Last night, Glenn sat down with economist, columnist, and TV personality Larry Kudlow. The interview covered a wide range of topics: the economy, foreign policy, and Kudlow’s personal demons. With all of the trouble facing the country, Glenn wanted to know if any of America’s leaders could step up and guide the country through the turmoil ahead, much like Winston Churchill in World War 2.
Scroll down for a transript of the interview:
Glenn:What we were just talking about before, you’re a classic liberal. I’m a classic liberal.
Larry: I’m a hierarchian, free market classic liberal. I would have been a Gladstonian liberal had I lived in the 19th century.
Glenn: Tell me what classic liberal means, because most people I don’t think understand. I think it’s important to put that chair back at the table.
Larry: Right. Well, classic liberals would never rely on government. They believe very strongly in individual rights, in free markets, in free trade, and freedom just in general. They were the freedom people, and it was sort of Gladstone versus Disraeli. Disraeli was the Tory who was sort of the Nixonian guy who used government and would concoct all these foreign policy things that got Britain into trouble.
Gladstonians, the classical liberals certainly didn’t believe in any imperialism, and in fact were defending Irish rights way before it was fashionable to do so, but you know, in economic terms, it’s free markets. It’s free markets and free trade and freedom…freedom, freedom, freedom. That’s what they stood for.
Glenn: Let me go to the measles. A classic liberal would say you have the right to not take the measles shots. I heard Rand Paul talk about this, and on CNBC, one of the anchors went crazy on him. Explain why a classic liberal believes you should have the right.
Larry: You believe in free choice. You believe in free choice.
Glenn: But what about all the poor people that you’re going to affect?
Larry: Well, you know, I’m not an expert on this, measles, autism, and so forth, but it seems to me there is a health role for either the government or at least experts to tell you, all right, here are the odds, here’s this, here’s that, but at the end of the day, you have to make your own choice, and it is your own kids. Both Rand Paul and Chris Christie, I know they’re all bobbing and weaving now about this issue, and my view is I’m not for mandates. I don’t see how the state can mandate anything regarding your kids or your family or should. All I can do is tell you what, you know, what the chances are and what your risks are, and it’s up to you. It’s real simple.
Glenn: Do you see anybody on the horizon that, you know, you talk Chris Christie and Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush…do you see anybody in the field that has a chance of being Churchill?
Larry: Ooh, Churchill, no, frankly, not yet. Now, it’s early. We don’t know enough about their foreign policy opinions, and that’s going to be a bigger issue in this election than it has been in any recent elections, I think.
We were talking, and it’s worth repeating for the viewers and listeners, there’s a book out by a chap named Boris Johnson, who is the Mayor of London. He’s a Tory, but he’s a very free market Tory, and he wrote something called The Churchill Factor, and he basically argues two things very simple. One is the hinge of history is determined by great people, great people, not historical forces and so forth. Great individuals change history—for example, a Reagan, for example, a Thatcher.
In this case, he talks about Churchill and argues quite plainly and clearly that had Churchill not been there and had Churchill not been Churchill, he was a very courageous man who had actually fought in wars, unlike most leaders, totalitarianism would have won in Europe and quite possibly in America as well. Whether it was the Communists or the Nazis, it could have been either one. That one could have gone either way.
Glenn: And there was support in the United States for both of them.
Larry: Indeed, and in fact, yes, in England, even worse, here’s Churchill comes in, his forecast about the Nazis come true, so they finally elect him or push him into Prime Minister. So, he was an aristocrat, but the nobility, half the nobility in England were pro-Nazi, and they had this bizarre sense that Hitler would come in and bless them, pat their heads, and say you all, go ahead and go own your own your land. You can do whatever you want. I’m just going to have my guy here to look over you.
Churchill is trying to explain to them, you know, wrong, they’re going to come in and take everything away. It’s a State Socialism. You’re going to lose everything you have, and he will treat you just the way he’s treating them in Sudetenland and Poland and elsewhere. So, every other Tory in Churchill’s party was an appeaser, was a wuss basically, and here’s Churchill trying to say wait a minute. It’s 1940. It’s 1941. The USA wasn’t there. FDR couldn’t do it yet. Whatever he was thinking, it was way too early, and so Boris Johnson says this guy, Churchill, stopped totalitarianism.
