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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn Calls White House Press Corps Deadbeats

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HH: On a rather important day, if not for the country, then for the Republican Party, later this evening in the East, or in the late afternoon in the West, the House GOP and the Congress generally are going to vote on something called Plan B, which is an effort to raise taxes on Americans. And John Boehner has made it sort of a test of party loyalty. Joining me to discuss it and of course the aftermath of the massacre in Connecticut is Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. Mark, welcome, and I want to remind everyone, I hope www.steynonline.com is open right through Christmas Eve shopping.

MS: Oh, yes. I’m a complete Scrooge, so I keep the downtrodden workers there until just shy of Midnight on Christmas Eve.

HH: Yeah, going Cratchit, and I’m so glad to hear that. Don’t let them put the extra coal on. I don’t want to send anything but coal to the House Republicans, Mark Steyn. What do you make of Plan B?

MS: Yeah, I’m, as you say, it is what we Westminster types would call a confidence motion, that effectively it’s a vote now in the Boehner speakership. And to me, this is completely ridiculous, because the fiscal cliff is no more real than the Mayan apocalypse.

HH: Now don’t go jinxing us.

MS: (laughing) Well look, if I’m wrong about the Mayan apocalypse, you and I won’t be here next week to be able to apologize anyway.

HH: You’re right. Okay.

MS: We’re not going to have one of those, like poor, old Dick Morris had to do with Bill O’Reilly the day after the election. The day after the Mayan apocalypse, you and I won’t have to explain why we got it wrong. So the fiscal cliff is about as, if I’m right on the apocalypse, is about as real as that. The day after the Mayan apocalypse, life will go on. The day after the fiscal cliff triumphant deal has been concluded, the United States will still be the brokest nation in history, running up trillion dollar deficits until the end of the century, spending as much in interest, in just staying current on the interest on the debt as it does on its armed forces. None of the great questions will have been solved, and all that will, the only question that remains to be answered is how much the Republican Party winds up conceding before they sign up for Mayan apocalypse Plan B or whatever it’s called this week.

HH: Is there any reason to have done this? I’m trying to understand, I think that the Republican House leadership believes that they are winning a PR coup, when it fact all they’re doing is making people painfully aware of the elasticity of their pledges.

MS: Yes, and I think they’re wrong on the PR coup. I think the post-election polls are not healthy for the Republican Party, and they reflect disenchantment with the Republican Party from both sides of the spectrum, from left and right. And it’s not a time, this is not a time to demoralize the base any further. And it’s also the wrong thing to do. It’s like, in that sense, the Mayan apocalypse comparison is the correct one, because to play along with a piece of utterly worthless and artificial theater, I think in itself is discreditable. I mean, if the other side want to go ahead and vote for Mayan apocalypse-Warren Buffett taxes, that’s fine. Let them do it. But I think this would be, this is a better time for the Republican Party just to stay talking about the real issues, instead of…the President, in one of the most extraordinary remarks ever, actually said that this school shooting in Connecticut was somehow some kind of justification for Boehner and Co. getting on board with more spending. Leaving aside the deplorable bad taste of that for a moment, it gets to the President’s cockiness here, that there’s almost nothing now for which the solution is not more federal spending of however many billions and trillions of dollars.

HH: Growing and growing and growing the government. Now in the second segment, I want to talk about the school shooting, but I want to stay focused on the Republicans for a second. Earlier today, I went back and I pulled out George Washington’s farewell address, and he wrote in there where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths? And he was talking about the oaths that one takes in court. But these Republicans all have taken serial pledges. They’re serial pledgers. They all signed these Americans For Tax Reform pledge, they signed the pledge in 2010. And then they released themselves, and they get poor, old Grover, who I’ve known since 1974, and they must have beat him with rubber hoses to come out and say raising the highest marginal rate isn’t a tax hike. And they say that Grover can absolve them as though he’s some sort of pope in Washington.

MS: Yeah, and it depends on arcane distinctions that mean nothing to real people. You know, in the end, the distinction that they twisted themselves into pretzels over between revenues and taxes is a false one. If you eliminate certain deductions, then…and you’re Joe Blocks of 37 Maple Street, and you claim those deductions, and you can no longer claim them, then your taxes have gone up. The money you give to the United States government has gone up. So those guys have voted to raise your taxes. So that if they just suddenly announce that they were, to keep it in the religious terms you said, if they just suddenly announced they were Saul on the road to Damascus, and they got within sight of Damascus and it looked like it could use another couple trillion dollars in stimulus, then that would have made a better argument than calling on Pope Grover to absolve them of their sins here. They’ve made themselves look pathetic on this.

