Second, Charles Krauthammer, whose 2014 book Things That Matter sold more than a million copies, was my guest Wednesday to open the show. Here is the audio and transcript of that wide ranging chat perfect to launch a hunder T-Day dinner conversations.
HH: I’m beginning the show with your favorite guest, America, Fox News contributor and author of Things That Matter, Dr. Charles Krauthammer. He is of course the only guy I know who sold a collection of previously-published essays more than a million times. But I have a bone to pick with you, Dr. Krauthammer, because of that book.
CK: Well, pick the bone and do it now.
HH: Well, it’s Mark Steyn and Mark Leibovich have both released anthologies, which were entertaining and wildly informative, and I’ve read them. But I’m afraid you’ve unleashed an avalanche of anthologies, because every publisher now thinks that their anthology is going to do as well as Things That Matter, which is still selling at Amazon in the incredible numbers as Christmas approaches.
CK: Yes, well, tell them not to bother, because I will outsell them with my sequel, which will be called Things That Don’t Really Matter, and then the trilogy will end with Things That Don’t Matter At All. And that’s just going to destroy them all.
HH: Okay, you’re doing to just, you’re going to humiliate them and break their will to publish.
HH: I like that. Let me ask your about extraordinary things that don’t matter at all. Giancarlo Stanton got a $325 million, 13 year contract from the Miami Marlins.
HH: You’re a baseball man. What do you think about that?
CK: I think it’s nuts. I mean, you know, basketball’s a five man game. I can see doing that for a five man game. Baseball’s 25 players. And you know, you can have one great, Ernie Banks is probably one of the best infielders of his time. He never played in the World Series his entire career. He was a first round hall of famer. You can’t turn it down. You know, if you build around him, but you know, the Marlins don’t draw anybody, nobody goes to the park. So I think it’s a big mistake. But if other people want to blow their money on trinkets, who am I to say? This is, it’s a free country, and it’s Thanksgiving. So all the more power to them.
HH: All right, now I turn to serious topics. Was justice done in Ferguson?
CK: Yes, as we define justice. We have a system for deciding what’s just. Everybody has their opinion as to whether the case came out right. You and I have an opinion on whether the O.J. verdict came out right. But we’ve all agreed this is 230 years ago, that what we do is unlike the kind of monarchies and tyrannies that we were trying to get away from in Europe at the time, you cannot have the state arbitrarily put you on trial. We would go through something called a grand jury so that your peers could decide if there was adequate reason, so you couldn’t arbitrarily be detained and harassed for reasons that were indefensible. And that’s why we have grand juries. Remember something, this grand jury was chosen before the incident even occurred. This was not selected for this case. So it was as random and as sort of unbiased a sample as you can get, and they came to the conclusion that there wasn’t sufficient evidence. I think it’s an eminently defensible conclusion. I wasn’t in there, nor you for the 60 hours of testimony. But from what I’ve read, I think it’s a perfectly reasonable conclusion.
HH: Now as a, on the spectrum of journalism, from journalistic malpractice to journalistic excellence, how, in your opinion, has been the general coverage of the decision of the grand jury in Ferguson not to indict the officer?
CK: Well, I can’t say that I’ve watched the worst of the worst, because I’ve mostly watched Fox. I thought it was, I thought it was fairly well covered. I really put the fault with the authorities, and I would start with the very beginning, right after the incident, the authorities went totally silent. So the only stories coming out were these wildly contradictory, and from what we can tell, not only self-contradictory, but contradicting the forensic evidence, contradictory stories which made it sound as if this was an execution, which is actually a phrase used by a CNN legal expert at the beginning of the case to describe what he concluded from the evidence of two people who turned out to be pretty unreliable. So I start back there, because the authorities simply were mum on their side of the case, you know, possibly for legal reasons, but you know, the other side had the run of the day for days and weeks constructing a narrative which his fairly implausible. As for the actual event, the release of the information, I think that was official malpractice.
CK: I mean, the way the governor and the authorities sort of, they established a sound set for a riot, and they invited every bad apple within a hundred miles to come and to show up, and it was as if they had a starter’s gun that went off at 9:00 with the announcement, and said okay, now riot. We’ve got all the media here, we’ve got everybody here. The governor even said we have relief stations, places you want to hide. I mean, is this how the authorities respond? It was just ridiculous. It was a set-up, an invitation to a riot, and that’s what they got. And if they’re going to do all that preparation, at least you’d deploy the National Guard. But it took them a day to realize that the National Guard is to be deployed and not just displayed.
