Newsweek/Daily Beast Reporter David Freedlander
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HH: I begin the show with a new guest. David Freedlander is the senior political correspondent for Newsweek and the Daily Beast. And earlier today, just as I was about to walk in and teach the Lochner era to my Con Law students, I got an email from David. He was on deadline and he wanted to talk to me, and I couldn’t do it. But I said hey, come talk to me during the show, and he graciously agreed. David, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
DF: Thanks for having me.
HH: Now I’ve never had you on before. You’ve got to give the audience a little background, because you know, we’re kind of allergic to the Newsweek/Daily Beast brand here. So tell us about yourself.
DF: I see. So I was reaching out to you. I was sort of interested in a book you had written about the sort of emerging Republican majority that seemed to be emerging in the early part of the last decade, I suppose, and I was just sort of interested in this notion of, you know, after an election, how everybody sort of assumes that what just happened is going to be happening continuously for the next several cycles into the distance, right? I mean, we’re hearing this on the Democratic side now.
HH: Yeah, and I always think that’s overstated, and you’re talking about…
DF: No, I do, and I wonder, I do, too, and so I was just sort of, I mean, can you sort of think back, because, if I may turn the interview on you. I mean, do you think, what was it, when you saw that in the early part of the decade, I mean, what were you seeing? What were you looking at?
HH: Well, I don’t know if you picked up, the title Painting The Map Red…
HH: Did you have a chance to read it?
DF: I didn’t actually have a chance to read it.
HH: Yeah, I thought maybe not, because here’s the first page, David. If you are a conservative Republican as I am, you have a right to be worried. An overconfident and complacent Republican Party could be facing electoral disaster.
HH: Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean and a host of others could be looming in our future and undoing all the good we’ve tried to do. It is break the glass and pull the alarm time for the Republican Party. The elections looming in November, 2006 are shaping up to be as disastrous for the GOP as the elections of 1994 were for the Democrats. I called it.
HH: And the reason I called it is because they acted as though it was theirs to keep, like majorities always do when you have to adapt. But David, before we go a little bit forward, give the audience a little background. How long have you been with Newsweek and the Daily Beast?
DF: Oh, gosh, not very long. Maybe two and a half months or so.
HH: Oh, wow. And what did you do before this? Were you working for the Observer?
DF: I was, that’s right, I was a political reporter for the New York Observer here in New York City. And for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, I’ve just sort of gotten off the Romney plane. I was covering Romney and Ryan for the last two months.
HH: Yeah, they really believed, as I did, they were going to win, didn’t they?
DF: I think they actually did.
HH: So did I.
DF: I think they did. I think they didn’t have the sort of specificity to it in a way that made you, that would make a believer out of a skeptic. You know, when you talk to them about how they were going to win, the answers were never very satisfying. You know, it was just sort of, well, we’re going to win. Don’t worry about, we’re going to win. We’re going to win.
HH: I know, I did my first presidential in ’76. I have never been this wrong. I’ve usually been right. I’ve known in my heart what was going on, but I believed in my heart they were going to win and they were going to win big. And I think that’s because you read cues and you get tips and you hear stuff.
HH: And they really thought they were going to win. And I really thought they were going to win. But I also think the Democrats are crazy if they think that this represents a mandate. After…you don’t lose the House of Representatives and claim a mandate, do you, David?
DF: Right. No, I think, you know, I think that’s fair. And what do these mandates mean anyway, right? I mean, you know, ultimately, every sort of battle has to be fought anew, I think of think.
HH: Yeah, and I believe that they have a significant technological advantage.
HH: But I think the election came down to Sandy, Candy and the failure of Orca, and that Candy Crowley, who is a frequent guest on the program and I like her a lot, and was happy when she was selected, she made a pretty monumental error. The media, of which you are a part, I am, too, but you’re mainstream Manhattan-Beltway elite, and I’m conservative activist media.
HH: Your side of the media table, I mean, you basically threw a ring around the White House and protected the President for two months, don’t you think?
DF: Oh, I don’t know if I would go that far. I mean, it’s a little bit different, right, when you’re…because it’s not as if he had a two months, he was sort of before the public eye for two months, right?
HH: September 11th is Benghazi. Did you guys, not you, personally, but are you proud of the job that elite media did on Benghazi?
DF: Am I proud of it? I don’t know if I would be proud of it. I mean, you know, I can’t think of the last time I was proud of something.
HH: Were you proud of how Woodward and Bernstein handled Watergate as a member of the elite media?
DF: Sure, sure.
DF: And no, but I mean, between here and that, I’m not sure what sort of, what would come to mind.
HH: Did you watch…
DF: But you know, I don’t know if…I mean, sorry. I mean, go ahead. I don’t know if I should really be in the position of talking about what other people are doing, but go ahead.
