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Mark Steyn on hot spots and hot dogs.

Thursday, March 22, 2007
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HH: Joined now by columnist to the world, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Mark’s comments at www.steynonline.com. You can order America Alone there as well as his fine collection of obituaries. Mark, we missed you last week, but you were up at Berkeley holding forth for Captain David Buckley in the Nimitz lecture. How’d it go?

MS: Oh, it went very well. I was rather disappointed not to have one of Berkeley’s celebrated nude protests laid on for me. Everyone in the room was distressingly fully clothed, and alarmingly supportive for a Berkeley crowd.

HH: Did anyone take you to Top Dog hot dog stand downtown there?

MS: No, in fact, I’m proud to say I didn’t get to go near any hot dog stands. I got to sample some of your fantastic California cuisine while I was there. It’s a sad, lamentable factor of life, as one political observer said some months ago, almost all the good restaurants seem to be in blue states.

MS: Yes, it’s true. And if you go out to the French Kitchen out in Napa, et cetera, French Laundry, you can have a real good time. But let’s not talk food. Let’s talk first terrorism, and then politics. London today, British police arrested three men in connection with the 7/7/05 suicide bombing attacks. This is almost two years later, Mark Steyn. Do you think they were under surveillance this whole time?

MS: I think it’s quite likely that they have been under surveillance for some time. You know, compared to, for example, here, where there are actually a lot more restrictions, as we see whenever a program of surveillance involving U.S. citizens or U.S. residents come up, you know, Congress objects to it, and the New York Times leaks it, and it’s usually ended. MI5 and the special branch in London have much more powers when it comes to operating surveillance, and I do think it’s clear. It’s clear to me that when you talk to senior police and intelligence figures in Britain, they have got a ton of people under surveillance, they’ve got a bunch of people they’ve been watching for a long time. What’s not clear is whether their political masters have the will to do anything about it.

HH: Yeah, in fact, they arrested two of these at the Manchester airport when they were due to fly to Pakistan. The third was then arrested at a house in Leeds, my assumption being that he would have been tipped immediately.

MS: Yeah.

HH: So hopefully, they have been using that surveillance to follow up on the other things.

MS: Yeah, and actually, that plane route from the United Kingdom to Pakistan has become absolutely the sort of key funnel between the jihad and the West. If you had to name a single flight route that’s the most important one for the jihadists in the world, it’s the UK to Pakistan.

HH: That is pretty remarkable. Now the United Nations’ new Secretary-General was holding forth inside the Green Zone when a mortar almost hit him. I suppose that’ll be the last time we see the U.N. back there for another couple of years, Mark Steyn.

MS: Yes, and I think it’s true. When I saw both the Defense Secretary and the President a couple of months back, both of them made the point that 90% of the violence in Iraq is within 30 miles of Baghdad. And I think that’s a valid point, but only so far. I mean, it would be no consolation if Washington was a war zone, to say that Presquile, Maine is very pleasant at this time of year.

HH: Right.

MS: I mean, it’s simply not good enough. And it speaks very poorly for the Coalition forces that they have been unable to stabilize Baghdad, and that even the Green Zone can be hit with some provocation, because clearly, this was something that was deliberately targeted at the VIP as he was there.

HH: Have you noticed, though, Mark Steyn, the first signs of sort of spring when it comes to the media grudgingly acknowledging that the surge may be working?

MS: Yes, I think so, and I think that’s true. And I think it’s interesting that even TV network correspondents have said that actually on the ground, it’s showing results. You know, this isn’t a surprise. I mean, the fact of the matter is that the United States is the superpower. If it doesn’t like the facts on the ground, it can change the facts on the ground. That’s really the history of Iraq. Iraq has been invented by foreigners, it was set up to be run by clients of foreigners, they installed a foreign king, the Baath party in its original incarnation had extensive support from various parties. The fact of the matter is that Iran is trying to change the facts on the ground, Syria’s trying to change the facts on the ground, so can the United States.

HH: And doing so effectively. Now let’s go domestic. Did you watch Al Gore yesterday?

MS: I didn’t watch Al Gore. I’m afraid I really cannot take him in these sanctimonious appearances. I did actually look at the transcript, but I can’t actually face him in appearances like that.

HH: Oh, it really is marvelously entertaining. He is so in love with himself, Mark Steyn.

MS: Well, I think he has. I mean, just the sort of glow from his self-satisfaction much be contributing to global warming by now.

HH: That could be it. Now if you didn’t see him, then you missed Barbara Boxer’s statement that elections have consequences when she shut down Jim Inhofe. Do you think the Democrats are wearing out their welcome in a hurry?

MS: Well, I thought it was a rather sort of sterile back and forth between both parties. I mean, I think trying to get…I think Al Gore is a humbug and a hypocrite basically with this one man surge, to put it in Iraq terms, this one man electric surge he’s doing up at Castle Gore. I don’t know what he’s inventing there, maybe the next sort of model Gorebot is being hatched in the lab. I don’t know why he’s got such a big electric bill.

HH: It’s possible. You never know.

MS: But the fact of the matter is, that I don’t think that Jim Inhofe should really have sort of attempted to hector him. That’s the kind of sort of sterile politics that I really find rather a bore. And I know the Republicans don’t do it as much as the Democrats, but I don’t really like it for either party.

HH: It doesn’t win for either side. I think John Podhoretz made a fine point at National Review yesterday. How about Hillary? They had a C-SPAN special on her last night, Bill spoke for thirty minutes, she spoke for thirty hours. Did you catch any of that?

MS: (laughing) No, I’m happy to say I also avoided Hillary. I mean, I agree with whoever it was who says that whenever you see Hillary Clinton in TV appearances, she doesn’t project warmth so much as project the desperation of someone desperately trying to project warmth. So I’m glad to say that I didn’t see the Hillary one, either.

HH: Oh, it is such a Madame Defarge moment, and I for the first time began to suspect that maybe she can’t win the nomination because she’s just so awful on television. Have you entertained that idea yet, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, you know, I thought that when she first ran for the Senate in 2000. And the fact of the matter is her first appearances in that campaign were terrible. And by the end of it, I saw her upstate towards the end of that campaign at some kind of broken down north country town in some school gym, and I have to say she was almost charming. Now it had required months of work, and whether she can keep that up on a national TV campaign, I don’t know. But I think that is actually the real problem for her, is that Bill Clinton is one of those people who…he’s the classic politician. If you can fake sincerity, you can do anything. He is sincerely insincere. He’s genuinely phony, and that is a fantastic quality to have. It means he is always on, 24 hours a day. 24 hours a day, he’s always on, he’s always aware there may be a camera, he’s always aware there may be a member of the public. And Hillary is not like that.

HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure. www.steynonline.com, America. You can order America Alone there and get his latest columns.

End of interview.

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