Spoke with John Dickerson, host of CBS’ Face The Nation, this AM about the looming “Big Deal,” #GoBigGoFarGoFast and The Fourth Way:
HH: Joining me now, John Dickerson of CBS, the host of Face the Nation. John, Donald Trump brought more attention to the March for Life with that little exchange than I think any president addressing them by microphone, or the Vice President showing up today, could ever have done. It was actually a masterstroke. What did you think?
JD: Yeah, I mean, it’s so hard, given this week, of the things he brought attention to. But he seems to be putting attention on everything. But absolutely, and that’s a huge, that’s a huge thing for the march, and also the fact that Mike Pence and Kellyanne Conway will be speaking to the march. This is, I think you could argue that’s the biggest, I mean, a president that appears by remote is not as good as having a vice president. I don’t know, maybe, anyway, it’s a big deal.
HH: I agree. I think it’s a huge deal. And I want to thank you as well for having me on Face the Nation this weekend. I’m going to be talking with you about The Fourth Way briefly. But I, my new book, I put it in every Congressman and Senator’s bedroom at their retreat so that they would read it, so that they would have some agenda. And then Kim Strassel writes, John, I’m not overstating this, I think maybe the most significant column I’ve read in years in the Wall Street Journal. Have you had a chance to read the GOP Regulatory Game Changer column, yet?
JD: I haven’t, and I’m a fan of Kim’s. But no, I haven’t read it, yet.
HH: It’s about the Congressional Review Act, about which I knew a little, and have talked to Kevin McCarthy about. But it’s actually much broader in its implications. And if Trump can get an agenda laid out, either The Fourth Way or the game changer that Kim writes about, or another agenda, and just execute, I think he will get a lot done. Do you think that kind of discipline execution is in him?
JD: Well, that’s a great question. You know, Newt Gingrich said that the most important issue for Donald Trump is focus. And then he was talking about all White Houses, not just President Trump. But obviously, that’s a, for somebody who’s got a lot of interest and wants, you know, managing the way Donald Trump is, it’s, focus is a big deal. I think, but I think the other challenge is, you know, on everything from infrastructure to the Affordable Care Act, to even Defense spending, the question is what are the lines? We kind of know what Donald Trump wants to do. The question is what are the lines in terms of Congressional Republicans? How serious are they about deficit reduction? If Donald Trump says no tinkering with Medicare, does that really mean that the premium support plan that Paul Ryan thinks is central to reforming the Affordable Care Act, or I should say replacing the Affordable Care Act, or central to getting entitlement costs down, is that it? I mean, so the, how they work out those issues on a number of fronts, sure, infrastructure, but is it paid for? Is it straight, is it public/private, all public/private? Or is it outlays? All of those questions, it seems to me, in addition to the question of focus, are really interesting and live ones as they work out a common agenda.
HH: I agree with that. This is why my hashtag is #GoBigGoFarGoFast. I think the Congress ought to give President Trump his infrastructure. They ought to give him his wall, his barrier, his fence. They ought to give him his 350 ship Navy. And then they ought to ask for what they want, which is entitlement reform. And they all want regulatory reform. It’s a big agenda. It’s complicated. And I compared this week, first of all, I compared it to going to a concert that I liked with a few bad songs in it. But towards the end of the week, I compared it to going to a concert where three bands are playing at once.
HH: And it’s just kind of very cacophonous. And Steve Bannon calling up the New York Times yesterday and saying you are the opposition is brilliant, in my view.
JD: Oh, yeah.
HH: It minimizes, it diminishes Democrats, and is creates this amazing dynamic of the Column A, Column B, Column C conflict. What did you make of the Bannon conversation with the New York Times?
JD: Well, he, you know, it’s, we saw this, you know, we’ve seen this before, right? Remember the David Halberstam’s description, the difference between Buchanaism and Haldemanism, Haldeman was basically ignore the press. Buchanan was start an actual, you know, start a fight with the press.
JD: A fight with the press is great. Donald Trump has used it successfully. Newt Gingrich used it successfully. George Bush in his fight with Dan Rather used it successfully. This is a useful thing to have a foil. And so you know, no better way to keep the fight going than call the New York Times and punch them in the snout.
HH: It really is (laughing).
JD: So that’s certainly, that’s very, you know, that’s all, that’s very smart. I think back to your point about the trading with Congress, I think that’s exactly what’s happening, and specifically on infrastructure. The idea is, and this is the way I understand that Paul Ryan has put it to the President, which is hey, if you want to plus up the military, you want to do immigration, sorry, you want to do infrastructure, great. The only way you can really pay for that is if you take, if you do entitlement reform on Medicare, is if you do Medicaid block grants back to the states and do on. So he’s using the desires of the President to enact his budget cutting measures, and then we’ll see how that all works out. But I think that’s right.
HH: That’s The Fourth Way. That’s The Fourth Way. John, who is the key guest on Sunday?
JD: Well, John McCain, everything from waterboarding to immigration, to you know, there are these reports this morning the Russians, Russia sanctions are being lifted. So…
HH: Oh, I haven’t seen those.
JD: Yeah, I must admit, Hugh, I’ve only seen them kind of come across in alerts on my phone, so I don’t know the full, so I don’t want to get out too far ahead of myself. But regardless of whether those reports are true or not, the question of new sanctions on Russia, which McCain very much supports in retaliation for meddling in the election, that’s still a live question. So, and then we’re still doing some other booking. But we’re really happy to have you on, on Sunday.
HH: Glad to be back. Thank you, and I look forward to seeing Senator McCain. He’s in the middle of the cyclone right now, very much so.
HH: John Dickerson of CBS’ Face the Nation, see you on Sunday.
End of interview.