The New York Times Glenn Thrush joined me this morning to discuss the story the MSM really doesn’t cover: the state of our military:
HH: I hope you’re having a wonderful morning. Glenn Thrush is of the New York Times, because Glenn is back with me, my favorite New York Timesman, and there are many – Peter Baker and Michael Shear and Ross Douthat and Nick Kristof, but I love Glenn because of his hat. Good morning, Glenn, how are you?
GT: How’s it going?
HH: Why won’t you guys cover terrorism? I want to know. Why do you cover it up?
GT: Oh, because we hate America.
HH: Okay, just wanted to get that on the record. Hey, Glenn, (laughing)
GT: (laughing) Hold on, hold on, I’ve got to blow my nose. Where’s the flag?
HH: I’m going to actually, you realize I’m going to clip that, and I’m going to use that like a thousand times.
GT: No. I’ve only been here for a month. I want to keep my health insurance.
HH: I’m going to, you broke Rule XIX like Elizabeth Warren. We’re going to shut you down. That’s Rule XIX of the Hugh Hewitt Show, is never confirm the obvious joke.
GT: That’s right.
HH: All right, Glenn, I want to play for you, this is, you know, President Obama was kite skiing yesterday in the Caribbean. Did you see that?
GT: It was, have you ever seen a happier human being in your entire life?
HH: I have, but I want to bring to your attention some test…he’s happy, but the Navy’s not. This is two and a half minutes long, but I want you to listen to it, because I, did you hear the testimony of Admiral Bill Moran before the House Armed Services yesterday?
GT: I’ve read a little bit of it.
HH: All right, let’s let the audience listen to this. This is so chilling. Cut number one:
MT: I had several things I wanted to ask you about. You mentioned the Navy is smaller than it has been in the last 99 years, but I want to ask you about a story that came out yesterday that you don’t mention in your testimony that says according to the Navy, 53% of all Navy aircraft cannot fly. And that is about twice the historic norm. If you go to F-18’s 62% are out of service. 27% in major depot work, and 35% simply awaiting maintenance or parts. This is a press story from yesterday in Defense News. Are those statistics accurate?
BM: Yes, sir, they are.
MT: I’m hard, it’s a little hard for me to know what question to ask next. 53% of all Navy aircraft can’t fly, and 62% of our strike F-18’s can’t fly today? That’s our status/
BM: Yes, sir. When it comes to the strike fighter community, that’s our legacy Hornets A-D’s, and our Super Hornets E and F versions, our legacy Hornets, which we in the Marine Corps operate today, are well beyond their design life, let alone their service life. They were designed for 6,000 hours. We’re extending the life on those Hornets into the 8-9,000 hour range. They’re, they’ve been around as long as General Walters and I have been serving, for the most part, so they’re pretty old. It takes about twice the amount of man hours to fix one of those jets as it was designed to take, which gives you a pretty good indication how old they are. And the capacity in our depots has been diminished since sequestration and furloughs back in ’13, and we’re trying to rebuild that capacity today, to try to get those jets turned around. So on a typical day in the Navy, about 25-30% of our jets and our airplanes are in some kind of depot maintenance or maintenance which does not allow them to fly. So your statistics of twice that amount or two-thirds today is a reflection of how hard we’ve flown these jets over the last 15 years. And the fact that we have not recapped those jets, in other words, we haven’t built new or we have not bought enough new ones to replace them. And we’ve been waiting for quite some time for the F-35 to deliver, which we were counting on seven, eight years ago to start filling in those holes. All of that adds up to the numbers you reflect.
HH: Now Glenn, I believe you guys cover terrorism. It’s always option to cover it more or less. But I don’t believe the media covers much about military readiness. Why isn’t this story now 62% of our F-18’s can’t fly?
GT: Well, we’ve written about this. The other issue that we have covered, my new paper, been around for a little longer than I have, are the issue of wear and tear on Army equipment. You know, this has been an issue before Ash Carter took over that Chuck Hagel, the previous secretary, clashed with the Obama administration on. But I think one of the key components there is this is, again, I don’t think this is a partisan issue necessarily, the key word in there was sequestration. This is part of a previous attitude towards budgeting that the Republican Party seems to have turned away from a bit in the 2012-2013 time period. But I think in general, all of this churn that we’re having in this country at the moment in terms of the political changeover, I think has obscured some really significant policy discussions that we have to have about what the role we view of our military, particularly in the South China Sea with China getting more aggressive, and our need to have either a different sort of Naval deployment or an expanded Naval deployment. I just don’t think these issues in general have been discussed. And until we start having a larger rational conversation about this, that went beyond what we really did in the debates, which was very superficial, and you remember, of course, the Obama diss of Trump during the campaign when he was sort of talking about, you know, the archaic Navy. You know, until we have a fulsome discussion, we have to understand what these numbers mean. How many planes do we want? What do we want our surface fleet to look like? I just don’t think in general we’re having a sober, serious national conversation about any of these issues.
