HH: I begin this hour as I do most Thursdays when we are blessed and thankful with Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. Mark Steyn, you got much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving?
MS: Yes, I think so. I’m thankful to be blessed to live in one of the greatest nations on the face of the Earth, and the reasons for that blessing, those blessings, are somewhat in dispute between Republican and Democrat voters, but I think we should all be able to agree that we are nonetheless blessed for whatever reason.
HH: I agree. Now I do want to talk about one non-blessing, which is the market sell off, which has now reached 17% since Barack Obama was elected. Democrats hate when people bring this up, but it seems like the market is “pricing in” Barack Obama. Or is that unfair, Mark Steyn?
MS: Well, I think the market is no longer quite sure what it is measuring. The fact is, and let me be bipartisan here, I think both parties have done their best to give the impression in recent weeks that the rules don’t apply. The rules don’t apply to mortgages, the rules may not apply to automakers, the rules no longer apply to all kinds of areas of investment opportunity. And if you have a situation where the rules can change at any moment, then investors don’t want to make long term investments, and are wary of making long terms investments. And so I think that what we’ve seen in recent weeks ever since the big September 15th Lehman Brothers business is the Dow reflecting that fact that both parties don’t seem quite committed to the rules of capitalism.
HH: Now Rush Limbaugh made the argument today, I think it’s a good one, that if Barack Obama were to walk in front of the cameras and say no tax hikes for the next foreseeable future, and I would say for a year to a year and a half, that markets would immediately begin to steady. Do you agree with that assessment?
MS: Yes, I think so. I think he played a winning hand throughout this last year by staying aloof from any crisis of the day. On January 20th, he’s the man who has to have an answer to the crisis of the day. And I think there’s a limit to how much longer he can just do this sort of Hamlet act by looking like a sort of super cool male model version of Hamlet sort of standing thoughtfully on the battlements while everything goes to hell around him. He basically hasn’t taken a position on the auto bailout. He ought to send a clear signal on taxes. The idea of ending the Bush tax cuts in 2009, or increasing taxes, or even not lowering corporate taxes…I make this point again and again as someone who has worked in different countries. It is staggering to me that the corporate taxes of the United States are some of the highest in the Western world. Why do you think business would prefer to set up in other jurisdictions and merely sell in the United States? It’s because the United States is not a good country to operate a business in.
HH: Now Mark Steyn, we also got our first vote of non-confidence from abroad. Zawahiri doesn’t much care for Barack Obama. Do you think this surprised everyone? Obviously, we denounce the slur on Barack Obama by the terrorist in the cave, wherever he is. But obviously, he’s not for meeting without preconditions with Barack Obama.
MS: Well, I’m not you, Hugh. I’m stunned. I’m stunned that Obama’s message of hope and change, and change and hope, and the change of hope, and the hope of change doesn’t seem to be resonating with America’s enemies. What a surprise. Who would have thought it? I would imagine that in the last few days, Barack Obama has seen the same briefings that George W. Bush and other world leaders get when they go to sleep at night and when they wake up every morning. And I would imagine he is fast modifying his view of the world as one where you can just sit down across the table from the bad guys and schmooze them with your charm.
HH: We certainly hope so. Now what you make, are you secretly, as I am, hoping for Hillary Clinton to go to the Department of State?
MS: (laughing) Well, in the sense that America has had to suffer her lo these many years and it’s time for the rest of the world to get a taste of it, if that’s what you mean, then I think I would be in favor of it. In a way, it’s a measure of how the minimal expectations we have on our side of the Obama administration, that Hillary seems like a savvy choice compared to some of these other rumors like John Kerry for Secretary of State. But I must say, what it does reflect, I think, is that there are no Obama people. I mean, he protested when people brought up the thinness of his resume. But it’s a fact that he has nobody to bring to Washington. And like Clinton or Carter, or Bush or Reagan on our side, there’s no group of people who’ve been around him for years for him to fill positions in his cabinet with. I mean, he’s basically having to take the old Clinton circle that we thought he’d driven a stake through back in the Spring.
HH: Do we think, how long do you think it will be, Mark Steyn, until we hear about the Emanuel presidency?
MS: (laughing) well, Rahm Emanuel is an interesting figure. He’s in a job where he…in theory, you ought to be leaking and briefing on behalf of his president. So far, from what I can discern from his friends in the mainstream media, he seems to be leaking and briefing on behalf of himself. Obama may need to get a chief of staff to serve as his chief of staff, because Rahm Emanuel seems to be Rahm Emanuel’s chief of staff.
HH: Let’s turn abroad since our politics is so dreary on this Thanksgiving week to Great Britain, where David Cameron, leader of the Tories, actually came out today, or this week, and said I’m not going to spend as much money as Labour. And I thought to myself, this is news?
MS: Unfortunately, it is news, because in many parts of the Western world, including, I regret to say, Washington, the so-called conservative party has in recent years contented itself with trying to tell the voters that it can in effect operate the liberal state slightly more efficiently than the liberal party can. And this isn’t…for me, personally, and I think for most principled conservatives, this isn’t enough. We want a conservative party that is not just prepared to slow the growth of the state, but to reverse the growth of the state. And the idea that David Cameron, whom David Brooks in the New York Times was saying that Republicans ought to look to as a model of modern conservative leadership in the 21st Century, the fact that this is regarded as red meat from David Cameron is par for the course, and not very inspiring for us poor, beleaguered chaps on this side of the ocean.
H: Now you bring up David Brooks, and that reminds me that Kathleen Parker, another one of the not so conservative conservatives, took to the op-ed page of the Washington Post to denounce Evangelicals this week. How long is the conservative meltdown, crack up, whatever you want to call it, going to go on?
MS: Well look, Kathleen, I like Kathleen. Kathleen did me a huge favor, by the way. She gave her copy of America Alone to President Bush who read it in a couple of days and sent me a very nice letter about it. And so I’m always grateful to Kathleen for that. But I think this is ridiculous. You know, Reagan established the principle. There are three legs to a successful Republican election. There are social conservatives, there are fiscal conservatives, and there are national security conservatives. And if you chop off one of those legs, the whole things falls down. And the problem at that last election was that all three of those legs became loosened and weakened, and the idea that we can get by without any of them at the moment, I think doesn’t bear scrutiny. But certainly, if Evangelicals don’t show up to the polls, Republicans lose, and Kathleen should bear that in mind.
HH: Now last subject, let’s turn to your slight of the Canadian Intelligence Services. I am sure that both of them are upset with your disparaging of their professionalism vis-à-vis your review of the new Bond movie.
MS: Yes, the new Bond film, Quantum of Solace, has this amazing scene towards the end where Bond runs into this woman in a particular circumstance in Russia, in deep cover in Russia, and reveals her to be a woman from Canadian intelligence. Well you know, I would like it if Canada had maple sugar traps, and trapping and ensnaring Russian and Chinese and North Korean and Iranian agents. But the fact is that Canadian intelligence is one of the few intelligence agencies in the Western world that doesn’t actually have agents out in the field doing spying. And I mean, my model is MI6. I prefer the James Bond model to those deadbeats at the CIA in Langley who sit around reading e-mail all day long. I like, I think serious nations have agents out in the field. I wish the United States had more, and I wish Canada had any.
HH: 30 seconds, Mark Steyn. Thumbs up or down on the new Bond flick?
MS: I thought it was, I thought it was really a bit of a disappointment after Casino Royale. The so-called reinvention with Daniel Craig seems to be running out of puff in this second film.
HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, www.steynonline.com, America.
End of interview.