Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker joined me today for a wide ranging interview on national security and the 2016 race generally:
HH: I begin today’s program with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Governor Walker, welcome back, it’s always a pleasure to have you.
SW: Hey, Hugh, thank you for having me on. Love it.
HH: Well, today’s a big day for you. You’ve got this hard-hitting speech at the Citadel on national security and Islamist radicalism, but you also started a party debate on China this week, and it’s excellent, because it’s going to be a national security election. Before I go to those two issues, though, I have three political questions for you.
SW: Sure. Go…
HH: The first has to do with House Speaker John Boehner, who Wednesday at a fundraiser here in Colorado, I’m here in Colorado at Colorado Christian University, he called Senator Ted Cruz “a jackass.” Now I know you are competing against the Senator, but he’s a friend of mine, and he’s one of the great Constitutional litigators of our times. What do you think of the Speaker’s slam on the Senator?
SW: Well, I think it’s just wrong. I was, I’m in South Carolina today, and I was here at the beginning of the week. Senator Cruz and I and Ben Carson spoke to Congressman Duncan’s event, and even though I don’t know Senator Cruz as well as I know some of the governors, I’ve grown to like him and admire him quite a bit on the campaign trail.
HH: Does this rhetoric help at all in the party when people are slamming each other left and right like this?
SW: No, it doesn’t at all, particularly at a time when so many Americans, rightfully so, are frustrated that we can’t get things done in Washington, that people, I’m frustrated, although I think the one thing that’s interesting, some people in the national media think it’s anger. They talk about it with some of the candidates that it’s anger. I don’t. I think it’s a sense of urgency that Americans are urgent. There’s an urgent sense that they want leaders in Washington to actually follow through on the campaign promises they made on the campaign trail. It’s why there’s a growing frustration, for example, that they haven’t put a bill on the President’s desk to repeal Obamacare once and for all. And people can say yeah, sure, in Washington, the President’s going to veto it, but put it on his table, show the American people we have what it takes to get it through the House and the Senate. It’s why I put out a week ago our day one patient freedom plan to show we would introduce a bill on day one, and then lift, get rid of the special carve out that President Obama gave to members of the House, their staff and their families, and now have to live under the provisions of Obamacare. You may them live under that, I believe they’re going to move on it rather quickly. We need people who are going to support people who do just that.
HH: All right, then the next two, yesterday I asked Marco Rubio both of these, and I try to be consistent across all of the interviews. Hillary Clinton yesterday called the pro-life positions of the GOP extremist, and compared them to those of terrorist groups. Earlier this week, Congresswoman Gwen Moore told reporters on Monday that Scott Walker is “tightening the noose literally around African-Americans.” Now I know you are used to extreme tactics. You stood up to them three times in Wisconsin. But being compared to terrorist groups and lynch mobs, Scott Walker? What do you think of this?
SW: Oh, it’s just outrageous. But sadly, I mean, you know, I’m not intimidated by this. I wasn’t intimidated in Wisconsin, and I won’t be intimidated as president. They’ve tried this. They did death threats. They called me every name in the book. This is just outrageous. And think about the audacity of Hillary Clinton saying that. I mean, under the Obama-Clinton doctrine, terrorism has gone up. We heard the director of national intelligence testify before Congress earlier this year that 2014 was the most lethal year for terrorism in the world. And this is somebody who Hillary Clinton was responsible for this leading from behind mentality that has only emboldened terrorists, particularly radical Islamic terrorism around the world. She’s got, we saw a report today that showed that her husband, who made millions and millions and millions of dollars with speeches around the world while she was Secretary of State, we now find out in some of these emails that Bill Clinton, President Clinton, was considering speeches in North Korea and in the Congo. I mean, eastern Congo is one of the worst places toward sexual abuse of women, and some of the most outrageous attacks in the world out there, and she’s talking about other candidates? That’s just unbelievable. She should speak out about terrorism where it is around the world, and it’s not amongst politicians of either party. It’s amongst the leaders of radical Islamic terrorism, whether it’s ISIS or Iran or al Qaeda or others around the world. We should be united as America in that response.
HH: Third and last political question, and then we’ll go to policy. Hillary’s falling apart, and Vice President Biden is rising. If you’re on a debate stage with him in the fall of 2016, he’s going to call you a young, inexperienced governor, no idea how to manage the world, and he’s going to point to his five decades of foreign policy experience. How are you going to respond to that?
