State of the Union 2019 — interview with Marc Thiessen and Danielle Pletka | VIEWPOINT

State of the Union 2019 — interview with Marc Thiessen and Danielle Pletka | VIEWPOINT


Marc: We’ll never get rid of the State of
the Union because only once a year does the president of the United States get to speak
to 48, 50 million people, unfiltered by the media. Danielle: Good morning. Marc Thiessen, your resident fellow at the
American Enterprise Institute, previously chief speech writer to George W. Bush. Marc: That’s correct. Danielle: That’s 43. Marc: Yep. Danielle: Chief speech writer to Donald Rumsfeld,
Secretary of Defense. Marc: Yes. Danielle: And of course, well known flack
for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the happier days of yore. Marc: Yes, exactly. Danielle: Exactly. So we’re here to talk about the now-delayed,
but finally happening State of the Union. Marc: Yes. Danielle: Let me ask you one really, really
procedural question. Marc: Sure. Danielle: How does the State of the Union
get written? Marc: It is a long process. It is both the worst speech a president gives
and the most watched speech a president gives, which is why they all give it. Mitch Daniels had a column the other day saying,
“We should get rid of the State of the Union.” We’ll never get rid of the State of the Union
because only once a year does the president of the United States get to speak to 48, 50
million people, unfiltered by the media, directly to the American people, which is why Donald
Trump is giving this speech and why every president who has a chance will do it. It’s a really hard speech to write because
I worked on…I was the lead writer on two of them in 2007 and 2008, ironically the last
time Nancy Pelosi became speaker. So I’ve been in this situation before. It is incredibly hard to write because it
is essentially a laundry list of policies because everybody in the federal government
wants to get their policy named and their policy mentioned. And so you’re under tons of pressure from
every branch of government, every office. Everybody’s trying to cram in their policy. And yet, you have to have a theme to it, and
it has to be a speech that people are gonna pay attention to because no one wants to listen
to a laundry list of policies. So you start out usually after Thanksgiving. The president will…The speech writers will
give the president an outline of what they want to say, what the issues are. Then you start drafting over Christmas, and
he probably takes the first look at it in the beginning of January. Usually with President Bush, we’d start having
sessions in the Oval Office where you’d go over drafts. You would edit them. He’d give you edits, send them back, and then… Danielle: I have to interrupt you. I just have this weird, strange, sneaking
feeling that that’s not how it’s happening in the Trump White House. Marc: How it’s happening now. It’s entirely possible that it’s very different
today. I’m just…I only know what I’ve lived through. I can’t speak to what’s going on in this White
House. There was a vigorous fact-checking process
in the Bush White House, which I suspect is not happening exactly in the same way today. And then what happens is there’s a family
theater in the residence, which is a movie theater, and what they do is they set up a
teleprompter in there at a podium, and the president goes, and he starts practicing the
speech in front of a small group of people. He’ll deliver it once. The first one starts as an editing session
where he’ll start editing, and by the end he is just owning it and delivering it and
preparing for delivery. I suspect that’s happening. And then… Danielle: I hope so. Marc: And then you…And then he goes and
delivers it in the Roster Room of the House of Representatives, and it is really one of
the most effective speeches a president gives, despite the fact that it’s a list of policy
initiatives, because people are paying a…Once a year, everybody stops and pays attention
to the president and listens to him and gives him a chance to make a case for what he wants
to…the direction he wants to take the country. I think it’s a good institution to have. Danielle: I have a…Right. I have a feeling that once every three minutes,
we stop and pay attention to what Donald Trump is doing. And moreover… Marc: Yeah. Danielle: I feel like Donald Trump likes it
that way. So that’s sort of a difference. Marc: Sure. Danielle: One more procedural question. I think it was Ronald Reagan who began what
I now view as this almost execrable process of calling out people in the audience. Marc: Yeah. Danielle: Who’s sitting next to the first
lady? Who’s sitting next to the, you know…Who’s
sitting next to important people up in the rosters? And using them as… Marc: Lenny Skutnik. Danielle: Right. Lenny Skutnik. Nobody will remember who Lenny Skutnik was. Marc: Lenny Skutnik was the guy who jumped
into the Potomac when the plane…I can’t remember what flight it was, but a plane hit
