’s profitable. If it really is profitable, the market will work. Private sector banks will make these loans. They will work with these companies to help them facilitate these sales. If it’s not truly profitable, if it really is a government subsidy to particular companies, to particular purchasers in particular countries, I do worry about government picking winners and losers. And if it really is about influence and foreign policy, let’s just be honest about that. If we think that we need tools of soft power to influence friendly governments abroad, let’s be honest about that.

HH: But that’s the one we’ve got. And I mean, you could replace it, but it’s the one we’ve got right now. Why would we sunset it in June without a replacement? You know, forget all the good economic arguments and the hundreds of thousands of jobs, and the subsidiary jobs. Just soft power, just at this time in America when we’re at a nadir of influence, why would we take something out of our toolbox, Governor? I’m really shocked.

BJ: Well again, if it’s the economic argument, I think the market will fill the void if there really is, if the economics really do make sense. If it is a tool for soft power, if this is a way to help allies in countries or support democracy or support people or strategic allies or support our interest, look, I think there are more efficient, more direct, if that’s really what this is about, and again, I thought it was a clever argument. I think if that’s what this is really about, we should be more honest about it and say all right, we do things like that through our State Department, through our Pentagon, let’s be more direct and honest and transparent about it, and we can probably be more effective with the dollars we spend. But on the economic side, if there really is a need for this financing, I think the private sector banks and lenders will step in and fill in the gaps. And what I worry about, Hugh…

HH: And Governor, we’ll have to…

BJ: I worry about the government, and I know you don’t like this phrase in terms of picking winners and losers, but I don’t like the government in this instance, the federal government, saying we’re going to decide which companies, which countries to select to help.

HH: Then we’re going to let China pick the winners and losers. I mean, that’s, well, Governor, we’re out of time. Come back and let’s continue this conversation. But I think we’ve got to turn you around, because you’re an American power guy. We’ve got to be for this for that reason.

End of interview.


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