More Hackery: This Time from Hugh Hewitt

His colum in WaPo isn't very good.

By Alex E. Proimos – https://www.flickr.com/photos/proimos/4199675334/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22535544

I guess bad political commentary is the theme of the weekend, at least for me. Next up for discussion, Hugh Hewitt’s column in WaPo: America’s enemies are on notice about this president. It starts thusly (lest one think the headline-writer is exaggerating):

America’s enemies are on notice: The president is no longer an eloquent pushover professor-president but a ruthless real estate developer and television network brawler-president whose principle weapons are blunt candor and walking away from the table.

First, let me note that despite the constant cries from Trump’s defenders that the mainstream press (including the “Jeff Bezos Washington Post“) is out to get him, such outlets regularly publishes defenses of his action.

Second, it is odd that in a week that included both an announced tariff on Mexico and a promise to hold off on tariffs on Japan that Hewitt is talking about Trump’s hard line tactics and “America’s enemies.” Is everyone an enemy now?

Hewitt continues:

There are four real crises in the world, and the most important one is reaching boilover status. It would be useful if we all would put aside our views on 2020 and focus on them.

The first emanates from Beijing. “If the U.S. goes ahead with its tariff measures against China, China will have to resort to necessary countermeasures,” a spokesperson for the Chinese government warned on May 8. More and more warnings, increasingly ominous, from various sources have followed. Alongside this abrupt and sinister ratcheting up of rhetoric from China is the second crisis: a series of acts of war believed to have been ordered by Iran against Persian Gulf shipping and Saudi pipelines, acts bordered with bellicose rhetoric from the Islamic Republic’s “Supreme Leader.”


Without getting into whether there are only four real crises in the world at the moment, I will grant that the four areas he identifies are real (I will get to the others in a minute). But the above is galling beyond measure because the current growing crises mentioned have been caused by Trump’s own actions.

China isn’t threatening countermeasures to nothing (that is, sort of by definition, impossible). The measures that might be countered are Trump’s tariffs. It is right there in Hewitt’s column.

Also: is China an adversarial power? Sure. An enemy? No. And why characterize it as such?

In regards to Iran, we definitely have a closer-to-enemy posture, but the current crisis with Iran is the result of a) the Trump administration unilaterally withdrawing from the JCPOA (ie., the Iran nuclear deal) and its very public increase of US military presence in the Gulf. The Iranians are very much reacting to our actions.

On to crisis three:

The third crisis is the long-running Russian assault on the West’s open social media platforms. Russia’s attack on our election in 2016 used new weapons in a far broader confrontation that has more or less raged since 1917 and that will continue unabated. As with China, it’s a tense relationship that can be managed short of open conflict. These 2016 cyberattacks foreshadow more to come; thank goodness, not a single American, much less the president, his campaign or family, conspired with Vladimir Putin to sow hatred and divide our country so deeply.

Had special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team declared these simple truths with anything approaching President Trump’s level of candor on everything, that would have been a genuine public service. Sadly, the would-be Javerts on Team Mueller lost their balance and the chance to sound a loud alarm. That alarm has been silenced by endless Trump-bashing and Trump’s obligatory counterattacks. But the Russian menace remains, and is probably dwarfed by a far more subtle campaign of espionage by a great power of far greater capacity in China.


I agree that is is a real crisis. I am amazed, however, to learn that lack of attention to this issue is Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s fault, rather than being the responsibility of the President of the United States.

A slight digression down memory lane (via the BBC):

After face-to-face talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies and said there had been no reason for Russia to meddle in the vote.

Mr Putin reiterated that Russia had never interfered in US affairs.
The two men held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday.

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to the allegations of meddling in the elections.

“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he replied.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

Emphasis mine.

So, sure, it is all Mueller’s fault. Because there is no reason why we should expect a US president to take the attacks, that Hewitt himself acknowledges, seriously. Mueller was too mean, so Trump can’t act.

I would note, too, that Mueller indicted 12 Russians for election interference, and Volume I of the Mueller report details the systematic attempt of Russian agents to interfere with our elections. It also details some problematic behavior by people connected to Trump. The lack of a criminal conspiracy does not make that go away.