the 14th Street Bridge. Danielle: Air Florida. Marc: Air Florida flight hit the 14th Street
bridge, and he jumped in and saved a bunch of people, and so President Reagan put him
up in the guest box and referred to him during the speech. And ever since, every president has done the
same with somebody. Danielle: But to the point of ridiculousness,
and they really now don’t feel genuine. They feel like props. Marc: Sometimes. Yeah. Danielle: They feel like people who are being
used to further a particular agenda, grind a particular ax. And by the way, that’s a total bipartisan
slap. Marc: Yeah. Danielle: That’s democrats, republicans. That’s everybody. Marc: It depends. It depends. So we…Every year, when we were working the
State of the Union in the Bush administration, we’d sit down, and we’d say for…We’d do
two things. One, we’d say, “We’re not gonna do a laundry
list of policies. We’re gonna do a thematic speech this time,”
and it never happens. Then two, we would try to not have the people
in the box mentioned in the speech and see if it…And it never works. The president always wants it because it’s
such…Again, the reason why the president gives the speech is because it’s effective. The reason the president uses human stories
in the box is because it’s effective. People like that stuff. Danielle: It’s also retail politics. Marc: It is, but I thought actually that Donald
Trump did it better than almost any president has in his last State of the Union Address
because usually what happens is you have a speech, and then at the very end, the president
says, “And in the box today, we recognize Lenny Skutnik,” or, you know, whoever the
heck it is. Martha Stewart we had once up there, for God’s
sake. Just like…You know, it was like ridiculous. Danielle: Was Snoop Dogg with her? Or was he… Marc: No, not this…No, not this time. Danielle: Well, that just isn’t any fun at
all. Marc: He couldn’t get in because of the drug
arrest. But so what Trump did is instead he weaved
them through his entire speech and used them as he was going and making a point, and then
he would point to somebody in a box and tell their story, and I thought it was incredibly
effective. Danielle: Okay. So. Marc: Yes. Danielle: Now to predictions. Marc: Yes. Danielle: What will be… Marc: What he will do? Or what he should do? Danielle: No. Marc: We could discuss both. Danielle: Yeah, two very different conversations. Marc: Yes. Danielle: And of course, we don’t know what
he will do because we’re not privy to those discussions anymore at the White House. But what do you think the theme is gonna be? I have a good guess. Marc: Well, obviously this is coming in the
midst of the government…just-ended government shutdown and the battle over the border. So clearly that’s gonna be a central theme
of his speech. I think that…I wrote a column the other
day suggesting what the president ought to do. I mean right now the president has just lost
the shutdown fight. So he is in a weakened place where he has
lost his leverage in the battle over border security. The democrats have all…are not gonna give
him a wall. They’re just not. Danielle: Even though they gave the previous
president a wall five years ago, six years ago. Marc: So Lamar Alexander pointed out the other
day that the last four presidents, two democrats, two republicans, to collectively build 654
miles of wall along our 2000-mile border, and democrats voted for all of it. So there’s no substantive reason not to give
him a border wall. The only reason they don’t want to do it is
because, one, because Trump wants it. Danielle: Right. Marc: And two, because their goal is not to
secure the border. It’s to destroy Donald Trump. And two, because of the shutdown, he made
it a manhood issue, where it was all…So there’s really no…Even if they wanted to
be reasonable, which I don’t think they do, they don’t really have a place to go to be
reasonable because he made it such an issue that if they now give him a wall after all
this, then their base will crucify. Nancy Pelosi is a hero now for standing down
Donald Trump. If she turns around and gives him a wall,
her base will crucify her. Danielle: How do we…Okay. So Donald Trump’s big aim here will be not
the sort of majestic, historic, you know, 200-plus years of American history and presidents
giving the State of the Union, although they used to send it up in writing. It will be, “How do I stick it to Nancy, that
dame behind me right there, who’s pulling faces at me?” Marc: I don’t think he’ll…I think he will…Look. The last two State of the…Donald Trump has
trouble with presidential. Right? Danielle: Yes. Marc: But in the State of the Union…Both
of the addresses…One is a State of the Union. One was an address to Congress because it
was his first year in office, but it’s the same basic form. They’ve both been very presidential and very
elevated and very well delivered. He can do…This is the tragedy of the Trump
