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Mark Steyn moving the meter on public discourse

Thursday, May 26, 2011

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

MS: Hey, great to be with you, Hugh.

HH: I want to begin with a conversation I had yesterday with United States Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, commenting on President Obama’s Israel “policies”. Here’s what the Senator had to say about the President.

JI: You know, you have to almost look at this, and Hugh, I’ve watched Obama. And he has never been rejected in his life, and I think there’s something, I’m not qualified to diagnose him, but there’s something wrong with a guy that is going to go out of his way to do all these things right before these two events take place, Netanyahu and then the AIPAC event. So I think that you know, you’re dealing with someone who’s never been rejected before, he’s incredibly arrogant, and he really believes he can talk anyone out of anything.

HH: Mark Steyn, does the President need to be on the couch?

MS: (laughing) I think that is interesting. I mean, I think if you look at Obama, he was wafted upwards, basically, through Columbia, Harvard Law, the Harvard Law Journal, community organizing, the Illinois legislature, the United States Senate, without ever lingering in those jobs long enough to have to do anything. He basically was someone who was kind of just wafted upwards through the system until he became the beneficiary of the ultimate waft, into the Oval Office. And for the first time, for the first time in his life, the words he says, and the actions he takes have consequences. For the first time ever. This is a guy who is, you know, as far as I know, has never had a paper round. This is the first time what he does has consequences. And so the Senator’s words are interesting. I mean, what I find fascinating, thinking about this 1967 border stuff, is whether he intended it as a conscious shift in U.S. policy that would alarm the Israeli government, or whether with the casual arrogance of his half-wit 12 year old speechwriters, it just somehow got in there, and he finds himself standing up there saying it. That’s what I don’t understand.

HH: Well, he’s trying to make us think it’s the latter. And I just can’t believe anything so profoundly at odds with previous American policy could pass through the NSC, the State Department. And I understand and correct for the knuckleheads in the writing shop who are, who always fall off the floor and do worse and worse with each speech.

MS: Right.

HH: But Mark Steyn, do you really think he couldn’t have been other than provoking Israel at this point?

MS: No, I think he has, as we were talking last week, you know, I think he has a, I think it’s hard to avoid the ever-growing feeling that he has a contempt for longtime American allies.

HH: Yup.

MS: I think he has, in that sense, he also has a contempt for the United Kingdom. In India, I hear from Indian politicians all the time, and Indian diplomats, who are amazed at his offhandedness toward India. And I think Israel falls into that category, too. There are deep-seated historical reasons for this. I think there are, perhaps, some peculiar psychological ones in the back of his mind, too, but I think he thought he was getting in a cheap shot at Israel. And as usual, he then, as with all this great, you know, the greatest speaker of all time, after he’s given his great speech, the great orator then has to go out and give these mopping up speeches every 48 hours to try and correct the damage he’s done.

HH: And he’s got to get a better protocol officer. I don’t know if we have the toast ready to play for you, Mark Steyn, but did you cringe through the toast yesterday?

MS: Oh, you know, I can’t…I spoke in, I gave a speech in Ottawa a couple of months ago, and my American publicist accompanied me on that. And she looked at the bill beforehand, the lineup for the dinner, and she said, she came to the words loyal toast, and she said what’s this?

HH: (laughing)

MS: And I said relax, you just have to, you’re toasting Her Majesty, the Queen. That’s all. And she goes well, I’m an American, I don’t know anything about that. How does it work? I want to be on top of it.

HH: (laughing)

MS: And apparently nobody in the Obama administration, nobody does what my publicist does when they see the words loyal toast on the planning for the evening.

HH: Maybe we can put her on the White House staff and try and do a little run through, a little pre-event planning.

MS: Right, right.

HH: Okay, I’ve got to play for you Joe Biden, because he was in your state last night, and he was talking to New Hampshire Democrats. And it’s just sort of a carnival every day with these people. On the eve of the D-Day celebrations, and Memorial Day weekend, here is Vice President Biden talking about the decision to kill bin Laden.

