Higher Learning for the Conservative Mind

President Donald Trump

President Trump's Diplomatic Policy Towards North Korea

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HUGH HEWITT: Welcome back American, morning glory to you from the ReliefFactor.com studios inside the Beltway. That music means it's time for the Hillsdale Dialogue. Every week at this time I talk with either Dr. Larry Arnn, Dr. Matthew Spalding, or one of their colleagues at Hillsdale or at the Kirby Center in Washington DC, the lighthouse of reason in the shadow of the Capitol where Dr. Matt Spalding hangs his hat and he is in fact joining me this morning. All things Hillsdale are at Hillsdale.edu. All of our conversations dating back to 2013 are collected at hughforhillsdale.com. Dr. Spalding, were you listening to me talk to Lindsey Graham just now?

MATT SPALDING: I was. I caught the end of it there. What an amazing conversation.

HUGH HEWITT: At the bottom of this hour I'm going to play the part when we come back that did not make it on the air because the North Korean candor is something. What did you make of his remarks? Because I thought it was remarkable too.

MATT SPALDING: I thought the most interesting thing about it right at the very end when you asked him about the people who can't get over their aversion to Trump. And he made what is a classic answer, what should be the classic answer, which was he was in the debate, he was in the contest, he was beaten. He understands that. He now sees a-- I don't what word he used-- but he sees a resolution in this president to get these things done. That's what he favors. He's willing to distinguish the immediate politics of the moment, the contest if you will, with the reality of what happened, but then getting on to what he wants to accomplish.

This is what politicians used to do. This is what we kind of learned not to do it anymore when we got into doctrinal politics, as I refer to it Trump's broken all that open. I have to give him credit. Lindsey Graham, I think he looks at it as a political question. He has moved on. He's now focused on what's in our best national security, what are the policies we want to advance, what does this president do that I agree with? He's working with him. That's the way it ought to work.

HUGH HEWITT: You know, Matt Spalding, when I confront my friends who are Never Trumpers, and they are my friends and Dr. Arnn and I talk about this a lot, I am at a loss to understand the vehemence with which they loathe President Trump. Because he beat me like a drum too. I've got Trump tattoos right? Very few people have been insulted in front of two million people. That's my job, this is the business we have chosen Hyman Roth says in The Godfather, and I don't take it personally. Why do so many people take it personally?

MATT SPALDING: Well it is kind of a derangement. You're right about that. I think what it gets back to, to take a broader step back, is that over the course of the 20th century, especially in the last number of decades, the politics on both the left and the right, politicians, political thinkers have forgotten how to think politically. They saw politics as very stilted. It was very defined. It was doctrinal. It was check off the boxes. And as a result they got so comfortable in that and they thought they had it so close that someone like Trump comes along completely outside of the box with various attributes and aspects of his life that we don't agree with, we don't like. But he's so far outside of the box that I think they weren't capable of thinking that way. I always looked at-- I looked at him, not necessarily my first choice or my second choice, but as it came along I could see what he was doing.

But stepping back I look at him as a 19th-century politician from a historical perspective. There are always people elected that you don't completely agree, with or you agree with somewhat, or you actually don't like. Think of Henry Clay and the various people he went up against. Your enemy in the party has gotten elected. But then you figure out how to adjust. That's what politics is about. If you have firm principles of what you're trying to accomplish, ideas about the nation, and what its objectives are, what its interests are, that is the overriding concern. And then you adjust to that and you make provincial decisions about how to act. I think we don't think that way anymore.

We've been trained out of it. We've come to the conclusion that politics is highly about personality over the principles. And it's also politics has become very personal. And you know to quote Hillary Clinton, it's about personal destruction. And I think that has something to do with how we actually think about the political process and we've forgotten that. Trump's broken all that open, which I think is one of his great virtues, so that we now have to rethink how to think politically, which is why these kinds of conversations and people like Lindsey Graham, you quoted earlier, who can maneuver and see outside of that and think on their feet I think are becoming more valuable rather than less valuable.

