HH: It is the day that we are joined by Mark Steyn. We always enjoy that. All of his writing is available at www.steynonline.com. Mark, I’m wondering if you were as dispirited by the five year look backs at the invasion of Iraq as I was yesterday.
MS: Yes, I think it’s clear that Iraq has actually dropped off the media radar screen since the surge proved to be working. As far as the mainstream media are concerned, no news is good news. Good news is no news from Iraq. So if things are going well, they tend not to report it. And that is a problem for the Democratic Party and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. All you’d have to do is run the defeatism quotes of the Democrats together. But I think it’s true as well that generally speaking, America isn’t really taking enough credit for what it accomplished in Iraq. Iraq has come a long way in the last five years.
HH: Yeah, I spent the entire day on Tuesday talking with Robin Wright about her new book, Dreams And Shadows…
HH: And she’s an opponent of the Iraqi invasion and the results, but it struck me as just odd, given her despair over the inability to move any of these regimes toward democratic liberalism, and yet that’s exactly what we’ve done in Iraq, at although a very high cost in four thousand American lives, is relatively low compared to the costs of liberating other countries in other ages.
MS: Yes, and I think actually, as I argued at the time, I think in the months before the invasion of Iraq, the Middle East is a tough nut to crack. But if you’re going to find the point at which to try and crack it, Iraq was the one that made sense. And we saw certainly in the early days, the impact it had destroying the Baathist regime, in, for example, Jordan, where at one point, the Baathists were a minor electoral player in Jordanian politics. And in fact, even in a moderate Arab nation like Jordan, the spillover effect from what happened in Iraq, and from the possibilities in Iraq, actually improved the quality of Jordanian democracy. You know, the fact is that a superpower is not a superpower if it cannot influence events in the world. The Middle East exported its pathologies across the planet. That’s really what happened on September 11th. And so the only way you can reverse that is by fixing the problem at source, which was the point of going somewhere like Iraq.
HH: I also wonder, Mark Steyn, if the opponents of the Iraqi expedition did not just condemn our troops to greater opposition, but stall out the Syrian retreat, stall out the evolution in Iran, if we are to believe the NIE, and in many other ways, stall reform that was propelling forward, but they realized we wouldn’t have the staying power.
MS: Yes, I think you see that. I think if you look at Bashar Assad in Damascus, he was having a lot more sleepless nights in the spring of 2003 than he’s having now, because in the spring of 2003, he was seriously worried that he was going to be next in line, and he would have been relatively easy to knock off, relatively painlessly. But the fact is that in recent, as Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and others became invested in defeatism, he concluded that if he kept his nerve, he could kind of ride out American enthusiasm for the Bush doctrine. So in effect, as I said, he now sleeps easier than he did in the spring of 2003, and that’s a great pity.
HH: What do you make of John McCain’s remarks from the Middle East, and his tour of the Middle Eastern countries, now on to England and France?
MS: Well, you know, I think John McCain, this is what he would regard as his pre-presidential tour. And I think it’s interesting to me, I think that John McCain, in some respects, for kind of tribal reasons, because he’s been there and he knows what it’s like to be part of a tough, disciplined, courageous military force that’s let down by the squishes at home, that happened to him. So I think I have no problems with John McCain when it comes to seeing out the military end of this confrontation with radical Islam. I hope that on his visits to Europe, he starts to understand the bigger picture, of which the military confrontation is really a relatively small part. That’s to say the kind of broader cultural challenge presented by Islam, in Europe and elsewhere.
HH: Now let’s turn to American politics at home, because we’ve had three big stories – the Barack Obama explosion, Jeremiah Wright, the meltdown that followed in the speech, and then of course, Eliot Spitzer and Hillary Clinton’s exploitation of the former and absolute running from the latter. What’s to make of the week that’s just concluded, Mark Steyn?
