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tv   Peter Wehner at The Washington Center  CSPAN  January 9, 2020 1:11am-2:01am EST

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go to the store and browse all of our products. up next, a former speechwriter for president george w bush talks about his career heading into the 2020 presidential election. that is followed by a house hearing on the spread of disinformation on social media. later, president trump responding to iran's missile attack.
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>> i developed an interest in politics early. my family would discuss public policy. i was a question asked her. i would ask my dad, why did the israelis and the arab world not get along. what about president nixon and henry kissinger? those issues really fascinated me. along with sports. school, i gothigh into debates with my social studies teachers.
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my parents were conservative. always a passion. i went to the university of washington. my undergrad was political science. a big deal to me that was critical to my career was internships. i interned at the center for strategic studies. that was one of the big chances i got. i assumed i would go to law school. i did have an interest in getting involved in politics.
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i would listen to john f. kennedy speeches. to the point where i memorize them. i fell in love with language. the power of words. i thought kennedy's words were very powerful. i ended up making my way. that internship, i got some jobs in the think tank world. including when i was just a young buck. eventually i was hired as a speechwriter for william bennett.
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i was intimidated. i felt like i was dropped in the deep end. that i really did not know how to swim. but it worked out. i worked in the george h w bush administration. as a speechwriter. in the 1990's, i was policy director at a think tank. was a very large figure in the conservative movement. he tragically died years ago. i was hired as a speechwriter
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for george w. bush. i would go instead. ofemember the morning september 11. this was an that uneventful day. the big topic of conversation's were supposed to be the congressional barbecue on the south lawn of the white house.
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when i got back to my office, i did what i always did. the first line of my email was nothing much is going on today. that was sent five minutes before the tower was hit. i thought this was a tragic accident. i went down and got some coffee. when the second plane hit i knew we were under attack.
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and he was on one of the major arteries here in the washington area. he said it was like a parking lot. nothing was moving. he commented on how low a plane had flown. that was the plane that hit the pentagon. you findnt like that out where you rank on the totem pole of importance. they said the capital was being hit. the state department was being hit. if you are important, they took you to a bunker. onyou are me you ended up the corner of 17th and pennsylvania avenue alone looking up at the sky wondering what is going on. i remember distinctly having this feeling, it was a beautiful
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day, a crystal blue sky. i'm looking up thinking, i feel like i feel like i'm in a movie. except in a movie it has a script. you know how it inns. this one does not have a script. i don't know how this is going to end. while is there i was a speechwriter. the words of the president always matter. they mattered after september 11. i hada couple of years been recommended to become director of the strategic initiatives office. job was perfectly aligned for my interests. in policy,ved politics, to the extent that i had inroads into the white house.
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i got along well with everyone. i was there until 27 -- 2007. my world now is primarily writing. i write for the new york times and the atlantic. i am not cynical about politics. i don't think i am naive about it. i understand there are downsides. there are people involved in are not embodiments of virtue and ability and high mindedness. that is true in every profession. i do think politics matter.
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it is about justice. politics can have a big bearing on justice. and even flourishing the human good. it matters. most of the people i have come across in politics, including people i disagree with philosophically at in terms of party politics, are generally good people. involved inget politics for the right reasons. some of it is mixed. personal ambitions are there. but that is true in every profession. intopeople i know get politics because they have some ideas that they care about. they want to pursue some causes. my attitude is, good for you. it matters. stay involved. keep fighting.
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i have been a lifelong republican. my first vote was for ronald reagan in 1980. i have worked in three administrations. philosophically i'm a conservative. i have been my entire life. i am a very sharp critic of donald trump. we are making the arguments we can. i don't disagree with all of his policies. i disagree with some of them. is innger he poses
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another round. threat to thea country. to the conservative cause. to the republican party. i say that as someone who is still a conservative. i am not one of those who became so disaffected by what has happened that i changed my political philosophy. i'm a critic of the president partly because i am a conservative. it has made life interesting as you can imagine. friendsade a lot of over my lifetime to see things very differently than i do. i am a person of christian faith. i have been associated with mostly evangelical churches my entire life. i am out of step there as well.
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part of my life these days is making sure that relationships stay intact even while we have disagreements. i think friendships are more important than politics. it is important to have relationships and friendships with people who do not see the world the same way you do. that is part of the way we learn. have a clue what will happen in 2020. if you want to have a conversation about what might on , as for me, i am a writer. i write on politics. sometimes on sports and other things. to putiter, you try these things in perspective. you call them as you see them.