The fourth crisis, at least, is neither caused by Trump nor somehow linked to him:

The fourth crisis is the catastrophe in Venezuela. Regime change is Trump’s objective there: Nicolás Maduro must go. Crippling sanctions but not regime change for Iran could force behavior changes. But Venezuela needs regime change. Trump has been clear.


Venezuela is, as I have repeatedly said, a man-made disaster of epic proportions. Maduro is one of the men who helped make said disaster, and I agree he should go. I also know, however, that the US should stay out of fomenting regime change.

To be honest: the more support the US gives for an ouster of Maduro, the more Maduro can point to the yanqui imperialists as the real cause of Venezuela’s woes. We need to let that situation evolve naturally. We have little chance of making it better, and a huge chance of making it worse.

Hewitt provides his over-arching theory of Trumpness:

Trump is responding to both his domestic political opponents and America’s actual enemies with the same tactics: blunt, repetitive messaging and use of the walk-off. He is sometimes rude, often full of unnecessary slashes, but always direct. (It often seems as if Trump answers more questions from reporters in a walk to the helicopter than President Barack Obama did in formal press conferences.) And there is a transparent candor — what he actually is thinking at that moment — combined with a willingness to walk out of a charade.

Oh yes, the candor! What has it gotten us?

  • A trade war with China.
  • No progress of substance with North Korea.
  • Increased tensions with Iran (and of a military, not just rhetorical, nature).
  • Russia fully empowered to behave in 2020 as it did in 2016.
  • Rhetorical tools for Maduro.

But, hey, at least we have “a ruthless real estate developer and television network brawler-president whose principle weapons are blunt candor and walking away from the table” as that is clearly producing positive results.

Let me end with this tweet from Tom Nichols, which (unfortunately) led me to this column in the first place:

Indeed.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. EddieInCA says:

    I was introduced to Hugh Hewitt in the early 90’s, I think, when he was part of a Los Angeles PBS show with Patt Morrison, called “Life and Times”. He was the conservative on the show, and was reasoned, articulate, and completely pragmatic. He was a standard Reagan Republican. I was a fan. But then he changed.

    He’s one that has been radicalized over the last 25 years by the harder edges of the right. I’m convinced that he, along with others like Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, and Larry Elder saw what kind of attention, money, respect, and power Rush Limbaugh was generating, and decided they wanted that as well. This meant sacrificing principle. So they did so to create a talk-radio persona and to the hard right audience.

    That they sacrificed their principles is irrelevant now, because they can justify it via their successes. But they don’t care at this point because anything else gets them kicked off the wing-nut welfare trolley.

    Hell, on a smaller scale, we’ve seen it on this site. Commenters who bashed Obama for certain behaviors excuse Trump for behavior exponentially much worse. Or they stay silent.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Had special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team declared these simple truths with anything approaching President Trump’s level of candor on everything,

    You owe me a new keyboard, Steven.

  3. Thomas Hilton says:

    I’m convinced that he, along with others like Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, and Larry Elder saw what kind of attention, money, respect, and power Rush Limbaugh was generating, and decided they wanted that as well.

    This seems plausible. IIRC, Hewitt was also among the conservatives who were radicalized by 9/11.

    That said, the distance traveled between early 2016 (when he flirted with never-Trumpism) and today’s embarrassing spectacle–from right wing hackery to Trump toadery, in other words–is impressive, and not in a good way.

  4. Kylopod says:

    Speaking of hackery, here’s another walk down memory lane:

    CHUCK TODD: Has Donald Trump got the temperament to be president?

    HUGH HEWITT: No. No, he doesn’t.

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    trump and candor are 2 words that do not belong in the same sentence. Sure he says whatever nonsense pops into his head at any moment, but if candor is “the quality of being open and honest in expression; frankness.” he utterly fails. The man couldn’t speak a truth to save his life, least of all about what he honestly thinks or feels.

    (a. not sure he ever actually thinks beyond “Ugh. Want diet coke, now.”, b. his feelings extend no further than his little toe when he stretches out)

    Bluster and empty threats is not candor, it’s what a weak man does when he realizes he’s losing.

