I enjoy –as does the audience– talking to smart political journalists, and The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe joined me for the first time today:
HH: I’m joined now by Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post, first time for Ed O’Keefe, @EdatPost on Twitter, Ed, welcome, it’s great to have you on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
EO’K: It’s an honor to be with you, Hugh. I appreciate the invite.
HH: Now I always ask a few questions of the first-timers when they come on.
EO’K: I’ve heard, yeah.
HH: Have you read The Looming Tower?
EO’K: I have not. It’s on my list. It’s an increasingly growing list. I read too much professional stuff. I don’t have enough time to sit and enjoy things like that.
HH: I’m telling you, you should put that at the top of the list. Number two, was Alger Hiss a Soviet spy?
EO’K: You know, all evidence suggests to me that he was.
HH: All right, very good. Very, very good. Now let me ask you, where did you go to college?
EO’K: American University in D.C.
HH: Okay, so you have no football programs at all that I can…
EO’K: Absolutely. No team.
HH: You have no sports teams…do they have a basketball team at AU?
EO’K: We do. Actually, we were in the Patriot League championship and lost, but we were in a few years ago, and had a first round player I think what was it, at least twice in the last four years.
HH: You know, if you know the number of players that you’ve had drafted, it’s not a good sign. Ed, let me ask you as well, I used to live near your campus when I lived there, a beautiful school, a wonderful place.
HH: But are you a journalism major? They don’t have a journalism major at AU.
EO’K: They do. They have a very large school of communications, thank you very much.
HH: Okay, communications.
HH: Okay, and did you go right from AU to the Post?
EO’K: I did. I was actually a public of school affairs graduate, though, so I was the poli sci track, and long story short, ended up at the website of the Post, and then sort of, I back doored my way into what I’m doing now. I was a walk on player.
HH: Oh, very good. Very good. So no scholarship, just came on and played. That’s Rudy-like to get to the bigs with the Post.
EO’K: Exactly. That’s exactly how I describe it. I’m the Rudy of the Washington Post.
HH: (laughing) I think Costa might challenge you on that, because he’s a Notre Damer himself.
EO’K: Well, and he actually has, yeah, that’s true. He’s a Notre Dame grad. Good point.
HH: The gold, you’ve got to be careful about those people, those Golden Domers. All right, you’re following around Jeb Bush. Is that your assignment for this campaign?
EO’K: Yes, it is. It is as of this point, and you know, I’ve seen him just about everywhere he’s at a public event. I certainly don’t get invited into the fundraisers.
HH: I’ve done a couple of pretty lengthy interviews with the former Florida governor.
EO’K: Yes, you have, to your credit. I think so far, you’ve probably interrogated him the most.
HH: Well, today I got two different answers from Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum on whether they would attend a same sex wedding. Have you had a chance to find out whether or not Jeb Bush would go?
EO’K: No, but given that we’re all in New Hampshire together, and by we, I really do mean the media we, and he has two events, one tonight and one tomorrow, I have a feeling he’s going to get asked.
HH: Yeah, this question is making the rounds right now, and so people can, Rick Santorum, no, Ted Cruz, I’m not sure at the end of his answer. But everyone’s going to get asked. The other one is the pot laws of Colorado and Washington State. I don’t think I asked Jeb Bush about that. But Chris Christie would crack down on pot, so would Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz not so much. Where’s Governor Bush on this?
EO’K: He was asked when we were in Atlanta a few weeks ago, he was asked by a local TV reporter in a scrum about medical marijuana. And he said that he felt that was a state by state issue, and that he would be generally okay with that. As for full-blown legalization, I don’t recall that he said, actually, no, I think he said he was opposed to that, but medical marijuana in certain instances would be okay with him, but don’t quote me on that.
HH: Yeah, but the question, to me the question is whether they will use the federal prosecutors to shut it down.
HH: …because as I pointed out to Cruz and Santorum, right now, a lot of Republicans are blasting President Obama for not enforcing the immigration laws, right?
HH: Well, what about not enforcing the drug laws, and I don’t think you can pick and choose. Either you’re a rule of law guy or you’re not. That was Rick Santorum’s answer, and Christie’s answer, and I kind of agree with that.