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you have an obligation to tell the truth. to be open to being wrong. these debates are important. that is basically my life. we will open up the q&a and you can ask anything you want.
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>> i am from the harvard extension school. we have done some readings today on how the tea party has affected the republican party. we have had a few conversations about donald trump not necessarily being a very conservative republican. since you have been a lifelong republican, if challenges toe the republican line, if they of thein a strengthening republican party down the line or if you think it causes too much disruption to the party and takes away from its overall value. >> good question. it is very fascinating.
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the tea party movement, the genesis of it was the bailout of the banks after the 2008 financial crisis. i think was almost an unmitigated success. is a really good documentary called panic. they interviewed the key protagonists. it is a fascinating account of what happens. they had to bail out the banks.
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so it did not become a depression. but that bailout of the banks caused tremendous populist upsurge. if the banks went belly up, so with the rest of the economy. there would be huge collateral damage. they ended up paying back the loans. that catalyzed a populist revolt. the tea party was very strongly limited government. populist. antiestablishment. the 2010ly drove midterm elections, which were very damaging for the democratic party. the tea party has really kind of petered out. donald trump is in many ways the
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antithesis of the tea party movement. he has no interest in cutting government spending. he never articulated a case for limited government. he has views that are not conservative. but he is wildly popular within the tea party movement. they embodied a populist anger which trump tapped into. there is a kind of connection between the republican base and the tea party. it is not policy driven or intellectual. hiss on a much more affect
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ective, almost psychological and cultural. they revel in the style of his politics. i don't think the tea party is a force in the republican party right now. in terms of trump not being a conservative, it is a mixed bag. depends on what area you talking about. as far as judges, regulation, pro-life policies. those fall under the canopy of the republican party. and a lot of ways he is not a conservative. because ia first isolationist instincts are not
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conservative. has beennservatism understood in the modern era. he is a fierce protectionist. alive, as i have been conservativism has stowed for free trade. trump cannot be understood as a conservative. he can be understood as a populist. i don't think he is anything but a narcissist. he tapped into this populist movement. will it strengthen or weaken the republican party? i do not know. i don't know how it will play out. i'm worried about the republican party. i thought he would redefine it in his own image and he has. ofave had plenty
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conversations with republicans in congress who know better. their fuse on trump are similar to mine. but they don't think they can speak publicly about that. i think it is a mistake. i understand their position. it is easily for me that it is for them. i really do not know. i think the republican party right now, i would say it is in a precarious position. one of the reasons i say that is that the trajectory is not good. trump is toxic. if you look at the results, you can see the coming catastrophe. i live in virginia. our representative house member was barbara comstock. 2016, it is a purpleish district.
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hillary clinton wanted by four or five points. barbara ran and she won reasonably comfortably in 2016. in 2018 she got obliterated. she lost by 12 points. that is a classic republican leaning suburb. i think that will happen. there will be a big fight for the future of the republican party. >> thank you. my question is referring back to your anecdote on the day of september 11. since that day, did you see the evolution of nationalism and politics within the republican party. if so, do you see it getting better or worse? ini certainly did not see it
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the aftermath of 9/11. the republican party was a very different party. the country was different. when i began to see the changes in the republican party and how it was changing to an ethnic nationalist flavor was probably right around the mid to thousands. we were pushing a comprehensive immigration reform bill. up after the reelection of president bush 2004. our big initiative was an effort to reform social security. it went nowhere. then we tried immigration reform later.
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we almost got that immigration reform bill through but it in the depth failing. we should have led with immigration lata -- rather than social security. see this rise of anti-immigrant feeling. some sense of hostility. cultural displacement. that did not exist in the 1990's or early 2000's. able to locate exactly what catalyzed thought. there were factors going on that
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i didn't fully understand. president bush understood what was beginning to happen within the base of the republican party. thesember having conversations. he would talk about nativism and protectionism. another thing that was interesting was conservative talk radio. ,f you listen to rush limbaugh for most of his career, the binary choice was conservatism and liberalism. near the end of the 2000, you started to see the shift in him and others that went to antiestablishment. you were almost as likely to hear criticism of john boehner and mitch mcconnell of barack obama. there was a feeling of anger toward the establishment. things were not what they
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wanted. if you were tuned and you could tell there were these elements. now i think it is manifested people like tucker carlson. there is an ethnic nationalist movement. it goes by various names. you see it across much of western europe. trump got into the race in june of 2015. my first column in the new york times was july of 2015. the headline was president trump? just say no. i later learned from my editor that it was hard to get the piece published because people at the time thought, why is he writing about president trump?