HH: It is very, very bad for their brand, and for their ability to make an argument later that they are acting in a principled fashion, Mark Steyn. So if you’re giving advice, and the vote will be later tonight, and I know people are listening on 1260. I know the Speaker’s office is listening. I’d say pull the vote back, admit a mistake. Don’t go over the political cliff, which is a lot more damaging than the fiscal cliff.

MS: Yes, look. You know, I think in hard terms, the Republicans had an appalling night a month ago, month and a half ago. And the proper response from that, I think, is actually a respectful silence, because if you remember Churchill after he lost the 1945 election, people were telling him that what people want from the Conservative Party is this, and what people want from the Conservative Party is that. And he said right now, Singleton, nobody wants to hear a word from the Conservative Party. And I think on November the 6th, that was the case for the Republicans. Right now, nobody wants to hear a word from the Republican Party. They, in a sense, they made themselves, in political terms, they made themselves the issue in the fiscal cliff. In other words, what climb down could be inflicted on Boehner and the House Republicans. The issue of the fiscal cliff is one for the guys in charge of Washington, and that is Obama and the Democrats. They’re the guys spending the money. They’re the guys responsible for figuring out a way to raise the money. Why the Republicans have become the issue testifies to the ineptness to the way Boehner has played this politically.

HH: And I don’t know how they get out of this hole, but we will watch, and they certainly don’t listen to us. Before the break, let me ask you about two other stories. Jake Tapper has been named as CNN’s anchor and chief Washington correspondent today. I think this is very good news, Mark Steyn, as he may be the last honest mainstream media journalist out there. What’s your reaction?

MS: Yeah, and you know, people think it’s odd that Jake Tapper, who’s nobody’s idea of a right wing nut or anything, but he’s a guy in there, the only guy in there that’s worth having in there who ever asks anything interesting in the hope of eliciting an interesting answer. And look at how much fun that guy’s having.

HH: Yup.

MS: That’s what, if I were one of those other, those nothing, those robots in the room, those J-school zombies filling up the room alongside Jake Tapper, that’s what I’d be saying. I’d be saying look at the fun this guy is having. That’s the only reason to go into journalism. It’s a lousy paying profession, it’s dying in the United States. I mean, it’s dying in a lot of places, but it’s dying faster here.

HH: Ssh.

MS: And he’s having so much fun.

HH: Quiet down there for a second, trying to kill off the radio show in the Christmas season? You are Scrooge.

MS: Oh, no, no, no. I’m not…

HH: But I think Tapper’s promotion is deeply subversive of the MSM, Mark, because CNN, which is desperate, has turned to the only honest, he’s not a conservative. He’s not even close to being a conservative. But they’ve turned to the only honest reporter as a means of restoring their credibility, which does message to the rest of them, if you want to rise, you’re going to have to actually be like Tapper.

MS: Yeah, and I think that’s the lesson here. He’s the only, if you happen to be in an airport somewhere, and a White House press conference comes on, he’s the only guy who’s question and answer you’re in the least bit interested in following. And he’s been rewarded for that, and that should be a great example to all the other deadbeats in the room. I mean, I don’t understand why guys don’t get it. There are great reputations to be made. And he’s a prime example of it.

HH: Memo to Jeff Poor at the Daily Caller. Mark Steyn calls White House Press Corps deadbeats. I wrote your lead for you, Jeff.

– – – –

HH: I was just during the break, Mark, recommending The Passing Parade to my guests in studio as really one of the more enjoyable books ever, but of course people should get the CD as well. I think that’s important. You could be Javere. I just heard Russell Crowe in the movie. I got to go to the premiere. You could do Javere sometime.

MS: Yeah, don’t say that to Russell Crowe, otherwise he will punch your lights out. He doesn’t take kindly to those kind of suggestions. I love the guy. He’s one of the great contributions of New Zealand to the world. But if you meet him at one of these fancy Hollywood parties, don’t say oh, I quite like the movie, but don’t you think that role should have gone to Mark Steyn?

HH: I actually praised the movie. I saw the screening a couple of nights ago. Marlon the Marine, who screens our calls, was weeping. It was really sad, because he loved Ann Hathaway so much. Are you an optimist about that movie?

MS: Well, I think it’s really a terrific, it’s a terrific exercise in storytelling to be able to pull off that show. My old colleague from Fleet Street days, Herbie Kretzmer, wrote the lyrics for Les Miserables, and did I think an incredible job. And people, he goes around the world, and people love those songs, you know, I Dreamed A Dream and all the rest of it. People really, there’s something about that show that’s primal. And if that transfers to the screen, then it’s got a real shot at it.

