Fred Barnes –not a Cavaliers fan– is a fan of John Kasich but thinks the Ohio governor has got to “stop being a jerk,” that Chris Christie isn’t going to be the nominee and that Hillary is a “dreadful candidate.”
HH: Fred Barnes needs to be as happy as me about the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’m pretty sure that he is. I know deep in his heart, he’s known all year long it would end up here in Cleveland. And Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard, you are pulling for the Cavaliers tonight, aren’t you?
FB: I certainly am not.
HH: What is the problem with you? We are the world. We have a Russian center, an Australian point guard. We’ve got a Canadian power forward. We’ve got a Brazilian center. What do you want?
FB: Well, you mentioned the one person who was so important, and that was the Australian.
HH: Oh, I loved Delly.
FB: Well, and he played a great game.
HH: And we’ve got an Israeli coach.
FB: Look, he doesn’t need to score a point, but if he can harass Steph Curry as he did, that can make all the difference in the world. You know what a lot of people don’t understand about basketball is even the greatest player can be bothered when there’s a hand in his face or nearby, or there’s a body up close to him.
FB: Even though he can get a shot off, it’s not going to be as accurate. And most times…
HH: And now Curry, curry’s got Dellaphobia. It’s an illness that spreads throughout the NBA and the postseason, Dellaphobia. They see him in their dreams, and this little Australian gnat is in their hair, and their hands are waving around. So you’re with us, then?
FB: No, I’m with him.
FB: I love a player. You know, I think teams make a mistake in not having a great defensive player. Years ago, there was a guy who played for the Wizards named Dudley Bradley. He was from UNC, and he couldn’t make a foul shot or a layup, but he had long arms and could play great defense. And he could play against guards. He was about 6’6”, great player, could shut down other teams’ guards. And if Dellavedoba can do that again, look, if he can do that two or three times in a seven game series, the Cavs win.
HH: Well, if they win tonight, they win.
FB: Well, I wouldn’t go that far.
HH: And my view is, yeah…
FB: But we’ll see.
HH: We’ll see. Now let’s talk about defense, because Marco Rubio played some pretty aggressive defense today. The New York Times came out gunning for him and his alleged speedboat, and by the end of the day, #RubioCrimeSpree is a hashtag and people are laughing at the New York Times. What a different age we live in, Fred Barnes.
FB: Well, the New York Times, against its desires, is actually helping Marco Rubio, helped him with the ridiculous story about his and more his wife’s traffic tickets. When I read that, that he’d had four traffic violations, what, over the last 18, 20 years?
HH: Yeah, that’s a month for Duane, by the way.
FB: (laughing) Well, that’s a few years for me.
HH: Yeah, okay.
FB: I mean Hugh, I’ll bet you’ve had more than that.
HH: No, I’ve never had a speeding ticket, not one.
FB: Well, there are other things. You can run a stop sign, you can do lots of things.
HH: Further affiant sayeth naught. I’ve never had a speeding ticket.
FB: So traffic violations, well, I’m glad you’re so pure and holy.
HH: Well, the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt’s a leadfoot.
FB: But the point is most people are not.
HH: The Fetching Mrs. Hewitt is a leadfoot. She gets the speeding tickets in our family. But nevertheless, this speedboat, I thought as soon as I read it, Fred, I said I’ve read everything that Rubio has written and I’ve talked to him at great length, and I’ve never heard about a speedboat.
HH: It just doesn’t make any sense.
FB: Well, what, that he has one?
HH: Well, he’s got a fishing boat. Now that makes sense, but…
FB: Well, okay, but in any case, you know, these stories by the Times, both of them are ones when you read them, you start to laugh…
FB: …because you realize if you know anything about politics and anything about journalism, you know what’s up here, and it’s not working, at least the way the Times wants it to. And it also raises this question. You know, why are they shooting at Marco Rubio all of a sudden?
HH: That’s the first thing I said today, yeah.
FB: The reason is he’s been doing awfully well.
HH: But who’s shooting at him? Is it Team Bush or is it Team Clinton?
FB: It’s not Team Bush.
HH: I agree.
HH: I immediately thought it was Hillary Clinton. I immediately thought it was Hillary.
FB: No, no, yeah, it’s Clintons and the press and the left and Obama, and it’s all, you know, that jumble of people, and they’re scared. They know…
HH: Now what did you make of the pushback, thought, the way that Conant played it, the coms director, is they, when I woke up, they informed me of the story. Marco Rubio’s coms team had emailed me their press response before I woke up. And that’s amazing, actually, when you find out about a story not from the source but from the press people laughing at it.
FB: Well, they know an opportunity when they see one. The Times has lost its grip out of hatred, well, I mean for Republicans and conservatives in general, but for Marco Rubio in particular, because he’s doing well. And he doesn’t seem to be doing well at the moment at Scott Walker’s expense or maybe even Jeb Bush’s expense. You know, we’re still months and months away, well, what, two month, three months away from, two months away from the first debate, but six months away from the first actual event on February 1st in Iowa, and so I mean, there’s a huge amount of flux in here. But the Times at the moment, and remember, the story they had, what was it, a week, ten days ago about what Republican candidate at the moment anyway is Hillary Clinton most afraid of?
HH: Marco Rubio.
