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Mark Steyn on Fort Hood, China, And His Topless Debate With Scott Brown

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HH: I begin as I do on Thursdays when we are lucky with Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. Hello, Mark, how are you?

MS: Good, thanks, Hugh.

HH: I want to get to Fort Hood, but before that, this is odd to me. The McCutcheon decision came down yesterday having to do with money in politics, and everybody on the left is wringing their hands about free speech. Have any of those people who have criticized McCutcheon come to your aid, Mark Steyn, in the assault on your free speech by this fanatical professor?

MS: No, they haven’t, and one of the things that I find very interesting. Spite Magazine over in the United Kingdom has just launched the kind of worldwide free speech campaign, and I find it interesting that generally speaking, twenty, thirty years ago, if you stood on a free speech issue, people felt obliged to be in favor of free speech. The left now increasingly is disinclined to defend free speech except, except for the single, solitary exception of American campaign finance.

HH: Exactly.

MS: And that’s the only thing where they say well, it’s a, you know, free speech, free speech, free speech. Anything else involving free speech, whether it’s Phil Robertson, whether it’s my troubles with the Canadian Islamic Congress up north, they’ve got no interest in. But when it’s American campaign finance regulation, then suddenly, free speech is of great interest to them.

HH: Yeah, I just noticed that almost every American law professor who can get anyone to pay attention to them, and that’s about six, are out there denouncing McCutcheon as a threat to free speech. But while you are actually under a real assault for your speech, you don’t get the left in the way that it used to be routine for lefties, and you’re absolutely right. Alan Dershowitz and the gang used to saddle up and ride, and the ACLU would come to the aid even to the people with whom they disagreed when it was a speech issue.

MS: Right.

HH: Gone.

MS: Right.

HH: All right, now let’s talk about Fort Hood. Yesterday, I covered it for five hours with the extraordinarily able assistance of Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, the makers of And Phelim, of course, has been to hundreds of bomb and murder and mortar scenes, because he covered the troubles.

MS: Right.

HH: And he was very calm, and he said don’t believe anything for six hours, but look for ways to tell other parts of the narrative. And he noted that no one had covered the Fox exclusive from the day before that they were looking for a good who had threatened a Fort Hood jihad-style thing, and nobody, not the three of us nor anyone else, I thought, noted that American soldiers aren’t allowed to carry weapons on their own bases, which you wrote about today.

MS: Yes, and I find that very odd for two reasons. First of all, it’s because this is the only country in the world where it’s now routine for every single nothing bureaucracy to have its own SWAT team. Every little rinky-dink pen pusher at the Bureau of Compliance can call on some sort of SWAT team to come over to Hugh Hewitt’s house, kick the door down, and put a gun at his chest. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the IRS, it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the Virginia Fish and Game Department, which sent armed agents round to an eight year old girl who’d rescued a woodpecker from the jaws of a cat, it doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about the federal education secretary who kicked down some guy’s door in California over an overdue student loan. The only government department that does not have military force at its disposal is the military, so that when something happens at Fort Hood, they’re like Mrs. Scroggins at 27-B Elm Street, and they dial 911 and wait for a sheriff’s deputy to show up. I mean, it’s completely absurd.

HH: They begin, at the New York Times this hour, who is covering this story this way, the troubled Iraq war veteran who used a .45 caliber handgun to kill three people and wound sixteen would not have had to pass through any security screening or metal detectors, people familiar with the base procedures said today, an indication that nearly five years after the deadly shooting rampage, it remained easy for a soldier, and even a visitor, to bring in a firearm. Fort Hood’s weapons rules for soldiers who are not police officers rely in large part on the honor system. The base prohibits soldiers from storing weapons in their vehicles, requires firearms to be kept in certain storage areas, and mandate that all personnel who bring in a privately owned firearm to the base in the vehicle state the reason for doing so. Now Mark Steyn, the obvious result of all of these rules is they don’t stop people who are mentally disturbed or intent on malicious attack, and yet the left’s response, I mean, it’s on the front page of the New York Times, is for more rules.

