DB: As we do every Thursday when I am sitting in, we begin with a segment of all-accent radio, as we are joined by Columnist to the World, Mark Steyn, of www.steynonline.com. Hello, Mark, how are you today?
MS: Hey, good to talk to you, Dean. I don’t know what you mean about this accent thing. You don’t have an accent, and I certainly don’t, so…
DB: No, actually, some people say you talk funny. I don’t know what they’re saying, but…
MS: (laughing) I’m glad to say that in my part of Northern New England, I’m surrounded by people who talk like you, Dean, who…you’d sound comparatively…oh, the Massachusetts bit gives it away, but up in New Hampshire, we would still recognize it as reasonably local.
DB: Now Mark, we have some hard news to get into. Yesterday, as you probably know, Hugh had General Petraeus on for about an hour, in a very interesting interview. And yet your good friend, and your former colleague at the Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan, said that Petraeus’ appearance on this show pretty much announced him as a GOP tool. What are your thoughts on that?
MS: Yes, I think that’s a ridiculous thing to argue. I mean, you go where you think you can make the case and get a fair hearing. And the thing about Hugh is yes, he makes no bones about his particular political predisposition, but he does give people a fair hearing, he’s been tough on Republicans with whom he disagrees, and the idea that somehow this is a show that Hugh should be persona non grata for reasonable and serious people, I think is disgusting. I mean, I don’t quite understand why Andrew Sullivan is joining that crowd of, you know, John Edwards-type ninnies who say oh, no, we can’t go on this, and we can’t go on that. And to put Hugh Hewitt in that category, I think, is ridiculous.
DB: Well, the other thing is that one of the things General Petraeus was saying yesterday is that he wants to do as much media as possible.
DB: And I haven’t heard any left wing media outlet, let’s say Keith Olbermann, or someone of that ilk, say I tried to get Petraeus, but I couldn’t.
MS: No, and in fact, they’re very uninterested in hearing about specific military operations, how they’re going, how well they’re going, what the mood of the troops is, and what the strategic thinking at the Pentagon is, because in effect, they’ve decided their position on Iraq, and it’s impervious to anything that’s happening on the ground. So in that sense, that’s the reason General Petraeus may sit around waiting for invitations from certain shows, and he’s just not going to get them.
DB: Yeah, actually, that’s my thoughts exactly. Now Andrew’s friends at the New Republic have also made some news this week. They published a report from somebody purporting to be a soldier in Iraq, relating tales of the most atrocious behavior of American soldiers, but without any corroboration whatsoever. And what are your thoughts on that, Mark Steyn?
MS: Well, you know, I mean the fact of the matter is that any, in any army, there are people who behave badly. That is a fact. There were terrible atrocities committed in what we now think of as good wars, such as the Second World War. There were terrible atrocities committed in all wars. That is just the nature of war, that people are under huge stress. And in stressful situations, they will sometimes do things that they should not do. The question is when those things are discovered, are they rooted out and punished. And in Abu Ghraib, for example, although people like Andrew Sullivan think it was a big sort of media victory, in fact, the Pentagon was already investigating it, and instituting disciplinary procedures before it ever came out in the media. The fact of the matter is I think Andrew Sullivan and the New Republic reveal their fundamental immaturity on that. If this is a war worth supporting, it isn’t, it suddenly doesn’t change and become not worth supporting because a couple of lunatics do something crazy in some freaky jailhouse in Iraq. You’re demonstrating, when you argue that case, as Andrew Sullivan did, that you’re simply not morally serious. Look, there are strategic objectives in this war. You can agree with them or not agree with them. But Andrew Sullivan’s problem, for example, is that he’s always been a big emotional ninny on the war. A couple of days after September 11th, he was talking about, he was quoting W. H. Auden, the famous poem about September, 1939, and saying that this was the great cause of his generation now, Andrew Sullivan’s generation, and what an awesome privilege it was. That is a ridiculous emotional overinvestment in the moment, and it’s one reason why Andrew Sullivan has been all but useless on strategic clarity since. You simply can’t discuss this thing in those terms. It wasn’t an awesome privilege in September the 13th, and it isn’t a discarded, shabby banner now.
