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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn on Rudy, McCain, Romney and Oscar

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HH: Joined now by Mark Steyn, columnist to the world, Mark, are you in Washington, D.C. for CPAC?

MS: No, no. I’ve just got back from Washington, and literally just raced into the door this minute in the start of a big New Hampshire winter storm.

HH: Well, I’m glad you got back in time. I’ll bet you would have had to sign 5,000 copies of America Alone and your hand would have been permanently cramped if you had been down there.

MS: Well actually, I’ve been…I started dipping into a new book I was handed just before I left for the airport, called A Mormon In The White House. I don’t know whether you know anything about that.

HH: Oh, it’s already in your possession?

MS: Yeah, I was handed it for a little bit of airport reading…

HH: Oh, excellent.

MS: And as the flight was delayed and all the rest of it, I was very glad to have it.

HH: Well, thank you. I look forward to getting your comments on it. Mark, you’re a master at writing obituaries for The Atlantic. Will you take up the subject of Arthur Schlesinger, the eminent, but I’m not going to say great historian who died today?

MS: Well, I think Arthur Schlesinger, tonally, was a very nice person. I just put a little observation on the National Review website. He wrote to my editor at The Spectator in London to complain about some things I’ve written, and he began the letter, “As one of those disgraceful American liberals Mark Steyn is always going on about…” And my editor wrote back to him and said actually, I’ve always thought of you as a graceful American liberal. And I think he was, but I do think essentially his view of the world was wrong, his view of the economy was wrong, and his view of what motivates man in advanced societies was wrong. And I think he was in many ways a very decent man, and a relic of a more decent age of politics, but he was wrong on everything that mattered.

HH: I began this week with a three-hour conversation with British historian Andrew Roberts, about whom you devoted a column in the Sun Times, available at He’s now been a guest at the White House. Vice President Cheney’s reading his book as he jets around the world avoiding assassination attempts. He’s been, as he told me, met with considerable derision in academic circles in Great Britain. Are you surprised?

MS: No, I’m not, because I think the elites in both Britain and the United States are blind to what seems obvious, if you step back. Andrew’s great thesis is that in the fullness of time, we will look at the period of dominance of the British empire, and then the American republic, as one unbroken cord of human development, as we do with the Roman republic and the Roman empire, that it will not seem like two separate eras, but as one continuous evolution. And I think that’s true, and I think it’s true not just historically, but it’s true today. You know, we hear a lot about Afghanistan, which is the good war that the left and all the Europeans and everybody else support, and it’s always presented as a NATO mission in Afghanistan, NATO’s doing all the hard work in Afghanistan. When in fact, when you look at it, the only four countries who are doing any combat duties, i.e. going out and killing the enemy are the United States, The United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. And the continental, the European members of NATO, are there in basically support roles. Norway won’t fight, the other guys don’t like to go out in the snow, because it gets their boots dirty, so they’re back at barracks manning the photocopier, or whatever they do, but the hard work of killing the enemy is being done by the four English speaking nations.

HH: That’s an observation he did not make, but I’ll bet you he gets around to making, because you’re absolutely right. Turning to the attentions of the political world today, Rudy Giuliani has been, got a couple of bricks thrown at him for the first time by Politico, about the liberal judges he appointed, and by Bill Sammon at the Washington Examiner, about his draft deferment. Is it his turn now, Mark Steyn, and do these things stick?

MS: Well, I think the thing about Rudy Giuliani is that most people only know one thing about him. So when they see him in their mind’s eye, they see him wandering down that street on the morning of September 11th, with all the grime and dust in the air, and Rudy taking charge, and being the leader of that city, and the embodiment of American resistance at that point. And a lot of the other stuff, like him dressing up as Julie Andrews, and moving in with a couple of gay guys and all the rest of it, most Americans have still to find out about. But I think, you know, there’s only certain things you can hold against him. I have grave reservations about his position on gun rights, because I think he is essentially, has an urban G-man approach to guns, whereby he thinks only fellows like him should have them. But I’m not concerned about the liberal judges, because frankly, given the judge pool in New York, I don’t know who you’d go for. I don’t know where you’d find alternatives to that in the State of New York.

