The National Journal’s Ron Fornier joined me today to talk about his “I Don’t Believe Hillary Clinton” piece today, and the press gaggle that was shouting at the former Secretary of State today:
HH: Ron Fournier is the senior political columnist for the National Journal, and he wrote a piece today, I Don’t Believe Hillary Clinton, which ricocheted around the internet as fast as I was traveling around Phoenix back to California. Ron, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, it’s great to have you.
RF: Thanks for having me on. How are you doing?
HH: I’m great. I am a little bit stunned by the first time I’ve heard a press conference sound sort of like the old Nixon press conferences today. Let me play for you just a little audio of Hillary at the end here, cut number 5:
Reporter: Secretary Clinton, we learned today that the State Department might not release your emails until January of 2016. A federal judge says they should be released sooner. Will you demand that they are released sooner, and to follow up on the questions about the speeches, was there conflict of interest in your giving paid speeches into the run up of your announcement that you’re running for president?
HRC: The answer to the second is no. And the answer to the first is I have said repeatedly I want those emails out. Nobody has a bigger interest in getting them released than I do. I respect the State Department. They have their process that they do for everybody, not just for me. But anything that they might do to expedite that process, I heartily support. You know, I want the American people to learn as much as we can about the work that I did with our diplomats and our development experts, because I think it will show how hard we worked, and what we did for our country during the time that I was Secretary of State, where I worked extremely hard on behalf of our values and our interests and our security. And the emails are part of that. So I have said publicly, I am repeating it here in front of all of you today, I want them out as soon as they can get out.
Reporter: But will you demand it? Will you demand it?
HRC: Well, they’re not mine. They belong to the State Department. So the State Department has to go through its process. But as much as they can expedite that process, that’s what I’m asking them to do. Please move as quickly as they possibly can to get them out. Thank you, all. Thank you. Thank you all very much.
HH: Ron Fournier, do you hear that do you regret ‘do you regret erasing the emails?’ Have you heard anything like this in a long time?
RF: Yeah, I mean, this is the old playbook, the old Clinton playbook. This is the old, like you say, the Nixon playbook. It’s, you know, the Bush playbook. It’s from a different era. It’s from the 20th Century when you only had to schmooze or bully or outlast a handful of reporters, and the page would be turned. And what they don’t realize is that we have this funny, little thing called the internet, and now we have 300 million reporters, not just a couple dozen. And you know, you can’t just talk your way out of a problem nowadays. You have to do something. So when she says something as laughable as they’re not my emails, they belong to the State Department, well, she sure treated them like they were her emails when she had a rogue server in her basement that went around the White House, violated the White House regulations on email. And when she says nobody wants the emails out more than me, well, then give them to us, ma’am. You have copies of them. It’s not like the State Department has the only copies.
HH: Do you think, do you think…
RF: You know, it’s laughable.
HH: Can she survive a sustained sit-down with a serious journalist? I mean, not just a sit-down with me as a center-right adversary, but could she sit down with anyone like Jake Tapper or Chuck Todd or you for a 30 minute answer on the record questions and survive that?
RF: Well, it depends on what you mean by survive. If it’s the old Washington definition, the one they’re living by, and the one, frankly, that most Republicans can’t seem to live by, yeah, she can survive, because their definition of surviving is winning. That’s all this is about, is winning. And all she’s got to do is just to not be quite as bad, not quite look as bad as whoever the Republicans nominate. And they’re gambling that they can do that, that given where the electorate is, and you know, if they can suppress turnout enough and get people so turned off by politics that only the two bases come out, they think they’ve got enough votes to win. Then she might be able to do that. But why be president under false circumstances? Why put us through a third presidency in a row that has polarizing, gridlocked and zero sum game, which seems to be their play. Let’s have the entire electorate disenchanted and turned off, we’ll get our base out, we’ll outget their base, and we’ll win by a few votes.
HH: Ron Fournier, this is what former Deputy Director of the CIA, Mike Morell, told me on Friday, his very impressive book, by the way, The Great War Of Our Time, very impressive, he’s a distinguished servant of 33 years in the intelligence community, and here’s an exchange I had with him.
