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Mark Steyn On Winning Beyond The Margin Of Lawyer

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HH: It’s Thursday. We’re so happy to have back not quite in America, Columnist to the World, Mark Steyn. Mark Steyn, welcome back, it’s great to talk to you.

MS: (laughing) You’re breaking out the West Side Story. You must be in a party mood.

HH: Well, there’s so much important to talk about, but I have to begin, I’ve been thinking about you since last Saturday night, because I took the Fetching Mrs. Hewitt to see West Side Story in New York when I was back there. And imagine my surprise when I sat down and I heard this (I Feel Pretty in Spanish). Now Mark Steyn, you wrote the book on Broadway. What do you think of switching the lyrics of West Side Story into Spanish?

MS: Yeah, I’m not so sure of that. I mean for a start, I think it’s very difficult to actually switch…one of the things that is so good about West Side Story, actually, Steven Sondheim, who wrote the lyrics, and I’m not a big fan of his, but what he did do there was he rhymed Hispanically, you know, with that ‘I’d like to go back to San Juan, I know a boat you can get on’. Now really, if you were writing that in a sort of English lyric feel, you’d rhyme San Juan with ban one, or something like that. But he rhymed on the San Juan and get on, and that’s what makes it sound Spanish. If you go and actually translate it into Spanish, it no longer sounds Spanish, if you see what I mean.

HH: Have you been to see…

MS: I’m not a…

HH: Have you been to see the new show?

MS: No, I don’t know what the game here is, but I know that a lot of Hispanics don’t like West Side Story. And so I think this is one of those reclaiming events that goes on periodically, you know, that for example, people have tried to do with Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Showboat, and that kind of stuff. I don’t know. I mean, Leonard Bernstein, I think it’s a terrific score, and I think he should just let it be what it is. It’s not real. I mean, real guys didn’t talk like the Sharks and Jets. Arthur Lawrence, who co-wrote the show, invented that slang. It’s set in an artificial world, and he should just leave it there.

HH: Well, he’s redirecting it again at age 91, but I’m sorry to say it’s not what I thought it was going to be, still a fine show. I hesitate to ask you more about it, because you’re in Canada. And if you say anything that’s even mildly anti-PC, you might be arrested.

MS: No, no, no. I’m actually south of the border in Vermont, which just seems like it ought to be in Canada, but isn’t technically. But no, I think it’s…I don’t know whether I’ve mentioned this before on your show, but the first time I met Leonard Bernstein, and I’d been warned beforehand he was a difficult interview, I was interviewing him, and it had taken a long time to get it, and I was warned before he could be a difficult man. I walked into the room, and I said oh hi, it’s great to meet you, I’m Mark Steyn. He embraced me, kissed me on the lips, and tried to stick his tongue in my mouth.

HH: No!

MS: And I thought well, you know, all things considered, so far the interview isn’t proving as difficult as I thought it would be.

HH: (laughing)

MS: (laughing) But that was my one encounter with Leonard Bernstein.

HH: Mark Steyn, who would ever want to arrest you? I don’t understand this. Now talk to me about censorship. What are they trying to do in London, Ontario to you?

MS: Yeah, I’m speaking in London on November 1st, London, Ontario, which is about halfway between Detroit and Buffalo. They made a mistake when they laid out the map of North America. Don’t ask me why. So anybody who’s listening in Detroit and Buffalo who wants to come along, I’m going to be in a rollicking mood, because the city of London attempted to bounce me from the city. They refused to rent the London Convention Center to us, because they’d had complaints from Muslim groups. They’re supposed to represent all the taxpayers of all kinds of views of London, Ontario. But instead, they’re simply the ideological enforcers, who as in so many other parts of the Western world, including the United States, are trying to shrink free speech, especially when it comes to free speech on Islam, as Juan Williams has learned. So instead, I’m going to be in the big rock star venue. I’m going to be in Centennial Hall on Monday night, which is where Gordon Lightfoot and Celine Dion and the other four Canadian pop stars play when they come through town. So I’m hoping for a good turnout, and I’m going to give it my best.

HH: Details are at And it’s not funny, but I do want to come back to that in just a moment, but ask you, when Juan Williams got sacked, he got like the multi-million dollar contract from Fox for being un-PC about Muslims, Mark. Weren’t you a little bit jealous? You’ve been un-PC for years.

MS: Yes, I know, and I got a seventeen schilling and sixpence contract offer from one of Mr. Murdoch’s British subsidiaries. So I didn’t come out too well on that. But I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful something will turn up.

HH: Now I’ve got to ask you about who made the decision to try and throw you out of London, Ontario, because decisions have people behind them. They’re not like a city. Someone actually sat there and said Mark Steyn is a danger to free speech, or whatever they think in Canadian. Who did that?