MS: Right, and do you know, again, it’s fascinating to me. This country has rules against everything. And on the whole, Americans are a very compliant people. So they’re different from, say, Greeks or Spaniards, where there’s rules against everything, and your average Spaniard ignores 78% of them. So when you have rules, law abiding people will obey the rules, and anybody else who wants to will drive a truck through them. And the thing about this is, and this is why all these sort of slightly passive words like tragedy don’t apply here. This is Fort Hood. A guy stood on the table five years ago, gunned down thirteen people and an unborn baby while screaming Allahu Akbar. And a complacent U.S. Army bureaucracy, starting with its disgraceful chief of staff, effectively decided it was workplace violence, and obscured the reality of what happened. When it then happens again five years later, you’re doing it wrong. Whatever rules you had are wrong and they’re not working. And so the answer isn’t more rules that don’t work. The answer is to actually rethink your basic premise.

HH: And now I want to rethink a basic premise, because in hour three, I’m going to talk with Robert Kaplan, whose new book, Asia’s Cauldron, is primarily about China. And I am shifting a lot here, but I wanted to get your reaction to this. China is building more submarines than we are. I mean, there’s an arms race going on in the South China Sea which is extraordinary. Kaplan details it. And in fact, Chuck Hagel wants to takes us down to nine carriers. They want to ace out the A-10, and they want to lower production to nothing of Tomahawk and Hellfire missiles, Mark Steyn. What in the world is wrong with these people? Don’t they know what’s going on in the world in Crimea, in the South China Sea, everywhere?

MS: Well, you brought up to me a year or two back Britian’s East of Suez moment when Dennis Healey, the Defense Minister in the late 1960s essentially decided that Britain could no longer afford a military presence east of Suez. The Indian Ocean, people talk about the Pacific as an American lake, which is has been since the Second World War. The Indian Ocean was a British lake, just as the Pacific has been an American lake. And the Chinese don’t accept that. The Chinese think that they can end America’s dominance of the Pacific as Britain’s dominance of the Indian Ocean was ended. And you know, frankly, they’re right about that. They can afford to build these things. Just, by the way, just the interest on U.S. debt to China can pay for all these new submarines and aircraft carriers and everything else. So when you say they’re building, they’re building…

HH: Oh, I hadn’t thought about that. You’re right. We’re building their navy.

MS: Yeah.

HH: Oh, my gosh. But in the Republican party, this is my last subject, the Republicans have shrugged their shoulders and said okay this year. Paul Ryan put out a budget and said we’re going to start to actually act like Reagan next year, which is always dangerous to promise to act like Reagan next year. But do you think in the fall that this issue has any legs? Or is it all going to all Obamacare and the fake numbers all the time?

MS: Well, I think there’s no doubt that the Republican Party doesn’t want to run on foreign policy issues. I think they have deduced that Americans are war weary in part because these wars, you know, you spend thirteen years in Afghanistan and have nothing to show for it. And people are rightly frustrated by things like that. But the answer to that is not to retreat from the planet and hunker down into so-called Fortress America, because there’s no such thing as Fortress America.

HH: And I also think the answer to that is you might be war weary, but you don’t stop building the weapons that would deter another war. And I don’t know that I hear, Bobby Jindal’s coming up. Marco Rubio was on the program yesterday. He was actually full-throated about Venezuela.

MS: Right.

HH: He was very impressive, actually. And he’s the only Republican I hear out there on a regular basis making the kind of speeches that Reagan would make, or am I wrong? Do you hear anyone else doing it?

MS: Well, no. You do hear it. What that…and I mean, just to step back, it’s one thing to say we don’t want to go and fight these thankless wars, where if you’re going to be like that, you have to use so-called soft power, which is real. You have to use soft power far more effectively. And if you can’t use soft power effectively against a Venezuela, or against, say, an American client regime like Karzai in Afghanistan, no one like Putin or the Chinese are going to take you seriously on that. So learning how to use soft power so you don’t have to go to war is also important, and more Republicans should be talking about that.

HH: 30 seconds, Mark Steyn, Scott Brown’s in. Have you missed your window?

MS: (laughing) No, I haven’t. I’ve been working out, and topless, when we have the topless debate, I’m confident I can hold my own with him.

HH: Mark Steyn, that’s a promise. I’d be glad to moderate the topless debate.

End of interview.


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