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The Defense Crisis

Wednesday, April 9, 2014  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The Wall Street Journal today opines on “Putin Invades, Obama Dismantles,” and it is afire follow up to my conversation yesterday with the Journal’s Bret Stephens about Putin’s aggression and the just leaked plans for the next round of cuts to our nuclear arsenal:

Defense officials privately had said that they expected the cuts to spare U.S. submarine-launched weapons, which are considered the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad—which consists of bombers, subs and land-based missiles—and therefore the strongest deterrent force.

But the Pentagon instead decided to cut the number of submarine missile launch tubes from 336 today to 240 by 2018, a 29% reduction. It will cut the number of nuclear bombers from 96 B-52 and B-2s today to 66 by 2018, a 38% cut.

The Congressional GOP is belatedly taking notice and trying to get their Democratic colleagues to recognize that 2014 is not 1991 and that Russia and the PRC are aggressive, authoritarian powers that require a robust U.S. military and especially a fully functioning nuclear deterrent, not an ideology driven parity-by-leftwing-politics arsenal.

Paul Ryan has a piece out on the defense side of his budget, and the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker reports on the turn towards sharply higher defense spending.  The bad news is that Dick Durbin is the Senate’s leader on defense appropriations and he is solidly in the Obama appeasement camp.  Until the Senate is back in GOP hands, Putin, the PRC, Iran and the rest of the world’s aggressive authoritarians won’t have to worry that the U.S. is serious about rebuilding its nuclear deterrent, much less its Navy and Marine Corps or restoring too-deep Army cuts.  Bret Stephens spelled it out Monday: It is “Putin’s Moment.”

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What Reince Said

Wednesday, April 9, 2014  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Tuesday’s interview with Reince Priebus generated the usual hand wringing on the left when campaign contribution limits come up.  (The transcript of the interview is here.)

The last vestige of the ill-fated post-Watergate attempt to control money in politics should fall like the dead tree it is sometime in the next few years, and Priebus was just pointing out that contribution limits distort politics but don’t keep money out of it.  I also like to point out to folks that it was Barack Obama who dealt the death blow to public financing of campaigns with his 2008 presidential campaign decision to reject spending limits.  ”Do as we say, not as our leader did” is the argument of the left, but the First Amendment is clear and the 40 year frolic and detour from its clear admonition should be overturned and buried.

The reprisal issues Priebus rightly brought up –and they extend far beyond the Mozilla case– will fade away if people can give to candidates and parties and then expect them to act as principled individuals or coherent entities.  Far from corrupting government, getting back to direct funding of candidates and parties as opposed to cause funding and independent expenditures will greatly assist the healthy functioning of the Republic.

By the way, unions have an equal right to contribute to candidates and parties, just not the right to lift their members money without their members’ permission –another issue that awaits the Court’s remedy.

Jeb’s Biggest Problem With The Base

Tuesday, April 8, 2014  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Most of the Monday buzz about Jeb Bush’s speech on Sunday focused on the “act of love” phrase, one of those unfortunate clunkers of a line that –like Mitt Romney’s “severely conservative” spanner of two years ago– makes a man wonder where all the speechwriters have gone.  Marc Thiessen is laboring over at the Post and I am here and other veteran wordsmiths who ghost a bit are scattered across the land, but apparently none could be bothered to review Jeb’s text.  Too bad that because that phrase summons up the worst of San Francisco’s summer of love and doesn’t even communicate the former Florida Governor’s central message of compassion for immigrants forced by desperation to enter our land of plenty illegally.  Had Jeb mentioned and quoted Immigration and the Next America by Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, he’d have had a bracing challenge to anti-regularization conservatives front and center, but the phrasing shows that every would-be president needs a couple of writers about.

Lost in the sputtering was the key problem that Jeb has with GOP primary voters and not just in Iowa though this issue is huge there, but everywhere: His defense of Common Core.

I spoke at length with the governor about Common Core last summer –the transcript is here– and he does a fine job responding to critics, and needs to do more of that.  I think he ought to take up Michele Malkin’s challenge to debate the subject in fact, and would be happy to moderate on air or off.  As I said to the WaPo’s Chris Cillizza on yesterday’s show, Common Core is Jeb’s biggest issue with the base, not immigration, on which there is broad policy agreement (regularization following a long, strong fence’s construction.)  The Common Core, however, is one of those iceberg issues –like the “notch babies” of decades ago– that elite media seems wholly unaware of and which the GOP field is sailing straight towards.

China’s Ambitions

Tuesday, April 8, 2014  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel got an earful yesterday from his Chinese hosts on the PRC’s ambitions in the South China Sea.  Hagel appeared at a joint press conference with General Chang Wanquan, Hagel’s counterpart in the PRC, and got an earful according to the New York Times:

The minister, Gen. Chang Wanquan, affirmed that China would not be first to launch an attack over the territorial dispute. But he accused Japan of “confusing the right with the wrong” in its assertion of control over the disputed islands in the East China Sea, which are known as the Senkaku in Japan and as the Diaoyu in China.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands,” General Chang said. He added that on the issue of what he called “territorial sovereignty,” China would “make no compromise, no concession, no treaty.”

He continued, “The Chinese military can assemble as soon as summoned, fight any battle and win.”

The good news is that Mr. Hagel did not back down:

At one point, Mr. Hagel appeared impatient, wagging his finger. “The Philippines and Japan are longtime allies of the United States,” he said. “We have mutual self-defense treaties with each of those countries” he continued, adding that the United States was “fully committed to those treaty obligations.”

Mr. Hagel accused China of adding to tensions in the region by unilaterally declaring an air defense zone in the East China Sea with “no collaboration, no consultation.” Such moves, he warned, could “eventually get to dangerous conflict.”

The bad news is that Mr. Hagel’s budget does not equip the United States with enough ships to deter Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.  That aggression is detailed in the wonderfully reported and written Asia’s Cauldron, the new book by Robert D. Kaplan, who was my guest last week.  The transcript of my conversation with Kaplan from last week is here.  No one who hear the interview, or read the transcript or better yet the book itself will have been surprised by the sparks at yesterday’s press conference.


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