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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn on the debt crisis, and how unserious Washington is to solve it

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HH: We begin today as we do on Thursdays when we are very blessed with Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read all that Mark writes at Hello, Mark.

MS: Hey, great to be with you, Hugh.

HH: Now Mark, in the Empire State Building after hours, they drill on the ceiling. So if you hear that in the back, it’s just simply because they’re working here. Does that ever happen to you when you sit behind the golden EIB microphone for Rush, that they drill? It’s like when the boss is away, they do the repair work?

MS: Well no, I think it’s like old, failed guest hosts who kind of got walled up in the East Wing trying to break their way out. It was like the Count of Monte Cristo, something like that. That’s fine, Hugh. It’s like some previous Salem hosts who were unexpectedly terminated, and just trying to bust out of there.

HH: Oh goodness, it could be Pete Franklin, one of the great broadcast legends. Mark, today, just minutes ago, the House GOP announced they’re delaying the vote on Boehner 2.0, indicating it’ll be later tonight, but they may be having some trouble rounding this up. Your assessment?

MS: Well, realistically, I don’t think this makes any difference, because I think the world is looking for about $4 trillion dollars of real cuts. And what we’re being offered, depending on how you score it, is about $7 billion dollars of cuts from fiscal year 2012. That’s, what, about the United States government borrows every thirty hours. So in other words, we have spent a month negotiating, in real terms, a cut that represents what the United States government borrows every 30 hours. I think this is just inadequate to the scale of the challenge that faces the United States. It distresses me. I have no time for the European Union whatsoever, as you know. I’ve got no use for the Euro. I think it’s a blight and a pestilence, and to hell with all of them. But whatever one says about Portugal and Greece and Ireland, they’re not talking about theoretical cuts in 2017, 2018, 2020. They’re cutting now. And that’s what’s so totally depressing and demoralizing about this, the refusal to recognize that we need to cut now.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, the only good news of the day is the Pew poll, which shows the President’s popularity with independents plummeting through the floor. So I do take some courage that perhaps the country is onto the fact that, a few kind words in defense of Speaker Boehner, he’s kind of negotiating with a dummy who doesn’t understand this stuff.

MS: Yes, and I think…I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the independents, because I think that in 2008, they thought they could afford their kind of moral narcissism. They voted for Obama to feel good about themselves, and they ignored a lot of evidence as to what kind of guy he is, and the world in which he’d been marinated his entire adult life. And they realized, I think, like a lot of people, that they actually couldn’t afford the consequences of that vote. And I think the reality of that is still staring them in the face. But you know, we need to go some ways beyond that, because otherwise, we’re looking at incredibly grim scenarios, not in 2050, 2070 and these other absurd CBO projections. We’re looking at grim scenarios kicking in around 2015, 2017, 2018.

HH: And potentially, runs on banks before then. Mark Steyn, when you take a look at Harry Reid, putting aside our shared ideology, and you just look at him making his statements, what’s your reaction about the level of competence and ability there?

MS: Well, I don’t think he has any great comprehension of what we’re facing. I mean, when his famous defense of the subsidy for the cowboy poetry festival in Elko, Nevada, I think is a very good example of what is wrong with the assumptions of these things. Even if you thought that cowboy poetry needed subsidizing, and it doesn’t, actually, because to be a cowboy poet, all you need is a pencil and the back of an envelope, and then you get together with three or four other cowboy poets, and you hire a room to do your cowboy poetry in. Even if you thought it required government subsidy, though, the idea that it requires government subsidy in Nevada from thousands of miles away in Washington is absurd. And Harry Reid is this, the idea that the fate of the hyperpower has fallen into the hands of this grubby, little, third-rate ward healer who seems to me to have no comprehension whatsoever about the scale of the crisis facing the United States is sad. And yet, he’s the guy. Steve Wynn, Mr. Vegas, Steve Wynn was saying oh well, you know, he thinks Obama is a disaster for the economy, and he’s a Democrat, and he votes for Harry Reid. Well, Steve Wynn shouldn’t be voting for Harry Reid. The United States deserves better. 100 people get to be U.S. Senators. And in a country of 300 million, one of those people shouldn’t be Harry Reid.

