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Mark Steyn on Joe Biden’s gaffes being like Bill Clinton’s women, and his Ted Baxter likeability, and why Sarah Palin need to be Sarah Palin tonight

Thursday, October 2, 2008

HH: For the beginning of this and the hour just before, let’s talk with Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. Mark, it’s been too long, great to speak with you.

MS: Hey, it’s good to speak with you, too, Hugh.

HH: Your assessment of the state of the race as we head into the second of the four debates?

MS: Well, I’m rooting for Sarah Palin tonight, because essentially, she’s my only interest in this race. She’s what got my enthusiasm. I bumped into a big Oklahoma oil guy when I was in London a couple of weeks ago who was just on his way back home, and he was raving about Sarah Palin, and said this woman has single-handedly saved the Republican Party. She should have an honor guard of moose down Pennsylvania Avenue for the inauguration, and then she should shoot them clear across Capitol Hill into the Rotunda. And we were delighted, we were raving about her. We came back to America and found that the McCain campaign had totally bungled the rollout, restricting interviews with her to the Metamucil salesmen of the sunset networks. I don’t know why McCain would choose to do that, but he’s very poorly advised, and so now this is a high stakes debate, and I’m rooting for Sarah to just thwack it out of the park.

HH: Now you know, it’s astonishing to me, Mark Steyn, that she’s being graded on the absolute curve, and Joe Biden gets the easiest grading. He can do anything and it doesn’t matter, such as declare FDR on television on 1929 in the role of president and it doesn’t matter. But Sarah Palin refuses to come up with three or four Supreme Court cases, and the MSM’s all over her. I guess we can wring our hands, but it’s just not going to change.

MS: No, that’s simply the rules of the game. In a sense, Biden, my worry is this, that I think Biden’s gaffes are like Clinton’s women, that once you get to over a certain number, they don’t count anymore. And when you, the other problem, I think, is he’s such a parodically vain, glorious buffoon, this remark he made, quoted I think in the Boston Globe yesterday, that the minute Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, the president of Georgia was on the phone to him saying Joe, are you coming? You’ve got to come, Joe, like as if every country that gets invaded by the Russkies has to have Joe Biden on speed dial, who are you going to call. I mean, he’s such a parodically vain, glorious, self-aggrandizing buffoon that in an odd way, it may come over rather likeably. And I have a concern that those of us who think that Joe Biden is just an obvious laughing stock may be neglecting the fact that actually his likeability factor may be rather higher than we suspect.

HH: I never thought Ted Baxter would do well in presidential politics, but evidently there’s a case for the Ted Baxter factor.

MS: Yeah, and I think there is a Ted Baxter element to it. And in fact, the great Ted Baxter joke, where he offers Mary Tyler Moore a complete autographed set of Winston Churchill’s History Of The English-Speaking Peoples, and Mary goes what, autographed by Churchill, and Ted Baxter goes no, Mary, autographed by me.

HH: (laughing)

MS: It’s very easy to imagine Joe Biden doing that joke for real.

HH: Yes.

MS: But as I said, he’s such a ludicrously self-aggrandizing buffoon, in an odd way, that may warm up the public to him.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, the Gallup Poll has John McCain down five points. The news today is that he’s pulling out of Michigan and says I can’t win Michigan in these economic times. It’s a pretty rational decision.

MS: No, no, no, it’s not. It’s not, by the way. If Sarah Palin had been working the local Michigan TV and radio circuit instead of being locked away in a secure location and prepped for a couple of high profile interviews with these old media dinosaurs like Charlie Gibson, if instead of that, if she’d been on WZZZ-AM in Michigan, Michigan would be in play.

HH: Yeah, if she was up in the U.P., but she wasn’t. So at this point, I can understand what they’re doing, although they might want to revisit it if she does really well tonight. But my concern is a lot of Republicans are wringing their hands. At this point in the 1976 election, Gerald Ford had not yet declared Poland free. It’s 35 days in an election cycle that’s been full of jigs and jags. What’s your assessment about the volatility of the race? Is it gone? That’s what MSM wants us to believe. Chuck Todd has declared the race over, for goodness sake.