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this guy will dissolve in a matter of weeks. he is not a threat. i did not think he would win the presidency. but i knew enough about the conservative movement that i knew he was tapping into something which i thought was pernicious. others were happy with it. i did not think he should be underestimated. i am from miami-dade college. i would like to know any impactful challenge or decision you have made as a christian and the political world. that is a really good question. notthe most part i have found myself in a position where i felt that my christian beliefs or ethics were in conflict with
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life and politics. to some extent i am probably fortunate because the person -- people i started myself with had integrity. it doesn't mean we didn't make mistakes along the way. i was not around people who i felt had defective character or were asking me to do things. lie or cheat or anything like that. policy wise, i will tell you one issue i remember having debates with colleagues in the white house. this was from a christian perspective. that was on the issue of enhanced interrogation techniques. critics call it torture. i was not involved.
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it was a top-secret program. when it came out, it the question was was it defensible or not? were releasing emails from those years. colleagues,ugh with a number of whom were christian. could this be justified or not? it was used in very limited circumstances. it is an age-old question. where you draw the line. actually had lunch with a friend of mine who runs a terrific organization.
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is a close friend. concerned about it from a christian perspective. i brought him into the white house. some people to talk through those issues. i was always uncomfortable with the program. so often you can come up with scenarios with which you can justify what was done. so withwould have to do a certain queasiness. it was not the kind of thing you want to normalize. can come up with the scenario if you say, you have a high ranking terrorist with .nformation waterboarding will elicit information. it would save 50,000 lives.
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is that something that could be justified? i think it could. but you have to be wary about taking those steps. i was thinking it through. i have not really felt much tension. most of it is being alert to the temptations of power. how easy it is to justify it. there is this real temptation to baptize public policy and think you are fulfilling the will of god. god is on your side. rather than trying to be on god's side. groups that have been
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involved with policy over the years, there is no group as susceptible could -- to the corruptions of political power than christians and politics. that is an odd phenomenon. there is a sense that we are at the citizens of two kingdoms. my kingdom of not of this world. they're supposed to be distance between us and our life. reasons that are complicated, a lot of christians are very easily seduced.
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>> good morning. i am from the university of san diego. i had a question about how you about the contrast between the bush administration and the trump administration with escalations in iran? >> i feel quite a contrast. they are completely different human beings. i have a much higher view of one than the other. out justhave taken him like president obama could have taken them out if we wanted to. decision.of the
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i don't shed any tears for him. he was a malevolent figure. he has lots of blood on his hands. one of their nasty actors. the fact that he is gone, i do not shed any tears. was he planning eminent attacks? that is the phrase the administration used. if that in fact was true, that can change the calculus.
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you could make the argument that you needed to take him out. i think there are questions about that. is it worth it? i suspect not. there are several layers you have to look at. there is obviously the military aspects. do we get into a hot war with iran? it appears we can take the offramp here. yesterdayns struck us in iraq. wereently no americans killed. maybe that is the end of that story. there are a lot of other things. what happens in iraq?
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there was a nonbinding vote to get out -- rid of the united states. if we were to leave iraq, that would be in the interest of iran and russia, not america. withe been in conversation people who served in the trump administration. there is a tremendous amount of concern and worry. allies are now lining up to make deals with the wrong -- ir an. they are worried. this is a lot of chaos in the region. there was growing antipathy to the iranian regime. this is ending up being a galvanizing point for the irani and people. that as this plays out, the costs will be higher
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than the benefits. that was certainly the calculation that both president bush and president obama made. they were right. you could say that taking him out was morally justified. that doesn't mean it was wide or prudent. presidentto design a to have in the oval office time, i'mrisis of any not sure donald trump is the president i would design. that concerns me as well. i think he is volatile. she is extremely impulsive. >> agreed, thank you. >> i am from central michigan university. have notd that others
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been dissolution from trump and the republican base. 42020, if and when he gets the republican nomination, will you still consider voting for him or will you vote for the democratic nominee or would you go third-party? i said i was not disillusioned with politics. i will not vote for him under any circumstance. i did not vote for him and 2016. i was no fan of hillary clinton. i voted for evan mcmullen. on whodo in 2020 depends the democrats nominate. i will not vote for trump for a variety of reasons. to see.have
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one has to think first about the good of the country. there is the realm of policy. there is the temperament of the person who is president. if you feel safe with him or not. emotionallogical and makeup and well-being. the future of the republican party if he is reelected. i think we are dealing with something else. i find his nonstop assault on truth and the categories of truth and falsity to be very dangerous and harmful.
