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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn On Culture Shifts And Erasing Borders

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HH: That music by Fred Astaire means it’s anniversary show. 14 years ago, this show launched. 32 years ago, in the ranch house Chapel on Camp Pendleton, my marriage to the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt launched. And there is no better way to launch the anniversary show than with our regular guest for more than a decade on Thursdays when we are lucky, Mark Steyn. Mark, it was you who actually told me some years ago that The Way You Look Tonight won the Academy Award for best original song in 1936.

MS: That’s right, and that was a pretty good year. It beat Cole Porter’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin. I mean, they weren’t exactly short of songs at that particular year, and in fact, the movie that The Way You Look Tonight comes from, Swing Time with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, is just brimming with good songs. It’s got Pick Yourself Up in it, which is the first big number in the movie. The song is by, all the songs are by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields. And that’s, The Way You Look Tonight is an uber standard. It’s up there with It Had To Be You.

HH: You’re the only person I could ask this of. Were Jerome Kern and Cole Porter friends? You know, not a lot of my guests would I dare ask that. I don’t dare ask them about Alger Hiss anymore, but I can ask you about Jerome Kern and Cole Porter.

MS: Yeah, they were friends. There was a sort of tight, little group of them. Broadway had never sort of quite come back from the crash in 1927. So at the time, The Way You Look Tonight was written, there was all these Broadway guys out in Hollywood sitting by the swimming pool leading a relatively undemanding life, and they all saw a lot of each other. Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, there’s a picture of Jerome Kern, Dorothy Fields and George Gershwin all together at the Brown Derby or someplace like that in Hollywood. They were a tight, little group of composers and lyricists, and they palled around together.

HH: Well, I want to go back in time now even further than when this show began on July 10th, 2000 with Duane and Adam and Athony, and all the way back to 1993, which is a year that Bill Clinton is in the White House, and the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. And they pass a law, an all-Democrat law, but it’s supported by the Republicans. It’s called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But it’s a Democrat act in response to an Antonin Scalia opinion that limited the right of free exercise in the United States. So all the Democrats got together with President Clinton, and the Republicans, and they passed it. And today, Harry Reid is leading an effort to repeal it, Mark Steyn.

MS: Yeah.

HH: What in the world is going on in this country?

MS: Well, I think it’s interesting, because it shows you a lot how far the Democrats have moved in 20 years. You know, we’re often told, say, for example, with immigration, John McCain uses this line, it’s not just Democrats, but oh, we’ve got to do this for Ted Kennedy. We’ve got to pass amnesty for Ted Kennedy, because it’s what dear old Ted, the Lion of the Senate, would have wanted. Well, Ted, the Lion of the Senate, was one of the leading voices for this Religious Freedom Restoration Act. What’s happened since then is that among the left, and they operate a much tighter progressive orthodoxy than anybody on the right does, what’s happened is that sexual liberty has come to supplant everything else, so when it comes to matters of gay rights and the now-transgendered rights, that trumps everything. And this president in particular has a shriveled view of religious liberty. He doesn’t actually use the phrase freedom of religion. He always talks about freedom of worship. It’s something you can, nobody minds if you do it in some private club for an hour on Sunday morning if you want to go sneak in there with your fellow fetishists and sing a few old hymns and do a few dusty old Scripture readings. But when you leave the house on Monday morning to go to work, you’ve got to check your religion in the closet and go out into the secular world where gay rights and transgendered rights and abortion rights and everything else trumps you religious liberty. That’s what Obama believes, and that’s why his stooge in the Senate, Harry Reid, is leading the effort to repeal, as you way, what was only 20 years ago a Democrat act.