HUGH HEWITT: Yeah there is a new book out, Dr. Matthew Spalding, by Conrad Black, Lord Black, himself controversial, right, but himself a real estate developer in small part, called Donald J. Trump a president like no other. And I have admitted candidly to Conrad Black and to everyone I learned so much from this that I simply did not know because I'm not a New Yorker. Only New Yorkers know Trump right? And the president had a long history of acting exactly as he is acting now and he won doing so. I think those of us who are DC-focused ignore everything that happens outside of DC when it comes to assessing an individual.

MATT SPALDING: No, I think that's right. So now you've got a book. I'll have to get that. I haven't read it yet, so I'll put it on my list.

But look at what's going on with North Korea right now, it's a perfect example. If you actually read his letter, it's a wonderfully Trumpian letter, which is not diplomatic speak. It's very straightforward.

He talks about this wonderful relationship that was developing, but under the circumstances, we're not going forward. This is bad for you. We've got more nuclear weapons than you do. It's bad for the world. It's your mistake.

HUGH HEWITT: Yeah, exactly. Let me read to you.

MATT SPALDING: Classic Trump, classic Trump.

HUGH HEWITT: Page 33 of the Conrad Black book-- "the negotiations in the autumn of 1990--" because Trump was on the verge of bankruptcy-- "took place in the Plaza Hotel, were fierce and ill-tempered, unlike the discussions with the banks, where reasonable decorum is normally observed. But Trump flourishes in this environment too," writes Black.

"And with nerves of steel, he allowed the negotiations to break down twice and actually went into default." That is two sentences out of about 100 pages chronicling how he did business, which I just actually-- I never watched The Apprentice. I didn't care. I never read Art of the Deal. I didn't care.

MATT SPALDING: Same here.

HUGH HEWITT: But it actually is relevant to what he's doing now on the international stage, and in a good way.

MATT SPALDING: I think that's absolutely right. And what makes that-- on the one hand, we don't know how to think about it. But on the other hand, it is so unlike previous presidents, previous established diplomatic norms, that it's out of the ordinary. So we're a little bit nervous.

And yet that approach is different in a way that I think foreign leaders, both our friends and our enemies, see it for what it is, which is he's using strength in his power on the one hand, but then he's backing off on the other hand. He's negotiating from an advantage. And if that's what he's doing, that's pretty darn impressive.

HUGH HEWITT: Now before we go to break, Lindsey Graham was talking about a war on the Korean peninsula, and a resolve that in the first term, he is not going to kick the can down the road. They're either going to denuclearize or we're going to have a war. And that's a million casualties, Matthew Spalding. Did you hear what I heard when he said that?

MATT SPALDING: I started catching right at that-- when you're having that discussion. I heard that. That's very disconcerting and nervous.

These are high-stakes discussions, which is why I think it's important to get back into this. But look, I mean, I think the key thing here is for too long, we've kicked this can down the road. Every president, both sides of the political aisle, have done so.

This president, I think, is not going to do it. I don't think that's what he wants to be. That's clearly not where Lindsey Graham wants to be. But how do you deal with such a rogue individual as this? I think what this has always pointed to, if you go back to our conversations about North Korea in the past, is we need to get our act together for ballistic missile defense.

HUGH HEWITT: Yes

MATT SPALDING: We need to be able to defend ourselves. We need to be able to have it so that we have other options, what's not merely a negotiated settlement or war. We have the ability to shoot those things down and they would know that, and it would be clear. And if that's the case, this goes back to Ronald Reagan. If that's the case, that changes the equation, that would be a game-changer.

HUGH HEWITT: It would be indeed. And when we come back, we'll continue the conversation. I want to play for you very quickly, Matthew Spalding, Mike Pompeo, the new Secretary of State, with Mark Udall yesterday, cut number four.

MARK UDALL: Given that the president refuses to disclose his tax returns, how can you assure the American people that American foreign policy is free of his personal conflicts of interest?

MIKE POMPEO: Senator, I-- I find that question bizarre.

MARK UDALL: Well, I didn't-- you don't want to answer it, then?

MIKE POMPEO: Senator, I've been--

MARK UDALL: You just want to describe it as bizarre--

MIKE POMPEO: Yes, I do.

MARK UDALL: --not give me an answer.

MIKE POMPEO: I think that's indicative of my answer, Senator.

MARK UDALL: Yeah.

