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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn on Obama’s decision to slash the military

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HH: On a day of great, great variety, politics and polling, football stories, freedom stories, national security stories, and what better place to start than with our favorite resident alien Canadian in the wilds of New Hampshire, Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read everything that Mark writes at www.steynonline.com. Hello, Mark.

MS: Hey, hugh, great to be with you.

HH: I’m going off to hear a Broadway guy tonight, Steve Tyrell. Have you ever heard him?

MS: Yeah, he’s not really a Broadway guy. He’s an old sort of Texas blues singer who made a name for himself by singing The Way You Look Tonight in Father Of The Bride. He actually used to be a producer. He was the producer on Do You Know The Say To San Jose for Dionne Warwick with Burt Bacharach and Hal David. And I saw him at the Café Carlisle last Christmas with Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, who were sort of, the place was packed, and I had not intended to go on the night that Bill, Hillary and Chelsea were going for a night out, and I wished I hadn’t, because he did the most grotesque, sick-making fawning, including doing special lyrics to I Can’t Get Started. And of course, the show was late, because blasted Clinton insisted on working the room.

HH: (laughing) Of course he did.

MS: (laughing) And so all I can say is if you’re going to see Steve Tyrell, I hope that Bill, Hillary and Chelsea are not going to be there at the same time.

HH: Oh, it’s at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. I am not expecting the Clintons tonight. Hey, let’s get to politics. Two new polls out, and they’re beginning to show the bounce out of New Hampshire. The Washington Times/JZ Analytics poll shows Santorum up to 11%, Mitt Romney at 38%. Rasmussen’s got a national poll that shows Romney with a double digit lead over the next guy who’s Santorum. How’s it feel in New Hampshire?

MS: Yeah, I think this idea that Santorum is not a good fit for the state is basically overstated. I think there’s a constituency for him here. I think people are looking for an alternative to Romney, and I think Romney, you know, that, whatever it is, that kind of 25-30 point lead he has at the moment, will shrink quite dramatically by next Tuesday as people settle. I thought Santorum gave a very confident, grown up speech in whatever it was, the early hours on Tuesday night. And I thought it was a bit of a mistake for Romney to then rush on the air, and in fact deliver what was in effect just his usual old stump speech. I thought Santorum, I thought that was a very unusual speech, and actually a rather impressive speech that Santorum gave the other night.

HH: It was. I talked about it with Bill Kristol yesterday, and also about this odd, this very unusual fact, Mark Steyn. Mitt Romney’s father was born outside of the United States, Rick Santorum’s father was born outside of the United States, of course, we all know Barack Obama’s father was born in Kenya, and they all started, those three families, started with nothing. Rick Santorum started with nothing. Newt Gingrich is an adopted kid into a military family. It’s really, if you step back from the ebb and flow of the day to day politics, it’s an amazing testament to the country.

MS: Yeah, I think it is. I mean, you know, if you look at the way it was in the 19th Century, guys would get off the boat at Ellis Island. They’d been a serf in Russia, and their great-great-great-great-grandfather had been a serf, and they didn’t want their great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson to be a serf, and they showed up at Ellis Island. They lived in tenements on the Lower East Side of New York. And the son moved uptown, and then the grandson went to college and became a doctor, and got a nice place in Westchester County, and then the great-grandson becomes an environmental activist and community organizer or whatever.

HH: Yeah, that’s true.

MS: That was the tragedy. And we seem to have actually accelerated it now in going from sort of immigrant to presidential candidate within the space of two generations.

HH: Can you imagine an Ellis Island delegation beaming back from the past to Occupy New York and asking what they’re doing? That would be something. But here’s the real kicker. Today, the President announced that the condition, the first condition that allows for that upward mobility in American prosperity, the American military, which defends sea lanes and allows prosperity, they are tandem. I know you’ve argued you lose your military when you lose your economy. But he’s not waiting to lose the economy, Mark Steyn. He’s going to cut tens of thousands of active duty uniformed personnel, billions more from an already skinnied-down Defense budget. It’s, I have talked today with Congressman Buck McKeon of California, who’s chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Congressman Rob Wittman, sub-committee chairman of the Armed Services Committee. It’s an outrageous assault on the American Defense posture.

