Mark Steyn on the Hagel nomination
HH: Happy Valentine’s Day. What better way to celebrate than with American heartthrob, Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. Hello, Mark.
MS: Oh, you say the sweetest things, Hugh. My heart is going out to you. I may burst into My Funny Valentine just for you.
HH: Well, I’m wondering, since you did the Christmas CD, don’t you think that if you went into the studio between now and next year, a Valentine’s CD from Mark Steyn would knock the socks off of America?
MS: (laughing) It would knock something off. But it, and it would probably knock off what’s left of the music industry in the United States. But I don’t honestly, there used to be a joke in the 1950s when LPs started, long-playing albums, that it was hard to find an album without My Funny Valentine on it. I think the other joke was that night club owners used to have it in the contract that the singer wasn’t allowed to sing My Funny Valentine. So I’m not sure I’ve got anything, I don’t think the world needs my version of My Funny Valentine just yet.
HH: Well, we may have to call in our objection and demand it. I’m going to take the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt out tonight to hear Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley sing. I don’t really know them very well. I hope they’re good.
MS: Yeah, they’re a husband and wife couple. They were big, they’re basically Broadway singers. Marin Mazzie was the lead in a Stephen Sondheim show in the early 90s, in which she very strikingly appeared nude, which you don’t often get in…
HH: I don’t think that’s happening tonight in Orange County. That may not be allowed, actually, in Orange County.
MS: No, well I’d be surprised. But it is unusual in musicals, because I’ve thought about it, and I don’t remember the nude scene in Annie, and I don’t remember the nude scene in Oklahoma! But this show had one.
HH: Well, I’m encouraging to stay singing, because later in the program, Jonathan Last is joining me, and he’s got a brand new book out called What To Expect When No One’s Expecting. And I describe it to people, if you merge Mark Steyn and David Brooks, and impose a Supreme Court page limit on it, that’s what you end up with. But he’s on your turf, on the demographic doomsaying turf.
MS: Well, you know, the thing about demography, I wrote, my book, America Alone, is basically a book about demography. It’s actually very hard to have a bestselling book about demography.
MS: And I still don’t quite know how I did it, but it always fascinates me, because people are interested in demography at the micro level. Like if you talk to political consultants, they’ll say oh, well, the reason that this or that candidate has problems in the 12th Congressional district is because there’s been a decline of blue collar industry, and an influx of middle class soccer moms and all the rest of it. And they talk about demography in the micro sense like that. But they rarely address it in the big picture sense, which is that the basic reason why the Western world is broke and going out of business is that the baby boomers set up welfare programs that require traditional birthrates to support them. And if you have an upside down pyramid, upside down family tree, you basically are going out of business. In Greece, 100 grandparents have 42 grandchildren. So it’s not just that Greece is broke, but it’s a more basic question than that. Is it likely that the debts run up by 100 people can be paid off by 42 people? And I think we all know the answer to that.
HH: And the answer is obviously no, there is a great default, a demographic default coming. Last covers that next hour. I’ve got to ask you before I turn to the very serious stuff, I’m watching the cruise ship on CNN right now, and I’m thinking that Generalissimo sails on July 27 with Ed Morrissey on the Zuiderdam, which I think is Dutch for doomed and damned. And I’m wondering, are you getting back on a cruise ship anytime soon?
MS: I do like the whole cruise ship thing. I go on the National Review cruises every once in a while, and I went on the 50th anniversary National Review, which for some reason was around the British Isles. And we were visiting some of the least salubrious cruise destinations, you know, Liverpool, Belfast, no disrespect to the denizens of those fine metropoli. But we stopped in Dublin, and my editor at the Irish Times, I had tea my editor at the Irish Times, and he said who’s on this cruise ship, then? And I said oh, there’s William F. Buckley, and I said there’s Jonah Goldberg, and there’s me, and there’s all these National Review guys. And he said he didn’t understand why al Qaeda wasted time trying to blow up little rinky-dink things here and there. Why don’t they just sink one of these magazine cruise ships?
