HH: We begin as we do every Thursday when we are lucky with columnist to the world, Mark Steyn. Mark, welcome, have you been paroled from Chicago and the Conrad Black trial yet?…Mark, are you there?
MS: Yeah, I’m here.
HH: Oh, wonderful. Have you been paroled from Chicago yet?
MS: Yeah, and I’m still in Chicago, and as you can tell, having difficulty figuring out this telephone system here. It’s way beyond me. It’s too many buttons on this hotel phone.
HH: Well, give us, before we turn to the worse week in diplomacy in about a hundred years, give me the rundown on Conrad Black’s trial this week?
MS: Well, it’s very interesting. I think the government has actually made a shambles of the case so far. You know, I would say just here’s a wild generalization for you, Hugh, but I would say one of the big differences, certainly at the federal level, between U.S. justice and the Anglo-Canadian tradition is you’re much bigger on plea bargains here. And I think this was a case where they expected to get plea bargains, and not actually have to go into court with it. And having to go into court with it, I think, has rather caught them on the hop. They’ve got weak witnesses, and they’re making a bit of a hash of it.
HH: I’m curious, how is the readership of the Mark Steyn live blog of the Conrad Black trial? Is it proving more popular than MacLean’s had expected?
MS: Yes, it is, in fact. In fact, it’s caused a bit of bad feeling among some of the regulars on the MacLean’s website. It was, it’s been hugely popular. So I may have to get hip to this blogging jive thing.
HH: Well, you’ve already got it. Now let’s turn to what I’m calling the worst week in diplomacy in about a hundred years. I originally thought we’d done a good deal with Iran, but it turns out we blinked, they didn’t. We gave them a hostage, according to the New York Sun. What do you make of the conclusion of the Iranian, second Iranian hostage crisis?
MS: I think it’s disgraceful. I mean, it’s a huge moment of shame, both for the Royal Navy and for the governments, not just in London that helped facilitate this. I think it’s disgraceful and deeply dangerous for civilized nations.
HH: What about…I was stunned that they dressed all the sailors and Marines up in Ahmadinejad, sort of like a new fashion line coming out of there, and they agreed to do it. Are you surprised by that?
MS: Yes, I think so. And I think we have to say that while we all wish we will behave well, and do our country proud if we happen to be taken hostage overseas, if you’re just a traveling salesman or a secretary or whatever, I think we’re all a bit more understanding of that. But I do think when you’re talking about the Royal Marines, that you do expect them to take a name, rank and serial number attitude when they’re actually caught in these situations. And the fact that they appear on these propaganda videos to be willingly going along with this kind of Ahmadinejad leisure wear approach to the situation, I think is deeply damaging.
HH: Now of course, there’s no physical torture alleged here. But Ahmadinejad flouted every Geneva Convention applying to the capture, even if combatants. Of course, they weren’t combatants.
MS: No, he did. And that’s the point here. The point of the matter is that we have effectively let these guys get away once again, with yet one more provocation against the rules of civilized society. And that is not good for us.
HH: Now I want to turn to Nancy Pelosi. Your best selling book, Mark Steyn, is America Alone. I think you have to go back in the 104th printing and retitle it half of America Alone, because Pelosi’s no longer with us. She’s with the bad guys.
MS: Yes, and I think this is again, this is part of the same problem with…Syria, effectively, is Iran’s proxy in a lot of the messier business that goes on in that part of the world. And when you pretend that members of the Syrian government are no different from the members of the New Zealand government, or the Swedish government, or the government of India, I think you are doing tremendous damage. The fact of the matter is that Assad is a dictator, he represents a dictatorial regime that is colluding in the killing of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Nancy Pelosi should not be giving him photo ops.
HH: He also is an assassin government. They killed Siniora. They killed Gemayal. They’re just, they’re thugs.
MS: Yes, and this is what is so disgraceful. You know, basically, we seem to have accepted new rules, that countries like Syria and Iran can do anything they want, and we just go along with the same old same old, which is to say we request talks, and we go to the U.N., and we do all this kind of feeble, rather inert, passive reaction to endless provocations. And that way lies disaster. You imagine how some of this recent business this last couple of weeks would have gone if Iran was able to affect nuclear blackmail in the region and beyond.
HH: Right. I’m talking with Mark Steyn, his website, of course, www.steynonline.com. Nancy Pelosi announced after her meeting with Assad, Mark Steyn, that she had carried a message from Prime Minister Olmert that Israel was ready to engage in peace talks. She made that up. Olmert had to come out and disavow what she said. Is it stupidity? Or what is that?