HH: Well, I think Ann Hathaway may be the most riveting I’ve watched someone sing a musical piece when she did I Dream A Dream. And I’ll be interested to talk with you afterwards, but let’s turn to more immediate issues of drama. Chuck Hagel is going to be nominated. Tom Cotton, the 101st Airborne veteran, combat veteran, is going to join me later in the program. He’s got a Wall Street Journal editorial tomorrow, editorializing how soldiers who have come back from Iraq do not want Chuck Hagel as their secretary of Defense, because he inveighed against them in the course of the war. What do you think about that nomination, and about whether or not the Republicans in the Senate ought to go to the barricades against their former colleague?

MS: Yeah, I mean in a way, it’s easy to be fatalistic about this. If you’d said to me ten years ago you know, in a decade’s time, America will have Joe Biden as Vice President, and John Kerry as Secretary of State, and Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense, or you can have the Mayan apocalypse, I’d have picked the Mayan apocalypse. I mean in a sense, those guys just seem cut out to be Senators. The standing up, pretending to give a speech to an empty chamber that’s been written for you by some aide that no one pays any attention to is what you’re suited for. Don’t mess with that by trying anything else. Chuck Hagel, I’m surprised, because in my brief time in Washington for the Senate trial of President Clinton, the one thing that I picked up on Chuck Hagel is that he’s one of those guys who nobody, other than fellow Senators, liked. And I can’t understand the rationale for this nomination at all.

HH: You know, Mark, you’ve just laid me low. If on the day after the election in 2004, if you had taken odds in Las Vegas or London, gone to one of the bookies and said Kerry – Secretary of State, Biden – Vice President, Chuck Hagel – Secretary of Defense, what are the odds?

MS: Right.

HH: They wouldn’t have made book on that. That would have been an impossibility.

MS: No, but you know, there’s a serious point here, because one of the things that’s not quite spelled out in the Benghazi report, for example, is the lack of executive leadership at the top. And when you put Senators…

HH: Yes.

MS: …in charge, a Senator is not someone who has to get up and go to the office at 9:00 in the morning and do anything, or make anything happen. He has attitudes rather than responsibilities. And when you put someone in charge of key departments, I mean, that’s the missing part of that Benghazi report that is devastating about everybody else, and says nothing about the chief executive of that organization. And what’s extraordinary, one reason why American government is so dysfunctional at the moment, I think, is this propensity to be giving executive positions to Senators. I mean, that just makes no sense whatsoever.

HH: And that brings me to the terrible tragedy in Connecticut, because a number of the people are coming forth with solutions to what happened in that slaughter are Senators, like Dianne Feinstein, and they’re proposing things that have no more connection to preventing the next massacre than this desk on which I’m pounding my hand right now, Mark, because they make statements, they come up with clichés. They offer “solutions” that have nothing to do with the problem.

MS: No, and I think a certain humility in the face of this event is appropriate at this moment. I can’t imagine, well, I can. I take that back. I can imagine it. You know, I’m a guy who tends to buy Christmas presents late. But imagine having bought the Christmas presents, and your child doesn’t come home from school that day, and you’ve still got the present you picked out for them. You’ve still got the tree. It’s still there on Christmas. I don’t know whether I could stay in that town, in that county, or in the country. I would never ever feel secure again. And because of the particular circumstances of this mass murder are so horrible, that a guy looks 20 kids in the eyes and kills them, which is not something anyone’s done since those terrorists did to the schoolchildren in Beslan just under a decade ago. Because the particular circumstances are so horrible, to see everybody retreating to these lame tropes like gun control and all the rest of it, I think, is unseemly and grotesque, and actually dishonors the specific nature of this atrocity.

HH: And I was shocked when, not shocked, I was appalled when the executive producer of Meet The Press this weekend tweeted out, we approached every Senator who’s pro-gun rights, and all 35 of them wouldn’t come on. This is from the network that aired the Virginia Tech killer tape. And I don’t know, I have no idea what causes crazy people to do this in Aurora or Tucson or Virginia Tech, or now in Newtown. But I know I don’t know, Mark. I guess that’s your humility comment. It’s appalling that people presume to know so quickly.

MS: Well, I think, and I think to take your point about the NBC thing, these recent killings, they have had a certain theatricality about them, which suggests that these people, who are in recent events have been mostly sort of the 20-something losers with not much going for them, who decide to have essentially to make their suicide a public event that takes out as many people as possible. NBC, for NBC to kind of capitalize on that, for NBC in other words to try and get a ratings coup out of a gross act of irresponsibility, I think, is part of the problem. And they should not, the media’s behavior this last week has been absolutely appalling. I mean aside from the fact that the job they’re meant to do, establishing the facts, they got all that stuff wrong.

HH: Yes.

MS: And the kind of overall dynamic of the story has been just grotesque and abusive.

HH: Mark Steyn, we are out of time. Thanks for staying an extra segment today. www.steynonline.com, America.

End of interview.

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