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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

The President and Reality

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Pete Wehner has a must-read take on the president’s increasing distance from the reality of the fiscal crisis.

I will ask Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson about the president’s grip on the situation in the third hour of today’s program. The transcript will be posted here later today.

HH: Joined now by United States Senator Johnny Isakson from Georgia. Senator, welcome, it’s good to have you on.

JI: Great to be on the Hugh Hewitt Show.

HH: Well, it seems that the President threw down this morning at Congress, Senator. What did you make of that press conference, and what’s going to happen next?

JI: Well, I think the President still is delusional with regard to what ultimately has to happen, because whatever he wants, he has to understand if the U.S. House won’t pass it, he’s not going to get it. And I think John Boehner has done a great job of delivering the message that new taxes is not the starter for this negotiation, and until the President gets that, I think he’s going to have a difficult time making any progress. [# More #]

HH: I just played for you colleague, Jeff Sessions, the eat the peas comment, so I won’t play it for you. When the president of the United States tells the Congress to ear their peas, how does the Congress react?

JI: I think he needs to eat his spinach.

HH: (laughing) He needs to Popeye up?

JI: Yes.

HH: Now in terms of defense spending, Senator Isakson, is that, you know, your colleague, Kent Conrad, circulated a deal, allegedly, with $800 billion dollars in defense cuts in it, outrageous, in my view. What do you think?

JI: Well, I think everything has to be on the table. $800 billion dollars in one budget appropriations unit sounds out of reach. But everything does have to be on the table. And the military usually does the best job of any unit of the appropriations act by self-disciplining themselves. So they don’t mind being on the table, but they don’t want to be the sole one. This needs to be shared sacrifice.

HH: What’s the maximum you could see the Pentagon having…they’ve already given up $400 billion in cuts.

JI: I don’t want to put a number out there, because anything is really too much when you talk about the security and safety of the United States of America. But hopefully, we can have continued success and wind down in Afghanistan. Hopefully, if Libya and the other Middle Eastern countries can take care of themselves with only our technical assistance, then the demand on Pentagon dollars should go way down, because we’ll be less at war.

HH: Is there any particular weapons system that you have in mind, Senator, that’s expendable?

JI: No. In fact, I think we’ve already made some mistakes in the eyes of economy, or in the name of economy, in terms of cutting programs, the most likely being the F-22. I think cutting that program really was a mistake, and will ultimately cost us more money.

HH: Amen to that. Now going back to, then, where will the cuts come from? If we’ve got to get to $2 trillion over ten years, where do you see the fat in the budget to go after?

JI: There’s fat in every budget. We’ve got 12 appropriations units, everything from Labor-HHS, which probably is second largest after the defense budget. We’ve got a lot of other budgets where there’s a lot of fat. We know, for example, I’m working on the Workforce Investment Act. Tom Coburn’s doing a great job of looking for duplicity in government. There are 43 programs in government dealing with workforce investment and job training. 43 programs in 8 different agencies? That’s a lot of duplication, and that’s a lot of do over. People talk about getting rid of Freddie and Fannie? The best way to do it would be to merge them with FHA, VA and FHWA, and have one housing entity rather than five. And you do what you’re doing with five staffs with one. That’s the kind of real savings you can get.

HH: Now Senator, in terms of working through this, August 2nd is right around the corner. Do you expect that there will be a deal before then? And if not, what will you advise Secretary Geithner to do?

JI: Well, first of all, I want to reiterate what John Boehner said today and yesterday, and that is we need to extend the debt ceiling, and we need to get it done. But we don’t need to be bullied into doing it, and we need to recognize that what got us here is spending, not taxes, and that’s what we’ve got to address.

HH: But what’s that mean in terms of blinking? Because if the President just sits there, and the public is blaming the Republicans because of a failure to articulate a message, that’s a political catastrophe as well as a fiscal tsunami.

JI: Well, all I can remind you of is what happened the first week of December last year in a lame duck session, where the President, who now wants to raise taxes, extended the Bush tax cuts and had a payroll tax holiday.

HH: And so are you saying you expect he will blink?

JI: What I’m saying is until there’s a comprehensive solution on the table, which begins with cutting spending, there’s not going to be a deal.

HH: And so does he, has he yet put forward to your satisfaction, Senator Isakson, a list of cuts that the public can take a look at and pass judgment on?

JI: No, and that’s the most disappointing thing of all. You know, I don’t know who’s advising him, or if he listens to any advice he gets. But I remind people that Ronald Regan in 1983, when Social Security hit a crisis, extended eligibility out by a year and raised the ceiling upon which the payroll tax was levied on. He saved Social Security for a generation, and he got elected with 49 out of 50 states the next year. People have confidence in folks who are willing to address problems and tackle them head on and get them fixed. If Obama would do it, it would be a lot better off for his reelection than if he doesn’t. And I’m working for the Republicans. I want us to get reelected, and get us a Republican president as much as anybody. But I want to get this debt and deficit and spending problem solved, and I want it to get solved now.

HH: Do you have confidence that this President will put forward a realistic proposal before the end of next week, Senator Isakson?

JI: No, I don’t, because he’s missed the window already. I thought the window would have been right at the first of July, when he unveiled a template from which we could work. You know, all he’s done is demagogue. The one guy that did bring something forward, Paul Ryan, he ended up getting demagogued by his own president of the United States right from the White House.

HH: Do you think he wants a crisis, fifteen seconds, Senator Isakson?

JI: I really don’t know what he wants. I think he’s somewhat delusional, and unfortunately, he’s not experienced enough to carry the job that he has.

HH: Senator Johnny Isakson, I look forward to checking back with you from the great state of Georgia.

End of interview.



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