MS: Well, I found the Obama speech very sad, because he was supposed to be the candidate of a post-racial politics. And in effect, I think his speech, one could argue, is explicitly racist in that it says, it essentially argues that Jeremiah Wright’s words do not have the meaning, the plain meaning that they would have if they were spoken in English to the broad mainstream of America. In other words, when Jeremiah Wright says that the United States government created AIDS for the purpose of killing black people, we are supposed to say that that doesn’t mean what it says, and that it’s just part of the different cultural discourse that for historical reasons, takes place in black America. I’m sorry, but that’s not good enough for me, because basically, it says we’re not going to judge men by the content of their character, we’re going to carry on, making excuses for the worst kind of people perpetrating hateful language that rebounds, for the most part, on the people he’s speaking to. He can talk, Jeremiah Wright can talk that drivel as much as he wants. The only people it impacts on are his black congregation. And I think that’s a tragedy, and I’m sorry to see a man like Senator Obama making excuses for it.
HH: Now given that he has, does it go away? Do Democrats rally to him? Because it’s clear that Hillary Clinton is going to try and steal this away from the popular vote winner and the delegate winner. I’m going to play some tape after the break of Tom Daschle and James Carville going at each other with hammers on the Situation Room today. She’s committed to winning. Can she pull this off now?
MS: Well, I think one thing the Clintons are good at doing is winning for themselves, regardless of the cost on everybody else. That’s essentially the lesson of impeachment. Bill Clinton saw off the threat to his own presidency, and to his own career, but at the price of enormous damage, I think, to his party. As I always say, I think the Clintons’ Democratic Party was great for the Clintons, and disastrous for the Democratic Party. They’re very good at winning for themselves, no matter what damage they inflict on their own party. And I think Hillary is certainly prepared to do that this time, and the Jeremiah Wright controversy, which a lot of Democrats, a lot of Democrats, are not comfortable with Afro-centric liberation theology and its apologists. And in an odd way, this benefits her more than it does Obama or Republicans, or anyone else.
HH: But will they, will the Democrats be willing to put the knife into Barack Obama, Mark Steyn? I can’t imagine how the young Obama people, and the African-Americans, will react to a selected, not elected primary.
MS: No, and I think that’s reasonable, and I think the Clintons, one assumes, are trying to devise a strategy whereas, in which the justification for, if you like stealing the nomination from him, is that if we don’t steal the nomination from him, these vile, racist Republicans will destroy him. And if you remember, Bill Shaheen, Governor Jeanne Shaheen’s husband in New Hampshire, when he basically, I forget what it was now, but the upshot was that you couldn’t nominate Barack Obama, because he had, he spent the 70’s out of his head on cocaine. And he said it’s not me saying that, but if we don’t elect Hillary, the Republicans will say that about him.
MS: And so we’re…what’s happening, I think, is that the right is being set up to take the blame for the destruction of Obama.
HH: Oh, you know, I don’t think they’re going to be able to sell that, but we’ll see. Now before we run out of time, your thoughts on the passing of Eliot Spitzer and the current scandal surrounding his successor?
MS: Well (laughing), you know something, I don’t claim to understand the dynamic in the Democratic Party at all, because after the former wife of the New Jersey governor, James McGreevey, came out and said how much…his career self-detonated in a gay sex scandal, and so she came out and was very sympathetic with Mrs. Spitzer. And then somebody came out in New Jersey who claimed to have had what they call in Fleet Street a three-way romp with the governor of New Jersey and his wife. At some point, it will be revealed, I think, that the present and previous governors of New York, and the former governor of New Jersey, and their respective wives, and $5,000 dollar an hour call girls, all had some six-way romp in gridlock in the Holland Tunnel at a certain point, because this is, there seems to be a weird kind of one-upmanship about this situation.
HH: Are we beginning to rival the British for their affairs of legendary proportions?
MS: Well, no, I think, actually, I speak as an expert in this field, and I think that for example, the British Conservative Party has sexual practices unknown to most other parts of the planet. So I think, you know, if it’s any consolation to the Democratic Party, they’ve got some way to reach the heights of inventiveness that the Tories have.
HH: Some catching up to do.
MS: But it’s refreshing to see them at least try to get back in the game and compete on this term.
HH: Happy Easter to you, Mark Steyn.
End of interview.