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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn on presidents, prostitutes, & the post-American world

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HH: We begin as we do every Thursday when we’re lucky with a man who does not lie, Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read all of Mark’s work at Mark, by British standards, Congressman Wilson was rather tame last night. But he’s apologized, and the President has accepted it, and I’m glad that happened. What did you think?

MS: Well, in fairness, I think under Westminster rules, you’re allowed to do pretty much everything but accuse the honorable member opposite of lying. And I think actually, the Speaker kicks you out if you make an accusation of lying in the House of Commons in London, or Ottawa, or Canberra or anywhere else.

HH: Oh, so he even crossed the British line? Ok.

MS: Yes, so you can say pretty much anything other than that they lied. But in this case, you know, given that the consistent feature of the President throughout this debate, including in his joint address to Congress is that those of us who happen to have a different view of the best way of providing for health care in an advanced society are arguing from bad faith, and spreading misinformation, and lying, and all the rest of it. Given that he imputes bad faith to his political opponents consistently, around the clock, week in, week out, I mean, I’m inclined to give your guest a pass on this business.

HH: Well, I think he should have shouted out wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, because the fact of the matter is, Mark Steyn, at every hospital in America, both now and after any bill passes on the Congressional side, no matter what’s in it, illegal immigrants will receive health care, and they will not be billed for it, and that vast gap in our health care financing system will not be closed.

MS: No, and I think in certain parts of the country, that may well overwhelm the system as it’s already doing, for example, in emergency rooms in California. This explains, I think, broadly speaking, the amazing audacity, to use his word, of the President in his speech last night, reducing the number of uninsured in America. We’ve been hearing just a month ago in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he was talking about 47 million uninsured. It had come down by last night to 30 million. And I think that’s basically, because he just took every single, not just every illegal immigrant, but every conceivable person of any foreign persuasion whatsoever out of there, to try and give the impression that he’s not going to be providing free health care to illegal immigrants. But basically under this plan, if you’ve got stomach cramps in Venezuela, and you can get to an American hospital, they’ll be treating you.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, I do not believe this speech effectively changed a single mind in America last night. Maybe a few weak-minded went one way or the other, but it simply was not a persuasive exercise, but that’s my opinion. What’s your opinion?

MS: No, I would agree on that. For a start, I thought it was the wrong setting, because I think this is personal for many Americans. It’s understandable when you look back that most presidents use joint addresses, generally speaking, for foreign policy, for affairs of state. This isn’t an affair of state for most Americans. It’s something, it’s not like war with some foreign country you’ve barely heard of on the other side of the Earth. This is personal. It’s about you and your body. What the President has done through his glib and evasive rhetoric these last couple of months has put a big question mark over what most people feel are their own personal health care arrangements. And that’s nothing to do with moderate Republicans, blue dog Democrats. It’s not essentially a Congressional problem of parliamentary finesse. He’s lost touch with a big swathe of moderate, centrist Americans on this, because he’s put a big, big question mark over something that’s very personal, and very central to their lives, and he didn’t do anything to reassure them on that last night.

HH: Mark Steyn, he closed with an evocation of Ted Kennedy, and the character of America. And I thought to myself, he must really be in a bubble if he believes that that kind of an argument is going to succeed with the vast majority of Americans, who whether or not they are liberal or conservative, understand Ted Kennedy to be other than their shining example of American character.

MS: Yes. Basically, everybody who likes Ted Kennedy is already on board with this plan. Ted Kennedy, the idea that Ted Kennedy, who is one of the most controversial and divisive figures in American politics…

HH: Yup.

MS: …is going to posthumously reunite the country in a bipartisan stampede toward government health care is preposterous. Now you say the President must be really in a bubble, and I think to a certain extent, he is. He and his advisors, as Peggy Noonan wrote a few days ago, are generally young and to some extent, they lack a kind of wise, old bird among them to counsel caution, if you like. But I think actually in some ways, that’s their advantage, that if they’re young and ruthless and determined enough to ram this thing down the throats of America in some form or other, they may get away with it. And Karl Rove was positing that scenario in the Wall Street Journal today, and saying it would be a huge mistake. I agree with Karl up to a point. I think that is what Obama is considering, but it may not be a mistake. He may just pull it off. He may be prepared to take the hit in 2010, and ram this thing through, and change the American political landscape forever.

HH: I think you’re right. It will come down to whether or not there are enough Democrats who will lemming-like go over the cliff for the benefit of President Obama’s vision for America. And that remains to be seen. Let me ask you about the ACORN story. Have you been following the story at that Andrew Breitbart has loosed about…

MS: Yeah.

HH: What do you make of this?

MS: Well, this is a story in which he’s got some amazing footage of ACORN officials telling a pimp and a prostitute how to lie to the IRS, and how to claim mythical, underage dependents in exotic lands as dependents for taxation purposes and various other things. It’s fascinating stuff, because it’s a glimpse of what community organization is in action. Community organization means bigging up your base. And if necessary, that means conscripting all kinds of peculiar figures, including pimps, prostitutes and their various fictional or real dependents in foreign lands, and claiming benefits for them. And it’s absolutely outrageous that actually more of this wasn’t exposed in the campaign, because Obama’s connection to ACORN, and his willingness to give ACORN a role in the United States Census, puts a huge question mark over the reliability of government data, and over U.S. elections, not so much in blue and red states, but in purple states, it puts a big question mark over the integrity of those elections.

HH: It was the second ACORN story this week. There was one in Florida about false registrations where indictments have come down, raising the specter perhaps of pattern and practice investigation by that U.S. attorney. But by itself, right now, we’ve got one corrupt ACORN official advising two young, undercover investigative journalists on how to import child prostitutes, and claim them on their tax form.

MS: Right.

HH: As it is, I don’t know that it moves farther. But if there are other shoes that dropped, does this become a major scandal?

MS: Yes, I think so, because what is odd to me, if you look for example at the way Republicans are always being called on to distance themselves from their so-called lunatic fringe, the pattern here is that on the other side of the aisle, there is a lunatic mainstream. ACORN should not be a respectable group, and should not be anywhere near the United States Census. But as we saw with the Van Jones story, no matter how radical you are, on the left, it’s very easy for the most extreme radical to get right up close to the levers of power in the United States. That is where, unfortunately, that is where Obama’s lived most of his adult life, and that is where most of his associations are.

HH: Last subject, Mark Steyn. There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world that because of our domestic, political squabbles, we’re not paying much attention to, including an allegation, a story in Ha’aretz and the Jerusalem Post that Benjamin Netanyahu went to Russia to meet with Putin. Have you followed this? Do you believe it?

MS: Well, let’s put it this way. I know from a lot of friends in Israel, and other long time allies of the United States in vulnerable parts of the world, that their big concern is that we’re moving into a post-American world, that when you listen to Barack Obama speaking to the Muslim world, when you listen to him speaking in Latin America, the consistent pattern is that he’s kissing up to longtime opponents of the United States at the price of long term allies of the United States. And at some point, in Israel, and in India, and in the former republics of the Soviet Union other than Russia, parts of Eastern Europe, these people are going to have to start looking for new friends, and dealing with the new reality if, as they say in Jerusalem, this is the start of the post-American world.

HH: Very quickly, do you think that Netanyahu, though, has decided that he is going to simply speak for his country and assume the position of the leader of the West since Barack Obama’s simply not doing so?

MS: Well, the position is vacant. Nobody is standing up for Western…on this 8th anniversary of 9/11, nobody is standing up as a clear champion of Western values and of civilized values across the planet. That position is open.

HH: Mark Steyn, always bracing, thank you, friend.

End of interview.


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