SW: I’d say in my lifetime, the best president in national security and foreign policy was a governor from California. Under President Ronald Reagan, he not only helped us rebuild the military, he stood up, he stood up for our allies, he stood up to our enemies. He stood for strong American values. President Reagan showed that the most important ingredient in strong national defense and foreign policy is leadership. That’s what a governor brings to the table. I’ve been tested more than any Republican candidate in this race, heck, any candidate, period, in terms of feeling pressure to try and push away from doing what is right. And being a leader, I have done it. Vice President Joe Biden, I think, is a decent man. I actually know him personally. I just disagree with him fundamentally on the issues. And I think in contrast, Americans want someone new and fresh as opposed to someone from the past. They want someone from outside of Washington, not someone who embodies Washington. And they want someone who’s actually got things done. And while Biden spent a lot of years in Washington, I mean, heck, when I was going into my junior year of high school, that was the fall that Ronald Reagan was first elected. Joe Biden was a junior senator in the United States Senate. And I think just being elected many years isn’t necessarily an accomplishment. It’s what you do in office that matters, and I’d put my record up any day against his.
HH: Now onto foreign policy. I want to start with China. Earlier this week, you touched off a huge debate within the GOP about China by calling on the President to cancel President Xi Jingping’s state visit. On this show, Donald Trump disagreed with you. He said keep it but negotiate harder. Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio said downgrade the visit but keep it, and you sent the entire old guard of New York-D.C. China hands into spasms as a National Review piece today suggested. What’s your response?
SW: Hey, the bottom line, this is what leadership is all about. I was just in Iowa the last two days before being in South Carolina today. I made it clear. You know, you get the kneejerk reaction from some that somehow this is going to affect trade. That’s hogwash. China and the United States are interdependent in terms of trade. That’s why they’re a strategic competitor. They’re neither a foe nor an ally. They’re somewhere in between. But we need to step up. Part of the reason why we’re weak in the world today is because of this flawed policy which has come not just from President Obama, but from Hillary Clinton’s time at State, that we lead from behind. Well, the rest of the world notices this, and not just in the Middle East, but with Russia and Eastern Europe, with now the South China Sea. With all of these issues, we can see that if the rest of the world doesn’t respect us, it makes it that much more difficult for us. What my point is here is that a state visit should be something you hold up as a prize for some of your most trusted allies, for those who are great allies and partners. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have dialogue. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do trade. It doesn’t me we shouldn’t talk to the leaders of China. We shouldn’t just, we should not, though, however, reward them with an official state visit when this year alone, we know they are involved in the cyberattacks not only against the federal government, but cyberattacks that have put the personal information on millions of Americans at risk, when they have continued to do things that affect the intellectual property of our employers, when they continue to do what no one, I think, dreamed it was possible, and that is building islands out of sand in the South China Sea, and when obviously, they continue to have an abysmal record when it comes to human rights not just against human rights activists, but even the persecution of many of the nearly 100 million Christians in a place like China. You do all that, combined with over the last few weeks, their efforts to devalue the currency, and the impact that has on the larger issue of trying to manipulate the economy, we should actually stand up and do something about it. If we can’t do something about it now when they’ve actually attacked, a cyberattack against our own government, when exactly are we going to do something?
HH: Scott Walker, I helped Richard Nixon write The Real War, a book that came out during Reagan’s campaign in 1980, and I helped to oversee the construction of his library. I don’t think the man who opened China would reward a cyberattack on this country with a state visit. It would be like inviting the president of China here after the EP-3 was forced down on Hainan Island in the spring of 2001, and the pilots were held hostage for ten days. It’s just so weak to invite him here.
SW: Weak is exactly the right word. People think that it’s a huge mistake, and as you know, there are many people in New York or Washington who just get overwhelmed on these issues, who don’t realize this is not about saying we should talk to them or we should trade with them. It’s just saying why would we give such a reward to a country that isn’t in a position to act like a reasonable partner here. We need to work with them on trade. We certainly need to work with them in the world when you think about the threats from North Korea. Certainly, it’s not enough to just work with South Korea and Japan. We need to work with China in that region. But we should not be rewarding them at a time when we had these cyberattacks and all of the other things collectively, which by the way, someone said where does this come from? Well, I talked about it on July 13th, the night I announced my candidacy in Waukesha, Wisconsin at the Expo Center, which incidentally was the place we shared our victory night celebration over the recall. But I said it then. I said these exact things about China. I talked about their cyberattacks. I talked about their advanced in international waters. I talked about their abysmal human rights record. I’ve been speaking out about this. To me, what’s just the last straw is all this together suggests the last thing we should be doing is rewarding them with a state visit.
HH: Now I want to talk about your speech at the Citadel, which is one of the great military academies of the country. And its 2,000 cadets are preparing to be in a very long war, one that actually claimed two American Air Force special operators on Wednesday in an attack in Afghanistan, which is going to go on for years, years and years and years. I think you preempted my first draft question for the debate, one that I had discussed, actually, with former Secretary of State Condi Rice, in Stanford a few months ago. I said what do you think of the question, Secretary Rice, are we safer today than when we were when President Obama was elected, and I think you preempted me today, Scott Walker, and you get the prize for raising that rhetoric first.