HH: Now for the last eight years of President Obama, and during the sequester of the last five years of Obama, President Obama had a very explicit argument. For every dollar you add to Defense, you have to add a dollar to discretionary domestic spending when the sequester came up. That was not…
GT: That was kind of, that’s kind of backwards. I mean, that was, because I covered, look, I covered the deliberations on that. It was sort of the other way around. I mean, Congress was dictating those terms, and Obama was really along for the ride. And you know, one of the things…
HH: No, but he’s the commander-in-chief.
HH: What I’m getting at, Glenn, he’s the commander-in-chief. His job is to fight for his men and women in the uniform. And he did not do so on the budget. He did not kick butt and take names to get the sequester off the Pentagon.
GT: Well, he also didn’t do very well, look, you know, on issues that I pay more, not that I pay more attention to, but issues that I’ve covered more in the course of my career is a better way to put this, Housing and Urban Development, Section 8 vouchers, reconstruction of crumbling infrastructure in this country. You name it, that sequestration battle in 2012 and 2013 led to freezing an awful lot of stuff.
HH: But I’m going back to, the story of the week is…
GT: No, I know. You’re more concerned about that particular issue. But I just wanted to make a point as part of a larger budgetary environment.
HH: But because of the argument, but the argument this week has been does the media cover terrorism enough, and I think that you do 75-80% a good job, not great, but very much better job than you do on the military. And I believe President Obama kite skiing in the Caribbean is responsible for 62% of the F-18’s not being able to fly, because until four weeks ago, he was the commander-in-chief. Would you agree with me on that?
GT: Hey, Hugh, one thing I want to point out here, I don’t care what Obama’s doing right now. I know that I sat in the briefing room yesterday, and Sean Spicer, when he was asked a question about what the President’s plans for the Affordable Care Act were, said that we only care about results. We’ll leave the details to Congress. I have never heard, that was not covered, my paper didn’t cover it. No one really covered it. That’s an extraordinary admission that you’re handing over executive budgeting power to the legislature.
HH: And that’s interesting, but it’s a deflection.
GT: So my question is about, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second. Forget about Obama. I’m not covering him kite skiing.
HH: Glenn, this is, you’re deflecting.
GT: I want to know, I want to see what President Trump, and I think this is very much to your point, what is President, have you seen any specific numbers about what President Trump plans in terms of budgeting the military?
HH: Glenn, you’re very good at this, but I am, this is not my first rodeo. My question to you is, is President Obama responsible as the commander-in-chief until four weeks ago for the fact that only, that 62% of the F-18’s can’t fly? He was the commander-in-chief. Is that his…
HH: I don’t know, man. We had, we have Republican control of Congress, we had Duncan Hunter in the House. We had a lot of people, including John McCain, who were very, very, who by the way, before he was a Senator, you know, was the Congressional liaison for the Navy. We have a lot of people who are fairly hawkish who were very much on this.
HH: They wanted the sequester lifted, and the President wouldn’t do it.
GT: Why wasn’t this a big issue in the Congressional hearings?
HH: I just, this goes to basic accountability and press accountability. The military…
GT: Yeah, but here’s the thing. Why are we doing rear view mirror? Why aren’t you asking the same questions of the President…
HH: Because it was testimony yesterday.
GT: who did not, incidentally, have any specific budget plan during the campaign. And in fact…
HH: Did you dance as a child?
GT: …and we have not heard anything from the White House in terms of what their budget plans are.
HH: Glenn, Glenn, did you dance as a child? Did you take dancing lessons as a child?
GT: No, I can’t dance. Have you ever met me?
HH: You can dance, dude. You dance very well. You and Travolta, did you grow up watching Saturday Night Live? Is that what you did?
GT: What? Was I watching, Fever.
HH: Saturday Night Fever. That’s it. Saturday Night Fever.
HH: So you did. I trapped you.
GT: Yeah, your Goombah movie is played.
HH: (laughing) Glenn Thrush, always a pleasure. Man, can you dance. That man can dance.
End of interview.