MS: Well, I think you know, to be honest, I think the United States Congress has a by and large disastrous record on foreign affairs. I will feel slightly embarrassed to say this, you know, as a foreigner, I don’t feel it’s my job to pass judgment on the United States Congress when it comes to various domestic matters. But simply, as someone from the rest of the world, I think it is true that whether you want to cite the Neutrality Act seventy years ago, or anything else, that the United States Congress generally is way out of its league when it intervenes in world affairs. And Nancy Pelosi is part of a long and dishonorable tradition in that respect.
HH: One of my e-mailers or callers has suggested that the ultimate Bush-Cheney all in move, from poker, would be to announce that unless the United States Congress voted the funds we need for the troops, and got out of the business of micromanaging, they would both resign, and Nancy Pelosi would be president, and that the Congress would come to heel immediately. What do you think?
MS: I think that would be, I think that would actually be excellent. I mean, I do think this is something actually where you can learn from Iran. One thing Iran does is it always raises the stakes, whereas it’s in the nature of Western diplomatic types to lower the stakes. Well, I think given all this messing around that Congress is doing with the micromanagement of the war, it is time for the President to raise the stakes, and say to Nancy Pelosi fine, you want it, you got it, it’s yours, would be a great move.
HH: Oh, dear. It’s a nightmare. Now let’s turn to the political news of the week. What do you make of all the money reporting, Mark Steyn?
MS: Well, I think there’s two different kinds of money. You know, I think Barack Obama clearly is someone with a huge amount of appeal, and I think he’s sucked up impressive amounts of money, simply because there’s a lot of Democratic money looking for somewhere to go to that’s not Hillary Clinton. And I think that’s really what his money is about. There’s an anyone but Hillary faction in the Democratic side, and he’s the beneficiary of that. Whether it’s just a bubble and it will burst, we still don’t know yet. Mitt Romney, and I’m not just saying this because of your tremendous book, but because you know, I’ve followed him closely, and I was at a dinner with him a couple of weeks ago, but I think Mitt Romney, this represents a real serious grass roots, efficient fundraising campaign. In other words, he had to go out and get that money. I think with Barack Obama, it just kind of came to him as the anti-Hillary. So I think there’s a distinction in the two respective money bags on either side.
HH: Did Giuliani trip up by re-endorsing public funding for abortion in a way that may be fatal, Mark Steyn?
MS: I think that Giuliani is, you know, I respect what he did on September 11th, but I honestly do think, when people use this term America’s Mayor, that’s not what being president is. He did a great job cleaning up New York. Most parts of America do not need cleaning up the way New York did after his disastrous predecessors have had it all those years. He has problems on the social issues. He has tremendous problems with the base in my state and many others on the gun issue, and I don’t see any sense that he realizes the scale of those problems.
HH: Now I want to turn, as we conclude our conversation, to your Atlantic Monthly obituary last month on Denny Doherty, a rock ‘N roll sort of obituary. Before I do that, had anyone approached you about covering the trial of Phil Spector, because I think that would be an enormously fun Mark Steyn blog.
MS: I would…I met Lana Clarkson, the victim, the murder victim, many years ago. She was a delightful lady, and I was actually very upset to discover that she was dead, just because, like so many sad figures in Los Angeles, she’s made the mistake of getting mixed up with peripheral celebrity trash. And I felt very sad. She was a very pleasant lady on the occasion that I met her, and I would love to be covering that trial, because I think Phil Spector is a ridiculous figure, not just for what he’s on trial for, but I think his record production in the 1960’s was hopelessly overrated. It sounded great on a transistor radio if you took it to the beach, the so-called Phil Spector wall of sound. If you listened to it now on CD, it just sounds horrible.
HH: Well, place Denny Doherty. I think rock ‘N roll, there’s a book here about the flotsam and the jetsam of rock ‘N roll, but we’ve got about 45 seconds. Who is he and why does he deserve an obit?
MS: Well, Denny Doherty was the other Papa in the Mamas and Papas. You know, it’s an amazing fact that three of the four Mamas and Papas are now dead. I mean, the actuarial figures for some of those 60’s rock ‘N roll groups are incredible. And he came down from Canada, he had huge success with the Mamas and Papas, as usual, signed all the wrong contracts, lost all the money, and had a second career as a beloved children’s TV favorite up in Canada. So there is life after rock ‘N roll.
HH: It’s an obit in The Atlantic in April. Go look it up online. Mark Steyn, Happy Easter to you.
End of interview.