Bryan E. Leib is a senior research fellow at the Center for Fundamental Rights, and a frequent contributor to the Newsmax website as well as a regular guest on their cable news channel. He appeared on a panel at the Center’s event titled We Win, They Lose — America’s Choice on 7 February, in which he discussed with his fellow panellists how the upcoming US presidential election currently stands. Before taking the stage, he was kind enough to sit down for an exclusive interview with Hungarian Conservative.
Is this your first time visiting Hungary?
The second time. I was here in October for a conference the Center had, the pro-Israel summit. And now I’m back here for the second time.
What type of reactions did you get when you told your colleagues back in the United States that you were coming here to Hungary? Because there was a time when, even in Republican circles, there was some pushback against the Orbán administration. Has that changed over time?
On the Republican side, the conservative side, no, it hasn’t. I think a lot of people on my side of the aisle have always understood, respected, and appreciated what Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is doing. Listen, in America, we have so many horrible things happening, you know, with the gender ideologies, the LGBTQ, and the open border, and all these different things. So, when we, conservatives in America, look around for friends, we don’t have to look much further than Hungary to see that you guys are doing a lot of things right that we’d like to replicate.
Have you found that in some aspects, there is actually more freedom for the citizens here in Hungary than in America? Despite the fact that a lot of the international press is trying to portray Orbán as an oppressive leader? For example, this has kind of changed in recent years, social media use. Here, you don’t have to worry about having your social media account shut down if you criticize Orbán, but there was a time—thankfully, it has sort of softened—in America when you really had to watch what you post if you are a conservative.
Well, it definitely seems like there are a lot of freedoms here in Hungary. And I think that people that level accusations that it’s a dictatorship government are wrong. There’s nothing that’s dictatorship-like about the Prime Minister being elected democratically by the people of Hungary.
But, you know, listen: Orbán, similarly to Trump, is a very strong figure. A lot of people on the left, whether it’s liberals in America or it’s liberals here in Hungary,
they don’t like strong men doing things.
That’s the situation.
Are you optimistic about the upcoming presidential election? Polling has Trump ahead. Do you trust the current polling?
Yeah, I do. He’s up nationally in every single poll, and also state by state, particularly in battleground states, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan, he is now up. Whereas six months ago, he was down in those states. Yeah, I think we can trust the polling, because the polling represents what the electorate in America wants. Right now, the electorate in America is sick and tired of these Joe Biden policies. We need strong leadership in our country, and we are not getting that from Joe Biden right now.
For example, Joe Biden is not doing Super Bowl interviews. This was a tradition for the President: before every Super Bowl, they would go on whichever network was hosting the Super Bowl and give a short interview. Joe Biden is skipping that for the second year. Do you have any thoughts about that?
I think Joe Biden is in a very controlled environment, and I think the people around him are very sensitive about putting him in a situation where they can’t control the environment. We see what happens when he gets on stage to speak. Many times, he can’t put a sentence together, other times he can’t even find the exit to get off the stage. It’s just the reality. I think his handlers are very selective with where they put him out there, because they want to control the narrative, and control the perception of Joe Biden.
What about his stance on the Israeli conflict? Do you think in that regard, Joe Biden is doing an adequate job in helping Israel?
No, because he is funding the Islamic Republic of Iran. Hamas, or Hezbollah, or whoever would be nothing if it wasn’t for the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Right now, what you see now in America is this kind of two-sided diplomacy.
Joe Biden on the one side of the coin supports Israel, he is sending ammunition to Israel, he’s doing all those things. But on the other side of the coin, just a couple days ago, he signed an executive order sanctioning Israelis, he’s put a lot of restrictions on the Israelis in terms of how they can operate militarily. And, to go back to what I just said, he is also funding the Islamic Republic of Iran.
On the anniversary of the 11 September attacks, the bloodiest in the history of my country, Joe Biden unfroze $6 billion of Iranian cash. On the anniversary of 9/11, that’s what Joe Biden did. When Iran is richer, Israel’s in the crosshairs. As we just saw in Jordan, three of our American soldiers were killed by an Iranian terrorist proxy group. So, that’s a lot of double-sided diplomacy, and that doesn’t work.
And what about Prime Minister Orbán’s response to the Israeli conflict?
I think he and every single Hungarian I’ve ever met, both people from his administration, people from the Center, and just ordinary Hungarians, really understand that this is a fight for Israel that is good versus evil. Israel didn’t launch an attack in Gaza where they slaughtered 1,400 innocent men, women, and children, that was Hamas that did that.
It was a terrorist attack, Israel’s responding to that terrorist attack, and I think that Prime Minister Orbán has been fantastic and resolute. When I was here in October, I was here two days after the attack, and I remember your Defence Minister [Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky] came over to me, and he put his hand on my shoulder, and he said to me: ‘Bryan, when the world turns on Israel, Hungary will not waver, and Hungary will continue to stand with Israel’. And just earlier today, at the EU, Hungary blocked some legislation that was going to penalize Israel.
What I really like about Prime Minister Orbán and his government is that in words and in actions they are aligned—not just on supporting Israel, but on other things as well. They don’t say one thing in the press and then do another thing behind the scenes. What they say is what they do, and I really appreciate that.
You’ve told me you would like to talk about Ambassador Pressman. Can you please share your opinion on him?
As an American, I look to our ambassadors to build bridges with the countries that they are stationed in and represent.
At every turn I see Ambassador Pressman really burning bridges here in Hungary, and not building bridges,
and that’s not the role that he is in. The role he’s in is to be a diplomat, and to build bridges, not to be a political activist.
Also, just before coming here, Senator Cardin from Maryland met Ambassador Pressman, and the next thing you know, Cardin puts out a statement threatening the Hungarian people that perhaps they are going to get taken out of the visa waiver programme.
Let’s make this the Super Bowl interview President Biden never had. Do you have a pick for the Super Bowl?
Do you know who’s playing?
Yeah, the Chiefs and the 49ers, right?
Yeah. I’m from Philadelphia originally, so I’m a big Eagles fan, so I’m a little upset that we fell short this year. But [Kansas City Chiefs head coach] Andy Reid is a former head coach of the Eagles, and we still have a close place in our hearts for Andy Reid.
So, I think the Chiefs are going to win.
You know, they seem to really rise to the occasion. We’ll see what happens. There’s an expression in football called ‘any given Sunday,’ which means that on any given Sunday the best or the worst team can win, they can beat each other. So, on any given Sunday, who knows what’s going to happen? But it’ll be a lot of fun. I hope there’s no woke nonsense, like when they were playing ‘the Black National Anthem’.
I thought they stopped doing that. Oh, they stopped the kneeling, that’s a step in the right direction.
Well, we’ll see who kneels. But it should just be Americana, football, and that’s what I think we should be focused on. Yeah, as I said, I think the Chiefs are going to win, I don’t know what the score is going to be, but I think the Chiefs are going to win.