JB: …was that President Obama leads from behind, President Obama is not decisive, President Obama is not bold. Well, I sat there for four months, along with him, actually, that’s not true, with three other people, watching him meticulously plan the boldest, the boldest decision, the boldest undertaking any president has undertaken on a single event in modern history.

HH: So Mark Steyn…

MS: (laughing)

HH: (laughing)

MS: By the way, Hugh, he’s wrong on that.

HH: (laughing)

MS: I think the boldest undertaking that’s ever been undertaken in the history of human undertakings was when Barack Obama decided to make Joe Biden his running mate.

HH: There you go.

MS: Don’t tell me that’s not bold.

HH: That’s very bold. It sounded like a Monty Python routine, the Inquisition. One guy, no, there are three guys in the room.

MS: Yeah (laughing)

HH: And then he also goes on to this, the D-Day thing. So their self-regard, Mark Steyn, is pretty monumental.

MS: Yeah, and you know, Joe Biden told some high-rolling Democrat money men the other day that he’s available for 2016.

HH: Oh, please, God. Please.

MS: I think the dollar fell $.12 cents when that word got out. So I think we should encourage him in that attitude.

HH: Oh, as columnist, I want to open up a PAC to support him. You betcha. Mark Steyn, I do want to play for you, though, just a touch of Benjamin Netanyahu before the United States Congress. One part in particular, I think, may resonate with you, especially given the trials you’ve been put through on behalf of free speech. Here’s Netanyahu.

BN: These extraordinary scenes in Tunis and Cairo evoke those of Berlin and Prague in 1989. Yet as we share their hopes…




BN: You know, I take it as a badge of honor, and so should you, that in our free societies, you can have protests. You can’t have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or in Tripoli. This is really democracy. (applause)

HH: Now Mark Steyn, people are cheering that, because they believe it. The sad part, though, is increasingly, our real democracies are attempting to shut down not the Code Pink nutters, but full and fair speech about controversial subjects.

MS: Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right. The horrible thing to me is that there’s not as much difference between the pretend parliaments in Tehran and Tunis, and the parliaments of the Western world as there ought to be. And too many, too many Western countries have become far too comfortable with the idea of regulating speech in the interest of the kind of specious harmony. And too many American colleges, I find it disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful the idea that, of these speech codes you have on American campuses. In Orange County, in your own backyard, Hugh, Orange County has a so-called Human Relations Commission, which doesn’t have the powers yet of the Canadian commissions, but certainly has all the arrogance of them in presuming to issue public statements about free speech issues. And so I’m glad to hear Netanyahu standing up for that. I wish a few more Americans, and a few more Europeans understood it, too.

HH: Yeah, I’ve had Karen Lugo on the program. She was one of the targets of that crazy hearing of the Orange County Human Rights Commission. Mark, before we run out of time, I do want to ask you about New York 26, your analysis of it, and whether or not you think the Republicans, especially the House leadership, are doing their job in getting Paul Ryan’s back, and answering the demagoguery that the Democrats are mounting on Medicare?

MS: Well, I think there’s no doubt that the demagoguery worked. And I think the question is whether the Republican leadership then retreats in the face of it. Somebody in this country has to actually move the ball. This is far more important than whoever the candidate is in 2012, or this or that House seat, or this or that Senate seat. What’s most important is to move the conversation, to do what Thatcher and Reagan did, and actually move the center of public discourse to the right on this issue, because if Americans aren’t, then this is an existential crisis. And that’s what Boehner and the rest of them should be doing – moving the meter on public discourse on this issue.

HH: And were you impressed that Tim Pawlenty did so on ethanol in Iowa, and also in Florida on entitlements?

MS: Yes, I am. I mean, I think this is what we ought to be talking…I’m staggered, by the way. You can stand almost anywhere. This is a relatively lightly populated country. You can stand almost anywhere on any highway – federal, state, local, anywhere in the United States, and see waste, government waste before your eyes. This is a huge issue, and this is where the so-called conservative party has to move the meter between now and next November.

HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure,, America.

End of interview.

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