HH: From Charles Krauthammer to Mary Matalin. Mary, welcome back. Last time I saw you was the morning after the first debate when I was “moderating” a conversation between you and your husband, James Carville. And you and I were pretty happy that morning. He was pretty grumpy. But how often does he put the knife in? Every day or once a week?
MM: He’s always grumpy. He’s always..no, he’s actually pretty funny. He’s good. It’s good to talk to you, Hugh. Miss you.
HH: It’s good to talk to you. It’s good to talk…but does he remind you of how happy we were, or how happy Republicans seemed to be right up until the election very often?
MM: The way this marriage works is nobody rubs it in on the other guy.
HH: Well, that’s good.
MM: So I gloat quietly, and he gloats quietly, but we don’t do ‘I told you so’, or gloat against the other guy.
HH: Did you trip down to Dallas for the opening of the Bush Library?
MM: I just got back, and I’m still reeling. I’ve been to all the libraries, I think, except Johnson’s, and which I want to go to, but this one is not even close, by far the coolest of all time. I mean, it’s just not, it’s amazing. It’s a beautiful building in a beautiful setting, with extraordinary things in it. And the interactive part, people will love. You know, it’s easy to criticize how these decisions are made, but to actually go through the pace of making them yourself…and then, for me, it was kind of, scary is not the right word, it was very emotional, because my name was on the manifest to go into the bomb shelter on 9/11. It’s stuff like that, it’s just weird to see your own stuff in a museum. But it’s really a great learning experience, and it was just an incredible day. But everybody said, of both parties, was how it’s so refreshing for everybody to, and I’m not talking about political people, I’m talking about my friends that aren’t political. They said wow, everybody was so nice. Is that how they really are? I said that’s not really how they are, but there used to be that kind of civility. And you and I worked when you, in that environment, when you could be civil and not, for a moment, be compromising any of your principles. So it was really a special day.
HH: Now Mary, I told Karl Rove yesterday that I oversaw the construction of the Nixon Library, and that day, when the presidents all come to honor one of the club, everyone cheers them. But the key thing is everyone wants to see the first ladies, and they want to see how the libraries treat the first ladies. And I hope Mrs. Bush got her due in the Bush Library.
MM: Well, it’s really, I’m sure Karl said the same thing, it’s not George W. Bush. It’s George and Laura Bush. She’s a very big presence on that campus, and connected with the museum and many learning institutions. And one of them is all the learning and the work, and the ongoing work that she initiated, and we’re all still working on, securing human rights for women in these troubled regions. It’s more than a moral thing, although that would be enough. It’s a really…sorry I’m at home.
HH: I gathered.
MM: Stop, I have cats and dogs and rats and birds, and they not always get along. But they, we, you know, if you can educate a woman, you educate a whole village, and that has consequences for health care, for economic growth, for all kinds of security, freedom agenda. It’s very civilizing. So she’s got a huge, giant presence. And for all the lovely speeches yesterday, of course, you’ve got to single out Poppy Bush. That was amazing. No one thought he was going to make it through Christmas.
MM: And so everybody was crying, and not a dry eye in the place. And she really gave the most eloquent but simple class speech. I mean, she’s just a real first lady in every sense of the word.
HH: I also have to ask, at the Nixon Library, our vice presidents presented something of a challenge to exhibit about, especially the first one. But your vice president at the Bush Library must have been, I hope you got a chance to go through it with Vice President Cheney, whom you served in those years. And I hope he gets his due for an extraordinary eight years of service.
MM: Oh, he did. I went with him. We had dinner, small, just he and I and his daughter, and some friends of ours who had served as ambassadors, some close friends we’ve all been for 30 years. So we had a quiet dinner the night, the first night, and then we went, he and I, and Mary and Kara Ahern went to the Josh Bolton-Andy Card-Karl Rove party. Dick Cheney could not even get into the party. He was mobbed like a rock star in the parking lot. And I said, I’m sorry, Mr. Vice President, I have to go home. I’m flagging here. And he just, he was really, and he looks good. He was so happy to be there, and he had this old Stetson hat and shaved. Wonderful stay. Very good.
HH: We’ll come back from the break. That sounds like the Republican version of the Mortons’ after Oscar party.
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HH: Mary, the terrible juxtaposition of the opening of the wonderful library is it occurred as WMD’s are on the loose and being used, chemical weapons, in Syria, and ten days after a bombing in Boston reminds us of the reality of jihadist-inspired terror. And so obviously, President Bush kept us safe. I just had on Charles Krauthammer, who’s amazing column today begins with Clare Booth Luce’s reminder that every great man can be summed up in a line, and George W. Bush, he kept us safe is his line. But now, it seems that things seem to be slipping. Do you feel that?