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i think they are having an effect. if it were bernie sanders or elizabeth warren, i am not philosophically opposed to them. for me to voted for them. i do understand the argument of people who vote for donald trump. if you feel like his policies will do more to advance what is good in the country. and reasonable place to be. it is not where i ended up. criticism of republicans in general, especially evangelical christians, is not that they would vote for donald trump, it is that they become
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his sword in his shield. of holdingcapable two ideas at the same time. we agree with his policies on judges md regulation but we also think he is a moral and ethical rack. that really troubles us. you can't hold those two ideas at the same time. republicans and christians in particular are doing it. go quiet in the face of his ethical transgressions. they will defend him. in a weird way it is slightly amusing to see these people who use morality like a two by four. they made all these arguments about the centrality of moral
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leadership. many of those very same people will defend trump no matter what he does. and attack those who criticize him. that double standard, that hypocrisy, is the area in which they deserve to be criticized. never heard a good response to that criticism. of what it indicates is the degree of political tribalism and polarization we have. it is a fascinating psychological phenomenon. this ability we have as human beings to interpret the facts that are favorable to us and to wall off the facts that are contrary to what we want. that has art of -- always been part of the human condition and always will be. it is particularly acute now
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with someone like donald trump. it is much more important now to have a good understanding of psychology to understand this political moment than it is to understand politics. a lot of what is going on has to be understood through the prism of psychology. elon university. there are several trump policies that you are against and some that you support. which were in each category and why? side, generally his judiciary appointments have been solid. he has outsource them to the federal society. they are judicial intellectuals.
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trump has taken that list. certain he does not know the writings of any of his separate that supreme court nominees or federal judges. he is doing what he is being told. people i trust in the world of economics say dd regulation has helped. i am pro-life. his policies there have been good. the tax bill i was mixed on. argue on it.
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he is a protectionist and i am not. i think protectionism is a bad idea. i think he has removed morality not only as a centerpiece of foreign policy from anything at all. dictators iseats often offensive and weird. i don't know if you can have a love affair with a foreign leader. i don't know why you choose kim jong-un on any number of grounds. he seems to be infatuated with arguably the most ruthless dictator in the world. he does not believe in limited government or the reform of entitlement programs. to reform not going entitlement programs, you're not making a serious case for
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limited government. nativist appeals where his trump card during the election. there are undocumented workers and there is legal immigration. i am certainly sympathetic to the latter. i felt like on the former we needed to find a path of citizenship. i think on the merits is the right way to go. you can make adjustments to who
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is coming in. that is where i disagree with him. my primary objections my primary objections are not in the realm of policy, though the separation of children and parents-deeply offensive. but i think he is psychologically unwell and that worries me. said, the assault on truth reality, and the conspiracy-mongering is really that -- bad. >> we have come to time today. >> you bet. thank you for having me. [applause] >> thursday, the house meets for
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general speeches followed by legislative business at noon. members are taking up a war powers resolution, calling for the president to limit the use of military action in iran. on c-span two, the senate considers the nomination for the office of management and budget. then, president trump holds a rally is of his reelection campaign. , a look at efforts to secure voting systems. the house gets underway at 10 a.m. eastern. >> the house will be in order. c-span has been providing america unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events from around the country.
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1979, c-spanble in is brought to you by your local cable or satellite provider. c-span, your unfiltered view of government. next, a look at the spread of disinformation on social media and other internet platforms. the hearing include a representative from facebook and other tech experts testifying on ways to counter the problem. >> good morning everyone. the subcommittee on consumer protection and commerce will now come to order. we will begin with member statements and i will begin by recognizing myself for five minutes. good morning and thank you for joining us here today. given what is going on in the world. representative schakowski: we have seen life for americans transformed in many positive ways. the internet provides new opportunities for commerce, education, information and connecting people. however, along with these many new opportunities, we have seen new challenges as well. and thank you for joining us here today.

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