NRO’s Jonah Goldberg joined me this morning:
HH: Welcome to the Hugh Hewitt extemporaneous debate contest, which I hold on occasion here on the Hugh Hewitt Show when we invite a noted analyst, commentator and otherwise good guy, someone like, say, Jonah Goldberg of National Review to deliver an impromptu seven minute speech on a subject not about which they have not been warned, like every high school student ever done extemp. Today, Jonah Goldberg, welcome, your topic shall be why Tevi Troy should be the next HHS secretary.
JG: (laughing) Great to be here, Hugh.
JG: Well, all right, so Tevi Troy, who I’ve known for over 25 years, you’ve known for a while, I actually interned for Tevi Troy in my first gig here in Washington, D.C, is a decent, smart, unbelievably hands-on, savvy sort of competent guy who is also committed to free market health care reform. He was the number two guy at HHS. And it seems to me there are a lot of people talking about, I think Price was the right guy for the job, but obviously that didn’t work out. And people are throwing around ideas for you know, Bobby Jindal and a whole bunch of other, Dr. Oz, and it seems to me that what the Trump administration could really use is just somebody who is a hands-on bureaucratic, you know, warrior who knows where the bodies are buried, knows how to get things done, is committed to the same general principles that Trump campaigned on about improving health care. And I just don’t know, I know a lot of policy wonks in Washington, and you know, Jim Capretta is great, too. But I don’t know anybody who has the kind of mix of personal experience and sort of intellectual insight that would make someone perfect for that job better than Tevi. Tevi actually just came out with his last book, I’m sure you had him on, called Shall We Wake The President, which is a history of how presidents have responded to major disasters and crises. As we’ve seen after these last three hurricanes, that’s actually a pretty useful skill set to have, a knowledge base to have. He’s also, I can say this, I haven’t talked to him about it, but I have 1,000% confidence he’s never going to be interested in running for public office himself. And some of the best, I think we can all agree that most of the best cabinet members in this administration are the guys, you know, like Kelly and Mattis who put their nose to the grindstone and are not interested in future elected office. They’re interested in doing the job and not having sort of, I mean, there are skills that come with being a politician, but there are downsides to being a politician. Tevi is one of these guys who would just do the work, and try to make progress. And he has good relationships on Capitol Hill. He has good relationships with friends on both sides of the aisle. And there was actually this great piece the other day about how when he was the number two guy at HHS running the, I think, largest bureaucracy in the world outside of the Chinese Army, he was still flying from Europe in coach, not even economy plus, in a middle seat, which as you know, gets to the heart of one of the things that got Tom Price out of there. So I understand that there are people in Trump world who might think that my recommendation is a black mark, but he has, you know, supporters and fans all across Washington. He’s an honest, decent guy who’s really, really smart, and knows how to get things done.
HH: That was three minutes. So you have five minutes left of your extemp time. That would be like, you’d get a 3 from the judges. But nevertheless, it was a good three minutes, Jonah. It was a good three minutes.
JG: (laughing) Well, I, never in my life did I think you would let another soul talk for even three minutes.
JG: I was, I was actually worried that something happened to you over there, because like this has never happened before.
HH: Well, I run the extemp tournament impromptu every now and then, and you did just fine. But I saw that you had been out promoting Tevi, as I had, along with Bobby Jindal and Jon Kyl. Tevi Troy is maybe the perfect Trump cabinet member, because he’s self-effacing and very loyal and very effective. He’s also a presidential historian, which I think would appeal to Donald Trump. This is something that’s very subtle, to put a historian in your cabinet in a position to observe and to reflect and to write later after he’s done the work. And there’s an enormous amount of work that has to be done, would, I think, have some appeal to a president surrounded by, if we are to believe NBC News this morning, cabinet members who think he’s a moron.
JG: Yeah, I mean, the one thing, I mean, one of the things that would drive me crazy about Tevi, having known the guy, again, for you know, 25 years, is that when he started working in government, he was incredibly circumspect, even, you know, at a keg, you know, at a party.
HH: What is the use of having a friend if they won’t gossip with you?
JG: Hey, look, my wife, you know, who works for Nikki Haley, she won’t tell me anything.
HH: You know, I had lunch yesterday with Fred Fielding, for whom I worked in the 80s as a Reagan lawyer. And he’s still a sphinx. He’s never done a Sunday show. He’s been like counsel to the president 18 times, and he’s never done a Sunday show, and he still won’t tell me anything. It’s very annoying. Your wife won’t tell you anything?
