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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn on the past and future of two public servants – Hillary Clinton and Jim DeMint

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HH: We begin this hour with Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. I hope you’re in New Hampshire, and I hope it’s snowing, Mark Steyn.

MS: I’m in New Hampshire, and it is a little touch, a few flurries here.

HH: A little bit of Christmas. All of the Christmas cheer you need is at the major megastore clearance sale, so go over there. Mark, I want to begin with this observation. There are tanks in front of the presidential palace in Egypt to protect the Muslim Brotherhood president. And Syria is loading sarin gas canisters onto their bombers. Yet Hillary is being touted by the New Yorker as the inevitable presidential candidate and successor to Barack Obama in 2016. She’s the secretary of state that presided over this fiasco.

MS: Yeah, you know, and she’s the one who chose to basically bestow the United States’ blessing on Mohammed Morsi twenty minutes before he decided to take on more dictatorial powers than Mubarak had. I mean, he basically waited for her plane to clear Egyptian air space, and then declared himself the new pharaoh. The United State has not been serious and has not been credible in the Middle East on Hillary’s watch. And in essence, what happened in Benghazi is basically U.S. policy writ large. In Benghazi, the United States had all the technological advantages. It could watch what was happening in real time, it had planes and Special Forces an hour away. It had everything going for it except any kind of understanding of what was going on. And as a result, Hillary Clinton and the President, and everybody back in Washington, sat there and watched as those people attacked the Benghazi consulate and killed American diplomats. And that image of the helpless superpower being a spectator in events is actually the story of what’s happened in the Arab spring. The United States is a spectator in events, and ultimately a spectator in its own fate.

HH: Do you expect that will in any way hinder her assumed succession to Barack Obama that the New Yorker’s all over this week?

MS: I would be very surprised. You know, I think one of the problems was in 2008 that Hillary Clinton lacked the novelty value. If the problem, the abiding problem of the Republican nomination process is that they always nominate the guy who’s turn it is, something of the opposite applies in the Democratic system. They do like novelty there, and I would be surprised if Hillary Clinton’s claim to the throne withstands the next four years.

HH: Well you know, it’s interesting, I had written in my notes that the presidency has become a reality show, and they’re already casting the new edition of it in the aftermath of Obama. And what you’ve just said is consistent with that, but you’re saying at 69, she’s just worn out her welcome with the American public.

MS: Yeah, I think so. I don’t want to be ungallant about a lady, but I do honestly think that in four years time, they will be looking for something else. In some ways, I think we’re in uncharted waters here. I think there are a couple of things that could happen. Things might go very badly for the Unites States, and people will want something entirely different, and preferably not a Democrat in four years time. But you know, if Obama is as lucky as he’s been the last four years, in two years time, I wouldn’t be surprised to see murmurs start arising about repealing whatever the amendment is that limits the guy to two terms. I seriously would think a move to, you’re a Constitutional lawyer, Hugh, what number amendment is that again?

HH: I think it’s the 22nd, but it won’t work. I mean, there’s no way we would repeal the two term limit. I think it’s number [22], but I…

MS: It’s racist if you even object to repeal of it.

HH: (laughing) Tell me, Mark, forget four years time. In four days time the Republicans need something. What do you make of the Republican Party at this juncture?

MS: Well, given the fact that they are not the ruling party, I mean, just to go all foreigner and Westminster on you, they effectively serve as the opposition here. And I think therefore, it would be better for them simply to make a statement about who they are and what they believe. And let me tell you what I think is wrong with all this fiscal cliff business. It’s that there are expiree dates built into things like the Bush tax cuts, to the alternative minimum tax patches, to the Medicare reimbursement alternative deferment, or whatever the hell it’s called. And there’s something basically wrong about the way we staggered through the 21st Century setting tax rates for two years, eighteen months, alternative minimum tax patches that hold up for 36 months. It would be time for them simply to say we’re going to, for the Republican House to pass all the Bush tax cuts in perpetuity. If those are the right tax rates in 2003, they’re the right tax rates in 2008, and the right tax rates in 2014. And it’s not a healthy sign in a free society, and it’s certainly not good for the economy to put basically expiree dates on things as basic to your economic planning as tax rates.

