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Mark Steyn on America’s return to the 30’s domestically, and back to the 90s globally.

Friday, January 9, 2009
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HH: Joined now by Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read all that he writes, whenever he writes it, at www.steynonline.com. Mark, we begin the new year with a big speech by the President-elect. It looks like 1930s-style spending is back.

MS: Yeah, it’s extremely weird to me what is going on, the way we have psychologically, I think, crossed a kind of barrier in the last, maybe in the last three or four weeks whereby it’s now routine to use the trillion word as a means of talking about government, as a means of talking about your budgetary proposals. What I find so depressing is that although the number of zeroes on the end of these programs has lengthened, at heart it’s still the same old lame, failed solutions, expansionist government solutions that do not work, and it will involve America learning the same old lessons all over again.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, he announced today nothing in particular, but a lot of sweeping statements about being at a crisis, at a turning point, sort of talking us down so that he can spend us back up again. And I’m concerned that we are psychologically still-birthing any recovery that we’ve already got underway by virtue of this.

MS: Yes, I think that’s right. I mean, I think this is clearly not about cranking up the global economy and getting it functioning again. America is taking a hit on this. There’s a lot of other countries, beginning with Iceland, that are being hit far harder and far faster. And there’s some countries for whom the pain is relatively small like Canada, oddly enough. But that is irrelevant to what’s going on here. What the incoming administration is doing is in effect talking up the horror of this situation as a pretext for a vast annexation of the state by the government. Now he says all the usual stuff about it. He says, you know, we’ve got to get beyond these old divisive terms like big government and small government. I’m interested in smart government. Well, from the look of the cost of these things, smart government is the stage that comes after big government. You know, smart government is huge government, and I think that’s what’s depressing about this. Just as Roosevelt prolonged the Depression, he made it a Great Depression as I’ve said before, Hugh. That term is purely an American term. Every other advanced Western nation had a depression. America had a Great Depression because Franklin Roosevelt took, seized the opportunity to vastly increase statism, and that’s the exactly the same thing that Obama’s doing.

HH: Do you think the Republicans, shrunk though they are to 41 in all likelihood if Norm Coleman doesn’t win, 42 if he does, have what they need to stop this? And will they have the guts to attempt to turn it back?

MS: No, I don’t, because I don’t think they have a language for this, and I think they, after what happened in November, they’ve, what little confidence Senate Republicans had, they’ve largely lost, and they feel they get hammered as the uncompassionate ones if they try and hold the line on all this trillion dollar spending. I mean, the reality is this is insane. You know, out here in the real world, we’re still using the real dollar. I go to my local general store and I buy a paper and a small cup of coffee, and it costs a buck. In Washington, they’re now using some kind of quasi-Zimbabwean unit of currency that bears absolutely…it’s got tons of zeroes on the end and bears absolutely no relation to any kind of need for a real stimulus package which would involve things like lowering corporate tax rates, or even having a corporate tax waiver this year and a substantial personal tax waiver. That would be the best way of both stimulating business and stimulating consumer demand.

HH: Well, you are going to get a thousand dollars, you know.

MS: Yeah (laughing)

HH: (laughing)

MS: You know, the thing about all this big government, tax cuts and all the rest of it, it’s like the Obama thing about he’ll give you three thousand dollars to hire somebody new. Well, that three thousand dollars is going to be a drop in the ocean compared to all the other regulatory burdens you’re going to have to meet under Obama’s plan for business. So this kind of…simply put, people like Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, never mind Caroline Kennedy, are simply not smart enough to be able to micromanage the United States economy to that degree.

HH: Do you think they’re smart enough to micromanage the Israel-Hamas war? Because to me, the first big test of Obama will be January 21st whether he comes out and stands with Israel, or whether he comes out and expresses sympathy for the poor Hamas terrorists who are still living in their tunnels.

