HH: I am joined by Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read everything Mark writes at www.steyonline.com. And Mark, we’ll be together tomorrow in Washington, D.C. at the National Review Institute.
MS: Yeah, I’m already here in Washington, great feral for a country boy like me to come down from the hills, so I’m doing all the good city stuff. I was just in a karaoke bar lip synching to Beyonce lip synching to the Star-Spangled Banner. I got $3.79 in tips. It worked out great.
HH: Well, I know you’re on the schedule to talk on Saturday night with Jonah Goldberg and Rob Long, but what difference does it make if you actually show up or if somebody else shows up?
MS: I know, what difference does it make? That’s the great line. It’s a beautiful line. I’ve got to hand it to Secretary Clinton, that it nullifies all the checks and balances the world’s greatest Constitutional scholars could ever devise, an all-perfect answer. They should replace E Pluribus Unum with What Difference Does It Make. I tell you, they should certainly, if Paul Krugman ever goes ahead with that trillion dollar coin idea, they should have What Difference Does It Make as the motto on the coin, too, the all-purpose answer.
HH: I want to apply the Hillary Doctrine to some other areas, because I love the Hillary Doctrine. It excuses many things. What difference does it make if I pay my mortgage, Mark Steyn, or if I don’t pay my mortgage? What difference?
MS: No, exactly. And that’s actually the way they look at it, the obligation to produce a budget. You know, Harry Reid’s attitude to the Senate doing a budget, what difference does it make? What difference does it make?
HH: And today, Dianne Feinstein, this is going to shock you, Dianne Feinstein sponsored anti-gun legislation. But I would love for her to meet up with Senator Clinton, or Secretary of State Clinton, and discuss what difference does it make to remove these guns from the street, when there are 300 million weapons in America, and we’re not even sure if this will do anything.
MS: No, exactly. What difference does it make? You can put that on most activist, big government legislation. What difference does Head Start make? What difference do gun control measures make? In the end, they don’t. They don’t at all.
HH: What did you make of that testimony yesterday, both in the Senate and in the House, on a couple of levels? One, the Republicans are ridiculously bad at asking questions. They really do not know how to do it. But even though they were bad at it, she still found a way to put on her show.
MS: Yes, and just to deal with the first part of that, Hugh, Republicans are bad at it. And you only have a few minutes. And the point is you want to use it to elicit a useful piece of information, or at least to demonstrate to the world that the official who is being interrogated is not providing that information. So you want a short, factual question. For example, we have not, we still have not had any official autopsy results on the dead U.S. ambassador. It has still not been officially confirmed what he died of. Why weren’t there short questions about that? We learned that apparently there is still a survivor from the Benghazi attack still being treated in hospital at Walter Reed. What about specific questions as to what happened to those survivors? What were they treated for in Germany? Why have they in effect been put in the witness protection program by the government? You’ve got to write, you’ve got to give yourself a short, terse, factual question. And the next senator who follows you, if she’s stonewalling, has got to pick up on that. And he’s got to, it’s going to be like basic tag-team wrestling. You don’t just do these sort of individual showboating things. And the Republicans have just got to get better at that stuff.
HH: I was amazed they did not. Tom Cotton did very well for a rookie. He had four minutes. He got in three questions, elicited the statement by the Secretary of State that the core capabilities of al Qaeda are very much destroyed, which is absurd when you look at Algeria and Benghazi. But beyond that, he elicited the confirmation she talked to the Tunisian ambassador about the Tunisian terrorist being released. But then he was out of time, and no one followed up on what he said to her.
MS: No, and that’s what you’ve got to do. And what is interesting about this is that the only guy sitting in a jail cell is some schlub who made a video out in California. There are people who were apparently involved in this Algerian fiasco who were also involved in Benghazi, according to the position of the government of Algeria. And in fact, in both these incidents, the Algerians and the Libyans have been rather more forthcoming than officials of the United States government have been. But is it now the position of the United States that there is going to be no punishment, no retribution for guys who sacked a U.S. diplomatic facility, reduced it to rubble, and killed four Americans? Right now, they seem satisfied that some no name pseudo filmmaker in California is sitting in jail, and nobody else needs to go to jail.
