Mike Sabo, a Mount Vernon Fellow of the Center for American Greatness, joined American Greatness contributing editor, Seth Leibsohn last week on the Seth and Chris Show to discuss the ways that General John Kelly’s press conference about President Trump’s dust up with Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Florida) exposed a kind of general ugliness on the Left but, in addition, demonstrated a limpness and refusal to engage with the fight on the right. You can listen to the audio below or scroll down further for the transcript.
Seth Liebsohn: Welcome back to the Seth and Chris Show. I am Seth Liebsohn, delighted to welcome to the show Mike Sabo. He is the Mount Vernon fellow at the Center for American Greatness. Mike, thanks for spending some of your Friday night with us. You and our good friend, Julie Ponzi, had a strong piece up “Kelly Exposes Ugliness on the Left, Limpness on the Right.” Kelly being Chief of Staff, General Kelly. Welcome to the show Mike.
Mike Sabo: Thanks Seth, thanks for having me on. I really appreciate it.
Seth Liebsohn: I really appreciate your writing. I have been, uh … appreciative of it for some time. As a first time guest, tell the audience a little bit about yourself: where you grew up, how you came to be doing what you’re doing.
Mike Sabo: Sure, so uh … I grew up, actually, in Northeastern Ohio, around the Cleveland area. Um … Went, actually, to school, uh … down at, Ashland University. So the great, uh … Peter Schramm . . .
Seth Liebsohn: Yeah, we were talking about him yesterday, yeah, we were just talking about Peter Schramm. We miss his very much.
Mike Sabo: Yeah, he was one of my teachers and, he was just a great guy, great man, great human being, great citizen. Uh … just can’t continue to say enough great things about him. He is really the reason why. You know, my interest in politics, um, and everything really, …is… it stems from him. I just can’t say enough about him. Um … so, graduated from there was actually a legislative aide in the Ohio State House …um …House of Representatives …for… in Columbus for I’d say about 3 years. Um, knew I wanted to go to grad school so, I actually got in the Hillsdale graduate program, got a masters from there. And, then actually, from there ended up moving to D.C. actually worked with …uh… our joint friend, David Azerrad from The Heritage Foundation to work with him for a year. He is a great, great thinker, great communicator. And then, really, kind of jumped on with American Greatness. Um, Julie Ponzi kind of reached out to me and I started writing and that’s, uh, how we got to where, uh, I’m at today.
Seth Liebsohn: Well, I’m glad you’re doing it. I’m glad she, glad she found you Mike. I want to get right into this uh… this fight. I sure thought yesterday General Kelly’s press conference and his statement would have put an end to pretty much the whole contretemps. I really thought that would be the last word on it. Um, I didn’t know, as General Kelly said he didn’t know you could politicize such a thing, the way the Florida Congresswoman Wilson did. I didn’t think that after Kelly’s statements there would be anything further to be said. I truly thought that would be the last word. But, no, um… as it turns out, Congresswoman Wilson or Congressman Wilson, however she prefers to be called is fine. She …uh… she has now bragged uh… about being a rock star. She is now a rock star, she says. And, that of General Kelly’s most heartfelt statement yesterday—by any standard, any account—she said, he was just trying to keep his job. Which I think was a doubling down on disgust, quite frankly.
Mike Sabo: Right, and even more so than that, I was reading over accounts even today where General Kelly used a locution … I think like double barrel, something like that
Seth Liebsohn: Yeah, empty barrel maybe? Yeah
Mike Sabo: Empty barrel, that’s right. And, you know, that’s some …you know, she says it has some racist overtones to it obviously. Um, she called, I think basically, the White House, you know, full of white supremacists. And, I mean, you just … It gets vile enough yesterday, as you were saying, and, you just think, “Ok, it can’t get any worse”, and, they go lower. And, it just … you know, to really kind of unmask the left and to really see the depth …um… the corruption. It’s just … it’s heartbreaking, it really is, it’s heart-wrenching.
Seth Liebsohn: Yeah, and this… this charge of racism, it’s awfully weird. Now she’s charging Kelly with racism. Um… her statement itself is odd when she makes the charge. Let me read it to you. About him using the phrase “empty barrel,” she writes, “Ok, that’s a racist term too. I’m thinking about that. We looked it up in the dictionary because, I had never heard of an empty barrel and, I don’t like to be dragged into something like that.” Well, if she had never heard of it, how does she know it’s racist?
