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Mark Steyn on the death of Ruth Graham, the death of the immigration bill, and the death of the American judicial system.

Friday, June 15, 2007
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DB: As we are every Thursday, we are joined by Mark Steyn, Columnist to the World. How are you, Mr. Steyn?

MS: Oh, great to be with you, Dean.

DB: It’s wonderful to have you. Any thoughts on Ruth Graham’s passing this afternoon?

MS: Well, you know, I think it behooves Christians to give thanks for a long life and a rewarding life, lived in full, and as a great support and important pillar of her husband’s and her family’s work. And I think it is sad for the family, but that everyone else can rejoice in the fact that she did have a full life, and she did touch many, many people.

DB: Yeah, it’s so true. You know, and 87 years old, surrounded by your husband, surrounded by your entire family, what more can a human being hope for?

MS: Well, I say that, I mean, one should remember that obviously, it’s still a terrible thing if it happens to be your loved one. I remember once when I was in my twenties, my then-girlfriend, we were with a very distinguished Broadway composer who was then, I think at that point, quite elderly, and we were commiserating on the death of his friend. And my girlfriend, all of 26, said well, he had a good, long life, he was 86. And the guy we were talking to said well, that’s easy for you to say. I’m 85. And there is an element of truth in that, that sometimes, if you’re old and you’re still in full vigor, death can seem even more of an injustice.

DB: Yeah, that’s so true.

MS: But I think in the objective sense, this was a great life and a long life, and a well lived life.

DB: It’s so true. Now Mark, we have this immigration, as we speak, this immigration bill is slouching from its crypt.

MS: Yes, now that is something that does deserve to die, and is in effect being kept on incredibly damaging life support for the United States. I really think that a lot of the talk about this is dishonest. You know, there are, the idea that you cannot, for example, enforce the border until this bill passes, legalizing these 12 million people, is nonsense. There are immigration laws on the books at the moment. There are 600,000 unenforced deportation orders for people who should not be in this country, and the government of the United States is, in effect, not lifting a finger to deport those it’s already deemed should be deported. None of that’s got anything to do with this bill. This idea that at present, there are no immigration laws, so if you want the enforced border, you have to support this bill? That’s a dishonest argument, and the administration should stop making it.

DB: I couldn’t agree more. Now Mark, do you feel this issue more personally being an immigrant? I assume you’re here legally, that it wasn’t Canadian coyotes that smuggled you across the border.

MS: (laughing) Yeah, I did it the old-fashioned way, you know, I snuck across the Northern border, and about an hour south on I-91, I banged on the trunk of the car and the guy let me out.

DB: (laughing) Well, that’s a much more civilized way to immigrate than what they’re doing these days.

MS: (laughing) Well, I would actually, if I was doing it all over again, I think I would be inclined to do that. You know, one of the worst aspects of this bill, if it does pass, is that people who…in order to process these 12 million people with their instant probationary visas, legal applicants who’ve been in the system since May, 2005, in other words, they’ve been grinding slowly through the cogs of the system for two years, will have to go back to their own countries, and start from scratch again. You know, it’s a classic conservative position, that if you reward bad behavior, you get more of it. And if this country tells the world that you’re better to come here as an illegal immigrant than as a legal one, then it will get more illegal immigrants, and it will get less legal ones. It seems an obvious statement.

DB: Yeah, moral hazard. It’s nothing new under the sun. We’re talking to Mark Steyn of www.steynonline.com. And Mark, we have a very busy news day today, that as you also know, Harry Reid called Peter Pace incompetent, and then went on to say similar things about General Petraeus. Is there any depth that this man will not sink to?

MS: No, and I think that’s very damaging, because it’s beyond politics. You know, these generals are not Bush’s generals. They’re the highest-serving military officers of the United States of America. So they’re Harry Reid’s generals, too. And you know, quite honestly, when you look at the approval ratings for Harry Reid’s Democratic Congress, it’s hard to see on what basis he gets to damn. This sort of sad, wretched hack, who has done very well in political terms…I mean, what is it? He lives at the Ritz Carlton, is it, in Washington? And he tips his doormen with campaign contributions? Politics has turned out very nicely to him. It’s hard to see what any of the 300 million citizens of the United States get out of it.

DB: Yeah, it’s interesting you mention that, this sad, wretched hack. And I don’t want you to hold back tonight, Mark. Let us know what you think. But him talking about Peter Pace, who’s won the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal with the Valor Device, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, that all sorts of combat medals, it’s really remarkable, isn’t it? The audacity?

MS: Yeah, and I think it’s…this is simply not good for the country. It doesn’t matter in the end. Unless you’re playing for everything, unless everything’s political, in other words, they’re figuring if they can damage everything Bush touches, and that in November next year, they’ll get the whole thing, they’ll get the House, they’ll get the Senate, they’ll get the White House, and then as Clinton supporter said on the day of his inauguration, when the USAF jets flew overhead, and some old 60’s lefty looked up and said they’re our planes now, maybe it’ll all work out, and in January, 2009, they’ll be the Democrats’ planes again, and they’ll be the Democrats’ generals again. But this is incredibly bad for politics in this country, because they’re not Bush’s generals, they’re the country’s generals.

DB: Yeah, no doubt. Now Mark, you’re still in Chicago covering the Conrad Black trial, correct?

MS: That’s right.

DB: And you’re doing amazing work on MacLean’s blog. Tell us what’s going on there.

MS: Well, you know, we’re about to get closing statements, and then the jury will go away, and we’ll get a verdict. And it’s been very interesting for me as a foreigner, seeing what goes on in Patrick Fitzgerald’s courtroom, particularly on a day like today when Scooter Libby has been told that he has to go to jail. I am very concerned about the state of trial by jury, which is one of the oldest rights in the civilized world. And I think it’s dying in America. It’s dying in America in part because of this disgusting system of plea bargains, where basically you threaten a guy with a hundred years in jail, but you tell him no, you cooperate with us, and you’ll get six months in jail. You basically buy up your witnesses, and then look for a case that happens to fit the witnesses you’ve got on the payroll. It’s basically like casting a soap opera, and then writing the plot around it. And it’s a disgusting system, and I’m, to be honest, as I said, as a foreign observer, I’m a little bit shocked by it.

DB: Yeah, that was actually one of the first things I said after 9/11, is that it was a horrible time for our justice system to be so debased…

MS: Yeah.

DB: Because you knew it couldn’t play a role in the war ahead.

MS: No, and I think actually, you know, there is…the idea of justice…in old established justice systems, the balance…the genius of the English common law is the balance between the judge, the jury and the prosecution. And if the prosecutor is able, in effect, to lean on witnesses, to persuade them to plead guilty, and give them a six month jail sentence, in effect, he’s taking part of the job of the jury and the judge, and I just think that’s basically the sign of a totalitarian system. I mean, it’s immensely unhealthy.

DB: Now Mark Steyn, we only have one minute left. What do you think about the campaign John McCain’s been running the past week or so?

MS: (laughing) Well, I think John McCain’s problem is that it’s very hard to be a permanent maverick. You know, he ran as the maverick against the establishment candidate in the year 2000. He’s finding it a lot harder to play Mr. Maverick when he’s defending the sort of Beltway Kabuki of this immigration bill eight years later. And you know, I do not think, I think it’s certainly possible that some guy can damage Mitt Romney, and take Mitt Romney down. But the guy who does that is not going to wind up getting the nomination of the Republican Party. So this may hurt Mitt Romney, but it’s not going to work out well for John McCain.

DB: Mark Steyn, it was such a pleasure talking to you. His website is www.steynonline.com.

End of interview.

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