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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn on George Stephanopoulos, the UK Elections, and the Way Forward For Republicans In 2016

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HH: On a Thursday when we are lucky, we start the hour with Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read everything that Mark writes at www.steynonline.com. Hello, Mark.

MS: Hey, Hugh, good to be with you.

HH: Mark, I’m going to start with the George Stephanopoulos story, and I am not surprised that George Stephanopoulos gave money to the Clinton Foundation. I do not know what all the yelling is about. But there is a lot of yelling. What do you make of this?

MS: Well, I’m not surprised, either. He’s been a Clinton man since he was out of short pants. And he then went into a very successful media career with ABC. But apparently, while, at the time he left the White House to join ABC, we were assured that he could become an objective journalist, and he was putting aside the Clinton phase of his life. And now it turns out that the Clinton phase of his life has continued, and so he’s been making donations to the Clinton Foundation. And so we are in the absurd situation. Only under the peculiarities of America’s mainstream media could you have an interviewer interviewing a man who has written a book disclosing the dodgy donations to the Clinton Foundation without the interviewer disclosing that he himself is a donor to the foundation. I think that is, I think that is an issue. I don’t mind what people do with their money. I just think they should be up front about it.

HH: Yeah, the Schweizer interview is the single misstep here, because I, you know, I don’t care what people do with their money, either. If I interview Tom Cotton, people need to know I’ve contributed to Cotton many times over the course of my career. And I’ll continue…

MS: Right, but you’re very up front about that, Hugh.

HH: Yes.

MS: You’re up front about who you support, and who you advise your listeners to donate to. George Stephanopoulos purports to be something closer to the media equivalent of a Supreme Court justice, that he is dispassionate and simply distributes media justice fairly. And that’s the difference.

HH: It is a difference. Now if I were one of the Republicans, I would immediately call up ABC and offer to do an hour sit down with George Stephanopoulos to prove right now you’re not afraid of anyone, and to indelibly cement in the public’s mind that he’s a lefty, right?

MS: Right.

HH: That’s the, he dropped that bomb in New Hampshire four years ago about birth control being outlawed by the states, and he did so to pervert the direction of the election.

MS: Yes, I think that’s true. It came out of the blue, and everyone was bewildered by it at the time, and it turned out that in fact, he was just seeding the Democrats’ narrative for that election season. And I think that’s the issue here. You know, one of the signs of decay in free societies and civilized societies is that you have the outward signs of apparent normalcy, but in fact, their meaning has been utterly hollowed out. So when you talk about the Schweizer interview, if you were just a casual, the low information voter, as someone says, and you switch on ABC and you happen to see this interviewer interviewing a fellow who’s written a book about the Clintons, you assume it’s an honest interview. And this is not an honest interview any more than that was an honest question four years ago in New Hampshire. And that’s the issue. You’ve got the forms of normalcy, but underneath, all has been perverted.

HH: And that’s why Hillary Clinton has been protected by the press thus far, and will probably continue to be. Let me ask you, though, if they don’t put themselves in a corner, Mark Steyn. We’ve had three elections. In November of 2014, the Republicans won. Likud won in March, and the Tories won last week. In each of those three occasions, the press was taken by great surprised, indeed, the entire political world was taken by great surprise. Most recently, I listened to six hours of the BBC World Service on Friday and Sunday, and you would have thought Cameron lost.

MS: Right.

HH: And Liam Fox said yesterday, the BBC makes CNN look conservative. Nevertheless, do we think that they shield themselves off from information because they just talk to each other?

MS: Yeah, I certainly think there’s an aspect of that, and you can see it in the meltdown. The fellow who was writing the captions on election night at the BBC, and let himself go, and unleashed a blizzard of swear words under my old Spectator colleague, Michael Gove, at the bottom of the screen.