HH: No, it was definitely the Ray Nagin-Kathleen Blanco school of disaster preparation.
CK: It was unbelievable.
HH: Dr. Ben Carson was my guest yesterday, and I asked him about the President’s contribution, and how specifically President Obama had contributed to race relations in the United States. Here’s what Dr. Carson said.
BC: Well, you know, I actually believe that things were better before this president was elected. And I think that things have gotten worse because of his unusual emphasis on race.
HH: Can you explain more? What do you mean by that? How did they get worse, and how did he contribute to it?
BC: Well, for instance, in the incident with Henry Louis Gates, Skip Gates, and him calling out the police, and you know, how they always do this kind of thing, and the Trayvon Martin case, you know, if I had a son, this is what he would look like, rather than trying to take the balanced, objective look at things, and then, you know, what’s happened here. And then the way, which really irritates me to some degree, the way he and a bunch of progressives manipulate, particularly minority communities, to make them feel that they are victims.
HH: Charles Krauthammer, what do you make of Dr. Carson’s critique of the President and his progressive allies?
CK: Well, the first thing I would say is about race relations. I think the trajectory of race relations has been uniformly upward for about 50 years. And I don’t think that the Obama years will be seen as an interruption of that trend. I’m not sure that Obama’s going to have a serious effect on that other than to, I think there’ s a very important inspiration, demonstration to people of all races, all ethnicities, all that kind of economic background, that you can be president, which I think is a statement. This is apart from Obama’s own actions. It’s just the fact that we’ve had the first African-American in the White House. I think it’s a seminal event in U.S. history, and it’s a good one. Now as to the President’s reaction himself on this, I was not terribly pleased with his statement the night of the rioting. And there was a real demonstration of his impotence to see a split screen where he talks and he’s obviously totally ignored. But the content of that was a little bit disturbing. He said on the one hand we’ve got the rule of law, and that’s where a president ought to stop, because he’s the, essentially, you know, the chief magistrate of the land. And that’s what he needs to emphasize. But then he went on to say you know, he expressed his sympathy. I can understand that for the demonstrators. And he said I can understand their frustration. I think he added and their anger, and I understand that. He sort of emphasized that. Essentially, he was telegraphing that his heart was with the demonstrators, which you know, I’m not sure in that case, that was justified. But however, last night, he spoke fairly extemporaneously. He was giving a speech in Chicago on immigration, and he began with what looked like off the cuff remarks sort of talking about Ferguson. And I thought he rose to that occasion. I mean, this is sort of the Obama that we’d expected back in 2004. He said I’ve no sympathy for those breaking the law. They need to be prosecuted. He was very firm about that. You know, he did express, and then he said we should, for those who are upset, those who think that there’s something wrong here, you should channel it in a constructive way, dialogue, change the law, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to say to people who are obviously visibly upset without judging whether they ought to be and whether the facts justify it.
HH: And I will note for the…
CK: But I think that was pretty, I thought that was encouraging.
HH: I will note Dr. Carson had not heard President Obama’s second…
CK: Right. I think it came out at half past six last night.
HH: Yeah, and so he had not heard it.
HH: Now I want to switch to the other matters of the week, and in particular, Iraq. And I want to begin by playing for you a little excerpt. President George W. Bush was my guest on Monday, as his book, delightful book, 41, about his dad, and I asked him a couple of questions about his own presidency. Here’s one about Iraq, Charles Krauthammer:
HH: Are you disappointed with how Maliki turned out?
GWB: Well, he’s got a lot of, he had a lot of pressure, and again, when I left office, I was pretty convinced that, how Maliki was growing into a leader that could help Iraq transition from Saddam to a democracy. As a matter of fact, the country looked like it was heading that way during ’09 and ’10. I don’t know all the facts there as to why he made some of the decisions he made. I do think, though, that when history looks back at a transition from a very difficult period of time to what looked like a stable democracy at the time, Maliki will get some credit for it.
HH: Now Charles Krauthammer, what’s interesting is that in the middle of all these crises, we have failed to note that there was a peaceful transition among democratically elected leaders in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Those are significant achievements that I don’t know if anyone’s pausing on this Thanksgiving even to think about.
