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Mark Steyn and Hugh catch up.

Friday, September 14, 2007
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HH: We begin this Thursday as we do whenever our paths cross and we’re not jet-setting around with Columnist to the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Mark’s work at www.steynonline.com. Mark, I’m glad I’m finally in the studio when you’re there.

MS: Yeah, I got used to the other guy, the guy with that thick accent. I sort of assumed you were basically his guest host now. I didn’t realize you were still doing the show. I’m flattered like late period Johnny Carson, your couple of days work a week still includes me every now and then.

HH: I know, I’ve heard that Johnny Carson…I get sent places, but mea culpa, I’m going to be good on Thursdays, because I really miss talking to you. But I pick my shots, like this week, and I want to start by asking you, Mark Steyn, last week, Denmark and Germany, today, Vienna, Austria. Last week, a bomb in the Ankara parking garage. The jihadists are up to no good in a lot of places.

MS: Yeah, and you know, we think of it, and I certainly think that’s the case on the 6th anniversary of September 11th, we think that these little nickel and dime plots that are stopped in their tracks are jokes. And a failed terrorist seems like a joke. When you arrest him before he’s done what it was he wanted to do, he seems like a nothing guy. They’re all nothing guys until they get away with it. If you caught Mohammed Atta and those losers in the lap dance clubs they were hanging out at in the weeks before September 11th, they would have seemed like a bunch of losers. But they killed thousands of people, and inflicted billions of dollars of damage on the U.S. economy. And I think that that is the same as some of these plots, that they seem like jokes. But if they’d come off, they would not be jokes at all.

HH: A couple of weeks ago, we picked up a couple of would-be terrorists in South Carolina. That’s vanished from the headlines. I saw a story cross the tram yesterday about a guy with an AK-47 in a Detroit suburb. That’s vanished. Is the media especially dense? Or are they working overtime to appear non-alarmist?

MS: Well, I think that it’s more than not wanting to appear non-alarmist. I think if you take, for example, those couple of guys who you mentioned in I think it was South Carolina…

HH: Right.

MS: They were connected with a university that has been implicated in a lot of terrorists fermenting and ideological fermenting in the Sami al-Arian case. And yet the way the media covered it was very much on the sort of terms of CAIR and the other Islamic lobby groups, that these two guys had been singled out because of kind of institutional Islamophobia in law enforcement. And it’s not the case at all. In fact, there’s a lot of circumstantial evidence to indicate that they’re mixed up in a lot of very murky business. And this idea that every time they’re caught, the press frets about whether it’s being Islamophobic to play it up, I think is a big part of the problem. It’s an even worse problem in Europe, where as I always say, the difference between the war on terror here and there is that in Europe, it’s a civil war. I mean, these are German citizens, these are Austrian citizens, these are British subjects who blow up the London Tube. I mean, that is a problem with their own Muslim population.

HH: Now since you bring up population, I’m going to jump ahead on my queue of questions here to a remarkable review in the New York Review of Books. I had Norman Podhoretz on the program on Tuesday.

MS: Right.

HH: I think his book, World War IV is a marvelous book, and sort of an intellectual history of the last six years, in which your book is mentioned, America Alone, a couple of times.

MS: Right.

HH: And this reviewer in the New York Review of Books snidely comments in footnote three, “As evidence for a proposition, Norman Podhoretz quotes by a book from Mark Steyn entitled America Alone, which argues that white Europeans are being outbred by the Muslims. Statistics are often used to scare us, but are notoriously unreliable. Steyn, a right wing comic writer, is not an authority on demographics. Since Muslims will probably make up 10% of the European population in 2020, they still have a lot of breeding to do before the Continent falls into their hands.” What an idiot, Mark Steyn. This guy…

MS: This guy, this is a guy called Ian Buruma, who belongs to the European intellectual class. And simply as a matter of definition, there are no Europeans apart from intellectuals. You know, if you stop anybody in Europe, and you say…you know, Europe is a place on the map. I’m reminded of a movie I saw late at night in the 70’s, and it began with a castle in the mist, and the caption came on underneath it. Europe – The Middle Ages. Well, when people talk about Europeans like this guy does, that means him and about a couple of hundred other people. If you stop people in the streets of the Netherlands, they’ll say I’m a Dutchman. If you stop them in the streets of France, they’ll say I’m a Frenchman. If you stop them in the streets of Italy, they’ll say I’m an Italian. The fact of the matter is even if he was right, and 10% of Europe’s population are Muslims, that’s more than the population of Europe which happens to be French or German or Dutch or Italian or Spanish. So it would be a significant player anyway. And as I mentioned on National Review earlier today, already the governing party of the Brussels city council is majority Muslim. In other words, the capitol city of the European Union has a Muslim-led governing party. So events on the ground are moving very fast, and this complacent twit can say what he likes, but to argue about the rate of speed is one thing. To deny that it’s happening is quite another.