HH: And I think maybe part of the market’s unease is the general recognition, not specific to the debt ceiling, that the folks running the show in Washington just have a competence gap that is massive, that they are not paying attention. John Campbell keeps coming back and saying on this program, $14 trillion dollars is such a staggering number that the markets are beginning to assess it vis-à-vis the people who are trying to tackle it, and they’re walking away justifiably panicked.

MS: Yeah, and I think that’s the way to look at it. You know, we often look at it in sort of debt ratio/debt to GDP ratio, and you can make arguments, depending on how you run the numbers, that the United States isn’t as bad as Greece or Ireland or whatever, if you look at it in per capita numbers. But simply in hard dollar numbers, the actual hard dollar figure that is at stake here is now so high, so huge, and then when you listen to guys with the $15 trillion dollar debt, spending a month negotiating $7 billion dollars of cuts, you have to figure out these guys really aren’t, these guys, paying off this debt is not really factored into these guys’ thinking. And at a certain point, that becomes a consequence of the world.

HH: Mark Steyn, I want to switch now to terrorism, because this afternoon, a soldier was arrested who was said to have been plotting a new attack on Fort Hood. His name is Jason Abdo Nassar, and he’s quite clearly troubled. Now we, thank God, got him before he killed people. But the nut from Norway wreaked mayhem on everyone and was immediately branded as a Christian radical. Do you think that there will be any kind of similar assessment of this man’s motives as opposed to the Norwegian terrorist’s motives?

MS: No, I think what’s interesting is the urge to label this guy. You say Christian. I mean, as I understand it…

HH: He’s not, but that’s how they labeled him. Yeah.

MS: Yeah, he hasn’t attended church since he was a teenager. I mean, in what sense is he Christian? He’s not an observant Christian. If you look at the Muslim rituals Mohammed Atta performed before he went to work on September 11th, Mohammed Atta took his Islam seriously. This guy isn’t a serious Christian. He’s a devoted New York Times reader, and he’s an extremely well-read guy. I think here, I think the issue here is the urge to pass off someone who is very much a lone, crazy figure as somehow emblematic of the entire Islamo-skeptic movement in Europe. And I think that is the complete opposite of what the New York Times with every Muslim. All jihad is local to the mainstream media. You know, the fact that this guy has been caught outside Fort Hood, he’s got nothing to do with anything that might be going on in Yemen, or might be going on in Somalia, or might be going on in Waziristan. And it’s the complete opposite to the approach they took to this Norway guy.

HH: That is, thank you, you finally got it. All jihad is local, and all McVeigh-Norwegian nutter mass mayhem is part of the vast right wing conspiracy.

MS: Yeah, that’s right. And the idea, the urge, the urge to make this guy representative of broader trends, which the New York Times and CNN and all the rest of them leapt into with gusto, it’s the exact opposite of the approach they take with Islam. Either one is right, or the other is right. But there seems to be a certain sort of inconsistent approach to the thing.

HH: All right, last question, Libya. The rebels lost one of their commanders, Abdel Fatah Younes, if I’m pronouncing it correctly, and that war passed from our front pages again. And it appears as though Gaddafi is going to endure this as long as he has to endure it. And what’s your prediction of what turns out here in Libya, Mark Steyn?

MS: Well, I think this is like hugely embarrassing for the entire Western world, that basically, NATO, basically the United States, Britain and France are saying look, we’re bored with this Libya thing. Please, Gaddafi, step down so we can all go home. And he knows they’re not serious. Gaddafi is an ugly guy. I would have been happy to drop a bomb on him after the Lockerbie business. I would be happy to have dropped a bomb on him after he killed a British policewoman from the Libyan embassy a few years before that. But the reality is that he’s now the guy who faced down the United States, United Kingdom and France. And these guys, these so-called rebels cannot win. If you strike at the king, you have to kill the king. NATO struck at the king, and can’t be bothered killing him. And that will do incredible damage to U.S. credibility.

HH: Mark Steyn, thank you for joining us,, America, for all of Mark’s work.

End of interview.


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