So, for me, I’m no foreign policy expert, Glenn, but for me, when I look at radical Islam, all right, I see totalitarianism. I see Communism. I see Nazi-ism. I think people have to wake up. They have to understand the gravity of this, and we need a game plan. The only person I know in public life—you were asking about the candidates—the only person I’ve heard, and I’ve interviewed him several times is retired four-star general Keane, Jack Keane, who I think is a brilliant man.
He says this straight up. In fact, I had him on the radio show, I don’t know, two Saturdays ago, and he said this is like fighting Communism, and we’d better understand this. I don’t think we do. In terms of the crop of Republican candidates, I haven’t heard them yet on this subject.
Glenn: Have you seen anybody, anybody, not just running for president, do you see anybody out there that you think boy, they get it, they’re doing a good job?
Larry: Besides Keane? Besides Keane?
Larry: And I interview everybody, Glenn, either on the TV show or the radio. I try to read. I’m like you, I try to keep up with everything. I don’t hear anybody stating it with that kind of clarity. I don’t hear anything coming out of the joint chiefs, which is so important. I don’t hear it from the civilian side of the Pentagon, and look, Obama, I mean, we could talk about Obama forever. It ain’t hardly worth the air time, but this guy won’t even acknowledge that it’s an Islamic problem. Actually, oddly enough, I don’t want to go too deep, but there is a wonderful speech by my friend Jindal, Bobby Jindal, Louisiana.
Glenn: The recent one he gave?
Larry: Yes, and I wrote a column about the speech because I hadn’t seen anyone, and he got it. Okay, so let me backtrack. He got it. That speech was heavily criticized in some quarters. My attitude is tough darts. I had him on the radio, but I wrote a column, got a million hits on it, and he seems to understand this.
Anyway, it was interesting to me, a week or two before Jindal spoke in London, el-Sisi in Egypt, all right, gives a speech—Egypt is the fourth or fifth largest Muslim country—to a bunch of imams somewheres in Egypt, and basically says you are to blame to the imams, he said, because if you don’t stop the radical jihadists, then they’re going to destroy this sacred holy religion and a lot more and just laid it right out to them.
Glenn: You’ve seen the rise of Fascism, Le Pen, PEGIDA, Golden Dawn. It’s on the rise in Russia with Putin’s people. It’s on the rise in Italy, in Spain. This is 1933 playing itself all out all over again. What frightens me is we haven’t really, except for Greece, we haven’t really hit the economic disturbance that’s coming.
We haven’t paid the piper at all, and when that happens, somehow or another because I think that both parties have lured us into this poppy field and said sleep, sleep, everything’s going to be okay. When we wake up to our horrible situation all around the world, I think people are going to be screaming for blood and screaming for a strong man to fix it as they are now in Greece.
Larry: In America?
Glenn: I hope not. I hope not. How bad are things going to get in America?
Larry: I’m a lot more optimistic about the economy, assuming we’re still a free country.
Glenn: But are we?
Larry: Well, yes, more than less, absolutely.
Glenn: We’re 14th now on economic freedom.
Larry: Well, I understand that, and we’ve made a lot of terrible mistakes in the last bunch of years, so I agree with that index. I mean, I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, you and I and like-minded people who believe in freedom, I can sit down with you and fix the economy. Give me a half hour. I can. I’ll list the…I mean, I’ve been doing it for close to 40 years. The principles don’t change.
Glenn: You know, you can fix the economy on paper, but what concerns me is the culture has changed, our desire to work, our desire to say I did build that, and he built that, and back off, that’s his, you know? Give it to me. I want it. I’m owed it. I mean, we were here in the 1960s, but in 1968, we were rolling in the mud, and we were looking to the moon. There was a split in the country. Where’s the moonshot? Where are the group of people that are saying we’re going to do something great? Is it Silicon Valley? Who is it? Where is it?
Larry: The culture of entrepreneurship, I think, is alive and well, Glenn, okay? Not in the White House but out in Main Street, and I think Americans are great, freedom-loving, business-oriented people who understand frankly that if you want to make a buck and take care of your family, you’ve got to work hard. I think people still believe that in their bones. I know I believe that, and maybe I’m being too optimistic, but that’s my nature. The trouble is our government down through the years under both Republicans and Democrats have created a whole series of incentives not to work. This is what I find very troubling. They’re going to pay you not to work.