DB: Hey, Mark, if people are taking notes at home, I assume you’d want them to write down the word ninny and underline it three times.
MS: (laughing) Now, now, now, I’m not going…
DB: I mean, just because you…
MS: I’m not going to suggest text enhancements to people. If you want to use the italics key and the bold, that’s up to you. I’m not going to issue instructions on that.
DB: Individual decision, it’s where your opinion counts, that’s what we always say. Now Mark, Mark Steyn, don’t you find it interesting that two months before General Petraeus reports, they’ve apparently already turned on him, and already sought to discredit whatever he might say?
MS: Yes, and I think this is a real danger, in effect, that they’re saying, they’re trying to make it appear as if he is a partisan figure. And he is, in the sense that he supports the mission, and he wouldn’t be directing the mission if he did not support it. But the idea that therefore he’s some kind of political hack, I think is absurd. And I think this is also, again, the Washington perspective on this. You know, this is, if you’re in Iraq, this is a war that you have to fight as you see fit. And to put it in this Beltway perspective, in terms of how, which particular radio show you go on, or TV show, or how it’s going to play here or there, that’s not how he thinks about it. He’s got huge numbers of American servicemen and women under his command out there in Iraq, and the idea that simply because of, that this was is somehow a postmodern war that’s only being fought in the TV and radio studios of America, I think is the sign of just how the left has sort of flown the coop, that in effect, the spin, its own spin has become the reality, and real reality can’t impinge on it.
DB: Now Mark Steyn, what do you think of the narrative that we often see come forward, that the troops are the children, and we must save our children and bring them home. How does that strike you?
MS: Well, I think it’s immensely insulting. For a start, they’re actually a lot more mature than the left wing commentators shrieking about the children. I was behind a car with a bumper sticker the other day, and the bumper sticker said honor the dead, heal the wounded, end the war.
MS: You don’t honor the dead by basically making their death a worthless sacrifice, you don’t heal the wounded by saying this is yet another war that America lost because of the emotional mawkish exhibitionism of a lot of self-indulgent and desiccated twits back on the home front. This is not how soldiers think. They’re not children. They’re grown men, they’re doing a more grown up job than most of the people bleating back at home. And they deserve real support, not this kind of misplaced nursery teacher coddling that looks cute on a bumper sticker, but it utterly meaningless.
DB: Very well put. Mark Steyn, now you spent much of your spring and summer covering the Conrad Black trial. While you were in Spain, he was found guilty, and he’s apparently going to jail. What’s your reaction to that?
MS: Oh, well, I think that’s…you know, I’m the least anti-American non-American on the planet, but I think the federal justice system is a terrible system to witness close up. This is something that would not have been a criminal case in Canada, Britain, Australia, any advanced nation. And the idea of going to jail for 35 years for, in effect, business decisions, I think those things should be dealt within the boardroom, not in the courtroom. And Patrick Fitzgerald, who brought this case, he successfully colluded in the criminalization of politics in the Scooter Libby. And in this case, it’s about the criminalization of business. You’re undermining two of the key props of civilized society, capitalism and democracy, by thinking that every issue can be legalized. That’s the great fault in American society today.
DB: Yeah, and Mark Steyn, we’ve only got about another ten seconds, but one other piece of legal news. The Valerie Plame case was dismissed today. Any quick thoughts on that?
MS: Oh, yes. They’ll be back, because their fifteen minutes of fame is the longest fifteen minutes in history, and they’re not yet ready to get off the stage. I wish we could say we’d seen the last of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, but we haven’t.
DB: In a perfect world, Mark Steyn, that would be the case, but no, they will be with us, their celebrity will never burn out. Mark Steyn, thank you so much for joining us, always very interesting thoughts.
End of interview.