HH: Joined by Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Mark’s work at www.steynonline.com. Mark, a week ago, we were talking about the election, and we were down in the dumps. At least we don’t live in Israel where apartment blocks are being blown to smithereens, three citizens killed with rocket attacks, and yet the United States not exactly rushing to declare that they are on the side of right in Tel Aviv.
MS: No, and we forget that Israel is an outpost of Western civilization living in a hostile neighborhood and right on the front line. And it is very, anyone who lives in a reasonably normal life in 21st Century suburban America, with their manicured lawns and their nice, neat Main Street and all the rest of it, imagine if looking out at all that and suddenly over the horizon, a bomb blows the whole thing to smithereens. That’s the reality that Israel lives with every day of the week. At its narrowest point, the state of Israel is barely wider than my New Hampshire township. And these guys, that’s why these guys can’t afford to get it wrong for a moment. It’s easy for fellows in Washington to say oh, we should just learn to live with the Iranian nuclear bomb. The Israelis don’t have that luxury.
HH: Now Mark Steyn, this is the first time that Israel has been in a hot conflict with its neighbors since Egypt went Islamist. And the headline in the New York Times at this hour is Egypt torn between allies in Gaza and treaty with Israel. Now talk about an ominous headline. For the last 35 years since Sadat and Begin sat down with Jimmy Carter, Egypt has sat on the side of Israel in these conflicts. Now, that’s different, and I don’t know that it’s registered in America, yet, because it certainly didn’t come up at the White House press conference yesterday.
MS: No, and that headline is itself an evasion. You know there are professional offices at a certain level, an ever-smaller number in the Egyptian army, who certainly feel torn. But the fact of the matter is that relations between the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are as close as they can be. And most of the Egyptian population, if it’s a choice between the treaty with Israel and siding with their pals in Hamas, will side with their pals in Hamas. Mubarak, Sadat was the least worst Egyptian ruler since the fall of King Farouk. But Mubarak, for all his faults, if you recall when the Israelis handed over Gaza to these loons, Egypt was very concerned to maintain its own border security against Gaza. And certainly, Mubarak understood that he didn’t want whatever was happening in Gaza to infect his own population. Now, he’s gone. Egypt and Gaza are in a sense on the same side in this battle, whatever the treaty says.
HH: I have to read to you from the New York Times piece. Even within Egypt’s bureaucracy, voices previously held silent under Mr. Mubarak have come close to calling for retaliatory violence against Israeli civilians. The officials in charge of Egypt’s Ministry for Religious Endowments, and its Official Islamic Affairs Council, issued a joint statement calling for the Palestinian resistance to strike the Zionist depths and prove they are tougher and stronger than they were during the last major clashes between Hamas and Israel three years ago. Mr. Morsi should, “fulfill the promise he made to preachers and scholars that he won’t allow for Palestine to be hit, or for Palestinians to be killed,” the statement said, urging Egypt to expel the Israeli ambassador and asking Muslim preachers to rally support for Gaza at Friday prayer, “to direct the masses of the nation everywhere in the world to practical revenge rather than verbal revenge against the people of Zion.” That’s coming from inside the Egyptian government.
HH: That’s right, and just to put that in context, Hugh, when the kingdom of Egypt, the modern kingdom of Egypt was born in 1922, its, I’m trying to remember my history here, but either its first or second finance minister was actually a Jew. In other words, in 1923, Egypt’s finance minister was a Jew. Now you have that same bureaucracy, the people who work in that same bureaucracy 90 years on are talking about practical steps against the people of Zion. And we all know what that means. That means blowing them up. Killing them. Killing children. Killing women. Killing civilians. And the reality of what is happening in Egypt, I think, gets at the heart of the delusions about the Arab spring, that free societies are not just about democracy and voting. Voting is the last piece of the puzzle. When you are voting in a society like Egypt after the last 60 years, you shouldn’t be surprised what you end up with.
HH: Mark, do you think any members of the Manhattan-Beltway media elite are asking themselves if they did their job well during the presidential campaign in light of a hot war in Israel ten days after that campaign is over? Or do you think they are blissfully unaware of how badly a job they did in talking about the most important issues like what will we do with an Islamist Egypt backing Hamas?
MS: No, I don’t think they think about that at all. I mean, you can tell that at that press conference yesterday, the most ludicrous, stupid, embarrassing questions from the court eunuchs. The idiot from the New York Times asking a question on global warming? Some giggly, little schoolgirl from Chicago wetting her knickers, saying that she’s watched Obama win every time? I mean, you’re supposed to be grown men and women. You made fools of yourselves. He gives his first press conference in whatever it is, one, two, three, 12 years, and you don’t even think about extracting any meaningful information from him.
HH: Yeah, it was pretty shameful, and I think even people like Sam Donaldson, no centrist, no bystander to politics, must have been shocked at how craven it was. Mark, in terms of the fiscal cliff, the market went down for the fifth out of six days. It’s reeling backwards. Unemployment initial claims went up. Things are bad, and the President wants to raise taxes. That’s the only thing he knows, is that he wants to be punitive vis-à-vis people of means in the United States. That’s his mission in life. Should the Republicans say we will not do that, that is terrible economics, even if you attempt to blame us for everybody getting a tax hike, we’re not going to say yes. Should they say that and hope he caves? Or should they negotiate and try and save 30 cents on the dollar in tax hikes?
MS: Well, this is a difficult one, because my bet is that…if you negotiate, it will almost certainly come out like this. The tax hikes will be real, and all the spending cuts will be bookkeeping tricks that in the end will mean nothing. On January the 1st, if nothing is done, it’s going to the largest tax increase in American history. This is at a time when the European Union has already slipped back. Europe has already slipped back into recession. So in other words, you would have basically the two halves of the Western world engaging in a kind of synchronized suicide. And it is a big challenge to Republicans, but the last time John Boehner negotiated over this stuff, he got suckered. I think he came out crowing about $12 billion dollars in real cuts. The CBO scored it at $1 billion dollars. And by the time it had all worked its way through the Senate and the bookkeeping tricks had been uncovered, the budget actually went up by $3 or $7 billion, or whatever it was. And that’s always the way it goes. There may be an argument for saying well, you’re right, Mr. President, you won, this is your world, this is your landscape, own it. Own the ruined wasteland over which you will be presiding.
HH: Well, I think only if they can make the argument as it is no difference if you raise taxes and send us into a recession and you only raise taxes on a tenth of the people than if you raised taxes on 90% of the people. But will the Republicans get slaughtered in that media crossfire?
MS: Well, you know, I think basically there’s a confusion at the moment. According to the exit polls, 15% more Americans blamed the economy, last week’s economy, on President Bush than on President Obama. So in a sense, the Republicans are already getting blamed for it. And I think there is a good argument, a good argument for saying look, this fiscal cliff has been looming for a while. Obama has indicated he wants to go over that cliff at full throttle. Do we really want to be in there trying to persuade him to slow down and go over the cliff in second or third gear?
MS: And I think there is at this stage an argument for just in a sense saying to the President okay, have it your way. You’re the genius, this is your world, let’s see what happens.
HH: The faster we go, the faster we hit bottom, the faster we get out. Maybe. Mark Steyn, author of After America. Read all that Mark writes at www.steynonline.com.
End of interview.