Mike Sabo: Right, exactly, and so much of this stuff, you know, when you hear about dog whistles and this and that. And it’s like, well … well, wait a minute. I mean, so, the only people then can hear it are the people who can pick up on it. So, how can the Congresswoman hear it then, if it’s only intended for white supremacists? So, the whole premise is just … it’s absurd, and it’s ridiculous. And, this is the depth to which, unfortunately, our politics has sunk and, this is why we got President Trump as President.
Seth Liebsohn: That’s now, … Of course, all of that is what you um … put in the first half of your title “Kelly (General John Kelly) Exposes Ugliness on the Left, Limpness on the Right.” Talk to me about the limpness on the right.
Mike Sabo: Sure, so on the right, uh … President, uh, George Bush just gave a speech very recently, I think it was a couple days ago. And, you know, unfortunately, it was a lot of veiled shots . . .
Seth Liebsohn: You know what, Mike, I’m sorry. I apologize. I asked you a big question and, it deserves a big answer and, we’re going to a break. Can you hold over the break and come back to us on the other side?
Mike Sabo: Absolutely.
Seth Liebsohn: Great! Thank you. We’re talking to Mike Sabo. His piece, “Kelly Exposes Ugliness on the Left, Limpness on the Right.” His piece, I should say co-authored with the uh… formidable Julie Ponzi. She was with us last week, Mike’s with us this week. Lucky we are. We’ll be right back.
Welcome back to the Seth and Chris Show. I’m Seth Liebsohn joined by Mike Sabo. Talking about his piece “Kelly Exposes … John Kelly Exposes Ugliness on the Left, Limpness on the Right.” Uh, Mike we were talking about the comments, debate, controversy as between Frederica Wilson, the President and John Kelly … uh… And, that explains what John Kelly took on on the left. Right before the break I asked you if you would now … wouldn’t mind talking about the limpness on the right part.
Mike Sabo: Sure, so, I was just getting into a little bit, George W. Bush, obviously, had a speech a couple of days ago where he made a lot of kind of veiled references to … um… what the press obviously took as shots at Trump. And, I think, that definitely were some shots at Trump. There was talk about, you know, America turning inward, America becoming isolationist.
Seth Liebsohn: The return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that America’s security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, nationalism distorted into nativism, you bet, forgotten dynamism of immigration. Yeah, yeah. He wasn’t talking about Barack Obama. Nor, has he ever said anything about Barack Obama like that.
Mike Sabo: Right, and, I kinda wonder, you know, I mean. Trump has been in office for eight months, and, you know, Bush speaks one time in eight months. I mean, where was he for eight years of Obama? So, I thought that was a little bit striking. Um … and, you know, it’s unfortunate. I mean, not everything, obviously, was on Trump but, you know, there was … And, you know, I don’t think that there has been any loss known to with his disdain of Trump. I know his daughters have come out and expressed their shock and horror at Trump, so… And, you have Carl Rove and you kinda have that whole clan and, obviously, Trump represents a repudiation of them too. And, it’s unfortunate.
Seth Liebsohn: Yeah …um… And, we’re not even mentioning, making mention of John McCain’s speech earlier in the week. Which I think was equally, or perhaps even stronger, against Trump at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia. And, it is a curious thing. I mean, I … Look, in a good day and a good age, we police ourselves, we call ourselves in our own movement and, in our own party, to the better angels of our nature. We bring each other to the better parts of conservatism. We correct each other when we’re wrong and we can all do it in public.
What’s odd to me, however … What’s odd to me, is when we side with the left and the critics against ourselves when we haven’t really done very good of a job in actually going after the true political opponent, which is the people on the left. I mean, this was done in the same week, by George W. Bush and John McCain, the same week that ISIS was thrown out of Raqqa, their self-declared capital of their Caliphate. And, they’re talking about how bad his foreign policy was. This the defining issue of the McCain and Bush tenures, during the best of their tenures, the fight against terrorism.
Mike Sabo: No, that’s exactly right, and, it’s just the timing’s poor and, you just see, you know … In Iraq, and elsewhere, and you see some of the fruits are … is the foreign policy really showing itself. So, the timing’s just poor too. And then, another thing, which Julie and I both talked about was, you have Bush who, you know, um … being dignified, polite, mannered and, that’s for him. Unfortunately, all that means being a good politician and good gentleman even and, a good person is … you know, when the left is kinda throwing their swings and arrows. And, that’s unfortunate, because what about when you actually fight back? What about when manly virtue, spiritedness, that kind of thing, that just never enters into the equation? And, it just shows that, you know, the right is, basically, for a long time, unfortunately, become a punching bag, they’re used to it and, any kind of hint of even fighting back, you know, that’s bad. We can’t do that.