HH: Take out all of conservatism at once. You know, I’ve done that around the British Isles cruise. I don’t think I ever saw anything. The sky was overcast and it rained most of the time. It was not the place to go. Duane’s going to Alaska. That makes sense. All right, Mark, here’s the deal. Benedict has the job that everyone who’s Catholic really likes him doing, but he fears he’s going to lose the ability to do it, so he’s resigning. Chuck Hagel doesn’t have a job, and no one wants him to do it except the President, and nobody thinks he can do it. But he’s hanging in there. Why is this even close? Why did it get close to cloture today, because a bunch of Republicans voted to close debate. And it sounds like he’s going to get it next week. I’m actually going to get spun up about this, but I’ll let you get spun up first.
MS: Yeah, look, I think it’s clear that there is no need for Chuck Hagel to be secretary of Defense, and there are several very good arguments as to why he shouldn’t be, including a lot of this stuff about him not disclosing who’s paid him to give speeches, and the kind of stuff he said in those speeches, which I think are legitimate questions, actually, for the guy in charge of 40% of the planet’s military budget. You would like to know who he’s been taking money of in the years between quitting so-called public life and returning to it. And I think it’s also clear that whatever one cares to, whatever position one takes about it, he has a peculiar obsession with Jews. And I think these are all compelling reasons why he should not be…I mean, as I said, whether that’s good or bad, in a dangerous world, he’s obsessed with a little strip of turf barely wider than my New Hampshire township at its narrowest point. So I don’t, I wish Chuck Hagel, for some reason, you compared Chuck Hagel to Pope Benedict. On the whole, I’m in favor of popes staying in their jobs in their executive positions, and I’m in favor of senators not getting to hold executive positions.
HH: I’m in favor of clarity as to abilities, and Benedict has them and he’s afraid of losing them. And Hagel doesn’t have them, but no one seems to want to tell him that. I am most incensed, though, with a bunch of Republican senators who allegedly belong to the party of national security, Mark Steyn. Mike Johanns of Nebraska was on the floor of the Senate today introducing, or yesterday, introducing a bunch of bills to rein in EPA, and we’ve got to say the message very loud and clear, EPA is overreaching, overbearing, overstepping boundaries. Well Mark Steyn, EPA could get it wrong for a hundred years, and they have, and they won’t kill the country. But if the secretary of Defense gets it wrong on one day, a lot of people die. I do not understand a Republican voting for him.
MS: Yeah, and you know what’s interesting about it, particularly national security Republicans like John McCain, what was fascinating about that disastrous performance of Hagel’s the other week is that we have been led to believe that he was somehow being brought in by Obama for a new Obama era Defense Department that would be slimmed down, that would be dramatically reformed. As Obama likes to say in that tedious line of his, it’s not about big government, it’s about smarter government. And Hagel was being hired because he had a dramatically different vision of the role of the United States military, and he was going to preside over a smaller but smarter Defense Department. There was no evidence of that in that abysmal performance. There was instead the evidence of your classic, brain dead American senator staggering woozily from one half-inarticulate answer to the next one. And the idea of John McCain and all these people who claim to be serious about national security said oh, let’s waive the guy through, because we’re all pals in the world’s greatest deliberative body, and we stick by our fellow senators. It’s absolutely, it’s one reason why America’s institutions give off the stronger and stronger whiff of just being entirely incapable of course correction and fixing what’s going wrong with this country.
HH: Agreed, and Senators McCain, Graham, Johanns, Susan Collins of Maine, Thad Cochrane of Mississippi, and not surprisingly, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who continues to pay back Republicans for voting in the primary in Alaska and not denouncing the Alaska Republican electorate. Those six on whom this depends, wow. But you mentioned tedious, we have a minute left, and you brought to mind the President’s state of the union, Mark Steyn. People on the networks were saying it was really good. That was a dull, flat, boring speech about which no one can remember anything three days later.
MS: No, no, and I mean, it’s an absurd, I mean, people go on about, conservatives in America often go on about the neo-monarchical aspects of it. They say it’s getting too much like the speech from the throne in Ottawa or London or wherever. But a speech from the throne is a legislative program that’s actually going to happen, which is why the Queen always reads it out in a dull, expressionless monotone. This isn’t. This is just the sort of laundry list of microtested mini-steps, none of which, most of which are never going to enacted into law unless he’s serious about the executive orders bit, which by the way, I thought was Constitutionally obnoxious in a state of the union.
HH: Of course it was. Now Mark Steyn, don’t forget that Valentine’s CD a year from now. We’re hoping. www.steynonline.com for all of your Steyn needs.
End of interview.