JG: My wife was John Ashcroft’s chief speechwriter all four years of his tenure as Attorney General. I know she knows cool stuff. And she won’t tell me any of it. It drives me nuts.
HH: (laughing) So discretion is Tevi, but also, let’s talk about HHS. It is this vast archipelago of agencies, authorities, commissions, precincts, wardens. I think he’s warden of the Cinque Ports, actually. I think that’s one of his jobs that gets in there. And nevertheless, he had a competence level, deputies always do. Deputies are the inside people like my friend, Dan Poneman, at Energy, when you’ve got Ernie Moniz, who’s the Nobel Laureate. You still need a deputy. Well, sometimes, deputies make great secretaries.
JG: Yeah, well look, I mean, that was part of Tevi’s portfolio when he worked for, when he was number two guy at HHS under George W. Bush. It was after a lot of you know, political problems, real problems about the handling of the Iraq War, about Katrina and all these things. And part of Tevi’s job was just to simply make sure that HHS did what it had to do, that it worked, that it didn’t create problems. And that, so he knows how that place works. But he also, you know, because as you know, he’s been on your show, he’s written for National Review, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Wall Street Journal. He’s in the mix. He also has serious ideas about how to fix the place. And I think there’s an enormous amount of low-hanging fruit to be done. I was with a friend of mine who has his Medicare card, and he showed it to me the other day. He had to get it laminated himself, because it’s just a flimsy piece of waxed paper.
JG: And you know, the idea that this program, which hemorrhages billions and billions of dollars, and Medicare fraud and Medicaid fraud are such huge things, and they don’t even have what could be considered advanced technology circa 1995, is amazing.
HH: A bona fide intellectual can sometimes be a dangerous thing in government, but in the case of Tevi, the fact that he’s a popular historian, I really do think that that makes him aware of what works and what doesn’t work. So we are the Tevi Troy fan club for HHS secretary. And even though you flunked the extemp, we’re going to post this and publish it. Let me turn to the second story, though. If there’s one story Donald Trump reads today, the President will read the Carol Lee/Kristin Welker/Stephanie Ruhle and Dafna Linzer piece – Tillerson’s Fury At Trump Required An Intervention From Pence, wherein Tillerson is quoted as calling the President a “moron.” Do you agree with me that if there is one story he reads, that will be it?
JG: I think that’s probably right. It’ll certainly get brought to his attention by somebody, yeah. And I think, look…
HH: What does he do? John Kelly is going to say no, ignore it, that’s not true, that’s the media. What does Donald, does Donald Trump put up with that? I mean, Tillerson’s a disaster at State. You and I know that. It’s just a disaster. They lack assistant secretaries all over the place. His, he cancelled an entire incoming class of foreign service officers. He’s criticized by the careerist clique and by the political neocons. He’s just, he’s out of his league, Jonah.
JG: Yeah, look, and I have to say, the biggest surprise and disappointment of all the cabinet secretaries has been Tillerson. I know people who knew him at Exxon. He was, you know, widely respected, and he’s just out of his depth. And I think it would be bad politically, it would be bad optically for Donald Trump to fire him this week because of this, just because it looks, it would look small and petty. But you know, it feels like there has been a funereal dirge following Tillerson around Washington for a while. And I would assume that this isn’t the last straw, then they’re going to find a reason for him to go soon enough. In fact, I was kind of stunned that Tillerson didn’t resign during that whole Boy Scout, you know, controversy where Donald Trump was sort of bebopping and scatting politically at the Boy Scout Jamboree, because Tillerson, I just know from people who know him, is so passionately committed to the Boy Scouts. And I was kind of, you know, he used to run him, and I was kind of surprised that we didn’t hear more complaints around then. And it turns out that this NBC story was about that period.
HH: Bebopping and scatting is pretty much what we do here at the Hugh Hewitt Show every day. But let me finish by asking you, did you listen to or read VDH, Victor Hanson’s interview with me on Friday?
JG: I did not.
HH: I want you to go and find that. We were discussing you when you were, behind your back again. Jonah Goldberg, author of the G-File from National Review, not much of an extemp high school competitor, but a very fine guest on the Hugh Hewitt Show. Thank you, Jonah.
End of interview.