presidency. He can do presidential. Danielle: Right. He just doesn’t. Marc: He just chooses not to on a regular
basis. Danielle: Well, he can’t control himself long
enough. Marc: Or can’t control himself, but he is
capable of doing presidential, and he’s done it twice at the State of the Union. So I would expect the State of the Union is
going to be elevated and presidential, but it’s going to be…But he needs a strategy
for how to get back on top when it comes to this border fight. I think that while he doesn’t have leverage
on the border wall, he does have leverage on border security because the democrats have
been at pains to say, “We’re not…We’re just against the wall. We’re not against border security. We want a virtual wall. We want sensors. We want this. We want that.” So if I was Trump, what I would do is I would
go to the Department of Homeland Security and say, “Okay. You, Department of Homeland Security, the
professionals, requested 230 miles of border wall. The democrats have said no. If you can’t have that, how much more money
do you need to secure the border through all those means that they say they support?” Then get…How many more border agents do
you need? How many more immigration judges? How many more sensors? How many more towers? Then go and say to the democrats, “Okay. You said no border wall? It’s gonna cost…It costs a lot more to secure
the border with people and technology than it does with steel slats. So here’s the bill. I’m not negotiating. This is it. You pay this. This is how much the security professionals
say it costs. It might be $10 billion. It might be $20 billion, whatever the number
is,” and say, “Here it is. You said you support this. Pay for it.” Then he wins because then he can say, “I’ve
done more to secure the border than any president in American history,” and by the way, he doesn’t
have to give up on the wall. He can still say, “We still need a wall. I’m gonna still fight for it. I’m gonna attach a wall to any healthcare
bill you pass, any other spending bill, any of your other priorities,” but he can get…He
can win a massive amount of border security funding, but they just won’t give him a wall. Danielle: The whole thing is intensely depressing. Marc: It is. Danielle: It really is. Marc: Because it’s not about substance. It’s about politics. It’s so stupid. Danielle: Not even about politics. It’s about personal, petty politics because,
in fact, the democrats, like the republicans, actually do…Most democrats. I’m not talking about their loons, just like
I’m not talking about the republicans’ loons. Marc: Yeah. Danielle: You know, most people want a country
with secure borders because that is actually what defines a country. Marc: Yeah. Danielle: For my part, the thing that has
been intensely depressing to me has been to see the corruption of asylum seekers. You know? There are so many people who need to be in
America. Marc: Genuinely need asylum. Yeah. Danielle: Who need us so badly, who are fleeing
not economic privation, but genuine terror, you know, whether it’s political oppression
or it’s actual terrorists, or it’s predatory governments. You know? These are the people who really need asylum,
and our asylum laws are being abused. And as a result, the quality of this, the
reality of asylum requests, is going to go by the wayside, and there’s going to be a
harsh attitude on the part of many towards even asylum seekers because they’re gonna
all be lumped together. Marc: Yeah. Sure. Danielle: That’s just heartbreaking for what
we stand for and what we ought to be offering the needy of the world. Marc: Yeah. You know, our…Ronald Reagan said it best,
I think, in his farewell address to the nation, where he said…He talked about the shining
city. He said, “I always told you about a shining
city on a hill, but I never really described the city to you,” and he said it was a city
teaming with commerce and people from all over the world, and he said if it had to have
walls, it had a wall, but it had a big wide gate that was welcoming to anybody who wanted
to come, who had the dream and the will to get here. I think that’s the conservative view of immigration. We have to have walls because we have to have
a country. We have to have a system by which we choose
people, but we should have a wide gate through which lots of people can come, and it seems
like the democrats want the wide gate with no wall, and a lot of people on the right
want just the wall and no gate, and that’s not…Neither of those are the American tradition. Danielle: And people have forgot…Right,
and people have forgotten what it is that we stand for and what it is that we ought
to be about in the world, and there’s no real leadership on these issues. Marc: But to his credit, when Trump did this
address to the nation, right before he gave the address to the nation, he held a… Danielle: The one that he gave right when
he caved on the shutdown? Marc: Right before he caved on the shutdown. Danielle: Right. Marc: He held the first ever naturalization
