HH: I’m joined by Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read all of Mark’s work at www.steynonline.com. Today, Mark, I want to cover three speeches with you – the President’s, Bobby Jindal’s, and Sean Penn’s. Let’s start with your reaction to President Obama last night.
MS: I was devastated, actually. What is horrifying to me is the way he’s become quite expert at genuflecting towards American exceptionalism, and then yoking it to his project of massive statism. In other words, nothing says the American virtues of self-reliance, entrepreneurial energy, and the can-do spirit like joining the vast army of robotic extras demanding more big government from Obama and Washington. I mean, this is a horrifying…he does it, the tone is expert, but the approval ratings are a lagging indicator right now. The fact is the foreign policy guys around the world and the investor class in the Dow Jones right here at home understand where this is heading.
HH: Do you think it can be stopped, this massive, massive expansion of government that he outlined last night, whether or not people understood what he was outlining?
MS: Well, I think he’s certainly got the votes to do it, and it’s clear that if anything, Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank and the Congressional barons want this stuff even more. In part, they want it because health care, and I think it’s clear that as Michael Barone said, that he seems himself as the LBJ of health care. Health care is going to be his Great Society. Health care to me fundamentally transforms the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to one of junky and pusher. And I think you cross a line from which it’s very hard to return. By the way, all these comparisons, you know, LBJ, Jimmy Carter, the New Deal, I think this is all just kind of little nickel and dime comparisons. I think the project is actually far more transformative than that.
HH: I’ve been trying this week to educate people on something called the Consumer Product Safety Improvements Act, which was passed last August, went into effect on February the 10th, and launched a bunch of lawsuits yesterday. It’s devastating retailers and manufacturers who make products for children, Mark Steyn, and they had no idea what they were doing. And I’m trying to argue, I’ll argue with E.J. Dionne a little bit later, if they mess up something that simple, and launch a thousand unintended consequences…
HH: What will our health care system be like? These people are not competent to do these things.
MS: Exactly. I mean, what I find so odd is that people say oh, the markets failed. The markets failed. You crazy guy thinking the market can fix this, we’re somehow meant to think, and in fact, we’re meant to excuse his every tax infraction on this basis, that Tim Geithner somehow is the only man who can crack the code of the global economy. He’s the only guy on the planet with the expertise to be able to arrange this kind of Rubik’s cube of the global economy so that every side is facing in the right direction and make it work. You’re right. The legislation of the United States Congress is appallingly drafted. It’s unrepublican. These people elected to Congress at the very minimum, especially when you consider they’ve all got staffs bigger than the average, bigger than the retinue of the average Gulf emir, I mean these guys owe it to us, at the very minimum, to at least read this legislation. That thing you mentioned just a moment ago, that kids safety thing…
MS: …has made every children’s book printed before 1985 apparently a lethal weapon.
MS: It’s illegal, if I happen to have a 1982 edition of Tom Sawyer lying around, it’s illegal for me to sell that at my local rummage sale, because it’ll kill the kid who reads it. This is rubbish. And we need…none of this stuff is needed, all of it gets in the way of the dynamic and productive part of the American economy.
HH: You know, Mark, it sideswiped the entire all-terrain vehicle industry, destroying a huge market segment where they would sell these vehicles to 12 and under. They can’t do it now because of lead in the machines. And it was not intended to do that.
MS: Yes, and…
HH: It just did it.
MS: And let me tell you something. I’m not going to pay any attention to that. In my corner of New Hampshire, every 12 year old boy loves taking an ATV up riding it around up in the hills. And the idea that the lead in it is going to cause that kid to keel over is preposterous. And this is government by insanity, because the minute you create a bureaucracy, that bureaucracy is there forever. That law can never be overturned.
MS: And this is taking us into very dangerous territory.
HH: Oh, I’ll tell you, if they bring the same efficiency to the health care reform as they did to the CPSIA, we’re doomed. We’ll all be dead. Let me ask you about Bobby Jindal. I don’t think he did badly last night, but then again, I was listening for substance. What do you think?
