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Mark Steyn on Godwin’s Law, olive pits, and Brian Williams’ quest to pick the GOP nominee in 2012

Thursday, January 27, 2011

HH: We have a lot to do today, and we begin with Mark Steyn, the commentary equivalent of the high speed train without the massive public subsidies, our Columnist To the World. Hello, Mark, and how are you?

MS: Well, I must say, I’ve been insulted many times in my life, but I’ve never been compared to President Obama’s light rail initiative. I take great umbrage at that, Hugh.

HH: Well, not the Fresno edition, not the Valley edition. More like the Mid-Western edition, which has only 150% chance of not getting built. Mark Steyn, at this hour, the Egyptian authorities are shutting down Twitter, Facebook, they’re trying to close all of the internets, to quote the late Ted Stevens. What do you think is ahead for Egypt?

MS: Well, you know, Egypt is historically, it certainly regards itself as the most important Arab nation. And again, in historical terms, Mubarak has had a good long run. He’s been there over thirty years. But the fact remains that he’s an unpopular thug dictator who thought that he could hold the lid on the pot. He’s discovering, as the Tunisian regime did a couple of weeks ago, that in fact that’s a lot harder. And the question now is whether he’s prepared to kill to maintain himself in power. At the last minute the Tunisians decided they were not willing to do that, it’s not clear to me whether they’ll be as happy an ending in Cairo.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, the El-Baradai is there. He’s the face of the opposition, the completely inept former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to him at the head of an Egyptian government. Do you know of anyone that we ought to applaud to come to power?

MS: No, and I don’t really think that’s what it’s about. I think the idea that suddenly overnight the Egypt or Tunisia morphs into Sweden or New Hampshire is not plausible. The alternatives are not pleasant. As you say, El-Baradai was a disaster as head of the IAEA. The democratic urges within Egypt are not necessarily pro-American. But the fact of the matter is that this country has gotten billions and billions of dollars since the Camp David accords from the United States of American to prop up this ugly dictatorship. And what has American gotten in return for it? It’s gotten nothing other than Mohammed Atta flying through the office window on a Tuesday morning in 2001. The fact is the maintenance of stability in the Middle East, which has been American policy for half a century now, there’s a direct line between that false investment in stability and September 11th. So on the whole, I have no great expectations of Egyptian democracy. But Mubarak’s day is done, and I don’t think it’s in the interest of the United States government to prop him up.

HH: I want to note that the dictator there and everywhere tries to shut down communication as a last, desperate gasp. And today, in the Wall Street Journal, we have four hundred rabbis demanding that Glenn Beck be sanctioned, demanding that Roger Ailes apologize for, and they charge insensitivity to Jews, and slander to Soros, et cetera. What do you make of this effort, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, Jews have all…I get very heated about this because of what I went through in Canada. And rabbis in particular should know this, because the original proponents of speech codes was the Weimer Republic, the pre-Hitler regime in Germany, which prosecuted the Nazi party for anti-Semitic speech on, I think, 200 occasions, and at one time, imposed a speech ban on Hitler. For the benefit of your younger listeners, Hugh, Hitler was the Roger Ailes of his day.

HH: (laughing)

MS: And his opponents succeeded in getting him banned from public speaking in Bavaria. And a fat lot of good all that did. As any rabbi with a single functioning brain cell ought to realize, if you’re on the side that wants to shut people up, then you’re on the wrong side. That’s not a side the Jews, of all people, should be on. But the fact of the matter is, as I’m sure you’re aware, Hugh, is that what goes on in the right is that every time we try to hold an argument about health care, Obamacare, we’re told we’re racists. If we have differences over gay marriage, we’re told we’re homophobic. If we object to, if we support Arizona’s law, we’re told we’re xenophobic. If we oppose the Ground Zero Mosque, we’re told we’re Islamophobic. We’re told that we don’t have policy differences, but in fact, we’re mentally ill all the time. The right in this country is the one that wants to hold the debate. Rabbis should not be on the side of saying no, we’re ruling the debate out of order, because that is Mubarak territory.

HH: You know, I was on the BBC World Report with Mick Moore earlier today. The wonderfully named chief strategy officer of the Jewish Fund for Justice, he found it inconvenient as we debated this that I cited Frank Rich, who’d been tossing around Kristallnacht as the analogy to the Tea Party.

