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Mark Steyn on Barack Obama’s unwanted Tony award, and the Driving Miss Daisy Democratic campaign

Thursday, March 6, 2008
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HH: We’re always very pleased in the first segment of hours one and three to bring you Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of his stuff at www.steynonline.com. Mark, I begin as usual with Broadway. The Fetching Mrs. Hewitt and I are driving down to Orange County tonight to hear Brian Stokes Mitchell. Have you ever heard of the young man?

MS: Yes, in fact, I saw him in Ragtime, which wasn’t a great, is a marvelous novel, but was turned into a very so-so musical. But he is a great guy, and you should be in for a treat.

HH: Oh, that’s good. Now he evidently got a Tony for Kiss Me Kate, which I have never seen. Is that a decent musical?

MS: Yes, it’s Cole Porter’s great score. It’s got Too Darn Hot and Always True To You In My Fashion, and So In Love. It’s fantastic songs, adapted from the Taming of the Shrew. It’s one of the great trio of Shakespearian musicals. There’s Taming of the Shrew turned into Kiss Me Kate, there’s West Side Story, of course, Romeo and Juliet.

HH: Yup.

MS: And there’s Rodgers and Hart, the Boys From Syracuse. So…but Kiss Me Kate is a glorious score, Cole Porter’s….

HH: Well, you just increased by 200% my knowledge of Shakespeare in the theatre, so I salute you. Now to more mundane things. Tony Rezko. Had you before this week ever heard the name, Mark Steyn?

MS: I think I heard it last week, but this is Barack Obama’s Tony award, and it’s one he’d rather decline.

HH: (laughing) He declined…

MS: The fact is, of course, until, you know, a couple of years ago, Barack Obama was an Illinois state senator. And it would be hard to imagine a state senator in my state, New Hampshire, embroiling himself in anything quite as murky as this, but it is relatively routine in the part of the world he happens to hail from. And I think this is a potential problem for him. This murky Iraqi who is connected with Rezko presents potential problems, because in effect, this guy is unloading a vast amount of money on the Rezko guy who basically paid the Obamas’ mortgage. There’s enough murky connections here that what it does is it taints Obama. Obama’s whole shtick depends on being saintlier than thou. He’s this pristine hope for America. And that’s been his advantage on Iraq. And like John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, he doesn’t have to tangle himself up like a pretzel explaining why his views today are 180 degrees different from what they were five yeas ago. But the minute you get this murky Iraqi and Tony Rezko into the picture, then suddenly he looks less like a saint.

HH: You know, Hitchens was on yesterday. He couldn’t wait to bring up Nadhmi Auchi, the Iraqi who lives in London. And he spelled the name out for my audience. He said more to come. And it’s the sort of thing that Hitchens doesn’t do without warrant, and it seems to me that this is going to be, well, a long-running story in the six weeks that Obama doesn’t need a long-running story, Mark Steyn.

MS: No, I think that’s true. I mean, the Senator’s position is that he has no recollection of meeting this rather sinister Iraqi, which leads to the obvious question, well, how many sinister Iraqis does the average Illinois state senator meet?

HH: (laughing)

MS: I mean, there are questions, there are questions here that are just problematic enough to tar and to complicate, I think that’s the problem, really, to complicate the Obama image.

HH: Now before we move to the Democratic primaries, I have been playing your agent this week, urging someone to send you back to the Chicago courtrooms so much and inhabited during Conrad Black. If I were in big journalism, I would have a blogger of talent in that courtroom every single day. Do you think…

MS: Well you know, when I covered that Conrad Black trial, I think the first trial where people were dashing out in the breaks, and blogging about the trial, was the Scooter Libby trial.

HH: Agreed.

MS: But I actually went further in the Conrad Black trial, in that Judge Amy was actually jolly decent about it, and let me…she banned cell phones from the court, but she allowed blackberries. So I was actually doing live blog post from my blackberry on the press bench, which were being read by both the prosecution and defense counsel during the course of the trail. As they’re sitting at their tables getting ready to cross-examine the witness, they’re actually reading what I was writing. And I had such a kick out of that, I’m going to do it at my own trial in British Columbia, and I’d love to do it in Chicago again, too.

HH: Well, did you have the same judge, Judge Amy?

MS: Yeah, Amy St. Eve.

HH: Yeah.

MS: And she and I, you know, I like her very much. She’s a…I don’t agree with a lot of what, a lot of her rulings, but she’s certainly a fun judge to hang around, to those of us who used to think of judges as rather severe figures in full-length wigs.