MIKE POMPEO: I've been incredibly involved in this administration's foreign policy now, for some 16 months, and I have seen literally no evidence of what you are--

MARK UDALL: Well, but I want to ask you--

MIKE POMPEO: --scurrilously suggesting.

MARK UDALL: --ask you specifically about.

MIKE POMPEO: Scurrilously

MARK UDALL: No, it is not scurrilously.

MIKE POMPEO: It is an outrageous suggestion.

MARK UDALL: My friend--

HUGH HEWITT: So Matt Spalding, Mike Pompeo said it was scurrilous, outrageous, and bizarre. 20 seconds-- how great is it to have someone speak candidly?

MATT SPALDING: It's very great. I mean, he's got his Senate confirmation. Nothing else from here, but a run for president maybe. Never again will he go before the Senate. He can say it like he sees it.

HUGH HEWITT: Scurrilous, outrageous, and bizarre-- I'm looking forward to more Senate testimony from Mike Pompeo. Stay tuned, America. "The Hillsdale Dialogue" proceeds with Dr. Matt Spalding after this.

Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt. Thank you for listening to the Hugh Hewitt Show. Always a pleasure to have you with me on Fridays when the "Hillsdale Dialogue" unfolds, either with Dr. Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, or today, Dr. Matthew Spalding, who leads the Kirby Center, the lantern of reason, sweet reason in the shadow of the Capitol, where boy, do they need a lot of it.

Before we come back next segment and play for people that part of the Lindsey Graham interview from the last hour that I didn't air yet, Dr. Spalding, there was an article in Politico about Hillsdale College. And there were some good parts in it, but it created a misimpression about what Hillsdale is doing. Can you both summarize the article and what you really are about?

MATT SPALDING: Well, this was an article in Politico that was focused on Hillsdale's operations in Washington DC. And the lead of the article, as I'm sure the editors were playing with and loved the narrative here, was that Hillsdale College was being very effective and active politically because they were essentially Trump University. Trump University hadn't gone away; it's Hillsdale College.

And this narrative goes throughout the article, showing all these connections. But it missed the big point and the story itself was an ineffective hit in the sense that the details actually pointed in a different direction, which is that what we're trying to do and what Hillsdale and Washington represents is not a lobbyist, not a think tank. We're not putting out policy papers.

Our influence, if we want to use that term, comes in a different form that Washington is not used to, which is we teach, we form people. We shape our students. We work with those who are our fellows. We work with a lot of people around town in order to educate them.

And through those ideas, yes, we have influence, but it's a long game we're playing, trying to recover constitutional government. It's not this immediate political effect I think they were looking for. And despite their intention, that's not where the article ultimately points to, and it completely misses the idea that what Hillsdale College is really goes back to our original mission, 1844, upholding civil and religious liberty based on the teaching of the great ideas of Western civilization. And that that's our great contribution to our country. But also in the immediate sense, our contribution to politics, which is it's about the ideas. It's about what we actually do in the long run.

HUGH HEWITT: Well, you know, I've got to talk to you a little bit about this. They don't understand, I don't believe, that the reason Hillsdale is influential is not because of anything in Michigan, or at the Kirby Center, but because of the graduates you produce and the lives they choose to follow and proceed, and the way in which they conduct themselves.

MATT SPALDING: I'm sorry, you may. Mike Pence, he gave our commencement address, and that's the occasion of writing this article, which was to show that there's these connections. But one of Mike Pence's lines in his commencement address, there's a sign on the highway as you're approaching Hillsdale. And Pence quoted it to great effect in his commencement address-- Hillsdale-- it's about the people. Which is exactly right. It's about what we're producing.

It's these minds we're forming. It's the characters we're forming. And they're going to go out and do great things.

As I said in the article, I'm not interested in the current speaker, or this current this or that. I'm interested in the future ones-- who are they going to be? Where are they going to be educated? What are they going to be taught? That's what Hillsdale is about.

And if that's what they consider to be questionable political influence in Washington DC, and it's narrow and partisan, they're just completely missing how politics, in the general, the old sense, ought to work. It's about shaping people's minds. And that's what we do. That's where our contribution is, and that's also why we're different. And that's why what we do here in DC, whether it's our undergraduates, whether it's our fellowship programs, whether it's a graduate program we're going to start here, that's going to be a different thing that I think Washington DC and the political intelligentsia is not used to seeing.