MS: Right.

HH: And he countered with a reference to Dana Milank, at which point the newsreader got us both off the air, because he was totally confused. But I find it amusing that there is this one-sided view of who offends good taste in America, when in fact if you want Nazi references, just fall back a few years, Mark Steyn, to the Bush Hitler years.

MS: Right. Right, right. And you know what I’d be annoyed about, if I was a rabbi, what I’d be annoyed about, there are millions and millions of people all across the country, all across the world who know the difference between real Nazism and real Fascism, and the cheap slurs of the left.

HH: Yes.

MS: And it’s incredibly insulting to anybody who lived in Europe in the years between 1933 and 1945 to get on your high horse about Glenn Beck. I mean, I think that is far more insulting than anything Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin, or anybody says. If you’re in the business that rabbis are in, rhetoric is your currency. Language is your currency. And you’re debauching your own currency with this banality.

HH: Let me ask you, speaking about the climate of rhetoric these days, Chris Matthews has come close to exorcist-like head spinning when he brings up Michele Bachmann. Have you see that? And what is at work there?

MS: (laughing) I know. Well, for a start, let me tell you, I love Michele Bachmann.

HH: So do I.

MS: Because there’s something, there’s some stupid thing called Congress Reads every year, where Congressmen have to pick out a book. And I gather that most times, they’re just sort of photographed, you know, reading Thomas the Tank Engine to grade schoolers or whatever. And God bless Michele Bachmann picked out my book, America Alone.

HH: Oh, good, for the little third graders? Good.

MS: Yeah. And her opponents saw that as, took that as final confirmation she’d gone completely insane. I always, I think it’s incredibly valuable to have people who are to the right of the Republican establishment to keep them honest. It’s actually the most important thing we can have at the moment. And I’m with Michele Bachmann all the time, because you need somebody to counter all the ‘reach across the aisle’ types in the Republican establishment. And so I’m with Michele Bachmann, and all the more so if she makes Chris Matthews’ head explode.

HH: Oh, that brings me, though, to the NBC dictate, that they will run the first Republican debate at the Reagan Library on May 2nd, along with Politico. It will be hosted by Brian Williams. They just told people to show up. And you know, I’ve got to assume that Brian Williams and Chris Matthews talk a little bit. Why in the world would we allow, Mark Steyn, the conservative movement, to allow the MSM to mediate these debates?

MS: Oh, come on, Hugh. I mean, I think Brian Williams is the perfect man to moderate the debate, and determine who is going to be this year’s Bob Dole or John McCain. We’re interested, I think in this political season, we need to identify as early as possible the decent, dignified Republican loser who knows how to give a great concession speech. And I think that’s what Brian Williams and NBC are hoping to get a jump on. And now if you’re actually interested in saving this country from sliding into a multi-trillion dollar abyss, then letting Brian Williams dictate your nominating process is a complete waste of time. But I’m not sure the Republican party at heart quite gets that yet.

HH: Last question, new press secretary, Jay Carney. He has got some chops. He was with Time Magazine for all those years, quite a reporter and writer, more in the Tony Snow than the political operative mold of Robert Gibbs. What do you make of this choice? What’s it tell us?

MS: Well, you know, I think the problem here is it’s not a question of shuffling the manpower. This is where you’ve got…Obama was elected as the star show. And the problem is that the star vehicle has a hole at the center. And so shuffling the chorus boys, I don’t think, is really going to do much for him. That was really the lesson of Tuesday, I think, that this guy is out of gas. It turns out that the star you put in the star vehicle isn’t really a star at all. And as I said, shuffling the chorus boys isn’t really going to cut it, really.

HH: Last question, Dennis Kucinich is suing the House cafeteria for $150,000. Do you think we’re going to see House members lining up to get sandwiches and win the Lotto?

MS: (laughing) Well, you know, I’m not, I mean, because I guess we’re on the hook for this, ultimately, so at first, well maybe you know, if enough Congressmen sue because of near fatal sandwiches, it will actually reduce the deficit. But on the other hand, I think the taxpayers will end up paying for this sandwich.

HH: I think it’s a very sad day for olive pits. Mark Steyn at, thank you, my friend.

End of interview.

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