HH: Now I’ve been debating all week long with Doug Bandow, one of the libertarian critics of the United States conduct of the war over at the Los Angeles Times.com.

MS: Right.

HH: And it’s really becoming quite tiresome, because he’s got the same kind of see no evil, hear no evil, boy, it’s unpleasant to be in Iraq approach. Mark Steyn, six years after 9/11, it’s as though it never happened with many people.

MS: Yes, I think that’s true, and I think it’s in a way, once you label it, and this is where I think Norman Podhoretz’ book is very useful, a lot of it is about promoting the idea of this as World War IV. The President’s decision to call it a war on terror, I think makes it hard in two senses for him. A lot of his political problems now derive from that. For a start, if there is no terror, then it’s hard to argue there’s a war. And people have woken up every day for six years and there haven’t been smoking buildings on TV. So it becomes hard to think if it’s about terrorism against the United States, it becomes hard to think of that as a real struggle. And secondly, if you declare it as a war on terror, I think it’s harder to embrace Iraq within that, because obviously, Iraq was a sovereign state with its own president, with its own government, with its own armed forces. And it becomes harder to fit that into a kind of war on terror framework, and that’s why I think Norman Podhoretz’ book does such a great job at actually looking at this in terms of what the enemy really is, and what’s really going on out there.

HH: You know, just before we started the program, I concluded an interview with Rudy Giuliani, which will broadcast at the bottom of the hour for the balance of the hour, in which he said he’s re-branding it himself. He’s now calling it the terrorist war on us. And I thought to myself, you know, when I interview candidates, I don’t want to argue with them…

MS: Right.

HH: But I did think to myself that’s not the right re-branding. I think it is the war on Islamism, the Islamic-fascists, on jihadists, and that the sooner we figure out that the Denmark, Germany, Turkey, South Carolina thing is all connected, the better off we’ll be. But do you think American politicians have the backbone for that?

MS: No, and I think it’s problematic, because in the end, terrorism is usually…I mean, people talk on the left about root causes, but they don’t actually display a lot of interest in finding out what they are. Terrorism is obviously derived from the ideology that drives it. And so the fact of the matter is that we’re not at war with terrorism, which is a tactic, but we’re at war with the ideology that fuels the terrorism. And unless you’ve got a strategy for throttling the ideology, you’re not going to win this thing. And the fact of the matter is, you know, that the terrorism label causes problems around the world. I mean for example, British conservatives always scoff at the idea of America’s war on terror, because they know full well that the United States was largely indifferent, for example, to IRA terrorism, if not in certain parts of Boston and New York, actively supportive of it.

HH: Right, right. Now tell me before we go to break, we’re going to do Democratic politics and the attack on Petraeus after the break, but I know you’ve been following Israel’s strike on Syria. What do you think happened there?

MS: Well, I think in essence, they decided they had no choice but to act. And they decided it was better to act quickly, and that people will figure it out and worry about it later. And I think there’s going to be a lot more of that in the years to come. You know, almost every leader of a free society goes to bed at night with all kinds of cables and satellite photographs of whacky things going on, on the fringes of the map. The difference is for Israel, these dark, murky, sinister things your intelligence agencies have got the satellite photographs are not on the fringes of the map, they’re right next door to you. And you’ve got to make some very sharp and difficult choices about what you do about them.

HH: Lots of speculation on their target in the media. Some suggest North Korea was shipping bad stuff to Syria. Others think it was just weapons for Hezbollah. We don’t know, but we’ll follow it.

– – – –

HH: Mark, since I haven’t talked to you in a month, have you added any new regular columns anywhere that I’m unaware of?

MS: (laughing) Well, I do still write them occasionally. A couple of correspondents complained to me that I was doing too much resigning from things.

HH: (laughing)

MS: But I can’t quite figure it out, because no matter how many places I walk out of in a huff, I still seem to find myself that evening having to sit down and bash out a column.

HH: Isn’t that terrible? It’s the endless demand of the editors out there. I want to play for you…well, first, let me get your reaction to the MoveOn.org smear on David Petraeus, or as they call him, General betray us. What do you think?

MS: Well, I think they have a…you know, you started with I’ve Got You Under My Skin. I think General Petraeus got under the Democrats’ skin at Congress in Washington this week, and I think they would have liked to be able to have a really fierce out and out go at him. But the fact of the matter is that Hillary Clinton and the others realized that in fact, you cannot attack and accuse a serving man in uniform of the sort of things that the net roots are accusing him of. I mean basically, for years, every time you make a criticism of a Democrat, as John Kerry did continuously throughout 2004, said how dare you question my patriotism. Well, the fact of the matter is if you say a man is betraying you, betraying you, that explicitly means he is a traitor, and you’re questioning his patriotism. And this was a very foolish strategy for Democrats to get mixed up in.

