The Washington Post’s James Hohmann joined me on today’s show to discuss Campaign 2016 including Governor Scott Walker’s demand of President Obama yesterday that the invitation to the PRC’s Xi Jinping for a state visit be withdrawn:
HH: Another volatile day on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, but no one has been excited by this less than James Hohmann whose been in Sweden. He’s been vacationing in Sweden so that the Dow closes down three-hundred and six points. He doesn’t really care. James Hohmann, welcome back to America.
JH: Good to be back. The food is affordable and beef is ample.
HH: I am sad that the national museum wasn’t open for you. I sent Hohmann an email that told him to go see the Rembrandts. How long is it closed for?
JH: Until 2017, the Europeans move for.
HH: They closed their national museum for three years?
JH: (laughs) Isn’t that crazy?
HH: Well, that’s. . . Europe. I hope you had a great vacation–
JH: It’s a reminder – Denmark and Sweden were being, in many ways, great world powers and in the 1500s, when they were at the peak of their power, they obtained all these amazing antiquities from Greece, from, and taking tombs from Egypt. And so they have a lot of museums besides the national museum where they just have this incredible art they got five centuries, but they’ve kind of slipped into irrevelence as world powers.
HH: Now let’s talk a little about that. You know, people talk about Bernie Sanders being a socialist in this race, but nobody really talks about what it means. He fully embraces the Swedish and Danish experiments doesn’t he?
JH: He describes himself as a European Democratic Socialist.
HH: And that means three years to get a museum fixed.
JH: Right. Well, Hugh it was funny because you talk to Europeans on the street there. I went and visited Parliament in both Sweden and Denmark. Everyone talks about how high their taxes are and (laughs) then in the next press they talk about all the services that they get and that they don’t have to pay for anything. Those are connected (laughs).
HH: Yeah, it is. So let’s go into the politics that you returned to. You went away for a week and a lot changed, including market volatility.
HH: Who is this helping if anyone out there right now? We know who the Hilary servers story is helping – Joe Biden – but what about the market volatility?
JH: It’s good for outsiders, Hugh – and no question – it’s good for people who are part of the problem. People who weren’t involved in votes or decisions. They’ve got us to this situation where China is devaluing its currency where the Federal Reserve has had years of cheap money and now needs to figure out a way to scale it back and so anyone who’s involved in all of that is part of the mess. So, I think that there’s a limit to have the upside for someone like Donald Trump from this, but people who aren’t of Washington – people who are running against the established order in both parties I think are the very obvious beneficiaries.
HH: Now yesterday Scott Walker put out a statement saying that President Obama should cancel the visit – the state visit – the highest honor we can extend to foreign leader President Xi Jinping. What do you think of that?
JH: It’s interesting, Hugh. I was surprised because – and I’ve written several pieces on this – I read the transcript of your interview with Tom Cotton yesterday which was super-interesting. Scott Walker spent the last several months with the help of people like Mike Gallagher who worked on the Foreign Relations Committee. Jim Talent – the former Missouri Senator. And he’s trying to convince the foreign policy class – you know, kind of center-right in D.C. – that he’s serious. They don’t need to worry about him. So I was really surprised because a lot of those kind of conservative GOP elites in D.C. who aren’t hard-liners said, “Well this is something that’s not serious.” Nixon opened China. Reagan negotiated with the Soviets. The fact that you would just cancel this – the Chinese are obviously an adversary, of course. They are hacking into our computers. We’re hacking into their’s. They’re in the South China Sea, but regardless of all of that, there are areas of common interest. These are two superpowers that should be engaging with each other even if it’s confrontational. So a lot of the kind of center-right crowd in D.C. sort of views this as a sign that maybe Scott Walker isn’t quite ready for prime-time on foreign policy.
HH: A war that the Team Bush is too tied to China – that’s what I was fascinated by their reaction of the D.C elites that said of coure you have invite President Xi. It’s like inviting Putin. Not perhaps being in touch with their base vis-a-vis the PRC here. Does–
JH: No question. There’s no question here that this a – Scott Walker’s comments yesterday played incredibly well with ninety-five percent of Republican primary voters and it’s smart politics – unquestionably – it is elite opinion. I’m not sure how much that counts these days, but elite opinion still matters to some degree to kind of the donor class in the solid corridor.