  6. Kathy says:

    Of China, this huy is essentially saying: “Cet animal est tres méchant; Quand on l’attaque il se défend.” Or: “This animal is very malicious; when attacked it defends itself.”

  7. Teve says:

    Hugh’s tweet announcing the column currently has 4,800 replies for 1,700 likes and 569 retweets. For the non twitteratti, that’s called getting Ratioed. It means you done fucked up.

  8. @EddieInCA:

    He’s one that has been radicalized over the last 25 years by the harder edges of the right. I’m convinced that he, along with others like Michael Medved, Dennis Prager, and Larry Elder saw what kind of attention, money, respect, and power Rush Limbaugh was generating, and decided they wanted that as well. This meant sacrificing principle. So they did so to create a talk-radio persona and to the hard right audience.

    I 100% agree. I was familiar with all of those folks in their early days and they all clearly decided the Limbaugh route was the way to go.

  9. @OzarkHillbilly:

    You owe me a new keyboard, Steven.

    Sorry about that.

    But, yeah.

  10. @OzarkHillbilly: Agreed. 100%

  11. Moosebreath says:

    And yet that column seems totally rational by comparison to the Marc Thiessen columns which seem to be the only nationally syndicated one the Philly newspaper uses. His latest concludes:

    “In his statement, Mueller noted that the Russians he indicted are “presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.” Apparently, for congressional Democrats, that presumption of innocence does not extend to Trump. All Mueller’s news conference did is muddy the waters. Any congressional testimony would do so 10 times over. He should have heeded his own advice, left the building quietly, and, as he put it in his statement, let “the office’s written work speak for itself.””

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  12. Kylopod says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    trump and candor are 2 words that do not belong in the same sentence.

    In 2016, I got into a debate here with jukeboxgrad on this very point. I had ridiculed Frank Rich for describing Trump’s style as “improvisational candor,” wheras JBG argued that candor and honesty were distinct concepts, a claim I strongly pushed back against.

    I still think Rich and JBG were dead wrong. But I think it’s important to understand where this perspective comes from. Many people incorrectly assume that speaking in an impulsive and unguarded way is automatically a sign of honesty and authenticity. The idea is that they’re speaking “without a filter.” A lot of shock jocks built their careers around this belief, and it also formed a significant part of the commentary on Donald Trump early in his presidential run, though it eventually quieted down as Trump’s record of lying became too massive to ignore. The irony about Hewitt’s argument is that it’s the sort of argument people were making back in 2015 and have since abandoned, yet he himself was a Trump critic at the time. He’s reaching for a defense that few people, even Trump’s staunchest supporters, make anymore.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    America’s enemies are on notice: The president is no longer an eloquent pushover professor-president but a ruthless real estate developer and television network brawler-president…

    BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! This toady should get a job as a comedian…if America’s enemies are on notice for anything, it’s that this President is a blustering buffoon with very small feet of clay…if anything, foreign leaders are delighted to have such a pathetic American President to manipulate…

  14. Gustopher says:

    America’s enemies are on notice: The president is no longer an eloquent pushover

    From the theory that strength comes from who yells the loudest.

    The strongest person I have ever heard of was Thích Quảng Đức, the Vietnamese monk who set himself on fire in 1963 and sat patiently as he burnt to death. He was a pretty quiet guy. Say what you will about his politics or his methods or anything else, that’s strength. Even James Earl Jones’ demonstration of strength in Conan The Barbarian had nothing on that.

    Two and a half years into Trump’s Administration, and what has he accomplished by yelling loudly?

    North Korea is still a nuclear power, and is still launching missiles (funny that this is not one of the four crises that Hewitt mentioned). Mexico has yet to pay for the wall which is now a fence or a series of bollards. The witch-hunt is leading to impeachment inquiries. Condos in Trump buildings sell for below market rate.

  15. Gustopher says:

    @Moosebreath: I downvoted you for lack of blockquote. Not sure it took though.

    When I read this:

    His latest concludes:

    “In his statement, Mueller noted that the Russians he indicted are “presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.” Apparently, for congressional Democrats, that presumption of innocence does not extend to Trump.