ceremony on the Oval Office. Danielle: Yes. Marc: And he…One person was from Iraq. One person was from Bolivia. Danielle: I loved that. I loved that. Marc: It was people from all different ethnic… Danielle: I wish it didn’t feel like a stunt
though. Marc: And he was sending a signal…I know,
but it was sending a signal that at least we’re for legal immigration. Danielle: Yeah. Marc: As a party still. Even Donald Trump is for legal immigration. So we have to get control of our border. I think he’s got a legitimate point on the
border, and we should all be for border security, but we should be a welcoming country as well. Danielle: There’s a great speech in there
that he could give. All right. Let’s talk a little bit about the economy. So last week, the Fed decided to keep rates
steady, which was interesting because of course they had previously suggested that rates were
gonna keep going up a few times. Marc: Yep. Danielle: And Donald Trump behaved again…not
quite getting that presidential thing…abusively toward the chairman of the Fed. But in fact, I think the economic situation
has changed. The economy has slowed. The economy in Europe has slowed. We’re looking even at a potential downturn
at some point. How much is Donald Trump gonna talk about
the economy, about jobs, about opportunity? And how much is he gonna talk about…And
this is where I really want to go because we’re not really domestic policy people here. How much is he gonna talk about China? Marc: I think that he actually has a very
good message to sell on the economy and a good record to present to the American people. So one of the things that Donald…What all
of us in Washington, both the left and right…He saw something that we didn’t, which was that
there was a segment of the American population that felt that neither party was listening
to them anymore. Danielle: Right. Marc: That neither party was taking their
concerns. I’m a free trader, but there were people who
were being hurt by trade. What you always hear about free trade is,
“Well, there’s no net effect on jobs,” that there’s maybe even net gains on jobs. Well, if you’re on the manufacturing side
of the net, that doesn’t work out to you so well when they gob gained as a high-tech job
which requires an education. So there’s a segment of the American population,
the people he called the forgotten Americans, who were not being listened to, and they decided
to send a bull into the China shop named Donald Trump, and he…To his credit, he can come
and claim that he’s delivered for those people. The manufacturing jobs are growing at the
fastest pace in four decades. We have the lowest unemployment rate for people
without a high school ed…with just a high school education, in the history of our country,
and… Danielle: And that goes for African Americans
as well. Correct? Marc: And African Americans and Hispanics. Danielle: Right. Marc: And women are doing better. He said…It gets very little attention, but
he went to an African American church in Detroit during the campaign, and he said, “I’m gonna
fight for you whether you vote for me or not,” and he included in his tax bill opportunity
zones, which is a policy that goes back to Jack Kemp, you know, creating opportunity
zones to create investment. African American employment rate is the lowest
it’s ever been. He could go up in the State of the Union and
say to African Americans, “I told you. What the hell have you got to lose? And guess what. I’ve delivered for you, and I know most of
you didn’t vote for me, but I’m gonna keep fighting for you.” He could say that. I don’t know if he will. Danielle: It would be great if he did. Marc: But so he has delivered for the very
people who he said he was gonna deliver for, in terms of how the economy is growing. In terms of China, the fact is that he’s…Those
people…You know, the farmers and all the rest of it who are worried about a trade war
with China, they still think that he is doing it because he’s fighting for them, and what
Trump is…What I think Trump has figured out is that…I mean everybody thought it
was stupid to have a trade war with Canada. Right? Everybody thought it was stupid to have a
trade war with the EU, but nobody thinks…I don’t think there’s a person on the left or
the right who doesn’t think that China is an economic predator, who is fleecing this
country. They’re stealing our intellectual property. They’re keeping us out of markets through
nationalist economic policies. And basically Trump calculated you can’t stop
that by going to the WTO. The only way you can do that is by threatening
real sanctions and real tariffs. Danielle: Mano a mano. Marc: He keeps saying, “I’m fine either way
because I think tariffs are great.” He’s wrong about that, but the fact if the
Chinese think that he thinks tariffs are great and he’s actually willing to pull the trigger,
they might have to capitulate. Danielle: Right. So I mean this is the challenge, and our scholars
