HH: I’m honored to have join United States Senator Cotton and me the new Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the Honorable Paul Ryan. Speaker Ryan, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show from the Kirby Center.
PR: Good to be back, thanks for having me. Good to be back. Welcome to the Kirby Center.
HH: You have been here on my show many, many times, but this is the most I’ve had the Speaker on in five years, so I’m very excited. And I’m going to make this a joint conversation about national defense, but first, I heard your comments on ABC. I was on ABC yesterday – a new House, a new approach. In terms of people driving around America, what does that actually mean? You talked in terms of process and regular order, but what’s it really mean to the guy driving a truck tonight who’s just coming home from work?
PR: Well, a couple of things. Number one, it means we run Congress the way it was supposed to be run, the way the founders intended it to be run, number one. Number two, the guy driving the truck, his member of Congress needs to have access to a process so that he can speak for that guy driving a truck, so that his elected representative actually has a say so and a voice in the process. Number three, to the guy driving a truck, he’s driving down this country seeing the country falling apart. He is seeing the country on the wrong track. And if you don’t like the direction the country is going, which we don’t, then we owe it to the country to show them how we would do things differently, put out a very specific, bold agenda how we would do things differently, and let the guy driving the truck decide in 2016 what he wants. We have not given the people of this nation a sufficient choice about how we should take the country going into the future. We’ve been an opposition party, but we have to become a proposition party. So that’s why I laid out the four things that we need to do. And making Congress work better and starting over, but also being an effective opposition party and being an effective proposition party. I think those are very, very important, and that’s the kind of, the discussions that I had with my colleagues about going on offense, going out there and laying out a case for the country as to why we ought to have it all in 2016 – the presidency and Congress.
HH: I was, I will talk next hour with Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke about their brand new book, Jack Kemp: The Bleeding Heart Conservative Who Changed America. They say in this book, and it was obviously in print before you were elected Speaker or even considering it and dragged into the office, that you are his protégé, that he was your mentor. Do you consider yourself a bleeding heart conservative?
PR: Yeah, I was, Jack Kemp was my mentor, and I do believe in upward mobility and economic growth and opportunity. I am an opportunity for all conservative. Jack Kemp was the traditional conservative that believed in a strong national defense. He believed in free enterprise, not crony capitalism, free enterprise. And he believed in upward mobility. I would go to the most difficult communities in America, plagued with poverty, and listen to him evangelize about freedom and free enterprise and upward mobility and opportunity. And that’s what was so fantastic about Jack, is he was, he so deeply believed in the principles that built this country, and the natural rights principles, and he wanted to communicate to people who had not had a chance to experience them why they were better for them. He took the moral high ground for the conservative movement, and along with Ronald Reagan, helped build a conservative movement that was able to capture a majority of people in this country so that we can save this country. We need a 1980 type election in 2016, and that is what we’re trying to have.
HH: Now I’m excited, because at 59, Senator Cotton always makes fun of my age, and I’m happy to have him do that, but he’s 37. You’re 43. Jack Butler’s sitting behind you at 22.
HH: 45, okay, I thought 43. I am very excited, it seems to me, and I’ll ask you this, Senator Cotton, that the Republicans own the generational change. Is that your experience in Arkansas and in the Senate?
TC: Yeah, it’s my experience in Arkansas, the Senate and the House for that matter. If you just look at the people who sit in the Senate and the House, most of the 30-somethings and even the 40-somethings tend to be Republicans. It’s certainly the case when I served two years with Paul in the House, and in the Senate as well. And that’s, for one reason, because people who are in their 20s or 30s are some of the worst, or get some of the worst lot of the Obama economy, and they don’t have an opportunity to get out of school, whether it’s high school or a trade school or college and get a job, and move out of their parents’ home and start a family. They’re having to defer their lives, because we don’t have enough growth, we don’t have enough opportunity for Americans who are trying to start off in life. Everyone’s struggling, but in some ways, young people are struggling the worst, and I think they’re turning to people of their generation to try to find the solutions that our generation is going to face for the next 40 or 50 years.
HH: Let me ask you both this. Speaker Ryan, I’ll start with you. At the former Secretary of State Clinton-Bernie Sanders debate, Senator Sanders, they’re giving away college.
HH: I don’t know how they’re doing it. I paid for my kids’ college, and I was glad to do it. I make a good living, and I had to pay for it. And I’m sure you guys had student loans that you had to pay off. Can we do that? I mean, did anyone not stand up and cry foul and said it’s a trillion and a half dollars?