HUGH HEWITT: And that's why when you go all over town, inside the beltway, you bump into relatively young men and women, sometimes-- barely shaving if they're young men-- sometimes they look like, are you in high school or whatever? And they're Hillsdale graduates and they're doing important stuff with senior people and doing it well, Matt Spalding, very, very well. I'll be right back. Dr. Matt Spalding and "The Hillsdale Dialogue" continues.

I'm going to play for you, coming out of break, what Lindsey Graham and I talked about North Korea and then discuss it with Dr. Matt Spalding. Don't go anywhere. It's "The Hillsdale Dialogue," America, on The Hugh Hewitt Show.

Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt. Time for "The Hillsdale Dialogue" to continue. All thing Hillsdale are collected at Hillsdale.edu. Incredible online courses-- you could take one this Memorial Day weekend and emerge 72 hours from now a lot smarter.

You can listen to every "Hillsdale Dialogue" I've had with either my current guest, Dr. Matthew Spalding, who leads The Kirby Center Hillsdale outpost in the capital, or Dr. Larry Arnn, or any of their colleagues at Hillsdale. All of those are collected at hughforhillsdale.com. Matt Spalding, the President of the United States has been tweeting.

HUGH HEWITT: In order, he wrote, "I will be making the commencement address today at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. Looking forward to being with some of the greatest people on earth." Then, "the Democrats are now alluding to the concept of having an informant placed in an opposing party's campaign is different from having a spy, as illegal as that may be. But what about an informant who is paid a fortune and who sets up way earlier than the Russian hoax? Can anyone ever imagine having spies placed in a competing campaign by the people and party in absolute power for the sole purpose of political advantage and gain?

And to think the party in question, even with the expenditure of far more money, lost." Quote, "everyone knows there was a spy. And in fact, the people who were involved in the spying are admitting that there was a spy. Widespread spying involving multiple people-- Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist senior editor. But the corrupt mainstream media hates this monster story.

Democrats are so obviously rooting," it continues "against us in our negotiations with North Korea, just like they are coming to the defense of MS13 thugs, saying that they are individuals and must be nurtured. Or asking to end your big tax-cuts and raise your taxes instead. Dems have lost touch."

And then, finally, "Very good news to receive the warm and productive statement from North Korea. We will soon see where it leads and hopefully to long--" hopefully-- "to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time and talent will tell." Matt Spalding, that's a lot for one tweetstorm.

MATT SPALDING: That's a lot.

HUGH HEWITT: What do you think?

MATT SPALDING: That's a lot-- lot of stuff there to work with. The key thing, here-- he's going back on this point about putting somebody in a campaign. Whether we call it a spy or not, fine, they put somebody in there who is on their payroll. They sent them in to try to get information.

This is not merely a random meeting on the street. They were reporting back. So they intentionally did it to try to get information from a campaign. That is an extremely significant thing that radically changes how the operations of a political campaign would work.

I mean, I think what a lot of this stuff does is we're starting to see a very different narrative here, because we're learning a lot of things about dates and when things started, what the timeline looked like going back to the spring of 2016. And they started trying to gather information on an opposition campaign and this was conducted by an administration of the other political party in power? This makes me very nervous.

And put this together with the communications between the figures that we found out about within the FBI that have later come to head. Start putting all that together, they clearly wanted to get the Clinton investigation about the emails quickly set aside and dealt with, and move on to the Russian investigation. You add to this, it's sounding more and more political. The narrative looks different.

I think that if this continues going this way, it's not only undermining Mueller's investigation, potentially taking some people out of the investigation, but the public perception of this-- we're seeing the numbers, that this was very political in a way that-- call it a spy or not, but I think that takes away from the deeper argument, the more significant argument, which was this was the FBI becoming politically involved, investigating domestic targets, including those in a political campaign. That is revolutionary.

HUGH HEWITT: It is indeed. Now I want to go back and use some of "The Hillsdale Dialogue" time to play for you Lindsey Graham and I off-air-- he knew we were going to play it and so it wasn't surreptitious-- talking about North Korea and the president. And then I'll have Matt Spalding comment on the other side. Play it, please, Adam.