have written really well on this. Dan Blumenthal [SP], Derek Scissors [SP],
Oriana Mastro [SP], Zack Cooper. All of them have written on these issues with
China. The problem I think is one that’s actually
being remedied, although people aren’t paying close attention. The problem started when the president came
in and said, “All I care about are trade imbalances and our trade deficit.” You know? Dude, that’s not how economics works. I’m really sorry. I, an economic-ignoramus, know that. But he has moved away from that and begun
to focus on exactly what it is that the Chinese are doing, the way that they’re using the
rules of the international road to exploit the system for their own benefit and to the
detriment of everybody else. Marc: Yeah. Danielle: And again, we know there are winners
and losers, and there are a lot of winners from our trade with China. Marc: Yes. Danielle: But the Chinese have stolen, you
know, everything from the F-35 to your security clearance data. Marc: And yours. Danielle: My security clearance data and,
you know, and tens of thousands of others. Marc: Yeah. Danielle: So this is behavior that should
not stand, and I think for the first time, we have a government, ironically, one of the
most retrograde leaders of the People’s Republic, but in Xi Jinping who gets it. Donald Trump is speaking his language. Marc: Exactly. Danielle: And so, you know, all we can do
is hope that this is managed appropriately, and that’s the big challenge, but it does
shake markets. There’s no question. Marc: Yeah, it does. So Trump’s policy is…I mean, you know, everyone
wonders why is our politics so vo…You know, our politics is volatile, and so is our economic
policy volatile because Trump is playing high risk. He’s playing a game of chicken with China,
and the reality is the only way he wins that game is if Xi Jinping believes he
really will…he’s not gonna swerve. He’s really willing to drive through, and
they’re gonna have to turn first. Danielle: Yeah. Marc: I think that also he has an advantage
in that the US economy is despite…I think there’s gonna be a negative impact because
of the shutdown on the first quarter, but when I talk to Strain [SP] and other people,
Michael Strain, our economic scholars here, they seem to think that that’s going to then
boost growth in the second quarter because all the economic part will be pushed up. Danielle: Pent up. Marc: It will pent up and be pushed out. So we have a booming strong economy right
now, at least for the moment. China’s economy is not booming. Danielle: Right. Marc: China’s economic growth has slowed to
a minuscule 6.5%, which we love that. Danielle: Probably not even that. Marc: We’d love to have that. Danielle: Right. Derek had a very good piece telling us exactly
how it was we should measure this and suggesting that, in fact, it’s not even that. Marc: It might even be contracting, some people
say. Danielle: Yeah. Marc: So he’s in real economic pain and economic
trouble, which is why, by the way, he just gave a big speech on Taiwan, because whenever
you’re in trouble at home, you get to criticize. Danielle: You mean she. Marc: Yeah, she. You know, go threaten war with Taiwan and
stoke the nationalist fears to get the people behind you. Danielle: Exactly. Marc: But so his econ…He’s in a weak economic
hand. Donald Trump has a strong economic hand, and
he’s calculating that China can’t afford a trade war, while we can, and we can ride one
out. So that’s his bet. I don’t know if it’s true. But again, the forgotten Americans, they say,
“He’s fighting for us.” Danielle: Right. Marc: He’s willing to go to the mat, face
down Xi Jinping and fight for us. Danielle: Okay. Let’s talk about Russia. Marc: Yeah. Danielle: Is he gonna bring it up? Marc: The Mueller probe? Danielle: Is he gonna bring up the Mueller
probe? Is he gonna bring up Russia? Is he gonna bring up Putin? Marc: Fascinating question. So, you know, on Russia, again, like, Donald
Trump’s rhetoric is like horrible on Russia. I mean literally… Danielle: Cringeworthy. Marc: The first president to defend the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan. Danielle: Was that not staggering? Marc: It was the most staggering of all the
staggering things Donald Trump has said and done in years. I never thought I could be shocked. That was shocking. But his Russia policy is really, really good. Danielle: Right. Right. No, I know. Marc: You know? Pulling out of the INF treaty, sanctions. I mean he’s, you know…He is actually following…People
say, “Well, the Trump administration’s policy is good, but Trump isn’t.” No, he’s the president. Danielle: Yeah, you don’t get to play that
game. Marc: He is doing…You don’t get to play
that game. Danielle: I agree. A lot of people don’t understand about the
INF treaty. Marc: So the question is if…But is he smart
enough to actually make that case in the State of the Union Address and lay out, “We’ve been
