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Mark Steyn on Obama administration gaffes here and abroad, and cartoon sensitivity

Friday, August 14, 2009

GB: I’m even more excited to jump right in with Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. I’ve never spoken to him, so I’m almost giddy. Mark, it is a pleasure to talk to you.

MS: It’s a pleasure to talk with you, Guy, even, what did Hugh say you were? You were 12?

GB: (laughing)

MS: That’s great. Terrific.

GB: All right, I saw this story in the New York Times this morning, Mark, and I immediately thought of you. It’s not at all surprising, says Patricia Cohen, reporter, New York, Times, that the Yale University Press would be wary of reprinting notoriously controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a forthcoming book. So Yale, and Yale University Press consulted two dozen authorities, including diplomats and experts on Islam. And the recommendation was unanimous. A book, “The Cartoons That Shocked The World”, should not include the 12 Danish drawings that originally appeared in September, 2005. The author has reluctantly accepted this decision. So a book about the cartoons cannot include the cartoons, Mark Steyn.

MS: Yeah, which makes the point more effectively than anything that is going to appear in the text of that book. And the lesson is, which is a very dangerous one to teach people, is that if you threaten, well, not just threaten, if you actually kill and burn and destroy to get your way, people will listen to you. Everybody knows the way this works. If you do a Broadway play in which a gay Jesus has sex with Judas Iscariot, there will be outraged Catholics holding placards on the sidewalk outside, as happened a couple of years ago. If you were to do that same play about Muhammad, there’d be an entirely more motivated group of people waiting for you at the stage door. So we now have essentially a situation where Islam has become extremely effective at forcing the rest of the world to submit to a form of Islamic law. What is most interesting about the Yale decision is not so much the decision not to publish the cartoons, because very few people in the United States or Britain or Europe or anywhere actually have the guts to do that. But they’ve actually said no, you can’t show any representation of Muhammad. So for example, Gustave Dore’s, and Botticelli’s illustrations of Muhammad from Dante, that’s gone, by the way. They’ve been kicked out, too. So it’s not just so long to some obscure cartoonists in Denmark, but it’s so long Botticelli and so long Dante. I mean, this is a retreat into darkness.

GB: And Mark, what shocked me was they said they consulted two dozen authorities, diplomats, experts, whatever that means on Islam and counterterrorism, and they said they were all unanimous. They all said let’s lot publish them.

MS: Yeah.

GB: And not a single dissenting voice?

MS: No, and that’s what’s very depressing, because my natural reaction when the cartoon thing came up, I posted them at my website at the time, because the minute a guy says you publish this and I’m going to kill you, that’s the time to stand up and say hey, nuts to you, pal. Every single newspaper on the planet is going to publish these things, and you can’t kill us all. And you have to at some point stand up and resist this thuggery. And if you’re…and this gets to the heart of the problem with Islam’s relation with the Western world, is if you’re so sensitive, if you’re so touchy about it, you look at what Christians put up with. They have to have…you look at a guy like Bill Maher, who thinks he’s Mr. big, brave, you know, transgressive, bold, provocative comedian, mocking Christians all the time, mocking them all the time, all the time. Christians put up with it. They shrug it off. Who cares about Bill Maher? Why is it Islam can dish it out, but they don’t want to take it? And that is a problem, ultimately, for Islam’s place as part of Western society.

GB: Talking to Mark Steyn on the Hugh Hewitt Show, jumping from Yale University Press to a prominent graduate of Yale Law School, our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. She’s still exiled somewhere out there in Africa. And last night, in Nigeria, she had this to say, cut 21:

HRC: Our democracy is still evolving. You know, we had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections as you might remember. In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state. So we have our problems, too.

