Time Magazine’s Joe Klein and Hugh get into it about his Romney hit piece this week.
HH: This hour, we start with political correspondent extraordinaire, Joe Klein. Joe Klein, of course, columnist for Time Magazine, author of a number of extraordinarily well-received books including most recently, I think, Politics Lost. Joe, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
JK: Good to be back, Hugh. And yes, Politics Lost was the most recent, and, plug here, it’s about to come out in paperback.
HH: Excellent. Now when you came on to talk about the book with me last year, you offended everyone on the left wing blogosphere. I don’t know why.
JK: I do that every week.
HH: Oh, well, that’s good.
JK: I do that almost daily.
HH: You know, the guys over at Media Matters don’t like you, because you referred to most of the Republican candidates as having lived liberal lives, because of the number of times they were divorced.
JK: Oh, yeah, well, you know, it was a joke. One of the things I find with extremists on both sides is sense of humor, uh-uh.
HH: Well, I mean, over at Daily Kos, it’s basically a humor-free zone.
JK: Well, I think that that’s probably true in many places on the right as well.
HH: Not National Review.
JK: You know, the most recent thing that I did that got them ticked off was in my column not this week, but last week. I reported that there was good news in Al Anbar Province, that the indigenous Iraqi Sunnis were turning against the foreign fighters, al Qaeda. You know, I did this based on a lot of reporting, and including a high-ranking military official in Iraq, and I was accused of taking dictation from the Bush administration by some of the left wing bloggers.
HH: Well, that’s because of Bush derangement syndrome, and they’ve got BDS pretty badly.
JK: Well, also, it’s because there are, you know, this doesn’t represent everybody on the left. It only represents a small segment. But there are people who just don’t want good news from Iraq.
JK: They want us to lose.
JK: Now we’re going…I suspect that we’re not going to win this thing. In fact, Petraeus keeps on saying a military victory is not possible. And the rest of the column went on to report through some really important intelligence sources I have that our government is beginning to lose any faith that the Shiites, the dominant Shiites, will make the deal with the Sunnis that’ll be necessary for stability. So I think that the bad news kind of outweighs the good news, but in certain precincts of the left, any good news at all is bad news.
HH: And so, we’ll leave that to them to beat up on you, Joe. I want to beat up on you today. I was reading your most recent Time Magazine column about Romney, and I like Romney a lot, I like Giuliani a lot, but I know a lot about Romney, because I wrote the book about him. And I put it down, and I said this is Joe doing the MSM thing, no one’s good enough, no one’s deep enough, no one’s serious enough. You slam Romney for not being serious enough, right?
JK: Listen, I’ll tell you something, Hugh, I’m going to be tough on everybody this time, and if that’s the MSM thing, so be it. But we’re at war. We’re at war. And you know, I’m not going to let any of these people get away with skimming on this, and using good applause lines like the ‘Iran is going to take over the Shiite areas,’ or ‘al Qaeda’s going to take over the Sunni areas,’ which is what Romney said. I slammed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama last week for voting against the war funding. I mean, this has been something that’s been really important to me and my life since September 11th, when nine of my neighbors here in New York didn’t come home. And for the last four years in particular, I have made it my mission to spend a lot of time with the military, and present the uniform military’s point of view to the public. And when you see politicians doing this, given the sacrifices that are being made every day over there, I’m just not going to put up with it. I am not going to do it.
HH: Now let me ask you, Joe, have you read Romney’s Foreign Affairs article, Rising To A New Generation of Global Challenges?
JK: No, I haven’t, yet, but how many Foreign Affairs articles have there been lately, you know, in the last ten years, where you…
HH: Just asking, just asking. Have you read the Looming Tower yet?
JK: Oh, absolutely.
HH: Did you have a chance to talk to Romney about the Looming Tower, because he’s the only candidate I know who has read it and actually spent a lot of time talking about it, and with people about it.
JK: Well, you know, I would say that of the candidates, you know, if you had to…if you forced me to rank them on how much they know about this, and to the degree to which they can discuss this stuff, especially the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan with any detail, I would put Hillary Clinton and John McCain at the top.
HH: Oh, that’s just so completely clueless, Joe.
HH: When has Hillary said anything interesting or serious about Iraq?