tough with Russia. Here’s what we’ve done. Boom, boom, boom.” Danielle: Well, start. Start. Explain the INF treaty quickly. Marc: So the Intermediate Forces Nuclear treaty
was a treaty that Ronald Reagan signed with the Soviet Union, which limits shorter range,
medium range missiles in Europe and their medium range missiles, and the Russians have
been violating it. So Trump has said that we’re gonna pull out
of it, and the Russians are really upset about it. Danielle: And something everybody’s been ignoring
is that NATO came out with a statement right after we announced it and said, “Yep. Russians have been cheating.” Marc: Yep. They are. Yeah, but this is also…It’s not just a Russia
play. It’s a North Korea play. Danielle: Right. Marc: Because, you know, pulling out of the
INF treaty means we could deploy intermediate range nuclear forces in east Asia, which is
something that they…It’s a…If the negotiations don’t go well with North Korea, that’s something
they probably don’t want. Danielle: Okay. Marc: So there’s some…I’d hate to say this
phrase and Donald Trump, but there’s three-dimensional chess going on here. Danielle: All right then. We’ll let our audience make a judgment about
that one. Marc: It’s like in Star Wars with the little
monsters and everything like that, jumping up from stage to stage. Danielle: I feel like it’s more like Space
Balls, but maybe that’s just me. Okay. So Russia. Marc: Yeah. Danielle: I don’t think he can help himself. I think if he’s got a line in there about
Russia and what Russia’s doing and anything that’s serious about Russia, he’s gonna stop,
and he’s gonna talk about Mueller. He can’t help himself. Marc: But he’s never talked about Mueller
in a State of the Union address. Danielle: You think he won’t? Marc: I think it’s just…I think that’s probably
a debate they had in the Oval Office, and I think he would be smart to take your advice
and not do it. Danielle: He would be smart to take my advice. It would be a first. Marc: So let me turn the tables on you and
ask questions. Danielle: Yeah. Marc: I’m taking over this interview. Danielle: That’s right. Go ahead. Marc: All right. What do you think he will say about Syria? And how…So the Syria withdrawal, I mean
literally is universal with the exception of a handful of people here and there… Danielle: Rand Paul. Rand Paul says, “Yeah.” Marc: …you know, is condemned…I mean everybody
in his administration opposed it. His secretary of state, his national security
advisor, his defense secretary, nobody in the administration supports it. He hasn’t nominated a defense secretary because
he probably can’t find one who will go up to Capitol Hill and defend it. Danielle: Oh, my god. Marc: He can’t ignore it. How does he handle this in the State of the
Union address? Danielle: You know, this is one of those things
where when you talk about the prep for the State of the Union, I just think about the
argument that’s got to go on there because, of course, that’s exactly right. What happened? Donald Trump after a telephone call with the
proto-dictator of Turkey, the godfather of the Muslim Brotherhood, right, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he gets off the phone and says, “We’re done. We’ve won. Yay,” and everybody is gobsmacked. And, you know, what’s happened is that everybody’s
tried to finesse Trump, and I think, you know, again, people don’t talk about the president
as a rocket scientist, but he’s not a dummy, and he knows when he’s being finessed, and
he knows when he’s being hustled. And so it’s been very interesting to watch
as Secretary Pompeo and National Security Advisor Bolton have both been in the Middle
East, trying to figure out how we’re gonna manage with our allies this announced withdrawal
that is apparently really happening. And I think none of us really know. Is it happening? Isn’t it happening? Are we switching other troops out? I know that there’s a lot of backfilling going
on. The problem is I think the president thinks
this is a talking point. We’ve beaten ISIS. Marc: Yeah. Danielle: And of course… Marc: We haven’t. Danielle: The biggest problem for Donald Trump
is we haven’t beaten ISIS. Marc: Yeah. Danielle: And you know this is, again, this
is a failure to understand history. This is the great cliche. You know? It is not learning the lessons of history. We watched as Barack Obama pulled troops out
of Iraq, and we got ISIS again. Marc: And Trump criticized him for it on the
campaign. Danielle: And Trump criticized him for it. Marc: He called him the founder of ISIS, and
everybody went crazy. How can you call him the founder of ISIS? Danielle: Can you imagine if Barack Obama
had made a deal with the Taliban? Marc: Oh, my gosh. Yeah. Danielle: To pull out of Afghanistan. Again, I understand, and I think there’s a
lot that is criticism-worthy in our policies, both in Afghanistan and in Syria and frankly
throughout the Middle East, and we’ve all written a great deal about this. But just because we are not doing it right