PR: If you think it’s expensive, wait until it’s free. I mean, that’s a P.J. O’Rourke line, but look, that’s what the left does, is the left will continue to make, it’s, there’s government without limit. There’s never enough. A great book by a guy on your side of the country, it’s never enough, and that’s what the progressive movement really effectively advocates, which is for more and more entitlements, more and more government basically micromanaging these decisions for us.
HH: So what’s the Republican response?
PR: And often more unfunded liabilities and entitlements. Individual freedom, growth, opportunity, and let’s take the college thing for example.
HH: That’s I mean.
PR: We nationalized the student loan industry. We, the government nationalize the student loan industry as part of Obamacare. So why don’t we denationalize the student loan industry? Why don’t we go at the root cause of academic tuition and inflation, and I look at health care and education, particularly higher education, in a similar way, which is these are parts of our economy where the prices rise a lot faster than everything else. And what is the one thing they have in common? Lots of government interference, lots of government micromanagement. So I do believe that this is yet another case and point where free market principles, transparency on price, on quality, and incentive to act on those things, can bring market pressure to bear to lower prices and give us better quality. But because of government, we have these kinds of problems. So what was the left’s answer? More government, no private sector, and here’s the results.
HH: Did you both, go ahead, Tom.
TC: I was going to say, and after nationalizing the student loan industry, and eliminating private sector competition for students’ business when they’re trying to finance their college education, we also make it non-dischargeable in bankruptcy for students to get rid of their student loans.
PR: That’s right.
TC: So the federal government eliminates its competition, drives up the prices, and won’t let you discharge your loan in bankruptcy. That sounds to me like something Tony Soprano would propose.
PR: And don’t forget the trillion dollars that the taxpayers are now on the hook for with contingent liabilities.
HH: Are we?
HH: I did not know that. So when you watched Hillary-Sanders, and that’s, forget the other people, because you know, I know Martin O’Malley’s still around, but it’s former Secretary of State Clinton and Senator Sanders. What did you hear, Speaker Ryan? What’s their pitch?
PR: Well, I’ve got to confess, I did not watch that debate, so I’m sorry. I just want to be perfectly honest here. I did not watch the debate. But I have heard them and I have watched them. You’re going to have effectively a third Obama term. I think you’re going to have identity politics. I think you’re going to have a divisive kind of politics that tries to divide the electorate into certain slices so that they can get 50+1 by making lots of promises to lots of people that we have no means of financing.
TC: I mean, just think, Hugh, about where the two parties stand. You know, the media likes to talk a lot about disarray in the Republican Party. Let’s just take two examples of recent claims. You talk about disarray in the House of Representatives, because there was some leadership turmoil and elections for a month. What happened? We ended up with Paul Ryan, our party’s thought leader when it comes to fiscal and budget issues. Look at our presidential election. We’ve got a lot of people running for president. What happens? We have record high ratings for debates on TV. Where are the Democrats, though? They have two candidates running for president that are credible. One is a self-avowed socialist. He openly espouses the economic theory of communism, a political system that caused the deaths of tens of millions of people in the 20th Century, and the other one, Hillary Clinton, is trying to move as quickly as she can to the Bernie Sanders socialism position. I’d say I’d much rather be a Republican going into 2016 than a Democrat.
HH: I’ll be right back, one more segment with new Speaker Paul Ryan from the House of Representatives and the great state of Wisconsin, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton. Don’t go anywhere, America, you’re listening to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
— – — –
HH: I have Speaker Paul Ryan in studio with me at the Kirby Center in Washington, D.C., so I have six minutes in which to get out of him commitments to the Ohio Class replacement submarine, a long range bomber, 12 carriers and enough F-35s to protect the free world. So that’s done, right?
PR: Yeah, we’re good to go. So what else you got?
HH: No, I’m saying, so really talk to us a little bit about Defense in your order of party. You’ve got a great HASC.
PR: I do.
HH: You’ve got a great leader, and if it goes back to regular order, they’re going to ask for stuff, and the money is tight.
HH: So what’s, how’s the approach for Paul Ryan?