HH: Now I’m curious because I’ve been teaching all day at Colorado Christian University, so I haven’t been able to follow the responses. Did any of the Republicans reject or join onto the Walker call on Obama to cancel the China–
JH: Yeah, what’s interesting is that someone like Jeb Bush is being really cautious. Jeb’s not out there kind of mocking Walker. They recognize that politically it’s hard to sort of seem close to the Chinese. Of course, George H.W. Bush was America’s emissary to Beijing before we had an ambassador and I’m sure if you had Bush on truth serum or off-the-record, he’d mock Scott Walker (laughs). But they aren’t doing that publically.
HH: Has anyone agreed with him other than Tom Cotton?
JH: Donald Trump. Trump was on Fox and said he would cancel the visit and give the Chinese premier a Big Mac.
HH: Oh how interesting. So Trump and Walker on one side and everybody else quiet.
HH: That’s not going to hold. That’s–
JH: Right. People are going to have to stake out a position on this and the thing is Susan Rice – the national security advisor – is going to China – I think the end of this week – and Obama’s not going to cancel the state visit. And so, this is going to be a story – a big national story – for several weeks. And when the Chinese premier is here, it’s going to force people like Jeb Bush and John Kasich to weigh in.
HH: Now all over CNN, all afternoon of this show have been three faces – Jo Biden, Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump. So let’s walk through them in that order. Where’s the “Hohmann meter” on whether Biden gets in?
JH: He’s leaning towards doing it. I think he believes he’s the most obvious successor to Hilary. My “Daily 202” is kind of a reality check which is there’s this undercurrent that’s sort of been bizarre to me. And because I was on vacation all of last week, I was sort of keeping track from a distance. Then I came up and was enmeshing myself in all the coverage and the stories and everything. And there’s this piece of the coverage that says, “Joe Biden has nothing to lose by taking on Hilary Clinton.” I don’t think that that’s right. I think he has a lot to lose. I think he can be completely humiliated. I think if your eyes open about it – it’s very unlikely that he can win and so I think he’s savvy enough to see that and it’s a question of how vulnerable is Hilary Clinton.
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HH: James Hohmann is my guest from the Washington Post – WashingtonPost.Com. James, we went to break, you gave us your take on Biden. How badly wounded is Hilary Clinton by the growing storm over her server as it dawns on people she was reckless with the national security?
JH: It’s damaging – unquestionably – and it is giving doubts to some people who never really liked Hilary in the first place and would love a Hilary alternative. I think it’s an open-question of how lasting it’s going to be. And again – in the context of the Democratic primary – is this something that’s sowing enough doubts that people would get behind a credible Hilary alternative. If there was one – I think there are people that would – I don’t know how many people that would be.
HH: Now that brings us with just two minutes left. This is really not an “F” for Donald Trump. I’m glad I talked to Robert Costa – your colleague at the beginning about that. But you came back to Trump-a-palooza, right?
JH: Well, I’m getting on the plane tomorrow morning to go to South Carolina. I’m going to follow Trump and then I’m going to follow him to Nashville where’s he’s speaking to state legislators this weekend. It will be interesting to see what kind of reception he’s getting. He’s doing a big event in Greenville which is kind of the most religious, evangelical part of South Carolina. So I’m very eager to see kind of the buzz on the ground.
HH: And home to 94.5 – my massive one hundred-thousand watt blowtorch in South Carolina – so I’m glad to see Greenville. He’s been on this show a lot, so they’ll turn out to watch the Donald. He’s always very good on the radio. But what about Chris Cillizza over at the Washington Post? Your colleage wrote that he’s not very good on Twitter. I may have to disagree with Chris on this. I think he knows that no matter what he tweets or when he tweets it, that it gets retweeted a billion times.
JH: Yeah (laughs). Anything he tweets gets attention. It’s always buzzy. Somedays I wish the other candidates would be as candid about what they really think on Twitter.
HH: It does make covering the campaign kind of easy for someone at their desk if they just put their twitter feed on the tweet deck.
JH: It’s true (laughs). It’s actually kind of amusing if you just put a story together with four Donald Trump tweets (laughs). A million people would look at it and it speaks to the interest that remains out there. People want to hear what he has to say which is something the others are going to have reckon with – especially like we were talking about – on China.
HH: What did the people in Sweden think about Donald Trump.
JH: It’s funny, people think he’s going to be the nominee. When you watch the international coverage, the tenor of it is that Donald Trump really is the frontrunner and is the man to stop which is obviously not what the D.C. elites believe. I don’t think any D.C. elite that you talk to believe that Donald Trump will ultimately be the Republican nominee and so there is a disconnect there.
HH: And who does that elite opinion rally around? I’m in Colorado. I have no idea. Who do they think is going to be it?
JH: People think the nominee will be Jeb, Walker, or Rubio.
HH: James Hohmann of the Washington Post, thank you joining me.