doesn’t mean there isn’t a threat. Marc: Yeah. Danielle: And so the problem…Why haven’t
we won in Afghanistan? Great question. I mean the main reason is because we don’t
really understand the enemy. We still don’t understand the enemy. The enemy understands us. Our Katie Zimmerman has written great work
on this, and I commend it to everybody who’s watching. But, you know, what’s gonna happen in Syria
if we pull out? And we only have 2000 troops. We are not talking about Iraq here. Marc: Yeah. Danielle: If we pull out the 2000 troops that
we have in Syria, and I think the president is bound and determined to do so, what we’re
gonna see is the reintroduction of Bashar al-Assad to the community of civilized nations. Our alibis are already talking about reaching
out to him, about reopening their embassies, but he can’t control the whole country because
the entire country is against him. What does that mean? It inevitably means Al Qaeda mark 16. You know? ISIS mark two, mark three. Jabhat al-Nusra, you know, this Al Qaeda
affiliated and then unaffiliated terrorist group in Syria. It means all of that. It means that we’ve abandoned the Kurds in
the north, and that of course is why Turkey wants us out. And it will come back and bite us. The American people think that it won’t bite
us hard, and all I can say is it’s bitten us really hard in the past. Marc: So Trump is asking…We’ve talked about
this before, how basically Trump didn’t campaign as an isolationist. He campaigned against us sucking. Right? He campaigned against…You know, he wasn’t
against international…The Americans didn’t vote against internationalism. They voted against the internationalists. Danielle: Yeah. You and me. Marc: You know, Trump said…Yeah, but also
the Obama people. Danielle: Yeah, you and me and Barack Obama
and Susan Rice and Ben Rhodes. Marc: The Bush people screwed up and Iraq
and Afghanistan. The democrats screwed up Libya and Syria,
and I’m gonna win. Danielle: And Iraq. Yeah. Marc: We’re gonna have so much winning. You know? So now he wants to claim victory prematurely. Danielle: But pretending to win is not a thing. Marc: But, you know, exactly. Danielle: Remember that mission accomplished
banner. Marc: Yes. Exactly. Danielle: Don’t do that. Marc: But here’s the…So the Americans ask
a fair question, which is, “When do these wars end?” You know, you hear the phrase “forever war,”
“never-ending war,” and all the rest of it, and what I always say in response is generally
if you look at history, wars ended when the enemy surrendered. Danielle: Right. Marc: Right. And so Al Qaeda is not surrendering. The Taliban are not surrendering. ISIS is not surrendering. So you know, the enemy gets a vote in when
the wars end. We can’t choose. Just because we are tired of fighting doesn’t
mean the war ends. It just…We don’t get to choose when the
war ends. We get to choose where it gets fought. Danielle: So but what the American people
ought to be mad about, and this is what Donald Trump has to think about before his State
of the Union, what the American people are mad about is being lied to about this again
and again and again. Marc: Sure. Legitimate. Danielle: We told…Right. Mission accomplished. We won. You know, we’re gonna…”I promise to end
this war in Iraq, and I’ve ended this war in Iraq,” quote Barack Obama. Marc: Yeah. Yeah. Danielle: And Donald Trump is about to go
and do the same thing. And by the end of his term, Barack Obama found
himself in Iraq and in Syria and in Yemen. Marc: Yeah. Danielle: Again. Right? That’s the problem with Donald Trump, is we’re
either gonna find ourselves in those circumstances, or we’re gonna find ourselves looking at some
very, very serious terrorist threats either in Europe, potentially in the United States,
to our aircraft and elsewhere. Marc: Very much so. Danielle: So that’s the challenge. How does he finesse that? Given that I’m sure, in his heart, he believes,
because he wants to, that we won. Marc: Well, what he has done and he deserves
credit for is he has removed the physical caliphate of ISIS, which is a major
accomplishment. He undid the damage that Barack Obama did
by withdrawing and allowing us to…You know, John Brennen testified that when Bush left
office, there were about 700 ISIS fighters left. They controlled no territory, and we took
our boots off their necks, and it became 30,000, 40,000, and they controlled a territory the
size of Great Britain. So now he has undone that mess by beating
them back, driving them out of their territory, but our intelligence community, which he doesn’t
always trust obviously as we saw the other day, says that they are now stronger than
they were in 2006 before the Bush surge that knocked them into that…So. Danielle: I want to take you one more place
before we stop because we’re using up time, and also we’re cheating because in fact Donald
Trump won’t talk half as much about foreign policy as you and I are, but that’s why we