MS: Well, as I understand it, the initial contact had sort of accepted it as a routine booking. And then when it came up in the meeting the following morning, forces at the meeting then decided that this would not be in the city of London’s interests. And I think what is interesting here is the corporate cravenness, because that’s the same thing that happened at NPR. Nobody, until she suggested to a black liberal man that he needed to see a psychiatrist and was mentally ill, nobody had ever heard of this obscure NPR executive who actually fired Juan Williams. And that’s the point. You can have big, brave, courageous guys prepared to say what they want on the front line like Juan did when he was asked a perfectly reasonable question by Bill O’Reilly. But if you’ve got craven executives a couple of moves up the chain, that’s where it all falls apart. When I was taken to all those Human Rights Commissions in Canada, I was very lucky by the corporate support I got from MacLeans Magazine. And it’s easy for the writer and the front line guy to be a big blowhard and say what he wants. What counts in situations like this is the deputy assistant executive vice president in the legal department, whose name nobody knows. It’s what those guys think that in the end determines how these things come out.

HH: Well, I applaud whoever has decided to go forward up in Centennial Hall in London, Ontario, and I hope everyone who is within driving distance gets over there and goes to see Mark on Monday night, November 1st.

MS: Yeah, it’s an easy four day drive from your part of the world.

HH: (laughing)

MS: If you set off now, you can probably just make it.

HH: We love you, Mark, but we’re doing election night coverage. Now let’s get to the election, because, and let’s start with what NPR did. Do you think that’s actually going to be an issue on some people’s mind, not just specifically, but generally what it reflected, and how it played into the Mosque issue?

MS: Well, I think what it has in common is that there’s something like a 70/30 split on a lot of these issues. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about illegal immigration in Arizona, or the Mosque in Lower Manhattan. The President is on the wrong side of a lot of 70/30 issues. But his advantage to date has been that the media and the establishment, and the ruling class are on his side. What is at issue at this election, I think, is whether the people are still sovereign, whether they can still, through…whether the system is still responsive to change through the normal democratic means, or whether, as in, and this is where the Juan Williams bit comes in, we now live in a more conventional Western society like they do in Continental Europe, where the elites simply decide what the acceptable positions are, and issue their instructions to their knuckle-dragging electorates, and say take it or leave. That’s what’s going to happen. And I think in that sense, the Juan Williams thing does play into a lot of what’s going to be happening on Tuesday.

HH: Now that knuckle-dragging electorate, if we judge by the collection of polls, not any particular one, is going to turn out en masse on the conservative side. But we’ve already heard this narrative begin, it’s about the money. But Mark Steyn, it’s not about the money, and it’s never been about the money. And in fact, the left is outspending the right again.

MS: Yes, that’s true. And I think this is what’s fascinating. And the voter fraud is already underway, soldiers serving overseas have been deprived of their ballots, all the usual stuff is going on. The attacks ads are going on. The only difference is that this time, to use a certain book title that somebody once wrote, if it’s not close, they can’t cheat. And your book title is even more relevant this time than it was last time around, Hugh, because the victory on Tuesday has to be beyond the margin of lawyer, not just for the good of the Republican Party, but for the health of American democracy. I seriously do believe that what a lot of events have in common, a federal judge striking down Arizona law, another judge in California striking down a ballot initiative by the Californian people. Now, we’re seeing attempts, in effect, to insulate the Democratic Party and the establishment from popular accountability by whatever means necessary, even if it comes to faking the poll results. What all these issues have in common is that they cumulatively, they’re telling the American people that the system is not responsive to democratic change, is not responsive to the popular will to the sovereignty of the people. And if you do that often enough, you are in big trouble as a stable, functioning society.

– – – –

HH: That’s in honor of Mark’s story about Leonard Bernstein. And actually, Mark Steyn’s got a lot of stories about Broadway. Babes On Broadway is one of the books you can pick up at I have not yet seen the release, Mark Steyn, of the Christmas album.

MS: Oh, you keep teasing me about this, Hugh. I may have had no time for it this year. I mean, I may have been too busy working on my Groundhog Day single. You never know.

HH: All right, we’ll keep an eye on that. Now let me ask you, we’ve talked about this many times about President Obama, and now I’m calling it the presidentialness gap between President Obama and everyone else who has ever been in the office. And it came back to me last night when he appeared on Comedy Central, and he was rebuked by a comedian who called him dude.

MS: Yeah.

HH: What did you make of that, Mark Steyn?

MS: Yes, I think finding the right balance…Walter Bagehot’s famous line on the British monarchy is that you shouldn’t let daylight in upon mystery. And that is not necessarily true for a president, but it’s true for a celebrity president, which is what Obama is. Obama ran with a certain sort of cool mystique in 2008. He has, aside from all his policy ineptitudes, and all the rest of it, he has damaged his mystique, perhaps because it’s not possible to be a celebrity president. I certainly hope not, because I don’t want the American people to repeat this mistake ever again. But I do not think it was at this stage, when his party is facing an historic defeat, when you’ve got 10% unemployment, as somebody said, I think it was over at the American Spectator today, in the old days, the jesters used to court kings. Today, an enfeebled king courted the jester. And that’s what it looked like. He’s just retreated to his base, which his base is sad, pathetic, hip, white, upper middle class college layabouts, which is basically the Jon Stewart audience. And I think if that’s what he’s reduced to, it’s not enough to be president of the United States.