JK: She said it throughout, and if you talk to the generals…
HH: No, I want to hear when did Hillary say something interesting, provocative, new or substantive…
JK: No, no, no, her positions, her positions up until the moment that she switched on funding represented, to my mind, the sane center on what we should do in Iraq. I’ve talked to her numerous times about this.
HH: I’m asking for one speech, one article, one clever, interesting…
JK: There are bunches of them.
HH: Okay, just one. Name me one.
JK: You know, the speech that she made on the floor a year ago about the best way to handle the situation when she was under enormous pressure…
HH: What did she say?
JK: What did she say? That you can’t set a timetable for leaving, you can’t, that you have to, that withdrawal schedules and timetables were meaningless, and that you had to work it out on the ground.
HH: And how does that differ from Romney and Giuliani?
JK: She has made major statements, along with Jack Reed, and John Warner, and others, the smartest people, and Carl Levin, the smartest people in the Senate about…
HH: Carl Levin?
HH: Carl Levin? The smartest…the guy who opposed national missile defense for twenty years?
JK: I oppose national missile defense now.
HH: Well, that’s good to know, Joe. We’ll put that down. Let me go back to my list about Romney. Have you read America Alone yet?
JK: You know, Hugh, that’s a really stupid…spending the money on an unproven system when we have to raise our troop levels, and change the mission of the U.S. military to fight the long war against terrorism is ridiculous.
HH: Joe, let me introduce you to North Korea.
HH: Let me introduce you to North Korea and to Iran.
JK: Their nuclear test really went well.
HH: No, but their rockets are flying pretty far.
JK: Oh, please. Those guys are so easily bought, and we’re buying them. We’re going to buy them.
HH: Okay, Joe. I heard that in ’96.
JK: I’m not worried about that.
HH: Have you read…
JK: You know what I’m worried about? You want to know…
HH: No, I don’t. I want to know, Joe…
JK: Pakistan. There is an argument.
HH: Joe, I want to know if you’ve read America Alone.
JK: No, I haven’t read America Alone. What’s that?
HH: It’s Mark Steyn’s bestseller, New York Times.
JK: (laughing) Oh, it’s right wing propaganda. I read stuff in the middle, I talk to our generals, I talk to our intelligence community, I try and get, I don’t believe in much of the crap that’s coming from the left or right on this stuff. We’re not in World War IV, but we’re in a very serious situation, and we’re not…and up until Gates was hired, we haven’t, this administration hasn’t taken a very serious situation very seriously.
HH: I’m going back to your column, though. Do you read Victor Davis Hanson, last guy I’ll ask you about.
JK: Yes, from time to time. I think he’s ridiculous. He’s a wonderful historian, and his sense of what’s going on in Iraq right now is as foolish as Bernard Lewis’ sense.
HH: So Bernard Lewis, Victor Davis Hanson and Mark Steyn are all foolish?
JK: Yes, absolutely.
HH: All right, you chide Romney for saying that Iran could take over some Shia areas in Iraq.
HH: You say that that’s entirely unlikely.
HH: On what do you base that?
JK: On the fact that…well, first of all, have you read Vali Nasser’s book, The Shia Revival?
JK: He thinks it’s totally unlikely. It would be like the United States taking over Canada.
JK: There’s no rationale for it. Iran already has tremendous influence. The question, you know, the question in my mind about which Shiite faction is actually going to wind up running Iraq, and it’s very clear now that they’re not going to make any deal with the Sunnis, is which one would be in our best interest, and this is the question I’ve been talking to some of our military intelligence people about. Interesting thing here to me, and I think it may be a wrong move, is that we seem to favor the Hakim family, which is the most pro-Iranian faction in the Shiite panoply…
HH: Well then, this might be semantics, Joe. If Sadr, Muqtada al Sadr came to a position of dominance inside of Baghdad, would you consider that to be the Iranian influence over Shia Iraq?
JK: That would…that’s a really interesting question, because while the Iranians have been funding and helping him, as they’ve been funding and helping everybody, the Sadr family has had a history over three generations of being far more contentious when it comes to the Iranians, and far more independent from the Iranians than the Hakim family has.
HH: But it wasn’t a trick question. If Sadr was in charge…
JK: No, no, listen, I have you an honest answer. This is a really important question.
HH: But would you consider that to be Iran in charge or influencing Iraq Shias?
