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Producers’ Pick | Mark Esper: Trump Didn’t Surround Himself With the Best People

Brian Kilmeade Show / Brian Kilmeade
The Truth Network Radio
May 15, 2022 12:00 am

Producers’ Pick | Mark Esper: Trump Didn’t Surround Himself With the Best People

Brian Kilmeade Show / Brian Kilmeade

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May 15, 2022 12:00 am

Fmr. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on President Biden’s failed Afghanistan withdrawal and what he thinks held President Trump back the most during his presidency.

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Visit Samsung.com to learn more about Galaxy Z Fold 4. About what's happening on the ground in Ukraine, we're just writing a $40 billion check now. And some people are saying, when does this stop? When do we stop giving money to Ukraine when America is suffering economically here at home? What do you tell my listeners?

Well, I'd say a few things. First of all, look, this is more than just Russia versus Ukraine. It is autocracy versus democracy. And I think we need to support the Ukrainians. They are showing a lot of skill, grit, leadership, courage under fire. And I think that if we can provide them the training, the means, the material, the weapons to fight this fight, that means we don't have to fight it. And look, as somebody who grew up in the Cold War era, I know what Russia can do. And when I was Secretary of Defense, the implementation of the National Defense Strategy was my top priority.

But I will say this much, too, though, Ryan, to your question. Forty billion is a lot of money. And we've already put forward, I think, 11, 12 billion before then. We need to make sure we understand where it's going, that there are controls, that we know exactly what we're getting.

And that, look, I'm a budget hawk. I think there should be offsets as well. And we need to factor those things into consideration, too. And lastly, I think we need to not only think about Ukraine's defenses. I don't like the budgets being put forward by President Biden. I think they're weak.

They're flat. And we need to really build up the United States military more broadly and deal with the greatest adversary space in the country, which is China. Finland has come out and said, as of today, they're officially applying to be a NATO member. I can't imagine them not being on a glide path. Would you support that?

I would. I think they bring military capability. I think they would be a good asset. They shore up the northeastern flank of the alliance and they get us into the Arctic Circle. So, yes, I think they would be a net plus for the United States and for NATO, as would Sweden, by the way. As would Sweden, and I think that's a couple of days away. Now, the Russians are on the record of saying that that would be a direct threat to them if we go ahead and do it because it would be bringing NATO, again, right to another portion of their border.

How do you digest that? Well, of course they're going to say that. Putin likes to do a lot of saber rattling, and we should take him seriously. But, you know, as you and I discussed the other day, I'm a Reagan Republican, and Reagan called the Soviet Union the evil empire. I don't think this one under Putin is any different, and we need to stand firm and stand tall.

Take a very Reagan-esque approach. They also say that Medvedev has warned the West and us specifically to stop arming Ukraine or else there will be some severe repercussions. They're, of course, alluding every other day to some type of nuclear attack. How serious do you take that? Well, again, I think when anybody talks about nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction, we need to listen. We need to take it seriously, but we can't be spooked by it. And, yeah, sure, we're providing Ukraine with the means to defend themselves, and Russia has done the same when the tide was turned. They've supplied adversaries of ours in the past with weapons that were used against Americans. So, you know, what's good for one is good for the other. Mr. Secretary, you were Secretary of the Army, and then General Mattis resigns when the President threatened to take our troops out of Syria.

He said he's not conferring with me anymore. He deserves a Secretary of Defense that understands him. Did you have hesitancy in taking the job? No, because, look, I believe in public service. I believe in serving your country. I entered West Point at the age of 18. It was kind of always in my blood and served on active duty for ten years in war and peace and another 11 years in the Guard and Reserve. So, I think when your nation calls, it's your duty to serve.

And that was kind of what took me into office in the first place. So you ended up having troops in Syria, and how would you say, what was the mission there in Syria? Do you think you guys accomplished it? I think we did. Look, I think we defeated the ISIS caliphate, and President Trump deserves credit for that.

We knocked them down to nearly nothing and defeated them as a real fighting force. It was important to keep troops on the ground to ensure that happened, that they didn't rise again. The second thing was it was important to keep an eye on Iran, which was transiting arms and people through Syria to threaten our friends in the region.