FB: Marco Rubio.
HH: Yeah, now let me ask you about some inside baseball, Fred Barnes, your specialty. Arkansas moved its primary up to March 1, which is a proportional allocation of delegates. So if Mike Huckabee gets 40% of the vote, he gets 40% of the delegates. Ohio moved its primary back to March 15th, winner take all, so that John Kasich, you know, if you win 86 out of 88 counties in Ohio, you’re going to win the primary. You know, no one should spend a dollar in Ohio if Kasich gets in. So who got the better advantage out of their friends in the legislature – Mike Huckabee by getting an early proportionate share or John Kasich by laying back and playing himself into round two automatically?
FB: Yeah, no, obviously Kasich did.
HH: Yup, yup.
FB: That was a bit of a setup, Hugh, but I’ll take it.
FB: And look, I mean, here’s the thing to think about, and I think Kasich has to get in. I think he’s an important candidate. I think winning Ohio may rely on Kasich either being the nominee or the vice presidential nominee. And when you look at it, you know, the two states where Republicans just haven’t had people in states they need, but haven’t had people on the ticket enough, and I was trying to think when’s the last time they’ve had a presidential or vice presidential candidate as president or vice president. And those are the two most important states for them to win.
HH: Well, John Glenn ran from Ohio in 1988.
FB: Well, I’m talking about Republicans.
HH: Yeah, that’s, it’s been a long time since we had that much smarts.
FB: Yeah, maybe it was back in 1920, even, Warren Harding.
HH: It could be.
FB: Anyway, if you have, I mean, if you have two candidates from one of those places, from Florida, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, and then you have John Kasich, and Kasich is, if he stops acting somewhat like a jerk and criticizing other Republicans and just runs a great race of the kind he’s run twice in Ohio, and he’ll be somewhere on the ticket and either Bush or Rubio will have the other place on the ticket, I think they’ll figure that out.
HH: Now pause for a minute, Fred, why do you say acting like a jerk? Why do you, I haven’t noticed that. What do you mean?
FB: Well, he spends a lot of time criticizing other Republicans and Tweeting them and things, and that doesn’t make any sense. I want him to, look, I’m on his side. You know, about a year ago in one of these things pick who do you think is going to be the Republican nominee, I picked Kasich. And then for months, I thought gee, he’s not running. Now he obviously wants to run and should.
HH: But you know, I like that style. He’s Delly. He’s playing this like Delly plays basketball. Kasich is in their face, and you know, he’s being funny and aggressive, and he’s not apologizing for his game. You want him to play like Steph Curry.
FB: No, no, but here’s the difference.
HH: You want him to miss everything.
FB: Here’s the difference. I want him to play like somebody who can grow into something much bigger. And Dellavedoba is not going to do that. He’s not going to be LeBron James. So I mean, he shouldn’t identify with him, because he wants to grow into something much bigger than he is right now as Ohio governor, and he can.
HH: I’m really, because given your experience at this, I’m trying, what do you think he did that was over the line?
FB: Well, I wouldn’t say over the line, nothing over the line, I mean, not at this stage.
HH: Is he more aggressive than Chris Christie, because Chris Christie…
FB: Yeah, I know, but Chris Christie is not going to be the nominee, and doesn’t…
HH: Whoa, Fred Barnes is lit…you’re throwing more air balls than Steph Curry today.
FB: …and John Kasich has a very good chance of being the nominee or vice presidential nominee.
HH: You’re just missing. Christie’s not going to be the nominee? You’re out there. You’re feisty tonight, Fred Barnes.
FB: (laughing) I’m, well, where I am, I’m out there in that far-off land of reality where an awful lot of people don’t spend much time.
HH: Now wait a minute. You really don’t think Christie has a shot at all?
FB: I didn’t say he had a shot. I just said he wasn’t going to be the nominee.
HH: Well, that surprises me.
FB: No, it doesn’t.
HH: I think, actually, no, there are four guys in the second tier – Perry, Kasich, Christie and who am I forgetting, Jindal by virtue of being a governor. There are four people in the top tier, and there are four people in the second tier.
HH: And I think of those eight people could be the nominee.
FB: Well, they could, but some have a very faint chance, and people like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, you know, Jeb Bush, his numbers that came out in New Hampshire were encouraging for him, and necessary for him. I mean, New Hampshire is where Jeb Bush has to recover from, I don’t know whether he’ll even play in Iowa. I think Iowa is a waste of time, myself.
HH: You’re running against a favorite son, Scott Walker, son of Iowa, right?
FB: Yeah, so what good would it, what would there to be gained in Iowa by, for Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush? Nothing.
HH: Nothing. Okay, 40 seconds, how high are the stakes for Hillary on Saturday?
FB: Oh, geez, Hillary, I mean, she’s such a dreadful candidate, one of the worst I’ve ever seen.
FB: She’s stiff, she doesn’t know what she believes in, she doesn’t like other people, she doesn’t want to go out and campaign. I still, look, I want her to answer one question, and it was the question asked by Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican Party, and that is Hillary Clinton, do you have a driver’s license?
HH: (laughing) Fred Barnes, you are, we’re got to get you on NBA playoff nights more often. He’s as free-wheeling as LeBron.
End of interview.