MS: That’s true, but as you indicated at the beginning, in a certain sense, it’s inevitable. You can have big government at home, or you can have an assertive national defense that can project force to any corner of the planet abroad. But you can’t have both. I mean, if you look at the United Kingdom between the 1950s and the 1990s, in a sense, social spending and Defense spending sort of more or less inverted. This is, by the way, where I disagree with Ron Paul. When Ron Paul romanticizes the 19th Century isolationist republic of the founders’ vision, he forgets that there was a global order at make on the planet then. It was called the Royal Navy. And America benefited from the fact that the Royal Navy patrolled the oceans.

HH: Yup.

MS: It was, there is no one to succeed to America’s role as America succeeded to Britain’s role. And it simply, and what I think is dangerous about this is that both on the left and the right, there are people who think that the books can be balanced on the backs of the military. And in fact, if you abolish the entire Pentagon, it doesn’t actually, it’s barely the size of the most recent debt ceiling increase requested by Obama. So it’s not going to do it. You can actually get rid of the whole Pentagon, sell off every aircraft carrier, sell the nukes to North Korea and Iran, and Sudan, and anyone else who wants them, and it still won’t solve the fiscal crisis, the fiscal abyss into which America has lower itself into.

HH: Because that is a Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid-driven abyss. That’s all…

MS: That’s right. And in fact, I mean, where I agree with, I mean, for example, by about mid-decade, U.S. taxpayers, just in the interest on the debt, are going to be covering the entire cost of the Chinese military. No nation can afford to pay both for its own military and its principal rivals. And that’s why although I think that there are certainly savings to be made in the military budget, and I certainly think an awful lot of money is wasted in the military budget, the idea of using the military as an excuse not to go after the big social spending, I think, is wicked, and delusional, both from the left and the right.

HH: Mark Steyn, in 1980, President Reagan gave a great boost to my boss at the time, Richard Nixon, by carrying off an airplane his book, The Real War, the one I’d been working on with him. And people then began to buy The Real War. Has either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum had the wisdom to carry about After America, and be photographed doing that yet?

MS: (laughing) Well, I regret to say that as far as I know, the only candidate who read the book, and who quoted from it copiously, was Mrs. Bachmann, who bailed out on Wednesday morning.

HH: Oh, dear.

MS: And I regret that. And the one thing I liked about her was that she got the urgency. And I want these guys, I really do want these guys to get the urgency, because it’s certainly true that America will not be the global order maker, and very quickly. I mean, what is fascinating to me about these proposed cuts by Obama is that the New York Times report in the very first paragraph says that long term ground operations such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan would no longer be possible. Now this is extraordinary to me. This is the global superpower basically saying that it would not be capable of what in historic terms would be regarded as a couple of relatively modest, semi-colonial policing operations, that it will simply not be capable of those.

HH: It is. I’ll be talking with a lot of people about it today, and Frank Gaffney, especially, after the break. Let me close by asking you, Mark, I hope to check in with you from tomorrow night from a gala political event, but I gather Newt and Rick Santorum will be there. Do you expect sparks?

MS: Oh, I certainly hope so. And John H. Sununu, the former governor of New Hampshire, who’s on the Romney team, and has been a greatly, very unpleasant about Newt, will be there. So I’m hoping fisticuffs break out. As you know, Newt, after Mitt Romney said that Newt reminded him of Lucille Ball and the chocolate factory, Newt said I’d like to see him, I’d like to hear him say that to my face. So I hope a Lucille Ball fight breaks out between Newt and the Romney guys tomorrow.

HH: I’m still worried about you going Fred Mertz. Mark Steyn, we’ll check in with you tomorrow night. www.steynonline.com, America.

End of interview.

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