And so I thought it was important to keep some number of troops there to keep a careful eye on them. And your focus, your foreign policy, or the President's foreign policy is so much different than this President's. They are Iran focused. They are allowing Iran to negotiate directly with Russia on our behalf to get back into an Iranian deal that you left that only has two years left. Can you wrap your head around that policy?

No, I don't. It's a mistake. I mean, I think President Trump made the right call from getting out of the deal. It was a bad deal, the nuclear deal with Iran.

I like the maximum pressure campaign. You know, we couldn't get traction because we couldn't get enough allies on board to support us. And look, I think it's going to be a stretch to think that President Biden is going to be able to bring back a plan that lengthens and strengthens it as he promised. And I look, I think all these deals should be taken to the Senate and let the Senate weigh in.

But I think the reason why they won't do it is they know the answer is that the Senate would reject this type of agreement. Look, this is why we need to continue bolstering the United States military, beef up our allies in the region as well, and make sure we're prepared to deter an if necessary fight and win against Iran if it comes down to it. We're talking to Secretary Esper about his book, Sacred Oath Bringers Inside. Really, the last few years as Secretary of Defense, that didn't end well. President basically tweeted out that you're fired or to please resign.

So that would get ticked me off too if I were you. But I want to go back to the area of contention. The one policy that Joe Biden claims to have kept in place that you guys had was pulling out of Afghanistan. He said he had no choice. Is that true?

No, that's not true. You know, he had a lot of choices. And, you know, I disagreed with the president at the end of at the end of the administration on this as well. You know, there was a push to withdraw all troops precipitously from Afghanistan. My view was, well, first of all, I support the deal that was put on the table and negotiated by the State Department under Mike Pompeo.

But I believe they need to be conditions based. And so I was good going down to forty five hundred troops. I thought we should stop there until the Taliban lived up to their end of the deal. And if they didn't, my view was we should use the two things that that they hated the most. One is our presence in the country with our allies.

And number two is our ability to inflict violence upon them. So my recommendation was to stop there and pursue those two things and get them to come to the table and negotiate as they committed to the agreement. That's what I would have recommended President Biden do as well. You know, he could he could have paused the agreement as well and and kind of put the pressure on the on the Taliban. Instead, we had this terrible withdrawal that resulted in Americans being left in Afghanistan, that resulted in service members being killed and really undermined our stature on the world stage. So this is a question that I have everybody in the military and on both sides on when a civilian leader, the president of the United States gives you a gives you an order that you do not feel comfortable with. Do you resign or you make it work? And clearly, well, I just before you even answer that clearly, General Milley and General McKenzie were not OK with this evacuation.

At least they said they weren't. But General Milley, it's your testimony that you recommended twenty five hundred troops approximately stay in Afghanistan. Yes. My assessment was back in the fall of twenty and it remained consistent throughout that we should keep a steady state of the United States.

And it could bounce up to thirty five hundred, maybe something like that. Did you present did you ever present that assessment personally to President Biden? I don't discuss exactly what my conversations are with the sitting president in the Oval Office, but I can tell you what my personal opinion was.

And I always candid. General McKenzie. Do you share that assessment? Senator, I do share that assessment. So they recommended something to the president. The president said no. And now they have to go explain it.

What do they do? The right thing, staying on the job. Look, I think that's a fundamental question. You know, my way of dealing with all of my boss is to include President Trump was, if he gave me an order and he rarely gave orders, it just wasn't his style, was really I owed him my best recommendation. And I tended to go back and present him a variety of options to try and find something that was even better than what he might propose. So I think your first responsibility is in terms of serving a president is presenting your honest advice and give him more options. You only you always want to give a president maneuver space, as we say in the military, to pick the best decision possible. And then at the end of the day, if he says, well, look, I disagree.

I want you to do this. And then you have to kind of come to your own decision as to whether you can implement it or whether you would resign. And I always said that my hard line was I would never do anything illegal, immoral or unethical. You know, so that's where for me that those were my lines.