    I saw the quote ending, and thought the “Apparently…” was yours, thought “huh, Moosebreath has gone insane…”, and acted accordingly.

    I regret having downvoted you for content that was not your thoughts. I stand by having downvoted you for formatting, or poor English (quoted quotes are rendered with a single quote, and not a double quote, to avoid this confusion).

    So there.

  16. Hal_10000 says:

    Trump is like a spoiled child: create problems, then expect credit for fixing the problems you created.

  17. CSK says:

    I sometimes wonder if those “pundits” who were solidly anti-Trump before he got the nomination and then transformed miraculously into full-throated Trumpkins after he got it ever feel a twinge of embarrassment at the 180s they did. I’m thinking of one Kurt Schlicter (sp), who wrote some ferociously anti-Trump columns and then…voila, became Trump’s biggest booster. The members of the Trump Fan Club appears to have very short memories, but I don’t.

    And, of course, the things they claimed to despise most about Trump are the qualities they claim most to love about him now.

  18. Moosebreath says:

    @Gustopher:

    Thanks, but I pay little attention to up or down votes.

  19. Ken_L says:

    And there is a transparent candor — what he actually is thinking at that moment — combined with a willingness to walk out of a charade.

    Of course what he is actually thinking at that moment is often inconsistent with what he was thinking at some other moment, and he’s likely to deny tomorrow that he even said it. But at least he’s transparent.

    The need that people like Hewitt have to pretend America is surrounded by enemies is very strange. I put it down to them knowing deep in their hearts that they’ve done nothing to deserve the extraordinary wealth and privilege they enjoy, so they’re convinced someone is going to come and take it away some day.

  20. DrDaveT says:

    There are four real crises in the world, and the most important one is

    …global warming. Duh.

    Wait, that’s not even one of the four? WTF?

  21. @DrDaveT: Well, to Ken_L‘s point: there is certain type of person who seems to conceive of politics as about figuring out good guys and bad guys and then acting accordingly.

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: I’m not so much a “most important crisis” guy on global warming anymore. I’ve moved to the “day late, dollar short” column, so the most important crisis part of it is what to do for the people whose island is under water now.

    (And of course, the answer to that is “nothing–they shoulda picked a better island to live on, n’est pas?” but that’s kind of how we got into the day late position in the first place.)

  23. Gustopher says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Global Warming has more than two states (normal and warm), so even if we are a dollar short and a day late, that’s better than being a two dollars short and two days late.

    The terrible scenario of two degrees Celsius is pretty much a given at this point, but we might avoid four.

    Fun Fact: more than half the carbon we have put into the atmosphere was in the last thirty years.

  24. Guarneri says:
  25. @Guarneri: I agree with Turley that Mueller should testify, even if I disagree with much of Turley’s critique.

    And therefore?

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  26. DrDaveT says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I’m not so much a “most important crisis” guy on global warming anymore. I’ve moved to the “day late, dollar short” column, so the most important crisis part of it is what to do for the people whose island is under water now.

    Yabbut, sea level rise is just (if you’ll pardon the expression) the tip of the iceberg. The Department of Defense is extremely concerned about the effect that hundreds of millions of displaced persons will have on geopolitics. Sharp declines in the productivity of the farmland that produces the bulk of the world’s food will also be a bit of a problem. The parts of the US that will be (occasionally) underwater include a big chunk of our military and industrial infrastructure, and tens of millions of people. Anybody think the current state of politics in the US can deal with that sensibly and equitably?

    Global warming is about so much more than sea level rise…

  27. gVOR08 says:

    @Ken_L:

    The need that people like Hewitt have to pretend America is surrounded by enemies is very strange.

    Conservatives seem to need an enemy. They were adrift for a bit after the Cold War ended, but now they’ve found Muslims and immigrants.

  28. Gustopher says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The Department of Defense is extremely concerned about the effect that hundreds of millions of displaced persons will have on geopolitics

    Roughly 800,000 Syrian refugees have caused a crisis throughout Europe and the US. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to what will happen.