CK: Well, the reason that we don’t is because they were summarily wiped away, particularly in Iraq, by the precipitous and disastrous decision of Barack Obama to leave no U.S. presence behind. And as a result of that, we know what happened. President Bush is absolutely right. If you look at the events, nobody even remembers now, at the end of the surge, it wasn’t just that we were able to rally the Sunnis to expel and use, decimate al Qaeda in Anbar, the Sons of Iraq are ones who joined us, but people don’t remember at the same time, Maliki unleashed the Iraqi Army on the Shiite extremists in Basra, took them on, finally, defeated them, and then marched them all the way up, all the way back to Baghdad, defeating Shiite extremists in Najaf, Karbala, and other places, and ending up in Sadr City. In other words, Maliki took on his own extremists while we, with the Sunnis in Anbar, took on the Sunni extremists. And that’s why we had a great success with the surge. What happened was when America left at the end of 2011, there was no counterweight. There was no U.S. presence. All there was, was Iran with its presence, its militias, its bribe, its threats, its money, its influence. And gradually, Maliki shifted into their orbit, which is understandable, because there was no counterweight by the presence of the U.S. That was the decisive event that shifted Maliki from a guy who took on the Shiite extremists in 2008-2009, and then who became an instrument of Shiite extremism two, three years later.
HH: He still left, and I’m not giving up on the country, yet, because the President apparently is changing his mind. And that leads me to the big news of the week, the firing of Chuck Hagel. Now I asked W., and he was diplomatic again, didn’t say. He had two secretaries of Defense. His dad had one – Cheney. This president’s going to be on number four. And if we’re lucky, it’ll be someone like Ambassador Crocker, or they’ll bring back Petraeus or Mattis or John Allen. Who do you think we’re going to get, Charles Krauthammer? And do you have any hopes that they can talk sense to this president?
CK: Well, you know, I hope, and I don’t know whether it will happen, but that Obama will appoint somebody of independent stature and some modicum, just a sliver of strategic thinking, because there is not any evidence of that anywhere among his advisors. I mean, when you think of the United States of America, imagine our allies threatened, particularly the ones in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere, the Ukrainians, Georgians, looking to the U.S., and thinking that the decisions on which their futures is going to depend is being made by Barack Obama and Susan Rice. I mean, we’re not even asking for a Henry Kissinger. But when Obama came in, in his first term, being a rookie, he appropriately appointed men and women of independent stature. You got a Bob Gates. You had a Hillary Clinton. In Treasury, you had a Larry Summers, a Paul Volcker. And then he gets to the second term, and he sort of released himself from the fetters of having anybody of equal status, and surrounds himself with people who are either his cronies, or who have no sort of independent history or power center. And he basically centralizes all decision making with himself. And it has not been a very happy story.
HH: It’s been a horrible story.
CK: From Syria to Iraq to everywhere else.
HH: It’s been a horrible story. Also this week, a Benghazi report came out from the Congressional committee, the House Committee on Intelligence. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read it. Molly Hemmingway has taken it apart with a scalpel. But is Hillary in the clear now that the House Intelligence Committee has issued a report?
CK: With Trey Gowdy on the case, nobody’s in the clear. Trey Gowdy is a Congressmen who’s head of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. He’s a serious guy. He’s going after that in a serious way. He’s a former prosecutor. We’re not going to have grandstanding. We’re not going to have overpromising. We’re not going to have strategic leaks. We’re going to have a presentation of evidence, and I think we’ll get a very fair presentation in the coming years. So I’m not concerned either way. It may hurt, may help Hillary. I don’t know. I care about the truth, and I think we’re going to get it.
HH: Let me conclude by talking a little bit about Hillary on this Thanksgiving eve. She immediately signed on and endorsed the President’s, in my opinion, lawless immigration executive order speech earlier this week. What did you make of her decision to endorse that action, and of her positioning for the 2016 election?
