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Mark Steyn on the CNN/YouTube debacle last night.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

HH: We begin as we do on every Thursday that we are blessed with Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. Mr. Steyn, how are you?

MS: Very well, and still stuffed from that turducken that you guys were kind enough to send me for Thanksgiving.

HH: Your turducken, how did it cook up?

MS: Oh, it was fantastic. For anyone who doesn’t know what it is, it’s a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey. And the duck juices really improve the flavor of the turkey, because it’s not that kind of dry turkey you get so often. But you get this real moisture, moistness in the turkey that comes from the duck. It’s fantastic. I don’t think you could improve it. The chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey, I think the only way you could improve it is to have a CNN/YouTube plant stuffed in a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey. I think that would make it even tastier. But other than that, I can’t think of a way…

HH: Well, I’ll come up with a name for that shortly. What did you make of that spectacle last night?

MS: Well, I thought it was a joke. If we’re going to have gimmicky novelty debates, if politics is too boring that you can’t have serious, meaningful debates, I’d rather we just got the candidates to take part in Dancing With The Stars. I mean, that would be a lot more fun than these lame attempts to oomph up political debate, starting with that pathetic guitarist. It’s a sort of quintessential thing of what kind of square guys do when they’re trying to make something interesting. This guitarist who sang a novelty song about the candidates, with these insipid lyrics, a funny song that isn’t funny with just these lame lines about Tancredo wanting to build a fence, and Huckabee’s lost weight, they’re not even funny couplets. And it set the tone for it, pathetic, squaresville CNN producers trying to get hip with the beat, and just looking pathetic and demeaning, and degrading everything they touch.

HH: You know, I think you’re right. It’s the Austin Powersization of cable network news, and they were looking pathetic as the night went on. But let’s get to some substance about this. It is so wrong to have Ron Paul invited to this debate, then put him in the corner for 35 minutes, and then ask him a conspiracy-nutter question.

MS: Yeah.

HH: That is to me emblematic of everything that went on last night.

MS: Yes, and I think in fact, CNN behaved disgracefully. I don’t know, I mean, you’ve been on CNN before. I find CNN a very tiresome network in part because when you, when they try to book you on something, they want to have these pre-interviews, which are big time wasters, and I never agree to do them, where they want to discuss your views for an hour beforehand, before you do your two minute on-air bit with whoever the host is. So it seems to me incredible on its face that for example, this gay general who’s supporting Hillary, that they couldn’t have done the minimal amount of work necessary to find out that this guy is not Mr. Undecided Voter, but he is in fact on the Hillary campaign, that the woman who asked the abortion question is not, you know, Little Miss Undecided Feminist Voter, but in fact an explicit John Edwards supporter. I simply don’t buy the fact that even the overmanned, deadbeat production staff at CNN simply were incapable of finding out the truth of this thing.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, I don’t know if you recall this, but at the most recent Democratic debate that CNN fielded, many plants were there as well, but they were left wing plants. And it was okay to me, because this was a Democratic debate for the left wing Democratic primaries, and if they want to have left wing plants asking left wing questions, that’s fine. But now you go to the GOP debate for Republican primary voters, and you still get left wing plants. It’s like that’s all they know.

MS: Yeah, it is, and it’s interesting to me that issues like abortion or homosexuality, you know, I don’t regard gays in the military as being a critical issue. I think it’s a peripheral issue at a serious time, and I’m sorry if that happens to be your big issue, but that is the way I feel about it. However, if you’re going to discuss these issues, it’s interesting to me that all these issues like homosexuality and abortion, all the questioners they chose, regardless of whether they turn out to be plants or not, frame those issues from a left wing perspective. And as you say, that’s exactly, that goes on at the Democratic Party when they have a Democratic Party debate, too. What’s never, what you never get when CNN do these things is Republican issues discussed in any kind of non-liberal context. And that’s what makes it such a depressing event, too.

HH: I did come away with the conclusion that if you had been an anti-Republican who wanted to divide the Latino electorate from the Republican Party, you couldn’t have set this up any better, or picked any more questions in order to drive that divide deeper. In your own mind, that’s how you think it would work.