JK: Not as much, not as much as if the Hakim family took over.
HH: Did you consider Finland…
JK: Or the Dawa. I mean, I think that Malaki and Hakim, of the three factions, and let’s forget about Fadil in the south for a moment. That’s a fourth faction. Of the three factions, the one that potentially could be the most independent of Iran is Sadr.
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HH: Talking with him about Mitt Romney and his column blasting Mitt Romney this week.
JK: Hey, Hugh, you just misquoted Romney.
HH: You said, I’m quoting your article here.
JK: You just misquoted Romney. You said that Romney was concerned that Iran would have influence over the Shiite factions. Iran already has influence. What he says is that…
HH: There’s a risk that Iran…
JK: Iran would take over the government in the south of Iraq.
HH: That’s what…in your column.
JK: And that is not going to happen.
HH: Joe, your column, you wrote, he said there was a risk that Iran would “take over” the Shiite areas which is entirely unlikely.
JK: That’s right.
HH: Now this might be semantics. Do you believe that Russia took over Finland…
JK: It’s not semantics.
HH: Do you think that Russia took over Finland in the aftermath of World War II?
HH: But no, for the entire Cold War.
JK: That it would be like a satellite country? I think that the Iranians would have, if they chose to have a military domination over like Poland, you know, like the Russians had over Poland or something, would have about the same luck that the Russians had long term, being dominant over Poland.
HH: Long term…
JK: There is a real…
HH: They were there for 45 years.
JK: …real Cold…there’s a real ethnic difference here…
HH: You’re going…
JK: …between Persians are Arabs.
HH: Joe, you’re just floating…
JK: I’ve been to these places, Hugh, I know the folks.
HH: You’re doing MSM stuff here, Joe. He said it was a threat.
JK: MSM? You’re doing left wing blogosphere stuff. They’re the ones that talk about that.
HH: No, I’m saying if Romney…
JK: Come on, look.
HH: If Romney…
JK: Hugh, I don’t want to fight here.
JK: This is something I spend much of every day on.
HH: Oh, Joe, I’m very glad.
JK: I know this stuff.
HH: We’ll get you…
JK: And I’m in the middle, and yeah, you want to call me mainstream on this?
HH: No, I’m calling you MSM. That’s not mainstream.
JK: I am not from the right or left on this stuff.
HH: I’m saying that Romney makes a perfectly appropriate point that we need all candidates to recognize, which is the threat of Iranian influence in a post-U.S. Iraq, and you reject that as entirely unlikely on some semantic grounds.
JK: No, I don’t reject that at all. I’ve been saying that for years. What I’m saying is that Romney is skimming. He’s ice skating.
HH: He was talking to high school kids.
HH: He was talking to high school kids.
JK: Listen, it was funny. I was glad that someone finally raised the question of Iraq, since he never mentions it in his stump speeches. Why is that?
HH: Oh, he often has. I have heard, I followed him around, Joe, for an entire year. He talks almost every speech about Iraq. You caught him on the wrong day, and you turned it into a hit piece.
JK: Oh, it was the wrong day. I see, it was the wrong day.
HH: You turned it into a hit piece on him. Let me go to the part about in this column where you attack him for immigration. You say he has flipped on immigration to better suit the Mexican-fearing tendencies of a segment of the Republican base. Now first question, Joe, how big do you believe that Mexican-fearing segment of the Republican base is?
JK: Well, it’s pretty large in counties that have less than 5% immigrants.
HH: How big?
JK: I don’t know.
HH: You see, Joe, it’s a figment of your mainstream media imagination. There isn’t a Mexican-fearing Republican party. It doesn’t exist.
JK: This is like Radio Kos, my mainstream…You know, mainstream, you know, Hugh, to my mind, mainstream, excellent. Fringe stuff, really dangerous to the republic.
HH: Joe, I just don’t make stuff up. You made this up to better suit…
JK: I don’t make it up.
HH: The Mexican-fearing tendencies?
JK: Hugh, look at polling in the Republican party about immigration, and you will see that they are far more concerned about immigration than any…
HH: That’s not Mexican-fearing, Joe.
JK: …Democrats or independents.
HH: Joe, Mexican-fearing…
JK: And believe me, as I’ve gone around the country…
JK: Almost all of this anger is race-based.
