Senator Jim Inhofe joined me this morning, to talk Venezuela and defense spending:
HH: So pleased to welcome back the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma. Senator, welcome, good morning to you.
JI: Well, good morning to you. You’re out in California?
HH: I am indeed. It’s a little bit warmer than it is there, and certainly in Minnesota.
HH: I’ve been talking to my Minnesocold friends this morning. It’s freezing up there.
JI: What happened to global warming when we need it?
HH: Well, they do need it. They need it right now in Wisconsin. Let me ask you first the big question. Do you support the use of military force in Venezuela whether by our allies, Brazil or Colombia, or in concert with us, to remove Maduro?
HH: And do you expect it to be imminent?
JI: No, nothing’s imminent around here. I just think that this is that thing. You’ve got to keep in mind. You’ve got Russia in there. You’ve got China in there. You have, right now, we’re facing the greatest threat, in my opinion, that we’ve faced arguably in history with what’s happening with them. And so if you have them in a position where they’re going to be able to do things on our continent, running their airplanes in and all that, I mean, that’s a direct threat to the United States of America. And I think that force is always something you don’t want to use unless you have to, but I think this maybe the case you have to.
HH: I think you meant our hemisphere, not our continent. But in terms of using force, that’s what we did with Panama under George H.W. Bush. Many lives were lost on both sides, and this one would be a more difficult operation, would it not be?
JI: Oh, I think it could be, but we don’t know, yet, if that would be necessary. But I’m saying that on this hemisphere, as you point out, that could be necessary. If it is, that’s a little too close for comfort, in my opinion.
HH: Now the last time we were on, we talked about sea power. And I want to go back there, but start very specifically. The White House has not yet re-nominated Cully Stimson to be the general counsel at the Navy Department. Do you think it should? And if so, would he get a quick hearing from Armed Services?
JI: Yeah, I think he would. I think he would. We need to get that done. We need to get everything having to do with military, one of the things, Hugh, that is not believable so that for that reason, people don’t talk about it. But what happened, and I don’t say this critically of Obama. Obama was a very, you know, sincere liberal, and he didn’t have a high priority on Defense. But if you just look at what happened to us, and we got in the position where our own, you know, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has talked about the fact that we’re losing our qualitative and quantitative edge, and I can remember on your program talking about how much more artillery and better artillery both China and Russia have, and they have caught up with us in our nuclear modernization. So all these things, hypersonics, not many people out there even know what that is. But they now are ahead of us, and this is a weapon system that can be deployed in, what, one five times the speed of sound, or more than five times the speed of sound. So we are in a situation where it’s a very scary situation. We know how we got in here, and we have to come out by spending more Can I throw out one statistic?
JI: And I have to do this, because I have this commitment to myself to do it, to try to wake up America. If you look at the last five years of the Obama administration, and use constant dollars, I always use Fiscal Year ’18, in Fiscal Year ’10, the amount that was spent for the budget for defending America was $794 billion dollars. Using constant dollars, that’s why it’s that figure, in 2015, five years later, it was $586 billion dollars. Now you stop and think about that. This is a drop of, what, 20-25% in a five year period. It’s just unheard of, and at the same time, our adversaries, and we’re talking about our peer adversaries, yeah, I’m concerned about all the others out there, North Korea and the rest of them. But it’s China and Russia who are doing things better than we’re doing them. And we’ve got to get back into the game. So we’re doing it right now. In Fiscal Year ’18, you have to give our president credit for this, we got back up to $700 billion, and I think $716 in 2019. Now, we’re concerned about 2020. And we think we should be around $750 billion. So we need to get back in the game.
HH: China is putting a ship in the water every month.
HH: As I’ve been reading Victor Davis Hanson’s new book, The Second World Wars, the production capacity of America is great. But we are not using it. And now, some of the guys over at the Navy, and gals over at the Navy, want to start counting submersibles, unmanned vessels, as ships. They’re not ships. I mean, we need hulls in the water with sailors on them, or under the water, probably, with sailors on them. Are we going to get to this 355 ship Navy?
JI: Well, we’ve already had some, our first hearing since, well, of this year, the new Congress, we had a hearing on that. So that gave a priority. We right now, we, I’m going to answer the question yes. But the problem is we’ve got to catch up in so many other areas, too. Right now, we’ve got to start doing something with nuclear modernization. You know, we’ve sat around and not done anything on that for a long period of time. And I suspect that we weren’t even aware what China and Russia are doing. We’re talking about in the air and submarines, ICBMs, that’s where we really fell down. And so to answer your question, yeah. And everything can’t be the number one priority. And I don’t think that, we’re doing the best that we can. Our priority, I think, was demonstrated pretty clearly by the fact that we had our first public hearing on that subject. And by the way, let me, before I forget about this, at 10:00 today, we’re having a hearing just on the subjects that you and I are talking about right now. It’s going to be in the Dirksen Building. Where’s that going to be over there? Ground level, isn’t it? Yeah, of the Dirksen Building, we’re going to have real good witnesses in there talking about the competition between us with China and Russia. This is the wake up call that we’ve got to have so people will be aware of it. And when it comes time for a budget to be put together and finalized, we have to have the American people aware of why we’re going to have to spend so much for military, because they’re the ones that can put the pressure on the people here in Washington. That’s my peace.
