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Mark Steyn on two bad performances – Barack Obama and the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

HH: I’m joined as I am on most Thursdays when we are lucky by Mark Steyn, Columnist to the World. You can read all of Mark’s writings at And you can also go to to get the latest on the Canadian controversy which we’ll be covering a little bit later. Mark, good Thursday to you.

MS: Happy Thursday to you, too, Hugh.

HH: I would like to start by playing a two minute clip from last night’s debate which I think is very significant, and then Hillary’s response. It’s the William Ayers question being posed of Senator Obama by George Stephanopoulos. Here it is:

GS: There is a gentleman named William Ayers. He was part of the Weather Underground in the 1970’s. They bombed the Pentagon, the Capitol, and other buildings. He’s never apologized for that, and in fact, on 9/11, he was quoted in the New York times saying I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough. An early organizing meeting for your state senate campaign was held at his house, and your campaign has said you are friendly. Can you explain that relationship for the voters, and explain to Democrats why it won’t be a problem?

BO: George, but this is an example of what I’m talking about. This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who’s a professor of English in Chicago, who I know, and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He is not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis. And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts forty years ago when I was eight years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn’t make much sense, George. The fact is, is that I’m also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who during his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions. Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn’s statements? Because I certainly don’t agree with those, either. So this kind of game, in which anybody who I know, regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, is somehow their ideas could be attributed to me, I think the American people are smarter than that. They’re not going to suggest somehow that that is reflective of my views, because it obviously isn’t.

HH: Hillary Clinton then responded. Cut number 14:

HRC: I think that is a fair general statement, but I also believe that Senator Obama served on a board with Mr. Ayers for a period of time, the Wood Foundation, which was a paid directorship position. And if I’m not mistaken, that relationship with Mr. Ayers on this board continued after 9/11, after his reported comments, which were deeply hurtful to people in New York, and I would hope to every American, because they were published on 9/11. And he said that he was just sorry they hadn’t done more. And what they did was set bombs. And in some instances, people died. So it is, you know, I think it is again an issue that people will be asking about, and I have no doubt, I know Senator Obama’s a good man, and I respect him greatly, but I think that this is an issue that certainly the Republicans will be raising.

HH: That’s enough. But now Mark Steyn, the Ayers connection is going to be a very interesting aspect. What did you make of that exchange?

MS: Yeah, for a start, I think it’s hilarious that the lefty commentators are now denouncing George Stephanopoulos as some kind of Karl Rove plant for asking this. And one accepts that Hillary Rodham Clinton has to go through the motions of saying oh, well, you know, certainly the Republicans are going to make a lot of play out of this. No, it isn’t. This is for the Democrats. The fact is, it’s entirely legitimate. Senator Obama is a man of no accomplishments, a man of no accomplishments other than getting elected to the United States Senate, and before that, to the Illinois State Senate. He’s done nothing, he has a wafer-thin legislative record, he wrote an autobiography about nothing. So when you have such a man running for president, all you can tell about him are who he has chosen to spend his life with. He’s chosen to spend his life with this kind of yuppy play terrorist who led the Weather Underground, and the neo-segregationist, racist, ranter like Jeremiah Wright. That’s really all we know about Barack Obama, and it’s entirely legitimate to ask him about it.

HH: On February the 22nd, Ben Smith of Politico wrote an introduction to a story on the Obama-Ayers relationship. It begins this way. In 1995, State Senator Alice Palmer introduced her chosen successor, Barack Obama, to a few of the district’s influential liberals at the home of two well-known figures on the local left, William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. And then they gave them a couple of hundred bucks, and they served on the board together for three years. And they’ve served on a couple of panels together. Obviously, it’s not a bosom friend, at least we can’t conclude that yet. But would you be unsettled, Mark Steyn, if you turned out to have a terrorist on the board with you? And he is a terrorist. I mean, he wasn’t a very good terrorist. He only managed to kill three of his own friends in the famed Greenwich Village bomb. But he was a terrorist. Does it matter?

MS: No, and you know, and in a strange way, I feel there’s something worse about a kind of inept, pretend, wannabe terrorist running around the United States than real hardcore terrorists, such as you know, one has in a lot of other places in the world. But I’ll tell you this, I wouldn’t serve on a board with a terrorist. And I accept the fact that sometimes, real political accommodations oblige you to shake hands, if you’re a political figure, with somebody who’s done some pretty unpleasant things in his past. You know, there was a lot of post-Second World War national movements that used terrorism as a means to the end. You know, Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress and all the rest of it. The Northern Irish settlement saw Gerry Adams, who I personally find a loathsome and disgusting figure become a minister of the Crown. But the fact is, this guy has nothing going for him other than the fact that he has a cache on the left. This fellow, Ayers, represents nothing other than the sort of chic, the kind of frisson of glamour that some rinky-dink terrorist figure commands among a certain segment of the left. And for Barack Obama to belong to that segment, I think, speaks very poorly for him.