HH: It is not, Joe. What do you base that on? Talking to a guy in a bar in Manhattan?
JK: I base it on my eyes and ears and interviewing, and things I’ve read as well.
HH: Well, point me to one thing.
JK: Hugh, you do a talk show every day. I go out and report. That’s the difference.
HH: I talk to people, I have talked to literally thousands of people about this issue. They don’t dislike Mexicans. They’re concerned about security, about the economy, about the impact on emergency rooms.
JK: Well, let’s talk about security. Hugh, let’s talk about security.
HH: No, I want to talk about your made-up attack on Republicans as being Mexican, anti-racists.
JK: It’s not made up (laughing). It’s not made up. You’re living in Fantasyland.
HH: Show me one, where’s one poll, Joe.
JK: You are living in utter Fantasyland.
HH: Joe, one piece of data.
JK: I also asked Romney, I asked Romney whether he thought that the 12 million illegals who are here in this country were a net plus or minus. And he couldn’t answer the question.
HH: Well, you can’t answer the question, Joe. Where is a single data point?
JK: Of course I can. They are a major league net plus.
HH: Where is your data point on there being a Mexican-fearing tendency of a segment of the Republican base? Where is that?
JK: Where is it? It’s in multiple interviews I’ve done, and in much of the polling.
HH: Any polling? Just show me one. Have you got one handy on the desk?
JK: It’s to discern, it is, it’s putting two and two together, and getting four.
HH: You made it up, Joe. There isn’t that.
JK: I didn’t make it up (laughing).
HH: But I want to go back to…you accused Romney of flipping on immigration.
JK: You are sounding like an extremist, Hugh.
HH: Joe, I’ll trust my audience to understand that. Where did he flip on immigration.
JK: I know your audience is your audience for a reason. But the fact is that he’s faking it on immigration. He would actually be in favor of finding a path to citizenship for the 12 million. Why? Because he hasn’t proposed any reasonable alternative. He’s against kicking the 12 million out.
HH: You said he flipped on immigration.
JK: He did.
HH: Again, how, when did he flip?
JK: He was in favor of it.
HH: When did he flip?
JK: He had Guatemalan landscapers, as many people do.
HH: Based on…
JK: Look, this is a wonderful thing for our country.
HH: Joe, you’re filibustering again.
JK: It really is. In New York City…
HH: Do you have any evidence…
JK: …in New York City in the 70’s and 80’s, illegal immigrants kept the city afloat because of all the sales taxes that they were paying.
HH: Joe, do you have any evidence?
JK: But the great thing…
JK: And I think that there’s an awful lot of race-baiting going on in this…
HH: Yeah, you’re race-baiting.
JK: …and in this argument. And by the way, Hugh, I’m a columnist. I get paid to have opinions. That’s my opinion.
HH: And you can have them, but I just want to point out, you have no evidence for the anti-Mexican Republicans, and you have no evidence that Romney flipped on immigration. He didn’t.
JK: He didn’t?
JK: He made statements in 2005 in favor of a comprehensive plan.
HH: Yes, he did, and he doesn’t like this one. That’s not a flip-flop, because this one…
JK: (laughing) Hugh, we’re in the middle of a presidential campaign, and all of a sudden, he can’t speak straight about the 12 million illegal immigrants in this country? That’s baloney.
HH: Joe, have you read the immigration bill? Have you read it?
JK: This is too serious for this kind of crap, Hugh. It really is.
HH: Have you read the immigration bill?
JK: I haven’t read the bill itself.
HH: I have. I am a long term proponent…
JK: There are a great many things wrong with it, but I think…
HH: Oh, you flip-flopped.
HH: You just flip-flopped. You’re in favor of a path to citizenship, and you’ve just criticized the bill.
JK: I’m in favor of the path for citizenship that they lay out in the bill.
HH: But you just flip-flopped.
JK: I’m against, by the way, let me just…can I get into details here?
HH: You said there were many things wrong with it.
JK: Do you want details? Or do you just want to harangue me? Because if you just want to harangue me, we can end the conversation.
HH: I want to harangue you, because you just, you just flip-flopped.
JK: If you want to have a conversation, that’s fine. Harangue, not good.
HH: If you want to filibuster, that’s fine. But I want you to go back and explain to me how you can criticize…
JK: I’m not filibustering. You’re haranguing.