    Even if we were to stop all carbon emissions right now, the effects would get worse (Does an ice cube on the kitchen counter melt instantly? Of course not)

    I suspect that caging children will be considered quaint and adorable within 50 years. Tens of millions were displaced in Asia by floods a few years ago, but that doesn’t really affect us, so we never noticed.

    I expect some US President will nuke Central America to cut the flow of refugees. Can refugees cross the irradiated wasteland of whatever is due south of Mexico? I suspect not.

    It’s moment like this that I am thankful that I am 48. At 6 and a half feet tall, and roughly 300 pounds, I think large dog rules apply (large dogs don’t live as long as small dogs), and I have already outlived one brother, and in less than a decade will have outlived my mother… I won’t see the worst of it. 2050 seems like a stretch. Good luck to the rest of you.

    People say that I’m not an optimist — these people are so very wrong.

  29. Rolo Tomassi says:

    I came across this entry of yours, Steven, when I was Googling Hugh Hewitt after his appearance on Meet The Press Sunday. Good stuff. I’ll have to peek in here more.

    I groan when I see that Hewitt is going to be on the panel with Chuck Todd and the others. Hewitt is no more than a Republican shill/lobbyist, essentially, and once someone or something is nicely wrapped in a Republican bow, Hewitt is the tireless defender of the cause. Today Chuck’s first question to Hewitt was in regard to Mick Mulvaney’s statements regarding the U.S.S. John McCain Trump childishness. Hewitt immediately pivoted to Mueller of course, completely disregarding Todd’s question and having his own pre-prepared spin and talking points at the ready – Trump exonerated, the investigation a waste of time, Mueller an embarrassment, the Republican king shall not be toppled.

    I really wish networks would cease and desist subjecting me to this Republican party mouthpiece and cheerleader and continue to have on intellectual conservatives like George Will, Jonah Goldberg and Rich Lowry to balance things out, get their educated perspectives. I don’t agree with the bulk of what they have to say but I do respect them as they consistently exhibit strength in their convictions and aren’t just puppets of a political party.

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  30. @Rolo Tomassi: Glad you found us and thanks for leaving a comment.

    I hope that you come back.

  31. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT: You missed the key phrase–“day late, dollar short.” Yeah, I get that losing their place to live is only the tip of the iceberg. My point is that all the stuff you describe is “destiny,” not “potential.” Fortunately for you guys, I’m not a scientist, so you can hope I’m wrong. I know that I do.

    (alas, it also doesn’t change the “solution” from the right/libertarian cohort, either.)

  32. Teve says:

    @gVOR08:

    Conservatives seem to need an enemy. They were adrift for a bit after the Cold War ended, but now they’ve found Muslims and immigrants.

    If Average Joe figures out that he has less and less because a handful of billionaires are taking more and more every day, the billionaires will not be happy. Much better to scare Average Joe with brown tuberculoid fence-jumping mexican anchor-droppers.

    As an aside, on the way to Gainesville this morning a friend told me her dad told her this weekend to stop buying Chobani, because the founder of Chobani is importing radical terrorists to work at his business. Two guesses what her dad’s favorite news source is!

  33. mattbernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I agree with Turley that Mueller should testify, even if I disagree with much of Turley’s critique.

    Without getting into Turley’s critique, I think most of us agree that Mueller should testify as part of an in-depth impeachment investigation.

    And therefore?

    Yeah, that’s what I was wondering… what was the point of that link other than to say “someone agrees with me that Mueller should have charged Trump with a crime or not mentioned anything about the obstruction.”

  34. Jay L Gischer says:

    You know, when I read that lede quote from Hewitt:

    The president is no longer an eloquent pushover professor-president but a ruthless real estate developer and television network brawler-president…

    my reaction was, “Wait, now you think Obama was ‘eloquent’? What happened to the crap about teleprompters?” He just called Obama ‘eloquent’!

    This is the “Last Stand of the Old Style Masculine Ideal” version of Trump. The one that holds bullying and bluster as a virtue.

    Oh, and by the way, I don’t think “conservatives” need an enemy. I think the conservative media ecosystem totally needs lots of enemies to keep people tuned in. This is how one makes clicks and money. Clickbait on the left takes a slightly different form, it’s more about outrage.

  35. Teve says: