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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn on Obama’s lack of conviction on foreign policy, and Republicans’ lack of conviction on laying down markers on spending cuts.

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HH: I begin with Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Mark’s work at I’m going to be seeing you out this way in a couple of weeks, Mark Steyn. I find you in the Big Apple tonight. Do they have any better sense of what the American foreign policy is in Libya in New York than they do in California?

MS: No. And indeed, it may be an entirely different foreign policy in New York than it is in California. This war is getting more incoherent by the day, and I think the reason for that is, to a certain extent, I agree with Jay Carney that it’s not a war. Jay Carney said it’s not a war because we haven’t invaded there, which is ridiculous, of course. We’re flying over the country dropping bombs on it. That is by definition an act of war. But it’s not a war in the sense that it’s not being prosecuted in the national interest of the United States, and with identifiable war aims. And I think it’s a kind of, you know, it’s a tragedy, really, to take the nation to war without war aims, because it’s most unlikely that that will end well.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, I had Tim Pawlenty on Tuesday on the program, and he declared the President’s administration statements on Syria to be a crock, very eloquently stated, because they were downplaying the brutal nature of the Syrian regime. But I don’t know that they have any theory on, this is something Romney said on this show last week. If you don’t have a theory on what the United States is and how its supposed to act, you’re befuddled at every turn.

MS: No, and I think this goes beyond that, in that I think this is, President Obama, in a sense, comparisons with people like Jimmy Carter and Michael Dukakis are unfair to those guys, because Obama’s really the next stage of that. He has been a man who has been so marinated in post-nationalist, postmodern, transnational, progressive, multicultural mumbo-jumbo his entire life, that he does not actually believe there is such a thing as the national interest of the United States. And that is why in a sense, he wouldn’t even accept the premise of what you just said Mitt Romney said. He wouldn’t even accept that premise, because he’s way beyond all that. He thinks that the advanced, developed, Western nations no longer have anything quite so déclassé as a national interest.

HH: Now I’ve got to ask you, having stated that, I want to switch to domestic politics to the Republicans. Last week on this show, Mark, you made a comment that John Boehner’s climbed into the Bob Dole suit, which has gotten enormous play around the country, an approving note, but also, I’m sure, it’s been read across D.C. However, tonight we’re being told that a deal is all but done, it’s going to be $33 billion dollars in cuts. Others are saying Republicans had better get ready not to get the waivers, the riders that they want. I think this will be a strategic defeat for the Republicans. What do you think?

MS: Yeah, I’m inclined to believe that in a way that I think the lame duck session was also a strategic defeat for the Republicans. I think what’s at issue here is momentum. I accept a lot of the things that my friends say that the 2012 budget is more important, and that in a sense, this is unfinished business from the Democrat hegemony that prevailed until November. But the fact of the matter is that we should be further along in the debate by now. And the idea of tussling, and in fact, what is pathetic and contemptible here, and I agree with what Marco Rubio said, but that Chuck Schumer’s got it wrong. It is not the Republican Party that is extreme. The real extremists, the real extremists are those contemptible people who think that the model for government, American government in the beginning of the 21st Century, is to spend $4 trillion dollars of which $2 trillion is borrowed. There is nothing, nothing as extremist as that. That is sufficiently extreme to destroy the future of every child and grandchild in the United States today. So Chuck Schumer’s the extremist in this debate. And if the Republicans are dumb enough to get hung with the extremist label over this battle, then more fool them.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, I think the problem is that a lot of the Republicans in the Congress do not believe that we believe what you just said, not just us, but that millions of people who voted for them believe what you just said. It’s as though they were treating a serious cancer, a melanoma, with aspirin.

MS: Right, right.

HH: and I think, go ahead…

MS: No, I think you’re right. I think that they think, they look on November as a hissy fit, and that it’s, one is occasionally obliged to string along with the more intemperate members of one’s base. But once the election’s safely in the bag, it’s back to business as usual. And that’s the danger. I think that is the danger here. I like, I mean, I like what Rubio said yesterday, and I like what Mike Pence said. But they all should be talking like that. And someone, you know, even Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe ought to be talking like that. This is an existential crisis for the United States of America. The debt ceiling, I mean, in a sense, there are no good answers to that question. If we don’t approve the raising of the debt ceiling, then we’re telling the world that the superpower is on the brink of defaulting, and that will end the dollar as a global currency. But if we do just raise the debt ceiling in business as usual terms, then we’re also telling the world that we’re fundamentally unserious about getting control of this insane level of spending. So the extremists here, the extremists are the guys who are not recognizing the reality of the situation. It has nothing to do with mid-century. It has nothing to do with 2030. It’s nothing to do with 2020. The consequences of this irresponsible and in fact wicked behavior are going to kick in long before 2020.

HH: And so this brings me back to Republicans considering whether or not to vote for any so-called compromise package that comes out of the leadership. I think this vote will leave a mark. I think that people are not going to forget this vote for a very long time, and that if you’re a Republican Congressman, especially a freshman, and if you’re a Republican Senator who’s got to think about ever running for higher office or being on a national ticket, or looking for reelection, this one, you really can’t go along, Mark Steyn. What do you think?

MS: No, I think that’s right. I think this is going to be one of those things where you want to think how your vote is going to look two to four to six to eight years down the road. And this is going to be one of those, I think you’re right, that this is going to be one of those issues that defines who you are, and whether you understand where the United States is at this moment in history. And I think there are obviously certain careerist hacks who that means nothing to them, but there are young people there. There are fresh faces there who are, who were elected explicitly on a ticket to get serious about insane levels of government spending. And they have got to demonstrate that November meant something. And if November didn’t mean something, then we are in very dark terrain.

HH: Let me play a what if with you, Mark Steyn. I have been indicating, if they stopped Obamacare by putting a freeze on the regs, if they stopped the EPA carbon by getting a rider, if they defunded CPB and they defunded Planned Parenthood, okay, then I could live with $45 billion in cuts. I could say okay, you had to give up something. But I don’t think they’re going to get anything. Is there a mix in there that you would be satisfied was a tactically decent answer as they postpone the big fight to 2012?

MS: Yeah, I think that’s the good way to look at it, that if your argument is that 2012 is the big battle, then what you need to do now is lay out some markers that make claim to principles for 2012.

HH: Exactly.

MS: For example, your EPA suggestion is a good one, because one of the things the Republicans ought to be fundamentally committed to is the restoration of responsible government in this republic, where laws are made by legislators accountable to citizens, which means we roll back regulation, and we constrain agencies who have grown far too used to legislating on their own, regardless of how the legislature votes, or how the voters vote. And so something like that actually lays down, it’s not important, particularly, in terms of the budget for 2011, but it lays down a marker. It says that this is who we are as a party. We believe in responsible government, we believe in a land where the laws are made by legislators accountable to the citizens. And that, things like that are worth doing, and they’re worth compromising on $10 or $15 billion, or whatever here and there, but they’ve got to be talking in those, they’ve got to be framing the debate in those terms. Otherwise, it’s just the usual nickel and dime, Washington deal-making, reach across the aisle-y stuff that everybody loathes. Everybody loathes.

HH: And I do not, correct me if you’ve heard someone talking in those terms. I have yet to hear any Republican leader talk in those terms of markers and principle.

MS: No, and I think that’s because, I think regulation is throttling this country. Regulation is killing this country. Regulation is ensuring that as such economic prosperity survives on this planet will be created elsewhere. And the Republican party ought to be on the side of that. That’s nothing to do with taking social issues off the table, and not wanting to go into any of those awkward subjects that embarrass these sophisticated Beltway types. That is fundamental to retaining America’s competitive advantage in the world. And if Republicans, if even the squishiest, RINO, jelly-spine nothing can’t actually stand up for rolling back the regulatory state, then he is entirely worthless.

HH: Mark Steyn, a pleasure,

End of interview.


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