I want to switch to North Korea, if I can, and preface it. This isn't a book club, but I'm going to ask you about another one. Have you read Conrad Black's new book about Donald J. Trump-- a President Like No Other?

LINDSEY GRAHAM: No.

HUGH HEWITT: He has got in here detailed reconstructions of the negotiations of the President. If you and I had read this before the debates, we would have approached him differently. One of them, on page 33, reads-- "the negotiations in the autumn of 1990 took place in the Plaza Hotel, were fierce and ill-tempered, unlike the discussions with the banks where reasonable decorum is normally reserved.

But Donald Trump flourishes in this environment. And with nerves of steel, he allowed the negotiations to break down twice, and he actually went into default." And that's a story that happens again and again-- he walks away and then he walks back in. Do you think that's what's going on with North Korea?

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, yeah, there's some of this. I talked to him yesterday, and the President feels like they're playing him, so he brought it to an end, and we'll see if we can re-engage. But everybody is missing the big picture, here. Donald Trump, within 30 days of becoming President of the United States, met with me, McMaster, and a few other people, and we talked about North Korea.

This is the first time I met him as President. And he said, what do you think? And I said, I think North Korea is your most acute problem. Iran is your long-term problem. I said you get two choices-- containment, which is give them a nuke and a missile, and tell them if they ever use it, we'll blow you off the map. I don't like that because they sell everything they build, so that's a dangerous strategy.

So to me, it's denial-- denying them the capability of having a weapon to hit America with a missile with a nuclear weapon on top. We're not going to give them that capability. Tell them to get out of the nuclear business and be willing to go to war.

And he turned to McMaster and he says, what do you think? He says, I think we need to get them to give up their nukes for the good of our security in the world at large. He's made a decision, the President has, that he's going to end North Korea's nuclear program. It's only a question of how and when.

There are two ways on the House side-- the diplomatic negotiations with China helping us. They give up their program, we sign a peace treaty to end the Cold War. They get a better economy. We're not invading North Korea. We'd give them the security they need and they give up their nukes, and they're in the same boat as Japan and South Korea.

The other way is if they insist on continuing to have a nuclear capability to threaten America, that we use military action, which would be the total destruction of the regime. The question is when-- I think, I personally believe, having talked to the President as of yesterday, that he's going to bring this to conclusion in his first term.

HUGH HEWITT: How long did you talk with him for yesterday, Senator Graham?

LINDSEY GRAHAM: A good bit-- I'm going to meet him later in the weekend. We talk a lot about North Korea and Iran. How do you enter into a bad deal with North Korea after pulling out of the Iran deal because it was bad? The president's got a clear goal here.

I don't know how he bought and sold property. I don't know how he bought and sold golf courses, but he was pretty good at it. As President of the United States, he's made a decision to end the North Korean nuclear program. He wants to do it peacefully, if possible. And he's going to do it in his first term, I believe. Now--

HUGH HEWITT: Senator Graham, yesterday I had had Colonel Chip Berke on yesterday. He's the only man who's flown the F-16, the F-18 Super Hornet, the F-22, and the F-35. He's a big fan of the latter two, but he doesn't think that the F-18 can survive North Korean air defenses. And we haven't got enough of the stealth aircraft to take out-- yeah.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Right.

HUGH HEWITT: This would be a lot of dead people, right? We're talking about a million casualties if this comes to blows.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, so let's understand what we're saying here. We're saying that as a last resort, we'll use military force to destroy the regime's nuclear program, which basically means destroying the regime. Now yes, that will be difficult. It will be devastating to the region. But 20 years from now, if they keep building nuclear weapons and missiles, they're going to sell it to somebody who will use it.

Iran is different. They have a religious mission. They're religious zealots. They're religious Nazis.

If they get a nuclear weapon, they'll use it for religious purposes, to purify the Sunni faith, destroy Israel, and come after us. So where does a terrorist group get a weapon, a nuclear weapon, that they would actually use? From a regime like North Korea or Iran.