MS: Yeah, and there’s no great difficulty about this, as you know. The Israelis are about the only people who fight a war by dropping leaflets on civilian populations saying get out of that grade school that’s basically a rocket facility masquerading a grade school. Get out of it now, don’t go there, because we’re going to be bombing it in three hours time. Most countries don’t do that. Hamas on the other hand deliberately in breach of the Geneva Conventions, fires rockets out of grade schools because dead civilians, dead Palestinian civilians serve its purpose. The problem is that especially overseas, this grotesque return of anti-Semitism to Europe, for example, a lot of the European commentary is saying how disappointed they are at Obama not coming out and expressly distancing himself from Israel and supporting Hamas and supporting the Palestinians. And he may have a very short honeymoon with all his overseas admirers after January 20th. He’s got a difficult circle to square there.

HH: Coming up after the break I’m going to talk with Victor Davis Hanson, and I’m going to talk to him about this Time Magazine extraordinary story today that includes these lines, Mark Steyn. “With each passing day, Israel’s war against Hamas grows riskier and more punishing with the gains appearing to diminish compared to the spiraling costs.” It also says, “The application of force won’t extinguish the militants’ ideological fervor.” This is part and parcel of mainstream media’s assessment that Israel can’t win, will lose, and doesn’t have a right to win. It’s sick, actually, it’s so widespread among Western media.

MS: Yes, and I think that last point of yours is the right one, that in fact Israel doesn’t have a right to win, and there is something actually immoral about Israel defending itself. Look, the only reason, if this was a land dispute, a conventional land dispute, it would have been settled six decades ago. It’s not. It’s because Hamas is in the business of Jew killing. In Africa, we had, in the post-colonial era in the 60s, 70s and 80s, we had nationalist movements that turned to terrorism as a means to advance their nationalist agenda. With Hamas, we have a terrorist movement that uses the mask of nationalism to advance its terrorist agenda. Hamas cannot run anything. Neither Hamas nor Fatah can run a state. What they’re good at doing, Hams is good at killing Jews, and Fatah is good at killing Jews and stealing money, and that’s the only difference between the two of them.

HH: In this Time Magazine article, you’ll like this as a self-proclaimed demographics bore, is this line. “Just as ominous for many Israelis is a ticking demographic time bomb, the likelihood that Arabs will vastly outnumber Jews in the land stretching from the Jordan to the Mediterranean is a catastrophic prospect for a nation that defines itself by its faith. At some point, Israelis will have to choose between living with an independent Palestinian state or watching Jews become a minority in their own land.” The irony there, Mark Steyn, is of course Jews do want a two state solution. It’s the Palestinians who won’t take it.

MS: Yes, and you’re right to dwell on that demographic aspect because I think the danger for Israel is between the Mediterranean and the Allenby Bridge on the River Jordan, that when Arabs do become a majority in that strip of land, they will cease, they will actually start demanding, they’ll say okay, let’s call it all Israel, and give everybody one man, one vote, and Jews will then be the oppressed minority in a Muslim state. And the great question about Islam around the world is Islam’s difficulty with living alongside other religions, other cultures, whether you’re talking about Israel or Nigeria or the Caucuses or anywhere else. And that is a question mark.

HH: Quick exit question, Leon Panetta to the Central Intelligence Agency, what’s your reaction, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, I think it makes, in a certain sense and a kind of crude way, you know, the CIA during the Bush era behaved like Pakistan’s ISI with General Musharraf. Every time you asked them to do something, he had to figure out whether they were going to use it as an excuse, in effect, to get him assassinated. So Obama, for whatever reasons, has put in a guy who is purely a political guy, owes his loyalty to him, and we will see how that works out. But the CIA is a problematic institution, and probably beyond reform.

HH: What about the rest of the team including Ross and Haass and Holbrooke going off to these various parts of the world as special envoys?

MS: Well you know, they seem tired names to me. With the exception of Sanjay Gupta, there is very much a back to the 90s feel about this whole administration, and I, the names you mentioned are not names that I’m happy to see back in the international globetrotting business.

HH: You’re right about Sanjay Gupta, though. Mark Steyn from www.steynonline.com, thank you, Mark.

End of interview.

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