EO’K: Yeah, and I think you know, as I recall, Bush basically said he at least himself was opposed. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see this come up as a potential issue, especially given that Colorado actually could be a pretty competitive primary this year, and certainly remains a key battleground state. But I tell you, you know, considering how much this issue comes up, if you’re looking for a new kind of, you know, a 21st Century wedge issue, I suppose marijuana legalization would be it.
HH: Oh, it is. It’s a seam. It’s definitely a seam in the Republican Party because Bill Bennett’s new book, Going To Pot, he’s got a co-author with, I can’t remember the co-author’s name right now, the science is on the side of the federal law, not of the state law. The science is you do not want young people with brain plasticity issues, and that means up to age 25, you do not want them using today’s dope. You just do not.
HH: And so the science, you know, the left is always banging on the Republicans and conservatives for ignoring the science. The science is very anti-legalization. And I think Colorado is, I think Hickenlooper has said to his great regret that they’re legal, he can’t get it out of the constitution. So how is the reception Governor Bush is getting in the Granite State?
EO’K: Well, he hasn’t actually appeared just yet. I was here with him last month when he did a house party. He’s got what they’re calling a politics and pie event tonight just outside Concord. And tomorrow morning, he’s doing politics and eggs. I think eggs is okay on the paleo diet. I’m not sure about pie. But he is, they’re actually forums, if you will, that are quite good for Jeb Bush given that he prefers to sort of do the opening remarks and then take 45 minutes of questions. And I can count on maybe one hand the number of times he said I don’t know to a question he’s been asked and not had some kind of an answer. In fact, I think one of them was asked by you about Navy submarines or something, and another was on the Endangered Species Act in Denver. My observation on whenever you see him at these events, or when you talk to people after, is they go you know, impressive guy, clearly different than his brother. Is he my first choice? I don’t know. I want to reserve judgment and see everyone else. I’ve never had anyone I’ve talked to walking out of one of his events go oh, my gosh, he’s my guy, you know, maybe with one exception, has anyone ever had that reaction. Now that’s partly because it’s early, but I think it’s also that there’s a sense of all right, he’s good, he may be sufficiently Republican to me. But I’d like to think that there might be other Republicans out there who could do this who don’t come from that family. And you know, how he overcomes that is unclear at this point, but he clearly is prepared. He clearly has an answer for just about everything. I quote that interview you did with him most recently on world affairs in a large piece that’s up right now, because we marveled at it when we went through the transcript later that you know, this guy has clearly defined thoughts on just about everything right now. And for good or for ill, he’s out there talking about it.
HH: You know, I think it was off the record, but I’m going to violate the confidence. He has a clearly defined thought about the Ohio State-Miami game of 2003, because I have the headline in my studio, Buckeyes Raise ‘Canes. And he objected to what he called the worst call in the history of college football, so that may have been off the record. Here’s what I want to know of your impression of him. I was asked, and I’m talking with Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post, in Washington on Monday when I was there, by one of his supporters, one of his bundlers, one of his big fundraisers. The governor had fun. How’d you like him? And I said he was relentlessly, extraordinarily normal. Do you get that reaction?
EO’K: Yeah, I do. And I think I know what your bundler means, in that he doesn’t…
HH: No, that’s what I said. I said he’s extraordinarily normal for a presidential candidate with a brother who’s been president and a father who’s been president.
EO’K: And for the viewer who, sorry, not the viewer, not yet, at least, the listener who’s scratching their head, you know, they might think what do you mean. Well, what we mean is he answers our questions, and he gives actual answers. When introduced to somebody or when somebody comes up, he shakes their hand, he looks them in the eye, and he talks to them. I saw him do this in New Hampshire last time he was here, where he had a nearly six minute, and I timed it, a six minute conversation with this woman about community college. Now of course, this is a guy with an education reform background and interest, so he had an answer for that. But he just sat there talking to her. And so like it was natural, like it wasn’t being done on purpose, it was being done because he had a genuine interest in what she had to say, and he had an answer for her. And they kept going, and it wasn’t like he felt like he needed to walk away and shake everyone else’s hand. He did it. And yeah, I mean, considering the background, and considering that you’re in the spotlight, he is pretty normal.
HH: He is indeed. Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post, great to have you on, I look forward to having you back.
End of interview.