So the President has calculated, for the good of the world, for the good of the United States, I'm going to take off the table North Korea have nuclear capability to threaten the homeland and the world at large. And if it takes a war to end that nuclear threat, so be it. And the war will be over there, the people dying will be over there. And he doesn't want to do that, but he's going to pick regional conflict to secure the homeland. I hope people understand that.

HUGH HEWITT: When you see him this weekend, Senator Graham, will you tell him what you think the casualty estimate from that-- because I think it's a million people. Do you agree with me?

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Yeah, it may be. I don't know what the casualty figure would be. It depends on how quickly it goes, how hard the North Koreans fight. Do all the generals rally around this nut job and do they all die for him? All I can say is the likelihood of a nuclear weapon falling in the hands of a terrorist to be used against us comes from a sale by North Korea. The likelihood of the Mideast getting into a nuclear arms race where one day, somebody will use nuclear arms, is allowing the Iranians to possess a nuclear weapon to deal with Iran, and ensure them a pathway to a nuclear weapon.

So Donald Trump is going to end the nuclear threat coming from Iran. He's going to end the nuclear threat coming from North Korea. Everybody before him punted, everybody before him talked and did nothing. They play us like a fiddle. They understand our--

HUGH HEWITT: Last question for you, Senator. We're running out time. When I would see you on the debate stages in 2015 and 2016, did you ever imagine that you would be assessing President Trump this way in 2018 on Memorial Day weekend?

LINDSEY GRAHAM: When I thought he would lose, I thought he couldn't win. And I had no idea what his foreign policy would be. I am pleasantly surprised. I am very pleased. Building up the military, getting out of the Iran deal, putting North Korea on notice that we're going to end the threat coming from North Korea, building up the military-- all good. Taking his gloves off--

HUGH HEWITT: So if you've changed, why can't the Never-Trump people change? What is it with these people?

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, here's the difference between me and them-- I was in the contest, got beat like a drum. He won. Wanted to help Obama, want to help him, and I see in him a resolve not to be Barack Obama. He's not going to crawl through glass to get a bad deal. He's not going to be played by North Korea. He's going to break Iran's back until they enter into a deal that ensures they won't get a nuclear weapon down the road.

He has to do this. He constantly says, why did everybody let it get so bad, Lindsey? Why didn't they do things quicker and better before? And I said Mr. President, most people who get this job try to get out of this job without major conflict. Unfortunately, you don't have that luxury.

HUGH HEWITT: Well said.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: It's up to you, Mr. President, to correct a lot of bad problems, and I'm going to help him as much as I can.

HUGH HEWITT: Well, enjoy playing golf with him. Don't give him any strokes, Lindsey Graham.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Don't worry, it's the other way around.

HUGH HEWITT: How many strokes you get?

LINDSEY GRAHAM: As many as I can get.

HUGH HEWITT: I mean, he's got to give you a stroke-a-hole right?

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Well, he's not into the giving mode on the golf course.

HUGH HEWITT: All right, so Matt Spalding, what do you make of that candor?

MATT SPALDING: Uh, it's-- well, thank you for playing that. I had heard the last bit, we talked about that, but that's an amazing discussion. I think that's the kind of discussion we need to be having. My respect for Lindsey Graham has gone up. The fact that that's the conversation he's been having with the president, the leadership, is very good. That's the kind of strategic thinking we need to be going through.

I think he is looking at these threats in a way that previous presidents hadn't. I think he wants to remove the Iranian threat and the North Korea threat. These are exactly the way Lindsey Graham has played it out. I think it's a question of, we're looking at our options.

HUGH HEWITT: And we'll come back after a break-- we're going to talk about those options after the break with Dr. Matt Spalding from Hillsdale College on "The Hillsdale Dialogue," hillsdale.edu.

Welcome back, America. It's Hugh Hewitt. "The Hillsdale Dialogue" is underway with Dr. Matt Spalding, Director of the Kirby Center, Hillsdale College's outpost inside the beltway in the shadow of the Capitol. Dr. Spalding and I have had a news-filled morning-- not only my conversation with Lindsey Graham about North Korea, but the president's many tweets. So Dr. Spalding, stepping back as we head into Memorial Day weekend when we salute those who gave their all for this country, we're in a very different context than you and I-- we've been doing this a long time. This is just a different presidency and a different way of doing business.

