Mark Steyn On The Passing Of Margaret Thatcher, And Why The Republican Party Needs Thatcherism Now
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HH: Beginning the Thursday hour as I always like to do with Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all that Mark writes at www.steynonline.com. Mark, a great, great world figure passed this week, Margaret Thatcher. What was your reaction upon hearing the news?
MS: Well, it wasn’t exactly unexpected, but it’s one of those, so at the actual moment, I was fine. And as the days have gone by, I’ve been reminded of great moments and great speeches and all the rest of it, I’ve got kind of sadder and sadder about it as the week went on. She was a great object lesson to all of us in the difference that individuals can make, not just people who take the focus groups and observe the polls, but people who say right now, nobody agrees with me. Next week, ten people will agree with me, and in two years’ time on election day, 51% of the people will agree with me, and you drag them, you’re not afraid to be in a minority of one if you’re secure and confident and know that people will move towards you.
HH: Mark Steyn, I want to play a bit of audio of Margaret Thatcher when she is being assailed in the House of Commons over the European Union. She simply does not want to join the EU if it means merging currencies and giving up the British pound and going into the Euro. And so as she is standing there, here is what transpires?
MT: Yes, the commission does want to increase its powers. Yes, it is a non-elected body, and I do not want the commission to increase its powers against this House. So of course, we are differing. Of course, the chairman, or the president of the commission, Mr. Delors, said at a press conference the other day, that he wanted a European parliament to be the democratic body of the community. He wanted the commission to be the executive, and he wanted the council of ministers to be the senate. No, no, no.
HH: Mark Steyn, that’s my favorite of all of her many things. That’s the one I like the most.
MS: Well, and sadly, it did for her, because the eunuchs of the Tory Party rose up and committed and act of matricide, and shame on them. The point to remember about Mrs. Thatcher is that she wasn’t just at war with the Labour Party. For her entire political career, she was at war with two-thirds of her own parliamentary party. That’s to say, and this may sound familiar to Republicans listening to this, in the 1970s, the Conservative Party thought that it could aspire to nothing higher than to offer to manage the big government socialist state marginally more efficiently than the Labour Party could. And she took the view that that wasn’t enough. And she was right on Europe. She was right on a lot of things. And the great thing about that moment, although it did for her, is that it showed her as someone who never shirked an argument. It was one of the slightly scary things about Mrs. Thatcher, is if you said, you could say a lot of things to her that she just thought was boilerplate and just sort of passed over her head. But occasionally, if you said something to her that she disagreed with, but that kind of tickled her fancy, she’d sit you down, and you’d better be prepared to down at least a few scotches, because she’d want to flesh that out with you until two or three in the morning. And it was, and that’s the other great quality about her, I think. She understood that the Cold War would be won not just through stalemating the Soviet Union in this or that ramshackle, third world basket case, but actually defeating it on the war of ideas. She loved ideas, and I wish there were leaders like that around today on either side of the Atlantic.
HH: Now Mark Steyn, that takes me to what will be the most important debate of 2013, and it’s got nothing to do with guns. It’s got everything to do with immigration. And it’s got to do with one particular aspect of it. They have leaked a lot of the details of the gang of eight’s proposal, and there is not in there an absolute commitment to building hundreds of miles of double fencing with access roads. I think they ought to just say build 1,100. That’s half the border. Build half of the border with double fencing with access roads, or nobody gets to come, period. When you’re done with that, come see us. Something like that. There’s nothing in it, and I feel like I’m going to end up having to say, although I really want to pass a bill that deals with this issue, no, no, no, no. I just can’t go with anything that doesn’t really secure the border. Do you…go ahead.
MS: Yeah, I mean, you’re right. What I find odd about this is that most estimates show that half the illegal immigrations who are here have come here since September 11th, 2001. That’s to say they broke into a country that is supposedly on code orange alert. Well, which is it? It’s preposterous. You can’t have code orange alert and octogenarian nuns having their underwear patted down at the airport, but at the same time, millions of people can walk across the border. On the one hand, you have this strange reluctance to enforce the southern border, and on the other hand, you have incredibly disruptive new procedures, including unmanned drones hovering over the Canadian border, for no particular reason. And again, that’s, Mrs. Thatcher understood the bureaucracy very well, and she understood the urge to topper in the bureaucracy, that inertia is the default setting of government. But we have gone beyond that here, where in fact the United States Congress is now like a kind of Potemkin parliament passing pseudo ersatz legislation that very often means nothing, and ever worse, it often means the opposite of what it actually purports to stand for.
HH: And so I go to this border fence again and again as a stand in for many things. It is to me the marker of whether or not the Senate is serious about border control, just in the same way that the medical device tax is a marker of whether the House of Representatives is serious about tax reform. But I’m beginning to wonder, Mark Steyn, if the Republicans ever intend to do anything. They have leverage right now on the immigration bill. Right now, they can get what they want. Do you think they will get genuine border security as represented by genuine, serious sort of fencing that the Israelis do when they want to keep Palestinian terrorists out, and when the Americans do when they want to protect their bases in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world?
MS: Yeah, well, and again, just to compare it with the northern border, where there’ll be family farms that have spread across the border for generations, and they’re quite happy to dig a huge trench through there and take all kinds of security measures. But I think you’re right here. The function of an opposition party is not merely to get elected. An opposition party, whatever its ideology, is supposed to stand for something. And even though it’s in a minority, by arguing and making its case in a principled and effective way, it can move the debate in its direction. So in this particular case, given that in fact in this case, the overwhelming majority of the American people are on the side of the Republican Party on this issue, it oughtn’t to be that difficult to drag the Democratic rulers in Washington to somewhere closer to the position of the American people. That’s what the Republicans should be doing.
HH: Now tonight in Los Angeles, Mark Steyn, I’m going to be addressing the Republican National Committee about a number of things. I’m going to make the pitch that they move the convention up to June, and that they move it to Cleveland permanently, but at least begin in 2016. But mostly, I’m going to talk about their report, Growth And Opportunity, and it’s www.growthop.gop.com. Have you had a chance to read this, yet?
MS: Yeah, I have had the chance to read it, and again, just because I’ve been thinking about Mrs. Thatcher the last few days, I would urge people to look at the 1979 Conservative Party manifesto. The big idea in there, it addressed the dire economic straits that Britain was in, but it was also angled very much at the ordinary British citizen. The big idea in there was selling, there were two big ideas. One was privatizing nationalized industries, and the other was selling off council houses, which effectively is nationalized housing stock, to the tenants. And so it was a fantastic combination of addressing the big picture, but also relating it directly to how people, the man in the street lives. And that’s absolutely what the Republicans need right now. They need two big Thatcher sized ideas to go to the people with. And it’s not a question of getting a better turnout operation. It’s not a question of devoting, you know, having a few more consultants advise you to buy a bit more advertising in this particular Ohio county. That’s a strategy for losers. This kind of stuff, tinkering with the operation, is not enough. I believe that the Republican Party lost in November because it did not articulate fresh ideas related to how the American family lives in the 21st Century.
HH: And 30 seconds, Mark Steyn, I though her finest hours after the terrorists in the IRA tried to kill her, she showed up on time the next day. What do you think was Margaret Thatcher’s finest hour?
MS: Well, I think her finest hour internationally undoubtedly was going to war 8,000 miles away to save a few barren rocks in the South Atlantic that nobody cared about. And she demonstrated after Vietnam, after the fall of the Shah, after the helicopters in the desert, after the loss to the Soviets of Afghanistan, that the West still had some fight in it. That was critical in winning the Cold War.
HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, www.steynonline.com, America, for all things Mark.
End of interview.