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Mark Steyn on what turned out to be a pretty good week for the Republic

Thursday, January 21, 2010

HH: What a day, and what a week. Today, Nancy Pelosi admits she can’t pass the Senate Obamacare bill, the United States Supreme Court struck and enormous blow for free speech, Air America goes bankrupt, and President Obama causes markets to plummet hundreds of points. This is an extraordinary day, and to discuss this and the week in whole, none other than Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. Hello, Mark, and a good Thursday to you.

MS: Yeah, good Thursday to you, too, Hugh.

HH: Let’s start with Nancy Pelosi admitting she cannot pass the Obamacare bill. How great a difficulty is Obamacare in now?

MS: Well, I think you have to figure that for the moment, it’s pretty much gone. And I think the realization here is that not every Democrat is prepared to lose his seat over, not every Democrat in a so-called moderate, purple district is prepared to lose his seat over this. And I think that’s presenting her with real difficulties. But we shouldn’t, you know, we shouldn’t delude ourselves. In the end, we have to kill the idea of this governmentalization of health care on principle. In other words, it’s not enough just to say well, we’ve got a 41st Senator now, so it’s gone away, that’s it. You have to defeat this idea with the American people as well.

HH: Here’s what Nancy Pelosi said earlier today, cut number 11:

NP: I don’t see the votes for it at this time. Now I mean, the members have been very clear in our caucus about the fact that they didn’t like it before it had the Nebraska provision and some of the other provisions that are unpalatable to them. But there is a recognition that there’s a foundation in that bill that is important. So one way or another, there are areas of agreement that we have, that will have to be addressed.

HH: At this time, Mark Steyn. That’s what she said.

MS: Yeah.

HH: It’s not dead, it’s sleeping.

MS: Yeah, that’s right. And you know, Tom Harkin gave the game away, I think, when he said that the Senate bill, which various members in the House don’t like, you pass the Senate bill, and it gets you to the public option, it gets you to government health care incrementally under the cover of darkness. And I think that’s what certain House members don’t want. They’d rather just have the public option up front and just go for it. But I think Tom Harkin is actually right here, that if they were smarter, House Democrats would actually take what they can get in the knowledge that the ratchet effect of big government will do the rest of the work.

HH: Now I’ve got to say, Mark, part of the reaction in Massachusetts was against arrogance and contempt on the part of elitists towards ordinary voters. And today, the Supreme Court hands down a decision, 5-4, saying corporations can spend money on campaigns. And Democrats are reacting like voters are stupid, and will be absolutely sucker-punched by this. Listen to Chuck Schumer today commenting on a Supreme Court decision upholding free speech. Cut number 13:

CS: It opens the floodgates and allows special interest money to overflow our elections and undermine our democracy. Today’s ruling, decided by the slimmest of majorities, guts our system of free and fair elections. The bottom line is this. The Supreme Court has just predetermined the winners of next November’s elections. It won’t be Republicans, it won’t be Democrats, it’ll be corporate America. Our system of governance, the best in the world, due to the ability of average citizens to participate and engage their elected officials without the belief that there are corrupting influences at play. But this opinion, if gone unchallenged, would permanently taint future elections. Allowing corporations to spend at will on elections, which is what the Court has just allowed, could have undue influence on elected officials. The money spent and the airtime purchased by deep-pocketed interests will dwarf the voice of average Americans. I have not seen a decision that more undermines campaign finance. And it’s probably one of the three or four decisions in the history of the Supreme Court that most undermines democracy. We will regret the day…

HH: Mark Steyn, you can tell from his anger that this really hurts the power that the unions had assembled. The McCain-Feingold special interest deal for the left is undone, and Chuck Schumer is angry.

MS: Yes, and you can tell the cold anger behind it. I hear this a lot in Canada. I hear it a lot in Europe where they do have strict control, and they’re far more comfortable with publicly financed elections. The trouble is, as those of us who have lived in those countries know, that when you have public financing of elections, and you restrain the ability of private parties to participate in them, you’re overlooking the fact that government and quasi-government bodies, and government-approved bodies such as public sector unions, are also players, and can have corrupting effects. And I would much rather have a total free speech zone as long as you know who is paying for the ad. I think anybody should be able to say what they want and buy the airtime they want as long as you know who, you have disclosure, and you know who’s paying for it. All the rest is just government regulation and government corruption of free and fair elections.