HH: (laughing)

MS: That certainly does happen. I mean there, I think the Israeli, the British and the American situation are very different. You know, as disturbing as the 2008 election was, the 2012 election, when the American people chose to reelect Obama, was far more disturbing to me, because it said even though we’ve lived with this guy for four years, we’d still like another four years. And who knows, if that’s the disposition of the electorate in 2016, all bets are off. The other thing, Hugh, to go back to what we were talking about when you were donating to Tom Cotton and what not, Israel and Britain have multiparty systems that intersect in all kinds of weird ways, so you don’t know how the Scottish National Party will play out against the Labour Party in Scotland. In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein lost a seat because the Ulster unionists and the Democratic unionists agreed just to run one unionist candidate. I mean, this all means nothing to any of your listeners, but that’s the point. Unlike America, which just has a two party, straight up, Democrats-Republicans, that’s much more, I think that’s much more of a poll of the hard-core disposition of the electorate.

HH: Except Obama is a different sort of figure, and this is my optimist coming to the fore. I think it’s possible to beat Hillary Clinton, although the Electoral College is a heavy handicap on the Republicans, because she doesn’t have the first African-American president momentum behind her. She doesn’t have the touch that Obama has. She may be the worst major party candidate in modern times, don’t you think?

MS: Well, that’s what they said about John Kerry, but he got more votes than any other Democrat had ever got ever in the history of lousy Democrat candidates. I think you have to be, I think Hillary Clinton, I think Hillary Clinton is very beatable, and not so much because of the corruption thing, because in a sense, I think the Clintons have so many scandals…

HH: That’s baked in, yeah.

MS: …that neither of them count, but simply that on the stump, she’s not a likeable, effective candidate.

HH: I agree with that, and if we nominate someone, we being the Republicans, the conservatives nominate someone who is likeable, you can flip a lot of people. That brings me to the last part of this. Who is that? In the early watching, Marco Rubio gave a speech yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations, very robust, very aggressive, very Reaganesque. Scott Walker is in Israel preparing to come back and say to the ramparts with our Israeli friends. There are a lot of people, Ted Cruz is slaying them on debate after debate. He refuses to let Mark Halperin get under his skin. Do you think they’re wearing well, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, yeah, I thought the Halperin interview was interesting. He shrugged it off. You know, I’m always surprised to discover Ted Cruz is Hispanic, because I think of him as a Canadian.

HH: (laughing)

MS: So I think his answer to favorite food should have been poutine, and his favorite music should have been Celine Dion.

HH: (laughing)

MS: He’s playing a longer game here. And what I think is interesting about the pushback on that is that you don’t want to play this election on the George Stephanopoulos turf again. So don’t accept their assumptions. And I think the strong candidates are the ones who turn the question around and say that’s not how we look at it. I liked Rand Paul when he pushed back and said well, you know, why don’t you ask some of these abortion absolutists about abortion? I think it’s good to actually push back on the media assumptions when you know how, that when he gets off the air, George Stephanopoulos is writing a check for $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

HH: Yeah, but Ben Carson is mad at me for pushing him on NATO membership. He thought I was being unfair to him. He told John Harwood that. I think our candidates are best served by long interviews which ask tough questions, not these crazy town halls.

MS: Oh, no, no, and he should have, and by the way, he should have had an answer to that. And he’s a nice guy, and he’s a smart guy. And although it’s hard to believe after the last eight years, the guy who becomes president of the United States is supposed to be this thing called leader of the free world. So he has to have a point of view on these issues. He can’t just say oh, I’ll have some advisor look into that and I’ll get back to you. That’s what Herman Cain did last time when he said oh, I’ll have someone on the payroll who knows where Bekibekibekibekistan is. And I know nobody’s interested in these things, but the guy who’s the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth, supposedly, hard to imagine after the last eight years, but the guy, he should know where Uzbekistan is, and he should have a point of view on NATO membership. So I like Ben Carson a lot, but Ben Carson didn’t do himself any favors by that answer, or that attitude.

HH: Quick question, we’ve got 45 seconds. None of the Sunni Arabs showed up at the President’s party at Camp David. Do you think that he’s done, the President’s sole diplomatic achievement is bringing the Israelis and the Saudis together?

MS: Yeah, and the Gulf monarchs. I mean, King Hamad of Bahrain skipped this summit in order to go to the Royal Windsor Horse Show with Queen Elizabeth. That’s basically the diplomatic version of I’m washing my hair. And that tells you about the state of the world after eight years of the Obama presidency.

HH: Mark Steyn, everything he writes available at www.steynonline.com. Don’t miss it, America.

End of interview.

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