HH: Yeah, when they’re rushing forward all these special dividends, Mark Steyn, it’s a testament to the craziness of how we are proceeding with economic policy right now, that major corporations like Wal-Mart and Costco are rushing forward massive dividend payouts, because they can’t count on stability in the tax system. It’s simply terrible decision making. By the way, it’s the 22nd Amendment. 25th is presidential succession, 22nd is the two term limit. So it’s the 22nd Amendment that’s got the bulls-eye on it in your world.

MS: Right.

HH: Now I’ve got to ask you, Jim DeMint walked out of the United States Senate today to become the president of the Heritage Foundation. He’s a great man, he’s written some good books. He’s a good, great conservative. Nevertheless, the ranks are withered by one of those people who simply have the courage to say no when you’ve got to say no.

MS: Yeah, and what I liked about Jim DeMint, and I really liked this about him, is that he was philosophically and genuinely a small government guy. I mean, I’ve said before that I think one of the unattractive things about the Republican Party is that too often they’re content to be in office rather than in power. And the Senate is that particular problem supersized. And I would, I regret his departure from the Senate, because I think he thought seriously about shrinking the size of government, and not doing these kind of six month, twelve month, eighteen month patches that have so bedeviled America, and which I think actually are, over the long term, are telling us that there is something dramatically wrong with the system. And as influential as he may be outside the Senate, I think there’s something sad in the fact that a guy like this cannot make a career in elective politics at the highest level. I mean, and I say that as something, you know, you’re in the punditry business, I’m in the punditry business. And people occasionally come up to you and propose crazy things like running for public office. And you understand there’s a difference between commenting on events and actually being there in Washington shaping events.

HH: And living that awful life.

MS: I wish Jim DeMint was there.

HH: Right, and living what is an awful life. And he’s a great Christian man. I just don’t think he wants, he just doesn’t need what that requires. And so may be do well. But Mark Steyn, Nikki Haley now faces a choice, governor of South Carolina. And I’d never presume to know the ins and outs of a particular state’s politics when I don’t live there. And a lot of people want Tim Scott appointed in there, and Gowdy’s down there, Trey Gowdy, lots of great people. I don’t presume, I don’t know the ins and outs, but generally speaking, what kind of advice, you don’t often get to appoint a United States Senator. When Pete Wilson got to do it in, I think 1992…

MS: Right.

HH: He appointed John Seymour, who was quickly wiped out. He was a friend of Pete’s, nice guy, completely nice guy, utterly memorableless, whatever that word is. No one remembers John Seymour. He was blown away like dust. What would your advice be to Nikki Haley about choosing anyone she wants to go to the United States Senate?

MS: Yeah, I wouldn’t presume to dictate the politics of the state either, Hugh, and I think what would be nice is in a sense if she honors the results of the election and picks someone who is compatible with the retiring Senator, and in a sense preserves that legacy. I don’t think it’s appropriate, in a way, to change course in that sense. But I certainly wouldn’t presume to advise her on the, you know, here my home state, and I’m very happy with one of my Senators, but I know too well about New Hampshire politics that you think people are the obvious contenders…

HH: Boy, we’re both miserable failures…

MS: They never are.

HH: We’re failing at punditry. I got asked today what my opinion was. What do I know about South Carolina politics? I don’t know anything about who she should appoint for Senate, and you’re doing the same thing.

MS: I know, well, but you know, because in the end, the way it will be is somebody will be in favor of this character, and somebody will favor that character. And the logic of it will not be clear to any of us who are not in South Carolina. As I said the logic of New Hampshire politics isn’t clear to me. But if you’re sitting down in a smoke-filled room in Concord, it all makes perfect sense. And I’m happy to respect those smoke-filled rooms.

HH: Mark Steyn from, Columnist To the World, thank you, Mark.

End of interview.


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