Mark Steyn on gypsies, heckling lesbians, hookers, the crippling EU constitution, and the merci beaucoup foreign policy of Barack Obama
HH: We went live on July 10th, 2000, and what a wonderful eight years it has been. It is also my 26th wedding anniversary, which is a wonderful testament to the patience of the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt. And I am happy on both counts. To help us celebrate the former, and he wasn’t around at the wedding at Camp Pendleton 26 years ago, is Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn, making a special appearance during his summer hiatus and vacation. Mark, I hope you were enjoying your time away from your other duties.
MS: Yes, I was. I think you can celebrate your wedding anniversary without any help from me, Hugh, but I’m happy to be here for the 8th birthday of your show.
HH: Well, we find you in the Big Apple today, and I hope you’re enjoying your walkabout on Broadway. Do you have a favorite theatre there, by the way, Mark Steyn?
MS: I like some of the theatres like the Belasco, which is a sort of not a popular house with the producers, to some extent. But I like some of those little ones that are slightly off the beaten track.
HH: Is there anything right now that appeals to the old theatre critic in you that’s made a big splash in recent weeks or months in New York?
MS: No, I’m going to go and see the new South Pacific, which I’ve heard terrific things about, and also the new revival of Gypsy, which I’ve also heard very good things about.
HH: You know, my friend David Allen White thinks Gypsy’s the greatest musical ever. I’ve never understood that.
MS: No, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that. I think it’s got a terrific score in the American vernacular. The minute you hear those great, brassy trumpets in the overture, you know you’re at the apogee of the American musical comedy.
HH: Since I’m asking about New York, is there a place, do we find you like at the Russian Tea House with Woody playing something late at night in New York?
MS: (laughing) I’d love to be able, I’d love to be able to say that yes, I’m at the Stork Club, and Artie Shaw has just dropped in with Betty Grable. So in fact, I will. I’m at the Stork Club, and Artie Shaw’s just dropped in with Betty Grable.
HH: (laughing) Okay, Mark Steyn, you’ve been enjoying your time off. Update us what happened in Canada. I think you’re out of the clutches of the Human Rights bureaucrats, but tell us.
MS: No, we had three. We had triple jeopardy up there, because one of the disgusting elements of this system is that there’s no limit to the number of jurisdictions that the Canadian Islamic Congress can file complaints in. Basically, the Ontario one said they had no jurisdiction, but they gave us a kind of drive-by verdict. They said we can’t throw these guys in jail, but we would if we could. The federal one, basically because Ezra Levant, my fellow in this great struggle, and I went nuclear on these bozos at the federal Human Rights Commission, they’re not just subject to the usual politically correct drivel. But they’re also stinkingly corrupt. And we helped expose a lot of that, and publicize a lot of their corruption. And as a result, they decided discretion was the better part of valor, and they’ve decided not to go ahead with the prosecution. And the British Columbia tribunal, which did go ahead with the prosecution, their three little ersatz pseudo pretend judges are up at their cottage in British Columbia, sitting by the lake fishing, and trying to decide what verdict they’re going to give.
HH: Now I still continue to agree with you, the best thing that people can do who support free speech is to subscribe to Macleans Magazine. I go further than you do. I think they ought to buy a couple of copies of America Alone at www.steynonline.com. But generally speaking, the battle for public opinion has been won, don’t you think? Outside of the Islamist nutters, I think that you’ve decisively shown them to be fools and knaves up there.
MS: Yes, they simply are, these hack bureaucrats simply don’t get it, and they want to expand their powers. The British Columbia judges, the ones in my case, have now moved on to prosecuting this fellow called Guy Earle, who is a stand-up comedian. And basically, two people who’d been barracking him during the show complained that he’d been rude to them, as comics often are. You have to, if you’re doing live stand-up, you have to be able to put down hecklers. Unfortunately, in his case, the hecklers were two lesbians, and they’ve now complained (laughing)…
MS: They’re taking this comedian to the Human Rights Tribunal.
HH: Are they superdelegates by chance? I just want to know…
MS: (laughing) No, I don’t think they’re depressed Hillary gay superdelegates consoling themselves by vacationing in British Columbia.
HH: Just checking.
MS: Although you know, if a coachload of gay superdelegates consoling themselves after Hillary’s defeat had been in the club that night, that guy would have been very lucky to get out alive, I think.
MS: But anyway, poor old guy, Earle, now, you know, if you’re Don Rickles, you don’t want to be booking any stand-up appearances in the dominion of Canada anytime soon, because the joke police are in full flight up there.
HH: Is there anything as humorless as an international bureaucrat?
MS: I don’t think there is. I mean, I do think that, I think jokes are one of the absolutely critical things that distinguish free societies from unfree societies. I love that line of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s – “There are no jokes in Islam.” He says, you know, if you think you’re down here to have fun, have a laugh, have a good time, have a big giggle, a chuckle, split your sides, forget it. There are no jokes in Islam. And I think one of the differences between our side and the fellows in the caves is that we do have a sense of humor.
