Mark Steyn on wishing for successful leadership here, while recognizing the futility of hoping for failed leadership in Gaza
HH: Joining me to discuss this and other stories of the day, Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. Pretty amazing sight, Mark, watching this Airbus float down the Hudson. Thank God everyone got off.
MS: Yeah, and really amazing that they got out and managed to get to safety before any of them were hit by the freezing waters of the Hudson. That’s not something you want to spend anytime in at this particular week. We’ve got…you’re okay. You’re in California. But we’ve got hideous temperatures here in the Northeast.
HH: Well, I was just in Washington yesterday, and I want to talk to you about that. I spent an hour and fifteen minutes with the President and a bunch of other talk show hosts in the office. I was not part of the Beltway conservative dinner with Obama. That’s what I wanted to ask you about. What did you make of our colleagues, and some of our friends sitting down with the President-elect?
MS: (laughing) Well, like you, I didn’t make the cut, and that was probably a good idea on his part. The conversation might not have gone so well. But I think the ones he picked were quite a shrewd bunch. I mean, I think they’re people who are well disposed to the idea of him. Everybody wants this president to succeed. It’s not in the interests of Americans or of the United States for this presidency to be a failure. So if this is a genuine attempt to hear what the other side has to say, and kick around a few ideas, I think, that’s good. I think everybody benefits from not just holding dinner parties in the echo chamber. And so for him to go to dinner at George Will’s place is good, and I hope he does it again.
HH: You know, Mark Steyn, yesterday as the current President talked to the talk show hosts about the incoming president, it is clear what you said is held quite sincerely by the current President, that everybody wants Obama to succeed. You know, I don’t think the left understands it. That may be the essential difference between them and us.
MS: Well, I think the President is a genuinely gracious man in that respect. People hate Bush. I saw some nutter letter in my local newspaper this morning from some idiot who thinks that Obama’s priority should be to impeach Bush.
MS: Bush has suffered a torrent of abuse these last eight years, and has taken it very graciously, and has always been personally gracious to people, in fact, who have treated him disgracefully. And I think history, you know, in a way, the parody of Bush is so absurd that history, the revisionist history, will start with him a lot earlier than it did with other presidents.
HH: Now I do believe that the worst enemies of the new President are going to be his alleged allies in the Congress. And this afternoon, we finally got a look at the stimulus bill, and it’s a monster. It’s a disaster, Mark Steyn.
MS: Right. Yup.
HH: I guess I was hoping for, I was like Charlie Brown and the football. I thought they might actually include some growth stuff in here. There’s $275 billion dollars in tax relief, one time, $500 here, a thousand dollars there, and $550 billion dollars for I don’t know what, and I’ve been reading the bill.
MS: Yeah, and you said it right at the beginning. In a way, President Obama’s biggest enemy is Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic House. They are going to be the ones that he’s going to have problems with. If you look at the so-called Clintonian new Democrats, a lot of whom are going to be in his administration, and the usual sort of reach across the aisle Republicans, he’ll have no trouble with them. What he will have trouble with is a certain form of extreme doctrinaire Democrat that Nancy Pelosi personifies. And the reality is that essentially what’s happened in the last few weeks is we’ve basically put another three zeroes on the end of acceptable pork, that somehow before, you were allowed to get away with wasting billions. And now people feel they’ve got a license to waste trillions. When you talk to people about the New Deal, and you try to explain to them that the New Deal didn’t actually do anything for the Depression or the American economy, they talk like people do when they’re told that Communism failed in practice. Well, that only means we need to do it even more communistically next time. They’re saying now what we need is an even newer, even bigger New Deal. This is, this portends terrible things for the American economy in the years ahead.
HH: Now Mark Steyn, let’s switch to foreign affairs. Eli Lake will be on the program a little bit later today. He’s written an amazing piece in today’s Washington Times on the extraordinary rendition policies of the Clinton administration over which Leon Panetta had a significant amount of influence. Do you expect Democrats to suddenly develop amnesia concerning their great qualms over extraordinary rendition when it comes to the confirmation of Leon Panetta?
