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Mark Steyn On Obamacare Signups And Russian Expansion In Ukraine

Friday, March 28, 2014

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GB: On Thursdays when we are lucky on this show, we chat with Mark Steyn. And we’re feeling lucky on this Thursday. Mark Steyn joins us. It’s great to talk to you, Mark.

MS: Hey, good to be with you, Guy, Hi, Mary Katharine.

MKH: Hello.

GB: So Mark, some very exciting Obamacare news over the last two days. They’re extending the deadline after saying they wouldn’t, and they’ve hit “six million” enrollments today. Pop the cork?

MS: I wouldn’t say that. Basically, the problem with American health care as far as the rest of the developed world and the Democratic Party and the media were concerned was that there were 30 million people uninsured in this country. For everybody else, it was working fine, but 30 million people had no health insurance. And that was the problem. They’ve solved the problem, and there will still be roughly 30 million uninsured by the time this has shaken through, but in the meantime, the only people signing up to Obamacare are people who were entirely, for the most part, people who were entirely happy with their health plans, but had them declared illegal by the government, and so were forced onto Obamacare. And by the way, it’s not even, I don’t even accept health insurance as the term for what it is now, because insurance is supposed to insure you against catastrophe. At Obamacare rates, the insurance itself is the catastrophe, and that’s the problem with this system.

MKH: They’ve dubbed it a hardship themselves, in fact. Look, I was skeptical about how this would get rolled out and whether they could handle it. It has gone worse than I think even I expected it to. What does it do to the philosophy of having the federal government take care of these things, that this has happened?

MS: Well, I think that’s the way to look at it, is that what else would you be willing to let the national government…I don’t think actually when it’s micromanaging your bladder and your chest and your kidneys that it is a federal government anymore. It’s a centralized national government. And it can’t do it. It can’t do it. When this thing started, I was like most foreigners. I used to like telling Americans horror stories from the Canadian and British and other government health care systems. But this is actually a mess on a scale far beyond that, and I don’t think it’s actually possible to create a centralized health care system for 300 million people and for it to be a first-world health care system. And I think in trying to do so, Washington has wrecked everything, and it’s just going to get, right, no matter how far they kick the can down the road saying deferred for another year, deferred for another year and a half, deferred until the Wednesday morning after the Tuesday election the night before, no matter how often they do that, at some point, this thing’s going to kick in, and everyone’s health care is going to be wrecked.

GB: Mark, as much as some of us wingnuts might be interested in your analyses of these difficult questions, substantive policy questions, I look up at CNN, which is on in our studio here, and I remember that we’re doing it all wrong, because we have not even mentioned the missing airplane, yet. I assume that this has been consuming your thoughts for weeks now.

MS: Well, in a way, I understand the fascination with it, because we live in the United States where all our telephone calls and our credit card transactions are constantly tracked.

MKH: They have everything.

MS: …by the all-powerful Obama superstate. So the idea that a thing the size of a trans-Atlantic jet is unmonitored when your granny’s emails are monitored is kind of bewildering to us. And I think in a sense, that’s what, that’s what appeals to people about the story, that it’s still possible in the early 21st Century, despite the NSA, despite Obama in your inbox 24 hours a day, that it’s still possible for some people to go off the grid, and for three weeks on, we still, apart from the fact that there’s some pieces floating 1,500 miles off the coast of Western Australia, nobody has still actually found this plane or figured out what’s happened to it. and that’s amazing in the year 2014.

GB: Shifting gears, the smartest woman in the world three years ago said this, cut five.

HRC: It’s yet clear what will occur, what will unfold. There is a different leader in Syria now. Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.

GB: Bashar al-Assad, the reformer in the eyes of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the time. That was three years ago, Mark. And how’s that going?

MS: Well, in fairness to Secretary Clinton, unlike her successor, there are no incriminating photos of Bashar Assad and his lovely wife having intimate dinners as there are of the two of them having an intimate dinner with John Kerry and the lovely Teresa over in Damascus.

GB: That’s right.

MKH: I forgot about that.

MS: Look, the fact is the Arab Spring was a bust. All the people who got behind it and said this is a new moment, I remember as Mubarak fell, I happened to be on television with Megyn Kelly, and I said this is the beginning of the post-Western Middle East. In Cairo just a couple of days ago, a court sentenced 539 people to death. That is, whatever is happening in the modern Middle East, the idea that it’s all suddenly transforming into Sweden is completely ridiculous. And we should know enough, we should know enough not to be deluded about the factions that are on the ground there, which is basically one-man psycho states like Assad, or hard, irredentist, Islamic imperialist regimes run by the Muslim Brotherhood or some affiliate thereof. And to be utterly deluded about it and to think that somehow it’s the birth of Sweden or Berkeley, California in the Middle East is ridiculous.

MKH: Mark, in talking about how to deal with issues abroad, President Obama offers us the false choice of doing absolutely nothing or getting into a ground war in Crimea, sort of ignoring the middle ground where America has the ability to influence things without putting boots on the ground. Is there any way to sort of claw back the credibility that we have lost during these last couple of years in the ability to influence in that way?

MS: Well, I agree with you. I think what matters is how, is what a powerful state doesn’t need to do to demonstrate its power. You use that through soft power. You use that through behind the scenes muscle. You use that by picking up the phone to some guy in a capital city on the other side of the world and explaining to him the realities of life. What you don’t do is what Obama has done, which is to make yourself, and by extension your nation, look impotent on the world stage. I think these ridiculous sanctions where you’re sanctioning individuals, which means if they happen to have a bank account in the First National Bank of Dead Skunk Junction, New Mexico, you’re going to freeze it, and if their wife happens to want to go shopping on Rodeo Drive, you’re going to say sorry, we’ll arrest you at the airport. You make yourself look a laughing stock not just to your enemies, but also to your allies. I mean, people in India and people in Singapore and people in Poland and people in the United Kingdom and people in Australia are saying what the hell is this? And they’re seriously thinking that if this doesn’t change, if this can’t be corrected, as you said, then it’s time to start preparing for the post-American world, which is going to be a hell of a bumpy ride.

GB: You should really write a book about that, Mark.

MS: (laughing)

GB: Hey, there’s a story related to this Ukrainian situation, and it really is not a laughing matter. By numerous media accounts, we found out that the administration, the U.S. intelligence community, was not expecting the Crimean invasion, and then it happened. Now, CNN reporting that classified intelligence estimates have concluded that it is more likely than ever, and more likely than previously thought, that Russian forces are preparing to enter Eastern Ukraine, deeper into Ukraine proper. Is that a foregone conclusion in your mind?

MS: Well, I think Putin is calculating what he can get away with. And if you look at the absence of American power in the world, then I think it’s reasonable for him to conclude that he can actually get away with an awful lot before anybody is made to pay any serious price for it. It’s not entirely America’s fault. Much of Continental, much of Western Europe has made itself entirely dependent on Russia for its energy needs. So in a sense, they’re not going to do anything, either. But the point here is that, you know, at the height of the unipolar moment in 1994, when London and Washington signed that ridiculous agreement with Moscow over Ukraine, you don’t sign an agreement if it’s going to be, if you don’t mean it, and if it’s going to be meaningless. And the fact is that right now, he could actually annex, even as a de facto client state, as much of Ukraine as he wants, and he knows that Obama is not going to get in his way.

GB: Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. It’s www.steynonline.com, always a fascinating discussion with him.

End of interview.

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