Hewitt: It’s Not ‘a Gotcha Question to Ask About the Forces Surrounding Israel’

‘I gave Donald Trump the names because I don’t believe in trying to pop quiz’


KEILAR: "Okay, what is your response to that, Hugh? That accusation that you asked him gotcha questions? Also the personal attack there but the gotcha question part." 
HEWITT: "I asked him about gotcha questions because I hate them, and in the course of the interview which lasted 20 minutes and Donald Trump did very well throughout most of that interview, including tricky questions about China and Israel, very important answers and all of those are transcribed and posted at the web site, but come back with third rate announcer, that's my Trump tattoo. And I'm always interested in critiques. I don't think it's a gotcha question to ask about the forces surrounding Israel. That's where the interview was going. General sole Manny, he'd gone to Russia to meet with Putin. It's important to know what the Republican candidates are going to do about this ring of terror surrounding Israel right now, especially that have catastrophic, in my opinion, and the opinion of most of the Republican candidate, deal with Iran and he has proxies he commands in hamas, in Syria and Lebanon and nasrulla has been running the south of Lebanon for 20 years or so. So I'm not trying to catch anyone out on the names. I get confused. Carly Fiorina came on and said she got confused. Is does the United States stand by Israel and Donald Trump said yes. And he remains the best interview in the business and if he wants to come back on I'd lead every show with him, I would because he's a terrific radio guest." 
KEILAR: "Does it matter how important the answers are? Certainly I -- it's embarrassing for a candidate to not know the answers. A lot of people point back to November of 1999 about the same time period leading into the 2000 election when George W. Bush was asked it was a bit of a pop quiz to name four leaders of key countries -- India, Pakistan, Taiwan and Chechnya and he was only partially able to name one with the surname, the leader of Taiwan. He went on to be president. Is it really important at this point in time for someone who doesn't have a lot of foreign policy experience to be able to know those names? Can they catch up?" 
HEWITT: "Actually, I don't think it's important at all to know the names and I want to distinguish. I thought that was a gotcha question from 1999. I gave Donald Trump the names because I don't believe in trying to pop quiz people on names, I want to know about the concept of islamist terror and especially the merging of shi'a-backed islamist terror out of Iran with sunni-backed islamist terror coming out of hamas and gaza. I expect the Republican candidates to understand the distinctions between Al Qaeda and the quds forces and I expect them to speak about how we have to have a two-front strategy in this war against islamist terror but I don't expect them to know. That's why I gave the names. So that's why I argued with Donald Trump in the course of the interview -- quite politely, that I didn't think it was a gotcha question but I'm open to other people thinking it was because I think those detract from the most important issue which I began my interview with which is I'm going to ask you some commander-in-chief questions because to me my job the debate next week on Wednesday night -- the week from Wednesday, is to take the part of a Republican primary voter who is looking for someone who will, a, be able to beat Hillary Clinton and, B, be a terrific commander-in-chief and a conservative president. So that's what my job is, is to try and separate people out on that basis, not to trick people by gotcha pop quizzes and I didn't do that yesterday." 
KEILAR: "So aside from knowing the names, the distinctions that you talk about that you do expect someone who is running to be commander in chief to know, did you feel like he had a grasp of those? How do you see other candidates, particularly outsider candidates like a Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina grasping those concepts?" 
HEWITT: "Let's go back. I've done almost 70 interviews with Republican presidential candidates and the first one I did with Jeb Bush I asked him if he read I think the seminal book on this "The looming terror" and he hadn't. I asked him about the general and I asked him about the Ohio class submarine. I ask all the candidates tough foreign policy questions because I think that's what a commander in chief requires. I worked for Reagan and Nixon, I think it's important people have a grasp on the dangers that confront America. Donald Trump's answer, if I can paraphrase, is "I'm not worried about the details now. I will find the Petraeus of our time, the mcchrystal of our time, the Macarthur of our time and that's enough." I don't know whether or not a Republican primary voter will accept that. It's not for me to decide. It's for me to ask fair questions and not be biased against one or for another in the course of the debate. And I think if anyone looks at all of the interviews I've done and I hope every journalist does going forward until the end they will press every candidate. Andra Mitchell was pressing Hillary Clinton earlier today and I hope that everybody presses Hillary Clinton on the e-mails. I think Benghazi presents real questions. So I think our job is to ask anyone who wants to be president questions that go to their ability to be the top commander-in-chief in a nation at war with thousands of American men and women deployed in harm's way and I ask my questions from that perspective."

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