MS: Yes, I think that what you will see is that these things that were bad when Bush and Cheney were doing them, and Rumsfeld and all the rest of the gang were doing them, we’re now going to be saying oh, well, you know, it’s more complicated than it looks, we’ve got to live in the real world. That’s already the statement Obama made on Gitmo, you know, that closing it down is more complicated than it looks. Well, it’s actually been more complicated than it looks for eight years. But too many partisan Democrats didn’t bother looking to see how complicated it was, and they did great damage to not to Bush and not to Cheney and not to Rumsfeld, but to the reputation of the United States during this period.
HH: Now the worst bit of information on the foreign affairs side thus far was the confirmation hearing of Eric Holder today, in which he flat out said waterboarding is torture, and also said he intended to try some of the Gitmo suspects in American courts, reversing a long standing ambiguity that was there for necessary purposes. Nobody likes waterboarding or wants to use it, but it was reserved for extraordinary circumstances like those of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
MS: That’s right.
HH: And nobody wants to try these people, but in one afternoon, eight years of carefully constructed ambiguity and purposefulness in prosecution is gone.
MS: Yes, and if you extend the protections of the United States Constitution to people who are essentially unlawful foreign combatants, what you’re doing is you’re placing a lot more people around the world in jeopardy, and you’re making it less likely that you will even find an effective way to hit back at these enemies. You know, this is a return to the legalistic approach of the 1990s, but with bells on. President-elect Obama brought up the Nuremberg trials. There was a lot of controversy about that in 1945. Churchill thought they were outrageous, and that those 24 leading Nazis should just have been summarily shot. Instead, they were tried in special military tribunals by the forces of victory. You can imagine what would have happened if those 24 senior Nazis would have been brought back to be tried in American courthouses, represented by American lawyers in the current climate. This is a recipe for disaster that will make us a laughing stock to our enemies.
HH: Mark Steyn, I want to turn to a column you wrote this weekend on the return of anti-Semitism, and not only its return, its flowering in Europe and here in the United States. What was the reaction to that? I mean, it’s one of the most bracing things you’ve written in a long, long time, and you’re usually pretty bracing. How did that go over?
MS: Yes, it’s interesting. I got, of course, the usual e-mail from a ton of anti-Semites. I mean, a lot of people have a blind spot about Jews, and there’s no point trying to correct them on it. But what I always do say is that Jew hatred doesn’t usually work out too well for the Jew hater. Ask all the German civilians who were killed during the Second World War in Germany. Ask all the Muslims that buffoon leaders like Yasser Arafat’s uncle, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, managed to get killed, managed to kill in the 1930s. But I think what’s going on here is in a way even worse than that. When you look at this insane, this thuggishness that’s on the streets in almost every Western city now, in Toronto, in London, in Amsterdam, what these ridiculous Western progressives don’t realize is that the real target of these young Muslim radicals on the street is not the Jews, it’s not about Jews, it’s not about Gaza. That’s all far away. It’s about, they’re laying down a marker for the kind of society they’re building in Europe right now, and in Canadian cities like Montreal and Toronto, too.
HH: Speaking of the casualties of Jew hatred, today Said Siam, the Hamas interior minister, and of the guys who took over for al-Rantissi after he and the original sheik were killed, was killed by Israelis today as Israelis push further into Gaza. It seems to me, Mark Steyn, that the Israelis have realized no one’s going to help them. They’re going to have to take care of themselves, period.
MS: Yeah, and in a sense, they shouldn’t be worrying about the publicity at this stage. Look, the reality is you called him the interior minister.
HH: That’s what AP did. BBC did, I’m sorry. You’re right. Go ahead.
MS: Yeah, but the reality is, he’s not capable of being an interior minister. You know, you can’t look at Hamas…the problem in Gaza and the West Bank is that neither Hamas nor Fatah are capable of governing. You know, we have reservations about some of the people Obama is putting in at the Energy Department or the Education Department or whatever. These guys, you can’t put somebody from Hamas in to run a transportation department. You can’t put someone from Hamas in to run the Department of Education. These guys are not capable of governing, and that’s the basic problem in Gaza. They can run it as a terrorist camp, but they’re not actually capable of governing. Otherwise…they’ve had 15 years since the Oslo Accords to govern those territories, and they’re lousy at it, and they’re never going to be any good at it.
HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, www.steynonline.com, America, for the latest in commentary from Mark Steyn. Make sure you read that one from last Sunday on the return of anti-Semitism to Europe.
End of interview.