HH: Beginning a jam-packed show with Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read all that Mark writes at www.steynonline.com. Mark, I’m very glad you’re coming to the National Review summit a week further from this weekend, so I won’t be the least popular guy in the room. The Congressional delegation will have to talk to me before they talk to you.
MS: Yeah, it’s, well, it’s a jam-packed event, because we’re full of senators and governors and congressmen and the like, Hugh. I think you’re talking on immigration. I’m just doing a bit of late night knockabout with Jonah Goldberg and Rob Long. We’re getting the world’s oldest boy band back together again for some late night laughs. But the last one of these we had, I think, was about six years ago. And I introduced Mitt Romney, and I have to say that the general vibe, even though the Republicans had just lost the 2006 midterm election, I think the general vibe for the Republican party was a little more upbeat and optimistic than it is these days.
HH: Mark, I think the reason is I don’t really care so much what the House GOP does. But I do care a lot that they state clearly what ought to be done, and they haven’t done that.
MS: No, and actually, that’s very important. I mean, I hate to sort of come the unassimilated foreigner, but just to take, at the risk of your affiliates tuning out, just to cite a Canadian example…
HH: Oh, dear.
MS: Canadian conservatives were in the wilderness for a long time. But during that time, the Reform party, which is now the party that became the Conservative party that’s now in power in Ottawa, the Reform party articulated a principled, conservative position. And by doing it, they forced the Liberal government to meet them halfway. In other words, the Liberal government spent most of its time trying to figure out how not to lose ground to the right. And that was the time when Canadian Liberals, and this may stun American listeners, Canadian Liberals paid down the national debt, because they wanted to demonstrate at a time when the Reform party was being a very effective opposition, that they could be fiscally responsible. So I think if you’ve got principled, if you’ve got a principled minority party, it can help drag the governing party in the direction of sanity. But this idea that it’s all about, you know, you’re either in or you’re out, and there’s nothing in between, isn’t the whole deal.
HH: It isn’t the whole deal, and what is very irritating is it’s been ten weeks since the election, eleven, actually, and now we are being told by leaks out of the Williamsburg retreat that there isn’t enough time to do anything. They’re going to have to punt. So they haven’t done anything for eleven weeks, pass a bill, articulate the entitlement reforms they want, and they’re caving.
MS: And I take it, Hugh, you’re using retreat in the sense of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. Is that right?
HH: It is…well that, I think, was more orderly and less devastating to the army involved. This is…
MS: Although I gather his guys also said they hadn’t had time to put…
MS: (laughing) So they do have that in common.
HH: Well, today, they sent poor Paul Ryan out, who’s turning out to be the guy who’ll do anything for everyone. He’s the nicest, smartest guy in the Congressional caucus. They sent him out today to say you know, maybe we’ll pass a short term debt ceiling, which is almost the worst of all worlds. If they’re going to lose, they should just say we can’t beat the President, here’s all the red ink, we’re going to stand over here until it collapses, and be the Greek chorus, or they can go to the mat and shut the government down. But to pass a six week or a two month, it’s just like they played small ball all 2011 and go nowhere as a result.
MS: Yeah, and you know, I think that’s the problem with the system as a whole. And the President, the executive branch, exploits that extremely effectively. I mean, there’s a law requiring the President to propose a budget. It’s not something he has to do if he wakes up on the right side of bed. It’s actually mandated by law, and it doesn’t happen. And where effectively this sort of staggering through every six week crisis with these patches, I mean, the whole model of American government now is like this Frankenstein monster held together by peeling Band-Aids. And that’s fine if that’s how the Democrats want to do things. But in a two-party system, there ought to be room for one party that doesn’t want to do things that way.
HH: And we’ll see what they do. Maybe it will turn around on a dime and they are listening. But let’s turn to some of the other stories. In Algeria, the dreaded word is that the Algerian Special Forces are shelling the hostages. And who knows what’s going on, Mark Steyn, but I don’t think I have a lot of confidence in the Algerian Special Forces.