HH: I want to know how you can criticize the bill and not be flip-flopping on what you just said.
JK: Because I would vote for the bill.
HH: You would vote for the bill as it currently exists?
JK: There are amendments that I don’t like, but there are amendments that I didn’t like in the welfare reform bill in 1996, and I would have voted for that.
HH: And in all seriousness, Joe, the reason…
JK: And believe me, I do not like Bush’s policy in Iraq right now, but I wouldn’t have voted to withdraw funding for the troops.
HH: In all seriousness, what I object to in your column, because you’re smarter than this, is Romney is criticizing a particular bill, as I am right now. I remain a proponent of regularization. I remain a proponent of probationary visas prior to the Z visa and building the fence. I haven’t flip-flopped. I just don’t like this bill, and I think it diminishes the conversation we ought to be having about immigration to tag people, as you did in this column as a flip-flopper, when they have legitimate arguments with this bill. Your response?
JK: My response is that Romney has changed his position on a great variety of issues. In every case, there’s been a pattern here to appeal in a greater way to the Republican base.
HH: Conventional mainstream media…
JK: I think that he is…Hugh, let me finish…
HH: I’ll be right back. We’ve got to take a break. We’ll be right back with Joe Klein. I will let him finish the filibuster when we return to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
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HH: Joe’s just done a huge flip-flop on Mitt Romney. In December of ’05, Joe loved Romney’s demeanor and metabolism, calling him the opposite of John Kerry. He liked Romney’s informal conversational and enthusiastic and speedy style. He liked Romney’s health care plan, which Joe called remarkable, but now he’s blasting him. Why the flip-flops, Joe Klein.
JK: I haven’t flip-flopped, he did. I believe all the stuff I wrote in 2005. I think that this guy potentially is the most talented candidate in that the Republicans can put up this year. But I do believe that in 2008, I have, you know, I have a test for credibility in the candidates. It is 70% of the people think the country’s moving in the wrong direction, I think we’ve got some really big problems. Tell me something I don’t want to hear. That’s number one. And number two, he’s really smart, Romney, but he hasn’t made the effort. And you can talk to people within his campaign, to really learn national security issues, to really know the facts on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan in detail. I know he’s been there. He was there with Brian Schweitzer, the governor of Montana. All I’m saying is, and you know what, over time, he may prove to be everything I’d like to see on some of these issues. I’m talking about Iraq, I’m talking about immigration, and a couple of others. But I’m going to hold each one of these candidates, Democrat and Republican alike, to the same standard. For me, you’ve got to, got to understand national security issues. I think that as a governor, he is in a, he’s at a disadvantage. For a long time, the governors who ran for president had a natural advantage, because they were executives. But now they have a natural disadvantage, because they’re not involved in armed services, national security, foreign policy stuff. And to me, at least, you know, my column, my space, my views, the foreign policy and national security piece of this is the most important of all.
HH: You know, in 2008, I’m holding all the national political columnists to a single standard. They’ve got to avoid clichés and memes. They’ve got to avoid hackneyed phrases, they’ve got to avoid easy writes such as Mitt Romney flip-flip on immigration, when he did nothing, I mean nothing of the sort, Joe.
HH: And they also have to have one standard of seriousness when they blast one candidate, whether it’s Giuliani or Romney or McCain for not being serious, and that, you know, John Edwards is walking around, he ought to be wearing a sign that says no diving, too shallow here. And I want to know…
JK: Did you see what I did to John Edwards on Iraq?
HH: No, I want to know what your standard of seriousness is.
JK: Then let me tell you about John Edwards an Iraq, Hugh. John Edwards, I said to John Edwards, you want to pull 50,000 troops out of Iraq immediately. Which 50,000? What are you going to do with the rest of the troops in Iraq? And he said, well, what would you do? I mean, that’s ridiculous. He doesn’t make my standard at all.
HH: I want to know what is serious in Joe Klein’s eyes.
JK: What is serious?
HH: Not that it matters much, but I want to know for your standard of writing, who’s serious?
JK: Serious are people who understand the various ethnic groups and factions in Iraq, serious are people who have read the counterinsurgency doctrine, and understand what it is entails.
HH: Right, out of Leavenworth, the new Petraeus document, yup. Go ahead.
