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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn and the national crisis of second-hand dentures

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HH: You’ll have to forgive me if I’m just a touch incoherent. I watched a lot of the health care summit. Here to help me through it, Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read everything Mark writes at Mark, the clock is now in. The Democrats spoke for 233 minutes, the Republicans spoke for 110 minutes, President Obama alone spoke for 119 minutes. Do you think anyone is alive in America?

MS: No, I would be very surprised if any American who wasn’t paid to do it sat through that whole thing willingly. But you didn’t have to watch a lot of it to get the broad tone. And I think at the end of the day, however many minutes each participant spoke for, it was a net loss for Obama and the Democrats at some degree.

HH: That is actually widely shared, with the exception of Jonathan Chait at the New Republic, who evidently never let him handicap a football game.

MS: Right.

HH: Jennifer Rubin has summed up over at Commentary, talking about the fact that he was simply way too condescending, way too unprepared, belittling at times, not, I’m quoting here, “not a sunny, magnanimous president, more Jimmy Carter than Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan,” and he doesn’t have a good case. I mean…

MS: Oh, no, no. And I think tonally, and this is why I didn’t watch it for long, because I think most people won’t have watched it for long, but they will have got the tone of it. He was too condescending. The president of the United States is not the king of Saudi Arabia. And there was something wrong about the whole setup, where you had well-informed representatives and senators making good point, which he would then bat down and move on, when it was obvious that the senator of the congressman had something to say. Now I don’t see why senators and congressmen should actually put up with that condescension. I’ve had the privilege of being in group sessions with the president of the United States. And the president of the United States didn’t tell me that my time was up and I couldn’t respond to the point he’d made. I’ve been at Buckingham Palace. And while the conversation can be a little more stilted there, because it is a monarchical setting, you, it was not as condescending. Her Majesty, the Queen, and his Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, not as condescending to their subjects as Barack Obama is to United States senators and congressmen. That, Jennifer Rubin is absolutely right there. Tonally, it did not project a good thing, a good image for Obama.

HH: I need to play for you what I thought was a very definitive moment. It’s an exchange between President Obama and John McCain on Medicare Advantage. Cut number 13:

BHO: I just want to focus on Medicare Advantage, because I haven’t seen an independent analyst look at this and say seniors are healthier for it, or taxpayers are better off for it. That’s what we’re talking about reforming. We’re not talking about cutting benefits under the Medicare program as is required under law. What we’re talking about is Medicare Advantage. And you know, it may be that some people here think that it’s working. I know that there’s some Republicans who are sitting at this table who don’t think it’s working. You can argue and say okay, let’s not do Medicare Advantage, and let’s not close the donut hole, for example. Or, you know, there may be other ways you want to spend that money. But I just want to establish whether we’ve got some agreement that the Medicare Advantage program, which is what we are proposing to reform, is actually not a good deal to taxpayers or for seniors, and certainly not a good deal for the 80% of seniors who aren’t in Medicare Advantage, because by the way, they’re paying an extra premium of about $90 bucks a year to subsidize the 20% who are in Medicare Advantage.

MM: Mr. President, John McCain would also like to address that issue.

BHO: I’m sorry. So if somebody else wants to address it, I’m…

JM: I’ll just make one comment. Why in the world, then, would we carve out 800,000 people in Florida that would not be, have their Medicare Advantage cut? Now I proposed an amendment on the floor to say everybody would be treated the same. Now Mr. President, why should we carve out 800,000 people because they live in Florida to keep their Medicare Advantage program, and then want to do away with it?

BHO: I think you make a legitimate point.

HH: Mark Steyn, that’s a stopper. That is a classic example of the president just stopped short after a minute and a half filibuster. And he just doesn’t have the facts.

