Today’s Interview with mark Steyn:
HH: Mark, how are you?
MS: Good to have you back, Hugh.
HH: Mark, I passed through London’s Heathrow on the way back to the United States on Sunday, picked up a bunch of papers, and read there about an eccentric turf writer who was, you know, pounding on Tony Blair for not attending Robin Cook’s funeral. And I thought, only in Great Britain. Do you know anything about this turf writer?
MS: No. Who was it?
HH: He dresses in purple, and he has outlandish hair, and…
MS: Oh, yes. Yeah, he’s the guy…he’s on the TV. He’s got huge Victorian sideburns halfway down his face.
MS: And I think pince-nez, as they called them in the Agatha Christie books, those funny little spectacles that hang off the end of your nose.
HH: Exactly. Well, what is it about British politics that eccentrics get to speak at the funerals of former foriegn secretaries?
MS: Well, you know, the fact of the matter is that there’s an element of public life in Britain now, which really, I guess, started with the Princess of Wales. When people die before their time, and Robin Cook, who was a very undistinguished foreign secretary in some ways, died before his time, suddenly people said oh, he was the greatest parliamentarian of his generation, towering collossus, best prime minister we never had, and all this kind of thing. The fact is, what people like about him is he quit Tony Blair’s cabinet in protest against the Iraq War. He was fine with the Kosovo War. That’s a war that I thought was a pathetic little war, where we didn’t have the guts to actually go in there and fight, but we just did this kind of long-range bombing, and pretty haphazard. We hit the Chinese Embassy, and commuter trains, and all kinds of things. Robin Cook was cool with that war. That was part of his moral foreign policy. But liberating twenty five million Muslims from a psychotic dictator and his even worse sons wasn’t good enough for him. And that’s basically why people are praising Robin Cook today, because he quit Tony Blair’s cabinet over Iraq.
HH: Well, they are not praising his counterpart in foreign policy pursuits, Schroder in Germany. It looks like he’s going to be turned out in the next month. Do you agree with that?
MS: Yes, I think so. And I think the problem is that in Germany, that is a society…it’s basically…it’s a G-7 economy, but it’s a strictly honorific member of the G-7 these days, because when you look at the demographic disaster that’s looming for them, they’re actually falling…they’ve got falling population. They’ve got this sclerotic welfare state, where basically, if you want to be a…journalists have tenure in Germany. If you get taken on at 26 or 28 by some newspaper somewhere, you’re basically there for life. And that’s an example of how that entire economy just does not function efficiently now. That’s why all the great German car manufacturers prefer to manufacture their cars over in Eastern Europe, in the freed states of communism now, in the Chzech Republic and Slovakia and places, because their economy just doesn’t function anymore.
HH: Do the Christian democrats hold out any realistic hope of reforming the German economy? Or are they just, you know, socialism lite?
MS: Well, I think you’re in one of these situations where the people aren’t quite ready to swallow the bitter medicine. So if you say to them, are you prepared to take…to have fewer paid vacations per year, you know, these paid holidays that seem extraordinary to Americans, where you basically gets weeks and weeks off each year, paid for by your employer, they’re not yet ready to give those up. They’re not yet ready to give up the cradle to grave welfare. And the question is, how much of this bitter medicine are they prepared to swallow? Or do they want to push it even further to breaking point, because they’ve got terrible, terrible difficulties ahead of them. You know, East German towns have been emptying, depopulating so fast that the sewer systems don’t run properly. They’ve had to spend money…you know, when people talk about spending money on infrastructure, we normally think it means building bigger and more efficient…bigger, modern sewer systems, that can cope with more. Here they’re actually having to dig them up and make the pipes smaller to enable them to flow. I mean, this isn’t…you know, we worry about sustainable growth. Europe has to cope with sustainable lack of growth.
HH: Yes. I saw that in Russia, in my trip there. It’s an economy in collapse. Speaking of the breaking point, you wrote a Telegraph column on Monday about now Kofi’s brother is involved. Claudia Rosset has a new column today on Oil for Food for Enron. Is there a breaking point? It’s almost unbelievable how deep the corruption at the U.N. is, and yet they blithely move along.