control the microphone. Marc: Exactly. Danielle: Exactly. So North Korea. He’s got an upcoming meeting. He’s gonna meet with little rocket man again. We’ve got the prep meetings going on right
now. The intelligence community is leaking to the
New York Times and the Washington Post that the North Koreans are never gonna give up
their nucs. And what’s he gonna say? Marc: It’s a fascinating question because
I mean he’s going to take credit for the fact that they’ve stopped testing, that they’ve
stopped launching missiles. He’s gonna say that we have the best relationship
that we’ve ever had with the North Koreans. Danielle: The best. It’s beautiful. Marc: Yeah, because everything is the best. Danielle: It is the best. Marc: And to some extent, he deserves some
credit for that. There was a pause in all of this. The North Koreans…I think the intelligence
community assessment is right. They’re not going to give up their nuclear
weapons, and this has always been a Hail Mary play. Danielle: Right. Marc: What the president is doing right now. Danielle: Okay. I hate sports. What is a Hail Mary play? Marc: It’s a…You toss the ball all the way
down from the first one-yard line all the way down the field and try to hope that somebody
catches it. Danielle: Got it. Marc: Hail…Basically not…Low probability
but high reward play. Danielle: All you other not-sports people
are gonna thank me for that. Marc: I usually use hockey analogies, but
anyway. So this was always gonna be an unlikely-to-succeed,
but worth-trying situation. Danielle: But what do we give up? Marc: Well, this is the…So again, this is
the thing about the…I give Donald Trump a great deal of credit. He hasn’t given up anything to the North Koreans
yet. Danielle: Not yet. Marc: Except a summit, which is really not
that big a deal. I mean, you know, the reality is that he hasn’t
recognized the North Koreans. He hasn’t given diplomatic recognition. He hasn’t lifted sanctions. In fact, he’s tightened sanctions. Danielle: Right. Marc: He just slapped sanctions on Kim’s inner
circle. Danielle: Right. Marc: So he’s actually tightening the squeeze. He’s put sanctions on Russians who were trading
illegally with them. He hasn’t ended the Korean War. He hasn’t given them a…The North Koreans
thought that they’re gonna do their…Package date number two. Danielle: Right. Marc: Which is, you know, go. We blow up some towers. You give us billions of dollars. We revive our economy, and we start building
again, and then we play it over and over again, and Trump’s basically said, “No, we’re not
doing that. I’m happy to talk with you. Here’s what we demand. It’s gonna be…” And the good thing we know is that he’s not
going to cut a bad deal with North Korea because he pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal for
a set of specific reasons. And so that sets the low bar that he has to
cross on any deal with North Korea. He can’t have one that has front-loaded sanctions
relief. He can’t have a deal that doesn’t cover missiles. He can’t have a deal because everyone will
say, “That’s what you pulled out of the Iran deal over.” Danielle: I hope you’re right. Marc: So he’s set a bar. Danielle: Everyone will say, “It’s not a strong
feature of the Trump administration decision-making process,” I feel like. I think he’s also gonna talk about Venezuela
because things are, for once, going in the right direction there. Venezuelan people are looking at some real
relief, and they’ve got…This administration actually has the first semblance of reasonable
policies we’ve seen on Venezuela to relieve not just the Venezuelan people, but the people
of South America, the people of Central America, from the danger that Chavismo,
Maduro and the Cubans who basically run the government in Caracas are imposing. We got to stop because I know we’ve gone on
too long, and we could go on for another hour. If you were writing the speech, it would be
fabulous. I got my fingers crossed that the president
is gonna do a good job, a credible job, and that he’s gonna make some headway in his no-good-will-come-of-it
fight with Nancy Pelosi. That would be… Marc: Amen. Danielle: That would be the ideal outcome. So thanks a ton. Marc: Pleasure. Danielle: We’ll be back next year. Hey, everyone. That’s the end of our discussion with Marc
Thiessen. Thanks for watching. And if you enjoyed what you saw, remember
to like the video or leave us a comment, a nice comment, and be sure to check out the
rest of our videos and research from AEI.

4 thoughts on “State of the Union 2019 — interview with Marc Thiessen and Danielle Pletka | VIEWPOINT

  1. 25 minutes in, they need a mention of the history of Afghanistan going back to before the time of the Kahns as "The place that empires go to die".

    When you have an enemy that won't surrender, that's when the sand should be turned into trinitite and the desert should glow in the dark for a thousand years.

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