JK: Serious are people who understand the differences between what Petraeus is faced with in Iraq, and what you need to be able to make counterinsurgency doctrine work. Serious is knowing the difference between counterinsurgency doctrine, which is what you have when you have a reliable partner on the ground in the country that you’re doing it, as we do in Afghanistan…
HH: But do you hear any?
JK: And an unreliable instability doctrine, which is what you do when you have a failed state, which is what we have in Iraq.
HH: So Joe Klein, does any…
JK: It’s a matter of detail. It’s knowing the players.
HH: Well, Joe, it’s not an SAT. When you’ve got Carl Levin, your favorite Senator, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and they all vote to confirm David Petraeus, all of them vote to confirm him, and then within a month, or actually within weeks, they want a timetable, and they want to deny him the surge troops, is that serious?
JK: You know, for Levin, it’s a position he’s taken throughout, but I’ll tell you something. When Hillary Clinton…
JK: Should he have voted to confirm Petraeus?
JK: When Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama flip-flopped, for purely presidential political reasons, to appeal to the Democratic base, then that is not serious.
HH: So Hillary and Obama…
JK: I will accuse them of the exact same thing I’m accusing Romney of. I’m holding one standard here, Hugh. I think that’s really easy to understand.
HH: And so, but so no one’s been serious in Joe Klein’s view?
JK: I think John McCain has been pretty serious. I disagree with where he stands now, but I think he has been absolutely consistent, I think he knows the players, he knows the stakes. I don’t like it when he uses words like surrender or victory, since Petraeus says at every last opportunity, military victory is not possible in Iraq.
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HH: It’s our last segment, and I want to thank you for joining me today, but I’ve got to tell you, Joe, the hubris is overwhelming. It’s like you think you have a monopoly on seriousness when you don’t read Mark Steyn, you mock Victor Davis Hanson. These are guys who’ve spent a lot of time in Iraq…
JK: Not as a historian.
HH: Excuse me?
JK: Not as a historian. I think Victor Davis Hanson’s a perfectly good historian, and Bernard Lewis as well.
HH: But I’m talking about, these are…
JK: But I’d rather say, I’ve got to say that it’s not hubris, it’s humility. I have been immersed in this stuff, and I know how much I don’t know, and so do the really serious people.
HH: Joe, do you read Robert Kaplan?
JK: This is a very complicated situation, Hugh…
HH: Do you read Robert Kaplan?
JK: …and you’re trying to oversimplify it.
HH: Do you read Robert Kaplan?
JK: And anybody who tries to oversimplify it, as Mitt Romney does on the stump, I have no use for.
HH: Joe, do you read Robert Kaplan?
JK: Yes, absolutely.
HH: And Robert Kaplan has enormous respect for Steyn and for Victor Davis Hanson, and for other people who travel the world in the company…
JK: He and I disagree on that, then.
HH: And they travel the world in the company of the American military, and the American military have enormous respect for these guys. So my question to you is, really, where do you get off, Joe? You’re a Time Magazine scribbler. You’re like David Broder, you’re like me. You know, you get out a lot, you read a lot, but I mean, I don’t think you know anything about the global struggle that we’re involved in. I think you’ve memorized some place names in Iraq and a few tribal designations. Why should we accept your assessment of someone like Romney, Harvard MBA, investment banker, saved the Olympics, ran Massachusetts, goes out and talks to all these authors, why should we trust you and not believe as I do, you’re just another lefty putting on a hit on another Republican candidate who’s starting to separate from the pack?
JK: (laughing) Because, Hugh, I’m putting hits on candidates on both sides, and this…and the only thing I have to go on are the things that I’ve scribbled. You go back and you read what I’ve written about Iraq, you look at see who my sources are, who I’m talking to, who are quoted in the pieces, in both the intelligence and the military community and the political community, and if you don’t think that that’s credible, fine.
HH: You read Lawrence Wright, and you like Robert…
JK: There are an awful lot of people, there are an awful lot of people who think I do have credibility.
HH: But you write this, that there is…
JK: I mean, General Petraeus kind of does, since he invited me out to Leavenworth for three days last summer to learn counterinsurgency.
HH: And in three days, you got it packed up and…
JK: No, I had been working on it for a year before that.
