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Mark Steyn on the filibuster, and McCain/Graham’s Reaction To It

Thursday, March 7, 2013

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HH: A lot to do today, but I begin this hour with Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. You can read all that Mark writes at www.steynonline.com. Mark, I wonder, were you at dinner with the President last night with John McCain and Lindsey Graham?

MS: No, my invitation didn’t make the cut, unfortunately. So I was not there.

HH: Well then, you had a chance to watch the Rand Paul filibuster, what I’m calling La-La-Palooza. What did you make of Rand Paul yesterday?

MS: Yeah,  well actually, that’s why your first question caught me by surprise, because I thought you were going to do a 13 hour opening monologue, and I would just sit back and enjoy it. I’m a bit out of it. When they said did you see the fellow at the Capitol who spoke for 13 hours, I still thought they meant that guy who did the poem at Obama’s inaugural address, and I was a little out of the loop. I thought it was terrific stuff. It wasn’t the usual filibuster thing where you just read out your laundry list. He actually stayed on point. If you dropped in and out of it, he was talking coherently, he was making an argument you could follow. I think he’s done himself a power of good, and I think on balance, he’s done the Republican party a lot of good, too, certainly a lot more good than McCain and Lindsey Graham in their snippy reposts to him.

HH: We’re going to come to that. I do say there was one missed opportunity. If he’d had a Chik-Fil-A delivered to him, many heads would have exploded on the floor of the Senate in the course of that.

MS: That’s right. I would have enjoyed that. I see you’ve tweeted that he should have been reading out bits of After America.

HH: Yes.

MS: I mean, I don’t think we’re quite on board in our general worldview, Rand Paul and I, but I’m closer to him, I would say on the drone question, I’m actually rather closer to him than I am to McCain and Graham these days.

HH: Oh, sure, there is an easy, he offered to cease the filibuster upon the acceptance of a sense of the Senate resolution that we would not use drones against Americans on American soil when they pose no imminent threat. And Dick Durbin objected to that.

MS: Right, right, I know. Well you know, I’m about 20 minutes south of the border in New Hampshire, and one of Janet Napolitano’s great innovations is that she has dispatched unmanned drones to the Canadian border. And I know your listeners are kind of probably relaxed about that, because you think it’s like to keep all the Canadians out. I don’t think so. I think it’s to keep you guys in when the whole powder keg goes up here. So I don’t view this kind of breeziness about the dronification of the home front with equanimity.

HH: Well, I think it was an important debate on many levels, including the specific Constitutional issue of that, but also because all of a sudden, we saw Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Mike Lee, and some supporting oldsters, like Mitch McConnell among others, show up on the floor and demonstrate some rhetorical chops, Mark Steyn, making arguments that our side has just wanted to be made for a very long time.

MS: Yeah, you know, it’s always better, I mean, for a start, just to back up a bit here, one thing I miss, not from the Westminster tradition, is the sense of real parliamentary occasions. You know, if you’ve ever sat through a question period in London or in Canberra, in the Australian parliament, it’s a great, rollicking parliamentary occasion. And there’s none of that over here. You generally just have a senator delivering remarks that have been written for him by a staffer to an empty chamber. And that’s, whatever that is, that is not a parliament, and that is not a parliamentary debate. And I think it would have been great if actually the Republican party, that the Senate caucus on mass had been there for the Rand Paul filibuster, and turned it into a real parliamentary occasion.

HH: Well, what happened, interestingly, in the course of that, is sort of a bat signal went up to all the lefties in town at Politico and BuzzFeed and the rest of the Palace Guard White House media, and they began to rush online to denigrate Rand Paul when they realized they were getting slaughtered on the issue and on the optics.

MS: Yeah, and again, it’s a funny thing that as I said, there’s something has gotten badly stilted and artificial about Congressional procedures. But somehow, Rand Paul took this antiquated and cobwebbed device, and he made it a social media event. And people were following it in live time on Twitter and all the rest of it, and I, as I said, Rand Paul is different from his father. I heard him speak in New Hampshire on his father’s behalf just before the New Hampshire primary last year. And he’s rather different from his father, and in some ways, I think rather more effective. I think he’s got a terrific future ahead of him.

HH: And Jennifer Rubin put it very well in the Washington Post today with the leftists confounded and saying hypocrites, you were in favor of using drones abroad but not at home. And you know, it’s a perfectly legitimate distinction to say yes, go kill bad guys in the remote wilds of Pakistan and Yemen, but beg off in America. Here’s Lindsey Graham, though, a couple of quotes from the senior Senator from South Carolina, cut number four:

LG: Senator Paul’s got a lot of passion, and that’s a great thing. You can have all the passion you want. This is an important issue. We should be talking about it. I welcome a reasoned discussion. But to my Republican colleagues, I don’t remember any of you coming down here suggesting that President Bush was going to kill anybody with a drone. And I don’t even remember…

HH: Go ahead, Mark.

MS: Yeah, no, I’d like to speak to that, because I’m not, you said the people who are at ease with the use of drones in Waziristan and Yemen, and not at home, I’m not actually all that comfortable about the expansion of their use overseas. I think in a psychological sense, it fits into al Qaeda and the broader Muslims’ worldview of the West, which is that we are technologically advanced, but that we are deficient in a kind of moral fiber, and that the sort of antiseptic drone strike that hovers above your Waziristani village, and then takes out the bad guy, but also takes out 27 members of the wedding party across the street, that somehow that actually, I’m not persuaded that that is, that the reliance on drones is in the long term strategic interest of the United States.

HH: But there are two arguments.

MS: And so I don’t think there’s any hypocrisy here. I think it’s a problematic, the reliance on drones is problematic for the long term goals of the United States in this struggle.

HH: And that’s a strategic argument about means to an end. A Constitutional argument, though, says look, the authorization for the use of military force in 2001 covers the deployment of drones in Waziristan and Yemen. It does not, as Rand Paul put out, no one would have voted for it had it said you know, line three, by the way, we can hit Colorado when we want. And so there’s a Constitutional issue on top of the policy issue, neither of which require hypocrisy. Nevertheless, Lindsey Graham went on Fox this morning and said this, cut number six:

LG: The drone program he has utilized overseas, I think, has made us safer. This idea that we’re going to use a drone to attack an American citizen in a café in America is ridiculous, and I think the American people need to understand the threat we face.

HH: Now you know, Mark Steyn, about 15 years ago, people would have said the idea of the Supreme Court ordaining same sex marriage was ridiculous, and why don’t we, why do we need to pass a marriage amendment. In fact, John McCain said that, and I think Lindsey Graham said that. And of course, now it’s not ridiculous. And if you go back, things change. Things change all the time. What is the downside to articulating limits on executive power?

MS: Oh, absolutely, and I think changes on that front have happened very fast in the last decade. I’ve been, again to address the hypocrisy thing, I’ve been consistent on this. I was opposed to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, I don’t think the bureaucratization of the national security state was a good thing, and I was opposed to the Transport Security Administration. You can go back and look at what I was writing in the fall of 2001 and 2002, and I’m completely consistent on that. And I think there is a legitimate concern about the paramilitarization of domestic law enforcement, that you don’t have to be some wacky libertarian who believes in no government whatsoever to have concerns about…there should be, the idea, and this is, I think again, where Lindsey Graham and John McCain are not helpful to the Republican party cause, because the sort of blank check national security approval that they want to give for this, I think, is actually repugnant to a large number of people. It also doesn’t seem to square with John McCain’s solicitude, for example, towards those held at Guantanamo, and those subjected to waterboarding. And I certainly think that the care he demonstrates for the handful of people, foreign nationals who have been waterboarded, ought to at least extend to his compatriots as well.

HH: And with 30 second, Mark Steyn, it does seem to me as well that Lindsey Graham and Senator McCain are simply clueless about where their party is, and what is being, the communications revolution.

MS: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right on that. You know, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are mercurial figures, but on this side, you know, Rand Paul demonstrated how to be effective, how to use the new media, and how to do yourself and the party a lot of good.

HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, www.steynonline.com, America, for all that Mark writes, and I wish they had read America Alone from the floor last night.

End of interview.

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