CK: Well, I think, Hugh, the key word there is positioning. I think she made a choice. I think she believes, I would guess, as most people do, and particularly if you’re a liberal Democrat, that the policy was a good one. I don’t agree, but I can see how many people do, but that the process was abominable. But thinking of her electoral prospects for next year and the year after, particularly among Democrats, and for the general election, that it would be more advantageous to her to grab onto the policy and to get the support from many liberals, and from, of course, many Hispanics, rather than to dwell on the process, because I don’t think she would calculate that the process is necessarily going to be determinative, and it may not, since she isn’t the one who made the decree, it might not hurt her. So she’s on the right side of the issue, wrong side of the process, and I think that if that’s her calculation on balance, I think she made the right, in other words, the more accurate calculation of what would help her.
HH: With Benghazi back there and her immigration position, do you think former Senator Webb is in a position to give her any real problems?
CK: You know, I think that Democrats are in such a swoon over Hillary, it’s sort of all, it’s not at the level, the emotional level of the 2008 swoon for Obama, but they are committed. I mean, they’ve already, they are betrothed. You know, this marriage has already been set. I don’t think anybody’s going to give her serious trouble. I think Webb might actually just be an interesting counterweight to her, but I don’t see it as a serious challenge to her getting the nomination.
HH: Then what do you guess she’s going to run on? Or are we in fact really just electing Bill for the fun of it for a third term? Or does she actually have a platform that we can expect to see?
CK: Well, you know, I think she’s running on nostalgia for the 90s. I don’t think there’s a platform at work here at all. And it’s not as if she’s the only one. You know, George W. Bush sort of ran under the aura of people who thought you know, maybe we should have reelected his dad. People, Kennedys all run on the Kennedy name. With her, it’s not so much on her husband, but on the feeling the 90s was a time of peace and prosperity. It was that decade, that holiday from history, between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Soviet Union, and of course, 9/11. It’s a time that people remember as a good time, and it was, in fact. So that’s what, you know, that’s the subtext of her entire campaign.
HH: All right, two last questions, then. Has she been around too long? I don’t mean in age, but she’s been around D.C. for a quarter century.
HH: She’s been in reruns a long time. Is it too long for the American people?
CK: Well, except for the fact that she’s Clinton, and that she’s the wife of the president who people remember as being a really good decade. So I think that works somewhat against her. But it’s not as if she’s a hack politician like a Harry Reid who’s been around forever, and people say do we really want him in high office? You know, it’s a person associated with a certain time. I’m reading the biography of Napoleon by Andrew Roberts, and I’m thinking of, you know, his nephew, Napoleon III, who came around 50 years later. I don’t know what Louie Napoleon’s platform was, and I’m sure he was running on the Napoleon name, and a bit of gauzy nostalgia for his time.
HH: All right, now my last question I’m going to pose as a baseball question. Hillary’s going to be their starting pitcher. And we’ve got a pretty long list of people on the bench – Jeb, Rob Portman, Christie, Jindal, Scott Walker, Kasich, Perry, Rubio, Cruz, Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Peter King, Carly Fiorina, of course, Mitt Romney could come out of retirement, kind of as a player-coach. Which three do you think have the best chance? And which one has the best chance of beating her?
CK: Let me just say as a preface that I’m just imagining the first debate, that by the time they get through their introductory statements, the debate will be over. They’ll be shaking each other’s hand.
CK: It’s a preposterously huge field, actually, a fairly strong field. I’d say infinitely stronger than 2012. I think Christie will be strong. I think Jeb, if he decides, will be strong. Rand will be, because he’s got a built-in constituency and represents sort of an interesting aspect of conservatism. Those would be, I think Marco Rubio is fresh, and I think he sort of recovered from the opprobrium he suffered for the immigration debate, sort of repositioned there, and he’s very dynamic. And then you know, look, you’ve got, this is so hard to predict when you’ve got 16 horses in the race. You’ve got Scott Walker, you’ve got others. You know, I see those as probably leaving somebody out here, but it is a long list.
HH: Dare we hope for a brokered convention as journalists?
CK: I mean, the Lord is kind, but He’s not that kind.
HH: On that note…
CK: He gave us Obama. You can’t expect everything from Him.
HH: (laughing) Charles Krauthammer, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Everyone, go out and do your Christmas shopping on Friday by beginning at Amazon with Things That Matter. Everyone that you give it to, even Mark Steyn and Mark Leibovich and all the other anthology writers will thank you for doing so. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Charles, and don’t…
CK: Thanks a lot. You, too.
HH: Thank you.
End of interview.