HH: What did you make of the Secretary of State having a private server in her house?
MM: So I don’t think that was a very good judgment. I don’t know who gave her that advice, but it was not good advice, and you know, she’s paying a price for it now. Yeah, it was not good.
HH: As a professional matter, do you believe that at least one or perhaps many foreign intelligence services have everything that went to and from that server?
MM: So I think that foreign intelligence services, the good ones, the good ones, have everything on any unclassified network that the government uses, whether it’s a private server or a public one. They’re that good.
HH: So that’s a yes?
HH: Ron Fournier, what do you make of that?
RF: Yeah, I was glad that you got him to say that, because as a non-intelligence official who hasn’t served in the military or in the CIA, and barely got out of a commuter college, I wrote in February that the Chinese and likely other governments had to have these emails. And he just confirmed it.
RF: The problem was, she wasn’t worried about security. And she didn’t get advice from people like Mike Morell. She got, she was worried about politics, and she got advice from politicians, and her political hacks and her cronies.
HH: Is it fair to say, yeah, political hacks and her cronies, yes. Is it fair to say she acted with reckless disregard for the national security?
RF: She certainly acted with reckless disregard for basic security measures and for their value and transparency and accountability in government. Whether it’s national security, again, I don’t know what was in those emails and whether she actually compromised national security, although you’re fair enough in saying that if she was dealing with it all, anything that was national security, you had to assume she was, she was Secretary of State, that she was putting that at risk.
HH: Here is what she…
RF: Yeah, I think you can say that, sure.
HH: Yes, I mean, I don’t know how anyone can come to the conclusion after what Morell said, and it confirmed for me, I spent one year with sensitive compartmented information at the DOJ chasing spies, and a year at the White House with access to everything. But I just can’t even begin to fathom why people aren’t honing in on this. And here’s an answer she gave today, which is as they say in the parlance, gobsmacking, cut number four:
Reporter: Secretary Clinton, can you explain your relationship as Secretary of State with Sidney Blumenthal? There is a report out this morning that you’ve exchanged several emails. And should Americans expect that if elected president, you would have that same type of relationship with these old friends that you’ve had for so long?
HRC: (cackling) I have many, many old friends. And I always think that it’s important when you get into politics to have friends you had before you were in politics, and to understand what ‘s on their minds. And he’s been a friend of mine for a long time. He sent me unsolicited emails, which I passed on in some instances, and I see that that’s just part of the give and take. When you’re in the public eye, and when you’re in an official position, I think you do have to work to make sure you’re not caught in a bubble, and you only hear from a certain small group of people. And I’m going to keep talking to my old friends, whoever they are.
HH: He sent her emails about Georgia. He sent her emails about Iraq. He sent her emails about who knows what. Ron Fournier, I’ll come back from the break and ask you, it just, it’s preposterous. It’s preposterous. I’ll be right back.
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HH: Right before the break, I played her mea culpa, which isn’t a mea culpa, about Sidney Blumenthal. What was your reaction to that, Ron?
RF: Well again, you know, as you know, I’ve covered them for a long time, going back to Arkansas, got a lot of respect for them. I’m not a Clinton hater, but I’ve got a lot of experience in parsing the Clintons. And so let’s break this down. First of all, she talks about how she likes to keep in contact with friends outside the bubble before she got into politics. Well, you know, she’s been in public life since, what, 1978? She has very few friends that predate the bubble. And Sidney Blumenthal doesn’t even go back as far as her Arkansas friends. Second of all, he’s not a credible person. He’s certainly not a credible foreign policy expert. The information that he was passing on to her, that she was passing on to the experts, a lot of it was dismissed and mocked and holes poked into by these foreign policy regulars at the State Department. So it was reckless, it was going outside channels, and it shows me a lack of judgment, frankly. Anybody who is trusting Sidney Blumenthal for any advice, let alone for foreign policy advice, I really have to start wondering, you know, is this the kind of person who’s ready to be president of the United States? I’ve always thought she would be. I always thought she’d be a good president. But she’s shown some remarkably bad judgment here in the beginning of her campaign.