HH: You know, this is an anniversary show. I think the very first program we discussed, you had replaced the much-missed Michael Kelly in the most-listened to aspect of the show every single week, and we were talking, I think the very first show, you brought up the strong horse and the weak horse. Here it is, eight years after, you know, the war begins, or not eight years quite, but getting close, what’s your assessment of the strong horse/weak horse analogy? What do they see it as now?
MS: Well you know, I think if you look at al Qaeda themselves, I think their infrastructure has been pretty much devastated. I think they’re holed up in Waziristan, and they’re having some success in actually Talibanizing Waziristan. Well, big deal. Waziristan is not actually the epicenter of the world. And if you look at what they’re doing in the wider world, their infrastructure has been pretty wrecked. But then on the other hand, you look, for example, at Senator Obama’s pathetic and pitiful reaction on the news shows yesterday to these Iranian missiles, and you realize that if you were one of these Islamist troublemakers in the world, you’d be looking forward pretty much to an Obama presidency. There’s a lot of people who say you know, whatever you feel about George W. Bush, he was prepared to do some tough and unpopular things. And these guys reckon that the next president is going to be lowering the temperature very considerably.
HH: I linked yesterday, courtesy of Powerline Blog, a study out of the Gloria Center in Israel that looks at what Hamas has done to Gaza, basically turned it into Fortress Gaza, and what will happen if the scenario begins…it’s like the guns of August in the Middle East right now, Mark Steyn. Everything is interconnected, and the idea of Obama being the fellow to deter the setting off of this? It’s very disturbing.
MS: Yes, I think it is disturbing. I don’t think, when I listen to Obama, I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that he hasn’t actually thought about anything much in recent years except becoming president. And he seems very focused on the fact that he should be president. But if you ask him about anything else, when he’s not doing one of his pathetic, scripted, great gaseous uplift of change you can believe in speeches, if you ask him a question off the cuff, that he’s not scripted on, he’s pathetic. He’s truly pathetic. And his default position is this kind of John Kerryesque condescension. I thought the one thing the Democrats had going for them this time around was that they hadn’t nominated John Kerry. But in fact, listening to Obama talk about unilingual Americans being an embarrassment, I began to get a distinct Kerryesque whiff, the whiff of the Boston Brahmin hung over the Kenyan-Indonesian-Hawaiian, or whatever he is.
HH: Well, here’s the extraordinary thing, is that on Sunday, the Washington Post did a story on his faith journey that did not mention Jeremiah Wright. Today, the Washington Post does a story saying it’s hard to pin him down ideologically, when he was the most brazen leftist candidate ever nominated for the presidency of a major party. So the MSM is throwing up a picket line around him. They’ve absolutely gone into a scrum. He’s like the hooker in the middle of the rugby scrum. Can they sustain that kind of defense, Mark Steyn?
MS: Well, the hooker has to be a little bit more nimble in a rugby scrum. This may be something that gets lost in translation (laughing) for most Americans, but the hooker has to be a little bit quicker on his feet than Barack Obama has been doing. The fact is, though, when you look at, you know, when you look at the flip-flopping and the changing of courses, and all the rest of it, what you see is a man who throughout his career has taken the path of least resistance. When you look at this left wing record, I think that speaks mainly to his background, and the fact that he’s never actually dared to take any position that would cause him any problems with the people he spent courting. That’s not the kind of guy, you know, you want, I think, sitting in the Oval Office. I mean, when he made this crack about how most Americans can’t go into a French restaurant and say anything except merci beaucoup, I mean, basically his foreign policy would be merci beaucoup. He’d find out what the European Union wants, and say merci beaucoup. I mean, this is not a man who has demonstrated any steel or even sort of any basic kind of contrarianism in his rise to his present eminence.
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HH: I’ve just linked Mark’s website over at Hughhewitt.com. It’s www.steynonline.com. I noted there he is sitting in for the Big Guy tomorrow, for Rush, and congratulations on that, Mark. It’ll be fun listening to you as I go back and forth with you and Dennis. Since we last spoke, the European Union has been reeling, I listen to the BBC every morning on a podcast, and the Irish rejected the Treaty of Lisbon. And it’s like sobbing every single day I go to the BBC. Does Europe recover? Do the EU recover from this?
MS: Well, I think they do, because the difference is, between the United States and what they’re trying to do in Europe, is they’re trying to build the United States of Europe from the top down. In other words, it’s a centralized federation being built from the elite bureaucracy down to the people. And every time they let the people vote on it, the French and the Dutch, and now the Irish a couple of weeks ago, they vote against it, because they rightly see it as a racket. The first words of the U.S. Constitution are We, The People. The first words of the proposed European Constitution are We, the people who know better than you, the little people. It was devised by Giscard d’Estaing, who some of your listeners may remember as an elderly, failed president from that dark decade of the 1970s. And he has a classic sort of royalist attitude that he and a few other Euro big shots can sit down and tell an entire continent of serfs what it is that’s going to happen. And regardless of how the Irish or the French or the Portuguese or the Dutch or the Slovenians or anyone votes, they’re going to go ahead and do what they want, these elite.
