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Mark Steyn On The House GOP’s Bad Form On Military Retirees, And The Passing Of The Professor

Thursday, January 16, 2014

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HH: Beginning those Thursdays in which we are lucky with Columnist To the Show, Mark Steyn. You can read everything Mark writes at www.steynonline.com. And he’s got a wonderful gift store there as well. Hello, Mark, how are you?

MS: I’m good, Hugh. How’s things with you?

HH: Excellent, except a lot of Los Angeles is on fire, but not our studio. Perhaps that will change now. Mark, two weeks from today, House Republicans are going to travel to the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina in Cambridge, Maryland for their retreat. And I wrote a Townhall.com column today suggesting you would make a marvelous keynote speaker. Would you agree to attend were they to invite you?

MS: Well, steady on, Hugh. I think New Hampshire’s other Senate candidates would all be demanding equal time if I were to keynote that. Just to be mildly serious about that, I gather New Hampshire is hosting the big event for northeastern Republicans this, which is, I think, 13 or 15 states or something. And I may well be making an appearance on that. So I’m reluctant to make too many commitments to the GOP, because I am fairly disgusted with them at the moment. And I, as you are, with this 2,800 hundred page monstrosity that all but four or five dozen of them signed off on in the House. And I think that, you know, I think that’s a serious question for a lot of us whether it’s enough in a two party system to have a full-throttle spendaholic party, and then a spendaholic lite party. In a two party system, that’s not quite enough choice. And this monstrosity of a bill has not put me in the best mood toward the House Republicans.

HH: That’s why I think you would make an excellent speaker. Maybe you could send a video message. Let’s talk about that bill.

MS: Well no, but just a minute. This bill is a serious, for a start…

HH: Yes.

MS: A 2,800 page bill is not a bill. Nobody knows what’s in it, including Paul Ryan, who purports to be behind it. He doesn’t know what’s in it. And we’ve just had, we just sat through the last quarter of 2013 in which people have gradually discovered that the Nancy Pelosi line, you have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it, is very literally true. So we have government by press release in which the president of the United States stands up at the podium and announces that this or that law has been suspended for a year or whatever. So this, so these guys, what do these guys do then? Instead of saying this whole process is discredited, say what you like about George III, but the Tea Act was about tea, and everyone knew it was about tea and nothing else. They immediately go and pass another 2,800 page thing that nobody’s read. It’s not good enough. It’s not good enough at all.

HH: No, it’s not. There are two huge problems with this. Put aside the spending. Every dollar is borrowed that is in this, but put that aside. One is that they screw the career military who have fought a war for 12 plus years, and they overnight take away hundreds of dollars of their retirement pay for guys who are retiring at 45 after 25 years in the service. That’s my number one problem. But you just touched on the other one. The Republicans have been working on this for four weeks. And we got no notice of it, nobody knows what’s in it. It is inimical to everything that they argued was wrong with Obamacare, Mark Steyn. The hypocrisy is in capital letters as big as you can draw them.

MS: Yeah, and I agree with you on the military thing. I’m very glad my Senator, Kelly Ayotte, opposed that and Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert and a few other stalwarts did as well. But as you say, there’s no, the point about this is it’s not legislating. And these are not legislators. And so they’re dishonoring the system. And that’s why, by the way, there’s a systemic problem in the way the United States are governed. If you look at, say, you know, other English language democracies in the new world, just to hold it at that, in terms of each citizen’s share of personal debt, in Australia, it’s $12,000. In New Zealand, it’s $15,000. In Canada, it’s $18,000. In America, it’s $54,000 dollars person.

HH: Wow.

MS: And that’s just on the official version, the official numbers, which are entirely bogus for the most part, the official number of federal debt. In other words, it’s five times as much per citizen as they have in Australia. These guys, the guys who voted for this, are voting for America to exit the first world.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, I got into it with Paul Ryan on this program over the budget, and especially the cut to the military retirees. And he noted at the end of that conversation, which people can read, the transcript is at Hughhewitt.com, that he wasn’t in the room, he didn’t draft the law, he can’t talk about it. That’s the rules of the House. But I got an email from one of my closest friends in Ohio, lives across the river from Kentucky, that included this: “By the way, you probably know this, but Hal Rogers, the head of the Appropriations Committee, is the Republican equivalent of Robert Byrd. A friend of mind has a vacation home in Cumberland, Kentucky, and he tells me that everything down there is named after Hal Rogers.”