Seth Liebsohn: Now, it’s a funny … It’s a funny thing on top of that. I don’t know if you were following some of this on Twitter … I guess it was yesterday. Um… Where we were being told, we, supporters of Donald Trump and sometimes critics of George W. Bush… Ah, we were being told, “today’s not the day to criticize George W. Bush”. I don’t understand why… I don’t understand why, why we were told to shut up. I really don’t. I don’t know if you picked up on any of this.
Mike Sabo: Right, and the irony is from the same people who during eight years of George W. Bush, again … I mean, he … disagree with probably a lot of his policies now. You know, in retrospect … Barack, we can talk about that … But, from the same people who were calling him Hitler, basically all the same names that they’re calling Trump now. All of a sudden he’s the left’s moral compass. I mean, the hypocrisy is just, it’s astounding.
Seth Liebsohn: It is… It is astounding. It’s astounding hypocrisy and, it’s astounding that they’re lecturing us not to criticize anything. I mean look, any man, who is big enough to give a speech like that or be a president or, run for president, is big enough to be criticized. Um … Ah … I have a really hard time, on a week like this, watching these people go after Trump the way they have gone after Trump. And, again, I come back to, was there not one positive thing to say about him? Was there not one positive thing to say about what looks like an incredibly … an incredible success story in Raqqa? I mean, the media has been nowhere on this. It seems to me it’s our duty to propel that story.
Mike Sabo: Right, and I think it’s really important. Uh, I think Roger Kimball, actually, wrote a really good piece earlier this week where he just went through, you know, ten, eleven, twelve different things that have happened. Um … you look at what healthcare happened. You know, Trump’s sent that back to Congress. You look at just a whole host of issues on the things that he’s done already just through executive actions, executive orders and, you know, it’s almost more than some of these guys have done in eight years. So, it’s just incredible and the silence on that.
Seth Liebsohn: Well, let’s put it this way. I mean, let’s put it squarely. Everything that Donald Trump is struggling with, has to struggle with, that this country has to struggle with, everything, whether it’s a failing healthcare system … Uh, whether it’s North Korea, whether it’s the conundrum of Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria, Russia, for goodness sakes … ongoing Middle East problems, Iran. Every single one of those things were not created by Donald Trump, they were left for him to solve. Or, I should say, they were put in his lap.
Mike Sabo: Oh, that’s exactly right.
Seth Liebsohn: By those two predecessors.
Mike Sabo: That… that is exactly right. You look at, you know, the North Korean policy. Obviously, both have helped precipitate this, where they just kept giving and giving and giving just to, um, pacify. And, look at where that has gotten us today. Um … You look at all these host of issues and again, I mean, Donald Trump didn’t cause these things. Um, this is why he was put in office because our past presidents of both parties have failed and have led us to the precipice. So that, that’s … You know, Donald Trump, I think, is just … a stick in the eye to both of these guys and I think they do not take kindly onto that, at all.
Seth Liebsohn: Winston Churchill, of Winston Churchill, it was said that … um … the true task of serious political science is to see things as they really are. And, I think, Mike, what we are seeing is the condemnations of Trump for style, talk about language, perhaps, talk about tweets. But, missing the action, missing the serious things, missing… missing the facts on the ground and what is being actually done. The record vs. the rhetoric. And, the rhetoric has its political points to it but, it’s the record here that … I don’t know. I’ve been in this movement a fairly long time. I don’t see anything in the record here that isn’t something the conservative movement has been asking for and wanting for at least thirty years.
Mike Sabo: Right, I mean, I totally agree. You go down the checklist judges, I mean, just everything is exactly what we’ve been wanting.
Seth Liebsohn: You bet, you bet, and now we’re gonna do it with tax cuts if we can muster our will to get it done. Mike, keep writing. I love your stuff, I really do.
Mike Sabo: Alright, thanks a lot Seth.
Seth Liebsohn: Thanks for being with us. I really appreciate it. (602)508-0960 is the number. It’s open line Friday. We’re opening up our lines and, I’m gonna get back to this personal question about friendship, justice and Aristotle when we come back as well. I’m Seth Liebsohn. We’ll be right back.