HH: I haven’t seen your witness list. The guy who is doing the most good in this department is Jerry Hendrix, the Navy captain who wrote The Navy We Need for the National Review, and How The Air Force Lost Its Way. And I hope he’s testifying, because he’s the guy who’s out there ringing the bell that we do not have the assets. We just don’t have the assets. And I think the first priority has to be submarines, and the second priority a long-range bomber, because those are the backbone of our nuclear deterrent, which is what they fear.
JI: Exactly. And you’re going to hear people say that we can do, you more, more with less, make, I think, tough decisions. We’ve heard that term. But that’s not right, because if you take one of the legs away, or two of the legs away and say we don’t need that redundancy there, then if something happens, you don’t have that to back up. And by the way, on the witness list, Elbridge Colby is going to be on there. He is one who is comparable to your suggestion, and he’s one who actually put together the…
HH: Very good witness.
JI: …systems…I mean, he’s a good one. He’ll be there this morning, 10:00. You’re invited.
HH: All right, next time, I hope you’ll bring Jerry Hendrix. I’ll come hear Jerry. I’m in California today. I’ll come hear Jerry.
JI: You know, I know Jerry Hendrix. I will do that. I’ll make that commitment now.
HH: Good, good. Let me turn to another issue, which is changing the rules of the Senate. You’ve been there a while. You’re a veteran. There were reports out of the GOP caucus last week that there were deep divisions, and Tom Cotton dismissed those earlier today. But there will be deep divisions in the base if you guys don’t change the rules on nominees to two hours of debate pre and post cloture. This is crazy. Do you believe that’s going to happen?
JI: We’re going to change the rules?
JI: Well, I think we can change the rules. And by the way, get James, my junior senator from Oklahoma, on there with you, and he’ll talk about this issue, because he’s the guy that is really putting the time in on trying to get something done. And it’s true that we are the deliberate body and all that, but you’ve got to get these things done. And there’s no reason in the world why we should spend 30 hours on, in a confirmation process, then the guy ends up unanimously being accepted. All that is, is a stall game. The Democrats are doing it. They’re going to keep doing it unless we can get together and make the public aware that there is a problem, and then address it.
HH: I have had Senator Lankford on, and I patiently waited for him to get the Democrats to agree, and he hasn’t. And I just think you have to pull the Reid Rule out and go nuclear on them, and jam it down when the first nominee comes along and they say 30 hours of debate. I would just move to change the rules. Would you support that, Senator?
JI: I would.
HH: Do you think most of the Republicans would, or maybe unanimity, as…
JI: Yeah, I think so. You know, I don’t want to get into a lot of detail on what happened in our conference there, because you’re not supposed to do that. But I don’t think that the division is deep enough that we’re not willing to do what’s necessary. If there’s not an easy way to do it, we need to do it the tough way. And it worked.
HH: All right, so let me return to the news today about Venezuela. John Bolton walked into the White House briefing yesterday with a yellow pad that said 5,000 troops to Colombia. What did that mean, Senator?
JI: Well, you’d have to ask John Bolton. And I think that, now first of all, you’re mentioning, you’re using the name of the guy that I respect more than anyone I can think of in this field, and I did. In fact, sometime, I’d like to on your program tell you what we did when he was the ambassador to the United Nations. We were able to stop a lot of things that were not in America’s best interests by something that some senators and John Bolton did. So yeah, he is an outstanding guy, and I can tell you right now if he’s, if he walked in with a document and seen by the press, that was no accident.
HH: That’s what I think. And so I think they’re trying to tell Maduro his time is up, and he’d better get going and get the bags packed, or there are going to be paratroopers dropping in. Do you agree with my assessment?
JI: Yeah. Yeah, I do. I think it should happen, and that’s why I go right back to how we started this interview. We have, there’s a threat that affects us here. People sometimes complain well, we don’t have any interest in different parts of the world we’re involved in. A lot of times, it’s a more subtle interest to our national defense. In this case, it’s not so subtle. We know what this guy’s capable of doing, and what he’s done, and the hundreds of people now that he’s murdered. So yeah, we may have to use that threat.
HH: And last question, Senator Inhofe. HASC, I mean, SASC will be charged, along with HASC, in deciding whether or not we’re actually going to have a space force. Do you support a new branch of the military as the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, the space force?
JI: You know, I started out on the other side of this thing for what I thought was a very good reason. We’re doing a good job in space. We are doing, and some of the people that are working there have done a good job. And I think one of the main reasons, and no one has said this before, but I think it has some merit, that everyone else is looking at us, and they’re looking at other countries. And the fact that they have their own comparable, something that you’d call a space force, and if we don’t, and we’re trying to do it with our existing assets, and maybe doing just as good a job, it’s still not going to, it doesn’t give the impression that we are. And so I think it’s, it’s all right with me if they want to do it, but I started out on the other side of this thing.
HH: That’s news. That’s a big deal.
JI: I hate to start, I hate to start another bureaucracy, because I know what happens.
HH: But you know that we, so wait. Did I misunderstand? You’re against it, or you’re for it?
JI: No, I said I started out against it, and I think now the best argument is that we’re giving the impression that we’re not as involved in a space force as our competitors are, and so I think we probably should go ahead and do it.
HH: That is news. Senator Inhofe, chairman of SASC, thank you. Come back early and often. We’ll watch that hearing today at 10:00. We need to be ready, and he’s got the witnesses. Thank you, Senator.