HH: Agreed 100%. Now Mark, do you expect that corporate America, or some portion of it, will in fact have the courage to defend democratic capitalism? Will they have the foresight necessary to go in there and start defending the system that produces the amazing wealth that allows us to save Haiti, that allows us to have freedom?

MS: Yes, and you actually make a good point there, that if you are, if you do regard yourself, as Obama claims to be, a citizen of the world, then what is it that makes the world a better place? It’s that if an earthquake strikes in Haiti, or a tsunami strikes in Sri Lanka, that there are certain people who have the wealth and the technological innovation, and the projection of power, to get there and help you. A lot of people can’t do that. You know, if you’re in all these nice European countries, they send a check. Well, that may be great six months, a year down the line. But when you’re dying now, and you need someone to come in and reconnect the water supply, you’ve got to get, you need dynamic societies, societies built on innovation and built on the private sector. And I’m very depressed to see that in the Heritage rankings on economic liberty, the United States under Obama this last year has actually slipped below not just Singapore and Ireland, but actually slipped below Canada this time.

HH: Wow. I find people like these amazing doctors and professionals on Team Rubicon, I’ve linked it at

MS: Right.

HH: …who are these private sector sort of mercy mercenaries, that they are the embodiment of freedom and free people helping out. And you don’t get that out of the world, Mark Steyn. You get that out of free societies.

MS: Yes, you do. And you get it, I think capitalism is intimately connected to liberty, and that’s what, that’s why those Heritage rankings are very interesting…

HH: Yes.

MS: …because if you look at them, they’re dominated by countries, actually English-speaking countries. Nine out of the top twelve are countries that are either former or current realms of the British crown. It comes from the connection between economic liberty, wealth generation, and freedom actually comes from a very narrow inheritance on this planet, and that’s why it’s tragic, tragic to look at the assumptions that a know-nothing like President Obama, a man who has never generated wealth or run a business, even as far as one can tell, he’s never had the need to run a lemonade stand, to earn pocket money, that he doesn’t seem to understand this connection.

HH: Now Mark, I’ve got to finish by telling you yesterday, I’m getting nasty e-mail from lefties who are upset that I pointed out to Christopher Hitchens yesterday that President Obama’s invasion of Haiti, a very good thing, has been accomplished with less legal authority from either the United States Congress or the U.N. Security Council than either of President Bush’s invasions. And they’re all upset because Hugo Chavez has called it an invasion. I’m all in favor of it, but I just don’t understand the left’s failure to recognize that President Obama is acting unilaterally in the best tradition of imperial presidencies and imperialists everywhere, for good reasons, too.

MS: Yes, the U.S. military has usurped Haiti’s sovereignty, because if not, large numbers of people, even larger numbers of people would be dying.

HH: Yes.

MS: And the left, the left resents that comparison, because it only likes the superpower acting when it has no national interest in there at all. In other words, it likes these little rinky-dink nothing wars like Kosovo. Nobody can remember what the hell Kosovo was about. But it’s precisely because the United States had no stake in that, that it’s okay to fly over there and drop bombs and do what you have to do. It’s okay to fly into Haiti and seize the airport. But when you’re doing it for strategic considerations or your national interest, the left doesn’t want to go. Now they pretend they do, like they did with Afghanistan. And then when it turns out the Afghanistan campaign really does need some extra backing, all the left jump off that cart of convenience as soon as they can.

HH: And 30 seconds, Mark Steyn, Air America is no more, Chapter 7. As one radio host to all those now-vanished radio hosts, I guess we’ll miss them.

MS: Well, I didn’t realize it was still on the air. I only ever heard it, after they lost New York and Los Angeles, Plattsburgh, upstate New York. I used to be able to hear it when I was driving in Quebec on the way to Montreal, and I always thought their slogan should have been Air America – Nobody Covers Southern Canada Like We Do, because as far as I could tell, there’s nobody listening to it in America anymore.

HH: Mark Steyn,, thank you, my friend.

End of interview.

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