HH: He was also challenged on the Jeremiah Wright wiggle that he’s been attempting, that he’s denounced it. Let’s just play a little bit of that, Cut number 6:

CG: Why did it take you more than a year to publicly disassociate yourself from his remarks?

BO: Well, understand that I hadn’t seen the remarks that ended up playing on YouTube repeatedly. This was a set of remarks that had been quoted in Rolling Stone magazine, and we looked at them, and I though that they would be a distraction, since he had just put them forward. But Charlie, I’ve discussed this extensively. Reverend Wright is somebody who made controversial statements, but they were not of the sort that we saw that offended so many Americans. And that’s why I specifically said that these comments were objectionable, they’re not comments that I believe in, and I disassociated myself with them.

HH: Now he has not discussed these extensively, Mark Steyn. He’s been allowed to prance away from the significance of the specifics of how many times did you go to Church, what did you hear when he said it, what did you think, what do you agree with the Reverend Wright on. Do you think he gets that pass until November?

MS: No, I don’t at all, and I think he ought to be grateful, in fact, for George Stephanopoulos and Co. bringing it up now, so he’ll have enough time between now and November to stand in front of the mirror the night before the debate and practice some better answers. He’s completely unpersuasive on this. You know, to say I wasn’t there for AIDS Conspiracy Sunday, I wasn’t there for God damn America Sunday, I wasn’t there for the post-9/11 America Had It Coming memorial service, when was he there?

HH: He was there for the White Man’s Greed Runs A World In Need. That was the first sermon he attended.

MS: Yes, exactly. And does he subscribe to that? Also, what you notice about these sermons is when Jeremiah Wright is doing his God damn America thing, people are whoopin’ and cheerin’ and a-hootin’ and a-hollerin’. There’s supposedly 8,000 members of that Church, and almost all of them seem to go bananas, and whoop it up, and give him ovations to the ceiling every time he does that stuff. So it’s hard to believe that Barack Obama could be under any illusions about the broad philosophy of this man. If he was under any illusions about it, it means Barack Obama is an idiot, and he’s too stupid to be put in a room to negotiate with President Ahmadinejad, because he spent 20 years with this guy, and he seems to be stunned. You know, he’s shocked, shocked like Claude Raines in Casablanca to find out what Jeremiah Wright is really like. That doesn’t speak…either way, it’s a loser for him. It speaks very poorly for his judgment either way.

HH: Any doubt in your mind that if he is nominated, he will be the hardest left candidate ever nominated for the presidency in the United States?

MS: I think that’s true. I think it’s clear, it’s becoming clear that essentially, the Obama campaign is a con job. When he says there is no red America, and there’s no blue America, you know, and he wants to be a uniter, I generally subscribe to that. I have lots of friends among Democrats. I know that Vermont is not as liberal and loopily progressive as it’s often painted, and that New Hampshire is not as libertarian as it’s often painted.

– – – –

HH: So Mark Steyn, before we move on to, give me your summary of what you think the debate did to the campaign last night, if anything.

MS: Well, I think it was a great campaign commercial for John McCain. I think it also underscored the rationale for Hillary Clinton hanging in the race. I don’t understand why the Clinton campaign has been quite so incompetent. But clearly, she has concluded that if Obama is the nominee, it will be a disaster for the Democratic Party. She has to somehow convince enough of these superdelegates to stick with her, and the way to do that is to have more performances like that one by Obama last night, because the interesting thing is he wasn’t just incompetent on his pathetic personal connections. He was also ludicrously incompetent on the policy issues, including a point where he conceded that reducing capital gains tax actually increases the revenues to the government. But he’s still in favor of taxing the rich just out of what he calls fairness. In other words, even if it gives him less money for his social programs, he believes in clobbering the rich just out of, you know, old-fashioned class warfare. His policy discussions were incompetent, his policy answers were incompetent, his personal life answers were incompetent, and worst of all, there was no glamour. The glamour was gone. He just seemed a sad husk of a guy up there on stage. This was very important for Hillary Clinton.

HH: It’s very interesting, Mark Steyn, that the associations that have dominated the last three weeks, the Tony Rezko association, the man who helped Barack Obama buy his house, who’s now on trial, and the Aochi party that Barack Obama can’t remember going to, the very shady Iraqi billionaire…

MS: Right.

HH: Then we’ve got Jeremiah Wright, now we’ve got William Ayers. Thus far, there’s no sign of weakening in his numbers. Is that just because the Democratic Party has closed its eyes and put its hands over its ears, and see no Obama, hear no Obama, except the Obama in our head?