MS: Yeah, I mean, Algerian Special Forces is something of a contradiction in terms. I think when these things happen, somewhere on the other side of the world, you hope that highly, the highly-trained elite forces will come to the rescue. And that belongs to a very select group of nations. I mean, if you remember that Russian theater siege, for example, where the Russians went in and killed a bunch of people, I mean, even the Russians aren’t any good at that. There’s maybe half a dozen nations in the world that are capable of rescuing those guys without leaving a lot of blood on the floor. And this is a terrible situation for those guys to be in, and it does call into question, I mean, I would have thought that the first thing that happened is that the nationals, the government of the nationals being held hostage, would have conferred as to who had people who could get there…
MS: And screw Algeria sovereignty. I mean, we got into a lot of trouble in Libya from over-respecting the sovereignty of nations that cannot enforce their own sovereignty. And that’s what we should have done in Algeria, too. We should take that as saying we’re not going to fuss about whether they get visas from the Algerians.
HH: Are we surprise, are you surprised that the President, nor the Secretary of State, neither of them have said a word about this?
MS: No, I’m not, because I think they know that the press are not going to make a big deal about it on their watch. I mean, we had four, two guys died on a rooftop in Benghazi after hour by hour contacting Washington, demanding to know whether help was on the way. And they died, they saved a lot of people’s lives, but they died waiting for the cavalry that never came. And I think in this sense, I mean, at a certain point, Americans have to ask themselves. They’re responsible for 43% of the world’s military spending. Why can’t they do a raid on Entebbe? Why on Earth does that have to be outsourced to Algerian Special Forces? Is this just another job Americans won’t do? At some point, Americans have to get serious about these questions.
HH: I don’t know. We’re not serious about the debt. Let me tell you who is serious. Bob Schieffer, former CBS anchor and debate moderator, had this to say about the gun debate yesterday.
BS: What happened in Newtown was probably the worst day in this country’s history since 9/11. We found Osama bin Laden. We tracked him down. We changed the way that we dealt with that problem. Surely, finding Osama bin Laden, surely passing civil rights legislation, as Lyndon Johnson was able to do, and before that, surely defeating the Nazis was a much more formidable task than taking on the gun lobby.
HH: What do you think, Mark Steyn?
MS: Well, it’s interesting. He’s identified the enemy there. The enemy, to him, is the gun lobby. And Bob Schieffer has compared them with Osama bin Laden and the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan in the deep South. The guy who committed the crimes at Sandy Hook Elementary School was not a member of the gun lobby. He was not a gun owner. He was someone who was mentally ill. All these guys are mentally ill. And the tragedy of, well, it’s not really a tragedy. It’s actually utterly contemptible the way self-respecting, law-abiding, innocent Americans are being demonized purely for wishing to live as the self-reliant citizens that this nation was founded upon. And I find this whole debate utterly, on the gun rights issue, absolutely repugnant. What you do, this country was founded on the principle that a free man does not mortgage his security to the state, no matter how benevolent that state might be. And I don’t understand why Bob Schieffer, who like his former colleague, Dan Rather, is quite content to sort of deploy the Texan aphorisms, the folksy Texas aphorisms when it suits him, he seems to have been in Washington too long. He doesn’t get the whole don’t mess with Texas thing anymore.
HH: Last question, Mark Steyn, is it does not appear as thought Senate Democrats are going to pass this. This is a shrewd thing that Speaker Boehner actually did. On a call, he said we’ll take a look at any bill that the Senate passes on this. And sure enough, Senate Democrats are running away from the President’s requests.
MS: Yeah, I think it causes problem for so-called moderate, pro-gun Democrats. It causes problems, I mean, for example, in Vermont, Howard Dean, who is about as lefty as you can get, Howard Dean as governor had a superb record on gun rights, had no problems with gun owners, and in some ways was well to the right of many Republican governors on these things. So I don’t think, this is one of those things that I think will pass unless Obama is determined to actually run an Obamacare thing with this.
HH: Mark Steyn from www.steynonline.com, thank you, friend.
End of interview.