SW: Well, it really is a legitimate question. And as much as we know the world’s changed since 9/11, we certainly aren’t any safer today. In fact, my question is are we safer today than we were seven years ago. And if you think the answer is yes, you should probably vote for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I think sadly the answer is no, and it’s because of, you mentioned the right word, weakness. It’s because of this lead from behind mentality we get under the Obama-Clinton doctrine, which has never worked before. And let me be clear. Being strong doesn’t mean you want to go into war. In fact, peace through strength that we saw under President Reagan had precisely the opposite effect. By having a strong military, by having strong leadership in the White House, we actually had one of the most peaceful times in modern American history. We need to get back to those times where we have a strong military, and when we have a strong place in the world not because we want to go into war, but precisely we do not want to. We don’t have to go into war. And you only do that when your adversaries know that you not only can go in, but you will go in if your national security is at risk.
HH: Now there are two fronts in the war with radical Islam. There’s a Sunni radical Islamist front, and there’s a radical Shiia extremist front, which is headquartered in Tehran, but which has branch offices in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, even South America. What did you tell the cadets about that?
SW: Even Latin America, yeah.
HH: Yeah, what did you tell the cadets about this two-front war?
SW: Well, for us, it’s really, it is. It’s exactly it. Most people in the media and many other Americans don’t understand that it’s two-fold, that certainly we know ISIS, which is a form of Sunni Islam, we see al Qaeda and other elements like that, but that it is equally, equally as concerning that the Shiite form that we see in the Islamic Republic of Iran needs to be dealt with. It’s why I would terminate the bad deal with Iran on day one. Obviously, beyond that, I would reinstate the sanctions. I’d go to Congress to put in place even more crippling ones. And I’d work with our allies to reinstate sanctions that they had as well, and then encourage more on top of that, which I know will be a difficult task, but hey, when has America shied away from a difficult task out there? But we have to do this. And there’s just this false choice out there that you either have to take the bad deal that Obama’s put on the table, or we’re going to go to war. That is not the case. I clearly spelled that out. And I pointed out this connection not just with Hillary Clinton and the President, but also even with some of the fellow Republicans. There have been some who questioned terminating this deal on day one. My belief is if you know it is a bad deal, if you believe it is a bad deal, if you say it is a bad deal, then you should be prepared to terminate it on day one. It shouldn’t take a cabinet or a committee or a panel to be able to tell you to do that. You should be ready to do it. I am ready to be president of the United States on day one.
HH: Now former Secretary of State Clinton is widely credited with pushing for the war in Libya. And today, a boat went down off of Libya, 150 people were drowned. Yesterday, a truck was found in Austria with dozens and dozens of dead people in it. But actually, the crisis that is flooding Europe with refugees out of the Libyan ports was begun when we toppled Qaddafi. What do you say about that? And how much does she own that, as opposed to President Obama?
SW: Well, that’s clearly one of the things I have spelled out, that was something she called for. It’s wrong on so many levels. I mean, she pushed for the war in Libya. What is the most outrageous to me is she pushed for the war in Libya, then she actually stood by the caskets of Christopher Stephens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glenn Doherty. She actually stood by their caskets, looked in the eyes of their parents and family, and pointed to a YouTube video that she knew, she knew was not the cause of their deaths in Benghazi. This is what is so fundamentally wrong. This is why increasingly, polls are showing we can’t trust her. It’s not just these emails. It’s episodes like this. And this is one where if in the future, if we’re trying to tell leaders out there that we want them to get rid of their nuclear capacity, and then things like this happen, it’s just wrong on so many levels. And this, this is something that falls right at the foot of Hillary Clinton.
HH: Now the front of the war with radical Islam that is Shiia goes back to 1979 and Jimmy Carter. It’s a long war. This new ISIS caliphate is new and it’s dangerous, and it’s growing. And I think it’s actually growing exponentially, and that this White House and Hillary Clinton, they don’t get it, Scott Walker. And so Governor, how do you actually fight not just the caliphate, but the appeal that this has to the rising legions of fanatics out there?