MS: I think there is an element of that among the Democratic base. You were talking about whether he’s the far left candidate. I think he certainly is, in terms of some of those associations. Most Americans do not associate with terrorists. Most Americans do not associate with a guy like Reverend Jeremiah Wright. In fact, an awful lot of Democrats, you know, including plenty in my own state, are gun owners. And they don’t want to be told that they’re just embittered losers and all the rest of it. I think this is going to be, I think essentially, we’re going to have an election, if he’s the nominee, we’re going to have an election not fought over wobbly red states like Florida. We’re going to have an election fought on blue turf, because Obama is going to have to try and defend the states that John Kerry won in 2004. He’s not going to be swiping a lot of red states from the Republicans.

HH: Now let’s switch over to Tell us about

MS: Well, this is not a website that was started by me, but it was started by someone who was outraged when I think at that point, three human rights commissions in Canada came after me and Macleans Magazine for having the impertinence to publish an excerpt from my book, America Alone. This guy started this website, It’s become a terrific website. It’s a great clearinghouse for free speech issues, not just free speech issues in Canada, but some related matters around the world, such as dear old Brigitte Bardot, who’s currently in court in France for the umpteenth time, defending her rights to express her views on Muslim food slaughtering practices, animal slaughtering practices. So it’s become a kind of terrific clearinghouse for the cause of free speech. I’ve become more a free speech absolutist. I think Western democracies are insane when they attempt to criminalize opinion. Nothing good comes from that. And this guy has been absolutely terrific in getting together a really good 24/7 operation.

HH: Well, we’re pleased to plug him. But tell me, have the Canadians tried to figure out a way out of this looming fiasco that they’ve got themselves in, in the attempt to put Mark Steyn in the dock?

MS: Yes. When started in early December, it looked like it was just going to be me, my former publisher Ezra Levant, and a few right wing blowhards in there. And a lot of the liberal guys said look, Canadians are not going to take these two right wing blowhards mouthing off about free speech. They’ll get bored with it very quickly, and this is going to go nowhere. Instead, what’s happened is that the Canadian Association of Journalists, Pen Canada, which is the association of unreadable Canadian novelists…

HH: (laughing)

MS: The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and other classic members of the liberal establishment, including Canada’s biggest read, and highly liberal newspaper, the Toronto Star, which is like the New York Times but without the jokes…

HH: (laughing)

MS: The Toronto Star basically came out with a pro-Steyn, pro-free speech position. These…we have changed the terms of the debate in Canada, and these awful human rights police, thought police enforcers are discovering that they have fewer and fewer friends by the week.

HH: So what are they going to…have they tried to get you to accept a slap on the wrist? Are they trying…what, do they just give up and go home? Or are they actually going to go through with this, because they’ll get hammered.

MS: Well, the first trial is still due to start on June 2nd. We are now, I think they’re in a situation now where it’s a question of whether they simply lose this one provision, the hate messages provision of the Canadian Human Rights code, or whether they lose the whole Magilla, because right now, they’re free of friends. They absolutely have got no support. The problem is, people have said well, why haven’t the Conservative Party come out and defended Steyn and Levant? The interesting thing is how silent all the left wing parties are when it comes to these human rights commissions. And if you’re not on the payroll, or were formerly on the payroll, nobody else is speaking up for these guys.

HH: Will someone move the deletion of their authority? Is that expected to make its way to the parliamentary floor?

MS: I think that is highly likely, that Section 13 of the Human Rights Code will now be eliminated. That’s what the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, that’s what Pen Canada, that’s what all these liberal groups, none of whom…I mean, there’s a standard template here. They all say, they all tend to say yes, Steyn is obnoxious, offensive, alarmist, incorrect, absurd, loathsome, repellent, but…and I don’t mind how many adjectives they use before they get to the but, because I’ll take that. I’m happy to be criticized by free-born citizens. But the idea of some hack bureaucrat saying you can’t say this and you can’t say that, should be repellent to any free society.

HH: It is, and I just hope they continue on over the cliff, Thelma and Louise style, until they hit the rock bottom, and they lose their authority. That would be a huge win, Mark Steyn. That would be a very good thing.

MS: Yeah, and I think we’re getting there. Barbara Hall, the head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, somebody described her press release which she put out denouncing me, effectively saying she wasn’t going to go ahead with the trial, but convicting me of Islamo-phobia anyway, in other words, a sort of Kim Jung Il thing, we don’t need a trial, we’ll just cut to the verdict, somebody said that was in effect the human rights commission’s suicide note. And I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

HH: We can only hope. Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, and

End of interview.

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