HH: Have you followed the condescending commentary towards the Irish after that vote, and how they must have been too stupid to understand the treaty?
MS: Yes, and in fact, Mr. Giscard himself said that there was no point trying to explain his great constitutional treaty to them, because it was above the heads of the people. He said that he saw himself, when he started this process, as Europe’s Jefferson, which I don’t quite get anyway, because Jefferson was actually in Europe at the time the U.S. Constitution was being drafted. But the point is, the U.S. Constitution, you know, if you look at a lot of my neighbors in New Hampshire, they carry it around in their pockets so they can berate their Senators and Congressmen for not sticking to it. You can buy it for $3 bucks, and it fits in your pocket. If you try to put the European Constitution in your pocket, you will be walking with a crippling limp after about six minutes. I mean, it’s like this huge, great, bureaucratic monstrosity. And this democratic deficit is what is fundamentally at the heart of the European Union, and why it’s doomed.
HH: And unable either, Europe is, talking like Yoda right now, to do anything about Mugabe. It’s the other…there are two themes in the BBC the last couple of weeks, is the hand-wringing over Mugabe. Do you expect they will ever get out of their sloth and do anything about this butcher?
MS: Well, in fairness, Mugabe isn’t Europe’s problem. It’s Britain’s problem. It was Britain that ushered in Robert Mugabe to power after the Lancaster House talks in 1980, supervised by Lord Carrington, who was then the foreign secretary in Britain. And he has turned one of the wealthiest and most bountifully endowed jurisdictions in Africa into this basket case, which now has, I believe, the highest proportion of billionaires on the planet, simply because the currency is now worthless.
MS: And this is, and it would be a simple matter for Britain to actually remove this guy, and supervise free and fair elections over there. He’s killing people. He’s actually killing people. But we Western hand-wringers, the great progressive liberals of the Western world would rather wring their hands, or like Darfur, hold some, you know, interpretive dance event to save Darfur every week for the next thirty years. The uselessness of liberal outrage is one of the great constants of the modern world.
HH: One last foreign affairs question before we go to the McCain-Obama race. The BBC this morning, a correspondent sort of recreating your jaunt into Fallujah after the war had concluded, the first phase, went with some Brits into Basra, and barely could conceal his surprise at how peaceful Basra has become in the last three months since the Maliki-ordered offensive. And he had a cup of tea, or he had some ice cream, they couldn’t get him any tea, in the middle of Basra. Do you think the world is quite aware of how extraordinary the changes in Iraq, Mark Steyn?
MS: No, because nobody wants to order up a script rewrite. Basically, the American networks, the big three plus CNN plus MSNBC, and then the rest of the world, BBC and Reuters and all the rest of it, decided that Iraq was a quagmire three or four years ago, and nothing is going to deflect them from that storyline. It’s like soap opera with no twists. And so the fact that the plot did change, the fact that essentially in three quarters of Iraq now, life is more pleasant than it has ever been, because of that, these guys have simply decided we’re not going to cover this story. There is no Iraq. Iraq is either a quagmire, or it’s no news at all. And it’s actually disgraceful. It does tell you a lot about the predisposition of what is meant to be a profession of inquiry, the predisposition of these so-called journalists to the store-bought storyline you warm up in the microwave every night, regardless of what’s actually happening on the ground.
HH: All right, Mark Steyn, we’ve got a couple of minutes to go. You’ve been on vacation. Unfortunately, so has the McCain campaign. And the question is can they get back the momentum that they need? Or can they take advantage of Obama’s apparent see-through nature? There’s just no there there. What do you think? Can John McCain get it together?
MS: Well you know, I think John McCain is basically, if he does become president, he will become president because of a slow motion meltdown of the Obama campaign. I mean basically, McCain is not what he was eight years when he was this fun, punchy, lively, contrarian, independent-minded guy. He seems now just tired, but he does have the great advantage that Obama, I think, becomes ever more evidently unequipped to be president every time he opens his mouth. So I think McCain might well end up president by default, but he doesn’t certainly seem willing to contribute anything active to his own campaign to get him to the White House.
HH: And have you been watching the plans for Denver? They’re going to put Obama in the outdoor stadium and light it up like a grand rally that brings back some pretty bad memories? What do you make of his decision to go Lenny on us?
MS: (laughing) Well, you know, again, I think this gets back to him. He’s a very self-absorbed guy, and I don’t think he actually thinks about the wider world, except in terms of his place in it, like this extraordinary demand that the Germans found so offensive, that this man, who just happens to be a candidate, he’s not a head of state yet, or anything, demanding to be allowed to give a speech at the Brandenburg Gate, which is like someone, you know, which is like a German candidate for chancellor demanding to give a speech on the Washington Mall. I mean, this is simply a man who sees the entire world as a great supporting cast in the Barack Obama show. His self-absorption and narcissism is incredible.
HH: Mark Steyn, thanks for today and for many good conversations. We’ll talk to you at the end of the summer when you come back from vacation. Can’t wait.
End of interview.