HH: Here’s the paragraph, the line I like a lot in this column this week. “There is something slightly anachronistic about all this. Romney is the most perfect iteration I’ve seen of the television area candidate.” And then you go on to write, “there isn’t the slightest hint of courage or conviction in his stump act.” Now again, Joe, I’ve seen this stump act, oh, a half dozen times. I just don’t think you get it. I think he talks too fast. He’s that Harvard MBA stuff, and I just don’t think you get it.
JK: Yeah, that’s right. I’m from New York. I don’t understand people who talk fast.
HH: No, talk fast…
JK: Come on, Hugh, Hugh, please. You and I disagree on this, and for you to mock it and do the left wing thing, you’re doing the left wing blogosphere. You’re just a member of the mainstream media. You’re like Broder. You’re just a scribbler. Your reporting doesn’t mean anything. Come on, stop it.
HH: I’m mocking your mocking.
JK: You know, I love this when I get it from the left, and I love it when I get it from you. I don’t buy it from either side.
JK: Once we stop, once we MSM pundit scum, once we stop going out and reporting, and actually seeing the things on the ground, what are you guys going to use for evidence? What are you guys going to use for facts? The history, you know, the opinions of Victor Davis Hanson? Please.
HH: I will use that…oh, yes, I will. But I’m saying, I’m mocking your mocking. I think it’s very interesting that you’re offended I’m mocking your column, when your column is itself a mockery of Romney’s campaign speech. And your flip-flop…
JK: Sorry you disagree with this one, but how about the one last week where I talked about the good news from Anbar.
HH: But Joe, you’re cynicism can be all pervasive…
JK: I mean, was that crap, too?
HH: No, your cynicism can be all pervasive, and it wouldn’t make it anything other than cynicism. You guys in the mainstream media…
JK: I’m cynical about your pro-Romney hit job here today…
HH: No, I’m…it’s not pro-Romney.
JK: But what are you going to do? I mean, I can’t control what your opinions are.
HH: You can…
JK: You love Romney.
HH: It’s not about Romney.
JK: You can’t control mine, either, but I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, people look at my track record, I encourage them to go and look at my column, and tell me if I have been unfair on the vast majority of stuff that I’ve written about Iraq, and it has been legion over the last four years.
HH: Joe, it’s not about Iraq today. It’s about your political commentary. When you call Romney a bit equine, you call him horse-faced, in essence. I just think our country deserves a more serious bit of commentary from people with big platforms.
JK: I was saying that he was galloping through his stump speech like a racehorse. Now that is called a metaphor.
HH: I’m saying you wrote this on an airplane.
JK: And metaphors are allowed in column writing.
HH: I’m saying you wrote this on an airplane, and that if it is serious times, and they are…
JK: I didn’t write it on an airplane. I wrote it in my house.
HH: If it’s a serious time in which we are living, we deserve serious commentary, not slapdash, hit and run media pieces by the drive-by media, whether it’s about John Edwards or about Mitt Romney. I think you’ve got to sit down and talk to these people and let…
JK: So Hugh, you think that when I criticized Edwards for not knowing which 50,000 troops he would pull out, that that was slapdash?
HH: No, I think you ought to report, follow-up…
JK: You like it when I attack Edwards.
HH: But I think you ought to read, for example, when someone writes a Foreign Affairs article, you ought not to dismiss it as oh, there have been ten years of Foreign Affairs articles. I think that’s…
JK: Believe me, I’m going to read it. It just came out today, though. And remember, I’ve been working on other stuff since that column was done.
HH: And I think when you say someone has flip-flopped on immigration…
JK: He has.
HH: …or that there is a Mexican hating…No, he has not.
JK: He has, there is.
HH: He has not, because Joe, if you criticize this bill, and you are in favor of regularization, that doesn’t…
JK: He would vote against this bill.
HH: Yes, and that’s not a flip-flop. So would I, and I’ve been for regularization since I was against Proposition 187 fifteen years ago.
JK: And I’d vote for it, and that’s a difference of opinion.
HH: But that’s not flip-flopping. That is in fact sophomoric commentary to use that, and not to draw distinctions is to lower the political discourse.
JK: (laughing) You know, here’s the deal, Hugh. You really like it when I go up against the left wing blogosphere. That’s not sophomoric at all. But when I attack the right…
HH: Joe, that’s not true.
