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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Mark Steyn on the tragedy in Minnesota, and the Democrats’ problem with the surge working.

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DP: This is Generalissimo Duane filling for Hugh Hewitt for just a couple of minutes while we reestablish connection to the Heritage Foundation where Hugh is at in Washington, D.C. But the show always goes on, and at this point on a Thursday afternoon, we are joined as usually are when we are lucky by Columnist To The World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of his work at Mark, good afternoon. We will have Hugh on in just a second. We are actually reestablishing connection as we speak. But I just wanted to start out by asking you about your reflections on the horrible tragedy that we’re learning about in Minneapolis.

MS: Well, you know, I think it’s a sad fact of life that this is something one is expected to have an opinion on. I remember when the tsunami struck, I was astonished within 48 hours at getting kind of hate mail from people who were complaining that I hadn’t taken a political position on the tsunami yet. And something similar, I think, has happened with this Minneapolis bridge, where everyone kind of jumps in and starts making generalizations either about it’s because we’re spending so much money in Iraq and Afghanistan that we’re not spending enough money on American infrastructure and all the rest of it. It’s way too early for that kind of thing. What has happened is a horrible tragedy. There are lots of places in the world where bridges collapse not routinely, but it’s not unexpected. It is rare in America, which I think testifies to the general sturdiness of American infrastructure. And when it does happen, I think the important thing is to mourn and sympathize with those who’ve been genuinely bereaved and those who are still waiting for news. This kind of rush to politicize everything, I think, is kind of sick and a little decadent, to be honest.

DP: It really is. There is going to be plenty of time down the road to discuss what happened, implications, all that stuff. But for right now, they’re people.

MS: Yes.

DP: You’ve got to deal with the human aspect of this.

MS: Yes, and I think, you know, I mean, there might well be lessons we can learn, but the fact of the matter is that every time an earthquake strikes America, there was one in Southern California a couple of years ago, and I think about the week before, and actually a smaller earthquake had struck a town in Iran. The one in Iran, which was lower on the Richter scale, destroyed that town. It reduced it to rubble. The one…it killed huge numbers of people. The one in Southern California…

DP: Right.

MS: …did not do that. And I think on the whole, this country has an incredible infrastructure, and things are built to a…

DP: Well, we’ve lost Mark Steyn.

– – –

DP: Mark, can you hear me?

MS: Yes, I can, Duane.

DP: I have no idea what happened, apologize for that, you just kind of went away for a second. I didn’t mean to interrupt you.

MS: No, no, no. I was just really making a simple point that I think common decency requires us to put some of the hyper-politicization on hold. You know, the idea that this is Bush’s fault, or the Governor’s fault, or any of this kind of stuff is just idiotic and insulting to the dead.

DP: Absolutely. Now prayers will be continued for the families, and for all those involved in the relief effort there. We will also be joined after the break by James Lileks, by the way, who will have a lot of things to say about that. Now Mark, interesting development today, I don’t know if you had a chance to hear about it, but Judge Leslie Southwick, a 5th Circuit Court Appellate nominee that President Bush has tried a couple of times to get onto the Court was actually up in the Senate Judiciary Committee today, and he was actually voted out of committee to the floor, because Dianne Feinstein actually voted with the Republicans and kind of went against the Democratic spin that he’s some sort of racist.

MS: Yes, I know, and I think that tells you, in effect, that it is just spin, because if there was really any evidence that he was any kind of racist, Senator Feinstein would not have done that. So I think she recognized that what was going on here was a political game, and at some point, she just tired of it. You know, this is one of those issues which for the Democratic Party is really zero tolerance. If you are a genuine racist, they’re not going to vote to approve you on this. And because genuine racists in American public life are few and far between now, I mean, we’re talking forty years after the whole civil rights thing, you know, even the Democratic Party’s Ku Klux Klan member, former Ku Klux Klan member Robert C. Byrd…

DP: Right.

MS: …is getting up there in years. So generally speaking, the chances of a guy, people in their 60’s and 50’s and younger being racist is pretty small. And so what you get is people being demonized as phony racists most of the time, and I think it speaks well for Dianne Feinstein that she just kind of, for whatever reason, she just kind of got bored with the game, and decided to drop it.

DP: Exactly, and it should be fun to watch after the summer break, after the August recess, Senator McConnell, being in the minority, can do all sorts of maneuvers now that he’s been reported to the floor, and have all sorts of fun with Harry Reid to get him a vote. It should be fun to watch. Before we run out of time, I want to turn to the war a little bit. As you know, Bush met with a lot of people in talk radio, and by all accounts, he was very animated, he was very motivated to see this thing through, and we were able to talk to John Burns from the New York Times, and he had lots of good things to say about the surge. Do you think that there may be a tide turning a little bit in the media about how the surge is going?

MS: Well you know, I think it’s easy for us to lapse into fatalism. Fatalism is the curse of much of the Arab world, that if you look at, if you talk to people there, they often think that everything is preordained. And a lot of our discussion on the war takes place like that, that whether or not it was a good decision to go to war in March of 2003, the idea that its somehow got a pre-designated ending, and America can do nothing about that, is completely idiotic. America can change…

DP: We just lost Mark Steyn again. I think we are having severe phone problems here today.

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DP: We are joined once again by Mark Steyn. Mark, I don’t know what’s going on with the phones, but you’re back.

MS: I don’t know, I don’t know what it is. I think it’s…we’re talking about infrastructure, the infrastructure of the telephone lines between me and you in California obviously need some work.

DP: I understand. You…

MS: I was just talking about on the war that I think all wars start off, you start badly, you learn your plan isn’t right, you adapt the plan, and how swiftly you adapt the plan is really the difference between victory and defeat.

DP: Absolutely. Where do you think the Democrats are at this point? I mean, do you think that they’re in a position, especially in the Senate, where they kind of have to begrudgingly give Petraeus until the September report?

MS: Well I think politically, they’re over-invested in defeat, and I think it’s just grossly irresponsible, because the fact of the matter is there’s a real country called Iraq, thousands of miles away, where 25 million people live, and what is at issue there is that the future of those 25 million people, and the future of American credibility in the world. And if you weigh that against you know, whether this or that piece of news is good news for the Democratic Party politically in Washington, I know which I think is the real issue, and I know which I think is the peripheral issue, and I think the Democrats just need to grow up about this. You know, you can save the arguments for the history book. But when you’re in the war, the best thing to do is just get on with it and win it, and not think that this can be portrayed as Bush’s war. It’s America’s war. And it will be a defeat if it’s lost, not for Bush, but for the United States of America.

DP: Well, speaking of Democrats that need to grow up, thirty seconds, Mark Steyn, Barack Obama wants to go in and invade Pakistan?

MS: Yeah, well I think that’s just, you know, the Democrats are always in favor of the war you’re not fighting. If someone was to say, oh, the 3rd Infantry Division go in tomorrow, he’d be hailing that as the new quagmire. The fact of the matter is that the Pakistani tribal lands are incredibly difficult areas. The idea that you could send either huge numbers of American troops or even special forces in there to operate, I think, is completely, I think is completely idiotic. It would cause…Pakistan has 120 million people who by and large are hostile to the United States. Getting them dancing up and down in the streets shouting death to the Great Satan is not a good idea.

DP: I agree with you. Mark Steyn, thanks as always. You can read Mark at

End of interview.


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