HH: Did you watch the first press conference the President gave on, last week?
DF: Sure. Yeah, sure.
HH: What did you make of the questions?
DF: What did I make of the questions? You know, I think it’s a little bit of a hard format, right, to be that penetrating, because you get one question, essentially, and there’s a limited amount of back and forth. I mean, are you suggesting that there should have been more focus on Benghazi?
HH: Yeah, of course. I thought Ed Henry and Jon Karl did a fine job, and the rest of it, I mean, global warming? Global warming in the first presidential press conference since March of 2012, in the middle of a David Petraeus resignation, we’re on our 6th, I guess, CIA director in 12 years, we’ve got dead Americans. I mean, I worked for Nixon out of college, so I kind of know what it’s like when the media goes after a president. And this was, if they could put massage parlor on the front door of the White House press corps…It was terrible. That’s not their job. So David, anyway, going back to the permanent majority stuff, who else have you talked to? What did your story conclude?
DF: Well, I mean, I guess I should just conclude that you know, there is no doubt that the Democrats have an advantage in, you know, a demographic advantage, maybe an Electoral College advantage, which is related, but to think that there’s, it gets easy for Democrats for here as far as the eye can see, I just think seems a little unlikely.
HH: You know, I think, I don’t think they…
DF: Especially, I mean, you know, if this economy doesn’t pick up right quickly, and by a lot, I can’t imagine the last time a Democrat…
HH: You know what happens in the 6th year of an election, of a presidency. You get smashed.
HH: And the President’s going to lose seats, and the Democrats have 23 Senate seats to defend, and Republicans have got 13. And they’ve got like six to eight vulnerables, and we have maybe one, and I don’t really think Mitch McConnell is vulnerable. On the other hand, Rand Paul today announcing he may run for president opens up the libertarian-traditional values divide. We have our problems, they have their problems. But I am curious, though. You’re a reporter, and when the House of Representatives doesn’t switch, it’s the people’s House, it’s the one where you actually know your Congressmen, I’ve got a Congressman coming into the studio a little bit later, John Campbell, very successful Republican in deep blue California. I just don’t think the President can walk in there and say hey, I won, you lost like he did after 2008 when in fact every Democrat won, and every Republican lost. I think it’s a different world. Did you get any sense of that? A truly 50-50 country, a deeply…we’ve got 30 governors and the House of Representatives who are red, we’ve got a Senate and a President who are blue. This is a bipolar electorate.
DF: I think that’s right. I mean, I think that, and it’s sort of stunning when you think back to 2000 and 2004…to the last four elections, to compare them to the previous four in just the sort of margins, right? I mean, I would think that the last four elections, I’m making this number up, I would think about the combined, they have about the vote differential, that any one of the previous four did, if that makes sense.
HH: Yeah, it does.
DF: The last four elections combined were probably, if you add up the difference between Republicans and Democrats, it was probably what Clinton got over Dole.
HH: Well, we have two secret weapons. We have Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. And so those are our secret weapons, because they present a face to the American people that nobody likes generally.
DF: Right, right.
HH: And then we also have one other secret…you’re in New York. Have you gone to see, or will you go to see Mamet’s new play, The Anarchist?
DF: I do like Mamet, so I would like to see it.
HH: I saw it on Saturday night. It’s amazing.
DF: Is it?
HH: Because it’s about the left and the collapse of the left over the last 50 years. The reason we’re going to be fine in the long run is our ideas work and theirs don’t.
DF: All right. Right, right, right.
HH: You agree with that?
DF: I’m sure they would disagree, but…
HH: Are you a lefty? Or are you a conservative? Where are you on the political spectrum?
DF: Oh, I’m a referee. I…
HH: Oh, God, not one of those.
HH: Did you vote?
DF: I call balls and strikes, sir.
HH: Did you vote?
HH: You don’t vote? You’re one of those?
DF: Yeah, I figure, I don’t think, I mean, I just sort of think that it probably wouldn’t be fair. I mean, I want to give folks I think what they deserve to get.
HH: You know, you and Nick Lemann. I love Nick, but you guys are still carrying the torch for a media that never existed. You’re all partisans. I just don’t know which one, which side you’re on, yet, but Newsweek. You give me enough time, I’ll figure it out. But will you come back another time?
DF: This was great. I really enjoyed it. Anytime, and I appreciate you answering my questions on this story I’m working on, so…
HH: I’ve got to tell you one quick story, that when I was hawking the book back in 2006, Colbert had me on, and I pointed to the first page, and of course, he did a very funny…he ripped it out and said I want no negative thinking around here. So David Freedlander of Newsweek and the Daily Beast, thank you, my friend.
End of interview.