HH: I want to welcome back, as we do on Thursdays when we are lucky, Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read everything that Mark writes at www.steynonline.com. And Mark, the big story we’ve got to begin with is the exertion of executive privilege by the President over documents requested by the House Oversight Committee, chaired by Darrell Issa. It turns out, as I said to Sean Hannity last night, this is an administration that discloses what should be kept secret, and which keeps secret that which should be disclosed, Mark. Are you surprised?
MS: No, I’m not. I’m surprised by the timing, in that he seems to have done it as a kind of tie-in for your book, for which your publisher should be suitably grateful. But I’m not surprised. I think there is a kind of blithe contempt that Obama, and Eric Holder in particular, have for the checks and balances. And by the way, I don’t attach a lot of significance to the sort of niceties of checks and balances, but I would say that as a general rule in free societies, the restraints on power are as much social as anything. They depend on those in power observing a kind of etiquette and deference to codes and conventions. And if you hold, basically, the entire history of the United States until you took power in contempt, which is what Eric Holder and Barack Obama do, I believe, then they don’t have that deference and discretion towards the codes and conventions, and the result is what we’ve seen in the last few days.
HH: How bad to you think these documents are? I believe they give license to everyone to speculate, because the assertion of executive privilege, whether of the high confidential communications with the president, or the low internal deliberations sort, is still an extraordinary act.
MS: Yes, I think at the very minimum, they confirm what has been the pattern in this story. And by the way, if you are a viewer of nightly network news, you do not know anything about this story. I think ABC did its first story on Fast & Furious just last week, or a few days ago, for about 20 seconds. You would never have known that in fact citizens, many dozens, hundreds of citizens of America’s neighboring nation, Mexico, have been killed with guns provided for them by the United States government. That ought to be a national scandal, but it’s not, because the media have declined to run with it. But what we do know is that, in part because the media declined to run with it, Eric Holder & Co. thought they could in essence just deny to Congress the plain reality of the situation. What’s interesting about the assertion of executive privilege is whether Obama’s participation in this sorry story is absolutely direct, whether it concerns the operation, the knowledge that the operation had gone screwy, or even whether it’s just a kind of philosophical signing off on the operation. But the point is that this very much does confirm the, I think, tends to confirm the worst case narrative, that in respect of this particular story, the government is rotten and is lying about it. Senior cabinet officials are lying about it, and there is now a question mark over whether the President is also lying about it.
HH: Mark Steyn, I have been perfecting the art of product placement. Most people think of that as the movies, but there’s actually audio product placement, and it involves somehow working a reference to the new book, The Brief Against Obama, into an interview, which is sometimes hard. Like tomorrow, I’m going to interview Balou at Disneyland, and that’s going to be hard to do.
HH: But with you, it’s easy, because I quote our conversation from October of last year, in which you end up by saying nobody believes anything they say anymore. And I do think we’re getting to Lyndon Johnson-sized credibility gaps.
MS: Yeah, but you know what? I think the President also makes a bet that nobody cares, that for every person who understands that the President and his attorney general are liars on this, and by the way, it’s no small thing for the attorney general of a nation to be a liar. I mean, if you’re in my shoes, I mean, you can call me a pedant on this, but I think that’s rather worse than the commerce secretary, or the secretary of the interior being a liar. In other words, we’re talking about the guy who is responsible for upholding the integrity of the nation’s laws, and in a sense, the man who embodies the idea of the United States as a nation of laws being a proven liar. He should resign. He should be gone.
HH: Yes, he’s gone to John Mitchell land.
MS: But as I said, a certain number of people just don’t care about that, or are indifferent to it.
HH: But when you go to John Mitchell land, you never get out of that. It sticks to you forever, despite Mitchell’s long attempt to rehabilitate himself in many interesting books written about him. It never goes away once you’re understood to be an attorney general who is deceitful. That just never goes away, because I think you’re referring to the fact that of all the cabinet officers, the one we expect not to lie, at least the most, is the attorney general.
MS: No, and I think there’s a reason for that. You know, it’s a crime for a citizen to lie to employees of the Department of Justice. In other words, you can be like Martha Stewart. You can be questioned in a matter that is, you know, entirely peripheral, and in which the underlying crime is never brought to trial. But if you lie to an FBI or a federal prosecutor or whatever, you go to jail. That’s the way it is. And yet Eric Holder, the guy whose department sends people to jail for lying to them, the departmental head goes out and sits in the people’s House, and lies to them brazenly and nakedly.
HH: Yeah, 18USC 1001 is the False Statements Act, and you’re absolutely right, Mark. You go to jail. However, you’re counting, you note that the President’s probably counting on nobody noticing. What they’re going to notice is the fact that we’re on the cusp of another recession. The markets got slammed today, Dow down 250 points, manufacturing is weak, housing is, existing home sales fell, 15 banks have been downgraded. We are, this is just an utter disaster. My book is being overtaken every single day by more bad news that could have been added to it.
MS: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s fascinating. It didn’t have to be this way. If you look, for example, at the way the recession has played out since 2008 in Canada and Australia, it hasn’t gone this way. In other words, in 2008, most of the developed world was in a bad situation. The difference is that Barack Obama made it worse. And one consequence of that is that he has devalued, he’s made what one might have regarded as a cyclical crisis a structural crisis. If your home has lost value, that isn’t coming back anytime soon. There’s twice as many three bedroom homes in this country as anyone’s likely to need for the foreseeable future. And yet his only solution to everything is to pile up more obstructions in the way of small businesses hiring Americans to do work at market rates. Every time he does that, he’s basically extending this great, structural slough of despond in which he’s maintaining the citizenry of the United States, extending it even longer.
HH: Speaking of great, structural sloughs of despond, I landed in Phoenix today from New York, and who do I see in the crosswalk on the way to the rental car but Jonah Goldberg, who was in Vegas with me on Friday night, wearing the same coat, I might add. I think he lost the nest egg.
HH: And I thought to myself, Mark, there’s this tribe of wandering pundits out there who go from vista to vista and proclaim that Obama’s gotta go, and explain what’s happened. But I’m wondering, does anyone actually listen to commentary? Or is this cake baked? Is this argument over already? Everyone knows what they’re going to do in November?
MS: Well, look. You know, realistically, you’re doing more good with your big interview with Balou at Disneyland, and trying to persuade him that one of the Bare Necessities is a copy of your book.
HH: (laughing) That’s how I do it.
MS: I think many people are like Balou in that movie, lying on their back, gently sailing down the river, and watching the world go by. And they don’t realize that actually coming up at the end of that river is a huge waterfall that they’re going to plunge over unless they actually get out of the river and take this stuff seriously. But yeah, it’s true. It’s difficult, it’s difficult to break through the noise. This guy’s numbers ought to be way worse than they are. He did this to us. Whether or not it’s his fault, it’s his responsibility. He did this.
HH: You know, Balou, by the way, is Larry O’Connor, who actually played Balou, Breitbart.tv’s Larry O’Connor was Balou in his younger days. And so that’s my…
MS: (laughing) That’s great. Well, you take the Louis Prima role. You need to be the swingers, the Jungle VIP.
HH: Mark Steyn of www.steynonline.com, thank you, friend. All that you need from Mark, including America Alone, is at www.steynonline.com. (laughing) He told me how to do it. I now know how to promote. The Brief Against Obama when I talk to Balou.
End of interview.