MS: I think the United Nations is a disgusting organization. But the trouble is, that a lot of people, when you talk to them about it, they can’t get beyond an image they had as a child of the U.N., of a kind of…when you say U.N. to them, they think of Audrey Hepburn presiding over a UNICEF gala of children of many lands, and that kind of fuzzy, blurry, feel good, multicultural, we are the world image, is so strong, that if you say to them, these people are stealing billions, they’re stealing money that was supposed to go for Iraq babies, and effectively the U.N. just set up a scam organization for Saddam. That’s all Oil for Food was. Basically, the international community set up a means by which Saddam could scam the world. And it’s a disgusting organization. And I think actually when you look at things like the tsunami, that if something bad happens in the world, you’re much better saying well, the United States Navy has got some stuff down there, and the Royal Australian Navy can get something to it. Let’s leave it to them, and they can work it out. You don’t really need the U.N.
HH: Well, I’m amazed that the public is not in outrage over the Annan troica, and how they’re getting rich off of this thing. Let’s turn to Crawford, Texas. I have not said much about Cindy Sheehan in the couple of days that I was back on Monday and Tuesday, because I kind of give her the complete pardon, because she’s lost her son. But the media vampires surrounding her, Mark Steyn, are utterly without ethic.
MS: Well, I agree with you. I don’t even like talking about this, because I think this woman has become unhinged by the terrible thing that has happened to her. We now learn that her mother apparently has had a stroke. She and her husband are divorcing. The family is split up, and you know, she says…her argument is that liberating Iraq, liberating Afghanistan…she opposes the Afghan War, that none of this is worth any American’s life. And yet I think you have to ask the other question. Is this insane Bush hatred, and the opportunism that the left has used her for, is that worth destroying her marriage and her family over? I think this woman will look back at these few weeks she’s been in the public limelight, in a couple of years time, and feel ashamed of herself, and feel ashamed at the way she allowed herself to be used, and her son’s death to be dishonored in this way. I think it’s a terrible, terrible thing, but you know, in the end, this war is about bigger things than the death of any individual.
HH: Absolutely. I want to switch over now to the nomination of John Roberts, because in the Wall Street Journal today, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Washington Post, comes word that the liberals are pushing the Senate Democrats to go to war on this. And led by the four Clousseaus on the Judiciary Committee, Leahy, Kennedy, Biden and Durbin, they’re going to. Is this going to break in their hands, Mark, and hurt them as a party?
MS: I think so, and I think actually, this ties into the Cindy Sheehan thing. You know, when you look at the way her marriage has split up, they’re both Democrats, her husband and her. But her husband, as one understands, is a moderate Democrat who doesn’t want to go the full anti-war route. And the trouble for the Democratic Party is that it’s being pushed now…the only energy in the party is from the extreme left. And they’re extreme whether it’s on the war, they’re extreme on judicial nominations, they’re extreme over this stupid abortion ad they ran for a week and then had to withdraw. And the moderate side of the Democratic Party faces a choice between finding the will to restrain them, or basically folding. And at the moment, when you look at the way Pat Leahy and Durbin and the rest of them are behaving, they show more signs of just rolling over for these fellows.
HH: Last story. CBS moving to find a new look for news is the headline in the New York Times today, Mark Steyn. It’s a lengthy kind of inside baseball of what’s ABC going to do, and what CBS is going to do. I compared it to Edsel versus Studebaker, and was upbraided by Studebaker club members for insulting Studebaker. Does it really matter? Does this stuff have any impact at all?
MS: No. I think the days when you had one distinguished man in late middle age, who pontificated for half and hour, and basically told you what you should think about what had happened in the world that day, I think those days are over. And it doesn’t really matter whether you hire another distinguished man in late middle age, or a couple of sock puppets to do it. Those days are over. And Americans are more diverse sources of news, and they’re also more engaged in finding out for themselves. That’s the great thing about a lot of what’s happened on the internet. You can actually read the Pakistani papers before you go to bed each night. That’s the new world.
HH: And you can get the British papers in about forty-five minutes. Mark Steyn, always a pleasure.
End of interview.