MS: Yeah, I think there’s certainly an element of that, but on the other hand, I think this has been, I mean, your great line on CNN, the most busted name in news, the only news out of this event is that it was a phony event. It was a phony event staged by CNN, either wittingly or unwittingly. So the only news angle on this whole debate has been that CNN failed, the failure of CNN. If I was Anderson Cooper, I would be calling Osama bin Laden now to ask if he’s got a room at the back of the cave that I can rent for the next six years, I would be so mortified with shame at having my name associated with this. And so I don’t think that it damaged Republican candidates. I do think Republican candidates, though, ought to actually be more up front about saying, swatting aside questions that are unworthy and demeaning, not just to the candidate, but of the process. And there’s no reason for them, if they’re exposed to pathetic things like guitar, embarrassing guitar sing-alongs, the guitar sing-along guy ought at least to be funny. But there’s no reason otherwise for them to go along and pretend to be good sports in something that is neither substantive nor entertaining. In other words, it fails not only as political analysis, but it fails as trivial entertainment, too.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, earlier today, I spent an hour with Tom Brokaw talking about his book, Boom, and a very spirited, very good conversation, except he kept calling me Paul, but that’s for next week.

MS: Oh, no, I agree…I don’t agree with Tom Brokaw on anything, but I do agree that you should be called Paul, and I intend to do it myself from now on.

HH: (laughing) Well, he got a good head start on you. But in any event, I asked him about this debacle, and he said you know, did they drop the ball, and he agreed that they did, and that we’re living in a time when networks have to be aware that black bag jobs are being thrust on them all the time. And he fingered Jonathan Klein, not Anderson Cooper. I don’t blame Cooper, because he’s not like an anchor with any power. I blame Jonathan Klein who runs CNN. And it really was a debacle for American news. And what do you think our enemies around the world think about when they watch these things, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, you know, you say it’s a debacle, but in fact, all these so-called plants that Michelle Malkin uncovered in the space of ten minutes, Michelle basically runs a one-woman operation…

HH: Yup.

MS: …and does better research than the whole of CNN. But essentially, all these plants, you know, are only doing what fellows like Tom Brokaw and other big, and Dan Rather, and the other big superstar anchors do. They’re avowedly partisan liberals passing themselves off as neutral arbiters. So in a sense, all these YouTube questioners, this big, phony gay general that CNN was stupid enough to fly across the country and stick in a hotel because they liked him so much they didn’t check out, the gay general, and the John Edwards voter, and all the rest of them are just doing what Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather do, which is being avowedly partisan, but pretending to pass themselves off as kind of impartial observers of the scene.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, I’m trying to set up an exclusive here. You can request your absentee ballot in New Hampshire on December the 10th. You can cast it on December the 10th. If we go live at Midnight on December the 10th, can we get you to go down and get a ballot and come back and cast it so we can talk to the first real voter in Campaign, 2008?

MS: Well, (laughing) I should say in case Patty, my town clerk is listening, Patty knows, she’s a wonderful woman, but she knows I am not a U.S. citizen.

HH: Oh, you can’t vote! Oh…

MS: And I can’t vote. And I can’t vote in New Hampshire. The sad reality of life here is I could vote up and down your state in California.

HH: (laughing)

MS: …with impunity.

HH: Yes, you could.

MS: But the one place I can’t vote is where my great friend and my town clerk will be sitting there, and saying you’re not an American citizen, get out of there. But I can come over to your place and vote there.

HH: She might shoot you, actually. She’s a New Hampshirite. She might…could you find someone to take over to Patty’s on Midnight to cast the first vote so we could get an exclusive? It’s December 10th. It’s right around the corner.

MS: Yeah, that is true, actually. I’m not sure…I take your point. I’m not sure I entirely approve of it, because I don’t want to steal Dixville Notch’s thunder, where they’re whatever it is now, 23 voters or whatever.

HH: Give it some thought. There might be another turducken in it for you.

MS: Oh, well, I’ll bear that in mind, Hugh.

HH: Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World, everything at

End of interview.

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