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Mark Steyn on Newt

Wednesday, November 30, 2011
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HH: With an early Christmas present for you, because Mark Steyn normally joins me on Thursday, but he is here on Wednesday. And we’re celebrating the launch not of a single Christmas carol, not of even a four-pak, but of an entire album of Mark Steyn and Jessica Martin, Making Spirits Bright, available at www.steynonline.com. Mark Steyn, this marks a milestone in your singing career.

MS: Yeah, I think there’s like 57 minutes and 48 seconds of music, if you can call my contribution music. But there’s like, whatever it is, there’s 57 minutes and 48 seconds of it. So that’s like a new world record for me. Next year, it’ll be an entire box set.

HH: How many hours does 57 minutes require in studio?

MS: (laughing) Well, you’re trying to figure out how many takes does it take me to get it right?

HH: Yes (laughing).

MS: Actually, it doesn’t take me that long, because I reach a kind of level of mediocrity. The first take, the high notes aren’t quite high enough, and the low notes aren’t quite low enough. And the second take, I’m kind of basically in the ballpark. And the third take, I’m there. And the fourth take, it’s really not going to, we can stay there all night, but it’s really not going to improve much after that. So what you hear is pretty much close to the way, to what it would be if I came round and stood in your living room and bellowed it down your throat to you.

HH: I am playing cuts from Making Spirits Bright throughout the show today, and sending people to www.steynonline.com. But are you yet doing any live shows? Robert Davi was on with me a couple of days ago, and he just covered a Sinatra album, and he’s out touring. When is Mark Steyn and Jessica Martin going to hit the circuit?

MS: Well you know, I would love to, I was in Palm Beach for David Horowitz’ restoration weekend a week or so ago, and the opening act, I did the sort of Saturday night gig, and the opening act was Tom Dreesen, who used to open for Sinatra.

HH: Yes.

MS: And I sort of felt bad, like Tom Dreesen did his opening act, and then I came on. And I really felt I should have been there with the band. Like Sinatra, I should have done I’ve got the world on a string or something. And instead, I was just talking about civilizational collapse as usual, which kind of was a bit of a downer.

HH: (laughing)

MS: …after Tom had warmed up the room with all his great jokes. And so I think we may, Jessica and I may have to take the band on the road and do some live Christmas gigs.

HH: Well, we’ll get back to Making Spirits Bright throughout the afternoon and evening, and I hope people will go over to www.steynonline.com and get it in time to enjoy it for Christmas. Mark, let’s turn to politics. It’s the week of Newt. And before I play for you some excerpts of his interview with me yesterday, what is your general reaction to the rise of the former Speaker?

MS: Well, I think you have to hand it to him. I mean, I wrote him off when he got in the game. I thought he was running a kind of Alan Keyes candidacy, where the idea was just to sort of boost his speaking fees and get a bigger advance for his next book deal. But the fact of the matter is that there is a market for the un-Romney candidate, as various un-Romneys have come along and sputtered – Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt has been there. His performance in the debates, certainly compared to Herman Cain and Rick Perry, which admittedly isn’t saying very much, has been good. And he has raised himself from the dead. But in the end, I find the thought of Newt Gingrich being the Republican candidate for presidency a somewhat demoralizing and dismaying prospect.

HH: Why?

MS: I think Newt is a great salesman for Newt. But if you ask me, he hops and skips like a giddy frog across lily pads across the pond, from one, little, itsy-bitsy novelty idea to another, not awfully well thought out. And when I look at some of the things he’s managed to sign onto over the last fifteen years, I find that very worrying. Even the Contract With America, by the way, all the programs it was supposed to eliminate not only weren’t eliminated, 96 of them or whatever, but by 2000, the spending on them had gone up 30%. He’s very good. He’s a very plausible salesman when he wants to be. But the idea of Newt as the Republican presidential candidate is, I have to say, extremely dismaying to me.

HH: Let me play a couple of clips from my conversation with the Speaker yesterday. Here is my first exchange with Newt Gingrich:

HH: Newt Gingrich, is there anything out there about Newt Gingrich, that we don’t already know, that would impact your candidacy?

NG: Not to the best of my knowledge.

HH: All right.

NG: And I say it that way because you know, you’ve got bloggers and investigators, and the Obama campaign, and you name it, all trying to dig up something and prove something. And I had 83 ethics charges filed against me in the 1990s, none of which were accurate.