MS: Well, I think this comes back to one of the issues we were talking about last week. You know, he basically, the criticism made of him is that it was a relatively lackluster presentation. And I think it’s fair to say he’s not Mr. Teleprompter. And that’s often the case. If you’re a state politician, generally speaking, you don’t have a lot of occasion to use a teleprompter. And so when you do, it’s not something you’re necessarily familiar with. But the other criticism was that essentially his view of the situation is outmoded. That was the hammering he took from a lot of the so-called centrist commentators, that he needs to get with the program, that he’d be much better off conceding half of the Obama stuff, and trying to rein him in on some of the wackier, fringier stuff. And I don’t think that’s going to cut it. I think there’s a level of disgust out there. When you look, for example, there’s a small majority in the last poll, I think it was something like 54% of the American people want no bailout for anything, nothing, nada, zip, that actually, there’s quite a growing movement out there that does want to return to some basic core economic principles. And in that sense, by not offering any concession to the Obamafication of the economy, he may have done himself some favors.
HH: Now let’s turn to Sean Penn. Let’s play a little bit of this to remind people, cut number one.
SP: You Commie, homo-loving sons of guns…
HH: Mark Steyn, what’d you make of that opening from Sean Penn?
MS: Well, you know something? We congratulate, Hollywood congratulates itself on its courage. It’s taken it years, it took fifteen years before they made a film about AIDS with Tom Hanks going to, in Philadelphia, going to, with a stick-on lesion or two, going to the tamest ever gay party that’s ever been filmed. Now, they’re congratulating themselves for filming a thirty year old story. Hollywood congratulates itself on its courage all the time. Generally, it gets to these issues very late. That’s why George Clooney thinks he’s a brave man for making a film about McCarthyism in the year 2007. I mean, this is Hollywood courage. Once the issue’s cut and dried, then they’ll go to it.
HH: I want to get to one point, I hope it’s early, play a little bit more of the Sean Penn thing.
SP: I did not expect this, but…and I want it to be very clear that I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me often.
HH: Stop right there. The self-referential nature of these things, Mark Steyn, but I don’t think I can get to it in time, so I’ll just put it out there. At one point, he crows, he’s happy that we have finally elected an elegant president.
HH: And I thought to myself, this is truly the bottoming out of the culture when someone gets up and applauds a president on the basis of their elegance.
MS: Well you know, Chester Arthur was the first president to have a valet in the White House. And I think that’s where it all started to go to hell.
MS: So I’m willing to cut Obama a little bit of slack on the elegance issue.
HH: Now Mark Steyn, in terms of where we are generally, I’m still an optimist. I think the economy’s going to turn around rather quickly. I believe a lot of this project that you referred to is going to stall out when people realize what we’re talking about turning over to federal bureaucrats and to government programs, and the price tag. Where is your optimism meter here? I think we’re going to have a big swing in 2010, because people are not going to buy this. They never have.
MS: Well, I’d like to be with you on that. I think the Dow has a long way to go, though. You know, I remember, it’s only a couple of weeks ago, people were talking about the Dow bottoming out at 8K. Now, they’re talking about 6K, and it’s not inconceivable it could be at 5K. and basically, I think that if Obama and Barney Frank and Co. go further down the path they discussed last night, we have only the certainty of worse. I mean, this is his thing. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. There’s nothing very FDR about that.
HH: And so Mark Steyn, though, I’m talking about the fact that they’ll run into obstacles not yet evident, including in their own party as the blue dog Democrats realize they’re going to get wiped out, and that therefore they’re going to be obliged to abandon this project at least in large part. There just isn’t enough money in the world or competence.
MS: I hope so, but you know what the Republican Party needs at the moment is kind of principled leadership that can tap into what I think is a swelling public dissatisfaction. And the problem is that too many Republicans listen to the New York Times and the Washington Post telling them they have to reach across the aisle and do the Susan Collins thing.
HH: Throw in. Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, www.steynonline.com, America.
End of interview.