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Mark Steyn on Barack Obama’s presidency as being Jimmy Carter at warp speed.

Friday, February 13, 2009

HH: Joining me, Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn, He makes his home in New Hampshire, home of Judd Gregg. Today, Judd Gregg said no, no thank you, not going to join in with you people over to the White House. He’s thrown it back at the Obama White House. Mark Steyn, what do you make of your Senator?

MS: I’m glad to have Judd Gregg back as my Senator. I was interested, you know, this is a rare example of a man who had no scandal attached to him. Judd Gregg apparently paid his taxes, and instead he decided to withdraw his nomination on principle, because he didn’t like elements of the stimulus package, which I think he actually called in New Hampshire a few weeks ago the Spendapalooza, or something like that, Spendorama or something. And he withdrew as well because of the nakedly political move by the Obama administration to take the Census away from the Commerce Department, and locate it in the White House.

HH: Now this is a very obscure inside baseball, but very important thing that Rahm Emanuel is up to. Any comment on it, Mark Steyn?

MS: Yes, the Census is inside baseball. But you know, it’s an important element in deciding what…an awful lot of things that people get annoyed with, especially if they get the long Census form delivered to their house, but a lot of things actually depend on it, not just the Congressional districts, but also where federal funding is allocated. And you can imagine the fuss there’d be if George W. Bush, for example, had announced that he was taking the Census away from the Commerce Department, and giving it to Karl Rove to look after in the White House. People would have gone crazy about that.

HH: And rightly so. The counting of heads is supposed to be an apolitical…thereafter, let the gerrymandering begin. I mean, that’s a tried and true tradition of American politics, but not the counting of heads.

MS: Right.

HH: And it does give us a little bit of a queasy sense that Rahm Emanuel’s pushing votes towards blue states and away from red states.

MS: Yes, and I think that’s actually a really big question behind where America goes in the next few years. You noticed it as well in this sort of attempt to do an end run around the Constitution, and effectively make the District of Columbia a state in all but name, which the Democrats are also trying to do, that they don’t like to look at the demographic weakness in northeastern states like Massachusetts, for example, which is a one party blue state that people are leaving. So their long term goal is to sort of shore up votes for themselves in the Electoral College.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, and we will follow that closely throughout the years ahead, Mark Steyn, I think, I get the sense that the President and his team, and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, have overreached, and in a rather bald way, in a way that will leave a lasting impression. What’s your assessment?

MS: Yes, I think they have. I think it would have been astonishing if you’d said to people on January the 19th that by the beginning of February, newspapers around the world would be running headlines like “Is The Obama Presidency Already A Failure?”, which I think was a headline in the Financial Times. It is, essentially, Obama doesn’t seem to have anything except campaign mode. He outsourced policy on this stimulus thing, and he outsourced essentially the drafting of it to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, which was a disaster. And then he went around doing these town meeting things, and giving this, as I said, very much a campaign mode press conference the other night, that I think actually looked pathetic. It made him look…it would work for a junior senator running for office, but it was unbecoming and pathetic in a sitting president.

HH: Mark Steyn, I, in fact, posted on that. Michael Medved and I disagree about this. I thought it was a pratfall, especially the answer about Iran, which was, simply put, incoherent. It made no sense whatsoever. What do you think the mullahs thought of that performance?

MS: Well, I think we know what they thought of his performance, because if you go back to their reaction to his attempted outreach on al Arabiya, they think he’s a pushover. And so if they think he’s a pushover, they’ll push. And there is, again, some evidence that Vladimir Putin and the Europeans and even, as I said, the wimpier Europeans think that Obama is a bit of a pushover. And that gets bad, because that’s Jimmy Carter at warp speed, because Carter wasn’t in this situation at the beginning of February in 1977.

HH: Walter Shapiro at the New Republic noted today that JFK, who actually began the presidential press conference in prime time 48 years ago, answered 37 questions in 40 minutes. Obama, to quote Shapiro, only half answered 13 questions in the space of an hour. I think that dreary pace, Mark Steyn, drags down everyone’s sense that he is a candidate of hope and optimism and change, and then you see Timothy Geithner give what was a chilling press conference. I mean, he crashed the markets, it was so bad. These people need some drama coaching.

MS: I think so, and I think with Geithner, it’s particularly worrying because the justification for letting him claim his kid’s summer camp as a business expense and all the other stuff is that this is the only man, this is the only man among 300 million Americans who can save the global economy. And if every time he goes on TV he knocks 500 off the Dow, well, you know, six or seven press conferences from now, there isn’t going to be a global economy. It’s not going to be an issue anymore.

HH: (laughing) Mark Steyn, we’re down 2,000 points since Election Day, 2,000 points in the market. On the other hand, I am always an optimist about the American economy because I do believe all the technology loose among all the entrepreneurs always rebuilds itself. But can they possibly claim when the recovery comes around this year, or it gets into full flower next year, that they had anything to do with it? I know they will, but will it fool anyone?

MS: Well you know, they are setting themselves up to be able to claim anything they want. I noticed this formulation of Obama’s, that his stimulus package will create or save four million jobs.

HH: Right.

MS: Well, how will we know that they’ve created four million jobs? In other words, if in a couple of years time only four million Americans are in work, will that be due to the Obama stimulus package? I mean, that is a phony baloney target. And when you…there’s something slightly odd about a messianic figure…normally, I mean Tony Blair, when he was in his early messianic phase, used to stand up and announce his pledge to eradicate all poverty, all poverty, not just bits of it, not just 20% of it, but all of it. Obama is cautiously sort of framing this in a way that if things go bad or if things go good, he’ll be right either way.

HH: Now let’s turn to the Israeli elections, Mark Steyn. First of all, your assessment of what happened and why?

MS: Well, I would, you know, I think Israel is in a, has certain worrying demographic factors. One of the interesting elements of this election was the kind of formalization of the detachment of Israeli Arabs from the Israeli state. Israeli Arabs in the Knesset have been coming more and more explicitly anti-Israeli in a way it would suggest they identify their long term goals more with the nation’s enemies in the West Bank and Gaza. And I think you saw that in the election to the Knesset of, you saw a response by the Israeli electorate essentially electing a certain proportion of members of parliament who are explicitly opposed to Israeli Arabs. So one of the most attractive features of the Israeli state, that these were the freest Arabs, in that the freest Arabs in the Middle East, the only ones who could vote, were in the Jewish state. I think you’re seeing some sort of demographic strains beginning to fray in Israel.

HH: And what do you think about, well, A) who do you think is going to lead the next government, Netanyahu or Livni?

MS: Well, I would, let me be clear, I would prefer Netanyahu. I know people have temperamental problems with him over temperament and various other issues, but I think he is a man who is cold, clear-sighted, and correct on most of the things that matter. He’s also someone who’s, like me, a victim of Canadian attempts to suppress free speech and deny him the right to speak. But I certainly admire him for his clear-headedness, which I wish a few more Israeli politicians showed.

HH: And if he is in fact the prime minister, do you expect him to be at loggerheads immediately with the Obama administration, and its many secretaries of state, pick one, and Iran?

MS: I think he will be guided by what’s in Israel’s interest, and that’s actually the other thing I like about him. He is a very sharp man who is under no illusions about the internal political realities in the United States and other countries. So he understands that even Israel’s best friend cannot be relied on 100%, and in the end, this is about Israel defending Israel.

HH: All right, Mark Steyn, always a pleasure,, America, for all of Mark Steyn’s latest commentary.

End of interview.

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