HH: He also called in a group of left wing bloggers to talk to him in the Oval Office. I’ve got nothing against that. President Bush had talk radio hosts back on a couple of occasions. I have participated in that. But I read through the transcript, Mark Steyn, and these four or five anointed lefty bloggers, they asked about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, they asked about gay marriage, they asked about other stuff. Not one question about the war in which we find ourselves. The times I went in there with the talk show hosts, it was always all about the war. Are you surprised by this?

MS: No, because I think they have their priorities, and their priorities, they are a parochial and self-indulgent group of people living, in effect, on Cloud Cuckooland. What I found interesting about that was the winking that went on in Obama’s answer, where he said his position on gay marriage was evolving, evolving, and he said he wasn’t going to say any more than that, but that’s the most they could expect to get out of him at 3:30 on a Friday afternoon in the Roosevelt room. What he’s telling them is completely cynical. He’s saying in effect that he agrees with them on gay marriage, that his stated position is in fact just a fraud and a front, and as soon as the polls provide sufficient cover, it’ll move in the direction they want. This ought to be contemptible. This ought to signal to people that this is a man who at best is profoundly unserious, and at worst, is just the most pathetic and feeble kind of pandering opportunist. He doesn’t look good in that transcript at all.

HH: Have you read Stanley Kurtz’ new book, Radical-In-Chief yet?

MS: No, I haven’t, but I know, I’ve followed Stanley as he first got into this, when he ran into trouble in Chicago when he did what the rest of the media should have been doing, and this was applying the same scrutiny to the likely president as they applied to, say, Bristol Palin’s boyfriend’s mother. So I think Stanley, who as I understand it, has done a serious work of research…

HH: Absolutely.

MS: That serious work of research is really something that America’s joke media, the palace guard media, really ought to have done a couple of years earlier.

HH: I look forward to talking with you about it when you have had a chance, because it does explain a great deal about the President’s tactics and approach. But since you haven’t read it, we’ll put it off. Let me talk to you about what he had to say this week, but in this context. Joy Behar went on the View a couple of times this week and called Sharron Angle a bitch. Today, she apologized for that. But it comes in the context of the President urging Spanish language radio station listeners to punish their enemies, and telling Republicans to get to the back of the bus.

MS: Right.

HH: And you know, politics ain’t beanbag, Mark Steyn, and you know that, and I know that, and we have fun with people. But what about the sanctimonious calls for a return of civility that we’ve been swamped with for the last two years.

MS: OH, I know, and you know what? The left don’t seem to understand it. They don’t seem to understand that their default position now, whatever the issue…initially, it was with health care. If you said I’m very concerned about what I hear about wait times for MRI’s in the province of Ontario, the left would respond with racist. Effectively, Juan Williams was told he was mentally ill by his boss. Joy Behar can think of nothing to say about Sharron Angle’s position on immigration other than to call her a bitch. Eventually, eventually, you run out, you lose the ability to argue if you simply insist that anyone who disagrees with you is either a bigot or mentally ill. And that’s why the left is losing this election, because they’ve lost the ability to argue. They’ve essentially attempted to medicalize dissent by telling themselves that anyone who disagrees with them doesn’t have a policy disagreement, but is some kind of sick, twisted freak. And the principal consequence of that is that these Bozos are no longer capable of debate. Do you think Joy Behar, I mean, who is the Democratic Party? The Democratic Party, the people who are defending the President are people like Joy Behar, Steven Colbert and his joke appearance in front of Congress, Al Franken, another washed-up joke who managed to get himself elected to the Senate of the United States. If you were the Democratic Party, are these really the people you would want to be your public face, and the public face of your positions to the American people?

HH: And that sums up the repudiation that’s coming. Now let me jump ahead, after the dust clears and we see what the size of the new House majority is, and how well the Republicans have done in the Senate, do you expect the Republicans to stand fast on the reasons that got them elected? In other words, do you trust leader Boehner and Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republicans in D.C. to walk the walk of the talk they’ve talked?

MS: Well, it is in their own interests to do it, because the Tea Party movement chose to work within the zombie husk of the 2008 Republican Party this time. If that doesn’t work out, then we will have a serious third party challenge in 2012. And with respect to my own Senator, Judd Gregg, who is a very great man in many ways, but when Judd Gregg starts talking about accommodating Obamacare, perhaps reforming Obamacare and moderating Obamacare, that’s not what this election is about. This election is not a vote for accommodation. It’s a vote to drive a stake through Obamacare. And when Kelly Ayotte succeeds Judd Gregg as the Senator from New Hampshire, I am confident that she will understand that distinction.

HH: Good luck, Mark Steyn, on Monday night in London, Ontario. Everyone go to to find out where the Columnist To the World can be heard on Monday night next November 1st. Good to have him back. Great to have him back, Broadway babes and all, Leonard Bernstein and all. That’s going to be an image that’s not going to soon escape.

End of interview.


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