MM: Well, although President Obama as candidate Obama, and for five years of his presidency did nothing but bash Bush and those policies, he kept most of them in place. One that he dismantled and didn’t replace with anything was critical to the gathering of intelligence, particularly domestic intelligence. And it’s the enhanced interrogation program. But Zero Dark Thirty, or whatever that movie, it’s nothing as how it’s conducted. That’s just not how it’s done. It’s more psychological than that. But that’s neither here nor there. But he said at the time that the gathering of intelligence would be replaced by a program called the high value targets. Well, that program never really got up and running. And we began killing by drone these terrorists instead of collecting them and the intelligence that comes with them. And if we by accident caught a big target, a high value target, there’s no questioning, interrogating mechanism for them. So I’m not surprised that this happened. And people, I’ll tell you one good thing, Hugh, as the silver lining. There are lots of cells in this country, and there are lots of things that could be done to not only thwart plots, but reduce the number here. And it’s all policy. It’s not like we don’t know the answer. It has to do with immigration, it has to do with the kind of intelligence that was dismantled, the kind of connecting the dots, the FBI, the CIA, all the stuff you know, we can fix. And we can get back to being safer than we now are. And in the meantime, we’re going to have to be vigilant like those people in Boston weren’t, actually couldn’t be. But I mean, it just, that’s what they want to do. They want to, they don’t want to inflict maximum damage. They want to inflict maximum terror and change our way of life.
MM: It’s just sickening.
HH: As I thought about this and the Library, I was thinking about the 9/11 Commission. And my thoughts went back, and in fact, I wonder if my old boss, Fred Fielding, was down at the Library, because I thought maybe we could drag him out of retirement again and make him do another commission. Do you think we need another commission, Mary Matalin, or a special committee or something to find out what happened in Boston in the same way that we dug into what happened on 9/11?
MM: I think in this way, I’m not a big commission fan, because everybody works very hard on them, and then they just ignore the findings as was the case with the Debt Commission and all that. But in this case, something’s not right here. Those two yahoo brothers, there’s no way to do, I’m not going to add to any of the commentary that’s already been swirling around for a week, but I just know and you know enough about the subject matter to know that these cannot act independent. There needs to be an explanation for, and something we really need to know, what were they doing in, the big brother, when he went to Russia, and why didn’t we catch him when he came back? And what about all the other student visas, kids that are here not attending any kind of education institutions? So I think there needs to be something more than a commission. There needs to be a real, almost select committee open hearing.
HH: That’s what, because we’ve got Darrell Issa in the Oversight Committee, we’ve got McCaul in Homeland Security, we’ve got Mike Rogers from Michigan running Intelligence, and they’re all over the place, and people have lost track of what they were supposed to be answering. And we’ve got Benghazi, which is still not known about. So I think maybe John Boehner ought to call, and whether or not Harry Reid wants to work with him, he should demand or just anoint a special committee for the purposes of Benghazi and Boston bombings, and name his best members who are prosecutors and smart, and staff it up like Dick Leon staffed up Iran Contra for your old boss, Dick Cheney, in the 80s, and go at it. What do you think of that, Mary?
MM: That’s when those commissions and committees used to be serious, unlike the 9/11 one was. Yes, I would very much like to see that, because Benghazi, there’s so much you don’t know about Benghazi. And to this day, where are the victims of Benghazi? Why can’t they talk? Why does the mother of one of our foreign service professionals who was assassinated there, murdered there, brutalized there, why does she still not know the facts? I mean, that’s really more than a security thing. That’s completely un-American.
HH: And so last question, Mary Matalin, what do you think is going on there? If you have suspicions that you’re willing to air, and I don’t want you to go too far afield, what is happening with Benghazi? This doesn’t make any sense in the culture of disclosure in which we live, where we pursued like the Russell Crowe character being pursued throughout, pursuing Hugh Jackman in Les Mis. We went after Scooter Libby, but we are letting the Benghazi thing just languish there.
MM: Well, only Hugh Hewitt would connect Les Mis, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Scooter Libby. I just, I think you know the answer to that, but I’m more amused by the question. That’s one of the, that’s the all-time Hugh Hewitt moment.
HH: (laughing) Well, I couldn’t remember Javier for a moment. That’s why, and so I was dying trying…it was pretty terrible. But what is your answer? Why do you think that’s not happening?
MM: I think, I’m always charitable in considering the motivations of these intelligence issues, these security issues. And I think a big part of it is classified. A lot of it is classified. These guys don’t want this stuff to get out, but too much of it is political, because there was nothing Scooter did that was classified or wrong, and there’s so much of that is wrong, inexplicable, and is rendering us more insecure.
HH: Is it because Mrs. Clinton’s going to run for president?
MM: I don’t, I am in the minority here, but I don’t think she’s going to on this, because I think like a woman. If I was a woman of her age with her accomplishments, and, well, what was perceived to be her accomplishments, I’d want to enjoy what I had left of my life with my daughter, who is just launching her career and her motherhood and all the rest of it. I wouldn’t, but you know, a mother hen. I never wanted to run for president.
HH: Mary Matalin, great to talk to you as always.
MM: Thank you.
HH: Congratulations on a great week.
End of interview.