HH: That was Ted Olson’s defense of him made earlier in an interview we will play again. Rick Santorum had a different take on it, though, and this is going to be a very interesting issue. Is the race over, Mark Steyn, because Rudy Giuliani’s opened this gigantic lead in the Time Magazine poll, the ABC News poll, and some commentators are thinking that it is.

MS: No, I don’t think so, and I think that’s a ridiculous thing to say. You’ve yet to actually see him on the ground interacting with anybody in Iowa or New Hampshire. I was very glad to get away from New Hampshire for a couple of days, because it’s already crawling with presidential candidates, and not just down in the big cities in Manchester and Portsmouth, but all the little rinky-dink towns around me, the guys have already come up and they’re building their networks and everything. And you never know who’s campaign is going to work once it gets on the ground. I don’t think it’s going to be John McCain’s. It could well be Rudy Giuliani’s, it could well be somebody else’s, including the subject of your new book. But I think the dangerous thing at the moment is that whoever is the candidate has to have the social conservatives on board, because when all these big shot media pundits in Washington and New York say oh, this is going to be an election where social issues don’t come into play, when social issues aren’t part of the debate, then those guys either stay home, or they mount a third party thing. And when social issues aren’t taken into account by the Republican candidate, then the Democrats win.

HH: Rick Santorum said to Politico today the only one I won’t support is McCain, and elaborated on this program. That’s, I think, a kiss of death for John McCain, because there’s probably very few people as revered on the social conservative spectrum as Rick Santorum.

MS: Yeah, and I hear that, too, just from my neighbors. And I think it does have some traction, that I think whatever your big issue is, whether it’s abortion or gun rights or whatever, John McCain’s view is summed up by the McCain-Feingold bill, which is that basically, he doesn’t want to hear from you. He basically regards himself as the big political leader, and you guys are the followers, and he’s happy for you to go into the booth and put your X on the piece of paper, or pull the lever for him, but other than that, he doesn’t want to hear from you. And so I find that active, committed, political, Republican conservatives dislike John McCain more than anybody else on the social issues, and if you then point out to them about Giuliani’s position on abortion, and gay rights and guns and everything, they’re cooler with that than they are with John McCain’s blanket contempt for them, as expressed in McCain-Feingold.

HH: I think you’re right. Now we switch subjects completely to a bit of music (Que Sera Sera) because you have this very charming column, I think inspired by the Oscars, their music collapse. This is the music of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, and it’s very charming. And you’re right. Oscars music has gone right to hell.

MS: Well, you never hear Oscar songs except on the Oscar awards night anymore. I mean, this one that won from Melissa Etheridge, the thing from the Al Gore documentary, no one’s ever going to hear that ever again. I mean, even in the movie, you’re hardly aware of the thing. And something has gone very, very badly wrong. Que Sera Sera won the Oscar for best song in 1956. If you look at the first few years of the Oscar awards, they produced The Way You Look Tonight, they produced Thanks For The Memory, Over The Rainbow, White Christmas was an Oscar-winning song. It was introduced in a movie.

HH: Yup.

MS: And it’s nothing to do with changing tastes in music, I don’t think. More of it, films don’t really seem to understand the potency of song, and how to make things work.

HH: Well, are there no Jay Livinston and Ray Evans left?

MS: Well, there are people who can write that kind of song. A lot of the time, I think particularly this generation of filmmakers, you know, it’s the sort of monopoly as a baby boomer nostalgia thing, they prefer to have some kind of big, have a soundtrack of big blockbuster rock hits, rather than try to introduce a new song. But certainly, the dreariest part of the Oscar ceremony these days is when you have the performances of the five nominated songs…

HH: Right.

MS: …because nobody likes them, nobody knows them, nobody cares about them.

HH: Other than the montage of montages, which I heard you talking about earlier this week.

MS: Yes, well, I do think you can always…that you can always use another montage in the Oscar show, and you’ve got montages of this, and montages of that, and it’s always incredible to me you can take the ten greatest films of all time, I don’t care what you call, you know, Lawrence of Arabia, Gone With The Wind, Casablanca, whatever. And the minute you put them into an Oscar night montage…

HH: They’re terrible. Mark Steyn, always a pleasure., America.

End of interview.


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