HH: Yeah, this has to be hammered home, because if the Republicans will simply yield their time to one person who will pursue serious lines of questions, they could learn something. But if we keep doing this for the next two years, the hearings power that we have in the House will not be effectively used.
MS: But also, I think it gets to the…Hillary Clinton understood one very basic lesson, that if you’ve just got showboating senators, then kind of the most crude and pathetic emotionalist trumping will beat that every time.
MS: And in other words, she understood the core dynamic more seriously than many of the people questioning.
HH: It goes back to Bill Clinton’s deposition that Ken Starr negotiated. He ran out the clock.
HH: And that’s because Republicans don’t know how to use the clock.
HH: Mark Steyn, I have to go back to your Fleet Street days and ask you to explain something to me. Piers Morgan is one of the worst interviewers in the world. He is to me a lightweight, and he has terrible teeth. Why in the world…did he have stature in England?
MS: No, he didn’t. He wound up having to resign from the Daily Mirror over false accusations against British troops in Iraq of atrocities. He did very well here in the sense of the slimy, duplicitous Englishman that you can’t trust when he, I think it was, what’s the show, Celebrity Apprentice?
MS: …where he stomped all over Trace Adkins, who was your Texas who couldn’t get any more wholesome and all-American, clean cut in his ten gallon hat, and the slimy, duplicitous English ferret ate his lunch. And he played his hand very well there. But I don’t think he can hold down a prime time show on CNN every night. And that network is dying.
HH: I’m afraid, Mark, we’ve just gotten a message from the White House. You may not have heard this part of the President’s inaugural address. It’s cut number 15. We have to play it for you.
BO: We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name calling as reasoned debate.
HH: Now there, I think you used ferret, and I think you broke the rule, Mark Steyn.
MS: No, I was simply suggesting Piers Morgan might in the end, end up as a protected species under the EPA. That’s all. I didn’t mean anything in a mean spirited way. And if I did, what difference does it make?
HH: The Hillary Doctrine. I love it. Now this is my serious question. He’s appalling. He is grave-stomping every night. And CNN is mercilessly manipulating the sorrow and tragedy of these families in Newtown. They did it on the Texas shooting, which turned out not to be much of a shooting at all, but some sort of a confrontation. And they spent ten hours on it, and they’re doing it again today. It is shameless, Mark Steyn, what they’re doing.
MS: Yes, it is, and I find that absolutely appalling. You know, my colleague, Jonah Goldberg, had a very good line on this, that the cheap emotionalism of the sort of pseudo media empathy of Sandy Hook, when Jonah said they’re all using this line, well, they’re all our children. No, they’re not. They’re the children of these particular parents who’ve lost a kindergartener, or a first grader. They’ve lost a five year old daughter, a six year old boy who will never see, grow to adolescence, grow up, get married. They will never be standing there on their 40th wedding anniversary with their grown children. It’s their tragedy. And the hideous ersatz pseudo empathy of fellows like Piers Morgan and CNN in particular on this, is just the cheap appropriation of real people’s real bereavement. And it’s grotesque.
HH: It is grotesque, and they’re doing it for ratings. And I read a New York Times story about some of these terribly wounded families this week that made it clear they’re not watching TV. They’re not doing, they can’t stand it. Their pain is so immense. And so whenever I see…it’s shameless, it’s shocking, it’s disgusting. But I don’t think it’s going to stop, because it apparently, it’s better than the news.
MS: No, but by the way, just to go back to the Hillary Clinton Doctrine, the what difference does it make, that’s the way, I think it’s at least two, and possibly more of the Benghazi families, feel about Hillary Clinton’s and the President’s performance in front of those four flag-draped coffins when their bodies returned home, that they can’t bear, they couldn’t bear to watch that, the sort of pseudo-solidarity expressed by Secretary Clinton and the President.
HH: I think this wears thin in a hurry. Mark Steyn, I look forward to debating the Hillary Doctrine with you this weekend as we do the National Review Institute.
End of interview.