MS: Yeah. No, no, and he makes himself look ludicrous, I think, in that situation. And actually, that gets to the heart of what this problem is, that this is supposed to be a comprehensive, universal bill. And I assumed, when they embarked on this process, that you would wind up with something approximate to what you have in Canada and Britain and other countries, where you have a kind of equality of misery. And however terrible it is, you say, at least everyone is equally miserable. Here, of course, it’s the complete opposite, because by the time all the deals have been done, then you’re winding up with something that is going to be huge and expensive, but is going to be profoundly unequal. And a line like that, I’m not a big fan of Senator McCain, but he absolutely stopped Obama cold there. And going back to the condescension point, when the President said very condescendingly, you know, we’re not campaigning anymore, John, the election is over, and Senator McCain said I’m reminded of that every day. Again, it was a stopper. If McCain had been that effective in the debates, who knows how the election might have gone?

HH: Now here’s another exchange. Lamar Alexander speaks up here when the President tries another cheap rhetorical trick beneath the office. Cut number 14.

BHO: Medical malpractice has been mentioned. Now look, let me be honest. This is something historically that Democrats have been more resistant to than Republicans. I will note that when we had a Republican president and Republican control of the House and Republican control of the Senate, somehow it didn’t happen and I’m surprised. But…

LA: We needed sixty votes in the Senate, too, Mr. President.

BHO: Well, well, see there?

HH: See there, Mark Steyn. That’s another stopper.

MS: Yeah, I know. I know. And you know what the problem here is, is the, I don’t think this is the level at which the President ought to be conducting this debate, because he’s getting himself in the weeds, into the weeds. And every time he does so, a Republican with a one-liner rips the weeds away and exposes the President as just pursuing diversion. And the other thing, again, to go back to my point about the overall tone, is that for months, Obama has been saying well, where are the Republicans on this? Come to me with ideas. They’re the party with no ideas. They’re the party of no. They’ve got nothing to offer. And what you saw here was actually serious, substantive contributions from the Republicans on every issue that the President brought up. So that’s why I think, as I said, I think tonally, this was a total bust for the President and his party.

HH: Mark Steyn, he also gave away, I tell my law students, never say let me be honest, because when you say that, you are admitting that everything that’s gone before is not in that category.

MS: No, and he uses that trick too often, the let me be honest, let me be clear, let me be perfectly clear. And so for the master wordsmith, he’s devalued his own currency. I mean, this again goes back to the apportioning of the time you were talking of at the beginning of the show, Hugh. I don’t think it was in his interest to talk, particularly in those windy generalities for as much as he did. And I simply feel that this isn’t, in a sense, this is an amateurish performance. I mean, we’re talking about an issue that was, that if you go back a year, was hugely popular. Three-quarters of the American people were in favor of, at that point, of something loosely called health care reform. After a year of the master orator at work, that the magician has been exposed as being out of all but the cheapest tricks, and those numbers have become precisely inverted. That is why this, the sort of so-called smartest president in history has been such a disaster at this.

HH: Now I do have to play for you one more clip. This is what I call the chopper stopper. It’s not Obama, but it signifies a great deal. It’s Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, cut number 7:

LS: I even had one constituent, you will not believe this, and I know you won’t, but it’s true. Her sister died, this poor woman had no dentures. She wore her dead sister’s teeth.

HH: Mark Steyn…(laughing)

MS: (laughing) That’s good. That’s good for the environment, isn’t it?

HH: (laughing)

MS: I’m in favor of that. If we can’t at least, if we can’t reduce our carbon footprint, at least we should be able to reduce our mastication mouth print by recycling dentures. I mean, this gets to the heart of why this is…is second-hand dentures, which I believe was the fourth chorus of that Barbra Streisand song, for those with long memories, but is second-hand dentures a huge problem in the United States? What are the number of people going around? There’s 300 million people here. Are 20 million going around with second-hand dentures? Are 5 million going around with second-hand dentures? The idea that you need comprehensive national health care for, to solve this particular lady’s second-hand denture crisis, I think is…

HH: But Mark, we’ve only got 15 seconds. It happened again and again. When the Democrats talked, you just looked the screen and said, “oh my God, they’re running the country.”

MS: (laughing)

HH: Oh my God, they’re running…Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, Second-hand dentures, the chopper stopper, America.

End of interview.


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