MS: Well, I think whichever way it goes, it’s going to be close. And it shouldn’t be close, because I think there’s no doubt in my mind that Obama is, and Biden, are the most liberal ticket since 1972, the difference being that the media are going along with this charade that he’s some benign, post-partisan figure who will heal the nation. And I don’t think that’s the case. I’m personally, after what I’ve gone through on free speech issues in Canada, I personally dislike the classic Chicago machine thuggishness that Obama uses to silence people who disagree with him. And I don’t contemplate an Obama presidency with equanimity simply on freedom of expression grounds alone. So I think this race, I think we have to accept the fact that we are, the media have essentially signed on as the war room of the Obama campaign, and that is why McCain is such a fool to mortgage his prospects to what he thinks of as his old media pals like Charlie Gibson and Gwen Ifill. They’re not his pals. They may be nice to him at dinner parties, and they’ll be even nicer to him after he goes down as a Bob Dole decent old loser in November. If that’s what he wants, they’re the people to stick with.

HH: If he wants to win, what do you advise him to do?

MS: If he wants to win, he should be doing and end run. Sarah Palin was great around that old media. Sarah Palin was great on your show. The only problem was she should have been on your show three weeks ago. And the only reason she wasn’t is because McCain is a media snob. He doesn’t like talk radio, he doesn’t like Rush, he doesn’t like Laura Ingraham. Fine, that’s fair enough. But as I said, Sarah Palin could have been on every rinky-dink local news show all around the country where she’s been going, and she would have done great. This was a disastrous strategy, and I’m fully behind a let Sarah be Sarah prospect for tonight. I don’t care what she does, as long as get to see the real Sarah Palin. That Sarah Palin I love, and I’m fed up with McCain for sticking her at the back of the cave with Osama bin Laden in Waziristan, or wherever the hell she’s been these last couple of weeks.

HH: Agreed. Now let me ask you about Obama, because I’m trying to explain to a liberal friend of mine, it’s not that I think he’s the Manchurian candidate, it’s that if he was, we wouldn’t have heard about it, because the media is so in the tank for him. Does that change over the next four weeks? Can…

MS: Well, if you’re saying will the media start to cover just the things we know about, for example, the fact his close relationship with an unrepentant terrorist whom he tried to pass off as just a fellow who lives in the neighborhood, and boy, they’d run into each other at the convenience store every now and then, in fact, Obama and Ayers have a much more intimate relationship than that. The media aren’t interested. They’re all up in Wasilla crawling around the public library records. If they applied a tenth of the scrutiny to Obama’s associations that they’ve applied to Sarah Palin’s, this would be a very different race. But simply put, the media are smearing a kind of huge gobbet of Doris Day Vaseline over the lens to make him look all fuzzy and lovable, and it’s a question of trying to get past that media Vaseline to see the real Obama. We’re running out of time to do that.

HH: I think McCain can force it, though, Mark Steyn. I want to know if you agree with me. If he runs the right ads, and he focuses relentlessly in the debates, and Sarah Palin brings up the Born Alive Infant Protection Act as she did on my show without prompting, I think they can force the media narrative to deal with these issues. But they have to try it. Do you think if they tried, it would work?

MS: Yes, but you see, that’s the point. I mean, if anybody was to run ads about Obama and Rezko, or about Obama and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, John McCain is such a poor calculator of his own best interests, that he’d be on TV piously dissociating himself from it. And this is the problem to me. What was the salient fact about the 2000 campaign that was so greatly admired back then? It is that McCain self-destructed. It’s that in South Carolina, he attacked not just the leaders of the Christian conservative movement, but he attacked Christian conservatives. He turned on his own voters in order to get a round of applause from the media. That’s how half-witted he was in 2000.

HH: Mark Steyn, we will check back with you after the Palin debate. I hope I can celebrate with you Sarah being Sarah, and that we can track you down in the wilds of New Hampshire. Welcome back, it’s great to have you back on the Hugh Hewitt Show, Mark Steyn.

MS: It’s great to be back, Hugh.

HH: Thank you, my friend.

End of interview.

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