HH: I think it is very easy to use the opus of Newt to do that kind of back-to-backs.

NG: Of course, it is.

HH: So how are you going to defend against it?

NG: Of course, it is. I’m going to tell people, to be clear about what’s happening. If you take all the interviews I’ve done in my lifetime, I mean, if you just took the hours I’ve done with you in my lifetime…

HH: Yup.

NG: And you go through and you want to take nuggets here, nuggets there, you can clearly work out all sorts…this is why I talk about gotcha questions. I mean, anybody who wants to can mine my entire public life, and find lots of gotcha questions. The question I think you have to ask yourself as a serious voter is, does it have any relevance to what a Gingrich presidency would be?

HH: Now Mark Steyn, we ran two clips together there, but they’re both about the general same subject, which is he’s been around for 30 years, and he’s said and done a lot of things.

MS: Yeah.

HH: He is an oppo researcher’s dream. Can he survive that?

MS: Well, I think the problem here, I mean obviously, if there’s a body in the trunk somewhere, that’s a whole other issue. But the known record about Newt is what’s dismaying to me. I mean, for example, the Freddie Mac business, that is problematic for me. I don’t think Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae should be in business. I think it’s disgusting that by 2008, these quasi-governmental entities had a piece of over half the mortgages in America, and came close to collapsing the entire global financial system. One reason why the property market and the banking system in Canada, for example, is sounder than the United States is because they don’t have a Fannie Mae and a Freddie Mac. And to find out, if I want a guy who’s committed to abolishing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and to find out that Newt did the Washington thing, you know, he parlayed his rolodex into some lucrative, little consultancy for Freddie Mac, where he took a bazillion dollars for doing nothing, we all know how it works. You know, mediocre, hack Senators and Congressmen who disappear from office, they’re snapped up by these various bodies in Washington and put on the payroll, so that they can parlay their rolodex into a little, lucrative pocket money in semi-retirement. Newt, I don’t like the idea of Newt just being another one of those guys, because we’re beyond that at this stage. We need someone who isn’t that.

HH: All right, the second big issue this week with Newt is immigration. I also raised that with him. Here’s part of the Q & A on immigration. The whole transcript’s at Hughhewitt.com, America, if you want to read it.

NG: All I’ll say is I want 100% control of the border, and therefore, I want the amount of fencing you need to have 100% control of the border. If there are areas that are totally impassible, there’s no point in fencing them. But then you have to monitor those areas to make sure they remain totally impassible.

HH: And so when you…

NG: Now what I don’t want to have…if you tell me you have 96% control of the border, you have no control of the border, because your opponents just have to be smart enough to find the 4%.

HH: So when you made your comment about families who’ve been here 25 years, which by the way I agree with, I think most Americans agree with, that was not going to happen in your world until that fence is built?

NG: Well, I’ve always said it’s a sequence. I’m against any comprehensive reform, because it’s not doable. The sequence starts with building a fence.

HH: What do you think? Is that enough to get the immigration people off of his back, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, you know, the issue here is, I think there are two things. I mean, America basically chooses not to control its border as a matter, its southern border, as a matter of choice. It has made the political choice not to do that. It has made the political choice not to enforce its immigration laws against illegal immigrants as a matter of choice. And by the way, it’s grossly abusive of legal immigrants. And I happen to speak from personal knowledge of this. But I can tell you green card holders, we get fingerprinted and eyeball scan all of the time. It’s absolutely disgraceful. No country on Earth, no civilized nation that you emigrate to treat you as lousily as the United States of America treats legal immigrants, compared to the blind eye in terms of illegal immigrants. So I think in a sense, there’s a lot of shadow boxing going on about this. Newt is trying to find a position here that he thinks is plausible and viable. But at the heart of it, what he’s come up with is simply not credible, that you would have different local community boards offering up and down judgments on people who’ve been here 20 or 30 years. That simply isn’t going to fly. That’s the sort of thing that when Newt’s brainstorming late at night, and he says okay, we’re going to come up with an immigration policy in ten minutes, and this is what it is, and then he flits on to discussing foreign policy, it’s not a credible, serious solution to the problem.

HH: Mark Steyn, thank you.

End of interview.

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