HH: Has anyone raised with you, yet, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, because it looks to me like Sid Vicious was getting paid by various interests in Libya and maybe Georgia, the sort of arrangements that if you’re then going to go and knock on the Secretary of State’s virtual door, you have to register. Has anyone raised that with you, Ron?
RF: No, but it’s something I have wondered about, not that specific statute, because I’m not as well-read in as you are, but it’s just common sense. Again, even a kid from the University of Detroit can tell you it’s not proper when one person is making money off of a foreign government is lobbying the Secretary of State.
HH: Or foreign interests.
RF: That’s just, foreign interests, I’m sorry.
RF: That’s just not right. It needs to be disclosed. And if it wasn’t disclosed, thank God it’s now being exposed.
HH: One more clip. This is Ed Henry as trying to get a question in today, and it’s everywhere as well, cut number one, Ed Henry of the Fox News Channel trying to interrupt Hillary to get a question from a journalist in.
HRC: Um-hmm, good point.
EH: Secretary Clinton, a question for you and…
HRC: Yeah, maybe when I finish talking to the people here. How’s that? I might. I have to ponder it, but I will put it on my list for due consideration.
HH: Ron, she’s tempting, she’s turning herself into sort of the Disney evil stepmother in front of our eyes, isn’t she?
RF: Oh, I don’t know about that, but she is making a mockery of the process. If you want to run for president, you have to take questions, and you have to be accountable, and you have to be transparent. And you have to be open and honest, and she has not been those things at all in the first couple of weeks of her presidential campaign. So that’s what I would knock her on. I’ll give Ed Henry credit. You know, he happened to be put in a hotel room way across the hallway from Secretary Clinton last night in Iowa, and so he rolled out a chair into the hallway. There’s a great picture on Twitter about this. He rolls a chair out in the hallway, knocks on the door of her aide, and says I’m waiting for my interview, was waiting for her to come out.
HH: (laughing) I didn’t know that.
RF: That’s chutzpah. Yeah.
HH: So bottom line, you’re going on Special Report tonight. Can she get away with this? Or are Democrats going to have to stand up Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden or the guy from Maryland whose name I can never, O’Malley?
RF: Martin O’Malley.
HH: Do they have to have an alternative at this point?
RF: Look, no candidate should be able to get away with the kind of stuff that she’s doing so far. But we have a long campaign. She can still come clean. And then, to be honest with you, even if she doesn’t come clean, we have this funny, little thing where you know, someone better than her is going to have to run, somebody who 51, 50% plus one thinks is better than her. The Republicans have their own problem in their field. The Democrats have a very weak bench. If there ever was a year where this country’s crying out for new leadership outside these two lousy parties, this would be it.
HH: Are you getting pushback for your piece today from loyalists within Hillaryworld?
RF: Yeah, but I’m getting just as much from loyalists in the Republican world who are upset that I say things like I respect the Clintons and surprised that she’s doing things that are beneath their record in public service. But I tend to get it from both sides.
HH: Look, she’s rustier than the Tin Man after a downpour that lasted for days. Does anyone have an oil can big enough to get her back onto the game?
RF: Look, I’ve bene one of these people who have been writing for years I’d like to see the real Hillary, we’ve got to see the real Hillary, because I do know her on a quasi-personal level. I’ve spent a lot of time around her, and she does have a lot of traits that are very admirable. But now, I’m starting to wonder maybe we’ve seen the real Hillary. Maybe there isn’t more there. The clock’s ticking. You know, she’s, the campaign has just begun, but she’s only got a few months here to show the public that she is transparent, that she does make mistakes, we all do, she’ll be accountable for them, and she’s going to understand simple things like you can’t violate White House policy on emails and foreign donations to your family foundation and get away with it and be a transformational leader. It’s just not good enough to win an election.
HH: Absolutely not, yeah. Ron Fournier of the National Journal, thank you, as always, a great pleasure.
End of interview.