JK: …then I’m being sophomoric.
HH: That’s not true.
JK: Now I discern a pattern there, Hugh.
HH: I’m just talking about this week’s column. I’ll have you every week.
JK: That’s right. You want to talk about this week’s column, fine. I stand by every last word in it. I also stand by every last word in the last column I wrote that you liked, where I attacked some liberal.
HH: Then can you, would you undertake to send to me any evidence that you have that there is a significant Mexican-fearing tendency on the segment of the Republican base?
JK: Do you want to come to any given, any given town meeting in, say, Iowa or New Hampshire? And by the way, both Democrats and Republicans, you hear this all the time. I’ve been hearing this, actually…
HH: No, you don’t. No, you don’t.
JK: Yes, I do.
HH: You hear people who are worried about the burdens of illegal immigration, but they’re not anti-Mexican.
JK: No, no, no, no, no. Just think about the applause that the making people speak English gets.
HH: Joe, hold on. Don’t go anywhere. I’m coming back. I want to let you have the last word on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
– – – –
HH: Joe, as we went to break, you were saying that people who applaud making English the official language at rallies are anti-Mexican. Do you want to stand by that?
JK: I didn’t…you finished the sentence that I didn’t finish. I said that you see the passion about this in those kind of, in the applause that that happens, that happens when that is mentioned. Now you know, I’m in favor of having all immigrants learn English, or be able to speak English before they’re granted citizenship. No question about it.
HH: Does that make you anti-Mexican?
JK: I think it’s really good, but I also think it would be really good if we started speaking a lot more languages in this country.
HH: But does your preference for citizens speaking English make you anti-Mexican? Are you anti-Mexican, Joe?
JK: No, because I’m in favor of as much immigration as we can get. I’m in favor of those 12 million people I think, who are here illegally, I think that they’re a net plus, I think that they’re great for our society, I think that they work their butts off, I think that they’re terrific. I have nothing against them, and anybody who would get in a rickety boat and come over from Haiti, or cross a desert to get here from Mexico, those are the kind of people who have always succeeded in America, and I want to see more of them.
HH: But Joe Klein, if you are pro-all those people, except for the gang members from El Salvador, and the jihadists from Saudi Arabia, does that make you anti-Mexican?
JK: Listen, if you’re worried about the jihadists, let’s put up a fence on the Canadian border, because that’s much, if I’m a terrorist, and I want to get into the United States, I’m coming that way.
HH: Joe, are you, did you read the San Antonio Express News series on people crossing the Southern border by Todd Bensman?
JK: No, but I’ve read a lot of other things about immigration.
HH: The Todd Bensman series I recommend to you. But I’m just saying, to slander people as anti-Mexican, because that’s a serious charge, Joe, isn’t it?
HH: Yeah, to call someone a bigot…
JK: And I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, nativism in this country has always taken on that tinge. It took on an anti-Italian tinge and an anti-Jewish tinge. There were official studies by the U.S. military in 1913 that said that Jews would never really be good citizens, because they weren’t intelligent enough.
HH: But Joe, do you know who Brecken…
JK: I mean, that’s what…and the kind of bigotry that you see against people coming here from other places is nativist, and it’s bigotry.
HH: Joe, do you know who Breckenridge Long is?
JK: And notice the people who are coming here now are coming here from Latin America.
HH: Do you know who Breckenridge Long is?
JK: Yes, he was a Congressman, right?
JK: No, no, he was the deputy secretary of State who had the anti-Jewish…
HH: Anti-Semite, you betcha. Kept the Jews in Europe, sent hundreds of thousands…
JK: By the way, I think that we’re doing the exact same thing now with the Iraqis. We should be allowing an awful lot of Iraqis…
HH: My point is to charge people with being anti-Mexican…
JK: Do you agree with me on the Iraqis?
HH: …is wrong, if you don’t have…
JK: You agree with me on the Iraqis, Hugh?
HH: …if you don’t have a specific basis for doing so. That was what was morally culpable in your column. Joe, we’re out of time. Will you come back again?
JK: Sure. Do you agree with me on the Iraqis? Should we be allowing a lot of those guys in, too?
HH: After a positive showing of their loyalty to the country, yes.
JK: Well, I agree with you on that.
HH: All right. Joe Klein, always a pleasure.
End of interview.