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Mark Steyn on Barack Obama, Newt Gingrich and the super bowl of self-grandiosity

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HH: I begin this Thursday as I do when we’re lucky with Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read that everything Mark writes and more at Mark, a Merry Christmas to you.

MS: Merry Christmas to you, too, Hugh.

HH: I want to begin with the obvious question. Do you think John Boehner has to go as Speaker of the House?

MS: I think it’s staggering to have gotten to the point where an issue on which all the merit is with the Republicans, should now actually be causing a huge uptick in Obama’s numbers, and a huge depression at what ought to be the kickoff for a Republican primary season. I don’t know that it’s worth him going, because I’m not sure that in this particular environment, anything better would emerge from it. But all I’ll say is this. The so-called revolution of November, 2010 seems a lot longer than one year ago.

HH: Well, it does seem to me that if we use analogies to war, which I do not often do when it comes to politics, because there are real wars and real casualties…

MS: Right.

HH: But on the battlefield, when your generals aren’t delivering, you don’t wait another year to change them.

MS: No, and I think there’s a term from the British army, which is a cruel term but an accurate one, which is parade generals. Those are the kind of generals who in peacetime are perfectly fine for marching your fellows up and down around the ceremonies, but simply can’t crank themselves up to a higher level of performance when it’s required. These are critical times for the republic, and a higher level of performance is required. And John Boehner, I don’t think anybody, even those who are personally well-disposed to him, could regard himself as risen to the occasion in that sense.

HH: Well, I think he’s a perfectly pleasant fellow. It’s not like he holds positions that I disagree with. It’s as a tactician or as a strategist that I find ourselves on the defensive constantly, and without a theme on which our nominee can build.

MS: Well, and again, it’s this idea of half thinking through things. By the time you decide, for example, to use the pipeline as a wedge issue, which ought to be good politics, but by the time you do it, you’ve kind of talked yourself around into only doing it in a very half-hearted sense. I mean, the interesting thing to me is that the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, who is nobody’s idea of a sort of frothing at the mouth, crazy, right wing extremist, is actually using that weapon more devastatingly against Obama than the Republican party in Washington is at the moment. I mean, so in a sense, it’s this willingness only to do things half-heartedly, just half-heartedly enough for Republicans to get saddled with the blame for them, but not to make them effective wedge issues.

HH: Yeah, the perfectly executed half maneuver is when you get slaughtered going up the hill because you’ve stopped.

MS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

HH: Now I want to play for you a little Ron Paul. You and I don’t spend much time on Ron Paul, but this one was notable. This is Ron Paul telling a gaggle the reason that he won’t campaign on the 9/11 truth issue, cut number 5:

Question: Can I ask you a question?

RP: Fine, yeah, sure.

Question: Okay, if you’re going to audit the Fed, don’t we also have to audit the IMF, given they’re connected?

RP: Well, they’re not under the Fed, but they, yeah, you would. What you’ll do is expose the connection. We are, we, the document shows that the Federal Reserve went to the IMF, made the IMF pay interest a private bank that made a loan. So it’s very much involved. But auditing, you would dig up a lot of shenanigans. But of course, that’s one thing that belongs to them. It’s all their arrangements with foreign governments, foreign banks, international banking or inflation. We want to audit everything the IMF does, but every time the IMF had dealings with the Federal Reserve…

Question: Okay, and one more question. Why don’t you come out and tell the truth about 9/11?

RP: Well, I can’t handle the controversy. I have the IMF, the Federal Reserve to deal with, the IRS to deal with, because no, I just have more, too many things on my plate, because I just have too much to do.

HH: Why won’t you come out on 9/11? Ron Paul, he has too much controversy, Mark Steyn, too many things on his plate. What do you think about that?