HH: I did not realize that Conrad Black’s judge was Tony Rezko’s judge until this very moment. That’s very interesting

MS: No, and her courtroom, I get on well with all the security officers and the whole gang. I’d love to be back there. I had a ball.

HH: That would be such traffic for people, and you could also participate in the cross examination of Rezko. I don’t know if he’ll take the stand, but if you could like blog just in time to get when did you know Obama and what did he tell you, that sort of thing. Mark, what about your trial? What’s the deal?

MS: Well, the first one of my…well, I was facing triple jeopardy, in that my case was being considered by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the British Columbia Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Commission. And the Ontario Human Rights Commission has now bailed. They’ve dismissed the thing. They didn’t like the heat they were getting from the bad publicity. But the British Columbia trial starts on June 2nd, and I hope to be live blogging that from the witness stand.

HH: Oh, those poor commissioners. They don’t have any idea, do they?

MS: I don’t think any of them were expecting the scrutiny they’re under. And I think all of them, these commissions, I think, just like to bully small people in the dark. And they don’t like the light of publicity, and I’m happy to keep shining it on them for as long as I can.

HH: I hope they’ll let you do radio from the courtroom.

MS: Well, I certainly intend to. I’ll be there, and if I get sent to one of these cushy Canadian prisons, Hugh, I fully intend to keep up our regular Thursday dates.

HH: We can get a microphone. You can guest host from pin stripes.

MS: That’s right, that’s right (laughing).

HH: Mark Steyn, let’s get to the Dems. Was it a good idea for Republicans to summon the Mummy, to go to the undead and resurrect Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Ohio and Texas?

MS: I think so. I agree with Rush Limbaugh, who had a terrific line. He said if the Democrats in the media get to choose our candidates, what’s wrong with Republicans choosing theirs. And that’s a very good point. You know, when Democrats and independents vote for John McCain, we’re told that this shows he has great crossover appeal, and reaches out to moderates. Well, you know, a lot of Republicans voted for Hillary. That shows she has great crossover appeal, too. I’m happy to complicate the Democratic primary process for as long as we can.

HH: Now here’s my best argument against it, which is that Democrats are wrong about every matter of policy. They have nominated John Kerry and Al Gore. They traditionally make horrible choices. Don’t in any way interfere with the exercise of their bad judgment in politics.

MS: No, I think there’s a little more to it than that this time. In a sense, I think you’re weakening both candidates by keeping this race going. It’s a bit like some sort of, you know, particularly because the identity politics issue is so hopelessly confusing the Democrats…

HH: Yes, it is.

MS: It’s a bit like some psycho version of Driving Miss Daisy, this primary race.

HH: (laughing)

MS: And I just feel that actually, you know, that as long as it keeps going, you’re just disrupting the Democrats, and preventing them from uniting around a candidate.

HH: Okay, all that said, we’ve got six weeks of basic…I mean, they were at it today. Howard Wolfson compared, Hillary’s spokesperson, compared Obama to Ken Starr today, which is just a taste of what’s ahead. A) It’s delicious, but B) who do you think is, objectively, is going to be left standing in Denver as the nominee?

MS: Well, I honestly don’t know at this point. I mean, right now, the great advantage to what Rush did by sabotaging the process, if you accept that view of it, the great advantage of it is that it ensures whoever is the nominee is a weaker nominee. And when you listen to people like Gloria Steinem, thinking in purely identity politics terms, unloading on Obama, effectively as if this poor black guy, son of a Kenyan and all the rest of it, is some great son of privilege and power. I mean, I’m happy for this to go on as long as it can. I’d love it to go all the way, 24 hours before Election Day in November. It’s a shame it has to end earlier.

HH: Now I have to ask with a minute left, I’ve been impressed with the way McCain is going about methodically pulling the party together, and organizing this campaign. What do you think?

MS: Yeah, I think he’s an unsatisfactory candidate that a lot of us would have preferred not to have. But you know, it’s a few weeks now since Mitt Romney stepped down, and people adjust, and people accept the reality of it. And quite frankly, when you look at Obama, and you look at Hillary Clinton, John McCain should be able to actually reconcile himself to at least part of the base between now and November.

HH: And do you think with the strong or at least decent possibility of replacing George Bush in the Oval Office?

MS: Well, you know, I think it’s clear that Obama is a weaker candidate.

HH: Yup.

MS: I think he’s weaker for two reasons. First off is this NAFTA-gate business of him having a quiet word with the Canadian government and basically saying pay no attention to my demagoguing on free trade and hemispheric alliances. I think if that’s true, it does just make him look like another slippery greaser of a politics as usual…

HH: Mark Steyn, we’re out of time. We’ll wait for part two next week. Thank you, www.steynonline.com.

End of interview.

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