MS: Right.

HH: “A few years back, they actually renamed one of the main expressways in Kentucky the Hal Rogers Parkway. It’s former name? The Daniel Boone Parkway.”

MS: Right, right.

HH: “Hey, why continue to name a road after a legendary, authentic state legend and war hero when you can grease the skids and palms of our modern heroes, a sitting Congressman, who demonstrates his bravery by writing a federal check.”

MS: No, and you know, that’s the problem. You talk about those military guys who have been fighting these long, hard wars for 12 years. If they’d agree to rename Afghanistan Rogerstan, they’d probably get the funding for it.

HH: Amen.

MS: Because that’s the way it works.

HH: Yup, amen. So the question is, this is the problem. What does a Republican do? Now my buddy, Levin, your buddy, Levin, I think he’s just about had it. A third party, however, would empower Hillary and the Democrats forever. So what actually do Republicans do?

MS: Well, I think that’s a very interesting, and I have a lot, I have tremendous respect for Mark Levin, because he’s essentially trying to return us to a Constitutional order.

HH: Agreed.

MS: And in particular, he’s trying to restore the sovereignty of the states rather than making them just irrelevant subsidiaries of the national government, which is what has happened. And I’m inclined to give him a bit more credit for the idea of a third party than I would have a couple of years ago, because in 2010, in 2009-2010, the people who objected to the direction this country was heading in agreed to operate within the toxic husk of the Republican Party, and the result was the November, 2010 election. And they did a terrific job, and they won that election. And then what happened? Nothing changed. And so here we are four years on, and those guys are being asked to say okay, operate within the toxic husk of the Republican Party one more time. At a certain point, you have to say enough. And even in this system, Hugh, when, you know, we haven’t had a major change of party for a century and a half. But when they do happen, when, you know, parties, even in this system, are like dictatorships. When they collapse, they implode fast.

HH: The toxic husk is a very powerful phrase, and I hope you use that in a column. I want to end on slightly happier talk, Oscar talk. But it’s connected. The most nominations were garnered by American Hustle, which I think is appropriate. The Wolf Of Wall Street got a lot as well, very appropriate. The Dallas Buyers Club, very appropriate. Captain Phillips, it stunned people that Tom Hanks was not nominated for Oscars. But what do you think? Should American Hustle win simply because of the legislative era in which we live?

MS: Well, there is something to be said for that. Look, I agree with you with the, I thought the Tom Hanks performance in that movie was absolutely great.

HH: Yes.

MS: And I liked it for the same reason that I liked Sandra Bullock in Gravity, that it’s just like, it’s about two great actors and hardly anybody else, hardly anything else going on in the whole picture, and their performance. And it’s the same thing, actually, with Emma Thompson in the film about the making of Mary Poppins.

HH: And Robert Redford in the sea movie that got passed over.

MS: Yeah, yeah. And I think, and I love, and I think that’s actually what movies are about, you know, great storytelling told through great performances. But you’re right. American Hustle actually is where our culture is at, and it deserves, and in that sense, it deserves, it’s making a statement about, I mean, it’s hard to believe when you look back at some of the films that won best Oscar in 1930s, 1940s, whatever, that it’s come down to American Hustle. But yes, if that’s where we’re at, that’s where we’re at.

HH: And a last note, you used to do the obituary column for the Atlantic. And I don’t know if you would have considered him appropriate, but the Professor of Gilligan’s Island passed away today, and he’s a man who nobody knows his real name, but whom everyone has seen a million times, Russell Johnson. Do those sorts of people don’t even exist in our culture anymore.

MS: No, it’s like it’s a funny thing, actually, because you know, I wouldn’t hail Gilligan…I believe the only people left from Gilligan’s Island’s cast now are actually the ladies, Tina Louise and the other lady in the show. And I, you know, for me, when you watch that show, it isn’t like the funniest thing ever written. But the difference between a lot of sitcoms today and, say, that show or the Dick Van Dyke show, a lot of shows, is that they’re just people you like and you like hanging out with half an hour. And I think that’s a slightly different thing from some of the shows around today.

HH: Mark Steyn, always a great pleasure, www.steynonline.com, America, for everything Mark writes. Maybe he’ll do an obituary of the Professor, Russell Johnson, sometime.

End of interview.

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