Donald Trump’s Grand Inquisitor – Politico


Hugh Hewitt drew Trump’s ire with a smart question. On Wednesday night, the conservative talk radio host will be ready for round 2.

When the motor-mouthed mogul next takes the stage with the ten nearest rivals who have failed for months to trip him up—much less get traction against him—Hugh Hewitt will be the only person in the debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library who has already managed to get the best of Donald Trump.

That distinction—earned ten days ago when Hewitt stumped Trump in an interview on his weekday radio show about the names of major world terrorist leaders, and the differences between Hamas and Hezbollah—means that Hewitt, who will serve as one of three debate questioners, may end up emerging as one of the central characters in the ongoing reality TV show that is this year’s GOP presidential primary. After all, it was Trump’s tangles in the last debate with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly that led days of news stories after the last debate—and Kelly and Trump only sparred once. What could a second round with Hewitt mean?

Whatever Wednesday brings, Hewitt is rested and ready for Round Two. Or at least he will be.

The conservative talk radio host plans to focus his thinking for the debate by taking a ten-hour round-trip drive from Southern California to the Hoover Institution at Stanford, returning just in time for the GOP debate.

His name might not be so well-known in blue enclaves, but among red meat Republicans, Hewitt—a onetime ghostwriter for Richard Nixon and an Emmy-winning former co-host of a Southern California public television news program—has emerged in this topsy-turvy presidential cycle as a crucial mediating voice between what’s left of the GOP establishment and the angrier elements of the party exemplified by Trump and the Tea Party.

Like Megyn Kelly, who challenged Trump in the last GOP debate about his past statements on women (prompting a crude sexist backlash from Trump and enmeshing him in a feud with Fox chief Roger Ailes to boot), Hewitt may be the most dangerous kind of interlocutor for The Donald: a smart, unimpeachable conservative who asks hard, fair, real questions that can’t be dismissed with a snarling “You’re Fired!” putdown.

It’s perhaps no coincidence that Kelly and Hewitt have provoked Trump’s most challenging confrontations. Most of his rivals have often seemed cowed in the face of his popular appeal, but journalists like Kelly and Hewitt don’t pull their punches.

To those who know Hewitt, it’s no surprise that he caught up Trump with a question on national security, the area where he’s best known as a party sage. GOP consultant Steve Schmidt says that Hewitt is one of the few current figures in the party who retains credibility with all three elements of the old Reagan coalition: social conservatives, national security conservatives and economic conservatives. “Hugh Hewitt is a renowned national security conservative, absolutely fluent in the issues, and that is largely the leg of the stool that unites the whole party,” Schmidt adds. “He’s a deeply serious person, and never engages in the type of nonsense talk that emanates out of so much of the talk radio community.”
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