MS: Yeah, I mean, that is a very cowardly answer. One of the rare occasions on which I’ve applauded Bill Clinton was 2008, four years ago. He was in Keene, New Hampshire, and some Ron Paul supporter asked him about the truth about 9/11 being an inside job. And Clinton slapped that guy down, as he well should have. This, by the way, is not an irrelevant thing, because it gets to the heart, to the most disfiguring aspect of Ron Paul’s campaign, leaving aside his unpleasantness to Michele Bachmann the other night, and all the rest of it, which is this stunted parochialism. Let’s say, for a moment, that 9/11 was an inside job. Does that also mean, then, that the Bali nightclub bombing was an inside job, that the Madrid train bombings was an inside job, that the Beslan school shootings were an inside job, that the London Tube bombings were an inside job? Because in that case, that’s one hell of a sum to be hiding somewhere within the darkest recesses of Dick Cheney’s non-specific line items. So we’re getting here into what is the problem with Ron Paul, which is the sheer stupid, half-witted parochialism of his view of what’s going on out in the planet. And that’s why this is so pathetic. This is a kind of utopian isolationism that fantasists on the right have embraced. And at its darkest side, it meets the left coming round the other way in 9/11 truther conspiracy theories.

HH: Now can someone, do you think it’s right for someone to go to the Iowa Caucus and say I agree with Ron Paul on the Fed, so I’m going to put aside this nuttery, and I’m going to ignore his newsletters, and I’m going to ignore his other baffling and incoherent positions on issuing letters of mark and reprisals and all the rest of it because I want to make a statement? Is that a right way to conduct yourself, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well you know, a couple of weeks ago, I would have been inclined to that view, because four years ago, for example, when he was talking about the Federal Reserve, a lot of people thought it was kooky. Four years on, when for most of this year, the Fed has been buying 70% of U.S. Treasury debt, you begin to think well hang on, maybe all this incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo about fiat currencies, he may actually be on to something here. And I would have been fine for people to go along in saying well you know, if I could detach domestic issues from foreign policy, this is my guy. But actually, when a guy says, you know, he signs off on a Martin Luther King had sex with underage boys, and then he says oh, I don’t know how that got into my newsletter, it must be some unpaid intern, I mean, if, for example, at, or, a statement to the effect that Martin Luther King was having sex with underage buys appeared, and you or I said oh, we’ve no idea how that got up there, I’m a busy chap, can’t possibly be expected to take note of everything that appears there, whether you believe me or not, you would at least have been had it confirmed to you that if I can’t run even a small, modest publishing enterprise, I shouldn’t be entrusted with the government of the United States. He’s basically said the buck doesn’t stop here.

HH: Yup, very well put. All right, I’ve got to play for you the American Crossroads ad from today to get your reaction as well, American Crossroads talking about President Obama’s claim to be the fourth greatest president ever on 60 Minutes, cut number 6:

AD Announcer: And now, great moments in presidential history. George Washington, father of America, protected a fragile, young nation from collapse and rebellion. John Kennedy, cut taxes, averted nuclear disaster, and helped put a man on the Moon. Ronald Reagan, 16 million new jobs, ended Carter’s malaise, won the Cold War. But who’s even greater than them? Barack Obama.

BHO: I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president, with the possible exceptions of Johnson, FDR and Lincoln.

Announcer: Yes, next to Lincoln, Roosevelt and Johnson stands Barack Obama, America’s fourth greatest president.

BHO: You know, every place is Barack Obama country once Barack Obama’s been there.

Announcer: 13 million out of work, $15 trillion in debt, and 34 straight months of unemployment above 8%.

Steve Kroft: You definitely have some impressive accomplishments.

BHO: Thank you, Steve.

Announcer: No, thank you, Mr. President.

BHO: You’re gonna be successful if you can get your ego out of it.

HH: Mark Steyn, I think it’s wonderful that they borrowed the English accent and the Masterpiece Theatre. What do you think of that?

MS: (laughing) I think so. That is actually a pretty good ad, and a pretty effective ad. I mean, it’s revealing, I think, of the side of Obama that when he’s on his game, he holds in check, which is a tendency to grandiosity. This is one of the other reasons, by the way, I’m wary of a Newt nomination, because Newt is about the only guy who outpunches Obama on the self-inflation scale.

HH: (laughing)

MS: And I mean that as a serious point, that if you wanted to neutralize Obama seriously comparing himself, you know, the fourth greatest president of all time, having Newt comparing himself to Reagan, Thatcher and Winston Churchill may be the way to do it. But it’s going to be like the super bowl of self-grandiosity.

HH: (laughing) Thank you so much, Mark Steyn. Merry Christmas to you in New Hampshire,, America.

End of interview.


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