GB: Uh-huh. An ABC News account of this speech said that Clinton did praise the 2008 U.S. election as a shining example of how democracy should work. In other words, when Democrats win, democracy’s working. I am sick, Mark, of these…

MS: Well no, in fairness to her…

GB: Go ahead…

MS: I don’t think it worked out too well from her point of view. That’s why she’s in Nigeria trying to find that village, that one lone African village where they use that proverb about how it takes a village to raise a child. That, there is a kind of tragedy to this poor woman stumbling from one gaffe to another in countries that no self-respecting secretary of state with real responsibilities would normally find herself in.

GB: But nonetheless, nonetheless, you’ve got the Secretary of State of the United States government in Nigeria, a country rife with political corruption. Someone asks her about, and she says well, gee, oh we have our own problems, too. There is an obsession with moral equivalency and false analogies on the left that pervades the entire administration, doesn’t it?

MS: Yes, and again, this is typical of the gutlessness. I mean, Nigeria didn’t “evolve”. It got worse. 40 years ago, Nigeria lived under English common law. Now, half the country lives under Sharia. That’s not an improvement. That’s not a “evolving” democracy. That’s a civil society getting worse. And this idea that you can just go around the world, identify problems and say oh, don’t worry, we screw up, too, we’ve got a state where the guy running for president, his brother runs the state. Well, apart from anything else, if there’s anyone who shouldn’t be complaining about nepotism, it’s Mrs. Clinton, who’s only in office, who only became a senator because of her last name.

GB: Mark Steyn, the President is continuing stateside his attack on doctors. At a recent town hall meeting, he accused them of another atrocity. Let’s play cut three:

BHO: All I’m saying is let’s take the example of something like diabetes, one of…a disease that’s skyrocketing, partly because of obesity, partly because it’s not treated as effectively as it could be. Right now, if we paid…if a family care physician works with his or her patient to help them lose weight, modify diet, monitors whether they’re taking their medications in a timely fashion, they might get reimbursed a pittance. But if that same diabetic ends up getting their foot amputated, that’s $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 dollars immediately, the surgeon is reimbursed. Well, why not make sure that we’re also reimbursing the care that prevents the amputation, right? That will save us money.

GB: So first, our doctors came for our tonsils. Now, they’re coming for our feet, apparently.

MS: You’d think if it was that simple, we’d all be going around footless. And every time we went to see the doctor, he’d say whoa, I think we’re going to have to amputate another body part. Almost everything in this statement is false. It’s not $50,000 dollars to get your foot amputated.

GB: Right, yup.

MS: And perhaps worst of all is the idea that the same family clinic doctor general practitioner you go to see for your diabetes would be the guy doing the foot amputation. No, he wouldn’t. Your general practitioner doing the preventive care on the diabetes isn’t the same guy who’s getting $50,000 grand to cut your foot off. So the whole comparison is concocted out of some strange fantasy land that bears no relation to reality. I think incidentally, preventive care for diabetes is one of the cheapest things to do without getting the federal government involved. They get this little thing they can do now, because they know people don’t tell them the truth about it. They’ve got this little thing that’ll basically average out what your blood sugar’s been for six months, and to have that test done, you can just go for a general checkup, and they’ll do it, it comes under, you know, $30 bucks or whatever. You don’t need the federal government involved in that.

GB: Mark, we’ve got about a minute left. Something else that the President said that that town hall in New Hampshire was that a public option wouldn’t put private insurers out of business, because oh, not to worry, just look at UPS and FedEx. It’s the public post office that’s in deep, deep trouble. This guy gets in real trouble when the teleprompter is not on. And this was the latest major gaffe, was it not?

MS: Yes, I think so, and I think he reminded people of what government service actually looks like, that most people’s experience of the government is the post office or the department of motor vehicles. And you think about those institutions, and you think to yourself well, would you really want those institutions running anything important? You imagine, for example, e-mail, if the DMV ran e-mail. You’d have to go stand in line a week in advance to book the time you wanted to send your e-mail.

GB: Well, I mean if they ran e-mail, I would just use snail mail at that point. It would probably get there faster. Mark Steyn,, a pleasure, sir, thank you so much.

End of interview.

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