Unemployment insurance is a perfect example. There was a very good Wall Street Journal editorial on this the other day. The Republicans finally did after 11 or something extensions of long-term unemployment insurance, with all these Keynesian economists in the White House and the Congressional Budget Office saying no, we must have it; otherwise, the economy is going down—wrong, as soon as we stopped it, people started going back to work. How about that, started going back to work? When you talk about food stamps and disability insurance, people are paying them not to work. When you talk about ObamaCare, ObamaCare is essentially premised on the fact that if you get a job and succeed, and your income goes up, they will take away the ObamaCare subsidies and tax credits. They’re basically paying you not to work. That’s got to stop.
Glenn: Okay, last question, you and I are both alcoholics.
Larry: Yes, Sir.
Glenn: I think alcoholics might save the country because it’s going to take that attitude of picking yourself back up and admitting that you have a problem and saying I’m powerless with this problem, but I’m going to pick myself up and help each other and get through it.
Larry: And trust God.
Glenn: Trust God.
Larry: And trust God. I didn’t, so I acted on myself on my own, and it got me into a heap of trouble. The bottom was a lot worse than I ever thought.
Glenn: What was the bottom for you?
Larry: Well, I lost some awfully good jobs along the way in the late 80s and early 90s. I lost a Wall Street career. I had a career in journalism. I lost that. I had been doing a lot of broadcasting. I lost that. It’s very hard to hold a job, Glenn, if you don’t ever show up for it. That’s one of the lessons I learned. In fact, showing up is part of my New World mantra. I’m with God’s grace coming up to 20 years, and I show up…everything, everything. Unless I’m really three-quarters dead, I’m just going to show up. I don’t care how bad I am, I’ll still show up.
So, I agree with you, there are a lot of lessons to be learned there, and I’m a devotee of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m not breaking anonymity because I never had any anonymity, so I can talk about it. The local press here in New York took an unusual interest in my issues, shall we say, but that’s okay.
Glenn: Oh, I bet.
Larry: That’s okay. I never have blamed anybody. The good news is I learned how to change, and I won’t even say I regained my faith. I will say I gained faith in God. I’m not sure I ever had it when I was a kid. I wasn’t really brought up in that tradition. I became a Catholic convert. That came later. I had to get sober first. The crowd at Hazelden where I was for about six months told me a couple things. They said (a) don’t go back to New York, and I didn’t. I actually did what they told me. I had one job offer. I may have told this before.
I was a pretty successful guy, but I had one job offer when I left treatment, and that was from Art Laffer in San Diego. He and Tracy took me and Judy into their home in the office, and I had a job. I learned a lot from that, and I went to all my meetings and did what my sponsors told me to do and got better. That was 20 years ago, and I’m still doing it. I was at a meeting last night and loved it, loved it. As I told you before, my dad just passed away, World War II vet, good guy. I buried him…a little down over that, so I went to a safe place, a meeting, and talked to a whole bunch of friends about it. You know, they said hey, it’s natural for you to have your down moments. You’re okay. That’s right. They are right.
So, I learned a whole lot, and I’m not a proselytizer. I’m not John the Baptist. I’m Larry Kudlow. I’m grateful to be sober. I’m grateful to have work, you know, interviews. Every night for 12 years, I’m grateful for a TV show on CNBC that I just love. When I couldn’t do it anymore, they rewrote the contract and kept me on as a commentator. I have a radio show that’s high ranked. I’m just grateful for my whole life and my wife, who I tell you, a footnote to the story, at the end, the end of the end, the end, had signed me up for the long-term care program at Hazelden. It was a real lock-and-key operation, which is what I needed, and I’ve told this story many times.
You know, she gave me a one-way plane ticket to the St. Paul-Minneapolis airport, and she said, “If you go, they’ll pick you up. You’ll be there for six months.” She said, “Here’s 20 bucks for the cab.” I had no money. And she said, “If you don’t go, that’s up to you. I’m out of here.” So, somebody, some power greater than myself, pushed me in the right direction, and as I say, Judy and I are married 27 years. I love her to death. Literally, I would, you know, stop a bullet for her, and the Lord has been very good to me, very good to me.
Glenn: Thank you.
Larry: Thank you.
Glenn: Thank you…really great.