SW: Yeah, and the sad reality is it’s one of those where one feeds off the other. I think there’s this false mentality from both Obama and Clinton that somehow Iran can defeat ISIS for us. And instead, it’s just the opposite. This faulty mindset that you can contain, that you can contain ISIS while appeasing Iran only leads to them both growing. I mean, the anarchy of that is just amazing. Instead, we need to eradicate ISIS and push back on Iran. The two go hand in hand. It’s why not just terminate the deal, but piling on these additional sanctions, pushing our allies around the world to do the same, at the same time lifting the political restrictions in Iraq on our military personnel that already are there so they can go off and assist the Kurds, the Sunnis, our Iraqi allies that are there, to actually reclaim that territory, and make sure that we can do that in a way that doesn’t allow ISIS to seek safe haven in places like Syria out there. These are all interconnected, and it’s one where we need, we certainly need to be prepared to know that this isn’t a short term answer. This is a generational issue. It’s going to take us some time. We certainly can start by lifting those restrictions. It may require more military personnel in the future, but we won’t, we can’t know that until we lift the political restriction and allow our personnel already there to do what they’re trained to do. I’ll give you a good example. We’ve got, as you know, Hugh, we’ve got military personnel there as air controllers that could bring down with absolute precision, through laser-guided technology, air strikes. And I remember talking to the generals earlier this year. They said the air strikes, sadly in Iraq, are kind of like a drizzle. We need a thunderstorm. We have the capacity to bring in thunderstorms of air strikes, but we’re not allowed to under the political restrictions, not the military, but the political restrictions of this administration. We need to lift those so that our men, the military personnel that we have there can actually do, unleash that power and allow them to do what Americans do best.
HH: Now Governor Walker, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton overrode the recommendations of America’s military when they withdrew every American troop from Iraq in December of 2011, and that they clearly own that.
HH: You talked to these cadets today. Their best war fighters, Petraeus, Mattis, McChrystal, Odierno, they’ve all retired. A couple of questions, one, will you listen to generals? Number two, will you consider recalling our best war fighters if they’re willing to come back?
SW: Yes and yes. I mean, I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the last year or two in particular talking to some of these great leaders you just mentioned time and time again. They are insightful. They don’t just care about the military, they care about their country. They care about our future. Many of them, General Mattis talked to me just even about things like the problem of the debt and the deficit, and what that means for not getting that under control, that in the not too distant future, the amount of interest paid on the debt will surpass what we pay, what we spend on all of the military. So these are leaders who understand the great challenges not just in the military, but of our time here in this country. Absolutely, we need to listen to them, and absolutely, if they’re willing to serve, we’d be willing to bring people back into the service of this great country, because now more than ever, this is a generational issue, and we need to make sure we have the best and the brightest in position to make sure that we can take out groups like ISIS and other forms of radical Islamic terrorism over there, instead of waiting until they come here.
HH: All right, last question, Governor, terrific speech today, by the way, and well-timed, but I want to turn back to politics and Hillary Clinton. In the first debate, and I’ll be asking questions at the second debate, and hopefully future debates beyond that, you were the only one to bring up Mrs. Clinton’s server. And it’s becoming increasingly an issue, and she tried a Clintonian tactic this week saying I’m sure this process, it’s an FBI investigation, and a House investigation, will prove that I sent or never received classified information that was marked classified. It was so Clintonian, marked classified. Is she, do you think she broke the law here? Do you think she compromised our national security?
SW: Yes. From everything I can tell, and again, this is from information particularly of late that we’ve got from the intelligence communities’ own inspector general’s office. So this isn’t the RNC or some campaign saying it. This has risen to a level, believe me, I think you and I and your listeners all know that if this wasn’t as serious as it was, under this administration, they’d be looking for ways to bat this down. But it is so serious, and either way, to me, it’s either illegal or incompetent. Either it is clearly a violation of the law, which I think the information provided thus far increasingly suggests that’s true, where providing top secret and classified information over an unsecured server certainly violates a whole bunch of laws and standards out there, which by the way, it’s not just a violation potentially of the law, it is something that put your security and my security and the security of all the people listening and their families on the line. So this isn’t just a technical issue. This is something that has put our national security at risk. As you noted, one of the best, I didn’t know it at the time, but one of the best lines, I guess, in that debate, was me saying sadly, the Russian and Chinese government probably know more about Hillary Clinton’s emails server than do the members of the United States Congress.
HH: Yeah, it would be funny if it wasn’t tragic.
SW: But having said that, yeah, either she’s, I wish it wasn’t funny, but it’s true. Either it’s illegal, or if as they’re now trying to move towards, she didn’t know, even though remember, back at that early press conference, indignantly she told one of the reporters, of course she knew what top secret information was, basically implying what kind of an idiot do you think I am, was her implied tone. Well, either she didn’t know what top secret information was, even though she was the Secretary of State, or she knew and still allowed it to be transferred on this unsecured server. It’s either illegal or incompetent. In either case, she’s not qualified to serve as president of the United States.
HH: Governor Scott Walker, thanks for spending so much time with me today on a busy day, and congratulations on a great speech at the Citadel. I’ll talk again with you soon, if not before at the Reagan Library.
SW: We’ll see you at the Library. Thanks, Hugh.
HH: Thank you, Governor.
End of interview.