PR: So as you know, I’m a defense hawk. I very much believe we need a bigger Navy, big time. The South East China Sea’s, I mean, we can go on and on through the threat assessment. Mac Thornberry is a fantastic chairman. He is the person who should, who needed to be in this job. Devin Nunes is doing a good job over at Intelligence. Like this budget deal or not, it did give us relief on defense. And what matters more for defense than one or two billion is predictability and certainty over a two year cycle. So they’ve got some predictability to get us through the Obama days. But we’re going to need to rebuild this budget after Obama. And we’re going to have to rebuild this budget, which is take the entitlements off of the collision course they’re on, with the rest of the budget. Look, in, you know, I can’t remember the number off the top of my head, but in the mid-2030s, 100% of all revenues go to entitlements…
PR: …if we don’t do something about that. So…
HH: And that’s if inflation on interest rates does not eat up…
PR: That’s right, if we don’t have an interest rate pop, which I’ve run lots of simulations on that, which can just take away our situation, everything.
PR: So the next Congress with a good president has to tackle this fiscal problem. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to take this job, is because I’m very serious about this. Ever since I’ve been the chairman of the Budget Committee, I’ve been trying to warn people that if we don’t get on top of this problem soon, it’s going to tackle us. That’s not just making sure that people can have these benefits for them when they retire. That’s so that we can have a national defense. And so by rebuilding the budget, that is fixing these huge ticking time bomb fiscal problems that will ruin our prosperity, imperil the next generation and mortally wound our national security, the problem is we’re draining our defense capabilities, and other countries, they’re appetites are getting whetted to catch up with us. They think that if they lean into it, they can catch America. We should never give any country the temptation that they can come close to reaching us and catching us…
HH: To become a near peer again.
PR: Exactly, and that’s the problem we have right now. But that means not just having some two year budget agreement like we have now, but that means redesigning the budget and going at it with a longer term plan. And that’s why again, under the regular order that I’m talking about, a guy like Mac Thornberry, who is a very thoughtful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, should be leading that kind of conversation with a good secretary of Defense and a Republican president.
HH: A great sub, I mean, you’ve got Randy Forbes and Rob Wittman.
HH: He’s got a lot of talent.
PR: These guys know what they’re doing.
HH: Here’s my last question to you, Mr. Speaker. You’ve heard the critiques of the Hindenburg debate last week, and they were a pretty bad set of questions, and an unfortunate couple of hours. But when you see Republicans talking, what do you want them talking about? And how would you tweak the process? I’m not asking you to endorse anyone, but how would you tweak the process to allow people, you’ve been through one of these big debates with Joe Biden.
PR: Yeah, yeah.
HH: What serves the public interest, or in this case, the GOP primary voter?
PR: Talking about issues and not talking about these little spats. I mean, I think what the moderators were trying to do was what was in their interest, not in the Republican primary voter’s interest. And so talking about what are their solutions and how are we going to offer the country a better way forward, a better choice. Look, I see the whole shooting match coming up in 2016. Again, one of the reasons why I chose to do this, and one of the reasons, one of the conditions, more or less, I talked to my colleagues about, which is we’ve got to go on offense, big and bold, specific agenda and vision in 2016, and let the country choose, because the kind of an election we have to have is a mandate election, because if we run on what we intend to do and we win that election, then we have the moral authority and the mandate, and the ability for people to hold us accountable for actually putting it into place, because if we keep kicking the can down the road, keep running on vague platitudes, the moment will come and the moment will go, and we will not save the country. So what I’d like to hear at the debates, if I were just a, you know, a Republican primary voter, which I will, and Janna and I are going to go to the Wisconsin debate in about a week, I want to hear how they’re going to do that, how are they going to present the country with a very clear choice so that we don’t have another third Obama term, which is effectively what the Democrats will give us, and how we’re going to turn the corner, what policies will look like, what does an Obamacare replacement look like, what’s the tax reform look like, what does a strong military look like, what will they do if they get elected so that the people see it ahead of time, and then we can do it. Obama ran on vague platitudes. He was tonally a moderate, and then he went hard left. That’s not, he didn’t run on that.
HH: 30 seconds, your colleague, Mitt Romney, put out a ship count, for example, He said here’s what I want by class.
PR: 313, if I’m not mistaken.
HH: Do you want that level of detail from these candidates?
PR: I would. That’s what we did in, that’s what I did with Mitt Romney in 2012. I think we need to say what a strong military looks like, what a new tax code looks like, what replacing Obamacare looks like.
HH: Speaker Paul Ryan, I hope it’s the first of many visits. Thanks for coming to the Kirby Center and helping kick it off.
PR: You bet, Hugh.
HH: A pleasure to see you, congratulations.
PR: Hillsdale is great.
HH: And good to have a Red Hawk in the third Constitutional office in the United States.
End of interview.