MATT SPALDING: It is, but I have to say that, especially when it comes to questions like this, North Korea and Iran and foreign policy, I would argue that this is a presidency that actually goes back to, I think, what has been and is the historic norm, about thinking about our national interests, thinking about how to preserve and protect the country and its allies, and putting in place the options to be able to do so. That conversation you played from Lindsey Graham struck me as that way of thinking. It also reminded me, what was the strategic calculus-- looking at in the 1980s-- that Reagan was looking at? What were his options?

His options at the time were continuing some sort of detente or deterrence, perhaps more robust containment of the Soviet Union, or nuclear war and mutually-assured destruction. Reagan rejected those options and what did he do? He started another program called the Strategic Defense Initiative that would build a robust ballistic missile defense, which among other things, would also challenge the Soviets economically in a way that hopefully would allow them to collapse, would push them over the top.

This was the Team B report, or I recall that Mr. Pipes died recently.

HUGH HEWITT: Right.

MATT SPALDING: That Team B-- you can put--

HUGH HEWITT: Richard Pipes, not Daniel Pipes-- Richard Pipes.

MATT SPALDING: Richard Pipes-- so you can collapse the Soviet Union through the ballistic missile defense. That was Reagan's new way of looking at a different option. Think about that option today.

When I did missile defense in the late 1980s, one of the things we considered beyond the Soviet Union, was what do you do about rogue states? And a lot of the work looked at North Korea. Ballistic missile defense technology looking at North Korea and Iran today would be very good. We need to get him going. He needs to buy some time.

So if you add to that conversation an announcement by the President of the United States, which is already existing American policy passed by Congress, to develop a missile defense system, and you put those interceptors in, you put them in theater, you get them going, focused on Iran and North Korea, and get that developing, he has now got more options. And that way, you're not stuck in the only two options that Lindsey Graham points out-- you keep pushing the diplomatic one, breaking them open, breaking the competition open. Because if you get that economy in North Korea, it is so far gone you start that thing turning-- this would be like going into Cuba, right? I mean, it will just overwhelm it. That's the option we'd prefer.

The option we don't want to be stuck in is being forced to go to war, which would be devastating, but perhaps necessary. We need another alternative. So that's where I would argue he should go.

HUGH HEWITT: And I think we have to assume, will have posted the audio and transcript here of Lindsey Graham fairly soon, that that will travel quickly, even to the fortress nation of North Korea. And they'll begin to see that serious people with influence-- Lindsey Graham's seeing the president this weekend-- are talking about, OK, how long would the regime last? I mean, that travels.

MATT SPALDING: That's right and they know that Lindsey Graham was a critic who's now made these observations. That's very significant. And they will see that. I think they're already getting nervous. You've seen-- they've now issued a statement saying we want to continue talking.

Now they're going back to norm, which is they always just want to talk. But I think there's a different calculation going on here and it's because of this president, who doesn't want to complete his presidency, doesn't want to complete this first term, according to Lindsey Graham, without having significantly solved these problems.

If that is his understanding of the principal issue here, that is what needs to be done. It's a matter of figuring out how to do it in the time we have, thinking strategically with my allies in Congress, but also my military advisors. Gosh, this is a way of thinking we've not seen in presidents and political leaders in the United States for a while I would say not really since going back to Ronald Reagan.

HUGH HEWITT: Matt Spalding, last question-- Axio's Jim VandeHei has just tweeted out-- "The United States was closer to war with North Korea last summer than is widely known, sources close to the White House tell us." John Bolton is there now. Mike Pompeo is there now, and they have had a breakdown on this. Do you think-- I mean, we've got a minute left. Do you think we're getting close to that?

MATT SPALDING: Look, I think this is a rogue regime. I think as it gets more weapons, we are getting closer, absolutely. But I think that's why you need to be very aggressive not only in pursuing the fronts he's pursuing, but also I really think we've been putting off our missile defense systems. We've got to aggressively go to those. We have the technology. Our military could do it. We need to get our options going while we have that time. We need to use that time very aggressively.

HUGH HEWITT: Very well. Dr. Matt Spalding from Hillsdale. Thank you, Hillsdale.edu.

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