HH: Now our old friend, Andrew Breitbart, used to say culture was upstream from politics. And in the time that the Democrats embraced religious freedom, they were also beginning to rally around sexual orientation rights. And I still think both of those are compatible, actually. But I wonder about the gender identification movement, the SOGI. I don’t think GI is as much a part of the culture as SO is, do you, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, I think it isn’t, simply because there’s fewer examples of it. But that’s, in a sense, irrelevant. It was up on Time Magazine. Somebody on TV who was a guy and is now a woman was put on the front cover of Time Magazine a couple of weeks ago. And it’s become, in that sense, the cause du jour. They smell, that the people who want this, smell defeatism and fear on the other side. And they think this is no time to rest up. And that’s why if you’re a baker, and you’re not happy about baking a wedding cake with two bridegrooms on the top, they think this is the time to drag you into court, and there’s no telling where it will end up. And actually, there isn’t, because for example, in Denmark, they’ve just ruled that Lutheran churches have to marry gay couples regardless of what the Bible says, regardless of what the priests feel about it. They’re obliged to marry two men and two women in churches. So there’s not going to be a lot of live and let live here, and Andrew Breitbart is right about this in the sense that if you think about the whole gay marriage thing over the last 20 years, and you were to say what particular senator was led the charge on that, what particular congressman led the charge on that, none of them did. The politicians played catch-up to it, some of them dishonestly so like Obama with his, you know, world’s longest gay evolution, even longer than Ricky Martin took to evolve on that thing. And that’s, and it was the culture that moved. And the people out there in the culture, and the politicians, and the judges, played catch up.

HH: Well, do you think it’s a bridge too far, though, because Harry Reid tried to get co-sponsors for this, and he found Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana unwilling to do so, because the idea of gender neutral bathrooms and the T in LGBT is just not, it’s not in the culture in the way that tolerance and acceptance of gays and lesbians are. Do you think they’ve gone a bridge too far in attacking religious freedom?

MS: Yeah, I think LGBT, as you call it, now you’re being grossly discriminatory, because it’s like, it’s actually these days, the parade in Toronto, the gay pride parade as I used to think of it, is now officially the LGBTTQII2S something else parade.

HH: Oh, dear.

MS: There’s a whole ton of initials that come after LGB. And as you move further and further down the list, people are less and less inclined to make big, sweeping societal changes on it. And the idea of grade schoolers, a 7 year old boy having to use the same bathroom as a 7 year old girl, grade school parents are not on board with that. So I think it’s a much tougher, I think it’s a much tougher sell out there for the moment. But then generally speaking, a lot of these things started out as tough sells, and these guys get their way, because they mean it. And the people who are standing against them generally don’t mean it, and crumble along the way.

HH: Now I’ll be spending a lot of time today talking with Brad Thor about his new book, Act Of War. I talked with Daniel Silva yesterday about his new book, The Heist.

MS: Right.

HH: And these are all set in the Middle East. And of course, a hundred more rockets fell on Israel today. And Israel’s being blamed, and you know, 50 Palestinians or so are dead, and that’s terrible. But in Syria, 140,000 Arabs are dead.

MS: Yeah.

HH: How is it that Israel gets pinned on this, for being brutal?

MS: Well, that’s the thing. Yeah, that’s the thing. The biggest killers of Arabs are Arabs. The biggest killers of Muslims are Muslims. But somehow, we judge Israel by different standards. And what’s particularly interesting here is that the German chancellor, the French president, the British prime minister have all called and spoken with Netanyahu. The President, President Fundraiser, has not called. I don’t know what he’s doing. He’s golfing with Jay-Z or whatever. But he hasn’t found time to call. And no doubt if he ever does get around to calling, he’ll lecture Netanyahu on how Netanyahu’s being disproportionate about these things. The fact is Israel lives in a tough neighborhood. Netanyahu’s home is a lot closer to the border than Obama’s is to the southern border that he’s just erased in the United States. So in other words, Netanyahu and Israelis have a far smaller margin for error when they erase their borders than Obama does when he erases the southern border. And I think this gets to the, Netanyahu’s moved on. Like a lot of leaders around the world, like the Polish foreign minister, like a lot of other fellows, he’s figured this is the post-American world, and he’s not sitting around waiting for a call from John Kerry or Obama.

HH: 15 seconds, Mark. Are you going to come to Cleveland in 2016 to celebrate the nomination of the next Republican?

MS: As long as I don’t have to sing The Way You Look Tonight to him.

HH: Oh, you do. That was it. We’re setting up a party at Pickwick and Frolic. Mark Steyn, read everything he does at www.steynonline.com.

End of interview.

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