HH: Now he’s a four star general, recognized as Rudy Giuliani says in an ad tomorrow in the New York Times, if they accept it, as one of the 25 best leaders in America by U.S. News and World Report, four awards of the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal for valor, two Defense Superior Service medals, the Defense Distinguished Service medal, and yet here’s Hillary on Tuesday, the day after the MoveOn.org ad, speaking to the General directly.

HRC: Despite what I view as your rather extraordinary efforts and your testimony both yesterday and today, I think that the reports that you provide to us really require the willing suspension of disbelief.

MS: (laughing)

HH: How can you read that as other than her calling him a liar?

MS: Well you know, I would love it in these situations if he’s said oh, sorry, when you said the report requires a willing suspension of disbelief, I thought that was your latest quarterly fundraising report, and your mysterious foreign donors. I mean, I would love it if these guys who are hauled up to listen to these blowhard Senators in committee who do this usual thing where they give a 20 minute speech and then there’s a one minute question at the end of it, Obama basically ran out the clock with his kind of posturing, and didn’t have time for a question. I would love it if they were to just be scathing and withering back. But in fact, General Petraeus just answered these idiotic questions very, very calmly. The fact of the matter is the Democrats are the ones with the problem here. They’ve decided, they’ve decided that they’re willing to consider anything except victory. And so when a guy comes along and he’s not interested in kind of talking about enabling an American defeat, then they basically have nowhere to go. Their questions have nowhere to go. Their questions have no point.

HH: I will ask Rudy Giuliani after the break whether he considers this to be a campaign issue for ’08. Do you?

MS: Well, I think there’s a bit of a problem here in that I think Bush had a good week this week. Whether that works out well for Republicans next November is a much more problematic thing. In other words, I think the fact of the matter is that simply…that the dull, unlovely slog of clearing out Anbar Province and Baghdad is not sufficiently glamorous, to put it in those terms, to drive voters back into the Republican camp in November. So I’m very wary about the idea that absent some new development, the idea of a Giuliani candidacy premise as a sort of war president candidacy.

HH: All right, now I want to turn to Hillary. My friend, Dean Barnet, who you referred to as my guest host for the last few weeks…

MS: Yeah, he’s the leader. You’re his guest host. That’s how it works, isn’t it?

HH: (laughing) He wrote today that the Clinton’s campaign fundraising effort have been a highly public criminal enterprise for decades now. No one cares. I did the where is the outrage thing along with Bob Dole in ’96, been there and done that. When it comes time to raise campaign funds, the Clintons employ grifters like Terry McAuliffe and Harold Ickes. When they get caught breaking the law, nobody cares. I don’t need reminders that the Clintons aren’t particularly sticklers when it comes to following the law. I think he’s right. I think we’ve gotten to the point where they could rob a bank and it wouldn’t matter, Mark Steyn.

MS: Yes, I think that’s true. You basically, if it turned out that Osama bin Laden was Hillary Clinton’s main campaign funder, the New York Times would cover it as, in the way they did this one, oh, Mrs. Clinton had known for months, had always feared the possibility that something irregular might happen. It’s always presented as if unfortunately, this is just some new distraction that this brilliantly talented woman has to deal with. And basically, when you read her explanation, I was reminded of the old joke back in the 70’s when Studio 54 got busted, because people were doing cocaine in the night club. And you know, the line was, this was going on under our noses. And that’s basically, that old joke is basically Hillary Clinton’s line on this dodgy foreign bagman who’s bundling all her money for her.

HH: Now as penance for having been away for a couple of weeks, I want to play for you my favorite treacly quote of the week, because I know you’ll appreciate this. This is Joe Biden and Chris Matthews a couple of nights ago on Hardball.

CM: What the hell are we doing there?

JB: We shouldn’t be there, Chris. We should not be there now. We’ve got to get out of there. Look, Chris, on my way back, I was supposed to fly out this last Friday on a C-130. And on that flight, they placed what they call, and this is heart wrenching, they refer to everyone of those bodies as a fallen angel. They put six fallen angels on that aircraft. And you know, Chris, what do you say? Why did they fall? What do you say? What do you say to their parents? What do you say to those troops? And you know what? They’re incredible, Chris. I know…

HH: Enough, enough. So you get the picture here, and they look like they’re about to cry. What do you react to that, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, I think Joe Biden is a kind of tragedy in a way, because the reality is when he’s up on stage with those other fellows, he’s actually one of the saner members of the Democratic nominees. But he’s crippled by this thing that everything he says comes out sounding phony and insincere. I don’t know whether it is, or whether it isn’t. But he just, he has an almost parodically politically insincere air about him. And as I said, the tragedy about this is that actually, by comparison with Kucinich and Obama and John Edwards and all the rest up there, he’s actually one of the least insane guys on that presidential caucus.

HH: Oh, what a statement on that group of candidates. Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, www.steynonline.com, America.

End of interview.

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