This week we asked Matthew Continetti, editor in chief of the Washington Free Beacon, six questions about President Obama, Iraq, 2016 – and Kate Upton.
1] Former Vice President Dick Cheney criticized President Obama for playing golf after he delivered the statement addressing the brutal and tragic murder of journalist James Foley. What do you make of that criticism? Fair?
MC: Of course it’s fair. Even the liberal New York Times agrees with Vice President Cheney on this one. I only wish the Times took to heart more of Cheney’s wisdom.
What surprises me about the recent criticism of Obama is that it’s happening. How is this vacation any different from the rest of Obama’s second term? Golf, eating out, hobnobbing with celebrities, lecturing the world on what its best interests are–these aren’t exceptions to Obama’s behavior since reelection. They are the norm.
2] Here’s a scenario. The president calls you up and asks your advice on Iraq. What do you tell him?
MC: I would refer him to his secretary of defense, who recently said ISIS is ‘an imminent threat to every interest we have.’ That type of threat requires a ferocious, unlimited response: expanded airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, generous weapons supplies to the Kurds and to the few remaining decent opponents of Assad, and more troops on the ground–some are already there–as needed. I know it’s important to the president to honor his campaign pledge to end the war in Iraq. But that position is no longer tenable. The war ends not when ISIS is contained. It ends when ISIS is defeated.
3] Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri said he was “thunderstruck” by some of the images that initially came out of Ferguson, the “over-militarization” of the police. What’s your reaction to what has been going on there?
MC: My reaction has been disgust at the media, which inflamed a combustible situation and turned a horrible sequence of events into a spectacle, one of the most watched summer reality shows on television. I think Governor Nixon mishandled this situation, hemming and hawing before finally calling in the National Guard, and demanding the prosecution of Officer Wilson before the investigation into the death of Michael Brown is complete. The events surrounding Brown’s death need to be investigated. If a crime was committed, justice needs to be served. But the time to debate the “over-militarization” of the police is after the looting has stopped and the riots have ended. Not in the middle of them.
4] Rep. Paul Ryan – who could potentially run for president himself of course — said he’d love to see former Massachusetts Gov Mitt Romney run for president again. What are your thoughts on that? And who do you see as the GOP front runner at this point?
MC: There is no GOP frontrunner, which is why you hear speculation that Mitt may run again. Should he? “Third Time’s the Charm” would make for a good bumper sticker. So would “I Told You So.”
5] Speaking of 2016, do you think Hillary Clinton has major vulnerability at this point should she decide to run?
MC: I’ve noticed that Hillary’s numbers are falling to Earth the closer we get to 2016. She is a formidable candidate, and remains the frontrunner to win the presidency. But sure she’s vulnerable. If she gives a few more interviews like the one she gave to Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the left won’t stand for it. They will either rally behind a noninterventionist inside the Democratic party, or embrace one outside the party. And certainly Hillary has to worry about the perception that she changes her positions at the drop of a hat, shifting to accommodate the circumstances of any given time. That worked for her husband, but she lacks his talent. Shape-shifting isn’t as easy for her.
6] So you are the EIC of the Washington Free Beacon and you work with your father-in-law Bill Kristol, who is an ABC News contributor and also the editor of the Weekly Standard. He’ll be on the roundtable Sunday. You announced recently your site will be going private and featured a large gif of model Kate Upton in the post announcing the shift, which isn’t something the Weekly Standard, for example, might do. Does this choice say something about your own approach to conservatism or did you just like the gif?
MC: Kate Upton stands for everything good about America. I can’t imagine an approach to conservatism that excludes her. Indeed, I would say Kate Upton is American freedom personified. What better way to announce that the Free Beacon is now for-profit? It got your attention.
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