Everybody has their own lines. And and like I said, I think the withdrawal last summer was abysmal. It hurt us in so many ways, not least of which is our young service members who were killed there on the ground in Afghanistan. Did you know Ghani was a spineless thief? Well, you know, I write in my book that the problem with Afghanistan was lack of leadership beginning at the top, beginning at the political level. He was known to be corrupt. And look, he flew he fled the capital before the Taliban really arrived in force. Contrast that to President Zelensky in Ukraine, who stayed with his people and fought from Kiev. It just is a contrast in leadership and in war.

So much comes down to leadership and morale. From the Fox News podcast network, I'm Ben Domenech, Fox News contributor and editor of the transom dot com daily newsletter. And I'm inviting you to join a conversation every week. It's the Ben Domenech podcast.

Subscribe and listen now by going to Fox News podcast dot com. Would you have do you believe and you know, you're very candid. You don't love everything Trump did.

You guys did not end on good terms. Do you believe Trump would have let that happen, too? I don't know.

I mean, it's it's speculative, right? You know, President Trump took a really tough, strong approach to these issues. And I don't know if faced with that situation. I mean, look, I give him credit. He wanted to withdraw from Afghanistan. That was a campaign pledge that he wanted to he wanted to live up to. There's a lot to be said for that.

On the other hand, there are ways to do it and ways not to do it. And I hope he would have heeded the advice of me and others to keep the conditions based and really do it on a timeline that protected our people. Ensure that Americans got out and and didn't diminish our stature in the world. What's your greatest frustration working for President Trump?

Well, I think he was not. I think he had too many people in the White House that did not serve him well or presented outlandish ideas. And I think if if he would take in more counsel from his cabinet, right, whether it's Attorney General Barr, Mike Pompeo, myself or others. I really think we could have helped him implement his agenda more successfully. And of course, look, I also think his speech was too coarse and divisive. I think the key for Republicans is we need leaders who will unify the country, bring people together. And as a Republican and, you know, Brian, I describe myself as a Reagan Republican. You've got to grow that base.

Right. You've got to grow the base that you can win elections. At the end of the day, we can't advance a traditional Republican agenda of lower taxes, a stronger military border security, conservative judges unless we win elections. And right now we're sitting here. We don't we don't own the White House. We don't own the House. We don't own the Senate. And that's a problem.

And hopefully that will turn around here in the midterms. When you do you think in retrospect, why is it like a military guy like Mike Pompeo, who you graduated with? We'll say, OK, he's a little different. General Keane, he's different.

And I'll be able to I'll be able to work with this guy. Other people like General Kelly, like General Mattis, will look around and go, you know, I can't deal with this president. He's too unorthodox. He's he's tempted to volatile. He wants me to do too many things that are outside the lines. Why do you think you guys are all from the military background, but yet some were more flexible with the president than others?

Yeah, I don't know. I mean, there is something to be said for the president's unorthodox style. In some ways, it was successful.

I mean, he pushed hard to to put a wall, a barrier on the southwest border. I supported that. I thought it was successful. I think it should be finished. You know, in other areas, it went too far, like I said, about withdrawing from NATO. But people have different styles, personalities.

Some work better than others. And it just is what it is, Brian. And do you do you expect him to to run again? Would you vote for him? I hope he doesn't. And because, like I said, I think it's time to pass the torch to a new generation of Republican leaders, those who will push forward same Republican conservative for me agenda, but will do so in a way that, again, will kind of grow the base and win the elections. And I'm not sure that Donald Trump can win. And for that reason, at least one reason is I hope we see some some new faces or faces emerging in after the midterms when 2024 begins.

And I hope the president will not run. I hope we'll kind of open that field up. Well, you know, Mark, I hope we can have you on as an expert because this Ukraine thing is unfolding.

You know, the area, you know, the region, you know, the players. Congratulations on your book, A Sacred Oath. Mark Esper, thanks so much. Thanks, Brian. I look forward to joining you again sometime.

That'd be fantastic. Good luck with the book from the Fox News podcast network. Subscribe and listen to the Trey Gowdy podcast. Former federal prosecutor and four term U.S. Congressman from South Carolina brings you a one of a kind podcast. Subscribe and listen now by going to Fox News podcast dot com.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-15 03:21:15 / 2023-02-15 03:28:02 / 7

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